Author Archives: Europe correspondent

Von der Leyen endorsed by MEPs as Commission president

Today MEPs voted on the candidate for the president of the European CommissionUrsula von der Leyen, put forward by the European Council.  Her candidacy was endorsed with with 383 votes in favour.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who was nominated for the post by the European Council, after “leading candidate” Manfred Weber was rejected by a number of member-states. The European People’s Party insisted the top job should belong to one of their political family, because they came out with the best result after the European elections in May this year.

 

In Strasboug Plenary Von der Leyen presented her programme and responded to questions of MEPs.

In order to become Commission President, von der Leyen  had to secure the support of an absolute majority of MEPs (at least 374 votes). The vote was a secret paper ballot.

 

In case she failed to win a majority, the European Council would have to put forward another candidate.

AMENDED: In her speech this morning  Ursula von der Leyen outlined her priorities as Commission President. 

Having identified the collective need for “a healthy planet as our greatest challenge and responsibility”, Ms von der Leyen proposed bolder emissions targets, with a reduction of 50% to 55% by 2030 and committed to submit a plan for a “Green Deal for Europe” and a European Climate Law within her first 100 days in office. She also announced plans for sustainable European investment (also through the partial conversion of EIB funds into a “climate bank”) to provide €1 trillion in investments within a decade.

Von der Leyen also stressed that the EU must establish an economy that serves the people. In order for this to happen however, “everyone needs to share the burden” – including those tech giants that conduct their business (and should continue to do so) in Europe, yet do not repay the people of Europe for their access to EU human and social capital.

Reiterating her commitment for a gender-balanced College of Commissioners during her term, she also highlighted that violence against women has to be tackled decisively; she would therefore seek to define violence against women as a crime in the European treaties, in parallel to completing the EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention.

Von der Leyen declared her commitment to rule of law as a European value, announcing that she intends to establish an EU-wide monitoring mechanism in parallel to existing measures. She emphasised that these European values also include a duty to save lives at sea and should translate into a humane border policy. She stated her support for a “new pact on migration & asylum” and Dublin Regulation reform, adding that she intends to ensure that Frontex border guards number 10,000 not by 2027, but by 2024, and that all countries should shoulder their fair share of the burden based on the principle of European solidarity.

On the matter of European democracy, von der Leyen announced a two-year Conference for Europe as of 2020, in which citizens will take a leading and active role. She also emphasised the need for the Spitzenkandidaten system to be strengthened and that transnational lists should be reconsidered in future European elections. She also declared her full support for a right of initiative for the European Parliament, committing to put forward a legislative proposal in response to every resolution that is passed with a majority of Parliament’s constituent members.

JCPOA: More EU states willing to join INSTEX

We had unanimity among Member States on the need to, on the one side, make the instrument we have put in place – INSTEX (the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) – faster and more operational to have legitimate trade with Iran. A number of Member States have shown their willingness to become shareholders of this instrument and there is also the possibility for non-Member States to join. And on the other hand], to continue working for Iran’s return to full compliance with the nuclear deal. We will continue to work within the framework of the #JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) on both these tracks of work” – the EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini said following the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels.

“I just came back from the region, and I have seen that everybody is very much aware of the need to have the #JCPOA fully in place and to have Iran fully compliant with its nuclear commitments, as it has been since the beginning until a few weeks ago” – she added.

The same day spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry of Iran spokesman Abbas Mousavi commented on the  EU efforts to keep the JCPOA deal alive. “Iran’s expectations of European partners in the JCPOA is the adoption of operational, effective and responsible decisions and steps,” Mousavi said July 15.

 

EU Foreign ministers discuss Iran nuclear deal

Today in Brussels EU Foreign ministers discuss Iran in light of the recent developments concerning the nuclear deal, (JCPOA). The discussion follows the meeting of the Joint Commission on 28 June and the recent announcements by Tehran on the JCPOA.

The Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom and the EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini have already expressed deep concern over Iran pursuing activities inconsistent with its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA).

The leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom, sharing common security interests, in particular upholding the non-proliferation regime, recalled their continuing commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) that was agreed upon four years ago with Iran, on 14 July 2015.

 

Mogherini meets disgraced Borrell with open arms

Today the Foreign Affairs Council started with a discussion on current affairs, allowing ministers to review pressing issues on the international agenda.

The Ministers are expected to include into discussion the situation in SudanEthiopia and Venezuela.  Ministers are  also supposed to discuss Turkey‘s current illegal drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean off Cyprus shore.

Federica Mogherini will debrief ministers on the EU-Ukraine summit on 8 July and the EU-G5 Sahel ministerial meeting.

The meeting started by Mogherini, the EU top diplomat literally greeting with open arms disgraced Josep Borrell,  incumbent Spanish Foreign minister, who is put forward by the EU Council as a candidate to “heir” her job. Borrell is a former president of the European Parliament, he has been forced into resignation over his last EU top job in a scandal of conflict of interests, ending in abandoning his post of the President of the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence. While leading the prestigious EU scientific establishment, he was receiving EUR300 000 year salary for promotion of interests of Spanish energy company Abengoa.

Von der Leyen debates with MEPs

On July 10 Ursula von der Leyen, the ultimate candidate for the European Commission presidency, had an exchange of views with MEPs in the European Parliament Brussels, a crucial test before the vote in Strasbourg Plenary next week.

To succeed Jean-Claude Juncker on November 1, this close associate of Chancellor Angela Merkel, a member of the  conservatives party CDU, must convince the MEPs she is right candidate to become Prime minister of Europe replacing her unfortunate predecessor leading candidate of European Peoples party EPP Manfred Weber.

Von der Leyen must obtain an absolute majority in Parliament, winning 374 votes (given the absence of three elected Catalan). However, outcome is uncertain as the EU leaders appointed it on 2 July at a three-day crisis European summit, a surprise candidates presented instead of politicians put forward by parties. However rejection of her candidacy will create a protracted political crisis, unlikely scenario to be chosen by MEPs as an option in a power wrestling between EU institutions.

After the hearing the candidate made a statement for press vowing to answer the citizens needs with more Europe in providing jobs, perspective, stability and security. She also promised to insure minimum salary in every member-state, support of SME in transition period for Climate Action, putting the issue on the top of her priorities. Last but not least was the international engagement of the EU across globe, which she presumed world expects from EU.

Cyprus: EU “gravely concerned”over Turkey drilling

“Turkey’s declared intention to illegally conduct a new drilling operation northeast of Cyprus is of grave concern. This second planned drilling operation, two months after the start of the ongoing drilling operations west of Cyprus, is a further unacceptable escalation which violates the sovereignty of Cyprus” says the text of the statement by EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini on Turkey’s new drilling operation northeast of Cyprus.

“We call on the Turkish authorities, once again, to refrain from such actions, act in a spirit of good neighbourliness and respect the sovereignty and sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus in accordance with international law.”

“Recalling the conclusions of the European Council on 20 June 2019, Turkey’s continued actions have a serious negative impact across the range of EU-Turkey relations. As mandated by the European Council, the Commission and the EEAS are about to present options to the Council for appropriate measures. The European Union will respond appropriately and in full solidarity with Cyprus.”

Cyprus condemned Turkey‘s second attempt to drill for oil and gas in waters off the island, after the EU warned Ankara to stop its “illegal” activities or face sanctions.

The Cypriot government condemns in the strongest terms the new illegal Turkish drilling in the east of Cyprus” the authorities said.

EU allocates €119M to Ukraine

The EU provides additional  million for accountable and efficient governance in Ukraine and to step up its support to the Sea of Azov region.

The EU-Ukraine Summit recognised the substantial progress made by Ukraine in its reform process, and agreed on the importance of accelerating these efforts, in particular in the fight against corruption. The EU has also showed clear solidarity with the country facing continuous challenges in the East including in the Sea of Azov region.

In the margins of the Summit, the Commission adopted new measures to support decentralisation, fight against corruption, empowerment of civil society and accountable and efficient governance in Ukraine as well as to alleviate the humanitarian situation and promoting economic opportunities for the people living in the Sea of Azov region.

The package will include a €40 million programme on decentralisation, a €15 million programme to fight corruption, a €10 million programme to support civil society and a €44 million programme for the facilitation of key reforms and the implementation of the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. The support to anti-corruption efforts and de-centralisation reforms are additional contributions to already successfully ongoing EU flagship programmes U-LEAD with Europe and EU Anti-Corruption Initiative (EUACI).

Transparency International’s recent Corruption Perceptions Index ranks Ukraine 120th out of 182 countries, the place shared with African Mali.

 

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