Author Archives: Europe correspondent

EU concerned about Nord Stream leaks

Brussels 28.09.2022 “The European Union is deeply concerned about damage to the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines that has resulted in leaks in the international waters of the Baltic Sea” reads the statement of the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell.

“Safety and environmental concerns are of utmost priority. These incidents are not a coincidence and affect us all.

“All available information indicates those leaks are the result of a deliberate act. We will support any investigation aimed at getting full clarity on what happened and why, and will take further steps to increase our resilience in energy security.

“Any deliberate disruption of European energy infrastructure is utterly unacceptable and will be met with a robust and united response”.

U.S. lawmakers send Snowden to war

Brussels 27.09.2022 American officials and Republican and Democrat lawmakers responded to the news of granting Russian citizenship to Edward Snowden by saying he should now be drafted and put on the frontline to fight against Ukraine.

State Department spokesman Ned Price told a briefing: ”Perhaps the only thing that has changed is… apparently now he may well be conscripted to fight in the reckless war in Ukraine.’

GOP Senator Lindsey Graham said: ‘Now that Edward Snowden has been granted full Russian citizenship, I expect he will be on the battlefield in Ukraine fighting for Putin any day now. Or could it be that he will be exempt while other Russian citizens are told to fight in a war of aggression on Putin’s behalf?

President Vladimir Putin on Monday, September 26, granted Russian citizenship to U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden, 39, who exposed massive surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) and was granted refuge by Moscow, while fleeing to Latin America from Hong-Kong.

Snowden, who is wanted in the U.S. on espionage charges, is one of 75 foreign nationals listed by the decree as being granted Russian citizenship.

The former NSA staffer has been living in Russia since 2013 to escape prosecution in the U.S. after sharing classified documents detailing government surveillance programs with the British newspaper, The Guardian.

He was granted permanent residency in 2020 and said at the time that he planned to apply for Russian citizenship, without renouncing his U.S. citizenship.

Russia first granted him asylum in 2014 and have refused calls to extradite him to the U.S.

Borrell on Russia major escalation

Brussels 22.09.2022 “What President Putin announced today constitutes another major escalation in the unprovoked war that he has launched against Ukraine” said the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell, while addressing press at margins of his visit to the UN, New York.

“It looks like he is speaking in a measure of panic and desperation. Putin is doubling down a failing strategy.

“By the threat of using nuclear, he is trying to intimidate Ukraine and all countries that support Ukraine. But he will fail. He has failed and he will fail again.
Unfortunately, this latest escalation is in line with the approach taken by the Russian regime until now.

“Putin’s threat to use “all weapon resources at our disposal” – this was his sentence – implies the possibility of using weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. And such a threat is unacceptable.

“Threatening with nuclear weapons is a real danger to the whole world. The international community has to react in front of this threat.

“Doing it on the International Peace Day is even more cynical. Maybe it is a coincidence, but it is particularly shocking to hear such threats during the United Nations General Assembly when the world community unites to work on peace and progress.

“Russia’s Putin is demonstrating again that it completely disregards the international norms, rules and principles. Rules, principles and norms that we have all signed [up to] – Russia also – as members of the United Nations. And these rules and principles start with territorial integrity.

“The intention to annex territories occupied by force since February 2022 and to hold sham referenda will not change their legal status. They are and they will remain internationally recognised as an integral part of Ukraine. And this is not going to change by holding sham referendum.

“Now it is clear that Russia wants to destroy Ukraine by all means, violating international law and the United Nations Charter since the beginning. But now it looks like Russia’s Putin wants to destroy Ukraine. The international community gathered here in New York needs to take the full measure of what is at stake.

The [United Nations] Security Council will meet and discuss about Ukraine tomorrow in [the light of] this new scenario. I will speak on behalf of the European Union to the Security Council. I will have the great honour and responsibility of addressing the Security Council on behalf of the European Union at that critical moment.

And tonight, immediately after hearing about the words of Mr Putin, I am convening an extraordinary and ad-hoc informal meeting of the European Union’s Foreign Ministers with the purpose to agree on a common line. And the common line – I am sure – could be summarised saying that we will not be intimidated and we will continue our full support for Ukrainian sovereignty and democracy, and continue working for this war to stop as soon as possible – before going into bigger challenges, before facing bigger threats, and before the international community has to react to such threats.

Kyrgyz and Tajik border clashes

Brussels 16.09.2022 “Violent clashes erupted in the last few days between border guards along various sites at the border between the Kyrgyz Republic and the Republic of Tajikistan. We express our sympathy to those directly affected.

“Such escalation along the common border is detrimental to regional stability. The EU welcomes the ceasefire reached on Friday, September 16. We call on both parties to ensure effective implementation of the ceasefire and spare no effort to de-escalate the tensions and reach a sustainable solution to existing differences as soon as possible”.

EU: diplomatic appointments

Brussels 17.09.2022 High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell announced today the following appointments for senior positions in the European External Action Service (EEAS):

Hélène LE GAL as Managing Director for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), starting in October. She is currently Ambassador of France to the Kingdom of Morocco. She was previously Ambassador of France to Israel.

Benedikta VON SEHERR-THOSS as Managing Director for CSDP and Crisis Response, starting in October. She currently serves as Security Policy Director at the Federal Ministry of Defence of Germany. She was previously Head of the EU division and coordinator for the Ministry of Defence during the German EU Council Presidency in 2020.

Stefano TOMAT as Managing Director for Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability (CPCC). He took up his duties on 16 September. He was previously Director for Integrated Approach for Security and Peace (ISP) at the EEAS. He was previously Head of Division for Integrated Approach: Methodology and Implementation and Head of Division responsible for the Political and Security Committee (PSC).

High Representative Borrell also announced today the appointment of two new Heads of Delegation of the European Union:

Pedro Antonio SERRANO DE HARO SORIANO as Head of the EU Delegation to the United Kingdom. He is currently Head of Cabinet of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice- President of the European Commission. Previously, he held a number of senior positions within the EU institutions, more recently Deputy Secretary-General of the EEAS for CSDP and Crisis Response.

Cristian TUDOR as Head of the newly opened EU Delegation to Qatar. He took up his duties on 1 September. He was previously Head of the EU Delegation to Kuwait and Ambassador of Romania to Qatar.

Baku-Yerevan: EU welcomes ceasefire

Brussels 15.09.2022 The EU welcomes the agreement on a ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which entered in force yesterday at 20:00. We are encouraged by local reports stating that the ceasefire is being respected so far.

“We call on the sides to continue its implementation and coordinate humanitarian steps, such as the handover of bodies of soldiers.

The EU Special Representative, Toivo Klaar, carries on his high-level consultations, as mandated by HR/VP Borrell, in Baku yesterday and in Yerevan today.

The EU remains strongly involved in the normalisation process between Armenia and Azerbaijan, including at the highest level through President of the European Council, Charles Michel”.

EU: State of Union

Strasbourg 14.09.2022 In the annual State of the European Union debate, MEPs quizzed President von der Leyen on the Commission’s work in the past year and its upcoming plans.

Opening the debate, EP President Roberta Metsola said: “It is a special honour to have Olena Zelenska with us on this important day. We are here against an alarming backdrop of an illegal and unjustifiable invasion of sovereign Ukraine, high inflation, energy and electricity price rises, a climate catastrophe, increased food insecurity and rising costs of living. Today our message must be that “Europe will respond”.

On the war against Ukraine, Commission President von der Leyen stated: “Putin will fail and Europe will prevail.” She added that the sanctions against Russia “are here to stay.” Ms von der Leyen announced €100 million to restore damaged Ukrainian schools as well as bringing Ukraine into the EU’s free roaming area and the Single Market.

On soaring energy prices, the Commission will put forward measures for member states to reduce their electricity consumption and will propose a cap on the revenues of companies that produce electricity at a low cost to raise more than €140 billion to cushion the blow for citizens. She also announced a reform of the electricity market. Von der Leyen made clear that Putin is exclusively to blame for the current energy crisis and the price increases.

On the Conference on the Future of Europe, President von der Leyen promised that the Citizens’ Panels will now become a regular feature and that the moment for a European Convention has arrived.

Further topics the Commission President touched upon include fighting foreign interference to protect our democracies, closer cooperation with countries such as Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia and India, and proposals for a European Sovereignty Fund, a European Critical Raw Materials Act, a European Hydrogen Bank and an SME Relief Package.

Interventions by the leaders of the political groups:

Manfred Weber (EPP, DE) urged for a “winter of solidarity”: “We can beat Putin and lower people’s electricity bills”. On the new energy proposals, he deplored the Parliament’s diminished role and regretted the Council’s lack of leadership. He also asked for a moratorium on new legislation to avoid an additional burden on farmers and SMEs. Finally, he stressed that there is “no effort to coordinate the EU’s defence activities” and called on the “Commission to launch, before December, a European defence action plan”.

The EU’s commitment to Ukraine’s freedom and integrity must be firm, but besides celebrating wins, we need to support those who are suffering from the social and economic consequences of the war, said Iratxe García (S&D, ES). “If not, we will see populism grow”, she warned. Ms García welcomed the emergency energy proposals, particularly the use of the extraordinary profits made by energy companies, because “it is not acceptable that some become millionaires at the expense of families’ suffering”.

Stéphane Séjourné (Renew, FR), declared that Ukraine’s fight “is a fight for Europe’s values, it is our fight, the fight for the rule of law against the law of the strongest”. The EU has the means to respond quickly and effectively to the consequences of the war on European citizens, he said. He expressed support for measures to reduce energy prices and called for “all our dependencies, on food, raw materials, health, digital and defence infrastructures” to be reduced. Public policies should be aligned with the objective of strategic autonomy, he concluded.

“We must continue to support Ukraine and even scale up those efforts”, insisted Ska Keller (Greens/EFA, DE). However, solidarity within the EU also needs to increase. We must ensure that the costs of these times are carried by those with the broadest shoulders, she stressed. “Ultimately, the only way through this crisis is to use less energy and more renewable energy”. Ms Keller also called on the Commission to make sure that “no money is paid out to Poland and Hungary unless they return to the path of the rule of law.”

Marco Zanni (ID, IT) considered that the proposed measures “are nowhere near enough to bring concrete help to those who are suffering today”. “The cap on the price of gas -the only measure that will somehow help citizens and businesses (…) – is still being discussed”. Mr Zanni urged the Commission to consider that ‘the world has changed since 2019’ and that certain policies are no longer viable, as they have neither helped to protect the climate nor to achieve an industrial and socio-economic transition.

Raffaele Fitto (ECR, IT) called for the Atlantic Alliance to continue being strengthened and for sanctions to be maintained, which are the only means to achieve results. However, he emphasised the need to “ensure true unity” in the EU to be able to tackle “two big issues: that of energy and that of support for families and businesses”. We need clear answers, he insisted on “the gas price cap and the decoupling of the price between gas and energy”.

Manon Aubry (The Left, FR) highlighted that citizens cannot pay their bills any more. Salaries stagnate while prices rise with inflation and energy costs, but dividends go up and billionaires use their private jets, she deplored. Ms Aubry welcomed the announced excess profits tax for energy companies, saying that her group was always the only one to ask for such a tax, which needs to be paid by all enterprises that benefit from the crises.

MEPs debate energy price

Strasbourg 14.09.2022 Measures against the dramatic rise in energy prices were up for a debate with the Czech Council Presidency and the Commission on Tuesday, September 13. (Image above: illustration).

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is set to present emergency proposals on energy during her State of the European Union speech in plenary September 14.

During the debate, the Czech Council Presidency announced that Council will seek to approve the European Commission’s upcoming proposals during an emergency meeting at the end of September.

European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson said that the Commission will propose measures to reduce electricity demand during peak price hours in order to bring more balance to the market. It will also introduce an EU-wide limit on the remuneration of low-carbon energy, so that revenues above that cap will be used to help member states support vulnerable consumers. She also said that the Commission will work with electricity market regulators to address the liquidity problems on the market.

During the debate, MEPs emphasized the need to ensure that the EU response is built on solidarity, and that profits made by energy companies must be used to protect consumers.

Many urged for a further boost for renewables and developing cross-border energy interconnections – in particular between France and Spain. Germany should not close its remaining nuclear plants in the current circumstances, several said. Other MEPs demanded measures against speculation on the gas market and to cut peak electricity demand, while some considered electricity to be a public good that should not be traded on a stock market.

EU: Sanna Marin Europe debate

Strasbourg 13.09.2022 Following the “This is Europe” debate with Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, EP President Metsola and PM Marin will hold a joint press conference today at 12.00.

WHEN: Tuesday 13 September at 12.00

WHERE: Anna Politkovskaya press conference room

At 10.30 today, MEPs will discuss the European Union and its future prospects with the Prime Minister of Finland, Sanna Marin, followed by a round of interventions by political group leaders.

EP President Roberta Metsola and Prime Minister Marin will have a bilateral meeting before the latter’s plenary address.

This will be the sixth “This is Europe” debate to take place at the European Parliament; previous iterations have featured Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (in March), Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi (in May), Ireland’s Taoiseach Micheál Martin (in the first June plenary), Croatian PM Andrej Plenković (in the second June plenary) and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (in July).

Interpretation will be available in English, French, German, Finnish, Italian and Swedish.

You can follow the press conference in person or via the streaming on Parliament’s multimedia centre or on EbS.

EP: Chiocchetti appointed Secretary General

Strasbourg 13.09.2022 Today the Bureau of the European Parliament appointed Mr Alessandro Chiocchetti as the institution’s new Secretary General.

The newly appointed Secretary General will take up his functions on 1 January 2023.

The appointment follows the decision of the Bureau in June 2022 to accept incumbent Secretary General Klaus Welle’s wish to retire by the end of 2022.

According the European Parliament’s Rules of Procedure the Bureau appoints the Secretary General.

The process allowed for the Members of the Bureau to hear four different candidates and ask questions. After careful deliberations, the Bureau decided with a very large majority to appoint Mr Chiocchetti as Secretary General of the European Parliament.

The Secretary-General is the European Parliament’s most senior official. He heads Parliament’s administration.

Mr Alessandro Chiocchetti is a long-standing civil servant of the Parliament. He is currently the Head of the Cabinet of the President. Before taking up this post he was Director for Legislative and Committees’ Coordination in the Directorate-General for Internal Policies of the Union. He has previously served as Deputy Head of Cabinet for the President and Cabinet member for two Secretary-Generals.

The European Parliament’s Bureau consists of the President and the 14 Vice-Presidents of the Parliament. It is chaired by the President. The five Quaestors are members of the Bureau in an advisory capacity. The Bureau takes financial, organisational and administrative decisions on matters concerning the internal organisation of Parliament, its Secretariat and its bodies.

It is a designation process that has been particularly criticized for its lack of transparency. The management of the European Parliament appointed its new Secretary General on Monday, 12 September, evening, a strategic administrative position in the functioning of the institution.

Management body of the European institution, bringing together the president and the fourteen vice-presidents, “the office of the European Parliament has appointed Mr. Alessandro Chiocchetti as the new secretary general of the institution” with a start on January 1, announced the European Parliament. Aged 53, this Italian had been the chief of staff of the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola (EPP, right) since her election in January.

Alessandro Chiocchetti has a degree in Political Science and International Law (University of Padua). He started his work for the European Parliament in 1996 as an Accredited Parliamentary Assistant, EPP Italian Delegation, European Parliament.

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