Author Archives: Europe correspondent

EU Defence ministers convene in Brussels

Brussels 17.05.2022 The EU Defence Ministers convene in Brussels to discuss the implementation of the Strategic Compass with a focus on the future of CSDP missions and operations. The Strategic Compass provides a shared assessment of the strategic environment in which the EU is operating and of the threats and challenges the Union faces. The roadmap makes concrete and actionable proposals, with a very precise timetable for implementation, in order to improve the EU’s ability to act decisively in crises and to defend its security and its citizens. The Compass covers all the aspects of the security and defence policy and is structured around four pillars: act, invest, partner and secure.

The other focus of attention is Russian aggression against Ukraine.A Ukrainian military base about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the border with Poland was targeted in a Russian missile attack early Tuesday morning, according to Maksym Kozytsky, head of the Lviv regional military administration. He gave no further details in a late-night Telegram post.

Informal lunch with the NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg and the Minister of Defence of Ukraine, Oleksii Reznikov (via videoconference).

The Russian President Vladimir Putin said the entry of Sweden and Finland into the US-led alliance will not create a threat to Russia, but military expansion into the territory will “certainly cause our response.” The Swedish government said on its website that it has decided to apply for NATO membership, following a similar declaration from Finland on Sunday.

Azovstal troops humanitarian corridor

Brusssels 17.05.2022 Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky confirmed in his video address that an evacuation of national troops from Azovstal steelmaking complex in Mariupol had started.

“… We cherish a hope that we will be able to save the lives of our boys,” Zelensky said. “There are severely wounded ones among them and they need medical attendance.”

The Ukrainian President said that Kiev hoped to return all of them home as soon as possible.

“The work is underway to return boys back home, but this work is very delicate and time-consuming,” he explained.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced on Monday, May 16, that an agreement was reached to evacuate wounded Ukrainian troops from the Azovstal steel plant and subsequently a humanitarian corridor was opened.

The Ministry added that a ceasefire had been introduced in the surrounding area of the embattled plant and a humanitarian corridor was opened to provide exit for wounded Ukrainian soldiers to be taken to a medical facility in Novoazovsk in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).

The Ukrainian authorities announced earlier that 53 severely wounded Ukrainian military servicemen were evacuated on May 16 from Azovstal plant in Mariupol to Novoazovsk (in DPR), while 211 more Ukrainian troops were evacuated from the plant through a humanitarian corridor to the city of Yelenovka (also in DPR).

EU: Sweden moves towards NATO

Brussels 16.05.2022 “Let me stress my strong support to Sweden and Finland. Some minutes ago, I had a conversation with the Swedish Minister [for Foreign Affairs, Ann Linde], who was kind enough to call me, to inform that the process has started, that they are going to inform the King, and that there is strong support for this decision inside the Swedish society and the Swedish political spectrum” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said at the doorstep of the EU Foreign Affairs Council, Brussels.

“So, I think the European Union Member States will support this decision, and I hope we could override the opposition of some members of NATO,” he added.

Finland joins NATO without delay

Brussels 12.04.2022 Finland announced it would apply to join NATO “without delay”, with Sweden expected to follow suit, suggesting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will bring about the very expansion of the Western military alliance that Vladimir Putin attempted to prevent.

The decision by the two Nordic countries to abandon the neutrality they maintained throughout the Cold War would be a giant shift in European security structure in decades. Finland’s announcement provoked indignation from the Kremlin, which called it a direct threat to Russia and promised an unspecified relevant response.

The announcement by President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin means that Finland is all but certain to join the Western military alliance, though a few steps remain before the application process can begin. Neighbouring Sweden is expected to decide on application for NATO membership in coming days.

“NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance,” Niinisto and Marin said in a joint statement.

“Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” they said. “We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days.”

Metsola:”Europe is future”

Strasbourg 09.05.2022 The President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola addressed the opening speech of The State of the Union 2022 at the European University Institute in Florence.
In her speech ‘Is Europe fit for the next generation?’, she encouraged European citizens and leaders to believe, to be confident and to use this difficult moment in time as an opportunity for change.

“…In my first address as President of the European Parliament I described myself as part of the generation that sees no old and no new Europe. We are the first of the Erasmus generation, the last of the Wałęsa, Kohl and Havel generation.

“What I meant was that I am part of the Europe generation. 18 years ago on the 1st May, I was standing in Valletta with what felt like the entire country, at midnight staring across the sea in our Grand Harbour as we counted the minutes and the seconds until Malta, together with nine other countries, joined the European Union as Member States.
I still recall the feeling of unbridled possibility, hope and belief in the future. A sort of sense of homecoming, of victory in the potential of our people, of relief, of joy – feelings shared by millions across Europe.

“With war in Europe, today, it is that spirit, that sense of purpose, of enthusiasm, of a clear direction, that I want our European project to re-capture.
People in Ukraine, in Moldova and Georgia, and still in the Western Balkans, are now looking to Europe, with the same sense of belonging and hope.

“And I want people to believe as we did. And to do that we need to understand that we are not just an economic bloc, we are not just about free movement, or about abolishing roaming charges. For my generation, Europe is – as cliché as this might sound – about a shared dream. About shared values. About a shared future, about coming together.

“To us, Europe is the future. It has always been the future.
However, we cannot deny that over the last years polarisation in our societies has increased. There are still too many people who feel lost, let down and left out. At the same time many will now look to Europe and to our institutions for leadership. And we need to be able to respond, we need to be able to lead. We must counter the anti-EU narrative that takes hold so easily and so quickly: mis- and dis-information, enhanced by bots and fabricated in Russian troll factories.

“Europe is about the defence of multilateralism. The understanding that we can only face the future together…”

Future of Europe conference conclusions

Strasbourg 08.05.2022 The Conference on the Future of Europe is going to conclude its work on May 9, Monday, in Strasbourg, presenting the reports to the heads of the institutions for further consideration.

The conference was established last year with the aim of bringing citizens and politicians from across the EU together to come up with ideas to overhaul the bloc.

At a session in Strasbourg on Saturday, the conference plenary — composed of representatives of EU institutions, national parliaments and citizens’ panels — approved more than 300 proposals. They include the abolition of national vetos, granting the European Parliament the right to propose legislation, more investment in climate change mitigation, the launch of “joint armed forces” and transnational voting lists.

MEPs from the right-wing Identity and Democracy (ID) and European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) groups of the European Parliament refused to support the proposals, arguing that they don’t reflect public opinion in the EU, but are achieved through the deliberate selections of the participants, promoting the EU Federalists point of view.

“The selection of citizens participating in the Conference was itself very flawed,” the ECR group said in a statement. “Research shows that citizens who are in favour of a more centralised Union were much more likely to accept an invitation to participate in the citizens’ panels of the Conference than those more sceptical.”

The group said it rejects “the idea the conclusions being reached represent an expression of the will of the Europeans and … hereby [withdraws] from the Conference on the Future of Europe.“

The Conference on the Future of Europe is a citizen-led series of debates and discussions that will enable people from across Europe to share their ideas and help shape our common future.

The Conference is the first of its kind: as a major pan-European democratic exercise, with citizen-led debates enabling people from across Europe to share their ideas and help shape our common future.

This is done via an innovative Multilingual Digital Platformwhere any European can share ideas, and both national and European Citizens’ Panels. These contributions feed into the Conference Plenaries. The Conference offers a new public forum for an open, inclusive, and transparent debate with citizens around a number of key priorities and challenges.

It is part of President von der Leyen’s pledge to give Europeans a possibility to be more eloquent on what the EU does and how it works for them. All Europeans – whoever they are and wherever they are – can take part.

The Conference aims to reflect our diversity, and to bring Europe beyond its capital cities, reaching every corner of the EU, strengthening the link between Europeans and the institutions that serve them. It does so through a multitude of Conference-events and debates organised across the EU, as well as through an interactive multilingual digital platform. Young people in particular are encouraged to take part and share their ideas. European, national, regional and local authorities, as well as civil society and other organisations can also organise events to involve as many people as possible.

MEPs protect Ukraine women

Strasbourg 05.05.2022 The European Parliament (pictured) debated and will vote on how to protect women fleeing Ukraine from violence and trafficking, and on granting them access to essential health services.

On Thursday, MEPs are set to strongly condemn the use of sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon of war and to express their deep concern about the growing number of reports of human trafficking, sexual violence, exploitation, rape and abuse faced by women and children fleeing Ukraine. They are expected to call for trafficking networks that profit from sexual exploitation of women refugees to be identified and prosecuted.

MEPs are also set to urge the EU and all host and transit countries to ensure access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), particularly emergency contraception and abortion care, including for victims of rape, as well as obstetric care.

According to the UNHCR, more than five million refugees – 90% of whom are women and children – have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion started on 24 February. A further 7.1 million people are internally displaced within Ukraine, including women and children in need of medical care.

AMENDMENT: The European Parliament adopted a resolution (462-19-89) calling on the EU to protect Ukraine women refugees from violence and sexual exploitation.

Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism

Strasbourg 04.04.2022 Observing the World Press Freedom Day on May 3, the European Parliament officially launched the call for submissions for entries to the Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism.

The Prize rewards on a yearly basis outstanding journalism that promotes or defends the core principles and values of the European Union such as human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law, and human rights.

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said: “The European Parliament’s message is clear: Europe stands with those seeking the truth. Daphne’s pen was silenced because she was uncovering the truth, and we should never allow journalists to become targets or victims. With this prize the European Parliament will continue defending free speech, media plurality and quality journalism, and help transmit these values to future generations.”

The Prize is open to professional journalists and teams of professional journalists of any nationality to submit in-depth pieces that have been published or broadcast by media based in one of the 27 European Union member states. The aim is to support and highlight the importance of professional journalism in safeguarding freedom, and equality.

An independent jury composed of representatives of the press and civil society from the 27 European member states and representatives of the main European Associations of Journalism will choose the winning entry. The awards ceremony will take place each year around 16 October, the date Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated.

The prize and the €20 000 prize money demonstrates the European Parliament’s strong support for investigative journalism and the importance of free press. Over the last few years, Parliament has warned about attempts both in the EU and beyond to undermine media pluralism. MEPs have denounced the attacks on journalists, particularly from politicians, and called on the Commission to table legislation against abusive lawsuits. On 27 April, a proposal was announced to tackle malicious litigation against journalists and activists.

Journalists can submit their article(s) online at https://daphnejournalismprize.eu/ by 31 July 2022, 12 PM (CET).

Daphne Caruana Galizia was a Maltese journalist, blogger and anti-corruption activist who reported extensively on corruption, money laundering, organised crime, sale of citizenship and the Maltese government’s links to the Panama Papers. Following harassment and threats, she was murdered in a car bomb explosion on 16 October 2017. The outcry over the authorities’ handling of her murder investigation ultimately prompted the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. Critical of failings in the investigation, in December 2019, MEPs called on the European Commission to take action.

Contacts:
Daphne Caruana Galizia Journalism Prize secretariat
info@daphnejournalismprize.eu
Further information
The Daphne Caruana Galizia Journalism Prize

Future of Europe conference report

Strasbourg 05.04.2022 A report on the final outcome of the Conference will be presented to the Presidents of the EU institutions during a closing event on 9 May in Strasbourg.

On Europe Day, three Co-Chairs of the Executive Board will present a final report of the Conference to the Presidents of the EU institutions. During the event, President Metsola, President von der Leyen and President Macron will deliver their speeches alongside speeches by citizens from the National and European Panels and by the Conference Co-Chairs. Cultural performances by Danse l’Europe and youth orchestra DEMOS are also planned.

Apart from 449 Plenary Members, including 108 citizens, 120 European Citizen Panellists and 200 citizens from local schools and Erasmus students will be invited to the event.

Ministers for European affairs and other VIP guests will also participate in the ceremony.

When: Monday 9 May, 12:00 – 14:00 Where: European Parliament in Strasbourg

During a final meeting, that took place from 29 April to 30 April at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the Conference Plenary reached a consensus on its final draft proposals.

The 49 proposals, on nine themes, include more than 300 measures on how to achieve them. They are based on recommendations from the European Citizens’ Panels, the National Citizens’ Panels and events, ideas recorded on the Multilingual Digital Platform as well as discussions held during the Conference Plenary and Working Group sessions.

The three institutions will examine swiftly how to follow up effectively to this report, each within their own sphere of competences.

MEPs discuss aid to Ukraine

Strasbourg 05.04.2022 In a debate with French Minister Delegate Klinkert and President von der Leyen, MEPs said internal EU unity and solidarity is crucial now and for the future reconstruction of Ukraine.

On May 5, Wednesday, MEPs discussed the social and economic consequences for the EU of Russia’s war in Ukraine. They applauded the sixth packet of sanctions against Russia and the Ukraine recovery package, both outlined by Commission President von der Leyen. MEPs underlined the need to also support EU citizens and businesses affected by the war, calling for unity among member states. They also demanded support for countries facing the brunt of the effects of the war, whether as a consequence of their dependence on Russian gas and oil, or because of their hosting of a large number of Ukrainian refugees.

French Delegate Minister for Integration Brigitte Klinkert and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen opened the debate.

Most MEPs have underlined the need to defeat Putin but also suggested that the best way to do this was to minimise the costs faced by the EU itself.

This would allow unity to be kept among member states, cushion the effects on households and businesses, and allow the EU to better help Ukraine’s post-war reconstruction. MEPs underlined the plight of those in the EU having to choose between buying food or heating their houses and also asked the Commission to consider on a case-by-case basis whether to go ahead with new legislation that could add additional burdens on already-struggling businesses.

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