Category Archives: EU

Poland: $1.3 trillion WWII reparations request

Brussels 04.10.2022 Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau has signed a diplomatic note to Germany concerning reparations for World War II, framing the demand for compensation before a visit by Berlin’s top diplomat.

The controversial gesture occurred after Poland’s ruling nationalists last month estimated Germany owed the country 6.2 trillion zlotys ($1.26 trillion).
“[The note] expresses the position of the Polish minister of foreign affairs that the parties should take immediate steps to permanently and effectively … settle the issue of the consequences of aggression and German occupation,” Rau told a news conference.

Lukasz Jasina, Poland’s Foreign ministry spokesman, said to reporters that Rau would raise the issue with his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock during her visit to Warsaw on Tuesday, October 4.

About six million Poles, including three million Polish Jews, were killed during the war and Warsaw was razed to the ground following a 1944 uprising in which about 200,000 civilians died.

In 1953, Poland’s then-communist rulers relinquished all claims to war reparations under pressure from the Soviet Union, which wanted to free East Germany, also a Soviet satellite, from any liabilities.

Poland’s ruling nationalists Law and Justice (PiS) say that agreement is invalid because Poland was unable to negotiate fair compensation.

It has revived calls for compensation since it took power in 2015 and has made the promotion of Poland’s wartime victimhood a central plank of its appeal to nationalism.

The belligerent stance towards Germany, often used by PiS to mobilise its electorate, has strained relations with Berlin.

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.

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.

EU-Russia: suspension of visa facilitation

Brussels 31.08.2022 “We have seen a substantial increase of border crossings from Russia into neighbouring states. This is becoming a security risk” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said, concluding the Informal meeting of the EU Foreign ministers in Prague.
“We therefore agree today with EU Foreign Ministers on Full Suspension of the EU-Russia visa facilitation agreement” he announced.

Agreement between the EU and a non-EU country that facilitates the issuance by an EU Member State of authorisations to the citizens of that non-EU country for transiting through or an intended stay in the territory of the EU Member States of a duration of no more than three months in any six-month period from the date of first entry into the territory of the EU Member States.

https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=CELEX%3A22007A0517%2801%29

Borrell attends Salzburg Festival

Brussels 27.08.2022 The EU top diplomat Josep Borrell is travelling to Austria from 27 to 29 August.

Upon invitation of Austrian Foreign Minister Schallenberg, the High Representative will attend the Salzburg Festival on 27 August. Founded after the First World War, the Salzburg Festival has become an international cultural institution, bringing together renowned artists from all around the world. At a moment when space for civil society and freedom to artistically create is shrinking worldwide, cultural diplomacy becomes strategically more important.

On Sunday, 28 August, the High Representative will participate at the European Forum Alpbach (EFA). The EFA is a platform driving ideas for an empowered and democratic Europe. Each summer, it brings together leaders from science, politics, business and culture and students in the Tyrolean village of Alpbach.

The EU top diplomat will have an exchange with the International Advisory Council of the EFA and hold a number of meetings with representatives from academia, business community and the media. At 16:30, he will deliver a keynote speech, followed by panel discussion on “Crises: Failing to See the Long-Term Wood for the Short-Term Trees?” In this exchange, he will discuss with young representatives of civil society, media and an international organisation about ensuring the move from short-term responses to crises to systemic changes.

Estonian PM against Russian tourists

Brussels 24.08.2022 Estonia joined calls of Finland and Latvia to the EU to close its borders to Russian tourists, echoing a warning from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Stop issuing tourist visas to Russians. Visiting #Europe is a privilege, not a human right,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas tweeted, a day after Zelensky urged the West to opt for a travel ban.

“The most important sanctions are to close the borders — because the Russians are taking away someone else’s land,” Zelenskyy said in an interview with the Washington Post published Monday, adding that Russians should “live in their own world until they change their philosophy.”

Finland Prime minister Kallas pointed out that most easy enter to the EU through the bloc’s eastern border with Russia, putting a burden on Estonia, Latvia and Finland as the “sole access points.”

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said that her “personal position is that tourism should be restricted,” and that she expected the issue to be discussed at upcoming EU leaders’ summits.

“It’s not right that at the same time as Russia is waging an aggressive, brutal war of aggression in Europe, Russians can live a normal life, travel in Europe, be tourists. It’s not right,” she told Finland’s national public broadcaster Yle.

EU renews Russia sanctions

Brussels 27.07.2022 EU renews economic sanctions over Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine for further six months. On July 26 the Council today decided to prolong by six months, until 31 January 2023, the restrictive measures targeting specific sectors of the economy of the Russian Federation.

These sanctions, first introduced in 2014 in response to Russia’s actions destabilising the situation in Ukraine, were significantly expanded since February 2022, in light of Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine. They currently consist of a broad spectrum of sectoral measures, including restrictions on finance, energy, technology and dual-use goods, industry, transport and luxury goods.

In addition to the economic sanctions on the Russian Federation, the EU has in place different types of measures in response to Russia’s destabilising actions against Ukraine. These include: restrictions on economic relations with the illegally annexed Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as well as the non-government controlled areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts; individual restrictive measures (asset freezes and travel restrictions) on a broad range of individuals and entities, and diplomatic measures.

Since 24 February, the EU has adopted a number of unprecedented and hard-hitting packages of sanctions in response to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The EU condemns in the strongest possible terms Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, which blatantly violates Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It urges Russia to immediately stop its indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, and to immediately and unconditionally withdraw all its troops and military equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.

The European Union is unwavering in its commitment to help Ukraine exercise its inherent right of self-defence against the Russian aggression and build a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future. It also remains committed to continue bolstering Ukraine’s ability to defend its territorial integrity and sovereignty.

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