Category Archives: EU

Fidesz leaves EPP group

Brussels 03.03.2021 EPP Statement on Fidesz “The European People’s Party (EPP) respects and welcomes the majority vote on the adoption of the new rules of procedure that took place today in the EPP Group in the European Parliament. (Image: European Parliament, Brussels)

The party leadership has been informed of the intention of the Fidesz members to leave the EPP Group.
Fidesz is now facing an exclusion procedure from the party, under Article 3 of the EPP Statutes. This must be decided by the EPP Political Assembly which will meet when it is safe to do so given the current pandemic situation”.

Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party quit the center-right bloc in the European Parliament after a vote that paved the way for suspension or exclusion from the group.

A total of 148 MEPs voted in favor, and 28 against, new rules that would allow the European People’s Party (EPP) group — the most representative in the Parliament — to vote for the exclusion of “a Member or Members of the Group.” After the vote PM Orbán responded quickly with a letter, making clear his party would not stick around for a vote to kick it out of the group.

EU: vaccine production priority

Brussels 25.02.2021 The European Union heads of state and government were meeting to discuss the epidemiological situation, and to agree to prioritise increasing the production and delivery of vaccines, confirming that they will work with the pharmaceutical industry to facilitate the process.

“Our top priority now is speeding up the production and delivery of vaccines and vaccinations across the European Union and it is why we support the Commission’s efforts to work with industry to identify bottlenecks, guarantee supply chains and scale up production and we want more predictability and transparency to ensure pharmaceutical companies comply with their commitments,” European Council President Charles Michel said.

Michel has underlined that the 27-member bloc must continue to invest in vaccine research, in order to fight against any new COVID-19 variants that may arise.

The leaders will hold another video conference call tomorrow, February 26, focusing on the EU security and defence. The other issue in focus will be relations with the Southern Neighbourhood countries in North Africa and the Middle East.

Rules-based multilateralism

Brussels 17.02.2021 Today, the Commission and the High Representative put forward a new strategy to strengthen the EU’s contribution to rules-based multilateralism. The Joint Communication lays out the EU’s expectations of and ambitions for the multilateral system. Today’s proposal suggests to make use of all tools at the EU’s disposal, including its extensive political, diplomatic and financial support to promote global peace and security, defend human rights and international law, and to promote multilateral solutions to global challenges.

“Multilateralism matters because it works. But we cannot be ‘multilateralists’ alone. At a time of growing scepticism, we must demonstrate the benefit and relevance of the multilateral system. We will build stronger, more diverse and inclusive partnerships to lead its modernisation and shape global responses to the challenges of the 21st century, some of which threaten the very existence of humanity” High Representative of the Union for Foreign and Security Policy/Vice-President for a Stronger Europe in the World, Josep Borrell, said.

“The EU has been and will continue to be the best ally of multilateralism and its institutions. However, the more complex global environment calls us to be more united, coherent, focused, and better leverage our collective Team Europe strength. This new strategy spells out our ambition on inclusive multilateralism, our strong commitment to renew it and it will be underpinned by specific actions” Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, said.

Defining and defending EU priorities and values in the multilateral system
The challenges of the 21st century call for more, not less, multilateral governance and rules-based international cooperation. The EU has defined clear strategic priorities on issues that no country can face alone: peace and security, human rights and the rule of law, sustainable development, public health, or climate. Now, it needs to advance these priorities multilaterally in a strategic approach to ensure a safer world and a sustainable, inclusive global recovery.

The EU must step up its leadership and ‘deliver as one’ to ‘succeed as one’. To this end, the EU will advance more efficient coordination mechanisms around joint priorities and making better use of its collective strength, including building on the Team Europe approach. Its democratic and unique regulatory strengths are assets to help build a better world, while its security and defence structures support global efforts to keep, sustain and build international peace and security.

To ensure the global multilateral system is ‘fit for purpose’ to address today’s challenges, the EU will continue to support the UN Secretary-General’s reform efforts. It will promote the modernisation of key institutions such as the World Health Organisation and the World Trade Organisation. It will also spearhead the development of new global norms and the establishment of cooperation platforms in areas such as taxation, the digital sphere or Artificial Intelligence.

To change the multilateral landscape, we need a new generation of partnerships. The EU will build new alliances with third countries, reinforce cooperation with multilateral and regional organisations, as well as other stakeholders, especially those with whom it shares democratic values and, with others, it will seek a common ground issue by issue. It will support partner countries in engaging more effectively in the multilateral system and ensure systematic follow-up of bilateral commitments with partners to advance multilateral objectives. EU aims to build a more inclusive multilateralism. It is important to engage also with civil society as well as the private sector, social and other stakeholders.

EU Climate diplomacy

Brussels 25.01.2020 The Council today adopted conclusions on ʻClimate and Energy Diplomacy – Delivering on the external dimension of the European Green Dealʼ.

In its conclusions the Council recognises that climate change is an existential threat to humanity. It notes that global climate action still falls short of what is required to achieve the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Council acknowledges that although Europe is showing leadership and setting an example by stepping up its domestic commitments, there is an urgent need for collective and decisive global action. The coherent pursuit of external policy goals is crucial for the success of the European Green Deal.

The Council calls on all parties to enhance the ambition of the nationally determined contributions and to present long-term low emissions development strategies well ahead of the 26th Conference of the Parties in Glasgow in November 2021, whilst welcoming recent mid-century climate neutrality as well as carbon neutrality commitments, in particular those recently taken by major economies.

The Council also notes the intrinsic link between climate change and security and defence, and the need to strengthen and mainstream work on the climate and security nexus, notably in support of UN activities.

The conclusions confirm the EUʼs continuous commitment to further scale up the mobilisation of international climate finance, including sustainable finance practices, as a contribution to the transition towards climate neutrality. The Council notes, in this context, that the EU is the largest contributor of public climate finance, having doubled its contribution from the 2013 figure to EUR 23.2 billion in 2019.

The Council stresses that EU energy diplomacy will aim, as its primary goal, to accelerate the global energy transition, promoting energy efficiency and renewable technologies, amongst other things. At the same time, the EU’s energy diplomacy will discourage further investments into fossil-fuel-based infrastructure projects in third countries, unless they are aligned with an ambitious climate neutrality pathway, and will support international efforts to reduce the environmental and greenhouse gas impact of existing fossil fuel infrastructure.

The Council also calls for a worldwide phase-out of unabated coal in energy productions, and will launch or support launching international initiatives to reduce methane emissions.

The Council notes that while the energy transition is central to the path towards climate neutrality, it will have a significant impact on societies, economies and geopolitics globally. EU energy diplomacy will continue to play a key role in maintaining and strengthening the energy security and resilience of the EU and its partners.

The conclusions highlight the importance of effective multilateral structures and deepening international cooperation in relevant international fora, whilst identifying the Paris Agreement as the indispensable multilateral framework governing global climate action.

EUCO: EU-Turkey relations on rocks

10.12.2020 Brussels The EU top diplomat Josep BoTrrell upon arrival at the European Council made the following remarks:

“We have three important [external affairs] items today on the agenda of the European Union Council: we have Turkey, once again; we have our relations with the US and the prospects of the new presidency; and we have the Southern Neighbourhood”.

“The Southern Neighbourhood is a very important part of the world for us. We are closely working with them in order to push for their progress but we have to do more. I hope that the debate in the Council today will provide guidelines for this continued effort and to prepare the [Joint] Communication that the Commission will put forward in February.

“We have just celebrated the anniversary of the Union for the Mediterranean in Barcelona. This was also an important event and I will inform the Council about this meeting.

“We are also going to discuss the relationship with the US – the prospects for the new administration, how to engage with them. We hope that this is going to be a more positive one. It has been a bumpy road in the last years, and there is a lot of hope for the future work between the European Union and the US.

“On Turkey, the Foreign Affairs Council reviewed the latest events and we cannot provide a positive assessment. The behaviour of Turkey has not changed fundamentally. We can even say that, from some points of view, things have been worsening. The assessment is not a positive one and we have to deal with it”.

EEAS: Stefano Sannino next SecGen

High Representative Josep Borrell decided to appoint Stefano Sannino as next Secretary General of European External Action Service (EEAS).

“I want to express my profound gratitude to Helga Maria Schmid for the remarkable achievements she has accomplished as Secretary General and for having built the EEAS into what it is today. Her contribution to the European Union’s global action is unrivalled. I look forward to continue working with Stefano Sannino, as new Secretary General of the EEAS. He brings with him a long and rich European diplomatic experience from his senior service to both the European Union institutions and the Italian government. I cannot think of a better candidate to steer the EEAS into its second decade.“

This decision will enter into force on 1 January 2021.

Stefano Sannino worked as EEAS Deputy Secretary General for Economic and Global Issues since February 2020. Previously, he was the Ambassador of Italy to Spain and the Italian Permanent Representative to the European Union. Mr. Sannino also served as Director General for Enlargement in the European Commission. He will be following Helga Maria Schmid, who has been Secretary General of the EEAS since 1 September 2016 and EEAS Deputy Secretary General/Political Director since 2011.

EU defence progress

Brussels, 20.11.2020 The Council approved conclusions on the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) Strategic Review 2020. The review assesses the progress made on PESCO and provides guidance for the next phase (2021-2025) on the overall aim, policy goals, incentives and projects. (Image: Dassault Rafale factory, France).

The review highlights the need to fulfil the more binding commitments and achieve concrete outputs and tangible deliverables by 2025.

It stresses the importance of making tangible progress towards a coherent Full Spectrum Force Package that strengthens the EU’s military ability to act. It also highlights and reaffirms key objectives such as those connected to defence investments, more systematic use of EU defence tools in national planning processes, enhancing the EU’s operational effectiveness and developing the necessary capabilities.

The review highlights some incentives for giving PESCO more visibility at the political level and increasing the degree of transparency between member states on the way in which they are fulfilling their commitments, notably in the operational area.

The review also highlights a list of 26 PESCO projects which will deliver concrete results or reach full operational capability before the end of 2025.

Launched in December 2017, PESCO represents a step-change in defence cooperation within the European Union. PESCO is a framework which allows willing and able EU member states to jointly develop defence capabilities, invest in shared projects, and enhance the operational readiness and contribution of their armed forces.

To date 25 EU member states have undertaken binding commitments that form the basis of PESCO. There are currently 46 collaborative projects in various areas: training facilities, land formation systems, maritime and air systems, cyber, and enabling joint multiple services or space projects.

The 25 member states participating in PESCO are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

On 5 November, the Council established the general conditions under which non-EU countries could exceptionally be invited to participate in individual PESCO projects, thereby paving the way for stronger and more ambitious defence cooperation with partners in the EU framework.

Turkey: new tensions in Mediterranean

“The latest Navtex announcements and the continued conduct of seismic survey activities by Turkey, which is affecting Greek and Cypriot maritime zones, are deeply regrettable – especially in view of ongoing constructive attempts at all levels to create space for dialogue” the statement of the European External Action Service reads. The reaction of the European diplomacy followed issued by Turkey a new navigational telex (Navtex) late on November 3, reserving an area off the southwestern coast of Cyprus.

“This is yet another course of action that, unfortunately, continues to create more tensions and distrust in the region instead of contributing to lasting solutions”.

“Dialogue in good faith and abstention from unilateral actions are crucial elements for reaching a stable and secure environment in the Eastern Mediterranean and developing a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship between the EU and Turkey. Differences need to be discussed and sorted at the negotiations table”.

Turkey issued a new navigational telex (Navtex) late on Tuesday reserving an area off the southwestern coast of Cyprus, with the Republic of Cyprus on Wednesday demanding Turkey that immediately halts seismic research within the Cyprus EEZ.

NAVTEX allows ships to inform other vessels about their presence in an area, as well as other information.

NAVTEX can also serve as a warning to other vessels to steer clear of an area due to the sensitivity of the work being carried out and a signal of a country’s sovereign exploration rights. (ILKHA)

https://ilkha.com/english/latest/turkey-announces-a-new-navtex-in-eastern-mediterranean-10564

MEPs demand  full EU-US visa reciprocity

MEPs call on the European Commission to take the measures foreseen in EU legislation to guarantee full visa reciprocity between the EU and the US.

“The discrimination that Bulgarians, Croatians, Cypriots and Romanians experience when travelling to the US is unacceptable. Respecting the fundamental principle of solidarity among EU members, we call on the Commission to act as established in European legislation and table a proposal to suspend the visa waiver for US nationals. It will then be up to the Parliament and the Council to assess the political consequences of this move”, said Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES), Chair of the Civil Liberties Committee and rapporteur.

With 376 votes to 269 and 43 abstentions, the Chamber adopted on Thursday a resolution urging the Commission to present a legal act suspending the visa waiver for US nationals for twelve months, as established in the so-called reciprocity mechanism.

Bulgarian, Croatian, Cypriot and Romanian nationals are still required to hold a visa to enter the US, while all other EU citizens are exempt from that requirement for short-stays (up to 90 days in any 180-day period), as are US nationals when they visit the European Union.
According to EU legislation, if a third country does not lift visa requirements within 24 months of being formally notified of a situation of non-reciprocity, the EU Commission must adopt a legal act suspending the visa waiver for its nationals for 12 months. Both the European Parliament and Council could object to such an act (Article 290(2) of the Treaty).
The situation of non-reciprocity affecting Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania was formally raised on 12 April 2014 (at the time, Poland was also affected, but since last year Polish citizens can travel to the US visa-free), so the deadline for the Commission to act expired on 12 April 2016.
Parliament already asked the Commission to comply with the rules in a plenary resolution adopted in March 2017.

(Image below: MEP Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES), Chair of the Civil Liberties Committee and rapporteur,  archive).

Cyprus and Malta risk EU lawsuits

20.10.2020 Today, the European Commission is launching infringement procedures against Cyprus and Malta by issuing letters of formal notice regarding their investor citizenship schemes also referred to as “golden passport” schemes.

The Commission considers that the granting by these Member States of their nationality – and thereby EU citizenship – in exchange for a pre-determined payment or investment and without a genuine link with the Member States concerned, is not compatible with the principle of sincere cooperation enshrined in Article 4(3) of the Treaty on European Union. This also undermines the integrity of the status of EU citizenship provided for in Article 20 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Due to the nature of EU citizenship, such schemes have implications for the Union as a whole. When a Member State awards nationality, the person concerned automatically becomes an EU citizen and enjoys all rights linked to this status, such as the right to move, reside and work freely within the EU, or the right to vote in municipal elections as well as elections to the European Parliament. As a consequence, the effects of investor citizenship schemes are neither limited to the Member States operating them, nor are they neutral with regard to other Member States and the EU as a whole.

The Commission considers that the granting of EU citizenship for pre-determined payments or investments without any genuine link with the Member States concerned, undermines the essence of EU citizenship.

The Cypriot and Maltese governments have two months to reply to the letters of formal notice. If the replies are not satisfactory, the Commission may issue a Reasoned Opinion in this matter.

Investor citizenship schemes allow a person to acquire a new nationality based on payment or investment alone. These schemes are different to investor residence schemes (or “golden visas”), which allow third-country nationals, subject to certain conditions, to obtain a residence permit to live in an EU country.

The conditions for obtaining and forfeiting national citizenship are regulated by the national law of each Member State, subject to due respect for EU law. As nationality of a Member State is the only precondition for EU citizenship and access to rights conferred by the Treaties, the Commission has been closely monitoring investor schemes granting the nationality of Member States.

The Commission has frequently raised its serious concerns about investor citizenship schemes and certain risks that are inherent in such schemes. As mentioned in the Commission’s report of January 2019, those risks relate in particular to security, money laundering, tax evasion and corruption and the Commission has been monitoring wider issues of compliance with EU law raised by investor citizenship and residence schemes. In April 2020, the Commission wrote to the Member States concerned setting out its concerns and asking for further information about the schemes.

In a resolution adopted on 10 July 2020, the European Parliament reiterated its earlier calls on Member States to phase out all existing citizenship by investment (CBI) or residency by investment (RBI) schemes as soon as possible. As stated by President von der Leyen in the State of the Union Address of 16 September 2020, European values are not for sale.

The Commission is also writing again to Bulgaria to highlight its concerns regarding an investor citizenship scheme operated by that Member State and requesting further details. The Bulgarian government has one month to reply to the letter requesting further information, following which the Commission will decide on the next steps.

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