Category Archives: EU

EU: Borrell talks with Blinken in Washington

Brussels 15.10.2021 The EU top diplomat Josep Borrell met with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on Thursday,October 14.

The European diplomat welcomed recent intense engagement with the U.S. Administration and expressed the importance to further deepen the EU-U.S. strategic partnership to jointly address foreign policy, security and global challenges. Further he welcomed, in particular, the launch of the Trade and Technology Council in Pittsburgh as a strong example of the shared commitment to work together to provide answers to some of today’s most pressing challenges.

Borrell and Blinken highlighted the intention to launch a dialogue on security and defence by the end of the year. The EU diplomat welcomed the setting up of this dedicated channel to discuss common security and defence challenges, building on the mandate agreed by the EU and U.S. Leaders at the EU-U.S. Summit in June. He welcomed the US support for a stronger and more capable European defence and stressed that stronger EU capabilities contribute positively to transatlantic and global security, and also strengthen NATO.

Both diplomats agreed to launch EU-U.S. consultations on the Indo-Pacific, with the aim to step up transatlantic cooperation and joint engagement in the region. They agreed to hold a first high-level meeting this year.

They welcomed the work done under the EU-US Dialogue on China and agreed to hold the next high-level meeting in December. They also agreed to launch the High-level Dialogue on Russia, with the first meeting planned to take place before the end of this year.

Borrell and Blinken discussed some of the most urgent foreign and security policy issues. They addressed, amongst others, the latest developments related to Afghanistan, with the High Representative underlining the utmost priority for the international community being to prevent the socio-economic collapse of the country and the need to work jointly on solutions for Afghan people.

They further discussed the opportunities for continued EU – U.S. partnership in the Western Balkans in support of the region’s progress on its European path, underlined the importance of EU-facilitated Dialogue in addressing issues related to the comprehensive normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo and, referring to recent developments, highlighted the need for de-escalation and re-engagement in negotiations. They agreed to further strengthen their cooperation on these matters.

The diplomats also discussed the situation in Venezuela and their strong will to support political processes to restore stability and democratic reconciliation in the country. In addition, they discussed the efforts towards stabilisation in the Sahel region.

They paid attention to high energy prices, the global impact of this crisis as well as the green energy transition. They looked forward to the next meeting of the EU-U.S. Energy Council early next year, agreed on the need for an ambitious outcome at the COP 26 climate conference.

Concluding the talks Josep Borrell once again has drawn attention to the modality of the relations between two partners. “The European Union and the United States share an important and unique relationship. We will continue to work closely not only because we are partners of first resort but also because friends and allies look at us and expect us to work together to address global challenges” the EU diplomat said.

EU preservation of Arctic policy

“…The European Union engagement in the Arctic is not a matter of convenience or the way to prove our importance in geopolitical field” said the Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius during following the adoption of the new EU Arctic Policy.

“It is a necessity. First of all, because the Arctic is home for hundreds of thousands of Europeans. Secondly, environment crisis and climate change already showed us that what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. Similarly, global actions and demand patterns do not stay out of the region. Geopolitical competition is growing and the balance in the Arctic has been lost in climate field. We have to bring this balance back.

“This is the reason why today we adopted the new Joint Communication for a stronger EU engagement for a peaceful, sustainable and prosperous Arctic with the European Green Deal at its heart.

“This is the make or break decade in the fight against the climate and biodiversity crises. Our generation has the unique and only opportunity to change the world and the Arctic is at the centre of this change.

“The Arctic is warming up three times faster than the rest of the planet. Forest fires are becoming the norm in some parts of the region. Collapsing infrastructure led last summer to a huge oil slick. This must be fixed and the reason is simple: the melting of ice and thawing of permafrost in the Arctic further accelerate climate change and have huge knock-on effects, felt by Europeans and throughout the world. The EU is ready to lead by example.

“…We will enhance our strategic foresight, especially regarding the links between climate change and security. We will look to extend our Civil Protection capacities in the Arctic and offer new services from our world-leading Copernicus and Galileo satellite systems, to help environmental monitoring, maritime safety and search and rescue.

“In this, it will be important to work together with all Arctic partners in Europe, with the US and Canada, and with other partners involved in Arctic affairs.

“In the entire climate change or geopolitical action local and indigenous people are at the center of our efforts. There are many Europeans among them and we will support an inclusive and sustainable development of the Arctic to the benefit of them and future generations. We will be stimulating better education, sustainable growth and jobs.

“We aim to increase the involvement of young, women and Indigenous Peoples in Arctic decision-making. We seek to boost digital connectivity through EU space programmes and the Connecting Europe Facility and support technologies and solutions for the green transition, including through the EU Recovery Plan.

“The EU is in the Arctic. We have strategic and day-to-day interests, both in the European Arctic and the broader Arctic region. By this strategy, the EU aims to promote sound environmental management, biodiversity protection and efficient energy use, support climate change mitigation and adaptation, and contribute to the resilience of the people in the face of climate change effects”.

Borrell heads to Washington D.C.

Brussels 13.10.2021 The European Union top diplomat Josep Borrell will travel to Washington D.C. from 13 to 15 October for a number of high-level meetings focused on the relationship between the EU and the USA, on advancing the Transatlantic agenda and on pressing international developments. This will be the first official visit by Borrell to Washington since the new US administration took up office. It takes place in the follow-up to a number of contacts already held by the EU diplomat and his US counterpart, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and in the follow-up to the EU-US summit held in Brussels in June.

In his talks with US partners Borrell will underline that strong alliance between the EU and US is key for addressing global challenges, such as pandemic and economic recovery, climate change and democratic backsliding, as well as to continue to uphold common values, ensure global security and prosperity.

On Thursday, 14 October Borrell will meet with Blinken to discuss current foreign policy issues and initiatives to deepen further the EU-US strategic partnership and advance an already close cooperation on foreign and security policy.

Later on, the EU diplomat will hold meetings with the US Deputy Secretary of Defence Kathleen Hicks to discuss how to pursue enhanced bilateral cooperation in the field of security and defence.

Antisemitic Prejudices in Europe report

Brussels 12.10.2021 A comprehensive picture of the anti-Semitic prejudice in 16 countries of the European Union has been revealed in the Report, presented in Brussels today by the Action and Protection League in alliance with the European Jewish Association in the Jewish House. The research seeks to explore the prevalence and intensity of anti-Jewish prejudices in the European societies. The intention of the engaged team has been to show how likely in times of crisis the societies are susceptible to use the antisemitic narrative to indulge themselves in illusions of solutions for a various range of problems.

The Report on “Antisemitic Prejudices in Europe” appeared in a specific context of concern about the rise of violence against Jews, which reflects in insecurities in Jewish communities across Europe.

In the report the cognitive antisemitism has been measured by a series of questions used several times in surveys in the last two decades. Based on support of rejection of the offered statements, measuring biased stereotyping there were tree major groups of the participants in the survey: non-antisemites, moderate antisemites, and strong antisemites.

The European Muslim are characterised by significantly stronger primary antisemitism than the non-Muslim population, however anti-semitism in Greece and several post-Soviet East European countries is “significantly stronger” than among European Muslims, the report discoveres.

Regarding Israel many European Muslims support anti-Jewish views, far more than proportion of non-Muslim population in any of the countries studies, the reports states.

During the research a group of latent anti-semites has been identified, which does not incline to the traditional anit-semitic views, but hostility towards Israel, but does not appear to be antisemitic in a traditional sense, getting the definition of latent anti-semitism.

Concerning the primary antisemitism there more than average antisemites in Greece (48%), Poland (42%), Hungary(42%), Slovkia (39%), the Czech Republic(36%), Romania (38%) and Austira (31%). The proportion of strong antisemites in Greece is almost three times the average – 35%, and is highest in Austria (21%) outside the former Soviet bloc.

In three Western European countries the proportion of those who accept traditional antisemitic prejudices and are also “averse” to Jews is negligible in Sweden, the Netherlands, and the UK representing from 3% to 6% of the adult population.

In spite of a grim landscape in some cases, there are also strong positive attitudes toward Jews and Israel, who are convinced that it is important for Europe to preserve Jewish traditions in their countries. The respondents are also friends of Israel, regarding Jewish state as a politically significant actor, and ally.

The indicator directs to 22% of the total population in the 16 countries as “strongly philosemitic”, 35% “moderately”, and 44% as non-philosemtic. The philosemitism is strong in Austria, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, and Greece. The results might seem contradictory at times, and the report needs further analysis and understanding of the social psychological theories dealing with prejudice in its cognitive, effective, and conative dimension.

UK-Ireland: EU red lines

Brussels 10.10.2021 Ireland’s foreign minister has warned that the UK demands risk a “further breakdown in relations” with the European Union ahead of talks this week aimed at resolving the impasse over the Brexit agreement.(Image above: illustration, skyline).

Simon Coveney posted the remarks on Twitter after the UK’s Brexit minister reiterated his insistence that the European Court of Justice must not be allowed to oversee implementation of the deal. Coveney described this as a new “red line” that will impede progress in the negotiations.

The European Commission is expected this week to publish its proposals for breaking the deadlock over trade arrangements for Northern Ireland, the only part of the U.K. that has a land border with the 27-nation bloc. The British government has sought to renegotiate part of its divorce deal with the EU that requires customs and border checks on some goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The regulations are intended to ensure goods entering the EU’s single market meet European standards while keeping an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland — a key pillar of Northern Ireland’s peace process. But the checks have cause discontent of Northern Ireland’s unionists, who say they weaken the region’s ties with the rest of the UK and make it harder for businesses to operate.

Danish not integrated migrants law proposal

Brussels 10.09.2021 The hardline former immigration minister Inger Støjberg has united with the Danish People’s Party (DF) on a plan to deport as many as 50,000 migrants by 2030, who are not respecting the laws and rules of the receiving society.

Støjberg, being an independent Member of the Parliament after leaving the Liberal Party, has joined the DF party on a plan that could see as many as 70% of the people who have come to Denmark in the last few decades claiming refugee status or under family reunification rules would be expelled.

The proposal would lead to the deportation of migrants who have been unemployed for seven of the last ten years, have been on welfare benefits for more than 12 consecutive months, have not attained a certain proficiency in the Danish language, or have been convicted of a crime that resulted in a prison sentence of more than three-months, amongst other criteria.

According to a report from the Danish television broadcaster TV2, both Støjberg and the Danish People’s Party believe that under the conditions of the proposal, at least 50,000 migrants could face deportation.

Commissioner Schinas fight against antisemitism

Strasbourg 06.10.2021 “I am not breaking any news when I say that antisemitism and Holocaust are a stain in Europe’s history. It is the darkest chapter in our history book. Other than the historical reasons, there is an increasing and worrying tendency of anti-Semitic attacks and sentiments across the EU” said the Commissioner Margaritis Schinas, coordinating the Commission’s work on a New Pact on Migration and Asylum, while addressing press in European Parliament, Strasbourg.

“Two years ago, on 9 October 2019, a gunman tried to enter the synagogue in Halle, Germany, during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur – their holiest day of the year. After failing to breach the security door to the building – with 51 people inside at the time – he opened fire in the streets, fatally shooting two of our fellow citizens.

“It was not the only attack. We had previous attacks in Paris, Copenhagen, and in Brussels in the Jewish Museum.

“Antisemitism continues not only to be a burden of the past, but also a present, dreadful threat in today’s Europe.

“The Commission vowed at that moment to act. And today’s strategy is the first ever of its kind to deliver a clear commitment and comprehensive response in our fight against antisemitism.

“Last year marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, where I represented the Commission together with Vice-President Věra Jourová.

“One of the things we took away from this anniversary is that we have now: fewer and fewer survivors remaining amongst us. We cannot have the people who went through these horrors to share their first-hand accounts of the Holocaust.

“I am myself native of the city of Thessaloniki, where I grew up. It was “madre de Israel”, which was the biggest Jewish community in Europe with over 50,000 Sephardic Jews that were all murdered by Nazi troops, most of them in Auschwitz by the way.

“Preserving their legacy, ensuring that their stories remain alive and are accurately retold, finding new forms of remembrance is a responsibility that our generation now has to live up to – and a key component of this strategy.

“We also saw during the Covid-19 pandemic and successive confinements a resurgence of centuries-old conspiracy myths fuelling new forms of antisemitism online and an explosion of antisemitic online content: only in French language we have a seven-fold increase in antisemitic postings on social media accounts, and over a thirteen-fold increase in German language accounts.
“Beyond the online realities, our own research, mainly through Eurobarometer and the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, shows even more worrying trends with nine out of ten Jews considering that antisemitism has increased in their country.

“Very worryingly 38% have considered emigrating because they do not feel safe as Jews in today’s European Union. All these are factors, elements and root causes that compel us to act. What we are putting today on the table in the Strategy is not only a reactive and protective shield for our Jewish communities, but it is also very proactive approach that would allow Jewish life to thrive in our societies. So it is not a defensive approach but very proactive approach to foster Jewish life in the EU.

“This response is structured around three pillars:
– Preventing and combating
– Protecting and fostering
– Educating and researching.
Let me take you very briefly into these three families of issues. I will only focus on the new things of interest.

On preventing and combating all forms of antisemitism: We aim to establish a Europe-wide network of trusted flaggers and fact-checkers, including Jewish organisations, so that we can step up the removal of illegal online hate speech and counter these narratives with effective rebuttals.

We will also cooperate with industry and IT companies to prevent the illegal displaying and selling of Nazi-related symbols, memorabilia and literature online.

On the second leg, on protecting and fostering Jewish life: I think the first priority there is the security of the Jewish communities. I do not want to see synagogues in Europe being guarded by police. We all know that most Jewish communities and civil society organisations have had to assume disproportionately themselves the costs of their own security. We are determined to assume this as a major public service initiative. We will work with Member States to improve that and will support through increased EU funding for projects aiming to better protect public spaces and places of worship. The next call for proposals will be published next year for an amount to 24 million euros.

We also want not only to protect, but to allow Jewish life to flourish as part of an inclusive and diverse EU. Despite the long-standing presence of Jews in Europe, people have remarkable little knowledge of Jewish life, traditions and Judaism. So we want to work closely with the Jewish communities to safeguard Jewish heritage, raise awareness and increase mutual understanding around Jewish life.

Finally, on educating, researching and the holocaust remembrance, which is the third key component of the strategy, we will support the training of educational professionals and policy makers on “addressing antisemitism through education. We will work much closer together with UNESCO and the OSCE to make this possible.

“We are also setting up a new network of Young European Ambassadors to promote Holocaust remembrance.

“We will support, this is another new idea, the EU funding to create a network of places “Where the Holocaust happened” in Europe. I am not referring only to the extermination camps but also to often unknown Jewish heritage sites, hiding places, or deportation points that are all over Europe and that our societies need to know of. Our aim would be to allow school students, practitioners and the general public to trace the continuity of Jewish presence in Europe over the centuries – facilitating visits, online and interactive learning.

“We also intend to invest significantly in research to fully understand contemporary antisemitism and the impact it has on Jewish life today. We have already supported the creation of the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure with 25 million euros since 2010 but now we will propose the creation of a European research hub on contemporary antisemitism and Jewish life to strengthen multidisciplinary research across the EU.

“Finally, the EU will not be alone in this effort. We shall reaffirm our ambition to take the lead in the global fight against antisemitism, by stepping up our external action with international community, UN agencies, an partners across the world

“We will do that by supporting actions aimed at combating antisemitism worldwide and our EU external funds will not be misallocated to activities that incite hatred and violence, including against Jewish people.

“We want to reach out to all citizens. Antisemitism is not a problem of the Jews, but of the problem of the antisemites.

Fighting it is a responsibility for all of us.

“I want to be very clear, antisemitism is incompatible with everything that the European Union stands for. It is incompatible with human rights, with our values and with our way of life. In this strategy today, we push for a commitment to combat it in all its forms and to ensure a future for Jewish life in Europe.

“We owe it to those who perished in the Holocaust, we owe it to the survivors and we owe it also to the future generations.

“For Jewish citizens, Europe was a place their parents and grandparents had to flee. It is our duty to ensure that for their children and grandchildren it is a place where they are proud to belong”.

“I congratulate the European Union for presenting the comprehensive strategy for combating anti-Semitism and strengthening Jewish life in Europe.
This decision reflects a commitment not only to tackling the phenomenon of ugly anti-Semitism, but also to the safety of Jewish communities” wrote Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel Jair Lapid on his Twitter micro blog, reacting upon the announcement of the European Commission.

EU: MEPs debate Arctic policy

Strasbourg 05.10.2021 While the European Commission is currently working on an update of the EU’s Arctic policy, MEPs are concerned about emerging threats to stability in the area.

Since the end of the Cold War, the Arctic has been a zone of peace and international cooperation, but in recent years the situation has changed. The region has witnessed an increased Russian military presence, while China aspires to integrate the Arctic’s northern sea route into its Belt and Road Initiative.

The Commission is re-examining the EU’s role in the Artic ahead of an integrated EU policy by the end of 2021. Parliament will debate and vote on its own report in Strasbourg next week.

The Arctic is home to half a million EU citizens from Finland, Sweden as well as Denmark through Greenland.

“A shift in the perception of the Arctic is urgently needed as an increasingly tense international situation forces us to review our Arctic policy,” said Anna Fotyga (ECR, Poland), author of the Parliament report.

The Arctic will no longer be a remote or inaccessible region, she said, but will in fact play a critical role in Europe’s future.

“The EU’s Arctic strategy must reflect the new security realities in the region, rising geopolitical tensions and new players such as China,” said Fotyga. “Moscow looks at the Arctic in the long term, striving to impose a series of legal, economic and military facts. In this way, it introduces global tensions to a region that we want to preserve as an area of peaceful and fruitful cooperation.”

The report urges Russia to fully respect international law and to be mindful of the consequences of its actions. It also says that potential EU cooperation with Russia in the Arctic must not jeopardise the goals of sanctions against Russian action elsewhere.

The increasing role of the Arctic in trade, navigation, environment and climate, issues related to local communities, in particular indigenous people, must also be taken into account, said Fotyga.

There is growing interest in the Arctic and its rare earth mineral resources, which are crucial in the development of new technologies: both green and military.

“Europe must reduce its dependence on China for these minerals and the Arctic should play a central role in the European Raw Materials Alliance,” said the Polish MEP.

MEPs are worried that Russia and China will exploit the region without proper environmental impact assessment. China’s investments in strategic infrastructure projects and efforts to obtain mining rights are of concern as they are reminiscent of how the country operates in other parts of the world. MEPs therefore urge the Arctic states to carry out thorough screenings of foreign investments.

As China is developing icebreaker programmes, the report suggests that EU countries and partner countries could build icebreakers under an EU flag.

Fotyga, who was part of a Parliament delegation to Denmark, Iceland and Greenland in September, said Parliament wants greater EU visibility in the region, greater EU coordination, as well as cooperation with partners committed to respecting international law, developing peaceful cooperation and guaranteeing freedom of navigation.

MEP Puigdemont arrested in Italy

Brussels 24.09.2021 Member of European Parliament, Catalan politician Carles Puigdemont, who fled Spain after a failed secession bid for the region in 2017, was detained Thursday, 23 September, in Sardinia, Italy, his lawyer said.

MEP Puigdemont, who moved to Belgium and was elected there as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), has been fighting extradition to Spain, which accused him and other Catalan independence leaders of sedition.

Lawyer Gonzalo Boye said Puigdemont was detained when he arrived in Sardinia, where he was due to attend a cultural event this weekend.

The circumstances under which Puigdemont was taken into custody were not announced. Boye wrote on Twitter the Catalan politician was detained under a 2019 European arrest warrant, even though it had been previously suspended.

Police at the airport in northern Sardinia didn’t answer phone calls Thursday night after the arrest, the AP news agency writes, while police in the city of Alghero said they weren’t aware of his detention.

The European Parliament voted in March to lift the immunity of Puigdemont and two of his associates. In July the three EU lawmakers failed to have their immunity restored after the European Union’s general court said that they did not demonstrate they were at risk of being arrested.

Sardinian media reported earlier in the week he was due to attend an event in Alghero on Sunday, so his presence on the Mediterranean island had been expected. Sardinian media had also reported that Puigdemont was invited by a Sardinian pro-independence group.

Puigdemont’s office said in a statement that he had traveled to Alghero from Brussels to attend a folklore festival where he was detained upon arrival by Italian police. On Friday, September 24, Puigdemont will appear in front of a judge in the city of Sassari who would rule on whether he should be freed, the statement said.

Puigdemont and a number of his independalist colleagues fled to Belgium in October 2017, fearing arrest after holding an independence referendum for Catalonia that the Spanish courts and government said was illegal.

Nine Catalan independalists received prison sentences for their role in the 2017 referendum ranging from nine to 13 years. They were pardoned in July.

MEPs historic decision to end animal tests

Strasbourg 16.09.2021 Parliament urges the EU to accelerate the transition to a research system that does not use animals.

MEPs request an EU-wide action plan with ambitious and achievable objectives as well as timelines for phasing-out the use of animals in research and testing. They see this happening by reducing, refining and replacing procedures on live animals for scientific purposes, as soon as it is scientifically possible and without lowering the level of protection for human health and the environment.

They want sufficient medium- and long-term funding to be made available to ensure the fast development, validation and introduction of alternative testing methods including through increased funding under Horizon Europe. MEPs also say that scientists, researchers and technicians must be trained in using advanced non-animal models and in sharing best practices.

Parliament recognises that previous animal testing has contributed to research and medical advances, as well as safe vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines. MEPs understand that there are cases where animal experiments are still needed to gain scientific insights for certain diseases due to the current unavailability of non-animal methods. They underline however that these testing regimes must only take place where conditions are optimised to minimise pain, distress and suffering and protect the welfare of the animals concerned.

The resolution “on plans and actions to accelerate the transition to innovation without the use of animals in research, regulatory testing and education” was adopted with 667 votes to 4.

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