Category Archives: EU

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.

EU stands behind Barnier

Brussels 15.10.2020 “…The European Council invites the Unionʼs chief negotiator (Michel Barnier) to continue negotiations in the coming weeks, and calls on the UK to make the necessary moves to make an agreement possible” the text of European Council conclusions on EU-UK relations reads.

The EU Council president Charles Michel expressed the leaders concern by lack of progress in the EU-UK talks.

The European Council reaffirmed the Union’s determination to have “as close as possible” a partnership with the United Kingdom on the basis of the negotiating directives of 25 February 2020, while respecting the previously agreed European Council guidelines, as well as statements and declarations, notably those of 25 November 2018, in particular as regards the level playing field, governance and fisheries, according to the Council conclusions.

Strasbourg #EPlenary to be held remotely

Brussels 15.10.2020 “I regret to announce that next week’s plenary will not take place in Strasbourg, but will be held remotely” David Sassoli announced on his Twitter micro blog.

“The situation in France and Belgium is very serious and travelling is not advised” he added.
However “Strasbourg remains the home of the European Parliament, and we will do everything we can to return”.

President Macron will impose a 9pm-6am curfew for Paris and eight other big French cities from Saturday, October 17, in an attempt to contain a “second wave” coronavirus outbreak that has spread across Europe.

During the announcement on October 14 President Macron ensured his compatriots, that the exceptional measure will last four weeks, with a possibility of prolongation until December 1. There are fines of 135 euro and 1500 euro foreseen for “non-respect” of the curfew. The popularity of President Macron has dropped almost 40% after the announcement, because the effectiveness of this extreme restrictive measure is not understood.

On contrary, to European continental restrictive and punitive measures, in countries like Sweden, where the accent was made on a dialog with the citizens, and educational strategy, the COVID-19 is largely in the past.

#EUCO: Mid-October Council agenda

EU leaders will meet in Brussels on 15-16 October to discuss the whole range of issues, including the epidemiological situation, relations with the United Kingdom, as well as climate change and relations with Africa, namely the post-Cotonou agreement.

COVID-19
The European Council will look at the current epidemiological situation. Leaders will also discuss overall coordination and the work on the development and distribution of a vaccine at the EU level.

EU-UK relations
The European Council will take stock of the implementation of the withdrawal agreement and review the state of the negotiations on the future EU-UK partnership. Leaders will discuss preparatory work for all scenarios after 1 January 2021. EU-UK negotiations on the future partnership.

Climate change
EU leaders will look at the progress made towards delivering the EU’s objective of climate neutrality by 2050. Following the adoption by the Commission of a 2030 Climate Target Plan, the EU leaders will hold an orientation debate on climate change-related issues.

The European Council will also discuss EU-Africa relations and may address other foreign policy issues, depending on developments, and the Cotonou agreement, which is the overarching framework for EU relations with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. It covers the EU’s relations with 79 countries, including 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Mairead McGuinness new EU finance Commissioner

Brussels 12.10.2020 The EU Council today appointed, by common accord with the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, Mairead McGuinness as new member of the European Commission.

The appointment follows the resignation of Phil Hogan and is for the remainder of the term of office of the Commission, which runs until 31 October 2024.

Ms McGuinness has been assigned by the President of the Commission the portfolio of financial services, financial stability and the Capital Markets Union.

In accordance with Article 246 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, a vacancy caused by resignation of a member of the Commission is filled for the remainder of his or her term by a new member of the same nationality. The new member is appointed by the Council, by common accord with the President of the Commission, after consulting the European Parliament.

EU top diplomats meet in Luxembourg

Luxembourg 12.10.2020 The meeting of Foreign ministers, chaired by the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell, will review recent developments and debate issues related to the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, Russia, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

The EU Ministers will first be briefed by Borrell about a number of recent developments and upcoming events, including: Nagorno-Karabakh,the Kyrgyz Republic, Mozambique, the EU-Ukraine Summit, Venezuela, and the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024.
The Council will discuss the evolving situation in Belarus and follow up on the four strands of action agreed at EU level, including support to Belarusian society. Ministers will adopt new Council conclusions on Belarus which will guide the finalisation of the in-depth review of EU-Belarus relations.

Josep Borrell and the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and other Western Balkans regional issues, Miroslav Lajčák, will update the Council on the latest developments and challenges regarding the Dialogue.
Ministers will be invited to reflect on the state of EU-Russia relations within the framework of the five guiding principles, and taking account recent developments, like the Navalny case.
The Council will have a strategic discussion on EU relations with Latin America and the Caribbean, building on discussions held at the July 2020 Foreign Affairs Council about the considerable impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the region and the EU response. Ministers will also consider the potential revival of high level EU political engagement with the region.

Ministers will be informed about the Indo-Pacific region, and the Council is expected to adopt conclusions on Bosnia and Herzegovina and Operation EUFOR Althea.
Over a working lunch, ministers will have a strategic discussion on multilateralism.

COVID19: Commission opts for U.S.Remdesivir

The Commission has signed a joint procurement framework contract with the pharmaceutical company Gilead for the supply of up to 500,000 treatment courses of Veklury, the brand name for Remdesivir, and the opportunity to increase supply beyond the 500,000 treatment courses. There are 36 signatories of the Joint Procurement Agreement participating in this joint procurement, including all EU countries, the EEA countries of Norway and Iceland, the UK, as well as six candidate countries and potential candidates.

All participating countries can now place their orders to procure Veklury directly. Veklury is at this stage the only medicine with a conditional marketing authorisation in the EU for the treatment of COVID-19 patients needing oxygen supply. Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “Today we secure access to Remdesivir for the treatment of up to 500,000 patients in need. We are leaving no stone unturned in our efforts to ensure that safe and efficient therapeutics are available against COVID-19. Through our EU Joint Procurements, we are empowering countries across Europe to join forces and get access to vital equipment and medicines. We are always stronger together, and this is European solidarity in action against COVID-19.”
The decision of the Commission was takes in spite of absence of any evidence that Remdesivir has desired effect in curing COVID-19.

“During outbreak of emerging disease, the most important aim is to discover an effective drug to save life. Consequently, a lot of effort are generally made by the industry to promote clinical trials with new drugs. Here we review evidence of the 8 most recent reports including 3 randomized controlled trials on the clinical efficacy of remdesivir in treating COVID-19 patient. We conclude that it is far too premature to identify remdesivir as a curative or life-saving intervention” reads article, signed by three scientists, including the Prof.Didier Raoult, Director of the Institute of infectious deceases IHU Méditerranée in Marseille, France.

In some of the EU countries, like France, Remdesivir (Veklury ®, Gilead) has since July 15, 2020 a temporary authorization for cohort use (ATUc). This is not an easy prescription molecule and any initiation must first be the subject of a collegial opinion. Its use is restricted to healthcare facilities for oxygen-seeking patients under monitoring of renal and hepatic functions. The evolution of the condition of the first five patients hospitalized in intensive care at Bichat hospital (Paris) and treated with this broad-spectrum antiviral, in particular the toxicity observed, underlines the complexity of use of this antiviral in fragile individuals, reads an artile in the Journal Of Infectious Diseases.

Remdesivir is a drug invented by the American laboratory Gilead for the treatment of several infectious diseases. It is active against Ebola virus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), Junin virus (responsible for Argentinian hemorrhagic fever), Middle East respiratory syndrome virus (MERS-CoV, which belongs to the family of coronavirus) or the Marburg virus. It was in 2009 that Gilead began the research that led to remdesivir, with programs on hepatitis C and respiratory syncytial virus. It is an antiviral drug analogous to adenosine. It is available as a lyophilisate intended for intravenous administration.

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