Category Archives: EU

#EUCO: Michel invites to Summit

The president of the EU Council Charles Michel has issued the invitation letter to the head of states and governments ahead of their meeting on 1-2 October 2020. (Image above: archive).

“Our special meeting on Thursday and Friday will primarily focus on Europe’s place in the world and our capacity to shape our own destiny.

“Our meeting will start on Thursday at 15.00 with the traditional exchange of views with the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli. We will then use our first working session for a debate on EU-China relations, following the EU-China leaders’ meeting via video conference on 14 September. We want to work with China on tackling major global challenges such as the COVID 19 pandemic and climate change. We also want to insist on a more balanced and reciprocal economic relationship, ensuring a level playing field. And we will continue to promote our values and standards.

“At the end of the session, we will discuss current issues requiring our attention, namely the situation in Belarus, the poisoning of Alexei Navalny and the Nagorno-Karabakh escalation.

“The dinner will be entirely devoted to the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and our relations with Turkey. Our objective is to create a space for a constructive dialogue with Turkey to achieve stability and security in the whole region, and to ensure full respect for the sovereignty and sovereign rights of all EU Member States. This will only be possible if Turkey engages constructively. All options remain on the table to defend the legitimate interests of the EU and its Member States. The EU can only be strong on the international stage if it has a resilient and innovative economic base.

COVID-19 has undoubtedly revealed some of the EU’s weaknesses. But I believe we should turn this into an opportunity, critically assessing together how to make the EU more resilient. Crucially, I would like us to discuss how we can best enhance the EU’s strategic autonomy alongside an open and competitive social market economy. Against this backdrop, we will have an in-depth discussion on Friday morning on unlocking the full potential of the Single Market, developing an ambitious industrial policy and exploiting the opportunities offered by the latest digital developments. The exceptional recovery package, adopted in July, will help transform our economies and, along with the Green and Digital transitions, will support us achieve these ambitions. At the end of the meeting, we will provide a brief update on negotiations with the United Kingdom”.

 

Michel regrets EU consensus method

In his speech “European strategic autonomy is the goal of our generation” at the Bruegel think tank president of the European Council Charles Michel addressed problems of global instability, and pointed at the need to establish the EU autonomy. He also has drawn attention to a number of problems in the EU foreign policy, namely the challenges imposed by China and Russia, “unpredictability” of Mediterranean neighbourhood, and post-Brexit trade negotiations. The president also regretted the method of unanimity in the EU foreign policy decision-making process, which slows it down, and “even some times prevents the decisions”.
Michel has underlined the the EU defence should develop in strong partnership with NATO, and “deployed within” North Atlantic Alliance.

“…Because the globalised world has changed a lot since the end of the Cold War. And because an arc of instability has developed around us.

“In the East, the natural and harmless extension of the European democratic space was brutally stopped by Russia in Ukraine. Russia saw a major geopolitical danger there. This cost Ukraine part of its territory, and a war in the East which permanently destabilises the country. Although the context is different, the events in Belarus once again highlight the challenge at Europe’s eastern borders.

“In the Eastern Mediterranean, we face tensions and unpredictability. Libya and Syria are hotbeds of insecurity and instability. There is pressure on the sovereignty of Greece and Cyprus. Our relationship with Turkey is under strain. This is why the next European summit will be devoted to the adoption of a European strategic position in connection with this region. I proposed the organisation of a multilateral conference on the Eastern Mediterranean, where maritime de-limitations, energy, security, migration, etc. would be discussed.

“In the South: Africa. And I feel, at the level of Europe and its leaders, how much the outlook on Africa is changing. Its energy, its vitality, open the way to an unprecedented alliance. It only depends on us, African and European leaders.

“In the West, Brexit. In the aftermath of the referendum, the result shook up the European Union. This choice of national sovereignty was felt as a failure of European construction.

“Today what is it? It is the United Kingdom that faces our quiet strength. The truth is, the British face a dilemma. What model of society do they want? Do they prefer to maintain high quality standards (health, food, environmental, etc.)? Or, on the contrary, do they want lower standards, subject their breeders and their businesses to unfair and unjust competition from other regions of the world? It is the answer to this question that will determine the level of access to our internal market”

President Michel has also regarded the principle of unanimity in the EU foreign policy, “regularly debated”:

“…Unanimity is required in matters of foreign policy. This question of unanimity is, as we know, regularly debated. And I have a qualified opinion in this regard. Of course, the unanimity requirement slows down and sometimes even prevents the decision. But this requirement leads to constant efforts to weld the Member States together. And this European unity is also our strength. Unanimity promotes the lasting adhesion of the 27 countries to the strategy deliberated together. So I ask myself: isn’t renouncing unanimity a false good idea? Are there not other more relevant reforms to act more quickly at the international level, without losing the added value of our unanimity?

“My modest experience is as follows. Very often, in recent months, I have observed that apparently important differences between the Member States were quickly blurred thanks to the substantive debate. So it was with China. The political preparations allowed us in a few months to define a common position which is now shared by all. The same will be true for the eastern Mediterranean and even Belarus. I am optimistic that there too we will express common positions which will draw their strength from our unity. The major decisions on the budget and the stimulus fund further illustrate this certainty: political confrontation, the exchange of arguments on the merits, are an essential step in the process of democratic deliberation. And they found the legitimacy of the decision.

“…Defense is not a European competence like any other. And I know the different national sensibilities. In my eyes, deepening the common defence is a necessity and is more common sense than an ideological obsession. This project must be deployed within NATO. This is the meaning of the strategic partnership between the EU and NATO. The permanent structured cooperation and the European Defense Fund, which we have just endowed with 7 billion euro, are fully in line with this ambition. And I greet Jean-Claude Juncker and Federica Mogherini, whose strategic impetus in this area has not yet been fully appreciated”.

Brussels hosts Europarl October plenary

The president of the European Parliament David Sassoli issued a communication to attention of the Members of the European, informing them about next Plenary taking place in Brussels instead of Strasbourg as a result of the sanitary situation in Grand Est region of France. (Image above: European Parliament, Strasbourg)
Unfortunately, the health situation prevents us from going to Strasbourg for the first plenary session in October. We hope that everything will change soon and that we can return to our city
The novel coronavirus COVID-19 continues to spread in Europe and across the world”  Sassoli wrote on his Twitter micro blog.

On September 10, 2020, the Conference of Presidents debated the consequences of the pandemic and came to the conclusion that Parliament will again hold its sessions in Strasbourg as soon as conditions allow. In close collaboration with the French authorities, we continue to closely monitor the evolution of COVID-19″ the text of the communication reads.

“Unfortunately, given the recent increase in the rate of transmission of the virus in France, including in the Bas-Rhin department, and for the sake of public health, we must reconsider the displacement of Members and employees in the European Parliament, a few days of the first parliamentary session in October.

“Strasbourg, seat of the European Parliament, is very close to our hearts. Beyond the legal obligation to hold the sessions there, it is our most sincere wish to find this city which embodies the reconciliation of European countries better than any other.

“I would like to thank the French authorities and the City of Strasbourg for their support and the close collaboration implemented since the start of the pandemic and I sincerely hope that we will be able to go there again soon”.

“The session of the European Parliament from 5 to 8 October will be held in Brussels”.
Image below: European Parliament, Brussels.

EU celebrates language day

The European Parliament is organising an Online Multilingualism Day to celebrate one of the EU’s core values that ensures Parliament is accessible and transparent, with 24 official languages, there are 552 possible language combinations at the European Parliament.

This is the fourth edition of Multilingualism Day, celebrated for the first time at the European Parliament on 30 September 2017. The event coincides with the European Day of Languages on 26 September and the International Translation Day on 30 September.

Multilingualism is one of the European Union’s core values, ensuring that all EU citizens can follow the work of their democratic representatives in any of the EU’s official languages.

The Multilingualism Day will close with a live panel from the Brussels plenary chamber discussing what it takes to make multilingualism a reality.

Multilingualism remains a sensitive issue for the bloc: French journalists covering the European Union affairs have complained to the civil servants about the increasing use of the language of Shakespeare’s in their communication which they presume gives a “competitive advantage” to the anglophone press.

The French section of the Association of European Journalists reminded Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel in a letter dated September 23 that the use of several European languages in the communication of any EU institution is a legal obligation enshrined in founding treaties.

Taking as an example the EU’s proposed Migration Pact unveiled earlier this week, they complained that all communication about it was only released in English.

“No version in any other working language (French or German) was available, more than two hours after the official communication. At the end of the day, only the two-page press release was available in French. This is out of proportion with the constraints of speed inherent to the journalism profession,” they wrote.

“This seems all the more unacceptable to us since this is not an isolated case, but a repeated practice, now almost systematic, especially since your arrival as head of the European Commission,” they added.

They argued that the increasing practice of communicating in only one language makes disinformation easier and that other countries including Russia, China and the US regularly makes official documents available in other languages including French, Spanish and German.

At present English remains the most rapidly growing language with average 15 new words a day, mainly in IT terms. The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use (and 47,156 obsolete words).

However the EU language palette includes not only European languages:the Maltese is descended from Siculo-Arabic, a Semitic language within the Afroasiatic family,that in the course of its history has been influenced by Sicilian and Italian, to a lesser extent French, and more recently English. Today, the core vocabulary is Semitic, with large numbers of loanword, because of the Sicilian influence on Siculo-Arabic, Maltese has many language contact features and is most commonly described as a language with a large number of loanwords.
It is also the only language of Arabic origin that is written in the Latin alphabet. Although Maltese and English are both official languages, Maltese has been recognised as an official language of the European Union when Malta became a member state on 1 May 2004. Around 400 000 people speak Maltese nowadays.

Michel postpones #EUCO Summit

On 1 and 2 October, the EU leaders will meet in Brussels to discuss the Single market, industrial policy and digital transformation, as well as external relations, in particular relations with Turkey and with China. The Summit, initially planned for 24 and 25 September, has been postponed as President Michel is in quarantine.

In July, the European Council agreed an unprecedented recovery package to counter the effects of COVID-19 on the economies and societies of the EU member states. The two pillars of such a recovery, the green transition and the digital transformation, coupled with a strong single market, will foster new forms of growth and strengthen the EU’s resilience.

“This agreement was a major step to our vital objective: European strategic autonomy. (…) The strategic independence of Europe is our new common project for this century. It’s in all our common interest” said Charles Michel, President of the European Council.
The European Council will look at ways of deepening and strengthening the single market, developing a more ambitious industrial policy, and pressing ahead with the digital transformation. EU leaders will focus on:
going back to a fully functioning single market as soon as possible; making the EU’s industries more competitive globally and increasing their autonomy; accelerating the digital transition.

The European Council will hold a strategic discussion on Turkey. During the EU leaders’ video conference of 19 August 2020, the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and the relations with Turkey were raised by some member states. The leaders expressed their concern about the growing tensions and stressed the urgent need to de-escalate. The members of the European Council expressed their full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus and recalled and reaffirmed previous conclusions on the illegal drilling activities.

“We agreed to come back to these issues during our meeting in September. All options will be on the table”, president Michel said.
Following the EU-China summit on 22 June 2020 and the meeting with President Xi on 14 September 2020, both by video conference, the European Council will discuss EU-China relations.
In the light of events, the European Council may address other specific foreign policy issues.

COVID19: President Michel self-isolates

Brussels 22.09.2020 The president of the European Council Charles Michel has been informed today that one of security officers, with whom he had “close” contact early last week, tested positive for COVID-19. Respecting Belgian sanitary rules, he has to respect quarantine for two weeks from today onward, although the president has been passing tests regularity, and was tested negative yesterday, his spokesperson said.

The Belgium National Security Council is set to meet on September 23 to discuss the COVID-19 measures in the face of fast-rising infection rates. Infections are particularly noticeable in younger age groups than was registered in the spring. Last week an average 45 people a day were hospitalised due to complications from the virus. In the seven day period previous to that, the figure was 30 patients per day. It has been more than a month since the last Security Council meeting, which, according to Geert Meyfroidt, a professor in intensive care at KU Leuven, is too long. “You cannot go a month without meeting and taking decisions,” he told Radio 1. “The timing of measures is as crucial as the measures themselves.”

President Michel has decided to postpone the special European Council meeting that was scheduled for 24 and 25 September to 1 and 2 October #EUCO.

Borrell meets Svetlana Tikhanovskaya

Brussels, 21.09.2020 Ahead of the Foreign ministers Council the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell met with Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the Belarus opposition politician in exile: “We met with Sviatlana #Tsikhanouskaya ahead of #FAC. The EU has no hidden agenda. Belarusian people should be able to freely choose their president, without persecution and repression. Only an inclusive national dialogue can lead to a peaceful and sustainable solution #Belarus” the head of the EU diplomacy wrote on his Twitter micro blog.

The situation in Belrus after the sham elections is one of three major issues for discussion with EU Foreign Ministers. The other key topics for the EU diplomacy are “positive momentum” in Libya and relations with the African Union.

EU diplomacy focus on Africa

Brussels, 18.09.2020 The Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) meeting on September 21, chaired by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, will start at 9.30 with a discussion on current affairs.

Under this item ministers will review the most pressing issues on the international agenda, including matters relating to Lebanon, China, Turkey, Russia and Venezuela.
The Council will then exchange views on the latest developments that have taken place in Libya since the announcements made on 21 August 2020 by the Libyan political leaders on the way forward out of the crisis. The High Representative will also debrief ministers on his visit to the country on 1 September 2020.

After that, ministers will discuss relations between the EU and the African Union, in particular in preparation for the next EU-AU Foreign Ministers’ meeting. They will exchange views on bot the joint EU-Africa priorities ahead, and possible outreach to African partners on the road to the next EU-AU Summit.

Ministers will also have an opportunity to be updated on the state of play in the post-Cotonou negotiations.

Finally, the Council will discuss the latest political developments in Belarus and potential EU support for national inclusive dialogue. Ministers will also be updated on EU financial support to the people of Belarus and on the initial findings of the review of EU-Belarus relations.
Over a working lunch, ministers will exchange views on the overall partnership with the Southern Neighbourhood and how it should be framed in the future.

#SOTEU: Leyen promises EU Magnitsky law

In her State of the Union #SOTEU #SOTEU2020 address on 16 September 2020, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen presented her vision for the European Union in post- pandemic period, tools for recovery, and sources for new vitality. In spite of the fact that the foreign policy of the EU has been overshadowed by the coronavirus issue, the ruptures in communications it has caused, and standstill in many areas, it stayed an integral part of the presentation, although in a rather sketchy way drawing the lines of the bloc foreign policy, with the accent of “planet fragility” and Climate Change.

One of the most courageous minds of our times, Andrei Sakharov – a man so admired by this House – always spoke of his unshakeable belief in the hidden strength of the human spirit. In these last six months, Europeans have shown how strong that human spirit really is. We saw it in the care workers who moved into nursing homes to look after the ill and the elderly. In the doctors and nurses who became family members for those in their last breath. In the front line workers who worked day after night, week after week, who took risks so most of us didn’t have to. We are inspired by their empathy, bravery and sense of duty – and I want to start this speech by paying tribute to them all. Their stories also reveal a lot about the state of our world and the state of our Union.They show the power of humanity and the sense of mourning which will live long in our society. And they expose to us the fragility all around us.
“A virus a thousand times smaller than a grain of sand exposed how delicate life can be’.

“It laid bare the strains on our health systems and the limits of a model that values wealth above well-being.
It brought into sharper focus the planetary fragility that we see every day through melting glaciers, burning forests and now through global pandemics. It changed the very way we behave and communicate – keeping our arms at length, our faces behind masks.It showed us just how fragile our community of values really is – and how quickly it can be called into question around the world and even here in our Union.
But people want to move out of this corona world, out of this fragility, out of uncertainty. They are ready for change and they are ready to move on. And this is the moment for Europe.
The moment for Europe to lead the way from this fragility towards a new vitality. And this is what I want to talk about today”.

In foreign policy the COVID-19 pandemic and world-wide vaccination have been addressed by the president vor der Leyen in the first place and became an issue of international politics:


“…In the pandemic, European planes delivering thousands of tonnes of protective equipment landed everywhere from Sudan to Afghanistan, Somalia to Venezuela. None of us will be safe until all of us are safe – wherever we live, whatever we have. An accessible, affordable and safe vaccine is the world’s most promising way to do that. At the beginning of the pandemic, there was no funding, no global framework for a COVID vaccine – just the rush to be the first to get one.This is the moment the EU stepped up to lead the global response. With civil society, the G20, WHO and others we brought more than 40 countries together to raise 16 billion euro to finance research on vaccines, tests and treatments for the whole world. This is the EU’s unmatched convening power in action. But it is not enough to find a vaccine. We need to make sure that European citizens and those around the world have access to it. Just this month, the EU joined the COVAX global facility and contributed 400 million euro to help ensure that safe vaccines are available not only for those who can afford it – but for everyone who needs it. Vaccine nationalism puts lives at risk. Vaccine cooperation saves them”.


On UN, WTO, conflicts in Libya and Syria:
“We are firm believers in the strength and value of cooperating in international bodies.It is with a strong United Nations that we can find long-term solutions for crises like Libya or Syria.It is with a strong World Health Organisation that we can better prepare and respond to global pandemics or local outbreaks – be it Corona or Ebola. And it is with a strong World Trade Organisation that we can ensure fair competition for all.But the truth is also that the need to revitalise and reform the multilateral system has never been so urgent. Our global system has grown into a creeping paralysis. Major powers are either pulling out of institutions or taking them hostage for their own interests. Neither road will lead us anywhere. Yes, we want change. But change by design – not by destruction.And this is why I want the EU to lead reforms of the WTO and WHO so they are fit for today’s world”.

EU-China relations:
“But we know that multilateral reforms take time and in the meantime the world will not stop.Without any doubt, there is a clear need for Europe to take clear positions and quick actions on global affairs.Two days ago, the latest EU-China leaders meeting took place.The relationship between the European Union and China is simultaneously one of the most strategically important and one of the most challenging we have.From the outset I have said China is a negotiating partner, an economic competitor and a systemic rival.
We have interests in common on issues such as climate change – and China has shown it is willing to engage through a high-level dialogue. But we expect China to live up to its commitments in the Paris Agreement and lead by example.There is still hard work to do on fair market access for European companies, reciprocity and overcapacity. We continue to have an unbalanced trade and investment partnership”.


Announcing of anti-semitsm as EU “issue”
“And there is no doubt that we promote very different systems of governance and society. We believe in the universal value of democracy and the rights of the individual. Europe is not without issues – think for example of anti-semitism. But we discuss them publicly. Criticism and opposition are not only accepted but are legally protected”.


On Hong Kong and Uygurs:
“So we must always call out human rights abuses whenever and wherever they occur – be it on Hong Kong or with the Uyghurs. But what holds us back? Why are even simple statements on EU values delayed, watered down or held hostage for other motives? When Member States say Europe is too slow, I say to them be courageous and finally move to qualified majority voting – at least on human rights and sanctions implementation.


Magnitsky Act proposal:
“This House has called many times for a European Magnitsky Act – and I can announce that we will now come forward with a proposal. We need to complete our toolbox”…

#SOTEU: Leyen delivers State of Union

Ahead of September 16 debate on the State of the European Union, lead MEPs will discuss the European Union’s priorities and react to questions and ideas from citizens. (Image: archive, Ursula von der Leyen).

As European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is to address the House on Wednesday, Parliament will hold a central live event the day before, on Tuesday 15 September, from 16.00 to 18.00, to be opened by Parliament Vice-President Katarina Barley (S&D, DE).
The live event will be webstreamed here, as well as on EbS.

After a quick catch-up session on the role of Members of the European Parliament, representatives from the political groups will present their own political priorities and expectations ahead of the debate.
The event will feature a debate with young Europeans with EP Vice-President Othmar Karas (EPP, AT), where they will discuss young people’s ideas for a better Europe.

The next debate will evolve around the major current topics in the European Parliament, with Committee Chair for Environment, Public Health and Food safety Pascal Canfin (Renew, FR) and Foreign Affairs Committee Chair David McAllister (EPP, DE).

A multilingual website encourages citizens to get involved and facilitates contact with MEPs. The EP Liaison Offices in the member states have organised over 150 online activities over three weeks.
The State of the European Union debate is a key moment to demonstrate the European Commission’s accountability towards the EU’s democratically elected representatives. It focuses on important issues like the coming economic recovery, climate change, youth unemployment and migration flows. This annual event is significant to promote a more transparent and democratic European Union. It is an opportunity to bring the European Union closer to the citizens, highlighting the year’s core action points and challenges. Citizens’ rights and the democratic process are at the heart of this unique plenary debate.

The EP central Facebook page will stream the debate in English, in addition to the regular streaming in all languages on the EP website. After the debate, a wrap-up video will be made available in 24 languages.

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