Category Archives: Europe

Leyen welcomes Swiss vote result

“Switzerland and the EU are more than just neighbours. We have very close and deep ties, rooted in a long, shared, European history. Geographical proximity plays a role of course, But, much more importantly, the close bonds between our citizens.About 1.4 million EU citizens live in Switzerland and 450,000 Swiss live in the EU. Another 320,000 EU citizens cross the border daily to work in Switzerland” said, w President von der Leyen, while reacting upon the result of the Swiss referendum regarding freedom of movement with the EU in favour of EU-Switzerland close ties.

“The citizens of Switzerland have shown today that they value these ties.
Their vote upholds one of the core pillars of our relationship: the mutual freedom to move, to live and to work in Switzerland and the EU.

“I welcome this outcome. I see it as a positive signal to continue to consolidate and deepen our relationship.
I will soon speak to Mrs Sommaruga, President of the Swiss Confederation. I will congratulate her on this result. Of course, I look forward to the Swiss Federal Council now moving swiftly on the signature and ratification of the International Framework Agreement that we negotiated in 2018.

“I will reiterate this message I passed last January when we met in Davos”.

Swiss voters have refused a proposal to end an accord with the EU, allowing the free movement of people.
In the outcome of the referendum early 62% said they wished to keep free movement, while 38% were against.
Switzerland is not a member of the EU but has a series of interdependent treaties with the bloc which allow it to access to Europe’s free trade area.

The move to rein in immigration was proposed by the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), but opposed by the government.
An initiative to introduce quotas on immigrants from the EU to Switzerland narrowly passed in a 2014 referendum, reflecting upon Swiss-EU relations.
Swiss people are given a direct say in their own affairs under the country’s system of direct democracy. They are regularly invited to vote on various issues in national or regional referendums.

Suisse-EU free movement limit law failed

The Swiss by a large majority on September 27, Sunday, said ‘NO’ to a right-wing initiative that would have restricted the immigration of European Union nationals, according to projections released shortly after the polls closed.

According to the polling institute GFS-Bern, voters rejected by 63% the so-called limitation initiative launched by the SVP, the country’s leading party but to which all the other political forces were opposed as well as the economic world.

Crimea water supply prospects

The Head of Crimea, Sergey Aksenov, claims that the situation with the “water shortage” in Simferopol will be resolved in March 2021 thanks to new wells. As reported by “Interfax”, he made this announcement at a meeting of the operational headquarters for the city’s water supply. The Human Right to Water and Sanitation (HRWAS) was recognised as a “human right” by the United Nations General Assembly on 28 July 2010.

“We are drilling three wells, which can provide additional 10 thousand cubic meters per day now, and another 40 thousand cubic meters per day from three underground water intakes. This will be January-February 2021. We will definitely provide the water supply system for Simferopol … Starting point when our situation should be defused, even if there will be no precipitation, this is approximately March 2021, “Aksenov has underlined.

According to the Head of Crimea, underground sources will be used before the construction of the desalination station. “At underground sources, including at a certain stage, we will hold out until technologies are built,” Aksenov said.

As for the desalination plant, it “is being developed by the Ministry of Industry and Trade on behalf of the president, and within the next two weeks the federal government will propose a solution related to the construction of a desalination plant in the city of Simferopol. The plant will be built in the village of Nikolaevka, on the seashore … no one has ever implemented projects. In fact, the decision to be made here will be unique, “Aksenov said at a meeting of the operational headquarters on the issue of water supply to Crimea on Friday.

As reported, water scarcity is observed in Crimea in 2019 and 2020 and may, according to forecasts, last in 2021.

Rigid water supply schedules by the hour were introduced in August this year in Simferopol and 39 other settlements nearby. Residents massively complain in social networks about the poor pressure of water or no water at all, as well as the color – from red to black. From September 23, the water began to be turned off at night in the resort Alushta in the south of the peninsula.

According to Rosvodresursy, water losses in the networks in Simferopol exceed 50%, in some places they reach 80%, the department considers such a situation unacceptable in a water-deficient region.

The North Crimean Canal, intended to supply the arid zones of Crimea and agricultural lands with Dnieper waters, was blocked by Ukraine for the peninsula, disagreeing with its status after the referendum (2014). The Permanent Commission on International Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights (HRC) asks the UN and the Council of Europe to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in Crimea, complained about Ukraine.

Kiev says that the water from the Dnieper will return through the canal to Crimea only in the event of “de-occupation of the peninsula.”

In the meantime, the main hope of the Russian authorities in Crimea is precipitation, which should fill the reservoirs and solve the problem of water shortage on the peninsula. To do this, officials in cooperation with Roshydromet are planning to induce artificial precipitation. The first such experiments are promised to be implemented by the end of 2020.

EU new Envoy to Switzerland

On 1 September, H.E. Mr. Petros Mavromichalis presented his letters of accreditation, signed by the President of the European Council Charles Michel and the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, to the President of the Swiss Confederation Simonetta Sommaruga. By that, he is Extraordinary and Plenipentiary Ambassador of the European Union to Switzerland.

On occasion of the ceremony, Ambassador Mavromichalis and the President of the Confederation Simonetta Sommaruga evoked the close ties and shared values between the EU and Switzerland as well as the importance and quality of the bilateral relations.

The presentation of the letters of accreditation for the Principality of Liechtenstein is foreseen on 23 September in Vaduz.

Ambassador Petros Mavromichalis succeeds to Ambassador Michael Matthiessen, who ended his office in Bern on 31 August.

Borrell travels to Ukraine

Brussels 21.09.2020 On Tuesday 22 September, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, will pay an official visit to Kyiv, Ukraine.

The EU top diplomat will meet with the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, before a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, which will be followed by a press conference at c.14:15 CET, shown on EbS. During his visit, the High Representative/Vice-President will also hold meetings with the Ukrainian Minister of Defence, Andrii Taran, the Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in¬-Office in Ukraine and in the Trilateral Contact Group, Heidi Grau, and the Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, Yaşar Halit Çevik. He will also meet with members of civil society and the Ukrainian parliament to discuss anti-corruption developments in Ukraine. In light of the EU’s unprecedented support package(link is external) to Ukraine to support its response to the coronavirus pandemic, including EU-funded personal protective equipment, High Representative Borrell will also pay a visit to the Kyiv Regional Laboratory.

MEPs CALL for new elections in Belarus

17.09.2020, Brussels. MEPs call for new presidential elections in Belarus and urge the EU to sanction President Lukashenko.

In a resolution adopted by 574 votes in favour, 37 against with 82 abstentions on Septembere 17, the European Parliament rejects the official results of the “so-called presidential elections” in Belarus on 9 August this year, as these elections were conducted in a “flagrant violation of all internationally recognised standards”. Once the term of office for the incumbent authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko expires on 5 November, Parliament will no longer recognise him as the president of the country.

In the meantime, MEPs welcome the recently established Coordination Council as an “interim representation of the people demanding democratic change” in Belarus that is open to all political and social stakeholders. They also reiterate the many calls for new, free and fair elections to take place as soon as possible under international supervision.

MEPs call for EU sanctions against the group of individuals responsible for falsifying the election results and for the violent repression in Belarus, including President Lukashenko, and call on EU member states in the Council to implement these restrictive measures without delay, in close coordination with international partners.

MEPs also staunchly condemn the mass arrests and ongoing violent crackdown on peaceful protesters, strike leaders and journalists in the country, with many reports of ill-treatment, rape and torture emerging from
Belarusian detention centres and jails.

The resolution finally underlines the important contribution made by prominent female opposition members, led by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Veranika Tsapkala and Maria Kalesnikova, during the protests. It demands the immediate release of the arrested members of the Coordination Council and all those arbitrarily detained for political reasons.
The text notes that many Belarusians consider Tikhanovskaya to be the winner of the presidential elections and Belarus’ real president-elect.

EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement in jeopardy

Following the publication by the UK government of the draft “United Kingdom Internal Market Bill” on 9 September 2020, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič called for an extraordinary meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee to request the UK government to elaborate on its intentions and to respond to the EU’s serious concerns. A meeting took place today in London between Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič and Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

The Vice-President stated, in no uncertain terms, that the timely and full implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland – which Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government agreed to, and which the UK Houses of Parliament ratified, less than a year ago – is a legal obligation. The European Union expects the letter and spirit of this Agreement to be fully respected. Violating the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement would break international law, undermine trust and put at risk the ongoing future relationship negotiations.

The Withdrawal Agreement entered into force on 1 February 2020 and has legal effects under international law. Since that point in time, neither the EU nor the UK can unilaterally change, clarify, amend, interpret, disregard or disapply the agreement. The Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland is an essential part of the Withdrawal Agreement. Its aim is to protect peace and stability on the island of Ireland and was the result of long, detailed and difficult negotiations between the EU and the UK.

Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič stated that if the Bill were to be adopted, it would constitute an extremely serious violation of the Withdrawal Agreement and of international law.

If adopted as proposed, the draft bill would be in clear breach of substantive provisions of the Protocol: Article 5 (3) & (4) and Article 10 on custom legislation and State aid, including amongst other things, the direct effect of the Withdrawal Agreement (Article 4). In addition, the UK government would be in violation of the good faith obligation under the Withdrawal Agreement (Article 5) as the draft Bill jeopardises the attainment of the objectives of the Agreement.

The EU does not accept the argument that the aim of the draft Bill is to protect the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement. In fact, it is of the view that it does the opposite.

Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič called on the UK government to withdraw these measures from the draft Bill in the shortest time possible and in any case by the end of the month. He stated that by putting forward this Bill, the UK has seriously damaged trust between the EU and the UK. It is now up to the UK government to re-establish that trust.

He reminded the UK government that the Withdrawal Agreement contains a number of mechanisms and legal remedies to address violations of the legal obligations contained in the text – which the European Union will not be shy in using.

Opposition politician arrest in Minsk

A member of the Belarusian opposition’s Coordination Council Maria Kolesnikova #Kalesnikava has been arrested and placed in a pre-trial detention center in Minsk, to various sources report. (Image: social media).

“The head of the investigative group of the Investigative Committee’s main investigation department Vasilyuk called me and informed that she had been arrested,” Maria’s father Alexander Kolesnikov said on September 9, according to tut.by portal.

Meanwhile, the Belarusian State Border Committee noted that information on Kolesnikova’s whereabouts and a legal assessment of her actions would be provided later.

On Tuesday, Belarus-1 state TV channel reported on its Telegram channel that Kolesnikova had been detained while trying to illegally cross the border with Ukraine. According to the Belarusian State Border Committee, she was going through border control together with the Council’s spokesman Anton Rodnenkov and executive secretary Ivan Kravtsov. The two men passed the control and later headed to Kiev, where they established contact.

The representatives of former presidential hopeful Viktor Babariko announced that Kolesnikova had been allegedly in the Mozyr border guard detachment and was later taken to Minsk.

The presidential election in Belarus was held on August 9. According to the Central Election Commission, incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko was an absolute winner with 80.10% of the vote. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who was considered as his key rival, came in second with 10.12% of the vote.

She refused to recognize the official election results and exiled in Lithuania. Shortly after the exit poll results were announced, mass protests broke out in the country, which degenerated into clashes with law enforcement officers.

The authorities demand the end of the rallies, while the Coordination Council set up by the opposition calls to continue protests, demanding to cancel sham elections results, and set a new date for free and fair elections, releasing all political prisoners, who could not participate.

EU supports OSCE mediation in Belarus crisis

The EU Foreign ministers have been addressing the situation in Belarus during their meeting in Gymnich informal format which took place in Berlin for two days August 27-28.

«The European Union does not recognise the results of the election and considers the actions of the authorities unacceptable» said the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell at concluding press-conference.

«We, once again, express our fully support to Belarus’ sovereignty and independence, condemn the violent repression of the Belarusian people and we ask the authorities to engage in an inclusive dialogue to move out of the crisis.

«The important things in concrete terms: First, Belarus being a member of the OSCE, we think that the OSCE Chairmanship-in-Office’s proposal to visit and facilitate a dialogue should be accepted by the authorities. As the European Union, we support this in any way we can.
There was political agreement among Ministers to designate selected individuals responsible for the fraudulent elections in Belarus and for the subsequent crackdown under the existing Belarus sanctions regime. These designations shall include individuals at the high political level.

«Now, the detailed list and the respective legal acts will be prepared by the competent Council Working Groups in the coming days with a view to be adopted [by the Council] as soon as possible.
With regard to that, I have just received a letter signed by 11 members of the Council asking to do it as soon as possible, and pressing for quick decision-making. But we have to do that according to all the legal procedures.

«Finally, we push for a national dialogue that is the only way to see democracy and fundamental freedoms respected in Belarus».

EU expects Belarus to release journalists

«Belarus: the EU expects from authorities the immediate and unconditional release of detained journalists, along with ALL peaceful protesters. Let media do their jobs without intimidation. A FreePress is crucial to the democracy demanded by the people of Belarusé» the European External Action Service spokesperson wrote on his Twitter micro blog. (Image above: social media).

Belarusian police detained at least 20 journalists planning to cover a protest in central Minsk on August 27 and confiscated their telephones and identity documents, and other filming equipment Reuters news agency reported.

The interior ministry later on the same day said the journalists had been driven to a police station for officers to check if they had valid accreditation allowing them to exercise their profession.

The authorities explained that all those with official accreditation would be released.

There were numerious reports about the detention of press by riot police, however so far the situation of jounralists remains unclear.

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