Category Archives: featured

Mistrust in journalists at rise

Brussels 20.04.2021 The 2021 Edelman Trust barometer reveals a disturbing level of public mistrust of journalists, with 59% of respondents in 28 countries saying that journalists deliberately try to mislead the public by reporting information they know to be false. In reality, journalistic pluralism and rigorous reporting serve to combat disinformation and “infodemics”, including false and misleading information.

“Journalism is the best vaccine against disinformation,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Unfortunately, its production and distribution are too often blocked by political, economic, technological and, sometimes, even cultural factors. In response to the virality of disinformation across borders, on digital platforms and via social media, journalism provides the most effective means of ensuring that public debate is based on a diverse range of established facts.”

The country that fell the furthest in 2021 was Malaysia (down 18 at 119th), where the problems include a recent “anti-fake news” decree allowing the government to impose its own version of the truth. Big descents were also registered by Comoros (down 9 at 84th) and El Salvador (down 8 at 82nd), where journalists have struggled to obtain state-held information about the government’s handling of the pandemic. Most of the 2021 Index’s biggest gains are in Africa. Burundi (up 13 at 147th), Sierra Leone (up 10 at 75th) and Mali (up 9 at 99th) have all seen significant improvements, including the release of four journalists with the independent Burundian media Iwacu, the repeal of a law criminalising press offences in Sierra Leone and a fall in the number of abuses in Mali.

Europe and the Americas (North, Central and South) continue to be the most favourable continents for press freedom, even though the Americas registered the biggest deterioration in its regional violations score (up 2.5%). Europe registered a sizeable deterioration in its “Abuses” indicator, with acts of violence more than doubling in the European Union and Balkans, compared with a 17% deterioration worldwide. Attacks against journalists and arbitrary arrests increased in Germany (13th), France (34th), Italy (41st), Poland (down 2 at 64th), Greece (down 5 at 70th), Serbia (93rd) and Bulgaria (down 1 at 112th).

Taliban versus U.S.troops

Brussels 15.04.2021 International troops plan to stay in Afghanistan beyond the May deadline envisaged by the insurgent Taliban’s deal with the United States, four senior NATO officials said, a move that could escalate tensions with the Taliban demanding full withdrawal.

“There will be no full withdrawal by allies by April-end,” one of the officials told Reuters.

“Conditions have not been met,” he said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. “And with the new U.S. administration, there will be tweaks in the policy, the sense of hasty withdrawal which was prevalent will be addressed and we could see a much more calculated exit strategy.”

The administration of then-President Donald Trump signed an agreement with the Taliban early last year calling for the withdrawal of all foreign troops by May in return for the insurgents fulfilling certain security guarantees.

Vienna: Borrell chairs JCPOA

Brussels 08.04.2021 The Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iran nuclear deal, will resume its work in a physical format on 9 April at 10.00 CET in Vienna.

The Joint Commission will be chaired on behalf of EU High Representative Josep Borrell by the Deputy Secretary General and Political Director of the European External Action Service Enrique Mora. It will be attended by representatives of China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and Iran.

Participants will take stock of the discussions held at various levels this week, including the relevant expert groups, in the view of a possible return of the United States and to ensure the full and effective implementation of the JCPOA by all sides.

Italy: two Russian diplomats expelled

Italy expelled two Russian officials on Wednesday,March 31,2021, after an Italian navy captain was arrested for allegedly selling confidential documents for cash to a Russian military officer, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said.

According to Corriere della Sera newspaper the navy officer sold “top secret” NATO files, and some other sensitive Italian military dossiers to a Russian official.

Italian authorities became suspicious a few months ago, after Italy’s intelligence, began monitoring contact between the Italian navy captain and the Russian military officer. After close surveillance and assembled evidence, the police intervened last night, and moved in “during a clandestine meeting” between the Italian captain and Russian military official.

According to police, “The Italian official was taken into custody, while the position of the foreign national is still under consideration in relation to his diplomatic status.”

“We regret the expulsion from Rome of two employees of the Russian embassy. We are investigating the circumstances of the decision. We will make a further announcement on our possible next steps in relation to this measure, which does not correspond to the level of bilateral relations” Russia’s foreign ministry reacted.

“We do not currently have information about the reasons and circumstances of this detention. But in any case, we hope that the very positive and constructive nature of Russian-Italian relations will continue and will continue,” Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov has underlined.

Following the arrests, this morning Italy’s foreign ministry summoned Russia’s ambassador, Sergey Razov.

This comes weeks after Russian military intelligence GRU operation was uncovered in Bulgaria leading to expulsion of Russian diplomats and arrest of six officers.

EU on Unions of Poles in Belarus

Brussels 25.03.2021 “We are witnessing a further escalation of repression against the Belarusian people, including orchestrated campaigns of persecution of human rights defenders, journalists and civil society in Belarus” reads the Statement by the High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell on targeting the Union of Poles in Belarus.

“Recent developments have shown that the latest target of this policy is the Union of Poles in Belarus. On 23 March, Andżelika Borys, the newly re-elected Chairwoman of the Union of Poles in Belarus was arrested and sentenced to 15 days in prison. On 25 March, Andrzej Poczobut, a journalist and a member of the board of the Union of Poles in Belarus has been detained. The offices of the Union of Poles in Belarus throughout the whole country have been searched. New criminal charges have been brought against the leadership of the Union of Poles in Belarus, which can lead to a sentence up to several years in prison.

“The European Union expects Belarus to uphold its international commitments to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. We call on Belarus to release Ms Andżelika Borys and Mr Andrzej Poczobut immediately and unconditionally, along with all political prisoners currently detained.

“The European Union remains convinced that an inclusive national dialogue remains crucial to address the situation in Belarus. The EU stands ready to support and calls on the Belarusian authorities to use every opportunity offered, including the facilitation by the OSCE”.

EU-USA: Blinken visits Brussels

Brussels 24.03.2021 The EU top diplomat Josep Borrell and the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken
have issued a joint press-release: EU-U.S. joint readout
“Joint press release on the meeting between High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell and the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

On 24 March, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, and the Secretary of State of the United States of America, Antony J. Blinken met in Brussels to discuss ways to strengthen the EU-U.S. relationship and coordinate responses to priority foreign policy, security, and economic issues. They also committed to cooperate in the face of global challenges, including addressing the global climate crisis, bringing an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, facilitating a sustainable economic recovery, and defending democratic values and fundamental freedoms including within multilateral structures.

During the meeting, the two sides decided to re-launch the bilateral dialogue on China, as a forum to discuss the full range of related challenges and opportunities. They acknowledged a shared understanding that relations with China are multifaceted, comprising elements of cooperation, competition, and systemic rivalry. They also decided to continue meetings under the framework of the dialogue at senior official and expert levels on topics such as reciprocity, including economic issues; resilience; human rights; security; multilateralism; and areas for constructive engagement with China, such as climate change.

High Representative Borrell and Secretary Blinken confirmed that credible multi-party democracy, the protection of human rights and adherence to international law support the stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific. Both aim to cooperate to promote secure, sustainable, free and open maritime supply routes and supply chains and look forward to deepening cooperation with like-minded partners where interests and approaches intersect.

The two principals also discussed EU-U.S. partnership on climate action and working cooperatively to raise global ambition to put the world on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050.

The two sides plan to work together in multilateral fora, such as through the WHO and COVAX initiative to jointly address the global challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, including facilitating global distribution of safe and effective vaccines, addressing humanitarian impacts, and building future pandemic preparedness, including through advancing global health security.

High Representative Borrell and Secretary Blinken acknowledged that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) remained a key achievement of multilateral diplomacy despite existing difficulties. They shared concerns about Iran’s continued departure from its nuclear commitments under the JCPOA and underlined their full support for the work of the IAEA to independently monitor Iran’s nuclear commitments. Secretary Blinken reaffirmed the U.S. readiness to reengage in meaningful diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA by the United States and Iran. The High Representative welcomed the prospect of a U.S. return to the JCPOA. Both sides expressed support for the ongoing diplomatic efforts, and the contacts of the High Representative as JCPOA Coordinator with all relevant partners, to ensure full implementation of the JCPOA nuclear and sanctions lifting commitments. The United States expressed readiness to engage in result-oriented discussions to that end.

High Representative Borrell and Secretary Blinken noted their determination to further address, in a coordinated manner, Russia’s challenging behaviour, including its ongoing aggression against Ukraine and Georgia; hybrid threats, such as disinformation; interference in electoral processes; malicious cyber activities; and military posturing. Both sides also decided to coordinate their response to the shrinking space in Russia for independent political voices, civil society and media freedom and the dwindling respect for human rights and the rule of law. At the same time, both sides declared that they are ready to engage with Russia on issues of common interest and to encourage Russia to abandon confrontational approaches.

They also decided to continue close cooperation to encourage comprehensive reforms in the EU Eastern neighbourhood, including South Caucasus countries.

The two principals underscored that the EU and the United States share a strong interest in a stable and prosperous Western Balkans region. They reaffirmed their commitment to work together to support reconciliation and improve governance, build resilience and push forward key reforms for EU integration across the region. EU-U.S. cooperation on the ground is vital for progress, including on the EU-facilitated dialogue on normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia.

High Representative Borrell and Secretary Blinken affirmed the EU and the United States have a strategic interest in a stable and secure environment in the Eastern Mediterranean and will work hand in hand for sustainable de-escalation. Both the United States and the EU are interested in the development of a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship with Turkey, underpinned by rule of law and respect for fundamental rights.

The two principals shared their concern about the continuing humanitarian tragedy and human rights violations and abuses in Tigray. They discussed a variety of measures to support unhindered humanitarian access, investigations of human rights violations and abuses, a cessation of hostilities, and the immediate withdrawal of Eritrea from Ethiopian territory.

On the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) negotiations, they called on all parties to show flexibility and move promptly to resume productive negotiations in the coming weeks. They expressed concern over increased tensions between Sudan and Ethiopia and encourage both countries to resolve their difference through peaceful means. They also discussed the situation in Somalia, where they expected a political consensus to deliver an election without delay.

The European Union and United States intend to intensify their cooperation on Afghanistan, together with key partners, to advance the peace process and to ensure the long-term stability and prosperity of the country. The European Union and its Member States are the largest civilian assistance donors to Afghanistan, contributing to the common goal of stability in the region.

High Representative Borrell and Secretary Blinken expressed support for continued NATO-EU cooperation. They agreed that NATO and the EU need new ways of working together and a new level of ambition because the multiple and evolving security challenges that NATO Allies and EU Member States face make robust NATO-EU cooperation essential to our shared security. The two principals recalled that capabilities developed through the defence initiatives of the EU and NATO should remain coherent, complementary and interoperable. They also noted that EU defence initiatives should enhance the European contribution to Transatlantic security and can offer concrete opportunities for cooperation between the EU and the United States. With this in mind, the principals supported the fullest possible involvement of the United States in EU defence initiatives and enhanced dialogue on these issues”.

EU-Russia: “many disagreements”

Brussels 22.03.2021 With a view to the European Council meeting of 25 and 26 March a phone call between the President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin took place on Monday 22 March 2021.

The Presidents discussed relations between the EU and Russia.

President Michel expressed the view that EU-Russia ties are at a low point and confirmed the EU’s approach of the five guiding principles, based on the EU’s core values.

There is currently disagreement in many areas.

From the EU perspective, the relationship with Russia can only take a different direction if there is sustained progress on issues like the implementation of the Minsk agreements, stopping hybrid and cyber-attacks on Member States and respect for human rights. In this context Alexey Navalny’s case was raised. Charles Michel reiterated the EU’s call on the Russian authorities to release Mr Navalny and proceed with a transparent investigation into the assassination attempt on him.
The leaders also exchanged views on the Covid pandemic, on vaccines and on regional and global issues.

Kremlin readout: “Taking into account the upcoming discussion at the European Council meeting on March 25-26 of the problems of relations between Russia and the EU, Charles Michel touched upon a number of issues concerning the current state of affairs and the prospects for dialogue between Moscow and Brussels.

Vladimir Putin assessed the unsatisfactory state of Russian-EU ties, which has developed due to the non-constructive, sometimes confrontational line of partners. The Russian side emphasized its readiness to restore a normal, depoliticized format of interaction with the European Union, if a real reciprocal interest is shown in this.

The issues of combating the coronavirus pandemic were also touched upon, in particular the possibility of using the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, the political settlement of the internal Ukrainian conflict, the situation in Belarus and some other topical issues”.

EU actions for Human Rights

Brussels 22.03.2021 The EU Foreign Ministers Council today decided to impose restrictive measures on eleven individuals and four entities responsible for serious human rights violations and abuses in various countries around the world. Together with the listing of four Russian individuals earlier this month, these 15 designations are part of the first broader package of listings under the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime. The sanctions signal the EU’s strong determination to stand up for human rights and to take tangible action against those responsible for violations and abuses. EU actions for Human Rights

The violations targeted today include the large-scale arbitrary detentions of, in particular, Uyghurs in Xinjiang in China, repression in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in Libya, torture and repression against LGBTI persons and political opponents in Chechnya in Russia, and torture, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and killings in South Sudan and Eritrea.

Under the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime established on 7 December 2020, the listed individuals and entities are subject to an asset freeze in the EU. In addition, listed individuals are subject to a travel ban to the EU. Moreover, persons and entities in the EU are prohibited from making funds available, either directly or indirectly, to those listed.

The relevant legal acts, including the names of the persons and entities concerned, have been published in the Official Journal.

EU: vaccine production priority

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

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

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

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

EU calls Armenians to calm

Brussels 25.02.2021 “The European Union is following developments in Armenia very closely. We ask all actors for calm and to avoid any rhetoric or actions that could lead to further escalation”, the EU spokesperson declaration reads.

“Political differences must be resolved peacefully and in strict adherence to the principles and processes of parliamentary democracy. In line with the Armenian Constitution, the armed forces “shall maintain neutrality in political matters and shall be under civilian control”.

“Maintaining the democratic and constitutional order is the only way Armenia can effectively tackle the challenges it is confronted with”.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has warned of an attempted military coup, after the country’s army generals said he and his cabinet must resign.

The army “must obey the people and elected authorities,” he told to crowds of supporters in the capital Yerevan. His opponents the same time held a rival rally.

Addressing his supporters at a rally in Yerevan, Pashinyan says that Armenians will not allow a military coup to take place and tells the army to do its job and defend the country.

Pashinyan said the question of his resignation could only be decided by the people because he was elected by the people.

PM Pashinyan has faced protests after losing last year’s bloody conflict with Azerbaijan over a disputed region.

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