Category Archives: featured

EU mission back to Ukraine

Brussels 18.05.2022 The EU Advisory Mission Ukraine (EUAM) is returning today to Kyiv, after it was forced to evacuate on 24 February because of Russia’s invasion.

“I am glad to announce the redeployment of the European Union Advisory Mission back to Ukraine. In addition to its other tasks, the mission will now support the critical work of the Ukrainian General Prosecutor to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of any international crimes committed in the context of Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine. Those responsible for atrocities and war crimes, and their accomplices, will be held to account in accordance with international law” said Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

A core team of 15 EUAM staff is being redeployed to continue contacts with Ukrainian authorities more directly, and support them notably in the investigation and prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Mission plans to gradually increase its international presence in Ukraine throughout the summer, in line with the developing security situation in the country. Currently, the Mission’s temporary headquarters are located in Rszezow in southern Poland.

In the context of the ongoing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the Mission has developed new work strands in support of Ukrainian authorities, in addition to its advisory activities under the original mandate. This includes deploying teams to the Ukrainian side of border crossing points with Poland, Slovakia, and Romania to facilitate to flow of people and goods across the border. It also includes supporting Ukrainian authorities, in particular to the Prosecutor General and Law Enforcement Agencies, with investigating and prosecuting international crimes. The Mission is also donating emergency equipment to help its partners.

The EU Advisory Mission supports the Ukrainian civilian security sector through strategic advice, training and the donation of equipment to help law enforcement agencies operate in line with European standards and principles. This will help them become more efficient, effective, and trusted by the public. For further information on the EU Advisory Mission, its 350 staff and advisory activities, please see the Mission’s homepage.

EU Defence ministers convene in Brussels

Brussels 17.05.2022 The EU Defence Ministers convene in Brussels to discuss the implementation of the Strategic Compass with a focus on the future of CSDP missions and operations. The Strategic Compass provides a shared assessment of the strategic environment in which the EU is operating and of the threats and challenges the Union faces. The roadmap makes concrete and actionable proposals, with a very precise timetable for implementation, in order to improve the EU’s ability to act decisively in crises and to defend its security and its citizens. The Compass covers all the aspects of the security and defence policy and is structured around four pillars: act, invest, partner and secure.

The other focus of attention is Russian aggression against Ukraine.A Ukrainian military base about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the border with Poland was targeted in a Russian missile attack early Tuesday morning, according to Maksym Kozytsky, head of the Lviv regional military administration. He gave no further details in a late-night Telegram post.

Informal lunch with the NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg and the Minister of Defence of Ukraine, Oleksii Reznikov (via videoconference).

The Russian President Vladimir Putin said the entry of Sweden and Finland into the US-led alliance will not create a threat to Russia, but military expansion into the territory will “certainly cause our response.” The Swedish government said on its website that it has decided to apply for NATO membership, following a similar declaration from Finland on Sunday.

Azovstal troops humanitarian corridor

Brusssels 17.05.2022 Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky confirmed in his video address that an evacuation of national troops from Azovstal steelmaking complex in Mariupol had started.

“… We cherish a hope that we will be able to save the lives of our boys,” Zelensky said. “There are severely wounded ones among them and they need medical attendance.”

The Ukrainian President said that Kiev hoped to return all of them home as soon as possible.

“The work is underway to return boys back home, but this work is very delicate and time-consuming,” he explained.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced on Monday, May 16, that an agreement was reached to evacuate wounded Ukrainian troops from the Azovstal steel plant and subsequently a humanitarian corridor was opened.

The Ministry added that a ceasefire had been introduced in the surrounding area of the embattled plant and a humanitarian corridor was opened to provide exit for wounded Ukrainian soldiers to be taken to a medical facility in Novoazovsk in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).

The Ukrainian authorities announced earlier that 53 severely wounded Ukrainian military servicemen were evacuated on May 16 from Azovstal plant in Mariupol to Novoazovsk (in DPR), while 211 more Ukrainian troops were evacuated from the plant through a humanitarian corridor to the city of Yelenovka (also in DPR).

Finland joins NATO without delay

Brussels 12.04.2022 Finland announced it would apply to join NATO “without delay”, with Sweden expected to follow suit, suggesting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will bring about the very expansion of the Western military alliance that Vladimir Putin attempted to prevent.

The decision by the two Nordic countries to abandon the neutrality they maintained throughout the Cold War would be a giant shift in European security structure in decades. Finland’s announcement provoked indignation from the Kremlin, which called it a direct threat to Russia and promised an unspecified relevant response.

The announcement by President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin means that Finland is all but certain to join the Western military alliance, though a few steps remain before the application process can begin. Neighbouring Sweden is expected to decide on application for NATO membership in coming days.

“NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance,” Niinisto and Marin said in a joint statement.

“Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” they said. “We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days.”

Future of Europe concludes cycle

The Conference Plenary concluded its work, with MEPs expressing their approval of the outcome and announcing that Parliament intends to kick-start EU reforms.

At its final meeting, that took place on Friday and Saturday at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the Conference Plenary reached a consensus on its final draft proposals. It has now adopted 325 proposals to achieve 49 objectives identified across 9 themes, based on 178 recommendations from the European Citizens’ Panels, input from the National Panels and events, and 43 734 contributions on 16 274 ideas recorded on the multilingual digital platform.

On Friday, Parliament’s delegation decided to support the Plenary’s draft proposals. MEPs highlighted the important role that Parliament played in the run-up to this moment, for example by guaranteeing that citizens’ input would remain at the centre of the deliberations throughout the process.

Speakers from five political groups representing a broad majority (EPP, S&D, Renew, Greens/EFA, and The Left) agreed that the draft proposals are a major political achievement. They also pointed to Parliament’s concrete achievements in ensuring an effective and democratic process – for example through the establishment of the Working Groups, which delivered the draft Plenary proposals. MEPs representing the ID and ECR groups argued that the proposals do not reflect public opinion in the EU, and stated that their groups would not support them.

The session on Friday started with the proposals being presented by the Chairs of the Working Groups and the citizen Spokespersons, during which virtually all speakers agreed that the proposals comprise important reforms based on citizens’ recommendations.

Following the presentations, representatives of the four institutional components of the Conference (Parliament, Council, Commission, and national parliaments) approved the proposals by consensus. During his speech on behalf of Parliament’s delegation, the Co-Chair of the Conference Guy Verhofstadt confirmed that the political groups will table a resolution during Parliament’s 2-5 May plenary session to call for a revision of the Treaties. Commenting that this Conference has made him realise the importance of participatory mechanisms complementary to representative democracy, he stated that MEPs must fight hard to ensure that the Conference’s proposals will be turned into the reforms that the EU needs.

Catch up with Guy Verhofstadt’s speech on behalf of the Parliament’s delegation or watch a recording of MEPs’ speeches in Plenary.

On Saturday morning, citizens took the floor to comment on the final proposals and the process that led to them, strongly approving of both. They highlighted that they are now expecting the EU institutions and member states to ensure the appropriate follow-up, and the importance of not letting citizens down in the aftermath of this historic moment. They also commented on how their ideas evolved through the Conference’s debates and the impact that Russia’s war in Ukraine had on them, as well as on how they realised the importance of standing up for their ideas while preparing the proposals.

On Europe Day (9 May), the three Co-Chairs of the Executive Board will present the final report of the Conference to the Presidents of the EU institutions at a ceremony in the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Switzerland blocks Russian $9bn assets

Brussels 27.04.2022 Switzerland has decided to ban Russian nationals from registering trusts there, its government said Wednesday, April 27, to prevent a potential EU sanctions evasion. It also replicated the EU sanctions on imports of Russian lignite, coal, caviar, timber and seafood, along with the exports to Russia of some chemicals and industrial robots.

It earlier blacklisted over 200 Russian individuals and entities “in view of Russia’s ongoing military aggression in Ukraine”.

The sanctions were also extended the ban on export of banknotes and sales of securities in Swiss francs and euros to Belarusian nationals and entities to cover all official EU currencies. The same measure is planned for Russia.

Switzerland froze approximately 9 billion francs ($9.34 billion) of Russian assets. This is reported by Reuters with reference to a publication in the Swiss newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung.
The mentioned amount is about one and a half billion francs more than the one reported by the country’s authorities in early April. The Swiss government has not yet commented on this information and has not responded to a request from journalists.

Wagner group founder under sanctions

Brussels 21.04.2022 Brussels 21.04.2022 EU sanctions two additional business people in relation to the illegal annexation of Crimea. The Council adopted today restrictive measures, within the existing sanctions framework, on two more individuals for their role in undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine and for benefitting from Russian decision-makers responsible for the illegal annexation of Crimea or the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine.

The persons designated today are the following businessmen:

Serhiy Vitaliyovich Kurchenko, a Ukrainian national, who among other actions, took control of several large metallurgical, chemical and energy plants in the separatist-held areas with support from pro-Russia separatists. Moreover, Serhiy Kurchenko strengthened the independent power supplies of the Crimean peninsula. He also owns the largest oil depot on the Crimean Peninsula.

Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin is a prominent Russian businessman with close ties to President Putin and the Russian Ministry of Defence. He is the founder and unofficial head of the Wagner Group, a Russia-based unincorporated military entity, responsible for the deployment of Wagner Group mercenaries in Ukraine. Some of his companies have been benefitting from large public contracts with the Russian Ministry of Defence following the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia and occupation of eastern Ukraine by Russia-backed separatists.

The European Union does not recognise the illegal annexation of Crimea and of the city of Sevastopol by the Russian Federation, and continues to condemn the Russian violation of international law. Moreover, the EU remains unwavering in its support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.

EU restrictive measures regarding the undermining of territorial integrity of Ukraine now apply to a total of 1093 persons and 80 entities. Those designated persons and entities are subject to an asset freeze – including a prohibition on making funds available to them – and, additionally, those persons are subject to a travel ban, which prevents them from entering or transiting through the EU.

Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine grossly violates international law and is causing massive loss of life and injury to civilians. Russia is directing attacks against the civilian population and is targeting civilian objects, including hospitals, medical facilities, schools and shelters. These war crimes must stop immediately. Those responsible, and their accomplices, will be held to account in accordance with international law. The siege of Mariupol and other Ukrainian cities, and the denial of humanitarian access by Russian military forces are unacceptable. Russian forces must immediately provide for safe pathways to other parts of Ukraine, as well as humanitarian aid to be delivered to Mariupol and other besieged cities.

The European Council demands that Russia immediately stop its military aggression in the territory of Ukraine, immediately and unconditionally withdraw all forces and military equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine, and fully respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence within its internationally recognised borders.

The relevant legal acts, including more details of the persons concerned, will be published in the Official Journal.

Lithuania: letter “Z” ban

Brussels 20.04.2022 The Parliament of Lithuania voted to ban public displays of the letter “Z”, the black and orange ribbon of St George, and other symbols seen as expressing support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The vote took place on Tuesday, April 19.

Russian military vehicles in Ukraine are prominently marked with the letter “Z”, and it has started appearing on social media and on garments elsewhere in support of the Russian army.

Meanwhile the ribbon of St.George, first introduced as an honour by Catherine the Great, has gained significance in the Russian-speaking sphere since separatists in eastern Ukraine adopted it as a symbol of their support for Russia in 2014.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent the troops into Ukraine on what he calls a “special military operation” to “de-militarise and de-nazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and the West say Putin launched an unprovoked war of aggression.

The Lithuanian decision occurs after similar bans in Latvia and Moldova. Germany was also considering such a ban. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has previously called for a universal ban of the political use of the letter “Z,” saying it signified “Russian war crimes, bombed out cities, thousands of murdered Ukrainians.”

Draghi: avenues for peace dialogue

Brussels 19.04.2022 “So far, Putin’s goal has not been the search for peace, but the attempt to annihilate the Ukrainian resistance, occupy the country and entrust it to a friendly government. We will stay close to our Ukrainian friends: the reopening of our Embassy in Kiev is good news. Yesterday I heard from our ambassador Zazo to congratulate him directly” said Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi (pictured), interviewed on Sunday, April 18, by Corriere della Sera.

“The line of all allies – added Draghi – remains that of avoiding a direct involvement of Europe in the war. One of the cornerstones of this conflict is the assertion by all NATO leaders, started by the U.S. President Biden, that there will be no direct involvement of the Alliance. I understand the reasons that push Sweden and Finland to think about joining NATO ”.

“All the crucial decisions, were taken with a very wide parliamentary consensus. Since the first debate on the war, some parliaments have tried to reproach antiquities and I have been asked to say what I thought of it. I replied: this is not the time to reproach oneself with the sympathies and affairs of the past. It’s time to all be together. And I keep repeating it. Among other things, this is a debate of especially some politicians. It does not seem to me that among the majority of citizens there is time to make trials in the past ” Draghi continued.

The Prime minister also spoke about the phone calls with Putin. “I am beginning to think that those who say are right: it is useless for you to talk to them, time is wasted. I have always defended Macron and I continue to believe that as the incumbent President of the EU it is right to try every possible avenue of dialogue. But I have the impression that the horror of war with its carnage, with what it did to children and women, is completely independent of the words and phone calls that are made “.

EU diplomats: talks on food and energy price

Brussels 11.04.2022 “We are going to discuss about Ukraine, once again” said the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell upon arrival to Foreign affairs Council in Luxembourg.

“I will debrief the Foreign Affairs Council about the travel to Ukraine, together with the President of the Commission [Ursula von der Leyen]. We have witnessed what is happening there, the brutal aggression of the Russian troops against the civilian population. We came back really move after what we have seen. Really, you can go to Kyiv. Go to Kyiv as much as you can and witness.

“We have opened our Delegation there. We are going to discuss how we can support better the Ukrainian people and also how we can support the International Criminal Court [ICC]. I have just been meeting with the [ICC] Prosecutor, Mr [Karim] Khan. We will provide as much support as we can, through our mission, to the prosecutors, both the Ukrainian and the ICC prosecutors.

“We will also discuss about other issues. The Global Gateway, for example. How we can better partner around the world with our like-minded countries and how we can support them in order to face the economic crisis, which is coming. Because everybody will have to face the consequences of this war – not of the sanctions, but of the war – in terms of price increase on energy and food”.

“This is more or less what we are going to do today”.

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