Category Archives: International

EU new regime of sanctions

The Council today adopted a decision and a regulation establishing a global human rights sanctions regime. For the first time, the EU is equipping itself with a framework that will allow it to target individuals, entities and bodies – including state and non-state actors – responsible for, involved in or associated with serious human rights violations and abuses worldwide, no matter where they occurred.

Such restrictive measures will provide for a travel ban applying to individuals, and the freezing of funds applying to both individuals and entities. In addition, persons and entities in the EU will be forbidden from making funds available to those listed, either directly or indirectly.

The framework for targeted restrictive measures applies to acts such as genocide, crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations or abuses (e.g. torture, slavery, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests or detentions). Other human rights violations or abuses can also fall under the scope of the sanctions regime where those violations or abuses are widespread, systematic or are otherwise of serious concern as regards the objectives of the common foreign and security policy set out in the Treaty (Article 21 TEU).

It will be for the Council, acting upon a proposal from a member state or from the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, to establish, review and amend the sanctions list.

Today’s decision emphasises that the promotion and protection of human rights remain a cornerstone and priority of EU external action and reflects the EU’s determination to address serious human rights violations and abuses.

The relevant legal acts have been published in the Official Journal.

On 9 December 2019, the Council welcomed the launch by the High Representative of preparatory work to establish an EU regime of general scope for restrictive measures against serious human rights violations and abuses.

On 17 November 2020, the Council approved conclusions on the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024 which set out the EU’s level of ambition and priorities in this field in its relations with all third countries. In the EU Action Plan, the EU committed to developing a new horizontal EU global human rights sanctions regime to tackle serious human rights violations and abuses worldwide.

IRAN: Borrell expresses condolences

Brussels 29.11.2020 The EU top diplomat Josep Borrell expressed his condolences to the family of the assassinated Iranian nuclear scientist via the statement, attributed to the European External Action Service spokesperson.

“On 27 November 2020 in Absard, Iran, an Iranian government official and, according to reports, one of his bodyguards, were killed in a series of violent attacks. This is a criminal act and runs counter to the principle of respect for human rights the EU stands for.
The High Representative expresses his condolences to the family members of the individuals who were killed, while wishing a prompt recovery to any other individuals who may have been injured.
In these uncertain times, it is more important than ever for all parties to remain calm and exercise maximum restraint in order to avoid escalation which cannot be in anyone’s interest”, the EU statement said.

On November 27th Iranian nuclear physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabada was assassinated while driving in Absard, a city 80km east of Tehran, by what Iran’s defence ministry called “armed terrorists”. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, named by the West as leading scientist for the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear programme until its disbanding in the early 2000s, and served as the head of the Research and Innovation Organisation of the defence ministry at the time of his death.

Mediterranean “least integrated”

Brussels 29.11.2020 The year 2020 marks the 25th Anniversary of the launch of the Barcelona Process. The EU diplomacy took a stock of what has been achieved during a quarter of a century of dialogue and cooperation as well as to reflect on the future of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. (Image: Barcelona)
The 5th UfM Regional Forum brought together the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the UfM Member States on 27 November 2020 to reaffirm their commitment to the principles of the Barcelona Process and reiterate their engagement in Euro-Mediterranean dialogue and cooperation.

“This year is especially difficult because the coronavirus pandemic and its tremendous socioeconomic consequences have reminded us how much interrelated, and more than interrelated, how interdependent we are. We share a common geography. And our destiny in the future will depend on how we work together today” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said in his remarks for press after the Forum.

“That is why in this conference everybody agreed on the need to reinforce our determination to tackle challenges together and without delay – for the stability and prosperity of the region but first of all, for the benefit of the people living there…”

“Between the two shores of the Mediterranean, the gap on revenue per head is 16 times fold… It means that
And there are a lot of young people, there is a new generation. We have to give them hope and a reason to stay and invest in their own countries” Borrell continued.

“Can we say that the Mediterranean [region] is in a worse shape today than 25 years ago? I am afraid yes, from many points of views. It is fragmented economically, it remains one of the least integrated region in the world and we have been discussing a lot about it today. The countries in North Africa or the South Mediterranean they only have 5% of their trade among them[selves]. Which you have to compare with trade among European Union Member States to see how different is the integration in both shores of the Mediterranean” the diplomat concluded.

Armenia signed end of Nagorno-Karabakh war

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed a statement on ending the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian leader wrote on his Facebook page on Tuesday.

“I signed a statement with the presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan on ending the Karabakh war since 01:00 (00:00 Moscow Time). The text of the published statement is inexpressibly sensitive for me personally and for our people. I made the decision after a deep analysis of the military situation and the assessment by people who know it better than anyone,” Pashinyan said, noting that he made “a very and very hard decision”.

According to Pashinyan, “this step is based on a conviction that this is the best possible solution in the current situation.” “I will speak in detail about all this in the coming days. This is not victory, but there won’t be a defeat unless you recognize yourself as a loser. We will never recognize ourselves as losers and this should usher in our era of national unification and revival,” he said.

Virtual Ambassadors conference

The annual European Union Ambassadors` conference is taking place between the 9th and 13th of November, for the first time in a virtual format.

The conference brings together EU Ambassadors from the EU`s 143 EU Delegations and Offices around the world, in addition to the heads of EU military and civilian operations and the heads of the European Commission Representations in the 27 EU Member States.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the Commission Josep Borrell (pictured) opened the conference with a public address on Monday at 12:00 CET. His address has been broadcasted live on the European Commission’s audiovisual service, Europe by Satellite. The address by the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, at 14:30 CET on Tuesday 10 November will also be broadcast live, as will Josep Borrell’s closing address on Friday 13 November at 11:30 CET.

The Ambassadors’ conference includes exchanges with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, Commission Executive Vice-Presidents Frans Timmermans, Margrethe Vestager, and Valdis Dombrovskis, Commission Vice-Presidents Maroš Šefčovič and Věra Jourová, Commissioners Ylva Johansson and Jutta Urpilainen, and the President of the European Investment Bank, President Werner Hoyer.

The Ambassadors’ conference is a yearly event that allows for an open exchange between participants and high-level speakers on the European Union’s internal and external activities, global developments, and the EU’s strategic outlook. Sessions include multilateralism in an increasingly multi-polar environment and how to uphold the rules-based international order; the EU’s leading role in global climate action; the global response to the coronavirus; the EU’s Security and Defence agenda; enhancing trade and the EU’s strategic autonomy; and on promoting democracy, human rights and gender equality in an age of disinformation and battles of narratives. The event will also discuss migration policy, promoting the EU’s outreach to international partners, and enhancing the EU`s public diplomacy efforts.
AMENDMENT:
So we need to be mobilised on all fronts and I want to ask you to do your part so that, as we often say, ‘Europe comes out of the crisis stronger’. This is an appeal to all of you to do whatever you can to make it a reality. Europe is being built on crises and we have to come out of the crisis stronger” the EU top diplomat said, while addressing the virtual congregation.
The world needs an engaged European Union, able to act. But also Europeans need an engaged European Union, able to act. The world and we Europeans need a European Union ready to participate in the big changes that the world will be facing. And we need to act as if our reputation is on the line – because it is on the line”.

EU top diplomat congratulates Biden

Brussels 07.11.2020 The head of the EU diplomacy Josep Borrell has congratulated the candidate of the Democratic party with the election victory. “I warmly congratulate President-Elect
Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris. Record voter turnout expressed will of the American people for change.Great day for US and Europe, we look forward to working together with new administration to rebuild our partnership” the diplomat wrote on his Twitter micro blog.

Meanwhile a series of President Trump messages have been removed from Twitter, which has been actively filtering his communication with the American people, contesting the outcome.
“We think there’s going to be a lot of litigation because we have so much evidence, so much proof, it’s going to end up perhaps at the highest court in the land, you’ll see,” Trump said, adding “We think there’ll be a lot of litigation, because we cannot have an election stolen like this.”

“The American people are entitled to an honest election: that means counting all legal ballots, and not counting any illegal ballots,” Trump said.

“It remains shocking that the Biden campaign refuses to agree with this basic principle and wants ballots counted even if they are fraudulent, manufactured, or cast by ineligible or deceased voters,” Trump added. “Only a party engaged in wrongdoing would unlawfully keep observers out of the count room – and then fight in court to block their access.”

AMENDMENT:

Over the past few weeks the president and his cabinet have prepared the different scenarios with regards to the elections in the USA, and coordinated with Member States, the EU official said.

President Charles Michel was today in touch with the Chancellor Merkel and other leaders to communicate simultaneously.

Following to the discussion, 7 PM was the hour that was agreed upon to congratulate the President elect and the Vice President elect following the result in Pennsylvania, while showing respect for the electoral process, the official has underlined.

AMENDMENT:

MEPs refuse “golden” passports scheme

Brussels 22.10.2020 EU citizenship cannot be traded as a commodity, according to a majority of speakers, who want to end the “golden passports” schemes currently in place in some member states.

In a plenary debate with Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders, MEPs stressed the inherent risks that these programmes give rise to, namely money laundering, tax evasion and corruption. They insisted that Europe must not have “a fast-track entrance for criminals”.

MEPs underlined that granting EU citizenship to third-country nationals without proper checks and transparency has negative consequences in other member states, eroding mutual trust and undermining common values.

Several speakers referred to the recent scandal in Cyprus, where high-ranking officials – including the Speaker of the national parliament – were secretly recorded offering to assist a fictional Chinese executive with a criminal record in getting a Cypriot passport through the national “citizenship by investment” scheme. They also acknowledge the Commission’s decision to open infringement procedures against Cyprus and Malta, though some complained that it has taken too long to act.

Some MEPs noted that the share of revenues from these programmes is significant for countries such as Cyprus, whilst many argued that EU values and rights should not be for sale.

Cyprus, Malta, and Bulgaria are the three EU countries where it is possible to get citizenship in exchange for an investment, the so-called “golden passports”. As many as 19 EU countries operate “residence by investment” programmes, known as “golden visas”.

In January 2019, the European Commission established a group of experts with representatives from all EU member states to develop common standards and guidelines in this area. After four meetings last year, the group has so far not met in 2020.

#NK: Borrell warns against xenophobic rhetoric

Brussels 22.10.2020 The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, met today with the President of the Republic of Armenia, Armen Sarkissian, in Brussels. The leaders were no available for journalists of Brussels press-corps, however the press-release has been issued by the European External Actions Service:

“They discussed the situation in and around the Nagorno Karabakh conflict zone. The High Representative/Vice-President referred to the 10 October and 17 October ceasefire agreements, mediated by Russia and France respectively in coordination with the other OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, which were agreed to by both Armenia and Azerbaijan but not respected. The European Union continues to call for an immediate cessation of hostilities and strict respect for the agreed ceasefire by all. Any actions that target civilians or bring about further suffering to the civilian population must stop immediately. The High Representative/Vice-President also stressed that the sides have an obligation to comply fully with international humanitarian law”.

“The High Representative/Vice-President urged the sides to return to the negotiations on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict settlement under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, without preconditions and without delay. All actors, including external parties, should refrain from any actions that may result in the continuation of hostilities and further casualties. This includes bringing an end to the dangerous, inflammatory and xenophobic rhetoric. High Representative/Vice-President Borrell reiterated the EU’s supports for the on-going efforts of the Co-Chairs through active high level contacts, as well as via the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus”.

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).

Armenia accuses Turkey in terrorism export

Brussels 21.10.2020 Armenian President Armen Sarkissian assess Nagorno-Karabach conflict as a regional threat, and accuses Turkey of being the major obstacle to peaceful solution to the conflict.
During his visit to the NATO HQ in Brussels, the President agrees there is no military solution for the conflict:
«We are lucky that we have platform of the OSCE Minsk group, with the three co-charis United States, France and Russia, and I appreciate work of all co-chairs, the Presidents of these three countries, and recent efforts of Russian Federation, and President Putin, and Minister Lavrov» the President of Armenia said.
However he regretted that there was no trilateral meeting possible in Moscow, and the parties had to meet in bilateral talks, and «the war continues in and around Nagorno-Karabach». He aslo added that the military actions against civilians are unacceptable.

The Armenian President has underlined his concerns about the role of NATO ally – Turkey.
«…It looks sometimes that it is no longer conflict with Republic of Artsakh, or people of Nagorno-Karabach and Azerbaijan, but there is a third party as well, supporting Azerbaijan both politically, diplomatically, heavliy militarily, a third party that had supported and brought to the area Islamic terrorists; and unfortunately the third party is a member of NATO» the President of Armenia concluded.

«I belive if Turkey stops being part of the conflict, that will contribute to the cease-fire, and to understanding that there should be peaceful solution. I belive we will reach the seaze-fire there, and hopefully and after that go back to the negotiations at the table of the Minsk group, and finally find a peaceful solution for the conflict» the President underlined.

The hosting meeting Secretary General of NATO said the Alliance does not take side in the conflict.

«It is important for NATO and the international community, that the hostilities end» Jens Stoltenberg said, underlinying that the suffering should stop and the peaceful solution is found. «It is vital that all side now show restraint, observe the seaze-fire and de-escalate. Any targeting of civilians is unacceptable and must stop».
He underlined that the key is to find a sustainable solution.
The efforts of the co-chairs of the Minsk group «remain essential» Stoltenberg concluded.

None of the leaders accpeted the questions after the statements.

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