Category Archives: News

EU-UK: no-deal looming

Brussels 16.10.2020 The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that it was time to prepare for a UK exit from the European Union without a negotiated deal (so called no-deal scenario) on their future relationship unless there is a drastic change in the bloc’s position. (Image: archive).

In the aftermath of statements by European Council President Charles Michel who has underlined that it was up to London to make compromises to avoid a disorderly break-up on January 1, Boris Johnson felt that the continuation of the negotiations planned for next week in London was now unnecessary .

The UK officially left the EU on January 31 but remains subject to EU rules during a transition that runs until the end of the year, while the two sides agree on their future relationship and avoid the “leap into the void” of a brutal Brexit.

“Unless there is a fundamental change of approach, we are moving towards the Australian-style solution and we must do so with great confidence,” said Boris Johnson, referring to relations between Australia and the EU, which are not supported by any extended bilateral free trade agreement.

His spokesperson hit the nail on the head hours later when he said that talks between Brussels and London for a trade deal on their future relationship were over. He added that EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier was only due to visit London next week if the bloc’s approach changed.

“The trade negotiations are over: the EU has put an end to them de facto by saying that it does not want to change its negotiating position,” he said. The various announcements by the British government have caused movements of fluctuation up and down on the pound.

Asked if he is now staying away from the talks, Boris Johnson said: “If there is a fundamental change in approach, of course we are always ready to listen, but it has not. seemed particularly encouraging at the Brussels summit. ”

“They (the Europeans) want to keep the ability to continue to control our legislative freedom, our fishing activities, in a way that is obviously unacceptable to an independent country,” he added.

Before Boris Johnson’s spokesman said Brexit talks were over, the EU said the European Commission intended to continue seeking a deal, considering the UK PM’s comments to be rhetoric.

EU stands behind Barnier

Brussels 15.10.2020 “…The European Council invites the Unionʼs chief negotiator (Michel Barnier) to continue negotiations in the coming weeks, and calls on the UK to make the necessary moves to make an agreement possible” the text of European Council conclusions on EU-UK relations reads.

The EU Council president Charles Michel expressed the leaders concern by lack of progress in the EU-UK talks.

The European Council reaffirmed the Union’s determination to have “as close as possible” a partnership with the United Kingdom on the basis of the negotiating directives of 25 February 2020, while respecting the previously agreed European Council guidelines, as well as statements and declarations, notably those of 25 November 2018, in particular as regards the level playing field, governance and fisheries, according to the Council conclusions.

EU-UK: ready for “all outcomes”

Brussels 15.10.2020 The EU leaders agreed to continue the “difficult” talks with the UK, shaping new trade agreement with the former member of the bloc, however they also have underlined that it is necessary to be ready to “all outcomes”, including no-deal scenario. Image above (archive).

“We will have the opportunity, also this afternoon, to tackle the future relationship with the UK. We want an agreement, but we also want to protect the level playing field. It’s a question of fairness, it’s a question of jobs, it’s also the question of the integrity of the single market. We are ready to continue to negotiate with the UK. This is a difficult negotiation, we all know that. And we will have the opportunity to have an exchange of views with all the European leaders” Charles Michel (pictured), the EU Council president said, while entering the meeting.

Strasbourg #EPlenary to be held remotely

Brussels 15.10.2020 “I regret to announce that next week’s plenary will not take place in Strasbourg, but will be held remotely” David Sassoli announced on his Twitter micro blog.

“The situation in France and Belgium is very serious and travelling is not advised” he added.
However “Strasbourg remains the home of the European Parliament, and we will do everything we can to return”.

President Macron will impose a 9pm-6am curfew for Paris and eight other big French cities from Saturday, October 17, in an attempt to contain a “second wave” coronavirus outbreak that has spread across Europe.

During the announcement on October 14 President Macron ensured his compatriots, that the exceptional measure will last four weeks, with a possibility of prolongation until December 1. There are fines of 135 euro and 1500 euro foreseen for “non-respect” of the curfew. The popularity of President Macron has dropped almost 40% after the announcement, because the effectiveness of this extreme restrictive measure is not understood.

On contrary, to European continental restrictive and punitive measures, in countries like Sweden, where the accent was made on a dialog with the citizens, and educational strategy, the COVID-19 is largely in the past.

#EUCO: EU-UK future relations at stake

Brussels 13.10.2020 Today the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has informed the EU Ministers on the state of play of talks between the block and the UK, and the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement. He also confirmed the “strong EU unity” ahead of European Council on October 15-16. Barnier added that the EU will continue to work for a fair deal in the coming days and weeks.

Ahead of the Council European Council President Charles Michel has called the British government to put “all cards on the table” respecting to Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. “To get to a deal, we need significant steps by our British friends in the coming days”, he added.

“We have given a very strong signal to the British government: If the Finance Bill is introduced with that provision in it, many in the EU will see that as an indication that the British government simply doesn’t want a deal. It would be a second piece of legislation designed to deliberately break the Withdrawal Agreement text”.

With the 15 October European Council date approaching, the negotiations between the EU and the UK are becoming more intense to meet the deadline.

Michel Barnier next travelled to London to meet with UK Chief Negotiator David Frost, while informal talks continued this past week. European Council President Charles Michel and Prime Minister Johnson spoke by phone on 7 October to discuss the progress of the intensified negotiations ahead of the 15 October Summit.

Since UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s joint statement over the weekend, EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier travelled to Berlin on Monday to meet with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

The latter stressed the pandemic has made the negotiations with the UK even more difficult. Regardless of this hurdle, Maas added a no-deal Brexit would be “irresponsible”, saying the EU remains open to establishing a “close and ambitious partnership” with the UK. He warned, however, that progress is needed at this stage of the talks on state aid, the Irish border and dispute resolution.

Meanwhile, the UK Government announced its intention to push through a Finance Bill (not yet published) for approval by the end of the year could prove problematic for achieving a deal with the EU. The Bill is expected to include clauses which would allow the UK Government to make unilateral decisions about which goods were “at risk” of being traded on from Northern Ireland into the EU, and should therefore be subject to tariffs. The EU argues that this would be a further breach the Withdrawal Agreement and may therefore risk a no-deal exit scenario.

On October 7 in a separate procedure the Scottish Parliament voted to withhold consent on the UK’s Internal Market Bill. Both the Scottish and Welsh governments have stated the Bill overrides their powers of administration.

#EUCO: Mid-October Council agenda

EU leaders will meet in Brussels on 15-16 October to discuss the whole range of issues, including the epidemiological situation, relations with the United Kingdom, as well as climate change and relations with Africa, namely the post-Cotonou agreement.

COVID-19
The European Council will look at the current epidemiological situation. Leaders will also discuss overall coordination and the work on the development and distribution of a vaccine at the EU level.

EU-UK relations
The European Council will take stock of the implementation of the withdrawal agreement and review the state of the negotiations on the future EU-UK partnership. Leaders will discuss preparatory work for all scenarios after 1 January 2021. EU-UK negotiations on the future partnership.

Climate change
EU leaders will look at the progress made towards delivering the EU’s objective of climate neutrality by 2050. Following the adoption by the Commission of a 2030 Climate Target Plan, the EU leaders will hold an orientation debate on climate change-related issues.

The European Council will also discuss EU-Africa relations and may address other foreign policy issues, depending on developments, and the Cotonou agreement, which is the overarching framework for EU relations with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. It covers the EU’s relations with 79 countries, including 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

EP: Sakharov Prize shortlist

The democratic opposition in Belarus, Guapinol activists and Berta Cáceres, and the archbishop of Mosul were shortlisted for the 2020 Sakharov Prize on October 12.

Following a joint vote by MEPs in the Foreign Affairs and Development committees on Monday 12 October, the finalists for the 2020 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought are:

The democratic opposition in Belarus, represented by the Coordination Council, an initiative of brave women and political and civil society figures;

Guapinol activists and Berta Cáceres in Honduras;

Mgr Najeeb Moussa Michaeel, archbishop of Mosul, Iraq.

The European Parliament’s Conference of Presidents (President and political groups’ leaders) will select the final laureate on Thursday 22 October. The prize itself will be awarded in a ceremony in Parliament’s HNemicycle on 16 December.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded each year by the European Parliament. It was set up in 1988 to honour individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is named in honour of Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov and the prize money is 50 000 euros.

Last year, the prize was given to Ilham Tohti, an Uyghur economist fighting for the rights of China’s Uyghur minority.

Mairead McGuinness new EU finance Commissioner

Brussels 12.10.2020 The EU Council today appointed, by common accord with the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, Mairead McGuinness as new member of the European Commission.

The appointment follows the resignation of Phil Hogan and is for the remainder of the term of office of the Commission, which runs until 31 October 2024.

Ms McGuinness has been assigned by the President of the Commission the portfolio of financial services, financial stability and the Capital Markets Union.

In accordance with Article 246 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, a vacancy caused by resignation of a member of the Commission is filled for the remainder of his or her term by a new member of the same nationality. The new member is appointed by the Council, by common accord with the President of the Commission, after consulting the European Parliament.

EU top diplomats meet in Luxembourg

Luxembourg 12.10.2020 The meeting of Foreign ministers, chaired by the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell, will review recent developments and debate issues related to the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, Russia, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

The EU Ministers will first be briefed by Borrell about a number of recent developments and upcoming events, including: Nagorno-Karabakh,the Kyrgyz Republic, Mozambique, the EU-Ukraine Summit, Venezuela, and the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024.
The Council will discuss the evolving situation in Belarus and follow up on the four strands of action agreed at EU level, including support to Belarusian society. Ministers will adopt new Council conclusions on Belarus which will guide the finalisation of the in-depth review of EU-Belarus relations.

Josep Borrell and the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and other Western Balkans regional issues, Miroslav Lajčák, will update the Council on the latest developments and challenges regarding the Dialogue.
Ministers will be invited to reflect on the state of EU-Russia relations within the framework of the five guiding principles, and taking account recent developments, like the Navalny case.
The Council will have a strategic discussion on EU relations with Latin America and the Caribbean, building on discussions held at the July 2020 Foreign Affairs Council about the considerable impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the region and the EU response. Ministers will also consider the potential revival of high level EU political engagement with the region.

Ministers will be informed about the Indo-Pacific region, and the Council is expected to adopt conclusions on Bosnia and Herzegovina and Operation EUFOR Althea.
Over a working lunch, ministers will have a strategic discussion on multilateralism.

Tajikistan: Rahmon declared 90% winner

Presidential elections in Tajikistan as expected endorsed the incumbent Emomali Rahmon mandate for seven years more, crowning him as the longest-serving ruler among leaders of the former Soviet Republics.

Polling stations opened at 6am local time (01:00 GMT) on Sunday, October 11, and closed at 8pm (15:00 GMT), with results expected the following morning.

The Central Electoral Commission said the vote had passed the turnout threshold required for validation, with more than 70% of the nearly five million strong electorate casting votes.

Just a week ago on October 5th the Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko has wished a happy birthday to Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon, BelTA reported quoting sources from the press service of the Belarusian leader.
“In your country and abroad you are by right appreciated as an experienced and authoritative leader whose efforts and political will have ensured sustainable development of Tajikistan and the strengthening of its influence on the international arena,” the felicitation message reads.

Rahmon, 68, has run the Persian-speaking nation of 9.5 million people since 1992, a period including a civil war. He has gradually strengthened his grip and a 2016 constitutional reform removed a limit on the number of terms he could serve.

Rahmon had four competitors, all of whom are viewed as token opponents, in his bid for a renewed seven-year term. All challengers are members of the lower house of parliament and have avoided criticising Rakhmon, whose official title is “Founder of Peace and National Unity – Leader of the Nation.”

AMENDED:
The European Union has been closely following the electoral processes in Tajikistan throughout 2020, including the Presidential elections that took place on 11 October.

The EU welcomes the decision of the Government of Tajikistan to invite the OSCE/ODIHR to monitor both the Presidential and, previously, the Parliamentary elections, as well as the subsequent deployment of a small team of electoral experts as part of an Election Assessment Mission (EAM). The EU looks forward to the EAM’s concluding report that will be published in the next 6-8 weeks and will carefully examine its recommendations in order to support their implementation.

The Presidential elections seem to have been carried out in a peaceful and orderly manner. However, we note that several of the recommendations identified in the final report of OSCE/ODIHR Electoral Assessment Mission that was deployed in March 2020 in connection with the Parliamentary elections remain valid and unimplemented, such as the independence of the media environment and political plurality.

Significant efforts are needed to further align the electoral process with Tajikistan’s OSCE commitments and other international obligations and standards for the conduct of democratic elections, including the freedom of the media to impartially cover and report on political developments in all parts of the country”.

The EU will seek to cooperate with and support Tajikistan in its efforts to fully implement the full sets of OSCE/ODIHR recommendations presented by both EAMs. We remain a reliable and significant partner in development cooperation, actively promoting economic modernisation, sustainable and equitable socio-economic growth, as well as enhanced governance reforms and regional cooperation”.



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