Category Archives: Politics

EU-Israel constructive exchange

Brussels 12.07.2021 “We had a discussion over lunch with the new Israeli Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid. You know that the European Union and Israel share deep political, historical and cultural ties” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said at the press-conference in Brussels, concluding the EU Council of Foreign ministers.

“We had a friendly, open and constructive exchange on our bilateral relations, but also on the situation in the region – especially related to the [Middle East] Peace Process and the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran nuclear deal] negotiations”.

“The fact that [Foreign] Minister Lapid decided to follow up on my invitation to attend todays’ meeting, and with this to allow for an exchange with the new administration, shows that we have a chance for a fresh start and for strengthening our bilateral relations. But, these bilateral relations are also conditioned to many issues in which we have differences. And the proof is that the Association Agreement meetings have been cancelled since 2012, [as far as] I remember. It is quite a long time, almost 10 years”.

“We discussed also the Middle East Peace Process. Here I want to stress very clearly that Israel’s security is non-negotiable. We stand firmly for Israel’s security and condemn terrorism, but at the same time, we expect Israel to offer a political perspective to end the conflict. To find a solution with the Palestinians can only contribute to Israel’s security and we have a Foreign Minister from Israel that has publicly been advocating in favour of the ‘two-state solution’ – which is the solution that we, European Union, are strongly supporting”.

“A credible engagement, a stronger relationship with Israel needs to revive a path towards peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians both alike. We remain ready and willing to support both in the efforts to rebuild a meaningful political process. We know that this is not going to be for tomorrow, we know the special composition of the Israeli government, but we have been very interested in listening the explanations of the Foreign Minister and his good will in order to improve the everyday life of the Palestinians and to advance in cooperation and working together towards resuming the holding of Association Council meetings if the conditions are met”.

“For this, we need, on one hand, to reach a consensus among Member States and, on the other hand, Israel has also to do its part”.

EU-US Summit on 15 June

Brussels 06.06.2021 The EU and US leaders are expected to address a wide range of issues of common concern, including COVID-19, climate, trade and investment, foreign affairs, and common values. The EU will be represented by the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. The US will be represented by President Joe Biden.

Representatives from Washington and Brussels met in the Belgian capital on Wednesday,June 2, to reaffirm the strength of the EU-US partnership on foreign policy and security issues.

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Stefano Sannino, secretary general of the European External Action Service, met as the Biden administration seeks to reassure European allies after the transatlantic relationship took a battering under former president Donald Trump.

Sannino and Sharman called the upcoming summit “as an important step in the revitalized transatlantic partnership.”

Presidents of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and European Council Charles Michel will host US President Joe Biden in Brussels, however Biden will participate at a NATO leaders’ summit in Brussels a day earlier.

The leaders are expected to hold talks on the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, trade and regulatory policies, as well as various foreign policy questions at the summit.

President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. will travel to the United Kingdom and Belgium in June 2021. This will be the first overseas travel by President Biden. This trip will highlight his commitment to restoring our alliances, revitalizing the Transatlantic relationship, and working in close cooperation with our allies and multilateral partners to address global challenges and better secure America’s interests.

President Biden will attend the G7 Summit in Cornwall, U.K., which is happening from June 11-13, where he will reinforce our commitment to multilateralism, work to advance key U.S. policy priorities on public health, economic recovery, and climate change, and demonstrate solidarity and shared values among major democracies. He will also hold bilateral meetings with fellow G7 leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

From the United Kingdom the President will travel to Brussels, Belgium, where he will participate in the NATO Summit on June 14. President Biden will affirm the United States’ commitment to NATO, Transatlantic security, and collective defense. NATO leaders will discuss how to orient the Alliance to future threats and ensure effective burden sharing. The President will also hold bilateral meetings with fellow NATO leaders.

While in Brussels President Biden will participate in a U.S.–EU Summit, which will underscore our commitment to a strong Transatlantic partnership based on shared interests and values. The leaders will discuss a common agenda to ensure global health security, stimulate global economic recovery, tackle climate change, enhance digital and trade cooperation, strengthen democracy, and address mutual foreign policy concerns.

We look forward to having further details to share about this trip soon, including potential additional elements.

Danish NSA spies on EU leaders

Bruxelles 30.05.2021 Denmark’s secret service helped the US National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a European media investigation published on Sunday revealed. (Image: illustration).

The disclosure that the US had been spying on its allies first started coming to light in 2013, but it is only now that journalists have gained access to reports detailing the support given to the NSA by the Danish Defense Intelligence Service (FE).

The report showed that Germany’s close ally and neighbour cooperated with the American spying operations targeting the chancellor and president.

The then chancellor candidate for the German centre-left socialist party (SPD), Peer Steinbrück, was also a target, the new report disclosed.

The Danish government knew of the involvement of the country’s secret service in the NSA scandal by 2015 at the latest.

They began to collect information on the FE’s cooperation with the NSA between 2012 and 2014 in the secret Dunhammer report following the disclosures by the former NSA employee and whistleblower Edward Snowden, NDR reported.

The information they gathered made it clear that the FE had helped the NSA to spy on leading politicians in Germany, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and France.

Danish intelligence also helped the US agency to spy on the Danish foreign and finance ministries as well as a Danish weapons manufacturer. The FE also cooperated with the NSA on spying operations against the US government itself.

Upon discovering exactly how far the cooperation between the two countries’ intelligence services went, the Danish government forced the entire leadership of the FE to step down in 2020.

EU Condemns Russian actions

Brussels 25.05.2021 The European Council held a strategic debate on Russia.
– It condemns the illegal, provocative and disruptive Russian activities against the EU, its Member States and beyond. It reaffirms the EU’s unity and solidarity in the face of such acts as well as its support to Eastern partners. (Image above: Crimea bridge, Azov sea).

– The European Council expresses its solidarity with the Czech Republic and supports its response.
– The European Council reaffirms its commitment to the five principles governing EU policy vis-à-vis Russia. – It invites the High Representative and the Commission to present a report with policy options on EU-Russia relations, in line with these principles, with a view to its meeting in June 2021.
– The EU will continue coordination with like-minded partners.

Since March 2014, the EU has progressively imposed restrictive measures against Russia. The measures were adopted in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and the deliberate destabilisation of Ukraine:

The EU imposes different types of restrictive measures:

Diplomatic measures
individual restrictive measures (asset freeze and travel restrictions)
restrictions on economic relations with Crimea and Sevastopol
economic sanctions
restrictions on economic cooperation

Diplomatic measures
In 2014, the EU-Russia summit was cancelled and EU member states decided not to hold regular bilateral summits. Bilateral talks with Russia on visa matters as well as on the new agreement between the EU and Russia were suspended.

Instead of the G8 summit in Sochi, a G7 meeting was held in Brussels on 4-5 June 2014. Since then, meetings have continued within the G7 process.

EU countries also supported the suspension of negotiations over Russia’s joining the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Individual restrictive measures
Asset freeze and travel restrictions
177 people and 48 entities are subject to an asset freeze and a travel ban because their actions undermined Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence.

The measures were introduced in March 2014. They were last extended until 15 September 20

Belarus: EU bans flights

25.05.2021 European Council strongly condemns the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk, Belarus, on 23 May 2021 endangering aviation safety, and the detention by Belarusian authorities of journalist Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega.

The European Council:
– demands the immediate release of Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega and that their freedom of movement be guaranteed;

– calls on the International Civil Aviation Organization to urgently investigate this unprecedented and unacceptable incident;
– invites the Council to adopt additional listings of persons and entities as soon as possible on the basis of the relevant sanctions framework;
– calls on the Council to adopt further targeted economic sanctions and invites the High Representative and the Commission to submit proposals without delay to this end;
– calls on all EU-based carriers to avoid overflight of Belarus;
– calls on the Council to adopt the necessary measures to ban overflight of EU airspace by Belarusian airlines and prevent access to EU airports of flights operated by such airlines;
– stands in solidarity with Latvia following the unjustified expulsion of Latvian diplomats.
The European Council will remain seized of the matter.

Borrell demands release of Protasevich

Brussels 24.05.2021 Belarus: Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the EU on the forced diversion of Ryanair flight FR4978 to Minsk on 23 May 2021:

“On 23 May, the Belarusian authorities, in an inadmissible step, forced a civilian plane to perform an emergency landing in Minsk. The plane, owned by an EU company, flying between two EU capitals and carrying more than 100 passengers, was forced to land by a Belarusian military aircraft.

“One of the flight passengers, Mr Raman Pratasevich, an independent journalist from Belarus, was retained by the Belarusian authorities and prevented from boarding the plane at the Minsk airport to its original destination. This is yet another blatant attempt by the Belarusian authorities to silence all opposition voices.

“We call for the immediate release of Mr Pratasevich.

“In carrying out this coercive act, the Belarusian authorities have jeopardised the safety of passengers and crew. An international investigation into this incident must be carried out to ascertain any breach of international aviation rules.

“This situation will be raised at the upcoming meeting of the European Council. The EU will consider the consequences of this action, including taking measures against those responsible”.

Opposition journalist Roman Protasevich, 26, was traveling by commercial airline from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, when the Belarusian air force landing by a fighter jet MiG29. The flight, on Irish airline Ryanair, was diverted to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where the millennial opposition figure was taken into custody.

Protasevich is a co-founder and a former editor of the NEXTA online channel on the social media platform Telegram, which has become a popular communication medium for Lukashenko’s opponents to share information and organise demonstrations against the government.

The journalist fled the Belarus in 2019, fearing arrest, and imprisonment, but he has continued to criticise Lukashenko’s regime while living in exile in Lithuania, so much so that he was charged in absentia with public disorder and social hatred in November last year.

As a teenager, Protasevich became a dissident, first drawing scrutiny from law enforcement. He was expelled from a prestigious school for participating in a protest rally in 2011 and later was expelled from the journalism program of the Minsk State University.

The government’s main security agency in Belarus, called the KGB, placed Protasevich’s name on a list of terrorists. If he is accused and convicted of terrorism, he could face the death penalty.

The charges of inciting public disorder and social hatred carry a punishment of more than 12 years in prison.

GAZA: EU diplomacy urgent meeting

16.05.2021 The EU top diplomat Josep Borrell has announced an extraordinary meeting of the Foreign ministers of the bloc to discuss the ways of contributing to the de-escalation of the situation in Gaza. The gathering of the top diplomats will take place via Video-Tele-Conferencing (TVC) on Tuesday 18 May.

“In view of the ongoing escalation between Israel and Palestine and the unacceptable number of civilian casualties, I am convening an extraordinary VTC of the EU Foreign Ministers on Tuesday. We will coordinate and discuss how the EU can best contribute to end the current violence” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell wrote on his Twitter micro blog.

Palestine is a beneficiary of the European Peacebuilding Initiative together with Israel and Jordan.. Its overall objective is to facilitate the peace process by supporting a solid foundation at civil society level for a fair and lasting settlement in the Middle East. The programme distributes €5 million per year to Civil Society Organisations promoting links across the political divide in Jordan, Israel and Palestine.

Other regional programmes include actions in the area of Political and Social Development, Trade and Economic Development.

The European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) is the main EU financing instrument for Palestine. EU funding is allocated in line with the multi-annual European Joint Strategy in support of Palestine 2017-2020 – Towards a democratic and accountable Palestinian State. The Strategy sets out targeted and shared priorities of the EU and the EU Member States. It is aligned with the Palestine National Policy Agenda 2017-2022, adopted by the Palestinian Authority in December 2016.

The multi-annual financial allocation for Palestine under the ENI for 2017-2020 amounts to €1.28 billion.

For the period 2017-2020, the EU’s bilateral assistance to Palestine under the ENI focuses on the following priority sectors:

Governance Reform, Fiscal Consolidation and Policy;
Rule of Law, Justice, Citizen Safety and Human Rights;
Sustainable Service Delivery;
Access to Self-Sufficient Water and Energy Services;
Sustainable Economic Development.
The EU’s cooperation portfolio in Palestine focuses on:

i) Direct Financial Support
The EU is helping the Palestinian Authority meet its recurrent expenditure by contributing to the payment of salaries and pensions of a number of civil servants in the West Bank. It also provides assistance to the most vulnerable Palestinian families and helps pay for health referrals to the East Jerusalem hospitals. This support is channelled through the PEGASE instrument (Mécanisme Palestino-européen de Gestion de l’Aide Socio-économique). It is accompanied by a policy dialogue aimed at encouraging reforms, which includes an incentive-based framework that links part of this support to reforms in key sectors.

In 2020, the total EU contribution to PEGASE amounts to €159.05 million of which €85 million for salaries and pensions, €22,5 million to support the response of the East Jerusalem Hospitals to COVID-19 and €45 million to support the incomes of the most vulnerable households.

ii) Support to Palestine refugees
The EU with its Member States is by far the largest provider of assistance to Palestine refugees. The EU’s funding is used to ensure that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East’s (UNRWA) is able to provide health, education and social services, including salaries for teachers, doctors and social workers active in refugee camps.

The total EU contribution to UNRWA in 2018,2019 and 2020 was €395.6 million including ENI contributions to the programme budget, contributions from the EU Regional Trust Fund in response to the Syrian Crisis, EU humanitarian aid, the food security programme under the Development Cooperation Instrument and the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace.

iii) Development programmes
EU-funded development programmes in Palestine focus on job creation and access to water and energy. It is also used to support cooperation between Israel and Palestine, notably on energy and water, working with the Office of the Quartet. The Gaza Central Desalination Plant is a flagship programme supported by the EU, in cooperation with Arab donors via the Islamic Development Bank. It aims to ensure that the Gazan population has access to clean drinking water by providing a minimum of 55 million m3 of safe and clean drinking water per year. Parts of the Associated Works have already started in 2019.

In 2019 the first twinning project started in Palestine in the field of customs. Palestine benefited from 17 TAIEX (Technical Assistance and Information Exchange instrument) events in 2019. In addition, €12 million are allocated each year to projects in East Jerusalem, which is a key priority to keep the negotiated two-state solution alive, and to resolve “the status of Jerusalem as the capital of both states” as reflected in the EU Council Conclusions of 22 July 2014.

France: leadership vs. citizens

Brussels 14.05.2021 One year before the next presidential election, a new poll indicates that the 2017 duel Macron-Le Pen could be re-played again in 2022.
Will in 2022 once again Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen compete at the polls in the second round of the presidential election? In 2017, Emmanuel Macron won against his rival with 66.1% of the votes cast, against 33.9% for Marine Le Pen.

According to a survey carried out by Ipsos-Sopra Steria in partnership with Cevipof and the Jean-Jaurès Foundation the 2017 finalists would be the same in 2022, and this in different scenarios envisaged according to the various applications already announced or potential.

However this time the situation in not so favourable for the incumbent President of the V Republic. The second open letter of French military critical of the President Emmanuel Macron policies received a strong support of the compatriots, viewed two million times, and it was signed by 250 000 citizens. This declaration from active officers of the French army reinforces the one previously published letter by the military veterans on the site of Valeurs Actuelles journal (@Values). This text, the second one, which has been already circulating a lot and which caused the media echo, the editorial decided to publish in a form of a Petition for the signature of French citizens. Like the previous one, the purpose of this forum is not to undermine the institutions but to alert citizens and authorities of the gravity of the situation in France.

“…Cowardice, deceit, perversion: this is not our view of the hierarchy.
On the contrary, the army is, par excellence, the place where we speak truthfully to each other because we commit our lives. It is this confidence in the military institution that we call for” the second letter reads.

“…Yes, if a civil war breaks out, the military will maintain order on its own soil, because it will be asked to. This is even the definition of civil war. No one can want such a terrible situation, our elders no more than us, but yes, again, civil war is brewing in France and you know it perfectly well..”

“…Take action, ladies and gentlemen. This time it is not about custom emotion, ready-made formulas or media coverage. It’s not about extending your terms or winning new ones. It is about the survival of our country, of your country”.

French commentators suggest that both letters reflect the state of the political debate, which has been substantially weakened by the belligerent political parties, deviating from the traditional right and left in search for re-branding with the centre right Republicans plagued by scandals, and the Socialists vanishing after failed Francois Holland presidency. Weakened by economic and social consequences of the sanitary measures President Macron’s party ‘La République En Marche’ (LaREM) leaves sufficient room for the citizens initiatives. If there were active and constructive democratic debates between the main parties represented in the National Assembly, there would be no room for this kind of position on the part of the former military, warning the President about the possibility of the civil war as a result of mass migration.

“A leadership that does not stand behind its most loyal citizens, will eventually be devoured by them. The French Revolution, a strange masterpiece of history, set the stage for all other great democracies of the world and gave the gift of the French culture to the world,” – said Canadian writer Mark Hecht (@HechtWriter).
“To see France’s leadership today, not honour its own traditions and defend them without reservation, is a shattering reminder of that other, less noble, French character–for the elite to grow heads too large for the body.”

EU summons RUssian Ambassador

Brussels 03.05.2021 “The Secretary-General of the European Commission, Ilze Juhansone, and the Secretary-General of the External Action Service, Stefano Sannino, jointly summoned the Ambassador of Russian Federation to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov, on Monday to condemn the decision of the Russian authorities from last Friday to ban eight European Union nationals from entering the territory of the Russian Federation.

“Ambassador Chizhov was informed of the strong rejection and firm condemnation by the EU institutions and EU Member States of this decision, which was purely politically motivated and lacks any legal justification.
Secretaries-General I. Juhansone and S. Sannino also recalled Russia’s expulsion of Czech diplomats and the executive order of the Russian Federation of so called “unfriendly states”, expressing their grave concern for the cumulative impact of all these decisions on the relations between the EU and the government of the Russian Federation.
“They also noted that the EU reserves the right to take appropriate measures in response”.

“On 3 May 2021 Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the EU, met with Secretary-General of the EEAS Stefano Sannino and Secretary-General of the European Commission Ilze Juhansone.

The current state of relations between Russia and the European Union was discussed. Both sides expressed regret in connection with the recently intensified trend towards their deterioration.

Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov provided additional comments regarding the measures announced by Russia on 30 April 2021 in response to unilateral decisions of the European Union.

The importance of diplomatic efforts to rectify the current unhealthy situation in the dialogue between Moscow and Brussels was stressed. The Russian side reaffirmed its readiness for this endeavour”.

Malta: MEPs monitor investigation

Brussels 29.04.2021 In a resolution adopted on Thursday, April 29, with 635 votes for, 46 against and 12 abstentions, the European Parliament takes stock of developments in the case of Daphne Caruana Galizia and other related investigations, following the testimony of convicted criminal Vincent Muscat.

Expressing deep concern about the possible involvement of ministers and political appointees in the murder case, MEPs urge the government to bring to justice all those implicated in all cases brought to light by the journalist. MEPs monitor investigation.

MEPs acknowledge the progress made in the murder investigation and other, related cases of corruption and money laundering, “albeit greatly delayed”, and call for the search to go beyond the previous prime minister’s chief of staff, including on possible attempts by public officials to conceal evidence and obstruct investigations and judicial proceedings. All allegations of corruption and fraud should be investigated and prosecuted “with the appropriate rigour and at the appropriate level”, they underline.

There are serious and persistent threats to EU values in the country, including media freedom, judicial and police independence, and the freedom of assembly, though MEPs note that the Government of Malta has made some progress in relation to the rule of law and judicial independence. The launch of the structural reform project is welcome, they say, given the ‘deep corruption patterns’ identified by the Commission in its 2020 Rule of Law Report. MEPs acknowledge the steps taken by the Maltese authorities to protect independent journalism, stressing that further improvements are needed, and calling on the Maltese authorities to implement the EU whistle-blower directive.

Parliament is deeply concerned about the harmful impact of citizenship and residence schemes on the integrity of EU citizenship, and reiterates its call on the Maltese government to assure transparency and terminate its schemes. It is also asking the Commission to propose anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) legislation to protect independent European media from vexatious lawsuits intended to silence or intimidate them – a step that MEPs have been calling for since 2018.

Maltese anti-corruption investigative journalist and blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered on 16 October 2017. She reported on government corruption, allegations of money laundering, and organised crime. Parliament launched the Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism in October 2020, on the third anniversary of her death, for “outstanding journalism reflecting EU values”.

Bring to justice all those implicated in cases brought to light by Daphne Caruana Galizia:
– Serious threats against EU values, though some progress being made
– Step up fight against fraud and corruption.

The latest revelations about the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia are of great concern, in particular the possible involvement of ministers and political appointees.

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