Category Archives: Politics

Czech opposition narrowly prevails

Brussels 09.10.2021 The Czech Republic’s opposition prevailed over Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s party in this weekend’s parliamentary elections.

The Three-party coalition, Together, won 27.78% of the vote in the two-day elections, narrowly edging out Babis’s ANO party which won 27.13%, according to Reuters.

A third opposition coalition, the Pirate/Mayors, came in third with 15.6% of the vote.

Together and the Pirate/Mayors are set to win 108 of the 200 seats in the lower house of the Czech Parliament, according to Reuters.

Petr Fiala, who leads Together, said the groups have “brought a chance that we will stop getting in debt, that we will remain a part of democratic Europe,” he said. “The results are clear, the democratic opposition won a clear majority.”

However Babis conceded his coalition’s loss, he said that he would lead talks on forming a cabinet if he is appointed by President Milos Zeman, according to The Associated Press.

Zeman has previously said that he would allow the leader of the strongest party, not coalition, to form a new government, the outlet noted.

Incumbent Prime Minister Babis has faced multiple scandals during his term as Prime Minister, but his ANO party was still favored to win the two-day election. This election notably came just after the release of the Pandora papers, which focused on his financial dealings overseas.

The Pandora Papers, released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, reveal that Babis acquired $22 million villa in France in 2009. The research claimed that he appeared to have routed the money through shell companies in the British Virgin Islands, Washington, D.C., and a real estate management firm in Monaco.

MEP Puigdemont arrested in Italy

Brussels 24.09.2021 Member of European Parliament, Catalan politician Carles Puigdemont, who fled Spain after a failed secession bid for the region in 2017, was detained Thursday, 23 September, in Sardinia, Italy, his lawyer said.

MEP Puigdemont, who moved to Belgium and was elected there as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), has been fighting extradition to Spain, which accused him and other Catalan independence leaders of sedition.

Lawyer Gonzalo Boye said Puigdemont was detained when he arrived in Sardinia, where he was due to attend a cultural event this weekend.

The circumstances under which Puigdemont was taken into custody were not announced. Boye wrote on Twitter the Catalan politician was detained under a 2019 European arrest warrant, even though it had been previously suspended.

Police at the airport in northern Sardinia didn’t answer phone calls Thursday night after the arrest, the AP news agency writes, while police in the city of Alghero said they weren’t aware of his detention.

The European Parliament voted in March to lift the immunity of Puigdemont and two of his associates. In July the three EU lawmakers failed to have their immunity restored after the European Union’s general court said that they did not demonstrate they were at risk of being arrested.

Sardinian media reported earlier in the week he was due to attend an event in Alghero on Sunday, so his presence on the Mediterranean island had been expected. Sardinian media had also reported that Puigdemont was invited by a Sardinian pro-independence group.

Puigdemont’s office said in a statement that he had traveled to Alghero from Brussels to attend a folklore festival where he was detained upon arrival by Italian police. On Friday, September 24, Puigdemont will appear in front of a judge in the city of Sassari who would rule on whether he should be freed, the statement said.

Puigdemont and a number of his independalist colleagues fled to Belgium in October 2017, fearing arrest after holding an independence referendum for Catalonia that the Spanish courts and government said was illegal.

Nine Catalan independalists received prison sentences for their role in the 2017 referendum ranging from nine to 13 years. They were pardoned in July.

Taliban assures free departures

Brussels 29.08.201 The following statement was released initially by the Governments of the United States of America, Albania, Australia, Belgium, Belize, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Canada, Central African Republic, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Eswatini, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Guyana, The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, North Macedonia, Norway, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Cyprus, Republic of Korea, Republic of Kosovo, Romania, Rwanda, Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, Spain, St. Kitts and Nevis, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland , The Bahamas, The Gambia, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, Union of the Comoros, United Kingdom, Vanuatu, Yemen, and Zambia.

“We are all committed to ensuring that our citizens, nationals and residents, employees, Afghans who have worked with us and those who are at risk, can continue to travel freely to destinations outside Afghanistan”.

“We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorization from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country”.

“We will continue issuing travel documentation to designated Afghans, and we have the clear expectation of and commitment from the Taliban that they can travel to our respective countries. We note the public statements of the Taliban confirming this understanding”.

Borrell convenes urgent Council

Brussels 16.08.2021 “Following latest developments in Afghanistan, and after intense contacts with partners in the past days and hours, I decided to convene an extraordinary VTC (video-tele- conference) of EU Foreign Ministers FAC (Foreign Ministers Council) tomorrow afternoon for a first assessment” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell wrote on his Twitter micro blog.

The EU’s relationship with Afghanistan is guided by the 2017 EU Strategy for Afghanistan, aimed at strengthening the country’s institutions and economy. The 2017 Cooperation Agreement provides the basis for developing a mutually beneficial relationship in several areas such as: human rights, the rule of law, health, rural development, education, science and technology, the fight against terrorism, organised crime and narcotics. Most recently, EU27 have given further steer in the May 2020 Conclusions of the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council.

On 26 April 2021, the European Union and Afghanistan signed a Joint Declaration on Migration Cooperation. The Joint Declaration will help to address irregular migration and promote joint efforts in the fight against migrant smuggling and human trafficking and will facilitate the sustainable reintegration of people returning to Afghanistan by focusing on their individual needs and the needs of host and return communities, including opportunities for both skills development and employment.

The Joint Declaration continues the positive EU-Afghan cooperation achieved under the previous Joint Way Forward on Migration Issues, which expired earlier in April.

In line with the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, which places particular emphasis on strengthening partnerships between the EU and countries of origin and transit, the Joint Declaration brings significant improvements based on lessons learned from the implementation of the Joint Way Forward, including: a preference for the voluntary return of Afghan nationals, better protection of children, clearer definition of certain vulnerable groups, and a clarification that all EU Member States may participate in joint return operations by non-scheduled flights.

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.

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