Tag Archives: Brussels

Borrell: “Putin’s war” must stop

Brussels 04.03.2022 “Today’s extraordinary session of the Foreign Affairs Council has indeed been extraordinary. It has been extraordinary because we have been joined by the United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, by NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, by the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary, Elizabeth Truss, and by the Canadian Foreign Minister, Mélanie Joly, around the table” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said.

“Also, Ukrainian Foreign Minister [Dmytro] Kuleba connected with the [Foreign Affairs] Council remotely, because he is Ukraine obviously, to give an overview of the latest developments on the ground, and the urgent needs of Ukrainians and the atrocities committed by the Russian forces who continue bombing indiscriminately several Ukrainian cities.

“First, the humanitarian situation. The humanitarian situation on the ground is becoming more and more difficult due to this continuous bombing of the Russian army.

“They are shelling residential housing, schools, hospitals, and other civilian infrastructure. It looks like they want to destroy Ukraine.

“The UN Human Rights Council, as you are aware, has voted today on the urgent establishment of a commission of inquiry to address these violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

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“Taking into account that right now the figure of the number of people who are escaping Ukraine and crossing the borders of the European Union and also other countries like Moldova, is today more than one million people and it is increasing very quickly. More will come. We are above one million in less than a week.

“But we strongly call for a humanitarian corridor. The International Red Cross is not able to enter the country and we need green corridors for the Red Cross to be able to help the Ukrainian people.

“People – children, mothers, fathers – need food, need basic items. I saw it yesterday myself in my visit to Moldova, where I visited a refugee reception centre. I have seen many of them around the world, but it is heart-breaking. You never get used to these kind of things.

“[The President of Russia, Vladimir] Putin must allow humanitarian aid to go into Ukraine.

“Secondly, the European Union is committed to providing access to everyone fleeing the war in Ukraine and hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have already arrived in the European Union and are going to several Member States, from the borders into the European Union.

“Member States highlighted the need to further support front-line Member States and asked the Commission to look into this and to mobilise resources from the budget of the European Union and the Commission services.

“More dangerous than this, overnight, we saw the Russian attacks in the direct vicinity of Ukraine’s nuclear power plant – the biggest Ukrainian power plant has been attacked. And this is unacceptable because it can produce catastrophic consequences that can provoke an ecological and humanitarian catastrophe for the entirety of Europe. The Russia army has to respect emergency safe zones around nuclear sites, and we need to ensure the safety of these zones because the safety of the entire European continent can be affected.

“But the most important and pressing question, the most important and pressing request is that Russia ceases its military operations and withdraw from the territory of Ukraine. The same goes for Belarus, who is a full accomplice to Moscow.

“We have been discussing with Secretary Blinken, and as Antony Blinken said that we are seeing a historic moment of the cooperation between the European Union and the United States, and the reinforcement of the Euro-Atlantic partnership. Together, we led the way of imposing the most far-reaching sanctions packages ever adopted. We must now ensure that they are fully implemented – because it is not enough to announce, to agree and to announce. But they have to be implemented, loopholes have to be closed and I hope that they will undermine the Russian war machine.

“President Putin intended to divide us, but he achieved just the contrary: we are more united and more determined then ever, much more than before the Russian aggression. And Russia is completely isolated by the international community, as the vote at the [United Nations] General Assembly clearly showed yesterday.

“This vote left no room for doubt: the world stands with Ukraine; the world stands on the right side of history. And this vote sent a clear signal.

“And today, the [UN] Human Rights Council voted again and established an independent commission of inquiry into the humanitarian situation in Ukraine. And also the result was very clear – 32 votes in favour, 2 against, 3 abstentions.

“I want to stress the fact that our sanctions are targeted. They are already producing results. And the aim is not to harm the Russian people, but to pull the rock out from under the Kremlin’s war machine. It is, however, unfortunately as a fact, that they will also affect people who are not in the inner circle of the Kremlin. And, until a certain point, ordinary people will also suffer the consequences of Putin’s war – because let us call it the way it has to be called – Putin’s war. And only Putin can end it.

“We have to avoid the Russian oligarchs to escape from the effects of the sanctions and to clamp down on tax evasion. This is a good occasion to fight against the oligarchy and to fight against tax evasion, because both things go together.

“We have to locate them and seize their assets, because the Russian regime gets its wealth from corruption and tax evasion. We need to combat this and turn off the tap of money flows financing this senseless war.

“In order to stop the flows of money that finance the Russian army and the Russian war, today we have also discussed the need to accelerate the green energy transition to further reduce our energy dependency on Russia.

“Allow me to say something about my visit to Moldova together with Commissioner [for Enlargement and Neighbourhood, Olivér] Várhelyi. Both of us, we underscored the solidarity of the European Union with Moldova and conveyed our gratitude and appreciation to the people of Moldova for their efforts and solidarity in welcoming refugees in a large number. Moldova is not the richest country in Europe and it has been receiving such a big number of refugees that, in proportion to its population, is like if Spain would have received more than 1 million refugees.

T”he situation in Moldova is fragile and they need urgent support. We will provide it.

“Finally, allow me to underline a very clear political assessment: this is not the East against the West. This is not a remake of the Cold war. We are defending the sovereignty of the nations, all nations. We are defending the territorial integrity of a state, all states. In the East, in the West, in the North and in the South. It is not again the battle of two hemispheres. We are defending international law, the sovereignty of states, their territorial integrity and the no violation of the borders. This is something that is valid for anyone in the world.

“We are not enemies of the Russian people. We are friends of Ukraine; we are supporting them on their fight, but we are not against the Russian people. This is Putin’s war, and only Putin can end it”.

EU summons Russian Ambassador

Brussels 25.02.2022 In the context of the EU’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, High Representative Josep Borrell instructed the Secretary General of the European External Action Service, Stefano Sannino to summon the Ambassador of the Russian Federation the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov, in Brussels on February 24.

In their meeting, Secretary General Sannino conveyed the EU’s strongest condemnation of the unprovoked, unjustified invasion of Ukraine by armed forces of the Russian Federation and the demand to Russian President Vladimir Putin to cease military operations immediately, and unconditionally withdraw all forces and military equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine.

This had been stated in the Declaration of HRVP Borrell on behalf of the European Union and in the joint declaration of the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen.

Secretary General Sannino informed Ambassador Chizov that the EU’s firm response to the Russian aggression will be decided at today’s extraordinary meeting of the European Council, and will include a new, hard-hitting package of restrictive measures, both sectorial and individual, fully coordinated with the EU’s transatlantic and like-minded partners.

In the course of the discussion, Vladimir Chizhov outlined Russia’s assessment of the situation around the Ukrainian crisis, detailing the reasons that prompted the Russian leadership to take a decision to recognise the independence of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic and then undertake a special military operation based on Article 51 of the UN Charter and the Treaties of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the Russian Federation and those two states.

EU €70m fine to Poland

The European Commission has sent Poland notice to pay some 70 million euros in fines for failing to reverse an illegal disciplinary regime for judges, a spokesman said, an escalation in a row between Warsaw and the European Union.

The case is one of many disputes between the EU and Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which came to power in 2015 and has since faced accusations of eroding democratic freedoms.

Last October the top EU court fined Warsaw for failing to immediately halt the work of the Polish Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Chamber pending a final verdict on the scheme.

The European Union is set to demand that Poland pay around €70 million of fines in the coming weeks for failing to scrap a contentious system for disciplining judges according to Brussels think-tank experts.

The dispute is one of many battles pitting Poland against the EU, which accuses the nationalist government in Warsaw of backsliding on democratic standards, including the independence of the judiciary. Warsaw denies the charge.

“I regret that the situation of the rule of law in Poland shows no signs of improvement and judges continue to be under pressure. We will continue to do our duty to defend the rule of law and judicial independence,” said Věra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Values and Transparency.

Separately, a spokesman for the Commission told reporters that the Brussels-based executive had received Poland’s latest explanation in the dispute, adding: “The EU has ways to ensure payment of fines due from Poland.”

January 11 was the deadline for Warsaw to tell the Commission when and how it would dismantle the Disciplinary Chamber of Poland’s Supreme Court, which the EU’s top EU court had ordered suspended, or pay fines worth €1 million a day.

Should Poland’s response fail to satisfy the Commission, which enforces European law, a source in the EU executive said it would send an invoice to Warsaw, with a 45-day deadline to pay.

By then, the fine would amount to some €70 million, said a second Commission source, adding that the call for payment would be sent to Warsaw “very soon”.

Asked about the case, a deputy Polish justice minister last week accused the EU of making “illegal demands” and said Warsaw would not give in to “blackmail”.

The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party introduced the new policing system for judges in 2017 amid a sweeping overhaul of the judiciary widely denounced as undermining the independence of courts and judges.

The Polish judges’ association Iustitia, which accuses PiS of degrading the courts, said the Disciplinary Chamber had suspended six judges so far for challenging government policies, and that two more were awaiting a decision.

Of the six, two have been suspended for more than one year, their cases reassigned to other judges or started from scratch, including one for the murder of a child, Iustitia said.

Iustitia said more than 1,000 judges have been nominated since PiS party changed the law to allow judges to be appointed by government officials instead by other judges to staff judicial panels.

In case Poland continues to refuse to pay for failing to obey the order of the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice (ECJ) – the decisions of which are binding for all member states – the Commission would eventually deduct the total due from EU funds earmarked for Warsaw.

However, the timetable is unclear while the other EU countries have so far either implemented measures prescribed by the European Court of Justice or paid promptly on their own for failing to do so.

A lack of precedent or detailed EU rules allows procedural delays and political disputes over the issue, which has already harmed Poland’s reputation with the EU.

“I regret that the situation of the rule of law in Poland shows no signs of improvement and judges continue to be under pressure. We will continue to do our duty to defend the rule of law and judicial independence,” said Věra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Values and Transparency.

NATO-Russia Council step forward

Brussels 12.01.2022 Anna van Densky The NATO-Russia Council, which brings together all 30 NATO Allies and Russia, met in Brussels on Wednesday (12 January 2022) to discuss the situation in and around Ukraine, and the implications for European security.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who chaired the meeting, said: “This was not an easy discussion, but that is exactly why it was so important.” He noted that NATO Allies are ready to meet again with Russia to discuss a number of topics in greater detail and to put concrete proposals on the table. “There are opportunities for constructive engagement which should not be missed, in the interest of security in Europe,” he said.

“We had a frank and open discussion on a wide range of issues, of course, focusing on the tensions, the difficulties in and around Ukraine. And Allies also of course again expressed a deep concern about the continued Russian military build-up along the borders of Ukraine. And combined with threatening rhetoric from the Russian side, and a Russian track record of willingness to use force against neighbours, of course, Allies are concerned. And we are clear-eyed about the challenges we face when we now sit down with Russia and try to find a political way forward. But the meeting was useful. And I think that, especially when tensions are high, it is even more important that we meet, and that all Allies and Russia meet and sit around the same table and address the issues that are of concern.

“On membership and the NATO’s open door all Allies are united on the core principle that each and every nation has the right to choose his own path. This is enshrined in a lot of fundamental documents, many different documents, which are the foundation for European security. And, therefore, also Allies totally agree that it is only Ukraine and 30 Allies that can decide when Ukraine is ready to become a NATO member. No one else has anything to say and of course Russia doesn’t have a veto on whether Ukraine can become a NATO member. Allies are ready to support Ukraine on this path towards membership, helping to implement reforms, modernise the armed forces to meet NATO standards. And then, at the end of the day, it has to be NATO Allies and Ukraine that decides on membership”.

The council meeting marked the second stage in a series of talks between Russia and the West on Russia’s proposals for European security. The first stage was the talks between Russia and the US that took place in Geneva on January 10, and the third stage will happen as an OSCE meeting in Vienna on January 13.

The Russian delegation in Brussels is led by Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko and Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin. NATO is represented by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, and representatives of 30 NATO member states in Brussels.

The negotiations between Moscow and Washington dedicated to Russia’s proposed security guarantees concluded on January 10 in Geneva. On January 12, Russia-NATO discussed the security issue in Europe, as well as Russian drafts on security assurances at a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels, and on January 13 at the Vienna session of the OSCE Permanent Council.

On December 17, 2021, the Russian Foreign Ministry published the draft agreements between Russia and the US on security guarantees and the measures of ensuring the security of Russia and NATO member states.

France presidency of EU

The presidency of the Council rotates among the EU member states every 6 months. During this 6-month period, the presidency chairs meetings at every level in the Council, helping to ensure the continuity of the EU’s work in the Council.

Member states holding the presidency work together closely in groups of three, called ‘trios’. This system was introduced by the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. The trio sets long-term goals and prepares a common agenda determining the topics and major issues that will be addressed by the Council over an 18-month period. On the basis of this programme, each of the three countries prepares its own more detailed 6-month programme.

The current trio is made up of the presidencies of the France, Czechia and Sweden.

EU leaders convene in Brussels

Brussels 16.10.2021 The EU leaders convene in Brussels to discuss developments related to COVID-19, crisis management and resilience, energy prices, security and defence, external aspects of migration and the situation in Belarus. The meeting has started at 10.00 am and will be followed by a press conference.
EU leaders will discuss migration, focusing on its external dimension and the implementation of the June 2021 conclusions.

The European Council will discuss the situation at the EU’s border with Belarus, including the restrictive measures. On December 2, 2021, the Council adopted the fifth package of sanctions over continued human rights abuses and the instrumentalisation of migrants. In view of this situation, the Council imposed restrictive measures on an additional 17 individuals and 11 entities, targeting prominent members of the judicial branch and propaganda outlets that contribute to the continued repression of civil society, democratic opposition, independent media outlets and journalists, and high-ranking political officials and companies that have helped incite and organise illegal border crossing for political purposes.

The European Council will discuss Russia’s military build-up at the border with Ukraine, including the EU restrictive measures in response to the crisis in Ukraine. On 11 October, the Council decided to impose restrictive measures on an additional 8 individuals for actively supporting actions and implementing policies that undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.

The persons added to the EU sanctions list include law enforcement officials – judges, prosecutors and security officers – responsible for enforcing Russian law in the illegally-annexed Crimea and Sevastopol. Those individuals have taken biased decisions in politically-motivated cases, and prosecuted or oppressed opponents of the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol.

EU restrictive measures regarding the territorial integrity of Ukraine now apply to a total of 185 persons and 48 entities. Those designated persons are subject to an asset freeze – including a prohibition on making funds available to them – and a travel ban, which prevents them from entering or transiting through the EU.

European Union – African Union Summit
The European Council is expected to take stock of the preparations for the EU-African Union Summit on 17-18 February 2022. In the light of current events, the European Council may address other specific foreign policy issues.

Antisemitic Prejudices in Europe report

Brussels 12.10.2021 A comprehensive picture of the anti-Semitic prejudice in 16 countries of the European Union has been revealed in the Report, presented in Brussels today by the Action and Protection League in alliance with the European Jewish Association in the Jewish House. The research seeks to explore the prevalence and intensity of anti-Jewish prejudices in the European societies. The intention of the engaged team has been to show how likely in times of crisis the societies are susceptible to use the antisemitic narrative to indulge themselves in illusions of solutions for a various range of problems.

The Report on “Antisemitic Prejudices in Europe” appeared in a specific context of concern about the rise of violence against Jews, which reflects in insecurities in Jewish communities across Europe.

In the report the cognitive antisemitism has been measured by a series of questions used several times in surveys in the last two decades. Based on support of rejection of the offered statements, measuring biased stereotyping there were tree major groups of the participants in the survey: non-antisemites, moderate antisemites, and strong antisemites.

The European Muslim are characterised by significantly stronger primary antisemitism than the non-Muslim population, however anti-semitism in Greece and several post-Soviet East European countries is “significantly stronger” than among European Muslims, the report discoveres.

Regarding Israel many European Muslims support anti-Jewish views, far more than proportion of non-Muslim population in any of the countries studies, the reports states.

During the research a group of latent anti-semites has been identified, which does not incline to the traditional anit-semitic views, but hostility towards Israel, but does not appear to be antisemitic in a traditional sense, getting the definition of latent anti-semitism.

Concerning the primary antisemitism there more than average antisemites in Greece (48%), Poland (42%), Hungary(42%), Slovkia (39%), the Czech Republic(36%), Romania (38%) and Austira (31%). The proportion of strong antisemites in Greece is almost three times the average – 35%, and is highest in Austria (21%) outside the former Soviet bloc.

In three Western European countries the proportion of those who accept traditional antisemitic prejudices and are also “averse” to Jews is negligible in Sweden, the Netherlands, and the UK representing from 3% to 6% of the adult population.

In spite of a grim landscape in some cases, there are also strong positive attitudes toward Jews and Israel, who are convinced that it is important for Europe to preserve Jewish traditions in their countries. The respondents are also friends of Israel, regarding Jewish state as a politically significant actor, and ally.

The indicator directs to 22% of the total population in the 16 countries as “strongly philosemitic”, 35% “moderately”, and 44% as non-philosemtic. The philosemitism is strong in Austria, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, and Greece. The results might seem contradictory at times, and the report needs further analysis and understanding of the social psychological theories dealing with prejudice in its cognitive, effective, and conative dimension.

Kosovo: EU calls to de-escalate

Brussels 26.09.2021 “I continue to follow the situation in the north of Kosovo closely. Serbia and Kosovo need to unconditionally de-escalate the situation on the ground, by immediately withdrawing special police units and dismantling of roadblocks. Any further provocations or unilateral and uncoordinated actions are unacceptable” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell wrote on his Twitter micro blog.

“Kosovo and Serbia must find solutions to defuse the situation and agree on the way forward. The EU will actively support these efforts. Both Kosovo and Serbian leaders are fully responsible for any risks to the safety and well-being of local communities is on both Kosovo and Serbia. I stressed this in my calls with President Vucic and Prime Minister Kurti this week.

“The EU-facilitated Dialogue continues to be the only platform to address and resolve all open issues between the Parties, including those related to freedom of movement and licence plates, and I strongly urge Kosovo and Serbia to use it. Both Chief Negotiators coming to Brussels in the coming days is a first positive step. It is crucial that they come with a mandate to discuss the way forward and find sustainable solutions that are in the interests of the citizens.

“We repeat that we expect both Kosovo and Serbia to return to fostering an environment conducive to reconciliation, regional stability and cooperation for the benefit of their citizens. This is crucial for reaching a comprehensive and legally-binding agreement on normalisation of their relations, which is necessary for both to advance on their respective European paths.

“I am in close touch with NATO Secretary General, whom I thank for the excellent cooperation between KFOR and EULEX. KFOR plays a key role in supporting regional stability in the Western Balkans”.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the UN General Assembly: “When it is beneficial to the West, the right of peoples to self-determination is elevated to an absolute. And then, in violation of the UN Security Council resolution, they recognise the artificially created formation of Kosovo, which was forcibly torn away from Serbia. No one is embarrassed that the Malvins are 12 thousand km from Britain…”

Afghanistan: NATO continues evacuations

Brussels 20.08.2021 NATO Foreign Ministers met via teleconference on Friday (20 August 2021) to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. “What we have witnessed in recent days is a tragedy for the people of Afghanistan,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. He stressed that NATO’s top priority is the continuing evacuation of people from Allied and partner countries, and Afghans who have worked with NATO.
Statement by NATO Foreign Ministers on Afghanistan:
“We, the Foreign Ministers of NATO, met today to discuss the difficult situation in Afghanistan:

“We are united in our deep concern about the grave events in Afghanistan and call for an immediate end to the violence. We also express deep concerns about reports of serious human rights violations and abuses across Afghanistan. We affirm our commitment to the statement by the UN Security Council on 16 August, and we call for adherence to international norms and standards on human rights and international humanitarian law in all circumstances.

“Our immediate task now is to meet our commitments to continue the safe evacuation of our citizens, partner country nationals, and at-risk Afghans, in particular those who have assisted our efforts. We call on those in positions of authority in Afghanistan to respect and facilitate their safe and orderly departure, including through Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. As long as evacuation operations continue, we will maintain our close operational coordination through Allied military means at Hamid Karzai International Airport.

“The Afghan people deserve to live in safety, security and dignity, and to build on the important political, economic and social achievements they have made over the last twenty years. We stand by civil society actors who must be able to continue to safely play their meaningful role in Afghan society. We call on all parties in Afghanistan to work in good faith to establish an inclusive and representative government, including with the meaningful participation of women and minority groups. Under the current circumstances, NATO has suspended all support to the Afghan authorities. Any future Afghan government must adhere to Afghanistan’s international obligations; safeguard the human rights of all Afghans, particularly women, children, and minorities; uphold the rule of law; allow unhindered humanitarian access; and ensure that Afghanistan never again serves as a safe haven for terrorists.

“For the last twenty years, we have successfully denied terrorists a safe haven in Afghanistan from which to instigate attacks. We will not allow any terrorists to threaten us. We remain committed to fighting terrorism with determination, resolve, and in solidarity.

“We honour the service and sacrifice of all who have worked tirelessly over the last twenty years to realise a better future for Afghanistan. Together, we will fully reflect on our engagement in Afghanistan and draw the necessary lessons.

“We will continue to promote the stable, prosperous Afghanistan that the Afghan people deserve and address the critical questions facing Afghanistan and the region, in the immediate future and beyond, including through our cooperation with regional and international partners, such as the European Union and United Nations”.

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.

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