Tag Archives: EU Council

EU provides €3bn assistance to partners

The Council today adopted a decision to provide up to 3 billion euros of macro-financial assistance to ten enlargement and neighbourhood partners to help them cope with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Financial assistance will be provided in the form of loans on highly favourable terms and allocated as follows:

Albania: €180 million
Bosnia-Herzegovina: €250 million
Georgia: €150 million
Jordan: €200 million
Kosovo*: €100 million
Moldova: €100 million
Montenegro: €60 million
Republic of North Macedonia: €160 million
Tunisia: €600 million
Ukraine: €1200 million.

EU assistance will help these jurisdictions cover their immediate financing needs which have increased as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Together with the support from the International Monetary Fund, the funds will help enhance macroeconomic stability and create space to allow resources to be allocated towards protecting citizens and to mitigating the negative socio-economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

EU committed to Western Balkans

Initially foreseen to happen in the capital of Croatia, the EU-Western Balkans Zagreb Summit has taken place on 6 May 2020 via video conference due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The EU is the most important partner of the Western Balkans region and the video conference has underlined the significance of the unique EU-Western Balkans relations. The summit has provided an opportunity to highlight mutual solidarity and cooperation in these time of pandemic crisis. Partners in the region have contributed to help EU member states while the European Union has mobilised over €3.3 billion to help Western Balkans deal with the coronavirus outbreak consequences.

“We, the leaders of the European Union (EU) and its Member States, in consultation with Western Balkans leaders, and in the presence of regional and international stakeholders, today reiterate our strong solidarity with our partners in the context of the coronavirus crisis. In these unprecedented times, we have concluded the following:

“Recalling the 2000 Zagreb, the 2003 Thessaloniki and the 2018 Sofia Summits, the EU once again reaffirms its unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans. The Western Balkans partners reiterated their commitment to the European perspective as their firm strategic choice. The credibility of this commitment depends also on clear public communication and the implementation of the necessary reforms”

“Summed up in Zagreb declaration, confirming European perspective for the Western Balkans and solidarity in the face of COVID-19 pandemic. Strong and important signal for the region. The European Commission will deliver robust economic & investment plan” the Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said.

The Renew Europe Group in the European Parliament welcomes the Zagreb declaration agreed today during EU – Western Balkans summit by the heads of state and government from EU Member States and the leaders of the six Western Balkans partners. The summit, which was supposed to be held in Zagreb, took place by video conference shortly after the EU mobilised a financial package of over EUR 3.3 billion for the Western Balkans in order to support the region in tackling COVID-19 and sustain the post-pandemic recovery.

President of the Renew Europe Group, Dacian Cioloş (PLUS, Romania), said:

The long-awaited summit is a clear confirmation that Western Balkan countries belong to the European family and that enlargement continues to be high on European Union’s agenda.

The meeting held today reconfirms the two-way commitment of the enlargement process: on one hand, the EU’s determination to further intensify its engagement at all levels to support the region’s political, economic and social transformation and on the other hand, the pledge of the Western Balkans to uphold European values and principles and to carry out the necessary reforms. The revised accession methodology will facilitate this two-way commitment and ensure concrete benefits faster for citizens of both sides.

The COVID-19 crisis brought to the strong need for solidarity and mutual support inside the European Union and with our neighbours and partners. Since the beginning of the crisis the EU ensured significant support for the Western Balkan countries and will continue to do so, proving to be the most helpful and reliable partner of the region.”

MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk (Movement for Rights and Freedom, Bulgaria), Renew Europe Vice-Coordinator of the Foreign Affairs Committee and EP standing rapporteur on North Macedonia, added:

“I welcome the Western Balkans summit and its conclusions. The decision to provide over €3.3 billion of EU financial support for the Western Balkan countries to fight COVID-19 is crucial and will help the region to overcome the health crisis. Despite the difficult times, Europe has once again shown that it stands shoulder-to-shoulder with its Western Balkans partners and reaffirmed its unequivocal support for the European perspective of the region. After the European Council agreed in March to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, we have to continue backing the Western Balkans with the reforms needed on their EU path because their future lies in European Union. Our political, economic and social engagement and the expression of solidarity are a driving force of integration and demonstrate that EU enlargement can be a success story.”

EU Council response to COVID19

Today 17 March, Members of the European Council held a videoconference on COVID 19 in order to follow up on previous conclusions of 10 March 2020 together with the ECB President, the President of the Eurogroup and the High Representative:

“We reaffirmed the need to work together and to do everything necessary to tackle the crisis and its consequences.

The priority is the health of our citizens.

On the four priorities identified:

1. Limiting the spread of the virus

We endorsed the guidelines proposed by the Commission on border management. We need to ensure passage of medicines, food and goods and our citizens must be able to travel to their home countries. Adequate solutions for cross-border workers will be found.

To limit the spread of the virus globally, we agreed to reinforce our external borders by applying a coordinated temporary restriction of non-essential travel to the EU for a period of 30 days, based on the approach proposed by the Commission.

2. Providing medical equipment

We welcomed the decision taken by the Commission to adopt a prior authorisation for export of medical equipment.

We supported the Commission effort to (1) engage with the industry; (2) to run joint public procurements that have been recently launched and those which will be shortly finalized to provide sufficient protective equipment; (3) and purchase of protective equipment through the Civil protection framework.

3. Promoting research

We encouraged the efforts made to support research such as the Advisory Group on COVID 19.

We stressed the need to share information and to develop a vaccine and make it available to all those in need. We will support European companies in that respect.

4. Tackling socio-economic consequences

We endorsed the Eurogroup 16 March statement and invited the Eurogroup to continuously and closely monitor economic and financial developments and to adapt without delay a coordinated policy response to the rapidly evolving situation.

We supported the various initiatives taken by the Commission in the areas of the Single Market, such as the adaptation of the State Aid rules and the use of the flexibilities provided for in the Stability and Growth Pact and the recourse to the EU budget.

The Union and its Member States will do whatever it takes to address the current challenges, to restore confidence and to support a rapid recovery, for the sake of our citizens.

5.Citizens stranded in Third countries

We committed to coordinate among our embassies and the EU delegations in third countries. The High Representative and the European External action service will support in this regard.

We will jointly arrange repatriation of EU citizens, where necessary and possible, and make use of the Union’s Civil protection mechanism. Additional EU funding for such joint operations will be mobilised.

Member States and institutions will follow-up at all levels immediately. The members of the European Council will come back to this issue in a videoconference next week. The ordinary European Council scheduled for 26-27 March will be postponed to a later date.

Sassoli defends MEPs position on EU budget

President David Sassoli reminded EU leaders Parliament approval is needed for the EU seven years budget (MFF) and said MEPs would not accept agreement irrelevant to the European ambitions.

Sassoli was speaking at the start of an EU Council (EUCO) aimed at finding an agreement between member states on the EU’s next long-term budget. The budget for 2021-2027 will be the first since the UK left the EU.

The speaker told the heads of state and government that Parliament was prepared to reject any agreement that did not give the EU the means to address the many challenges it faces.

“We must equip the Union with all the means necessary to address the challenges that we face together,” he said. “The first and most urgent is climate change. The Green Deal offers an ambitious plan for Europe to become the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050. Achieving this will require a major financial effort.

“We need resources to boost growth and development, and to support countries, businesses, and people through this transition. We also need to invest in research to ensure Europe is at the forefront and does not need to rely on importing new technologies to whose development it has not contributed.”

He also said that “the artificial dichotomy between net contributors and beneficiaries” should be broken. “All member states, without exception, profit from the EU.”

Parliament agreed its position on the long-term budget in 2018. Any agreement can only come into effect if approved by the Parliament.

Michel invites to EU Council

*Following the meetings held at Sherpa level, I have decided to call a special meeting of the European Council that will begin on 20 February 2020″ reads letter of the EU president Charles Michel, inviting the EU leaders to the Council.

https://twitter.com/eucopresident/status/1221101581971730434?s=21

*The time has come to reach an agreement at our level on the Multiannual Financial Framework.

*Any postponement would create serious practical and political problems and jeopardise the continuation of current programs and policies as well as the launch of new ones.

*I am fully aware that these negotiations are among the most difficult ones we have to face. But I am also convinced that with common sense and determination we can strike a deal that will benefit all Europeans.

*To achieve this, all sides will need to demonstrate a spirit of compromise. I count on your support in this respect.

*In the coming days I will consult with you before tabling an overall proposal in view of the February meeting, which will be prepared in the usual fashion.*

Europe biodiversity threatened

“In its conclusions , the Council reaffirms that the EU and its member states will lead and step up efforts to halt biodiversity loss and restore ecosystems. The conclusions provide political guidance for the work towards a post-2020 global biodiversity framework. The Council also calls upon the Commission to develop without delay an ambitious, realistic and coherent 2030 EU biodiversity strategy as a central element of the European Green Deal.

“Member states unanimously stress the need for urgent global action at all levels to halt biodiversity loss. The Council notes with serious concern the alarming state of nature, with around one million species at risk of extinction, and the severe implications of unabated climate change. The Council underlines the importance for the EU and its member states to develop and adopt national biodiversity strategies and action plans (NBSAPs) for achieving the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

https://twitter.com/a_perrodet/status/1202654329993228288?s=21

“The Council is committed to leading by example and making a robust contribution to the adoption of an ambitious and realistic post-2020 global biodiversity framework to halt the loss of and restore biodiversity by 2030. It is also committed to mainstreaming biodiversity into all relevant EU policies such as the new common agricultural policy (CAP). Member states unanimously underline the need to eliminate subsidies harmful to biodiversity and to enhance the review of the implementation and accountability of nature and biodiversity policies, actions and commitments, with the aim of stepping up actions on all levels.

“In addition, the Council calls for the full, effective and coherent integration of biodiversity into the design and implementation of the EU’s multiannual financial framework (MFF) 2021-2027 as well as in future policies such as the common fisheries policy and the circular economy action plan. Member states will accelerate the transition towards a resource-efficient, safe, circular and climate-neutral economy that also protects and restores biodiversity and ecosystem services.

“Member states underline the importance of making domestic and international financial flows, including in public procurement, consistent with the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

“The Council will revert to this issue in order to adopt a mandate for the EU position in the negotiations at the UN biodiversity conference (CBD COP15) in October 2020 in Kunming, China. The landmark conference is due to agree a post-2020 global biodiversity framework.”

#EUCO: Charles Michel chairs EU Summit

“I look forward to welcoming you to the December European Council – my first European Council meeting as President” reads the invitation letter of the EU Council President Charles Michel.(Image above: archive).

“My intention is to build on the impressive work of my two predecessors and create a strong relationship with you, based on trust, confidence and transparency.

Together, we will provide the strategic guidance that Europe needs to tackle the many challenges identified in the Strategic Agenda adopted in June 2019.

Concerning this week’s European Council, the meeting will start at 15:00 on 12 December with an exchange of views with the President of the European Parliament David Sassoli. This will be followed by our first working session, in which we will begin by adopting our conclusions on the Conference on the Future of Europe.

We will then move to the vital challenge of Climate Change. I want us to agree on the commitment for the EU to become climate-neutral by 2050. This would be a major signal from the European Council that the EU will take a global leadership role on this crucial issue. It is my conviction that the transition to climate neutrality will create new opportunities for economic growth and development.

However, we must also recognise that it will require efforts from all Member States. We will put in place a framework and the necessary resources to chart a fair and balanced path towards our objective. This means taking into account the different national realities and starting points.

Over dinner, we will discuss the Multiannual Financial Framework. This is another key area for the future of our Union. We must enter into a new stage of our work and engage seriously. There is no point repeating known positions and maximalist requests; concessions will be needed from all sides. We will work to identify the key elements of a final agreement.

The first day will conclude with a debrief on the implementation of the Minsk Agreement along with short conclusions on WTO, Africa and Turkey.

On Friday, our meeting will begin at 10:00 in the presence of European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde and Eurogroup President Mario Centeno. After an exchange of views on the economic situation, we will take stock of the progress made by the Eurogroup on strengthening the Economic and Monetary Union and give some indications on future work. A statement will be adopted to that end.

The proceedings will conclude in the Article 50 configuration.  We are ready for the next steps and reaffirm our desire for as close a relationship as possible with the United Kingdom. We will adopt short conclusions on Brexit.

I look forward to working closely with all of you on these issues, and many others, to make Europe bolder, more prosperous, and more self-confident.”

Post-elections EU Summit foreseen end May

European leaders will highly likely meet in an extraordinary summit on 28 May after the elections of the member states’ representatives in the European Parliament, according to the diplomatic source in Brussels. (Image above: archive).

This summit, like the extraordinary European Council that followed the 2014 European elections, will allow them to discuss the future European Commission and the identity of Jean-Claude Juncker’s successor as president.

EU-UK visa free travel reciprocity

“The Council and the European Parliament have agreed that, following Brexit, UK citizens coming to the Schengen area for a short stay (90 days in any 180 days) should be granted visa free travel. This agreement was confirmed yesterday by EU ambassadors on behalf of the Council and by the European Parliament Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee today. The text now needs to be formally adopted by the European Parliament and the Council”  European Council announced.

“According to EU rules, visa exemption is granted on condition of reciprocity. The government of the United Kingdom has stated that it does not intend to require a visa from EU citizens travelling to the UK for short stays. In the event that the United Kingdom introduces a visa requirement for nationals of at least one member state in the future, the existing reciprocity mechanism would apply and the three EU institutions and the member states would undertake to act without delay in applying the mechanism. The Commission would monitor the respect of the principle of reciprocity on a continuous basis and immediately inform the European Parliament and the Council of any developments which could endanger the respect of this principle.”

EU ‘Sanctions war’ with Russia continues

On 21 December 2018, the European Council prolonged the economic sanctions targeting specific sectors of the Russian economy until 31 July 2019.

This decision follows an update from President Macron and Chancellor Merkel to the European Council of 13-14 December 2018 on the state of implementation of the Minsk agreements, to which the sanctions are linked. Given that no progress has been made, the European Council took the political decision to roll-over the economic sanctions against Russia.

The West should either recognize the results of Crimea referendum on reunification with Russia,  or stop imposing sanctions against people living in Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his traditional annual news conference on December 20.

In his words, “it is a curious situation” as Russia is being accused of Crimea’s annexation or in the other words of taking Crimea by force. “But if it was annexation and forcible takeover, then people living in Crimea have nothing to do with that,” he noted. “And if it was their choice in voting, then it was not annexation whatsoever.”

However not all the political forces in the EU share the European Council point of view: since 2014 Marine Le Pen, the leader of French RN (former Front National) has not seen any reason to dispute the result of the referendum.

I see no grounds whatsoever to question this referendum,” she said. She also added that she regards Crimea as a integral part of Russia. According to TASS News Agency Marine Le Pen “hopes to visit Crimea in April” 2019.

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