Tag Archives: EU Council

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.

EU27 foreign ministers hope for orderly Brexit

Although officially Brexit is not on the Foreign ministers Council agenda, and it can’t be, because until the end of March 2019 the UK is a full-fledged member-state of the bloc, – many urgent issues of international agenda fade overshadowed by concerns of ‘hard Brexit“.

“This is the best deal we can have,” Spain Foreign minister Josep Borrell told press at doorstep of the meeting. “This is the best deal and approving this deal would be a good thing, but for sure it’s up to them.” His opinion is an echo of the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, who repeatedly warned that those, who hope for ‘better deal‘ would be disappointed: “that is The Deal“, he said.

Tusk calls for solidarity among nations

“The European Union is fighting intensely to preserve the rules-based international order, which is currently under great strain, in terms of trade, security, climate change or human rights. We say this not only as countries strongly supporting the United Nations, but as a continent that cares deeply about respect, mutual understanding and solidarity between nations” said EU Council president Donald Tusk in his address to the 73rd United Nations General Assembly

“As leaders, we must equip the United Nations with the means to fulfill its mandate successfully. More unity and collective action are needed in the struggle against conflict, poverty and famine, terrorism and mass displacement of people, of the kind we see in Venezuela, Syria, Myanmar and many other places.

“To that end, the European Union firmly supports the current effort to reform the UN. These reforms are badly needed and overdue. The urgency is clear and implementation is essential.

“The European Union is taking on more responsibility for security matters. We have initiated ambitious co-operation among our own militaries. We are ready to step-up help to our neighbors through crisis management missions, capacity building and peacekeeping, in cooperation with others, including NATO, the African Union and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The Union also supports the Action for Peacekeeping initiative and expects it to produce more effective and better resourced global security solutions.

“Europe has undertaken action against the increased use of disinformation and outside propaganda in open democratic elections. The anonymity of cyberspace is used by external actors to cloak malicious political interference. It is not just Europe’s problem; many others here today are similarly affected. The United Nations should help expose this phenomenon, attribute responsibility and increase democratic resilience.

“One hundred years since Nelson Mandela’s birth, we remember his triumph over apartheid in South Africa. I am very pleased that this occasion has also coincided with deeper ties between the African and European Unions. The summit of our both Unions in Abidjan last November was key. Thanks to the excellent cooperation between the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations we have until today helped over 30.000 people to leave Libya through voluntary humanitarian returns. We want to expand the work with our partners in other areas. Therefore, education, investment in development, climate change and free trade will be at the heart of our future relations. Africa is a continent of great challenges but it is also a continent of equally great opportunities.

“Instability in Libya has brought the world’s attention to the suffering caused by human smugglers and traffickers who take brutal advantage of people and weaken the states in which they operate. The Security Council named some of worst violators last June. They and those like them, should be sanctioned, apprehended and brought to justice. In the meantime, the European Union will work diligently and in good faith with our North African partners on search and rescue efforts in the Mediterranean. Only collective responsibility can offer effective solutions to global phenomena such as migration and forced displacement. And I truly hope that the recent UN debates on the future governance of migration and refugee protection represent a step in the right direction.

“The European Union leads global resettlement efforts, including through resettlement from Turkey, which is hosting refugees displaced by the fighting in Syria, as are Jordan and Lebanon. The Syrian people are suffering as the war continues. The memorandum of understanding on Idlib needs to be fully implemented to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe. All parties must respect international humanitarian law, ensure the protection of civilians, and allow aid to reach those in need. A meaningful political process under the United Nations auspices is especially needed to bring about a resolution to the conflict.

“Sustainable development and increasing continent-to-continent connectivity will bring countries, people and societies closer together. These priorities will be crucial in our future relations with Africa and also at the next month’s Asia-Europe Meeting, which I will be hosting in Brussels. They go hand in hand with the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change, and with other international commitments.

“From floods to fires, the impact of climate change becomes more visible every year, and sadly, we are now measuring the impact in loss of human life. And still, even though only slow progress is being made on our main task, namely to implement the Paris Agreement, the European Union remains fully committed to it and makes it a priority in its relations with our partners.

“And when we talk about the environment, let me use this occasion to appeal to all the leaders to undertake action to protect the waters around the Antarctic. There is still time to save the natural habitat of many endangered species by establishing maritime sanctuaries in the Southern Ocean. Let me say it loud and clear: those who can imagine our planet without whales, penguins and other species will also have to imagine our planet without humans.

“Non-proliferation is another global challenge we face but here, things are looking up thanks to multilateral action on sanctions. On the Korean peninsula, a year ago the situation was critical. Although much depends on the attitude of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), we have seen that diplomacy can open the way to more comprehensive solutions. A similar situation exists with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran. While addressing nuclear issues, the deal has also helped to create space for dialogue on other concerns, like Iran’s regional behaviour and ballistic missile programmes. The agreement is good for European, regional and global security. That is why the European Union is committed to maintaining the agreement, as long as Iran remains fully committed to it.

“A while ago, I mentioned the one hundredth birthday anniversary of Nelson Mandela. In the coming hours, the seventy fifth birthday anniversary will be celebrated by another Nobel peace prize winner, a great Pole, Lech Wałęsa. They are both symbols of a beautiful cause: how to win without violence, how to forgive our oppressors, and how in public life, to overcome evil with good. Today, when so many people, also here in this hall, including even the most powerful world leaders, are starting to heir fight.”

EU targets Crimea bridge constructors

The Council added six entities to the list of those subject to restrictive measures over actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine. They are listed because of their involvement in the construction of the Kerch Bridge, connecting Russia to the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula. Through their actions they supported the consolidation of Russia’s control over the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula, which in turn further undermines the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.

The measures consist of an asset freeze, meaning that all of the assets in the EU belonging to these entities are frozen and EU persons and entities cannot make any funds available to them.

The decision brings the total number of entities listed by the EU to 44. In addition, the EU imposed a travel ban and an asset freeze on 155 individuals under this sanctions regime.

The legal acts, including the names of the persons concerned, are available in the EU Official Journal of 31 July 2018. They were adopted by the Council by written procedure.

Other EU measures in place in response to the Ukraine crisis include: economic sanctions targeting specific sectors of the Russian economy, currently in place until 31 January 2019; restrictive measures in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol, limited to the territory of Crimea and Sevastopol, currently in place until 23 June 2019.

“We consider deplorable the EU Council decision of 30 July 2018 on expanding EU illegitimate unilateral restrictions to a range of Russian companies involved in the construction of the Kerch Bridge” – says the comment of Russian Foreign Ministry (MFA).

“Obviously the free choice made by Crimeans to reunite with Russia is haunting the European Union. Is there any alternative explanation of the fact that since 2016 the EU sanctions list has been widening by adding almost exclusively Russian citizens and organisations that are in one way or another involved in successful democratic development of Crimea and Sevastopol within the Russian Federation?”- the statement continues.

“…We hope that the European Union will at last consider the financial and image costs of indulging anti-Russian whims of Kiev authorities. Interests of many companies from the EU Member States operating in Russia, including in the construction business, may suffer from another sanctions round. We assume that common interests of Russia and EU countries would be best served by pragmatic and mutually beneficial work based on sober recognition of existing realities” – Russian MFA statement concludes.

EU aims at free trade with Australia and New Zealand

The Council authorised the Commission to open trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand and adopted negotiating directives for each of the negotiations.

Trade agreements with both countries would aim primarily at further reducing existing barriers to trade, removing custom duties on goods, and giving better access for services and public procurement in Australia and New Zealand. The sectors likely to benefit the most from the FTAs are motor equipment, machinery, chemicals, processed foods and services.

The mandates are particularly concerned to protect vulnerable sectors such as agriculture by maximising the benefits of market opening without harming local producers. The mandates do not envisage full liberalisation of trade in agricultural products, which are foreseen as benefiting from specific treatment.

The mandates provide for a comprehensive and modern framework, based on the highest standards of labour, safety, environment, climate and consumer protection.

The Commission presented the draft mandates in September 2017, following successful preparatory discussions which served to define the scope of the future agreements.

The EU already cooperates closely with Australia and New Zealand on economic and trade policy issues in the framework of partnership agreements which were concluded respectively in 2008 and 2017. The EU also has bilateral agreements with both countries on mutual recognition of some technical certificates which, by reducing the costs of testing and certifying of exports and imports, facilitate trade in industrial products. Although generally limited, trade barriers for some sectors, such as agriculture or textile products, remain quite substantial.

Key facts on trade with Australia: The EU is Australia’s third largest trading partner. Annual bilateral trade amounted to more than €47.7 billion in 2017, with a positive trade balance of more than €21 billion on the EU side. EU’s exports to Australia are predominantly manufactured goods while Australia’s exports to the EU are dominated by mineral commodities and agricultural products. EU companies supply commercial services worth nearly €20 billion to Australia and hold investments in the country worth more than €160 billion (in 2016).

Key facts on trade with New Zealand: With annual bilateral trade amounting to more than €8.7 billion in 2017, the EU is New Zealand’s second largest trading partner after Australia. New Zealand’s exports to the EU are largely dominated by agricultural products while EU’s exports to New Zealand are focused on manufactured and industrial goods. For the EU, trade with New Zealand results in a positive trade balance of €1.9 billion (in 2017), and EU companies hold more than €10 billion in foreign direct investment in New Zealand.

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