Tag Archives: EU

EU-Georgia human rights dialogue

The EU and Georgia held the 13th round of their annual Human Rights Dialogue by video-conference on 2 July 2020. Reviewing developments since the previous dialogue in May 2019, the dialogue allowed as previously for an open, constructive exchange on the human rights situation in Georgia, on Georgia’s commitment to making sustainable progress in human rights protection and on the latest developments with the EU’s policy for the promotion and protection of democracy and human rights.

The sides stressed their commitment to the universality of human rights for all, regardless of religion or belief, ethnic origin, race, sex, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability or other. The EU and Georgia welcomed progress on human rights protection in Georgia, and acknowledged the particular challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic to international human rights protection.

The EU reaffirmed its support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognised borders. The EU expressed concern about the deterioration of the human rights situation in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, especially with regard to ethnic discrimination in particular towards ethnic Georgians, restriction of freedom of movement, including for health care and access to other social services, arbitrary detentions, violation of property rights and education in mother tongue, as well as about the persistent obstacles to the safe and dignified return of internally displaced persons and refugees to their homes.

The EU and Georgia reaffirmed that the Russian Federation has an obligation to implement the EU-mediated 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement, and stressed the need for tangible results in the Geneva International Discussions in order to solve the security and human rights challenges of people affected by the conflict. The EU expressed deep concern about the complete closure of the administrative boundary line in Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia since September 2019, which has led to critical humanitarian consequences in Akhalgori district particularly during the Coronavirus pandemic. The sides underlined the importance of ending impunity in the cases of deprivation of life of Georgian citizens Archil Tatunashvili and Giga Otkhozoria. The EU and Georgia stressed the need for unhindered access by international humanitarian and human rights mechanisms of the relevant international organisations, as well as the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM), to both Georgian regions. The EU encouraged increased efforts in addressing the fate of missing persons with a view to giving closure. The EU reiterated its support to Georgia’s peace initiative “A Step to a Better Future” aimed at improving the socio-economic situation of conflict-affected people and at building confidence among the divided communities and welcomed its implementation

The EU welcomed the adoption of the constitutional amendments in Parliament on 29 June 2020 that establish a more proportional electoral system and will promote greater parliamentary pluralism. The EU raised the importance of adopting, with broad parliamentary support, ambitious electoral reform legislation arising from the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations as well as the importance of its timely adoption and effective implementation. Both sides agreed on the importance of maintaining a free and pluralistic media environment, and political pluralism as a prerequisite for the conduct of democratic elections, including in the context of the forthcoming parliamentary elections. The parties agreed on the importance of the fundamental freedoms including freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and committed to upholding them for all.

The EU welcomes progress on support to those belonging to ethnic minorities and ensuring civic integration processes in Georgia and encourages Georgia to continue efforts to improve the participation of women and representatives of those belonging to ethnic minorities in all areas of public life.

The EU recalled the importance of combating all forms of discrimination and of protection and better integration of those belonging to vulnerable groups including LGBTI persons. The EU welcomed Georgia’s efforts to continue ensuring the effective implementation of its anti-discrimination law and strengthening the policy framework. The EU also encouraged Georgia to progress on legislation and coordinated efforts to deliver real benefits in the lives of persons with disabilities.

The EU noted progress made in combatting domestic violence and all violence against women, hate crimes and discrimination, and ensuring victim-centred investigations. The EU recalled the importance of implementing commitments related to the Istanbul Convention.

The Georgian Inter-Agency Human Rights Council’s meaningful cooperation with civil society was recalled and the EU encouraged Georgia to continue integrating the voice of civil society into the policy making process. The valuable ongoing work of the Public Defender’s Office and the new State Inspectorate Service was also discussed and the important role of independent oversight bodies in holding governments to account and in shaping laws and policies.

The EU welcomed progress in the implementation of the Law on Occupational Safety to all sectors of the economy and again encouraged efforts to ensure that the labour inspectorate is transformed into a fully-fledged labour inspectorate. The EU welcomed the adoption of the Child Rights Code and progress with the Juvenile Justice Code as part of necessary efforts to address the situation of children in vulnerable situations and children in situations of extreme poverty. The EU stressed the importance of finalising the deinstitutionalisation process.

The EU noted the considerable progress made in and priority attached by Georgia to preventing torture and ill-treatment. The EU welcomed the ongoing reform of the penitentiary and crime prevention systems under the Ministry of Justice of Georgia and human-centred corona responses of the Special Penitentiary Service. The EU looked forward to the continued implementation of all recommendations of the Committee on the Prevention of Torture and of the National Preventive Mechanism.

The parties highlighted the importance of coordinated work to protect and promote human rights utilising national policy mechanisms, such as the National Human Rights Strategy and Action Plan. The parties also agreed to continue to identify ways to further strengthen their cooperation on human rights issues in multilateral fora, including the UN, OSCE and the Council of Europe and on the importance of strengthening multilateralism. The EU welcomed Georgia’s achievements under its Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The EU also welcomed Georgia’s continued active engagement in the “Good Human Rights Stories” initiative. In line with its policy of consulting civil society ahead of its meetings on human rights, the EU drew on the valuable input of Georgian and international NGOs and international and regional organisations active in Georgia.

The Georgian delegation was headed by Mr. Vakhtang Makharoblishvili, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs while the EU delegation was led by Mr Richard Tibbels, Head of Division in the European External Action Service. The dialogue took place back-to-back with the Justice, Freedom and Security Subcommittee meeting on 1 July. The next Human Rights Dialogue between the EU and Georgia is scheduled to take place in Tbilisi in 2021.

Hong Kong: EU expresses «grave concerns»

“The Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress adopted the National Security Law in Hong Kong on 30 June and subsequently promulgated it in Hong Kong the same day. The European Union reiterates its grave concerns about this law which was adopted without any meaningful prior consultation of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council and civil society. reads the Declaration of the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell on behalf of the the European Union on the adoption by China’s National People’s Congress of a National Security Legislation on Hong Kong.

“The European Union has a strong stake in the continued stability and prosperity of Hong Kong under the “One Country, Two Systems” principle. It attaches great importance to the preservation of Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, in line with the Basic Law and with international commitments, as well as to the respect for this principle.

“There are concerns about the conformity of the new law with Hong Kong’s Basic Law and with China’s international commitments. In line with assurances that China gave in the past, the European Union considers it essential that the existing rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents are fully protected, including freedom of speech, of the press and of publication, as well as freedom of association, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration. The provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights (ICCPR) as enshrined in Hong Kong legislation must continue to be fully applied.

“The European Union is concerned that the law risks seriously undermining the high degree of autonomy of Hong Kong, and having a detrimental effect on the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law. Both of these principles remain essential for the continued stability and prosperity of Hong Kong, and are therefore of vital interest to the European Union and the international community.

“The European Union urges China to avoid any act which undermines Hong Kong’s autonomy in the legal field, including in terms of human rights.

“The European Union is assessing the implications of such a law and will continue to raise its concerns in its dialogue with China. It will continue to follow developments closely, including in the context of the upcoming Legislative Council elections on 6 September, which need to proceed as planned and in an environment conducive to the exercise of democratic rights and freedoms as enshrined in the Basic Law.

EU renews Russia sanctions

EU Council today decided to renew the sanctions targeting specific economic sectors of the Russian Federation for a further six months, until 31 January 2021.

This decision follows the latest assessment of the state of implementation of the Minsk agreements – foreseen to take place by 31 December 2015 – at the video conference of the members of the European Council of 19 June 2020. Given that full implementation has not yet been achieved, EU leaders took the political decision to roll-over the economic sanctions against Russia.

Such restrictive measures were originally introduced in 2014 in view of Russia’s destabilising actions against Ukraine, and target the financial, energy and defence sectors, as well as the area of dual‑use goods.

The sanctions limit access to EU primary and secondary capital markets for certain Russian banks and companies and prohibit forms of financial assistance and brokering towards Russian financial institutions. The measures also prohibit the direct or indirect import, export or transfer of all defence-related materiel and establish a ban for dual-use goods which may have military use or be used by military end users in Russia. The sanctions further curtail Russian access to certain sensitive technologies that can be used in the Russian energy sector, for instance in oil production and exploration.

Image: Saint Petersburg, Russia

EU on Serbia elections

Serbia held parliamentary, provincial and local elections on 21 June; one of the first elections held in Europe since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

While contestants in Serbia’s parliamentary elections were able to campaign and fundamental freedoms were respected, voter choice was limited by the governing party’s overwhelming advantage and the promotion of government policies by most major media outlets, according to the preliminary findings and conclusions of the international observers from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

The European Union looks forward to the OSCE/ODIHR final report and recommendations for future elections to be issued in the coming months. We expect all political actors and relevant institutions to engage in a transparent, decisive and inclusive dialogue on the implementation of these recommendations to address long-standing electoral shortcomings well ahead of the next elections.

We encourage the new parliament to continue to engage in the inter-party dialogue led by the European Parliament, with a view to forging broad cross-party consensus on EU-related reforms, which is vital for the country’s progress on its EU path. We also encourage the Serbian leadership to engage in a genuine dialogue across the political spectrum to take forward important reforms on the rule of law, fight against organised crime and corruption.

The European Union looks forward to engaging with the next government to take forward swiftly the urgent reforms necessary for Serbia’s EU accession. This concerns in particular the rule of law, which lies at the heart of the accession process and should be at the forefront of the next government’s political priorities, and socio-economic reforms, crucial for post COVID-19 pandemic recovery. We also count on Serbia’s continued full engagement in the EU-facilitated Dialogue as well as regional cooperation more broadly.

As Serbia’s top donor and investor, and its most important trade and economic partner, the European Union is fully committed to continue supporting Serbia’s EU accession process as well as economic recovery following the coronavirus crisis, including through the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans due in the autumn.

Image: Belgrade, Serbia

EU-China Summit videoconference

European Union and China held their 22nd bilateral Summit via videoconference on 22 June 2020. President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, accompanied by High Representative Josep Borrell, hold the Summit meeting with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang followed by exchanges with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

EU-China relations have evolved in recent years. Our economic interdependency is high, and we must work together on global challenges like climate action, meeting the Sustainable Development Goals or dealing with COVID-19. Engaging and cooperating with China is both an opportunity and necessity. But, at the same time, we have to recognise that we do not share the same values, political systems, or approach to multilateralism. We will engage in a clear-eyed and confident way, robustly defending EU interests and standing firm on our values” President Michel said.

The COVID-pandemic and a number of major bilateral and multilateral challenges show clearly the EU – China partnership is crucial, be it in terms of trade, climate, technology, and the defence of multilateralism. But for our relations to develop further, they must become more rules-based and reciprocal, in order to achieve a real level playing-field” President von der Leyen said.

The EU-China summit had a comprehensive agenda addressing bilateral relations; regional and international issues, the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recovery.

The EU recalled the important commitments made at the 2019 EU-China Summit and stressed the need for the implementation of these commitments in a dynamic and result oriented manner as progress today is limited.

The EU strongly emphasised the need to advance negotiations for an ambitious EU-China Comprehensive Investment Agreement that addresses the current asymmetries in market access and ensures a level playing field.. Urgent progress is needed in particular on behaviour of State-Owned Enterprises, transparency on subsidies and rules tackling forced transfers of technology.

On economic and trade issues, the EU recalled the joint commitment to work constructively and expeditiously towards the resolution of a number of market access and regulatory issues. The EU welcomed confirmation by China that the recent China-US “phase 1” deal will be implemented in full compatibility with World Trade Organisation (WTO) obligations and without discrimination against EU operators. The EU recalled its expectation that European exporters immediately benefit from trade facilitating measures in the agri-food sector.

The EU reiterated the urgent need for China to engage in future negotiations on industrial subsidies in the WTO, and address overcapacity in traditional sectors such as steel as well as high-tech areas.

The EU is looking forward to the signature of the EU-China Agreement on Geographical Indications in coming weeks and entry into force in nearest future.

The Summit was also an opportunity to discuss the importance of the digital sector to economies and societies worldwide. The EU stressed that the development of new digital technologies must go hand in hand with the respect of fundamental rights and data protection. The EU also raised outstanding issues on cybersecurity, disinformation.

Leaders had a substantive discussion on climate change. China is the EU’s partner under the Paris Agreement, but needs to commit to decisive and ambitious domestic action to reduce emissions in the short term and to set a goal of climate neutrality at the earliest possible date.

The EU called on China to assume greater responsibility in dealing with global challenges through the rules-based international system, promoting international peace and security, and adhering to international standards to support sustainable development, especially in Africa.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU underlined the shared responsibility to participate in global efforts to stop the spread of the virus, boost research on treatments and vaccines, and support a green and inclusive global recovery. The EU stressed the need for solidarity in addressing the consequences in developing countries, notably as regard debt relief. The EU also called on China to fully participate in the independent review of lessons learned from the international health response to COVID-19, mandated by the resolution adopted at the last World Health Assembly. The EU also called on China to facilitate the return of EU residents in China.

On Hong Kong, the EU reiterated its grave concerns at steps taken by China to impose national security legislation from Beijing and considers those steps not in conformity with the Hong Kong Basic Law and China’s international commitments, and put pressure on the fundamental rights and freedoms of the population protected by the law and the independent justice system.

The EU raise its concerns on the deteriorating human rights situation, including the treatment of minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, and of human rights defenders, as well as restrictions on fundamental freedoms. The EU also underlined its expectation that the Human Rights Dialogue will take place in China later in the year once the COVID-19 restrictions are eased. EU Leaders raised a number of individual cases, including the reports on citizens who have disappeared after reporting/expressing their views on the handling of the Coronavirus outbreak, as well as the continued arbitrary detention of Swedish citizen Gui Minhai and two Canadian citizens – Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

The EU and China exchanged views on a number of regional and international issues, including Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iran nuclear deal), Afghanistan as well as situation on the Korean Peninsula. The EU expressed concerns about the escalation of other regional conflicts and the importance of upholding international law in the maritime domain. We agreed to continue contacts in the future

Borrell-Pompeo transatlantic dialogue

“Today we have had an important Foreign Affairs Council with a video conference with the Secretary of State of the United States, Mike Pompeo.

“The main point of the agenda was this: transatlantic relations.

“We engaged in a strategic dialogue with Mike Pompeo on our relations and on the key foreign policy issues both for the European Union and the United States.

https://twitter.com/eu_eeas/status/1272551225947537413?s=21

“…It is unnecessary to stress it, but let me do it – the transatlantic partnership is one of the key pillars of the world order and today’s video meeting reaffirmed the commitment of the European Union Member States to continue this close transatlantic cooperation. Maybe we do not agree on everything, but our commitment to transatlantic cooperation is as strong as ever.We focused on three main issues: China, the Peace Process in the Middle East, and the Eastern neighbourhood, with an emphasis on Ukraine. And we discussed as a cross-cutting issue, the problem of disinformation, which is affecting the three of them – and mainly the ones related to the Eastern neighbourhood and China.

“…We exchanged views on China and its growing assertiveness on many fronts. There are issues that we face together in the relationship with China and where our close cooperation is very important to address them jointly. This includes, for sure, the situation in Hong Kong. I suggested to launch a distinct, bilateral dialogue focussing on China and the challenges its actions and ambitions mean for us – the United States and the European Union.

“On the Middle East Peace Process, we made it clear that it is important to encourage the Israelis and the Palestinians to engage in a credible and meaningful political process.We recognise that the United States’ plan created a certain momentum about a political process that had stopped for too long, and this momentum can be used to start joint international efforts on the basis of existing internationally-agreed parameters. We, from the European Union, stand ready to help and to facilitate such a process.We were also clear about the consequences of a possible annexation for the prospects of a two-state solution, but also for regional stability. On that I think that many Member States were very clear about it.

On the Eastern Neighbourhood, which was the third pillar of our conversation today, we confirmed that the strong European Union-United States partnership will remain crucial – particularly on Ukraine.

Of course, we still need Russia to do its part in the full implementation of the Minsk agreements, and our position remains clear and unchanged.

Some Member States also raised the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, where we are increasingly concerned about the recent escalations from Turkey. We agreed on the need for de-escalation and to return to a true partnership. There have been some incidents during the last days around Operation Irini. We are aware of that and tomorrow we will talk about it in the Council of Defence Ministers.

I also recalled that we are organising the Brussels Syria Conference [Supporting the future of Syria and the region – Brussels conference] on the 30th of June. It will be the fourth time that we do that, and I asked for the United States’ participation.

Finally, disinformation – this is a shared challenge. External disinformation actors are targeting both of us and we agreed to look at ways to reinforce our partnership in responding to this growing problem. Truth has to prevail. Democracy is a system that works on the basis of free and fair information. If citizens do not have access to free information or if citizens are poisoned with fake news, then their participation in democratic processes can be jeopardised”.

Orban: EU «salto mortale»

“…The world is changing. The changes are tectonic. The United States is no longer alone on the throne of the world, Eurasia is rebuilding with full throttle, the frames of our European Union are crackling, and now it hopes to save itself with a salto mortale. The ground is trembling under the feet of our eastern neighbour. The Balkans is also full of questions to be answered” said Prime Minister Viktor Obran, during the ceremony of unveiling of a new memorial in commemoration of the Trianon centennial.

“A new order is being born. In our world, in our lives as well, great changes are banging on our gates.”

“…The West raped the thousand-year-old borders and history of Central Europe. They forced us to live between indefensible borders, deprived us of our natural treasures, separated us from our resources, and made a death row out of our country. Central Europe was redrawn without moral concerns, just as the borders of Africa and the Middle East were redrawn. We will never forget that they did this” Orban continued.

“…We need to live with the self-confidence and attitude of a nation that knows it has given more to the world than it has received from it. Our performance entitles us to continue our history. And today we also need to know that we have had worse borders, yet we are here” the Prime Minister concluded.

Jane Goodall change diet lessons of COVID-19

Today, the legendary ethologist Dr. Jane Goodall told an EU audience of nearly 1,300 participants that we are responsible for the current pandemic. Covid-19 and the climate crisis are together delivering a clear message that the health and wellbeing of people, animals and the environment are interdependent.

Dr. Jane Goodall spoke at the webinar ‘Pandemics, wildlife and intensive animal farming,’ organised by Compassion in World Farming. The event featured an introduction by EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides, EU Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski, and was co-hosted by seven Members of the European Parliament from key political groups.

Highly intensive farming systems have created an abundance of food but in Europe, at least, there is also significant waste and at times also animal suffering. These phenomena deeply worry me. The parts that don’t work are ethically questionable and socially and environmentally unacceptable. Our citizens expect more and we will deliver a better balance to ensure that farming practices are sustainable and food is affordable. Animal welfare is among my priorities. It has always been a concern to me, an issue close to my heartStella Kyriakides, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said.

“We will constantly support sustainable farming and breeding practices as an alternative to intensive industrial farming and I am sure that, together with the Member States, with the support of our citizens, we will achieve significant and lasting progress in this aspect” Janusz Wojciechowski, EU Commissioner for Agriculture, said.

All animals matter, every animal is an individual just as every human being is an individual and all are deserving of our compassion, respect and care. They have personalities, minds and feelings and they feel pain. However, destroying nature and exploiting animals in intensive “factory” farms shows complete disregard towards life. This has consequences for us all, as we have clearly seen in the Covid-19 pandemic” Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE, Founder – the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace, said.

“I hope the Covid-19 pandemic wakes us up! We are responsible for this; we need to treat animals better. We have come to a turning point in our relationship with the natural world. One of the lessons learnt from this crisis is that we must change our ways. Scientists warn that to avoid future crises we must drastically change our diets and move to plant-rich foods. For the sake of the animals, the planet and the health of our children let us move forward into a wise, sustainable and compassionate future” Dr Jane Goodall added.

Coronavirus has served as a pertinent reminder that, for the wellbeing of people tomorrow, urgent action is needed today to end factory farming. Without ending the viral ‘hothouse’ that is keeping large numbers of animals caged, cramped and confined in conditions that allow viruses to mutate, the next pandemic could be just around the corner. In the war against invisible enemies, never has there been a more potent reminder of why protecting people means protecting animals tooPhilip Lymbery, Global CEO of Compassion in World Farming, commented.

EU «grave concerns» over China leap in Hong Kong

Today the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell has issued the Declaration on behalf of the European Union on Hong Kong:

The EU expresses its grave concern at the steps taken by China on 28 May, which are not in conformity with its international commitments (Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984) and the Hong Kong Basic Law. This risks to seriously undermine the ‘One Country Two Systems’ principle and the high degree of autonomy of the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong”.
“EU relations with China are based on mutual respect and trust. This decision further calls into question China’s will to uphold its international commitments. We will raise the issue in our continuing dialogue with China”.

At presentlChina is proposing to introduce a new national security law, which critics believe could be used to crack down on rights and political activists.

https://twitter.com/iingwen/status/1265980907137101826?s=21

EU expects Kyrgyzstan to release Askarov

Supreme Court of the Kyrgyz Republic on May 13 upheld the life sentence of prominent human rights defender Azimjan Askarov. Mr Askarov was initially sentenced to life imprisonment in September 2010 on charges of allegedly organising mass riots and involvement in the killing of a policeman. Today’s hearing was Mr Askarov’s final opportunity to appeal his case and follows earlier unsuccessful appeals in the lower instance court.

The Court’s decision is not in line with the views adopted by the UN Human Rights Committee in March 2016. The Committee found that Mr Askarov had been arbitrarily detained, held in inhumane conditions, tortured and mistreated, and prevented from adequately preparing his trial defence, and that his human rights had therefore been violated under a number of articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The UN Human Rights Committee called on the Kyrgyz Republic to take appropriate steps to immediately release Mr Askarov and quash his conviction. In addition, the European Union notes that Mr Askarov’s advanced age and poor health exposes him to significant risks in the global coronavirus pandemic. The European Union expects Kyrgyzstan to implement the UN Human Rights Committee’s opinion in order to fully comply with its international human rights obligations.

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