Tag Archives: EU

EU-Vietnam free trade approved

The EU-Vietnam trade agreement, the “most modern and ambitious agreement ever concluded between the EU and a developing country”, got Parliament’s support on February 12. (Image: illustration)

These state-of-the-art agreements just adopted present a unique opportunity to further the EU’s goal to become a geopolitical player that defends multilateral trade, rejects protectionism, and raises labour, environmental and human rights standards worldwide. The deals will boost prosperity, create new and better paid jobs, cut costs for companies big and small, and give them better access to each other’s markets” rapporteur Geert Bourgeois (ECR, BE) said.

MEPs gave their consent to the free trade agreement by 401 votes, 192 votes against and 40 abstentions. The “most modern, comprehensive and ambitious agreement ever concluded between the EU and a developing country” will contribute to setting high standards in the region, and could lead to a future region-to-region trade and investment agreement, said the Parliament, in an accompanying resolution adopted by 416 votes for, 187 against and 44 abstentions. The agreement is “a strong signal in favour of free, fair and reciprocal trade, in times of growing protectionist tendencies and serious challenges to multilateral rules-based trade”, MEPs stressed.

The agreement will remove virtually all customs duties between the two parties over the next ten years, including on Europe’s main export products to Vietnam: machinery, cars, and chemicals. It extends to services such as banking, maritime transport and postal, where EU companies will have better access. Companies will also be able to bid on public tenders put out by the Vietnamese government and several cities, including Hanoi. The deal also safeguards 169 emblematic European products.

In addition, the agreement is an instrument to protect the environment and to sustain social progress in Vietnam, including labour rights. It commits Vietnam to apply the Paris Agreement. Vietnam committed to ratify two bills as requested by Parliament, one on the abolition of forced labour, the other on freedom of association, by 2020 and 2023, respectively.

The trade deal can be suspended in case of breaches of human rights.

MEPs stand for Status of Women

MEPs set their priorities for the upcoming UN Commission on the Status of Women
Call for the EU to take strong action against all measures undermining women’s rights.

Ahead of the 64th UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW64) in New York in March, Parliament spelled out its priorities on February 13.
In a resolution adopted by 463 votes in favour, 108 against and 50 abstentions, MEPs deplore that many of the challenges identified by the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 25 years ago are still relevant today.

They call on the Council to ensure a unified EU position and act to counter the backlash against gender equality and all measures undermining women’s rights.

Setting out their priorities for the upcoming UNCSW session in March, MEPs call for measures boosting women’s economic and political empowerment:
greater inclusion of women in the labour market;
more support for female entrepreneurship;
close the gender pay gap (16%) and pension gap (37%);
favour domestic and care responsibilities being shared equally;
promote education for girls and encourage greater participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers;
promote gender-balanced representation at all levels of decision-making, and
unblock the “Women on Boards Directive” in the Council.

To step up protection of women, the EU should:
urgently conclude the EU ratification of the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women;
allocate adequate resources to combat gender-based violence and protect victims, and
protect and promote the rights of groups experiencing multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination, e.g. women with disabilities, women of colour, migrant women and LGBTIQ people.

The EU must act globally by promoting and supporting the inclusion of a specific gender chapter in all future EU trade and investment agreements;
condemning the US ‘global gag’ rule, which cuts US funding for international organisations if they provide or lobby for abortion services;
significantly supporting funding for sexual and reproductive health and rights, and
promoting greater participation of women in climate action, peacekeeping, peacebuilding and mediation processes.
Background
The Beijing Declaration was adopted by the UN at the end of the 4th World Conference on Women on 15 September 1995 to promulgate a set of principles on the equality of men and women. The Platform for Action called for strategic actions in areas such as economy, education, health, violence and decision-making

Gibraltar considers joining Schengen

Gibraltar is considering to joint the Schengen free movement area in a gesture of guranteeing the fluidity on its border with Spain after the UK left the European Union, the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said.

Picardo remarks, made in an interview with AFP came just two weeks before Britain and Gibraltar formerly leave the bloc and enter into an 11-month period of intense negotiations to shape the future the UK-EU relationship.

“We talked about this issue before Brexit… about Gibraltar becoming part of the Schengen zone,” Picardo said.

The British enclave at the soutern point of Iberian peninsula, Gibraltar modus operandi counts on 28,000 crossings daily, and preserving it will be one of the central elements to talks when the transition period begins on February 1.

Coronavirus: EU activates protection mechanism

As the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus intensifies, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism has been activated following a request for assistance from France to provide consular support to EU citizens in Wuhan, China.

“The EU does not forget its citizens in need, wherever they are in the world. Two aircraft will be mobilised through our EU Civil Protection Mechanism to repatriate EU citizens from the Wuhan area to Europe. Our EU Emergency Response Coordination Centre is working 24/7 and is in constant contact with Member States, the EU Delegations in the region and the Chinese embassy in Brussels. Further EU support can be mobilised if requested” Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management, said.

“We stand ready to support Member States and ensure a strong and coordinated EU response to the developing situation of the coronavirus, outside and within the Union. We will continue to monitor the situation closely with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and remain in close contact with our Member States” Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner responsible for Health and Food Security, said.

The EU will co-finance the transport costs of the aircraft. The first aircraft is scheduled to depart from France tomorrow morning, while the second one will leave later in the week. EU citizens present in the region and who wish to be repatriated can still request it, no matter their nationality.

Initial numbers indicate that around 250 French citizens will be transported in the first aircraft and over 100 EU citizens from other countries will join the second aircraft. This is a first request for assistance and others may follow in the coming days.

At this stage, only healthy or asymptomatic citizens will be authorised to travel. The EU Emergency Response Centre is in constant contact with Member States’ governments in order to coordinate the arrivals and subsequent possible quarantine periods.

The European Commission is in regular contact with Member States, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the World Health Organisation on all aspects of the Coronavirus outbreak.

EU signs Brexit bill

“Charles Michel and I have just signed the Agreement on the Withdrawal of the UK from the EU, opening the way for its ratification by the European Parliament” the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen informed via her Twitter micro blog.

“Things will inevitably change but our friendship will remain. We start a new chapter as partners and allies” wrote EU Council president Charles Michel.

“Looking forward to writing this new page together” he added in French.

After parliamentary ratification in the UK was concluded earlier, with Royal Assent granted for the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, Constitutional Affairs Committee MEPs voted in favour of a positive recommendation regarding the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, with 23 votes for, three against and no abstentions.
The vote took place after a statement by Committee Chair Antonio Tajani (EPP, IT) and a discussion between the Parliament’s Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt (Renew Europe, BE) and political group coordinators.

The debate in the Committee focussed on Parliament’s contribution to protecting citizens’ rights in the context of Brexit (with the majority of speakers during the first round commending the EU’s negotiating team), as well as the steps that should be taken by the UK and EU27 governments to continue protecting these rights during the transition period and beyond. The discussion also addressed the overall impact of Brexit and the future relationship between the EU and the UK, which is going to be the objective of the future negotiations.

Orban considers quitting EPP

“This cannot go on,” Prime Minister Orbán said in his regular Friday morning interview on the public Kossuth Rádió on January 17. If the European People’ Party doesn’t stand up for Hungary, then we will have to start a new, Christian-Democratic European movement.”

Besides the European Parliament vote yesterday, the Prime minister talked about Vicegrad Four – V4 relations with Austria, “prison deals” in Hungary and the Roma segregation case in Gyöngyöspata.

In a resolution adopted in the European Parliament Plenary with 446 votes to 178 and 41 abstentions, MEPs note that reports and statements by the Commission, the UN, OSCE and the Council of Europe indicate that “the situation in both Poland and Hungary has deteriorated since the triggering of Article 7(1)”.

MEPs point out that the hearings organised by the Council under Article 7 of the Treaty are neither regular nor structured. They call on the Council to address concrete recommendations to the countries concerned, including deadlines, to ensure EU law is respected.
The failure by the Council to make effective use of Article 7 continues to undermine the integrity of common European values, mutual trust and the credibility of the European Union as a whole”, claims the EP.

The text also urges the Commission to use all tools at its disposal to prevent a serious breach of common values, such as expedited infringement procedures and applications for interim measures before the Court of Justice.

EU renews terrorist list

The Council today renewed the so-called EU terrorist list, which sets out persons, groups and entities subject to restrictive measures with a view to combating terrorism. Persons, groups and entities on the list are subject to the freezing of their funds and other financial assets in the EU. It is also prohibited for EU operators to make funds and economic resources available to them.

The Council is empowered to establish a EU list and impose related restrictive measures under Council Common Position 2001/931/CFSP, and Council Regulation (EC) No 2580/2001.

The Council first set up the list as implementation of UNSC Resolution 1373/2001 that followed the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. It reviews the list at regular intervals, and at least every six months, on the basis of a regular exchange of information between member states on any new facts and developments relating to the listings.

This sanctions regime is separate from the EU regime implementing UN Security Council resolutions 1267 (2011), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015 and targeting Al-Qaida and ISIL/Da’esh. The EU also has its own sanction regime which allows the EU to apply sanctions autonomously to ISIL/Da’esh and Al-Qaida and persons and entities associated or supporting them.

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