Tag Archives: EU

Michel regrets EU consensus method

In his speech “European strategic autonomy is the goal of our generation” at the Bruegel think tank president of the European Council Charles Michel addressed problems of global instability, and pointed at the need to establish the EU autonomy. He also has drawn attention to a number of problems in the EU foreign policy, namely the challenges imposed by China and Russia, “unpredictability” of Mediterranean neighbourhood, and post-Brexit trade negotiations. The president also regretted the method of unanimity in the EU foreign policy decision-making process, which slows it down, and “even some times prevents the decisions”.
Michel has underlined the the EU defence should develop in strong partnership with NATO, and “deployed within” North Atlantic Alliance.

“…Because the globalised world has changed a lot since the end of the Cold War. And because an arc of instability has developed around us.

“In the East, the natural and harmless extension of the European democratic space was brutally stopped by Russia in Ukraine. Russia saw a major geopolitical danger there. This cost Ukraine part of its territory, and a war in the East which permanently destabilises the country. Although the context is different, the events in Belarus once again highlight the challenge at Europe’s eastern borders.

“In the Eastern Mediterranean, we face tensions and unpredictability. Libya and Syria are hotbeds of insecurity and instability. There is pressure on the sovereignty of Greece and Cyprus. Our relationship with Turkey is under strain. This is why the next European summit will be devoted to the adoption of a European strategic position in connection with this region. I proposed the organisation of a multilateral conference on the Eastern Mediterranean, where maritime de-limitations, energy, security, migration, etc. would be discussed.

“In the South: Africa. And I feel, at the level of Europe and its leaders, how much the outlook on Africa is changing. Its energy, its vitality, open the way to an unprecedented alliance. It only depends on us, African and European leaders.

“In the West, Brexit. In the aftermath of the referendum, the result shook up the European Union. This choice of national sovereignty was felt as a failure of European construction.

“Today what is it? It is the United Kingdom that faces our quiet strength. The truth is, the British face a dilemma. What model of society do they want? Do they prefer to maintain high quality standards (health, food, environmental, etc.)? Or, on the contrary, do they want lower standards, subject their breeders and their businesses to unfair and unjust competition from other regions of the world? It is the answer to this question that will determine the level of access to our internal market”

President Michel has also regarded the principle of unanimity in the EU foreign policy, “regularly debated”:

“…Unanimity is required in matters of foreign policy. This question of unanimity is, as we know, regularly debated. And I have a qualified opinion in this regard. Of course, the unanimity requirement slows down and sometimes even prevents the decision. But this requirement leads to constant efforts to weld the Member States together. And this European unity is also our strength. Unanimity promotes the lasting adhesion of the 27 countries to the strategy deliberated together. So I ask myself: isn’t renouncing unanimity a false good idea? Are there not other more relevant reforms to act more quickly at the international level, without losing the added value of our unanimity?

“My modest experience is as follows. Very often, in recent months, I have observed that apparently important differences between the Member States were quickly blurred thanks to the substantive debate. So it was with China. The political preparations allowed us in a few months to define a common position which is now shared by all. The same will be true for the eastern Mediterranean and even Belarus. I am optimistic that there too we will express common positions which will draw their strength from our unity. The major decisions on the budget and the stimulus fund further illustrate this certainty: political confrontation, the exchange of arguments on the merits, are an essential step in the process of democratic deliberation. And they found the legitimacy of the decision.

“…Defense is not a European competence like any other. And I know the different national sensibilities. In my eyes, deepening the common defence is a necessity and is more common sense than an ideological obsession. This project must be deployed within NATO. This is the meaning of the strategic partnership between the EU and NATO. The permanent structured cooperation and the European Defense Fund, which we have just endowed with 7 billion euro, are fully in line with this ambition. And I greet Jean-Claude Juncker and Federica Mogherini, whose strategic impetus in this area has not yet been fully appreciated”.

Leyen welcomes Swiss vote result

“Switzerland and the EU are more than just neighbours. We have very close and deep ties, rooted in a long, shared, European history. Geographical proximity plays a role of course, But, much more importantly, the close bonds between our citizens.About 1.4 million EU citizens live in Switzerland and 450,000 Swiss live in the EU. Another 320,000 EU citizens cross the border daily to work in Switzerland” said, w President von der Leyen, while reacting upon the result of the Swiss referendum regarding freedom of movement with the EU in favour of EU-Switzerland close ties.

“The citizens of Switzerland have shown today that they value these ties.
Their vote upholds one of the core pillars of our relationship: the mutual freedom to move, to live and to work in Switzerland and the EU.

“I welcome this outcome. I see it as a positive signal to continue to consolidate and deepen our relationship.
I will soon speak to Mrs Sommaruga, President of the Swiss Confederation. I will congratulate her on this result. Of course, I look forward to the Swiss Federal Council now moving swiftly on the signature and ratification of the International Framework Agreement that we negotiated in 2018.

“I will reiterate this message I passed last January when we met in Davos”.

Swiss voters have refused a proposal to end an accord with the EU, allowing the free movement of people.
In the outcome of the referendum early 62% said they wished to keep free movement, while 38% were against.
Switzerland is not a member of the EU but has a series of interdependent treaties with the bloc which allow it to access to Europe’s free trade area.

The move to rein in immigration was proposed by the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), but opposed by the government.
An initiative to introduce quotas on immigrants from the EU to Switzerland narrowly passed in a 2014 referendum, reflecting upon Swiss-EU relations.
Swiss people are given a direct say in their own affairs under the country’s system of direct democracy. They are regularly invited to vote on various issues in national or regional referendums.

N.Karabach: EU calls to observe ceasefire

“On 27 September 2020, fighting erupted along the Line of Contact in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict zone, regrettably causing military and civilian casualties”.

“The European Union calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities, de-escalation and for strict observance of the ceasefire”.

“The return to negotiations of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict settlement under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, without preconditions, is needed urgently”.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, during his address to the nation, stated that Azerbaijan has declared war on the entire Armenian people”.

“This morning, Azerbaijan again undertook large-scale provocations. There are casualties and wounded, including among the civilian population. Using heavy weapons, the enemy attacks the positions of the Defense Army of the Republic of Artsakh (the Armenian name for Nagorno-Karabakh – ed.) In all directions. The Defense Army is waging fierce battles, honorably fulfilling the task of protecting Artsakh, ”Pashinyan said (quoted by Interfax).

The Armenian Prime minister also said about the possible conflict beyond the region: “We are on the verge of a large-scale war in the South Caucasus, which may have the most unpredictable consequences. The war can go beyond the borders of the region and have a wider scale. I call on the international community to use all levers and not allow Turkey to get involved in the conflict ”(quoted by TASS).

Suisse-EU free movement limit law failed

The Swiss by a large majority on September 27, Sunday, said ‘NO’ to a right-wing initiative that would have restricted the immigration of European Union nationals, according to projections released shortly after the polls closed.

According to the polling institute GFS-Bern, voters rejected by 63% the so-called limitation initiative launched by the SVP, the country’s leading party but to which all the other political forces were opposed as well as the economic world.

EU new Envoy to Switzerland

On 1 September, H.E. Mr. Petros Mavromichalis presented his letters of accreditation, signed by the President of the European Council Charles Michel and the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, to the President of the Swiss Confederation Simonetta Sommaruga. By that, he is Extraordinary and Plenipentiary Ambassador of the European Union to Switzerland.

On occasion of the ceremony, Ambassador Mavromichalis and the President of the Confederation Simonetta Sommaruga evoked the close ties and shared values between the EU and Switzerland as well as the importance and quality of the bilateral relations.

The presentation of the letters of accreditation for the Principality of Liechtenstein is foreseen on 23 September in Vaduz.

Ambassador Petros Mavromichalis succeeds to Ambassador Michael Matthiessen, who ended his office in Bern on 31 August.

EU “firm” on respecting Brexit deal

Brussels 21.09.2020 According to an EU official the president of the EU Council Charles Michel met with top EU-UK negotiator Michel Barnier today to discuss a number of issues concerning the ongoing talks with the United Kingdom on the comprehensive trade agreement. The central focus has been the state of play of the negotiations, especially regarding the intention of the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to re-write the Withdrawal Agreement unilaterally.

PM Johnson defends his plan to unilaterally rewrite Britain’s Brexit deal with the European Union as an insurance policy against the bloc’s unreasonable behaviour — even as his former attorney general joined the ranks of once-loyal lawmakers refusing the contentious move.
Regarding the situation the EU official said that the position of the bloc remains “firm and steady” towards the need to fully implement the Withdrawal Agreement. The EU will not be “intimidated nor impressed”, but still the breaking of the international agreement remains “extremely worrying”.
Meanwhile Michel Barnier is also to preparing the briefing for the heads of states and governments of the EU member-states at special European Council on September 24-25, reporting on analysis of the situation.
At present the EU is looking for an agreement on our future relation, but that requires substantial progress on key issues as level playing field and fisheries, the EU official has underlined.

EU-China Summit: «agree to disagree»

«I’m pleased that we could speak by video conference with President Xi, together with Ursula (von der Leyen) and Angela (Merkel). Unfortunately, our physical meeting in Leipzig wasn’t possible» said Charles Michel, the Euroepan Council president after the meeting.

«Europe needs to be a player, not a playing field. Today’s meeting represents another step forward in forging a more balanced relationship with China.

«We strive for a relationship that delivers on our mutual commitments. That generates concrete results for both sides. Results that are also good for the world. In some areas, we are on the right track. In others, more work needs to be done.

«We made it clear where we stand. Where we agree, and where we disagree. Real differences exist and we won’t paper over them. But we are ready to engage. Ready to cooperate where we can, and ready to roll up our sleeves to find concrete solutions. And on those difficult issues, we conveyed a clear and united European message: we want a relationship with China that is based on reciprocity, responsibility, and basic fairness.

Today we addressed 4 key topics:
1. Climate change
2. Economic and trade issues
3. International Affairs and Human Rights
4. COVID-19 and economic recovery

«China is a key global partner in reducing global greenhouse gas and tackling climate change. And we encourage China to be even more ambitious. The EU is setting the bar high — carbon neutrality by 2050. And we count on China to show similar leadership by implementing the Paris Agreement. We have a robust trading relationship with China. The EU is China’s first trading partner. On average we trade over 1 billion euros a day.

Trade can energise our economic recovery. But we want more fairness. We want a more balanced relationship. That also means reciprocity and a level playing field. That’s why we welcome today’s signature of the Agreement on Geographical Indications. It’s a big step in the right direction. We are working on a comprehensive investment agreement and concrete results in other important areas.

And in the digital domain, we defend our vision of a free, open and secure cyberspace. For the good of our people and our societies. As global players, the EU and China have global responsibilities. This means upholding the rules-based international order.

The national security law for Hong Kong continues to raise grave concerns. The EU and our Member States have responded with one clear voice. Democratic voices in Hong Kong should be heard, rights protected, and autonomy preserved. We called on China to keep their promises to the people of Hong Kong and the international community.

We reiterated our concerns over China’s treatment of minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, and the treatment of human rights defenders and journalists. We asked for access for independent observers to Xinjiang and we called for the release of the arbitrarily detained Swedish citizen Gui Minhai and two Canadian citizens.

We agreed to discuss these issues in detail at the Human Rights Dialogue in Beijing later this year which will also include, we hope, a field visit to Tibet.

We called on China to refrain from unilateral actions in the South China Sea, to respect international law, and avoid escalations.

Covid-19 remains a deep and urgent threat. Only collective and transparent action will send this virus to the history books. There is only one way to find a vaccine and deploy it in all countries … that’s global cooperation.

We expect all countries, to cooperate with the impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation of the international health response to COVID-19, and support the WHO to identify the source of the virus.

We encourage China to pursue an economic recovery that leads to structural reforms and that shapes a greener, more sustainable economy. This includes implementing the G20 Action Plan to drive sustainable global growth and reduce global tensions. And in Africa, China should be engaged in multilateral efforts on debt relief that will spur economic recovery.

En conclusion, nos discussions aujourd’hui ont été extrêmement importantes. Nous mesurons bien que parler, dialoguer est important mais cela ne suffit pas, il s’agit de transformer nos messages en actes.

Nous sommes déterminés à continuer à être engagés avec la Chine pour promouvoir nos valeurs, pour défendre nos intérêts. Nous voulons une relation équilibrée, fondée sur le respect pour les intérêts mutuels.

Nous considérons que la réciprocité, la transparence doivent être au cœur de l’engagement porté par l’Union européenne. »

MEPs «disappointed» by Internal Market Bill

The UKCG and the EP political group leaders issued the following statement after meeting with Chief EU Negotiator Michel Barnier and Joint Committee Co-Chair Maroš Šefčovič, on Friday, September 11,202O.

“The European Parliament’s UK Coordination Group (UKCG) met today to assess the impact of the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement with EU-UK Joint Committee Co-Chair Maroš Šefčovič and to evaluate the ongoing negotiations on the future EU-UK relationship with EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier.

“EP political group leaders and UKCG members are deeply concerned and disappointed that the UK Government published an Internal Market Bill that clearly represents a serious and unacceptable breach of international law. It violates the Withdrawal Agreement that was signed and ratified by the current UK Government and Parliament less than a year ago. The Internal Market Bill gravely damages the trust and credibility that the European Parliament has already said is “an essential element of any negotiation”, thus putting at risk the ongoing negotiations on the future relationship.

“The European Parliament supports EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier and Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič in asking the UK government to withdraw these measures from the bill immediately; by the end of September, at the very latest. The European Parliament’s UK Coordination Group stresses that:

“the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, has legally binding force regardless of whether or not the EU and the UK conclude any new treaty governing their future relationship; and

any issue regarding the implementation of its provisions should be addressed by the Joint Committee and in no case unilaterally by any party to the agreement.
The European Parliament expects the UK government to uphold the rule of law and demands nothing less than the full implementation of all provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, which is essential to protect the Good Friday Agreement and peace and stability on the island of Ireland.

Should the UK authorities breach – or threaten to breach – the Withdrawal Agreement, through the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill in its current form or in any other way, the European Parliament will, under no circumstances, ratify any agreement between the EU and the UK.

Regarding the outcome of the eighth negotiating round, the European Parliament remains committed to an ambitious partnership with the UK. We are disappointed with the continued lack of reciprocal engagement from the UK side on fundamental EU principles and interests.

The European Parliament calls on the UK to work with the EU constructively and find compromises that are in the interests of our citizens and companies on both sides. Any potential deal should not only preserve our interests, but also respect the integrity of the European Union and its single market.

For any deal to take effect, democratic oversight institutions on both sides of the Channel must be able to carry out a meaningful assessment, as stated in the Withdrawal Agreement. The European Parliament recalls that its consent to any deal will only be granted after detailed scrutiny of the legal provisions. The European Parliament will not accept having its democratic oversight curbed by a last-minute deal beyond the end of October.”

Signed by EP group leaders:

Manfred WEBER (EPP, DE)

Iratxe GARCÍA PEREZ (S&D, ES)

Dacian CIOLOŞ (Renew, RO)

Philippe LAMBERTS (Greens/EFA, BE) co-chair

Ska KELLER (Greens/EFA, DE) co-chair

Raffaele FITTO (ECR, IT) co-chair

Ryszard LEGUTKO (ECR, PL) co-chair

Martin SCHIRDEWAN (GUE, DE) co-chair

Manon AUBRY (GUE, FR) co-chair

and by the UK Coordination Group:

David McALLISTER (EPP, DE), chair

Bernd LANGE (S&D, DE)

Nathalie LOISEAU (Renew, FR)

Christophe HANSEN (EPP, LU)

Kati PIRI (S&D, NL)

Kris PEETERS (EPP, BE)

Pedro SILVA PEREIRA (S&D, PT)

Morten PETERSEN (Renew, DK)

Gunnar BECK (ID, DE)

Libya: IRINI re-directed MV Royal Diamond 7

European Union maritime force implementing the UN arms embargo on Libya announced Thursday, September 10, it intercepted and redirected an oil tanker headed for Benghazi after determining it was carrying jet fuel in possible violation of the ban.

The MV Royal Diamond 7 was en route from Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, to Benghazi, Libya, when members of the EU force’s Operation Irini boarded the ship 150 kilometers north of the Libyan city of Derna, the EU patrol informed.

This week, UN experts accused the parties in Libyan conflict and their international allies — including the UAE, Russia and Jordan on one side, and Turkey and Qatar on the other — of sending weapons and mercenaries to Libya in violation of the “totally ineffective” UN embargo.

A statement from the EU mission said its inspection aboard the Marshall Islands-flagged MV Royal Diamond 7 determined the cargo was jet fuel, which it said was “likely” to be used for military purposes.

The mission noted that jet fuel is considered military material by the U.N., which has authorised the EU military to seize weapons and halt weapons-transporting vessels bound for Libya.

The EU patrol mission has underlined it was redirecting the tanker to a European port for further investigation.

Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 has overthrown longtime dictator Colonel Gadhafi, who was later assassinated. The collapse of the state structures followed, and the rivalry for power began between different groups, splitting Libya between east, with the centre in Benghazi where Tobrouk parliament supported by Libyan National Army has it seat, and Tripoli administration, recognised by the UN, and the EU.

A boarding team board the Merchant Vessel Royal Diamond 7, in international waters, 150 kilometers north of the Libyan city of Derna, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020. The European Union maritime force on errand for the supervision of the UN arms embargo on Libya reported that they had re-directed the tanker headed for Libya after determining it contained jet fuel in possible violation of the embargo. The MV Royal Diamond 7 was en route early Thursday from Sharjah, United Arab Emirates to Benghazi, Libya when members of the EU force Operation IRINI boarded the ship.

EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement in jeopardy

Following the publication by the UK government of the draft “United Kingdom Internal Market Bill” on 9 September 2020, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič called for an extraordinary meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee to request the UK government to elaborate on its intentions and to respond to the EU’s serious concerns. A meeting took place today in London between Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič and Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

The Vice-President stated, in no uncertain terms, that the timely and full implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland – which Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government agreed to, and which the UK Houses of Parliament ratified, less than a year ago – is a legal obligation. The European Union expects the letter and spirit of this Agreement to be fully respected. Violating the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement would break international law, undermine trust and put at risk the ongoing future relationship negotiations.

The Withdrawal Agreement entered into force on 1 February 2020 and has legal effects under international law. Since that point in time, neither the EU nor the UK can unilaterally change, clarify, amend, interpret, disregard or disapply the agreement. The Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland is an essential part of the Withdrawal Agreement. Its aim is to protect peace and stability on the island of Ireland and was the result of long, detailed and difficult negotiations between the EU and the UK.

Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič stated that if the Bill were to be adopted, it would constitute an extremely serious violation of the Withdrawal Agreement and of international law.

If adopted as proposed, the draft bill would be in clear breach of substantive provisions of the Protocol: Article 5 (3) & (4) and Article 10 on custom legislation and State aid, including amongst other things, the direct effect of the Withdrawal Agreement (Article 4). In addition, the UK government would be in violation of the good faith obligation under the Withdrawal Agreement (Article 5) as the draft Bill jeopardises the attainment of the objectives of the Agreement.

The EU does not accept the argument that the aim of the draft Bill is to protect the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement. In fact, it is of the view that it does the opposite.

Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič called on the UK government to withdraw these measures from the draft Bill in the shortest time possible and in any case by the end of the month. He stated that by putting forward this Bill, the UK has seriously damaged trust between the EU and the UK. It is now up to the UK government to re-establish that trust.

He reminded the UK government that the Withdrawal Agreement contains a number of mechanisms and legal remedies to address violations of the legal obligations contained in the text – which the European Union will not be shy in using.

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