Tag Archives: EU

MEPs strategy towards Russia

Strasbourg 16.09.2021 Parliament says the EU must push back against aggressive policies while laying the groundwork for cooperation with a future democratic Russia.

Assessing the state of EU-Russia relations, the European Parliament makes clear that it distinguishes between the Russian people and President Vladimir Putin’s regime. The latter is, Parliament says, a “stagnating authoritarian kleptocracy led by a president-for-life surrounded by a circle of oligarchs”.

MEPs stress, however, that a democratic future for Russia is possible and that the Council must adopt an EU strategy for this scenario, encompassing incentives and conditions to strengthen domestic democratic tendencies.

The text was approved by 494 votes in favour, 103 against with 72 abstentions.

“Russia can be a democracy and defending ‘Democracy First’ in EU relations with Russia is our first task. The EU and its institutions have to work on the assumption that change is possible in Russia. It also needs more courage in taking a strong stance vis-a-vis the Kremlin regime when it comes to defending human rights; this is what strategic engagement with the Russian people is all about. It is about ending domestic repression, returning the choice to the people, and freeing all political prisoners”, said rapporteur Andrius Kubilius (EPP, Lithuania) after the vote.

“In addition, if this week’s parliamentary elections in Russia are recognised as fraudulent, the EU should not recognise the Russian Duma and should ask for the country to be suspended from international parliamentary assemblies, including the one of the Council of Europe. The Kremlin’s continuous repression of all opposition candidates, free media and NGOs undermines the legitimacy and fairness of these elections. The Russian people must have the right to choose and their choices must be honoured, as in any other democratic country”, he added.

Parliament proposes the EU establishing an alliance with the U.S. and other like-minded partners to counterbalance the efforts of Russia and China to weaken democracy worldwide and destabilise the European political order. It should foresee sanctions, policies to counter illicit financial flows, and support for human rights activists.

Support to Russia’s’ neighbouring countries

On Russia’s aggression and influence over the EU’s eastern neighbourhood, the EU must continue to support so-called “Eastern Partnership” countries such as Ukraine or Georgia, and to promote European reforms and fundamental freedoms in the region. These efforts should also serve to encourage Russian support for democratic reforms.

Reduce the EU’s energy dependency on Russia, fighting “dirty money” at home

The text further states that the EU needs to cut its dependency on Russian gas, oil and other raw materials, at least while President Putin is in power. The European Green Deal and the boosting of new resources will play a crucial geopolitical role in achieving this.

MEPs want the EU to build its capacity to expose and stop the flows of dirty money from Russia, as well as to expose the resources and financial assets that regime-linked autocrats and oligarchs have hidden in EU member states.

Worries ahead of the 2021 parliamentary elections in Russia

Members conclude by demanding the EU be prepared to withhold recognition of the Russian parliament if the 2021 parliamentary elections in September are conducted in violation of democratic principles and international law.

SOTEU: EU-NATO rapprochement

Strasbourg 15.09.2021 “…We are working with Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on a new EU-NATO Joint Declaration to be presented before the end of the year. But this is only one part of the equation” the president of the European Commission Ursula von dery Leyen said, while addressing the European Parliament Plenary in Strasbourg.

“Europe can – and clearly should – be able and willing to do more on its own. But if we are to do more, we first need to explain why. I see three broad categories.

“First, we need to provide stability in our neighbourhood and across different regions.
We are connected to the world by narrow straits, stormy seas and vast land borders. Because of that geography, Europe knows better than anyone that if you don’t deal in time with the crisis abroad, the crisis comes to you.

“Secondly, the nature of the threats we face is evolving rapidly: from hybrid or cyber-attacks to the growing arms race in space.
Disruptive technology has been a great equaliser in the way power can be used today by rogue states or non-state groups. You no longer need armies and missiles to cause mass damage. You can paralyse industrial plants, city administrations and hospitals – all you need is your laptop. You can disrupt entire elections with a smartphone and an internet connection.

“The third reason is that the European Union is a unique security provider. There will be missions where NATO or the UN will not be present, but where the EU should be. On the ground, our soldiers work side-by-side with police officers, lawyers and doctors, with humanitarian workers and human rights defenders, with teachers and engineers.

“We can combine military and civilian, along with diplomacy and development – and we have a long history in building and protecting peace. The good news is that over the past years, we have started to develop a European defence ecosystem…”

#SOTEU: EU migration Pact slow motion

Strasbourg 15.09.2021 “… Look at what happened at our borders with Belarus. The regime in Minsk has instrumentalised human beings. They have put people on planes and literally pushed them towards Europe’s borders” the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said, while addressing the European Parliament Plenary in Strasbourg.

“This can never be tolerated. And the quick European reaction shows that. And rest assured, we will continue to stand together with Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.

“And, let’s call it what it is: this is a hybrid attack to destabilise Europe”.

“These are not isolated events. We saw similar incidents at other borders. And we can expect to see it again. This is why, as part of our work on Schengen, we will set out new ways to respond to such aggression and ensure unity in protecting our external borders. But as long as we do not find common ground on how to manage migration, our opponents will continue to target that.

“Meanwhile, human traffickers continue to exploit people through deadly routes across the Mediterranean.

“These events show us that every country has a stake in building a European migration system. The New Pact on Migration and Asylum gives us everything we need to manage the different types of situations we face.
All the elements are there. This is a balanced and humane system that works for all Member States – in all circumstances. We know that we can find common ground.

“But in the year since the Commission presented the Pact, progress has been painfully slow.
I think, this is the moment now for a European migration management policy. So I urge you, in this House and in Member States, to speed up the process.

“This ultimately comes down to a question of trust. Trust between Member States. Trust for Europeans that migration can be managed. Trust that Europe will always live up to its enduring duty to the most vulnerable and most in need.

“There are many strongly held views on migration in Europe but I believe the common ground is not so far away. Because if you ask most Europeans, they would agree that we should act to curb irregular migration but also act to provide a refuge for those forced to flee.”

“They would agree that we should return those who have no right to stay. But that we should welcome those who come here legally and make such a vital contribution to our society and economy”.

“And we should all agree that the topic of migration should never be used to divide. I am convinced that there is a way that Europe can build trust amongst us when it comes to migration”.

IRAQ: EU deploys Observation Mission

Brussels 13.09.2021 In response to an invitation by the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) in Iraq, the European Union has decided to deploy an Election Observation Mission (EOM) to observe the legislative elections scheduled in Iraq for 10 October.

The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, has appointed Mrs. Viola Von Cramon-Taubadel, Member of the European Parliament, as Chief Observer of this EU Electoral Observation Mission.

The mission will produce a public report with recommendations, based on an objective assessment of the campaign and the voting, with a view to help in further improving the electoral framework in Iraq.

“I am glad that responding to Iraq’s request, the European Union will deploy its first ever Election Observation Mission to the country. I just visited Iraq and discussed the importance of these polls. We want to support the strengthening of Iraqi democracy through Iraqi-led and Iraqi-owned inclusive and participatory elections. Our observation mission is a clear manifestation of solidarity and support to the Iraqi people and of our solid partnership with Iraq” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said.

The Chief Observer Mrs. Viola Von Cramon-Taubadel said: “I am proud to have been appointed Chief Observer of the EU EOM for the Iraqi elections in October. These polls will be an important milestone in Iraq’s democratic build-up. A peaceful and secure run up of the electoral process is key to ensure that all candidates, political activists, journalists, human rights defenders and the electorate can fully exercise their democratic rights and freedoms. This will be key for the success of these important elections.”

The core team of the EU EOM consists of 12 election experts who arrived to Baghdad and Erbil on 28 August. In mid-September, 20 long-term observers will join the mission and will be deployed in different areas of the country. During election day, the mission will be reinforced with local short-term observers coming from EU Member States’ diplomatic missions present in Iraq. The EU EOM will remain in the country until the completion of the electoral process, including counting and appeals.

In line with the EU’s election observation methodology, the mission will issue a preliminary statement and hold a press conference in Baghdad after the elections. The final report, which will include a set of recommendations for future electoral processes, will be presented and shared with stakeholders after the finalisation of the entire electoral process.

EEAS: top diplomatic appointments

Brussels 07.09.2021 High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, announced the following appointment for a senior position in the European External Action Service (EEAS) today:

Olivier BAILLY as Director, Deputy Managing Director for Global Issues. He was previously Head of the Task Force on Vaccine Sstrategy in the EEAS. He also served as Head of Cabinet of former European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs Pierre Moscovici. He took up his duties on 1 September 2021.

High Representative Josep Borrell also announced the appointments of three new Heads of Delegations and a Chargé d’Affaires of the European Union :

Rafael DOCHAO MORENO has been appointed as Chargé d’Affaires to Venezuela. He was previously Head of the EEAS Division Situation room. He also served as Head of Delegation of the European Union to Chile. Mr Dochao Moreno took up his duties on 1 September 2021.

Giacomo DURAZZO has been appointed as Head of Delegation of the European Union to Congo (Brazzaville). He was previously Head of Delegation of the European Union to Mauritania. Mr Durazzo took up his duties on 1 September 2021.

Henriette GEIGER has been appointed as Head of Delegation of the European Union to Kenya. She was previously Director for Human Development, Migration, Governance and Peace within the European Commission. Ms Geiger took up her duties at the EEAS on 16 August 2021.

Carla GRIJÓ has been appointed as Head of Delegation of the European Union to Cabo Verde. She was previously Deputy Director General in the Directorate General for European Affairs within the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ms Grijó took up her duties at the EEAS on 1 September 2021.

Tallinn Digital summit 2021

Brussels 07.09.2021 “Our Strategic Agenda centres on our twin transitions: climate and digital. The European Council took this decision before Covid and before the “build back better” approach of our post-Covid world. The pandemic has injected greater urgency, and more reasons, to pursue our transformational path to a more sustainable and fairer model. We want to transform Europe, and we want a better world. We need more prosperity and more fairness” said the EU Council President Charles Michel, addressing Tallinn Digital Summit.

“Digital is one of the fastest growing sectors — it creates jobs and drives economic growth. It brings new products and services to market and unleashes the full potential of innovation. Digital is a cross-cutting tool that is revolutionising countless sectors and energising countless areas of our lives. And most crucially, it is driving forward the green technologies that will protect our planet. Data-driven climate decisions, for example, will be more precise and effective. And digital monitoring will allow for more efficient use of energy and resources. And in healthcare, the data industry is already modernising public health management”.

“We want to make Europe more autonomous. In our interconnected world, a certain amount of interdependence is normal, even desirable. But dependency is not desirable. Europe must strive for more influence, and less dependence. That applies both to our digital strategy and our geopolitical strategy.

“So how do we pursue these goals? First, we must put them in our broader connectivity strategy. This strategy should be anchored in our values and reflected in our standards. This will bolster our autonomy and drastically reinforce our cybersecurity”.

“We must develop a common view and an ambitious EU vision on connectivity. Kaja Kallas has just outlined a number of inspiring ideas on this topic. Connectivity refers not only to physical infrastructure and networks. It encompasses a wide range of ventures and policies aimed at bringing people and societies closer together. This is what Europe’s engagement with the world is all about”.

“But on the other hand, some blocs are working on connectivity to create deep dependencies. They are not waiting for us. Their connectivity offers are already on the table, according to their economic and political interests. So we need to up our game. We are already forging broad connectivity partnerships with like-minded countries such as India, Japan, the US and Canada. And we are tailoring our offer to meet the specific needs and expectations of our partners around the world.

“We want to develop greater cooperation. This is true not just for the Western Balkans or the Eastern Partners but equally for our Central Asian partners, Africa, and elsewhere. But we must do more — be more strategic, be more streamlined — and better market and brand our offer. This is trusted connectivity. And most importantly, it should reflect our European vision of what a partnership should be — fair, balanced, and human-centred. There is still work to strengthen such an offer. It will require leadership and collective action. The European Council is ready to play its key role.

“Our digital strategy must be based on our values: human rights and fundamental freedoms in human-centred societies. Our standards should be based on trust and transparency. Transparency does not only mean that people must know how their personal data is used. Transparency must also apply to finance, taxes, or the way in which algorithms are deployed. Fairer taxation of international business is a key topic in the eyes of the public. Integrating the price of carbon in international trade is a matter of fairness in the fight against climate change”.

“Trust also means accountability. Citizens want to know the State’s budget is well spent. They want to know that new development projects respect their health and their environment. We in the EU have a powerful tool: our regulatory power. The famous “Brussels effect”. We are the leading standard setter in the world.

“Digital sovereignty is key to our strategic autonomy. And we are working hard to make this happen, for instance, moving from 5G to 6G and advancing the idea of a low earth orbit satellite. In the area of semiconductors, Commissioner Breton is driving forward the European alliance on microprocessors. I am confident that the E-identity will be another step in promoting our overall digital sovereignty”.

“This brings me to the critical topic of security, which relates to the “trust” factor, I mentioned earlier. Cyber-security is a key condition for greater influence on the global scene. The latest high profile cyberattacks in Europe have shone a spotlight on the urgency of building a sound cybersecurity system. This domain is basically a national competence. But the threats are global, and the attackers are global. That’s why a proper response should lie in the EU’s overall cyber resilience. Such an approach could include promoting greater collaboration among Member States, boosting national capacities and European industries, and launching ambitious education and training programmes across the EU”.

“The leaders’ digital agenda of the next months”

“So where do we stand concretely on our digital strategy? First, several major legislative proposals are now on the table: the Data Governance Act, the Digital Services Act, the Digital Markets Acts, the Artificial Intelligence Act and the E-identity bill. These proposals are currently being discussed by legislators, Council, and Parliament. And we will give fresh impetus to this at our next regular meeting of the European Council in October. The Digital Compass, requested by the European Council, with key targets for 2030, will also be on the agenda for this meeting”.

“We have a clear vision for our digital future. It is anchored in concrete goals and ambitious targets. And most importantly, it is a digital future that serves our people and builds inclusive societies. Today’s digital revolution is a massive opportunity to improve our quality of life across countless areas of our societies. It is a cornerstone of the EU’s strategy for more prosperity, more well-being, more freedom and more autonomy. Our digital model will offer inspiration far beyond our borders — of European openness and confidence”.

EU needs more “European Defence”

Brussels 02.09.2021 “Today, we are going to have a meeting that will be dominated by the events in Afghanistan. Afghanistan will be the backdrop of our discussions today” said the High Representative Josep Borrell upon arrival to Informal meeting of EU Defence Ministers.

“I think that it is clear that the need for more ‘European Defence’ has never been as evident as today – after the events in Afghanistan. I am sure that the Ministers will discuss how to face this new situation and how we can be more prepared for future challenges.

“The Strategic Compass is a work in progress. In a couple of months, I think we will be able to present the report of our work, but sometimes there are events that catalyse the history. Something happens and pushes the history, it creates a breakthrough. I think that the events in Afghanistan this summer are one of these cases.

“I hope that today the discussion will be more lively and we will be more engaged on concrete results – no, [there will be no] decisions today, because it is an informal meeting, but to prepare, no later than October or November, the final draft of the Strategic Compass”.

According to Reuters news agency in the last call between U.S. President Joe Biden and his Afghanistan counterpart before the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, the leaders discussed military aid, political strategy and messaging tactics, but neither Biden nor Ashraf Ghani appeared aware of or prepared for the imminent danger of the entire country falling to feet of insurgents, a transcript reviewed is a convincing evidence of this lack of awareness.

The politicians spoke for roughly 14 minutes on July 23. On August 15, Ghani fled the presidential palace, and the Taliban entered Kabul. Since then, tens of thousands of desperate Afghans have fled and 13 U.S. troops and scores of Afghan civilians were killed in a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport during the frenetic U.S. military evacuation.

EU doesn’t recognise Taliban

Brussels 21.08.2021 The European Union has not recognised the Taliban, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Saturday, August 21, nor is it holding political talks with the militants, a week after they seized control of Afghanistan. However during her visit to Spain the EU top executive expressed determination to support Afghan people. (Image above: archive)

Von der Leyen noted that despite the Taliban’s rhetoric, accepting inclusive approach, there have already been numerous reports of oppression targeting women, revenge killings and abductions.

“Not a single euro can go to a regime … that denies women and girls their full freedom and rights to education and careers,” she said.

“The situation is still very unclear and very unpredictable,” she added. “We will measure [the Taliban] above all by their deeds and their actions.”

Johansson: no returns to Afghans in EU

Brussels 19.08.2021 “The European Commission has been following the latest developments in Afghanistan with great and increasing concern” said the in the statement by Commissioner Johansson on the situation in Afghanistan at the extraordinary meeting of Interior Ministers.

“Today, I shared my concerns on the extremely serious and difficult situation with the EU Ministers of Interior, and my view on the way forward:

“Evacuation of EU staff and citizens and local staff who have been working with the EU and the Member States in Afghanistan is an immediate priority. Work on that is in progress in very difficult circumstances. I am grateful to the Member States for their commitment in granting visas to the staff and their families, and for offering seats in the departing planes. The Commission stands ready to coordinate all actions needed for them to find a new home.

The instability in Afghanistan is likely to lead to increased migratory pressure. We are therefore preparing for all scenarios. For this purpose, in line with the new Pact on Migration and Asylum, we convened yesterday an urgent Blueprint Network meeting during which we discussed with Member States and EU agencies about possible developments and the level of our preparedness. The Blueprint Network will continue meeting regularly on this topic to closely monitor the developments and take all preparatory steps needed.

We should not wait until people arrive at the external borders of the European Union. This is not a solution. We should prevent people from heading towards the European Union through unsafe, irregular and uncontrolled routes run by smugglers.

At the same time, we cannot abandon people in immediate danger in Afghanistan. Journalists, NGO staff and human rights advocates in Afghanistan are amongst those who are most at risk, women in particular.

“We have to support people displaced in Afghanistan through international organisations, such as the UNHCR and the IOM, give them the assistance needed and help them get back to their homes in Afghanistan when conditions on the ground allow. Some 550 000 Afghans have now been internally displaced in the country since the beginning of the year, in addition to 2.9 million already internally displaced at the end of 2020. Since the beginning of the year, some 120 000 Afghans have fled from rural areas and provincial towns to Kabul province – including some 20 000 since the start of July. 80% of the people forced to flee are women and children.

“A significant number of Afghani nationals have already fled to neighbouring countries. We should work closely with the countries in the region and be ready to provide them with the necessary humanitarian and development assistance. We must step up our support as the situation evolves.

“The EU has been engaged and has been supporting programmes linked to the forced displacement of Afghans for many years, in Afghanistan and in neighbouring countries (particularly Iran and Pakistan). More than EUR 250 million in assistance has been provided to support host communities and the sustainable reintegration of returnees and internally displaced persons, and to support capacity building for the authorities. We will continue our ongoing programmes and intensify our cooperation with host communities in Pakistan, Iran and Tajikistan, as well as other countries in the region such as Turkey.

“As things stand, the situation in Afghanistan is clearly not safe and it will not be safe for some time. Therefore we cannot force people to return to Afghanistan.

“While we continue our work to address risks of irregular migration, fight against human smuggling and manage our borders effectively, we need to offer legal, safe and organised pathways towards the EU. This reflects our comprehensive and balanced approach on migration set out in the new Pact on Migration and Asylum.

I have called on Member States to step up their engagement on resettlement, to increase resettlement quotas to help those in need of international protection and to offer complementary legal pathways. To me, it is very clear that Afghani women and girls are in a specifically dangerous situation: prioritising resettlement over irregular routes has also a clear gender dimension. Again, the Commission stands ready to help in the coordination between Member States and to provide the necessary additional financial support on this important work strand.

In addition, the EU will also continue to play a leading role in supporting Afghan refugees in the region. We will use our role as chair of the Core Group of the Solution Strategy for Afghan refugees and its Support Platform in 2021 to strengthen international community’s response to the Afghan refugee situation in the region and consequently to spur political, financial and material commitments around the regional dimension of Afghan displacement.

The rapidly evolving situation in Afghanistan poses a global challenge, which is why we need to act together and with all partners on a global level, in a resolute and fair manner, while guaranteeing the respect of fundamental rights, the protection of our values and working in a spirit of solidarity. We will cooperate closely with our international partners and we look forward to discussing the next steps, including within the UN framework and the G7.

EU: Afghanistan Borrell Declaration

Brussels 17.08.2021 European Union Ministers of Foreign Affairs gathered today for an extraordinary meeting to consider the latest momentous developments in Afghanistan. The country finds itself at a crossroads after decades of conflict. The wellbeing and security of its citizens, political and human rights achievements, as well as regional and international security are at stake.

The negotiation process between the Afghan government and the Taliban offered the best chance to reach a solution that would guarantee security and peaceful coexistence within Afghanistan and in the region. The EU calls on all parties in Afghanistan to respect all commitments made and to pursue further an inclusive, comprehensive and enduring political solution. The protection and promotion of all human rights, in particular those of women and girls, must be an integral part of these efforts and women should be supported and able to contribute fully to this process.

The EU stresses the utmost importance of the safety and security of all EU citizens in Afghanistan, as well as local staff working for the EU or member states. Through strong coordination among member states, every possible effort is being made to ensure their security, including through the ongoing evacuation of staff and their families in need. The European Union will also pay special attention to those Afghans whose security might now be in jeopardy due to their principled engagement for our common values.

The EU calls for an immediate cessation of all violence, the restoration of security and civil order and the protection and respect for civilian life, dignity and property throughout Afghanistan. In this regard, the EU expresses deep concern about reports of serious human rights violations and abuses in areas across Afghanistan.

A comprehensive and inclusive political settlement and an enduring solution to the conflict should not be established by force, but through meaningful negotiations based on democracy, the rule of law and constitutional rule.

The EU recalls the importance of preserving and building on the political, economic and social achievements of the Afghan people since 2001, such as the rights of women, children and persons belonging to minorities, including access to education and health. Afghanistan as a signatory of the UN Charter must uphold and promote the values, rights and principles enshrined therein and honour its international obligations.

The EU aims to continue its support to the Afghan people and to democracy, good governance, human rights and social and economic development in the country, including efforts to prevent and manage the risks associated with an unstable Afghanistan in continued conflict, resulting in regional instability, drugs trafficking and uncontrolled irregular migration. In this context, EU engagement with its partners in Central Asia will be increasingly important. Combatting terrorism and preventing the use of Afghan territory by international terrorist groups remains at the core of the EU’s collective engagement in the country.

However, cooperation with any future Afghan government will be conditioned on a peaceful and inclusive settlement and respect for the fundamental rights of all Afghans, including women, youth and persons belonging to minorities, as well as respect for Afghanistan’s international obligations, commitment to the fight against corruption and preventing the use of Afghanistan’s territory by terrorist organisations.

To address the worsening humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, the European Union will continue to provide needs-based assistance to the Afghan people and calls on all actors to allow safe and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance to Afghan women, men and children in need, including to the large number of internally displaced persons (IDPs). The EU calls on the Taliban to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law in all circumstances. The EU will also support Afghanistan’s neighbours in coping with negative spill overs, which are to be expected from an increasing flow of refugees and migrants.

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