Tag Archives: EU

MEPs wish Brexit deadline to shift

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been urged by a group of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to delay the agreed Brexit deadline taking into consideration the difficulties the coronavirus pandemic caused.

The European Parliament’s largest group of European People’s Party MEPs said the pandemic puts pressure on the chance of securing a trade deal by the planned date.

The British Prime Minister spokesman reacted, indicating that there were no plans to adjust the timetable.

It comes as EU and UK representatives met to discuss implementing the Brexit withdrawal agreement over video.

Under the agreement, the UK enters a transition period where it will continue to follow EU rules until 31 December 2020, by which time both sides say they hope to have agreed a trade deal.

Borrell: COVID19 will reshape world

“The COVID-19 crisis is not a war but it is ‘war-like’ in that it requires the mobilisation and direction of resources at unprecedented levels. Solidarity between countries and a readiness to make sacrifices for the common good are decisive. Only by pulling together and cooperating across borders can we beat the virus and contain its consequences – and the EU has a central role to play. This was the clear and united position of EU Foreign Ministers when we discussed the crisis on 23 March via video-link.

“It is sometimes said that wars are won not by tactics or even strategy, but by logistics and communications. This seems true for COVID-19 as well: whoever is best at organising the response, quickly drawing on lessons learnt from around the world and communicating successfully towards citizens and the wider world, will come out strongest.

“There is a global battle of narratives going on in which timing is a crucial factor. In January, the dominant framing was of this being a local crisis in Hubei province, aggravated by the cover up of crucial information by Chinese party officials. Europe was sending a lot of medical equipment to help Chinese authorities that were overwhelmed at the time. Since then, China has brought down local new infections to single figures – and it is now sending equipment and doctors to Europe, as others do as well. China is aggressively pushing the message that, unlike the US, it is a responsible and reliable partner. In the battle of narratives we have also seen attempts to discredit the EU as such and some instances where Europeans have been stigmatised as if all were carriers of the virus.

“The point for Europe is this: we can be sure that perceptions will change again as the outbreak and our response to it evolves. But we must be aware there is a geo-political component including a struggle for influence through spinning and the ‘politics of generosity’. Armed with facts, we need to defend Europe against its detractors.

“There is also a battle of narratives within Europe. It is vital that the EU shows it is a Union that protects and that solidarity is not an empty phrase. After the first wave in which national authorities took centre stage, now the EU is coming to the fore with joint actions on all tracks where member states have empowered it to act: with joint procurement of vital medical equipment, with a joint economic stimulus and a necessary relaxation of fiscal and state aid rules.

“In addition, the EU’s role contains a big external component. We are assisting member states with their consular efforts, helping to bring stranded Europeans back home. For example, in the past week, joint efforts in Morocco enabled the repatriation of around 30.000 EU citizens. This shows that we can deliver together.

“Much more remains to be done. Worldwide, around 100,000 European travellers have registered at local embassies or consulates but the true figure of those that need to come home lies much higher.

“A global pandemic needs global solutions and the EU has to be at the centre of the fight. I am in touch with partners around the world, from Asia, Latin America and Africa, to help build a coordinated international response. In a crisis, the human instinct is often to turn inwards, to close borders and fend for yourself. While understandable, this stance is self-defeating. The COVID-19 emergency cannot be solved within one country, or by going it alone. Doing so simply means all of us will struggle longer, with higher human and economic costs.

“What we should work for instead is a radical scaling up of international cooperation among scientists, economists and policy-makers. At the UN, the WHO and the IMF. Within the G7 and G20 and other international fora. Pooling resources to work on treatments and a vaccine. Limiting the economic damage by coordinating fiscal and monetary stimulus measures and keeping trade in goods open. Collaborating on re-opening borders when scientists tell us that we can. And fighting on-line disinformation campaigns. This is a time for solidarity and cooperation, not blame games which will not heal a single infected person.

“While the needs are great at home, the EU should also be ready to assist others in fragile situations who risk being overwhelmed. Just think of the refugee camps in Syria and what would happen if COVID19 broke out there to people who have already suffered so much. In this respect Africa is a major concern. With Ebola it may have built more recent experience with handling pandemics than Europe, but health systems overall are very weak and a full outbreak would wreak havoc. Social distancing and living in confinement is exponentially more difficult in densely populated urban areas of Africa. Millions in Africa make their living in the informal economy and will have to handle the outbreak without any social safety net. Even before the virus has hit the continent, Africans, with other emerging economies, have to deal with a massive level of capital withdrawal.

“Elsewhere countries like Venezuela or Iran may well collapse without our support. This means we should ensure they have access to IMF assistance. And with Iran, we need to make sure that legitimate humanitarian trade can proceed despite US sanctions.

“We should also remember that none of the other problems that we focused on before the corona-crisis, has gone away. In fact, they may get worse. COVID-19 may well deepen some of the longer running conflicts in the neighbourhood. As Europe we already had to navigate a world of growing geo-political tensions, especially between the US and China. Here too, the risk is that COVID-19 will compound pre-existing trends.

“Overall the task for the EU is to defy the critics and demonstrate in very concrete terms that it is effective and responsible in times of crisis. Jean Monnet wrote in his memoirs that “Europe will be forged in crises, and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crises.” Let that be our guiding philosophy as we battle this crisis and prepare for what comes after.”

Eastern Partnership objectives

“Today, the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy have put forward a proposal for the long-term policy objectives of the Eastern Partnership beyond 2020. These aim at increasing trade, strengthening connectivity and deepening economic integration with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, strengthening democratic institutions, the rule of law, environmental and climate resilience, supporting the digital transformation, and promoting fair and inclusive societies. (Image: archive).

“Our neighbours’ strength is also the European Union’s strength; the Eastern Partnership remains a crucial element of the EU’s foreign policy. Our proposals will further strengthen our six partner countries, reflecting the priorities and challenges that we share, while maintaining the emphasis on delivering tangible, positive results for all citizens” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said.

“We are sending a very clear message to our Eastern partner countries: we will help you to build strong economies and to create growth and jobs by attracting foreign direct investment and by strengthening connectivity in key sectors, such as transport, energy and environment. We will work closely together to address today’s challenges across the board, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic” Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi said.

“Building on the achievements of the Partnership in the first 10 years, today’s proposal outlines how the EU will work together with the partner countries to tackle common challenges and strengthen their resilience in the light of today’s challenges as an overriding policy objective beyond 2020. In doing so, work between the EU and partners will continue on new policy priorities to support the ecological transformation, the digital transformation and to deliver on economies that work for all, in particular more job opportunities for youth and to promote gender equality.”

https://twitter.com/eu_commission/status/1240260323606757376?s=21

Sassoli: lack of coordination in face of COVID19

“Europe is correcting the selfishness and lack of coordination between national governments in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. Today the extraordinary meeting of the European Council gave the green light to the Commission’s proposals, also indicated by the European Parliament, to tackle the spread of the virus and help countries in need. Savid Sassoli, the president of the European Parliament, expressed himself in a Delcaration.

“Finally, we are showing a real sense of solidarity: preferential lanes for the passage of medical equipment, defending the free movement of goods in the EU, and the first important economic support for our families and businesses. A united Europe, willing and ready to act, is finally on the field to tackle this dramatic challenge. We are a European family – nobody will be left alone and nobody will have to act alone. The European Parliament is ready to do its part to protect the lives and livelihoods of all our people. We will not give up living as Europeans.”

EU condemns Russia EED limitations

“The decision by the Russian authorities to include the European Endowment for Democracy (EED) on their list of “undesirable organisations” is unacceptable” reads the statement of the European External Action Service spokesperson.

“The EED is a values-based organisation. It represents tenets and principles that are shared by the EU, its Member States, and by many other countries around the world.

“We urge the relevant Russian authorities to reconsider their decision, and withdraw the European Endowment for Democracy from the list of “undesirable organisations”.

“The EU has repeatedly condemned the Russian legislation on “undesirable organisations” and “foreign agents”. Both laws contribute to restricting civil society, independent media and political opposition, and have a negative impact on the work of civil society in Russia.

“Democracy is a universal value that includes respect for human rights as enshrined in international law”, the statement of the EU diplomat concludes.

Image: Moscow, Russia

Crimeans denounce EU «hypocrisy»

The speaker of the Crimean parliament, Vladimir Konstantinov, defined the position of the European Union, which continues to refuse to recognize the Russian status of Crimea as “hypocrisy“.

Earlier, the head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrel, made a statement on the Crimea, in which he recalled that the EU does not recognize the Russian peninsula. In addition, he said, “the increasing militarization of the peninsula continues to negatively affect the security situation in the Black Sea region.”

“Any references to international law on their behalf sound hypocritical. The right to self-determination is enshrined in the UN charter, as well as in the UN Declaration on the Principles of International Law of 1970,” Konstantinov said to reporters.
According to him, Crimeans pay no more attention any longer to such statements issued by Western politicians.

Meanwhile the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on the six anniversary of Crimea Republic and Sevastopol “re-unification” with Russian Federation:

“Today we celebrate the 6th Anniversary of the 2014 referendum in Crimea: 96,77% votes were cast in favour of reunification with Russia. This historic choice of the people of Crimea must be respected; celebrated as a triumph of true democratic processes #CrimeaIsRussia” read the issued Tweet.

Crimea anniversary EU declaration

Today the Declaration was issued by the High Representative Josep Borrell-Fontelles, on behalf of the European Union, on the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (pictured) and the city of Sevastopol.
Six years on from the illegal annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol by the Russian Federation, the European Union remains steadfast in its commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The European Union reiterates that it does not recognise and continues to condemn this violation of international law. It remains a direct challenge to international security, with grave implications for the international legal order that protects the territorial integrity, unity and sovereignty of all States.

“The European Union remains committed to fully implementing its non-recognition policy, including through restrictive measures. The European Union calls again on UN Member States to consider similar non-recognition measures in line with the UN General Assembly Resolution 68/262. The European Union does not and will not recognise the holding of elections by the Russian Federation in the Crimean peninsula.

“The increasing militarisation of the peninsula continues to negatively impact the security situation in the Black Sea region. In violation of international humanitarian law, Russian citizenship and conscription in the armed forces of the Russian Federation have been imposed on Crimean residents. The unjustified use of force by Russia against Ukraine on 25 November 2018 is a reminder of the negative effects of the illegal annexation on regional stability. The return of the illegally-captured Ukrainian servicemen and vessels, as requested by the Order of the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea and called by the EU, was long overdue when it eventually took place in the second half of 2019.

“The European Union condemns the construction of the Kerch Bridge without Ukraine’s consent and the recent opening of a railway section. These are yet further steps towards a forced integration of the illegally-annexed peninsula with Russia, and a further violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The EU expects Russia to ensure unhindered and free passage of all ships through the Kerch Strait to and from the Azov Sea, in accordance with international law. The illegal restrictions to such passage are still ongoing and have negative economic consequences for Ukraine’s ports in the Azov Sea and the whole region.

“Since the illegal annexation by the Russian Federation, the human rights situation in the Crimean peninsula has significantly deteriorated. Residents of the peninsula face systematic restrictions of fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression, religion or belief and association and the right to peaceful assembly. In accordance with UN General Assembly resolution 74/168 of 18 December 2019, it is crucial that the regional and international human rights monitoring mechanisms as well as the non-governmental human rights organisations have unimpeded access to Crimea and Sevastopol.

“The rights of the Crimean Tatars have been gravely violated through the shutting down of Crimean Tatar media outlets, and the banning of the activities of the Mejlis, their self-governing body, and the persecution of its leaders and members of their community. The EU expects Russia to reverse these decisions and to end the pressure on the Crimean Tatar community. Crimean Tatars, Ukrainians and all ethnic and religious communities in the peninsula must be ensured the possibility to maintain and develop their culture, education, identity and cultural heritage traditions, which are currently threatened by the illegal annexation.

“Furthermore, Russian Federation should stop changing the demographic structure of the population by transferring its own civilian population to the peninsula. Russia must also take measures to improve the environmental situation, which has considerably worsened since the illegal annexation.

“The EU reiterates its call for the immediate release of Emir-Usein Kuku and his five co-defendants, Oleh Prykhodko and all others who have been detained in the Crimean peninsula and sentenced in breach of international law. The EU calls for full compliance with international human rights standards in the peninsula. Journalists, human rights defenders and defence lawyers should be able to work independently and without undue interference and intimidation. All pending cases of human rights violations and abuses, such as enforced disappearances, torture and killings, violence, politically motivated prosecutions, discrimination and harassment should be thoroughly investigated. Full, free and unrestricted access for international human rights actors to the whole territory of Ukraine, including Crimea and Sevastopol, continues to be paramount. The EU recalls UNGA Resolution 74/168 of 19 December 2019, and calls for its full implementation, including the Russian Federation’s obligations under applicable international humanitarian law.”

Illustration: Crimea, Livadia Palace

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