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Review: RULE Of LAW culture in EU

Brussels, 30 September 2020 The European Commission has today published the first EU-wide report on the rule of law. Today’s report includes input from every Member State and covers both positive and negative developments across the EU. It shows that many Member States have high rule of law standards, but important challenges to the rule of law exist in the EU. It also reflects relevant developments stemming from the emergency measures taken by Member States due to the coronavirus crisis. The report covers four main pillars with a strong bearing on the rule of law: national justice systems, anti-corruption frameworks, media pluralism and freedom, and other institutional issues related to the checks and balances essential to an effective system of democratic governance.

The aim of the new Rule of Law Report is to enlarge the existing EU toolbox with a new preventive tool and kick-start an inclusive debate and rule of law culture across the EU. It should help all Member States examine how challenges can be addressed, how they can learn from each other’s experiences, and show how the rule of law can be further strengthened in full respect of national constitutional systems and traditions.

“The rule of law and our shared values are the foundation of our societies. They are part of our common identity as Europeans. The rule of law protects people from the rule of the powerful. While we have very high rule of law standards in the EU, we also have various challenges. The European Commission will continue working with the national authorities to find solutions, to guarantee people’s everyday rights and freedoms,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

“Today we are filling an important gap in our rule of law toolbox. The new report for the first time looks at all Member States equally to identify rule of law trends and help to prevent serious problems from arising. Each citizen deserves to have access to independent judges, to benefit from free and pluralistic media and to trust that their fundamental rights are respected. Only then, can we call ourselves a true Union of democracies,” Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová, said.

“The new Rule of Law Report is the start of an open and regular dialogue with every Member State, a way in which we can share good practices and pre-empt challenges before they become entrenched. The goal is to instil a real rule of law culture across the European Union, and trigger a genuine debate at national and EU level,” Commissioner for Justice and Consumers, Didier Reynders, said.

#EUCO: Michel invites to Summit

The president of the EU Council Charles Michel has issued the invitation letter to the head of states and governments ahead of their meeting on 1-2 October 2020. (Image above: archive).

“Our special meeting on Thursday and Friday will primarily focus on Europe’s place in the world and our capacity to shape our own destiny.

“Our meeting will start on Thursday at 15.00 with the traditional exchange of views with the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli. We will then use our first working session for a debate on EU-China relations, following the EU-China leaders’ meeting via video conference on 14 September. We want to work with China on tackling major global challenges such as the COVID 19 pandemic and climate change. We also want to insist on a more balanced and reciprocal economic relationship, ensuring a level playing field. And we will continue to promote our values and standards.

“At the end of the session, we will discuss current issues requiring our attention, namely the situation in Belarus, the poisoning of Alexei Navalny and the Nagorno-Karabakh escalation.

“The dinner will be entirely devoted to the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and our relations with Turkey. Our objective is to create a space for a constructive dialogue with Turkey to achieve stability and security in the whole region, and to ensure full respect for the sovereignty and sovereign rights of all EU Member States. This will only be possible if Turkey engages constructively. All options remain on the table to defend the legitimate interests of the EU and its Member States. The EU can only be strong on the international stage if it has a resilient and innovative economic base.

COVID-19 has undoubtedly revealed some of the EU’s weaknesses. But I believe we should turn this into an opportunity, critically assessing together how to make the EU more resilient. Crucially, I would like us to discuss how we can best enhance the EU’s strategic autonomy alongside an open and competitive social market economy. Against this backdrop, we will have an in-depth discussion on Friday morning on unlocking the full potential of the Single Market, developing an ambitious industrial policy and exploiting the opportunities offered by the latest digital developments. The exceptional recovery package, adopted in July, will help transform our economies and, along with the Green and Digital transitions, will support us achieve these ambitions. At the end of the meeting, we will provide a brief update on negotiations with the United Kingdom”.

 

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”.

Brussels hosts Europarl October plenary

The president of the European Parliament David Sassoli issued a communication to attention of the Members of the European, informing them about next Plenary taking place in Brussels instead of Strasbourg as a result of the sanitary situation in Grand Est region of France. (Image above: European Parliament, Strasbourg)
Unfortunately, the health situation prevents us from going to Strasbourg for the first plenary session in October. We hope that everything will change soon and that we can return to our city
The novel coronavirus COVID-19 continues to spread in Europe and across the world”  Sassoli wrote on his Twitter micro blog.

On September 10, 2020, the Conference of Presidents debated the consequences of the pandemic and came to the conclusion that Parliament will again hold its sessions in Strasbourg as soon as conditions allow. In close collaboration with the French authorities, we continue to closely monitor the evolution of COVID-19″ the text of the communication reads.

“Unfortunately, given the recent increase in the rate of transmission of the virus in France, including in the Bas-Rhin department, and for the sake of public health, we must reconsider the displacement of Members and employees in the European Parliament, a few days of the first parliamentary session in October.

“Strasbourg, seat of the European Parliament, is very close to our hearts. Beyond the legal obligation to hold the sessions there, it is our most sincere wish to find this city which embodies the reconciliation of European countries better than any other.

“I would like to thank the French authorities and the City of Strasbourg for their support and the close collaboration implemented since the start of the pandemic and I sincerely hope that we will be able to go there again soon”.

“The session of the European Parliament from 5 to 8 October will be held in Brussels”.
Image below: European Parliament, Brussels.

WOLF: Swiss victory of biodiversity

More than half of Swiss voters (51.9%) have rejected changes to the hunting laws, proposed by the Parliament. The regulation of the wolf population as protected species, has been in the focus. (Image: @nywolforg courtesy).

The outcome clearly demonstrated that the Swiss wish to strengthen and not weaken species protection, pointed out Gabor von Bethlenfalvy, large carnivore specialist at WWF Switzerland, in a press release on Sunday, September 27.

He added that by saying no to the revised law, voters were saying yes to a compromise between hunting, regulation and protection. His group was one of many conservation and animal welfare groups to launch the referendum challenging Swiss lawmakers’ revisions to the law.

“Now parliament gets the chance to draft a progressive hunting and protection law that will continue to protect threatened animals such as lynx and beavers and not put them under even greater pressure,” von Bethlenfalvy underlined.

“With this decision, the voters have missed the opportunity to strengthen animal and species protection and to set clear rules for the coexistence of wolves and farm animals,” stated the Swiss farmers’ and hunters’ associations and the committee for mountain regions in a joint press release.

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.

Wolf: Swiss referendum

“To kill or not to kill?” That is the questions the Suisse will answer tomorrow in a referendum on hunting.
If the law is revised in the terms proposed by the Swiss Parliament, the cantons, which today can only authorise shooting at a wolf in the event of ‘significant damage’, will now be able to act in a preventive manner.

If the Swiss accept the revision of the law, the gamekeepers will be able to shoot isolated individuals who have lost their fierce character. They will be able to kill wolves living in a pack before damage occurs. however, cannot be shot if they keep away from herds and populated areas.

“The aim is to protect farm animals, farmed landscapes and human beings,” explains the committee supporting the law. They assure that the new text is more protective since “only three species can still be regulated, against nearly 300 previously: the wolf, the ibex and the mute swan”.

Why are conservationists against it?
Nature conservation associations, including Pro Natura, WWF Switzerland, BirdLife Switzerland, Zoosuisse and the Loup Suisse group, opposed the reform and obtained this referendum. According to the Swiss Greens, “it would then be possible to shoot protected animals when there is only a probability that they will cause damage and not in the event of actual damage, which removes any incentive to take preventive measures to protect the herds “.
Environmentalists believe that “preventive measures – not ‘preventive fire’, such as supporting herd protection, should be stepped up to avoid conflict with predators.”

On this side of the border too, the revision of the law is the subject of debate. It must be said that wild animals in general and wolves in particular do not care about the demarcation lines drawn by men.

Wildlife photographer from Haut-Doubs now living in Switzerland, Alain Prêtre denounces, for example, “a law of slaughter” which threatens both the lynx and the ibex.

Twenty-five years after his official return to Switzerland, the wolf has settled down for a long time. On September 27, 2020, the Swiss population is called upon to vote on the revision of the hunting law, following a referendum launched by Pro Natura, WWF, Birdlife, the Swiss Wolf Group and Zoosuisse. The latter might facilitate, among other things, the conditions for regulating firing.

“It is a real disaster: the revision of the hunting law (LChP) is totally inappropriate and endangers the protection of the species as a whole”, the WWF said. “Animals like the lynx, beaver, gray heron and wolf, which have always been found in Switzerland, could be shot without ever having done any damage – simply because they exist. This is why Pro Natura, WWF Switzerland, BirdLife Switzerland, the Swiss Wolf Group and the zoos of Switzerland have launched a referendum”.

The revision of the law no longer does justice to the balanced compromise between protection, regulation and hunting, but above all proposes a unilateral change which operates to the detriment of endangered species. Protected species such as the lynx, beaver and mute swan can be placed on the list of species that can be regulated at any time, along with the wolf and ibex. Thus, these animals can be shot simply as a preventive measure, that is to say without even damage being attributable to them. With this new law, it is no longer mandatory to take precautionary measures (such as protecting herds in areas where wolves live), before having the right to slaughter animals. Many protected species are likely to come into conflict with certain human interests and therefore constitute potential candidates for the list of species that can be regulated.

Dealing with such conflicts of interest between conservation of species and interests of use is a delicate business. This new law is in no way fair to face this challenge. It serves a unilateral interest: during the revision of the law, the positive impact of protected species on the ecosystem was completely obscured. Wolves and lynxes, for example, improve the health of wildlife, and grazing damage in nurseries has also decreased. In addition, these species offer new prospects for tourism.

In short, this new law poses a fundamental societal question: how much space are we prepared to give nature?
The vote of May 17, 2020 has been postponed, the new date is September 27, 2020 due to the pandemic restrictions.

EU celebrates language day

The European Parliament is organising an Online Multilingualism Day to celebrate one of the EU’s core values that ensures Parliament is accessible and transparent, with 24 official languages, there are 552 possible language combinations at the European Parliament.

This is the fourth edition of Multilingualism Day, celebrated for the first time at the European Parliament on 30 September 2017. The event coincides with the European Day of Languages on 26 September and the International Translation Day on 30 September.

Multilingualism is one of the European Union’s core values, ensuring that all EU citizens can follow the work of their democratic representatives in any of the EU’s official languages.

The Multilingualism Day will close with a live panel from the Brussels plenary chamber discussing what it takes to make multilingualism a reality.

Multilingualism remains a sensitive issue for the bloc: French journalists covering the European Union affairs have complained to the civil servants about the increasing use of the language of Shakespeare’s in their communication which they presume gives a “competitive advantage” to the anglophone press.

The French section of the Association of European Journalists reminded Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel in a letter dated September 23 that the use of several European languages in the communication of any EU institution is a legal obligation enshrined in founding treaties.

Taking as an example the EU’s proposed Migration Pact unveiled earlier this week, they complained that all communication about it was only released in English.

“No version in any other working language (French or German) was available, more than two hours after the official communication. At the end of the day, only the two-page press release was available in French. This is out of proportion with the constraints of speed inherent to the journalism profession,” they wrote.

“This seems all the more unacceptable to us since this is not an isolated case, but a repeated practice, now almost systematic, especially since your arrival as head of the European Commission,” they added.

They argued that the increasing practice of communicating in only one language makes disinformation easier and that other countries including Russia, China and the US regularly makes official documents available in other languages including French, Spanish and German.

At present English remains the most rapidly growing language with average 15 new words a day, mainly in IT terms. The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use (and 47,156 obsolete words).

However the EU language palette includes not only European languages:the Maltese is descended from Siculo-Arabic, a Semitic language within the Afroasiatic family,that in the course of its history has been influenced by Sicilian and Italian, to a lesser extent French, and more recently English. Today, the core vocabulary is Semitic, with large numbers of loanword, because of the Sicilian influence on Siculo-Arabic, Maltese has many language contact features and is most commonly described as a language with a large number of loanwords.
It is also the only language of Arabic origin that is written in the Latin alphabet. Although Maltese and English are both official languages, Maltese has been recognised as an official language of the European Union when Malta became a member state on 1 May 2004. Around 400 000 people speak Maltese nowadays.

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