Tag Archives: Margaritis Schinas

EU diplomacy focus on Belarus

Brussels 15.11.2021 “First, we are going to have the Foreign Affairs Council. After [this] we are going to have the meeting with the Ministers of the Eastern Partnership. And after this, we will have the Jumbo meeting with Foreign and Defense Ministers to start talking about the Strategic Compass” said the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell at doorstep of the meeting of the ministers in Brussels.(Image: Europa building, archive)

“On the Foreign Affairs Ministers Council: we are going to review the whole set of problems starting certainly with the situation in Belarus. Yesterday, I had phone calls with my Polish [Minister of Foreign Affairs, Zbigniew Rau], Lithuanian [Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gabrielius Landsbergis] and Belarusian Minister [Vladimir Makei] also with the Secretary General of the United Nations [António Guterres] in order to prepare the meeting. We had the opportunity to share with the Secretary General of the United Nations how things are going on the ground. I talked to the Belarussian Minister to tell him that the situation was totally unacceptable that humanitarian help has to be provided. And that we have to think about how we can solve the problem starting by stopping the [migration] flow. Stopping the flights. This is almost done.

“During these days we have been talking with countries of origin and transit. My colleague [Vice-President Margaritis] Schinas is in Bagdad. And I think that from my point of view, the inflow of things are becoming under control. But we have to provide humanitarian assistance to these people and to prevent any kind of hybrid attack against the European Union border. This is something that will take an important part of our meeting.

“But there are many other issues. The situation in the Western Balkans, in particular in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where there are tendencies which are undermining the unity of the country and hampering its development, and its way towards the European Union. The dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina also. And in general, the situation in the Balkans, which is not especially good.

“The Sahel will also be part of our work today. Last night, there was another attack in Burkina Faso. 20 more people dead, killed. Our security starts in the Sahel and we had to engage more with the region.

“We will talk also about the situation in Varosha, in Cyprus, in Syria; but mainly in Sudan and Ethiopia. We have to try to avoid [an] implosion of the country. The situation in Ethiopia is becoming worse by every moment and we will try to avoid the implosion of the country”.

Commissioner Schinas fight against antisemitism

Strasbourg 06.10.2021 “I am not breaking any news when I say that antisemitism and Holocaust are a stain in Europe’s history. It is the darkest chapter in our history book. Other than the historical reasons, there is an increasing and worrying tendency of anti-Semitic attacks and sentiments across the EU” said the Commissioner Margaritis Schinas, coordinating the Commission’s work on a New Pact on Migration and Asylum, while addressing press in European Parliament, Strasbourg.

“Two years ago, on 9 October 2019, a gunman tried to enter the synagogue in Halle, Germany, during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur – their holiest day of the year. After failing to breach the security door to the building – with 51 people inside at the time – he opened fire in the streets, fatally shooting two of our fellow citizens.

“It was not the only attack. We had previous attacks in Paris, Copenhagen, and in Brussels in the Jewish Museum.

“Antisemitism continues not only to be a burden of the past, but also a present, dreadful threat in today’s Europe.

“The Commission vowed at that moment to act. And today’s strategy is the first ever of its kind to deliver a clear commitment and comprehensive response in our fight against antisemitism.

“Last year marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, where I represented the Commission together with Vice-President Věra Jourová.

“One of the things we took away from this anniversary is that we have now: fewer and fewer survivors remaining amongst us. We cannot have the people who went through these horrors to share their first-hand accounts of the Holocaust.

“I am myself native of the city of Thessaloniki, where I grew up. It was “madre de Israel”, which was the biggest Jewish community in Europe with over 50,000 Sephardic Jews that were all murdered by Nazi troops, most of them in Auschwitz by the way.

“Preserving their legacy, ensuring that their stories remain alive and are accurately retold, finding new forms of remembrance is a responsibility that our generation now has to live up to – and a key component of this strategy.

“We also saw during the Covid-19 pandemic and successive confinements a resurgence of centuries-old conspiracy myths fuelling new forms of antisemitism online and an explosion of antisemitic online content: only in French language we have a seven-fold increase in antisemitic postings on social media accounts, and over a thirteen-fold increase in German language accounts.
“Beyond the online realities, our own research, mainly through Eurobarometer and the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, shows even more worrying trends with nine out of ten Jews considering that antisemitism has increased in their country.

“Very worryingly 38% have considered emigrating because they do not feel safe as Jews in today’s European Union. All these are factors, elements and root causes that compel us to act. What we are putting today on the table in the Strategy is not only a reactive and protective shield for our Jewish communities, but it is also very proactive approach that would allow Jewish life to thrive in our societies. So it is not a defensive approach but very proactive approach to foster Jewish life in the EU.

“This response is structured around three pillars:
– Preventing and combating
– Protecting and fostering
– Educating and researching.
Let me take you very briefly into these three families of issues. I will only focus on the new things of interest.

On preventing and combating all forms of antisemitism: We aim to establish a Europe-wide network of trusted flaggers and fact-checkers, including Jewish organisations, so that we can step up the removal of illegal online hate speech and counter these narratives with effective rebuttals.

We will also cooperate with industry and IT companies to prevent the illegal displaying and selling of Nazi-related symbols, memorabilia and literature online.

On the second leg, on protecting and fostering Jewish life: I think the first priority there is the security of the Jewish communities. I do not want to see synagogues in Europe being guarded by police. We all know that most Jewish communities and civil society organisations have had to assume disproportionately themselves the costs of their own security. We are determined to assume this as a major public service initiative. We will work with Member States to improve that and will support through increased EU funding for projects aiming to better protect public spaces and places of worship. The next call for proposals will be published next year for an amount to 24 million euros.

We also want not only to protect, but to allow Jewish life to flourish as part of an inclusive and diverse EU. Despite the long-standing presence of Jews in Europe, people have remarkable little knowledge of Jewish life, traditions and Judaism. So we want to work closely with the Jewish communities to safeguard Jewish heritage, raise awareness and increase mutual understanding around Jewish life.

Finally, on educating, researching and the holocaust remembrance, which is the third key component of the strategy, we will support the training of educational professionals and policy makers on “addressing antisemitism through education. We will work much closer together with UNESCO and the OSCE to make this possible.

“We are also setting up a new network of Young European Ambassadors to promote Holocaust remembrance.

“We will support, this is another new idea, the EU funding to create a network of places “Where the Holocaust happened” in Europe. I am not referring only to the extermination camps but also to often unknown Jewish heritage sites, hiding places, or deportation points that are all over Europe and that our societies need to know of. Our aim would be to allow school students, practitioners and the general public to trace the continuity of Jewish presence in Europe over the centuries – facilitating visits, online and interactive learning.

“We also intend to invest significantly in research to fully understand contemporary antisemitism and the impact it has on Jewish life today. We have already supported the creation of the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure with 25 million euros since 2010 but now we will propose the creation of a European research hub on contemporary antisemitism and Jewish life to strengthen multidisciplinary research across the EU.

“Finally, the EU will not be alone in this effort. We shall reaffirm our ambition to take the lead in the global fight against antisemitism, by stepping up our external action with international community, UN agencies, an partners across the world

“We will do that by supporting actions aimed at combating antisemitism worldwide and our EU external funds will not be misallocated to activities that incite hatred and violence, including against Jewish people.

“We want to reach out to all citizens. Antisemitism is not a problem of the Jews, but of the problem of the antisemites.

Fighting it is a responsibility for all of us.

“I want to be very clear, antisemitism is incompatible with everything that the European Union stands for. It is incompatible with human rights, with our values and with our way of life. In this strategy today, we push for a commitment to combat it in all its forms and to ensure a future for Jewish life in Europe.

“We owe it to those who perished in the Holocaust, we owe it to the survivors and we owe it also to the future generations.

“For Jewish citizens, Europe was a place their parents and grandparents had to flee. It is our duty to ensure that for their children and grandchildren it is a place where they are proud to belong”.

“I congratulate the European Union for presenting the comprehensive strategy for combating anti-Semitism and strengthening Jewish life in Europe.
This decision reflects a commitment not only to tackling the phenomenon of ugly anti-Semitism, but also to the safety of Jewish communities” wrote Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel Jair Lapid on his Twitter micro blog, reacting upon the announcement of the European Commission.

EU New Pact on Migration & Asylum

Brussels 23.09.2020 Today, the European Commission is proposing a new Pact on Migration and Asylum, covering all of the different elements needed for a comprehensive European approach to migration. It sets out improved and faster procedures throughout the asylum and migration system. And it sets in balance the principles of fair sharing of responsibility and solidarity. This is crucial for rebuilding trust between Member States and confidence in the capacity of the European Union to manage migration.

Migration is a complex issue, with many facets that need to be weighed together. The safety of people who seek international protection or a better life, the concerns of countries at the EU’s external borders, which worry that migratory pressures will exceed their capacities and which need solidarity from others. Or the concerns of other EU Member States, which are concerned that, if procedures are not respected at the external borders, their own national systems for asylum, integration or return will not be able to cope in the event of large flows.

The current system no longer works. And for the past five years, the EU has not been able to fix it. The EU must overcome the current stalemate and rise up to the task. With the new Pact on Migration and Asylum, the Commission proposes common European solutions to a European challenge. The EU must move away from ad-hoc solutions and put in place a predictable and reliable migration management system.

Following extensive consultations and an honest and holistic assessment of the situation, the Commission proposes to improve the overall system. This includes looking at ways of improving cooperation with the countries of origin and transit, ensuring effective procedures, successful integration of refugees and return of those with no right to stay. No single solution on migration can satisfy all sides, on all aspects – but by working together, the EU can find a common solution.

“We are proposing today a European solution, to rebuild trust between Member States and to restore citizens’ confidence in our capacity to manage migration as a Union. The EU has already proven in other areas that it can take extraordinary steps to reconcile diverging perspectives. We have created a complex internal market, a common currency and an unprecedented recovery plan to rebuild our economies. It is now time to rise to the challenge to manage migration jointly, with the right balance between solidarity and responsibility” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

“Moria is a stark reminder that the clock has run out on how long we can live in a house half-built. The time has come to rally around a common, European migration policy. The Pact provides the missing pieces of the puzzle for a comprehensive approach to migration. No one Member State experiences migration in the same way and the different and unique challenges faced by all deserve to be recognised, acknowledged and addressed” Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said.

Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said: “Migration has always been and always will be part of our societies. What we are proposing today will build a long-term migration policy that can translate European values into practical management. This set of proposals will mean clear, fair and faster border procedures, so that people do not have to wait in limbo. It means enhanced cooperation with third countries for fast returns, more legal pathways and strong actions to fight human smugglers. Fundamentally it protects the right to seek asylum”.

Stronger trust fostered by better and more effective procedures

The first pillar of the Commission’s approach to building confidence consists of more efficient and faster procedures. In particular, the Commission is proposing to introduce an integrated border procedure, which for the first time includes a pre-entry screening covering identification of all people crossing the EU’s external borders without permission or having been disembarked after a search and rescue operation.

This will also entail a health and a security check, fingerprinting and registration in the Eurodac database. After the screening, individuals can be channeled to the right procedure, be it at the border for certain categories of applicants or in a normal asylum procedure. As part of this border procedure, swift decisions on asylum or return will be made, providing quick certainty for people whose cases can be examined rapidly.

At the same time, all other procedures will be improved and subject to stronger monitoring and operational support from EU agencies. The EU’s digital infrastructure for migration management will be modernised to mirror and support these procedures.

Fair sharing of responsibility and solidarity

The second pillar at the core of the Pact is fair sharing of responsibility and solidarity. Member States will be bound to act responsibly and in solidarity with one another. Each Member State, without any exception, must contribute in solidarity in times of stress, to help stabilize the overall system, support Member States under pressure and ensure that the Union fulfils its humanitarian obligations.

In respect of the different situations of Member States and of fluctuating migratory pressures, the Commission proposes a system of flexible contributions from the Member States. These can range from relocation of asylum seekers from the country of first entry to taking over responsibility for returning individuals with no right to stay or various forms of operational support.

While the new system is based on cooperation and flexible forms of support starting off on a voluntary basis, more stringent contributions will be required at times of pressure on individual Member States, based on a safety net.

The solidarity mechanism will cover various situations – including disembarkation of persons following search and rescue operations, pressure, crisis situations or other specific circumstances.

A change of paradigm in cooperation with non-EU countries

The EU will seek to promote tailor-made and mutually beneficial partnerships with third countries. These will help address shared challenges such as migrant smuggling, will help develop legal pathways and will tackle the effective implementation of readmission agreements and arrangements. The EU and its Member States will act in unity using a wide range of tools to support cooperation with third countries on readmission.

A comprehensive approach

Today’s package will also seek to boost a common EU system for returns, to make EU migration rules more credible. This will include a more effective legal framework, a stronger role of the European Border and Coast Guard, and a newly appointed EU Return Coordinator with a network of national representatives to ensure consistency across the EU.

It will also propose a common governance for migration with better strategic planning to ensure that EU and national policies are aligned, and enhanced monitoring of migration management on the ground to enhance mutual trust.

The management of external borders will be improved. The European Border and Coast Guard standing corps, scheduled for deployment from 1 January 2021, will provide increased support wherever needed.

A credible legal migration and integration policy will benefit European societies and economies. The Commission will launch Talent Partnerships with key non-EU countries that will match labour and skills needs in the EU. The Pact will strengthen resettlement and promote other complementary pathways, seeking to develop a European model of community or private sponsorship. The Commission will also adopt a new comprehensive Action Plan on integration and inclusion for 2021-2024.

Schengen area restriction prolongation

Today the Commission invited Schengen Member States and Schengen Associated States to extend the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU for another 30 days, until 15 June. While some EU and Schengen Associated States are taking preliminary steps towards easing the measures for fighting the spread of the pandemic, the situation remains fragile both in Europe and worldwide. This calls for continued measures at the external borders to reduce the risk of the disease spreading through travel to the EU. The lifting of travel restrictions should be phased: as underlined in the Joint European Roadmap on lifting containment measures, internal border controls will need to start being lifted gradually and in a coordinated manner before restrictions at the external borders can be relaxed in a second stage.

:“The overall objective of limiting the spread of coronavirus via reduced social interaction remains. Despite progress in many European countries, the situation worldwide is very fragile. It is imperative that any action taken is gradual, with different measures being lifted in different phases” Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said.

“We need a phased and coordinated approach. Restoring the normal functioning of the Schengen area of free movement is our first objective as soon as the health situation allows it. Restrictions on free movement and internal border controls will need to be lifted gradually before we can remove restrictions at the external borders and guarantee access to the EU for non-EU residents for non-essential travel” Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson underlined.

The travel restriction, as well as the invitation to extend it, applies to the ‘EU+ area’, which includes all Schengen Member States (including Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania) and the 4 Schengen Associated States (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) – 30 countries in total. The Commission calls for a continued coordinated approach to the prolongation, as action at the external borders can only be effective if implemented by all EU and Schengen States at all borders, with the same end date and in a uniform manner.

The Commission will continue to assist Member States in implementing the restriction on non-essential travel to the EU, including through regular videoconference meetings with Home Affairs Ministers. Any further prolongation of the travel restriction beyond 15 June 2020 would need to be assessed again, based on the evolution of the epidemiological situation.

The Commission invited Heads of State or Government on 16 March 2020 to introduce a temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU for an initial period of 30 days. On 8 April, the Commission called for prolonging the travel restriction until 15 May. All EU Member States (except Ireland) and non-EU Schengen countries have since taken national decisions to implement and prolong this travel restriction.

To assist Member States, the Commission presented on 30 March 2020 guidance on how to implement the temporary travel restriction, facilitate repatriations from across the world, and deal with those compelled to stay in the EU longer than they are authorised to as a result of travel restrictions.

The travel restriction does not apply to EU citizens, citizens of non-EU Schengen countries and their family members, and non-EU nationals who are long-term residents in the EU for the purpose of returning home. In addition, to limit to the minimum the impact of the restriction on the functioning of our societies, Member States should not apply the restrictions to specific categories of travellers with an essential function or need. Essential staff, such as doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, researchers and experts helping to cope with the coronavirus, as well as persons carrying goods, frontier workers and seasonal agricultural workers, should also continue to be allowed to enter the EU.

Brexit deal deadlocked

Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland Leo Varadkar said he believes the European Union will strike a deal with Britain to smooth its exit from the bloc, even as Dublin continues its preparations for all outcomes, including a no deal.

As things stand, the UK will leave the EU on March 29, six weeks from now, with or without an agreement. I believe we will strike a deal,” Varadkar said in a speech on January 13.

Meanwhile the European Commission press person said Britain has not requested a Brexit delay and that any such extension of negotiating time before the divorce could not be open-ended but leading to a concrete result.

During a regular news midday briefing in Brussels, Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas explained an extension of the Article 50 exit process, should  be approved unanimously by all the other 27 EU member states to be granted.

However Schinas underlined that such a request of extension of the deadline has not been received yet.

The EU top negotiator Michel Barnier made a remark on his determination to keep Brexit transparent.