Tag Archives: Mediterranean

COVI19: Italian military to control migrants

The Italian government will send soldiers to Sicily to stop recently arrived migrants leaving holding centers after a raft of breakouts in recent days, including some by people who had been quarantined to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The government ensured citizens and toursists none of the escapees had tested positive for the virus and that most had been caught soon after breaking out of the facilities.

But the breakouts are adding to unease over rising numbers of migrants who have made their way across the Mediterranean in recent weeks. Italy largely tamed the virus after one of the longest and strictest lockdowns among Western countries. Everyday life is returning to something approaching normalcy. A requirement to wear masks in enclosed places is one of the few hints the virus is still circulating.

So far in July, 5,583 migrants have arrived in Italy, almost five times as in the same month last year, though fewer than in the crush who came during the height of the European migrant crisis. So far this year, around 12,500 have arrived, compared with about 180,000 who came in 2016 alone.

The government now plans to make it all but impossible for new migrants to break free from their initial quarantine by confining them for two weeks on a large ship that will lie off the southern coast of Sicily before transferring them to migrant centers on land. It isn’t yet clear when the ship will be in place and, meanwhile, migrants centers have filled beyond their capacity in recent days. Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese has promised to transfer 500 migrants from Sicily to other parts of Italy by July 28.

The government has assigned soldiers to prevent migrants leaving the holding centers. The first soldiers were due to arrive in the area on Tuesday and their numbers will eventually reach about 400, according to an Interior Ministry official.

Italy eventually slowed the initial flow of migrants by striking an agreement with authorities in Libya, the main point of departure, to fund and train the Libyan coast guard along with the European Union.

From January to July this year, 4,537 Tunisians reached Italy, more than five times the number by the same timline last year.

Mavrides MEP criticises EU-Turkey ‘engagment’ policy

After MEP Costas MAVRIDES speech criticizing the EU policy towards Turkey Anna van Densky interviewed him on perspectives of the Turkey membership in the EU, candidate country status, mounting tensions around drilling for oil and gas in Cypriot waters, breaches of human rights, and possible sanctions.

In the interview Mr. MAVRIDES underlined that regarding Turkish action in the Mediterranean it was announced that from the beginning of September they will start exploration from the ships, going beyond the Greek Islands Crete, Kasos, Karpathos, but also the first time Greece made it clear that this will not be accepted. Otherwise, we have some clear indications of de-escalation, or we are at brink of a conflict, Mr.Mavrides said.

The EU demands the respect of the international and European law, but the EU top diplomat Mr.Borrell talks about “dialog”, “breaching of our differences”, or our disputes regarding energy, reminding a tragic lesson of history, the appeasement policy which was used in 1937 to 1940 against Nazi Germany, when it was officially declared an international policy that giving concessions to Nazi will save world from total war, and the humanity paid highest price for this mistake, MEP continued.

Today the EU diplomacy does not call it “appeasement” policy, but “engagement” policy, but it follows the same steps, Mr.Mavrides pointed out. Unless the EU will form the European geopolitical strategy specifically oriented towards common defense, especially vis-à-vis Turkey, the worst scenario may repeat itself. And then Europeans will pay much heavier price, and as the supporters of the appeasement policy were condemned by history, the similar way some of nowadays politicians will be ashamed of what they say today, Mr.Mavrides warns. “The sooner we face up to the reality and defend our values as European Union having common defense, common sanctions, arms embargo, the sooner we do it, better we help people in Turkey and better we help ourselves” – Mr.Mavrides concluded. MEP MAVRIDES Chairs the Political Committee of the European Parliament (2019 – 2024) for the Mediterranean, he is member Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in Europarl and Democratic party of Cyprus.

EU-Turkey relations «under strain»

«…On Turkey we had a long and interesting debate. At the end of it, I presented my conclusions, which were approved by the Council members. It is my conclusions that will conduct and drive my future actions as High Representative/Vice-President of the Commission » said the EU top diplomat Josep Borrel during the press-conference after the Council of the Foreign affairs ministers.

«We reiterated that we see Turkey as an important country for the European Union with whom we would [wish] to see our relations strengthened and developing. This should be done in respect of EU values, principles and interests.

«There was a consensus among Member States that the EU-Turkey relations are currently under continuous strain. There are worrying developments, in particular in the Eastern Mediterranean and regarding Libya that affect directly our interests. Thus, several serious issues must be addressed by Turkey in order to change the current confrontational dynamic and create an environment of trust with Turkey, which everybody wishes.

«But, we stress also that Turkey’s unilateral actions, in particular in the Eastern Mediterranean, which run counter to EU interests, to the sovereign rights of EU Member States and to international law, must come to an end.

«We recalled the previous Conclusions of the Council of 15 July 2019 on illegal Turkish drilling activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus and the 15 May 2020 Statement on the Eastern Mediterranean and reiterated that the situation that we were confronted [with] at the EU borders in early March 2020 must not be repeated.

«We also agreed to call on Turkey to contribute actively to a political solution in Libya and to respect the commitments it has taken in the framework of the Berlin process, including the United Nations arms embargo.

«We are doing our part – the European Member States are doing their part, in particular through Operation Irini, which provides a key contribution to ensure the respect of the arms embargo by all actors. We will consider ways to ensure the full effectiveness of the operation, with the aim of preventing escalation on the ground.

«An important issue was about Hagia Sophia. The Council has condemned the Turkish decision to convert such an emblematic monument as Hagia Sophia back to a mosque. This decision will inevitably fuel mistrust, promote renewed divisions between religious communities and undermine our efforts at dialogue and cooperation. There was broad support to call on the Turkish authorities to urgently reconsider and reverse this decision.

«All in all, the final conclusion is that there was clearly a broad support for me to explore further paths that could contribute to lowering tensions and reach understandings on issues that are increasingly stressing the relations between Turkey and the European Union.

«Also, I will prepare options on further appropriate measures that could be taken in response to the challenges we are facing as a result of Turkish actions, including in the Eastern Mediterranean. In the meantime, work will also continue on additional listings within the existing sanctions framework as requested by Cyprus.

«I agreed to report back to the [Foreign Affairs] Ministers at the informal meeting at the end of August, which will also have Turkey on its agenda.

Sanctions are always an instrument to achieve a goal, but they are not a policy in themselves. The Council [of Foreign Affairs] considered that there are Council conclusions on illegal Turkish drillings and, at the same time, expressed their will to defuse tensions and make clear that Member States’ sovereignty and sovereignty rights should be respected in accordance with these Council conclusions and international law.

One thing is dialogue and another thing are negotiations. The Council expressed a broad support –I want to be very much precise with the wording I am going to use- to explore further paths that could contribute to lowering tensions and reach understandings on issues that are increasingly stressing the relationship. It is a way of offering to continue exploring ways of reaching understandings.

But, at the same time, the Council has also asked that options have to be prepared on measures that could be taken in response to the challenges we are facing. For sure, there are Council conclusions and on the implementation of these Council conclusions technical work will continue at the technical level on additional listings within the existing sanctions framework as requested by Cyprus”.

Responding to the questions of the international press Josep Borrell added: “We do not want to anticipate a situation in which we could have an increase of tensions. The wording I used is absolutely clear and it is a general answer to all these kind of questions. We are going to explore further paths that could contribute to lower tensions. For sure drillings in Greek waters disputed by Turkey would be something that could increase tensions. At the same time, we will prepare options and further appropriate measures that could be taken in response to the challenges that we are facing as a result of Turkey’s actions.

Borrell visits Malta over migration

This visit is one of the very first visits after the lockdown and it carries a strong message of European Union solidarity with respect to Malta. We are facing major challenges in our Southern neighbourhood” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said, while visiting Valletta.

“We discussed all of them today: Libya, Syria, Middle East, the Middle East Peace Process and the migration flows, of course. We have been talking almost every day over the last few months with the Minister because you were worried and asking for the European Union’s intervention in order to deal with migration problems”.

«…On migration, Malta has been facing a huge pressure. We fully share Malta’s determination to address irregular migration in a comprehensive way, starting by addressing the crisis in Libya and supporting the Libyan authorities»

«Libya remains the largest beneficiary in North Africa under the European Union [Emergency] Trust Fund [for Africa]. We, Europeans, are contributing a lot for the population in Libya. We will continue supporting them and also the Libyan Coastguard in order to strengthen their capacity of intervention to dismantle trafficking networks and conduct rescue operations in their area of responsibility. This is done through our two CSDP missions and operations: Operation Irini (link is external) – recently launched – and EUBAM Libya. But the Minister explained me that we really have to increase the capacities of the Libyan Coastguard. But of course we also need a long-term solution in Libya and Malta is at the forefront when it comes to these efforts.

«We talked also with Prime Minister Abela about his meeting with Prime Minister [of Libya, Fayez] al-Sarraj. We have a common objective: a united and stable Libya. We need to work together in the framework of the European Union. The Berlin process remains the only international framework to relaunch a political dialogue on Libya.

«I am also glad that just yesterday Malta reached a deal with other Member States to relocate an important number of migrants with the coordination and help of the European Commission. We will continue encouraging Member States to show solidarity towards other Member States when rescued persons are disembarked.

«Malta is not alone, Malta’s challenges are also the European Union’s challenges and I am here to show that we will continue to work together to address all of them in the short-term and looking also for structural solutions in the middle and long-term».

Turkey neo-Sultan «Sword-law»

Costas MAVRIDES OPINION In modern neo-Ottoman Turkey, there is a hysteria for new conquests, while disrespecting of international law and fundamental ethics. On a daily basis, actions and statements of Turkish officials (from Erdogan and his ministers) are made with complete contempt for International and EU Law, while different voices are silenced or persecuted.

Such a different voice is one by Burak Bekdil, a well known journalist who was fired from Turkey’s leading newspaper after 29 years, for writing at “Gatestone” about what is taking place in Turkey! In his latest article at Gatestone (“Turkey: Erdoğan Wishes “Many More Happy Conquests”), Bekdil focused on the hypocrisy and arrogance of modern Turkey on the occasion of the celebrations of the fall of Constantinople, during which President Erdogan referred to, not only to the past conquests, but to the “many more happy conquests” in the future. The question posed by the now persecuted journalist is straight forward: What are these non-Turkish countries and territories that Erdogan expects to conquer? As the journalist stressed, the prevailing distortion and arrogance in today’s Turkish politics is based on the Ottoman “Law of the Sword”: the conqueror can rule a conquered country or territory according to his desires.

The “spirit of conquest” is dominant in the modern Turkish political scene and infects daily life within and outside of Turkey e.g. attacks and destruction of churches and cemeteries, forced disappearances, torture, murders, imprisonment, persecution. Such crimes are ‘washed away’ by the Turkish state apparatus, given that courts in Turkey are Erdogan’s tool so that such criminals are easily acquitted, and many turn into … national heroes! Under the same hypocrisy and arrogance, other ethnic groups and non-Muslims are purged, and churches turned into mosques. The depredation of property, a criminal act by all means, if committed on behalf of conquest, is hailed as a heroic achievement. In fact, in Turkish educational system, there is a special celebration for the conquests!

Conquests and arrogance are at the core of Turkey’s current ‘spread’ (e.g. sending jihadists and weapons to Libya, before the eye of the EU and NATO, despising UN Security Council arms embargo). Incidentally, it was recently announced that ethnic cleansing of Kurdish and other populations in the Turkish-occupied Afrin region of Syria, had been completed. Such crimes of conquest, ethnic cleansing and colonization continue unpunished in Cyprus, while new illegal actions are in process in the Cyprus EEZ, the Aegean, and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Before this neo-Ottoman “Law of the Sword”, the prevailing political perception in EU, is that dialogue should prevail, while the neo Sultan of Turkey is advancing. History repeats itself but very few learn from it.

Costas Mavrides, Member of European Parliament

Chair of the Political Committee of the Mediterranean

Image: Recep Tayyip Erdogan

COVID19: Viticulture counts on EU aid

Sales at British liquor stores leapt a third in March, while those for alcohol at U.S. retailers shot up more than 50% in the week after the country entered a state of national emergency.

But the drinks industry isn’t celebrating.

The surge in demand came as sales through bars, clubs and restaurants fell to zero as they were closed to contain the COVID-19 virus. And even as countries start to ease restrictions, these venues are likely to be re-opened in the very end of lock down.

There are various estimates that in Europe, the closure of this important distribution channel could lead to a 35% reduction in sales volume, which could reach more than 50% loss in sales value”, said Pau Roca, managing director of the International Wine Organization (OIV) during an audio conference.

Pau Roca estimated that the impact of these containment measures would not be the same in all regions and, for example, that the Mediterranean countries would be “probably more affected than the others”. He puts forward two reasons to support this forecast:

First, the highest incidence of bars, restaurants and sidewalk cafes, and second, the radical suppression of the highly developed tourism industry, which will be severely limited, even a once containment has ended ”.

The top three global wine producers in 2019, Italy, France and Spain, alone accounted for 25% of global wine consumption last year, according to data released at the press conference.

If the OIV mentions an increase in sales in grocery stores and supermarkets, “this good news does not compensate for all the losses caused” by the reduction in sales in hotels, cafes and restaurants, underlines Pau Roca. The characteristics of the retail commercial distribution channel “limit purchasing capacity”, he says, referring to an offer more geared “towards low and homogeneous prices”.

Finally, it plans to develop distance selling or electronic commerce offered by various virtual stores. “Via this third distribution channel, orders could not always be guaranteed” due to a saturation of logistics and delivery services, said the OIV manager.

Once this problem is resolved and the sector adapts to this new demand, direct home sales will certainly continue to increase in the future,” he adds. Nevertheless, “even if we are witnessing a spectacular transfer between the distribution channels, the overall balance expected is a reduction in consumption, a reduction in average prices and therefore an overall decrease in the total value of sales of turnover, margins and ultimately the profitability of producers, vineyards and in particular SMEs which are linked to traditional distribution channels and which are located outside supermarket networks, ”says Pau Roca.

After the taxes of Trump, who planted part of the wine companies, today with the closing of restaurants, the closing of lounges, the closing of cellars, the closing of sales on farms, French wine growers are in the process of to be completely suffocated, “said French Minister of Agriculture Didier Guillaume on LCI TV Channel.

While Europe proposed new measures for other agricultural sectors in crisis, such as milk and meat, Pau Guillaume now hopes for a gesture for viticulture from the European Commission.

French, Italian and Spanish wine cooperatives, which claim a total of half of European production, asked the Commission “to open without delay a European crisis distillation of 10 million hectoliters with a budget exceptional European investment of 350 million euros ”.

A crucial measure to relieve producers, even if last year, world production fell by 12% compared to 2018, a record vintage, to 260 million hectoliters, according to the latest figures from the OIV.

While more than four out of ten bottles usually cross borders, “trade flows are and will continue to be seriously affected,” said Pau Roca. He believes that the two largest markets in the world, Europe and the United States, could reduce their imports, but hopes on the other hand that “other regions less affected by the pandemic or which could recover more quickly, such as the countries Asian ”, will provide“ short-term partial relief”.

NATO: Greek delegation walks out

20.02.2020 AMENDMENT. Upon the request of NATO press office the information below is amended. Herewith is the received quote: “Acting President Attila Mesterhazy was not chairing the meeting and therefore did not ‘interrupt’ the discussion at any point.
We kindly ask you to correct your article and replace his name with ‘chairperson’ who will remain unnamed.

20.02.20 16:30 II AMENDMENT: During telephone conversation with Europe Diplomatic Magazine Marietta Giannakou named the chair of the meeting Lord Campbell of Pittenweem. “Lord Campbell prevented us to express our opinion” Marietta Giannakou said. She was at the point to leave Brussels, and promised to send a statement as soon as she arrives to Greece.

ORIGINAL INFORMATION:

19.02.2020 The Greek delegation walked out of NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly in Brussels on February 19 in protest at the stance of new acting president Attila Mesterhazy (pictured: from left to right Attila Mesterhazy, Jens Stoltenberg).

The incident took place as the five-member Greek delegation, which is made up of lawmakers from the country’s main political parties, were raising the issue of the contentious Turkey-Libya maritime boundaries agreement and Turkey’s violations of international law and Greek sovereign rights.

In a joint statement, the members of the delegation said that the president had been systematically interrupting their speech, leading them to withdraw in protest.

The delegation was made up of Marietta Giannakou from ruling New Democracy, Manousos Voloudakis, Theodora Tzakri and Marios Katsis from SYRIZA, and Andreas Loverdos from the center-left Movement for Change (KINAL) alliance.

20.02.2020 AMENDMENT. Upon the request of NATO press office the information above is amended. Herewith is the received quote: “Acting President Attila Mesterhazy was not chairing the meeting and therefore did not ‘interrupt’ the discussion at any point.
We kindly ask you to correct your article and replace his name with ‘chairperson’ who will remain unnamed.

Italy receives hundreds of migrants

A vessel with 363 migrants on board, operated by Spanish charity Open Arms has received the permission to dock in Sicilian port of Pozzallo. (Image above: illustration).

Earlier on February 1, the charity announced that they have storage of food for another two days as it remained stranded in the Mediterranean hundreds of migrants on board.

Italian media outlet Rai later reported that they would be distributed across the EU, as laid out in an EU agreement on settling migrants and refugees rescued in the Mediterranean, however there were no further details provided about the countries who agreed to receive them.

Boats operated by non-profit groups have transported over 600 migrants in the Mediterranean within a week. The 403 migrants rescued by the Ocean Viking have disembarked in Italy.

The migrants aboard the Ocean Viking disembarked in Taranto, southern Italy. Among them were 216 men, 38 women and 149 children, mostly from Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea, according to the two organizations that run the ship, SOS Mediterranee and Doctors without Borders (MSF). Twelve of the women were pregnant, government officials reported.

The Ocean Viking had picked up the migrants in five different rescue operations in the Mediterranean off the Libyan coast since end January. One woman and her three children had already been evacuated to Malta because of medical issues.

EU opposes Turkey drillings

“Following the latest announcement by Turkish Authorities that the drilling ship Yavuz is going to be dispatched for a new drilling operation, the EU recalls its position concerning Turkey’s illegal drilling activities in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone” reads the statement of the European External Action Service spokesperson.

“Concrete steps towards creating an environment conducive to dialogue in good faith are needed. The intention by Turkey to launch further exploration and drilling activities in the wider region goes, regrettably, in the opposite direction.

“The international law of the sea, the principle of good neighbourly relations and the sovereignty and sovereign rights over the maritime zones of all Member States have to be respected. All members of the international community must abide by these principles and should refrain from any actions undermining regional stability and security.

Mavrides denounces Turkey-GNA deal

Anna van Densky Strasbourg Planned joint conference “Turkey-Tripoli GNA Memorandum as threat to EU security” of the Chair of the Delegation on the Mediterranean Kostas MAVRIDES MEP (S&D, CY), and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Interim government of Libya Abdulhadi LAHWEEJ  could not proceed as planned because of the degradation of the security situation in Benghazi,preventing the Libyan guest to come to the European Parliament, Strasbourg. The planes in Benina Benghazi Airport were destroyed or highjacked by Al-Sarraj militia, the high diplomat said.

However the Minister LAHWEEJ has send his statement in written to express the rejection of two Memoranda sealed recently between Tripoli administration and Turkey.

The two agreements are rejected by Libyan Parliament and the Interim government for two major reasons – the “unconstitutional” nature of Al-Wefaq gorvernment, which did not gain the support of the Libyan Parliament .

According to the Skhirat Agreement the mandate of the reconciliation government in Tripoli was given for one year, and it has expired long ago.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) violates the Law of Sea signed in Jamaica in 1982 between two countries that do not have common borders, and more seriously,threatens our friendly relations between neighbouring countries of Libya – Greece, Cyprus, Egypt. Accordingly, the two memoranda of understanding (MoU) are cancelled and have not entered into effect. In view of one of its parties, Libya has not completed its required legal procedures” Minister LAHWEEJ stated.

In general, I strongly believe that the time has come for the EU to reconsider our position. Turkey is a neo-ottoman regime with aggressive policies that go against European values and Rule of Law, but also against our strategic interests in the Mediterranean and elsewhere. The AKP Administration of Turkey is committing crimes against humanity inside and outside Turkey and supporting jihadist regimes, just like with the Tripoli regime and Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt MAVRIDES MEP said.

The European Union has to defend its vital security and economic interests vigorously, in line with EU and International Law by imposing strict economic measures towards Turkey, without attempting to ignore the assertiveness of Ankara, its military build up in the Mediterranean, and increasing contempt to the international law” he added.

Tripoli administration Al-Wefaq sealed two memoranda with Turkey – the first one on demarcation of the maritime border, and the second memo on security and military cooperation, – both of them rejected by the Interim government of Libya in unanimity with people’s representatives in the Parliament.

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