Tag Archives: EU

EU extends sanctions against Venezuela for 1 year

The European Council on Monday extended restrictive measures against Venezuela for one year.

“In light of the ongoing political, economic, social and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela with persistent actions undermining democracy, the rule of law and the respect for human rights, the Council today extended the restrictive measures against Venezuela for one year, until 14 November 2020,” the Council said in a statement.

It added the measures include an embargo on arms and on equipment for internal repression as well as a travel ban and an asset freeze on 25 listed individuals in official positions.

“These measures are intended to help encourage democratic shared solutions in order to bring political stability to the country and allow it to address the pressing needs of the population,” it added.

Since the beginning of the year, Venezuela has been embroiled in political unrest as President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido engaged in a power battle, while the country’s economy has been in precipitous decline following a global downturn in the price of crude oil — the country’s main export.

Nearly 5,000 people leave Venezuela every day due to instability and uncertainty amid the economic and political crisis, and three million Venezuelans have left since 2015, according to the UN Refugee Agency.


Use of force against Iraqi protestors ‘deplorable’: EU

The EU on Thursday voiced concern over ongoing protests in Iraq, saying use of force against protestors is “deplorable”.

“Despite repeated calls for restraint, there has been further loss of lives, a great number of injured and destruction of public and private property.

“The excessive use of force against protestors is deplorable,” EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement.

Mogherini said over the past month, the people of Iraq have exercised their fundamental rights, which needs to be respected in line with the Iraqi constitution.

“The reported attacks by armed entities against demonstrators undermine the right to peaceful assembly and the expression of legitimate demands.

“The European Union expects perpetrators of all violations to be held accountable,” she added.

The bloc also reiterated willingness to support Iraq in its work to address the citizens’ demands.

At least 260 people have been killed and thousands injured in a second wave of protests in Iraq since last week against deep-seated corruption, unemployment and lack of basic services.

More than 230 people have been killed in a first wave of anti-government protests in October.

Popular anger has been simmering in Iraq in recent years due to rising unemployment and rampant corruption. Many people in the country have limited access to basic services such as electricity and clean water.

According to World Bank figures, Iraq’s youth unemployment is around 25%. It also ranks the 12th most-corrupt country in the world according to several transparency organizations.


Johnson plans N Ireland ‘special relationship’ with EU for Brexit

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new Brexit plan will leave Northern Ireland in a ‘special relationship’ with the European Union until 2025, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on Tuesday, insisting he will take the UK out of the EU, whatever happens, at the end of the month.

The Johnson plan would mean Northern Ireland would remain in large parts of the EU single market for at least five years, but that it would leave the customs union along with the rest of the UK, according to the report.

Johnson is due to unveil his final Brexit offer on Wednesday, insisting in his closing speech to the annual conference of his ruling Conservative Party that his plan is a “reasonable compromise” and offers the last chance to avoid a chaotic no-deal exit.

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party (DUP) is largely “content” with the proposals, the Guardian newspaper reported separately, adding that the plan was supported by the party’s leader Arlene Foster.

However, Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the proposals would not provide the basis for a deal with the EU and were “concerning.”

Speaking to Ireland’s Virgin Media One television station Coveney said: “We haven’t seen anything. … But if the reports we are reading this evening are true, it doesn’t seem like the basis for agreement, that’s for sure.”

Johnson has said Britain will leave the EU on this year’s October 31 deadline, even if he has not failed to secure a new deal.

“My friends, I am afraid that after three-and-a-half years people are beginning to feel that they are being taken for fools,” Johnson will tell the party conference, according to extracts released by his office. “They are beginning to suspect that there are forces in this country that simply don’t want Brexit delivered at all.

“Let’s get Brexit done on October 31 so in 2020 our country can move on.”

Fears of ‘no-deal’ impact

Brexit, the country’s biggest trade and foreign policy shift in more than 40 years, remains uncertain amid staunch opposition in parliament to a ‘no deal’ Brexit that legislators fear will cause the country untold damage.

New legislation requires the prime minister to request a Brexit delay if he fails to secure an acceptable deal at the EU summit on Oct. 17.

The EU has repeatedly asked Britain to come up with “legal and operational” proposals for the changes Johnson wants to the deal his predecessor, Theresa May, negotiated with the bloc last year.

That deal was also voted down by parliament, including by hardliners in his own party who want a ‘clean break’ with Europe. 

Johnson, who leads a minority government, has insisted he would “in no circumstances” seek to delay Brexit at the summit. 

The plan centres on the so-called backstop in May’s deal, which aimed to keep open the land border between Northern Ireland, which is governed by Britain, and Ireland, which is part of the EU.

May’s proposal would have kept Britain in an effective customs union with the EU, which critics argued would force Britain to abide by the bloc’s rules indefinitely.

Under the plans reported in the Telegraph, Johnson would, in effect, create two potentially new borders — regulatory checks in the Irish Sea, and customs checks on the island of Ireland.


EU considering extra aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey

Germany is in talks with other EU member states to provide additional support to Turkey for Syrian refugees, deputy interior minister told parliament.

In a written reply to a parliamentary question released on Tuesday, Stephan Mayer reaffirmed Germany’s commitment to the 2016 EU-Turkey refugee deal and signaled for further support to both Turkey and Greece to improve the implementation of the agreement.

“In spite of the considerable efforts made by the Turkish side, the number of refugees arriving at Greek Islands is increasing,” he said, commenting on the recent figures on the crossings in the Aegean Sea.

“Therefore the Federal Government is examining possible further assistance to Turkey and coordinating this with the European partners,” he added.

His remarks came ahead of German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer’s planned visit to Turkey and Greece on Thursday and Friday.

In August, nearly 8,100 refugees and migrants arrived at Greek islands, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

At the peak of the refugee crisis in 2015, more than 856,000 people — mostly Syrian and Iraqi refugees — crossed the Aegean Sea.

In 2016, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has championed the EU-Turkey refugee agreement with the hope of stopping the refugee influx, after nearly a million refugees had arrived in Germany.

The agreement has been successful in significantly reducing the number of crossings in the Aegean Sea, and preventing the loss of many lives. But the EU’s bureaucratic hurdles and delays to mobilize promised funds led to sharp criticism by Turkish officials.

The EU had pledged €6 billion ($6.6 billion) aid to improve living conditions of Syrian refugees in Turkey. But only €2.22 billion were disbursed until June 2019.

The EU member states also pledged that for every Syrian returned to Turkey from Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to the EU as part of a resettlement plan.

But the pace of returns to Turkey from the Greek islands under the agreement has been slow largely due to lengthy legal processes and administrative problems in Greece.

The EU member states only accepted nearly 20,000 Syrian refugees from Turkey since 2016.

Turkey currently hosts some 3.6 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the world. Ankara has so far spent $40 billion for the refugees, according to official figures.


With Five Weeks To Go, Here’s How EU Rates Brexit Deal Chances

It’s endgame time (again) on Brexit. Five weeks before the U.K.’s scheduled departure, it seems to be anyone’s guess whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson will get a revised divorce deal with the European Union, ask for another postponement or defy Parliament and leave without an agreement.

With Britain’s Conservatives holding a party conference this week, there’s bound to be a lot of noise. Here’s a reality check on how the EU sees events unfolding, based on multiple conversations with officials directly involved in the process. All of them spoke on condition they not be identified because the discussions aren’t public.

The Talks

On balance, the EU view is that Johnson wants a deal. While his aggressive tone when he took office in July led some to suspect the opposite, his discussions with other leaders have been serious enough to convince the EU he doesn’t really favor a disorderly departure.
U.K. and EU teams have made little progress in limited talks in Brussels and one European official said it would be a joke to describe them as “negotiations.” The British government has published four so-called non-papers — essentially discussion documents — on arrangements for the Irish border. The EU says they aren’t realistic, don’t set out concrete solutions and look like they’re designed to stall for time.
The EU always accepted that the U.K. government would submit more serious proposals only after the Tories’ annual conference, which ends Wednesday. If that happens quickly, there would be enough time to reach a deal before an EU summit in Brussels on Oct. 17-18.\

The Compromises

  • The EU desperately wants a deal. With Brexit dragging on and the threat of economic pain caused by a no-deal crash-out, the bloc is in the mood to compromise. While it won’t do anything to risk the principles of the single market, it would make more concessions on the contentious Irish border backstop if Johnson were likely to get approval for a deal in the House of Commons. The catch? The EU doubts he can pull it off.
  • Giving the Northern Ireland assembly a say on the backstop is something the EU would consider to help increase democratic legitimacy. The U.K. would need to propose solutions. So far, it hasn’t.
  • Any revised deal would require a completely rewritten political declaration on future ties to reflect the different priorities of Johnson’s government compared to Theresa May’s. The EU is alarmed that Johnson wants to ditch May’s commitments on the level playing field — common standards in areas such as social protection, taxation and state aid subsidies. These would underpin any future trade deal. They would become even more significant if the backstop reverts to covering only Northern Ireland rather than the whole U.K., something the EU would accept. France in particular is keen to uphold the level playing field.
  • The EU’s mood for compromise faded over the past week with increasing concern over the febrile atmosphere in the U.K., Johnson’s heightened rhetoric and the court verdict declaring his suspension of Parliament unlawful. Meetings between Johnson and other world leaders at the UN General Assembly didn’t produce much.
  • That same sense of shock has some governments increasingly toying with the idea of accepting some U.K. demands just to end the agony. Yet there’s no serious pressure on the Irish government, which would have to accept concessions on the border backstop.

The Summit(s)

  • Leaders of the other 27 EU countries always insist they won’t negotiate at a summit, meaning a deal would have to be done in the next 2 1/2 weeks or less. Some officials in the EU are bracing for a car-crash summit with Johnson walking out if he doesn’t get his way.
  • Given the small window, the EU expects another summit at some point during the two weeks between the scheduled one and Oct 31. This would also almost certainly be the case if leaders needed to agree another extension.

The Extension

  • EU officials don’t seriously expect government leaders to block a further Brexit delay if the U.K. asks for it. They might even try to get ahead of Johnson and proactively offer an extension.
  • There’s no guarantee the U.K. would get the three months that Parliament’s legislation tells the prime minister to request. The extension could be shorter — or longer, especially if a U.K. election is in the cards.
  • With Johnson determined not to request an extension but Parliament forcing him to, EU officials have discussed whom they should listen to. It seems certain that the bloc will only recognize an extension request from the prime minister himself or, like the last two times, the U.K. ambassador to the EU in Brussels.

The Technicalities

  • The EU is pretty sure the only way out of the logjam on the Irish border issue is make the backstop apply to Northern Ireland only, rather than the whole U.K. The backstop — which Johnson says he wants scrapped — could be repackaged, renamed or given a new look with an all-Ireland agri-food zone and a chapter on the readiness to use alternative arrangements, such as trusted-trader programs and technology.
  • The U.K. hasn’t indicated backing and hasn’t offered much beyond the willingness to accept an all-Ireland agri-food zone. Even this, the so-called sanitary and phytosanitary zone, or SPS, wouldn’t negate the need for Northern Ireland to remain in the EU’s customs union. That brings the whole issue back to a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K.
  • The EU would accept an all-Ireland SPS zone but this would only solve about 30% of the border activities. Even then, the EU is confused about what the U.K. is proposing. Would it be a new Ireland-only zone or would Northern Ireland simply be part of the EU’s rules? Would Northern Ireland accept future changes in EU rules and would the U.K. accept European Court of Justice jurisdiction over part of its territory?
  • One problem for the EU is that SPS goods still require customs declarations. Even Northern Ireland animal products that could pass freely over the border because of common agri-food rules would have to undergo customs checks.
  • While the EU is willing to look at alternative customs arrangements, its view is that they aren’t ready yet. Nor does the U.K., according to discussions in Brussels. Britain’s government wants to work on them during the transition period that begins after Brexit day — which the EU won’t accept. It wants the backstop to be “legally operable” immediately.


EU hails announcement of Syria constitutional committee

The EU on Thursday welcomed the announcement of agreement on the formation of a Syrian constitutional committee.

“The EU has consistently affirmed that any sustainable solution to the conflict requires a genuine political transition as outlined in UN Security Council Resolution 2254 (2015) and the 2012 Geneva Communique negotiated by the Syrian parties within the UN-led Geneva process,” according to a statement from the office of EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday announced the formation of a body to write a new constitution for Syria following more than eight years of war that have devastated the country and its people.

Guterres said the constitutional committee can and must be the beginning of a political process to end the conflict.

“The EU therefore looks forward to the inaugural meeting of the committee at the earliest possible opportunity and will monitor developments thereafter most closely. This is a definite step forward, and one that is certainly full of potential,” the statement read.

The EU also underlined the urgent need for positive developments in parallel to the work in the constitutional committee.

“To recall, the EU will be ready to assist in the reconstruction of Syria when a comprehensive, genuine and inclusive political transition, in the framework of UNSCR [UN Security Council Resolution] 2254 and the Geneva process, is firmly under way,” it added.

The bloc also expressed willingness to support the developing peace process in Syria in whatever way it can, in close conjunction and coordination with the UN Special Envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million others displaced, according to UN officials.


Italy’s new coalition government sworn in

The new slate of ministers for Giuseppe Conte’s second stint as Italy’s prime minister was formally sworn in on Thursday by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, bringing the unlikely coalition between Italian populists and an old-guard center-left party a step away from power.

The 21-minister slate includes 10 members of the populist Five-Star Movement, nine from the center-left Democratic Party, one from the small, liberal Free and Equal party, and one unaligned technocrat. The only holdout from the previous government will be Giuseppe Conte, who will have his second stint as prime minister.

Among the most prominent new ministers: pro-European Union economist Roberto Gualtieri, a member of the Democratic Party, as Minister of Finance; Five-Star Movement head Luigi Di Maio as Minister of Foreign Affairs; and technocrat Luciana Lamorgese as Minister of the Interior.

Thursday’s highly choreographed ceremony leaves only one step before the Conte government officially takes power – a confidence vote in both houses of parliament, which is likely to take place in the next few days. Analysts said major issues with the vote are unlikely.

Based on the selection of ministers, the new government will almost certainly be more supportive of the European Union than the previous Conte government, which was backed by the Five-Star Movement together with the right-wing League. The appointment of Lamorgese is likely an indication the new government will also take a softer stance on immigration issues.


Brexit: Thousands protest Johnson move to suspend Parliament

Thousands of people across the UK have protested against Prime Minister Boris Johnson‘s decision to suspend Parliament just weeks before the deadline for the UK to leave the European Union.

In London, thousands of angry protesters on Saturday rallied outside Downing Street, the official residence of the prime minister, to oppose the controversial move scheduled for early September.

“What Boris Johnson has done is just not British,” said builder Andrew Russell, 40, from Kent.

“We have got to defend parliamentary sovereignty – closing down Parliament is anti-democratic and hypocritical.”

Johnson defiant

Politicians and leading journalists have pledged to resist the move to suspend Parliament, which they say is an attempt to deny elected politicians the chance to prevent a “no-deal” Brexit as the 31 October deadline to leave the EU approaches.

But Johnson has defended his decision to prorogue Parliament and criticised his opponents, saying they are weakening his hand in Brussels as he tries to negotiate changes to the exit deal agreed by his predecessor, Theresa May, but rejected by the UK parliament.

“I’m afraid that the more our friends and partners think at the back of their minds that Brexit could be stopped, that the UK could be kept in, by Parliament, the less likely they are to give us the deal that we need,” he told journalists on Friday.

“And so, that’s why I really hope that MPs will allow the UK to do a deal and to get ready for a no-deal Brexit – and that’s the best way forward for our country.”

The prime minister – who took office in July after being chosen by about 90,000 members of his own party following May’s resignation – insists that Parliament is to blame for the impasse over the UK’s exit.

He has pledged to renegotiate the main sticking point to a deal – an insurance policy to ensure that a border is not reintroduced on the border of Northern Ireland in order to safeguard peace on the island – but Brussels has shown no signs of budging on the issue.

EU officials indicate that so far Johnson has not presented concrete proposals to replace the so-called “backstop”, but the prime minister says he hopes to strike a new Brexit deal at a European council meeting on 17 October. He says MPs will then have a chance to vote on it, just days before the Brexit deadline, and has insisted they will have “a lot of time” to debate the issues.

But there has been open disquiet about the tactics adopted by the new Johnson government, with several legal challenges launched against his decision to prorogue Parliament, which an anonymous civil servant branded “constitutional vandalism” in a major newspaper.

A petition calling on the government not to suspend Parliament has gained more than one million signatures, while more than 50 MPs from the main parties have also pledged to set up an alternative House of Commons if the suspension goes forward. 

Diverse crowd

More than 80 protests across the UK on Saturday were organised by the anti-Brexit campaign group Another Europe is Possible and were led by Momentum – a left-wing caucus within the opposition Labour Party.

The gathering in London brought together people from a range of backgrounds.

Paddy Gemmell, 15, a student from London, said the suspension of Parliament is “undemocratic”.

“Since people voted for Brexit many have begun to understand what that actually means and have changed their minds – their voices should be heard,” he said.

Retired interpreter Sue Sheraton, 70, from West London said: “I am here because I am appalled by the acquiescence of the Conservative Party in letting Boris Johnson go ahead with this undemocratic manoeuvre.

“Parliament represents the will of the people.”

Scotsman Danny Gilbert, 57, an editor, said it was “appalling” that countries within the UK that did not vote for Brexit will be “dragged” down with England after a no-deal departure.

“It is bad for everybody and makes Scottish independence more likely,” he said.

On Friday, opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn endorsed the protests, and the party’s shadow home secretary Dianne Abbot was among high-profile speakers addressing demonstrators massing outside the gates of Downing Street on Saturday.

“It doesn’t actually matter whether you voted leave or remain in the Brexit referendum – what matters is that we are all mobilising against a Tory prime minister who wants to close down Parliament,” she told the crowd.

“We are going to stop the coup and we are going to take back democracy for the British people.”

Green Party leader Sian Berry also addressed the crowd, and accused Johnson of “abusing power”.

“Boris Johnson cannot shut down Parliament: we are here today to say no we will not stand for it,” she said.


EU Sends Technicians to Help Mitigate Fires in Bolivia

The Bolivian authorities are working night and day to extinguish the flames engulfing the Chiquitania region located in the country’s southern sector.

On Friday, seven countries representing the European Union sent squadrons of technicians to Bolivia in order to help the South American country put out the fires in the Chiquitania region located in the department of Santa Cruz.

According to Bolivian Foreign MInister Diego Party, the E.U. technicians were deployed to the Chiquitania region, where they are working with local civil defense teams to put out these massive forest fires.

Pary stressed that the economic cooperation, coalesced with the technical assistance of seven countries, has already proven effective in putting out the flames.

“The United States sent 10 experts, six Americans and four Costa Ricans. France is offering flight hours for five helicopters that will work until the weekend,” he said.

Among the international organizations that have already begun helping the South American nation are the CAF-Development Bank of Latin America (US$300,000), the Inter-American Development Bank (US$200,000), the United Nations (US$150,000), the Fonplata (US$100,000), FAO (US$500,000) and ALBA (US$1,000,000).

In addition to the technicians, the European Union has also vowed to send humanitarian aid to the areas affected by these forest fires in eastern Bolivia.

“Having received the requirements of the Bolivian Government, the European Union has immediately activated an international operation to support the fight to contain fires in the Chiquitania area,” a press release from the European Union.

The E.U. statement added that “a representative from the European Office for Humanitarian Aid – ECHO will arrive in the next few hours to the country to assess the emergency on site”.


Costs of European integration to White House

Macron has warned Western nations against the “strategic mistake” of alienating Russia – but in doing so, he seeks a bigger role for himself in international politics.

“We are living the end of Western hegemony,” Macron told diplomats, after hosting the G7 meeting in the city of Biarritz on France’s Atlantic coast over the weekend. He named the rise of Beijing and Moscow as signs of a shift on the world scene.

The reality is that the European Union and the Eurozone, on the one hand, acknowledge the end of Western hegemony, and in particular the United States, and on the other hand, continue to be dominated by Washington. The EU’s inactivity towards Europe has led to anger and frustration among citizens.

The EU and the Eurozone have a very uncertain future. In other words, America and Europe can no longer speak of international domination.

In such a situation, people like the French President and German Chancellor are worried about the future of the Eurozone and the European Union. This concern increases over time. The occurrence of a variety of security, political, economic and social crises has created many challenges in the European Union and the Eurozone.

The emergence of these challenges has led to a sharp decline in the popularity of traditional parties in Europe. In such a way, nationalist parties have been able to increase their popularity with the public. Which side are the European Union and the Eurozone really heading to?

ill the future of Europe finally be clear these are the questions that concern the mentally ill, such as Merkel and Macron?

Ultimately, the more Europe delays in moving away from the United States, the more it will pay. It is as if European officials have not yet understood it. There is a long gap between the recent remarks of the French President and the EU’s practical approach.