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News on Europe - September 2020

 
30 September 2020​​​​​​​​​​​​

Image Source: European Commission


On Tuesday (29 September), French President Emmanuel Macron called for Europe to end its dependency on American weapons systems as he made a renewed pitch for the Continent to take control of its destiny. In a debate with students at the University of Vilnius in Lithuania, he made a plea for Europe to take on a more independent and assertive role in the world – subservient to neither Washington nor Beijing.

Despite the recent poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Macron also defended his policy of engagement with Vladimir Putin during meetings with both the Lithuanian and Latvian presidents, whose countries remain highly wary of Russian power.

On his Baltic tour, Macron also signed a joint statement with Lithuania and Latvia calling for stronger EU legislation to counter election manipulation and disinformation.

Read more: https://www.politico.eu/article/emmanuel-macron-europe-dependency-us-arms/

 

Related articles:

https://www.politico.eu/article/emmanuel-macron-baltics-trip-france-russia-strategy/

https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/in-baltics-macron-defends-french-dialogue-with-russia/




29 September 2020​​​​​​​​​​​

Image Source: European Commission


On Monday (28 September), EU Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič warned that the Commission would take legal action against the UK government unless it withdrew its controversial Internal Market Bill which would break the Withdrawal Agreement that took the UK out of the EU in January. This came after his meeting with the UK Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove in which he “didn’t get any indication” from Gove that the UK was prepared to withdraw the Internal Market Bill.

Šefčovič added that “UK’s position is far from what the EU can accept”, reiterating that the Bill represented an “extremely serious violation of the Withdrawal Agreement” which “needs to be implemented, not renegotiated or unilaterally set aside”.

For his part, Gove insisted that the UK was anxious “to make sure that the Withdrawal Agreement is implemented in full”. He also told reporters “those clauses are there, they’re in legislation, supported by the House of Commons, as a safety net, if need be. And those clauses will remain in that bill”.

In the meantime, UK chief negotiator David Frost and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier will proceed with the ninth round of UK-EU trade negotiations on 29 Sep – the final week of formal talks ahead of the October 15-16 European Council.

Read more: https://www.euractiv.com/section/uk-europe/news/eu-repeats-legal-warning-to-uk-over-treaty-breach/

 

Related articles:

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/statement_20_1766

https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-wants-brexit-transition-end-planning-to-accelerate/

https://www.euronews.com/2020/09/28/brussels-considering-all-legal-options-in-case-london-breaches-brexit-treaty

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/key-week-in-eu-uk-talks-kick-off-with-confidence-low/2020/09/28/c2c050ec-0174-11eb-b92e-029676f9ebec_story.html

https://www.rte.ie/news/brexit/2020/0928/1167867-eu-trade-talks/




28 September 2020​​​​​​​​​​​

Image Source: Pixabay


On Sunday (27 September), Swiss voters rejected a proposal backed by the populist right-wing Swiss Party (SVP) to tear up the free movement of people agreement with the EU, and slash immigration from the EU. Final results showed that 61.7% of Swiss voters rejected the proposal leaving free movement in the heart of Europe intact.

The SVP called for Switzerland to revise its constitution to ensure it can handle immigration policy autonomously. The party warned that the wealthy Alpine country was facing “uncontrolled and excessive immigration”.

However, the government cautioned that if Switzerland unilaterally voided the free movement accord, a “guillotine” clause will come into force to freeze the entire package of deals with the EU – its largest trading partner – jeopardising Switzerland’s overall relations with the bloc.

EU Council President Charles Michel tweeted that the results marked “a great day for the relations between the European Union and Switzerland”, adding that the EU “welcome the results of the popular vote and look forward to continuing our close cooperation”. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also hailed the result, mentioning that it “upholds one of the core pillars of our relationship: the mutual freedom to move, to live and to work in Switzerland and the EU”.

Several other issues were also on the ballot on Sunday, including introducing paid paternity leave, easing restrictions on hunting wolves, and the acquisition of fighter jets.

Read more: https://www.euractiv.com/section/justice-home-affairs/news/swiss-voters-refuse-immigration-cuts-eu-sees-great-future-in-relationship/

 

Related articles:

https://www.euronews.com/2020/09/27/swiss-voters-reject-referendum-initiative-to-end-eu-freedom-of-movement

https://www.politico.eu/article/switzerland-rejects-ending-free-movement-with-eu-exit-poll/

https://euobserver.com/tickers/149546

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54316316

https://www.dw.com/en/swiss-voters-reject-bid-to-curb-eu-freedom-of-movement/a-55068173

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/statement_20_1755





25 September 2020​​​​​​​​​​

Image Source: European Commission


On Thursday (24 September), the EU Commission released a new Action Plan to boost the EU’s Capital Markets Union (CMU) over the coming years. Safeguarding the EU’s economic recovery from the pandemic that is green, digital and resilient through more accessible financing for small businesses and bigger companies in Europe is at the core of the plan.

Within this Plan, the Commission is putting forward 16 initiatives to advance the completion of the CMU. Among them is creating a single access point to company data for investors, supporting insurers and banks to invest more in EU businesses and strengthening investment protection.

To mitigate the risks connected with digital finance, the Commission adopted on the same day a new Digital Finance Package, including Digital Finance and Retail Payments Strategies, and legislative proposals on crypto-assets and digital resilience.

Read more: https://europost.eu/en/a/view/boosting-europe-s-capital-markets-30938

 

Related articles:

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/speech_20_1739

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_1677

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_1684

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/qanda_20_1685

https://www.euractiv.com/section/digital/news/eu-proposes-first-bloc-wide-passport-for-crypto-assets/

https://www.reuters.com/article/eu-market-cryptoassets/factbox-eu-proposes-first-bloc-wide-passport-for-crypto-assets-idUSL5N2GK4J6

https://www.barrons.com/news/eu-unveils-proposed-curbs-on-cryptocurrencies-01600957203?tesla=y




24 September 2020​​​​​​​​​​

Image Source: European Commission


On Wednesday (23 September), the EU Commission proposed to member states to share responsibility for asylum seekers under a “mandatory solidarity” mechanism. With the new migration pact, it hopes to avert a replay of the 2015 migration crisis. The key point of the EU’s New Pact on Migration and Asylum is that member states would have to either accept asylum seekers, take charge of sending back those who are refused asylum, or offer financial assistance on the ground to front line EU states.

The new proposal is meant to “strike a new balance between responsibility and solidarity”. It is also meant to pacify Eastern European countries, who have persistently refused to accept asylum seekers and in the weeks preceding the announcement reiterated their opposition to mandatory relocation.

Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson hinted that agreeing on the pact among the EU27 would not be plain sailing, but reminded the 27 member states that “what we are proposing today will build a long-term migration policy that can translate European values into practical management”. She added that the set of proposals “will mean clear, fair and faster border procedures so that people do not have to wait in limbo”. She also noted that this would also require “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”.

The Commission said all elements should be in place from 2023, but the pact first needs to be discussed and agreed by the EU27.

Read more: https://www.euractiv.com/section/justice-home-affairs/news/eus-new-migration-pact-to-request-mandatory-solidarity-from-member-states/

 

Related articles:

https://www.euronews.com/2020/09/23/watch-live-eu-announces-new-policy-aimed-to-streamline-asylum-process

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_1706

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/statement_20_1727

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/speech_20_1733

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/speech_20_1736

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/qanda_20_1707

https://www.france24.com/en/20200923-eu-to-present-new-plan-on-asylum-seekers-austria-warns-against-mandatory-quotas

https://www.dw.com/en/eu-plans-tougher-controls-in-migration-policy-overhaul/a-55024569




23 September 2020​​​​​​​​​​

Image Source: European Commission


On Tuesday (22 September), the EU Commission put forward a proposal to upgrade the Single European Sky regulatory framework, with more modern management of European airspace and more sustainable and efficient flightpaths. The proposal comes as the sharp drop in air traffic caused by the coronavirus pandemic calls for greater resilience of air traffic management, by making it easier to adapt traffic capacities to demand.

Transport Commissioner Adina Valean said “planes are sometimes zig-zagging between different blocks of airspace, increasing delays and fuel consumed”, adding that “an efficient air traffic management system means more direct routes and less energy used, leading to less emissions and lower costs for our airlines”. She also highlighted that the proposal would stimulate digital innovation by opening up the market for data services in the sector.

Read more: https://www.eubusiness.com/news-eu/single-european-sky.22jy

 

Related articles:

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_1708

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/qanda_20_1716

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-airlines-eu/eu-aims-to-cut-aviation-emissions-by-10-with-more-direct-flights-idUSKCN26D1KS




22 September 2020​​​​​​​​​

Image Source: Twitter/UN


On Monday (21 September), world leaders came together virtually to mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations (UN).

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a video message that the organization was in need of greater unity, mentioning that “in the end, the United Nations can only be as good as its members are united”. Merkel also called for reforms to the organisation, and highlighted that “anyone who thinks he can get along better on his own is mistaken. Our well-being is shared. And so is our suffering”, adding that “we are one world”.

French President Emmanuel Macron also delivered remarks echoing the sentiments expressed by Merkel. He warned that “our shared house is in disorder”, adding that “its foundations are hollowed out. Its walls are sometimes cracked by the blows of those who built it”.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres spoke of “a surplus of multilateral challenges and a lack of multilateral solutions” from climate calamity to rising poverty. He also noted that hatred is spreading, geopolitical tensions are escalating... and the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the world’s fragilities. All these challenges can only be addressed when we work together.

Read more: https://www.dw.com/en/germanys-merkel-calls-for-reform-as-un-marks-75th-anniversary/a-55006825

 

Related articles:

https://news.trust.org/item/20200921234414-83msy

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2020/09/21/speech-by-president-charles-michel-to-commemorate-the-75th-anniversary-of-the-united-nations/

https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage_en/81494/The%20EU%20commemorates%2075%20years%20of%20the%20UN

https://www.un.org/en/un75/commemoration




21 September 2020​​​​​​​​​

Image Source: Pixabay


According to the UK Sunday Times, a number of large British banks such as Lloyds, Barclays and Coutts are set to stop serving UK citizens resident in other EU member states at the end of the year. This is because the British government has not yet negotiated post-Brexit rules with the EU.

If pan-European banking rules no longer apply to the UK once the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December 2020, it would become illegal for UK banks to provide services for British customers in the EU without applying for new banking licences.

Read more: https://www.politico.eu/article/brits-in-eu-face-closure-of-uk-bank-accounts-over-lack-of-post-brexit-rules-report/

 

Related articles:

https://euobserver.com/tickers/149487

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/12721543/brit-expats-in-europe-stripped-bank-accounts-brexit/

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/brexit-strips-expats-of-uk-bank-accounts-565bsvn6k

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8752653/British-expats-Europe-stripped-UK-bank-accounts-weeks-post-Brexit-rules.html

https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/brits-in-eu-could-lose-their-uk-bank-accounts-within-weeks-072038088.html




18 September 2020​​​​​​​​

Image Source: Pixabay


Plans by the EU to slap sanctions on Belarus have fallen into disarray, sources say, a hostage to internal politicking that one EU official described as a threat to the bloc’s credibility.

Three weeks ago, the EU vowed to impose sanctions on Belarus for alleged election fraud and human rights abuses, but the consensus-driven Union has been prevented from fulfilling that promise by one of its smallest members, Cyprus.

Cyprus says it cannot support sanctions against Belarus unless action is taken in parallel against Turkey over  the latter’s oil and gas drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean near Cyprus. Cyprus wants the EU to impose sanctions against companies and individuals in Turkey for their involvement in the drilling activities near Cyprus.

EU foreign ministers meeting next Monday will try to find a way through what one senior EU diplomat called “the single most worrying issue for the EU in the coming days”.​

Read more: https://www.euractiv.com/section/europe-s-east/news/cyprus-blocks-eus-belarus-sanctions-plan/

 

Related articles:

https://euobserver.com/foreign/149410

https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-greece-turkey-eu/diplomatic-standoff-stalls-eus-belarus-sanctions-plan-idUKKBN2682ND

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/17/eu-belarus-sanctions-in-doubt-as-cyprus-demands-action-against-turkey

https://www.neweurope.eu/article/eu-council-president-pledges-to-defend-cyprus-rights/

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2020/09/16/intervention-du-president-charles-michel-apres-sa-rencontre-avec-le-president-chypriote-nicos-anastasiades-a-nicosie/




17 September 2020​​​​​​​

Image Source: flickr/European Parliament


On Wednesday (16 September), EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivered her first State of the European Union address at the EU Parliament in Brussels. She looked back at what the Commission had done over the past year and unveiled a slew of new EU initiatives, which included measures to address restrictions in the single market, a new strategy for the Schengen area and investments in digital technologies and bringing down carbon emission. She also spoke of the need for the EU to lead reforms of the WHO and the WTO.

MEPs were broadly supportive of many of the new initiatives announced but also keen to highlight new areas where the EU should focus on such as job creation and social inclusion.

The debates with the MEPs that followed her address focused on new EU plans to tackle climate change, racism, health threats and migration.

Read more: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/eu-affairs/20200910STO86855/state-of-the-eu-meps-debate-measures-to-improve-europe

 

Related articles:

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_1657

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/speech_20_1655

https://www.euractiv.com/section/future-eu/news/von-der-leyen-outlines-path-towards-new-vitality-in-post-corona-world/

https://www.euractiv.com/section/health-consumers/news/commission-promise-to-remedy-health-cuts-made-by-eu-leaders/

https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/eu-diplomacy-needs-more-courage-to-address-russia-turkey-new-white-house/

https://www.euractiv.com/section/justice-home-affairs/news/von-der-leyen-the-european-values-are-not-for-sale/

https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/news/we-can-do-it-eu-chief-announces-55-emissions-reduction-target-for-2030/

https://www.france24.com/en/20200916-eu-s-von-der-leyen-gives-maiden-state-of-the-union-address




16 September 2020​​​​​​

Image Source: European Union


On Tuesday (15 September), Germany said it will take in more than 1,500 refugees from Greece on top of the 150 unaccompanied minors from the burned out Moria camp on the island of Lesbos as Berlin tried to rally a fresh EU response to a years-long migrant crisis that flared anew.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel bemoaned the lack of a concerted European response. She told a meeting of her parliamentary group in Berlin that “this is not a sign of Europe’s values and capacity for action”. Merkel’s government has also repeatedly insisted it is key to find a European solution to the issue. This need for a EU-wide solution is echoed by the European Council President Charles Michel. He flew to Lesbos after talks with Greek Prime Minister and urged the 27 EU member states to take more responsibilities.

Michel added that the EU also “need to make more progress to improve our border controls…we need to have more partnerships with third countries, we cannot solve everything alone”. He highlighted that a “just, strong and efficient response” to the problem is needed.

Read more: https://www.euractiv.com/section/justice-home-affairs/news/germany-to-take-in-1500-refugees-from-greek-islands-michel-urges-for-more-eu-solidarity/

 

Related articles:

https://www.france24.com/en/20200915-germany-to-take-in-more-than-1-500-refugees-from-greek-islands

https://www.politico.eu/article/germany-1500-refugees-greek-islands/

https://www.dw.com/en/germany-to-take-in-some-1500-migrants-from-greece/a-54930075

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/european-council/president/news/2020/09/15/20200915-moria/




15 September 2020​​​​​​

Image Source: European Union


The virtual EU-China summit on Monday (14 September) between Chinese President Xi Jinping and EU leaders was meant to patch up relations between China and the EU strained by the coronavirus pandemic, and move forward on the bilateral investment agreement that has been in negotiation for years. However, the meeting ended with much work still to be done.

In a press conference after the virtual meeting, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen mirrored the bloc’s harder stance towards China on a range of issues, mentioning that “a lot – still remains to be done”, citing market access and sustainability. She said “with market access, it is not a question of meeting halfway, it is a question of rebalancing the asymmetry and a question of openness of our respective markets”, adding that “China has to convince us that it is worth having an investment agreement”. Xi agreed to “expedite” treaty talks to get a deal completed on time and Von der Leyen confirmed that progress had been made on several other fronts, including state subsidies and state-owned enterprises.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said “overall, cooperation with China must be based on certain principles – reciprocity, fair competition”. She added “in the last 15 years, China has become much stronger economically and this means that the demand for reciprocity [and] for a level playing field is of course very justified today. We are different social systems, but while we are committed to multilateralism, it must be rules-based”.

In response to the EU’s concerns over China’s treatment of minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, and the treatment of human rights defenders and journalists, President Xi was quick to hit back saying that “every country should first and foremost care about their own business”. He urged the EU to respect China’s peaceful co-existence with the world, and added that “there are no two identical political systems in the world”.

Read more: https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3101552/china-pledges-expanded-trade-eu-stops-short-market-access

 

Related articles:

https://www.euractiv.com/section/eu-china/news/eu-china-make-progress-on-investment-deal-despite-human-rights-tensions/

https://www.euronews.com/2020/09/14/watch-live-eu-chiefs-update-on-summit-with-china

https://www.politico.eu/article/merkel-gets-china-video-chat-instead-of-jewel-in-the-crown/

https://euobserver.com/eu-china/149428

https://www.france24.com/en/20200914-eu-presses-china-on-market-access-human-rights-during-virtual-summit

https://www.dw.com/en/eu-pushes-china-on-trade-human-rights-at-virtual-summit/a-54928071

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/international-summit/2020/09/14/

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2020/09/14/remarks-by-president-charles-michel-after-the-eu-china-leaders-meeting-via-video-conference/

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/statement_20_1644

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_1648

https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1200887.shtml

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-09/15/c_139368204.htm

https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202009/15/WS5f5ff5f8a3101ccd0bee04e7_1.html

https://news.cgtn.com/news/2020-09-14/Xi-attends-China-Germany-EU-leaders-meeting-via-video-link-TMA0kfp5lK/index.html

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_1602




14 September 2020​​​​​​

Image Source: Pixabay


EU Council President Charles Michel reacting to British government’s proposed legislation to rewrite the Brexit Withdrawal agreement, warned the UK that “its international credibility is at stake” adding that “it must fulfil its responsibility to implement the Brexit withdrawal agreement”.

Under the Brexit withdrawal agreement, Northern Ireland will enjoy a special status to ensure no return of a border with Ireland, in line with the Good Friday Agreement. However, Johnson accused the EU of threatening to use an “extreme interpretation” of the Northern Ireland Protocol to impose “a full-scale trade border down the Irish Sea” that could stop the transport of food from Britain to Northern Ireland.

EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland “is not a threat to the integrity of the UK”, and reminding the UK that “we agreed to this delicate compromise” with Johnson and the British government “in order to protect peace & stability on the island of Ireland”. Irish Justice Minister also reminded that Northern Ireland First Minister has accepted the Northern Ireland protocol in the Withdrawal agreement and “any suggestion that it is going to create any new border is simply not true”.

Former UK Prime Ministers John Major and Tony Blair have also united to urge British MPs to reject Johnson’s controversial UK Internal Market Bill.

Read more: https://www.rte.ie/news/brexit/2020/0913/1164910-uk-brexit/

 

Related articles:

https://www.euractiv.com/section/uk-europe/news/eu-warns-britain-its-international-credibility-is-at-stake/

https://www.euronews.com/2020/09/12/boris-johnson-warns-eu-could-carve-up-our-country-if-tories-don-t-back-new-brexit-bill

https://www.politico.eu/article/boris-johnson-brexit-plan-blasted-by-tony-blair-john-major/

https://www.france24.com/en/20200913-johnson-s-claim-the-eu-wants-to-create-n-ireland-border-simply-not-true-ireland-says

https://www.dw.com/en/brexit-former-uk-prime-ministers-slam-illegal-trade-plan/a-54913685




11 September 2020​​​​​

Image Source: Twitter/EmmanuelMacron​


On Thursday (10 September), leaders of seven Southern EU states (France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Malta and Cyprus) gathered in Corsica amid fears of open conflict as Turkey seeks to expand its energy resources and influence in the eastern Mediterranean region. They urged Turkey to end “unilateral and illegal activities” in the eastern Mediterranean and resume dialogue to ease tensions in the region. In their final statement, leaders reaffirmed their “full support and solidarity with Cyprus and Greece” who they say are facing Turkey’s “confrontational actions”. Leaders also warned that the EU is ready to develop a list of further restrictive measures at the European Council summit later this month.

French President Macron denounced what he called “unacceptable” provocations from Turkey adding that “Turkey is no longer a partner in this region”. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry shot back characterising Macron’s statement as “arrogant” and in line with “old colonial reflexes”, accusing the French president of stoking tensions and putting the “greater interests” of Europe at risk.

Speaking to EU lawmakers, Greek European Affairs Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis appealed for support from European partners, saying the tensions over energy rights “constitute by themselves a grave threat to our common security architecture”. He added that Turkey is looking beyond Greece and is “a major destabilising factor in the wider area”, citing Turkish government actions in Libya, Syria and beyond.

In a testy exchange with EU lawmakers, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu urged the Europeans to play the role of an “honest broker” in the maritime border and energy dispute rather than take sides with member countries Greece and Cyprus. He also highlighted that they are “ready for dialogue without any preconditions”.

EU Council President Charles Michel will travel to Greece, Cyprus and Malta next week for talks with the leaders.

Read more: https://www.euronews.com/2020/09/10/southern-eu-leaders-urge-turkey-to-end-unilateral-actions-in-mediterranean-sea-threaten-sa

 

Related articles:

https://www.france24.com/en/20200910-mediterranean-leaders-ready-for-eu-sanctions-on-confrontational-turkey

https://www.politico.eu/article/emmanuel-macron-calls-out-turkey-while-extending-dialogue-branch/

https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/europes-south-tells-turkey-resume-talks-this-month-or-risk-sanctions/

https://www.euronews.com/2020/09/10/macron-europe-must-have-a-more-united-and-clear-voice-with-turkey




10 September 2020​​​​​

Image Source:Twitter/BorisJohnson​


On Wednesday (9 September), Boris Johnson’s government put itself on a collision course with the EU after publishing the Internal Market Bill that would breach key parts of its Brexit Withdrawal Agreement with the bloc.

The Bill, designed to govern trade within the UK’s four nations, states that there will be no new checks on goods moving from Northern Ireland to the rest of Great Britain. It also gives UK ministers powers to modify or “disapply” rules relating to the movement of goods that will come into force from 1 January 2021, when the UK leaves the EU’s single market, if a successor trade agreement is not reached. Both provisions run counter to the Irish Protocol which guarantees that customs checks at the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland do not return.

The bill prompted angry responses in Brussels and Dublin, as well as from opposition lawmakers in the UK. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted that she was “very concerned about announcements from the British government on its intentions to breach the Withdrawal Agreement”, adding that “this would break international law and undermines trust”. Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin spoke to Johnson and warned that the breach of an international treaty and absence of bilateral engagement “is extremely divisive and dangerous”.

A handful of Conservative lawmakers have also signalled their opposition to the Bill arguing that it would undermine international trust in the UK.

Some analysts think that the Bill is a negotiating tactic by Johnson as trade talks in London continued. Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove is also expected to meet European Commissioner Maros Sefcovic to discuss the contents of the Bill.

Read more: https://www.euractiv.com/section/uk-europe/news/johnsons-plan-to-break-brexit-agreement-triggers-angry-eu-backlash/

 

Related articles:

https://www.politico.eu/article/boris-johnson-internal-market-bill-went-down-close-to-home/

https://www.politico.eu/article/brexit-negotiations-eu-uk-no-deal-withdrawal-agreement-irish-border-breach-international-law/

https://www.politico.eu/article/nancy-pelosi-absolutely-no-us-trade-deal-if-uk-breaks-brexit-pact/

https://www.politico.eu/article/emergency-meeting-of-eu-uk-joint-committee-to-take-place-thursday/

https://www.france24.com/en/20200909-british-pm-johnson-defends-new-bill-seeking-to-breach-eu-withdrawal-treaty

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-54097320




9 September 2020​​​​

Image Source: European Commission


On Tuesday (8 September), EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tapped Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis as the EU’s new trade commissioner, a post that he was already filling in an acting capacity after Phil Hogan’s resignation last month. As for Mairead McGuinness, a veteran member of the European Parliament, nominated to be the new Irish commissioner, von der Leyen put her in charge of financial services and stability.

The change in Dombrovskis’ role will be subject to scrutiny by Parliament, and the appointment of McGuinness requires a confirmation vote. While Parliament is widely expected to approve the changes, some MEPs were quick to warn that nothing should be taken for granted. Kathleen Van Brempt, a Belgian MEP who is trade coordinator for the socialists group, questioned von der Leyen’s decision to add trade to Dombrovskis’ already hefty portfolio. She said she acknowledged that Dombrovskis is an experienced commissioner but not necessarily on trade, adding that “when it comes to trade, he still has to prove himself”.

Read more: https://www.politico.eu/article/ursula-von-der-leyen-reshuffle-mairead-mcguinness-valdis-dombrovskis/

 

Related articles:

https://www.euractiv.com/section/economy-jobs/news/von-der-leyen-proposes-mcguinness-as-financial-services-commissioner/

https://www.euronews.com/2020/09/08/ursula-von-der-leyen-to-announce-european-commission-reshuffle

https://www.neweurope.eu/article/commissions-reshuffle-sees-ireland-losing-trade-portfolio/

https://www.rte.ie/news/politics/2020/0908/1163858-european-commission-vacancy/




8 September 2020​​​

Image Source: Pixabay


On Monday (7 September), MEPs held a new round of talks on the EU’s long-term budget for 2021-2027 with the Council of Ministers and the Commission and requested to bolster the EU’s budget with around €110 billion.   This was one of the main bones of contention, with a Council official saying that “the room for manoeuvre is very limited on this”. Representatives of EU member states believe that the Parliament’s demand is hard to swallow.

Another contentious issue is how to pay for the €750 billion coronavirus-stimulus. The Parliament is pushing for a legally-binding declaration by member states on the introduction of new levies and taxes to finance the unprecedented amount that the bloc will borrow from the markets. But a Council official said it was “a big ask” to request a legal commitment when there are no formal proposals from the Commission on the table.

Negotiators also exchanged views on green aspects of the EU budget deal, including a commitment by EU leaders to ensure that 30% of the bloc’s funds are dedicated to climate-friendly projects.

Read more: https://www.euractiv.com/section/economy-jobs/news/parliament-wants-to-top-up-eu-budget-with-e110-billion/

 

Related articles:

https://www.euronews.com/2020/09/07/we-ll-find-a-solution-eu-s-michel-confident-over-covid-fund-dispute#spotim-launcher-widget-1216364

https://www.reuters.com/article/eu-recovery-michel/rule-of-law-row-is-top-challenge-to-eu-covid-recovery-fund-senior-official-idUSL8N2G12V7

 



7 September 2020​​

Image Source: Pixabay


The Financial Times reported on Sunday (6 September) that the UK government is planning legislation that will override key parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement. The so-called internal market bill, due to be published Wednesday, is expected to “eliminate the legal force of parts of the withdrawal agreement” in areas relating to state aid and Northern Ireland customs.

However, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, who was key in negotiating the withdrawal agreement, tweeted that the reported plan “would be very unwise”. EU diplomats added that this would be a “desperate and ultimately self-defeating strategy”.

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson restated the deadline of 15 October for a free trade deal with the EU, after which Britain would walk away from the post-Brexit negotiations if the two sides failed to reach a deal. He said that in case of a no-deal Brexit, the UK would “prosper mightily” even if it had “a trading arrangement with the EU like Australia’s”, which he argued would still be a “good outcome”. Johnson did not rule out a deal altogether, but highlighted that the UK “cannot and will not compromise on the fundamentals of what it means to be an independent country to get it”.

Read more: https://www.dw.com/en/brexit-uk-plans-to-override-parts-of-eu-withdrawal-deal/a-54835926

 

Related articles:

https://www.france24.com/en/20200907-uk-s-johnson-to-override-brexit-withdrawal-agreement-says-ft

https://www.ft.com/content/9906e0d4-0c29-4f5f-9cb0-130c75a2f7a7

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-54051933

https://www.euractiv.com/section/uk-europe/news/uk-ups-the-ante-on-eu-ahead-of-crunch-brexit-trade-talks/

https://www.euronews.com/2020/09/07/boris-johnson-says-no-deal-brexit-good-outcome-for-uk-ahead-of-eu-talks

https://www.politico.eu/article/boris-johnson-uk-ready-to-accept-and-move-on-if-no-eu-deal-by-october/




4 September 2020​

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons


On Thursday (3 September), the EU urged the United States (US) to reverse sanctions against those staff at the International Criminal Court (ICC) who were investigating whether American forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell said in a statement “the sanctions announced by the United States administration... are unacceptable and unprecedented measures that attempt to obstruct the Court’s investigations and judicial proceedings”, adding that “the ICC must be able to work independently and impartially, free from outside interference” He urged the US to reconsider its position and reverse the measures it has taken, saying that “impunity must never be an option”.

The US, which is not a party to the international court and does not recognize its authority, has called the ICC “corrupt”, “grossly ineffective”, and “highly politicized”. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also accused the court, which is based in The Hague, of being on “ideological crusade against American service members”.

France echoed Borrell’s statement, calling the sanctions a “serious attack” against the court and countries that support it, as well as “a challenge to multilateralism and the independence of the judiciary”.

Read more: https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-urges-us-to-reverse-sanctions-against-icc-staff/

 

Related articles:

https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/84721/international-criminal-court-statement-high-representativevice-president-josep-borrell-us_en

https://www.theguardian.com/law/2020/sep/03/us-sanctions-on-icc-prosecutor-unacceptable-says-eu

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-icc-sanctions-eu/us-blacklisting-of-icc-prosecutor-must-be-reversed-eu-says-idUSKBN25U2Q0

https://www.france24.com/en/20200903-france-calls-on-us-to-drop-icc-sanctions-a-serious-attack-on-the-court

https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/france-leads-criticism-of-us-attack-on-icc/




3 September 2020

Image Source: European Commission


In a speech to Irish think tank the Institute of International and European Affairs on Wednesday (2 September), EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said London had refused to make even the most basic concessions needed to meet the EU’s main preconditions for a deal, particularly on the most sensitive issues such as fisheries and ensuring a level playing field to prevent Britain from gaining an advantage by diverging from EU regulations and standards. He added that the EU has repeatedly shown flexibility and creativity to work with the UK’s red lines in the past, and it’s time for the UK to reciprocate on those issues that are fundamental for the EU. He added “it’s normal that the UK wants to set its own standard and rules. But if these serve to distort competition with us, then we have a problem”.

However, officials in London were quick to hit back. A UK official said “I would say that’s a deliberate and misleading caricature of our proposals aimed at deflecting scrutiny from the EU’s own positions, which are wholly unrealistic and unprecedented”. He added “for our part, we have been consistently clear that we are seeking a relationship that respects our sovereignty and which has a free-trade agreement at its core, similar to those the EU has already agreed with like-minded countries”.

Looking ahead to the formal round of talks in London next week, Barnier reiterated that an agreement is still his goal, but not at any cost.

Read more: https://www.politico.eu/article/brussels-accuses-london-of-selfish-obstinance-in-brexit-talks/

 

Related articles:

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/statement_20_1553

https://www.euronews.com/2020/09/02/brexit-talks-barnier-slams-uk-stance-says-britain-not-seeking-clean-break-from-eu-at-all-

https://www.euractiv.com/section/uk-europe/news/eus-barnier-urges-uk-to-accept-compromise-on-post-brexit-deal/

https://euobserver.com/tickers/149304

https://www.rte.ie/news/business/2020/0902/1162787-brexit-talks/

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-53998244

https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-momentum/lets-agree-simple-parts-of-brexit-deal-first-britain-tells-eu-idUKKBN25S50D




2 September 2020​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Image Source: Twitter/GermanyDiplo​


Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s European tour ended on Tuesday (1 September) with Germany urging China to withdraw the national security law imposed on Hong Kong and to grant access for international observers to visit Xinjiang’s Uygurs.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also called for Legislative Council elections to take place in Hong Kong “quickly and unhindered”. The elections, which were planned in September, were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Democratic opposition groups see the postponement as illegitimate.

Wang’s visit to Berlin is the final stop on a tour of five European countries as he seeks to shore up economic and diplomatic relations in light of tensions with the US. In this trip, he signed two trade agreements, including one on the supply of gas.

Germany, which currently holds the EU rotating presidency, plans to organise a special summit with China’s President Xi Jinping later this month. Some other EU leaders are also expected to attend, in a bid to pile pressure on Xi to accept wider market access for EU companies as part of an EU-China investment deal still under negotiation.

Read more: https://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/3099804/germany-urges-withdrawal-hong-kong-national-security-law-seeks-access

 

Related articles:

https://www.dw.com/en/heiko-maas-calls-for-withdrawal-of-hong-kong-security-law/a-54781315

https://www.politico.eu/article/heiko-maas-germany-china-meeting/

https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/en/aussenpolitik/laenderinformationen/china-node/maas-wang/2380352



1 September 2020​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Image Source: Twitter/SenatCZ​


Czech Senate President Milos Vystrcil led a 90-member delegation trip to Taiwan on Sunday (30 August), despite strong opposition from China.

China called the 90-member Czech delegation trip to Taiwan “a despicable act” that would wreck bilateral relations. Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi further denounced Vytrcil’s trip, saying that he would “pay a heavy price” for the trip.

These “threats” from the Chinese did not go down well with the Czech Republic. Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek said he would summon the Chinese envoy to Prague, asking for an explanation for Wang’s remarks that he thought had crossed the line. Petricek said that the Czech government did not support the trip, but added that Czech Republic is a free country seeking to have good relationships with all countries and this visit is by no means meant to politically confront anyone.

Czech Republic does not have formal relations with Taiwan, but the Central European country is Taiwan’s fourth biggest investment destination in Europe, behind Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK.

Read more: https://www.dw.com/en/czech-china-taiwan/a-54764477

 

Related articles:

https://www.neweurope.eu/article/defying-china-czech-delegation-arrives-in-taiwan/

https://www.politico.eu/article/china-warns-czech-senate-president-must-pay-a-heavy-price-for-taiwan-visit/

https://www.euronews.com/2020/08/31/china-threatens-retaliation-after-czech-delegation-visit-to-taiwan

https://euobserver.com/tickers/149291

https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3099597/chinas-foreign-minister-says-czech-senate-president-will-pay

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/31/china-threatens-czech-senate-speaker-vystrcil-over-taiwan-visit.html

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