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Enlargement

#Georgia EU integration is logical without Abkhazia and South Ossetia

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GeorgianWith the Association Agreement between the EU and Georgia signed in 2014, the actual integration process for Georgia seems to have fully entered into force, writes Olga Malik.

According to the press release by the European Commission, the Association Agreement between the EU and Georgia dated July 1, 2016 Georgia and the EU should create a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), remove customs tariffs and quotas between each other and reach visa-free travel. Tbilisi, indeed, has shown an exemplary integration policy towards the EU. For instance, Georgia imposed visas for Asian and African citizens regardless possible losses in its tourism industry by the EU’s request, the step which was not ignored by the EU officials. According to EU Commissioner for neighboring policy Johannes Hahn who spoke at the 13th annual international conference, Georgia’s European Way, in Batumi earlier this summer “despite the Brexit vote, the EU will remain committed to partner countries in its neighborhood”.

However, speaking of Georgia’s EU integration, EU diplomats and officials often focus on Georgia’s territorial dilemma with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. De-facto not being a part of Georgia, these territories pose the key obstacle for both Brussels and Tbilisi. Due to the unstable political and economic situation these autonomies are another source of 'not wanted' immigrants for the EU. The military conflict in 2008 and the necessity of huge financial investments in Abkhazia and South Ossetia deprived these territories of a sustainable economic growth.  Despite the geographical proximity and historic ties the customs at the Georgia’s borders with Abkhazia and South Ossetia operate in a limited mode while most Georgians who resided in these autonomies returned back.

After signing the Association Agreement Georgia demonstrated its loyalty and obedience to the EU’s requirements in every step of the way: political stability; growing economy, social security and an enabling environment for private sector. However, to get the same loyalty from Brussels and Washington and to reach visa-free travel Tbilisi shall give up on the neighbor territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Business

#EUReporter more influential and trusted than The Guardian, Der Spiegel and Le Monde

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The annual survey of which are the most-read or watched media and social media for news on EU issues – and which are viewed as the most influential – was unveiled in the ComRes/Burson-Marsteller 2017 EU Media Survey on What Influences the Influencers.

Burson-Marsteller CEO Karen Massin and ComRes Associate Director Meghan Oliver outlined the preferred EU news sources and social media channels used by Brussels policy-makers and opinion formers, and how these compare in influencing their decisions.

The survey invited respondents to identify the EU and national media that they most often read or watch, the social media they most frequently use and to assess the influence that these sources and channels have on their day-to-day work

EU Reporter polled significantly as an influencer at 9%, between Linked In (12%) and Instagram (7%).

“The main takeaway for EU Reporter is that when it comes to EU news, the survey shows that EU Reporter is more influential (and trusted) than national titles such as The Guardian, Der Spiegel and Le Monde.

"EU Reporter received more votes than all three of these titles,” said Burson-Marsteller Communications Managing Director Dennis Abbot.

“In general, media that specialise in coverage of EU news, large or small, out-perform national titles among decision-makers and other influencers in Brussels” he said. “It's clear that policy-makers want to hear the news from source and not through a national filter.”

EU Reporter was particularly popular as a trusted source of news and information amongst MEPs and other politicians on both main online news and social media.

Regarding social media usage, EU influencers are most likely to say they use Facebook. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) say that use it at least once a week, followed by Twitter and YouTube (both 53 percent), LinkedIn (37 percent) and Instagram (17 percent).

The data highlights that MEPs in particular favour Facebook, with nine in ten (93%) saying they use the network at least once a week. POLITICO and the BBC are the most-read or watched media by policy-makers and opinion formers in Brussels – and readerships of both have increased since the previous EU media survey, published in January 2016.

Nearly two-thirds of Brussels influencers say they read POLITICO at least once a week.  More than half say the same about the BBC.

Nearly half of respondents read the Financial Times and The Economist. Euronews, which was not covered in the previous survey, is watched or read by more than a third of policy-makers and opinion formers

Speaking at the launch of the survey, Karen Massin commented: “The European Union has been at the heart of major political developments and tumultuous change in the past year so it is not a surprise to see significant increases in readership among EU news outlets. The surge in social media use by Influencers, particularly via YouTube and LinkedIn, is another striking finding. The results underline that to make your voice heard in the Brussels conversation, you need to think integrated and engage with both the media and social media.”

ComRes Associate Director Meghan Oliver added: "It was great to partner again with Burson-Marsteller Brussels to understand media influence on Brussels influencers. It is interesting to note that readership across many titles increased this year. At the same time, consumption does not necessarily correlate with influence – readership alone doesn’t guarantee cut-through with influencers."

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Enlargement

#EuroLat: Deeper EU-Latin integration needed

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eurolat_logoDeepening the integration of the EU and Latin America is the best way to respond to common challenges, agreed parliamentarians from both sides of the Atlantic at the opening of the ninth plenary session of the Euro-Latin Parliamentary Assembly (EuroLat), on Tuesday in Montevideo (Uruguay). The economic situation, trade relations between the EU and Latin America and between both regions and China, managing migration flows and fighting terrorism are also on the agenda.

“Our history and our culture, our shared values should impel to step up our political, trade and cooperation relations”, said European Parliament Vice-President Antonio Tajani (EPP, IT), at the opening of the plenary session. Mr Tajani pointed to geopolitical changes under way in Latin America, such as the peace process in Colombia and the institutional uncertainty in Brazil. He underlined European concerns about the worsening situation in Venezuela and the 'deterioration of democratic quality' in Nicaragua.

On behalf of Parlasur (Mercosur´s Parliament), which organized the session, its President  Jorge Taiana (Argentina) warned of the forces resisting the EU-Latin American integration and stressed that the combination of sustainable development, social justice, well being and freedom is possible only if it is founded upon a robust integration process.

“We must bring together our weaknesses and our strengths, there is no way out without integration”, said Roberto Requião (Brazil), Co-President of the Latin American component of EuroLat. “The current circumstances force us to cooperate (…) we will in that way favor the balance of power in the global stage”, he said. Mr Requião denounced the 'tricks' used to oust democratically-elected presidents,  as in Brazil, noting that in all cases they had refused to follow neoliberal dictates.

The European Co-President of EuroLat, Ramón Jáuregui (S&D, ES), acknowledged the work done by the Assembly over last ten years to strengthen the strategic alliance between the two regions. Despite the differences, he said, “nowhere else there is more convergence in values and aspirations”. Mr Jáuregui urged that bilateral trade agreements be promoted as a key tool for development. He mentioned the peace agreement in Colombia and announced that a EuroLat delegation would go there the following week to the country to assess the situation and defend a positive vote in the coming referendum.

Uruguay’s former President José Mujica, who also attended the opening, regretted that in spite of progress and the available resources, the basic needs of a big part of the world population are not met. He criticized the growing concentration of capital and insisted that trade pacts should improve living conditions of people, not just cut costs for corporations.

Finally, Uruguay´s Vice-President and interim President Raúl Sendic agreed that unity and integration of the EU and Latin American are essential. “We cannot face current challenges by ourselves, we need integration and unity, within and between our continents”, he said, adding that these “must solve citizens’ real problems; otherwise, they will fail."

 

EuroLat members meeting until Thursday in Montevideo’s “Palacio Legislativo”, the home of the Uruguayan Parliament, will discuss resolutions on the financing of political parties, the relations of both regions with China, the trade aspects of EU-Latin American negotiations, the setting up of a common digital agenda, the fight against poverty and the opportunities and challenges of shale gas.

 

Other topics of debate will be combatting organised crime and terrorism, corporate social responsibility and fighting informal and undeclared work. A working group on migration will present a recommendation on migration, development and economic crisis.

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Asylum policy

#Migration crisis in Germany: Can a refugee-friendly policy cause a terrorist threat?

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german-migrantsAs the refugee crisis in Europe continues to gain its pace, Germany seems to have lost its grip on refugee resettlements control, writes Olga Malik.

Sexual attacks in Cologne followed by assaults on women in Kiel and Nuremberg, fights and unrests within refugee camps have made local residents experience a new reality full of brutality and aggression. However, single crime incidents might be the lesser evil compared with the growing terrorist threat of the poorly controlled refugee camps in Germany and all over the EU.

Snowball effect

Uncontrolled refugee camps continue their expansion across the EU. Only in Germany the new refugee camps for immigrants from Syria and Iraq are yet to appear in 2016. However, with the understaffed police in Germany it is almost impossible to expect a proper control of the refugees benefiting from this chaotic situation. Being less vulnerable and policed members from IS and IS-allied groups can easily penetrate to Germany causing an obvious danger and terrorism threat to the EU.

However, while the German authorities are not publicly announcing the information about newly-appearing refugee resettlements to avoid public fear and anger, the new mini-spots for refugees in outskirts of the German cities with the number of immigrants getting beyond the government control. The snowball effect of chaotic migration flows has proved its incredible danger in other parts of the world. The best example of this can be the uncontrolled Afghan settlements in Northern Pakistan which were the beginning of Taliban.

What’s next?

Earlier this year the German society was split apart on the question of way of dealing with refugees. While conservatives supported the government’s idea to erase valuables from arriving refugees in order to compensate the budget expenses and implement compulsory integration of refuges, supporters of social democratic movement proclaimed more “civilized” approach. Nevertheless the majority from both blocks agreed on Chancellor Merkel’s failure to manage the migration crisis. Merkel’s public speeches assuring the government would be able to cope with uncontrolled refugee flows gained much less support and trust from the public. The public outrage reached its peak after the mass sexual assaults on women in Cologne on the New Year’s Eve.

According to the local social activist Markus Lehmann, the continuous unrest among refugees and inability of government authorities to manage the migrant crisis may be fatal for Germany as well as entire Europe. The recent terrorist attack in the Brussels airport that shrugged the entire European Union was a perfect example of it, the activist said.

But not welcoming refugees is not a solution. Most of the times it is not refugees who cause terrorist threats but the local residents who carry radical ideas in minds and use refugees as a perfect tool to reach their goals. Many refugees from the war-raged environments are well-educated persons representing the middle class of their homelands. They have proved their ability to adopt the EU values, learn a new language and even add to the economic development of the EU. Perhaps a better control and smart use of so-called “soft power” to trace the refuge flow would help to avoid a growing terrorist threat I Europe.

Olga Malik is an independent journalist and political writer.

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