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European Parliament ratifies Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) partnership with #Kazakhstan

Colin Stevens

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The European Parliament has formally ratified a landmark Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) partnership deal with Kazakhstan, its first with a central Asian country.

In a debate and vote in the parliament in Strasbourg on Monday night, the new deal was approved by MEPs by an overwhelming majority, with 511 votes in favour, 115 against and 28 abstentions.

The new Agreement will replace the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement that has been in force since 1999 and, according to a Commission spokesman represents a “significant step forward” in EU-Kazakhstan relations.

The European Union and Kazakhstan, the largest country in Central Asia, signed an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA) in Astana on 21 December 2015 but the new 150-page document had to be rubberstamped by MEPs – and member states - before it could come into effect.

The newly-signed deal showcases the deepened relationship between Kazakhstan and the European Union, and provides for greater trade and business relations between them.

On Tuesday,reaction to the landmark deal was swift.

In a tweet, Eduard Kukan, a senior Slovakian MEP, agreed that it represents a significant step forward in EU-Kazakhstan relations.

Kukan, who is a former foreign minister of Slovakia, also said the deal “opens up a new chapter in relations with Kazakhstan."

The EPP deputy said he hoped “that this will boost not only economic but also political relations.”

The Parliament had the power to approve or reject the agreement and a senior source at the European Commission, in welcoming the news, told this website that ratification showed that it was possible for countries in the region such as Kazakhstan to enjoy close relations with  both the EU and Russia.

In the debate in parliament, EU commissioner Vera Jourova, the official responsible for the Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality dossier, also welcomed the outcome of the vote, saying it would pave the way for improved cooperation with Kazakhstan.

She also acknowledged the efforts made in recent years by Kazakhstan to promote a green economy, setting ambitious targets, diversification and various investments in renewable energy.

The EU has become Kazakhstan’s first trade partner, representing one-third of its external trade, she pointed out. The official noted that Kazakhstan had also become an increasingly important partner in the promotion of peace and security.

The debate that preceded the vote was told that the Enhanced PCA will also enhance concrete cooperation in some other 29 key policy areas, including in the sectors of economic and financial cooperation, energy, transport, environment and climate change, employment and social affairs, culture, education and research.

Specific cooperation on civil society will also allow more meetings and consultations with Kazakhstan on the role of civil society, and notably encourage its active participation in the economic, social and political cooperation areas.

Several MEPs, during the debate, agreed that the agreement could be helpful for both the EU and Astana. These included Latvian ALDE member Iveta Grigule-Peterse who noted the “positive” role  of Kazakhstan in the wider central and eastern European region.

Currently, the EU is Kazakhstan`s first trade partner representing over one third of its external trade. Kazakhstan’s exports to the EU are almost entirely in the oil and gas sectors, alongside other minerals, chemicals and food products.

From the EU, Kazakhstan imports machinery and transport equipment and pharmaceuticals, alongside chemical products, plastics, medical devices and furniture.

The EU is also the largest foreign investor in Kazakhstan, representing over 50% of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Kazakhstan

Economy

Issuance of green bonds will strengthen the international role of the euro

Catherine Feore

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Eurogroup ministers discussed the international role of the euro (15 February), following the publication of the European Commission's communication of (19 January), ‘The European economic and financial system: fostering strength and resilience’.

President of the Eurogroup, Paschal Donohoe said: “The aim is to reduce our dependence on other currencies, and to strengthen our autonomy in various situations. At the same time, increased international use of our currency also implies potential trade-offs, which we will continue to monitor. During the discussion, ministers emphasized the potential of green bond issuance to enhance the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate transition objective.”

The Eurogroup has discussed the issue several times in recent years since the December 2018 Euro Summit. Klaus Regling, the managing director of the European Stability Mechanism said that overreliance on the dollar contained risks, giving Latin America and the Asian crisis of the 90s as examples. He also referred obliquely to “more recent episodes” where the dollar’s dominance meant that EU companies could not continue to work with Iran in the face of US sanctions. Regling believes that the international monetary system is slowly moving towards a multi-polar system where three or four currencies will be important, including the dollar, euro and renminbi. 

European Commissioner for the Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, agreed that the euro’s role could be strengthened through the issuance of green bonds enhancing the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate objectives of the Next Generation EU funds.

Ministers agreed that broad action to support the international role of the euro, encompassing progress on amongst other things, Economic and Monetary Union, Banking Union and Capital Markets Union were needed to secure the euros international role.

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EU

European human rights court backs Germany over Kunduz airstrike case

Reuters

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An investigation by Germany into a deadly 2009 airstrike near the Afghan city of Kunduz that was ordered by a German commander complied with its right-to-life obligations, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday (16 February), writes .

The ruling by the Strasbourg-based court rejects a complaint by Afghan citizen Abdul Hanan, who lost two sons in the attack, that Germany did not fulfil its obligation to effectively investigate the incident.

In September 2009, the German commander of NATO troops in Kunduz called in a U.S. fighter jet to strike two fuel trucks near the city which NATO believed had been hijacked by Taliban insurgents.

The Afghan government said at the time 99 people, including 30 civilians, were killed. Independent rights groups estimated between 60 and 70 civilians were killed.

The death toll shocked Germans and ultimately forced its defence minister to resign over accusations of covering up the number of civilian casualties in the run-up to Germany’s 2009 election.

Germany’s federal prosecutor general had found that the commander did not incur criminal liability, mainly because he was convinced when he ordered the airstrike that no civilians were present.

For him to be liable under international law, he would have had to be found to have acted with intent to cause excessive civilian casualties.

The European Court of Human Rights considered the effectiveness of Germany’s investigation, including whether it established a justification for lethal use of force. It did not consider the legality of the airstrike.

Of 9,600 NATO troops in Afghanistan, Germany has the second-largest contingent behind the United States.

A 2020 peace agreement between the Taliban and Washington calls for foreign troops to withdraw by May 1, but U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is reviewing the deal after a deterioration in the security situation in Afghanistan.

Germany is preparing to extend the mandate for its military mission in Afghanistan from March 31 until the end of this year, with troop levels remaining at up to 1,300, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.

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EU

Digitalization of EU justice systems: Commission launches public consultation on cross-border judicial co-operation

EU Reporter Correspondent

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On 16 February, the European Commission launched a public consultation on the modernization of EU justice systems. The EU aims to support member states in their efforts to adapt their justice systems to the digital age and improve EU cross-border judicial co-operation. Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders (pictured) said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of digitalization, including in the field of justice. Judges and lawyers need digital tools to be able to work together faster and more efficiently.

At the same time, citizens and businesses need online tools for an easier and more transparent access to justice at a lower cost. The Commission strives to push this process forward and support member states in their efforts, including as regards facilitating their cooperation in cross-border judicial procedures by using digital channels.” In December 2020, the Commission adopted a communication outlining the actions and initiatives intended to advance the digitalization of justice systems across the EU.

The public consultation will gather views on the digitalization of EU cross-border civil, commercial and criminal procedures. The results of the public consultation, in which a broad range of groups and individuals can participate and which is available here until 8 May 2021, will feed into an initiative on digitalisation of cross-border judicial cooperation expected at the end of this year as announced in the 2021 Commission's Work Programme.

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