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#MFF - 'Without genuine progress we risk heading for the worst budget ever': European Economic and Social Committee President Luca Jahier



"For weeks, I have been seriously concerned about the news filtering on the preparation of the Extraordinary European Council, which is expected to discuss the Multi-Annual Financial Framework on 20 February. Today EP plenary debate in Strasbourg has fully confirmed my long-standing concerns.

"I fully support the action and the approach of the European Parliament, which is fiercely fighting for an ambitious European budget and urge the Council to align its future position on the one voted upon by MEPs and the one of the European Economic and Social Committee.

"The Council has not made good progress on this file, which is absolutely crucial. The issue is now in the hands of the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, who will have the difficult task to propose a new text, on the basis of bilateral meetings he conducted in the last weeks.

"The lack of converging views is worrisome to say the least. The new Commission, starting with President von der Leyen's speech in July, showed commitment and ambition.

"The adoption of the European Green Deal in December 2019 has been the first major act that confirmed a new political momentum. The 2020 work programme of the Commission is, in the same vein, equally ambitious.

"But – and there is a but – if we want to deliver on an ambitious European agenda, then there is no secret: The EU needs adequate resources. If the members states are not available to pay more for fulfilling ambitious priorities they already agreed, they have to allow consistent own-resources.

"Already on 2 May 2018, as EESC President I praised the Commission's proposal on the MFF for some novelty elements, but I warned that a EU budget based on 1,13 % GNP was not enough. We need to go at least up to 1.3%.

"On the size of the budget, let me stress that the EESC's position is in line with that of the European Parliament and the Committee of the Regions, which obviously is just as aware as we are that the challenges lying ahead call for adequate financial means.

"If the EU will not even be in the position – from the very start – to deliver, then we will betray the European voters who, not later than last May, gave, through their vote, a resounding message: "We (still) believe in Europe, its values and its policies".

"As things stand, we risk heading for the worst budget ever. To adopt an EU budget, whose size would be close to 1%, or just above – would not only send the wrong political message, but it would weaken the European Commission's capacity to deliver.

"The Commission, notably on the basis of the Monti's report, has insisted, in its proposal on the own resources. It is about time that the EU looks seriously at this and other financial options or we risk to have a budget that will decrease.

"To the member states that are tempted in cutting the EU budget and particularly the "old" policies such as the Common Agricultural Policy and the Cohesion Policy, I say: These policies are not policies of the past, they are the very face of Europe for many European citizens! They represent, more than ever, the starting point on which to base the future of Europe: they support economic growth, employment and they support the European Green deal! They point to the future, not to the past.

"Time is running out. We are already very late. A good conclusion could be agreed in a very short time, provided there is a clear political will. It’s time to be coherent, it’s time to challenge the Council and move to reach an agreement.

"We need a budget for the future, a budget which is in line with a clear vision for Europe, for its citizens and for the next generations!

"European citizens deserve respect and their vote should be heard, not ignored!"


Kazakhstan sets parliamentary elections for January 2021



Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev signed a decree scheduling Majilis elections for 10 January 2021, reported Akorda press service, writes Assel Satubaldina.

Majilis is the lower chamber of the Kazakh Parliament consisting of 107 deputies, who are elected for a five-year term.

The previous elections were held in March 2016. Six political parties participated in the elections and three of them including Nur Otan (82.2%), Ak Zhol Democratic Party of Kazakhstan (7.18%), the Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan (7.14%), received more than 7% of the votes and won the right to delegate their deputies to the chamber.

Currently, the Nur Otan party has a majority of 84 deputies in the Majilis, the Ak Zhol and the Communist People’s party have seven deputies each.

Nine deputies are elected from the Assembly of People of Kazakhstan, an advisory body under the President of Kazakhstan whose members are drawn from organizations representing major ethnic communities living in Kazakhstan.

“All political parties had time to prepare for the upcoming election campaign, develop an election platform, and enhance party infrastructure. The Central Election Commission and the Prosecutor General’s Office will continuously monitor the legality, transparency, and fairness of elections,” said Tokayev in his address.

He emphasized the reforms he has undertaken since he stepped into the presidential office in June 2019, including the introduction of a parliamentary opposition institute.

“One chair and two secretaries of the Majilis standing committees will now be elected from the members of the parliamentary opposition. In addition, the parliamentary opposition will have the right to initiate parliamentary hearings at least once during one session and to set the agenda for the government hour at least twice during one session,” said the Kazakh president.

In 2019, Tokayev signed the decree that introduced a mandatory 30 percent quota for women and young people in party lists in an effort to increase their voice in the decision-making process.

The next elections to maslikhats (representative local authority bodies) will for the first time be held based on party lists, which according to Tokayev will “enable parties to strengthen their position in the country’s political system.”

In August, seventeen Senate deputies from the nation’s 14 regions and cities of Nur-Sultan, Almaty and Shymkent were elected to the Senate, the upper chamber of the Kazakh parliament.

The renewed composition of the Kazakh parliament, noted Tokayev, will focus on “quality legislative support for social and economic reforms in the country”.

“The serious economic crisis stemming from the coronavirus pandemic has affected many countries and adversely impacted the entire global economy. At these challenging times, Kazakhstan has to take effective anti-crisis measures, ensuring sustainable economic development, social wellbeing of our citizens, and improving the well-being of the people,” said Tokayev, encouraging all citizens to take part in the upcoming elections.

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EU says there is a deal to be done, but reminds the UK that 'Brexit means Brexit'



Following last week’s European Council, European Council President Charles Michel, Vice President Maroš Šefčovič and EU Chief negotiator for relations with the UK Michel Barnier presented the conclusions to MEPs.

The British government, through its Chief Negotiator Lord Frost, appeared to take the hump at the replacement of the word ‘intensify’ with the word ‘continue’ in the conclusions of last week’s European Council meeting. There was much sabre-rattling from the British side and much continuity from the EU side. 

Today (21 October), the conclusions were reiterated, but this time a Downing Street spokesperson replied: "We note with interest the EU's negotiator has commented in a significant way on the issues behind the current difficulties in our talks. We're studying carefully what was said. David Frost will discuss the situation when he speaks to Michel Barnier later today."

Charles Michel borrowed from Theresa May, saying that “Brexit means Brexit” and that this means making choices. He said that EU leaders want a deal, but not just any deal: “No other economy is as closely aligned to ours as the British economy. We need to ensure that the European Union and the United Kingdom's companies face fair competition on the EU market, this is why we have put so much emphasis on ensuring a level playing field on governance and conflict resolution. Together with fisheries these are the main outstanding issues where we are still far apart.”

Michel Barnier pointed to the progress that has been paid on many fronts including transportation where the UK has agreed to specific level playing field provisions in road transportation. He also mentioned progress on Europol and Eurojust co-operation, data protection, energy, social security coordination, trade in goods and on European programmes such as Horizon (R&D) and Erasmus. However, he said that much progress was needed on fisheries and governance.

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As clock ticks, EU and UK tell each other to budge on Brexit



A frustrated European Union and piqued Britain both exhorted the other on Tuesday (20 October) to compromise to avoid a fast-approaching disruptive finale to the five-year Brexit drama that would add to economic pain from the coronavirus crisis, write Elizabeth Piper, Michael Holden and Costas Pitas in London.
Failure to clinch a trade deal when Britain leaves a standstill transition period on 31 December would sow chaos through supply chains and undermine Europe’s economy as it already sees jobs and businesses pulverized by the COVID-19 disease.

After an EU demand for concessions, Prime Minister Boris Johnson broke off talks and said it was time to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.

The EU has since offered to intensify talks and open discussions on legal texts of a draft deal, but Britain maintains there is no basis to resume discussions without a fundamental change in approach.

“My message: we should be making the most out of the little time left,” Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, said after a telephone call with British counterpart David Frost.

“Our door remains open.”

The European Commission said it was ready to negotiate though both sides would have to compromise.

UK says Brexit talks situation remains unchanged

Johnson’s spokesman said the EU had to show it was taking a fundamentally different approach.

EU diplomats cast Britain’s moves as bluster and a frantic bid to secure concessions before a last-minute deal, though an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel said chances of a deal were narrowing.

“At the moment, I see the chances worse than 50-50,” Detlef Seif, Brexit rapporteur for Merkel’s conservatives in the lower house of parliament, told Reuters. “The ball is still in Britain’s court at the moment.”

There is concern in some European capitals that Johnson may judge that the domestic political benefits and potentially the long-term economic freedom of a noisy no-deal exit outweigh the benefits of a shallow trade deal.

“If they want to get back to the negotiating table, they can,” said one EU diplomat. “If they want to jump – we won’t be able to stop them.”

“All this posturing is only aimed at strengthening Johnson’s hand. If they don’t want to talk, that’s their choice. There is no point at this stage to give them anything more,” said another EU diplomat.

Britain formally left the EU at the end of January, but the two sides have been haggling over a deal that would govern $900 billion in trade from car parts to medicines.

Johnson and his Brexit supremo Michael Gove will tell businesses on a video call on Tuesday to step up preparations for the end of the transition period.

Failure to strike a deal with the EU would be “extremely damaging” and cut profits by up to a quarter at carmaker Bentley, its boss told Reuters, as the government urges firms to plan for potential disruption.

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