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Exit poll confirms Nur Otan party lead in Kazakh parliamentary elections

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Kazakhstan’s ruling Nur Otan Party is leading in the election to Majilis – the lower house of the Kazakh Parliament – with 71.97% of votes, according to exit poll results announced at midnight on 11 January by the head of the Qogamdyq Pikir (Public Opinion) Research Institute Ainur Mazhitova, writes Assel Satubaldina.

The Ak Zhol Democratic Party was reported to have claimed 10.18% of the votes.

The People’s Party of Kazakhstan, the former Communist People’s party, gained 9.03% of the vote.

The Auyl People’s Democratic Patriotic Party received 5.75% of votes, and the Adal party – 3.07% of votes.

Mazhitova said that polls were carried out at 600 polling stations, of which 316 were in cities and 284 in rural areas reaching 24,000 citizens.

More than 10,000 polling stations were opened in 14 regions and three cities of national significance – Nur-Sultan, Almaty and Shymkent. Polling stations were open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. without breaks.

312 candidates from five parties competed for seats in the Majilis. 19 from the Auyl People’s Democratic Patriotic Party, 126 from the Nur Otan Party, 16 from the Adal political party, 38 from the Ak Zhol Democratic Party and 113 from the People’s Party of Kazakhstan.

The early official results are expected to be announced by Kazakhstan’s Central Electoral Commission in the afternoon on 11 January.

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New US president: How EU-US relations could improve 

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Joe Biden becoming the new US president is a chance to reset transatlantic relations ©Angela Weiss/AFP  

A new US president taking office represents an opportunity to reset transatlantic relations. Find out what the EU is offering to work together on. Europe and America have traditionally always been allies, but under Donald Trump the US has been acting more unilaterally, withdrawing from treaties and international organizations.

With Joe Biden (pictured) set to take over the reins from 20 January, the EU sees it as an opportunity to relaunch co-operation.

On 2 December 2020, the European Commission put forward a proposal for a new transatlantic agenda allowing the partners to work together on a variety of issues. The Council also reaffirmed the importance of the partnership in its conclusions on 7 December. Parliament is also looking forward to closer cooperation. On 7 November, Parliament President David Sassoli tweeted: “The world needs a strong relationship between Europe and the US - especially in these difficult times. We look forward to working together to fight COVID-19, climate change, and address rising inequality.”

Both the US and the EU have much to gain from closer ties, but many challenges and differences remain.

Coronavirus

Although COVID-19 poses a global threat, Trump still opted to withdraw the US from the World Health Organization. The EU and the US could join forces on funding the development and distribution of vaccines, test and treatment as well as working on prevention, preparedness and response.

Climate change

Together the EU and the US could push for ambitious agreements at this year’s UN Summits on Climate and Biodiversity, cooperate on developing green technologies and jointly design a global regulatory framework for sustainable finance.

Technology, trade and standards

From genetically modified food to beef treated with hormones, the EU and the US have had their share of trade disputes. However, both have much to gain from removing barriers. In 2018 Trump imposed tariffs on steel and aluminium, which led to the EU to impose tariffs on American products. Biden coming in as president is another chance for constructive talks.

The EU and the US could also collaborate on reforming the World Trade Organisation, protecting critical technologies and deciding new regulations and standards. The US is currently blocking the dispute resolution mechanisms established under the organization.

The Commission has also offered cooperation on challenges linked to digitalisation, such as fair taxation and market distortions. As a lot of leading digital companies are American, the issue of how to tax them could be sensitive.

Foreign affairs

The EU and the US also share a commitment to promoting democracy and human rights. Together they could work on strengthening the multilateral system. However, in some cases they disagree on the best way to proceed.

They both face the challenge of finding the best way to deal with China. Under Trump the US has been a lot more confrontational, while the EU focussed more on diplomacy. In December 2020 EU negotiators agreed a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment with China. The deal is currently being scrutinised by the Parliament. Its consent is needed for it to enter into force. The new American leadership represents an opportunity to coordinate their approaches more and better.

Iran is another topic on which the EU and the US have taken different approaches. Both the US and the EU were involved with the Iran nuclear agreement to avoid the country being able to pursue a nuclear weapon until Trump withdrew the US from it in 2018. The start of a new US president could be an occasion for a common approach.

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France says Iran is building nuclear weapons capacity, urgent to revive 2015 deal

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Iran is in the process of building up its nuclear weapons capacity and it is urgent that Tehran and Washington return to a 2015 nuclear agreement, France’s foreign minister was quoted as saying in an interview published on Saturday (16 January), writes .

Iran has been accelerating its breaches of the nuclear deal and earlier this month started pressing ahead with plans to enrich uranium to 20% fissile strength at its underground Fordow nuclear plant. That is the level Tehran achieved before striking the deal with world powers to contain its disputed nuclear ambitions.

The Islamic Republic’s breaches of the nuclear agreement since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from it in 2018 and subsequently imposed sanctions on Tehran may complicate efforts by President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office on Jan. 20, to rejoin the pact.

“The Trump administration chose what it called the maximum pressure campaign on Iran. The result was that this strategy only increased the risk and the threat,” Le Drian told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

“This has to stop because Iran and - I say this clearly - is in the process of acquiring nuclear (weapons) capacity.”

The agreement’s main aim was to extend the time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb, if it so chose, to at least a year from roughly two to three months. It also lifted international sanctions against Tehran.

Western diplomats have said Iran’s repeated breaches have already reduced the “breakout time” to well below a year.

Iran denies any intent to weaponise its nuclear programme.

With presidential elections in Iran due in June, Le Drian said it was urgent to “tell the Iranians that this is enough” and to bring Iran and the United States back into the accord.

Biden has said he will return the United States to the deal if Iran resumes strict compliance with it. Iran says sanctions must be lifted before it reverses its nuclear breaches.

However, Le Drian said that even if both sides were to return to the deal, it would not be enough.

“Tough discussions will be needed over ballistic proliferation and Iran’s destabilisation of its neighbours in the region,” Le Drian said.

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Brexit

Scottish fishermen land fish in Denmark to avoid post-Brexit red tape

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Scottish fishermen have increasingly turned to fish auctions in Denmark in the first two weeks of the year to avoid having their deliveries to the European Union blocked by post-Brexit red tape, writes .

A fish auction in Hanstholm on Denmark’s west coast has so far this year sold 525 tonnes of fish from Scottish fishing vessels, more than double compared to the same period last year.

“We’ve had an awful lot of inquiries from Scottish fishermen about landing their catch in Hanstholm,” Jesper Kongsted, who heads the auction, told Reuters on Friday (16 January). “This is very good for our business.”

Some Scottish fishing companies say they face ruin, as several EU countries rejected UK exports after new customs demands delayed the arrival of their fresh produce.

As a result, prices at fish auctions in Scotland plummeted at the beginning of the year. Kongsted said two Scottish brothers had earned an extra 300,000 Danish crowns ($48,788) by selling 22 tonnes of hake in Hanstholm rather than at an auction in Peterhead in Scotland.

“Our industry is facing mounting financial losses. Many fishing vessels are tied to the quay wall,” Elspeth Macdonald, head of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said in a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday.

“Some are now making a 72-hour round trip to land fish in Denmark, as the only way to guarantee that their catch will make a fair price and actually find its way to market while still fresh enough to meet customer demands,” Macdonald said.

The introduction of health certificates, customs declarations and checks since Britain left the EU’s single market at the start of this year have hit delivery systems at some fishing companies.

This week, some Scottish fishermen threatened to dump rotten shellfish outside the British parliament in London.

($1 = 6.1490 Danish crowns)

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