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Ireland records second highest fall in airline journeys in the EU

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Ireland recorded the second highest fall in airline journeys in the EU from April to June this year due to Covid 19.

New figures from Eurostat show that 10.3 million fewer journeys by air were made by Irish people compared with the second quarter of 2019.

Tim Hayes of the European Commission says that only Spain saw a bigger collapse in airline journeys than Ireland in the same period.

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Agriculture

Common Agricultural Policy: How does the EU support farmers?

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From supporting farmers to protecting the environment, the EU's farm policy covers a range of different goals. Learn how EU agriculture is funded, its history and its future, Society.

What is the Common Agricultural Policy?

The EU supports farming through its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Set up in 1962, it has undergone a number of reforms to make agriculture fairer for farmers and more sustainable.

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There are about 10 million farms in the EU and the farming and food sectors together provide nearly 40 million jobs in the EU.

How is the Common Agricultural Policy funded?

The Common Agricultural Policy is funded through the EU budget. Under the EU's budget for 2021-2027, €386.6 billion has been set aside for farming. It is divided into two parts:

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  • €291.1bn for the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund, which provides income support for farmers.
  • €95.5bn for the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, which includes funding for rural areas, climate action and the management of natural resources.

How does EU agriculture look today? 

Farmers and the agriculture sector were affected by COVID-19 and the EU introduced specific measures to support the industry and incomes. Current rules on how CAP funds should be spent run until 2023 due to delays in budget negotiations. This required a transitional agreement to protect farmers’ incomes and ensure food security.

Will the reform mean a more environmentally-friendly Common Agricultural Policy?

EU agriculture accounts for about 10% of greenhouse gas emissions. The reform should lead to a more environmentally friendly, fairer and transparent EU farm policy, MEPs said, after a deal was reached with the Council. Parliament wants to link CAP to the Paris agreement on climate change, while increasing support to young farmers and small and medium-sized farms. Parliament will vote on the final deal in 2021 and it will come into effect in 2023.

Agriculture policy is linked to the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork strategy from the European Commission, which aims to protect the environment and ensure healthy food for everyone, whilst ensuring farmers’ livelihoods.

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France

French envoy to return to US after fence-mending Biden-Macron call

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The US and French presidents moved to mend ties on Wednesday (22 September), with France agreeing to send its ambassador back to Washington and the White House acknowledging it erred in brokering a deal for Australia to buy US instead of French submarines without consulting Paris, write Michel Rose, Jeff Mason, Arshad Mohammed, John Irish in Paris, Humeyra Pamuk in New York and by Simon Lewis, Doina Chiacu, Susan Heavey, Phil Stewart and Heather Timmons in Washington.

In a joint statement issued after US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke by telephone for 30 minutes, the two leaders agreed to launch in-depth consultations to rebuild trust, and to meet in Europe at the end of October.

They said Washington had committed to step up "support to counter-terrorism operations in the Sahel conducted by European states" which US officials suggested meant a continuation of logistical support rather than deploying US special forces.

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Biden's call to Macron was an attempt to mend fences after France accused the United States of stabbing it in the back when Australia ditched a $40 billion contract for conventional French submarines, and opted for nuclear-powered submarines to be built with U.S. and British technology instead. Read more.

Outraged by the US, British and Australian deal, France recalled its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra.

"The two leaders agreed that the situation would have benefited from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners," the joint U.S. and French statement said.

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"President Biden conveyed his ongoing commitment in that regard."

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, interacting for the first time since the submarine crisis erupted, had a 'good exchange' on the margins of a wider meeting at the United Nations on Wednesday, a senior State Department official told reporters in a call.

The two top diplomats were likely to have a separate bilateral meeting on Thursday. "We do expect that they’ll have some time together bilaterally tomorrow," the official said, and added that Washington 'very very much welcomed' France and European Union's deep engagement in the Indo-Pacific.

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a collective award ceremony at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France September 20, 2021. Stefano Rellandini/Pool via REUTERS
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a joint statement with Chile's President Sebastian Pinera (not seen) after a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, September 6, 2021. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo

Earlier on Wednesday, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki described the call as "friendly" and sounded hopeful about improving ties.

"The president has had a friendly phone call with the president of France where they agreed to meet in October and continue close consultations and work together on a range of issues," she told reporters.

Asked if Biden apologized to Macron, she said: "He acknowledged that there could have been greater consultation."

The new US, Australian and British security partnership (AUKUS) was widely seen as designed to counter China's growing assertiveness in the Pacific but critics said it undercut Biden's broader effort to rally allies such as France to that cause.

Biden administration officials suggested the US commitment to "reinforcing its support to counter-terrorism operations in the Sahel" region of West Africa meant a continuation of existing efforts.

France has a 5,000 strong counter-terrorism force fighting Islamist militants across the Sahel.

It is reducing its contingent to 2,500-3,000, moving more assets to Niger, and encouraging other European countries to provide special forces to work alongside local forces. The United States provides logistical and intelligence support.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the US military would continue to support French operations, but declined to speculate about potential increases or changes in U.S. assistance.

"When I saw the verb reinforce, what I took away was that we're going to stay committed to that task," he told reporters.

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Moldova

Russian elections on Moldovan territory

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A defiance of a sovereign and independent state, that’s how Foreign Ministry officials from the Republic of Moldova described last week’s decision by the Russian Federation to open polling stations in the breakaway Transnistrian region, writes Cristian Gherasim, Bucharest correspondent.

Transnistria is an unrecognized breakaway state located in the narrow strip of land between the river Dniester and the Moldovan–Ukrainian border that is internationally recognized as part of the Republic of Moldova.

The Russian backed region has been the bone of contention between Russia and the Republic of Moldova ever since Moldova gain its independence in August 1991.

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The Russian federal election that took place at the end of last week reignited the debate over Transnistria, prompting Moldovan officials to react.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration regrets that, despite the position consistently expressed by the Moldovan authorities, the Russian side has acted in a manner that does not correspond to the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova and the bilateral legal framework”, officials in Chisinau said in a press release.

The press release issued by Moldavian authorities goes on say that officials called on the Russian side to refrain from opening the 27 polling stations in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova.

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Moldovan diplomats “requested since July 30 that Russia not open polling stations in localities under the control of the constitutional authorities of the Republic of Moldova given also the impossibility of ensuring the necessary security conditions for the conduct of the election “, the press release shows.

Political pundits in the Republic of Moldova argued that the government avoided a harsher tone in relation to Moscow to avoid complicating the situation.

Speaking to EU Reporter, political science professor and expert on the former soviet region, Armand Gosu said that the election for the Russian Duma held on Moldova’s territory represents “indisputably a violation of the sovereignty of the Republic of Moldova. Moscow negotiated directly with Tiraspol (capital of Transnitria) the opening and operation of polling stations on the territory of the separatist republic, which amounts to not recognizing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova.”

Russia has in past got involved in organizing elections in the breakaway region of Transnistria. Despite protests in Chisinau, Russia has continued to increase the number of polling stations in the Transnistrian separatist enclave at every election in recent years.

In addition to Transnistria, Russian authorities opened polling stations in Chisinau, the capital city of Moldova, as well as the cities of Comrat and Balti. It is the largest number of polling stations opened by Russia outside its borders.

Russia has so far offered more than 220,000 Russian passports in Transnistria, which means that about two-thirds of the citizens living on the left bank of the Dniester are already Russian citizens. Yet, according to data by authorities in Transnistria, the turnout wasn’t rosy showing that only 27,000 people voted in the separatist region.

But for Transnistria, this election is about pleasing Putin.

“For separatist leaders, it is important to prove their loyalty to the Kremlin by delivering as many votes as possible for Putin's party”, Gosu told EU Reporter.

Armand Gosu also commented on the nature of the Russian election saying that “the elections in Russia are neither fair nor reflect the will of the electorate.”

The same view was shared by Pasa Valeriu working for the Moldovan based NGO, WatchDog.MD, who told EU Reporter that ”I can’t call what is happening in Russia as being an election. It’s nothing more than a sham. Therefore the question of a secure electoral process in Transnistria falls under the same category.”

Last week’s election in Transnistria for the Russian Duma was widely publicized by the local administration and its sponsored media.

It was portrayed as very important for the breakaway region and used to showcase Russia's decisive role, its help and support for the region. The reality paints a different story with Russia's assistance, as well as trade with Transnistrian, one of the poorest regions in Europe, steadily declining over the past years.

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