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#Brexit - Šefcovic calls extraordinary meeting on UK proposal to flout Withdrawal Agreement

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The European Union has requested an extraordinary meeting with the UK to express the EU’s strong concerns and to seek assurances from the British government that they fully intend to comply with the Withdrawal Agreement that they signed last year and ratified in January.

The call came after the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis told the UK parliament that the Internal Market Bill would break international law, “in a very specific and limited way”. The answer was in a response to a question about whether the UK would respect the rule of law and the provisions of the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol in its forthcoming Internal Market Bill.

Vice-President Maroš Šefcovic who co-chairs the EU-UK joint committee to implement the withdrawal agreement, that implements and applies the protocol said that he had spoken with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster yesterday (8 September) evening. In the light of these discussions the EU has called for an extraordinary meeting of the Joint Committee.

Šefcovic said the new bill would be on the agenda. He added that the European Commission president would react once the bill emerged later in the afternoon. He said he believed that the joint committee would be the most appropriate venue for further discussion.

President von der Leyen tweeted later in the afternoon: “Very concerned about announcements from the British government on its intentions to breach the Withdrawal Agreement. This would break international law and undermines trust. Pacta sunt servanda = the foundation of prosperous future relations.”

The statement by Lewis was met with widespread condemnation. Richard Neal, Chairman of the prestigious Ways and Means Committee in the US Congress which oversees trade agreements said: “I urge both sides to uphold the terms of this joint agreement, particularly with respect to the treatment of Northern Ireland, in accordance with international law [...] I sincerely hope the British government upholds the rule of law and delivers on the commitments it made during the Brexit negotiations, particularly in regard to the Irish border protocols.”

The UK also released a statement on its intention to follow WTO rules on state subsidies at the end of the transition period in December. The UK intends to establish a new subsidy control regime, without a trace of irony, the UK suggests that this will mean that competition across the UK is not unduly distorted, which demonstrated their understanding of the need for level playing field provisions, like those being insisted on by the European Union - if only, within the UK.

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Video round table: Debate on the proposed new Belgian 5G law

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The Belgian National Security Council has proposed a new law which includes a series of additional security measures regarding the rollout of 5G mobile networks. The capability of 5G is immense and will affect every area of the economy, and every government has a duty to ensure that any deployed 5G technology is safe to use as a communication medium by its citizens and the government.

At an online roundtable debate organized today, (17 December), by EU Reporter, interested experts and commentators debated the issue.

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Ambassador's Corner

Ambassador's corner: H.E. Aigul Kuspan of Kazakhstan

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The first in a series of conversations with various countries' ambassadors to the EU.

EU Reporter's Tori Macdonald speaks with Kazakhstan's Chief Representative to Belgium, Luxembourg, the EU and NATO, Aigul Kuspan.

The discussion begins with a reflection how the relations between Kazakhstan and their partners have evolved over the course of this year. Kuspan talks about the progress and many new beginnings that have formed despite the disruptive nature of 2020. The focus then turns towards Kazakhstan and how they have been managing the COVID-19 outbreak nationally as well as their participation in the global collective effort.

Looking towards the future, Kazakh eyes are firmly fixed towards the upcoming parliamentary elections in January 2021. Kuspan sheds some light on the motives of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev regarding key areas such as political reform and climate change. Furthermore, reflecting on the current challenges faced by the country and formulating an action plan to tackle these issues.

Lastly, Kuspan addresses her Brussels' based Embassy's aims for the new year as well as highlighting their diplomatic efforts in the last few months.

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US: ‘It is no secret that in the past four years, things have been complicated’ Borrell

EU Reporter Correspondent

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In a debate (11 November) in the European Parliament on the recent US elections, The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, congratulated President-elect, Joe Biden, and Vice-President-elect, Kamala Harris, for their historic victory.

Borrell applauded the largest participation in the United States electoral history, saying that it clearly showed that American citizens were very much aware of the importance of this election.

Reboot of EU/US relations

Borrell said that the EU will now look at opportunities to advance its strategic partnership with the United States, a commitment that the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen had already made in her ‘State of the EU’ address to the European Parliament in September.

The High Representative did not hide that the EU/US relations had become more strained under the Trump administration, “It is no secret either that in the past four years, things have become complicated in our relations. I am looking forward to getting back to a frank dialogue.”

Borrell welcomed the clear commitment of President-elect Biden to restoring unity and respect for democratic norms and institutions and to working with allies based on partnership. While recognising that the EU needs to work together with the United States in many frameworks – defense frameworks and others - he said that the EU still needed to reinforce its strategic autonomy to become a stronger partner.

“I do not have to explain that we have had a very significant bilateral relationship globally [with the United States],” said Borrell, adding “We have a common history, shared values and we adhere to democratic principles. This partnership reflects how we go across all economic fields, underpinned by wide cooperation.”

The High Representative outlined a long list of common strategic goals: to reenergize the cooperation in the multilateral fora, in particular in the United Nations; to continue working in promoting the full respect of human rights; to address the difficulties in the World Trade Organization, especially the dispute settlement mechanism; to cooperate in fighting the COVID-19, including strengthening the working of the World Health Organization and the capacity of the global health system, starting with preparedness and response to emergencies; to accelerate ambitious global climate action and to invest in harnessing the technological transformation; to look at China, Iran and our Neighbourhood.

He added a note of caution that he was ready to engage with the new actors, but added that there was quite a long transition ahead, “let us hope it is not going to be a bumping transition.”

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