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

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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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EU Launches new Anti-racism Action Plan

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As promised by European Commission President Von der Leyen, in the recent State of the European Union speech, the EU has launched a new anti-racism action plan.

The Commission has made a renewed commitment to ensure that EU countries fully implement relevant EU law and says it will further strengthen the legal framework, if needed. This could happen in particular in the areas not yet covered by the non-discrimination legislation, such as law enforcement.

Věra Jourová, Vice-President for Values and Transparency, said: “We won't shy away from strengthening the legislation, if needed. The Commission itself will adapt its recruiting policy to better reflect European society.”

Helena Dalli, Commissioner for Equality, said: “There is no place for racial discrimination and racism of any kind in democratic societies. We must all strive for our societies to be anti-racist. With this action plan, we acknowledge that racism is not only perpetrated by individuals but is also structural. This is why, amongst others we address law enforcement, social attitudes, stereotypes and economic concerns; and encourage Member States to adopt their respective anti-racism action plans.”

The EU Action Plan against racism 2020-2025 sets out a number of actions to tackle racism through EU law, but also other means – working with EU states, including national law enforcement, media and civil society; harnessing available and future EU tools; and looking into the Commission's own human resources.

The Commission will appoint a coordinator for anti-racism and start regular dialogue with stakeholders, meeting twice a year.

Member States are encouraged to step up efforts to prevent discriminatory attitudes by law enforcement authorities and to boost the credibility of law enforcement work against hate crime. EU countries are encouraged to to adopt national action plans against racism and racial discrimination by the end of 2022. By the end of 2021, the Commission, working with national experts, will put together the main principles to produce effective national action plans and will deliver a first progress report by the end of 2023.

The European Commission also intends to put its own house in order to significantly improve the representativeness of Commission staff through measures targeting recruitment and selection. Other EU institutions are invited to take similar steps.

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The #EUChina 'relationship is strategically important as well as one of the most challenging' #SOTEU

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In today’s (16 September) ‘State of the European Union’ address to the European Parliament, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said the relationship between the European Union and China is simultaneously one of the most strategically important for the EU as well as being one of the most challenging.

Von der Leyen gave the example of climate change, where there is a strong dialogue between the EU and China. In the economic field, there are still many challenges in market access for European companies, reciprocity, and overcapacity.

Von der Leyen also pointed to the differences in values, where the EU believes in the universal value of democracy and the rights of the individual. She said that while Europe certainly wasn’t perfect, it dealt with criticism and was open to debate. The EU will continue to criticize human rights abuses whenever and wherever they occur, be it on Hong Kong, or the treatment of the Uyghurs.

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#SOTEU - European Union to lead reforms of the WHO and WTO so that they are fit for today's world

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In today’s (16 September) ‘State of the European Union’ address to the European Parliament, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen acknowledged that multi-lateral organizations were in need of reform, but argued that this could be done by design rather than destruction.

Von der Leyen said that the EU is a firm believer in the strength and value of cooperation and international bodies, saying that only with a strong United Nations would long term solutions be found for countries like Libya and Syria. Likewise, she pointed to the importance of the World Health Organization in preparing and responding to global pandemics or local outbreaks.

At the same time, she acknowledged that there were problems with these organizations, that have led to a creeping paralysis and to major powers either pulling out or making the institutions hostage to their own interests. She argued for change by design, rather than destruction of the international system.

Von der Leyen said she wanted the European Union to lead reforms of the WHO and WTO so that they are fit for today's world.

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