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Cyprus refuses to back EU sanctions for #Belarus in hope of progress on #Turkey

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Following yesterday’s (21 September) Foreign Affairs Council, EU’s High Representative Josep Borrell reiterated that the EU did not consider Lukashenko to be the legitimate president of Belarus. The EU still failed to impose sanctions.

Before yesterday’s Council, there was an informal breakfast for ministers with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who stood against the incumbent in the election of 9 August and is one of the leaders of the Belarusian pro-democracy Coordination Council. Tsikhanouskaya then went on to the European Parliament where she addressed its Foreign Affairs Committee.

Borrell said that ministers wanted to see an end to violence and repression, as well as a new inclusive political dialogue with free and fair elections supervised by the OSCE. Borrell said that the foreign affairs ministers were unable to reach unanimity because of one country, Cyprus. Borrell said that since it was known it advance, the issue of sanctions was not raised at the meeting. Though he went on to say that the extension of sanctions to include Lukashenko was considered.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, Nikos Christodoulides who is blocking agreement because of the failure of the EU to take action on Turkey, as promised at a recent informal meeting of ministers, said: “Our reaction to any kind of violation of our core, basic values and principle cannot be a la carte. It needs to be consistent. I really believe that there is no deadlock to diplomacy. I'm here, I'm ready to implement the decision that the political decision that we reach during the Gymnich informal meeting.”

Addressing the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Tsikhanouskaya called for the release of political prisoners, an end to police violence and the holding of free and fair elections: “Our fight is a fight for freedom, for democracy and for human dignity. It is exclusively peaceful and non-violent.”

Borrell will present the outcome of the discussions to this week’s European Council where the EU’s relationship with Turkey will be discussed. Borrell wrote in a blog that the EU has a duty to adopt sanctions, “It is a matter of our credibility.”

In the meantime, a package of around 40 names and entities has been prepared, which targets those responsible for the electoral fraud, the repression of peaceful protests and state-run brutality. In concrete terms, it would mean these people and entities will have any assets inside the EU frozen; they will not be able to receive any kind of funding or finance from within the EU; and they will be banned from entering the EU.

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European Commission

‘We have not done enough to support the Roma population in the EU’ Jourová

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The European Commission has launched a new 10-year plan to support Roma people in the EU. The plan outlines seven key areas of focus: equality, inclusion, participation, education, employment, health, and housing. For each area, the Commission has put forward targets and recommendations on how to achieve them, the Commission will use these to monitor progress.
Values and Transparency Vice President Věra Jourová said: “Simply put, over the last ten years we have not done enough to support the Roma population in the EU. This is inexcusable. Many continue to face discrimination and racism. We cannot accept it. Today we are relaunching our efforts to correct this situation.”
Although some improvements have been made in the EU – predominantly in the area of education – Europe still has a long way to go to achieve real equality for Roma. Marginalisation persists, and many Roma continue to face discrimination.
Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli (pictured) said: “For the European Union to become a true union of equality we need to ensure that millions of Roma are treated equally, socially included and able to participle in social and political life without exception. With the targets that we have laid out in the Strategic Framework today, we expect to make real progress by 2030 towards a Europe in which Roma are celebrated as part of our Union's diversity, take part in our societies and have all the opportunities to fully contribute to and benefit from political, social and economic life in the EU.”

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Bulgaria

Commission complains about lack of results in the fight against corruption in #Bulgaria

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Values and Transparency Vice President Věra Jourová led discussions in the European Parliament’s debate on the rule of law in Bulgaria (5 October). Jourová said that she was aware of the protests that have been taking place over the last three months and is following the situation closely. Jourová said the demonstrations show that citizens attach great importance to an independent judiciary and good governance.
She said that the Commission will not lift the ‘Control and Verification Mechanism’ (CVM) that checks Bulgaria’s progress in making reforms to its judiciary and fighting organized crime, she added that she would take the views of the European Council and Parliament into account in any further reports. Fighting corruption European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders said that while Bulgaria’s structures were in place they needed to deliver efficiently.
Reynders said surveys show a very low level of public trust in Bulgaria’s anti-corruption institutions and a belief that government lacked the political will to do this in practice. Manfred Weber MEP, Chair of the European Peoples’ Party defended Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s record, adding that he was supportive of the rule of law mechanism in European Council discussions. Weber acknowledges that the rule of law in Bulgaria “is not perfect” and that, there is still much to be done, but said that the government’s fate should be decided next year in elections.
Ramona Strugariu MEP (Renew Europe Group) made one of the more powerful interventions in the debate, saying that when she was demonstrating in the cold winter of 2017 in Bucharest - against government corruption in Romania - the support of President Juncker and First Vice-President Timmermans support made her feel that someone was listening to the Romanians who wanted reform. Strugariu said: “I am here today to ask for this voice from the Commission and of the Council and of this house because the Bulgarian people need it. Because it matters to them. It is really important to them.”
To fellow MEPs who were endorsing Prime Minister Borissov, she asked: “Do you know who you are endorsing? Because you are endorsing people facing serious allegations of corruption, money laundering and fraud with European money? I have seen women dragged outside by the police and pictures of children sprayed with tear gas, is this protection? Are you sure that this is the person to endorse?”

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Bulgaria

#Bulgaria - 'We don't want to be under the Mafia and corruption' Minekov

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Ahead of a debate on the rule of law in Bulgaria (5 October), protestors and MEPs gathered outside the parliament to call for systemic change and new elections in Bulgaria. EU Reporter spoke to some of those involved. Professor Vladislav Minekov, has been labelled as one of the ‘Poisonous Trio’ by the oligarch-owned Bulgarian media. Asked what was keeping protestors on the streets ninety days after the first impromptu protest on 9 July, he said that Bulgarians don’t want to live under the Mafia. Minekov welcomed that the European Parliament was grappling with this important question, saying that Bulgarians had the impression that the EU and the world was overlooking what was happening in Bulgaria.

One of six MEPs we interviewed, Clare Daly MEP (Ireland), compared the current Bulgarian government to vampires feeding off EU money, “sucking the lifeblood out of Bulgarian society,” she said that the European Peoples’ Party, in particular, had protected Borissov’s government for too long and that it was time to face up to the blatant corruption and failure to adhere to the rule of law. 'Brussels for Bulgaria' has organized weekly protests in Brussels since the protests began in July.

One of the organizers, Elena Bojilova, said that Bulgarians abroad want to show solidarity with their fellow countrymen: “We've had people join us from other cities from Ghent, from Antwerp.” Bojilova explained that this phenomenon was also occurring in many other countries, “in Vienna, in London, in Canada in the United States, other European capitals. The fact that we are not physically in Bulgaria does not prevent us from supporting the efforts of our countrymen, and we fully support their demands which are for the resignation of the government, resignation of the Prosecutor General, reform rule of law and basically cleaning up the

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