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Attacks on abortion rights and breaches of the rule of law in Poland

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Today (24 February), MEPs will discuss women’s rights and the rule of law in Poland with Commissioner Dalli and civil society representatives.

The hearing is jointly organized by the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality committees. It will focus on the impact of measures and attacks on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights in Poland, such as the right to access healthcare, the right to privacy, and the right to education. The hearing will also examine how various communities still face discrimination, in conjunction with the deteriorating situation of the rule of law.

In the first session, MEPs will exchange views with Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli. The second part will feature:

  • Wojciech HERMELIŃSKI, attorney, former Judge of the Constitutional Tribunal, Chair of the National Electoral Commission from 2014 to 2019;
  • Marta LEMPART, Leader of the Polish Women on Strike movement, and;
  • Dorota BOJEMSKA, Chair of the Family Council at the Ministry of Family and Social Policy in Poland.

When: Wednesday 24 February 2021, 13.45 – 15.15

Where: European Parliament in Brussels, József Antall building (room 2Q2), and with remote participation

You can follow the hearing live. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, journalists are strongly advised to follow it online.

Background

Article 7(1) TEU procedures as regards the rule of law in Poland have been underway since the Commission’s proposal in 2017 (backed by Parliament in 2018), with a focus on concerns about the independence and legitimacy of the Constitutional Tribunal.

In their resolution on the EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention (November 2019), MEPs reaffirmed that “the denial of sexual and reproductive health and rights services is a form of violence against women and girls”, stressing also that “the ECtHR has ruled on several occasions that restrictive abortion laws and lack of implementation violates the human rights of women”. Poland’s planned withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention was criticized by the LIBE and FEMM Chairs in July 2020.

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European Parliament

'The EU defends a criminal' claims MEP

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MEP Dr. Maximilian Krah, member of the group Identity and Democracy and member of the Committee on International Trade, has reacted sharply at criticism of the European Parliament's resolution on the situation in Kazakhstan, noting the "courtship" of a convicted murderer, writes Phillipe Jeune

Dr Krah would you comment on your statement?

- Behind the resolution are years of relentless lobbying by the convicted criminal and billionaire Mukhtar Ablyazov, and his so-called NGO “Open Dialogue Foundation (ODF)”, which has set itself the task of discrediting the state of Kazakhstan.

Ablyazov, who embezzled over 7 billion euros is being courted by the European Parliament.

The Parliament would apparently blindly believe a convicted murderer and fraudster than look at data, facts and reality! This is shameful and one has to apologise for the fact that this is the reality of European politics today.

I fully respect the Justice of Kazakhstan but I want to stress that he was not only convicted in his country but also in the United Kingdom that he had to flee illegally to avoid prison.

- Mr. Deputy during the discussion in the parliament, when you were talking about unfair lobbying by individual deputies, some of your colleagues started laughing and behaving badly. Could you please comment on this?

At first mocking laughter in the plenary hall, then revealing silence. When I drew attention to the lobbying work of the Kazakh billionaire Mukhtar Ablyazov's ODF, things suddenly became quiet in the plenary: Ablyazov likes to disguise himself as a philanthropist in order to assert his own economic interests.

He enjoys being courted by the EU Parliament and his ODF is regularly invited to Brussels, in the EP premises. He was convicted for the brutal murder of his predecessor as chairman of the BTA Bank, and also for having embezzled 7 billion euros from that bank. He was therefore sentenced in Kazakhstan. Since then he has been agitating against his own country.

And the EU? It stands by the side of this criminal and thereby reveals the mendacity of its human rights imperialism. I have zero understanding of this.

- What can be done to prevent this unfair activity within the walls of European democracy?

On my initiative, the EP Research Service conducted an analysis of the activities of the Open Dialogue Foundation (ODF), which shows a clear and consistent campaign against Kazakhstan.

The staff of the ODF have consistently lobbied MEPs, and also the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the adoption of all manner of statements, petitions and resolutions of an anti-Kazakhstani orientation. To this end, Kozlovskaya and her colleagues have organised round tables and side events. It is noteworthy that among the officially announced meetings with the EP deputies, there are many who initiated the February 11th resolution.

It is quite obvious that Mukhtar Ablyazov is the main sponsor of ODF activities. In the European media there are many publications and journalistic investigations concerning the connections of the fugitive oligarch with Mrs. Kozlovskaya, and her husband. There are also many questions about the financial reporting of ODF, which is fully sponsored by private donations, including Mrs. Kozlovskaya's close relatives and some dubious companies based in England - we are talking about a structure called Silk Road Group.

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Environment

Parliament urges EU to take drastic action to reduce marine litter

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Boosting recycling in the fisheries sector and substantially cutting the use of plastics are key to clean our seas, say MEPs.

In a report adopted by 646 votes in favour, three against and 39 abstentions, MEPs stress that marine litter, and especially micro and nano plastic, “poses a serious threat to a number of marine animal species”, as well as to fishermen and consumers. They highlight that an average consumer of Mediterranean shellfish ingests around 11,000 fragments of plastic every year. The fishing sector is estimated to lose between 1 and 5% of its revenue because of marine pollution.

Fisheries and aquaculture waste accounts for 27% of marine litter. Therefore, Parliament urges the EU to accelerate the development of a circular economy in this sector by phasing out expanded polystyrene packages and improving marine waste collection and recycling channels. Research on sustainable materials and new designs for fishing gears are also key, MEPs add.

EU action plan to tackle pollution

Only 1.5% of fishing gear is currently recycled in the EU and some gear that is abandoned, lost or discarded at sea “remains active for months or even years”. These so-called ghost nets “indiscriminately impact all marine wildlife, including fish stocks”, the report alerts. To address this issue, MEPs demand the Commission and member states to adopt the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Voluntary Guidelines for the Marking of Fishing Gear.

Parliament also demands an EU action plan to substantially reduce the use of plastics and to tackle the pollution of rivers, water courses and coastlines, highlighting that 80% of marine waste comes from the land. MEPs also call for more research to be carried out on the impact of marine litter and micro and nano plastic on fishery resources.

Catherine CHABAUD (Renew, FR), rapporteur, said: “Marine litter is a cross-cutting issue that needs to be addressed holistically. The fight against marine litter does not begin in the sea, but must involve an upstream vision that encompasses the complete lifecycle of a product. Each piece of litter that ends up in the sea is a product that has fallen out of the circular economy loop. To fight marine pollution, we must continue to promote virtuous business models and integrate new sectors like fisheries and aquaculture in these global efforts. There is no sustainable fishing without a healthy ocean.”

Context

Only 1% of the plastic in the ocean is found floating on the surface, whilst most of it ends up in deep-sea. Every day, 730 tonnes of waste are dumped directly into the Mediterranean and every year a further 11,200 tonnes of plastics dumped in the environment find their way into the Mediterranean, affirms the report, based on information from the World Wildlife Fund.

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coronavirus

MEPs demand safe and clean travel

EU Reporter Correspondent

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EU criteria for safe and clean travel, a common vaccination certificate and an EU hygiene seal for businesses must be part of a new EU strategy on tourism, MEPs say.

The resolution on an EU strategy for sustainable tourism, adopted by 577 votes to 31, and 80 abstentions, notes that the COVID-19 outbreak has paralyzed the EU’s tourism sector, with six out of 27 million jobs at risk. MEPs highlight that the tourism and travel sectors account for around 10% of the EU’s GDP. They therefore urge EU countries to include them in their recovery plans and to consider temporarily reducing VAT on these services.

‘Safe and clean’ tourism

Due to the pandemic, travellers want “safe, clean and more sustainable tourism”, Parliament says, calling on member states to fully implement common criteria for safe travel without delay. These should include an EU Health and Safety protocol for testing before departure, and establish that quarantine requirements should be applied only as a last resort.

A common vaccination certificate should facilitate travel and act as an alternative to PCR tests and quarantine requirements, MEPs say. A new certificate should follow privacy and data protection rules and could start being used once there is sufficient evidence that those who have been vaccinated do not transmit the virus.

The resolution also urges the Commission to introduce an EU hygiene certification seal, which could certify minimum COVID-19 virus prevention and control standards and could help restore consumer trust in the tourism and travel sectors.

Beyond the pandemic

MEPs welcome theRe-open EU’ portal and urge EU countries to send clear information to the Commission when they apply or lift restrictions on free movement.

They also stress that the Commission must look beyond the pandemic and replace the 2010 strategy on EU tourism to maintain Europe’s standing as a leading destination. The text finally calls on the Commission to set up a European Agency for Tourism, which will support the tourism ecosystem, promote the European brand, provide the EU with the latest data on tourism, assist small businesses to access EU funding and help the tourism sector to prepare for future crises.

“This report calls for a truly European effort to relaunch tourism in the continent’s worst-affected regions. The vaccination certificate and sanitary seal have been taken on board, but what is needed now is proper European coordination for testing regimes that do not impose additional costs on European citizens. The EU needs to urgently speed up the roll out of vaccines across Europe and to put in place proper financial instruments to support the green and digital transition,” said European Parliament rapporteur Cláudia Monteiro de Aguiar (EPP, PT).

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