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Indian CAA law is a positive step DInesh Dhamija

The nature of India’s Citizen Amendment Act has been misunderstood and misrepresented when in fact it offers citizenship opportunities for many, writes Dinesh Dhamija

 

The nature of India’s Citizen Amendment Act has been misunderstood and misrepresented when in fact it offers citizenship opportunities for many, writes Dinesh Dhamija

 

Dinesh Dhamija/Photo Credit: European Parliament Audiovisual


I am perplexed at the negative reaction from some EU politicians to India’s Citizen Amendment Act (CAA), which was introduced into the Indian Parliament in December 2019. As the chair of the EU Delegation for relations with India, I wish to put my personal views on this Act on record. 

In India, all citizens, including the 175 million Muslims (14 percent of India’s total population), enjoy the same rights. The CAA facilitates the claiming of citizenship by illegal non-Muslim immigrants or other persons who are unable to provide proof of residence.


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In India, all citizens, including the 175 million Muslims (14 percent of India’s total population), enjoy the same rights. The CAA facilitates the claiming of citizenship by illegal non-Muslim immigrants or other persons who are unable to provide proof of residence.

To understand the CAA, one has to consider the political situation in other South Asian countries. There has been persecution of religious minorities for decades in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

All three countries are Islamic republics; this is why we see citizens of minority communities (non-Muslim) pouring into India from these countries.

Persecution of religious minorities has mainly stopped in both Afghanistan and Bangladesh, but there are reports from immigrants from Pakistan, that this is not the case in that country.

“The CAA offers a legal solution – one that currently does not exist - for future migrants coming from Pakistan and other countries”

The CAA offers a legal solution – one that currently does not exist - for future migrants coming from Pakistan and other countries. For the record, the European

Parliament has raised many concerns relating precisely to the repression of minorities in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

These include the European Parliament’s Resolution 2018/2927(RSP) of 15 November 2018 on the human rights situation in Bangladesh, Resolution 2017/2932(RSP) of 14 December 2017 on the situation in Afghanistan and Resolution 2017/2723(RSP) of 15 June 2017 on the human rights situation in Pakistan.

Any critic from within the EU should carefully read these resolutions.

The CAA applies to illegal migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and that are Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Zoroastrian or Christian.

The CAA lowers the qualification period for becoming an Indian citizen for these people from 11 years to five, as long as they have entered India on or before 31 December 2014.

Any person that meets this requirement does not have to produce any documents to prove his or her citizenship under the Act.

The CAA will therefore help numerous people that previously were unable to provide the required documentation.

Despite the outcries of certain people, including students, and continuing protests in the northeast of India, the CAA does not deal with the forced deportation of illegal immigrants.

Indeed, the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, and the Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah have consistently held that the CAA does not affect India’s external relations and India does not have any repatriation agreement with Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan.

Allegations that the CAA could lead to forced expulsion of Muslims are therefore, in my opinion, unfounded.

As India is a secular country, Muslims from anywhere in the world have equal rights to anyone else in the world to apply for Indian citizenship.

Nor does the CAA not cancel any laws of naturalisation.

The Act does not prevent any Muslim who has been or is persecuted for practicing their version of Islam (e.g. the Ahmadis from Afghanistan) from applying for Indian citizenship.

India is a secular country, while the other three countries mentioned are Islamic countries. Thus, all religions are accepted in India and the CAA only underlines this fact.

/articles/opinion/indian-caa-law-positive-step Tue, 28 Jan 2020 12:07:04 +0100
UK flag to be removed from EU institutions amid farewell preparations Martin Banks

One of the UK flags being removed from outside the three EU institutions in Brussels this week will be put on display in the city’s House of European History, it has emerged.

One of the UK flags being removed from outside the three EU institutions in Brussels this week will be put on display in the city’s House of European History, it has emerged.

Photo credit: Press Association


UK flags will be taken down from outside the European Parliament, Commission and Council on 31 January, the day the UK leaves the EU.

Speaking at a news briefing on Monday, a Parliament spokesperson said, “The flags will be removed from the three places of work and not displayed as from 1 February. There will be no ceremony to accompany the lowering of the flags, but it will be done with all the dignity associated with lowering a flag.”

She said one of the three flags will be put in the House of European History with the other two flags going to the “protocol services.”


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The museum, situated just less than 200 metres from Parliament, focuses on the history of Europe since 1789. It is an initiative by the European Parliament and was opened on 6 May 2017.

The museum has been criticised in the past for “misrepresenting” European history.

The Platform of European Memory and Conscience, based in Berlin, said that it “fails at presenting European history in three dimensions: structure, concept and facts. As a result, visitors get an ideologically-biased, chaotic narrative line with many shortcomings or even falsifications.”

It added, “The main idea is missing and it seems to be overshadowed by the narrow-minded Marxism-rooted concept.”

“There will be no ceremony to accompany the lowering of the flags, but it will be done with all the dignity associated with lowering a flag” Parliament spokesperson

The Parliament spokesperson said, “Hopefully, in the future we will still get visits from high-ranking officials from the UK so we will need the flags for this.”

The parliament has also outlined the other farewell arrangements this week for the 73 UK MEPs.

She said the UK members will have until 7 February to vacate their offices in Brussels.

“They have emptied their offices already in Strasbourg but they still have time to do the same here in Brussels.”

She also confirmed that all UK members, including those from the Brexit party, had been invited to a reception in Parliament on Wednesday evening hosted by President David Sassoli.

“As all members who leave Parliament they will also have to hand in their parliamentary badges and voting cards. They will also have to empty offices and ship their belongings to the UK.”

“The UK members were given an info session on all this last week but it is the same process as for all departing members.”

“As all members who leave Parliament they will also have to hand in their parliamentary badges and voting cards. They will also have to empty offices and ship their belongings to the UK” Parliament spokesperson

The sombre events being planned by the EU to mark Brexit contrasts sharply with those lined up by Brexit Party MEPs who, led by Anne Widdecombe will be “walking in formation with a Union Jack” from the European Parliament to Place Luxembourg, where they will leave to get the Eurostar to London.

A Brexit Party source said, “There will be a party on to celebrate Brexit.”

Meanwhile, Parliament has also outlined the redistribution of UK seats after the British exit.

A spokesman said, “The reallocation of seats was approved in June 2018 by the Parliament: 27 of the current 73 seats of the UK will be redistributed to other countries and 46 seats will be kept in reserve in case of EU enlargement.”

“Reallocation ensures that no Member State will lose seats. Some Member States will gain between one and five seats in order to remedy under-representation due to demographic developments,” he added.

The seats will be redistributed as follows: Denmark: from 13 to 14 = +1; Estonia: from 6 to 7 = +1; Ireland: from 11 to 13 = +2; Spain: from 54 to 59 = +5; France: from 74 to 79 = +5; Croatia: from 11 to 12 = +1; Italy: from 73 to 76 = +3; Netherlands: from 26 to 29 = +3; Austria: from 18 to 19 = +1; Poland: from 51 to 52 = +1; Romania: from 32 to 33 = +1; Slovakia: from 13 to 14 = +1; Finland: from 13 to 14 = +1; Sweden: from 20 to 21 = +1.

/articles/news/uk-flag-be-removed-eu-institutions-amid-farewell-preparations Tue, 28 Jan 2020 10:58:04 +0100
The future of EU-India relations Rajnish Singh

With India celebrating its 70th Republic Day on 26 January, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borell is seeking a closer strategic partnership, however MEPs are now calling for greater progress on trade negotiations.

With India celebrating its 70th Republic Day on 26 January, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borell is seeking a closer strategic partnership, however MEPs are now calling for greater progress on trade negotiations.

Photo credit: Fotolia


Speaking in New Delhi before India’s Republic Day, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borell, said “The relationship between India and Europe must become more strategic given the importance of the Indo-Pacific region.”

The newly-selected High Representative stressed the importance of close ties saying, “In Europe, everybody is rushing to Davos, but me being here with you is much more important.


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With geostrategic politics increasingly dominated by US-China rivalry, Borell said the multilateral rules-based system - which the EU believes is fundamental to international law and avoiding conflict - was now under ‘siege’.

“We Europeans cannot accept the idea that the world should organise around a new Sino-American bipolarity coming to replace the Soviet-US bipolar world that divided Europe.”

“It’s high time to restart trade negotiations so as to at least conclude a separate Investment Protection Agreement as a step towards an ambitious FTA in the medium term” Geert Bourgois

Borell wants the EU and India to work together to support multilateralism, key to guaranteeing the survival of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which he says is now ‘jeopardised’.

With the US now blocking judges’ appointments to the WTO’s Appellate Body, basically the supreme court for international trade.

Another opportunity for closer relations was cooperation on maritime security, highlighting the joint antipiracy operations off the coast of Somalia which has brought attacks down from 200 in 2010 to one in 2019.

“That is why it is essential that we develop a new roadmap for our strategic partnership, covering cooperation in areas from security, to digital or climate change. Negotiations started only yesterday, and I hope it will be ready for approval at the next summit India-Europe on 13 March.”

The Spaniard also highlighted strong collaboration on fighting terrorism. In December 2019, an EU-India counter terrorism workshop was organised investigating the ISIS terrorist network.

This focused on building up the capacity of the Indian police services to deal with networks trying to infiltrate southeast Asian countries.

In 2022, India will celebrate both its 75th independence anniversary and holding the presidency of the G20. Borell said, “Let’s use the time in the run-up to 2022 to listen to your views of how the world should look in this century and what can be done together”.

“The relationship between India and Europe must become more strategic given the importance of IndoPacific region” Josep Borell

Belgian ECR deputy Geert Bourgois pointed out that India was one of the world’s fastest-growing economies in world, growing at seven percent in 2018, (though falling to around five percent in 2019).

Despite the impressive economic figures and the tremendous potential as an export market for EU businesses, he said “this market remains largely untapped as India accounts for only 2.3 percent of EU trade and only ranks ninth in EU trading partners”.

With a new decade and rising global trade tensions, the Belgian believes “it’s high time to restart trade negotiations so as to at least conclude a separate Investment Protection Agreement as a step towards an ambitious FTA in the medium term.”

He wanted to see the upcoming EU-India summit as a springboard for a ‘positive and renewed’ trade and investment agenda. “As chair of Parliament’s Trade Monitoring Group on India, I am happy to my part and give this my full support”.

Like Bourgois, Dinesh Dhamija, Chair of the Parliament’s delegation to India has been pushing for better trade relations.

“Since being elected Chair of the EU-India delegation, I have been working towards a partial trade deal, with the plan for a full deal during this parliament’s term.” He stressed that the EU needed the trade deal, with one in seven jobs depending on exports and current GDP growth at an ‘anaemic’ 1 percent.

Although climate change and cutting Co2 emissions were a priority, he warned against linking this to any future trade agreement.

S&D deputy Neena Gill felt that the UK MEPs were at the ‘forefront’ of promoting closer ties; their departing Parliament on 31 January could hinder progress to closer EU-Indian relations.

“This was not only because of historical reasons but also because of the UK’s sizeable and influential Indian community; Indian investments in the UK also makes them one of the top employers in the country”.

However, ECR deputy Geoffrey Van Orden was more positive about the impact of Brexit. “At a stroke, the nation with the deepest relationship with India will be outside the EU bloc and will develop an even stronger bilateral relationship”. He believed the Commonwealth could play a bigger role in UK trade relations.

However, EU-India expert Shada Islam was more upbeat about relations between Europe and India after Brexit. Pointing out that relations have got off to a ‘dynamic’ start in 2020. With Indian Prime Minister Modi expected to meet EU leaders in Brussels, early in the year.

The Friends of Europe director welcomed Borell’s push to create a new EU-India Action Agenda for 2020-25. “Policymakers in Brussels and New Delhi are talking optimistically of increasing coordination on multilateral issues”.

However, according to Islam, a vital question remains; “Are India and the EU going to persist in their so-far unsuccessful effort to negotiate a bilateral trade and investment agreement or will they shift focus to a more doable investment agreement and open up trade in the services sector?”.

Despite all the early positive signs, Nena Gill warned EU-India relations had a history of moving forward ‘sporadically’. “In 2009, we were in striking distance of completing an FTA. Yet a decade later, we are no further forward.”

Gill wants the future partnership to look beyond trade, “Establishing one based on like-minded principles such as democracy, rule of law, human rights and upholding the international rules-based system.”

/articles/opinion/future-eu-india-relations Mon, 27 Jan 2020 17:52:09 +0100
Europe braces for coronavirus Martin Banks

European health authorities are preparing to deal with the arrival of infected people from China as the coronavirus spreads beyond Chinese borders.

European health authorities are preparing to deal with the arrival of infected people from China as the coronavirus spreads beyond Chinese borders.

Photo credit: Press Association


So far, citizens in several European countries have been tested for coronavirus, the deadly respiratory illness that first broke out in China and is rapidly spreading.

It has been reported that there are 14 suspected cases in the UK, one in Germany and four in Austria. French health minister Agnès Buzyn on Friday said that three cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in France - one in Bordeaux and two in Paris.

Speaking after the revelations, she said, “You have to treat an epidemic like you treat a fire: you need to locate the source very quickly.”


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In Belgium, health minister Maggie De Block admitted there remains “a real chance” infections could arise in the country.

The spread of the virus has been likened to the SARS outbreak in China several years ago. At the time China was severely criticised for withholding information about the disease which allowed it to spread widely but De Block says, “China is this time being very transparent in providing information.”

Three airports in the European Union have direct flight connections to Wuhan, while there are indirect flight connections to other European hubs.

The virus has also been detected in the US, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea and Nepal.

“You have to treat an epidemic like you treat a fire: you need to locate the source very quickly” Agnès Buzyn, French health minister

The European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC), meanwhile, has published a fresh risk assessment on the new coronavirus and the risk to European travellers to China and Wuhan.

The report warns “the upcoming Chinese New Year celebrations at the end of January will cause an increased travel volume to/from China and within China, hence increasing the likelihood of arrival in the EU of possible cases."

Pasi Penttinen, an expert in immunisation at the centre, said, “We are in peak Influenza season and this outbreak has come at the worst possible time for both Wuhan and for Europe. We are racing against the clock to be prepared for an eventual detection of a case coming in from Wuhan.”

In a statement Sunday, Josep Jansa, ECDC Principal Expert for Emergency Preparedness and Response, said, “Since the original source remains unknown and human-to-human transmission has been documented, further cases and deaths are expected.”

Last Wednesday, the European Commission said it is following the outbreak “extremely closely” and was “in the process of coordinating all measures that may be necessary at the EU level.”

Elsewhere, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has, so far, decided not to declare the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak a global emergency but its experts have warned the public not to underestimate the severity of the epidemic.

The youngest patient is a 9-month-old girl in Beijing. China has also reported five cases in Hong Kong and two in Macao.

Further concern has been voiced by China’s near neighbour, Taiwan.

A source at the Taipei Representation Office to the EU and Belgium told this website, “This outbreak of deadly new coronavirus in Wuhan is a serious threat to Taiwan, which of course continues to be excluded from the WHO technical meetings due to China's objection.”

“We strongly suggest the EU should take extreme caution and strengthen its border control to prevent the spread of this horrible epidemic.”

“The epidemic of the virus is quickly spreading out of China, even France has confirmed three positive cases. Taiwan is no exception either,” said the Brussels-based official.

Beijing has warned that the spread of coronavirus is expected to accelerate, heightening concerns about an outbreak that has killed at least 80 people in China and reached a dozen other countries.

Ma Xiaowei, China’s health commission minister, revealed on Sunday that the virus was infectious during its incubation period of between one and 14 days even though people may show no symptoms.

This, he said, makes the latest outbreak different from SARS, another strain of the coronavirus which originated in China and killed almost 800 people in 2002-03, which was not contagious in its incubation period.

The comments came as the death toll continued to rise. China confirmed on Monday that 80 people had died from the respiratory disease, up from 56 a day earlier, while 2,744 people were infected.

Coronaviruses belong to a family known as coronaviridae and under an electron microscope they look like spiked rings. They are named for these spikes, which form a halo around their viral envelope.

/articles/news/europe-braces-coronavirus Mon, 27 Jan 2020 15:46:53 +0100
World Holocaust Memorial Day: Never Forget Rajnish Singh

As the world marks Holocaust Memorial Day and the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps, EU leaders say the Holocaust stands as a warning to Europe about the rise of anti-Semitism and racism.

As the world marks Holocaust Memorial Day and the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps, EU leaders say the Holocaust stands as a warning to Europe about the rise of anti-Semitism and racism.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock


Monday 27 January 2020 is the 75th anniversary of the liberation, by Soviet soldiers, of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps in Poland. According to Polish historian and scholar Franciszek Piper, over one million people were murdered in the camps. Although most of the victims were Jewish, many hundreds of thousands of ethnic Poles, Roma and Russian POWs were also exterminated.

Such was the scale of the horror in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps, Yale historian Timothy D. Snyder has estimated that one in six Jews killed in the Holocaust died in Auschwitz.


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Former European Parliament president, Antonio Tajani, said the victims of the Holocaust represented a message to future generations; ‘Never again’. Yet despite the horrors of what took place, anti-Semitism is once again is a growing problem in Europe.

He said, “The people were victims of their identity, killed because they were Jewish. We must all fight anti-Semitism together. It’s not acceptable that even today it represents a problem.”

“We must all fight together against antiSemitism. It’s not acceptable that even today, it represents a problem” Antonio Tajani MEP

 

Tajani was inspired by the President of the first fully-elected European Parliament, Simone Veil, who survived the horrors of Auschwitz but lost part of her family. “As a witness to the Holocaust atrocities, it was not by chance that she was selected to be the first president of a directly elected Parliament.”

The Italian deputy strongly condemned the growing attacks on Europe’s Jewish community, stressing that “Jewish culture is an integral part of our history and our identity. Fighting anti-Semitism means defending our roots and our history”.

Another former Parliament President, Jerzy Buzek said, “Auschwitz is part of Europe’s and the world’s conscience.”

The Polish deputy, added “Auschwitz remains the screaming symbol of man’s potential for inhumanity. It is a vivid reminder that the progress of civilisation can also bring terror and an utter decline of culture”.

Vice-chair of the Parliament’s anti-Semitism working group, Sergey Lagodinsky, wanted the remembrance of the Holocaust to be part of the ‘European DNA’.

He warned that “The horrific crimes by the Nazis has demonstrated how thin culture can be, and how quickly anti-Semitism and hatred can take hold in an otherwise civilised European society.”

The horrors needed to be remembered as a legacy to the children and grandchildren of the surviving Jews, Roma and other victims.

“We have to keep this memory alive, especially as our contemporary witnesses will not be there forever to teach us what happened” Nicola Beer MEP

 

“We owe it to all of us; without coming to terms with the horrific crimes of the past, we cannot build a common future. I would have wished that the Parliament went beyond the usual rituals and held a special plenary discussion on the same day”.

According to Lagodinsky, the best response to the past was to invest in a secure future, by combatting anti-Semitism.

He wanted to see Member States rigorously implement the EU Council declaration on anti-Semitism. “It’s is important to remember that anti-Semitism is not limited to its historical Nazi forms.

S&D Italian deputy Brando Benifei, like Lagodinsky, wanted to see the Union do more, saying “The EU must stand against any form of anti-Semitism or discrimination. This anniversary is not just a matter of historical memory, rather it reminds us that the forces of racism are rising again in Europe and are interlinked. Our duty is to fight for an open society”.

Swedish centre-right deputy David Lega said that the anniversary was rightly a reminder of the horrors and mass killings of WWII and were among the worst crimes against humanity.

However, “The creation of the EU is the very evidence of Hitler’s failure. Its mere existence is, in fact, the guarantee that nothing similar will ever happen again in Europe”.

But as the years progress and the number of living survivors fall, German deputy Nicola Beer said, “We have to keep this memory alive, especially as our contemporary witnesses will not be there forever to teach us what happened.”

The vice-chair of the anti-Semitism working group wanted to see greater exchanges between Jewish and non-Jewish communities, as well as well better training for judges, police and other people in important positions to detect antisemitism in all its guises.

In a joint statement from the three Presidents of the EU institutions, Charles Michel, David Sassoli, and Ursula von der Leyen highlighted how historic revisionism and lack of education was threating the understanding and uniqueness of the Shoah, the Hebrew term for the holocaust.

They recognised the growing rise of Alt-Right wing parties saying, “We add our voices to those who are determined to not let extremists and populists go unchallenged when they are trying to cross boundaries and question – once again – human dignity and equality of all”.

 

 

 

 

/articles/opinion/world-holocaust-memorial-day-never-forget Mon, 27 Jan 2020 12:36:11 +0100
Guy Verhofstadt: ‘Big problems’ still exist with UK Withdrawal Agreement Martin Banks

The chair of Parliament's Brexit Steering Group said one pressing problem was that EU citizens in the UK currently had “no physical document” to prove their legal right to remain in the country after Brexit.
 

The chair of Parliament's Brexit Steering Group said one pressing problem was that EU citizens in the UK currently had “no physical document” to prove their legal right to remain in the country after Brexit.
 

Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual


Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, Verhofstadt also raised the “risk of deportation” that “some UK government members” have warned could happen for those EU citizens who do not apply for Settled Status after Brexit.

He told the Constitutional Affairs Committee, “That is not acceptable.”

In a vote, the Committee gave its consent to the Withdrawal Agreement (WA), which was subsequently signed off on Friday by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, her Council counterpart.


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The European Parliament’s plenary next Wednesday is expected to also give its consent to the deal and the UK will then formally exit the EU on 31 January.

Verhofstadt, who said he will stand down as chair of Parliament's Brexit Steering Group (BSG), highlighted his and the institution's ongoing Brexit priorities, notably concerning citizens’ rights.

He pointed to the way the UK authorities “have implemented the agreement” including the government's Settled Status scheme.

He told the meeting, “We clearly need to continue scrutiny of the way the Withdrawal Agreement is implemented in the coming months.”

“Personally, I find this a very sad moment today, but I have to be open with you. We are not voting for or against Brexit. That is not the choice today; it’s the choice between an orderly Brexit or a hard Brexit” Guy Verhofstadt MEP

The Belgian MEP said, “There is no European Parliament oversight on this but this will be necessary because we still have problems about the way the UK is implementing the deal and, also, how some EU governments have implemented the Withdrawal Agreement too.”

 “For instance, 12 Member States have chosen a registration system for UK citizens in Europe. This is easy as citizens just have to register. But other Member States have gone for an application system, like the UK has done for EU citizens in Britain.”

“This system, being applied by some Member States, creates a far more heavy burden on citizens.”

Verhofstadt said that Parliament had identified “six concrete problems” with the Withdrawal Agreement, “including three big problems.”

He added, “Personally, I find this a very sad moment today but I have to be open with you. We are not voting for or against Brexit. That is not the choice today; it’s the choice between an orderly Brexit or a hard Brexit. Let us be clear about this.”

The BSG, he said, will now be replaced by the “UK Coordination Group” after 1 February, chaired by German EPP member David McAllister.

“This will face another difficult task - the future relationship with the UK.”

“Brexit is no longer the settled will of the UK people: some 53 percent of those voted for in the UK election voted for parties who demanded another EU membership referendum, a majority” Richard Corbett MEP

He added, “I still hope there will come a day when, and I and the likes of Richard Corbett may not be here for it, we will see UK MEPs back in this Parliament.”

He paid tribute to British MEPs on the Committee, saying, “I am pretty sure we will miss their knowledge and capacity to find solutions to things which the UK has shown as an EU member over the last few decades.”

A clearly sombre Corbett, the longest-serving member of the committee, voiced “great personal sadness that my last act is to vote on withdrawal of my country from the EU. But I also speak with a sense of outrage that it came to this.”

“Brexit is no longer the settled will of the UK people: some 53 per cent of those voted for in the UK election voted for parties who demanded another EU membership referendum, a majority. Polls show if we’d had another referendum we would have stayed in the EU.”

Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness said that after the furore of Brexit, “I hope people can now listen and show respect to each other. I voted in favour of this resolution with a heavy heart. This is a bad day’s work. I hope that the UK (exit) is a one off.”

Danuta Hubner, a Polish EPP MEP, said, “The Withdrawal Agreement will now become law and this is a very emotional and painful moment for me. Parliament will continue to be constructive in our approach though.”

“I regret that the UK is leaving and hope citizens in the UK and Europe will not pay the price of Brexit. Our work here though is not over and Parliament’s task is to deal with what will certainly be tough negotiations with the UK.”

She went on, “Time will be factor because we have just eight months to finalise the trade talks. I hope both sides will faithfully implement all provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement. We will certainly keep an eye on things to ensure that citizens don’t have their rights taken away.”

“The UK says it does not want to extend the transition period so there is a real possibility of another cliff edge on 1 January 2021. The chance of this still exists and we must be ready for this. My sincere hope is that we can find a deal on the best possible relationship,” said the BSG member.

Committee chair Antonio Tajani, meanwhile, led tributes to the departing UK MEPs, saying, “This is a historic event albeit a sombre one. A Member State is leaving. This is not a moment for celebration though we must respect the sovereign decision even if it is one I deeply regret.

“The EU, since its inception, has striven for closer integration so the UK exit is the antithesis of this principle. The EU, throughout the Brexit process, has striven to ensure this causes as little disruption as possible.”

The Italian EPP deputy is keen, he said, that the UK and EU “bring certainty to the 4.5m citizens most directly affected - those in the EU and in Europe.”

He said, “Their rights should not be sacrificed for this deal. The Good Friday Agreement must also be respected to ensure there is no hard border on the island of Ireland. The UK must also settle its financial obligations to the EU and this committee will closely follow proceedings.”

“We should now focus on the next stage of the talks which I hope will be balanced, fair and will work in both parties’ interests.”

He thanked committee members Verhofstadt and Danuta Hubner who “have done their utmost to ensure we reach a positive solution.”

“I want to voice to our UK colleagues my gratitude for their huge commitment and positive contribution to this committee’s work.”

He concluded by saying, “You are not only MEPs but friends of ours. You will be missed.”

Some UK members, including Labour’s Corbett, were given a standing ovation.

/articles/news/guy-verhofstadt-%E2%80%98big-problems%E2%80%99-still-exist-uk-withdrawal-agreement Fri, 24 Jan 2020 17:36:59 +0100
Movers and Shakers | 24 January 2020 Mia Bartoloni & Megan MacDougall

Keep track of developments in the European institutions and public affairs with our Movers and Shakers column. 

Keep track of developments in the European institutions and public affairs with our Movers and Shakers column. 

Today’s Movers & Shakers are about, high- level appointments at the European Commission, European Economic and Social Committee President nomination, Greece's first female president announced, latest commission and public affairs appointments, and more!

European Parliament 

Committees and Delegations 

Budgets Committee (BUDG) 
Gunnar BECK (ID, DE) who was previously a substitute, has left the committee. He is replaced by Jörg MEUTHEN. 

Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) 
Gunnar BECK (ID, DE) joins as a substitute, replacing Jörg MEUTHEN who leaves the committee. 


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European Commission 

Directorates-General 

Budget (BUDG) 
Lourdes ACEDO MONTOYA replaces Andreas SCHWARZ in the role of Head of Union B1 (Multiannual financial framework). 

Communications Networks, Content and Technology (CNECT) 
Kilian GROSS replaces Lucilla SIOLI as Head of Unit A2 (Technologies and Systems for Digitising Industry). SIOLI remains Director of Directorate A (Artificial Intelligence and Digital Industry). 

Economic and Financial Affairs (ECFIN) 
Werner RÖGER replaces Mary Veronica TOVŠAK PLETERSKI as Director of Directorate B (Investment, Growth and Structural Reform) in an acting capacity. RÖGER also remains Head of Unit B3 (Models and Databases). 

European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) 
Paraskevi MICHOU has been appointed Director General replacing Monique PARIAT. MICHOU (EL) was previously Director General at DG HOME (Migration and Home Affairs) from 2018-20 and served in several other Directorates General including DG JUST (Justice and Consumers) and DG INFSO (Information Society and Media). 
Ilkka SALMI replaces Johannes LUCHNER as Director of Directorate B (Disaster Preparedness and Prevention). 
Rosa CIOTOLA is the new HR Business Correspondent, replacing Silke WRAGGE. 
Petra PEREYRA replaces Mihela ZUPANCIC as Head of Unit A4 (Communication) in an acting capacity. ZUPANCIC becomes Head of Unit E1 (International and Interinstitutional Relations, Legal Framework) replacing Charles PIROTTE. 

Migration and Home Affairs (HOME) 
Monique PARIAT has been appointed Director General replacing Paraskevi MICHOU. PARIAT (FR) was previously Director General at DG ECHO (European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations) and before that Deputy Director General at DG AGRI (Agriculture and Rural Development). 

Research and Innovation (RDT) 
Ann-Sofie RONNLUND replaces Filomena CHIRICO as Head of Unit A2 (Programme Analysis and Regulatory Reform) in an acting capacity. 


Want to know more? Click here for more information on our Dods People EU service.



EU Institutions and Agencies 

European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) 

On Wednesday, Jacek KRAWCZYK (PL), current President of the Employer’s Group, was nominated by his group to become the next president. His nomination still needs to go to a formal vote among all 350 EESC members in October. 

European Banking Authority 
Gerry CROSS has been nominated to take over as Executive Director. The appointment is pending on Parliament’s approval. 

Public Affairs 
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 
Ghada FATHI WALY has been appointed as the next executive director. 
 
The Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Compenies (CER) 
Andreas MATTHA selected as the acting chair of its management committee. 

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National News 

Brexit 
The Withdrawal Agreement Bill has been passed through both Houses in Parliament, receiving royal assent on Wednesday. 

Bulgaria 
The Socialist Party (PES) filed a motion of no-confidence this week against the governing coalition between GERB (EPP) and nationalist alliance United Patriots (ECR). However, it remains unlikely that there will be a majority in support of it. 

Czech Republic 
Minister for Transport Vladimir KREMLIK was dismissed early this week. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Industry and Trade Karel HAVLICEK will take over the transport portfolio. 

Greece 
Katerina SAKELLAROPOULOU has been elected as Greece’s first female head of state, for a five-year term. She succeeds current President Prokopis PAVLOPOULOS on 13 March. 

Italy 
Party Chief of the Five Star Movement (NI) Luigi DI MAIO stepped down from his position on Wednesday. DI MAIO will retain his position as Minister for Foreign Affairs. 

Malta 
Prime Minister Robert ABELA’s cabinet was revealed last week. The cabinet features 17 ministers and 8 parliamentary secretaries, only five ministers kept their previous portfolios. Minister for Gozo, Justyne CARUANA resigned on Monday. Clint CAMILLERI who had initially been appointed as the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Animal Rights and Consumer Protection, will now take over the Gozo portfolio. Anton REFALO has been given the Agriculture portfolio. 

For a full breakdown of the Maltese cabinet, go to dodspeople.eu 


/articles/news/movers-and-shakers-24-january-2020 Fri, 24 Jan 2020 16:04:47 +0100
Issue 508 | 27 January 2020 The Parliament Magazine

This issue features Renew Europe leader Dacian Cioloș as our cover star. He tells us why citizens must play a key role in designing the blueprint for the future of Europe and shares his views on the new European Commission, climate change and Brexit.

This issue features Renew Europe leader Dacian Cioloș as our cover star. He tells us why citizens must play a key role in designing the blueprint for the future of Europe and shares his views on the new European Commission, climate change and Brexit.

In our EU space policy feature, Romanian EPP MEP Marian-Jean Marinescu looks at the security aspects of space policy, Italian EPP deputy Massimiliano Salini talks about the new EU Space Programme, and Executive Director of the European Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) Agency (GSA), Carlo des Dorides, tells us about the successes of the Galileo programme.

We also have a special feature on the EU’s Farm to Fork strategy, with MEPs Elsi Katainen (FI, RE) and Daniel Buda (RO, EPP) sharing their views on how the EU can adapt agricultural policy to the EU Green Deal.

Also in this issue: MEP comment on the EU’s cancer strategy, maritime emissions, digital taxation, the EU budget, Veganuary, EU-India relations, and World Holocaust Day.

We also recap the Fuels Europe event on alternative low-carbon technologies and liquid fuels and bid a fond farewell to Parliament’s British members as Brexit day approaches.

Finally, answering our five questions this issue is Spanish Renew Europe MEP Susana Solís Pérez.

/articles/magazines/issue-508-27-january-2020 Fri, 24 Jan 2020 15:30:00 +0100
UK Withdrawal Agreement passes two key hurdles Martin Banks

Having received Royal Assent in the UK and consent in a vote by Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee on Thursday, the UK is now well on its way to exiting the EU next week.

Having received Royal Assent in the UK and consent in a vote by Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee on Thursday, the UK is now well on its way to exiting the EU next week.

Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual


A final hurdle will be next Wednesday's plenary vote in Brussels where, again, the agreement is expected to get the green light, allowing the UK to exit the EU at the end of this month, over three years after the EU Referendum.

The UK will officially leave the European Union after 47 years of membership, meaning that its representatives will no longer be present in the EU institutions.

But, ahead of the UK’s formal departure, the EU opened up a fresh potential clash with Britain by warning Boris Johnson of “sanctions” if he fails to implement controversial goods checks in the Irish Sea after Brexit.


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On Wednesday, Stefaan De Rynck, senior adviser to the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, said the bloc will “not tolerate any backsliding or half measures.”

The warning comes after the UK Prime Minister repeatedly claimed checks would not be necessary.

De Rynck, however, insisted the inspections were a joint legal agreement, as the price for Britain – but not Northern Ireland – breaking free of the single market and customs union.

The Belgian official was speaking at the 'Brexit - What Now?' event, at University College London.

"The UK's departure will force us to rethink the way in which we communicate with our citizens, so that they can relate in their everyday life to Europe's tangible and verifiable achievements” Luca Jahier, EESC President

The EU, it is believed, will take the UK to the European Court of Justice if it fails to implement the checks, with the threat of heavy fines being imposed.

The court will retain the power to fine the UK even after the transition period ends, at the end of 2020.

Elsewhere, David Caro, president of the ESBA, the body representing Europe’s SMEs at EU level, says that many of its members are concerned about the prospect of a no-deal Brexit at the end of this year.

Speaking at an ESBA event in Brussels on Wednesday, Caro, who has a business in the West Midlands, urged both sides to “do all they can” to ensure a “smooth transition.”

He warned that anything else could be damaging to the SME community which makes up over 95 percent of European industry.

Meanwhile, the legislative issues negotiated on Thursday come as a week of “farewells” to the UK and its representatives in Brussels got underway.

This started on Wednesday with the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) paying tribute to its British members at the last plenary session they will attend.

The 24 UK members received a commemorative medal in a ceremony that, according to the EESC, “showed the EESC's commitment to maintaining strong ties with British civil society after Brexit.”

An EESC spokesman said it was a “a touching ceremony where many personal feelings surfaced.”

Luca Jahier, President of the EESC, admitted that the choice made by British citizens to leave the EU was “a decision of historical importance that we deeply regret, but that we have to accept and respect.”

Paying tribute to “the crucial contribution made by British members to the work of the EESC in many fields,” he said that “the UK's departure will force us to rethink the way in which we communicate with our citizens, so that they can relate in their everyday life to Europe's tangible and verifiable achievements.”

He noted the EESC's determination to maintain close contacts with British civil society after Brexit, adding, “There is no other alternative than a strong relationship between the EU and the UK, and we at the EESC will do whatever it takes to keep that strong link alive.

“Ceci n'est qu'un au revoir, mes amis,” he added.

Tom Jenkins, president of the EESC between 1996 and 1998, was invited to the ceremony and expressed his sorrow for being about to lose his EU citizenship and, post-Brexit, urged the UK and EU to “encourage dialogue with civil society representatives.”

Pro-European activist Madeleina Key, also known as “EU Supergirl,” criticized the “mix of apathy and ignorance that have fuelled the rise of nationalism in the UK, and warned EU leaders about the need to change the way they communicate to citizens.”

She will, she told the plenary, continue to fight for Europe in the UK, adding, “We must believe that the future is Europe, so all British citizens know they will be forever Europeans.”

/articles/news/uk-withdrawal-agreement-passes-two-key-hurdles Fri, 24 Jan 2020 14:02:39 +0100
The Parliament Magazine Committee Guide 2020 The Parliament Magazine

A Parliament Magazine's Guide to the European Parliament's Committees

 
/articles/magazines/parliament-magazine-committee-guide-2020 Fri, 24 Jan 2020 09:20:49 +0100