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Nigel Farage predicts EU’s collapse ‘within ten years’ Martin Banks

Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, the Brexit party leader told this website, “If we get Brexit half right then these institutions will not be here within ten years.”

Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, the Brexit party leader told this website, “If we get Brexit half right then these institutions will not be here within ten years.”

Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual


Farage said he will continue to campaign “all over Europe” against the EU in the coming months and years and identified three countries - Italy, Denmark and Poland - as being among those most likely to next exit the EU.

“They are the frontrunners,” he declared.

Farage, whose party won 29 seats in the last European election, believes the UK departure will prove a “hammer blow” to the EU, adding, “and that is a good thing.”


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“I want to stress that we are not anti-European. I love Europe but I loathe the EU.”

The EU, he said, had discovered that the “UK is too big to bully”, adding, “If, in ten years, what we have achieved is a catalyst for change elsewhere then I will be absolutely delighted.”

Farage lambasted the European Commission which, he said, was putting preservation of the European project ahead of issues like workers’ rights.

He said, “I really do not think the EU and its institutions will last”, going on to say that, even so, he hopes its demise will be “peaceful and sensible.”

“I want to stress that we are not anti-European. I love Europe but I loathe the EU” Nigel Farage MEP

He also scoffed at the EU’s claim to be an economic superpower, adding, “The euro currently represents only 15 percent of global GDP and this figure is going to fall dramatically in the coming years.”

He also warned UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, about to embark on what many predict will be the hardest part of the Brexit negotiations, that he and his party “are going nowhere.”

He told reporters at a packed press conference, “We may be leaving the battlefield but we are not going away, that is for sure.”

Farage, who will deliver his last speech in Parliament later on Wednesday, said, “He has to deliver on Brexit.”

“A lot of people have lent their support to him and the Tories and if he breaks this trust this support will fall off an edge.”

Farage was speaking just ahead of a historic vote by Parliament on the Withdrawal Agreement later on Wednesday. This will pave the way for the UK to quit the EU on Friday.

The former UKIP leader admitted that Brexit is “unlikely to have happened” but for that fact that he was elected as an MEP to Parliament back in 1999.

"The euro currently represents only 15 percent of global GDP and this figure is going to fall dramatically in the coming years" Nigel Farage MEP

“No, it would not have happened if I hadn’t come here.”

“It gave me a platform to be invited on programmes like Question Time and speak at the Oxford Union.”

But he admitted the “irony” in his job in Parliament “over four decades” and being the principal cheerleader in the UK against the soon-to-be EU27.

Farage, who has been inundated for media interviews this week, also took aim at those in the UK who support EU membership, saying, “Remainers are looking more like members of the flat earth society.”

“There has been a remarkable coming together of people, including Remainers, in the UK. Even the FT [Financial Times], which is an ardent EU supporter and wanted the UK to join the euro, says now that this has happened and people have to accept it.”

Farage took the opportunity to ridicule the SNP and leader Nicola Sturgeon, saying, “Even one third of SNP voters supported Brexit. She is campaigning for Scotland to become a region of the EU. This is totally bonkers.”

He predicts Italy, Denmark and Poland could be next to leave, saying, “The way the Poles have been insulted by the EU is probably more than they can bear. A poll in Poland last year said, for the first time, that Poles believe the EU has a negative effect on their lives.”

“Of course, Denmark didn’t join in the first wave of enlargement and has always opted out of the euro and arrest warrant. I also think that the next financial crisis will be too much for Italy to bear.”

His MEP job, he said, had offered the chance of “endless dinner invitations, chauffeur-driven cars” and “more money that some could dream of.”

“It is worth noting that less than two miles from this place there are 10,000 people earning more than the British Prime Minister.”

When asked, years ago, if he thought his life as an MEP would “corrupt” him, he said he’d replied, “No.”

The “turning point” for him, he said, was in 2005 and the attempt to introduce a constitution for Europe.

This, he noted, was then rejected by the French and Dutch “ but the EU, rather than rowing back on such further integration, did the opposite.”

“They rebranded the constitution the Lisbon Treaty," said Farage, who faced a barrage of tv crews jostling for his attention.

He called Brexit the biggest historical event since Henry VIII “took us out of the church of Rome.”

He added, “We are now about to leave the Treaty of Rome.”

Looking to the future, he revealed he would play an active role in the presidential campaign in the US this year, adding, “Instead of going to Strasbourg once a month I will be over on the east side of the States each month.”

He said he would “miss the drama” of parliamentary life and, when asked by this website, if there was a “souvenir” he would take back to the UK he paused and said, “Well, there are papers and photographers but the biggest thing I will take back is a big smile.”

/articles/news/nigel-farage-predicts-eu%E2%80%99s-collapse-%E2%80%98within-ten-years%E2%80%99 Wed, 29 Jan 2020 13:51:11 +0100
Dacian Cioloș: Reinventing Europe The Parliament Magazine

Having endured a series of crises over the past decade, the European Union is ready to make sweeping changes in line with the green and digital transformations. But citizens must play a key role in designing the blueprint for the future, writes Renew Europe leader Dacian Cioloș.

Having endured a series of crises over the past decade, the European Union is ready to make sweeping changes in line with the green and digital transformations. But citizens must play a key role in designing the blueprint for the future, writes Renew Europe leader Dacian Cioloș.

Dacian Cioloș MEP | Photo credit: Natalie Hill


As leader of the Renew Europe group in the European Parliament, what do you see as your group’s main priorities for the next couple of years?

Our Union is at a crossroads. Brexit has shown that EU membership is reversible, and the political forces of populism and nationalism are far from defeated.

We need to learn the lessons from Brexit and move Europe forward so that it is more capable, not only to deliver peace, prosperity and security for all of its citizens, but also to make sure our continent is at the forefront of the great transformations of our time.

We want Europe to be firm on the rule of law and in protecting and developing individual rights, not least in the field of Artificial Intelligence and new technologies. Access to data will be critical in this endeavour and we need to define the European way of doing it.


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At the same time, we have to define a path for growth that delivers both prosperity and climate neutrality - good jobs in a healthy environment. Some sectors of the economy will have to reinvent themselves, such as energy, mobility and agriculture.

Research and innovation and investments in a just transition will be decisive in achieving our ambition of a climate-neutral Europe. The Green Deal is not only a challenge, it’s also about opportunity.

 

This year another conference on the Future of Europe will take place. What are the most important issues the conference needs to address and how do you ensure its outcomes are relevant to EU citizens?

This is not just another conference. It is a much-needed platform to discuss how we can do Europe better.

My political family has been waiting for many years to launch this initiative, which must be widely opened to citizens.

I am glad that the conference is now on the right track. Debates on the future of Europe should not be ‘Brussels bubble-centric’ or the prerogative of the elite; on the contrary.

I am convinced that representative democracy can be strengthened by participatory processes and direct engagement with Europeans.

“I am convinced that representative democracy can be strengthened by participatory processes and direct engagement with Europeans”

The 2010s were marked by a series of crises for the European Union. This Conference is a chance to listen, to reflect, to identify shortcomings in the Union’s policies and institutions and establish ways to reform. And, of course, to deliver change. We have two and a half years to do so.

 

What impact will the loss of your 17 UK MEPs have on the structure and strength of Renew Europe and more generally what are your thoughts on the loss of UK policymakers from the European Parliament and the other EU institutions?

For me, there is no doubt: Brexit is a terrible, terrible mistake. But as Europeans, it was not, and is not, our choice; it is the result of a democratic process that we have to accept.

And we all have to move forward. Now, the European Union must defend its interests in the negotiations ahead of us.

The UK is not geographically moving further away from Europe; it is only a political distance. Therefore, I do hope for the closest possible future relationship.

Whatever the outcome will be, I am confident Britain will remain a close ally and a strategic partner.

At a political level, Renew Europe will ensure that the bonds between us and the Liberal Democrats remain very strong. I have been deeply impressed by their work ethic and determination from day one.

They have helped to create one of the largest pro-European movements and I have no doubt that, one day, a young British leader will once again bring Britain back to the heart of the European family, where it belongs.

For Renew Europe, in the short term, Brexit will also be accompanied by new MEPs joining after January 31. We will remain a central force in the post-Brexit Parliament, determined to use our strength to transform Europe and deliver reforms.

 

What hopes do you have for the Ursula Von der Leyen Commission? Where should its priorities lie?

Renew Europe has played an important role in shaping the priorities and composition of the new College and it is for this reason that we also supported it.

However, as I said at the time of the election of the Commission, our support is not a blank cheque.

Each Commissioner has a key role to play in restoring Europeans’ trust in the EU, with a vision, ambition and passion for Europe. From East to West, from North to South, all of us here have a clear mission, that of reinvigorating the European project.

We will not achieve this with declarations or fancy promises, but with facts and measures that make Europe concrete, understandable and useful in the daily lives of our citizens.

“For me, there is no doubt: Brexit is a terrible, terrible mistake. But as Europeans it was not and is not our choice; it is the result of a democratic process that we have to accept”

The Green Deal and the Digital Agenda are two priorities where the EU must not only set targets and ambitions but also a political and policy path to make them a reality.

As a former European commissioner, what advice, if any, have you given to the six Renew Europe commissioners?

I am not at that stage in life where I feel entitled to give advice and talk from experience. We have a team of dynamic and very experienced Commissioners.

They know that the Parliament will be an ally to find the best European solutions to European challenges and they also know that Europe is not Brussels.

For me, it is absolutely key to reconnect the European project to people in our Member States and regions. This is not advice, but an objective.

The Conference on the Future of Europe will certainly play a role and each one of us in the Parliament as well as every Commissioner will have a responsibility to connect our political and policy priorities to our European roots, discussing and exchanging with citizens.

 

As an agricultural expert, what are your thoughts on the farm to fork strategy, and what should Janusz Wojciechowski’s priorities be as the new agricultural commissioner?

I welcome the ambition of the new Commission to put forward a new comprehensive strategy for our food and our agriculture. New priorities and traditional policies should not be opposed.

On the contrary, traditional policies like the Common Agricultural Policy should be revisited, so that they match today’s challenges.

There is a broad consensus, both within the farming community and society as a whole, for a serious reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, not just an administrative facelift.

We want to strengthen the ‘common’ part of the Common Agricultural Policy and to deliver a policy that helps farmers to invest and transform their farms, so that they are more sustainable and more economically viable.

“Climate change is an existential challenge and biodiversity loss is reaching catastrophic levels. As citizens, we all have a duty to take our responsibilities and make changes to our lifestyles”

The Farm to Fork Strategy needs to build on the capacity of the CAP to provide a new impetus to our farming sector.

 

What, in your opinion, are the biggest challenges currently facing the EU and what can Parliament do to address them?

Climate change is an existential challenge and biodiversity loss is reaching catastrophic levels.

As citizens, we all have a duty to take our responsibilities and make changes to our lifestyles. As politicians working for citizens, we have the responsibility to do much more than that.

To me it is clear that European countries are stronger if they confront this challenge together. At the same time, within the EU, regions are not equally developed; some have to work harder than others.

This is why we need a just transition and we must look carefully at the impact that our policy proposals have on people’s lives, jobs and businesses.

Some parts of the economy will have to reinvent themselves and we have to ensure that no one is left behind.

 

Following the disappointing outcome of COP25, what does the EU need to do ahead of next year’s COP26 in Glasgow?

I believe that with the right preparation and a common vision, the European Union can once again take a global lead in the run-up to COP26.

Renew Europe will be a strong partner for international action on climate change. I think the dramatic fi res in Australia should be a wake-up call for many leaders in the world.

Climate change is not something for the future. It’s happening now.

 

At a time when the rule of law and democracy is under threat in certain parts of Europe, including Romania, how would you like to see the EU put pressure on the governments of these countries to change, and can the upcoming MFF negotiations be used as a tool of influence?

I am confident that with the current Government, the rule of law is no longer under threat. The Romanian Alliance 2020 USR PLUS, our delegation in Renew Europe, remains vigilant and I assure you that if there are any worrying signs, we will be the first to voice our concern and take action.

More importantly - and I have seen this major shift in Romanian society in the past few years - tens of thousands of Romanians will take to the streets to defend the rule of law, as it was when the previous PSD government was trying to bend the law.

The Rule of Law is a priority for Renew Europe and we were key in making this one of the Commission’s priorities. We need to develop an EU mechanism on democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights, as proposed by Parliament in the last mandate.

Too many EU leaders are challenging the values of the Union and this has to change. This is also why we have pressed for reforms so that EU funds are more closely linked to the rule of law under the MFF.

We say to those governments that refuse to abide by the rules: If your citizens cannot enjoy fundamental rights then you cannot benefit from EU subsidies. We are determined to defend liberal democracy.

This must also come hand-in-hand with a recognition that for some countries, the benefits of the European project need to be communicated more clearly and in a more accessible manner.

This is why I want to find a permanent way to include Europeans in the EU decision-making process. Our citizens should feel part of a common project and a common dream, not part of a system that imposes a doctrine on them from above.

/articles/interviews/dacian-ciolo%C8%99-reinventing-europe Tue, 28 Jan 2020 18:07:37 +0100
Candlelit vigil for citizens' rights outside European Parliament as UK exits EU Martin Banks

The vigil is planned to coincide with a “silent” march and similar vigil in central London on Friday, where campaigners say they will make the case for the protection of citizens' rights post-Brexit.

The vigil is planned to coincide with a “silent” march and similar vigil in central London on Friday, where campaigners say they will make the case for the protection of citizens' rights post-Brexit.

Photo credit: Flickr


Campaign groups say they want to “remind those watching as Britain leaves the EU that many of the citizens' rights issues are still unresolved.”

Roger Casale, of the New Europeans group, said, “Brexit is not an invitation to compromise the rights of the 5 million. The silent procession will be our way of showing that the rights EU citizens in the UK and Britons in the EU are not yet fully guaranteed.”

People around the UK and in Europe will also be asked to light a candle and “to think about the rights of #the5million.”


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This is a reference to the 1.5m Britons in Europe and 3.5m EU citizens in the UK, many of whom say they still fear for their future after Brexit.

In Brussels at around midday on Friday outside the European parliament scores of people will each hold up signs spelling out the words: “Don’t make citizens pay the price of  Brexit.”

Casale explained, “At exactly the same time we will holding up the same signs at the Millicent Fawcett statue at Parliament Square. We will combine this with a call for people to light a candle in the evening to symbolise the rights of the 5 million which should never be extinguished.”

British MEPs have spent last week and this week clearing their desks at their offices in Strasbourg and Brussels for the last time. The Union Jack will be lowered from outside the three main EU institutions - Parliament, Commission and Council, on Friday.

“The silent procession will be our way of showing that the rights of EU citizens in the UK and Britons in the EU are not yet fully guaranteed” Roger Casale, New Europeans

Casale added, “This Friday is an historic day for Britain and for Europe. We do not want to let it pass, including in Brussels, without reminding those watching that the rights of #the5million must never be extinguished.”

“For all those who can't be with us on Friday, they are asked to light a candle at 11pm for #the5million and for all the British people and the generation to come who will lose their rights because of Brexit.”

“By doing so you will help give meaning and hope to an occasion which for many of us will also be filled with anger, disappointment and sadness.”

The UK will leave the EU at midnight on Friday.

MEPs, meanwhile, are set to approve the Withdrawal Agreement in a vote at 6pm on Wednesday.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič and the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier are expected to participate in the debate with political group leaders that will precede the vote.

The vote comes after the completion of the ratification process in the UK and the vote by the constitutional affairs committee last week.

To enter into force, the Withdrawal Agreement between the European Union and UK needs to be approved by the European Parliament by a simple majority of votes cast before being subject to a final vote (by qualified majority) in the Council later this week.

A Parliament spokesman said, “After the vote, Parliament’s President David Sassoli will make a statement to the plenary, following which UK MEPs and group leaders will be invited to mark this moment in a ceremony in the Yehudi Menuhin area.”

The Socialists are also holding a ceremony in Parliament on Wednesday “in honour of the hard work of UK Labour MEPs for more than 45 years in the European Parliament and their significant contribution to making peoples’ lives better all across Europe.”

Richard Corbett and Theresa Griffin will be speaking on behalf of UK Labour MEPs alongside S&D leader, Iratxe García Pérez, and David Sassoli.

There will also be contributions from Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, and PES President, Sergei Stanishev.

/articles/news/candlelit-vigil-citizens-rights-outside-european-parliament-uk-exits-eu Tue, 28 Jan 2020 17:02:04 +0100
Claude Moraes: Brexit should not be at expense of asylum seekers Martin Banks

UK MEP Claude Moraes has criticised UK Home Office plans to “send people back to Europe” after Brexit.

UK MEP Claude Moraes has criticised UK Home Office plans to “send people back to Europe” after Brexit.

Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual


Speaking in a parliamentary committee on Monday, Moraes said “Brexit should not be at the expense” of asylum seekers and their children.

His comments came during a committee debate on the report, "Refugee protection and asylum policy", drafted by the EU Affairs Committee of the House of Lords in the UK. The UK is due to leave the EU at the end of this week.

Moraes, a Labour member, said he believed that the UK department would have to share responsibility if it wanted Europe to take back asylum seekers from the UK.


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He said, “If Home Secretary Priti Patel wants to send people back to Europe, then the UK will have to think about compassionate responsibility sharing for vulnerable child migrants. In this sense, the UK is not an island.”

The Home Office is preparing to end the current system of family reunification for asylum-seeking children if the UK leaves the EU without a deal at the end of this year.

Moraes warner, however, that a no-deal Brexit in December would mean no new applications after 1 November from asylum-seeking children to be reunited with relatives living in the UK.

He fears that the impact on migrant children stranded alone in countries such as Greece and Italy could be “fatal” as more head for the Channel to try to cross to the UK irregularly.

“If Home Secretary Priti Patel wants to send people back to Europe, then the UK will have to think about compassionate responsibility sharing for vulnerable child migrants. In this sense, the UK is not an island” Claude Moraes MEP

Moraes, speaking at a meeting of the civil liberties committee, said, “Brexit has attracted much attention on the future of trade relations between the UK and the EU, but most debates largely overlooked JHA-related issues, which are hardly mentioned in the Withdrawal Agreement itself.”

“One striking example of this is the fact that already next week, the UK will face restrictions from some EU Members States on the use of the European Arrest Warrant with a third-country.”

“With regards to migration, asylum and border management, the status quo should be protected during the transition period but the level of cooperation after December 2020 still remains to be seen.”

The last time he will speak in Parliament, Moraes said, “Brexit should not be at the expense of children and families who embarked on perilous journey to seek safety and lost each other on the way. It should not prevent a child who is living alone in a hotspot in Greece or sleeping rough on the streets of Paris or London to be reunited with his parents or siblings.”

In a debate with other MEPs and the UK Red Cross, the veteran MEP added, “This is not only morally unacceptable but could also have fatal consequences. Without the possibility of a safe way to reach the UK, these young people will simply vanish to try to cross the Channel at Calais on lorries or boats or fall prey to human traffickers who target vulnerable children.”

Moraes noted that the UK House of Commons had approved the Withdrawal Agreement, adding, “the scenario of a no-deal Brexit has been avoided for now and therefore the UK will remain part of the Dublin System until the end of the transition period.”

He warned, “However, serious concerns remain both during the transition period and after December 2020 when the Dublin regulation will be revoked in the UK.”

During the transition, he told the committee that it is “essential” that “as many family reunification claims as possible” are processed.

He asked, “How is the Commission supporting EU27 Dublin units to speed up the processing of all take-charge requests to the UK as soon as possible and not later than December 2020?”

After December 2020, under section 17 of the Withdrawal Act, he said the UK government is committed to seek to negotiate the retention of the provisions that allow separated children who have applied for asylum in the EU to join family members in other Member States.

He went on, “However, the commitment only covers separated children and not other refugees and people seeking asylum who would currently be able to be reunited through the Dublin System.”

Moraes told the meeting that “significant gaps remain” between the provisions of the Dublin system and those of the UK’s domestic legislation.

“This will ultimately make it harder for asylum seekers present in the EU to access family reunification under the UK’s domestic law than it was under Dublin III.”

He concluded, “It is therefore crucial for the UK and the EU to find an agreement as part of the negotiations of the future relationship that allows any individuals, children and adults, who have claimed asylum either in the UK or in the EU to be reunited with family members, in the same way that are able under the current Dublin regulation.”

/articles/news/claude-moraes-brexit-should-not-be-expense-asylum-seekers Tue, 28 Jan 2020 15:50:03 +0100
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