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Movers and Shakers | 17 January 2020 Mia Bartoloni and 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: Catalan MEP seat officially becomes vacant, the new Secretary-General of the Commission, Guy Verhofstadt to lead Conference on the Future of Europe, Plenary week highlights, latest Commission, public affairs appointments, and more!

 

European Parliament

Given the decision of the Spanish Electoral Commission of 3 January and the decision of the Spanish Supreme Court of 9 January, Parliament has declared that Oriol JUNQUERAS’ seat is now vacant in accordance with the rules of procedure.

Meanwhile, Parliament ruled that Catalan separatist leaders Carles PUIGDEMONT and Toni COMIN did not hold any office incompatible with that of Member of the European Parliament and could take their seats and would enjoy all attendant rights. However, Spanish authorities have forwarded a request to waive the immunity of both PUIGDEMONT and COMIN in relation to their ongoing criminal proceedings.

After leaving the Brexit Party and announcing their support for the Conservative Party in the UK elections last month, UK MEPs Lucy Elizabeth HARRIS, Annunziata REES-MOGG, Lance FORMAN and John LONGWORTH have ceased to be non-attached members and have joined the ECR Group.

Committees and Delegations

Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE)
Lukas MANDL (EPP, AT) joins as a member, replacing Karoline EDTSTADLER.

Industry, Research and Energy Committee (ITRE)
Beata SZYDŁO has replaced Geoffrey VAN ORDEN as a member.

Petitions Committee (PETI)
Alex AGIUS SALIBA (S&D, MT) has been elected as the coordinator representing the Socialists and Democrats Group to replace Jude KIRTON-DARLING (UK).

Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee (FEMM)
Alexander BERNHUBER (EPP, AT), who was formerly a substitute, has left the committee and has been replaced by Angelika WINZIG.

Korean Peninsula Delegation (D-KOR)
Lukas MANDL (EPP, AT) joins as a member, replacing Karoline EDTSTADLER.

Latin American Delegation (D-LAT)
Isabel BENJUMEA joins as a substitute.

United States Delegation (D-US)
Ioan-Rareş BOGDAN becomes a member, replacing Gheorghe-Vlad NISTOR who moves to substitute.

Plenary highlights

On Wednesday the Parliament voted on the size of its committees and sub-committees after Brexit. The list of members will be finalised after new composition of the Parliament has been confirmed, but numbers will be as follows:

Foreign Affairs (AFET) - 71

Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) - 48

Budgets (BUDG) - 41

Culture and Education (CULT) - 31

Development (DEVE) - 26

Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) - 60

Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL)  - 55

Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) - 81 (+5)

Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) - 45

International Trade (INTA) - 43 (+2)

Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) - 78 (+6)

Legal Affairs (JURI) - 25

Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) - 68

Regional Development (REGI) - 43

Transport and Tourism (TRAN) - 49

Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) - 28

Fisheries (PECH) - 28

 Petitions (PETI) - 35

Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) - 35

Budgetary Control (CONT) - 30

Human Rights (DROI) - 30

Security and Defence (SEDE) – 30

On the same day, MEPs adopted a resolution calling to ensure the protection of EU and UK citizen’s rights after Brexit. The adopted text calls for information campaigns to be launched to prepare citizens and urges governments in member states to adopt consistent and generous measures to provide legal certainty for UK citizens residing in their territory.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej PLENKOVIĆ also presented the priorities of the country’s Council presidency under the motto “A Strong Europe in a World of Challenged”. He outlined that the Croatian presidency would focus on an agreement on the new Multiannual Financial Framework, the orderly withdrawal of the UK from the European Union, organising the EU-Western Balkans summit in May and preparing the Conference on the Future of Europe.

On Thursday the Conference of Presidents decided on the composition of the Executive Coordination Committee of the Conference on the Future of Europe, the body which Parliament believes should be responsible for steering its day-to-day work. Guy VERHOFSTADT (RE, BE),  who is currently coordinator and chair of the Brexit Steering Group in the European Parliament, has been confirmed as the President of the Conference on the Future of Europe, asfter a deal between Parliament leaders. Manfred WEBER (EPP, DE) and a yet unnamed MEP from the S&D and group will be VERHOFSTADT’s deputies.


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European Commission

Directorates-General

Competition (COMP)
Kris DEKEYSER takes over from Cecilio MADERO VILLAREJO as deputy director for Antitrust in an acting capacity.
Svend ALBAEK is replaced by Pierre REGIBEAU as chief economist.
Gereon THIELE is the head of the new unit 6 (Agriculture and Fisheries) in Directorate H.

European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO)
Andreas PAPACONSTANTINOU is the new director or Directorate C (Neighbourhood and Middle East), replacing Juha AUVINEN who was serving in the role in an acting capacity.
Charles PIROTTE replaces Kim ELING as head of unit E1 (International and Interinstitutional Relations, Legal Framework) in an acting capacity.

Statistics (EUROSTAT)
Solveiga EIDUKYNAITĖ-GERARD leaves the position of HR Business Correspondent, leaving a vacant position.
Ruxandra ROMAN ENESCU replaces Christian GOEDERT as head of unit E3 (Transport) in an acting capacity.
Axel BEHRENS replaces August GÖTZFRIED as head of unit G3 (Business cycle; Short-term statistics) in an acting capacity.

Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union (FISMA)
John BERRIGAN, who is currently deputy director general, takes on the role of director general in an acting capacity following the departure of Olivier GUERSENT from the DG to take on the role of director general in DG COMP.

Secretariat-General
After three candidates put their names forward for the role of Commission secretary general, current acting secretary general Ilze JUHANSONE has now been appointed to the role with immediate effect. JUHANSONE had stood against Jean-Eric PAQUET, who currently leads DG RTD (Research and Innovation), and Daniel CALLEJA CRESPO, current head of the environment department.


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


EU Institutions and Agencies

European Investment Bank
Thomas ÖSTROS (SE), economist and CEO of the Swedish Bankers’ Association, has been appointed vice-president. He will succeed Alexander STUBB (FI) whose mandate ends later this month.

Public Affairs

Eni Spa
Daniele D’ANGELO has joined the team in the EU Representative office. D’ANGELO was previously at ENGIE working in the EU Public Affairs and Communication office.

European Forest Institute
Valérie MERCKX has been appointed as head of the FLEGT and REDD Unit with immediate effect.


Got a new appointment you would like us to include in our next newsletter? Click here to let us know about it! 


National News

Bulgaria
Minister for Environment and Water resources Neno DIMOV has resigned from the role following the announcement he was facing charges of criminal mismanagement, due to water shortages in Pernik. United Patriots MP Emil DIMITROV will replace DIMOV.

Greece
Prime minister Kyriakos MITSOTAKIS has nominated Aikaterini SAKELLAROPOULOU, president of the council of state which is Greek’s highest court, for the role of Greek President. This is the first time a woman has been proposed for the role.

Ireland
Leo VARADKAR has announced that an early general election will take place on the 8 February 2020.

Malta
The Labour Party elected Robert ABELA as the new leader and Prime Minister. ABELA replaces Joseph MUSCAT.

Romania
Over the weekend President Klaus IOHANNIS and Prime Minister Ludovic ORBAN advocated for an early general election to be held.

Spain
Prime Minister Pedro SANCHEZ’s coalition government was sworn in on Monday. The coalition between the Socialist Party and the far-left Podemos consists of twenty-two ministers, four of which are also deputy prime ministers.

For a full breakdown of the Spanish coalition government, go to dodspeople.eu

United Kingdom
After three years of political deadlock, the Northern Irish Assembly has been re-instated. The Democratic Unionist Party’s Arlene FOSTER is first minister. Vice-president of Sinn Fein Michelle O’NEILL will be the deputy first minister. The two roles are considered equal despite the titles.

 


/articles/news/movers-and-shakers-17-january-2020 Fri, 17 Jan 2020 12:50:09 +0100
Conference on Future of Europe should not be ‘tokenistic rubber-stamping exercise’ say MEPs Martin Banks

The conference is due to start on 9 May - Europe Day - and last up to two years. It seeks to address the measures deemed necessary to reform the EU.

The conference is due to start on 9 May - Europe Day - and last up to two years. It seeks to address the measures deemed necessary to reform the EU.

Photo credit: Press Association


The body is expected to be chaired by Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt and will heavily involve civil society and EU citizens.

According to a resolution expected to be adopted by Parliament this week, the conference will comprise between 200 to 300 citizens (representative in terms of age, gender, social origin and level of education), with a minimum of three per Member State.

In a vote on Wednesday, MEPs will outline Parliament's position on the conference.


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Polish MEP Danuta Hubner, taking part in a plenary debate on the initiative in Parliament on Wednesday, told MEPs, “This is a chance to initiate an unprecedented open debate on Europe’s future.”

“This conference can bring added value. The 2019 elections proved that EU citizens now expect more from the EU than in the past. They want to participate in responding to challenges we face so we should use this as an opportunity to learn how we can do this.”

“We now need to go into listening mode,” said the EPP member, a former EU Commissioner.

Her comments were partly echoed by Italian MEP Antonio Tajani, who said, “We have seen the weakness of the EU in the current crisis in the Middle East so we must be able to respond as a united Europe to these and other challenges.”

“The 2019 elections proved that EU citizens now expect more from the EU than in the past. They want to participate in responding to challenges we face” Danuta Hubner MEP

“We need concerted action but that does not mean curbing national identities. One thing I hope the conference will do is to give this Parliament the right of legislative initiate like other parliaments around the world.”

UK Greens MEP Scott Ainslie said he hopes the conference “not be reduced to a tokenistic rubber-stamping exercise.”

He added, “It is vital and absolutely critical that it amplifies voices of citizens.”

Dutch ECR member Derk Eppink told the plenary, “We are at a crossroads in Europe but we also need to have the same debate in Member States.”

Meanwhile, ECR co-leader Ryszard Legutko accused a coalition of the EPP, Socialists, Liberals, Greens and the far-left within the Parliament of attempting to “seize control of the conference agenda and excluding groups that hold a different view on the future of European integration.”

“We have seen the weakness of the EU in the current crisis in the Middle East so we must be able to respond as a united Europe to these and other challenges” Antonio Tajani MEP

The ECR has tabled a separate text calling for the conference to be “genuinely open if it is to have any value in the debate on the EU's future.”

Speaking during Wednesday’s debate Legutko said, “The conference is simply regarded as a springboard for the next great leap forward in European integration. It has a pre-determined outcome as we have heard this morning and the attitude in this house is that the aim justifies the means. The aim being ever closer union.”

“Their proposal is wrong because it gives the Parliament the leading role in the process to the detriment of national parliaments. The democratic legitimacy of national parliaments is far, far greater than that of the European Parliament. It also includes transnational lists, the Spitzenkandidat process and greater competences for the Union at the expense of Member States.”

He added, “It doesn't take much intelligence to predict that all of this will exacerbate the divisions in Europe which are already deep and worrying.”

Elsewhere, the EPP wants the conference to be a “listening exercise”, which, after two years, leads to “concrete proposals, what we want to change in the EU.”

“The planned conference must first of all be a listening exercise. We want a broad, open, interactive and inclusive debate all across our continent about what kind of European Union we want in the future” Paulo Rangel MEP

Paulo Rangel, EPP vice chairman in charge of preparing the conference, said, “First, we have to listen. We cannot shape the future of Europe without listening to the citizens. The planned conference must first of all be a listening exercise. We want a broad, open, interactive and inclusive debate all across our continent about what kind of European Union we want in the future.”

Parliament wants to organise six so-called ‘Agora’ across Europe. Agora was the name of the central public space in ancient Greece.

“These will be the fora, where ordinary citizens from all 27 Member States can come up with ideas,” explained Rangel.

“Think-tanks, associations and companies should use other channels,” he added.

“At the end of a two-year process, the conference should produce concrete and workable proposals, what we want to change in the EU. We must turn ideas into action,” Rangel said.

/articles/news/conference-future-europe-should-not-be-%E2%80%98tokenistic-rubber-stamping-exercise%E2%80%99-say-meps Wed, 15 Jan 2020 14:40:51 +0100
MEPs make impassioned plea for post-Brexit protection of citizens’ rights Martin Banks

A plenary debate on the protection of citizens’ rights saw emotions run high and tempers fray.

A plenary debate on the protection of citizens’ rights saw emotions run high and tempers fray.

Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual


MEPs have appealed to the UK to respect the post-Brexit legal rights of EU citizens in Britain ahead of a vote in Parliament in Strasbourg where deputies are expected to endorse a resolution on the issue.

In a rousing address during the plenary debate on Tuesday, Belgian MEP and chair of Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group (BSG), Guy Verhofstadt, said, “I hope the Parliament will massively back the resolution on Wednesday so as to give us a final mandate on this. This is necessary because there are still concerns, including about free movement, that need to be addressed. If they are not addressed now they will remain until the end of the year.”

“We also need a physical document offering proof of the right to residency at the end of the transition period on 1 January 2021. These need to be addressed. I hope Boris Johnson can show the same flexibility over this issue that the Queen has shown to Meghan and Harry."


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Fellow BSG member, Danuta Hubner, said, “I deeply regret that the UK government says it will end the free movement of people. EU citizens have greatly benefited from this right and I hope the government will still change its mind on this issue.”

She added, “We also need an awareness-raising campaign about citizens’ rights and we must keep a watchful eye on citizens’ rights in the current talks between the two sides.”

UK Conservatives deputy Geoffrey Van Orden said, “We need to make rapid progress on the future relationship between the UK and EU. It is the duty of this Parliament to give its assent to the Withdrawal Agreement. We must remember, though, that free movement was a key element of the outcome of the EU Referendum.”

He also referred to the 1.5 million Britons living in mainland Europe.

“There are still concerns, including about free movement, that need to be addressed. If they are not addressed now they will remain until the end of the year” Guy Verhofstadt MEP

He added, “This resolution focuses disproportionately on EU citizens in the UK and gives scant attention to Britons who are in the EU – just one paragraph out of 22. Hardly any Member States have so far published plans how this will work for Britons in Europe so I hope this Parliament will be rigorous in ensuring that Britons in other EU countries are properly treated.”

He said that in the UK, 2.6 million EU citizens had applied for settled status and only 5 had been refused so far, on the grounds of “criminality.”

This claim was challenged by SNP deputy Christian Allard, who said that 47 percent of those who had applied for Settled Status in the UK had been refused and told to reapply.

He said, “I have lived in Scotland for 35 years and the UK Settled Status scheme is not fit for purpose. I am very worried about what will happen next but I will not be denied the right to live in my own home, Scotland.”

Jude Kirton-Darling, a Socialist member, said, “We have a moral duty to those many Britons in Europe who had no vote in the Referendum and are being further disenfranchised.”

Claude Moraes, a Labour MEP, said, “The resolution we will vote on fires more than one firing shot which must be heard. These are genuine concerns from citizens. If we do not get this right it will be a deep scar and continuing injustice for years to come.”

Brexit Party MEP Ann Widdecombe hit back, declaring, “Ending the free movement of people was a massive factor in the British public’s decision to leave the EU.”

“I have lived in Scotland for 35 years and the UK Settled Status scheme is not fit for purpose. I am very worried about what will happen next, but I will not be denied the right to live in my own home, Scotland” Christian Allard MEP

“It was one of the biggest driving forces but people here are still trying to tell the UK we should dare to have an application process for citizenship.”

Greens joint leader Philippe Lamberts told reporters on Tuesday, “There are 3 million EU citizens in the UK who fear they may lose their rights after Brexit and we are extremely concerned about this. We in this Parliament will do our utmost to ensure their rights are maintained, post-Brexit.”

He said he was “particularly concerned” about the UK’s Brexit transposition legislation and the possibility of Britain withdrawing from the supervisory body which is responsible for ensuring that citizens’ rights are respected.

Lamberts’ comments come after UK security minister Brandon Lewis threatened EU citizens with deportation from the UK if they do not apply for Settled Status before the deadline of 30 June 2021. He later claimed the comments had been taken out of context.

However, Lamberts hit out at the minister’s remarks and also urged the EU to ensure citizens’ rights are respected in the upcoming trade talks between the UK and EU.

The UK is due to exit the EU on 31 January and the transition period will end in December.

Lamberts said, “Of course, we want to keep as close a partnership with the UK as possible after it leaves the EU, but this presupposes that the UK’s position does not change and that it will treat our citizens who live in the UK impeccably.”

“The resolution we will vote on fires more than one firing shot which must be heard. These are genuine concerns from citizens” Claude Moraes MEP

The same applies to the estimated 1.5 million Britons living in Europe, he said, adding, “We have safeguards in place to ensure that Member States will safeguard the rights of Britons in Europe.”

Looking ahead to the coming months, Lamberts said, “In the required timeframe, I don’t think we will get an extensive agreement other than a bare bones agreement.”

“As political majorities change in the UK I hope Britons will realise their interests are best served by being as close to Europe as possible.”

/articles/news/meps-make-impassioned-plea-post-brexit-protection-citizens%E2%80%99-rights Tue, 14 Jan 2020 14:59:18 +0100
Parliament’s political groups voice concern on UK ‘settled status’ for EU citizens Martin Banks

MEPs will be asked this week to back a resolution on the issue.

MEPs will be asked this week to back a resolution on the issue.

Photo credit: Press Association


Political groups in the European Parliament have expressed concern about the way the UK is handling applications from EU citizens in the country for settled status.

This comes just ahead of the 31 January deadline when the UK is due to leave the EU.

Speaking at a news conference on Friday, a Parliament spokesperson said the institution was “concerned” about the way the issue is currently being dealt with in the UK.


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There was also concern, she said, about how citizens’ rights will be implemented in Britain – and EU countries – after Brexit.

Her comments were endorsed by a spokesman for the Renew Europe group, formerly ALDE, who said the issue was about how citizens’ rights, after the UK withdrawal, will be applied both in the UK and also in the remaining 27 Member States.

He said, “There is particular concern about the current administrative and practical requirements facing people who are applying for settled status in the UK.”

A spokesman for the EPP group said, “The UK Withdrawal Agreement contains provisions to protect both UK and EU27 citizens’ rights during and after the transition period.”

“There is particular concern about the current administrative and practical requirements facing people who are applying for settled status in the UK” Renew Europe

“We want to ensure that these provisions are properly implemented in order to protect those affected, their families and their rights. Both the UK and the EU27 governments must manage citizens’ rights fairly after Brexit.”

The Parliament spokesman confirmed that Parliament is due to vote on the Withdrawal Agreement on 29 January at 6pm.

This will follow the expected ratification of the deal by the House of Lords this week.

The parliamentary resolution on citizens’ rights is expected to express its “grave concern” about the attitude of Boris Johnson’s government to the estimated 3.5 million EU citizens living in the UK following Brexit.

The resolution has been drafted by the main political groups and is due to be voted on by MEPs in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

“Both the UK and the EU27 governments must manage citizens’ rights fairly after Brexit” EPP group

It accuses Boris Johnson’s administration of creating “anxiety” in recent months, concerns that were echoed at the press briefing for the upcoming plenary.

One of the concerns, it notes, is that without a “physical document” offering proof of their right to residency at the end of the transition period on 1 January 2021 there is an increased “risk of discrimination against EU27 citizens.

Johnson’s Brexit bill cleared the Commons on Thursday in a major milestone that means the UK is on track to leave the EU on 31 January.

The Prime Minister won a vote on the EU withdrawal bill at the third reading by 330 votes to 231, a majority of 99.

Before the recent general election, MPs had thwarted Theresa May’s Brexit bill and threatened to do the same to Johnson’s revised deal.

/articles/news/parliament%E2%80%99s-political-groups-voice-concern-uk-%E2%80%98settled-status%E2%80%99-eu-citizens Mon, 13 Jan 2020 12:15:04 +0100
British MEPs urge EU to 'get tough' with UK in upcoming trade talks Martin Banks

Outgoing British MEPs have urged the EU to adopt a “get tough” approach with the UK in the upcoming trade talks, which will decide whether or not Britain leaves the EU with or without an agreement.

Outgoing British MEPs have urged the EU to adopt a “get tough” approach with the UK in the upcoming trade talks, which will decide whether or not Britain leaves the EU with or without an agreement.

Photo credit: Adobe Stock


The demand comes with the UK set to leave the EU on 31 January and also in the wake of comments by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who said that it is in the UK and EU’s “mutual interest” to build a new partnership.

Speaking at the LSE in London on Wednesday, the new Commission chief said she hopes this is “one that will be enabling us to defend and strengthen our interests, both from an economic and a security point of view.”

Von der Leyen later met UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London for talks on Brexit.


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Greens MEP Molly Scott Cato, who was among several UK MEPs to give their reactions to von der Leyen’s keynote speech to The Parliament Magazine, said, “It was disappointing that Barnier allowed the level playing field to be relegated to the political declaration in his agreement with Johnson.”

She added, “It is now vital that he defends the highest European standards on environmental protection, employment rights, and food standards and doesn’t allow the UK to start the firing gun on a race to the bottom.”

Senior Liberal MEP Chris Davies also told this website, “If the Johnson government refuses to align with EU rules then trade negotiations will not make much progress. For example, how could the UK sell chemicals in the EU market unless it complies in full with the REACH legislation?”

“But maybe this could be achieved on a so-called voluntary basis to provide political cover for the supporters of Brexit.”

“It is now vital that he [Michel Barnier] defends the highest European standards on environmental protection, employment rights, and food standards and doesn’t allow the UK to start the firing-gun on a race to the bottom” Molly Scott Cato MEP

Davies, who, like other UK MEPs will bid farewell to Parliament for the last time at the end of this month, added, “Britain played a leading role in the creation of the single market, and has benefited from it greatly. Now the EU27 must defend and strengthen the single market and stand firm in the face of threats from the UK to end the transition period with No Deal.”

Davies added, “The Johnson government claims that it wants a close relationship with the EU but not much credence should be attached to this. The political game that Johnson is playing requires him to portray the EU as hostile to Britain.”

“Negotiators in Brussels should recognise that the British Prime Minister is a bully, and unless the EU stands up to him he will take and take.”

Further reaction came from outgoing Labour MEP Julie Ward who told this site, “The EU have already stated that, at best, only a bare-bones FTA will be achievable by the end of this year. It is almost certain that there would need to be an extension to the transition period for there to be enough time for both sides to agree a comprehensive trade agreement.”

“Brexit has already damaged our economy at a cost of £600m per week and it has diminished our global standing, but a No Deal Brexit would be even more serious.”

“Negotiators in Brussels should recognise that the British Prime Minister is a bully, and unless the EU stands up to him he will take and take” Chris Davies MEP

Ward said, “It would almost certainly cost thousands of jobs, and destroy businesses and industries, with billions being lost to the exchequer. Boris Johnson is most certainly not to be trusted. We must ensure that the government is held to account and that the UK is not forced over a cliff-edge through the recklessness of Tory Brexiteers, who are now at the very heart of the Johnson premiership.”

Liberal Bill Newton Dunn, who was first elected an MEP in 1979, warned that he fears the UK will not negotiate in “good faith.”

Asked if he thinks there will be a deal or a crash out in December, when the transition period ends, he said, “Nobody can know. Boris doesn’t want a No Deal ending and is totally capable of changing his position on everything.”

He said he does not trust the British to negotiate in good faith and that the EU should adopt a “get tough” approach with the UK over the next stage of the negotiations.

Newton Dunn added, “This next stage will be even harder and more complex than the last one, undoubtedly - and the EU holds most of the good cards.”

“Boris Johnson is most certainly not to be trusted. We must ensure that the government is held to account and that the UK is not forced over a cliff-edge through the recklessness of Tory Brexiteers” Julie Ward MEP

“A German friend in the Parliament this week described to me the Johnson Deal (which threatens to weaken the links of Scotland and of Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK, ie to Wales and England) as “the last explosion of the British Empire when the British blow up themselves.”

Northern Irish MEP Martina Anderson also told this website, “I think we need a strong dose of reality looking forward to the next stages of the negotiations. The British Government have stated that they intend to negotiate a deep and meaningful partnership in only eleven months with the EU. This is a ludicrous objective set by a deluded Tory Establishment who believe that the EU will let them have their cake and eat it.”

“The EU are dealing with a right-wing Tory Government which has already proved that it is happy to abandon level playing field conditions and the spirit of mutual co-operation in exchange for an detestable race to the bottom on human rights, consumer protection and environmental regulations.”

She added, “A trade deal cannot be fudged. The EU needs to hold firm on its own principles and ensure it continues to protect the Good Friday Agreement and the all-island economy.”

Elsewhere, former Liberal MEP Andrew Duff said, “Both von der Leyen and Boris Johnson have been known to talk banalities. It would be good if they could make more forceful and substantive points about their private discussions this week.”

“This next stage will be even harder and more complex than the last one, undoubtedly - and the EU holds most of the good cards” Bill Newton Dunn MEP

Former UK Europe Minister Denis MacShane said, “Boris Johnson has told his ministers that the word ‘Brexit’ is now verboten in the British government’s vocabulary. They must talk about all the things that have not been done in Britain since the Brexit plebiscite of June 2016 and which need urgent attention.”

“He is trying to reduce the profile of Brexit by saying the negotiations will be handled by officials in his office, not by a separate ministry.”

“The best way to take Brexit off the political and global economic agenda is for Johnson to persuade himself, his party and then the country that leaving the EU Treaty is Brexit. His task will be to lower the temperature and allow the next stage of negotiations to be technical, detailed, long-lasting and aimed at avoiding any disruption to inward investment and Britain’s trade.”

Meanwhile, four former Brexit Party MEPs are switching political groups to join the Conservatives.

Lance Forman (London), Lucy Harris (Yorkshire and The Humber), John Longworth (also Yorkshire) and Annunziata Rees-Mogg (East Midlands) have joined the UK Conservative Party and are in the process of being admitted to the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament.

“The British Government have stated that they intend to negotiate a deep and meaningful partnership in only eleven months with the EU. This is a ludicrous objective set by a deluded Tory Establishment who believe that the EU will let them have their cake and eat it” Martina Anderson MEP

Geoffrey Van Orden, leader of the UK's Conservative MEPs, welcomed the four, who currently sit as independent MEPs,  saying, "We welcome the reinforcement or our Conservative delegation in the final weeks of membership of the EU.”

“Additional MEPs coming across to us is evidence that the Prime Minister is delivering on his promise to get Brexit done and to overcome division and uncertainty.”

/articles/news/british-meps-urge-eu-get-tough-uk-upcoming-trade-talks Fri, 10 Jan 2020 17:15:00 +0100
Movers and Shakers | 10 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, Gridlock continues over Catalan MEPs, Parliament bids farewell to two of its members, the new Greek Permanent Representative to the EU, Austrian coalition government formed, latest Commission and public affairs appointments, and more!

 

European Parliament 

On Monday, the Parliament issued a statement saying that it would recognise the election of Catalan politicians Oriol JUNQUERAS, Carles PUIGDEMONT and Toni COMÍN as members. The statement follows a decision by the European Court of Justice which ruled late last year that the MEPs should enjoy immunity from the moment they are elected. 

Former Catalan vice-president JUNQUERAS has also been elected as president of the European Free Alliance in the Parliament. 

However, the matter of JUNQUERAS taking his seat in time for plenary next week was ultimately decided by the Spanish justice system. JUNQUERAS, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison by the Spanish Supreme Court for sedition, was this week prevented from travelling to Strasbourg with the Supreme Court ruling that he does not have Parliamentary immunity. 

Outgoing 
Parliament bids farewell to Karoline EDTSTADLER (EPP, AT) who has recently been appointed Minister for Europe in the Austrian government. 

Naomi LONG (RE, UK) also leaves the Parliament to take on the role of Member of the Legislative Assembly in Northern Ireland. 


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European Commission 

Directorates-General 

Budget (BUDG) 
Directorate L (Treasury and financial operations) moves from DG ECFIN to DG BUDG with the exception of the team working on EMU-deepening, which remains in DG ECFIN. 

For complete changes to this DG, please refer to Dods People EU. 

Communication Networks Content and Technology (CNECT) 
Vesa TERAVA replaces Claire BURY as director of Directorate B (Electronic Communications Networks & Services) in an acting capacity. TERAVA also takes on the role of head of unit B2 (Implementation of the Regulatory Framework) from Wolf-Dietrich GRUSSMANN. 

TERAVA is replaced in her previous role as head of unit D1 (Research Strategy & Programme Coordination) by Thibault KLEINER who was former deputy head of cabinet of Commissioner Günther OETTINGER. 

Lucilla SIOLI replaces Max LEMKE as head of unit A2 (Technologies & Systems for Digitising Industry) in an acting capacity. 

Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (GROW) 
Gwenole COZIGOU has replaced Timo PESONEN in the role of director general (acting capacity) as the latter moves to the position of director general and the newly created Directorate General for Defence Industry and Space (DEFIS). In addition to the role of acting director general, COZIGOU will continue as as director of Directorate C (Sustainable Industry and Mobility).  
Former deputy director general Pierre DELSAUX and the Directorates I (Space Policy, Copernicus and Defence) and J (EU Satellite Navigation Programme) under his responsibility have also moved to the newly created Directorate General for Defence Industry and Space (DEFIS). 

For complete changes to this DG, please refer to Dods People EU. 

UK Task Force 
Clara MARTÍNEZ ALBEROLA, who was Jean-Claude JUNCKER’s former chief of staff, will now serve as deputy to Michel BARNIER, the EU’s chief negotiator. 


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


EU Institutions and Agencies 

Council of the European Union – Permanent Representations 

Greece 
Permanent Representative Andreas PSTAVROU, left Brussels at the end of December and was replaced by Ioannis VRAILAS, former Permanent Representative of the EU to the OSCE. 

Public Affairs 

COCIR 
Ioanna CHARALAMPOPOULOU has joined the team as Public Affairs Manager. Ioanna brings more than 10 years’ experience in Public affairs on health topics and has previously worked for Greek Authorities and the European Commission (DG SANCO and DG CONNECT). She replaces Magdalena MACHALSKA. 

European Association of Automotive Suppliers 
Thorsten MUSCHAL, Executive Vice President, Sales & Program Management and Member of the Executive Committee of Faurecia S.A., has become president. 

Federation of Waste Management and Environmental Services (FEAD) 
Peter KURTH has become the new president with Valérie PLAINEMAISON as Secretary General. KURTH takes over from outgoing president Jean-Marc BOURSIER, who will remain vice-president along with Cesare SPREAFICO. 


Got a new appointment you would like us to include in our next newsletter? Click here to let us know about it!


National News 

Austria 
Sebastian KURZ agreed to form a coalition government with the Greens on the 1 January with negotiations ending after three months of government formation talks. KURZ was sworn in as chancellor on the 7 January. Wener KOGLER, leader of the green party was sworn in as vice-chancellor. The greens take up control of four ministries, including the Justice portfolio. 

Brexit 
Boris JOHNSON’s Brexit deal was passed in the House of Commons by 330 to 231 votes on Thursday. The bill will now pass to the House of Lords. 

Croatia 
Former Prime Minister Zoran MILANOVIC won the first round of presidential elections on the 22 December with 29.5 per cent of the votes. Incumbent President Kolinda GRABAR-KITAROVIC came second with 26.7 per cent of the votes. MILANOVIC won the second round of voting with 52.7 per cent of the vote beating incumbent GRABAR-KITAROVIC. MILANOVIC will take office on the 19 February. 

Denmark 
Minister for Culture and Ecclesiastical affairs Joy MOGENSON returned to the role on the 1 January, after taking leave at the beginning of October 2019.  

Italy 
Minister for Education, Universities and Research Lorenzo FIORAMONTI resigned from his post before the new year, siting the failure to secure funding for schools and universities in the country. The portfolio has now been split between two ministers. Lucia AZZOLINA replaces FIORAMONTI as Minister for Schools. Non-party affiliated Gaetano MANFREDI takes over the Universities and Research portfolio. 

Luxembourg 
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health Etienne SCHNEIDER is set to resign in February. 

Malta 
The new Maltese Labour Party leader and Prime Minister will be chosen this weekend, following Prime Minister Joseph MUSCAT’S announcement that he would stand down in January. 

Spain 
On Sunday 5 January Pedro SANCHEZ failed to obtain a majority of votes to form a coalition between the Social Democrats and the far-left Podemos. Sanchez needed an absolute majority to win the vote. A second vote took place on Tuesday 7 where a simple majority was needed; SANCHEZ was confirmed as Prime Minister, with 167 votes to 165, with 18 abstentions.  

 

/articles/news/movers-and-shakers-10-january-2020 Fri, 10 Jan 2020 15:39:38 +0100
Brexit Steering Group member casts ‘serious doubt’ on Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit free trade deal Martin Banks

In an exclusive interview with this website, senior Polish MEP Danuta Hubner said that a No Deal scenario in 11 months was a real possibility “unless we have 10 to 15 negotiating ‘tables’ agreed.”

In an exclusive interview with this website, senior Polish MEP Danuta Hubner said that a No Deal scenario in 11 months was a real possibility “unless we have 10 to 15 negotiating ‘tables’ agreed.”

Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual


Hubner’s comments come with the UK set to leave the EU on 31 January, after which point the two sides will begin talks on their future economic relationship.

After its much-vaunted exit, the UK will enter into an 11-month transition period in which it will largely follow EU rules but will not have any representation in the bloc's institutions.

This period will come to an end on 31 December 2020.


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On Thursday, UK MPs gave their final backing to the bill that will implement the UK government's Brexit deal.

The House of Commons voted 330 to 231 in favour of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and it will now pass to the House of Lords for further scrutiny next week. If peers choose to amend it will it come back before MPs.

The bill covers “divorce” payments to the EU, citizens’ rights, customs arrangements for Northern Ireland and the planned 11-month transition period.

But with trade talks between the UK and EU set to start, EPP deputy Hubner, a long-standing member of the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group (BSG), was scathing of Johnson’s proposals.

“One should also bear in mind that even the most limited trade deal would have to pass the consent procedure in the European Parliament before the end of the transition” Danuta Hubner MEP

She told this website, “We have heard from Boris Johnson many times that, regarding the future relationship with the EU, he would aim for a fast-track trade deal, meaning that this would be concluded by the end of the transition which is end of 2020.”

“There is, however, silence [from the UK side] about the remaining parts of the framework for this future relationship, as was agreed in the political declaration.”

“Most of those agreements, other than a bare-bones FTA, would require national ratifications. That means that in areas not covered by the WTO or other international agreements, or where the EU law does not have third-country provisions, there might be a No Deal when the transition period comes to an end.”

Hubner, a former European Commissioner, told The Parliament Magazine, that a No Deal scenario in 11 months was a real possibility “unless we have 10 to 15 negotiating ‘tables’ agreed.”

“This is something which cannot be excluded.”

She said, “One should also bear in mind that even the most limited trade deal would have to pass the consent procedure in the European Parliament before the end of the transition.”

“We have also heard that the plan is to have the UK diverge from EU rules. Of course, this is possible, but then why call it an ambitious free trade agreement?”

“We have also heard that the plan is to have the UK diverge from EU rules. Of course, this is possible, but then why call it an ambitious free trade agreement? The more Britain diverges, the less ambitious the deal will be” Danuta Hubner MEP

“The more Britain diverges, the less ambitious the deal will be, because the obligation of sticking to a level playing field approach regarding environmental issues, the labour market, consumer protection, state aid and competition is non-negotiable.”

“So yes, the UK has the right as any third country to diverge but this has its consequences in terms of access to the internal market, which today is the market for more than 40 percent of British exports.

“And a lot of those trade flows happen to take place within the integrated supply chains.”

She went on, “I do not know when it was recently when the UK Prime Minister spoke with British manufacturers and what their views were with regard to their ambitions on the future relationship.”

“The fact that the only legal basis for an extension of the transition period is a single decision by the Joint Committee taken before July 1 and that this is going to be banned by the Withdrawal Bill implies that the time factor will play a role.”

“Of course, the Withdrawal Bill can be amended,” she noted.

Also speaking to this website, senior UK MEP Richard Corbett  gave his reaction to a speech this week by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who said that it is in the UK and EU’s “mutual interest” to build a new partnership.

“Britain has to make some difficult choices in these negotiations: either to distance itself from the single market and customs union, at great cost to the economy and jobs in Britain, or else to stay aligned with the single market and customs union” Richard Corbett MEP

Speaking at the LSE in London on Wednesday, the new Commission chief said she hopes this is “one that will be enabling us to defend and strengthen our interests, both from an economic and a security point of view.”

Corbett, a highly-respected Labour MEP, said, “Britain has to make some difficult choices in these negotiations: either to distance itself from the single market and customs union, at great cost to the economy and jobs in Britain, or else to stay aligned with the single market and customs union, but then have to follow all the rules without having a say on them anymore, as a non-member.”

The veteran deputy, an ardent Remainer, warned, “Neither is good for Britain.”

Further comment came from former Liberal MEP Andrew Duff, who said the EU is right not to expect an extension of the transition period.

Duff said the basic free trade and fisheries agreement can be done in 2020 and expects the British position to become “less ideological and more pragmatic” as the negotiations unroll.

Duff points to the “heavy workload” facing the UK as it puts in place the country’s new legislation and regulatory framework and emphasises the “importance and opportunities arising from parliamentary scrutiny.”

He told this site he hopes that the British will contribute to the EU’s reflections on the “failure of British membership, in particular on new forms of differentiated integration suitable for the wider Europe.”

/articles/news/brexit-steering-group-member-casts-%E2%80%98serious-doubt%E2%80%99-boris-johnson%E2%80%99s-post-brexit-free Fri, 10 Jan 2020 12:43:51 +0100
At last a European Commission President who is in love with Britain Denis MacShane

For the first time Britain has got full sight of the woman who will face Boris Johnson in the next chapter of the Brexit saga, writes Denis MacShane, the UK’s former Minister of Europe.

For the first time Britain has got full sight of the woman who will face Boris Johnson in the next chapter of the Brexit saga, writes Denis MacShane, the UK’s former Minister of Europe.

Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen | Photo credit: Press Association


Ursula von der Leyen, the new President of the Commission, has the smile of a petite blonde Phoebe Waller-Bridge but the steely determination of Margaret Thatcher in her most certain moments.

Both were on display at the London School of Economics on Wednesday as she laid down the law to British Eurosceptics and our Eurosceptic-in-Chief (Boris Johnson) telling them to give up all hope of a cake-and-eat-it Brexit.

If Britain wants to keep anything like current access to the EU single market - essential for both Nissan, UK farmers, and the City of London, which needs the 350,000 EU passports granted at Brussels’ entire discretion to financial service firms (banks, investment fund, clearing houses, insurance firms, hedge funds) - then von der Leyen says that the UK would have to respect the four freedoms of movement.


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Freedom of movement of capital, goods, service are more than acceptable for Britain but as we know the whole Brexit saga has turned on freedom of movement - branded as unacceptable immigration by opponents of Europe over two decades.

There is an alternative for the UK, which is to change internal labour market rules to manage down and control arrivals from Europe, or indeed for firms to pay enough in wages to attract British workers.

The issue that will now arise is whether the Johnson government wants to launch an all-out war with the European Commission and governments like Poland, which are very sensitive to any suggestion that Poles might be discriminated against by Britain, or whether he will push the freedom of movement issue to the smallest ring with the lowest flame on the back burner?

The lines from the Brexit camp that Europe needs Britain more than we need the EU market now appear to have little support beyond the writers for the new closed down “Brexit Central.”

“Ursula von der Leyen, the new President of the Commission, has the smile of a petite blonde Phoebe Waller-Bridge but the steely determination of Margaret Thatcher in her most certain moments”

An option for Johnson is to make a huge song and dance out of the 3-part Withdrawal Agreement so that he can declare Brexit has been done, completely consummated when the UK ceases to be a signatory member on 31 January.

When asked about the UK negotiating trade deals with other countries, von der Leyen called up Michel Barnier, who got a huge cheer from the LSE audience.

Barnier gently pointed out that, via its EU membership, the UK currently has more 600 free trade agreements covering various sectors with non-EU countries. Renegotiating all of those would take time as new demands and priorities arise which make a simple cut-and-paste operation impossible.

In her LSE speech, which I attended, von der Leyen repeated over and over again that it was not realistic to expect a total comprehensive trade deal in the remaining months of 2020.

She schmoozed the audience with a description of her year in London at the LSE as a 20-year-old. London of the 1980s was an eye-opener for the young student from a strict Lutheran family.

“I looked at this wonderful multi-cultural city with people mixing easily. I spent more time in Soho than in the Senate House Library and began learning that extraordinary British sense of humour,” she said.

She has family in London and two of her seven children attend LSE. She name-checked Roy Jenkins (former Commission president) and Lord Cockfield, ‘the father of the Single Market’, as she called him, and bowed before Winston Churchill as the founding father of European union with his United States of Europe speech in Zürich in 1946.

“This was by far the most friendly, polished, love-Britain-to-death performance ever from a major European leader I can recall”

She insisted “the EU will never be a military alliance and the European Defence Union is complementary to NATO.”

For her, Brexit is ‘done and dusted.’ Now over to Boris Johnson to decide if he wants to continue the Brexit war with Europe or it’s time to draw stumps and keep the UK economy and people fully plugged in to Europe while having absolute sovereignty as and when needed once we lose the obligations of Treaty membership at the end of the month.

I have been a watcher of EU bigwigs for many decades and this was by far the most friendly, polished, love-Britain-to-death performance ever from a major European leader I can recall.

Now it is over to Johnson to respond calmly and in the British interests during his premiership.

/articles/opinion/last-european-commission-president-who-love-britain Thu, 09 Jan 2020 16:09:10 +0100
Building new partnership is in UK and EU’s ‘mutual interest’, says von der Leyen Martin Banks

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she hopes the new partnership is “one that will be enabling us to defend and strengthen our interests, both from an economic and a security point of view.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she hopes the new partnership is “one that will be enabling us to defend and strengthen our interests, both from an economic and a security point of view.”

Ursula von der Leyen | Photo credit: Press Association


Speaking at the LSE in London on Wednesday, von der Leyen said that now is the time for “the best of friends and oldest friends to build a new future together,” but added, “the truth is that our partnership cannot and will not be the same as before.”

“And it cannot and will not be as close as before - because with every choice comes a consequence. With every decision comes a trade-off,” she continued.

Von der Leyen, a former German defence minister, took over from Jean-Claude Juncker at the start of December. She was a student at LSE in the 1970s and has family in London. Two of her seven children attend LSE.


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In her LSE speech, she mentioned Roy Jenkins, the former Commission President, and Lord Cockfield, “the father of the single market.” She also praised Winston Churchill as the founding father of the European Union with his United States of Europe speech in Zürich in 1946.

Addressing the upcoming trade talks with the UK, she said, “There will be tough talks and each side will do what is best for them, but I can assure you the UK will always have a trusted friend and partner in the EU.”

Though she admitted that 31 January, the day the UK will leave the EU, will be a “tough and emotional day,” she added, “But when the sun rises again on 1 February, the EU and the UK will still be the best of friends and partners.”

“The bonds between us will still be unbreakable. We will still contribute to each other's societies, like so many Brits have done in the EU, and as so many EU citizens do here every day in the UK – whether as teachers, nurses, doctors or whether working as CEOs or in NGOs. We will still have a lot to learn from each other.”

“There will be tough talks and each side will do what is best for them, but I can assure you the UK will always have a trusted friend and partner in the EU” Ursula von der Leyen

“The UK is home to thriving creative and cultural sectors, to cutting-edge digital innovation and scientific excellence in some of the world's best universities with brilliant minds, many of them from all over Europe. We will still share the same challenges, from climate change to security.”

She told the audience, “We will still be allies and like-minded partners in NATO, the United Nations and other international organisations. We will still share the same values and the belief that democracy, freedom and the rule of law must be the foundation of our societies.”

“We still share the same history and geography. And whatever happens, our continent will still share the same destiny, too. So as one door will unfortunately close, another one will open.”

Former UK Europe Minister Denis MacShane was among those in the audience to hear her speech and, later, he told this website, “Von der Leyen repeated over and over again that it was not realistic to expect a total comprehensive trade deal in the remaining months of 2020.”

“She insisted the EU will never be a military alliance and the European Defence Union is complementary to NATO.”

“This was by far the most friendly, polished, love-Britain-to-death performance ever from a major European leader I can recall. Now over to Johnson to respond calmly and in British interests during his premiership” Denis MacShane, Former UK Europe Minister

He said, “For her Brexit is ‘done and dusted.’ Now it is over to Boris Johnson to decide if he wants to continue the Brexit war with Europe or it’s time to draw stumps and keep the UK economy and people fully plugged in to Europe while having absolute sovereignty as and when needed once we lose the obligations of Treaty membership at the end of the month.”

He added, “I have been a watcher of EU bigwigs for many decades and this was by far the most friendly, polished, love-Britain-to-death performance ever from a major European leader I can recall.”

“Now over to Johnson to respond calmly and in British interests during his premiership," said the former Labour MP.

Later on Wednesday, von der Leyen met with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. A Commission spokesman said the meeting was to “discuss holistically the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and to look forward to the year ahead in all of its dimensions.”

/articles/news/building-new-partnership-uk-and-eu%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98mutual-interest%E2%80%99-says-von-der-leyen Thu, 09 Jan 2020 11:28:26 +0100
EU says no plans to evacuate staff from Iran or Iraq despite tensions Martin Banks

A European Commission spokesman told reporters that the safety of EU nationals and EU personnel in the area was a “top priority.”

A European Commission spokesman told reporters that the safety of EU nationals and EU personnel in the area was a “top priority.”

Ursula von der Leyen and Josep Borrell | Photo credit: Press Association


Addressing a news conference on Wednesday, the spokesman said there were no plans to pull EU officials out of Iran or Iraq.

Canada, which leads the NATO training mission, said it was pulling out some of its 500 troops, and Germany said its presence in Iraq would be “temporarily thinned out.”

German soldiers are stationed at the Irbil air base and Berlin has pulled some of its military personnel out of Iraq citing security concerns.


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Most of the withdrawing NATO troops were reported to be heading for Kuwait.

The US Federal Aviation Administration has barred US pilots and carriers from flying in areas of Iraq, Iran and some Persian Gulf airspace, warning of the “potential for miscalculation” for civilian aircraft.

Several airlines from other countries have suspended flights over airspace in the region.

It is not known exactly how many EU nationals or EU staff are currently in Iran or Iraq, but the Commission spokesman said, “The EU is determined to continue its commitment in the region and is not going to pull out.”

“The EU is determined to continue its commitment in the region and is not going to pull out” European Commission spokesman

Tensions have been mounting in the Middle East after US forces killed Iran’s top General, Qasem Soleimani, on 3 January.

Iran launched more than a dozen missiles at Iraqi bases hosting US and coalition troops on Tuesday, declaring the strikes to be retaliation for the killing of Soleimani.

Al-Asad airbase in Iraq’s Anbar province was hit 17 times, including by two ballistic missiles that failed to detonate.

The Commission met early on Wednesday to discuss the situation stemming from the tensions in Iraq, Iran, the wider Middle East as well as Libya.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell issued statements after the 8am meeting.

“The current crisis deeply affects not only the region but all of us. And the use of weapons must stop now to give space to dialogue” Ursula von der Leyen

Von der Leyen stated, “The current crisis deeply affects not only the region but all of us. And the use of weapons must stop now to give space to dialogue. We are called upon to do everything possible to rekindle talks. There cannot be enough of that.”

The European Union in its own way has a lot to offer. We have established and time-tested relations with many actors in the region and beyond to de-escalate the situation.”

Borrell said, “The developments in Iran and Iraq and the whole region are extremely worrying. The latest rocket attacks on air bases in Iraq used by the US and the coalition forces are yet another example of escalation and increased confrontation – it is in no one’s interest to turn up the spiral of violence even further.”

Further comment came from Council President Charles Michel, who noted, “The cycle of violence, provocations and retaliations which we have witnessed In Iraq over the past few weeks has to stop. Further escalation must be avoided at all cost.”

“Iraq remains a very fragile country. Too many weapons and too many militias are slowing the process towards a return to normal daily life for Iraq’s citizens.”

“The developments in Iran and Iraq and the whole region are extremely worrying. The latest rocket attacks on air bases in Iraq used by the US and the coalition forces are yet another example of escalation and increased confrontation” Josep Borrell

“The risk is a generalised flare up of violence in the whole region and the rise of obscure forces of terrorism that thrive at times of religious and nationalist tensions.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, speaking on the Soleimani killing, said, “This is a US decision. It is a decision taken neither by the global coalition nor NATO. But all allies are concerned about Iran's destabilising activities in the region.”

A NATO spokesman said, “We have temporarily suspended our training on the ground, and we are taking all precautions necessary to protect our people. This includes the temporary repositioning of some personnel to different locations both inside and outside of Iraq.”

On Tuesday, the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany and Italy held emergency talks on Iran and Libya in Brussels.

Dominic Raab, the British foreign secretary, said: “We condemn this attack on Iraqi military bases hosting coalition - including British - forces.”

His German counterpart Heiko Maas said that despite current tensions, it was “important” to safeguard the Iran nuclear agreement.

On Friday, an extraordinary meeting of EU foreign ministers will take place in Brussels. It is seen as a chance to hear the views of all 28 Member States on the Iran situation.

/articles/news/eu-says-no-plans-evacuate-staff-iran-or-iraq-despite-tensions Wed, 08 Jan 2020 16:18:25 +0100