RSS FEEDS

Title Author Display Name Image Summary Body Path Post date
Fighting the good fight for Scotland Alyn Smith

Veteran SNP MEP Alyn Smith shares with us some parting thoughts on Brexit, Scottish independence and the EU as he bids a fond farewell to Brussels and takes up his seat as MP for Stirling.

Veteran SNP MEP Alyn Smith shares with us some parting thoughts on Brexit, Scottish independence and the EU as he bids a fond farewell to Brussels and takes up his seat as MP for Stirling.

Alyn Smith | Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual


For those involved in political parties and movements, many of us will be hoping never to see another December General Election again in our lifetime.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the campaign and cannot thank the amazing Stirling SNP team enough for the shift they put in, even I have to admit the cold, wet and windy Scottish winter weather was beginning to take its toll as we marched up and down the streets, speaking to as many voters as possible.

I won in Stirling with an incredible 51 percent of the vote. Stirling, of course, voted 68 percent to remain in the EU back in 2016, and we placed our position on Europe and Scotland’s right to choose our own future front and centre of our campaign.


RELATED CONTENT


I remember the SNP National Executive meeting just after the EU referendum where I held up a map of the UK vote showing just how clearly different Scotland is, and said I think this is going to deliver our independence.

We now have another map to add to it. Scotland voted to stop Brexit and indeed endorsed a Party that was quite explicit about being pro-independence and that Scotland should have a right to choose.

The Tories had little else to their nasty, negative and hectoring campaign but "No to indyref2" and the voters emphatically rejected them in our favour.

While I’m delighted with the Scotland-wide result and the result in my own constituency, the overall UK outcome means that it is now highly likely that Scotland will be taken out of the European Union with the rest of the UK at the end of January.

“I thought that in a hung Parliament, or even a government with a narrow majority, a second EU referendum was a plausible way out for everyone, even the Tories”

I’ve fought alongside colleagues from across the political spectrum for three and a half years to stop Brexit, however events beyond our control mean that we are now highly unlikely to do so.

I stood in Stirling to try and help stop Brexit, because I thought that in a hung Parliament, or even a government with a narrow majority, a second EU referendum was a plausible way out for everyone, even the Tories, and the status quo versus Mr Johnson’s deal eminently winnable, even in England.

But that is now a forlorn hope of a path not travelled.

I, the SNP and Scotland delivered everything we could have done, but because of events elsewhere, I’ve failed before I could start. I had an amazing victory but still somehow feel I’ve let a lot of people down. I don’t know what else we could have done.

So here I am at Westminster, the one Parliament I don’t want to have anything to do with Scotland, facing the prospect of Mr Johnson’s dreadful deal, which will in no sense get Brexit done - it will start an even more bitter argument over what comes next.

My 16 years in the European Parliament will, I hope, be of use in that discussion. The Tories will be fighting like ferrets in a sack soon enough and we'll be there to maximise Scotland's influence.

Given the state of Labour and the LibDems, I think the only effective opposition to the Tories will be us.

I’ve demitted office as MEP, which will be an emotional process as I wind things down in Brussels and prepare for hand over to Heather Anderson as my replacement.

“The Tories will be fighting like ferrets in a sack soon enough and we'll be there to maximise Scotland's influence”

Heather is a great candidate, a bright, hardworking farmer and already a well-respected Councillor in the Borders - she’ll take over my Agriculture Committee place and shine.

I fear given the Tory majority at Westminster that will be something of a row, but we cannot allow the Tories to silence our voice in Europe, for however short a time remains.

And for the rest of us, we need to find ways to maintain our links with the EU and Member State capitals and smooth our process back into the EU so there are no cracks in the case.

There will not be, I’ll make sure of it. More and more people, having seen us genuinely try everything to stop Brexit for the whole of the UK, are more and more convinced that independence is the best future for us.  Let’s keep them coming.

/articles/opinion/fighting-good-fight-scotland Wed, 08 Jan 2020 12:32:07 +0100
EU citizens living in UK voice growing concern as Brexit approaches Martin Banks

EU citizens living and working in the UK have told of their "fears and concerns” about the impact Britain’s looming exit from the bloc will have on their lives and legal status.

EU citizens living and working in the UK have told of their "fears and concerns” about the impact Britain’s looming exit from the bloc will have on their lives and legal status.

Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual


A group of Europeans who have settled in the UK, some for many years, have described the UK’s exit on 31 January as a “big mistake” and spoke of the effect that it has already had on them.

They include Lina Tsvetlina, a 41-year-old from Bulgaria, who started a successful cleaning business after moving to settle in London.

She said the uncertainty about her legal status after the UK withdrawal had adversely affected her health, resulting in “anxiety attacks.”


RELATED CONTENT


“I came to the UK due to lack of job opportunities in Drobich and the country has given me more than my own country,” she said, adding, “But I fear for my future and the uncertainty in my life.”

Another EU citizen in the UK, Maja Smiejkowska, from Gdynia in Poland, has lived in London for 14 years and says Brexit “is a big mistake that will be regretted in the future.”

Maja, 34, said, “I feel that the atmosphere in the UK has changed since the referendum and the majority of my European friends have left already.”

The two are among several EU citizens in the UK who say that freedom of movement gave them the chance to move to the UK to live and work.

“I feel that the atmosphere in the UK has changed since the referendum and the majority of my European friends have left already” Maja Smiejkowska

Another, Natalie Zimmerman, 31, from Munich, works as a scientist in the biomedical field and moved to the UK three years ago.

She said, “Brexit has been a big shock for me. I had just started to settle in, found new friends and started to enjoy living in the country.”

“It did not only affect me on a personal level but also my working environment. In our research department we are highly trained and specialised and half of my colleagues are not British but from other European countries.”

“I am worried but hope for the best for this lovely country and its people.”

Axelle Privat, 27, from the Caribbean island of Martinique, works as a financial controller for a French bank in the City of London.

She said, “There are a lot of negative consequences: companies have already moved their headquarters and some people have been laid off.”

“I hope they will find the best agreement and it will not take a visa for the Europeans, like me, to work in the UK.”

“There are a lot of negative consequences: companies have already moved their headquarters and some people have been laid off” Axelle Privat

Lourdes Gonzalo, 41, from Madrid, has worked in the UK for seven years specialising in artworks.

She said, “It annoys me that I will have to waste my time applying for passport papers while I could be painting and developing my skills. The trust on UK developments are on a thin line.”

It is not only EU citizens in the UK who fear their legal position will change for the worse after the UK exit. The estimated 1.5m Britons in European countries feel the same, according to Michaela Benson, a London-based researcher.

She has interviewed numerous people from the UK who moved to live and work in France and says the impact that the UK exit will have on such people is the “lesser-known story” of Brexit.

She said, “The privileges previously held by these British people have been variously refracted over the course of the Brexit negotiations.”

Benson told this website that Brexit is likely to have an “emotional and material” impact on their lives.

In an attempt to allay such fears, a UK government source said that in any eventuality, EU nationals will be able to enter and remain in the UK to live and work freely during a transition period which will immediately follow the date that the UK leaves the EU and “is due to end on 31 December 2020 at the earliest.”

“EU nationals living in the UK by the date of withdrawal - 31 January - will need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if they wish to remain in the UK beyond 31 December 2020. Applications must be submitted by 31 December 2020, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, or by 30 June 2021, if a deal is agreed.

The source added, “In a no-deal Brexit, EU nationals who wish to enter the UK after the date of withdrawal to live, work and/or study will still be able to do so without restriction until 31 December 2020.”

Meanwhile, EU Member States have prepared or adopted national contingency measures to ensure that UK nationals and their non-EU family members could remain legally resident in the immediate period after a no-deal withdrawal.

/articles/news/eu-citizens-living-uk-voice-growing-concern-brexit-approaches Tue, 07 Jan 2020 17:12:09 +0100
Iran crisis could test EU’s mettle as ‘global actor’, says ambassador Martin Banks

As her country takes the reins of the EU’s rotating Council presidency, Croatia's ambassador to the EU has called for a ‘de-escalation’ in tensions between the West and Iran.

As her country takes the reins of the EU’s rotating Council presidency, Croatia's ambassador to the EU has called for a ‘de-escalation’ in tensions between the West and Iran.

Photo credit: Fotolia


Speaking in Brussels on Monday, Irena Andrassy suggested that the current crisis might be seen as a test of the EU’s ability to act as a “global actor.”

Her comments come as European leaders urged all sides to show restraint after the US assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.

In a joint statement, Germany's Angela Merkel, France's Emmanuel Macron and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the current cycle of violence “must be stopped.”


RELATED CONTENT


In the statement, the three leaders urged the country to “reverse all measures inconsistent with” the 2015 nuclear deal.

With tensions rising in the region following the drone strike ordered by President Trump, Iran has responded by vowing revenge and announcing it will no longer abide by the restrictions in the deal.

Andrassy, outlining Croatia’s priorities for its six-month Council presidency, said the EU was “closely monitoring” events in Iran and the wider region and that the bloc was keen to see a de-escalation in tensions.

She also detailed some of the priorities for the Croatian presidency, including the MMF, the long-term budget for the coming seven years which is yet to be finalised.

“Looking ahead we have to try and find ways to leverage EU influence” Irena Andrassy

On the EU budget, she said, “Member states will have to decide what they want the EU to do and it is not just about money but the EU’s vision for the next seven years.”

The presidency, she told a news briefing, hinged on “four pillars” which include creating a “stronger Europe” and boosting connectivity, together with efforts to forge a “strengthened” single market.

She told reporters that tackling migration would be another key objective of the Croatian presidency, which started on 1 January. She hoped the Commission will quickly produce “new ideas” for a “sustainable migration policy.”

Andrassy, Croatia’s most senior diplomat in Brussels, also said the EU was monitoring efforts by Poland and Hungary to comply with EU demands over improvements, under the so-called Article 7 procedure, to the rule of law in each country.

She added, “I think we will have to discuss how effective the Article 7 process is and whether it is delivering results.”

The permanent representative also highlighted two upcoming events: the Western Balkans summit in Zagreb in May, which will discuss further EU enlargement, and also the Conference on the Future of Europe which, she insisted, must involve EU citizens as well as politicians.

Generally, she said the EU and the Croatian presidency, which runs until 30 June, faces numerous challenges and changes in the coming six months, not least of which Brexit and the UK’s upcoming exit from the EU on January 31 which was confirmed after last month’s election in Britain which saw sweeping gains for Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.

“Looking ahead we have to try and find ways to leverage EU influence.”

/articles/news/iran-crisis-could-test-eu%E2%80%99s-mettle-%E2%80%98global-actor%E2%80%99-says-ambassador Tue, 07 Jan 2020 12:14:33 +0100
Finland, Austria and Sweden celebrate 25 years of EU membership Martin Banks

Twenty-five years ago, Finland, Austria and Sweden became the 13th, 14th and 15th Member States of the EU following referendums in each of the states prior to accession.

Twenty-five years ago, Finland, Austria and Sweden became the 13th, 14th and 15th Member States of the EU following referendums in each of the states prior to accession.

Photo credit: Fotolia


Heidi Hautala, a Vice-President of the European Parliament and Finnish Greens member, has told this website that when the EU gets its act together, “its influence reaches far beyond its own borders.”

Speaking on the 25th anniversary of Finland's EU accession, Hautala said, “Protection of privacy and leadership in the protection of the environment demonstrate this. Now the bloc must come up with a model for the sustainable economy - Finland can play its full part in this planet-saving task.”

Former Swedish Prime Minister, Carl Bildt said that EU membership “has been a good period for our country.”


RELATED CONTENT


A study published by the Austrian Institute for Economic Research says that Swedish GDP is up 4 percent today compared to what it might have been if Sweden had remained outside the EU (but was still in a free-trading relationship through EFTA).

The corresponding figure for Finland is 7 percent while Austrian GDP is estimated to be up 16 percent compared to what it would have been if Austria had not joined the EU.

Austria benefited most due to its close ties with the new Member States in Central and Eastern Europe, it says.

According to a poll by the Finnish Business and Policy Forum, the popularity of EU membership in Finland has reached a record high with 56 percent holding a positive view and only 13 percent against.

 “When the EU gets its act together, its influence reaches far beyond its own borders … Now the bloc must come up with a model for the sustainable economy” Heidi Hautala MEP

Since the Eastern enlargement of the EU, Austria, Sweden and Finland have become net contributors to the community budget.

Financial pressures, together with the issue of migration, have led to rising Euroscepticism in both Austria and Sweden but not to such a point where a majority of citizens question EU membership itself as was the case in the UK, says the Forum.

Roger Casale, Secretary General and CEO of New Europeans, a civil rights organisation with members in Austria, Sweden and Finland, said, “It is remarkable how little comment and attention this important anniversary has attracted. It's as if Sweden, Finland and Austria had been Member States of the EU from the outset, and the EU itself part of the natural world dating back to the beginning of time.”

“None of this remarkable achievement of 25 years EU membership has happened by chance and Brexit teaches us that we should take nothing for granted going forwards.”

“None of this remarkable achievement of 25 years EU membership has happened by chance and Brexit teaches us that we should take nothing for granted going forwards” Roger Casale, New Europeans

Martin Selmayr, the former Secretary General of the European Commission and now head of the Representation of the European Commission in Austria, said Austria’s membership “has made the EU a better place.”

Further comment came from Dominik Kirchdorfer, President of the European Future Forum who said, “Austrian membership of the EU has been a win-win situation. Austria has benefitted economically while the EU was able to look to Austria as a key strategic partner when it came to EU enlargement to East and Central Europe.”

/articles/news/finland-austria-and-sweden-celebrate-25-years-eu-membership Mon, 06 Jan 2020 15:53:40 +0100
Commission officials often ‘let off the hook’ in parliamentary questioning, says senior MEP Martin Banks

Outgoing UK Liberal MEP Chris Davies has admitted that although the European Parliament has “many faults,” it is a place where ideas can gain momentum.

Outgoing UK Liberal MEP Chris Davies has admitted that although the European Parliament has “many faults,” it is a place where ideas can gain momentum.

Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual


Speaking exclusively to this website, Davies, who is serving his second term as an MEP, is among the British contingent set to bid a final farewell to Parliament at the end of this month when the UK exits the EU.

An MEP from 1999-2014 and elected again in last May’s European elections, Davies gave his thoughts and reflections on a distinguished parliamentary career in Brussels and Strasbourg.

He told The Parliament Magazine, “I loved the Parliament from the moment I arrived more than 20 years ago. I had had two years' experience in a House of Commons where the role of opposition politicians was confined to making a noise. But the Parliament is a place where ideas can gain momentum. I've worked across parties and across nationalities and felt able to forge alliances to introduce some positive improvements.”


RELATED CONTENT


“The Parliament has many faults, but it has always felt to me like a more grown up place of work than the Commons,” added Davies, who has been a member of the environment committee throughout his parliamentary career during which he was also ALDE coordinator on the same committee from 2007-14.

He went on, “It has been great to finish on a high note, as chair of a parliamentary committee. In the short time I have had in the role I have shaped the agenda of our fisheries meetings, highlighting issues that were previously ignored, and making sure that MEPs have had a proper opportunity to do their job of holding Commission officials to account.”

“I have never understood why so many committee chairs 'group' MEPs’ questions, allowing the person under scrutiny to give one general answer to all instead of replying individually.”

“Why does the Parliament so often weaken its authority and let officials off the hook by giving them an easy means of avoiding giving serious responses to critical questions?” asked Davies.

“Why does the Parliament so often weaken its authority and let officials off the hook by giving them an easy means of avoiding giving serious responses to critical questions?”

Davies told this website, “When I am asked what I have accomplished as an MEP I like to mention that I introduced the principal financial mechanism for supporting innovative low carbon technologies, particularly carbon capture and storage (CCS). It was known as the NER300 but now becomes the Innovation Fund.”

“I introduced the legislation that has led to pictures being used to support health warnings on cigarette packs, and I hope it has saved lives as a result. And I set up the cross-party campaign group, Fish for the Future, which played a small part in ensuring that sustainability became central to the revised Common Fisheries Policy.”

Davies, chair of the fisheries committee since last year’s European elections, added, “Outside the EU we can expect UK governments to spend their time pretending that Britain is in charge of its own policies, when in reality I am sure we will sign up to a host of EU agreements and 'Brussels' will continue to set much of the real agenda.”

“It will be sham sovereignty, and such a waste of time and effort.  I want my country to be shaping EU policy not trying to avoid it; I want Britain to be an EU leader not a leaver.”

“I want my country to be shaping EU policy not trying to avoid it; I want Britain to be an EU leader not a leaver”

He concluded, “I'm 65, and I shall leave the Parliament not because I have lost an election but because my country is stupidly leaving the EU.  Maybe retirement beckons, but if someone has a role for an outspoken former MEP who has no time for fools and is in a hurry to make a difference for the better they can no doubt track me down.”

/articles/news/commission-officials-often-%E2%80%98let-hook%E2%80%99-parliamentary-questioning-says-senior-mep Mon, 06 Jan 2020 13:23:07 +0100
Brexit and Mental Health: Are you coping? Jane Brophy

Soon to be departing British MEP Jane Brophy reflects on Brexit’s under-recognised impact on EU citizens’ mental health.

Soon to be departing British MEP Jane Brophy reflects on Brexit’s under-recognised impact on EU citizens’ mental health.

Photo credit:Yui Mok/PA


For the last three and a half years, Brexit has been almost everywhere. It has crept slowly into our daily lives, through the news, chat in the pubs, the political agenda and even our art and culture. However, one area where the impact of Brexit has been forgotten is mental health.

So much has been made of the political situation around Brexit and the effects it will have on our economy and country, but nobody has mentioned the impact it has had on people.

Think of the effects this insecurity over the last three years has had on the three million EU citizens living in the UK, the 1.24 million UK citizens living in the EU or even the British workers whose jobs rely on EU membership.


RELATED CONTENT


Extension after extension, these people have had to deal with the possibility of losing their job within 24 hours, losing their right to work and live across the EU. Think of the feelings this must bring up and the effects it must have on your daily life.

They lost the physical security of their homes, their social status as well as the identity and values they believed in. They lost the ground from under their feet.

"Nobody should be made to feel isolated and this whole Brexit saga seems to have been an opportunity for discrimination and hostility to become a norm in our society. We are better than this"

Along with two of my Remainer Labour colleagues, Seb Dance and Julie Ward, I co-hosted an event discussing this exact topic. Professors Emmy van Deurzen and Digby Tantam are two of the leading academics when it comes to this topic.

Their research has been pivotal when it comes to Brexit and its’ impact on mental health. Their research is emotional, powerful and shocking. Their findings have discovered many harsh truths and common feelings amongst Europeans living in Britain.

In their studies they found that families have been ripped apart and couples have split up. The topic really is that divisive on a human level. Some participants said they felt ‘unwanted’ and ‘unwelcome’, with one even predicting the situation to become ‘the next Windrush’.

EU citizens living in the UK were not given the right to vote in the 2016 referendum and were eliminated from that democratic process. There is a general feeling among people that politicians have failed them. This feeling comes not just from EU citizens but British citizens too. And they have a point.

We have seen our politics become the most polarised it has been for decades in the UK, and naturally, along with this disparity, the feeling of disconnection from society has become rife.

In 2017 over half of EU citizens polled by KPMG felt less welcome and valued in the UK. Many felt they had lost their sense of belonging and that they were no longer safe.

A Mental Health Foundation poll found that 54 percent of EU citizens felt powerless, 39 percent felt insecure, and 38 percent felt worried as a result of the threat of Brexit.

"A Mental Health Foundation poll found that 54 percent of EU citizens felt powerless, 39 percent felt insecure, and 38 percent felt worried as a result of the threat of Brexit"

Brexit wasn’t just a personal blow for these people, it was also a moral and emotional blow in terms of the future of the world we live in.

Many studies reported an increase in discrimination, hostility, violence, abuse, not only for EU citizens in the UK but also for minorities. This type of hate does not deserve a place in our society.

We are meant to champion liberalism and freedom, not be a breeding ground for hate, abuse and insecurity. We are meant to be a leading country, not just in terms of economics and innovation but also in respect to human rights.

We are meant to be Great Britain. We need to embrace these people, to make them feel welcome and not to isolate them.

With or without Brexit, we will rely on these people in the future to provide fundamental services both at home and in Europe.

Nobody should be made to feel isolated and this whole Brexit saga seems to have been an opportunity for discrimination and hostility to become a norm in our society. We are better than this.

We, as humans, owe more than to alienate people, cut them out, and make them feel worthless.

/articles/opinion/brexit-and-mental-health-are-you-coping Mon, 23 Dec 2019 11:02:04 +0100
The Von der Leyen Commission Pedro Silva Pereira, Dita Charanzová, Heidi Hautala and Dimitrios Papadimoulis

We spoke to MEPs from across Parliament about what they expect to see from the new European Commission.

We spoke to MEPs from across Parliament about what they expect to see from the new European Commission.

A new start

An opportunity to redefine what europe means, says Pedro Silva Pereira (PT, S&D)

The election of Ursula von der Leyen represents a new page for the EU.

The adoption of many of the S&D Group’s priorities into the new Commission Programme offers a great opportunity, particularly in light of discussions on the Future of Europe.

This means placing a strong emphasis on tackling climate change, deepening the Economic and Monetary Union and increasing the social dimension of the Union.

Moreover, it is also time for the EU to reclaim its central role in the world’s geopolitical arena, especially by improving relations with Africa and Asia.

For that, we must seek balanced and fair compromises between the EU and its partners, while also securing fair trade agreements that guarantee high standards in terms of environmental protection and social and working rights.

I hope that this Commission will work closely with the Parliament; cooperation is vital to ensure the success of the programme and to improve the trust of our citizens in the future of the European project.

S&D members will work hard to monitor the application of the Commission’s programme and to ensure that the EU remains a beacon of democracy and respect for the rule of law.

 

All must benefit

The single market needs a single focus, writes Dita Charanzová (CZ, RE)

A lot is expected of this new Commission. Economically, the situation is better than it was five years ago.

However, there are several new global challenges, with increasing transatlantic tensions and an assertive China, while within the EU there are issues such as Brexit and migration.

The Single Market will continue to be one of the biggest issues.

President von der Leyen did well to give this brief to a single Commissioner, covering both the physical and digital Single Market.

Yet it was disappointing to read her guidelines and see that the Single Market is not referenced directly once; I can only hope that actions will speak louder than words.

The success of von der Leyen’s most ambitious promises, such as those on AI and the Green Deal, can only be achieved if there is a renewed focus on completing the Single Market. Whether this will succeed will also depend on the new President’s ability to unite a more fractured European Parliament and all the Member States.

Each Member State must feel that it has had a say in making policy and will benefit from it. There can be no winners or losers, only winners.

 

Strength through partnership

The EU must work harder on its global role, argues Heidi Hautala (FI, Greens/EFA)

The European Union remains a force in an increasingly demanding geopolitical environment - but it needs to get its act together.

The first truly supranational democracy, the biggest internal market in the world, the EU has the possibility of playing a pivotal role in seeking solutions to global challenges such as climate change, conflicts and inequalities.

Next year, the 70-year old Union will open a Conference for the Future of Europe, bringing together the institutions, Member States and civil society.

I see this as perhaps the last chance to unblock decisions necessary to deal with migration, a just transition to a green economy and the Union’s global role.

The requirement of unanimity of all Member States is the stumbling block, be it in taxation or in foreign policy.

The Union as an ardent defender of a rules-based, multilateral world order, must actively seek more partnerships. As Ursula von der Leyen said: “Partnerships makes us stronger.”

 

Insufficient ambition

Realistic goals demand realistic investment, warns Dimitrios Papadimoulis (EL, GUE/NGL)

I believe that it is impossible to achieve the goals set by President von der Leyen with a meagre budget of one percent of European GDP.

We are against the major cuts that the Commission is proposing in some of its central policies, such as the social and regional cohesion policies. We are also against reducing funds for the Common Agricultural Policy.

From our point of view, it is embarrassing to witness the EU - mainly due to the Council’s position but also because of the Commission’s stand - leaving Greece alone to deal with the refugee-migration crisis; this shows insufficient solidarity.

For a number of reasons, we demand more ambitious targets in tackling the climate crisis, reducing corruption, fighting tax evasion, enhancing democratic accountability and increasing transparency within the EU, with a stronger European Parliament.

I regret to say this but, from my point of view, the inadequate term of the former European Commission, led by Jean-Claude Juncker, will soon be regarded as a good one, compared to what we expect from the von der Leyen Commission.

/articles/opinion/von-der-leyen-commission Mon, 23 Dec 2019 10:12:17 +0100
New dynamics in Central Asia Atidzhe Alieva-Veli

The dynamics and interactions within the countries of Central Asia are shifting and Europe needs to adapt to reflect the new realities, writes Atidzhe Alieva-Veli.

The dynamics and interactions within the countries of Central Asia are shifting and Europe needs to adapt to reflect the new realities, writes Atidzhe Alieva-Veli.

Photo credit: Adobe Stock


The European Union reviewed its EU-Central Asia strategy in June 2019, 12 years after the signature of the first agreement. Central Asia is becoming increasingly important for the European Union, with European trade and investments in the region making the EU the main economic player in Central Asia.

The EU has allocated €1.1bn to development cooperation with Central Asia for 2014-2020, including over €454m for regional programmes, of which €115m is dedicated to Erasmus+. These regional programmes promote cooperation in the areas of sustainable development and regional security.

In other goals for stronger cooperation, the priorities are the rule of law, attracting investment, regional connectivity and private sector development, as well as investing in youth.

The European Union is also a strong supporter of multilateralism, supporting the integration of all Central Asian countries into the world trading system.


RELATED CONTENT


The EU, and particularly the European Parliament, are eager to promote respect for human rights, with a focus on freedom of expression, freedom of association, women’s rights, children’s rights, the rights of minorities, the fight against discrimination and the prevention and eradication of torture.

I believe that the main priorities should be democracy building, education, peace and stability in the region, environmental protection and climate change. Water management should also be a focus for attention.

Water is a key driver in the socioeconomic development of Central Asian countries. An ever-growing demand for water generated by economic development, population growth, urbanisation and climate change, along with recurrent natural hazards, presents significant challenges to the region’s economic expansion.

If current water management policies and practices persist, water scarcity could see a significant slowdown in the region’s economic performance.

The almost-vanished Aral Sea, with the resulting dust storms and their catastrophic impact on agricultural lands and human health, should be a powerful incentive for regionally-coordinated development.

"The main priorities should be democracy building, education, peace and stability in the region, environmental protection and climate change"

Last, the fight against terrorism and drugs are also important considerations. Trade should also be considered as a priority. Kazakhstan became the first Central Asian republic to conclude an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA) with Brussels.

The EU is currently negotiating similar accords with Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, while the EU Council of Foreign Affairs has reaffirmed its commitment to concluding EPCAs with those countries in the region able and willing to improve relations.

Promoting peace in Afghanistan should also continue to be a priority, integrating Afghanistan as appropriate in relevant EU-Central Asia dialogue meetings and regional programmes. There also needs to be greater support for more regional and trilateral cooperation projects with Afghan and Central Asian partners.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative is reviving the overland trade routes connecting Europe and Asia via the region. The EU needs to respond to these new dynamics. On transport, the EU wants to assess the possibility of building a trans-Caspian Pipeline beneath the Caspian Sea linking Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan.

In line with the EU’s Strategy on Connecting Europe and Asia, the Council is calling for the establishment of partnerships for sustainable connectivity, where appropriate, with Central Asian countries.

This will promote quality infrastructure and improve the economic, social, fiscal and environmental sustainability in and with Central Asia, ensuring the smooth transit of goods.

We should support efforts to link up Central Asia with Eastern Partnership countries and Afghanistan. There is also a need to cooperate on digital connectivity and e-governance.

/articles/opinion/new-dynamics-central-asia Mon, 23 Dec 2019 10:08:38 +0100
ECJ rules that Oriol Junqueras has right to take up seat in European Parliament Martin Banks

The Spanish Supreme Court had earlier ruled that Junqueras could not take up his seat as he was in pretrial detention for having participated in the organisation of a “self-determination referendum” in Catalonia.

The Spanish Supreme Court had earlier ruled that Junqueras could not take up his seat as he was in pretrial detention for having participated in the organisation of a “self-determination referendum” in Catalonia.

Oriol Junqueras | Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual


The European Court of Justice ruling effectively means that Junqueras was an MEP from the moment of his election in late May this year and enjoyed immunity which only the Parliament itself may wave or defend.

Reacting to the verdict, Parliament’s president David Sassoli issued a statement which reads, “This is a very important ruling that directly affects the composition of this institution.”

“It covers the assumption of the mandate of a member of the European Parliament and the protection of the correct functioning and independence of the Parliament.”


RELATED CONTENT


He added, “The Court also ruled that immunity implies that the precautionary custody measure to which the elected deputy was subjected must be revoked, in order to allow the deputy to go to the European Parliament and complete the necessary formalities to take up his role.”

“That said, in the event that the competent national authority considers that this measure should be maintained after the person in question has assumed the role of MEP they must request the withdrawal of this immunity from the European Parliament as soon as possible, in accordance with the aforementioned protocol.”

He added, “I have given a mandate to Parliament's services to evaluate as soon as possible the application of the effects of the judgment on the composition of Parliament.”

Junqueras, the former deputy leader of Catalonia, was sentenced to 13 years in jail in October, alongside a number of other Catalan separatist leaders, over the 2017 independence referendum and subsequent declaration of independence ruled illegal by Spanish courts.

“I have given a mandate to Parliament's services to evaluate as soon as possible the application of the effects of the judgment on the composition of Parliament” David Sassoli, Parliament President

Junqueras, who had been in pre-trial detention since 2017, was elected in May for the Greens/European Free Alliance group but Spanish courts refused to allow him to take an oath on the country's constitution, which they say is necessary to become an MEP.

German Greens MEP Ska Keller welcomed the ruling, saying, “We have always defended the right of our colleague to take up his seat and we welcome that the ECJ now recognises this right.”

“The European Parliament is the body competent to defend Junqueras' immunity.  We request David Sassoli to enforce the ruling of the ECJ by protecting the rights of an elected member of this chamber and ensure the protection of his immunity in order to exercise his mandate.”

“The implementation of this ruling is essential to protect the rights of Junqueras but also to protect the functioning and independence of the European Parliament.”

“We have always defended the right of our colleague to take up his seat and we welcome that the ECJ now recognises this right” Ska Keller MEP

Her colleague Diana Riba said, “So long as Junqueras is not allowed to take up his seat in the European Parliament it violates his rights and the choice of the 1.2 million people who voted for him and are not represented today in the European Parliament.”

“Junqueras should have been freed to be able to exercise his political mandate as an MEP. Now that the ECJ has ruled that he should be able to take up his seat the Spanish state must provide him the opportunity to fulfil his duty to his voters.”

/articles/news/ecj-rules-oriol-junqueras-has-right-take-seat-european-parliament Fri, 20 Dec 2019 17:00:06 +0100
5 questions with... Isabel Benjumea The Parliament Magazine

Photo credit: The Parliament Magazine

Photo credit: The Parliament Magazine

Photo credit: The Parliament Magazine


1. Which person you have worked with has most inspired you in your career, and how?

My Grandfather, Javier Benjumea. He was an entrepreneur and businessman from Seville who founded a multinational energy company. I did not work directly with him, as he passed away when I was 19 years old, but his example of hard work, austerity and commitment to his project has always been a guide in my life. He encouraged us, his 45 grandchildren, to become honest and free individuals who would always be ready to take responsibility for our actions. And, in accordance with the parable of the talents, he taught us the importance of making the best of the talents we’ve been given.

2. How would you describe your political/leadership style in three words?

Coherence, humility and teamwork.

3. Is there anything you have personally achieved or done that would surprise people?

I have always been very proud of two things: starting up a small company and planting a vineyard in the beautiful land of Extremadura (Spain).

4. What do you do in your free time to relax and unwind?

When I’m not working, you can find me at my country house, hunting, taking care of the vineyard (pruning, ploughing, harvesting) or just reading a good book under an oak.

5. What was the most inspirational and influential book you have read and why?

Only one? That is too difficult for me. I would like to mention three, if I may: Animal Farm by George Orwell, Las inquietudes de Shanti Andia by Pío Baroja and Decisive Moments in History by Stefan Zweig. They have helped me develop an in-depth understanding of the human condition with its lights and shadows. How a few free and determined people can change the world and the dangers of collective thinking.

/articles/opinion/5-questions-isabel-benjumea Fri, 20 Dec 2019 14:30:14 +0100