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Travel packages: green light from Coreper to update rules

sam, 23/05/2015 - 00:47

On 22 May 2015 the Committee of Permanent Representatives of the Council (Coreper) endorsed the terms of an agreement between the Latvian presidency and European Parliament representatives on the reform of the Travel Package Directive. The Competitiveness Council will be invited to confirm the political agreement at its meeting on 28 May.  

The new directive will update current EU rules on package holidays by aiming to adapt to travel market developments in order to meet the needs of consumers and businesses in the digital era.  

Current rules for package travel are difficult to apply in the digital age where consumers are increasingly booking customised packages online, either from one trader or several traders commercially linked. This often leaves buyers uncertain about their level of protection and traders unclear about their obligations. 

For that reason, the  new directive will extend the protection for traditional packages to combinations of separate travel services, in particular if sold online. 

Furthermore, the new rules will increase transparency and strengthen consumer protection in relation to: 

  • packages where two or more travel services are purchased either from the same trader on a website or from a high street travel agent under one contract;
  • "click-through" sales where two or more services are purchased from multiple on-line traders under separate contracts but where the traveller's name, e-mail address and payment details are transferred directly between traders within 24 hours; and
  • linked travel arrangements, where at least two different travel services which are sold by a trader facilitating the travel arrangements for the purpose of the same trip or holiday.

 The future directive will contain other main features such as: 

 Improved pre-contractual information requirements. Before the conclusion of the package travel contract the traveller will be entitled to get clear and concise information on the main rights and obligations including specific standard information on the envisaged package travel or corresponding offer. 

Fairer and more predictable prices for package travels, with stricter controls on price changes (termination rights in case of price increase more than 8% and a requirement to pass on price reductions in equivalent circumstances). 

Improved termination rights. Travellers will enjoy more flexibility by being able to terminate the contract before the start of the trip. In that case the traveller may be required to pay to  the organiser an appropriate and justifiable termination fee. Travellers will be able to terminate the contract free of charge, before the departure in the event of natural disasters, civil unrest or similar serious situations at the destination that would significantly affect the holidays. 

Higher protection in cases where the traveller's return is impossible because of unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances. Travellers will be entitled to compensation of up to three nights accommodation if they can not return home. 

More effective rules on insolvency protection for travellers in case of the trader's insolvency. A network of central contact points in the member states will be created to facilitate cross-border cooperation. 

Stricter liability of traders in case of underperformance of the package. The directive also lays down rules for cases of lack of conformity of the package, alternative arrangements, termination of the contract, repatriation or compensation of damages. 

The new conditions will also favour a level playing field for businesses by harmonising rules, removing obstacles to cross-border trade. This will open up more opportunities for companies, particularly SMEs, to expand their activities across borders. 

This will generate a broader choice for booking holiday products and may therefore lead to cheaper prices for consumers.   

Catégories: European Union

Remarks by President Donald Tusk at the press conference of the Eastern Partnership summit in Riga

sam, 23/05/2015 - 00:47

Good afternoon. Before anything else, let me first express my sincere gratitude to honestly host, to you Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma and to the Latvian Presidency, for all the work undertaken in preparing the Summit. I am glad to see such a high level of participation from all. It sends a very strong message about our commitment to the Eastern Partnership.
 
This message of our continued, consistent and strong commitment to the Eastern Partnership and each of our partner countries is the main message of this summit. And it is a necessary message in light of the last years' turmoil, aggression, intimidation and even war in this part of Europe. The Eastern Partnership is our framework of engagement that offers closer political association and economic cooperation with the European Union. It is based on mutual interests and commitments as well as the free will, sovereignty and independence of all parties.
 
Today, we all reaffirmed our common interest to continue developing strengthened, closer, differentiated relations with each of our partners to help them become more resilient in the face of increasing challenges to stability and security in the region and to make sovereign choices. Strengthened and more transparent institutions, free from corruption, will make our partners stronger and help us maintain the Eastern Partnership relevant for all. This is the second main message of the summit.
 
During the summit we took stock of achievements we have witnessed since Vilnius and set out a positive agenda for the future.
 
Since the Vilnius Summit, we have signed Association Agreements and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (AA/DCFTAs) with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. This has brought our cooperation to a new level. The AA/DCFTAs are already provisionally applied, except for the DCFTA part for Ukraine which will enter into force as of 1 January 2016.
 
We reviewed the early stages of the implementation of AA/DCFTAs and demonstrated our strong commitment to deepen our cooperation.
 
We reiterated our support to others who are seeking more tailor-made relations. We have reached an understanding with Armenia on the scope of our future relationship. We should also be able to take some steps forward in deepening our critical engagement with Belarus. And we have received Azerbaijan's suggestions regarding the renewal of the contractual basis for its relations with the EU.
 
Let me stress that the Eastern Partnership is more than just the sum of our bilateral relations. Our multilateral framework will continue to be critical to keeping our partnership together.
 
Over the past six years the multilateral dimension of the EaP has established a dense network of contacts, e.g. through Informal Partnership Dialogues. We have taken the Eastern Partnership beyond governments, to parliaments, local authorities, civil society and businesses. And today we confirmed our intention to make energy and transport cooperation distinct priorities for the coming years.
 
Overall, we agreed to advance our cooperation in those areas which bring tangible benefits to our partners' societies and economies, in particular in state building, mobility and people-to-people contacts, market opportunities and interconnections.
 
With regard to mobility issues, we welcome the positive impact the visa-free regime with Moldova has had on travel and people-to-people contacts, with around 500,000 people having benefited from this opportunity during its first year. Progress is also being made with Armenia and Belarus. With regard to Georgia and Ukraine, which are the closest in line to achieve the objective of visa-free travel, President Juncker and myself are determined to be as ambitious as possible in terms of seeing this process to a successful finalisation. But it is of course also up to Georgia and Ukraine to set the pace when it comes to fulfilling the necessary steps.
 
We also agreed to continue to improve our communication efforts to better explain the benefits of the Partnership to the general public.
 
In addition I praise the fruitful meetings of side events in the margins of the Riga Summit: The Business Forum, Civil Society Conference and Media Conference.
 
To conclude - and repeat. The European Union is a partner for the long-haul. Our partnership, as well as the Riga Summit itself, are not about dramatic decisions or taking giant steps forward. No, our relationship is built on free will, respect and equality. And our partnership will go forward step-by-step,  just as the European Union has been built. Through concrete progress on matters such as trade, energy, transport, mobility and reforms our partnership will grow increasingly closer and offer by far the best prospects for Europe as a whole.

Thank you

Catégories: European Union

Remarks by President Donald Tusk ahead of the Eastern Partnership summit in Riga

ven, 22/05/2015 - 00:38

I have come to Riga with three simple and very clear messages.

First, the European Union stays the course. Despite the intimidation, aggression and even the war of the last year, the European Union is as committed to our Eastern partners as ever. The record presence of 25 out of 28 EU leaders proves this point. Today I am absolutely sure that the Eastern Partnership is our shared priority - across Europe, not only for the eastern and central parts of our continent as it was five years ago.

Second, the European Union wants to advance its relations with all of our partners of the Eastern Partnership. This means tailoring our cooperation, in line with their needs, readiness and of course their sovereign choices. We want to help them to help themselves to transform their societies to the benefit of their citizens, which also means that they become more resilient towards outside pressure.

Third, the European Union is a trusted partner for the long haul. I know very well that we are all impatient for change, but we need to exercise our strategic patience. The Riga Summit is not about announcing giant steps forward. No: our partnership will go forward step-by-step,  just like the European Union was built and in this context step-by-step means real progress in trade, energy, mobility and reforms which is also in the best interest of our partners and Europe as a whole.

As a very last comment let me reply to those who claim that the Eastern Partnership is directed against Russia. It is not. The Eastern Partnership is not a beauty contest between Russia and the European Union. But, let me be frank, beauty does count. If Russia was a bit softer, more charming, more attractive, perhaps it wouldn't have to compensate its shortcomings by its destructive and aggressive bullying tactics against its neighbours. Thank you.

Catégories: European Union

Statement by President of the European Council Donald Tusk following his phone call with President Aliyev of Azerbaijan 21 May 2015

ven, 22/05/2015 - 00:38

This morning I expressed my condolences to President Aliyev and to the families and friends of the victims of the deadly apartment fire in Baku. My heart goes out to all of them. While I regret that this tragic event prevents President Aliyev from attending the Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga today and tomorrow, I understand his need to be with his people at this difficult moment.  

During our phone call we also discussed the Eastern Partnership and the bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and the European Union. We reconfirmed the mutual strong commitment to the Partnership and to continue developing EU-Azerbaijan relations. We welcomed the fact that negotiations on a new agreement between the EU and Azerbaijan are about to begin.

Finally, I was happy to accept President Aliyev's invitation to visit Azerbaijan.

Catégories: European Union

Council conclusions on Burundi

mer, 20/05/2015 - 11:01

1.      The EU condemns the attempted coup in Burundi and also any act of violence or abuse of the constitutional order, whoever the perpetrators may be, and points out that the African Union has stated that it is vital for all Burundian stakeholders to settle their disputes by peaceful means. 

2.      The European Union (EU) expresses its deep concern at the situation in Burundi; in the wake of the attempted coup, the country is highly vulnerable and there is a risk that the divisions within Burundian society may be exacerbated. 

The EU calls on all parties, the government, the security services and all political groups, including their youth movements, to refrain from any action which could exacerbate the tension in Burundi, to bear the higher interest of the country in mind and to seek arrangements compatible with the Arusha Agreements, which are the foundation on which peace and democracy have been built. It calls particularly on the Burundian military and security forces to show restraint, to maintain their neutrality and to protect the civilian population. It also calls for legal proceedings against the alleged perpetrators of the coup to respect the rights of defence and the rule of law. 

3.      It is now essential for the authorities, political forces and civil society to engage in an inclusive and transparent political dialogue.  This dialogue must lead to a political process which abides by the terms laid down in the constitution and respects its institutions, and the fundamental principles of the Arusha Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation of 2000, to ensure that the election process continues in a consensual fashion. The EU points to the need for further verification --in the course of the inclusive political dialogue-- to see that conditions are in place to ensure that the election process is credible, transparent and non-violent. It calls for respect for fundamental freedoms and in particular for the freedoms of opinion, of expression and of the press and of peaceful protest to be guaranteed. 

4.      In this respect, it agrees with and supports the conclusion of the Summit of the East African Community (EAC) that conditions conducive to the holding of elections are not in place, and that the elections should be postponed, within constitutional limits.  The EU points out that its support for the election process and the actual presence of the EU Election Observation Mission are predicated on those conditions. Both the majority and the opposition must shoulder their responsibilities in order to ensure an environment conducive to the holding of elections. In this connection the EU stresses the importance of the Roadmap which the Government and all political players concluded in March 2013 to prepare for free and democratic elections in Burundi. 

5.      The EU fully supports the efforts of the United Nations (UN), in particular the Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, Saïd Djinnit, the work done by the African Union (AU) under former Prime Minister Edem Kodjo, and the East African Community's initiatives to ease the way for dialogue between the parties and ensure a return to stability. It will follow discussions at the next EAC summit with interest. 

The EU is ready to contribute to these efforts and calls on all stakeholders in Burundi to engage sincerely in this dialogue, at the appropriate level and in a spirit of compromise and reconciliation. The EU commends the AU in particular on its decision to deploy human rights observers in Burundi as quickly as possible in order to report on violations and to take steps to resolve conflicts at local level. 

6.      The EU also expresses its concern at the massive population displacements caused by these political tensions, and its concern at the deteriorating humanitarian situation, especially as regards vulnerable groups, particularly women and children. It sees this as a major risk to an already troubled region. It confirms its support for the efforts of humanitarian agencies in the region and for neighbouring countries in their efforts to accept refugees fleeing the insecurity and violence.  

7.      The EU recalls that its partnership with Burundi is governed by the Cotonou Agreement. It is important that each of the parties respect the terms of the Agreement and ensure that the obligations arising from the Agreement are met, particularly as regards respect for human rights. The provisions of the Agreement have made it possible to maintain enhanced political dialogue with the Burundian authorities over the past few months. Depending on future developments, the EU is ready to consider the adoption of possible measures, including on cooperation. It expresses its determination, where appropriate and with the support of the UN Security Council, to take all measures necessary against Burundian parties whose actions might lead to a perpetuation of the violence and hamper the search for a political solution. It stresses that there can be no impunity for those responsible for serious human rights violations, who must be held criminally responsible.  

Catégories: European Union

Youth employment initiative: Council increases pre-financing to €1 billion

mar, 19/05/2015 - 15:31

The Council on 19 May increased advance payments for the youth employment initiative (YEI) by almost €1 billion in 2015. Instead of about €67 million, member states will receive around €1 billion as advance payments this year. The regulation adopted by the Council removes the main bottleneck in the implementation of YEI by releasing the financial burden on the member states' budgets and allowing them to roll out quickly measures against youth unemployment. The adoption of the regulation follows the agreement reached in the Council on 21 April and the approval of the European Parliament on 29 April.  

Ensuring a critical financial mass 

The increase in advance payments will be achieved by raising the pre-financing rate of the specific YEI allocation to 30%. The current level of pre-financing for YEI amounts to 1% (1.5% for member states under financial assistance). Experience shows that under the current rules it is not possible to reach the critical financial mass to allow member states to start the implementation of YEI actions. Due to a lack of funds, member states cannot advance sufficient payments to beneficiaries. This considerably hampers the start of projects aimed at helping young Europeans to find a job or a traineeship. Member states with the highest levels of youth unemployment face the strongest budgetary constraints. The new regulation offers a solution to this issue to the benefit of young people, as requested by the European Council.  

The increase of advance payments does not require any change in the EU's multiannual financial framework nor any amending budget. It provides the maximum impact in terms of support to the beneficiaries, within the budget available.  

Background 

The Commission pays advance payments to the member states automatically after the adoption of each operation programme. Further payments, so-called interim payments, are only made to reimburse expenditure already made by member states. EU countries therefore usually have to pre-finance a large part of projects from their national budgets.

YEI was agreed by the European Council in February 2013. Its purpose is to provide additional funding of €6.4 billion in the period 2014-2020 for promoting youth employment to the regions most affected by youth unemployment. The eligible regions are 

  • those where the youth unemployment rate for young people aged 15 to 24 exceeded 25% in 2012 and
  • those where youth unemployment was more than 20% in 2012 as long as they belong to member states where youth unemployment exceeded 30% the same year  

A dedicated budget of €3.2 billion has been set aside for the YEI. This requires no co-financing at national level. An additional €3.2 billion comes from allocations from the European social fund to member states for the 2014-2020 programming period.  

Around 7 million young Europeans are currently without a job and are not in education or training.  

Next steps 

The regulation enters into force the day after its publication in the Official Journal of the EU.

 

Catégories: European Union

Twelfth meeting of the Cooperation Council between the European Union and the Republic of Uzbekistan

mar, 19/05/2015 - 02:05

The Cooperation Council between the European Union (EU) and the Republic of Uzbekistan held its twelfth meeting on Monday, 18 May 2015. The Cooperation Council reaffirmed the commitment of both parties to see their bilateral relations strengthened across a number of areas and took stock of the progress made since the eleventh Cooperation Council between the EU and the Republic of Uzbekistan in March 2014, including in the implementation of the EU Strategy for Central Asia. 

The Cooperation Council underscored the intensification of the political dialogue between the EU and the Republic of Uzbekistan over the past years.  

The Cooperation Council reiterated its attachment to a comprehensive implementation of the EU Strategy for Central Asia both, on a regional and national basis, welcomed Uzbekistan's involvement in the EU regional initiatives for Central Asia and discussed possible orientations in relation with the current review of the EU-Central Asia strategy. The EU expressed its expectation to see Uzbekistan actively participate in the EU - Central Asia High Level Security Dialogue as well as in the EU regional cooperation projects on drugs (CADAP and border management (BOMCA).  

The Cooperation Council discussed important issues of interest to both parties, notably political reforms, rule of law and human rights, trade and economic relations, energy cooperation, education, regional cooperation in Central Asia and international issues.  

The EU welcomed Uzbekistan's readiness to discuss about human rights with the EU in an increasingly open fashion within the Human Rights Dialogue. Both sides reviewed the situation concerning human rights and fundamental freedoms in Uzbekistan, especially in key areas of concern to the EU. The EU welcomed the adoption of a National Action Plan aimed at ensuring the implementation of the recommendations accepted by Uzbekistan under the 2013 Universal Periodic Review exercise and strongly encouraged Uzbekistan to step up its cooperation with the United Nations to ensure that this Plan is properly implemented and duly monitored, in cooperation with international partners. The EU expressed its readiness to support Uzbekistan in this international cooperation exercise.  

The EU welcomed the increasing momentum in the cooperation between Uzbekistan and the ILO, in particular on child labour, and took note of the positive findings of the ILO regarding the 2014 cotton harvest, which corroborated the conclusions of the ILO High Level Monitoring Mission on child labour during the cotton 2013 harvest and the subsequent report of the ILO Committee of Experts of 2014. The EU welcomed the adoption in 2014 of a Decent Work Country programme between Uzbekistan and the ILO covering, in addition to child labour, wider labour issues. The EU called upon Uzbekistan to engage further with the ILO on the implementation of the ILO conventions and to address all outstanding labour issues pertaining to these conventions, in particular aspects related to forced labour. The EU welcomed the on-going constructive discussions between Uzbekistan and the ILO to this effect.  

The Cooperation Council emphasised the great potential of the economic and trade component of EU-Uzbekistan relations and discussed how to improve the business and investment climate. The EU reiterated its support for Uzbekistan's plan to accede to the WTO and its readiness to provide assistance to this aim. The Cooperation Council welcomed the progress already made towards the creation of a Business and Investments Council aimed at promoting bilateral trade and investments between the EU and Uzbekistan, and the readiness of both parties to establish this new body in the best possible delays.    

 The Cooperation Council noted the converging views of the EU and Uzbekistan as regards the main priorities of the on-going EU bilateral development cooperation with Uzbekistan, which is focused on the sector of rural development.  

The Cooperation Council emphasised the mutual interest of the EU and Uzbekistan in a strengthened cooperation in the field of energy and underlined the importance of an effective implementation of the bilateral Memorandum of Understanding on energy.  

In the area of education, the EU underlined the importance of EU programmes in higher education and technical and vocational education that could foster socio-economic development and encouraged Uzbekistan to actively benefit from these programmes. In this regard, Uzbekistan was invited to attend the first EU-Central Asia Education Ministerial conference in Riga on 25 and 26 June 2015.  

The Cooperation Council discussed regional cooperation in Central Asia and international issues, including Afghanistan. The Cooperation Council underlined the importance of regional cooperation in Central Asia as an effective means of conflict prevention and socio-economic development in the region. In this context, the Cooperation Council also underlined the importance for the Central Asian partners to seek a sustainable settlement regarding water management, security and energy issues in the region, which would take into account the interests of all countries and preserve the unity in the region, in line with the relevant international water conventions and the guiding principles of the EU Water Diplomacy adopted in July 2013.  

The Cooperation Council noted the importance of cooperation between the EU and Uzbekistan to promote regional stability and face external challenges.  

The Cooperation Council was chaired by H.E. Abdulaziz KAMILOV, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The EU delegation was led by H.E.Edgars Rinkevics, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia on behalf of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in her capacity as President of the EU's Foreign Affairs Council.  

 

 

Catégories: European Union

Council conclusions on CSDP

mar, 19/05/2015 - 02:05

1.      The global and European security environment has changed dramatically in recent years. This calls for a stronger Europe, with a stronger and more effective Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). The conflicts, threats and instability in the EU's immediate and wider neighbourhood, affecting inter alia Iraq, Libya, the Sahel, Syria and Ukraine, as outlined in the report from the High Representative, together with long standing and newly emerging security challenges, are significantly impacting European security as well as international peace and security, and challenging our fundamental values and principles. 

2.      By addressing these conflicts, sources of instability and other security challenges, the EU and its Member States are assuming increased responsibilities to act as a security provider, at the international level and in particular in the neighbourhood, thereby also enhancing their own security and their global strategic role by responding to these challenges together. The EU and its Member States, through the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and other policies and instruments, have a strong role to play through the unique EU Comprehensive Approach to preventing and managing conflicts and addressing their causes.

Catégories: European Union

Conclusions of the 43rd meeting of the EEA Council (Brussels, 18 May 2015)

mar, 19/05/2015 - 02:05

1.           The forty-third meeting of the EEA Council took place in Brussels on 18 May 2015 under the Presidency of Ms Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica, Parliamentary State Secretary for EU Affairs of Latvia, representing the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The meeting was attended by Mr Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland, Mr Vidar Helgesen, Minister of EEA and EU Affairs at the Office of the Prime Minister of Norway, and Ms Aurelia Frick, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, as well as by Members of the Council of the European Union and representatives of the European Commission and the European External Action Service. 

2.           The EEA Council noted that, within the framework of the Political Dialogue, the Ministers would discuss 1) Ukraine and Russia; 2) the Eastern Partnership and 3) Syria, Iraq, Libya and ISIL- Da'esh, including combating radicalization and extremist violence in Europe. An orientation debate was held on the Digital Agenda.

3.           The EEA Council welcomed that the conclusions on a homogenous extended single market and EU relations with Non-EU Western European countries adopted by the Council of the EU in December 2014 acknowledged the key role played by the EEA Agreement throughout the last 20 years in advancing economic relations and internal market integration between the EU and the EEA EFTA States. The EEA Council highlighted that the Agreement had been robust and capable of adapting to changes in EU treaties and EU enlargements. The EEA Council recognised that the good functioning and further development of this extended Single Market would be a key driver for renewed growth in Europe.

4.           The EEA Council emphasised the need for responsibility and solidarity among the countries of Europe to overcome the social and economic challenges that had arisen from the economic crisis. In particular, the EEA Council expressed concern regarding the continued high level of youth unemployment in some EEA Member States. 

5.           Emphasising the fact that greater knowledge of the EEA Agreement throughout the EEA would be in the interest of all Contracting Parties, the EEA Council urged them to ensure that the appropriate information on the EEA Agreement was made readily and easily available to all.

6.           The EEA Council noted that free movement of capital is a fundamental internal market freedom and an integral part of the EEA acquis and acknowledged that restrictions can be implemented only temporarily on the basis of the provisions of Article 43 of the EEA Agreement.

7.           Noting the Progress Report of the EEA Joint Committee, the EEA Council expressed its appreciation for the work of the Joint Committee in ensuring the continued successful operation and good functioning of the EEA Agreement.

8.           The EEA Council stressed the need to swiftly conclude the work necessary for the incorporation into the EEA Agreement of the EU Regulations on the European Supervisory Authorities in the area of financial services to ensure effective and homogenous supervision throughout the EEA, as called for in the Conclusions approved by the EU and EFTA Ministers of Finance and Economy at their informal meeting of 14 October 2014. The EEA Council also highlighted the high importance of a swift incorporation and application of the outstanding legislation in the field of financial services in order to ensure a level playing field throughout the EEA in this important economic sector.

9.           Acknowledging the contribution made by EU programmes to building a more competitive, innovative and social Europe, the EEA Council welcomed the participation of the EEA EFTA States in EEA-relevant programmes to which they contribute financially. 

10.        The EEA Council recognised the still existing need to alleviate social and economic disparities in the EEA, as well as the positive contribution of the EEA and Norway Financial Mechanisms 2009-2014 and their predecessors in reducing economic and social disparities throughout the EEA. It noted that more than one year after the launch of the negotiations on the renewal of the EEA and Norway Financial Mechanisms for another term, the negotiations were still on-going and the progress achieved was still mixed. In light of the delay incurred, the EEA Council called for increased efforts in view of a swift conclusion of these negotiations. 

11.        The EEA Council also took note of the on-going negotiations in parallel with the Financial Mechanism negotiations on bilateral issues between each of the EEA EFTA States and the EU, and also called for a swift conclusion of these negotiations. 

12.        The EEA Council welcomed the ongoing efforts made to both reduce the number of EEA-relevant EU acts awaiting incorporation into the EEA Agreement and to accelerate the incorporation process. While commending all the steps undertaken in the course of the last years, the EEA Council noted that the number of acts awaiting incorporation was still too high. The EEA Council called for continued work in order to significantly and durably reduce the current backlog and thereby ensure legal certainty and homogeneity in the EEA. It urged all parties to engage constructively to find solutions to pending difficult issues.

13.        The EEA Council noted that progress was still needed on a number of outstanding issues and looked forward to reach a conclusion as soon as possible in particular regarding the Third Postal Directive, the 2009 TELECOM Package (including the Regulation on the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications - BEREC), the Directive on Deposit Guarantee Schemes, the Regulation on Novel Foods and Novel Food Ingredients, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the Regulation on Medicinal Products for Paediatric use and the EU legal acts in the area of organic production. 

14.        The EEA Council recalled that there was still a number of Joint Committee Decisions, for which the six-month deadline provided for in the EEA Agreement with regard to constitutional clearance had been exceeded. It encouraged the EEA EFTA States to strengthen their efforts to resolve the pending cases as soon as possible and to avoid such delays in the future. 

15.        With regard to the Third Package for the Internal Energy Market, the EEA Council underlined the importance of stepping up efforts to incorporate this legislative Package into the EEA Agreement in order to establish a fully functional internal market for energy, and in particular encouraged the parties to identify mutually acceptable solutions for appropriate EEA EFTA participation in the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER). 

16.        The EEA Council placed great importance on continued close cooperation between the EU and the EEA EFTA States in environment, energy and climate change polices, particularly in light of the 2030 Framework for Climate and Energy and the proposal for A Framework Strategy for a Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy. The EEA Council underlined in particular the importance of the EU, its Member States and the EEA EFTA States working closely together to achieve an ambitious and universal climate agreement during the COP21 Conference in Paris in December 2015 in order to contain global warming within the limit of 2ºC. The close cooperation should also continue in particular in the areas of security of energy supply, emissions trading, promotion of competitive, climate resilient, safe and sustainable low carbon energy, energy efficiency, renewable energy resources, carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), marine environment and other environmental issues such as waste, chemicals, water resource management and industrial pollution.

17.        The EEA Council acknowledged the significance of the negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union and the United States. The EEA Council welcomed the exchange of information between the European Commission and the EEA EFTA States initiated in the EEA Joint Committee in December 2014. Bearing in mind inter alia Protocol 12 to the EEA Agreement, the EEA Council encouraged a continuation of this exchange of information.

18.        The EEA Council acknowledged that the Contracting Parties, pursuant to Article 19 of the EEA Agreement, had undertaken to continue their efforts with a view to achieving the progressive liberalisation of agricultural trade. The EEA Council welcomed the launch in 2012 of negotiations on the further liberalisation of agricultural trade and on the protection of geographical indications between the EU and Iceland. The EEA Council also welcomed the launch of negotiations between the EU and Norway in November 2013 on the protection of geographical indications and on further liberalisation of agricultural trade within the framework of Article 19 in February 2015. The EEA Council noted that the EU had expressed its disappointment on the fact that the increased Norwegian customs duties for certain agricultural products, and the reclassification of hortensia, had not been revoked and that the EU had again encouraged Norway to reverse these measures. 

19.        The EEA Council welcomed the dialogue between Iceland and the EU on the review of the trade regime for processed agricultural products within the framework of Article 2(2) and Article 6 of Protocol 3 to the EEA Agreement in order to further promote trade in processed agricultural products and looked forward to the conclusion of this dialogue in the near future. The EEA Council encouraged the Contracting Parties to continue the dialogue on the review of the trade regime for processed agricultural products within the framework of Article 2(2) and Article 6 of Protocol 3 to the EEA Agreement in order to further promote trade in this area.

20.        The EEA Council underlined the importance of continuing the practice of inviting officials from the EEA EFTA States to political dialogues held at the level of the relevant Council working parties. 

21.        The EEA Council underlined the importance of inviting EEA EFTA Ministers to informal EU ministerial meetings and ministerial conferences relevant to EEA EFTA participation in the Internal Market, and expressed its appreciation to the current Latvian and incoming Luxembourg Presidencies for the continuation of this practice.

22.        The EEA Council recognised the positive contributions made by the EEA EFTA States to the decision-shaping process of EEA-relevant EU legislation and programmes through their participation in the relevant committees, expert groups and agencies, as well as through the submission of EEA EFTA Comments.

23.        The EEA Council noted the Resolutions of the EEA Joint Parliamentary Committee adopted at its meeting in Strasbourg on 17 December 2014 on Follow-up to the Climate and Energy Policy Framework 2030 and on the Annual Report of the EEA Joint Committee on the Functioning of the EEA Agreement in 2013, and the Resolutions of the EEA Joint Parliamentary Committee adopted on 31 March 2015 on The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and its possible implications for the EEA EFTA States - Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway and on Industrial Policy in Europe.

Catégories: European Union

Council establishes EU naval operation to disrupt human smugglers in the Mediterranean

mar, 19/05/2015 - 02:05

The Council has agreed today (18 May) to establish an EU military operation - EUNAVFOR Med- to break the business model of  smugglers and traffickers of people in the Mediterranean.  This decision, which is one element of the comprehensive EU response to the migration challenge, will enable the formal start of the operational planning for the naval operation. 

EUNAVFOR Med will be conducted in sequential phases and in accordance with the requirements of international law.  Planning of the operation and the initial phase of surveillance and assessment of human smuggling and trafficking networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean will be conducted as soon as possible. The second and third phases of the operation would work to search, seize and disrupt the assets of smugglers, based on international law and in partnership with Libyan authorities.  

The operational headquarters of EUNAVFOR Med will be in Rome and Rear Admiral Enrico Credendino (Italy) has been appointed as Operation Commander. The common costs of the operation are estimated at €11.82 million for a two months start up phase plus an initial mandate of 12 months. 

The EU CSDP operation is part of a set of comprehensive measures aimed at responding to the immediate need to save lives, address emergency situations but also to tackle the root causes of irregular migration as requested by the European Council on 23 April 2015. 

The launch of the EU naval operation will be on the agenda of the Foreign Affairs Council in June.  

 

 

Catégories: European Union

Seventh meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Council between Albania and the EU

mar, 19/05/2015 - 02:05

The Stabilisation and Association Council (SA Council) between Albania and the European Union held its seventh meeting on 18 May 2015. The meeting was chaired by Mr Edgars Rinkēvičs, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia, on behalf of High Representative / Vice President Federica Mogherini. The Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Mr Johannes Hahn, represented the European Commission. The Albanian delegation was led by Mr Ditmir Bushati, Minister of Foreign Affairs. 

This being the first SA Council following the European Council decision of 27 June 2014 to grant Albania the status of EU candidate country, the SA Council welcomed this very important milestone in the process of EU integration of Albania. This entails a strengthening of EU-Albania relations. 

The SA Council noted that the Commission 2014 Progress Report on Albania concluded that the country made further progress towards meeting the political criteria for membership, since the country adopted key judicial and public administration reform measures and took further steps in the fight against corruption and organised crime, as well as on human rights matters. 

The SA Council noted the conclusions of the General Affairs Council of 16 December 2014, which recognised Albania's commitment in the fight against organised crime, with intensified law enforcement activities resulting notably in increased amount of drug seizures, as well as in advancing judicial reform. The SA Council reiterated that the opening of accession negotiations will be considered by the European Council, in line with established practice, once the Commission has assessed that Albania has achieved the necessary degree of compliance with the membership criteria. Albania expressed the hope that the decision to open the accession negotiations will be made through a credible and predictable process, on the basis of the country's progress in the fulfilment of the five key priorities. The EU noted that some challenges still lie ahead. It underlined that Albania needs to intensify its reforms efforts, particularly in relation to the five Key Priorities, notably in the rule of law areas. The EU also encouraged Albania to consolidate achievements of the reforms already undertaken and to deliver a sustained implementation. 

The SA Council recalled that the EU remains fully committed to the EU integration of Albania and will continue to support the country in this process. The EU welcomed the engagement of the Albanian authorities to pursue the domestic reform agenda, as confirmed in the framework of High Level Dialogue meetings. 

The SA Council noted that constructive and inclusive political dialogue in parliament between the ruling majority and the opposition is essential for sustainability of European integration related reforms. In this context, the EU welcomed the 24 December 2014 cross-party political agreement and called on all Albanian stakeholders to ensure its responsible implementation. The SA Council also welcomed the establishment of the National Council of European Integration, chaired by the opposition, as an important instrument for an all-inclusive approach to EU-related reforms. However, the EU noted with concern persisting political tensions amongst political actors. 

The EU underlined the importance of ensuring that upcoming local elections are conducted in line with the relevant standards. The election administration bodies need to discharge their duties in an independent way and a thorough application of the relevant legislative framework must be ensured. The EU recalled that these elections provide an additional opportunity for Albania to demonstrate commitment to implement the December political agreement as regards addressing the issue of persons with criminal records in public office. 

The SA Council noted that the reform of the public administration remains a key priority for Albania and is also one of the fundamental pillars of the EU Enlargement process. The ability to take on the EU acquis is largely dependent on a de-politicised and efficient public administration. The EU welcomed the steps taken by Albania so far to implement the new Civil Service Law, but cautioned against any amendments to this law that could undermine the long-term perspective and commitment of Albania to develop a professional, merit-based and depoliticised civil service. The EU also welcomed the recent adoption of the Public Administration Reform Strategy for 2015-2020 and the new Code of Administrative Procedures, and called for their implementation. 

The SA Council noted that the reform of the judicial system remains a key challenge. The independence, impartiality, transparency, efficiency and accountability of the judicial system are central elements in the assessment of the political criteria for EU accession and key to ensure respect for the rule of law and progress in the fight against corruption and organised crime. The EU underlined the importance of a comprehensive and inclusive judicial reform process and encouraged Albania to continue its engagement with civil society and the European Commission for Democracy through Law - the Venice Commission - of the Council of Europe. 

The SA Council noted that the fight against corruption remains a key priority for Albania. The EU welcomed Albania's commitment to strengthen efforts to prevent and fight against corruption. The legislative framework and the policy coordination and monitoring have been strengthened, including through adoption of the anti-corruption strategy and action plan. The EU underlined the importance of the action plan's effective implementation, as well as its monitoring. The EU acknowledged the launch of an online web-portal where citizens can lodge complaints and denounce corruption cases, and it stressed the importance of the proper handling and follow-up of the cases. Establishing a solid track record of proactive investigations, prosecutions and convictions of corruption cases at all levels remains a key endeavour. 

The SA Council noted that the fight against organised crime remains a key priority for Albania. It noted some positive trends in a number of areas with an intensification of law enforcement activities, and called for these efforts to be stepped up in order to build up a solid and credible track record in dismantling organised crime networks and fighting against any form of criminal activities at all levels. The legal framework in place needs to be fully implemented, and obstacles to effective investigations must be removed, including through adopting amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code.  

The EU reiterated its commitment to the short-term visa free travel regime for Albanian citizens and noted the efforts of the Albanian authorities to ensure respect of the conditions attached to visa liberalisation. The EU noted however that manifestly unfounded asylum applications continued to be lodged by an increasing number of Albanian citizens to EU Member States and Schengen associated countries. The EU calls on Albanian authorities to implement both short- and long-term measures aimed at countering this negative phenomenon, including by following up to the last set of recommendations issued by the European Commission in the framework of the Post-Visa Liberalisation Monitoring Mechanism. 

The EU noted that Albania made efforts to strengthen the protection of fundamental rights, notably by improving the relevant legislative framework, and stressed the need of effective implementation. The EU called for further efforts, particularly by further strengthening the protection of persons belonging to minorities. In this specific policy area, adoption of a comprehensive legislative framework, in line with the relevant European and international standards, still remains an important achievement to be secured. 

The EU welcomed that Albania made some further progress towards becoming a functioning market economy. The EU noted that the Albanian economy continued to grow and that Albania maintained macroeconomic stability; however, the country still faces significant challenges. In line with Joint Conclusions of the Economic and Financial Dialogue between the EU, the Western Balkans and Turkey, Albania is invited to put further efforts of placing public finances on a sustainable footing, while preserving fiscal space for urgently needed growth-enhancing public investments. 

In the field of financial cooperation, the EU noted a satisfactory record in the implementation of most assistance projects. Progress was overall made on overcoming a number of outstanding difficulties. Yet, in some cases, problems related to timely allocation of sufficient appropriations from the Albanian state budget for operating expenses and maintenance still persist. The EU welcomed the full engagement of the Albanian authorities in preparing IPA II, in particular the good cooperation in the consultations for finalising the next period's strategic approach and in the preparation of the sector planning documents for IPA 2015. 

The SA Council welcomed the continued active participation of Albania in regional initiatives and structures in South Eastern Europe and its good neighbourly relations and constructive regional stance. In this context, the EU commended the Albanian Chairmanship in Office for the work and efforts invested so far in further strengthening the SEECP. It invited Albania to remain committed to a positive engagement in the region, including through the conclusion of bilateral conventions, and to further promoting regional cooperation. The EU reiterated that good neighbourly relations and regional stability are essential elements of the Stabilisation and Association process and cautioned  against  any  statements with  implications for good  neighbourly  relations. 

The SA Council welcomed the 100% alignment of Albania to CFSP declarations and Council decisions. 

Catégories: European Union

EU-Turkey Association Council

mar, 19/05/2015 - 02:05

The EU-Turkey Association Council held its 53rd meeting on Monday, 18 May 2015, in Brussels.

The meeting was chaired by Mr Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkey. He was accompanied by Mr. Volkan Bozkir, Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator. Mr. Edgars Rinkēvičs , Minister for Foreign Affairs of Latvia, led the EU delegation (on behalf of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini). Mr Johannes Hahn, Commissioner responsible for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, represented the European Commission. 

The meeting provided a timely opportunity to review EU-Turkey relations and exchange views on a range of issues. It reaffirmed the significance the EU attaches to its relations with Turkey, as a candidate country and a key partner for the EU. 

The EU commended the considerable efforts made by Turkey in hosting around 2 million refugees fleeing the violence in Syria and Iraq. In this context, the EU underlined that the very serious developments in the region, in particular in Syria and Iraq, render it crucial that dialogue and cooperation on foreign policy issues is increased. 

The EU proposed to develop closer cooperation against ISIL/Da'esh and its funding networks and to stem the flow of foreign fighters. 

The active counter-terrorism dialogue between the EU and Turkey was welcomed along with the exchange of best practice on the prevention of radicalisation and recruitment to terrorism. The EU also confirmed its intention to strengthen counter-terrorism cooperation and underlined the importance of developing police and judicial cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

Referring to the key issue of illegal migration, the EU reiterated its commitment to step up cooperation with Turkey on preventing illegal migration flows, as also expressed by the European Council on 23 April 2015. The EU also expressed concern about the significant increase in irregular crossings at the sea borders with neighbouring EU Member States. The EU recognised that border cooperation across the land border with Greece and Bulgaria had improved and expressed appreciation of the dialogue developed between the Turkish authorities and the authorities of Greece and Italy in addressing irregular migration across the sea. The EU encouraged Turkey to develop such dialogue into a fully-fledged cooperation with a view to prevent illegal migratory flows in the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean and to fight against smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings. The EU also reiterated its expectations of full and effective implementation by Turkey of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement. 

With regard to the EU's relations with Turkey, the EU welcomed the renewed commitment of the Turkish government to EU accession. The EU underlined that active and credible accession negotiations which respect the EU's commitments and established conditionality, along with all other dimensions of the EU-Turkey relations, will enable EU-Turkey relations to achieve their full potential.

In this respect, the EU expressed  its clear position as regards the Additional Protocol of the Association Agreement. Full and  non-discriminatory implementation towards all EU Member States is an obligation and as such must be honoured. This implementation could provide a significant boost to the negotiation process. 

As emphasised by the Negotiating Framework, the EU expressed its expectations for Turkey to actively support the negotiations aimed at a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem within the UN framework, in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and in line with the principles on which the Union is founded. Turkey's commitment and contribution in concrete terms to such a comprehensive settlement remains crucial. Under the current circumstances, the EU considers it more important than ever to ensure a positive climate with a view to the resumption of negotiations for a comprehensive Cyprus' settlement. The resumption on settlement talks on 15 May 2015 was welcomed by the EU. As stated in its conclusions of March 2014, the European Council has expressed its readiness to play its part in supporting the negotiations.

Regarding the domestic situation in Turkey, the EU extended its strongest political support to the renewed efforts towards a peaceful settlement of the Kurdish issue and encouraged further engagement by all parties to move the process forward. 

Concerning the ongoing reforms, the EU welcomed the continued implementation of reforms adopted in previous years, and in particular measures announced in the September 2013 democratisation package.  The EU, however, expressed concern with undue interference by the executive in the judiciary, frequent changes to key legislation without due consultation of stakeholders, and restrictions on access to information. Reforms should provide for adequate checks and balances fully guaranteeing freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. Reforms, including on a new constitution, should be prepared in line with European standards, so as to meet fully the Copenhagen criteria.

Concerning economic cooperation, the EU recalled the strong economic links between Turkey and the EU and the need to develop a high level economic dialogue. Progress under chapter 17 - economic and monetary policy would in due course further support such dialogue and encourage alignment with the acquis.

Finally, the Association Council reviewed the state of relations under the Association Agreement and the Customs Union. In this context, the EU reiterated its commitment to engaging constructively with Turkey to maximise the potential of the Customs Union and to resolve outstanding disputes.

Catégories: European Union

Indicative programme - Education, Youth, Culture and Sports Council, 18-19/05/2015

dim, 17/05/2015 - 13:44

MONDAY 18 MAY

Place:        Justus Lipsius building, Brussels

Chair:        Mārīte Seile, Minister for Education and Science

All times are approximate and subject to change

Education

+/- 08.00     Arrivals

+/- 08.05     Doorstep by Minister Seile

+/- 08.45     Meeting between representatives of European youth organisations and youth ministers

+/- 10.00     Beginning of Council meeting

                     Adoption of the agenda

                     Approval of legislative A items (in public session)

                     Approval of non-legislative A items

+/- 10.30     European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020) and preparation of the 2015 Joint Report (in public session)

+/- 12.45     Role of early childhood education and primary education

+/- 13.00     Working lunch - Accessibility of Education          

+/- 14.30     Press conference

Youth

+/- 15.00     Beginning of Council meeting

 +/- 15.10     Cross-sectorial policy cooperation

 +/- 15.20     Youth work

 +/- 15.40     Young people political participation in the democratic life of Europe (in public session)

TUESDAY 19 MAY

Place:        Justus Lipsius building, Brussels

 Chair:        Dace Melbārde, Minister for Culture

                    Mārīte Seile, Minister for Education and Science

 All times are approximate and subject to change

Audiovisual and culture

+/- 09.00     Arrivals

 +/- 09.00     Doorstep by Minister Melbārde

 +/- 10.00     Beginning of Council meeting

 +/- 10.10     European audiovisual policy (in public session)

 +/- 11.50     Cultural and creative cross-overs

 +/- 12.00     European Capital of Culture for the year 2019

 +/- 13.00     Working lunch - Meeting between sport ministers and representatives of the sport movement

+/- 14.40     Press conference

Sport

+/- 15.00     Beginning of Council meeting

+/- 15.10     Role of grassroots sport

+/- 15.25      Promote physical activity (in particular among young people) (in public session)

Catégories: European Union

Indicative programme - General Affairs Council meeting 19/05/2015

dim, 17/05/2015 - 13:44

Place:        Justus Lipsius building, Brussels

Chair:        Edgars Rinkēvičs, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Latvia  

All times are approximate and subject to change

+/- 07.30    Arrivals

+/- 08.50    Doorstep by Minister Rinkēvičs

 +/- 09.00   Beginning of Council meeting

 +/- 09.05    (poss) Approval of legislative A items (in public session)

                    (poss) Approval of non-legislative A items

                    Follow-up to the Special meeting of the European Council (23 April 2015)      

                    Preparation of the European Council on 25-26 June 2015

                    4 Presidents report on the EMU

+/- 11.30    Press conference

Catégories: European Union

Weekly schedule of President Donald Tusk

dim, 17/05/2015 - 13:44

Wednesday 13 May 2015
Aachen, Germany
Participation in the ceremony for the award of the Charlemagne Prize to the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz

Thursday 14 May 2015
Aachen, Germany
Participation in the ceremony for the award of the Charlemagne Prize to the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz
10.20 Bilateral meeting with President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko

Friday 15 May 2015
Gdansk, Poland
17.00 Participation in the conference "Europe with a view for the future"

Thursday 21 May 2015
Riga
Eastern Partnership summit
20:00 Informal working dinner

Friday 22 May 2015
Riga
Eastern Partnership summit
09.00 Official welcome
09.45 Family photo
10.00 Plenary session
13.45 Press conference

Catégories: European Union

Dinner speech by President Donald Tusk on the eve of the award of the Charlemagne Prize in Aachen

dim, 17/05/2015 - 13:44

I would first like to thank sincerely Chairman Linden, Mayor Philipp and the citizens of Aachen. It is an honour to be here this evening. Aachen is, of course, a symbol of European unity. But it is also the home region of the person in whose name we gather this evening, Martin Schulz.

Dear Martin, I am delighted for you. Tomorrow, you will be a Karlspreisträger. Their ranks include kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers, popes… and Poles. Like you, all have dedicated their lives to the unity of Europe. You are not the first President of the European Parliament to receive the Karlspreis. But your personal contribution to parliamentary democracy in Europe ensures that you will not be the last. After the European elections last year, the body to which you have dedicated over 20 years entered an important new stage of its history.

Martin, I have witnessed at first hand your ferocious work-rate, your total commitment and your tireless efforts as the most vocal spokesperson for democracy in Europe today. When I report to the Parliament after each European Council, I watch with admiration as you steer, with impressive authority, great European debates involving hundreds of parliamentarians from 28 countries. Perhaps I am being too influenced by the sonata we have just heard. But it seems to me that you are like the much-feared conductor of a great democratic orchestra. Everybody who knows you knows that you are impossible to deny. You will never give up and never give in in the fight for the things you believe in, and for that, I warmly salute you.

This year, we go from Schuman to Charlemagne, as we celebrated the beginnings of European integration on May 9th and now award this prestigious honour a few days later on the feast of the Ascension. The Schuman Declaration and the birth of the Coal and Steel Community were the start of Europe's ascension out of the grim cycle of violence and vengeance that haunts its history. I was powerfully reminded of that last weekend in my hometown of Gdansk, when I attended a ceremony to mark the end of the Second World War on Westerplatte, the very place where the War started.

Today - in the first major city liberated from Nazi rule by Western forces - we sit side-by-side as the closest partners, allies and friends. But seventy years ago, our peoples faced each other on the battlefields, and just 25 years ago, they were divided from each other by an Iron Curtain. Our responsibility remains never to forget the catastrophe that happened in Europe, still within living memory: the bitter fruit of economic depression, militant nationalism, racial hatred and totalitarianism. Its' legacy is with us still.

Martin, I know you feel that responsibility heavily. It is one reason for your uncompromising belief in the primacy of democracy and the rights of the individual. Part of the beauty of European integration is that you are in fact the 9th German to receive this prize. An award, in the words of its founder, Dr Kurt Pfeiffer, dedicated to the "voluntary union of the European peoples without constraint, so that in their newfound strength they may defend the highest earthly goods - freedom, humanity and peace."

You were there too, in 2012, when - alongside my colleague Herman (here today) and the President of the European Commission - the Union received the Nobel Peace Prize. It was the ultimate recognition of the unique contribution of European integration as a project for peace and a milestone on a journey not yet complete.

Our duty to remember the past puts the challenges of the present into perspective. Let us not forget the lessons of the 1930s, which W.H. Auden called "a low dishonest decade". Then, political leaders allowed an economic malaise to linger too long. They tolerated the violation of sovereign borders in the name of peace. They dismissed the rise of extremists on the right and left as temporary phenomena.

Every generation has to struggle for Europe. The first post-war generation had to rebuild and reconcile the Western half of the continent. The second had to re-unite the West with its vast Eastern hinterland, crushed under the boot of totalitarianism for half a century. What is then the challenge for the third generation of European unity? Nothing less than to deliver on the promise of Europe with a ruthless determination. To live its values and defend them from enemies inside and on the outside. To avoid the trap of political hypocrisy. To build a roof to protect the house of the European project.

In practice, this means action in several areas, none of which will be a surprise. First, it means doing whatever is necessary now to create a dynamic European economy that brings prosperity to its citizens on a lasting basis. That cannot be done without a satisfactory resolution of the Greek question, pro-investment policies and wide-ranging fiscal and labour market reforms. Ultimately, we must create a genuine Economic and Monetary Union, based on democratic consent, that allows Europe to be both competitive and caring.

Second, it means being aware that our credibility as a global actor was never more at stake than at the present time. To the east, there is a doubt whether Europeans have the courage to stand up to intimidation. We must leave people in no doubt. More broadly, there are those in the world that wonder whether the European Union - an economic giant - is truly aware that it can only shape the global order by having secure access to energy and also the open markets of its allies. When I consider the potential of a new transatlantic trade treaty to secure our prosperity and way of life for a generation, I am amazed that no-one is demonstrating in the streets in favour of the deal. The failure of TTIP would be a blow to Europe's standing in the world. We can either shape global prosperity in the Atlantic or have it decided for us in the Pacific.

Martin, I know that your favourite novel is The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa, whose most famous quotation is "Everything needs to change so everything can stay the same." I could not agree more. On all the issues I have just mentioned, we need to continue delivering change just to keep the status quo. This moment in the European Union's development is not a dress rehearsal. Citizens will not wait forever as mainstream politics fails to deliver prosperity and security. We must do what needs to be done, now, with a strong sense of purpose, or Europe goes backwards. it is as simple as that.

Sadly, the name Lampedusa evokes not just a beautiful novel of a bygone age, but now also the human tragedy unfolding every day in the Mediterranean. It is the third great challenge facing Europe, and unfortunately the one likely to remain with us the longest. We face a difficult summer ahead. In the coming months, we must respond to the crisis as humanely and responsibly as possible. It is a desperately difficult task and one in which we cannot hope to succeed fully without the assistance from the other side of the sea. No country can ignore responsibility if it can help prevent more deaths.

Let me turn aside for a moment to a related issue which absolutely affects the future of the European Union. Britain's European debate is an essential factor in almost everything we will discuss here this evening and tomorrow, whether it has to do with economics or geo-politics. History dictates that whenever Britain and the continent are estranged, the result is very bad for both. No reasonable person wishes for a Europe or a European Union devoid of British influence. We must work together to build a Union that properly serves its 500 million citizens.

It is my dearest hope that many other British names will join Winston Churchill, Roy Jenkins, Edward Heath and Tony Blair as recipients of the prize which Martin will receive tomorrow. King Alfred the Great was a uniting European monarch every bit as much as Charlemagne, his inspiration and model.

In his Spirit of the Laws, Montesquieu observed that every democratic system, if it is to function well, needs a clear separation of powers between the executive, legislature and judiciary. The European Union is no exception to this. But the European Parliament is exceptional: the world's only supranational, multi-lingual legislator, in conjunction with the Council. Since the passage of the Lisbon treaty, it has matured into perhaps the most remarkable expression of parliamentary power in the world, as anyone who has witnessed the process of co-decision can attest. If - as Spinoza said - the law is the mathematics of freedom, the European Parliament has expanded the freedoms of ordinary Europeans, using its own special calculus.

As you well know Martin, Günter Grass sadly died last month after a remarkable, sometimes controversial, life. He was your compatriot and fellow socialist, and also a Kasubian from Gdańsk, just like me. I was fortunate to have met him several times in my and his city. Grass famously said the job of the citizen is to keep one's mouth open, not shut. In this context, Günter Grass must surely have been very proud of you! I think we can confidently say that the European Parliament has been a great global citizen, often acting as the Union's conscience and remaining unapologetic about giving voice to its highest ideals. As its' most eloquent and fearless spokesperson, you can be proud of that, Martin - as I am sure your fellow parliamentarians are of you as their champion this evening.

However, let me insert one word of caution here. Despite all your efforts, we have to accept that the rise of the directly-elected Parliament has not coincided with a comparable increase in support for Europe across the continent. Populism is by no means a European, or Eurozone phenomenon; it is a political reality all over the world. But in our own backyard, just constructing and empowering institutions is no answer in itself. To maintain consent, institutions must deliver. Those that deliver just words become footnotes of history.

Dear Martin,
I find it hard to believe that it is now five years ago since I sat where you now sit and that I return this evening as President of the European Council. I can only wish you and Mrs Schulz the same joy that my wife and I experienced then. You truly both deserve it.

Dear Martin,
We represent two different political camps. You the democratic left, and me, the moderate right. But we have understood each other in the long years of our friendship, better than believers in the same ideas maybe because life is more important than ideology, and indeed our life stories have so much in common. You matured politically as a Socialist; I was thrown in jail by the Polish Communists. But my intuition tells me, that if you were a Pole, you would have shared the same prison cell with me.

We both know what the daily hard work is all about; when you sold books, I worked for many years as a construction worker. Yes, we have both been well-educated by life.

Your wife comes from today's Polish town of Szprotawa (Sprottau), while my parents grew up in Freistadt Danzig, that is why we both know that the friendship between Poles and Germans is one of the keys to a free and secure Europe. And, last but not least, we both dreamed about the same, completely apolitical career, the career of a professional football player: you played for your beloved Rhenania 05, Würselen, while I played for Lechia Gdańsk. If not for our injuries and some deficiencies in the football technique we could have played against each other in the World Cup in Spain in 1982. Without you on the team, the Germans only won the silver medal, when Poland without me on the field, just got the bronze. Now, de facto, we are playing in the same club, and tomorrow, you will join the golden medallists.

Martin, welcome to our golden team.

Martin, herzlich Willkommen in unserer goldenen Mannschaft.
 

Catégories: European Union

Meeting of the EU Military Committee at the level of EU Chiefs of Defence

dim, 17/05/2015 - 13:44

On 19 May 2015, the EU Military Committee will meet at the level of Chiefs of Defence (CHODs).  

On this occasion CHODs will host Mr. Hervé Ladsous, Under Secretary General of the UN - Head of Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and Lieutenant General Viktor Muzhenko, Chief of Defence of Ukraine.  

They will discuss recent developments regarding current and planned EU military missions and operations.  

For the first time, CHODs from partner nations engaged in EU military operations and missions have been invited to discuss with the 28 EU CHODs. Thus, CHODs from Canada, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia and Switzerland will express their view as well as their experience and recommendations.  

The 28 EU CHODs will also have an exchange of views with Colonel General Viktor Muzhenko, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, on the current situation in the country.

The CHODs will also focus attention on the deliverables for the next European Council of June and the foreseen follow-up work.

Catégories: European Union

Declaration by the High Representative, Federica Mogherini, on behalf of the European Union on the occasion of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, 17 May 2015

dim, 17/05/2015 - 13:44

On this International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the EU stands together with LGBTI people all around the world in the struggle to end discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. All human beings are equal in dignity and all are entitled to enjoy their rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Over the past years in some parts of the world LGBTI persons have made substantial progress towards obtaining equal rights. Yet in many places they continue to suffer discrimination and violence on account of their sexual orientation and gender identity. In several countries, same sex sexual relations between consenting adults are still criminalised and carry sentences of imprisonment or even the death penalty.

We will continue to make the case for the respect of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of sexual orientation and gender identity, in line with the EU's Guidelines on the rights of LGBTI persons. Through dialogues with third countries, our work in multilateral fora, public statements, and through our support to civil society, the EU will continue to advocate measures to combat discrimination and violence against LGBTI persons, and to actively promote their rights.

Catégories: European Union

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