Global Europe Brief: Re-Open EU, ‘End of Hong Kong’ & Illegal visits

Welcome to EURACTIV’s Global Europe Brief, your weekly update on the EU in the global perspective from our foreign affairs news team: Georgi Gotev and Alexandra Brzozowski.

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RE-OPENING EUROPE

After quite some back and forth, the EU ultimately agreed on a ‘safe travel list’ including 15 third countries from where travel to Europe will be possible from 1 July.

But while Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay made the list of countries approved for leisure or business travel, there have been some notable exceptions.

The US, along with Russia, Brazil and Turkey, is among countries whose containment of the virus is considered worse than that of the EU average and which will therefore have to wait at least two weeks until the next list update.

But while Washington took the announcement rather pragmatically, Turkey said it is disappointed by the EU’s decision to exclude it from the list and called on the bloc to correct the “mistake” as soon as possible.

The EU’s latest lifting of travel measures comes as the global count of COVID-19 infections has reached some 10.3 million known cases and the World Health Organisation has warned that the pandemic is “not even close to being over”.

Which is one of the main reasons, that the freshly drawn-up list is causing problems already:

Just like with the bloc‘s slow and messy reopening of its internal borders from 15 June, the broader picture here remains inconsistent yet again, as member states are not legally obliged to follow the recommendation.

The list is to be updated every two weeks, the EU says, depending on how the health situation will progress, causing fears that the summer season might be more stressful than wished for.

Will Europe’s tourism sector survive the pandemic? And what is the EU doing in all this? Find out more in our video ‘Europe’s tourism dilemma explained‘.

EU IN THE WORLD

‘END OF HONG KONG‘? China passed a sweeping national security law for Hong Kong, a historic move that critics and many western governments fear will smother the finance hub’s freedoms and hollow out its autonomy. The US, UK, EU and the UN rights watchdog have all voiced fears the law could be used to stifle criticism of Beijing, which wields similar laws on the authoritarian mainland to crush dissent.

At the same time, London said China’s imposition of a security law on Hong Kong was a “clear and serious” violation of the 1984 Joint Declaration and that the UK would offer around 3 million residents of the former colony a path to British citizenship.

Tokyo, meanwhile, is also concerned about China’s actions in Hong Kong, which was promised in 1997 a “one country, two systems” based on liberal values, Japanese Ambassador to the EU Kazuo Kodama told EURACTIV.

SYRIA AID. International donors pledged $7.7 billion in aid to face the ongoing humanitarian crisis at a Syrian aid summit co-hosted by the EU and the United Nations. The meeting of donors in Brussels, which included some 60 governments and non-governmental agencies, was focused on humanitarian aid but not on reconstruction, which will happen only after the war is brought to an end.

DEADLINES, DEADLINES. The UK has earmarked September as its deadline for agreeing on a new trade deal with the EU after negotiators held their first face-to-face meetings since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The EU’s Michel Barnier and UK counterpart David Frost met in Brussels this week, marking the start of their first in-person negotiating rounds as the two sides seek to intensify the pace of talks.

ANOTHER SHAKY DEAL. Mercosur hopes to finally sign by the end of this year the association agreement with the EU reached in June 2019 after two decades of negotiations. While the chapter on politics and cooperation has been closed, other aspects still need to be revised and the agreement, which has more than 7,000 pages, still needs to be translated into all EU languages so that it can be approved by national parliaments. However, the eve of a summit meeting was overshadowed by French President Emmanuel Macron’s latest comments against the deal.

DEFENCE CORNER

RIGHT-WING EXTREMISM. German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) announced on Tuesday (30 June) that she would be dissolving one of the four units of the Special Forces Command (KSK) following reports of right-wing extremism within its ranks. Her final warning to the rest of the group came on Wednesday (1 July), as she said she would not rule out further consequences if there are no internal reforms. “We give the KSK time to press the reset button and reposition itself a bit,” she told reporters in Berlin, adding that “if they want to keep their KSK, this is the chance they have now.” Right-wing extremism, however, is not the only issue in the KSK.

NAVAL INCIDENT FALLOUT. France has decided to withdraw from NATO‘s naval mission ‘Operation Sea Guardian‘ following an incident in the Eastern Mediterranean in which France says Turkish frigates were “extremely aggressive” towards a French navy vessel participating in a NATO mission in the area. Tensions with Turkey have escalated and Paris accuses Ankara of shipping arms to Libya in defiance of a UN embargo. Nikos Dendias, the foreign minister of Greece, which is on the same page with France regarding Turkey’s role in the Mediterranean, visited Libya on Wednesday (1 July).

EURASIA DIGEST

ILLEGAL VISIT. Ukraine’s ambassador to the EU has written to European Parliament President David Sassoli to condemn a move by a group of French MEPs who are visiting the peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014. Five MEPs went on a three-day visit to Crimea until 2 July to act as “experts” and “assess the voting process on amendments” to Russia’s constitution.

UNDER PRESSURE. Ukraine’s central bank governor handed in his resignation prompting worried responses from Western partners and casting a shadow on the country’s new IMF loan program.

US ELECTION WATCH

It’s 124 days until the US Presidential elections and a new PACcalled 43 Alumni for Biden, says it has hundreds of alumnae of George W. Bush’s administration and campaigns ready to endorse Joe Biden.

What to watch and why it matters: Hours after President Donald Trump’s campaign announced an enormous cash influx of $131 million last month, Joe Biden’s team said it outraised him with a $141 million haul. For Biden, this represented a reversal after he had struggled with fund-raising for much of the primary campaign.

INFLUENCE PERCEPTIONS. The pandemic may be quickly reshaping views of geopolitics, according to new polling data. More people in France, Germany and the US view China as the most influential world power, as US hegemony wanes. However, most also want their countries to take a tougher approach to China on climate change, human rights, and cybersecurity.

WHAT ELSE WE’RE READING 

ON OUR RADAR FOR THE NEXT DAYS…

With Europe’s everyday business slowing down for summer break, we’ll continue to keep you updated on all relevant EU foreign affairs news.

 

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