The Brief, powered by Eurogas – Hagia Sophia in Cyprus: when Eurocrats ruin Europe

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter. [Shutterstock/Boris Stroujko]

Europe’s unification process was never going to be an easy task. When there are economic imbalances among EU member states, when the creation of an ‘EU identity’ clashes with different cultures, the integration process is faced with difficulties.

But with the right policies in place, these differences can be gradually overcome. What cannot be handled is ignorance, especially in the EU bubble.

EU lawmakers from Greece’s leftist Syriza party have complained to European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and Parliament President David Sassoli after the executive’s services said in an official written reply that Istanbul’s famous Hagia Sophia church is in …Cyprus.

The MEPs said it was unacceptable that the Commission does now know where one of the most important symbols of Christian heritage is.

In late July, the Turkish government decided to turn Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage site, into a mosque, prompting strong reactions across the world, as well as questions to the Commission from Syriza lawmakers.

“The Commission monitors closely the situation concerning religious and cultural monuments in the areas not under the effective control of the Republic of Cyprus and attributes great importance to the preservation of cultural heritage,” the Commission said in its reply.

When Eurocrats in the Brussels bubble, who often act like they know everything, make this kind of mistake, it’s not a communication issue. It’s about ignorance or, worse still, indifference.

For many EU citizens, especially Greeks, Hagia Sophia’s status is highly emotional and sensitive, and Turkey’s decision made many people unhappy.

If we ignore these people – and this is but the latest example – we cannot expect to get a broad consensus for a more integrated Europe.

If people associate ‘united Europe’ primarily with Eurocrats in their ivory tower, the project will never make headway.


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The Roundup

EU leaders are holding virtual talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, hoping to make progress on trade and investment, even as tensions mount between Beijing and the West over Hong Kong and treatment of the country’s Uighur Muslim minority.

The EU will press China to aim for climate neutrality by 2060 or eventually face punitive carbon tariffs during a summit aimed at concluding a bilateral trade agreement by the end of the year.

The European Commission will argue this week in favour of a 55% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and push for higher shares of renewable energy as part of an ambitious plan to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century, EURACTIV has learned.

EU lawmakers threatened to veto any trade deal with the UK unless Boris Johnson’s government withdraws its plans to tear up parts of its Withdrawal Agreement with the bloc, as negotiations on a future trade deal teetered on the brink of collapse.

Seventy-one lawmakers from the major political groups in the European Parliament have called on EU member states and the Commission to end fragmentation and improve coordination in order to better tackle the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

European Romani communities experienced increased institutional racism and discrimination during the COVID-19 lockdown measures across the bloc, a new report by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) has found.

The European Commission has agreed to extend a waiver of aircraft takeoff and landing slot rules for a further six months, in a boon to the struggling aviation industry.

Look out for…

  • European Parliament’s plenary session with a preparation debate on the special European Council meeting in late September, EU’s chief diplomat Joseph Borrell briefs EU lawmakers
  • EU lawmakers vote on reports on EU arms exports, amendments to the EUCivil Protection Mechanism and implementation of the EU Association Agreement with Georgia
  • European Commission College meeting with Communication on Implementation of Recovery and Resilience Facility; Digital Package; Green Package; Revised State Aid guidelines on ETS; EU Action Plan to Counter Racism
  • EU takes part in UN General Assembly

Views are the author’s

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