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With its illegal activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey is undermining EU efforts to tackle climate change, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said at a meeting with other EU leaders on the sidelines of the COP25 climate summit in Madrid.
“In the medium and long term, we will be dependent on natural gas as an intermediate fuel on the way to a full replacement of coal by renewable energy sources,” Mitsotakis said.
“It is, therefore, a prerequisite for the EU to pay attention to the Eastern Mediterranean and the policies for the exploitation of new deposits from the wider region, which can be an important source of gas. Turkey’s moves undermine this overall effort,” the Greek PM added.
The discovery of huge gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has fuelled a race to tap underwater resources and triggered a dispute between Turkey and Greece and Cyprus, which also plan to ramp up its exploratory activities in the area.
Last week, Turkey signed a memorandum of understanding with Libya to demarcate maritime zones in the region triggering strong reactions in Athens, Nicosia and Cairo. The Turkish-Libyan deal ignores the island of Crete and Greece says Turkey want to set a legal precedent.
Following Turkey’s move, Greece and Egypt decided to speed up discussions for the demarcation of the Exclusive Economic Zones between them.
Greek FM Nikos Dendias said Ankara is hiding behind the fact that it has not ratified the International Convention on the Law of the Sea and warned the Libyan ambassador in Athens that he would be declared persona non grata if he doesn’t notify the agreement with Turkey to Greece.
An EU spokesperson told EURACTIV.com on 29 November that Turkey has to respect international law and good neighbourly relations and avoid any actions that would damage the peaceful settlement of disputes.
“Most recently, on 15 July 2019, the Council made clear its position that delimitation of exclusive economic zones and continental shelf should be addressed through dialogue and negotiation in good faith, in full respect of international law and in accordance with the principle of good neighbourly relations,” the EU official said.
Athens also expects French support at a NATO summit in London today, after Mitsotakis called Macron last week asking his support in London. French energy giant Total has licenses to explore and exploit oil and gas offshore from Cyprus.
Greek government sources confirmed today that PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the sidelines of NATO summit in London. [Sarantis Michalopoulos reporting from Madrid]
Taming the farmers. Following protests by farmers in recent months, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner (both CDU) on Monday (2 December) welcomed around 40 associations and organisations at an ‘Agrargipfel’ (agricultural summit) in Berlin to debate the planned tightening of environmental regulation. Farmers will be more closely involved in nature conservation and climate protection decisions, Merkel said after the meeting.
“I believe that the summit primarily serves to signal the agricultural side: We have not lost sight of you,” said Christian Rehmer, an expert on agricultural policy at Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND). More criticism comes from Martin Häusling, spokesman for agricultural policy for the Greens in the EU Parliament: “The government is constantly talking to the usual protagonists of the farmers’ association. Many CDU members of parliament who sit on the Agriculture Committee are at the same time farmers’ association officials”. (Read more on this story)
(Claire Stam | EURACTIV.de)
Centrists and conservatives in ‘last-minute’ effort to prevent Catalan backed coalition
Centrist-liberal Ciudadanos (Citizens, Cs) has united forces with conservative Partido Popular (Popular Party) in a “last-minute” effort to prevent a future coalition between the socialist party (PSOE) and leftist Unidas Podemos (United We Can), supported by Catalan separatists of United Left of Catalonia (ERC), EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported.
On Monday, Citizens’ spokeswoman in the Spanish Parliament, Inés Arrimadas, sent a letter to socialist PM Pedro Sánchez asking him to convene a trilateral meeting PSOE, Ciudadanos and PP, with the aim of finding a “centrist-moderate” and “constitutional” alternative to a leftist government.
“I want to propose a majority of 221 moderate and constitutionalist seats (clearly over the minimum majority of 176 seats required) to reach an agreement that will allow putting in place a government that excludes populists, nationalists and separatists”, Arrimadas said.
She also asked Sánchez to “make history” by forming a “constitutional” block (PSOE-Cs-PP), and thus avoid a government supported by Catalan separatists, whose demands include the right of self-determination for the region.
Meanwhile, the leader of United We Can, Pablo Iglesias, highlighted on Monday the effort that both the PSOE and ERC are making to bring positions closer and reach an agreement that would allow the formation of a new Government, in which Iglesias would be vice-president.
“It takes a lot of empathy and listening skills…I think the PSOE is working hard and I think ERC is also working hard,” Iglesias told reporters on his arrival at the global climate summit COP25 that started on Monday in Madrid. (EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)
Goulard indicted. Sylvie Goulard, the rejected French candidate for the European Commission was charged on 29 November as part of the investigation into suspicions of fictitious jobs of assistants when she was an MEP. Handpicked by Emmanuel Macron, Goulard’s appointment to the EU executive was blocked by the European Parliament, in part because of her alleged involvement in the fictitious assistants’ case. (EURACTIV.FR)
Read more about this story: “Goulard’s indictment confirms EU Parliament doubts”
‘Bella Ciao’ in Antwerp. Matteo Salvini, the former Italian interior minister and leader of the Italian Lega Nord, has been invited by the far-right Vlaams Belang to speak at a meeting of the European Identity and Democracy (ID) group in Antwerp. In his speech, marked by “the spectre of massive immigration”, attacks on “bankers” and all “leftist racists”, Salvini congratulated Vlaams Belang on their May election victory: “We are already working very well together. And if it is not today, it will be tomorrow, but Vlaams Belang will come to power in Flanders and the Lega in Italy.” While his party colleagues received him like a rockstar, the reception outside was rather chilly: Italians living in Belgium denounced the “rally of hatred”. They were joined by the “Sardines”, a protest movement born in Bologna against Salvini and the extreme right.
(Alexandra Brzozowski | EURACTIV.com)
Tories pledge US-style visa system for EU citizens after Brexit. The UK’s Conservative Party have pledged to introduce a new visa waiver scheme for EU citizens after Brexit, in a bid to “take back control” of the country’s borders.
The party aims to introduce a US-style clearance scheme call Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA), which would require EU citizens travelling to the UK to bring their passports when entering the country, as well as filling in an online form before travelling.
The Conservatives say that the clampdown would allow them to “screen arrivals and block threats from the UK” but Labour have criticised the move, saying that it could negatively impact border security as well as hinder information-sharing agreements with the EU. (Samuel Stolton, EURACTIV.com)
Conte’s fightback. In a hearing before Parliament’s lower house, Italy’s PM Giuseppe Conte faced down criticism raised by opposition parties on the overhaul of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).
He also pointed out that, when ESM reform was provisionally approved, none of the ministers present, including those from the right-wing Lega, raised any objections. (Gerardo Fortuna | EURACTIV.com)
Will Banaś go? The ruling PiS now wants to oust Marian Banaś, the head of the Supreme Audit Office (NIK) and former finance minister, a loyal PiS member who secured the Audit Office job with PiS votes.
However, a series of scandals involving Banaś have surfaced in recent months, including his ownership of a house in which, according to media reports, people linked to the mafia were running a brothel. Jarosław Kaczyński, the party leader, and other officials have tried, unsuccessfully, to convince him to step down and, under the Polish legal system, it is almost impossible to remove the head of the NIK by the parliament, though there have been talks that Mateusz Morawiecki, the prime minister, considered changing the constitution to be able to do that. After weeks of uncertainty and defiance of his own party, Banaś was said to have resigned on Monday, but the NIK denied the information.
Banaś’s case is a hot topic in Polish politics and has given welcome ammunition to the opposition parties. However, it is unclear how much impact Banaś’s case will have on support for PiS, as the party still holds a steady lead in the polls. (Łukasz Gadzała | EURACTIV.pl)
Elections are on. 24 political parties and one coalition will run in general elections planned for February 29. The Smer-SD (PES) party that has dominated Slovak politics since 2006, launched an election campaign with the slogan “Responsible change”. In his first campaign video, the PM Peter Pellegrini and leader of Smer-SD ́s candidate list warned against migration and the chaos of Brexit. (Zuzana Gabrižová | EURACTIV.sk)
Commission vs. Babiš. The European Commission audit of companies connected to the Agrofert holding, addressing the EU subsidies provided to them, and linked to the suspected conflict of interest of PM Andrej Babiš, has been finalised and Czechia now has two months to formulate a reply on how it will carry out its recommendations. Babiš has denied all allegations and stated yesterday that the EC audit report is not the final version of the document and that the EC has no authority to interpret Czech laws. An EC spokesperson confirmed later that the audit report is indeed final. (Ondřej Plevák | EURACTIV.cz)
Bulgaria should step up efforts to fight hate speech: “The government should step up its efforts to fight hate speech in Bulgaria, particularly against Roma, LGBTI people and other minority groups,” said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, after a five-day visit to the country.
Hate speech and hostility against Roma persist, with little if any response from the authorities. “The lack of reaction to some very serious instances of hate speech by some high-level politicians, which systematically go unsanctioned, is worrying,” said Mijatović.
Moreover, Commissioner Mijatović is alarmed by the continuous deterioration of media freedom in Bulgaria, where media ownership, threats and harassment of journalists, and the use of defamation suits are chronic problems. (dnevnik.bg)
Lobbying effort to end CVM. A big Bulgarian delegation headed by Vice President Iliana Iotova was in the European Parliament on Monday in a lobbying effort to convince EU institutions to put an end to the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM). Bulgaria and Romania are the only EU members with such a mechanism, and a Commission report last October said Bulgaria had met the commitments undertaken by the time of its accession in 2007. The ball is now in the camp of the Council, and the Parliament. Iotova said she strongly disagreed with the lifting of the CVM being linked to the introduction of an EU-wide mechanism monitoring the rule of law, which several countries oppose. Several Bulgarian MEPs criticised the CVM for its “double standards”, “discrimination” and “irrelevance”.
A Commission representative, William Sleath, Director for “Citizens, Migration and Security Union”, said it was very important that Bulgaria abides by the recommendations of the Council of Europe Venice Commission “on the sensitive question of the control over the Prosecutor General”. Both the outgoing Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov and the newly elected Ivan Gueshev were present. (Georgi Gotev, EURACTIV.com)
V4 on EU enlargement. The Visegrad Group (V4 – Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary) expects the new European Commission to speed up European Union enlargement, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said. After meeting his V4 counterparts in Prague, he said that “one of the greatest failures of the previous European Commission headed by Jean-Claude Juncker was bringing the enlargement process to an almost complete halt”. “The swiftest possible integration of the Western Balkans is in the European Union and Hungary’s political, security, economic and strategic interests, as it helps the bloc to resist migration pressure effectively,” he said. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Strengthened cooperation with Gazprom. Gazprom plays a leading role in supplying gas to Hungary and will most probably continue to do so in the wake of prospective infrastructure projects in the region, Szijjártó said after talks with Viktor Zubkov, chairman of the board of Gazprom. “As Hungary has a vested interest in the long-term, predictable and reliable cooperation with Gazprom, it is prepared to launch talks on a new long-term gas supply agreement with the company,” said Szijjártó. Hungary imports most of its gas from Russia under a supply agreement due to expire by 2020. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
A rush to change laws: Ministers have hinted that they could draft a law to cancel the early release of inmates if they served their time in improper conditions. The new government had promised to repeal this law that has already led to the release of about 20,000 inmates. The aim of the law was to ease overcrowding in prisons, but some of the released inmates soon broke the law again and returned to jail afterwards.
A draft to repeal the law is already in Parliament, and the centre-right government is trying to force a quick adoption of the law. However, the socialist party (PSD), whose government was sacked almost two months ago, have pushed for a debate of the draft for Wednesday and seem keen to slow the process down. (EURACTIV.ro)
Wine battle in the General Court. The hearing before the General Court (EGC) in Luxembourg in Slovenia’s proceedings against the European Commission begins on Tuesday (3 December). European Commission has authorized Croatia to use the protected name “teran” for its wine, although it is protected as Slovenian. According to Slovenian sources, their main argument is that Croatia did not ask for any exemptions for teran during the accession negotiations for EU membership. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr) (read more on this story)
Teachers strike ends. A teachers strike that lasted more than a month, ended on Monday. after union leaders said that their demand for an increase of the job complexity index would be met. The strike became a huge threat for the stability of coalition because Blaženka Divjak, Education Minister (HNS-RE), was on the side of unions. Asked if he regarded this as his defeat, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković (HDZ-EPP) said that this government was raising wages for everyone and should not be criticised for it. (Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
Weber visit. The European People’s Party leader, Manfred Weber, said during a visit to Belgrade on Monday that sending a European Parliament delegation to Serbia so quickly after the inauguration of a new European Commission was a fresh signal of support for EU accession prospects for Serbia and the region at large. Weber added that Serbia and the EU share the idea of a ‘European way of life’, and praised Serbia’s readiness to join the Union. (EURACTIV.rs)
Presidency approves repatriation of citizens captured in Syria and Iraq. A group of 24 women and children from Bosnia and Herzegovina, who have spent time in the territory controlled by Islamic State terrorists, will be deported from Syria, the Presidency of BiH decided on 29 November. The decision refers to women and children as well as abandoned children who were taken captive after the military defeat of extremist groups in Syria and Iraq.(Željko Trkanjec | EURACTIV.hr)
[Edited by Benjamin Fox, Daniel Eck]