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No. 213, 14 December 2018
A special meeting of the European Council took place on 13 December between the EU 27 leaders to discuss the future of Brexit and the Member States' preparedness for a no-deal scenario.
The meeting was called for by President Donald Tusk on 10 December, after Prime Minister May postponed a vote in the UK Parliament on the Brexit deal.
An agreement needs to be concluded by both parties, the EU and the UK, before the withdrawal date of 29 March 2019. This is to ensure the UK's orderly withdrawal so as to reduce uncertainty and, to the extent possible, minimise disruption. All the withdrawal issues are covered, including the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and of UK citizens living in the EU, the transition period, the financial settlement and the governance of the agreement, among a wide range of other separation issues. The Agreement also contains a legally operable solution to avoid the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland after the UK’s withdrawal.
Upon her arrival at the EU council meeting, HR/VP Federica Mogherini declared that while understandably Brexit would be on the minds of all at the meeting she was ready to discuss work on security and defence. She argued that the EU had made much progress in the area with closer cooperation between Member States and between the EU and NATO. The council highlighted the civilian aspects of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), in particular the civilian Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) compact which aims at improving the EU's capacity to deploy civilian crisis management missions.
Mogherini presented on this subject at the Foreign Affairs Council on Monday 10 December and in a speech to the European Parliament on Wednesday 12 December. Read more about this below.
As part of its commitment to transparency, the European Commission published a report from the latest round of negotiations between the EU and Australia, as well as the EU's six initial text proposals tabled during this round.
EU negotiators were in Canberra, Australia from 19 to 23 November 2018 for the second round of negotiations for an ambitious and comprehensive trade agreement. The talks were constructive and the teams had substantive discussions on the various negotiating chapters. The texts published today complement the 12 initial proposals that were published after the first round of negotiations.
The Commission has also published six proposals for the negotiations with New Zealand on: capital movements, digital trade, good regulatory practices, investment liberalisation and trade in services , sanitary and phytosanitary measures and transparency. The latest round of negotiations with New Zealand took place in Wellington from 8 to 12 October and the round report can be found here.
The Foreign Affairs Council took place on 10 December where HRVP Federica Mogherini and Member States Foreign Affairs Ministers discussed ongoing issues in Iran, Ukraine, the Western Balkans as well as Venezuela and EU- African Union cooperation.
Iran: Ministers focused on the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA), including ongoing EU efforts to preserve effective financial channels to Iran.
Western Balkans: Foreign Ministers reaffirmed the EU's unequivocal commitment to the European perspective of the Western Balkans. They also recalled their expectations for the next steps in the region's progress on its European path, in particular on rule of law and fight against corruption.
Ukraine: Foreign ministers recalled their utmost concern about the dangerous increase of tensions in the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait. They also reaffirmed that the EU does not recognise the "election" of 11 November 2018 and considers it as illegal and illegitimate.
Venezuela: EU continues work on the possibility of establishing an international contact group which could, if conditions are met, help facilitate a political process. The Council also confirmed its firm stance on the targeted restrictive measures in place on Venezuela.
EU - African Union Collaboration: Ministers want to reinforce the EU strategic partnership with Africa. Progress has already been made on cooperation on peace, security and governance. They highlighted the importance of engaging with youth. Ministers also underlined the crucial role of the private sector and private investment to boost EU-Africa relations. They welcomed the proposed new Africa-Europe alliance on sustainable investments and jobs.
The EU participated in the Intergovernmental Conference in Marrakesh to adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration on 10-11 December. The Compact provides the first international cooperative framework on migration; it aims to foster international cooperation in tackling a challenge that is global.
HR/VP Mogherini has stressed that the Global Compact largely reflects and respects the EU's key objectives and concerns concerning migration. Particularly, she highlighted the need to establish partnerships with countries of origin of transit and destination.
In the EU's experience, it is through those partnerships that the management of migration can be done in a humane way.
The successful trilateral cooperation between the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations, for example, has helped over 39,000 people to return from Libya safely to their homes.
Together the EU-IOM Joint Initiative have supported over 55,000 migrants to restart their lives. Under the EU Trust Fund for Africa the EU has invested €345 million for migrant protection, return and reintegration.
Common work under the Joint Valletta Action Plan, adopted by European and African leaders in 2015, has led to more than 1,200 projects for better protection of migrants and migration management. Over 5,3 million vulnerable people benefitted from basic services, food security and nutrition programmes.
Read Mogherini's speech here.
"I think we all agree that no single European country can respond effectively to any of the challenges of our times, and I think we agree that we, the European Union, have a responsibility to embrace our role as a global power, working together for peace, security and human development worldwide."
HR/VP Mogherini spoke to the European Parliament at Plenary in Strasbourg on 12 December. She talked about the CFSP and CSDP reports and made clear on the world stage, EU member states were stronger together than apart. She argued that in foreign affairs, Member States, instead of ceding sovereignty to the EU, were able to exert it more powerfully on the world stage.
To read the entirety of her speech, follow this link!
Ten years ago, in December 2008 a piracy crisis off the coast of Somalia was close to its height. There were frequent attacks on container ships and boats carrying food aid for the country. The EU took its responsibility. For the first time in history an EU naval mission was deployed to protect vital shipping lanes and importantly the delivery of aid. Naval and aviation assets of individual Member States were pulled together in record time to work under the EU flag.
Since then, humanitarian deliveries have reached the intended ports and security of commercial sea lanes drastically improved.
The 2018 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was awarded to Ukrainian filmmaker and writer Oleg Sentsov during a ceremony at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 12 December.
Sentsov was not in the Parliament to collect the award in person, because he remains in prison in Siberia, serving a 20-year sentence for “plotting acts of terrorism” against the Russian “de facto” rule in Crimea.
Oleg Sentsov was nominated for his peaceful protest against the illegal occupation of his native Crimea. Also for his courage, determination and his convictions in support of human dignity, democracy, the rule of law and human rights.
The award comes against a backdrop of serious tensions between Russia and Ukraine. European Parliament President, Antonio Tajani called for a de-escalation of the situation and reiterated support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine. He called for the immediate and unconditional release of Sentsov and all other illegally detained Ukrainian citizens in Russia and the Crimean peninsula as well as other imprisoned laureates.
For more information about this year's ceremony, follow this link.
The European Parliament approved the recently signed EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and Strategic Partnership Agreement at plenary session on 12 December.
The two agreements are expected to boost EU-Japan relations. Although the two already enjoy good relations, they have agreed to upgrade their partnership against a background of increasing international tensions and protectionism.
The proposed trade agreement will make it easier for European companies to export to Japan, while a planned strategic partnership will boost cooperation on common challenges such as security and the environment.
The agreements will now have to be approved by the Council before they can enter into force.
Read more about EU-Japan relations by following this link!
On 7 December, the Commission presented a coordinated plan to foster the development and use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Europe. This plan proposes joint actions for closer and more efficient cooperation between Member States, Norway, Switzerland and the Commission in four key areas:
For more information, follow this link.