HR/VP Borrell has written about his “deep concerns” over the EU-Russia relationship following his trip to Moscow last month. “I have just returned from a very complicated visit to Moscow, on which I had embarked to discuss the fraught state of EU-Russia relations” Borrell said. “They have been low for a number of years, and deteriorated even further after recent developments”.
Borrell said his discussions with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had “reached high levels of tension” on the topic of Alexei Navalny and wider human rights issues in the country. “I reminded Minister Lavrov that Russia’s obligations in the field of human rights stem from international commitments it has freely assumed [like] the European Convention on Human Rights of the Council of Europe”.
However, despite the “regrettable” outcomes of the visit, Borrell stressed the importance of engaging with difficult partners. The EU cannot lock “ourselves up behind walls … that position will not bring greater security”.
On 22 February, EU foreign ministers agreed to push back on infringements of international law and human rights, contain disinformation and cyberattacks, but also engage on issues of interest to the EU. Borrell announced an agreement to impose restrictions against individuals responsible for the arrest and imprisonment of Navalny. ”For the first time ever we will make use of the EU Global Human Rights Regime to this end”, he said. Four Russian officials are now banned from travelling and have had their assets frozen.
Following a military coup in Myanmar last month that overthrew a democratically elected government, the EU was quick to criticise the army’s actions. In a joint statement released with foreign ministers of the other G7 countries, HR/VP Josep Borrell said the group was “united in condemning the coup in Myanmar … and continue to stand with the people of Myanmar in their quest for democracy and freedom”. They also denounced police and military violence against peaceful protestors in the country. At least 18 people have been killed in recent street clashes.
The Council of the European Union, which represents Member States’ governments, called for “a de-escalation of the current crisis … the restoration of the legitimate civilian government and the opening of the newly elected parliament”. Additionally, they demanded “military authorities to immediately and unconditionally release President U Win Myint, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all those who have been detained or arrested in connection with the coup”.
Despite the unrest, the EU has continued its humanitarian aid programme in the region. In February it announced an extra €39 million to “address the needs of displaced and conflict-affected communities in Bangladesh and Myanmar”. The aid is particularly focused on helping the Rohingya, whose refugee situation has deteriorated due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, said “the recent military overthrow … in Myanmar risks worsening the already dire humanitarian crisis” in the country. He added that “the EU will continue to provide strong humanitarian aid support directly to the most vulnerable”.
The EU is developing a Strategic Compass for its security and defence policy. The Strategic Compass is intended to provide greater clarity around what type of security and defence actor the EU wants to be. It will assess the new and increasing threats Europe faces, how to counter them and protect EU citizens and enhance the bloc’s strategic autonomy to become a stronger global partner.
Overall, the Strategic Compass will help to reinforce a common European security and defence culture. It will define which areas and objectives to focus on and how the EU can achieve its policies.
The first step took place last November with a threat analysis process. This was the first time the EU has conducted a comprehensive analysis on key threats facing Europe. It was divided into four categories: global and regional threats, conflicts in Europe's neighbourhood, challenges by state actors and threats by non-state actors.
The next phase is a strategic dialogue with Member States in the first half of this year. The intention is for the Compass to be adopted in 2022.
The EU has doubled €500 million for the COVAX programme, bringing its overall contribution to €1 billion. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU was “committed to ensuring universal access to vaccines everywhere on Earth, for everyone who would need them”. She added that “COVAX is best placed to help us reach this goal” so that “is why we decided to double the European Commission's contribution”.
COVAX is a global initiative that aims to ensure equitable access to, and distribution of, Covid-19 vaccines. To date, a total of 191 countries are participating in the programme, 92 of them low and middle-income economies. The EU is one of COVAX’s largest contributors, donating €3.1 billion as Team Europe.
The increase in support comes alongside €100 million in new humanitarian assistance for vaccination campaigns in Africa. The funding will be targeted at countries with critical humanitarian needs and fragile health systems. Explaining the decision, von der Leyen said “we've always been clear that the pandemic won't end until everyone is protected globally. The EU stands ready to support the vaccination strategies in our African partners”.
With the world in transition the EU has reframed what it wants from the global multilateral system in the 21st century. The EU seeks to practically achieve its collaboration goals and also to leverage the EU’s geo-political and economic strength more effectively on the international stage.
Its newly-released Joint Communication calls for the promotion of global peace and security, more cooperation on the existential threat of climate change and a collective approach to “build back better” from the Covid-19 pandemic. There is a focus on digital, green and equitable transitions. To achieve this, the report pushes for an “ambitious modernisation of key institutions”, like the UN, WTO and WHO, and for Member States and the EU to act with greater unity on political, social and economic issues.
HR/VP Borrell said the EU’s advocacy for the rules-based international system was “not just an article of faith … it stems from the factual observation that multilateralism has coincided with the longest period of global peace, stability and human development” in history. But Borrell stressed that multilateralism was under serious threat “because of great power rivalry, competitive nationalism and populism” emerging around the world.
Such a world needed “agreed rules and strong institutions”, he said. That is why the Joint Communication was released, “to keep up the pressure, including on ourselves, to follow up and deliver. In short, to act”. The report comes soon after Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta delivered her inaugural speech to the diplomatic corps at Waitangi. In her address, Mahuta stressed the importance of multilateralism, saying: “New Zealand relies upon international organisations and global rules to voice our views on important issues”. She added Aotearoa will “work hard to foster collaboration” during her term.
The European Commission is reviewing the EU’s trade policy. Called the Trade Policy Review (TPR), its objective is to build consensus around a new direction for European trade over the next few years. The assessment responds to a variety of new global challenges, like the rise of China and climate change as well as lessons learned from the coronavirus pandemic.
Released on 18th February, the new trade strategy focuses on assisting the EU’s economic recovery from Covid-19, with support for green and digital transformations. It also reinforces the EU’s commitment to multilateralism and reforming global trade rules, specifically at the WTO, to ensure they are fair and up-to-date.
Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said the TPR and new trade strategy were necessary because “in the next decade, 85% of global growth will take place outside of the EU … more of the same is not good enough”. Dombrovskis described the policy as “open, sustainable [and] assertive”. Adding, it is “how Europe will express our leadership in trade policy, at home and abroad”.
The latest EURAXESS Australia and New Zealand flashnote was released last week. It features an interview with Dr Nikhil Sengupta, Social and Organisational Psychology Lecturer from New Zealand and a recipient of the grant in 2020 and announces the start of Horizon Europe 2021.
Established by the European Research Council, the 2021 work programme will use €1.9 billion to allow some 1,000 top researchers to pursue frontier research, as well as to support jobs for an estimated 6,860 postdoctoral researchers, PhD students and other research staff employed in ERC-funded teams.
The weekly EURAXESS update summarizes the most recent European news and opportunities for academics in the Pacific region. See this edition for lots of job opportunities; 38 Postdoctoral Fellowships in Health Life Sciences, 15 PhD positions in ice-core related Climate Science, 13 PhD positions in the area of Neurological Diseases and 16 PhD positions in Life and Natural Sciences, among many opportunities.
As a joint project of the Goethe-Institut, Schwules Museum Berlin, and the Federal Agency for Civic Education, this exhibition takes the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots as an opportunity to offer an insight into the history of queer movements in the Federal Republic of Germany, the German Democratic Republic, and reunited Germany since the 1960s.
The exhibition highlights moments of the queer movement’s history without claiming to tell the only possible story. Just like the debate about the legacy of the Stonewall Riots, it questions the power dynamic at work in the queer politics of memory. Join us in remembering Stonewall and happy Pride!
Dates: 8 March - 1 April 2021, Monday to Thursday 12-6pm at the, as well as over CubaDupa Weekend on Saturday and Sunday 27 and 28th March 12-6pm, at Goethe-Institut in Wellington.
Due to Covid restrictions, the exhibition opening will take place on Friday 26 March, from 5:30pm, alert levels allowing.
Read more about the exhibition here.
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