Europarliament imposes COVID19 Certificate

Brussels 31.10.2021 EP’s Bureau decided that the request to present an EU Digital COVID Certificate to access Parliament’s buildings will be extended to all people wishing to enter, reads the announcement on the site of the European Parliament.

As of November 3, all people entering Parliament’s buildings in its three places will be requested to present a valid EU Digital COVID Certificate, including journalists. The EU Digital COVID certificate proves that a person is either fully vaccinated, has immunity after having recovered from COVID-19 or can show a recent negative PCR test result. Both digital and paper formats of the EU Digital COVID Certificate or of a recognised equivalent certificate will be accepted.

A proof of a negative result of a PCR test carried out within the last 48 hours in Belgium, Luxembourg or France will also be accepted.

Please note that the existing precautionary measures like the compulsory wearing of a medical face mask and temperature checks at entrances remain in place.

The measure, taken by the Bureau will enable MEPs the return to in-person meetings for parliamentary activities, while continuing to guarantee safety. The decision takes into account the specificity of the European Parliament, an Institution gathering MEPs and other actors travelling to and from different Member States on a regular basis and the significant differences in vaccination level in Member States, according to the latest ECDC data. Please note that the measure was already in place for all external visitors since the beginning of September.

Personal data retrieved from the Certificate during the scanning process will only encompass the name of the holder, the authenticity and the validity of the Certificate. The personal data will be processed in accordance with Regulation (EU) 2018/1725 and its use will be strictly limited to granting access to Parliament’s buildings. Personal data will not be stored, recorded or retained locally or externally or transferred to any other Union body or third party.

Russia denies gas use for politics

Brussels 29.10.2021 The European Union is perfectly aware that Moscow uses gas for mutually beneficial cooperation, and never blackmails anyone, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on her Telegram channel on Friday, October 29, following Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s claims that Russia was allegedly using gas to blackmail the EU into making favourable decisions.

“Russia does not use gas for blackmail, but for mutually beneficial cooperation. The EU and Poland know this quite well,” Zakharova has underlined.

Russian diplomat added that Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo had reacted in a rather bizarre way to Marowiecki’s claims the EU was threatening Poland with World War III.

“The Belgian Prime minister said that those who utter such statements ‘are playing with fire when waging war with your European colleagues for internal political reasons’,” Zakharova wrote.

On Friday, October 29, Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Belgian ambassador to Poland, Luc Jacobs, out of discontent over Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo’s criticism of Warsaw’s approach to its rule-of-law argument with Brussels.

Jacobs met Poland’s Secretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Szymon Szynkowski vel Sęk on Friday afternoon, the Ministry’s spokesperson said. Diplomats typically use such requests to convey displeasure.

Belgium’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also confirmed the meeting, which illustrates the growing tension within the EU over alleged democratic deficit in Poland. The EU institutions are frustrated with the Polish judiciary reforms, which law experts said have undermined judicial independence, as well as a court ruling that questioned the supremacy of EU law.

Navalny wins Sakharov Prize

Strasbourg 20.10.2021 Sakharov Prize for Navalny is completely justified: “It is quite right that the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought should be awarded to Navalny. Alexei Navalny is constantly opposing Vladimir Putin’s regime, despite the Russian president’s efforts to silence him in every possible way.” That is the reaction of MEP Peter van Dalen (ChristenUnie) to the announcement just now.

By awarding the Sakharov Prize to Alexei Navalny, the European Parliament is giving the Russian opposition a great boost, says Van Dalen: “We are making it clear loud and clear that Putin’s attempts to silence opponents are not working.” Navalny was nominated by the EPP group for the Sakharov Prize more than a month ago, after MEP Peter van Dalen (Christian Union) nominated him. He then justified it as follows: “Navalny deserves this award for his continued resistance to Putin and his regime. For this fight he almost paid the highest price: his life. He has been bullied, harassed, imprisoned, arrested, poisoned and re-arrested countless times since 2006.”

According to Van Dalen, the former opposition leader stands for human rights, open democracy and transparency and advocates reforms against corruption in Russia: “The result of this, however, is that he is now in a Russian prison camp. As far as I am concerned, there is therefore no other person who meets the criteria of this award as well as Navalny. He is truly committed to freedom of thought.” Van Dalen hopes that a large group in Russia may feel supported by this award: “In addition to Navalny, we also honor the enormous list of others who have become victims of Putin’s regime in recent years. Navalny is therefore the icon of resistance against the dictator in Moscow.”
The official presentation of the Sakharov Prize is on December 15 in Strasbourg.

Crimea: EU non-recognition policy

Brussels 15.10.2021 The EU condemns the decision of the Russian Federation to conduct a population census in the “illegally annexed Ukrainian territory of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol” from 15 October until 14 November, and the launching of yet another conscription campaign on 1 October.

“These actions are an attempt to legitimise the illegal annexation of Crimea and further undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders”.(Tweet below: new road infrastructure).

The European Union calls on Russia to stop all violations of international law and international humanitarian law on the Crimean peninsula. The European Union will continue to work for a peaceful end of Russia’s “illegal annexation of the peninsula”, as reiterated at the first summit of the International Crimean Platform on 23 August. The European Union will continue and to enforce its non-recognition policy.

Russia denies AstraZeneca theft allegations

Brussels 13.10.2021 Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters on Tuesday October 12 that claims put forward by UK media of Russia having allegedly stolen AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine formula are unfounded.

“I don’t think anyone will take these unfounded accusations seriously, there have already been many baseless accusations,” Russian top diplomat said.

Lavrov added that he had not heard these accusations against Russia, and also recalled that the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in many cases had produced negative side effects, particularly thrombosis (blood-clotting).

“No such cases have occurred with Sputnik V. I think that everyone who is interested will draw conclusions for themselves,” the foreign minister has underlined.

On October 10, The Sun, a well-known UK tabloid, published an article that claimed that Russian intelligence services allegedly received information about the formula of the vaccine developed by UK-Swedish company AstraZeneca and later used it to create Russia’s Sputnik V formula.

Moscow Ryabkov-Nuland talks

Brussels 12.10.2021 The talks between US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov ended at the Russian foreign ministry. The negotiations lasted more than an hour and a half.(Image: Moscow skyline).

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said that during the talks with US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, the sides addressed bilateral issues with a focus on strategic stability.

“We deliberated at length on all the issues on bilateral agenda. This was our main focus. Among international topics, we addressed strategic stability and the prospects for continuing work in this area. Although, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nuland does not nominally discuss this topic as the so-called Russian portfolio is assigned to her, she expressed several considerations and we responded to them,” the senior diplomat told TASS.

Ryabkov left the building at 12:25 p.m. Moscow Time, while Nuland got into her car five minutes later, refraining from giving any comments to reporters.

Nuland arrived in Moscow on Monday, October 11, to hold several meetings with Russian officials. The diplomat’s visit will last until October 13. It was reported that apart from the meeting with Ryabkov, Nuland would hold talks with Aid to the Russian President for Foreign Policy Yuri Ushakov and Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Dmitry Kozak.

UNESCO welcomes Nobel prize press awards

Brussels 09.10.2021 UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay welcomed the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov and Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, reads the statement issued on Saturday, October 10.

“By awarding this prize, the Nobel Committee stated its belief that the freedom of expression of opinions and access to information is the basis of democracy and peace,” Azoulay said. “These ideals fully resonated with the UNESCO mandate.”

According to Azoulay, “reporters are at the frontline of a fight for shedding light where necessary, oftentimes facing a huge risk.”

“Today, they are rightfully considered protectors of justice and truth,” the official said.

On Friday, the Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Novaya Gazeta editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov and Filipino journalist Maria Ressa for “their efforts on protection of the freedom of press, which the basis for democracy and sustainable peace.”.

#PandoraPapers: Ukraine President Zelensky starring

Strasbourg 05.10.2021 The Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky may have pledged to reform the country’s corrupt system of politics, but the Pandora Papers reveals otherwise.

Driving the news: Ukraine is the country with the highest number of politicians named in the leak of offshore data, which implicates hundreds of people linked to offshore companies — including President Volodymyr Zelensky, presumably fighting corruption.

Though offshore companies are not themselves illegal, they often help facilitate tax evasion or money laundering, writes the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the network of reporters and media organisations that obtained the records, revealing double-faced politicians.

While being a popular professional comedian, Zelensky had campaigned on reforming Ukraine’s oligarch-dominated system, positioning himself as an outsider of the crooked universe of the politicians, including incumbent Petro Poroshenko, who hid offshore assets.

However the Pandora Papers revealed that Zelenski was involved with a network of offshore companies, which he co-owned with friends and business partners.
Zelensky is one of several politicians who campaigned on anti-corruption platforms — others include Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan — who will now be facing questions over undisclosed wealth tied to them or their close associates, Axios’ eidotor Dave Lawler said.

By the numbers: Ukraine leads with 38 politicians named in the Pandora Papers. The top five are …

– Ukraine: 38
– Russia: 19
– Honduras: 11
– United Arab Emirates: 11
– Nigeria: 10

#PandoraPapers: $32 trillion tax evasion

Strasbourg 05.09.2021 More than 600 journalists from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ @ICIJorg 2021 have conducted a vast investigation named #PandoraPapers which reveals how the offshore money machine operates in every corner of the planet, including the world’s largest democracies.
The Consortium @ICIJorg has uncovered tax evasion and corruption totaling up to $32 trillion involving:

– 35 current/ex-world leaders;
– 336 politicians/public officials;
– 130 billionaires, mostly from Russia, Brazil, UK, Israel.

The Washington Post, owned by the American billionaire Jeff Bezos, and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) gained an unprecedented look into the money flowing into trusts in the United States by examining a trove of more than 11.9 million confidential documents maintained by trust and corporate services providers around the world.

The records, presented to public under the name of the Pandora Papers, expose how foreign political and corporate leaders or their family members moved money and other assets from long-established tax havens to U.S. trust companies.

The investigation identified 206 U.S.-based trusts linked to 41 countries holding combined assets worth more than $1 billion. Nearly 30 of the trusts held assets connected to people or companies accused of fraud, bribery or human rights abuses in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

The cache of confidential files, obtained by @ICIJ and shared with more than 150 media partners, describe only some of the trusts in the United States but is the most significant set of records ever made public from inside America’s trust industry.

The trust documents come mostly from the Sioux Falls office of Trident Trust, a global provider of offshore services. In a written statement, Trident said it is committed to compliance with all applicable regulations and routinely cooperates with authorities. The company declined to answer questions about its clients.

On Monday, October 4, the European Parliament included Council and Commission #PandoraPapers statements to agenda of the Plenary in Strasbourg. On October 6 at Strasbourg plenary of the European Parliament – implications on the efforts to combat money laundering, tax evasion and avoidance will be presented at 15h00. The MEPs will vote on the resolution at the next part-session.

Lavrov: AUKUS undermines ASEAN

Brussels 03.10.2021 New AUKUS alliance between the US, the UK, and Australia as well as the four-sided dialogue on security between the US, Japan, India, and Australia (Quad) are directed at eroding the long-standing universal formats of cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region existing under the auspices of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at the 29th Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy on October 2, Saturday.

The Russian top diplomat noted, “one of the most fashionable trends today is the so-called Indo-Pacific strategies that are invented by the United States,” in particular, AUKUS and Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue between United States, India, Japan and Australia).

“All of this follows the line of eroding the universal formats in the Asia-Pacific Region which existed for the past decades under the auspices of ASEAN,” Lavrov underlined.

The minister named “East Asian summits, the ASEAN security forum, meetings of ASEAN defense ministers and partners, the so-called ASEAN+, and a number of other formats” based on the “principle of consensus” among such universal formats.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has previously questioned whether the EU would be able to strike a trade deal with Australia, in solidarity with France.

But on Friday, September 1, spokespersons for the European Commission explained than it is not “punishing anybody”. The decision to delay the talks by a month took place a couple of days ago and would “allow us to prepare better”, they said, adding that it was not “unusual” to push back trade talks.