EU stands with Russian civil society

Brussels 23.07.2021 “Russian authorities recently announced a number of new decisions targeting independent media outlets, journalists and civil society organisations” reads the statement by the European External Action Service spokesperson on the continued crackdown on independent media outlets, journalists and civil society in Russia.

“The Institute of Law and Public Policy (ILPP) and a number of journalists were designated as so-called “foreign agents”, and the media outlet Project Media, Inc. was declared a so-called “undesirable organisation”. In addition, the association of lawyers and journalists Team 29 (Komanda 29), defending human rights and fundamental freedoms in Russia, decided to cease its activities following pressure and unjustified accusations by the Russian authorities”.

“The cumulative impact of these latest developments, in conjunction with a raft of repressive measures targeting highly respected NGOs and individuals in Russia, results in further quashing dissent, opposition, critical voices and independent institutions from the Russian public sphere. This is particularly worrisome ahead of the State Duma elections in September”.

“The European Union has repeatedly condemned Russian laws on “foreign agents” and “undesirable organisations”, as they run counter to Russia’s international obligations and human rights commitments, including with regard to freedom of expression and association. We reiterate our call on the Russian authorities to reverse these decisions and to stop the unabated crackdown on civil society and independent media”.

“The European Union stands in solidarity with Russian civil society, human rights defenders and independent journalists and will continue to support them in their important work”.

EU diplomats to convene in Brussels

Brussels 11.07.2021 The Foreign Affairs Council will be chaired by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell.

The Council will start with a discussion on current affairs, during which ministers will have the opportunity to receive updates and react to the latest developments concerning Afghanistan, South Caucasus and Lebanon.

The meeting will then continue with an exchange of views on the geopolitics of new digital technologies, Ethiopia and the Strategic Compass.

Ministers are also expected to approve conclusions on a Globally Connected Europe and on the EU’s priorities at the 76th General Assembly of the United Nations.

Over a working lunch, they will have the opportunity to informally exchange views with the Israeli Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Yair Lapid.

Hungary receives support

Brussels 28.06.2021 Heading against the all-out campaign of the liberal mainstream against Hungary’s recently adopted child protection law, several European politicians rushed to its defense, Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Péter Szijjártó wrote on his Facebook page. (Image belovw: Prime Minister Viktor Orban with his grandchildren).

Hungary’s new law, which enacted a variety of anti-abuse and anti-pedophile laws, also banned LGBT content or content that promotes children changing their gender from being shown to children under 18. The law has been criticised by the president of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen.

“The liberal mainstream has launched an unscrupulous fake news campaign against Hungary because we have made it clear that parents have the exclusive right to educate their children about their sexual orientation. But no matter what they say about us, we won’t let go of it! Get your hands off our children!” Szijjártó wrote, causing further polemics.

However Szijjártó has underlined the fact that there were those who “stood by us in spite of the terror of opinion from those who commit stigmatising, lying attacks. Thank you for standing by our country, you can count on us too!”

Among those who support Hungary were politicians in Poland, Italy, Estonia, and Slovakia.

“Children and families must be protected from being affected by any indoctrination activity. (…) There are clear rules that parents have the right to raise their child. I want to underline this very strongly, because I have a very deep conviction that it is a good attitude for parents to be able to decide who and on what principles can hold any kind of teaching-educational activities,” said Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

According to Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, the Hungarian law must be “satisfactorily explained”.
“I can’t judge, we agreed that we should discuss it in a V4 framework to make sure the interpretations are correct,” Babis has underlined.

“We are a little concerned about what is happening around Hungary. In Hungary, a law has been passed in the parliament to combat pedophilia, and there are also provisions dealing with homosexual education. (…) Is this a reason to exclude someone from the EU?” said former Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, adding that “the whole EU and the whole European Commission stood on its head”.

Matteo Salvini, the leader of the League party also came to the defense of the Hungarian law.

“Each state is free to decide how to organise its own schools, universities and judiciary. I don’t understand the interventions,” he said.

PM Sanna Marin trashes EU dress code

Brussels 25.06.2021 Anna van Densky OPINION There is no official dress code in the EU institutions, “however you are expected to dress adequately” the site of the European Commission announced. For most businesses throughout Europe, business attire is formal, which means dark suits, subdued ties, and lace-up shoes. Women’s clothing follows suit.
(Image: Finnish PM Sanna Marin “Friday” casual look at doorstep of the European Council).

Business attire is a formal dress code for many offices and corporate events in the EU. It denotes a professional style of dress that appears smart and sophisticated. For men, a suit is generally required. Women as “newcomers” can interpret business attire in a range of ways. While pantsuits and skirt suits are ideal, polished separates and business dresses are accepted if applied with discretion.

Business casual is a somewhat relaxed style of office wear which is accepted on certain occasions. It is often called upon for contemporary places of work in offices, however nowadays with distant working everything has been even more relaxed due to teleconferencing.

Previously along with “casual Fridays” in more conservative offices. Formal business attire is more sophisticated than business casual and is typically reserved for more traditional offices along with certain professional occasions, such as meetings and presentations.

According to modern dress code women can wear casual pants or skirts. Neither should be tight. Fabrics should be crisp; colours should generally be solid; navy, black,  gray, brown and khaki are always safe bets. For the most business-like appearance, pants should be creased and tailored; neither extreme of tight or flowing. (Image below: Christine LAGARDE -President of the European Central Bank):

“If you are pursuing a conservative industry and are in doubt, observe well-dressed women in your industry on the job, at career fairs, at information sessions, or consult your career coach” the University of Maryland School of Business instructs.

However new generation EU politicians are not willing to look up to the pre-COVID19 era. Lockdowns, social distancing and teleworking reflected upon modern looks. Future is clearly unceremonious! 

CoE calls Spain to release political prisoners

Brussels 21.06.2021 The Council of Europe, Strasbourg, France, has officially called on Spain to release Catalonia’s political prisoners and withdraw the extradition requests for their exiled colleagues. The parliamentary assembly of the institution green lighted a report by its Committee on Legal Affairs on the situation of political leaders behind bars in Spain and Turkey by 70 votes in favour, 28 against and 12 abstentions. They also overturned one by one and by a large majority the amendments of Spain’s PSOE and PP representatives who wanted to reduce the report’s critical content.

Latvian Socialist Boriss Cilevičs, who acted as rapporteur, visited Catalonia in February 2020 in order to write a report on political prisoners in Europe for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe after a score of council deputies proposed the initiative a month earlier.

During the session on Monday, rapporteur Cilevičs opened the debate, with a speech upholding his work and saying the convictions are “disproportionate” and “do not comply with the rule of law.” The representative highlighted that the politicians and activists are facing “a long time in jail, similar to rapists” for issues such as votes in parliament and peaceful protests during the exercises of their mandates.

While Cilevičs acknowledged that the referendum was held despite not being allowed by the Constitutional Court, he also reminded that holding such a vote was decriminalized in Spain. He said that disobedience – not carrying prison – could have been a reasonable crime for which to be convicted, but sedition “requires elements of violence” and the rallies ahead of October 1, 2017 were “peaceful.”

The politician, who also rejected the independence campaigners “using the report to promote separatism,” defended that public representatives should be “allowed to make statements that go against the Constitution.”
Spain’s resounding defeat: Council of Europe demands release of Catalan political prisoners and return of exiles

Report passed by a majority of 70 to 28 calls convictions “disproportionate” and demands withdrawing extradition requests for exiles.

Putin supports Belaurs Belavia airlines

Bruxelles 30.05.2021 The Presidents of Russia and Belarus Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko on Saturday, May 29, continued their meeting in Sochi at Black sea in an “informal setting.” According to the Belarusian Telegram-channel “Пул Первого” (Pool of the First), connected with the press service of Lukashenko, the heads of state agreed on the second tranche of the state loan and on the opening of new Belavia flights to Russian cities.

“Putin gave Lukashenko and his son a ride on his yacht in Sochi. Kolya Lukashenko is about the same age as the orphan Dima Stakhovsky, who recently jumped from the roof, harassed by investigators in Minsk. Does Kolya understand that his dad is a cannibal?” Russian blogger Rustem Agadamov tweeted.

An agreement to provide Belarus with a Russian loan in the amount of $ 1 billion was signed on December 21, 2020. The first tranche in the amount of $ 500 million was received by the Ministry of Finance of Belarus on December 30, the receipt of the second tranche was expected in the first half of this year, BelTA reminds. Minsk expects to receive the second tranche by the end of June.

The “Пул Первого” also published a photo of Lukashenko and Putin on a yacht, calling the meeting of the presidents in an informal setting a “working bathing”. On the eve, Putin invited Lukashenka to swim in the sea. “The sea is getting warmer and warmer. I think that this will also contribute to the achievement of the results of our meeting today,” the Russian president said on Friday, May 28.

On May 28 Today, the European Commission presented to the Council its outline for a comprehensive plan of economic support to a future democratic Belarus. The plan, of up to €3 billion, reflects the European Union’s commitment to support the Belarusian people’s wishes for a peaceful democratic transition in the country following the Presidential elections of August 2020, which were neither free nor fair.

Once Belarus embarks on a democratic transition, the EU will activate the €3 billion package, a mix of grants and loans leveraging public and private investments, to help Belarus to stabilise its economy, reform its institutions to make them more democratic and help increase the economy’s resilience, growth potential and job creation.

Belarus expels Lativa diplomats

Brussels 24.05.2021 Belarus is expelling the Ambassador of Latvia H.E. Einars Semanis, he was asked to leave the country within 24 hours. This was announced by the head of the Belarusian diplomacy Vladimir Makei.

“The Latvian ambassador was invited to the Foreign Ministry in connection with the insult of the state flag of Belarus in Riga,” Makei explained.

Together wit the Ambassador, Belarus expels the entire Embassy staff, ​​with the exception of one administrative officer who is allowed to stay in Minsk.

Explaining the actions of Minsk in relation to the Ambassador of Latvia, Makei called the reaction of politicians of a number of Western countries to the situation with the plane “coordinated actions and a planned provocation.” At the same time, Makei noted that Minsk does not exclude a response from Riga.

The head of the Belarus diplomacy has underlined that no country has yet requested information from Belarus on the incident with Ryanair.

The down spiral of the diplomatic raw in the aftermath of the Belarus journalist Roman Protasevich, 26, (pictured above) arrest continues. Protasevich was returning to Vilnius from an economic conference in Greece with Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Greek officials explained.

The RyanAir flight, which had been carrying some 170 passengers, should have taken about three hours. As it approached the border between Belarus and Lithuania, a MiG-29 fighter jet was sent to intercept it. After the forced landing Protasevich has been arrested. There is also an information that the other activist with Russian citizenship, travelling with the same board was detained in Minsk.

Alexander Lukashenko, 66, who is often referred to as “Europe’s last dictator,” personally ordered the fighter jet to escort the Ryanair plane to the Minsk airport after a bomb threat, his press service said. According to the statement, Lukashenko, an ally of President Vladimir Putin of Russia, gave an “unequivocal order” to “make the plane do a U-turn and land.”

The EU Council president Charles Michel has defined the incident as an “international scandal”, pointing out that the forceful landing of the civil aircraft was compromising safety and security of all passengers on board and the EU is going to discuss this issue first at the ongoing Summit of the leaders of 27 to ensure the adequate response: “What happened yesterday in #Belarus is an international scandal. It endangered the lives of civilians & threatens international security. We will discuss different options of sanctions today at #EUCO. A strong reaction is needed” Michel said at the doorstep of the meeting in Brussels.

Amsterdam: stabbing in city

Brussels 22.05.2021 In Amsterdam, five people have been stabbed on the street in the De Pijp district. One of the victims died on the spot. Officers have arrested a 29-year-old man from Amstelveen as the only suspect, Dutch NOS TV Channel reports. There is no further information about his origins, legal status or motives.

There are no direct indications that there is a terrorist motive, reports the investigation team led by the Public Prosecution Service. However, all options are still kept open.

Around 11 p.m. the police received a report that someone had been stabbed on the Ferdinand Bolstraat. There it was established that there had been four other stabbing incidents in the immediate vicinity. According to the police, it soon turned out that there was one perpetrator. The man from Amstelveen was arrested not much later.

De Pijp is a picturesque neighbourhood of Amsterdam, Netherlands. It is located directly south of Amsterdam’s city centre and it is part of the borough Amsterdam-Zuid, being a part the Old South. Most streets in De Pijp are named after famous Dutch painters, like Jan Steen, Frans Hals, Ruysdael and Vincent van Gogh. Diamantbuurt, Nieuwe Pijp and Oude Pijp are the three districts composing the area.

POLICE have reported following on their official site:
“Around 11 p.m. the report came in that someone had been stabbed on the Ferdinand Bolstraat. On the spot it became clear that four other stabbing incidents had taken place in the immediate vicinity, a total of five victims. It soon became apparent that the various incidents were most likely committed by the same person and agents then locate a suspect. This 29-year-old man from Amstelveen was arrested and taken to a police station.

Victims
Despite immediate help on the spot, one of the victims died on the spot. The other four victims were taken to hospital with unknown injuries.

Situation
The police are conducting extensive investigations into the various incidents and the circumstances. The investigation team led by the Public Prosecution Service is keeping all options open, but at the moment has no direct indications that there is a terrorist motive.

Sharing information
Have you seen or heard of the incidents, but have not yet spoken to the police? Or do you have other information for the research team? Then contact the police on 0900-8844 or share your information via the tip form”.

Bible-loving politician under trial

Brussels 09.05.2021 The trial against Finnish Christian politician Päivi Räsänen, accused of hate speech towards minorities for citing the Bible concerning gay people, is regarded as a new step in the intensifying persecution of Christians in Western democracies.

The trial i the first time when a politician with such a status is being prosecuted for expressing Christian doctrine concerning human sexuality.

Räsänen is the former head of the Finnish Christian Democrats and a former Minister of the interior. She is now serving a Member of the Parliament elected first time in 1995.

The police which conducted the initial investigation have underlined that Räsänen’s tweet from 2019 was not a reason to initiate action against her. The tweet had an attached photo of a Bible text which included a fragment of the Saint Epistle to the Romans:

Räsänen is a politician of a clear rhetoric, defending the Christian doctrine on sexuality and family. Yet, that was enough for the prosecution to impose two years of prison sentence regardless the freedom of belief.
This whole affair poses serious questions concerning freedom of the fundamental freedoms in the concept of a liberal democracy. It means that these freedoms are increasingly more threatened, especially concerning the Christianity.

#Abyss: Brussels youth for human rights

Brussels 02.03.2021 “The abyss”, an icebreaker party scheduled for Friday, April 2, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. to defend the right of assembly* in the ongoing context of the pandemic, did not take place at the Parc du Cinquantenaire in Brussels as initially announced, but at the Bois de la Cambre, according to information. published in the morning on the Facebook group of the event.

Brussels Bourgmestre Philippe Close does not intend, according to his spokesman, to close the woods,surrounding the capital, considering that this would be depriving citizens of the freedom to enjoy it to breathe and walk there. For its part, the Brussels-Capital/Ixelles police zone has indicated that its forces will be present this Friday evening at both places, at the Cinquantenaire and at the Bois de la Cambre.

“We want to regain our right to meet and assemble except that we have to ask for an authorization and since we have been living under a “health dictatorship” for a year, it was obvious that we never would have had it. Hence the qualifier “wild” for our parties. We feel that we are not doing anything wrong. For several hours now, we have had the impression that we are organising a terrorist attack. It shows how far we have come. It’s just about putting some music in a park and even yesterday they didn’t even succeed. I think we have the law on our side, morality on our side, a good part of the people … “

*Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights

“Article 11: Freedom of assembly and association
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the state”.