Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic for NATO leadership

Brussels 25.07.2021 Is Former Croatia President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic in Line for Top NATO Job?
As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Politico portal, announced that for the first time in the 72-year history of the Alliance, the incumbent Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is looking for a successor, preferably from Eastern Europe. Taking into consideration the equity agenda, the time for change and break glass ceiling,
the main candidate is Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, who was a former Vice President of NATO and was also an ambassador to the United States.

(Image above: archive, Moscow The 2018 FIFA World Cup Final: Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovich with Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin)

Another factor is whether the country from which the presidential candidate is coming from meets the NATO target of spending of a minimum of 2% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

It has been noted that Croatia’s former President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has an “impressive biography”, leading this hypothesis to be regarded among relevant political leaders and diplomats.

Back during the 2015 Croatian presidential campaign, the then HDZ candidate didn’t want to reveal what her salary was as an assistant working at North-Atlantic Treaty Organisaton.

“I still follow the instructions given to me by NATO, which oblige me as a former NATO employee to make sure this data isn’t to be disclosed to the public, and the salary is much less than twenty thousand euros,” said former President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic at the confrontation at which the matter was discussed with Ivo Josipovic (SDP), who claimed that salaries in NATO were not kept secret.

Afterwards in late 2016, there was speculation that former British Prime Minister David Cameron potentially becoming NATO’s new secretary general, and the British newspaper The Independent reported that the salary for the post was £220,000 a year (which is around €21,000 per month). According to the document from the beginning of 2020, the highest monthly salary paid out to a NATO employee stood at €23,646.

Fast forward to November 2020, NATO asked its members to increase funds in order to further improve the salaries of its employees, in accordance with the agreed methodology, which some allies refused, considering it inappropriate at hard times of the pandemic.

At Headquarters, formal talks on Stoltenberg’s successor have just begun, and the new Secretary-General is scheduled to introduce the NATO leaders’ summit in Madrid in late spring or early summer next year.

Image below: A competitor of Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovich  in NATO top job race – incumbent Estonia President Kersti Kaljulaid.

Continue reading “Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic for NATO leadership”

Kremlin issues warning to Taliban

Brussels 14.07.2021 Russian senior official accused the Afghan government of hypocrisy and said it needed to start proper negotiations with the Taliban about the country’s future before it was too late. (Image above: illustration, Afghanistan).

Zamir Kabulov, a special Representative on Afghanistan, issued the warning ahead of upcoming talks about the Afghan crisis in Tajikistan where Foreign Ministers from the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation were meeting.

In an interview with state RIA news agency, the high official said that while the Afghan government paid lip service to the idea of talks it was not doing enough to make them happen.

“It’s hypocrisy. It’s an attempt to close their eyes to the reality which exists and these are empty words,” Kabulov told RIA when talking about the Afghan’s government’s stance on negotiations with the Taliban. “We need deeds” Kabulov has underlined.

The only way out of the current crisis which has seen the Taliban make military gains on the back of an exit by U.S. and NATO forces was for all sides to assemble at the negotiating table in Kabul, the official continued. Russia and other regional powers favoured a transitional government in Afghanistan, he added.

Any attempt by the Taliban to damage the security of Russia’s allies in Central Asia will be fraught with large losses for the Taliban movement, continued Zamir Kabulov.
“We are closely monitoring the situation. Taliban should understand that “any attempt to damage the security of our allies in Central Asia will be fraught with great losses for them, if not the loss of everything” Kabulov continued.

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.

Russia-UK Black Sea altercation

Brussels 23.06.2021 Russian Black Sea Fleet, jointly with the Border Guard Service, halted the violation of the “Russian state border by a UK naval ship off Crimea coast”, the Defense Ministry of Russia reported on Wednesday, June 23. (Image: illustration).

A guard ship of the Black Sea Fleet fired warning shots while a Su-24M bomber conducted preventing bombing, the ministry informed.

“At 11:52 on June 23 this year, the UK Navy’s guided missile destroyer Defender operating in the northwestern part of the Black Sea crossed the state border of the Russian Federation and moved 3 km into the territorial sea near Cape Fiolent,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Russian Black Sea Fleet jointly with the Border Guard Service of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of Russia “halted the violation of the Russian state border by the UK Navy’s guided missile destroyer Defender,” the statement says.

The UK Navy’s guided missile destroyer Defender was floated out in 2009. The warship can develop a speed of about 30 knots and operates various armaments, including Harpoon anti-ship missile launchers and short-and medium-range air defense systems.

The Type 45 destroyers were built to replace the Type 42 (Sheffield-class) destroyers that had served during the Falklands War (10-weeks war between Argentina and the UK in 1982 over two British dependent territories) with the last Type 42 being decommissioned in 2013. The National Audit Office reported that, during an “intensive attack”, a single Type 45 could simultaneously track, engage and destroy more targets than five Type 42 destroyers operating together.

The class HMS45 is primarily designed for anti-aircraft and anti-missile warfare.

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: doesn’t guarantee Navalny right for life

Brussels 14.06.2021 Russian President Vladimir Putin denied ordering an assassination on Kremlin prominent critic political rival Alexei Navalny, but in an exclusive interview with NBC News he did not guarantee that the jailed Kremlin critic, who survived being poisoned with a nerve agent, would get out of prison alive.

“Look, such decisions in this country are not made by the president,” Putin said.

That was one of several striking moments in Putin’s first interview in three years with a U.S. news organisation, days ahead of his meeting with President Joe Biden in Geneva.
Reminded that Navalny wasn’t just any prisoner, Putin has underlined: “He will not be treated any worse than anybody else.”

Putin granted an exclusive interview, and had a talk with NBCNews journalist for nearly an hour and a half while U.S. President Joe Biden met with the leaders of G7 industrialised nations in Cornwall,UK, from which Russia was suspended in 2014 after Maidan revolution in Ukraine, and following refusal of the Republic of Crimea to accept new Kiev ruler who ascended power by coup d’état, shortly afterwards Crimea joined Russian Republic following the referendum.

According to the 2001 census, 77% of Crimean inhabitants named Russian as their native language, 11.4% – Crimean Tatar, and 10.1% – Ukrainian.

Geneva awaiting for Biden-Putin talks

Brussels 13.06.2021 The authorities of Geneva welcome the choice of Villa La Grange as the venue of the June 16 meeting of Russian and US presidents, the spokesperson for the Canton of Geneva, Emmanuel Cuenod, told TASS News agency.

“We are happy, and we are looking forward to having this meeting there, in this beautiful Villa La Grange, which is one of the most gorgeous places in Geneva,” Cuenod said.

The spokesperson said La Grange Park, where the villa is located, is a very popular site that Geneva’s residents and visitors visit for recreation. In particular, he mentioned a beautiful view of Geneva Lake and the fountain Jet d’Eau. Both delegations and journalists will be able to enjoy the beauties of the Geneva region, he said.

Cuenod refrained from comment as to what was being done for the past few days to get the villa ready for the summit. Currently, the building houses the city’s library.

Earlier on Thursday, the Swiss Foreign Ministry said the summit meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden would be held at the Villa La Grange on June 16. The 18th-century villa is in the very center of a 21-hectare park on the shores of Geneva Lake. The villa has belonged to the city since 1917.

On June 8-18, the villa is closed to visitors, and a steel barrier has been placed around the park. The authorities of the Canton of Geneva on June 9 said security would be tightened on June 14-17. All flights by drones over the canton have been prohibited. Geneva’s waterfronts, the lake, La Grange Park, and the adjoining Eaux-Vives Park were included in a special security perimeter where special measures of control are in effect.

EU-Russia: combating coronavirus

Brussels 07.06.2021 “I conveyed a message of EU unity in my call with president Putin. The downwards trend in EU-Russia relations can only change if Russia stops disruptive behaviour. Fighting the pandemic and making effective vaccines available to everyone is a goal we discussed” Charles Michel, the EU Council President wrote on his Twitter micro blog.

Telephone conversation with President of the European Council Charles Michel:

Telephone conversation with President of the European Council Charles Michel
“Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with President of the European Council Charles Michel.
Relations between Russia and the European Union, as well as a number of current international issues, were discussed in detail.
“Vladimir Putin stressed that, although Russia and the European Union remained significant trade and investment partners, the current state of Russia-EU relations could not be considered satisfactory. It was noted that a return to pragmatic and respectful cooperation would be in the interests of both. Mutual opinion was expressed that it is important to step up cooperation in specific areas like healthcare, the climate agenda, and settling regional conflicts.

“Combating the spread of the coronavirus infection was also discussed, including the prospects for certifying the Russian vaccine Sputnik V in the European Union and ensuring conditions for mutual travel while complying with anti-pandemic restrictions.

“Developments around Nagorno-Karabakh were discussed in terms of the importance of the further and consistent implementation of the statements made by the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia on November 9, 2020 and January 11, 2021. Priority tasks include unblocking economic and transport connections in the region and resolving local humanitarian problems. Charles Michel expressed support for these efforts, including the work of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs (Russia, the US and France).

“Regarding the additional sanctions pressure on Belarus from the European Union, Vladimir Putin noted that such an approach, like any attempt to interfere in this sovereign state’s domestic affairs, was counterproductive.

“When discussing the internal Ukrainian crisis, both sides noted that the 2015 Minsk Package of Measures remained the only basis for the settlement process. The President of Russia said that the Kiev authorities must strictly implement all previously reached agreements, primarily on establishing a direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk and legalising the special status of Donbass.

“During the discussion of developments in Libya, Vladimir Putin and Charles Michel spoke in favour of further promoting the political process and supporting the established authorities during the transition period”.

EU supports Crimean Mejlis

Bruxelles 05.06.2021 “On 1 June, a so-called, Russia-run court in the Ukrainian city Simferopol sentenced in absentia Mr Refat Chubarov, Chairman of the Mejlis, the Crimean Tatar People’s self-governing body, to six years of prison and a fine for politically-motivated charges.

The European Union does not recognise Russia’s illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula and therefore does not, and will not, recognise this “sentence” by an illegal court. The sentencing of Mr Chubarov constitutes a serious violation of his human rights and another example of the persecution of the Crimean Tatar community by the Russian “authorities”.

“It further illustrates the severe deterioration of human rights on the Crimean peninsula since its illegal annexation. The ban on the activities of the Mejlis must be reversed without further delay.

“The EU reiterates that all illegally detained Ukrainian citizens on the Crimean peninsula must be released immediately”.

The Crimean High Court ‘has sentenced’ Refat Chubarov, Head of the Mejlis, or representative assembly of the Crimean Tatar people to six years imprisonment and a RUB200 000 fine (approx. EUR2 000). The verdict and sentence both represent the political message, while Russian authorities banished Chubarov from his homeland within months of its establishing their jurisdiction in Crimea, and the trial was held in absentia.

The verdict was passed in absentia  because the leader of the Mejlis, which is listed in Russia as an “extremist ogranisation”, but nowadays is located in Ukraine. The court found Chubarov guilty of organising riots outside the building of Crimea Parliament on February 26, 2014, which led to incidental death of two people. The head of Crimea, Sergei Aksenov, also supported the court’s decision, stating that Chubarov is a “professional provocateur”.

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.