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”.

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! 

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.

HUNGARY: Leyen expresses “legal concerns”

Brussels 23.06.2021 “This Hungarian bill is a shame. I have instructed the responsible commissioners to send a letter to express our legal concerns before the bill enters into force”

This bill clearly discriminates against people based on their sexual orientation. It goes against the fundamental values of the European Union. Human dignity, equality and respect for human rights.

“We will not compromise on these principles. I have said it before: I believe in a European Union where you are free to be who you are and love whomever you want. I believe in a Europe which embraces diversity.
I will use all the powers of the Commission to ensure that the rights of all EU citizens are guaranteed. Whoever they are and where ever they live within the European Union”.

Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg led the charge against Hungary’s anti-LGBT law while the European affairs ministers from the 27 EU countries met to discuss the rule of law. In total, 16 member states out of 27 expressed their disapproval of the Hungarian law.

Last week, the Hungarian parliament passed a new law tabled by the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán that bans the portrayal of homosexuality and sex reassignment during school education material and TV programmes addressed to people under 18 years of age.

The bill, approved during Pride month, was facing the condemnation from high-ranking officials of several EU countries and political groups in the European Parliament. The outrage over the Hungarian law was discussed by the EU Council, with the Benelux ministers gathering linked-minded countries in a critical statement against the legislation.

Following behind-the-scenes consultations, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Spain, Sweden and Latvia endorsed the Benelux text. Italy waited until the end of the meeting to add its name to the list, while Austria and Greece did so the following day.

“[The law] represents a flagrant form of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and hence deserves to be condemned. Inclusion, human dignity and equality are core values of our European Union, and we cannot compromise on these principles,” the countries said.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has expressed his opinion during the radio programme “Good morning, Hungary”, explaining that the law is not anti-gay, but defending children’s rights. “This is a law about the protection of our children” the Hungarian Prime Minister has underlined.

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: “extraordinary individual” Trump

Brussels 11.06.2021 Russian President Vladimir Putin said in his interview with NBC News that he respects former US leader Donald Trump, defining him as a “extraordinary individual”. (Image: meeting in Helsinki, July 2018)

“Well even now, I believe that former U.S. president Mr. Trump is an extraordinary individual, talented individual, otherwise he would not have become U.S. President,” Putin said.

“He is a colorful individual. You may like him or not. And, but he didn’t come from the U.S. establishment, he had not been part of big time politics before, and some like it some don’t like it but that is a fact,” Putin noted.

The full version of the interview will be aired on Monday, June 14 on Trump’s birthday.

On Thursday, June 10, Trump asked Joe Biden in a written statement to give Putin his “warmest regards” at the upcoming Geneva summit. The former president said his meeting with the Russian leader in Helsinki, Finland in 2018 was “great and very productive.”

In the statement the 45th President of the United States of America Donald J. Trump wrote:

As President, I had a great and very productive meeting in Helsinki, Finland, with President Putin of Russia. Despite the belated Fake News portrayal of the meeting, the United States won much, including the respect of President Putin and Russia. Because of the phony Russia, Russia, Russia Hoax, made-up and paid for by the Democrats and Crooked Hillary Clinton, the United States was put at a disadvantage—a disadvantage that was nevertheless overcome by me. As to who do I trust, they asked, Russia or our “Intelligence” from the Obama era, meaning people like Comey, McCabe, the two lovers, Brennan, Clapper, and numerous other sleezebags, or Russia, the answer, after all that has been found out and written, should be obvious. Our government has rarely had such lowlifes as these working for it. Good luck to Biden in dealing with President Putin—don’t fall asleep during the meeting, and please give him my warmest regards!”

Previously President Putin has already expressed his opinion about the impeachment of President Trump in an interview in 2019: “Absolutely far-fetched reasons. This is just a continuation of the political struggle. Democrats are charging Trump with charges of collusion with Russia, or they have invented some kind of pressure on Ukraine.” Putin added that Senate Republicans are unlikely to want to impeach their president.

Russian President added that Russia is interested in developing relations with the United States, regardless of who sits in the White House.

Turkey in EURONEWS: qui prodest?

Brussels, 06.11.2020 Anna van Densky OPINION The strangling of Freedom of speech policy of increasingly authoritarian Turkey at home, in the European Union and across globe, preventing 400 million audience of the EURONEWS to receive an objective coverage of the events concerning Ankara actions, is paradoxically rooted in the EU public funds being abused by Turkish government and used for the purpose, opposite to its original concept.
Unfortunately, the European Commission continues to subsidise EURONEWS TV Channel in spite of the fact that Turkey is in all structures, aggressively opposing and blocking the adequate news coverage.

Even previously, in the 2019 report by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) has underlined that EURONEWS is “not a public service broadcaster in any member state”, and analysing a total of €122M of funding for the channel from 2014-2018, concluded that the Commission “does not have a system to verify whether EURONEWS is achieving the objectives agreed in the partnership agreements.”
Today the European Commission has confirmed the continuation of subsidising Euronews TV, regardless Ankara opposition of freedom of speech – core value of the EU, and the fact of incarceration of more than 200 Turkish journalists.
Apparently, following the answer of the European Commission spokesperson they had no mechanism foreseen to freeze the payments.

Needless to say, that being in EURONEWS editorial Turkish broadcaster TRT uses their right to veto all the unflattering information about their country, preventing the global audiences to access to the information of tremendous significance, alerting public about Turkish actions alike supporting Muslim Brotherhood, defined a terrorist organisation by the governments of Bahrain, Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates.

Not least crucial is information of transfer of 2 000 jihad fighters from Syria to Nagorno-Karabakh by Turkey, reported by some media, but denied by Ankara. However at present it is impossible to deliver objective coverage of conflict taking place in Caucasus between Armenia and Azerbaijan in spite of the generous subvention to EURONEWS, because Turkish editorial is there to block it.

On top of using the channel to condemn the freedom of speech policy of the EU member-states in the articles of the Turkish editorial, Ankara earns from EURONEWS, being a shareholder, while the EU citizens pay tens of millions yearly to ensure the channel function, they supply profit to Turkish oppressive state which cashes on TV advertising.

Obviously when in February 2009, the Turkish public broadcaster TRT became a shareholder of the channel and joined its supervisory board, the context was different, and there were no major objection for Ankara to joint the team. The same year the TRT purchased 15.70% of the channel’s shares and became the fourth main partner after France Télévisions (23.93%), RAI (21.54%), and VGTRK (16.94%). Turkish was added as the ninth language service in January 2010 as a result of this purchase.

The EURONEWS TV channel was established in 1993 by ten European public broadcasters to “reinforce European identity and integration” and the EU has provided it with a generous financial support since then. In recent years, the channel has changed its ownership structure by acquiring private investors.

Continue reading “Turkey in EURONEWS: qui prodest?”

Erdogan anger amid fossil fuel decline

Brussels 26.10.2020 Anna van Densky OPINION Recent President Erdogan verbal attacks on France have many reasons rooted in frustrations, not least is the economic difficulty of Turkey, experiencing sharp decline of demand of fossil fuels on world markets. Related to COVID-19 pandemic reduction of demand has dropped to record 30%, however the experts explain that the trend is here to stay. Before the pandemic broke out Turkey has been gaining strength as an energy corridor, supplying oil and gas to Europe from oil-rich suppliers of the region. However now, in so rapidly changing world, will Ankara be able to preserve its plans, or following the hydrocarbons definite decline of demand, it will face the economic consequences of end of fossil fuel era?

In the beginning of the pandemic, China’s economy slowed down, impacting fossil fuel demand, subsequently the OPEC tried to negotiate with Russia the limitations of production, but failed, the price struggle erupted between Saudi Arabia and Russia, and oil prices collapsed. Moreover, end October crude oil prices sank after Libya’s National Oil Corp (NOC) announced the output would reach one (1) million barrels per day in four weeks. Futures in New York fell 2.3% to drop below $39 a barrel.

In this volatile context Turkey will begin to discuss the new long-term energy contacts with a number of suppliers – Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Algeria and Nigeria, of total 45 billion cubic meters of gas. Three of them are covering one third of the energy imports – with Russia, Azerbaijan and Nigeria – will expire next year. The Turkish state-owned crude oil and natural gas pipelines and trading company BOTAŞ and Russian Gazprom had to negotiate delivery of 8 billion cubic meters of gas; the contract with Azerbaijan is covering 6.6 billion cubic meters of natural gas and with Nigeria for 1.3 billion cubic meters of LNG will – all of them expire in 2021.

Till present Russia remains the largest gas supplier to Turkey – 33.6% of total imports, followed by Azerbaijan 21.2% and Iran 17.1%. The rest 28.1% is covered by the liquefied gas (LNG) from other sources. However fossil fuel companies have entered the state of “terminal decline”, and fossil fuel companies are set to face it because of falling demand and higher investment risks caused by competition from clean technologies and tougher government climate and energy security targets, according to climate finance analysts, because of falling demand accelerated by COVID-19 pandemic, and higher investment risks explained by competition from clean technologies and strict government climate and energy security targets.

In this contemporary context the belligerent rhetoric of Erdogan against President of France, reflects tensions in Turkish society, facing the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The government has no plan B to answer to the fossil fuel decline impact of the economy. According to official figures Turkey’s unemployment rate improved slightly to 12.8% in April despite the raging pandemic, while the alternative calculations indicate that more than 50% were jobless. These figures might grow sharply while fossil fuels demand is declining, and plans of President Erdogan to create Turkish energy hub became dim.

The exaltation of the crisis of the relations between Turkey and France did not come as a surprise: France had systematically criticised Turkey’s role in Syria and Libya, and nowadays the unfolding conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, defending human rights of the Armenian inhabitants there. This recent conflict has added to the other tactics of President Erdogan to deviate the attention of his compatriots from gravity of economic situation in Turkey to various conflicts and crisis he stirs in outside world.
But not only, the active Ankara political support of Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabach conflict, will certainly reflect on energy talks of next year expired contracts, the moment when Erdogan will attempt to convert his political influence into preferences and privileges enshrined in new energy energy agreements with Russia and Azerbaijan, allowing Turkey better gains from gas and oil transit.

Brussels at eve of II lockdown

Brussels 18.10.2020 The sector of hospitality is in total disappointment, injustice, disaster, shock. The sector does not have strong enough words to describe the measure taken by the Concertation Committee: the closure of all restaurants and cafes in the country as of Monday, October 19 for a period of four weeks. “We were prepared to accept interim measures like a 11 p.m. shutdown, or even 10 p.m. if necessary”, but the authorities were not open to negotiations, said Thierry Neyens, president of the Wallonia Horeca Federation.

Brussels, rue de Marché aux Fromages, 18 October 2020

A new closure of the Horeca has been a decision received with tears, a real blow to the hospitality sector, facing the second lockdown in the atmosphere of the financial uncertainty dominates. However nobody knows if the shutdown will actually last for a month or more. There is also uncertainty over the amount of aid promised by governments.

“It’s a cleaver, it’s a misunderstanding, it’s very painful to hear. The entire sector has reacted on social networks. We believe we are being sacrificed, punished. We have a lack of prospects. There is a I think there is even a little disrespect for an entire sector which has made a lot of effort, ” underlined  Thierry Neyens.

Brussels, Grand Sablon, 18 October 2020

Following the Concertation Committee on Friday, October 16, a curfew was declared by the federal government. As of Monday, October 19, it will be forbidden to leave your home between midnight and 5 a.m.

The Horeca represents more than 60,000 companies in Belgium.

Brussels, Grand Place neighbourhood, 18 October 2020

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Belgium since the declaration of the pandemic by WHO in March now stands at 213,115. The total reflects all people in Belgium who have been infected, and includes confirmed active cases as well as patients who have since recovered, or died.

Brussels, Grand Place, 18 October 2018

During curfew, take-out food orders can be made until 10 p.m. in restaurants. Some establishments have the option of transforming into a catering service. A solution to try to cover the fixed costs, but many will keep their doors closed.

Brussels, Grand Place, 18 October 2020

Meanwhile in Sweden the government wishes to exempt restaurants, bars and cafés from the specific rules for public events, the Culture Minister Amanda Lind announced at the press conference. The exemption for bars and restaurants came into effect on October 8th. After this date, restaurants were no longer a subject to the 50-person limit in case they host events, but they should continue to comply with the existing restrictions for restaurants including table service only and a one-metre distance between groups of people, the Local reports.

Brussels, rue Royale, 18 October 2020