Afghanistan: NATO Extraordinary teleconference

Brussels 19.08.2021 Extraordinary Meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs – Brussels, 20 August 2021
An extraordinary virtual meeting of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) at the level of Ministers of Foreign Affairs will be held via secure teleconference on Friday 20 August 2021. NATO Foreign Ministers will discuss developments in Afghanistan.

The meeting will be chaired by the NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg.
The meeting will start on 20 August 2021 at +/- 14h00 Brussels. The Secretary General is expected to brief the press after the meeting.

Previously at the press-briefing in NATO HQ Brussels on August 17, the Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg said: “The North Atlantic Council has met to discuss Afghanistan.
“The situation is extremely serious and unpredictable.
Kabul has fallen, and the Taliban have taken control of most of the country.
I am deeply saddened by what I see unfolding in Afghanistan.

“NATO’s focus right now is to ensure the safe departure of personnel from Allied and partner countries, and of the Afghans who have helped us.
NATO has been working round the clock to maintain operations at Kabul international airport.
Around 800 NATO civilian personnel have remained to provide key functions under very challenging circumstances.
“Including air traffic control, fuel, and communications.
And I would like to thank them.
Let me also thank the military forces of NATO Allies, in particular Turkey, the United States and the United Kingdom for their vital role in securing the airport.
Operations at the airport are now gradually resuming.
And during today’s meeting Allies announced that they are sending additional airplanes.

“We have also maintained our diplomatic presence.
Our Senior Civilian Representative Ambassador Pontecorvo and his team have been working closely with Allies and the rest of the international community to coordinate and facilitate the evacuation.
And we remain committed to completing evacuations including of our Afghan colleagues, as soon as possible.
The Taliban must respect and facilitate the safe departure of all those who wish to leave.
The airport, as well as roads and border crossings, must be open.
All Afghan men, women and children deserve to live in safety and dignity.
There must be a peaceful transfer of power to an inclusive government.
With no revenge or retribution.

“A government that does not respect the fundamental rights of all Afghans and reinstates the reign of fear, risks international isolation.

“The United States agreed with the Taliban last year that US troops would withdraw by May.
And after many rounds of consultations, all Allies agreed to follow the US decision.
Ending our military mission was not easy.
We were faced with a serious dilemma.
Either leave, and risk seeing the Taliban regain control.
Or stay, and risk renewed attacks, and an open-ended combat mission.

“We never intended to stay in Afghanistan forever.
Over the past few years, from over 100,000 troops we went down to less than 10,000 – and now to zero.
But what we have seen in the last few weeks was a military and political collapse at a speed which had not been anticipated.
Parts of the Afghan security forces fought bravely.
But they were unable to secure the country.
Because ultimately, the Afghan political leadership failed to stand up to the Taliban and to achieve the peaceful solution that Afghans desperately wanted.
This failure of Afghan leadership led to the tragedy we are witnessing today.

“At the same time, we need to have an honest, clear-eyed assessment of NATO’s own engagement in Afghanistan.
Despite our considerable investment and sacrifice over two decades, the collapse was swift and sudden.
There are many lessons to be learned.

“But we should also recognise the gains we have made.
NATO Allies and partners went into Afghanistan after 9/11 to prevent the country from serving as a safe haven for international terrorists to attack us.
In the last two decades, there have been no terrorist attacks on Allied soil organised from Afghanistan.
Those now taking power have the responsibility to ensure that international terrorists do not regain a foothold.
Allies have the capabilities and the vigilance to address future terrorist threats from Afghanistan.

“Due to our military presence and the support of the international community, a new generation of men and women have grown up in a new Afghanistan.
Able to get education, take part in the political process, run their own businesses, and enjoy a vibrant media scene.
Today’s Afghanistan is very different to the Afghanistan of 2001.
So those gains cannot be easily reversed.

“The world will be watching.
And must continue to support a stable and peaceful Afghanistan”.

Brussels: no wreath to Pushkin

Brussels 06.06.2021 June 6, on the birthday of the great Russian poet A.S. Pushkin, within the framework of the program to support and develop multilingualism and cultural diversity, the United Nations celebrates the Day of the Russian Language. One of the goals of this program is to maintain the equality of all six official languages ​​of the United Nations: English, Arabic, Spanish, Chinese, Russian and French.

The decision to hold the Days of Languages ​​was taken by the Department of Public Information (now the Department of Global Communications) on the eve of the International Mother Language Day, celebrated annually on February 21 at the initiative of UNESCO.

The purpose of the UN Languages ​​Days is to raise awareness of the history, culture and development of each of the six official UN languages ​​among the staff of the Organization. Each language has the opportunity to find its own unique approach and develop its own program of activities for the day, including inviting famous poets and writers and developing informational and thematic materials.
Cultural events, among others, may include performances of musical and literary works, competitions, exhibitions, lectures, pop performances and cultural performances, national cuisine days and performances by folk groups, film screenings and express language lessons for those wishing to learn another from the official languages ​​of the UN.

This year the officials of the Russian House in Brussels ignored the central day of the calendar – the birthday of Alexandre Pushkin. His monument has not a single wreath, not a single flower. The lack of funds cannot be an excuse, since there are representative offices of Gazprom, Lukoil, AlRosa and other grandiose Russian companies in Brussels, for which it is not difficult to foot the bill for the laying of wreaths at the monument to the great poet.

From the point of view of law, the state language is the most important factor in preserving the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Russia. And the encroachment, belittling of the state language, as the most important attribute of Russian statehood, is nothing more than an encroachment on the foundations of the constitutional system of the Russian Federation, an encroachment on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. Russian language, according to Part 1 of Art. 68 of the Constitution, art. 1 of the Law “On the State Language of the Russian Federation” is the state language, then, thereby, the Russian language is also an integral attribute of the Russian statehood.

The Great Pushkin is the founder of the literary Russian language. It is on June 6, on his birthday, that his native language celebrated. In 2010, the UN established June 6th as a holiday of the Russian language.
Interestingly, have you heard about this in the “House of Russian Culture” in Brussels? .. And, in general, why do Russians need to maintain a whole “Russian House”, pay salaries, travel allowances and leave to people who do not know their jobs? Or they don’t even want to know!
Alas, the diagnosis is obvious: “When and what bureaucrat was not convinced that Russia is a pie that you can freely approach and eat?”

#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”.

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

#TBT: BRAFA Art Fair

Brussels 1.10.2020 In the evening of the first day of October a sad for the art lovers news came – the cancellation of the Brussels Fine Art Fair 2021 due to volatile COVID-19 pandemic context. (Images: @AnnaVanDensky)

The members of the non-profit organisation (organiser of the BRAFA Art Fair) held an Extraordinary General Meeting during which they decided to postpone the event to 2022.

The first ever BRAFA was held in the Arlequin Hall of the Galerie Louiza in 1956. Charles Van Hove and Mamy Wouters, the long standing President and Vice-President of the Belgian Chamber of Antiques Dealers, were behind the initiative to set up the salon. This first Belgian Antiques Fair or ‘Foire des Antiquaires de Belgique’, as it was known then, followed in the footsteps of the fairs already held at Grosvenor House in London and at the Prinsenhof in Delft, but preceded those set up in Paris, Florence and Munich.

The growing success of the fair and the increasing number of participants meant that a location had to be found capable of keeping up with the event’s development. The range of art objects on display also continued to expand. From 1967 to 2003, the fair was held in the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Up until 1994, only Belgian antiques dealers who were members of the Royal Chamber of Antique Dealers could take part in the fair which was, at the time, a purely national event. The number of participants fluctuated between forty and fifty.

The first major change occurred in 1995 when Christian de Bruyn opened the fair to foreign antique dealers for the first time. The Belgian antique dealers saw this as a revolutionary step and they were right; in no time the fair had outgrown the Palais des Beaux-Arts and a new, much bigger location had to be found. In 2004 the Belgian Antiques Fair therefore moved to Tour & Taxis, a gem of Belgian industrial architectural heritage situated in the north of Brussels, next to the Willebroek canal. Now that exhibition space was no longer restricted, the BRAFA actively sought to increase the number of participants. Having started with no more than twenty Belgian antique dealers it grew to incorporate about one hundred and thirty exhibitors from both Belgium and abroad in the space of a few years. The fair is now recognized worldwide as one of the leading international fairs in Europe.

BRAFA, or the Brussels Art Fair, is one of the longest running art and antiques fairs in the world and is organized every year by the nonprofit Belgian Antiques Fair Association.

The uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic in Europe is the main reason for the postponement. BRAFA, which is traditionally the first top international fine art fair of the year, showcases 130 exhibitors on average, of which two thirds come from abroad.

Last year, the fair welcomed a record number of 68,000 visitors, collectors and professionals, including a significant number from neighbouring countries. The current health situation and its potential evolution this autumn and winter have caused serious concerns. New restrictions on intra-European travel related to coronavirus pandemic and the safety measures imposed by the authorities have only added to the fear of the organisers.

#BLM war on idols

Anna van Densky OPINION Ancient Greek philospher said – Patna Rhei – everything flows. Stepping out of the confinement the Europeans found themselves in a different world, violently torn apart by phanthomes of the сolonial past.

Black Life Matters #BLM movement touched Brussels, de facto the European Union (EU) capital, by pogroms of the luxury stores, but not only. The degradation of public life into a bitter argument over the colonial past has occurred suddenly as a skeleton fallen out from the closet.

People use politics not just to advance their interests but also to define their identity. We know who we are only when we know who we are not and often only when we know whom we are against” Samuel Hantington wrote in his famous “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order”. Apparently a new episode of the clash is gaining momentum.

Unfortunately during this clash in Brussels the rule of law was completely buried in avalanche of emotions, detached from realities, and pursuing the fantômes of the past. The wave of the monuments vandalisation ended in a proposal for creation of the Belgium parliament commission for Truth & Reconciliation aiming at the appology for the colonial atrocities in Congo Free State in times of king Leopold II. “We, the Socialist party, believe that there should be an apology,” said group leader Meryame Kitir. However is the apology enough to build bridges between communities?

The statues of the public figures, causing the whirlwind of emotions, like the one of the Belgium king Leopold II in the first ranks, the one who owned Congo as his personal property, are perceived differently by Europeans and Africans within their retrospective cultures. If Belgiums mostly see in them the relics of the past, the Africans have much more lively and mysterious ways of relating to the sculptures as idols, materialising the idea, insuring its longevity.

For African ethnic religions, the idols are sacred tools to influence life through mysterious rituals, and even more, they are integral part of life, participating in their own invisible manner through emanation of energies. Originally they were named fétiche by Portuguese colonizers who introduced the word to set a clear difference between African idols and Christian saints, however this verbal distinction did not prevent Africans to look at the European sculptures though the prism of the own perceptions.

Another emblematic figure – Julius Ceasar was vandalised in Zottegem, Belgium, most probably in analogy with Christopher Columbus attacked in the U.S., because Caesar conquered the territory of present-day Belgium, and integrated it as a province into Roman Empire. Furthermore, it was Julius Caesar who gave the name of “Gallia Belgica“, leaving the description of the local tribes. However he also had diffiuclies there, facing a revolt just four years after the conquest.

Two thousand years later Belgica experiences the other type of migration, than Romans led by Ceasar – a total of 31,600 people have crossed into Europe illegally in 2020 so far, a drop of only 6% from the same period in 2019. Over 5,500 have reached Europe via the so-called ‘Central Mediterranean route‘, from North Africa to Europe, including 1,000 migrants in May.

Yet Libya continues to act as a magnet for migrants who come there in hope to make cross the sea and reach the European coasts, settling in one of the rich countries of the continent.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates that in February 2020 there were at least 654,000 migrants gathered in Libya in view to cross the sea.

The top five nationalities were Nigerien 21%, Chadian 16%, Egyptian 15%, Sudanese 12%, and Nigerian 8%. Men constituted 89% of migrants, women 11%, and 7% were minors of which 24% were unaccompanied. On average the fee to reach Libya mounts up to $1,000.

Various projections indicate that mid-century African population will double reaching 2,5 billion threshold, while the Europeans will decline to 450 million. However if current trend of migration flows from Maghreb coast continue with the same frequency and intercity, from 150 to 200 million of Europe inhabitants will be from African descent.

In spite this impressive perspective of the “Africanisation of Europe” the politicians have no strategy of adaptation of European cultural environment to upcoming “African Age“. With the fast-growing African population in Europe, the request to abandon the Eurocentric concept of history was not totally unpredictable, on contrary, it was quite a logical outcome of the demographic trends. In these cirucumstances the vandalisation of the sculputres of the historic figures are emblematic, but not essential in adaptation demands of the newscomers.

The profound meaning of the transition from quantity to quality, which Hegel was highly likely the first to articulate, was one of several ways of explaining change and the mechanisms of social transformation. Unfortunatly so far both the European Union and national politics in the member-states have been ignoring the ongoing tectonic demographic transformation of the continent.

Hakuna-matata modus is over. Time to say patikana, and face and advantages and challenges of the imminent change.

“Back from Davos” event under siege

The unnamed protestors gathered to prevent the evening debate “Back from Davos” which is held annually in Brussels, and during which European and national politicians, business leaders and representatives of civil society exchange their views on the main conclusions of the World Economic Forum. The freedom of assembly was violated in the name of disliking of “absence of transparency” of Davos Economic Forum yearly gathering.

The activists, who presented themselves vaguely as “defenders of social and climate justice, yellow vests, unionists”, intended to padlock each other to block the entrance to the business club located at Place Poelaert, opposite the Palace of Justice.

The police, apparently informed of the preparation of their action, prevented the troublemakers from storming into the building.

The protestors prvented participants from entering the building, in a brutal violation of the freedom of assembely. Apparently they denied the fundamental rights and freedoms to the guests of the event, imposing their will as only valid reason:
“We do not want you come in! We do not want to allowed anyone in!!” they screamed, unimpressed by the press card.

However the discussion with the President of the European Research Council Mauro Ferrari and Brussels Bureau Chief of the The Wall Street Journal Dan Michaels successfully began at 6:00 pm.

Mauro Ferrari,59, is a nanoscientist acknowledged for leadership in founding the field of nanomedicine and serving as special expert on nanotechnology for the National Cancer Institute (2003-2005) where he was instrumental in establishing the Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer in 2004.

28/01/2020 AMENDEMENT:

Farewell to Juncker era

Anna van Densky OPINION President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker concluded his mandate in his unique ‘cool‘ style in an informal PR event, with a lot of applause and a few mediocre questions from Brussels press corps, which is definitely not his fault.

I have always said that me and euro are the only survivors of the Maastricht Treaty, but after my departure only euro (currency) will stay, Juncker said with a good dose of humour in exchange with journalists. “I am happy to leave the “most difficult job in the world””, he confessed , mentioning successes and regrets, he did not specify.

From the behalf of the Brussels International Press Association (API-IPA) Italian ANSA correspondent read a short thank you speech, without any assessment of the Juncker Commission achievements, explaining there would be a broad divergence of opinions on the subject.

However there was a sadness in the air from saying good-bye to a generation of European politicians – the dreamers of a grand project of the United States of Europe, conceived by Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet, the believers in European Union as a family of nations. Looking back on five years of Juncker Commission, one can recognise his attempt to create an informal atmosphere of friendliness, togetherness, and genuine multiculutralism in spite of multiple systemic crises, eroding the EU project.

Juncker era is definitely over…

His heiress, German Ursula von der Leyen has already imosed the style of her upcoming mandate, taking the decision to stay in Berlaymont building at all times, using permanently the adjacent 25 square meter appartement designed as “personal retreat” in the same building on the 13th floor.

Her main residence remains in Hannover, Germany, where her husband lives and works. Does she expect everyone to follow, introducing Japanese sleeping at work place culture INEMURI in European Commission, when in absence of adjacent appartements the European civil servants will spend long hours in offices, falling asleep at their tables?

However this von der Leyen decision has further reaching consequences, ending the story of Brussels as modern “melting pot”, and reducing it to headquaters of EU management, shaped by staunchly tribalismafter the intense week of work inemuri style, everyone will return to the relevant national communities. Good-bye, Brussels Babylon tower dream…

Jutta URPILAINEN: EU future Santa-Claus?

Undoubtedly Jutta URPILAINEN is exceptionally kind, generous and honest, and above it all sensitive to other people’s grievances. Mother of two adopted Colombian children, she is certainly an exceptional human-being. However are they the qualities to carry on the job of the EU Commissioner on International Partnerships? (Previously International Cooperation and Development led by CroatiaNeven Mimica #DEVCO).

During the October 1 hearing with Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), Urpilainen has successfully avoided all the burning problems of Africa – the major recipient of the EU development funds: CORRUPTION, TERRORISM, ETHNIC CONFLICTS, CHINA EXPANSION, DEMOGRAPHIC EXPLOSION, – none of them were addressed. Even Ebola!

The entire debate she stayed in shallow waters of wooden language of the EU politically correct: important ‘‘improvement”, “empowerment”, “transparency”, “equality”, “listen to people”, and the other “meaningful” cliches, favored by the EU Mandarines, dramatically lacking vision and imagination.

From time to time she was making a nod to MEPs, flattering them with reminding of her “unelected” status vis-à-vis their elected superiority. However these calculated maneuvers could not take away an impression of a dramatic lack of knowledge of the development portfolio.

At most ambivalent impression made Urpilainen  “asymmetric” answers to MEPs questions, clearly prepared in advance, and used without adaptation.

Finally, she promised to “learn”,  “listen”, and to “improve“, however the question remains if the EU needs an “apprentice-Commissioner”?

CONCLUSION: One can’t become pilot over night taking off plane w/ 300 passengers over Atlantic, but one can become aid Commissioner with  €20 000 a  month salary without a clue of international politics. What a soap!

October 1, European Parliament, Brussels Jutta URPILAINEN for International Partnerships Commissioner.

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Brexit paradoxes continue

Anna van Densky OPINION Next week the European Parliament starts the series of hearings to endorse the team of Ursula von der Leyen Commissioners-designate. In one of paradoxes of protracted Brexit the British Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will participate and vote for the candidates, influencing the EU politics in spite of the fact that they did not propose a Commissioner themselves for apparent reasons.

Roughly 10% of votes, 73 UK departing MEPs will influence decisions shaping future composition of the top executives of the Commission – the guardian of EU Treaties, and the initiator of new laws.

However it is not the end of the road. In case there will be one more extension of Brexit beyond October 31, British government has to appoint a Commissioner to Brussels. Will Lord Hill come back? (Joke). Will Sir Julian King stay? If ‘yes’, it will be to the greatest joy of the Remainers,  assessing his marriage to the top EU civil servant Dane Lotte Knudsen (Germany, EEAS) as an ultimate sign of this loyalty to Brussels. Conflict of interests? One can hardly blame it to any UK national amid total confusion the protracted Brexit is causing. (Continuation follows),