Russia denies gas use for politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crimea: EU non-recognition policy

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

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

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

#PandoraPapers: $32 trillion tax evasion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UN: Borrell-Lavrov meeting in NYC

Brussels 24.09.2021 The EU High Representative Josep Borrell met with the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov, in the margins of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly on Thursday. They discussed EU-Russia relations as well as pressing international issues.(Image: archive)

High Representative Borrell addressed some of the challenges in EU-Russia relations, the objective being to aim at a more stable and predictable relationship. Disagreements persist, in particular in regards to Russia’s violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, in the area of democracy and human rights, as well as with regard to cyber, disinformation and other hybrid threats.

The discussion focused on international issues where the EU and Russia should continue to cooperate, with a view to addressing global security challenges such as the situation in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, the Middle East Peace Process or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

AUSTRIA refuses Afghan migrants

Brussels 07.09.2021 This week Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has reiterated that he does not want to see a surge of Afghan migrants and praised Greece for reinforcing the external border of the European Union.

Chancellor Kurz made the remarks on Monday, September 6, during a press conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić in Belgrade.

“If there are waves of migration from Afghanistan, migrants must be cared for in neighbouring countries. That is why we are in contact with the countries of that region,” Kurz said, according to Euronews.

Adding: “They must not go to Europe.”

President Vučić agreed with the Austrian chancellor’s sentiments, stating: “Those who leave Afghanistan have a clear goal: Western Europe and the United States. Not many of them want to stay in the Western Balkans. We will show solidarity with everyone, but we will not be the place where they can camp.”

Chancellor Kurz also praised the Greek government for its stance on fortifying the European Union external border, saying: “Today, at the external borders of the EU, these phenomena are better dealt with, and the approach is different than it was in 2015 when with European funds, i.e. European taxpayers’ money, migrants were promoted through Greece to other countries in Europe. ”

“This has changed. Greece is now making a significant contribution, making great efforts, to guard the EU’s external borders,” he said.

While Sebastian Kurz has come out against taking in large numbers of Afghan migrants, at home, his Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and their stance on the issue has conflicted with their Green Party coalition partners.

The debate takes place while about 500 homeless people, mainly migrants including Afghans and families with children, set up tents on Wednesday September 1 in Paris, under the windows of the prefecture of the Ile-de-France region, in order to ask the state “Dignified and lasting hosting solutions”.

550 Afghan migrants welcomed in Hauts-de-Seine, accommodated in hotels.
At the same time, a homeless person is sentenced to prison for not wearing a mask.
“Hotel *** Mercure (in Strasbourg) for migrants, prison for the French” write indignant users of social networks.

Hagia Sophia: Turkey move towards Sultanate

Anna van Densky OPINION Today visit of the European Union top diplomat Josep Borrell to Ankara would be also highly emblematic, demonstrating the capacity of the bloc to stand for the European values, namely the human rights and freedom of religion. The wish of the President Erdogan to transform the emblematic Byzantine temple into mosque, caused vivid concerns of 300 million of Orthodox believers across the world, who consider their rights to be violated in case the building to be converted to a place of worship.

City of Istanbul Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) monument has rich, centuries long history, but nowadays it has also an immense political significance for both the East and the West, symbolising the crossroads of two civilisations. The situation of cultrual balance has changed recently, when an association started pursuing the cancellation of the 1935 decision that transformed the emblematic temple into a museum, and demanded the re-establishing of the Muslim cult, and group prayers. Not without sympathy of the President Erdogan himself, who said it is an internal issue, and any expression of an opinion from outside would be considered as attack on Turkey “sovereignty“.

A court decision is expected within fortnight mid-July.

The former Orthodox Byzantine cathedral, later converted to mosque is at the center of a modern dispute between Turkey’s secular Ataturk heritage, and President Erdogan attempts to include religion into basement of his autocratic rule. The argument that surfaced at court in reality reflects the entire process in Turkish society, representing two Turkeys, one looking inwards, and the other outwards. The opportunity to pray in the UNESCO World Heritage monument is more that an argument between a possibility to convert a museum into mosque, it is a historic battle between secularism and striving for the EU membership urban part of Turkish society from one hand, and from the other hand religious conservatism, shifting the country further and further away from the European values.

The Council of State – the highest legal authority – listened to arguments of lawyers for the Association for the Protection of Historic Monuments and the Environment on July 2, the group claiming for the Hagia Sophia to be transformed to mosque.

If the court decides in the NGO’s favor, it will impose the entire transformation of the historic building of Byzantine times, which has been a symbol of the city’s status as a meeting point between the East and the West, and the Muslim and the Christian worlds.

Constructed as a temple, after it was completed in 537 the Hagia Sophia was immediately central to early Christianity and its vast cathedral dome was admired by generations as a marvel. In 1453, when the Ottomans conquered the city previously known as Constantinople, it became a mosque by force. However 500 years later it was converted into a museum soon after the choice of the Turkish society for of modern and secular state was made.

Constructed as a Byzantine architectural masterpiece, Hagia Sophia was completed in 537. Today, it is one of the world’s most popular attractions, and UNESCO World Heritage, with millions visiting every year, the magnet of the historic Sultanahmet district of Istanbul. At present there is no clarity on how this monument would function in case transformed into place of Muslim worship.

Lately hardline President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who made Islam an integral part of his political agenda, has set his sights on the building. In a campaign speech ahead of local elections last year, he said it had been a “very big mistake” to turn it into a museum.

However Hagia Sophia’s mixture of religion belongings made it so symbolic for Turkey, predominantly Muslim, but founded in the early 20th century on secular ideas of separating religion and state.

Erdogan, and the Turkish association in the court case, certainly have many supporters, especially in the country-side.

Some experts presumed that the there should be shields, covering Byzantine Christian mosaics which are not compatible with the Islam cult. The other big issue is the building maintenance, and monitoring of the artefacts by specialists. In case it becomes the worship place, the jurisdiction would change, creating uncertainty for the restauration specialists examining the site to ensure its conversation.

However there is little doubt what the Court decision will be, after last month announcement President Erdogan made, while meeting ruling party officials:

“Allah willing, after the decision by the council state, we will pray in the Hagia Sophia”.

The European Commission, the guarding of the treaties, and the counterpart of Ankara in accession talks considers that the monument should be regarded as UNESCO World Heritage, the emblematic place for tolerance and dialogue.

Brexit extension “flex”

The length of Brexit extension is a priority subject in the EU, considering how long should be a new timetable for the UK departure from the bloc.

There are three major suggestions in the air: three months, six months and one year, the last one is propelled by those who hope for the second referendum and derailing Brexit as such.

However Brexit Party leader and Member of the European Parliament Nigel Farage insists on six month extension, explaining that winter months are interrupted by holidays, and six month extension give sufficient time to organise general elections – the only way out of parliamentary Brexit crisis.

Foreign minister of the Republic of Ireland Simon Coveney said that Britain will be offered a flexible extension that could trigger Brexit well ahead of the new deadline but that the opinions of all EU member states were first needed.

“I think that extension will be a flexible one, that will allow the United Kingdom to leave the EU – if they can get a deal done – well in advance of the end of that extension period which looks like it will be the end of January,Simon Coveney told an audience in Belfast on Wednesday.

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),

Dutch Fauna party leads largest Europarl Intergroup

In the framework of the September Strasbourg Plenary the Animal welfare Intergroup of the European Parliament has elected Anja Hazecamp, Dutch MEP as president of the biggest cross party congregation.

Anja Hazekamp (51) is a prominent Dutch politician, a member of the Party for Animals (PvdD), and a member of the group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left (@GUENGL).

The PvdD is the first political party across the  world to gain parliamentary seats, including three seats for Senate, with an agenda focused primarily on animal rights, and animal welfare. At her election Hazekamp said she expects from Ursula von der Leyen ‘real change” in animal welfare issues.

Hazekamp was elected unanimously as the only candidate put forward by the MEPs. The former president of the group Sirpa Petikainen has been elected as an Honorary president.

The Intergroup is providing a forum for debate, and initiating actions for animal welfare-related issues in the European Parliament.  An entire spectrum of activities as issuing  reports, resolutions or amendments, formally asking parliamentary questions and sending letters to authorities, organising public awareness events, – all of them resulted in graduate improvements in the animal welfare situation in the EU.

 Next meeting of the Intergroup will take place in Strasbourg during October Plenary to discuss problems of exotic pet trade in the EU (Thursday 24 October, 10:00 – 11:00).

Libyan war crimes and punishment

Anna van Densky OPINION Curiously the European diplomacy started to talk about “war crimes” in Libya in the context of the protracted for a decade conflict ravaging after the West destruction of led by Colonel Gaddafi Libyan state. (Image above: Tuareg, Fezzan)

The failed ‘regime change’ opened a decade of chaos, and fragmentation, resulting in losses of among the civilian population along with the military. However the EU diplomats are not willing to remember who caused the current dramatic situation, neither they are prepared to demand the investigation of the assassination of Mouammar Gaddafi, whose lynching ended the period of the peaceful development of Libya.

Gaddafi killing

“The death of Mouammar Gaddafi, on October 20 in Syrtie, is one of the questions, which should be clarified. There are serious suspicions that it factually was the war crime“, said Luis Moreno-Campo, the General prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (The Hague) on December 16, a month after NATO manhunt, ending in Gaddafi death. Today, almost a decade later, Gaddafi lynching remains unpunished, the 150 tons of Libyan gold vanished and the Libyan state, bombed by NATO air forces, is still in ruins, ravaged by competing militias. The Murzuq air strike is no exception.

The air strike has been reported to be an action upon requests of local people of Murzuq, suffering from Chadian gangs:

The Libyan armed forces’ aviation, under the aegis of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, responded promptly to requests for help from the Murzuq community in southern Libya. The village, on the southern outskirts of the capital in Fezzan, had been overtaken by a group of Chadian rebels who killed at least 20 people on Sunday morning. Residents spoke of members belonging to the Chadian opposition and Tebu, defined as “mercenaries in the pay of the Government of National Agreement“, based in Tripoli. The aviation has achieved a high precision raid that has dismantled the group and its means”, an Italian journalist Vanessa Tomassini reported from Libya.

Degraded to conflict and poverty by NATO bombs, the richest state of Maghreb  now faces the EU tutorials on human rights. The EU threatens with the lawsuits: the acts of “selective justice” vis-à-vis Libyans, while the names of the mega villains, who committed crimes resulting in Libyan tragedy, has been never mentioned.

If the EU top diplomat Mogherini stated on behalf of the EU on 2 August, thosecommitting war crimes and those breaching International Humanitarian Law must be brought to justice and held to account”, the investigation into Gaddafi assassination should be the first. Naturally the international community should protect the International Criminal Court, threatened by the US top officials: