EU

  • A che punto è la Brexit?

    I negoziati tra Conservatori e Laburisti continuano. Dopo i primi incontri, avvenuti in un clima di collaborazione e di fiducia, nessun passo avanti concreto era stato fatto. Sembrava che le cose andassero per le lunghe e il timore di avvicinarsi alla scadenza della proroga dell’art.50 senza accordi, impauriva i contrari, politici, imprese, o semplici cittadini, ad un’uscita no deal. Tanto più che la premier Theresa May è nuovamente sotto il tiro del fuoco amico, cioè del suo tesso partito. Dopo aver superato il voto di sfiducia del Parlamento nel dicembre scorso, deve ora affrontare il giudizio dei leader locali del suo partito e di altri membri, in una riunione speciale a margine della Convenzione nazionale dei Conservatori. Il presidente della stessa Convenzione, Andrew Sharpe, ha dichiarato che oltre il 10 per cento dei membri dei partiti locali hanno firmato una petizione che chiede le dimissioni della May, responsabile, secondo loro, della cattiva conduzione della Brexit, facendo finta di dimenticare che il Parlamento stesso è stato incapace, in numerose votazioni, di darsi una maggioranza risolutiva. Questi contestatori vorrebbero rimuoverla dall’incarico ed in più di 70 hanno sottoscritto una petizione nella quale affermano che la signora May “non è la persona giusta per continuare come primo ministro a guidare i negoziati” e quindi chiedono che essa “consideri la sua posizione e si dimetta”.

    Il suo portavoce, tuttavia, cerca di minimizzare, affermando che qualsiasi voto non sarebbe vincolante e che in ogni caso, non c’è nessuna certezza che esso riesca a passare. Se tra i Conservatori si nota sconcerto e disimpegno, non si può dire che tra gli oppositori  Laburisti alberghi un clima di fiducia e di concordia. Il loro leader, Jeremy Corbyn, è sotto pressione, perché il suo no ad un nuovo referendum sulla Brexit, sta inducendo alcuni membri a lasciare il partito. Corbyn infatti ritiene possibile un secondo referendum, ma solo come ultimo tentativo per evitare un no deal. Ma il suo vice, Tom Watson, invece, a nome di una buona parte di militanti e di deputati del partito, sostiene la richiesta di un nuovo voto popolare senza se e senza ma.

    A questo scollamento interno dei due partiti, nelle ultime ore, fa riscontro una buona notizia. Pare, infatti, che le trattative tra Conservatori e Laburisti, stiano facendo passi avanti significativi. Lo riferisce il quotidiano “The Guardian”, citando le dichiarazioni  del “ministro ombra” per l’Ambiente del Labour, Sue Hayman, rese alla chiusura della riunione dei negoziatori, secondo il quale si è tenuta una discussione davvero costruttiva, che è entrata anche nei minimi dettagli, dimostrando che il governo è deciso ad andare avanti. E’ un buon segnale!

  • EU – US face off over opening up the EU’s Single Market to US agriculture

    Formal EU-US trade talks begin in February but the two trade delegations met on Tuesday to firm up the bloc’s parameters for talks; Brussels focused on taking agriculture off the negotiating agenda.

    Opening the Single Market to US agricultural goods is a non-starter for a number of EU member states, despite the insistence of successive US administrations.

    “We have been very clear that from the EU side that we will not discuss agriculture,” Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström told the press last week. The statement was in direct opposition to 17-page paper submitted by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, defining the US objective as “comprehensive market access for U.S. agricultural goods in the EU by reducing or eliminating tariffs.”

    If Washington were to insist on agricultural concessions, negotiations could falter as they did during talks on the foiled Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnerships talks pushed by the Obama Administration.

    As always, there are differences between the two sides, not least European objections to genetically modified food and chlorinated chicken. US trade negotiators also have little patience for European geographic indicators for dairy products. In any event, both the US and the European farming sectors are heavily subsidized, an issue that is politically challenging to address either in Washington or in Brussels without spending considerable political capital.

    US legislators have made it clear that access to Europe’s agricultural market is a precondition to a Free Trade Agreement. The stakes are high, as the Trump Administration is threatening Europe with auto-industry tariffs, citing “national security” risks. If tariffs go ahead, they would be a great blow to the German €36bn market share of the US market.

    France is usually the champion of the agricultural cause in the EU. However, opening the agricultural would be a blow to a number of EU member states, from Poland and Italy to Ireland and Romania. As late as September 2018, the Italian government was threatening not to ratify the EU-Canada Free Trade Agreement (CETA), arguing that its agricultural products were not sufficiently protected.

    Following the visit by the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker to Washington in July, the EU doubled the volume of US soybean imports, cushioning the effect of the Sino-American trade war. For the moment, talks are not expected to make any more progress on the agricultural front.

    For the EU, the focus is on non-tariff barriers, namely the mutual recognition of testing, inspection and certification of manufactured goods, ranging from electrical equipment to toys. The US is seeking greater access to government procurement while preserving the “Buy American” limits in the U.S., the Wall Street Journal reports.

  • Spanish PM Sánchez threatens to vote no over Gibraltar

    Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced on November 20 that he would vote against the draft Brexit agreement if the text concerning the status of Gibraltar is not amended.

    “As things stand today, if there are no changes regarding Gibraltar, Spain will vote no on Brexit,” warned Sánchez over details of Article 184 of the agreement, which, according to Sánchez  “does not recognise that the case of Gibraltar, which must be negotiated directly between Spain and the United Kingdom. Our government will not accept it (as is),” adding, “The fact that our government, which is pro-European, finds itself in this situation proves that there is something wrong with Brussels.”

    Throughout the Brexit negotiations, Spain – along with Ireland and Cyprus – has conducted separate talks with the UK about specific border issues. Sánchez’s demands will likely cause more headaches for EU officials ahead of Sunday’s EU-27 meeting, but this could not lead the deal to a breakdown, as the Withdrawal Agreement could still be approved by a qualified majority.

    During an EU ministers meeting in Brussels, Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell reiterated that the draft Brexit deal had failed to make clear that talks on Gibraltar were “separate negotiations” and not part of future talks between the UK and EU.

    Spain’s goal is to get a provision in the agreement that would guarantee that the future bilateral trade relationship between the Eu and UK will not apply to Gibraltar without Madrid’s approval. The European Council’s legal team has tried to reassure Spain about the details of the text, but Borrell is still demanding further clarification.

    Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo, said he regretted the decision of the Spanish government but said he was not surprised by Madrid’s last minute demands. “This is a normal tactic of Spain’s since it is in the EU,” he said.

    The European Commission’s chief spokesperson, Margaritis Schinas, responded to Borrell by saying that the bloc had agreed last year that “no agreement between the EU and the UK can apply to Gibraltar without an agreement between the United Kingdom and  Spain”.

  • L’Ema tarda a trasferirsi ad Amsterdam? La Lega rilancia l’ipotesi sede a Milano

    La Lega ci riprova e lancia, nuovamente, la proposta di assegnare l’EMA, Agenzia europea del farmaco, a Milano. Motivo? A quanto pare le procedure di trasferimento da Londra ad Amsterdam, sede scelta in seguito ad un discutibile sorteggio di gara in cui concorreva anche Milano, sarebbero in alto mare; per non parlare poi della scarsa voglia di funzionari e dipendenti di lasciare la capitale del Regno Unito per la città simbolo d’Olanda. “La scelta di assegnare con il sorteggio l’Agenzia Europea del Farmaco, l’Ema, ad Amsterdam si sta rivelando deleteria per il funzionamento della stessa agenzia, per via di ostacoli logistici, legati alla lentezza dei lavori infrastrutturali per dotare l’Ema di una nuova sede ancora interamente da costruire nella capitale olandese, ma anche per via di problemi burocratici e fiscali”. E’ quanto afferma Paolo Grimoldi, Vice presidente della Commissione Esteri e deputato della Lega. “Il trasloco ad Amsterdam sta comportando un’emorragia di personale, quantificata in circa il 30% di funzionari e addetti che non vogliono trasferirsi in Olanda per ragioni fiscali (perderebbero un quarto dello stipendio e avrebbero un costo della vita più alto rispetto a Londra, a cominciare dalle abitazioni), ed un rallentamento delle attività dell’Ema. E ci sono annessi problemi per il trasferimento delle circa 2500 società satelliti dell’Ema. Per tutte queste ragioni chiediamo al Governo e al ministro degli Esteri, Moavero, di riproporre a livello europeo la questione dell’Ema a Milano, di trasferirla subito, per assicurare la piena funzionalità dell’Agenzia che nel capoluogo lombardo troverebbe una sede già pronta ad accoglierla, quella di Palazzo Pirelli, e una serie di componenti logistiche e amministrative che faciliterebbero il trasferimento del personale e delle società satelliti da Londra”.

  • EU’s soft power to improve human rights in Morocco

    Morocco has made significant progress on a number of human rights issues since the revision of its Constitution in 2011 and the creation of the National Council of Human Rights (CNDH) in 2012 but the EU must continue using its soft power to help Rabat take up other sensitive issues.

    Our latest report titled “Human Rights in Morocco: Achievements and Challenges Ahead”, based on a mission in Morocco, takes stock of encouraging improvements concerning freedom of association, peaceful assembly, women’s rights, domestic violence, and children’s rights. It also outlines a number of remaining obstacles to overcome in order to achieve satisfactory results de jure and in practice and thereby meet international standards.

    The number of declared associations in Morocco has currently reached 130,000, including 4,500 working in the field of human rights, but some which challenge the status of its southern provinces, also known as Western Sahara, are still waiting for their registration.

    In 2016, more than 11,000 demonstrations involving 800,000 participants were registered. Some were not peaceful, as it was the case in Gdim Izik in 2010 where eleven police officers and a firefighter were killed by protesters. Twenty-four protestors were sentenced to long prison terms by a military court. Under pressure of the CNDH, a new law was afterwards adopted that prohibited civilians from being tried by military courts and in 2017 the indicted protesters were prosecuted by a civilian court.

    The constitution revised in 2011 allows for equality of male and female Moroccan citizens. The Moudawana (Family Code) revised in 2004 allows for improvement of women’s rights, making it easier for women to get divorced and providing more rights regarding the custody of children. In 2005, a royal decree allowed a Moroccan mother married to a foreign father to give her citizenship to her children. There are currently vivid debates about equal rights in inheritance cases and progress is still needed in practice concerning the right to health, access to education, and labor opportunities. A recent law has criminalized domestic violence but not marital rape.

    The CNDH and its 13 regional branches have been instrumental in the dynamics towards positive changes, reporting and disseminating information about violations as well as bringing together stakeholders to collaborate on solutions. However, the CNDH is aware that it still has a number of challenges to take up, such as the abolition of the death penalty and the human rights of the LGBTI people.

    The CNDH fully complies with the Paris Principles and holds constructive dialogue without concessions with authorities. Its president, Driss El Yazami, has been honored with many prestigious awards, including in January of this year the Order of Leopold, a Royal Order from the Kingdom of Belgium, established in 1832.

    Because of the positive dynamics driven by the CNDH, it is of utmost importance for Brussels to go on using its soft power to contribute to the advancement of human rights in Morocco.

    The EU has often used commercial agreements with third countries to promote human rights and good practices. For years, partnerships between the EU and Morocco have contributed to the development and the well-being of the Moroccan population and have provided the EU a leverage to raise human rights issues in the political dialogues between Brussels and Rabat.

    The EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement in force since 2007 and due for renewal in July 2018 will soon provide a new opportunity to consolidate this fruitful policy.

    Other areas of cooperation such as the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP), the Association Agreement, and the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement, in addition to other regional and bi-lateral agreements, have been used and must be further enlarged to improve the overall human rights standards in Morocco.

     

  • EU launches new awareness campaign on dangerous substances at work

    In order to draw attention to health and safety issues in the workplace, the European Commission and the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has launched a new campaign aimed at promoting various techniques for the management of hazardous substances in the workplace.

    According to the EU institutions, workers continue to be exposed to substances that include carcinogens. At the moment, 21 substances that have already been limited or proposed to be limited and the European Commission recently proposed to limit workers’ exposure to cadmium and its inorganic compounds; beryllium and inorganic beryllium compounds; arsenic acid and its salts, as well as inorganic arsenic compounds; formaldehyde and 4,4′-Methylene-bis(2-chloroaniline), also known as MOCA.

    European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, said that on behalf of the Commission, that the campaign to raise awareness and to actually limit workers’ exposure to cancer-causing chemicals will continue.

    “This is a key priority for the European Commission because the European Pillar of Social Rights entitles workers to a high level of protection of their safety and health at work. EU-OSHA’s campaigns are leading the way in reaching workplaces across Europe and helping organisations adopt effective approaches to occupational safety and health management with the necessary tools,” added Thyssen.

    EU-OSHA’s campaign has the backing of Bulgaria’s  Deputy Minister of Labour and Social PolicyLazar Lazarov. the current holder of the Council of Ministers rotating presidency, who underlined the importance of improving awareness of the existing rules and regulations and how best to comply with them

    A multilingual website to support the campaign, along with an e-tool that is already accessible in English, will soon be available in three country versions (Austria, Estonia and Romania).  A database of almost 700 practical tools and guidance documents from 11 member states (Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Spain, Finland, France, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and the UK) is also available.

     

  • EU billions had ‘limited’ effect in Turkey, audit finds

    The EU got “limited” effect for the €9bn it spent trying to modernise Turkey in recent years, auditors have said. EU funds spent on improving rule of law, governance, and democratic standards “insufficiently addressed some fundamental needs”, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) said in Luxembourg on Wednesday (14 March).

    Funds spent on impartiality of judges, anti-corruption measures, organised crime, and press freedom “barely addressed some fundamental needs,” it said. Turkey had been “backsliding” on reforms since 2013 due to “lack of political will”, the ECA added. It “worsened” the situation “by the large-scale dismissals, suspensions of public officials, and restrictions on civil society” as part of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “repressive post-coup measures” from 2016 onward, the ECA said.

    The post-coup crackdown “undermined Turkey’s position vis-a-vis the EU” and “affected Turkey’s administrative capacity” by their “sheer scale”, it said. “We therefore consider that the [€9 billion] effectiveness was only limited,” the ECA said.

    The EU audit noted that Turkey bore the greater responsibility for how the money was used because the Central Finance and Contracts Unit in Erdogan’s treasury managed 85 percent of the EU spending. But it also criticised the European Commission for failing to impose stricter conditions on how its funds were used – in a lesson for EU enlargement policy in the Western Balkans. The ECA report comes ahead of EU leaders’ plans to discuss Turkey relations at a summit in Brussels next week.

    It also comes ahead of an EU-Turkey summit in March and a commission progress report on Turkey in April, setting the scene for EU decisions of future funds for Turkey in the EU’s post-2020 budget. The ECA report looked at a small sample of projects implemented in the EU programme between 2007 and 2016 and visited Turkey for two weeks last year as part of its assessment. It looked at EU-funded projects such as creating a network of judicial spokespersons, improving border surveillance on the Turkey-Syria and Turkey-Iraq boundaries, and buying IT equipment for anti-money laundering bureaus.

    The report noted that 75 percent of Turkish NGOs or other associations advocating civil rights had vanished in Erdogan’s 2016 post-coup measures. It added that the commission had “systematically reported serious attacks against press freedom in Turkey” ever since that time.

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