Displaying items by tag: EU
Six young people from wildfire and heatwave-affected areas in Portugal have taken 32 European governments to court, accusing them of violating their human rights by not taking sufficient action on climate change. The case, filed in September 2020 against all the EU member states and also Britain, Switzerland, Norway, Russia, and Turkey, is the largest climate case ever heard by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. A ruling is expected in the first half of 2024. The applicants argue that the failure to address climate change endangers their rights to life and physical and mental well-being. One of the applicants, 15-year-old Andre Oliveira, highlighted the impact of heat extremes on his ability to exercise and spend time outdoors, leading to sleep difficulties and worsening conditions due to weak climate policies.
The EU High Representative and the European Commission are willing to step up in the global fight against kleptocrats. A new anti-corruption sanctions regime would supplement the EU’s existing regime covering worldwide corruption, enabling it quickly and flexibly to complement country-specific anti-corruption policies for targeting dishonest individuals. The proposal would bring the EU into line with other regimes such as the Global Magnitsky Act, passed after investigations into tax fraud by Russian officials, which allows the USA to ban visas and freeze assets of corrupt individuals and human rights abusers worldwide. It is now incumbent upon EU member states to adopt the Commission’s proposal without delay.
The European Commission has announced plans to shield itself against cyber-attacks, as threats in this sector continue to grow. The defence system will be based on the prevention and detection of cyber-attacks, thanks to a pan-European ‘cyber-shield’ made up of public and private centres. This will mean entrusting part of the bloc's defence to private companies and forcing member states to cooperate, which Margrethe Vestager, executive vice-president of the EC, says is necessary. ‘No one can solve this alone. You cannot have sufficient resources ready because you don't know when you will have an all-out cyberattack,’ Vestager said. ‘We have seen cyberattacks on the Irish health system. We have seen attacks giving access to foreign ministries go undiscovered for months. The proposals, costing €1.1 billion, will have to be reviewed by member states and the European parliament before being implemented.
Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern have been working behind the scenes to get the UK and EU back to the negotiating table over Brexit and the Stormont government collapse. Hard Brexiter Steve Baker has been transferred to the Northern Ireland office, replacing Conor Burns, who went to the Department for International Trade. UK-EU protocol talks were paused when Russia invaded Ukraine. The already strained relations deteriorated further in June when Liz Truss introduced a bill enabling the UK to remove some Northern Ireland Brexit protocol. Hopes of a thaw in UK-EU relations have been fuelled by the absence of Lord Frost from Truss’s new cabinet. Burns met Europe’s Marcus Šefčovič at the weekend and had ‘constructive and prolonged talks’. He told MPs, ‘I am convinced that if the appetite exists, we can find a way to a negotiated solution to the Northern Ireland protocol.’
Part of Brexit released lorries from checkpoints between the UK and EU (Northern Ireland to Republic of Ireland). Instead they are checked when arriving in NI from mainland UK. This protocol was agreed because of sensitive political border histories. Boris Johnson wants to change this protocol section to make it easier for some goods to move between Britain and NI. But the European Commission vice-president said there was ‘no legal or political justification whatsoever for unilaterally changing an international agreement; it has left us with no choice but to take legal action.’ Mr Johnson insists the proposals are legal, will secure the UK’s future and are set out in a parliamentary bill. The protocol is upsetting the balance of the Good Friday Agreement’. The Democratic Unionist Party, who won the second-most seats in recent elections, is refusing to set up a new ruling Northern Ireland executive with Sinn Féin, who won the most seats, until changes are made to the protocol.
Ireland’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, has warned Boris Johnson against any move to change the Northern Ireland protocol. He said, ‘What we can’t do is accept that the British government would act unilaterally, they would pass legislation to effectively breach international law, to set aside elements of a treaty that this prime minister designed and put in place. That would cause more problems than it would solve.’ Foreign minister Liz Truss, announcing a new law to change the post-Brexit trade deal for Northern Ireland, insisted it would be legal under international law. She said the proposed legislation would make changes to the deal - rather than scrapping it - to resolve ‘the grave situation in Northern Ireland’. But in response, the EU said it would ‘need to respond with all measures at its disposal’ if the UK went ahead with the legislation. Pray that all decisions will be according to God’s plans.
Nuclear and natural gas energy plants could be counted as ‘green energy’ under new controversial EU plans. The European Commission has decided that both types of energy can classify as ‘sustainable investment’ if they meet certain targets. But the move has divided the EU and been fiercely opposed by some members. For instance Austria's chancellor said, ‘Nuclear power is neither green nor sustainable’. Spain also strongly objects, but objections are balanced by support from nuclear-using nations such as France. Classifying natural gas as ‘sustainable’ also has supporters in countries still relying on coal for energy (such as Poland) who would benefit from incentives to move to a relatively cleaner supply. Green parties are fiercely campaigning against the plan. But the European Commissioner said, ‘We need to use all the tools at our disposal’ to reach the climate-neutral target’.
Lorries bringing goods from the EU to the UK are stuck in customs controls for days due to new Brexit red tape. Queues of up to eight hours cause delivery delays as firms struggle with Brexit rules which came into force on 1 January. Jordan Freight has had two trucks containing automobile parts stuck at Felixstowe customs controls for four days after arriving in the UK. The driver was allowed to leave the port, but the goods are stuck there. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said they were just too busy to deal with it. Customs experts say problems are partly due to the government’s new IT system. All EU imports must now be processed using the Goods Vehicle Movement Service (GVMS) managed by HMRC. Many drivers have been unable to get their reference codes accepted.
Lithuania’s foreign minister Gabriel Landsbergis has warned that reducing NATO troop numbers in the region could worsen the security situation. Prompted by fears of a Russian invasion sparked by 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border, he said the EU needed to be ‘more involved’ and offer solutions to the crisis. He also called on the EU to review its sanctions against Russia and Belarus to close loopholes and make sure they still had teeth. Lithuania was in ‘constant contact’ with the US during its talks with Russia, and the US had offered a high level of transparency over the negotiations, which did not involve the EU. There is speculation that the US could reduce troops in return for a similar drop in Russian military numbers on the Ukraine border. But Mr Landsbergis warned against any moves to reduce NATO troop numbers in the region. ‘There is this sense of rebuilding the Soviet Union 2.0,’ he said, pointing to Russian troops in Georgia, parts of Ukraine, Moldova, Kazakhstan and Belarus.
France is threatening to block any UK-EU deal over the Northern Ireland Protocol unless the row over post-Brexit fishing licences is resolved in Paris’s favour. With presidential elections next year, he cannot afford to sell out his fishermen, as many hail from a stronghold of his rival Marine Le Pen. Macron has trodden this path before. In 2019, he blocked extending Brexit negotiations, risking a no deal to Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement. In 2020 he threatened to veto any Brexit trade deal that did not satisfy French fishermen, ratcheting up pressure on London. Judging by the negative reactions of the British fishing industry to the trade deal, the tactic worked. Now he is threatening extremely delicate negotiations over the NI Protocol. There is a greater risk now of the UK triggering Article 16 of the protocol than any time before. France also threatened to block the UK from joining the EU’s research programme. See