Fulfilling a commitment to regularly report on progress in the area of security, the Commission is today presenting a report, the first since the new EU Security Union Strategy 2020-2025 was presented in July.
The report highlights actions taken at EU level under the 4 main priorities: a future-proof security environment, tackling evolving threats, protecting Europeans from terrorism and organised crime, and a strong European security ecosystem. The report includes a wide range of reporting on security policy, such as skills and awareness raising issues or education, following the whole-of-society concept of the new strategy. Its core theme is implementation of agreed decisions, which requires continued political and operational efforts by EU institutions and national authorities.
Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life Margaritis Schinas said: “We have a strong set of security rules in place at EU level, built up over two decades, but they will do no one any good unless they are effectively and consistently implemented in practice. This is why this Commission committed to placing a relentless emphasis on implementation. Today we are calling on Member States to step up their work to ensure there are no gaps or delays in how we apply key security instruments such as EU rules on combating terrorism, firearms and on fighting money laundering and terrorist financing. Ensuring the security of EU citizens is a common responsibility where we all have to do our part.”
Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said: “Internal security is at the core of the Security Union Strategy. Today, and in the coming weeks I will address the needs which have been identified. These include improving the EU response to terrorist content online, making IT systems work together and identifying, reporting and removing online child sex abuse materials”.
Key progress and actions needed
The report covers the period from October 2019 to December 2020 and details the significant progress made on priority legislative and other initiatives under the 4 strategic priorities and identifies areas where improvement is needed.
A future-proof security environment: This year, the Commission took strategic and technical measures to ensure the cybersecurity of 5G networks as well as to tackle cross-border health threats. However, there is still a need to further strengthen the protection and resilience of both physical and digital critical infrastructure from a wide range of threats, whether natural or man-made disasters or terrorist attacks. The Commission will shortly present proposals to this effect. Steps are also under way to address specific security needs because of the misuse of emerging technologies such as drones. The report also notes the first ever cyber sanctions imposed following cyber-attacks.
Tackling evolving threats: The Commission has taken action to tackle evolving threats to combat child sexual abuse, hybrid attacks and disinformation to ensure Member States have the right tools to fight and prosecute crime, in full respect of fundamental rights. The Commission calls on Member States to fully implement both the Directive on attacks against information systems and the Directive on combating child sexual abuse. In July, the Commission adopted the EU strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse and subsequently proposed interim legislation to allow the continuation of voluntary detection efforts by online communications services beyond 21 December 2020 (when these providers will fall within the scope of the ePrivacy Directive). The Commission is working on a long-term solution, to be presented in 2021.
Protecting Europeans from terrorism and organised crime: the Commission is adopting today a new EU Counter-Terrorism Agenda to strengthen the EU’s framework to anticipate threats and risks, combat radicalisation and violent extremism, and protect people and infrastructures, notably public spaces. A proposal to revise the mandate for Europol, the EU’s police cooperation agency, is also adopted today, to strengthen Europol’s work on fighting organised crime and terrorism.
A strong European security ecosystem relies on strong cooperation and information exchange and well controlled external borders. To achieve this, the key focus should be on implementation of agreed reforms, notably to achieve the interoperability of databases for migration management, border control and security.
The report also highlights the urgent need to conclude negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council on the proposed Terrorist Content Online Regulation and the work of the EU Internet Forum as an essential platform that brings together Member States and industry to prevent the spread of terrorist content online and counter radicalising messages.
On 24 July 2020, the Commission adopted the EU Security Union Strategy 2020-2025 presenting a number of initiatives with the objective of creating a multidisciplinary, coordinated and integrated approach to security while fully respecting fundamental rights.
This strategy sets out strategic and inter-dependent priorities on security to be taken forward at EU level in 2020-2025. It builds upon progress achieved previously under the European Agenda on Security 2015-2020 and provides new elements, to ensure that EU security policy reflects new challenges.
Conditions worsen for stranded migrants along Belarus-EU border
At least eight people have died along the border between Belarus and the European Union, where multiple groups of asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants have been stranded for weeks in increasingly dire conditions.
The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, appealed for urgent action on Friday, to save lives and prevent further suffering at the border with Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. The latest casualty was reported within the past few days.
UNHCR warned that the situation will further and rapidly deteriorate as winter approaches, putting more lives in danger.
For the Agency’s Regional Director for Europe, Pascale Moreau, “when fundamental human rights are not protected, lives are at stake.”
“It is unacceptable that people have died, and the lives of others are precariously hanging in the balance. They are held hostage by a political stalemate which needs to be solved now,” he said.
According to media reports, the EU regards the increase in asylum seekers at the border, a direct result of Belarus, in effect, weaponizing migrants, in retaliation for sanctions placed on the Government over the suppression of the protest movement following last year’s disputed re-election of President Lukashenko.
Among those stranded are 32 Afghan women, men and children. They have been left in limbo between Poland and Belarus since mid-August, unable to access asylum and any form of assistance. They do not have proper shelter and no secure source of food or water.
A group of 16 Afghans tried to cross into Poland this week, but they were apprehended and not allowed to apply for asylum. They were also denied access to legal assistance. Within a few hours, they were pushed back across the border to Belarus.
So far, UNHCR has not been granted access to meet with the group from the Polish side, despite repeated requests, and only met them a few times from the Belarusian side to deliver life-saving aid.
The Agency has been advocating for the group to be granted asylum, since the Afghans have expressed their wish to settle either in Belarus or in Poland.
The request has been ignored by both sides. For UNHCR, that is “a clear violation of international refugee law and international human rights law.”
“We urge Belarus and Poland, as signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention, to abide by their international legal obligations and provide access to asylum for those seeking it at their borders.
“Pushbacks, that deny access to territory and asylum, violate human rights in breach of international law”, said Mr. Moreau.
UNHCR urges the authorities to determine and address humanitarian and international protection needs, and find viable solutions. The agency also stands ready to support refugees, together with other relevant stakeholders.
“People must be able to exercise their rights where they are, be it in Belarus or in Poland or other EU States where they may be located. This must include the possibility to seek asylum, access to legal aid, information and appropriate accommodation”, Mr. Moreau concluded.
Focus on the recovery from the pandemic at the 19th EU Regions Week
The annual European Week of Regions and Cities has shown how the EU and national and regional governments can support European citizens and their local communities with public policies aimed at investing in a fairer, greener and more digital future for recovery. Under the theme ‘Together for Recovery’, more than 300 sessions, including debates with high-profile officials, regional and local representatives, an inspiring Citizens’ Dialogue, various workshops as well as an Award for outstanding young journalists, celebrated the EU values of cohesion and solidarity.
Taking place in a hybrid format, with sessions both physical and virtual, the 19th EU Regions Week had one main mission: highlighting the role of EU investments in the recovery from the pandemic and in facing common challenges. The event kicked off with a press conference with Apostolos Tzitzikostas, President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) and Elisa Ferreira, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, who underlined that “Cohesion Policy was one of the first responders in the emergency phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, driven by the core value of EU solidarity”.
The second annual local and regional barometer was presented by Apostolos Tzitzikostas, followed by a debate with members of the European Committee of the Regions. The report confirmed that the pandemic related measures put at risk regional and local finances, resulting in a 180 billion budget cut for local and regional authorities across Europe. At the same time, 1 in 3 local and regional politicians want regions and cities to become more influential in EU policy-making on health issues.
“Unless we measure the state of our regions and cities, we cannot understand the state of our Union” said Apostolos Tzitzikostas, President of the European Committee of the Regions. “Only by taking the pulse of our communities, we can decide how effective the EU has been on the ground, and what the EU needs to do to help its people”.
Further taking stock of the EU cohesion policy response to the coronavirus pandemic as well as informing the general public, various workshops touched upon life before and after the pandemic, including explanations regarding the role of regions and cities for a Green Transition, the Cohesion Policy 2021-2027 and NextGenerationEU, as well as the CRII, CRII+, React-EU support packages for regional and local healthcare services and equipment.
Young journalists were also invited to take part in the EU Regions Week 2021, getting the opportunity to debate with Elisa Ferreira at the Citizens’ Dialogue. In the Youth4Regions programme for aspiring journalists, Irene Barahona Fernandez from Spain and Jack Ryan from Ireland won the 2021 Megalizzi-Niedzielski prize for aspiring journalists.
About the event
In total, more than 12 000 participants and 900 speakers joined the 4-day event either physically or online, showing engagement in all corners of EU society – from our vibrant youth to our high-profile officials, local and regional representatives, academic experts and professional specialists, displaying a common readiness to tackle what the future holds, together.
EU and Qatar sign landmark aviation agreement
The European Union and the State of Qatar today signed a comprehensive air transport agreement, upgrading rules and standards for flights between Qatar and the EU. The agreement sets a new global benchmark by committing both sides to fair competition, and by including social and environmental protection. The signing means new opportunities for consumers, airlines and airports in Qatar and the EU.
Qatar is an increasingly important aviation partner for the EU. It was the 15th largest extra-EU market in 2019 with 6.3 million passengers travelling between the EU and Qatar. Ensuring open and fair competition for air services between both is therefore crucial, also for routes between the EU and Asia.
Adina Vălean, Commissioner for mobility and transport, said: “This agreement, the first one between the EU and the Gulf region, is a global benchmark for forward-looking aviation agreements. It is testimony to our shared commitment to economically, socially and environmentally sustainable aviation, based on a modern framework covering fair competition and closer cooperation on social and environmental matters. This agreement will bring new opportunities, more choice and higher standards for passengers, industry and aviation workers.”
Today’s agreement creates a level playing field that is expected to result in new air transport opportunities and economic benefits for both sides:
- All EU airlines will be able to operate direct flights from any airport in the EU to Qatar and vice versa for Qatari airlines.
- EU airports in Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands will be subject to a gradual build-up of capacity until 2024. For more details on this, see the Q&A.
- Strong provisions on open and fair competition will guarantee a level playing field.
- The parties recognised the importance of social matters, agreed to cooperate on these and to improve their respective social and labour laws and policies as per their international commitments.
The agreement will facilitate people-to-people contacts and expand commercial opportunities and trade. Going beyond traffic rights, the EU-Qatar agreement will provide a single set of rules, high standards and a platform for future cooperation on a wide range of aviation issues.
Qatar is a close aviation partner for the European Union; more than 6 million passengers travelled between the EU and Qatar per year under the existing 26 bilateral air transport agreements with EU Member States prior to the pandemic. While direct flights between most EU Member States and Qatar have already been liberalised by those bilateral agreements, none of them include provisions on fair competition, or social and environmental issues, which the Commission considers essential for a modern aviation agreement.
In 2016, the European Commission obtained authorisation from the Council to negotiate an EU-level aviation agreement with Qatar, which started on 4 March 2019. While the agreement still needs to be ratified by the parties before formally entering into force, it will start being applied from today’s signature.
Similar EU comprehensive air transport agreements have been signed with other partner countries, namely the United States, Canada, the Western Balkans, Morocco, Georgia, Jordan, Moldova, Israel and Ukraine. Further air transport agreements with Armenia and Tunisia are expected to be signed in the coming weeks.
Regulatory Noose Tightens Around the Federal Reserve: Powell Reaffirmed a Second Term
The Federal Reserve has been under a sharp gaze since the twilight years of former president Donald J. Trump. Whether...
Russia’s role in the revival of the Iran Nuclear deal
Iran in recent weeks has stated on more than one occasion, that is willing to return to the negotiation table...
Turkey and Iran find soft power more difficult than hard power
The times they are a changin’. Iranian leaders may not be Bob Dylan fans, but his words are likely to...
The impact of the joint security coordination between Israel and Turkey in Afghanistan
First: Analysis of the potential scenarios of (Israeli-Arab or Iranian-Arab security coordination on Afghanistan), or the extent of success of...
United World of Job Seekers and Job Creators Will Boost Recovery
Why is there so much disconnect between entrepreneurial thinking and bureaucratic thinking? Has the world of education, certification, occupation divided...
Debunking the Sovereignty: From Foucault to Agamben
“Citing the end of Volume I of The History of Sexuality, Agamben notes that for Foucault, the “threshold of modernity”...
Did India invade Kashmir?
Pakistan has decided to observe 27th October as Black Day. This was the day when, according to India’s version, it...
Defense3 days ago
American submarine mangled in the South China Sea
Middle East4 days ago
North Africa: Is Algeria Weaponizing Airspace and Natural Gas?
Americas4 days ago
Iran poll contains different messages for Biden and Raisi
Americas4 days ago
Biden’s Department of Justice: parents as domestic terrorists
Defense3 days ago
Will India be sanctioned over the S-400 Air Defense System?
Intelligence2 days ago
Sino-Russian regional activities after Afghanistan
Economy2 days ago
Sustainable Agriculture in Modern Society
Finance3 days ago
North Macedonia’s Growth Projected Higher, but Economy Still Faces Risks