EU Citizenship Report: empowering citizens and protecting their rights
Today, the Commission published the 2020 EU Citizenship Report, which takes stock of the progress made on EU citizenship since the last report in 2017. The report also sets out new priorities and actions to empower EU citizens, such as an update of the EU guidelines on free movement, taking into account the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said: “EU citizenship is at the core of the European project. And yet we have seen unprecedented challenges to some of the basic rights we tend to take for granted in Europe – from restrictions to free movement because of the pandemic to challenges to our democratic institutions. Today, we are reaffirming our commitment to further empower citizens and protect their rights for a stronger and more resilient EU.”
The 2020 EU Citizenship Report complements the European Democracy Action Plan setting the framework of actions to empower citizens and build more resilient democracies. It brings a number of concrete actions aiming at strengthening democratic participation, facilitating free movement, protecting and promoting EU citizenship, and protecting EU citizens in Europe and abroad.
Concrete actions and priorities for EU citizens
- Enhancing democratic participation, empowerment and inclusion. Increasing citizens’ involvement in all stages of the democratic process is key to European democracy. Next year, the Commission will update the rules on voting rights of mobile EU citizens. The Commission aims to facilitate the supply of information to citizens when voting in municipal and European elections, as well as the exchange of relevant information among Member States, for instance, to prevent double voting. The Commission will also fund projects on independent election observation and projects that support European citizens’ engagement.
- Facilitating free movement and simplifying daily life. The Commission wants to improve legal certainty for EU citizens when traveling, studying or working in another Member State. To achieve that, in 2022 the Commission will update the 2009 EU guidelines on free movement. The Commission will also come forward with an initiative next year to make the daily lives of EU citizens easier by simplifying their tax obligations. In line with the Withdrawal Agreement, the Commission will continue to support the protection of the rights of EU citizens resident in the UK.
- Protecting and promoting EU citizenship. European citizenship is not for sale. The Commission will continue to address the risks posed by investor schemes for EU citizenship, where necessary by infringement procedures. The Commission will also continue to monitor the impact of restrictive measures put in place during the COVID-19 crisis, until such measures are lifted.
- Protecting EU citizens in Europe and abroad, including in times of crisis. The Commission will continue building a strong European Health Union and implement the EU strategy for COVID-19 vaccines together with the Member States. In 2021, the Commission will also review the EU rules on consular protection in order to improve the EU’s and Member States’ capacity to protect and support European citizens abroad, especially in times of crisis.
The Commission is committed to develop the necessary tools for citizens to fully benefit from their status as European citizens. This is a joint effort. To implement the priorities set out in the report, the Commission will work closely and in partnership with Member States, including local and regional authorities as well as with other EU institutions and stakeholders, civil society and, most importantly, citizens themselves.
AUKUS is on ‘dangerous path’ with nuclear subs deal
The United States, Australia and the United Kingdom are traveling “further down the wrong and dangerous path for their own geopolitical self-interest,” China’s Foreign Ministry said, responding to an agreement under which Australia will purchase nuclear-powered attack submarines from the U.S. to modernize its fleet.
Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the arrangement, given the acronym AUKUS — for Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States — arises from the “typical Cold War mentality which will only motivate an arms race, damage the international nuclear nonproliferation regime, and harm regional stability and peace,” writes ‘The Washington Post’.
AUKUS is one of several U.S.-led security arrangements that have drawn fire from Beijing, which routinely rails against regional blocs from which it is excluded as vestiges of the Cold War.
“The latest joint statement issued by the U.S., U.K., and Australia shows that the three countries have gone further down the wrong and dangerous path for their own geopolitical self-interest, completely ignoring the concerns of the international community,” Wang told reporters at a daily briefing.
U.S. President Joe Biden flew to San Diego to appear with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as they hailed an 18-month-old nuclear partnership that enables Australia to access nuclear-powered submarines, which are stealthier and more capable than conventionally powered vessels, as a counterweight to China’s military buildup.
Biden emphasized the ships would not carry nuclear weapons of any kind. “The three countries claim that they will abide by the highest nuclear non-proliferation standards, which is pure deception,” Wang said, accusing the three of “coercing” the International Atomic Energy Agency into giving its endorsement.
Australia’s defense minister said AUKUS was necessary to counter the biggest conventional military buildup in the region since World War II. Australian officials said the deal will cost up to $245 billion over the next three decades.
Recent days have seen officials from President Xi Jinping down issue dire pronouncements on U.S. China relations and Chinese security in general.
Foreign Minister Qin Gang warned Washington of possible “conflict and confrontation” if the U.S. doesn’t change course to mend relations strained over Taiwan, human rights, Hong Kong, security, technology and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
A day earlier, Xi told delegates of China’s rubber-stamp legislature that “Western countries led by the United States have implemented all-round containment, encirclement and suppression of China, which has brought unprecedented grave challenges to our nation’s development.”
Xi said it was necessary to modernize the armed forces and “build the people’s army into a great wall of steel” that protects China’s interests and national security. Xi also reiterated China’s determination to bring Taiwan under its control by peaceful or military means amid rising concern abroad over a possible attack on the island Beijing claims as its own territory.
China must “resolutely oppose interference by external forces and Taiwan independence separatist activities, and unswervingly promote the process of reunification of the motherland,” Xi said.
China accused the UK, US and Australia of ‘going down a dangerous path’ today after the historic nuclear submarine deal. Beijing’s Foreign Ministry said the AUKUS pact breaks the non-proliferation treaty and is evidence of a ‘typical Cold War mentality,’ London’s ‘The Daily Mail’ expresses British approach.
Security minister Tom Tugendhat risked inflaming tensions further by insisting that China is a ‘threat’ – despite a government review carefully avoiding using the word.
Britain’s fleet of nuclear-powered hunter-killer submarines could be doubled as part of a landmark deal with the US and Australia. As part of the deal, military chiefs are pushing to increase the size of the UK’s hunter-killer submarine fleet from seven to as many as 20.
The vessels will not be nuclear-armed and the “Treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons” (NPT) allows the transfer of fissile material for non-weapons use, like naval propulsion, without the need for monitoring by the UN watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
However, in a series of tweets, the Chinese mission to the UN said the move clearly breached the ‘object and purpose’ of the NPT: “The irony of AUKUS is that two nuclear weapons states who claim to uphold the highest nuclear non-proliferation standard are transferring tons of weapons-grade enriched uranium to a non-nuclear-weapon state, clearly violating the object and purpose of the NPT.”
Bloomberg: U.S. fights for influence in Africa
President Joe Biden’s administration is stepping up a campaign to build American influence in Africa, where the US has lost ground to its main rivals in what’s starting to look like a new Cold War, notes Bloomberg.
At a December summit with the continent’s leaders, Biden pledged a $55 billion support package for Africa.
The push to engage with the mineral-rich continent comes as Russia’s war in Ukraine – and the escalating standoff between the US and China – shake up global diplomacy. Both sides are seeking to win over non-aligned countries in places like Africa.
American officials have raised the Ukraine war with African leaders, and encouraged them to support Kyiv — though many African governments have opted to stay neutral, and some have longstanding ties with Russia that include arms purchases.
The US-China rivalry includes a race to secure minerals that are critical to green energy — Africa has some of the world’s biggest supplies — and a dispute over debt relief, as burdens for poor countries rise along with interest rates. Chinese lending to Africa helped countries develop and build infrastructure.
One example is the US focus on democracy promotion – it recently promised $165 million to support fair elections in Africa – combined with warnings about the destabilizing role of Russia’s Wagner Group, which is active in countries including Mali and the Central African Republic.
The US campaign is pushing up against deep-rooted ties. Countries like Egypt and Morocco have close trade relations with Russia. South Africa has permitted Russian and Chinese warships to carry out exercises in its waters.
Still, US officials have often shied away from publicly drawing direct contrasts with China.
That’s probably because African countries, like many other emerging nations in the Middle East, Asia or Latin America, aren’t receptive to a “with-us-or-against-us” approach. Having to pick sides could set back efforts to develop their economies, and they prefer to do business with both great-power camps.
We are witnessing the birth pangs of a new World Order
Unlike in the bipolar world during the Cold War, the behaviour of the majority is the most crucial factor that will determine the structure of the future international order, writes M.K. Bhadrakumar, Indian Ambassador and prominent international observer.
The latest happenings in international politics may seem esoteric, like the secret ceremonies of Knights Templar of the medieval order. But they are anything but abstruse. It has dawned on most rational minds that the conflict in Ukraine is not intrinsic but symptomatic of an epochal struggle consequential to the making of the World Order.
On March 20, British Defence Minister Annabel Goldie stated in the House of Lords that her government would provide Ukraine with shells containing depleted uranium. Indeed, there is a tragic precedent — NATO’s use of depleted uranium shells while carpet-bombing Serbia during Yugoslavia’s dismemberment. (Today, the highest incidence of cancer in entire Europe occurs in Serbia.)
Britain, chafing under its free fall as a world-class power, is overzealous about power projection, and, fortuitously, Washington also desperately requires a ‘game changer’ to stave off defeat in Ukraine. But madness has limits. If the Anglo-Saxon bravado translates into action, there is bound to be a fearsome Russian reaction.
Suffice to say, we are tiptoeing toward use of tactical nuclear weapons in modern warfare, with all its horrific implications for South Asia. India must voice concern over the Anglo-Saxon move.
Again, on March 14, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia (AUKUS) unveiled the details of their plan to create a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. AUKUS is undermining nuclear non-proliferation efforts. Alongside, AUKUS is also preparing for a military showdown with China.
Furthermore, Japan continues to ratchet up its hostile power projection vis-a-vis Russia and China, while simultaneously returning to the path of militarisation which it abandoned after World War II. Whether New Delhi voiced its concerns to the Australian and Japanese Prime Ministers visiting India recently we do not know.
There is another side to this, too. For, AUKUS is coercing the IAEA Secretariat into endorsement on the relevant safeguards issues. This is yet another instance of the Western powers systematically dismantling the United Nations system to serve their geopolitical interests.
Plainly put, the US is replacing the UN with NATO as a global security organisation, anticipating that its capacity to dominate the world body is fast diminishing. NATO’s arrival in Asia is already foretold.
Two other major developments last fortnight — the reinvigoration of the “no limits” strategic partnership between Russia and China, and the China-brokered Saudi Arabia-Iran normalisation pact — are of a different genre, but signify the shape of things to come in India’s external security environment.
One lifts the veil on the military-political confrontation between Russia and the West which is going to shape international politics in the 21st century, while the second development in India’s extended neighbourhood carries a sense of immediacy as the harbinger of international politics being shaped by the many states that do not seek to align themselves with the banners of the opposing sides. Here lies the germane seed of the new world order for countries such as India, stresses M.K. Bhadrakumar.
AUKUS is on ‘dangerous path’ with nuclear subs deal
The United States, Australia and the United Kingdom are traveling “further down the wrong and dangerous path for their own...
Bloomberg: U.S. fights for influence in Africa
President Joe Biden’s administration is stepping up a campaign to build American influence in Africa, where the US has lost...
We are witnessing the birth pangs of a new World Order
Unlike in the bipolar world during the Cold War, the behaviour of the majority is the most crucial factor that...
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