Tag Archives: EU

COVID-19: EU yes €750bn landmark – “Marshall Plan”

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European Union leaders emerged from a marathon four-day and four-night summit Tuesday to celebrate what they boasted was a historic rescue plan for economies left shattered by the coronavirus epidemic.

The 750-billion-euro ($858-billion) deal was sealed after intense negotiation that saw a threats of a French walkout and a Hungarian veto — and fierce opposition from the Netherlands and Austria to too generous a package.

“These were of course, difficult negotiations in very difficult times for all Europeans,” EU Council Chief Charles Michel, whose job was to guide the tortuous talks over more than 90 hours.

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He dubbed the summit “a marathon which ended in success for all 27 member states, but especially for the people.”

The package, seen by AFP, was made possible by the crucial backing of Germany and France and includes the biggest ever joint borrowing by the 27 members of the bloc, something that had been resisted by Berlin and the so-called “frugal” northern states for generations.

The deal is a special victory for French President Emmanuel Macron who came to office in 2017 committed to strengthen the European Union, but had struggled to deliver against member states with less ambition for the seven-decade-old EU project.

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“This is a historic change for Europe,” Macron told reporters in a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking of her relief that Europe had, in her eyes, shown itself equal to “The greatest crisis in the history of the European Union.”

– ‘Frugals’ fight –
The package will send tens of billions of euros to countries hardest hit by the virus, most notably heavily indebted Spain and Italy that had lobbied hard for a major gesture from their EU partners.

( From L- R ) Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, French President Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin speak on the sidelines of the summit. (Photo by STEPHANIE LECOCQ / POOL / AFP)

Their call for solidarity was met with the fierce opposition of the “Frugals”, a group of small, northern nations led by Netherlands, who believed strongly that the stimulus package was unnecessary.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez hailed “a Marshall Plan for Europe”, that would boost Spain’s suffering economy by 140 billion euros over the next six years.

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But Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands denied that the advent of joint borrowing for the rescue heralded the start of what he had warned of before the talks — a “transfer union” with a permanent north south transfer of wealth.

“This is a one off, there is a clear necessity for this given the excessive situation,” he told reporters.

The frugals were also deeply apprehensive of sending money to southern countries that they see as too lax with public spending.

To meet their concerns, payouts from the package will come with important strings attached — a hard pill to swallow for Rome and Madrid who deeply resisted anything resembling the harsh bailouts imposed on Greece, Portugal or Ireland during the debt crisis.

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The frugals were also enticed with heavy rebates on their EU contributions, furthering a practice first offered to Britain decades ago, when it was still a member.

– ‘Rule of Law’ –
The recovery package will complement the unprecedented monetary stimulus at the European Central Bank, that has largely succeeded in reassuring the financial markets despite a catastrophic recession in Europe.

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Overall, the deal will dole out 390 billion in the form of grants to pandemic-hit countries.

That was lower than an original 500 billion euro proposal made by France and Germany. Another 360 billion euros was to be disbursed in loans, repayable by the member state.

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The stimulus payments will not be blank cheques to member states.

Spending will be closely controlled and must be devoted to policies seen as compatible with European priorities, including politically difficult economic reforms as well as the environment.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, will be in charge of distributing the funds, with the 27 member states able to turn down a spending plan if a weighted majority of them decide to intervene.

The rescue package was agreed along with the EU’s long-term budget, bringing the agreed spending to 1.8 trillion euros through 2027.

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The plan was nearly upended by Hungary and Poland due to a demand that EU payouts be tied to the “Rule of Law”, Brussels jargon for upholding laws on freedom of speech and an independent judiciary.

Budapest and Warsaw are under fire for offending EU norms, but a proposal to tie the EU budget to those concerns was watered down to the satisfaction of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his Polish counterpart.

The package now requires more technical negotiations among member states as well as a ratification by the European Parliament that could happen as soon as Thursday.


#Newsworthy…

European Union donate €50M to fight COVID-19 in Nigeria.


The European Union has donated 50 million Euros to Nigeria for the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ambassador Ketil Karlsen who led the delegation made the announcement on Tuesday during a visit to President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa.

He said that the donation is the single largest donation to any African country.

President Muhammadu Buhari on his part, commended the European Union for donating the sum of N21 billion (50 million Euros) to support Nigeria’s efforts at controlling the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

He said the donation would go a long way in supporting Nigeria’s efforts at controlling and containing the virus to prevent community spread, as well as revitalise the national health care systems.

The President used the occasion to express sincere condolences of the Government and people of Nigeria to EU-member countries and families who lost their loved ones as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘‘Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and communities impacted. We are confident from history that the resilience of Europe and our global collective will enable us to emerge stronger from this tragedy.

‘‘Although the EU is facing significant challenges due to this pandemic, I am indeed touched and grateful that the European Union still had the vision and foresight to remember its friends, partners and allies across the world,’’ he said.

The President also lauded EU on the recent launch of the “Team Europe” package to support countries in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences.

He noted that the intervention, which is a collaboration between EU, its member states, and financial institutions such as the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, would go a long way in ensuring the impact of this pandemic was controlled and contained.

‘‘Indeed, this brotherly support will save millions of lives. Nigeria, Africa and many beneficiary countries across the world will remain grateful for generations to come,’’ he said.

The President told the delegation that his administration had done a lot to date in the fight against COVID-19.

‘‘So far, the number of confirmed cases in Nigeria is 343. Our efforts as a Government have focused on controlling and containing the virus to prevent community spread.

‘‘I want to assure you that in this fight, Nigerians are united and by the grace of God and the continued support from our partners, we shall succeed,’’ he said.

In his remarks, Ambassador Karlsen described the donation, channelled through the UN COVID-19 basket fund as, so far, the largest single contribution to the response in Nigeria and the largest support that EU is providing anywhere outside Europe.

‘‘We heard your call for assistance and the EU has reacted swiftly as a demonstration of our true partnership,’’ he said.

The EU Ambassador congratulated the President for ‘‘a very powerful address to the nation last night’’, stressing ‘‘indeed the current situation is no joke and we wish to commend you for taking bold and necessary measures.’’

He also announced that the Union was mobilising other sources of funding, noting that they have already paid 1.2 million Euros to UNICEF, and goods purchased through that funding are expected in the country soon.


President Buhari Hail EU for N21B donation


President Muhammadu Buhari has commended the European Union for donating the sum of N21 billion (€50 million) to support Nigeria’s efforts at controlling the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The President praised the European body on Tuesday when he received a delegation to the country, led by Ambassador Ketil Karlsen, at the Aso Villa in Abuja.

He said the donation would go a long way in supporting Nigeria’s efforts at controlling and containing coronavirus to prevent community spread, as well as revitalise the national healthcare systems.

President Buhari used the occasion to condole with EU-member countries and families who lost their loved ones as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his remarks, Ambassador Karlsen described the donation, channelled through the United Nations COVID-19 Basket Fund as so far, the largest single contribution to the response in Nigeria and the largest support that the EU is providing anywhere outside Europe.

He said, “Indeed, the current situation is no joke and we wish to commend you for taking bold and necessary measures.”

The EU envoy also announced that the European Union was mobilising other sources of funding.

According to him, they have already paid €1.2 million to UNICEF and goods purchased with the fund are expected in the country soon.


#Newsworthy…

Revenge: Donald Trump fires EU Ambassador, Others


In a move that has been dubbed the White House ‘Friday Night Massacre’ by political commentators, US President Donald Trump has sacked EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland, National Security council member Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman and Vindman’s twin brother Yevgeny Vindman, a National Security Council attorney for their involvements during the impeachment inquiry, just days after he was acquitted by the US Senate on charges of Abuse of office and Obstruction of congress.

Trump fires EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland, Alexander Vindman & his twin brother as revenge for testifying against him during impeachment inquiry


War hero Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman and his twin Yevgeny Vindman were sacked and escorted from the White House on Friday while Sondland, who is Ambassador to the EU, released a statement Friday night saying he has been removed from his job ‘effective’ immediately’

All three men played major roles in the House of Reps impeachment inquiry against Trump and it is expected that Senator Mitt Romney will be Trump’s next target after he was the only Republican who voted to remove the Commander-in-Chief from office during a Senate vote on Wednesday.


Vindman’s attorney, David Pressman, released a statement about his client’s firing.

‘Today, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman was escorted out of the White House where he has dutifully served his country and his President’.


‘He does so having spoken publicly once, and only pursuant to a subpoena from the United States Congress.’ ‘There is no question in the mind of any American why this man’s job is over, why this country now has one less soldier serving it at the White House,’

“LTC Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth. His honour, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful.

“The truth has cost LTC Alexander Vindman his job, his career, and his privacy.

“The most powerful man in the world – buoyed by the silent, the pliable, and the complicit – has decided to exact revenge.”


Trump fires EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland, Alexander Vindman & his twin brother as revenge for testifying against him during impeachment inquiry

Sondland also confirmed that he is being recalled from his post in a statement he released on Friday February 7. His statement read;


”I was advised today that the president intends to recall me effective immediately’.
‘I am grateful to President Trump for having given me the opportunity to serve, to Secretary Pompeo for his consistent support, and to the exceptional and dedicated professionals at the U.S. Mission to the European Union.

‘I am proud of our accomplishments. Our work here has been the highlight of my career.’

Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr tweeted about the sack on Friday night saying, ‘Allow me a moment to thank—and this may be a bit of a surprise—Adam Schiff. Were it not for his crack investigation skills, @realDonaldTrump might have had a tougher time unearthing who all needed to be fired. Thanks, Adam #FullOfSchiff’.

Vindman who was awarded a Purple Heart for his service in Iraq after being wounded in an IED attack and still carries shrapnel from the attack in his body, was on the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and testifying in November during the impeachment inquiry said;


‘I was concerned by the call. I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. Government’s support of Ukraine. I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained. This would all undermine U.S. national security,’ he told House investigators.

Trump fires EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland, Alexander Vindman & his twin brother as revenge for testifying against him during impeachment inquiry

Earlier on Friday, Trump admitted he was not happy with Vindman while speaking to reporters.

‘I’m not happy with him. Am I supposed to be happy with him? I’m not,’


#Newsworthy…

America will not heed to EU rules – Raab speaks


Britain began an uncertain future outside the European Union on Saturday, as it gears up for likely gruelling negotiations on future relations with the EU after the historic end to almost half a century of membership.

There was joy and sadness on Friday night as the EU’s often reluctant member became the first to leave an organisation set up to forge unity among nations after the horrors of World War II.

Little has changed yet as the UK is now in an 11-month transition period agreed as part of the divorce.


Britons will be able to work in the EU and trade freely — and vice versa — until December 31, although the UK will no longer be represented in the bloc’s institutions.

But legally Britain is out, with attention now turning to what are set to be tough talks with Brussels this year on the future relationship.


British newspapers reported late Saturday that the government was readying for a bruising battle.

The eurosceptic Sunday Telegraph said Prime Minister Boris Johnson had already become “privately infuriated” at perceived EU attempts “to frustrate a comprehensive free trade deal”.


A leaked memo from Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab orders UK diplomats to make an immediate break with former European allies, in ways such as not sitting alongside them at international summits, the Sunday Times said.

It instructed them to “adopt a stance as a confident independent country,” the paper added.


‘Stunning success’
British voters backed Brexit by a narrow margin in a 2016 referendum, sparking several years of domestic political gridlock about how, or even whether, to deliver it.

Johnson — whose decisive December election victory finally paved the way for Britain’s long-stalled departure — marked the occasion by holding a private party in his Downing Street office.


A clock projected on the walls outside counted down the minutes to Brexit becoming a reality at 11 pm (2300 GMT) — midnight in Brussels.

In a televised address to the nation, the British premier hailed a “new era of friendly cooperation”, acknowledging there could be “bumps in the road ahead” but predicting the country would make it a “stunning success”.


Thousands of people waving Union Jack flags packed nearby Parliament Square and sang the national anthem to herald the occasion.

But Brexit has unleashed deep divisions in British society, with many fearing the consequences of ending 47 years of ties with their nearest neighbours.


Some pro-Europeans, including many of the 3.6 million EU citizens who have made their lives in Britain, marked the occasion with candlelit gatherings.

There was a sombre atmosphere on one of the last ferries to leave the European mainland pre-Brexit and make the 42-kilometre (26-mile) journey across the Channel.


“It’s very depressing what’s happening today,” said Alessio Bortone, an Italian who has lived in Britain for 10 years.

Trade talks loom
Brexit has also provoked soul-searching in the EU about its future after losing a country of 66 million people with global diplomatic clout and the financial centre of the City of London.


French President Emmanuel Macron described it as a “historic warning sign” that should force the bloc and its remaining nations of more than 440 million people to stop and reflect.

Britain’s diplomatic mission in Brussels on Saturday changed the building’s nameplate to read “UK Mission to the European Union”, signalling its new non-member status.


Meanwhile, Joao Vale de Almeida, the newly named EU ambassador to Britain, said on Twitter he looked forward to “laying the foundations for a solid EU/UK relationship”.

Getting to this point has been a traumatic process and, while the divorce terms have been agreed, finding consensus on future relations with the EU — its largest trading partner — could be equally hard.


Both London and Brussels will set out their negotiating positions on Monday.

But Johnson, a polarising figure accused of glossing over the complexity of leaving the bloc, has given himself just 11 months to seal a deal — not enough time, according to his critics.


London is also now free to strike trade agreements around the world, including with the United States, whose President Donald Trump is an enthusiastic Brexit supporter.

One of his top envoys on Friday hailed an “exciting new era”.


At a special Brexit day ministers’ meeting in northeast England, Johnson discussed an aim to get 80 percent of Britain’s commerce covered by trade agreements within three years, a spokesman said.

‘Goodbye & good luck’
In Scotland, where a majority voted to remain in the 2016 referendum and Brexit has revived calls for independence, pro-EU campaigners rallied in Edinburgh on Saturday.


“It’s a sad day for Scotland to be taken — or dragged out, as I would say — out of the EU,” said protester David Eakins, 74.

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland — soon to be a new EU frontier — there are fears Brexit could destabilise a hard-won peace after decades of conflict over British rule.

“They’re going to have problems probably, sorting everything out with the border up the Irish Sea,” said Thomas Glover, 77, alluding to possible trade frictions between mainland Britain and the divided island.

“I hope we can make the new realities work,” Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney tweeted, adding: “Goodbye & good luck.”


#Newsworthy…

EU to set strict 5G rule ..


The EU will not ban Chinese telecom giant Huawei or any other company in Europe, a top official said on Tuesday, despite intense pressure from Washington to shun the firm over spying fears.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, will officially unveil recommendations to member states on Wednesday, but commissioner Thierry Breton told MEPs that Brussels will choose tight scrutiny over any blanket ban.

“It is not a question of discrimination, it is a question of laying down rules. They will be strict, they will be demanding and of course, we will welcome in Europe all operators who are willing to apply them,” he said.


The EU, while never explicitly naming the Chinese giant, is struggling to find a middle way to balance Huawei’s huge dominance in the 5G sector with security concerns pressed by Washington.

The proposal is part of a so-called “toolbox” of recommendations that will guide the EU’s 27 post-Brexit member states as they build crucial 5G networks.


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also expected on Tuesday to risk Washington’s anger with a similar decision to trust strict rules instead of a ban on Huawei.

A ban on Huawei would ultimately be up to an individual member state, but the commission’s middle road recommendation gives cover to European capitals to resist pleas from Washington.

Huawei is one of the world’s leading network technology suppliers, and one of the few — along with European telecom companies Nokia and Ericsson — capable of building 5G networks.

The United States sees the company as a potential threat to cybersecurity and fears it would facilitate cyber espionage by the Chinese government, to which it is said to have close links.


#Newsworthy…