EU Observer (217)

EU bank delays gas pipeline decision

The European Investment Bank has delayed its decision on whether to finance up to €1.5bn of a gas pipeline, TAP, linking the EU to Azerbaijan and reducing dependency on Russia. A spokesman said the decision was now likely in February. He said the delay was linked to "due diligence", but activists ...

Last chance for Poland to return property to its rightful owners

Poland has signed the 'Terezin Declaration' on restituting property from Jewish victims of the Holocaust - but its new bill seems to focus more on victims of the communist era.

Hungary's leftwing parties join Jobbik in anti-Orban protest

Hungary's green LMP and liberal Momentum parties will join Jobbik, the far-right party now striving for the centre, in a protest against PM Viktor Orban's rule on Friday. Leftist opposition parties have traditionally avoided helping Jobbik, the second largest party, due to its racist history. Jobbik ...

Commission attacks Tusk on 'anti-European' migrant plan

European Council president Donald Tusk, in a paper to EU leaders, wants to scrap migrant relocation quotas. The move has drawn a sharp rebuke from the migration commissioner Avramopoulos.

Volkswagen tells EU: we will fail on our recall promise

The German carmaker told the EU commission in a private meeting that it expected only 75 percent of cars will be fixed by the end of 2017, missing a previously agreed deadline.

Barnier: EU will not accept UK backtracking on Brexit deal

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned on Tuesday that the EU will not accept any backtracking by the UK on commitments achieved last Friday, following UK negotiator David Davis suggesting over the weekend that the agreement is not "legally binding". "We will have a final agreement only if ...

Puigdemont to return to Catalonia if elected

Carles Puigdemont, the leader of the Catalan independence movement, has said he would return to Spain if re-elected as the region's leader in a regional vote due on 21 December - despite there being an arrest warrant in his name in the country. Puigdemont, in self-imposed exile in Belgium, said he ...

Commission approves EasyJet partial takeover of Air Berlin

The European Commission approved on Tuesday EasyJet's partial acquisition of Air Berlin, which went bust in August. The UK-based airline will acquire some assets and rights held by Air Berlin, including take-off and landing slots at Berlin Tegel airport and at some destination airports. The ...

EU medical command centre due next year

An EU medical command centre in support of its military operations, one of the key building blocks of its new defence integration scheme, could be established in 2018. "By the end of 2018, we should be able to provide something with regard to the European Medical Command," a senior EU official said ...

Auditors: EU 'green' farm payments fail ecology criteria

EU 'greening' payments, designed in a reform of the Common Agricultural Policy to reward farmers who make environmental improvements do not meet ecological criteria, the EU Court of Auditors said Tuesday. Payments "added more complexity" to the CAP, leading to changes in only about five per cent of ...

Austria gas explosion creates Italian energy 'emergency'

An explosion on Tuesday morning at the Austrian gas hub in Baumgarten, which left 18 people injured and one missing, has caused a "state of emergency" in Italy. Italian industry minister Carlo Calenda said there could be "a serious supply problem", Reuters reports. He said "if we had had the TAP, we ...

EU will not start Brexit future talks before March

Transition talks could start in January, and detailed negotiations on the future and trade relations in mid-April, as Brussels awaits for London to say what sort of relationship it wants. Last week's deal is now 'Davis-proofed', one EU official said.

Bitcoin risky but 'limited phenomenon', says EU

The EU is facing calls to regulate bitcoin, the virtual currency whose value has skyrocketed in the past year. Some of its institutions warn about the risks of investing in cryptocurrencies, whilst ECB members ponder regulation.

Stoltenberg's mandate as Nato head extended for 2 years

Nato on Tuesday extended the mandate of Jens Stoltenberg as secretary general for two years, until 30 September 2020. Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister, has been in post since October 2014. Members of the North Atlantic alliance said that they have "full confidence in his ability to ...

Lebanon crisis overshadows EU aid for Syrian refugees

Lebanon hosts over one million Syrian refugees, and has received some €1bn in EU funds. Caught in a geo-political tug of war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Lebanon's domestic politics have cast a longer shadow over its Syrian 'guests'.

Panama Papers - start of sensible revolution in EU tax affairs?

The European Parliament has the opportunity to kick-start the fight back against tax avoidance by global giants which has undercut national tax revenues - and faith in the EU itself.

National Front charged over EU Parliament 'fake jobs'

France's National Front party has been charged for embezzlement over its suspected use of European Parliament assistants for party work, its treasurer Wallerand de Saint-Just told Le Monde newspaper. The FN is suspected of having employed some 40 people, paid by the parliament as assistants to MEPs, ...

Lebanon crisis overshadows EU aid for Syrian refugees

Lebanon hosts over one million Syrian refugees, and has received some €1bn in EU funds. Caught in a geo-political tug of war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Lebanon's domestic politics have a cast a longer shadow over its Syrian 'guests'.

New Polish PM brings same old government

Only change was that outgoing PM, Beata Szydlo, became a deputy without portfolio, amid a crackdown on independent media.

EU complicit in Libyan torture, says Amnesty

The EU and its members states have signed up to 'Faustian pact' with Libyan authorities in the their effort to prevent migrant and refugee boat departures towards Italy, says Amnesty International.

Senior EU finance ministers come out against US tax reform

Finance ministers from Germany, France, the UK, Italy and Spain on Monday called on the US to amend a tax reform bill, which they say would have a "major distortive impact on international trade." In a letter to US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, they said that a planned 20-percent excise tax on ...

Croats honour 'Hague suicide' war criminal

Two members of the Croatian government attended on Monday a ceremony to honour Slobodan Praljak, the former general who poisoned himself in front of TV cameras last month at the Hague when he was sentenced for war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. "His ...

EU opens new accession talks with Serbia, Montenegro

The EU on Monday opened two new chapters in Serbia's accession negotiations - on company law and external relations - and two chapters with Montenegro - on freedom of movement for workers and freedom to provide services. Serbia, which started talks in 2014, has opened 12 out of 35 chapters, with two ...

Alignment with EU is 'last resort', May tells MPs

The British prime minister told MPs the Brexit divorce deal is "good news" for both voters who wanted to remain and also for those who wanted to leave the EU.

EU to Israel: Don't expect us to move embassies

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini told Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to expect EU states to follow the US in moving embassies to Jerusalem. "The PM mentioned a few times he expected other countries to follow president Trump's decision ... he can keep his expectations for ...

EU Commission condemns anti-semitic 'Jerusalem' protests

The EU Commission on Monday condemned anti-semitic protests that took place in recent days in several European cities after US president Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. "We are shocked and outraged by the wave of anti-semitic attacks and demonstrations," commissioners ...

Ministers have 'lots of questions' on new CAP plans

Agriculture ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday had "lots of questions" about how a European Commission idea for more flexibility in implementing the EU's common agriculture policy would work, said commission vice-president Jyrki Katainen at a press conference. Estonian agriculture minister ...

Iceland: further from EU membership than ever

With fewer pro-EU MPs in the Iceland parliament than ever before, any plans to resume 'candidate' membership of the bloc are likely to remain on ice, as the country prioritises national sovereignty and a more left-wing path.

Israel presses Jerusalem claim in EU capital

Israel has said Palestine and the EU must accept that Jerusalem is its capital, for peace in the Middle East.

Commission: Brexit agreement is 'deal between gentlemen'

The EU Commission said Monday that "formally" the joint report negotiated between the UK and the EU, which is the basis for the Brexit divorce deal, is not legally binding, because it is "not yet the Article 50 withdrawal agreement". "We see the joint report as a deal between gentlemen, and it is ...

25 EU states sign defence cooperation pact

Twenty-five EU member states on Monday adopted the establishment of the Permanent Structured Cooperation , a cooperation scheme to develop EU defence capabilities through investment in equipment and technologies. Some 17 cooperation projects have been identified to start the new structure. The UK , ...

Netanyahu wants 'hardy' talks with EU on Jerusalem

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said he wanted to "a hardy discussion" with the EU over the status of Jerusalem. Arriving at a meeting with EU foreign ministers, he said Monday that by recognising the city as Israel's capital, US president Donald Trump "puts facts on the table". "It is in Israel's ...

From dark coal toward a brighter future

EU ability to lead global energy transition depends on inclusiveness of change, EU commissioner Sefcovic says.

French centre-right elects new leader

Laurent Wauquiez was elected leader of France's centre-right Republicans party Sunday, with 74.6 percent of the vote. Wauquiez, 42, succeeds Nicolas Sarkozy, and will try to build a new opposition to president Emmanuel Macron - while overcoming internal divisions over his socially conservative and ...

UK casts doubt on EU deal in 'bizarre' twist

Britain has cast doubt on the binding nature of an 11th-hour EU deal on the Irish border and on its Brexit fee.

Romania wants EU signal on Schengen membership

Bucharest expects other member states to decide on its accession to the passport-free area before it takes the rotating EU presidency on 1 January 2019 - amid criticism of a controversial new justice reform.

Germany and UK increase arms sales

Germany and UK increased their arms trade in 2016, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute . Germany's sales jumped by 6.6 percent "due to the growth in sales of armoured vehicle producer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and land systems producer Rheinmetall," SIPRI said, while UK ...

Germany says China using LinkedIn to recruit informants

Germany's spy agency says the Chinese state is trying to recruit high-ranking German officials via social media outlets like LinkedIn. It accused Chinese intelligence of setting up fake profiles to lure them into becoming informants.

Corsican leader calls for more autonomy after election win

Corsican leader Gilles Simeoni has called for a "political settlement" on the French island after nationalists won regional elections with 56.5 percent of the vote on Sunday. Simeoni, who has lead the region's executive since 2015, told Le Monde on Monday that Corsica should have "full legislative ...

No chance of expanding EU warrant crime list

EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova says there is no appetite to modify the European Arrest Warrant following the anomaly of Catalonia's 'rebellion'.

Netanyahu, Panama Papers, and Brexit This WEEK

The run-up to the Christmas break sees a packed schedule, including the EU summit on Brexit, migration and other issues, a rare visit by Israeli PM Netanyahu, and issues such as fishing quotas and the Panama Papers.

EU leaders welcome Brexit divorce deal

British prime minister May's fellow leaders in Europe welcomed Friday's hard-won Brexit agreement on divorce, but Berlin in particular warned that the more 'highly complex' part of negotiations is to come.

MEPs positive on Brexit deal, but with provisos

'A lot of the requests that the parliament has put forward, been achieved in the negotiations,' said Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's 'point man' on Brexit.

What are the key points of the Brexit deal?

Here is a brief summary of the main points of the 'joint report', the outline of the Brexit divorce deal reached on Friday morning - and what still lies ahead.

Greece to move migrants from islands to mainland, says NGO

Oxfam on Friday says Greece intends to move some 5,000 migrants from the Greek islands onto the mainland. "This is a very positive step that will save lives," said Nicola Bay, head of mission for Oxfam in Greece, in a statement. Reception facilities on Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos were almost ...

EU and Japan finalise trade deal

The EU and Japan finalised negotiations on a free trade agreement on Friday , the bloc's executive announced. The accord builds on the political agreement reached by the two sides over the summer. However, the deal does not cover investment protection yet, as negotiations on dispute resolution ...

Tusk: During transition period, UK will follow EU law

European Council president Donald Tusk said on Friday the EU should begin discussing the post-Brexit transition period. He laid out his conditions, saying that during that period the United Kingdom will have to follow EU law, respect budgetary commitments and judicial oversight. "Clearly, within the ...

English-speaking banker to be new Polish PM

Poland's ruling party has replaced its PM with the more EU-friendly face of finance minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

Thousands march for Catalonia in Brussels

Around 45,000 people marched in support of Catalonia in Brussels to get the EU involved in mediating the conflict with Madrid. 'Europe must realise that it can still play a role in the Catalan crisis,' said self-exiled Catalan leader Puigdemont.

Deal reached in Brexit divorce negotiations

Juncker and May announced in Brussels on Friday morning that Brexit negotiators have reached an agreement on the divorce issues, and the Commission recommends to move talks onto the second phase.