Archive for EU
Employees at Brazil’s consulates began a two-day strike Tuesday that affected visa services in major cities in the United States and Europe just weeks before the World Cup. Local employees at Brazilian diplomatic offices said they hoped to pressure the government to increase their pay and other compensation, arguing the government has frozen their salaries in the past years. Brazil’s Foreign Ministry said the Tuesday-Wednesday strike was only slowing operations at nine consulates and one embassy, but did not say which ones. The Association of Local Employees at Brazilian Foreign Missions said strikes or protests were hitting 17 cities in North America and Europe, including New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Toronto, London, Paris and Rome. Some consulates posted a message on their websites saying they were responding only to emergency requests made by Brazilian nationals. Brazil’s consulates have been issuing for free a special category of visa for tourists visiting Brazil for soccer’s World Cup that begins June 12. Applicants need to have tickets for a match. Marcia Ramos, a representative of the association, said it has 1,800 members in more than 50 Brazilian diplomatic offices around the world, but she said it wasn’t yet clear how many were participating in the strike. “Our demand is simple: They need to replace the lost wages they have not raised in recent years,” Ramos said in an email. The foreign ministry said its contracts with local employees adhere to the laws of the countries where consulates are located, arguing there is no way to negotiate collectively.
One of Ireland’s most senior EU civil servants is to be formally announced later today as the European Union’s new ambassador to Washington. David O’Sullivan, who is currently the chief operating officer of the EU’s foreign service arm, the External Action Service, will take up the post shortly. He takes over from Portuguese official Joao Vale de Almeida at a time of heightened transatlantic diplomatic activity over Ukraine and over the EU-US trade negotiations. Mr O’Sullivan has previously been director general of the European Commission’s trade division and the top civil servant at the commission. The 61-year-old graduate of Trinity College was first seconded to Brussels from the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1979.
After he picked up an £80,000 prize for an essay on how Britain could leave the European Union, Iain Mansfield was poised to become a new, intellectual voice in the media debate on the issue. The 30-year-old Cambridge graduate was praised by judges of the “Brexit” prize for his “convincing and comprehensive” arguments and the Thatcherite think-tank behind the contest looked forward to him advancing his views in a series of interviews. There was one snag, however. Mr Mansfield is a civil servant and his essay appears to have been rather too well-argued for his employer, the UK Government, which remains committed to staying within the EU. Having accepted the prize at a ceremony in Westminster on Tuesday evening, Mr Mansfield was told he was banned from giving media interviews. His regular blog on economic affairs also appears to have been removed from the internet. Mr Mansfield had obtained prior clearance from his employers at the British Embassy in Manila, where he is director of trade and investment. A source told The Telegraph on Thursday night that Mr Mansfield had ended up in a “spot of bother” with his superiors over the essay, and had been put in “lockdown” until further notice. Mr Mansfield, who has a master’s degree from Cambridge and has written a novel, won the prize for an essay titled “Openness not Isolation”. In it, he argued that an exit from the EU should be taken as an opportunity to “embrace openness” that could boost the UK economy by £1.3 billion.
President Robert Mugabe will not attend a European Union-Africa summit next week if his wife is denied a visa to travel with him. Mugabe, 90, and his wife Grace are subject to travel bans by the EU because of allegations about human rights abuses and election-rigging but the union allowed Zimbabwe’s sole ruler to attend the meeting after pressure from the African Union. The two-day summit starts on April 2 in Brussels. “We are sovereign and equals and the EU cannot decide on our delegations. The president, and Zimbabwe will not be there if they continue to hold out on the visa,” Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba said. EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Aldo Dell’Ariccia told a local radio station on Friday the bloc had not given a visa to Grace because there was no program for wives of presidents and there was no need for her to attend.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will begin her visit to Iran on Saturday, the official IRNA news agency quoted Iran’s deputy foreign minister as saying. “Ms Ashton will arrive in Tehran on Saturday night,” Abbas Araqchi said, adding that during her visit she would meet President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. According to Iranian media, Ashton will meet Iranian officials on Sunday before travelling to Isfahan the next day. The last visit of an EU foreign policy chief to Tehran took place in 2008. Ashton is the lead negotiator for the P5+1 group of world powers, which is seeking a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s controversial nuclear programme, and which plans to hold technical talks with Iran in Vienna on Wednesday. In February, Tehran and the P5+1 – the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany – agreed on a timetable and framework for the negotiations for an accord that would allay Western concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme in return for the lifting of sanctions. Negotiators hope to reach a final accord by July 20, when an interim agreement reached in November is due to expire. Under the interim deal, Iran agreed to curb parts of its nuclear programme for six months in exchange for limited sanctions relief. The agreement came into effect on January 20.
Ukraine’s embassy to the EU has detailed Russian military movements in Crimea, saying operations to seize control began one week ago. The Ukrainian embassy, in a two-page note circulated to EU diplomats on Friday (28 February) – and seen by EUobserver – cited seven “illegal military activities of the Russian Federation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Ukraine.” Speaking in Kiev on Friday, Ukraine’s interim president, Oleksandr Turchynov, said: “They are provoking us into an armed conflict. Based on our intelligence, they’re working on scenarios analogous to Abkhazia, in which they provoke conflict, and then they start to annex territory.” He added: “Ukraine’s military will fulfill its duties, but will not succumb to provocation.” He also said Russia’s actions violate the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, signed by Russia, the UK, Ukraine, and the US. Russia in 2008 invaded Georgia saying Georgian forces had fired on its “peacekeeping” troops in Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia. After an eight-day war, Russia retreated from Georgia proper, but entrenched its occupation of South Ossetia and a second breakaway entity, Abkhazia, in what is widely seen as a way of blocking Georgia’s EU and Nato aspirations. The Budapest document obliges signatories to “respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.” It also says they “will consult in the event a situation arises which raises a question concerning these commitments.” There is no shortage of consultations. The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin on Friday phoned the British and German leaders and EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy. Lithuania, which currently holds the UN Security Council (UNSC) presidency, also called a meeting of UNSC ambassadors in New York. Statements coming from the Budapest signatories echo the terms of the agreement. A spokesman for British leader David Cameron said he told Putin “that all countries should respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.” US President Barack Obama said on TV “the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.” The UN meeting in New York did little to calm nerves. Ukraine’s UN ambassador, Yuriy Sergeyev, told press afterward: “We are strong enough to defend ourselves.” Russia’s UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin, said all Russian military activity in Crimea is “within the framework” of a 1997 Ukraine-Russia treaty governing the use of its Sevastopol base. Churkin added the EU bears “responsibility” for events because three EU foreign ministers – from France, Germany, and Poland – on 21 February signed a deal between Ukraine’s ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych, and opposition MPs which says he is to stay in power until December. Yanukovych fled Kiev the next day when Kiev protesters rejected the agreement and threatened to storm his palace. Churkin accused the EU of fomenting the revolution by criticising Yanukovych for refusing to sign an EU association and free trade treaty and by sending VIPs to Kiev to mingle with demonstrators. “They emphasize sovereignty. But they behave as if Ukraine was a province of the European Union, not even a country, but a province,” he said.
The United States tried to contain a fallout yesterday from a leaked phone conversation in which a top diplomat uses the f-word regarding the European Union’s handling of the crisis in Ukraine. Washington’s new top diplomat for Europe Victoria Nuland apologised to EU counterparts after what appeared to be a recent phone call with US ambassador to Kiev, Geoffrey Pyatt, was uploaded to YouTube. A voice purporting to be that of Nuland speaks of a diplomatic move that will ‘f **k the EU’. “Let me convey that she has been in contact with her EU counterparts and, of course, has apologised,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. While Psaki said she had no independent details of how the conversation was captured, she added: “Certainly we think this is a new low in Russian tradecraft.” Nuland, who took over late last year as assistant secretary for European affairs, says in the phone call she has been told UN chief Ban Ki-moon is about to appoint a former Dutch ambassador to Kiev, Robert Serry, as his representative to Ukraine. “That would be great I think to help glue this thing and have the UN glue it and you know, f**k the EU,” she says, in an apparent reference to differences over their policies. Following the revelations, German Chancellor Angela Merkel slammed the US saying the slur was ‘totally unacceptable.’