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Archive for EU

Newsline: Russian ambassador says Kremlin isn’t trying to destabilize the EU

Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s ambassador to the EU, denied Moscow was trying to destabilize the European Union but said he envisioned a contest of “values” between Russia and the West in the decades ahead. Chizhov, speaking at a press briefing Wednesday, blamed the strained relations between the EU and Russia on the United States and urged Brussels “to be more independent in its decision-making.” Asked why so many diplomats in Brussels believe Russia was working to undermine the West and accuse the Kremlin of meddling in European elections, Chizhov said the claims were a throwback to the Cold War. “I have a feeling that this anti-Russian rhetoric, bordering on the verge of hysteria, which was originally linked to domestic political problems in the United States in view of last year’s presidential elections — this has become a contagious thing crossing the Atlantic and spreading across Europe,” he said. Chizhov added: “Let me tell you in all frankness: It is not Russia’s intention to destabilize the European Union.” Chizhov’s briefing in Brussels came a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi. Merkel said she told Putin Western sanctions against Russia would be lifted once the Minsk peace accord is implemented in eastern Ukraine.


Newsline: EU refuses to move embassies to Jerusalem

The European Union states will not move their embassies from Tel Aviv to Israeli-occupied Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as the capital of their future state. The EU position was reiterated yesterday by the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, who said: Our position is the same as the one of Arab League which is of the international community. EU and its member states will not move their embassies to Jerusalem. Mogherini, who was speaking during a joint press conference with Egyptian Secretary-General of the Arab League, Ahmad Aboul-Gheit, in Luxembourg, added: “We adhere to the resolutions of the UN Security Council.”


Newsline: Strike hits Brazilian consulates in US, Europe

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.


Newsline: Irish civil servant to take up EU ambassador role in Washington

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.


Newsline: UK diplomat who won EU exit essay prize silenced by government

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.


Newsline: Zimbabwe’s Mugabe to Boycott AU-EU Summit Over Wife Snub

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.


Newsline: EU’s chief diplomat to visit Iran

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.