The Letter n°929

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The Letter n°929
The Letter
Tuesday 30th March 2021
issue 929
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The Eastern Partnership, between resilience and interference
Author : Pierre Mirel
Pierre Mirel
The Partnership launched in 2009 with six countries in the EU's eastern neighbourhood has brought economic progress, notably in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, but it has not yet ensured good governance. Russian military influence or occupation remains a major obstacle. But the EU must also assert a clear position, based on a transparent dialogue to create a community of interests.
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Elections : Party of incumbent Prime Minister Boïko Borissov favourite in Bulgarian elections on 4 April
The Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party of outgoing Prime Minister Boiko Borissov is expected to come out on top in the parliamentary elections, ahead of the Socialist Party (BSP) and Such a People Exist, a populist party created by singer and TV presenter Slavi Trifonov, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), a party representing the Turkish minority. After major demonstrations in 2020, the question for GERB is whether it will be able to form a majority and, above all, a stable majority... Read more

Foundation : Table of Health Measures and Travel Conditions in Europe
France extended restrictions to three more departments and was declared a high risk area by Germany. Romania has brought forward shop closures and curfews in the worst-affected areas, Belgium has closed schools and left shops open by appointment only, and the Netherlands has extended the measures in place. European leaders are trying to speed up the vaccination campaign. To follow the development of the situation, the Foundation offers you a summary of the sanitary measures in place and travel conditions across Europe. An essential regularly updated resource for a clearer understanding of the situation... Read more
Belarus: chronology of a revolution in progress
Further demonstrations took place in Belarus on Freedom Day, 25 March, despite further arrests. Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia have added 118 Belarusian officials to the lists of those banned from entering the country. EU High Representative Josep Borrell condemned the arrest of two members of the Union of Poles in Belarus. To follow the crisis since the August 2020 elections, the Foundation is offering you a chronology of events and links to European responses and initiatives... Read more

European Council : Meeting of heads of State and government
Meeting by video conference on 25 March, the 27 members of the European Council discussed the distribution of vaccines and the acceleration of vaccination, and stressed the importance of using export licences. They also discussed the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and asked Turkey to show a "constructive attitude". They discussed the digital transition, which they want to see accelerated, and reaffirmed their desire for a stronger international role for the euro. In a meeting with US President Joe Biden, they expressed their wish for transatlantic collaboration on common foreign policy interests... Read more
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Commission : Entry into force of the Union's Health Programme (EU4Health)
The Union for Health programme (EU4Health) entered into force on 26 March. It aims to strengthen the resilience of health systems and promote innovation in the sector, with a budget of €5.1 billion, to improve the use of resources and the availability and accessibility of medicines, medical devices and products needed in times of crisis... Read more
Accelerating vaccination against variants and strengthening export transparency
As part of the HERA incubator, the new European bio-defence preparedness plan against coronavirus variants, the Commission proposed on 24 March a new procedure to facilitate and accelerate the approval of suitable vaccines against the variants. On 24 March, the Commission introduced the principles of reciprocity and proportionality into the vaccine export authorisation and transparency mechanism to strengthen it. The importance of the principle of export licensing was underlined by the Heads of State and Government on 25 March... Read more
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Strategy regarding childrens' rights
On 24 March, the Commission presented its first comprehensive strategy on the rights of the child and a proposal for a European Child Guarantee. The strategy focuses on six thematic areas: children as agents of change in democratic life, children's right to realise their full potential, to be free from violence, to child-friendly justice, to navigate safely in the digital environment, and children's rights in the world. Member States should ensure that children in need have free and effective access to education services and school activities, healthy school meals and health care... Read more
Action plan for the development of organic production
On 25 March, the Commission presented its action plan for the development of organic production, in line with the Green Deal for Europe, the strategy "From Farm to Fork" and that of biodiversity. The plan, based on three key areas: encouraging consumption, increasing production and further improving the sustainability of the sector, aims to provide the production sector with the appropriate tools to reach the target of 25% of the agricultural area devoted to organic farming by 2030... Read more
Programme to counter fraud
On 22 March, the Commission endorsed the position adopted by the Council on 16 March regarding the draft regulation establishing the Union's anti-fraud programme. Under an informal agreement reached with the Parliament in December 2020, the programme has a budget of €181.207 million for the period 2021-2027. The text can now be adopted by the Parliament at second reading... Read more
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Parliament : Adoption of regulations regarding own resources
On 25 March, MEPs approved the implementation of the Own Resources Decision, which allows the EU to launch the €750 billion NextGenerationEU plan. MEPs adopted the regulation on own resources based on plastic packaging waste, which will apply retroactively from 1 January... Read more
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Strengthening the euro's international role
On 25 March, MEPs called for policies to strengthen the international role of the euro. Among the points highlighted were the political and strategic role of the single currency on the international scene, as well as its capacity to improve the resilience of the international financial system... Read more
European Data Strategy
On 25 March, MEPs adopted a report on the European data strategy which stresses the importance of protecting European citizens' data and health data, but also of limiting the ecological footprint of digital technology. It calls for the establishment of a common European health data space to allow data to be shared in complete security. It insists that the processing of personal data, including their transfer, should always be done in compliance with the acquis communautaire on data protection, and wants legislation on data to facilitate technological development and encourage innovation... Read more
Report on a new EU-Africa partnership
On 25 March, MEPs adopted a strategy for a new partnership with Africa that aims to empower the continent. The strategy gives priority to education, health systems and gender equality. Cooperation also covers the green transition, digital transformation, sustainable employment, good governance and migration. MEPs want both sides to cooperate by earmarking substantial funds in the "Global Europe" external financing instrument. Parliament also calls for debt relief from the IMF and World Bank... Read more
MPs ready to take legal action against the Commission over the rule of law
MEPs have threatened to take the Commission to the European Court of Justice if it delays further the application of the rule of law conditionality mechanism. In a resolution adopted on 25 March, they warn that if the Commission fails to present its guidelines on the mechanism by 1 June, Parliament "will consider this to be a failure to act... Read more
Start of work of the Conference on the Future of Europe
The work of the Conference on the Future of Europe started on 24 March with the constitutive meeting of the Executive Committee, comprising representatives of the Parliament, the Commission and the Council. The digital platform will be launched on 19 April and the executive committee discussed the possibility of a formal launch event on 9 May in Strasbourg, as well as the organisation of the first plenary of the Conference on 10 May, if circumstances allow... Read more
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Accelerated procedure for the digital green certificate
On 25 March, MEPs decided to give urgent consideration to the proposal for a digital green certificate, so that it can be adopted before the summer. Parliament will adopt its position at the April plenary session. In the debate before the vote, several MEPs stressed the need to protect citizens' personal and medical data and not to discriminate against people who have not been vaccinated... Read more

Council : Tripartite Social Summit
The Tripartite Social Summit, a forum for dialogue between the leaders of the European institutions and the European social partners, was held on 24 March on the theme "How to achieve a fair and sustainable recovery". Participants discussed the management of the health, social and economic crisis, the contribution of the social partners at EU and Member State level to economic and social recovery, and the Social Summit to be held in Porto in May... Read more

Diplomacy : Negotiations with the USA regarding the protection of personal data
Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders and US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo met on 25 March and agreed to step up their discussions on the protection of personal data transferred to the US. The current data protection shield mechanism between the EU and the US was invalidated by the EU Court of Justice in July 2020. Both sides are trying to find a new instrument.. Read more
Call for an international treaty against pandemics
In an open letter published on 30 March, 23 heads of State and government, including Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Boris Johnson, as well as the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the Director of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, call for a new international treaty on pandemic preparedness and response. The aim of the treaty would be to promote a global response to the virus to ensure the health of all with more effective international cooperation. Examples of cooperative measures are warning systems, information sharing, research, vaccines and medicines... Read more

European Agencies : New food safety rule in the Union
The Regulation on the transparency and sustainability of the Union's risk assessment in the food chain became applicable on 27 March. The proposal for the regulation was launched in 2018 and followed on from an EU citizens' initiative. The new rules will cover a wide range of products and strengthen the reliability, objectivity and independence of studies submitted by industry to the European Food Safety Authority. From July 2022, Member States will be represented on its Management Board... Read more
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Germany : Suspension of the ratification of the European Recovery Plan
On 26 March, the German Constitutional Court suspended the ratification of the decision on the Union's own resources, a prerequisite for the launch of the European recovery plan. The text had just been ratified by the Bundestag on 25 March and the Bundesrat on 26 March. An appeal was lodged by a group of 2,200 German citizens who oppose the joint indebtedness of EU Member States to finance the plan. The German court ruled that, pending its decision on the appeal, the text "should not be initialled by the Head of State"... Read more
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Bulgaria : Expulsion of two Russian diplomats
On 22 March, in the midst of the election campaign for the 4 April parliamentary elections, Bulgaria declared two Russian diplomats "persona non grata" and gave them 72 hours to leave the country. This decision is a direct consequence of the dismantling of a Russian espionage network on 19 March, within the Ministry of Defence. The military court said the network had managed to pass on sensitive information affecting the security of Bulgaria and the European Union... Read more
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Slovakia : Resignation of the Prime Minister
On 28 March, Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic announced that he was stepping down and that his replacement would be Finance Minister Eduard Heger. Since 22 March, the Ministers of Labour, Economy, Justice, Education and Foreign Affairs have resigned following the decision on 1 March to purchase 2 million doses of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V, which is not yet authorised by the European Medicines Agency... Read more
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Ukraine : Sanctions against three MEPs (ID, FR) and 23 Russians
On 23 March, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky issued a decree imposing three-year sanctions on three MEPs, members of the Identity and Democracy (ID) group: Virginie Joron, Jean-Lin Lacapelle and Philippe Olivier, for travelling to Crimea, illegally annexed by Russia, in 2020 without the permission of the Ukrainian government... Read more
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Council of Europe : Leendert Verbeek elected President of the Congress of Local and Regional Powers
At the 40th session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, Dutchman Leendert Verbeek was elected President for two and a half years. He called for an increase in the Congress' funding so that it can carry out its mission of protecting human and citizens' rights, preserving democracy and ensuring security... Read more
Call for the revision of the Spanish Criminal Code
The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, called on the Spanish authorities on 22 March to revise the Criminal Code in order to strengthen existing guarantees of the right to freedom of expression. The revision should also enable Spanish courts to make decisions in line with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Commissioner is concerned about the lack of a clear definition of the concept of apology for terrorism and the increasing number of convictions of artists for controversial song lyrics... Read more
Portugal must do more to fight against racism
The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, expressed concern on 24 March about racism and discrimination in Portugal. She called on the Portuguese authorities to implement an action plan against racial hatred, especially against Roma and people of African descent. The Commissioner reminds politicians that they should not contribute to the propagation of hate speech, either by participating in it or by tolerating it. Finally, the Commissioner calls on the country to combat violence against women and domestic violence more effectively... Read more
Venice Commission Opinion on 10 countries
On 23 March, the Council of Europe's Venice Commission published 13 opinions adopted at its plenary session on Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Spain and Ukraine. It recommends that Montenegro should not "politicise" the ongoing prosecutorial reforms, that Spain should revise the Law on Citizens' Security, and welcomes some of the improvements made in Ukraine by the reform of the Constitutional Court. Furthermore, the experts also adopted an opinion on the constitutional amendments in Russia, as well as on the draft law amending the Law on the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors in Bosnia and Herzegovina... Read more

NATO : Meeting of Foreign Ministers
NATO Foreign Ministers met on 23 and 24 March to review the Alliance's agenda with the NATO 2030 Initiative, which will adapt to new security challenges. They underlined their commitment to strengthening security partnerships in North Africa and the Middle East and discussed the situation in Afghanistan. Joined by their Finnish and Swedish counterparts, whose countries are partners but not members of NATO, and by the EU High Representative, they also discussed Russia's destabilisation activities... Read more

Publications : Brexit: legal aspects of the negotiations 2016-2020
Former legal adviser to the European Council and the Council of Ministers of the European Union, Director General of the Council's Legal Service, Jean Claude Piris, member of the Foundation's Scientific Committee, has just published a study on the legal aspects of the 2016-2020 negotiations related to the UK's decision to leave the European Union (Brexit)... Read more

Studies/Reports : Report on the effectiveness of the SURE instrument
On 22 March, the Commission published the first report on the effectiveness of the SURE instrument to protect jobs and income affected by the pandemic. According to the report, SURE has helped between 25 and 30 million people and 2.5 million businesses. More than 90% of the total budget of €100 billion has already been allocated... Read more

Culture : Mythological passions in Madrid
The Prado Museum in Madrid is hosting the exhibition "Mythological Passions: Titian, Veronese, Allori, Rubens, Ribera, Poussin, Van Dyck, Velazquez" until July 4. It offers a selection of 29 mythological paintings created in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries... Read more
Virtual visit of the Jablonka Collection
Until 5 April, the Albertina Museum in Vienna is offering visitors the opportunity to discover the Jablonka collection via a planned online tour or a self-guided 3D virtual tour. Collected by the German art dealer Rafael Jablonka, it is one of the most prestigious collections of American and German art of the 1980s. Approximately 110 paintings, sculptures and works on paper have been selected to show the great diversity of the collection... Read more
Exhibition on Jan Cybis
Until 30 June, the Grand Theatre-Opera in Warsaw is hosting an exhibition on the Polish painter Jan Cybis, a leading figure in the group of Polish colourists who went to Paris in the 1930s and were nicknamed the Kapists. Until it reopens to the public, the exhibition is available online and in virtual reality... Read more
Artistic Windows
Making contemporary art accessible to all, from the street... This is what the Collection Lambert in Avignon proposes. Still closed to the public due to the pandemic, this cultural place has created La Loggia, a temporary exhibition space located in a window overlooking rue Violette. Every week, works from the collection are presented to onlookers who can admire them from outside. Each of these exhibitions provides an opportunity to view the artists in the Collection in a new light or to discover works that have never been shown in the museum... Read more
e-Review of some major women artists
On 3, 5 and 10 April, the Städel Museum in Frankfurt is presenting an online guided tour of major works by women artists such as Lotte Laserstein, Ottilie W. Roederstein and Cindy Sherman. The tour offers an insight into why women's positions in art have remained relatively unexplored for centuries... Read more
Exhibition on silk in Florence
The Salvatore Ferragamo Museum in Florence is hosting the "Silk" exhibition, available online, which pays tribute to Fulvia Ferragamo, who in the 1970s launched the continuous production of silk accessories with personalised patterns characterised by prints made in Como with exclusive decorative objects, in particular flowers and exotic animals formed by a patchwork of flowers... Read more

Napoleon's Bicentenary : Napoleon and Religion
A review of Napoleon's approach to religion has been written by Vladimir Moss. Tim Alpeter's work on the subject is available as an e-book... Read more
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4 April 2021


General Elections

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