Tag: European Commission

French politics is set to witness return of Michel Barnier

French politics is set to witness return of Michel Barnier

French politics: EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier says he is going to return to French politics in coming weeks

Former European Commissioner and EU’s chief Brexit negotiator is planning to return to French politics. Weeks after the EU and UK agreed on the much-awaited post-Brexit trade deal, Barnier has expressed his intentions to go back to France and take his place in the Les Républicains party. The 69-year-old politician, who had previously served the French government as a Foreign Minister and agriculture fisheries minister, has been a member of the party for over 55 years now.

For the last five years, Barnier has been leading the EU’s team in numerous rounds of negotiations with Britain with the aim of reaching a Brexit trade deal. 

In a recent video interview, Barnier stated that he will go back to his home country in a few weeks to take back his place in French politics. The veteran politician also confirmed that he will not be joining President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist movement La République en Marche (LREM), instead would return to the right-wing Les Republicains. 

“I will try to add my stone to my political family which needs to be rebuilt, and to the French political debate,” he told French radio. 

However, he chose not to answer a question related to speculations that he is looking to challenge Macron in the 2022 presidential elections. 

With France’s presidential elections less than two years away, President Macron’s popularity has suffered a substantial downfall in recent months. Amid this development, he is seeking re-election in 2022 after his LREM defeated Les Républicains in the 2017 presidential polls. Notably, the main center-right party of the European nation, Les Républicains, has been in chaos in the absence of a prominent leader. 

After years of working on Brexit, Barnier is all set to retire from the European Commission on January 31. However, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen can reportedly ask him to stay back to carry out parliamentary ratification of the Brexit deal, noting that MEPs are yet to approve the trade agreement in the coming weeks. Ursula von der Leyen and Barnier have not yet discussed when the final ratification can take place.

Meanwhile, EU and UK negotiators concluded the long-running talks and agreed on a post-Brexit trade deal on December 24. With a trade deal in place, Britain left the single market and customs union of the EU on December 31.

Macron Led EU Geopolitical Commission An Ambitious Start

Macron Led EU Geopolitical Commission An Ambitious Start

Macron Led EU: What demarcates good leadership with leadership is the perspective towards geopolitical balances- is a thought that comes out of the latest development in the European Union where the European Commission has decided to establish a dedicated Geopolitical Commission. 

Under the able leadership of one of the most respected leaders of her times, Ursula von der Leyen has outlined six political priorities that would shape the working programme of the European Commission over the next five years. Establishing a GC is one of them. 

She made an announcement in the European Parliament in July and November 2019, as the world was still unaware of the pandemic that would transform the coming year. Going ahead, the trans-Atlantic dynamics seem to be in choppy waters. The EU is well aware of it and does not think it would be appropriate anymore to remain a bystander to the messed up geopolitical equations. 

It is with this mind the Emmanuel Macron, the French President is jumping-in, to broker a level playing ground when it comes to the Eastern Mediterranean crises. He has been the most important driving force behind this change. Speaking over the need of a geopolitical commission, Macron mentioned in open press last year that the key to his vision was the idea that the EU must become a political and strategic player with one voice and one purpose, first in its own neighborhood and then in the world.

There has been unpleasantness between Greece, Turkey and Cyprus over the rights to resources in the Eastern Mediterranean for a long time. While the US tends to take advantage of such situations, the EU would like to manage the geopolitical leadership by supplementing with a wiser leader who can oversee a truce. 

However, this intervention is being looked as a ‘selfish leadership’ and might undermine EU’s stance after all. It might also lead to friction between Berlin and Paris, leave alone push EU away from the rest of the world. 

Looking at the transitional leadership period that EU nations are themselves going through, it makes sense for Macron to lead the show and win some brownie points back home. His credibility has been questioned over the last few decisions he has taken, making his leadership shaky in Paris. 

Brexit deal on verge of being finalised as deadline nears

Brexit deal on verge of being finalised as deadline nears

Brexit deal: EU and UK negotiators have finalised a possible Brexit deal with talks on key issues still underway

EU and UK negotiators have indicated that a trade and security agreement is close to being finalised after marathon talks over a Brexit deal. As per media reports, both sides have managed to reach a breakthrough by finalising as much as 95 percent of the EU-UK free trade deal. After the Coronavirus pandemic 

However, the risk of a no-deal Brexit is still looming upon the two sides as negotiations on some key issues are not showing necessary progress. Amid the prevailing Coronavirus scare, much of the negotiations are being conducted virtually.

Reportedly, Ilze Juhansone, senior-most official of the European Commission, has told Brussels representatives that talks on the majority of the 11 key negotiation issues are progressing with few points remaining for discussion.

Addressing a news briefing on Friday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen hailed the progress made during this week’s talks even after the Coronavirus pandemic halted the process. She further added that there are still some metres to the finish line since a lot of work is still left to do in the deal. 

“Within the frame of the level playing field, progress, for example, has been made on the question of state aid, but there are still quite some metres to the finish line so there’s still a lot of work to do,” she said. 

As per a Daily Express report, some progress has also been made on the contentious issue of EU’s access to UK fishing waters and a mechanism to prevent distortion of trading through undercutting standards. However, Downing Street is standing its ground, insisting Brussels to change its stance in the debate over fishing rights and state aid in a bid to deal the deal. At the same time, Brussels has also informed that the progress is going slowly to reach a deal before the year end when the transition period will come to an end. It will also slow down the ratification process of a potential agreement and can lead to extending the negotiations to December. 

It is also likely that all member states not be able scrutinise the 600-page document or even translate the treaty into all 24 official languages of the bloc. France has called for a discussion on legal aspects of the deal to approve the document.

Due to these concerns, EU officials are reportedly working on emergency steps to approve a Brexit trade deal that will be acceptable to both sides. Meanwhile, chief negotiators Michel Barnier and Lord Frost are expected to carry on with the negotiations in the coming days in a bid to draw a conclusive agreement. 

EU Commission promotes Spain’s action plan against fake news

EU Commission promotes Spain’s action plan against fake news

EU Commission promotes Spain’s action plan: The Spanish government is chalking out an action plan to monitor the internet for fake news stories, under the “Procedure for Intervention against Disinformation” approved by the National Security Council of the country last month. As per recent reports, the European Commission has extended its support to the Spanish government’s plan to initiate administrative responses against disinformation campaigns and systematic and large-scale dissemination of false messages. Published in the Official Journal of the State (BOE) last week, the protocol aims at preventing, detecting and responding to disinformation on various platforms. 

However, the move invited strong criticism from opposition leaders, claiming that Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is using this strategy to control the media. 

Meanwhile, the Spain government has denied these accusations, stressing that the main aim behind the project is not to censor or limit free and legitimate rights of the media. Instead, the plan will be led by the Secretary of State for Communication to conduct public communication campaigns to curb the spread of disinformation.

Leading members of the center-left coalition government defended the new protocol, stressing that the plan does not interfere with media freedom. Responding to opposition’s claims, Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo maintained that the action plan has “nothing to do” with press freedom or freedom of expression.

“We are living in times when lies are becoming information in any part of the world, and democracies need to fight this, because it is part of our constitutional right,” the Deputy PM was quoted as saying. 

The new protocol is an updated version of the document already in place since March 2019 under the previous government led by Popular Party (PP) Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy that carried out various initiatives to monitor disinformation campaigns.

These steps are being taken by the Spanish government in view of various incidents of disinformation campaigns in the past that not only interfered in public opinion, not also destabilised a country, particularly during election campaigns. Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential elections is one fine example of such a campaign. The Spanish document also acknowledges that news media, digital platforms, IT sector, academic world, and society in general play a crucial role in fighting disinformation by identifying it, preventing it from spreading, and raising awareness among other communities.

Spain’s efforts have come in line with the European Commission’s initiative to counter the threat of fake news. Among these initiatives include Action Plan Against Disinformation, Rapid Alert System and the Code of Practice on Disinformation aimed at investigating issues related to online disinformation and fake news stories. The European Union has also called on other member states to develop their capabilities for tackling the issue.

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