Tag Archives: European Commission

EU-Tunisia talks strengthen ties

Brussels 07.06.2021 Visiting Brussels on 4 June 2021, His Excellency Mr Kais Saied, the President of the Republic of Tunisia, held talks with His Excellency Mr Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, Her Excellency Ms Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission and His Excellency Mr David Maria Sassoli, the President of the European Parliament. These meetings provided an opportunity to underline the depth of historical ties between the European Union and Tunisia dating back almost half a century in a spirit of constantly evolving strategic partnership.

This new phase of bilateral relations is based on shared values and a mutual commitment to strengthening political, economic and cultural ties between the two shores of the Mediterranean.

The talks, which took place in a very cordial atmosphere, focused on young people, education, culture and economic relations, which have been some of the key areas of cooperation between Tunisia and Europe in the last few years. Delivering on the priorities announced in the European Communication on the renewed partnership with the Southern Neighbourhood and confirmed by the Council conclusions of April 2021 was also at the heart of these discussions. The two sides invoked the socio-economic impact of the crisis linked to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic and social reforms needed to revive economic activity and growth.

Both sides welcomed the celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of the Revolution. Since then, Tunisia has made progress in consolidating democracy, including by holding municipal, parliamentary and presidential elections and by passing laws which guarantee human rights and fundamental freedoms, demonstrating that democracy has taken root in Tunisian society.

On the subject of cooperation, the Tunisian President thanked the European Union for its consistent support since 2011, noting the European contribution of more than EUR 3 billion to Tunisia’s socio-economic recovery. For its part, the EU reiterated its long-term commitment to Tunisia and its determination to support the country’s efforts to consolidate its democratic institutions and promote a green, competitive and inclusive economy, in particular by supporting SMEs and promoting foreign investment.

The two sides also discussed the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 health crisis and the economic reforms that should be undertaken to create the right conditions for a sustained recovery of growth. The European Union, one of the largest contributors to the international COVAX mechanism, has undertaken to continue supporting the efforts made by Africa, including Tunisia, to combat the pandemic by facilitating fair access to vaccines and assisting its economic recovery, particularly in the worst affected sectors, such as tourism, services and air transport.

The visit confirmed the commitment of both sides to deepening their strategic and privileged partnership. The two sides discussed the priorities that will shape bilateral cooperation in the years to come. The following broad guidelines were outlined in the course of the discussions:

The cooperation started in 2016 under the Youth Partnership has already yielded significant results. More than 5 000 Tunisian students and academics have benefited from the Erasmus+ programme and participated in exchanges in all fields with European universities. The European Union has also supported the modernisation of higher education in Tunisia through 50 capacity-building projects under Erasmus+ since 2015.
Tunisia is also one of the countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean which has benefited most from its participation in European research programmes since 1 January 2016 and is the only country of the Southern Neighbourhood and Africa associated with the European «Horizon 2020» Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. Tunisian organisations benefited 87 times from 68 grants funded under «Horizon 2020», receiving EUR 11.2 million of direct EU contribution enabling very advanced cooperation with European research centres. The two sides welcomed the success of this venture and discussed at some length the prospects for its future development. Tunisia has formally expressed an interest in joining the new «Horizon Europe» Framework Programme in order to continue this partnership in the field of research and innovation.
In addition, recognising the importance of investing in young people for the future of our countries, both sides reaffirmed their commitment to further intensifying cooperation in the field of education, vocational training and higher education, including through the Erasmus+ programme, and to working together to promote the cultural and cultural heritage sector. Within that context, and in the course of this visit, Tunisia submitted a letter of intent with a view to continued participation in the «Creative Europe» Framework Programme relating to the cultural and creative sectors.
Both sides agreed to work together on mobility and all aspects of migration, including legal migration, in accordance with the legal migration and mobility remit of the EU and its Member States. They also had a frank discussion on irregular migration, bearing in mind the root causes and taking their respective interests into account. It was agreed to continue joint work on all aspects of migration and its governance, including asylum, border management, the fight against migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings.
The two sides agreed to intensify cooperation in the fields of security and justice and expressed a wish to make rapid progress in the development of police cooperation. They also agreed to strengthen cooperation on preventing radicalisation, counter-terrorism and combating money laundering.
Both sides welcomed the feelers that had been put out for an agreement on extending the coverage of the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS), which illustrated the success of bilateral cooperation in the space sector. This initiative also has a significant impact on the harmonisation of air transport safety on both sides of the Mediterranean and will benefit the tourism sector too.
Both parties also stressed the importance of continuing to implement the partnership within the framework of the consultation mechanisms set up by the EU-Tunisia association agreement, including expert discussions on the work of the subcommittees. The EU and Tunisia welcomed the fact that various thematic meetings had been held under the association agreement in 2019 and 2020 in spite of the health constraints. These meetings had allowed fruitful exchanges to take place on the challenges facing both sides and ensured the continuation of dialogue between the Tunisian and European administrations.
Lastly, the European and Tunisian sides exchanged views on regional and international issues of common interest, including the Middle East peace process. Both sides welcomed the ceasefire which should end the violence, expressing a desire to continue working with international partners to relaunch the political process and reiterating their strong commitment to the two-state solution.
In the light of Tunisia’s participation in the UN Security Council in 2021, both sides agreed to intensify political and diplomatic contacts in order to contribute together to the international community’s commitment to multilateralism and UN principles. In that spirit, the EU and Tunisia reiterated their support for the call of 30 March 2021 for an international treaty on pandemic prevention and preparedness.
The EU and Tunisia underlined their joint determination to implement the initiatives referred to above and to continue fruitful exchanges at all levels, in this case technical and political, which are the key to strengthening their privileged partnership.

EU-DRC: €20m for police reform

Brussels, 16.11.2020 The European Union (EU) is maintaining its commitment to the security of the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) by earmarking €20 million from the 11th European Development Fund for the Police Reform Support Programme over five years. This brings EU support for police reform up to a total of €60 million.

“There can be no development and sustainable growth without a more peaceful environment. That is why the European Union is stepping up its support for security, peace and stability in the DRC. We are therefore backing the DRC’s government in its determination to continue the security, defence and justice reforms now under way, with full respect for human rights” European Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, said.

The resumption of police reform is of paramount importance to increasing public confidence in the security forces and supporting the rule of law throughout the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

This new European aid programme is aimed at improving governance, protection for human rights and efforts to combat impunity and corruption. It has four specific objectives: improving the implementation of reforms and the accountability of the police; increasing the professionalism of the police and the criminal justice chain; improving human resource management; and, lastly, getting community policing up and running in order to restore public confidence.

Given the importance of recognising the equality of men and women and combating gender-based violence, including sexual violence, particular attention will be paid to gender issues.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the European Union has been a long-standing partner, having provided a total of €670 million from the 11th European Development Fund for the period 2014-2020.

The priority sectors for European aid in the DRC are health, sustainable agriculture and the environment, infrastructure and governance, including defence, policing, justice and public finances.

The support programmes for the security sector, and more specifically the police, have contributed decisively to the implementation of police reform in the DRC, as highlighted by the creation of the Police Reform Monitoring Committee; the drafting of a framework act on the Congolese National Police (PNC) and strategic plans for the implementation of the reform; the creation of a database of police officers; the modernisation of the administration and the creation and construction of a police academy (ACAPOL).

This support has helped professionalise the police, paving the way for a civilian police force that is impartial and at the service of the community.

The EU support for security in the country follows on from the EUPOL DRC mission carried out from 2007 to 2014 as part of the common security and defence policy (CSDP), the first and second phases of the police reform support programmes financed by the EDF (€35 million) and the Congolese National Police reform support programme implemented from 2006 to 2020 with funding from the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (€5 million).

#SOTEU: africa-EU KEY parTNER

Brussels, 16.09.2020. In the annual State of the European Union #SOTEU address the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen devoted special attention to the bloc partnership with African countries:
“”When I came into office, I chose for the very first trip outside the European Union, to visit the African Union, and it was a natural choice. It was a natural choice and it was a clear message, because we are not just neighbours, we are natural partners,” the European Commission president von der Leyen said.
“Three months later, I returned with my entire College to set our priorities for our new strategy with Africa. It is a partnership of equals, where both sides share opportunities and responsibilities.

“Africa will be a key partner in building the world we want to live in – whether on climate, digital or trade”.
The State of the European Union #SOTEU debate is a key moment to demonstrate the European Commission’s accountability towards the EU’s democratically elected representatives. It focuses on important issues like the coming economic recovery, climate change, youth unemployment and migration flows. This annual event is significant to promote a more transparent and democratic Union. It is an opportunity to bring the European Union closer to the citizens, highlighting the year’s core action points and challenges. Citizens’ rights and the democratic process are at the heart of this unique plenary debate.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis, MEPs have taken stock of the von der Leyen Commission’s achievements to date.
Ursula Von der Leyen has outlined the impact of the Commission’s work in mitigating the COVID-19 sanitary and economic crisis, and shared her vision for economic recovery, fighting climate change, and the situation in Europe’s neighbourhood.
Political group leaders have assessed the Commission’s work and set out their views, as this annual State of the Union debate is a chance for MEPs to scrutinise the work and the plans of the European Commission and help set the future direction for the EU.
The debate started with an address by President von der Leyen, followed by several rounds of interventions by political group speakers between which Ms von der Leyen answered to MEPs. The German Council Presidency also took the floor.

EU-Mauritania fishery extension

The fisheries agreement with Mauritania and its implementing protocol, the EU’s most significant in economic terms by far, are currently being renegotiated. To allow continued EU fishing activities in Mauritanian waters after the expiry of the latest protocol, the European Commission has proposed to prolong it for a maximum of one year. The European Parliament is due to vote on giving its consent to this extension during the May plenary part-session.

The EU’s fisheries relations with Mauritania date back more than 30 years, with a series of agreements concluded in 1987, 1996 and 2006. The latter, renewable for six-year periods, is now in force. It is one of the few mixed fisheries agreements covering a variety of demersal and pelagic species, including a tuna component. EU fishing vessels operate in Mauritanian waters under a protocol implementing the agreement, which defines the fishing opportunities available and the financial contribution paid by the EU. The latest protocol, concluded in 2015 and modified by Commission decision in 2017, expired on 15 November 2019. An evaluation study recommended its renewal.

First Leyen official visit attributed to Africa

“During her first official visit outside Europe today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, President Ursula von der Leyen outlined her ambition to further strengthen the EU-Africa partnership, based on mutual respect, promoting sustainable development, peace and security as well as greater economic ties and tackling climate change. The visit comes ahead of next year’s EU-Africa Summit.

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“Speaking in Addis Ababa today, President von der Leyen said: “I have chosen Africa for my very first visit outside Europe to send a strong political message because the African continent and the African Union matter to the European Union. Today we have seen in our discussions that there is room for greater cooperation between Europe and Africa.“

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“President von der Leyen met with African Union Commission Chairman, Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat, where she reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to boost cooperation at all levels.

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“The President then held bilateral meetings with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Sahle-Work Zewde.”

 

EU Juncker meets Congo President Tshisekedi

The president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker received the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo Felix Tshisekedi. They have discussed the necessary reforms programme, and the fight against Ebola.

In July the EU has contributed a further €30 million in humanitarian funding for Ebola response in efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The second deadliest Ebola outbreak on record has claimed so far more than 1,700 lives in a country already facing a dire humanitarian situation. The funding announcement brought total EU humanitarian aid to fight against Ebola to €47 million since 2018, when the current outbreak was declared.

In September the European Commission has announced €34.275 million in humanitarian funding to help the most vulnerable people in the Great Lakes region in Africa. The aid will mainly help address urgent humanitarian needs in the Democratic Republic of Congo and provide continued support to Burundian refugees in the region.

The bulk of the funding announced supports humanitarian measures in the Democratic Republic of Congo (€29.375 million) and refugees from Burundi in Tanzania and Rwanda (€4.3 million). The remaining €600,000 are allocated to UN agencies in Burundi and to help refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo in neighbouring Republic of Congo.

Africa’s Great Lakes region continues to face armed conflicts and insecurity, leading to forced displacements, food shortages and undernutrition, and recurrent outbreaks of epidemics and natural disasters. The funding announced today brings the overall amount of EU humanitarian aid in the Great Lakes region in 2019 to €69.74 million.

EU committed to Africa agri-food sector

Africa-Europe Alliance: European Commission committed to a sustainable African agri-food sector. The Task Force for Rural Africa delivered its final report, an agri-food and rural agenda for the new ‘Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs’ unveiled by President Jean-Claude Juncker in the 2018 State of the Union speech.

 

 

 

According to the recommendations of this group of African and European experts, Africa and the EU should develop a partnership operating at three levels: people to people, business to business, and government to government. It would institute a multi-stakeholder dialogue at all levels, starting locally, and enable a closer connection between African and European societies, business communities and governments.

Agriculture and rural development policy is leading the way in EU-Africa political cooperation. The Task Force Rural Africa is at the centre of this work: its recommendations explore ways to boost public and private investment, to exchange best practice and share knowledge, and to deepen policy cooperation across the board;” agriculture and rural development Commissioner Phil Hogan said.

 

 

 

 

This is a very important day for the Africa-Europe Alliance. Today we have seen the hard work of the Task Force on Rural Africa culminate in concrete recommendations. Now it is up to us to come together, take these valuable recommendations forward and devise solutions that can deliver what we all want: a positive rural transformation, and an inclusive and sustainable agriculture and agri-food sector,” International development and cooperation Commissioner Neven Mimica said.

African Union (AU) Commissioner for rural economy and agriculture Josefa Sacko said: “The Task Force report recognises the new reality of Africa and Europe as global partners on an equal footing. It demonstrates that farmers and the food industry should work hand in hand to take on the new opportunities that the African Continental Free Trade Area will offer and also, build the regional markets needed for Africa’s long term food security.”

Launched in May 2018 by the European Commission, the Task Force was set up to provide advice on strengthening the Africa-Europe partnership in food and farming. The European Commission will ensure follow-up and implementation of several actions recommended by this group of experts to support the development of African agri-food sector and rural economy.

Building on some of the short term recommendations made by the Task Force, the European Commission will start implementing the following projects:

  • Twinning and exchange programmes between African and European agricultural bodies: the Commission has just launched a Pilot Vocational Education and training initiative with Africa of €5 million. Additional funds from the EU budget will be made available for other twinning programmes for rural women’s organisations, farmer organisations and cooperatives, businesses and public entities with their peers.
  • AU-EU Agribusiness platform: recognising the key role the private sector can play for structural transformation in Africa, the Commission proposes to set up a platform to link European and African businesses. This platform is expected to help identify challenges and opportunities for private investment and trade between the two continents.
  • Innovation hubs: to support ‘agripreneurs’ and the African agri-food sector, innovation hubs can be established or strengthened with the aim of applying practical knowledge. These hubs would bring together national research, higher education systems, farmers, their organisations and the private sector to facilitate –amongst others- digital innovation and skills development.

The report handed over today is a landmark in the process towards more cooperation between the EU and Africa in the agri-food sector, identifying four strategic areas of action for the medium to long term: job creation, climate action, sustainable transformation of African agriculture and development of the African food industry and markets.

To make this an open and inclusive process, the Commission will launch an online consultation to gather direct feedback from African stakeholders on the Task Force’s strategic approach and on the state of play of the agri-food trade and cooperation between our two continents. Together with today’s report, the outcome of this consultation will feed into the third AU-EU agricultural ministerial conference in Rome, planned for June 2019.

Effective follow-up will also be ensured through the setting-up of an implementation group composed of ministerial and private representatives from both Africa and the EU. The group will be presented at the ministerial conference in Rome.

Hungary expects post-Cotonou reflects reality on illegal migration

Hungary is “absolutely interested” in negotiation of a new post-Cotonou agreement insured Péter Szijjártó, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, however it has also some expectations concerning the Migration Chapter of the agreement, namely reflecting reality on illegal mass migration. The mandate to the European Commission negotiators led by Neven Mimica can be given by the Hungarian government as soon as the three following issues are included: in general the migration chapter should meet the realities; the acknowledgment of  illegal migration as security threat to Europe; the stopping of illegal migration must be a goal.

We see that there is a chance to agree on this three points” –  Szijjártó continued, underlining that the negotiations with the Commission has lasted for some weeks, and there is no objections from the behalf of Mimica. The minister also underlined that both Balkans and Mediterranean routes for trafficking illegal migrants are active, representing security problems to be urgently addressed.

At the margins of the European foreign affairs Council Péter Szijjártó met with Brussels press-corps, sharing the position of the Hungarian government on the range of issues of international agenda, not the least  the mandate to negotiate the post-Cotonou agreement to European Commission Neven Mimica.

Today in Brussels the Foreign Affairs Council is expected to discuss the negotiating mandate for the future agreement between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) 79 countries. The current ACP-EU Partnership Agreement, also known as the Cotonou Agreement, will expire in February 2020.

The Cotonou Agreement is the overarching framework for EU relations with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. It was adopted in 2000 to replace the 1975 Lomé Convention.

It is the most comprehensive partnership agreement between developing countries and the EU, covering the EU’s relations with 79 countries, including 48 countries from Sub-Saharan Africa.

Foreign ministers had an initial discussion during January’s Foreign Affairs Council. Development ministers had a discussion on 22 May 2018.

€200 million loan to Tunisia

The European Commission, on behalf of the EU, has today approved the disbursement of a €200 million loan to Tunisia.

This disbursement marks the launch of the second Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA-II) programme to Tunisia. A total of €500 million will be disbursed in three instalments in 2017 and 2018.

“Today’s disbursement to Tunisia is proof of our strong commitment to support the successful economic recovery of one of our closest neighbours. With a renewed sense of urgency, Tunisia has reaffirmed its dedication to an effective partnership. The EU stands firmly with Tunisia in achieving prosperity for all of its people” –Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said.

The second Macro-Financial Assistance programme was proposed following the terrorist attacks of 2015, which contributed to halting Tunisia’s economic recovery. This had a significant impact on the country’s balance of payments position and financing needs. The programme was agreed by the Council and the European Parliament on 6 July 2016.

The second and third instalments of the MFA-II (amounting to €150 million each) will be tied to the implementation of a number of policy conditions targeting fiscal consolidation as well as the improvement of Tunisia’s social assistance schemes and business climate.

The EU’s strategy of assistance to Tunisia also includes budget support programmes under the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), of which Tunisia is a major recipient among the Southern Neighbourhood countries, and substantial loans from the European Investment Bank.

EU response to MSF on Libya migrants

The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders, or MSF, on accused the European Union and national governments of funding the criminal abuse of migrants in detention centers in Libya.

Libya’s EU-sponsored coast guard is picking up migrants trying to flee to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea and sending them back to Libya’s detention system, which is “a thriving enterprise of kidnapping, torture and extortion,” MSF International President Joanne said in an open letter to EU governments:

“European governments have chosen to contain people in this situation. People cannot be sent back to Libya, nor should they be contained there,” she wrote.

The EU’s executive Commission denied the allegations on cruel treatment of migrants in Libya and said that its priority is in fact to end the “vicious cycle” that sees people brought to the conflict-torn country by smugglers and then trapped in camps or detention centers.

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