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Council President #Tusk on putting 'Europe first' in 2017



EU guysBrexit, EU relations with the US and Russia, migration, economic and social progress, and the defence union were the key political challenges for 2017 debated by MEPs, Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen and Council President Donald Tusk on Wednesday (18 January). Tusk briefed MEPs on the outcome of the December 2016 meeting of EU heads of state or government. 

European Council President Donald Tusk said that progress was being made on curbing migration, but also called on Parliament to support close collaboration on internal and external security issues and on higher defence spending. On Brexit: “Ms May’s speech yesterday proves that our unified position on the single market and four freedoms has finally been understood by London. They should also understand there will be no pick-and-choose,” said Tusk. “We took note of the prime minister’s warm words on EU integration,” he added.

European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen said: “Unity is more important than ever before” as “we have been challenged from outside but also from within.” He stressed the importance of EU institutions and of the art of compromise in the “post-truth era”, confirming that Commission chief negotiator on Brexit Michel Barnier will cooperate closely with the European Parliament. Mr Katainen also advocated deepening the single market in the field of defence, increasing the number of joint military purchases, helping third countries to fight migrant smugglers, and making EU societies more socially resilient.

Manfred Weber (EPP, DE) underlined the UK’s contradictory stance on Brexit - leaving the single market while at the same time demanding a free trade deal - and deplored UK threats. “Who will pay for the tax deficits that will result from the dumping plans of the UK government? In the end, ordinary people.” As for the recent statements by US President-elect Donald Trump, Mr Weber said that “We also have powerful tools, like state aid rules. If in the US they say ‘America first’, than we have every right to say ‘Europe first’”, he insisted.

Péter Niedermüller (S&D, HU) noted that migration is still one of the most serious issues facing the EU. He underlined the tremendous pressure on some member states and demanded support and solidarity from others. In his opinion, member states that fail to show solidarity should “face the consequences”.

Anna Elżbieta Fotyga (ECR, PL) reported that American troops are arriving in Poland under NATO auspices and called for unity among governments in facing security challenges such as terrorism and Russian aggressiveness.

Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE, BE) said “We are looking for a fair agreement with the UK not one where being outside the EU is more interesting than being inside.” On US President-Elect Donald Trump’s investiture, he predicted that 20 January would be a turning point - for the EU-US relationship and inside the EU. Europe needs to speed up the building of a Defence Union and invest more in its common border and coast guards.

João Ferreira (GUE/NGL, PT) pointed out that in the first 15 days of 2017, more than 200 people had drowned in the Mediterranean while trying to reach Europe and complained for the “inhuman reception” given to those who do make it to the EU. On terrorism, he complained that “security” is being used as a pretext to restrict citizens’ rights.

Green group leader Ska Keller (Greens/EFA, DE) called the Council conclusions “meagre at best”, noting that “We have the Brexit, we have Trump, we have refugees freezing to death in Europe, we have the rise of the far right, the conflicts in our neighbourhood, so many issues to address and solutions to find. (…) I do not expect the Council to save us all, but I do expect a meaningful contribution. We only have one Europe and it needs us”, she concluded.

Migration and security go “hand in hand”, said Paul Nuttall (EFDD, UK) criticizing “dangerous and reckless policies” that “allow jihadists to enter the EU.” This view was echoed by Vicky Maeijer (ENF, NL), who denounced recent terrorist attacks in Germany and called for “more sovereignty” for member states and “less [EU] diktat”. Nuttal also said the UK should leave the single market to avoid having to pay a “membership fee” or comply with EU rules.

Tusk thanked MEPs for their clear and broad support for the future common strategy on Brexit - “our unity is an important signal” he said. Asked for an institutional reaction to a recent interview with Mr Trump, Mr Tusk replied that there would be all too many opportunities to react in the future. “It could be our daily work, I’m afraid”, he added.

“Let’s not let others define what Europe is about,” Katainen replied to comments about Mr Trump and the future of US-EU relations. “Europe’s fate is in our hands”, he said, stressing that EU institutions must represent “common sense” and focus on delivering more prosperous and secure Europe.


NATO brokers de-conflict mechanism between Greece and Turkey



Following a deterioration of relations in the Eastern Mediterranean, particularly between Greece and Cyprus, NATO has just announced the creation of a bilateral military de-confliction mechanism.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has led a series of technical meetings between the military representatives of Greece and Turkey at NATO Headquarters in Brussels. The mechanism is designed to reduce the risk of incidents and accidents in the Eastern Mediterranean. It includes the creation of a hotline between Greece and Turkey, to facilitate de-confliction at sea or in the air.

Stoltenberg said, “I welcome the establishment of a military de-confliction mechanism, achieved through the constructive engagement of Greece and Turkey, both valued NATO Allies. This safety mechanism can help to create the space for diplomatic efforts to address the underlying dispute and we stand ready to develop it further. I will remain in close contact with both Allies.”

Military de-confliction between Allies is a role NATO has played before. In the 1990’s, NATO helped establish a similar mechanism in the region, which was effective in helping to reduce tensions and provide the space for broader diplomatic talks. 

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EU countries test their ability to co-operate in the event of cyber attacks



EU member states, the EU Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) and the European Commission have met to test and assess their co-operation capabilities and resilience in the event of a cybersecurity crisis. The exercise, organized by the Netherlands with the support of ENISA, is a key milestone towards the completion of  relevant operating procedures. The latter are developed in the framework of the NIS Co-operation Group, under the leadership of France and Italy, and aim for more coordinated information sharing and incident response among EU cybersecurity authorities.

Furthermore, member states, with the support of ENISA, launched today the Cyber Crisis Liaison Organization Network (CyCLONe) aimed at facilitating cooperation in case of disruptive cyber incidents.

Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said: “The new Cyber Crisis Liaison Organization Network indicates once again an excellent cooperation between the member states and the EU institutions in ensuring that our networks and critical systems are cyber secure. Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility and we should work collectively in preparing and implementing rapid emergency response plans, for example in case of a large-scale cyber incident or crisis.”

ENISA Executive Director Juhan Lepassaar added: "Cyber crises have no borders. The EU Agency for Cybersecurity is committed to support the Union in its response to cyber incidents. It is important that the national cybersecurity agencies come together to coordinate decision-making at all levels. The CyCLONe group addresses this missing link.”

The CyCLONe Network will ensure that information flows more efficiently among different cybersecurity structures in the member states and will allow to better coordinate national response strategies and impact assessments. Moreover, the exercise organized follows up on the Commission's recommendation on a Coordinated Response to Large Scale Cybersecurity Incidents and Crises (Blueprint) that was adopted in 2017.

More information is available in this ENISA press release. More information on the EU cybersecurity strategy can be found in these Q&A and this brochure.

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Security Union: EU law on combatting terrorism led to stronger criminal justice rules against terrorism and more rights for victims



On 30 October, the Commission adopted a report assessing the measures that member states have taken to comply with the EU rules on combating terrorism (Directive 2017/541). This Directive is the main criminal justice instrument at EU level to counter terrorism. It sets minimum standards for defining terrorist and terrorism-related offences and for sanctions, while also giving victims of terrorism rights to protection, support and assistance.

The report concludes that the transposition of the Directive into national law helped strengthen member states' criminal justice approach to terrorism and the rights afforded to victims of terrorism. While the measures taken by member states to comply with the Directive are overall satisfactory, there are however gaps that are a cause for concern.

For example, not all member states criminalize in their national law all the offences listed in the Directive as terrorist offences. In addition, there are deficiencies in the measures that member states have taken to criminalize travel for terrorism purposes and the financing of terrorism, as well as to support victims.

The Commission will continue to support member states in working towards full and correct transposition of the Directive. Where necessary, the Commission will make use of its powers under the Treaties through infringement procedures. The report will now be presented to the European Parliament and the Council.

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