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#Mediterranean countries advance on  fighting illegal fishing in world’s most overfished sea

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Oceana praises the progress made by Mediterranean countries during a fisheries compliance meeting of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), held last week in Tirana, Albania.

At the conclusion of the regional gathering between 24 contracting parties, delegates agreed to adopt a stricter sanctioning process for non-compliant Mediterranean countries, and to improve transparency and modernize measures against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Oceana applauds this progress but will remain vigilant towards any evidence of clear fisheries violations in the Mediterranean Sea, such as illegal fishing inside closed areas. It is of utmost importance to ensure that these activities are exposed and do not go unpunished.

“This is a laudable move by GFCM, as the proposals championed by the EU would align the GFCM with international standards already in place in many other shared fishing areas around the world. For example, empowering Mediterranean countries to take action if service providers, such as insurers or banks are found to be benefiting from and supporting IUU fishing, is a state-of-the-art approach in the fight against IUU fishing,” said Oceana in Europe Policy Manager Nicolas Fournier.

Albania

EU approves €100 million for the post-earthquake reconstruction in #Albania

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The Commission has adopted a €100 million package to support the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts of Albania following the November 2019 earthquake. This funding is part of the total Commission pledge of €115m made at the International Donors' Conference Together for Albania, earlier this year.

Neighbourhood and Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi said: “With the adoption of  this €100m financial package, the European Union is living up to its commitment to help Albania in the reconstruction efforts following the earthquake, just as we are also supporting the country to address the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. We have delivered on our promise to stand by the citizens of Albania and renewed our support to Albania and its European future.”

The newly adopted programme will focus on the rehabilitation and reconstruction of education facilities, including furniture and equipment, to allow children and youth to return to school with better conditions and facilities. It will build on the works already initiated under the existing €15m reconstruction programme financed by the European Commission. The new programme will further finance the rehabilitation of damaged cultural heritage sites, including monuments, museums, libraries and archaeological sites, contributing in this way also to local economic development.

All construction will follow the ‘Build Back Better' principle, applying sustainable building norms and reduce the future risk, rebuilding stronger, safer and more disaster-resilient infrastructure and systems. The special measure will also bring improvements to energy efficiency.

For more information, see the press release, the website of the EU Delegation to Albania and this factograph

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Albania

International online conference with Maryam Rajavi at 2,000 world locations - #NCRI

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Thousands of Iranians called for the overthrow of the clerical regime as an imperative to establishing democracy and social justice in Iran at a virtual conference from some 2,000 locations in Europe, the U.S. and in the Middle East to mark the beginning of the 40th year of the Iranian people's resistance against the religious fascism ruling Iran, writes Shahin Gobadi.  

Maryam Rajavi  (pictured), the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran - NCRI , and a group of cross-party parliamentarians and dignitaries from various European, North American and Middle Eastern countries attended and addressed the conference. The participants emphasized their support for the Iranian Resistance and the Iranian people's struggle for regime change in Iran and the establishment of democracy and a republic based on universal suffrage.

Thousands of members of the main Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedin-e Khlaq (PMOI/MEK) took part in the conference from Ashraf-3, Albania,  their home since 2017, near Tirana, the Albanian capital.

While honoring 40 years of perseverance on the ideals of freedom for the Iranian people, Mrs. Rajavi said: The overthrow of the clerical regime is the firm demand of the Iranian people, and the uprisings in November 2019 and January 2020 represented the people's burning commitment to implement it. With their protests and strikes, and the activities and operations of Resistance Units, every day, the Iranian people move closer to overthrowing the regime. It is for the realization of this goal that political prisoners continue to persevere in prisons across Iran and stand up to Khamenei's henchmen.

She added: "It is up to the international community to hear this message: We have always said and reiterated that this regime should not be allowed to obtain even a single bullet; it should not pocket even a single dollar in oil revenues, and it should not spend even a single dollar out of revenues that belong to the Iranian people. The Iranian Resistance has also emphasized since a long time ago that it seeks the restoration of the six UN Security Council resolutions against the regime. We emphasize the extension of international sanctions against any form of weapons trade with the regime."

Emphasizing the need to hold the officials of the religious dictatorship accountable for the mass murder of 120,000 of the valiant children of Iran, including the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners and the murder of over 1,500 protesters during the November 2019 uprising, she reiterated: "The global community must recognize the right to resist against the religious tyranny by the rebellious youth, Resistance Units and the Iranian people."

Rajavi pointed to the fact that exposing and confronting the Iranian regime's policy of exporting terrorism and fundamentalism in the past four decades in which the NCRI and the (PMOI/MEK) have been fully engaged is part and parcel of the major campaign to overthrow the ruling religious fascism, adding: Allow me to inform the Iranian people that the ruling theocracy's extensive two-year conspiracies and efforts to help its arrested diplomat in Belgium have so far proven futile, owing to a series of legal initiatives and a plethora of evidence, documents and testimonies. After a two-year investigation, the first public trial will soon be convened. Precisely two years ago, on June 30, 2018, the clerical regime planned a major massacre, perhaps the greatest massacre during the Resistance's gathering in Villepinte, Paris, which was thwarted at the last minute and the terrorists were apprehended.

Obviously, in the past two years, the Iranian regime spared no effort and pressure to secure the release of the terrorists and the closure of the file. But it failed to prevent the continuation of the investigation and the start of the trial. So far, this is a victory for all those combating terrorism, Mrs. Rajavi noted. She emphasized that this was only the beginning, and the regime's leaders must face justice as the greatest perpetrators of terrorism in the world today as should their agents and mercenaries inside and outside Iran.

Rajavi also underlined: "The resolution by the majority of members in the U.S. House of Representatives, which has recognized the Iranian people's right to the establishment of a democratic, non-nuclear republic based on the separation of religion and state provides a credible model for all other governments and the international community regarding Iran and the Iranian people. The resolution censures the clerical regime's state-sponsored terrorism, and specifically, the terrorist plot against the Iranian Resistance's 2018 annual gathering. It states that the Iranian people have rejected the monarchical dictatorship and, as well, do not accept religious tyranny and oppose it."

Speakers at this conference included Senator Robert Torricelli, Baroness Verma, former minister and member of the UK House of Lords, Michèle de Vaucouleurs, member of the French Parliament, Rama Yade, France's former human rights minister in Nicolas Sarkozy's government, Ingrid Betancourt, former Colombian presidential candidate, Rita Süssmuth, former president of the German Bundestag and former minister, Steve McCabe, member of the UK parliament, Antonio Tasso, member of the Italian Parliament, Hermann Tertsch, member of the European Parliament from Spain, vice chairman of ECR Group and member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Otto Bernhardt former president of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and former member of the German parliament, Thomas Nord, member of the German Bundestag, Faisal Al-Rfouh, former Jordanian Minister, and Bassam al-Amoush, member of the Jordanian parliament.

This analysis represents the views of the author. It is part of a wide range of varying opinions published by but not endorsed by EU Reporter.

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Accession talks with #Albania and #NorthMacedonia sharpens focus on EU solidarity

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Whilst public policy news continues to be dominated by the social and economic effects of the Chinese Covid 19 virus – the Council has found time to make great progress  in respect of the enlargement of the EU to embrace the countries of Albania and North Macedonia – writes Dr. Vladimir Krulj

EU Member states agreed earlier this week to give the green light to open EU accession talks with Northern Macedonia and Albania. The way they did it was also exceptional, by written procedure having regard to the present health situation affecting Europe and the rest of the world.

It is interesting to note that Northern Macedonia started discussions with EU before Croatia did. However complications with the dispute with Greece over the country’s name caused endless delays, until finally an unprecedented move in 2018 by the then Prime Minister to change the country’s name opened the door for progress with talks.

In the case of Albania there were difficulties with the rule of law, anti-corruption efforts, criminality, freedom speech and protection of human rights which led Denmark and the Netherlands to block the opening of accession talks last November – against the recommendations of the European Commission.

On the other hand Croatia did its best to lobby for those two countries to open negotiations with the EU. This was important not only for the Euroatlantic movement now spreading among the majority of the countries in the region but also to counter the influence from Russia, China and Turkey.

It is extremely important and encouraging to see how other neighbouring countries from the Region, Serbia and Montenegro who are already candidate countries supported the efforts of Croatia and other EU countries to open accession talks with Northern Macedonia and Albania.

President Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia and Prime Minister Edi Rama of Albania have already held discussions about the idea of a “mini Schengen” which will enable an easier exchange of goods, people, services and capital, hence making the economy and everyday living of the people from the region easer. Despite being heavily criticised by some analysts this initiative at least also demonstrates the good intention to put bad memories from the past firmly behind them and to look to the future of constructive regional cooperation.

It is imperative that all societies in candidate countries for EU membership truly embrace the core values of the EU. But the challenge this presents should not be underestimated. The situation regarding the rule of law, freedom of the press, respect for human rights and civil liberties today presents serious obstacles to the majority if not all candidate countries on their path towards the EU.

On the other hand, it is fair to say that for the EU it seems that acceptance of core values represents just one side of the problem. Another more challenging part of the equation is how to embed those values in society and maintain respect for them.

Examples of how democratic institutions operate today in Hungary, Poland and to a certain extent even in Croatia is, rather worrying if not to say deplorable. It seems that the EU must focus on strengthening the role of democratic institutions and implement mechanisms to remove obstacles to their efficient operation.

One may think that President Macron referred to this point in particular when he was addressing the future of the EU. Today more than ever the key issue is solidarity. Giving Northern Macedonia and Albania the chance to open EU accession talks offers a promising new starting point.

The author, Dr. Vladimir Krulj, is an Economic Fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), London.

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