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European Union must adapt to paradigm shift in the #MiddleEast

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Historical news, extraordinary development. Without doubt one of the main news this summer in the world: the decision of the United Arab Emirates, one of the most important Gulf state, to normalize its relations with the State of Israel, writes Yossi Lempkowicz, Senior Media Advisor Europe Israel Press Association (EIPA).
A decision that prefigures a complete change of attitude of the Arab countries towards Israel which is no longer seen as the enemy of the Arab world but on the contrary as an ally and partner in peace, security and economic development of the whole region.
Abu Dhabi became the third capital after Cairo and Amman to cross the Rubicon. Other countries are expected to follow. We are now talking about Oman, Bahrain, Sudan, Morocco ... and why not Saudi Arabia. A normalization which illustrates the rise of a new generation of Arab leaders who have a different vision of the region.
This UAE-Israel agreement, obtained under the auspices of the Trump administration, deals an undoubtedly fatal blow to the dogma - widely held in Europe and elsewhere in the world - that the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a condition for a recognition of Israel by Arab countries. A concept which has allowed the Palestinian leadership to maintain over the years a negative attitude towards any attempt at negotiation with Israel. It should be a game changer.
One stone, two blows. In addition to the normalization of relations between the two countries and eventually the installation of reciprocal embassies and the launch of direct flights, the agreement also provides for an essential element for the Emirates: the specific acceptance by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the suspension of his  plan to extend Israeli sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). A project that was nevertheless part of Netanyahu's electoral promises. "The priority is to expand the circle of peace," he told Abu Dhabi-based Sky News Arabia.
According to a Channel 12 poll, nearly 80% of Israelis prefer a normalization agreement with Arab countries to an extension of Israeli sovereignty.
‘’Delaying the annexation (of territories), or preferably cancelling it, will save Israel unnecessary political, security and economic costs and allow it to focus on the real national security challenges ahead: the economy, Covid -19, Iran, Hezbollah and Gaza,'' said Amos Yadlin, who heads the prestigious Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv.
There are two camps in the Middle East today. Those who oppose radical Islam, want to promote peace, stability and economic development in the region - including Israel and the UAE, other Gulf countries, but also Egypt, Jordan - and those who, like Iran and Turkey (along with Qatar), seek hegemonic and warlike domination of the region through their proxies, Hezbollah, Hamas and other Muslim Brotherhood. As in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Gaza or Libya.
The agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel clearly marks a change in perception of the Jewish state in the Arab world. Israel is no longer seen by these countries as a threat but as a stabilizing force in a volatile and chaotic region. Israel is also a military, technological and economic power with which to cooperate.
“The clause (of the agreement) inviting every peace-loving Muslim to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem signals to the Islamic world that the only road to Jerusalem is through peace with Israel,” writes Amos Yadlin.
“The Palestinians made the mistake of repeatedly condemning the ties forged over the years by their Arab brethren with Israel, preferring to hug false friends in Tehran and Ankara. In reality, it is the Palestinians who abandoned their Arab brothers in favor of foreign usurpers. Powerful Arab countries have had enough and choose to promote their national security interests without taking into account the moods of the Palestinians,’’ writes Dmitri Shfutinsky of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.
Will the Europeans abandon their outdated conception of the Middle East peace process - more particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - and understand the fact that this normalization agreement constitutes the prelude to a deep regional geopolitical evolution? A new paradigm.
Did EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell get it when he welcomed the normalization deal, while acknowledging the ‘’constructive role’’ played by the United States in this regard? Such normalization will benefit both countries and will constitute a "fundamental step for the stabilization of the entire region," he stressed. He also called Israel's commitment to suspend plans to extend sovereignty to part of the West Bank as "a positive step." A project that the Europeans had been trying for several months to convince Israel to abandon ... One less thorn in the complex relations between the EU and Israel.
After a phone conversation with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, his German counterpart Heiko Maas, whose country currently holds the presidency of the European Union, said the normalization deal could provide a ‘'new momentum’’ towards peace in the region….
A message relayed by the head of French diplomacy Jean-Yves Le Drian who speaks of a "new state of mind" illustrated by these announcements which should allow the resumption of negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Now that the annexation project in the West Bank - the main stumbling block for the EU - has been frozen thanks to the agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, it is high time for the leaders of the European Union to take a decision. initiative to strengthen those in the Middle East who break taboos and seek to expand the circle of peace.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone, and do not reflect any opinions on the part of EU Reporter.

Brexit

Brexit - EU starts infringement process for UK's failure to act in good faith

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As anticipated, the European Commission today (1 October) has sent the United Kingdom a letter of formal notice for breaching its obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement. This marks the beginning of a formal infringement process against the United Kingdom. It has one month to reply to today's letter.

The Withdrawal Agreement states that the European Union and the United Kingdom must take all appropriate measures to ensure the fulfilment of the obligations under the Agreement (Article 5). Both parties are bound by the obligation to cooperate in good faith in carrying out the tasks stemming from the Withdrawal Agreement and must refrain from any measures which could jeopardise the attainment of those objectives.

The UK government tabled the UK Internal Market Bill on 9 September the Commission consider this a  flagrant violation of the Protocol on Ireland Northern Ireland, as it would allow the UK authorities to disregard the legal effect of the Protocol's substantive provisions. Representatives of the UK government have acknowledged this violation, stating that its purpose was to allow it to depart in a permanent way from the obligations stemming from the Protocol.

The UK government has failed to withdraw the contentious parts of the Bill, despite requests by the European Union. By doing so, the UK has breached its obligation to act in good faith, as set out in Article 5 of the Withdrawal Agreement.
Next steps

The UK has until the end of this month to submit its observations to the letter of formal notice. After examining these observations, or if no observations have been submitted, the Commission may, if appropriate, decide to issue a Reasoned Opinion.

Background

The Withdrawal Agreement was ratified by both the EU and the UK. It entered into force on 1 February 2020 and has legal effects under international law.

Following the publication by the UK government of the draft ‘United Kingdom Internal Market Bill' on 9 September 2020, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič called for an extraordinary meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee to request the UK government to elaborate on its intentions and to respond to the EU's serious concerns. The meeting took place in London on 10 September between Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič.

At the meeting, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič stated that if the Bill were to be adopted, it would constitute an extremely serious violation of the Withdrawal Agreement and of international law. He called on the UK government to withdraw these measures from the draft Bill in the shortest time possible and in any case by the end of the month of September.

At the third ordinary meeting of the Joint Committee on 28 September 2020, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič again called on the UK government to withdraw the contentious measures from the bill. The UK government on this occasion confirmed its intention to go ahead with the draft legislation.

The Withdrawal Agreement provides that during the transition period, the Court of Justice of the European Union has jurisdiction and the Commission has the powers conferred upon it by Union law in relation to the United Kingdom, also as regards the interpretation and application of that Agreement.

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Cyber-espionage

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

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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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coronavirus

Commission approves €32 million Polish aid scheme to compensate airports for damage suffered due to coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, a PLN 142 million (approximately €32m) Polish aid scheme to compensate airports for the damage suffered due to the coronavirus outbreak. In order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, on 15 March 2020, Poland banned all international and domestic air passenger services at Polish airports. The flight restrictions were progressively lifted as of 1 June 2020, but certain travel warnings, travel bans and restrictive measures remained in place until the end of June 2020.

This resulted in high operating losses for the operators of Polish airports. Under the scheme, the Polish authorities will be able to compensate airports for the revenue losses suffered during the period between 15 March and 30 June 2020, as a result of the restrictive measures on international and domestic air passenger services implemented by Poland. The support will take the form of direct grants.

The scheme includes a claw-back mechanism, whereby any possible public support in excess of the actual damage received by the beneficiaries will have to be paid back to the Polish State. The risk of the state aid exceeding the damage is therefore excluded. The Commission assessed the measure under Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which enables the Commission to approve state aid measures granted by member states to compensate specific companies or specific sectors (in the form of schemes) for the damage directly caused by restrictive measures taken in exceptional occurrences, such as the coronavirus outbreak.

The Commission found that the  scheme notified by Poland will provide compensation for damage that is directly linked to the coronavirus outbreak. It also found that the measure is proportionate, as the compensation does not exceed what is necessary to make good the damage. On this basis, the Commission concluded that the aid is in line with EU state aid rules. More information will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number SA.58212 once confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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