EU leaders meet to tackle disputes over Turkey, Belarus and budget
Issued on: 01/10/2020 – 04:50
European leaders meet on Thursday to tackle rifts that threaten thei..
Issued on: 01/10/2020 – 04:50
European leaders meet on Thursday to tackle rifts that threaten their huge coronavirus recovery package and weaken their ability to respond to crises on their borders with Turkey and Belarus.
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The first night of the extraordinary two-day European Union summit will be dominated by the bloc's tricky ties with Ankara, which is embroiled in a dangerous maritime stand-off with Greece and Cyprus.
But the leaders will reluctantly be forced to address an internal argument about tying access to EU funds to a member state's support for the rule of law — an idea fiercely opposed by Hungary.
At a turbulent four-day marathon summit in July the leaders agreed to borrow to build a 750-billion-euro corona stimulus fund, to be backed by a trillion-euro long-term EU budget.
But the speaker of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, will warn the national heads at the start of their meeting that MEPs oppose cuts to key EU programmes in the budget plan and want 100 billion euros more.
The parliament could yet withhold approval for the package, and Hungary and Poland could also block the deal if their access to funds is linked to their respect for EU legal and democratic values.
The so-called "frugal countries" — the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, Denmark and Finland — oppose restoring the budget cuts and insist on the importance of the rule of law.
A German compromise proposal, which would see states only fined for rule of law breaches involving the spending of EU funds, narrowly won the support of EU ambassadors ahead of the summit on Wednesday.
But the frugals' envoys voted against it, as for them it does not go far enough, and so did Hungary, whose Prime Minister Viktor Orban has accused the block of "blackmail" and demanded the resignation of the European Commission vice-president Vera Jourova.
In a report published by Jourova on Wednesday on the state of the rule of law in Europe, the commission said connections between Hungarian politicians and businesses are conducive to corruption.
– Maritime crisis –
But the European leaders will not want to get bogged down in more of the fighting about budgets and values that almost derailed July's prolonged summit.
Instead, diplomats say foreign affairs and Europe's strategic posture will dominate.
Over dinner on Thursday they will look at ties with Turkey, which is notionally still a candidate to join the EU but is in a stand-off with member states Greece and Cyprus over maritime borders and energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean.
Ankara has infuriated the EU by sending research ships with naval escorts to work in contested waters, and Athens has responded with war games backed by France, raising fears of full-blown conflict.
Tensions have eased slightly, with Turkey and Greece agreeing to resume long-stalled talks, but Ankara still has assets in Cypriot waters.
In his summit invitation the president of the European Council Charles Michel warned that "all options remain on the table" if Ankara does not engage constructively in talks.
This could include tough economic sanctions against Turkey, but officials stress that while the EU stands squarely with Greece and Cyprus, the focus for now is on trying to find a diplomatic solution.
"We've seen positive developments on Ankara's behalf towards Greece but not Cyprus," an EU official said, citing the start of a German-led mediation effort.
Meanwhile, Cyprus has been blocking long-trailed sanctions over the political crisis in Belarus, insisting more people must be listed over Turkish drilling in its waters at the same time.Read More – Source
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Aliku Ogorchukwu: Wife of Nigerian killed in Italy demands justice
The wife of a Nigerian street trader who was killed in Italy has told the BBC she is seeking justice following his “painful death”.
Aliku Ogorchukwu, 39, was reportedly selling handkerchiefs in the seaside town of Civitanova Marche on Friday when he was chased and beaten to death.
A 32-year-old Italian has been arrested on suspicion of murder and robbery.
A video circulating online shows a man on top of Ogorchukwu, punching him with his bare hands.
None of those who witnessed the broad daylight attack appeared to intervene.
“This is a form of wickedness I don’t know,” Ogorchukwu’s wife, Charity Oriachi, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa.
Ms Oriachi said she had received help in coming to terms with her husband’s death but was tired of “talk”. Now, she was only interested in justice, she insisted.
Her family had lived in Italy for a long time, she said, stressing that her husband had never sought any trouble.
The killing has sparked outrage in the local community, including Nigerians, who took to the streets over the weekend and are planning another demonstration soon.
The Nigerian government has asked Italian authorities to quickly “bring the perpetrator of the heinous act” to justice.
Suspect not released
The suspect – a white man named as Filippo Claudio Giuseppe Ferlazzo – has been ordered to remain in jail as the investigation continues.
His defence lawyer told the media the suspect had said he was sorry and that there was “no racial element” involved.
A police investigator said Ogorchukwu was attacked after the trader’s “insistent” requests to the suspect and his partner for spare change.
The partner, identified as Elena D, told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that Ogorchukwu had touched her arm, but that did not bother her.
Ms Oriachi now wants to see the suspect “face to face”, to understand why he killed her husband, the family’s lawyer told the Associated Press.
Ukrainian widow confronts Russian soldier accused of killing her husband
In the very first days of this invasion a 62-year-old unarmed civilian was shot dead on a village street outside his Ukrainian home. His name was Oleksandr Shelipov.
Three months later and the captured Russian soldier accused of killing him is in Kyiv being tried for a war crime.
Standing up in court to confront the 21-year-old defendant on Thursday was Kateryna Shelipova, the widow of the man killed.
Did he repent his crime, she asked?
The Russian tank commander, Vadim Shishimarin, replied that he admitted his guilt and asked for her forgiveness. “But I understand you won’t be able to forgive me,” he added.
Kateryna Shelipova hadn’t finished. “Tell me please, why did you [Russians] come here? To protect us?” she asked, citing Vladimir Putin’s justification for the invasion of Ukraine.
“Protect us from whom? Did you protect me from my husband, whom you killed?”
The soldier had no answer to that.
This landmark trial marks the first time a Russian serviceman has been put on the stand for war crimes since the invasion of Ukraine was launched in February.
And perhaps such raw encounters are what such trials are about, at least in part. Forcing a soldier – who ignored all the rules of war – to face up to exactly what he has done and the suffering he has caused.
Sgt Shishimarin has pleaded guilty and Ukrainian prosecutors are asking for him to be sentenced to life imprisonment.
On Wednesday, Ms Shelipova told me she actually felt sorry for the soldier, but she could not forgive him for this crime.
She heard the shots that killed her husband, then saw Sgt Shishimarin through her gate – holding his weapon.
Five minutes later she says she saw her husband’s body: “He was dead with a shot in his head. I started screaming very loudly.”
“The loss of my husband is everything for me,” Ms Shelipova said, adding: “He was my protector.”
‘It killed him’
Recalling the events of 28 February, Vadim Shishimarin said he and a small group of other Russian soldiers had become separated from their unit and hijacked a car in order to return to it.
“As we were driving, we saw a man. He was talking on the phone,” the defendant said.
He claimed that he hadn’t wanted to fire the fatal shots, that he was following orders – threatened by another soldier if he refused to do as he was told.
“He said I would be putting us in danger if I didn’t. I shot him at short range. It killed him,” the 21-year-old tank commander told the court.
Interestingly, his defence lawyer – appointed by the state – told me that no Russian official has been in touch with him, including from its defence ministry.
There is no Russian embassy in Kyiv these days, so no contact from there either.
President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman yesterday told the BBC that the Kremlin has “no information” about this case.
All in all, it feels rather like the young soldier has been abandoned to his fate by the commanders who sent him to war and continue to deny that their forces commit crimes here.
We also heard from a second Russian soldier who witnessed the killing in February and later surrendered to Ukrainian forces.
Ivan Maltysev, another slight and young-looking 21-year-old, told the court how the Russian soldiers spotted Oleksandr Shelipov while they were driving the stolen car.
Mr Maltysev claimed that Vadim Shishimarin was then ordered to shoot the victim because he was on the phone.
“Vadim didn’t do it. So the soldier, whose name I don’t know, turned round in the car and shouted that Vadim had to carry out the order, or we would be informed on.
“At this point, we were almost alongside the civilian and, under pressure, Vadim fired. He fired three or four rounds.”
Ukraine has so far identified more than 11,000 possible war crimes committed by Russia.
Moscow has denied its troops have targeted civilians, but investigators have been collecting evidence of possible war crimes to bring before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
This trial is Ukraine’s chance to prove, beyond doubt, that a Russian soldier killed a civilian with no regard for the rules of war.
Its prosecutors know they are in the spotlight, proceeding so quickly, and in the middle of a war.
That is why they are keen to be as transparent and thorough as possible – so that this is not seen as a show trial, but part of a vital quest for justice.
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