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Thorny Summit: Turkey, Belarus, China, Migration Among Questions Facing EU Leaders

PARIS – Tough foreign policy issues, including tensions with Turkey, sanctions against Belarus and r..

PARIS – Tough foreign policy issues, including tensions with Turkey, sanctions against Belarus and relations with China, will be up for discussion at a two-day European Union summit that starts Thursday.

This end-of-month summit will be a test on whether the European Union can speak with one voice over thorny issues in its neighborhood and beyond.

The summit was delayed a week after Charles Michel, president of the 27-member European Council, was quarantined for possible coronavirus infection. He has since tested negative.

Belarus is a key concern. The EU has refused to recognize Alexander Lukashenko as the countrys president following disputed August elections and a brutal post-election crackdown against protesters.

Meeting Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in Lithuania this week, French President Emmanuel Macron promised to help mediate a peaceful transition via the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Macron said he had gotten agreement from Russian President Vladimir Putin, but Putin subsequently denounced what he calls external pressure on Belarus.

Britain and Canada have announced sanctions against the Belarus government — but tiny member Cyprus earlier blocked the EUs own effort until similar measures were imposed on Turkey. Reports however say the EU will likely announce sanctions very soon.



NATO allies, already at odds over several issues, squabbling over maritime territory in the eastern Mediterranean Sea



EU-Turkey tensions are another hot-button issue. The immediate issue is oil and gas exploration rights in the Eastern Mediterranean, pitting EU-member Greece against Ankara. But the bloc does not see eye to eye with Turkey on other key issues, including Turkeys involvement in Syria and Libya.

Visiting Greece, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday urged Athens and Ankara to quickly resume talks on the maritime dispute and pledged Washingtons support.

“We strongly support dialogue between NATO allies Greece and Turkey and encourage them to resume discussion of these issues as soon as possible,” Pompeo said.

Reports and analysts suggest the EU is unlikely to impose sanctions against Ankara in the immediate future. Leaders of France and Turkey, whose relations have been particularly strained, recently talked for the first time in months.

“Turkey is perhaps the most complex country for the EU to deal with, because its a member of NATO so its a partner,” Maillard said.

Sebastien Maillard heads the Jacques Delors Institute, a Paris-based think-tank on Europe.“Its also a country with whom we have strong economic links,” Maillard said.

“And which is also a country we cooperate on migration…Turkey is also officially a country that wants to join the EU. Thats why its a very touchy and difficult issue. Especially in a country like Germany, which hosts a very important Turkish community.”

EU leaders will also discuss ways to rebalance trade relations with China, another sticky relationship. The two sides met for a virtual summit earlier in September.

Other key issues in the backdrop include the European Commissions new migration and asylum pact that has sparked criticism from several eastern European countries, and the escalating violence between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The EU has called for a swift de-escalation of violence there, and warned against outside interference.

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Covid: Thousands protest in France against proposed new vaccine pass

A new draft law would in effect ban unvaccinated people from public life.

Demonstrators in the capital, Paris, held placards emblazoned with phrases like “no to vaccine passes”.

Interior Ministry officials said 34 people were arrested and some 10 police officers were injured after the protests turned violent in some places.

The bill, which passed its first reading in the lower house of France’s parliament on Thursday, would remove the option of showing a negative Covid-19 test to gain access to a host of public venues.

Instead, people would have to be fully vaccinated to visit a range of spaces, including bars and restaurants.

The government says it expects the new rules to come into force on 15 January, although the opposition-dominated Senate could delay the process.

But demonstrators on Saturday accused the government of trampling on their freedoms and treating citizens unequally.

Others targeted their anger at the president, Emmanuel Macron, over comments he made earlier this week in relation to unvaccinated citizens, telling Le Parisian newspaper that he wanted to “piss them off”.

One protester, hospital administrator Virginie Houget, told the Reuters news agency that Mr Macron’s remarks were “the last straw”.

And in Paris, where some 18,000 people marched against the new law, demonstrators responded to his coarse language by chanting: “We’ll piss you off”.

TV images showed altercations between protesters and police turning violent in some places. In Montpellier officers used teargas during clashes with the demonstrators.

Turnout for the protests was estimated to be about four times higher than the last major demonstrations on 18 December, when some 25,500 people marched across the country.

But despite the vocal protests, opposition to the new measures is not widespread and recent polling suggests the vast majority of people back the vaccine pass.

France is one of the most highly vaccinated countries in Europe, with more than 90% of over-12s eligible for the shot fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, new coronavirus infections are rising rapidly across France as the new Omicron variant takes hold.

The country recorded more than 300,000 new cases for the second time in a week on Friday and admissions to intensive care wards are rising steadily, putting healthcare systems under strain.

Some hospitals have reported that some 85% of ICU patients are not vaccinated against Covid-19.

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Covid-19: ‘There is no choice between lives and livelihoods,’ OECD chief Gurría says

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:26

As European countries move into their second Covid-19 lockdowns of t..

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:26

As European countries move into their second Covid-19 lockdowns of the year, the head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development backs measures seen by many as tough. Ángel Gurría tells FRANCE 24: "If you win the battle against the virus first, you will have less economic consequences." He adds that "there is no choice between lives and livelihoods; it's a false dilemma".

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Mexican economist Ángel Gurría has been Secretary-General of the OECD since 2006 – throughout the global financial crash and subsequent recovery.

With hopes now high for viable vaccines against Covid-19, he's telling world leaders that the solutions to health and economic crises must carry the elements of our solutions to the environmental crisis too: "The single most important inter-generational responsibility is with the planet. That means the recovery, where we are going to make investments that have an impact for the next 30, 40 years, must absolutely have the sustainability of the planet in mind".

On the recently announced Pfizer vaccine, Gurría says: "It is a game changer […] The possibility of a vaccine being close is of enormous consequence. We still have to wait for it to be finalised, approved and distributed in sufficient amounts that it can get everywhere, so we are calculating that we are going to spend most of 2021 still living with the virus. But it changes expectations; the whole mood has improved considerably since the announcement."

On the refusal of Donald Trump, leader of the OECD's biggest single funder, to concede defeat in the US presidential election, Gurría sounds an upbeat note: "I believe that we will have an orderly transition of power in the United States come 20th January 2021. I believe in the institutions in the United States, I believe that the political forces in the United States will eventually align."

Finally, as talks drag on over a new Brexit deal on the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom, Gurría says he still expects a deal to be struck: "I believe that the common interest will lead to a deal […] The impact in Europe is going to be limited to the trade with the UK. The impact in the UK is going to be very serious, not only because of the flows of trade and flows of investment, but also because the overall business mood will be affected. So I am still counting on a deal."

Produced by Mathilde Bénézet

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Attacks in France and Austria: Europe’s response to extremism

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:40Modified: 13/11/2020 – 17:42

TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24
This Friday..

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:40Modified: 13/11/2020 – 17:42

TALKING EUROPE
TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24

This Friday marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris terror attacks, in which 130 people were killed. The last few weeks have seen more bloodshed, with attacks in the Paris region, in Nice and in the Austrian capital Vienna. European leaders are looking for solutions: ways to stop hate being preached, broadcast and acted upon, while defending individual freedoms of speech and of conscience. In our debate we ask two leading members of the European Parliament, from France and from Austria, what they believe should be done.

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Produced by Yi Song and Perrine Desplats

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Our guests

  • Andreas SCHIEDER, Austrian MEP, Socialists & Democrats
  • Nathalie LOISEAU, French MEP, Renew Europe

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