Briefing – EU-Belarus relations: State of play – Human rights situation and Ryanair flight diversion – 22-07-2021

The falsified presidential elections of August 2020, and the brutal crackdown against peacefully protesting Belarusians, led to the isolation of the Aliaksandr Lukashenka regime. Despite the possibility of starting dialogue with the democratic opposition and Belarusian society, Aliaksandr Lukashenka chose another path, involving continued brutal repression of the country’s citizens. The worsening human rights situation and hijacking of Ryanair flight FR 4978 provoked a response from the EU, including a ban on Belarusian air carriers landing in or overflying the EU, a major extension of the list of people and entities already subject to sanctions, and the introduction of sanctions on key sectors of the Belarusian economy. The EU policy also demonstrates a readiness to support a future democratic Belarus. In this respect, the European Commission presented the outline of a comprehensive plan of economic support for democratic Belarus, worth up to €3 billion. The European Parliament is playing an active part in shaping the EU’s response. Parliament does not recognise Lukashenka’s presidency and is speaking out on human rights abuses in Belarus. The Belarusian democratic opposition, which was awarded the 2020 Sakharov Prize, is frequently invited to speak for the Belarusian people in the European Parliament.

Source : © European Union, 2021 – EP

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Highlights – The Global State of Human Rights: High-Level Conference – Subcommittee on Human Rights

High-Level Conference on the Global State of Human Right
The European Parliament and the Global Campus of Human Rights will hold the first Global State of Human Rights conference on 16 July. The event will gather MEPs, including EP Vice Presidents Heidi Hautala and Fabio Castaldo, and Maria Arena, Chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights, EU Commissioners, Nobel Peace Prize Recipients, Sakharov Prize Laureates, Political and Security Committee Ambassadors, and representatives from international organisations, academics and stakeholders.

Source : © European Union, 2021 – EP

Briefing – Re-starting tourism in the EU amid the pandemic – 13-07-2021

Tourism plays an enormously important role in the EU economy and society. It generates foreign exchange, supports jobs and businesses, and drives forward local development and cultural exchanges. It also makes places more attractive, not only as destinations to visit but also as locations to live, work, invest and study. Furthermore, as tourism is closely linked with many other sectors – particularly transport – it also affects the wider economy. The coronavirus pandemic has hit the tourism sector hard. The impact on various tourist destinations in the EU has been asymmetrical and highly localised, reflecting differences in types of tourism on offer, varying travel restrictions, the size of domestic tourism markets, level of exposure to international tourism, and the importance of tourism in the local economy. At the beginning of summer 2021, several EU Member States started to remove certain travel restrictions (such as the requirements for quarantine or testing for fully vaccinated travellers coming from certain countries). However, all continue to apply many sanitary and health measures (such as limits on the number of people in common areas, and cleaning and disinfection of spaces). Such measures and restrictions change in line with the evolving public health situation, sometimes at short notice, making recovery difficult for the sector. The EU and its Member States have provided the tourism sector with financial and other support. Some measures were already adopted in 2020. Others were endorsed only shortly before the beginning of summer 2021. One flagship action has been the speedy adoption of an EU Digital Covid Certificate. This certificate harmonises, at EU level, proof of vaccination, Covid-19 test results and certified recovery from the virus. However, it does not end the patchwork of travel rules. Despite efforts to harmonise travel rules at Council level, Member States still apply different rules to various categories of traveller (such as children or travellers arriving from third countries).

Source : © European Union, 2021 – EP

In-Depth Analysis – The EU-Turkey Customs Union and trade relations: what options for the future? – 07-07-2021

This in-depth analysis summarizes the main effects of the Customs Union (CU) on EU-Turkey trade and the economic situation in Turkey. Whereas the CU offers Turkey several economic benefits, it also implies some downsides, in particular asymmetric tariffs in relation to third countries. Against the background of the dynamic development of EU-Turkey relations, the authors assess the impact of four different options for developing EU-Turkey economic and trade relations:
(i) Continuation of the current Customs Union framework as it stands,
(ii) Modernization and upgrading of the Customs Union,
(iii) A transformation of the bilateral trade relations into a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement (DCFTA),
(iv) Suspension of the Customs Union (in which case WTO rules would apply).
The in-depth-analysis describes the options, the challenges the EU-Turkey Customs Union faces and seeks solutions for these issues.

Source : © European Union, 2021 – EP

At a Glance – Plenary round-up – July 2021 – 09-07-2021

During the July 2021 plenary session in Strasbourg, Parliament continued to debate and adopt Multiannual Financial Framework programmes for 2021-2027, this time finalising programmes in the justice and home affairs, fisheries and infrastructure areas. Debates on a number of Council and Commission statements were held, including on the programme of activities of the Slovenian Council Presidency, on the conclusions of the European Council meeting of 24-25 June 2021, on the Commission’s 2022 work programme, on the state of play of implementation of the EU Digital Covid Certificate Regulation, on the impact of the Covid-19 crisis in aviation, and on the 70th anniversary of the Geneva (refugee) Convention. A number of other debates were held, inter alia on the rule of law and fundamental rights in Hungary and Poland, on amendments to the Visa Information System, and on European Investment Bank activities in 2019. Members also debated international policy issues – the situation in Nicaragua, the repression of the opposition in Turkey, and the situation in Tigray, Ethiopia.

Source : © European Union, 2021 – EP

Briefing – Mental health and the pandemic – 09-07-2021

While the pandemic is primarily a physical health crisis, it has also had widespread impact on people’s mental health, inducing, among other things, considerable levels of fear, worry, and concern. The growing burden on mental health has been referred to by some as the ‘second’ or ‘silent’ pandemic. While negative mental health consequences affect all ages, young people, in particular, have been found to be at high risk of developing poor mental health. Specific groups have been particularly hard hit, including health and care workers, people with pre-existing mental health problems, and women. The pandemic has also appeared to increase inequalities in mental health, both within the population and between social groups. To address the population’s increased psycho-social needs, the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe established an expert group on the mental health impacts of Covid-19 in the European region. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has issued analyses and guidance on mental health in general and the pandemic’s impact on mental health in particular. At European Union level, a December 2020 European Commission communication addressed the pandemic’s impact on mental health. In May 2021, the Commission organised a major online stakeholder event, and published best practice examples of solutions presented. A July 2020 European Parliament resolution recognises mental health as a fundamental human right, calling for a 2021-2027 EU action plan on mental health. Members of the European Parliament have also called on the Commission to put mental health at the heart of EU policymaking. Stakeholders broadly rally around calls for programmes and funding to improve citizens’ mental health, not least to respond to the pandemic’s long-term implications.

Source : © European Union, 2021 – EP

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