Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Travel schedule 28 October-8 November

The coming days I will be traveling again. The coming time, the posts on this blog will mainly focus on a report about my travels and my impressions.

My travel schedule is as follows:

28 October-1 November: I will participate to the ECPYN regional congress: “Georgia and Post-Soviet Space in common European context”. I was asked to speak about the topic: "The role of Christianity in post Soviet politics". More information about this congress you will find on www.ecpyn.org

2-4 November: I will be in Moldova where I will have several meetings and trainings with our partners in Moldova. Also there will be a special training and discussion organized by the Youth Parliament where I have to speak about: "European Union between identity and integration"

5-8 November: I will be in Riga to participate amongst others to the Latvian National Prayer Breakfast.

All these activities are planned Deo Volente. And would like to ask your prayers for the trip and all the events

EU unlikely to expand into post-Soviet east in next decade

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Poland and Sweden have in a joint strategy paper indicated the EU is unlikely to invite any of its post-Soviet neighbours to join the bloc in the next 10 years.

Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski and Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt set out their vision for the EU's future relations with neighbouring countries in a letter on 6 October to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and neighbourhood commissioner Stefan Fuele.

The letter noted that Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine could one day become EU members, unlike countries in north Africa and the Middle East. "Some [countries bordering the EU] are European and thus enjoy special status in accordance with the treaties, others will remain neighbours of Europe," it said.

But the four-page-letter nowhere said the EU should give the group 'an enlargement perspective.' It instead set out an everything-but-enlargement vision in which the six gradually adopt the EU rulebook, the acquis communautaire, move toward free trade and visa-free travel and take part in more EU projects, including police, military and migration-related schemes.

To this end, it called for a "well-prepared and substantial" summit between EU leaders and the six countries in Budapest on 26 May.

It also recommended that the EU split in two its European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), a €1.7 billion a year budget line, currently used to fund projects in all 16 of its neighbourhood policy countries.

Around €600 million a year would go to the eastern group, on top of a €90 million a year special allocation for the six under the EU's Eastern Partnership policy.

"The development of relations with the two sets of neighbours has followed increasingly differentiated tracks. Given the differences between the two groups of countries, this is a logical development," the letter said. "We should take into consideration dividing the ENPI into two separate financial instruments, one for the east and one for the south, in mid-term perspective."

Mr Sikorski and Mr Bildt wrote to Brussels in response to a questionnaire sent out in July by Mr Fuele to all 27 EU capitals and 16 neighbouring states.

The questionnaire asked among other things how the governments see EU relations developing in the period up to 2020. "The big question behind all this is - what is the endgame? If out of this process we get some mandate to specify our endgame it could be very good," an EU official said.

EUobserver understands that the letter sent in by Ukrainian foreign minister Kostyantyn Gryshchenko said boldly that Kiev's goal is EU accession and that this can be achieved by 2020. It criticised the existing European Neighbourhood Policy, saying EU-Ukraine relations in recent years have progressed "not because of, but despite" it.

"It is very clear that the eastern countries want to have a clear membership perspective. Some are pressing to get it more quickly, the others also want it, but are not begging for it," an EU diplomatic contact familiar with the response letters of some of the neighbouring states, said. "Even with Belarus, for us it is clear that they are in principle interested."

The omission of any wording on accession in the Polish-Swedish text is significant because Warsaw and Paris are the main architects of the EU's current policy toward post-Soviet countries. Some diplomats from enlargement-friendly Poland had in the past dared to hope the Polish EU presidency would broker an enlargement promise for Kiev in late 2011.

Most of the other big players in the EU are openly hostile to further expansion, leaving aside the special case of the western Balkans. "For us, it is not on the table," a French diplomat said. The German response to the Fuele questionnaire also said nothing on enlargement.

EU foreign ministers will in Luxembourg on Monday chew over the responses which have come in so far. The EU 27 and EU neighbouring 16 foreign ministers plan to hold a meeting on future relations in February. Ms Ashton and Mr Fuele will then issue a communication on reform of the European Neighbourhood Policy in the run-up to the Budapest summit.

Monday, October 25, 2010

EU gives green light to visa-free talks with Moldova

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – EU ambassadors have agreed to the "political goal" of moving towards a visa-free regime with Moldova in a boost for the pro-EU coalition in Chisinau ahead of November elections.

The ambassadors' decision on Thursday (21 October) could see foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday task the European Commission with drawing up an Action Plan for visa-free travel for Moldova, on the model of a plan already drafted for Ukraine.

The ambassadors could not agree on the final wording of the ministers' communique because France insisted on language underlining that EU countries will have to approve the Moldova plan if the commission prepares one.

"All the discussions were about the visa issue. The European Ccommission is rushing to start things, but we have to make sure all the necessary guarantees are there," one EU diplomat told that website.

Moldova - a post-Soviet country of 4 million people sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine on the eastern fringe of the EU - accelerated in EU integration terms after a pro-Western coalition ousted the pro-Moscow Communist administration.

A subsequent parliamentary deadlock and a failed referendum on changing the presidential system triggered early elections, which are due on 28 November. Amid widespread disenchantment due to the financial crisis and infighting in the pro-Western gang, the Communist side could stage a comeback.

Progress is also being held back by a frozen conflict in the country's easterly region of Transnistria, where Russia still has what it calls "peacekeeping" troops.

Some in Brussels are keen to support the pro-Western camp in Moldova. But others, such as France, are more mindful of Russia's interests and Moscow's "new ouvertures" for better relations with the EU.

At a summit in the resort town of Deauville in France on Monday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for the first time agreed to EU technical conditions on visa-free travel for Russia. Previously, Russia has called on the EU to scrap visas "overnight" in a more simplistic model.

The so-called "regional approach" to visa politics in Brussels means the EU is wary of seeing one former Soviet country, such as Moldova or Ukraine, leap ahead in case those left behind take umbrage.

Romanian centre-right MEP Monica Macovei criticised the regional model while speaking during the full sitting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Thursday. "Moldova has made more progress than any other country in the Eastern Partnership [Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova] and it should be rewarded on its merits," she said.

"We call on member states to ask the commission on 25 October to prepare an action plan for Moldovan citizens' visa-free travel. People-to-people contacts have more value than any statement."

EU to move ahead on Serbia accession, add tough conditions

EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday (25 October) will invite the European Commission to submit its opinion on Serbia's application for EU membership. But the ministers' conclusions, seen by WAZ.EUobserver, are to say bluntly that Serbia cannot go further toward EU accession without the arrest of war crimes suspects Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic and a constructive approach in the upcoming dialogue with Kosovo.

Source: EU Observer: http://euobserver.com

After two nights of long and tiring talks, the representatives of 26 EU countries and the Netherlands on Friday agreed the final text of the ministers' communique.

The compromise consists of several elements: Ministers will voice strong support for Serbian president Boris Tadic; they will say Belgrade's attitude toward Kosovo is a key condition for further Serbian EU integration; and they will make clear Serbia cannot obtain official EU candidate status unless all EU member states, including the Netherlands, agree on a positive assessment of its co-operation with the Hague War Crimes Tribunal (ICTY), based on ICTY chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz' reports.

The conclusions on Serbia include five paragraphs.

After recalling that, on 22 December 2009, President Tadic presented the application for EU entry, the first paragraph says: "The Council decided to implement the procedure laid down in Article 49 of the Treaty on the European Union. Accordingly, the Commission is invited to submit its opinion." Preparation of the opinion or 'avis' normally takes at least one year and is the first step to a country being granted formal candidate status.

The second paragraph recalls the statement at an EU summit in December 2006 that the future of the Western Balkans lies in the European Union. It reiterates that each country's progress toward the EU depends on its individual efforts to comply with the Copenhagen Criteria and conditions spelled out in the so-called Stabilisation and Association Process. The Copenhagen Criteria is a text dating back to 1993 which says EU-aspirant countries must conform with democratic, legal and economic EU norms.

In the third paragraph, the EU introduces as a new condition Serbia's attitude in the Kosovo talks: "The Council reiterates that a constructive approach towards regional co-operation is essential. The Council also calls for progress in the process of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, under the facilitation of the EU and its High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, welcomed in the United Nations General Assembly resolution of 9 September 2010 as a factor for peace, security and stability in the region."

The last two paragraphs are dedicated to Serbia's co-operation with the ICTY. The EU underlines that "no further steps of Serbia's path towards EU accession will be taken unless the Council unanimously decides that full co-operation with the ICTY exists or continues to exist."

Furthermore, the Council calls upon Serbia to implement recommendations presented by the ICTY prosecutor to the UN Security Council in June „concerning Serbia's support in ongoing trials and appeals and Serbia's assistance in the key matter of the arrest of the two remaining fugitives, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadžic, which would be the most convincing proof of Serbia's efforts and cooperation with the ICTY. The EU will continue to regularly monitor the cooperation with the ICTY. The EU and its Member States recall their readiness to assist Serbia in this respect."

Third refusal of the registration of the Belarusian Christian Democracy, despite of international pressure

Some time ago,I wrote here about the situation in Belarus concerning the Belarusian Christian Democracy and their attempts to legally register their party. Recently a new constituency congress was organized in order to try to register the party for the third time. However, on the same day that the EU Council of Foreign Ministers will discuss about the "Belarusian issue", from their press center I received the news that it is unlikely that the party will be officially registered this time

On October,24 expired the term allocated by the law for making decision on registration of the Belarusian Christian Democracy party,

It is worth mentioning that on September 12, 2010 the third Constituent Congress of the BCD was held and on September,19 the Belarusian Christian Democracy party applied for registration to the Ministry of Justice.

But with the looming prospect of the meeting of the Council of EU Foreign Ministers to be held today, on the 25th of October in Brussels, during which the "Belarusian issue" will be discussed - the Lukashenka’s regime illegally concealing the decision on registration of the BCD.

According to our information, the Ministry of Justice has prepared a statement of non-registration of the Belarusian Christian Democracy party. To pave the way for this decision, over the past month the Belarusian regime put a lot of pressure on the BCD founders: people were threatened with dismissal from their jobs and expelling from universities, unless they did not desist from the party membership.

It was just recently that several European governments (Germany, Lithuania, Finland), which Christian Democrats are part of, and MEPs raised the issue of registration of the BCD to the Lukashenka’s regime. Worldwide human rights organizations also called on the Belarusian government officials to register the BCD. As well as the Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite who posed the question of the BCD registration at a meeting with Lukashenka (whose answer was unintelligible).

The leadership of the Belarusian Christian Democracy party states that it will continue to operate despite the unlawful decisions of the Ministry of Justice. The BCD is now conducting an election campaign of Vital Rymasheuski, who is a candidate for the presidency.

(Source: Press centre of the Belarusian Christian Democracy)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Concerning Human Dignity Alert in the EU (See the message I posted 18 October)

Two important reports have been voted in this week's plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg: the non-funding of EU development programs that include coercive abortions and other human right's abuses; and, sadly, a change of the concept of paternity leave, taking as its criterion the relationship of the partner to the mother rather - as the word itself suggests - of the partner to the child. This opens up "paternity" leave explicitly for lesbian couples.
Source: Human Dignity Watch

European Parliament confirms the non-funding of coercive abortion

During this week’s Plenary Session in Strasbourg, the European Parliament voted on the general budget of the European Union for 2011.

Several amendments regarding specific criterion for the EU's funding of development programs were decided. Parliament confirmed by a majority vote the EU's refusal to fund development programs, NGOs or governments that participate in forced abortions, sterilizations or infanticide. All amendments that sought to affirm the non-funding of such programs were adopted.

The key amendment, which was adopted by a majority of 372 to 279 votes with 21 abstentions, confirms that no other partner of an EU development program is allowed to support or participate in human rights abuses, such as coercive abortion:

The European Parliament stresses that Community assistance should not be given to any authority, organization or programme which supports or participates in the management of an action which involves such human rights abuses as coercive abortion, involuntary sterilization or infanticide, especially where such actions apply their priorities through psychological, social, economic or legal pressure, thus finally implementing the specific Cairo ICPD prohibition on coercion or compulsion in sexual and reproductive health matters; calls on the Commission to present a report on the implementation of the EU’s external assistance covering this programme.

One amendment- proposed by the socialist group that asked to remove an important reference to “coercive abortion, female genital mutilation and forced sterilisation or any cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” - was rejected.

The European Union is the largest donor of development assistance to countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Parliament used an opportunity in today’s vote to condemn human rights abuses which are sadly often associated with family planning programmes in the form of forced abortions, sterilization's and even infanticide.

"Paternity leave" opened up for lesbian couples

This Wednesday, October 20’th, a report by the Portuguese Socialist MEP Edite Estrela was adopted on its first reading by the European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg. The subject of the report was an introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health at work of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breast-feeding.

One of the amendments voted in this report was presented by the Estonian MEP ALDE, Siiri Oviir, whom introduced an European standard for paternity leave of two weeks in order to encourage paternal involvement in the education of their child.

This measure was also extended to any life partner of the mother, regardless who this partner is- for lesbian couples were explicitly envisioned.

This amendment, therefore, contradicts its own purpose since the object of paternity concerns the relationship of a father to a child, a child with whom he has a legally recognized relationship. The report, as it was amended, now changes the concept of paternity leave and focuses merely on the relationship between the mother of the child and her partner (man or woman), regardless of the partner’s relationship to the child. Even more importantly, this amendment introduces an implicit recognition of co-parenting among homosexual couples and an implicit change to a family model that the European Union promotes and defends.

Other key measures within this report are an extension of maternity leave- raising it from 14 to 20 weeks, 6 of which are mandatory and fully paid, and introduced rules on breast-feeding as well. Many critics during the debate of this report, and previously in media, have attested to the lack of respect for the principle of subsidiarity, which was largely construed as an overstepping of EU competence and an interference with the sovereignty of the Member states regarding family policy.

Please find below the reports as voted:

Non-funding of coercive abortion:

Expansion of "paternity leave":

Thursday, October 21, 2010

ECPYN regional Conference: Georgia and Post-Soviet Space in common European context

From October 28th to November 1th ECPYN will organize a Regional Conference in Georgia. The aim of this visit is to study local political situation, activities of Christian Democratic Movement and to discuss vitally important issues for Post Soviet countries, like integration in EU and European Structures.

During this conference we will work on promoting mutual contacts between political youth organizations and diffusing and exchange of knowledge and experience between participants. We want to create an idea about Georgia and its internal and external politics and provide participants with meeting Georgian political elite. We also want to extend participants knowledge in European integration and post-soviet space and promote international discussion between Post Soviet countries. A big part of the conference will also be the knowledge of the role of Christianity in post-soviet space and promote the Christian Democratic ideas.

More information you will find on the website of the ecpyn: http://www.ecpyn.org

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Romanian Prayer Breakfast 8-10 December 2010

From 8-10 December, the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate and the Ecumenical Prayer Group of the Romanian Parliament will organize the 5th Romanian Prayer Breakfast. This event will be organized in collaboration with the ECPM, the Bible Society, and the Dutch Reformed Party. The theme will be: "Christian values in politics" and will take place in the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest.

Program is as follows:

Wednesday, 8 December 2010
18.00 - 19.00 Arrival of the participants
19.00 - 23.00 Cocktail offered by Mrs. Roberta Alma ANASTASE, President of the Chamber of Deputies, in honor of the participants
Cultural - Religious Program.

Thursday, 9 December 2010
08.00 - 08.30 Arrival of the participants
08.30 - 10.00 Romanian Prayer Breakfast
10.00 - 11.00 Tour in the Palace of Parliament
11.00 - 13.00 Opening debate. „Christian Values in Politics”
13.00 - 14.30 Lunch.
15.00 - 18.00 Resumption of debate. Conclusions.
18.00 - 19.00 Cultural program.
19.30 - 21.00 Dinner.

Friday, 10 December 2010
8.30 – 18.00 Optional visit to the Royal Peles Castle in Sinaia and rhe medieval Bran Castle (also known as Dracula Castle)

If you are interested to participate, please send me an email at: leo_van_doesburg@yahoo.com

Monday, October 18, 2010

Elections in Latvia

The elections in Latvia resulted in a clear majority for the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis. The main themes of the elections were the economic situation in Latvia and the relations with Russia and the position of the Russian-speaking minority. The ECPM is glad that the people of Riga re-elected MP Inese Šlesere who is a clear defender of Christian values and works hard to promote a pro-life agenda. We congratulate her and wish her and her colleagues all wisdom in these challenging times.

Human Dignity alert!!!

Human Dignity Alert! No EU Funding for Coercive Reproductive Health Programs

No European Union Funding for Coercive Reproductive Health Programs

Vote in the European Parliament Plenary Session, Wednesday, October 20th at 12:30PM

We are asking all people to support an amendment to the European Union 2011 annual budget that will be voted on Wednesday next week in Strasbourg, France at the European Parliament Plenary Session. This amendment will prevent EU financial support to development programs, NGOs or governments that participate in forced abortions, sterilizations or infanticide. WYA has consistently advocated against this indirect funding which supports coercive policies in foreign countries. This year again, we want to alert the Members of the European Parliament and ask for your participation.

The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action explicitly condemns coercive reproductive and sexual health programs, as stated in Principle 8, Paragraphs 6.25, 7.3, and 7.12. Couples should have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children, without coercion in any form. Coercive measures in the area of reproductive and sexual health violate the dignity of the human person, especially the dignity of women. The European Union should not support coercive programs that violate human rights and therefore dismantle the conditions necessary for human flourishing and sustainable development. Any support of the EU for such programs would constitute a violation of internationally-agreed norms and standards.

To avoid this the following amendment 495 must be included in the Budget of the European Union (SECTION III — COMMISSION, Title 21 —Development and relations with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States):

The European Parliament) Stresses that Community assistance should not be given to any authority, organization or programme which supports or participates in the management of an action which involves such human rights abuses as coercive abortion, involuntary sterilization or infanticide, especially where such actions apply their priorities through psychological, social, economic or legal pressure, thus finally implementing the specific Cairo ICPD prohibition on coercion or compulsion in sexual and reproductive health matters; calls on the Commission to present a report on the implementation of the EU’s external assistance covering this programme.

More information: http://wya.net/news/newsitem.html?newsid=384