Region

EU plus

Stories in this section cover the EU-27 countries plus the UK, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Andorra and the Balkan Countries (Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia).

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Armenia and Azerbaijan recognise each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty

Armenia and Azerbaijan recognise each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty

After hours of negotiations, with the mediation of European Council president Charles Michel, and French president Emanuel Macron, the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan , Nikol Pashinyan and Ilham Aliyev, have taken a historic step towards lasting peace. Both countries have recognised each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty, and committed to tangible steps to establish peace and stability in the region. President Macron tweeted early this morning "Tonight, Armenia and Azerbaijan confirmed their commitment to the Charter of the United Nations and the Alma Ata 1991 Declaration through which both recognize each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty." The four leaders held two long sessions of negotiations on the margins of the summit of the European Political Community which was launched at Prague Castle on Thursday afternoon (6 October). It is also understood that a number of other decisions were taken. It was agreed that the EU will deploy on the Armenian side of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border a civilian monitoring mission, for a period of two months starting from October.

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Turkey, Sweden and Finland to meet on 26 August

Turkey, Sweden and Finland to meet on 26 August

Turkish representatives will meet counterparts from Sweden and Finland on 26 August in an effort to remove the final stumbling blocks for the accession of the two Scandinavian countries into NATO. Turkey is one of seven out of thirty NATO countries still to ratify the decision taken at the last NATO summit to admit Sweden and Finland into the alliance. Speaking at a Conference for Turkish Ambassadors across the world, being held this week in Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Sweden and Finland are yet to deliver their commitments arising from the trilateral memorandum signed at the NATO summit in Madrid in June and they haven't taken any solid steps on Turkey's requests on extradition of terrorists yet. He described the remarks by Swedish and Finnish authorities on their promises as "well intentioned," and reiterated Turkey's desire to see concrete steps from the two countries.
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Commentary: Ukraine crisis helps Europe re-discover the meaning of the word “solidarity”

Commentary: Ukraine crisis helps Europe re-discover the meaning of the word “solidarity”

Since the start of the Russian invasion, the EU and its member states have given Ukraine billions of euros of budgetary assistance, have welcomed more than 3.7 million refugees, and have extended unprecedented levels of military assistance. Europe has re-discovered the meaning of the word solidarity, even if not all of the solidarity is altruistic but involves also a measure of self-preservation in the face of Putin's Russia naked aggressiveness and expansionist ambitions. Solidarity with Ukraine and Ukrainians is also ultimately in the interest of every European Union country and citizen. But this does not in any way lessen the significance of Europe’s support for Ukraine. Can this solidarity be sustained for the months, and probably years ahead, as Ukraine struggles to defeat Russia, and hopefully afterwards, victorious, start the difficult process of reconstruction? The decision to give Ukraine EU candidate status was in this regard significant, and indicates that the EU sees Ukraine as a long term commitment. For sure, as the winter cold starts biting and Putin plays politics with Russian gas supplies, there will be those who will question the value of Europe’s solidarity with Ukraine.  It is important they remain marginalised. For this, European leaders, decision makers and opinion shapers, need to communicate constantly to European citizens the righteousness of the decision to help Ukraine to stand up to Russia, and to help the Ukrainian people in their hour of need.
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Decision time for the future of the Iran nuclear deal

Decision time for the future of the Iran nuclear deal

After years of uncertainty and negotiations, it is finally decision time for the future of the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). On Monday (8 August), the European Union submitted a “final text” at talks to salvage the 2015 deal aimed at reining in Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Tehran said it was reviewing the proposals. Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran and Russia, as well as the United States indirectly, resumed talks on Thursday in Vienna, months after they had stalled. The European Union has submitted a “final text,” a European official said on Monday. “We worked for four days and today the text is on the table,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity. “The negotiation is finished, it’s the final text... and it will not be renegotiated.” “Now the ball is in the court of the capitals and we will see what happens,” the European official added. AFP news agency quoted European diplomats as saying that the final draft tabled is non-negotiable, and “stretches us all to the limits of our flexibility.”  According to The Wall Street Journal correspondent Laurence Norman, a senior EU official said that EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell will send messages to participating states setting out the next steps. The EU has been co-ordinating the efforts to revive the JCPOA, which involved mediating indirect talks between Iran and the United States.
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Kosovo-Serbia tensions defused after a flurry of overnight diplomatic activity

Kosovo-Serbia tensions defused after a flurry of overnight diplomatic activity

A flurry of diplomatic activity on Sunday night helped defuse tensions between Kosovo and Serbia which saw both sides mobilising military forces. The crisis revolved around a decision of the government of Kosovo that would introduce new rules requiring Serbs in Kosovo to swap their Serbian-issued car number plates for Kosovan-issued ones. The rules were due to come into force at midnight on Monday. But on Sunday ethnic Serbs in the north barricaded roads and armed men fired shots in protest. The rules' implementation has now been delayed for a month following consultations with the US and EU. NATO described the situation as "tense" as hundreds of ethnic-Serbs parked trucks, tankers and other vehicles near two key border crossings with Serbia in protest over the new rules, forcing the police to close the two crossings. The mission led by the alliance in Kosovo, KFOR, said it was "prepared to intervene if stability is jeopardised, in accordance with its mandate, coming from UNSC resolution 1244 of 1999."
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Russia restarts limited gas supplies to Germany from Nord Stream I

Russia restarts limited gas supplies to Germany from Nord Stream I

Russia has restarted gas supplies to Germany via the German-Russian Nord Stream I gas pipeline on Thursday (21 July). The gas pipeline had been closed for the past ten days for the usual annual maintenance, but it was uncertain whether gas would flow via the pipeline again. The Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom had previously informed European clients by letter that it cannot guarantee that deliveries will be resumed after the maintenance work. It invoked "exceptional circumstances". The European Commission therefore feared that Russia would permanently stop the gas supplies from Nord Stream I after the maintenance. European Commissioner Johannes Hahn said this week that the European Commission was even working on the "assumption that the gas supplies will not be resumed". Gazprom already reduced gas supplies to Germany by 60 per cent in June. It is not clear whether resumed deliveries will be at the same level as before the maintenance. At that time, they amounted to 67 million cubic metres per day, about 40 percent of Nord Stream I's maximum capacity. Since the supply resumed, the gas price has fallen slightly, first by 6.5 percent, after which the price stabilised around 4 percent. 
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EU and Azerbaijan seal strategic partnership agreement on energy security

EU and Azerbaijan seal strategic partnership agreement on energy security

After years of uncertainty in EU-Azerbaijan relations, co-operation between the two sides has finally been put on a strategic footing with the signing in Baku on Monday (19 July) of a new "Memorandum of Understanding on a Strategic Partnership in the Field of Energy". The signing of the MOU comes at a crucial time when Europe is frantically trying to replace gas and other energy supplies from Russia, in the aftermath of the latter's invasion of Ukraine. A report on the website of the European Commission said that the memorandum signed by the two Presidents today includes a commitment to double the capacity of the Southern Gas Corridor to deliver at least 20 billion cubic metres to the EU annually by 2027. This will contribute to the diversification objectives in the REPowerEU Plan and help Europe to end its dependency on Russian gas. Based on the strengthened energy cooperation, Azerbaijan is already now increasing deliveries of natural gas to the EU, from 8.1 billion cubic metres in 2021 to an expected 12 bcm in 2022. commonspace.eu political editor said in a comment that "EU-Azerbaijan relations need to continue to be build, based on mutual respect and recognising the importance of people to people contacts for the future of the relationship. The EU on its part, especially now that the stakes are higher, needs to put more efforts in supporting lasting peace in the region. The energy agenda has its specific importance and aspects, but it cannot be seen in isolation of wider issues."