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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 holds delicate talks with Sweden and Finland ahead of a decision on their NATO membership application

Turkey holds delicate talks with Sweden and Finland ahead of a decision on their NATO membership application

Senior Turkish officials have met with government delegations from Sweden and Finland as discussions continue following Ankara's threat to veto the NATO membership application of the two Nordic countries. Most NATO countries have warmly welcomed the decision of Sweden and Finland since their membership in NATO will considerably strengthen the northern flank of the alliance, but Turkey accuses both countries of having an ambivalent position on Turkey's struggle with militant Kurdish groups. On Wednesday, Swedish and Finnish government delegations travelled to Ankara to meet with Turkish representatives in an effort to resolve the country’s doubts regarding their accession to NATO. In their first face-to-face meeting since the two Nordic countries applied for membership, Turkish representatives stressed their security concerns, and conditions regarding Sweden’s “cooperation” with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said in a statement late on Wednesday that positive steps towards the lifting of an arms embargo from Finland and Sweden had been taken. In October of 2019, Sweden and Finland were among some  European states that imposed an arms embargo on Turkey following a military incursion into Syria.
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Progress in EU hosted talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan

Progress in EU hosted talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan

A third round of meetings between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan hosted by the European Union in Brussels have resulted in progress on a range of issues as the two countries work to resolve the long standing conflict between them. European Council president, Charles Michel welcomed president Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and prime minister Nikol Pashinyan of Armenia for another meeting in trilateral format on Sunday (22 May). He later described the talks as "frank and productive". In a statement to the media late on Sunday night Michel said the talks focused on the situation in the South Caucasus and the development of EU relations with both countries as well as the broader region. Summarising the meeting, Michel said "the discussion was frank and productive. We reviewed the entire set of issues. We had a detailed discussion on humanitarian issues, including demining, and efforts to free detainees and address the fate of missing persons." He listed a number of outcomes from the meeting including on border issues, connectivity, on a future peace agreement and on socio economic development. In conclusion president Michel said that he also stressed the importance of preparing the populations for long-term sustainable peace. The EU is ready to step up its support. "We agreed to remain in close contact and will meet again in the same format by July/August." 
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Russia steps up its support for the military government of Mali

Russia steps up its support for the military government of Mali

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday (20 May) received in Moscow his Malian counterpart Abdoulaye Diop with promises of Russian support for the the Malian military government across a range of areas, including defence, security and energy. Lavrov speaking at a press conference with Diop accused France of trying to dictate to Mali who they can or cannot communicate with. "This is unacceptable and does not make the French Republic or French manners look good", the Russian foreign minister said. The meeting came on the same day that the German parliament agreed on a reconfiguration of its military contingent in Mali.
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Opinion
Opinion: The decision of Sweden and Finland to apply for NATO membership is the right one and should be supported

Opinion: The decision of Sweden and Finland to apply for NATO membership is the right one and should be supported

For decades, Finland and Sweden weathered the dangers of the cold war as neutral states, sandwiched between Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies, and the United States and its European allies in NATO. It was a risky situation. Their professed neutrality was seen as a naivety by some, as a vulnerability by others. But they used their status for the common good. Finland and Sweden, together with other neutral and non-aligned countries such as Austria, Switzerland, Yugoslavia and Malta, helped to bring about the Helsinki Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, and in 1975 the signing of the Helsinki Final Act, a milestone document that reduced tension during the cold war, and provided a blue print for what followed. This week they broke with their historic position of neutrality, which in the case of Sweden had lasted for two centuries, and applied to join NATO. Finland and Sweden were left with no choice. Their decision to apply for NATO membership was the right one, and should be supported.
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Slava Ukraina: Europeans embrace Ukraine, catapulting it to victory in the Eurovision Song Festival

Slava Ukraina: Europeans embrace Ukraine, catapulting it to victory in the Eurovision Song Festival

Kalush Orchestra have won the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest for Ukraine with their song 'Stefania', at the end of an emotional festival final held in Turin on Saturday (14 May). It was a memorable night for the iconic Eurovision Festival as Ukraine's Kalush Band swept to victory with the backing of a popular vote from across Europe. If European politicians are hesitant in embracing Ukraine as one of their own, the people of Europe have shown no hesitation in embracing Ukraine's music and culture, and the cause of the Ukrainian people as they fight against Russian aggression. Receiving the winning trophy, lead singer Oleh Psiuk declared: "Thank you for supporting Ukraine. This victory is for every Ukrainian. Slava Ukraina." Speaking backstage, the singer said he hoped Ukraine could stage the contest in 2023. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky congratulated Kalush Orchestra and said Ukraine's courage "impresses the world". In a post on Instagram, he vowed one day to host Eurovision in a "free, peaceful and rebuilt" Mariupol, the port city that has been completely destroyed by the Russian invaders and is now mostly under Russian occupation.
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That other European border

That other European border

The Spanish Interior Minister announced on Thursday, 12 May, that Madrid and Rabat have decided to reopen the borders between Morocco and the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in the next few days, after two years of closure. The enclaves, on the African continent, are surrounded by the sea, and by Moroccan territory. The reopening of the only two land borders of the European Union on the African continent will be done gradually and will initially concern the nationals of countries belonging to the Schengen area, according to the Spanish Minister of the Interior Fernando Grande-Marlaska. Workers from border regions  will then be able to cross the border freely from 31 May 2022.
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Von der Leyen says Russia is the most  direct threat to the international order

Von der Leyen says Russia is the most direct threat to the international order

Russia “is today the most direct threat to the world order with the barbaric war against Ukraine, and its worrying pact with China”, European Commission President, Urusula von der Leyen, said in Tokyo on Thursday (12 May) after meeting Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida along with European Council President Charles Michel. The two are in Tokyo for an annual EU-Japan summit that comes with much of the international community rallying to pressure Moscow over the Ukraine war, with concern also growing about China’s role. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not just a matter for Europe, but it shakes the core of the international order including Asia. This must not be tolerated,” said Kishida, whose government has joined tough sanctions on Moscow, including on energy. “Our cooperation in Ukraine is critical in Europe, but it’s also important in the Indo-Pacific and we also want to deepen our consultation on a more assertive China,” said Michel.