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).

Editor's choice
News
Macron travels to New Caledonia to solve the crisis on volatile territory

Macron travels to New Caledonia to solve the crisis on volatile territory

French President Emmanuel Macron embarked on a flight to New Caledonia Tuesday night (21 May) to address an ongoing crisis following a violent insurrection on the French territory. The archipelago, over 15,000 kilometres from mainland France, has become a top priority for the government after a week of violent protests left six people dead. The protests, between pro-independence supporters and French loyalists, were triggered by the French National Assembly’s vote to allow all citizens who have been living in New Caledonia for over 10 years to elect the local legislature. Voting in these elections has previously been reserved for citizens who settled in the archipelago before 1998 or their descendants. Pro-independence forces argue that expanding the electorate would further reduce the influence of the indigenous Kanak population, whose share of the population has decreased since France took control of the territory over 170 years ago. Proponents of the reform argue it is a democratic necessity, noting that current rules exclude even certain New Caledonia-born citizens from voting. 
Editor's choice
News
A new era of peace in the Eastern Mediterranean

A new era of peace in the Eastern Mediterranean

A ground breaking meeting between the President of Turkiye, Recip Tayip Erdogan, and Greek Prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, on Monday (13 May) is being hailed as the dawn of a new era of peace in the Eastern Mediterranean. Mitsotakis was in Ankara as the guest of the Turkish leader. There are no unsolvable problems between Athens and Ankara, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, as he and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis praised the state of relations between the two neighbors while pledging to further enhance bilateral ties. "We had a constructive and positive meeting and discussed problems in Türkiye-Greece relations; We will solve problems through dialogue," Erdoğan said at a joint news conference with Mitsotakis. Erdoğan said that Ankara and Athens are committed to resolving issues via "cordial dialogue, good neighborly ties, and international law" as outlined in last year's Athens Declaration on Friendly Relations and Good-Neighborliness. Improvement of bilateral relations with Türkiye is yielding concrete and positive results, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said "I can only begin by thanking you for the warm hospitality today in Ankara, it was a fourth meeting in the last 10 months, which I believe proves that the two neighbors can now establish this approach of mutual understanding, no longer as some exception, but as a productive normality that is not negated by the known differences in our positions," Mitsotakis said. He said bilateral relations have been progressing, as agreed by the parties, on three levels: political dialogue, positive agenda and confidence-building measures. "I believe that it is a positive development in a difficult time for international peace, but also for the broader stability in our region," the Greek leader said.

Filter archive

Publication date
Editor's choice
News
Blinken and Von der Leyen speak to Aliyev ahead of their meeting with Pashinyan

Blinken and Von der Leyen speak to Aliyev ahead of their meeting with Pashinyan

Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, is in Brussels, where he is expected to meet on Friday afternoon (5 April) with US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken and European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen. The unusual format of the tripartite meeting is being billed as "the joint EU-US-Armenia high-level meeting in support of Armenia’s resilience". There has been intense speculation about the purpose of the meeting, and the likely outcomes. Azerbaijan has seen it as an attempt to encourage Armenia to take a more hardline position in its dealings with it, including in the current negotiations of an Armenia-Azerbaijan peace treaty. Russia has been vocal in criticising the meeting, seeing it as yet another western attempt at snatching Armenia away from the Russian orbit. Other countries, such as Turkey and Iran have also been critical of the three way meeting. Behind the scenes there have been a lot of work going on in order to calm down neves, especially in Baku, and ahead of the meeting, both Secretary of State Blinken and President von der Leyen, spoke to Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev.
Editor's choice
News
Dunya Mijatovic: "Entrenched harmful stereotypes and prejudice against LGBTI people still prevail in segments of Georgian society, including some politicians"

Dunya Mijatovic: "Entrenched harmful stereotypes and prejudice against LGBTI people still prevail in segments of Georgian society, including some politicians"

On March 27, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, issued a statement calling on the Georgian government to “fully respect” its human rights obligations as a Council of Europe member state, “including with regard to the protection of the human rights of LGBTI people,” in response to the ruling party’s initiation of two draft constitutional laws on “family values and the protection of minors.” “I am concerned about the present political discourse in Georgia, as illustrated by the announcement made by the Georgian Dream Party of their initiative to amend the Constitution and to adopt a new constitutional law on ‘Protection of Family Values and Underaged Persons’. It is reflective of entrenched harmful stereotypes and prejudice against LGBTI people which still prevail in segments of Georgian society, including some politicians, and is capable of having a strong, negative impact on the human rights, safety and well-being of LGBTI people and defenders of their rights. It also represents the political manipulation of LGBTI-phobia in the run-up to elections, which I have previously condemned, and which should have no place in a democratic society, based on the rule of law and respect for human rights of everyone.
Editor's choice
News
EU: "There can be no peace without universal access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation for all"

EU: "There can be no peace without universal access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation for all"

"There can be no peace without universal access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation for all." This was stated by the European Union in a statement on the occasion of World Water Day on 21 March. The statement issued by EU High Representative, Josep Borrell and the EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, adds that "the health and prosperity of people and the planet rely on the stability of the global water cycle." Climate change, biodiversity loss, unsustainable management and pollution have an impact on water resources across the globe. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), 1 of out 4 people in the world still lack access to safely managed drinking water. Almost half of the global population lack access to safely managed sanitation. As water scarcity intensifies, increased competition for dwindling freshwater resources threatens stability among and within nations through conflicts, displacement, or migration. And water is also far too often used as a weapon of war. There can be no peace without universal access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation for all. This year's global theme for World Water Day focuses on leveraging “water for peace”. Water resource management and transboundary water cooperation are powerful tools for conflict prevention and peacekeeping. The European Union is working to improve access to water and/or a sanitation facility to 70 million individuals by 2030. It is also working to protect, conserve and restore water-related ecosystems. Building on the outcome of the 2023 UN Water Conference, the EU encourages joint efforts towards effective multilateral governance. Water, including the water-security nexus, needs to be a priority topic across multilateral processes. Water resilience is essential to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to fight climate change.
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: Does Russia lose Armenia to France?

Opinion: Does Russia lose Armenia to France?

In an interview with France24 during his February 2024 visit to Paris, Nikol Pashinyan highlighted Azerbaijan's perception of Armenia as "Western Azerbaijan" and expressed concerns about Azerbaijan's preparations for a new war, writes Dr. Anzhela Mnatsakanyan in this op-ed for commonspace.eu. "This interview marked a significant departure as Pashinyan openly scrutinized Russia's policies towards Armenia and hinted at the possibility of a new war. The timing of this interview, a few days before Azerbaijan presented a re-edited version of the so-called "Peace treaty," suggested that the "peace" offered by Azerbaijan is more about the capitulation of Armenia. This interview was a kind of “call for help” from Pashinyan to Western countries on the eve of a possible new war."
Editor's choice
Opinion
Opinion: German diplomacy on the move in the South Caucasus

Opinion: German diplomacy on the move in the South Caucasus

"The EU cannot afford to overlook the strategic importance of the South Caucasus", writes Simona Scotti in this op-ed for commonspace.eu. "If on the one hand over the past two years significant steps have been undertaken, including the deployment of the EUMA in Armenia and the Brussels track of negotiations led by Charles Michel, on the other hand some more concrete actions, with a well-defined and consistent strategy, would be appreciated. The lack of a clear and coherent vision has destabilized Armenia and Azerbaijan, which have often questioned to which extent they can really trust a Western involvement in the region."
Editor's choice
News
Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers meet in Berlin as German diplomacy emerges out of the shadows to save the day for Europe

Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers meet in Berlin as German diplomacy emerges out of the shadows to save the day for Europe

German diplomacy has been in the South Caucasus from the day after the three countries declared their independence in 1991. Germany was the first country to set up embassies in the region, but generally German diplomacy has been low-key – preferring to let others, namely France, and later the EU, to do the heavy lifting when it came to issues like supporting the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process. This has changed recently. After the untimely intervention of French president Emanuel Macron in the process that was led by EU Council president Charles Michel in 2022, and given Azerbaijan’s refusal to negotiate in this framework because of what it claims is French bias towards Armenia, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was in 2022 reluctantly persuaded to engage with the process directly, and join the Macron-Michel tandem. Nothing at first seemed to have come out of that, and German diplomacy got overshadowed by some missteps in Paris and Brussels, not to mention some awkward phrases of its own foreign minister when she visited the region last year. But it seems that behind the scenes, German diplomacy persisted. Earlier in February Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, travelled to Munich to attend the annual security conference, and on the margins had a long-awaited meeting, bilaterally and later with Chancellor Scholz. At the meeting concrete decisions were taken on follow-up, and thanks to the usual German efficiency the foreign ministers of the two countries were in Berlin on Wednesday (28 February) for detailed talks about the peace treaty. Most of the discussions were in the bilateral format, but there was also a meeting of the Ministers with their German counterpart. The talks continue today. It is the latest episode in a long saga, but not an insignificant one. Germany is a political and economic heavyweight, and its direct involvement may just be what is needed to get the ongoing negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan across the line. At a time when other elements of European diplomacy appear not to be so effective the German intervention is also seen as saving the day for Europe, that needs to remain present and visible in the region.