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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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EU and US make a generous financial pledge to Armenia as they affirm their support for its sovereignty, democracy, territorial integrity, and socio-economic resilience

EU and US make a generous financial pledge to Armenia as they affirm their support for its sovereignty, democracy, territorial integrity, and socio-economic resilience

The European Union and the United States have made a generous financial pledge to Armenia and reaffirmed their support for its sovereignty, democracy, territorial integrity, and socio-economic resilience. President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, EU High Representative/Vice-President, Josep Borrell, Secretary of State of the United States of America, Antony Blinken, USAID Administrator Samantha Power, and Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, met today, April 5, 2024 in Brussels to reaffirm support for Armenia's sovereignty, democracy, territorial integrity, and socio-economic resilience. The statement concluded by saying that "A prosperous, sovereign, and democratic Armenia that develops its own partnerships and freely sets its own course will contribute to regional stability and prosperity."
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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.

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Fascist salute rattles Italian politics

Fascist salute rattles Italian politics

The sight of hundreds of men giving the fascist salute of raised arm during a commemoration in Rome on Sunday (7 January) has sent waves through the Italian political scene. The men were part of a larger crowd taking part in an annual commemoration for three far-right activists who were killed in the 1970s, allegedly by far-left militants. In a video that went viral on social media, rows of black-clad men can be seen extending their right arms. They are also heard shouting "Presenti", in response to the rallying cry "For all fallen comrades!" - a slogan typical of the Italian far-right. The rally is held every year to commemorate the 1978 killings of three teenage activists from the youth wing of the far-right Italian Social Movement (MSI). Two were shot dead by suspected far-left militants outside MSI headquarters on Via Acca Larentia in Rome, while the third was killed by police in riots that followed the shooting. No-one was ever prosecuted for the killings, which have become widely known as the "Acca Larentia massacre". Sunday night's scenes have been condemned by parties across the political spectrum. It has however once more opened a divide in Italian politics that has not been properly healed since the end of World War II.
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Borrell holds talks with Saudi leaders

Borrell holds talks with Saudi leaders

EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, visited Saudi Arabia on 7-8 January for talks with Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi. A statement from the European External Action Service  in Brussels said that the mission follows his trip to Lebanon and is part of Borrell’s engagement with regional partners to advance diplomatic efforts with a view to creating the conditions to reach a just and lasting peace between Israel, Palestine and in the region. "The trip will be an occasion to discuss all aspects of the situation in and around Gaza, including its impact on the region. He will also address the worrying escalation in the Red Sea", the statement added. During the meetings with Saudi officials in Al-Ula bilateral cooperation and regional priorities in the framework of the EU’s partnership with the Gulf Cooperation Council were discussed.
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Editorial: EU decision to grant Georgia "candidate status" overshadowed by controversy in Brussels over Ukraine

Editorial: EU decision to grant Georgia "candidate status" overshadowed by controversy in Brussels over Ukraine

If one had said it even as recently as 2021, that by the end of 2023 Georgia would be given "candidate status" for EU membership, hardly anyone would have believed it. Yet it happened yesterday, when the member states gathered in the European Council in Brussels took the historic decision to open accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova and grant candidate status to Georgia. The immediate impact of this decision will be minimal - some consider the step as more symbolic than tangible, but soon, the impact of the prospect of a South Caucasus country becoming an EU member will sink in, with huge implications. Of course, it is the events around Ukraine starting with the Russian invasion in February 2022, that changed all the certainties. And it was also Ukraine that dominated the news yesterday. The decision to open accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova will also have tremendous implications. Perhaps appropriately it was taken in somewhat dramatic circumstances, after Hungary tried to oppose it. Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, left the meeting of the European Council to enable the decision to be adopted unanimously by the remaining 26 member states. There remains a decision on the issue of a substantial aid package to Ukraine, which has been left for another meeting in January. What now for Georgia? In Georgia everyone is trying to take credit for the "candidate status" decision. Good thing because everyone can now feel to be a stakeholder in the journey that needs to follow. No doubt, in the style of Georgian politics, the journey will be  adventurous and sometimes hazardous. But the new status is good news for Georgia. It will help stabilise the political situation, and contribute towards economic success. The decision also brings the EU firmly in the South Caucasus. Those who very disingenuously in the last year or so have been talking about keeping the South Caucasus cosy in a 3 plus 3  format - ie with Russia, Iran and Turkey together with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, now need to think again. The South Caucasus is Europe and Europe should be a partner in its future. But that is for later. For today, it is congratulations Georgia, and to all those Georgians who for decades worked for this development to be possible.
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EU to increase the size of its monitoring mission in Armenia from 138 to 209 members

EU to increase the size of its monitoring mission in Armenia from 138 to 209 members

The foreign ministers of the 27 EU member-states, meeting in the framework of the Foreign Affairs Council, on Monday (11 December) agreed to increase the size of the EU Mission in Armenia from 138 to 209. This was announced by the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Josep Borrell in a briefing after the session of the Council in Brussels. Borrell told journalists, "You know that we are currently working on strengthening our relations with Armenia. I see that Armenia clearly sees the benefits of increasing cooperation with us, and we are ready to respond positively." Borrell referred to the ongoing efforts to normalise Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, stating:  "We believe that there is a historic chance to achieve peace in the region. It is an opportunity. We are committed to continue our support to these efforts – by working together with both Armenia and Azerbaijan. The fact that we have decided to increase by such an important number our staff on this mission shows our clear commitment to the stability in the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan and [is] an important contribution to the peace efforts." The Foreign Affairs Council also held an informal exchange of views with the Armenian Foreign Minister, Ararat Mirzoyan at the start of its proceedings. During the day, Borrell also held a meeting with the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Jeyhun Bayramov. Azerbaijan has criticised the fact that only the Armenian Foreign Minister was invited to exchange views with the Foreign Affairs Council, and that no similar invitation was extended to his Azerbaijani counterpart.