Albania organises joint exercise with NATO’s allied armies

Tirana (ATA) – Albania hosts the largest military exercise in Europe for the second time, with 29 NATO members and partner countries participating. 

The military exercise “Defender Europe 2023” started on Monday, with a special ceremony taking place on Mother Teresa Square in Tirana, where military equipment were exhibited. 

Albanian President Bajram Begaj, Prime Minister Edi Rama, US Ambassador Yuri Kim, Defence Minister Niko Peleshi and generals of the US army were present at this ceremony. 

“Defender Europe 2023” is led by the US European Command, demonstrates the inter-operational capabilities of the US with allied and NATO partner armed forces until June 3 and will extend to 10 different European countries. 

As part of the exercise, some 7,000 pieces of equipment have been sent from the US to Europe, while a further 13,000 pieces of equipment are being pre-positioned from stocks.

In the framework of this comprehensive training commitment, from May 15 to June 9, 2023, Albania hosts and conducts the “Immediate Response” and “Astral Knight” exercises. (May 22)

EU foreign ministers discuss the use of qualified majority voting in foreign policy

Brussels (STA) – The first meeting of the informal Group of Friends on Qualified Majority Voting in EU Foreign and Security Policy, which also includes Slovenia, took place on the margins of Monday’s EU Foreign Ministers Meeting. The group advocates qualified majority rather than unanimity in foreign policy decisions. The EU’s foreign policy spokesman, Josep Borrell, supported qualified majority decision-making.

“I am pleased that various member states have joined the group at our initiative, Romania being the latest to do so,” said German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. The informal group also includes Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Slovenia.

Baerbock stressed that they were not proposing a revolution, but an assessment of what could be done within the existing EU treaties to make the Union’s foreign and security policy more effective. The existing treaties, under so-called “Passerelle clauses”, allow for a shift from unanimity to qualified majority decision-making in certain areas, including sanctions. (May 22)

Outrage in Brussels and Sofia over vandalism of EU building

Sofia (BTA) – The House of Europe, a building that houses the European Parliament and European Commission offices in Sofia, was smeared with red paint by supporters of the Revival Party, the third largest force in Bulgaria’s parliament, the National Assembly. The party’s chairman Kostadin Kostadinov said the vandalism during the “March for peace” event was “another step on the road leading to the country’s liberation from foreign dependencies and ties.” The Bulgarian Interior Ministry opened an investigation and is looking for the perpetrators.

In a position, the European Commission said that the right to peaceful protest was a fundamental value in any democratic society, but any acts of violence or vandalism against the buildings of European institutions were unacceptable.

“The building housing the European Parliament Liaison Office in Sofia was targeted by vandals unhappy with our stance in support of Ukraine. We will clean it up,” the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola said on Twitter. “Our backing of Ukraine will get stronger. Our voice condemning Russia’s invasion will only get louder,” she added.

The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry has strongly condemned the attack on the House of Europe. “Such acts are irreconcilable with modern Bulgaria and the democratic values that our country embodies,” the statement said. Acting Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ivan Kondov added that such events do not help in protecting country’s interests in the EU.

Although it is the third-strongest political force after Bulgaria’s fifth snap election in the last two years, the Revival Party was not invited to the talks to form the next regular government. (May 21-22)

EU welcomes G7’s unwavering support for Ukraine

Hiroshima, Japan (EFE) – European Council President Charles Michel welcomed the commitment of the G7 leaders’ summit in Hiroshima, Japan, to support Ukraine “as much and as long as necessary.”

In a video recorded at the end of the summit after two days of meetings, which he shared on his personal Twitter account, Michel stressed that the representatives of the EU institutions “have worked hard to defend European values and interests” during this meeting. He attended together with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, new rounds of sanctions against the Kremlin and support for Ukraine’s integrity and sovereignty were three of the key elements on the agenda of a summit in which Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky participated in person. All the emerging powers present at the Hiroshima summit, including India and Brazil, “support the principle of sovereignty” and say the conflict “must end peacefully”, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told a press conference.

Another key point of the G7 was the announcement of sanctions against Russia, an initiative led by the US, Canada and the UK, which aims to punish the hundreds of individuals and companies that are helping the Kremlin to circumvent the sanctions that the West has imposed since the beginning of the invasion in February 2022. Meanwhile, the EU said it is preparing a new sanctions package that will include restrictions on Russian diamond exports, one of the Kremlin’s main sources of funding, which three members of the G7 (the US, Canada and the UK) have already sanctioned to some extent. (May 19, 20 and 21)

Croatian information verification model relevant for the EU

Zagreb (HINA) – The representative office of the European Commission in Croatia evaluated the Croatian model of establishing a system for checking the accuracy of information in the public space and a network of fact-checkers relevant for every EU country, noting that it was the only such project financed by the Next Generation EU instrument.

As part of the project to verify the accuracy of information, there were public calls to which associations as well as scientific and educational institutions interested in verifying facts and evaluators of applications could respond. The latter were required for the part of the project for which almost 4 million non-refundable euros were allocated. The calls closed at the beginning of May.

Deputy head of the Croatian European Commission Representation and head of the media department, Andrea Čović Vidović, said that the European Commission welcomed this initiative of the Ministry of Culture and Media and the Agency for Electronic Media (AEM).

“As far as we know, it is the only thematic project in the European Union that is financed from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, i. e. the Next Generation EU instrument,” Čović Vidović told HINA. “The goals of the project are in line with what the European Commission insists on when we talk about media and social media and they are certainly relevant for every member state,” she added.

The idea is to strengthen the capacities and competences of existing information checkers through the project, establish new independent fact-checkers, but also a system and procedure of fact-checking in media newsrooms, in order to make the media resistant to misinformation. (May 21)

This is a compilation of the European coverage of enr news agencies. It is published Tuesdays and Fridays. The content is an editorial selection based on news by the respective agency.