EU summit – Nehammer: “We must finally break the taboo on fences”

Brussels (APA) – In view of the high number of asylum seekers, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer (Austria People’s Party/ÖVP) has called for more barriers at the EU’s external borders. “We must finally break the taboo on fences,” Nehammer said ahead of the EU summit on Thursday in Brussels. Bulgaria needed to build a fence supported by financial resources from the European Union.
This comes after Austria had blocked Bulgaria and Romania’s accession to the Schengen area due to increased irregular migration. Nehammer said he is in “close contact” with the heads of state of the two countries. “The Bulgarian president himself states that it is necessary to strengthen the fence against Turkey,” the chancellor said. According to Sofia, it would need around 2 billion euros to pay for such measures.

Brussels authorities repeatedly stated that there was no money for walls, fences and barbed wire, only for infrastructure on the border. One argument for this was that otherwise there would be a lack of money elsewhere, such as for the coast guard.

“Fences themselves are nothing new,” Nehammer further explained with regard to the barriers on the Greek-Turkish border. “But so far the nation states have been left alone; the EU Commission is not releasing the funds.” Bulgaria had met all necessary technical criteria for joining Schengen in 2011, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev said in response to Austria’s Schengen veto. Any objection from the countries concerned was motivated domestically, he added. Radev is convinced that the majority of migrants do not come through Bulgaria. “We are highly motivated to protect our borders,” emphasized the Bulgarian president, pointing out that three Bulgarian police had died on the border. “They were shot dead while protecting the EU’s external border,” says Radev. He therefore called for Bulgaria to be regarded as a country showing solidarity.  (December 15)

Alleged corruption: MEP Eva Kaili remains in custody, claims innocence

Brussels (AFP) – Greek Member of European Parliament Eva Kaili, who is implicated in a resounding corruption scandal involving Qatar and claims her innocence, remained in custody on Wednesday after her court appearance was postponed until December 22.

Stripped of her position as Vice-President of the European Parliament, Eva Kaili proclaimed her innocence via one of her lawyers in Athens, saying she did not know about the existence of the bags of banknotes found at her home in Brussels.

Arrested in Brussels on Friday, the 44-year-old is suspected of having been paid by Qatar to defend the interests of the emirate, which is currently hosting the football world cup.

Three other suspects detained since Sunday in this – as the federal prosecutor’s office stated –  “case of corruption, money laundering and criminal organization within the European Parliament” appeared before a court in Brussels on Wednesday.

Francesco Giorgi, Eva Kaili’s partner, as well as former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, are being kept in pre-trial detention, the federal prosecutor’s office announced. (December 14, 2022)

EU agrees to visa-free regime for Kosovo citizens

Brussels (dpa) – Citizens of the Republic of Kosovo will be able to travel to the EU without a visa in the future. Negotiators from the EU states and the European Parliament agreed to the measure on Wednesday. The EU Parliament announced that the visa-free regime for the Western Balkans state should apply from 2024 at the latest.

Holders of a Kosovo passport could then come to the EU without a visa for short stays of up to 90 days. The same rules would then apply to the entire Western Balkans, including countries such as Serbia or Montenegro. Wednesday’s agreement has to be confirmed by Parliament and the EU states, which is considered a mere formality.

Kosovo also officially applied for EU membership on Wednesday. Formally, the country only has “EU membership prospects”. The main obstacle to EU rapprochement is that five EU member countries – Spain, Romania, Slovakia, Greece and Cyprus – do not recognize Kosovo. (December 14)

EU members fail to agree on price limit for imported gas

Brussels (Europa Press) – The member states of the European Union are still unable to reach an agreement to set a cap on the price of gas imports in times of crisis.

Faced with negotiations between energy ministers stalling, the heads of state and government urged the ministers on Thursday to resolve differences in order to reach an agreement and thus “protect citizens and the economy from excessively high prices” in consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

On the one hand, there is a group of countries, led by Spain, that do not want to set too high a price cap. On the other hand, there are those countries that refuse to lower the limit for fear of damaging supply security. Thus, Germany refuses to apply a ceiling of less than 200 euros per megawatt hour, a figure that is unacceptable for the other block.

The lack of agreement on this issue is also blocking two other regulations: The ones on joint purchases of gas and on the acceleration of permits for renewable energies. (December 13 and 15)

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