European Commission recommends granting BiH candidate status

Brussels (FENA) – European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi confirmed that the European Commission has recommended granting candidate status for becoming a member of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

He presented the 2022 Enlargement Package adopted by the College in Brussels, setting out details from the report on the progress of the Western Balkan countries and Turkey on their path to European Union membership.

Várhelyi stressed that this recommendation for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) came under the condition that some steps were fulfilled, that the laws on the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HJPC BiH), on courts and on preventing conflicts of interest were passed, and that decisive steps to fight corruption and organized crime were taken.

It was also necessary to ensure better border management mechanisms, establish a functioning asylum system, prevent cases of torture and abuse through the establishment of an international mechanism, guarantee freedom of the media and the protection of journalists, and to enable adequate monitoring of media intimidation.

The European Commission underlined that the European Council has called on BiH leaders to urgently address the outstanding judiciary and constitutional reforms.

“Granting candidate country status is an offer from the European side to BiH and the people of BiH. We do this for the people of BiH, however, it comes with high expectations, the political elite must make it a reality,” Várhelyi said.

After the elections held on October 2, Várhelyi says, legislatures and governments are expected to be formed quickly so that they can begin to deal with the implementation of the European reforms.

“The European Council is likely to take a final decision in December. The Commission is ready to give its support, but will continue to monitor the implementation of the 14 key priorities of the EU Commission’s opinion through which basic progress is measured and which are non-negotiable. BiH must fulfill them all before negotiations for membership can be opened,” concluded Várhelyi.

He reiterated that the countries of the Western Balkans are a priority for the EU and stated that the strategic commitment was for all six countries to join the EU as soon as possible. (October 12)

EU Court of Justice: Banning headscarves at work is not discrimination

Brussels (ANSA) – “The internal rule of an undertaking prohibiting the visible wearing of religious, philosophical or spiritual signs does not constitute direct discrimination if it is applied to all workers in a general and undifferentiated way.” The European Court of Justice has ruled in the case of a Belgian woman of Muslim faith who had been denied an internship contract for expressing her refusal to remove her veil in order to comply with the company’s neutrality policy. In Thursday’s judgment, the judges in Luxembourg observed that “religion and belief must be regarded as a single ground of discrimination, otherwise the general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation provided for by EU law” is undermined.

The Court states that, under Union law, “a provision of an undertaking’s terms of employment which prohibits workers from manifesting, through words, through clothing, or in any other way, their religious or philosophical beliefs, whatever those beliefs may be, does not constitute, with regard to workers who intend to exercise their freedom of religion and conscience through the visible wearing of a sign or an item of clothing with religious connotations, direct discrimination ‘on the [ground] of religion or belief’ for the purposes of EU law, provided that that provision is applied in a general and undifferentiated way.”

In fact, it is explained that “since every person may have a religion or religious, philosophical or spiritual belief, such a rule, provided that it is applied in a general and undifferentiated way, does not establish a difference in treatment based on a criterion that is inextricably linked to religion or to those beliefs.” (October 13)

Nehammer sharply criticizes EU Commission over migration

Vienna (APA) – Austrian Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer (Austrian’s People’s Party/ÖVP) laments a massive increase of migration in Austria. In this context, he sharply criticizes the EU Commission. “I expect the EU Commission to get its act together because more and more member countries are dissatisfied,” Nehammer said in an interview with the German newspaper “Welt” (Tuesday edition).

“Why doesn’t the Commission, as guardian of the treaties, finally take action as EU law is constantly being broken, when so many irregular migrants arrive in a landlocked country like Austria, who have previously moved through several EU countries and safe third countries without being stopped?” Nehammer asked. The EU Commission had “unfortunately ignored the porous external borders in recent years.”

“The EU border protection agency Frontex must also be held accountable in order to finally effectively protect the EU’s external border and to be a protective wall for the member states and against the crime of human trafficking,” Chancellor Nehammer said.

In addition, the EU Commission must ensure that home countries take back illegal migrants as quickly as possible, and give these states appropriate incentives.

According to the Austrian Chancellor, Austria received almost 57,000 asylum applications between the beginning of January and the end of August — an increase of 195 percent compared to the previous year. “And the figures will continue to rise. In addition, there are around 85,000 Ukrainians to whom we provide protection and whom we care for. That’s enough of that for Austria,” says Nehammer.

EU Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas, responsible for migration, following a meeting with Austrian Minister of the Interior Gerhard Karner (ÖVP) in Vienna on Monday, stressed on Twitter: “No state can manage migration alone.” They would have to work together as “Team Europe”. According to Schinas, he had informed Karner about his recent trip to the Balkans after rising numbers of arrivals put pressure on Austria. He also met Nehammer on Monday evening.

A spokeswoman for the EU Commission in Brussels said on Tuesday that they were aware of the challenges. Austria had recorded a significant increase, particularly from India and Tunisia and across the Balkan route. The issue would also be discussed at the EU’s Council of Interior Ministers on Friday. The spokeswoman also announced ministerial consultations between Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Hungary. (October 11)

European Commission wants to protect Ukrainian refugees until 2024

Brussels (Belga) – The special protection status for Ukrainian refugees will have to be extended by at least one year until March 2024, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said when presenting an online tool that refugees can use to find a job.

“The directive on temporary protection will remain in force at least until March 2024,” Johansson announced. The directive was activated in early March this year to almost automatically grant a right of residence to Ukrainians who fled from the Russian invasion.

Thanks to this protection statute, refugees do not have to go through the traditional asylum procedure and receive immediate support in finding housing and access to education, health care and the labor market. Currently, 4.2 million refugees enjoy this status.

The guideline is provisionally valid for one year, until March 2023, and can be extended for a maximum of two years. According to Johansson, it is already clear that the application should be extended by one year. The new bombings of Kiev and other cities in Ukraine showed “how important it is that we continue to provide shelter for those who have to flee,” the Swedish European Commissioner said. (October 10)

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.