Borrell to determine responsibility for war crimes in Ukraine

Brussels/Luxembourg (HINA) – EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Josep Borrell said on Monday that he supports determining responsibility for Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

“I am very much in favor of taking all measures of responsibility for crimes, but let’s see what is the best way,” Borrell replied to a reporter’s question whether he supports the establishment of a special court to deal with Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

On Monday, the EU’s foreign ministers gathered in Luxembourg for a meeting to approve a mission to train 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers on EU territory and grant an additional 500 million euros in aid for arms procurement for Ukrainian forces.

The mission to train Ukrainian soldiers is due to begin by the middle of next month in Poland and Germany.

The ministers will also discuss the delivery of Iranian drones to Russia. The Ukrainian capital Kiev was exposed to powerful drone attacks on Monday morning. Borrell said they needed to determine whose drones were used, adding that Iran denies it was theirs. Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said without any reservations that these were Iranian drones and that the EU should respond to this with “concrete measures.”

Unrelated to the drone issue, ministers are set to impose sanctions against 15 Iranian officials, which include travel bans and asset freezes, for the repression of protesters demonstrating after Iran’s moral police jailed and killed 22-year-old Mahsu Amini for not wearing a hijab in the prescribed manner. (October 17)

EU military support for Ukraine on the rise

Brussels (AFP) – “This is a big first for the EU,” commented a European official. “We have never carried out a mission on this scale,” he stressed. The foreign ministers of the 27 member countries were set to endorse two decisions on Monday at a meeting in Luxembourg, and the mission would be immediately operational, diplomatic sources said.

Indeed, several training courses are already under way in various member states, particularly in Germany and France, where Ukrainian soldiers are being trained to use cannons, missile launchers and air defense systems provided by Europeans.

France will train “up to 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers” on its soil, French Minister of the Armed Forces Sébastien Lecornu announced in a daily newspaper on Saturday.

These training courses will benefit from funding allocated by the European Peace Facility (EPF), a fund set up outside the European budget to provide military assistance to Ukraine.  (October 17)

European Public Prosecutor’s Office investigates EU vaccine purchases

Luxembourg (dpa) – The EU’s multi-billion-dollar coronavirus vaccine purchases have been targeted by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. “The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) confirms that it is investigating the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines in the European Union,” the authority announced on Friday. This confirmation was given “due to extremely high public interest.” No further details would be revealed at this stage.

During the pandemic, the EU Commission negotiated and concluded contracts for hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine on behalf of the member states. The procedure was repeatedly criticized because the contracts were only partially made public and because there were delays in the delivery of the vaccines.

What exactly the Public Prosecutor’s Office is now investigating remained unclear. In particular, a deal for up to 1.8 billion doses from BioNTech/Pfizer with an estimated contract volume of 35 billion euros from the spring of 2021 has been criticized for months. As the “New York Times” reported, personal contact between EU Commission President von der Leyen and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla was decisive for the conclusion. They are also said to have exchanged text messages. The EU Commission denied journalists access to the text messages in question. According to a September report, the authority also failed to provide the European Court of Auditors with any information requested about the transaction. (October 14)

Johansson: Serbia has pledged to align visa policy with European Union

Luxembourg (Tanjug) – The Western Balkans and its migrant route was a key point of debate at a ministerial meeting of the bloc’s interior ministers in Luxembourg. Czech Minister Vit Rakušen and Commissioner for Internal Policy Ylva Johansson said Serbia must adapt its visa policy to the EU’s as soon as possible. The number of migrants entering the EU across the Balkans is beginning to seriously concern the EU member states. According to Johansson, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen has already been in contact with President Vučić.

“We have got promises that Serbia will align their visa policy with ours starting with some of the nationalities that is really urgent now, like the Tunisians, the Burundis and the Indians,” Johansson said.

She added that she expects all other Balkan governments to align their policy to the EU’s. According to her, the situation with migrants in the Union is becoming critical and some member countries find it difficult to manage the situation. She said she does not rule out introducing other measures if Belgrade does not take the steps required of it. But she believes that talks and cooperation should be the first step, “because they had promised that they will align” visa policy said the Commissioner and announced three meetings with Balkan politicians later this month in Berlin, Prague and Tirana.

The Commissioner has denied media claims that Russia and its propaganda are behind these waves of migrants and says she has not seen such a thing. Rakušan also announced that he would travel to Serbia together with Commissioner Johansson. It is also important for him to intensify work with Serbia and other Balkan countries, he said. He explained that more and more migrants are heading to the EU across the Balkan route. The “result [of our talks today is that] we really have to have very deep discussions with Western Balkan countries. We have to speak about harmonization of visa policies between the Western Balkan countries and EU countries. The debate was also about a necessary visit.” Rakušan said. (October 14)

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.