Bundestag extends participation in EU naval operation Irini

Berlin (dpa) – The German Bundestag has extended the participation of German soldiers in the EU-led naval operation Irini in the Mediterranean Sea for another year. The Bundeswehr – Germany’s federal armed forces – can thus continue the mission until 30 April 2024 and deploy a maximum of 300 soldiers. In a roll-call vote on Wednesday, 555 members of parliament voted in favour of the mandate. 101 parliamentarians were against the initiative and there was one abstention.

The mission is designed to contribute to the implementation of the UN arms embargo against Libya, to consolidate the stabilisation of the country and to actively contribute to the peace process. It also aims to prevent the illegal export of petroleum, including crude oil and refined petroleum products, from Libya. In addition, intelligence is gathered to combat the business model of smuggling networks.

The UN arms embargo against Libya was imposed in 2016, after a civil war had broken out in the oil-rich country following the overthrow of long-term strongman Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2011. To this day, numerous militias are vying for power and influence. Other states are also involved in the conflict, including Russia and Turkey. (April 26)

Belgium asks for ‘critical clarifications’ on European nature restoration law

Brussels (Belga) – Belgium will submit a list of questions to the European Commission regarding the scope and implications of the European nature restoration law. This was announced by Flemish Environment Minister Zuhal Demir on Tuesday.

The law, which is part of the European Green Deal, aims to counteract the deterioration of European nature. For instance, restoration measures should apply to at least 20 percent of land and sea areas by 2030. Against the backdrop of the struggle to reduce nitrogen emissions, the bill is causing concern about the potential impact on certain activities, especially in Flanders.

After previous requests for adjustments from the Flemish government, Demir said there was now also a consensus at Belgian central government level to ask for “critical clarifications” from the Commission. These include the scope and implication of certain articles and possible compensation measures for areas subject to a deterioration ban.

Belgium wants to form alliances with like-minded member states and will support other countries in asking for a legal opinion and cost-benefit analysis from the Commission. European environment ministers will consider the draft law in Luxembourg on 20 June. (April 25)

Spain asks the European Commission to help its agriculture because of drought

Madrid (EFE) – On Tuesday, Spain asked the European Commission to advance “the highest possible percentage” of aid from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget in the face of the crisis in the countryside caused by an ongoing drought. Furthermore, the central government and the regional government of Andalusia continue to fight over the proposed law to regulate irrigation in the area surrounding the Doñana National Park.

The Spanish Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Planas, explained that he has asked the European Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, to bring forward this EU aid, which normally arrives in mid-October. Spain has also requested other measures, such as the activation of the CAP crisis reserve, the possibility of using unused amounts from the EAFRD fund to support farmers and the relaxation of conditionality in the payment of basic income and sustainability aid.

This week, the lack of rainfall has led to a drop of 326 cubic hectometres (hm³) in the water reserves of Spanish reservoirs, which at the moment hold just over 28,000 hm³, at 50.1 percent of their total capacity. The situation is so grave that the national president of the agricultural association Asaja, Pedro Barato, has confirmed that 60 percent of dry cereal “is lost”, that both grapes and olives are going through “a difficult period” and that “unless it rains, some trees could be in danger.” (April 25)

EU will increase its support to Ukraine, says Croatian parliament president

Prague (HINA) – The European Union’s support for Ukraine will increase, because it is becoming clear that the Russian invasion will not be stopped by politics and diplomacy alone, the President of the Croatian Parliament Gordan Jandroković said in Prague on Tuesday.

Ukraine did not have to fear a decrease in European aid in the fight against the Russian invasion, which has been going on for more than a year, Jandroković said.

“All member countries realise that, unfortunately, war cannot be stopped with politics and diplomacy alone. The Russian aggression cannot be stopped, so support for Ukraine will certainly be even stronger in the months and, if necessary, in the years ahead,” he added.

The conference of the presidents of the parliaments of the EU member states (EUSC) in Prague on Monday and Tuesday was marked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and geopolitical circumstances. On the second day of the EUSC, the role of the EU in the global cooperation of democracies and the dependence of EU members on totalitarian regimes were discussed.

The President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, said that “in the future, we must not repeat the mistakes of the past” such as energy dependence on Russia, and that it had been shown that the Union was “effective when it is united.”

Jandroković also said that “awareness that the European Union has been exposed and too dependent on non-democratic countries for a number of years is increasing. The availability of raw materials, technological materials and energy depended a lot on those who do not share the same values ​​with us.” He added that the EU should turn to countries which were “advocates of freedom, democracy, peace and protection of human rights.” (April 25)

Bosnia and Herzegovina abstained from vote on Kosovo’s admission to the Council of Europe

Strasbourg (FENA) – At the extraordinary session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, Kosovo’s request for membership in the Council of Europe was accepted. However, Bosnia and Herzegovina abstained, while the delegation of Serbia left the session. Political representatives of Serbia as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Republika Srpska entity both sent harsh criticism to BiH for not voting against Kosovo’s request for membership.

The ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Council of Europe, Ivan Orlić, said that the vote was made based on the instructions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the divided opinion of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, adding that everything he did was in the interest of Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the entity Republika Srpska.

For the President of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, taking part in such a vote is unacceptable, because the decision on it should be made by the BiH Presidency with the consent of all of its three members.

The President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, said he was not surprised by the vote in the Council of Europe, because the candidate countries for membership in the European Union obeyed Brussels and Washington without question. Vučić also claimed some of them did not even have their own foreign policy.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Serbia, as well as five EU member states, has not recognized Kosovo’s sovereignty to this day.

Referring to the BiH vote, Vučić said that “if someone does not respect our territorial integrity, why should we respect theirs. Why should we protect someone’s territorial integrity at any cost if they are against ours. These are not tectonic, but deep and essential changes in politics.”

During the voting in the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, 33 countries supported the proposal to start the procedure for Kosovo’s permanent membership, seven of them were against (Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Georgia, Romania, Serbia, Spain and Hungary). Five of them abstained (BiH, Greece, Moldova, Slovakia and Ukraine), while Armenia did not vote at all. (April 24)

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.