EU environment commissioner fears voluntary Natura 2000 measures will not cut it

Brussels (STA) – EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius, ahead of a visit to Slovenia, has expressed doubts about the workability of the government’s decision to make binding Natura 2000 protection measures voluntary in some areas, following protests by farmers earlier this year. However, Sinkevičius indicated that the Commission would remain on the sidelines for the time being.

Sinkevičius, who will visit next Tuesday to discuss a wide range of issues, pointed out that 38 percent of Slovenia’s territory is covered by this network of protected areas, ” which is an impressive number and only shows how rich Slovenia is with the large number of habitats to be protected”.

He added, however, that even in these areas “ecosystems are unfortunately not doing well” and that past experience suggests that optional measures do not produce the desired results.

“I’m afraid that might be the case this time as well,” said the Commissioner, who also discussed the situation with Agriculture Minister Irena Šinko and Natural Resources and Spatial Planning Minister Uroš Brežan a few months ago.

Sinkevičius explained that the viability of the voluntary measures can only be avaluated in Brussels once the results are in, but he reiterated that he had already warned the Slovenian authorities that “this may not be enough”.

In his view, a better solution would be to compensate farmers, as originally proposed by the government. This would ensure full compliance with EU legislation, the Commissioner stressed. (2 October)

Joint statement by Fajon, Schallenberg and Radman: Unfinished EU integration of the Western Balkans is a geostrategic imperative

Skopje (MIA) – The heads of diplomacy of Slovenia, Austria and Croatia, Tanja Fajon, Alexander Schallenberg and Gordan Radman Grlić, have released a joint statement titled “The unfinished EU: integrating the Western Balkans as a geostrategic imperative” in which they say that “the current situation is an opportunity for both the European Union and the Western Balkans to show more strategic foresight, to fully regain their enlargement credibility and to reinforce mutual trust, some of which had been lost over the years.”

“Negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia should advance. In North Macedonia, next steps depend on the country’s ability to pass the required constitutional changes,” the statement says.

“The latter case is a reminder that EU member states and Western Balkan countries need to play a responsible role and refrain from inserting bilateral problems and disputes, which are unrelated with the accession process,” the statement adds. (2 October) 

Protestors carry placards and wave Armenian flags during a demonstration in support of Armenians in Brussels on October 1, 2023. Azerbaijan denied accusations of ethnic cleansing to clear the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh of its ethnic Armenian population, and told AFP its inhabitants were free to stay or go. Photo: Simon Wohlfahrt / AFP

Karabakh: Armenian demonstration in Brussels against Europe’s “complicity”

Brussels (AFP) – Thousands of Armenians converged in Brussels on Sunday to denounce “European leaders’ complicity” in the Azerbaijani military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave now virtually devoid of Armenian inhabitants.

European leaders are “criminals against the Armenian people, they spill the blood of the Armenian people,” said Talline Tachdian, one of the organisers of the demonstration. The demonstrators made an emotional attack on the European Union, which they felt was guilty of ignoring the tragedy of the Armenians in exchange for the Azerbaijani gas that the EU buys to partially compensate for the loss of Russian gas.

On Friday, the European Union called for a United Nations mission to go to Nagorno-Karabakh “in the next few days.” According to a European Commission spokesman, it is “urgent to ensure continuous unimpeded humanitarian support to those who are still in need in Karabakh, as well as to those who have left.” (1 October)

German Foreign Minister campaigns for Ukraine to join the EU after war

Munich (dpa) – In view of Russia’s war of aggression, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has again called for Ukraine to join the European Union. It was Germany’s task “when this terrible war is finally over, that Ukraine can also join the European Union,” Baerbock said on Sunday at an election campaign event of the Bavarian Greens in Munich. According to her, it is up to Germany to continue building the EU. (1 October)

Croatia strongly supports integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its entry into EU and NATO

SARAJEVO (FENA) – After talks with Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Defence Minister Zukan Helez, Croatian Defence Minister Mario Banožić said in Sarajevo that Croatia strongly supports the integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

He said that he is pleased with the positive developments that enable the efficient operation of the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina (OSBiH), including the adoption of pro-European acts and the defence budget as well as commitment to reform processes.

“In this context, the Republic of Croatia recognizes the importance of NATO and the European Union (EU), instruments that can strengthen the capacities of the Armed Forces of BiH,” said Banožić.

He emphasised that his country had so far supported all measures within NATO and EU initiatives that could help the development of BiH’s defence capabilities and increase resilience, especially in dealing with hybrid challenges, but also the overall state of security in BiH.

At the same time, Banožić welcomed the rapid implementation of the joint conclusions of the Government of the Republic of Croatia and the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina related to the defence sector.

Helez assessed the Republic of Croatia as an important foreign policy ally of Bosnia and Herzegovina, stressing that he was particularly pleased with Banožić’s statement that Croatia does not support any form of secession, i.e., that it strongly supports the integrity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“I want to emphasise that Croatia is the leader of the EU and NATO countries when it comes to Euro-Atlantic integration,” emphasised Helez, noting that during the conversation it was clearly stated that Croatia supports Bosnia and Herzegovina’s entry into the EU and NATO. (28 September)

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.