Greece: Parliament backs urgent frontloading of €35 billion in EU funding
Parliament on Tuesday backed a set of one-off measures aimed at boosting the effective spending of €35 billion earmarked for Greece in the EU 2014-2020 budget. This includes €20 billion from the European structural and investment funds and €15 billion from agricultural funds.
Opposition Reject Election Results, Hit the Streets
Georgia’s major opposition parties, including the United National Movement of ex-President Saakashvili, European Georgia, Lelo, Strategy Aghmashenebeli, Labor Party, hit the streets on Sunday afternoon, rejecting the preliminary results of the October 31 parliamentary vote, that forecast the Georgian Dream to form a third consecutive government.
The opposition claims the Georgian Dream “usurped power,” and rigged the elections, citing, among others, discrepancies in a number of final vote tallies. The key local election watchdogs said they identified the discrepancies in some 7 or 8% of the summary protocols. The opposition politicians argue the united opposition forces garnered more votes in total than the incumbent ruling party.
Protesting the “stolen elections,” the opposition leaders and protesters are rallying towards the hilltop residence of GD leader Bidzina Ivanishvili, after blocking Rustaveli Avenue, the main thoroughfare of the Georgian capital, outside the Parliament.
In the meantime, Gigi Ugulava of the European Georgia party, announced the opposition parties will organize a large-scale rally on November 8.
Georgia held Saturday’s parliamentary vote under a significantly modified system, which changed the composition of 150-member parliament to 120 MPs elected through proportional, party-lists, and 30 elected as majoritarians (from 77/73 ratio) and set threshold at 1% of votes. According to the results of 98.86% precincts counted, Georgian Dream garnered 48,1% of proportional votes, while the United National Movement-led Strength in Unity bloc came second with 27.12%. European Georgia scored third with 3.77%.
Preliminary results also show GD victory in 13 single-mandate constituencies, while runoffs are expected in 17 districts, including in all 8 districts of the capital city of Tbilisi.
MP Irma Inashvili, leader of Kremlin-friendly Alliance of Patriots party, that is at odds with UNM and other opposition parties, also announced that today her party rejects the results, vowing to hold separate rallies.
President of Azerbaijan: Without any hesitation, we support Turkey and will support it in any circumstances
As reported earlier, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has today accepted credentials of the newly appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Greece to Azerbaijan, Nikolaos Piperigos.
AZERTAC presents some excerpts from President Ilham Aliyev's remarks at the meeting.
“It is not Azerbaijan that has occupied the territory of Armenia – Armenia has occupied Azerbaijani territory. This is reflected in the documents of all international organizations.”
“The last issue I want to touch upon is the recent tension between Turkey and Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean region. I can tell you, and it is no secret, that Turkey is not only our friend and partner, but also a brotherly country for us. Without any hesitation whatsoever, we support Turkey and will support it in any circumstances. We see the same support from our Turkish brothers. They support Azerbaijan on all issues, and we support them on all issues, including the issue of exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
“I want you to know our position. This position has already been officially announced by the Azerbaijani government on my instructions. I can tell you again that Turkey is not only a friend but a brotherly country for us. The Turks are our brothers. So we will be with them in all matters.”
“I want to find something positive to touch upon, but unfortunately I can't find it. Perhaps we hope that the new government of Greece, which came to power relatively recently, will reconsider the policy of the previous government against Azerbaijan.”
“We can restore contacts and discuss issues that create positive dynamics. But, of course, that will depend on the policy and position of the Greek government.”
EU launches new project to target organised crime in the Eastern Neighbourhood
A new Europol-led project, funded by the European Union, has been launched, focused on strengthening the capacity of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine to fight organised crime more effectively. The project will contribute to reducing crime and creating a safer living space for citizens in the region.
Through this four-year initiative, Europol will support cooperation between law enforcement authorities, both on a strategic and operational level. Special funding will enable the Eastern Partner countries to participate in operational activities against some of the ten most significant threats to EU security listed under the EU Policy Cycle. Existing networks for information sharing and operational cooperation may be further extended into joint investigations to improve the effectiveness in fighting transnational organised crime.
“This initiative is an important step in developing strong operational cooperation and trust between the law enforcement authorities of the EU Member States and our Eastern partners,” said Catherine De Bolle, Executive Director of Europol. “Our aligned efforts will bring a stronger response to the common challenges and cross-border threats we face.”
Lawrence Meredith, Director for Neighbourhood East at the European Commission, stated: “Organised crime networks operate across national borders and destabilise the entire region. Tackling serious and organised crime is a shared challenge by the European Union and its partner countries. By strengthening the strategic and operational cooperation between Europol and partner countries, we are proud to contribute to joint investigation successes.”
Located along the Black Sea and forming part of the ‘heroin route’ from the Middle East to Europe, all six Eastern Partner countries are threatened by organised criminal groups active in the area. These groups are involved in migrant smuggling, organised property crime, trafficking in human beings, firearms and drug trafficking, money laundering, and other related crimes such as document fraud. These criminal syndicates threaten not only the safety and security of people, but also the stability of the Eastern Partnership region and of the whole EU. More cooperation between law enforcement authorities of EU Member States and the Eastern Neighbourhood countries is crucial to improving the effectiveness of the common response to organised crime across borders.
As part of a larger €10 million EU cooperation initiative, the EU has dedicated €2.5 million to support the project that will run for the next four years. Two other components are focused on law enforcement training and threat assessment (a project led by Cepol with the participation of Europol) and on criminal asset recovery (managed by the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute - UNICRI).
UN and EU launch ambitious initiative for gender equality in Eastern Partnership
With support from the European Union, the two UN sister agencies will work with government bodies and civil society partners in six countries to challenge deeply ingrained gender stereotypes, increase men’s involvement in domestic work and childcare, and engage with potential perpetrators to prevent gender-based violence.
UN Women and UNFPA, together with the European Union (EU), have launched a three-year regional programme to tackle gender stereotypes and gender-based violence in six countries of the Eastern Partnership: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
The programme, entitled “EU 4 Gender Equality: Together Against Gender Stereotypes and Gender-Based Violence,” ultimately seeks to strengthen equal rights and opportunities for women and men by challenging perceptions about men’s and women’s roles in the family and in society and working to eliminate gender-based violence.
“This is our first regional programme covering gender equality in the Eastern Partnership region and we are intensely proud of it,” said Lawrence Meredith, Director for Neighbourhood East in the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations at the European Commission. “We can and we will do more to develop this underused economic and social potential with our Eastern neighbours. As we emerge from the pandemic, we will propose that the future Eastern Partnership be more inclusive.”
A first of its kind, the programme has been informed by an in-depth situation analysis and intergovernmental consultations with the six countries. It is designed to engage a wide range of government bodies, civil society organizations, and individuals.
“We will work closely with governments and civil society organisations in the six countries to ensure the success of the programme,” says Alia El-Yassir, UN Women Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia. “This work is even more crucial now as the COVID-19 crisis has put into stark relief the imbalanced distribution of responsibilities based on traditional gender stereotypes.”
The programme aims at achieving real behavioural change. It relies on strategies designed to challenge structural gender barriers and norms, with particular emphasis on transforming gender-stereotyped behaviour, strengthening men’s involvement in parenting and domestic responsibilities, increasing men’s access to parental leave, and reducing the number of people affected by gender-based violence through prevention interventions with potential perpetrators.
“During the COVID-19 crisis, we have unfortunately seen an increase in women’s unpaid care workload and in cases of gender-based violence across the six countries,” says Alanna Armitage, UNFPA Regional Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. “Our programme comes at the right time to fight these trends. We all have to work hand-in-hand to build a more just, equal, safe and secure world for all.”
The programme has a budget of €7,875,000 and is anchored in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework, launched by the United Nations in 2015, and the EU Action Plan 2016-2020 on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Transforming the Lives of Girls and Women Through EU External Relations. It provides a unique opportunity for the EU and the six participating countries to affect social discourse, perceptions, and practices related to gender equality with the ultimate goal of achieving gender equality and related SDGs.
For more information, please visit: https://europa.eu/european-union/
EU supports Georgia in protecting its coastal waters
On 29 June, a five-day water monitoring survey started in Batumi, Georgia, organised by the EU-funded project ‘European Union Water Initiative Plus for the Eastern Partnership’ (EUWI+).
The survey is carried out by Georgian experts from the National Environmental Agency. It aims to assess the quality of coastal and transitional water ecosystems to help identify appropriate measures to protect water resources.
Apart from the survey, the EU also supports the upgrade of Batumi’s laboratory by organising training courses for experts and providing new state-of-the-art analysis equipment. This aims to improve Georgia’s capacities to manage its water resources.
Two similar surveys were held in September and November 2019. The surveys allowed the National Environmental Agency to determine the ecological status of coastal waters in the Chorokhi-Adjaristskali River Basin District.
The EUWI+ project helps Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine to bring their legislation closer to EU water management policies, with a main focus on managing transboundary river basins.