European Commission recommends to grant Ukraine and Moldova EU candidate status, Georgia receives perspective to become EU member
Today, the European Commission presented its Opinions on the applications for EU membership submitted by Ukraine, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova as invited by the Council. The European Commission recommended to grant Ukraine and Moldova EU candidate status, while it recommended that Georgia be given the perspective to become a member of the EU, and that candidate status should be granted once a number of priorities have been addressed.
The Opinions are based on the Commission’s assessment in light of the three sets of criteria to join the EU agreed by the European Council: political criteria, economic criteria, and the ability of the country to assume the obligations of EU membership (EU acquis). According to a press release from the European Commission, the Opinions also take into account Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia’s efforts in implementing their obligations under the Association Agreements (AA), including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTA), which cover significant parts of the EU acquis.
The European Commission has found that Ukraine overall is well advanced in reaching the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities, and has continued its strong macro-economic record, demonstrating a noteworthy resilience with macroeconomic and financial stability, while needing to continue ambitious structural economic reforms. The country has gradually approximated to substantial elements of the EU acquis in many areas.
The European Commission concludes that the country has a solid foundation in place to reach the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities; macroeconomic policies have been reasonably sound and progress has been made in strengthening the financial sector and business environment but key economic reforms remain to be undertaken. The country has established a solid basis for further alignment with the EU acquis.
The European Commission assesses that Georgia has a foundation in place to reach the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities, even if recent developments have undermined the country’s progress; it has achieved a good degree of macroeconomic stability and has a sound record of economic policy and a favourable business environment, but further reforms are needed to improve the functioning of its market economy; overall, Georgia has established a solid basis for further alignment with the EU acquis.
“Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective.” President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen told a press conference announcing the Opinions. “We want them to live with us in the European Union.”
She added: “Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia share the strong and legitimate aspiration of joining the European Union. Today, we are sending them a clear signal of support in their aspirations, even as they face challenging circumstances.”
“Indeed, this is a historic day for the people of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. We are confirming that they belong, in due time, in the European Union. The next steps are now in the hands of our Member States,” Ursula von der Leyen said.
Based on the European Commission’s Opinions, the EU Member States will now have to decide unanimously on the next steps.
The applications for EU membership by Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova in light of the Commission’s Opinions will be discussed by Heads of State and Government at the European Council next week, on 23 and 24 June.
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EU-supported rural festival took place in Tsalka, Georgia.
The ‘Visit Tsalka’ festival was organised as a part of the EU-funded EMBRACE Tsalka project by the Caucasus Environmental NGO Network (CENN), Tsalka Local Action Group (LAG), and Georgian Farmers’ Association.
The festival included an exhibition and sale of products from entrepreneurs, start-ups, small businesses and other EU-funded projects. There was also an educational event for young people and an exhibition and sale of children’s drawings. The proceeds from the sale of the drawings were donated to support the Ukrainian people.
Guests of the festival were also invited to explore the tourist route in Tsalka Canyon and the tourism potential of Tsalka in general.
“This festival is an excellent opportunity to discover Tsalka, support integration among locals, develop tourism potential and establish business partnerships,” said Melano Tkabladze, CENN’s Project Manager.
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The House of Europe programme has mobilised €1.5 million for a dedicated war response package aimed at artists, cultural managers, doctors, educators, entrepreneurs, journalists, and leaders of youth organisations who face Russian aggression against Ukraine.
Since 24 February 2022, the programme has redirected its funding to seven areas of emergency support, focusing on creating new support schemes to address wartime challenges.
In addition, the House of Europe has collected and informed about hundreds of opportunities for both displaced people and Ukrainians left behind: scholarships and residencies for cultural workers, scholarships for academics and scholarships for students, emergency support for NGOs, media workers and entrepreneurs, among others.
The House of Europe has supported the preservation of cultural heritage in Ukraine, provided individual support for Ukrainian professionals and allowed current grantees to repurpose their funding instantly.
The war response package includes:
– 28 museums from Lviv, Odesa, and Kyiv, as well as Donetsk, Luhansk, Sumy, and Mykolaiv regions received €146,359 to protect their collections.
– 10 civil society initiatives receive funding for documenting war crimes, re-equipping teachers from Mariupol, holding a children’s film festival, instructing pregnant women how to give birth in shelters, etc. 13 cultural organisations that have transformed into shelter places for the displaced have been funded.
– 150 members of House of Europe’s Alumni community received stipends of €1,000 each for renewing their professional activities, but foremost for essentials like accommodation, food, medication, and fuel.
– Civil society representatives and House of Europe partners involved in evacuations of citizens, safeguarding of cultural heritage, volunteering, and other life-saving operations across Ukraine received 75 sets of protective and medical kits.
– Professionals and organisations that won House of Europe grants and have not carried out their projects yet in full were offered to spend the money on emergency needs and withstanding the Russian aggression. This includes 36 selected recipients of Individual Project Grants, who were unable to proceed with their projects; those received alternative funding – a lump-sum fixed contribution, which may be spent for emergency purposes.
At the beginning of June 2022, the House of Europe will offer infrastructure grants of up to €15,000 each to Ukrainian organisations in an open competition to restore equipment and facilities and resume activities.
In July 2022, the House of Europe will also hold the third edition of Hatathon, an online hackathon bringing together cultural and IT professionals in search of start-up solutions in the cultural, creative industries and beyond.
House of Europe is an EU-funded programme fostering professional and creative exchange between Ukrainians and their colleagues in EU countries and the United Kingdom. The programme focuses on different professional fields: culture and creative industries, education, health, social entrepreneurship, media, and youth.
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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU High Representative Josep Borrell addressed the European Parliament today, reporting on recent EU decisions, including on Ukraine and other Eastern Partnership countries, and presenting the results of the Extraordinary European Council held in Brussels on 30-31 May.
Ursula von der Leyen noted that breaking free from dependency on Russian fossil fuels, strengthening the EU’s defence, food security, and reconstruction of Ukraine remain the main EU priorities.
She said the upcoming food crisis, which will affect 265 million people worldwide this year alone, is fuelled by Putin’s aggressive war against Ukraine: “Whereas Russia actively weaponises hunger, the EU’s sanctions are carefully crafted to avoid a negative impact and they foresee a clear exemption for food products. Our sanctions do not touch basic food commodities. They do not affect the trading of grain, or other food, between Russia and third countries.”
Josep Borrell (whose speech was delivered by European Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis) added that the EU would continue to work with its partners to isolate Russia in international fora and would increase military support to Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.
“We have proposed to increase the non-lethal military assistance measures benefitting Georgia and [the Republic of] Moldova. It will support logistics, cyber-defence, military medical, engineering and mobility capabilities. We will present them in June for planned adoption by the Council in July,” said Borrell.
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Today and tomorrow, EU leaders meet in Brussels to discuss the latest developments in relation to Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine and continued EU support to Ukraine, including humanitarian, military, financial, and political support.
The EU heads of state and government will also discuss EU security and defence, energy, and food security.
“One of our most pressing concerns is assisting the Ukrainian state, along with our international partners, with its liquidity needs. We will also discuss how best to organise our support for Ukraine’s reconstruction, as a major global effort will be required to rebuild the country,” said European Council President Charles Michel ahead of the summit.
He added that the EU would also continue putting pressure on Russia.
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European Commission proposes rules on freezing and confiscating assets of oligarchs and other criminals violating restrictive measuresThursday, 26 May 2022 12:16
On 25 May, the European Commission proposed the inclusion of violations of EU restrictive measures in the EU’s list of crimes, in light of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. This will allow to set a common basic standard on criminal offences and penalties across the EU.
The Commission has also proposed new strengthened rules on asset recovery and confiscation, which would also facilitate the implementation of EU restrictive measures. The proposal would modernise EU asset recovery rules, in particular by expanding the powers of Asset Recovery Offices to quickly trace and identify the assets of individuals and entities subject to EU restrictive measures. These powers would also apply to criminally derived assets, including through the urgent freezing of assets where there is a risk that assets may disappear.
“EU sanctions must be respected and those trying to go around them punished. The violation of EU sanctions is a serious crime and must come with serious consequences, said Věra Jourová, the European Commission’s Vice-President for Values and Transparency. “As a Union we stand up for our values and we must make those who keep Putin’s war machine running pay the price.”
The proposals have been put forward as part of the ‘Freeze and Seize’ Task Force, set up by the European Commission in March. So far, Member States have reported frozen assets worth €9.89 billion and blocked €196 billion worth of transactions. On 11 April, Europol, jointly with Member States, Eurojust and Frontex, launched Operation Oscar to support financial and criminal investigations targeting criminal assets owned by individuals and legal entities covered by EU sanctions.
Once the EU Member States agree on the Commission’s initiative to extend the list of EU crimes, the Commission will present a legislative proposal based on the accompanying Communication and Annex.
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Social Entrepreneurship to tackle post-war recovery: EU4Youth highlights Georgian IDP experience in solidarity for Ukraine
The EU4Youth programme in Georgia last week organised a webinar on the topic of post-war recovery, organised in solidarity with the Ukrainian people, especially active and potential social entrepreneurs. The event was part of the EU-funded project, EU4Youth: Social Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Development (SEED) for Green Growth in Borderline Regions.
The long history of social entrepreneurs has shown that they usually establish themselves during unstable, crisis situations to improve the lives and conditions of affected people. In 2008, Georgia suffered from the Russo-Georgian war. The Shida Kartli region, especially Gori Municipality, was heavily affected – with waves of migration, hundreds of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and unemployment. Despite the personal tragedies and economic hardships, many displaced people were able to establish businesses with social or environmental missions.
The webinar was streamed via Facebook and Zoom – more than 30 people attended on Zoom and over 800 people watched on Facebook Live. The meeting was translated into Ukrainian and will be shared with social enterprises based in Ukraine, aiming to give hope to the people of Ukraine through the practical, shared experiences of others.
As part of the webinar, four social entrepreneurs from Gori Municipality spoke about their enterprises and the lessons they have learnt. The speakers also highlighted the importance of persistence and resilience in social entrepreneurship.
Nino Giorgadze, founder of the Lemo sustainable sewing enterprise in Gori (EU4Youth-SEED beneficiary), was one of the first in the region to develop a textile recycling strategy. Their products have an immediately recognisable design and are made of natural materials. The images embroidered on them are specially designed to develop children’s social and cognitive skills. All their profits go towards empowering socially vulnerable women living in Gori Municipality who have been affected by war. The company employees are all IDPs from the 2008 conflict.
Ketevan Kvachantiradze from the village of Karaleti, founded the sustainable sewing enterprise Bamane (EU4Youth-SEED beneficiary). Ketevan used to have a sewing shop, and now sews sleeping bags for babies using leftover fabrics. “We are employing people in the region, and are planning to expand the enterprise to employ even more,” she said. “It’s important that our enterprise is located in Karaleti, just a few kilometres from a Russian base. Our goal is to create a resilient community in villages like this so they are not deserted and so that young people can find employment and realise their potential locally.”
Nana Chkareuli of Ikorta handicrafts, founded in 2012 by For Better Future, an NGO working in the Tserovani IDP Settlement, explained how the company a way for its beneficiaries to develop their professional lives. There are 10 people working at the jewellery-making enterprise, 9 of whom are women. The company also brings wider possibilities for civil and economic development by reinvesting the profits from the sale of the jewellery into programmes for young people and women in the settlement, which houses IDPs from the Russo-Georgian war.
Archil Gobejishvili is an IDP who established the Dadari social enterprise with a strong and united team of people with different abilities. They make high quality wooden handmade toys. The company’s main social mission is to train people with intellectual disabilities and special psycho-social needs, employ them, and promote their full involvement in public life.
Source: EU NEIGHBOURS east
Zahony, a town that locates within 100 km to five borders with five countries in northeastern Hungary, has become an important hub for China-Europe freight trains to enter the EU.
Norbert Csomos, managing director of MAV-REC Railway Engineering Cooperation Ltd., has witnessed the development in Zahony, where the first container train from China arrived in July 2017.
MAV-REC, Zahony Port Ltd. and Central Europe Trade and Logistics Cooperation Zone (CECZ) have formed a consortium to jointly promote the construction of the Central Europe Logistics Industrial Zone (CELIZ) project in Zahony.
The project aims at building a modern multimodal logistics center in Europe. The Zahony transshipment station will also be renovated and expanded.
Produced by Xinhua Global Service
On 22 March, EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels reached a political agreement to give Ukraine another €500 million in arms and military equipment.
EU High Representative Josep Borrell said that all Member States remain “extraordinarily united in supporting Ukraine” – supporting the country diplomatically, on the international stage, economically, financially, with humanitarian assistance and supporting the Ukrainian armed forces.
He added that the EU “will continue isolating Russia, to call it out for war crimes, and for blatant violations of international humanitarian law”.
During the joint session of the Ministers of Defence and Foreign Affairs, the European Council also adopted the Strategic Compass for strengthening the EU’s security and defence policy.
EU High Representative Josep Borrell said the adoption of the document “sends a strong signal of unity and resolve”, but added it was not an answer to the Ukrainian war. “We started working two years ago, but it is very timely that we approve this Strategic Compass in a moment in which I think every citizen in Europe can understand the purpose of a document that wants to increase the strength of the European Union as a security provider”.
Borrell said that today the military expenditure in Europe – adding up all Member States – stood at about €200 billion, more or less four times more than the military expenditure of Russia. However, the EU should spend more than 1.5 % of the GDP on security and defence: “We have to spend more. But we have to spend better. Better means to avoid duplications and to avoid gaps”. He added that the EU did not want to create a European army – the European Member States armies will remain.
Borrell added that the Council agreed to the EU Rapid Deployment Capacity, which will allow the EU to mobilise up to 5,000 troops, trained and equipped to react to crises. “We will strengthen our Command-and-control capabilities, and we will conduct live exercises together. It has never happened,” added Borrell.
Ukraine humanitarian response: over 80 million items offered by EU member states in largest ever deployment of civil protection mechanism
All 27 EU Member States, as well as Norway and Turkey, have now offered help to Ukraine via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism in the largest ever activation of the Mechanism.
The assistance includes over 80 million items such as first aid kits, shelter equipment, firefighting equipment, water pumps, power generators, and fuel, and the EU keeps receiving new offers every day.
Neighbouring countries Moldova, Poland and Slovakia have also requested assistance via the Mechanism in light of the large influx of people fleeing the war, and several EU countries have responded by offering shelter items, medicines, hygiene kits and power generators.
Furthermore, the EU is allocating additional €3 million in humanitarian funding to Moldova. This new funding will support Ukrainians forced to flee their country by providing winterisation items and shelters, protection services, transportation and access to healthcare, but also cash assistance.
Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, who is currently in Romania to meet with the authorities and coordinate EU support to help those arriving from Ukraine, said yesterday: “Europe is witnessing the worst humanitarian catastrophe since World War II. In this dark hour, we also see the generosity of European countries as they come together to support the people of Ukraine who have been dragged to this war against their will.”
To efficiently manage the exceptionally high amount of deliveries, logistical hubs have been set up in Poland and Romania with the support of the European Commission’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre. These hubs will gather the assistance offered by Member States and dispatch it to Ukraine.