Brussels journalists on Wider Europe - Euro-reporters, The European Commission finally reacted with an official statement to the increased tension on the Ukraine-Moldova border., At the plenary session of the European Parliament, which opened today in Strasbourg,MEP Szent-Iványi tabled a question to the European Commission and Council ahead of a debate on the free movement of workers., Belarus: MEPs not going for presidential poll., Short profile on Belarus President Lukashenko, Short profile on Belarus President Lukashenko, Over 500 international OSCE observers from 38 countries today concluded that the Belarus presidential elections held on 19 March failed to meet OSCE standards, despite the fact that voters were offered a choice between four candidates., Over 500 international OSCE observers from 38 countries today concluded that the Belarus presidential elections held on 19 March failed to meet OSCE standards, despite the fact that voters were offered a choice between four candidates., "We are concerned about the situation in Belarus. This is the last country in Europe where human rights are not respected and where there is no freedom of assembly and opinion," said Austrian State Secretary Hans Winkler.
Winkler was speaking for the EU Council in the European Parliament today. MEPs had added a new point - Belarus - to their agendas.
On Monday, over 500 international OSCE observers from 38 countries concluded that the Belarus presidential elections held on 19 March failed to meet OSCE standards. Predictably, OSCE's verdict contrasts markedly with that of observers from the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Belarus election officials on Monday announced that Aleksander Lukashenko, in power since 1994, had gained an 82.6% share of the vote, as opposed to leading opposition candidate Aleksander Milinkevich's 6%. Russian authorities were the first to endorse the election results.
EU and US leaders, as well as the European Commission, were quick to condemn the elections talking of tightened visa restrictions and freezing the personal assets of leading Belarus state officials.
Policy declarations are important, but are certainly not enough. We have to introduce and maintain sanctions," said László Kovacs, European Commissioner for Taxation and Customs. "We should avoid economic sanctions that hit the general population, but need precise targets against those persons responsible for the fraudulent elections and the survival of this repressive regime."
We need an in-depth revision of EU policy, which should isolate the government but not civil society. For a long time, we have been calling for sanctions against Belarus leaders and not against citizens.
We spend 20 million euros a year on trans-European energy networks.
The money is for feasibility studies and perhaps in the future we can
provide support for the projects," said European Energy Commissioner
Andris Piebalgs. "The Baltic States are like an isolated island: there
is no interconnection of electricity. There will be interconnection
from Estonia to Finland. However, the PowerBridge Project between
Lithuania and Poland will never be a reality unless there is Community
support for trans-European networks in energy."
Bringing more energy supply security to Europe will be the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, opened on 25 May. Around 50 million tons of oil per year will be transported by this new route. Vice-president of the Socialists MEP Hannes Swoboda is unhappy with the lack of European involvement in the project: "I know that the US government was behind the construction of this pipeline. But we should also show our flag. It is also symbolically important for European citizens that the EU is just as concerned about energy as the government of the United States of America," said Swoboda.
"No European company was involved, but we need to be involved from the beginning," admitted Piebalgs. "Four countries have signed the Treaty. The Commission could not do so, but we are interested in this project because it concerns oil that that will be used by customers. We definitely need to diversify our supplies. For this reason we are working with all the countries and also with Azerbaijan."
The Commissioner was in the European Parliament to discuss MEP Anne Laperrouze's report on Trans-European Energy Networks to boost transmission infrastructures. "The trans-European energy networks policy aims at securing and diversifying additional gas import capacity from sources in Russia, Norway, the Caspian basin region, Northern Africa and the Middle East, and providing the necessary interconnection capacity between Member States," said Piebalgs.
Since existing guidelines for trans-European energy networks came into force in June 2003, enlargement has meant that new Member States and candidate countries must be integrated into the guidelines. Policy also has to be adapted to take account of countries like Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia that participate in the new European Neighbourhood policy.
Wednesday, 08 June 2005