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Newsline: EU top diplomat urges Israel to disavow minister’s comments on Palestinians

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called on Monday on the Israeli government to disavow a minister’s comments that there was no Palestinian history or culture and no such thing as a Palestinian people. Borrell told reporters in Brussels that Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s comments “certainly cannot be tolerated”. “I call on the Israeli government to disavow those comments and to start working together with all parties to defuse tensions,” Borrell said. (https://neuters.de/world/middle-east/eu-top-diplomat-borrell-urges-israel-disavow-ministers-comments-palestinians-2023-03-20/) “I have to deplore these unacceptable comment by Minister Smotrich. It is wrong, it is disrespectful, it is dangerous, it is counter-productive to say this kind of things in a situation which is already tense,” he added.

Newsline: Serbia, Kosovo agree on EU-backed diplomatic deal

Kosovo and Serbia have reached an agreement on implementing a European Union-backed deal to normalise ties, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said late on Saturday, though the two leaders said disagreements remain. (https://neuters.de/world/europe/kosovo-serbia-leaders-arrive-eu-backed-talks-deal-normalise-ties-2023-03-18/) Kosovo and Serbia have been in EU-backed talks for nearly 10 years since Kosovo declared independence in 2008, almost a decade after war ended Serbian rule. But Serbia still regards Kosovo as a breakaway province and flare-ups between the Balkan neighbours have stoked fears of a return to conflict. The agreement on Saturday came after 12-hour talks between Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and EU officials on implementing the deal, which both sides had agreed to in Brussels last month. The two leaders held separate meetings with Borrell before a three-way session in North Macedonia.

Newsline: EU revises climate diplomacy deal

European Union countries intend to push for a global phasing out of fossil fuels among their climate diplomacy priorities this year, which the bloc hopes to approve this week after rewriting a contentious section on nuclear energy. The draft text aims to set out the EU’s diplomatic priorities ahead of this year’s U.N. climate summit, where nearly 200 countries will negotiate joint efforts to curb climate change. A draft seen by Reuters said the EU would back a global shift away from fossil fuels. “The shift towards a climate neutral economy will require the global phase-out of unabated fossil fuels,” the draft said. “The EU will systematically promote and call for a global move towards energy systems free of unabated fossil fuels well ahead of 2050.” (https://neuters.de/business/environment/eu-rewrites-climate-diplomacy-deal-resolve-nuclear-sticking-point-2023-03-06/) Some countries are hoping this year’s COP28 summit could clinch a deal on phasing out the use of CO2-emitting fossil fuels – not only coal, as agreed at previous U.N. climate talks, but also oil and gas. A proposal by India to do this gained some support at last year’s U.N. climate summit but was opposed by Saudi Arabia and other oil and gas-rich nations. Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands had pushed for the fossil fuel exit in the EU text, EU diplomats said. Diplomats from EU countries will attempt to finalise the text on March 8, which ministers must then approve formally.

Newsline: Serbia, Kosovo back EU diplomacy plan

The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo have given tacit approval to a European Union-sponsored plan to end months of political crises and help improve their ties longer-term, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said after chairing talks between them. Speaking alone at a news conference after a series of meetings in Brussels, Borrell told reporters that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti “have agreed that no further discussions are needed for the European Union proposal.” (https://www.foxnews.com/world/serbia-kosovo-back-eu-diplomacy-plan) Both countries want to join the EU, which has told them that they first need to sort out their differences.

Newsline: Beijing’s envoy says EU leaders may visit China by mid-2023

Chinese ambassador to the European Union Fu Cong said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel may visit China in the first half of 2023, China’s state-backed Global Times reported. Preparations for the visit by the EU’s top two officials are under way and “very frequent high-level mutual visits” between the EU and China are expected to begin soon, Fu said in an interview. Fu said in the interview that EU anger with China over Ukraine was “very irrational” and that China did not want the issue to affect the development of ties with the bloc. (https://neuters.de/world/china/chinas-eu-ambassador-says-eu-leaders-may-visit-china-by-mid-2023-2023-02-26/) After the Chinese foreign ministry published on Friday a position paper expounding its stance on the war, the EU’s top diplomat in China Jorge Toledo told reporters in Beijing that parts of the paper were concerning.

Newsline: EU top diplomat criticizes Spanish left

The head of EU diplomacy and ex-minister for the ruling PSOE party (S&D), Josep Borrell, called the leftist Podemos party (EU Left) “naive” over their hopes to tackle the Ukranian conflict without weapons. For its part, Podemos insists that peace sooner or later will come and asks Borrell “how many deaths” he could accept by that time. (https://www.euractiv.com/section/politics/news/eu-top-diplomat-calls-spanish-left-naive-over-ukraine-war/) Since Russia’s war against Ukraine started, Podemos, a partner of the Spanish governing coalition, has been adamant about sending arms to Ukraine. Ione Belarra, Secretary General of Podemos and Minister of Social rights, called once again on their coalition partner PSOE on 17 February to reconsider their position, fearing an escalation of the conflict and mobilisation of troops.PSOE has insisted on their support for sending weapons as part of a common European response to the conflict.

Newsline: EU climate diplomacy deal on hold

European Union countries failed to adopt conclusions on climate diplomacy that had been planned for Monday, owing to a deepening spat over the role of nuclear energy in the green transition, EU officials said. The upset is the latest development in a dispute between France and other countries who want more EU policies to promote nuclear energy’s contribution to cutting CO2 emissions, and those like Germany and Spain who warn this risks distracting from efforts to massively expand renewable energy. The debate – which focuses on hydrogen produced from nuclear or renewable energy – has already delayed negotiations on new EU renewable energy targets and threatened a multi-billion-euro hydrogen pipeline. Some EU officials fear it could spill into other green energy policies, potentially delaying laws needed to meet EU climate targets. “There are outstanding obstacles, but they will be resolved,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said of the climate conclusions on Monday, without specifying what the obstacles were. (https://neuters.de/world/europe/eu-climate-diplomacy-deal-hold-nuclear-dispute-deepens-2023-02-20/) The conclusions would set out the EU’s diplomatic priorities ahead this year’s U.N. climate summit. Speaking after a meeting of EU countries’ foreign ministers, who had planned to approve the conclusions, Borrell said he expected countries to give written approval to a final text within days. EU officials told Reuters the majority of the text had been approved – including plans for the EU to rally support for a global pledge to phase out fossil fuels ahead of the November U.N. climate summit.

Newsline: EU’s top diplomat warns Twitter over disinformation

A controversial move by Twitter-owner Elon Musk to end free access to its APIs by February 9 has attracted criticism from the European Union’s top diplomat who has warned it could threaten the ability of researchers to study disinformation. “We have to do more research on the social media platforms. Study how [disinformation] flow[s], where does it come from, and which are the results,” high commissioner Josep Borrell said in the speech to the European Union’s diplomatic service (EEAS). Borrell singled out Twitter — and Musk as its owner — for naming and shaming — saying the EU is concerned about the news that Twitter is planning to restrict free access to its APIs which he warned would be “a serious step back from early commitments”. (https://techcrunch.com/2023/02/07/elon-musk-twitter-disinformation-josep-borrell/) “Early commitments” is likely a reference to Twitter being a signatory of the bloc’s Code of Practice on Online Disinformation from the get-go, back in 2018, when the Commission unveiled the voluntary initiative to encourage social media platforms to tackle the ‘fake news’ crisis.

Newsline: EU diplomat says leaders to debate green industry on Thursday

European Union leaders will debate on Thursday proposals to enable the bloc to compete with the United States in clean-tech production and reduce dependence on China, with the aim of settling differences such as those over subsidies by March. “European industries face pressure to install themselves in the United States so we need an urgent message on clean tech: the EU doesn’t just have advantages that don’t exist anywhere else but also act with this plan,” an EU diplomat said. The diplomat said that it looks like relaxation of state aid rules would take place, but hedged with conditions such as that it should only be temporary and should be proportionate. (https://neuters.de/business/sustainable-business/eu-leaders-debate-green-industry-plan-with-eye-march-deal-2023-02-08/) The European Commission has proposed loosening rules on state aid for investments in renewable energy or decarbonising industry and faster approvals of green projects. France and Germany have led the push for looser state aid rules, but some EU states argue they will not be able to match the subsidies of the EU’s two largest economies, unsettling the EU internal market. Countries such as the Netherlands, the Nordics, the Czech Republic and Ireland have expressed concern in letters to the EU executive about the risk of excessive non-targeted subsidies and say work to improve the EU single market would be more effective. EU leaders will reconvene in Brussels in late March, by when the European Commission should have proposed its Net-Zero Industry Act to speed up project or site approvals and the Critical Raw Materials Act, designed to boost processing and recycling in Europe and reduce reliance on China.

Newsline: EU diplomats say talks on Russian oil product price caps to continue next week

Ambassadors of European Union governments on Friday discussed a European Commission proposal to set price caps on Russian oil products from Feb 5, but reached no decision and decided to continue talks next week, EU diplomats said. “The meeting is over. The proposal from the Commission was discussed and will be reviewed further in the coming week. There were no conclusions today,” one EU diplomat said. (https://neuters.de/markets/commodities/eu-talks-russian-oil-product-price-caps-continue-next-week-diplomats-2023-01-27/) The European Commission proposed on Thursday that the EU set a $100 per barrel price cap on premium Russian oil products like diesel and a $45 per barrel cap on discounted products like fuel oil. The price cap numbers have to be agreed on by EU governments. A price cap of $60 per barrel cap was imposed on Russian crude on Dec. 5. Both price caps work by prohibiting Western insurance and shipping companies from insuring or carrying cargoes of Russian crude and oil products unless they were bought at or below the price cap.