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Every Wednesday, the European Circle delivers an overview of the most important topics from the European Union and the European nations.


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UK and EU agree on Northern Ireland trade deal, 10th package of EU sanctions against Russia, US, Canada and EU Commission ban Tiktok on government devices
European Circle in week 09, 2023
curated by Nina von Schweinitz


UK and EU agree on Northern Ireland trade deal: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reached a deal with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that will allow goods to enter Northern Ireland freely from other parts of the UK. One reason the Brexit process dragged on for so many years was the inability of all sides to address a double dilemma: How to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland that might become a flashpoint given the region’s troubled history, and how to ensure Northern Ireland was not somehow treated separately from the rest of the UK. The deal, dubbed the „Windsor Framework“ is intended to ensure smoothly flowing trade and goods traffic within the UK. According to Sunak, it provides for a significant easing of the controls on goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland required by the EU. This mainly concerns food and medicines. Any kind of border in the Irish Sea would be eliminated.,

Eleven EU states want to expand nuclear power cooperation: New projects will be promoted alongside existing nuclear power plants, eleven EU energy ministers from countries including France, the Netherlands, Poland, Croatia and Hungary announced after a meeting in Stockholm. In addition, cooperation in the areas of research and safety will be expanded. A joint declaration states that nuclear energy is one of many tools to achieve climate goals. The technology should also be used to establish supply security. Countries such as Germany, Luxembourg and Spain reject the expansion of nuclear power in Europe.

EU agrees 10th package of sanctions against Russia: This package is turning up the pressure in response to Putin’s brutal war and contains new listings plus trade and financial sanctions, including further export bans worth more than €11 billion, depriving the Russian economy of critical tech and industrial goods. It also steps up enforcement and anti-circumvention measures, including a new reporting obligation on Russian Central Bank assets.

Putin signs law suspending major nuclear treaty with US: Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has signed a law officially suspending Russia’s participation in the New START treaty. He first announced the suspension during his state-of-the-nation address to the Federal Assembly and members of the Russian political elite on 21 February. Meanwhile, Putin told the FSB domestic security service on Tuesday to step up its activity to counter what he said was increasing espionage and sabotage against Russia by Ukraine and the West.,

Stoltenberg says Ukraine will join NATO in long-term: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stressed that the immediate issue is it remaining independent in the face of Russia’s invasion. Stoltenberg told reporters during a visit to Finland’s capital Helsinki that „the issue now is that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign independent nation, and therefore we need to support Ukraine.“

  • NATO membership: Finland takes step towards joining alliance without waiting for Sweden.
  • Finland starts construction of Russia border fence.
  • Poland buys 1000 new combat vehicles for its army.

Denmark abolishes public holiday to boost defence spending: People in Denmark will no longer get a long weekend off for „Great Prayer Day“ late in the spring starting next year, after lawmakers passed a bill on Tuesday scrapping it as a public dw.comholiday. The move comes as Denmark’s newly-formed government seeks to implement reforms aimed at improving the country’s welfare model, and as it tries to reach its NATO defence spending targets.

US, Canada and EU Commission ban Tiktok on government devices: Canada is banning video app TikTok from all government-issued devices. The decision follows a review by Canada’s chief information officer, and the app presents an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security, a government spokesperson said in a statement. The White House has also directed federal agencies that they have 30 days to remove TikTok from all government-issued devices. Previously, the EU’s two biggest policy-making institutions have banned TikTok from staff phones for cybersecurity reasons.,,

EU eases Syria sanctions to speed up quake aid: Aid organisations will no longer need to seek permission from EU member state governments before sending supplies and services to sanctioned entities in Syria, the European Council representing the bloc’s countries said in a statement. The measure will last for six months and was taken in view of the gravity of the humanitarian crisis in Syria exacerbated by the earthquake.

EU lawmaker investigated for fraud involving parliamentary allowances: The European Public Prosecutor’s Office has executed a seizure of more than 170,000 euros against MEP Stefania Zambelli and four of her assistants, as part of an investigation into possible fraud involving parliamentary allowances. The investigation concerns a suspicion of fraud detrimental to the EU budget, regarding the remuneration of four parliamentary assistants hired in Italy.

  • Corruption scandal: Eva Kaili’s partner, Francesco Giorgi, freed but under electronic monitoring.

Meloni calls for urgent EU action on migration in wake of deadly shipwreck: Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said in an interview on Monday that she sent a letter to European Union leaders calling for immediate action by the bloc to stop boat migrant trips to Europe. Speaking a day after a shipwreck that killed more than 60 migrants off southern Italy, Meloni told RAI public television: “the only way to tackle this issue seriously, with humanity, is to stop the departures.”

Threat from Berlin to block EU’s combustion engine ban: Germany’s Transport Minister Volker Wissing said that his country won’t back a planned EU ban on the sale of new cars with combustion engines from 2035, after failing to get assurances from the EU Commission for an exemption on synthetic fuels. The Environment Ministry was surprised by Wissing’s announcement, with a spokesperson saying that Germany’s approval of the combustion engine ban was coordinated with the other ministries. The European Parliament, the Commission and EU member states agreed last year to phase out combustion engines for passenger cars from 2035.,

EU agency for asylum: Nearly 1 million asylum requests in the EU in 2022
European Environment Agency: Europe’s used textiles are an increasing waste and export problem
Public debate: Brussels launches consultation asking if Big Tech should finance internet connectivity
EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson: EU aiming for targeted reform of electricity market
England and Wales raise minimum age for marriage: What’s the age in other European countries?


“By many standards, Europe is now more energy secure, less dependent [on] Russia and stronger than it was a year ago.“

The EU has successfully made it through the winter despite Russia’s attempts to disrupt its gas supplies, but there is still a lot of work needed to protect future energy security, said EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson.


Serbia and Kosovo move closer to EU-brokered deal on normalising ties: EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell said Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti agreed no further discussions were needed on the EU-proposed text. He said further leaders’ talks would be held next month to decide on the annexe, which is meant to spell out steps to implement the final deal. The agreement stipulates that both countries would recognise their respective documents and national symbols, and respect their independence, autonomy and territorial integrity, the right of self-determination, the protection of human rights, and non-discrimination.,

Italy’s most prominent leftwing party elects its first female leader: Elly Schlein defied poll projections and beat Stefano Bonaccini in the leadership race for the Democratic party (PD) on Sunday. Schlein’s win has been attributed to strong support from women and young people, who favored her progressive agenda — and her vow to stiffen her party’s response to the rise to power of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, whose right-wing coalition came to power late last year after general elections in September 2022.,

Macron to reduce French military presence in Africa: French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to reduce the number of French troops in Africa under a new security partnership with the concerned nations and to roll out more ambitious economic policies, in a bid to boost France’s waning influence in the continent. Macron said France must move away from interfering in parts of Africa that it once ruled as a colonial power, saying the continent is no longer its “back yard.”

Three candidates want to succeed Scotland’s leader Sturgeon: MSPs Kate Forbes, Ash Regan and Humza Yousaf had all met the threshold for nominations by the noon deadline. The ballot of SNP members, which will use a single transferrable vote system, opens on 13 March and the winner will be announced on 27 March. All three candidates have vowed to reinvigorate Sturgeon’s spluttering push to win independence for Scotland, after the UK government blocked her plans to hold a fresh referendum on the issue.,

Thousands protest against pro-European government in Moldova: The protest in the capital Chișinau was organised by a group calling itself „Movement for the People“ and supported by members of the pro-Russian Moldovan Shor party. It was the second protest against the government in a fortnight. There is growing concern among observers that the country is destabilising. President Maia Sandu spoke of a suspected Russian plot to overthrow the government. The aim, she said, was to bring Moldova under Russian influence and to dissuade it from its course to join the EU.

Germany tells Israel death penalty would be a mistake: German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said she had conveyed strong objections to Israel over its plans to introduce mandatory death penalties for people convicted of terrorist killings of Israeli citizens. She spoke after a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen. The foreign ministers also spoke about the nuclear threat posed by Iran, with Cohen saying it was time to reimpose sanctions and put a credible military option on the table.

PKK allegedly financing terrorism from Sweden: According to Swedish intelligence, the banned Kurdish Workers‘ Party PKK supports terrorist activities from Sweden. However, the Swedish Security Service said the PKK doesn’t pose a direct terrorist risk for Sweden. Sweden’s dealings with the PKK play a role in its planned NATO accession. Ankara has refused to ratify Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership bids, primarily because Sweden has declined to extradite dozens of suspects that Ankara links to outlawed Kurdish fighters and a failed 2016 coup attempt and it has concerns regarding Swedish ties with the terrorist PKK organisation.,

British chemical company responsible for explosion in Beirut port: A British court has ruled a London-based company that delivered the explosive ammonium nitrate to Beirut’s port is liable towards the victims of a devastating blast in 2020, Lebanon’s Beirut Bar Association said Thursday.

France: President Macron criticised for giving Légion d’honneur to Jeff Bezos
Northern Ireland: Four arrested after police officer shot
Sweden: Police chief Mats Lofving found dead after inquiry
Albania: Incinerator scandal goes to trial


France has matched its record dry spell of 31 days without significant rainfall, the country’s weather service said, amid concerns over water reserves. The hot temperatures triggered drought conditions that many regions are yet to recover from. Snowfall in the Italian Alps is down by 53% and water levels in the Po basin of Italy’s largest river are 61% below normal, according to researchers.,


Teen boy accidentally gets shipped to Malaysia: Workers at Malaysia’s Port Klang were surprised to hear knocking from inside one of the shipping containers that had just come off a ship from Bangladesh. When they opened it, they were even more surprised to see a young boy step out. According to various news reports, the boy, whom officials identified only as Fahim, had chosen the shipping container as a hiding place during a game of hide-and-seek with friends, but accidentally locked himself in.