It is also recording the second highest death toll in Europe, with more than 8 deaths per 100,000 habitants.  
Belgium is facing one of the worst spikes in COVID-19 cases in Europe, with the country reporting a record of almost 24,000 cases on Friday. All non-essential movement is not allowed, with the exception of going to work in cases where teleworking is not possible, with the mask and social distance being mandatory. Belgium’s move came two days after Germany implemented a partial lockdown and France a nationwide one, to curb an alarming spike in COVID-19 cases across their territories. Urgent medical appointments and groceries are also allowed. “We are going back into a strict lockdown, which has only one purpose: to ensure that our healthcare system does not collapse,” De Croo said, adding that these are the “last-chance” measures. EPA-EFE/SEBATIEN PIRLET / POOL

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Belgium will go under a second nationwide lockdown on Sunday midnight, November 1 until December 13, the country’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced on Friday. People who live alone are allowed to have two close contacts. Gatherings in outdoor spaces will remain restricted to maximum 4 people. At the same time, a night curfew will remain in place, from 10pm to 6am concerning Brussels capital region and Wallonia, and from midnight to 5pm in Flanders. The measures will be assessed on December 1. Under the new measures, all non-essential shops will close, along with hair salons. While borders will remain open, travelling is strongly discouraged. EPA-EFE/SEBATIEN PIRLET / POOL

Belgium Prime Minister Alexander De Croo gives a press conference after a committee meeting to discuss new restrictive measures after a spike of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections in the country, in Brussels, Belgium, 23 October 2020. People will not be able to visit family or friends at home, with only one close contact allowed per week. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Belgium goes back to lockdown

By Zoe Didili
Journalist, New Europe

epa08767276 Belgium Prime Minister Alexander De Croo gives a press conference after a committee meeting to discuss new restrictive measures after a spike of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections in the country, in Brussels, Belgium, 23 October 2020.

Most recently he was getting the support of then-President Poroshenko’s national party fraction in the city assembly. Oleg Filimonov, Zelensky’s mayoral candidate in Odessa and also a comedian, came in a lowly fourth. The mayor of Odessa, Gennady Trukhanov, for example, with alleged connections to organized crime, has been governing the city of one million by relying on his local pet party project. EPA-EFE/SERGEY DOLZHENKO

Ukrainian women outside a polling station in Kyiv during local elections on October 25, 2020. In the meantime, Poroshenko got the final word on Zelensky back by having his party win big in Kyiv, the capital, as well as in the western part of the country, while also being represented in all of the regional assemblies nationwide. epa08772668 Activists wearing protective masks provide the poll of people who leave a polling station after they voted on the local elections in Kiev, Ukraine, 25 October 2020 amid the ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Hardly any anti-corruption case has prosecuted thus far. One of them was “The spring will come, and we will plant them in the prisons”. Having won the absolute majority in the general elections last year and over 73% in the presidential election, Zelensky did not have to worry much about alliances. On October 25, Ukrainian voters during the first round of mayoral and local elections responded with a resounding vote to penalize Zelensky and his party, the Servant of People, for not keeping last year’s promise. Only the tiny extreme nationalist parties opposed the definition of Ukraine as an inclusive civic state and only the weakened pro-Russian parties campaigned for building strong relationships with Russia and the federalization of Ukraine. EPA-EFE//SERGEY DOLZHENKO
According to Ukrainian law, unlike in the parliament, on the local level, no coalition is required in a municipal or regional assembly. This was the former comedian’s appeal to his fellow-citizens, all of whom were tired of widespread corruption. The paradox is that the Ukrainian people largely voted for parties of the same leaders who have epitomized the corrosive form of post-Soviet corruption that has crippled the country’s growth since it gained independence in 1991. This means that none of Zelensky’s people will be in a position to do so in any major city. People cast their ballots at a polling station during Ukraine’s local elections in Kyiv. In contrast, the nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) party secured three mayoral positions in the first round in the western Ukrainian cities of Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk and Khmelnitsky. A number of political parties, including the European Solidarity, Holos, and Batkivshchyna, have criticized the idea of national poll, announced by President Zelensky, pointing at the Constitutional norm providing for the only legitimate form of national survey, which is a referendum, whose procedure is clearly defined by law. His dancing partners most of the time will be the very same people he was promising to throw in prison. The heads of several state regional administrations appointed by Zelensky in Odessa, Dnipro and Kharkiv will probably be fired soon. The October 25 election may be seen as a demonstration that Ukrainian voters are still divided on these important issues. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>The honeymoon was short for Zelensky as Ukraine voted in local elections

By Sasha Borovik
Former First Deputy Minister of Economy of Ukraine responsible for the international donor coordination, and Former Acting Deputy Governor at Odessa Regional State Administration. Zelensky knew that some of his MPs in the parliament were not popular and that this was dragging down the reputation of his party both nationally and locally. As the votes have not been announced yet, the Servant of the People will probably fail to be represented in three regional assemblies. In addition, their average age was around 57 years old, which is far above the average of Zelensky’s voters. After the regional elections, consensus-building on the national level is a far more complex task that Zelensky will still need to handle. Yet, the alliances will be formed and will serve as the core of power-sharing on the local level. The biggest winners of the local elections include the Opposition Platform, the pro-Russian group that has openly opposed the EuroMaidan Revolution of 2014, and which is led today by Viktor Medvedchuk, an oligarch as well as a close confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the godfather to one of Putin’s daughters; European Solidarity, led by former President Petro Poroshenko; Fatherland, led by Yulia Tymoshenko; and For Future, the most recent project of oligarch Igor Kolomoisky. EPA-EFE//SERGEY DOLZHENKO

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When he was running for president of Ukraine in 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky did not have a traditional political program. The party and Zelensky’s hand-picked mayoral candidates did disastrously. Historically, in the big cities, this has been built around a local party led by a city mayor. This is expected to complicate the local consensus-building. This was also a sharp-tongued teasing of his predecessor and rival Petro Poroshenko, whom Zelensky defeated in the second round of the presidential election just 17 months ago. Despite having a majority in the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, as well as full control over the prosecution and the SBU, the national security service, Zelensky and his team have done demonstratively little during their time in power. The local elections sent shockwaves through the Ukrainian leadership. Now he will be lucky if his Servant of the People party is invited to join some of those on the local level. There is also a major concern for Zelensky that the pro-Russian party has become far stronger in the south-east of the country and one of its leaders came in second in the mayoral elections in Kyiv, which was ground zero for the pro-Western revolution just six years ago. Despite all of this, Zelensky should view this as a warning sign. He will rely on his own Udar party, which just as all other local parties is nationally insignificant. While in office, Zelensky did not fulfil his catchy promise. No one for whom Zelensky actively campaigned in the mayoral elections won or got into the second round. Each of them should be familiar to those who have followed Ukrainian politics for the last 30 years, as well as the national and international journalists’ anti-corruption investigations. The party-loyalists point to the fact that there just 36% of the electorate voted this time – a 10% drop from five years ago. The conducting of the all-Ukrainian poll with five important issues was initiated by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and it coincides with local elections on 25 October 2020. Although there are some in his party who argue that Zelensky’s voters are still there – they just did not bother to show up this time. This depends on the final results, as Zelensky is probably also waiting to understand whether these individuals may be of help to him or will rather become his liability when trying to join the local alliances. Under Ukrainian law, mayors are quite independent in setting the local agenda and managing their budgets. Once the final results are announced, there will be no formal coalition talks. The elections should indicate to him that his teasers are no longer doing the trick and his own popularity is fading quickly. Zelensky is trying to find those responsible and there is a lot of finger-pointing in his immediate circles. Beyond the catchy slogans and teasers, it is still far from clear how to bring this young and politically diverse nation together in a modern, egalitarian state governed by law. Importantly and depressingly for Zelensky, his party does not seem like it will be the governing party in Ukraine’s major cities of Kyiv, Odessa, Kharkiv, Dnipro and Lviv. Zelensky may still expect that three candidates from his party could qualify for the second round of the mayoral elections in cities of Poltava, Zhitomir and Uzhgorod. But this time, he will need help from outside and it is not yet certain that the new power-sharing in the Ukrainian capital will include the Servant of the People, which received a dismal 12 seats out of 120 in the Kyiv assembly. The instances where in big cities and regions Zelensky has put his own political capital behind several mayoral candidates by handpicking them and campaigning with them, is even more telling. Many decisions on the local level depend on situational alliances, as the dynamic is often less political than in the parliament. Some similar local party-projects and arrangements have been flourishing in other Ukrainian cities, such as Kharkiv, Dnipro and even Kyiv, where Vitaly Klitschko is likely to remain the mayor. These people all came up empty. Instead, he devised catchy slogans. After these elections in many big cities,  there may be a need for mayors to build alliances with three or more other parties. There was hope that after the Maidan Revolution that an elite consensus would emerge in Ukraine on such issues as state-building, territorial integrity, federalism, and foreign policy with no debate on the question of state and nation-building. Trukhanov is still likely to stay unless he is defeated by Mykola Skorik, the candidate from the pro-Russian party, whom he will meet in the second round. To be fair, the Servant of the People party may get the most deputies across the board of diverse municipal and regional assemblies, but this will not be enough for them to govern or make much of a difference. The less meaningful wins in the rural areas do not necessarily reflect popular preferences and may be a sign of local inertia powered by the traditional support given to a governing party.

Petrochemical sales have played a critical role in keeping the regime afloat,” he wrote. “These actions demonstrate our commitment to working with all of our law enforcement partners to stem the flow of illicit weapons, oil, and money from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and other organisations that would do harm to the United States,” said U.S. Media reported that following tension between Iran and US, the US administration announced more sanctions against Iran causing severe damage to the Iranian economy. The US Justice Department said on October 29 that it filed a complaint to forfeit two shipments of Iranian missiles that the US Navy seized in transit from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to militant groups in Yemen, as well as the sale of approximately 1.1 million barrels of Iranian petroleum that the United States previously obtained from four foreign-flagged oil tankers bound for Venezuela. EPA-EFE/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH

An Iranian man checks the currency rate as he walks past a currency exchange service in Tehran, Iran, October 14, 2020. As part of the coordinated actions on October 29, the Treasury Department announced new sanctions against petrochemical firms and trading companies in Iran, Singapore and Hong Kong. The US will continue to prevent the Iranian regime from using the Iranian people’s natural resources to fund terror and support oppression, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on October 30. Attorney Michael R. “Put differently, fronts facilitating petrochemical sales serve as life valves for Tehran, particularly as Washington has ratcheted up oil sanctions,” he added. ‘Instead of providing for their people, the Iranian regime’s brutal leaders continue to use Iran’s revenues to support destabilising activities in the Middle East and support terrorism around the world. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>US sanctions companies selling, purchasing, and enabling Iran’s oil industry

By Kostis Geropoulos
Energy & Russian Affairs Editor, New Europe

epa08743902 An Iranian man checks the currency rate as he walks past a currency exchange service in Tehran, Iran, 14 October 2020. These entities based in Iran, China, and Singapore, have knowingly engaged in a significant transaction for the purchase, acquisition, sale, transport, or marketing of petroleum products from Iran, the US State Department said in a press release. “The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia will use all available tools, including our jurisdiction to seize and forfeit assets located abroad, to counter terrorist funding and weapons proliferation,” Demers added. The United States will not waver in our efforts to pursue any entity or individual helping the Iranian regime evade our sanctions,” Pompeo added. Sherwin for the District of Columbia,” he said. It is with great satisfaction that I can announce that our intentions are to take the funds successfully forfeited from the fuel sales and provide them to the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund after the conclusion of the case,” he added. But they can help Tehran’s proxies and partners fight to live another day, the most important thing for anti-status quo actors,” Taleblu wrote. In addition, the State Department imposed sanctions on Amir Hossein Bahreini, Lin Na Wei, Murtuza Mustafamunir Basrai, Hosein Firouzi Arani, and Ramezan Oladi for being principal executive officer of the aforementioned entities, or performing similar functions and with similar authorities as a principal executive officer. “The two forfeiture complaints allege sophisticated schemes by the IRGC to secretly ship weapons to Yemen and fuel to Venezuela, countries that pose grave threats to the security and stability of their respective regions,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said. He noted that Washington’s continued interception of these weapons and sanctioning of their procurement and distribution networks is one way of raising the transaction costs on Iran. “Washington’s concurrent targeting of petrochemical sale, supply, and transfer networks across East Asia cannot be ignored. follow on twitter @energyinsider Moreover, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated eight entities related to involvement in the sale and purchase of Iranian petrochemical products brokered by Triliance Petrochemical, a US-designated entity. These actions represent the government’s largest-ever forfeitures actions for fuel and weapons shipments from Iran, the Justice Department said in a statement posted on its website. Other life values include regional trade networks, which require further scrutiny by the US Treasury, Taleblu said, adding, “The message this concerted legal, political, and economic action sends is clear: Washington has ample authority, capability, and resolve to force Iran to fight with one hand tied behind its back”. The State Department imposed sanctions on Arya Sasol Polymer Company, Binrin Limited, Bakhtar Commercial Company, Kavian Petrochemical Company, and Strait Shipbrokers. “Yesterday, the Department of State, Department of the Treasury, and Department of Justice have taken important actions to constrain the regime’s oil and petrochemical sales,” Pompeo said. EPA-EFE/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH

US sells oil seized from Iran to Venezuela

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Less than a week before the November 3 election, the US Administration announced on October 29 sanctions on companies selling, purchasing, and enabling Iranian petrochemical products. “On their face, anti-tank weapons and other systems aren’t game-changers. Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) Senior Fellow Behnam Ben Taleblu, whose expertise includes Iranian weapons proliferation as well as Iran’s ballistic and cruise missile capabilities, wrote in an emailed note on October 29 that continuing Iranian weapons proliferation in the face of tough sanctions shows how ideologically committed Tehran is to keeping its proxies and partners in power across the globe. “The United States remains committed to targeting any revenue source the Iranian regime uses to fund terrorist groups and oppress the Iranian people,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement. Pompeo said these actions represent the US government’s largest-ever forfeiture actions for fuel and weapons shipments from Iran. “Iran continues to be a leading state sponsor of terrorism and a worldwide destabilising force.

The number of deaths rose by 173, bringing the total to 35,639. Logrono has been closed in an attempt to stop coronavirus spread and only justified travels to other towns are allowed. On Thursday, authorities reported 23,580 new infections, bringing the country’s total number to 1.16 million. EPA-EFE/RAQUEL MANZANARES

Police agents stop a vehicle at an entrance to Logrono in La Rioja, Spain, 30 October 2020. Logrono has been closed in an attempt to stop coronavirus spread and only justified travels to other towns are allowed. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Spain enters six-month state of emergency to tackle pandemic

By Elena Pavlovska
Journalist

epa08785589 Police agents stop a vehicle at an entrance to Logrono in La Rioja, Spain, 30 October 2020. EPA-EFE/RAQUEL MANZANARES

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Spain’s parliament on Thursday voted to keep the country’s state of emergency in place until May 9, 2021, aiming to slow the resurging coronavirus outbreak. The government and parliament agreed to vote again in March on possibly ending the state of emergency. On Thursday, the Catalan government announced that it would close its borders at midnight and restrict people from leaving their cities on the weekends for at least 15 days. Andalusia, Cantabria and Murcia announced similar measures. On Sunday, the country announced its second nationwide state of emergency, and imposed an 11 pm-6 am nationwide curfew, except in the Canary Islands. Experts, however, believe the true figure could be three times higher.

It reminds me of a Facebook post I saw from a BLM activist of my acquaintance, who was sharing photos in his city of young Muslim women wearing colourful burqas and niqabs, his point being that Islamic female dress was not as offensive and degrading to women as right-wingers like to claim. You’ll note, I hope, that I have gone no further east than Germany – I assure you, it’s purely so that I meet my word count obligations. Emmanuel Macron has been careful in his wording. EPA-EFE//SEBASTIEN NOGIER
I neither expected nor wanted to receive more ammunition within the space of a week, and take no satisfaction in having my point proved by yet more violence committed in the name of Islam – and once again in France. I showed the pictures to a friend from Iran to ask his opinion – his only doubt was if it would take the Tehran police five or twelve minutes to arrest women wearing such garments. Finally, and this is the fifth axis on which I wanted to emphasise. This would, at the very least, put the searchlight on Islam – and after all, the UK, Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and Germany have all had experiences of their own in the recent past that any action they take could be justified as a preventative measure. The idea, of course, is admirable: Islam for the 21st century, a religion that – like Christianity – will comfortably sweep all of its fire and brimstone calls for violence under the rug to be forgotten and ignored. It is not, really, all that complicated. It would also serve as a strong display of solidarity, a public and international declaration that European secularism and the values of the Enlightenment will not be cowed by a desert religion whose history is more bloodstained than that of any European empire. Schools: This is what ensures that our children are completely protected from any religious symbol. Instead, President Macron talks of ‘radical Islamism’ and his plans to fight ‘Islamic separatism’. However, even if Macron’s project does not succeed, what would give it weight and gravitas if every other European country came together and decided to copy the model. We have at bottom a duty of hope. The fourth point, though, is the one that particularly caught my attention. Associations must unite the nation and not fracture it. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Macron’s efforts to combat Islamism will fail, but at least he’s trying

By Timothy Ogden
A UK-born freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, focusing on defence matters

epa08784190 Young people light candles near the entrance of the Notre Dame Basilica church in Nice, France, 29 October 2020, following a knife attack. I hate to record it, for I like to think well of Cameron – who, in my opinion, generally tried to do the right thing – but I believe that that moment was the most theatrical of his entire political carer. We must help this religion in our country to structure itself to be a partner of the Republic in terms of the affairs that we share. On the course of personnel, the educational content of lessons, the origin of funding, it is legitimate for the State to strengthen controls. The response to his words from the Muslim world has not been one of ‘A valid point, Mr President – we probably do need to try and tackle the more extreme elements of the faith’. Understandably, he dare not be as blunt as I and clearly state that Islam is the very opposite of a religion of peace, or point out that Sikhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Judaism all manage to coexist within Europe without setting off bombs at metro stations or gunning down people at pop concerts. Turkey has gradually – and deliberately – alienated itself from the West, with recent examples being the only country not to call for peace in the Caucasus, active support for Islamist groups in Syria, and continued refusals to condemn terrorism carried out against Europeans. As long as Erdogan remains in power, and continues to gradually sweep away the Kemalist secularism of Ataturk, Turkey will not deviate from this course. Instead, videos have gone viral of Muslims (mostly men, it seems to me) holding placards and banners of Macron and then smashing them all to bits, which I don’t see does much for the image we’re expected to believe that Islam is a peaceful faith and Muslims are the most saintly folk who walk this planet (although the joke, really, is on the people breaking and trampling their signs and banners – after all, they paid for all that paraphernalia with their own cash). I added to this the organized sexual assaults of German women on New Year’s Eve of 2015/2016, the increased numbers of rape in Scandinavia, and the organised grooming gangs of Muslim men who preyed on English girls in Rochedale. EPA-EFE/SEBASTIEN NOGIER

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In my previous column, I wrote that it was time for Europe to admit that there exists the possibility that Islam may not be a religion (or culture) capable of integrating itself with the continent’s values. This implies in effect re-entering the Republic into the concrete of lives.’

Of course, all of this is fine in theory, but it remains to be seen exactly how the French authorities will go about it all. Three people have died in what officials treat as a terror attack. Still, unrealistic as the idea might be, it isn’t as though President Macron has many choices: and of course, if he is not seen to try anything at all, he risks losing support to Ms Le Penn – and what her Front National would do to France’s Muslim community given half the chance raises…uncomfortable speculation.  
  And to be fair, at least Macron is giving it a go: there was nothing worse than seeing David Cameron, in the aftermath of one of the terrorist incidents in Britain (and the fact that I’m struggling to remember which one surely speaks to their frequency), stare with steely-eyed resolve into a BBC camera, condemning the attack while declaring ‘Islam is a religion of peace!’. “What is the problem of this person called Macron with Muslims?” he wondered. We will therefore strengthen controls, put into law the principles under which it will be allowed to dissolve associations and assume that, by virtue of our republican principles and without waiting for the worst, we can dissolve associations of which it is established that they carry these messages, that they violate our laws and our principles. EPA-EFE//IAN LANGSDON
But the issues of what to do with Turkey and how best to tackle European Islamic extremism, while related, are naturally rather different. The attack comes less than a month after the beheading of a French middle school teacher in Paris on 16 October. If the Republic must be feared by applying its rules without weakness and restoring force to the law, if it is necessary to reconquer the essential axes that I have mentioned, we must also make it loved again by showing that it can allow everyone to build their life. Well, the person called Macron is the President of the Republic; his problem is that Muslims seem to be killing his people in the name of their faith. Macron’s strategy – translated and reprinted by The Spectator – runs as follows:

A set of measures of public order and public service neutrality, which constitute immediate, firm responses to observed, known situations that are contrary to our principles. We intend to lead in finally building an Islam in France which can be an Islam of the Enlightenment. But I take leave to doubt that any leader will have the courage to follow Macron’s example – I just wonder how many more Europeans will need to be murdered until they find their resolve. Armed police patrol in front of Paris’ Notre-Dame Cathedral as the bells ring at 3pm to pay tribute to the victims of the church attack in Nice, October 29, 2020. President – or, as he’d rather be, Sultan – Erdogan has waded in on the debate with his usual tactful, measured and informed opinions. I was goaded into these words after the beheading of a French teacher on the streets of Paris, but to support my argument, I have the Charlie Hebdo attacks; the Belgium subway bombing; the Manchester Arena bombing; the man who drove a truck down a Nice boulevard; the beheading near Saint-Quentin-Fallavier; the stabbing to death of a police officer and his wife in Magnanville; the Westminster attack of March 2017, and the London Bridge atrocity several months later; the Barcelona attacks of that same year; the Madrid Train Bombings; the shootings in Toulouse in 2012; the murder of Theo van Gogh; and the events of 7/7 in London in 2005. Parishioners react near Nice’s Notre Dame Basilica church, October 29, 2020. French President Emmanuel Macron (C) and Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi (C-R) visit the scene of the knife attack at Notre Dame church in Nice, France, EPA-EFE//ERIC GAILLARD
France’s efforts to bring Islam into the Republican light are undoubtedly doomed to fail – quite frankly, the religion is simply (and demonstrably) not malleable enough. The question remains over what France – and despite this being a problem affecting most of Europe, France is centre stage at the moment – will do about it.

It is associated not only with structural reforms, but also with the building of a more dynamic and strong state. Facebook

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NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan – Korean investments in the Kazakh economy have exceeded $ 7 billion, Akorda reported, quoting Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. “Therefore, I initiated a new economic course. Despite the global turbulence, bilateral trade has shown steady growth. Thus, there is a huge untapped potential for further building up our mutually beneficial cooperation,” Tokayev said, speaking on October 30 with a video message at the International Forum on Northern Economic Cooperation 2020, which kicked off in Seoul on October 30. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Korean investments in Kazakh economy exceed $7 billion

By Kulpash Konyrova

President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev addresses at the International Forum on Northern Economic Cooperation, October 30, 2020. Kazakhstan is ready to offer tools specially developed for Korean investors, including tax and customs preferences, co-financing of projects, partial guarantees and export support mechanisms,” Tokayev said. It should be noted that Kazakhstan accounts for 70% of the total GDP of all five Central Asian states.   “Korean investments in the Kazakh economy exceeded $7 billion. The Kazakh President also noted the potential of the Astana International Financial Centre, operating in English law, the uniqueness of its ecosystem for foreign business. He praised the New Northern Policy strategy initiated by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, which over the past three years has contributed to the construction of a more prosperous and stable Eurasia. Korea ranks 10th among the leading investors. In this regard, Tokayev spoke about the new economic course of the republic, the purpose of which is to build a diversified and sustainable economy for Kazakhstan.

Erdogan’s list of things-to-do this year included engaging his troops in Libya, which culminated in a stern warning from Egypt that it will send its own army to help the rival side, a war of increasingly nasty verbal exchanges with the Eastern Mediterranean’s sole superpower – Israel, a political tantrum over the UAE-Israel treaty, raising tensions in the Aegean where he was violating prospecting rights in Greek territorial waters, scrambling the two countries’ air force and navies onto a war footing that also involved other EU countries and the United States and provoking the international community into issuing a unanimous warning and admonition to desist. He has described this period as equal to that of the 2016 attempted coup and rallied the people to austerity, but obfuscated it as patriotism. The real issue is what the above is meant to conceal from the Turkish public and voters – that the state of the economy is spiraling out of control with the lira down by almost 50% and the National Bank close to running on fumes. Pressed for currency, Turkey’s central bank began borrowing dollars from the country’s own banks. After arresting thousands of his own, not to mention his ongoing persecution of the Kurds, after all the allegations of nepotism and corruption, can Erdogan afford to lose his immunity from justice and persecution? A male suspect was shot and detained. Apart from a lot of blustering, posturing, wild accusations and trading insults, ratcheting up tensions in the region, making enemies of world leaders, deploying tens of thousands of troops in harm’s way, self-appointing himself as the protector of the Islamic faith, converting Istanbul’s Hagia Sofia museum into a mosque and generally making a nuisance of himself, a key question begs an answer – what has Erdogan actually accomplished for Turkey over the past couple of years? No one is connecting Erdogan with the terrorist spree, but analysts have been warning for years that populist leaders have a special responsibility for their words: “Power implies responsibility, something that dictators seldom understand. He has asked his followers to “change euros, dollars, and the gold that you are keeping beneath your pillows into lira in our banks,” calling it a patriotic national struggle to preserve Turkey. Two other attacks took place on the same day, one in France and the other in Saudi Arabia. This prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to voice serious concern over the presence of Islamic militant rebel fighters from Syria that Erdogan imported into the three-decade-old Caucasus conflict. A man was shot dead in Montfavet near the southern French city of Avignon after threatening police with a handgun. Bloomberg noted that politics has played a key role in the country’s fiscal woes. Analysts and diplomats worry that when all this fails, the usual avenue down that steep and slippery road to political oblivion is war. This was on top of an additional $40 billion in 2019. Samuel Paty, 47, was beheaded for showing cartoons of the Mohammad to his students as part of a discussion on freedom of expression. Macron defended Paty’s action as an exercise of freedom of speech in France, but Erdogan said the French leader had attacked Islam and religious freedom. One of Turkey’s main branches of industry – tourism, took a 75% hit from the pandemic in the first half of the year. Is that enough time for Erdogan to score any kind of victory which would fend off his serious archrivals that include Ali Babacan, a former minister, who is seen by many as the architect of Turkey’s economic revival and boom years ago? If that were not enough, Erdogan then lent open military support to the dictatorial leader of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, in his fight with Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. According to the most recent data released by Turkey’s government, the central bank is facing a shortfall of around $25 billion. Given the bleak future and absolutely no successes in sight, the ultimate question is whether Erdogan can afford to run regular elections in three years’ time. A word said in passing, let alone loud in public, may become a mantra or a fatwa to a weirdo or a flunky”. Three people were killed in a knife attack at a church in Nice, in what Macron said was an “Islamist terrorist attack”. Playing on patriotism is never a long-term game, because at the end no one likes being a patsy and back a loser. Erdogan urged the central bank not to raise interest rates, which would help the economy, but make him look weak, he appointed his son-in-law as finance minister, which again made people wonder where the country’s economic policy is heading to, and also decided to turn down the IMF’s offer for assistance, again because it would make him look like he is losing his grip and eventually lead to him losing control over the situation. It’s intolerable.”
This verbal exchange took a turn for much worse after a series of terrorist attacks in France that left several people dead on October 29. His killer, an 18-year-old Chechen, was shot dead by the police, but the public outrage forced the authorities to ramp up their attitude towards extremists and those propagating radicalism. EPA-EFE/TOLGA BOZOGLU

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Istanbul. The fight for natural gas in the Aegean or Cyprus might seem like a good opportunity – if one forgets that the entire EU, US, Israel, much of the Middle East and even Russia would rally against such an adventure. It would be a desperate card to play just like counting on the millions of Turks living in the diaspora, or the millions of migrants in camps in Turkey, to be used as a human weapon against the EU. This, in turn, brought back memories of Turkey’s close ties with ISIS in Syria where Erdogan continues to dabble to this day. Turkey’s GDP is tumbling this year at the sharpest pace since the 2008-09 global financial crisis as the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions have taken their toll. Moody’s cut the country’s credit rating deeper into junk from B1 to B2 on September 14, citing increasing risks of a balance of payments crisis. The leaders of key EU countries quickly sided with Macron and warned of punitive actions against Turkey. That pipe dream is likely to be his downfall, according to most experts and Turkey watchers. It’s a matter of dispute whether the economy will be able to recover adequately next year. EPA-EFE//TOLGA BOZOGLU

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ratings in the world, and especially Europe, are at all-time low with signs that they could only get worse after he openly insulted French President Emmanuel Macron and waited 10 days to condemn the brutal murder of a French teacher by an Islamist terrorist. Turkey’s banks borrowed billions from abroad in previous years. European Council President Charles Michel tweeted: “Rather than a positive agenda, Turkey chooses provocations, unilateral actions in the Mediterranean and now insults. Erdogan circled the wagons and blamed foreign powers for destabilizing the country. Seven people, including two students and a parent of one of Paty’s pupils, were detained in the days following the killing. It also said Turkey’s reserves were at a 20-year low. One elderly victim was “virtually beheaded”, officials said, and another woman and a man also died. Sources speaking deeply off the record said that there is a chance Russia will soon send game-changing military support to its close ally Armenia unless Turkey curtails its behavior and ends its involvement in Karabakh. The central bank owes $54 billion to Turkey’s banks, but it spent even more than that, around $65 billion already this year, according to estimates from Goldman Sachs. Turkey and Ukraine signed a military agreement including Turkey’s armed drones’ sales and technology transfer to Ukraine. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Erdogan’s prestige is at an all-time low and shows no signs of recovering

By Jovan Kovacic
Political Affairs Editor, New Europe

epa08750946 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a signing ceremony with Ukraine’s President after their meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, 16 October 2020. So how, after decades of cooperation and special ties with the EU, did the relations with Turkey, formerly a staunch NATO member and now a liability, sour and sink to such a low that even an armed conflict is no longer out of the realm of imagination? For this, he got punished at the last local elections in 2019 having lost the three biggest cities to the opposition, including the grand prize – Istanbul, nee Constantinople, the historical seat of the Ottoman Empire that Erdogan seems so keen to resurrect. He then went on to even question Macron’s mental health and said he ought to be examined. That remark prompted France to withdraw its ambassador in Ankara and described Erdogan’s comments as an “insult”. The answer is abjectly sobering for Turkey – Erdogan has managed to destroy what could have easily become a top-10 economy in the world and has jailed some 500,000 of his countrymen for something most analysts now agree was very fishy – their alleged involvement in a botched coup in July 2016.

Member states are deeply concerned about the global rate of biodiversity loss and recognise the need to step up efforts by addressing the direct and indirect drivers of biodiversity and nature loss, such as overexploitation of natural resources, climate change, pollution, invasive alien species and the way we use land and sea, the Council said, stressing that protecting, maintaining and restoring biodiversity and healthy, well-functioning ecosystems will contribute to boosting our resilience and prevent the emergence and spread of new diseases. He reiterated that ministers endorsed the Strategy’s objectives, welcoming in particular the creation of a network of well-managed protected areas and the target of protecting a minimum of 30% of the EU’s land area and 30% of its sea area, with one third of it strictly protected. And it will also support the EU’s green recovery through its long-term orientation and environmental priority objectives it shares with the Green Deal”. It creates jobs and livelihoods. The Council underlined that the new European biodiversity governance framework has to respect the subsidiarity principle and that all relevant proposals should be prepared and developed in cooperation with the member states. “Biodiversity is our life insurance: it supplies clean air and water, food, building material and clothing. The only exception could be only if use of these chemicals would be proven essential,” he said, stressing that increased protection needs to go hand in hand with innovation of safer alternatives. The Council emphasises that this is an objective to be reached by member states collectively, with all member states participating in this joint effort as well as taking into account national conditions. Speaking after the Council’s conclusions, Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius hailed that the Environment Ministers agreed on ambitious conclusions on the Biodiversity Strategy, which the Commission had proposed in May this year. Saving biodiversity and global nature conservation is a key to preventing new infectious diseases. As President of the Council I am pleased that today we reached unanimous agreement on stepping up our efforts to address biodiversity loss,” she added. Sinkevicius also informed ministers briefly about a number of other recent Commission initiatives, which we had announced in the European Green Deal. We will ensure that the most harmful chemicals are no longer used in consumer products or affecting vulnerable groups, for example children, pregnant women or elderly people. Therefore, the focus of this 8th EAP is on implementation at all levels of governance and on monitoring. “We will achieve these objectives by becoming more preventive, and by simplifying and consolidating our legal framework. With the destruction of nature there is also the risk of disease outbreaks and pandemics. It also reiterated the urgent need to fully integrate these objectives into other sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and forestry and a coherent implementation of EU measures in these fields. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>EU Council advances biodiversity strategy for 2030

By New Europe Online/KG

epa08743351 EU Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius adjusts his face mask before addressing a joint news conference with European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans (not pictured) at the EU Commission headquarters, in Brussels, Belgium, 14 October 2020. These conclusions on the Biodiversity Startegy, together with those on Farm to Fork, adopted by Agriculture Ministers earlier also week, also paves the way for corresponding ambition in related policies, such as the upcoming new EU Forest Strategy, and for mainstreaming biodiversity in the EU Recovery Package and in the next Multi-annual Financial Framework, Sinkevicius said. We need to boost development of new chemicals and materials that are safe and sustainable by design: from the production to the end of life, including by greening chemical production. This network should be based on the Natura 2000 network and be complemented by additional designations by member states. In its conclusions, the Council reaffirmed the EU’s determination to lead by example in tackling the global biodiversity crisis and in developing an ambitious new UN global biodiversity framework at the UN Biodiversity Conference in 2021. “The Covid-19 pandemic has once again shown us the fundamental importance of ecosystems and biodiversity for our health and economic and social stability,” Germany’s Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety Svenja Schulze said. The Commissioner also presented to Ministers the recent Commission proposal for an 8th Environmental Action Programme, which is complementary to the European Green Deal and supports the delivery of the EU’s climate and environmental objectives. “We need to create a virtuous circle between protection and innovation. The Council hailed the objective of creating a coherent network of well-managed protected areas and to protect at least 30% of the EU’s land area and 30% of the EU’s sea area. The Council also reaffirmed that more ambition on nature restoration is needed as proposed with the new EU nature restoration plan and awaits for the Commission to propose legally binding nature restoration targets, subject to an impact assessment. This clear political message will help us to implement the Strategy effectively in the EU, and demonstrates that the EU is ready to play a string role at international stage and to lead by example in the negotiations on a global biodiversity framework under the Convention on Biological Diversity,” he said. One of these is the new Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, a first step towards the Zero Pollution Ambition for a toxic-free environment, the Commissioner said, adding that the Strategy has two overall objectives. “The conclusions managed to clarify some issues raised by a number of Member States in the course of the last months, and we are grateful to the German Presidency and to Svenja and her team for their efforts and hard work to reach such a balanced and comprehensive result,” he said. “Our proposal aims to strike a ‘deal’ with Member States and the European Parliament and, once adopted in co-decision, will ensure shared ownership with the other institutions, for whom the 8th EAP is legally binding,” Sinkevicius said, adding: “The 8th EAP should be the trajectory to deliver on the environment part of the Sustainable Developments Goals and thus run to 2030, while being guided by a long term objective for 2050. The conclusions adopted on October 23 give political guidance as regards the implementation of the strategy, the Council said, calling on the Commission to integrate EU biodiversity policy objectives in relevant future legislative proposals. “The Commission warmly welcomes today’s endorsement of the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and the strong support it received. EPA-EFE/FRANCOIS LENOIR / POOL

EU Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius adjusts his face mask before addressing a news conference at the EU Commission headquarters, in Brussels, Belgium, October 14, 2020. It will boost innovation for safe and sustainable chemicals, and it will increase protection of human health and the environment against hazardous chemicals. In addition, member states want a significant proportion of the 30% of the EU budget and Next Generation EU expenditures which are dedicated to climate action to be invested in biodiversity and nature-based solutions fostering biodiversity, the Council said.   This will help to boost competitiveness of EU industry, build up the EU reputation, and make it synonymous with safety,” Sinkevicius said. EPA-EFE/FRANCOIS LENOIR/POOL

Ministers welcome the creation of a network of well-managed protected areas and the target of protecting a minimum of 30% of the EU’s land area and 30% of its sea area, with one third of it strictly protected

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The European Council has endorsed the objectives of the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030 and the nature protection and restoration targets contained therein, which aim at setting biodiversity on the path to recovery.

EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL

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Bulgaria’s president Rumen Radev is self-isolating after his chief of staff tested positive for the coronavirus, the presidency said on Thursday. NATO countries' heads of states and governments gather in London for a two-day meeting. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Bulgarian president in quarantine after aide tests positive for COVID-19

By Elena Pavlovska
Journalist

epa08043224 Bulgaria’s President Rumen Radev arrives at the NATO Summit in London, Britain, 04 December 2019. Central Bank Governor Dimitar Radev is also in quarantine after being diagnosed with COVID-19. Bulgaria is currently struggling to contain a rise in coronavirus infections. NATO countries’ heads of states and governments gather in London for a two-day meeting. Radev and employees who had been in contact with Stoyanov are to carry out their duties remotely while under quarantine, the presidency said. EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL

Bulgaria's President Rumen Radev arrives at the NATO Summit in London, Britain, 04 December 2019. Radev’s office said that secretary-general Dimitar Stoyanov was diagnosed with COVID-19. The country has so far reported more than 45,000 infections and  nearly 1,200 deaths from the disease. It added that Stoyanov had been on leave since Monday, and his last contact with staff at the presidential administration occurred three days earlier. On Sunday, prime minister Boyko Borissov said he has tested positive for the coronavirus. As of Thursday, the government closed universities, high schools, and nightclubs for two weeks, as authorities reported a new daily record of 2,760 infections.

EPA-EFE/RITCHIE B. TONGO

Volunteers spray disinfectant in a street outside a train station, in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, in Taoyuan, Taiwan, 01 April 2020. It has stopped domestic transmission, but continued, however, to record imported cases from abroad. Medical experts are rushing to develop a vaccine for the virus and advising people to practice social distancing and proper hygiene. On Thursday, health authorities reported three new imported cases, from the Philippines, the United States and Indonesia, while the island recorded more than 20 cases in the past two weeks coming from abroad. Medical experts are rushing to develop a vaccine for the virus and advising people to practice social distancing and proper hygiene. TONGO

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Taiwan’s Centers for Disease and Control on Thursday announced that the island has hit 200 days without any local transmission of COVID-19 infections. It has also developed a sophisticated contact-tracing system. China, where the virus first emerged last year, has been facing global criticism for its handling of the pandemic, while Taiwan has been praised by health experts for its own handling of the outbreak. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Taiwan hits record 200 days with no local COVID-19 cases

By Elena Pavlovska
Journalist

epaselect epa08335835 Volunteers spray disinfectant in a street outside a train station, in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, in Taoyuan, Taiwan, 01 April 2020. After the pandemic broke in January, the island closed its borders and enforced strict symptom-based surveillance for all arrivals. Taiwan has so far recorded 553 infections and seven deaths from the disease. EPA-EFE/RITCHIE B.

Security forces have arrested more than 16,000 people since the August election. Both the closure of the borders and the next appointments are signals of a weakening of his power. You know it and you will have to deal with it”, Lukashenko told the new interior minister, Ivan Kubrakov, who as head of police in the capital Minsk has led the crackdown on the biggest demonstrations. “The situation in Minsk is the most difficult today. “The regime destroys itself. Long-time president Lukashenko, in a defiant speech on 16 August, rejected calls to step down amid mounting pressure after unrest erupted in the country over alleged poll-rigging and police violence at protests following election results claiming that he had won a landslide victory in the 09 August elections. Kubrakov’s predecessor, Yuri Karayev, was one of three men named to new roles as presidential aides and inspectors responsible for key regions of the country. EPA-EFE/ANDREI STASEVICH / BELTA / POOL

Belarusian President-elect Alexander Lukashenko chairs the Security Council meeting in Minsk, Belarus, 19 August 2020. The opposition says that Lukashenko’s main challenger, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, was the rightful winner and wants new elections. The former head of Belarus’ KGB security police, Valery Vakulchik, will be deployed at Brest, and former deputy interior minister Alexander Barsukov, will be responsible for Minsk. Long-time president Lukashenko, in a defiant speech on 16 August, rejected calls to step down amid mounting pressure after unrest erupted in the country over alleged poll-rigging and police violence at protests following election results claiming that he had won a landslide victory in the 09 August elections. Alexander Lukashenko has ordered the Belarusian State Security Committee (KGB) to identify organizers of protests. On Thursday, Minsk announced restrictions at its borders with Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. The country has been rocked by months of protests after Lukashenko, who has led the country since 1994, won a landslide victory in the August 9 election. Alexander Lukashenko has ordered the Belarusian State Security Committee (KGB) to identify organizers of protests. Tikhanovskaya, who fled to Lithuania after the vote, won only about 10% to Lukashenko’s 80%, according to the election committee. EPA-EFE/ANDREI STASEVICH / BELTA / POOL

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Belarus’ president Alexander Lukashenko partially closed the country’s borders, replaced his interior minister and named three security hawks to new roles on Thursday. He makes inconsistent decisions because he is in a panic “, Tikhanouskaya said. The vote was denounced by EU and US officials, and forced Lukashenko to look to Moscow for support. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Lukashenko closes borders amid security shakeup

By Elena Pavlovska
Journalist

epaselect epa08612762 Belarusian President-elect Alexander Lukashenko chairs the Security Council meeting in Minsk, Belarus, 19 August 2020.

Of course, at this juncture, this verbal barrage didn’t deter Rama. Alas, none of this brought Albania the coveted opening of accession talks. His obvious goal was to wrong-foot the opposition alliance, which is comprised of many parties. Varhelyi took to Twitter to say that he trusted “that the Venice Commission will provide swift advice to Albanian stakeholders on the implementation of Constitutional Changes of July 30. Several MEPs issued statements including the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee David McAllister, who wanted to wait for the Venice Commission in order to avoid further polarization and not imperil the next EU integration steps. Varhelyi repeated this same claim the next day. This would have been a déjà vu if the current Enlargement Commissioner, Oliver Varhelyi, broke with his Commission’s legacy of turning a blind eye to various democratic transgressions, and in some cases, even justifying them. Parliament should consider waiting for a revote and take this advice into account while looking forward to free and fair elections in April 2021. He called on Rama on October 26 to ask that the vote be delayed until the beginning of December when the Venice Commission would have published its opinion on the case. On day eight of voting, an MEP addressed Rama In a scathing open letter calling on him “to put first the interests of the Albanian democracy and her European perspective and to refrain from voting on the amendments in parliament until the Venice Commission has spoken”. The EU member states, aware of the problems within the Commission, imposed more than a dozen conditions to be fulfilled prior to the talks. The MEP expressed dismay about the breach of the agreement with the opposition in its letter and Rama’s attempt to gain an advantage in the distribution of parliamentary seats and stressed that rejecting Varhelyi’s advice might lead to decoupling from North Macedonia with the latter moving faster towards the EU. Surprisingly, Rama changed view abruptly and in October unilaterally amended the Electoral Code by scrapping the pre-electoral coalitions. But with the Venice Commission in the pipeline and having burned bridges in Brussels, Rama cannot claim to be the well-dressed emperor while he’s naked. Rama’s last antics was to breach an agreement with the opposition that the EU and the US, aiming at orderly elections and post-election day stability, worked hard to facilitate and to successfully conclude on June 5. The European Parliament, which had issued a cross-party statement in July warning Rama not to breach the deal with the opposition, openly backed Varhelyi. The 26th OSCE Ministerial Council, bringing together Foreign Ministers from across the OSCE region, takes place on 05 and 06 December 2019. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Albania’s Edi Rama breaks with the EU

By Kassandra
Legendary EU insider, uncovering the deepest and darkest realities of EU governance and administration

epa08049129 Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama attends a press conference during the 26th OSCE Ministerial Council in Bratislava, Slovakia, 06 December 2019. President Ilir Meta, who has had a tense relationship with Rama over the last two years, sent the law back to parliament and also referred the amendments to the Venice Commission, an eminent body of jurists from the Council of Europe, claiming violations of the constitution and European norms (Albania is still without a Constitutional Court following a misguided justice reform). This, however, couldn’t last very long. The spread of this image by an international network of fellow Socialists, the paid lobbyists, personal friends and assorted media drowned the voices of the very few expats in Tirana who were flabbergasted to see a very different reality. EPA-EFE//MARTIN DIVISEK

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Once upon a time, Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama use to cultivate the image of an artist-politician who impressed the grandees of world politics by appearing in sneakers at their summits. He is already exposed, both domestically and internationally. Rama flatly rejected this request as he would tell news reporters the next day. He pretended to be the confidante of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Balkans and also to have the ear of French President Emmanuel Macron and carefully built an image that he would own the international community, no matter what. They started to check the implementation themselves through their bilateral embassies, but Rama still sort of managed to keep appearances and sometimes even to mock the EU by publicly denying the existence of the EU conditions. EPA-EFE/MARTIN DIVISEK

Albania's PM Edi Rama is a wannabe emperor with no clothes. Their reports of arbitrariness, top-level corruption and collusion with the underworld compared starkly to the rosy picture painted in the progress reports by former the European Commission’s foreign policy guru (and fellow Socialist), Federica Mogherini, and generally dismissed.

As many as one million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims have been arbitrarily detained simply for being a practicing Muslim, wearing traditional dress, or grumbling about Communist Party rule. Basic necessities of life, such as food, heat, and clean water are in short supply, yet the ruling party’s leaders have lived luxurious lives. Once an individual faces an official investigation there is little chance of avoiding a sentence of short-term or long-term unpaid forced labor. Since North Korea’s founding as a one-party state in 1948 (a year before China), its Workers’ Party has run a totalitarian system that controls the lives of its people from cradle to grave. Sadly, there is little pressure on the government to respect human rights. He oversees the organization’s work on human rights issues in twenty countries, from Afghanistan to the Pacific. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Viewing North Korea through the wrong lens

By Brad Adams
Executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division since 2002. For generations, North Koreans have awakened every day to massive hardship. Nuclear proliferation isn’t the cause of the problems in North Korea; it is a symptom. The South Korean government has stopped talking about human rights in North Korea and recently has even taken action against activists, including North Korean refugees, who engage in peaceful advocacy for change. Making matters worse, since the Covid-19 pandemic spread across China the North Korean government has sealed the country, making it even harder to know what is going on in the world’s most secretive state. They are referred to by a number instead of their names. While successive Chinese leaders have claimed to respect international human rights norms and to prioritize economic and social rights, for more than 70 years they have propped up the North Korean system. Former detainees said they were forced to sit still on the floor for days, kneeling or with their legs crossed, fists or hands on their laps, heads down, with their eyes directed to the floor. EPA-EFE//FRED DUFOUR

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One-party political systems share many pathologies, but one of the worst is their ability to mobilize the full weight of the state against whomever they don’t like. But the Chinese government’s pernicious human rights policies extend well beyond its borders as it tries to remake the global system in its own authoritarian image. In 2014, a United Nations Commission of Inquiry found that systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations by the North Korean government constituted crimes against humanity. Without Chinese fuel subsidies, the North Korean economy would grind to a halt. “If we moved, we were punished by standing and sitting, doing pushups, abdominals, or holding onto the metal bars,” said a former soldier who left North Korea in 2017. No country is a better example of its efforts to sustain and protect an abusive regime than its neighbor North Korea. At Human Rights Watch, he has worked on a wide range of issues including freedom of expression, protection of civil society and human rights defenders, counterterrorism, refugees, gender and religious discrimination, armed conflict, and impunity. The country is essentially closed off from the rest of the world; the only information allowed is spoon-fed state propaganda. Former detainees told Human Rights Watch that they had no way of knowing what would happen to them once they were arrested, had no access to an independent lawyer, and had no way of appealing to the authorities about torture or violations of the criminal procedure law. North Koreans said that they live in constant fear of being caught in a system in which official procedures are usually irrelevant, guilt is presumed, and the only way out is through bribes and connections. China is perhaps the most prominent example. Former detainees and police officers described detainees being covered by lice, bedbugs, and fleas. Though the authorities tried to hide their repression, refugees, migrants and some intrepid media and human rights investigators have been able to expose a massive network of detention camps. Many detainees said guards or interrogators, often after demanding bribes, unofficially allowed family members or friends to provide food or other essentials after questioning ended. EPA-EFE/FRED DUFOUR / POOL

A Chinese hostess walks in front on the national flags of North Korea and China prior to a meeting between the two Communist allies' foreign ministers. Xi Jinping continues to support a failing regime, essentially subsidizing its economy while Kim diverts resources to his nuclear program. When officials of other countries think of North Korea most of their attention is on its nuclear program instead of the plight of its people. epa07213916 Chinese hostess walks beside the North Korean and Chinese flags before a meeting between North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, 07 December 2018. President Donald Trump has heaped praise on Kim Jong Un, exchanging “love letters” instead of insisting on improvements in the rights situation as the price of good relations. He has written for publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, Foreign Affairs, and Wall Street Journal. Human Rights Watch interviewed 8 former government officials who fled the country and 22 North Koreans – 15 women and 7 men – who had been held in detention and interrogation facilities since 2011, when the country’s current leader, Kim Jong Un, took power. Chinese diplomats even oppose discussions of the human rights situation in North Korea at the United Nations Human Rights Council, deeming it a violation of “sovereignty.”
In the absence of US leadership on rights in North Korea – though this may change after the upcoming election – it is essential for European nations to show some leadership and make the case that seeing North Korea only through the lens of nuclear weapons is the wrong paradigm. At the same time that it has emerged as a global power, it has taken a significant hit to its international reputation by throwing the full weight of the state at the Turkic Muslim population in the far western “autonomous” region of Xinjiang. The people interviewed described unhealthy and unhygienic detention conditions: very little food; overcrowded cells with insufficient floor space to sleep; little opportunity to bathe; and a lack of blankets, clothes, soap, and menstrual hygiene supplies. All basic freedoms are proscribed. While in the past border guards took bribes to facilitate cross-border trading with China in order to grease the economy, in recent years both the Chinese and North Korean governments have intensified crackdowns on people’s movements. The monopoly on power and the corresponding lack of key institutions like a free press, professional police, or an independent judiciary allow one-party states to do more or less what they want, with impunity. As one woman described it: “We are worth less than an animal” to the regime. While there is a fairly elaborate and even recognizable legal system on paper, the reality is that the system is arbitrary and lacks any semblance of due process. China’s claims that it is simply providing education and job training have persuaded no one; the political education camps bear no resemblance to college. One thing we do know is that, as in Xinjiang, once the state decides, for whatever reason, that an individual should be locked up there is no legal recourse. The root cause is a totalitarian system backed by China that also feeds off the seeming indifference of governments in South Korea, the United States, and Europe to the fact that North Koreans are still being treated as “worse than an animal.” While South Korea has one of the world’s biggest and most modern economies, North Korea’s is among the poorest. Some female detainees reported sexual harassment and assault, including rape. But the biggest obstacle to a united international effort to end the abuses in North Korea is the Chinese government. This was confirmed in recent research by Human Rights Watch into the North Korean pretrial detention and investigation system. If a detainee moved, guards punished the person or ordered collective punishment for all detainees. Four former government officials corroborated these accounts, saying that the ruling Workers’ Party considers detainees to be inferior human beings, and therefore unworthy of direct eye contact with law enforcement officers. Former detainees describe systematic torture, dangerous and unhygienic conditions, and unpaid forced labor.

style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Kazakh, Kyrgyz foreign ministers discuss cooperation

By Kulpash Konyrova

Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi and his Kyrgyz counterpart Ruslan Kazakbaev meet inn Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, October 29, 2020. Commitment was reaffirmed to the previously reached agreements at the highest and high levels, the ministry said. The Foreign Ministers agreed to continue work on interaction in issues of joint counteraction to the global pandemic COVID-19. The ministers also discussed interaction within international organisations.   Facebook

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NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan – Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi and his Kyrgyz counterpart Ruslan Kazakbaev, who arrived in Nur-Sultan on a working visit, discussed cooperation in trade, economic, investment, transit, transport and cultural and humanitarian spheres, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry said on October 29. The heads of the foreign affairs agencies noted the importance of strengthening the strategic partnership and multifaceted cooperation of the two countries in the spirit of the Treaties of Eternal Friendship from April 8, 1997, and on allied relations of December 25, 2003. During the talks, Tleuberdi expressed serious concern over the facts of attacks on Kazakh enterprises in Kyrgyzstan and called on the Kyrgyz side to take measures to ensure law and order and the safety of citizens and companies of Kazakhstan. Particular attention is paid to maintaining positive dynamics in the development of regional cooperation in the Central Asian region.

“The two offending speeches were manifestly political in nature, having been given by the leader of the main opposition party,” the court’s ruling reads, adding that:
“Whilst an individual taking part in a public debate on a matter of general concern is required to show respect for the reputation and rights of others, he or she is allowed to have recourse to a degree of exaggeration or even provocation,” the judgement further reads. EPA-EFE/PATRICK SEEGER

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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday found that Turkey was wrong to fine Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition party, who was convicted in 2012 for tarnishing the then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s reputation in two political speeches in the parliament. “The Court is of the view that the award made by the Ankara District Court in its decisions of 23 October 2012 … can be regarded as an interference with the applicant’s right to freedom of expression protected by the first paragraph of Article 10 of the Convention.” ECHR said in its judgement. Come on, come and tell us, Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the People’s Republican Party (CHP) had said in 2012, during a a speech at a meeting of CHP inside the parliamentary precincts. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>European Court of Human Rights condemns Turkey for violation of opposition leader’s freedom of expression

By Zoe Didili
Journalist, New Europe

epa07166802 The courtroom in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is seen ahead of the judgment regarding the case of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny against Russia at the court in Strasbourg, France, 15 November 2018. Turkey was to pay Kilicdaroglu over €12,000 in damages, plus the legal expenses. EPA-EFE/PATRICK SEEGER

The courtroom in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is seen ahead of the judgment regarding the case of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny against Russia at the court in Strasbourg, France, 15 November 2018. The Strasbourg-based court added that although Kilicdaroglu’s comments were provocative, the opposition leader was not targeting Erdogan’s private life and thus, they were not a personal attack. Do you have a single ounce of morality in you? Do you see this impertinence, do you see this immorality? Ask yourself two questions: ‘if I write something bad about [the Prime Minister], is there a risk that something will happen to me’ and ‘are my calls being intercepted’. “This is the first time I’ve seen a Prime Minister so far removed from morality. “They’re post-modern dictators. The case deals with the arrest of Alexei Navalny on seven occasions at different public gatherings, and his subsequent prosecution for administrative offences. “The remarks made by the applicant in his two political speeches were to be regarded as part of his political style and contributed to a debate of general interest concerning various current issues,” the judgement reads. Kilicdaroglu was sued in the Ankara District Court by Erdogan, after the latter brought two civil law suits against the opposition leader, seeking compensation of 10,000 Turkish lira, citing that the opposition leader’s words were of such a nature as to infringe his personality rights and had exceeded the limits of permissible criticism. If you answer these two questions in the affirmative, you should know that there is no democracy in this country,” Kilicdaroglu added.