The agency’s budget is to grow from 281 million Euros (349 million US dollars) in 2017 to 322 million Euros (377 million US dollars) in 2020. This marks an important first step in ending the current impunity of the EU's border agency after numerous reports of #FundamentalRights violations. EPA-EFE/JAKUB KAMINSKI POLAND OUT

A View of the new European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) headquarters in Warsaw, Poland, 21 November 2017. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>MEPs to investigate alleged human rights violations by Frontex

By Zoe Didili
Journalist, New Europe

epa06342100 A View of the new European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) headquarters in Warsaw, Poland, 21 November 2017. Since the reports emerged, Frontex has come under fire, with several lawmakers calling for the resignation of the chief of the Warsaw-based agency, Fabrice Leggeri, citing that he failed to effectively investigate properly the agency’s involvement in the illegal pushbacks. Frontex helps manage the EU’s external borders, ensuring their security, and carrying out regular risk analyses and assessments. According to January’s decision, the Frontex working group will investigate the compliance of the Agency with fundamental rights, the agency’s internal management and its transparency as well as accountability towards the European Parliament. Two Left MEPs will be members of this Scrutiny Working Group on @Frontex: @sirarego @ErnstCornelia. The move followed a decision by the parliament’s Civil Liberties committee on January 29 that set up a temporary working group on Frontex to further investigate the allegations of pushbacks and the body’s management practices. First meeting: tomorrow. EPA-EFE/JAKUB KAMINSKI POLAND OUT

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Fourteen MEPs are set to investigate the activities of the bloc’s border guard agency after several reports emerged unveiling that Frontex was involved in illegal migrant pushbacks and other human rights violations. The so-called Frontex Scrutiny Working Group (FSWG) includes two MEPs from all political strips, mandated to carry out a fact-finding mission on the allegations, within the first four months of its existence. The move “marks an important step in ending the current impunity of the EU’s border agency after numerous reports of Fundamental Rights violations,” the group of The Left in the European Parliament tweeted on Monday, ahead of the first meeting of FSWG, scheduled for February 23. https://t.co/IM4bVXJTon
— The Left in the European Parliament (@Left_EU) February 22, 2021

style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>EU launches Secretariat to help coal regions in transition in Western Balkans and Ukraine

By New Europe Online/KG

epa05762968 Miners of the Zasyadko coal mine, who were blocked underground, leave a mine elevator in Donetsk, Ukraine, 31 January 2017. The initiative’s secretariat will provide direct support for its implementation and ensure collaboration across the diversity of institutions and actors that the initiative will engage, the Commission said in a press release on February 15. The two initiatives will benefit from manifold synergies and support each other’s implementation. The first objective of the new initiative is to create an open platform allowing for region-wide, multi-stakeholder dialogue and providing a space for sharing experiences, knowledge and best practices on transition-related issues amongst coal regions in the Western Balkans and Ukraine. This includes regions with ongoing coal mining activity and people currently active in the coal sector,” he added. The partners launched the initiative on 10-11 December 2020. The Commission said 17 regions with significant coal mining activities and coal-based energy production will be the key beneficiaries. Finally, the initiative’s partners will help coal regions in the Western Balkans and Ukraine to access financing for transition projects or programmes, based on various available sources, including from the European Commission, the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The secretariat of the initiative for coal regions in transition in the Western Balkans and Ukraine is based in Brussels and run by a consortium with expert knowledge of the situation in all of the participating countries. According to the Commission, a further ambition is to establish a coal academy in order to provide capacity building among relevant stakeholders on transition-related issues, providing dedicated trainings on governance, community engagement, environmental reclamation, and repurposing of land and assets. All 207 miners were evacuated from the Zasyadko coal mine on the pro-Russian separatist controlled territory after it lost its power supply, allegedly as a result of shelling. These activities focus on the EU’s just transition efforts, which aim to alleviate socioeconomic consequences of transition, while promoting the development of new, future-oriented economic activities. The European Commission is collaborating in this new initiative with international partners, notably including the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the Energy Community Secretariat, Poland’s National Fund for Environment Protection and Water Management, and the College of Europe in Natolin. According to the Commission, mirroring the successful EU Initiative for coal regions in transition, the newly established secretariat will deliver support to coal regions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Ukraine. The new initiative builds on the experiences of the initiative for coal regions in the EU, which has connected stakeholders, provided technical assistance and developed support materials for affected regions since 2017. “The EU has put ‘just transition’ at the very heart of its roadmap towards a resilient, climate-neutral and future-proof economy and the European Green Deal,” EU Commission Director-General for Energy Ditte Juul Jorgensen said. EPA/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO/FILE PICTURE

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The European Commission has launched the Secretariat of a new initiative to help coal regions in the Western Balkans and Ukraine transition away from coal towards a carbon-neutral economy. EPA/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO

Miners of the Zasyadko coal mine in Donetsk, Ukraine. “We recognize that not all regions and countries have the same starting point on the path to climate neutrality, and that is why the European Green Deal includes a ‘just transition’ chapter, which provides for specific support to the regions and people most affected by the transition. Selected pilot regions will be provided with access to technical assistance in the form of expert support in order to develop transition roadmaps for relevant public authorities. From there, the aim is to build ties between EU coal regions and their counterparts in the Western Balkans and Ukraine through twinnings, as a way to foster exchange and to transfer knowledge, experience and best practices on transition-related issues.

The M23 rebel group, who has taken control of Goma and nearby town of Sake already, has advanced to the next town of Kirotshe, only about 10km away from Minova where Congolese government forces have retreated to. EPA/DAI KUROKAWA

A Congolese government soldier wears a belt of ammunitions as he stands guard at their headquarters in the town of Minova, some 45km from the provincial capital Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, 24 November 2012. EPA/DAI KUROKAWA

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The Italian Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Luca Attanasio and two other people have been killed on Monday during in an attack on a United Nations convoy. Commenting on the news, the Italian Foreign Minister, Luigi di Maio, who was in Brussels for a meeting with his European counterparts (FAC), said that “the circumstances of this brutal attack are not yet known and no effort will be spared to shed light on what happened.” Reuters quoted a source from the Virunga National Park saying that the convoy was attacked by unidentified assailants near the town of Kanyamahoro, a few miles north of the regional capital Goma, at around 10.15 am local time. “The ambassador and the soldier were traveling in a car in a convoy of MONUSCO, the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” the statement reads. According to a statement issued by the Italian Foreign Ministry, the 43-year-old ambassador, a carabinieri police officer who was providing security for him and a third person, were killed in Goma, during an attempted kidnap. African leaders from the Great Lakes region including Congolese President Joseph Kabila began talks over Congo on 24 November, but Paul Kagame of Rwanda who has been widely accused of supporting the M23 rebels, did not attend the meeting. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Italy’s ambassador to DR Congo killed in attack on UN convoy

By Zoe Didili
Journalist, New Europe

epa03485185 A Congolese government soldier wears a belt of ammunitions as he stands guard at their headquarters in the town of Minova, some 45km from the provincial capital Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, 24 November 2012.

“The African continent needs to immunize all its caregivers to allow its health system to resist. Let us be united, let us be efficient,” Macron wrote in a Twitter post. EPA-EFE/FRANCOIS MORI / POOL MAXPPP OUT

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers his speech after a meeting via video-conference with leaders of the G5 Sahel, in Paris, France, 16 February 2021. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Macron urges Europe to send vaccines to Africa

By Zoe Didili
Journalist, New Europe

epa09015891 French President Emmanuel Macron delivers his speech after a meeting via video-conference with leaders of the G5 Sahel, in Paris, France, 16 February 2021. pic.twitter.com/PJ836fvC8e
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) February 19, 2021

“We are allowing the idea to take hold that hundreds of millions of vaccines are being given in rich countries and that we are not starting in poor countries,” Macron said. Je lance un appel : Européens, Américains, nous pouvons fournir à l'Afrique les 13 millions de doses de vaccins nécessaires. Soyons solidaires, soyons efficaces. French President Macron urged West African leaders to step up efforts in the fight against Islamic extremists in the Sahel region both on the military and political fronts, with support from the international community. Macron joined by video from Paris a summit organized in N?Djamena, Chad with the leaders of Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Mauritania. I appeal: Europeans, Americans, we can provide Africa with the 13 million doses of vaccines needed. The 13 million doses of the Coronavirus vaccines account for up to 0,43% of the bloc’s current vaccine supplies and would mark an effort to avoid an unprecedented acceleration of global inequality, the French President told the Financial Times in an interview published on Friday 

Le continent africain a besoin de vacciner tous ses soignants pour permettre à son système de santé de résister. His comments came ahead of a scheduled G7 summit on Friday, led by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Allocating between “3-5 percent of the vaccines we have in stock to Africa…won’t delay [our vaccination effort] by a single day, given the way we use our doses,” he added, referring to France, which is going to transfer the jabs jabs either for free or at a very low price, even if other Western countries do not follow, according to a spokesperson from the Elysee Palace. EPA-EFE/FRANCOIS MORI / POOL MAXPPP OUT

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The European Union and the United States need to provide African countries with vaccines, to prevent exacerbation of global inequality, French President Emmanuel Macron has said.

Calls for tougher sanctions against the Kremlin mounted after Russia expelled earlier in February, three European diplomats, from Germany, Poland, and Sweden, on grounds they attended illegal rallies in support of Navalny. The foreign ministers of the 27-nation bloc are meeting in Brussels for talks that will also include a videoconference with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained after his arrival to Moscow from Germany on 17 January 2021. Thus, when the sentence comes into force, the term will be 2 years 8 months. Russian courts, however, have rejected the call, accusing the body of interfering in its domestic judicial affairs. A Moscow judge on 18 January ruled that he will remain in custody for 30 days following his airport arrest. “I am to be given the order to prepare sanctions – listing of individuals. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>EU foreign ministers likely to approve new sanctions against Russia

By Zoe Didili
Journalist, New Europe

epa08982535 A handout picture provided by Moscow City court press service shows Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands in the glass cage during a hearing in the Moscow City Court in Moscow, Russia, 02 February 2021. The move could come a day after the Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, threatened Moscow with fresh sanctions for ignoring a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) arguing that Navalny should be released. EPA-EFE/MOSCOW CITY COURT PRESS SERVICE HANDOUT MANDATORY CREDIT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

A handout picture provided by Moscow City court press service shows Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands in the glass cage during a hearing in the Moscow City Court in Moscow, Russia, 02 February 2021. Speaking before the meeting, Germany’s FM, Heiko Maas said that he will be mandated to prepare a list of Russian individuals to be sanctioned. The visiting session of the Simonovsky city court decided to grant the Federal Penitentiary Service petition to replace the suspended sentence with a real one. 3.5 years in a general regime colony, while the time spent under house arrest during the investigation of the ‘Yves Rocher’ case must be credited. The move was made during Borrell’s visit to Moscow, in a rather embarrassing moment for the bloc’s foreign policy chief who came under fire for his passive stance against Moscow. EPA-EFE/MOSCOW CITY COURT PRESS SERVICE HANDOUT MANDATORY CREDIT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

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European Union foreign ministers are likely to approve on Monday new sanctions against Russia over the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and the violent crackdown on protesters demanding his release. At the same time, however, we have to look for ways of maintaining a dialogue with Moscow,” Maas told reporters.