Photo : BBC
02 October 2021, Saturday
By Vaishnavi Iyer
The UK: Boris Johnson proposes “fixing” the Northern Ireland Protocol
The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has proposed to ‘fix’ the Northern Ireland Protocol to facilitate trade in principle. He warned the EU of ditching the Protocol if there were no lucrative solutions proposed to the problem. The UK government has also threatened to use Article 16 unless the EU comes up with substantive solutions to the problem. Government officials have deemed the checks across the Irish Sea to be extreme and “pointless” especially when it involves cancer medicines or even COVID-19 vaccines; the EU has already received criticism regarding the same. Brexit has tremendously affected the trade and supply lines across the Northern Ireland borders which function on EU trade protocols. The constant checks are criticized by the unionists. Moreover, groups of businessmen have warned the Brexit negotiator Lord Frost about the concerning after-effects of triggering Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Initially, a ‘grace period’ allowed the UK to have open, unchecked market access. This ‘grace period’ was extended till 30 September. However, the UK recently declared this period to be indefinite. The UK government has requested a temporary pause in the legal process until a different approach is identified. Johnson believes the Protocol bears losses for the UK while the EU is critical of Britain’s approach. Though the EU has agreed to opt for “lucrative solutions'', it has denied all possibilities of re-negotiating the Protocol.
“Fix it or ditch it, UK's Johnson warns EU on N.Ireland deal,” Reuters, 2 October 2021.
Tom Edgington and Chris Morris, “Brexit: What's the Northern Ireland Protocol?,” BBC, 22 September 2021.
Lisa O'Carroll and Daniel Boffey, “Business chiefs warn against suspending Northern Ireland protocol,” The Guardian, 1 October 2021.
By Joeana Cera Matthews
Sarkozy found guilty of 2012 campaign overspending
On 30 September, a French judge declared ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy to be guilty of mass overspending in the 2012 re-election campaigns. Though his sentence calls for an imprisonment of one year, he is given permission to be in an electronically-surveilled house arrest to serve this period. Sarkozy, who failed to be present in court for the verdict, had spent around EUR 43 million in comparison to the legal limit of EUR 22.5 million allocated for presidential candidates. (“France: ex-President Sarkozy found guilty of campaign fraud,” Deutsche Welle, 30 September 2021)
Tensions dwindle in Serbia - Kosovo border standoff
On 30 September, Serbia and Kosovo reached an understanding regarding the recent border standoff. The EU special representative for the two countries Miroslav Lajcak tweeted: “We have a deal! After two days of intense negotiations, an agreement on de-escalation and the way forward has just been reached.” The deal which was brokered by the EU includes Kosovo agreeing to remove the police forces stationed at the Kosovo-Serbia border. NATO’s KFOR peacekeeping forces will continue patrolling for another two weeks. Presently, the solution decided upon is a temporary one which will be followed until a permanent one is identified. The dispute instigated by the row over license plates had been the worst one between Serbia and Kosovo for quite a few decades. (“Serbia and Kosovo reach deal in border row, says envoy,” Deutsche Welle, 30 September 2021)
AUKUS: Australia and EU trade talks postponed
On 1 October, the European Union postponed its trade talks with Australia owing to the Aukus deal that left France hanging. After France was snubbed, European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen doubted the possibility of the EU reaching a trade deal with Australia, supported by France. The meeting between Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan and his EU counterpart Valdis was initially set to occur from 12 October but will now be delayed by another month. The last round of talks happened in June. (“Aukus: Australia-EU trade talks delayed as row deepens,” BBC, 02 October 2021)
Geneva: US-Russia arms control talks
On 30 September, the US and Russia held the second round of their arms control talks. This comes in light of the decision made last July – US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to have a ‘Strategic Stability Dialogue’. The second meeting chaired by the US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, aims at intended rules and expectations that would make a significant difference in the usage of nuclear weapons. (“U.S. and Russia say they held 'substantive' arms control talks in Geneva,” Reuters, 01 October 2021)