The Brussels Brief

I spy with my little eyes

Denmark Intelligence Service (FE) was under heavy scrutiny this week as it is being accused of cooperating with the US National Security Agency in spying on EU politicians, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. While these allegations were not new as in 2013 Edward Snowden had made similar allegations, it is only now that an analysis has been made on the cooperation between the Danish Agency and the NSA. Following these revelations, Denmark’s Defense Minister said that the “systemic wiretapping of allies is unacceptable”, echoing a similar stance by Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg. France’s European Affairs Minister said that these allegations are extremely serious. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are both seeking clarifications on the issue.

The issue also risked engulfing European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who at the time was Minister for Economic Affairs and Interior. However, she was evasive when asked whether she knew about these allegations during her time in office.

More on this here. 

The light at the end of the tunnel?

This week the EU proposed an amendment of its Recommendation on EU travel, aiming at securing uniform rules across the bloc. The new recommendation is proposing to ease travel for fully vaccinated individuals, who would not have to quarantine after visiting another EU Member State. The rules would also state how long a PCR test is valid. The EU is suggesting 72-hours, as is being accepted in Malta. The proposal also incudes an increase of the positive incidence rate from 25 to 75 cases over 100,000. However, both France and Germany are said to be opposing.

Belarus Flight Ban

On Friday EU Ambassadors sealed their agreement on banning the Belarusian national airline Belavia and other Belarusian airlines from flying over EU airspace and from using European airports.

Meanwhile, EU Member States are said to be finalising a further list of sanctions against individuals and entities in a response to the Ryanair flight issue.

Migration

Migration is expected to be high on the agenda at the next European Council meeting this month. The Danish Parliament has approved a law to process asylum applications outside of Europe. The Danish Immigration Minister was quoted by the Financial Times, as having already “identified a handful of countries that it was talking to about reception centres but stressed that any transfer of asylum seekers must be in line with our international obligations”. This move was denounced by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees as a “frightening race to the bottom” while Amnesty International said that this move could be unlawful.

France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland have co-signed a letter to the European Commission to see if Greece can get back asylum seekers who have moved to other Member States. Known as Secondary Movement, this issue is one that divides the EU bloc over migration. These are arguing that Greece have substandard reception conditions and therefore asylum seekers who had already received international protection are launching a second asylum application when they travel to other Member States on the pretext of family visits.

Read more here.

Re-aligning Schengen

COVID19 has left its mark even on the EU’s Schengen’s system where restrictions were introduced earlier on during the pandemic without any coordination between Member States. The European Commission has acknowledged that the system needs to be updated and this week it has published the Schengen Strategy. In a nutshell the strategy aims to bolster the external borders, and to introduce the element of surprise visit without the 24-hour notification to Member States.

More here.

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