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Plenary round-up – Strasbourg, April 2018

20-04-2018

The April plenary session's highlight was the debate on the future of Europe with the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, detailing his ambitions for a reinvigorated Europe, ready to face existing and emerging challenges. Members also heard from the European Council and Commission Presidents on the outcome of the March European Council meeting. High Representative Federica Mogherini made statements on the UN global compacts for migration and refugees, Syria, Russia, the situation in ...

The April plenary session's highlight was the debate on the future of Europe with the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, detailing his ambitions for a reinvigorated Europe, ready to face existing and emerging challenges. Members also heard from the European Council and Commission Presidents on the outcome of the March European Council meeting. High Representative Federica Mogherini made statements on the UN global compacts for migration and refugees, Syria, Russia, the situation in the Korean peninsula and of Greek soldiers arrested in Turkey. Parliament adopted, inter alia, legislative resolutions on greenhouse gas emissions, the circular economy, European political parties and foundations, anti-money-laundering, market surveillance of motor vehicles, and organic production and labelling. Members granted discharge for the execution of the 2016 budget to the European Commission and all EU institutions and agencies, except the Council/European Council and European Asylum Support Office.

Renewed chemical attack in Syria

12-04-2018

As the conflict in Syria enters its eighth year, Parliament is due to debate the situation, following a recent escalation. The Assad regime is suspected of having carried out a toxic gas attack on the besieged town of Douma near Damascus on 7 April 2018, killing around 80 people and injuring hundreds. The United Nations Security Council debated the attack during an emergency meeting on 9 April 2018, during which Russia denied Syrian regime responsibility for the attack. The EU has strongly condemned ...

As the conflict in Syria enters its eighth year, Parliament is due to debate the situation, following a recent escalation. The Assad regime is suspected of having carried out a toxic gas attack on the besieged town of Douma near Damascus on 7 April 2018, killing around 80 people and injuring hundreds. The United Nations Security Council debated the attack during an emergency meeting on 9 April 2018, during which Russia denied Syrian regime responsibility for the attack. The EU has strongly condemned the latest use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict, and the United States, France and the United Kingdom have signalled their willingness to respond with air-strikes in order to uphold the global ban on the use of chemical weapons.

Plenary round-up – Brussels, February II 2018

02-03-2018

The session's highlights included debates on the humanitarian situation in Syria, the outcome of the informal European Council, and activation of Article 7 (1) with regard to Poland. The European Commission also made statements on UN Human Rights Council sessions in 2018, the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, its former President Barroso's lobbying activities, and removal of third countries from the EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes. Among the votes held ...

The session's highlights included debates on the humanitarian situation in Syria, the outcome of the informal European Council, and activation of Article 7 (1) with regard to Poland. The European Commission also made statements on UN Human Rights Council sessions in 2018, the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, its former President Barroso's lobbying activities, and removal of third countries from the EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes. Among the votes held, Parliament agreed to set up a new special committee on tax questions (TAXE 3) and elected a new vice-president.

Plenary round-up – Brussels, November II 2017

01-12-2017

The adoption of the 2018 budget was one of the main points of the November II plenary session. It also included debates on the State of Energy Union 2017 and the situation in Yemen, with a resolution adopted on the latter. Members addressed an oral question to the European Commission regarding negotiations for a Convention establishing a multilateral court for the settlement of investment disputes (MIC). Members also adopted, inter alia, reports on transnational arrangements for mitigating the impact ...

The adoption of the 2018 budget was one of the main points of the November II plenary session. It also included debates on the State of Energy Union 2017 and the situation in Yemen, with a resolution adopted on the latter. Members addressed an oral question to the European Commission regarding negotiations for a Convention establishing a multilateral court for the settlement of investment disputes (MIC). Members also adopted, inter alia, reports on transnational arrangements for mitigating the impact of the introduction of IFRS 9, on the instrument contributing to stability and peace, on the ranking of unsecured debt instruments in insolvency hierarchy as well as on the implementation of the European Disability Strategy.

Iraqi Kurdistan's independence referendum

11-10-2017

On 25 September 2017, the government of the autonomous Region of Kurdistan in Iraq, under its president, Masoud Barzani, organised a referendum on independence, disregarding calls by the Iraqi central government and the international community to postpone it. The referendum was held in the Kurdistan Region's constituencies and also in the neighbouring 'disputed' territories, in particular the oil-rich area of Kirkuk, which have de facto if not legally been governed by the Kurdish authorities since ...

On 25 September 2017, the government of the autonomous Region of Kurdistan in Iraq, under its president, Masoud Barzani, organised a referendum on independence, disregarding calls by the Iraqi central government and the international community to postpone it. The referendum was held in the Kurdistan Region's constituencies and also in the neighbouring 'disputed' territories, in particular the oil-rich area of Kirkuk, which have de facto if not legally been governed by the Kurdish authorities since the moment they were recaptured from ISIL/Da'esh. Even though the 'yes' side has won, it is by no means certain that a Kurdish state will emerge in the near future. Such a state would be weakened by internal divisions and poor economic conditions. In addition, Syria, Turkey and Iran strongly condemned the referendum and have taken retaliatory action. Among other considerations, they are worried that an independent Kurdish state would encourage their own Kurdish populations to seek greater autonomy. However, the prospect of a Greater Kurdistan is remote, since the regional Kurdish landscape is dominated by the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) and its affiliate parties, which do not share the Iraqi Kurdish leaders' ideology or strategic alliances. Concerned by the fragmentation of the Middle East, the EU, the USA, Russia, and most of the region's powers other than Israel, disapproved of the referendum, which took place in the context of the ongoing fight against ISIL/Da'esh, and called for negotiations within the existing Iraqi borders. This briefing updates Regional implications of Iraqi Kurdistan's quest for independence, EPRS, December 2016.

The EU, Middle East and North Africa [What Think Tanks are thinking]

06-10-2017

Developments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) pose a growing challenge for the European Union. Many countries in the region face war, political turmoil and popular anger, due to the impact of poverty in generating instability, migration and, in some cases, terrorism. The EU wants to contribute to stability in MENA through instruments such as the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Union for the Mediterranean, but there are calls for the EU to play an even more active role in the region ...

Developments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) pose a growing challenge for the European Union. Many countries in the region face war, political turmoil and popular anger, due to the impact of poverty in generating instability, migration and, in some cases, terrorism. The EU wants to contribute to stability in MENA through instruments such as the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Union for the Mediterranean, but there are calls for the EU to play an even more active role in the region. This note offers links to recent commentaries and reports by major international think tanks on EU-MENA relations and the general problems found within the region and some specific countries.

Workshop: Sectarianism in the Middle East

14-07-2017

Sectarian conflict and polarisation has become a key feature of Middle East politics in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings of 2011. This workshop looked at some of the key drivers of this, such as the troubled legacy of foreign intervention, state failure, regional rivalries between Saudi Arabia, Iran and others, ruling strategies of authoritarian regimes as well as the spread of identity and sect-based political movements. With in-depth analysis of the two key arenas of sectarian conflict in the ...

Sectarian conflict and polarisation has become a key feature of Middle East politics in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings of 2011. This workshop looked at some of the key drivers of this, such as the troubled legacy of foreign intervention, state failure, regional rivalries between Saudi Arabia, Iran and others, ruling strategies of authoritarian regimes as well as the spread of identity and sect-based political movements. With in-depth analysis of the two key arenas of sectarian conflict in the contemporary Middle East, Syria and Iraq, and a paper on the consequences of state collapse, this publication looks also tries to make recommendations how the EU could help reduce sectarian tensions.

External author

Dr Toby MATTHIESEN, St Antony's College, Oxford University, Dr Simon MABON, Lancaster University ; Dr Renad MANSOUR, Chatham House, Dr Raphael LEFÈVRE, Oxford University

ISIL/Da'esh: From Mosul to Mosul

13-07-2017

In June 2014, ISIL/Da'esh took over the city of Mosul in Iraq, and from there declared the advent of an Islamic State. Three years later, in July 2017, after nine months of battle involving Iraqi security forces, popular militias and Kurdish troops, ISIL/Da'esh has been expelled from its Iraqi stronghold, adding to the past two years' severe territorial losses. This is an important victory; however, it does not yet represent the eradication of a terrorist group that still has many supporters.

In June 2014, ISIL/Da'esh took over the city of Mosul in Iraq, and from there declared the advent of an Islamic State. Three years later, in July 2017, after nine months of battle involving Iraqi security forces, popular militias and Kurdish troops, ISIL/Da'esh has been expelled from its Iraqi stronghold, adding to the past two years' severe territorial losses. This is an important victory; however, it does not yet represent the eradication of a terrorist group that still has many supporters.

Syrian crisis: Impact on Iraq

03-04-2017

The Syrian crisis, which began with anti-government protests before escalating into full-scale civil war, has had a huge impact on neighbouring Iraq. From its stronghold in the Syrian town of Raqqa, the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' (ISIL/Da'esh), which originated in Iraq, was able to over-run a third of Iraq's territory in 2014, sowing death and destruction in its path and leading to the internal displacement of over 3 million Iraqis today. It is estimated that as many as 11 million Iraqis ...

The Syrian crisis, which began with anti-government protests before escalating into full-scale civil war, has had a huge impact on neighbouring Iraq. From its stronghold in the Syrian town of Raqqa, the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' (ISIL/Da'esh), which originated in Iraq, was able to over-run a third of Iraq's territory in 2014, sowing death and destruction in its path and leading to the internal displacement of over 3 million Iraqis today. It is estimated that as many as 11 million Iraqis ─ almost a third of the population ─ may need humanitarian assistance this year to deal with the effects of continuous conflict and economic stagnation. Moreover, a quarter of a million Syrians have sought refuge in Iraq from the war raging in their country. Most have settled in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), increasing the population of this autonomous region by nearly 30 % over the past few years. The ─ mostly Kurdish ─ Syrian refugees were well received by the government of the Kurdish Region, which gave Syrians the right to work in the region and to enrol in public schools and universities. Nevertheless, the large influx of refugees has placed strains on the local economy and host communities, and on public services. Prices and unemployment have increased while wages have tumbled. Economic growth in the KRI has slowed, while the poverty rate has more than doubled. The international community has stepped in to assist Iraq in its fight against ISIL/Da'esh and to help the country deal with the humanitarian crisis caused by the unprecedented displacement of Iraqis, and Syrian refugees. As a result of concerted military efforts, ISIL/Da'esh now occupies less than 10 % of Iraqi territory. At the same time, funds and substantial amounts of humanitarian aid have been poured into the country, to support the displaced and facilitate their return to areas over which the Iraqi State has re-established control. The EU is a leading partner in the effort to mitigate the impact of the Syrian crisis on its Iraqi neighbours.

Syrian crisis: Impact on Turkey - From mediation to crisis management

03-04-2017

After decades of mistrust between Ankara and Damascus, a solid partnership emerged in the 2000s. Turkey considered Syria to be the key to its influence in the Middle East. However, when protests started in 2011, the Turkish authorities launched repeated attempts at mediation, without success, leading to clear hostility on the part of the Turkish leadership towards the Syrian president. The Turkish objectives for Syria are several: settling the conflict, ensuring that the future arrangement excludes ...

After decades of mistrust between Ankara and Damascus, a solid partnership emerged in the 2000s. Turkey considered Syria to be the key to its influence in the Middle East. However, when protests started in 2011, the Turkish authorities launched repeated attempts at mediation, without success, leading to clear hostility on the part of the Turkish leadership towards the Syrian president. The Turkish objectives for Syria are several: settling the conflict, ensuring that the future arrangement excludes President Assad, creating a safe zone along the Turkish border and avoiding autonomy for Kurds in Syria. This led to military intervention to secure the borders in 2015, and a recent partnership with Russia and Iran in order to find a peace settlement, even if the three patrons of the recent Astana talks have diverging views about the future. For Turkey, Syria is an international problem but also an internal one, as it has been hit by deadly terrorist attacks by the Kurdish PKK and ISIL/Da'esh in the past two years. Another dimension of the Syrian issue for Ankara is the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey: with more than 3 million people making Turkey the country with the largest refugee population in the world. In December 2015, the EU signed a deal with Turkey to stem the flow of refugees heading to Europe, and the EU began to deliver a major €6 billion package to help Turkey cope with the crisis.

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