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Press review: Will Macron’s ‘EU army’ rival NATO and Crimea to open office in Brussels

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, November 13
France's President Emmanuel Macron Ludovic Marin/ Pool via AP
France's President Emmanuel Macron
© Ludovic Marin/ Pool via AP


Izvestia: Will the European Intervention Initiative become NATO’s new rival?

Italy, Norway and Sweden might join an ‘EU army’ in the near future, three sources in Rome and Paris told Izvestia. The European Intervention Initiative is a military club of 10 European countries, established last week in Paris. According to the newspaper, at first the alliance was seen as an attempt to create a counterbalance to NATO, but there were those who doubted its expediency. Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron reanimated the idea of an ‘EU army’ that would act in a more sovereign way, freeing it from the grip of the United States. A French Foreign Ministry source told Izvestia that the next meeting of the initiative’s participants would be held in 2019 in The Hague.

Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council’s Committee on Defense and Security, Senator Franz Klintsevich, the initiative is connected with Europe’s desire to act independently of the United States. "As for the statement by the French president about defense against Russian aggression, it is worth noting that our country did not lead expansionist wars. In critical moments, Russia liberated not only its own territories, but also the territories of other countries. Therefore, one must be careful with such statements," the senator told Izvestia.

The idea of creating a single European army has been debated in the European Union for the past 60 years. The French Foreign Ministry told Izvestia that President Macron used the term "European army" to refer to general intervention forces, which he referred to during his speech at the Sorbonne in September 2017. This idea later evolved into the European Intervention Initiative. According to the Ministry, at present, developing a common strategic culture of the European Armed Forces and close cooperation between countries regarding armaments is a priority.

In the near future, Italy can join the alliance, a source close to the country's military circles told Izvestia. Moreover, according to Izvestia’s two sources in the French National Assembly, Norway and Sweden may also join the initiative.

Meanwhile, some believe that the idea of creating a "European army" would undermine unity within the main military bloc on the continent - NATO, where the United States is one of the pivotal players. A source in the organization told the newspaper that the alliance is the embodiment of a firm and unbreakable transatlantic link between Europe and North America, in order to counter threats and challenges emanating from any direction.


Izvestia: Crimean representative office to open in Brussels

Early next year, a representative office of Crimea will be set up in Brussels to promote the interests of the peninsula. A working group on establishing it has already been created, and in the future, the representative office will be included in the official register of lobby groups in the EU's structures, Co-chairman of the 5th Yalta International Economic Forum Andrey Nazarov told Izvestia.

According to Nazarov, Crimea's representative office in Brussels will become the first public organization in the EU that will legitimately promote the interests of the peninsula. "Right now a working group of European politicians, experts and public figures are working on organizational issues. The office will be opened in the first half of 2019 in Brussels. Considering the sentiment of several European countries, opening a representative office for Crimea is very important not only for the peninsula, but also for Russia. It is important to note that the organization will have an official lobbying status in the EU, which will allow it to legally promote the interests of Crimea in the European Union," the expert told the newspaper.

According to Nazarov, European politicians have already supported the initiative, so this indicates a gradual shift in Europe's mood on the status of Crimea. Member of the Belgian Parliament Philip Devinter, who joined the working group, told Izvestia that the initiative is aimed at overcoming the ongoing sanctions. He feels that opening this representative office would promote the development of economic, cultural, and humanitarian ties with the peninsula.

Restoring sister city relations between Crimean and European cities should be one of the organization's first projects, Latvian politician Janis Kuzins told Izvestia. He noted that after 2014, cultural and humanitarian ties were interrupted due to political pressure from Brussels. Nevertheless, against the background of fatigue from anti-Russian policies, leaders of a number of European cities are interested in reviving friendly relations with Yalta, Simferopol and other cities in Crimea.


Kommersant: OSCE focuses on human rights amid lack of trust between members

Italy, the country chairing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), has put together a draft document on the safety of journalists for the annual ministerial meeting, Kommersant wrote. Sources told the newspaper that its adoption would be a breakthrough, since the recent deterioration of relations between Russia and the West in 2014; documents on human rights have not been adopted at these meetings.

The success of the Italian initiative would de facto rescue the meeting from failure. There is still no unity among members on more acute issues, such as on Ukraine, in the organization, where all decisions are made by consensus.

Sources in the national delegations in Vienna and the OSCE Secretariat told Kommersant that they recognized that the organization’s key problem was the lack of trust among its 57 members. "The chairing countries are afraid to raise topics at ministerial meetings with an unlikely consensus. They are always looking for something to unite on," a source in the OSCE Secretariat told Kommersant. According to the source, this year, among other things, the agenda will include such issues as violence against women, the threat of extremism and radicalization, as well as the safety of journalists.

Consensus on other, more politicized topics is unlikely, the newspaper wrote. Sources at OSCE headquarters told Kommersant they do not refute the existence of certain problems. "All OSCE decisions are political declarations that are not legally binding. However, this is their strength. The rule of consensus is important," a source told the newspaper.

At the same time, according to Kommersant despite all the disagreements, Moscow is not going to diminish its activity in the OSCE, and Russia's importance in the organization is recognized in its headquarters.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: United Arab Emirates poised to reopen embassy in Syria

The Persian Gulf does not seem to be questioning the legitimacy of the Assad government any longer. This can be seen from the fact that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are in talks with the Syrian government on reopening their diplomatic mission in Syria, a source in Damascus close to the negotiations told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. According to the newspaper, Russian diplomatic circles believe that Abu Dhabi is acting on behalf of the Saudi authorities. The redistribution of spheres of influence in the Arab Republic seems to be entering a new post-war phase.

The main purpose of the meetings between the delegates from the UAE and representatives of the Syrian government is to restore Abu Dhabi’s diplomatic presence in Damascus, a source close to the talks told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. According to the source, one of the UAE diplomats is already in the Syrian capital on a permanent basis. In this case, delegates from Abu Dhabi visit Damascus regularly, the source told the newspaper. The expected return of the UAE diplomatic mission has other signs among them, barbed wire and concrete barriers having disappeared near the former UAE embassy building. Sources told the newspaper that the UAE is not the only country that is currently developing contacts with Damascus. Egypt is also involved in negotiations.

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation Alexander Aksenenok told the newspaper there are indeed reports about the restoration of the UAE’s embassy. The diplomat connected it to the "return" of Syria to the Arab world. "At the UN General Assembly in New York there was a meeting between the Syrian Foreign Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain. Apparently, this is the groundwork being laid for establishing relations with Saudi Arabia," he told the newspaper.


Kommersant: Crimean Bridge’s construction experience can be used for ​​Taman port dry cargo

Enterprises owned by Russian tycoon Arkady Rotenberg that are completing the construction of the Crimean Bridge can then move on to another large-scale infrastructure project for the dry cargo area of Taman port, Kommersant wrote. The sources told the newspaper that there are no serious alternatives to already established large bridge-building units and purchased expensive equipment. Meanwhile, the work in Taman only for federal port facilities is estimated at 65 bln rubles ($959.57 mln). Contractors can also claim the construction of terminals for private investors in the port.

According to Kommersant, at a meeting on the construction of the port in Taman on November 1, Deputy Prime Minister Maxim Akimov proposed ideas on how to use the organizations that worked on the Crimean Bridge. Akimov’s office confirmed to Kommersant that the issue was discussed, although "it was not about specific companies."

Preliminary agreements on the participation of the bridge builders in the Taman project and individual terminals were reached in the spring at the shareholder level, another source told Kommersant, adding that the port project is planned to be implemented using private money. Head of Infoline-Analitics Mikhail Burmistrov told Kommersant that he agrees that attracting companies that built the Crimean Bridge to the Taman port can speed up the project’s implementation and preserve contractors under sanctions.


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