Posts Tagged ‘rights of citizens’

EU parliament backs outline Brexit deal — Withdrawal accord will be legally binding

December 13, 2017

STRASBOURG (Reuters) – The European Parliament urged EU leaders on Wednesday to allow the next phase of EU negotiations to start, backing a motion that recognized the talks had made sufficient progress as a well a line criticizing Britain’s Brexit negotiator David Davis.

Earlier on Wednesday, the EU’s chief negotiator told lawmakers that Britain could not renege on commitments made to ensure Brexit talks with the European Union move on to discussions on the future relationship between the two.

European Union leaders are almost certain to judge on Friday that “sufficient progress” has been made on the rights of citizens, the Brexit divorce bill and the Irish border to allow negotiations to move to the next phase. The EU executive recommended last week that the leaders approve trade talks.

European Parliament — FILE photo

The European Parliament will have to approve any Brexit deal, although its motion on Wednesday was not binding.

The agreement, presented in a joint report last Friday, was in the view of some in Brussels, undermined by Brexit minister David Davis’s comment that it was more “a statement of intent” than a legally binding. Davis has subsequently said he wants the accord swiftly translated into a legal text.

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David Davis

“We will not accept any going back on this joint report. This progress has been agreed and will be rapidly translated into a withdrawal accord that is legally binding in all three areas and on some others that remain to be negotiated,” EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told EU lawmakers.

Barnier said a lot more further steps were required to secure an orderly withdrawal.

“We are not at the end of the road, neither regarding citizens’ rights nor for the other subjects of the orderly withdrawal. We remain vigilant,” he said.

Barnier said the next phase of talks would focus on a “short and defined” transition period and initial discussions on a future relationship, which he stressed would not erode the EU single market and its four freedoms, including free movement of people.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg


EU seems to break Brexit deadlock — Theresa May’s Government could collapse if negotiations remain deadlocked

October 21, 2017

The Telegraph

British Prime Minister Theresa May, left, meets with European Council President Donald Tusk during an EU summit

British Prime Minister Theresa May, left, meets with European Council President Donald Tusk during EU summit CREDIT: OLIVIER HOSLET 

EU leaders softened their stance significantly on Brexit talks yesterday amid fears in Brussels that Theresa May’s Government could collapse if negotiations remain deadlocked.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said she was now in “absolutely no doubt” that the EU and the UK could make a success of negotiations as she accepted for the first time that both sides must make concessions.

Donald Tusk, the European Council president, said talk of deadlock had been “exaggerated”, while Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, said he was determined to “have a fair deal” with the UK.

However, Emmanuel Macron, the French president, took a much firmer line by saying that Mrs May’s offer of €20 billion to settle the Brexit bill was “not halfway there”, while Mrs May failed to rule out paying as much as €60 billion as a final settlement.

Read the rest (Paywall):


EU leaders struggle to break through Brexit talks impasse

October 21, 2017
British Prime Minister Theresa May waits for the arrival of European Council President Donald Tusk prior to a bilateral meeting with European Council President Donald Tusk during an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. European Union leaders gathered Friday to weigh progress in negotiations on Britain’s departure from their club as they look for new ways to speed up the painfully slow moving process. AP/Geert Vanden Wijngaert, Pool

BRUSSELS — Leaders of Britain and the 27 other European Union members agreed Friday that much remains to be done in Brexit talks amid deep divisions about the terms of their breakup, particularly on how much London should pay in the divorce.

While EU President Donald Tusk said that “reports of a deadlock between the European Union and the United Kingdom have been exaggerated,” many other leaders were far less upbeat as a two-day summit in Brussels wrapped up.

French President Emmanuel Macron said “there is a lot of work left to do” in the highly complex talks on Britain’s exit from the bloc, which will take place on March 29, 2019.

“We have not gone even halfway down the road,” Macron told reporters.

British Prime Minister Theresa May urged her EU counterparts to bring new momentum to the talks, even as an interim goal was missed to widen the talks from the more immediate divorce issues to future EU-U.K. relations and trade arrangements after Britain leaves.

The aim is now to widen the talks in mid-December, but doubt remains over whether that deadline can be met.

“I am ambitious and positive for Britain’s future and for these negotiations. But I know we still have some way to go,” May said, after informal breakfast talks with the other leaders.

Despite calls from both sides to accelerate the negotiations, they remain bogged down on the terms of divorce, which the EU insists must be finalized before talks move onto trade. The main divorce issues include the rights of citizens affected by Brexit, the status of the Ireland-Northern Ireland border and the exact sum of Britain’s exit bill — which the EU estimates at 60-100 billion euros ($70-120 billion), compared with a possible 20 billion euro offer from London.

May has promised to pay into the EU budget until 2020, but has not committed her country to future financial obligations or specified what these would be.

She said her government is now going through this “line by line.”

To try to break the deadlock, May’s EU partners agreed Friday to begin discussing among themselves what their joint position should be on future relations and trade. That would get them ready to tackle the issue at their next summit on Dec. 14-15, provided they find the divorce terms are settled, and shows the British a measure of goodwill.

May argues that the divorce terms and future relations are closely interlinked and cannot therefore be negotiated separately. She acknowledged Friday that much remains to be done on some of the divorce issues before the European Union sees “enough progress” to move on.

She said both sides were within “touching distance” on citizens’ rights but still had more work to do on settling the border between EU member country Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., and agreeing on the Brexit bill.

Ireland’s leader, Leo Varadkar, praised May for what he called her “very positive language” but said “we’re a long way” from getting to the next step.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the way things proceed next depend largely on the British government.

“We would hope that we would be ready in December to initiate phase two,” Merkel said, but added: “This depends to a large extent on Britain preparing progress to such an extent that we can call it sufficient. The topic of financial commitment is of course the dominating issue in that regard.”

Several officials also say that changes to the format of the negotiations are being considered. At the moment, Brexit negotiators meet roughly every three weeks for four days, bringing the media spotlight on the process and raising expectations about what can be achieved. The idea would be to do away with rounds and hold talks on a rolling basis.

Reflecting those concerns, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, said that “we all — not only the U.K. but us also — (must) go for real negotiations and not just negotiating in the media by rhetoric.”

She said that an address May made to the EU leaders Thursday night appeared to be made up of extracts from a previous speech and said that it is now time to move “from words to real deeds.”

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was more upbeat. He praised May’s address as her “best performance yet.”

“It conveyed a warm, candid and sincere view that she wants progress to be made,” Muscat said.


Raf Casert and Angela Charlton contributed to this report.

Brexit: Fresh round of negotiations to take place

September 25, 2017

BBC News

Davis and Barnier
The last round of talks was held in August. Reuters photo

Brexit Secretary David Davis will lead the UK team of negotiators into their fourth round of talks with EU officials in Brussels on Monday.

It will be the first opportunity for the European delegation to respond to Theresa May’s speech in Florence.

Mrs May aimed to restore momentum to a process that was stalling.

Key figures such as EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier described her tone as constructive, which should improve the atmosphere of the talks.

But EU negotiators will be expecting more detail on, for example, what payments the UK is prepared to make as it departs.

Next month, EU leaders are due to decide on so-called separation issues – including the rights of citizens, the Irish border and the “divorce bill” or financial settlement – to allow talks to move on to the future of the bilateral trade relationship, as the UK would like.

For the moment, the odds seem to be against that test being passed at the first opportunity, said BBC Europe correspondent Kevin Connolly.

Budget black hole

In her speech on Friday, Mrs May offered to continue paying into the EU for a two-year transition after the UK leaves in 2019 to ensure the bloc is not left with a budget black hole.

The prime minister sought to reassure member states that they would not lose out financially during the current EU budget period, which runs to 2020.

She also confirmed there would be no restrictions on EU citizens coming to the UK during the transition period, but after Brexit they would be registered as they arrived.

Mr Davis has insisted that Mrs May’s speech was not influenced by a 4,000-word article by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, in the run-up to the event, setting out his own vision for Brexit.

The speech “had been coming for a long time”, he said.

Meanwhile, the UK and Scottish governments are due to hold a fresh round of talks on Brexit in London.

Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Brexit minister Mike Russell will meet First Secretary of State Damian Green to discuss concerns about the EU Withdrawal Bill.

And Mrs May holds talks in Downing Street with Irish premier Leo Varadkar, in her first meeting with an EU leader since the Florence speech.

Anger in China grows after death of teenager — People suspect boy beaten to death after failing to pay a protection fee to sons of local officials — Deep public distrust of the authorities

April 7, 2017

Deadly fall of a high school pupil in Sichuan province has turned into a national controversy over how authorities handle public concerns

By Mimi Lau
South China Morning Post

Friday, April 7, 2017, 7:02am
Image result for Wukan ‘democracy village’, china, photos
Villagers carrying Chinese national flags protest at Wukan village in China’s Guangdong province June 20, 2016. REUTERS/James Pomfret

China jails anti-corruption activists after high-profile trial

June 19, 2014

BEIJING Thu Jun 19, 2014 1:46am EDT

(Reuters) – Three Chinese activists who campaigned for government officials to disclose their wealth were jailed on Thursday in the culmination of a high-profile trial that underscores Beijing’s resolve to clamp down on dissent.

The activists were among more than a dozen detained in recent months for their anti-corruption activism. Rights groups say the crackdown on the group throws into sharp relief the limits of President Xi Jinping’s campaign against graft.

Despite a few pilot schemes for low level officials to disclose their assets, any public discussion of the wealth of senior leaders remains strictly off limits.

Graft oils the wheels of China’s government and probes into Party elites have revealed billions of dollars in undisclosed assets, often held by trusted friends or family members.

Two of the activists, Liu Ping and Wei Zhongping, were sentenced to 6-1/2 years in prison for using a cult to damage law enforcement, gathering a mob to disturb order in public places, and picking quarrels and provoking disputes.

Chinese activist Liu Ping poses for a photograph in Xinyu, Jiangxi province in this undated handout image provided by Liu’s daughter Liao Minyue on June 18, 2014.  Credit: Reuters/Liao Minyue/Handout via Reuters

“It isn’t fair, it isn’t just,” said Si Weijiang, Liu’s lawyer, reached by phone. “The laws can just be bent however (the government) wants in politicized cases.”

Another activist, Li Sihua, was sentenced to three years in prison, also for picking quarrels and provoking disputes.

The sentences were handed down on Thursday by a court in the poor central province of Jiangxi. Court officials could not be reached for comment.

Human rights groups condemned the judgment. In a statement, Amnesty International called the charges “preposterous”.

“Having a small private gathering and holding a banner in a lobby entrance demanding financial transparency from officials should not in any way constitute ‘picking quarrels’ and ‘illegal assembly’,” said William Nee, a China researcher for Amnesty, according to the statement.

Si said it was up to the activists to decide whether they would appeal, but added he didn’t believe an appeal would be successful or have any meaning.



The activists, encouraged by Xi’s anti-corruption campaign, took photographs of themselves holding banners and placards that read “Strongly urge officials to disclose their assets” and “Xi Jinping, immediately end dictatorship”.

The photos were widely circulated online.

“What was written on the signs is simply a suggestion to the country’s new leaders. It’s completely within the scope of freedom of expression that’s within our country’s constitution,” Si said.

The activists were part of a group called the New Citizens Movement, which advocates for officials to disclose their wealth and favors working within the system to create change. Its well-known founder, Xu Zhiyong, was sentenced in January to four years in prison, sparking criticism from the United States, European Union and rights groups.

“This is a crazy retaliation, a shameless retaliation, which has no connection with the law, the legal system or rule of law,” the New Citizens Movement said in a statement on its website. “This is not just a retaliation against Liu Ping, Wei Zhongping and Li Sihua but retaliates against and dishonors the rights of citizens.”

Prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, who had represented members of the New Citizens Movement, was detained last month after he attended a meeting in a private home to commemorate the anniversary of the bloody suppression of pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989. Pu’s case is ongoing.


(Additional reporting by Joseph Campbell; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

Vietnam Business Forum Discusses Administrative Reform

December 4, 2013

At the 2013 Vietnam Business Forum held in Hanoi on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai reiterated Vietnam’s commitment to speed up administrative reforms to facilitate business activities.

The forum, under the theme “New Phase of Economic Reform: From Agenda to Action”, was jointly organized by the Ministry of Planning and Investment, International Finance Corporation (IFC) and World Bank (WB).

At the event, participants discussed various issues related to customs and tax policy, capital markets, education and training, and infrastructure development.

Deputy PM Hai told the forum that the Vietnamese Government will go ahead with its commitment although the reform process was slow recently due to internal difficulties and the impact of the global economic slowdown.

Hai said Vietnam’s ministries and other agencies are speeding up administrative reforms in tax, customs, capital access, land and natural resource use, business establishment and dissolution, and regulatory procedures.

A complete system should be set up to receive citizen petitions and take action against any officials abusing their position, the deputy PM said.

He also stressed that Vietnam is fine-tuning government institutions and the legal system, restructuring the economy, renovating growth models, and improving the quality of human resources to attain sustainable development.

Many foreign delegates at the forum shared the same opinion that the Vietnamese Government has significantly improved the country’s investment environment. They expressed their expectations that further reforms will be carried out in the near future.

Obamacare: Isn’t delay preferable to Error?

August 15, 2013

By William Kristol

The good news is that most of the nation remains as opposed to Obamacare today as it was three years ago, when the law was enacted. Indeed, most polls show the public even more skeptical today—as the Wall Street Journal reports, “public support for the law has waned and Republican opposition has held steady.” In a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in July, 47 percent of respondents said the law was a bad idea, compared to 34 percent who thought it a good one. So the prospects for comprehensive repeal of this comprehensively bad law remain bright.

Jason Seiler
Art by Jason Seiler
Unfortunately most of the nation voted to reelect President Obama last November and gave Democrats continued control of the Senate. So comprehensive repeal isn’t in the cards now. The right course for the moment is delay.The case for delay is easy to make. President Obama, after all, has already delayed parts of Obamacare, including the employer mandate, the income and health status verification requirements for individuals in state-based exchanges, and the requirement that employer health insurance plans cap employees’ out-of-pocket deductible costs. What is the case, then, against delaying the individual mandate in tandem with the employer mandate? .
Such a delay would be fair—it tells you a lot about the Obama administration’s affinity for crony capitalism that the parts of the law Obama has chosen to delay have been those that big business most wanted to have delayed—and prudent. There will be no way to verify the income and health status of the individuals mandated to join the exchanges.
What is the case against delaying the exchanges as a whole? They lack adequate privacy and security measures, and they are plagued by broader implementation problems that are becoming increasingly obvious across the nation. You don’t have to be a long-standing critic or die-hard opponent of Obamacare to see that its implementation looks to be a real mess.This means the case for a year’s delay, at least of Obamacare’s individual mandate and the exchanges, can be made in a practical and relatively nonpolemical way. This is useful if you’re trying to win over undecided citizens and congressmen and senators. What’s more, delay buys time to further make the case against Obamacare as a whole, and to develop in far more detail and depth, and to build more consensus around, the conservative alternatives to Obamacare.There are also aspects of Obamacare that can and should be overturned posthaste. For example, the Obama administration has come up with a bureaucratic dispensation to provide special treatment for senators and congressmen in the exchanges. This surely won’t be easy to defend to the American people. Congress should repeal it when it returns from recess.

One of the most important reasons to force debate and delay is to thwart the Obama administration’s desperate attempt to impose a virtual prohibition on arguments against Obamacare. At a conference of state legislators and health officials last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius rebuked those of us who continue to oppose Obamacare. “This is no longer a political debate; this is what we call the law. It was passed and signed three years ago. It was upheld by the Supreme Court a year ago. The president was reelected. This is the law of the land.”

Sorrrry, Madame Secretary! Obamacare is the law of the land. But it’s a bad law. It deserves to be delayed and disassembled, then fully repealed and replaced. It is after all a free country. We the people are permitted to try to change “the law of the land.”

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, left, accompanied by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, speaks during a news conference at the Health and Humans Services (HHS) Department in Washington, Wednesday, April 10, 2013, to discuss the Health Department's fiscal 2014 budget. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Do these ladies look worried? Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, left, accompanied by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, speaks during  a news conference at the Health and Humans Services (HHS) Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The Obama administration wants to make such efforts seem illegitimate, even while it changes the law, as passed, by administrative fiat—which is precisely what shouldn’t happen in a free country. As Peter Suderman writes,

It is the Obama administration which has chosen to ignore the law of the land by selectively enforcing provisions, encouraging government agencies and ignoring clear legislative language that conflicts with the administration’s goals. The administration’s delay of the employer mandate, for example, is not supported by statute. And when questioned about his administration’s authority to enact the delay, Obama has not even tried to claim that it is; instead he has simply asserted the authority to delay the provision, and then returned to criticizing Republican opposition.

Well, Obama’s free to criticize, and we’re free to challenge. For now, as a legislative matter, the most effective form of challenge is delay. The end of the federal fiscal year on September 30 provides an occasion to fight to delay implementation of key parts of Obamacare for at least a year. The case can be made narrowly: As Thomas Jefferson wrote to George Washington in 1792, “Delay is preferable to error.” But the narrow case buys time and lays the groundwork for continuing to make the broader argument for the error of Obamacare—that Obamacare is, to adopt a phrase used by Jefferson in a more famous place, “unfit to be the [law] of a free people.”

One day we’ll repeal this law. For now we can delay it.