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    Borrell attacks show that war and party politics are an uneasy mix –

    Dear readers,

    Welcome to EU Politics Decoded where Benjamin Fox and Eleonora Vasques will bring you a round-up of the latest political news in Europe and beyond every Thursday. In this edition, we look at the political response to the evolving war between Israel and Hamas.

    Editor’s Take: Borrell attacks show that war and party politics are an uneasy mix

    Wars and partisan politicking are seldom a good mix. But that has not stopped EPP leader Manfred Weber from strongly criticising Josep Borrell’s response to Hamas’ terror attack that killed more than 1400 people.

    The EU’s foreign affairs chief should have been in Israel with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken offering “unambiguous support” for Israel, Weber said last week, adding that “we question whether he is still up to the job”.

    There is no reason to doubt Weber’s sincerity but the personal nature of these attacks on Borrell – which have not been taken up by other political groups – look misplaced.

    Borrell does not have a reputation for soft-peddling on Hamas. He has consistently condemned terrorist attacks by Hamas while also criticising breaches of international law by Israeli governments in the occupied territories.

    “We all must stand up and defend peace, international law, and humanitarian law everywhere, everywhere in the world at all times,” European Council President Charles Michel told reporters following a virtual summit of EU leaders earlier this week.

    Yet Michel has not been lampooned by the EPP. This might have something to do with the fact that, unlike Borrell, he is not a socialist.

    The 7 October attacks had to be condemned unreservedly.

    But it is also clear that we are at the start of a war that will leave tens of thousands of casualties but will also certainly affect the geopolitical balance and, possibly, the EU’s political relations in the Middle East and in North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.

    As Euractiv’s Alexandra Brzozowski reported, a group of EU governments are concerned that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has overstepped her remit with her unflinching backing of Israel.

    Looked at this way, there is an argument that Borrell’s caution is the more prudent course. In contrast, the trips by Blinken and President Joe Biden have achieved little.

    An open letter to President von der Leyen, purporting to be from EU staff, which Euractiv received, points to the “seeming indifference demonstrated over the past few days by our Institution toward the ongoing massacre of civilians in the Gaza Strip”.

    The fallout from the attack on the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza has underscored the limits of political and public support for Israel just days after the outrage that rightly followed the 7 October attacks.

    It is still unclear who was responsible for the attack, which Israel asserts was the result of a Hamas missile, but that did not stop African Union leader Moussa Faki, and several European political leaders, from being quick to accuse Israel of a ‘war crime’.

    Meanwhile, thousands of people have poured onto European streets in support of Palestine. While European leaders need to be united, they should also refrain from pouring any more petrol on the fire.


    Who’s Electioneering?

    What is going to change with Tusk in Poland? This is the question on which Europe is waiting for a reply. The opposition leader won the Polish elections held last weekend and is set to take over from the right-wing PiS (Law and Justice party) government. How is Tusk going to distinguish himself from his predecessors?

    Several months ago, Tusk accused the government of facilitating “uncontrolled” immigration from Muslim countries, Notes from Poland reports.

    He never went easy on migration, and some of his speeches were similar in tone to those by PiS ministers.

    In the meantime, at the border with Belarus, the Polish military seized the zone in order to push back migrants trying to cross the border, with NGOs denouncing systematic violations of human rights, with frequent deaths and missing people in the middle of the UNESCO site of Białowieża, according to reports from the border.

    Tusk’s coalition will be tested on how he addresses the migration debate, the situation at the border with Belarus, but also in the negotiations of the migration pact. Is he going to make a difference in Brussels?


    A new tax on Russian gas in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian government will soon hold talks with its European partners about imposing a new tax on Russian gas transiting its territory, it was announced on Wednesday, a move that predictably angered Serbia and Hungary.

    EU elections: Le Pen’s party takes poll lead. Latest polling data from France puts the nationalist Rassemblement National (RN), with MEP candidate Jordan Bardella, in the lead, while President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist and pro-European Renaissance party lags as the European elections draw closer.

    Germany urges Egypt, Jordan to help evacuate Gaza civilians as conflict escalates. Chancellor Olaf Scholz has lobbied Egypt and Jordan for support in evacuating civilians from the Gaza Strip and providing aid amid growing fears that the conflict between Hamas and Israel will continue to escalate.

    Czech government plans coal phase-out by 2033 and oil and gas by 2050. The Czech government has approved a draft revised National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP), which aims to phase out coal by 2033 and oil and gas by 2050.

    Vucic has ‘friendly’ meeting with Putin in China. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić had a brief conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Beijing, although there was no formal bilateral meeting between them, the Serbian leader said on Tuesday.

    Kosovo wants KFOR support on Serbian border. Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti has called for the additional KFOR forces deployed to Kosovo to ‘prioritise border security between Kosovo and Serbia, he said during a meeting with NATO’s peacekeeping mission commander in Kosovo, Özkan Ulutaş.

    Inside the institutions

    The penultimate step before approval of visa digitalisation. The European Parliament formally approved the agreement that EU institutions reached last June on the digitalisation of the visa procedure in the Schengen area. On 12 November, EU ministers in the Council will formally vote on the agreement and afterwards, the legislation will start to become reality with the implementation process.

    The next European Parliament might radically change in its structure. The European Parliament secretariat has prepared a ‘reflection paper’ – exclusively seen by Euractiv – addressed to political groups with concrete examples on how to reshape the Parliament’s committees in the next legislative mandate. The full story with samples can be found here.

    Martin Hojsík becomes new Parliament vice-President. The Slovakia MEP Martin Hojsík from Renew Europe group was elected vice-president of the European Parliament on Wednesday (18 October). Hojsík replaces the Slovakia Progressive leader Michal Šimečka, newly elected as national MEP in Bratislava.

    Mahsa Amini and the Woman, Life, Freedom Movement in Iran win the Sakharov Prize.
    EU lawmakers awarded the Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought to Jina Mahsa Amini and the Woman, Life, Freedom movement in Iran, one year after the start of protests in the country against the regime’s oppression of women.

    ʺOn 16 September, we marked one year since the murder of Jina Mahsa Amini in Iran. The European Parliament proudly stands with the brave and defiant who continue to fight for equality, dignity and freedom in Iran. We stand with those who, even from prison, continue to keep Women, Life and Freedom alive. By choosing them as laureates for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2023, this House remembers their struggle and continues to honour all those who have paid the ultimate price for liberty,ʺ European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said on Thursday (19 October).

    EU institutions will start talks on rules fighting human trafficking. MEPs adopted their position on combating human trafficking, in order to “expand the scope of the existing directive, to include forced marriage, illegal adoption, surrogacy for the purposes of reproductive exploitation and better support for the victims,” according to a Parliament press statement.

    EU lawmakers face the challenge of finding a balance between sanctioning traffickers and all those involved in illegal migration routes, while protecting victims of the human trafficking network. The first part of the negotiations – known as  trilogues – will start in November.

    Pylo’s shipwreck investigation win Caruana Galizia Prize for journalism. A team of transnational investigative journalists won the Caruana Galizia Prize, the journalism award the European Parliament runs since 2019, dedicated to the Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia killed by a car bomb while investigating a government corruption scandal in 2017.

    The award went to the investigation of the Pylos shipwreck, which reveals the inconsistency of the Greek coast guard during search and rescue operations, with forensic reproduction of the shipwreck, where about 600 people died, and testimonies of the survivors.

    How will Hungary deal with rule of law legislation under its presidency? The chair of the European Parliament civil liberties (LIBE) committee Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar sent a letter on 11 October to the Spanish, Belgian, and Hungarian presidencies of the Council, seen by Euractiv, about concerns the MEP has regarding the rule of law legislation under the Hungarian presidency.

    What we are reading

    Migrants ‘caught in political game’ at Poland-Belarus border, Alessandra Briganti writes for Ansa

    Joe Biden’s peace mission to Israel exposed the limits of US global influence, writes Martin Kettle for The Guardian

    Mustafa Suleyman and Eric Schmidt: We need an AI equivalent of the IPCC, Mustafa Suleyman and Eríc Schmidt write for the Financial Times

    The next week in politics

    It is a busy week at the Council, with an EU-Kazakhstan Cooperation Council and Foreign Affairs Council on Monday (23 October), Agriculture and Fisheries Council and Informal meeting of telecommunications ministers on Monday and Tuesday (23-24 October), and General Affairs Council on Tuesday (24 October),

    Those meetings will be followed by a Tripartite Social Summit on Wednesday (25 October), the European Council with head of member states on Thursday and Friday (26-27 October), and the Euro-Summit on Friday (27 October)

    The European Parliament will hold its committee meetings in Brussels

    Thanks for reading. If you’d like to contact us for leaks, tips or comments, drop us a line at / or contact us on Twitter: @EleonorasVasques & @benfox83

    [Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

    Read more with EURACTIV



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