EU waives visas for Brits despite Gibraltar row

The law allows British visitors 90-day trips to the Schengen passport-free zone. (AFP)
Updated 03 April 2019
0

EU waives visas for Brits despite Gibraltar row

  • Britain is due to leave the European Union, perhaps as early as next week
  • The law allows British visitors 90-day trips to the Schengen passport-free zone

BRUSSELS: European Union lawmakers approved a law Wednesday that will allow Britons visa-free visits even after a “no deal” Brexit, despite a furious dispute over the status of Gibraltar.
The European Parliament’s justice committee approved the text of the law that already had the backing of member states and should now be formally confirmed.
Britain is due to leave the European Union, perhaps as early as next week, but the law allows British visitors 90-day trips to the Schengen passport-free zone.
Implementation will depend on Britain according EU citizens reciprocal rights, but it has said it will do so and the principle of the law has broad support.
Nevertheless, the text itself triggered a bitter row in Brussels, after member states — at Spain’s urging — referred in a footnote to the draft to Gibraltar as a “colony of the British crown.”
The United Nations does legally list Gibraltar as a “non-self-governing territory” under colonial rule, but Britain insists it is part of “the UK family” and that its citizens freely voted to remain British.
Britain’s decision to leave the EU has revived controversy over Spain’s long-standing claim on the territory, against the backdrop of Spanish elections.
But with Brexit day looming, and lawmakers rushing to complete preparations, EU leaders acted to elbow aside the British MEP at the head of the justice committee.
This allowed a Bulgarian colleague to nod through the text under protest, and lawmakers approved the law by 38 votes to eight, all but ensuring its passage.
On Monday, the law’s “rapporteur,” British MEP Claude Moraes, was forced to step aside after EU leaders concluded that he had a conflict of interest.
Members protested this amounted to an attack on parliament’s prerogatives, but Moraes’ Bulgarian colleague Sergei Stanishev nevertheless steered the law through, arguing that “April 12 is coming.”
British Conservative MEP Daniel Dalton, a committee member, reacted angrily.
“The EU likes to speak the language of self-determination and democracy, but the EU’s justice committee has voted to ignore that today,” he tweeted.
“No-deal Brexit legislation on visas just passed. The text falsely asserts that Gibraltar is a colony.”
But a leading Spanish MEP, Esteban Gonzalez Pons, seized upon the law as a diplomatic victory for Madrid.
“Spain has obtained fundamental support from the European institutions in the dispute over Gibraltar by considering this territory a colony,” he argued.
“The mention of Gibraltar as a colony will be fundamental in attempting to resolve the dispute over this territory in a post-Brexit scenario.”
Brexit itself will not change the status of Gibraltar, but Madrid has been keen to establish that it will retain a veto over any future agreement between Britain and the EU that touches on the territory.


Macron meets Syrian Kurds, vows French support in fight against Daesh

Updated 44 min 3 sec ago
0

Macron meets Syrian Kurds, vows French support in fight against Daesh

  • Macron assured the SDF representatives, who were not named, of the "active support of France in the fight against Daesh which continues to be a menace for collective security"
  • European capitals are all keeping a careful eye on the Daesh prisoners held by the SDF after the defeat of the extremists, given many are dual nationals

PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron on Friday hosted representatives of the Kurdish-led force that defeated Daesh extremists in Syria, assuring them of France's support in the fight against remaining extremists.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had in late March flushed out Daesh from their last bastion in Syria but still warn the terrorists remain a threat in places.
The SDF is an umbrella force of Kurds and Arabs dominated by Kurds from the People's Protection Units (YPG) militia. It is regarded with huge distrust by neighbouring Turkey which sees the YPG as a terror group.
Macron assured the SDF representatives, who were not named, of the "active support of France in the fight against Daesh which continues to be a menace for collective security," the presidency said in a statement.
Particularly important was the support in the "handling of terrorist fighters held as prisoners along with their families."
European capitals are all keeping a careful eye on the Daesh prisoners held by the SDF after the defeat of the extremists, given many are dual nationals.
Macron also vowed that financial support would be allocated to "respond to the humanitarian needs and the socio-economic stabilisation of civilian populations in Syria."
The SDF were the key ally of the West in defeating Daesh and waged the bulk of the fighting on the ground.
But they fear being abandoned by their patrons now Daesh is beaten, after US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of American forces from Syria.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had in April announced one million euros ($1.1 million) in humanitarian aid for camps housing displaced people, notably Al-Hol which holds thousands of women and children who lived in Daesh-held areas.
France's past contacts with the SDF's Syrian Kurds have angered Turkey, which regards the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
The PKK has waged a 35-year insurrection against the Turkish state.
Macron also made clear of the importance to Paris of "the security of Turkey and a de-escalation along the Syrian-Turkish border," the presidency said.