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Spain to EU: End Gaza blockade June 13, 2010

Posted by Yilan in EU, Gaza, Spain.
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// // Spain to EU: End Gaza blockade

European Union pressures Israel to lift blockade on Gaza.


European leaders urged Israel over the weekend to lift its blockade of Gaza, as they drafted plans to revive and expand the European Union’s role in monitoring goods heading into the area.

On Monday, the EU Foreign Affairs Council plans to debate the matter.

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Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said at a joint press conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Saturday that his country wants to “forge a strong common position” with EU countries in the face of the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Zapatero said that at Monday’s Council meeting, Spain’s foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, would propose that the EU deploy “all its political and diplomatic capability” to end the Gaza blockade.

On Friday, the foreign ministers from France, Italy and Spain wrote an op-ed in the International Herald Tribune in which they joined in the call. They were careful to insist that captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, held by Hamas in Gaza since June 2006, be released.

The ministers also acknowledged Israel’s security concerns: “Lifting the blockade,” they said, “must not go hand-in-hand with a resurgence in arms trafficking and an influx of terrorist groups in Gaza.”

The quantity and variety of goods entering Gaza must increase, they said, offering as one possibility a proposal by Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair. Blair has “suggested a shift from a logic of denial of supplies to Gaza, with some exceptions, to a logic based on general authorization, with the exception of banned products.”

“Why not adopt this idea?” they asked. “To guarantee full security of supplies, we propose that inspections supported and funded by the European Union should be put in place [at land crossings] in conditions acceptable by all in order to ensure that consignments bound for Gaza contain neither weapons nor explosives,” they said.

“A similar regime could in addition be applied to [sea-bound] consignments bound for Gaza, for example by deploying EU monitoring teams in Cyprus. These various arrangements would be implemented only against a backdrop of very substantial relaxation of the restrictions on imports and exports to and from Gaza,” they said.

The ministers added that they wanted to expand the role of the European Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM), which has been stationed in Ashkelon since the 2007 Hamas coup in Gaza that made it impossible for Fatah to monitor the Rafah crossing, which links Egypt with Gaza.

They said they wanted to see EUBAM return to Rafah. Diplomatic sources have told The Jerusalem Post that the EU is also considering placing EUBAM at two of the three land crossings linking Israel and Gaza: Karni and Kerem Shalom.

But they did not address many of the technical problems inherent in opening a sea route to Gaza or in fully opening the land crossings – such as the fact that Gaza’s port is not large enough to accommodate cargo ships. In addition, the agreement under which EUBAM operates is between Fatah and Israel and involves the placement of Fatah on the Palestinian side of the crossings. Hamas is not interested in having Fatah at the crossings.

Since the Gaza coup, in an attempt to economically cripple Hamas, Israel has closed the land crossings to all but humanitarian goods. Recently it has relaxed some of those restrictions and, in particular, allowed in building material for 12 projects.

On Friday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with Blair in Jerusalem to drum up support for Israel’s right to continue its naval blockade of Gaza by which it searches and halts ships heading there so as to prevent weapons from flowing into that area by sea.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu told Blair that goods could enter Gaza by other means.

Israel has said it could show flexibility with respect to the quantity and variety of goods heading into Gaza by land. It has, however, insisted it does not intend to allow a full revival of the Gaza economy, because such a move would only strengthen Hamas.

We’ve been here before … but Israel has failed to learn lessons of history June 7, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Gaza, Israel, Palestine, Spain.
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The Israeli attack on the Gaza freedom flotilla was an act of lethal stupidity. Lethal for its victims, stupid for Israel. It might be well, therefore, to remind the Jewish people of their own history.

Two years after World War II, a rustbucket American steamship renamed Exodus 1947 sailed from France with 4515 Jews on board. Most were Holocaust survivors, bound for a new life in the Promised Land, then the British Mandate of Palestine.

The British refused to accept them as immigrants and stopped the ship off the Palestine coast. Three people were killed when the Royal Navy boarded it by force and sailed it to the port of Haifa. The Exodus 1947 Jews were eventually sent back to occupied Germany, of all places.

// This was a priceless propaganda coup in the fight for an independent Jewish homeland. There was a tremendous international outcry. The novel Exodus, by Leon Uris, a bestseller based on the story of the ship, and the 1960 Hollywood film of the same name, starring Paul Newman, cemented the idea of Israel in the Western political and cultural imperative.

Some of this ought to have occurred to the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, when he ordered the commando assault on the Gaza flotilla. Evidently not. Beneath that silvery, Harvard-educated veneer there lies an unprincipled thug addicted to the use of Israeli military might and impervious to world opinion.

Endlessly repeating the errors of history, Israel now engages in a savage repression of the Palestinian people and their right to a homeland of their own. The policy platform of Netanyahu’s Likud party makes no bones about it.

”The government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan River,” it reads. ”The Palestinians can run their lives freely in the framework of self-rule, but not as an independent and sovereign state. Thus, for example, in matters of foreign affairs, security, immigration and ecology their activity shall be limited in accordance with imperatives of Israel’s existence, security and national needs.”

The blockade of Gaza is a human catastrophe. It has created a ghetto of despair for 1.5 million people. Just this week the International Committee of the Red Cross reported again that: “Gazans continue to suffer the effects of siege-induced poverty and warfare.

“The closure imposed on Gaza three years ago and the effects of Israel’s military operation in the Strip in January 2009 are crippling the entire economy. Humanitarian aid alone cannot address the massive needs in Gaza, where civilians are paying the price of the blockade and ongoing hostilities.”

Writing in The New York Times on Wednesday, the Israeli novelist Amos Oz stated the bleedin’ obvious, that no idea has ever been defeated by force. Israelis should understand this better than any people on the planet but, tragically, they do not.

AT LONG last there are encouraging signs that the state government is getting its act together. The exciting new policy of showering favours and buckets of money on multi-millionaire horse breeders in the Hunter Valley is a great leap forward and a surefire election winner.

As the Herald reported last week, the government is believed to be offering as much as $160 million – plus another $50 million in loans – to fund a shotgun marriage for Sydney’s two race clubs, the Australian Jockey Club and the Sydney Turf Club.

This will be music to the ears of the stud owners and their media friends who, as everyone knows, have been battling along on the smell of an oily rag for years, never sure where their next million is coming from. And that’s not all. There’s been the recent $2 million upgrade for the airport at Scone, and the decision to block plans for an open-cut coalmine in the valley, helpfully announced on the day of the Scone Cup last month.

And it doesn’t stop with horseracing. We’ve also had the wonderful news of $45 million of taxpayers’ money to be pumped into the V8 Supercar race at Homebush Bay over the next five years, $10 million more than was originally set aside for this globally admired project.

Of course there will be the narks and whingers. We will hear endless complaints from the do-gooders – people caring for the disabled or the mentally ill, mothers working two jobs to afford childcare, single parents in rundown public housing, elderly folk waiting years for hip replacement surgery, and so on.

This special pleading should be ignored. For too long Labor governments have been obsessed with supporting grassroots battlers. It’s high time the rich and powerful were properly looked after.

This new direction appears to be a joint effort by Kristina Keneally and her Minister for Lunching, Ian Macdonald. They are worth every airline upgrade they are offered, and more.

What the bloody hell were they thinking?

The new commercial that Tourism Australia released this week is terrific, a marketing triumph. If you were flogging margarine or pizza or laundry detergent, that is. Or if you were trying to con the punters into believing, say, that some rapacious bank is actually all warm and cuddly.

As an ad to sell Australia around the globe it’s crap. There’s no other way of putting it. It’s hokey, it’s dumb, it’s a toe-curling embarrassment. Worse even than that Lara Bingle “where the bloody hell are ya?” clunker.

Take the slogan, for a start: there’s nothing like Australia. Gosh, I wonder how many thoughtful hours went into that stunning concept, how many fine minds tossed it around, ran it up flagpoles, etc. Imagine the litres of coffee drunk, the ferment of creative endeavour and argument around the agency boardroom table long into the night.

How vacuous can you get? There’s nothing like South Yemen, either, but that’s hardly an enticing reason for buying a ticket and leaping on a plane.

Then there’s the plonking da-de-da jingle. It reminds me of something we used to sing at primary school, a ditty about a little red fire engine, if I remember correctly. And why on earth did they get it sung by people who can’t sing?

Macedonia “Ready For EU Accession Talks” April 21, 2010

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Macedonia, Spain.
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Macedonia could start its EU accession talks within the period of the Spanish EU presidency, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos told media in Skopje on Tuesday.

Moratinos, whose country holds the rotating EU Presidency until June, grounded his optimism on his impression that both Macedonia and Greece are making their utmost efforts to resolve their bilateral name spat, which is the only obstacle for the start of accession talks with Skopje.

In addition to talks with Macedonian FM Antonio Milososki, Moratinos was set to meet President Gjorge Ivanov, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, Vice Premier for European Affairs Vasko Naumovski and several MPs.

For his part Milososki reiterated that Macedonia is fully committed to resolving the long lasting name spat that has caused Greece to block Macedonia’s NATO accession and later its EU integration progress as well.

Milososki urged Athens to restrain from speculating on possible name solutions.

His remarks referred to a recent statement from the Greek Foreign Ministry Spokesman Grigori Dalavecouras in which he reiterated that the name “Northern Macedonia” is acceptable for Greece as it fits Athens’ demand for a geographic qualifier to distinguish the state from the northern Greek province that is also called Macedonia.

Athens argues that Skopje’s official name, Republic of Macedonia, implies territorial claims against its own territory. As a member of both NATO and the EU, Greece’s consent is necessary before Macedonia can join these organisations.

In December last year, the start of Macedonia’s accession talks with the EU were blocked, although previously the European Commission had said that all conditions had been met.

Since then media have been speculating that the EU has given both sides an informal June deadline to resolve the dispute.

A fresh round of UN brokered name talks between Athens and Skopje is expected to be held soon.

Macedonia might get date for EU accession talk by end of June: Spanish FM April 21, 2010

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Macedonia, Spain.
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A senior Spanish official said on Tuesday that Macedonia might get a date for the start of its accession talks to join the European Union by the end of this June.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, whose country holds the current rotating EU presidency, said that his country will invest all its energy to make this happen before its presidency ends by the end of June.

“We are making efforts and I am convinced that it could happen by the end of the Spanish presidency,” Moratinos said at a joint press conference with his Macedonian counterpart Antonio Milososki in Skopje.

He said that his optimistic because he is satisfied with the preparations undertaken by Macedonia for start of accession talks, adding that 2010 will be a good year for Macedonia’s integration into the EU and NATO.

In December last year, the EU postponed the decision to grant Macedonia the much desired date for start of its accession talks due to the unresolved name issue between Macedonia and its southern neighbor Greece.

Greece has been opposed to its northern neighbor using the name of Macedonia, arguing that the name implies territorial claims against its own northern province, also called Macedonia.

Macedonia’s bid to join NATO was also thwarted by Greece over the same dispute in 2008.

“We don’t want to waste time any more. We need your country in the EU,” Moratinos.

However, in a later speech to Macedonia’s parliament, the Spanish foreign minister said the dispute must be settled in due time, pushing for final efforts into solving the issue.

“Unless the name row is settled, we are wasting time and the region of Western Balkans cannot be stabilized,” he warned.