60 Years after Rome Treaty: EU Confronts the Right, Terrorism


Brussels – On the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, experts warned of the frequent crises hitting the European Union.

Experts say these crises represent an “existential” threat to the EU at a time when it is going through and seeking to recover from an unprecedented divorce from the United Kingdom.

New European Parliament chief Antonio Tajani said on the eve of the anniversary that the “European project has never seemed so far away from the people as it does today.”

The year 2017 is one of all dangers, as the EU has to negotiate the divorce with London, and control the ascension of anti-migrant parties in Germany and France that are skeptical of the European unity’s efficiency.

European leaders and members have long lived by the slogan of Jean Monnet, one of the EU founders, who said: “Europe will be forged in crises, and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crises.”

Today, however, fears are that the union may be fatally weakened.

Stefan Lehne, scholar at Carnegie Europe, told Agence France Press: “The problem is not that we are facing one major crisis, bit several very dangerous and complex ones.”

“We can no longer guarantee that the EU will get out of these crises unscathed in 2017 and 2018,” he warned.

The former Austrian diplomat said that the EU will at least survive as a unified market because of the rational economic foundations on which it has been built.

However, some people still have faith in the union.

A European studies researcher at the University of Luxembourg recalled other crises such as “the “empty chair crisis” adopted by General de Gaulle in 1965 and 1966 and the late addition of the UK to the Union in the 1970s in wake of the oil and monetary crises.

“Crises hitting the union today threaten the deep meaning of the European project,” he said.

“Peace is still the main focus, but away from that, what sort of economic and social model do we want in Europe?” he asked.

For a decade, the “beautiful idea” of the EU, which was born on the ruins of the World War II, has never experienced peace as unemployment is still high, growth is slow due to the 2007 and 2008 financial crises, and southern countries are facing a debt problem that has created popular discontent.

In 2015, Greece was close to leaving the Eurozone due to austerity measures.

Europeans also failed in stopping the Syrian tragedy and the Ukrainian conflict, which caused sharp tension with Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Throughout all this, terrorist attacks have “radically changed the security environment across Europe.”

Divisions were further deepened with the arrival of 1.4 million refugees in 2015 and 2016 through the Mediterranean. Some countries called for banning their entry, while others, like Germany, opened their doors wide to receive them.

“Never before have I seen such fragmentation and also such little convergence in our union,” European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said last year, while noting that it is passing through an “existential” crisis.

May: UK to Trigger Exit from EU on March 29


Prime Minister Theresa May announced on Monday that Britain will formally trigger its exit from the European Union on March 29.

“The UK’s permanent representative to the EU informed the office of (European Union President) Donald Tusk that it’s the UK’s intention to trigger Article 50 on March 29,” her spokesman told reporters.

Triggering Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, the formal procedure for leaving the bloc, will open a two-year timetable for difficult negotiations, meaning Britain could be out of the EU by 2019.

The spokesman said May would notify Tusk in writing and then give a speech to the British parliament.

“We want negotiations to start promptly,” he said.

Britain voted in a June referendum by a 52 percent majority to leave the EU — the first member state ever to do so.

Monday’s announcement comes just days before the European Union celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome which created the bloc.

“Last June, the people of the UK made the historic decision to leave the EU. Next Wednesday, the Government will deliver on that decision and formally start the process by triggering Article 50,” Brexit minister David Davis said in a statement.

“We are on the threshold of the most important negotiation for this country for a generation,” Davis said.

“The Government is clear in its aims: a deal that works for every nation and region of the UK and indeed for all of Europe – a new, positive partnership between the UK and our friends and allies in the European Union.”

May has said she wants to leave the European single market in order to be able to control immigration.

The European Commission, whose chief negotiator Michel Barnier will spearhead the talks with London on behalf of the other 27 member states, said it was ready for the Brexit process.

“Everything is ready on this side,” Margaritis Schinas, the spokesman for European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, told a briefing.

“We are ready to begin negotiations,” he said.

The European Commission is expected to provide an initial answer to Britain’s Article 50 notification within 48 hours but negotiations are not expected to start for several weeks or even months.

EU leaders will hold a summit to approve Brexit negotiating guidelines “four to six weeks” after Britain triggers its divorce from the bloc, a European source said Monday.

Britain’s planned notification on March 29 “does not leave sufficient time” for a meeting that had initially been scheduled for April 6, the source told AFP.

The British government has insisted the Brexit process is irreversible once Article 50 is triggered, although experts have said there is no legal ban on member states changing their minds before they have actually left the European Union.

Against the backdrop of trying to keep the UK together, May has a long wish list for the EU – the closest possible trading ties, security cooperation, regaining control over immigration and restoring sovereignty in various policy areas.

The EU has baulked at her demands, saying they amount to “having your cake and eating it”. May’s government acknowledges its opening position is bold, and is also preparing for the possibility of crashing out of the bloc with no deal.

While the government has signalled areas for compromise and is keen to remind EU leaders of the benefits of cooperation, government departments are still awaiting the final word from May’s office on which economic sectors to prioritize.

Britain’s commitment to payments into the EU budget – which officials in the bloc estimate to reach around 60 billion euros – are shaping up to be one of the first, and possibly most contentious, parts of the divorce talks.

Of the United Kingdom’s four nations, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU in the June 23 vote while England and Wales voted to leave.

May on Monday began a tour of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland aimed at boosting support for Brexit.

British-Gulf Research to Confront Scarcity, Enhance Energy Efficiency

British prime minister Theresa May with Saudi King Salman, left, and King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa, at the GCC summit in Manama.

Riyadh- The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in partnership with the British Council has made a great progress in the British-GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) Joint Research Cooperation Project.

A British source asserted that efforts are ongoing to implement specialized projects to confront challenges of water scarcity and lack of nutrition, and to enhance energy efficiency in the GCC countries; the British Government has allocated USD3.4 million for joint projects covering those fields.

Amir Ramzan, director of the British Cultural Council in Saudi Arabia and director of the project told Asharq Al-Awsat that remarkable steps were made in preparing research to confront challenges of water and nutrition and to enhance energy efficiency. He noted that the Middle East comprises 70% of water desalination plants in the world, and most of them are located in the GCC region. The industry of water desalination in the GCC region faces many challenges, he added.

According to a recent report released by Alpen Capital Company, expenditures of these countries on food are expected to grow to USD53.1 billion in 2020, driven by the growing population and tourists’ flow.

The project’s director said that most GCC countries are food importing markets; therefore, GCC governments prioritize the provision of food imports with affordable prices rates.

Ramazan also expected that countries in the region would face more pressures in the coming decade, which would urge them to use energy resources more efficiently so they could provide their growing population with energy, liberate exported resources, and settle concerns from climate change and pollution.

According to Ramazan, the United Kingdom is also facing many challenges, and it is working on facing them through joint research projects and investments in sectors of defense, health, Nanotechnology and cyber security, as these fields are highly important for security and prosperity among the world’s populations.

Ramzan also expected these researches to enhance a long term partnership between GCC and the United Kingdom. He also praised the British Cultural Center’s program, which currently supports 500 Saudi students who receive their higher education in the UK.

Further, a special program for women has been developed to focus on the advancement of women leaderships in fields of sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics, Ramzan revealed.

Ramzan asserted that the UK is committed to enhance cooperation among researchers in the GCC region to help them face global challenges and regional priorities.

Finally he noted that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in partnership with the British Council together launched an open call for joint research applications in July 2016. The call received a very high response rate, with 172 applications being put forward from higher education institutions and research bodies in the region.

Britain Worried about Queen Elizabeth’s Health


London – Britain’s Queen Elizabeth missed a New Year’s Day church service on Sunday due to a heavy cold, Buckingham Palace said, a week after the 90-year-old monarch missed a Christmas Day service for the first time in decades.

“The Queen does not yet feel ready to attend church as she is still recuperating from a heavy cold,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement.

Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip, 95, were both suffering from heavy colds in the week leading up to Christmas and delayed their journey from London to Sandringham by a day, traveling there by helicopter on Dec. 22.

Philip attended both the Christmas and New Year services. On Sunday he arrived by car before walking into the grey stone parish church of St. Mary Magdalene, but the queen, who is the symbolic head of the Church of England, made no public appearance.

Late Thursday, a Twitter account with the handle @BBCNewsUKI sent out a fake message claiming Buckingham Palace had announced the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

The news had an air of believability: Elizabeth is 90 years old and has been in poor health recently. This year, for the first time in three decades, she failed to attend a Christmas Day church service near her country home in Norfolk after suffering what was described as a “heavy cold.” The queen has not appeared in public since she fell ill.

While Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, died at the relatively young age of 56, her mother, known as Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, lived until 101 and was still appearing in public almost up until her death in 2002.

Elizabeth has maintained the popularity of the monarchy despite years of political, social and cultural change since she became queen on Feb. 6, 1952, aged just 25.

UK Documents: ‘Thatcher Secretly Pushed for U.S. Military Technology’


London – Keep the French “in the dark” and raise “three cheers!” to our American allies emerge as recurrent themes in top secret documents debating how to secure advanced military technology during the 1980s.

Files released to the National Archives in Kew on Friday show how UK ministers favored the U.S. shuttle launch system for military satellites over Ariane rockets.

A 1983 memo from the Ministry of Defense to the prime minister warns there is “French pressure on us to be ‘European’ and go for Ariane.”

Margaret Thatcher agreed that it was better to go with the American shuttle, which was cheaper and had a better safety record.

The MoD wanted to send two Skynet 4 military satellites, manufactured by BAE and Marconi, into orbit to provide communications across Europe and the Atlantic.

The shuttle launch was priced at £58m – £23m cheaper than Ariane.

“We currently rely on American cover for the command and control of all our naval forces outside the UK, including submarines and surface task groups and our forces in Falklands, Lebanon and Berlin,” the letter, highlighting the UK’s reliance on U.S. goodwill, informed the prime minister.

In this context, French Socialist Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy wrote to Thatcher pleading for the decision to be reconsidered and offered to reduce the cost.

The issue, prefiguring the Westland helicopter affair, escalated into a diplomatic row over the UK’s international priorities.

Geoffrey Howe, the foreign secretary, wrote to Thatcher in December 1983 advising caution.

“If we opt for the shuttle,” he said, “we must expect the French to make a fuss.

“Indeed, in the wake of the European Community Athens summit, they may be looking for an issue to illustrate an alleged lack of European commitment by the UK and may therefore choose to make even more of an adverse Skynet decision than would otherwise have been the case.”

“There is therefore a case for keeping the French in the dark for a time about a decision to go for shuttle in an attempt to distance it from post-Athens discord.”

Eventually the French were told the U.S. bid had been chosen.

When the next military satellite launch in 1986, however, Ariane was favored.

After the Challenger shuttle disaster, a No 10 memo stated there “is no other option but to use Ariane.”

Tehran Summons UK Ambassador, Threatens to Cut Diplomatic Ties


London- In response to Theresa May’s remarks during the recent Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meeting, Spokesman for the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi said Britain has always sought to tear down bilateral ties between the Islamic Republic of Iran and neighboring states, including Arab ones.

During GCC’s annual summit in the Bahraini capital Manama on Wednesday, May said she was “clear-eyed” about what she called “the threat” Iran poses to the region.

May had also stressed England would help the council “push back” against what she branded Iran’s “aggressive regional actions.”

“The remarks by England’s prime minister have nothing to do with the realities of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and testify to England’s divisive policy,” said Boroujerdi.

Boroujerdi further saw the comments unfitting for ambassadorial-level relations between to Tehran and London, threatening to re-downgrade relations.

The official went on to stress that these propagandas influence Arab States of the Gulf and the British take the opportunity to sell billions of dollars of weapons to them.

The remarks had already drawn strong condemnation from Iran’s Foreign Ministry which considers the remarks motivated by England’s efforts to win further lucrative arms deals with Arab countries.

Over the past five years, bilateral ties between Iran and England have seen both low and high points, yet on a sluggishly improving track.

In what was a low point in diplomacy between the two countries in November 2011, the Iranian Parliament voted to expel the British ambassador and reduce diplomatic relations with the country in retaliation for its new sanctions against Iran.

In September 2016, Iran and the United Kingdom restored relations to the highest level by assigning and dispatching their ambassadors to the other country each.

On Dec. 10, Iran’s Foreign Ministry announced that it had summoned the UK ambassador. “Following British Prime Minister Theresa May’s meddlesome remarks, Nicholas Hopton, the country’s ambassador to Tehran, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry today,” said spokesman Bahram Qassemi.

In response to a question about whether ties will be downgraded, government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht refrained from offering a clear response, saying only, “Certainly, her remarks are meddlesome and will cause insecurity in the region. It is not right for a person who comes from Europe to talk about the Gulf region.”

KSA to Grant British Companies 5-year Multiple Entry Visas


Riyadh – The UK Foreign Affairs Ministry announced a new agreement with Saudi Arabia to allow British businesses to obtain 5-year multiple entry visas for the first time, creating opportunities for more bilateral business to be conducted.

The ministry said on its website that the new agreement was among the main results of the participation of UK Premier Theresa May in the 37th GCC Summit.

Speaking ahead of the visit, the British prime minister said: “As the UK leaves the EU, we should seize the opportunity to forge a new trade arrangement between the UK and the Gulf. This could transform the way we do business and lock in a new level of prosperity for our people for generations to come.”

The foreign ministry announced that a number of additional measures to bolster bilateral trade between the UK and the Gulf were also set to be agreed during the visit, including a new agreement with Saudi Arabia to allow British businesses to obtain 5-year multiple entry visas for the first time, and a government-hosted event at the Mansion House in London in March focused on helping the Gulf diversify its economies, bringing together ministers, the Lord Mayor, senior business representatives from the city with delegates from the Gulf.

British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Simon Collis said that the Gulf was UK’s third biggest export market, following the United States and the European Union.

“We seek to develop these trade relations through a more consolidated dialogue in the field of commerce and investments,” he stated.

Collis added that issues of trade and security were the main topics of discussion between the British premier and the leaders of GCC member states.

He stressed that the security in the Gulf was closely linked to the security of the United Kingdom. He also highlighted the importance of promoting trade relations with the Gulf, especially in light of Brexit.

Collis noted that Gulf countries represented an important security partner, as they have helped the UK thwart a number of terrorist attacks.

“We continue to closely work with [Gulf States] to face security challenges represented by the extremism of [ISIS] and Iran’s behavior, which destabilizes the region,” he said.

Crown Prince Receives Verbal Message from British PM


Riyadh – Deputy Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdulaziz received a verbal message from British Prime Minister Theresa May.

The message was conveyed during the meeting with British Deputy Advisor for National Security John Jenkins in Riyadh.

During the meeting, Prince Mohammed and Jenkins discussed means to enhance cooperation between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Britain in all fields in addition to the latest developments in the region were discussed.

The audience was attended by General Abdulaziz bin Mohammed al-Huwaireni, director general of public investigations; Khalid bin Ali al-Hamdan, Chief of general intelligence and ambassador of Britain to the Kingdom Simon Collis.

UK Leads U.S. Task Force 50 in Arabian Gulf for First Time

London- An officer in the United Kingdom’s navy has been assigned to lead the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command’s “Task Force 50” for the first time.

By this move, Royal Navy Commodore Andrew Burns, commander of Amphibious Task Group embarked on the UK’s premier naval warship, HMS Ocean (L 12) and has become responsible for commanding eight ships and other destroyers in a historic step.

This marks the first time a Royal Navy officer has led a U.S. task force in the Middle East and demonstrates a significant step in combined maritime operations.

Burns said this assumption of command by the Royal Navy is a significant development in the U.S.-UK partnership.

“Together we have had an enduring presence in this region that has contributed to stability, order on the high seas and freedom of navigation, and ensuring the free flow of commerce, so vital to the prosperity of our respective nations,” said Burns.

“Today marks the start of another chapter in this partnership as the Royal Navy takes on the privilege of leading a U.S. task force in the Middle East for the first time.”

A helicopter carrier and amphibious assault ship, Ocean is the flagship of the Royal Navy and will be providing continued forward presence in the Arabian Gulf.

Capable of delivering Sailors and Marines by helicopter or landing craft, this premier naval warship brings its own unique capability of ensuring free flow of commerce, freedom of navigation and regional security.

The Daily Mail reported that the huge aircraft carrier U.S.S. Eisenhower boasts 66 jets and helicopters – compared to two helicopters on HMS Ocean, which will focus on maritime activity rather than ISIS.

There are 44 F-18 warplanes alone on the massive aircraft carrier, the site published.

The choke points include the Straits of Hormuz off Iran, the Bab al-Mendeb off Somalia and the Suez Canal.

HMS Ocean – an amphibious assault ship – currently has just over 500 crew on board, including 30 Royal Marines, to deal with any threat from the region.

It is covering for the U.S. until another carrier, U.S.S. HW George Bush, arrives in February.

It will be joined immediately by U.S.S. Monterey – a guided missile cruiser. The UK’s HMS Daring is on its way to help defend the region and up to five other ships could come under its control.

For his part, Adm. James Malloy, commander of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 10, said the handover of the CTF 50 to the Royal Navy, “represents a wise investment in this region’s future.”

“Hearing of his sterling reputation long before meeting him last month, I cannot think of a more capable officer and friend to continue the mission out here than Commodore Burns,” Malloy said.

“Security and stability cannot be maintained by one nation alone. Working together with our UK and other coalition counterparts, I am confident in the success of our shared interest for security, stability and prosperity in this region.”

Bahraini-British Talks in London to Consolidate Historic Relations


London – Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa met with British Prime Minister Theresa May in London on Wednesday to discuss bilateral relations and explore means to promote historic ties between the two countries.

Bahrain News Agency reported that the meeting also saw discussions over a number of regional and international issues.

During the session, the King expressed the pride of the Kingdom of Bahrain in the close historical relations bonding the two countries, dating back over 200 years.

He reaffirmed the need to strengthen mutual cooperation and push further high level joint collaboration.

The Bahraini King went on to say that he was looking forward to enhancing economic cooperation between the United Kingdom and Bahrain, as well as with the GCC countries in general, stressing the presence of numerous promising economic opportunities for closer cooperation and coordination.

King Hamad commended the supportive stance of the United Kingdom in backing security and stability in Bahrain. He noted that such stance reflects the strong relationship between the two countries and indicates the firm desire to further boost ties. He also expressed appreciation for the important strategic role assumed by the United Kingdom and its contribution to regional and global security and stability.

He also highlighted Bahrain’s important strides in empowering women to assume their role as essential partners in economic and social development, particularly in the fields of education and private and government sectors.

For her part, the British premier reaffirmed the strong relations between Bahrain and the United Kingdom, and expressed her country’s support to the ongoing reforms undertaken by the Gulf country.

She also thanked King Hamad for the invitation to visit Bahrain on the occasion of the celebration of the 200 year anniversary of Bahrain-UK relations and for the GCC Summit that will be held in December.