Was the Nice Attacker an ISIS ?Soldier?? Be Skeptical.

The Bastille Day terror attack on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice has been claimed by the Islamic State group ? sort of.

Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a delivery driver known to police for petty crimes, drove a 19-ton white Renault truck into crowds gathered for a fireworks display. At least 84 are dead.

As they did when Orlando shooter Omar Mateen killed 49 people, ISIS news agency ?Amaq released a statement calling Bouhlel a ?soldier of the Caliphate.? ISIS reiterated the claim in its Bayan Radio news bulletin, adding a warning that ?Crusader states? are not safe from its fighters.

However, unlike the attack in Dhaka, Bangladesh or even attacks at Bataclan and Brussels airport, as yet no pre-attack photos or ?last will and testament? videos have been released to cement the connection beyond a loose and general claim of affiliation, which may or may not be legitimate.

ISIS fan boys celebrated with glee on ISIS-linked social media accounts in the immediate aftermath of the attack, but this does not mean that Raqqa, the self-declared capital of the caliphate headquarters in Syria, ordered or organized the attack.

Reasons to doubt an ISIS link

President Hollande has already determined this to be a terrorist act ? even before any real evidence has been found on Bouhlel?s cellphone or in his laptop browser history on his laptop beyond a phone number alleged to be connected to Al Nusra Front?s Omar Diaby. This is problematic.

According to reports, Bouhlel suffered from depression after his wife divorced him. Stories are circulating that he acted in ways consistent of someone with suffering from mental illness. His own father admitted he had bouts of depression and breakdowns.

With no clear connection to Jihadi groups (and merely a record as a petty criminal), French officials are trying to ascertain whether Bouhlel was a lone actor terrorist or a mentally ill person with whom ISIS is opportunistically associating.

The idea that a mass casualty perpetrator is likely to be suffering from mental illness is consistent with the research on lone actors conducted by Paul Gill, John Horgan, Emily Corner and others.

The worst-case scenario is that Bouhlel is so-called ?clean skin.? That?s what security officials call a terrorist with no real criminal record who is not under surveillance, and who might be part of a larger plot.

The response by counterterror officials would be very different depending on which of these theories proves to be true.

My research on suicide terrorism has demonstrated that affiliation with a group is quite different from the research of criminal justice professor Adam Lankford of the University of Alabama, who insists that many terrorists are suicidal and not sacrificing themselves for a greater cause or for some underlying altruistic motivation of self-sacrifice.

The implications for policy and the potential for backlash from terrorists and counterterrorists vary greatly depending on which scenario ends up being accurate for Bouhlel. Whether he was in fact radicalized or possible mentally ill matters.

At this time, any of these explanations is plausible. It is important to explore what is known, admit what we don?t know and base any analysis on fact and not speculation.

Why France? Again?

France has suffered three attacks in the past 19 months. There is a robust literature exploring why Europe and especially France has borne the brunt of Jihadi terrorism.

Explanations include the fact that Muslims (mostly of north African origin) in France have not assimilated into the mainstream of French society. Muslims constitute a disproportionate percentage of the unemployed poor living in the banlieus, or suburbs, of urban sprawl. They are incarcerated at percentages that far exceed their percent of the population, and have fewer opportunities for upward mobility than even their non-Muslim African counterparts have enjoyed in the U.K. and France.

The French government has aggressively banned the veil. The extreme right wing party, the National Front, has soared in the polls and increased its percentage of the seats in the Parliament.

However, one point the news media has largely neglected to mention is that France has been spearheading the bombing campaigns against ISIS (compared to the Russian bombardment of free Syrian Army positions). It has led attacks against Jihadi groups in Mali and other parts of Africa.

President Francois Hollande?s declaration that ?We will continue striking those who attack us on our own soil? is a not-so-veiled reference to France?s involvement in air strikes in Syria. Hollande?s statement reflects what the French security services already believe to be a persuasive hypothesis: even if this attack was not ISIS-directed, it might have been ISIS-inspired.

Beyond Syria, France has expanded its counterterrorism operations throughout North Africa as Jihadi groups have proliferated in the aftermath of the downfall of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Groups in Morocco, Algeria and Mali affiliated with al-Qaida or ISIS have flourished. The French counterterror operations launched in 2013 to roll back the Islamist militant uprising in the north of Mali has metamorphosed into a semi-colonial arrangement.

All of this goes a long way to explain why France.

But it is crucial to point out that just acts inspired by ISIS are most certainly not the same as those planned by or at the behest of ISIS. The connection to ISIS is not crystal clear even when groups (let alone individuals) claim affiliation by making a pledge, or bayat, to the Islamic State.

According to the Minerva research team at Georgia State University, the 2014 expansion of ISIS? so-called Caliphate was foretold by ?Wiki Baghdady? ? a Jihadi insider, but more than likely an al-Qaida agent ? who predicted IS would amass multiple group allegiances and then announce them simultaneously in order to project power and influence.

?It would be as if the pledges came from everywhere, answering al-Baghdadi?s call,? Wiki Baghdady wrote. Unsurprisingly, within 10 months WikiBaghdady?s predictions proved correct. Formal pledges from jihadists in Sinai, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Libya and Algeria were released through ISIS media in November and were formally accepted by the ?emir? three days later.

In essence, the ISIS expansion strategy follows a preset ?script.? Obvious patterns have emerged in terms of the types of attacks a group perpetrates ? and even ISIS? use of a standardized logo, font, colors and branding.

For individuals, the branding is more complex. Unless video emerges of Bouhlel being trained in Mosul or Raqqa or some incriminating materials are found on his cellphone or personal computers, we must treat the situation as unconfirmed until we have more information.

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This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Café Society: Go West, Young Neurotic

How you feel about Woody Allen?s recent films in large part comes down to how you feel about productivity. Allen is a director so obsessed with output?he has said that keeping busy makes him forget about death?that he makes a movie almost every year whether or not he has something noteworthy to say. Some find this irritating, a man playing alone in his sandbox and asking us to watch him. Others, and I?ll confess to being in this camp, find value in the routine. Roger Ebert famously said, ?the muse visits during the act of creation, not before.? Which is to say, you can?t make anything great if you don?t make anything. Sometimes it?ll be good, sometimes it?ll be bad, sometimes it?ll just sort of sit there, but it makes no difference, because by the time people see it, you?re already on to the next thing. You can?t win if you don?t play.

So either you cut Allen slack for the occasional dud, knowing that every once in a while he?ll deliver a gem, or you grow impatient as his movies grow less and less relevant. Where you land on that spectrum will determine whether or not you derive much enjoyment out of Café Society, his 46th and newest film. The movie is trifling, a bit meandering, and certainly a little repetitive, not just on themes that Allen has hit in previous movies but even this movie itself?I?m pretty sure one character says the same line twice. If you?ve seen every single Woody Allen film?and I have, oh have I ever?you?ll find some pleasure in watching Allen discover a new way to chase down one of those rabbits he?s been pursuing for 40 years. If you are a casual observer just wondering if this wisp of a story is worth your 12 bucks, you?re probably going to be left wanting. Café Society is Replacement Level Allen. There are pleasures to be found. But you have to look a little harder than usual.

The film follows Allen avatar Bobby Dorfman, played for the second time (after To Rome With Love) by Jesse Eisenberg, who is particularly skilled at playing Allen?s surrogate; he has a peevishness that quietly undercuts his characters? indulgence, a wink that he knows this guy?s kind of full of it. Dorfman?s a Brooklyn kid who moves to Hollywood in the 1930s to beg his movie studio executive Uncle Phil (Steve Carell) for a job, only to end up falling in love with his assistant Vonnie, played by Kristen Stewart. Meanwhile, the family business back in New York beckons, headed by his mobster brother (Corey Stoll), and Dorfman must balance idealism with the hard-headedness of the real world. This is not the first time you?ve seen this Woody Allen plot. I?m not sure it?s the first time you?ve seen it from him in the last five years. As it turns out, Vonnie?s having an affair with Uncle Phil, but she?s also in love with Bobby, and the love triangle lolls out without much urgency but also not without its fair share of charm. (It?s also of note that Allen also narrates the film as well, and that his voice sounds worryingly terrible.)

Café Society isn?t a hangout movie, but it can feel that way sometimes, because Allen has neither the energy nor the patience for much of a tick-tock plot anymore. Whole subplots meander and go nowhere, or they build up to no payoff. It looks like Bobby?s brother is being set up as some sort of moral foil to the main plot in the style of Crimes and Misdemeanors, but then Allen just drops it for no particular reason. Bobby as a character sees Vonnie not as a person but a vessel for his own securities, but Allen is so slack with Bobby?s story that you?re not entirely sure Allen always sees that. (I think he does? I hope?) The movie is meandering in a way that?s sometimes endearing? Allen?s has an old man?s let?s-get-on-with it unfussiness that has its charms?but does not always serve his story well, particularly one has slim as this one. He does, as always, have the advantage of a terrific, game cast. Carell is excellent at showing Phil?s desperation, his neediness and his quiet, hidden empathy, but the real star is Stewart, who is on quite a run these days. She has a near-nothing role but turns it into something a little daring, a would-be Girl Friday who sees all the angles and makes the smart play while never losing touch with her inherent goodness. The movie also looks fantastic. This is the first time Allen has worked with famed cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now, Last Tango in Paris), and the film?also Allen?s first shot on digital?is lush, sharp, and packed with far more visual detail than you?ve seen of him from late. Even when the movie?s not moving all that swiftly, Storaro always makes you feel like you?re going somewhere.

This is definitely not one of Allen?s clunkers from the last decade. (Magic in the Moonlight was the last real D.O.A. one, and it?s possible the Larry David-starrer Whatever Works is Allen?s worst film.) But it?s not one of the ones you wait around for, the ones that justify the skippable ones. There?s a sense that Allen hasn?t made a great movie in a long while, but I think that just comes from his making a movie every year. Every four years or so, he lands a big one, whether it?s Blue Jasmine (2013), Midnight in Paris (2011), Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) or Match Point (2005). (Only Quentin Tarantino and I would put Anything Else on this list.) At the pace he?s been going, Allen?s due for another breakout hit any day now. I?m afraid this isn?t quite it. But there will be another one next year, as always. You can?t win if you don?t play.

Grade: B-

Grierson & Leitch write about the movies regularly for the New Republic and host a podcast on film. Follow them on Twitter @griersonleitch or visit griersonleitch.com.

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Officials: ?No evidence of a specific threat of a terrorist act in Bulgaria?

interior minsitry

The Bulgarian government?s consultative group on counter-terrorism met on July 15 in the wake of the terrorist attack in the French city of Nice, underlining that there was currently no evidence of a specific threat of a terrorist attack in Bulgaria, the Interior Ministry said.

However, given the complicated situation in Europe and the Balkan countries, security measures were currently being undertaken throughout Bulgaria, the ministry said.

The consultative group met on the orders of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov.

The group, which includes representatives of the Interior Ministry, Intelligence agency, State Agency for National Security, the Foreign Ministry, Defence Ministry, Transport Ministry and the secretary of the Cabinet security council, discussed the situation in Europe and the Balkan region, including in the context of the terrorist attack in Nice, the statement said.

Bulgaria?s security services would continue to actively monitor and analyse the status of the security environment, the Interior Ministry said.

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The Praise for Mike Pence Epitomizes the Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

The conventional wisdom that Indiana Governor Mike Pence would be the GOP vice presidential nominee with the highest upside and the lowest downside risk for Donald Trump took hold as soon as Pence entered consideration. ?Donald Trump?s presidential campaign has been unconventional, but naming Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as Trump?s running mate would be a quite conventional move,? wrote Andrew Downs, the director of the Center for Indiana Politics, in The Washington Post. ?Pence would balance the ticket in almost every way.?

There are few dissenters to this view. But it is less a testament to any consensus that Pence is a good politician, or a good fit for Trump, than to the unusual terribleness of the other candidates under consideration.

Unlike New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Pence isn?t weighed down by dump trucks full of legal or ethical dirt. Pence is an evangelical, and as far as we know he?s not a philandering one. He was once considered a factional leader of the ideological right. And he has enough recent experience in Congress, and scandal-free governing experience in Indiana, to help Trump calm jittery Republican nerves and win more full-throated endorsements from party leaders and officials.

If we?re not being gamed?if Trump really has selected Pence?the real significance is that Trump won?t let himself lose the election through complete neglect. Trump is probably too unpopular to win anyhow, but he definitely can?t if he makes literally no concessions to Republicans and movement conservatives.

A dependable sort like Pence is a necessity for Trump, even if he?s not ultimately sufficient. But that is the complete extent to which Pence can be thought of as an asset.


Think ahead from Trump?s perspective. If Pence were ever called upon to fulfill a running mate?s basic function?if Trump exited the race for any reason, or became unable to fulfill the duties of the presidency?Trumpism would be dealt a crippling blow. In a way it would be as if Trump never existed. Whatever Trump is, he is not a movement conservative, while Pence very much is.

This is not to overstate things. As Bernie Sanders explained in so many words when he endorsed Hillary Clinton this week, Trump?s racism obscures the fact that much of his agenda?lower taxes, less environmental, and financial regulation, and so on?is familiar conservative sop for the GOP donor class. But with the partial exception of his enforcement-only views about immigration reform, Pence doesn?t stand for any of the things Trump promises to change about the Republican Party. To the contrary, his record and Trump?s agenda contradict one another in critical ways.

Consider:

  • Pence supports the trade agreements Trump deplores.

Pence is for most purposes a doctrinaire social conservative, business conservative, and neoconservative. He opens the Trump campaign up, in other words, to the kind of attacks that doomed the Romney campaign: war on women; war on the working class; war on everyone. His greatest defenses against these criticisms are that as Indiana governor he worked with the Obama administration to expand his state?s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act; and ultimately turned against legislation that would have allowed Indiana business owners to discriminate against LGBT people. But these are ultimately moderate, bread-and-butter-style decisions Pence won?t want to draw attention to.

The incompatibilities don?t end there. As much as they are ideological misfits, they?re also temperamental and geographic misfits.

Pence is a bad talker. He will have to explain his deviations from Trumpism, from opposing Trump?s proposed ban on Muslim travel, to supporting the Trans Pacific Partnership, to answering for any new Trump controversy in the weeks and months ahead, and he will do badly at it. By the same token, he will do a poor job explaining his views on everything from abortion to the health impact of smoking. And when it?s all over, it?s not even clear Pence can help Trump in Indiana?a state Hillary Clinton doesn?t need to win anyway?because his popularity is under water there.

Because he is neither erratic nor corrupt?because he doesn?t amplify Trump?s worst qualities?Pence is being celebrated as a sober and steadying force for Trumpland. Someone who might even make it easier to treat the major party campaigns as equivalents. But this is the soft bigotry of low expectations.

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Black Lives Matter Has Come a Long Way Since Heckling Bernie Sanders

A year ago at Netroots Nation, billed as America?s largest annual gathering of progressives, Black Lives Matter protesters famously interrupted Bernie Sanders?s address to the conference. Many viewed Sanders?s response as churlish and dismissive, and his campaign responded by changing his message significantly to foreground issues of racial justice.

This year in St. Louis, the opening keynote session featured colleagues of the organizers of that protest. Black Lives Matter activists were no longer the conference insurgents, but its establishment. And they celebrated that victory.

?I want to give a shout out,? said Rika Tyler of Hands Up United, ?to the fem folks who shifted the political conversation in America.?

?There would never be a Bernie Sanders without organizers like the ones up here,? said Reverend Osagyefo Sekou of the Martin Luther King Institute at Stanford University. ?There is no Bernie Sanders without these people taking the streets. That?s the context for this movement.?

To an extent, this is true. Sanders has always maintained that political revolutions begin from the bottom. And at Netroots, there?s a determination to carry that forward. Gone are the speeches to attendees, replaced with diverse, inclusive discussions with everybody on the same level. The walls between political gatekeepers and individual activists have been broken down.

Granted, this change to the conference structure is also a reflection of its reduced size: This year?s event is noticeably smaller, due in part to its coming just a week and a half before the Democratic National Convention. Big political names like Sanders are mostly absent. (Senators Jeff Merkley and Tammy Baldwin are on panels in the next two days, along with a handful of members of Congress. Hillary Clinton will reportedly address the conference by video on Saturday.)

The candidates who did make it to St. Louis are positioning themselves as part of Sanders?s army, trying to draft off that movement energy. Many that I spoke to were excited that Sanders brought new voices into the political conversation, and are eager to join him in organizing in the years to come. Sanders announced the formation of three new organizations this week to engage in that work, training and funding hundreds of candidates and fighting for progressive issues. ?We want to be a willing partner,? said Jim Dean of Democracy for America.

On the other hand, the scramble for the Sanders vote does elide the fact that Clinton won the primary. You can see in these pronouncements a kernel of denial. After all, come January, progressives likely will remain outside the gates of power. Some at the conference are working to change that, by trying to figure out how to influence the Clinton campaign and make sure the executive branch is stocked with allies instead of adversaries. That requires making amends after a divisive primary. ?The progressive movement is healing, and healing hurts,? said Nahal, a first-time conference-goer. ?You don?t want that alcohol on your wound.?

But the ultimate unifying force looms in the general election. The threat of a Donald Trump presidency has muted much of the anger, and focused attention on core issues and challenges rather than personality conflicts. ?It?s important that we look beyond November,? said Gregory Cendana of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance. ?No matter who is elected, we have work to do.?

Tef Poe, the rapper and activist, put the Trump phenomenon in the context of the longtime plight of oppressed communities.

?We?ve all been living in Donald Trump?s America,? he said at the Thursday night keynote. ?The rest of you are scared that it will become America. It?s the reality I grew up in.?

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Bulgarian PM says border patrols stepped up after attempted coup in Turkey

kapitan andreevo

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said on July 16 that he has spoken with several top officials to discuss the situation in Turkey, where an attempted military coup was underway.

In a post on Facbook, Borissov said that he spoke with the head of the State Agency for National Security, the foreign intelligence service and other intelligence agencies, as well as Interior Minister Roumyana Buchvarova and Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov. He said that border patrols on the Bulgarian-Turkish border have been stepped up and that he asked the heads of intelligence services to keep him updated.

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry advised Bulgarian nationals to avoid travelling to Turkey, regardless of the mode of transportation. Bulgarian nationals currently in Turkey were advised to stay out of public places, indoors if possible and register with the ministry?s online service meant to make it easier to reach people in case of emergencies.

Bulgarian private news channel bTV reported that Bulgaria?s border crossings with Turkey were operating normally. The station said that traffic was heavy because of the seasonal flow of Turkish migrant workers travelling to Turkey for summer holidays.

International media reports said that Istanbul?s Ataturk airport had been shut down, but it was not immediately clear whether any flights had been re-routed to the Sofia airport.

(Kapitan Andreevo checkpoint, one of the main border crossings between Bulgaria and Turkey.)

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Nigeria LNG Names New CEO

July 15th, 2016 10:30am Posted In: Natural Gas News, LNG, News By Country, Netherlands, Infrastructure, Corporate, Appointments, Nigeria, Africa

Nigeria LNG announced July 14 it had appointed Tony Attah to succeed Babs Omotowa as CEO.

Since January 2016 Attah has been Senior Integrated Gas Projects Advisor at Shell, working on projects in The Netherlands and Singapore. Prior to that since 2014, he had been managing director and board chairman of Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo), the Anglo-Dutch major?s oil and gas operator in the country, in addition to being Shell?s vice-president for human resources across Sub-Saharan Africa since 2013.

In 2005-07 Attah managed the Soku Gas Plant as asset superintendent and operations manager of the initial NLNG gas supply, as well as NLNG Train 3 construction works.

Omotowa will return to Shell International in the Netherlands, after five years at the helm of NLNG which said that — under his watch — it became the highest corporate tax paying entity in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Babs Omotowa (Photo credit: NLNG)

NLNG is 49%-owned by state Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), 25.6% by Shell, 15% by Total and 10.4% by Eni. It has six LNG trains with a combined production capacity of 22mn metric tons/yr, plus 5mn mt/yr capacity of LPG/condensate, and two main subsidiaries: shipowner Bonny Gas Transport and ship operator NLNG Ship Management.

Meanwhile, a gas distribution pipeline belonging to NNPC subsidiary Nigerian Gas Company was attacked and blown up by militants on the evening of July 12. Local reports on July 14 indicated the attackers had pretended to be NNPC employees, and that the attack took place in the Ogijo area in the southwestern state of Ogun previously not targeted by militants. Officials said there were no casualties and that the pipe was repaired by July 13.

Mark Smedley


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  Natural Gas Europe welcomes all viewpoints. Should you wish to provide an alternative perspective on the above article, please contact [email protected] Kindly note that for external submissions we only lightly edit content for grammar and do not edit externally contributed content. 

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Total Sees Hope Upstream

July 15th, 2016 1:24pm Posted In: Natural Gas News, Portugal, France, Market News, Corporate, Exploration & Production, Investments, Financials, Europe

In a trading update, French energy giant Total reported July 15 an improvement in upstream business, quarter on quarter. According to a company statement, Total’s average liquids price came in at $43/bl, 39% higher than in the first quarter. 

Total headquarters (image credit: Wikipedia)

otal headquarters (image credit: Wikipedia)

At a $2.6/bl discount to Brent, this is a slight improvement from the $2.9/bl discount recorded in the first quarter. Gas price realisations came in at $3.43/mn Btu, broadly the same as the level in the first quarter.

According to analysis by Barclays Capital, the company could make a profit of $2,015m in the quarter, down 35% year on year, but up 23% on Q1.

Meanwhile, Portugal based energy company Galp Energia, announced 2Q trading updates in July 15. According to company filing, oil production was down 2.3% year on year to 51,700 barrels of oil equivalent, while total sales were up 9.4% to 4.6mn metric tons year on year.

The second quarter of 2016 results will be disclosed to the market on 29 July, before the opening of Euronext Lisbon.

Murat Basboga


You can now also follow Natural Gas World directly on your phone or tablet via Google Newsstand and Flipboard. Click  or  Flipboard  

  Natural Gas Europe welcomes all viewpoints. Should you wish to provide an alternative perspective on the above article, please contact [email protected] Kindly note that for external submissions we only lightly edit content for grammar and do not edit externally contributed content. 

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Grierson & Leitch Episode 25: The Secret Life of Pets and The BFG

This week on the podcast, Tim Grierson and Will Leitch discuss two family-friendly new releases: The BFG and The Secret Life of Pets. Neither film manages much in the way of charm, but Pets has a solid cast of voice actors (Louis C.K., Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate) and The BFG is nice to look at.

For the weekly Reboot, the guys take a second look at three different genre films from the 80?s and 90?s. There?s the neo-noir Miller?s Crossing from the Coen brothers? early filmography, then John Woo?s Face/Off from 1997, starring both John Travolta and Nicolas Cage, and finally, Grierson and Leitch take on the baffling martial arts (and gymnastics?) cult hit, Gymkata. To suggest a Reboot film, leave the show an iTunes review and include the name of a movie at the end.

Follow Grierson & Leitch on Twitter @griersonleitch or visit griersonleitch.com. To ask questions or comment on the podcast, email at [email protected] And to hear them discuss an old movie you love, leave the show an iTunes review and include the name of a movie at the end.

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EC reluctant to penalise Canada, US over visa requirements for Bulgarians and Romanians

Throughout 2013 and reaching a fever pitch towards the end of the year, Bulgarians and Romanians were targeted for smears by some British media and politicians who conjured up the spectre of hordes from the two countries going to the UK when EU labour market restrictions end on January 1 2014. British diplomats assured that there would be no discrimination against Bulgarians and Romanians as the British government announced tighter rules on access to social benefits. Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer

The European Commission said on July 13 that it would continue to ?work toward? getting Canada and the United States to remove visa requirements for citizens of EU member states Bulgaria and Romania ? but again hinted that it was reluctant to penalise Washington and Ottawa over the lack of visa reciprocity.

EU rules require that countries on the visa-free list for entry to the Union should reciprocate. But Canada still requires Bulgarians and Romanians to apply for visas, while the US requires visa applications from five EU member states, including Bulgaria and Romania.

Bulgaria and Romania have indicated that unless Canada lifts its visa requirements, they could veto an EU-Canada free trade deal due for signing in October.

On July 11, European Commission-brokered talks were held involving senior office-bearers from Canada, Bulgaria and Romania.

At the meeting, Canada undertook to inform in early autumn about the outcomes of the assessments and timelines for lifting the visa requirement, including on the necessary elements of cooperation with Bulgaria and Romania.

After a meeting on July 13, the European Commission said that it had adopted a communication regarding the visa reciprocity situation with Canada and the United States, evaluating the progress achieved in discussions with both countries and setting out the next steps.

The July 13 ?stock-taking? followed the communication adopted by the EC on April 12 where the Commission noted that full visa waiver reciprocity with Canada and the United States ?had not been achieved for citizens of some EU member states?.

Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship Commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said: ?Achieving full visa waiver reciprocity for citizens of all member states is the objective for the European Commission and a fundamental principle of our common visa policy.

?In the past three months, we have intensified contacts with the US and Canada to push for full visa waiver reciprocity. However, despite the constructive engagement in particular of the Canadian government, citizens from some EU member states still need visas to travel to the US and Canada,? he said.

?We will continue to work towards full visa reciprocity and we will coordinate our activities with the member states concerned, the European Parliament and the Council to accelerate the delivery of results,? Avramopoulos said.

The Commission said that its assessment of the consequences of a potential suspension of the visa waiver, presented in April, ?noted that this approach would have a substantial impact on the EU?s external relations with Canada and the US?.

?A suspension would very likely also lead to negative economic impacts for the EU, without bringing about full visa reciprocity.?

Therefore, the Commission had invited the European Parliament and the Council to take a position on the most appropriate way forward by July 12 2016.

However, Council had not yet expressed a position on the matter and the European Parliament had not yet adopt a position in plenary.

?In recent months, contacts with the US and Canada have been intensified, including at the highest political level, to achieve full visa waiver reciprocity. With the Communication adopted today, the Commission commits to continue to push for full visa reciprocity and will coordinate its activities with the relevant member states to accelerate the delivery of results,? the EC said.

The Commission said that it ?looks forward? to the EU-Canada Summit, which will take place on October 27-28, ?as the occasion to confirm tangible progress on the lifting of the visa requirement for Bulgarian and Romanian citizens?.

The Commission said that it would work closely with both the European Parliament and the Council ?to ensure that the European Union speaks with one voice on this important matter and will report on the further progress made before the end of the year.?

(Photo: copyright Clive Leviev-Sawyer)

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