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UK Researchers to Rejoin Horizon Europe from January 2024

Horizon Europe stands as the EU’s key funding program for research and innovation, boasting a budget of 95.5 billion euros (about $103.48 billion) for the period 2021-2027…reports Asian Lite News

A specialized committee of the European Union (EU) gave a final pass for the UK’s rejoining the Horizon Europe program, the European Commission has said in a press release.

Starting on January 1, 2024, British researchers will again participate in the research and innovation program on equal footing with their EU counterparts, after the EU-UK Specialized Committee on Participation in Union Programs formally approved a new association agreement.

British researchers will also gain access to Horizon Europe funding, Xinhua news agency reported, citing the press release.

Horizon Europe stands as the EU’s key funding program for research and innovation, boasting a budget of 95.5 billion euros (about $103.48 billion) for the period 2021-2027.

Monday’s agreement also gave the green light to the UK’s involvement in the Copernicus component of the Space Program, which is the Earth observation component of the EU Space program, offering information services based on satellite Earth Observation and in-situ (non-space) data.

The UK will contribute around 2.43 billion euros per year on average to the EU budget for its participation in Horizon Europe, and roughly 154 million euros for participation in Copernicus, said the press release. (1 euro = $1.08)

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Europe’s Dilemma in Cyberspace, AI

Europe’s technological trajectory is bleak, lacking optimism for future influence. Over 15 years, R&D investments in European tech have sharply declined, with the share relative to global tech R&D diminishing steadily, writes Cristina Vanberghen

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is defining a new international order. Cyberspace is reshaping the geopolitical map and the global balance of power.  Europe, coming late to the game, is struggling to achieve strategic sovereignty in an interconnected world characterised by growing competition and conflicts between States. Do not think that cyberspace is an abstract concept. It has a very solid architecture composed of infrastructure (submarine and terrestrial cable, satellites, data centers etc), a software infrastructure (information systems and programs, languages and protocols allowing data transfer and communication between the Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), and a cognitive infrastructure, which includes massive exchange of data, content, exchanges of information beyond classic “humint”.

Cyberspace is the fifth dimension: an emerging geopolitical space which complements land, sea, air and space, a dimension undergoing rapid militarization and in consequence deepening the divide between distinct ideological blocs at the international level. In this conundrum, the use and misuse of data – transparency, invisibility, manipulation, deletion – has become a new form of geopolitical power, and increasingly a weapon of war. The use of data is shifting the gravitational center of geopolitical power.

This geopolitical reordering is taking place not only between states but also between technological giants and States. The Westphalian confidence in the nation state is being eroded by the dominance of these giants which are oblivious to national borders, and which develop technology too quickly for states to understand, let alone regulate. What we are starting to experience is practically an invisible war characterized by data theft, manipulation or suppression, where the chaotic nature of cyberspace leads to a mobilization of nationalism, and where cyberweapons – now part of the military arsenal of countries such as China, Israel, Iran, South Korea, the United States and Russia – increases the unpredictability of political decision-making power. The absence of common standards means undefined risks, leading to a level of international disorder with new borders across which the free flow of information cannot be guaranteed. There is a risk of fragmentation of networks based on the same protocols as the Internet but where the information that circulates is now confined to what government or the big tech companies allow you to see.

Whither Europe in this international landscape?

The new instruments for geopolitical dominance in today’s world are AI, 5 or 6G, quantum, semiconductors, biotechnology, and green energy. Technology investment is increasingly based on the need to encounter Chinese investment. In August 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Chips and Science Act granting 280 billion US$ to the American Tech industry, with 52.7 billion US$ being devoted to semiconductors.

Europe is hardly following suit. European technological trends do not reflect a very optimistic view of its technological influence and power in the future. With regard to R&D invested specifically in Tech, the share of European countries’ investments, relative to total global R&D in Tech, has been declining rapidly for 15 years. Germany went from 8% to 2%; France from 6% to 2%. The European Union invests five times less in private R&D in Tech than the United States. Starting from ground zero 20 years ago, China has now greatly overtaken Europe and may catch up with the US.

The question we face is whether given this virtual arms race, each country will continue to develop its own AI ecosystem with its own (barely visible) borders, or whether mankind can create a globally shared AI space anchored in common rules and assumptions.  The jury is out.

In the beginning, the World Wide Web was supposed to be an open Internet. But the recent trend has been centrifugal. There are many illustrations of this point: from Russian efforts to build its own Internet network to Open AI threatening to withdraw from Europe; from Meta withdrawing its social networks from Europe due to controversies over user data, to Google building an independent technical infrastructure.

This fragmentation advances through a diversity of methods, ranging from content blocking to corporate official declarations.

But could the tide be turning? With the war in Ukraine we have seen a rapid acceleration of use of AI, along with growing competition from the private sector, and this is now triggering more calls for international regulation of AI.  And of course, any adherence to a globally accepted regulatory and technological model entails adherence to a specific set of values and interests.

Faced with this anarchic cyberspace, instead of increasing non-interoperability, it will be better to set up a basis for an Internationalized Domain Name (IDN), encompassing also the Arabic, Cyrillic, Hindi, and Chinese languages, and avoiding linguistic silos. Otherwise, we run the clear risk of undermining the globality of the Internet by a sum of national closed networks.

And how can we ensure a fair technological revolution?  If in the beginning military research was at the origin of technological revolution, we are now seeing that emerging and disruptive technologies  (EDTs), not to mention with dual-use technologies including artificial intelligence, quantum technology or biotechnology are mainly being developed by Big Tech, and sometimes by start-ups.  It is the private sector that is generating military innovation. To the point that private companies are becoming both the instruments and the targets of war.   The provision by Elon Musk of Starlink to the Ukrainian army is the most recent illustration of this situation. This makes it almost compulsory for governments to work in lockstep with the private sector, at the risk of missing the next technological revolution.

The AI war

At the center of AI war is the fight for standardization, which allows a technological ecosystem to operate according to common, interoperable standards. The government or economic operator that writes the rules of the game will automatically influence the balance of power and gain a competitive economic advantage. In a globalized world, we need however not continued fragmentation or an AI arms race but a new international Pact. Not however a Gentlemen’s Pact based on goodwill because goodwill simply does not exist in our eclectic, multipolar international (dis)order. We need a regulatory AI pact that, instead of increasing polarization in a difficult context characterized by a race for strategic autonomy, war, pandemics, climate change and other economic crises, reflects a common humanity and equal partnerships. Such an approach will lead to joint investment in green technology and biotechnologies with no need of national cyberspace borders.


Now the emergence of ChatGPT has posed a challenge for EU policymakers in defining how such advanced Artificial Intelligence should be addressed within the framework of the EU’s AI regulation.

An example of a foundation model is ChatGPT developed by OpenAI which has been widely used as a foundation for a variety of natural language processing tasks, including text completion, translation, summarization, and more. It serves as a starting point for building more specialized models tailored to specific applications. According to the EU AI Act, these foundations models must adhere to transparency obligations, providing technical documentation and respecting copyright laws related to data mining activities.  But we shall take into consideration that the regulatory choices surrounding advanced artificial intelligence, exemplified by the treatment of models like ChatGPT under the EU’s AI regulation, carry significant geopolitical implications.

The EU’s regulatory stance on this aspect will shape its position in the global race for technological leadership. A balance must be struck between fostering innovation and ensuring ethical, transparent, and accountable use of AI. It is this regulatory framework that will influence how attractive the EU becomes for AI research, development, and investment.

Stricter regulations on high-impact foundational models may impact the competitiveness of EU-based companies in the global AI market. It could either spur innovation by pushing companies to develop more responsible and secure AI technologies or potentially hinder competitiveness if the regulatory burden is perceived as too restrictive.

At international level the EU’s regulatory choices would influence the development of international standards for AI. If the EU adopts a robust and widely accepted regulatory framework, it may encourage other regions and countries to follow suit, fostering global cooperation in addressing the challenges associated with advanced AI technologies.

The treatment of AI models under the regulation can have implications for data governance and privacy standards. Regulations addressing data usage, transparency, and protection are critical not only for AI development but also for safeguarding individuals’ privacy and rights.

The EU’s AI regulations would have impact its relationships with other countries, particularly those with differing regulatory approaches. The alignment or divergence in AI regulations could become a factor in trade negotiations and geopolitical alliances.

Last but least, the regulatory decisions will reflect the EU’s pursuit of strategic technological autonomy. By establishing control over the development and deployment of advanced AI, the EU intends to reinforce its strategic autonomy and reduce dependence on non-European technologies, ensuring that its values and standards are embedded in AI systems used within its borders.

The EU AI Act can influence to the ongoing global dialogue on AI governance. It may influence discussions in international forums, where countries are working to develop shared principles for the responsible use of AI.

The EU’s regulatory choices regarding advanced AI models like ChatGPT are intertwined with broader geopolitical dynamics, influencing technological leadership, international standards, data governance, and global cooperation in the AI domain.

We have noticed that a few days before the discussion on the final format of EU AI Act, the OECD made an adjustment to its definition of AI,  in anticipation of the European Union’s AI regulation demonstrate a commitment to keeping pace with the evolving landscape of AI technologies.

The revised definition of AI by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) appears to be a significant step in aligning global perspectives on artificial intelligence. The updated definition, designed to embrace technological progress and eliminate human-centric limitations, demonstrates a dedication to staying abreast of AI’s rapid evolution.


At international level, we can notice that the  G7 also reached urgent Agreement on AI Code of Conduct!  In a significant development, the G7 member countries have unanimously approved a groundbreaking AI Code of Conduct. This marks a critical milestone as the principles laid out by the G7 pertain to advanced AI systems, encompassing foundational models and generative AI, with a central focus on enhancing the safety and trustworthiness of this transformative technology.

In my view, it is imperative to closely monitor the implementation of these principles and explore the specific measures that will be essential to their realization. The success of this Code of Conduct greatly depends on its effective implementation. These principles are established to guide behavior, ensure compliance, and safeguard against potential risks. Specifically, we require institutions with the authority and resources to enforce the rules and hold violators accountable. This may involve inspections, audits, fines, and other enforcement mechanisms but also educating about these principles, their implications, and how to comply with them is essential. It will be essential to ensure regular monitoring of compliance and reporting mechanisms that can provide insights into the effectiveness of the regulations. Data collection and analysis are crucial for making informed decisions and adjustments. Periodic reviews and updates are necessary to keep pace with developments. Effective implementation often necessitates collaboration among governments, regulatory bodies, industry stakeholders, and the public. Transparent communication about these principles is crucial to build trust and ensure that citizens understand the rules.

As the AI landscape evolves, it becomes increasingly vital for regulators and policymakers to remain attuned to the latest developments in this dynamic field. Active engagement with AI experts and a readiness to adapt regulatory frameworks are prerequisites for ensuring that AI technologies are harnessed to their full potential while effectively mitigating potential risks. An adaptable and ongoing regulatory approach is paramount in the pursuit of maximizing the benefits of AI and effectively addressing the challenges it presents.

Some brief conclusions

First, the ideological differences between countries on whether and how to regulate AI will have broader geopolitical consequences for managing AI and information technology in the years to come. Control over strategic resources, such as data, software, and hardware has become important for all nations. This is demonstrated by discussions over international data transfers, resources linked to cloud computing, the use of open-source software, and so on.

Secondly, the strategic competition for control of cyberspace and AI seems at least for now to increase fragmentation, mistrust, and geopolitical competition, and as such poses enormous challenges to the goal of establishing an agreed approach to Artificial Intelligence based on respect for human rights.

Thirdly, despite this, there is a glimmer of light emerging. To some extent values are evolving into an ideological approach that aims to ensure a human rights-centered approach to the role and use of AI. Put differently, an alliance is gingerly forming around a human rights-oriented view of socio-technical governance, embraced, and encouraged by like-minded democratic nations: Europe, the USA, Japan, India. These regions have an opportunity to set the direction through greater coordination in developing evaluation and measurement tools that contribute to credible AI regulation, risk management, and privacy-enhancing technologies. Both the EU AI Act and the US Algorithmic Accountability Act of 2022 or US Act for example, require organizations to perform impact assessments of their AI systems before and after deployment, including providing more detailed descriptions on data, algorithmic behavior, and forms of oversight. India is taking the first steps in the same direction.

The three regions are starting to understand the need to avoid the fragmentation of technological ecosystems, and that securing AI alignment at the international level is likely to be the major challenge of our century.

Fourthly, undoubtedly, AI will continue to revolutionize society in the coming decades. However, it remains uncertain whether the world’s countries can agree on how technology should be implemented for the greatest possible societal benefit or what should be the relationship between governments and Big Tech.

Finally, no matter how AI governance will be finally designed, the way in which it is done must be understandable to the average citizen, to businesses, and practising policy makers and regulators today confronted with a plethora of initiatives at all levels. Al regulations and standards need to be in line with our reality. Taking AI to the next level means increasing the digital prowess of global citizens, fixing the rules for the market power of tech giants, and understanding that transparency is part of the responsible governance of AI.

The governance of AI of tomorrow will be defined by the art of finding bridges today! If AI research and development remain unregulated, ensuring adherence to ethical standards becomes a challenging task. Relying solely on guidelines may not be sufficient, as guidelines lack enforceability. To prevent AI research from posing significant risks to safety and security, there’s a need to consider more robust measures beyond general guidance.

One potential solution is to establish a framework that combines guidelines with certain prescriptive rules. These rules could set clear boundaries and standards for the development and deployment of AI systems. They might address specific ethical considerations, safety protocols, and security measures, providing a more structured approach to ensure responsible AI practices.

However, a major obstacle lies in the potential chaos resulting from uncoordinated regulations across different countries. This lack of harmonization can create challenges for developers, impede international collaboration, and limit the overall benefits of AI research and development. To address this issue, a global entity like the United Nations could play a significant role in coordinating efforts and establishing a cohesive international framework.

A unified approach to AI regulation under the auspices of the UN could help mitigate the competition in regulation or self-regulation among different nations. Such collaboration would enable the development of common standards that respect cultural differences but provide a foundational framework for ethical and responsible AI. This approach would not only foster global cooperation but also streamline processes for developers, ensuring they can navigate regulations more seamlessly across borders.

In conclusion, a combination of guidelines, prescriptive rules, and international collaboration, potentially spearheaded by a global entity like the United Nations, could contribute to a more cohesive and effective regulatory framework for AI research and development, addressing ethical concerns, safety risks, and fostering international collaboration.

(Cristina Vanberghen is a professor at EUI Florence. She has been a senior expert at the EU commission and worked at the Stanford Center for Internet. Views expressed are personal and exclusive to India Narrative)

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World is much more than Europe, says Lavrov

The Russian Foreign Minister was speaking at the Primakov Readings International Forum in Moscow on Monday….reports Asian Lite News

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov cited the statement of India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishanakar while elaborating on the change in global structure and multipolarity due to the rise of players like Global South and Global East.

He quoted Jaishankar’s remarks that the “world is much more than Europe” and the “world is much more than the West”.

The Russian Foreign Minister was speaking at the Primakov Readings International Forum in Moscow on Monday.

“The key difference of the current edition of multipolarity is the chance to acquire genuinely global proportions, relying on the fundamental principle of the UN Charter: the sovereign equality of states. Previously, decisions of global importance were driven by a small group of countries with the predominant voice coming from the Western community, for obvious reasons,” the Russian Foreign Ministry quoted Lavrov as saying at the event.

It is pertinent to note that EAM Jaishankar while defending India’s position to buy Russian oil amid the conflict in Ukraine had made a similar statement.

“Europe has to grow out of the mindset that Europe’s problems are the world’s problems but the world’s problems are not Europe’s problems,” Jaishankar had stated.

Speaking further, Lavrov said that today new players representing the Global South and Global East have stepped onto the international political stage and their numbers are growing.

“We rightfully call them the Global Majority. They are strengthening their sovereignty in addressing pressing issues, demonstrating independence, and prioritising their national interests rather than someone else’s whims,” Lavrov said.

He added, “To back this up, I will cite my Indian colleague, Minister for External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar who said that the world is much more than just Europe. Clearly, this statement means that the world is much more than the West. Russia consistently advocates the democratisation of relations between countries and a fairer distribution of global benefits”. (ANI)

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Italy, Albania Forge Strategic Partnership to Tackle Migration

The European Commission has backed Italy’s efforts to find a common European solution for migrant-related problems, but it stopped short on Tuesday of endorsing the deal between Italy and Albania…reports Asian Lite News

A new plan jointly announced by Italy and Albania aimed at curbing the number of would-be refugees landing on Italy’s shores could serve as a “model” for Europe’s efforts to grapple with migration-related issues, Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said.

Speaking to reporters, Meloni on Tuesday added that the plan “strengthens the strategic partnership between Italy and Albania with three objectives: combat human trafficking, prevent irregular migrant flows and receive only people who truly have the right to international protection in Europe”.

According to the UNHCR, Italy is set to receive the highest number of refugees since at least 2016. Nearly 145,000 refugees have landed in Italy so far this year, up from 105,000 last year. The total in 2016 was just more than 180,000.

The UNHCR said that Italy is by far the most common European landing spot for refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Asia, Xinhua news agency reported.

The memorandum of understanding signed on Monday by Meloni and Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama states that Italy will construct two migrant reception centres in Albania. The centres will process migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea but will not receive those who make it to Italy’s shores on their own, nor minors, pregnant women or those in fragile health.

The financial aspects of the five-year agreement were not immediately available.

Albania and Italy are separated by around 100 km of sea at their closest points. But Albania is not a member of the EU, which means that — unlike Italy — it can set its own policies on migration.

Last year, Meloni lobbied for the EU member states to develop a more collaborative policy on migration. So far, those efforts have centered on sharing the costs of migrant processing, helping to settle asylum seekers that have been processed, patrolling the seas to curb the number of arrivals, and sponsoring economic development initiatives in Africa and beyond to make it more attractive for potential refugees to stay at their homes.

The European Commission has backed Italy’s efforts to find a common European solution for migrant-related problems, but it stopped short on Tuesday of endorsing the deal between Italy and Albania.

“We are in contact with the Italian authorities,” Commission spokeswoman Anitta Hipper said. 

“We have asked Italy for details of the migration agreement with Albania. Before commenting further, we need to understand what the exact intention of the agreement is.”

In Italy, the deal elicited mixed reviews. 

Elly Schlein, Leader of the Opposition center-left Democratic Party, argued that the plan “seems in open breach of international and European law”. 

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Tory MP facing suspension after bullying probe

Parliament’s Independent Expert Panel (IEP) found Mr Bone broke Parliament’s sexual misconduct rules by indecently exposing himself to the staffer during an overseas trip…reports Asian Lite News

Parliament’s behaviour watchdog has recommended Conservative MP Peter Bone be suspended for six weeks for bullying and sexual misconduct. It follows a complaint made to the body by a former member of staff, over alleged behaviour which took place over 10 years ago. The suspension will have to be voted on by the House of Commons to be approved. It would trigger a recall petition that could potentially lead to a by-election in Mr Bone’s Wellingborough seat. In a statement, the former staff member said he felt “a sense of relief and vindication” at the watchdog’s findings, adding that his experience “continues to affect my life to this day”. Bone has denied the allegations, calling them “without foundation”.

Parliament’s Independent Expert Panel (IEP) found Mr Bone broke Parliament’s sexual misconduct rules by indecently exposing himself to the staffer during an overseas trip. It also upheld five allegations of bullying, including “instructing, or physically forcing, the complainant to put his hands in his lap when Mr Bone was unhappy with him or his work”. It also found he “verbally belittled, ridiculed, abused and humiliated” him, and “repeatedly physically struck and threw things” at him, including hitting him with his hand or an object such as a pencil or a rolled-up document. It also upheld an allegation Bone “repeatedly pressurised” the staffer to give him a massage in the office. It found this was bullying, but not sexual misconduct. Bone denied the accusations throughout and appealed against its findings, arguing the investigation had been flawed. However, his appeal was dismissed by a sub-panel, which said the investigation had been carried out correctly.

According to the report, the complainant had kept a detailed log of Mr Bone’s behaviour at the time, and had submitted “compelling, nuanced and plausible” evidence. It also found his account of events was backed up by witnesses at work, and family members with whom he had spoken about his experiences. In a statement released on Monday after the watchdog released its final report, Mr Bone said the allegations were “false and untrue”. He added that the probe by the IEP – the body set up in June 2020 to examine bullying and sexual misconduct complaints against MPs – was “flawed” and “procedurally unfair”. The investigation was triggered following a complaint made in October 2021 with a prior complaint to the Conservative Party – made in 2017 – unresolved. According to its report, the IEP found that at this stage, the Tory party investigation had “apparently not progressed very far”.

The panel formally began a full investigation in August 2022, with the staffer withdrawing the complaint to the party to stop the two inquiries running in parallel. The Conservative Party said it had opened an investigation into the complaint, but “the complainant withdrew from the process before the case was heard”. In his statement, the complainant called on the Conservatives and other parties to review their complaints procedures “with full independent oversight”. “It should not take five years for a complaint to be processed,” he added.

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UK to deploy troops, warships in Northern Europe

It said a carrier strike group led by warship HMS Queen Elizabeth would lead the UK’s contribution to Nato’s most ambitious drill since the Cold War, Exercise Steadfast Defender, which is planned for next year...reports Asian Lite News

Britain has pledged to send 20,000 troops to northern Europe next year in a drive to keep Russia at bay in the Baltic Sea and prevent sabotage of a “spaghetti” of undersea cables.Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made the commitment at a summit in Sweden of the 10-nation Joint Expeditionary Force, a group of Baltic and North Sea militaries that is stepping up drills to deter Russia.Ukraine was invited on Friday to observe the group’s exercises as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged its leaders to focus on hybrid threats from Russia this winter.The summit on the island of Gotland took place after a mysterious leak on a pipeline from Finland to Estonia that led to suggestions of sabotage.The Nord Stream gas pipelines were similarly damaged last year in a still-unexplained incident under the Baltic, raising alarms about the safety of key infrastructure.“There is a spaghetti of cables, pipelines and infrastructure on the seabed that is absolutely fundamental for data traffic … and everything that is controlled digitally,” said Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.He said the 10 countries – the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Iceland and the Netherlands – had assigned their defence ministers to discuss how to protect undersea infrastructure.Downing Street said the UK would send 20,000 troops, eight warships and a fleet of helicopters for exercises, air policing and cold weather training in the region as part of a drive to “help detect, deter and defuse traditional and hybrid threats”.It said a carrier strike group led by warship HMS Queen Elizabeth would lead the UK’s contribution to Nato’s most ambitious drill since the Cold War, Exercise Steadfast Defender, which is planned for next year.

“Northern Europe is vital to our national security, which is why it’s more important than ever that we work with our Joint Expeditionary Force neighbours to protect our backyard and deter damaging hybrid threats,” Mr Sunak said. He said the conflict between Israel and Hamas showed “yet again that our security cannot be taken for granted … it is vital that we stand united against those with malign intent”.The Joint Expeditionary Force is planning an exercise of its own called Joint Protector next year.

The group’s leaders said it “must be ready to respond” in scenarios that could fall below the threshold of Nato’s Article 5 mutual defence guarantee.What is known as hybrid warfare includes acts of sabotage, cyber attacks and economic threats that have all been linked to Russia. Moscow’s forces repeatedly pounded Ukraine’s energy grid in a drone and missile barrage last winter.“Before winter comes, we should all focus firstly on hybrid terrorist threats from Russia,” Mr Zelenskyy told the summit by video link.“We saw last year what the Kremlin was betting on, namely strikes on the energy infrastructure to destroy the basis of modern life. We predict that this winter Russia will try to repeat its terror tactics, only on a larger scale.”Sweden is still waiting for Turkey and Hungary to approve its Nato membership application, more than a year after it asked to join. It signed a separate declaration with the UK on Friday committing to a “regular drumbeat” of exercises with its military partners and to use the JEF as an “additional tier of security” for northern Europe.Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, whose country joined Nato in April, said Sweden should join “as soon as possible” but said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was “the only one who has, in his head, the solution”.

ALSO READ-Thousands join pro-Palestine rally in London, Europe

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Thousands join pro-Palestine rally in London, Europe

In London and across Europe, marches took place on Saturday to voice support for the Palestinian cause and solidarity with those stuck in Gaza…reports Asian Lite News

Attendees, who marched through the heart of the British capital as well as Manchester in northern England, Edinburgh in Scotland and other cities, were shadowed by a heavy police presence.

In London, demonstrators massed neared BBC News’ headquarters before an afternoon rally near Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Downing Street office and residence.

Some held Palestinian flags and placards — bearing slogans including “freedom for Palestine”, “end the massacre” and “sanctions for Israel” — as they made their way towards the end-point for planned speeches. Chants of “Rishi Sunak, shame on you” could be heard.

“I think all just people around the world, not just in Britain, must stand up and call for this madness (to end),” Ismail Patel, chairman of the Friends of Al-Aqsa campaign, said at the demonstration in the capital.

“Otherwise, in the next few days, (we) might see a catastrophe unfolding.”

The rallies come as Israel intensifies its war to destroy Hamas’ capability, relentlessly pounding the Gaza Strip and deploying tens of thousands of soldiers nearby ahead of an expected ground offensive in the enclave.

That follows last Saturday’s attack by Hamas, which saw hundreds of its fighters cross the Israeli border to take hostages and kill more than 1,000 civilians on the streets, in their homes and at a rave party.

Ahead of the London protest, the city’s Metropolitan Police Service said it would deploy more than 1,000 officers, as the events thousands of miles away reverberate in Britain and elsewhere.

Police and the government have noted a spike in UK anti-Semitic crime and incidents since the Hamas assault, while officers in Sussex, southeast England, arrested a 22-year-old woman Friday suspected of having made a speech backing Hamas.

A banned terrorist organisation in Britain, its members — or those found guilty of inviting support for it — can be jailed for up to 14 years under UK law. The Met said this week that general expressions of support for Palestinians, including flying the Palestinian flag, were not criminal offences but reiterated that supporting Hamas is a crime.

Ferouza Namaz, 34, a student from Uzbekistan, joined the London protest, arguing that civilians in Gaza are “absolutely innocent”. “Just being Palestinian does not give the rights to kill them. These appalling atrocities have been taking place for so many years,” he added.

Israel insists it does not deliberately target civilians in the Gaza Strip or other Palestinian territories.

Jeremy Corbyn, ex-leader of the main opposition Labour party — who was accused of allowing anti-Semitism to flourish during his four-year party tenure — addressed the London rally.

“If you believe in international law, if you believe in human rights, then you must condemn what is happening now in Gaza by the Israeli army,” the now-independent lawmaker said.

In London and across Europe, marches took place on Saturday to voice support for the Palestinian cause and solidarity with those stuck in Gaza.

Protesters began congregating around the BBC building at Portland Place around 11am. By midday, the crowds stretched all the way down Oxford Street.

The protest carried on into the afternoon and fireworks were let off in the crowd as supporters dispersed from Whitehall.

Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the organiser of the event, said towards the end of the march that they believed 100,000 people had been in attendance.

The police suggested the total was much lower, closer to 10,000, though they admitted it was subject to change. The protests began walking towards Whitehall just after midday, making their way through Oxford Street and past Trafalgar Square before massing in front of the Cenotaph. A minute’s silence was observed outside Downing Street by for those killed in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

A series of speeches were delivered by pro-Palestinian supporters, including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Palestine ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot. “It is a day of solidarity and it is a day of hope,” the independent MP for Islington North told the crowd.

Frustration with the government response, as well as that of the opposition, to the conflict was a common theme among organisers and protesters.

Jamal, a British Palestinian, accused Rishi Sunak of “giving the green light to war crimes”, referring to the government’s decision to send military vessels and surveillance aircrafts to assist the Israeli efforts.

He suggested that home secretary Suella Braverman was contributing to the “dehumanisation of Palestinians” by questioning whether the display of the Palestinian flag could be considered illegal following the Hamas attacks on Israeli soil.

He expressed particular anger with Sir Keir Starmer, who earlier this week said the Israeli government was “within their right to defend herself”.

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BRICS becoming attractive in multipolar world, says Lavrov

The BRICS is viewed as a reliable association, the Russian foreign minister noted, adding that BRICS members are seen as trustworthy partners…reports Asian Lite News

Around 20 countries are interested in establishing partnerships with the BRICS group, which is becoming increasingly popular in today’s multipolar world, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday.

Lavrov made the remarks on the sidelines of the 20th Annual Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club that is currently taking place in the Russian city of Sochi.

“The world is becoming multipolar, countries want to find reliable partners, and the expansion of the BRICS can be viewed as direct proof of this,” Lavrov said.

“Six states have joined the five BRICS members … and almost 20 … would also like to establish special relations (with the association),” he noted.

The BRICS is viewed as a reliable association, the Russian foreign minister noted, adding that BRICS members are seen as trustworthy partners.

The theme of this year’s meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club is “Fair Multipolarity: How to Ensure Security and Development for Everyone.” The event will be held in Sochi from Oct. 2-5, and will be attended by 140 experts, politicians and diplomats from over 40 countries.

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EU Foreign Ministers Gather In Kyiv

The foreign ministers of the European Union (EU) have arrived in Kyiv for the first meeting of the 27 member states ever held outside the EU…reports Asian Lite News

Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba on Monday welcomed European Union Foreign Ministers for the historic meeting in the war hit Ukraine and also reaffirmed his country demand for inclusion as permanent EU member.

Taking to X, Ukraine Foreign Affairs Minister Kuleba shared about the unannounced meeting saying, “Glad to welcome EU foreign ministers at the historic meeting in Ukraine. For the first time in history, outside current EU borders. But also within its future borders. I am grateful to the European Union and personally to @JosepBorrellF for the unwavering EU support for Ukraine.”

The foreign ministers of the European Union (EU) have arrived in Kyiv for the first meeting of the 27 member states ever held outside the EU, Euronews reported.

“We are convening a historic meeting of EU Foreign Ministers here in Ukraine, candidate country and future member of the EU. We are here to express our solidarity and support to the Ukrainian people.” the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, posted on the social network X.

The event wasn’t announced until the moment it began for security reasons.

Earlier the European Council President Charles Michel announced that the European Union intends to begin discussions on admitting Ukraine and several other countries as early as October, Russia Today reported.

He said, “As we prepare the EU’s next strategic agenda, we must set ourselves a clear goal. I believe we must be ready, on both sides, by 2030 to enlarge,” Michel said. “This is ambitious, but necessary. It shows that we are serious.”

According to Russia Today, the Council President said that the bloc leaders will discuss enlargement at the next European Council meeting and said, “will take a stand on the opening of negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova.” That meeting is scheduled for October.

He also recognised that the aspiring members need to adopt the “fundamental” EU values and called for full implementation of the rule of law in full respect of the EU’s diversity.Earlier in February, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his war-torn country deserved to start European Union accession talks ‘this year’, CNN reported.

Zelenskyy said he had reached an important mutual understanding with EU President Ursula von der Leyen regarding Ukraine’s bid for accession into the European Union.

Earlier, in January, Zelenskyy held talks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Taking to his official Twitter handle, Zelenskyy expressed gratitude to Leyen for European Union’s support.

Zelenskyy stated that Ukraine is waiting for the first tranche of macro-finance aid in January. He tweeted, “Glad to start the year talking to @vonderleyen. Thanked for the EU support. Waiting for the 1st tranche of macro-fin aid in Jan, the 1st batch of LED lamps, school buses, generators & modular houses. Coordinated steps on Ukraine European Union Summit. We feel supported & will win together.” (ANI)

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UNSC system flawed, says European Commission chief  

Michel reaffirmed the “unwavering” support of the EU for Ukraine in the war with Russia and the country’s “right to legitimate defense.”…reports Asian Lite News

The UN system has become “sclerotic” and is in need of reform, the president of the European Commission said on Thursday.

During a speech on Thursday during the General Debate at the 78th UN General Assembly in New York, Charles Michel also backed growing calls for the veto powers granted to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the US, Russia, France, the UK and China — to be limited under emergency conditions, and to broaden the body’s global representation.

“We must assume our responsibility and that means being engaged in order to put multilateralism back on solid ground,” he said. “To that end, we need to restore trust, solve the most urgent problems and repair the United Nations system.

“For the last 19 months, a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia, without any shame, has been undertaking a war to conquer its neighboring country.

“It can even abuse its veto rights to prevent sanctions against itself, and even use the Security Council to disseminate propaganda, disinformation and lies — let’s be honest.”

Michel reaffirmed the “unwavering” support of the EU for Ukraine in the war with Russia and the country’s “right to legitimate defense.”

He criticized the lack of proper global representation within the Security Council, which he said continues to reflect outdated power structures and this “hobbled” its ability to act in the best interests of the world as a whole, especially given some countries were “still colonial powers.”

He added: “The planet is falling. The world is being torn asunder by poverty and injustice, entire swaths of the world — Africa, South America, the Caribbean, Asia — are under- or non-represented (on the council). We support the comprehensive, massive reform of the Security Council to amplify the voice of these regions.”

Michel also reiterated his previous call for a global treaty on pandemic prevention and preparedness. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, he and the head of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, have led the push for negotiations on a treaty of this kind within the UN framework, urging the international community to reach a consensus on the topic by May next year.

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