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SUBJECT [July 17] EU Commission elects new president; Russia and Georgia pledge on efforts to normalize bilateral ties; Armenian Parliament Speaker discusses sanctions on Iran; Myanmar Parliament proposes constitutional reform
DATE 2019-07-17


PHOTO: VINCENT KESSLER/Reuters. Elected European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen reacts after a vote on her election at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, July 16, 2019


Germany's Ursula von der Leyen has been narrowly elected president of the EU Commission on July 16 following a secret ballot among Members of European Parliament (MEPs). The 60-year-old Defense Minister was confirmed by a margin of 383 votes to 327. She needed the backing of 374 out of 747 MEPs to win.


The Commission drafts EU laws, enforces EU rules and has the power to impose fines on member states if necessary. As head of the new EU executive, von der Leyden will be in charge of trade negotiations, economic and climate policy for 500 million Europeans. She will replace current EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker from November 1, 2019.


"The trust you placed in me is confidence you placed in Europe," Mrs. von der Leyen, who is the first woman to be elected president of the European Commission, said in a speech immediately after the vote. "Your confidence in a united and strong Europe, from east to west, from south to north. It is a big responsibility and my work starts now," she added. "Let us work together constructively."


During the speech, she has promised to push for the EU to play a bigger role in social welfare, to tackle poverty, and has stressed that she would stand up for women's rights. She has also pledged in the past to allow a further extension of the UK's withdrawal date from the EU "should more time be required for a good reason".


She made additional pledges during her speech, saying that she would push to give the European Parliament the “right of initiative”, meaning the Commission would have to legislate on MEP’s resolutions, whereas currently only the Commission can draft laws. She also proposed boosting the EU’s border force Frontex to 10,000 staff by 2024 to address irregular migration to the EU, but also said that “we need to preserve the right to asylum through humanitarian corridors. She offered an EU “reinsurance scheme” to bolster national insurance schemes for the unemployed as well.






PHOTO: State Duma. Russian and Georgian lawmakers in discussion


Russian and Georgian lawmakers said their countries are ready to stop current hostilities and resolve their crisis in bilateral relations, Russia's State Duma, or lower house of parliament, said Monday.


"Russia is ready to move in every way towards a phased lifting of restrictions ... Russia will, of course, do this with full understanding and confidence that the Georgian authorities are ready for this," said Leonid Kalashnikov, chairman of the State Duma's committee on the Commonwealth of Independent States' affairs, according to a news release.


He made the remarks following a meeting of an informal Russia-Georgia inter-parliamentary dialogue group hosted by the State Duma.


In turn, the Georgian side said they will urge their authorities to do everything possible to settle the current crisis in relations between the two countries, according to Russia's State Duma. “We urge Georgian politicians to refrain from destructive actions that endanger our state. […] Many people would be affected, because of the actions of destructive forces,” said Giorgi Lomia, a member of the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia party in the Parliament of the Republic.


Tensions between Russia and Geogia have escalated sharply since last month after thousands of Georgian people gathered in front of the parliament building in downtown Tbilisi in protest against a Russian lawmaker's visit.


Later, a host at a Georgian TV channel cursed the Russian leadership with vulgar language on a TV show, which was strongly condemned by the Georgian authorities.


"These are all provocations aimed at aggravating relations between Georgia and Russia. Destructive forces in Georgia once again tried to do everything to negate all the efforts that we have been building up over the past three years," George Lomia, a member of parliament from the opposition Alliance of Patriots of Georgia party, said at the meeting.


Late last month, the Russian government announced that passenger flights by Russian and Georgian airlines between the two countries would be suspended from July 8.


Members of the Committee on Committee on Issues of the Commonwealth of Independent States and Contacts with Fellow Countryman Artem Kavinov and Kazbek Taisaev attended the meeting. From the Georgian side, Ada Marshania, member of the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia party in the Parliament, and Gocha Tevdoradze, member of the Tbilisi City Assembly, also took part in the meeting.






PHOTO: National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia. Speaker Ararat Mirzoyan (middle) is making a speech at the Atlantic Council meeting held on July 15, 2019


The United States should not pressure Armenia to cut commercial ties to neighboring Iran because of U.S. sanctions against Tehran, parliament speaker Ararat Mirzoyan has said during a meeting at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think-tank, on July 15, 2019.


Speaker Mirzoyan said that the standoff between the U.S. and Iran is already having a negative impact on the Armenian economy. “We don’t want the United States to put pressure on Armenia for joining in its Iran sanctions agenda,” he said. “Armenia cannot pay such a price.”


Mirzoyan argued that Iran serves as one of his landlocked country’s two conduits to the outside world due to closed borders with the two other Muslim neighbors: Azerbaijan and Turkey. Iran has supplied up to 500 million cubic meters of natural gas to Armenia annually over the past decade.


Iranian officials offered to expand this swap arrangement when they held talks with Armenia’s Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan in Tehran earlier this month. Grigoryan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service last week that Yerevan is interested in boosting Iranian gas imports.


Speaker Mirzoyan added that while he does not see any obstacles in terms of deepening Armenia-US relations, a more precise agenda to strengthen the Armenia-US relations is needed, and these relations should move from the arena of diplomatic declarations to the arena of precise partnership relations.


Responding to a query on the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) conflict, the Armenian NA speaker viewed this matter in the arena of human rights, and attached importance to the involvement of Artsakh’s population in the negotiation process.


Speaking about the political and economic developments in Armenia, Ararat Mirzoyan stressed the need for judicial reforms in the country and the continued fight against corruption, and he reaffirmed the incumbent Armenian authorities’ commitment to democracy and the rule of law.






PHOTO: Reuters. Myanmar military lawmakers leave parliament after a vote to set up a committee to amend the country’s 2008 constitution, in Naypyidaw, Jan. 29, 2019


As many as 3,765 stipulations of Myanmar's 2008 state constitution have been proposed to the Union Parliament for amendment, revoking and addition, according to the Constitution Amendment Joint Committee (CAJC) report submitted to parliament on July 15, 2019.


The articles of the constitution to be deliberated for amendment included those from chapters of state leaders, legislation, judiciary, executive, military, citizens and their rights and responsibility, election and political parties as well as prescriptions during state of emergency period, CAJC member Myat Nya Na Soe told the parliament.


On Feb. 19, the Union Parliament announced the formation of a joint committee to implement steps for amending the 2008 constitution. The joint committee comprises 45 representatives from political parties and the military proportionately, and it was tasked to amend the stipulations in the constitution in line with democratic standards and amend those prescribed in the constitution hindering the implementation of multi-party system in the changing era. It was also tasked to amend those one-sided stipulations in the constitution that fail to protect the citizens' rights of equality and fail to guarantee the holding of free and fair election.


Following the formation of the joint committee, another constitution amending draft bill studying committee was also established on the day.


In 2015, the National League for Democracy (NLD) scored a landslide electoral victory, capturing 135 of the 168 seats up for grabs in the upper house and 255 of 323 in the lower. Despite the heavily touted transition from direct military to quasi-democratic rule, the military controls 25% of all seats in each legislative chamber through constitutionally allowed appointments. The NLD has long advocated for changes to the charter’s article 436, which requires approval from more than 75% of MPs to amend crucial articles. That means that the NLD would need at least one military MP to break ranks for any constitutional amendment to pass.


Meanwhile, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi stressed the important role of the people in constitution amendment. "Measures taken by members of parliament represented the people and every issue in the country concerns each and every citizen," she added.



BY MSEAP Cyber Secretariat (