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POLITICS

Western allies voice concern at Iran-Russia defence ties

The US, British, French and German foreign ministers on Saturday expressed concern over the deepening cooperation between Russia and Iran, the manufacturer of drones the West says Moscow deploys in Ukraine.

Western allies voice concern at Iran-Russia defence ties
French President Emmanuel Macron is displayed on screens as he addresses participants of the Munich Security Conference. Photo: Odd ANDERSEN/AFP

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with France’s Catherine Colonna, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and UK counterpart James Cleverly on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, a statement said.

They “discussed their concerns about the deepening two-way military cooperation between Iran and Russia, and its implications for the security and stability of the region awnd beyond,” a┬ástatement by Blinken’s spokesman said.

“They underscored their concern about Iran’s nuclear escalation and its lack of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, calling on Iran to reverse course.”

Negotiations on Tehran’s contested nuclear policy with the West aimed at reviving a landmark deal have been in the doldrums for several months.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is on top of the agenda at the Munich conference, being attended by world leaders.

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BREXIT

Brits in France: Could the UK-EU deal lead to a relaxation of the 90-day rule?

Could a calmer relationship between the EU and the UK lead to better deals for Brits in France, such as a relaxation of the 90-day rule for second-home owners? The Local asked former British ambassador to France Peter Ricketts for his opinion.

Brits in France: Could the UK-EU deal lead to a relaxation of the 90-day rule?

One of the most common questions asked by Brits who own second-homes in France is whether there is any likelihood of a relaxation on the 90-day rule.

The EU-wide rule – which was always the case for visitors from other non-EU countries such as the USA, Canada or Australia – began to apply to Brits in France when the Brexit transition period ended in 2021.

Since then, Brits who want to spend time in France without living here must either limit their visits to 90 days in every 180 or get a visa.

In recent weeks the relationship between the UK and EU has improved with the agreement of the Windsor Framework to deal with post-Brexit problems in Northern Ireland, while the Franco-British relationship also entered calmer waters with a successful visit from UK prime minister Rishi Sunak on March 10th.

OPINION Macron and Sunak show that UK and France can be good neighbours

So could this eventually lead to good news for Brits in France?

The Local asked Lord Ricketts, who served as British Ambassador in Paris between 2012 and 2016 and now sits in the House of Lords, for his views in an interview organised by the Anglo American Press Association.

He said: “At the summit between Rishi Sunak and Emmanuel Macron, one of the things announced was a project to make it easier for school trips to take place between France and the UK.

“It seems from the post-summit declaration that the countries will be working towards reinstating something like the collective travel document for school trips – so that you list all the kids’ names on one document.

“This would solve the problem of some French children in a class not having a passport, and if you get classes with non-EU nationals in them it would mean they wouldn’t need to get separate visas.

“I think the reason the two leaders announced this was simply because the school trip sector has been devastated by Brexit.”

New post-Brexit rules mean that each child in a French class needs a passport to visit the UK – since ID cards are accepted for travel around the EU and could previously be used to enter the UK, around one third of French people don’t have a passport.

Schools in France, especially those in northern France who used to do day-trips, have told media that taking groups to the UK is simply too complicated under the new rules.

But could this agreement but the first step towards relaxing other rules?

Lord Ricketts told us: “I think school trips was chosen because it is a sector that was hit particularly hard by Brexit, but also because it’s something that only really affects France and the UK.

“The market is not entirely, but very largely between the UK and France – coach parties going back and forth – so that’s an area in which France can do a deal without getting across other EU countries.

“I think the French are walking a bit of a tightrope because they are equally aware that in some areas what they do will set a precedent for other EU countries and they are being careful not to make concessions to the UK, effectively, in areas that could then involve other EU countries having to do the same thing.

“For example we know that there has been a lot of problems for British musicians who want to tour Europe and now find they need all sorts of extra paperwork – in that case a UK-France deal perhaps wouldn’t be particularly helpful because most people will want to tour other European countries as well.”

The 90-day rule is an EU-wide rule that affects Brits living in all EU countries, as well as many other EU nationals.

Therefore a deal for Brits in France could end up potentially setting a precedent for – for example – Americans in Sweden.

Lord Ricketts told us: “I think the Macron-Sunak summit is the start, yes, the beginning of a bit of an easing up.

“But it’s the start of the UK and France trying to find limited areas where they can make improvements that will aid people’s lives, without setting a precedent for the rest of the EU.”

For the moment at least, the 90-day rule in France will continue to apply – you can find full details of how it works HERE, a calculator to help you plan your stays HERE and – for those who want to stay longer – a visa guide HERE.

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