NATO allies expect Finland and Sweden to apply to join the alliance in the coming days and will grant membership quickly, five diplomats and officials said, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine forces a radical rethink of European security.
Finland and Sweden would not benefit from NATO's collective defence clause - that an attack on one ally is an attack on all - until the parliaments of all 30 member states have ratified the decision.
President Sauli Niinisto of Finland, which shares a 1,300 km (810-mile) border with Russia, and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in a joint statement on Thursday that their country should submit an application to join the NATO military alliance "without delay."
It represents a major policy shift triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Finland has previously remained outside the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to maintain friendly relations with Russia. Sweden's ruling Social Democrats are expected to decide on Sunday whether to overturn decades of opposition to NATO membership. Sweden's parliament is holding a parallel, all-party review of security policy.
"Yes and yes: they will apply and they will be granted membership," said one senior diplomat.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, visiting Sweden and Finland on Wednesday, said he had agreed new deals with both nations to bolster European security, pledging support for their armed forces if they came under attack. Johnson also reiterated that NATO is a defensive alliance that does not threaten other countries.
Russia strongly disagrees, viewing NATO enlargement as a direct threat to its own security.
Alliance diplomats and officials said membership bids by Sweden and Finland were sure to be approved, either at or before a planned NATO summit in Madrid on June 28-30. "There's no exact timeline. We will not wait for the Madrid summit if it can be approved sooner," a NATO official said.
Electrical services, which account for 10% of the country’s total consumption, were discontinued "for the time being" at 1 a.m. local time, Finnish grid operator Fingrid said. "Missing imports can be replaced in the electricity market by importing more electricity from Sweden and also by domestic production."
HELSINKI, FINLAND - APRIL 18: A few thousand people gather in central Senaatintori square to show support to Ukraine and to demonstrate against Russia, on April 18, 2022 in Helsinki, Finland. (Photo by Alessandro Rampazzo/Anadolu Agency via Getty Ima (Getty Images)
The discrepancy in the paused payments could be connected to prior demands from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who demanded countries pay gas fees in rubles, Russia’s national currency. The demand came as Russia faces tightening international economic sanctions.
The Finnish government said last month it would not pay for Russian gas supplies in rubles.
Finland, which has traditionally remained neutral, has sought to join NATO, further escalating tensions with Russia. "NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance."
The shift paves the way for a next round of European sanctions over the Ukraine war.
Germany is now ready to stop buying Russian oil, clearing the way for a European Union ban on crude imports from Russia.
The German shift increases the likelihood that EU countries will agree on a phased-in embargo on Russian oil, with a decision possible as soon as next week.
Europe’s debate on banning Russian oil has shifted decisively in recent days with Germany and some other countries taking practical steps to replace Russia with other suppliers.
The oil moves come as EU nations scramble to help member states Poland and Bulgaria make up for a natural gas shortfall after Russia stopped deliveries this week in reaction to what it said was the two countries’ refusal to pay for imports in rubles.
The EU imports between 3 million and 3.5 million barrels of oil a day from Russia, sending just under $400 million in payments daily. That amounts to some 27% of EU oil imports. Oil and gas revenues accounted for 45% of Russia’s federal budget in 2021.
Russia could easily sell its oil to other customers such as India and China.
The EU pays state-controlled Russian firms around €1 billion, equivalent to $1.05 billion, a day for energy. Critics have said that these funds are bankrolling Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime and its war in Ukraine.
“There are all sorts of things that we’re running through. The aim is to hit the Russians as hard as possible while at the same time minimizing” the cost.
The escalating civilian toll of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine has fuelled calls for a reappraisal of more than a decade of French and German efforts to engage with a leader whose forces stand accused of committing horrific war crimes in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s embattled President Volodymyr Zelensky did not mince his words as he addressed Western leaders, just hours after witnessing the trail of death and destruction that Russian forces left in their wake as they retreated from Kyiv’s northern suburb of Bucha.
He had a special message for the former leaders of Germany and France, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, whom he accused of denying Ukraine a path to NATO. "I invite Ms. Merkel and Mr. Sarkozy to visit Bucha and see what the policy of concessions to Russia has led to in 14 years. See with your own eyes the tortured and slain Ukrainians."
Zelensky was speaking on the anniversary of the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, where the transatlantic alliance offered Georgia and Ukraine a promise of future membership but without a timetable – a compromise that left Ukraine in a “grey zone” and exposed to Russian aggression. “One can also imagine that Putin would have moved faster to thwart Ukraine’s admission.”
“Move fast” is precisely what Putin did just four months after the Bucharest summit, sending his tanks into Georgia in support of pro-Russian separatists in the breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He repeated the trick six years later in Ukraine’s Donbas region, going one step further with the annexation of Crimea. Each of Putin’s incursions met an ambivalent response from European leaders.
After Georgia and Crimea, was an invasion of Ukraine inevitable?
The reappraisal is well under way in Germany, where Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has cast a pall over the legacy left by Merkel after 16 years at the helm. “What Germany and Europe have experienced over the last days is nothing short of a reversal of Merkel's policies of guaranteeing peace and freedom through treaties with despots,” the conservative daily Die Welt wrote last month.
Under particular scrutiny is Germany's reliance on Russian energy, which accounted for 36 percent of its gas imports when Putin seized Crimea and had risen to 55 percent by the time the Kremlin’s tanks rolled into Ukraine. The dependence on Russian power has left Berlin saying it is unable to follow a call by the US and other allies to impose a full energy embargo on Moscow.
“We failed to build a common European house.
I did not believe Vladimir Putin would embrace his country's complete economic, political and moral ruin for the sake of his imperial madness. Like others, I was mistaken. Germany believed that trade would be a peacemaker.”
"For how long do you engage in serial phone calls with mass murderers?"
The European Union is preparing a new package of sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine, said the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. They will affect 70% of Russia's banking sector and major state-owned companies, including the military industry. The EU also plans to impose a ban on oil exports and "make it impossible for Russia to improve its refineries." In addition, the EU will ban the sale of aircraft and aviation equipment to Russian airlines. In addition, the package of sanctions provides for the restriction of sales of semiconductors and software. Diplomats and businessmen from Russia will no longer be able to obtain EU visas as a matter of priority, von der Leyen said.
A Russian official on Friday issued a warning to Finland and Sweden should both nations intend to join NATO, saying such moves would have "serious military-political repercussions."
Finnish Ambassador Mikko Hautala commented, "Many people in DC ask about Finland and NATO. Partnership with the alliance is very important for us. While maintaining a strong national defense, we retain the opportunity to apply for membership. It is the sovereign right of each nation to make decisions on its security policy."
Ukrainian leaders have expressed a desire to join NATO, but Russia has expressed fierce opposition to an expansion of the 30-member alliance, particularly on its border with neighboring Ukraine.
Finland and Sweden have been sending military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.
President Vladimir Putin threatened the 30-nation alliance by telling it to withdraw forces from member nations or face consequences. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday that the alliance would defend its member states should Moscow launch an attack. "This goes far beyond Ukraine," Stoltenberg said.
NATO has not engaged in the conflict and has not sent any troops to help defend Ukraine. "If he did move into NATO countries we will be involved," he said of Putin. "We will be involved."
The decision to phase out nuclear power and shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy was first taken by the center-left government of Gerhard Schroeder in 2002. His successor, Angela Merkel, reversed her decision to extend the lifetime of Germany’s nuclear plants in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan and set 2022 as the final deadline for shutting them down.
Some in Germany have called for the decision on ending the use of nuclear power to be reconsidered because the power plants already in operation produce relatively little carbon dioxide. Advocates of atomic energy argue that it can help Germany meet its climate targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The German government said this week that decommissioning all nuclear plants next year and then phasing out the use of coal by 2030 won’t affect the country’s energy security or its goal of making Europe's biggest economy "climate neutral" by 2045. "By massively increasing renewable energy and accelerating the expansion of the electricity grid we can show that this is possible in Germany."
Germany's remaining three nuclear plants — Emsland, Isar and Neckarwestheim — will be powered down by the end of 2022.
Several of Germany's neighbors have already ended nuclear power or announced plans to do so, but others are sticking with the technology. This has prompted concerns of a nuclear rift in Europe, with France planning to build new reactors and Germany opting for natural gas as a "bridge" until enough renewable power is available, and both sides arguing their preferred source of energy be classed as sustainable.
Renewable energy sources delivered almost 46% of the electricity generated in Germany in 2021. Coal accounted for more than 51%, while nuclear power provided over 13%.
The German DAX, the country's benchmark stock index, is up 13% YTD.
After 16 years in power, Angela Merkel is stepping down as Germany's chancellor, paving the way for a new generation of leadership for Europe's biggest economy.
The latest polls show the outgoing leader's center-right Union bloc, with Armin Laschet as its candidate for chancellor, a little behind or nearly level with the center-left Social Democrats, who have Finance Minister Olaf Scholz seeking the chancellorship.
The race has narrowed to three candidates hoping to win the job Merkel has held over four terms in office: Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats, Anna-Lena Baerbock of the Greens and Armin Laschet of the Christian Democrats.
Merkel touted her government's record in bringing down unemployment and Germany's debt, decrying plans by Laschet's rivals to raise taxes.
The alternative is "a policy of only thinking of redistributing, but not creating" wealth.
An economic crisis threatens Great Britain and, more broadly, Europe. Its most striking current manifestation is a food shortage in the U.K.
High gas prices forced most of Britain’s commercial production of carbon dioxide to shut down.
The closure of two fertiliser plants in northern England and others in Europe has left the food and drink industry facing a shortage of carbon dioxide, which is a byproduct of fertiliser manufacturing. The gas is critical to the production and transport of a range of products, from meat to bread, beer and fizzy drinks.
The fertilizer plants shut down because of sky-high energy costs. Gas prices in Britain hit record highs this week on fears of energy supply shortages in the winter.
The two sites produce about 40 per cent of Britain’s fertiliser needs and account for 60 per cent of domestic production of commercial CO2. Sites in Europe are also halting operations. The CO2 shortage piles further pressure on a food sector already struggling with a shortage of haulers. Companies have warned they may have to cut back the range of products on supermarket shelves.
“Rocketing power prices and a gas storage crisis threaten the recovery and leave the UK at the mercy of Russia’s Vladimir Putin.”
Europe’s taxes on carbon are a substantial part of the problem: A surge in European carbon prices to €60 a tonne – shadowed in the UK with an extra £18 premium – has compounded the shock and accounts for a fifth of the rise in electricity costs. This is now leading to open political revolt in Spain, Poland and other EU states. The European Steel Association said last week that the bloc risks being priced out of the competitive global market. It is becoming a question of manufacturing survival in this country. “The UK has the most expensive industrial energy in Europe. We are running the very serious risk of meeting our carbon targets by deindustrialising the British economy.”
The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) under new party chief Armin Laschet won 37.1 percent of the vote in Saxony-Anhalt on Sunday. The centre-left Social Democrats scored 8.4%, and the Greens scored 5.9%.
Nominated as conservative chancellor candidate in April, Laschet inherited a series of problems including anger over the government's pandemic management and a corruption scandal involving shady coronavirus mask contracts.
At Germany's last regional elections in March, in the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Wuerttemberg, the CDU suffered its worst ever results in both states.
Goods exports to the EU fell 40.7% from a month earlier and imports dropped 28.8%.Britain’s exports dropped 19.3% and imports fell 21.6%, the biggest monthly declines since records began in 1997, the ONS said. Shipments to non-EU countries increased slightly, and imports from countries outside the bloc declined about 8%.
The EU is Britain’s closest and biggest trading partner, accounting for more than 40% of exports.
Britain’s exports dropped 19.3% and imports fell 21.6%, the biggest monthly declines since records began in 1997. Shipments to non-EU countries increased slightly, and imports from countries outside the bloc declined about 8%. However, the British government said that overall freight volumes have been back to “normal levels” since the start of February. “It is too early for a definitive read of the Brexit effect, with some evidence of stockpiling ahead of the deadline and signs of some recovery towards the end of the month indicating that the picture could be rather more positive after the initial dust has settled.”
The EU and UK have reached a post-Brexit trade deal, ending months of disagreements over fishing rights and future business rules. It will mean big changes for business, with the UK and EU forming two separate markets, and the end of free movement. But the trade deal will come as a major relief to many British businesses, already reeling from the impact of coronavirus, who feared disruption at the borders and the imposition of tariffs, or taxes on imports.
British PM Boris Johnson said the £668bn a year agreement would "protect jobs across this country" and "enable UK goods to be sold without tariffs, without quotas in the EU market". He acknowledged he had been forced to give ground on his demands on fishing. The deal was "nonetheless going to enable our dynamic City of London to get on and prosper as never before".
In Brussels, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, "It is fair, it is a balanced deal, and it is the right and responsible thing to do for both sides."
France has long benefited from Britain's membership of the EU - something even Charles de Gaulle knew would harm the UK economy.
"If she submits to the rules of the [EU], then her balance of payments will be crushed by ‘levies’." Britain would be “isolated” within the EEC’s “costly regime” and asked: “How can it not be seen that the very situation of the pound sterling prevents the common market from incorporating Britain?"
Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin's most outspoken critics, was airlifted to Germany for treatment in August after collapsing on a plane in Russia. Germany has said he was poisoned with a Soviet-style Novichok nerve agent in an attempt to murder him, an assertion many Western nations accept.
The new santions came a day after Navalny declared his poisoning case solved earlier this month when a joint media inquiry said it had identified a team of assassins from Russia's FSB security service.
Navalny said he had phoned up some of his alleged poisoners before the joint investigation was released and posed as an aide to the secretary of Russia's Security Council. One of the men, named by Navalny as an employee of Russia's FSB security service, spoke to him for 49 minutes and appears to have been part of the clean-up team, he said. Navalny published a recording and transcript of the conversation.
The text was originally titled the "anti-separatism" bill, a term Macron has used to refer to radical Islamists withdrawing from mainstream society. Following criticism of that term, it is now called a "draft law to strengthen republican values", mostly secularism and freedom of expression.
The proposed bill is described as "a law of freedom, of protection and emancipation in the face of religious fundamentalism."
The law was in the pipeline before the murder in October of Samuel Paty, a junior high school teacher who was attacked in the street and beheaded after showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a civics class.  But the killing, committed by an 18-year-old Chechen after a virulent social media campaign against the teacher, gave new impetus to the bill. It prompted the inclusion of the specific crimes of online hate speech and divulging personal information on the internet.
Paty's death is one in a string of jihadist-inspired attacks in France which include the 2015 shooting sprees at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan concert hall; and the stabbings at a church in the Mediterranean city of Nice the same year. Nice was also the scene of a 2016 attack that killed 86 people when a man rammed a truck into Bastille Day revellers.
Acknowledging that Islamist radicalisation can be homegrown as well as imported, the government is targeting associations and mosques in France that it suspects of spreading jihadist ideology.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was Brussels-bound on Wednesday, with Britain's fading hopes for a post-Brexit trade deal hanging on crisis talks with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen. The trip marks the last chance of a breakthrough before Britain leaves the EU single market.
Talks are blocked over the issue of fair competition, with Britain refusing to accept a mechanism to allow the EU to retaliate swiftly if the UK business regulations change in ways that put European firms at a disadvantage. London insists it will reclaim full sovereignty at the end of the year after half-a-century of close economic integration.
If Britain leaves the EU single market in three weeks without a follow-on trade deal, the delays that travellers and freight will face at its borders with the European Union will be compounded by import tariffs that will drive up prices. Officials on both sides expressed pessimism ahead of the last-ditch encounter.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the European Union on Wednesday it must scrap demands which he says are unacceptable if there is to be a Brexit trade deal to avoid a turbulent breakup in three weeks.
Johnson said Brussels wanted the United Kingdom to comply with new EU laws in the future or be automatically punished, and was insisting it give up sovereign control over British fishing waters. “I don’t believe that those are terms that any prime minister of this country should accept,” Johnson told the British parliament.
Failure to agree a deal would snarl borders, shock financial markets and sow chaos through supply chains as the world faces the economic cost of COVID-19.
Britain and the European Union failed on Friday to secure a trade agreement, saying talks would be paused so negotiators could talk to politicians to get better guidance on where to go next.
With under four weeks left until Britain leaves the EU's orbit on December 31, both sides have said the talks are stuck on three areas, with each calling for the other to compromise to secure a deal governing almost $1 trillion of annual trade.
Britain formally left the EU on January 31 but has been in a transition period since then under which rules on trade, travel and business remain unchanged. From the end of the year, however, it will be treated by Brussels as a third country.
If the two sides fail to reach a deal, the five-year Brexit divorce will end in disorder just as Europe grapples with the vast economic cost of the Covid-19 outbreak. A no-deal exit is the nightmare scenario for businesses and investors, who say it would snarl borders, spook financial markets and sow chaos through supply chains that stretch across Europe and beyond.
France’s parliament voted to approve a controversial law Friday that will ban the publication of images of on-duty police officers as well as expand the use of surveillance drones and police powers. Journalists’ groups, human rights activists and unions – including Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International’s French branch – organised protests in Paris and other French cities on Saturday.
Article 24 of France’s new security bill would make it a criminal offence for anyone to disseminate images that might “harm the physical or mental integrity” of police officers. People found guilty could be punished by a year in prison or a fine of up to €45,000.
Critics of the bill say it threatens to make it more difficult for journalists and others to report on police brutality or other infractions
In response to claims that Article 24 would have unintended consequences on press freedom, the government added an amendment ahead of Friday’s vote specifying that the clause “will not be an obstacle to the right to inform the public”.
Several instances of alleged police violence were revealed by videos broadcast on social media. Cédric Chouviat, a delivery driver in Paris, suffered a heart attack and died in January after police put him in a chokehold. Several Yellow Vest protesters were bludgeoned inside a Burger King in Paris in December 2018. Images of both incidents originally surfaced on social media, prompting public outrage.
Several other clauses in the text were “likely to contravene human rights”, including the right to privacy. Article 22 of the security bill would allow police greater latitude in the use of surveillance drones. Drones could now be used in more circumstances that are not subject to regulation. The development of facial recognition technology “raises further concerns”. Amendments to ban the use of facial recognition technology in drones were rejected on Friday morning.
“It is a freedom-killing law that would threaten freedom of expression, the right to demonstrate and the right to privacy.”
The poll also found that the political leader the French people have the most trust in when it comes to combating Islamism is Marine Le Pen.
The murder prompted numerous mass protest marches across the country in defense of free speech and against the Islamic takeover of France.
France’s feared banlieues are suburbs on the edge of major cities controlled by large groups of Muslim gangs who attack police officers, fire crews and ambulance workers who venture into the area. The French are becoming increasingly hostile to allowing more immigrants to enter their country, with 64% believing migrants have a negative impact, while 60% believe welcoming them is no longer feasible due to cultural differences.
"France, you're not that special. Islam has declared war on the entire civilized world!"
In Bulgaria and Slovakia, Roma communities were sprayed with disinfectant from crop dusters this spring as coronavirus cases surged in the country. Across Central and Eastern Europe, reports of police using excessive force against Roma spiked during lockdowns in their towns.
Human rights activists and experts say local officials in several countries with significant Roma populations have used the pandemic to unlawfully target the minority group, which is Europe’s largest and has faced centuries of severe discrimination.
“That was clearly racist, because it was only done in Roma neighborhoods.”
The Roma people are descended from tribes in northern India, and centuries of persecution and marginalization have left them some of the poorest and least educated people in Europe. Known pejoratively as “gypsies,” many live in segregated neighborhoods, often with limited access to electricity, running water and health care. Many face discrimination in getting jobs, getting medical care and have a shorter average lifespan than non-Roma.
Europe's three main concerns are agreeing on the rules of fair competition, agreeing how these rules will be policed and securing access to UK waters for EU fishing fleets. Britain wants to reassert sovereignty over its waters and refuse EU legal oversight over the deal -- insisting it wants a simple trade deal of the kind the EU signed with Canada.
The British leader had warned last month that he would walk away from the table if there was no deal in sight by October 15, but his spokesman said he would now wait for the 27 EU leaders to meet on Thursday and Friday. The British side has accused Brussels of trying to force concessions by running down the clock, with the window narrowing on chances to agree and ratify a deal before the UK leaves the EU single market on December 31.
Britain left the European Union on January 31, but EU and UK negotiators have been locked in inconclusive talks on a follow-on arrangement for cross-Channel business.
Azerbaijan accused Armenia on Wednesday of trying to attack its gas and oil pipelines and warned of a “severe” response, as tensions mounted over a fraying ceasefire in the mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Armenia has denied targeting Azeri pipelines, which supply world markets with oil and gas, but concern is growing over the failure of a four-day-old ceasefire to end the worst fighting in decades over the tiny territory in the South Caucasus.
Tension is growing between Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia, and Turkey, an ally of Azerbaijan. Moscow has been particularly alarmed by Turkey and Azerbaijan suggesting the conflict could be resolved militarily.
Azerbaijan and Armenia said fighting continued in and around the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, undermining a cease-fire agreement Russia secured in overnight talks with the two former Soviet republics.
Moscow hosted the first talks between the bitter rivals to seek a halt to the worst fighting in decades over Nagorno-Karabakh, a landlocked region in the South Caucasus. The cease-fire was set to start at 12 p.m. local time to allow the sides to exchange prisoners and recover bodies of those killed in the fighting that flared up almost two weeks ago.
The nations of Armenia and Azerbaijan are in the third day in what could be described as open war without any official declaration. The historic faultline between traditional European Christendom and Ottoman frontiers once again erupted with bloodshed on both sides, and older great powers slowly beginning to take sides.
The region of Nagorno-Karabakh is a “frozen conflict.” Once part of the general sphere of influence for Orthodox Christianity, it then passed hands under the Ottoman Khanates. Historically, Russia has been an ally of the Christian Armenians, and Ottomans consider Azeris as kindred sharing the same bloodline. Even though Nagorno-Karabakh was part of Azerbaijan geographically, it was settled by Christian Armenians. Following the Soviet collapse, the region formed a breakaway province Azerbaijan has vowed to reconquer.
Turkey has all but declared official support for Azerbaijan against Armenia, echoing shadows of Armenian massacres during and after the first world war, by Turkey. For the last six months, France has been posturing as a great power ready to take the mantle of European security in the Eastern Mediterranean, including Greece, Lebanon, Libya, and Armenia. In an effort to balance Turkish expansionism, France has been sending warships and promising financial and military aid. It appears Turkey has now called this bluff. This has become a new frontline between two NATO partner countries and historic great powers, France and Turkey.
This is a security issue for Europe and Europeans to solve themselves, as they face a Turkey which is far more vengeful than former foes in Russia.
The European Commission on Wednesday proposed tougher border controls and streamlined procedures for expelling rejected asylum seekers as its migration reform plan was criticised as a climbdown to appease anti-immigrant member states.
The "New Pact on Migration and Asylum" proposes that EU member states that do not want to volunteer to house more migrants -- and reduce pressure on Italy and Greece, where most arrivals land -- can instead take charge of sending those whose asylum requests are rejected back to their homelands.
But the plan is likely to face a rough reception in national capitals, many of which are reluctant to take charge of refugees on their own soil and keen to see Brussels take ownership of the problem. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told AFP that mandatory quotas for refugees for EU countries "won't work". Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia also oppose compulsory relocation, having torpedoed such plans after the 2015 migration crisis. Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said Budapest's stand remains unchanged. "We must ensure that the external borders of the EU and the Schengen Area remain perfectly sealed along all sections," he said.
It was announced last week that Serbia and Kosovo planned to establish their embassies in Israel’s capital — much to the consternation of the European Union. The European Union warned Serbia and Kosovo that they could undermine their EU membership hopes by moving their Israeli embassies to Jerusalem.
"There is no EU member state with an embassy in Jerusalem," said European Commission spokesman Peter Stano. "Any diplomatic steps that could call into question the EU's common position on Jerusalem are a matter of serious concern and regret."
Malawi announced that it will establish an embassy in Jerusalem — the first African nation to do so. Honduras also aims to move its embassy to Jerusalem, and Oman, Sudan and Morocco could be next. The EU will be left behind.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday won the first of several votes in parliament on his plan to undercut the Brexit treaty, though he faces a growing rebellion among lawmakers who say breaking international law would tarnish Britain’s reputation.
Or are they just trying to stop Brexit?
The EU says Johnson’s bill would collapse trade talks and propel the United Kingdom towards a messy Brexit.
Is this just the EU trying to stall Brexit?
Johnson, though, said it was essential to counter "absurd" threats from Brussels including that London put up trade barriers between Britain and Northern Ireland and impose a food blockade – steps he said threatened the United Kingdom’s unity.
Sounds like the EU dragging its heels to me.
"The EU still have not taken this revolver off the table," Johnson told parliament before the vote. "What we cannot do now is tolerate a situation where our EU counterparts seriously believe that they have the power to break up our country."
Amen to that.
The EU has demanded Britain scrap the main parts of the bill by the end of September and that if not, there will be no trade deal at the end of the year to cover everything from car parts to food.
The EU bureaucrats just hate the thought of Britain slipping out of their control.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is drawing up legislation that will override the Brexit withdrawal agreement on Northern Ireland, a move that threatens the collapse of crunch talks which the prime minister has said must be completed within five weeks. It could well have the impact of a return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
if no agreement is reached before the deadline, "There is no sense in thinking about timelines that go beyond that point. If we can’t agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us, and we should both accept that and move on."
French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday criticised Friday what he called "Islamic separatism", saying France must be embraced by its new citizens in its entirety. "You don’t choose one part of France. You choose France," he said, adding: "The Republic will never allow for any separatist ventures." Those who seek French citizenship must accept all of the republic's freedoms, including "the freedom to believe or not to believe".
Five and a half years after Islamist extremists gunned down a dozen people in an attack on the offices of the French weekly Charlie Hebdo, the satirical newspaper announced Tuesday that it will reprint cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that apparently sparked the attack.
"We will never give up," publishing director Laurent "Riss" Sourisseau, who was wounded in the attack, wrote. "The hatred that struck us is still there and, since 2015, it has taken the time to mutate, to change its appearance, to go unnoticed and to quietly continue its ruthless crusade."
The surprise ruling Thursday from the European Court of Justice invalidates a widely used EU-U.S. data-transfer agreement known as Privacy Shield. The EU and the U.S. implemented the Privacy Shield agreement nearly four years ago, after a prior framework, called Safe Harbor, was scrapped in 2015 by the same court. The decision, which pits European data-privacy concerns against U.S. national-security priorities, will create legal headaches and potentially disrupt operations for thousands of multinational companies.
Thousands of companies will face restrictions on storing information about European Union residents on U.S. servers, after the bloc’s top court ruled that such transfers exposed Europeans to American government surveillance without "actionable rights" to challenge it.
Blocking data transfers to the U.S. could upend billions of dollars of trade from cross-border data activities, including cloud services, human resources, marketing and advertising.
The European Commission is in advanced talks with pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson to reserve or buy up-front doses of its COVID-19 vaccine under development.
Johnson & Johnson plans next month to start human clinical trials for its experimental vaccine against the highly contagious coronavirus, which has infected more than 8.36 million people worldwide, with 447,985 deaths.
European Union leaders are expected on Friday to back extending the bloc’s main economic sanctions against Russia until the end of January, 2021.
The EU hit Russia’s energy, financial and arms sectors after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and went on to back rebels fighting Kyiv government troops in the east of the ex-Soviet republic. It has rolled them over ever since as Moscow has vowed to never give Crimea back.
Two researchers from Göttingen University claimed countries have only spotted six per cent of all COVID-19 cases, on average. Rates - which the researchers said were true up to March 31 - were staggeringly low in Britain (1.2 per cent), Italy (3.5 per cent), Spain (1.7 per cent) and the US (1.6 per cent). Because of the huge disparity, they described the official tallies trotted out by health ministers across the world each day as 'rather meaningless'.
Up to 15 per cent of people in hard-hit German town may already have immunity. If 15 per cent of people do have antibodies, then Germany's actual death rate could be as low as 0.37 per cent. This is five times lower than the current calculated level.
"This means a gradual relaxation of the lockdown is now possible."
With far more people infected than previously thought, Europe as a whole could be closer to herd immunity than expected.
Many of its money-making outlets have been shuttered. Traditional organized-crime rackets like betting and construction are bleeding the New York mafia dry. The American mafia families are also losing out on the extortion racket after restaurants and other entities close their doors under New York City’s "shelter in place" order.
But in Italy, the mobs are stronger than ever. Various criminal groups are involved in the construction of field hospitals and importation of medical supplies like masks and other equipment. But the real money will be made when the lockdown ends, when cash-strapped entrepreneurs will need loans. Those loans will be hard to secure from banks, which will take a huge hit.
"After multiple twist and turns, the UK has finally regained its freedom. But this is a terrifying failure for the EU”, said Ms Le Pen. “We will no doubt see, over the coming months and years, that the UK did the right thing and will probably benefit a great deal. In fact, I have already noticed that the disaster-mongering has already given way to cautious warnings from those who were sure the British people would be ruined, there would be massive unemployment…"
A rancorous Britain leaves the EU
... denouncing the EU as representing the "beginning of totalitarianism".
... the EU is undemocratic
"The EU project is going in the wrong direction."
Early in 2019, Airbus’ salespeople had to accept the harsh reality that the market for new A380s was too slow for production to be sustained beyond 2021. They now seem to have concluded that the secondhand market also is weaker than they thought. Demand for cheaper A380 spare parts makes a business case for aircraft dismantling.
Air France has begun retiring its A380 fleet. CEO Ben Smith publicly criticized the aircraft's performance. “This is the poorest operating aircraft in the fleet. We have enormous amounts of delays on this aircraft and this fleet has the highest rate of cancellations. Getting these aircraft out sooner rather than later is going to help the operations at Air France."
The viability of the A380's secondhand market is indicated by the difficulties in placing ex-Singapore Airlines aircraft. The best economic solution turned out to be the part-out route.
"The Brussels oligarchy [...] governs without regard for the concerns of people who are ill-placed to prosper in a globalized economy."   Some countries, including Ireland, had expressed concern that the inflexible attitude shown by the EU would affect their national economies.
UK lawmakers pass Johnson's Brexit bill, pave way to EU exit
Lawmakers voted by 358 to 234 pass the second reading of the legislation, underlining Johnson’s large majority in parliament that should ensure a smooth ratification of the divorce deal to implement Britain’s biggest policy shift in more than 40 years.
The election result "hands the Conservatives their biggest majority since the days of Margaret Thatcher and marks the worst showing for Labour since the 1930s. [...] Corbyn had taken over the party leadership in 2015 and dragged it to the left in a rejection of the kind of centrism embodied by three-term Prime Minister Tony Blair."
Here is the July 2019 EU Update Report,
from our good friend and favorite author in Europe
Comments and references to our webpages have been added where relevant.
EU Policy Update - July 2019
New EU leadership designated - what happens now?
Leaders of the 28 EU Member States have appointed a new President of the European Commission: Ursula von der Leyen, currently still German Minister of Defense and a close ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She must now be confirmed by the European Parliament on 16 July.
Germany wins the power struggle, which means Angela Merkel got to appoint her "close ally" to be President. This clearly demonstrates who has the strongest power base in the EU.
Note the key word, "appointed". The occupancy of the highest office in the land cannot be entrusted to the voting of the commoners and ex-serfs. This is a government above the people, not established by the people, and under their direction and control. The government is above the people, who are under its control. There is no potential for freedom in Europe.   The future for the populace is only ever-tightening restrictions dictated by those who think they are the population's betters. Socialism - Dictators - Monarchies: for the populace, the end result - ever-increasing oppression - is the same.
Once this hurdle passed, she will assign particular portfolios (such as Energy, Competition or Digitalisation) to each of her Commissioners, whom she does not choose herself, however - this is the right of Member States. Each Commissioner then has to be confirmed by majority vote in the European Parliament, after having been grilled in Parliamentary hearings, to take place in September and October.
If all votes go smoothly (they rarely do), there will be ample time for the new European Commission to take office on 1 November. Its first major task could be to manage a disorderly Brexit: 31 October is the UK's new deadline, after having been granted an extension in March. The likely new UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has campaigned on the promise to leave the EU on that date, even in the absence of a formal withdrawal arrangement.
The new Members of European Parliament, who were elected in May, have now agreed on the composition of Parliamentary Committees. Three Committees are of particular importance: Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), Environment (ENVI), and Transport (TRAN). The list of members in these Committees, their home country and their party affiliation can be found here, here, and here.
EU trade relations: Mercosur and Switzerland
Legislative work has paused in the current EU transition period. Nevertheless, the European Commission is still actively negotiating trade relations. A substantial agreement was found, after years of negotiation, between the EU and Mercosur, which should lead to the mutual reduction of tariffs. It will be a gradual process: for some sectors it could take 10 to 15 years. One important area of trade imbalance is in the electric motors and generators business, where European companies face much higher import tariffs into Brazil than the other way around.
Some skirmishes took place in recent weeks on EU-Swiss trade relations: as Switzerland has yet to ratify the Swiss-EU institutional framework accord, the European Commission has suspended the equivalence recognition for the Swiss stock exchange. Switzerland retaliated by banning trading in Swiss stocks on EU exchanges. An agreement on the future EU-Swiss institutional framework would be facilitate the integration of the Swiss energy market into the EU, boosting the case for interconnectors.
Minimum energy efficiency requirements to affect motors and photovoltaic systems
Since 2009, the European Commission (EC) has developed a comprehensive set of laws to improve Europe's energy efficiency by 20% by 2020. Among other policy tools, "ecodesign" requirements, i.e. minimum energy and resource efficiency requirements to enter the European market, were adopted for various consumers appliances and products such as transformers, electric motors, or external power supply.
With a new objective of improving energy efficiency by 32.5% by 2030, the EC is seeking to further tighten ecodesign requirements. As a first step, requirements for low-voltage motors will become more stringent and apply to additional types of motors. By 2021 or 2023, IE1 motors will be banned and IE3 will become the default efficiency class for most low-voltage motors. In addition, for the first time the high-efficient IE4 standard will become a requirement for certain motors from 2023 onwards.
While rules are clear for motors, the EC is currently pondering ecodesign requirements for photovoltaic systems, inverters included. Anticipating on potential materials scarcity issues, the EC is not only looking at the energy efficiency of such systems, but also considering their recyclability, repairability and durability. The EC will not officially propose any requirements before 2020, but the industry is already engaging policy-makers through the SolarPower Europe trade federation to discuss potential requirements for inverters.
Translation: Costs of all goods will increase, and due to the increased costs of regulations, manufacturers will be hiring fewer employees. When costs increase, the line separating self-supporting from poverty-stricken goes up, and more people live in poverty. With fewer jobs, the number of people below the poverty line is compounded, and everyone can afford less.
Note the common theme that runs endlessly throughout all of these reports on the EU:   endless increases in regulation of the lives of the populace down to the most minor detail. Oppression never stops, but only increases. There is no thought of the impact, let alone the thought of even the most minor de-regulation. Like any tyranny, there is only one possible ultimate ending: violent rebellion, bloodletting, many deaths, and the destruction of the well-being of a billion people - with no guarantee that what follows will be better - witness the English, French, and Russian Revolutions, and the rise of Hitler in Germany. Only the American model - a government authorized and run by the people, to which they delegate certain responsibilities in defense of their freedom - will work.
Social Democrats are election frontrunners but critics say their leader has dragged the party sharply to the right. Her left-of-centre bloc has an eight percentage point lead. Under Frederiksen the party has been ruthlessly reshaped: dragged to the left economically - and sharply to the right on immigration. "For me, it is becoming increasingly clear that the price of unregulated globalisation, mass immigration and the free movement of labour is paid for by the lower classes," she said
Here is the May 2019 EU Update Report,
from our good friend and favorite author in Europe
Comments and references to our webpages have been added where relevant.
How will the European election results shape EU policy in the coming years?
The mainstream parties in the centre remain strongest. These parties are the centre-right "European People's Party", which regroups national christian-democratic parties, as well as the centre-left, "S&D", regrouping social-democratic parties. However, together they do not have the absolute majority of seats in the Parliament anymore.
They will need either the liberal party or the green party to achieve an absolute majority. Especially among young voters, below 30 years, green parties fared very well across the continent. This is seen by many politicians in the EU as a signal that the ambitious EU climate policies should continue, if not accelerate.
Note that the new nationalist parties are not mentioned, even though they made substantial inroads throughout Europe (as reported here). This effectively ignores their new dominance, particularly in Italy and Poland.
Every effort is being made to associate "Nationalist" with the violent Fascist and National Socialist governments of the past; yet their dominant theme (admittedly not always consistently applied) is the concern and protection of individuals from growing impositions by the EU, as well as lawless immigrants - big problems.
EU-sceptic parties received roughly a quarter of the votes, which is significant although not stronger than in the previous election 5 years ago. Given different opinions on topics like economic policy or the relationship with Russia, it will be a challenge for the individual parties to form a pan-European political group in the European Parliament, which is the prerequisite for gaining influence over EU policy and lawmaking.
The UK, having postponed Brexit, also participated in the elections and will keep sending representatives to the European Parliament until Brexit day, which is now foreseen for 31 October at the latest. The UK Brexit Party achieved high scores, but so did the parties in favour of remaining in the EU, underpinning that the UK remains deeply split.
However, there is little chance of Brexit not occurring. The favorable Brexit vote by the populace is a fact that cannot be ignored.
The European Parliament will now engage in a potentially long and stony negotiation with heads of Member State governments over who shall become President of the next European Commission, as well as over all the new European Commissioners. It might take into autumn until it is known which politicians will get the European Commission portfolios crucial for for industry, energy, etc.
Note the overall paternalistic theme that pervades the deliberations of the EU as a government. This is not the author's creation; it is evident in the attitudes, directions, and actions taken by the EU. The lack of respect for the individual and his ability to be a part of the governmental process is evident throughout. While he is allowed to vote for representatives, note that they decide who will preside over the EU - the same way that the kings of old were chosen. Unlike the U.S., Europe retains a more primitive and limiting structure - a society of distinct classes, with a ruling class and a populace that is still treated as ignorant peasants.
Ethical guidelines for Artificial Intelligence - what implications for industry?
In April the European Commission published Ethical Guidelines for AI, including seven key requirements such as human oversight, safety, accountability, and transparency. They will now be tested and piloted in real-life AI applications across sectors, and serving as the foundation of potential policy action for the next European Commission.
One has to ask why is the EU even concerned about this?   Human oversight is a part of any computer system. Issues of "oversight, safety, accountability" are already part of the legal code. "Transparency" simply means government intrusion into the inner workings of any given corporation. This is just another example of close-at-hand paternalism by a government bent on firm control at the lowest levels - tyranny by a dictatorship.
The EU Guidelines were drafted in a High-Level Group, regrouping scientists, industry and other societal stakeholders. Orgalim, the European trade federation of the technology industries, will be among those giving input. Members are preparing input to the practical application of the ethical guidelines, such as the technical feasibility of accountability and transparency, and are discussing those issues with the European Commission. For industry, it remains a constant challenge to educate policymakers on AI applications in B2B settings whereas B2C AI applications, for example in social media, are the driving force behind political AI discussions.
In an initiative similar to the EU activity, the member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, together with Argentinia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Columbia, Peru and Romania agreed to uphold standards which are robust, safe, fair, and trustworthy. They will be discussed at the G20 meeting in Japan at end of June.
The trade association Sea Europe
European companies involved with marine technologies are taking part in discussions on maritime regulations, as part of Sea Europe, the European association of shipyards and maritime equipment manufacturers. Sea Europe's mission is to promote the interests of the maritime industries and in particular the design, construction, refit, maintenance and modernisation of safe and environmentally sound ships by using state-of-the-art-technologies.
The association is in constant dialogue with the European Commission to protect itself from stifling, if not smothering, over-regulation that is destructive to shipping and maritime operations and all maritime-related topics and acts as an information on the latest initiatives taken by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and other regulatory bodies.
Members of the trade federation will have an additional opportunity to interact with other partners, clients, and promote ideas on autonomous shipping and decarbonization of the maritime sector, i.e., with batteries, fuel cells, or other propulsion technologies.
EU support for clean tech and infrastructure deployment to continue after 2020
Following the post-election battle for top EU jobs, another battle will ensue on the total amount and allocation of the 2021-27 EU budget. While some countries such as France and Poland would like the agricultural sector to continue being the prime recipient of European funds, other countries advocate for prioritizing research and innovation and for supporting the less advanced economies of the EU.
While the exact budget allocation between EU funding programmes remains unknown, out-going Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have already determined some of the priority areas for support through a vote on 18 April 2019.
More specifically, MEPs agreed to earmark 35% of the research and development funds (so-called "Horizon Europe"), for clean technologies, i.e., low-carbon or zero-carbon alternatives to existing technologies even though ist has already been shown that more CO2 is better, not worse.
With regards to infrastructure and technology deployment, the European Institutions also decided to continue the "Connecting Europe Facility" fund, a key instrument for developing cross-border electricity connections (both AC and DC) and railway infrastructure.
Last but not least, various companies will have the possibility to tap into the upcoming €50bn "InvestEU" programme to obtain EU guarantees for infrastructure and technology deployment projects. The EU's hope is to trigger €650bn of investments - again, a government-driven economy, not a market-driven economy, which has a proven historical record and far-greater historical success, and which promotes individual freedom - into four areas, including sustainable infrastructure (for energy, transport, water, etc.) and digitization (artificial intelligence, industrial automation, etc.).
France's Macron vs. Italy's Salvini: Two leaders face off over EU's future
Voting across the European Union's 28 countries ended the domination of the
center-right and center-left parties in Parliament and established the anti-EU forces
on the right and the environmentalists on the left as forces to be reckoned with.
Here is the March 2019 EU Update Report,
from our good friend and favorite author in Europe
Brexit: new timetables, as uncertainty reigns in UK Parliament
The UK Parliament remains deeply divided on Brexit. Over the last months it has twice voted down the Withdrawal Agreement which the UK Government had negotiated with the EU Institutions. Therefore, UK Prime Minister Theresa May asked the EU for an extension of the 29 March Brexit date. At a European Council meeting on 21 March the leaders of the remaining 27 EU Member States granted the UK a conditional extension:
* If the UK Parliament, in a third vote, approves the Withdrawal Agreement by 29 March, then the UK's departure date will be extended to 22 May. The Withdrawal Agreement will then trigger a transition period until end 2020, during which the future relationship with the EU is negotiated.
* If, however, the Withdrawal Agreement is not approved by 29 March, the extension is only extended to 12 April. Therefore, a no-deal Brexit on 13 April is still possible, unless the UK Parliament indicates a clear way forward by then. This way forward could still trigger a longer extension of EU Membership, possibly for years, with the UK participating in European Parliament elections end of May.
UK Prime Minister May wants to hold the third vote on the Withdrawal Agreement on 29 May, but as events are unfolding on an hourly basis, everything remains possible at this point in time.
EU leaders to define the 2050 decarbonisation strategy
Notwithstanding the recent adoption of various laws to support renewable energy sources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, or mandate public authorities to procure a minimum share of clean vehicles, the European Union is not on track to meet its 2050 decarbonization commitments under the Paris Agreement.
As a consequence, the European Commission published at the end of November a draft strategy, proposing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% by 2050. This document touches on many economic sectors, in particular energy, transport, buildings and industry, and heralds a new wave of policy initiatives post-2020, with potential far-reaching consequences for the customers of those industries.
With this draft document on the table, leaders of EU Member States are scheduled to meet in June and October in order to agree on the EU's general decarbonization strategy. Among the questions to be answered are "should the EU aim at carbon neutrality, and by when?   How to reconcile the EU's industrial policies and climate policies?". For businesses, the strategy will likely be an additional opportunity to market energy-efficient products, and automation technologies.
In the transport sector, the Platform for Electro-mobility organization has developed its own recommendations to policymakers, chief among them a call for a complete decarbonization of the transport sector by 2050 and for prioritising electric mobility over conventional fuels in the medium to long term.
European Investment Bank is reviewing its Energy Lending Policy
The European Investment Bank (EIB) defines its current approach towards supporting the energy sector in its Energy Lending Criteria, which were adopted in 2013.
Since 2013, EIB lending to energy infrastructure has averaged €13.5bn/year (~18% of total volume), around 87% of which has been inside the EU. The EIB has mostly channelled its energy lending toward renewable energy (36%), energy efficiency (24%), and electricity grids (23%) including financing for 30 European Projects of Common Interest.
In November 2018, the EU agreed on a set of laws to deliver ambitious climate and energy targets for 2030, notably a binding renewable energy target of at least 32% and an energy efficiency target of at least 32.5%. As a result of the new framework, the EIB is revising its Energy Lending Criteria. By end of March 2019, the bank will have finalized a public consultation, which included dialogues with stakeholders in evaluating key trends and investment challenges.
The federation T&D Europe, has been participating in the consultation, pointing towards certain technologies and financing models for the EIB to consider, such as investments in microgrids, and digitalization at all voltage levels, in order for the EU to fulfil its 2030 energy targets. The bank should also place greater focus on offshore wind generation projects and enable more cross-border grid connections.
Next steps: In Q2-2019, the EIB will review and publish stakeholder comments as part of the consultation. Afterwards, the EIB then aims to publish a draft of the revision before discussion at the EIB's Board of Directors, with the final revised EIB Energy Lending Policy aiming to be published later in Q3-2019.
Belatedly, Here is the Februuary 2019 EU Update Report,
from our good friend and favorite author in Europe
On 1 February 2019 the EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement, signed in summer 2018, officially entered into force.
Overall tariffs on more than 90% of the EU's exports to Japan will be eliminated, especially on agriculture, food products, wine, leather, wood, fisheries. Non-tariff barriers such as alignment of standards and opening of new economic sectors to European products are also included in the deal.
In the power sector, procurement related to the production, transport or distribution of electricity by sub-central government entities is now open.
In the railway sector, procurements of good and services by sub-central government entities and by specific companies - Hokkaido Railway Company, Japan Freight Railway Company, Japan Railway, Construction, Transport and Technology Agency, Shikoku Railway Company and Tokyo Metro Co., Ltd - are covered by the deal. Procurement will be open to EU suppliers on 1 February 2020.
On Brexit, there is still no majority in the UK Parliament to approve a withdrawal agreement between the UK and the EU. Further talks are ongoing between the UK and the EU leadership and new votes are scheduled in the UK Parliament later in February. However, if no progress is made, the UK will leave the EU without a deal on 29 March and automatically fall back on general tariffs and rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
EU approves law mandating clean public buses
On 11 February, a deal was struck between all European institutions on the "Clean Vehicles Directive", a law aimed at increasing public authorities' purchase of cleaner vehicles. Over the last 18 months, a coordinated coalition of companies, NGOs and trade federations, advocated in favour of procurement targets for electric vehicles.
These efforts have paid off: starting from 2021, a minimum share of the new vehicles purchased/leased by public authorities (public administrations, but also public transport operators, public utilities, litter collection and postal services) will have to be "clean":
For cars and vans, the minimum procurement targets will range from 18.7% to 38.5% depending on each EU country's GDP, i.e., the higher target will roughly apply to western Europe, the lower one to Central and Eastern Europe. In 2021, a car will be considered clean if it emits less than 50gr CO2 / km, effectively supporting the take up of plugin-hybrids and battery electric vehicles. From 2026 onwards, only zero-emission cars will be considered "clean".
For buses, the minimum procurement targets will range from 24% to 45%. In 2026, these minimum targets will go up to 33%-66%. Here, "clean" is understood broadly and covers vehicles powered by CNG, LNG, biofuels, fuel cells and batteries BUT out of these clean vehicles, at least half of them should be zero-emission, i.e., electric. As an example, in Germany, 22.5% of the newly procured buses should be zero-emission starting from 2021. From 2026, this figure will climb to 33%.
How technologies help EU food waste policies
The EU decided last year to define a - non-binding - target to halve food waste by 2030 (with an interim target of 30% by 2025). By 2023 the EU will reassess whether this food waste target is to become binding.
Opportunities on food waste prevention in the industrial food processing stage include reducing food waste between harvest and consumption, even in developed countries - in Europe it is close to 20% of all food waste.
Discussion with policymakers revolved around whether and how a technology benchmark could be developed to label the less wasteful food production processes.
Electric urban transport solutions to Belgian municipalities
On January 29, an event "How Swedish Industry Contributes to Sustainable Mobility" was presented at the Swedish Residence in Brussels.
Representatives from regions, municipalities, and transportation companies across Belgium and Sweden attended. Keynote speakers included Anneli Hulthen, former Mayor of the Swedish city Gothenburg. She shared experiences in successfully rolling out Volvo electric buses and the associated infrastructure across the city of 570,000 inhabitants.
Volvo featured speakers from its Buses, Trucks, and Construction segments. Also addressed was the growing interconnectivity between the transportation network, electricity grid, and heating systems, and efficiently managing cities' future energy needs.
The event, which was supported by the Swedish Trade & Investment Council Business Sweden, proved a successful means to reach customers in the smart city and transportation segment.
Here is the January 2019 EU Update Report,
from our good friend and favorite author in Europe
Comments and references to our webpages have been added where relevant.
2019 starters: Brexit and trade measures
In terms of EU political nuts to crack, 2019 starts where 2018 ended:
On Brexit, Europe is still waiting for the UK Parliament to approve a UK-EU withdrawal agreement negotiated between the UK government and the EU. A vote had initially been planned for 11 December but was postponed due to a near certainty that UK Parliamentarians would vote the agreement down. Now the vote is planned for next week, possibly 15 January, while UK Prime Minister May is still trying to obtain further reassurances from the EU side that certain "backstop" provisions in the agreement would not be permanent. However, the remaining 27 EU Member States seem firm not to re-open negotiations.
A UK parliamentary approval of the withdrawal agreement would trigger a transition period until end 2020, during which the future relationship with the EU could be negotiated. This means a UK parliamentary approval would avoid a no-deal Brexit on 29 March. If, however, the UK Parliament votes down the agreement - which seems to be the more likely scenario at this point in time - the risk of a hard Brexit will increase. As a consequence, preparations for such a no-deal Brexit are ramping up, including within many businesses.
On international trade, EU-US negotiations are continuing behind closed doors to prevent further trade measures from either side. European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom is travelling to Washington this week. At the same time the European Commission has now extended "safeguard" measures against steel and aluminium imports to at least 2021. These measures, which have been provisionally in place since July 2018, define import quotas for specific countries - mainly for big steel exporters like Russia, China, South Korea and Turkey. Crucially for some manufacturers, imports of electrical steel for transformers remain exempted from the permanent measures, but imports of electrical steel for motors & generators from Russia, China, South Korea and Taiwan are subject to quotas.
European institutions ink final deal on EU Clean Energy Package 2030
After two years of negotiations, eight laws forming the so-called "Clean Energy Package" were approved by EU Institutions on 18 December. The new laws define the EU energy framework for the next decade. They will overhaul power markets, and affect a wide variety of electrical product manufacturers and customers, e.g., utilities, aggregators, installers and consumers.
The key issue in the above and in the paragraphs which follow is the imposition of restrictions and loss of freedoms for Europeans.
This brings to mind this quote by Ayn Rand, "A European is disarmed in the face of a dictatorship: he may hate it, but he feels that he is wrong and, metaphysically, the State is right. An American would rebel to the bottom of his soul." - although the recent Yellow-Vest riots in Paris are a good start in the right direction, if they follow through.
The EU is in its structure a dictatorship. Europeans need to fight for their freedoms; the EU is clearly bent on imposing its will on them and certainly has not the slightest interest in defending their freedom, as demonstrated by the focus on regulation and the notably absent focus on defense.
Several far-reaching provisions stand out:
Renewable energy sources to cover 32% of final energy consumption (and 55% of final electricity consumption) by 2030;
Energy efficiency to increase by 32% by 2030;
At what cost to the people of Europe?!?!?   This will drive up the cost of living for all Europeans; those just above the poverty line will sink below it.
Subsidies to power plants emitting more than 550gr CO2/kWh (i.e., coal-fired) will be progressively phased out.
Destroying jobs and increasing the cost of living.
Electrical transmission system operators (TSOs) must set up trans-national Regional Coordination Centres by 2023.
(centralized control)   These centres will provide a certain number of services such as cross-border capacity calculation and coordinated security analysis;
Ownership of energy storage facilities and EV charging stations by system operators will be tightly controlled.
Why?   The free-market would do a much better job of providing services, and at a lower cost - with the United States being the greatest example. But Socialist governments explicitly deny the ability of a free market - the people - to take the best course of action (well, of course - given that the definition of "the best course of action" is defined by those in control of the government; that is why Socialism is all about control and the use of force).
Energy regulators should ensure that TSOs and distribution system operators (DSOs) take appropriate measures to make their network smarter, based on indicators such as capability to operate lines under dynamic line rating, development of remote monitoring and control, grid losses and frequency and duration of outages. A number of manufacturers successfully proposed and advocated for this concept of a Smart Grid Indicator.
Certainly giving the appearance of those manufacturers being among those jockeying for political power and control as well.
Of course, what other choice do they have?   In a Socialist environment, one must either be in control or be overrun by those who are in control. Nobody willingly chooses to be a peasant, disregarded by both sides and trampled upon in any conflict.
Nobody has any real familiarity with the subtleties of an American style of government, based on the rights of the individual, and where those individuals control their government not only through their votes but also through their involvement in the government's operation.
The Clean Energy Package will gradually enter into force between now and 2020.
EU pushes forward policies supporting eMobility
With new models of electric cars expected to hit the road this year, and global cumulative electric vehicles (EVs) sales set to exceed 5 million during the first quarter, 2019 will likely be a tipping point for the eMobility industry. It will also be a key year in Brussels, where European elections at the end of May and the ensuing reshuffle in all European institutions will reshape the political landscape.
In other words, this will set the stage for a tremendous amount of maneuvering for power among EU politicians, as each seeks to achieve dominant political control of Europe and Europeans going forward. The populace will be further reduced to the level of serfs and pawns.
In view of this, read more about the "Platform for Electro-mobility", by an alliance of 36 stakeholders   (i.e., another group vying for political power)   including car manufacturers, utilities, NGOs and trade federations. The platform will be focusing in 2019 on advocating eMobility-friendly policies towards newly appointed civil servants and newly elected policy-makers.
But before EU institutions shut down for the elections, current policy-makers are rushing to close a number of important transport-related pieces of legislation:
Emission performance standards for cars and vans will be tightened. (i.e., increased controls)   Just before Christmas, EU institutions informally agreed that CO2 emissions of new cars and vans should decrease by 15% by 2025 and 35% by 2030 (31% for vans). The emissions of each OEM will be calculated based on the average emissions of the vehicles they sold during the previous year. As a consequence, OEMs will have to sell   (i.e., quotas will be imposed - which will bankrupt some manufacturers and increase costs, meaning fewer people will be able to afford cars)   a sizeable number of plugin hybrids or pure electric vehicles to offset emissions from traditional vehicles.
A similar law is under negotiations for trucks. From 2025 onwards, new trucks would have to emit 15% less CO2 on average. From 2030, they would have to emit 30% less CO2. A consensus seems to be in reach between European policy-makers, and the law could be approved before the end of the legislature.
Again - increasing the cost of living for all Europeans, and sending ever more of the population below the poverty line.
Last but not least, the "clean vehicles directive" would mandate public authorities to buy a growing share of low and zero emission vehicles. (so taxes will have to go up)   This would impact public transport operators the most. As an example, under the current text supported by members of the European Parliament, 33% of new buses procured in Germany should be zero-emission from 2021 onwards, reaching 56% after 2025. Negotiations are progressing slowly and it is unclear if a compromise will be reached between all EU institutions before the elections.
Cybersecurity Act - mandatory testing for IT application to be expanded
Security - but less and less freedom. Political control uber alles.
In December, EU institutions agreed on a law which will eventually lead to more mandatory   (and thereby increasing costs for everyone)   cybsersecurity testing in Europe.
A major part of the so-called Cybersecurity Act is the establishment of Cybersecurity certification schemes for ICT products, services and processes. The EU Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) will be tasked to prepare candidate schemes for specific groups of ICT products, processes and services, which can then be legally adopted by the European Commission.
The schemes will be based on a comprehensive set of rules, technical requirements, standards and procedures and cover the full life cycle of products, services or processes. Any certification scheme will be labelled with one of three sets of assurance levels depending on aspects such resilience to accidental or malicious data loss or alteration. The three levels are: basic, substantial or high.
Only for the assurance level "basic" will self-certification be possible, i.e., the manufacturer or ICT-provider declares having done all the necessary checks which ensure conformity. For any ICT-application with higher assurance levels ("substantial" or "high"), third-party testing, in one form or another, is likely to be necessary in the future.
As always, more and more controls in the name of "protection" from other people, but never more protection where it is needed the most - protection from the government.
The Cybersecurity Act will formally enter into force in the first half of 2019, after which ENISA will start assessing and proposing certification schemes to the European Commission.
Here is the December 2018 EU Update Report,
from our good friend and favorite author in Europe
Comments and references to our webpages have been added where relevant.
How to decarbonize Europe by 2050 - European Commission roadmap
The European Commission published on 28 November a strategy with proposals to reach 80-95% Greenhouse Gas reductions by 2050. See the main elements of this strategy here, which will touch on virtually all sectors of economic activity, in particular energy, transport, buildings and industry.
In other words, free-market economies - personal choices of how to spend your money - are to be replaced by the dictates of Socialist elitists. The cost of living will go up, and those who are just above the economic borderline of being able to support themselves will sink into real poverty. That will increase welfare-support costs, which will have to be paid for by higher taxes. Europe's decline will continue.
Two days before the publication, European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic received the Roundtable for Europe's Energy Future, a group of European energy companies which want to drive the energy transition. Claudio Facchin is chairing this group of companies, which includes ABB, Tennet, Statnett, RTE, APG, Mavir, Statkraft, National Grid, Elia and GE. Claudio Facchin and his peers pointed out that the power grids will be in the center of this transition. Planning has to start now across all sectors and stakeholders to strengthen and smarten the electricity grids within and across countries.
Brexit agreement would avoid no-deal scenario in 2019, but leave future UK-EU relationship open
On 25 November, all heads of the 27 remaining EU Member States unanimously approved the text (here) of a withdrawal agreement with the UK. This text, which UK Prime Minister Theresa May's government had negotiated with the European Commission over the past months, sets the bare bones for the future UK-EU relationship, which however still needs to be negotiated.
Crucially for business, this withdrawal agreement would trigger a transition period from Brexit Day (29 March 2019) until end 2020, during which all EU laws and rules would continue to apply to the UK, except that it would not be part of the EU Institutions (Commission, Parliament, Council) anymore. This is an arrangement comparable to the relationship Norway currently has with the EU. The transition period would end on 31 December 2020, but could be prolonged by one or two years.
As a sort of red line for the yet-to-be-negotiated future UK-EU relationship (for which only a 36-page political declaration exists so far), the withdrawal agreement defines as "backstop" that the UK would remain in the EU customs union, if no future agreement is found. In addition, Northern Ireland would remain in the EU single market for goods to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, one of the remaining 27 Member States.
As it has to be decided by 1 July 2020 whether the UK wants to prolong the transition period, this date would be the new milestone by which an EU-UK agreement has to be negotiated.
However, first of all the UK Parliament needs to approve the withdrawal agreement in a vote on 11 December. If approved, negotiations on the future EU-UK relationship will start in earnest. If not, the Brexit process would plunge into uncertainty and could still result in a hard Brexit on 29 March 2019, i.e., the UK leaving the EU without an agreement.
Screening Foreign Direct investments - EU agrees on common framework
On 20 November, EU institutions (Commission, Council, Parliament) reached an agreement on a framework for screening Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the EU.
The agreement largely follows a law proposal (text here) by the European Commission from one year ago. It will give the European Commission the possibility to screen FDI which are likely to affect projects of EU interest on the grounds of security or public order. In addition it establishes a coordination mechanism among EU Member States when it comes to national screening of FDI. While the definition of the terms "projects of EU interest", "security" and "public order" are open for interpretation, this regulation aims to complement various national FDI screening (and blocking) mechanisms, such as Germany's Aussenwirtschaftsgesetz. De facto, Europe is following the US trend, where the authority of CFIUS (Committee on Foreign Investment in the US) was also recently expanded to enable stronger investment protectionism.
In a press release (text here) welcoming the agreement on the screening mechanism, the European Trade Commissioner expressed the willingness "to protect critical technology and infrastructure in Europe".
Here is the October 2018 EU Update Report,
from our good friend and favorite author in Europe
Comments and references to our webpages have been added where relevant.
EU's road to decarbonisation to become wider, and possibly steeper
In line with the global agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris three years ago to keep global warming below 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels, and preferably no higher than 1.5°C, the European Commission will publish a new strategy to curb EU emissions by 80-95% in 2050 compared to 1990. This strategy is to be released ahead of the UN COP24 Climate Conference in the Polish town of Katowice in December.
Even more interesting is the fact that CO2 gas is at historically low levels:   275 ppm (parts per million), and that plants literally starve at 200 parts per million. Doubling the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would yield trillions of dollars for agriculture due to increased plant growth. Such an increase in CO2 would have no impact on animals and humans; CO2 is considered a "trace gas". Twenty percent of the atmosphere is the oxygen we need, but only 0.0275 percent of the air is CO2. Twice that is still infinitesimal.
Finally, in 2001, the IPCC itself stated on page 78 of its Third Assessment Report, "The long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible." Additional quotes of a similar nature were also made. No significant scientific breakthroughs have changed that status since; newer reports simply ignore those statements.
The new strategy will come just months after the EU Institutions officially adopted into law a 40% greenhouse gas reduction target for 2030. This, however, might not prove enough if the long term target is to be reached. The European Commission might ask EU Member States to approve an increased 2030 target of 45%. The dramatic urgency for action on climate change has just been underpinned by the latest report of the UNÂ’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which received a lot of attention by EU policymakers.
This will result in lowered standards of living for the European populace. Simple economics makes it clear tht using more expensive methods causes an increase in the cost of living. An increase in poverty is inevitable, as is poorer quality of life for whatever remains of the middle class.
All this forced change is due to a false understanding of climate change. The result is going to be a general decline of Europe compared to China, the U.S., and elsewhere.
Repercussions are already being felt on transport policy, see article below. Besides transport, the heating (i.e., building) sector will "feel the heat" of decarbonisation policy in the future.
Member States are divided, however. central European member states, in particular, are opposed to more ambitious decarbonisation measures. Business has started to positioning itself on the EU 2050 climate strategy. A number of large European companies have submitted views to the official European Commission consultation. So have a number of federations, such as T&D Europe or WindEurope.
Hurrah for the central European member states!   Let us hope they stand their ground, and through their rejection of this policy, cause it to be rescinded.
Who will be the next President of the European Commission?
In about one year, the current European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, will step down and with him all European Commissioners, ending their 5-year term in office. The European treaties say that the new President will then be chosen by heads of government of EU Member States at a European Council meeting, "taking into account the elections to the European Parliament".
But the populace has no voice. Nothing has changed since the days of Communism and Kings and Emperors. Until the people have a total voice, in a republic - i.e., the rule of law - a constitutional law the populace creates through their own conventions, and not the edicts of "commissions", their lives are little different from those of serfs and peasants under the domination of the nobles in their manors.
In view of these elections, to take place in May 2019, the big factions in the European Parliament are currently selecting their so-calles "Spitzenkandidat" (German for "lead candidate"). The Spitzenkandidat, who manages to gather a majority of seats in the European Parliament, is then understood to be chosen as the Commission President by EU heads of government. It should be noted, however, that this is no legal automatism, so there is room for compromise candidates, especially if no clear parliamentary majority emerges.
In other words, the noblemen are still the only ones selecting their king, and that they still think of the "lower class" - the serfs and peasants - as too ignorant to know better. Europeans are still stuck in the Dark Ages - the primitive attitude of the rulers limits the progress of Europe's culture.
The only parties who at this stage could hope for gathering a majority behind them in the European Parliament are the conservative European People's Party and the Alliance of Socialists & Democrats. The parties will chose their official Spitzenkandidat in November and December, respectively. The conservative candidates are Manfred Weber from Bavaria in Germany as well as former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb. The contenders from the social democrats, so far, are Maros Sefcovic, currently European Commission Vice President for Energy, as well as former Dutch Foreign Minister and current Deputy to Jean-Claude Juncker in the European Commission, Frans Timmermans.
Sweden is a sterotypical example of Europe's problem. With a king who knows nothing of economics, and a parliament which, having stripped him of his power, retains that power while acting in his name, and his bankers, the Wallenbergs, who do likewise, Sweden is in decline and slowly descends into poverty. The properity enjoyed in more capitalistic times is disappearing. Despotic Socialism slowly eats away at Sweden's vitality, as it is also doing in the rest of Europe.
EU measures to accelerate the shift to low-emission cars, vans and buses
Making the decline in the standard of living even faster.
On 9 October, EU Environment ministers agreed in Luxembourg on ambitious emission performance standards for cars and vans: manufacturers will have to reduce the CO2 emissions of their cars by 35% by 2030. Compliance of OEMs will be assessed every year against the average emissions of their newly registered cars, a mechanism which will likely drive car manufacturers to add plug-in hybrids or pure electric vehicles to their offering to lower their average emissions.
As noted above, higher CO2 quantities are a good thing - if it were even possible for human activity to have an impact.
While this news attracted most media attention, another file was keeping members of the European Parliament busy in Brussels. On 10 October, the Environment committee of the European Parliament adopted a proposal mandating public authorities to procure low-emission vehicles. The so-called "Clean vehicles directive" would require public authorities such as local governments and city administrations - but also publicly owned companies, public transport companies and utilities - to buy a minimum share of clean vehicles (i.e., vehicles powered by biofuels, LPG, hydrogen, electricity including plugin hybrids). Out of these clean vehicles, a certain share should be zero-emission. As an example under this law, in Germany, at least 50% of new buses procured between 2020 and 2025 should be clean, 50% of which should be zero-emission. After 2025, these figures would climb to 75% and 66% respectively.
Increasing the cost of government operations. Taxes will have to increase, worsening further the cost of living for Europeans.
Meanwhile, European companies will be less competitive in the world marketplace, compounding the reduction in the cost of living for Europeans.
A coordinated Platform exists for an electro-mobility advocacy campaign on this topic and the proposed zero-emission vehicles targets would benefit the electromobility industry, in particular the e-bus market. Yet, this law proposal still requires the support and approval of environment ministers from EU Member States. If Member States can agree on this text, final adoption is expected in the first half of 2019.
Let us hope they never agree!
Plea for free trade of electrical steel before the European Commission
One company was granted an official hearing with the Trade Directorate of the European Commission on 13 September on electrical steel. At issue is the manufacture of transformers, motors, generators,etc. The case was argued for exempting electrical steel from EU "safeguard measures" aimed at preventing steel products hit by US steel tariffs to enter the EU at lower prices.
While Grain Oriented Electrical Steel (GOES) for transformers has been so far exempted, the EU currently has a provisional quota in place for Non-Grain Oriented Electrical Steel (NGOES) for motors and generators, which has been in place since July 2018. This means that imports of NGOES from anywhere in the world, exceeding a specific quota, will be subject to a 25% import tariff.
In arguing the case, it was stated that the user industries of electrical steel generate substantially more growth and jobs than the producers of electrical steel in Europe. In addition, high-quality motors, generators and transformers are needed for a more efficient energy system with less carbon emissions. In particular, the expected massive uptake of electric cars in the coming years could require a big amount of NGOES.
No separation of powers in Europe!   Separate and independent legislative, executive (enforcement), and judicial powers are contrary to Socialist control of the masses.
Final EU decisions on safeguard measures are expected in the beginning of 2019.
The "decision" is simple:   negotiate with President Trump to mutually roll back tariffs!   A level playing field is better for everyone!   Add to that eliminating restrictions, increasing freedoms, and fostering greater participation in the government for everybody, and Europe would be the economic powerhouse it should be. "Make Europe Great Again!"
Fortune magazine gets it:   MAGA makes possible Make the World Great Again.
Here is the September 2018 EU Update from our good friend and favorite author in Europe
What to expect from EU politics ahead of Brexit & EU elections?
Preparation for two landmark events in 2019 will be increasingly dominating EU politics this autumn and winter:   Brexit on 29 March, and the European Parliament elections end of May.
As regards Brexit, positions seem to be hardening between the EU and the UK on what their future relationship should look like. The spectre of a "no-deal" Brexit has been conjured by both sides, and is likely to remain at the negotiating table as an option until well into 2019. Business representatives from the EU as well as the UK have strongly rejected such an option (see joint declaration here).
The European Parliament elections in May will not only decide on legislative majorities but also on who will lead the other two EU institutions.-.the European Commission and the European Council - for the next five years. It will force national parties in Europe to decide with whom to build coalitions across national borders. For example, it is as yet unclear which parties will gather behind the new social-liberal movement of French President Macron, or which parties will officially side with the ruling right-wing parties in Italy and Hungary, Northern League and Fidesz.
Against this background, a lot of important legislative and political decisions will still be pushed through before the European Parliament dissolves in April, including:   Brexit and its impact on trade, steel quotas and tariffs, the EU-Japan free-trade agreement, clean energy, and energy storage, energy taxation, 2050 EU energy strategy, drinking water directive, regulation of water re-use, requirements for solar inveters, requirements for electric batteries, EU funding of R&D, clean vehicles directive, emissions standards, regulation of free flow of personal data, cybersecurity, publication of a plan on artificial intelligence, and more.
No freedom here. Its glaring absence tells the whole story. The EU continues socialism's march to total control.
CO2 emissions reduced in the US, but increase in the EU
The free market wins, socialism loses.
Here is the July 2018 EU Update from a favorite author and good friend in Europe
While global trade conflict is smoldering, the EU imposes provisional measures on steel
As Brussels is preparing for another visit of US President Trump this week on the occasion of a NATO Summit, the spectre of a fully-fledged trade war continues hanging in the air.
In a move less mediatized than the latest US-China tariffs, the EU decided on 5 July to introduce provisional safeguard measures on imports of certain steel types. These measures are imposed on imports regardless of their country of origin and are formally intended to prevent steel hit by US tariffs to be diverted to the EU.
Advocacy action by corporations and trade federations led to the exemption of electrical steel for transformers from protectionist measures. However, electrical steel for motors and generators is currently included in the measures. The EU measures consist of a specific import quota above which a 25% tariff will be levied. They will take effect later this month, with an exact date to be defined. The measures are provisional, so discussions will continue, and a number of countries, such as Finland, Sweden, and Estonia are critical of them.
The bulk of EU measures could actually hit Chinese steel, which makes the visit of China's Prime Minister Li Keqiang to Europe this week particularly timely. The EU had earlier launched an official complaint against China at the World Trade Organisation for alleged "unfair technology transfers".
EU's new 2030 energy targets translate into 55% renewable electricity
After a year and a half of negotiations, the 8 legislative files forming the "Clean Energy Package" to define the EU energy market for the next decade are now being closed one after the other. In that context the European Institutions have now concluded their negotiations on new targets for 2030. Next to the already agreed 40% greenhouse gas emission reduction by 2030 (compared to 1990), renewable energy should now represent 32% of the energy consumed in 2030. This translates into roughly 55%, if one considers only electricity. Currently about one third of the EU's electricity comes from renewable sources. In addition energy efficiency is set to improve by 32,5%, compared to business as usual, in 2030.
Energy targets were one of the most debated issues among EU policymakers, yet more important decisions are still outstanding: the laws on "Electricity Market Design" setting detailed rules for the functioning of European electricity markets - including on the ownership of storage or the rules for self-generation of electricity - are still to be agreed during the second half of the year. The European trade federation of grid technology suppliers, will use the last few months of the negotiations to further promote the idea of developing a smart grid indicator, following the example of the US grid modernization index.
Here is another EU Update from a favorite author and good friend in Europe
EU Policy Update - May 2018
This newsletter highlights recent developments in EU policy and regulation that are of particular importance to business interests.
As EU prepares reaction to US import tariffs, industry fights on electrical steel exemptions.
On 1 June the US ended exemptions for the EU (as well as for Canada and Mexico) on the tariffs for steel and aluminium imported into the US. Electrical steel - used for the production of transformers, motors and generators - is part of the steel types on which a 25% tariff will be imposed. The EU reaction to US tariffs will be twofold:
First, the EU will, probably in July, enact retaliation tariffs on a number of products, although not electric steel. The full list of products can be found here. Retaliation tariffs, in turn, could further exacerbate tensions: the US has already started an investigation into possible tariffs on imported cars, which would hit Europe especially hard.
Second, the EU is currently carrying out a so-called safeguard investigation, which could result in tariffs on steel and aluminium from third countries hit by US tariffs (such as Asian countries). This is meant to prevent steel and aluminium, which otherwise would have gone to the US, from lowering prices in the EU. Electrical steel is part of this investigation, and a number of companies have signed up as an interested party to the European Commission to make the case against safeguard measures on electrical steel. First decisions are expected as early as June.
The European Commission recently released an initiative on Artificial Intelligence (available here) with three main strategic objectives:
Â•   to increase European investments in AI
Â•   to prepare Europeans for socio-economic changes brought by AI
Â•   to guarantee an appropriate ethical and legal framework.
AI is expected to transform industry in the coming years. Besides the European Commission and the European Investment Bank, customers who shared their views at the event included Hakan Agnevall from Volvo Buses, Eddie OÂ’Connor from Mainstream Renewable Power and Wouter Ceulemans from Atlas Copco.
New buildings to be "eMobility-ready" across the EU from 2020 onwards
On 14 May, the EU Institutions adopted the "Energy Performance of Buildings Directive", a text aiming at improving energy efficiency in buildings, accelerating renovation, and paving the way for the uptake of electric vehicles.
The Platform for Electro-Mobility - of which a number of companies are members - had advocated over the last year in favour of mandating a minimum deployment of EV charging spots in buildings. The final compromise found among European policymakers partly meets the expectations of the EV industry and should foster the market for slow-charging solutions:
*   In new and deeply renovated non-residential buildings with more than 10 parking space, 10% of the parking spaces will have to be equipped with a recharging point, and 20% will have to be equipped with conduits facilitating the later installation of a charging point.
*   In new and deeply renovated residential buildings, with more than 10 parking spaces, all of them will have to be equipped with conduits facilitating the later installation of a charging point.
The new law is expected to enter into force in June 2018 and Member States will have 20 months to implement it.
- Thanks once again to a good friend and one of our favorite authors!
EU Policy Update - January 2017
Amid general stability, Brexit showdown looms
While EU economic sentiment is at its highest since 2000, leaders of the two biggest parties in Germany agreed in January on their intention to renew the current "grand coalition". If negotiations are successful, the two biggest EU countries - Germany and France - will have governments wanting to strengthen EU and Eurozone integration.
Such a drive, however, is set to mobilise counterforces. In Poland, for example, the government is trying to stave off EU policy influence. Just before Christmas the European Commission triggered a procedure against the Polish government under Article 7 of EU Treaties because it thinks that the independence of the Polish judicial system cannot be guaranteed anymore. In other Central European countries, such as Hungary and the Czech Republic, governments share distrust of too much EU power. Also in Italy, which will hold federal elections on 4 March, Eurosceptic sentiment is high albeit more focused against austerity policies.
While tensions around the EU's future might or might not erupt, a clash over Brexit seems almost inevitable this year. The UK government, on one side, and EU Institutions, on the other, keep defending irreconcilable negotiation positions. The UK government maintains its red lines of not wanting to be part of the Internal Market anymore, while the European Commission maintains an "all or nothing" approach, where either the UK accepts EU internal market rules or will be treated like a third country, such as Canada, in all aspects. In between, the Irish question looms, where a "hard border" between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (which is full EU member) must be avoided. A deal needs to be struck at or around a European Council in October, and this deal will then need to be approved by the UK Parliament later in autumn.
Cybersecurity rules - industry wants to remain in the driving seat
In September 2017 the European Commission proposed a new Cybersecurity Legislative Package, which is currently being debated by EU Institutions for adoption by the end of 2018.
The general direction of the new package is similar to the 2016 EU Directive on the Security of Networks and Information Systems, which defines cyber-critical infrastructure in Europe and which is currently being implemented at national level. More resources to build up cybersecurity capacity throughout the European Union is an objective.
At the same time, there are concerns about a proposal in the package to move towards third-party certification and testing of cybersecurity standards by default. The validity of cybersecurity tests very much depends on the framework conditions of the tests. At worst, costly third-party testing can create a false sense of security among users. Self-declaration of conformity, based on international standards, defined by industry itself in bodies such as the IEC or ISA, are well-proven procedures, which companies say should not be easily given up.
At an event in a European Parliament on 23 January, the manufacturing industry discussed with EU politicians their views about the new cybersecurity proposals. It became clear that a number of companies had similar concerns. The respective position papers of European industry federations Orgalime and ZVEI are available for viewing.
EU Institutions inching closer to an agreement on the Clean Energy Package
In November 2016, the European Commission released a set of 8 legislative proposals to improve the internal energy market, better integrate large shares of renewable energy sources, empower consumers and set the energy sector on a course compatible with the Paris Agreement.
Over the last year, the European Parliament on the one hand, and the Council of the EU (i.e., national government ministers) on the other hand, have been meeting separately and regularly to discuss and amend the proposed pieces of legislation. This process culminated on 18 December when the Council agreed on its position on future electricity market design. Slightly lagging behind, the European Parliament is scheduled to agree on its own proposals on 21 February.
Once both positions are known, a final negotiation phase will start and the two institutions will have to reconcile their views. While the European Parliament is expected to back high energy efficiency (40%) and renewable energy (35%) targets for 2030, the Council of the EU would like both targets to be set at 27% over concerns that higher targets may burden their economies. Due to this wide gap, negotiations are not expected to be concluded before the summer, at the earliest.
Regardless of this delay and uncertain future targets, technical provisions for improving the internal energy market and integrate renewable energy (shorter imbalance settlement period, smaller bid sizes, balancing responsibility, right to self-consumption, phase-out of non-market-based support scheme) benefit from wide policy-makers support. In addition, the trade federation T&D Europe, continues to advocate for the benefits of Smart Grid KPIs, on which grid operators should report in order to facilitate investments in digital solutions to make the grid more intelligent and more efficient.
East-West European Divide is Bigger Than Brexit
A growing political gulf between central Europe and western EU powers. Brussels triggered Article 7 against Poland – a punishment that can lead to states being stripped of their voting rights in EU institutions. Hungary is likely to face a similar reprimand.
Clearly, being in power supersedes human rights for those in power in those countries. Looks like you are more interested in staying in control. Wouldn't want your serfs to get any radical ideas from the United States that would upset your applecart - like that freedom is a right - would you?   That might get inconvenient for you.
Don't miss what happened, and what it means. When it came right down to it, Britain and all the other so-called progressive countries of Europe showed their true colors. They stood with the tyrants and dictators of the world, against individual rights and freedom.   It's as simple as that.
As Germany heads to the polls, a growing split is occurring between voters and the elites
"Voters" and "elites"??? This is aristocracy and serfs all over again. Europeans still fail to keep a leash on their elected officials; they still have the attitude of arrogance once they are in power. Europeans need to act like citizens; they need to recognize that it is their government, and they need to remind their politicians not to forget it - Europeans need to stay involved; to take political action.
12 September 2017
- Thanks to a good friend and one of our favorite authors!
EU focus this autumn:   Preparing for Brexit, Digitalization, and Clean Transport
In EU politics, the official new year does not start in January but in September, more precisely on 13 September when Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, will hold his State of the Union speech. It will herald the last full year before the European Parliament dissolves in Spring 2019, at about the same time as the UK is scheduled to leave the EU.
Without the United Kingdom, the Eurozone - i.e., EU countries which share the common Euro currency - will then make up as much as 85% of the EUÂ’s total GDP. Some countries, such as France, therefore openly flirt with ideas for a stronger political governance of the Eurozone.
This newsletter highlights recent developments in EU policy and regulation that are of particular importance.
Discussions on such big political questions will only start in earnest, once a new government is formed in Germany, where federal elections will be held on 24 September. Although it is all but certain that Angela Merkel will remain chancellor, the exact composition of the future German Parliament is highly uncertain. Difficult coalition negotiations might delay the formation of a new German government, and with that progress on Brexit negotiations and the post-Brexit EU.
The new EU initiatives to watch in particular this autumn include:
-   a law proposal prohibiting any restrictions on the free movement of data across borders for reasons other than national security.
-   a new action plan on cybersecurity, which might include minimum cybersecurity requirements for connected devices.
-   a policy package to advance the uptake of clean transport (see below).
European Commission to address the "chicken-and-egg" challenge of electric vehicles
On 13 July, the European Commission, together with representatives of European cities and regions as well as infrastructure suppliers, signed the European Clean Bus Deployment Initiative, to bolster public investment in buses running on electricity, hydrogen, and biogas.
This declaration chimes with a series of EU initiatives to tackle the "chicken-and-egg" challenge of clean vehicles, whereby consumers do not purchase clean vehicles because of the lack of infrastructure, while potential infrastructure operators do not invest because of the lack of vehicles on the road.
The European Parliament is currently discussing a law requiring petrol stations to sell a minimum share of renewable fuels. The share could be reached through either higher reliance on biofuels, or deployment of charging infrastructure sourcing electricity from renewable sources. debate on electro-mobility occurred in the EU Parliament, on 7 September.
Moreover, the European Commission is expected to release in November an "action plan" - backed up with grants and various financing schemes - to accelerate the deployment of clean vehicle infrastructure along highways. It will also propose new emission performance standards for cars and may even introduce a "zero-emission vehicles program", inspired by California. Such a programme would encourage car manufacturers to sell a minimum share of zero-emission vehicles.
Proposal to make building automation mandatory stirs debate at European Parliament
Buildings account for 40% of energy use in the EU, and 36% of CO2 emissions, making them a prime target for policies aiming at curbing EU energy import dependence and abating climate change. The first EU-wide requirements for buildings were adopted in 2002, updated in 2010, and are now set to be revised again by the beginning of next year.
One important aspect of the new text relates to Building Automation and Control systems (BACs). While the conservative party in the European Parliament rejects regulating them, the social democrats have proposed to make them compulsory by 2023 for all energy-intensive buildings, defined as consuming more than 250 MWh/year or with an electricity connection above 100 kW.
Attendees to the European Manufacturing Forum presented their views on building automation technologies to the European Parliament on 6 September. Topics that were discussed included the low cost and high impact of building automation in terms of energy savings and comfort.
Idea of a "smart grids indicator" attracting attention from all political parties
With a rising number of renewable energy sources being connected to the grid, the question of managing sudden variations of power generation, congestions and energy dispatch is recognized as a crucial issue by European policymakers discussing the EU clean energy package 2030.
Various technologies exist to cope with these challenges, but their deployment requires an appropriate regulatory framework. The European federation T&D Europe has proposed to create a "grid smartness indicator", based on various data coming from the grid, such as losses, curtailment, frequency and duration of outages, etc. Its purpose would be to better identify where grids need to be modernised, help TSOs and DSOs to demonstrate the reliability of their grids, and highlight the concrete benefits of smarter grids.
During the summer, T&D Europe's advocacy campaign succeeded in garnering support from the main political groups in the EP. The actual vote on this proposal, and on the clean energy package in general, is now expected to take place at the end of the year.
30 July 2017
The EU - Not for free trade
EU Laws that deliberately inhibit and impede African economic development.
The EU - still acting like a colonial power
This is not freedom - this is control.