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Turkey Breaks with NATO, Refuses to Expel Russians

Turkey Breaks with NATO, Refuses to Expel Russians

Following the alleged March 4th alleged Russian poisoning of Sergei Skripal, an ex-double agent in the UK, several European countries and the US have begun ejecting Russian diplomats from their countries. With both the UK and US each ejecting dozens of diplomats, it stands to reason that every other NATO country would follow suit.

However, several European Union members have yet to follow London’s lead. One important NATO country isn’t bowing to western Russophobia: Turkey.

Despite calls from the UK for all of their allies to stand with them in “punishing Russia” they have failed to convince many of their fellow EU members, Israel, and Turkey to follow their suggestions. While there isn’t much London can do to their fellow European states, and obviously, they can’t criticize Israel; tension between Turkey and the EU has reached a point where it’s fashionable to demonize Ankara.

Both the US and UK often pander to Turkey due to the country’s strategic location and their control of the second largest military in NATO. This, however, has become much more difficult in recent months due to the increasingly authoritarian governance of the country leading to arrests of western employees, global kidnappings, and blatant defiance of international law.

This tense relationship between Turkey and the EU was on full display yesterday as Turkish President Recep Erdogan met with EU leaders about his nation’s prospects of joining the bloc. Predictably, no new results were achieved between Brussels and Ankara. This allows Erdogan to go back to turkey and play the victim, likely in anticipation of this announcement on Russia, which he will probably frame as ‘retaliation.’

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Germany Approves Russia-Led Nord Stream 2 Gas Pipeline

Germany Approves Russia-Led Nord Stream 2 Gas Pipeline

Nord Stream 2

Germany approved on Tuesday the construction and operation of the Russia-led Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in its territorial waters, thus issuing all necessary permits for the German section of the project that has torn Europe and EU member states over the implications of Russia’s gas giant Gazprom gaining even more foothold on the European gas market.

Hailing the project as necessary to cover Europe’s future supply gap and contributing to the “security of supply and competition in the EU gas market,” the pipeline company Nord Stream 2 AG said on Tuesday that the permitting procedures in the other four countries along the route – Russia, Finland, Sweden and Denmark – were proceeding as planned.

“Further permits are expected to be issued in the coming months. Accordingly, scheduled construction works are to be implemented in 2018 as planned,” the company said.

Germany is the key beneficiary of Nord Stream 2 and supports the project on the grounds that it is an economic issue.

Other EU states, however–including Poland and the Baltic states, as well as the European Union institutions–argue that the project further solidifies Russia’s grip on Europe’s gas market and undermines efforts to diversify supplies.

For Russia, Nord Stream 2 – a project to twin the existing Nord Stream pipeline between Russia and Germany via the Baltic Sea — not only boosts its gas supplies to the EU, but also bypasses the Ukrainian transit route.

With the spy poisoning scandal in the UK and the West-Russia tension high, Nord Stream 2 has taken center stage in energy policies again in recent weeks. Earlier this month, U.S. Senators urged the U.S. Administration “to utilize all of the tools at its disposal to prevent its construction.”

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Russia Vows Imminent Response: “The US Only Understands Force”

Update: RIA Novosti reports an unnamed foreign ministry official protested the decision by EU, NATO nations to expel envoys, and  confirmed that Russia will respond to each country expelling diplomats, warning that the “expulsions won’t go unanswered.”

“Unfriendly” action won’t be left unanswered.

U.K.’s allies are “blindly following” principle of Euro-Atlantic unity at the expense of common sense.

Additionally, Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, said that, with regard to the US response, “US only understand force.”

“I mentioned in my statement in the State Department that I consider these actions counterproductive,” Antonov said.

“I said that the United States took a very bad step by cutting what very little still remains in terms of Russian-American relations.”

*  *  *

President Trump has reportedly ordered the expulsion of 60 Russians from the United States on Monday, including 12 people identified as Russian intelligence officers who have been stationed at the United Nations in New York, in response to Russia’s alleged poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.

As The New York Times reports, the expulsion order, announced by administration officials, also closes the Russian consulate in Seattle.

The Russians and their families have seven days to leave the United States, according to officials.

The expulsions are the toughest action taken against the Kremlin by President Trump, who has been criticized for not being firm enough with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

In a call with reporters, senior White House officials said that the move was to root out Russians actively engaging in intelligence operations against the country, and to show that the United States would stand with NATO allies.

The officials said that the closure of the consulate in Seattle was ordered because of its proximity to a U.S. naval base.

Worst. Putin Puppet. Ever.

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The European Union Wants to Be an Even Bigger Global Bully

The European Union Wants to Be an Even Bigger Global Bully

Europe doesn’t need another empire.

Over time, the European Union has developed into more than just an economic cooperation between nations. The EU is a big and intrusive government that constantly acquires new powers. And like all superstates, its tendency to defend freedom against control is swindling. 

The “United State of Europe”

When Euroscepticism became a part of the political landscape of the European Union, fears of the creation of a “United States of Europe” were widespread among circles opposed to this political project. In those days, this fear was widely regarded as cliché. However, clichés become clichés for a reason.   

Much like those skeptical of the Brussels bureaucracy predicted, the union has concentrated power within its structures. Now that the United Kingdom has become the first country to leave the EU, you might think that there would be a re-evaluation of this large centralization effort. But to the contrary, the European Union is increasingly moving towards the centralization of two key aspects: foreign policy and defense. 

Foreign Policy 

Ever since the EU’s last institutional reform in 2009, the European Commission, which is the executive branch, has appointed a High Commissioner for Foreign Relations. The position, currently held by the Italian politician Federica Mogherini, has been mocked for essentially being useless since the EU doesn’t have a common foreign policy. This would be similar to appointing a secretary to a department that has been granted no powers by the government whatsoever. However, this hasn’t prevented Mogherini from making policy statements in an effort to unite European member states behind a common position.  

A notable example of this was when Mogherini condemned the United States for moving the embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but the Czech Republic blocked any attempt to have a common position. Czech president Miloš Zeman consecutively promised to follow the American lead and move its embassy as well. 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

EU Preparing To Unleash First-Ever Regulations Targeting Search Engines

Roughly nine months after Google’s parent company Alphabet was slapped with a 2.4 billion euro fine for “abusing its dominance in search,” Brussels bureaucrats are reportedly preparing to take things a step further and unleash Europe-wide regulations for search engines and other online platforms and apps. According to the Financial Times, which broke the story, the regulations are meant to protect companies that rely on Google, Apple or Amazon to sell their services or products.

European policymakers have been exploring ways to target “harmful” trade practices as many small firms in the region have complained that tech behemoths like Google have skewed search results to favor its own services over the services of its competitors. The issue has so far been left for members states to deal with. Of the largest European states, France has distinguished itself as among the most aggressive in trying to push back against the US-domiciled tech giants and their allegedly anti-competitive tendencies.

The regulations are also notable in that they represent the most stringent rules governing search engines’ behavior by a developed Western power.

Case in point: Earlier today, the French government warned that it could take legal action against Google and Apple over their “abusive” business practices.

“I believe in an economy based on justice and I will take Google and Apple before the Paris Commercial Court for abusive business practices” against French start-ups, said French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on a local radio program.

“I consider that Google and Apple, as powerful as they are, shouldn’t treat our start-ups and our developers in the way they do today,” said Le Maire, calling the situation “unacceptable”.

The news didn’t have much of an impact on shares of Google, Apple or their megacap-tech brethren.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

EU: More Censorship to “Protect” You

Toxic Debt Still Plagues Spanish Banks (and Taxpayers Will End Up Paying for It)

Toxic Debt Still Plagues Spanish Banks (and Taxpayers Will End Up Paying for It)

Years after Crisis Was “Solved.”

Europe’s banking authorities are finally beginning to pile pressure on poorly performing banks to clean up their books, something that should have happened a long, long time ago. But as is often the case with European banking regulation, there’s an elevated risk of unintended consequences.

If a bank with a deeply compromised balance sheet is forced to report its loans that have gone bad — the hidden piles of toxic “assets” — at prices that reflect their real value (rather than the illusory prices the bank arrived at with its mark-to-model formula), that bank could suddenly find that its capital has gone up in smoke.

This is more or less what happened with Banco Popular, the mid-sized Spanish bank that went under in June last year. No matter how creative the rescue plans its management came up with — including spinning off a bad bank called “Sunrise” — Popular simply couldn’t find a viable way of disposing of its nonperforming loans without crippling its financial health.

A similar thing appears to be happening with Spain’s fifth largest bank, Banco Sabadell, the Spanish bank that has grown the most in relative terms since the crisis. It has more than doubled in size in the last ten years (from €78.7 billion in assets in 2008 to €173.2 billion in 2017), following the acquisitions of Banco Gallego, Banco Guipuzcoano, Caixa Penedès, and the bankrupt savings bank Caja de Ahorros del Mediterráneo (CAM).

Now it has immense difficulty ridding itself of the impaired assets it acquired when it took over CAM in 2012. But unlike Popular, Sabadell is getting a massive helping hand from Spain’s government.

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How the Euro Will Be Killed by Politicians

The man who is killing the Euro as a viable currency is none other than Donald Franciszek Tusk who is a Polish politician who has been the President of the European Council since 2014. He is the living example why politicians MUST be prohibited from making any decisions whatsoever regarding economics and finance. These people have ZERO qualifications in the field yet rise to the top of politics and then assume positions based entirely upon politics – not economics.

The crisis that is pending for the Euro is all about political control. The desire of British banks to achieve free access to the European Single Market even after Brexit and this was rejected by the EU. Council President Tusk spoke out against maintaining the British-European financial center in London after Brexit. He fails to comprehend that NEITHER the French nor the Germans possess the infrastructure no less the expertise to maintain global markets in the Euro.

Tusk claims that Britain is trying to be like Norway which has free access but pays dues as a member of the EU for free access. On the other hand, Tusk characterizes British desires and trying to blend the Canadian position, which only has a free trade agreement, with full access like Norway but pays no dues like Canada. Meanwhile, France is taking the position that they want to fill the shoes of the London financial markets who have never been able to create deep markets.

This hardline position against the financial markets of Britain remaining as the core trading center for the Euro is extremely dangerous. The Euro holds a minimal position among the reserves of central banks. The exact composition of the foreign-exchange reserves of China is a state secret. Nevertheless, based upon reliable sources, about two-thirds of Chinese foreign-exchange reserves are held in U.S. Dollars.

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The Pros And Cons Of Nord Stream 2

The Pros And Cons Of Nord Stream 2

Pipeline

There are few issues as divisive in the EU as the planned construction of Nord Stream 2, another direct gas infrastructure connection between Germany and the Russian Federation.

With the climate of relations between Russia and the West just above the point of freezing, the agreement between Gazprom (MCX:GAZP) and its Western counterparts Shell (NYSE:RDS-A), OMV (VIE:OMV), ENGIE (EPA:ENGI), Uniper (ETR:UN01), and Wintershall has caused critics of closer relations with Russia to mobilize.

While supporters of the project insist that it isn’t more than a commercial deal (mostly Western European countries and companies), opponents (Central and Eastern Europe) are convinced that the deal will give Moscow more unwanted influence.

Here, we’ll discuss the arguments of opponents and proponents of the proposed gas infrastructure in order to make a modest recommendation regarding Europe’s common interest.

Currently, over almost 40 percent of the gas consumed in the EU originates from Russia, making Moscow the biggest supplier, followed closely by Norway and Algeria. Even though many policy declarations were made to diversify and several serious crises involved Russia, the export of Siberian gas to Europe increased spectacularlyfrom 8 percent in 2017 to a record 195 bcm.

The most important reasons behind this growth are the expanding economy of the Eurozone and domestic gas fields that are producing less. Although Europe currently possesses 208 bcm of LNG capacity, of that just 51 bcm was used in 2016. Most of the capacity was idle due to much cheaper pipeline gas, especially from Russia.

Proponents, therefore, argue that Nord Stream 2’s importance will increase over the years as demand for imported gas will do the same. Furthermore, several crises over the years between Russia and Ukraine have severely damaged Europe’s energy security (and Russia’s, opponents argue). According to supporters, Nord Stream 2 will improve Europe’s position, as transit through Ukraine can be avoided and risks decreased.

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Central Banks Will Let The Next Crash Happen

Central Banks Will Let The Next Crash Happen

If you have been following the public commentary from central banks around the world the past few months, you know that there has been a considerable change in tone compared to the last several years.

For example, officials at the European Central Bank are hinting at a taper of stimulus measures by September of this year and some EU economists are expecting a rate hike by December. The Bank of England has already started its own rate hike program and has warned of more hikes to come in the near term. The Bank of Canada is continuing with interest rate hikes and signaled more to come over the course of this year. The Bank of Japan has been cutting bond purchases, launching rumors that governor Haruhiko Kuroda will oversee the long overdue taper of Japan’s seemingly endless stimulus measures, which have now amounted to an official balance sheet of around $5 trillion.

This global trend of “fiscal tightening” is yet another piece of evidence indicating that central banks are NOT governed independently from one another, but that they act in concert with each other based on the same marching orders. That said, none of the trend reversals in other central banks compares to the vast shift in policy direction shown by the Federal Reserve.

First came the taper of QE, which almost no one thought would happen. Then came the interest rate hikes, which most analysts both mainstream and alternative said were impossible, and now the Fed is also unwinding its balance sheet of around $4 trillion, and it is unwinding faster than anyone expected.

Now, mainstream economists will say a number of things on this issue — they will point out that many investors simply do not believe the Fed will follow through with this tightening program.

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Mastercard Pushes Biometrics, Banks Follow

Mastercard Pushes Biometrics, Banks Follow

Biometric authentication “will be of great benefit to everyone.”

Mastercard has set a deadline for widespread use of biometric identification for its services across the whole of the EU: April 2019. Mastercard Identity Check, currently available in 37 countries, enables individuals to use biometric identifiers, such as fingerprint, facial, and iris recognition, to verify their identities when using a mobile device for online shopping and banking. The technology is not mandatory for customers, but from next year it will be vigorously promoted throughout the EU and many consumers will welcome it.

The impact will be felt not just by consumers but also by most European banks, since any bank that issues or accepts Mastercard payments will have to support identification mechanisms for remote transactions, alongside existing PIN and password verification. The deadline will also apply to all contactless transactions made at terminals with a mobile device.

Citing research it carried out with Oxford University, Mastercard says that 92% of banking professionals want to introduce biometric ID. This high number shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given the vast untapped value consumer data holds for banks and corporations as well the preference most banks have for electronic transactions. The study also claims that 93% of consumers would prefer biometric security to passwords, which is a surprise given the array of thorny issues biometrics throws up, including the threat it poses to privacy and anonymity and its deceptively public nature.

“A password is inherently private,” says Alvaro Bedoya, Professor of Law at Georgetown University. “The whole point of a password is that you don’t tell anyone about it. A credit card is inherently private in the sense that you only have one credit card.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Each EU Citizen Creates 31kg Of Plastic-Waste Per Year (But The Irish Are Worst)

Plastic packaging waste is a huge problem around the world.

Despite efforts in some European countries such as plastic bottle deposit schemes or having to pay for plastic bags in the supermarket, Statista’s Martin Armstrong notes that the average EU citizen creates 31kg of plastic waste per year.

Infographic: Each EU citizen creates 31kg of plastic waste per year | Statista

You will find more statistics at Statista

Eurostat figures show that the UK lies above this average, with its citizens responsible for 35kg of waste.

The worst country by a long way though is Ireland. 61kg of packaging is thrown away by the average Irish person, 9kg more than the second most prolific country, Luxembourg.

The least is created in Bulgaria where a more acceptable 14kg is disposed of over the year.

Bedazzled by Energy Efficiency

Bedazzled by Energy Efficiency

Bedazzled by energy efficiency illustration by diego marmolejo

To focus on energy efficiency is to make present ways of life non-negotiable. However, transforming present ways of life is key to mitigating climate change and decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels.

Energy efficiency policy

Energy efficiency is a cornerstone of policies to reduce carbon emissions and fossil fuel dependence in the industrialised world. For example, the European Union (EU) has set a target of achieving 20% energy savings through improvements in energy efficiency by 2020, and 30% by 2030. Measures to achieve these EU goals include mandatory energy efficiency certificates for buildings, minimum efficiency standards and labelling for a variety of products such as boilers, household appliances, lighting and televisions, and emissions performance standards for cars. [1]

The EU has the world’s most progressive energy efficiency policy, but similar measures are now applied in many other industrialised countries, including China. On a global scale, the International Energy Agency (IEA) asserts that “energy efficiency is the key to ensuring a safe, reliable, affordable and sustainable energy system for the future”. [2] In 2011, the organisation launched its 450 scenario, which aims to limit the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere to 450 parts per million. Improved energy efficiency accounts for 71% of projected carbon reductions in the period to 2020, and 48% in the period to 2035. [2] [3]

What are the results?

Do improvements in energy efficiency actually lead to energy savings? At first sight, the advantages of efficiency seem to be impressive. For example, the energy efficiency of a range of domestic appliances covered by the EU directives has improved significantly over the last 15 years. Between 1998 and 2012, fridges and freezers became 75% more energy efficient, washing machines 63%, laundry dryers 72%, and dishwashers 50%. [4]

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Switzerland too Falls Out of Love with the EU

Switzerland too Falls Out of Love with the EU

Did someone say “referendum?”

The EU’s relations with key third-party country Switzerland have sunk to their lowest point in years thanks to a last-minute decision by the European Commission to grant Swiss stock exchanges just one year’s further access to the single market. Switzerland is not a member of the EU but it does have close links to the bloc, having signed 120 bilateral trade agreements with Brussels in the last few decades.

Furious Backlash

“[Access for Switzerland] can be extended provided there is sufficient progress on a common institutional framework,” said Valdis Dombrovskis, the EU commissioner in charge of financial-services policy, just before Christmas. In other words, for Switzerland’s stock exchanges to continue to enjoy full access to the single market, it must accept further integration. By contrast, other foreign exchanges such as those in the US or Hong Kong were given open-ended access.

The decision, which formed part of the EU’s new sweeping MiFID II financial regulations, has triggered a furious backlash from Swiss policymakers. “We are in front of a pile of s***,” thundered Leader of the Social Democrats Christian Levrat. “The relationship with the EU is worse than ever. [Switzerland needs] a serious domestic political debate on the basis of facts.”

Mr Levrat’s comments chime with the views expressed somewhat more diplomatically by the country’s outgoing President Doris Leuthard, who called for a referendum to clarify what sort of future relationship, if any, the country should have with the EU. Some EU member states are putting Switzerland in the same basket as Britain and want to set an example while others see its financial center as a competitive threat that needs to be kept in check, Leuthard complained.

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EU Opens Article Seven Process Against Poland: Poland to Leave the EU?

The EU opened up Article 7 charges against Poland for having non-EU values. Poland is a serious risk to leave the EU.

Article seven is a charge against a country for having non-European values.

Specifically, the charge against Poland relates to its judiciary, but the EU also took Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) over migrant issues.

Eurointelligence Synopsis of Poland

Yesterday the European Commission triggered an Article 7 procedure under the Lisbon treaty, which could, in theory, lead to the imposition of sanctions against a member state. This procedure’s final vote by the European Council will require unanimity, and Hungary has already said it would veto any attempt to impose sanctions on Poland. For that reason alone, the procedure is likely to fail. The Commission is going ahead because the symbolic act of starting the procedure matters more than the eventual outcome.

In the next step of the process, the Council has to pass a vote by a majority of four-fifths to determine that there is a serious risk of a member state failing to comply with the democratic values of the EU. The European Parliament will first have to give its consent. The procedure culminates with a vote at the European Council, where unanimity would apply. A veto by Hungary ends the process. The question is whether Hungary will actually come to the aid of Poland, and risk political isolation in the EU, or whether they will stick to their pre-announced position.

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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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