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There’s No Stopping The World’s Most Politically Charged Pipeline

There’s No Stopping The World’s Most Politically Charged Pipeline

Putin

This week, Denmark granted Gazprom approval for its Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, a project that is set to bring 55 billion cubic meters of Russian gas into Europe annually. It is one of the most controversial pipeline projects in the world and is now moving ahead despite strong opposition from multiple EU members and the United States.

The geopolitical tensions surrounding the development of Nord Stream 2 are unprecedented. To begin with, Russia has very poor relations with the Baltic states and Poland, nations who will almost always fight against anything they see as empowering Russia geopolitically. Then there is Ukraine, a nation that is strongly against the pipeline due to its fear of losing the transit fees that it currently charges Russia for exporting gas to Europe. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the United States sees this pipeline as a direct threat to its soft power in Europe as well as a threat to its growing LNG exports.

But for all the politics and attention that this pipeline is attracting, the simple truth of the matter is that Europe, and more specifically Germany, needs this natural gas. Germany plans to shut down all its nuclear reactors by 2022. Many have questioned the wisdom—and some even the sanity—of that decision, but it remains government policy. The generation capacity the is being lost in that sector will need to be replaced, in the short term at least, by natural gas.

Despite its green reputation, Germany is a country that generates a surprisingly large portion of its total energy from coal. Its total installed coal-fired capacity is close to its solar capacity, at 44.9 GW, versus 47.9 GW for solar. At today’s growth rates, it’s current solar and wind capacity will not be enough to replace the retired nuclear plants.

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

Europe is Losing 1,000 Farms Per Day & Climate Change Regulations May lead to Starvation

Europe is Losing 1,000 Farms Per Day & Climate Change Regulations May lead to Starvation 

The new EU Agriculture Commissioner has publicly stated that Europe loses 1,000 farms per day. He acknowledged that the EU is losing 400,000 farms per year. However, crop and livestock production in Europe is projected to decline and maybe completely abandoned Europe’s southern and Mediterranean regions due to the increased negative impacts of climate change, according to a European Environment Agency (EEA).

The study says that adapting to climate change must be made a top priority for the European Union’s agriculture sector if it is to improve resilience to extreme events like droughts, heatwaves, and floods. But the obsession with Climate Change in Europe which is destroying its economy and now its ability to even grow food many are concerned will lead to starvation once again as was the case in Ireland because of the British Corn Laws which prohibited the importation of grain from America.

The nonsense of Climate Change seems to be poised to accomplish what it is designed to do – reduce the population. The question that needs to be answered is: Whose grandchildren are we trying to prevent from being born? Those who do not believe in Climate Change created by Humans? Certainly not the promoters or politicians. So it must be the rest of us they want to starve.

It certainly appears that perhaps this is the backdrop as to why we may see a rise in agricultural prices into 2025 and our computer is showing this should be a cost-push inflationary wave.

Wood, the fuel of preindustrial societies, is half of EU renewable energy

Wood, the fuel of preindustrial societies, is half of EU renewable energy

Source: Ben Adler. Aug 25, 2014. Europe is burning our forests for “renewable” energy. 
Wait, what? grist.org

Preface: By far the largest so-called renewable fuel used in Europe is wood. In its various forms, from sticks to pellets to sawdust, wood (or to use its fashionable name, biomass) accounts for about half of Europe’s renewable-energy consumption.

Although Finland is the most heavily forested country in Europe, with 75% of their land covered in woods, they may not have enough biomass to replace coal when all coal plants are shut down by 2029.  Much of their land has no roads or navigable waterways, so imports would be cheaper than using their own forests (Karagiannopoulos 2019).

Vaclav Smil, in his 2013 book “Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization” states: “Straw continues to be burned even in some affluent countries, most notably in Denmark where about 1.4 Mt of wheat straw (nearly a quarter of the total harvest) is used for house heating or even in centralized district heating and electricity generation.”

There are three articles about wood below. Some other wood energy reports:

2016:  Forests in southern states are disappearing to supply Europe with energy. In the past 60 years, the southern U.S. lost 33 million acres of forests even though biomass is not carbon neutral. Salon

2016: Japan is now turning to burning wood to generate electric power because of fewer nuclear power plants after Fukushima

***

1. The Economist. April 6, 2013. Wood: The fuel of the future. Environmental lunacy in Europe.

Which source of renewable energy is most important to the European Union? Solar power, perhaps? (Europe has three-quarters of the world’s total installed capacity of solar photovoltaic energy.) Or wind? (Germany trebled its wind-power capacity in the past decade.) The answer is neither.

By far the largest so-called renewable fuel used in Europe is wood.

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

Assange, Varoufakis, Brexit

Assange, Varoufakis, Brexit

Max Ernst The Angel of the home or the Triumph of Surrealism 1937

A friend of mine here in Athens, Greece, named Wayne Hall, who’s of Australian descent but moved here at about the time Napoleon headed for St. Petersburg, and works as a translator and language teacher, sent me a mail a few days ago that I thought was interesting.

In particular, Wayne referred to a video I didn’t know existed, of Julian Assange hosting a get-together in the Ecuadorian embassy in London on the night of the Brexit referendum, June 23, 2016, that includes a video (sound) link to Yanis Varoufakis who was in Rome at the time.

Julian was receiving visitors and broadcasting! How times have deteriorated, it’s heart-rendering, and it’s so painfully good to see him here in better days…. That video is below. The sound quality of Varoufakis speaking is really bad, and I don’t have the equipment here to work on that, but Wayne was kind enough to transcribe it. See also below.

What I found especially intriguing is the difference in view between the two: Varoufakis wanted (wants) the UK to stay in the EU, in order to reform it from within. And he thinks (thought) that his cross-European party, DiEM 25, can play a role in that. Even though it has no seats in the EU parliament, not then, and not now.

Assange, on the other hand, was pretty much pro-Brexit. He was quite clear about this (a few hours before the referendum results were in):

[..] if there is a Leave or even if the vote is very close, which it surely is, it is something that calls into question the political legitimacy of the European Union in the way it has been conducted so far. And really it’s quite incredible that it came to this. 

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

Britain Furious Iran Tanker Broke ‘Promise’ Not To Sell Its Oil To Syria

Britain Furious Iran Tanker Broke ‘Promise’ Not To Sell Its Oil To Syria

Britain has slammed Iran for what it says is a breach in assurances regarding the previously detained Grace 1/Adrian Darya 1 tanker. Specifically a condition of the vessel’s release from UK/Gibraltar captivity last month was that it would not offload its 2.1 million barrels of Iranian oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions. 

But the UK can do little beyond merely issuing a formal complaint to the United Nations, which it plans to do next month, according to Reuters. London was also reported to have summoned Iran’s ambassador on Tuesday to condemn the moveImage via EPA-EFE

“Iran has shown complete disregard for its own assurances over Adrian Darya 1,” foreign minister Dominic Raab said in a statement. “This sale of oil to (Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s) brutal regime is part of a pattern of behavior by the Government of Iran designed to disrupt regional security.”

The diplomatic row comes days after over the weekend Iran’s foreign ministry confirmed the tanker had unloaded its valuable cargo, estimated at $130 million in crude, “on the Mediterranean coast,” according to state media. Just prior the Iranian tanker was observed within a few nautical miles of Syria’s coast via satellite images. 

“Iran’s actions represent an unacceptable violation of international norms,” the UK statement said.

However, we should point out it’s also not within “international norms” – indeed it’s unprecedented – for Royal Marines to raid a foreign vessel in international waters at the bidding of Washington, which is precisely what happen when the tanker was detained in the first place. 

Currently, Tehran is rumored to be preparing the release the British-flagged Stena Impero, captured in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19 in retaliation for Britain’s prior capture of the Grace 1 off Gibraltar on July 4.

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

EU Bank Bosses Warn Of “Grave Consequences” If ECB Keeps Cutting Rates

EU Bank Bosses Warn Of “Grave Consequences” If ECB Keeps Cutting Rates

The ECB’s imposition of negative interest rates have created an “absurd situation” in which banks don’t want to hold deposits, rages UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti, arguing that this policy is hurting social systems and savings rates.

Ermotti is not alone. As European bank bosses cast their eyes at their share prices, they are fighting back, some have said – biting the hand that feeds, in their attack on ECB policies, warning of severe consequences to asset prices and the broader economy.

Source: Bloomberg

As Bloomberg reports, Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing warned that more monetary easing by the ECB, as widely expected next week, will have “grave side effects” for a region that has already lived with negative interest rates for half a decade.

“In the long run, negative rates ruin the financial system,” Sewing said at the event, organized by the Handelsblatt newspaper.

Another cut “may make refinancing cheaper for states, but has grave side effects.”

While incoming ECB head Christine Lagarde has claimed that the benefits of deeply negative rates outweigh the costs (stating just this week that “a highly accommodative policy is warranted for a prolonged period of time;” few economists believe another cut at this level would actually help the economy. According to Sewing, all it would achieve is to further divide society by lifting asset prices while punishing Europe’s savers who are already paying 160 billion euros ($176 billion) a year because of negative interest rates.

“What’s really worrisome: central banks have hardly any tools left to effectively mitigate a real economic crisis,” Sewing said.

“They have already cranked open the money tap – most of all the European Central Bank.”

Who can blame Sewing, as the EU yield curve has collapsed, so has his share price…

Source: Bloomberg

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

In Major Threat To Dollar’s Reserve Status, Russia Offers To Join European SWIFT-Bypass

In Major Threat To Dollar’s Reserve Status, Russia Offers To Join European SWIFT-Bypass

Three weeks after a meeting between the countries who singed the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was ditched by US, French, British and German officials said the trade mechanism which was proposed last summer – designed to circumvent both SWIFT as well as US sanctions banning trade with Iran – called Instex, is now operational.

And while we await for the White House to threaten Europe with even greater tariffs unless it ends this special purpose vehicle – it already did once back in May when it warned that anyone associated with the SPV could be barred from the U.S. financial system if it goes into effect – a response from the US is now assured, because in the biggest attack on the dollar as a reserve currency to date, on Thursday, Russia signaled its willingness to join the controversial payments channel, and has called on Brussels to expand the new mechanism to cover oil exports, the FT reported.

Moscow’s involvement in the Instex channel would mark a significant step forward in attempts by the EU and Russia to rescue a 2015 Iran nuclear deal that has been unravelling since the Trump administration abandoned it last year.

“Russia is interested in close co-ordination with the European Union on Instex,” the Russian foreign ministry told the Financial Times. “The more countries and continents involved, the more effective will the mechanism be as a whole.”

… and the more isolated the US will be as a currency union meant to evade SWIFT and bypass the dollar’s reserve currency status will soon include virtually all relevant and important countries. Only China would be left outstanding; after the rest of the world’s would promptly join.

On Thursday, the Kremlin confirmed the foreign ministry’s take:

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

Iran To UK: We’ll Continue Oil Exports “Under Any Conditions” As Detained Tanker Crew Released

Iran To UK: We’ll Continue Oil Exports “Under Any Conditions” As Detained Tanker Crew Released

As the “tanker wars” continue Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned his British counterpart Jeremy Hunt in a telephone call on Saturday that Iran plans to continue its oil exports “under any conditions”.

Zarif also repeated Iranian demands for the UK to release the Grace 1 oil tanker, seized over a week ago after it was boarded by Royal Marines off Gibraltar. It had been carrying 2 million barrels of Iranian oil and was alleged to have been bound for Syria, in violation of EU sanctions; however, Tehran has accused the UK of fundamentally doing the United States’ bidding. 

In a public statement posted to Twitter, Hunt informed Zarif that the UK would release the tanker if it received guarantees it would not go to Syria

Iran tanker file photo, via Middle East Monitor

On Saturday the four-member crew of the detained tanker had been released, which could serve to ease tensions, according to the WSJ.

They were being interviewed and questioned as to the nature of the voyage, and whether they intended to violate EU sanctions on Syria — which it appears they were given the ship had gone all the way around the south of Africa from the gulf instead of the usual route of the Suez canal, something which had raised suspicions. 

Meanwhile France’s foreign minister said over the weekend that Iran’s decisions to breach caps on uranium enrichment was “a bad reaction to … (a) bad decision,” according to Reuters, and said the region is stumbling dangerously into war. 

“The situation is serious. The rise of tensions could lead to accidents,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters.

Iran has recently issued a 60-day window for France and other EU nations to salvage the deal, saying it will blow through another uranium enrichment ceiling by early September is nothing is done to both rescue the deal and ease US-led sanctions.

Meet the New European Union, Same as the Old One

Meet the New European Union, Same as the Old One

The European Union chose new leadership this week. It was, for once, a fraught affair. 

No rubber stamps were anywhere to be seen. 

In the end all four of the new European Union leadership were not the frontrunners as put forth by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Her choice for EU Commission President was rejected.

So too was Mario Draghi’s replacement at the top of the European Central Bank, Bundesbanke President Jens Weidmann. 

French President Emmanuel Macron was the clear winner this weekend.

The choices for these positions are all designed to both maintain the path of European integration but also weaken the hold Germany has on European Union power politics.

And this thorough rebuke to Merkel immediately threw the euro into defensive mode. But, don’t kid yourself. Weidmann was never an acceptable choice as ECB President. More on this later.

The new Commission President, replacing the odious Jean-Claude Juncker, is German Defense Minister Ursula Von der Leyen. She’s a thorough Europhile and Russophobe. Since she’s a Social Democrat, to me it looks like ALDE’s Guy Verhofstadt flexed his expanded presence in the room. He helped ensure no populist upstarts would control EU foreign policy.

It will will continue being virulently anti-Russian, if not more so than in the past.

Von der Leyen is a perfect example of leadership chosen by committee (and The Davos Crowd behind them) to be nothing more than a puppet of the globalist/neo-liberal forces which control the direction of the EU. 

Merkel’s a lame-duck trying to get what she wants from Russia while maintaining a brave face to the United States. Putting Von der Leyen in charge ensures any good relations between here and Vladimir Putin should be heavily discounted going forward.

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

The Winds are Shifting

The Winds are Shifting

Odilon Redon The Birth of Venus II c.1910

How do you define terror? Perhaps, because of the way the term has evolved in the English language, one wouldn’t call the west ‘terrorists’ per se, but ‘we’ are certainly spreading terror and terrorizing very large groups of people. Yeah, bring on the tanks and parade them around town. Add a marching band that plays some war tunes.

The ‘official’ storyline : at the request of the US, Gibraltar police and UK marines have seized an oil tanker in Gibraltar. The super-tanker, 1000 feet (330 meters) long, carrying 2 million barrels, had stopped there after sailing all around the Cape of Good Hope instead of taking the Suez canal on its way, ostensibly, from Iran to Syria.

And, according to the storyline as presented to and in the western press, because the EU still has sanctions on Iran, the British seized the ship. Another little detail I really appreciate is that Spain’s acting foreign minister, Josep Borrell, said Madrid was looking into the seizure and how it may affect Spanish sovereignty since Spain does not recognize the waters around Gibraltar as British.

That Borrell guy is the newly picked EU foreign policy czar, and according to some sources he’s supportive of Iran and critical of Israel. Them’s the webs we weave. He’s certainly in favor of Palestinian statehood. But we’re wandering…

Why did the tanker take that giant detour along the African coastline? Because potential problems were anticipated in the Suez canal. But also: why dock in Gibraltar? Because no problems were anticipated there. However, the US had been following the ship all along, and set this up.

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

British Marines Seize Oil Tanker Headed For Syria In “Aggressive” Operation

British Marines Seize Oil Tanker Headed For Syria In “Aggressive” Operation

A huge development Thursday regarding enforcement of Iran sanctions and the West’s economic war on both Damascus and Tehran: British Royal Marines seized an oil tanker in Gibraltar off Spain’s southern coast while it was en route to Syria in what’s being called an unprecedented and aggressive move to enforce EU sanctions. 

As critics of the West’s sanctions policy on Syria are noting: the European Union has for years allowed advanced weaponry to flow into the hands of anti-Assad jihadists, but it will act swiftly to block vital oil access to the war-torn and starved population

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Pic: Royal Marines from 42 Commando fast-roping from a Wildcat helicopter onto tanker headed to Syria under cover of darkness

According to Reuters:

The Grace 1 tanker was impounded in the British territory at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea, after sailing around Africa from the Gulf. Shipping data reviewed by Reuters suggests it had been loaded with Iranian oil off the coast of Iran, although its documents say the oil is from neighboring Iraq.

Reports say Gibraltar authorities (Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory) acted on EU sanctions that have been in place for years against Syria; however one EU sanctions and legal expert told Reuters: “This is the first time that the EU has done something so public and so aggressive. I imagine it was also coordinated in some manner with the U.S. given that NATO member forces have been involved.”

The ship has been identified as the Grace 1 — a Panamanian-flagged tanker managed by Singapore-based IShips Management Pte Ltd. — which had apparently taken the unusual step of sailing all the way around the tip of Africa instead of the Suez canal from the Iraqi port of Basra. 

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

Europe Won’t Admit the Mini-BOTs Are Coming

Europe Won’t Admit the Mini-BOTs Are Coming

Italy is in serious trouble financially. This is virtually common knowledge at this point. What isn’t common knowledge is its Euroskeptic government led by Lega’s Matteo Salvini and Five Star Movement’s Luigi Di Maio are preparing an assault on the foundation of the European Union itself to save Italy.

And that assault comes with the most innocuous name. Mini-BOT. Mini-BOTs were originally the idea of former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis to assist Greece get out of the stranglehold placed on it by the euro.

What is a mini-BOT? It is a small denomination (mini) Bill of Treasury (BOT) that can be issued by, in this case, the Italian government to act as a domestic currency for settling government debts, paying taxes, etc.

It would be a parallel currency which could circulate freely domestically at a discount to the euro which would work as a medium of exchange to reflect the reality of the Italian economy better than the euro does.

The euro’s value is dominated by Germany’s economy. And, in short, by being so the euro overvalues Italy’s labor pool and undervalues Germany’s. Gresham’s Law states under-valued money is hoarded and over-valued spent. In Italy the euro is hoarded. In Germany it is spent. This is why Germany runs such a massive trade surplus against the other members of the euro-zone.

Italy (and Greece, Portugal, Spain and others) need a currency that can circulate to properly support domestic trade.

By mispricing Italian labor via the euro it keeps the goods produced in Italy uncompetitive on the world market. Italy’s central bank can only issue euro-denominated debt which trades at rates far lower than it should, enhancing Germany’s position.

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

Italian Yields Jump As Salvini Threatens To Crash Government

Italian Yields Jump As Salvini Threatens To Crash Government

Clearly emboldened by the EU Parliamentary results, where the League won a plurality of the vote in Italy, Matteo Salvini on Thursday sent BTP yields higher by threatening to crash the Italian government if the Five Star Movement doesn’t back his tax-cut plan.

BTP

BTP yields have been moving higher over the past two weeks as Salvini has brushed off Europe’s threats to fine Italy up to €4 billion over its refusal to rein in its debt and deficit-spending plans. This would be the first time the European Commission has fined a member state over violations of its fiscal rules.

But Salvini, who is now indisputably the most powerful political figure in Italy, isn’t backing down. He has remained defiant, even as Italy braces for the EU to initiate another excessive debt proceeding on Wednesday, when reviews of member states’ fiscal compliance are expected.

As the Telegraph’s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard pointed out in a column yesterday, Salvini has revived threats to initiate an Italian parallel currency – the so-called “mini-BOT” Italian Treasury bills that a Forbes columnist once warned was the “biggest threat to the future of the eurozone.” 

And with Salvini adding to the political chaos by taking the first tentative steps toward ousting Five Star from the ruling coalition, Italian bond holders will have only themselves to blame if they don’t anticipate more market-rattling political chaos, and position accordingly.

Debt is the Hidden Issue in The European Elections

Debt is the Hidden Issue in The European Elections

The citizens of the European Union are called to vote this week for the European Parliament. It is not a real parliament, and it lacks prospects for becoming one, since all important decisions are taken by the unelected heads of the European Commission and the European Central Bank, dubbed “the worst-run Central Bank in the world”.

These elections capture however the general mood of exasperation with current policies. Conservative and extreme Right parties will rise, reflecting widespread scepticism as to the economic course of the EU and its lack of benefits for the common people. The mainstream Left unfortunately neglects these issues, and it will pay the price.

The conservatives generally blame the weak and scapegoat the refugees, the immigrants, the women, and the poor, while promising to save the middle class from the onslaught of big capital. They create false hopes of easy reform, and they never denounce the exploitation inherent in today’s system. History shows however that small owners manage to resist financial stranglehold only when they make common cause with workers and the poor, and they are not afraid to fight.

The economy looks ever more frail. In all, the Eurozone’s nominal GDP stagnates, shrinking 12% in its six largest economies in 2008-2017. The European Union remains indifferent to the peoples’ needs, while it caters for every whim of the corporations. Even so, Quantitative Easing and other crony capitalist schemes promoted by the ECB, such as the Private-Public Partnerships (PPPs) or the new Targeted Long-term Refinancing Operations (TLTRO-III) cannot save the day.

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

Seeds Sown for Major Transatlantic Trade War Starting in May

Seeds Sown for Major Transatlantic Trade War Starting in May 

Trump wants a trade treaty with the EU to include agriculture. France says no. It only takes one.

Trump has made a considerable number of trade threats only to eventually back down. Will it play out that way again?

For a number of reasons, I think Trump will act this time. First, let’s look at the threats.

Severe Pain

On February 25, Trump told the EU Play Ball or ‘We’re Going to Tariff the Hell Out of You’

“The European Union is very, very tough. Very, very tough. They don’t allow our products in. They don’t allow our farming goods in,” Trump said at a meeting with U.S. governors, according to a transcript from the White House. He added that “maybe, in certain ways,” the EU is “tougher than China.”

On March 14, Trump Warned EU of ‘Severe’ Economic Pain if No Progress On Trade Talks.

Partial Agreement Won’t Fly

On April 15, Reuters reported EU Ready to Launch U.S. Trade Talks, but Without Agriculture.

The EU approved two areas for negotiation, opposed by France with an abstention from Belgium. But agriculture was not included, leaving the 28-country bloc at odds with Washington, which has insisted on including farm products in the talks.

EU trade agreement are unanimous. Tiny countries can and have influenced outcomes. It took over a decade to get an agreement with Canada over concerns of tiny nations.

Even if US-EU trade talks take place, nothing will come of them and Trump will quickly get frustrated.

Climate Change Now in the Picture

On April 18, France has signaled it will not cooperate with Trump in any way.

Please consider the new French demand: No EU-US Trade Talks Unless Trump Supports Climate Deal.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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