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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…

Disinfo Maginot Line: Protecting EU from ‘Russian Influence’ – by Manufacturing History

Disinfo Maginot Line: Protecting EU from ‘Russian Influence’ – by Manufacturing History

It is now apparent with the release of the Mueller investigation findings, that the great storm that has embattled the US government and establishment since 2016 over supposed Russia-Trump collusion during the US elections, originates not from a genuine tangible source, but a constant stream of rhetoric  driven by partisan corporate media.  One certainty though is the Western narrative of Russia as a ‘malign influence’ will not go away.  While America’s liberal establishment continues to rage at Trump, Europe allies, under the influence of Washington, maintain their aggressive stance towards Russia following the catastrophic US meddling in Ukraine in 2014 and the subsequent reunification of Crimea with Russia.  The question is how can the narrative of ‘malign Russian influence’ be kept going?  Mainstream media will continue its role in this,  but Western governments are also pouring resources into promulgating certain narratives while containing others.  This week, hackers released more documents from the UK government-funded project known as the Integrity Initiative, revealing British government plans to build an umbrella network of organisations across Europe to counter ‘Russian disinformation’.  The following is a look  at one of the EU projects already operating to ensure European populations do not stray from this constructed narrative that at times crosses over into real xenophobic racism, or Russophobia. While researching this phenomenon, it was impossible not to find some of the EU’s counter-propaganda material quite funny.

If we want to know the meaning of disinformation, the American think tank known as the National Endowment for Democracy which funds regime change in the service of US corporate interests, has its own definition, but it’s not important –  so long as we believe Russia or the Nazis invented the problem. 

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

Can the EU Survive the Next Financial Crisis?

Can the EU Survive the Next Financial Crisis?

Despite the ECB’s subsidy of the Eurozone’s banking system, it remains in a sleepwalking state similar to the non-financial, non-crony-capitalist zombified economy. Gone are the heady days of investment banking. There is now a legacy of derivatives and regulators’ fines. Technology has made the over-extended branch network, typical of a European retail bank, a costly white elephant. The market for emptying bank buildings in the towns and villages throughout Europe must be dire, a source of under-provisioned losses. On top of this, the ECB’s interest rate policy has led to lending margins becoming paper-thin. 

A negative deposit rate of 0.4% at the ECB has led to negative wholesale (Euribor) money market rates along the yield curve to at least 12 months. This has allowed French banks, for example, to fund Italian government bond positions, stripping out 33 basis points on a “riskless” one-year bond. It’s the peak of collapsed lending margins when even the hare-brained can see the risk is greater than the reward, whatever the regulator says. The entire yield curve is considerably lower than Italian risk implies it should be, given its existing debt obligations, with 10-year Italian government bonds yielding only 2.55%. That’s less than equivalent US Treasuries, the global risk-free standard.

Government bond yields have been and remain considerably reduced through the ECB’s interest rate suppression and its bond-buying programs. The expansion of Eurozone government debt since the Lehman crisis has been about 50% to €9.69 trillion. This expansion, representing €3.1 trillion, compares with the expansion of the Eurosystem’s own balance sheet of €2.8 trillion since 2009. In other words, the expansion of Eurozone government debt has been nearly matched by the ECB’s monetary creation.

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

Blain: When This Insane Monetary Experiment Ends You Will Have Zero Chance To Exit

Blain: When This Insane Monetary Experiment Ends You Will Have Zero Chance To Exit

This is the day the UK isn’t exiting Europe. Surprised? Not really.

Think I’ll try something different this morning – a review of the week touching on some of the key themes we should be thinking about. Let me know what you think.

But firstly let me apologise for the lack of porridge this week. On Wednesday it was being unable to find anywhere to sit with a computer in London City Airport. Yesterday it was courtesy of Flybe from Edinburgh – I’d like to thank them for leaving us standing in a cold bus while they tried to rustle up a crew. The BA flight took off on time, although I wonder if it went to Duesseldorf?

Let me start with a rant:

Bond Yields and the END OF ABSALOOTLEY EVERYTHING…

While everyone is panicking about US curve inversion and the possibility it is signalling recession, is the real issue even simpler and more obvious? Should we be worried about tumbling global bond yields? Aside from it being impossible for funds to meet long term liabilities, what’s not to like about lower for longer? Actually – quite a lot. Even the ECB has noticed zero bond yields haven’t exactly stimulated growth and jobs across Europe and done nothing in terms of stimulating inflation.

Equities seem blithely unconcerned despite all the cack about trade-wars, rising political anarchy, and a distinct feel this business cycle is likely to wind-down into a slough of earnings downgrades and suchlike unpleasantness. The smart money is not worried, because they understand the truth – there is nothing to worry about BECAUSE A STOCK MARKET MELTDOWN IS ACTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE!

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

‘They Have Lied for Decades’: European Parliament To Scrutinise Exxon’s Climate Science Denial

‘They Have Lied for Decades’: European Parliament To Scrutinise Exxon’s Climate Science Denial

#ExxonKnew light sign over a highway

With millions of students taking to the streets and oil majors increasingly facing litigation, the fossil fuel industry is finally being held to account for its contribution to the climate crisis.

This week, the EU is taking this accountability up a notch, with ExxonMobil’s decades-long denial of climate science facing the scrutiny of MEPs and the public at a hearing at the European Parliament in Brussels on Thursday.

During the two-hour session, scientists, campaigners and a historian will examine the history of climate denial and in particular the misinformation spread by Exxon, with MEPs able to ask questions about the role and behaviour of the oil major.

The hearing is being held jointly by the petitions committee and the environment, public health and food safety committee. It was arranged following a petition by Food & Water Europe, a Brussels-based non-governmental organisation, which gained 732 signatures.

“To my knowledge, this is the first major body of lawmakers, certainly at the national or international level, to hear on record expert testimony about the history of climate denial today,” says Geoffrey Supran, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard who has examined Exxon’s history of obfuscation on climate change, and who will testify at Thursday’s hearing. “There’s a general momentum here, that investigative bodies are starting to formalise this enquiry.”

Representatives from the oil company itself won’t attend the hearing, due to “ongoing climate change related litigation in the US”, according to leaked notes from the coordinators of the hearing. Exxon did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.

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

Moving Forward, Iran Outflanks the U.S. in Iraq and Beyond

Moving Forward, Iran Outflanks the U.S. in Iraq and Beyond

Iran has successfully navigated the first phase of its resistance to U.S. sanctions pressure. The U.S. State Department has admitted it’s goal of reducing Iran’s oil exports to zero is not feasible.

The goal now is a 25% drop to 800,000 barrel per day. And that is no joke. It’s a big drop from where Iran was looking to produce in the coming years under the auspice of the JCPOA. 

The U.S. will not stop until all avenues have been exhausted or Trump fires his current cabinet. 

Iran’s total non-oil exports have suffered as well, since gas condensate exports have also dropped along with the crude oil numbers. 

But Iran is finding friends in other places. They are currently finalizing a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) with Belarus leading the talks at the 15th meeting between their Joint Economic Committee. 

Iran’s non-oil exports, however, are still just one-fifth of their peak exports. Like Russia it is working quickly with regional partners to change that dynamic. 

It won’t be enough to overcome the U.S.’s economic pressure in the short term.

But as I always say if it survives the initial onslaught then market forces open up opportunities for change. Things like INSTEX, the EU special purpose vehicle for getting around U.S. sanctions, is a perfect example.

Bilateral trade outside of the U.S. dollar is another.

North-South Trade Routes

The completion of the North South Transport Corridor (NSTC) is also helping. For example, trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Iran rose more than 70% last year. 

Speaking in the event, [Azeri Trade Minister] Mustafayev mentioned the 12 meetings between the two countries’ presidents during the past five years and said “that is an indication of how good the relations between the two countries are.”

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

Blain’s Morning Porridge – March 18th 2019

Blain’s Morning Porridge – March 18th 2019


“It’s the edge of the world and all of western civilization, the Sun may rise in the East at least its settled in a fine location..” 

In the headlines this morning: https://www.morningporridge.com/stuff-im-watching

What a Saturday…Well done Wales on a well-deserved Grand Slam. But, I wonder if there is a hidden message in Scotland’s remarkable comeback being dashed as England clawed back an undeserved draw at Twickenham? The Scots haven’t won on English turf since 1983. They played a blinder second half.. while all the English could provide was a surly Farrell dodging a yellow card.  Perhaps it was a lesson in the tedious inevitability of modern life and a timely reminder it’s not a fairy-tale? (Shame… we wis robbed!) Perhaps Trump, Trade Wars, Income Inequality, the mis-match between asset prices and reality, and all the rest is just stuff that’s stupid, unfair and just the way it is..

Meanwhile, back on Planet Misery… what we got to look forward to? 

The Boeing saga rumbles on. It could be a month till we learn what caused the crash a week ago. The focus is not just upon the possibility Boeing has failed to correct and fully inform users of stall-prevention system problems on the B-737 Max, but now on the US FAA for its dithering and lack of clear action. The agency has been rudderless and leaderless for over a year, neglected by the administration after Trump wasn’t able to put his personal pilot at its head!  

And it’s another last chance for a Brexit deal with Theresa May going for third time lucky – apparently. The Westminster rumours say she’s still likely to lose with many of the Hard-Brexit crowd still hoping to achieve a No-Deal exit – justifying it as giving the UK a stronger post exit negotiating position with Europe.

 …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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