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Covid-19 Shatters the Facade of European Union

Covid-19 Shatters the Facade of European Union 

The new coronavirus and its accompanying disease Covid-19 has stopped the globe in its tracks. Governments, markets and news cycles have become dominated by the pandemic. Europe is now the epicenter for the disease, with reportedly more fatal cases of infection than China where the virus first erupted in December.

Several European Union countries have declared themselves states of emergencies, including Belgium, France, Portugal, Spain and Italy. The 27-member bloc has sealed off external borders. Some states, such as Poland, have begun closing borders with other EU members. Brussels, the administrative center of the EU, is alarmed because the much-vaunted single market and its core principles of free movement of goods and people is at risk of collapsing.

The European entity which proclaims solidarity and supranational status is reverting to a collection of nation states, each desperately fighting for their own survival amid the Covid-19 pandemic. EU leaders have been criticized for showing lack of central leadership and solidarity. When Italy first reported a surge in infections a few weeks ago, the rest of Europe was slow to respond with the necessary prompt assistance. Now Italy is such a grip of the disease – with thousands dead – that in some parts of the country normal funeral services reportedly cannot even cope with the number of deceased.

In blistering remarks this week, the Serbian President Alexander Vucic  lamented that there was “no European solidarity”. Serbia is a prospective member of the EU along with several other Balkan states, but Vucic said his country has received little in the way of aid from the EU in face of the coronavirus threat. Indeed, by contrast, the Serb leader extolled the generosity of China which has sent large shipments of equipment to combat the disease. Beijing has also dispatched aid cargoes and medical teams to Italy and other EU members to help them cope with their outbreaks.

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Leaked Reports Show EU Police Are Planning a Pan-European Network of Facial Recognition Databases

LEAKED REPORTS SHOW EU POLICE ARE PLANNING A PAN-EUROPEAN NETWORK OF FACIAL RECOGNITION DATABASES

A POLICE INVESTIGATOR in Spain is trying to solve a crime, but she only has an image of a suspect’s face, caught by a nearby security camera. European police have long had access to fingerprint and DNA databases throughout the 27 countries of the European Union and, in certain cases, the United States. But soon, that investigator may be able to also search a network of police face databases spanning the whole of Europe and the U.S.

According to leaked internal European Union documents, the EU could soon be creating a network of national police facial recognition databases. A report drawn up by the national police forces of 10 EU member states, led by Austria, calls for the introduction of EU legislation to introduce and interconnect such databases in every member state. The report, which The Intercept obtained from a European official who is concerned about the network’s development, was circulated among EU and national officials in November 2019. If previous data-sharing arrangements are a guide, the new facial recognition network will likely be connected to similar databases in the U.S., creating what privacy researchers are calling a massive transatlantic consolidation of biometric data.

The report was produced as part of discussions on expanding the Prüm system, an EU-wide initiative connecting DNA, fingerprint, and vehicle registration databases for mutual searching. A similar system exists between the U.S. and any country that is part of the Visa Waiver Program, which includes the majority of EU countries; bilateral agreements allow U.S. and European agencies to access one another’s fingerprint and DNA databases.“This is concerning on a national level and on a European level, especially as some EU countries veer towards more authoritarian governments.”

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The Death Of Free Speech: Zuckerberg Asks Governments For Instructions On “What Discourse Should Be Allowed”

The Death Of Free Speech: Zuckerberg Asks Governments For Instructions On “What Discourse Should Be Allowed”

I have written for years on the effort of European countries to expand their crackdown on free speech globally through restrictions on social media and Internet speech. It appears that Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has relented in what may prove the death knell for free speech in the West. Zuckerberg seems to relent in asking governments for regulations stipulating what speech will be permitted on Facebook and other platforms. It is the ultimate victory of FranceGermany, and England in their continuing attack on free expression though hate speech laws and speech regulation.

Zuckerberg told an assembly of Western leaders Saturday at the Munich Security Conference that “There should be more guidance and regulation from the states on basically — take political advertising as an example — what discourse should be allowed?” He did add: “Or, on the balance of free expression and some things that people call harmful expression, where do you draw the line?” The problem is that his comments were received as accepting that government will now dictate the range of free speech. What is missing is the bright line rule long maintained by the free speech community.

As tragically demonstrated in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, speech regulations inevitably expand with time. The desire to silence one’s critics becomes insatiable for both governments and individuals.

Zuckerberg is facing great pressure, including from Democratic leaders in the United States, to regulate political speech and he seems to be moving away from the bright-line position against such regulation as a principle. Instead, he is accepting the fluid concept of “balanced” regulations that has always preceded expanding speech codes and criminalization:

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Gas Wars in the Mediterranean

Gas Wars in the Mediterranean 

The unexpected alliance between Turkey and Libya is a geopolitical earthquake that changes the balance of power in the eastern Mediterranean and across the Middle East. Turkey’s audacious move has enraged its rivals in the region and cleared the way for a dramatic escalation in the 9 year-long Libyan civil war. It has also forced leaders in Europe and Washington to decide how they will counter Turkey’s plan to defend the U.N-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), and to extend its maritime borders from Europe to Africa basically creating “a water corridor through the eastern Mediterranean linking the coasts of Turkey and Libya.” Leaders in Ankara believe that the agreement “is a major coup in energy geopolitics” that helps defend Turkey’s “sovereign rights against the gatekeepers of the regional status quo.” But Turkey’s rivals strongly disagree. They see the deal as a naked power grab that undermines their ability to transport natural gas from the East Mediterranean to Europe without crossing Turkish waters. In any event, the Turkey-Libya agreement has set the stage for a broader conflict that will unavoidably involve Egypt, Israel, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Europe, Russia and the United States. All parties appear to have abandoned diplomatic channels altogether and are, instead, preparing for war.

On November 27, Turkey and Libya signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that commits Turkey to providing military assistance to Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA). The MoU also redraws Turkey’s maritime boundaries in a way that dramatically impacts the transport of gas from the East Mediterranean to Europe. Israel is particularly worried that this new deal will undermine its plans for a 1,900-kilometer EastMed pipeline connecting the Leviathan gas field, off the coast of Israel, to the EU. YNET News summarized Israel’s concerns in an ominously titled article: “Turkey’s maneuver could block Israel’s access to the sea”. Here’s an excerpt:

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Europe Leads The World In Environmental Protection

Europe Leads The World In Environmental Protection

Earlier this week, the European Union unveiled their European Investment Plan aimed at shifting 1 trillion euros into making the economy more environmentally friendly over the next 10 years.

Statista’s Willem Rpoer reports that the investment plan is in line with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen’s Green Deal, which looks to make the European continent carbon-neutral by 2050. Since taking office, Von der Leyen has made climate change her top priority.

European countries have typically been leaders in the fight against climate change, with many ranking lowest in carbon emissions globally and highest in environmental quality. The newest trillion-euro investment plan looks to solidify Europe as the global example for combating global warming as other continents like Asia and North America continue to produce high carbon emissions and lag behind in renewable energy sources.

n 2019, Yale University released their Environmental Performance Index (EPI) for all 180 countries in order to gauge which countries had the highest environmental quality and which had the lowest.

Infographic: Europe Leads the World in Environmental Protection | Statista

FREXIT – Is France Hurling toward Exiting the EU?

FREXIT – Is France Hurling toward Exiting the EU? 

France is by no means calming down. There is a major underlying problem in France which is rising to the surface in direct confrontation with the government and Macron’s ambition to lead Europe. Macron’s confrontation with Trump over NATO is a reflection of a historical posture of the French government that has resented both Germany and the United States. Macron had said, “The Atlantic alliance can only be restored in one way, through restoring the unity of Europe.” The twelve founding members set up a headquarters together for the first time in London in 1950.

NATO Headquarters was located at 13, Belgrave Square. The last meeting to be held in London before the move to Paris was on April 1, 1952, which coincided with NATO’s third anniversary.  NATO was forced to move its headquarters from Paris, France (the A building for Alliance) following the French withdrawal from NATO, which then moved to Brussels 1967.

Macron did not advocate that France should pull out of NATO as was the case under  President de Gaulle. Indeed, de Gaulle did withdraw France from NATO’s military structure in 1966, yet it remained an Ally. Macron has been also pushing for a European Army. Clearly, Macron’s agenda has been to federalize Europe and that is clashing with the people. He is NOT a proponent in having the USA a major part of NATO according to reliable sources.

Macron has been pushing economic reforms to curtail the social benefits in France in his effort to federalize Europe. In protest of his planned reforms in the pension system, the unions have organized several general strikes, which are now being joined by the yellow vests. This has resulted in bringing in hundreds of thousands of protesters to the streets. The problem which Macron faces is that France’s economic performance can no longer finance the generous welfare state which is far beyond international standards.

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US Enraged After 6 More EU Nations Join INSTEX To Bypass Iran Sanctions

US Enraged After 6 More EU Nations Join INSTEX To Bypass Iran Sanctions

On Friday six European countries issued a bombshell joint statement declaring their intent to join INSTEX, or the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges, a European special-purpose vehicle serving as a ‘SWIFT alternative’ to bypass US sanctions on Iran. 

Finland, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden released a joint statement asserting it’s of “the utmost importance to the preservation and full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) on Iran’s nuclear program by all parties involved.”

“In light of the continuous European support for the agreement and the ongoing efforts to implement the economic part of it and to facilitate legitimate trade between Europe and Iran, we are now in the process of becoming shareholders of the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (Instex) subject to completion of national procedures,” the statement reads.

The Foreign Minister of Finland Pekka Haavisto alongside Foreign Minister of Iran Mohammed Javad Zarif. AP Photo

Instex is an initiative set up by France, Germany and the UK in January 2019 to provide humanitarian and sanctions relief to Iran after in November 2018 the SWIFT network suspended Iranian banks under Washington pressure, months after Trump pulled the US out of the nuclear deal.

Though the new alternative financial device had shaky beginnings amid further aggressive threats from the US administration, it continued through a trial phase even though Tehran officials had complained it appeared ‘too little, too late’.

But now as this latest six country statement announces, it will serve as the European vehicle to “facilitate legitimate trade between Europe and Iran,” while also providing incentive for Tehran to return to its commitments under the JCPOA, specifically to recently breached uranium enrichment limits. Upon the announcement, US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell lambasted the move, saying: 

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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…

Poland: Zero Emissions Is A Trillion-Dollar Fantasy

Poland: Zero Emissions Is A Trillion-Dollar Fantasy

Coal plant

Reducing emissions in Poland to zero will cost the country between $760 and $980 billion (700-900 billion euro), said Energy Minister Krzysztof Tchorzewski, as quoted by Reuters.

“Of course, these costs would obviously be spread over years. But I treat it as a fantasy when someone says that Poland is able to reach the zero-emission goal by 2050,” Tchorzewski said, according to a report in Polish state news agency PAP.

Poland, along with Hungary and the Czech Republic, became the reason an ambitious emissions plan proposed by other EU members was dropped as a piece of binding legislation.

Later in the year, France’s President, Emmanuel Macron, criticized Poland specifically for still using a lot of fossil fuels—particularly coal—despite the EU’s climate change goals.

Ahead of the UN climate talks last month, Macron slammed Poland for not toeing the line: “Marching every Friday to say that the planet is burning, that’s nice, but that is not the problem,” the French president told media before going on to lash out at climate protesters in France, telling them that they should “go protest in Poland! Help me move those I cannot push forward.”

At the time, Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister tried to soften the blow, and Macron himself added remarks to that effect.

“I’m not stigmatising anyone. But I want to convince our Polish friends that it’s good for them to move on this,” Macron said.

Poland is in fact not opposed to zero emissions. However, as Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in June, it will need a solid compensation package for its industry in exchange for a firm commitment to the EU’s ambitious climate change goals.

“Poland wants to catch up with Europe, not to perish. Each percent means huge costs,” Energy Minister Krzysztof Tchorzewski said, referring to the percentage of renewable energy in Poland.

Europe: The cracks are beginning to showIs the EU experiment coming to an end? Europe considers its options

Europe: The cracks are beginning to showIs the EU experiment coming to an end? Europe considers its options

THE NATO BUILD-UP

2014: The expansion of NATO in the late 20th and early 21st centuries had posed a serious strategic threat to Russia’s security. In 1999 the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland joined NATO. In 2004 they were followed by the Baltics, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Slovenia; Albania and Croatia joined in 2009.

This influx was in addition to most of the western European states which had been members of NATO since the ‘Iron Curtain’ came down soon after hostilities had ceased in Europe in 1945. In all, 28 countries are now members of the alliance. Non-NATO members including, Sweden, Finland, were brought into line with EU/NATO policy after their accession to the Lisbon Treaty. Thus economically, politically and militarily the West had arrived at Russia’s western borders.

Viewed retrospectively, however, this was the high point of NATO hegemony. The juggernaut seemed to be at the height of its power, but the turning points had already come with the brief Russo-Georgia war in 2008 and then Ukraine 2014/15 when Russia said nyet.

COLOUR REVOLUTIONS

Colour revolutions financed by US Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the shape of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), US-AID, and Human Rights Watch (HRW) were complementary to the EU/NATO expansion eastwards and had targeted both Georgia and Ukraine. Additionally, Soros’s Open Society and its many tentacles also took part in these operations.

The NED could not be called an NGO since it was funded directly by the US government which made it a “GO”. This was openly admitted later by Victoria Nuland – Under Secretary of State for Eurasian and East European Affairs, and Wife of leading neo-con warmonger Robert Kagan – during a talk which she gave at the Washington press club. (See the you tube). Ms Nuland also took the opportunity to inform the audience that the going rate for colour revolutions was US$5 billion.

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

Unsettled Weather

Unsettled Weather


After leaving the Bahamas for dead, Hurricane Dorian barely grazed the US mainland en route to the Canadian shoals of oblivion, perhaps saving America’s insurance industry. But the steamy west coast of Africa is hurling out a cavalcade of replacements as the high season for Atlantic storms commences, so better keep the plywood sheets at hand. Lots of things are looking stormy around the world just now: nations, markets, politics — everything really except all three divisions of the American League… yawn….

The world is in a nervous place these days The US is something like the world’s crazy old auntie, whom everyone else would like to lock in the attic. Except she happens to be cradling a bazooka, so they’ll go on trying to ignore her a while longer, hoping she doesn’t launch any rockets at the neighbors.

Britain courts chaos in its attempt to keep staving off the Brexit quandary, which itself seems to promise a hearty dose of chaos as thousands of unresolved trade issues threaten the country’s economic future walking out on Europe. The majority who voted Brexit feel that the EU is already crushing them under bureaucratic diktat and immigration quotas. New Prime Minister Bo-Jo has tried one ploy after another in his quest to reach the Halloween Brexit ramp. Everyone is ganging up on him, even his own brother, Jo Johnson, who has quit the cabinet and is ditching his seat in parliament. Bo-Jo wants to call an election because there is no one else to take his place, and many of those piling on him also detest the opposition Labor Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Events are outrunning anybody’s ability to see what happens next. Street violence is not out of the question.

 …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

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EU Antitrust Chief: “Google And Facebook Are Sucking Up Data From Every Corner”

EU Antitrust Chief: “Google And Facebook Are Sucking Up Data From Every Corner”

This is the full transcript of speech delivered by Margrethe Vestager, the European Union Antitrust Chief, held at the Business Forum of the German Ambassadors’ Conference, Berlin, 27 August 2019:

Ladies and gentlemen,

It’s a great pleasure, and an honour, to be here with you today. I want to thank Heiko Maas for those kind words, and for inviting me to join you.

I’m especially glad to have the chance to meet with you, who represent Germany’s 230 diplomatic missions around the world, as well as German industry. Because all of us here have an important role to play, to prepare Europe’s economy for the challenges of the future.

And in our working day, or just reading the news headlines, we are very often confronted with the scale of those challenges. Today’s threats to the system of global trade rules pose a serious risk to growth here in Europe, and throughout the world. Brexit remains a major source of uncertainty. We need to make enormous changes to the way we power the world’s economy, to avoid climate change running out of control. And all this is happening at a time when digitisation is transforming our markets – and Europe’s future depends on being, not just an industrial powerhouse, but a digital leader.

Europe’s advantages

Indeed all these challenges can seem daunting. But it is important to remember that Europe has already proved its capacity to take on big challenges. After all, we built the European Union on the ashes of two world wars. And we have just travelled through the biggest financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression.

And we have a good starting point to also face those challenges ahead of us.

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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:

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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.

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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