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Belgium and Hungary Launch Controversial Digital IDs, Vaccine Passport, Ahead of EU Regulations

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Belgium and Hungary are leading the way in launching digital ID wallets ahead of EU’s eIDAS (“electronic identification and trust services”) 2.0 regulation and EUDI Wallet coming into force later this month.

In Belgium, the MyGov.be app, covering all of the country’s federal public services, was launched on Tuesday, with the government promoting the digital identity as “simplifying” the use of its services, and “making life easier.”

In other words, the authorities there are playing the convenience card – while downplaying the risks that come with this type of centralization of people’s identities.

The wallet, via “eBox” mailbox, gives access to government-issued documents, as well as 683 services, identity data, Covid vaccination records, and more.

However, the success of the scheme is by no means guaranteed – on the one hand it is not mandatory, so people are free to decide not to use it.

Judging by an opinion poll Deloitte carried out last year, “71 percent of Belgians do not want a digital ID on their phone,” reports say, adding that the same survey showed that 79 percent “do not want a mobile driver’s license, while half refuse to fully digitize their IDs.”

“Ease of use” is also how digital ID is pushed in Hungary, where the appropriate app will be made available for download as soon as this week, while the service will be fully operational from September.

Enthusiastic reports about this development describe the digital ID program as “innovative,” “handy” and “saving costs.”

At the same time, putting all of a person’s data in one place and storing it in the cloud is advertised as something positive, instead of what opponents consider as scary – from the security standpoint alone.

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

YouTube Removes 35,000 EU Videos for “Misinformation,” Enhances Content Censorship Ahead of 2024 Elections

If you’re tired of censorship and surveillance, join Reclaim The Net.

YouTube has (“voluntarily” or otherwise) assumed the role of a private business entity that “supports elections.”

Google’s video platform detailed in a blog post how this is supposed to play out, in this instance, in the EU.

With the European Parliament (EP) election just around the corner, YouTube set out to present “an overview of our efforts to help people across Europe and beyond find helpful and authoritative election news and information.”

The overview is the usual hodgepodge of reasonable concepts, such as promoting information on how to vote or register for voting, learning about election results, etc., that quickly morph into yet another battle in the “war on disinformation.”

And what better way to “support” an election (and by extension, democracy) – than to engage in another round of mass censorship? /s

But YouTube was happy to share that in 2023 alone, it removed 35,000 videos uploaded in the EU, having decided that this content violated the platform’s policies, including around what the blog post calls “certain types of elections misinformation” (raising the logical question if some types of “election misinformation” might be allowed).

As for who is doing this work, YouTube suggests it is a well-oiled machine hard at it around the clock, and “at scale” – made up of “global teams of reviewers” and machine learning algorithms.

The blog post first states that one of the goals of YouTube’s efforts is to help users “learn about the issues shaping the debate.” But then in the part of the article that goes into how the platform is “dealing with harmful content,” it at one point starts to look like the giant might be trying to shape that debate itself.

“Our Intelligence Desk has also been working for months to get ahead of emerging issues and trends that could affect the EU elections, both on and off YouTube,” reads the post.

In case somebody missed the point, YouTube reiterates it: “This helps our enforcement teams to address these potential trends before they become larger issues.”

And while machine learning (aka, AI) is mentioned as a positive when it comes to powering YouTube’s ability to censor at scale, later on in the post the obligatory mention is made of AI as a tool potentially dangerous to elections and democracy.

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

The All-Important Doorman

The All-Important Doorman

Picture this: A tribal leader from a distant country visits the US. He’s brought to a large apartment building in New York City. When he gets out of the car, he looks up at the great building and is quite impressed. A uniformed doorman exits the foyer and comes out on the sidewalk. The tribesman sees the gold braiding and brass buttons of his coat and immediately decides that this is a very important person. Again he looks up at the building and says to the doorman, “This is a very great home you have. You must be very important indeed.”

Of course, if we were present, we might chuckle at the tribesman’s naiveté. The owners of such a great building would never greet people at the entrance. They leave such trivial tasks to hired servants, whilst they run the real business without ever needing any direct contact with visitors as they enter the building. And, in addition, doormen come and go – they are, after all, disposable. The owners – those who control what happens in the building – retain their positions over the long term… and may remain anonymous, if they so choose.

We find this simple concept easy enough to understand, and yet we chronically have difficulty in understanding that, in most countries, the president, or prime minister, is not by any means the man who makes the big decisions in the running of the country.

We assume that, because we were allowed to vote for our leader, he must actually be our leader. But, as Mark Twain has at times been credited as saying, “If voting made any difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.”

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

EU Prepares to Tighten Screws on Russian LNG Imports

EU Prepares to Tighten Screws on Russian LNG Imports

Yamal LNG

In a move that could reshape Europe’s energy landscape, the European Commission is poised to propose new sanctions targeting Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports. According to Reuters sources close to the matter, the proposed measures will include a ban on shipments within the EU and sanctions on three Russian LNG projects.

The European Commission’s decision comes amid growing concerns over Europe’s reliance on Russian energy, particularly in the wake of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. While the EU imposed a ban on Russian seaborne oil imports earlier this year, it has thus far refrained from taking similar action against LNG imports. However, with imports of Russian LNG surging since the start of the war, accounting for around 15% of EU gas supply, pressure has been mounting on Brussels to act.

The proposed ban on trans-shipments within the EU is aimed at preventing the diversion of Russian LNG cargoes to other destinations. Currently, Belgium, France, and Spain are the largest importers of Russian LNG, with many of these imports being re-exported to other countries, including China. By imposing restrictions on trans-shipments, the EU hopes to ensure that Russian LNG does not find its way to markets outside of Europe.

In addition to the ban on trans-shipments, the European Commission is also considering sanctions on three Russian LNG projects – Arctic LNG 2, Ust Luga, and Murmansk. While the details of these sanctions are still being discussed, they are expected to target projects that are not yet operational, further complicating Russia’s efforts to expand its LNG exports.

The move by the European Commission reflects growing unease within the EU over its dependence on Russian energy. With tensions between Russia and the West showing no signs of abating…

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

EU Officials Dodge Their Own Surveillance Law

Leaked documents suggest EU officials seek immunity from their own controversial online surveillance laws, raising accusations of hypocrisy.

Do as I say – not as I do. That’s the essence of a leak that claims to expose high-ranked EU officials as more than simply politicking hypocrites when it comes to implementing the extremely controversial legislation affecting online privacy and encryption.

Namely, interior ministers from EU member countries reportedly want to exempt themselves – but not only – from the looming Child Sexual Abuse (CSAM) Regulation (aka, “chat control“), expected to be adopted as early as in June.

Pushed by supporters as being exactly what it says on the tin – the proposed new rules are at the same time criticized as a vehicle for indiscriminate mass surveillance of everyone’s online communications, and a way to weaken true encryption deployed by platforms – a vital component of internet security, once again, affecting everyone who goes online, children included.

German member of European Parliament (MEP), Pirate Party member, and lawyer Patrick Breyer, who has been investing a lot of time and energy in drawing EU public’s attention to the dangers that come with the regulation, is now quoting leaked documents published by the French site Contexte, which may or may not prove the context of the already troubled proposed rules, just got even worse.

That’s because, according to Contexte, “EU interior ministers want to exempt professional accounts of staff of intelligence agencies, police and military from the envisaged scanning of chats and messages.”

In addition to ministers, police, and spies, anything that’s labeled as “professional secret” is also supposed to be exempt from this highly invasive (when it comes to everybody else in the EU) type of content scanning.

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

Europe Is Wargaming a Food Crisis

(Bloomberg) — The combined forces of El Niño and La Niña have crippled Latin American soy output. Ukrainian and Russian grain farmers have gone to war. Indonesia has banned shipments of palm oil to Europe, while China is hungry for crops. The Mediterranean region is getting more like a desert.

The year is 2024. “Food shortage in Europe? The only question is when, but they don’t listen,” says an unidentified voice in a video broadcast. The audience sits quietly — listening.

The dramatic collision of events, of course, hasn’t yet come to pass. But over two days in central Brussels last month, some 60 European Union and government officials, food security experts, industry representatives and a few journalists gathered to confront the possibility of something barely on the radar a few years ago: a full-blown food crisis.

The group sat down in a refurbished art deco Shell building to simulate what might happen, and help design policies aimed at prevention and response. A few streets away, farmers were stepping up their protests against the EU, disrupting supplies to supermarkets as if to sharpen the focus of the participants.

The plush co-working space was hardly a bunker or secure basement in a warzone. But the video images of drought, floods and civil unrest to the pounding beat of ominous music created a sense of urgency.

“Expect a level of chaos,” warned Piotr Magnuszewski, a systems modeler and game designer who has worked with the United Nations. “You may be confused at times and not have enough information. There will be time travel.”

To watch one of the best-fed regions in the world stress test its food system underscores a growing level of alarm among governments over securing supplies for their populations. In the space of four years, multiple shocks have shaken up the way food is grown, distributed and consumed.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Europe Is Alarmed Enough To Begin Wargaming A Food Crisis

Europe Is Alarmed Enough To Begin Wargaming A Food Crisis

Governments of the European Union are engaged in wargames which simulate and foresee a global food crisis. A mix of major factors including the Russia-Ukraine war and impact on grain supplies there, as well as weather events like El Niño and La Niña and their impact on Latin American soy output, and the anti-EU farmers’ protests which have disrupted supermarket supply chains, have been cause for alarm, European officials say. Of course there’s also the example of how drastically a pandemic can interfere with supply chains. Panic buying was a trend and constant fear within the early months of the coronavirus crisis.

Bloomberg details of a conference held in Brussels last month that envisioned a 2024 to 2025 food shortage in Europe: “…over two days in central Brussels last month, some 60 European Union and government officials, food security experts, industry representatives and a few journalists gathered to confront the possibility of something barely on the radar a few years ago: a full-blown food crisis.”

Getty Images

Piotr Magnuszewski, a systems modeler and game designer who helped put the conference gaming scenario together told participants to “Expect a level of chaos” and cautioned, “You may be confused at times and not have enough information.”

As the report underscores, what’s remarkable about this is the fact that a continent which stands out as among the best-fed regions in the world is now busy stress testing its food system.

Below are some of the scenarios put before participants in the wargaming event last month:

* * *

Harvest failures:

“And so, it’s 2025 and there are more harvest failures. They impact animal feed prices, which curbs livestock and fish production. Some ships carrying crops turn away from Europe to cater to higher bidders elsewhere.”

Palm oil exports cut:

…click on the above link to read the rest…

‘Do not play with fire’ Yemen warns EU as Brussels embarks on Red Sea mission

‘Do not play with fire’ Yemen warns EU as Brussels embarks on Red Sea mission

EU warships have set off for the Red Sea, where the US navy is waging its largest conflict since the end of WWII in support of Israel

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

A high-ranking Yemeni official has warned the EU against “supporting the American devil to protect [Israel]” following the formal launch of the Aspides naval mission in the Red Sea.

“For Europeans, do not play with fire. Take a lesson from Britain,” Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a senior member of Yemen’s Supreme Political Council, said via social media on 20 February.

“You do not need the support of the American devil in protecting the occupying entity so that it can exterminate the people of Gaza with no disturbance,” Houthi added, stressing that “international navigation is safe.”

His message followed an announcement by Brussels of the official launch of the EU naval operation codenamed Aspides – Greek for shield.

“I welcome today’s decision … Europe will ensure freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, working alongside our international partners. Beyond crisis response, it’s a step towards a stronger European presence at sea to protect our European interests,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said via social media.

France, Germany, Italy, and Belgium have said they will contribute ships to the EU mission in support of Israel.

The bloc’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, described the mission as “bold action to protect the commercial and security interests of the EU and the international community.”

With a mandate initially set for one year, Aspides will see the deployment of EU warships and airborne early warning systems to the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and surrounding waters. According to officials in Brussels, the mission will be exclusively defensive, and its forces will not partake in US-led attacks against Yemen.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Exxon Threatens to Take Billions of Dollars in Climate Investment Out of the EU

Exxon Threatens to Take Billions of Dollars in Climate Investment Out of the EU

Exxon has warned the European Union that it will leave and take billions of dollars in climate investment with it unless Brussels makes it easier to spend those billions on transition-related projects.

The Financial Times cited the company today as saying that there was way too much red tape in the EU and it took too long to get a project going, which prompted the supermajor to consider spending its $20 billion in decarbonization investments for 2022-2027 elsewhere.

“When we make investments, we’ve got very long time horizons in mind. I would say that recent developments in Europe have not instilled confidence in long-term, predictable policies,” Karen McKee, president of Exxon Product Solutions, told the FT.

“What we’re experiencing is the deindustrialisation of the European economy and we’re concerned,” McKee also said.

The European Union’s leadership has promised time and again it will facilitate transition projects but it seems it has been slow to act on this promise. According to Exxon—and a lot of other companies involved in the transition—getting a project off the ground in the EU is fraught with regulatory obstacles and “slow and torturous” permitting and funding procedures, per Exxon’s McKee.

The EU’s Green Deal plan features a “predictable and simplified regulatory environment” as one of its four pillars but judging from the reactions of the business world, this has yet to go from theory to practice. Faster access to funding is the second pillar in the EU’s lineup but that, too, is taking quite long to materialize.

It is these delays in implementation that have prompted business leaders to meet today in Belgium to press the EU leadership into going from words to actions. There is growing concern that the regulatory burden put on businesses is scaring them away, taking investments elsewhere.

There are also some European leaders, notably France’s Emmanuel Macron and Belgium’s Alexander de Croo, who have blamed red tape for the farmers’ protests.

 

France Caves To Farmers As Ireland ‘Solidarity’ Protests Kick Off

France Caves To Farmers As Ireland ‘Solidarity’ Protests Kick Off

Two of France’s main farming unions on Thursday agreed to suspend protests and lift road blockades across the country after the government announced measures the deemed “tangible progress” in the ongoing revolt against EU ‘climate-driven’ initiatives designed to wean society off of evil, non-bug-based, carbon-emitting food while China, India, and the rest of the world laughs.

In addition to France, protests have been held in Belgium, Portugal, Greece, Germany and elsewhere. Last week, tensions came to a head in Brussels when farmers threw eggs and stones at the European Parliament building, demanding that European leaders stop punishing them with more taxes and rising costs to finance the so-called ‘green agenda.’

After French farmers stepped up protests earlier in the week, the government promised on Thursday to extend protections – including better controlling imports and giving farmers additional aid, Reuters reports.

“Everywhere in Europe the same question arises: how do we continue to produce more but better? How can we continue to tackle climate change? How can we avoid unfair competition from foreign countries?,” said Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, announcing the new measures.

In response, France’s main farmers union, FNSEA, announced that it was time to lift the blockades and “go home.” Arnaud Gaillot of the Young Farmers’ union echoed the message, however both unions warned that other types of protests would continue, and they’d be back if the government doesn’t make good on their promises.

Meanwhile in Ireland, farmers began protesting Thursday evening.

“There’s a general dissatisfaction with the level of environmental regulation that is being heaped on farmers, the low margins, and (the) resulting low income the farmers have been suffering from for a very long time now,” said Cathal MacCarthy, media director for the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, adding…

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Mess In The West: ‘Army Of God’ Convoy Heads To US Border While EU Farmers Block Cities

Mess In The West: ‘Army Of God’ Convoy Heads To US Border While EU Farmers Block Cities

In the US, a convoy of truckers, calling themselves “God’s Army,” is preparing to embark on a journey from several locations across the Lower 48 to the southern border as tensions soar between Texas and the Biden administration. Meanwhile across the Atlantic, farmers are bearing down on Europe’s capitals – from Bucharest to Warsaw to Brussels – venting frustrations about climate policies. These social instabilities are breaking out ahead of key European and US elections this year.

The organizers of the “Take Our Border Back” convoy are “calling all active & retired law enforcement and military, Veterans, Mama Bears, elected officials, business owners, ranchers, truckers, bikers, media and LAW ABIDING, freedom-loving Americans” to “assemble in honor of our US Constitution and Bill of Rights” at the southern border, in protest against the federal government’s inability to secure the border, according to the convoy’s website.

“Fellow citizens and compatriots … I call on you in the name of liberty, of patriotism and everything dear to the American character to come to our aid with all dispatch,” Pete Chambers, one of the coalition’s leaders, wrote. “If this call is neglected, we are determined to sustain ourselves as long as possible and act like soldiers who never forget what is due to our own honor and that of our country.”

The convoy plans to “send a message” to government officials at all levels about the need to secure the board amid the multi-year invasion of millions of illegals. Chambers believes Americans are “besieged on all sides” by evil “dark forces.”

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Central Asia is the prime battlefield in the New Great Game

Central Asia is the prime battlefield in the New Great Game

So long as Russia and China remain the region’s dominant political and economic powers, the Central Asian heartland will remain a US and EU target for threats, bribes, and color revolutions.

Photo Credit: The Cradle

Samarkand, Uzbekistan – The historical Heartland – or Central Eurasia – already is, and will continue to be, the prime battlefield in the New Great Game, fought between the United States and the China-Russia strategic partnership.

The original Great Game pitted the British and Russian empires in the late 19th century, and in fact, never got away: it just metastasized into the US-UK entente versus the USSR, and, subsequently, the US-EU versus Russia.

According to the Mackinder-designed geopolitical game conceptualized by imperial Britain back in 1904, The Heartland is the proverbial “pivot of History,” and its re-energized 21st century historical role is as relevant as in centuries ago: a key driver of emerging multipolarity.

So it’s no wonder all major powers are at work in the Heartland/Central Eurasia: China, Russia, US, EU, India, Iran, Turkiye, and to a lesser extent, Japan. Four out of five Central Asian “stans” are full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO): Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. And some, like Kazakhstan, may soon become members of BRICS+.

Map of Central Asia

The key direct geopolitical clash for influence across the Heartland pits the US against Russia and China on myriad political, economic, and financial fronts.

The imperial modus operandi privileges – what else – threats and ultimatums. Only four months ago, US emissaries from the State Department, Treasury, and Office of Foreign Affairs Control (OFAC) toured the Heartland bearing a whole package of “gifts,” as in blatant or thinly disguised threats. The key message: if you “help” or even trade with Russia in any way, you will be slapped with secondary sanctions.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

 

‘Some EU Banks May Be Vulnerable’ – ECB Tells Ministers ‘No Room For Complcency’

‘Some EU Banks May Be Vulnerable’ – ECB Tells Ministers ‘No Room For Complcency’

The world was saved there briefly overnight after SNB’s giant liquidity shot into CS.

But it didn’t take long fort reality to sink in about the band-aid-like nature of this facility.

However, the situation under the hood may in fact be worse than some thought as Bloomberg reports, according to people familiar with the talks, that ECB Vice President Luis de Guindos told finance ministers on Tuesday that some European Union banks could be vulnerable to rising interest rates.

Guindos said that the ECB couldn’t rule out that some lenders might be at risk because of their business models, according to the people.

The market did not like that reality check with European IG credit spreads now above yesterday’s highs…

Guindos also cautioned not to be complacent and warned that a lack of confidence could trigger contagion.

Touching on a likely key theme of Thursday’s rate decision, Guindos highlighted the potential conflict between the ECB’s mission to bring down inflation and potential damage to some financial institutions from higher interest rates.

And after that headline on bank vulnerability, the odds of a 50bps hike today have tumbled…

What will Christine do?

Bankruptcies Soar Across EU, As Companies Hit Wall At Fastest Rate Since Records Began in 2015

Bankruptcies Soar Across EU, As Companies Hit Wall At Fastest Rate Since Records Began in 2015

Legions of European companies are succumbing to the final straw of Europe’s largely self-inflicted energy crisis. 

Bankruptcy proceedings in the Canary Islands, Spain’s heavily tourism-dependent island chain, soared a whopping 276% year over year in 2022, according to the latest data published by the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) in its report, “The Effects of the Economic Crisis on Judicial Bodies.” The archipelago also saw the highest rate of dismissal claims in Spain, with around 400 of every 100,000 inhabitants losing their jobs.

But this trend is not unique to the Canary Islands, nor indeed Spain. It is happening across large swathes of Europe’s economies, as legions of businesses succumb to the final straw of Europe’s largely self-inflicted energy crisis.

In the EU as a whole the number of bankruptcy declarations initiated by businesses increased substantially (26.8%) quarter-on-quarter in the fourth quarter of 2022, reaching the highest levels on record since Eurostat began collecting EU-wide bankruptcy data in 2015. The number of bankruptcy declarations increased during all four quarters of 2022. As the Eurostat graph below shows, at the current rate of business destruction it won’t be long before businesses are closing at a faster rate than they are opening.

Line graph: Registrations of business an declarations of bankruptcies in the EU, seasonally adjusted, 2015=100, Q1 2015-Q4 2022

This trend, of course, was not hard to foresee. In August 2022, I warned that the EU’s largely self-inflicted energy crisis and resulting inflation is tipping legions of small businesses over the edge:

After reeling from one crisis to another, Europe’s heavily indebted and deeply debilitated small businesses — the backbone of the economy — face the ultimate threat from energy shortages and soaring prices.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

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