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Europe must prepare for life after oil

Europe must prepare for life after oil

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing us to leave the fossil fuel era behind. Europe needs to begin preparing for what comes next.

Oil prices have crashed. The most visible cause has been the measures taken to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, which have triggered record lows in global oil demand. 

Yet the crisis also exposes structural vulnerabilities in our fossil fuel-dependent economic system, which requires us to rapidly transition to an alternative energy system if we are to avert economic collapse.

The most important scientific concept to assess and understand these vulnerabilities is ‘Energy Return on Investment’ (EROI) – the foundation of the emerging discipline of biophysical economics. EROI is designed to measure how much energy is needed to extract energy from a particular resource. What’s left is known as surplus ‘net energy’, used to support goods and services in the economy outside the energy system. The higher the ratio, the more surplus energy is left for the economy. That surplus is running increasingly thin. 

In the early 20th century, the EROI of fossil fuels was sometimes as high as 100:1: a single unit of energy would be enough to extract a hundred times that amount. But since then, the EROI of fossil fuels has gone down dramatically[1], as we are extracting fossil fuels from places that are increasingly difficult to reach. Between 1960 and 1980, the world average value EROI for fossil fuels declined[2] by more than half, from about 35:1 to 15:1. It’s still declining[3]:  latest estimates put the value at between 6:1 and 3:1.

The decline of fossil fuels’ EROI has acted as a background ‘brake’ on the rate of economic growth for the world’s advanced industrial economies, which has been slowing down[4] since the 1970s.

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EU Economy Traveling Along Same Worn Dead-end Road

EU Economy Traveling Along Same Worn Dead-end Road

With so many countries across the world facing difficulties, many people have yet to notice the Euro-Zone has become a place where hope goes to die. The last round of elections in the Euro-Zone should bring little comfort to those supporting a stronger Europe. Huge gains were made by forces seeking more power for the populist agenda. In short, it is a boost for the rights of individual nations to have more say in how they are governed.  Two of the most pressing issues are that insolvent Italy struggles with a stagnate economy and Spain is coming apart politically with Catalan separatists defying Spain’s Prime Minister. 

To avoid the union coming apart at the seams and a miserable future, the European Commission recently unveiled an unprecedented €750BN CoVid-19 recovery plan. It consists of €500 billion in grants to member states, and €250 billion would be available in loans. This means they are asking for the power to borrow. This is geared to tackle the worst recession in European history and shore up Italy. It would mean transforming the EU’s central finances to allow for it to raise unprecedented sums on the capital markets and hand out the bulk of the proceeds as grants to hard-pressed member states.

The Euro-Zone was already in deep trouble before CoVid-19 hit, the weakness that started in 2017 never ended. In the fourth quarter even Germany narrowly escaped recession. This could be blamed on the Brexit or Trade War but it goes beyond that, they abandoned all structural reforms in 2014 when the ECB started its quantitative easing program (QE) and expanded the balance sheet to record-levels. In 2019, almost 22% of the Euro Zone GDP gross added value came from Travel & Leisure, a sector that will unlikely come back anytime soon. Add this to weak exports and a banking sector that is totally decimated and everything points downward.

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Rabobank: Stocks Go Up As Everything Is Going Down In Flames

Rabobank: Stocks Go Up As Everything Is Going Down In Flames

It’s All Going to the Dogs (and Goats)

Friday’s April US payrolls report showed 20.5 million jobs lost when in an ordinary downturn 200,000 might be considered bad; the drop in March alone was larger than that seen during the worst of the global financial crisis. In short, we face a global future of mass unemployment (now 14.7% in the US and 13% in Canada) on top of mass debt, both public and private.

Last week the German Constitutional Court (GCC) ruled that it is superior to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), and that the ECB has three months to prove it is not exceeding its remit with its extraordinary monetary policy. Yesterday the President of the EU Commission von der Leyen threatened to sue Germany, stating the final word on EU law is always spoken by the ECJ. Guess which court ultimately hears the case? The ECJ. How is this going to play out if the GCC doesn’t back down? Very badly in the Eurozone periphery, to the benefit of Euroskeptics. How is it going to play out in Germany if the GCC is forced to back down? Badly in Germany, to the benefit of Euroskeptics. Given the ECJ won’t back down and the ECB has said it will ignore the GCC, and the GCC is not likely to blink either, we seem set for an institutional crisis over the scope and shape of the Eurozone financial market – albeit one that rumbles on rather than erupting immediately.

US Vice-President Mike Pence, titular head of the US virus task force, is self-isolating after figures close to the White House were diagnosed as positive for Covid.

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Eurozone Breakup Risk at New High

Eurozone Breakup Risk at New High

The German Constitutional Court made an unexpected and significant ruling last week against the ECB and Quantitative Easing.

QE Deemed Illegal

In the midst of a pandemic and an important presidential election, it is very easy  to miss globally significant events. 

Here is one that is way under the radar: The German Constitutional Court ruled the ECB’s QE Program Could be Illegal.

That is a landmark ruling that challenges the independence of the ECB and the authority of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

In announcing the ruling, German Chief Justice Andreas Voßkuhle said the CJEU had approved a practice that “was obviously not covered” by the ECB’s mandate. Voßkuhle spent months crafting the 77-page decision, announcing the ruling just a day before his official retirement on Wednesday. “

Dismissing a 2018 CJEU decision to allow the bond purchases, the German court ordered the ECB to provide Germany with adequate justification for the program within the next three months. Should it fail to do so, the Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank, would no longer be permitted to participate in the program.

What it Means for the Future of the EU

Eurointelligence explains What it Means for the Future of the EU.

The ruling raises complex and potentially troubling issues for the EU as a whole. The German constitutional court has accused the ECB and the CJEU, the court of Justice of the European Union, of abusing their power, and of acting beyond their assigned competences. That concept is known in German constitutional law as acting ultra viresIn the German legal interpretation of European integration, all sovereignty still rests with the member states. The EU is clearly not a federal state, but a deferred power.

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China Daily Censors Opinion Article Written By EU Officials; Removes Any Mention Of China As Virus Origin

China Daily Censors Opinion Article Written By EU Officials; Removes Any Mention Of China As Virus Origin

BuzzFeed’s Alberto Nardelli points out that the European Union failed to discuss edits, including the removal of references to the spread of COVID-19, in an op-ed jointly published by all 27 member states in a Chinese-owned newspaper. 

Some European officials did not find out about the secret edits Brussels made with the Chinese until after the opinion piece was published. One diplomat told BuzzFeed there was no discussion about the edits with Brussels, saying there was “irony of the incident happening just a few days after World Press Freedom Day on Sunday.” 

Another diplomat said Brussels’ decision to make the edit as per China’s request is “weak,” with another diplomat saying member states being shunned from knowing about the edits is “really bad.” 

The piece was published in the China Daily Newspaper and after reviewing the same report but uploaded onto the EU embassy website, it becomes clear this could be the section China had removed: “But the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, and its subsequent spread to the rest of the world over the past three months.”

China limiting freedom of speech, or better yet, attempting to control the global narrative about the virus, marks a dangerous period for the world. One where China continues to coverup the origins of the pandemic. 

An EU spokesperson told BuzzFeed that the opinion piece was edited on the demands “of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” 

“The EU Delegation decided nevertheless to proceed with the publication of the Op-Ed with considerable reluctance, as it considered it important to communicate very important messages on EU policy priorities, notably on climate change and sustainability, human rights, multilateralism and the global response to the coronavirus.”

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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.

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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.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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