Medvedev announced a “cocktail of rudeness” from the European Union and the imminent winter

Medvedev is sure that the EU did not manage to “sit on three chairs”, the risk of a gas shortage caused “severe diarrhea” after the “yellow-Blakyt hysteria”. In his opinion, Europe intends to increase arms supplies to Ukraine, but “the cold will come soon”

Dmitry Medvedev in European countries of developed industry and the desire of Europeans to live in houses with heating, former Russian President, Deputy Chairman of the Security Council Dmitry Medvedev wrote on Telegram.

“The whole current policy of the Europeans in the Russian direction— disgusting cocktail of arrogant rudeness, teenage infantilism and primitive stupidity,— he thinks.

The states of Europe only later remembered the “unreal” the cost of gas, oil and coal from alternative suppliers, and therefore “realized” and realized the difficulty of “sitting on three chairs,” Medvedev continued. In his opinion, “it didn’t work out beautifully”, a number of industries in the European Union risk stopping work, this caused panic among Europeans.

through the frosty window to the fading industries. True, European wise men offer to treat diarrhea with a proven medicine: increasing the supply of weapons to the Kyiv regime and the war to a victorious end. Oh well. The cold will come soon…»— wrote Medvedev.

The day before, July 25, Gazprom announced the third reduction in gas supplies to Germany via Nord Stream this summer. The volume of gas supplies decreased initially from 167 million to 100 million cubic meters. m of gas per day, and then another third. From July 27, gas pumping will drop to 33 million cubic meters. m— 20% of the design capacity of the gas pipeline.

June declines in Gazprom explained by the lack of a turbine, which was being repaired in Canada. Its removal from there was hampered by the conditions of the sanctions imposed against Russia. The decrease in pumping in July will occur due to the decommissioning of another turbine due to “the end of the period between overhauls before overhaul (in accordance with the instructions of Rostekhnadzor and taking into account the technical condition of the engine)”.

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The German authorities and the management of Siemens Energy did not agree with the explanations of Gazprom, seeing political motives rather than technical conditions in the reasons for the reduction in supplies (Moscow rejected these accusations). German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck stressed at the end of July that there were no technical reasons that could force the Russian side to reduce supplies. At the same time, he noted that the decision of Gazprom was not unexpected, but caused irritation. “They didn't even have the guts to say, 'We're in an economic war,'” Khabek pointed out.

Official Berlin fears that Russia may completely stop gas supplies via Nord Stream, even a shortage of this fuel threatens to stop market processes in Germany, Habek warned. He clarified: “We are talking about people who will lose their jobs, and regions that will lose entire industrial complexes.”

The EU countries are discussing measures to save gas consumption. According to DPA, the corresponding plan of the European Commission was agreed upon on the night of July 26. It provides for a voluntary reduction in gas consumption by 15% within eight months— from August 1 to March 31, 2023.

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Dmitry Medvedev

politician, ex-president, deputy head of the Security Council of Russia

September 14, 1965

Источник rbc.ru

Lavrov saw a “geopolitical gambit” in the status of Ukraine in the European Union

The West has moved away from the “either-or” principle to “whoever is not with us is against us,” Lavrov is sure. In his opinion, Ukraine has become an “eternal candidate” in the European Union for the role of “extras in the games” of Western countries

Granting Ukraine and Moldova the status of a candidate member of the European Union became part of the “geopolitical gambit” against Russia, these countries “destined for an unenviable fate,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in an article for Izvestia.

The minister considered that Ukraine and Moldova have become “eternal candidates” to the European Union. France initiated the creation of a European political community, but joining this organization will not bring economic benefits, the minister believes, noting: “but there will be demands for complete solidarity with the EU in its anti-Russian actions.”

“either-or”, but “who is not with us is against us”, — emphasized Lavrov.

The head of the Foreign Ministry is sure that all European countries except Russia will be invited to this association, however, Moscow was not interested in membership in it. He claims that Kyiv, Chisinau and other “courted” Brussels, the countries of the world will be “extras in the games” Western countries.

The European Commission recommended granting Ukraine and Moldova the status of candidates about a month ago— June 17. Kyiv has adopted a number of tough laws against oligarchs and implemented 70% of the EU recommendations, said the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. “Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective. We want them to live with us in the European dream,— stated in the message of the European Commission in Telegram. If reforms slow down and there is no progress in the fight against corruption, this candidate status may be withdrawn, the EC warned.

A week later, on June 23, the European Council granted Kyiv and Chisinau this status. «Historic Moment»— appreciated the head of the European Council Charles Michel.

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Russia has never been against Ukraine's accession to the European Union; this state, said President Vladimir Putin. He also criticized the “civilizational choice” thesis; Ukraine. “What kind of civilizational choice is this, sorry for the bad manners? They dug money from the Ukrainian people, hid it in banks and want to protect it, — sure the President of Russia.

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Sergey Lavrov

diplomat, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia

March 21, 1950

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The EC called the conditions for the withdrawal of the status of a candidate member of the European Union from Ukraine

Ukraine should continue reforms to combat corruption, the influence of oligarchs and support for minorities, otherwise the achievements in integration with the European Union will be canceled, the EC pointed out, recommending that it be granted candidate status

Candidate Member Status The European Union could be withdrawn from Ukraine if a number of conditions are not met, including strengthening the fight against top-level corruption and oligarchs, as well as reforming legislation regarding minorities. This is stated in the conclusion of the European Commission.

The Ukrainian authorities will also have to adopt laws on the procedure for selecting judges of the Constitutional Court, complete the selection of candidates for the creation of the High Qualifications Commission of Judges, conduct “active and effective” anti-corruption investigations, appoint new heads of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine.

The introduction of specific legislation would have to limit “undue influence” oligarchs in public and political life, however, it should be implemented in a legally justified way, the document states. The Ukrainian authorities will also have to bring the country's legislation into line with the EU directive on audiovisual media services and empower an independent media regulator, which will allow “fighting the influence of vested interests.”

“Steps towards the European Union may be canceled if the basic conditions are no longer met”, — stressed in the European Commission, adding that they will monitor the progress of Kyiv in fulfilling these conditions, a detailed report on this is scheduled for the end of this year. adherence to European values ​​and the sustainability of their own institutions that guarantee the rule of law, democracy, human rights, protection and respect for minorities.

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The European Commission recommended granting Ukraine candidate status on Friday, June 17. The head of the EC, Ursula von der Leyen, pointed out that the Ukrainian authorities have adopted tough laws against oligarchs and have implemented 70% of EU reform recommendations regarding minorities. “Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective. We want them to live with us in the European dream,— stated in the message of the EC in Telegram. The issue of the status of Ukraine will be discussed by the leaders of the EU countries at the summit at the end of next week, June 23–24.

“We have no right, after so many weeks of hostilities, to say to Ukrainians: “Come back later,” — emphasized French President Emmanuel Macron, noting, however, the process will take time. At the same time, Tbilisi considered that Georgia deserved the status of a candidate more than Ukraine. Prime Minister of the Republic Irakli Garibashvili clarified: “If the status is determined by war, we do not want war. We demand a well-deserved status.

Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that Moscow has never been against Ukraine's accession to the EU, speaking only against the “military development” of Ukraine. this country. At the same time, he criticized the thesis of “civilizational choice”; Kyiv. “The so-called civilizational choice” what is it, excuse me for bad manners, in FIG civilizational choice? They dug money from the Ukrainian people, hid it in banks and want to protect it, — Putin thinks.

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Why Hungary and Turkey interfere with the plans of the European Union and NATO

And will the two countries be able to achieve the cancellation of the initiatives criticized by Moscow The special positions of Hungary and Turkey hinder the efforts of the EU and NATO in their confrontation with Russia. What is the reason, does Budapest and Ankara have a desire to take into account the position of Moscow and how everything can end – RBC figured out

Statue of the Goddess of Europe in Brussels

On Wednesday, May 18, representatives of the EU countries will meet again in Brussels to discuss the sixth package of sanctions against Russia. But European leaders cannot expect that it will be adopted in the near future in the proposed form: the reason for this is the position of Hungary and the fact that decisions in the union are made on the basis of consensus.

A few days earlier, Turkey announced that he cannot agree to the admission of Finland and Sweden to NATO.

Why Hungary continues to insist on its veto

The sixth package contains a proposal to introduce a ban on the import of crude oil from Russia in six months, as well as on the import of Russian oil products from 2023. Even at the initial stage of discussing these measures, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic were against the oil embargo, since they are heavily dependent on energy supplies from Russia. The European Commission decided to meet them halfway and allowed Hungary and Slovakia to continue importing Russian oil until the end of 2024, and the Czech Republic— until June 2024. After that, Bratislava and Prague withdrew their objections. However, Budapest is still not ready to withdraw its veto.

The position of the government of Viktor Orban was sharply criticized at the EU ministerial meeting on 16 May. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told reporters that Hungary is holding the European Union hostage. “The whole union is being held hostage by one member state that cannot help us find a consensus,” — complained Landsbergis, specifying that the EU expected that Hungary's proposed delay would be enough for it to lift the veto.

The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, stood up for Budapest, pointing out that Hungary's objections are not political, but economic. He explained that the country is concerned about the problem of creating new infrastructure and purchasing new equipment for receiving and processing oil not from Russia, for which its refineries are designed. In addition, the rejection of Russian oil will mean that Budapest will have to purchase it from other suppliers at higher prices, which will affect the Hungarian economy.

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Viktor Orban has previously compared ditching Russian oil to “a nuclear strike on the Hungarian economy.” On the air of Kossuth Radio, he recalled that Hungary has no access to the sea, and therefore it is forced to receive oil through the pipeline. “The pipeline to Hungary starts in Russia… that's the reality,” — he stated.

Hungary's dependence on Russian energy is really significant— 60% of oil and 85% of gas the country receives from Russia. Orban said the country needs five years to convert oil refineries and other infrastructure to process raw materials from non-Russian sources. This process will require huge investments, and the increase in the cost of oil will lead to an increase in unemployment and call into question the national program to reduce public utility costs, which is largely based on low prices for Russian energy resources.

The high inflation rate in the country and the budget deficit, including the blocking by Brussels of a €8 billion tranche intended for the recovery of the Hungarian economy after the pandemic (the reason was the divergence of views between Budapest and Brussels on the rule of law), carry significant risks for the country .

Against this backdrop, on May 16, Budapest decided to raise the stakes in the game: Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said that “a complete modernization of the Hungarian energy infrastructure is needed on a scale from «15 billion to»18 billion”, later specifying that Hungary has the right to expect a new proposals from Brussels. At that time, the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, was in Budapest on a visit, but her negotiations with Orban ended in nothing.

According to the Euractiv portal, the clause on lifting the Hungarian veto from the sixth package of sanctions in exchange for economic preferences may be submitted to an informal EU summit scheduled for late May. The Financial Times quoted an unnamed European official as saying the EU should make the Hungarian prime minister a lucrative offer. “Orban is very pragmatic, it's business,” — he explained.

What is Turkey counting on in the dispute over NATO expansion

As for NATO expansion, Turkey's position has become an unexpected obstacle to the alliance between Sweden and Finland, says Asli Aydintashbash, senior political analyst at the European Council on Foreign Affairs (ECFR). Ankara cannot yet give a positive conclusion on the admission of the two new countries, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last Friday. “Scandinavian countries as guest houses for terrorist groups”, — he gave one of the reasons.

Indeed, Ankara has repeatedly expressed its dissatisfaction with the fact that many supporters of the PKK found refuge in Sweden and Finland. (PKK, classified as a terrorist organization in Turkey), as well as supporters of US-based preacher Fethullah Gülen (whom Ankara considers the organizer of the coup attempt in 2016).

On May 17, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö expressed hope that that the crisis can be overcome. “Turkey's statements have changed very quickly and become tougher in the last few days,” he said on Tuesday in an address to the Swedish parliament (quoted by Reuters).— But I am sure that with the help of constructive discussion we will solve the problem.

As Aydintashbash notes, it is not yet clear what exactly Erdogan wants— change the position of the US Congress on the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey (the deal was canceled after Ankara bought and received the Russian S-400 air defense system), get more money to support Syrian refugees or extradite political activists suspected of terrorist activities to Turkey.

“It is unlikely that Erdogan had one specific political goal in mind, but he will certainly expect to be persuaded, persuaded and rewarded for his cooperation, as he has been in the past,” concluded the ECFR analyst.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry describes relations with both northern countries in calm tones. As stated on the website of the department, relations with Sweden date back to the 17th century, when the Swedish king Charles XII, after being defeated in the Northern War by Russia in 1709, fled to the Ottoman Empire and ruled the kingdom from Bender and Edirne for five years. Diplomatic relations with Finland were established in 1924. Trade turnover with Sweden in 2020 amounted to about $2.6 billion, with Finland— approximately $1.3 billion.

The main problem is not in Finland, but in Sweden, says Al-Monitor. The kingdom has received several waves of Turkish migrants, including Kurds, as well as refugees from Turkey's neighboring countries, and the Swedish Foreign Ministry regularly criticizes Turkish military operations in Kurdish territories in Syria.

In 2019, Sweden and Finland imposed an arms embargo on Turkey due to military operations in Syria. By this time, both countries had become leaders among countries selling military goods to Ankara: Swedish military exports to Turkey in 2018 reached $30 million, Finnish exports in the same year amounted to $17 million. in the terrorist activities of immigrants (On Monday, the Turkish Ministry of Justice said that Ankara had requested the extradition of six members of the PKK from Finland and 11 from Sweden).

“Ankara's statements cause concern in Sweden, among other things, because they hit exactly one of the arguments that was cited by those who did not quite agree with joining NATO, — fear that Sweden will lose the right to vote in matters of human rights and democracy, — Paul Levine, director of the Institute for Turkish Studies at Stockholm University, told Al-Monitor.

“Based on the statements of the Turkish authorities, it can be assumed that Turkey will continue to insist on its position, will bargain for concessions from the two northern countries,— predicted in a conversation with RBC director of the Center for the Study of Modern Turkey, researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Amur Gadzhiev.— Will two countries go to give in, & mdash; this is a big question. We see that, on the contrary, there were marches against concessions, which indicates that the process will not be easy and it will not be easy for them to give in on these issues.

Other NATO countries no longer have leverage to influence Turkey so much, the expert notes, therefore, based on the previous experience of conflict situations involving the republic, one can expect, he believes, that a compromise option will appear, which will eventually be accepted by all parties.

According to Hajiyev, in the Turkish position, Ankara's intention to take into account Russia's negative position regarding the membership of Sweden and Finland in NATO is not traced.

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Why Russia changed its position on Ukraine’s accession to the European Union

Moscow has changed its position on Kyiv's accession to the European Union. Experts interviewed by RBC note that it is too early to talk about the real accession of Ukraine to the EU, but Moscow already refuses to see the nuances in Western policy

What was said in Russia about Ukraine's accession to the EU

Chapter Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov on Friday questioned the harmlessness of Ukraine's entry into the European Union. “This is the problem of Kyiv's relations with the European Union. But the harmlessness of such a desire of Kyiv raises serious doubts, & mdash; he said Friday in Dushanbe. He added that the EU has gone from “a constructive economic platform it was created to serve as an aggressive, militant player that is already declaring its ambitions far beyond the European continent.”

A day earlier, Russian Deputy Representative to the UN Dmitry Polyansky said that Moscow's position on the issue of Kyiv's entry into the European Union had changed and became similar to the position on Ukraine's entry into NATO. “I think at that time (during Russian-Ukrainian talks in Istanbul. — RBC) we were not very worried about the European Union. But the situation changed after M. Borrell's statement that “this war must be won on the battlefield.” And after the fact that the EU is the leader in the supply of arms,— Polyansky said in an interview with the British online publication UnHerd News. In March, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented on Kyiv's stated desire to gain EU membership more calmly and did not link the issue to the NATO issue. «European Union— not a military-political bloc,»— pointed out then the representative of the Kremlin.

Ukraine's membership in the EU was discussed at the talks in Istanbul, and in the provisions drawn up by the Ukrainian side, Moscow was asked not to object to Ukraine's aspirations to join the EU. Since then, however, the negotiation process has practically ceased. On May 11, Peskov, commenting on the course of negotiations with the Ukrainian side, said that they were continuing “very sluggishly and ineffectively.”

What are the prospects for Ukraine's entry into the EU

On February 28, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky signed an application for the country's accession to the European Union, after which the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, handed him a questionnaire to start negotiations on this issue. On May 11, the European Commission confirmed that it had received answers to the questionnaire from Kyiv. The official representative of the EC, Eric Mamer, during the briefing, said that the European Commission intends to present its opinion as soon as possible, based on the answers of the Ukrainian side. According to him, this should happen in June.

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In turn, French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking in Strasbourg, said that the process of Ukraine's accession to the EU could take years or even decades. “Even if we grant it the status of a candidate country tomorrow— I hope we move quickly to provide it, — even if we did, we all know only too well that the accession process will take several years, in truth, it will probably take several decades. And it's true, unless we decide to lower our accession standards and rethink the unity of our Europe, and in part the principles that we adhere to, — he said.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said that if Ukraine does not receive the status of an EU candidate country, this will mean that it has been deceived. “We're not going to put up with this,” — Kuleba said in an interview with the Financial Times.

Why Russia has changed its position

So far, it is impossible to say for sure whether there have really been fundamental changes in the Russian position on Ukraine's accession to the EU, since different points of view have been expressed regarding the interaction between Kyiv and Brussels, Andrey Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), believes. “In any case, this question is a bit theological, since at the moment we are not talking about Ukraine's entry into the European Union in full. We can only talk about including it in the number of candidate countries for entry. We must proceed from the fact that this question cannot yet be put on a practical plane,»,— he concluded.

Over the past two months, it has become clear that Russia and the EU are actually in a state of indirect war, since almost all European countries provide active military assistance to Ukraine, the editor-in-chief of the Russia in Global Affairs magazine told RBC. Fedor Lukyanov. “European countries talk a lot about it. It was in Europe that the point of view was first voiced that Russia should be defeated on the battlefield. Accordingly, Russia decided to no longer make a difference between NATO and the European Union, and the attitude towards Ukraine's integration into any European and Euro-Atlantic structures is negative, — he said. According to Lukyanov, this has little effect on anything. “If the European Union decides to accept Ukraine in some distant future, then it will accept it. Russia clearly shows that it is no longer going to distinguish any nuances in Western politics, — he concluded.

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Anti-Russian sanctions of the European Union infuriated Kiev

Ukrainian authorities are extremely unhappy with the EU's reaction to Russia's actions

Ukrainian authorities are furious because the EU is hesitant about Russia's ban on the use of the SWIFT payment system. The Ukrainian foreign minister has expressed anger that EU leaders are likely to decide not to block Russia's access to the international payment system.

Photo: pixabay.com

The EU has faced fierce objections from Kiev as European leaders appeared ready to refrain from imposing potentially the most damaging sanctions against Russia, writes The Guardian.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba expressed his anger at the fact that the heads of state and government of the EU are likely to decide not to block Russia's access to the SWIFT international payment system, through which the country receives foreign currency.

Kuleba warned that European and American politicians will “have blood on their hands” if they fail to inflict the heaviest damage on Moscow by disconnecting Russia from the so-called SWIFT payment system.

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) is used by more than 11,000 financial institutions to send secure payment orders and plays a key role in moving funds across Russia's oil and gas sector.

Removing Russia from the system is said to make virtually making it impossible for financial institutions to send money into or out of the country, with implications for both the country's oil and gas sector and its European customers.

In a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged allies to take the toughest action, warning that “the West's inaction or lack of response will have unthinkable consequences.”

“With regard to SWIFT, I think we all recognize that this is something that needs to be done together with our main allies, and that this will only succeed if it can be achieved as such, we continue these discussions,” said Johnson representative. – There are different points of view on this, and we understand that this is a challenge. But this is certainly the Prime Minister's intention, so we will continue these discussions.”

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said the EU needs to learn from the bloc's previous sanctions being “too weak.”

p>

“We don't have the luxury of being a debating club,” he says. “Discussions are useful, but we cannot always be in discussions… They need our support today, tomorrow it may be too late.”

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has said the EU must unite around tough sanctions “on Putin and Russia” if Europe is to make a difference around the world. “Now is a critical moment for the history of the European Union, the history of Europe,” said the Polish prime minister. “The whole free world is watching us, what sanctions, what reaction.”

Diplomatic sources suggested that Germany, Cyprus and Italy were among the member states that were most concerned about the move at this stage, arguing that some leverage needed to be maintained.

“Somebody started a war, and we want this war to end here and now,” one of the EU diplomats explained caution about SWIFT. “You always have to have some doors open to be able to have a dialogue to stop the war.”

A crack in the united front with Ukraine appeared as EU leaders convened in Brussels for what promised to be one of the toughest for a generation, as the bloc has the potential to convincingly strike at Russia's interests, The Guardian notes.

Arriving At the summit, Scholz confirmed that he was against Russia's disconnection from the international payment system. He said: “It is very important that we agree on the measures that have been prepared and leave everything else for a situation where it may be necessary to go beyond this.”

After a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that EU sanctions contribute to the degradation of Russian industry, push the Russian economy into recession and block the export of essential components.

“These sanctions will suppress Russia's economic growth increase the cost of borrowing, drive up inflation, increase capital outflows, and gradually destroy its industrial base,” she said. “We want to cut off Russian industry from technologies that are sorely needed today to build the future.”

Von der Leyen said: “Our measures will weaken Russia's technological position in key areas where the elite make most of their money. And it ranges from high-tech components to cutting-edge software. “It will also seriously worsen the Russian economy in all areas in the future. Let me be very clear: it is President Putin who will have to explain this to his citizens. I know that the Russian people do not want this war.”

According to a leaked draft EU summit communiqué, Belarus will also be subject to a package of sanctions that has yet to be prepared for its role in facilitating Russia's invasion from its territory.

But at a meeting of EU ambassadors, the consensus on the need for a major package of sanctions in the financial and the energy sectors has faced a lack of support for what many see as the most disruptive actions, both for Moscow and for European countries with Russia's closest trade ties.

Some diplomats in Brussels say Russia can find ways get around the SWIFT access ban and that other measures would be just as important in putting pressure on the Kremlin.

More hawkish EU capitals have also privately raised concerns that a number of key oligarchs will not be covered by the upcoming EU package.

Brussels is irritated that the British government hasn't been aggressive enough to hit oligarchs like Roman Abramovich, whose private years old was reportedly traced earlier on Thursday as he flew from Monaco to Russia, writes The Guardian.

Источник www.mk.ru

Ukraine has requested additional financial support from the European Union

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Ukraine turned to the EU for additional financial assistance. This is a long-term macro-financial program that will ensure sustainable financing of the country for the next few years, Yuriy Butsa, the Commissioner for Public Debt Management of Ukraine, said in an interview with Bloomberg.

The administration of Volodymyr Zelensky is already negotiating with the EU about the size of the financial assistance package and the conditions for receiving it. Presumably, this is more than € 1.2 billion, which Ukraine will be able to receive in the next three years in parallel with a new program of support from the International Monetary Fund.

In the coming weeks, the EU executive body will discuss support for Ukraine with IMF officials. to make sure it meets the conditions set by the Foundation.

Источник www.mk.ru

Belarus says police fired live rounds at protesters as EU weighs sanctions

Belarus says police fired live rounds at protesters as EU weighs sanctions

People talk to Belarusian law enforcement officers near the site where a protester died during a rally following the presidential election in Minsk, Belarus, August 11, 2020.

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Stringer/Reuters

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Belarus’ interior ministry said on Wednesday that police had fired live rounds at protesters in the city of Brest and arrested more than 1,000 people nationwide, intensifying a crackdown that has prompted the European Union to weigh new sanctions on Minsk.

Security forces have clashed with protesters for three consecutive nights after strongman President Alexander Lukashenko claimed a landslide re-election victory in a vote on Sunday that his opponents say was rigged.

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets again on Wednesday. Women dressed in white formed a human chain outside a covered food market in the capital Minsk, while a crowd also gathered outside a prison where protesters were being kept.

Women take part in a demonstration against police violence during the recent rallies of opposition supporters following the presidential election in Minsk, Belarus, August 12, 2020.

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Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters

Lukashenko has sought better ties with the West amid strained relations with traditional ally Russia. Brussels lifted sanctions, imposed over Lukashenko’s human rights record, in 2016 but will consider new measures this week.

A former Soviet collective farm manager, the 65-year-old Lukashenko has ruled Belarus for more than a quarter of a century but faces anger over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, a sluggish economy and human rights.

“I have to come today to support those who go out at night,” said Elena, a protester speaking outside the covered market. “It’s not only my vote that was stolen from me, but 20 years of my life. The authorities must go.”

Clashes

The Belarusian interior ministry said 51 protesters and 14 police officers had been injured in clashes on Tuesday night.

In Brest, a city in southwestern Belarus on the Polish border, police fired live rounds after some protesters it said were armed with metal bars ignored warning shots fired in the air, the ministry said. One person was injured.

Lukashenko has accused the protesters of being in cahoots with foreign backers from Russia and elsewhere.

Belarusian state media this week broadcast footage of a van in Minsk with Russian number plates saying it was packed with ammunition and tents.

Tracked down by Reuters, Valdemar Grubov, the van’s owner, said he was a film producer and that the vehicle contained only his own personal effects.

He said he had been unable to retrieve the van due to COVID-19 restrictions and was not involved in any foreign plot.

Lukashenko’s rival in Sunday’s vote, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a 37-year-old former English teacher, has fled to neighboring Lithuania to join her children there. She urged her compatriots not to oppose the police and to avoid putting their lives in danger.

By Andrei Makhovsky/Reuters

Mourning and anger amid devastation after Beirut explosion; One-third of Afghanistan may have had COVID-19; 75-years since Hiroshima bombing

Mourning and anger amid devastation after Beirut explosion; One-third of Afghanistan may have had COVID-19; 75-years since Hiroshima bombing

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The World staff

A damage is seen after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020.

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Still reeling from the massive explosion that flattened Beirut’s port on Tuesday, many Lebanese are turning toward anger and frustration over corrupt Lebanese officials for the presence of a warehouse full of ammonium nitrate at the center of the blast. French President Emmanuel Macron visited Beirut today and warned that without serious reforms the country would “continue to sink.”

The blast, which killed at least 137 people and injured more than 5,000, appears to have been caused by an accidental fire that ignited the warehouse at the city’s port, according to Lebanese President Michel Aoun. The devastation in Beirut — with buildings across the city damaged and more than 250,000 people displaced from their homes, forced to move in with relatives and friends — is compounded by the ongoing pandemic and an economic crisis.

What The World is following

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said test results for a man who is possibly North Korea’s first case of the coronavirus are “inconclusive,” even as the country moved to isolate 3,635 of his apparent contacts. Pyongyang declared a state of emergency on July 26.

In Afghanistan, the country’s health minister said an antibody survey revealed almost one-third of the nation may have been infected with the coronavirus. The research was conducted by WHO and Johns Hopkins University. While the testing showed Kabul and other urban areas were worst affected, it is believed a significant percentage of cases have been asymptomatic.

And, with Hiroshima marking the 75th anniversary of the 1945 nuclear blast on Thursday, the survivors were a diminished presence due to the threat of the coronavirus and their old age. Hibakusha, the name for the survivors of those atomic tragedies, have been a force for peace and strong advocates for a nuclear-free world. The two bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed at least 200,000 people.

From The WorldJohn Bolton: Trump doesn’t understand ‘the gravity of responsibility’

Then-National Security Adviser John Bolton listens as US President Donald Trump holds a Cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, DC, on April 9, 2018.

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Kevin Lamarque/File Photo/Reuters

The former White House national security adviser tells The World’s host Marco Werman that the president is not “very well-informed,” which means he “doesn’t really see the bigger-picture implications” of foreign policy decisions he makes on his gut feelings rather than intelligence.

NHL players kneel to protest police brutality

Andre Burakovsky #95 of the Colorado Avalanche battles with Matt Dumba #24 of the Minnesota Wild during the third period of the exhibition game prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on July 29, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta.

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Andy Devlin/NHLI via USA Today Sports

After a four-month delay, National Hockey League players are back on the ice, bringing social justice movements with them.

“For those unaffected by systematic racism, or unaware, I’m sure that some of you believe that this topic has garnered too much attention during the last couple months,” Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba said through the loudspeakers at Rogers Place arena Aug. 1 in Edmonton, Canada. But, he added, “Black Lives Matter. Breona Taylor’s life matters. Hockey is a great game, but it could be a whole lot greater, and it starts with all of us.”

Bright spot

A trade deal between Canada and the European Union may collapse over cheese … specifically the grillable, briny (and “rubber delicacy,”) halloumi from Cyprus. Government officials from the Mediterranean island recently voted against the EU trade deal with Canada over a lack of protections for halloumi raising many questions over the potential of a single EU government sinking a deal for the entire block.

I am, admittedly, biased but Cyprus halloumi is *chef’s kiss*. https://t.co/vhRKLJsang

— Christina Frangou (@cfrangou) August 5, 2020In case you missed itListen: Lebanon declares a state of emergency after explosion

A view of the site of an explosion in the port of Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020.

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Bilal Hussein/AP

After Tuesday’s explosion in Beirut, Lebanon’s government has declared a two-week state of emergency. Emergency crews are still on the scene after nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate produced the blast that killed more than 100 people with several thousand more wounded. And, what would President Trump’s foreign policy look like in a second term? Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton offers his thoughts. Plus, high-resolution images of poop stains via satellites show that there are nearly 20% more emperor penguin colonies than previously thought on the icy continent of Antarctica.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The World’s Latest Edition podcast using your favorite podcast player: RadioPublicApple PodcastsStitcherSoundcloudRSS.

EU may ban US travelers; Latin America sees COVID-19 surge; Palestinian officials call for probe into killing of youth

EU may ban US travelers; Latin America sees COVID-19 surge; Palestinian officials call for probe into killing of youth

By
The World staff

A man sits on his rickshaw waiting for clients, as Spain officially reopens the borders amid the coronavirus outbreak, in Barcelona, Spain, June 21, 2020.

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Nacho Doce/Reuters

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Top of The World — our morning news round up written by editors at The World. Subscribe here.

Backpacking through Europe will likely not be an option for US travelers this summer. As the European Union looks to reopen in July, the bloc is working to prevent additional outbreaks of the novel coronavirus by blocking entry from countries that have had unsuccessful or haphazard responses to the pandemic — including the US. Visitors from China, however, are likely to be welcomed.

Travel bans have become synonymous with the Trump administration. The president sparked ire in March after announcing a ban against most European travelers, though that move did not prevent the US from becoming an epicenter of the virus, with more than 2.3 million cases reported.   

On the EU’s draft list of banned travelers, the US keeps company with Brazil and Russia, which are also deemed unsafe by the EU’s epidemiological criteria. In all three of these countries, leadership downplayed the virus and responses have been chaotic. This week, a Brazilian judge ordered President Jair Bolsonaro, known for his blasé attitude about COVID-19, to wear a mask in Brasília or risk fines, reminding the president that he is not above the law. 

What The World is following

The novel coronavirus is accelerating in Latin America and the Caribbean; official deaths surpassed 100,000 Tuesday, though the true number is likely much higher. The virus is plunging millions into poverty, and criminal corruption scandals are threatening more lives. And as the virus surges in impoverised regions, aid agencies are scrambling to deliver a lifesaving resource: oxygen

Palestinian officials have called for an international probe into the killing of Ahmed Erekat after Israeli soldiers shot the 27-year-old man and prevented medical aid from reaching him for more than an hour. Israeli officials say they suspected Erekat to be involved in a car-ramming attack. His family disputes the allegations, and human rights groups have condemned Israel’s excessive use of force.

Tennis star Novak Djokovic tested positive for the coronavirus after organizing a tournament in Croatia. And, Major League Baseball announced plans to open the 2020 season in late July. 

From The WorldAmid global protests, Jamaicans confront their own problems with policing

People hold posters as they take part in a demonstration against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, at the Emancipation Park in Kingston, Jamaica, June 6, 2020.

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Gilbert Bellamy/Reuters 

Jamaica shares the United States’ history of colonialism and slavery, and now has one of the highest rates of fatal police shootings. Activists there are thinking about what the global moment of police accountability could mean for their country.

The World is hosting a Facebook Live on the Latino conservative vote titled. “The Latino Republican: Issues and influence in the 2020 election.”

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Graphic by Maria Elena Romero/The World

In the 2018 midterm election, about 30% of Latinos in the US backed a Republican candidate. But conservative Latinos are not a monolithic group, and they do not vote as a bloc. 

The World’s Daisy Contreras will moderate a Facebook Live conversation on Latino conservatives today, June 24 at noon Eastern time. Join us for the discussion: “The Latino Republican: Issues and influence in the 2020 election.”

Morning meme

Yesterday, we noted that in Spain, plants filled an opera house. In France? Minions take to the cinema. We assume Kevin, Stuart and Bob are watching “Despicable Me.”

Minions toys are seen on cinema chairs to maintain social distancing between spectators at a MK2 cinema in Paris as Paris’ cinemas reopen doors to the public following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in France, June 22, 2020. 

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Benoit Tessier/Reuters

In case you missed itListen: Trump celebrates the border wall

US President Donald Trump arrives aboard Air Force One to visit a nearby US-Mexico border wall site in Yuma, Arizona, June 23, 2020.

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Carlos Barria/Reuters

President Donald Trump visits Arizona on Tuesday where he will make a stop in Yuma to celebrate the 200th mile of construction of the US-Mexico border wall. Most of the construction has been replacement segments. And, a monument to Winston Churchill in central London has become a flashpoint between Black Lives Matter demonstrators and far-right protesters. Also, after three months of darkness, the stage lights at a Barcelona opera house were flipped back on, suggesting a return to normalcy. But as musicians took the stage for a live concert, they looked out at an audience filled with potted plants.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The World’s Latest Edition podcast using your favorite podcast player: RadioPublicApple PodcastsStitcherSoundcloudRSS.

Love is blind: How Germany’s long romance with cars led to the nation’s biggest clean energy failure

Love is blind: How Germany’s long romance with cars led to the nation’s biggest clean energy failure

By
Dan Gearino

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Cars jam on the motorway A8 between Salzburg and Munich near Irschenberg, southern Germany, July 20, 2019.

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A longer version of this story was originally published by InsideClimate News.

The night before the leaders of the European Union met in Brussels in 2013, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a phone call.

After more than a year of talks, the EU nations had agreed on a plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks.

But Merkel, the leader of the largest and most economically powerful of those countries, had a last-minute change of heart.

In a call to Ireland’s prime minister, Enda Kenny, the European Union president, Merkel persuaded him to delay a vote on the transportation issue. Using threats to close auto plants in other European nations and promises to cooperate on other issues, Germany then lobbied its way to a plan with more favorable terms for its auto industry.

“It was, for everybody, shocking,” said Rebecca Harms, a former member of the European Parliament from the Alliance 90/The Greens party, who was representing Germany in Brussels.

Germany’s transition to clean energy has had successes that can serve as models for other countries of how to combat climate change. But one of the most important lessons comes from a failure: The nation’s decades-long unwillingness to cut emissions from cars and trucks.

Related: What Germany’s energy revolution can teach the US

From 1990 to 2019, Germany made substantial progress in reducing emissions from electricity production. But Germans’ love affair with cars and the auto industry’s political clout meant that during the same period, the country made almost no headway in cutting the transportation sector’s emissions, which represent about one-fifth of total emissions.

The German government repeatedly deferred to the auto industry, wary of doing anything that might affect manufacturing jobs in the country’s No. 1 export and raise prices for consumers. Whether in national legislation or with the European Union, the government long acted as an advocate rather than a regulator of these corporate giants.

The result was dissonance: Germany nourished wind and solar power and democratized its electricity system through local cooperatives. At the same time, it was burning gasoline and diesel with abandon. The failure to cut vehicle emissions was severe enough to derail progress on meeting climate goals for the whole economy.

Last summer, I went to Germany to see where the energy transition stood now. I did not expect that I would spend so much time talking about cars.

I learned that the struggle to cut auto emissions is Germany’s great unsolved problem, and the process of addressing it is just beginning, a shift that is at once cultural, political and economic.

The United States faces its own long-term challenges in cutting transportation emissions, and can learn from the German example.

“The bigger lessons are really in the failure stories,” said Jonas Meckling, a University of California, Berkeley, professor of energy and environmental policy, who previously worked as a senior advisor for the German environment ministry.

One lesson, he said, is that an energy transition is not monolithic. It is made up of a series of challenges, and governments need strategies for each major sector of the economy. But even more important, he said, the leaders need to build and then maintain public support for making changes in each sector. And that gets complicated in a country where the love of cars runs deep, and speed is almost a religion.

In an energy transition, a (large) oversight

Germany began its Energiewende, or energy transition, in earnest in 2000, led by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and a center-left coalition of Social Democrats and Alliance 90/The Greens.

The new leaders made rapid changes, but they were focused on the country’s largest emissions source, the electricity sector. The moves led to a boom in renewable energy and an ability for local communities to control projects and benefit from them. The transportation sector, however, was almost ignored.

In 2005, voters gave the center-right Chistian Democrats a plurality in the parliament, led by the new chancellor, Angela Merkel, who would turn out to be a staunch defender of the auto industry’s interests.

German chancellor Angela Merkel stands next to a VW car during the opening of the Frankfurt Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany, Sept. 14, 2017.

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Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

Over the next few years, a pattern emerged, in which Germany did little at the national level to deal with transportation emissions and also worked to weaken rules being considered by the European Union.

In 2007, the European Union enacted its first mandatory emissions rules for vehicles, a plan that would have been more stringent if Merkel’s government had not successfully pushed to set the standards at a level amenable to Germany’s auto industry.

Those standards took effect in 2009, in the middle of a global economic downturn. Environmental advocates were pleased to see early evidence that mandatory rules seemed to be working in a way that voluntary rules had not.

And they were eager to get back to the table to update the rules and make them more stringent, a process that came to a head in 2013.

Dorothee Saar is head of the transportation and air quality for a prominent German environmental group.

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Courtesy of Deutsche Umwelthilfe

Dorothee Saar, head of transportation policy for Deutsche Umwelthilfe, a leading German environmental group, participated in more than a year of negotiations in which environmental advocates and auto industry representatives worked on the details with policymakers from member states, including Germany.

The deal they reached was a fair compromise, she said, with rules that were not as tough as environmental groups would have liked, but clearly a step in the right direction.

Then, out of nowhere, Merkel intervened. She phoned various heads of state to ask them to join her in pushing to reopen the negotiations.

Saar learned of the sudden change of plans from a newspaper.

“What a mess,” she said, remembering her reaction.

Merkel’s actions had short-circuited the regular process of EU law making. Reopening the negotiations, however, only led to minor changes to the agreement. Six months later, the sides agreed on a plan to impose tougher emissions rules by 2021 instead of 2020, with new provisions that would give automakers credit for electric vehicles that would count toward offsetting emissions for other models.

Harms, the former European Parliament member, now thinks Merkel’s actions affected the credibility of the process in a way that ended up doing much more damage than the changes to the policy.

In response to questions from InsideClimate News about Merkel’s role in the 2013 negotiations and the criticism that she has been too close to the auto industry, a spokesman for the Merkel government said the chancellor “maintains working relationships to all major sectors of the German economy.” He added that the EU rules for carbon emissions from vehicles, including those passed since 2013, set a “global benchmark.”

That Germany was a leader in supporting renewable energy but also an adversary of dealing with transportation emissions might seem contradictory. Yet, inside the country, it made sense.

“Our economy still is dominated by the mobility sector, mainly by the German automotive industry and the suppliers,” said Christian Hochfeld, director of Agora Verkehrswende, a Berlin think tank that focuses on clean transportation policy.

Transportation emissions, he said, are “the elephant in the room” when it comes to Germany seriously addressing climate change.

Auto manufacturers, including parts suppliers, employ more than 800,000 Germans, making the industry an economic powerhouse. Those numbers alone would be enough to wield political influence. But the industry also has plants in nearly every German state, giving it local and national power.

In 2015, though, this bedrock industry was about to squander its goodwill.

Deconstructing ‘Dieselgate’

The German government’s efforts to protect the auto industry included staying out of the way of the growth strategy of its largest automaker, Volkswagen.

In 2015, Volkswagen was eight years into a corporate plan to increase its annual sales from the 6.2 million vehicles it sold in 2007 to 10 million vehicles, a number likely to make the company the world’s leading automaker.

Volkswagen aimed to grow in the United States by competing in the SUV segment, and by marketing its diesel vehicles as good for the environment. The catchphrase for the company was “clean diesel.”

While it was true that Volkswagen’s diesel engines were fuel efficient, with low carbon dioxide emissions, diesel vehicles emitted high levels of nitrogen oxide, a major contributor to air pollution.

To sell diesels in the United States and meet air quality regulations, Volkswagen needed to install equipment to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. But this equipment also harmed the vehicles’ performance, making the cars feel sluggish when they were driven.

So the company cheated. Its engineers developed software that could detect when a car was driving onto a lab platform for emissions testing and would then engage pollution controls. On the open road, however, the vehicles spewed nitrogen oxide at levels up to 40 times legal limits.

The scheme might have gone undetected if not for a small group of researchers from West Virginia University that did tests of various brands and vehicles to see how emissions in the lab compared to emissions on the road. After several tests, it was clear something was amiss with the Volkswagen cars.

Volkswagen initially deflected, then blustered, accusing the testers of making mistakes. But the company had been caught, and the evidence continued to accumulate, exposing wrongdoing by other automakers, as well.

Merkel urged Volkswagen and other companies to fully disclose what they had done.

“I am just as disgusted with this deception as you are, with this cheating of customers,” Merkel said in a 2017 interview.

Longtime observers of German politics and business could see signs that the government and the auto industry were no longer in lockstep, setting the stage for another round of European Union talks about increasing vehicle emissions standards in 2018.

The negotiations did not play out as they had before. Other countries pushed harder for aggressive action, and were less deferential to Germany. The result was a compromise, but one that went further than ever before.

Under the new rules, adopted in December 2018, countries are required to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from new cars by 15 percent by 2025 and 37.5 percent by 2030, compared to a 2021 baseline.

A change of heart

Volkswagen soon demonstrated that it was ahead of its government in recognizing that the future of the auto industry lay in electric vehicles (EV).

Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess rolled out a new strategy in March 2019, announcing an increase in the number of planned EV models and a new goal of selling 22 million EVs in the next 10 years, up from the previous goal of 15 million in the same period.

“Volkswagen will change fundamentally,” Diess said at a news conference at the company’s headquarters. “Some of you may still be rubbing your eyes in amazement, but there’s no question this supertanker is picking up speed.”

Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess speaks at a news conference in March 2019, announcing a major increase in electric vehicle production.

Credit:

Volkswagen

Germany’s other leading automakers, Daimler and BMW, also were increasing their emphasis on EVs. With the automakers moving in this direction, the German government was running out of reasons not to pursue national legislation to reduce vehicle emissions.

In December, Merkel’s governing coalition passed legislation designed to accelerate the country’s progress in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Among its many provisions, the law included Germany’s first-ever carbon tax for transportation, which will increase the cost of motor fuels such as gasoline and diesel when it takes effect next year.

Breaking the chains

As bad as the Volkswagen scandal was, it may ultimately have saved the company and, by helping to enact more aggressive vehicle emissions rules, provided much-needed momentum for the German energy transition.

Christian Hochfeld is director of Agora Verkehrswende, a Berlin think tank that focuses on environmental issues related to transportation.

Credit:

Courtesy of Agora Verkehrswende

“Without ‘Dieselgate,’ the old management would still be in today,” said Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, an auto analyst and former director of the automotive research center at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, “and they would still be just saying ‘We have the best diesels.’”

Hochfeld, director of Agora Verkehrswende, the Berlin think tank, added, “The diesel scandal broke a lot of chains between the policymakers and the car industry and it also broke a lot of chains between German people and the car industry, because they lost their trust and they lost their pride in this industry.”

Even Volkswagen can see that the scandal has led to positive changes.

“The diesel crisis, the scandal, was a loud and clear call for action,” said Ralf Pfitzner, Volkswagen’s head of sustainability, in a phone interview. “It’s now helped us to be at the forefront of electrification.”

Environmental advocates are cautiously hopeful that this change is enduring, part of a broader shift that could turn around what has been the greatest failure of the country’s energy transition.

‘Travel bubbles’: Who’s in and who’s out of the plan to save global tourism

'Travel bubbles': Who’s in and who’s out of the plan to save global tourism

"Travel bubbles" are popping up around the world in an attempt to revitalize tourism economies.

By
Bianca Hillier

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Passengers wait for a regional train at the main train station in Berlin during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Berlin, Germany, June 10, 2020.

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The coronavirus pandemic has brought leisure travel to a standstill. International tourism could decline by up to 80% this year, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization. Now, just as the Northern Hemisphere enters the summer season, governments around the world are trying to revitalize their tourism economies.

“The idea to start reallowing travel is not to open up all borders to everybody, but that countries form free travel zones,” said Per Block, an Oxford University researcher in social mobility. 

“Free travel zones” — also known as “corona corridors” and “travel bubbles” — are agreements with neighboring regions that allow for travel across borders for non-essential trips without quarantining upon arrival.

Related: Baltic ‘bubble’ looks to reopen regional travel

Countries don’t need to have zero cases of COVID-19 to form a travel bubble, but all countries involved should be at a similar stage of reopening, Block said.

“Travel is slowly being allowed again, even though their caseload is nowhere near zero.”

Per Block, researcher, Oxford University

“That’s what’s happening in many European countries,” Block said. “Travel is slowly being allowed again, even though their caseload is nowhere near zero.”

A report last month from the European Commission recommends this strategy for European Union member-states. Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal are among the countries that have agreed to opening their borders to travelers from the EU. Norway and Denmark, meanwhile, have opened their borders just to each other, leaving other Scandinavian countries out of immediate plans.

Beyond Europe, travel bubbles are also popping up. People in Singapore and select Chinese provinces can now travel for business without having to quarantine for 14 days. Travelers will be subject to COVID-19 tests before and after flying, and will be required to use an app that tracks their movements during the trip.

Tourists pose for photos at a Three Sisters rock formation lookout in Blue Mountains National Park in the wake of regional travel re-opening as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions are eased in New South Wales, in Katoomba, Australia, June 5, 2020.

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Loren Elliott/Reuters

Australia and New Zealand were among the first to discuss the idea of a travel bubble. Both countries have been praised for their handling of the pandemic, and New Zealand even announced zero active cases of the disease this week.

Related: New Zealand is free of COVID-19

But New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says Kiwis aren’t ready to welcome in Aussies just yet.

“We need to be assured that when we open up to Australia, we can do that with confidence.”

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand prime minister 

“We need to be assured that when we open up to Australia, we can do that with confidence. There are still cases in Australia. So we do need to be careful,” Ardern said at a press conference on Monday. “They’re not quite in the position New Zealand is in.”

The European Commission shares that caution. A report this week announced that travelers coming from outside the EU will not be allowed into EU member states for non-essential travel through June 30. Spokesperson Sonya Gospodinova says a plan to loosen the travel restrictions is being developed.

“We are looking ahead to resuming the travel from outside the EU very shortly,” Gospodinova said. “Possibly in July.”

Related: After lockdown, Milan plans to open streets to cyclists, pedestrians

Like the kind made of soap and water, travel bubbles are fragile. The United States has one of the worst infection rates in the world, and the lack of widespread testing and contact tracing might doom its chances of being invited into any travel bubble at this point — even with its closest neighbors.

“I think it’s simply inarguable that we in Canada stand to gain very little by opening the border to the United States.”

Amir Attaran, professor, University of Ottawa

“I think it’s simply inarguable that we in Canada stand to gain very little by opening the border to the United States,” said Amir Attaran, a professor of law and epidemiology at the University of Ottawa. “I don’t particularly think Canada is a success to which the United States should compare itself. We have failed too. We just have not failed as badly as you have.”

Related: Niagara Falls off-limits to Americans as US-Canada border is closed

Those in favor of reopening the border point to Canada’s reliance on the US for tourism. According to the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, nearly 70% of people visiting the country come from the US. But Attaran says the marketplace can’t operate without a healthy population.

“Americans need to get quite realistic about this,” he said. “Unless you get this disease under control quickly, it’s not just the end of your economy — it’s the end of your country, really.”

WHO chief promises review of coronavirus response, China defends its performance

WHO chief promises review of coronavirus response, China defends its performance

Director-General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, February 2020.

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Denis Balibouse/Reuters/File Photo

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The head of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday an independent evaluation of the global coronavirus response would be launched as soon as possible during a virtual meeting of the WHO’s decision-making body, the World Health Assembly.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, facing global criticism over his county’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, defended China’s handling of the crisis but also backed the WHO’s review.

US President Donald Trump has fiercely questioned the WHO’s performance during the pandemic and led international criticism of China’s handling of the early stages of the crisis.

Tedros, who has always promised a post-pandemic review, said it would come “at the earliest appropriate moment” and provide recommendations for future preparedness.

“We all have lessons to learn from the pandemic. Every country and every organisation must examine its response and learn from its experience. WHO is committed to transparency, accountability and continuous improvement,” Tedros said.

The review must encompass responsibility of “all actors in good faith,” he said.

“The risk remains high and we have a long road to travel,” Tedros added, saying preliminary tests in some countries showed that at most 20% of populations had contracted the disease but most places that less than 10%.

Related: Is 2020 an economic write-off?

A resolution drafted by the European Union called for an independent evaluation of the WHO’s performance and appeared to have won consensus backing among the health body’s 194 states.

China has previously opposed calls for a review of the origin and spread of the coronavirus, but Xi signalled Beijing would be amenable to an impartial evaluation of the global response once the pandemic is brought under control.

“This work needs a scientific and professional attitude, and needs to be led by the WHO. And the principles of objectivity and fairness need to be upheld,” he told the meeting via video.

Calling the pandemic the most serious global public health emergency since the end of World War Two, Xi said: “All along we have acted with openness and transparency and responsibility.”

Wildlife origins

A draft of the EU resolution made no mention of China.

WHO and most experts say the virus is believed to have emerged in a market selling wildlife in the central city of Wuhan late last year.

A draft text of the EU resolution urges Tedros to initiate an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the  response to COVID-19 under the WHO “at the earliest appropriate moment.”

Diplomats said the United States, which suspended its funding of the WHO during the crisis, was unlikely to block a consensus backing the resolution.

But it could “dissociate” itself from sections referring to intellectual property rights for drugs and vaccines, and to continued provision of services for sexual and reproductive health during the pandemic, they said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the WHO “irreplaceable.” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Africa affirms its “full support,” but assistance to the continent should include debt relief and help with diagnostics, drugs and medical supplies.

Barbados’ prime minister said Caribbean states need a restructuring of debt or a debt moratorium to “provide certainty to both borrower and lender” during the pandemic.

By Stephanie Nebehay and Emma Farge/Reuters