EU calls for better implementation of anti-money laundering rules

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epa05925273 Fake Euro notes hang on a washing line during a protest action against money laundering in front of the Parliament offices in Berlin, Germany, 24 April 2017. Various associations call for an improvement in the law as they demonstrate before the finance committee debates on the implementation of the European guidelines on money laundery. According to them the German Federal law is lax on tax evasion and corruption. EPA/FELIPE TRUEBA

The European Commission adopted on 24 July a Communication and four reports that will support national authorities in better addressing money laundering and terrorist financing risks.

The package will serve as a basis for future policies on strengthening the EU anti-money laundering framework.

The reports stress the need for full implementation of the anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing directives.

While significant actions have been taken by national authorities, more remains to be done, particularly in the internal mechanisms, the supervisory actions, and other structural reforms.

Juncker Plan to support investment fund in Poland

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epa06896202 European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Investment Bank (EIB) President Werner Hoyer (not pictured) give a press conference at the end of a meeting to announce that the Juncker plan exceeds its initial target of 315 billion euros of investment at the European commission in Brussels, Belgium, 18 July 2018. EPA-EFE/STEPHANIE LECOCQ

The European Investment Fund is investing in Cogito Fund I, a Polish fund set up by Cogito Capital. This investment is supported by the Juncker Plan’s European Fund for Strategic Investments.

The fund has raised €55 million to finance late- and growth-stage software, fin-tech, and mobility companies.

The Polish fund will invest in companies in Central Europe that have the potential to expand into other European markets and the United States. Other investors in this fund are funds managed by the Polish Development Fund, and private investors.

As of June 2019, the Juncker Plan has mobilized nearly €410 billion of additional investment, including €18.1 billion in Poland.

EU’s General Data Protection Regulation shows good results

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epa06053460 A mirror reflects a computer screen displaying binary code in Taipei, Taiwan, 28 June 2017. Kaspersky Lab reported that the malware, despite resembling 'Petya' malware that affected computers last year, is believed to be a new type of ransomware, which the cybersecurity company called 'ExPetr'. The ransomware has reportedly affected mostly Ukraine and Russia and several cases were also found in Poland, Italy, Britain, Germany, France, the US and several other countries, with around 2,000 cases reported so far. The ransomware has reportedly affected US pharmaceutical giant Merck, Russia's oil producer Rosneft, Ukrainian central bank, Spanish food company Mondelez, Australia's Cadbury chocolate factory and French shipping company TNT, among other global companies. EPA/RITCHIE B. TONGO

The European Commission has published on 24 July a report about the impact of the EU data protection rules, and how their implementation can be improved, one year after the entry into application of the General Data Protection Regulation, which is a set of rules with a common EU approach to the protection of personal data.

The report concludes that the new data protection rules have achieved many of their objectives. As indicated by a Eurobarometer survey published in May, the GDPR has made EU citizens increasingly aware of data protection rules and of their rights.

According to the report, most national authorities have set up the necessary legal framework, and convergence towards high data protection standards is progressing at international level.

The Commission also sets out concrete steps to further strengthen the application of the rules by monitoring the national authorities’ compliance with the EU Regulation, by helping companies increase the security of their data, by strengthening the role of national data protection authorities, and by using the EU data protection standard as a reference point.

The protection of personal data is a fundamental right in the European Union.

GE reveals parts of ‘the world’s most powerful offshore wind turbine’

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GE Renewable Energy, a subsidiary of General Electric based in Paris, revealed on 22 July the first manufactured components of the Haliade-X 12 MW offshore wind turbine at its production site in Saint-Nazaire, France.

The first nacelle revealed on 22 July will be shipped from Saint-Nazaire to Rotterdam-Maasvlakte in the Netherlands over the coming weeks, where its components will be assembled into the Haliade-X 12 MW prototype to be tested there, GE said in a press release, adding that the prototype will be installed on land to simplify access for testing. This initial phase is designed to allow GE Renewable Energy to obtain the data required to receive its type certification—a key component prior to commercializing the product in 2021.

In parallel, a second Haliade-X 12 MW nacelle is currently being assembled at Saint-Nazaire, prior to dispatch to the ORE Catapult test centre at Blyth, in the United Kingdom, in the coming months, GE said, adding that the nacelle will be testing in actual operational conditions to reduce the time required to confirm its performance levels and reliability.

“Today’s presentation of the first ever Haliade-X 12 MW nacelle at Saint-Nazaire is the start of a key new phase in our ongoing commitment to structuring the offshore wind turbine segment,” GE Renewable Energy CEO Jérôme Pécresse said. “This project clearly reflects our ability to invest and innovate, supporting our customers on an ultra-competitive market in exponential growth. Thanks to the Haliade-X 12 MW, we are proud to prepare for the future of the offshore wind industry from Saint-Nazaire, a benchmark production site for offshore wind international projects,” he added.

The Saint-Nazaire production site is dedicated to manufacturing offshore wind turbine generators and nacelles and has already assembled over 80 Haliade 150-6MW wind turbines since opening in December 2014. Significant projects include the development of turbines for Block Island, the first ever offshore wind farm in the US, the Xinghua Gulf project in China, and the Merkur offshore wind farm in Germany.

According to GE, the Haliade-X 12 MW’s market-leading nacelle and 107-metre long blades will allow GE Renewable Energy customers to generate more power more effectively, in an environment in which they face increased competition. The turbine can generate 67 GWh in gross annual energy, providing enough clean energy to power 16,000* European households and save up to 42 million metric tons of CO2, which is the equivalent of the emissions generated by 9,000 vehicles in one year alone.

According to GE Renewable Energy Offshore Wind CEO John Lavelle his company is on track to start commercialising this new product very shortly. “Once we have received the type certificate (2020), we will be ready to start mass production and send out the first commercial units by mid-2021. Haliade-X 12MW is an outstanding and strategic project for GE. We aim to meet the requirements of our customers by providing a more affordable and competitive energy source,” he said.

Selmayr appointed head of EU representation in Vienna, remains as ‘special adviser’ to Juncker

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epa07455246 European commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (L) and Secretary-General of the Commission Martin Selmayr (R) during a round table at the European Council Summit in Brussels, Belgium, 22 March 2019. European Union leaders on 21 March agreed to extend Brexit untill 22 May 2019 if British MPs will approve Brexit agreement next week. If British Prime Minister May will lose the vote on Brexit deal for the third time, the delay will be until 12 April. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET

The outgoing Secretary-General of the European Commission, Martin Selmayr, has been appointed to Vienna as head of the EU’s delegation in Austria while also being named as a special advisor to EU President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Before taking up duties in Vienna on 1 November, Selmayr will continue acting as an adviser to Juncker on “important strategic matters,” according to the Commission’s announcement, which also stated, “In this function, Selmayr will continue to advise European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on important strategic issues until 31 October.”

Selmayr is expected to act as an advisor on Brexit now that Boris Johnson has become the UK’s new prime minister, who has reiterated that he intends for Britain to quit the EU without a deal on 31 October if there is no better divorce deal between Brussels and London.

Juncker and the entire College of EU Commissioners expressed their appreciation to Selmayr for his “outstanding qualities and achievements” and thanked him for his “effective management”.

Until a successor for Selmayr has been found, Jivka Petkova, a Bulgarian who is responsible for strategy, better lawmaking and organization leadership, and Michael Karnitschnig of Austria, head of foreign relations, will support the General Secretariat beginning on 1 August.

Selmayr had been a major power broker in the Juncker Commission but his sudden appointment as secretary-general last year proved highly unpopular with many in Brussels.

US invests $5.3 billion in Kazakhstan’s economy in 2018

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NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan – The influx of US investment in the Kazakh economy increased by 44.7% and set a new absolute record, reaching a level of $ 5.3 billion in 2018, the head of the Kazakh Cabinet of Ministers, Askar Mamin, said on 23 July.

Mamin met with US Ambassador William Moser in Nur-Sultan where they discussed issues of further development of cooperation in the investment sector, the oil industry, as well as in the agro-industrial sector, the press service of Kazakh Prime Minister reported on 23 July.

“The United States is one of Kazakhstan’s key partners and investors,” Mamin said.

According to the press service of the Cabinet of Ministers, in 2018, the trade turnover between Kazakhstan and the United States increased by 37.3% to $ 2.2 billion.

During the meeting, Mamin noted that projects in the agribusiness sector, which are implemented by American companies, are very promising.

In turn, the US Ambassador commended Kazakhstan’s approaches to improving the country’s investment climate for foreigners and noted the readiness of the American side to continue cooperation in the existing format.

Juncker given Maltese National Order of Merit

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epa06241121 Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, delivers his speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, 03 October 2017. The Members of Parliament together with Juncker and Michel Barnier, the European Chief Negotiator of the Task Force for the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the United Kingdom under Article 50, discuss the progress made in talks with the UK government on the terms of withdrawal by the UK from the EU, dubbed the 'Brexit'. EPA-EFE/PATRICK SEEGER

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was given on 23 July the honorary membership in the National Order of Merit of the Republic of Malta, which is conferred to foreigners who distinguish themselves in the promotion and strengthening of international relations or who have gained the respect and gratitude of the Maltese people.

Juncker praised Malta’s solidarity in dealing with migration, and emphasized the importance of the rule of law, the fight against corruption and crime, and press freedom, insisting that they are non negotiable.

“Malta is defending truly European values that I would like to pay tribute to today. They are values that must always be protected and never taken for granted. They define who we are as people.”, he said in his speech during the ceremony.

Europe to fight poverty in Bangladesh with a new financial package

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epa05128812 Numerous vehicles are stuck in traffic jam on a street at Dhanmondi in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 27 January 2016. A lack of skilled drivers and traffic police, a faulty traffic signal systems and the huge amount of vehicles are regarded as the main reason for traffic congestions which create daily sufferings for commuters in the capital. According to a study by Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CMILT), traffic jams are responsible for taking away 8.15 million of people's working hours every day. EPA/ABIR ABDULLAH

The European Union reiterated its support to Bangladesh to graduate to middle-income country with the launch on 24 July of two programmes to support key national reform agendas in public financial management and social security.

The programmes will address core elements of system strengthening, with the goal of eradication of poverty and inequalities.

In that context, €10 million of budget support will be provided for the Public Financial Management Reform Strategy, which sets out the key goals and objectives of reforms in the sector and identifies priority actions, while €130 million will be provided to support the National Social Security Strategy, which sets an important roadmap to enhance the institutional capacity of the social security system.

IMF lowers global growth projections amid Sino-American trade war

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epa04824587 (FILE) A file photo dated 18 May 2011 showing the logo of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) at the entrance of the Headquarters of the IMF, also known as building HQ2, in Washington, DC, USA. Greece will not make the 1.6-billion-euro (1.8-billion-dollar) repayment due 30 June 2015 to the International Monetary Fund unless it strikes a deal in the coming hours with its creditors, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in Athens as the deadline loomed. He implied that his left-wing government would resign if Greeks vote 'yes' in a planned 05 July referendum on a renegotiated bailout. The Greek vote is widely seen as deciding whether the near-bankrupt country stays in the eurozone. No country has left the currency bloc since its founding in 1999. EPA/JIM LO SCALZO

The International Monetary Fund downgraded its growth projection for 2019 amidst a Sino-American trade war and the increasing likelihood of a no-deal Brexit.

The Washington-based institution now projects 3,2% global growth rather than 3,3% projected in April and 3,6% projected in January. The downgrade is mostly justified by declining investment, as business confidence is collapsing and the market is risk-averse. Consumer confidence is also affected.

In May 2019 China and the US were embroiled in a spiralling trade was of escalating tariffs. Some US companies are moving their supply chains out of China to avoid tariffs. Global trade volumes are said to have declined by 0,5% since the first quarter of 2019.

The IMF model still presumes an orderly UK exit, which means the risk to global growth is on the downside. The UK’s projected growth stands at 1,3% for 2019, which is marginally better than the 1,2% earlier this year.

However, if the UK leaves without a transition arrangement, the economy could suffer a serious shock. For 2020, the IMF projects 1,4% growth, provided there is no disorderly Brexit. As for the US economy, the trade war is expected to cost dearly: from 2,9% growth projected in 2019, growth will drop to 1,9% in 2020.

Another downside shock for the European economy – particularly Germany – would be the introduction of tariffs on European cars imported to the US.

Responding to the economic slowdown, the US Federal Reserve is expected to cut interest rates by at least 25 basis points at the end of July. According to Der Spiegel, the European Central Bank is preparing for the second wave of quantitative easing by November. Both the ECB and the Bank of Japan already have their interest rates at zero.

On Tuesday, American trade negotiators told CNBC that U.S. officials are planning to travel to China sometime between Friday and Thursday, August 1, but a deal is nowhere in sight. The US is willing to discuss easing restrictions on China’s Huawei in exchange for the purchase of U.S. agricultural produce but this will not pave the way to an end to the ongoing trade war.

USD rallies as House agrees to raise debt ceiling

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epa06951407 An Iranian street money exchanger holds US dollars and Euro banknotes at a street in Tehran, Iran, 15 August 2018. Media reported that Iran currency continue losing against US dollar and major western currencies. US has re-imposed sanctions against Iran on 06 August 2018 and conflict between Iran and US still going on, as Iran facing economic crises. EPA-EFE/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH

The dollar rallied against all major reserve currencies to a five-week high on Tuesday as the House reached a two-year deal to lift the debt borrowing ceiling.

The news of a political deal on the debt was coupled with positive news for earnings, with Coca-Cola, United Technologies, Visa, Snap Inc, and Texas Instruments delivered strong beats and solid outlooks.

To the contrary, the euro weakened against the dollar to its lowest point since May, as markets prepare for fresh stimulus from the European Central Bank. The Euro also lost ground in response to Commissioner Malmstrom’s threat to raise EU tariffs on US goods, a sign that a second front in the global trade war may be unavoidable.

The British pound also fell to a 27-month low against the dollar following the election of Boris Johnson, who has promised to leave the EU even without a deal by October 31.

EU prepares fpr retaliatory tariffs on US products

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epa05013905 European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom speaks during a media conference at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, 06 November 2015. Malstrom spoke on the publication of EU proposal on sustainable development in the negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the first detailed report on the latest negotiating round. EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET

The EU is preparing to impose a 75% tariff on a list of US goods worth €35bn if Washington goes ahead an imposes tariffs of European car imports.

 “We will not accept any managed trade, quotas or voluntary export restraints and, if there were to be tariffs, we would have a rebalancing list,” European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told a committee of the European Parliament.

In a report published on Tuesday, the IMF cites tariffs on EU car exports to the US as one of the major risk factors to the global economy in 2019.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to hike tariffs on EU car imports to 25%. On Monday, German economy minister Peter Altmaier reiterated that the EU could be willing to drop levies on American cars to zero in order to avert a trade war.

In May, Trump suspended threatened tariffs on imports of cars from the EU for six months to allow time for a new trade agreement to be negotiated. In an election year, President Trump is keen to target the EU’s $169 billion trade surplus with the US. In 2018, Germany exported approximately €26bn worth of cars and car parts to the US.

Concerns are rising as the EU may be caught right in the middle of the Sino-American trade war, facing possible export barriers from China as well.

China plans to impose an anti-dumping tax on some stainless-steel imports from the European Union, South Korea, and Japan.

The anti-dumping duties of 18.1% kicked in on Tuesday, July 23. The Chinese move is a twin blow for the EU steel producers, who already suffer from global overcapacity attributed mainly to China. The US has met this overcapacity by tariffs and the EU market has become a final destination for quantities originally bound for the US.

Spain takes one step closer to repeat elections

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epa07735449 Socialist Party's candidate and acting Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, speaks during the first round investiture vote at the Parliament's Lower Chamber, in Madrid, Spain, 23 July 2019. Sanchez failed to obtain the needed absolute majority with a result of 170 'no' against 124 'yes' and 52 'abstentions' votes. The second round of the voting, in which Sanchez only would require a simple majority to be confirmed as Prime Minister, will be held on the upcoming 25 July. EPA-EFE/EMILIO NARANJO

Spain’s Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez failed to secure a parliamentary mandate to form a government on Tuesday.

The Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) still hopes to form a government with the support of the anti-austerity Unidas Podemos. There will be a second ballot on Thursday, in which either Sanchez will get a mandate or Spain will have to hold repeat elections.

Sanchez has been unable to broker a coalition since April. Sanchez may attempt once again in September but without a deal with Podemos Spain will need to go to the polls by November at the latest.

PSOE and Podemos are divided over their stance on the Catalan issue, with Podemos demanding that Catalonia is granted a legally binding referendum. In recent days, the two parties appear to have placed this difference aside, coming close to forming a government.

However, the two sides disagree in the distribution of power. PSOE wants to avoid giving Podemos any portfolio with constitutional significance or economic weight. On Tuesday evening, Podemos made clear they would not accept a “decorative” role in a left-wing cabinet led by the Socialists.

PSOE needs 176 votes in a 350-seat parliament. Instead, Sanchez secured 124 and 52 abstentions and 170 against. On Tuesday, Podemos abstained rather than voting in favour of a PSOE mandate.

Among the no votes were the conservative Popular Party (PP), the Citizens (Ciudadanos), the far-right Vox and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), none of whom are expected to change position.

PSOE did secure a single vote from the small Regionalist Party of Cantabria (PRC) but it is clear that Podemos hold the power to lead Spain to repeat elections.

Mitsotakis government’s foreign policy inevitably points to Washington

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epa07722641 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) walks with Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias (L) before the two held a meeting at the State Department in Washington DC, USA, 17 July 2019. Their meeting comes in the wake of Turkey's decision to buy Russia's S-400 missile defense system. EPA-EFE/JIM LO SCALZO

In view of ongoing tension between Turkey, the EU and Washington, it was completely reasonable for the new Greek government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to focus primarily on Cyprus and the Aegean, not the Western Balkans, for as long as Washington allowed that subject to top the agenda, which as it turns out was not long at all.

As the US-Turkey relationship continues to deteriorate, Greece is increasingly seen as a front-line state, although clearly not the source of current Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean tensions, which primarily derive from Ankara’s decisions on military procurements and energy policy.

While it was expected that Washington would quickly engage the new Greek government, the speed at which incoming Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias catapulted to Washington was surprising, and hopefully significant in terms of getting a message to Ankara, although the timing of his Washington meetings was to a large extent serendipitous.

Unfortunately, Washington seems less interested in Greece’s immediate security needs and more interested in pressing the incoming Mitsotakis government to adhere to the terms of the Prespes Agreement with newly renamed North Macedonia. Its parliamentary members – the New Democracy party – strongly opposed the Prespes Agreement while in opposition, forcing successful but nonetheless bitter no-confidence votes on two occasions, knowing that the majority of the Greek population opposed the deal.

Dendias blasts off for Washington

In the last article prior to the 7 July Greek election, New Europe had predicted Greece would be the recipient of a warm American “bear hug” for several reasons. First, the developing situation with Turkey and Cyprus would require immediate open lines with the new government in Athens.

Washington also had its work cut out for it since its relationship with former leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was seen by most Greeks, and certainly by New Democracy,  as too close for comfort, with some in Athens and even Washington mistakenly claiming the bilateral relationship had reached its historical zenith, while loudly celebrating US-Greece cooperation in Southeastern Europe even though Greece under the former Syriza government had no financial resources to contribute or investors to deploy.

Accordingly, after this display, earning the confidence of the Mitsotakis government will take some time, although it should be easier now that Greece has elected a Prime Minister closely identified with liberal economic policies and strongly supportive of private sector development, essentially putting Athens on the same ideological and economic policy frequency as Washington.

Even before the Mitsotakis government had the time to complete the required program/policy debate and hold the procedural vote of confidence, which passed on 22 July, Dendias needed to participate in a wide range of meetings as Greece’s new Foreign Minister, but that is all a normal part of that portfolio and is doubly important as the EU prepares for its August holiday period.

Dendias’ Washington meetings would not have happened so quickly after he assumed office had US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not been spearheading a high-profile conference on religious freedom in Washington, the second such event and clearly an emerging and somewhat divisive focal point, for US diplomacy in the future.

Accordingly, Dendias was able to arrange his initial bilateral meeting with Pompeo July 17 on the sidelines of that major event, while also earning positive reviews with the Trump Administration for his participation in the conference just 10 days after Greece’s election. Dendias’ visit had a strong focus on issues surrounding the Eastern Mediterranean and included meetings with National Security Advisor John Bolton and Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, one of the Senate’s strongest supporters of deeper US engagement in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Little has been said publicly about issues involving Southeastern Europe.

Reeker to Athens and Skopje, why now?

In view of the tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, it is indeed curious that Acting Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Phillip Reeker hastily scheduled a trip solely to Athens, Thessaloniki and Skopje for 22-27 July, officially announced only late July 21. Reeker’s appointment to replace former Assistant Secretary Wess Mitchell earlier this year was viewed with trepidation in Greece as Reeker had a strong career association with the country now known as North Macedonia.

Reeker has not been formally confirmed in his position at the State Department, raising questions about the half-year long delay. He previously served as US Ambassador to Skopje and as a Public Diplomacy Officer in Skopje earlier in his career. Although Reeker is well known for his tussles with hardline nationalist former Prime Minister and now-fugitive Nikola Gruevski during his time in Skopje thanks to Wikileaks, that political dynamic firmly established his very close relationship with then-opposition politicians of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia, and others, who govern North Macedonia today.

The State Department’s 21 July trip announcement describes the Greek portion of Reeker’s trip as such:

“Acting Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip T. Reeker will travel to Greece and North Macedonia July to engage with government representatives, civil society, and business leaders. In Athens, Ambassador Reeker will meet with Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and other new government leaders to discuss core issues for the bilateral relationship including trade and investment, security and defence cooperation, regional stability, and energy. He will also participate in a roundtable discussion with entrepreneurs and business leaders. In Thessaloniki, Ambassador Reeker will meet with local government, religious, and business leaders.”

Clearly, there was no appetite at State for an open challenge to the new Mitsotakis government over the Prepes Agreement, but the use of the term “regional stability” in Washington’s listing of so-called bilateral core issues should be understood as keeping that subject high on the bilateral agenda. It is interesting to note that as of 23 July, the central day of Reeker’s Athens meetings, there has been no particular uproar emerging from Reeker’s encounters, including with now head of the main opposition party former Tsipras.

Teenage activist Thunberg urges French MPs to act on climate crisis

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epa07735306 Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg delivers a speech at the Assemblee Nationale, French parliament, in Paris, France, 23 July 2019. Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, who sparked the #FridaysForFuture school strike movement, attended a conference with young climate activists at the National Assembly. EPA-EFE/IAN LANGSDON

“They said that we children, we exaggerate, that we are alarmists. To respond to that, I invite you to read the last IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report. You will find all of our ‘opinions’ there,” said Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old environmental activist sternly told French MPs in parliament on Tuesday after being the subject of criticism from some of France’s lawmakers who called her an “apocalyptic guru” and a “prophetess in shorts”.

“420 gigatonnes of CO2 is all we had left back on January 1, 2018, to have 67% of chances of staying below the 1.5°C temperature limit,” said the teen activist from Sweden.”All we children did is to communicate those scientific facts,” Thunberg, the newest media darling in the fight against climate change, added. “The biggest danger is not being inactive, it’s when politicians and companies pretend to be doing something.”

Republican Julien Aubert tried to convince his fellow MPs not to attend Thunberg’s address, saying ahead of the meeting, “We don’t need apocalyptic gurus to fight climate change intelligently, we need scientific progress and political courage.”

“Some people have chosen to not come to this meeting today, some people have chosen to not listen to us. It doesn’t matter, we’re only children so you don’t have to listen to us. However, you have to listen to the scientists and that’s all we’re asking,” said Thunberg.

 

Timmermans says no-deal Brexit would be a tragedy

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epa06661207 Frans Timmermans (L), First Vice-President of European Commission in Charge of Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, Rule of Law and Charter of Fundamental Rights, and Vytenis Andriukaitis (R), EU Commissioner in Charge of Health and Food Safety, speaks during a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, 11 April 2018. The press conference mainly focused on results of the European Commission's weekly meeting and initiatives on transparency and risk assessment procress under the General Food law. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET
The European Commission reacted to the choice of Boris Johnson as the newly-elected head of the Conservatives, making him the UK’s newest prime minister, by reiterating its well-worn line that a no-deal Brexit would be the worst possible outcome of the impending divorce between the United Kingdom and the EU.

“He took a long time deciding whether he was for or against Brexit,” said the EU’s First Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, when asked whether his is expects Johnson to alter his opposition to a withdrawal deal that was hammered out by Johnson’s predecessor, outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May, and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker later last year.

“A hard Brexit would be a tragedy” as “we are all going to suffer,” according to Timmermans, who expressed the opinion that he doesn’t think that “(the British) people intentionally voted for a no-deal Brexit” during the 2016 referendum that saw a solid majority of the UK”s voting public opt to quit the EU.

“I think the position of the EU is also clear in that the United Kingdom reached an agreement with the European Union and the European Union will stick with that agreement. We will hear what the new prime minister has to say when he comes to Brussels,” said Timmermans, while repeating that Brussels would not consider re-opening the withdrawal agreement talks.
In a blog post published on Tuesday, Vytenis Andriukaitis, Lithuania’s European Commissioner for Health, also took aim at Johnson and his rival Conservative Party candidate, Jeremy Hunt, saying, “A functioning democracy demands a discussion. Using whatever means to win political battles just does not fit the bill. The Boris Johnson phenomenon in a democracy is an example of this in action where priority is given to the objective alone and not the means of obtaining it.”

Offshore hydrocarbon development in Greece is a window to the future

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DCIM100MEDIADJI_0610.JPG

ATHENS – The latest developments in the hydrocarbons research and development process in the wider Black Sea- Southeast Europe- Eastern Mediterranean area highlight significant natural gas discoveries in the Romanian sector of the Black Sea, namely the Neptune field, which was discovered and operated by US energy giant ExxonMobil, in the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the Glaucus field in Block 10, also drilled and to be developed by ExxonMobil and future perspectives in offshore Greece, namely in two blocks, South Crete and South-West Crete.

The Greek government recently contracted a consortium comprising ExxonMobil, France’s Total, and Hellenic Petroleum for the two Crete-based projects.

As offshore hydrocarbons’ research progresses in an arc stretching from the Southeast Mediterranean to the Black Sea, where the depth of water ranks between 1,500 metres and 2,000 metres, and as exploration technology develops, in the next 3-4 years, the interest of the industry is likely to be gradually transferred to western Greece and southern Crete, placing Greece at the epicentre of innovative drilling technology applications and offshore drilling in ultra-deep waters.

Special reference should be made to the unique challenges posed by exploration in ultra deep-sea waters, beyond 3,000 metres, which is the case concerning the areas in the south and south-west of Crete. These two blocks represent a frontier area with controversial complex geological processes combined with the need for new seismic data. The region has been split into three distinct geological provinces – the Cretan Margin (CM), the Backstop (BS) and the Mediterranean Ridge (MR). Each of these provinces exhibits different geological and tectonic features and therefore any possible petroleum systems would comprise different elements.

In the rest of Greece, Hellenic Petroleum Upstream is pursuing its ongoing research and exploration work in the Patraikos Gulf and in other areas in the north Ionian Sea, southern Peloponnese and southern Crete, where the company participates in the consortium along with ExxonMobil and Total.

On the other hand, Greece’s Energean Oi l& Gas has achieved production of some 5.000 barrels per day in the Prinos concession, off the coast of Kavala in northern Greece, where Energean has been operating the field for over ten years now and also in the Ioannina onshore concession, where Energean works with Spain’s Repsol.

The Hellenic Government, through HHRM (Hellenic Hydrocarbons Resources Management), offers lease agreements to potential investors in the upstream sector, based on the tax- royalty system, with a fix corporate tax at 20% and an additional 5% regional tax.

Furthermore, Greece, being a member of the EU, applies the EU Directive 94/22/EC “on the conditions for granting and using authorisations for the prospection, exploration and production of hydrocarbons”, thus providing all guarantees for openness and transparency to its future investors throughout the whole procedure of contracting and operating a block. The companies consider this legal type of contract offered by the Hellenic Government as the optimum solution since the Greek offshore sector is highly unexplored and significant risks are entailed for the foreign investors.

Following the signature of the two lease agreements between the Greek Government and the consortium of Exxon Mobil-Total for south and south-west of Crete, the momentum needs to be kept alive, by inviting more foreign companies to display their interest for new areas of offshore research and development in Greece.

New areas of interest are indicated by HHRM, which intends to intensify the plan to promote and attract investors for the exploration and development of hydrocarbons in five new offshore regions in the south Ionian Sea and southern Crete, namely: offshore (western Greece)- Central Ionian Sea (both the north and southern parts) southern Peloponnese; offshore in the south of Crete (both the central & Eastern sectors) and onshore (in central Greece) Mesohellenic Basin, which is currently under technical evaluation.

 

EIB partners with Cassa Depositi e Prestiti in support of mid-caps

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epa04148215 (FILE) A file photo dated 02 March 2012 shows the building of the European Central Bank (ECB) reflected in the Euro sign logo by artist Otmar Hoerl in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Annual eurozone inflation fell to a more-than four-year low in March increasing the pressure on the European Central Bank to act to head off fears of deflation. The region's cost of living slumped to 0.5 per cent in March compared with 0.7 per cent in February, the European Statistics Office Eurostat said on 31 March 2014. EPA/MAURITZ ANTIN

The European Investment Bank and the Italian bank Cassa Depositi e Prestiti have signed a €200 million loan agreement to promote lending to Italian mid-cap companies.

This is the first EIB credit line to Italian mid-caps through this bank. The financing is available under advantageous conditions to all sectors in the Italian business environment.

In total, Cassa Depositi e Prestiti will support up to 20 mid-cap companies in Italy through this loan. As a rule of thumb, the EIB financing can be used to cover only 50% of any supported project by the Italian bank.

EU announces additional aid for Latin America and the Caribbean

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epa06186470 Palm trees flutter due to wind and rain in San Juan, Puerto Rico, 05 September 2017. Puerto Rico is taking measures ahead of the passage of Hurricane Irma, which is on the verge of impacting the Caribbean Lesser Antilles as it reached the maximum level of category 5. EPA-EFE/Thais Llorca

The European Commission has announced on 23 July a new humanitarian funding of €18.5 million to protect the vulnerable communities in the Latin American and Caribbean region from natural disasters.
This includes €15 million to support preparedness of local communities and institutions for natural disasters, €2.5 million for projects addressing violence, and €1 million for food assistance in Central America.

The funding will boost local capacities to respond to emergencies, implement Early Warning Systems, and increase access to water, sanitation and hygiene.

This brings total EU support to the region to €79.5 million in 2019.

Slovakia is the surprising star of the latest FutureBrand Country Index

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epa07659741 Slovak President Zuzana Caputova looks on during a joint press conference with Czech President Zeman following their meeting at Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic, 20 June 2019. Caputova is on a one-day state visit to the Czech Republic and on a first official visit in her role. EPA-EFE/MILAN KAMMERMAYER

The circumstances leading to Slovakia’s first female, and youngest-ever president being elected and sworn in last month could have been taken from the plot of a dark political thriller.

The brutal assassination last year of an investigative journalist who’d uncovered widespread government corruption, sparked mass protests, a political crisis, and a desperate appetite for a radically different approach to politics. The country has turned over a new leaf with its new president, Zuzana Caputova – a liberal anti-corruption lawyer and a 2016 winner of The Goldman prize, dubbed the ‘environmental Nobel prize’. Right time, right place some might say. But while recent events in the country no doubt acted as catalysts for positive change, the results from our latest Country Index suggest that Slovakia has been on the rise for some time now.

As a global brand strategy and design company, we’re interested in the factors that drive brand perception. That’s why our Country Index re-orders the World Bank’s top 75 countries (by GDP) by how well they’re perceived in terms of an alternative set of factors, such as quality of life, tolerance, business potential, culture and environmental awareness: factors that are a proven indicator of future growth potential and competitive advantage.

Ranking number 35, Slovakia was one of the biggest success stories in this year’s Index, having moved up 24 places, the most out of all countries measured, since our last index in 2014. In particular, perceptions of the country’s quality of life, environmental friendliness, the quality of goods made there, and its heritage and culture have all shown a marked leap forward over the last 5 years – a sign that positive changes, in some ways epitomised by the election of Caputova, were on the horizon for some time.

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) forecasts, Slovakia is set to be the fastest-growing developed economy in the world in 2019 and 2020, largely driven by a strong automotive industry. Since 2007, Slovakia has been the world’s largest producer of cars per capita. Well over one million cars were manufactured there last year alone and it’s been using this to its advantage in attracting foreign investment from companies drawn to the country’s relatively low wages, low tax rates and well-educated labour force.

Last year, Jaguar Land Rover announced its plans to move production of its Discovery vehicle from the UK to a €1.4 billion new manufacturing plant in Nitra in the west of the country, following in the footsteps of Volkswagen, Peugeot-Citroen, and KIA
. It’s growing partnerships with car manufacturing brands like these which may have contributed to Slovakia demonstrating the highest improvement of all countries in the perceived quality of its products and services, since the last index in 2014. The country is using its short, but robust, automotive history to push innovation too. One of its most advanced tech startups, AeroMobil, recently attracted major Chinese and Israeli investment to launch its 4.0 version of a flying car.

From an environmental perspective, Slovakia recently approved a new national environmental strategy, ‘Greener Slovakia’, covering the protection of water, biodiversity, climate change and air protection, as well as the green economy. Certain areas of national parks will be extended to 50%, and in some cases, up to 75%, by 2030. Mining will be prohibited and organic farming will account for at least 13.5% of the total agriculture sector. And it’s willing to put its money where its mouth is: the country recently voted in favour of EU plans for a 2050 zero-carbon goal, despite its nearest neighbours blocking the initiative. It’s, therefore, no surprise that Slovakia ranked in the top 10 biggest risers in terms of perceptions of Environmental Friendliness over the last 5 years.

The uptick in the nation’s brand perception has been seen in rates of tourism too. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Slovakia is one of the top 20 fastest growing tourism destinations and experienced a record number of tourists in 2017, surpassing the number of citizens in the country itself.

Despite all of these promising signs, it’s still early days for Slovakia. It’s the youngest country in the Index, sits in a region of right-wing countries and has a recent history of political divisiveness and corruption. When we look at the top-ranking countries in the Index – Japan, Switzerland, Germany and Scandinavian countries – we see that they combine long-term political and economic stability with fostering, and crucially exporting, a culture that feeds the quality of life, purpose and experience of that country.

Just like the most engaging and respected consumer brands, all strong country brands must balance their purpose – what they stand for – with the experience that people have of them in order to succeed. To ensure that Slovakia continues its upward path, the new president, her team, and her successors, will have to strive towards maintaining an even political keel and, crucially, bolster this by facilitating experiences and opportunities for citizens, tourists and investors that channel the new air of positivity in the country.

EU resumes Moldova budget support

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epa05646532 An exterior view of the EU Commission headquarters, also called Berlaymont building, in Brussels, Belgium, 25 November 2016. EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET

The European Commission has resumed budget support assistance to Moldova on 23 July, by disbursing €14.54 million to support the implementation of the EU-Moldova free trade agreement and to assist the implementation of the visa liberalization action plan, after a nearly two-year period during which such payments had been put on hold because of a deterioration of the rule of law situation in the country.

This action is the Union’s encouragement, as the recently installed government has taken important steps which have allowed the EU to assess that the conditions have been met to resume its budget support to Moldova.

EU steps up action to protect and restore forests

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epa05342243 Forest owners and workers learn about the effects of climate change on the forest in Engehausen, Germany, 02 June 2016. EPA/HOLGER HOLLEMANN

The European Commission adopted on 23 July a comprehensive Communication setting out a new framework of actions to protect and restore the world’s forests, which host 80% of biodiversity on land.
The reinforced approach is a response to the continued destruction of the world’s forests, as 1.3 million square kilometers were lost between 1990 and 2016, driven by the demand for food, feed, bio-fuel, timber and other commodities.

The approach introduces measures for enhanced international cooperation, better use of land and resources, sustainable job creation and supply chain management.

If properly planned and implemented, reforested areas can provide multiple benefits, as halting deforestation is crucial to fight climate change.

EIB launches first office in Latin America

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epa07734146 Colombian president Ivan Duque (L) and president of the European Investment Bank (EIB) Werner Hoyer (R), take part of a press conference in Bogota, Colombia, 22 July 2019, during the signing an agreement that establishes Bogota as the regional headquarters of the body in Latin America. Hoyer declared that the agreement 'is an opportunity to highlight the magnificent relationship between the European Union and Colombia'. EPA-EFE/Mauricio Duenas Castaneda

President of the Republic of Colombia Iván Duque Márquez and EIB President Werner Hoyer signed on 23 July the host country agreement enabling Bogotá to host this new EU representation. The EIB’s new regional office will be the Bank’s first in Central and South America and will help it to strengthen its presence and expand its activities in the region.

The EU is the principal development investor in Latin America. The EU bank provides economic support for projects in Latin America by offering both long-term investment with favourable conditions.

Since it began operating in the region in 1993, the EIB has provided over €8.4 billion to promote economic and social development in the region. This includes Colombia, where the EIB is supporting the construction of Bogotá’s first metro line by providing €400 million.

The fall of the economists’ empire

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epa04985721 (FILE) A file picture dated 22 September 2011 of a display with exchange rates of various currencies against the Real in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Analysts expect Brazil's economy to contract by 3 percent this year and 1.22 percent in 2016, posting two consecutive years of negative gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the first time since 1948, the Central Bank said on 20 October 2015. The latest estimates are the most pessimistic released this year. This is the 14th consecutive week that economists revised their GDP forecasts downward in Brazil, whose economy entered into recession in June. EPA/MARCELO SAYAO

The historian Norman Stone, who died in June, always insisted that history students learn foreign languages. Language gives access to a people’s culture, and culture to its history. Its history tells us how it sees itself and others. Knowledge of languages should thus be an essential component of a historian’s technical equipment. It is the key to understanding the past and future of international relations.

But this belief in the fundamental importance of knowing particular languages has faded, even among historians. All social sciences, to a greater or lesser degree, start with a yearning for a universal language, into which they can fit such particulars as suit their view of things. Their model of knowledge thus aspires to the precision and generality of the natural sciences. Once we understand human behaviour in terms of some universal and – crucially – ahistorical principle, we can aspire to control (and of course improve) it.

No social science has succumbed to this temptation more than economics. Its favoured universal language is mathematics. Its models of human behaviour are built not on close observation, but on hypotheses that, if not quite plucked from the air, are unconsciously plucked from economists’ intellectual and political environments. These then form the premises of logical reasoning of the type, “All sheep are white, therefore the next sheep I meet will be white.” In economics: “All humans are rational utility maximisers. Therefore, in any situation, they will act in such a way as to maximise their utility.” This method gives economics a unique predictive power, especially as the utilities can all be expressed and manipulated quantitatively. It makes economics, in Paul Samuelson’s words, the “queen of the social sciences.”

In principle, economists don’t deny the need to test their conclusions. At this point, history, one might have thought, would be particularly useful. Is it really the case that all sheep are white, in every place and clime? But most economists disdain the “evidence” of history, regarding it as little better than anecdotage. They approach history by one route: econometrics. At best, the past is a field for statistical inquiry.

The economist Robert Solow offers a devastating critique of the identification of economic history with econometrics, or “history blind” as he calls it:

“The best and brightest in the profession proceed as if economics is the physics of society. There is a single universally valid model. It only needs to be applied. You could drop a modern economist from a time machine … at any time, in any place, along with his or her personal computer; he or she could set up in business without even bothering to ask what time and which place.”

In short, much of the historical modelling economists do assume that people in the past had essentially the same values and motives as we do today. The Nobel laureate economist Robert Lucas carries this approach to its logical conclusion: “the construction of a mechanical, artificial world, populated by … interacting robots …, that is capable of exhibiting behaviour the gross features of which resemble those of the actual world.”

The goal of economics is to replace the particular languages that obstruct the discovery of general laws with the universal language of mathematics. Elon Musk takes Lucas’s interacting robots one step further, with his ambition to link the human brain directly to the world (which includes other human brains). Our thoughts will be directly socialised without the intermediation of any language. When you think “door, open!” it does. Whereas economists dream of putting God in their models, the robotic utopians dream of reversing the fall of man by creating godlike humans.

To be clear, this is the apotheosis of a Western conceit. The West still views itself as the bearer of universal civilisation, with the non-West no more than a lagging cultural indicator. In the West itself, the authority of economics has diminished, but this hasn’t dented the West’s propensity to export its civilization. “Good economics” has been partly replaced by a commitment to universal human rights as the means to save the world from itself, but the purpose is the same: to lecture everyone else on their shortcomings.

Here, we encounter a paradox. The triumph of universalism has come just when Western power is collapsing. And it was that power which made Western thought seem universal in the first place. Conquest, not missionaries, spread Christianity around the world.

The same is true of Western social science and Western values in general. The non-West bought into the Western model of progress, especially economic progress because it wanted to free itself from Western tutelage. This still gives economics (a Western invention) its edge. It’s a kind of white man’s magic. But without the power and authority behind the magic, its appeal is bound to fade. The non-West will still want to emulate the West’s success but will pursue it by its own means. The University of Chicago and MIT will give way to universities in China or India, and the non-West will choose which Western values to embrace.

Yet the world needs something universal to give us a sense of shared humanity. The big challenge – to use that overworked word – is to develop what the philosopher Thomas Nagel called a “view from nowhere” that transcends both cultural fetishism and scientism, and does not force us to choose between them.

This is a task for philosophy, not economics.

Johnson to succeed Theresa May as UK prime minister

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epa05260765 London Mayor Boris Johnson speaks during a 'Vote Leave' campaign event in Manchester, Britain, 15 April 2016. Britain will vote in an European Union referendum on 23 June whether to stay in or to leave the EU. EPA/NIGEL RODDIS

160,000 Conservative Party members went to the polls to elect Theresa May’s successor; Boris Johnson was always considered the favourite. On Tuesday, Johnson was pronounced the winner of the Conservative leadership race by 92,153 votes to Jeremy Hunt‘s 46,656.

In his victory speech, Mr Johnson promised he would “deliver Brexit, unite the country and defeat Jeremy Corbyn.”.

  • Mrs May congratulated Mr Johnson, promising him her “full support from the backbenches.” Johnson will be pronounced prime minister on Wednesday, with May ready to submit her resignation to the Queen in the afternoon. Johnson is expected to have an audience with the Queen immediately afterwards.

At the heart of the political debate during the race to leadership was Brexit. After the outgoing prime minister failed three times to pass the negotiated agreement through parliament, the party appears to be heading towards a no-deal Brexit.

Both Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson were committed to a “no-deal” Brexit, although Hunt had said he was ready to delay the UK’s exit from the EU if he thought there was a real chance of a compromise. The former Mayor of London has made clear that leaving on October 31 is a “do or die” challenge that he is willing to carry through with or without a Withdrawal Agreement.

Chancellor Philip Hammond, Justice Secretary David Gauke and International Development Rory Stewart have said they will not serve in a cabinet heading for a no-deal Brexit. Deputy foreign office minister Sir Alan Duncan resigned preemptively on Monday, submitting a motion for Johnson to pass the test of confidence motion in parliament before getting the mandate to form a government by the Queen. His motion was rejected by the Commons Speaker John Bercow.

Onn Monday the Liberals elected their own new leader, whose mandate lies on the opposite side of the political spectrum. With a clear mandate to oppose Brexit, Jo Swinson is considered a step to the right for the party, as she served in Cameron’s coalition government, leading fiscal consolidation measures in education.

Ms Swinson has been the party’s deputy leader for two years and champions a second referendum on EU membership. The party now has 12 MPs and won 20% of the vote share in the European elections. Most polling suggests that the UK electoral is now on a four-way election split between the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberals, and the Brexit party.

International partners discuss support to Sudan’s transition

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epa07722059 Protestors celebrate and flash victory sign on the streets of Khartoum, Sudan, 17 July 2019. according to media reports, the ruling military council and several of the civilian opposition movement signed a power-sharing agreement that was reached earlier this month. According to the agreement, mediated by African Union and Ethiopia, the military council will take control of a sovereign council for 21 months, followed by a civilian one for another 18 months before holding elections. EPA-EFE/MARWAN ALI

A broad group of international partners (African Union, Egypt, Ethiopia, European Union, France, Germany, Norway, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Nations, United States), as well as key international financial institutions met in Brussels on 22 July to discuss efforts to support a peaceful resolution to Sudan’s current challenges.

The group renewed their calls for proper implementation and monitoring of the transitional agreements, expressed their commitment to deliver peace, stability and economic recovery, and expressed their readiness to support and to play a role in this context.

Israel’s El Al hires first Druze flight attendant

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epa06664055 Israelis stand inside an El Al passenger jet plane enroute from Tel Aviv, Israel to Paris, France as they mark Holocaust Remembrance Day by observing a two-minute silence in memory to the six-million Jews exterminated by the Nazis during World War II, somewhere over the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, 12 April 2018. The plane's captain announced the staff would stand at the same time in Israel that sirens wail marking the solemn day and invited passengers to do so as well. EPA-EFE/JIM HOLLANDER

Accounting for roughly 1.7% of Israel’s overall population, the country’s national flag carrier El Al hired its first flight attendant from the community in June.

An Arabic-speaking esoteric ethnoreligious group who residing mainly in northern Israel, Lebanon, and Syria, they are an important part of the complex religious fabric of the Middle East, the Druze practice a monotheistic and Abrahamic religion based on the teachings of Hamza ibn-‘Ali ibn-Ahmad and the sixth Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah and Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle.

The Druze hold a special status in Israel and have formed a close relationship with the Israeli government since the nation’s founding in 1948. While other Arab citizens of Israel do not have to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces, mandatory service is required for Druze men and ethnic Circassians, whose origins are in what is now Russia’s mainly Muslim North Caucasus region. Because of this, Druze and Jewish Israelis have a bond, colloquially known as ‘the Covenant of Blood’.

In Druze culture, it is rare for a woman to fly alone, therefore it was of added significance when Merach Kara was officially hired by El Al.

“Merach is very brave and I love her stubbornness,” Kara’s father told the Israeli media last month “We’re proud that she chose to work at El Al. It’s part of us and it’s important that she chose this path. I wish her all the luck in the world and I’m sure she can achieve whatever she puts her mind to.”

India to be fourth state to land a spacecraft on the moon

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epa07733486 A handout photo made available by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) shows ISRO orbiter vehicle 'Chandrayaan-2', India's first moon lander and rover mission planned and developed by the ISRO GSLV MKIII-M1, blasting off from a launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, India, 22 July 2019. The mission to the moon was launched successfully on 22 July 2019 from Sriharikota using the country's most powerful rocket Geosynchronous satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark III. EPA-EFE/ISRO / HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

India’s space agency has launched a lunar mission to the moon’s unexplored south pole on Monday; that makes India the fourth nation to land a spacecraft on the moon after the US, Russia, and China.

The blast from the island of Sriharikota, south of Chennai, was successful. The launch took place a week after a previous launch was called off citing a technical difficulty last week.

The Indian rocket carries an orbiter that will circle the moon and a lunar rover called Vikram.

This is India’s second mission to the moon. The first one was in 2008 when an orbiter scanned the surface with a radar looking for water.

India’s space agency now looks to Mars and plans a mission that will make India the fourth nation to put an orbiter around the red planet.

EIB to support youth and female focused business investment in Greece

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epa02773681 An exterior view of the European Investment Bank (EIB) Headquarters in Luxembourg, on 10 June 2011. EPA/NICOLAS BOUVY

The European Investment Bank will work with leading Greek banks to provide €500 million worth of loans for new business investment, including dedicated financing for companies across the country that actively support youth employment and the empowerment of women in the workplace.

The new scheme has been agreed with four leading Greek banks: Alpha Bank, Eurobank, National Bank of Greece and Piraeus Bank. It follows the success of the €1.05 billion credit line to Greek banks, launched in December 2016.

This is the first-ever EIB gender support for business investment in Greece. The EU Bank is committed to fighting youth unemployment and €400 million of the new credit lines support investment in companies that support youth employment.

Salvini demands devolution for Lombardy and Veneto

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epa06024069 Northern League leader Matteo Salvini speaks during a press conference in Milan, Italy, 12 June 2017. Rightwing populist Northern League leader Matteo Salvini said after a strong centre right showing in Sunday's local elections that for the next general election in May 2018 'we will do our utmost to forge a coalition that is as compact as possible' with ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia (FI) party. The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) flopped in local polls across Italy as the old centre-left and centre-right blocs returned to the fore in major cities. EPA/MATTEO BAZZI

Lega is facing its past as a secessionist movement of the North of Italy, with deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini demanding on Monday enhanced autonomy for the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto.

The call for enhanced autonomy of these two northern regions is opposed by the Five Star Movement (MS5). In an open letter published by Corriere della Sera, prime minister Giuseppe Conte called on the governors of the two regions to stop pushing for a reform that is unconstitutional.

The governor of Lombardy, Attilio Fontana, and Veneto, Luca Zaia, are drawing a red line over enhanced autonomy. In October 2017 the two regions voted in regional referenda for greater autonomy. At the time, the regional governor of Veneto Luca Zaia called the referenda results an institutional “big bang.”

Although Lega has made clear that northern regions do not aspire to outright secession, they are seeking a bigger share of their tax revenue. Since 2017, Lega North is a nation-wide party called Lega. However, its electoral stronghold is still the North of Italy and this has become a “do or die” issue for its national leader, Salvini.

“The government depends on the autonomy reform,” deputy prime minister Salvini said on Monday, only 14 months after the formation of a government led by MS5, whose electoral stronghold is in the South.

Lombardy and Veneto are home to around a quarter of Italy’s population and account for 30% of its economic output. As “net contributors” to the Italian budget, the regions are key to redistributive policies championed by MS5.

Lombardy sends €54bn more in taxes to Rome than it gets back in public spending; Veneto’s net contribution is €15.5bn. The two regions want to halve these contributions and want the power to develop their own infrastructure, environment, health and education policies.

If the MS5 and Lega fail to reach an agreement, Italy could go to the polls in autumn.  Almost all national papers suggest that Salvini is facing mounting pressure to bring down the coalition, with his closest advisers arguing the party’s surging popularity would see it triumph in early elections.

An opinion poll in Corriere della Sera newspaper on Saturday showed the League at 35.9%, while MS5 has seen its electoral influence halved to 17.4%.

 

Spanish Socialists closer to forming a coalition government

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epa07734584 Spanish acting Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez (L), and acting Vice Prime Minister, Carmen Calvo, during the second day of the investiture debate at the Parliament's Lower Chamber, in Madrid, Spain, 23 July 2019. Lawmakers are to decide whether to confirm Socialist Party's candidate Pedro Sanchez as Prime Minister in the first round of the investiture vote, in which an absolute majority is needed. In the most likely case of a failed result, Sanchez would require a simple majority in a second round of voting that will take place on the upcoming 25 July EPA-EFE/Ballesteros

Following successive failed negotiations since April, Spain’s acting prime minister Pedro Sánchez appears to have brokered a deal to form a government. On Tuesday, the leader of the Socialist Party of Spain (PSOE) will test his emerging coalition in parliament as he tries to secure the official mandate to form a government.

Sanchez will need 176 votes in a 350-seat parliament in a vote to be held on Thursday. PSOE may need fewer votes if a number of MPs abstain.

The Socialists have 123 MPs but PSOE appears close to securing the backing of the anti-austerity party Unidas Podemos, with 42 MPs. The two parties have deep differences on how to deal with the Catalan crisis, with Podemos insisting on a referendum. If that deal is sealed, PSOE may also hope for support from the Basque National Party (six) and members of the so-called Mixed Group of regional parties, avoiding a politically toxic dependence on the Catalan Republican Left (14 seats).

A coalition cabinet would require PSOE giving Podemos ministerial portfolios, which is unprecedented for the far-left. On Monday, the leader of Podemos Pablo Inglesias made clear he would not participate in a future cabinet, paving the way for a possible compromise.

Podemos appear prepared not to take portfolios that will present the coalition with constitutional dilemmas – internal affairs, foreign affairs, justice, and defence – but they would demand influence over economic policy and a deputy prime ministerial position.

Testing this hypothetical majority on Monday, Sanchez talked about a government that would take on the challenge of unemployment and precarious work, especially in the context of a digital revolution, while preparing Spain for climate emergency.

Critically, he avoided any discussion about Catalonia, a fact raised by the conservative Popular Party (PP), to the center-right Ciudadanos, the far-right Vox, as well as the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), Navarra Suma, the Canaries Coalition, Compromís, the Regionalist Party of Cantabria and even the Basque radical-left Bildu.

EU’s Weyand sees “little movement” in tariffs reduction talks with the US

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portraits de Sabine Weyand, membre du cabinet de Michel Barnier

Sabine Weyand, the European Commission’s new Director-General of Trade, and the ex-deputy negotiator on Brexit said that that there was not much movement thus far when it comes to trade talks on reduced industrial tariffs with the US.

“We need to build trust by making progress in areas where we agree,” Weyand said during the event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington, adding, “The EU would be forced to respond to American tariffs on cars. Tit-for-tat tariffs would result in a lose-lose situation.”

Weyand said it is important to build trust by moving forward in areas where the two sides agreed in full, rather than focus solely on contentious issues.

“It’s a very mixed picture,” Weyand said during her first official visit to Washington since taking over in her new role. Weyand added that the bloc will find a way to settle a nearly 15-year dispute over government subsidies to US aerospace giant Boeing and Europe’s Airbus for aircraft development.

If an agreement can be reached, according to Weyand, it would provide more guarantees for the two sides and avoid a further escalation that would eventually lead to more tariffs.

The new connected economy

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epaselect epa07575964 A man stands behind a world map during the Vivatech startups and innovation fair, in Paris, France, 16 May 2019. Acording to organizers, VivaTech is the 'world's rendezvous for startups and leaders to celebrate innovation'. It aims to gather the world's brightest minds, talents, and products taking place in Paris on 16 to 18 May 2019. EPA-EFE/Julien de Rosa

Portugal’s capital Lisbon recently received recently a group of very interesting international specialists to discuss the challenges of the new connected economy. It was an opportunity to listen to strategies for the New European Innovation Council and its challenges when it comes to articulating the main objectives of a digital Europe.

The New Connected Economy is effectively the basis for a new social and economic agenda and a commitment by the citizens and institutions of Europe to achieve a set of positive results.

The concept of a connected economy is essential for a new future as it demands an effective Partnership Contract between all of society’s actors – governments, universities, companies, civil society – in order to build a real strategy of confidence when it comes to the implementation of different policies.

The focus on innovation and knowledge as drivers of creating added value is a unique challenge that may be the answer to a new way of interaction between those who have the responsibility of thinking and those that have the responsibility of producing goods and services.

 The connected economy must be an idea of change where there is a strategic challenge focused on the capacity of attracting new investments, new talents and a new ambition for an agenda for the future. That´s why we also need an open society, whose design will include a new agenda that cannot be made simply by laws but must be built through a “broad and consistent partnership” for a collaborative network of different operational actors in Europe.

In a connected society, the keyword must be ambition. The state, municipalities, companies, universities – Civil Society – must be an example. They must promote a new adventure in a complex world and a real sense of urgency in our capacity to do it.

 It´s time to believe in a new cycle for Europe. Reinventing the European Dream and giving Europe’s civil society the opportunity to develop new challenges focused on innovation and creativity is a central contribution to the reinvention of Europe and its institutions. More than anything, it is a public demonstration of a positive answer to the future.

Macron says some EU countries have agreed to a new migrant mechanism

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epa07733685 French President Emmanuel Macron attends a meeting with Special Envoy of the UNHCR for the Central Mediterranean situation Vincent Cochetel, International Organization for Migration Director-General Antonio Vitorino, European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner and French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, 22 July 2019. EPA-EFE/PHILIPPE WOJAZER / POOL MAXPPP OUT

French President Emmanual Macron announced late on Monday that 14 of the 28 members of the European Union have agreed to a new “solidarity mechanism” proposed by Germany and France to allocate migrants and refugees across the bloc.

The EU’s interior and foreign ministers gathered in Paris in an attempt to bridge bitter divisions over the ongoing debate about how Europe should handle the issue over illegal migration from the Middle East and Africa.

Specifically, the government officials who were in Paris set out to find a temporary solution for the relocation of asylum seekers that have disembarked in Italian ports. According to Macron, half of the EU’s members appear to have reached an agreement but did not go into specifics about what the accord would entail. Macron did say, however, that the new initiative would be “quick” and “automatic”.

Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, whose country, along with Greece and Spain, is at the forefront of the migrant and refugee influx in Europe, did not take part in the meeting due to disagreements with Brussels over Italy’s refusal to allow migrants rescued at sea to be put to shore in Italian ports.

Salvini’s rejection of the current practice of offloading illegal migrants in the seaport nearest to where they were rescued was a key factor in the EU’s Operation Sophia ending its naval patrols in the Mediterranean in March. The Italian government said at the time that after four years of taking in huge numbers of refugees and migrants rescued by humanitarian groups at sea, it could not continue to open the nation’s ports to migrant charity ships.

Following the Paris meeting, Macron said France has asked the Libyan government to ensure that migrants would no longer be placed in custody when caught trying to reach Europe by boat via the Mediterranean and that appropriate measures would be taken to ensure their safety.

At least 5,200 people are currently in detention centres in Libya, according to the International Organization for Migration, as Libya remains an important transit point for migrants fleeing conflict and instability in other parts of Africa and the Middle East.

France, together with the EU, the African Union and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and International Organization for Migration, hopes to revive a programme for the voluntary return of refugees in Libya to their country of origin.

Armenian minority scores rare win in Turkey’s top court over election of new patriarch

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epa00970814 The 1,000-year-old Akhtamar Church, one of the finest surviving monuments of ancient Armenian culture during the opening ceremony at Akdamar Island in Van Lake, eastern of Turkey on Thursday 29 March 2007. Turkey completed a $1.5 million restoration of the sandstone building, and invited Armenian officials to a ceremony there on 29 March to mark what Turkey's Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has called a "positive" message. Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 during a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. EPA/TOLGA BOZOGLU

Turkey’s Constitutional Court has ruled that a 2017 administrative decision that refused two initiatives to elect a new patriarch for the Armenian Orthodox Church was a violation of the historic community’s right of religious freedom.

Under Turkish law and patriarchate rules, a new patriarch could not be elected while his predecessor is alive, which has been the case since the statute came into effect under the former Ottoman Empire in 1863. The issue that pitted different groups within Turkey’s Armenian community and the Istanbul Governorate began in the summer of 2007 when late Patriarch Mesrob II, commonly known by his civilian name Mesrob Mutafyan, fell into a vegetative state of dementia.

The case left the Armenian community in the difficult position of how to proceed with replacing a living religious leader that had been physically incapacitated and unable to continue his duties as the head of the Armenian Orthodox Church.

In a move that deeply angered the remains of Turkey’s once-large Armenian community, the ruling Islamist AK Party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2010, created the new office of “Deputy Patriarch” and installed a government-backed archbishop, Aram Ateshyan, in the position for what was originally intended to be on an interim basis. The move was widely interpreted by Armenians as being strikingly similar to the way Erdogan has handled the administrative municipalities in Kurdish-majority districts of Turkey where the government has relied on hand-picked, AK Party-backed Kurds to oversee the administrative affairs of districts in the country’s southeast.

This sparked a bitter debate within the Armenian community as two conflicting views emerged with one group centred advocating for the election of a “co-patriarch” who would serve alongside Ateshyan, and a second group calling on the Istanbul Governorate to elect a new patriarch.

The Istanbul Governorate, however, rejected both groups’ appeals in June 2010, saying that the post of the patriarch was not empty as Mutafyan was still technically alive. A month after the decision, Ateshyan was later unanimously elected by the Clerical Committee of the Armenian Patriarchate to serve as acting patriarch, a move that was widely denounced by legitimate by most of the Armenian community as Ateshyan’s election was the first to exclude the Armenian population from a patriarchate election since 1863, when the code of regulations concerning the Armenian millet – an independent court of law pertaining to “personal law” under which a confessional community was allowed to rule itself under its own laws – was introduced in the Ottoman Empire.

This was a violation of the Armenian National Constitution, which was transformed into a cabinet decree in 1961, according to legal representatives for the community, as the statutes specifically state that first civilians vote for the delegates who then vote for the patriarch.

The Clerical Committee finally decided to forcibly retire Mutafyan in October 2016 and elected the Primate of the German Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church Archbishop Karekin Bekchiyan to serve as locum tenens – a term used in Orthodox Christianity for a cleric who temporarily fulfils the duties of a higher office in the church hierarchy until a new election can be held.

During that time, however, the controversial government appointee, Ateshyan, refused to resign from his post as co-patriarch. The Armenian community later sent a petition filed to Turkey’s Ministry of Interior to hold elections, but the request was left unanswered. It was at this time that the Istanbul Governate ruled that new elections could not be held because Mutafyan was still alive. This view was reiterated in February 2018 in the Governorate’s written statement addressed to the patriarchate, in which Bekchiyan was referred to as the “so-called” locum tenens and referred to Ateshyan as the acting patriarch.

During this process, the Governorate’s decision was brought to an administrative court, arguing that the Clerical Committee had already exercised its legal right, based on the 1863 statute, on the election of an acting patriarch. The administrative court rejected the case in March 2012, and a subsequent appeal to Turkey’s top administrative court, the Council of State, was also turned down in November 2015.

In response to the court’s rejections, two individuals from Turkey’s Armenian community opted to individually apply to the Constitutional Court, saying the administrative rulings breached their right of religious freedom as the election of Bekchiyan had not been carried out, according to the law, by the Assembly of Delegates, a body that consisted of 20 clergymen and 120 civilians.

The court ruled in favour of the two applicants earlier this year, saying the Ministry of Interior misinterpreted the Ottoman-era regulation, which required an election not only for death or resignation of a patriarch but also for other “various reasons” that did not require particular specifications.

On 4 July, the Clerical Committee elected Bishop Sahak Mashalyan as locum tenens, with the election date for a new patriarch to be announced later this year.

The Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate is the largest congregation in what remains of Turkey’s millennia-old Armenian community. Armenians have seen a reinstatement of their rights, such as the return of properties that were once seized by the Turkish state in recent years, but due to immigration and the lingering effects of the 1915 Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Turks, which saw an estimated 1.5 million Armenians killed by the German-aligned wartime Turkish government, the community has struggled to survive.

Like other historic non-Muslim communities, including the Greeks, Turkey’s Armenians have been unable to fully exercise their legal rights due to past discriminatory state policies.

 

Kazakhstan expands list of visa-free countries

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epa07679807 Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk shows prisoners' passports to media during the handover of four Ukrainian prisoners, who were held in the self-proclaimed 'DNR' and 'LNR', to Ukraine at the Minsk National Airport some 30 km from Minsk, Belarus, 28 June 2019. EPA-EFE/TATYANA ZENKOVICH

NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan – Kazakhstan has established a visa-free regime with 61 countries, the press service of the Migration Service Committee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan said on 22 July.

The authorities of this Central Asian republic are trying to increase investment attractiveness and improve the business climate, the ministry said.

“The visa-free regime for 45 countries was granted in one-way order for up to 30 days without the need to register with the migration service authorities,” the ministry said.

Agreements have been concluded on a bilateral basis with 19 countries: Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Mongolia and Ukraine – up to 90 days. Azerbaijan, Argentina, Brazil, South Korea, Cuba, the United Arab Emirates, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkey and Ecuador – up to 30 days; Hong Kong – up to 14 days.

In accordance with the law “On Migration of the Population”, foreigners are required to issue registration within five days after entering Kazakhstan.

Registration is done in several ways. One of them is registration is issued by the border service at the entrance to Kazakhstan for citizens of 56 economically developed and socially stable countries, as well as all foreigners register.

 

Brussels issues guidance note on tackling unfair contract terms

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The Berlaymond Building in Brussels, Thursday 26 January 2006. The Berlaymond building is the European Commission headquarter, home for 2,700 bureaucrats and the 25-members of the EU executive. EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET

The European Commission adopted on 22 July a guidance note on unfair contract terms which should ensure that consumer associations and legal practitioners, including judges, will be better equipped to protect EU consumers from unfair contract terms.

The guidance note is based on the case-law of the European Court of Justice, referring to existing rulings on unfair terms.

As a complement to the guidance note, European business organisations have drawn up recommendations on how terms and conditions can be presented to consumers in a more transparent way.

EASO and IOM establish formal cooperation framework

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epa05363637 An International Organisation for Migration (IOM) employee watches a migrant boat as it comes ashore at Lhoknga Beach, Aceh, Indonesia, 14 June 2016. About 40 migrants from Sri Lanka drifted into Aceh waters after engine failure. According to the Indonesia immigration, the migrants were heading to Australia when their wooden boat developed an engine problem. The Indonesian government decided to send a mechanic to fix their boat and supplied them with food and fuel so they could leave the Indonesian territory. The migrants refuse to leave Indonesian waters and are demanding around 7 metric tons of fuel for their onward journey to Australia. EPA/HOTLI SIMANJUNTAK

The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have established a formal cooperation framework to guide the relevant areas of common work in the fields of international protection and migration management after signing an agreement on Monday in Paris.

EASO’s Executive Director of EASO, Nina Gregori, and the Director-General of the IOM, António Vitorino, have signed a working agreement that covers several common areas of actions, ensuring that both institutions will further safeguard the rights of migrants and applicants for international protection, while at the same time, adequately supporting Europe’s national governments.

The areas included in the agreement cover early warning, preparedness and contingency, repatriation, resettlement, voluntary relocation, and supporting migrants with vulnerabilities and specific protection needs.

“The EASO and the IOM have worked together for several years in helping authorities safeguard the rights of migrants and applicants for international protection. I welcome today’s formalisation of this cooperation, which strengthens the important work both parties carry out and is another example of the EU’s emphasis on strong international synergies in migration and asylum management,” said Gregory on behalf of the EASO.

Vitorino reiterated the role of this cooperation as a “pre-cursor for ensuring highest-quality support to migrants, asylum-seekers and our shared Member States”.

The EASO and IOM have agreed to exchange information, data and documentation to the fullest extent possible on matters of common interest. The two have also decided to develop methodologies and tools for data and information gathering and analysis on displaced populations in regions of origin, populations in transit, resettlement, humanitarian admission, relocation, and family reunification.

In addition, the EASO and IOM may, through special arrangements, take decisions towards joint actions and the implementation of projects and agreements, that are subject to the availability of resources and a conclusion of the Financial Framework Agreement between the UN and the European Community.

The two sides may then jointly decide to set up commissions, committees or other technical or advisory bodies.

Both sides want to further explore new training initiatives and material developed in line with EASO training methodology and other capacity-building activities.

To coordinate actions and fine-tune roadmaps, the two will arrange annual senior management consultations to discuss mutual cooperation under the existing working arrangement, including the active participation of IOM in the activities of the EASO Consultative Forum.