Europe

Europe to shift fast to alternate fuel sources before 2027
Europe

Europe to shift fast to alternate fuel sources before 2027

Gasoline age may come to an end after all. A recent report has shown that Europe may actually face severe oil shortage in the coming decade. There is therefore an urgent need to use low carbon energy alternatives and the urgency is now being felt to make a swift shift.

An independent French climate think tank, Shift Project has generated a report that predicts that there is an urgency to design a world without oil. This is because Europe now runs the risk of reaching ‘peak oil supply’ before major economies have transitioned to cleaner energy sources.  

According to data shared by Norwegian consultancy Rystad Energy, oil production from Russia has already entered the stage of ‘systematic decline’. These findings were used by the Shift Project report. The former USSR provides more than 40% of the EU’s oil supply. With such decreased capacities, it is likely to outstrip the rate at which the EU has curbed its use of oil over the last 10 years. Rystad Energy is also predicting that the oil productions will diminish three years before the previous prediction of 2030.

The scare around the Corona virus and its unpredictability, apart from chases of man facing other deadly unknown virus, investment is new oil projects is going to see a steady decline. This is another reason to factor is as to why there is a need to make arrangements for alternate to fossil fuel.

Even Africa’s oil production is estimated to make a sharp decline in the next decade. It accounts for 10percent of EU’s oil imports. Post lockdowns have opened worldwide, global oil prices climbed to $40 a barrel from hitting rock bottom some months ago. This is more so because the OPEC oil cartel decided on a historic move, of reducing their oil production though temporarily. Oil production is not going to go sooner than the 2022. Meanwhile, if the demand surges in the various economies, the latter will have to be ready to meet the demand through alternate energy sources, if not oil.

Trump, a big uncertainty for Europe
Europe

Trump, a big uncertainty for Europe

The President of the United States, Donald Trump, and his foreign policy represent a big unknown for Europe. The withdrawal of troops from Europe and other MENA scenarios, the dialogue with Turkey as opposed to Russia, and the US policy of sanctions are among the reasons of uncertainty for the Old Continent in numerous files.

Last week, the Trump’s announcement to withdraw approximately 9,500 men from the US Armed Forces, currently deployed in Germany, by September, brought up to date the theme of Washington’s commitment to European defense. The decision reopens the debate, which the presidential candidate Donald Trump had raised in 2016, around the alleged obsolescence of NATO and the need to rethink the role of the “American pillar” in an Atlantic Alliance perceived as increasingly unbalanced.

From many quarters it has been highlighted how difficult it is to identify a precise reason behind the choice of the White House but how it fits, however, in the context of an increasingly deteriorated transatlantic relationship. The relations between the United States and Europe are currently characterized by a new phase of tension,  emphasized by the decision of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, not to participate in the next G7 summit, which, contrary to what was decided in March, US administration would like to be held in Washington next September.

Not only the withdrawal of US troops from Germany, there are several reasons for these tensions. On the one hand, Trump’s aggressive attitude towards his political opponents, the new sanctions against Syria and Iran, the continuous attack on China as responsible for the coronavirus pandemic, but above all, his support for Turkey of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In particular in Libya. The Turkish intervention in Libya against the Libyan National Army not only profoundly changes the geopolitical balance in the eastern Mediterranean, but is seen by Europe as a threat. Erdogan has always blackmailed the continent using the migrants and refugees’ card.

Merkel’s own words about the George Floyd affair didn’t help improve things. The same is true of the divergences that exist between the United States and Germany on a wide range of issues, ranging from the readmission of Russia to the G8 – to which Berlin strongly opposes – to the completion of the Nord Stream2 pipeline, a project strongly desired by Germany and also opposed by Washington, which sees in it an instrument intended to strengthen Moscow’s already strong position on the European energy market.This is why Europeans look forward to the US elections, hoping for a change in the White House’s international political choices.

Relations between EU and the UK, what future?
Europe

Relations between EU and the UK, what future?

The United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January 2020 at midnight, when the withdrawal agreement entered into force.The entry into force of the agreement marks the end of the period under Article 50 TEU and the start of a transition period due to last until 31 December 2020. This transition period aims to provide time for citizens and businesses to adapt. According to the Council of EU, during this period, the UK will continue to apply European Union law but it will no longer be represented in EU institutions. The transition period can be extended once for a period of up to one or two years, if both sides agree to this before 1 July 2020.

As the UK has become a third country, negotiations on the future partnership between the EU and the UK started. The framework for this future relationship was set out in the political declaration agreed by both sides in October 2019.In a joint debate ahead of the EU summit covering future EU-UK relations and EU financing, on WednesdayMembers of the European Parliament (MEPs) urged Council to agree on the recovery plan.

“Parliament will not back a deal at any cost”, warned several MEPs commenting on the ongoing negotiations about the future relationship with the UK. They rejected the UK’s intention to select certain policy areas on which to negotiate while ignoring others.Several speakers underlined that both parties have to stick to the Political Declaration, signed by the UK and the EU last year, which provides a clear framework for a future relationship. MEPs also called for commitments to be met faithfully, among others in the interest of UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK, as laid down in the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement. Parliament hopes for a new dynamism to conclude talks, for which there are but 204 days left. A resolution assessing the talks will be adopted today, Thursday June 18th.

During a crunch video conference with Boris Johnson, the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, said she would fight into the dying minutes to conclude an agreement. Both sides agreed to accelerate the negotiations over the coming months to ensure a deal is in place when the transition period expires on December 31. The Prime Minister has urged the bloc to work towards the basis of a deal next month.

On the next long-term EU budget and the COVID-19 recovery package, MEPs said that time is pressing and it is now in the European Council’s hands to quickly take the next important step: finding a common position among member states. The economy has to get back on track urgently, and the recovery plan “can get things going, but only with an ambitious long-term budget can we cross the finishing line”.Many MEPs also underlined that the Commission’s proposal is the bare minimum. In addition, the Parliament’s role has to be strengthened in devising and implementing the package, as “a crisis cannot be an excuse to undermine democracy”.

Europe cautiously opens its borders to tourists
Europe

Europe cautiously opens its borders to tourists

With the tourist season upon them, several European countries have announced the relaxing of border restrictions.

The Schengen zone isn’t fully operational yet but several countries have announced the partial opening of borders within the bloc with some restrictions still in place. The free movement of people and vehicles across the continent came to a screeching halt in March when countries haphazardly closed their borders to keep the virus out. But with the holiday season approaching, both tourists and the tourism industry is hoping for a break.

The European Union is hoping for a united effort that will ensure less chaos and avoid the need to reinstate these restrictions later. The border situation remains mixed with different countries taking different approaches to entry and quarantine. For example, Austria is allowing people to enter only if they have a COVID-19 test certificate that proves they are negative. This shouldn’t be more than four days old and they are still prohibiting people from countries outside the Schengen. Denmark, which had some of the strictest lockdowns, is allowing tourists to travel if they just have valid hotel bookings.

France is also allowing people to visit without a health certificate or any quarantine, except for those travelling from Spain and the UK who have to self-isolate for 14 days. Germany is lifting travel restrictions but is warning its citizens not to travel outside the EU. In Iceland, tourists will be tested upon arrival and they will get the results on their phone, after downloading a tracking app. Spain has opened its borders only for its citizens and requires a 14-day home quarantine upon entry. 

The UK has also opened its border and except for certain people like healthcare workers, others will have to self-quarantine. There is controversy over UK’s decision to not share real-time information regarding the rules and infections with the European Commission, which has launched an app and website to consolidate the different restrictions by the countries and help people plan their trips. People can look up local border rules, transport options, travel restrictions, and health and safety measures regarding physical distancing, face masks, etc. on the platform. A UK spokesperson said that since the UK was no longer part of the EU, they didn’t want to be included in a map representing the member states. But representatives of the tourism industry within Britain said that the government should be proactive and do whatever it can to save businesses and jobs. By not participating, they are giving the impression that they are closed for business and this is missed opportunity to provide information to tourists and businesses instead of staying in isolation.

How Europe is changing following the COVID-19
Europe

How Europe is changing following the COVID-19

The European Union has announced plans to lift the ban on non-essential travel to the continent, with foreign students, third-country nationals who normally live in Europe, and some highly skilled workers, starting from July 1st.After the virus began to spread across Europe in March, the EU gradually extended the ban to all non-essential travel to the 27 member countries as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, until June 15. While the area of free internal movement should be fully functional again by the end of June, the European Commission recommends opening up external borders to boost economies, especially the tourism sector.

Instead, the Commission urged European countries to make coordinated decisions on who to let in and from where, given that visas for the Schengen area allow travel to 26 countries, and to base their actions on data from the World Health Organization and of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.Schools and businesses have already reopened across the continent, although some more affected countries such as Italy are still defining strategies to prevent a second wave of contagions.

The health emergency for COVID-19 has prompted European countries to reassess their budgets allocated to health. They have improved and expanded hospitals, opening new ones. They have equipped new intensive care units and allocated funds for the search for new treatments and vaccines.The COVID-19 has also allowed a real progress in the digitalization process of both industry and public administrations in Europe.

The extensive use of digital platforms, the development of specific tools dedicated to video conferences, which still to be used although in many countries the restrictive measures have eased favouring a return to an apparent “normal” production, highlights how for many the forced-choice to adopt digital tools to continue to ensure productivity became a clear transition to a digitalization that seemed impossible until a few months ago.

Data is at the core of digital transformation. It shapes the way we produce, consume and live. Access to ever-growing volume of data and the ability to use it are essential for innovation and growth. Data-driven innovation can bring major and concrete benefits to the citizens – through, for example, personalised medicine or improved mobility – and to the European economy, from enabling better policymaking to upgrading public services.Europe emerging from the Coronavirus appears more united, more attentive to the health needs of its citizens, and more digital.

EU names China, Russia for spreading misinformation during COVID-19 pandemic
Europe

EU names China, Russia for spreading misinformation during COVID-19 pandemic

The European Union (EU) in a report released yesterday named China and Russia in spreading disinformation.

A press release also added that the European Commission and the High Representative are working ways to fight misleading information about the Novel Coronavirus.

The report was prepared after EU leaders resolved to fight in March 2020 misinformation about COVID-19 pandemic. The EU community had expressed concern that a lot of false news was circulated when the pandemic broke out. And there were attempts by the third party to implant information intended to affect European society and its citizens adversely.

In the press release, the EU leaders said local and foreign sources generated misinformation.

According to Věra Jourová, Vice-President for Values and Transparency needs to strengthen all relevant actors, including online platforms and public offices, and allow independent fact-checkers and media.

Citing the role of foreign country, the presser adds that foreign actors and individual countries, namely China and Russia, have engaged in circulating misinformation not just in the EU, but also in neighbouring countries and other parts of the globe.

These fake news were intended to influence opinions.

According to Jourová, misleading information during the pandemic can not only kill people, but it can also undermine the government officials’ efforts to mitigate the crisis.

Misinformation has posed a significant concern for all countries. In recent months, the EU has asked social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to remove misleading information about cure from coronavirus.

The EU has also increased pressure on these tech giants to curb hate speech and disinformation.

The EU report said that there was a deliberate action on the part of Chinese sources to distract widespread discussion on the spread of the pandemic and promote China’s role in helping countries to fight the crisis.

Earlier tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter have signed the EU’s Code of Conduct on disinformation. The EU is likely to make TikTok and other popular apps to sign the code.  While the EU is accusing China of spreading false narratives, a top diplomat from the EU, however, assured Chinese Foreign Minister that the actions undertaken by the bloc are not to start a “cold war” with China.

Will EU travel tourism business recover from pandemic hit?
Europe

Will EU travel tourism business recover from pandemic hit?

The European Union has been worst hit by the pandemic, when it comes to their key sector of travel and tourism. The economy which thrives on its tourist inflow has hit rock bottom as many nations systematically try and open their borders post a long induced lockdown.

In a web debate over how to make a recovery recently Matthew Baldwin, deputy director general, Mobility and Transport, the European Commission expressed his gravest concern was ‘to restore a sense of wellbeing and security amongst the people.’

Also engaging in the debate was Eduardo Santander, executive director and CEO of the European Travel Commission (ETC) who said that the situation might not revive that quickly though some activity has started to resume in the European Union post the pandemic and that is a fresh start.  According to him the best way to move ahead would be to ‘harmonized and use a united approach to travel across the European Union.’

Matthew expressed the Commission’s seriousness to come up with a solution owning to the fact that ‘there are 6 million jobs at stake and almost 10 percent GDP comes from travel and tourism for European Union.’

However in his understand a more “common approach would be most appropriate to lift restrictions of the border and create travel links without compromising the safety and hygiene aspect of the travelers.  Health protocols for hotels for example will need to be well defined as well. It is more of the perspective of safety and restoring public confidence that is important. Also we need to work out a way to really give travel operators the maximum possible certainty for them to feel reassured their business can still work,” said Matthew.

Speaking about moving ahead, he said that European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has already put down operational tool for the aviation industry.  Further he said that its most important that “as we open travel and tourism, lets concentrate on three things- coordination, transparency and non discriminatory approach.”

Portuguese Secretary of State for Tourism, Rita Marques spoke about the need for “data and information in order we can follow a coordinated approach. We will need this support coming from all member states. Mobility is also critical to restart the travel and tourism business. We need to work towards reopening borders and mobilize transport in a very harmonizing way, promote tourism within EU and then funding.  15 percent of our GDP, strong support from EU to restart the travel and tourism sector.”  Santander threw light on the fact that family travel businesses and enterprises are now facing an existential threat.  He also reiterated the problem facing EU nations post the summer months. In his opinion, the first thing to do would be to “really restore the trust amongst the players itself.” All of them believe that the damage is far more psychological that just economical and would definitely need consensus and unified rules, guidelines and standards that works well both for travelers and service providers.

Lawmakers from US, EU form alliance to counter China
Americas, Europe

Lawmakers from US, EU form alliance to counter China

Following recent Chinese overtures in Hong Kong, in a unique effort, Members of Parliament (MP) from the US and Europe have formed an alliance to look into the issue.

18 MPs from the US and Europe have come together to form the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC). The cross-continent initiative will also look into China’s role in the COVID outbreak.

US Senators Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez are part of the alliance. Other representatives are from the European Parliament, the UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, Norway, and Sweden.

The group will work towards a “strategic approach” on issues about China.

Rubio, without mincing words, said, “China, under the Chinese Communist Party, presents a global challenge.” The IPAC will coordinate the response to that “challenge.”

The alliance will work towards safeguarding the international rules-based order, uphold human rights, and promote fair trade. The 18 member body will also work for strengthening security and promoting national integrity.

The US has objected to discriminatory trade practices of China in the past. Recently tension between the two has flared up over how China handled the novel Coronavirus crisis. The death toll in the US, from the viral infection, has crossed over a hundred thousand.

The US government has also raised concern over China tightening grip over the semi-autonomous region of Hong Kong.

China in late May announced that it would impose National Security law in the former British colony. The US, UK, Australia reacted sharply over this move. The US announced that it would take steps that might alter Hong Kong’s special trade and economic relationship with the US.

Recently the US Congress passed a bill allowing the US President to take steps against Chinese human rights violations against the Uyghurs.

Senator Rubio and Menendez are known for their hardline stand against China. The two had introduced the bill to impose sanctions against China in then Congress in 2019, against human rights violations in Xinjiang province.

China has increased its patrol in the South China Sea. It is also intruding on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Italy, France, Germany, and the Netherlands joined forces for a COVID-19 vaccine
Europe, Geopolitics

Italy, France, Germany, and the Netherlands joined forces for a COVID-19 vaccine

Around the world, several companies and governments are looking for a vaccine for COVID-19, with the risk that the first to find it will produce it first for its population, leaving the others, in particular the least developed countries, at the mercy of a second epidemic to coincide with the next flu season. For this reason, Italy, France, Germany, and the Netherlands have joined forces in the research and production of the vaccine against the new coronavirus, an “inclusive” drug, as stated in the note expressed by the Dutch authorities published by France Presse.

The note affirms that the four countries jointly explore several promising initiatives and are in talks with different pharmaceutical companies, for which joint strategy and investments are conceived to reach a “widely accessible” vaccine, even from the least wealthy countries like African ones. German Health Jens Spahn wrote to the European Commission along with his counterparts from France, Italy and the Netherlands to announce that they have joined to “achieve the fastest and best possible outcome in negotiations with key players in the pharmaceutical industry.”

The four EU countries have identified the development of a vaccine as “one of the most urgent issues that the European Union has to address at present.” Doctors announced a new coronavirus outbreak in Göttingen, Lower Saxony, for which authorities decided the reintroduction of preventive measures such as the closure of schools for a week, after their reopening on May 23rd.In the German city, have been recorded 80 new cases of Covid-19, and at the base of the outbreak, there would be a private party between families without masks and social distancing.The EU is also preparing to use a €2.4 billion ($2.7 billion) fund to make advance purchases of vaccines, Reuters news agency reported. The use of the emergency fund is yet to be officially announced.

Over 380,000 have died from coronavirus worldwide. According to Johns Hopkins, the total number of infected people recognized as such is 6,404,872, while the healed are 2,743,777.The situation is improving in Italy, where people can leave their region without restrictions from yesterday. The latest data of Civil Protection reports of 71 deaths in the last 24 hours and 321 new infections, most in Lombardy, the first epicenter of the pandemic, in northern Italy. The total number of infections rises to 233,836, of which the dead are 33,601, while the recovered are 160,938.

The US has already secured almost a third of the first 1 billion doses planned for pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca experimental vaccine by pledging $1.2 billion (€1.07 billion). AstraZeneca is one of several companies that Germany is now in talks with.The situation is still alarming in Latin America and in particular in Brazil, where at the beginning Jair Bolsonaro caught the epidemic: in the last 24 hours the deaths were 1,262, a number that brought the total of deaths to 31,199 28,936 new cases were recognized, for a total of 555,383.

Brexit deal likely by autumn, EU says
Europe

Brexit deal likely by autumn, EU says

European Union leaders will intervene soon in order to bring the Brexit talks to a conclusion by autumn, according to Berlin’s representative in Brussels.

Following the United Kingdom’s statement last week that talks can’t go on forever and needed to be concluded before autumn, Germany’s ambassador to the EU Michael Clauss confirmed that the EU was working towards this. Political intervention was likely and inevitable, and this would be EU’s main focus in September and October along with arriving at a pandemic recovery package for the bloc.

Saying that no real progress has been made so far on the negotiations, he said that Ursula von der Leyen, the European commission president, Charles Michel, the president of the European council, and Boris Johnson would meet this month to take stock. This will help negotiators arrive at a conclusion about whether no-deal planning was necessary. The UK has made it clear that it is not willing to budge from its red lines and it is up to the EU to accept this and arrive at a reasonable compromise.

UK officials are already of the opinion that an autumn deal would be too late as it would not give British business enough time to prepare for the end of transition without the knowledge of what kind of trade agreement has been reached. In the last round of negotiations, there was stalemate across the board in access for European fishing fleets to UK waters, the role of European courts, return for a zero-tariff trade deal, and common environmental, social and labour standards. UK negotiators have been repeatedly calling for EU’s political leaders to intervene to break the stalemate.

EU has been saying that Britain cannot have a full sovereignty and full access to the internal market, but it would have to give away some sovereignty to secure free trade. A compromise would have to be reached with the objective of arriving at a deal at the European Council summit on 15 October. It can’t be much later, according to EU insiders, because it would then need to be ratified by the European parliament which would need some time.

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