EU launches plan on energy and gas supplies
Green light from the College of European Commissioners to the new legislative proposal on energy: the package of measures “tackles high gas prices and ensures the security of supplies for this winter”, announces the Commission. The main measures approved include “the joint purchase of gas, the creation of a new benchmark for LNG prices by March 2023 and, in the short term, a price correction mechanism to establish a dynamic price limit for transactions on the Ttf gas exchange; and pre-defined solidarity rules between Member States in case of supply shortages”. EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said, “Gas storage facilities in Europe are 92%. The Russian share of gas via pipeline has dropped to nine per cent; two-thirds of Russian supplies have been cut. Thanks to all this we are prepared to face the winter.”
Biden unlocks 15 million barrels of oil
US Preasident Joe Biden has announced the release of 15 million barrels of oil from US strategic reserves to “fight the rise in gasoline prices caused by Putin’s war” in Ukraine. The move aims to extend the current Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) delivery programme through December. The European Union embargo on Russian oil is scheduled to go into effect on December 5, and the White House release is intended to offset some of the expected volatility in the oil market stemming from the implementation of the EU embargo.
EU Parliament supports Romania, Bulgaria’s bid to join Schengen
European lawmakers Tuesday urged the Council of the European Union to include Romania and Bulgaria’s in the Schengen free movement area by the end of the year. The European Commission has previously said both countries fulfilled the technical requirementsto join the free movement area, however, some EU member states, including Germany and France, had voiced concerns. Judicial reforms, the fight against corruption, and the fight against organised crime were among the issues raised. MEPs said not admitting the two countries was “discriminatory” and hurt the EU’s single market.
Thousands strike in France
Striking workers held rallies across France Tuesday to demand higher wages in response to soaring inflation, amplifying a protest by refinery workers that has emptied petrol stations and caused headaches for millions of motorists. The strike caused fewer transport disruptions than feared, though unions have vowed further action against President Macron in coming weeks, in particular over a hostly-contested pensions reform. The interior ministry said 107,000 people took part in marches across the country, including 13,000 in Paris – an estimate far below the 70,000 reported by the CGT union. Anti-capitalist “black bloc” protesters also joined the demo in the capital, spraying graffiti and smashing windows at a bank and a BMW dealership before being dispersed by riot police. The ministry said 11 people were arrested in Paris and nine officers injured in clashes with the protesters, with four arrests elsewhere.
Swedish government scraps environment ministry
Sweden’s new right-wing government has sparked an outcry after scrapping the Ministry of Environment in a move the opposition has branded “devastating”. Previously, the ministry was a high-profile stand-alone department with a minister in the cabinet, but now it will operate as part of another ministry instead. Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson unveiled his new cabinet on Tuesday, and although he did appoint a Minister of Climate and Environment – 26-year-old Liberal MP Romina Pourmokhtari – she will work under Christian Democrat leader Ebba Busch, the new Minister for Energy, Business and Industry, rather than lead her own ministry. The leader of the Swedish Greens, Per Bolund, noted that for the first time in 35 years Sweden would have no dedicated environment ministry.
US, Europe to raise Iranian drone transfers to Russia at UN
The United States, Britain and France plan to raise alleged Iranian arms transfers to Russia at a closed-door UN Security Council meeting Wednesday, diplomats said, after Ukraine said Russia’s having obtained drones violated a Council resolution. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the diplomats said the three nations – which also believe such transfers violate UN Security Council Resolution 2231 – told their Council counterparts they would ask a UN official to brief members on the issue. Separately, Ukraine has invited UN experts to inspect what it says are downed Iranian-origin drones used by Russia to attack Ukrainian targets in violation of that resolution. Russia launched dozens of “kamikaze” drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on Ukraine on Monday, hitting energy infrastructure and killing five people in the capital Kiev. Ukraine says they are Iranian-made Shahed-136 attack drones – loitering munitions that cruise towards their target before plummeting at velocity and detonating on impact. Kiev moved on Tuesday to cut ties with Iran because of their use. Tehran denies supplying the drones to Moscow and the Kremlin has not commented. Washington says Iran’s denial is a lie.
UN Commission finds evidence of war crimes in Ukraine
“There are reasonable grounds to believe that war crimes, violations of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law have been committed in Ukraine,” the independent international commission of inquiry writes in the report sent to the UN General Assembly. It said the situation’s gravity made it necessary to attribute responsibility for the various violations.
Russian commander calls situation ‘tense’
Commander of Russia’s invasion, Sergei Surovikin, has conceded that the situation in occupied territories is “tense” as Ukrainian shelling intensifies. Described as ‘near-constant’ by those in the occupied Ukrainian territory, Russian forces are now actively moving civilians outside of four towns on the Dnipro River.
Third of Ukraine’s power, water plants hit
Ukraine says Russia has destroyed almost a third of its power stations over the past week – leaving more than a thousand towns blacked out – in a wave of strikes targeting infrastructure. Missiles struck power-generating facilities in Ukrainian cities home to millions of people and several people were killed. Moscow acknowledged targeting energy plants, while Ukraine said water infrastructure had also been hit. But at the same time, Intelligence reports show Russia’s supply of several missile types is critically low: “The Russian industry cannot produce enough new missiles, and the ones they went to war with on February 24 are already running out.”
Renzi’s parents acquitted in ‘false invoices’ case
Former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, current leader of Italia Viva Matteo Renzi’s parents – Tiziano Renzi and his wife Laura Bovoli – have been acquitted by the Florence Court of Appeal in the trial for false invoices . For the judges “the fact does not constitute a crime”. The Attorney General had asked for sentences of one year and nine months. Renzi said that “after years of struggle and pain my parents have been acquitted. I am happy for them. They did not deserve so much hatred. Justice has won.”
Daniel Craig receives royal honour
Daniel Craig has something in common with the fictional spy he plays after the British actor was bestowed the same royal honour as James Bond. Craig was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George by Princess Anne at a ceremony at Windsor Castle on Tuesday. The honour recognises Craig’s “outstanding contribution to film and theatre”. Craig received the award as part of Queen Elizabeth’s annual New Year’s honours list in January. Craig made his debut as James Bond in 2006’s Casino Royale and played the secret agent five times over 15 years before his final outing in No Time to Die released in 2021. He famously starred alongside the Queen in a fun clip for the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012. He became the sixth actor to portray James Bond in October 2005 and held the role until last year.