Global Review – 21st October

EU agrees ‘roadmap’ to contain energy prices

EU leaders early this morning reached agreement on a “roadmap” aimed at putting in place measures within weeks to shield European consumers from soaring energy prices. AFP reports the accord came after 11 hours of wrangling over broad proposals to lower energy bills as gas prices pushed skywards by the war in Ukraine. The bloc’s 27 member states have been squabbling for months over which joint initiatives to adopt, driven by the fact that energy mixes in the countries vary greatly. While the announcement of the summit text made a public show of unity, it was clear that the coming negotiations would remain difficult. EU energy ministers will meet in Luxembourg next week.

The summit agreement set out a “solid roadmap to keep on working on the topic of energy prices”, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen told a media conference. The published text calls on the European Commission and EU countries in coming weeks to find ways to shield consumers from the high prices “while preserving Europe’s global competitiveness… and the integrity of the Single Market”. European Council President Michel said, “the energy crisis represents a threat to the internal market” of the EU and stressed “maximal coordination” was needed to protect it.

At least 15 EU countries – more than half the bloc – are pushing for an ambitious cap on prices and are increasingly unsettled by strikes and protests over the cost of living spreading across France, Belgium and other member states. But the price-cap idea has met resistance from Germany, the EU’s biggest economy, fearing that gas supplies could end up shifting to more lucrative markets in Asia.Several smaller economies are also furious that the German government will not back a gas cap and for going it alone in helping its citizens pay for high prices with a €200-billion spending bonanza. In the end, the agreed text said a “cost and benefit analysis” of a price cap for electricity generation should be carried out, and that the impact beyond Europe would be assessed.

In another nod to Germany’s concerns, the summit agreement on energy backed joint purchases by the EU energy giants in order to command cheaper prices to replenish reserves, as long as “national needs” were taken into account. It also set limits aimed at “preventing increased gas consumption”.Another point gives the EU’s executive arm the power to establish a pricing “corridor” on Europe’s main gas index to intervene when prices get out of control.

MidCat project scrapped

Meanwhile, France, Spain and Portugal have agreed to scrap the so-called “MidCat project” of a planned gas pipeline that Berlin has been pushing for years. Leaders of the three countries met just before the summit and “decided to abandon the MidCat project and instead create, as a matter of priority, a Green Energy Corridor connecting Portugal, Spain and France with the EU’s energy network”. The MidCat, a project that emerged a decade ago, called for an overland gas pipeline to be built to connect gas terminals in Spain and Portugal, across France, to European networks supplying Germany, among others. In its place, they said, an underwater pipeline, called BarMar, would be laid from Barcelona in Spain to Marseille in France. It will initially be used for natural gas but, over time, more and more for more climate-friendly hydrogen. But the agreement released by President Macron and his Spanish and Portuguese counterparts laid out no timetable for BarMar’s completion, and did not say how it would be funded, leaving experts sceptical.

Zelensky calls for more air defence systems

As Germany supplied Ukraine with the air defence system Iris-T, which can fire at targets up to 20 kilometers in the sky, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy called on other European countries to supply further systems. Russia had increasingly attacked civilian targets with drone strikes in recent days. In his speech, via a video conference to the EU summit in Brussels, Zelenskyy stressed that Ukraine needed more air defence systems to create a truly reliable air shield. He specifically turned to France, Italy and the US for further support.

Biden concerned over slashed Ukraine aid under Republicans

US President Joe Biden has said he is concerned about a possible block of additional aid for Ukraine’s war effort if the Republicans win control of Congress in the November midterms. Republican legislators have already warned that they would not be writing a “blank cheque” for Ukraine if they win a House majority.

Meloni promises ‘to give the country a government’

Italian Prime Minister-in-waiting and Fratelli d’Italia leader Georgia Meloni would be ready to present the list of ministers on Friday evening, immediately after receiving the task of forming the executive. She promised: “We will give the country a government.” And on Twitter she clarified: “Together, with the entire centrer-right coalition, we will go up to the Quirinale for consultations with the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella. We are ready to give Italy a government that faces the urgencies and challenges of our time with awareness and competence.”

UK could have a new PM by Monday

The Conservative Party in Britain is scrambling to restore order from the storm, following Liz Truss’ resignation six weeks into the job. Consequently, nominees will need the backing of at least 100 of their peers. With fewer than 400 Conservative MPs, that leaves just three possible contenders to run. Rishi Sunak is expected to become the next prime minister with bookmakers making him a super favourite with 11/10, followed by Penny Mordaunt for 7/2 and Ben Wallace given 8/1. Truss’ resignation led Labour leader Keir Starmer to demand a general election “now”.

Huge thunderstorms band to slam four Aussie states

Four Australian states have been warned to brace for storms through to Tuesday – some of which could be “severe” – and the possibility of “large to giant hail” damaging property in Queensland. The weather update forecasts the huge band of bad weather will stretch from northern Queensland into New South Wales, northern Victoria and eastern South Australia. Thunderstorms are possible for Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

Kevin Spacey acquitted of sexual abuse charge

American actor Kevin Spacey has defeated a sexual abuse claim against him by Anthony Rapp, now 50, after jurors in Manhattan civil trial found his accuser didn’t prove his claim that the Oscar winner made an unwanted sexual advance on him when he was 14. Spacey denied the allegation on the stand and said he had never been alone with Rapp.

Another country pulls out of Eurovision 2023

Bulgaria has become the latest country to say it will not participate in next May’s Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool. Broadcasters from North Macedonia and Montenegro had already confirmed they would not be taking part in 2023 because of the increased entry fee. BBC News has been told countries have been asked to pay more to make up for the money lost following Russia’s ban. The EBU, which organises the contest, has now confirmed the list of 37 participants for the 2023 competition. How much each participating broadcaster pays to enter is not made public, but the total cost between all entrants normally adds up to around £5 million (€5.7 million), with the host paying a further sum. The BBC is expected to spend between £8m and £17m to stage the event next May, on behalf of Ukraine, which won this year’s show.

F1: Red Bull on course to break Mercedes’ streak

Red Bull’s double world champion Max Verstappen can equal a Formula One record in Sunday’s US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, and officially end Mercedes’ unprecedented run of eight constructors’ titles in a row. Verstappen needs one more victory to join German greats Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel as the only drivers to have racked up 13 wins in a single season.

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