Poland blocks adoption of EU minimum tax
Poland was the only EU country to block the adoption during Tuesday’s ECOFIN meeting, of the global agreement on the minimum tax for multinationals. Polish Finance Minister Magdalena Rzeczkowska said that, despite the amendments, Warsaw was concerned about the different timelines for the adoption of the two pillars of the reform. The compromise “is not a legally-binding solution to ensure that both the first pillar and the second pillar enter into force at the same time,” she pointed out. European Commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis hoped that the agreement could be reached at the next ECOFIN, on May 24. French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, who leads the current EU presidency, said the reasons that push Warsaw to block the agreement are “a mystery”, adding he was “absolutely not convinced” of Warsaw’s position. “All the technical difficulties have been resolved”, explained the minister, recalling the work in Paris to respond to the observations raised in recent months and weeks by various countries such as Ireland, Estonia, Sweden and Malta.
Reforms still required on Poland’s Resilience Plan
EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has told the European Parliament that she had been “very clear on the conditions for approving Poland’s Recovery and Resilience Plan”. During question time in Strasbourg, she said there were three reforms required on the question of the independence of the judiciary, all of which were linked to the ruling of the Court of Justice. “There are requirements of long-standing reforms that must be respected, then there will be the disbursement. The Polish government should present a Bill that refers to these three criteria, when the law is approved then we will analyze whether this is adequate “to the conditions”. However, she underlined: “We are not there yet!”
Ukraine now the capital of European democracy – Zelensky
The BBC quotes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky saying in his nightly Facebook address, “The UN Security Council exists, and security in the world doesn’t.” After his virtual speech to the UN, Zelensky said the UN “is currently unable to carry out the functions for which it was created” and he goes on to blame Russia – a permanent Security Council member – for its dysfunction. Russia, Zelensky said, “discredits the UN and all other international institutions where it still participates”. The Ukrainian president has called for Russia to be removed from the panel, where it wields veto power, saying in his Facebook address that Russia’s role at the UN is “to block everything constructive and use global architecture in order to spread lies and justify the evil it does”. He called on Western leaders to issue a new round of sanctions against Russia “commensurate with the gravity of the occupiers’ war crimes”. Ukraine, he says, is preparing for visits from EC President Ursula von der Leyen and the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell in the coming days. “Now Kyiv is the capital of global democracy, the capital of the struggle for freedom for all on the European continent,” says Zelensky.
Zelensky outlines alleged Russian atrocities
In his speech to the UN Security Council, President Zelensky outlined a list of alleged Russian atrocities, saying the Russian military must be brought to justice immediately for war crimes. Showing a gruesome video, he alleged civilians were shot in the streets, thrown into wells and crushed by tanks. Scenes in Bucha, near Kyiv – where civilian corpses were strewn in the streets – were being repeated in other parts of the country, he said. Russia, he added, should be removed as a permanent member of the Security Council. The United States, China, France, the United Kingdom, and Russia are the only permanent members. Russia denied any war crimes and its UN ambassador repeated debunked claims about bodies in Bucha. Also on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov asserted that the focus on Bucha was an attempt by the United States and Nato to disrupt peace talks between Ukraine and Russia. Meanwhile, the European Commission is proposing a new round of sanctions against Russia, including a ban on coal imports.
Guterres calls for ‘serious peace negotiations’
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said Russia’s war in Ukraine was one of the greatest challenges ever to the international order. Opening the Security Council meting on the conflict in Ukraine, he said, “The war in Ukraine must end now. We need serious peace negotiations, based on the principles of the UN Charter.”
In other developments:
- In a live broadcast to Spanish MPs, President Zelensky compared the war in Ukraine to the massacre in Guernica, a small town in the Spanish Basque Country bombed in 1937 by Nazi aircraft in support of Franco’s troops during the Spanish Civil War. The event was immortalised by painter Pablo Picasso in one of the world’s most famous canvases, which became an anti-war symbol.
- More than 7.1 million people have been displaced by the war in Ukraine, part of more than 10 million people who have now fled their homes following the Russian invasion.
- NATO’s Secretary General Jensen Stolenberg said Russia is likely to launch a new offensive in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region in the next few weeks. Ukraine’s latest daily military report suggests Russian forces are preparing for a major attack in eastern Ukraine.
- Germany, France and Lithuania all took action on Monday to expel Russian diplomats, followed on Tuesday by the EU, Denmark, Italy, Spain and Sweden.
- Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said seven humanitarian corridors were to open on Tuesday from Mariupol and Berdyansk, addng that more than 1,550 civilians were evacuated from Mariupol on Monday.
- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States will release $100 million in additional security aid for Ukraine to help it respond to the Russian invasion.
- According to The Wall Street Journal, the EU has also proposed to sanction the two daughters of Vladimir Putin – Maria and Iekaterina – born from his marriage to his ex-wife Liudmila.
In other news:
Trump to testify to Capitol today
Former White House advisor Ivanka Trump will testify later today to the congressional committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol. Ms Trump, 40, is expected to be asked for her account of her father’s activities as the crisis unfolded. She was one of several aides said to have tried to convince the president to condemn the violence. Her appearance comes days after her husband Jared Kushner, also an ex-White House advisor, met with investigators.
Shanghai lockdown extended
The lockdown for the Covid pandemic has been extended to all of Shaghai and its 25 million inhabitants. Until yesterday, the metropolis had applied restrictive measures limited to two sectors, the eastern and western areas. Residents cannot leave their residential homes.