The move led to outrage among deputies, as well as people living and working in France…reports Asian Lite News
French President Emmanuel Macron has said that his government’s controversial pension reform plan should become law “before the end of the year”.
However, he added on Wednesday that he hoped to renew dialogues with trade unions, in order to ease tensions.
Macron said in a televised interview that the text for the pension reform, which is now due to be examined by the Constitutional Council, “will continue its democratic process”.
He added: “This reform is not a luxury, it is not a pleasure, it is a necessity.”
His only regret, he said, was that he had failed to convince the population of the need for the reform, which he claimed will “balance” the pension system in the future, Xinhua news agency reported.
There are around 17 million retirees in France, and this number is set to reach 30 million by 2030.
Last Thursday, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne triggered an article of the country’s Constitution that allows the government to force passage of the pension reform bill without a vote in the National Assembly.
The move led to outrage among deputies, as well as people living and working in France.
Subsequently, two motions of no confidence in the government were submitted. Although these provoked tense debates in the National Assembly, they did not lead to a majority, and political parties are more divided than ever in France.
Since last Thursday, spontaneous protests have also broken out across the country, with police deploying water cannons and tear gas to disperse demonstrators. Many protestors and NGOs have denounced what they have called an “excessive” use of force and “abusive” arrests by French police.
On Wednesday, French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti asked prosecutors for “a systematic and rapid criminal response” to protestors arrested during the demonstrations, for “serious disturbances to public order”.
To ease the tensions, Macron said in Wednesday’s interview: “We have to move on. We must appease, and we must rebuild a parliamentary agenda and reforms by re-engaging in a dialogue with the unions and all the political forces that are ready to do so.”
France’s largest union, the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), has already called for mass participation in strikes and demonstrations on March 23.
Meanwhile, the CGT’s culture section refused to serve a visit by the UK’s King Charles III on Sunday.
The French Prime Minister laid out details of the pension reform plan in January, under which the legal retirement age would be progressively raised by three months a year from 62 to 64 by 2030, and a guaranteed minimum pension would be introduced.
Under the plan, as of 2027 at least 43 years of work would be required to be eligible for a full pension.
Xi’s visit ended with Beijing and Moscow concluding more than a dozen agreements bolstering cooperation in areas from trade and technology to state propaganda..reports Asian Lite News
Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Wednesday departed Russia after pledging to deepen ties with President Vladimir Putin, however, the talks failed to achieve a breakthrough in the Ukraine conflict, reported CNN.
Both leaders did not discuss a Kyiv-proposed peace plan to end the war in Ukraine, said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. He said that Kyiv’s proposal was a matter of Sino-Ukraine relations. The two leaders emphasized that peace talks should be used to solve the Ukraine crisis, but Kyiv and the West say any peace agreement must include the withdrawal of Russian troops, reported CNN.
The 10-point peace plan was first presented by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a video at a meeting of the Group of 20 nations in November.
The steps include a path to nuclear safety, food security, a special tribunal for alleged Russian war crimes, and a final peace treaty between Russia and Ukraine.
China released last month, a 12-point statement of broad principles on the war that called for respecting the sovereignty of all countries, abandoning the Cold War mentality, ceasing hostilities, resuming peace talks, resolving the humanitarian crisis, protecting civilians and prisoners of war (POWs), keeping nuclear power plants safe, reducing strategic risks, facilitating grain exports, stopping unilateral sanctions, keeping industrial and supply chains stable and promoting post-conflict reconstruction.
But Western leaders have expressed scepticism about China’s potential role as a peacemaker and its claimed neutrality. The United States and its allies have instead since last month warned that China is considering sending lethal aid to Russia for its war effort, which Beijing has denied.
Xi spent three days in Moscow this week. His visit ended with Beijing and Moscow concluding more than a dozen agreements bolstering cooperation in areas from trade and technology to state propaganda, according to a Kremlin list.
The leaders’ central statement focused on how the two countries would “deepen” their relationship.
However, the two sides failed to move the needle on bringing a resolution to the war, reported CNN.
Meanwhile, Peskov said that he is not surprised by what he called a “hostile” reaction from Western nations to the visit between Putin and Xi Jinping this week.
“As for the reaction of the countries of the collective West, the fact that on almost all issues this reaction is of an unfriendly, deeply hostile nature is no secret to anyone. The coverage of this important visit is no exception,” Peskov said.
“Of course, the most important thing is not the reaction of the West, but it’s the results of the negotiations that took place. The main thing is the results of the state visit itself,” he added.
Peskov’s comments came after John Kirby, the White House National Security Council spokesman, told that Beijing and Moscow are deepening their relationship in large part due to their mutual interest in challenging the US’ global influence, reported CNN.
Kirby also pushed back on China’s claim that it had staked out an impartial position regarding the war in Ukraine. (ANI)
There are plans to expand industrial cooperation, including aircraft and shipbuilding industries, and other high-tech sectors…reports Asian Lite News
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday a Chinese peace plan could provide a basis for a settlement of the fighting in Ukraine when the West is ready for it.
Speaking after talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Putin charged that Ukraine’s Western allies so far have shown no interest in that.
He also said British plans to provide Ukraine with ammunition for battle tanks containing depleted uranium signifies the West switching to supplying Kyiv with weapons containing nuclear components. He said that Russia will respond if it happens, but didn’t elaborate.
Speaking Tuesday at talks involving top officials from both countries, Putin said he wants to expand bilateral economic ties, noting Russian-Chinese trade rose by 30% last year to $185 billion. It’s expected to top $200 billion this year, he added.
Russia stands “ready to meet the Chinese economy’s growing demand for energy resources” by boosting deliveries of oil and gas, he said.
There are plans to expand industrial cooperation, including aircraft and shipbuilding industries, and other high-tech sectors.
Xi said he aimed to “strengthen coordination and interaction” with Russia, adding that it would help “the prosperity and revival of China and Russia.”
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov accused NATO of wanting to become the world’s dominant military force and said Moscow is trying to prevent it.
“That is why we are expanding our cooperation with China, including in the security sphere,” he said.
Western officials “have seen some signs” that Putin also wants lethal weapons from China, though there is no evidence Beijing has granted his request, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels on Tuesday.
“China should not provide lethal aid to Russia,” Stoltenberg said. “That would be to support an illegal war and only prolong the war.”
Japan in Ukraine
Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made a surprise visit Tuesday to Kyiv, stealing some of the global attention from Asian rival President Xi Jinping of China, who is in Moscow to show support for Russia against the West.
The two visits, about 800 kilometres (500 miles) apart, highlighted the nearly 13-month-old war’s repercussions for international diplomacy as countries line up behind Moscow or Kyiv. They follow a week in which China and Japan both enjoyed diplomatic successes that have emboldened their foreign policy.
Kishida, who is to chair the Group of Seven summit in May, will meet President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the Ukrainian capital, coinciding with Xi’s talks for a second day with President Vladimir Putin in the Russian capital.
Kishida will “show respect to the courage and patience of the Ukrainian people who are standing up to defend their homeland under President Zelenskyy’s leadership, and show solidarity and unwavering support for Ukraine as head of Japan and chairman of G-7,” during his visit to Ukraine, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said in announcing his trip to Kyiv.
Kyodo News said Kishida visited a church in Bucha, a town outside Kyiv that became a symbol of Russian atrocities against civilians, laid flowers at a church there and paid his respects to the victims.
“I’m outraged by the cruelty. I represent the Japanese citizens to express my condolences to those who lost their lives,” he was quoted as saying.
Kishida was the only G-7 leader who hadn’t visited Ukraine and was under domestic pressure to do so. U.S. President Joe Biden took a similar route to visit Kyiv last month, just before the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion.
Kishida, Japan’s first postwar leader to enter a war zone, was invited by Zelenskyy in January to visit Kyiv.
Japan’s aid to Ukraine
Due to its pacifist principles, Japan’s support for Ukraine has been limited to equipment such as helmets, bulletproof vests and drones, and humanitarian supplies including generators.
Japan has contributed more than $7 billion to Ukraine, and accepted more than 2,000 displaced Ukrainians and helped them with housing assistance and support for jobs and education, a rare move in a country that is known for its strict immigration policy.
Two different European-Pacific partnerships
U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel tweeted about the “two very different European-Pacific partnerships” that unfolded Tuesday.
“Kishida stands with freedom, and Xi stands with a war criminal,” Emanuel said, referring to last week’s action by the International Criminal Court, which issued an arrest warrant for Putin, saying it wanted to put him on trial for the abductions of thousands of children from Ukraine.
Tokyo joined the U.S. and European nations in sanctioning Russia over its invasion and providing humanitarian and economic support for Ukraine. In contrast, China has refused to condemn Moscow’s aggression and criticized Western sanctions against Moscow, while accusing NATO and Washington of provoking Putin’s military action.
Japan was quick to react because it fears the possible impact of a war in East Asia, where China’s military has grown increasingly assertive and has escalated tensions around self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory.
At a meeting Tuesday with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Xi said he invited Putin to visit China later this year for a top-level meeting of China’s One Belt, One Road regional initiative, which seeks to extend Beijing’s influence through economic cooperation projects.
Moscow and Beijing have both weathered international condemnation of their human rights record. The Chinese government has been widely condemned for alleged atrocities against Uighur Muslims in its far western Xinjiang region. The allegations include genocide, forced sterilization and the mass detention of nearly a million Uighurs. Beijing has denied the allegations.
China looks to Russia as a partner in standing up to what both see as US aggression, domination of global affairs and unfair criticism of their human rights records.
The US applauds the more than 50 countries that have come together to provide support for Ukraine as it defends its sovereignty and territorial integrity,….reports Asian Lite News
The United States will send Ukraine USD 350 million in weapons and equipment as battle with Russian forces continues for control of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.
“Today, pursuant to a delegation of authority from President Biden, I am authorizing our 34th drawdown of U.S. arms and equipment for Ukraine valued at USD 350 million,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement issued by the US State Department on Monday. “This military assistance package includes more ammunition for US-provided HIMARS and howitzers that Ukraine is using to defend itself, as well as ammunition for Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, HARM missiles, anti-tank weapons, riverine boats, and other equipment,” the statement read.
The US applauds the more than 50 countries that have come together to provide support for Ukraine as it defends its sovereignty and territorial integrity, the statement read.
“This week, as Russia’s unconscionable war of aggression against Ukraine continues at great human cost, we are again reminded of the boundless courage and steadfast resolve of the Ukrainian people, and the strong support for Ukraine across the international community,” Blinken said.
He added: “Russia alone could end its war today. Until Russia does, we will stand united with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
The United States last month announced a new security package plan, including authorisation of a Presidential Drawdown of security assistance valued at upto USD 425 million, as well as USD 1.75 billion in Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) funds, according to the statement released by US Defence Department.
The package pulled USD 425 million from existing Defence Department stocks, and USD 1.75 billion in Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funds. The new package marks USD 29.3 billion provided to Ukraine since Russia’s started its military operation last February. (ANI)
Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch MP said, “The historic digital trade deal signed today paves the way for a new era of modern trade between our two countries…reports Asian Lite News
The UK signed a pivotal digital trade deal with Ukraine that will support the country’s economy and greatly enhance the UK-Ukraine trade and investment relationship.
The Department for Business and Trade today hosted a number of Ukrainian ministers, as well as 200 UK and international businesses and officials, at Mansion House to lay the foundation for closer future co-operation.
The Road to Ukraine Recovery Conference, geared towards supporting Ukraine’s National Recovery Plan and mobilising UK businesses to engage in future Ukraine reconstruction projects, opened with a welcome from the Business and Trade Secretary. This event, and our mobilisation of UK industry, is a key stepping stone on our route to the Ukraine Recovery Conference that will be hosted in London in June.
Badenoch, alongside Ukraine’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy, Yulia Svyrydenko, virtually signed a ground-breaking new Digital Trade Agreement (DTA) that will help Ukraine support its economy through the current crisis and lay foundations for its recovery and revival.
Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch MP said, “The historic digital trade deal signed today paves the way for a new era of modern trade between our two countries. We are also extending tariff free trade on imports from Ukraine to early 2024, providing much needed support to Ukrainian businesses. These initiatives will help protect jobs, livelihoods and families now and in Ukraine’s post-war future.”
Since June 2022, UK negotiators worked at record pace with their Ukrainian counterparts to deliver a deal after President Zelenskyy highlighted the important role Ukraine’s first ever digitally focused trade agreement could play in bolstering his country’s economy.
Ukraine will have guaranteed access to the financial services crucial for reconstruction efforts through the deal’s facilitation of cross-border data flows. Ukrainian businesses will also be able to trade more efficiently and cheaply with the UK through electronic transactions, e-signatures, and e-contracts.
First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy for Ukraine, Yuliia Svyrydenko said, “This digital trade agreement illustrates that Ukrainian IT companies operating in Ukraine are in demand around the world despite all the challenges of war. The UA-UK Digital Trade Agreement has enshrined core freedoms for trade in digital goods and services. Ukraine believes that an open and free framework for the digital economy is the best investment in future oriented development.”
The UK’s total military, humanitarian and economic support pledged since 24 February 2022 now amounts to over £4 billion. The UK is a key partner for Ukraine in its reconstruction efforts. We hosted the UK-Ukraine Infrastructure Summit in June 2022, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreeing to play a leading role in the reconstruction of Kyiv Oblast and set up the Infrastructure Taskforce to implement this agreement.
In the margins of the Road to URC event, the UK confirmed its intention to extend the removal of tariffs on Ukrainian products until March 2024. This follows the UK’s world-leading decision in May 2022 to cut tariffs on all goods from Ukraine to zero and will provide much needed support to Ukrainian businesses given the impact of the war on Ukraine’s ability to export goods.
Kyiv had urged the EU to send it more ammunition, saying that its forces had resorted to rationing firepower as they try to prevent Russian troops from advancing further…reports Asian Lite News
European Union ministers signed off on a plan to supply €2 billion ($2.1 billion) worth of ammunition to Ukraine on Monday.
The bloc aims to deliver 1 million 155-millimeter artillery shells to Ukraine in the next 12 months as well as replenish EU stocks.
Under the plan, €1 billion will be used to reimburse EU members that immediately supply Ukraine with ammunition from their own existing stockpiles.
Another €1 billion will be used to jointly fast track orders of ammunition specifically for Ukraine. The agreement aims to accelerate deliveries, and comes amid concerns that Ukraine is using more shells than its Western allies are producing.
Kyiv had urged the EU to send it more ammunition, saying that its forces had resorted to rationing firepower as they try to prevent Russian troops from advancing further.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said the “starting signal” had been given and that Kyiv could count on receiving a significant amount of ammunition this year.
“We are grateful to the EU for approving a plan to purchase ammunition for Ukraine for €2 billion,” the Ukrainian presidential administration’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak said. “This is a very strong step to protect European security.”
It means the government’s “unpopular” pension reform bill is considered as adopted without vote in the lower house of Parliament….reports Asian Lite News
Two no-confidence motions against the French government failed to convince a majority in the National Assembly after hot debates followed by narrow votes.
It means the government’s “unpopular” pension reform bill is considered as adopted without vote in the lower house of Parliament. French President Emmanuel Macron now has 15 days to enact the law, Xinhua news agency reported.
The first multiparty motion, filed by the centrist opposition group LIOT, gained 278 votes on Monday afternoon among the deputies, only nine votes short of the 287 required to topple Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne’s government.
The second motion, tabled by the far-right National Rally party, only got 94 votes.
The French National Assembly is composed of 577 seats, but since there are currently four vacancies, the number of votes required to reach a majority is 287.
Borne on Thursday triggered an article of the country’s Constitution that allows the government to force passage of the controversial pension reform bill without a vote in the National Assembly.
Following the results of the two no-confidence motions, France’s largest union, the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), has called for “amplifying the mobilisation” and “participating massively in the rolling strikes and the demonstrations” on March 23.
Tensions also rose across France. Demonstrations in Paris and Lille were dispersed by the police with tear gas.
According to Paragraph 3 of Article 49 of the French Constitution, the prime minister may, after consulting with the Council of Ministers, impose the adoption of a bill by the National Assembly without a vote. The only way for the National Assembly to veto this is to pass a no-confidence motion against the government.
The prime minister laid out details of the pension reform plan in January, under which the legal retirement age would be progressively raised by three months a year from 62 to 64 by 2030, and a guaranteed minimum pension would be introduced.
Under the plan, as of 2027, at least 43 years of work would be required to be eligible for a full pension.
This is the second march organized in 2023 in Paris demanding France to withdraw from NATO, according to a report published by the website Solidarity and Progress…reports Asian Lite News
Thousands of demonstrators called over the weekend for France’s withdrawal from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and an immediate halt to arms deliveries to Ukraine.
According to RIA Novosti, the “March for Peace” kicked off near the site of the French Senate. The demonstrators waved banners “Stop the war provoked by the United States and NATO” and “Freedom, Truth, Resistance.”
Many French Internet users have posted photos and videos of this march on social media. “Thousands of people are asking for (France’s) withdrawal from NATO, the EU, and all the organizations that deprive us of our national sovereignty!” said one of the social media users. An independent Lebanese geopolitical commentator Sarah Abdallah asked on her social media: “why is Western media ignoring the anti-NATO protests happening today in Paris, France?” This is the second march organized in 2023 in Paris demanding France to withdraw from NATO, according to a report published by the website Solidarity and Progress. According to the website, nearly 1,000 people demonstrated on Feb. 26 for the dissolution of NATO.
Mariupol has been under Russian occupation for more than 10 months after being devastated in one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the conflict….reports Asian Lite News
Russian President Vladimir Putin has paid a surprise visit to Mariupol — the Ukrainian port city captured by Russian forces, the media reported. The visit is believed to be Putin’s first to a newly-occupied Ukrainian territory.
In a video, Putin is seen driving a car through streets at night and speaking to people, the BBC reported on Sunday. It was, however, not known when the footage was taken.
During the visit, the Russian President is also reported to have met top military commanders in Rostov-on-Don city.
Putin travelled to Mariupol by helicopter. In the video, he is in the car with Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin, who explains how the city is being rebuilt, Tass news agency reported.
Putin also appears to visit the Philharmonic Hall, which was used to stage trials of defenders of the Azovstal iron and steel plant, a huge industrial complex where Ukrainian troops held out before eventually surrendering.
Mariupol has been under Russian occupation for more than 10 months after being devastated in one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the conflict.
Ukraine said more than 20,000 people were killed there.
UN analysis estimates that 90 per cent of the buildings were damaged and around 3,50,000 people were forced to leave, our of a pre-war population of about 5,00,000.
A group of local residents has told the BBC that “Russia is conducting an expensive campaign to rebuild the city and win over the hearts and minds of its people”.
The purpose is to assimilate Mariupol and make it Russia’s own. Russian authorities say 3,00,000 people are now living there.
President Andrzej Duda said that almost a dozen aircraft that Poland had inherited from the former German Democratic Republic would be handed over in the upcoming days after being serviced….reports Asian Lite News
Poland – the first NATO member to do so – on Thursday pledged that it would send four MiF-29 fighter jets to Ukraine. This was a significant development in Kyiv’s struggle to fend off Russian aggression, CNN reported.
President Andrzej Duda said that almost a dozen aircraft that Poland had inherited from the former German Democratic Republic would be handed over in the upcoming days after being serviced. Duda added, “When it comes to the MiG-29 aircraft, which are still operating in defence of Polish airspace, a decision has been taken at the highest levels, we can say confidently that we are sending MiGs to Ukraine.”
In providing Kyiv with heavy weaponry, Warsaw has assumed a leading position among NATO allies. A step beyond the rest of the alliance’s commitments, Poland’s statement that it will send the Soviet-designed aircraft may put pressure on other members to follow suit.
The US said on Thursday that Poland’s proposal would not require Washington to act, given that other NATO countries have been unwilling to go much beyond their earlier this year decided to send tanks to Kyiv.
The Polish president voiced the support of his nation and the Czech Republic for Kyiv while speaking at a news conference in Warsaw alongside his new counterpart, Petr Pavel, reported the CNN.
President Duda also said, “The Czech Republic and Poland are countries that are in the absolute vanguard when it comes to supporting Ukraine, both at humanitarian and military levels.”
Even before Russia invaded Ukraine, Poland was one of the loudest opponents of Russia in Europe. Many people in Poland’s political and diplomatic circles still view Russia from the Cold War perspective. Warsaw has always held the opinion that Putin is an unreliable leader and that any Russian expansion should be resisted at all costs. It is one of the few NATO nations with a legal obligation to fulfil its 2 per cent of GDP commitment to defence spending and is an active member of the European defence community.
Deploying MiGs is not out of the ordinary for Poland, and it fully complies with its NATO membership.
Although, this might alter the dynamic inside the alliance, serving as a stimulus for more nations to do so, or it might enrage nations like Hungary who are against NATO to get more involved in the fight.
The main concern will be whether it exerts pressure on the United States and the United Kingdom, which would then exert pressure on Germany. In the end, Poland presumably intended to put this pressure on other allies.
According to the White House, President Joseph Biden won’t send F-16 planes since Poland’s decision to send the fighter jets is a “sovereign choice,” made on Thursday.
John Kirby, a senior official at the US National Security Council, claimed that it didn’t alter his organisation’s thinking regarding F-16s.
He said, “These are sovereign decisions for any country to make and we respect those sovereign decisions,” adding, “They get to determine not only what they are going to give but how they’re going to characterise it.”
“I wouldn’t think it’s our place to characterise Poland’s decision one way or another,” Kirby said, denying to endorse the decision.
He said that Biden, who earlier this year declared he would not send US combat jets to Ukraine, will not be persuaded by Poland’s choice.
Ukraine has argued that it needs fighter jets from the US in addition to tanks so that it can defend itself from Russian missile and drone assaults.
But, the US and NATO officials have expressed doubt over the initiative, claiming that the jets wouldn’t be realistic since they require substantial training and that Russia has powerful anti-aircraft systems that could easily shoot them down. (ANI)