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15 oil vessels blocked at Turkish Straits amid EU sanctions

Turkey announced its own new insurance regulation before the EU price cap decision, and several tankers so far have been stopped from entering Turkish waters…reports Asian Lite News

Fifteen oil tankers were banned from passing through the Turkish Straits due to a lack of proper insurance amid the European sanctions on Russian oil, Turkey’s maritime authority said.

The Protection and Indemnity (P&I) insurance of these ships is invalid due to the EU sanctions and such insurance cannot be compensated in the event of an accident, the Turkish General Directorate of Maritime Affairs said on Thursday in a statement.

“Crude oil tankers that cannot offer valid P&I insurance are not allowed to pass through the Turkish Straits and this rule has been in effect since 2002,” said the statement, adding it would continue to block the passage of oil tankers without appropriate insurance letters.

The authority noted that Turkey was not obliged to implement sanction decisions of other countries and international organisations, except those taken by the UN Security Council, Xinhua news agency reported.

“However, we do not take the risk that the insurance company will not cover its liability in the event of a catastrophic accident that may occur if a sanctioned ship or a cargo passes through the Turkish Straits,” it said.

Since December 1, Turkey has started to seek confirmation from the insurance companies that the crude oil tankers to pass through the Turkish Straits are fully insured, the statement added.

The EU’s sanctions on Russian oil, which came into force on Monday, prohibit tankers transporting Russian crude from accessing European maritime insurance unless the oil is sold for $60 per barrel or less.

Turkey announced its own new insurance regulation before the EU price cap decision, and several tankers so far have been stopped from entering Turkish waters.

Turkey has avoided calls by the US and its Western allies to join the anti-Russian sanctions over the Ukrainian crisis.

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West’s $60 per barrel Price cap leaves Russia in economic shock

Russia is thinking over options on how to counter the price cap, including banning oil sales to some countries…reports TN ASHOK

Russias Central Bank has warned the country is awaiting “new economic shocks” with the price cap on crude at $60 per barrel and EU’s oil embargo, which can significantly reduce economic activity in the near future.

Consequently, Russia is thinking over options on how to counter the price cap, including banning oil sales to some countries, media reports said.

While the Kremlin’s ruling hierarchy led by President Vladimir Putin’s skepticism over the West’s several economic sanctions, financial analysts at the country’s central bank predicted “new economic shocks”, in the wake of the $60 per barrel price cap on Russian oil and the European Union’s ban on the country’s crude.

The European Union, G7, and Australia have fixed the price on Russian crude which kicked in on Monday. On top of that, the EU has also banned all Russian crude that are seaborne.

Both measures could “significantly reduce” Russia’s economic activity in the coming months, analysts at the Russian central bank’s research and forecasting department said in a report on Wednesday. They, however, stated that their findings could differ from an official stand taken by the institution.

Europe alarmed after Russian gas major Gazprom halts supplies again.(photo:IN)

The EU sanctions created a certain amount of uncertainty and restrictions that came just as Russia’s economy successfully overcame a short-term decline caused largely by President Putin, who mobilised men for the Ukraine war in October, according to the central bank. The bank’s analysts attributed the short-term recovery to an increase in government orders of goods.

Russia’s crude oil production could decline in the longer term as western price cap and import restrictions on Russian oil could curtail the country’s economic activity in the short term, media reports said.

Russia’s oil production dipped in October, and the bank’s analysts said the country’s oil economics is highly-dependent on the effect of various restrictive measures on the part of the so-called unfriendly countries.

Moscow has denounced the West’s price cap on its oil exports and is still working on a response to the restrictions, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday, according to state-owned news agency RIA Novosti.

Among the various options being considered by Russia to counter the price cap includes banning oil sales to certain countries and setting a maximum price discount for its flagship Urals crude against Brent oil, Russian business daily Vedomosti said on Wednesday, quoting two sources close to the cabinet.

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EU’s fresh sanctions target Russia’s armed forces

The ninth package proposes adding nearly 200 additional individuals and entities to the sanctions list, including the Russian armed forces…reports Asian Lite News

The European Commission has proposed the ninth package of sanctions against Russia that will include nearly 200 individuals and entities and cut Russia’s access to drones.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday in a statement that the eight packages of sanctions introduced so far were “biting hard” but the Commission was “stepping up the pressure on Russia”.

The ninth package proposes adding nearly 200 additional individuals and entities to the sanctions list, including the Russian armed forces, as well as individual officers and defence industrial companies, among others.

It also proposed sanctions against three additional Russian banks, including a full transaction ban on the Russian Regional Development Bank, Xinhua news agency reported.

Moreover, the European Commission proposed the imposition of new export controls and restrictions on key chemicals, nerve agents, electronics and IT components that could be used by Russia.

Von der Leyen said European Union will cut Russia’s access to drones and unmanned aerial vehicles, proposing to ban the direct exports of drone engines to Russia and the export to any third countries such as Iran, which could supply drones to Russia.

The European Union will also take four additional Russian channels off the air and all other distribution platforms.

She added the Commission was also proposing further economic measures against the Russian energy and mining sector, including a ban on new mining investments in Russia.

Till now more than 1,200 individuals and 118 entities connected to Russia have been sanctioned, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and his inner circle.

The proposal is subject to the approval of the Council of the EU and the European Parliament.

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UN honours foreign policy contributors with Diwali award

The ceremony was sponsored by 60 countries this year, with Russia as a notable absentee…reports Arul Louis

Diplomats and a US politician have been honoured at the UN with the Diwali Foundation’s Power of One award recognising their contributions to promoting international relations.

The head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to the UN, Olof Skoog, described the unique annual awards at the UN as the “Oscars of Diplomacy”, while introducing to the ceremony on Monday.

General Assembly President Csaba Korosi said that “the essence of Diwali transcends cultures and inspires all of us to strive for a better world” and “that is what today’s awardees have helped to do, showing the way through diplomacy”.

“We are a world in crises, a world in need of transformation… I am sure that we too possess the power to create the light and spread it across the world.”

The awardees were Eliot Engel, the former chair of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee; former Bulgaria Interim Defence Minister Georgi Velikov Panayatov; former Permanent Representatives Kaha Imnadze of Georgia; Keisha McGuire of Grenada; and Jean Claude do Rego of Benin.

The Diwali Foundation, which grew out of efforts to get the US Postal System to issue a stamp honouring the festival of Diwali, makes the award, Power of One, recognising how one person can become the agent of change.

The ceremony was sponsored by 60 countries this year, with Russia as a notable absentee.

India’s Permanent Representative Ruchira Kamboj said that Diwali is the “celebration of the eternal values that are so relevant to what we do here at the UN — goodness, caring and compassion”.

“Today, I will be privileged to co-organize the traditional #Diwali event at the @UN. The festival’s eternal values resonate with what we do at the UN as we seek to dignify all Congratulations to @RanjuBatra’s Diwali Foundation USA and to all co-organizers for your sterling work!” Kamboj tweeted.

The United Nations General Assembly recognized the significance of Diwali in its resolution 69/250 in 2014, according to a UN summary.

Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights celebrated every year, and it also represents the victory of “Good” over “Evil,” and “Light” over “Darkness.” It is an official holiday in many countries.

Diwali Foundation USA Inc. was established in 2017 to promote a peaceful and consensus-based process to achieve societal “Good,” as befits the high hopes and ideals of humanity enshrined in the United Nations Charter. (with inputs from ANI)

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EU passengers will soon be able to use 5G tech on planes

The deadline for member states to make the 5G frequency bands available for planes is June 30, 2023, according to the report…reports Asian Lite News

Airline passengers in the European Union (EU) will soon be able to use 5G technology in their phones to full effect in the sky, the media reported.

According to BBC, the European Commission ruled that airlines can offer 5G technology alongside slower mobile data on board planes.

With this, flyers will no longer be required to put their phone in flight mode, though the details of how this will be implemented remain unknown.

“Enable innovative services for people and help European companies grow,” Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, was quoted as saying.

“The sky is no longer a limit when it comes to possibilities offered by super-fast, high-capacity connectivity,” he added.

The deadline for member states to make the 5G frequency bands available for planes is June 30, 2023, according to the report.

This will let people use all their phone’s features mid-flight – enabling calls as well as data-heavy apps that stream music and video.

Since 2008, the EU Commission has reserved certain frequency bands for aircraft, allowing some services to provide in-flight internet access, said the report.

However, this service has historically been slow because it relied on equipment to connect people via satellite between the plane and the ground.

The new system will be able to take advantage of 5G’s much faster download speeds, which can reach over 100Mbps according to mobile network EE — allowing a film to be downloaded within minutes, the report added.

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Net Zero: EU turns heat on US

The European Union must “take action to rebalance the playing field where the IRA (Inflation Reduction Act) or other measures create distortions”, says von der Leyen…reports Asian Lite News

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said Sunday the bloc must act to address “distortions” created by Washington’s $430-billion plan to spur climate-friendly technologies in the United States.

The European Union must “take action to rebalance the playing field where the IRA (Inflation Reduction Act) or other measures create distortions”, von der Leyen said in a speech at the College of Europe in the Belgian city of Bruges.

EU countries have poured criticism on Washington’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), seeing it as anti-competitive and a threat to European jobs, especially in the energy and auto sectors.

The act, designed to accelerate the US transition to a low-carbon economy, contains around $370 billion in subsidies for green energy as well as tax cuts for US-made electric cars and batteries.

Von der Leyen said the EU had to work with the US “to address some of the most concerning aspects of the law”.

She said that Brussels must also “adjust” its own rules to facilitate public investment in the environmental transition and “re-assess the need for further European funding of the transition”.

French President Emmanuel Macron seized an opportunity on a state visit to Washington for talks with President Joe Biden last week to air deep grievances over US-EU trade.

The White House touts the IRA as a groundbreaking effort to reignite US manufacturing and promote renewable technologies.

Under the IRA, American consumers will get incentives to purchase new and second-hand electric cars, to warm their homes with heat pumps and even to cook their food using electric induction.

President Joe Biden has called it the most “aggressive action” his country has taken to tackle the climate crisis.

But European allies perceive it as anti-competitive and a threat to European jobs, especially in the energy and auto sectors.

von der Leyen said the EU had to work with the US “to address some of the most concerning aspects of the law”.

She added that the EU must also “adjust” its own rules on state aid to spur public investment in the environmental transition.

The new legislation was raised during French President Emmanuel Macron’s trip to Washington to meet Biden this week.

The US president said there could be “tweaks” made to make it easier for European firms to benefit from the subsidies package.

“I never intended to exclude folks who were cooperating with us. That was not the intention,” Biden said. “We’re back in business, Europe is back in business. And we are going to continue to create manufacturing jobs in America, but not at the expense of Europe.”

In an interview with CBS News released on Sunday, Macron said the issue was “fixable”, and his discussion with Biden was “frank and fruitful”.

He said weakening Europe’s industry was “not the interest of the U.S. administration and even the U.S. society”.

The United States has put the most heat-trapping gases into the air, burning more inexpensive dirty fuels than any other country. But the nearly $375 billion in climate incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act are designed to make the already plummeting costs of renewable energy substantially lower at home, on the highways and in the factory. Together these could help shrink U.S. carbon emissions by about two-fifths by 2030 and should chop emissions from electricity by as much as 80%.

“This legislation is a true game-changer. It will create jobs, lower costs, increase U.S. competitiveness, reduce air pollution,” said former Vice President Al Gore, who held his first global warming hearing 40 years ago. “The momentum that will come out of this legislation, cannot be underestimated.”

The U.S. action could spur other nations to do more — especially China and India, the two largest carbon emitters along with the U.S. That in turn could lower prices for renewable energy globally, experts said.

Because of the specific legislative process in which this compromise was formed, which limits it to budget-related actions, the bill does not regulate greenhouse gas emissions, but deals mainly in spending, most of it through tax credits as well as rebates to industry, consumers and utilities.

Investments work better at fostering clean energy than regulations, said Leah Stokes, an environmental policy professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The climate bill is likely to spur billions in private investment, she said: “That’s what’s going to be so transformative.”

The bill promotes vital technologies such as battery storage. Clean energy manufacturing gets a big boost. It will be cheaper for consumers to make climate-friendly purchasing decisions. There are tax credits to make electric cars more affordable, help for low-income people making energy-efficiency upgrades and incentives for rooftop solar and heat pumps.

There are also incentives for nuclear power and projects that aim to capture and remove carbon from the atmosphere.

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EU proposes new rules to reduce wasteful packaging

“By 2040 most coffees-to-go will come in a reusable cup, or a cup we bring ourselves,” said Timmermans…reports Asian Lite News

The European Commission has proposed a raft of measures aimed at reducing unnecessary and wasteful packaging. These include a 15 per cent reduction in unnecessary packaging by 2040.

Another key target is to make packaging fully recyclable by 2030, the EU executive said.

The average European generates 180 kg of packaging waste per year, Xinhua news agency reported, citing the Commission.

It has now proposed banning certain types of single-use packaging for food and beverages in restaurants, and for fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as banning miniature packaging for toiletries in hotels.

“The way goods are packaged can and should be done a lot better,” the European Commission’s executive vice president Frans Timmermans said at a press conference.

“I think everyone has experienced it: you order something online and it comes in a massive box that’s half empty or contains double layers to make the product look larger than it is. Or you go to a cafe and instead of being served on regular plates, you get food in single-use containers, so you leave behind a mountain of waste. Such overpackaging is a nuisance to us and increasingly damaging to our environment,” he said.

The proposed measures include the clear labeling of reusable packaging, banning certain packaging, mandatory return systems for plastic bottles and aluminium cans, and new mandatory rates of recycled content in new plastic packaging.

“By 2040 most coffees-to-go will come in a reusable cup, or a cup we bring ourselves,” said Timmermans.

“For the first time, we are establishing targets for packaging waste reduction for member states, and mandatory reuse targets for selected packaging groups and for economic operators,” Virginijus Sinkevicius, EU Commissioner for the environment, oceans and fisheries said.

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Botswana, EU launch cooperation program

The EU will provide 16 million euros to fund actions between 2021 and 2024. Another financial allocation for the period 2025-2027 will be determined after a review in 2024…reports Asian Lite News

Botswana government and the European Union (EU) launched the Multi-Annual Indicative Program (MIP) on Tuesday, covering the period of 2021 to 2027 with an initial grant of 16 million euros.

Speaking during the launch in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, Botswana’s Minister of Finance, Peggy Serame, stated that the priorities of MIP set out two priority areas: green transformation and economic diversification.

The EU will provide 16 million euros to fund actions between 2021 and 2024. Another financial allocation for the period 2025-2027 will be determined after a review in 2024.

Serame said despite the country’s middle-income status, the southern African nation still faces numerous challenges, including unemployment, particularly among graduates, and the need to diversify the economy.

Ambassador of the European Union to Botswana and Southern African Development Community (SADC), Petra Pereyra stated that the purpose of this cooperation program is to help Botswana transition from a natural resource-based to a knowledge-based economy.

“Botswana has enormous potential for renewable energy, in particular by developing solar energy. It has enormous potential if it invests in its youth to make them the driving force behind the diversification and development of the economy, and the country,” said Pereyra.

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EU countries demand against US subsidies

EU officials say that the US Inflation Reduction Act risks unfairly discriminating against its own products and that it goes against international trade rules…reports Asian Lite News

European trade ministers gathered in Brussels to discuss the “discriminatory” US Inflation Reduction Act but with just over a month to go before the legislation comes into force, there appears to be no concrete solution on the table yet.

The main issue for Europe is to ensure it doesn’t enter into a trade war with the US which could splinter western unity in the face of Russia’s illegal war on Ukraine.

“The Inflation Reduction Act as it stands now is quite worrisome, very worrisome, to be honest,” Liesje Schreinemacher, the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, said upon her arrival at the Foreign Affairs Council.

“We have to take it step by step. I want to avoid a trade war by any means because it hurts the US economy, it hurts the European economy. So no one benefits from any trade war.”

Her Irish counterpart, Leo Varadkar, meanwhile said that the US legislation has “put a spanner in the works” in trade relations between the US and EU.

Washinton’s $430 billion anti-inflation bill includes state aid to boost US manufacturing and incentives for consumers to buy American products including cars, batteries and renewable energies. It was signed into law in August and will come into force next year.

EU officials say that the bill risks unfairly discriminating against its own products and that it goes against international trade rules.

“There are $367 billion of US subsidies, of which $200 billion are actually not WTO (World Trade Organisation) compliant,” Olivier Becht, French Minister for Foreign Trade and Attractiveness told reporters.

And with energy prices much higher in Europe than in the US as a result of the war in Ukraine, there is an added fear that many flagship European industries could relocate across the Atlantic to take advantage of local state aid and lower energy costs.

A joint EU-US Task Force to resolve the issue has been set up and two meetings have now taken place. A third is to be held soon.  The bloc’s position is that its manufacturers should be granted the same access to the US market as those from Mexico and Canada.

Valdis Dombrovkis, the Commissioner for Trade, also said during a press conference held after the meeting that “we want and expect European companies and exports to be treated in the same way in the US as American companies and exports are treated in Europe.”

The issue will also be addressed between the two sides when they convene on 5 December for a Trade and Technology Council. Launched in June 2021, the forum aims to bolster cooperation between the EU and US in strategic economic areas.

Johan Forssell, Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Trade and International Development Cooperation, had earlier forecasted that “the need for action will be pretty soon”.

“The Task Force has another couple of weeks to go, very forced time schedule here,” he went on. “I think we cannot wait too long until we make a decision because I mean, the IRA, the decision has already been made in the US and this has started happening now.”

Varadkar also said that Ireland hopes that a solution can be found at the negotiating table but also emphasised that “I think it’s fair to say that absent that, there will have to be a response from the European Union”

“Nobody wants to get into a tit-for-tat or a subsidy race. But what the US has done really isn’t consistent with the principles of free trade and fair competition,” he added.

Taking the matter to the WTO is largely deemed a dead-end as efforts to reform the organisation have been stalled for years. The main issue is its dispute settlement system which the US has more-or-less abandoned, turning instead to a bilateral approach to resolve its issues with other countries.

“We also know that taking the dispute to the WTO if the Dispute Settlement Body is not changed, well that is also a risk,” France’s Becht noted.

The solutions he mentioned “could be either coercive or obviously support our own companies, here on European soil.”

France has publicly supported a so-called “Buy European Act” to counter the Inflation Reduction Act and the large subsidies the Chinese state gives to its own companies.

President Emmanuel Macron is largely expected to address the topic with US President Joe Biden when he visits Washington next week.

But Czech trade Minister Josef Sikela also warned against a subsidy race, calling it a “very dangerous game and usually the winner might then sit on the other continent and not in Europe and not on the American one”.

US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron (Credit twitter @POTUS)

Dombrovskis argued instead that the bloc needs to work on boosting its attractiveness for investments and industrial production.

“Part of the response is obviously in (the) energy sector because it is (the) current high energy prices which are causing substantial problems and loss of competitiveness for our industries, something which we need to address.”

“Obviously we need to take a look also at our own subsidies because we’re also providing large amounts of subsidies in the context of greening our economy but in a sense look at how we can make them in a more targeted and efficient way to reach those results,” he said.

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European lawmakers declare Russia ‘state sponsor of terror’

The parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe called last month on its 46 member states to declare Russia under its current government a terrorist regime…reports Asian Lite News

EU lawmakers on Wednesday declared Russia a “state sponsor” of terrorism in line with pleas from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 

“The deliberate attacks and atrocities committed by Russian forces and their proxies against civilians in Ukraine, the destruction of civilian infrastructure and other serious violations of international and humanitarian law amount to acts of terror and constitute war crimes,” a press release from the European Parliament stated.

The designation is a largely symbolic condemnation of Russia’s actions in Ukraine and beyond. The US government has so far resisted the label for Russia, citing potential unintended consequences under its legal system.

That depends on the jurisdiction. In the United States, there is a specific legal instrument listing states that have “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.”  At present, only Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria are on it. 

Inclusion means restrictions on foreign aid, a ban on defense exports to such governments, controls on exports of technology with potential military use and financial constraints. Crucially, it also has implications for Russia’s sovereign immunity in US courts.

Canada also has a similar instrument condemning “state supporters of terrorism.” 

By contrast, the European Union currently has no centralized list of “state sponsors of terrorism” and no equivalent tool, as the European Parliament motion for a resolution published last week acknowledged. In essence, there will be no hard and fast legal consequences. The European Parliament has limited clout in foreign policy, which remains under the control of the 27 member states.

A number of US legislators have pushed the Biden administration for such a listing, including Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. In a statement in September, Graham said lifting Russia’s immunity would allow “civil claims from the families of victims of its state-sponsored terrorism.” 

But other US officials say the designation is not the best way to hold the Kremlin accountable. Listing Russia could undermine humanitarian initiatives, as well as the US’s ability to help Kyiv at the negotiation table down the line, President Joe Biden’s spokesperson, Karine Jean-Pierre, said last month. In the US, the designation has implications for third countries that interact with listed states. 

So far, parliaments in several of Ukraine’s most ardent EU backers — Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland — have declared that they consider Russia under President Vladimir Putin to be a state sponsor of terrorism. These resolutions were nonbinding. The Kremlin has accused Latvian lawmakers of xenophobia. The lower house of the Czech Parliament has also made such a declaration. 

The parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe called last month on its 46 member states to declare Russia under its current government a terrorist regime. 

Under US law, countries designated as state sponsors are accused of supporting international terrorism. For example the US accuses Iran of supporting “proxies and partner groups in Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen, including Hezbollah and Hamas.” 

Graham said Putin had “engaged in state-sponsored assassinations, the Wagner group supported by Russia terrorizes the world, and the war crimes being committed in Ukraine on a daily basis shock the conscious.”

The European Parliament resolution focused largely on Ukraine, but also mentioned the Wagner Group and Russian support for Syrian President Bashar al Assad, among other things. It also declared Russia a state that “uses means of terrorism,” according to a press release from the legislature.

Last year, the EU slapped sanctions on the Russia-based private military entity Wagner, which is linked to activity in Libya, Syria, Ukraine and the Central African Republic. 

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