Russia and Belarus heal ties in shadow of metro bombing
The presidents of Russia and Belarus said (3 April) they had resolved all disputes over energy, signalling a rapprochement at a time when both leaders are grappling with street protests and the threat of new Western sanctions hangs over Minsk. At a meeting in St Petersburg, held while the Russian city was reeling from a deadly bombing on a metro train, Russia agreed to refinance Belarus’ debt while Belarus will pay back more than $720 million in arrears for gas supplies.
EU to propose new rules targeting encrypted apps in June
The European Commission will propose new measures in June to make it easier for police to access data on internet messaging apps like WhatsApp, EU Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová said (28 March), heeding calls from national interior ministers. Jourová said she will announce “three or four options” including binding legislation and voluntary agreements with companies to allow law enforcement authorities to demand information from internet messaging apps “with a swift, reliable response”.
The announcement comes as interior ministers from EU countries have ramped up pressure on the Commission to introduce new rules to help police crack through secure encryption and demand private data for investigations.
Greece and its international lenders remained at odds in talks to release fresh bailout loans to Athens (5th April) as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said a deal was needed this week and accused creditors of ‘playing games’ and causing delays. Talks between Greece, the European Union and International Monetary Fund have stuttered for months due to differences over Greece’s fiscal progress, labour and energy market reforms, rekindling worries of a new crisis in Europe.
Eurozone finance ministers will discuss the state of Greek negotiations on Friday (7 April) at an informal meeting in Malta, but officials said a full deal there was unlikely.
Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Israel eye longest offshore gas pipeline
Italy, Israel, Greece and Cyprus pledged on (3 April) to move ahead with the world’s longest undersea gas pipeline from the eastern Mediterranean to southern Europe, with support from the European Union. If carried out as planned, the long-discussed $6.2 billion (€5.8 billion) pipeline will take gas from Israel and Cyprus’s recently discovered offshore gas reserves to Europe, potentially reducing European dependence on Russian energy at a time of ongoing tensions.
Director of the European Climate Foundation Laurence Tubiana insists there needs to be a joint debate about which carbon emissions scenario Europe wants to be in by the mid-century. EURACTIV Spain reports. Only three European countries are on course to achieve the Paris Agreement targets, according to research which ranks the UK in fifth position on its progress towards the landmark climate treaty Decarbonisation strategies for 2050 were a part of the Paris Agreement and the European Commission has asked the EU member states for the same by 2018, so that it can determine whether short and medium-term investments are in line with emission reduction targets
A Spanish warship sailed into disputed waters off Gibraltar (4 April), the British overseas territory said, at a time of high tension between London and Madrid over the fate of the Rock.
Incidents of this nature are not uncommon, but this one comes after a row broke out over Gibraltar last week when the European Union said that Spain should have a veto on extending any trade deal to the territory after Britain leaves the bloc.
Putting more than 10 years of paralysis behind it, the European Commission finally launched a revision of the directive on the prevention of occupational cancers in May 2016. In 15 years, the European Commission made little progress on an issue vital to reducing social and health inequalities in Europe. With 100,000 deaths a year, cancers caused by occupational exposure represent the first cause of mortality related to working conditions in Europe. The report was approved by 38 votes in favour and 6 votes against. Only two parliamentary groups opposed it – the Eurosceptic right grouped around British and Polish conservatives and the far-right (France’s National Front).
The European Union has offered to negotiate with Russia on behalf of its member states about the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which aims to bring Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea, Danish newspaper Politiken reported (29 March). The EU is divided between Eastern European and Baltic Sea countries that fear a new pipeline carrying Russian gas across the Baltic will make the EU a hostage to Moscow – and those in Northern Europe, most especially the main beneficiary Germany, for whom the economic benefits take priority. Poland and other East European countries see in Nord Stream 2 a Russian plot to undermine the bloc’s strategic interests and competition rules.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (30 March) warned US President Donald Trump that he would support ‘Texit’, Texas breaking away from the US, if the flamboyant millionaire kept backing Brexit. He delivered the astonishing slapdown the day after the UK triggered Article 50, the legal process to take Britain out of the bloc. Trump has been a vocal and enthusiastic supporter of Brexit. During a speech at the European People’s Party (EPP) summit in Malta, Juncker issued a stinging rebuke to Trump and insisted Brexit would not spell the end of the EU. “Brexit is not the end,” said the former prime minister of Luxembourg, “A lot of people would like it that way.
“If he goes on like that I am going to promote the independence of Ohio and Austin Texas in America,” Juncker said to applause from EPP members. Texan nationalists, who dream of ceding from the United States to form their own country, have taken inspiration from Brexit. After Trump’s election, there were calls for Calexit, an independent California.