Posts Tagged ‘poland’

East-west divide in the EU deepens

June 25, 2017

While the German and French leaders celebrated the close ties between their countries during this week’s EU summit, divisions between western and eastern European leaders grew. Christoph Hasselbach reports from Brussels.

Belgien EU-Gipfel in Brüseel | (Reuters/E Dunand)

The summit was intended to spread a bit of optimism. The professionals, it was announced, would now take care of Brexit negotiations, and the British government even promised to protect EU citizens’ rights in the United Kingdom after withdrawal. Although that proposal is now being criticized as inadequate and vague, it is still being touted as a sign of progress. After that, the remaining 27 member states sought to create momentum for new projects.

The joint press conference held by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron was then appropriately symbolic. Merkel described the mood of the two-day summit, which ended on Friday, as “optimistic and dynamic.” Such words are more easily uttered in the knowledge that economies in almost all member states, even those which were heretofore weak, are starting to grow again. The eurozone has just completed its best quarter in almost six years, which, however, isn’t saying much considering the crisis that has been plaguing the continent for the last several years.

Yet Estonia, which will take over the European Council’s rotating presidency in July, has said that more must still be done. Estonia is considered a role model for EU digitization. In Brussels, Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas urged: “Data is the next steel and coal. So we need to be ready for a next 60 years of digitization in Europe. Europe has to become the world leader in digital.” In the case of German Chancellor Merkel, Ratas is preaching to the converted. She was full of praise, “because Estonia is an example of how digitization is already being lived out.”

The EU also wants to take the lead in maintaining free trade around the world, which member states see threatened by the protectionist tendencies of US President Donald Trump. But, as French President Macron said, the EU is not “naive” either. Openness also necessitates fairness. European governments find it unfair that some countries seemingly flood the European market with dumping prices, or that companies from third states buy European firms while at the same time blocking European takeovers in theirs. The main culprit in both instances is China.

Belgien - EU-Gipfel in Brüssel - Juncker (picture allianceBELGA/dpa/T. Roge)European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also made a relaxed impression

Refugee distribution? Hopeless

But the generally positive mood that has come on the heels of the Brexit depression did not brighten every topic of discussion – such as that of immigration. Macron, who is seen by many as Europe’s new hope, began the conference by angering eastern European countries that have refused to accept refugees from the bloc’s main countries of arrival, Italy and Greece. Macron complained that members were not in a “supermarket” and that the EU was not about “handing out money without regard for European values.”

Although he did not name names, those he was referring to, such as Hungary, felt attacked. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban snapped back that Macron’s comments were a “kick.” He labeled Macron a “newbie” whose start in office was “not very encouraging.” Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern, on the other hand, stood by Macron: “I cannot always make demands and then shirk my responsibilities.”

In an effort to smooth over differences, Macron also met separately with heads of government from the so-called Visegrad Group: Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Nothing, however, came of the meeting. After the summit, Merkel said that all members were “very, very much in agreement” on the issue of fighting the root causes of migration and the control of Europe’s exterior borders. She resignedly added: “Unfortunately, we made no progress on the question of distribution,” noting that very little time had been allotted for discussing the issue, “since it was clear that we would not be able to make any progress.”

In his joint press conference with Merkel, Macron added: “The current refugee crisis is not a temporary, but rather a long-term challenge, which can be resolved only through long-term stabilization in Africa and the Middle East and through ambitious European development policies.”

Read more: EU leaders agree on trade but remain split over refugees

Symbolbild Flüchtlinge Italien Salerno (picture-alliance/dpa/M. Amoruso/Pacific Press via ZUMA Wire)The EU’s system of refugee redistribution is meeting with resistance from some member states

Competition from Eastern Europe

Macron’s discussion with the Visegrad Group was delicate for another reason as well. The French president fears that the entire European project is in jeopardy because workers in wealthy western European countries feel threatened by eastern European competition. Macron recently even cited the issue in explaining the Brexit: “How could Brexit happen? Because workers from eastern European countries were taking British jobs.” Macron is therefore calling for changes to the so-called “Posting of Workers Directive.” He envisions that workers sent to fill western European jobs should be paid according to local wage scales. The proposal was greeted by high-wage countries such as Germany and Austria. But eastern Europeans are vehemently refusing to cede their competitive advantage.

Deutschland Wohnungsbau in Hamburg (picture alliance / dpa)Eastern European competition often makes itself felt in the construction industry

The summit made clear that Emmanuel Macron’s election has given a jolt of energy to the French-German duo that will perhaps be able to drive new European projects. But at the same time, it also highlighted the threat that the divide between new EU member states from the east and old ones from the west could grow ever deeper.

http://www.dw.com/en/the-east-west-divide-in-the-eu-deepens/a-39403028

EU Will Restrict Visas for States Not Taking Back Migrants — Migrant deaths in Mediterranean in 2017 pass 2,000 mark on World Refugee Day after new boat disasters

June 23, 2017

BRUSSELS — The European Union states decided on Friday to restrict visas for foreign countries that refuse to take back their nationals who have no right of asylum in Europe.

The EU is cracking down on immigration following a spike in arrivals across the Mediterranean since 2014.

Italy is now the main gateway to the bloc and most of those reaching European shores after boarding smugglers’ boats in Africa are considered illegal labor migrants.

Some countries, including Bangladesh and Nigeria, are often reluctant to readmit their citizens and the EU has recently doubled down on efforts to expedite such returns.

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Migrant deaths in Mediterranean in 2017 pass 2,000 mark on World Refugee Day after new boat disasters

Humanitarian organisations call on EU to stop ‘demonising’ NGOs for saving lives at sea

By Lizzie Dearden

The Independent Online

2,000 migrants drowned by World Refugee Day

More than 2,000 migrants have died attempting treacherous boat crossings to Europe so far this year, following three more shipwrecks announced on World Refugee Day.

The United Nations’ Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said 129 asylum seekers were missing and presumed dead after a dinghy launched by smugglers in Libya started taking on water and sank, leaving only four survivors from Sub-Saharan Africa.

Two rescued Sudanese men told the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) the boat had been at sea for several hours when a group of Libyans described as “pirates” approached in a speedboat and stole their motor.

Passing Libyan fishermen rescued the pair along with two Nigerian men who were the only other survivors, and put them on another migrant boat.

“They were in shock, traumatised by what had happened, and exhausted,” said IOM spokesman Flavio Di Giacomo, adding that motor thefts had caused several recent disasters.

Another boat was carrying at least 85 people from Syria and North Africa, including families with children, when it broke in two and sank on Monday.

refugee-boat-rescues-mediterannean2.jpg
Migrants rescued by the Vos Hestia ship off Libya coast on Saturday (Reuters)

A third shipwreck is feared to have left at least seven people dead, with survivors including a pregnant woman taken to Sicily.

The UNHCR said the disasters were a reminder of the “grave dangers” facing people forced to flee their countries by war and persecution.

Of almost 83,000 migrants who have arrived by sea in Europe so far in 2017, the vast majority have crossed the central Mediterranean between Libya and Italy – now the deadliest sea passage in the world.

It has claimed more than 2,000 lives since January, according to UNHCR figures, sparking fresh appeals for enhanced rescue operations and the introduction of safe and legal alternatives for a record 65.6 million displaced people around the world.

“More efforts are needed to address the root causes behind these movements of people to Libya, including by solving conflicts and reducing poverty,” said a spokesperson for the agency.

The UN and humanitarian groups have been raising concerns over increased EU support for the fragile Libyan Government of National Accord.

The UK is among countries training its coastguard, while boats, equipment and millions of euros have been handed over in efforts to slow crossings.

refugee-boat-rescues-mediterannean.jpg
Migrants rescued by Save the Children in the Mediterranean Sea on Sunday (Reuters)

But as the Libyan civil war continues to rage six years after the UK supported the removal of Muammar Gaddafi, smugglers have set up a ruthless trade with migrants routinely kidnapped, ransomed, forced into labour, raped, tortured and sold at “slave markets”.

A new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the Libyan coastguard was engaging in “reckless conduct” during operations to force migrant boats back to land – in violation of international laws against refoulement.

It highlighted incidents reported by The Independent in May where the coastguard opened fire while blocking rescues by NGO ships in international waters.

“Recent incidents show how wrong it is for EU countries to entrust the lives of those in need of rescue to Libyan coast guard forces when there are safer alternatives,” said Judith Sunderland, associate Europe and Central Asia director at HRW, calling for Italian authorities who currently coordinate rescues not to hand over command.

The call was repeated by a group of rescue organisations including Sea-Watch, Jugend Rettet and Proactiva Open Arms, who said European plans to “outsource control” of the refugee crisis to Libyan authorities was not practical or legal.

An open letter to mark World Refugee Day on Tuesday called on European naval forces to conduct rescues, stop boats being illegally pushed back to Libya, develop an impartial monitoring system and “support and decriminalise NGOs rather than demonising them”.

Charities and aid agencies operating refugee rescue ships have been accused of aiding and even directly colluding with Libyan smugglers in the increasingly toxic debate, despite research finding no evidence to support the allegations.

Italy, which is housing more than 190,000 asylum seekers in state-funded accommodation, has criticised other European countries for failing to resettle asylum seekers and help rescue efforts.

“I’m sorry that not everyone, including in Europe, has shown the same willingness to take people in [as Italy has],” Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said in a message marking World Refugee Day.

“The refugee issue crosses national borders and involves the entire EU and is, in the end, a global phenomenon.”

The Italian navy and coastguard picked up 41 per cent of migrants rescued at sea last year, NGO ships 26 per cent, and ships from the EU-wide Operation Sophia 25 per cent.

But during the first four months of 2017, the proportion of rescues conducted by NGOs has increased to 35 per cent, with Italian authorities carrying out a third and Operation Sophia carrying out just 16 per cent.

EU leaders will meet in Brussels to discuss migration policy on Thursday, after arrivals to Italy jumped by a quarter year-on-year.

Last week, the European Commission opened a legal case against Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic for refusing to take in asylum seekers under a 2015 plan to relocate migrants from Italy and Greece.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/migrants-mediterranean-sea-crossings-2000-dead-world-refugee-day-asylum-seekers-boat-disasters-libya-a7800376.html

Hong Kong firms join forces to make deals under Silk Road plan

June 19, 2017

Companies will draw on their experience to initially establish infrastructure projects and industrial parks in Thailand and Vietnam

By Josh Ye
South China Morning Post

Monday, June 19, 2017, 8:48pm

Hong Kong companies will form a consortium to build infrastructure projects and industrial parks in Thailand and Vietnam under mainland China’s Silk Road project, the Trade Development Council says.

Council president Vincent Lo Hong-sui said over 40 business leaders from Hong Kong and Shanghai formed a delegation while visiting the two countries last month and met both prime ministers.

He added that this was one of many steps in further involving Hong Kong companies with the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

Lo said the statutory body was now forming “a consortium of local companies” to help them enter these developing markets as a collective force.

“We are looking to build infrastructure projects and industrial parks in countries under the belt and road initiative.”

The initiative was launched by Beijing in 2013 to promote the building of railways, roads, power plants and other infrastructure projects in 60 countries from Asia to Europe on its old Silk Road to promote trade and economic growth.

The council has identified eight countries out of the 65 under the scheme as the initial destinations for Hong Kong investment – Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Nicholas Kwan, research director at the council, said Hong Kong investors were seasoned in managing supply chain systems across countries.

 Vincent Lo says numerous multibillion-dollar deals will be closed this year. Photo: Sam Tsang

Lo said the development level of many of the belt and road countries reminded him of mainland China three decades ago.

“Hong Kong investors have garnered a lot of practical experience in developing mainland China,” he said. “This experience is unique and will definitely benefit other countries.”

He said the council aimed to close several deals this year and estimated some projects were worth more than US$10 billion.

Lo added that chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had told him the next administration would fully support the council in furthering deals with countries linked to the trade initiative.

The council also announced that it would host its second belt and road summit in September, which looked to introduce more concrete plans for local firms to enter relevant countries.

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/economy/article/2099050/hong-kong-firms-join-forces-make-deals-under-silk-road-plan

NATO War Game Defends Baltic Weak Spot for First Time

June 18, 2017

SUWALKI GAP, Polish-Lithuanian border (Reuters) – U.S. and British troops have carried out the first large-scale NATO defensive drill on the border between Poland and Lithuania, rehearsing for a possible scenario in which Russia might try to sever the Baltic states from the rest of the Western alliance.

The frontier runs for 104 km (65 miles) through farmland, woods and low hills, in an area known as the Suwalki Gap. If seized by Russia, it would cut off Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Over two days, U.S. helicopters and British aircraft took part in exercises that also involved troops from Poland, Lithuania and Croatia in a simulated defense of the potential flashpoint.

“The gap is vulnerable because of the geography. It’s not inevitable that there’s going to be an attack, of course, but … if that was closed, then you have three allies that are north that are potentially isolated from the rest of the alliance”, U.S. Lieutenant General Ben Hodges told Reuters.

Russia denies any plans to invade the Baltics, and says it is NATO that is threatening stability in Eastern Europe by building up its military presence there and staging such war games.

But Hodges, who commands U.S. forces in Europe, said it was crucial for the alliance to show it was ready.

“We have to practice, we have to demonstrate that we can support allies in keeping (the Gap) open, in maintaining that connection,” he said.

GAME CHANGER

Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in the Black Sea has changed NATO’s calculations, seeing Russia increasingly as an adversary. Before then, no forces from other alliance members were stationed in the Baltic states; now four battlegroups totaling just over 4,500 troops have been deployed in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

The Poles have been pushing other NATO allies to use some of these troops to secure the vulnerable Suwalki corridor and deter potential Russian aggression. But while 1,500 troops took part in this weekend’s exercises, a Lithuanian commander cautioned that it would take more to defend the gap in the event of a genuine conflict.

“This is only a small-scale drill compared to what would be needed in case of a real attack, but it is important for us because it shows that allies share our worries”, said Brigadier General Valdemaras Rupsys, head of Lithuania’s land forces.

Simulating a covert insertion of forces, three American helicopters landed in a field in rural Lithuania on Saturday, startling grazing horses and cows, in an area several hours’ drive from where a U.S. battalion is stationed at Orzysz base in Poland.

“The training helps present a credible defense force that hopefully will deter aggression, but if not, we’ll be prepared to move to defend the borders of NATO,” said Lt. Col. Steven Gventer, who leads the U.S. battlegroup in Orzysz.

NATO officials believe Moscow will hold its own exercise in Russia and Belarus on a much greater scale in September, possibly involving 100,000 troops, under the codename “Zapad” (West). Baltic officials believe Moscow will also rehearse an attack on the Suwalki Gap during Zapad.

“I think it’s important for the soldiers to train on land that they may have to defend some day,” said Major General John Gronski, deputy commander, U.S. Army Europe, observing the exercise in Lithuania.

(Reporting by Andrius Sytas; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

EU Battle Over Migrants Intensifies as European Commission Launches a Legal Case Against Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic

June 14, 2017

Commission moves against Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic, which have not cooperated with relocation agreement

.A refugee boy holds his baby brother at the port of Piraeus, Greece, in February 2016.
A refugee boy holds his baby brother at the port of Piraeus, Greece, in February 2016. Photograph: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images

The European commission has launched a legal case against Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic for refusing to take in refugees, intensifying a bitter feud within the bloc about how to deal with migration.

The Eurosceptic governments in Poland and Hungary have refused to take in anyone under a plan agreed by a majority of EU leaders in 2015 to relocate migrants from frontline states Italy and Greece to help ease their burden. The Czech Republic initially accepted 12 people but has since said it would not welcome more.

Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, the EU’s migration chief, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said: “I regret to see that despite our repeated calls to pledge to relocate, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland have not yet taken the necessary action.

“For this reason, the commission has decided to launch infringement procedures against these three member states … I sincerely hope that these member states can still reconsider their position and contribute fairly.”

The legal action is likely to reinvigorate the debate over the independence of EU states from Brussels. It kickstarts months, or even years, of legal wrangling before a top EU court could potentially impose financial penalties.

Out of 160,000 refugees due to be taken under the scheme agreed in 2015, only 20,869 have been relocated. In theory, countries can be fined for every refugee in the quota they fail to accept.

The Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, nosediving in the polls and facing elections in November, claimed the commission was “blindly insisting on pushing ahead with dysfunctional quotas which decreased citizens’ trust in EU abilities and pushed back working and conceptual solutions to the migration crisis”.

He added: “Given the deteriorating security situation in Europe and the non-functioning of the quota system, the Czech government will not participate in it. We are ready to defend our position in the EU and the relevant judicial institutions.”

Read the rest:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/13/eu-takes-action-against-eastern-states-for-refusing-to-take-refugees

Estonia expells two Russian diplomats accused of spying

May 26, 2017

The incident follows a string of spy cases. Most recently, a Tallinn court earlier this month sentenced a Russian citizen living in Estonia to 5 years behind bars for spying on behalf of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency.

Published Fri, May 26, 2017 10:59 AM

TALLINN, Estonia – Estonia’s foreign ministry said on Friday, May 26, it had expelled two Russian diplomats, in the latest incident to strain relations between the small NATO state and Moscow.

“We can confirm that Estonia has expelled two Russian diplomats,” ministry spokeswoman Sandra Kamilova told the Agence France-Presse.

The incident follows a string of spy cases. Most recently, a Tallinn court earlier this month sentenced a Russian citizen living in Estonia to 5 years behind bars for spying on behalf of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency.

The Baltic News Service named the two men as Dmitry Kazennov, the Russia’s consul general in the eastern city of Narva and consul Andrey Surgaev.

Perched on Estonia’s border with Russia, around 90 percent of Narva’s 60,000 residents are ethnic Russian.

Relations between Moscow and Tallinn have been fraught since Estonia broke free from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1991, joining both the EU and NATO in 2004.

NATO is currently deploying four battalions to the three Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – and Poland to reassure its allies spooked by Russia’s frequent military exercises near the region and its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. – Rappler.com

British Lab to Help Poland Probe 2010 President’s Death — Using forensic investigation tools to determine if a bomb was used

May 26, 2017

WARSAW, Poland — Polish prosecutors who are investigating whether the 2010 plane crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others have sent samples from the plane for laboratory tests in Britain to help them determine whether an explosion caused the disaster.

Ewa Bialik, spokeswoman for the National Prosecutor’s Office, said late Thursday that the samples have arrived at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory.

The prosecutors are investigating whether anyone should face charges over the crash in Smolensk, Russia. They plan to question as witness Poland’s prime minister of the time, Donald Tusk, who is now the president of the European Council.

Poland’s ruling party is led by the late president’s twin brother, who rejects findings by aviation experts who have determined that the crash was an accident.

 Image result for Lech Kaczynski, smolensk, crash site

North Korea’s Unit 180, the cyber warfare cell that worries the West

May 21, 2017

Reuters

Sun May 21, 2017 | 1:23am EDT

FILE PHOTO: Military trucks carry soldiers through central Pyongyang before sunset April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/File Photo
.
By Ju-min Park and James Pearson | SEOUL

North Korea’s main spy agency has a special cell called Unit 180 that is likely to have launched some of its most daring and successful cyber attacks, according to defectors, officials and internet security experts.

North Korea has been blamed in recent years for a series of online attacks, mostly on financial networks, in the United States, South Korea and over a dozen other countries.

Cyber security researchers have also said they have found technical evidence that could link North Korea with the global WannaCry “ransomware” cyber attack that infected more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries this month. Pyongyang has called the allegation “ridiculous”.

The crux of the allegations against North Korea is its connection to a hacking group called Lazarus that is linked to last year’s $81 million cyber heist at the Bangladesh central bank and the 2014 attack on Sony’s Hollywood studio. The U.S. government has blamed North Korea for the Sony hack and some U.S. officials have said prosecutors are building a case against Pyongyang in the Bangladesh Bank theft.

No conclusive proof has been provided and no criminal charges have yet been filed. North Korea has also denied being behind the Sony and banking attacks.

North Korea is one of the most closed countries in the world and any details of its clandestine operations are difficult to obtain. But experts who study the reclusive country and defectors who have ended up in South Korea or the West have provided some clues.

Kim Heung-kwang, a former computer science professor in North Korea who defected to the South in 2004 and still has sources inside North Korea, said Pyongyang’s cyber attacks aimed at raising cash are likely organized by Unit 180, a part of the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), its main overseas intelligence agency.

“Unit 180 is engaged in hacking financial institutions (by) breaching and withdrawing money out of bank accounts,” Kim told Reuters. He has previously said that some of his former students have joined North Korea’s Strategic Cyber Command, its cyber-army.

“The hackers go overseas to find somewhere with better internet services than North Korea so as not to leave a trace,” Kim added. He said it was likely they went under the cover of being employees of trading firms, overseas branches of North Korean companies, or joint ventures in China or Southeast Asia.

James Lewis, a North Korea expert at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Pyongyang first used hacking as a tool for espionage and then political harassment against South Korean and U.S. targets.

“They changed after Sony by using hacking to support criminal activities to generate hard currency for the regime,” he said.

“So far, it’s worked as well or better as drugs, counterfeiting, smuggling – all their usual tricks,” Lewis said.

COST-EFFECTIVE, DENIABLE

The U.S. Department of Defense said in a report submitted to Congress last year that North Korea likely “views cyber as a cost-effective, asymmetric, deniable tool that it can employ with little risk from reprisal attacks, in part because its networks are largely separated from the Internet”.

“It is likely to use Internet infrastructure from third-party nations,” the report said.

South Korean officials say they have considerable evidence of North Korea’s cyber warfare operations.

“North Korea is carrying out cyber attacks through third countries to cover up the origin of the attacks and using their information and communication technology infrastructure,” Ahn Chong-ghee, South Korea’s vice foreign minister, told Reuters in written comments.

Besides the Bangladesh Bank heist, he said Pyongyang was also suspected in attacks on banks in the Philippines, Vietnam and Poland.

In June last year, police said the North hacked into more than 140,000 computers at 160 South Korean companies and government agencies, planting malicious code as part of a long-term plan to lay the groundwork for a massive cyber attack on its rival.

North Korea was also suspected of staging cyber attacks against the South Korean nuclear reactor operator in 2014, although it denied any involvement.

That attack was conducted from a base in China, according to Simon Choi, a senior security researcher at Seoul-based anti-virus company Hauri Inc.

“They operate there so that regardless of what kind of project they do, they have Chinese IP addresses,” said Choi, who has conducted extensive research into North Korea’s hacking capabilities.

MALAYSIA LINK

 

Malaysia has also been a base for North Korean cyber operations, according to Yoo Dong-ryul, a former South Korean police researcher who studied North Korean espionage techniques for 25 years.

“They work in trading or IT programming companies on the surface,” Yoo told Reuters. “Some of them run websites and sell game and gambling programs”.

Two IT firms in Malaysia have links to North Korea’s RGB spy agency, according to a Reuters investigation this year, although there was no suggestion either of them was involved in hacking.

Michael Madden, a U.S.-based expert on the North Korean leadership, said Unit 180 was one of many elite cyber warfare groups in the North Korean intelligence community.

“The personnel are recruited from senior middle schools and receive advanced training at some elite training institutions,” Madden told Reuters.

“They have a certain amount of autonomy in their missions and tasking as well,” he said, adding that they could be operating from hotels in China or Eastern Europe.

In the United States, officials said there was no conclusive evidence that North Korea was behind the WannaCry ransomware, but that was no reason to be complacent.

“Whether or not they are directly involved with ransomware doesn’t change the fact that they are a real cyber threat,” said a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder of prominent U.S. security firm CrowdStrike Inc, added: “Their capabilities have improved steadily over time, and we consider them to be a threat actor that is capable of inflicting significant damage on U.S. private or government networks.”

(To view a graphic on ‘Don’t click: The ransomware WannaCry worm’ click here)

(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington, Joseph Menn in San Francisco,; Rozanna Latiff and Tom Allard in Kuala Lumpur; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Europe’s resolve on fighting climate change seems to be flagging

May 17, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Céline SERRAT | The European Union took on emissions-cutting targets that analysts say are too low to stay under the ceiling for average global warming set in the Paris pact — no more than two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels

PARIS (AFP) – The 28-member European Union, the third-largest emitter of planet-warming greenhouse gases after China and the United States, has long been held up as the poster child of efforts to save Earth’s climate.

But after years of taking the lead in talks for a global climate pact, and making tough policy and investment choices to lessen fossil fuel reliance at home, the bloc’s resolve now seems to be flagging, analysts say.

Europe is responsible for about 10 percent of global emissions.

As the world’s nations meet in Bonn to negotiate a rulebook for executing the climate-rescue Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015 to limit emissions from burning oil, coal, and gas, here is a look at Europe’s role.

– History –

Having been at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution that sparked the large-scale carbon dioxide pollution of Earth’s atmosphere now blamed for global warming, Europe took the lead hundreds of years later in shifting to cleaner energy generated by sources such as the Sun, waves and wind.

It was instrumental in passing, and keeping alive, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement’s predecessor, despite opposition from the United States and other developed countries.

Europe also created the first, still the biggest, carbon market in a bid to incentivise companies to pollute less.

The Emissions Trading System limits emissions and allows companies to trade in allowances not used.

– Then what happened? –

The carbon market, which covers about 40 percent of Europe’s industrial emissions, has proven ineffective, critics say, and needs urgent reform.

Carbon allowances were too generous, resulting in a carbon price too low to encourage savings.

The bloc also took on emissions-cutting targets that analysts say are too low to stay under the ceiling for average global warming set in the Paris pact — no more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels.

The EU pledged to reduce its own emissions by 20 percent by 2020 over 1990 levels — a goal it is on course to exceed.

With three years to go, the target has already been met even if five countries — Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg and Ireland — are not on track to achieve their national goals.

The European Environment Agency expects the bloc will reach 24 percent in 2020.

This goes to show that the target was too “modest” to begin with, according to Celia Gautier of the Climate Action Network, a grouping of NGOs.

By 2020, Europe also seeks to boost energy efficiency (less fossil fuel input for the same energy output) by 20 percent, and ensure that 20 percent of energy consumed is from renewables.

According to Eurostat, an agency of the European Commission, renewable energy consumption in Europe was already 16.7 percent in 2014.

“In the wake of the Paris Agreement’s entry into force, the EU’s climate policy effort appears to be slowing, and it has not effectively responded” to an aspirational 1.5 C lower limit also written into the pact, according to the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), a tool created by think-tanks to measure countries’ progress.

– What’s next? –

Europe’s medium- and long-term ambitions are even more problematic.

It is targeting a 40-percent domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 over 1990 levels, which the CAT says is “significantly behind what is achievable and necessary”.

And it is not on track to meet even that — currently steering for 30-39 percent.

According to the CAT, Europe needs to reduce emissions by about two percent per year to achieve a 45-50-percent cut by 2030 — a trajectory more in line with the Paris accord’s objectives.

But emissions are projected to slow only between 0.5 percent and 1.3 percent per year.

Europe is not alone — the CAT says all major emitters, the US, China, India and Russia included, need to do much more for the world to stay under 2 C.

– Further ahead –

For 2050, the EU bloc has set its sights on a 80-95-percent reduction from 1990, which the CAT says would require “significant acceleration”.

According to Climate Analytics, a policy institute, 300 coal-fired power stations have to close in Europe by 2030, if the Paris goals are to be met.

Half of Europe’s coal emissions come from Germany and Poland, the rest mainly from Bulgaria and Czech Republic — countries with relatively smaller reduction goals than their richer European peers.

“To achieve total decarbonisation of the global economy by the second half of the 21st century (as mooted in the Paris Agreement), Europe must, as an industrial leader, be among the first to achieve it,” said David Levai, a researcher at the IDDRI research institute in Paris.

by Céline SERRAT

Study reveals half of young Europeans are skeptical about democracy

May 4, 2017

Just half of Europeans aged 16-26 believe democracy is the best form of government. The figure was revealed in a survey that polled 6,000 young Europeans in seven countries.

Deutschland Pulse of Europe - Demonstration in München (picture-alliance/Zuma Press/S. Babbar)

The results of the YouGov study, commissioned by the TUI Foundation and released Thursday, show that respondents from Germany and Greece were most in favor of democracy (62 and 66 percent), while France, Italy and Poland were the least convinced of its effectiveness (42, 45 and 42 percent).

Read: Democracy strong enough to deal with “fake news”

The study noted that the latter three countries had experienced a growth in populist movements. France sees a runoff vote this weekend to decide if Marine Le Pen, a far-right candidate claiming she will protect France’s national identity, will be its next president. However, polls predict Emmanuel Macron, a centrist candidate, is likely to claim victory.

The YouGov study, which was conducted between February 16 and March 3, surveyed 6,000 people aged 16-26 from Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, and Spain.

Another finding from the study was that young people see the European Union more as an economic alliance (76 percent) than a grouping of nations with common cultural values (30 percent).

“A Europe whose value is seen, above all, in the advantages of the common market threatens to become interchangeable and arbitrary,” said Thomas Ellerbeck, chair of the board of trustees at the TUI Foundation, in a statement on the foundation’s website. “It is therefore important to discuss the shared values of Europe. Here all social actors are required, not just politicians.”

In the seven countries polled, an average of one in five respondents said they were in favor of their country leaving the EU. This figure was highest in Greece (31 percent for leaving the EU) and lowest in Germany and Spain, where 12 percent would vote for an EU exit.

Read: Taking the pulse of youth culture

Greek respondents were most in favor of the EU returning some power to national governments, with 60 percent indicating they supported this idea. The average of those polled was 38 percent, while only 22 percent of Germans indicated they would want the EU to give up some power to national governments.

http://www.dw.com/en/study-reveals-half-of-young-europeans-are-skeptical-about-democracy/a-38689788