Photo : Defense Express
13 October 2022, Thursday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #331
By Rishma Banerjee
French authorities demand the end of strike by energy company employees
On 11 October, France's Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne ordered Esso-ExxonMobil and TotalEnergies oil refinery workers who are on a strike to resume work. The strike has led to the closure of around 30 per cent of service stations across France, prompting Borne to instruct the return of employees to service stations across the country. The government which has released strategic stockpiles of oil to ease the supply called for negotiation and an agreement between the government and the unions to put an end to the strike. However, the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) trade union, which is coordinating the strike amongst the workers rejected the recently proposed pay rise and said that they are prepared to go to war if France's government forces them to return to work. (“France orders energy companies to resolve strikes amid fuel shortages,” Euronews, 11 October 2022)
Formation of the coalition government delayed
On 12 October, Euronews reported that Sweden’s right-wing parties had asked for more time to form a coalition government following its general elections on 11 September. On this issue, Moderates leader Ulf Kristersson said: "..have reached the goal, and we are in agreement, but there are details that need to be sorted out.” Kristersson, who has been given two additional days by the Speaker to present a potential cabinet, said that he expects to be ready by the end of 14 October. Sweden’s parliament will have to vote its confidence in Kristersson’s proposed government before it can assume office. (David Mac Dougall, “Sweden election: Right-wing parties miss deadline to form new government,” Euronews, 12 October 2022)
Former Brexit Minister warns against ECJ involvement in Northern Ireland Protocol dispute
On 11 October, the former Brexit minister spoke about the Northern Ireland Protocol. He said that Liz Truss should maintain her stance and not give the European Court of Justice (ECJ) a chance to interfere in the disputes regarding the Northern Ireland Protocol. Speaking at the House of Lords during the second reading of the government's Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, Frost said that the fragility and sensitiveness of the Protocol would make it difficult for the European Court of Justice to deliberate on the issue. According to Frost: “The court of justice cannot have a jurisdictional or arbitrational role in the future arrangement. I can’t see how they will be stable while that remained the case. I think better if that was acknowledged sooner rather than later.” (Lisa O’Carroll, “ECJ must have no role in Northern Ireland protocol, David Frost says,” The Guardian, 11 October 2022)
European Commissions recommends Bosnia and Herzegovina for candidate status
On 12 October European Commission released its annual enlargement report recommending candidate status for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The country has been a potential candidate for the EU since 2003 and formally applied for membership in 2016. In 2019, the Commission provided 14 key priorities for the country to fulfill before the EU accession negotiations could be facilitated. While the Commission's recommendation will not immediately change the country's chances of getting candidacy, it could catalyze the reforms necessary for the country to begin its accession process. The report identified eight areas like rule of law, the country’s courts, election law, public procurement law, and public financial management, where further progress reports were required. It is expected that Bosnia and Herzegovina could make quick progress in the implementation of 14 conditions initially mentioned by the Commission if it could deliver on the eight elements. However, despite the Commission's recommendation, Bosnia and Herzegovina would have to get affirmation from the EU member states before it is granted candidate status. (Alexandra Brzozowski, “EU Commission to recommend Bosnia-Herzegovina be granted candidate status,” EURACTIV, 12 October 2022)
Ahead of the annual summit, Estonia becomes co-chair of Open Government Partnership
On 12 October, ERR News reported that Estonia will be taking over as the co-chair of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). The OGP is a multilateral initiative for the promotion of open and strong government focusing on citizen empowerment and fighting corruption. So far, there are 77 national partners and 106 local partners in the group. Ahead of the organization’s summit next year in Tallinn, Estonia’s State Secretary Taimar Peterkop will be representing civil society in the organization along with Uruguay's Institute for Communication and Development Director, Annabel Cruz for the next year. Estonia has been a part of the OGP since its inception in 2011 and was selected by other member states and civil society representatives to be the co-chair for the upcoming season. (“Estonia takes on Open Government Partnership co-chair role,” ERR News, 12 October 2022)
EEA reports identifies five issues impacting sustainable development of urban sectors
On 10 October, the European Environmental Agency (EEA) updated its report titled ‘Urban sustainability in Europe — Post‑pandemic drivers of environmental transitions.’ The report outlined the impact of the COVID-19, the war in Ukraine, climate change, environmental degradation, and the impending energy crisis that is plaguing Europe’s cities. Published during the European Week of Regions and Cities, the report also identified a lack of affordable housing, urban sprawl, road congestion, demographic change, and social exclusion as pressing issues for Europe’s urban sectors. It emphasized the need to ensure green policies for cities, which will be tailored as per the requirements of each, instead of blanket policies. The report also identified specific issues like climate resilience, quality of life, accessibility, healthy environment, food security, circularity, clean energy, and sustainable buildings as verticals where future work was needed. (“Post-pandemic recovery offers European cities chance to boost shift to sustainability,” eea.europa.eu, 10 October 2022)
China accused of developing the tech sector for international control
The Head of the UK’s cybersecurity agency the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Jeremy Flemming alleged that China was using its economic and technological clout to change the rules of international security. He said that while the war in Ukraine was an important geopolitical event in Europe, China’s growing technological prowess was the defining national security issue in the future. He mentioned how technology was gradually transforming from an area of opportunity, competition, and collaboration to a battleground for “control, values, and influence.” On this issue, he alleged that China was trying to “gain strategic advantage by shaping the world’s technology ecosystems” for its benefit. (Jill Lawless, “UK spy chief says rise of China world’s top security issue,” AP News, 12 October 2022)
War in Ukraine: Day 231
By Rishma Banerjee and Sai Pranav
War on the Ground
On 12 October, the report of Ukraine’s General Staff of the Armed Forces on Telegram Ukraine launched strong counter-offensives to Russia in Bakhmut and Avdiiv directions. Although Russia was attacking with one ballistic and 28-wing missiles, Ukraine struck down 20 of them using air defence systems. Ukraine also condemned Russia for destroying civilian infrastructures and violating International Humanitarian law. The report also mentioned that Belarus had supplied Russia with 20 T-72 tanks and repairing the military equipment of Russia. The shortage of doctors in the temporarily occupied region of Luhansk was also highlighted in the report.
On the same day, Ukraine’s Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko met with the US Finance Minister during the IMF and the World Bank Annual Meeting. They discussed additional financial assistance to Ukraine, and the imposition of stricter sanctions on Russia through energy price cap. He thanked the US for being the highest provider of financial assistance of USD 8.5 billion. The fund is used to stabilize the economy and protect state spending, such as payment of salaries, pensions, and social benefits during wartime.
On 12 October, Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov tweeted that Ukraine had received IRIS-T air defence systems from Germany. He also added that Ukraine is expecting the US-Norwegian NASAMS air defence system.
On 12 October, Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) discovered another torture chamber in the Donetsk region. Tools used for torture and sharp instruments were found in the chamber. An official investigation about the chamber has been launched by the SBU, who are trying to identify the victims of the chamber and the Russians involved in torture. The chamber was similar to the ones used by Russian soldiers that have been found in other parts of Ukraine.
On 12 October, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy requested that the UN Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization add Odessa as a world heritage site. He urged UNESCO to remove Russia from the chair as it is an aggressive state that attacked Ukraine. He called Russia “....an enemy of culture, an enemy of history, an enemy of education, an enemy of science.” According to him, the port city of Odessa is one of the most significant cities in Ukraine and has a rich history behind it.
The Moscow View
Claims by Russia
On 12 October, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) accused Ukraine’s Defence Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) of being responsible for the explosion of the Kerch Bridge. FSB alleged that Commander Kirill Budanov was the mastermind of the attack. The agency suspects 12 accomplices for the attack, out of which eight were arrested. Those who were arrested were Russians, Ukrainians, and Armenians.
On 12 October, the head of the local military-civilian administration, Vladimir Rogov spoke about the power supply to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP). The ZNPP has been disconnected from the external power supply twice in five days, but the supply has since been restored. Rogov mentioned that before the restoration of power, the plant had to be sustained by temporary diesel generators for less than an hour.
On 12 October, the Press Secretary of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov, confirmed that there was no new wave of mobilization. The comment came as a clarification to the announcements made on 11 October by the governor of the Rostov region, Vasily Golubev claiming that his region had received a new mobilization call. In this regard, Peskov said that Russia will require to clarify “with each specific governor what they have in mind,” to prevent the spreading of such misinformation.
On 12 October, the Russian oil company Zarubezhneft said that a complete temporary shutdown of fuel production was possible after the sanctions imposed by the EU come into effect on 05 December. The head of the company, Sergei Kudryashov said that the state oil company will thus face critical challenges due to the sanctions, but assured that he had a plan to restore production within two weeks. On a similar note, Russia’s Deputy Finance Minister Alexei Sazanov said that he expects a five per cent reduction in oil production in Russia in 2023 due to European embargos. Sazanov also mentioned that due to the sanctions, Russia’s oil industry will face considerable logistical difficulties,
On 12 October, in an address at a Russian Energy Week conference in Moscow, Putin said that Russia plans to create a natural gas hub by redirecting the gas flow to the Black Sea instead of the Nord Stream pipelines. Putin also mentioned that Russia would be able to repair the damaged pipelines in the Baltic Sea. Plans to transform Turkey into the largest gas hub in Europe was also floated by Putin. He added that there are no economic benefits to repairing the Nord Stream pipelines for Russia unless Europe lowers the sanctions and cooperates with them.
The West View
Responses from the US and Europe
On 12 October, through its automated detection systems, the Polish pipeline operator PERN reported a leak in one line of the Druzhba pipeline, which carries oil from Russia to Europe. The leak was located around 70 kilometers from Plock, in Poland, and was on the main route transporting crude oil to Germany. While the causes of the leak are still being investigated, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that it was too early to ascertain whether the leak was accidental damage or was caused by sabotage.
On the same day, at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin expressed his confidence in Ukraine being able to battle through the upcoming winter months. Austin said that with the assistance of additional air defence systems and international aid, Ukraine should be adequately equipped to carry on its counteroffensive. He mentioned that around 50 countries had pledged military support to Ukraine and that the US would also do “everything it can throughout the winter” to help Ukraine regain territories under Russia’s control.
Russia’s offensive through missile attacks on Ukraine and the leaks in the Nord Stream pipeline has increased Finland’s concerns about the spillover effect of the war. Due to such developments, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto confirmed that Finland would receive support from its NATO partners in case of a direct threat by Russia. Even though Finland does not yet fall under the jurisdiction of NATO’s Article 5 enshrining the principle of collective defence, NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg also reiterated NATO’s mission to strengthen the critical infrastructure of its allies.
On 12 October, Turkey’s Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Donmez said that Turkey was prepared to play an important role in the global transportation of energy. He mentioned that Turkey is a major player in its neighborhood when it comes to the transportation of energy resources, as the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP), the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) and the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum pipelines have remained functional due to Turkey’s efforts. Donmez also said: “Considering Türkiye’s success in international energy projects, its reliability as an energy partner, and its advanced natural gas infrastructure, our country can play critical roles in the delivery of natural gas from neighboring countries to markets in the West, as well as in the future.”
The Global Fallouts
Implications of the Ukraine war
On 12 October, WAM reported on the meeting between UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg. The two discussed the present Russia-Ukraine conflict and the importance of talks between the two. Putin informed the Sheikh of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant condition and Russia's efforts to secure it. He also expressed his gratitude to the UAE for its role in the prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine. The Sheikh on his part spoke about Ukraine’s view on a number of issues and asked Putin to keep a dialogue open with Kyiv.
On 12 October, The Korea Times reported that five yachts carrying 23 Russians fleeing from the partial mobilization were denied entry into South Korea. Two Russians were admitted into the country, while the rest were denied due to no clarity on the purpose of their visit. South Korea is turning down Russian refugees from entering their country.
General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, “Operational information as of 06.00 12.10.2022 on the Russian invasion,” Telegram, 12 October 2022
“Serhiy Marchenko met with US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen,” kmu.gov.ua, 12 October 2022
“German IRIS-T Air Defence Systems Already in Ukraine,” Ukrinform, 12 October 2022
Oleksii Reznikov, “A new era of air defence has begun,” Twitter, 12 October 2022
“We have prepared the nomination dossier of Odesa for inclusion in the World Heritage List - address of the President of Ukraine to the participants of the 215th session of the UNESCO Executive Council,” president.gov.ua, 11 October 2022
Jay Beecher, “Another Russian Torture Chamber Discovered in Eastern Ukraine,” Kyiv Post, 12 October 2022
“Russians, Ukrainians, Armenians among 8 people arrested by FSB for Crimean Bridge attack,” TASS, 12 October 2022
“Russia names chief suspect in Crimea Bridge attack,” RT, 12 October 2022
“Power supply to Zaporozhye NPP restored — local official,” TASS, 12 October 2022
“The Kremlin answered the question about the "new wave" of mobilization in Russia,” LENTA RU, 12 October 2022
“In Russia allowed the suspension of oil production due to sanctions,” LENTA RU, 12 October 2022
“Putin suggests major gas hub in Türkiye with Nord Stream supplies,” Daily Sabah, 12 October 2022
“Poland reports leak in oil pipeline to Germany,” Deutsche Welle, 12 October 2022
Phil Stewart, Sabine Siebold and Philip Blenkinsop, “U.S. predicts Ukraine will battle through winter; allies bolster air defenses,” Reuters, 13 October 2022
“Türkiye ready to help transfer gas to Europe: Energy Minister,” Daily Sabah, 12 October 2022
“Haavisto: Finland would receive support from Nato partners in case of direct threat, even before full membership,” yle.fi, 12 October 2022
Lee Yeon-woo, “23 Russian nationals fleeing Putin's draft order on yachts attempt to enter Korea,” The Korea Times, 12 October 2022