Daily Briefs

Photo : Lisa Louis/DW

15 December 2022, Thursday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #384

War in Ukraine: Day 294 | French companies on front in reconstruction of Ukraine

Denmark introduces reforms to tackle inflation; New coalition government to be formed in Latvia; Hungary and China discuss strengthening bilateral relations

War in Ukraine: Day 294
By Padmashree Anandhan

War on the Ground
On 14 December, the Ukraine Military reported on taking down of 13 Iran made Shahed drones in Kyiv. The attack is seen as first major in the week after drones attacks inside Russia. Although no casualties were recorded, the five buildings were damaged.

On 14 December, the Ministry of Energy of Ukraine issued a statement on Germany’s aid to support Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. In a statement, EUR 30 million was announced by the Federal Government of Germany to help Ukraine purchase equipment’s to restore the damaged energy infrastructure. Germany will join the list along with Denmark, the UK, and the Association of European Energy Regulators (ERRA) to provide funds for energy support. 

The Moscow View
Claims by Russia

On 14 December, RT reported on the involvement of UK jurists in training 90 Ukrainian judges on conducting trails against Russia for accused war crimes. Attorney General Victoria Prentis said: “A horrifying catalogue of war crimes, with more than 43,000 cases recorded.” She assured to help the Ukrainian judges to “navigate” through them. She also added: “These 90 judges will go back after some really intensive training, able better to run those courts.”

On 14 December, RT responded to the NATO new budget for 2023. The civil budget which contains EUR 370.8 million, and the military budget containing EUR 1.96 billion indicates an increase by 27.8 and 25.8 per cent. It stated that the reason behind the increase in rate was due to many members stepping forward to increase their defence spending. 

The West View
Responses from the US and Europe 

On 14 December, the UK Armed Forces Chief Adm Sir Tony Radakin stated that there was a “critical shortage” faced by Russia in conducting its ground operations. He added: “This means that their ability to conduct successful offensive ground operations is rapidly diminishing.”

On 14 December, Bulgaria reached its full operational capacity under NATO’s support. NATO reported on the battlegroup which was established on 01 March after the Ukraine war began was able to install full capacity in Bulgaria’s battle group. This was possible with help from Albania, Greece, Italy, the Republic of North Macedonia, and the United States, who helped in deploying military personal which totalled the troops to 1000. According to NATO, this indicates a “transatlantic bond” and a model for “largest reinforcement” of collective defence.

On 13 December, the European Commission decision to impose a energy price cap on Russian crude oil has been delayed. During the meeting the EU ministers have approved two measures. These will help in protecting the EU from the gas shortage through “joint gas purchases,” and speed the process for renewable energy “installations,” which will be put into practise after the price cap is set. The suggested price limit was EUR 275 per megawatt hour if the price of gas remained at same level for two continuous weeks.

The Global Fallouts
Implications of the Ukraine war

On 13 December, a conference was held in Paris involving 700 French companies to discuss on their role in the reconstruction process of Ukraine. It was attended by 46 delegations from countries across and many international organisation met to pledge EUR one billion in form of subsidies, materials to help Ukraine in winter. According to French President Emmanuel Macron: “Whenever a territory is reconquered, reconstruction needs to start immediately.. Ukraine's economy must stay solid, as it will be the backbone of the rebuilding process.” During the conference the French firms and Ukraine signed a deal worth EUR 100 million for “supply of rails, mobile bridges and seeds.”

On 14 December, International Organization for Migration (IOM) published a report on Ukrainians willing to exit Ukraine in winter. It found that only seven per cent of them were in favour to move out despite power cuts, scarce resources, and low savings. According to the IOM Chief of Mission stated that more than five million people who were initially displaced has returned homes now and 40 per cent of the population is still in need of immediate aid.

30 million euros from Germany will be directed to the Energy Support Fund of Ukraine,” mev.gov.ua, 14 December 2022
Ukraine forces shoot down drones as Kyiv hit by explosions,” The Guardian, 14 December 2022
UK training Ukrainian judges for trials of Russians,” RT, 14 December 2022
NATO budget surges by over a quarter,” RT, 14 December 2022
NATO’s multinational battlegroup in Bulgaria reaches full capability,” nato.org 14 December 2022
EU energy ministers fail to reach decision on gas price cap,” Deutsche Welle, 14 December 2022
Lisa Louis, “French companies seek role in Ukraine's reconstruction,” Deutsche Welle, 14 December 2022
IOM Accelerates Winter Support in Ukraine as New Report Reveals Most People Plan to Stay,” ukraine.iom.int, 14 December 2022

By Madhura S Mahesh

Roumen Radev rejects new amendments to the Bulgarian Electoral Code
On 14 December, Bulgaria’s President Roumen Radev vetoed the new amendments to Bulgaria’s Electoral Code passed by the Parliament. Radev reportedly vetoed many provisions in the amended law and added that the law does not assure equal treatment of voters, the secrecy of the vote, and the efficient organisation of the electoral process outside Bulgaria. Radev particularly criticised the parliament’s decision to require voters to cast their votes through printouts from the voting machines. He said that this curbs the freedom of votes to choose how to cast their votes either through a paper ballot or a voting system. (“Bulgarian President Radev vetoes amendments to Electoral Code,” The Sofia Globe, 14 December 2022)

The new coalition agreement provides plans to address inflation
On 14 December, Denmark’s Acting Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen presented the agreement of the centrist coalition government titled “Responsibility for Denmark.” The new agreement outlines the plans of the coalition for tackling inflation, lack of employees in hospitals and tax reforms. Some of the plans include the imposition of an extra five per cent in taxes for those who earn more than DKK 568,900 per year and the scrapping of a public holiday in 2024 which will help Denmark divert funds to increase Denmark’s military expenditure to meet NATO targets. The new centrist coalition of centre-left Social Democrats, the centre-right Liberal Party and the centrist Moderate party is the first such coalition since 1978. The new coalition also has the majority in the parliament with 89 of 179 seats in the parliament and enjoys the support of four seats from the semi-independent Danish territories in Greenland and the Faeroe Islands. (Jan M. Olsen “Danish PM says centrist coalition needed at time of crisis,” AP News, 14 December 2022)

Coalition parties to form the new government 
On 14 December, New Unity, United List and National Alliance signed an agreement to enter into a coalition and form the new government of Latvia. The government is led by Prime Minister Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš who is from the New Unity party with his 14 cabinet ministers. Out of the 14 cabinet ministers, four belong to National Alliance, four belong to National Alliance and six belong to New Unity. The coalition will now face a confidence vote in the Saeima. The Latvian elections were held on 01 October and the three parties decided to enter a coalition after the results were announced which was followed by two and a half months of negotiations between the parties. (“Latvia's coalition parties sign next government agreement,” ENG.LSM.lv, 14 December 2022)

Morawiecki urge to fast-track the judicial reforms
On 14 December, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki urged lawmakers from all political parties to fast-track the approval process of proposed judicial reforms. These new judicial reforms were introduced to solve the ongoing dispute between the EU and Poland and unblock important EU funds. The latest dispute was the introduction of a disciplinary chamber for judges by Poland. This was condemned by EU courts which demanded its dissolvent and subsequently levied EUR one million fines per day on Poland for failing to do so. Opposition parties have said that they will come to a decision after reading the reforms thoroughly and making their decision based on the final draft. They also said that the process for adopting the reforms should not be rushed. As per the reforms: “Eliminate potential doubts related to the implementation by the Republic of Poland of its obligations,” and boost the judiciary’s impartiality and independence. If the reforms are passed then the flow of unblocked funds will alleviate the strain on Poland’s public finances thereby reducing inflation. (Pawel Florkiewicz and Anna Wlodarczak-semczuk “Polish PM urges lawmakers to pass new judicial reforms to unlock EU funds,” Reuters, 15 December 2022)
Hague court upholds ban on assisted suicide
On 14 December, the Hague District Court ruled in favour of upholding the ban on assisted suicide. The case was filed by activists led by the Cooperative Last Will group challenged the Netherlands’ ban on assisted suicide claiming that it violates the ECHR. In the Netherlands, the practice of euthanasia is legal where physicians are allowed to end the lives of patients by administering lethal doses of drugs under strict conditions. The practice of assisted suicide where a person who is not a physician supplies an individual with fatal substances to self-administer is banned in the Netherlands. The Court in its ruling said that while the ECHR protects an individual’s right to decide when to end their life it “….does not go so far that there is also a right to obtain assisted suicide.”   Cooperative Last Will’s Chairperson Frits Spangenberg expressed his disappointment with the court’s judgement and added that they will continue this fight. The Dutch Association for a Voluntary End of Life criticised the ruling and said that the court supports a “…situation in which the government deprives its citizens of the right to die with dignity at their own discretion.” (Mike Corder “Dutch court rejects challenge to assisted suicide ban,” AP News, 14 December 2022)
Finland to transfer surplus renewable energy to the Brussels
On 14 December, Finnish Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä and Brussels-Capital Region’s Minister of Energy and Climate Alain Maron signed an agreement under the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) for the statistical transfers. Lintilä said “Finland’s long-term investments into increasing the share of renewable energy have been successful, and we have exceeded our target,” and the surplus of the energy target will be transferred to Belgium. The transfer of 132-gigawatt hours of energy will be dated for the year 2021. The total transfer will be worth EUR 1.65 million which will be purchased and paid in a single instalment by 31 December 2022. The transfers of surplus renewable energy to EU nations is to help them fulfil EU energy goals. (“Finland and the Brussels region agree on statistical transfers of renewable energy – Finland sells surplus for EUR 1.65 million,” valtioneuvosto.fi, 14 December 2022)
Belgium to get fund from the EU Cohesion Policy for economic and green transition
On 14 December, the European Commission reported that Belgium will receive approximately EUR three billion from the EU Cohesion Policy funding in 2021-2027. This funding will be used by Belgium to help in the development of an innovative, inclusive and inclusive economy and will also help boost its green and digital transition. The Partnership Agreement between the Commission and Belgium outlines how the funding will be used. Around EUR 1.83 billion in funds from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Just Transition Fund will be used for increasing economic competitiveness, green investments and digitalisation. The European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) will be providing funds worth approximately EUR 1.3 billion to invest in employment, skills and social inclusion. Lastly around EUR 40.3 million from the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) will be used to boost sustainable fisheries, aquaculture and processing sector. (“EU Cohesion Policy: almost €3 billion for Belgium's green and digital transition and economic development in 2021-2027,” ec.europa.eu, 14 December 2022)
DW opinion's five takeaways on EU CBAM proposal
On 14 December, an opinion in Deutsche Welle on the new EU Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) talks about how this new proposal will help the EU achieve its climate goals and prevent carbon leakages, and how the impact of the proposal on the Global South and international trade is shrouded. The new EU policy looks to prevent carbon leakages by asking countries producing high-emission goods synch as steel, metal, and oil refineries to purchase a CBAM certificate before exporting goods to the EU. The piece makes five arguments to understand how these policies will affect European and international industrial companies and producer states. First, the new policy will ensure the development of sustainable production and discourage shifting of production to countries with lax carbon emission laws to avoid paying EU carbon prices. This will reduce the risk of carbon leakage in the EU. Second, this new policy can either start a trade war or lead to cooperation between countries to promote sustainable production. Countries like India, China, South Korea, Russia, and Ukraine may see these policies as protectionist and install countermeasures which could start a trade war. In the case of countries coming together. Third, it will increase the pressure on countries to adopt climate-friendly policies and sustainable production. Fourth, the new environmental standards can negatively affect economically poor countries. According to Oxfam, goods produced in economically poor countries that depend on trade with the EU will see a decrease in the level of competitiveness in the EU market. This will lead to a loss of jobs due to a potential reduction in exports. Fifth, uncertainties are present in measuring the level of carbon footprint across the world and how the collected carbon tax will be invested. (Tim Schauenberg “CO2 tax at Europe's border: A revolution for the climate?,” Deutsche Welle, 14 December 2022)

France beat Morocco to advance into the 2022 FIFA World Cup finals
On 14 December, the French football team beat Morocco in the semi-finals of the 2022 FIFA World Cup to advance into the finals. With a score of 2-0, France advanced into the finals where they will take on Argentina on 18 December. The two goals were scored by Theo Hernandez and Randal Kolo Muani. France is the defending champion in 2022 and if they bear Argentina in the finals they will become the first to consecutively win the World Cup in the last 50 years. (Matt Pearson “World Cup: France down Morocco to keep title defense alive,” Deutsche Welle, 14 December 2022)

Hungary and China discuss bilateral cooperation and the future of EU-China relations
On 13 December, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held video talks where the two discussed future bilateral cooperation and the future of EU-China relations. The two foreign ministers discussed the bilateral cooperation of Hungary and China under China’s Belt and Road initiative. Szijjártó and Wang signed an agreement for setting up an intergovernmental cooperation committee. Szijjártó said that the EU is looking to “..put the relationship back on the path of partnership instead of failed sanctions.” Wang said that China can maintain friendly relations with the EU similar to that with Hungary. He added that “we believe that Hungary will continue to play a constructive role in promoting China-EU relations.” (Barbara Bene “Hungarian-Chinese Cooperation a Success Story, Says Foreign Minister,” Hungary Today, 14 December 2022 and Cyril Ip “With one eye on the EU, China’s foreign minister highlights Hungary ties,” South China Morning Post, 14 December 2022)
US Envoy stresses the importance of the Association of Serbian Municipalities
On 13 December, US Special Envoy for the Western Balkans Gabriel Escobar in an interview with RFE/RL’s Balkan Service stressed the importance of establishing the Association of Serbian Municipalities. According to Escobar, this will be a key step to achieving peace in the region. He said: “It is an obligation for Serbia, it is an obligation for Kosovo, it is an obligation for the EU, which helped in its negotiation,”  and that the US will assist Kosovo in establishing it as is their “commitment” to do so. The Association of Serbian Municipalities is an initiative agreed upon by Serbia and Kosovo in the 2013 Brussels Agreement but was never fully implemented. Escobar also stressed that the US does not support the deployment of Serbian forces in Kosovo and urged the Kosovan government to see to the grievances of the Kosovo Serbs. (Amra Zejneli “U.S. Envoy In Pristina Urges Establishment Of Association Of Serbian Municipalities,” Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, 13 December 2022)


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