From the first days of the war, the aggressor faced righteous resistance and firm determination to fight to the end – in a united effort the peoples of our countries repelled the Nazis, shared miseries and hardships of war, and celebrated common victories,” the heads of Diplomatic Missions said. This self-sacrifice, fortitude and faith in justice enabled the peoples of the USSR to defeat the fascist invaders,” the statement read. “That terrible page of history brought untold sorrow, tears and despair. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>CIS Heads of Diplomatic Missions issue statement on 80th anniversary of outbreak of ‘Great Patriotic War’

By New Europe Online/KG

The Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. “Unfortunately, time is unstoppable and every passing year leaves ever fewer witnesses to those terrible times, ever fewer of our veterans, our heroes. We strongly condemn such actions and call for jointly countering attempts to rewrite history, glorify the Nazi movement and whitewash Nazi criminals,” the statement read. 80 years ago, on 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany and its European satellites launched an attack against the USSR – the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 began,” the statement read. Our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers fought bravely to defend our homeland, our future and peaceful life, not only in our countries, but throughout Europe. “Today, those living both in our countries and all over Europe owe their peaceful lives and well-being to the heroic deed of the peoples of the Soviet Union. Photo: Evgeny Haldei / Sputnik

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The heads of Diplomatic Missions of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in Brussels have issued a statement on the Occasion of the 80th Anniversary of the Outbreak of the Great Patriotic War. It was the Red Army that made a decisive contribution to the defeat of the Third Reich,” the statement read. “Everyone, young and old, stood up to fight Nazi ideology, cruelty and the trampling of human values: fierce battles were waged on the battlefields, partisans and underground fighters carried out insurgent operations in the occupied territories, and people in the rear worked for the front sparing no energy or health. It is our duty to keep the memory alive, defend the truth and their good name, and preserve peace. But the Nazis could not break the will of the peoples of the Soviet Union. The fight against historical memory – destruction and desecration of monuments to the fallen liberator heroes in certain countries – is an outrage. Moscow residents listen to the June 22 government radio announcement on the treacherous invasion of Nazi Germany. “Reaffirming our commitment to fundamental principles and norms of international law and the UN Charter as one of outstanding outcomes of Victory, we wish to remind the world community of the need to respect our common history and the moral compass enshrined in the afore-mentioned documents,” the heads of Diplomatic Missions said, adding, “On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great Patriotic War, we reiterate our call to assess the past and the present fairly and justly, reflect on timeless values and join efforts to build a world without wars and conflicts”. “22 June is a special day in the memory of peoples of our countries. It claimed and ruined countless lives. The Nazi invaders’ plan for a swift defeat of the Red Army failed. Attempts to falsify history and revive aggressive war rhetoric are painful to watch.

style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>COSUA mourns with Zambia following the death of the country’s first president

By New Europe
The European political newspaper

Zambia's first president, Dr. In a telephone chat with New Europe, Abebrese, who is himself a pan-African leader, indicated that his organization, COSUA, is ready to coordinate their participation in the funeral for Dr. Facebook

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The President of the Coalition of Supporters Unions of Africa (COSUA), which is a civil society partner to the African Union, has extended the organization’s condolences to the Government and people of Zambia following the death of the country’s first president, Kenneth Kaunda. “His legacy is larger-than-life. Abebrese specifically referred to the mentorship role that Dr. Kaunda’s mentorship, as he helped to empower them and to liberate their respective countries from colonial rule. Speaking on a Voice of America news bulletin on June 17,  the Ghanaian-born attorney for the New York Supreme Court, Sarfo Abebrese, said Dr. Kaunda played in nurturing ties with the likes of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, as well as Robert Mugabe from Zimbabwe and Sam Nujoma from Namibia. Kaunda through the offices of the President of COSUA Zambia, Pastor Peter Makembo, and that of Zambia’s Daniel Mundea, the Chief Director of Operations of COSUA Global. “It’s safe to say, that as Kwame Nkrumah was, in the liberation struggles of the West African states, so was Kenneth Kaunda in the Southern African countries”, Abebrese said, in reference to the fact that Kaunda’s ascension to become president of an independent Zambia in 1964 did not stop him from continuing to assist other countries to help the, gain independence. Kenneth Kaunda, passed away at the age of 97 on June 17, 2021. His legacy lasts, not for a lifetime, but forever”, Abebrese concluded. Kaunda played a leading role in the emancipation of several Southern African countries after fighting for, and obtaining, independence for Zambia. These were just a few of the political leaders from southern Africa who benefitted from Dr.

Greece notified the Commission of its plans to support the construction of a new LNG terminal in Alexandroupolis, consisting a Floating Storage Regasification Unit (FSRU) for the reception, storage and regasification of LNG (complemented by permanent offshore installations, such as mooring system and risers), as well as a system of a sub-sea and an onshore gas transmission pipeline which will connect the FSRU to the National Natural Gas System of Greece (NNGS). EUROPEAN UNION, 2021/EC – AUDIOVISUAL SERVICE/ DATI BENDO

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A €166.7 million Greek support measure for the construction of a new liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal in Alexandroupolis, Greece complies with EU state aid rules, the bloc’s antitrust chief said, adding that the project will contribute to the security and diversification of energy supplies in Greece and, more generally, in the region of Southeast Europe, without unduly distorting competition. The Floating Storage Regasification Unit (FSRU) of the new terminal will be stationed approximately 17.6 kilometers from the town of Alexandroupolis in Northern Greece, at an offshore distance of approximately 10 km from the nearest shore. Furthermore, in order to ensure that there is no overcompensation, the project promoter will be obliged to give back to the State part of the revenues generated from the terminal, should they go beyond a set capped level over the project lifetime. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>EU antitrust chief approves Greek public support for Alexandroupolis LNG terminal

By New Europe Online/KG

Margrethe Vestager

European Commission Executive Vice-President in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager at Berlaymont in Brussels, Belgium. The subsea and onshore sections of the gas transmission pipeline, of 24 kilometers and 4 kilometers respectively, will transmit the gas from the floating unit to the Greek natural gas network. This will ensure that the aid is proportionate and limited to the minimum necessary for triggering the investment and that potential distortions of competition and trade are minimised. On this basis, the Commission concluded that the measure is in line with EU State aid rules, as it will further security and diversification of energy supply, notably in the South-Eastern European region, without unduly distorting competition. The Greek support measure limits the aid to what is necessary to make the project happen and sufficient safeguards will be in place to ensure that potential competition distortions are minimised,” she added. The Commission found that the aid is appropriate and necessary, as the project would not be carried out without the public support. The Commission approved public support for the IGB project, which is currently under construction, under EU State aid rules in November 2018. The FSRU will have an overall delivery capacity 5.5 billion cubic meters/bcm per year. “This will contribute to achievement of the EU’s goals in terms of security and diversification of energy supply. The terminal is expected to improve security of supply not only for Greece, but also for Bulgaria and for the wider South Eastern European region, as it will constitute a new potential energy source to feed into the interconnector between Greece and Bulgaria (IGB). The connection point of the pipeline will be the Kipi‐Komotini branch of the National Natural Gas System of Greece (NNGS), at a new entry point from which the natural gas from the floating unit will be transmitted to the NNGS. According to the Commission, given its strategic importance for the diversification of natural gas supplies into the South-Eastern European region, the LNG terminal in Alexandroupolis has been included in the lists of European Project of Common Interest in the energy sector, based on the EU TEN-E (Trans-European Network for Energy) rules since 2013. Gastrade will be the promoter and operator of the new terminal. The Commission assessed the measure under EU State aid rules, in particular under the 2014 Guidelines on State Aid for Environmental Protection and Energy. The beneficiary of the aid is Gastrade SA, a company in which the Greek gas incumbent (DEPA) and the Bulgarian gas Transmission System Operator (Bulgartransgaz EAD) hold a participation. In this context, the Commission took into account the inclusion of the project in the list of Projects of Common Interest in the energy sector. In addition, the National Energy Regulator has put in place certain safeguards to prevent an increase in the market position of the largest gas operators involved in the project, such as a limitation of the share of LNG that can be booked in the terminal by such players. “The new LNG terminal in Alexandroupolis will improve gas supply and infrastructure not only in Greece, but in the whole South Eastern European region,” European Commission Executive Vice-President in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager said. The Greek Authorities have confirmed that the LNG Terminal would be apt to use for hydrogen, and that the project would contribute to a cleaner energy mix through increased use of gas instead of coal. The project will be financed by the Greek State using European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), notably funds directly controlled and managed by Greece under the 2014-2020 Partnership Agreement for the Development, the Commission said, adding the support will take the form of a direct grant amounting to €166.7 million.

A few years ago, there was a project to improve the emissions as well as greenhouse gases by turning to gas,” he said. Denmark is at minus 30. “If we take for example of Denmark, which is seen as one of the leaders and I think the Danish national target for reduction of greenhouse gas is minus 70 percent by 2030. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Ex-Soviet bloc states urged to adopt modern technology, renewables

By Kostis Geropoulos
Energy & Russian Affairs Editor, New Europe

State Theater Kosice. Fifty kilometers away there is a geothermal source which could actually heat more than half of the city. The most abundant geothermal resource, not only in Slovakia but throughout the central Europe, is Kosice basin. “The gas is imported from Russia. So, economically there is added value, you wouldn’t have to send the money for the gas to Gazprom and Putin’s regime,” he said, stressing that investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy is also very important for energy security. “Now I think this is not about pushing, this is about incredible opportunity for Central and Eastern Europe. Some countries like Spain, for example, which is now heavily going into renewables, they are actually above the 1990 levels because they industrialized and increased their emissions post-1990 while the former Communist bloc the emissions generally fell.” So, Romania is already now at minus 55 from the 1990. In terms of the ambition, I’m sad to see Central European countries and especially Poland often backing away from higher ambitions where we actually have a good starting line,” Hojsik said. It was drilled in the 90s, it was never utilized,” Hojsik added. “I think that’s an opportunity that we have to use. Slovakia has very limited amounts of fossil resources. The Slovak MEP said that reducing his country’s reliance on gas and increasing investment into renewables would boost energy security for the Central European country. For that, renewables are the best. Slovakia, the government will you, ‘Oh, that’s too ambitious.’ Now, at the moment, Slovakia is at minus 42 because the base line is 1990 and we are so deep because we essentially got rid of old polluting industries from Communism. “It would provide us not only with environmental sound source for the heating but also strategically independence or lessen the dependence on the imports, not to mention the money would stay in the country. SLOVAKIA.COM

Central and Eastern European countries to boost energy security by increasing investment into renewables

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BRATISLAVA – Countries in Central and Eastern Europe like Slovakia, which were part of the Soviet bloc, have an opportunity to leap into modern technologies and renewables and not get stuck in stranded investments into gas, a Slovak Member of the European Parliament, Martin Hojsik, told New Europe in an interview at the sidelines of the GLOBSEC forum on June 16. So, what we are saying is, ‘Although we would have to make less effort than Denmark, it’s still too much for us.’ And I think this is the wrong message. Oil is from Russia. “Slovakia is utilizing 100 percent Russian gas. Like a concrete example in Slovakia, Kosice is the capital of Slovakia has a central heating powered by coal. He explained that the green transition, especially for the countries of the Soviet bloc that had the massive decline of their heavy industries now represents an opportunity to leap into modern technologies, to leap into renewables and not get stuck in stranded investments into gas. So, for them, it is essentially an opportunity to really to kind of look at beyond fundamental changes, of course starting with energy efficiency and second renewables,” he said. Especially, if we don’t take it seriously, if we don’t utilize the opportunity, we will end up forever trapped, for a long-time trapped in the middle-income trap that we had and we are facing now,” the Slovak MEP said. follow on twitter @energyinsider Kosice, which is situated on the river Hornad at the eastern reaches of the Slovak Ore Mountains, near the border with Hungary, is the largest city in eastern Slovakia. I think this is where not only vis-à-vis the risks of Russian supply and dependency on Russia but generally in terms of approaching strategical autonomy if things happen. I think we need to work more and look for ways how to really use this as opportunity for a just transition,” Hojsik opined. “What we see now is often the arguments coming from some Central and East European countries about, ‘Yes, we know we need to deal with climate but we are special, it’s very hard for us, we are highly industrialized so we have to be taken benevolently, so don’t push us too much,” said Hojsik, who is also a member of the ENVI Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.

The consolidation of the electoral field from 592 registrants to seven qualifiers shows a determination to have a conservative candidate run and win, especially after the disqualification of more pragmatic and formidable candidates like Ali Larijani, who was the longest-serving speaker of parliament since 1979. With the exception of Khamenei, Iran’s presidency has traditionally been a political death sentence for its occupants. Thus, the race is more about succession and the constellation of power than anything else. But it would be an oversimplification to suggest that the election does not matter at all. But even if he wins the presidency, there is no guarantee he will become the Supreme Leader. Even before the race started, Iran’s supreme leader left little doubt that the election was about succession. His research specialties include Iran, Iraq, Shiite militias, and American policy in the Middle East. Furthermore, the Islamic Republic’s institutions are being deployed for his benefit. He is a former policy director for United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) and served in a variety of capacities at the Wilson Center, including as special assistant to former Congresswoman Jane Harman. These roles will provide him—a trusted Khamenei protégé—with significant constitutional authority during an eventual leadership transition, regardless of whether he becomes supreme leader. Brodsky
Washington, DC-based Middle East Analyst and Editor for Iran International TV. Along the way, Raisi, whose own father died when he was five, has also been able to count on his father-in-law, Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda, to cultivate a family power base in Mashhad—one of Iran’s most important religious cities. In 2016, Raisi’s fortunes significantly rose as he left the judiciary to lead Astan Quds Razavi, one of Iran’s largest religious foundations and economic conglomerates. His association with Khamenei harkens back to the beginning of the Islamic Revolution when Raisi met him while he was taking part in a Khomeinist training course. It is about the next few decades of leadership selection and the preservation of the Islamic Republic. Ultimately, the 2021 presidential contest in Iran is about much more than the next four or eight years. This is because of the precedent that Khamenei established when he took over after Ayatollah Khomeini died in 1989—Khamenei transitioned from the presidency to the supreme leadership. Given the lower profiles of the remaining candidates, the contest at this juncture is turning into a Khamenei-orchestrated coronation of Raisi rather than a campaign. It is possible that the next president of the Islamic Republic could very well be Khamenei’s last given his 82 years of age. In addition to the presidency, Raisi will still be a member of the Assembly of Experts. This was part of a longer-term strategy by Khamenei to consolidate his own power, and in recent weeks he has humiliated and ostracized three of Iran’s leading revolutionary families—the Khomeinis, the Rafsanjanis—Mohsen Hashemi, the son of the late President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was also disqualified—and the Larijanis. There are also other candidates on the scene who remain players in Tehran’s halls of power—including Mojtaba Khamenei, the supreme leader’s son, as well as figures like head of seminaries Alireza Arafi. Raisi enters the presidential fray with many advantages: name recognition as the head of the judiciary; previous political experience; connections with Iran’s supreme leader; and most significantly he is seen as a leading contender to replace Khamenei upon his demise. However, a Raisi administration does guarantee that he would play a decisive role in the future of the Islamic Republic should Khamenei either become too ill to fulfil his duties or passes away. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will remain the supreme decision-maker both before and after the contest. WIKIPEDIA

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Change will not come after Iran’s next presidential election on June 18. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Iran’s election is about succession

By Jason M. Both men are from Mashhad. The frontrunner in Iran's 2021 presidential elections, Ebrahim Raisi, speaks to supporters at a campaign rally in Tehran. If Raisi wins the election, he will be considered by some as a natural successor to Ayatollah Khamenei. Raisi’s Rise
Raisi’s rise has been nurtured by his relationship with Khamenei, family ties, as well as a brand built on anti-corruption which he has used to climb the ranks of Iran’s judiciary and beyond. Indeed, their relevance may increase should there be an upset if Raisi loses the presidential race or standing if he wins. Is Iran’s Election a Selection? Alamolhoda’s positions as a Friday Prayer Leader in Mashhad as well as the supreme leader’s representative in Razavi Khorasan Province have provided a platform for Raisi to survive and thrive in the Islamic Republic’s hierarchy. There has been one game-changing development thus far in the electoral process—Chief Justice Ebrahim Raisi’s registration as a candidate. The increased pace of Raisi’s promotions coincided with Khamenei’s elevation as supreme leader in 1989, transitioning from a provincial and deputy Tehran prosecutor—when he also served as a member of a death commission which greenlit the executions of thousands of political prisoners—to a national platform as chief prosecutor-general of Tehran, head of the judiciary’s General Inspection Office, deputy chief justice and later attorney general. This is all an attempt to shrink the inner circle of power in the Islamic Republic so Khamenei can further exert his control over the election and succession. He has also served as deputy chairman of the Assembly of Experts, which will eventually select Ayatollah Khamenei’s successor, further increasing his influence. Media reports indicated that Khamenei advised the grandson of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Hassan Khomeini, to forfeit any ambition of pursuing the presidency. In 2019, Khamenei named Raisi as Iran’s chief justice. While the personalities at the helm of Iran’s government may fluctuate, the policies—especially those which most concern the international community—will not. Additionally, many onetime contenders—including former senior commanders in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps—have thrown their support behind Raisi. He also served as a fellow at the White House in the Executive Office of the President. In resume alone, Raisi would outflank the competition to serve as Khamenei’s heir. Officials are warning candidates that they must not cross the red line of insulting the judiciary during the campaign – a position that Raisi conveniently maintains while campaigning and avoiding scrutiny. Such a position provided Raisi with financial, religious, and political visibility to further promote his career, leading to an unsuccessful presidential run in 2017. Indeed, during the campaign, Raisi has been photographed in Khamenei-like styles and settings—praying alone over martyrs’ gravesites and paying homage to the founder of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini at his mausoleum.

We had good contacts with Australian companies so we’re doing our work when this big wrap up of battery production will come – I’m talking 2023 – I think we will be ready. It was confirmed to me that it is not only Northwest Europe but it was also Central, Eastern and, as my last visit to Spain and Portugal confirmed, Southern Europe is very much on board,” Sefcovic told New Europe from Vienna airport, moments before boarding his flight back to Brussels, shortly after the GLOBSEC forum ended. So, that’s the plan, that’s the strategy and we are doing very well in that respect because our energy mix is I think the greenest in the world if we compare how we produce electricity in Europe compared with other major economies and, of course, if it comes to the raw materials we are following the same approach.”
He reminded that the EU put 30 key raw materials in its list of Critical Raw Materials 2020, including lithium. “Foreign direct investment screening exercise would be also about this,” Sefcovic said, adding, “As you know, every investment over 500 million has to pass the test if it fits with all these expectations of conditionalities we have in Europe and I think it would give us overview of how to cope with threats that are very serious more efficiently”. Of course, raw materials is a key element, a key question and, as you know, we are prospecting possibilities for lithium production from Europe but we are also in very intensive talks with Serbia, with Ukraine. He reminded that the role of public institutions like the European Commission is to create a proper regulatory framework to clearly show the strategic drive and what would be the public support in tackling the challenges of new technologies as Europe is currently going through an in-depth economic transformation. “You have to rely on private initiative, on private sector and this is why I believe the work of European Battery Alliance is progressing very well because we have a clear understanding of the role. By 2030, 70 percent of our electricity will be coming from renewables or clean sources and we see that the imports of fossil fuels will go lower and therefore, of course, we will be feeling more secure because the renewable source of energy is actually our indigenous source,” he said. But we want to make sure that everything we do is done in full compliance with the highest environmental standards,” Sefcovic said. follow on twitter @energyinsider “Then, I think we have to be very strong in 5G where we have all the preconditions because Ericsson and Nokia are European companies and are global leaders in this respect. We established the Technology Council – EU and US – and one of the areas would be cyber security and IT technologies,” he said. “We’re working really line by line, raw material by raw material, looking what we can get from Europe, what we can replace in technologies and what we can also do from the rest of the world. “It’s very clear we want to be climate neutral by 2050. He reminded that in 2019 and 2020, the EU had more than €60 billion of investment in battery sector which is more than three times of the level of investments in Chinese battery sector. “It’s our wind, it’s our sun,” he continued smiling, “it will be our energy sourcing in the batteries or hydrogen, electrolysers. Asked, how can the EU protect itself from cyberattacks, Sefcovic told New Europe there are several avenues which the bloc has to undertake. “If it comes to this, there are several things. Finally, he said, screening the FDI would help address security issues, tackling hybrid and cybersecurity threats, China or Russia. “What is very important to say and I think today’s conference really confirmed that we have incredible dynamics in the battery sector in Europe. So, we will be more potent in our action because we have different suppliers from different parts of the world and building the capacities within Europe,” the Commission Vice President explained. First and foremost, of course, it’s important to be conscious of the threats. Asked if the EU is winning the battery battle with China, he said the EU Battery Alliance has become a prominent part of events like GLOBSEC. “We are developing also a new industry based on urban mining and recycling which was a quite big topic of the discussions I had today in Bratislava. Von der Leyen and US President Joe Biden launched the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) at the US-EU Summit in Brussels on June 15. GLOBSEC

EU VP Sefcovic cites hybrid, cybersecurity threats too

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BRATISLAVA – The European Union has attracted massive investment along the battery value chain, boosting its energy and raw materials independence, as the EU establishes its new resilience commitment, which includes climate change but also hybrid and cybersecurity threats, European Commission Vice-President for Interinstitutional relations and Foresight Maros Sefcovic told New Europe on June 17 in an exclusive interview, following the GLOBSEC 2021 forum in Bratislava. And we are really progressing parts of the value chain from the extraction through material production, software development down to the recycling. That means that we will be reducing the use of fossil fuels dramatically. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Charged up EU takes on China in battery battle

By Kostis Geropoulos
Energy & Russian Affairs Editor, New Europe

European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic speaks at the GLOBSEC forum in Bratislava, Slovakia, June 17, 2021. “This is very, very promising. And then  all I would say, the measures which presented and have been adopting, the proposals for cybersecurity, for artificial intelligence use and this is for the long haul because you would need to have regulatory framework, also you need software and most importantly working in diplomatic circles, the human factor is very important, that the people have to be very conscious how they use the information, what kind of communication channel they use and how careful they are in the hardware they have in their disposal,” Sefcovic said. Turning to security of energy sources, Sefcovic noted that the Commission is preparing the “Fit for 55” package which he hopes the EU would be able to adopt in the middle of July. There are a lot of very progressive companies who want to see big opportunities there,” the Commission Vice President said. There is very strong interaction between public institutions – on European and national level – the private sector but also financial institutions and, now I think you would agree with me, that we see enormous interest from private investors to invest in green bonds as you have seen on Tuesday (June 15), in green technologies and, therefore, I think this articulation between private and public is very important and works out pretty well,” Sefcovic said. I’m sure it will be a big part of the raw materials we will need to import but I hope we will do the same as we did with the supply of gas: we have diversified sources. Tackling cyberthreats
Tasked by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen of using foresight in EU, Sefcovic said another danger Europe is facing is hybrid and cyberthreats.

The lack of any clear concessions from Moscow to warrant a high-profile encounter only raised the level of skepticism amongst Russia experts. Biden also imparted to Putin that the American “values and priorities” rested on core issues like human rights. The President, who is said to be obsessive about getting the details right ahead of any decision, meticulously prepared for his meeting and by not previewing his plans in advance might have avoided setting unrealistic expectations for the summit. Sen. Before arriving in Geneva, Biden diligently guarded his intentions ahead of speaking with Putin. FLICKR

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When President Joe Biden arrived at the historic Villa la Garange in Geneva for a much-anticipated meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, he triumphantly proclaimed that he had completed what he set out to do after three hours of behind closed doors talks with the Russian leader. “What Biden demanded of Putin, or maybe better warned him about, are issues that we can’t know now. Deyermond described Biden’s approach as a break from not just Trump’s legacy, but that of other predecessors in the post-Cold War era, all of whom tried and failed to seek a new relationship with Russia. In his own words, Biden said “we’ve established a clear basis on how we intend to deal with Russia and the US-Russia relationship.” 
For all his impassioned rhetoric, Biden did not walk away from the summit with many concrete commitments or concessions from Russia. She cautions, however, that the road ahead will remain difficult given the still poor state of US-Russia relations, but the outcome in Geneva should be seen as a good first step. Putin spoke almost endearingly about his meeting with Biden, who he described as an experienced statesman and went so far as to say they “spoke the same language”. Jim Risch, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said summits are about “delivering results” and Biden’s inability to secure more from Putin made the affair “unfortunate and disappointing.” I
n a separate statement, three GOP senators said Biden is sending a signal of “weakness and appeasement” for the summit, particularly after he granted a waiver from US sanctions was granted by his administration for the soon-to-be-completed Nord Stream-2 pipeline. On other topics like cybersecurity, Ukraine, and Syria, the main outcome was a commitment to renew contacts between Washington and Moscow on these issues. The summit is also taking place in the shadow of former President Donald Trump, who arrived in office with a keen interest in building close relations with Moscow based on his self-perceived personal friendship with Putin. Kremlin critics, in particular, were incensed by Biden’s offer to hold an audience with Putin without the Kremlin offering something in advance. In my view, it’s far better than some aspirational announcement about ‘a reset’,” Saivetz told New Europe. As the leaders of the world’s two preeminent nuclear powers, the meeting lays the groundwork for relations to potentially improve on matters of mutual importance. “Of course, the relationship is so complex and there’s so much friction and mistrust that missteps are going to be inevitable at some point. Biden’s team also paid close attention to the choreography of the encounter by carefully limiting any opportunities for Putin to try and one-up Biden, a trait he is well-known for from his past dealings with other world leaders. This is about self-interest and the verification of self-interest,” Biden told reporters at his press conference. Charlie Stevenson, an adjunct lecturer teaching American foreign policy at Johns Hopkins University, said that opting for solo press conferences are “both self-protective and discord limiting” while allowing each side to make their case about a meeting. As large numbers of Russian forces massed along Ukraine’s borders in April, raising fears of a war breaking out, Biden extended an invitation to meet Putin for a summit to discuss their differences. For now, both sides appear to have walked away with some level of satisfaction. Almost immediately, questions were asked about the hastiness of the invitation and if it would imply weakness on the American side amidst tensions over Ukraine, the SolarWinds hack against US government agencies last December, and the imprisonment of Russian oppositionist Alexei Navalny. This, he explained, also narrowed the room for conflict at a time when de-escalation is the goal. Saivetz added that denying Putin an appearance alongside Biden served to constrain the sense of legitimacy that she said he craves. Any assessment of the outcome, according to Biden, should be judged in the long term and by how relations with Russia proceed based on immediate deliverables. From the start, Biden’s decision to sit down with Putin was met with quite a few raised eyebrows. Putin announced that a return of ambassadors would begin at an undetermined point and the two agreed to establish a new Strategic Stability Dialogue on nuclear arms control. By giving Putin this summit, Browder believes that Biden is elevating him “to a level of authority and respectability among his own supporters that is a gift to him that he shouldn’t be getting.”
Garry Kasparov – another prominent critic and a member of the anti-Putin, pro-democracy opposition, who also once ran against the latter to become president of Russia – accused Biden of giving the “credibility of the United States” to a “brutal killer”. In Geneva, President Biden spoke in very blunt terms by characterizing the summit as being about asserting the United States’ self-interests and should not be seen as cozying up to Putin. Carol Saivetz, a senior advisor with the security studies programme at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said this approach was a better tact to take with Putin than risk over-promising. “This is not about trust. But the Geneva meeting was a step in the right direction.” “Russia and the US need to interact with each other, to try to establish a degree of stability in their relationship and to have clarity about the areas where their interests clash,” Deyermond told New Europe. Ruth Deyermond, a senior lecturer in post-Soviet security at King’s College London, disagrees with characterizations of Biden’s decision to seek an early meeting with Putin as wrongheaded. “It is a big win for Putin,” Bill Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital and a vocal critic of Putin, told Fox News on June 16. The Russian leader echoed Biden’s view on the summit not being about trust, but, quoting the great 19th-century Russian poet Lev Tolstoy, saying that there can be no “family trust in this situation, but we have seen flashes of it.” 
Deyermond believed that the summit was a good first impression. In a recent interview, Kasparov added that Biden once called Putin a “killer” not long after his inauguration and that by meeting with him, it was a “sign of weakness.” 
Biden’s critics in the Republican Party echoed these arguments as the president made his way back to Washington. US President Joe Biden (L) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) in Geneva, Switzerland. Trump also made dramatic and unprecedented moves, including withdrawing from key arms control agreements, decisions Putin directly criticized as pushing relations into a deeper freeze. One important measure that taken to minimize this was conveying to the Russians that there would be no joint press conference for the two leaders as there was in Helsinki. Instead, she believes the choice to meet in Geneva was helpful towards stabilizing relations with Russia, lest it descends lower than the dangerous place it is now. Biden said that the meeting helped the US and Russia to identify areas of common interest where the two adversaries could work together, while at the same time making it clear what the US’ red lines are. Trump openly spurned and publicly insulted the US’ European allies and even undermined his own country’s security by publicly siding with Putin in a now-infamous Helsinki summit press conference in 2018 where Trump said he believed Putin over his own intelligence agencies. By Nicholas Morgan
A New York-based freelance journalist focusing on Russia and Eurasia. Will Navalny live? She explained that the US-Russia relationship has always been slanted towards topics of strategic stability and it is especially important that the presidents are in contact given the state of the relationship as it stands now. From the start of his administration, Biden promised to resist Russian actions that trampled on American interests, while being an advocate for human rights and democracy. Will there be future hacks? style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Did Biden draw a line in the sand with or legitimize Putin in Geneva?

European sanctions have also been completely ineffective against the regime of Belarusian potentate Alexander Lukashenko. He showed himself to be a tough and self-confident leader of a superpower who also knows how to defend basic Western values. The Kremlin, however, responded with underhanded attacks and the expulsion of European diplomats. EPA-EFE//RUSSIAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTRY

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The first meeting between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin showed that the US is no longer letting Moscow lead it around by the nose as it did under Donald Trump. Similar to the way Hungary blocked EU sanctions against China for its brutal crackdown on opposition members in Hong Kong, the Austrian government is now following Viktor Orban’s lead in its approach towards Belarus. This tactic did not work for Biden. “There was no hostility. Only then can the EU develop a credible foreign policy. It must be made clear to Putin that he can no longer cross new red lines with impunity. Lavrov’s attacks on Borrell came when the EU’s foreign policy chief arrived in Moscow with an olive branch and an offer to normalize relations. The only success that counts is the meeting itself and the agreement to send ambassadors back to Washington and Moscow
Putin’s tactic of countering all of Biden’s accusations of Russian interference in Western election campaigns, cyber-attacks and human rights violations (Alexei Navalny case) with counter-accusations was to be expected. EPA-EFE/RUSSIAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTRY HANDOUT — MANDATORY CREDIT — HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry shows Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell (L) during a joint news conference following their talks in Moscow. All the assurances of Austrian Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in favor of the Belarusian opposition and his calls for the release of Roman Protasevich, the opposition figure who was kidnapped off of Ryanair flight 4978 in May, are only lip service. Putin has actively and repeatedly interfered in Europe’s affairs by supporting Eurosceptic politicians and Brexit supporters. His cryptic but serious threat that the US could make Russia feel its superiority in digital technology in the event of further cyberattacks was obviously credible, but it was not really a deterrent for Putin. Josep Borrell is on a working visit to Moscow. With a few entry bans and account freezes against selected Russian judicial officials involved in the conviction of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Europe will not be able to create an effective threat. As an Austrian, I must express my shame that my own country is blocking new EU economic sanctions against Minsk out of deference to Austrian investors who, like Raiffeisenbank or the Austrian telecom company A1, want to continue doing good business with Lukashenko’s Belarus. “Putin knows that I will act. In Europe, many Russia experts warn that the West should refrain from pushing Russia too far into China’s sphere of influence. In February, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had already made a similar show of the EU’s foreign representative, Josep Borrell, at a press conference in Moscow. Cutting Russian banks off from international financial networks such as SWIFT would also be painful for the Kremlin, but so far the EU has been utterly unwilling to implement anything so fundamental. Mistrust still prevails, especially on the American side. The talks were constructive and intense,” Putin said mildly. The EU’s sanctions against Putin’s regime have, obviously, not really hurt Russia. The United States has also made a U-turn on Nord Stream-2 after the Biden administration opted to refrain from slapping sanctions on European companies that are involved in the constructions of the pipeline. At the NATO summit in Brussels a few days earlier, China was the main focus of the Western alliance. The fact that there was no joint press conference, not even a joint lunch at the meeting in Geneva, speaks volumes. The only measure that would really cause massive damage to the Kremlin would be to halt the construction of the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline, but Germany, in particular, as the main investor in the pipeline, is staunchly resisting any move to shut down the lucrative project. The example of Europe’s ineffective approach in its inability to take a hard stance with Russia and Belarus is further proof that it needs to move away from the principle of unanimity on important policy issues. The EU’s reaction to Putin’s brazen acts has been marked by hesitation, incompetence, appeasement and fear. It is clear, however, that Putin wants to keep challenging the West after having annexed Crimea, supported separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine, rescued the Assad regime in Syria and deployed troops on the border with Ukraine in April. He has also sent out his secret intelligence hit squads to try to kill opponents in various European countries – nearly all of which have one unpunished. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>No more lip service: The EU must be more resolute vis-à-vis Russia

By Otmar Lahodynsky
Ex-President of the Association of European Journalists (AEJ) and former European Editor of the Profil news magazine in Austria

epa08988624 A handout photo made available by the press service of the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry shows Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell (L) during a joint news conference following their talks in Moscow, Russia, 05 February 2021. I will not tolerate Russian interference in American democracy,” said a confident Biden.

The term “positive agenda” has become somewhat of a buzzword for Turkey’s foreign relations. Trump’s demonstrative laisser-faire approach came in handy for Erdogan’s revisionist schemes. With Washington – and Brussels – behind them, the Greeks are now engaging the Turks with a new sense of confidence. The list of disputes is long and includes conflicts of substance and, importantly, procedural issues pertaining to conflict resolution. “The ice has broken”, a Greek official said following a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on the sidelines of the NATO summit on June 14. According to the report, a majority of Turks consider the Aegean militarization issue the most important point of contention between the two neighbors – far ahead of the Cyprus issue, which traditionally has been at the top of public concerns. Facebook

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This past week has been bustling with diplomatic activity that, of course, ultimately culminated in a meeting between US President Joe Biden with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, Athens is pursuing a policy of expanding her political and diplomatic network with a deep outreach that includes the Arab world. Embodiment of Philhellenism
Arguably, the most important development with an impact on the dynamics of Greek-Turkish relations has been the “Biden Factor”. Apart from what could be termed “the summit of summits”, numerous other high-level political encounters took place over the last several days, first at the meeting of the G7, and then on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels. A
At the same time, Athens and Ankara let it be known that while the mood may have improved, substantial differences remain. “We are now coming out of the most contentious situation”, says Mustafa Aydin, an expert on Greek-Turkish relations at Kadir Has University in Istanbul. From a Greek perspective, this lockstep may be termed the most successful result of a systematic effort to internationalize the bilateral issues by seeking political – and increasingly also military – support in the international arena in the conflict with Turkey.  
This is the start of a new phase of international relations and a return to diplomacy and predictability after the unpredictably turbulent years of the Trump era. “If you need anything, I am here to help you”, the US President told the Greek Prime Minister earlier this year. The concept has now found entry into the vocabulary of Greek-Turkish relations. The MOU ignores the existence of several Greek islands, including Crete and Rhodes. The wind of change is felt also in Greek-Turkish relations. The agreement was, not surprisingly, rejected by Athens and the overwhelming majority of the international community who said it was both “invalid” and “geographically absurd”. The European Union has offered Ankara a set of projects of cooperation under the heading of “positive agenda” under the condition that the Turkish government meets certain clearly defined criteria. Athens and Ankara do not see eye-to-eye when it comes to the question of what should be included in the agenda. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Greek-Turkish Relations and the “Biden Factor”

By Ronald Meinardus
Political commentator and analyst, he heads the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom’s office in Istanbul. Opposing the internationalization and seeking the “bilateralization” of the political process is a constant feature of Ankara’s strategy towards Greece. Herculean Task
Reaching a compromise on these issues remains a Herculean task even under the most favorable conditions becomes clear if you see a freshly published survey of Turkish public opinion. In the summer of 2020, the conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean brought the two estranged NATO allies to the brink of a military confrontation. Biden’s multilateralism and rules-based understanding of international relations make life much more difficult for the Turkish president. For Erdogan, Greece’s diplomatic maneuvers are a stick in the eye. It is an open secret that ultimately all these efforts aim at neutralizing what Greeks perceive as the “Turkish threat”. These include the situation of the Turkish-speaking Muslim minority in Western Thrace, the breath of the territorial waters and – increasingly in the past months – the militarization of Greek islands in the Eastern Aegean Sea. Commentators have rightly called Erdogan a political buddy of Trump. “Third parties should not be included in our relations”, Erdogan told the press after meeting Mitsotakis in Brussels. Just ahead of their last encounter in December 2019, which took place in London, Turkey signed a highly controversial maritime deal with the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya which claimed an exclusive economic sphere of influence in the Eastern Mediterranean. Ahead of the Brussels summit, Prime Minister Mitsotakis explained the concept of conditional cooperation using the wording of the conclusions of the EU-summit in March: “We are always open to a positive agenda, he said, but in a gradual, proportionate and reversible way… provided that the current de-escalation is maintained and that Turkey participates constructively in the dialogue and respects the conditions set by the EU.”
The synchronization of Greek and EU policies, vis-à-vis Turkey, is an important new element in Greek-Turkish relations. The knock-on effect of this has impacted relations between Greece and Turkey. Athens had been missing this kind of support for quite some time. For Greek governments, the latter has been – and continues to be – a non-starter. While the Greek focus is the demarcation of the continental shelf, which would effectively also settle the issue of maritime zones, Turkey regularly brings up additional items. The world at large is beginning to witness the impact of the removal of Donald Trump from power in Washington. Erdogan’s Libya-deal lead to a virtual breakdown of diplomatic interactions between Greece and Turkey. The tete-a-tete in Brussels was the third time that the two leaders have met since Mitsotakis took office in July 2019. A Greek government source termed the 50-minute meeting between Mitsotakis and Erdogan as “a step towards a quieter summer”, one which “highlighting the overall good climate” and a sense of understanding between the two sides that what occurred in 2020 should not happen again. Joe Biden may be termed an embodiment of political Philhellenism.

MINUSCA has been fined by the CAR Customs authorities for the illegal import of car parts. Recently, local media has started to become increasingly vocal in their criticism, alleging that some MINUSCA contingents have infiltrated the local criminal environment. Even though the reformed national army has shown its high quality during the pre-and post-election armed conflicts in 2020-21, the UN Security Council has been slow to lift the embargo. MINUSCA has recently redeployed troops to the distant regions of the CAR, seen generally as a tactical move to give them better access to illicit trafficking routes. In Bossangoa, a mining town in the north of the CAR, citizens have seen that UN peacekeepers are major buyers of gold and diamonds. In March 2021, a UN armoured truck full of cobalt, mined in the distant regions of the CAR, overturned on a Central African road spilling its illegal cargo. The cover for the goods trafficking provided by the UN status does not only apply to shadow imports, but to exports as well. The deployment back in 2014 of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) has not brought any tangible results. Could it be that the poor supply of arms to the national defence forces presents a business opportunity when it comes to supplying the rebel forces? This report has been independently substantiated by reliable military sources with direct knowledge of the situation. UN peacekeepers deployed to the Central African Republic. The CAR Government is obliged to comply with the rules set by the UN, as they are bound to a commitment to transparency and the legality of all process in the country. The investigative newspaper Le Citoyen wrote on May 11 that the Bangladeshi contingent of MINUSCA has been accused of selling weapons and ammunition to militant groups. The CAR government has so far carefully adhered to the UN rules in the hope that after the CAR restores and reforms its Defense Forces, a future total lift of the embargo will give the Republic the opportunity to protect its civilian population independently. According to reliable reports, the illegally mined diamonds are used as payment to MINUSCA for the goods they supply to armed rebel groups. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>The Heart of Darkness

By James Wilson
Founding Director of the International Foundation for Better Governance, a not for profit organization dedicated to promote, protect and defend the fundamental rights of citizens, human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The key mission of MINUSCA’s mandate is the protection of the civilian population. The first step should be to stop manipulating African states, stop taking advantage of the unstable security environment and leave young African states in peace. The allegation is that the Bangladeshi contingent deployed in Bouar has supplied rebels with Belgian-made mines intended for planting on roads leading to the gold and diamond mines. Social media networks have begun to circulate video materials, produced by Le Confident and La Gazette du Matin, and other media which allege to illustrate the degree of cooperation between UN soldiers and armed groups of bandit fighters. But in the wake of the recent success of the reformed Central African national army, the strategy of the UN forces has come under greater scrutiny. This means that it is illegal to buy diamonds and gold there. The traditionally porous African borders combined with UN immunity provide a tempting opportunity for illicit trafficking. By supplying the armed groups with weapons, food and medicine, the UN forces contribute to the continuation of violent conflict in the Central African Republic, which guarantees the prolongation of the MINUSCA mandate of this territory rich in gold and diamonds. Bossangoa is not an area authorised for mining under the Kimberley Process. UN.peacekeeping

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The conflict-stricken Central African Republic (CAR) has been struggling to forge a lasting peace since 2013. Because of their status, the troops enjoy UN immunity which facilitates their ability to conduct illegal trade in weapons, medicines and other imported goods. It seems that the efforts of the Central African government are not given due recognition. Western leaders constantly call for an end to the cruel cycle of violence in Africa. Regions rich in natural resources have always been attractive to armed groups, as they can provide revenues to fund new equipment and ammunition needed to fight the national army and other armed groups. The CAR is currently under an arms embargo imposed by the UN, which means that any supplies to armed rebel groups could give them an important advantage over government forces. The approved budget for MINUSCA  for 2020-2021 is $1,006,428,200, but for 7 years the Mission has demonstrably failed either to ensure political stability, reform the security sector or restore state authority to the country. Customs officials allege that MINUSCA does not declare all goods imported into the territory of the CAR, claiming an exemption by virtue of their status. But who do the UN troops buy the diamonds from and what do they give in return? The national army of the CAR has recently accused MINUSCA forces of acting more aggressively on the ground and seeking to provoke confrontation.

In reforming EU VAT rules for e-commerce, we sought to tackle head-on the most glaring problems. These new rules will come into force on July 1 this year. Well before the pandemic came on the horizon, the European Commission started work to re-adjust EU Value Added Tax (VAT) rules in response to the e-commerce surge. It will create a much fairer environment for EU companies, who were often undercut by their non-EU competitors due to the exemption. The new rules will also contribute to a new ecosystem in which e-commerce businesses can flourish thanks to reduced administration and a more level playing field. The new EU VAT rules are part of a wave of forward-looking change – a move to equip ourselves for a sustainable digital future. How should online transactions be treated in terms of sales taxes, when consumers and sellers are no longer in the same country or even continent? To reap these benefits, each and every company that sells goods online to EU consumers should get ready for the upcoming changes by registering for the One Stop Shop via its dedicated website. This is a digital portal where online companies selling to other EU countries can register, declare and pay the VAT they owe for all their EU sales in one place and in their own language. This will block unscrupulous sellers from fraudulently declaring high-cost goods at prices below this threshold to evade VAT. We put a strong focus on cutting compliance costs for small online businesses so that they can thrive in our Digital Single Market.     This will offer entrepreneurs and occasional sellers a chance to operate online, without having to worry about extra red tape. At the same time, the current VAT exemption for packages valued at less than €22, entering the EU from outside, will be abolished. For sales above this threshold, the new ‘One Stop Shop’ (OSS) was opened for registration in April this year. Even after years of relentless growth, the pandemic has accelerated the boom, further accentuating the urgent need for reforms that respond to this fast-paced change. This better reflects the way online sales are made today and makes our system fairer and more robust against evasion. And we worked on improving price transparency for EU consumers, for fairer competition. An important change in the new rules is that online marketplaces will now be responsible for ensuring that the VAT is paid when a non-EU business sells to an EU consumer, via their interface. We, therefore, set about creating a new VAT rulebook for e-commerce one to foster growth and innovation in online businesses while ensuring that the right amount of VAT is paid in the right place. Non-EU companies should not have an unfair advantage over EU businesses, simply due to VAT exemptions given to small consignments entering our Union. Already, major global market players such as Amazon, eBay, and Rakuten have signed up to the IOSS, meaning more transparency and less hidden costs for consumers when they buy from those websites. This OSS system has already been tried and tested for sellers of e-services such as apps, music, and games, with great success. Once the new rules kick in, the price advertised for goods sold on these platforms should be the final price paid by the buyer, including taxes. Facebook

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The online shopping sector has transformed retail across the world in recent years, and its all-pervasiveness in modern life shows no sign of abating. The sector’s ubiquity gives rise to an important question in relation to taxation. Small businesses should not be hampered in selling to consumers in different EU countries, just because of the complexity of the VAT rules. Buyers should not be expected to pay unexpected tax bills when their goods arrive. The new rules will help SMEs to overcome complexity, by introducing a new €10,000 VAT threshold. We are now extending its benefits to any company that sells goods online in the EU too. A similar portal called the Import One Stop Shop (IOSS) is available to non-EU companies that want to sell into the EU. The current EU VAT rules were last updated in 1993 – long before the digital age – and are sorely ill-suited to the needs of businesses, consumers and administrations in an era of cross-border internet shopping. Below this threshold, VAT can be paid to the country where the seller, rather than the consumer, is located. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>New EU VAT rules facilitating a fairer playing field for businesses and consumers

By Thomas Gerassimos
Director-General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union. It is up to all of us to make sure they work – for the competitiveness of EU business, for the sustainability of our public budgets, and for a more vibrant online marketplace for all EU consumers. All of these changes in our VAT rules will ensure that, at a time when every penny counts in public budgets, the members of the European Union are better protected against losses in their VAT revenues. They will be able to register in a single EU nation for all of their EU sales, thereby easing their access to the EU market and simplifying the required administration.

As many countries, Uzbekistan as a party to the Paris Agreement (2015) seeks the common goal of greenhouse gas emission mitigating. Uzbekistan’s Energy Minister, Alisher Sultanov, told New Europe in a recent interview his country plans to liberalize its energy sector, which is part of a series of reforms in Uzbekistan that began several years ago when the country embarked on a new course of development. The Uzbekistan ambassador noted that since his country became an independent country the large-scale reforms has been implemented to strengthen its energy industry. This is also an important part of Uzbekistan’s growing role in the regional and international energy markets. Moreover, most recently the Head of Uzbekistan in his speech on May 30 at the Second International Summit “Partnership for Green Growth and Global Goals – 2030” (P4G) in Seoul has announced an ambitious goal – to increase the share of renewable energy sources in the country’s economy by more than 3 times in the next 10 years. The other European company Stone City Energy will construct a Thermal Power Plant in Surkhandarya region, which will produce 1,560 MW of electricity. In a recent garden reception at the Embassy of Uzbekistan in Brussels, Ambassador to the European Union Dilyor Khakimov and Brussels Energy Club founder Marat Terterov were joined via zoom by speakers Brussels Energy Club Director Nadezda Kokotovic, European Geopolitical Forum Head of Research George Niculescu and New Europe Energy and Russian Affairs Kostis Geropoulos to discuss Uzbekistan’s energy cooperation with international partners and openness towards reform and investment in a year which marks a landmark event in Uzbekistan’s modern history – 30 years of independence for Central Asia’s most populous state. Uzbekistan has set a goal to increase the amount of Renewable Energy Sources in total electricity production to 25% by 2030, today – 10%. “Along with the progress that we can see today, Uzbekistan still faces a challenge in unrealized potential, especially in renewable energy, which is expected to become the prime sector of Uzbek energy in coming years,” the Uzbek Ambassador to the EU said. “First, the President established the Ministry of Energy, which now coordinates the implementation of the overall energy policy of the Republic of Uzbekistan, including bringing investment and technologies,” he said, reminding that major European energy companies like Shell are participating in building the plant for natural gas processing in Surkhandarya region. “As a result, today we can see increased volume of generating capacities, which ensures the country’s economic growth. EMBASSY OF

Marking 30 years of independence, reaches out to international partners to modernize infrastructure

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Uzbekistan’s energy sector has taken major steps towards renewable energy sources and reducing CO2 emissions, boosting cooperation with its international partners. In particular, significant path was passed in the process of modernization and building new enterprises for energy infrastructure in oil and gas, hydropower and renewables, Khakimov said. Shavkat Mirziyoyev stressed the importance of moving toward greater use of renewable energy in the Strategy for actions on the development of Uzbekistan in 2017 – 2021,” he said.  But the breakthrough in energy has been made during the years under the President of Uzbekistan Mr. Shavkat Mirziyoyev,” Khakimov said. Uzbekistan can provide all of the necessary conditions for foreign investors when they decide whether to invest in the country. To achieve these results, the state is taking active measures to implement major projects in the renewable energy sector, Khakimov explained. Uzbekistan is currently undergoing a major transformation and privatization program that involves the sale of 60 large industrial enterprises, and the sale of shares in more than 400 state-owned companies in the near future. The Government expects that developing of renewable energy resources will reduce emissions by 10% by 2030 compared with 2010. Transition to low-carbon energy will make it possible to provide Uzbekistan with electricity at a high growth rate and improve its citizens’ quality of life. Looking at the experiences of Germany, Japan and Spain, Uzbekistan is making a low-carbon transition, and many European investors have expressed interest in investing in the country’s alternative energy sources – including hydro, solar and wind – to produce electricity with low carbon emissions. With the help from the EU through the EBRD and Corporate Solutions, Uzbekistan has developed a national Low-Carbon Energy Strategy to improve energy efficiency, increase the share of renewable energy in the country’s energy balance in line with UNFCCC guidelines and meet the country’s energy needs. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Uzbekistan implements large-scale reforms to strengthen energy industry

By New Europe
The European political newspaper

Uzbekistan’s Ambassador to the European Union Dilyor Khakimov addresses a reception event “Uzbekistan and its international partners: Thirty years of independent statehood, energy cooperation and openness towards reform and investment,” Brussels, Belgium, June 10, 2021. Recently, with the support of the World Bank Group, Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) and the government of Uzbekistan, a project was launched to build the country’s first solar photovoltaic power plant with a capacity of 100 megawatts. “Because of that the President of Uzbekistan Mr.

style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Amazonian Brexit boost could spell climate disaster

By Andrea Busfield
A Cyprus-based UK journalist who has worked extensively in the national and international press based primarily in the UK, Qatar and Afghanistan. Alison Kirkman from Greenpeace said: “There’s a bill being debated by the Brazilian congress at the moment that, if passed, would legalise the invasion of large swathes of public land up to 2014, and any deforestation within them. “Companies and governments understand all too well that the key issue is land use,” says Alison, a point that other environmental campaigners unanimously agree with. For green campaigners, the delay simply buys more time for countries like Brazil to change the boundaries of their own environmental laws as to what is legal and not legal. “The proposed legislation on deforestation is nowhere near strong enough and there are loopholes,” explained Alison.  
A Memorandum of Understanding announced earlier this year to boost “bilateral trade and economic relations” with Brazil could be worth an estimated £6 billion a year in what UK officials have hailed as an “Amazonian Brexit boost”. One such initiative by Sime Darby Plantation, the world’s largest supplier of certified palm oil, has even been mooted as a potential weapon to fight the broader issue of global deforestation – a traceability tool called Crosscheck:2 that allows the public to trace the origins of palm oil right down to mill level, using the company’s database and information from on-the-ground NGOs and satellite imagery. WIKIPEDIA

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Green campaigners fear the UK’s commitment to deforestation could be sacrificed on the altar of trade as the government woos one of the world’s biggest eco villains. Figures like these have triggered a new approach by Greenpeace UK in its fight to save the planet, inching campaigners away from the more emotive issue of palm oil to concentrate on meat production. Since its inception in 2019, more than 60 suppliers have been identified as “high risk”, with a number being suspended by the company. While the UK government is aware of what’s happening, it obviously wants to maintain relations with Brazil after Brexit to enable talks on trade.”
Despite the Tories loudly championing their new environmental bill, which includes measures to stop the import of goods from areas of illegally deforested land, the legislation was delayed for a third time in January and is now unlikely to pass before the autumn. However, Brazil’s environmental policies have been roundly and internationally condemned since President Jair Bolsonaro took office two years ago, bringing with him a deforestation surge that reached a 12-year high last year. Now, climate campaigners are worried that with trade negotiations on the table, the UK will sweep deforestation concerns under the carpet. “So much of the destruction across Brazil in the Amazon and other areas such as the Cerrado, Gran Chaco and Pantanal wetlands is happening to make way for expansion of the industrial meat industry with the UK importing its products in huge volumes.”
Although Greenpeace UK is putting more focus on deforestation for meat production, campaigners say it should not be up to individuals alone to change their dietary habits, but rather it’s the system that needs to change. Dr Henry Chan, Conservation Director of WWF-Malaysia, who has been working on the ground with the palm oil giant for more than two years, described Crosscheck:2 as “a crucial step in the fight against climate change,” adding, “we want to ensure that what Sime Darby is doing is something that can be replicated.”  
Jeff Conant from Friends of the Earth agreed, saying such tools were a step in the right direction with “sunshine being the best disinfectant” when it comes to holding the big deforesters in the Amazon accountable. “The biggest weakness of the bill in its current form is that it only tackles illegal deforestation coming into the UK supply chain – something that can be easily undermined by governments like President Bolsonaro’s in Brazil by making more deforestation legal.”
According to campaigners, some 80% of global deforestation is a result of agricultural production, and animal agriculture, including livestock and animal feed, is the main driver and responsible for 60% of direct global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. “It would not only give forest criminals and land grabbers a free pass on previous illegal activity but a licence to continue slashing forests and burning land for years to come. For Jeff Conant from Friends of the Earth US, western governments need to take greater action, adopting regulations to effectively halt ‘imported deforestation’. Once such systems are in place, we then need governments to intervene – along with civil society – to use those tools to drive accountability based on the transparency that we are gaining into those supply chains.  “Deforestation and fires in Brazil made international headlines in 2019, were even worse in 2020 and, last month, the Amazon saw its largest monthly deforestation ever with an area the size of the Isle of Man destroyed,” says Alison. In the Brazilian Amazon, the big cattle companies – JBS, Minerva and Marfrig – offer no traceability, and, of course, within Brazil, there is no incentive to do so because the government is hellbent on destroying the Amazon. Despite a promise from the world’s richest countries to halt and reverse biodiversity loss as part of a ‘nature compact’ agreed by the G7 this weekend, activists have decried the lack of detail in the agreement and remain unconvinced of the strength of the UK’s commitment when faced with economic pressures. Having worked on the environmental impact of palm oil for the past ten years, he says the wide publicity gained – largely thanks to the devastating effect the industry has had on the natural habitat of wildlife such as the orangutan – has led to both companies and governments paying increased attention to the need to clean up the industry. “The demand has become clear. “The soya, cattle, paper and pulp industries have not yet reached the level of traceability that now exists in palm oil supply chains, though even palm oil still has a long way to go.

Selected projects shall demonstrate how, by the end of this transitional period, these assets will cease to be natural gas assets and become dedicated hydrogen assets, the Council said. According to the Council, the objective of the revised TEN-E regulation is to modernise, decarbonise and interconnect the EU’s cross-border energy infrastructure in order to help the EU achieve its 2050 climate neutrality objectives. The EU Council said the revised Regulation will continue to ensure that new projects respond to market integration, competitiveness and security of supply objectives. “We need to see more smart grids and more renewables in our grids. It will also continue to support projects that connect regions currently isolated from European energy markets, that strengthen existing cross-border interconnections and that promote cooperation with countries outside of the EU. During a transitional period until December 31, 2029, dedicated hydrogen assets converted from natural gas can be used to transport or store a pre-defined blend of hydrogen with natural gas or biomethane. Those electrolysers shall account for at least 100 MW capacity in a project. Ending support for new natural gas and oil projects
The Council said it will end support for new natural gas and oil projects and to introduce mandatory sustainability criteria for all projects.  
 
  This will be done mostly through projects of common interest (PCIs), financed by the Connecting Europe Facility for 2021-2027, the Council said, adding that the revised Regulation updates the infrastructure categories eligible for support with an emphasis on decarbonisation and adds a new focus on offshore electricity grids, hydrogen infrastructure and smart grids. The assessment of candidate projects will also ensure that the assets are designed in view of creating dedicated hydrogen assets by the end of the transitional period and do not lead to the prolongation of the lifetime of natural gas. The revised Regulation also aims to continue ensuring market integration, competitiveness and security of supply, the Council said on June 11. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>EU Council agrees on new rules in connecting energy infrastructure

By New Europe Online/KG

EUROPEAN COUNCIL

Revised TEN-E regulation to modernise, decarbonise and interconnect the EU’s energy infrastructure

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The European Council has reached a general approach on the revision of the Trans-European Networks for Energy (TEN-E) Regulation. The agreement reached today invests in a green and climate-neutral future that guarantees efficiency, competitiveness and security of supply, while leaving no one behind,” he added. The production of hydrogen, particularly of renewable sources, from these electrolysers, shall comply with a life cycle greenhouse gas emissions savings requirement of 70 % relative to a fossil fuel comparator of 94g CO2e/MJ. “To become climate-neutral by 2050, we need modern, interconnected energy infrastructures that are fit for clean energy technologies,” Portugal’s Environment and Climate Action Minister Joao Pedro Matos Fernandes, whose country holds the EU Presidency. The revision of the TEN-E Regulation identifies 11 priority corridors and 3 priority thematic areas to develop and interconnect. The purpose is to gradually decarbonise this sector and increase the share of renewable gases in the pipelines, the Council added. In the case of Cyprus and Malta, that are still not interconnected to the trans-European gas network, projects under development or planning that have been granted the Project of Common Interest status under the previous Regulation will maintain their status until the interconnection is complete, the Council said, adding the purpose of this exception is to end the isolation of these two member states and to give them access to future energy markets, including hydrogen. The Council decided to include certain types of electrolysers that contribute to sustainability in the scope of the Regulation. The Council highlighted the importance of energy from renewable sources regarding all assets, including smart gas grids. Member States also agreed to simplify and accelerate permitting and authorisation procedures.

The government will lambast every critical voice as anti-European, and therefore unpatriotic. “Albania should also further strengthen the fight against corruption and organized crime, including through cooperation with members of the EU and through the action plan to address the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations.”

According to an April 2021 report by MONEYVAL (CoE), Albania has failed to significantly improve the measures it employs to combat money laundering and terrorist financing to bring them in line with the recommendations set down by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The First Copenhagen Criterion is a legitimate goal, per se 
This is not the best time to highlight that Albania might not have properly met the conditions for opening EU accession talks. A notorious interior minister of Rama’s government charged with drug trafficking and corruption got away with a mild suspended sentence for minor offenses following huge government pressure. However, I believe that the First Copenhagen Criterion is too important to be left exclusively to other people. The media regulator is the key institution to execute the draconian measures foreseen in the media package. Rama claimed they were misled and never really read the legislation. The EU integration process was ideally meant to be a transformational procedure during which candidate countries would embrace the values, norms, and legislation of the bloc, and share in the Common Market. Their main message was that the EU should soon call an intergovernmental conference or, in other words, essentially start accession negotiations, since Albania met all of the conditions set by Brussels in March 2020. By Genc Pollo
Albanian MP and former Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on European Integration. However, the current candidates, perhaps even a few EU members, are stuck in a transactional mode. With its sticks so far missing and its carrots being abused, the EU’s approach isn’t working. Meanwhile, the government majority has been using machinations in Parliament to fill all board positions of the public broadcaster and media regulator with their own political appointees. This surely presents clear evidence that no improvements have been made when compared with what observers reported following the last general elections in 2017. He repeatedly denied, sometimes in the presence of EU officials, their existence. The EU officials in question are in their own right to consider the conditions they themselves set on Albania to be fulfilled. The President returned it to Parliament for revision and, under increasing EU pressure, the government agreed to wait for and abide by the “pinion” of the Venice Commission. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama. As they are for Switzerland and Norway (which don’t aspire to EU membership), for the United States, and other countries across the globe, these values need care, continued observance and demonstrable and enduring adherence in order to be consolidated and fully interiorized. Otherwise, it will sow disillusionment in the European project and cynicism about itself. Let’s hope this will remain unchanged once the COVID-19 travel restrictions are lifted. The ideals of Human Rights, democracy, and the rule of law were central to the movement that brought down the Communist regime in Albania nearly 30 years ago, and were generally embraced by society and its political class, even if preaching is sometimes easier than practicing. EPA-EFE/MALTON DIBRA

European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi (C) speaks in the Albanian Parliament in Tirana, Albania. Segments of public opinion that widely support a future in the EU might not always appreciate the revelation of inconvenient truths. Of course, I should be thankful to these ministers and other officials who have been pushing for my country’s further integration into the EU at a time when enlargement isn’t popular in nearly every part of Europe. The opposition has decried government interference in the case, while the General Prosecutor has initiated disciplinary proceedings against the case prosecutors for stalling the investigation. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and former Albanian President Ilir Meta at a joint press conference held at the trans-Atlantic alliance’s headquarters in Brussels. European Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi visits Albania to discuss reforms due to the aspiration of Albania’s European integration. “a solid track record regarding the fight against corruption and organized crime at all levels, including the initiation of proceedings and completion of the first proceedings against high-ranking public officials and politicians” 

Unfortunately, there is nothing positive to report on regarding this matter as international reports point to increased state capture by the ruling party, the centralization of political power by Prime Minister Edi Rama and corruption in the highest offices. Why would pressure about the non-opening of cluster B and chapter 17 or even a reopening cluster A and chapter 16 would impress a Balkan autocrat, as his main interest is only retaining power and reaping the benefits? Rama, however, remained unimpressed. Meanwhile, many voices from the international community have called for a proper inquiry into the reported election crimes that took place during the April general elections. Overall, one should be forgiven for seeing in the EU an incoherent union that keeps giving in when faced with the transgressions and insults of an arrogant Balkan autocrat. I would very much like to throw some doubt into this received wisdom. My sense is that people first and foremost expect support in consolidating a rules-based democracy and market economy with the other important benefits following suit, regardless of the advent of the intergovernmental conference. The 27 members of the European Union, which were previously skeptical about the prospect of Albania and North Macedonia becoming EU members, now seem to privately signal that they would no longer object to its accession.  

“implementation of electoral law reforms”

 
International observers of the April 25 general elections criticised the ruling party’s abuse of administrative resources and expressed concern over widespread reports of vote-buying. Acknowledging this helps to formulate an effective policy. Since then, the government has left the package in limbo, while the Commission has publicly and repeatedly asked for the package to be brought in line with the opinion after an open consultation process that included the relevant stakeholders. Amicus Plato, sed magis amica veritas (Plato is my friend, but the truth is a better friend)
Here are a few conditions from the Conclusions of the EU General Affairs Council from March 25, 2020: 

“a final decision on the lawfulness of the local elections of June 30, 2019”

There has been no final decision to date, but the Constitutional Court has announced it will consider the matter by the end of June; a complete ruling is usually published a couple of weeks after. In a bizarre and irrational twist, he kept calling the EU’s position, which at the time didn’t yet grant vaccines to the Western Balkans (but already helped the region through their financing of the COVAX mechanism) immoral and shameful. Meta was impeached by the Albanian parliament on June 9, 2021, after being accused of violating the constitution by ‘failing to guarantee national unity by backing the opposition in the country’s recent election’. The 2013 media law, which reflected the relevant EU acquis, mandated balanced, non-political appointments filled and which must include the equal involvement of the opposition. The 15 conditions set by the Council in March 2020 were a breath of realism and raised expectations that, finally, there would be some fruitful conditionality.  

“amending the media law in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission” 

 
The December 2019 media amendments package was adopted in Parliament, despite the EU, CoE, OSCE, and domestic stakeholders loudly opposing it. The relevant judicial wiretaps featured several cabinet ministers and MPs who were involved in the scam. They may have their own reasons, tactical or otherwise, to overlook details such as those described above. They were meant to show that Albania will be serious about the “stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities,” the first of the well-known Copenhagen Criteria. Other EU officials believe that once accession talks have started, Brussels will have much stronger leverage to hold the government of any aspiring country accountable. While the intergovernmental conference will hopefully be called soon, it is more important to focus on current policies that are in dire need of transformation. Both kept backsliding on the First Copenhagen Criterion as they negotiated chapter after chapter with the Commission (the latest government change via the ballot box in Podgorica provides hope for progress). One of the reasons that is often mentioned as the motivation behind the EU’s rush towards enlargement is that Brussels is trying to fend off encroachment by unfriendly third powers. When considering that the purpose of the 2020 electoral reform was to prevent the ruling party from abusing the state’s power, its implementation seems rather poor given that the same issues have continued. The aforementioned tenets are historically European values that should become universal. So far, there has only been one conviction of a former general prosecutor for failing to properly declare personal assets. First, we have the experiences of Serbia and Montenegro, who used to be EU integration front runners. “initiation of proceedings against those accused of vote-buying,” 

Of the two well-known judicial files 339 and 184 on vote-buying/rigging, which gained international notoriety, only 184 is being addressed in court and with watered-down charges as accusations of vote-rigging have been dropped against four local officials. Albania was granted the status of a candidate country in 2014, but several proposals by the European Commission to start accession talks were not approved by the other members of the bloc until March 2020, after the Council agreed to launch them upon fulfilment of 15 conditions. Between December 2020 and March 2021, as his government failed to provide a promised vaccination campaign rollout against COVID-19, Rama found no other scapegoat than the EU itself. In Albania, we have seen continuing state capture on the rise, while the Commission has mentioned steady progress in their periodical country reports, the much-praised Justice Reform has yet to deliver and to prove the non-existence of political capture in its newborn institutions. And, especially, it should be able and willing to call a spade a spade for every obvious transgression. Often, Brussels officials say they need to deliver on their promises otherwise people in the Balkans will grow disenchanted and the EU will lose credibility. EPA-EFE//MALTON DIBRA

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EU enlargement: cui bono? SOURCE: NATO
Just recently, in major European media outlets, Rama labelled the EU’s failure so far to open accession negotiations as “cynical and divisive.” He signalled that he could find other economic opportunities and perhaps political allies elsewhere. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>EU enlargement: Cui bono? In a recent about-face, the Commission told the Albanian media that only if Parliament (re)voted on the package, the latter would have to be in line with the Venice Commission’s Opinion, otherwise, the status quo would be satisfactory. Meanwhile, dirty money obviously funds the ongoing construction boom in the capital and along the Albanian coast. Several Foreign Ministers from EU countries visited Tirana and the North Macedonian capital Skopje in the last weeks to meet local officials and address the public. As the Treaty states “For EU accession negotiations to be launched, a country must satisfy the first criterion.” 
While some of the conditions are of a general nature and could easily be considered as fulfilled, others are more thorough and specific and thus deserve a closer look. He has repeatedly stated that his government has completely finished its required homework and has talked about how, according to him, the start of accession talks was unduly blocked by the ill will of certain EU politicians and members of the bloc who were motivated by domestic electoral concerns or prejudices. The same goes for EU membership with, of course, enhanced expectations. He is also an ex-Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Education; Telecoms

epa08726888 European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi (C) speaks in the Albanian Parliament in Tirana, Albania, 07 October 2020. Albania’s membership in European and Euro-Atlantic organizations, such as the OSCE (1990), the Council of Europe (1995), and NATO (2009), was seen as an affirmation of these organizations’ underlying values as well as a means to develop and consolidate these values at home through proper interaction. If the rather solemnly set EU conditions were practically ignored to a meaningful extent, and became the object of public ridicule at the highest level in the receiving candidate country, who in his/her right mind would believe that in the next stage behaviour will improve? The EU should not undermine its legitimate dialogue with the governments of candidate countries. Officials from the EU who claim Albania has met all conditions, might not necessarily welcome third-party scrutiny of the above facts. Very rightly they are a conditio sine qua non (not conditional) for starting membership talks with the EU, but they remain central even if, God forbid, the perspective of a future in the EU doesn’t happen to be there. The Commission issued its opinion in June 2020 and basically requested that the core of the package—which allowed the government to arbitrarily shut down any news website—be scrapped. However, if it wants to be more effective than it has been so far, it should reach out to civil society and every entity committed to the values of the EU. While this might be an issue in other parts of the region, there is no ground in Albania for such concerns. Some added that the European Union’s credibility might suffer if it fails to do so. Opinion polls steadily demonstrate a strong pro-EU societal consensus upon which the political side relies. Provided that all outstanding disputes between North Macedonia and Bulgaria are resolved, there is hopefully a fair chance that the European Council will issue a positive decision in late June. Some in Albania think that way too.  

“Tackling the phenomenon of unfounded asylum applications and ensuring repatriations”

This condition has actually been met.