On January 18, the US reportedly informed German officials of its plans to impose sanctions on the Fortuna over its involvement in the construction of Nord Stream 2. Meanwhile, AP quoted German Chancellor Angela Merkel as saying on January 21 that she isn’t abandoning Nord Stream 2, but wants to talk to the new US Administration about the issue. Washington has said that the Nord Stream 2 would make Europe more dependent on Russian gas, undermining EU energy security. But “I am saying today that … my basic attitude has not yet changed in such a way that I would say that the project shouldn’t happen,” the news agency quoted Merkel as saying. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET

Seeing red, calls to rein in Putin, Russian influence

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The European Parliament passed a resolution on January 21 calling on EU member states to immediately stop work “once and for all” to complete the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would bring Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea, in response to the weekend arrest of Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny. It is now a matter of political principle for Germany,” Weafer said, stressing that it is as much about asserting the country’s independence and not being bullied into yielding to external pressure. She acknowledged January 21 that she said last summer the poisoning of Navalny, who was treated in Germany after being exposed to a nerve agent, “could play a role”. To do so would leave it looking weak. And that’s what I expect to happen this year,” he added. In a resolution, adopted with 581 votes in favour, 50 against and 44 abstentions, Members of the European Parliament called on EU member states to take an active stance on the arrest of Navalny and many of his followers at their next meetings and to “significantly strengthen the EU’s restrictive measures vis-à-vis Russia”. With a view to the new administration in Washington, MEPs stressed that the EU should use this momentum to strengthen transatlantic unity in protecting democracy and fundamental values against authoritarian regimes. The Russian pipe-laying vessel Fortuna laid a 2.6-km section of the pipeline in the German Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), he said, adding that these planned construction works were completed in December 2020 and were implemented in full compliance with existing permits. Chris Weafer, co-founder of Macro-Advisory in Moscow, told New Europe on January 21 that German officials, from Merkel down, have made it clear that they will not block the completion of Nord Stream 2. At the same time, however, the US is trying to promote sales of its own liquefied natural gas (LNG). EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a debate on the inauguration of the new President of the United States and the current political situation, during a plenary session of the European Parliament, in Brussels, Belgium, January 20, 2021. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline is already facing US sanctions. “I firmly believe that Germany now has hardened its position so much that it will not back down. She reiterated Germany’s objections to “extraterritorial sanctions”. About the current status, the Nord Stream 2 spokesperson said a total of over 2,300 kilometres out of approximately 2,460 kilometres, or 94% of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline have been laid. A Nord Stream 2 spokesperson told New Europe on January 19 the project resumed pipelay works on December 11, 2020 as announced in the Notice to Mariners by the German Waterways & Shipping Authority Stralsund. But all engineering is in place and the issue with certification and insurance can be resolved.” Weafer said. The confirmation came after German business publication Handelsblatt reported that the US would be issuing sanctions under its Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). follow on twitter @energyinsider If anything, the efforts by the US, and some Eastern Europe states, to block it has hardened Germany’s resolve to complete it. “We will of course speak with the new American administration,” she said. Approximately 148 kilometres or 6% are left. And it’s not as if there were absolutely no trade relations between the United States of America and Russia in the oil sector, for example.” “We must put everything on the table, and talk about whether we want to have no trade with Russia in the gas sector at all, and what dependence is tolerable,” AP quoted Merkel as saying. “We must also talk about what economic relationships with Russia in the gas sector are acceptable and what aren’t. “They view it as an essential part of their energy security and of the process to reduce carbon emissions. “The last phase of the project will continue to be difficult, at a political level rather than technical. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>After Navalny arrest, MEPs want plug in Nord Stream 2 pipeline

By Kostis Geropoulos
Energy & Russian Affairs Editor, New Europe

epa08950763 European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (C-rear, standing) speaks during a debate on the inauguration of the new President of the United States and the current political situation, during a plenary session of the European Parliament, in Brussels, Belgium, 20 January 2021. There are approximately 120 kilometres in Danish waters and approximately 28 kilometres in German waters to be laid. If anything, the US congress has pushed this too aggressively and left Berlin with no option but to complete. “Following years of deteriorating relations, MEPs stress the importance of critically reviewing cooperation with Russia in various foreign policy platforms and on projects such as Nord Stream 2. MEPs also underline that the EU should no longer be a welcoming place for Russian wealth of unclear origin,” the European Parliament said in a press release. They call on the EU to immediately stop the completion of the controversial pipeline.

A new instrument of acceptance of the Paris Agreement by the US, expressing its consent to be bound by the Agreement, was deposited with the Secretary-General, later in the day. Last year, the UN was forced to postpone COP26 due to the pandemic. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>EU hails US return to Paris Agreement on Climate Change

By New Europe Online/KG

epa08955146 High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell ahead of a meeting at the EEAS in Brussels, Belgium, 21 January 2021 EPA-EFE/STEPHANIE LECOCQ / POOL

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell in Brussels, Belgium, January 21, 2021

EPA-EFE/STEPHANIE LECOCQ/POOL

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Following the inauguration of US President Joe Biden on January 20, top EU officials hailed the decision of the new US Administration to re-join the Paris Agreement on climate change. “We are convinced that if all countries join a global race to zero emissions, the whole planet will win,” the joint EU statement read. According to the UN chief’s spokesperson, the Paris Agreement will enter into force for the United States on 19 February 2021, in accordance with its article 21 (3), the UN said on its website. “The European Union welcomes the decision by President Biden for the United States to re-join the Paris Agreement on climate change,” EU Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans and High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell said in a joint statement. “I warmly welcome President Biden’s steps to re-enter the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and join the growing coalition of governments, cities, states, businesses and people taking ambitious action to confront the climate crisis”, the UN chief said in a statement posted on the UN website. The Paris Agreement requires governments to commit to increasingly ambitious climate action through plans known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs). The climate crisis is the defining challenge of our time and it can only be tackled by combining all our forces. But there is a very long way to go”, he said. “Today’s commitment by President Biden brings that figure to two-thirds. Biden signed an executive order at the White House just hours after being sworn in, to reverse the previous administration’s withdrawal from the 2015 accord, which seeks to limit global warming and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “We are looking forward to having the United States again at our side in leading global efforts to combat the climate crisis. The US was among 194 countries that signed the Agreement in December 2015 under then President, Barack Obama. “The climate crisis continues to worsen, and time is running out to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and build more climate-resilient societies that help to protect the most vulnerable.”
The Secretary-General underlined his commitment to work with the new US President and other world leaders to address the climate crisis and COVID-19 recovery. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres also said he looks forward to an era of new leadership towards accelerating climate action. Two years later, the Trump administration announced the country would withdraw from the treaty: a decision which became effective last November. Climate action is our collective global responsibility,” the statement read. Timmermans and Borrell said the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow this November will be a crucial moment to increase global ambition, and the bloc will use the upcoming G7 and G20 meetings to build towards this. The Secretary-General recalled that countries producing half of all global carbon pollution committed to carbon neutrality, or net-zero emissions, following a summit held last month.

Russia’s vaccine is not included in the EU’s vaccine portfolio, as it has faced acute criticism over its fast-track approval that skipped the third phase of trials. EPA-EFE/Gyorgy Varga HUNGARY OUT

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Hungary has become the first country in the European Union to give preliminary approval to the Russian coronavirus vaccine “Sputnik V”, in a bid to start mass vaccination across the country. The third consignment of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines contining 39 thousand doses has arrived in Hungary, where the vaccination of health care workers is going on these days. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Hungary approves Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine

By Zoe Didili
Journalist, New Europe

epa08920945 A local health worker receives Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19 at the Zala County Szent Rafael Hospital in Zalaegerszeg, Hungary, 05 January 2021. On Wednesday, Hungarian authorities approved both the Russian jab and the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca/Oxford University, with the latter expected to by approved by the EU’s drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) no earlier than the end of January. Under EU rules, any vaccine must be authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) before it can be marketed in any state of the 27-nation bloc. EPA-EFE/Gyorgy Varga HUNGARY OUT

A local health worker receives Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19 at the Zala County Szent Rafael Hospital in Zalaegerszeg, Hungary, 05 January 2021. According to Gergely Gulyas, the chief of staff of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s office, vaccine supplies to the EU are “clearly insufficient”, forcing the country Hungary to “find its own sources for a vaccine” as mass vaccination against the virus has still to start in the EU, due to “delays by the European Commission.”
The spokesperson added that the government is also in talks with every potential supplier, including China, and that it will only proceed with vaccines that have been used to inoculate several million people and that have been deemed “safe and effective” by Hungarian authorities. Brussels has warned Budapest against damaging the trust on the safety and efficacy of vaccines endorsed by the bloc, after Hungary announced its plans to import the Russian jab in November. British and Russian vaccine manufacturers had been involved in talks about cooperation since December 8, pro-government news portal Origo reported on Wednesday.

This year will be crucial in our collective ability to make a lasting difference,” he added. EPA-EFE/ALI HAIDER/FILE PICTURE

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Striving to spur energy transition as integral part of COVID-19 recovery, members of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) approved on January 21 the establishment of a new, vision-building Global High-Level Forum on Energy Transition. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>IRENA endorses global energy transition forum as part of COVID-19 recovery

By New Europe Online/KG

epa06614520 Emirati men stand in front of The tower of Innovation Centre at Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park during the ground-breaking ceremony of the fourth phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, at Seih Al Dahal, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 19 March 2018. According to the Abu Dhabi-based organisation, to maintain the political momentum for green recovery in 2021, the new Forum intends to accelerate energy transition action from countries, industry, business, investors, academia and visionaries. “Our discussions on recovery have underscored the urgency to intensify and strengthen international cooperation and take action on energy transitions. The Forum is expression of countries’ reaffirmation of the Agency’s strategic mandate entrusted in 2018 to lead on energy transitions and reflects the crucial role renewable energy plays in meeting development and climate goals as outlined in IRENA’s “Post-COVID recovery: An agenda for resilience, development and equality”. They also recognised continued leading role of IRENA in providing cutting-edge knowledge and innovation toward net-zero targets, urging for new global solutions on end-use decarbonisation like green hydrogen. EPA-EFE/ALI HAIDER

Emirati men stand in front of The tower of Innovation Centre at Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park at Seih Al Dahal, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The members also approved the IRENA’s global investment and financing agenda prioritising investments in renewables, efficiency, infrastructure and innovation, urging the continued facilitation of financing and projects in IRENA Member countries including the most vulnerable communities through initiatives like the Climate Investment Platform. “This Assembly has shown that energy transition has risen to the forefront of the global agenda,” IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera said. Open to its 163 Members and 21 States in Accession, the Forum will be presided by the President of the Assembly and convened at least once ahead of every Assembly. Finally, IRENA recognised the launch of new partnerships to leapfrog renewable technologies to drive the energy-health and energy-agriculture nexus as well as the resilience of remote communities. It is IRENA’s primary task to empower our Members with knowledge and tools to translate the opportunities that energy transitions offer into policies, strategies and results,” La Camera said. It will focus on three overarching themes for 2021 such as building recovery efforts on energy transition, increasing renewables in health and food as well as driving net-zero strategies in line with the Paris Agreement, IRENA said. According to media reports, the fourth phase of 700MW is part of a project planned to produce 1,000MW by 2020 and 5,000MW by 2030, aiming to become world’s biggest Concentrated Solar Power project. “I hope the new Forum will provide governments and partners with a global platform to strengthen cooperation and identify solutions to respond to the effects of the pandemic and advance net-zero strategies. Furthermore, IRENA Members recognised the forerunner role of IRENA’s socio-economic and policy analysis and urged the Agency to provide continuous support and guidance to government decision making for green recovery and promoting a just and inclusive transition. Members also requested IRENA to support country-led actions in the preparation and follow up of the High-Level Energy Dialogue convened by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in September and in the run-up to the Climate Conference COP26 in December. The decision concludes the Agency’s annual Assembly which brought together over 2000 participants from Members and partners in a virtual meeting from January 18 to January 21. The Forum will be guided by first-hand insights from the investment, business and finance community, reflecting Members request to open new and strengthen existing cooperation with the private sector in support of IRENA’s investment and policy agenda for energy transitions.

The two sides could work together to tackle the challenges societies face “in a moment of profound change and increasing uncertainty”, including climate change, digital transformation, inequalities and prominently, the Coronavirus pandemic. “Working together, we can better tackle the challenges that we are faced with: the fight against climate change and the loss of biodiversity, responding to the digital transformation in a radically democratic way, and combatting unacceptable and increasing inequalities,” Sassoli said. The world needs a strong relationship between Europe and the United States,” Sassoli said in a statement issued on Wednesday. “Only together can we build a greener and fairer world,” Sassoli concluded. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Sassoli says EU ready to work with Biden to help build stronger transatlantic partnership

By Zoe Didili
Journalist, New Europe

EP Plenary session – Announcement of the result

EP Plenary session – Announcement of the result

© European Union 2021 – Source : EP DAINA LE LARDIC

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European Parliament President David Sassoli has expressed the union’s readiness to work with the new US administration with the aim of building a stronger transatlantic partnership, after the inauguration of President-elect Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris. Whilst recalling the recent events in the US capitol, which demonstrated that “democracies are fragile systems,  and “in order for them to function they must be defended,” the EU Parliament president said he has “faith in the US model of democracy and its institutions.” 
He also welcomed Biden’s move to return to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and to rejoin the Paris Agreement, as Biden signed sweeping executive orders on his first day in the Oval office, reversing his predecessor’s decisions. “This new administration marks the beginning of a new era for transatlantic relations.

Sarfo Abebrese is the founder and President of the Pan African NGO, the Coalition of Supporters Unions of Africa, (COSUA), which operates in 50 of the 54 countries of Africa, with the mandate of the African Union, to use sports to build African Unity. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, who was sacked by Mahamat for “daring to expose France’s chicanery in siphoning billions of euros from Francophone countries in Africa”, according to the President of the Coalition of Supporters Unions of Africa, Sarfo Abebrese. EPA-EFE/STR

African leaders gather to attend the 33rd African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on February 9, 2020. African leaders are gathering in Ethiopian capital for an annual meeting to discuss violence and conflicts in the continent. He is also an attorney of the New York Supreme Court and Barrister of the Supreme Court of Ghana. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Uncertainty, outrage abound as African Union prepares for leadership election

By Lena Deros
Associate Publisher of New Europe Media

epa08205611 African leaders gather to attend the 33rd African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 09 February 2020. Abebrese concluded by saying that his organization is motivated by the precedence set by the African Union in 2016 where three candidates were deemed insufficiently representative. “Faki was the biggest beneficiary of a wise decision by Dr. Now, he is refusing to return the favor and follow in the democratic precedence set by his predecessor…he must be voted out,” Abebrese concluded. In the weeks leading up to the February 7 elections, regional watchers and the independent media will need to keep a close eye on the controversies surrounding the African Union’s decision to proceed with an uncontested election, and its single candidate with a questionable history, or heed the public’s growing calls for a postponement. EPA-EFE//STR

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The African Union Commission elections that are slated for February 7 in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa is facing an unprecedented level of public outcry due to the fact that for the first time in its history the incumbent Chairman, Faki Moussa Mahamat of Chad, is running unopposed for a second four-year term. With barely a couple of weeks to go for the elections, it has emerged that Mahamat will be the only name on the ballot paper, but the COSUA President is not giving up. This will trigger a six-month postponement of the polls and a re-opening of nominations for other interested candidates to come in,” said Abebrese. Abebrese’s organization, which partners with the African Union to use sports to build unity across the continent for peace and development, has waded into African Union Commission (AUC) politics ever since the sacking of Arikana in 2019 and has thrown its support behind her and AUC Deputy Chairman, Thomas Kwesi Quartey, in order to unseat Mahamat. “The rules are clear, that even if he runs unopposed, he is still required to secure the votes of no less than 37 of the 55 Heads of State who will be voting on the 7th,” Abebrese explained in a telephone interview with New Europe, adding, “We have launched the ‘#Catch19agenda’ to lobby our presidents with the aim of getting up to 19 of them to decline to vote so as to ensure that Faki falls short of the 37-vote requirement. Many observers have raised serious concerns about the manner in which the current chair, who is widely seen in Africa as a puppet of France, has managed to mobilize stiff opposition from potential candidates like the former African Union Ambassador to the United States, Dr. (Nkosazana Dlamini) Zuma (of South Africa) who postponed the elections to allow him and one more candidate to join in for the re-run, which Faki won.

EPA-EFE/BIONTECH SE / HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

An undated handout made available by the German pharmaceutical company Biontech shows an ampoule with BNT162b2, the mRNA-based vaccine candidate against COVID-19, in Mainz, Germany (reissued 21 December 2020). “It is possible that vaccine efficacy could be preserved, even with substantial losses of neutralization by vaccine- elicited sera,” another part of the paper reads. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine likely to protect against COVID variant

By Zoe Didili
Journalist, New Europe

epa08897999 (FILE) – An undated handout made available by the German pharmaceutical company Biontech shows an ampoule with BNT162b2, the mRNA-based vaccine candidate against COVID-19, in Mainz, Germany (reissued 21 December 2020). EPA-EFE/BIONTECH SE / HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

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The Coronavirus vaccine developed by US giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech is likely to be effective against a new key mutation that emerged in the UK, according to a study published online on Tuesday. “BNT162b2-immune sera neutralized SARS-CoV-2 (USA/WA-1/2020 background strain) with an introduced N501Y mutation as efficiently as SARS-CoV-2 without the mutation,” the study read. The study, published on preprint server bioRxiv and not yet peer-reviewed found that antibodies found in the blood of 16 patients who had received the Pfizer/BioNTech jab were able to neutralise a version of the new UK variant, the so-called B.1.187, which has “an unusual large” number of mutations with 10 amino acid changes in the spike protein, and is reported to be more contagious. Researchers stressed, however, that “the ongoing evolution of SARS-CoV-2 necessitates continuous monitoring of the significance of changes for maintained protection by currently authorized vaccines.”
Earlier in January, a similar study published by Pfizer said the vaccine could protect against just one mutation of the virus, the so-called N501Y, which was found in both of the new variants detected in Britain and South Africa. The European Medicines Agency has approved the conditional use of the Pfiizer / BioNTech coronavirus vaccine.   “The preserved neutralization of pseudoviruses bearing the B.1.1.7 spike by BNT162b2- immune sera makes it very unlikely that the UK variant viruses will escape BNT162b2- mediated protection,” the study reads.

“As a political family, we are deeply committed to safeguarding and expanding the rights of LGBTI+ people. In a letter sent to Renew Europe leaders and seen by AFP, Russia-born Uspaskich apologised for causing an “uproar”, supporting that he made mistakes, as the “Lithuanian language” is not his “mother tongue.”
“I specifically pointed out that I am not referring to people who are naturally given a different orientation by nature, and I speak of those who scream loudly and lead a perverted way of life,” he added. The move followed an internal disciplinary procedure, concluded by a vote to expel Uspaskich, during which, his termination of membership of Renew Europe group with “immediate effect” was agreed. Following his homophobic comments, his colleagues at Renew Europe group demanded an explanation and an apology. On January 10, the Lithuanian MEP and leader of the Baltic country’s Labour Party prompted an outcry by Europe’s lawmakers and human rights groups, after he posted a video on Facebook attacking gay and transgender people, calling them “perverts.” 
“I speak exactly about perverts, the deviants — fate, life has given them such a life, it’s not their fault that in male clothes they feel like women, the majority of people do not go and advertise themselves,” Uspaskich said. Mr Uspaskich’s comments are incompatible with the values we hold dear and put himself outside of our family,” Ciolos added. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Renew Europe group expels Lithuanian MEP over homophobic remarks

By Zoe Didili
Journalist, New Europe

Plenary Session in Strasbourg – Week 11 – 2012

Viktor USPASKICH Plenary Session in Strasbourg – Week 11 – 2012

© European Union 2012 EP Geneviève ENGEL+

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The European Parliament’s Renew Europe group on Wednesday decided to expel its Lithuanian member, Viktor Uspaskich, over homophobic remarks he made on a video posted on Facebook earlier in the month. “Those who put their dick under a skirt and go into the street and shout, they are perverts, and such things must not be tolerated,” he added. “There is no place for homophobia in the Renew Europe family,” Dacian Ciolos, the President of Renew Europe said in a statement.