style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Brussels firm Campaign Lab brings home “Political Campaign Oscar”

By New Europe
The European political newspaper

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The renowned American magazine Campaigns & Elections published on May 14 the winners of its prestigious 2021 Reed Awards. The award refers to Campaign Lab’s work for the ECR Group’s “Europe’s Future – A New Hope” campaign. Campaign Lab founder, Jerry Zagoritis. Political campaigns and campaign professionals had to rise to challenges never before envisaged. Selected from those few entrants whose exceptional work received finalist status, the Winners of Reed Awards are professionals whose work stands out as the very best in the world. Campaign Lab also received finalist status in the “Best International Campaign” category, which was ultimately won by Vienna-based agency Campaigning Bureau. Last year, Campaign Lab received finalist status in three distinct categories for their 2019 European elections work, while Zagoritis was named an international rising star by Campaigns & Elections in their class of 2018. Outstanding Political Campaigning
The Reed Awards are the most exacting awards in the political campaign industry. This is not the first time the firm founded by Zagoritis in 2018 stands among the very best in the campaigning industry at the international level. Named after the founder of Campaigns & Elections, Stanley Foster Reed, they recognize outstanding work in campaign management, political strategy and communication. The COVID-19 pandemic changed all our lives in profound ways. They had to find new ways to reach voters and new ways to carry out their work. According to Campaigns & Elections, this year that took on new meaning, as all the work submitted in this year’s Reeds was carried out in 2020, a year unlike any we have experienced before. Jerry Zagoritis, and his Brussels-based firm Campaign Lab, won the “Best European Website” award of the so-called “Political Campaign Oscars”.

Protective measures against bird flu was introduced nationwide to prevent any possibility of wild birds coming into contact with farmed birds.The national chief veterinary ordered that all farmers keep poulty indoors in Bacs-Kiskun, Bekes and Csongrad counties. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>MEPs slam EU food companies over caged confinement of animals abroad

By New Europe
The European political newspaper

epa05637168 Laying hens are kept inside a hen house at a chicken farm of Major Ltd. The letter was circulated by the international non-profit Lever Foundation and the Polish NGO Green REV Institute and was signed by members of the European Parliament from Germany, France, Poland, Netherlands, Sweden, France, Italy, Denmark, Portugal and Austria

View the original letter here: https://leverfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/MEPletter.pdf EPA-EFE//SZILARD KOSZTICSAK

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In a strongly-worded letter released on May 15, members of the European Parliament called on food companies to end the caged confinement of animals in their global supply chains. EPA/SZILARD KOSZTICSAK HUNGARY OUT

Hens kept inside cages at a chicken farm owned by Major Ltd. in Rackeve, 49 kms south of Budapest, Hungary, 18 November 2016, where nearly one hundred thousand hens are raised by closed tecnology. in Rackeve, 49 kms south of Budapest, Hungary.

Ultimately, based on a recent highly symbolized celebration of the Victory Day on May 9 in Moscow’s Red Square – which, only in 2010 attracted more than 25 foreign delegations from the major Western powers and many of today’s “unfriendly countries” from Estonia and Latvia to Poland and the Czech Republic- should Putin wish to draft a list of “friendly countries”, he would find just one position reserved for Tajikistan. He teaches courses on “Globalization“, “Political Systems in post-Soviet Eurasia“, “EU-Russia Relations“, “Regionalism and Integration in the post-Soviet Area“, “Visual Politics“. Russia could therefore portray Estonia’s openness to engage in a number of bilateral issues as a good diplomatic practice that conveniently contrasts with the more intransigent and uncompromised approach of other Baltic and Central and Eastern European governments. Overall the message is clear: according to Moscow’s imperial perspective, no pragmatic middle ground is allowed between all-accepting vassals and unrepented foes. While only twelve (out of twenty-seven) EU member states took similar actions, Estonia’s response was relatively mild – in comparison to others – and specifically, in language and diplomatic framing, limited to the context of Russia’s interference in Czech affairs. By Andrey Makarychev
Professor of Regional Political Studies at Johan Skytte Institute of Political Science, University of Tartu. Yet all this is likely to tell more about Russia than about Estonia. Aeroflot cancelled flights from Moscow to Tallinn. Indicatively, Putin’s list refers to “countries”, not “states” or “governments”, which implies that the Kremlin refuses to see any differences between the officialdom and society, as well as between “high politics” and “low politics”. And they are detrimental to the Russophone diaspora in Estonia (as well as Latvia) that otherwise is an object of Moscow’s care and protection. FLICKR
The latter category is an object of psychological pressure: as Russian political analyst Sergey Medvedev put it, “the production and exportation of fear” became a key element of Russian foreign policy. It is absolutely clear that, as of now, Moscow prefers to ignore all the positive developments in both domestic and foreign policies of Estonia, and harshly reacts to a manifestation of normative solidarity between EU members. Instead, Russia has consciously chosen to disregard this and to reproduce its traditional neo-colonial tones towards Estonia and its foreign policy without attaching any value to Tallinn’s symbolic and substantial steps. In April 2019, President Kersti Kaljulaid visited Moscow, met with Putin, and invited him to the World Finno-Ugrian Congress to be held in Tartu. At the same time, the Russian MFA clarified that it is “fundamentally important that in the process Estonia does not advance any […] political conditions”. In this context, Estonia has joined a group of European countries that expelled Russian diplomats as a sign of solidarity with the Czech Republic. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>It’s hard to make friends but easy to lose them: A tale of Russia’s self-inflicted isolation

By Stefano Braghiroli
Associate Professor of European studies and master's programme director at the Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies at the University of Tartu. Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters in Moscow. EPA-EFE/MAXIM SHIPENKOV / POOL

Russian women soldiers march during the Victory Day military parade in the Red Square in Moscow

EPA-EFE//MAXIM SHIPENKOV

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In recent years Estonia did its best to develop an engaging and pragmatic approach towards Russia. Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid. Reaction from Moscow was quite lucid and all but mild – despite years of Tallinn’s commitment to develop a relationship on pragmatic grounds. Lavrov’s declared readiness to discontinue relations with the EU is accompanied by the old policy of dividing “good Europeans” (pragmatic and unpolitical) from “bad Europeans” (normative and politicizing). Russia marked the 73rd anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. The current Estonian foreign minister, Eva Maria Liimets, in direct communication with her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, expressed a clear interest to come back to the long-awaited ratification of the border treaty between the two countries. Henceforth all appeals to enhance Estonia’s efforts to improve its relations with Russia, including those coming from Russophone and Russia-loyal politicians, will lose much of their validity, since they would anyway be considered as coming from an “unfriendly country”. Estonia’s constructive approach, implying the de-ideologization of non-geopolitical issues and the wide use of people-to-people contacts, clearly contrasts with the Kremlin’s traditional narrative that depicts Tallinn’s foreign policy as ‘immature’ and ‘Russophobic’, unable to undertake pragmatic steps to reduce deeply rooted tensions and historical path dependency. In a way, Moscow is increasingly a victim of its own fears and geopolitical obsessions. In the meantime more than once in May Russian jets violated Estonian airspace, to which the Estonian Foreign Ministry reacted by summoning the Russian ambassador in Tallinn. Russia has disengaged from the Finno-Ugric institutions – just one day after the expulsion – and continued to develop its own Finno-Ugric events. Pro-Kremlin commentators (for example, Timofei Bordachev) don’t hide their message: small countries should care a lot about their inclusion into the “unfriendly list”, since Moscow might always contrive new measures against them. And Lavrov has unequivocally linked the prospects of the border treaty with political conditions, namely “solving the issues related to discrimination of Russian-speaking population, marginalization of Russian language in Estonian education, politically motivated persecution of Russophone media and public activists, as well as unacceptable attempts to falsify history”. The events that triggered Russia’s reaction and, ultimately, revealed its inability and/or unwillingness to temper, reduce, or abandon its negative attitude towards Tallinn, are connected to the recent tensions between Prague and Moscow regarding Russian diplomats and intelligence operatives involved in an explosion at a Czech arms depot in 2014 which killed two people. These measures leave no space even for cultural diplomacy, a sphere that was considered relatively autonomous of geopolitical divisions. This convergence of misperceptions has often undermined Tallinn’s capacity to successfully affect Brussels’ Russia policy and contributed to widening the gap between ‘old’ and ‘new Europe’. As seen from Moscow’s perspective, the expulsion of a diplomat overweights the importance of many other diplomatic and cultural tracks that were tried by the Estonian government. Against this background framed in terms of post-colonial subalternity, it is not surprising that Estonia, along with other Baltic states, was an object of a new type of “deep fake incursion” that imitated Leonid Volkov, the head of Alexei Navalny’s headquarter, who was supposed to speak with a group of Estonian MPs. A number of (especially) Western European member states have not been completely immune to this narrative, sometimes portraying the Baltics as obsessed about Russia and hawkish in relations with Moscow. While the Kremlin seem to be wishing, more in words than through facts, for a more constructive and pragmatic future when referring to the alleged immaturity of the Baltic states’ foreign policy, it is exactly Moscow’s paternalistic approach, stubborn and zero-sum-game-based, that prevents a change in these dynamics. EPA-EFE//VALDA KALNINA
This approach would be especially significant from Moscow’s perspective since Estonia is currently a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Moscow’s narrative was traditionally grounded in the “divide-and-rule” approach towards the EU and NATO. Ultimately, Russia included Estonia in a list of “unfriendly countries” – a new concept in the Russian foreign policy lexicon – along with Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and some other non-EU countries. The head of the Estonian Language Department was declared persona non grata in Russia, along with the President of the European Parliament David Sassoli and the EU Commissioner Vera Jourova. By making good use – at an international stage – of Tallinn’s goodwill to engage, Moscow could hope to crack the traditional wall of diffidence and mistrust with its Western neighbors and rebuild its international reputation in the West. Evidently, the inclusion of Estonia into the list of “unfriendly countries” does not make Estonia safer. epaselect epa06722017 Russian female soldiers (back) march during the Victory Day military parade in the Red Square in Moscow, Russia, 09 May 2018. Estonia has also been active in terms of cultural diplomacy and more inclusive policies towards its own Russian-speaking minority: on April 30 the Estonian Embassy in Moscow sponsored an unusual concert of two musicians performed from castles on the opposing banks of the river that separates the two countries – a cultural gesture with a strong political message. Meanwhile, the Estonian Premier Kaja Kallas – unlike more sceptical Baltic governments – has not ruled out the future use of the Russia-made Sputnik-V vaccine, simply conditioning it to the approval by the European Medicine Agency. However, even before the Russian diplomat was expelled, Russia didn’t show a positive reaction to signals coming from Tallinn. Confronted with Estonia’s pragmatic diplomacy, Moscow could have hypothetically profited from it, especially given its growing international isolation. Russia’s attitude and diplomatic contempt towards Tallinn (and many of the capitals of its former empire) is aimed at widening and deepening the geopolitical gaps between the ‘good’ ‘bad’ Europes. At the time, Kaljulaid’s working trip produced some criticism among her Baltic counterparts for its alleged appeasing nature, given the international tensions provoked by Russia’s foreign policy conduct. This seems to be quite consequential for the much-propagated concept of “the Russian World”, both culturally and politically, as well as both within and outside Estonia. Russian Foreign Minister  Sergei Lavrov has specifically mentioned the Baltic states’ allegedly anti-Russian policies in his first interview after Josep Borrell’s visit to Moscow.

“Following this restart, it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal,” the Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline Co said in a statement. They must invest in the state-of-the art security programs, which must be constantly updated,” he said, arguing that the blockchain technology provides best protection against unwanted interference of third parties. “Naturally, infrastructures in Europe and in fact anywhere else in the world can became a potential target of the Darkside,” he added. The BKA presented the federal picture of the Cybercrime 2018 in Germany. It was later reported that Colonial Pipeline paid nearly $5 million as a ransom to hackers after the company fell victim to the cyberattack. Zaborowski explained that the Darkside operates like a business, which can be contracted to perform an attack on a selected services and demand ransom in exchange for decryption tools. The cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline, which is an important source of refined oil products in the US, is 5,500 miles long and can carry 3 million barrels of fuel per day between Texas and New York, caused gas price hikes as motorists feared fuel shortages. As Colonial Pipeline tried to restore most of its operations, lines of panic buyers formed at gas stations across the Southeastern United States. “Encryption mechanisms rarely give a chance of successful decryption, this is the case when it is much easier and cheaper to prevent infection than to correct the consequences of an attack that has already occurred,” Yarnikh said. Colonial will move as much gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel as is safely possible and will continue to do so until markets return to normal,” the company added. “As a company, we participate and promote the non-profit initiative in every possible way https://www.nomoreransom.org/. “Of course, paying a ransom is sending a signal of encouragement to cyber criminals. Zaborowski told New Europe the Darkside group emerged first at the Russian language forums and the Colonial Pipeline attack is believed to have originated from the Russian territory. “In my opinion, we need an international format for investigating such incidents. Yarnikh called for an international format for investigating ransomware cyberattacks. “It’s highly effective and commercially minded,” he said. EPA-EFE/RONALD WITTEK

A digital screen displays a live cyber hack attack during a press conference at the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) in Wiesbaden, Germany, 11 November 2019. So that the affected companies do not pay a ransom and have the opportunity to save their data for free. “We continue to work with the company and our government partners on the investigation,” the FBI said in a statement. Andrey Yarnikh, head of strategic projects at Russia’s Kaspersky lab, told New Europe on May 14 currently, encryption ransomware programs are one of the most dangerous trends for the Internet. “However, the involvement of the Russian government seems unlikely at the point in time,” the GLOBSEC expert said. He noted that efforts were underway with the FBI and DOJ – Department of Justice – to disrupt and prosecute ransomware criminals. Unfortunately, this is not always possible… according to the attribution of cyberattacks, it is also impossible to draw unambiguous conclusions, criminals sell each other attack tools, use false traces and specifically leave false flags in order to direct researchers on a false trail,” Yarnikh said. The GLOBSEC expert said the payment risks encouraging other criminal groups to take US companies hostage by seizing control of their computers. EPA-EFE/RONALD WITTE

Batten down the encryption hatches

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The largest pipeline system for refined oil products in the US, the Colonial Pipeline, was shut down last week after a ransomware cyberattack. Earlier, Deputy National Security Adviser for Cyber and Emerging Technologies Anne Neuberger said transnational criminals are most often the perpetrators of these crimes, and they often leverage global infrastructure and global money laundering networks. Atlantic Council expert Cynthia Quarterman, which is a distinguished fellow at the Global Energy Center and former administrator of the US Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, said any increase in gas prices “is likely to be mildly escalatory and short-lived.” But she added that the hack “exposes the soft underbelly of the nation’s critical energy infrastructure”. “They have some responsibility to deal with this,” Bloomberg quoted Biden as telling reporters at the White House on May 10, after announcing that “my administration will be pursuing a global effort of ransomware attacks”. The BKA presented the federal picture of the Cybercrime 2018 in Germany. The Colonial Pipeline said on May 12 it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal and pledged to move as much gasoline, diesel and jet fuel as is safely possible. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Colonial Pipeline Darkside ransom hack shows nobody safe

By Kostis Geropoulos
Energy & Russian Affairs Editor, New Europe

epa07988392 A digital screen displays a live cyber hack attack during a press conference at the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) in Wiesbaden, Germany, 11 November 2019. US President Joe Biden has said that Russia bears some responsibility for the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack, but stopped short of blaming the Kremlin. “In that circumstance, an environmental, explosive, or economic catastrophe might not be averted.”
follow on twitter @energyinsider Colonial Pipeline had to shut it down on May 8 following a cyberattack which later the FBI confirmed that the Darkside ransomware was responsible for the compromise of the pipeline networks. If a company like Colonial, which should have the resources for robust cyber defenses, could be “paralyzed,” Quarterman added, that means smaller companies are even more vulnerable to attack. We can expect more cyberattacks now,” Zaborowski said. Marcin Zaborowski, policy director of the GLOBSEC Future of Security Program, told New Europe on May 13 that companies must assume that sooner or later they will become cyber-security targets. “Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions during the start-up period. On May 12, the pipeline initiated the restart of operations but the attack highlights the risk of cyber-security threats against important energy infrastructures. not the accusatory bias of ‘probably and possibly’ but joint work – possibly at the UN level – to counter cross-border criminals,” he told New Europe.

It’s time to legalize our relationship status.”
Zelensky’s request was rather cunning and timely in that Zelensky must have assumed that the new administration in the White House will want to mark a clear break from the Trump era when the US’ chief executive inexplicably refused to take a hard line on Russia, or to criticize Vladimir Putin for his actions. In retrospect, this is perhaps the reason why Kiev felt it had to control “the Little Green Men” on the ground after the EuroMaidan Revolution started. Hungary regularly finds itself at odds with the Ukrainian government over the treatment of the ethnic Hungarian population in western Ukraine and is also the beneficiary of having very good relations with Moscow. Ukraine is far off from actually being able to enter NATO, since such an action is not only tributary to the excellence plans of Washington and Paris. In what he called Geostrategic Players and Geopolitical Pivots, Ukraine was for Brzezinski, a Geopolitical Pivot. In a nutshell, Russian energy policy movements prohibit many NATO members from agreeing with the enlargement of NATO fruther towards the east. World leaders from about 60 countries are coming together for a two-day NATO summit taking place from 04-05 September 2014. Germany and France opposed the request, and a couple of months later, Russia invaded and defeated Georgia in a short five-day war that ultimately resulted in the long-term effect of blocking Georgia’s accession to NATO and sending a clear message to Kiev to not even dare try. Two decades ago, the Kremlin had not fully recovered from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The former told French daily Le Figaro:  saying:” We cannot wait forever in the antechamber. EPA-EFE//VADIM KOT
Brzezinski wrote that “Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia.  
Historical premises of NATO moving Eastward
NATO’s two major expansions in 1999 and 2004 incorporated a large swath of Eastern Europe, which Moscow took as an act of aggression. Zelensky was also correct in identifying the fact that Macron will want to assert himself as the informal leader of Europe before Angela Merkel leaves office in September. EPA/MAURIZIO GAMBARINI

EPA-EFE//MAURIZIO GAMBARINI

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The Russian-Ukrainian conflict hit yet another high note in April when people across the world followed massive troop build-ups in and around war-torn eastern Ukraine. The instrument of bilateral ties could be exploited, and economic sanctions are definitely still on the table. This meant that its importance for international relations is not derived from its sheer power status, but from its geographic positioning. epa04384140 Participants sit in front of the Nato logo during the NATO summit in Newport, South Wales, 04 September 2014. The Treaty
At this time, Ukraine is, so to speak, at war. Any approval for NATO membership would mean that the alliance would commit to getting involved in the separatist civil war in eastern Ukraine. The Geopolitics
The late Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s Polish-born National Security Adviser and a renowned foreign policy expert, wrote a well-known geopolitical observation about Ukraine in his 1991 book, The Grand Chessboard, where defines the reasons for which Russia cannot give away Ukraine. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire. The further expansion of NATO to Croatia and Albania in 2009; Montenegro in 2017 and North Macedonia in 2020 did not really represent a problem for Russia, since the Kremlin had few assets in any of those countries. NATO is, in the long run, meant to provide security through military means, not war. Secondly, in order to see Ukraine join NATO, Article 10 of the NATO Treaty should be respected, meaning that ”the Parties may, by unanimous agreement, invite any other European State in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area to accede to this Treaty.” This means that all parties should be comfortable with Ukraine entering the EU. However, Zelensky’s calculus has a lot of shortcomings.  
The big dodge
There are other elements that tend to show that NATO is not fully ready to accept Ukraine. Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) observers watch the disengagement of the forces near the Bohdanivka, Ukraine. Decisions must be taken at once. Ever since 2008, The Romanian Ministry of Defense and its Ukrainian counterpart. In the realism-driven world of international relations, the countries of Europe have become confident in the fact that the outside borders of the EU greatly benefit from buffer zones in the face of ongoing Russian revanchism. This is hard to imagine when Germany has privileged economic ties with Russia and would not jeopardize the highly lucrative Nord Stream 2 for the sake of Kiev’s NATO and EU membership. We cannot be seen as only being forever engaged. The NATO Bucharest Summit in 2008 is considered an iconic landmark event in this regard. If we are all members of the same family, we must live together. Officials failed to provide an explanation for the accord, but we might interpret that this bilateral move is aimed at supporting Ukraine through Romania, in the face of adversity, without the implication of NATO membership. Moscow most likely did not view these expansions in a positive light simply because they represented a further strengthening of NATO and a confirmation that the alliance remains a viable and potent security option, three decades after the end of the Cold War. Of course, representatives of the transatlantic alliance and Russia did meet periodically at the NATO-Russia Council, but the structure itself was seen as a half-functional consolation prize that did not really serve Russia’s strategic views and interests. Ukraine’s enormous geographic size plays the role of a convincing buffer state in the face of an improbable, but theoretically possible, Russian military advance against the West. This renewed interest in the seven-year-old was by the international community was explainable due to the fact that, in some way, most of the major global players have been caught up in the powerplay that is going on in the areas that have suffered from outbreaks of fighting since April 2014. prepared a bilateral agreement aimed at selling military licenses for armament production and military technology. Unfortunately for Zelensky, it is clear that the prospects of Ukraine entering NATO any time soon are slim to none. The alliance’s massive budget, armaments, meetings, soldiers and logistics all are means of preserving peace through the exhibition of force. According to online sources, the agreement also calls for technical support from Romania to Ukraine in implementing military hardware and production. For now, these are the only instruments that Ukraine can hope for when it comes to getting outside support against any further Russian aggression. While directly addressing the French president, Zelensky added that ”It’s time to stop talking. This hasn’t just translated into Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ability to play a masterful political blackmail game with the EU, but has also materialized in a $10-billion-dollar from Moscow to Budapest for the building of a nuclear power plant in Paks. It’s time to shift gears and be invited to become members of NATO and the EU”. This would avoid NATO going to war since the agreement would only be biding for the two parties involved. China now has its own interests in the area, particularly since it acquired roughly 9% of Ukraine’s arable surface (5% of Ukrainian territory) and the European Union – specifically France and Germany – has its own game of criticism against Russia. Taking part in that sort of mission would go against the basic reasons why countries adhere to the NATO charter in the first place. Key reasons why Ukraine cannot join NATO
Regardless of Zelensky’s rather dull diplomatic game, there are several reasons why Ukraine cannot be a part of NATO in the foreseeable future. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Ukraine’s chances to join NATO are slim to none, despite Zelensky’s claims

By Cristian Rosu
A communications consultant and political analyst who has collaborated with several publications in Romania and abroad on issues in the fields on politics and international relations. During the last crisis on the Ukrainian border, the Romanian government sent the accord for ratification in the national parliament.  
It’s all about peace
In retrospect, NATO is all about avoiding the next big war. However, the Russia of those days was radically different from the Russia of today. Russia without Ukraine can still strive for imperial status, but it would then become a predominantly Asian imperial state.”
This is to say that Russia cannot, at any, cease having control over Ukraine. All NATO members would wan to avoid being forced into this type of scenario because it would be a regression of peace standards to pre-Cold-War era International Relations. And especially, it cannot be allowed to be handed to NATO. Bush requested that Ukraine and Georgia be invited to NATO. None of NATO’s 30 current members wants to generate or to be causally linked to a hot conflict. After the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Baltics were brought into the NATO alliance, Russia wasn’t left with many options. And while this has proven to be a functional mechanism of avoiding conflict within “the Old Continent, it’s not a good platform to build upon when the accession of a state that is at war comes into discussion. Most of these reasons cover a wide-enough spectrum that leads one to assume that they cannot be resolved in a reasonable amount of time, regardless of troop presence or imminent war. The Biden administration needs to show that it has firm control of its external policies and not back down in the face of threats from the Kremlin. After the failed Bucharest Summit, the agreement draft fell into a dormant state, only to be revived, at the persistence of the Ukrainian side, in 2017 and talks resumed. For Macron, being able to assert his power over a policy topic as important as the enlargement of NATO, and into a former core Soviet republic no less, would be a great example of his leadership, especially now when France is the only EU country with a nuclear arsenal. Russia did, however, know when and how to put its foot down in areas that are of real strategic interest for Moscow. The Strategy
There is also a matter of military strategy to consider. It’s about building a response so discouraging that Russia would think twice before meddling with any of its members. The country is not in control of vast areas within its own borders, which is a violation of NATO’s own criteria for joining the alliance. Romania, Poland and the Baltics have a manifest natural interest when it comes to the violation of borders, which stems from their historic troubled relations with Moscow, as well as the fact that they are becoming increasingly concerned about the prospect of being a neighbor to an endless hot or frozen conflict. Despite the ”Little Green Men” invasion in 2014, talks did not move forward until 2020, when the Romanian Supreme Council of Defense, which includes the who’s who of Romanian decision making, including the president and all the strength institutions of the state, signed off on the deal. During the summit, then-President George W. If this is true, it would be a further sign that NATO is not ready to invite Ukraine to accession talks, but is not keen on leaving it to Russia’s mercy either. For the former Eastern Bloc countries of the EU, they continue to wait for measurable actions to be taken with regards to Russia. Zelensky reportedly asked French President Emmanuel Macron back Ukraine’s NATO bid. The bid
Naturally, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tried to manipulate this complicated agenda of overlapping interests and concerns by pressuring the two main European powers into granting Kiev an enhanced relationship with NATO.

The pattern is clear. These are the type of voters who significantly contributed to the Brexit result a few years back. EPA//FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA

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As expected, Labour performed horribly in the recent Hartlepool by-election. The party is struggling between courting the next generation of more educated and more socially-progressive voters on the left and remaining true to the working class left who have lower levels of education attainment and are less concerned, if not put off, by the same identity-based concerns of the new progressive left. The outcome is also emblematic of a recent shift among voters in the UK. He was expected to be a smart politician who ticked progressive boxes, but didn’t come across as too radical. Starmer has all the characteristics of a good party leader, but for Labour to be successful, tough choices and bold action must happen, and they must happen soon. Yet, Labour also hasn’t made an all-out shift towards the new progressive left, more focused on appeals to concerns over social issues such as LGBT rights, structural racism, and gender-based inequality. EPA/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA

The leader of Britain's Labour party, Keir Starmer. Now is the time for him to take responsibility and make a decision on where the party is going, or Labour will be doomed to languish for years to come. Whether one supports Boris Johnson, or sees him as a crass, bumbling liar who could use a new barber, it seems to have become quite clear that he has found fans, and party success, in the same constituencies Labour used to view as safe seats. Labour is struggling to resonate with the working class they once championed, at least where white British populations are the highest and globalization has done little favors. This result is significant, as Hartlepool is considered to be part of the traditional Labour “Red Wall,” referring to the party’s colour and area of Northern England in which Labour has historically outperformed Conservatives for decades. Taking a position on which issues to focus on could possibly put off these new progressives on one side and the traditional working class on the other side. Starmer said that he would take responsibility for the results of the by-election in Hartlepool. Yet, in spite of this difficulty, Labour must decide where the party wants to go, and this decision has to be in the hands of Keir Starmer now if he wants to keep his place as the party leader. Charisma, level-headedness, and policy knowledge do not equal clear messaging and action. Yet, this silver lining does nothing to address the underlying problem Labour has under Keir Starmer currently. Deciding the next step on where to move is a difficult decision. His work has also appeared in the Political Studies Review and Local Government Studies, with work forthcoming in British Politics as well, and have published opinion pieces on political affairs in the EU Observer, Political Quarterly Blog, and The Globe Post. The British Supreme Court is currently considering whether the government has the right to trigger article 50 without a parliamentary vote. Luckily for Labour, the recent Tory “sleaze” scandal may be putting a dent into nationwide support for the Conservatives. The government maintains that its executive powers, inherited through what was the royal prerogative entitles it to invoke article 50 without putting it to parliament. The same voters who have given Tories a clear victory over Labour in Hartlepool. Will Labour become the party championing progressive social issues alongside traditional interventionist economic policies? Specifically, Labour is losing its hold on constituencies across Northern England and the Midlands in areas where the populace is less diverse and more working class. These descriptions actually all appear to be true thus far. The problem? While it has been argued that being boring might be an asset for Starmer, this clearly hasn’t been the case. Carey Institute, based at Wagner College in New York City, and a regular contributor for The Brussels Times. This has not been done yet, and Labour has been poorer for it. Will Labour seek to “return to their roots,” focusing less on issues of so-called identity politics, instead courting working class voters by showing how public services and economic redistribution can invigorate the middle class? style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Labour’s Starmer hasn’t done anything wrong, but it’s unclear whether he’s done anything right either

By Dan Ziebarth
Research Fellow at the Hugh L. epa05673996 Sir Keir Starmer, Labour shadow secretary for Exiting the European Union delivers a keynote speech to Labour members in Bloomberg in London, Britain, 13 December 2016. Whether one supported the Brexit movement or not, the pro-leave side had a clear message and worked hard to drive it home. While the decision may not have to be this stark in terms of either or, it will likely have to choose which side to lean towards in terms of not only future policy, but campaign messaging. After Corbyn was ousted from his seat at the head of the party, Keir Starmer was viewed as a charismatic and level-headed choice as successor.

Varhelyi noted that some EU member states are against decoupling the accession negotiations for Albania and North Macedonia but did not reject the idea completely if the dispute between Bulgaria and North Macedonia remains unresolved after new elections in Bulgaria. Subjects discussed included management of the Covid-19 crisis and the so-called “green vaccination passport” as well as common NATO and EU enlargement concerns impacting the Western Balkans, which will form the top of the agenda under Slovenia’s future EU presidency. Hoping to avoid the political minefield, he cautiously explained that “for the time being” both countries will move forward together but made no projections for when the intergovernmental conferences required to formally launch the accession process would be scheduled. Zaev blamed the Bulgarian side but, ever the optimist, expressed hope for a speedy resolution of the dispute after bilateral consultations once a new Bulgarian government emerged after upcoming elections. North Macedonia plans to purchase important minority stakes in the regional energy complex taking shape in Alexandropoulis, primarily investing in the shipping terminal and gas production units which when complete will account for one-quarter of North Macedonia’s energy needs. Serbia
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic on May 13.  
Zaev noted that once an agreement on post-Covid reopening borders was reached, the citizens of his country were looking forward to “crossing the borders and coming to Thessaloniki for coffee and food.”   Zaev also met with former PM Alexis Tsipras May 14 before returning to Skopje. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET

The European Commissioner in Charge of Neighborhood and Enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi, gives a press conference in Brussels, February 5, 2020

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Another Mid-East conflagration deflects Greek energy from Southeastern Europe

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Greek officials found time to engage in several rounds of Balkan diplomacy this week, once again taking advantage of the presence in Greece of several Balkan leaders briefly present at a major conference in Athens. Zaev raised a number of key investments which will vastly increase the two countries’ economic interdependence. Further, since Greece is not a key decision maker on this issue, the always-supportive comments by Greek officials come across as simple cheerleading by a minor player. North Macedonia
In their May 13 meeting, Mitsotakis and his North Macedonian counterpart, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, reviewed bilateral relations and examined the opportunities for collaboration in the sectors of economy and energy. Besides the obligatory photo op, discussions focused on the COVID-19 crisis and EU enlargement. As a matter of course, Greece reiterated its support for North Macedonia’s long-delayed EU accession, contingent on established rules, respect of “good neighborly relations,” and Skopje’s faithful adherence to the specific obligations set out at the Prespes Agreement signed in 2018 which span a full five years. The key issue in this meeting was the willingness of Greece to admit vaccinated Serbian tourists this summer regardless of the type of vaccine administered by Serbian authorities, which encompasses the full range of available vaccines, including some not previously approved by the EU. In another DEF discussion on the EU enlargement issue, including Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi and North Macedonia’s Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Nikola Dimitrov, the sensitive issue of “decoupling” Albanian accession negotiations from North Macedonia’s path forward took center stage. At the DEF, Zaev was asked how he would address Bulgaria’s continuing objections to his country’s EU accession. Is EU Enlargement on the back burner again? Both agreed that there is a need to restore momentum on enlargement after years of delayed progress and Varhelyi said critical decisions need to be taken by June if at all possible. But almost all panels and discussions arranged as part of that conference were eclipsed by the Israeli-Palestinian conflagration unfolding over the week. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Mid-East turmoil eclipses Greece’s latest Balkan initiatives

By Alec Mally
Director for Global Economic Affairs at IPEDIS

epa08194468 European Commissioner in Charge of Neighborhood and Enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi gives a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, 05 February 2020. Mitsotakis reaffirmed Greece’s support for Serbia’s continuing efforts to join the European Union, which have unfortunately had no visible impact up to the present. Montenegro
President Sakellaropoulou, in another May 13 meeting, assured Montenegro’s Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic of Greek support for Montenegro’s eventual EU accession even under the new, stricter EU accession procedures. This year’s Delphi Economic Forum (DEF) brought a significant number of speakers into Greece for an impressive week full of discussions and panels that covered a wide range of global issues and Greek history, but without the full gamut of live encounters and side meetings the DEF generated in its pre-COVID years, the ultimate impact of this year’s mostly virtual event will be substantially less than in the so-called “normal” years. Our round-up follows: 
Slovenia
Starting the cycle of Balkan meetings, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa met May 10.   Conferences in Greece provide a back door for entry
As seen last September with a conference organized by The Economist, such brief Athens visits by important Balkan leaders provide useful but short opportunities for bilateral meetings without the pomp and circumstance required for official bilateral meetings at senior levels.   
Since the end of the Second World War, foreign visitors’ conference appearances in Greece have invariably included side meetings with Greek political leaders, and the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs made sure that all notable foreign leaders got meetings and photo-ops with top Greek officials. Dodik later met with Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and Greece’s President, Katerina Sakellaropoulou. With the Mid-East on fire, discussions at DEF on the issue of enlargement in the Western Balkans seemed particularly out of place. Bosnia and Herzegovina
Mitsotakis met on May 13 with Milorad Dodik, Chairman of the Presidential Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Hellenic Petroleum oil pipeline to Skopje was discussed, as was a potential contract to a major Greek firm for the construction of a new gas-fired power plant. Expanded military cooperation between both countries as NATO allies was also discussed. Commissioner Varhelyi laid out the Commission’s plans for an enhanced accession process for the Western Balkans.

The task of conveying military equipment, in the event of an attack, has been part of NATO´s calculus for decades. With the recent European Council’s decision, the EU is well-positioned to make use of the €1.7 billion the bloc set aside in the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) to support the desired mobility. The US equipment will be transported to Poland on some 900 railway waggons for the military excercise ‘Atlantic Resolve’. Nonetheless, the EU needs to ensure that the initiative will not be quelled by insufficient funds or immense bureaucratic processes. But after the bumpy road in the US-EU defense cooperation, the EU decision to allow third countries to participate in the project at the end of 2020, has put some strategic allies such as the US, Canada or Norway at ease. Although the swift movement of personnel and equipment – and the military mobility in itself – is the primary objective of the project, this may live up to the expectations only if the efforts match the advancement of the ill-adapted critical infrastructure. On the eve of embarking on the Military Mobility project, the US repeated its concern over duplication of NATO’s efforts as well as increasing fear that it would cut off US military manufacturers. These will allow for a further discussion on how to reinforce the transatlantic cooperation within NATO as well as in EU led projects. Here, the cooperation within PESCO project will be key in streamlining the red tape, customs procedures as well as cross-border clearances. Canada is already participating in NATO battlegroup near Russia’s borders, in which Norway takes part as well. When it comes to physical critical infrastructure, NATO does not have the capacity to build bridges, roads, rail connections, adequately long airstrips or to work on the mechanisms to bridge the bureaucratic and administrative procedures for transporting military equipment across Europe. After several years as part of a backdrop for successive American administrations to participate in EU-led projects, accepting the US into PESCO marks a salient step for the future of EU-US cooperation in projects under EU rules. The ability to construct wider partnerships provides the 25 participating states (Denmark and Malta are not participating) with a unique window of opportunity to address their own economic, military, and industrial blind spots in the defense sector. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Old allies, new ways: Reappraising European defense

By Lucia Rybnikarova
Project Coordinator at GLOBSEC. While the funding dedicated to European defence has been reduced in the MFF compared to the original proposal, the recently approved €7.9 billion package for the European Defence Fund (EDF), pledging more money than what the EDF was supposed to receive after the bitter budget negotiations, implies that the EU is moving in the right direction. More than 2,500 tanks, trucks and other vehicles of the US Army will be handled in Bremerhaven during what is the biggest troop transfer from the US to Europe since the end of the Soviet Union. There is no doubt that this is an important step for future transatlantic cooperation and a definite beginning of the EU-US defense agenda, which does not replace but rather enrich cooperation within NATO framework. The Americans’ skepticism in 2018 escalated with an apprehension of PESCO becoming a protectionist vehicle for the EU. EPA-EFE/CARSTEN KOALL

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On May 6, the Council approved the participation of the United States, Canada and Norway in the Permanent Structured Cooperation’s (PESCO) Military Mobility project. The decision to revive the EU-US defense cooperation agenda comes only a month before the upcoming NATO summit and the EU-US summit, both to be held in June. This is where PESCO has a chance to bring about considerable improvements in critical infrastructure such as technology, data connectivity, cyber defence, and to safeguard and maintain the transportation infrastructure – to magnify NATO’s existing mechanisms within EU-led projects and initiatives. The project was launched in 2018 and commits the participating states to synchronize their national activities to be able to face the emerging “ring of fire” in the European neighbourhood with a “seamless movement of troops.”
Naturally, PESCO’s projects stem from the members of the European Union converging on certain issues. The European Union’s 27 members need to be on board with facilitating this type of military mobility while still having until 2024 to “simplify and standardise” relevant practices linked to this framework. German Defense Minister, Annegret Kramp Karrenbauer, said that the bloc sees itself “as the logistical hub in Europe.” This EU “hub” is to commence the flagship initiative for EU-NATO cooperation while broadening the spectrum of the bloc’s defense capabilities. Therefore, the question of military mobility far exceeds the scope of PESCO. Fixing this issue is important for the technological advancement of European forces as well as NATO’s mobilization of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, if necessary. Additionally, swifter deployments of troops require a level of standardization of states’ customs rules which are incompatible with the Customs Code’s not covering military equipment. Not to forget, admitting non-EU countries to PESCO project is also a success story for EU-Norway defense cooperation. Not only does the United States currently have around 70,000 troops stationed in Europe, but also 30,000 are involved in the Defender Europe 2021 exercise. Unity, transparency, and coherence will remain crucial. Norway, being the most integrated non-EU country, maintains a fervent interest in continued involvement in EU led defense projects and in civilian and military missions. By Linda Tothova
Project Coordinator, GLOBSEC Brussels Office

epa05705372 A US Army soldier watches military vehicles being unloaded at the habour in Bremerhaven, northern Germany, 08 January 2017. EPA/CARSTEN KOALL

A US Army soldier watches military vehicles being unloaded at the habor in Bremerhaven, Germany. In short, the recent deal might likewise serve as evidence that the new US administration supports the materialization of EU’s defense ambitions. The US, Canada and Norway’s invitation to participate in the Military Mobility project comes at a time when Central and Eastern European countries strive for more funds directed towards enabling the interoperability of military personnel through NATO’s eastern flank in case an intensified confrontation in the east was to occur. Norwegian participation in the Military Mobility project will improve the ability to deploy forces from Northern Europe and will contribute to the overall security of the region.

Not everything will be solved in these couple of weeks. Let’s go step by step. What is going on in Vienna is an effort to have the US go back to the agreement in order to have full compliance from Iran. As you know, at these kinds of conversations, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” he said. “I dare to say that I am optimistic, but not about the whole universe. Borrell reminded that the purpose of these negotiations is to go back on track and have Iran and the US return to full implementation. “But do not ask me for the following steps, what is going on after. “The efforts of my team, the European Union Team is working very hard and they are in Vienna and they will continue being there,” he added. I am optimistic about what is going on in Vienna. I dare to say that I am optimistic, there is a window of opportunity that will stay open for a couple of weeks until the end of the month but a lot of work is needed, time is limited and I hope that the negotiations will enter in a phase of non-stop negotiation in Vienna,” Borrell said. Which is the best way to ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iran Nuclear Programme,” he said. “I have been briefing my colleagues about the (ongoing) negotiations – you know that the High Representative is also the Coordinator of the JCPOA – this remains an extremely delicate and intense diplomatic process. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>US wants Iran nuke deal reinstated, but tied to safeguards

By Kostis Geropoulos
Energy & Russian Affairs Editor, New Europe

A handout photo made available by the Iran Atomic Energy Organization reportedly shows the inside of the Iran's Fordow nuclear facility, in Fordow, Qom province, November 6, 2019 (reissued January 5, 2020). Borrell said he was optimistic about the ongoing Iran nuclear talks in Vienna but warned that there remained a lot still to do within a short time frame if efforts to revive the 2015 accord were to succeed. While Borrell appeared to be upbeat about the talks, the likelihood that the Iranian government and the country’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps would agree to cut ties with their terrorist proxies across the Middle East – including Lebanon’s Hezbollah; the Gaza Strip’s Hamas, which is currently engaged in an escalated conflict with Israel; Iraq’s Kata’ib Hezbollah; the Houthis in Yemen – is unlikely. Talks resumed in Vienna on May 7 with the remaining parties to the deal – Iran, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany. EPA-EFE/ATOMIC ENERGY ORGANIZATION

Tehran’s stand: Lift sanctions or we’ll build nuke bomb

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US President Joe Biden says that restoring the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as ‘the Iran nuclear deal’, must be followed immediately by an agreement on limiting Iran’s missile program and backing of terrorist groups. We have to work quickly, we only have a couple of weeks. There will be a lot of other different issues that will be put on the table later on,” Borrell said, adding, “But by the time being, let’s try to go back on track of the previous agreement”. This is a very sensitive process. Meanwhile, Tehran reportedly reiterated that a new deal to halt the Islamic Republic from having a nuclear bomb is dependent on the lifting of US sanctions placed on the country. The US was also present in Vienna, but Iran, which is scheduled to hold presidential elections on June 18, has refused to hold direct meetings with Washington about resuming Tehran’s compliance with the deal, which former President Donald Trump scrapped three years ago. “What can I say is that these talks have been constructive and there have been some moderate advances. At a press conference after the latest Foreign Affairs Council on May 10, EU High Representative and Vice-President of the Commission Josep Borrell said the EU and the Biden Administration have already made progress together on some important issues, such as reengaging the Americans in the Iran nuclear deal.

You don’t want to disappoint them. If you follow this decalogue religiously and hysterically with wall-to-wall coverage, people will eventually draw the intended conclusions about what is the true nature of both the Jewish state and the diaspora Jews supporting it. Always use intransitive verbs or the passive voice for Palestinians and the active voice for Israel. A special note to photo and TV journalists: Please forget all ethical standards normally guiding your war reporting. With that, the Islamist terrorists ruling Gaza have turned local street protests into another war against Israel. Avoid providing critical context that could help your audience better understand Israel’s actions. Claims about Palestinian casualties coming from the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry must be reported as indisputable facts as if provided by a reliable democratic government. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Gaza media rules

By Daniel Schwammenthal
Director, AJC Transatlantic Institute

epa04899768 A picture made available on 27 August 2015 shows Palestinian fighters of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian Hamas organization, taking part in a parade in Al Meena square in the west of Gaza City, Gaza Strip, 26 August 2015. EPA-EFE//MOHAMMED SABER

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No sooner had Palestinian “worshipers” on the Temple Mount chanted “Bomb, bomb Tel Aviv,” than Hamas gladly obliged and fired hundreds of rockets at Israeli civilians. To the applause of some of Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents, the Islamists’ first target was the very city they claimed to defend as their supposedly holy, future capital. So don’t mention that Israel completely withdrew from Gaza in 2005 (even removing its dead from cemeteries), that the UN’s Palmer Report found Israel’s blockade to be a legal act of self-defence, or that Israel provides Gazans with food, electricity and energy even during the conflict etc. Images showing devastation from, say, Syria are passed on as photos from Gaza? Whatever you do, never compare Israel’s actions to those of other Western armies engaged in urban warfare against a terrorist army. Otherwise, they may actually come to believe that war is always hell and not only when Israel is involved. No need to carefully check stories, sources or images as they may have taught you in journalism school. Instead, your role is more that of a bard recounting a well-known epic, a morality play really, whose basic theme is quite familiar to your audience as it has a 2,000 year-long oral and written tradition: “The Jew as a uniquely wicked being.” In the modern era’s updated version this means depicting Israel as a “colonialist, racist, Jewish ethnostate that apparently delights in killing Palestinian babies.” 
For this blood libel to properly stick, you must reverse chronology and causality. In order to build a more convincing case for alleged Israeli war crimes it is key to ignore or at least play down a) evidence of Hamas using its own civilians as human shields and b) unprecedented Israeli efforts to avoid civilian casualties–such as calling Palestinians on their cell phones to warn them of impending strikes. The militants paraded demanding Israel to implement the cease-fire after the Israeli-Hamas conflict in the summer of 2014. Treat this conflict like a football match: The side with the higher score (of casualties) wins, i.e. EPA/MOHAMMED SABER

Members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas. So when Palestinian terrorists try to infiltrate into Israel or fire missiles, please use such inconspicuous phrases as “Violence Broke out at the Gaza Border” respectively “Rockets Fired at Israel.” Once Israel is forced to respond, make sure everybody knows exactly who is doing the action and to whom. It’s pivotal that viewers can juxtapose the gory pictures you deliver from Gaza to the sanitized or completely missing images they know from all other conflicts. So write something like “Israel Bombs Gaza.” You don’t want to assign agency to Palestinians or accidentally remove it from the Jews. It’s never too early to start throwing around the word “disproportional” when it comes to Israeli military actions and to treat each Palestinian casualty as “evidence” of Israeli “war crimes.” Don’t feel restrained by irrelevant details, such as the fact that you are not an international lawyer and that the proportionality test is a very complex legal analysis that requires deep military knowledge and access to precise information on both sides of the conflict that you cannot possibly possess. Under no circumstances must the headline reflect the true course of events. It’s time, therefore, to dust off this 10-point reporter’s guide for how to correctly cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, useful both for rookies and old hacks who may need a refresher course:

The first order of business is for you to understand that your job isn’t to report the facts. If an Israeli driver is being pelted with stones, losing control of the car and almost lynched, it’s fine to jump to the (false) conclusion that he tried to run over Palestinians. is automatically deemed as morally superior and wronged. Just run with it. The innocent reader may otherwise conclude Israel is acting in self-defence. It doesn’t matter who started it, whether the casualty figures are inflated, or the dead are mostly terrorists, whether Hamas put Palestinian civilians purposefully in harms way or that the Israelis try their utmost to protect not only their own but also the Palestinian population. Any deviation from this time-honored script is just bound to get you into trouble with your editors. Otherwise, you risk exposing that Israeli efforts to protect the enemy’s civilian population tend to be equal or superior to even NATO standards. Your editors will expect a good number of crude close-ups of Palestinian casualties. It’s also imperative to ascribe all Palestinian casualties to Israeli fire and to ignore evidence that many were caused by Hamas rockets falling on Gaza. Remember, even utterly false stories ultimately tell the “meta-truth” (see point No.1). Reserve your skepticism for the Jewish State. It cannot be stressed enough how crucial it is to always lead with the Israeli response and bury somewhere deep in the text the barrage of Palestinian rockets that preceded.

style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Amazon wins EU court appeal in Luxembourg tax case

By Zoe Didili
Journalist, New Europe

epa06997680 A shopper holds a shopping receipt from the Amazon mobile app in Taipei, Taiwan, 05 September 2018. Amazon.com Inc. has become the second publicly traded US company to reach one trillion US dollars in market value. The decision by the General Court of the European Union marked another major blow the bloc’s competition chief, Margrethe Vestager, as in July it had ruled that the EU antitrust authority had failed to prove that the Irish government had given a tax advantage to Apple. TONGO

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An EU Court said on Wednesday that the Commission failed to prove that Amazon was granted an illegal tax advantage, annulling the EU Executive’s decision that accused Luxembourg of handing the US retail giant about €250 million in tax benefits that amounted to illegal state aid. Reacting to the EU court’s ruling, Vestager said in a Twitter post that “Ensuring all companies pay a fair share of tax is a marathon not a sprint,” adding that the EU Executive will analyse Wednesday’s judgements. EPA-EFE/RITCHIE B. Welcoming the ruling, Amazon said it is “pleased that the Court has made this clear,” and that it can “continue to focus on delivering for our customers across Europe.”
“We welcome the Court’s decision, which is in line with our long-standing position that we followed all applicable laws and that Amazon received no special treatment,” Amazon said in a statement, Reuters reported. TONGO

A shopper holds a shopping receipt from the Amazon mobile app in Taipei, Taiwan, 05 September 2018. Last month Apple Inc. In 2017, the Commission concluded that Luxembourg granted illegal state aid to Amazon, declaring the aid incompatible with the internal market. An official statement issued by the Commission also noted that the body is “close to achieving a historic global agreement” on the reform of the international corporate tax framework. was the first company to be valued at 1 trillion US dollars. EPA-EFE/RITCHIE B. “Both confirm State aid rules apply & selective tax benefits harm fair competition,” her post further reads, whilst stressing that the EC will “keep working, also to seize momentum to update” the bloc’s tax laws. However, the EU court supported that the Commission’s findings were based on an analysis “which is incorrect in several aspects.”

“The General Court concludes that none of the findings set out by the Commission in the contested decision are sufficient to demonstrate the existence of an advantage for the purposes of Article 107(1) TFEU, with the result that the contested decision must be annulled in its entirety,” reads the court’s ruling.

“Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions during the start-up period. Colonial Pipeline had to shut it down on May 8 following a cyberattack which later the FBI confirmed that the Darkside ransomware was responsible for the compromise of the Colonial Pipeline networks. “We continue to work with the company and our government partners on the investigation,” the FBI said in a statement. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Colonial Pipeline restarts operations after ransomware cyber attack

By Kostis Geropoulos
Energy & Russian Affairs Editor, New Europe

THE COLONIAL PIPELINE CO.  
 
  The Colonial Pipeline – an important source of refined oil products in the US – said it has initiated the restart of pipeline operations as of 5 p.m. “Following this restart it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal,” the Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline Co said in a statement. Meanwhile, the Washington Post is reporting Colonial will be able rebuilt and restore its systems without having to resort to paying the ransomware through the crypto currency that Darkside is demanding. The restart follows earlier comments by US President Joe Biden that his Administration was in “very very close” contact with Colonial and that he expected some “good news”. ET. The Colonial Pipeline said it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal and pledged to move as much gasoline, diesel and jet fuel as is safely possible. Facebook

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The largest pipeline system for refined oil products in the US, the Colonial Pipeline, reportedly said on May 12 it initiated the restart of operations after having to shut down following a cyberattack last week which caused gas price hikes as motorists feared fuel shortages. The pipeline is 5,500 miles long and can carry 3 million barrels of fuel per day between Texas and New York. Colonial will move as much gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel as is safely possible and will continue to do so until markets return to normal,” the company added.

As consumers increasingly rely on batteries, it is only a matter of time that similar pressure is brought on the battery industry also. Finally, in my opinion, the electric car revolution will require more and more powerful batteries, and with plentiful reserves, the cobalt market will always adapt to meet the demand. In 2016, Amnesty International highlighted the evidence of child labour, poor working conditions and inadequate machinery at small artisanal mines in DRC. While investors and consumers demand greater assurance and transparency, the market will rely on the expertise and experience of trusted natural resources partners. The Nkane open pit and headgear in Kitwe, Zambia

WIKIPEDIA

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The recent ease in global demand for blue metal – cobalt – has dampened concerns about a pending supply crunch. More supply from across the copper belt has been brought into the market to meet the demand, and, crucially, manufacturers in China are beginning to invest in alternative cathode technologies. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>The cobalt corrective: Are we facing a supply crunch? Combined with a fluctuating price, this led to cobalt production struggling to keep up with demand. By Zuneid Yousuf
Chairman of African Green Resources, a world-class agriculture company, which focuses on agribusiness, and providing inputs and a market for produce from small, medium and commercial farmers. As the world transiting from fossil fuels and moving towards much more greener power sources, energy storage through batteries will be more and more crucial. This in turn led to worries that the global shift to electric vehicles would be undermined by a scarcity of this crucial mineral. Concerns were originally raised by NGOs, who put pressure on politicians, who in turn created regulations affecting industry dynamics. Pressure from NGOs like Amnesty has led battery producers and their customers to examine their supply chains in search for ethically produced cobalt. Ten years on, now we have a highly developed traceability regime for 3TG metals, allowing consumers to transparently track the source from where their smartphone components were produced, whether that be in closely monitored mines in the DRC or in politically stable countries such as my native Zambia. This situation appears calm, however, masks a deeper problem. As prices have started stabilising in April, it offers us an opportunity to analyse the current market drivers, and to decide what strategy the extractive industry should adapt to sustainably fuel the energy transition. WIKIPEDIA
It is estimated that 60% of the world’s Cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, or the DRC, where it is mined alongside another important metal copper. In 2021, however, a shift occurred, particularly as specific supply bottlenecks related to the pandemic got resolved with time, and prices have eased since the middle of March. Like the predictions of peak oil, warnings of a cobalt supply crunch have been chiefly determined by market mechanisms. Cobalt, a mineral with an electric blue color known to human civilisation since ancient time, is used today to store electricity in the most efficient manner. This has led to a steadily increasing demand for cobalt that is projected to continue for decades to come. It may be through legislation or simply through pressure from a better-informed society. One such level of scrutiny begins to restrict supply, it will have a knock-on impact on costs and may lead to a new cobalt crunch in decades to come, just as our reliance on fossil-fuel-based vehicles is now broken. Cobalt reserves, however, are estimated at 7.1 million metric tonnes, enough to meet the demand for many decades. Moreover, our experience in producing 3TG metals to the highest standards of traceability puts us ahead of the pack in producing Cobalt through an ethical and sustainable supply chain. In this context, my own company, Zumran Resources, a leading producer in Zambia’s copper belt, faces none of the ethical challenges like those in the DRC. Other jurisdictions, including the EU, have followed the US’ lead in introducing legislation, and many electronics companies have exceeded their legal obligations on traceability. Supply from the DRC comes with a whole lot of concerns. In the current scenario of Cobalt market, we have a steady price signal, with additional supply coming online steadily over time to overcome short term fluctuations. Lithium-ion-phosphate (LFP) cathodes allows batteries to be produced without cobalt, and have already been adopted by two of the largest battery makers. The experience of the 3TGs minerals – tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold, the well-known ‘conflict minerals’, suggests that concerns about supplies of cobalt from the DRC have not yet been fully priced in. Battery manufacturers can take heart, however, from the progress made over the past ten years by the 3TG extractive industries, providing a model to follow. In recent decades, concerns about conditions in the DRC and the potential for mineral production to finance violence and terrorism has led to major regulatory reforms and controls on the supply chain of the affected minerals. Banks, investors and business partners are already challenging suppliers on their traceability and supply chain compliance. Earlier reports predicted that the world’s appetite for batteries would lead to a situation of demand outstripping supply for cobalt by the end of the 2020s. However, LFP batteries are unlikely to meet the power demands of long-range electric vehicles any time soon, but definitely, this shift helped to ease recent pressure on cobalt supplies. Cobalt samples. The United States passed legislation in 2010 requiring smartphone makers and other electronics manufacturers to provide an independent third-party audit report of their supply chains for the 3TGs minerals. A reliable cathode material, it is a crucial component of lithium-ion batteries, used to power almost everything from mobile phones to laptops and electric cars. What led the consultancies and commentators like Wood Mackenzie to warn about a pending crunch and fears of ‘peak cobalt’ was the combination of steadily increasing demand from batteries and electric vehicles on one side, and concerns about how most cobalt is produced on the other.

Meanwhile, Tehran reportedly reiterated that a new deal to halt Iran from having a nuclear bomb is dependent on the lifting of US sanctions placed on the Islamic country. The US is also present in Vienna but Iran, which is expected to hold Presidential elections on June 18, has refused to hold direct meetings with Washington on how to resume compliance with the deal, which former President Donald J. EPA-EFE/ATOMIC ENERGY ORGANIZATION

Tehran’s stand: Lift sanctions or we’ll build nuke bomb

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The US Administration of President Joe Biden says that restoring the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iran nuclear deal, must be followed immediately by an agreement on limiting Iran’s missile program and backing of terrorist groups. Borrell reminded that the purpose of these negotiations is to go back on track and have Iran and the US back to full implementation. Borrell said he was optimistic about the ongoing Iran nuclear talks in Vienna but warned that there remained a lot still to do within a short time frame if efforts to revive the 2015 accord were to succeed. I dare to say that I am optimistic, there is a window of opportunity that will stay open for a couple of weeks until the end of the month but a lot of work is needed, time is limited and I hope that the negotiations will enter in a phase of non-stop negotiation in Vienna,” Borrell said. “What can I say is that these talks have been constructive and there have been some moderate advances. This is a very sensitive process. At a press conference after the latest Foreign Affairs Council on May 10, EU High Representative and Vice-President of the Commission Josep Borrell said the EU and the Biden Administration have already made progress together on some important issues, such as reengaging the US on the Iran nuclear deal. We have to work quickly, we only have a couple of weeks. I am optimistic about what is going on in Vienna.   There will be a lot of other different issues that will be put on the table later on,” Borrell said, adding, “But by the time being, let’s try to go back on track of the previous agreement”. “The efforts of my team, the European Union Team is working very hard and they are in Vienna and they will continue being there,” he added. As you know, at these kind of conversations, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” he said. What is going on in Vienna is an effort to make the US to go back to the agreement, in order to have a full compliance for Iran. “But do not ask me for the following steps, what is going on after. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>US wants Iran nuke deal reinstated, tied to safeguards

By Kostis Geropoulos
Energy & Russian Affairs Editor, New Europe

A handout photo made available by the Iran Atomic Energy Organization reportedly shows the inside of the Iran's Fordow nuclear facility, in Fordow, Qom province, November 6, 2019 (reissued January 5, 2020). Not everything will be solved in these couple of weeks. Talks resumed in Vienna on May 7 with the remaining parties to the deal – Iran, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany. “I have been briefing my colleagues about the (ongoing) negotiations – you know that the High Representative is also the Coordinator of the JCPOA – this remains an extremely delicate and intense diplomatic process. Let’s go step by step. Trump scrapped three years ago. Which is the best way to ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iran Nuclear Programme,” he said. “I dare to say that I am optimistic, but not about the whole universe.

It impacts our health and our lives, but it also determines the fate of the species on which all life on earth depends,” Timmermans said. The cars we drive, the way we farm the land, the pesticides we use, the way we heat, power and ventilate our homes, even the noise we still make. Stricter enforcement will ensure that measures taken are also followed through. The Plan outlines a number of flagship initiatives and actions, including: aligning the air quality standards more closely to the latest recommendations of the World Health Organisation, reviewing the standards for the quality of water, including in EU rivers and seas, reducing soil pollution and enhancing restoration, reviewing the majority of EU waste laws to adapt them to the clean and circular economy principles, fostering zero pollution from production and consumption, presenting a Scoreboard of EU regions’ green performance to promote zero pollution across regions, reduce health inequalities caused by the disproportionate share of harmful health impacts now borne by the most vulnerable, reducing the EU’s external pollution footprint by restricting the export of products and wastes that have harmful, toxic impacts in third countries, launching Living Labs for  green  digital  solutions  and  smart  zero pollution, consolidating the EU’s Knowledge Centres for Zero Pollution and bringing stakeholders together in the Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform, stronger enforcement of zero pollution together with environmental and other authorities. EUROPEAN UNION, 2021/EC – AUDIOVISUAL SERVICE/CLAUDIO CENTONZE

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The European Commission on May 12 adopted the Zero Pollution action plan, which sets out an integrated vision for 2050 where pollution is reduced to levels that are no longer harmful to human health and natural ecosystems, as well as the steps to get there. The action plan also set targets for plastic litter, microplastics, and residual municipal waste,” Timmermans said. Pollution determines how healthy and how long our lives will be. That is the only way we can truly become climate neutral and prevent the loss of up to one million species, which we risk doing now. This should also be a clear message to Member States and co-legislators: If you make a decision, and the decision needs enforcement, we will enforce. We want to lower the share of people chronically disturbed by transport noise by 30%, and cut in half the loss of nutrients, the use and risk of pesticides, and the sale of antimicrobials for farmed animals and in aquaculture. “We need to start understanding that if we talk about nature, we also talk about ourselves. “The case for the EU to lead the global fight against pollution is today stronger than ever. “So it also contributes to the ongoing mass extinction of species. Jointly with the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability adopted last year, the action plan translates the EU’s zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment into action. EU Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans said the Zero Pollution Action Plan “is geared to bringing the way we live, produce, and consume within the boundaries the planet has set. With the most vulnerable in society, like always, suffering the harshest impacts,” he said. To steer the EU towards the 2050 goal of a healthy planet for healthy people, the Action Plan sets key 2030 targets to reduce pollution at source, in comparison to the current situation. Pollution in the EU and elsewhere is one of the five main drivers of the risk of ecocide. If we don’t deal with this now, our children will have to deal with it, and that will cost a lot more and will be much more difficult,” he said. There is no such thing as humanity at one side and nature at the other. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>EU Commission adopts zero pollution action plan

By New Europe Online/KG

From left to right, Frans Timmermans, Virginijus Sinkevičius

EU Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius hold a press conference on the EU zero pollution action plan, Brussels, May 12, 2021. We are a component of nature,” he added. It goes hand in hand with the EU’s goals for climate neutrality, health, biodiversity and resource efficiency and builds on initiatives in the field of energy, industry, mobility, food, circular economy, and agriculture. With the Zero Pollution Action Plan, we will create a healthy living environment for Europeans, contribute to a resilient recovery and boost transition to a clean, circular and climate neutral economy,” he said. “By 2050, we want all to live in a toxic-free environment. “To give you an example, we want to reduce the health impact of air pollution by more than 55%, and protect biodiversity from air pollution in an extra 25% of our ecosystems. “Our overall guiding principle is to avoid creating pollution. “So, of every eight people dying, one is a result of pollution. So we urgently need to bring air, water, and soil pollution down,” Timmermans said. Several cancers, heart, and respiratory diseases; they are all linked to pollution. Namely, improving air quality to reduce the number of premature deaths caused by air pollution by 55%; improving water quality by reducing waste, plastic litter at sea (by 50%) and microplastics released into the environment (by 30%); improving soil quality by reducing nutrient losses and chemical pesticides’ use by 50%; reducing by 25% the EU ecosystems where air pollution threatens biodiversity; reducing the share of people chronically disturbed by transport noise by 30%, and significantly reducing waste generation and by 50% residual municipal waste. Reviews of relevant EU legislation are foreseen to identify remaining gaps in EU legislation and where better implementation is necessary to meet these legal obligations. The EU Action Plan: “Towards Zero Pollution for Air, Water and Soil” – a key deliverable of the European Green Deal and the main topic of this year’s EU Green Week – ties together all relevant EU policies to tackle and prevent pollution, with a special emphasis on how to use digital solutions to tackle pollution. Zero pollution is at the heart of the Green Deal, closely connected with our strategies such as Farm to Fork and Biodiversity”. There will still be some deposits, but they will have reached a level that no longer is harmful, neither for our health, nor for the planet,” he said, reminding that pollution in the EU still leads to 1 out of 8 deaths. “To create a toxic-free environment, we have to look at all sources of pollution. This is of extreme importance,” Timmermans said. If pollution then becomes unavoidable, it has to be minimized, controlled, and where necessary cleaned up. “When we talk about being climate neutral, this is not just about being carbon neutral, but also having zero pollution. EU Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius said noted that environmental pollution negatively affects people’s health, especially the most vulnerable and socially deprived groups, and is also one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss. This year’s EU Green Week, the biggest annual event on environment policy, on June 1-4 will allow citizens across the EU to discuss zero pollution from its many angles at the main Brussels conference, online and in more than 600 partner events.