Despite that, a dialogue between the EU and Russia must be restarted. Despite not possessing the legal right to cross into the Schengen Zone, the migrants then attacked the Polish border guards with stones and whatever else they could use. These were tightened again after a state-sponsored hijacking of a passenger plane last spring. Lukashenko ordered the Belarussian Air Force to intercept and force a Ryanair flight flying from Athens to Vilnius to land in order to arrest an opposition member that was on board the flight. By Otmar Lahodynsky
Ex-President of the Association of European Journalists (AEJ) and former European Editor of the Profil news magazine in Austria

epa08200835 Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko arrives for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin (not pictured) in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, 07 February 2020. The migrants were subsequently turned back with water cannons, tear gas and batons. Morawiecki demanded that the new German government immediately stop the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea gas pipeline as part of a response to the hybrid war that is being carried out against Europe. Facebook

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One can hardly imagine the misery of the refugees at the border between Poland, Lithuania and Belarus. Just prior to the outbreak of the migrant crisis, the EU’s highest court imposed a €1 million daily fine on Warsaw in an attempt to persuade the Poles to abolish its new disciplinary chamber. This time, however, Lukashenko’s patron in the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin, did not agree. Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke twice on the phone with Lukashenko this week. The Belarussian national airline Belavia, along with Turkish Airlines, allegedly chartered flights and brought the people to the Belarussian capital Minsk. He may also be worried that control of the situation on the border with Poland and Lithuania could slip from his grasp. A correspondent from Switzerland’s Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Ivo Mijnssen, was in the area of the border zone and reported: “The misery is indescribable. She could be saved for the time being.” 
Polish military vehicles usually take such migrants back to the border with Belarus soon after initial treatment. We found a woman with 5 children who had a body temperature of only 25 degrees and took her to a hospital. The Polish authorities do not allow journalists to reach the border and have sealed off a three-kilometre-wide strip as a prohibited zone. A few hundred managed to cross the green border at first, then to Germany. In the meantime, however, Lukashenko seems to be trying to de-escalate the situation: Apparently, he fears that several thousand migrants could remain in Belarus permanently. A first plane did indeed take over 400 of the migrants on November 18, all of which had agreed to be sent back to Iraq. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Is Lukashenko setting a new trap for Europe? Lukashenko, for his part, threatened to cut off a natural gas pipeline running through his country, which would limit the supply of Russian gas to Europe. Furthermore, he deliberately chose the timing, as Germany has yet to form a new government after their federal elections in October. I was in the forests with a delegation of doctors. Belarus’ dictator is deliberately using migrants to blackmail the EU
Lukashenko’s actions are part of his reaction to sanctions that were imposed by the EU after last year’s rigged presidential election. Reports have indicated that the new round embargoes would have included cutting the country off from international payments. Poland’s government has refused to let officials from the EU border protection agency Frontex – which is based in Warsaw – to the border and has rejected offers of help from other countries. Lukashenko is perhaps now afraid that he will lose control of the border conflict that he artificially caused and that the migrants could stay in Belarus for a long time. Putin must fear that the conflict could postpone the completion and bringing on line of the new Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea to Germany. Poland’s right-wing government is itself in conflict with Brussels over political interference in the Polish judiciary. Contradictory signals from Minsk should lead to talks between the EU and Putin on Belarus. This has made direct reports from the border rare. Near the border with Poland, an old warehouse has been converted to accommodate the migrants, who are now no longer allowed to approach the border strip. Lukashenko, himself, now actually seems interested in da e-escalation. The fact that Putin has called on Lukashenko to enter into a dialogue with members of the opposition in Belarus is a good sign. The EU should now quickly start talks with Lukashenko’s patrons in the Kremlin. Requests for asylum are not accepted. And they all have only one goal – they want to enter the EU, with most of them wanting to reach Germany. The Polish army then built a tight cordon along the 400 km long border with barbed wire and soldiers. The Belarussian opposition, which is supposed to meet for a conference in Vienna on November 22, has nothing against a representative of Russia taking part and acting as a mediator. The ill-fated visit by Europe Foreign Affairs chief, Josep Borrell, in March marked a low point in relations between Moscow and Brussels. As a precondition, however, political prisoners should be released and acts of violence stopped, according to a spokesman for the leader of the opposition, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. At that meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov utterly embarrassed Borrell. Or, in the worst-case scenario, he may want to set a new trap for the EU. Lukashenko, however, will only agree to this if more pressure is applied by the Kremlin. EPA-EFE/MICHAEL KLIMENTYEV / SPUTNIK / KREMLIN POOL MANDATORY CREDIT

Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko. To that end, even a real war can no longer be excluded. The European Commission has so far strictly rejected negotiations with Minsk. They all have been lured by the dictator of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is on a working visit to Russia to discuss aspect of the Russia-Belarus cooperation, including oil and gas cooperation which is on the top on the agenda talks. According to information from Minsk, a deal was negotiated: The EU would take in 2,000 refugees, and Lukashenko would repatriate the remainder, about 5,000 people, back to the Middle East. “We are defending the EU border here in Poland. Sadly, the EU also acted in a rather clueless and uncoordinated manner, and has done so since the beginning of the crisis. Lukashenko has upped the stakes in his ongoing war with the West by trying to force thousands of illegal migrants to cross Poland’s – and the EU’s – borders. According to Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Germany, in particular, should have a special interest in protecting the EU’s external border. And when we talk about the bigger picture: Let’s work together for peace and not give Vladimir Putin extra money through energy payments so he can keep arming.”
The EU was reluctant to impose new, more severe, sanctions on Belarus. To be sure, Moscow has so far done everything to weaken and divide the EU. Thousands of people from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, many of them Kurds and Yazidis, are camping in the woods in freezing temperatures with little supplies and no medical care. From there they were taken by bus to the border with Poland and Lithuania. This is the only way to prevent further provocations by Lukashenko and thus further, and even greater, human suffering.

The Kyiv Post will rise from the ashes like Phoenix. Since 2018, however, Kivan has tried hard to curry favor with the authorities. One of them, Olena Rotari, proclaimed herself the chief editor of this version without telling Bonner or anyone else from the Kyiv Post. Venediktova and Kivan denied the opening of such cases. All Ukrainian governments have tried to stifle free speech, and all of them failed. At that time, I was not fired only due to our chief editor Brian Bonner’s efforts to preserve our editorial independence. The Kyiv Post, Ukraine’s main English-language newspaper and one of the most independent media in the country – was shut down on November 8 by its owner, Adnan Kivan. At the Kyiv Post, we used to have cups with an Albert Camus quote that reflected our newspaper’s mission. After the Kyiv Post stopped running Venediktova op-eds and published another critical story about her in September 2021, the newspaper faced pressure again. The quote read: “A free press can be good or bad, but most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad.”  All of its staff were fired immediately. Due to government pressure, in October Kivan came up with a plan to undermine the Kyiv Post’s independence. The Kyiv Post has been one of the most patriotic and anti-Kremlin media outlets in Ukraine, and now it has been destroyed after months of government pressure. After the September article, Venediktova also opened criminal cases against Kivan and then closed them, Bonner told the Ukrainian Weekly. He wants the media to lavish praise on his non-existent reforms and meager achievements. A silver lining 
The good news is that Ukraine is not Russia. He asked me to reduce my criticism of the government. He was nervous and sarcastic, ridiculing our editorial independence. In 2020, the Kyiv Post also ran a critical story about Prosecutor General Irina Venediktova, and she summoned Bonner to her office. I refused, saying that I believe in the absolute freedom of speech. Crackdown on media
The Kyiv Post’s abrupt closure and firing of all of its staff was the culmination of a trend that started in early 2021. This plan included launching a Ukrainian-language version of the Kyiv Post run by Kivan proteges. We were not against expanding the Kyiv Post or launching a Ukrainian version as long as all new hires would be independent and professional journalists. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Ukrainian president seeks total control over media

By Oleg Sukhov
Independent Journalist/Political Commentator

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has had two options since he was elected in 2019: either to improve the reality that he faced or to create a fake one. The new publication will continue to speak truth to power and to hold everyone, including Ukrainian officials, oligarchs and the Kremlin, to account. After Kivan took over, Sergey Leshchenko, a staunch supporter of Zelensky’s administration, became a paid columnist for the Kyiv Post. The National Television and Radio Council also filed a motion on November 4 with a court to strip Nash, another TV channel critical of the government, of its license. Although there is no sufficient evidence that the government ordered the closure, it is a fact that the Kyiv Post has faced increasing pressure from the government due to its independence stance. He has simultaneously worked as a paid board member at the state railway company, Ukrzaliznytsya. I wrote that even the most pro-Western, independent and objective media, including the Kyiv Post, could be unlawfully shut down in the future. Pressure on the Kyiv Post 
The pressure on the Kyiv Post fits perfectly into Zelensky’s wholesale crackdown on free speech. This is exactly what has happened. Most of the editorial team is launching a new newspaper that will keep the professionalism and independence of the old Kyiv Post. He has opted for the latter: to silence independent voices and try to brainwash the populace through puppet media. I warned at the time that the extrajudicial and unlawful closure of the propagandist channels set a very dangerous precedent for most media. In August, Zelensky also blocked strana.ua, a popular news site that heavily criticized the government, and the media outlet run by Anatoly Shariy, a fugitive Ukrainian blogger with a substantial following. Previously Shariy had also been charged with treason for his videos. Instead of creating a business-friendly environment and introducing the rule of law, Zelensky has decided to stifle the media that report on corruption, lawlessness and poverty. This approach is strikingly similar to the one chosen by Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. She was trying to pressure him at that meeting, threatening to file a lawsuit. After that the Kyiv Post published op-eds authored by Venediktova to give her the right to respond. But Kivan wanted to have his own way and decided to get rid of us. In February, Zelensky closed three pro-Russian television channels – NewsOne, ZIK and 112 Ukraine – without any legal grounds. There was no court ruling, and neither evidence nor clear explanations were provided for the claim that they threatened national security. Other anti-Kremlin journalists – such as the Suspilne and Pryamy television channels and Savik Shuster’s Freedom of Speech show – have also complained about pressure by the authorities in recent months. Now he is planning to launch a new puppet media outlet using the Kyiv Post brand under his total editorial control. Kivan came to the Kyiv Post’s office and said that, by criticizing Venediktova, we were hurting both ourselves and him. The idea was to dilute its independent staff with his own loyalists and hire people who would do his bidding. In 2018, Kivan complained to me that the administration of then-President Petro Poroshenko was pressuring him due to the Kyiv Post’s critical coverage. I strongly believe that it will outlive Zelensky’s presidency. Many Ukrainians welcomed the move because it is indeed true that the channels had often allowed their speakers to voice pro-Russian opinions and spread Kremlin narratives. For me, as a Kyiv Post journalist, Kivan’s intentions were clear from the very beginning.  
Both Shariy and strana.ua are admittedly pro-Russian but the real reason for the crackdown on them was their criticism of Zelensky.

It is important for the international community, in particular the European Union, to actively support the efforts of the federal government which is committed to a democratic process. Ethiopia’s northern neighbor Sudan has taken advantage of the chaotic situation to make a land grab for part of  Ethiopia’s territory on the frontier. But it is essential that the main protagonists need to commit to respecting the need to secure a solution through a democratic process, and not by force of arms. Facebook

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Civil war has been raging in Ethiopia for over a year now, between the National Defence Forces of the Ethiopian Government, and rebel militia numbering some 250,000 fighters from the northern region of Tigray, the “TPLF”. Key infrastructure to the Tigray region needs to be repaired, and the free movement of civil society, journalists, humanitarian aid organisations and other international actors must be restored. The wreckage of a Soviet-made tank belonging to Ethiopian government forces, near the town of Humera. The first priority should be to stop the fighting, and for all parties to stop military action and cease bickering in the media. Perhaps peaceful dialogue could be facilitated by international objective and unbiased civilian observers drawn from Ethiopia’s neighbours and from the wider international family of nations? style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>The case for peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia

By James Wilson
Founding Director of the International Foundation for Better Governance, a not for profit organization dedicated to promote, protect and defend the fundamental rights of citizens, human rights, democracy and the rule of law. This has left a trail of death, hunger, destruction and humanitarian catastrophe in the country. The conflict has forced more than two million people from their homes, according to rough estimates 
100,000 fatalities both military and civilian. They should also condemn absolutely and without exception any attempts by the political forces involved to exploit belligerent methods which use the ammunition box rather than the ballot box to decide differences of opinion. The outcome of any dialogue about how to restructure the balance of power between the Federal Government and the regions should not be held hostage to negotiations. But once this step has been agreed upon by the protagonists, ending the civil war will require an inclusive national dialogue on how to restructure federalism in the country and resolve a dispute over sharing the political balance of power in controlling territories. This is not a question of apportioning blame or taking sides in the conflict, it is a fundamental principle that democratic governance has to take precedence in resolving the dispute. American and European efforts to bring pressure to bear on the respective parties and diplomatic manoeuvres involving the UN Security Council have failed. The ultimate losers in any civil war are the citizens of the entire country. The federal government has in fact announced plans to launch just such a dialogue. Military analysts have suggested that both parties are evenly matched in the field and that any armed confrontation is likely to end in a stalemate. They have also included former political detainees in the government structure following the June elections. Cities and territories have changed hands over the past year, as battlefield fortunes have swung first one way, then the other. The United Nations and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a bloc of East African countries, have both called for an immediate ceasefire. Recently, the TPLF has ratcheted up its hostile rhetoric making it clear that they intend to continue to seek to use military means to achieve their goals, and to refuse any peaceful dialogue. The fighting started with a pre-emptive strike by the TPLF on federal armed forces on November 3, 2020, in an attempt to seize military weapons. Their role would be to coordinate peace and reconciliation initiatives and promote the efforts needed to reconstruct areas damaged by the war. Ethiopia has already suffered more than enough through this crisis, and it is time to call off the dogs of war and bring in the emissaries of peace and reconciliation. Realistically, if there is to be any resolution to the dispute, both sides need to be forced to the conference table
For its part, the national government declared a state of national emergency on November 2 for a period of 6 months, in order to enable them to bring the situation under control. The selection of this group would need to be agreed by the main political forces. The African Union and neighbouring African states have also increasingly called for peaceful resolution of the conflict, but proposals for peace are yet to emerge. This was promptly quashed by the Ethiopian national army, and controls were introduced on telecommunications and internet use in the Tigray region, making it difficult for international journalists to establish the facts about what has happened since. The hostilities have become a source of extreme concern with the international community, worried about regional security in the unstable Horn of Africa. In essence, the dispute concerns a contest over the balance of regional power, and the inability of both sides to make the necessary compromises for a peaceful negotiated settlement that eliminates their political differences.

The interconnectedness of government registries, social insurance, and labor office, for example, would have revealed that none of the companies had any employees. So what can be done to prevent such a case from ever happening again? The fact that the unusual activity of one labor office did not raise red flags, will eventually be investigated and no doubt prosecuted by the respective law enforcement agencies. By Juraj Kuruc
Research Fellow & Project Coordinator for the Future of Security Programme at the GLOBSEC Policy Institute. In short, the state will not try to prevent potential abuse, but it will avenge it. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>What happens when due diligence cannot or will not be applied? Over €2 billion was distributed this way. Some 28 companies were allegedly paid almost €24 million as part of the government scheme to help businesses cope with the effects of the pandemic, these companies are shell companies with no activities, employees or tax returns. Another investigation will have to look at the possibility that this was not the only labor office where rules were flaunted. So what went wrong? Box addresses in Slovakia, no contact details, no employees, no health or social insurance contributions and tax returns that were not filed in years. The state made a choice, it divested the power of trust when accepting these applications to the officers at every application desk in every district labor office. The big weak spot of this approach was an assumption that the small-time swindlers claiming to have 6 instead of 5 employees will remain in-country and it will always be possible to recover the money from businesses later, even years later. This is an opportune time to highlight and learn from mistakes. Technology could be the answer. As both business and labor office staff adjusted to the new reality. Local knowledge of officials will ensure the timely payout for assistance. These companies turned out to be the very worst examples of what a shell company is. The monitoring of office employees also need not be big brother like, with every loo break logged, but perhaps unusually large or outsized claims should require more than just a simple local approval, even at a time of crisis.  
What is clear is that the decision to help firms quickly was the correct one. However, over a relatively short time, the process became clearer, more manageable and slightly more user friendly. This case can serve as a prime example of what can go horribly wrong when speed is paramount and red flags and thorough due diligence cannot or will not be properly carried out. These shell companies with foreign owners in collusion with what appears to be an insider at one particular labor office have ensured that it will take a lot of effort and taxpayers money to investigate and recover even a fraction of the allegedly paid out sum, as there can be no doubt that the money was already transferred elsewhere. There are large investments heading the Slovak way in the form of European structural and investment funds for the program period of 2021 – 2027, as well as a recovery and resilience facility to the tune of billions of euros combined. On October 21, 2021, an investigative journalist centre published a story that quickly became a national scandal in Slovakia. With both needing to be disbursed quickly, there can be no doubt about effectiveness and accountability. WIKIPEDIA

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When due diligence and a basic compliance process is not followed bad things happen. Upon which assistance could start. The crucial document when applying for state assistance was a signed affidavit by the company’s owner stating the number of employees on furlough and lost profit are true at the time of applying for state’s assistance. Rather than burdening the companies applying for help with the need for providing evidence and carrying out due diligence upfront the government made a choice. Registerd in Slovakia, with owners abroad (mainly from Croatia or Greece), with virtual P.O. These need not be lengthy in-depth due diligence checks, just standardized checklists to make sure the company exists, and it does have money-making activities that require assistance at the time of crisis. At the beginning of the pandemic, as elsewhere in Europe, aid to businesses could be slow and cumbersome, fears of abuse were greater than the will to expedite help quickly. A general view of the building housing Slovakia's National Cuncil. The choice was also made to ensure meticulous after-the-fact checks. At the time when the story broke much was said about the political responsibilities of a particular minister and the slow communication of the ministry of labour social affair and family of the Slovak republic.

Presidential runoff
The simultaneous presidential elections failed to produce a victor, consequently, a runoff for this largely ceremonial post is set for November 21. In this round the ITN garnered around 9.5 percent of the vote, a substantial drop from earlier this year. After two inconclusive elections held previously this year, the PP party, launched only two months ago by two Harvard-educated entrepreneurs who also worked as interim ministers, was able to seize the fickle and politically exhausted Bulgarian electorate’s attention and beat the former ruling, and normally front running, conservative GERB party led by Boiko Borissov which garnered 22.7%. The resolution of this dispute does not guarantee other member states will move forward, and a number are hesitant. In trying to form an anti-GERB bloc, the PP’s leader, Kiril Petkov, has also hinted he will be talking seriously with right-wing “Democratic Bulgaria” (DB) party, which earned 6.3% percent of the vote as well as Bulgaria’s Socialist Party that garnered about 10.2 percent, performing unexpectedly poorly on Sunday. This is because the country’s long-running dispute with North Macedonia over language and identity have EU-wide ramifications; Bulgaria will not approve further EU Enlargement until satisfied. Initial contacts have already begun, but coalition talks can normally take weeks and as the world witnessed earlier this year can automatically trigger new elections after three parties fail, in succession, to assemble the required majority. As a centrist party, its list of potential partners includes the “There Is Such a People (ITN)” party, headed by pop singer and former TV star Slavi Trifonov, which itself failed to form a workable coalition when handed the mandate over the summer. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Third Bulgarian election in 2021 appears to break the logjam

By Alec Mally
Director for Global Economic Affairs at IPEDIS

Bulgaria’s Central Election Commission

BNT File photo

Time for coalition talks

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In Bulgaria’s November 14 elections, the tough anti-corruption oriented “We Continue the Change” party (PP), won 25.7% of the vote, based on a nearly-complete ballot count released November 16. Look for the use of the all-important term “regional stability” in those messages. The runoff vote will be held between incumbent President Rumen Radev, who is endorsed by several parties including the PP and who came tantalizingly close to victory with 49.42 percent of the vote on November 14, and GERB-backed Anastas Gerdzhikov, who got 22.8 per cent, according to official final results from the Central Election Commission. The usual parliamentary math 
Once confirmed, the PP will be given the initial mandate to attempt to cobble together a workable coalition in the country’s 240-seat parliament. Discussions between Sofia and Skopje are slated to resume as soon as a new government takes over in Sofia, with most EU member states unwisely lined up against fellow member state Bulgaria’s claims that North Macedonia is little more than a cultural and historical offshoot of Bulgaria formed in the twentieth century for various political reasons. The Bulgarians have shown the ability to hold their own against North Macedonia’s historical revisionism and heavy pressure from its European Union and NGO supporters up to now and it can be assumed the pressure on Sofia will resume once a new government is named, quite possibly even mentioned in the congratulatory messages from major powers. Regional impact
While foreign observers will certainly profess interest in watching yet another Bulgarian government pull itself together based on the almost perennial anti-corruption theme, most will be actually paying much more attention to how Bulgaria’s foreign policy takes shape.  
On the plus side, the weak government holding on in Skopje after Prime Minister Zoran Zaev’s Social Democrats did so poorly in October’s municipal elections might make the North Macedonian side more amenable to compromise, if it opts to go that route and not hide behind foreign supporters.

BnetzA’s action to suspend its certification of Nord Stream 2 comes against the backdrop of tensions between Russia and Europe over Belarus and Ukraine. If, in the meantime, there is a very cold winter and prices again spike, which would remind industry and consumers why they need the extra pipeline, then so much the better from the viewpoint ot Nord Stream,” Weafer argued. Weafer said the timing is undoubtedly political. She explained that BNetzA is expected to re-start the certification process once the subsidiary is established and to issue a draft certification decision within the remainder of the 4-month period available to it under law (this period is counted from September 8 up to the suspension date of November 16, and then from whatever date when the certification process is restarted), so the original deadline of January 8 may slip, potentially up to a couple of months that would be needed for establishing the German subsidiary. “Utilities say they have enough gas to work through a ‘normal’ winter but not if it is very cold and demand rises. “My explanation of this is as follows. This would be strictly in line with the amended gas directive, whose requirements on unbundling, TPA, tariffs, do not extend beyond the German section,” Yafimava explained. “To approve the project, and then send it to the EU for sign off, against such a charged political backdrop, would risk a dangerous backlash,” he said. Explaining the reasons of the suspension, Yafimava said it is not entirely clear why BNetzA has accepted a Swiss-registered Nord Stream 2 AG application for certification in the first place, if it holds the view that only a German-registered company can be certified as an operator. Katja Yafimava, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, told New Europe on November 17 BNetzA will eventually certify the Nord Stream 2 operator but the decision to suspend certification until a German-registered subsidiary is established suggests there will be a delay. “The leader of the Greens is opposed to the project, but the dominant political party is in favor, as is most of German industry,” he said, arguing that “the fact that the work is now fully complete and will be less environmentally damaging than ship borne (liquified natural gas) LNG should also ease the objections to the Green party leadership”. follow on twitter @energyinsider On November 15, BNetzA formally accepted Ukraine’s National Joint Stock Company Naftogaz’s application to be included in the certification process of Nord Stream 2 AG. “Importantly, the German ministry of economy and energy has already concluded that Nord Stream 2 certification will not pose danger to security of supplies, and no new assessment by the ministry is required,” Yafimava said. Unless BNetzA allows Nord Stream 2 to flow gas while certification is pending, there will be no additional Russian gas sent to Europe beyond what Russian gas monopoly Gazprom can send by using its booked or available for booking firm capacity on the existing export corridors, including Nord Stream 2, Yamal, Ukraine, Turkish Stream, thus suggesting the whole winter of high gas prices, Yafimava said, adding, “But it still remains a valid proposition that if the winter is very cold and storages are very low BNetzA may allow flows via Nord Stream 2 while certification is pending”. Yafimava pointed out that by accepting the Swiss-registered Nord Stream 2 AG application, BNetzA has effectively created for itself an option of being able to suspend the certification process at any time of its own convenience on the essentially procedural grounds. “If anything, uncertainty over reliability of transit via Belarus and a potential loss of Yamal’s transit capacity should have made Germany wary of further delaying the start of supplies via Nord Stream 2. A spokesman for Nord Stream 2 AG told New Europe on November 16 the German regulator BNetzA has publicly informed about a temporary suspension of the certification procedure due to the foundation of a Nord Stream 2 subsidiary company. BNetzA has accepted them, just as it has accepted (Polish oil and gas company) PGNiG earlier, so that in the event of any future legal action they would not be able to allege that their views have not been taken into account – and they don’t have a veto right anyway,” she said. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Germany suspends Nord Stream 2 certification delaying commissioning well into 2022

By Kostis Geropoulos
Energy & Russian Affairs Editor, New Europe

LFR

NORD STREAM 2 AG

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Germany’s Federal Network Agency (BnetzA) suspended its certification of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany on November 16 which will delay the start date into the first quarter or possibly the second quarter of 2022. I also don’t think the BNetzA’s decision has anything to do with its acceptance of Naftogaz and GTSOU (Transmission System Operator of Ukraine) in the certification process. “This suggests that the certification process will only be fully completed by/in summer,” she said. Its press release seems to suggests that BNetzA may have expected that Nord Stream 2 AG will change its legal form and re-register as a German company to operate the entire Nord Stream 2 pipeline. We are not in the position to comment on details of the procedure, its possible duration and impacts on the timing of the start of the pipeline operations,” the Nord Stream 2 spokesperson said. But BNetzA has has accepted it and also confirmed that all the necessary documents were received on 8 September. “Our company undertakes this step to ensure compliance with applicable rules and regulations. Chris Weafer, co-founder of Macro-Advisory in Moscow, told New Europe on November 17 the speed at which they will pursue the review may depend either on the position taken by the new German government – pro or anti the project – and the weather. But as neither the EU nor the German law extend beyond the German territory, Nord Stream 2 AG appears to have rejected this variant and decided to establish a new German-registered subsidiary to own and operate the German section of Nord Stream 2 only. For her part, Yafimava said the BNetzA’s decision to suspend certification doesn’t have anything to do with the situation in Belarus. If the latter, then pressure will grow to approve Nord Stream 2 sooner,” Weafer said. She added that the European Commission will still have 2 months extendable by further 2 months for issuing an opinion, and BNetzA would still have another 2 months for issuing a final certification decision. “Much more sensible to wait until the current controversies in Belarus, on the Ukraine border and in Space, to either ease or, hopefully, be resolved and then to approve the project. She argued that it cannot be completely ruled out that the timing of BNetzA’s suspension decision might be political, both domestically due to the formation of the new German government and internationally due to tensions between the EU and Russia and a threat of US sanctions.

New Europe (NE): Is it still dangerous to be an investigative journalist in Slovakia or has something changed after the (Kuciak and Kusnirova) murders? NE: Security is also important? There have been many studies that are actually saying that people consider investigative journalism to be the best way to fight corruption. What do you want to ask Europe for? We never do. For us, as journalists, we have to dedicate much more of our time to explain what we need, including talking to European leaders on a regular basis. They are active in subsidies fraud. I think people will think first before killing another journalist. So far, nearly $8 million has been returned to the state budget and over 500 people have been indicted or sentenced. Interview with Pavla Holcova

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In February 2018, a young Slovak investigative journalist named Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend, Martina Kusnirova, were brutally murdered in their home in Velka Maca, east of Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava. NE: How is it important for you to be in contact with other journalists from all over Europe? They carried out the investigation even though they were under massive pressure from Slovakia’s top leaders. The couple’s deaths prompted major street protests unseen since the 1989 anti-Communist Velvet Revolution and a political crisis that led to the collapse of Slovakia’s government. It was a Slovak issue. PH: The best suggestion I can give to journalists who want to achieve this goal without risking too much is to think about cooperation. Instead, you need to start somewhere else. It caused it (the government) to collapse within a couple of weeks. PH: I believe that the investigators, for example from Europol, really did a stellar job in collecting and analyzing the data. Quite often the most important information about what’s happening in your home country can’t actually be found there. The ceremony highlighted their contribution to the defense and advancement of human rights and the rule of law. PH: We are part of a network of investigative journalists that is called The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). I can’t be sure of what will come next, especially for investigative journalists. Before being gunned down, Kuciak had published several articles that focused on investigating tax fraud of several businessmen with connections to top-level Slovak politicians. We may still discover new leads, new details, but we will never know the whole story. PH: There was a huge change and a huge hope because the system collapsed after more than 12 years of being unshakable. PH: Because I’m very focused on international investigations, for me it’s critical to be in touch with other journalists in other countries. We are not there yet. But still, the Italian Mafia, especially the ‘Ndrangheta (the Calabrian mafia) is present in both Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Her investigation into the brutal murder of her colleagues helped unmask the perpetrators and contributed to the downfall of the former Slovak government of Robert Fico. But, it’s still ongoing. PH: It’s important to have young journalists involved. NE: From the political point of view, do you think there was a change after the public’s reaction and the sort of ‘revolution’ that followed? We also need money to do investigations because we have a very, very limited pool of people and institutions that can be a financial resource. Right now the system and the new government are in a hurry, partly because of the pandemic situation, but partly because they are have no experience at being in charge. NE: What can Europe do to support investigative journalists? Pavla Holcova (PH): The message after the murders was clear – by killing a journalist you’re not able to kill the story that they were working on. NE: What is the best way to work without risking too much? They are present but not as visible as, for example, in Germany. Maybe a European program would be a good idea, because we can’t take money from our governments, but we can ask the European Union. For her fearless reporting, Holcova was named a 2021 Knight International Journalism Award winner, presented by the International Center for Journalists to honor outstanding reporters who have an impact on the profession. NE: Are the activities of the Italian mafia in Slovakia and the Czech Republic serious, because in other countries, like Germany, we think it is? That said, I still believe that we’ll never know the full story. They make a lot of money on subsidies, which they invest into real estate. Holcova is an investigative journalist and media founder from the Czech Republic who works across borders to expose crime and corruption at the highest levels of government. So, there is an European network. We also have a network outside of Europe, OCCRP is now global – in South America, Southeast Asia, Australia, and in the US. PH: Yes, for us, it’s really important that someone keeps an eye on us and our cases, especially so we don’t feel left alone and forgotten. I’m afraid people are losing patience with the new changes. It’s important to have new voices out there. This could be seen as engaging in politics or having an agenda, which is what we can’t do. NE: What can you say to new journalists that would like to start their careers? It’s really difficult to assess if it’s a better, safer place for journalism now or not. PH: I need to highlight that the Italian Mafia had nothing to do with the murders of Kuciak and Kusnirova. We need money to support our core operations. That’s why we have to have dedicated people who do it for us. So you are getting some results, right? NE: You were following this case quite closely. If they share this kind of information, if they cooperate with journalists from other media, they are safe because it is possible to kill a journalist, but it’s not possible to kill a network of journalists. Even if it brings risks and sadness, I think it’s important because thanks to our job, we can sleep peacefully at night because we know we don’t give up and we want to keep on fighting. PH: What is really important for us as a journalists, because we quite often feel that we are on the front line and providing information to the public, is that we have some backup. I mean, otherwise, I can’t imagine that I could ever get a better job. We stay in contact through the OCCRP Network, including in Italy, where we have contacts. A Slovak businessman ordered the killings. NE: Many people have been arrested thanks to your investigative reports. In Slovakia, these days, there’s a revolution going on that’s bringing new risks to society. Do you think that we know everything about the Kuciak-Kusnirova case, or is there still much more to be found in the shadows? Marcek claimed he was hired by an associate of an allegedly mafia-linked local tycoon to kill both Kuciak and Kusnirova. You know, sometimes journalists believe that they need to keep all the information to themselves. New Europe spoke with investigative journalist Pavla Holcova following a commemoration for Kuciak and Kusnirova that was organized by Italy’s University of Padova. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>The power of investigative journalism

By Federico Grandesso
Italian Editor, Journalist

A candlelight vigil for Kuciak and Kusnirova shortly after their murder. The change was very visible and tangible. That was because of the gravity of the case. So, yes, investigative journalism has had a real and tangible impact. We are still in some kind of consolidation phase of society. A former soldier, Miroslav Marcek, pled guilty to shooting Kuciak and Kusnirova and was sentenced to 23 years in prison in April 2020.

The Uzbek delegation travelled to the Torkham border to witness the arrival of four cargo trucks all the way from Uzbekistan via Afghanistan to Pakistan. The criticality of the Afghan situation is compelling the Central Asian states to edge closer and China and Russia to intensify their cooperation and coordination to strengthen regional security. It is against such a dynamic background that the second development of the month, on November 8, needs to be assessed — the dramatic announcement by Kyrgyzstan’s Prime Minister Akylbek Zhaparov that Bishkek is ready to proceed with a long-standing project by Beijing to build a railway line to connect China with Uzbekistan. To be sure, the developments in Afghanistan dominated the one-on-one meeting between Yusuf and Makhmudov. No wonder, Uzbek foreign policies have been performing so brilliantly amidst a challenging external environment. In March, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan agreed to a roadmap for the building of a 573-kilometre route from Mazar-e-Sharif to Peshawar, via Kabul. From the Russian viewpoint, as the proposed Central Asian rail grid gets connected to the Russian grid. Personal equations at leadership level help advance geostrategy in the steppes and both leaders are conscious of the imperatives of politics and economics that push them together. Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa received the Uzbek delegation. Yusuf said Islamabad and Tashkent “shared the same stance” on Afghanistan — namely, there should be constructive engagement with the current government in Kabul to avert a humanitarian crisis that could further severely affect the neighbouring countries. The Western media which copiously reports if Beijing sneezes, has blocked out Zhaparov’s announcement in Bishkek regarding the railway project. The official statement issued in Islamabad said the protocol “covers wide-ranging security-related matters of mutual interest and establishes coordination mechanism” between the two national security councils. The lines from English poet Shelley’s famous ode To a Skylark come to mind — ‘In the broad day-light / Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight…’
Two events in the past fortnight indicated growing optimism about Afghanistan’s future. The first test train crossed the border in August. During Makhmudov’s visit, Pakistan has done well to sign a protocol with Uzbekistan, which “will help strengthen coordination on security and regional connectivity between our two brotherly countries,” as NSA Moeed Yusuf wrote in a tweet. Abdulaziz Kamilov has been Uzbekistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs since 2012 — and is probably the most experienced foreign minister anywhere in the world if his nine years in a previous stint from 1994 to 2003 is also taken into account. Thus, as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, China has longstanding plans to construct a railway from Xinjiang through Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan and onward to Turkmenistan (and Iran.) The main hitch has been that Beijing insisted that the new rail line should adopt tracks with 1,435 millimetres width, which China and most of the world use, while the Soviet-era Russian gauge of 1,520 millimetres is prevalent in Central Asia. In May this year, Pakistan’s first transport under the TIR system was sent to Uzbekistan via the land route. Iron ore will be the main product carried across the bridge, which has an annual designed cargo capacity of 21 million tons. Gen. Yusuf told the media after the signing ceremony that the two countries would expand cooperation against terrorism, transnational crimes, drug trafficking under the new security commission, assist each other on anti-narcotics force and disaster management capacity building, and also strengthen defence and military cooperation. Certainly, the three-day visit to Islamabad in early November by Uzbekistan’s National Security Advisor Lt. The full control to exercise national security powers vested with the institution of the National Security Council in Tashkent under the chairmanship of the president gives remarkable consistency to the country’s policies. The announcement, immediately after the visit of the Uzbek delegation to Islamabad, would suggest a nifty bit of sleight of hand on the part of Beijing working on the “big picture” of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. Trust Chinese ingenuity to find a technological solution by double-tracking with the narrower international gauge run inside the larger Russian one, which would also reduce costs of the project by eliminating the need to make transitions at the Chinese-Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistani-Iranian borders. Both developments signify that the scaffolding for improved regional connectivity, economic development, and governance is coming up, largely unreported. To be sure, there is an all-round realisation amongst the main protagonists — principally, amongst China, Uzbekistan and Pakistan –that regional connectivity and long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan are interlinked. Indeed, the US State Department was quick to realise this while announcing in July the US-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan-Pakistan Quad, “focused on enhancing regional connectivity” encouraging “long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan.” The US initiative would have rung alarm bells in Moscow and Beijing. Thus was born the Uzbek-Pakistani home-grown approach to regional stability and economic growth. In fact, a 2.2 kilometre long Sino-Russian Tongjiang-Nizhneleninskoye railway bridge across the Amur River, the latest project completed under China’s ambitious Belt and Road initiative, has become a “technology demonstrator” using the new method of double tracking. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>New railway agreements reveal the contours of Central Asia’s rapid integration

By M.K. Uzbekistan is an advanced model of state formation in the post-Soviet space. And, importantly, the railway bridge has a dual track system, which allows trains running on both the Russian gauge and the Chinese gauge! An Afghan soldier guards the Soviet-built “Friendship Bridge” that links Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. The rail link would have a multiplier effect on Russian capability to tap into Afghan reconstruction. The project, at an estimated cost of US$5 billion, will open Pakistani seaports on the Arabian Gulf to Uzbekistan. Enhanced outreach to Central Asia under its geoeconomic policy is a key objective for Pakistan. As Yusuf put it, “Uzbekistan due to its close proximity with Afghanistan is a very crucial element in attaining our geo-economic paradigm.” This is a statement of fact. The Chinese Communist Party has stated at the goal a rail link all the way to London. An ex-Soviet technocrat and a sports icon and playboy make improbable partners, but in reality, Uzbek president Shavkat Mirziyoyev and PrimeMinister Imran Khan have struck a warm friendship at personal level. With the commissioning of the bridge, the railway transportation distance from China’s Heilongjiang province to Moscow will be shortened by 809 kilometres, cutting 10 hours of transportation time. Not to be underestimated is the Uzbek-Kyrgyz agreement in March to resolve their 30-year border dispute at Tashkent’s initiative, which is a prerequisite for the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railroad. Uzbekistan has prioritised transport through Pakistan to the ports of Gwadar and Karachi over the Chabahar route to the world market. Bhadrakumar
Former Indian diplomat

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The information war is so intense nowadays that unsung melodies are often more alluring that the sung ones. Zhaparov said his government has reached an agreement with Tashkent on all outstanding issues regarding the railway project and expects to do the same with Beijing in the near term, possibly during a high-level visit to the Chinese capital. Uzbekistan is a great beneficiary here, being the principal gateway to Afghanistan and Pakistan (Gwadar and Karachi ports) and Pakistan becoming a pivotal state in regional politics. Beijing (and Moscow) will have noticed the desperate Anglo-American mission to stage a comeback in Afghanistan. Bishkek’s clearance for the Chinese railway project can phenomenally transform the cross-border connectivity in the Central Asian region and a host of regional states, including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. Makhmudov is holding his position since 2013. China appreciates that Uzbekistan has a fairly developed internal railway network and has potential as a regional hub. The geopolitics of the region will never be the same again. ViKtor Makhmudov at the invitation of Pakistan’s NSA Moeed Yusuf deserved far more attention than it did.

An increase in the carbon tax of €7.50 each year until 2030 will help, especially if the government invests this new revenue in making homes more efficient, but Ireland must support nuclear energy production and future-proof its gas generation for the growth of blue hydrogen. Little policy has been put in place to achieve the 7 per cent per year emissions reductions which will be needed to reach the 2050 target. Until green hydrogen becomes cheaper and more achievable at scale, blue hydrogen (at half the price of its green counterpart) needs to be at the heart of the Irish decarbonisation process. This focus, combined with relaxed legislation and tax breaks for sustainable business practices and providing consumers with more choice to vote with their wallets, will allow Ireland to join the world in achieving net zero status while remaining competitive and stable. Finally, Ireland’s energy grid needs desperate reform. With all these changes in progress, decarbonisation will become more difficult as time goes on and the easier choices run out, leaving the more difficult and costly decisions to be made later down the line. If Ireland focuses on these three primary sectors, it could begin reducing the source of two-thirds of their emissions. All nations face this challenge, and Irish research and development can be part of the solution when supported by impact investors and private equity. Large companies are included under the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) but they only accounted for a quarter of Irish emissions in 2018. Wind and solar are not powerful or reliable enough to make up 80% of the Irish grid – this may be a decision Ireland comes to regret. The Irish government announced a further two weeks of restrictions due to Covid-19 until 18 May followed by a gradual reopening the Irish economy and wider society over the next few months. epa08398556 A container ship sails off Dublin Port in Dublin, Ireland, 03 May 2020. The agricultural sector is currently exempt from Ireland’s carbon tax, but this will not last forever, and prices and farmers’ margins will be affected by the rule change when it inevitably arrives. Facebook

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The Republic of Ireland has committed to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050, after the coalition government of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Greens passed the climate bill back in March 2021. efforts will need to be made to electrify vehicles and provide the necessary infrastructure (such as charging stations) to make a less carbon-intensive transport industry a reality. The demand for energy will continue to increase as the population grows and businesses bloom, and whilst population growth, immigration and prosperity are all good things, they will inevitably contribute to greater greenhouse gas emissions unless Irish energy is generated from green sources. If Ireland wants to reach its 7 per cent per year target, it needs to begin considering the pros and cons of the difficult decisions now, because many of these changes – specifically reform of Ireland’s energy grid – will take decades to enact. The Irish government’s Climate Action Plan 2050, published in November, sadly relies on state-led solutions and a degrowth mentality which will not allow Ireland to decarbonise without sharp contractions in productivity and growth, and severe disturbances in vital sectors and markets. Phasing out coal and incentivising walking are nice goals that will be better for the planet, but we cannot achieve the change required unless we embrace nuclear energy, electrify public and private transport, and allow the private sector to innovate through tax breaks. One of Ireland’s major obstacles to decarbonisation will be the agricultural industry, which produces a third (33 per cent) of Irish emissions, and particularly produces methane emissions, which dissipate more rapidly than carbon dioxide, but which are 80 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2. Another is transportation, which is the source of almost 20 per cent of Irish emissions. Using France as a model to emulate, Ireland can decarbonise without risking energy shortages due to the changeability of the weather and the lack of sunshine we sadly experience. The Irish government seeks to spend €125 billion on this climate plan, but it will likely go over budget as the negative externalities of agriculture, transportation and energy become apparent and markets become spooked. EPA-EFE/AIDAN CRAWLEY

Dublin's shipyards. This is the only real option to achieve our environmental goals while maintaining our standard of living – we must be bold enough to embrace it. No country can flick a sustainable switch somewhere and manage to decarbonise in a handful of years, and Ireland must be sure to avoid over-politicising potential solutions such as nuclear and begin laying the groundwork for a transition to cleaner sources of energy. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Ireland’s climate action plan must look beyond de-growth led by the state

By Joshua Taggart
An environmental economist and researcher who has worked for the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Entrepreneurs Network and the European Policy Information Center.

Moscow said it was unacceptable for the EU to impose sanctions on Belarus over the crisis. Lukashenko said his country would have to respond if the EU imposed a new round of sanctions. Russia, Belarus’ lone ally in the crisis, sharply criticized the West for backing Poland’s handling of the migrants, with the Kremlin accusing Europe of failing to live up to its own humanitarian ideals and trying to “strangle” Belarus with plans to close part of the frontier. In recent months, the totalitarian government of Belarus has tried to manufacture a migrations crisis on the borders of Poland and Lithuania; Minsk’s response to Western sanctions after the country’s KGB violently sacked down on pro-democracy protests in August and September 2020, following a rigged election that handed the country’s long-serving dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, a new term in office. He later hinted that he would cut off gas supplies to Europe if new sanctions were imposed. In a strongly-worded statement, the West accused Belarus of using the migrants to destabilize the European Union’s eastern border. Western members of the UN Security Council have condemned Belarus for the escalating crisis. The European Union, which has repeatedly sanctioned Belarus for human rights abuses, has accused Minsk of drawing in migrants from war-torn and impoverished countries and then pushing them into Poland. On November 10, the European Union accused Belarus of mounting a “hybrid attack” by pushing migrants across the border into Poland. In recent years, however, countries such as Turkey, and now the former Soviet republic of Belarus, have taken this concept to a new level – the weaponization of poor and under-educated and unskilled refugees from the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, most of whom are fleeing their homes in the hope of finding a better life in Europe. These migrants, which were allegedly lured to Belarus with a false promise of free passage by unsanctioned “travel agencies” in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa have found themselves in the Belarus of Lukashenko, a man who has no intention of allowing the refugees to stay, but he is more than willing to assist them in violating Poland and the EU’s borders by sparking a migrant crisis. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border

By New Europe
The European political newspaper

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Using human lives to blackmail the governments of rival nations is as old as human civilization.

“We heat Europe and they are threatening to close the border. “It’s an attempt by an authoritarian regime in Belarus to destabilize its democratic neighbors. But Weafer argued that there is a subtle difference. Lukashenko’s threat over gas supplies comes as EU officials plan new sanctions as early as next week. We have also seen what happened during recent elections, attempts to influence the elections and then there were the cyberattacks as well and we also saw the huge volume of disinformation and now hybrid attacks which are exploiting migrants,” European Commission’s spokeswoman Dana Spinant told the midday briefing on November 11, quoting the European Commission President. “It would indeed (affect gas supplies) but Russia would be able to say, ‘We’re not doing it’ and allow pressure to build on Europe. Moreover, Belarus relies on lucrative gas transit fees for Russian gas to Europe. “It is a credible threat when you put it into context with other issues as well, with the issues over refugees, with the issues of Russia saber-rattling over Ukraine again, it’s actually creating a very nasty spike of aggressive heat in the area and the catalyst for that could easily be the gas supplies,” Urquhart Stewart told New Europe by phone on November 12. We’ve seen what’s going on. Weafer opined that it’s absolutely clear the Kremlin will act in defense of Belarus but the time it will act in defense of Lukashenko is fast coming to an end. In theory, the Kremlin wants to continue to ensure Belarus is a country it remains closely aligned with,” Weafer said. Von der Leyen said that it wasn’t a bilateral issue between these countries and Belarus, it was a question of the entire EU. Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked Putin on November 10 to intervene with Belarus over the migrant situation. “President Lukashenko would not dare to cut Russian gas transit to Europe without getting specific permission from the Kremlin to do so and he is not going to get that permission because Russia even in the Soviet times always positioned itself as a reliable supplier of gas and always delivers on contracts so in my opinion there is no credible scenario where the Kremlin would give him permission to block gas transit to Gazprom’s customers to Europe,” Chris Weafer, co-founder of Macro-Advisory in Moscow, told New Europe by phone on November 12. These methods which we are familiar with. “There is a temptation I believe on the part regime to add additional threats but President von der Leyen, after her meeting with President Biden, said quite clearly we are protecting our democracy against these cynical moves, geopolitical moves on our borders,” Spinant said. Low flows to Europe and reverse flows on the Yamal-Europe pipeline last week – meaning gas flowed eastwards into Poland instead of westbound into Germany – had worsened a supply squeeze in Europe that has driven up prices for industry and consumers, Reuters reported, adding that Russia started pumping gas to Germany again late on November 8, acting on an order by Putin to increase supplies to Europe and rebuild Russian inventories there once domestic storage tanks were replenished. So, he is the one that could be saying, ‘We’ll cut off the gas’ and Putin say, ‘It’s not me.’ But nevertheless, there is a Russian bear’s paw on the gas tap, it’s that the paw itself is covered with the flag of Belarus,” he argued. However, in recent years, Lukashenko has become a problem for the Kremlin with his actions, he added. But it’s unlikely Russian President Vladimir Putin, which has backed the authoritarian regime so far, would allow Belarus’ President to carry on with his threat to block Russia’s natural gas pipeline crossing Belarus. We have seen threats and what we are saying very clearly is that we are not going to allow ourselves to be intimidated. I would therefore advise Polish, Lithuanian and other harebrained leaders to think before speaking,” Lukashenko was quoted as saying. Merkel said Putin can influence the Belarussian regime and invited him to try to persuade the Belarussian authorities to stop this hybrid attack at EU’s borders which is no nobody interest. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and US President Joe Biden spoke about the situation about EU’s external border in Poland and Lithuania with Belarus. The transnational Yamal – Europe gas pipeline, which runs across Russia, Belarus, Poland and Germany, has an annual capacity of 32.9 billion cubic meters, according to Russian gas monopoly Gazprom. And what would happen if we cut off the natural gas which goes there? Lukashenko’s comments came after Russia increased its flow of gas to Europe via Poland and Belarus as well as Ukraine on November 10. Regarding Lukashenko’s threat to disrupt gas supplies to Europe resulting in a further spike in gas prices, the EU Commission spokeswoman said, “This will be a new tool in the hybrid attack if that is added to the current situation. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Lukashenko would not dare cut gas supplies to EU without Kremlin’s permission

By Kostis Geropoulos
Energy & Russian Affairs Editor, New Europe

Minskaya CS at Yamal – Europe gas pipeline. follow on twitter @energyinsider The Kremlin appears to be a political and economic lifeline for Lukashenko. Because Lukashenko is acting as Putin’s puppet. On November 9, Gazprom said it had started to refill its European gas storage. GAZPROM

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Belarus’ authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko threatened to cut gas supplies to Europe transiting his country if the European Union imposed further sanctions in response to the migrant crisis created by Belarus at its border with Poland. Justin Urquhart Stewart, co-founder of Regionally in London, said there is a credible threat that Lukashenko could cut Russian gas supplies to Europe. “The Kremlin backs Belarus and it backs the Belarus elite. That’s all I can tell you about what we have seen yesterday and today on any potential action by the Belarussian regime using gas as a tool”.

As had I. But we do know how things too often play out in the Ukrainian media landscape. The brand is nothing without its team. Some journalists are now investigating whether the closure was ordered from above. It’s easy to overestimate one’s importance and I intended to tone it down. Kivan ordered for the paper to cease publishing immediately and fire everyone. I don’t doubt that any of our journalists can quickly find gainful employment at other media hungry for their talent. It also gave me good friends. Tension had been building around Kivan’s proposed expansion concept for the Kyiv Post. We had to save the Kyiv Post or at least its spirit. Even the death of a relatively small publication like the Kyiv Post makes independent media poorer, investigations less frequent, checks to power more dilute. Diplomats and the diaspora watch our political coverage. But, to use a cliche, when the team and the brand are together, they are both greater than the sum of their parts. Facebook

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When I returned to Ukraine to work for the Kyiv Post, I had a vague plan to stay for three years. My colleagues’ faces weren’t so much crestfallen as determined. He once told the newsroom that “silence is golden,” which was a bit like telling a roomful of doctors “why save people?”
But we have always been this way and Kivan knew it when he bought us. Several weeks later, we were all fired. But that decision isn’t ours. So far, the owner doesn’t want to sell. Two years of combing through the city of my birth as a journalist eroded these plans. I think we all knew something bad was coming, even though nobody predicted it would be this drastic. Media outlets from around the globe, NGOs, embassies, business leaders, endowments, international organizations, law firms and many many people all reached out, offering their support to help keep us going. Closing the paper and relaunching it with a more compliant staff will make it a hollow shell of its former self, as has happened to Ukrainian media in the past. As my third year approached its end, I, now a news editor, knew I’d be staying. This is exactly why it’s important to keep the Kyiv Post around in its current form: independent. This is why separating them would be a huge mistake. Many foreign media look to us to understand the country. We stayed troublesome because our owner, to his credit, largely remained hands-off. What we took a stand against was the appointment of a deputy chief editor from Kivan’s pet television channel in Odessa, who had never worked in independent media before. Parts of it just seemed impractical, like the TV studio or the separate Ukrainian section, which the Kyiv Post has already failed to implement once. But the team is also made stronger by the brand. Regardless, we had resolved to make it work. Other high-ranking officials have been censured for talking to us. But it couldn’t have always been easy. They looked like they had already decided to fight. More than that, the Kyiv Post has helped develop numerous prominent journalists, including Vitaly Sych, Chris Miller, Nathan Hodge, James Marson, Katya Gorchinskaya and Josh Kovensky, among many others. In one of my earlier publications, the different language sections presented significant logistical problems. Under a previous owner, Bonner was once fired for refusing to pull a critical story when pressured; a staff strike brought him back. And just like that, Ukraine’s English voice for 26 years was gone. The business section is read by the business world’s movers and shakers, foreign investors and international financial organizations. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Why it’s important to save the independent Kyiv Post

By Igor Kossov
An American journalist and former editor at the Kyiv Post. We don’t know.  
But the Kyiv Post is so much more than investigations. One day, he intended to “reboot” the Kyiv Post under new management. But the massive outpouring of support in the 48 hours after we posted our statement convinced me otherwise. The lifestyle section dazzles with culture, art and fashion, bringing locals and foreigners closer together. But even if separation is inevitable, at least we can preserve the team. That hasn’t changed. To a businessman trying to make it big in Ukraine, we are perhaps more trouble than we’re worth. We hope Kivan, a professed opponent of autocracies, who once said that independent press is key to democracy, changes his mind and does the best thing for the Kyiv Post by selling it to a good buyer. In the past two years, our coverage got us chewed out by a member of the president’s administration and threatened with a lawsuit by a very high-ranking official. We’ve received word from multiple interested buyers, some more suitable than others. The Kyiv Post has helped me take on a national bank, two powerful oligarchs and their empires. I looked around the newsroom when he said it. People like them help project the country’s voice internationally and grow Ukraine’s journalist corps, as talented newcomers coalesce around them. He had complained on several occasions that our investigations were damaging. This channel lacks a commercial department and advertising, whose presence in media Kivan seems to regard with contempt. This is why it was such a gut punch when, on the morning of November 8, the Post’s editor-in-chief, Brian Bonner, gathered us all and solemnly told us that the owner, Adnan Kivan, an Odessa-based; Syrian-born construction oligarch, was pulling the plug. Multiple presidential administrations and powerful people have tried to co-opt or bully the Kyiv Post.

The bellicose, destabilizing forces come from Iran and the Armenian diaspora, the most vocal and militant parts of which are working with Iran to provoke a new and catastrophic war. Iran is playing the “Armenia card” against Turkey, but this ends up being also against Russia and is not in Russia’s national interest. Executives of Iranian military companies have increased their visits to Armenia. It is a time of great opportunity and great danger. The former chief advisor to Armenia’s president Levon Ter-Petrosyan in the 1990s, Jirair Libaridian has warned about how the Armenian diaspora’s mythomania and territorial claims about “Greater Armenia” may lead to the demise of Armenia as it exists today. It makes sense that Iran, which is perpetually more or less hostile to Azerbaijan, finds common cause with the maximalist Armenian diaspora, which by all appearances wishes to prepare a Third Karabakh War against Azerbaijan. The more Armenian diaspora is more than actively involved in the lobbying for Iranian interests, and not only in Yerevan. In particular, Iran has moved from covert support of Armenia to overt support of Armenia. Facebook

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One year after the end of the Second Karabakh War, the landscape in the South Caucasus has changed: both politically and physically. Russian peacekeepers in Karabakh. The victory of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Yerevan in the snap parliamentary elections in June this year was extraordinary, insofar as he had been head of the government during the Second Karabakh War, which was for Armenia a catastrophic loss. Diplomatic communications have intensified. Indeed, the only country that may have the financial means to invest in Armenia for peaceful purposes would seem to be Azerbaijan. Attendees at the opening ceremony included representatives from such Iranian laser- and communications-system and drone manufacturers as Rayan Roshd, Eskay Rayter, Radin, and Azer Partu Spadana. In January, an Iranian Export and Investment Centre was established in Yerevan. The “war party” in Yerevan has been recruiting and even finding new external allies, beyond its long reliance on the Armenian diaspora for international publicity and financial support. If we would suppose (1) that Russia has more than half-succeeded in drawing Georgia back into its own sphere of influence under Bidzina Ivanishvili’s political hegemony in Tbilisi, and (2) that Azerbaijan’s victory in the Second Karabakh War represents an insertion of Turkish influence into the South Caucasus, then we would could say (3) that Iran is now trying harder than ever to assert itself overtly in the South caucuses through the instrument of Armenian military-industrial complex. It is why the Tsar fought five wars against Persia in the early nineteenth century! Against all expectations, the leadership in Baku is moving with great speed to develop the de-occupied territories. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>The Second Karabakh War, one year later

By Robert M. Following the state’s re-establishment of the integrity of most of its territory, the possibility is opened up—for the first time in nearly two generations—that peace and prosperity may come to the whole South Caucasus through regional cooperation. Armenia can still be saved from becoming a failed state, but forces are working against it. It needs investment, and for that, it needs a formal peace treaty. Armenia has the opportunity to leave behind the failed policies of the “Karabakh clan” that impoverished the country for two decades. This is why a peace treaty finally settling the Karabakh Wars, including the mutual delimitation of international borders and recognition of territorial integrity, is imperative the soonest possible. Highways have been constructed linking them with the eastern part of the country. Cutler
Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. Such a development is, however, still far from a sure thing. These forces are not from Azerbaijan, because a prosperous, truly democratic Armenia can only contribute to international security in the whole South Caucasus, including Azerbaijan. The population outside Yerevan is migrating out of the country. Let me explain this with an over-simplification from the standpoint of the regional power balance, in which there is nevertheless an important kernel of truth. A relatively stable and, at least, not-impoverished Armenia under Russian influence is more to Moscow’s advantage than an unstable Armenia under increased IRGC influence. This would be a disastrous development for Armenians in Armenia, for the whole of the South Caucasus, indeed also for Turkey and even for Russia. The formerly occupied regions are becoming a generator of economic growth for Azerbaijan. The Armenian economy has collapsed. One might say that a struggle has thus started for the soul of Armenia, and that its result will have implications for the entire south Caucasus and beyond. Rather, they see their own narrow interest in grandstanding from a distance, without caring about Armenian lives in Armenia; and so they assist Iran: against the interests of Russia, the interests of Turkey, and indeed the interests of the European Union which seeks only a stable and prosperous neighborhood in the South Caucasus. The Armenian diaspora has been one of the strongest elements of the “war party” in Yerevan over the past three decades and, living abroad, it does not have to suffer the effects of the disastrous policies that it advocates.  
In a nutshell: Iran has every reason to seek to turn Armenia into a failed state, like Lebanon, in order to push its own interests in South Caucasus. One international airport has already opened, and two more are under construction. A relatively stable Armenia—even one with a truly democratic civil society—would be more in Russia’s interest than an unstable Armenia with increased influence from Iran’s terrorist and terrorist-sponsoring Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Armenian diaspora could assist greatly with foreign direct investment into Armenia for real economic and social prosperity, but they do not do this.

Your opinion does not matter. Your free speech, if critical of Islam, is now hate speech. Trans-women are now considered ‘real women’, and freedom is in mandated headwear. It is, however, quite true. It is the silver bullet of public debate, an instant knockout against there is no defence. But ‘freedom in a hijab’ is a little harder to swallow. France’s Muslim population has grown rapidly over the last two decades reaching an estimated 3.35 million people, roughly 5% of the total population. There’s nothing surprising about the logos of the EU and European Council being on this, as both have been doing their utmost to convince Europeans that Islam is, in fact, perfectly fine, and possibly even better than anything that the continent has seen before. This has certainly been the case with assorted friends, acquaintances, and colleagues. What is slightly perplexing, though, are the other two labels: ‘We Can for human rights speech’ (which I object to purely on grammatical terms) and ‘No Hate’. I’ve noticed – and I suspect that you have, too – a trend in any criticism of anything to do with minorities being branded as ‘hate’. I simply do not make the grievous error of confusing Europe with the European Union. My grammatical problems with this aside, I think it is of the utmost importance to stress that ‘human rights speech’ is not the same as ‘freedom of speech’. The Orwellian ability of the European Left to hold conflicting ideas over support for mass immigration from Islamic countries, while championing LGBT rights and feminist causes is simply staggering. What is pushing people to the political extreme is the same as what drove people to the original Nazi Party – desperation. At the bottom are four logos for the European Union, European Council, something called ‘We Can for human rights speech’, and another which is a simple heart in which ‘No Hate’ is written. Incidentally, I’ve heard the left-wing and apologist arguments for this. ‘Human rights speech’ – it seems to me, at any rate – is whatever the political Left and its Islamist allies approve of. The rise of these groups, then, is not because the truly vile of the far-right have suddenly been able to convert masses of the population to their cause. Of course, those who make an accusation of that kind are probably aware (though I wouldn’t be prepared to bet on it) that by branding criticism of Islam as ‘hate’ they then don’t have to answer any questions over the rights of Muslims and the LGBT community in the Muslim world. It is, after all, not the EU that made Europe the greatest continent on the planet. There is rather a lot to unpack here. But I suppose that’s the world we live in now – we have long since gone through the looking-glass.  
I do not want to see Europe descend into another bout of fascism. Well, incredibly. ‘Beauty is in diversity’ – well, no arguments here. It shows a smiling woman of African origin alongside the captions ‘Beauty is in diversity as freedom is in a hijab’ and ‘How boring would it be if everyone looks the same? Couple this with the much-publicised sexual assault cases against German and Swedish women by migrants, and the fact that the European authorities are not just saying that everything is absolutely fine, but that you must – must – respect Islam and all of its accompanying aspects, then where do you go? The histories, cultures, and philosophies of our home far surpass those of anywhere else, and collectively have given birth to the best societies in the world today. Exactly how it is empowering has never been adequately explained. This, I’m sure, is quite deliberate. This is where we begin to swim into murky waters. Your argument is declared null and void because it is coming from a place of alleged prejudice. ‘How boring would it be if everyone looks the same?’. Welcome to the 21st-century Western world. But I don’t see that the way to stop everyone from looking the same is to have them all wear the same type of headscarf. They usually run along the lines of ‘The hijab is empowering to women’. I shall begin with a picture sitting on my desktop. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>The EU and the hijab

By Timothy Ogden
A UK-based freelance journalist focusing on defence matters

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Given my relentless, savage, repetitive and – if I may say so – eminently fair criticism of the European Union, I could easily forgive my readers for being sceptical when I claim to be a Europhile. You might also note that the picture contains the phrase ‘for human rights speech’. Do you also think that the unsaid part of that statement is ‘or else’? ‘Hate’, too, is also being used against those who have endorsed ‘far-right’ political movements across the continent. Of course, inevitably there will be a few true neo-Nazis, but they have been skulking in political and social shadows since the Second World War, and hitherto have never made any substantial political impact. Indeed, that argument seems to be so existentially redundant that we’ve moved on from ‘The hijab is empowering’ to ‘freedom is in a hijab’. But it will only be stopped by honesty, an end to European hypocrisy, and some frank conversations about what is – and what is not – compatible with our deeply-rooted traditions of liberal Western democracy. Yet anger is the usual port of call for the zealot who dare not examine their own beliefs. I hope, then, that you will allow me to explain why I am in mortal terror for the dear old place. The fact that far-right factions are on the rise in Europe is not because the Italians, Germans and French have suddenly thought that Hitler and Mussolini were, in fact, jolly good chaps who had the right sort of notions for the world. If you are a European who has, in the short space of less than 20 years, seen a surge in numbers of a separate population in your country – within which a minority have committed terrorist attacks in the name of their shared religion – that does not respect your language, your culture, your history, your social norms, your sense of constitutional justice and rule-of-law, as well as your traditions; well, you are going to be somewhat sceptical of the ‘peaceful inclusiveness’ of Islam. The idea that I – someone who is as proud possible to be of Britain’s history without being indecent – could harbour such love for the continent might be a little hard to believe. I also take issue with the next stanza. Apparently not: ‘Celebrate diversity – respect the hijab’. Case closed? A Muslim woman walks through the streets of Paris. I don’t see how there’s much freedom in a garment that women are often forced to wear (I did say often, not always, before you type out a thunderous denunciation), by social pressure in the West from their families and communities and by law in some countries whose law is taken from the Koran. Celebrate diversity – respect the hijab’.

To this end, the two countries intend to cooperate to enhance the measurement of methane emissions, to exchange information on their respective policies and programs for strengthening management and control of methane, and to foster joint research into methane emission reduction challenges and solutions. The US and China are recognizing specifically the significant role that emissions of methane play in increasing temperatures, both countries consider increased action to control and reduce such emissions to be a matter of necessity in the 2020s. The United States has set a goal to reach 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035. The United States has announced the US Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan. In addition to its recently communicated NDC, China intends to develop a comprehensive and ambitious National Action Plan on methane, aiming to achieve a significant effect on methane emissions control and reductions in the 2020s. Recognizing that eliminating global illegal deforestation would contribute meaningfully to the effort to reach the Paris goals, the two countries welcome the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, the declaration said, adding that the two sides intend to engage collaboratively in support of eliminating global illegal deforestation through effectively enforcing their respective laws on banning illegal imports. China will phase down coal consumption during the 15th Five Year Plan and make best efforts to accelerate this work. According to a report by the UN, CO2 emissions have gone up for the first time in four years. The report comes just days ahead of the COP24 United Nations Climate Change Conference taking place in Poland from 02 to 14 December. They also agreed to maximize the societal benefits of the clean energy transition, policies to encourage decarbonization and electrification of end-use sectors, key areas related to the circular economy, such as green design and renewable resource utilization and deployment and application of technology such as CCUS and direct air capture, the declaration read. The United States and China intend to convene a meeting in the first half of 2022 to focus on the specifics of enhancing measurement and mitigation of methane, including through standards to reduce methane from the fossil and waste sectors, as well as incentives and programs to reduce methane from the agricultural sector, the declaration read. In order to reduce CO2 emissions, the US and China, intend to cooperate on policies that support the effective integration of high shares of low-cost intermittent renewable energy, transmission policies that encourage efficient balancing of electricity supply and demand across broad geographies, distributed generation policies that encourage integration of solar, storage, and other clean power solutions closer to electricity users, and energy efficiency policies and standards to reduce electricity waste. EPA-EFE/WU HONG

A view shows a power plant operating during a polluted day in Beijing, China, December 2, 2018. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>US-China ink joint deal to enhancing climate action in the 2020s

By New Europe Online/KG

epaselect epa07203122 A view shows a power plant operating during a polluted day in Beijing, China, 02 December 2018.   Taking into account the above cooperation, as appropriate, the two sides before COP 27 intend to develop additional measures to enhance methane emission control, at both the national and sub-national levels. EPA-EFE/WU HONG

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The United States and China have signed a joint declaration on enhancing climate action this decade, agreeing to cooperate on regulatory frameworks and environmental standards related to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in the 2020s.