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Every Wednesday, the European Circle delivers an overview of the most important topics from the European Union and the European nations.

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G7 and EU launch Marshall Plan for Ukraine, Stricter rules for energy performance of buildings, EU countries agree COP27 stance after row on climate ambition
European Circle in week 43, 2022
curated by Nina von Schweinitz

EUROPE

G7 and EU launch Marshall Plan for Ukraine: German and European Union leaders gathered experts Tuesday to start work on what German Chancellor Olaf Scholz described as a new Marshall Plan for the rebuilding of Ukraine. The Marshall Plan was a US-sponsored initiative that helped revive western European economies after World War II. Scholz said Ukraine’s backers needed to discuss how to ensure and how to sustain the financing of the recovery, reconstruction and modernisation of Ukraine for years and decades to come. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the World Bank puts the cost of damage to Ukraine so far at 350 billion euros. apnews.com

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy: „It’s a very significant amount of money, a $38 billion deficit.“ france24.com
  • EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen: “About a third of Ukraine’s budgetary needs should be financed by us.“ derstandard.de
  • Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki: “There is a huge pot of gold to be taken and dedicated for Ukraine’s reconstruction, which is Russian assets — assets of the Russian Federation and Russian oligarchs.“
  • International Monetary Fund expects financing needs in 2023 of around $3 billion to $4 billion. imf.org
  • World Bank disburses additional $500 Million to Ukraine. worldbank.org

Biden warns Russia against using nuclear weapons: The US president renewed his warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin that it would be an incredibly serious mistake to use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine. Biden said that he was still uncertain if Russia was trying to put together a false flag operation in which it would detonate a dirty bomb and blame the Ukrainians. A dirty bomb is not a nuclear weapon, but a conventional explosive wrapped in radioactive waste. Russia insisted before the UN Security Council that Ukraine planned to detonate a „dirty bomb“ in the war zone, but Western diplomats said Moscow provided no evidence to support the claim. Kyiv authorities claimed Tuesday that they’ve seen suspicious activity by Russian forces at Ukraine’s occupied nuclear power plant. nytimes.com, france24.com, bloomberg.com

  • EU agrees on new Iran sanctions over drone deliveries to Russia. reuters.com
  • Norway arrests researcher as suspected Russian spy. dw.com
  • EU counts more than 1,200 pieces of misinformation in media with close links to the Kremlin. t-online.de

EU energy ministers continue to disagree on gas price cap: The ministers will hold another emergency meeting in November to try to make progress on a bloc-wide gas price cap, after talks on Tuesday left it unclear when Brussels would make a firm proposal on the measure. EU countries have debated capping gas prices for weeks as some countries have backed the idea as a way to stem energy cost rises triggered by plummeting Russian gas supplies, while others have opposed it. Germany and the Netherlands are among those that are sceptical of a price cap, citing the risk it would cause gas use to rise or leave countries struggling to buy enough. Belgium, Italy, Poland and 12 other countries have called for a cap to help limit inflation. reuters.com

  • Germany’s Scholz and France’s Macron seek to calm rising Franco-German tensions. ft.com
  • Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki: “In theory, the cheap Russian gas was supposed to be a blessing for the German economy. In practice it has become a curse for all of Europe.” theguardian.com
  • Greece proposes power link to Austria, Germany. reuters.com
  • France, Spain and Portugal agree to build Barcelona-Marseille gas pipeline. reuters.com
  • Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre: „It is not in our interest to have these high and volatile gas prices.“ handelsblatt.com
  • Strikes end at some of TotalEnergies‘ French refineries. reuters.com

Stricter rules for energy performance of buildings: The Council of the EU reached an agreement on a proposal to revise the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. The main objectives of the revision are that all new buildings should be zero-emission buildings by 2030, and that existing buildings should be transformed into zero-emission buildings by 2050. Exceptions will be possible for some buildings, including historical buildings, places of worship and buildings used for defence purposes. consilium.europa.eu

EU countries agree COP27 stance after row on climate ambition: Environment ministers have agreed their negotiating position for the COP27 climate conference in Sharm el Sheikh. They agreed to update the EU’s climate target as soon as possible but added this could only be done after they finalise key legislation with the EU Parliament. The EU has pledged to cut its net emissions by 55% from 1990 levels by 2030 and is currently negotiating a package of energy and climate laws – dubbed Fit for 55 – in order to achieve this goal. euractiv.com

Europe auto emissions standards to be watered down: The automotive industry has been actively lobbying against the very strict pollution reductions that were supposed to be introduced with the Euro 7 emissions standards in the middle of this decade. It seems that this process will result in the EU Commission probably watering down significantly the upcoming regulations thus ensuring the automakers won’t have to make huge investments. motor1.com

EU doesn’t want to comply with WHO limits for air pollution: In 2021, the World Health Organization called for stricter guideline values for pollutants such as nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide. For example, the limit value for particulate matter must be lowered from 40 microgrammes per cubic metre of air to 10 microgrammes. The EU Commission, however, now wants to lower the limit to only 20 microgrammes. Some EU lawmakers criticise the EU Commission for endangering the health of the people in Europe. rnd.de

EU decides on new limits for hazardous chemicals: The Council of the EU formally adopted a regulation to reduce limit values for the presence of persistent organic pollutants in waste. Persistent organic pollutants are particularly harmful substances. Although these chemicals may no longer be used in new products, they can still be found in waste coming from some consumer products such as waterproof textiles, furniture, plastics, and electronic equipment. In order to reach a circular economy, where waste will be increasingly used as a secondary raw material, establishing new limits to the presence of persistent organic pollutants in waste is essential. consilium.europa.eu

EU countries give green light for common charger by fall 2024: USB-C will become mandatory for a range of devices, like mobile phones, tablets and e-readers, digital cameras and game consoles, headphones and loudspeakers, wireless mice and keyboards, and portable navigation systems. The rules will apply 24 months after entering into force, likely to be fall 2024. Laptops have a longer grace period — of 40 months — which means a common charger for laptops will come by early 2026. politico.eu

EU to strengthen Frontex powers in the Balkans: The EU Commission adopted a recommendation to the Council to authorise the opening of negotiations of upgraded European Border and Coast Guard Agency’s (Frontex) status agreements between the EU and Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, as well as with Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Commission is also adopting a new assistance package worth €39.2 million under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance to strengthen border management in the Western Balkans. ec.europa.eu

  • Migration policy: Representatives from almost 50 states adopt action plan. welt.de
  • More than 5,600 people have died since 2021 fleeing to Europe. zeit.de
  • Sea rescue ship Humanity 1 rescues people from the Mediterranean. tagesschau.de

European air defence shield: European Sky Shield initiative without Poland zdf.de
Gender Equality Index: Gender equality under threat due to Covid dw.com
EU report: Situation of Sinti and Roma in Europe remains desperate tagesspiegel.de
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell apologises for controversial ‚garden vs jungle‘ metaphor but defends speech euronews.com
Mercosur free trade agreement: EU says fully committed to trade deal with Latin America euractiv.com
Antibiotic resistance: Cut animal transport times to reduce rise of superbugs, says EU agency euractiv.com

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

„We know that no two countries‘ histories are the same, but from our own historical experience, we also know that reconstruction is always possible and that it is never too soon to tackle this task.”

Ukraine’s reconstruction will be a challenge for generations that needs to begin now, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said at a conference on rebuilding the war-torn country. euronews.com

NATION

Meloni distances herself from fascism in first speech as PM: Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni addressed parliament on Tuesday for the first time since she got the job. „I have never felt any sympathy or closeness to anti-democratic regimes… fascism included,“ Meloni told lawmakers. She vowed to fight any form of racism, antisemitism, political violence and discrimination. „This government will respect the [EU] rules currently in force and at the same time offer its contribution to change those that have not worked,“ she said, and added that the Italian government would continue to be a reliable partner of NATO in supporting Ukraine. Meloni, who has long called for restricting migration, also said that the government wants to stop illegal immigration and human trafficking. dw.com

  • Meloni easily wins confidence vote in parliament. apnews.com
  • Meloni wants to be addressed with male title. reuters.com

Sunak is Britain’s new prime minister: Rishi Sunak won the role of Conservative Party leader after his sole competitor, Penny Mordaunt, dropped out of the race moments before votes from members of Parliament were due to be announced Monday afternoon. It follows the withdrawal of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson from the leadership race Sunday. The former finance minister steps into the role as the country grapples with a worsening economic picture following the chaotic fallout from former PM Liz Truss’ September mini-budget. cnbc.com

Sunak announces first ministerial posts: Jeremy Hunt, Prime Minister Liz Truss’s second finance minister, will stay on, presumably to build on the economic policies he announced when gutting Truss’s supply-side agenda. The other top jobs went to Suella Braverman, who returns as home secretary after stepping down last week in a spat with Truss, and James Cleverly, who is staying on as foreign secretary, as well as Ben Wallace as defence secretary. Sunak also appointed Dominic Raab as deputy prime minister and justice secretary. Grant Shapps, the former transport secretary who filled in as home secretary for less than a week, is moving to be business secretary. theguardian.com, washingtonpost.com

  • EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen: „In these testing times for our continent, we count on a strong relationship with the UK to defend our common values, in full respect of our agreements.“ twitter.com
  • US President Joe Biden: „Together, I look forward to enhancing our cooperation on issues critical to global security and prosperity, including continuing our strong support for Ukraine.“ twitter.com
  • Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin called for better cooperation between the UK and Irish governments on the issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol. bbc.com

Quebec lawmakers refuse to swear oath to King Charles. politico.eu

Climate activists continue to protest in several countries: Climate activists are throwing tomato soup and mashed potatoes on some of the world’s most famous paintings. And on Monday, the food-filled protests continued. At Madame Tussauds in London, two protesters stood in front of wax figures of the royal family, revealed “Just Stop Oil” T-shirts, and smashed cake onto a replica of King Charles. In Germany, two climate activists threw mashed potatoes on a glass-covered painting by the celebrated French Impressionist Claude Monet inside a German museum. fortune.com, nytimes.com

  • Street blockade in Sweden – twelve climate activists sentenced. spiegel.de
  • Climate activists glue themselves to sports cars at the 2022 Paris Motor Show. reuters.com

French government survives no-confidence votes after forcing through budget: French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist government survived two no-confidence votes Monday prompted by opposition lawmakers to protest the use of a special constitutional power to force the budget bill through the National Assembly without a vote. france24.com

  • French President Macron meets pope, discusses Ukraine with Vatican officials. reuters.com
  • French lithium mine project unveiled in electric car race. reuters.com

Romania’s defence minister resigns after Russia peace comments: Vasile Dincu cited difficulties working with the country’s president Klaus Iohannis. His departure comes one week after he controversially suggested that Ukraine’s only chance for peace would be negotiating with Russia. Iohannis had criticised the defence minister for going against Romania’s official stance, stating that „only Ukraine will decide when and how it will negotiate“. euronews.com

Hungary’s Orban lashes out at EU: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban made veiled comparisons on Sunday between the Soviet troops that attacked Hungary during the 1956 revolution and the institutions of the EU today. Marking the 66th anniversary of that crushed uprising, Orban suggested that the EU, which has sought to rein in democratic backsliding in Hungary, would end up like the Soviet Union, which dissolved more than three decades ago. apnews.com

Germany hashes out compromise to allow smaller stake China port deal: Germany may allow China’s Cosco to take a smaller stake than originally planned in a Hamburg port terminal, in what an economy ministry source described as an emergency solution to approve the deal but mitigate the impact. According to sources, Germany’s economy and foreign ministries still wanted to block the deal entirely but were unlikely to succeed, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz expected to prevail over the objections from other ministers. „The economy ministry has the position that we should not have Chinese investment in critical infrastructure if possible,“ Economy Minister Robert Habeck said in Luxemburg on Tuesday on the sidelines of the EU energy ministers‘ meeting. reuters.com

Slovenia: Presidency to be decided in runoff dw.com
Montenegro: Parliament dismisses pro-Western ministers rferl.org
Spectacular find in Sweden: Archaeologists discover wreck of 17th-century warship, sister ship to famous Vasa cnn.com
German Africa Prize 2022 awarded to African scientists for Covid research dw.com
Netherlands culls a further 300,000 chickens amid bird flu epidemic reuters.com
Austria: President meets executive leaders as graft cases shake government euractiv.com

NUMERS

On Monday, the euro somewhat recovered from temporary losses. The common currency was trading at 0.9879 against the US dollar. t-online.de

AT LEAST

Biden welcomes Sunak by mangling his name: At an event in Washington on Monday evening marking the beginning of Diwali, US President Joe Biden said to cheers: “Just today, we’ve got news that Rashee, Rashee Sanook is now the prime minister.” The White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also mispronounced the new British prime minister’s name but corrected herself. politico.eu, theguardian.com