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

Newsletter

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EU countries agree gas price cap, Moldova fears Russian invasion, Elon Musk invited to testify in the European Parliament
European Circle in week 51, 2022
curated by Nina von Schweinitz

EUROPE

EU countries agree gas price cap: Ministers agreed to trigger a cap if prices exceed 180 euros per megawatt hour for three days on the Dutch Title Transfer Facility (TTF) gas hub’s front-month contract, which serves as the European benchmark. The cap can be triggered from 15 February 2023 and will apply for one year. Ministers also agreed that it could be switched off if the cap triggered risks to security of supply, financial stability or the risks of increased gas demand. Germany voted to support the deal, despite having raised concerns about the policy’s impact on Europe’s ability to attract gas supplies in price-competitive global markets. reuters.com, theguardian.com

EU cuts gas consumption by 20% over past four months: The number was higher than the voluntary 15% target the EU member states had signed on to in August. Finland led the dive, with gas consumption down 53% between August and November, compared with the average consumption for that period between 2017 and 2021. All but two EU countries showed declines, with major economies Germany, France slicing the amount of gas used by 25 percent and 20 percent, respectively, over that period. Malta and Slovakia showed upticks in gas consumption of less than 10 percent over those four months. france24.com

European Commission clears Germany’s Uniper bailout: The Commission has approved Germany’s 34.5 billion euro plan to recapitalise German natural gas trader Uniper, subject to future state divestment, management pay and acquisitions. The measure aims at restoring the financial position and liquidity of Uniper in the exceptional situation caused by Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and the subsequent disruption of gas deliveries. The Commission said Germany had committed to work out a credible exit strategy by end 2023, aiming to reduce its Uniper shareholding to not more than 25% plus one share by end 2028 at the latest. reuters.com

Moldova fears Russian invasion between January and April: Moldova’s spy chief warned of a very high risk of a new Russian offensive towards his country’s east next year and said Moscow still aimed to secure a land corridor through Ukraine to the breakaway Moldovan region of Transdniestria. He said his agency believed Russia was looking at several scenarios to reach Moldova and that it was possible an offensive would be launched in January-February or later in March-April. reuters.com

Elon Musk invited to testify in the European Parliament: European Parliament President Roberta Metsola sent a letter to the tech billionaire asking him to appear for a frank exchange in public with lawmakers. „Twitter plays a central role in the democratic life of the European Union and enable[s] the possibility for civil discourse,“ Metsola wrote. „Twitter should not unwittingly become a catalyst for hate speech, election interference and misinformation.“ The move comes after a string of chaotic and controversial measures have prompted alarm in Europe. politico.eu

European Parliament corruption case: Eva Kaili confesses: The disgraced former European Parliament vice president Eva Kaili has reportedly given a partial confession of guilt in a high-profile corruption scandal that has rocked the EU. According to reports, Kaili confessed to ordering her father to hide bags full of cash for her, among other things. Kaili was among several people arrested on 9 December, as part of a sting organised by Belgian authorities investigating corruption, money laundering and foreign influence peddling linked to the EU Parliament. dw.com

Amazon settles EU antitrust row: The EU Commission has announced that it accepted the concessions Amazon made to close inquiries into anti-competitive tactics. Antitrust investigations have found Amazon gave itself an unfair advantage over rival sellers. With the agreement, the company will avoid a legal battle that could have ended with the it facing large fines. dw.com

Frontex appoints new director amid anti-fraud probe: European border agency Frontex has appointed the Dutch military and civilian officer Hans Leijtens as its new executive director. Fabrice Leggeri resigned as Frontex director after initial findings of an investigation by the EU’s anti-fraud watchdog OLAF found that Frontex officials knew about migrants being pushed back into the Mediterranean Sea and did not report it. politico.eu

Countries adopt plan to protect 30% of land and water by 2030: The threat of a mass extinction of plant and animal species led 195 nations early Monday to agree to protect and restore at least 30% of the Earth’s land and water by 2030. The agreement was reached following two weeks of negotiations at the COP15 United Nations Biodiversity Conference in Montreal, where arguments over funding temporarily paused talks at one point. time.com

Deal on a more ambitious Emissions Trading System: On Saturday night, MEPs and EU governments agreed to reform the Emissions Trading System to further reduce industrial emissions and invest more in climate friendly technologies. Emissions in the ETS sectors must be cut by 62% by 2030, compared to 2005, which is one percentage point more than proposed by the EU Commission. In order to reach this reduction, there will be a one-off reduction to the EU-wide quantity of allowances of 90 Mt Co2 equivalents in 2024 and 27 Mt in 2026 in combination with an annual reduction of allowances by 4.3% from 2024-27 and 4.4% from 2028-30. europarl.europa.eu

Taliban bans women from universities: The Taliban government has suspended university education for all female students in Afghanistan. Girls were also barred from returning to secondary schools in March. US Ambassador Robert Wood told a United Nations’ Security Council briefing that the “Taliban cannot expect to be a legitimate member of the international community until they respect the rights of all Afghans, especially the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls.” cnn.com

Iran protests: European MPs seek to publicise plight of jailed Iranian protesters theguardian.com
Meta could face $11.8 billion fine as EU charges tech giant with breaching antitrust rules cnbc.com
Electric cable under the Black Sea: Four leaders sign agreement to bring green Azeri energy to Europe reuters.com
Armenia: EU Monitoring Capacity completes its mandate, new planning team launched consilium.europa.eu

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

„We intend to conclude our first joint purchasing – including through long-term contracts – with gas suppliers well before next summer.“

The first contracts for joint EU gas purchases are to be concluded before summer 2023, according to EU Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic. ec.europa.eu

NATION

Swedish court blocks extradition of journalist sought by Turkey in Nato deal: Sweden’s supreme court has blocked the extradition of an exiled Turkish journalist, which was a key demand by Turkey to ratify Sweden’s NATO membership. The court said on Monday there were several hindrances to sending back Bülent Kenes, a former editor-in-chief of the Zaman daily, who Turkey accuses of being involved in a 2016 attempt to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Some of the accusations against Kenes are not crimes in Sweden. theguardian.com

Afghan migrant dies of hypothermia in Latvia: A critically ill and frostbitten Afghan migrant who on Monday was smuggled into Latvia from Belarus, later died at a hospital in the eastern Latvian city of Rezekne, according to media reports. The Belarusian authorities continue to pose hybrid threats on the border with Latvia, the State Border Guard said. Lithuania recently reported a similar incident: According to the Lithuanian border guard, migrants with frostbite on their feet were smuggled illegally across the border. baltictimes.com

Germany returns looted Benin Bronzes to Nigeria: The repatriation of 20 prized bronzes that were looted by British colonialists in 1897 and sold to museums worldwide was described as a historic day by Germany’s Culture Minister Claudia Roth. „This act of restitution stands for the recognition of the injustice of a colonial past, which appropriated stolen treasures,“ Roth said. „We are here to right a wrong,“ German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock added. dw.com

UK deal with Europe to increase offshore green projects: The British government has signed an agreement with a group including the EU Commission to develop offshore renewable projects in the North Sea. Ramping up projects such as wind farms at sea is set to play a key role if Europe is to reduce its dependence on natural gas and cut carbon emissions. The UK plans to increase capacity of offshore wind production fivefold to 50 gigawatts by the end of the decade, and aims for the economy to produce net-zero emissions by 2050. bloomberg.com

France and Germany push for fast-track subsidies after US row: France’s Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck said in a joint statement that they wanted targeted subsidies and tax credits for industry via umbrella state aid programmes that wouldn’t require lengthy checks from the EU Commission. The two ministers are also planning to travel to Washington in early January with Commission officials to discuss the consequences of the US Inflation Reduction Act. politico.eu

Dutch leader apologises for the Netherlands‘ role in slave trade: Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte apologised Monday on behalf of his government for the Netherlands‘ role in slavery and the slave trade. Rutte told reporters after the speech that the government is not offering compensation to people — grandchildren or great grandchildren of enslaved people. Instead, it is establishing a $212 million fund for initiatives to help tackle the legacy of slavery in the Netherlands and its former colonies and to boost education about the issue. npr.org

First images of British banknotes featuring King Charles III unveiled: Charles’ portrait will appear on English notes of £5, £10, £20 and £50. Meanwhile, the rest of the design will remain the same as the current notes that feature the late Queen Elizabeth II on the front. The new banknotes are expected to enter circulation by mid-2024. cnn.com

Ireland: Leo Varadkar becomes taoiseach as Micheál Martin steps down bbc.com
Italy wants flag state of NGO ships to handle relocations euractiv.com
Bulgaria: Business wants to join Eurozone but society has doubts euractiv.com
France: Livestock farmers not pleased with EU-Chile deal euractiv.com

NUMERS

The EU will have significantly increased coal consumption and production by the end of the year, though structural decline is expected to start in the next three years, according to an International Energy Agency report. In the report, the agency pointed to global coal consumption having increased by more than 1% between 2021 and 2022, reaching an all-time high of 8,000 million tonnes. euractiv.com

AT LEAST

FIA bans political statements from Formula 1 drivers: As of next year, Formula 1, World Rally and Endurance Championships competitors will be barred from making political statements. In recent years several high-profile Formula One drivers have used Grand Prix races to openly support various political and social causes. Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton most notably wore a black T-shirt at the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix with the words „Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor“ on the front. dw.com

The European Circle says goodbye for this year. We wish you happy holidays and a good start into the new year. We will be back on Wednesday, 11 January 2023.