Daily: 20/09/2021

After Merkel: What Role for Germany on Global Stage?

As Germany prepares to elect a new leader in elections scheduled for September 26, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor will face a series of immediate geopolitical challenges. Among the most pressing is the rise of China.

Beijing’s economic push into Europe, part of its “Belt and Road” initiative, has seen Chinese state-owned firms invest in critical infrastructure including ports, railroads and highways.

Hamburg is Germany’s biggest port, handling more than 8.5 million shipping containers every year, and a key artery for Europe’s largest economy and exporter. If current plans are approved, a large share of the port will soon be sold to Beijing. 

More than 30% of the containers handled at Hamburg are shipped to and from China, four times more than second-place United States. Chinese state-owned shipping firm Cosco wants to buy one-third of the shares in the city’s Tollerort terminal. 

Hamburger Hafen and Logistik AG (HHLA), the company that currently owns Tollerort, says the deal is a natural step in an evolving relationship. “We want to bind Cosco, with whom we have been working together for 36 years, closer to us,” HHLA boss Angela Titzrah recently told journalists. Hamburg’s mayor also supports the deal and says it is vital for growth in the face of competition from Rotterdam in the Netherlands and Antwerp in Belgium.

Critics say Germany should be much more wary of the deal. Jürgen Hardt is a lawmaker from Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats. “In China, business plans are not mainly the reason to do business, but (are instead) political decisions of the Communist Party,” Hardt told VOA. “Therefore, we should look very carefully on such a deal. I would prefer to have an exchange of shares between Hamburg harbor and maybe Shanghai harbor.” 

Hardt says this is unlikely, as China does not allow foreign companies to own its infrastructure.

China: friend or foe?

Germany’s geopolitical dilemma echoes that of Hamburg. Is China friend or foe?

The European Union describes China as a “negotiating partner, economic competitor and systemic rival.” In recent years, tensions have grown over Beijing’s treatment of its Muslim Uyghur population, the crackdown on democratic rights in Hong Kong and military expansion in the South China Sea. Germany has found itself caught in the middle, says analyst Liana Fix of the Körber-Stiftung Foundation of International Affairs in Berlin. 

“Europe and the European Union is undecided about which way to pursue. On the one side they feel the pressure from the United States. On the other hand, there are also economic interests especially for member states that are highly dependent on China,” Fix told VOA.

Germany’s leadership could be out of step with the population, according to a recent poll by the Körber-Stiftung Foundation.

“We asked the German public to what extent they would support sanctions towards China, even if it hurts their economy, for human rights issues for human rights violations. And there the majority of Germans said they would support sanctions against China,” Fix said. 

Russia

With Russia too, Germany finds itself caught between East and West. Despite Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine, Chancellor Merkel has pushed ahead with the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was completed earlier this month. It will carry Russian gas directly to Germany, bypassing Ukraine, which has until now benefitted from lucrative transit fees.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy offered Merkel a blunt warning following her visit to Kyiv last month. “I believe that (Nord Stream 2) is a weapon. I believe that not to notice that this is a dangerous weapon, not only for Ukraine but for the whole of Europe, is wrong,” Zelenskiy told reporters August 22. 

The United States also opposes the pipeline and has imposed sanctions on Russian companies involved. That has triggered some resentment in Germany, says analyst Fix. “The strong opposition from the United States has to some extent led to a reaction in Germany which said, ‘OK, why is the United States getting involved in our energy policy?’” Fix said.

With Germany phasing out coal and nuclear power over the coming years, a reliable supply of gas is seen as crucial, according to Rüdiger Erben, a member of the Social Democratic party in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt. “Germany has experienced over many years that Russia is actually a very reliable partner when we’re talking about energy questions,” he told VOA. 

Europe’s ‘strategic autonomy’ 

Meanwhile, the European Union is seeking what it calls greater “strategic autonomy” to reduce Europe’s reliance on the United States for its security. France is highly supportive of the move, but Germany has stopped short of endorsing the formation of any “EU army.”

The United States signed a deal with Britain and Australia last week to help Canberra build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, in the process cancelling a deal with France to design diesel-electric subs. “It’s a good opportunity to remind ourselves, to reflect on the need to make the issue of European strategic autonomy a priority. This shows that we must survive on our own,” the EU’s ‘s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, told reporters September 16.

Merkel’s successor

Navigating global affairs won’t be easy for Germany’s next leader, says analyst Gero Neugebauer of the Freie University in Berlin. 

“The majority of German people see that Germany is currently in a crisis situation. Globalization is at play. The war in Afghanistan. Conflict in Europe. The question of what impact globalization has on jobs. Migration. Climate change.”

Neugebauer added that the main candidates in the election are not well known outside Germany. “Merkel’s successor will have either limited international experience, or none at all.” 

 

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Казахстан: внаслідок стрілянини загинули п’ятеро людей

Інцидент стався 20 вересня, коли судові пристави намагалися виконати постанову про виселення

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Росія повідомила про початок навчань у Чорному морі

В навчаннях задіяні ракетні, протичовнові кораблі, підводні човни, нейтральні сили флоту, допоміжні та рятувальні судна, літаки та вертольоти морської авіації, а також ППО Чорноморського флоту Росії

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Зеленський затвердив рішення РНБО про збільшення оборонного бюджету

Рішення РНБО передбачає збільшення оборонного бюджету з 5,93 до 5,95 відсотка від ВВП

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Суд у Криму залишив чинним рішення у справі про арешт за допис з символікою «Хізб ут-Тахрір»

Ібрагімов відбув адмінарешт за допис у соцмережах, який він зробив ще у 2013 році

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Putin’s United Russia Claims Victory amid Allegations of Vote-Rigging

Russia’s Sunday election results came as no surprise to opponents of President Vladimir Putin — it was a foregone conclusion, they have been warning for months.

The Kremlin barred most genuinely independent candidates – first and foremost supporters of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny – from running for the 450-seat Duma.

The polls were held against the backdrop of a crackdown on dissent, leaving little doubt that Putin’s ruling United Russia Party would romp home to victory yet again and retain its parliamentary majority.

The party claimed victory a few hours after the polls closed Sunday after three days of voting amid claims of ballot stuffing, vote-rigging and the marshaling of public-sector workers to back United Russia candidates.

United Russia official, Andrei Turchak, said his party was on target to win more than 300 of the 450 seats in the Duma, telling reporters in Moscow that the party was likely to emerge with 315 seats in Russia’s lower house of parliament.

On Monday, Russia’s election commission reported preliminary results — after 90% of the vote had been counted — that United Russia had secured 49% of the votes for candidates drawn from party-lists and about 87% of the vote where a deputy is elected in each constituency. Half of the seats in the Duma are allocated by party list voting and the other half are appointed through majority voting in constituencies.

Polling data ahead of the election suggested that just 26% of Russians were ready to vote for United Russia.

Irregularities

Throughout the three days of voting across 11 time zones, poll observers and voters reported thousands of violations. Videos were posted on social-media sites showing purportedly ballot stuffing, independent monitors thrown out of polling stations and the few opposition candidates allowed to stand assaulted.

A video shot in the Saratov region depicted two female poll workers feeding dozens of ballots into a voting machine after polling had ended. Another from Kemerovo shows ballot-stuffing, as a poll worker tries to obscure what is happening by attempting to block the view.

The independent Golos monitoring organization listed by Sunday more than 4,500 cases of reported poll violations. It said it had received “numerous messages” from people who said they were being forced by their employers to vote.

Long lines formed at some polling stations Friday, according to local reports. Navalny supporters suggested that meant state workers were being mobilized to vote by the Kremlin and local authorities.

“Every time [under Putin], elections have looked a little less like elections. Now this process is complete,” exiled Putin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky told the Echo of Moscow radio station last week. “The next time our people will vote for real will be after they earn that right on the barricades,” he added.

Claiming outside interference

The head of Russia’s electoral commission rejected claims of widespread irregularities, saying the criticism was part of “a planned, deliberate campaign, well-funded from abroad.” Ella Pamfilova also accused anti-Kremlin activists of “fabricating fake reports” about voting violations. Russia’s interior ministry spokesperson told reporters that no “significant violations” had been registered.

The electoral commission said it had only found 12 cases of ballot stuffing across the entire country. United Russia’s Turchak said the party had not detected significant violations that could sway election results.

This year’s Duma election was the first time since 1993 that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, decided not to send an observation team, a decision taken in response to strict limitations imposed by Russian authorities.

The claims of Russia’s electoral commission that the elections were free and fair were rejected Monday by Western politicians, including the former foreign minister of Lithuania, Linas Linkevičius, who said on Twitter the election was a “mockery & farce.” He added: “Worst is that manipulation of democratic instruments has become norm in that country,” he said, adding that the “results of ‘elections’ should not be recognized.”

Low turnout

Despite what Kremlin critics and opposition figures say was a manipulated election, not all went according to plan, they add. Even alleged vote-rigging could not disguise a low 46% turnout, lower than in Russia’s last parliamentary elections five years ago. And there were signs Monday of voting problems for United Russia in Moscow and St. Petersburg, where officials repeatedly delayed announcements of preliminary results.

Vladimir Milov, an opposition politician, who served as Russia’s deputy minister of energy in 2002, tweeted Monday of his suspicions that poll officials were “trying to rewrite the protocols” and to dismiss as fraudulent two million votes cast electronically in Moscow.

Opposition figures remain fuming at the decision last week by Google and Apple to bow to Kremlin pressure and to remove from their stores a Smart Voting app devised by jailed Russian opposition leader Navalny. The youth-oriented Smart Voting app offered a guide on how to vote tactically for the best-placed candidate not affiliated with United Russia, which meant in many places voting for candidates offered by the Communist Party.

Leonid Volkov, Navalny’s former campaign manager, accused the U.S. tech giants of having “caved in to the Kremlin’s blackmail.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected last week the allegation of political censorship, telling reporters in Moscow the app was removed in observation of the “letter and spirit” of Russian law. Russian authorities had threatened the two companies with financial penalties unless they deleted the app.

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Spain’s Plan to Curb Soaring Energy Prices a Sign of Growing State Intervention

Spain has led a rebellion over soaring energy prices across Europe which analysts fear could endanger the continent’s economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Madrid’s leftist coalition government last week approved a shock plan to divert $3.05 billion from utility companies to consumers over the next six months until gas prices are expected to stabilize.

Across the continent, governments are offering or considering providing state help to ease the pain felt by rocketing wholesale gas prices which increased electricity bills and some utilities companies have been forced out of business or seen their share prices fall.

Analysts at S&P Global Platts told VOA that electricity prices have increased because of an increase in the price of natural gas as emissions heavy coal plants have been retired.

Utilities companies also face higher prices for carbon allowances required by the European Union’s emissions trading system, which is designed to cut greenhouse gases, the consultants added.

As the world economy recovered from the pandemic, demand for energy has also surged. Supply from Russia has slowed down and demand in Asia is high which has put pressure on energy international markets.

Europe is more vulnerable to energy price rises because it imports about 60% of its gas from Russia, Algeria and Libya which pushes up prices, compared with the U.S. which benefits from relatively low prices for gas due to its abundant domestic sources.

Italy is using money from the emissions permits granted by the EU to lower bills, the Associated Press reported, while France is sending checks for $117.8 to consumers who are already receiving help paying their utility bill.

Britain is considering offering state-backed loans to energy firms after companies asked for government help to cover the cost of taking on customers from energy companies that have gone bust, Reuters reported.

State intervention  

Analysts said the Spanish government’s intervention in the energy market was being repeated across Europe as domestic economies came under increased pressure because of the rising cost of energy.

“What we are seeing is other governments getting involved to try to help the situation as happened in Spain. Situations differ in different countries but there is a growing need to ease the energy price situation while prices are so high,” Daniel Carralero, of the Critical Observatory of Energy, told VOA.

In Spain, protests mounted against energy companies after electricity prices rose more than 200% in the past year and the issue has become politically sensitive for the leftist government which pledged to help those unable to pay energy bills.

Spain’s Environment minister Teresa Ribera told reporters last week that the country’s emergency measures would cut prices for consumers by 22% for the rest of 2021.

Energy companies will have to meet the higher costs while these measures are in place, but they will be reimbursed through higher tariffs later, meaning that the overall cost to them will be neutralized, the government said.

However, energy companies oppose the Spanish government’s plan.

The Association of Electric Power Companies, Aelec, which represents major utility companies including Iberdrola, Endesa, Viesgo and EDP, in a statement said the Spanish government’s measures “go against the efficiency of the market, European orthodoxy and create a climate of legal uncertainty”. It is considering taking legal action.

The Spanish Nuclear Forum, which represents the nuclear sector and some utilities companies, warned the new measures would provoke a shutdown of the industry.

Analysts have been mixed in their reaction to Spain’s intervention in the energy market.

James Huckstepp, an analyst at S&P Global, said the Spanish government was temporarily tampering with the energy market.

“This is another way of subsidizing gas and power, making it artificially cheap for the end user and hence keeping demand higher than it might otherwise would be,” he told VOA.

What remains to be seen is whether the surge in energy prices will dent hopes for a real economic recovery from the pandemic.

Jorge Sanz, a consultant at Nera Economic Consulting, told VOA he hoped the effect on economic activity would be short-lived.

“If energy prices continue to rise then it will slow down the European recovery but if it is only a short-term shock then it will not have a major effect,” he said.

“The indications are that it will not last longer than this year. We have to hope.”

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Уряд Британії провів екстрену нараду через рекордні ціни на газ

Сьогоднішню зустріч проводив міністр у справах бізнесу Квасі Квартенг, тобі як прем’єр-міністр Боріс Джонсон, який нині перебуває з робочим візитом у США, заявив, що «людей слід заспокоїти»

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Росія: Кадиров набрав 99,7% голосів на виборах глави Чечні

Кадиров висувався від партії «Єдина Росія»

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У Верховній Раді пропонують допускати до роботи депутатів тільки після вакцинації чи тесту

«У нас показник вакцинованих депутатів набагато нижчий, ніж у деяких підприємствах», – заявив Радуцький

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«Нікого не представляють, крім себе» – МЗС про «іноземних спостерігачів на виборах» у Криму

«Розглядаємо приїзд агентів російського впливу на Кримський півострів як їхню приватну ініціативу»

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Останки трьох людей були виявлені на білорусько-польському кордоні

Також на білоруському боці кордону були віднайдені останки 39-літньої жінки з Іраку, повідомила прикордонна служба Білорусі.

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Thousands March in Ukraine’s Pride Parade

Thousands marched in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Sunday for LGTBQ rights, an annual march that was canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Waving rainbow flags, roughly 7,000 people — down from the record of 8,000 in 2019 — marched through the capital city. Police flanked the marchers.

Kateryna Lytvynenko, a Pride participant, told The Associated Press: “(We) are here at the Pride (march) to support the LGBTQ community in Ukraine. We are here to promote human rights because LGBTQ rights are human rights and, unfortunately, the community faces a lot of violence and discrimination in Ukraine still.”

Artyom, who said he was an IT expert, told Agence France-Presse: “Hate exists in these territories, in post-Soviet countries, only because of a lack of respect. It also exists in Europe and in the West, but at a much lower level. They respect human rights there, while in our country the respect for human rights is only just starting to develop.”

The march was peaceful, and no clashes were reported.

Several hundred anti-gay rights activists held their own rally in a park in Kyiv, the AP reported.

Kristian Udarov, who said he was a right-wing activist and pro-Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter, told AFP: “We are here today to protect family and Christian values, to protest against LGBT propaganda, because we are against it. LGBT is just people playing politics, and frankly it’s an illness.”

A number of Western diplomats, including staff from the U.S. and U.K. embassies, took part in the Pride march, tweeting their support for the movement, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

“Embassy Kyiv community members participated in #KyivPride2021 to show support for the freedom, dignity, and equality of all people – including LGBTQI+ persons,” the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv said in a tweet. “We salute law enforcement for ensuring participants’ safety.” 

 

“So fantastic to be out on the streets alongside my cool @UKinUkraine colleagues and friends supporting LGBTQ groups in Ukraine,” Melinda Simmons, Britain’s ambassador to Ukraine, wrote in a tweet. 

Homophobia is widespread in Ukraine. A survey published in August by sociological group “Rating” said 47% of respondents had a negative view of the gay community.

While government support for LGBTQ rights has increased in recent years, the country does not allow same-sex couples to be married or adopt children, and workplace discrimination laws do not encompass sexual orientation.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty contributed to this report. Some material for this report came from Agence France-Presse, The Associated Press and Reuters.

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France Cancels Defense Meeting with United Kingdom

France has canceled a meeting between Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly and her British counterpart planned for this week after Australia scrapped a submarine order with Paris in favor of a deal with Washington and London, two sources familiar with the matter said.

Parly personally took the decision to drop the bilateral meeting with British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, the sources said.

The French defense ministry could not be immediately reached. The British defense ministry declined comment.

The sources confirmed an earlier report in the Guardian newspaper that the meeting had been canceled.

The scrapping of the multibillion-dollar submarine contract, struck in 2016, has triggered a diplomatic row, with Paris recalling its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra.

France claims not to have been consulted by its allies, while Australia says it had made clear to Paris for months its concerns over the contract.

French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President Joe Biden will speak by telephone in the coming days to discuss the crisis, the French government’s spokesman said on Sunday.

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У найближчі дні очікується телефонна розмова між Байденом і Макроном на тлі дипломатичної кризи

17 вересня Франція заявила, що вона відкликає своїх послів зі США і Австралії у зв’язку зі зривом багатомільярдного замовлення на поставку французьких підводних човнів

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150 тисяч жителів Донбасу проголосували дистанційно на виборах до Держдуми Росії – ТАСС

17 вересня РНБО України ввела санкції щодо 33 кандидатів від окупованого Донбасу і Криму до Держдуми Росії

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Російські вибори: «Єдина Росія» заявляє про «чесну перемогу», а соратники Навального – про фальсифікацію

19 вересня в Росії завершилося триденне голосування до Державної думи

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