Trump calls on NATO members to contribute ‘their fair share’

NATO members are hoping to appease US President Donald Trump with firmer plans to increase national defense spending. Trump has once again urged NATO members to pay more, saying 2 percent of GDP was the minimum.

Watch video00:39

Trump: NATO members lagging on defense spending is ‘not fair’

US President Donald Trump on Thursday repeated calls for members of the NATO military alliance to pay more, saying that payments must make up for “the years lost.”

Speaking in Brussels at his first NATO summit, Trump said 23 of the 28 NATO allies owed “massive amounts of money” and that this was “not fair to the people and tax payers of the United States.”

He also urged his NATO counterparts to fight terrorism, and to make the management of immigration a priority.

“You have thousands and thousands of people pouring into our various countries and spreading throughout, and in many cases we have no idea who they are,” he said.

Trump repeatedly cited uncontrolled immigration as a major driver of crime and terrrorism during his presidential campaign, and, as president, has tried to introduce a travel ban on people wanting to enter the US from six majority-Muslim countries.

NATO members agree to increased spending plans

NATO members later reassured Trump they were committed to increasing spending, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.

Leaders agreed to develop annual national plans to meet the 2 percent target, he said. The first set of reports on these plans will be completed in December.

Stoltenberg said the plans would also detail the types of military equipment members wanted to purchase and how they intended to contribute to NATO operations. NATO defense ministers would review the plans in February.

The agreement confirms a NATO decision from 2011 to increasing spending toward 2 percent of GDP by 2024.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that “confirm means: not more and not less.”

‘Deeply troubling’ leaks

Belgien Trump und Stoltenberg (Reuters/C. Hartmann)NATO leaders are hoping to appease Trump with formal action against IS and with firmer plans to increase spending

His comments came after he began the meeting by leading a moment’s silence for victims of the Manchester bombing, which he described as “a barbaric and vicious attack on our civilization.”

Ahead of the NATO meeting, Trump issued a written statement in which he called leaks of sensitive British information about the attack to the US press “deeply troubling,” and said he was asking the Justice Department and other agencies to “launch a complete review of this matter.”

The statement comes amid anger from Britain about the intelligence leaks, and a decision by Manchester police to withhold information from the United States about the investigation into this week’s bombing, in which 22 people died.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to confront Trump over concerns that US officials might be behind the leaks to media outlets.

UK | Trauerbekundungen nach dem Anschlag in Manchester (picture-alliance/empics/D. Lawson)The bomb attack in Manchester was the worst in Britain since the July 7, 2005 attacks

9/11 memorial

Trump also unveiled a memorial to the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington at the new NATO headquarters,

“The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration as well as threats from Russia and NATO’s eastern and southern borders,” he said at the unveiling.

In his speech at the ceremony, the US president made no explicit reference to Article 5 of the NATO treaty, the mutual defense pact that commits allies to defend any of the 28 members that come under attack. Article 5 has been activated only once – after the 9/11 attacks.

Trump has so far refused to personally commit to Article 5.

Watch video02:48

Bruce Stokes, of the Pew Research Center, on attitudes to NATO in Europe and North America

‘Implied commitment’

Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, said, however, that Trump’s presence at the event underscored the White House’s “commitments and treaty obligations.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also unveiled a monument comprising parts of the Berlin Wall, intended to symbolize efforts to end the division of Europe.

“Germany will not forget the contribution NATO made in order to reunify our country. This is why we will indeed make our contribution to security and solidarity in the common alliance,” she said.
Read: Trump says NATO is ‘no longer obsolete’

Belgien Brüssel NATO-Gipfel Gruppenfoto (Picture alliance/dpa/B. Doppagne/BELGA)German Chancellor Angela Merkel (in red) also unveiled a memorial to the Cold War

 

Differences remain with EU

Earlier in the day, Trump met with EU officials in Brussels in a bid to smooth over relations after he championed Brexit and criticized the bloc on the campaign trail.

Belgien Tusk empfängt Trump in Brüssel (Reuters/F. Lenoir)Trump met with EU leaders ahead of a NATO summit

Trump met with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, with the two sides agreeing on a number of issues and reaffirming counter-terrorism cooperation.

But after the meeting, Tusk said there were also differences over several key issues.

“We agreed on many areas, first and foremost on counter-terrorism. Some issues remain open, like climate and trade. And I am not 100 percent sure that we can say today – we means the president and myself – that we have a common position, common opinions about Russia,” said Tusk.

Trump has softened his criticism of NATO and the European Union since coming to office, and EU officials suggested that he expressed concern on Thursday that Brexit could cost US jobs.

European leaders have also been urging Trump to keep US commitments to the Paris climate deal to reduce greenhouse gases.

Read more: Ex-US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief pleads for Paris climate deal

Watch video02:45

Brussels: Trump opponents stage noisy protest

aw, tj, cw/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)

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Theresa May’s cult of personality

As the UK heads toward the June 8 snap election, the Conservative Party is relying heavily on Prime Minister Theresa May’s personal popularity. Samira Shackle reports from London.

Schottland - Edinburgh - Theresa May (Getty Images/J. J. Mitchell)

A party political broadcast for the Conservative Party currently being shown on British television barely mentions the party. It features leader Theresa May giving a speech, as inspirational music plays in the background. At the end of the broadcast, large text asks “Theresa May – or Jeremy Corbyn?” The Conservative Party’s emblem is displayed in a much smaller font.

Watch video00:56

May: No illusions about Brexit

This mirrors a wider strategy by the Conservative Party, as Britain heads toward a snap general election on June 8.

Numerous campaign events have been brandished with large banners proclaiming “Theresa May’s Team,” with the Conservative logo barely visible.

Local candidates in marginal seats refer to themselves as “Theresa May’s local candidate.”

Read more: UK Conservatives slip in opinion polls ahead of election

The motivation for this strategy is clear from the polls, which suggest that the Conservatives have the support of around 40 percent of voters, but that 61 percent believe May is the best choice for prime minister, compared with just 23 percent who support Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for the job. This makes May’s popularity rating higher than Margaret Thatcher’s or Tony Blair’s at their peak (48 percent and 52 percent respectively).

“While the sensible remnants of the Labour Party seek to obscure toxic Corbyn during the campaign, the Conservatives are going to astonishing lengths to obscure their own party behind their leader,” says Sophie Gaston, head of international projects at the left-leaning think tank Demos. “The strategy has a clever rationale – the polls show that May leads Corbyn among every demographic, while the Tory party itself will remain perennially toxic for some portions of the electorate.”

Großbritannien Liverpool - Jeremy Corbyn nach Parteisieg (Reuters/P. Nicholls)Many pundits say Corbyn is fighting a losing battle

Strong and stable

Notwithstanding her popularity among voters, in recent weeks May has been mocked in the media for her repetition of the phrase “strong and stable leadership.”

This points to one of May’s weaknesses; she is often characterized as robotic and awkward, and has refused to take part in televised debates with other party leaders ahead of the election.

Read more: Rivals slam May’s plan to dodge televised debates

“She is held to be possibly humorless, rather severe, perhaps unflinching, but that is currently being presented as strength and stability,” says Matthew Cole, lecturer in history at Birmingham University. “At the moment these weaknesses are not seen as terribly important – and not as significant as being unable to lead one’s party, being unrealistic in policy and being inexperienced, which are Corbyn’s perceived weaknesses,” he told DW.

Read more: UK’s Labour shedding traditional voters

Outside political and media spheres, May’s reliance on sound bites does not appear to be damaging. “The message is tiring for us in Westminster, but as the Leave campaign showed during the referendum last year, and Trump demonstrated to great effect, a simple message can hold powerful salience when voters reach the ballot box,” Gaston told DW.

May’s traditionalist image may also be standing her in good stead. “She embodies values and attitudes which a big chunk of the country hold – she’s traditional, socially conservative, has a skepticism toward the EU, immigration, and has a provincial outlook, especially compared to [former Prime Minister David] Cameron and [former Finance Minister George] Osborne. That plays well with large swathes of the country,” says Oliver Patel, research associate at University College London’s European Institute.

Brexit means Brexit

The Conservatives’ manifesto pledges slashing immigration and drastic changes to social care. But until this point, the campaign has been noticeably slim on policy detail. “May has claimed she owns the mandate of the referendum, and that’s what makes her different from any previous prime minister going into an election,” says Cole.

Read more: Reports: British Prime Minister Theresa May plans migration curbs

Symbolbild Großbritannien Patriotismus Union Jack Einkaufstüte (Reuters/K. Coombs)Even those who voted for the UK to remain in the EU now want the prime minister to get on with it

Although the referendum on leaving the EU was very close, opinion polls indicate that now, a substantial proportion of those who voted Remain want to see the result honored. This means that the Liberal Democrat’s strategy of standing on an anti-Brexit platform is likely to be unsuccessful. “Most people just want to see her get on with it,” says Patel. “The Conservative strategy is not to focus on the two parties but the two leaders – not even on policy, but who do you want in number 10, who do you want negotiating Brexit.”

Of course, encouraging voters to make their decision based primarily on the personality of a leader carries risks – particularly if that person becomes toxic, as was seen in the case of both Thatcher and Blair. But given the weakness of the opposition and the size of the Conservative’s poll lead, this strategy seems likely to be effective in this election at least.

“It is almost impossible to imagine a scenario where the Tories do not win this election – the question is simply how large the prime minister’s mandate will be and whether the damage to Labour will be irreversible,” says Gaston.

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Macron wants a New Deal for Europe

Emmanuel Macron has big plans for Europe. In order overcome the current crisis, he wants more community, more solidarity and more investment. And Germany is worried that it will have to foot the bill.

Frankreich Wahl Emmanuel Macron Rede in Paris (Reuters/P. Wojazer)

The original New Deal can be traced back to Democratic US President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In the 1930s, during a severe economic crisis, Roosevelt fought unemployment and stabilized America’s spiraling financial and political situation in part by undertaking an enormous investment program and extensive social and economic reforms. The attempt to find a cure to society’s ills in political extremism existed even back then.

The current situation is hardly comparable to things at that time. And yet, France has been stuck in a long-term crisis: unemployment levels are, for example, twice as high as in Germany. France is falling behind in terms of international competition. Its levels of growth have been low for years, although they have recently picked up a bit. And finally, France has, for the last decade, failed to meet the European deficit criteria, while Germany has been generating surpluses. What this means politically, is that in the first round of the presidential election, almost half of the French constituency voted for candidates who had goals that supported globalization but were critical of the EU. Many of the second round votes were not for the eventual winner, centrist Emmanuel Macron, but rather, against the right-winger Marine Le Pen.

Suppenküche in Chicago nach Weltwirtschaftskrise 1931 (picture-alliance / akg)The New Deal was passed while the US was in the midst of economic depression in the 1930s

Macron now wants to reduce corporate taxes and the ratio of government expenditures to gross national product. He also wants to liberalize the labor market. This has nothing to do with a New Deal. He will be tackling this as his second major project, which is an investment program for the whole of the Eurozone. This should be financed out of the EU’s collective budget.

Schäuble insist on regulations

The term “New Deal for Europe” was mentioned during Macron’s visit to Germany in March, only weeks before the election. But what Macron has in mind, he already set out in a paper two years ago as economics ministers, together with his then-counterpart, Social Democrat and current German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel. This includes strengthening the Eurozone through a common budget, as well as introducing “new executive powers” in the euro region, a “Euro chamber” and a “Euro commissioner.” The goal is to create economic and social unity. Macron has repeatedly brought into play the idea of introducing common bond issues for the European states, with joint liability.

Südafrika Weltwirtschaftsforum in Durban Wofgang Schäuble (Reuters/R. Ward)Schäuble: France must abide by the rules

But for the conservative faction in Berlin’s Grand Coalition, this is going too far. Combined budget and joint debts sounds to these Christian Democrat (CDU) politicians too much like shifting the responsibility from France to the German taxpayer. Chancellor Angela Merkel immediately reacted coolly: “German support cannot, of course, replace French politics.” She rejected the idea of Eurobonds. Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, is indeed behind strengthening the Eurozone. But for him it is more about enforcing the lacking budgetary discipline. In an interview in the Italian newspaper, “La Repubblica” he said, with a view to France, “It is a simple concept: If we create rules, then we also have to apply them.” He also recently said, at the Viadrina European University in Frankfurt Oder, “France is so big and strong that it doesn’t consider foreign help to be necessary.” In other words, yes to providing support, as long as it does not cost anything.

Fear of Le Pen used as leverage

There is divided opinion between politicians and political commentators. Some accuse the federal government of being stingy, which they will later come to regret, while others see Macron’s plan as a brazen redistribution of costs, at Germany’s expense. According to Gregory Claes, from the Brussels think tank Bruegel, for tactical reasons Macron will at least comply with doing things in the right order. “He should firstly concentrate on internal reforms in France and try to show that he wants to conform with stability regulations,” Claes said. “This will win him back credibility with Germany and other northern European countries.” He will hardly dare to come forward with European reform ideas before the German federal election.

Frankreich Whirlpool Streik Marine Le Pen (picture alliance/AP Photo)Le Pen, the self-declared candidate of the workers seen here at a factory, was soundly defeated by Macron

On the other hand, Berlin-based political scientist Ulrike Guerot believes that Macron has political leverage over Germany. “He can hold Great Britain up as an example,” he told news agency DPA. “Germany has a lot to lose when one country goes haywire. Macron could say: ‘If you don’t help me you will have to deal with Marine Le Pen next time.'” But blackmailing could also backfire. Especially now, during the German national election campaign, EU skeptics could get a fresh boost if the German federal government gives the impression of being under pressure from France.

Many believe that, politically, there is much more at stake than economics. The New Deal in the US helped democracy prevail, despite the severe economic crisis. In Germany and other countries, things were different. Elmar Brok, a European Parliamentarian for the CDU who has been following the development of the EU over several decades, says: “Europe is falling apart. Emmanuel Macron is the last chance. We have to do something.” Opinions on what needs to be done, however, differ greatly.

Watch video02:22

The state of the French economy

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Theresa May turns combative ahead of Brexit negotiations

Days after waxing lyrical about the “special relationship” between the UK and the EU, the British premier has hardened her tone. The change came after Angela Merkel said the UK was suffering illusions over its future.

Großbritannien Wahlkampf Theresa May (picture-alliance/dpa/PA Wire/A. Devlin)

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday accused European Union member states of lining up to oppose Britain ahead of the release of the EU’s negotiating position on Brexit.

“We’ve seen from Chancellor Merkel today, we’ve heard her comments today. We’ve seen that actually there will be times when these negotiations are going to get tough,” May was quoted as saying by the BBC while speaking at a campaign rally in the Labour stronghold of Leeds ahead of the snap general election she called for June.

“Our opponents are already seeking to disrupt those negotiations – at the same time as 27 other European countries line up to oppose us,” she said.

“That approach can only mean one thing – uncertainty and instability, bringing grave risk to our growing economy with higher taxes, fewer jobs, more waste and more debt,”

May’s combative comments came just days after dining with EU Brexit negotiators and saying the UK had a “commitment to achieving a deep and special partnership with the European Union.”

British illusions

May was responding to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s warning to the UK on Thursday against “illusions” over the exit process.

Merkel stressed in parliament that “a third-party state will not have the same rights or even superior rights to a member state,” referring to the relationship the EU has with non-EU countries such Switzerland and Norway.

“This may sound self-evident, but I have to say this clearly because some in Britain seem to have illusions on this point,” she said. “That would be a waste of time.”

Watch video00:25

Merkel’s statement on Brexit

EU presents unified front

EU ministers met in Luxembourg on Thursday to underscore their unity ahead of Saturday’s meeting to approve their negotiation position.

“It seems that at the moment we are completely united on everything,” said Vice Premier Louis Grech of Malta, the country that holds the rotating EU presidency. “Naturally we have to protect the EU’s interests.”

He said a prime objective was “to ensure that we will conduct the negotiations in a spirit of unity and trust between the 27.”

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said that “we are united.”

Saturday’s EU’s guidelines will inform a tight negotiating mandate for Barnier which should be ready by May 22.

60 billion euro bill

The EU is expected to push on issues such as the treatment of EU expats, the bill of remaining costs to be paid by Britain and border issues in Ireland.

Some reports claim the EU could hold Britain liable for costs until at least a year after it leaves, at a possible cost of 60 billion euros (US$65 billion).

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson responded angrily to those claims.

“If you’re saying that they want the money before they get any substantive talks, then that is obviously not going to happen,” he told the BBC.

Northern Ireland

Ireland was expected to push for automatic membership of Northern Ireland to the EU if the two ever reunified.

German daily “Frankfurter Allgemeine” reported on Thursday that rental payments from the EU medicines agency in London could also become a sticking point in negotiations.  The lease agreement of the EU authority was reportedly signed until 2039, according to a document from the European Parliament, and could cost 347.6 million euros. Various EU members are seeking to be the new home of the institution.

Negotiations will likely start after Britain’s June 8 election, in which May is seeking to crush a weakened Labour party.

Watch video26:00

Nigel Farage on Conflict Zone

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EU Parliament lost 5 million euros in Le Pen alleged jobs fraud, legal source says

Misuse of funds by Marine Le Pen’s party may have cost the European Parliament more than twice as much as estimated, a source has said. It’s just one of the charges leveled against the French presidential candidate.

Marine Le Pen

A French legal source said Thursday that the EU Parliament has accused Marine Le Pen of using funds meant for European parliamentary assistants to pay staff for party work in France between 2012 and 2017, while still leader of the far-right National Front (FN).

The allegations, which Le Pen has denied, triggered an investigation in France.

The parliament had initially estimated the amount of the contested salaries to be 1.9 million euros ($2.1 million) but now believes the FN wrongfully spent 4,978,122 euros, the source said, quoting a note to French investigators from the parliament’s legal team.

Patrick Maisonneuve, a lawyer for the parliament, confirmed the amount to French news agency AFP.

Read: European Parliament takes first step to lifting Le Pen’s immunity over misused funds

Read: France’s election and the EU

‘Fictional’ work contracts

The parliament believes 17 FN lawmakers in the European Parliament, including Le Pen, used European money to pay assistants for work outside the assembly.

Watch video02:11

LePen steps down as FN leader

Le Pen, specifically, is accused of paying her bodyguard, Thierry Legier, and her chief of staff, Catherine Griset, with EU parliamentary funds. Le Pen is believed to have submitted a “fictional” work contract before the European Parliament presenting Legier as an assistant, while Griset was living near Paris and working on behalf of the FN in France rather than at the European assembly.

Both were questioned by investigators in February, although only Griset was charged with concealment.

Parliamentary immunity to be lifted

The European Parliament on Wednesday formally began the procedure of lifting Le Pen’s parliamentary immunity over allegations, enabling prosecutors to investigate the case.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani told lawmakers in Brussels that the request “has been forwarded to the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, which is in charge of these issues.”

Watch video03:49

@dwnews – French voters take to social media to show disregard from election results

Le Pen, who will go head to head against centrist Emmanuel Macron in the May 7 presidential election, has denounced legal proceedings against her as a “bare-faced lie.”

Read: Le Pen vs. Macron – Where they stand

Punishment for separate case

The European Parliament has already sanctioned Le Pen for allegedly misusing nearly 340,000 euros of EU funds during the 2011-2012 legislature.

Since February the far-right nationalist’s monthly salary as an MEP has been cut by half to around 3,000 euros and other allowances have been withdrawn. The current investigation aims at establishing whether other sanctions are warranted.

Last month, Le Pen was also stripped of her parliamentary immunity in a separate case, allowing a Paris court to prosecute her for posting images of “Islamic State” (IS) brutality on Twitter in 2015. In France, the offense can carry a penalty of three years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros ($79,567).

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Merkel warns against British ‘illusions’ as Brexit negotiations begin

In an address to the Bundestag, German Chancellor Angela Merkel talked tough ahead of Saturday’s EU-27 summit on Brexit. The UK, she said, would not be as well positioned as EU member states.

Angela Merkel Regierungserklärung Berlin (Reuters/H.Hanschke)

Ahead of a meeting of the 27 remaining European Union nations in Brussels on Saturday, Chancellor Angela Merkel briefed the German parliament, the Bundestag, about Germany’s strategy vis-a-vis Brexit. But at least in part her message was aimed across the English Channel.

The chancellor warned London not to expect a deal that would privilege the UK.

“A third-party state cannot enjoy the same advantages or be better positioned than an EU member state,” Merkel said. “I have the feeling that some people in Britain maintain illusions in this regard. They’re wasting their time.”

That line drew applause from members of the Bundestag. Merkel reiterated that negotiators would have to resolve the details of Britain’s exit from the EU, including financial obligations that could extend beyond Britain’s departure, before any deals could be struck about a future English-EU relationship.

as third country ‘can and will not have the same rights’ as -member, says on . ‘No illusions’ but fair negotiations.

“These steps must happen in that order,” Merkel said. “Our goal is to get the best deal for Europe and its citizens.”

Merkel added that negotiations could only commence in earnest after the United Kingdom’s parliamentary election on June 8.

Expats high on the agenda 

Not all of Merkel’s remarks focused on the potential conflicts of interest between the EU and the UK. The chancellor also said that Germany and the EU had an interest in a strong and prosperous Britain.

She said one of her priorities was to clear up the future status of the approximately 100,000 German citizens permanently living in Britain. In return, Germany and the EU were prepared to offer British expatriates in the bloc a “fair deal.”

London Imbiss deutsche Würstchen (picture-alliance/dpa/F. Gentsch)It’s unclear how the EU will trade with a post-Brexit UK

Merkel also expressed confidence that the EU and post-Brexit Britain shared interests in businesses being able to sell their products to the other and fighting against terrorism and organized crime.

At the same time, the EU showed a high degree of solidarity in the wake of the British referendum in June 2016, in which a slight majority of UK voters supported the Brexit, Merkel added. Specifically naming Ireland, she said that it was a sign of European strength that none of the individual EU-27 states had engaged in “preliminary negotiations” with London.

A disintegrating EU?

Speaking for the Social Democrats (SPD), the junior partners with Merkel’s conservatives in the government, Thomas Oppermann said: “I’m glad that within the coalition we have consensus on this issue.”

 Sahra Wagenknecht Berlin Bundestag (Reuters/H.Hanschke)The Left Party’s Wagenknecht said Merkel was trying to strong-arm the UK

But Sahra Wagenknecht of the opposition Left Party accused Merkel’s government of trying to “punish” the UK and of ignoring the social concerns she said had led many people in Britain to vote for the Brexit.

“The EU is threatening to fall apart,” Wagenknecht said. “Anyone who thinks he needs intimidation to ensure European solidarity has already long given up on Europe.”

Merkel’s CDU-CSU, the SPD and the opposition Green Party rejected that assessment. The Greens, represented by Katrin Göring-Eckardt, called upon Merkel to reassure expats of their status by this summer.

Criticism of Erdogan, conflict over Le Pen

Significantly, Merkel began her address with statements critical of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and irregularities in Turkey’s constitutional referendum, which gave him what some say, are quasi-autocratic powers. She also called for the release of a German journalist currently detained in Turkey.

“To be unmistakably clear, it’s not compatible with the rule of law if the Turkish executive judges people in advance, as has obviously happened with Deniz Yücel,” Merkel stated.

But Merkel said it would be a mistake for the EU to “turn its back” on Turkey, which is still, nominally, a candidate for potential membership in the bloc.

Frankreich Präsidentschaftswahl EU Flagge (picture alliance/Pacific Press/M. Debets)The outcome of the French election in early May is another major EU concern

Spokespeople for the parliamentary party groups joined in the criticism of Erdogan. They also took the opportunity to comment on the results of the first round of the French election, which left centrist investment banker Emmanuel Macron to face right-wing, anti-EU populist Marine Le Pen in a run-off vote on May 7.

Wagenknecht criticized the fact that the poll had left voters with a choice between a “neo-liberal” and Le Pen. That wasn’t a popular view with her parliamentary peers.

Göring-Eckardt said all German parties had a responsibility to support “democracy,” in the form of Macron, against the “hate mongering” of Le Pen. SPD General Secretary Katarina Barley said Wagenknecht’s remarks showed that she had “no clue.”

It was an impressive display that the EU is confronted by issues other than Brexit and that national political squabbling continues as usual.

Watch video03:34

Conservative expert says EU in strong position on Brexit

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EU to cut gas dependency on Russia with Israel pipeline

Israel and several EU nations have pledged to move forward with a Mediterranean gas project, aiming to pump natural gas from Israel to Europe through the longest undersea pipeline ever built.

Verlegung der Ostsee-Erdgaspipeline (picture-alliance/dpa/Ruslan)

The planned pipeline – stretching about 2,000 kilometers (1,248 miles) on the bed of the Mediterranean Sea – aims to link gas fields off the coasts of Israel and Cyprus with Greece and possibly Italy, at a cost of up to 6 billion euros ($6.4 billion).

After a meeting in Tel Aviv on Monday between energy ministers from Israel, Cyprus, Greece and Italy, European Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete told reporters he believed the project would “meet all relevant requirements” to make a financial commitment possible.

Canete also noted that Cyprus and Israel were “very reliable” suppliers, and that their gas reserves could make a valuable contribution to the EU’s strategy to “diversify sources, routes and suppliers.”

Canete admitted it would help limit reliance on the Nord Stream pipeline via Russia, which he said “adds nothing to the security of supply.”

Watch video02:22

Baltic states oppose Nord Stream 2 pipeline

Economic feasibility

Israel has discovered more than 900 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas offshore, with some studies pointing to another 2,200 bcm waiting to be tapped. Along with the European market, it is exploring options to export to Turkey, Egypt and Jordan.

Cyprus’s ‘Aphrodite’ natural gas field holds an additional 128 bcm of proven reserves, and further exploration is expected to find much more gas in Cypriot waters.

Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said the pipeline was going to be the “longest and deepest sub-sea gas pipeline in the world.” Completion of the project has been provisionally scheduled for 2025, “but we will try to speed up and to shorten the timetable,” he said.

Elio Ruggeri, chief executive of IGI Poseidon – the project owners – said a feasibility study has been completed and the next few years would focus on “proper development activities,” with a final investment decision expected by 2020. IGI Poseidon is a joint venture between Greece’s DEPA and Italian energy group Edison.

“Our estimate today is for the pipeline to cost 5 billion euros to [reach] the Greek system and 6 billion euros to the Italian system,” Ruggeri said.

However, in view of falling gas prices in recent years, Ruggeri admitted that the pipeline’s financial feasibility was based on expectations they would rise again.

Amit Mor, head of the Israeli consultancy EcoEnergy, said the ministers’ commitment wouldn’t mean a guarantee for the project to become reality. “At this stage, this is still a pipe dream. A depth of three kilometers would be unprecedented,” he added, saying high infrastructure costs would make it “very challenging” to rival Russian gas prices.

The energy ministers said they would next meet in Cyprus in six months’ time to further advance the project.

Watch video02:36

Israel one step closer to energy independence

uhe/nz (Reuters, AFP)

 

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