ANKARA, June 17 -- The supplies of Russia’s S-400 missile defense systems to Ankara will begin in the first half of July, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters after returning from the summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
"We discussed with Russia the S-400 issue, this is a closed chapter. There haven’t been any problems. I think the supplies will begin in the first half of July," Erdogan said, according to the NTV TV channel. Ankara is not planning to give up its S-400 contract, Erdogan stressed. "We have put our signature, we will fulfill what we have started. As part of the loan, Russia gave us various benefits and granted a loan with such interest rates which do not exist on the international market," he explained. Turkey’s National Defense Ministry is preparing a reply to a letter sent by Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Washington’s decision to suspend Turkey’s participation in a program on training Turkish pilots in the US on the F-35 bombers in the wake of the S-400 deal. "Very soon, maybe even this week the letter will be sent to [the US side]," Erdogan said.
The first reports that Russia and Turkey were in talks on the S-400 supplies emerged in November 2016. Moscow confirmed that the contract had been signed in September 2017. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said back then that the deployment of S-400 systems would begin in October 2019. According to Sergei Chemezov, the director general of Russia’s Rostec state corporation, the contract’s price tag is $2.5 bln. Turkey is the first NATO member state to buy these missile systems from Russia. The US has been vigorously trying to stonewall the S-400 deal. Earlier Washington warned Ankara that should the deal with Russia be implemented, the US would not supply its F-35 fighter-bombers to Turkey. The S-400 Triumf is the most advanced long-range air defense missile system that went into service in Russia in 2007. It is designed to destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles, including medium-range missiles, and can also be used against ground installations. The S-400 can engage targets at a distance of 400 km and at an altitude of up to 30 km.
PARIS, June 15 -- The mass demonstrations in France are continuing for the 31st week in a row, as people take to the streets of Paris and other cities to show their indignation at French President Emmanuel Macron's economic reforms.
The wave of yellow vests rallies started in France in mid-November over a planned hike in fuel taxes. While the French government has abandoned its plans to raise fuel taxes and introduced other measures aimed at improving the country's socioeconomic situation, protesters have continued to take to the streets across the country every weekend to express their discontent with government policies. The rallies frequently lead to damage and clashes between the police and activists.
LONDON, June 12 -- The UK’s former Secretary of State Boris Johnson has started his election campaign for the post of the Conservative Party’s leader and the Prime Minister.
The politician, who delivered his program speech in London on Wednesday, pledged that the country would leave the European Union on October 31. "After three years and two missed deadlines, we must leave the EU on October 31," said Johnson, who is considered as the front runner to replace Theresa May as the Tory leader and the head of the government. "Now is the time to unite this country and unite this society," he said, stressing that this task can be only achieved after leaving the EU. Britain’s next prime minister is due to be announced by the end of July.
PARIS, June 11 -– A man died in Paris after his electric scooter collided with a lorry, sources said on Tuesday (June 11), the first such fatality involving the increasingly-popular devices in the French capital as concern grows over their safety.
The 25-year-old was riding the scooter in the bustling Goutte d’Or neighbourhood in the north of the city when the accident happened late Monday. He was rushed to hospital where he died of his injuries, the Paris emergency services said. The lorry driver has been detained with prosecutors opening an investigation into “involuntary homicide”. A source close to the case, who asked not to be named, said the lorry driver had priority on the road at the time. It was the first deadly accident involving an electric scooter within the city limits, police and the mayor’s office confirmed. According to press reports, an 81-year-old man died in April in Levallois-Perret outside Paris, days after being knocked over by an electric scooter.
Just a year after they first appeared on the Paris streets, mushrooming electric scooters have become a gigantic headache for the Paris authorities who are now rushing to implement some kind of framework for their use. Monday’s deadly accident has “underlined the need to emphasise the elementary rules that users must respect,” deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire said. “The police need to act to penalise users who, for example, cross a red light,” he said. Mayor Anne Hidalgo had on Thursday announced a ban on parking electric scooters on the pavement and said their speed on roads should be limited to 20kmh. Paris has already introduced fines of €135 (S$209) for riding electric scooters on the pavement. Fans have embraced scooters as a quick and cheap way to get around, since the "dockless" devices are unlocked with a phone app and can be left anywhere when a ride is finished.
LONDON, June 11 -- The British unemployment rate remained stable at 3.8 percent in the three months to April 2019, the lowest since December 1974, according to figures released Tuesday by the Office for National Statistics.
The data showed the employment figure across Britain increased by 32,000 in the three months to April 2019 to a record high of 32.75 million, with the employment rate being unchanged at 76.1 percent. The female unemployment rate fell to a record low of 3.7 percent. Figures revealed that the average weekly wage continued to grow, including bonus payments. "The labor market remains in fine fettle, and continues to break new ground," Tej Parikh, a senior economist at the Institute of Directors, said. "Businesses have steadfastly expanded their workforce while the fog of uncertainty clouds longer-term investment decisions," Parikh said.
PARIS, June 9 -- The number of demonstrators who gathered in the French capital last Saturday for a rally marking the 30th week of protests saw the lowest turnout since the movement began.
According to the Midi Libre paper, French police have resorted to using water cannons and tear gas against yellow vests protesters in the southern city of Montpellier, as the demonstrations swept across the nation for the 30th Saturday in a row. Yellow vests protesters took to the streets of Paris and other cities on Saturday to show their indignation at police violence as well as French President Emmanuel Macron's economic reforms. In addition, about 2,000 yellow vest protesters marched in France's southern city of Montpellier on Saturday, police used tear gas and water cannons against the demonstrators, local media reported. The activists gathered in the centre of Montpellier at around 10 a.m. (08:00 GMT). Police used tear gas and water cannons against the protesters at noon, the French Midi Libre newspaper specified. According to French media, more than 10,000 protesters took part in the demonstrations across France. Two people received injuries as a result of the clashes and two people were arrested, according to the daily.
BARCELONA, June 9 -- Construction of Barcelona's Sagrada Familia basilica may have started 137 years ago, but the emblematic monument got a building permit only last Friday.
The Spanish seaside city council awarded the licence to a committee in charge of finishing construction of the Catholic church for €4.6 million (S$7.1 million), Ms Janet Sanz, in charge of urban planning, told reporters. In a quirk of history, the authorities discovered only in 2016 that the building which draws millions of visitors every year had never had planning permission since construction began in 1882. Ms Sanz said the council had finally managed to "resolve a historical anomaly in the city - that an emblematic monument like the Sagrada Familia... didn't have a building permit, that it was being constructed illegally." According to the committee in charge of finishing construction of the not-yet-completed basilica, designer Antoni Gaudi had asked the town hall of Sant Marti, a village now absorbed into Barcelona, for a building permit in 1885 but never got an answer.
Some 137 years later, it is finally legal. The new building permit states that the basilica will finally be finished in 2026, with a maximum height of 172m and a budget of €374 million. Designed by Gaudi, a famous Catalan architect also known for the Park Guell, another tourist magnet in Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia was named a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2005. Construction, financed solely by donations and entrance tickets, is due to conclude in 2026, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the death of Gaudi, who was run over by a tram. The basilica is Barcelona's most visited monument, with 4.5 million visitors in 2017, and one of the main tourist landmarks of the country.
ISTANBUL, June 8 -- German footballer Mesut Ozil has tied the knot, with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as his best man.
The Turkish-German midfielder married his fiance, actress and model Amine Gulse, on Friday at a ceremony along the Bosporus in Istanbul that was attended by many statesmen and celebrities. Photos of the wedding showed a smiling Erdogan and his wife Emine standing next to the couple as their marriage was formalised. Ozil and Gulse, who was crowned Miss Turkey in 2014, also made a hefty donation to the Turkish Red Crescent to provide a meal to some 15,000 Syrian refugees.
Ozil announced in March this year that he had asked Erdogan to be his best man. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff was part of a chorus of criticism of the invitation. Helge Braun of Germany's leading party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), told Bild newspaper at the time that it "makes one sad" that Ozil would make such a move despite having been sharply criticised by the German public over his first meeting with Erdogan. The footballer whipped up a political storm when he was pictured alongside Erdogan in May 2018. Criticism intensified after Germany crashed out of the first round of the World Cup in Russia.
After the summer defeat, Ozil posted a lengthy statement announcing his resignationfrom the national team and accusing German football officials of racism. Ozil, who now plays for Arsenal, had made 92 appearances for Germany and played a key role in their 2014 World Cup victory. He said he was being blamed for Germany's disappointing World Cup performance. Ozil also said the German Football Association head, Reinhard Grindel, failed to support him when he received hate mail, threatening phone calls, and racist comments on social media after Germany left the World Cup. "I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose," Ozil said, adding that despite his successful history with the team, the way he was treated made him "no longer want to wear the German national team shirt". Without Ozil, Germany started their UEFA Nations League journey with three consecutive bad results. They drew with France 0-0 at home, were defeated by the Netherlands 3-0 and by France 1-2 in an away match. Germany also lost six of their last 10 matches and were relegated to League B in the UEFA Nations League. Erdogan often attends marriages of Turkish celebrities, whom he particularly seeks out during election campaigns. His presence at Ozil's marriage comes ahead of a mayoral election in Istanbul on June 23, required after the original voting in March was annulled following a narrow victory for the main opposition Republican People's Party.
Germany’s coal phase-out is one such sign that the region’s policymakers are keen to ensure strong leadership in the right direction, although such a radical transition is naturally not without its critics. While the idea of a Green New Deal for Europe – a “national, industrial, economic-mobilisation plan” – is nothing new, the emerging groundswell of public support for a large-scale transition to renewable energy is. For Brussels to achieve its ambitious climate goals of net-zero emissions by 2050, Europe’s energy infrastructure will need to be radically decarbonised, and the pieces for such a move are finally starting to fall into place.
Detractors have been quick to claim that decarbonisation is synonymous with de-industrialisation, as means of production with low carbon intensity would ruin the edge German companies have on their competitors. But as Europe’s energy transition gains momentum, such assumptions simply do not stand up to scrutiny anymore. It is a fact that investors and consumers alike are looking to pay a premium for “green” products that are produced with as small a carbon footprint as possible. And increasingly, they are finding themselves pushing against an open door. Earlier this year for example, MEPs announced they were looking to ease capital charges on banks’ green investments in a bid to drive investment into forward looking initiatives, such as electric vehicles and energy-efficient housing. Such global efforts to scale-up decarbonisation technology have led to innovations in the housing, energy and transportation sectors, but more investment is needed to ensure widespread adoption. Despite a persistent financing gap in low-carbon research and development initiatives, one thing remains clear: industrial decarbonisation is the next frontier for European development. Both a challenge and opportunity at the same time, failing to drive progress will have disastrous consequences may prove disastrous for the bloc’s industrial base. This is particularly true for Europe’s energy-intensive industries that need to combine ambitions for low carbon emissions and global competitiveness in their value chains. The use of innovative technologies, then, can achieve this double imperative in the chemical, cement, and non-ferrous metal sectors.
Particularly in primary aluminium production a number of technologies are being developed to reduce emissions and the energy used in the electrochemical processes. Inert, non-carbon anodes to reduce direct emissions are one such example, while wetted cathodes to improve electrical contact stand to reduce energy use in the production process by approximately one-fifth. Alternative materials are being developed in cement production as well to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint, with advanced grinding technologies and carbon-efficient concrete laying the foundation for a new era of manufacturing and construction. Yet the road to an industrial sector with zero carbon emissions is a winding one for a number of reasons. The sector’s heterogeneity means the number of crosscutting solutions is limited compared to other industries. Furthermore, industrial processes often inevitably produce carbon dioxide as by-product of chemical reactions, and these “process emissions” cannot simply be resolved with the same energy efficiency measures employed elsewhere. Finally, major retrofits in manufacturing plants are cyclical in nature, leaving a narrow window for reform.
But even then, offsetting solutions can be found to satisfy increasingly critical and demanding consumers. These lie in leveraging the EU’s trade connections, allowing EU downstream producers to benefit from other countries’ competitive advantages in raw material production. The aluminium sector displays this condition especially clearly. As a result of Europe’s production deficit, the EU needs to import the vast majority of its domestic aluminium – a figure that is slated to expand in years to come. But the downstream sector in need of primary aluminium can take advantage of closer trade within the European neighbourhood, where more low-carbon aluminium can be produced more easily.
The Norwegian, Icelandic and Russian aluminium industries are reliant on clean energy sources such as hydropower, which reduce emissions by up to 90% compared to coal. Rusal, for instance, exports some 1.6 million tonnes of the metal to the EU every year, and is using Siberia’s vast hydropower reserves to produce low-carbon aluminium. Some 90% of its output is produced this way, with plans to phase out the remaining 10% by 2020. Norway’s Norsk Hydro is another big aluminium exporter to Europe bent on greening its metal, which signed last year the longest corporate wind power contract to date. The 29-year long deal will provide clean energy from a wind plant in Sweden to its smelters in Norway. The aluminium sector is just one of many areas where greening of the value chain is in full swing. Because Brussels has renewed its push toward implementing the circular economy, more focus is not only placed on aluminium and its recycling, but other metals as well. The result, of course, is the mitigation of energy requirements and inevitable reduction of carbon emissions.
All naysayers notwithstanding, the data is rather clear: Europe’s industries must reduce their carbon footprint as a matter of urgency, and the window of opportunity for greener industries has never been more widely opened.
PARIS, June 6 -- US President Donald Trump said at a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in northern France on Thursday that the bond between America and its allies “forged in the heat of battle” of World War II was “unbreakable”.
This despite previously badmouthing the transatlantic military alliance Nato and criticising European leaders.“To all of our friends and partners, our cherished alliance was forged in the heat of battle, tested in the trials of war and proven in the blessings of peace. Our bond is unbreakable,” Trump said.He spoke at a US cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer in front of a beach, code-named Omaha during the landings, which saw 150,000 Allied troops rush ashore in the world’s biggest naval operation to liberate much of western Europe.“Those who fought here won a future for our nation, they won the survival of our civilisation and they showed us the way to love, cherish and defend our way of life for many centuries to come,” Trump said.
He began his speech with a tribute to around 60 US veterans who were in the front row, many of them in wheelchairs. “You are among the very greatest Americans who will ever live. You are the pride of our nation. You are the glory of our republic and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” he said.