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Greece asks EU to develop LNG backup plan

22 August, 2014 - 07:19

Greece has asked the European Commission to set up a backup plan to ensure liquefied natural gas (LNG) is available for Balkan countries in the event of potential disruptions to Russian gas supplies stemming from the crisis in Ukraine.

In a letter sent to European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, Greek Energy Minister Yannis Maniatis proposed an EU emergency mechanism to ensure that surplus amounts of lower-priced LNG are reserved for EU member states with gas shortages instead of being sent to other destinations.

Returning commissioners: keeping portfolio and political responsibility

22 August, 2014 - 07:17

Can an outgoing Commissioner keep his portfolio in the new Juncker College? This question is pending and relevant mostly for Commissioner Oettinger, who is seeking to keep his job as Energy Commissioner. According to Piotr Maciej Kaczyński, the answer is yes.

Commission moves to tighten customs security

22 August, 2014 - 07:09

A new strategy to plug gaps in the EU’s customs security safeguards was adopted by the European Commission yesterday (21 August).  

Effective measures are needed to protect legitimate businesses from smuggling, but they must not prevent the smooth flow of trade.  Customs risk management can also fight the spread of contagious diseases such as Ebola, stop illicit food such as bush meat entering the supply chain, and prevent the illegal trafficking of weapons.

Germany debates role of Bundestag in approving arms shipments to Iraq

22 August, 2014 - 07:08

The German government has announced its intention to send weapons to northern Iraq to support the offensive against radical Islamist forces, but the move has sparked debate over the Bundestag's participation in such decisions. EurActiv Germany reports.

Lithuania, Poland ask EU to fund gas link

22 August, 2014 - 07:06

Lithuania and Poland have asked the European Union to cover up to 75% of the costs of a gas link between the two countries, their national gas grid companies said yesterday (21 August).

The link is a part of an EU plan to end the energy dependency of the three ex-Soviet Baltic states, which currently rely on Russia for all of their natural gas imports.

Poroshenko talks tough ahead of Putin meeting

22 August, 2014 - 07:04

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Thursday (21 August) he would call on Russian President Vladimir Putin to rein in pro-Russian separatists when the two men meet next week and told the Kremlin chief he had "a strong country, a strong army" behind him.

Poroshenko spoke as government forces, despite taking heavy losses themselves, thrust deeper into rebel-held territory in Ukraine's Russian-speaking east and kept the separatists whom they have battled since April on the defensive.

Bulgaria says it has ‘frozen’ South Stream, but pipes continue to arrive

21 August, 2014 - 13:44

The European Commission said Thursday (21 August) that it was aware that a video reveals that room has been made at Bulgaria's Varna harbour for pipes to be used for the construction of the South Stream gas pipeline, in spite of the assurances by the country’s government that the project has been frozen.

Juncker's Commission looking politically conservative, gender imbalanced

21 August, 2014 - 13:15

With one week left before deadline and only four Commissioner nominees waiting to be revealed for the next term, Jean-Claude Juncker's Commission looks to become ever more politically one-sided and gender unbalanced.

Twenty-four countries have so far put names forward, while still four countries have missed the deadline of 1 August: Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark and the Netherlands. The nominees show a clear pattern of mostly being men from right-wing parties.

Lithuania breaks Gazprom’s monopoly by signing first LNG deal

21 August, 2014 - 10:38

Lithuania, dependent for 100% for its gas imports from Russian monopoly Gazprom, has signed its first contract with Norway’s Statoil for the supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG), the website Delfi announced today (21 August).

Litgas, the gas trading arm of the Lithuanian energy holding company Lietuvos Energija (Lithuanian Energy), and Statoil signed a five-year LNG supply deal preliminary valued at 2.5 billion to 3 billion litas (€725-870 million).

Eurozone business growth slows despite price cuts

21 August, 2014 - 10:30

Eurozone private business growth slowed more than expected in August, despite widespread price cutting, as manufacturing and service industry activity both dwindled, a survey showed on Thursday (21 August).

Economic growth ground to a halt in the second quarter, dragged down by a shrinking economy in Germany and a stagnant France, even before any impact from sanctions imposed on and by Russia over Ukraine.

Self-imposed food sanctions have already caused inflation in Russia

21 August, 2014 - 09:07

Russia's embargo on imported Western food is already hitting consumers' pockets, as food prices in Moscow shops have jumped by up to 6% in just a week, according to the BBC.

Moscow officials say frozen fish prices in the capital's major supermarkets have risen by 6%, milk by 5.3% and an average cheese costs 4.4% since the 7 August ban took effect.

Russia has banned imports of those basic foods, as well as meat and many other products, from Western countries, Australia and Japan.

Switzerland rejects requests from EU firms to bypass Russia’s food ban

21 August, 2014 - 07:38

Switzerland has rebuffed attempts by some EU food producers to sidestep a Russian ban on food imports from the EU and other Western countries by labelling such foods as originating from the Alpine country, the Wall Street Journal wrote.

Switzerland is exempt from Russia's retaliatory measures because it isn't participating in Western sanctions against the country following its annexation of Crimea earlier this year, and Moscow's continued support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

German digital agenda is 'better late than never'

21 August, 2014 - 07:31

On Wednesday (20 August) the German government passed its first "Digital Agenda 2014-2017" bill, aimed at helping Germany become a worldwide leader in expanding high-speed data lines, internet security and fostering cyber-related entrepreneurship. EurActiv Germany reports.

Ukraine tightens the noose on separatists, civilian deaths reported

21 August, 2014 - 07:17

Heavy shelling hit residential neighbourhoods in Ukraine's rebel stronghold of Donetsk and government forces fought street battles in other towns yesterday (20 August) as they sought to crush a four-month-old separatist rebellion.

The forces of the Western-backed Kyiv government are steadily gaining the upper hand over separatists in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, and are tightening the noose around the main rebel bastions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Environmentalists, business on collision course for putting cars on CO2 market

21 August, 2014 - 07:10

Environmental campaigners are bracing to take on big business over whether Europe should follow California's lead and include road transport in the EU carbon market.

Bringing transport - Europe's biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions after the power sector - into the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) could bring down the costs the car industry faces in meeting existing regulation as well as tackling the oversupply on the carbon market.

Environmental campaigners, however, say such a move would undermine more-effective policies.

Russia takes aim at US symbol McDonalds

21 August, 2014 - 07:05

Russia ordered the temporary closure of four McDonald's restaurants in Moscow on Wednesday, a decision it said was over sanitary violations, but which comes against a backdrop of worsening US-Russian ties over Ukraine.

The four restaurants ordered to suspend operations by the state food safety watchdog included the first ever McDonald's in Russia, which opened in the last days of the Soviet Union, and which the company says is its most frequented in the world.

EU regulators seek to close car emissions testing loopholes

20 August, 2014 - 15:14

EU regulators are preparing draft legislation that will require vehicle fuel use to be tested on roads rather than in laboratories, looking to close loopholes that allow car makers to exaggerate fuel-saving and emissions credentials.

From 1 September, slightly tougher EU testing standards will be enforced, in line with a global push for accuracy. More-stringent standards are likely to be opposed by automakers.

Commission ‘analyses’ Poland's complaint over Russian food ban

20 August, 2014 - 13:29

The European Commission responded cautiously, today, to a Polish request to lodge a formal complaint to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over a Russian ban on EU food products that has hit Poland particularly hard.

Poland's economy ministry told Reuters it had sent the request to European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, who represents EU members in all WTO cases.

NGO warns Germany against cuts to Syria aid

20 August, 2014 - 13:07

The German aid organisation World Vision fears that newly-escalating conflicts threaten to overshadow growing need in Syria, following German government plans to spend less on humanitarian aid in the region. EurActiv Germany reports.

Poland wants EU to complain to WTO over Russian embargo

20 August, 2014 - 09:00

Poland has asked the European Commission to send a formal complaint to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over the Russian ban on imported EU food products that has hit Poland particularly hard, the Polish Economy Ministry said on Tuesday (19 August).

So far the Commission been cautious about taking the embargo case to the WTO, with lawyers in Brussels advising it could escalate a trade conflict with Russia over Ukraine.