• Europe shifting further right

    Parties on the extreme right are threatening to become the strongest force in nine EU countries in the upcoming European Parliament elections. Under von der Leyen’s presidency, close cooperation with some far-right parties is being discussed.

    BERLIN/BRUSSELS (own report) - In next June’s European elections extreme right-wing parties threaten to become the strongest force in a third of member states and the second or third strongest force in another third. This finding comes from an analysis by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), a pan-European think tank. The latest polls predict a major shift in the make-up of the European Parliament. The far-right ECR parliamentary group and ID group will together be stronger than either the Social Democrats or the conservative EPP. The study indicates that the EPP parties and Social Democrats are about to face significant losses. Although they might mathematically still form a narrow majority in an alliance with the liberal Renew Europe group, such a parliamentary coalition would be unstable and unworkable in practice. This is the background to a debate in the EU on whether, under conservative EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, forces on the far right should be embraced as partners after the election. The focus is on cooperation with the ECR group, which includes the Sweden Democrats and Vox from Spain. In the European Parliament this group is led by the ultra-right Fratelli d’Italia under Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. Read more

  • “Revenue that no one is entitled to”

    Scholz supports the confiscation of income on the interest of Russian state assets deposited in the EU. Experts consider this a clear violation of international law and warn that other nations, such as China, could withdraw their assets from the EU.

    MOSCOW/BRUSSELS (Own report) – The German government is promoting EU plans to confiscate funds belonging to the Russian Central Bank. During yesterday’s EU summit in Brussels, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke in favor of confiscating the interests accrued on that financial institution’s frozen assets to primarily invest in munition and weapons for Ukraine. The proposal had been officially presented on Wednesday by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Josep Borrell. Scholz alleges that this interest income constitutes “revenue that no one is entitled to” and therefore may be tapped into. Depending on the development of interest rates, they could reach between €15 – €20 billion by 2027. Business and financial circles are emphatically warning that this measure violates state immunity and is therefore in violation of international law. If Russia’s interest income is confiscated, financial institutions and companies, for example, from China and other countries may begin to withdraw their assets out of the EU, because these would no longer be considered safe. And ultimately, Russian retaliatory measures are to be expected. Read more

  • Kindergarten in the bunker

    Germany’s education minister Stark-Watzinger wants to involve schools in war preparations (“civil defence”) and urges close cooperation between universities and the Bundeswehr and arms industry.

    BERLIN (own report) – Germany’s Federal Education Minister, Bettina Stark-Watzinger, is calling for schools to be involved in preparing German society for a possible major war. “Civil defence” was, she said at the weekend, “immensely important” and “belongs in schools”. The buzzword “civil defence” refers to measures designed to increase the civilian population’s chances of survival in the event of war. The minister demanded that schools develop a “relaxed relationship with the German army”. She said she could not understand why schools should have “reservations” about allowing Bundeswehr outreach officers into classrooms to tell children about defence issues. Leaders of the German Teachers’ Association and the Association of Towns and Municipalities have already called for school curricula to be “sharpened” to improve “defence readiness”. Even facilities for the youngest are to be included: kindergarten could be integrated in “civil defence” measures in a “child-friendly” way. Stark-Watzinger also wants to make greater use of universities for military research. And the Bavarian state government is now drafting a law designed to abolish the alleged “constraints on research” due to “civil clauses” (Zivilklauseln), which have long committed institutions to pursue only non-military research. Indeed, the new law will make it a “requirement” that universities cooperate with the Bundeswehr. Read more

  • Gaining war experience

    The situation in the operations area of the German navy’s high-tech frigate, The Hessen, is increasingly tense. The Hessen is supplying reconnaissance data to the American-led Operation Prosperity Guardian.

    SANAA/BERLIN (own report) - Following the death of three sailors in another Houthi militia attack on a freighter in the Gulf of Aden, the situation in the operational area of Germany’s state-of-the-art frigate, The Hessen, continues to worsen. In response to the attack there is likely to be a renewed wave of US-British strikes on Houthi (Ansar Allah) positions in Yemen. Yet it is highly unlikely that this firepower will dissuade Ansar Allah from launching further attacks on merchant shipping. The Hessen has been deployed to the Red Sea and neighbouring waters as part of Operation Aspides, the EU’s own maritime security mission to protect merchant ships. The vessel’s initial actions have not been a success. Its anti-drone missiles have missed their target several times, including an attempt to bring down a misidentified US drone. German naval circles speak of beginner’s mistakes and the need to learn lessons: “What the ship and crew lack is war experience.” The German navy is keen to gain this war experience. The Hessen can spy on large parts of Yemen thanks to its advanced technical equipment. The data yielded can be passed on to the US-led Operation Prosperity Guardian, taking place alongside the EU’s own Operation Aspides in the Red Sea. This capability could have far-reaching consequences for regional tensions, although it remains uncertain as to whether the data will be used for strikes on Houthi positions. Read more

  • Battle for the electric car market

    The EU and US fight to keep out low-cost electric cars from China has begun. While Brussels prepares punitive import tariffs, Washington says Chinese vehicles threaten national security.

    SHENZHEN/BERLIN (own report) - The West’s battle against an export offensive by Chinese electric car manufacturers is getting serious. While the EU Commission pushes ahead with its anti-subsidy investigation, which could lead to hefty punitive tariffs on Chinese electric vehicle imports this year, US President Joe Biden has now announced that smart cars from China may pose a risk to American national security. With their cameras and sensors they are deemed capable of spying on the US. This is, Biden says, unacceptable and must be prevented. The biggest threat to Western manufacturers comes from the BYD Group, based in the south-eastern Chinese high-tech metropolis of Shenzhen. At the end of last year they became the world’s largest electric car manufacturer, ahead of Tesla, and are getting ready to expand into North America and, above all, into the EU. The company plans to sell 120,000 electric cars in Germany alone in 2026. This makes BYD a dangerous competitor for the Germany’s legacy automotive companies. Last week, the carmaker made headlines by exporting 3,000 electric cars to Germany in the first of its own specially-built car carrier vessel. Read more

  • Grounds for war

    A leaked recording of senior Luftwaffe officers reveals: discussion of options for Taurus strikes on the bridge to Crimea; Germany providing targeting data would meet the “criterion of being at war” with Russia.

    BERLIN/MOSCOW/LONDON (own report) - Bundeswehr officers are discussing Ukrainian attacks on targets in Russia using German weapons. This emerges from an intercept by Russian intelligence. The Russians have recorded and made public a Webex video conference recently held between four German air force officers, including the head of the Luftwaffe, Ingo Gerhartz. In their discussion they say it would be feasible to destroy the Kerch Bridge with “ten or twenty” Taurus cruise missiles. Successful strikes would, however, require German programming and targeting data to be passed on. And this act would, in turn, meet the “criterion of being at war”, in the judgement of the four officers. In other words, it would mean Germany entering into war with Russia. However, if the Taurus cruise missiles were supplied to Ukraine without also providing German data, the weapon’s effectiveness would, they agree, be significantly reduced. The officers then speculate as to whether British soldiers deployed in Ukraine could provide support for Taurus strikes. London had already reacted angrily last week to statements by Chancellor Olaf Scholz to the effect that British military personnel were already actively supporting Ukrainian missile attacks. The candid Scholz was, said Tory hawk Ben Wallace, a former UK Defence Secretary , “the wrong man in the wrong job at the wrong time”. Read more