Beef between Italian government and Fiat 500 maker turns personal

The ongoing dispute between Europe’s second-largest car manufacturer and the Italian government continues — this time, with the Fiat 500’s iconic status front and centre.

ADVERTISEMENT

Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck frolicked around Rome in it. Pope Francis chose it over a bulletproof limousine. Italian PM Giorgia Meloni enjoyed a ride in it at the G7 in Puglia just last week.

Now, the iconic Fiat 500 is being used to make a point.

In its latest video advertisement, Stellantis — a Netherlands-based Franco-Italian multinational that designs and manufactures cars under 14 brands, including all of Fiat’s models — showed the ever-popular Cinquecento stripped of all logos.

“If this car had no logo, if it had no name, if it had no flag, if it had nothing to say what it is, or where it comes from, everyone would still recognise it,” a narrator said in the 30-second spot showing off the 500’s famous design.

“It can only be Italian, and it can only be a Fiat,” the ad concluded.

To many, the short ad did nothing more than highlight the instant recognition a Fiat 500 warrants. After all, the tiny yet very practical city car — around since the 1950s and rebooted in 2007 — has become synonymous with chase, romance, and la dolce vita.

Yet to others, it was a not-so-subtle jab at the government in Rome after several recent decisions against the company’s vehicles and their alleged non-Italianness.

Cashing in on Italy’s good name

The Franco-Italian-owned Stellantis first aggravated the authorities in mid-April, when it announced a new Alfa Romeo — another historic Italian brand it owns — is set to be named “Milano” in honour of Italy’s second-largest city, a world-renowned centre of design and fashion.

The Ministry of Enterprises and Made in Italy responded by invoking the so-called “Italian-sounding law”, which bans foreign entities from using names evocative of Italy, its toponyms, or its tricolour flag to promote products made elsewhere.

The law, ironically called “legge Italian-sounding” in Italian, was put in place in 2019 after the national union of small and medium businesses argued that these products caused significant damage to the country’s economy, to the tune of €55 billion a year.

Some saw the move by Made in Italy Minister Adolfo Urso as nothing more than a cheap tactic — or rather, an “excessively pragmatic” one usually reserved for food products, as Italian news agency ANSA journalist Amalia Angotti told Euronews — to put pressure on the car manufacturer to produce more vehicles domestically. 

“The Italian government wants Stellantis to produce 1 million vehicles in Italy, otherwise it aims to bring in other car manufacturers, including Asian ones,” Angotti said.

And yet, it’s far from true that Italian brands like Fiat, Alfa Romeo, or Lamborghini — another prominent carmaking name now in Stellantis’ hands — have no links to Italy. If anything, they are still significantly chipping into the country’s budget, she explained.

“Over 63% of the vehicles produced in Stellantis’ Italian factories in 2023 were exported abroad, contributing to the Italian trade balance,” said Angotti, who has been reporting on Fiat and the Italian car industry for decades.

More importantly, no factories have been moved abroad. If anything, it’s all still where it was to begin with — and then some.

Stellantis, part of a larger Exor holding controlled by the family of one of Fiat’s founders, Giovanni Agnelli, has 12 factories and 10 research centres in Italy, and it employs 43,000 workers in the country. Just in the last five years, the company invested €5 billion into different ventures across the country, she pointed out.

“So it is not correct to say that Fiat has been sold,” Angotti explained, illustrating the international nature of a company still deeply rooted in Italy. “There are many nationalities in top management: the CEO is Portuguese, the head of finance is American, and the head of technology is Croatian.”

“Same thing for the brands: the CEO of Jeep is American, that of Peugeot is English, and the head of Alfa Romeo is French.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Another day, another law

Stellantis responded to the Made in Italy Ministry’s demands by quickly rebranding its subcompact SUV — set to be made in Slovakia — as the “Junior”. The CEO of Alfa Romeo, Jean-Philippe Learnato, told the domestic press the company wanted “to promote a climate of serenity and relaxation”.

“It’s like having launched two models in a few days, first the Milano and then the Junior,” Learnato quipped. “We are truly unique.”

Yet despite Learnato’s assurances that at least two Alfa Romeo models will be made in Italian factories over the next few years, the Italian government struck against Stellantis once again.

In mid-May, the financial police and customs authorities seized a shipment of 134 Fiat Topolino electric micro-cars — vehicles that can be driven by 14-year-olds with a provisional licence — because they were branded with tiny Italian flag stickers despite being made in Morocco, this time going against several provisions of Italian law.

The main point of contention, according to Italian authorities, was the “substantial transformation” rule, an EU regulation stating that any manufacturing process that significantly alters the end product means that whatever was made (in this case, the tiny Topolino) legally originates from the country that actually put the screws in place.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Topolino’s flag sticker went against another string of recently tightened laws, originating in the old Madrid Convention of 1891, which states that even an indirect misdirection on origin can be seen as an attempt to deceive the buyer. Sure enough, Italian authorities seized a shipment of the vehicles upon its arrival at the port of Livorno.

Fiat responded that it still believed the Italian tricolour was fair game because the Topolino was designed in Turin and merely assembled elsewhere, but it ultimately acquiesced to Rome’s orders.

While tensions eased after Stellantis announced it would continue producing the Fiat Panda at its Italian factory in Pomigliano until at least 2030 and manufacture a new hybrid 500 in Turin, it seems that the question of who makes the quintessential Italian vehicles is just the most public part of a much deeper issue: is the Italian government really playing fair by forcing Stellantis to jump through hoops?

‘Are we sure about this policy?’

“While it is likely true that the Alfa Romeo Junior is not produced in Italy, there are many cars, especially Japanese ones, using names of Italian cities or related to Italy,” Claudio Dordi, law professor at the Bocconi University in Rome, told Euronews.

“It seems that, in this case, the Italian authorities are applying different standards to Stellantis compared to other car producers.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Asked whether Italy was doing the right thing by enforcing its laws so strictly, Dordi said he was not convinced.

“Even applying the ‘substantial transformation’ rule, we might qualify products with quite a high foreign content — in some cases, even more than 50% — as Italian.” 

“Conversely, there are products that cannot be considered Italian but include a high value of Italian origin. Protecting only those products considered ‘Italian’ might have a counterproductive impact,” he explained.

This practice makes even less sense in the globalised world of the 21st century, where countries — especially those in the EU — need to keep all doors open to potential collaboration if they want to bolster their economies.

“Given that the production chains of almost all products are spread across different countries, are we sure that this policy effectively promotes the Italian interests? For instance, there are several cars produced worldwide based on Italian design,” Dordi pointed out.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Shouldn’t Italy focus more on attracting foreign investment or convincing former Italian companies to reinvest in Italy by improving the local business, legal, and administrative environment?”

Source link

#Beef #Italian #government #Fiat #maker #turns #personal

Over-reliance on gas delays G7 transition to net-zero power

Three years ago, G7, a group of major industrialized countries that includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, committed to decarbonizing their power systems by 2035. It was a historic and hopeful moment, in which the group demonstrated global leadership, and made a first step toward what needs to become an OECD-wide commitment, according to the recommendation made by the International Energy Agency in its 2050 Net Zero Emission Scenario, setting the world on a pathway to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees.

As we approach the 2024 G7 summit, the ability of G7 countries to deliver on their power systems decarbonization commitment, not least to address the still-lingering fossil fuel price and cost-of-living crisis, but also to retain their global energy transition leadership, is put under scrutiny. So far, the G7 countries’ actual progress toward this critical goal is a mixed picture of good, bad, and ugly, as new analysis shows.

via G7 Power Systems Scorecard, May 2024, E3G

Most G7 countries are making steps on policy and regulatory adjustments that will facilitate a managed transition.

Grid modernization and deployment is, for example, finally starting to receive the attention it deserves. Some countries, such as the U.S., are also starting to address the issue of long-duration energy storage, which is crucial for a renewables-based power sector.

Coal is firmly on its way out in all G7 countries, except Japan, which is lagging behind its peers. This is where the challenges begin, as things like Japan’s unhealthy relationship with coal risk undermining credibility of the whole group as world leaders on energy transition.

Despite these efforts, all G7 countries are delaying critical decisions to implement transition pathways delivering a resilient, affordable and secure fossil-free power system where renewables – mostly wind and solar – play the dominant role. A tracker by campaign groups shows that other European countries have already engaged firmly in that direction.

Progress made so far is neither uniform, nor sufficient.

Further gaps vary by country, but overall, more action is needed on energy efficiency, non-thermal flexibility solutions, and restructuring power markets to facilitate higher renewable electricity and storage uptake. The EU’s recently adopted power market reform provides a solid framework for changes in this direction, at least for the EU-based G7 countries, but it remains to be seen how the EU’s new rules are going to be implemented on the national level.

Overall: Progress made so far is neither uniform, nor sufficient. For one, translation of the G7-wide target into a legislated national commitment is lacking in most G7 countries, in Europe and beyond. Moreover, the chance of G7 countries reaching their 2035 target is at risk, along with their global image as leaders on the energy transition, due to the lack of a clear, time-bound and economically-sound national power sector decarbonization roadmaps. Whether 100 percent or overwhelmingly renewables-based by 2035, today’s power systems will need to undergo an unprecedented structural change to get there.

For this change to take off, clear vision on how to decarbonize the ‘last mile’ while providing for a secure, affordable and reliable clean electricity supply, is crucial. Regrettably, today’s G7 long-term vision is betting on one thing: Gas-fired back-up generation. While there are nascent attempts to address the development of long-term storage, grids, flexibility and other balancing solutions, the key focus in most G7 countries is on planning for a massive increase in gas capacity.

Whether 100 percent or overwhelmingly renewables-based by 2035, today’s power systems will need to undergo an unprecedented structural change to get there.

All G7 countries but France have new gas power plants in planning or construction, with the growth shares the biggest in three European countries: Italy’s planning to boost its gas power fleet by 12 percent, the U.K. by 23.5 percent, and Germany by a whopping 28 percent. The US, which consumes one quarter of global gas-in-power demand, has the largest project pipeline in absolute terms – 37.8GW, the fourth largest pipeline in the world.

This gas infrastructure build-out contradicts the real-economy trend: In all European G7 countries gas demand has been dropping at least since the 2021-2022 energy crisis, driven particularly by the power sector decarbonization. Japan’s gas demand peaked in 2007, and Canada’s in 1996 (see IEA gas consumption data). Even G7 governments’ own future energy demand projections show further drop in gas demand by 2030, by one-fifth to one-third of today’s levels in all European G7 countries and Japan, and at least by 6-10 percent in Canada and the U.S.

Maria Pastukhova | Programme Lead – Global Energy Transition, E3G

Most G7 countries argue that this new gas power fleet will be used at a much lower capacity factor as a back-up generation source to balance variable renewables. Some, for example Germany, incentivize new gas power capacity build-out under the label of ‘hydrogen readiness’, assuming that these facilities will run on low-carbon hydrogen starting in 2035. Others, for example Japan or the U.S., are betting on abating gas power generation with carbon capture and storage technologies in the long-term.

Keeping gas power infrastructure in an increasingly renewables-based, decentralized power system using technology that may or may not work in time is a very risky gamble to take given the time left.

G7 countries have got no more than a decade left to act on their commitment to reach net-zero emissions power systems. We have readily-available solutions to deliver the major bulk of the progress needed: Grids, renewables, battery, and other short and mid-duration storage, as well as efficiency improvements. These technologies need to be drastically scaled now, along with additional solutions we will need by 2035, such as long-duration energy storage, digitalization, and educating skilled workers to build and operate those new power systems.

While available and sustainable, these solutions must be deployed now to deliver in time for 2035. Going forward, G7 can’t afford to lose any more time focusing on gas-in-power, which is on the way out anyway and won’t bring the needed structural transformation of the power system.



Source link

#Overreliance #gas #delays #transition #netzero #power

Fear, a decisive force in these European elections

As the European Parliament elections approach, a growing sense of fear stemming from multiple — yet mutually reinforcing — sources seems to be the decisive force shaping electoral behaviour. Citizens of the EU experience uncertainty in the face of broad economic and cultural changes occurring at an unprecedented pace, coupled by unforeseen crises, such as Covid and the climate crisis, and the re-emergence of war conflicts, on a continent accustomed to peace for over half a century.

The survey

Last month, more than 10,800 European voters took a stand on the pressing issues and running challenges of the EU, as part of a large-scale comparative survey conducted by Kapa Research across 10 member countries (Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, and Spain) between May 4 and 24, 2024.

This survey goes beyond domestic dilemmas or voting intentions. Taking a closer look at emerging and established trends within European societies between 2019 and 2024, it examines what shapes the bloc’s social agenda today, citizen concerns about European and international issues, leadership expectations, and opinions about leading global figures. On question after question, responses reveal a strong undercurrent of fear impacting voting behaviour just days before June’s European elections, emanating from four critical realities.

Rising cost of living is the foremost concern for Europeans heading to the polls.

Fear cause No.1: Economic uncertainty

Rising cost of living is the foremost concern for Europeans heading to the polls. Inflation shocks that have stunned European economies during the post-pandemic period established a deep-rooted unease about people’s ability to make ends meet. Asked about issues that worry them most when thinking of today’s Europe, respondents, at an average of 47 percent , place “rising cost of living” as their top concern. The issue has become remarkably salient in countries like France (58 percent), Greece (55 percent), Romania (54 percent), Spain (49 percent), and Bulgaria (44 percent), yet, still, in the rest of the surveyed member countries the cost of living ends up among the top three causes of concern. This wide sense of economic uncertainty is further spurred by a lingering feeling of unfairness when it comes to the distribution of wealth: M ore than eight out of 10 (81 percent overall) sense that “in Europe, the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer”.

via Kapa Research

Anxiety transforms into fear when one realizes that the main political conflict has little to do with competing economic solutions to high living costs. Instead, it is more of a clash between systemic forces and extremists, primarily centred on the field of immigration and the perceived threat to the European way of life.

Fear cause No.2: Immigration

On the cultural front, since 2015, immigration in Europe has been a complex and multifaceted issue, with humanitarian and political implications. In our survey, immigration appears to be the second most important citizen concern with 37 percent (on average), while, at the same time, on the question of which areas should Europe focus on the next five years, calls for “stricter immigration control” are prevalent, with 36 percent of respondents across all surveyed countries ranking it as a top priority. This is notably evident in Germany (56 percent), in spite of its reputation as a welcoming country early in the migration crisis, and in Italy (40 percent), a hub-country into Europe for migrants and refugees. More importantly, the perception of immigration as a “threat to public order” is widespread, with 68 percent of respondents holding this view, compared to only 23 percent who see it as an “opportunity for a new workforce”.

via Kapa Research

Fear cause No.3: War on our doorstep

The return of war to Europe has reignited fears about security; conflicts in Ukraine and, more recently, in Gaza come into play as new factors impacting this year’s EU elections. In this survey, “the Russia-Ukraine war” is the third most pressing concern for 35 percent of respondents, only two percentage points below “immigration ”. Here geographical proximity is crucial as the issue is especially prominent in Estonia (52 percent), Hungary (50 percent), Poland (50 percent), and Romania (43 percent), all neighbouring countries to either Russia or Ukraine. Additionally, demand for immediate ceasefire on both fronts is prevalent: 65 percent believe that hostilities in Gaza “must stop immediately ”, while the same view is supported by 60 percent for the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

To this end, as the feeling of danger from wars and terrorism grows stronger, EU-UK relations become indirectly connected to the issue of security: 56% of respondents wish for a (re)alignment between Great Britain and the EU. At the same time, and compared to current leaders, former UK PM Tony Blair enjoys strong popularity ratings.

Fear cause No.4: The unknown reality of AI

Over time, technological advancement has been widely welcomed as a positive development for humanity, as a means of improving living conditions, and as a growth accelerator. The rapid rise of a rtificial i ntelligence in citizens’ day-to-day lives seems to be disrupting this tradition. Among the member countries surveyed, an average majority of 51 percent considers AI more as a “threat to humanity” rather than as an “opportunity” (31 percent ). Along the same vein, scepticism is reflected in the reluctance to embrace AI as a strategic goal for the EU in the next five years, with 54 percent opposing such a move.

via Kapa Research

Mixing all four of the above ingredients produces an explosive cocktail of fear within European societies.

Key takeaway

Mixing all four of the above ingredients produces an explosive cocktail of fear within European societies. While combined with the prevalent EU technocracy and the weak institutions-to-citizens communication, it is reasonable to expect mounted distrust and electoral consequences. Voters will use their ballot to send painful messages. However, our survey shows that the great majority still favo r strengthening the European acquis — security, freedom, democracy, growth, and social cohesion — and seek a competent leadership that can defend it.

via Kapa Research

See full survey report by Kapa Research here.



Source link

#Fear #decisive #force #European #elections

Is Italy’s new Africa strategy a blueprint for Europe?

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

The Italian-made Mattei Plan signifies not just a policy initiative but a window of opportunity to redefine Europe’s role in Africa and globally, Maddalena Procopio writes.

ADVERTISEMENT

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her cabinet’s recent visits to Libya, following migration agreements between the European Union, Tunisia, and Egypt — largely championed by Meloni herself — have led to a perception that Italy’s new Africa strategy, known as the Mattei Plan, is focused solely on migration.

However, this view is misleading and overlooks the plan’s comprehensive scope and broader implications for both Italy and Europe. 

While addressing irregular migration by improving local socio-economic conditions is crucial, the Mattei Plan transcends mere migration concerns, potentially representing a pivotal shift in Europe’s approach towards Africa.

The plan embodies an attempt at a strategic recalibration of Italy’s relations with Africa, attuned to the evolving geopolitical landscape characterised by heightened competition for markets and energy resources. 

The Mattei Plan is what Europe needs for three key reasons.

Collaborative partnerships and benefits to local communities

Firstly, the plan hints at a reconceptualisation of ‘development cooperation’ linking development objectives with industry interests and should remain well focused on this without dispersing funds. 

Development funds would be used not only to address Africans’ social needs but also to enhance the investment climate, laying essential groundwork for sustained economic engagement. 

For instance, water system improvements should aim to benefit local communities while supporting agribusiness demands. Likewise, technical education programmes respond to local education needs while catering to industry-relevant skill development. 

This approach potentially translates into a collaborative public-private partnership that mitigates investment risks, moving away from traditional donor-centric methods and acknowledging shared interests between Italy and African nations. 

It challenges the paternalistic development aid narrative in Europe-Africa relations, which has faced criticism with the rise of more transactional international players like China and Russia.

Rome should pave the way

Secondly, the Mattei Plan hints at a crucial reality check on Europe’s actual capacity to effectively engage with Africa, emphasising pragmatic and competence-based approaches rooted in the established strengths of the Italian private sector and civil society. 

By prioritising sectors where Italy excels, such as agriculture and energy, the plan mitigates the risk of gaps between policy aspirations and on-the-ground implementation. 

This allows Italian players to compete more effectively amid growing international competition for Africa’s resources, avoiding the pitfalls of broader, less grounded strategies like the EU’s Global Gateway. 

A grand strategy largely decided upon in Brussels, which struggles to align with market realities. However, the Mattei Plan’s lack of a grand strategy makes it highly complementary to initiatives like the Global Gateway.

Thirdly, Italy’s approach could pave the way for a different European modus operandi in Africa, moving away from the dominance of a single great power like France towards a collaborative framework led by European middle powers such as Italy, Spain, Portugal, and the Nordic and Eastern European countries. 

These middle powers can pool their expertise within initiatives like the Global Gateway, recognising the potential for collective action to achieve greater impact. 

Italy’s relatively less controversial image in Africa positions it to lead this new approach, potentially acting as a bridge between Europe and other international actors, such as the Gulf monarchies, which have shown interest in supporting the Mattei Plan.

A window of opportunity is wide open

The success of the Mattei Plan for Italy and Europe hinges on robust multi-level engagement strategies. Effective communication must be prioritised across Italy, Europe, and Africa. The forthcoming progress report from the Mattei Plan steering committee, due by 30 June, should demonstrate initial results.

ADVERTISEMENT

Domestically, centralising the plan’s management within the prime minister’s office was a strategic move to align domestic interests with foreign policy objectives. However, inclusive governance is crucial, as is harnessing expertise from diverse stakeholders. 

Europe is where the fortunes of the Mattei Plan reside more than anywhere else. Proactive dialogue with EU institutions and member states is essential to garner support and foster cooperation. 

The Italian government should actively promote the creation of a European coalition to identify synergies among Africa strategies and with the Global Gateway. 

Without a European collective approach, the Mattei Plan may take a few steps, but it will not win the marathon. With Africa, comprehensive and clear communication about the plan’s objectives is crucial at national, sub-regional, and continental levels.

Internationally, Italy should continue to pursue cooperation with global partners, leveraging its less imposing presence in Africa to reconcile Europe with players in the Global South. Using its G7 presidency, Italy can further cooperate on mutual interests in Africa, such as infrastructure development and green energy.

ADVERTISEMENT

Ultimately, the Mattei Plan signifies not just a policy initiative but a window of opportunity to redefine Europe’s role in Africa and globally.

Maddalena Procopio is a Senior Policy Fellow in the Africa programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

Source link

#Italys #Africa #strategy #blueprint #Europe

Von der Leyen faces Socialist revolt over her far-right flirtation with Meloni

Europe’s Socialists have warned Ursula von der Leyen they won’t back her for a second term as European Commission president if she continues to suggest she could work with hard-right MEPs aligned with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Perhaps most crucially — just as French President Emmanuel Macron visits Germany to try to forge Franco-German consensus on Europe’s political landscape after the June 6 to 9 election — even Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his Social Democratic Party are signaling that they are willing to torpedo a second term for von der Leyen.

Some even have a replacement in mind: former Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. And that’s a choice that will go down well in Paris.

In multiple comments over recent days, high-ranking Socialists including Scholz and the SPD lead candidate for next month’s EU election Katarina Barley threatened to scuttle von der Leyen’s candidacy if she accepts the backing of the hard right to secure a majority in the European Parliament.

“We will not work with the far right,” Barley said on the Berlin Playbook podcast, reiterating the pledge made by the Socialists and Democrats, Renew Europe, the Greens and the Left to “never cooperate nor form a coalition with the far right and radical parties at any level.”

The comment was the latest sign of the left-leaning parties’ alarm at von der Leyen’s stance on Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, which belongs to the right-wing European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in the European Parliament.

Von der Leyen, who hails from the center-right European People’s Party, has indicated that if she fails to secure a majority with the backing of center-left and liberal lawmakers after the EU election, she could work with the ECR

On Friday, Scholz warned von der Leyen against such a move, saying: “When the next Commission is formed, it must not be based on a majority that also needs the support of the far right.” He added that “the only way to establish a Commission presidency will be to base it on the traditional parties.”

Putting the boot in further, Nicolas Schmit, the Socialists’ lead candidate for the EU election, said in an interview published Sunday: “Von der Leyen wants us to believe that there are good right-wing extremists and bad ones.”

Meloni is “politically extremely right wing” and her vision is “certainly not a strong, integrated Europe,” Schmit said. “For Ms. von der Leyen, however, she is probably a conservative.”

The questions now are whether Scholz and his German Socialists would actually kibosh a second term for fellow German von der Leyen — and who they might have in mind to replace her.

One potential challenger to the incumbent is Draghi, the former European Central Bank chief.

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ELECTION POLL OF POLLS

circle.fill-EU-parliament-EPP,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-EPP,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-EPP,
text.fill-EU-parliament-EPP {
fill: #3399FF;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-EPP,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-EPP,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-EPP,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-EPP {
stroke: #3399FF;
}
circle.fill-EU-parliament-SD,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-SD,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-SD,
text.fill-EU-parliament-SD {
fill: #FF0000;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-SD,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-SD,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-SD,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-SD {
stroke: #FF0000;
}
circle.fill-EU-parliament-RE,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-RE,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-RE,
text.fill-EU-parliament-RE {
fill: #FFD700;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-RE,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-RE,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-RE,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-RE {
stroke: #FFD700;
}
circle.fill-EU-parliament-ECR,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-ECR,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-ECR,
text.fill-EU-parliament-ECR {
fill: #0000FF;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-ECR,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-ECR,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-ECR,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-ECR {
stroke: #0000FF;
}
circle.fill-EU-parliament-ID,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-ID,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-ID,
text.fill-EU-parliament-ID {
fill: #2B3856;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-ID,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-ID,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-ID,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-ID {
stroke: #2B3856;
}
circle.fill-EU-parliament-NI,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-NI,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-NI,
text.fill-EU-parliament-NI {
fill: #848484;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-NI,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-NI,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-NI,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-NI {
stroke: #848484;
}
circle.fill-EU-parliament-NEW,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-NEW,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-NEW,
text.fill-EU-parliament-NEW {
fill: #cca1c2;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-NEW,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-NEW,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-NEW,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-NEW {
stroke: #cca1c2;
}
circle.fill-EU-parliament-GreensEFA,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-GreensEFA,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-GreensEFA,
text.fill-EU-parliament-GreensEFA {
fill: #009900;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-GreensEFA,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-GreensEFA,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-GreensEFA,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-GreensEFA {
stroke: #009900;
}
circle.fill-EU-parliament-GUENGL,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-GUENGL,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-GUENGL,
text.fill-EU-parliament-GUENGL {
fill: #990000;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-GUENGL,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-GUENGL,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-GUENGL,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-GUENGL {
stroke: #990000;
}
circle.fill-EU-parliament-CoalSDRE,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-CoalSDRE,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-CoalSDRE,
text.fill-EU-parliament-CoalSDRE {
fill: #a3a5a8;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalSDRE,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalSDRE,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalSDRE,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalSDRE {
stroke: #a3a5a8;
}
circle.fill-EU-parliament-CoalGL,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-CoalGL,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-CoalGL,
text.fill-EU-parliament-CoalGL {
fill: #a3a5a8;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalGL,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalGL,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalGL,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalGL {
stroke: #a3a5a8;
}
circle.fill-EU-parliament-CoalEPPSD,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-CoalEPPSD,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-CoalEPPSD,
text.fill-EU-parliament-CoalEPPSD {
fill: #bbbbbb;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalEPPSD,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalEPPSD,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalEPPSD,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalEPPSD {
stroke: #bbbbbb;
}
circle.fill-EU-parliament-CoalEPPECR,
rect.fill-EU-parliament-CoalEPPECR,
svg.colorize path.fill-EU-parliament-CoalEPPECR,
text.fill-EU-parliament-CoalEPPECR {
fill: #a3a5a8;
}

circle.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalEPPECR,
rect.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalEPPECR,
svg.colorize path.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalEPPECR,
text.stroke-EU-parliament-CoalEPPECR {
stroke: #a3a5a8;
}

For more polling data from across Europe visit POLITICO Poll of Polls.

Just last week, Draghi received the backing of one of Emmanuel Macron’s closest allies, Pascal Canfin, an MEP from the French president’s liberal Renaissance party who is known to have a direct line to the Élysée.

Asked by POLITICO whether France supports von der Leyen’s reelection bid, Canfin said: “France and everyone in the presidential ecosystem would like Draghi to play a role.”

Macron has long been rumored to be maneuvering to put Draghi at the head of the EU executive — and now he appears to have allies in Berlin.

Markus Töns, a German MP from the Social Democrats, told POLITICO’s Brussels Decoded: “Draghi has experience at the European level and knows the current challenges. I would have no problem seeing him in this position — he might even be better than Ursula von der Leyen.”

Ralf Stegner, an influential SPD member of the Bundestag, on Friday said: “If Emmanuel Macron is critical of another term for Ursula von der Leyen, who lacks sufficient clarity regarding alliances with the right-wing bloc, I have every sympathy for him.”

With both Paris and Berlin expressing dissatisfaction with her stance on working with the ECR, von der Leyen’s bid for a second term as Commission chief faces a serious challenge.

While von der Leyen is the EPP’s lead candidate going into the EU election, in theory making her a shoo-in for the post, she will require support from European leaders like Scholz, Macron and Meloni to secure it.

The electoral arithmetic is difficult as she will need 361 votes in an approval vote in the European Parliament, and the EPP is on course only for some 176 seats. The Socialists and Democrats are expected to win 144 and von der Leyen’s prospects will be in severe trouble if the center-left MEPs do not support her.

If they do decide to forgo EPP lead candidate von der Leyen in favor of a curveball, it wouldn’t be the first time: That was precisely the way von der Leyen herself got the job after the 2019 EU election, installed after leaders shunned the EPP’s Manfred Weber.

Macron is currently in Germany for the first state visit with full ceremonial honors by a French president in 24 years. Macron will meet Scholz in Berlin on Tuesday.

It’s hard to believe there won’t be any mention of the electoral mathematics — and of Meloni and Draghi.

Source link

#Von #der #Leyen #faces #Socialist #revolt #farright #flirtation #Meloni

Why is Italy so old?

Declining birth rates and higher chances of survival for older people have significantly aged Italy’s population, to the point that economists are worried about the country’s future.

ADVERTISEMENT

Italy’s ageing problem is starting to take its toll on the country’s world-famous ‘dolce vita’. 

The country’s growing number of pensioners isn’t nearly matched by the number of newborns, and efforts by Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing government to boost birth rates have so far failed to turn the tide on Italy’s demographic decline.

According to the latest data from Eurostat, Italy is the oldest country in the European Union, with half of the population currently having an average median age of above 48. Together with Portugal, Italy has the highest percentage of residents older than 65, equal to 24% – or roughly one in four.

This increase reflects a European-wide trend, with the bloc experiencing an overall rise in its median age (44.5 years old). The number of elderly people now represents more than one-fifth of the bloc’s population. 

“However, what’s even more significant is the ageing trend within Italy’s older population itself,” Cecilia Tomassini, a professor in Demography and Social Statistics at the University of Molise, told Euronews. 

“Specifically, the proportion of individuals aged 80 and above has risen to 7.7% of the total population, a notable increase from a mere 3.3% recorded in 1991,” she added.

“Essentially, while the overall population increased by 3.4% since 1991, the segment aged 80 and above more than doubled during the same period.”

But the Italian ‘nonni’ – well-beloved figures in the country as well as abroad – are not the problem, Giovanni Lamura from Italy’s National Institute of Health and Science on Ageing told Euronews.

“To have people live longer should be a goal on the political agenda of any country’s government,” he said. “The problem is that fertility rates in Italy are low, we have fewer and fewer children.”

How has Italy gotten so old?

The reason for Italy’s ageing population is simple: the number of deaths, due to its ageing population, far surpasses the number of births.

For the past 40 years, the median number of kids per family in Italy has been below 1.5, Alessandro Rosina, professor of Demography and Social Statistics at the Università Cattolica di Milano, told Euronews. “The most recent data is below 1.24 per woman,” he said.

A rate of 2 births per woman is needed to keep a population stable. 

This decline in fertility rates started in the 1980s, according to Tomassini, albeit with occasional fluctuations. 

“Migration flows have only marginally slowed down this ageing process,” she said. “Otherwise, its impact would have been considerably more pronounced.”

While there was a period during which this negative balance was offset by a higher rate of positive migration, “this is no longer the case,” said Tomassini. “As a result, the population decline in Italy is becoming more pronounced.”

The fact that elderly people in Italy are living longer is actually positive news, Lamura said.

“People were able to live longer thanks to beneficial policies, generous pensions and a free healthcare system which allowed even those who couldn’t afford it to receive care.”

But there’s a flip side. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Lamura claims the country hasn’t invested as much in younger generations as it did in previous ones. 

“Italy should do more to financially help young families, but it has a massive GDP debt [140.6% of its entire GDP as of September 2023] which is under international scrutiny, so it cannot afford to fall further into debt with some generous new pro-family policies,” he said.

“People in Italy plan and dream of having children and a family as much as other Europeans. What’s lacking is adequate policies to support the realisation of these plans and dreams,” Rosina said. 

“Italy has one of the highest average ages for parents to have their first child [in Europe], mostly because young people struggle to enter the workforce and find stable jobs, as well as facing difficulties getting their own homes.”

Those who have kids then face the challenge of trying to juggle family life and work life in a country which lacks both economic support and adequate infrastructure for young parents and their children. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“In Italy, the birth of a child is likely to represent a worsening of the parents’ economic conditions, as well as a complication of their life from an organisational perspective, more than in other countries,” Rosina said.

“The country’s limited policies aimed at supporting young families send the negative message that having a family doesn’t bring value to the community and it’s not worthy of support.”

What future of Italy?

For Tomassini, the ageing of the Italian population and the drop in birth rates are expected to continue in the future. 

That’s “unless significant interventions occur, such as mortality crises or a new baby boom,” she said. “In the short term, migration may play as a significant variable that could influence population dynamics, albeit it can be politically slippery.” 

Meloni’s government has made increasing birth rates one of the priorities of her government, but has so far failed to achieve concrete results. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The right-winger has halved the VAT on nappies and baby milk, but childcare remains expensive and hardly affordable for many.

The biggest fear for the country is that its already weak economic growth will continue declining, with Italy eventually unable to afford its pension and welfare system.

“If fertility rates should remain the same, Italy could have just 320,000 newborns in 25 years, with an ever more unbalanced demographic structure,” Rosina said. 

“It’s not a dystopian future, but simply the most likely scenario according to the current dynamics. If Italy doesn’t follow the example of the best policies in Europe in this field, the country’s development and social sustainability will be at risk in the next decades.”

Source link

#Italy

The Italy-Albania migration deal is cruel and counterproductive

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

Deals with non-EU countries simply exacerbate the dangers and suffering that people in need of international protection face by pushing them into the hands of smugglers or traffickers, and onto ever more perilous routes, Harlem Désir and Susanna Zanfrini write.

ADVERTISEMENT

In the Italian city of Trieste, up to 400 people shelter each day in a crumbling, abandoned building next to the train station. 

This is not out of choice. With an average wait of 70 days before asylum seekers can access formal reception facilities, they have nowhere else to go. 

And while the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and other NGOs work tirelessly to provide food, water, information and legal advice, it’s simply not enough to match the soaring level of needs.

It’s clear that EU member states like Italy need to urgently invest in their reception systems, ensuring these are part of a safe, orderly and humane approach to migration. 

Everyone should have a secure place to sleep and access to their basic needs — particularly people with vulnerabilities such as women and children.

However, in the glaring absence of a sustainable EU asylum system rooted in solidarity and relocation, which would ease the pressure on Europe’s southernmost states, many are taking a different path. 

A way of outsourcing responsibility

A number of European governments have instead been exploring deals with non-EU countries intending to stop asylum seekers from setting foot on their soil in the first place.

The most recent of these is Italy’s new agreement with Albania. This would see the majority of people rescued at sea in Italian waters sent directly to Albania, where they would be held in detention centres while their asylum claims are considered.

This is not the first time a member state has looked into the possibility of outsourcing responsibility for asylum and migration management in this way, but there are fundamental reasons why these past proposals have not gone ahead: they are costly, cruel, counterproductive, and legally dubious.

One key concern is that EU states are legally required to uphold the right to seek asylum, regardless of how people arrive on their territory. 

The proposal to send people rescued at sea to Albania is in clear contravention of this legal principle — not to mention the union’s values of respect for human rights and dignity.

Secondly, Italy cannot guarantee that people’s rights will be upheld in their two planned detention centres in Albania. 

While the Italian government has said that its new rules will not apply to pregnant women, children or people with vulnerabilities, the deal does not explicitly confirm this, and huge questions remain as to how this exemption would be implemented in practice. 

Pushing people into harm’s way

Moreover, it is still far from clear how people held in the Albanian centres would access legal advice. 

The IRC’s teams on the Greek islands have evidenced the devastating impact of de facto detention on asylum seekers’ mental health, where 95% of people supported by our psychosocial teams in 2023 reported symptoms of anxiety and 86% of depression. 

It is difficult to see how this will be mitigated in Albania — a country that is not bound by EU rules and regulations.

Thirdly, the EU’s deals with Turkey and other countries such as Libya and Tunisia provide clear evidence that deterrence measures will not stop people from risking their lives in search of safety and security in Europe. 

If anything, they simply exacerbate the dangers and suffering that people in need of international protection face by pushing them into the hands of smugglers or traffickers, and onto ever more perilous routes. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Evidence shows that attempting to deter asylum seekers by creating harsher policies has little to no effect on arrival numbers. 

Not only do these policies push people into harm’s way and violate fundamental rights, but they do not even succeed in their terms of deterring asylum seekers. It’s time for the EU and its member states to forge a different approach.

No one risks their life if there are other options

European leaders should start by shifting their focus away from preventing people from reaching EU territory, to protecting them along their journeys. 

The IRC’s teams in Italy, and more broadly across Europe, see every day the difference that dignified reception can make to the lives of people seeking protection. 

Italy must meet the obligations laid out in the EU Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion to ensure that all newcomers are welcomed with dignity and respect. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Our experience shows that when people are supported to integrate from day one, it brings immense benefits both to new arrivals and their host communities.

More than 3,000 people died or went missing attempting to cross the Central Mediterranean in 2023, bringing the total over the past decade to almost 30,000 individuals — many of whom would have been granted refugee status if they had made it to Europe. 

Nobody puts their lives in the hands of smugglers unless they cannot access other options. The EU and its member states must urgently expand safe routes so people are not forced onto these dangerous journeys.

This will require significantly scaling up resettlement — a vital lifeline enabling the transfer of refugees from their first country of asylum to safety in Europe — on which EU states have failed to meet their joint commitments year-on-year. 

This must be completed by expanding other safe routes such as humanitarian corridors, family reunification and visas for work or study.

ADVERTISEMENT

An opportunity to do things right might just slip away

Last week, the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum — which will pave the way for the EU’s approach to migration in the coming years — was approved by EU states. 

It is crucial to ensure that this does not result in even more deterrence, violence and detention of people entitled to international protection. 

At this pivotal moment, it is essential that EU member states go above the minimum standards set out in the pact, and lose no time in creating the right environment for refugees and asylum seekers to thrive. 

If they fail to do so, they will see the opportunity to create a safe, orderly, and humane asylum system slip ever further from view.

Harlem Désir is the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) Senior Vice-President, Europe, and Susanna Zanfrini is IRC’s Italy Country Director.

ADVERTISEMENT

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

Source link

#ItalyAlbania #migration #deal #cruel #counterproductive

Living on an active volcano: A report from southern Italy

In southern Italy, several hundred thousand people live in a volcanic caldera that has seen a recent uptick in seismic activity. Residents are torn between concern and resignation, while the authorities are keeping a close eye on the situation.

ADVERTISEMENT

I’m near Naples, Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii, in the far lesser-known Italian city of Pozzuoli which lies on a huge magma caldera which, over millennia, has created a volcanic landscape known as Campi Flegrei. Lately, this volatile geology has triggered thousands of small earthquakes.

I’m invited to follow scientists at the Vesuvius Observatory from the Italian Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology as they monitor activity inside a crater whose gas emissions seem particularly intense.

“In these areas, gas emissions are coming from deep below ground,” says Mauro Antonio Di Vito, the Institute’s director, as we walk around the fumaroles (vents in the surface of the Earth where hot volcanic gases and vapours are emitted).

“Observing and understanding how these emissions change over time is important to characterise what is happening deep down at the magma chamber,” he adds.

Real-time data from gas emissions, seismic activity, and soil and air temperatures are monitored 24 hours a day from a huge control room in the Institute’s headquarters.

“In September, we had more than 1000 earthquakes in a month. Of course, most earthquakes are very low magnitude, with a few that reached magnitudes 3.8, 4.0 or even 4.2. Now the process has slowed down. But we know that this can change. All we can do is continue to monitor the area with the utmost attention,” Mauro Antonio Di Vito explains.

‘We are almost used to this phenomenon, it has become our friend,’ say locals

Residents here seem accustomed to these uncertainties. Historically prone to eruptions, the area also displays a geological feature known as ‘bradyseism’. Pushed by magma and gases, the soil moves up and down as if it’s breathing. Sometimes, these movements result in potentially dangerous tremors for buildings and people.

One of Pozzuoli’s neighbourhoods was evacuated in 1970 during one such shock. It has since been partially rebuilt, but nobody lives here anymore.

Local painter, Antonio Isabettini, agrees to show me around. He was just a teenager when his family was evacuated from the area. 

“3000 people lived here, and they were evicted over a period of two days. I remember there was great confusion, that’s for sure, because, from morning to evening, we found ourselves surrounded by the army, buses and police forces,” Antionio reveals.

Now aged 68, Antonio still paints the volcanic landscapes that have defined and defied his whole life.

“We’ve listened to the tremors. We’ve felt them. We say we are almost used to this phenomenon, it has become our friend,” he says standing in front of one of his volcanic landscape paintings. “The important thing is that it doesn’t hurt us. But I’m certain that it will never hurt us.”

‘New generations of people tend to forget they’re living on a volcano’

But beyond wishful thinking, is the densely populated area prepared should the situation worsen? I put the question to the region’s Civil Protection, which oversees the safety of the 1.5 million people who are potentially at risk.

Evacuation plans for volcanic activity have been in place for years. Now a specific plan for bradyseism is also being developed, says Italo Giulivo, the Campania Region Civil Protection’s director.

The capacity of essential services and transport infrastructures is being assessed, and communication strategies outlined, explains Giulivo.

“The fact that the last eruption here was in 1538 means that new generations of people tend to forget they’re living on a volcano. This lowers the perception of risk. We don’t want to reassure the population, we want to let them know what the problem is so that they are aware of it”, he explains.

‘You can only really deal with it if you are well prepared’

Whether they are anxious or untroubled by the recent earthquakes, residents are calling for accurate scientific assessments, detailed risk mitigation actions, workable evacuation plans and clear communication guidelines.

Anna Peluso, a mother of two, shares Facebook updates on the area’s capricious geology. Tremors have forced her son’s school to be evacuated three times since September.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Volcanic risk is something you can anticipate. It gives you signals and you can deal with it. But you can only really deal with it if you are well prepared. My group’s motto is ‘Estote Parati‘, which is Latin for, ‘Be ready’. 

“There are many people who don’t show any interest in the phenomenon. People know what time Napoli’s football team are playing tomorrow, but they don’t even know where their evacuation meeting point is.”

Along with evacuation plans, the area faces another pressing issue: taking care of buildings that are starting to show clear signs of fragility. To understand what is at stake, I meet the Mayor of Pozzuoli, Luigi Manzoni.

New constructions are forbidden and public buildings have been reinforced, the mayor claims. Local authorities can’t directly assist private owners, he says, but a recent national decree should help evaluate the number, distribution and state of fragile residences.

“This decree allows us to make a vulnerability assessment on buildings located within parts of the bradyseism zone. In total, there are some 15,000 buildings concerned, of which approximately 9,500 are in the city of Pozzuoli, 2,000 in Bacoli and 3,000 in Naples,” Manzoni says.

ADVERTISEMENT

Tourism industry fears ‘destructive’ impact of a raised alert level

In the capital city of Rome, authorities recently discussed eventually increasing the alert level, from the current low-risk yellow warning to the far more restrictive orange warning.

The move was eventually dismissed, to the relief of the tourism and service sectors.

Increasing the alert level without unquestionable scientific justification would bring the region back to a COVID-19-style standstill, Gennaro Martusciello, the vice president of the Local Association of Hotel Managers tells me as we meet at his four-star hotel.

“An orange zone would mean that only those who work or live within the city limits can enter. In other words, it would mean the destruction of tourist activity. How can you visit a city without being allowed in or out? Our sector employs almost 50,000 people, so it would truly be a major disaster.”

Residents say they hope experts and authorities will make the right decision – whatever that may be.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I think we can sleep soundly,” says Antonio Isabettini in front of the beautiful Italian seafront. 

“We live in symbiosis with this natural phenomenon. It’s true that it does cause some concern, but on the other hand, we consider ourselves lucky to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, full of history, full of legends…,” he concludes.

Source link

#Living #active #volcano #report #southern #Italy

How Houthi rebels are threatening global trade nexus on Red Sea

Press play to listen to this article

Voiced by artificial intelligence.

The U.S. is mustering an international armada to deter Iranian-backed Houthi militias from Yemen from attacking shipping in the Red Sea, one of the world’s most important waterways for global trade, including energy cargos.

The Houthis’ drone and missile attacks are ostensibly a response to the war between Israel and Hamas, but fears are growing that the broader world economy could be disrupted as commercial vessels are forced to reroute.

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held a videoconference with 43 countries, the EU and NATO, telling them that “attacks had already impacted the global economy and would continue to threaten commercial shipping if the international community did not come together to address the issue collectively.”

Earlier this week, the U.S. announced an international security effort dubbed Operation Prosperity Guardian that listed the U.K., Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the Seychelles and Spain as participants. Madrid, however, said it wouldn’t take part. 

The Houthis were quick to respond. 

“Even if America succeeds in mobilizing the entire world, our military operations will not stop unless the genocide crimes in Gaza stop and allow food, medicine, and fuel to enter its besieged population, no matter the sacrifices it costs us,” said Mohammed Al-Bukaiti, a member of the Ansar Allah political bureau, in a post on X

Here’s what you need to know about the Red Sea crisis.

1. Who are the Houthis and why are they attacking ships?

International observers have put the blame for the hijackings, missiles and drone attacks on Houthi rebels in Yemen, who have stepped up their attacks since the Israel-Hamas war started. The Shi’ite Islamist group is part of the so-called “axis of resistance” against Israel and is armed by Tehran. Almost certainly due to Iranian support with ballistics, the Houthis have directly targeted Israel since the beginning of the war, firing missiles and drones up the Red Sea toward the resort of Eilat.

The Houthis have been embroiled in Yemen’s long-running civil war and have been locked in combat with an intervention force in the country led by Sunni Saudi Arabia. The Houthis have claimed several major strikes against high-value energy installations in Saudi Arabia over the past years, but many international observers have identified some of their bigger claims as implausible, seeing the Houthis as a smokescreen for direct Iranian action against its arch enemy Riyadh.

After first firing drones and cruise missiles at Israel, the rebels are now targeting commercial vessels it deems linked to Israel. The Houthis have launched about 100 drone and ballistic missile attacks against 10 commercial vessels, the U.S. Department of Defense said on Tuesday

As a result, some of the world’s largest shipping companies, including Italian-Swiss MSC, Danish giant Maersk and France’s CMA CGM, were forced to reroute to avoid being targeted. BP also paused shipping through the Red Sea. 

2. Why is the Red Sea so important?

The Bab el-Mandeb (Gate of Lamentation) strait between Djibouti and Yemen where the Houthis have been attacking vessels marks the southern entrance to the Red Sea, which connects to the Suez Canal and is a crucial link between Europe and Asia. 

Estimate are that 12 to 15 percent passes of global trade takes this route, representing 30 percent of global container traffic. Some 7 percent to 10 percent of the world’s oil and 8 percent of liquefied natural gas are also shipped through the same waterway. 

Now that the strait is closed, “alternatives require additional cost, additional delay, and don’t sit with the integrated supply chain that already exists,” said Marco Forgione, director general with the Institute of Export and International Trade.

Diverting ships around Africa adds up to two weeks to journey times, creating additional cost and congestion at ports.

3. What is the West doing about it?

Over the weekend, the American destroyer USS Carney and U.K. destroyer HMS Diamond shot down over a dozen drones. Earlier this month, the French FREMM multi-mission frigate Languedoc also intercepted three drones, including with Aster 15 surface-to-air missiles. 

Now, Washington is seeking to lead an international operation to ramp up efforts against the Iran-backed group, under the umbrella of the Combined Maritime Forces and its Task Force 153. 

“It’s a reinsurance operation for commercial ships,” said Héloïse Fayet, a researcher at the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI), adding it’s still unclear whether the operation is about escorting commercial vessels or pooling air defense capabilities to fight against drones and ballistic missiles. 

4. Who is taking part?

On Tuesday, the U.K. announced HMS Diamond would be deployed as part of the U.S.-led operation.

After a video meeting between Austin and Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto, Italy also agreed to join and said it would deploy the Virginio Fasan frigate, a 144-meter military vessel equipped with Aster 30 and 15 long-range missiles. The ship was scheduled to begin patrolling the Red Sea as part of the European anti-piracy Atalanta operation by February but is now expected to transit the Suez Canal on December 24.

France didn’t explicitly say whether Paris was in or out, but French Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu told lawmakers on Tuesday that the U.S. initiative is “interesting” because it allows intelligence sharing.

“France already has a strong presence in the region,” he added, referring to the EU’s Atalanta and Agénor operations.  

However, Spain — despite being listed as a participant by Washington — said it will only take part if NATO or the EU decide to do so, and not “unilaterally,” according to El País, citing the government.

5. Who isn’t?

Lecornu insisted regional powers such as Saudi Arabia should be included in the coalition and said he would address the issue with his Saudi counterpart, Prince Khalid bin Salman Al Saud, in a meeting in Paris on Tuesday evening. 

According to Bradley Bowman, senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at Washington’s Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a number of Middle Eastern allies appear reluctant to take part.

“Where’s Egypt? Where is Saudi Arabia? Where is the United Arab Emirates?” he asked, warning that via its Houthi allies Iran is seeking to divide the West and its regional allies and worsen tensions around the Israel-Hamas war.

China also has a base in Djibouti where it has warships, although it isn’t in the coalition.

6. What do the Red Sea attacks mean for global trade?

While a fully-fledged economic crisis is not on the horizon yet, what’s happening in the Red Sea could lead to price increases.

“The situation is concerning in every aspect — particularly in terms of energy, oil and gas,” said Fotios Katsoulas, lead tanker analyst at S&P Global Market Intelligence.

“Demand for [maritime] fuel is already expected to increase up to 5 percent,” he said, and “higher fuel prices, higher costs for shipping, higher insurance premiums” ultimately mean higher costs for consumers. “There are even vessels already in the Red Sea that are considering passing back through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean, even if they’d have to pay half a million dollars to do so.”

John Stawpert, a senior manager at the International Chamber of Shipping, said that while “there will be an impact in terms of the price of commodities at your supermarket checkout” and there may be an impact on oil prices, “there is still shipping that is transiting the Red Sea.” 

This is not “a total disruption” comparable to the days-long blockage of the canal in 2021 by the Ever Given container ship, he argued. 

Forgione, however, said he was “concerned that we may end up with a de facto blockade of the Suez Canal, because the Houthi rebels have a very clear agenda.”

7. Why are drones so hard to fight?

The way the Houthis operate raises challenges for Western naval forces, as they’re fending off cheap drones with ultra-expensive equipment. 

Aster 15 surface-to-air missiles — the ones fired by the French Languedoc frigate — are estimated to cost more than €1 million each while Iran-made Shahed-type drones, likely used by the Houthis, cost barely $20,000. 

“When you kill a Shahed with an Aster, it’s really the Shahed that has killed the Aster,” France’s chief of defense staff, General Thierry Burkhard, said at a conference in Paris earlier this month. 

However, if the Shahed hits a commercial vessel or a warship, the cost would be a lot higher.

“The advantage of forming a coalition is that we can share the threats that could befall boats,” IFRI’s Fayet said. “There’s an awareness now that [the Houthis] are a real threat, and that they’re able to maintain the effort over time.”  

With reporting by Laura Kayali, Antonia Zimmermann, Gabriel Gavin, Tommaso Lecca, Joshua Posaner and Geoffrey Smith.



Source link

#Houthi #rebels #threatening #global #trade #nexus #Red #Sea

NeverEnding Story: Elon Musk attending Giorgia Meloni’s fantasy party

Elon Musk and VOX’s leader Santiago Abascal will be among the guests attending Giorgia Meloni’s bizarre 4-day fantasy-themed Christmas party, “Atreju”, which celebrates Italy’s conservative youth.

ADVERTISEMENT

This year, Giorgia Meloni’s Christmas party for young conservatives, called “Atreju”, is going to have a little more sparkle than the festival had in the past 26 years.

Back in 1998, Meloni was not a well-known figure in Italian politics. But as the head of the Rome branch of Azione Giovani (the youth section of the now defunct Alleanza Nazionale party), she created a nationwide event dedicated to celebrating the country’s conservative youth.

The event was named by Meloni after Atreyu, one of the main characters of the 1984 fantasy film “The NeverEnding Story.”

For those who already know about Meloni’s obsession with the fantasy genre, which she consistently interprets through her right-wing lens, this name won’t be surprising. 

Neither would be the fact that she got the idea to create Atreju after attending Hobbit Camp in the 1990s, a Woodstock-like retreat organised by the post-fascist Movimento Sociale Italiano party for young people to celebrate J.R.R. Tolkien’s books.

But this edition of this right-wing fantasy festival, which will run from Thursday 14 December to Sunday 17 December, and is now backed by Meloni’s party Brothers of Italy, will be different from the ones that have come before.

First of all, Meloni is no longer at the fringe of Italian politics, but right at its top. Second, Meloni’s new role has allowed her to attract some high-profile guest stars to her bizarre, fantasy-themed event, including tech billionaire Elon Musk and leader of Spanish populist party Vox Santiago Abascal, recently at the centre of a nasty controversy.

What’s the festival about?

According to Piero Garofalo, Professor of Italian Studies at the University of New Hampshire in the US, Atreju is “less a political convention than a partisan political event.” The festival, which this year will have a Christmas village and an ice rink, features youth-oriented concerts, exhibits, debates, and humour and has a focus on socialising rather than just talking politics.

The theme of this year’s edition is ‘Bentornato orgoglio italiano’ (‘Welcome Back Italian Pride’),” a title that’s perfectly in line with Meloni’s electoral manifesto and constant mantra. And while the event has kept its traditional social, jovial nature, its political importance is undeniable this year.

“Today, with Giorgia Meloni’s political ascent and Brothers of Italy’s recent electoral successes, Atreju has gained increasing importance by [previously] attracting high-profile guests – like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon – and media attention,” Garofalo tells Euronews.

“The festival now serves as a platform to showcase Giorgia Meloni’s international stature and the Italian right’s integration into the international community,” he added. 

Who’s going to attend?

The guest list of the party is a who’s who of the European and international right.

Among the most prominent guests, there are Elon Musk, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, and Spanish leader of the far-right Vox party, Santiago Abascal.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, “who shares with Giorgia Meloni unorthodox approaches to addressing the influx of migrants, will apparently meet with Premier Meloni on Saturday morning during the festival though not necessarily at the festival,” Garofalo says.

According to Garofalo, participation at Atreju does not automatically signal solidarity with or support for Giorgia Meloni.

“For example, several leaders of opposition parties, including Matteo Renzi, Carlo Calenda, Angelo Bonelli, and Michele Emiliano, will also attend the festival in the hope of attracting votes and making themselves relevant,” he says.

“Indeed, participation signals the increasing importance and visibility that the Atreju platform provides speakers. That said, beyond the attendees, who will likely exceed 100,000, and the extensive media coverage (due in large part to the prominent guests) over the next four days, Atreju is not an event followed with particular interest by the general public although it will certainly take centre-stage this week,” he added.

Notably, Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, has declined Meloni’s invitation to the festival.

ADVERTISEMENT

What’s with ‘The NeverEnding Story’?

The Italian rendering of the name Atreju is an homage to the dragon-riding warrior protagonist of the 1979 German fantasy novel, The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende, Garofalo explains.

The novel became a Hollywood hit in 1984 and made more than $100 million at the global box office. It was particularly successful in Germany where five million people flocked to the cinema to watch the epic fantasy movie, which featured special effects which were groundbreaking at the time. 

“This name was chosen because, for the event’s organisers, the fantasy character represents committed youth who in the eternal battle between good and evil resist nihilism to preserve ideals,” he says.

Giorgia Meloni underscored the novel’s importance in a 2019 Facebook post commemorating the 40th anniversary of the novel’s publication, writing: “A very significant novel that marked my childhood. Atreju’s struggle and victory against The Nothing, an enemy trying to wear down the imagination of youth by stripping it of values, still represents an inspiring symbol today. With this model in mind, I have always carried forward my political passion!.”

“The Neverending Story” and Atreyu are far from the first fantasy novels and heroes that Meloni has co-opted for her political use. During her long career, she has often mentioned J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings”, which was the subject of a major exhibition in Rome this year.

ADVERTISEMENT

Among Meloni’s fantasy idols, there is also George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” and the manga character and space pirate Captain Harlock. 

Playing into an old tradition

“The fascination with and appropriation of the fantasy genre by the post-fascist far-right pre-dates Giorgia Meloni and emerges as a recognisable phenomenon in 1970s Italy,” Garofalo explains. “Italian nationalists positioned themselves as a small fellowship of truth-holders who stand against an overwhelming obfuscating force that enshrouds society.”

Fantasy narratives provide vivid oppositions to and rejections of the modern world, according to Garofalo, depicting “as noble the struggles of traditional societies to preserve an idealised past against the threats of change embodied by external forces.”

In this context, Meloni’s appropriation of fantasy symbolism in the political discourse plays into this tradition “precisely because it provides a teleological rationale for political actions whose immediate effects are not recognizably relatable to long-term goals,” Garofalo says.

“When the symbol is real, the end result is real. As Giorgia Meloni has stated: ‘I don’t consider The Lord of the Rings fantasy’.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Source link

#NeverEnding #Story #Elon #Musk #attending #Giorgia #Melonis #fantasy #party