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Welcome to Monday, where Anthony Albanese is sworn in as Australia's new prime minister, a verdict is in for the first war crimes trial in Ukraine and the food & energy industrials get outrageously richer. In Colombian daily El Espectador, María Mónica Monsalve Sánchez explores how Colombia is toeing the line between carbon-offsetting and unabashed greenwashing.
[*Vanakkam, Tamil - India]
NATO entry for Sweden and Finland? Erdogan may not be bluffing
When the two Nordic countries confirmed their intention to join NATO this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeated his plans to block the application. Accusing Sweden and Finland of "harboring" some of his worst enemies may not allow room for him to climb down, writes Meike Eijsberg for Worldcrunch.
When Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared his opposition to Finland and Sweden entering NATO, it took most of the West's top diplomatic experts by surprise — with the focus squarely on how Russia would react to having two new NATO members in the neighborhood. (So far, that's been a surprise too)
But now Western oversight on Turkey's stance has morphed into a belief in some quarters that Erdogan is just bluffing, trying to get concessions from the negotiations over such a key geopolitical issue.
To be clear, any prospective NATO member requires the consent of all 30 member states and their parliaments. So Erdogan does indeed have a card to play, which is amplified by the sense of urgency: NATO, Sweden and Finland are keen to complete the accession process with the war in Ukraine raging and the prospect of strengthening the military alliance's position around the Baltic Sea.
Erdogan’s objections to Finland and Sweden joining NATO run deep. According to Mitra Nazar, the Turkey correspondent of the Dutch broadcaster NOS, “this is about a longstanding frustration with the Turkish government. Countries such as Finland and Sweden, but also the Netherlands according to Erdogan, give asylum to people who are labelled as terrorists in Turkey.”
This includes Kurdish fighters and supporters of the Gülen Movement, which Turkey believes is responsible for the failed coup in 2016. During a press conference this week, Erdogan demanded that Finland and Sweden end their supposed support for the Kurdish party (PKK). He also accused them of harboring PKK members and ordered the extradition of six alleged members from Finland and 11 from Sweden.
“Sweden is already the incubation center of terrorist organizations, they bring terrorists in their parliaments and allow them to speak,” Erdogan said according to Turkish Euronews. "We will not say 'yes' to them entering. Because then NATO ceases to be a security organization and becomes a place where the representatives of terrorists are concentrated.”
The Turkish president also demanded that Finland and Sweden lift their ban on arms exports imposed in October 2019 after the Turkish incursion in northern Syria. Although arms trade between these three countries is limited, Turkey would, on principle, refuse to expand the military alliance to countries that are blocking weapon deals, according to Turkish officials interviewed by Bloomberg.
Both Finland and Sweden were taken aback by the statements, wondering if things they said may have simply gotten lost in translation. According to the Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, “Finland has been assured in the past that Turkey does not want to put any obstacles in the way of Finland and Sweden's possible NATO membership or complicate this process,” Finnish news organization YLE uutiset reported.
It raises the question: is President Erdoğan simply bluffing? Or does he really have something to lose if Finland and Sweden join NATO? The arms export ban argument seems to be symbolic above anything else. In fact, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the arms restrictions go “against the spirit” of an alliance.
According to Bloomberg’s interview with five Turkey officials, the idea that Turkey’s opposition to Finland and Sweden joining NATO has anything to do with its ties to Russia, or Erdoğan’s friendship with Putin, has also been dismissed. It’s been publicly acknowledged too by diplomats, such as German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, that Turkey is treading cautiously in that regard. “I think at this moment everyone is aware of the responsibility they have in such a difficult situation,” she said according to German newspaper Die Welt.
The PKK narrative, however, has been around for a while, as Erdogan has made similar demands before. It’s yet to be employed as an ultimatum of this importance, leading many experts to believe that Erdogan is using it now to secure his re-election next summer. His popularity is down and the Turkish economy is suffering from 66.9% inflation, so he could benefit from a successful power move in international politics, and consequently bringing in PKK members into Turkey so they can face trial. Erdogan may find that climbing back down from his demands may become impossible.
Turkey may also be using the Nordic-NATO issue to push the U.S., and that Erdogan is simply using his veto against Finland and Sweden as leverage to gain what it really wants: to be included again in the F-35 advanced aircraft program. After Turkey purchased Russia’s S-400 missile defense system in 2017, Washington kicked Ankara out of the program and levied sanctions.
Yet the PKK extradition demands may be virtually impossible to obtain. Jonathan Eyal, the associate director of the Rusi think tank told the Guardian that “It is not possible for either country … to change its domestic legislation on freedom of assembly… Sweden in particular has an active Kurdish community that has political support.”
For now, Finland and Sweden’s membership is still pending. The initial veto by Turkey has, at least, ensured that the first stage of the accession process may take longer than the two weeks planned.
Jussi Halla-aho, the chairperson of the Finnish Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, “It’s mostly a question of Turkey’s domestic policy and desire to promote things that are important to it,” reports the Helsinki Times. “It’s unrealistic to think that the accession process of a country could be thwarted by a single member.” Everyone may have to think again.
— Meike Eijsberg / Worldcrunch
• First Russian found guilty of war crimes, sentenced to life: Vadim Shishimarin, 21, became the first Russian soldier to be convicted of war crimes since the Russian invasion three months ago. Shishimarin was found guilty Monday of shooting an unarmed 62-year-old man in northeast Ukraine shortly after the invasion began, and sentenced to life in prison.
• Ukraine-Poland joint customs control could be 1st step toward Kyiv in EU: Ukraine and Poland agreed to establish a joint border customs control as well as a shared railway company to facilitate the movement of people and increase exports coming from Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelensky said the pact was the “beginning of our integration into the common customs space of the European Union. That is a truly historic process.”
— Read all the latest at War in Ukraine, Day 89 —
• New Australian Prime Minister: Australian Labor party leader Anthony Albanese, 59, was sworn in as the country’s 31st prime minister in Canberra, after the conservative government was voted out on Saturday after nearly a decade in power. First order of business for the veteran politician: the “Quad” Summit in Japan tomorrow, where Australia, Japan, India and the U.S. leaders will gather for security and cooperation talks.
• U.S. to defend Taiwan if invaded by China: During a press conference, U.S. President Joe Biden said that the United States would militarily intervene to defend Taiwan if China decided to invade the island, adding that China “was flirting with danger.” This would be a break in the U.S. policy of “strategic ambiguity” on the China-Taiwan conflict.
• COVID-19 update in China: Workers in Beijing are urged by Chinese authorities to work from home to stem COVID-19 outbreak in the Chinese capital. Meanwhile, Shanghai slowly returns to a normal life after two months of lockdown, with public transport partly reopening.
• India and Bangladesh deadly floods: More than 60 people were killed and millions are currently isolated as India and the northeast part of Bangladesh are facing major floodings, which may be the worst affecting the country in two decades.
• RIP Miss. Tic: French street art pioneer Miss. Tic — real name Radhia Novat — died on Sunday at 66 of an undisclosed illness. The artist was one of the founders of stencil art and was well-known for her provocative works in the Montmartre neighborhood in Paris starting in the 1980s.
Spanish daily ABC frontpage focuses on the impact of the war in Ukraine on global food security, and especially on the grain and fertilizer sectors. The war could even “cause a global food crisis” as warned by the UN.
A new Oxfam report reveals that food and energy billionaires have increased their fortunes by $453 billion over the past two years due to the skyrocketing prices in these two sectors, in the context of the pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine.
The bogus concept of "carbon-neutral" oil
The Colombian president recently said that the country had exported one million barrels of carbon-neutral or offset oil. But in an unregulated carbon market, such a claim is pure greenwashing, reports María Mónica Monsalve Sánchez in Colombian daily El Espectador.
🛢️ During this year’s CERAweek, Colombia's President Iván Duque said that his country produced just 0.6% of the world's carbon emissions even as it had raised crude production to one million barrels a day. He also revealed at the event that the country's national oil firm, Ecopetrol, had sold the Asian market its first million barrels of carbon-neutral or offset crude. The idea of carbon compensation or offsetting is to capture the same amount of CO2 emitted in your production process through a compensatory project, like preserving a stretch of forest. But with oil production, can you really curb the emissions of one of the economy's most polluting sectors? Is compensation the right strategy or response to the climate crisis?
⛽ Ecopetrol's head of crude production, Juan Carlos Fonnegra, says the firm committed itself in 2021 to reaching zero net emissions by 2050. He did point out that the offsetting cited did not cover scope 3 emissions (generated by the decomposition of waste), which are outside a firm's control. There are mounting calls on firms to offset this stage of emissions, which amounts to 90 to 95% of the emissions of oil’s life cycle. Another point to consider with Iván Duque's claims concerns the project to offset emissions from the Castilla Blend shipment. The tradeoff is typically done through forestry projects to capture carbon from the air. Thus, one firm (Ecopetrol) buys from another (a forestry firm) carbon credits equivalent to the tons of carbon not being emitted.
🌳 Some would call this greenwashing, says Juan José Guzmán Ayala, a finance and climate specialist. He says Ecopetrol can act this way as the Colombian government has yet to create an obligatory and regulated carbon market. Such a regulated carbon market was supposed to be ready in 2021 according to the 2018 Climate Change Law. The carbon market in Colombia remains voluntary for now, and firms merely have to show that they offset emissions in order to avoid paying the carbon tax. Colombia's deputy environment minister, Nicolás Galarza said that by 2023, the government should have readied the institutional bases the market would need before it could start functioning between 2023 and 2025. According to him, Colombia is the only South American state actually "developing" offsetting measures, ahead of Chile and Brazil.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
“Nobody takes my husband away from me, not even the war.”
— During a rare appearance alongside her husband, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, First Lady Olena Zelenska responded to a Rada TV interviewer who told her, “the war basically took your husband away.” She added that they had not seen each other for two months and that their “family was torn apart, as every other Ukrainian family.”
A man speaks on the phone as the oil refinery of Lysychansk in the Luhansk region, Ukraine, burns in the background after it was hit by Russian shelling. — Photo: Rick Mave/SOPA Images/ZUMA
✍️ Newsletter by Lila Paulou, Lisa Berdet and Bertrand Hauger.
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