Austrian chancellor plans e-fuel summit

Vienna (APA) – Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer is planning a car summit. In the coming weeks, he wants to discuss the possibilities of financing research on e-fuels with manufacturers, he announced on Austrian television on Sunday. Nehammer was reserved about the European Central Bank’s (ECB) demand for the Austrian Raiffeisen International Bank (RBI) to withdraw from Russia.

Nehammer pointed out that RBI was not the only European financial institution still active in Russia. At the same time, he emphasized that the bank was also active in Ukraine and was a systemically important bank there. According to Nehammer, Ukrainian President Wolodymyr Selenskyj had not addressed the issue of RBI during a recent conversation.

Nehammer said that RBI, like all banks, had to comply with international laws and regulations in principle. Now one had to wait and see which decisions would be made.

Shortly after an EU Summit in Brussels last week, the European Commission and the German government had reached an agreement allowing for combustion engines to run on CO2-neutral fuels after 2035. Nehammer was positive about the compromise on combustion engine cars. He said he trusted science with regard to e-fuels. The goal would have to be to export this technology to the markets of the future, he said, referring to the boom in climate-damaging coal-fired power plants in China.

The chancellor also rejects nuclear power, which is being pushed by France, “We are clearly against it.” However, he also pointed out that the world was in a transitional period. Nuclear power was also used in Austria, he said. While Austria has no nuclear power plants on its territory, it imports electricity generated by them. (March 26)

Consultations on EU asylum reform: internal border controls a last resort

Berlin (dpa) – If there is no agreement on better registration and distribution of asylum seekers in Europe by the summer, interior ministers consider freedom of movement in the Schengen area in danger. The window of opportunity for a comprehensive reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) would close in the summer, said German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser in Berlin on Friday, after a meeting with interior ministers and state secretaries from five other EU states. The EU Member States would have to reach an agreement by then, so there would still be time for negotiations with the European Parliament.

Should an agreement not be reached, “then the Schengen area with open internal borders is in great danger,” Faeser warned. Everyone in the European Parliament and the Council had to be aware of this, she added.

Sweden also sees this risk, “but nobody wants it to come to that,” said Anders Hall, Swedish State Secretary at the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs. Sweden currently holds the EU Council Presidency and will hand over the baton to Spain on 1 July.

Internal border controls would have to remain the exception, stressed Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska. For Spain, freedom of movement in the Schengen area is an important pillar of the European Union.

In concrete terms, the aim is to ensure that those seeking protection are reliably registered in the EU states where they first arrive. Ideally, that state should also check in the future whether someone has any prospect of being recognized as a refugee. However, countries with external EU borders, such as Italy or Malta, are not prepared to do this yet. They insist that the distribution of asylum seekers within Europe must be better regulated at first.

So far, only a few states – above all Germany – have voluntarily taken on a few asylum seekers. Faeser said that Germany had taken over 427 people from Italy and 93 asylum seekers from Cyprus via the solidarity mechanism, and that further takeovers were planned. Italy has been blocking the transfer of asylum seekers registered in Italy for several weeks, citing alleged technical problems. (March 24)

Macron in China from 5 to 8 April to discuss Ukraine and Franco-Chinese cooperation

Paris (AFP) – French President Emmanuel Macron will make a “state visit” to China from 5 to 8 April, accompanied by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, in order to work “towards a return to peace” in Ukraine with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Macron’s trip had been announced in late February, but the Élysée only revealed the precise dates, stages and objectives last Friday. The French president will go to Beijing, but also to Canton.

As Emmanuel Macron announced at a press conference in Brussels on Friday, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen would be present “on part of the program” in the name of “European unity”, which was  “an essential prerequisite for building a balanced partnership with China.”

The Head of State recalled that he had “endeavored to coordinate and carry a European voice” with regard to Russia and the war in Ukraine. (24 March 2023)

Slovenia keen to participate in ammunition production, prime minister says

Brussels, 23 March (STA) – Slovenia should take part in the production of ammunition, which should be equally divided across the EU, said Prime Minister Robert Golob as he arrived to the EU leaders summit in Brussels, where joint procurement of artillery ammunition for Ukraine will be discussed.

Golob sees it as beneficial that the EU is moving towards not only joint purchases but also joint production of ammunition.”Defence budgets will grow and it is right that the money is spent locally, in the member states and with the goal of economic development,” the prime minister said. Slovenia should join the production, not only the purchasing of ammunition, Golob added.

As Defence Minister Marjan Šarec recently pointed out, Slovenia currently does not have capabilities to produce artillery shells.

The procurement of ammunition will be the main focus of the upcoming visit of the European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton to Slovenia.

“We will run through different scenarios, what is possible in the European framework and what the European Commission is able to support,” said Golob, adding that more details will be known after the visit.

On Monday, 17 EU members and Norway joined the Common Procurement of Ammunition, a project by the European Defence Agency that will send one million ammunition rounds to Ukraine in the next 12 months. Slovenia will join the project shortly.

This is a compilation of the European coverage of enr news agencies. It is published Tuesdays and Fridays. The content is an editorial selection based on news by the respective agency.