Norway expects even closer cooperation with Germany

Bergen (dpa) – Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre expects even closer cooperation with Germany on energy issues and beyond. “Since last year, we have seen a rather spectacular acceleration in Norwegian-German energy cooperation,” Støre said during a visit to the Troll A gas production platform, which is located off the west coast of Norway. Among other things, he said, the two countries were now talking about wind energy, CO2 storage and hydrogen. Støre added that he expected the cooperation with Germany to increase further.

Germany is Norway’s most important European partner, as evidenced by the country’s recent decision to purchase new Leopard 2 tanks from Germany. The core of the cooperation is that the two countries are political partners. For Norway, it is important that Germany has a government that is interested in and knowledgeable about matters in the north.

Støre had visited the Norwegian gas production platform Troll A in the North Sea on 17 March, together with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. The Troll gas field west of Bergen covered more than eleven percent of gas consumption within the EU last year. Norway’s gas supplies were important for Europe’s security, Støre stressed. “It’s important for Europe to have a democratic partner in an energy world with not so democratic partners,” he said.

Germany has become Norway’s most important export country in 2022. That’s largely due to natural gas: last year, Germany imported about 726 billion Norwegian kroner (about 64 billion euros) worth of goods from the Scandinavian country, with gas supplies alone accounting for 621 billion kroner. (March 18)

Macron expresses support for Moldova in the face of “Russian destabilization attempts”

Paris (AFP) – On Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his support to his Moldovan counterpart Maia Sandu in the face of “Russian attempts at destabilization” in the former Soviet republic and the “tensions they cause,” the Elysée Palace announced.

During a telephone conversation, Macron also welcomed the reform efforts in Moldova, including that of “justice to improve the fight against corruption,” the French Presidency added. Moldova is a candidate for becoming a member of the European Union.

Moldova, a neighbor of Ukraine, says it faces “a hybrid war” led by Moscow to overthrow the pro-European executive in power in Chisinau.

“Recalling the importance of continuing to reform the country,” Emmanuel Macron offered to make “experts, especially in cyber and economic matters” available to Chisinau.

He also said he was ready to “provide all necessary assistance” to Moldova for the organization of the European Political Community summit scheduled in the country for 1 June. (March 17)

Spain approves pension reform called for by the European Commission

Madrid (EFE) – The Spanish government approved a pension reform along the lines demanded by the European Commission, which is backed by the main trade unions, but rejected by employers. The reform, approved in an extraordinary meeting of the left-wing coalition government, had been demanded by Brussels, as it enables the bloc to continue with the disbursement of European recovery funds to Spain.

The reform “culminates the modernization of our pension system and shields the purchasing power of all present and future pensioners,” Spanish Minister of Social Security José Luis Escrivá said.

The reform includes measures to increase the income of the pension system, after the Commission had warned about its sustainability and reproached the Spanish government for not complying with the prevision to present the reform before the end of 2022. To boost the income of the system, the reform provides for a progressive increase of the current maximum contribution base of 4,495.50 euros per month, so that between 2024 and 2050 it will rise each year by the same amount as the consumer price index plus 1.2 percentage points.

Another measure is an intergenerational equity mechanism with an increase in social contributions from this year, to progressively increase from 0.6 percent to 1.2 percent. The minister assured that, in this way, the reserve fund to guarantee pensions would increase to around 120,000 million euros at the beginning of the 2040s. This would ensure the viability of the system in a country in which the number of pensioners is set to rise when the so-called “baby boomer” generation retires. Some fourteen million children were born in Spain between 1958 and 1977. The retirement age in the country is 65, but it is expected to rise to 67 in 2027, although this may vary depending on the number of years of contribution. (March 16)

Europe limits dependence on third countries for strategic raw materials

Brussels (Belga) – The European Union must become more self-sufficient with regard to the extraction, processing and recycling of critical raw materials, which are considered indispensable in sectors such as the green and digital industries, aerospace and defense. For each strategic raw material – whose supply may be compromised in the future – Europe should not be dependent on a third country, such as China, for more than 65 percent, a new proposal from the European Commission stated on Thursday.

At issue is the Critical Raw Materials Act. It is a crucial part of the Commission’s green industrial plan and aims to reduce European dependence on third countries. In the European Parliament on Wednesday, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen summed up that 98 percent of the rare earths currently used in the European industry come from China, as do 93 percent of magnesium and 97 percent of lithium.

The Commission has created separate lists for critical and strategic raw materials. The latter are used in strategic sectors of the European industry and are in danger of becoming scarce due to the growing demand predicted for the coming years. That is why the Commission wants Europe to extract itself at least 10 percent of the strategic raw materials it consumes per annum. Europe should also be able to process 40 percent itself and recycle 15 percent.

The Commission sets a goal of reducing dependence on a third country to 65 percent at each stage of processing of a specific strategic raw material.

The Critical Raw Materials Act is now passed on to Parliament and the Member States for negotiations. The Commission also proposed the Net-Zero Industry Act on Thursday. (March 16)

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.