All posts by Francisco Marques Pereira

(DML) PETER OBORNE: Not since Disraeli has a PM made such a cunning U-turn as Boris accepts that a deal must be struck with Brussels despite bluster

(DML) With trademark bravado, Boris Johnson has repeatedly said he’s willing to take Britain out of the EU without a deal. But I have always suspected that has been partly bluster.

Confronted now with no wriggle room to deliver a No Deal Brexit, he has accepted that a deal must be struck with Brussels.

There is one principal reason for this: fear of the consequences of No Deal and a dawning realisation that it could result in electoral defeat for the Tories.

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Despite his bravura promises, Johnson hasn’t managed to negotiate a penny discount. To his credit, though, Johnson looks set to have achieved — and this is very important — a different way of solving the sticky Irish border problem

Shortly after becoming PM, he was taken aside by officials who spelt out in stark terms what a No Deal Brexit really meant.

Chaos. Delays. Possible civil disorder. Medical shortages.

And over the longer term, the risk of permanent damage to the British economy.

Michael Gove, in charge of Brexit preparations, described them with insouciant understatement as ‘bumps in the road’.

More cynical observers would point out that Johnson has said that one of his idols is the Victorian era Tory, Benjamin Disraeli, who was known for compromising again and again as he climbed what he called the ‘greasy pole’ of politics

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More cynical observers would point out that Johnson has said that one of his idols is the Victorian era Tory, Benjamin Disraeli, who was known for compromising again and again as he climbed what he called the ‘greasy pole’ of politics

No prime minister would want to be held responsible for such a mess. Least of all Boris Johnson. He wants to remain in No 10 for as long as possible.

Some inside Downing Street, in particular the PM’s senior adviser Dominic Cummings, pressed for the No Deal option to be kept on the table.

However, after seven defeats in the Commons and a Supreme Court defeat, that possibility died on Wednesday when Johnson met former minister Damian Green, leader of the One Nation group of 80 Tory MPs.

Green said they could never support a Conservative election manifesto that campaigned on a platform of a No Deal Brexit, in effect aligning the Tories with the Brexit Party.

The warning was that Johnson risked splitting the Tory Party in half if he continued to entertain the idea of No Deal.

The game was up.

Such was the immediate background to Boris Johnson’s meeting on Merseyside with the Irish Taoiseach.

What Johnson has now done is revert to the so-called Ireland-only backstop proposals. We will see as negotiations proceed this weekend whether agreement on this can be achieved with Brussels. The Irish Taoiseach is pictured above

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What Johnson has now done is revert to the so-called Ireland-only backstop proposals. We will see as negotiations proceed this weekend whether agreement on this can be achieved with Brussels. The Irish Taoiseach is pictured above

Cummings went with him. But in a sign that this Rasputin figure had been compromised, he wore a suit rather than his customary unironed shirt, jeans and fleece.

What’s more, he was with Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill, meaning that if notoriously indiscreet Cummings leaked any information, it would be clear where it came from.

Off-the-cuff Trump-style text messages have been replaced by correct confidentiality.

Johnson and Irish PM Leo Varadkar talked business.

Sedwill, now properly in the driving seat, got down to work at last on the reality and enormity of the October 31 Brexit deadline.

For Johnson, a deal with Varadkar is now the only way to honour his promise to take Britain out of the EU on Halloween. This meant he was ready to make concessions.

As a result, the deal he now proposes is based on the one agreed by Theresa May a year ago and fashioned by her EU negotiator Sir Olly Robbins.

Their work has not been wasted. Quite the opposite.

For Johnson, a deal with Varadkar is now the only way to honour his promise to take Britain out of the EU on Halloween. This meant he was ready to make concessions. The pair are pictured at a meeting on Thursday

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For Johnson, a deal with Varadkar is now the only way to honour his promise to take Britain out of the EU on Halloween. This meant he was ready to make concessions. The pair are pictured at a meeting on ThursdayIrish PM says that the meeting with Johnson was ‘very promising’Loaded: 0%Progress: 0%0:00PreviousPlaySkipMuteCurrent Time0:00/Duration Time3:10FullscreenNeed Text

Under the provisional agreement that has been reached, Johnson is expected to sign off on most of May’s central document, the Withdrawal Arrangement. About 150,000 words — or 599 pages.

Yes. We are talking about the document supported consistently by this newspaper earlier this year but knocked back by die-hard anti-EU Tory MPs and by a mindless Labour Party.

Ironically, it was initially opposed, too, by Boris Johnson with his Tory Right-wing allies.

The agreement, among other things, commits Britain to recognise the rights of EU citizens here and for the UK government to pay a divorce bill of just under £40 billion.

Despite his bravura promises, Johnson hasn’t managed to negotiate a penny discount.

To his credit, though, Johnson looks set to have achieved — and this is very important — a different way of solving the sticky Irish border problem. 

How to avoid creating a hard border between the North and the Republic of Ireland once Britain leaves the EU, meaning two different customs regimes either side of the border. 

Also, obviating the need for customs posts, which would be in contradiction to the Good Friday Agreement, and which would inevitably become targets for the men of violence.

With trademark bravado, Boris Johnson has repeatedly said he’s willing to take Britain out of the EU without a deal. But I have always suspected that has been partly bluster. He is pictured with Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

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With trademark bravado, Boris Johnson has repeatedly said he’s willing to take Britain out of the EU without a deal. But I have always suspected that has been partly bluster. He is pictured with Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Mrs May’s solution was the ‘backstop’, which, in order to secure the support of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in the North, meant Britain would remain part of the EU Customs Union and Single Market until a post-Brexit free trade deal could be negotiated.

But critics branded this Brino — Brexit In Name Only.

What Johnson has now done is revert to the so-called Ireland-only backstop proposals.

We will see as negotiations proceed this weekend whether agreement on this can be achieved with Brussels.

Nonetheless, there is no avoiding the fact that it means a separate status for the Northern Ireland economy. Crucially, it would also be subject to democratic confirmation by the Northern Ireland Assembly.

However, what is already crystal clear is that Johnson calculates that he can carry such a deal through the Commons in the face of potential opposition from the DUP and some remaining Tory rebels. He may need support from pro-Brexit Labour dissident MPs — which he may well get.

All this suggests that the last months have been wasted in a pointless saga of faction-fighting.

Surely, this is something that will not be lost on Boris Johnson.

He will realise that the deal being negotiated this weekend is very similar to the arrangement Theresa May settled on 18 months ago. At the time, one senior Tory criticised her deal as ‘crazy’ because he said it would mean the UK collecting taxes on behalf of the EU.

The name of that critic? It was Boris Johnson. In other words, he now seems set to accept a Brexit which he was reluctant to countenance earlier in the year.

That’s the Boris I know in a nutshell. He’ll do anything to be popular and keep himself in power. Above all, he’s a pragmatist. A generous supporter would say he’s doing this as a One Nation Tory.

More cynical observers would point out that Johnson has said that one of his idols is the Victorian era Tory, Benjamin Disraeli, who was known for compromising again and again as he climbed what he called the ‘greasy pole’ of politics.

The most notorious example of Disraeli’s perfidy involved the Tory split over the Corn Laws in the 1840s. Tory prime minister Robert Peel resolved to end protection for British farmers to make food cheaper for ordinary people. 

In other words, he now seems set to accept a Brexit which he was reluctant to countenance earlier in the year. That’s the Boris I know in a nutshell. He’ll do anything to be popular and keep himself in power

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In other words, he now seems set to accept a Brexit which he was reluctant to countenance earlier in the year. That’s the Boris I know in a nutshell. He’ll do anything to be popular and keep himself in power

Disraeli led the Tory rebellion against the measure on behalf of landowners, destroyed Peel’s career, became Tory leader himself, then abandoned his opposition to the Corn Laws.

Cynicism and opportunism on an epic scale. For his part, Johnson is banking on the belief that since his Brexit credentials are beyond dispute, he can be trusted when he makes concessions.

But will his plan work? We may not know the full details for some time.

Will the DUP cry foul? They’ve issued a holding statement which, significantly, does not damn Johnson’s deal.

What about hardline No Dealers on the Tory backbenches? Will they feel betrayed? Encouragingly, for Johnson, they’ve made helpful noises.

However, even if a deal gets done with Brussels, the European Parliament must still vote on it.

And then, next Saturday, on what will be a huge day for British democracy, MPs will vote on the deal — a very, very long 1,212 days after the British people voted to leave the EU.

There are still a host of obstacles ahead. But given Brexit fatigue at the Palace of Westminster — and MPs’ awareness of greater fatigue across the whole country — Boris Johnson’s agreement is now an odds-on favourite.

(BBC) Turkey-Syria offensive: US sanctions Turkish ministries

(BBC)

Media captionWatch as Syrian government forces enter town of Ain Issa

The US has imposed sanctions on Turkish ministries and senior government officials in response to the country’s military offensive in northern Syria.

President Donald Trump also phoned his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to demand an immediate truce, Vice-President Mike Pence said.

Mr Pence said he would travel to the region “as quickly as possible”.

The move comes after criticism of a US troop withdrawal from the region which some say gave Turkey a “green light”.

The Turkish offensive, which began last week, aims to push the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from the border region. Turkey considers the biggest militia in the SDF a terrorist organisation.

The Turkish government wants to create a “safe zone” in the area, where it can resettle up to two million Syrian refugees currently in Turkey.

Many of them are not Kurds and critics warn this could lead to ethnic cleansing of the local Kurdish population.

Dozens of civilians have been killed in the operation so far and at least 160,000 have fled the area, according to the UN.

A Kurdish Syrian woman cries during the funeral of five Syrian Democratic Forces fighters killed in battles against Turkey-led forces in the flashpoint town of Ras al-Ain along the border, on October 14, 2019
Image captionA Kurdish Syrian woman cries during the funeral of five Syrian Democratic Forces fighters in Ras al-Ain

Some aid organisations have been forced to suspend operations and evacuate international staff over security fears.

Kurdish-led forces have been a key ally of the US in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria. They described the US withdrawal, which preceded Turkish action, as a “stab in the back”.

There are fears the destabilisation could risk a resurgence of IS, as thousands of former fighters and their relatives are being detained in northern Syria. Hundreds of IS family members are said to have already escaped from one camp.

Facing immense pressure, Kurdish-led forces on Sunday announced a deal with the Syrian government for military support to help repel Turkey.

What are the US sanctions?

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the measures alongside Vice-President Pence in Washington DC on Monday evening.

Action was taken against Turkey’s defence and energy ministries, as well as the ministers of defence, energy and interior, the US Treasury said. The move freezes their assets in the US and bans transactions with them that involve the US financial system.

“The Turkish government’s actions are endangering innocent civilians, and destabilizing the region, including undermining the campaign to defeat ISIS [Islamic State],” the statement added.

Map of northern Syria

President Donald Trump has faced mounting pressure to take action against Turkey – a Nato partner – including from Republicans usually loyal to his administration.

In a statement posted on Twitter, President Trump also said he would raise tariffs on Turkish steel back to 50% and “immediately stop” negotiations related to a “$100 billion trade deal” with Turkey.

“The United States and our partners have liberated 100 percent of ISIS’s ruthless territorial caliphate,” the statement said. “Turkey must not put these gains in jeopardy.”

Vice-President Pence warned that the sanctions would worsen “unless and until Turkey embraces an immediate ceasefire” and negotiates a long-term settlement on the border.

Mike Pence and Steven Mnuchin speaks to media outside White House
Image captionThe vice-president also reiterated that the US “did not give a green light to Turkey to invade Syria”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who leads the Democrats, said on Twitter that the sanctions fell “very short of reversing the humanitarian disaster brought about by [the president’s] own erratic decision-making”.

Earlier on Monday, European Union countries committed to suspending arms exports to Turkey but stopped short of an EU-wide arms embargo. In response, Turkey said it would examine its co-operation with the EU due to its “unlawful and biased” attitude.

Presentational grey line

Lighter than expected

Analysis by Mark Lowen, former BBC Turkey correspondent

Donald Trump is now sanctioning Turkey for an invasion that he is widely considered to have enabled. By announcing a withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria, President Erdogan was given a de facto green light to move in.

The sanctions might appear hefty, targeting senior ministers and hiking steel tariffs. But in reality, they are lighter than expected – and we have been here before.

In August 2018, Donald Trump lost patience with Turkey’s imprisonment of an American pastor, sanctioning two ministers and imposing 50% tariffs on Turkish aluminium and steel. The Turkish lira plunged to a record low of 7.2 to the dollar.

Since then, the lira has somewhat recovered – and appears to have largely shaken off today’s measures. The US represents just 5% of Turkey’s steel export market.

President Erdogan tends to dig in his heels when he feels under pressure. There is no sign of any change of tack by him – yet.

Presentational grey line

What is happening in Syria?

Following the deal with Kurdish-led forces, the Syrian army began to move towards the border on Monday.

Syrian state media said government forces had entered the strategic town of Manbij, inside the area where Turkey wants to create its “safe zone”. Turkish troops and pro-Turkish, anti-government fighters were gathering near the town.

The deal was seen as a boost for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as it meant his troops would return to north-eastern areas for the first time since 2012, when their withdrawal to fight rebels elsewhere allowed Kurdish militias to take control.

Media captionThe BBC’s Martin Patience explains what’s behind the conflict

Despite disagreeing with their attempts at self-rule, Mr Assad did not seek to retake the territory, especially after the Kurds became partners in the coalition against IS with US troops on the ground.

Apart from fighting IS, the Kurds were fundamental to the US in limiting the influence of rivals Russia and Iran and keeping some leverage on the ground.

For now, Syrian forces will not be deployed between Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain, where Turkey has focused its efforts.

The Russian government, a key Syrian ally, said it did not want to entertain the possibility of a clash between Russian and Turkish forces in Syria, and said it was in regular contact with Turkey’s authorities.

President Erdogan insists the operation will continue until Turkey’s “objectives have been achieved” despite the involvement of Syrian government forces.

“God willing, we will quickly secure the region stretching from Manbij to our border with Iraq and ensure that, in the first stage, one million, and then two million Syrian refugees return to their homes on their own free will,” he said in a televised speech on Tuesday.

The United Nations say 160,000 have fled their homes but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) say this number could be as high as 250,000 with 70 civilian deaths reported.

The UK-based monitoring group say 135 members of the SDF have died in the military operation so far along with 122 pro-Turkish fighters and eight Turkish soldiers.

Turkey’s Anadolu news agency report 18 civilians have been killed over the border in southern Turkey.

On Tuesday the UN Human Rights office called on Turkey to investigate suspected war crimes being carried out by pro-Turkish forces.

“Turkey could be deemed as a state responsible for violations by their affiliated groups as long as Turkey exercises effective control of these groups or the operations in the course of which those violations occurred,” spokesman Rupert Colville said.

The warning came after footage emerged over the weekend that appeared to show summary executions of Kurds, including female politician Hevrin Khalaf.

(Reuters) Saudi visit signals Putin’s growing Middle East influence

(Reuters) RIYADH (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin signaled Moscow’s growing Middle East clout on Monday on his first visit to Saudi Arabia in over a decade, buoyed by Russian military gains in Syria, strong ties with Riyadh’s regional rivals and energy cooperation.

Moscow accrued power in the Middle East in 2015 by sending troops to Syria, where it and Iran have been key backers of President Bashar al-Assad amid civil war, while the United States pulled back. Saudi Arabia sided with Syrian rebels.

On the eve of Putin’s trip, U.S. troops abruptly retreated from northern Syria as Russian-backed government forces deployed deep inside Kurdish-held territory under a deal to help fend off a Turkish cross-border offensive.

Russia has also strengthened ties with both Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran, which are locked in a decades-old contest for influence that veered towards open conflict after a recent spate of attacks on oil assets in the Gulf that Riyadh and Washington blame on Tehran. Iran denies the charges.

RELATED COVERAGE

Tensions with Iran, which is locked in several proxy wars with Saudi Arabia, have risen to new highs after Washington last year quit a 2015 international nuclear accord with Tehran and re-imposed sanctions.

The Russian president met King Salman and de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with whom Putin says he has friendly relations.

In televised remarks, Putin and the king said bilateral relations were important to regional security and stability.

After discussions that touched on joint investments as well as conflicts in Syria and Yemen, Prince Mohammed said Saudi-Russian cooperation on energy would achieve stability.

Deepening ties have seen non-OPEC Russia, once regarded as a rival in oil markets, join OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia in forming an alliance known as OPEC+ to support crude prices by restraining output.

At a morning forum convening 300 Saudi and Russian CEOs, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said producers were showing high commitments to the deal, and his Russian counterpart said there were no talks underway to change it.

Ahead of the visit, Putin, who offered to provide Russian defense systems to the kingdom after Sept. 14 attacks on its oil facilities, said he could also play a positive role in easing tensions with Tehran given good ties with both sides.

Any progress on long-mulled Saudi plans to purchase the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems would cause disquiet in Washington, which is sending 3,000 troops and additional air defense systems to Saudi Arabia.

U.S. President Donald Trump has resisted pressure to sanction Riyadh over human rights abuses, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, calling that a “foolish” move that would only benefit competitors Russia and China.

OIL AND INVESTMENTS

Asked about concerns Riyadh was cozying up to Moscow, senior foreign ministry official Adel al-Jubeir said he saw no contradiction.

“We don’t believe that having close ties with Russia has any negative impact on our relationship with the United States,” he told reporters on Sunday. “We believe that we can have strategic and strong ties with the United States while we develop our ties with Russia.”

Russian and Saudi flags lined Riyadh streets ahead of Putin’s one-day visit, which includes an evening performance by Russia’s Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra. He travels to the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday.

The two sides signed more than a dozen memoranda of understanding during the visit including in the fields of energy, petrochemicals, transport and artificial intelligence.Slideshow (22 Images)

RDIF head Kirill Dmitriev said a number of Russian investors were interested in a planned initial public offering of Aramco. The oil major could sell 1-2% through a local listing its chairman said would be announced “very, very soon”, ahead of a potential international offering.

Energy Minister Alexander Novak said Russia’s Gazprom was interested in cooperating with Saudi firms on natural gas.

Moscow, the world’s largest wheat exporter, made some progress in accessing the Saudi and Middle Eastern markets when the kingdom agreed in August to relax specifications for wheat imports, opening the door to Black Sea imports.

RDIF and Saudi Arabia’s SALIC signed an agreement to jointly search for investment projects in Russia’s agricultural sector.

(DN) Resultado histórico. Governo obtém excedente orçamental de 0,1% já este ano

(DN)

Notícia de excedente orçamental já em 2019 antecipa em um ano o plano de António Costa e Mário Centeno© Álvaro Isidoro / Global Imagens

Aeconomia portuguesa está e vai continuar a perder força, mas tal não impedirá o governo de alcançar um resultado orçamental histórico já este ano – um excedente de 0,1% – antecipando assim em um ano o plano do governo PS e do ministro das Finanças, Mário Centeno.

Quem o diz é o Conselho das Finanças Públicas (CFP). Segundo a instituição presidida por Nazaré Costa Cabral, devido a uma ampla revisão estatística conduzida pelo INE este ano que, entre outros efeitos, pôs a economia a crescer mais do que se pensava, Portugal está em vias de obter o primeiro excedente orçamental anual da sua História democrática: em 2019, o saldo positivo das contas públicas deverá ser equivalente aos referidos 0,1% do produto interno bruto (PIB).

De acordo com o novo estudo “Finanças Públicas: Situação e Condicionantes 2019-2023”, divulgado esta quinta-feira, “o atual cenário orçamental de médio prazo aponta para que já este ano se atinja um excedente orçamental de 0,1% do PIB, o que, a confirmar-se, antecipa em um ano a previsão do Ministério das Finanças para a eliminação do desequilíbrio orçamental”.

Este ano, Centeno tem mantido uma meta de défice de 0,2%, embora recentemente tenha referido que esse défice pode ser um pouco inferior. Excedente (saldo positivo de 0,3%) só no ano que vem, dizia o Programa de Estabilidade do governo, entregue em abril.

Segundo o CFP não é bem assim. O setor público passa a gastar menos do que recebe já em 2019 e daqui em diante mantém esse perfil. Esta viragem súbita em 2019 tem sobretudo a ver com as revisões estatísticas operadas recentemente pelo INE e não é tanto mérito do governo.

A presidente do Conselho das Finanças Públicas, Nazaré Costa Cabral© Manuel Almeida / Lusa

Segundo a entidade que segue as contas públicas, “a estimativa efetuada pelo CFP em março, antes da alteração da base das Contas Nacionais [que aconteceu em setembro], apontava para um défice orçamental de 0,3% do PIB”.

Em março, o Conselho previa que a economia crescesse 1,6%, quando afinal ela vai crescer 1,9%, apesar das vicissitudes internacionais que se estão a acumular. Ainda sobre 2019, o CFP repara que “o saldo ajustado de medidas temporárias e não recorrentes será de 0,7% este ano.

Na ausência de novas medidas de política, a projeção de médio prazo do CFP apresenta saldos orçamentais positivos até 2023″. Para o próximo ano, assumindo um cenário de políticas constantes (exatamente iguais às seguidas este ano), o governo consegue reforçar o excedente, obtendo um saldo positivo de 0,3% nas contas públicas.

Se não fosse o Novo Banco…

Mas voltemos a 2019. Segundo o novo estudo, Centeno poderia ter chegado a um excedente histórico ainda maior se não fossem as surpresas do costume: as ajudas aos bancos. Obteve-se um excedente orçamental de 0,1% do PIB, mas este valor foi “penalizado por efeitos temporários e não recorrentes (one-off) ainda significativos, sobretudo os decorrentes da recapitalização do Novo Banco”, aponta o CFP.

“Descontando esses efeitos temporários, atingir-se-ia um excedente de 0,7% do PIB em 2019, depois de uma situação de equilíbrio atingida em 2018. Para o restante horizonte, projeta-se uma tendência de redução deste excedente orçamental ajustado de efeitos temporários e não recorrentes”, lê-se no relatório.

“Relativamente às finanças públicas, num cenário de políticas invariantes, espera-se um excedente orçamental em todo o horizonte de projeção”, isto é, até 2023.

“O rácio da dívida pública deverá manter uma trajetória descendente, sendo os excedentes primários o principal fator de redução do rácio da dívida pública no PIB entre 2019 e 2023. Como a evolução da dívida é determinante para a perceção do risco país, afigura-se prudente aproveitar a conjuntura de baixas taxas de juro de longo prazo e de crescimento económico para colocar o rácio da dívida mais próximo da média da área do euro”.

Para o Conselho, o peso dívida desce para 118,5% do PIB este ano, ao passo que o governo estima 119,3%. No entanto, o governo acredita que é possível chegar a uma dívida inferior a 100% em 2023 (99,6%), algo que o CFP não considera pois prevê excedentes orçamentais anuais inferiores, em média, aos preconizados por Centeno.

Segundo o Conselho das Finanças, Portugal reduz a dívida sim, mas mais devagar e chega a 2023 com o fardo ainda nos 106,5%.

(TC) Germany says it won’t ban Huawei or any 5G supplier up front

(TC)

Day 2 - GSMA Mobile World Congress 2019

Image Credits: Miquel Benitez / Getty Images

Germany is resisting US pressure to shut out Chinese tech giant Huawei from its 5G networks — saying it will not ban any supplier for the next-gen mobile networks on an up front basis, per Reuters.

“Essentially our approach is as follows: We are not taking a pre-emptive decision to ban any actor, or any company,” government spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told a news conference in Berlin yesterday.

The country’s Federal Network Agency is slated to be publishing detailed security guidance on the technical and governance criteria for 5G networks in the next few days.

The next-gen mobile technology delivers faster speeds and lower latency than current-gen cellular technologies, as well as supporting many more connections per cell site. So it’s being viewed as the enabling foundation for a raft of futuristic technologies — from connected and autonomous vehicles to real-time telesurgery.

But increased network capabilities that support many more critical functions means rising security risk. The complexity of 5G networks — marketed by operators as “intelligent connectivity” — also increases the surface area for attacks. So future network security is now a major geopolitical concern.

German business newspaper Handelsblatt, which says it has reviewed a draft of the incoming 5G security requirements, reports that chancellor Angela Merkel stepped in to intervene to exclude a clause which would have blocked Huawei’s market access — fearing a rift with China if the tech giant is shut out.

Earlier this year it says the federal government pledged the highest possible security standards for regulating next-gen mobile networks, saying also that systems should only be sourced from “trusted suppliers”. But those commitments have now been watered down by economic considerations at the top of the German government.

The decision not to block Huawei’s access has attracted criticism within Germany, and flies in the face of continued US pressure on allies to ban the Chinese tech giant over security and espionage risks.

The US imposed its own export controls on Huawei in May.

A key concern attached to Huawei is that back in 2017 China’s Communist Party passed a national intelligence law which gives the state swingeing powers to compel assistance from companies and individuals to gather foreign and domestic intelligence.

For network operators outside China the problem is Huawei has the lead as a global 5G supplier — meaning any ban on it as a supplier would translate into delays to network rollouts. Years of delay and billions of dollars of cost to 5G launches, according to warnings by German operators.

Another issue is that Huawei’s 5G technology has also been criticized on security grounds.

report this spring by a UK oversight body set up to assess the company’s approach to security was damning — finding “serious and systematic defects” in its software engineering and cyber security competence.

Though a leak shortly afterwards from the UK government suggested it would allow Huawei partial access — to supply non-core elements of networks.

An official UK government decision on Huawei has been delayed, causing ongoing uncertainty for local carriers. In the meanwhile a government review of the telecoms supply chain this summer called for tougher security standards and updated regulations — with major fines for failure. So it’s possible that stringent UK regulations might sum to a de facto ban if Huawei’s approach to security isn’t seen to take major steps forward soon.

According to Handelsblatt’s report, Germany’s incoming guidance for 5G network operators will require carriers identify critical areas of network architecture and apply an increased level of security. (Although it’s worth pointing out there’s ongoing debate about how to define critical/core network areas in 5G networks.)

The Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) will be responsible for carrying out security inspections of networks.

Last week a pan-EU security threat assessment of 5G technology highlighted risks from “non-EU state or state-backed actors” — in a coded jab at Huawei.

The report also flagged increased security challenges attached to 5G vs current gen networks on account of the expanded role of software in the networks and apps running on 5G. And warned of too much dependence on individual 5G suppliers, and of operators relying overly on a single supplier.

Shortly afterwards the WSJ obtained a private risk assessment by EU governments — which appears to dial up regional concerns over Huawei, focusing on threats linked to 5G providers in countries with “no democratic and legal restrictions in place”.

Among the discussed risks in this non-public report are the insertion of concealed hardware, software or flaws into 5G networks; and the risk of uncontrolled software updates, backdoors or undocumented testing features left in the production version of networking products.

“These vulnerabilities are not ones which can be remedied by making small technical changes, but are strategic and lasting in nature,” a source familiar with the discussions told the WSJ — which implies that short term economic considerations risk translating into major strategic vulnerabilities down the line.

5G alternatives are in short supply, though.

US Senator Mark Warner recently floated the idea of creating a consortium of ‘Five Eyes’ allies — aka the U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK — to finance and build “a Western open-democracy type equivalent” to Huawei.

But any such move would clearly take time, even as Huawei continues selling services around the world and embedding its 5G kit into next-gen networks.

(ECB) Euro area banks have overall comfortable liquidity positions, but some vulnerabilities require further attention, ECB finds

(ECB)

  • Banks showed adequate liquidity reserves to withstand stress
  • Exercise assessed banks’ ability to handle hypothetical liquidity shocks lasting six months
  • Detected vulnerabilities requiring supervisory follow up relate in particular to foreign currencies, data quality and collateral management
  • Findings to enter annual supervisory review

The vast majority of banks directly supervised by the European Central Bank (ECB) have overall comfortable liquidity positions despite some vulnerabilities requiring further attention, according to the results of the 2019 supervisory stress test.

The shocks simulated in the exercise were calibrated on the basis of supervisory experience gained in recent crisis episodes, without any reference to monetary policy decisions. The sensitivity analysis focussed solely on the potential impact of idiosyncratic liquidity shocks on individual banks. It did not assess the potential causes of these shocks or the impact of wider market turbulence.

The results of the exercise are broadly positive: about half of the 103 banks that took part in the exercise reported a “survival period” of more than six months under an adverse shock and more than four months under an extreme shock. The “survival period” is defined as the number of days a bank can continue to operate using available cash and collateral without access to funding markets.

The six-month time horizon exceeds the period covered by the liquidity coverage ratio, which requires banks to hold a sufficient reserve of high-quality liquid assets to allow them to survive a period of significant liquidity stress lasting 30 calendar days. Long survival periods under the severe shocks envisaged by the exercise would leave banks significant time to deploy their contingency funding plans.

Euro area subsidiaries of significant institutions as well as banks undergoing mergers or restructuring were excluded from the sample.

Universal banks and global systemically important banks would generally be affected more severely than others by idiosyncratic liquidity shocks as they typically rely on less stable funding sources – such as wholesale and corporate deposits, which were subject to higher outflow rates in the exercise. Retail banks would be affected less strongly, given their more stable deposit base.

Based on the findings of the exercise, the ECB will require banks to follow up mainly in the following areas where vulnerabilities were identified:

  • Survival periods calculated on the basis of cash flows in foreign currencies are often shorter than those reported at the consolidated level. Several banks make recourse to short term wholesale funding denominated in such currencies and some of them may be overly reliant on the continued functioning of the foreign exchange swap market.
  • When considered on a stand-alone basis, subsidiaries of euro area banks domiciled outside the euro area typically display shorter survival periods than those within. While it is common for subsidiaries to rely on intragroup funding and/or funding from the parent, this may expose some banks to ring-fencing risk in foreign jurisdictions.
  • Certain regulatory “optimisation strategies” revealed in the exercise will be discussed with the banks in the context of the supervisory dialogue.
  • Many banks would be able to mobilise collateral in addition to readily available liquidity buffers to secure extra funding in times of need. However, collateral management practices – which are critical in the event of a liquidity crisis – would benefit from further improvement in some banks.
  • Banks may underestimate the negative impact on liquidity that could result from a credit rating downgrade. Banks with recent experience of managing liquidity under stressed conditions were able to provide higher-quality data in this context.

Most banks delivered the requested information in a timely manner. At the same time, the test helped uncover data quality issues related to the liquidity reporting of a number of banks. The findings will help to improve the quality of supervisory information in the future.

Supervisors will discuss the conclusions individually with the banks as part of the annual supervisory review and evaluation process. The results will not directly affect supervisory capital requirements. They will, however, inform the assessment of banks’ governance and liquidity risk management.

P.O. (FT) Global economy at risk because of a monetary policy black hole

P.O.

Mr Summers is quite right in identifying to problem. However he stops short of saying the reason for it all.

I have to state that I never voted in the left in my life.

According to the United Nations, 1% of the World population owns 99% of the World’s.
It is obvious to me, that in these circumstances demand cannot pick up regardless of the measures introduced.


Francisco

Francisco (Abouaf)de Curiel Marques Pereira



(FT) Global economy is at risk from a monetary policy black hole Lawrence Summers

Governments should borrow more to stave off secular stagnation

(BBC) Catalonia leaders jailed for sedition by Spanish court

(BBC)

Supporters of Catalonia's independence hold an Estelada (Catalan separatist flag) as they gesture during a protest against the upcoming ruling of the Spanish Supreme Court, 13 October 2019
Image captionSupporters of Catalan independence march in Barcelona ahead of Monday’s verdict

Spain’s Supreme Court has sentenced nine Catalan separatist leaders to between nine and 13 years in prison for sedition over their role in an independence referendum in 2017.

Three other defendants were found guilty of disobedience and fined, but will not serve prison sentences.

The 12 politicians and activists had all denied the charges.

Separatists in Catalonia were planning mass civil disobedience ahead of the verdict.

Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan president who escaped trial after fleeing Spain before he could be arrested in 2017, said the sentences handed to separatist leaders of “100 years in total” were “an atrocity”.

“Now more than ever… it is time to react like never before,” he wrote on Twitter, adding: “For the future of our sons and daughters. For democracy. For Europe. For Catalonia.”

Supporters of Catalonia's independence protest in Barcelona, 14 October 2019
Image captionPeople took to the streets of Barcelona to protest against the court’s decision

The prosecution had sought up to 25 years in prison for Oriol Junqueras, the former vice-president of Catalonia and the highest-ranking pro-independence leader on trial.

Junqueras was handed the longest sentence of 13 years for sedition and misuse of public funds.

The other sentences ranged from nine years upwards.

The nine leaders were acquitted of a more serious charge of rebellion.

Following the court’s verdict, Catalan independence supporters marched in Barcelona displaying banners that read “free political prisoners” while urging others to “take to the streets”.

Over the weekend, hundreds of protesters rallied in the city.

Media captionCatalonia independence protesters: ‘We feel like we are all being tried’

In 2017, police and protesters clashed in the streets when Catalonia’s pro-independence leaders went ahead with a referendum ruled illegal by Spain’s constitutional court.

Monday’s ruling comes after four months of hearings.

During their closing arguments in June, defence lawyers told the court their clients denied the charges of rebellion and sedition, but admitted to the lesser charge of disobedience, which could have seen them banned from public office but avoiding prison.

Who are the 12 Catalan leaders?

Some held prominent positions in Catalonia’s government and parliament, while others were influential activists and cultural advocates.

Before the trial ended, the 12 defendants were each given 15 minutes to present their arguments to prosecutors on the final day on 12 June.

The 12 former Catalan separatist leaders at trial in Madrid
Image captionThe 12 defendants pictured in the court in Madrid on the final day of their trial

They told the court in Madrid they were victims of an injustice in a trial built on “false” charges:

Presentational grey line

What they said in their defence

  • Oriol Junqueras, former vice-president of Catalonia: “Voting and defending the republic from a parliament cannot be a crime.”
  • Jordi Cuixart, president of Catalan language and culture organisation Òmnium Cultural: “What we did on 1 October [holding the 2017 referendum] was an exercise of collective dignity.”
  • Carme Forcadell, ex-speaker of the Catalan parliament: “I didn’t take part in any strategy, I restricted myself to fulfilling my duties as parliament speaker.”
  • Jordi Turull, former Catalan government spokesman: “We weren’t looking to involve people [in the bid for independence], that already existed, and so a political solution had to be provided.”
  • Joaquim Forn, former Catalan interior minister: “I defended the referendum as a politician, but told Catalan police to follow court orders.”
  • Jordi Sànchez, activist and ex-president of the Catalan National Assembly: “I am the victim of an injustice – there are no ideas or principles that should be silenced.”
  • Raül Romeva, former external relations minister: “There is no international treaty prohibiting the right to self-determination. Not even the Spanish Constitution.”
  • Dolors Bassa, ex-labour minister: “It was always clear to us that if a lot of people turned out to vote, it would help us when negotiating [with Madrid]… independence was always seen as something to be agreed.”
  • Josep Rull, former territorial minister: “People vote and it’s good that parties deliver… our manifesto was not challenged in court.”
  • Carles Mundó, former justice minister: “The vote was not paid for with public funds, I saw [it] as a political protest.”
  • Meritxell Borràs, former governance minister: “[The vote was] a political expression [that] held no legal consequences.”
  • Santi Vila, former business minister: “I saw the referendum as a political protest.”
Presentational grey line

Nine of the defendants had already spent months in pre-trial detention. The remaining three were earlier released on bail.

How did they end up in court?

Prosecutors argued that the unilateral declaration of independence was an attack on the Spanish state and accused some of those involved of a serious act of rebellion.

Media captionCatalonia: Fighting for different futures

They also said that separatist leaders had misused public funds while organising the 2017 referendum.

Prosecutors argued the leaders had carried out a “perfectly planned strategy… to break the constitutional order and obtain the independence of Catalonia” illegally.

Forcadell, the former parliament speaker who read out the independence result on 27 October 2017, was also accused of allowing parliamentary debates on independence despite warnings from Spain’s Constitutional Court.

Some of the leaders, speaking to the BBC ahead of the trial, said the proceedings were political in nature. Any violence, they said, was on the part of police and committed against voters in a crackdown which made headlines around the world.

Three weeks after the banned 2017 vote, the Catalan parliament declared an independent republic.

Madrid stepped in to impose its rule on the region, and several Catalan leaders fled or were arrested.

What is behind the Catalonia controversy?

Catalan nationalists have long complained that their region, which has a distinct history dating back almost 1,000 years, sends too much money to poorer parts of Spain, as taxes are controlled by Madrid.

Media captionCatalan national day march draws smaller crowd

The wealthy region is home to about 7.5 million people, with their own language, parliament, flag and anthem.

In September, a march in Barcelona in support of Catalonia’s independence from Spain drew crowds of about 600,000 people – one of the lowest turnouts in the eight-year history of the annual rally.

(GUA) Turkey-Syria offensive: Kurds reach deal with Damascus to stave off assault

(GUA) Agreement to hand over border towns comes after more than 700 Isis affiliates escape camp

Smoke rises from Ras al-Ayn, Syria, during bombardment by Turkish forces on Sunday.
 Smoke rises from Ras al-Ayn, Syria, during bombardment by Turkish forces on Sunday. Photograph: Erdem Şahin/EPA

Kurdish-led forces in control of north-east Syria have reached a deal with the Assad regime to stave off a bloody five-day-old Turkish assault, as more than 700 people with links to Islamic State have escaped from a detention camp in the area.

Kurdish fighters controlling the region would surrender the border towns of Manbij and Kobane to Damascus in a deal brokered by Russia, officials said on Sunday night.

Syrian state media said units from President Bashar al-Assad’s army were moving north to “confront Turkish aggression on Syrian territory”. Unconfirmed reports said the deal between the Kurds and the regime would be extended to apply to the whole of north-east Syria.Advertisement

“After everything, it seems that the fate of the Kurdish people [is to be abandoned]. We did everything that we could, we called upon the international community … but it did not result in a solution. We urged all Kurdish [groups] to show solidarity, but no one listened,” Ismat Sheikh Hassan, the leader of the military council in Kobane, told local television.

The deal is likely to be a bitter end to five years of semi-autonomy for Kurdish groups in north-east Syria, forced by Ankara’s offensive on the area. Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring started on Wednesday after Donald Trump’s announcement that US forces would withdraw from the region.

Trump had not specified a timeframe for the US withdrawal from Syria, but on Sunday US defence secretary Mark Esper said the remaining 1,000 special forces in the country had been ordered to leave “as safely and quickly as possible” as the fighting between Turkey and the SDF began to threaten US military positions.

The area’s Kurdish-led fighters, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), have been funded and trained by the US to combat Isis since 2015, finally defeating the militant group in March after losing 11,000 troops in the battle.

Turkey, however, says the largest unit of of the SDF, the Kurdish YPG, is a terrorist group indistinguishable from the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), which has fought an insurgency against the Turkish state for decades.

 What does Turkey’s military action in northern Syria mean? – video explainer

Trump’s decision to abandon the SDF to an inevitable Turkish assault has been widely criticised even by his staunchest allies as a betrayal of a US military partner which has unleashed to a humanitarian disaster and threatens to sow the seeds of Isis’ resurgence amid the chaos.

On Sunday, at least 750 people with suspected links to the militant group reportedly fled a displacement camp in north-east Syria.

France voiced its concern at the report. Government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye told France 3 television: “I do not know, today, who exactly the people are who fled from the camp; it has been a worry for France since the beginning of this armed intervention.”

France has been hit by a wave of jihadist attacks since 2015, many claimed or inspired by Isis, and has expressed concerns that a Turkish assault would bolster the group.

On Monday, the French presidency said in a statement it was taking measures to protect its personnel inside Syria. “Measures will be taken in the coming hours to ensure the safety of French military and civilian personnel present in the zone as part of the international coalition fighting Islamic State and humanitarian action,” the statement said.

The women and children formerly part of the “caliphate” had been held in a secure annexe at the Ain Issa camp. They began to riot and scared away the guards after Turkish shelling struck close to the area on Sunday, said Abdulkader Mwahed, the joint president for humanitarian affairs in the Kurdish-held part of Syria.

The UK-based monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the number to have escaped at 100, publishing pictures of men, women in black niqabs and small children running through yellow scrubland.

The camp was home to a total of about 13,000 people, including three suspected British orphans and a British recruiter for Isis, Tooba Gondal.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s stated goal is to create a 20-mile-deep “safe zone” on its border with the SDF, enough to keep Turkish border towns out of the range of shelling and rocket fire.

However, Ain Issa and other Kurdish-held roads and towns south of the proposed safe zone have been hit by airstrikes and shelling. Syrian rebel proxies fighting on behalf of Turkey were pushing south and refused to allow the town of Manbij to fall into regime hands, a fighter with the Syrian National Army (SNA) rebel umbrella group said, reporting that Turkey had begun shelling the SDF-held town west of the Euphrates.

A convoy of 40 armoured Turkish trucks travelled into Syria from the Jarablus border crossing to reinforce the Turkish offensive, another military source said.

Speaking on Sunday, Erdoğan rejected offers for mediation with the SDF and criticised his western Nato allies for standing by what Turkey considers to be a terrorist organisation.

He also dismissed the reports of escaped Isis prisoners as “disinformation” aimed at provoking the US and other western countries.

About 130,000 people have been displaced in Syria in the five-day-old operation so far, with at least 60 civilian casualties in Syria and 18 dead in Turkey after counterattack SDF shelling of Turkish border towns.

The SNA summarily executed nine civilians including a female politician, a human rights monitor has claimed. The umbrella group said it had ordered an investigation and commanders were to “continuously supervise combatants on the frontlines to prevent any abuse”.

(GUA) Poland’s populist Law and Justice party increases its majority

(GUA) Early results of parliamentary election show party has done even better than four years ago

Jarosław Kaczyński (right) president of the Law and Justice party, votes in Warsaw
 Jarosław Kaczyński (right) president of the Law and Justice party, votes in Warsaw on Sunday. Photograph: Grzegorz Banaszak/Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

Poland’s ruling nationalist Law and Justice party has won Sunday’s parliamentary election, doing better than when it swept to power four years ago, according to nearly complete results.

According to official results from 91% of constituencies published by the electoral committee on Monday, Law and Justice took 44.6% of the vote, ahead of the country’s biggest opposition grouping, the liberal centre-right Civic Coalition, on 26.7%, and the Left alliance on 12.3%.

There was elation at the party’s headquarters on Sunday night as an exit poll projected on a big screen forecast the Law and Justice victory. Supporters chanted the name of Jarosław Kaczyński, the party’s founder and leader, who has in effect run Poland from his party office since taking power four years ago with 37.6% of the vote.Advertisement

“We have reasons to be joyful. Despite the powerful front that was arraigned against us, we were able to win,” said Kaczyński. “I hope that tomorrow will bring confirmation of our success. We have four years of hard work in front of us, because Poland needs to change further. And it must change for the better.”

Since winning elections in 2015, the rightwing populists have embarked on a programme of massive social spending, winning widespread support, especially in smaller towns and the countryside.

Simultaneously, the party has been accused of attacking the judiciary, engaging in a culture war and, in recent months, using its stable of loyal media to launch a war on “LGBT ideology”, claiming the party is defending traditional Polishness.

Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s prime minister and a Kaczyński nominee, said: “Today the sun shone as it rarely does in October. And I hope tomorrow it will shine even brighter. These results give us a huge public mandate.”

Also buoyant were supporters of the Left. The result marks a return of leftwing parties to Polish parliamentary politics after a four-year absence, when a fragmented left failed to cross the parliamentary threshold.

“We are returning to the parliament!” Robert Biedroń, one of the Left’s three co-leaders, told a post-election rally. “We are going back to where the Polish left has always belonged.”

The agrarian PSL bloc and anti-system Kukiz’15 was at 8.6% while the far-right Confederation got 6.8%, based on the partial official results.

On Thursday, the European commission announced it was referring Poland to the European court of justice over its disciplinary regime for Polish judges, opening up a new front with Law and Justice, which is already embroiled in a dispute with the rest of the EU over the rule of law.

(Echos) BCE : Jean-Claude Trichet prend la défense de Mario Draghi

(Echos) Le prédécesseur de Mario Draghi à la tête de la Banque centrale européenne estime que les critiques contre l’Italien ne rendent pas justice au bilan de l’institution.

0601921723305_web_tete.jpg

Jean-Claude Trichet a été président de la BCE de 2003 à 2011.

ShutterstockPar Étienne GoetzPublié le 14 oct. 2019 à 10h59

Face aux violentes attaques contre Mario Draghi, l’ancien président de la Banque centrale européenne, Jean-Claude Trichet, défend le bilan l’institution. Dans une tribune publiée par le « Financial Times » , le Français exprime son désaccord avec les critiques émises par un groupe d’anciens banquiers centraux. « Là où ils ne voient que du négatif, je vois succès, continuité, des défis sans précédent et la question des limites de la politique monétaire ».

Jean-Claude Trichet rappelle que depuis sa création la BCE a assuré la stabilité des prix, son principal mandat, bien mieux que n’importe quelle autre banque centrale nationale auparavant. L’institut d’émission a par ailleurs permis à la zone euro de traverser la pire crise depuis la seconde guerre mondiale. Enfin, l’euro jouit d’une exceptionnelle adhésion de la part de la population. « Si ces succès ne sont pas dus à l’action de la BCE, à qui doit-on en attribuer le mérite ? », se demande-t-il.

Un groupe d’anciens banquiers centraux a diffusé récemment un mémo dans lequel il jugeait les dernières mesures de soutien prises par la BCE fondées sur le mauvais diagnostic et inefficaces. Surtout, ils accusent la banque centrale, via ses rachats de dette publique , de financer directement les Etats, ce qui est interdit par les traités.

Relance des achats d’actifs

Mi-septembre, Mario Draghi a annoncé le redémarrage des achats d’actifs à partir de novembre au rythme mensuel de 20 milliards d’euros. Il a par ailleurs enfoncé le taux de dépôt encore un peu plus loin en territoire négatif, tout en instaurant un système de paliers pour alléger la facture des banques.

Au lendemain de ces annonces, le président de la Bundesbank Jens Weidmann et le gouverneur de la banque centrale néerlandais Klaas Knot avaient publiquement fait part de leur opposition à ces mesures. L’Allemand via une interview dans le tabloïd Bild qui pour l’occasion avait renommé l’Italien « comte Draghila ». Fait inédit, le néerlandais avait publié un communiqué officiel.

Publier les noms

Dans une interview exclusive aux « Echos », l’ancien économiste en chef de la BCE s’est montré effaré par ces attaques. « L’agitation qui a suivi la réunion de septembre dépasse tout ce que j’ai connu en huit ans. Le fait qu’un gouverneur publie un communiqué pour critiquer la décision me semble tout à fait inapproprié. Chacun doit garder son sang-froid », a-t-il raconté.

Pour éviter ce type de tensions, il recommande de prendre exemple sur la Réserve Fédérale américaine : « je suis favorable à ce que l’on publie les noms de ceux qui se sont prononcés pour ou contre les décisions ». Il se dit aussi choqué du nombre d’informations qui ont fuité dans la presse ces dernières années.

(BBG) Kim Jong Un May Be Hiding a Hog Apocalypse From the World

(BBG)

  •  African swine fever is said to have spread across North Korea
  •  Virus risks becoming endemic, dispersing to neighboring states
Workers wearing protective sourround pigs at a farm in Paju on Sept. 17.
Workers wearing protective sourround pigs at a farm in Paju on Sept. 17. Photographer: Yelim Lee/AFP via Getty Images

By official accounts, the pig contagion wreaking havoc across Eastern Asia has virtually skipped over North Korea, with a single outbreak reported there in May. But wayward feral pigs have stoked concern that Kim Jong Un’s reclusive state is hiding an African swine fever disaster.

Five wild boars were found dead in or near border areas separating the two countries this month before being tested positive for the viral hemorrhagic disease, officials in South Korea said. The finding reflects the freedom with which animals roam the 4-kilometer (2.5 mile) wide buffer zone that divides the nations and creates an involuntary park and refuge for fauna.

It also hints at a spillover of the deadly virus from North Korea, where unofficial reports indicate the disease is spreading out of control. South Korea has deployed helicopters to disinfect parts of the 250-kilometer-long border-barrier, near which more than a dozen outbreaks have occurred on farms since the virus was first reported there a month ago.

African swine fever has spread to almost all areas of North Korea, and pigs in the western province of North Pyongan have been “wiped out,” said Lee Hye-hoon, who chairs the National Assembly’s intelligence committee, citing South Korea’s National Intelligence Service.

Read More: The Deadly Virus That’s Killing Off Millions of Pigs

The virus killed 22 hogs in May on a cooperative farm about 260 kilometers north of Pyongyang, near the border with China, North Korea’s agriculture ministry said in a May 30 report to the World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE.

But since then, there have been no follow-up reports to the Paris-based veterinary body, and scant coverage of the event in state media.

UN Delegate

The Food and Agriculture Organization has no information beyond the report received by the OIE, said Wantanee Kalpravidh, the United Nations agency’s Bangkok-based regional manager of the Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases. The FAO is awaiting approval to send a delegate to North Korea, she said in a text message Friday.

Widespread transmission of African swine fever, which isn’t known to harm humans but kills most pigs in a week, may put North Korea’s food security in graver jeopardy.

Crop production there is forecast to be smaller than usual for the rest of 2019 due to below-average rainfall and low water supplies for irrigation, the FAO said last month. About 40% of the population, or 10.1 million people, are estimated to be food-insecure and in urgent need of food assistance, according to results from an UN assessment conducted last April.

Worse Hunger

African swine fever will worsen hunger and malnutrition, said Cho Chunghi, who fled North Korea in 2011 after spending a decade working for the government’s animal disease control program. Many North Korean households raise pigs to earn money to buy rice.

“Pork accounts for about 80% of North Korea’s protein consumption and with global sanctions taking place, it’s going to be hard for the country to find an alternative protein source,” said Cho, who now works as a researcher at Good Farmers, a Seoul-based non-governmental organization that supports developing nations to generate profit through agricultural activities.

SKorea-animals-DISEASE-PORK-LIVESTOCK
South Korean quarantine officials control a road near a farm in Paju on Sept. 17.Photographer: Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images

Read More: Why Trump Holds the Cards on North Korea Sanctions

“The virus is extremely destructive as people are now unable to make money through raising pigs, while the country’s economy is restrained,” he said.

Pigs raised by individual farms outnumber those on state-owned and collective farms, which will make it almost impossible to halt the spread, especially given North Korea’s inexperience preventing and mitigating epidemics in animals, Cho said.

Russia, China

This lack of capacity is a threat to the entire Korean Peninsula, where the virus could become endemic, or generally present. That would make it more difficult to stamp out the disease through the usual steps of quarantining and culling diseased and vulnerable livestock. From there, it could also re-enter neighboring China and Russia.

Read More: African Swine Fever Is Spreading Fast and Eliminating It Will Take Decades

South Korea has culled 154,653 pigs at 94 farms as of Oct. 11, according to the nation’s agriculture ministry. Routine tests for the virus on wild boars were introduced before Pyongyang reported the outbreak, the Ministry of Environment said in an Oct. 9 statement. Now, streams and soil near the border are also being tested.

The country has repeatedly asked Pyongyang to join a collective effort to fight the transmission, but its northern neighbor hasn’t responded.

“The fact that North Korea has reported the outbreak to an international organization suggests the situation is probably getting out of their hands,” said Ahn Chan-il, a former North Korean soldier who defected in 1979 and now heads the World Institute for North Korea Studies. “It’s an apocalypse in the making.”

(BBC) Nobel Peace Prize: Ethiopia PM Abiy Ahmed wins

(BBC)

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed attends the High Level Consultation Meetings of Heads of State and Government on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 17 January, 2019.
Image captionAbiy Ahmed became Ethiopia’s prime minister in April 2018

The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who made peace last year with bitter foe Eritrea.

He was awarded the prize for his efforts to “achieve peace and international cooperation”.

Mr Abiy’s peace deal with Eritrea ended a 20-year military stalemate following their 1998-2000 border war.

He was named as the winner of the 100th Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, where he will receive the award in December.

It is worth some nine million Swedish crowns (about £730,000; $900,000).

A total of 301 candidates had been nominated for the prestigious award, including 223 individuals and 78 organisations.

Media captionThe announcement was made by Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen

There had been great speculation over who would win the prize, with climate activist Greta Thunberg widely tipped as the favourite. Under the Nobel Foundation’s rules, nomination shortlists are not allowed to be published for 50 years, and the organisation says any speculation ahead of the announcement is “sheer guesswork”.

What has Abiy Ahmed done?

After becoming prime minister in April 2018, Mr Abiy introduced massive liberalising reforms to Ethiopia, shaking up what was a tightly controlled nation.

He freed thousands of opposition activists from jail and allowed exiled dissidents to return home. Most importantly, he signed the peace deal with Eritrea.

But his reforms also lifted the lid on Ethiopia’s ethnic tensions, and the resulting violence forced some 2.5 million people from their homes.

Why did he win?

Mr Abiy was honoured for his “decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea”, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said.

“The prize is also meant to recognise all the stakeholders working for peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia and in the East and Northeast African regions,” they said.

Media captionHow do you choose a Nobel prize winner?

“Peace does not arise from the actions of one party alone. When Prime Minister Abiy reached out his hand, President Afwerki grasped it, and helped to formalise the peace process between the two countries. The Norwegian Nobel Committee hopes the peace agreement will help to bring about positive change for the entire populations of Ethiopia and Eritrea.”

Mr Abiy’s office said the award was testimony “to the ideals of unity, cooperation and mutual coexistence that the Prime Minister has been consistently championing.”

What is his background?

Mr Abiy was born in southern Ethiopia’s Jima Zone in 1976 to an Oromo Muslim father and an Amhara Christian mother.

He has several degrees, including a doctorate degree in peace and security issues from Addis Ababa University and a master’s degree in transformational leadership from the University of Greenwich, London.

As a teenager, he joined the armed struggle against the former Dergue regime and eventually rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, focusing on intelligence and communications services.

In 1995, he served as a UN peacekeeper in Rwanda.

During the 1998-2000 border dispute with Eritrea, he led a spy team on a reconnaissance mission into areas held by the Eritrean Defence Forces.

He joined politics in 2010, becoming a member of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization, before being elected as a member of parliament.

His tenure in parliament coincided with clashes between Muslims and Christians. He devised a lasting solution to the problem by setting up a “Religious Forum for Peace”.

He is currently the youngest head of government in Africa.

Who are previous Nobel Peace Prize winners?

Former US President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples”.

Other notable Nobel Peace Prize winners include former US President Jimmy Carter (2002), child education activist Malala Yousafzai (shared 2014), the European Union (2012), the United Nations and its then-general-secretary, Kofi Annan, (shared 2001) and Mother Teresa (1979).

What do winners receive?

The recipient of each Nobel prize receives three things:

  • a Nobel diploma, each of which is a unique work of art
  • a Nobel medal, which has differing designs
  • a cash prize of 9m Swedish krona – which is split between winners when there is more than one. They have to deliver a lecture to receive the money

The prizes are presented at ceremonies on 10 December in Stockholm and Oslo.

(BBC) Brexit: Donald Tusk receives ‘promising signals’ from Irish PM

(BBC)

Donald Tusk
Image captionDonald Tusk said there was no guarantee of a deal, but even the “slightest chance” had to be pursued

European Council President Donald Tusk has said he received “promising signals” from Irish PM Leo Varadkar that a Brexit deal is still possible.

His comments came as Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier resumed talks.

Afterwards, Mr Barnier likened Brexit to “climbing a mountain”.

The UK is due to leave the EU at 23:00 GMT on 31 October, with a crunch EU summit scheduled to take place on 17 and 18 October.

This is seen as the last chance for the UK and the EU to agree a deal ahead of the Brexit deadline.

Following his “technical” discussion with Mr Barclay in Brussels, Mr Barnier told reporters: “Be patient.”

He added: “Brexit is like climbing a mountain. We need vigilance, determination and patience.”

BBC Brussels correspondent Adam Fleming said he suspected the best outcome for the UK that could emerge from the Barclay-Barnier meeting would be the EU agreeing to restart fuller and “more intense” negotiations.

Earlier this week, several senior EU figures played down the chances of Brexit happening with a deal agreed to by both sides.

But on Thursday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Mr Varadkar held a one-to-one discussion – described by both as “very positive and very promising” – at Thornton Manor, Merseyside.

Mr Varadkar told reporters talks were at a “very sensitive stage” but he was now “convinced” the UK wanted a deal, adding: “I do see a pathway towards an agreement in the coming weeks.”

Steve Barclay and Michel Barnier
Image captionSteve Barclay and Michel Barnier met following talks on Thursday between Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar

But he refused to be drawn on what “concessions” had been made by either side during his meeting with Mr Johnson, while Downing Street has not commented on Irish press reports suggesting “significant movement” on the UK prime minister’s part.

Speaking on a visit to Cyprus, Mr Tusk said the UK had not “come forward with a workable, realistic proposal”, but added he had received “promising signals” from Mr Varadkar that a deal was still possible.

“Of course there is no guarantee of success and time is practically up but even the slightest chance must be used,” he added. “A no-deal Brexit will never be the choice of the EU.”

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Analysis box by Laura Kuenssberg, political editor

“No one’s cracking open the champagne… don’t even pour a pint of warm Guinness,” joked one of the few people familiar with what actually happened on Thursday after talks between Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar.

Nothing that happened in the privacy of a country house wedding venue on the Wirral means there will be a deal with the EU in the next seven days.

Nothing has made the obstacles in the way of reaching an agreement magically disappear.

But something has changed.

After days of various EU players publicly scorning the UK’s proposals, explaining the objections and lamenting the weaknesses, there is a tangible willingness, on the bloc’s side at least, to see seriously if they can work.

We’ve discussed here so many times why Ireland’s attitude matters so much, so the very public positivity from Mr Varadkar – his “maybe”, instead of “no” to Mr Johnson’s proposals – is extremely important.

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The issue of Northern Ireland’s consent – and how it is achieved – for post-Brexit arrangements has emerged as a key factor in negotiations.

But Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith said there were “a range of options” for finding consent for the proposals.

He also denied any “one community” would have a veto over Brexit plans, following concern from some NI parties that the PM’s proposals could give the Democratic Unionist Party exactly that.

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A lorry is passing a sign on a main road outside Newry, Northern Ireland

What are the PM’s border plans?

Under Mr Johnson’s proposals, which he calls a “broad landing zone” for a new deal with the EU:

  • Northern Ireland would leave the EU’s customs union alongside the rest of the UK, at the start of 2021
  • But Northern Ireland would continue to apply EU legislation relating to agricultural and other products, if the Northern Ireland Assembly approves
  • This arrangement could, in theory, continue indefinitely, but the consent of Northern Ireland’s politicians would have to be sought every four years
  • Customs checks on goods traded between the UK and EU would be “decentralised”, with paperwork submitted electronically and only a “very small number” of physical checks
  • These checks should take place away from the border itself, at business premises or at “other points in the supply chain”
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With three weeks to go until the Brexit deadline, the prime minister continues to insist the UK will leave the EU with or without a deal at the end of the month.

That is despite the so-called Benn Act – passed by MPs last month – demanding he request a delay to the Article 50 deadline from the EU until January 2020 if a deal has not been agreed before 19 October.

Should any new deal be reached between the EU and UK, it will still have to be approved by MPs in Parliament.

(IBT) Countdown To Brexit: ‘Pathway To Deal’ Possible, Boris Johnson, Leo Varadkar Say

(IBT) British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Thursday they see a “pathway to a possible deal” following three hours of private talks ahead of the Oct. 31 deadline for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.

Johnson hosted Varadkar at a country house in northwest England after which they issued a joint statement expressing optimism ahead of next week’s EU summit. The other 26 members of the European Council have said they want a deal in writing before Tuesday’s meeting.

The news sent both the pound and euro higher. The pound gained 2 1/2 cents to $1.2455 while the euro added 0.32 cents to $1.1002.

The main sticking point to a Brexit agreement is how to handle the border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland. Johnson had rejected the so-called backstop, which essentially would have left Belfast in the EU customs zone.  TOP ARTICLES3/5READ MOREEngland-France, NewZealand-Italy Axed As Typhoon Threatens World Cup

The Guardian reported Downing Street declined to comment on whether Johnson had changed his position.

“Both continue to believe that a deal is in everybody’s interest. They agreed that they could see a pathway to a possible deal,” the joint statement said.

“Their discussion concentrated on the challenges of customs and consent. They also discussed the potential to strengthen bilateral relations, including on Northern Ireland.”

Varadkar told reporters he thinks agreement is possible, and he is convinced both Dublin and London want “an agreement that’s in the interests of Ireland and the U.K., and the EU as a whole.” Varadkar acknowledged there still are issues that need resolution, including a longterm solution for Northern Ireland.

“We had a good discussion looking forward to how relationships might look after Brexit, how we can strengthen co-operation north and south economically and politically, and also between Britain and Ireland,” he said.

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier was expected to decide Friday if the two-way talks made enough progress to pave the way for a breakthrough. He is to meet Friday with U.K. Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay.

A senior EU diplomat told the Financial Times the talks were substantially different from the previous offer made by Johnson, which essentially would have given the Democratic Unionist party veto power over any agreement every four years.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a trade union meeting in Nuremberg the U.K. should continue paying pensions and social insurance after Brexit and that visa-free travel should continue.

“We want to minimize the negative effects in both countries, even if there is a disorderly exit,” Merkel told a meeting of the IG Metall union.

(CNBC) Sterling jumps as UK and Irish leaders say there is a pathway to a possible Brexit deal

(CNBC)

  • U.K. and Irish leaders meet in North West England.
  • Both commit to a statement claiming “a pathway to a possible deal” on Brexit.
  • Sterling rises to a session high as reporters suggest movement from the U.K. on Irish customs checks.
GP: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Meets Leo Varadkar In Ireland 190910 EU

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) speaks to the media ahead of his meeting with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Government Buildings on September 9, 2019 in Dublin, Ireland.Charles McQuillan | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The British pound rose sharply on Thursday after positive comments on Brexit from the leaders of the Republic of Ireland and the U.K.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar for further Brexit talks Thursday afternoon, with subsequent comments causing traders to buy the British pound.

Sterling rose to 1.2390 against the U.S. dollar by 4:55 p.m. London time after trading nearer $1.2218. It was up 1.3% versus the greenback for the session.

“The Prime Minister (Johnson) and Taoiseach (Varadkar) have had a detailed and constructive discussion,” the joint statement said.

“Both continue to believe that a deal is in everybody’s interest. They agreed that they could see a pathway to a possible deal.”

UK Prime Minister@10DowningStreet

PM @BorisJohnson’s joint statement with Taoiseach Varadkar.

View image on Twitter

1,2443:16 PM – Oct 10, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy745 people are talking about this

The statement was also tweeted out from the Twitter account associated with the Irish leader Leo Varadkar.

The meeting reportedly lasted more than three hours, with Johnson and Varadkar initially speaking alone.

Squaring the Brexit circle

Ireland is at the center of the Brexit debate because the United Kingdom has a land border on the Irish mainland between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to the south. The Republic is to remain in the European Union while Northern Ireland would leave as it is part of the United Kingdom.

Erecting a physical border between the two is problematic as it would contravene a peace treaty, known as the Good Friday Agreement. This treaty was put in place to help end a decades-long war that pitted Northern Irish unionist groups and the British state against different factions of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

The backstop is an arrangement whereby Northern Ireland remains in the customs union — a common tariff area — until a solution can be found to prevent any return of physical checks on the border.

Including the Irish backstop in any U.K. withdrawal deal has drawn fire from opponents who see it as a means of trapping the U.K. within Europe.

(ZH) EU Must Reject Turkey’s ‘Blackmail’ On Syrian Refugees, Urges Italy’s Conte

(ZH) update: Though Erdogan has been used to getting his way utilizing his well-known bullying tactics, it appears Europe is not going to fold this time.

After yesterday European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker declared of Turkey’s push to militarily carve out a ‘safe zone’ in northern Syria that“if the Turkish plan involves the creation of a so-called safe zone, don’t expect the European Union to pay for any of it,” some European leaders have pushed back against his reiterated threat to “open the doors” for 3.6 million refugees currently in Turkey to seek shelter in Europe if external powers don’t support his operation. 

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said European Union must adopt a common position against Erdogan’s threats. Conte told RAI television, as cited in Bloomberg:

“We cannot accept that there be blackmail involving the welcome given by Turkey” to refugees with European funding, and the offensive in Syria.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, via EPA/BBC

No doubt Erdogan won’t take kindly to the Italian leader charging him with an attempt the “blackmail” but Conte firmly voiced what many EU leaders are likely thinking. 

* * *

As fighting ramps up in northeastern Syria following Turkey’s armed incursion into territory held by the Kurds, President Trump made clear during a press conference Wednesday night that, while Washington has threatened to punish Turkey for attacking the Kurds, President Trump doesn’t feel any deeper loyalty to the one-time “tip of the spear” in the fight against ISIS.

But President Erdogan wants Europe to understand that if it pursues sanctions or other punitive measures against Turkey – or even if European leaders complain too loudly – he won’t hesitate to release millions of Syrian refugees and allow them to start making their way to Europe, which is still struggling with the ramifications of the last wave of Syrian refugees.

According to BBG, Erdogan said he would “open the doors” for 3.6 million refugees currently in Turkey to seek shelter in Europe, should his country face criticism.

Erdogan’s threat comes as Turkish troops begin their advance into northeastern Syria (Erdogan has asked European leaders not to call this an ‘invasion’). So far, he has faced intense criticism from European nations and nearby Arab states.

The Turkish lira, and Turkish assets like stocks and foreign-currency bonds, have slumped in the wake of the invasion, with the Turkish currency trading near its weakest level since August.

Ankara has said the operation, which was given the green light by the US over the weekend, is intended to force back Kurdish militants along the border area while targeting ISIS militants. But since ISIS has been stripped of all its territory in the region, many who oppose the Turkish incursion believe the claims of going after ISIS and preventing the creation of a “terror corridor” are merely a ruse.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan@RTErdogan

The Turkish Armed Forces, together with the Syrian National Army, just launched #OperationPeaceSpring against PKK/YPG and Daesh terrorists in northern Syria. Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area.49.9K2:16 PM – Oct 9, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy17.4K people are talking about this

Turkish F-16 warplanes and artillery units have struck at least 181 targets so far. At least 19 Kurdish militants have been killed since the Turkish assault began, while 38 have been wounded. Meanwhile, a group of American senators from both parties have promised to try and punish Ankara over the incursion.

(Reuters) Taiwan leader rejects China’s ‘one country, two systems’ offer

(Reuters) TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s president rejected on Thursday a “one country, two systems” formula that Beijing has suggested could be used to unify the island and the mainland, saying such an arrangement had set Hong Kong “on the edge of disorder”.

President Tsai Ing-wen also vowed in a National Day speech to defend Taiwan’s sovereignty, saying her government would safeguard freedom and democracy as Beijing ramps up pressure on the self-ruled island it considers a wayward province.

Tsai, who is seeking re-election in January amid criticism of her policy towards China, referred to the arrangement for the return of the former British colony of Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997 as a failure.

Hong Kong has been hit by months of anti-government protests triggered by widespread resentment of what many city residents see as relentless efforts by Beijing to exert control of their city despite the promises of autonomy.

China has proposed that Taiwan be brought under Chinese rule under a similar arrangement, but Tsai said Beijing’s policies towards the island were a danger to regional stability.

“China is still threatening to impose its ‘one country, two systems’ model for Taiwan. Their diplomatic offensives and military coercion pose a serious challenge to regional stability and peace,” Tsai said.

“When freedom and democracy are challenged, and when the Republic of China’s existence and development are threatened, we must stand up and defend ourselves,” Tsai said, referring to Taiwan by its official name.

“The overwhelming consensus among Taiwan’s 23 million people is our rejection of ‘one country, two systems,’ regardless of party affiliation or political position.”

Taiwan’s National Day, marking the anniversary of the start of a 1911 uprising that led to the end of dynastic rule in China and the founding of a republic, was celebrated in Taipei with singing, dancing and parades.

Cold War hostility between the island and the mainland had eased over the past decade or so as both sides focused more on expanding business ties, but relations have cooled considerably since Tsai took office in 2016.

China suspects Tsai and her independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party of pushing for the island’s formal independence, and this year threatened it with war if there was any such move.

Tsai denies seeking independence and reiterated that she would not unilaterally change the status quo with China.

FLASHPOINT

Despite her assurances, Beijing has stepped up pressure on the island to seek “reunification” and backed up its warnings by flying regular bomber patrols around it.

Beijing also says Taiwan does not have the right to state-to-state relations and is keen to isolate it diplomatically.

Seven countries have severed diplomatic ties with the Taiwan and switched allegiance to Beijing since Tsai coming to power. It now has formal diplomatic ties with just 15 nations.

But Tsai said Taiwan was undaunted.

“The determination of the Taiwanese people to embrace the world has never wavered,” she said, adding that Taiwan must work with “like-minded countries” to ensure peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

Tsai said under her watch Taiwan has boosted its combat capabilities with the purchase of advanced weapons and development of home-made aircraft.Slideshow (7 Images)

Taiwan unveiled its largest defense spending increase in more than a decade in August, aiming to purchase more advanced weapons from overseas.

The island has long been a flashpoint in the U.S.-China relationship.

In July, the United States approved the sale of an $2.2 billion worth of weapons to Taiwan, angering Beijing.

The United States has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help provide it with the means to defend itself.