Category Archives: Denmark

(SCMP) Was China’s Arctic push behind Donald Trump’s wish to ‘buy’ Greenland?

(SCMP)

  • Greenland is gaining attention from global super powers including China due to its strategic location and its mineral resources
Icebergs float behind the town of Kulusuk in Greenland. Photo: AFP

Icebergs float behind the town of Kulusuk in Greenland. Photo: AFPUS President Donald Trump’s reported wish to buy Greenland may have been rejected by Denmark, but it underscores the rapidly rising value of the massive, ice-covered island due to global warming and to China’s drive for an Arctic presence.

The accelerating polar ice melt has left sparsely populated Greenland, a self-governing part of Denmark, astride what are potentially major shipping routes and in the crosshairs of intensifying geopolitical competition between superpowers.

It also has untapped natural resources like oil, minerals and valuable rare earth elements that China, the United States and other major tech economies covet.

A Chinese government-backed group’s offer last year to build three new international airports on Greenland sparked alarms in Copenhagen and Washington.

The Chinese plan was finally nixed in exchange for Danish funding and a pledge of support from the Pentagon.

US defence report flags China’s expanding military reach in the Arctic

Trump’s idea to buy Greenland, reported by The Wall Street Journal on Friday, “is not a serious proposal,” said Heather Conley, a specialist at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.SUBSCRIBE TO SCMP TODAY: INTL EDITIONGet updates direct to your inboxSUBMITBy registering, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy

But, “The administration has awoken to the Arctic as a geostrategic issue,” she said.

Trump is not the first US president to consider such an offer – the Truman administration reportedly offered Denmark US$100 million for Greenland’s purchase after World War II.

In 1917 Denmark sold off the then Danish West Indies islands for US$25 million to the United States, which renamed them the United States Virgin Islands.

Greenland has been essential to US defence since that war when it was a base for monitoring Nazi ships and submarines passing through the “Arctic Avenue”, the sea gateway to the north Atlantic.

In 1943 the US Air Force built its farthest-north airbase at Thule, Greenland.

Thule Airbase in Pituffik, Greenland. File photo: AFP

Thule Airbase in Pituffik, Greenland. File photo: AFPShare:

Thule was crucial in the cold war, a first line of monitoring against a potential Russian attack.

With a population of 600, the base today is part of the Nato mission, operating satellite monitoring and strategic missile detection systems and handling thousands of flights a year.

“The early warning radar system in northern Greenland helps protect North America and is a key part of our missile defence apparatus,” said Luke Coffey of The Heritage Foundation.

The Arctic is the next geopolitical hotspot that the US wants to freeze China out of

“Luckily the US is able to ensure and meet its security interests by maintaining this airbase in northern Greenland. There’s no requirement to buy Greenland to keep America safe.”

Conley said that after the cold war ebbed in the 1990s, Washington stopped thinking about the Arctic.

Yet as the polar ice sheet began to shrink, the Russians became more active and China has moved to establish itself in the region.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo underscored the revived US interest in a speech in May in Finland, where he slammed China and Russia for “aggressive behaviour” in the Arctic.

“The region has become an arena of global power and competition” owing to vast reserves of oil, gas, minerals and fish stocks, he warned.

“Just because the Arctic is a place of wilderness does not mean it should become a place of lawlessness,” he said.

But Washington has not taken many concrete actions, Conley said. Pompeo only offered that the State Department would position a diplomat in Greenland’s capital Nuuk for six months of the year.

“The rhetoric and the reaction – there is a very big gap,” she said.

Russia seeks Chinese support in developing Arctic shipping routes, promising long-term gas supplies in return

With no geographical claim to the region, but whose massive commercial shipping industry would benefit from new polar routes as the ice melts, China is the newcomer whose presence could shift the balance.

It began sending scientific missions in 2004. In the past several years, a Chinese company has gained mining rights for rare earths, partnering with an Australian company in the Kvanefjeld project.

In January 2018 Beijing unveiled its “Polar Silk Road” strategy to extend its economic footprint through the Arctic.

To gain favour in Nuuk, Chinese have wined and dined government officials, said Coffey.

“China’s role in the Arctic has been more about expanding its economic influence, soft power,” said Coffey.

“Ice melting is part of the interest, it is opening up new economic opportunities, but it’s also opening up challenges. The US is aware of that,” he said.

The end of the Arctic as we know it

In a sign of Washington’s rekindled interest, US President Donald Trump will go to Denmark in September, and Vice-President Mike Pence will visit Iceland.

But Conley says more assertive moves are needed.

“I think we have a remarkably strong position now in Greenland. Denmark is an incredibly strong military partner to the US,” she said.

“But if we are interested in potentially being an alternative to Greenland looking towards China for investment, are we going to put US investment there? I’ve not seen any of that.”

(GUA) Donald Trump reportedly wants to purchase Greenland from Denmark

(GUA) US president has ‘expressed interest’ in the icy territory, according to the Wall Street Journal, but the Danes have yet to weigh in

Icebergs in Greenland. Trump is said to be exploring the idea with ‘varying degrees of seriousness’.
 Icebergs in Greenland. Trump is said to be exploring the idea with ‘varying degrees of seriousness’. Photograph: Mstyslav Chernov/AP

Donald Trump is fond of bragging about his conspicuous wealth and buying power, plastering his name over buildings and gilding the elevators of Trump Tower. But his latest reported aspiration is on the extravagant side, even for him: to purchase Greenland from Denmark.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the US president has “expressed interest” in buying the expansive icy territory and has asked his aides to explore the possibility. He has even sought the view of the White House counsel, though the Journal noted his inquiries came “with varying degrees of seriousness”.

News that Trump had set his sights on acquiring a meaty chunk of the Kingdom of Denmark set Twitter aflutter on Thursday night. Pundits tried in vain to find a real estate valuation for the 811,000 square miles on Zillow, while others attempted to calculate Greenland’s worth in pickled herring.

Despite the levity the idea has provoked, it is not entirely in the realm of fantasy. In 1946 US President Harry Truman tried to buy Greenland from Denmark for $100m but was rebuffed. There was a more successful precedent dating back to 1917 when the US acquired the Danish West Indies, rebranding them the US Virgin Islands.

The US military already has a major airbase on Greenland, on the north-west of the island. The base has 600 personnel and is important in the country’s global radar system.

Trump travels to Denmark next month in his first official visit to the kingdom, though Greenland is not thought to be on the agenda. The Journal reported that the president raised the issue at a dinner last year in which he said he had heard Denmark was finding its financial support to the self-governing territory burdensome.

Floating the thought of the US buying the island, he asked the other guests: “What do you guys think about that?”

What Denmark thinks about that is in itself not at all clear. The Guardian asked the Danish embassy in Washington for a comment but did not receive an immediate response.

(EUobserver) Danish left sweeps to victory after attacking migrants

(EUobserver)

  • Mette Frederiksen is to become Denmark’s second female prime minister after Helle Thorning-Schmidt in 2011 (Photo: News Oresund)

Denmark has elected a young, female, centre-left leader, completing a socialist sweep in the EU’s nordic states.

It also humiliated the country’s main far-right party, but only after the left poached its anti-immigrant policies.

(EUobserver) Danske Bank executives face money-laundering charges

(EUobserver)

Danish prosecutors have charged 10 former executives at Danske Bank, the country’s largest lender, over their role in the EU’s biggest-ever money-laundering scandal, Danish newspaper Berlingske reported Wednesday, citing anonymous sources. The Danish bank funnelled some €200bn of suspicious money, most of it from Russia, into the EU banking system, via its Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015, harming both its and Denmark’s reputation.

(EUobserver) Denmark to send foreign criminals to remote island

(EUobserver) Foreign criminals sentenced to deportation from Denmark will in future be sent to the remote island of Lindholm, following a compromise between the country’s government and the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party on the country’s 2019 budget. The public has no access to the island, which has been used for research on viruses such as mad cow disease and swine fever. The research facilities will move to Copenhagen.

(EUobserver) Deutsche Bank dragged into Danish bank scandal

(EUobserver)

  • Deutsche Bank: “We terminated this relationship … after identifying suspicious activity”. (Photo: Reuters)

Deutsche Bank, Germany’s top lender, handled about €130bn of the “suspicious” money in the Danske Bank affair – the biggest money-laundering scandal in EU history.

“Deutsche Bank acted as correspondent bank for Danske Bank in Estonia. Our role was to process payments for Danske Bank. We terminated this relationship in 2015 after identifying suspicious activity by its clients,” the German lender told press on Tuesday (20 November).

  • Danske Bank is Denmark’s top lender, holding assets worth 140 percent of the country’s GDP (Photo: danskebank.com)

A “correspondent bank” acts as an intermediary for other banks in countries where they do little business.

In this case, that meant Deutsche Bank helped Danske Bank’s clients in Estonia to move money into the US financial system.

Those clients were intimates of Russian president Vladimir Putin, Russian intelligence services, Russian mobsters, and members of the Azerbaijani elite, according to findings in Denmark.

Hundreds of millions of the funds were also ‘blood money’ linked to the murder of Russian anti-corruption activist Sergei Magnitsky, Magnitsky’s former employer, Bill Browder, has said.

The Deutsche Bank revelation comes after a Danske Bank whistleblower, Howard Wilkinson, testified to Danish MPs on Monday.

“I would estimate that $150bn [€130bn] has flowed through this particular bank”, Wilkinson said.

He named the bank only as a “US subsidiary of a European bank” and a “major correspondence bank handing US dollar transactions” because a Danske Bank gag order forbade him from saying more.

He said two US banks were also involved, with the Reuters news agency, citing sources, saying that these were JP Morgan and Bank of America.

“Nobody really knows where this money went, all we know is that the last people who saw it were people from those three banks in the US. They were the last control, and when it went awry was the money in the global financial system,” Wilkinson said.

“There’s no chance in the world that any of the suspicious money … will ever be traced or that any of those criminals will ever lose a single cent of it,” he added, given that it has already taken years for the scandal to come out.

Showdown in parliament

The fresh revelations set the scene for Wilkinson’s second testimony, due in the European Parliament on Wednesday.

The acting CEO of Danske Bank, Jesper Nielsen, will also take part, with MEPs, such as Danish centre-left deputy Jeppe Kofod, set to urge him to tear up the non-disclosure agreement that his bank forced Wilkinson to sign under threats of financial penalties.

The German and US banks all terminated their business with Danske Bank between 2013 and 2015, but the dodgy funds had flowed through their accounts for more than five years before they washed their hands.

The news saw Deutsche Bank’s shares fall a further three percent on Tuesday amid concern that German and US regulators might impose fines.

Deutsche Bank already paid €550m in fines to British and US regulators in 2017 for having funnelling about €9bn of illicit Russian money.

The scandal, which was itself the biggest in EU history before the Danish affair, saw Bafin, the German regulator, install a “special representative” in Deutsche Bank to oversee anti-money laundering compliance in an unprecedented step.

The US Department of Justice is still investigating the €9bn case in a process that could see the German lender pay out further penalties.

The Danish affair has prompted the European Commission to table new anti-money laundering laws to help clean up the European banking system.

More to come?

But if Danske Bank lifts its gag order on Wilkinson it could lead to further revelations of how small EU countries with large offshore banking sectors act as a conduit for dirty money into the EU and US financial system.

Its Estonian branch aside, there was a “deafening silence” on what Danske Bank’s Lithuanian branch has been doing, Wilkinson said on Monday.

Cyprus, Malta, and Latvia are also weak links in the EU’s anti-money laundering chain, Panicos Demetriades, Cyprus’ former central bank chief, previously told EUobserver.

The “political pressure” on bank supervisors in these countries was “so great that it’s very hard for them to do the right thing,” he said.

Banks in Cyprus handled €3.4 trillion of cross-border transactions including by non-resident or offshore clients between 2008 and 2015, according to European Central Bank (ECB) data obtained by the Bloomberg news agency in October.

Latvian banks handled €2.8 trillion and Estonian ones €900bn, the ECB said, indicating that the Dankse Bank and Deutsche Bank scandals could be just the tip of the iceberg.

(EUobserver) Iranian ‘plots’ in France and Denmark threaten EU solidarity

(EUobserver) France has accused Iran of plotting a bomb attack against an anti-Iranian group in Paris, the NCRI. Danish police, last Friday, also sealed bridges and ferries on suspicion Iranian intelligence was planning a strike against another anti-Iranian group, the ASMLA, in Denmark, which Iran blames for a recent terrorist attack in Tehran. The news threatens EU-Iranian solidarity against a US plan to scrap the Iran nuclear arms treaty.

(EUobserver) Danske Bank whistleblower seeks protection

(EUobserver) Howard Wilkinson, a Briton who blew the whistle on Danske Bank’s Estonian money-laundering practices has asked Danish and Estonian authorities to protect him, complaining that his identity had been leaked without his consent by Estonian media, according to a statement from his American law firm. Berlingske, the Danish newspaper breaking the scandal originally, on Friday listed 72 Danish customers responsible for one percent of the total amount laundered.

(EUobserver) Danish bank CEO resigns in Russia scandal

(EUobserver) Thomas Borgen, the Norwegian CEO of Danske Bank, Denmark’s biggest lender, resigned Wednesday over allegations it laundered billions of illicit Russian money. “I really regret it … I have lived up to legal obligations, [but] I think it is best for all parties that I stop,” he said in a stock exchange notice. The bank published the “unpleasant” results of its internal probe into the affair on Wednesday.

(EUobserver) Denmark to investigate Danske Bank over money laundering

(EUobserver) Danish state prosecutors on Monday launched an official investigation into Danske Bank over allegations that the country’s biggest lender has been involved in money laundering through its Estonian branch. Meanwhile, Bill Browder, champion of the Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnitski, killed in Russia, requested a criminal investigation of 26 officials of the Estonian branch of Danske Bank, who allegedly enabled the money laundering, Estonian daily Postimees reported.

+++ (BBG) Danske CEO Says ‘I’m Sorry’ as Money Laundering Scandal Explodes

(BBG) The chief executive officer of Danske Bank A/S has apologized for management’s failure to prevent criminals from using his firm to launder billions of dollars in illicit
funds over several years.
The apology follows an unusually harshly worded public reprimand by the financial regulator. The Danish government said management’s failings were “unforgivable” and the central bank warned that the reputation of the whole country was at risk.
“I’m very sorry on behalf of all stakeholders,” Danske CEO Thomas Borgen said in a phone interview. He also said the bank is “in a very different place today” with considerably more focus on preventing a money laundering.
The Danish Financial Supervisory Authority said on Thursday that Danske’s management failed on multiple counts to act in compliance with the rules. The assessment followed reports by the Berlingske newspaper that Danske was used as a laundromat by
criminals, including entities with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Russian security service, FSB, as well as members of the Azeri regime. The money laundering, alleged to have taken place between 2010 to 2014, was done via Danske’s operations in Estonia, which have since been terminated.
“It’s no doubt that we should have understood the depth and the breadth of the issues in Estonia better, faster than we did,” Borgen said.
The regulator said the failures have led to reputational damage not only for Denmark’s biggest lender but for the entire financial sector of its home country.
“This was a massive failure for years,” Jesper Berg, the director general of the Financial Supervisory Authority in Copenhagen, said in a phone interview on Thursday. The failures
penetrated all levels of the organization — across the executive and supervisory board — and reflected “a cultural issue of not bringing problems up through the system,” he said.
Danske was handed a list of orders and reprimands by the FSA, including a requirement that it hold additional capital.
Danske has until June 30 to show how it will comply.
The regulator stopped short of demanding that actions be brought against members of Danske’s current management team but signaled that decision wasn’t necessarily final.
Berg said the FSA didn’t find “sufficient evidence that, if we believe there were a court case, that we could win the court case, and that is the requirement for us.”
“If there’s new information that justifies bringing a court case or reporting to the police, then we will revisit these decisions,” Berg said.
Henrik Ramlau-Hansen, a former chief financial officer at Danske who became chairman of the board of the Danish regulator, is stepping down to ensure there are no conflict-of-interest issues at the FSA. “I acknowledge my share of responsibility,” he said.
Borgen, 54, acknowledged that the bank failed to act fast enough as the problems emerged. But he repeatedly made clear his job isn’t on the line. Chairman Ole Andersen told local newswire Ritzau he still has confidence in the CEO.
“As the CEO, you are ultimately responsible,” Borgen said.
“That’s a fact. It’s important to learn from this case and ensure it won’t happen again. With the support of the board, that’s my task going forward.”

A Sloppy History

The FSA noted that “Danske Bank has historically not lived up to its obligations” with regard to anti-money laundering. The agency pointed to a period from the end of 2012 to November 2013, during which Danske didn’t have a person responsible for anti-money laundering operations, despite this being a legal
requirement.
The regulator criticized Danske for failing to terminate dealings with clients it knew were tainted. “Despite knowledge of the customer’s incorrect financial reporting, the branch
maintained the customer relationship for more than one year,” it said.
The FSA said the money laundering breaches related to non-resident accounts using Danske’s Estonian operations. The regulator also noted that “in the period up until June 2012, the bank’s current CEO was the person on the executive board responsible for the branch.”
In July 2013, a correspondent bank that the FSA didn’t identify by name ended its cooperation with Danske’s Estonian branch over concerns about non-resident customers. A year later, Danske finally decided to start terminating those operations, a process that took another two years.
Berg said the fact that it took so long suggests that “economic considerations obviously played a role,” rather than a clear focus on preventing money laundering as quickly as
possible.
Among the orders given to Danske by the regulator is a requirement to hold an additional 5 billion kroner ($803 million) in capital.
Shares in Danske fell 1 percent on Thursday. Sasja Beslik, the head of sustainable investing at Nordea Bank AB, said he’s “not planning any action” on the funds’ holdings of Danske shares, after assurances from the bank it is taking the necessary steps to deal with the matter. Beslik said he welcomed the regulator’s response, including the financial penalty.
Borgen said, “This is a time for reflection. When you’re the CEO, it is ultimately my responsibility and I have to look into what I should and could have done differently. That’s
something I need to bring with me going forward.”

(EUobserver) Danish bank accused of Russia money laundering

(EUobserver)

  • Borgen: “In Estonia, we have not been good enough at avoiding … money laundering” (Photo: Ross G. Strachan)

Denmark’s top lender, Danske Bank, played an “organised” role in a Russian money-laundering scam, French prosecutors have said.

The Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris said the bank’s branch in Estonia helped to move €15 million of “money from organised fraud and tax evasion” in Russia into France and other EU jurisdictions between 2008 and 2011.

  • Magnitsky died in prison after being beaten with rubber batons while suffering from pancreatitis (Photo: Hermitage Capital)

It said the Danish lender did it via “multiple transactions … in an organised manner”.

It said the debits were “without any economic justification” and were designed to “hide the final destination of the defrauded funds and to benefit from them abroad”.

The French action, spearheaded by Renaud Van Ruymbeke, a hawkish magistrate, could end in a fine.

It also adds to Danske Bank’s reputational damage by tying its name to Sergei Magnitsky – a Russian whistleblower who uncovered the “organised fraud and tax evasion” scam, worth $230 million [€194 million] in total, and who later died in prison.

The Danish lender’s shares have continued to trade normally.

But the bank’s image already took a blow when it admitted, in September, that its Estonian operation took part in an Azerbaijani money-laundering scheme.

Flemming Pristed, Danske Bank’s top lawyer, said on Thursday: “We are not presently in a position to say whether the amounts [the Russian €15 million] came from illegal activities”.

Thomas Borgen, its CEO, told Berlingske, a Danish business daily: “It is clearly unsatisfactory that in Estonia we have historically not been good enough at avoiding potentially being abused for money laundering”.

The bank has hired Denmark’s former intelligence chief, Jens Madsen, to find out what happened in its Baltic branch.

Paintings and yachts

According to Berlingske’s sources, Argenta Systems, a Russian firm registered in Belize, a Caribbean tax haven, funnelled the stolen money via its account in Danske Bank Estonia to Decobat, a French firm managed by a French-Russian woman.

The money was then spent on real estate, art, and yachts.

The French action comes on the back of a criminal complaint filed by Bill Browder, Magnitsky’s former employer, in 2013.

Browder, a British businessman who used to be a hedge fund manager in Russia, became a human rights activist after Magnitsky’s death.

His campaign has seen the US, Canada, and Estonia pass so called Magnitsky Acts designed to freeze the funds of Russian human rights abusers in overseas accounts.

It has also seen him go after the stolen €194 million in several EU jurisdictions, including Austria, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, and the UK, as well as in Monaco, Switzerland, and the US.

“We want to ensure that anybody in the West who benefitted from this crime or helped facilitate it are prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Browder said in a statement on Thursday.

He previously told EUobserver he had traced €28 million of the stolen funds to France, €33 million to Germany, and €26 million to Cyprus.

France has frozen €8 million of it. Luxembourg, Monaco, and Switzerland have also frozen parts of the stolen funds.

Austria, Cyprus, and the UK have been the least cooperative.

Cypriot justice

The Cypriot justice minister, Ionas Nicolaou, obstructed French investigators by withholding documents requested by France back in 2015 for the best part of a year, Browder told the Cyprus Business Mail, a daily, on Thursday.

Nicolaou has vowed to help Russian investigators to interrogate Browder’s lawyers in Nicosia in an anti-Magnitsky smear campaign.

Cyprus has also done nothing to go after the illicit Russian funds despite being handed a 133-page bushel of documentary evidence by Browder on the money trail five years ago.

(DML) Radiant Queen Maxima is pretty in pink on day two of the Dutch royals’ state visit to Portugal (despite a late night at a lavish welcome banquet the evening before)

(DML)

  • Dutch Queen showed no signs of fatigue on day two of whirlwind Portugal trip
  • Wore pink laser-cut dress and a flower hair-piece to the Champalimaud Centre 
  • Accompanied by King Willem-Alexander who was dapper in a blue suit  

Just hours before she’d been clinking glasses with Portugal’s president at a lavish state banquet to welcome the Dutch royals to the country.

But despite the late night, Queen Maxima of the Netherlands looked radiant on Wednesday as she joined King Willem-Alexander on a visit to a biomedical research centre in Lisbon.

The Queen, 46, wore a laser-cut midi dress in a pretty shade of pink, with brown suede heels, a pearl necklace, and a striking floral hair accessory.

Queen Maxima and King Willem-Alexandre looked in great spirits as they posed for pictures

Queen Maxima and King Willem-Alexandre looked in great spirits as they posed for pictures

The Dutch royal couple shared a light-hearted moment as they explored the seafront in Lisbon

The Dutch royal couple shared a light-hearted moment as they explored the seafront in Lisbon

The Queen wore a pink laser cut mid-length dress with suede heels, and a flower hairpiece 

The Queen wore a pink laser cut mid-length dress with suede heels, and a flower hairpiece

 

(DN) Reis da Holanda passeiam em Lisboa para conhecer o que está para lá do programa oficial

(DNOs reis da Holanda receberam hoje, nos Paços do Concelho, as chaves da cidade de Lisboa, seguindo num passeio a pé e de elétrico até Arroios, onde ficaram a conhecer a zona através dos testemunhos das suas gentes.

Depois dos encontros oficiais com o Presidente da República e com o presidente da Assembleia da República, que decorreram de manhã, os reis receberam as chaves da cidade pelas mãos do presidente da Câmara Municipal de Lisboa, Fernando Medina.

À saída, cerca de três dezenas de turistas estrangeiros aguardavam os monarcas na Praça do Município, tendo-os cumprimentado. Praticamente todos estavam de telemóvel no ar, a gravar o momento.

Os monarcas seguiram depois a pé até ao Terreiro do Paço, ladeados por Fernando Medina e acompanhados por alguns vereadores, até entrarem num elétrico, onde foram à janela com destino ao Arquivo Fotográfico Municipal.

Já dentro do elétrico, e quando questionada sobre o que achava de Lisboa, a rainha respondeu em inglês que, mesmo estando na capital portuguesa há apenas dois dias, já a considera “muito bonita”.

De lá, os reis seguiram a pé até ao Intendente, onde se reuniram com alguns parceiros sociais no Largo Residências, e participaram num debate sobre “vizinhanças em transição”.

A diretora desta cooperativa cultural, Marta Silva, explicou à agência Lusa que “este é um projeto que trabalha através de práticas culturais de intervenção social” e que pretende “criar uma ponte e uma mediação entre as pessoas e as políticas de mudança do território”.

A Holanda é um dos parceiros desta organização, através de uma rede europeia.

“Eu fiquei muito contente, porque no fundo esta foi uma opção de visita muito interessante, que é paralelo a um programa oficial de estar com o Presidente da República, com o primeiro-ministro”, confessou Marta Silva.

A responsável referiu que os reis “quiseram fazer uma visita não institucional, foi intenção da embaixada trazê-los cá para conhecerem um lugar que teve uma mudança, mas quiseram conhecê-lo com as pessoas que trabalham e que vivem aqui”.

Também presente na reunião, a presidente da Junta de Freguesia de Arroios disse à Lusa que os reis ficavam “com uma imagem bastante positiva, gostaram dos projetos que ouviram” e que têm sido implementados na zona ao longo dos últimos seis anos.

“Isso foi extremamente importante. Eles fizeram perguntas, gostaram, perceberam que era uma freguesia de inclusão”, acrescentou Margarida Martins.

A autarca disse que o rei Guilherme Alexandre e a rainha Máxima “vão voltar [a Lisboa] e vão gostar” e manifestou a esperança de que dessa vez o possam fazer “enquanto cidadãos”.

O aparato não passou despercebido a algumas das pessoas que se cruzaram com a comitiva e que se dirigiam aos jornalistas para perguntar de quem se tratava.

Alguns munícipes e turistas cumprimentaram o rei Guilherme Alexandre e a rainha Máxima, aproveitando ainda para elogiar a beleza da regente.

No final da visita, os monarcas foram agraciados com uma atuação do Grupo Limpeza Urbana Municipal (GLUM), um projeto que pretende ser “um alerta para a população local sobre higiene urbana”.

(EUobserver) Danish bank shamed in Azerbaijan corruption scheme

(EUobserver

  • Danish lender admitted wrongdoing and vowed to improve protocols (Photo: Jorge Láscar)

 

Leaked documents have caused red faces at a Danish bank and for UK regulators who failed to stop a €2.4 billion Azerbaijan corruption scheme.

The papers showed that Danske Bank, Denmark’s largest lender, helped to funnel most of the money out of Azerbaijan via four of its branches in Estonia into the EU and the Middle East between 2012 and 2014.

  • Baku – payments to German and Italian politicians coincided with human rights crackdown (Photo: Sonke Henning)

They also showed that four shell companies registered in the UK – Faberlex, Hilux Services, Metastar Invest, and Polux Management – were behind the majority of the 16,000 suspicious bank transactions involved.

The sloppiness of the British regulators was on show in the case of Faberlex, Hilux, and Polux.

All three firms were nominally owned by Maharram Ahmadov, a 51-year old Azerbaijani driver who lived in a humble house in the Gushchuluq neighborhood of Baku.

Some of the money was used to pay influential people in European institutions, including the Council of Europe, a human rights watchdog in Strasbourg, France, and in the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), as well as for EU lobbyists, the leaked bank documents said.

These included Eduard Lintner, a former German MP from the centre-right CSU party, who was a member of the Council’s parliamentary assembly (Pace), and Luca Volonte, an Italian MP from the centre-right UDC party, who was also a Pace member.

Lintner received $1.1 million from the scheme and Volonte got €2 million, the leaked bank records showed.

Both men defended Azerbaijan over its sham elections in 2013 and over its crackdown on human rights activists in the same period, which saw more than 90 activists and journalists jailed on political motives.

Kalin Mitrev, a Bulgarian board member of the EBRD, got at least €425,000.

All three men have denied wrongdoing, but the Volonte case was already subject to a separate investigation by Italian prosecutors.

Eckart Sager, a former producer at the CNN broadcaster who is now president of FactBased Communications, a London-based PR firm, got €2 million. Jovdat Guliyev, a member of the London-based lobbyist group, the Anglo-Azerbaijani Society, got €435,000.

Danish newspaper Berlingske first obtained the leaked papers and then shared them with the OCCRP, a club of eastern European investigative reporters.

Leading newspapers in Austria, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, and the UK also took part in the investigation.

Danske Bank told The Guardian, a British paper, that its due dilligence procedures in Estonia had been below par.

“We will not accept Danske being exploited for money laundering or other criminal purposes. We will do everything to prevent it from happening again,” it said in a statement.

It said it had “tightened procedures and controls” and “terminated relationships” with some clients in reaction to the leak.

Other payments went to members of Azerbaijan’s regime, such as deputy prime minister Yaqub Eyyubov and his son Emin Eyyubov, who was a former EU ambassador, as well as to president Ilham Aliyev’s press secretary Azer Gasimov,

Some of the money was spent on private school fees in the UK, for instance at Bellerbys, ICS, and Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate, on investments in British soccer teams, designer dresses, flowers, luxury cars, real estate, and legal fees.

More than half the funds originated from an account at the International Bank of Azerbaijan – a Baku-based lender linked to the ruling clan that went bust earlier this year.

The account was owned by Baktelekom, a so-called doppelganger firm, which has the same name, except for one letter, as Baktelecom, Azerbaijan’s telecoms giant, but which is not related to the state company.

Other funds came from the country’s ministry of emergency situations, ministry of defence, and its intelligence service, the Special State Protection Service, as well as from Rosoboronexport, a Russian arms firm.

(BBG) Denmark Fines 4 Uber Drivers in Test Case After Banning Service

(BBG) Denmark has fined four Uber Technologies Inc. drivers for violating the country’s taxi laws in a test court case where prosecutors have lined up similar charges against another 1,500 people.

The four drivers received fines of 696,600 kroner ($111,700) between them for a total of 7,717 illegal trips, according to a statement published Monday on the website of the Copenhagen city court. The amount matched the gross income they received from transporting passengers in 2015 before the Nordic country late last year ruled that Uber was an illegal taxi service.

The San Francisco-based company earlier this year stopped its service in Denmark, citing new regulations that impose licensing requirements on cars that function like taxis, and require seat sensors and meters, instead of using a smartphone to calculate fares as Uber does. In a separate statement Monday, Copenhagen police said it will await any decision by the four drivers to appeal the verdict, before prosecutors go ahead with the other 1,500 cases.

The charges were based on documents, containing income lists of Uber drivers, that Denmark had received from authorities in the Netherlands.

(EUobserver) Denmark to rebel on EU free borders if need be

(EUobserver) Denmark has said it would defy the European Commission on border checks if need be, opening a new front in some member states’ rebellion on migration policy.

Lars Loekke Rasmussen, the Danish prime minister, told parliament on Tuesday (16 May) that the amount of people coming from Africa to Europe via Italy was “much, much too high” to reopen borders.

  • Rasmussen put on the spot by anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party (Photo: News Oresund)

“We will continue border controls unless the EU miraculously finds ways to regain control of its outer frontiers and Italy curbs the flow of refugees … into Europe”, he said.

He spoke after the Commission said on 2 May that Austria, Denmark, Germany, Norway, and Sweden were permitted to extend border checks for a further six months, but that this would be the last time they were allowed to do so.

The five states are all members of the Schengen accord on free movement in Europe, which is enforced by the EU executive.

Rasmussen added on Tuesday that “as long as EU borders are not under control, we need to uphold our own controls”.

He said that his “own prognosis” was that “this is not a likely scenario in the next six months”.

“Nobody in my political neighbourhood is in favour of open borders to Africa, rather on the contrary … We introduced rules to protect Denmark with great success. That’s why we now have the lowest number of asylum seekers in eight years,” the prime minister, who hails from the centre-right Venstre party, said.

He spoke in reply to a question from Kristian Thulesen Dahl, an MP from the anti-EU and anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party which holds almost one in five seats in the Danish parliament.

Denmark’s neighbour, Sweden, lifted ID checks on a bridge between Copenhagen and Malmo two weeks ago, but it said at the time that it would intensify spot checks and CCTV surveillance at other crossing points.

“Border controls are still needed and need to be strengthened”, Anders Ygeman, its interior minister, said.

Italy numbers

Almost 13,000 people came to Italy via the central Mediterranean in April – a 19 percent increase on March and a 33 percent increase on April last year, according to EU border agency Frontex.

Most of them were from Nigeria, Bangladesh, and the Ivory Coast, it said.

The numbers coming to Greece (1,200 in April) via Turkey have dropped massively after a Turkey-EU deal to keep Syrian refugees in place.

The Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration said 53,912 people came to the EU via Cyprus, Greece, Italy, and Spain from 1 January to 14 May, compared to 189,075 last year.

It said 45,118 of them came via Italy compared to 32,292 last year and that at least 1,229 people drowned on that route, up from 966 last year.

Relocation dispute

The Danish statement on Tuesday came amid a bitter EU dispute over migrant relocations.

The Commission the same day warned countries such as Hungary and Poland that unless they started to take in asylum seekers from Greece and Italy by June then they would face legal action.

Hungary and Poland have taken in no one despite being outvoted in the EU Council on the burden-sharing quotas last year.

Polish prime minister Beata Szydlo told press in Warsaw on Tuesday that there was “no possibility [for Poland] to take in any refugees – that’s the government’s position”.

“We are saying very clearly: There’s no agreement by the Polish government to have forcibly imposed refugee quotas”, she said.

(BBG) Denmark’s Brave New World Means Cutting Its Fabled Welfare

(BBG)

When a European government raises the pension age and makes cuts to welfare programs, it’s usually because of dire finances. In Denmark’s case, it’s because of ideology.

Greece, Italy and other highly-indebted countries are regularly urged by officials in Brussels to find ways of reducing public spending or making their labor markets more efficient. But of Denmark, the European Union’s commission said in its most recent report: Competitiveness indicators “don’t point to major challenges;” employment has “remained strong;” and the “risks to Denmark’s fiscal sustainability are low in the short, medium and long term.”

So why is the Scandinavian nation finding it necessary to make cuts to its fabled welfare programs? Driving the new government’s push is a desire to finance a major round of income tax cuts.

“We want to promote a society in which it is easier to support yourself and your family before you hand over a large share of your income to fund the costs of society,” the government of Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen wrote in its manifesto.

It’s all part of a Danish drift toward the political right heralded at the start of the millennium by another Liberal Party premier named Rasmussen, Anders Fogh. The push to reduce levies in one of the most taxed societies in the world received new impetus in November, when two free-market groups joined the Liberals’ minority government.

Rasmussen hasn’t yet presented any detailed proposals, but much of the preparatory work has already been done. The above chart shows fiscal projections based on last year’s plan to cut the top rate of income tax by 5 percentage points and boost the salaries of the lowest earners by an average of 7 percent. On that basis, balancing the budget would have been delayed by five years, with the deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product still at manageable levels.

The original proposal was eventually dropped after becoming a victim of a power struggle between the government and its biggest backer in parliament, the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party. A reconfigured cabinet is now hard at work on a new one, due to be unveiled by the summer.

Generating the resources needed to fund the tax cuts requires higher revenues, lower spending, or a combination of both. The government believes that the best way to achieve its objective is to get more people into the workforce.

Since Denmark is already close to full employment (the unemployment rate came in at 3.4 percent in December) and attracting more migrant workers is a political no-go area (the government imposed border controls and tightened the rules in the wake of the refugee crisis of 2015), the obvious solution is to encourage more youngsters and the elderly to work.

Reforms introduced by successive governments over the years have already ensured that Denmark’s expensive welfare state is sustainable for years to come, says Torben M. Andersen, a professor of economics at the University of Aarhus and a former government adviser. These include raising the retirement age to 67 years from 65 years by 2025.

The government now wants to raise the retirement age even further, to 67.5, and get students more quickly into the workforce by increasing the use of loans at the expense of grants.

The opposition has already said it plans to fight any tax cuts amid voters’ concerns over the future of the country’s cherished social model.

“The government has engaged in an ideological crusade away from the Nordic welfare state,” said Benny Engelbrecht, the finance spokesman of the Social Democrats, the country’s biggest opposition party.

(Express) DEXIT WARNING: Denmark next to leave EU if bosses don’t stop criticising Brexit, MEP warns

(Express) EUROPEAN Union (EU) bosses needs to abandon their “arrogance” and stop talking about Brexit in a negative way otherwise Denmark could be the next to leave the bloc, a leading Danish MEP has warned.

Anders Vistisen said the union risks being “overshadowed and left behind” if it continues to hit out at the UK for voting to leave.

The Vice Chair of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, took a swipe at the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Guy “Mr Brexit” Verhofstadt who called Theresa May’s pledge to deliver a new EU trade deal by 2019 “impossible”.

He warned if the EU does not “appreciate and work constructively with the UK’s objectives” it risks being overcome by popular discontent and “Denmark could well be the next country to leave the bloc”.

Denmark

Denmark could well be the next country to leave the bloc

Anders Vistisen

Writing on Brexit Central, he said: “Dozens of countries have already been lining up to do free trade deals with Britain.

“In order to avoid being overshadowed and left behind, the European Union should stop talking about Brexit in a negative and defensive way.

“It is high time that it abandons its arrogance and faces the reality as it is, not as it wishes it to be.

Jean Claude JunckerG

European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker has been outspoken in his anger about Brexit

“I believe that the EU has to make every effort to negotiate a good and fair trade deal with the UK.

“The EU has to become fully aware of the fact that a good trade deal is beneficial – not only to the UK, but also to all EU Member States.”

The Danish People’s Party MEP added the UK will “stay part of Europe, whether the EU likes it or not” so cutting historical, military and economic ties would “simply be catastrophic for both players”.

He said an ongoing battles over trade and more would have “no winners” which is why the EU needs to make “every effort” to ensure there is mutual satisfaction.

Lars Løkke RasmussenG

Danish PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen has been a strong supporter of Theresa May

EU G

EU bosses have been “arrogant” in their Brexit dealings, the Danish MEP said

The UK should be able to buy itself into schemes beneficial to both sides, such as the Erasmus student exchange programme, although he admitted the UK Government has to take that decision as well.

With regards to Denmark, he said its trade relationship with the UK is “important” and the two countries are closely linked.

Mr Vistisen said it is in the interest of Denmark’s agricultural sector to retain tariff-free access to the UK market, especially in terms of fishing as he said it is “vital” Danish fisherman have continued access to British waters.

He also added Britain is a “close strategic and military NATO ally of the EU” and he sincerely hopes Brexit will not affect “this crucial and close military co-operation”.

(EurActiv) Denmark cracked ‘secret code’ in water-energy nexus, official claims

(EurActiv)

Thanks to determined policies, Denmark has succeeded in breaking the seemingly inextricable linkage between water and energy use. But replicating the Danish model at European level won’t be easy, policymakers warn.

When it comes to environmental performance, Scandinavian countries are usually world leaders. And the so-called water-energy nexus is no exception.

“The Danish story on water is actually a fairy tale,” said Katrine Rafn, director for water resources at the Danish environment ministry. Over the last 30 years, she said Denmark has “succeeded in cracking the code” when it comes to combining economic growth with energy-efficient water management.

“The secret code is a spicy mix of policy development, intelligent regulation and technological innovation” involving cooperation between public authorities, private sector and water utilities, she told policymakers at a EurActiv event last December.

“Dealing with the energy efficiency of water management is about dealing with the entire water cycle,” Rafn explained. “It’s about water consumption, extraction and distribution, it’s about wastewater transport and treatment – it’s about everything.”

Energy production can be water-intensive. It is used in power generation, primarily for cooling thermal and nuclear power plants, but also in biofuels production and to clean up solar panels in concentrated solar power plants.

The International Energy Agency recently turned the spotlight on the water-energy nexus. In its latest World Energy Outlook, released on 16 November, it said almost all of the weaknesses in the global energy system – whether related to energy access, energy security or the response to climate change –, can be exacerbated by changes in water availability.

“The water business uses a lot of energy – about 4% of all the electricity on the planet,” said Mads Warming, global director for water and wastewater at Danfoss, a Danish engineering company, which supported the EurActiv event. That figure is expected to double by 2040 if no action is taken, the IEA report said.

“What we have shown is that it is possible to bring that down to zero,” Warming told the conference.

Danish story

Denmark started realising in the 1970s and early ’80s that something needed to be done to make water management less energy-intensive. Back then, Denmark suffered from over-extraction of groundwater, pollution from wastewater in rivers and coastal regions, as well as high water consumption and low efficiency, the Danish official said.

Since then, Denmark has managed to reduce water use down to 107 litres per capita on average per year. In Copenhagen alone, consumption was reduced by 42% since 1985.

And the industry has also succeeded, Rafn said. At utility level, leakage was reduced to 8% average across the nation. Aquifers from which groundwater is extracted have been mapped comprehensively, allowing to “gain control of the resource,” the official said. “We know where they are and how much they are so we can protect them from pollution and over-exploitation”.

Reflecting a fundamental change in approach, Rafn said Danish authorities were now no longer referring to wastewater but to “resource water” instead.

Water pricing is key

As a result, the Danish water sector only uses 1.8% of the nation’s total energy consumption. And the technologies are there to make the sector energy neutral “right now”, the Danish official stressed.

The city of Aarhus, for instance, wants to make the water cycle energy neutral by 2020, said Lars Schröder, CEO of Aarhus Water who was speaking at the event. And other cities in Denmark have similar objectives.

Asked why the rest of the world wasn’t copying the Danish example, Mads Warming from Danfoss replied: “People generally believe that everything is expensive in Denmark, including electricity.” But he swiftly refuted that claim, saying electricity prices were higher in Germany and the UK, double in Italy, and on level with prices seen in Brazil and China.

“Does this sound too good to be true? Well, it can be done,” Rafn said, citing water pricing with “full cost recovery” as a driver behind the Danish success story.

“The water price includes the entire water cycle, including investments in new technology,” Rafn pointed out, saying Denmark introduced a penalty tax on water utilities as an incentive to stay below the 10% leakage mark.

Pavel Misiga, head of unit at for clean water at the European Commission’s environmental directorate, said the water and energy sectors were facing “similar problems” and “the same market failures”.EU water legislation ‘not implemented’

He reminded that EU regulators have not been standing idle on water issues, citing the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive, first adopted 1991, and the Water Framework Directive, in place since 2000, which introduced water pricing as a policy tool at European level.

But he said “we are still not implementing this legislation across Europe,” citing lack of investment as one of the reasons. The European Investment Bank (EIB) estimates investment needs at around €90 billion, Misiga pointed out. As a result, environmental objectives are often not met and citizens do not enjoy the level of service they expect, the EU official said.

Water is also “creating enormous public debt” for European countries Misiga added, saying those figures do not currently show in national accounts. “But in the future, it will have to be addressed,” he said.

Rafn was more bullish on the EU’s potential role, calling for the Commission to set an ambitious European goal for water laws.  “Why not have a common European law setting a maximum 10% loss in the water sector? I think it’s feasible, the technology is there, and we have a lot of good examples on how to do it.”

Another idea currently being implemented in Denmark is a benchmark on environmental indicators to complement those already in place for the economic efficiency of the water sector. “And I say, why don’t we have a European benchmark so you can check how well the member states are doing and learn from each other,” she said.

The Chinese have learned from the Danish experience, Rafn pointed out, saying Beijing had introduced a target to limit water losses to 10%. “If the Chinese can do it, we can do it as well,” Rafn said.
Pavel Misiga cited the revision of the WFD in 2019 as an opportunity to consider new EU-wide objectives or benchmarks.Water Framework Directive revision

But he warned there may be “political difficulties” in reaching agreement at European level, recommending “softer tools” such as improved access to finance, and “de-risking” investments in water management technologies.

“The problem with a universal benchmark or target is that we have huge differences in Europe,” Misiga stressed, contrasting countries like Denmark or Germany where water losses amount to only 6% and municipalities in Romania where losses can reach 40%.

“So we may not be able to agree,” Misiga warned, advocating a softer approach. “And for that, we don’t need to wait for new legislation,” he said, encouraging cities to tap into the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) – the so-called Juncker fund – to invest in water and energy projects.

In any case, the International Energy Agency underlined the urgency of tackling the water-energy nexus, saying the cost of inaction will eventually skyrocket.

“We don’t have time to wait,” said Kamel Ben Naceur, IEA director for Technology and Outlooks. “If we don’t do it now, the system to do it afterwards will be much more expensive. And if we don’t do it at all, the cost of adaptation will be much more expensive,” he warned.

While admitting that replicating the Danish example “would be somehow complex” because of the wide national differences, Ben Naceur also underlined the huge economic benefits of addressing wastewater collection and treatment in European municipalities.

BACKGROUND

The EU Water Framework Directive called for member states to create incentives for efficient water use by 2010. However, it is unclear whether this has, in fact, resulted in any change in national policies, the European Environment Agency says.

Water use by sector varies across the European Union – with agriculture the main consumer of freshwater in more arid regions, while energy, home and industrial consumption lead in damper climates.

Overall, households, business, hospitals and offices account for 20% of water use, according to a May 2012 report by the European Environmental Agency. Of that, flushing toilets consumes nearly one-third of water, but there are also big losses due to leakage from old pipes, commodes or public water supplies.

Calls for efficiency measures are growing, and not just from policymakers. Leading water-consuming industries, including beverage and food manufacturers, are taking steps to improve efficiency to cut costs, as concerns about supply security mount.

EU figures show that while much of Europe has ample freshwater, parts of Spain, France, Italy, Britain, Belgium and the Baltic states, along with much of Cyprus, have faced stress or extreme stress in recent years – with demand exceeding supply.