Member states in the Council of the EU reached a tentative agreement on April 29 to institute carbon market reforms on January 1, 2019. The agreement came after the Czech Republic defected from the Polish-led blocking minority that would have delayed the reforms until 2021. Due to its heavy reliance on the fossil fuel for electricity, industrial use, and domestic heating, Poland has strongly opposed reforming the current Emissions Trading System, which allows coal to be burnt very cheaply due to a surplus of carbon permits. The new reforms would establish a Market Stability Reserve, withholding surplus permits.
Facing expensive rent, limited apartment availability and dismal job prospects, many Slovaks continue to live with their parents well into adulthood. With annual salaries as low as €6000, many young Slovaks can’t afford to pay €500 per month to rent an apartment in central Bratislava. Just as they are living at home for longer, Slovaks are also delaying marriage and parenthood, often waiting until their late twenties to early thirties, a trend seen in other post-communist member states in the eastern reaches of the European Union.
Russia is in the midst of a lost year, with stark economic stagnation and the lowest growth rate since a crippling recession in 2009, according to a new analysis released by the World Bank. With low oil prices persisting since mid-2014, Russia’s oil revenues have plummeted and capital flight has become a growing problem as exporters find a lack of demand for their products abroad. If Russia is slapped with further sanctions over its role in the Ukraine conflict, the world’s largest country could find itself struggling for years to come.
In two bold firsts, Switzerland is issuing ten-year bonds with a negative 0.05 yield, while Mexico has introduced a new 100-year bond denominated in euros with a 4.2 percent yield. With a yield far higher than any comparable eurozone-issued bonds, Mexico’s bond, initially launched at EUR1.5 billion, could see purchasers collectively earn EUR63 million on their investments in 2115.
Royal Dutch Shell has concluded acquisition talks with liquefied natural gas (LNG) producer British Gas (BG), the UK’s third-largest energy company, increasing its annual gas output above the combined output of its nearest competitors, Chevron and ExxonMobil. The GBP47 billion purchase will give Shell access to lucrative projects in Australia and Tanzania, while the biggest windfall will come from BG’s Brazil operations, whose output is expected to quadruple in the next five years. After the deal, estimates indicate that Shell will sell up to 50 million tons of LNG annually by 2020, slightly less than the annual domestic consumption of Ukraine and Poland combined.
Construction of the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link, an eleven-mile underwater highway and rail tunnel linking Germany and Denmark, is expected to begin in the summer of 2015. The tunnel would allow travelers to bypass current, less direct road and ferry routes, decreasing the time required to travel from mainland Europe to Copenhagen and Stockholm.
In an effort to breathe new life into a rapidly-aging population, Danish sex educators are adopting a new approach that will promote sex and parenthood. Instead of teaching teenagers how to avoid pregnancy, educators will discuss pregnancy in a more favorable manner, perhaps even teaching students “how to get pregnant.” In a country where birth rates have been unsustainably low since the 1970s, the program aims to overcome a perceived aversion to parenthood that has been exacerbated by high unemployment and economic uncertainty.
Taxi competitor Uber has filed a series of new complaints with the European Commission in response to legal battles with member states over their bans on the popular smartphone-based service, which is valued at $40 billion. In addition to two earlier complaints against France, Uber filed a complaint against Spain on Monday and another against Germany on Wednesday.
Germany and Sweden have taken a leading role in the resettlement of refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict. Out of more than 217,000 refugees that have found new homes in Europe since the conflict began in 2011, more than 110,000 now live in Germany and Sweden. Four more EU members host a combined forty thousand refugees, while most of the remaining EU member states have only accepted several dozen to a few thousand refugees.
In comparison, the United States has admitted only 352 refugees as of mid-December 2014, but it is in the process of vetting and admitting roughly ten thousand more refugees over the next two years, according to the US State Department and a report by Amnesty International. It is important to note that the US can not necessarily admit Syrian refugees on the same scale as Germany or Sweden; US law caps the admission of refugees globally at seventy thousand per year.
The EU has been criticized for being ineffective at handling the refugee crisis, specifically regarding the fact that only a select few nations are admitting refugees in sufficient numbers.