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EU leading in global agri-food trade

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In a report published today, the EU confirms for yet another year its position as largest global exporter of agri-food products, with EU exports reaching €138 billion in 2018.

Agriculture products represent a solid share of 7% of the value of EU total goods exported in 2018, ranking fourth after machinery, other manufactured goods and chemicals. Agriculture and the food related industries and services together provide almost 44 million jobs in the EU. The food production and processing chain accounts for 7.5% of employment and 3.7% of total value added in the EU.

Phil Hogan, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development said: “The increasingly market-oriented Common Agricultural Policy has made a decisive contribution to the EU’s success in agricultural trade. The EU’s reputation for having safe, sustainably produced, nutritious and quality products is a winning formula in the global marketplace. The Commission is here to assist producers in taking full advantage of opportunities around the globe, while always making sure that our more sensitive sectors are provided with sufficient safeguards.”

The top five destinations for EU’s agri-food products continues to be the United States, China, Switzerland, Japan and Russia, accounting for 40% of EU exports. In addition to negotiating trade agreements that provide further opportunities for EU farmers, the European Commission helps EU exporters to enter new markets and benefit from business possibilities through promotion activities, including high-level missions led by Commissioner Hogan. In 2018 and 2019, Commissioner Hogan accompanied by EU producers travelled to China, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.

Wines and vermouth continue to dominate the basket of exported products with spirits and liqueurs ranking second. Then come infant food and various food preparations, chocolate, pasta and pastry.

Regarding imports, the report concludes that the EU became the second biggest importer of agri-food products with €116 billion worth of imports. This brings the EU trade balance for this sector to a positive net of €22 billion.

The EU mainly sources three types of products: products that are not, or only to a small extent, produced in the EU such as tropical fruit, coffee and fresh or dried fruits (representing 23.4% of imports in 2018); products that are destined for animal feed (including oilcakes and soybeans – together 10.8% of imports); and products used as ingredients in further processing (such as palm oil).

Imports from the U.S. were the fastest growing in 2018, with an increase of 10%, which makes this country the EU’s top supplier of agri-food products.

The full report also includes an overview of the trade performance of the EU’s key partners (United States, China, Brazil, Japan, Russia) and their trade flows with the EU, as well as a chapter on trade and cooperation with Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

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Russia restored Syrian air base for joint use

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Jarrah Base, Syria (Photo Credit: TASS)

Russia and Syria have restored the ‘Al-Jarrah’ military air base in Syria’s north to be jointly used, Russia’s Defence Ministry said.

“Russian and Syrian military personnel restored the destroyed al-Jarrah airfield,” the ministry said on the Telegram messaging. “The joint basing of aviation of the Russian Aerospace Forces and the Syrian Air Force at the al-Jarrah airfield makes it possible to cover the state border.”

The small base east of Aleppo was recaptured from Islamic State fighters in 2017.

Russia has been a dominant military force in Syria since launching air strikes and ground operations there in 2015. It further asserted its presence after the United States pulled out its forces in 2019.

The conflict in Syria, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people, displaced millions and drawn in regional and world powers, has entered into a second decade, although fighting is at a lower intensity than in earlier years, writes ‘The National’ from Abu Dhabi, UAE.

With backing from Russia and Iran, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s government has recovered most of its territory.

Turkish-backed opposition fighters still control a pocket in the north-west, and Kurdish fighters backed by the US also control territory near the Turkish border.

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NATO tanks for Ukraine provoke contradictions in the alliance

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After a drawn-out back and forth between Ukraine, the U.S. and European NATO countries, the first deliveries of Western-made tanks for the Ukrainian military have been announced, informs MSN.

According to CNN, Germany reportedly did not want to take the step of delivering the tanks without their U.S. partners also doing so despite the UK having pledged 11 Challenger-2 tanks previously. Since then, the U.S. has announced to deliver one battalion, or 31 Abrams tanks. Germany has said it will part with 14. Poland, the most outspoken about wishing to deliver its Leopard 2s, will reportedly also sent 14, while 18 will come out of the Netherlands. More deliveries are expected from Norway, Finland and Spain, while Portugal is also in the process of officially signing off on the matter.

Mean while Brazil refuses to sell tank ammo for Ukraine and Brazilian President Lula da Silva shot down an offer to sell tank ammunition to Germany for use in Ukraine, Brazilian newspaper ‘Folha de Sao Paulo’ reported. A vocal critic of the West’s policy toward Ukraine, Lula has striven to remain neutral on its conflict with Russia.

Lula reportedly considered asking Berlin to guarantee that it would not send the ammunition to Ukraine, but ultimately declined the offer, “arguing that it was not worth provoking the Russians.”

Lula has condemned the US for pouring tens of billions of dollars into Ukraine’s government and military, and suggested last year that US President Joe Biden “could have avoided [the conflict], not incited it.”

He also declared that NATO leadership should have reassured Russia that Ukraine would never be allowed to join the US-led military bloc, which was one of Moscow’s key demands for peace before it sent troops into the country.

The transfer of Leopard tanks to Ukraine does not end the problems of the German government, stress Polish press. The avalanche caused by this brawl could sweep away not only Olaf Scholz’s office, but Germany itself. Geopolitical delay and constant maneuvering between Moscow and Kyiv have seriously undermined the international prestige of Germany. Now Berlin must maintain its influence in the European Union and NATO and restore its credibility as an ally in the international arena.

Germany will supply Ukraine with fourteen Leopard 2 A6 tanks from the resources of the Bundeswehr. This is the second most modern model in the German army. However, this is a drop in the ocean of what actually Germany could pass on to Ukrainians attacked by Russia. Leopard manufacturer Rheinmetall said that Germany could supply as many as 139 Leopards from the resources of the Bundeswehr, although not immediately and not in the latest version. By April, 29 modern vehicles could be delivered to Ukraine, and 22 more by the end of the year.

It’s no secret that the Germans were not going to make such a decision regarding the Leopards, and certainly not so soon. Scholz did not want to go overboard and subject himself to accusations from the Kremlin that Berlin was leading to an escalation of the conflict. The German chancellor hoped that the Americans, and possibly other countries, would also hand over their vehicles (modern M1 Abrams tanks), which would disperse responsibility.

However, Washington had other plans.

After almost a year of war, it finally wanted to force the Germans to make an ‘independent, courageous decision’ that clearly supported the Ukrainians. That is why it delayed the announcement of the transfer of “Abrams” to Kyiv until the last moment. However, in the end, American tanks will go to the front.

We are witnessing the end of the domination of the Franco-German tandem in Europe. Europe has become polycentric, and the last year has deprived Germany of its special role on the continent.

This change is connected with the “Easternism” of the EU. This is the effect of shifting the EU’s point of view more towards its eastern members, who understand better than the “old EU” what is happening on the continent now.

The war in Ukraine and the approach of the German authorities to this conflict also portend serious social and cultural changes in Germany itself.

But not only the culture of pacifism and unconditional dialogue is coming to an end in Germany. The war in Ukraine has exposed with great force the failure of the concept of the postmodern state, which Berlin began to implement during the rule of Chancellor Merkel. Germany has imagined itself as a big Switzerland, which invests in the economy and the well-being of its own citizens, and allied obligations are a secondary issue.

The dispute over the transfer of Leopards to Ukraine showed everyone another consequence of Germany’s policy in the field of diplomacy and security. Germany has ceased to be not so much a global, but even a continental leader. To make matters worse, there is a growing question in NATO about whether Germany remains even an ally to count on in times of trouble.

What is the future for Germany in the European arena? The answer is co-leadership. Germany (but also France) will have to look for different allies for their plans and ideas in various fields.

However, this is good news for other EU countries. Many of them will now be able to enter the game and have more influence on decision making. “Now it will be possible to exert much more pressure on Germany, but only some countries will be able to do this.

However, the end of unconditional dominance in the EU does not mean the end of the geopolitical problems that Germany has brought upon itself. The situation is unfavorable either within NATO or, more broadly, in the world. The fall of the political significance of Germany on the European and world scene has become a fact.

This is largely due to the growing tension between Berlin and Washington. The Americans are tired of hedging the German government and constantly playing along with each other. They see Germany as the European leader, but they are annoyed that this leader has run away from responsibility whenever he could during the last year.

Germany is becoming more and more isolated in security policy. Not only in Europe, but in the world as a whole. They are unable to cooperate with either France or the United States; key partners in the EU and NATO.

The degradation of the international position and confidence of foreign partners in Germany is also a serious problem for NATO. The war in Ukraine has threatened the unity of the Alliance, as some countries, despite the emergency nature of the situation, continue to play primarily against themselves…

This article is another disturbing evidence of serious contradictions within the European Union. Eastern countries are trying to seize the initiative in the Allience, relying on the support of the US and Britain. Old Europe is losing authority and strength. But will the EU survive under the new “eastern leadership”?

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Russian Ministry of Defence: We acquired over 20,000 documents of the U.S. biological programmes

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Terrorism

Briefing by Lieutenant General Igor Kirillov, chief of Nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) protection troops of the Ministry of defence of the Russian Federation. Jan. 30. Main points:

– The Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation has repeatedly noted the signs of the implementation of ‘dual-purpose programmes’ by the USA and its allies outside their national territories, including within the operation of the biolaboratories funded by the Pentagon or its contractors.

– We have previously informed about the works on enhancing the pathogenic characteristics of COVID-19 causative agent, carried out at Boston University with funds of the U.S. state budget, as well as the possible involvement of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in the emergence of the new coronavirus.

– The high degree of readiness of the U.S. mRNA vaccine manufacturers for a pandemic of the new coronavirus infection raises questions. One gets the impression that pharmaceutical companies had produced the vaccine preparations in advance, being unable to rapidly introduce them into the market due to specific characteristics of the virus that embodied in low efficiency of vaccination and numerous side effects.

– It is to be reminded that on 18 October 2019, two months before the first official reports about the emergence of the new coronavirus infection in China, the John Hopkins University, supported by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, conducted Event 201 exercise in New York.

– Outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic precisely according to this scenario raises questions about its premeditated nature, involvement of the USA in this incident, as well as real objectives of the U.S. biological programmes aimed at enhancing the characteristics of dangerous pathogens.

– We have repeatedly noted that the United States conduct the studies that are most controversial in terms of the international law outside the national territory.

– The premises of Pharmbiotest Medical Centre in Rubezhnoye were explored during the special military operation in the liberated territory of the Lugansk People’s Republic. It was a venue for clinical trials to test the medicinal products that caused serious side effects: they include medications for treating leukaemia, mental disorders, neurological diseases, epilepsy, and other dangerous illnesses.

– In early 2023, residents of Lisichansk found a large landfill of biomaterial residues that belong to Pharmbiotest. The clinical samples and patients’ clinical records with their personal data were buried instead of being cremated or eliminated in appropriate manner, prescribed by the rules. This means that the evidence were being eliminated in extreme hurry.

During the special military operation, Russian personnel acquired over 20,000 documents, reference and analytical materials, as well as surveyed witnesses and participants of the U.S. biological programmes. The abovementioned materials confirm that the Pentagon aimed at creating elements of a biological weapon, and testing it on the population of Ukraine and other countries along the perimeter of the Russian borders.

– The Russian Defence Ministry has already mentioned the names of the participants of the military and biological programmes, including those of the U.S. Democratic Party representatives, employees of the U.S. military department, and the Pentagon’s contracting organisations. The DTRA reports have led us to the new information about key persons involved in the so-called Ukrainian projects who have been staying in the shadow until now.

Among of them are:

a) Karen Saylors, CEO at Labyrinth Global Health and ex-director of Metabiota’s programmes in Central Africa. Since 2016, Saylors has worked in Ukraine as leading advisor at the UP-10 project, dedicated to studying ways of spreading of African swine fever.

b) Colleen B. Jonsson, an employee of the University of Tennessee, Director of the Institute for the Study of Host-Pathogen Systems. She observed the UP-8 project, dedicated to studying the capabilities of the Crimean-Congo fever’s causative agent in Ukraine. Jonsson managed the selection of biological samples from Ukrainian personnel, provided the cooperation between the contract specifiers in the USA and the Center for Public Health of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine.

c) Lewis Von Thaer, President and CEO of Battelle company, a major contractor of the Pentagon and U.S. Department of Energy. Since 2003, the company has been responsible for organising research projects in Ukraine related to zoonotic infections.

– The active action of the Russian Defence Ministry has resulted in halting the military biological programmes in Ukraine. In this regard, the Pentagon is actively relocating the studies, that have not been completed within the Ukrainian projects, to Central Asia and Eastern Europe countries. At the same time, the cooperation with African and Asia-Pacific countries – Kenya, Singapore, and Thailand – is being actively enhanced.

– Under the pressure from the international community, Washington changes its approaches to organising its military biological activity, transferring the functions of the customer to purely civilian departments: the Department of Health, Department of Energy, and the Agency for International Development. This will allow the U.S. authorities to avoid criticism at international venues, and deflect a blow from the Department of Defense and DTRA.

– The funding, imposed by the collective West, makes the post-Soviet countries conceal the true nature of these works. The European Union is actively promoting the initiative to deploy a network of centres of ‘excellence’ in the field of nuclear, biological and chemical protection, that provides for placing EU-funded biolaboratories in the territories of the former Soviet Union. The prospective partners are highly recommended ‘…not to advertise this initiative due to its extreme sensitivity for the Russian Federation…’

– At the same time, it is stressed that the Central Asian countries ‘…are already taking benefit from technical cooperation with the European Union…’

– In 2022, the USA, Canada, and EU countries initiated programmes to employ and relocate the Ukrainian professionals, who had been involved in military biological works before, to Western countries. It is primarily due to the concerns that the Russian law enforcement can receive additional testimonies to the illegal activities carried out in violation of international obligations.

– It is to be emphasised that the strategy of ‘military and biological expansion’ is not fundamentally new, and it was founded by the United States back in the period of the Korean conflict.

Since the 1950s, biological laboratories were established in Africa, Central and South America, as well as South-East Asia, with the priority role of the U.S. Navy. Their main objective was to sample causative agents of highly dangerous infections, and determine the level of morbidity among local population.

– It is to be reminded that lobbying the interests of large pharmaceutical companies by the U.S. government is a common practice. Back in 2010, the operation of a U.S. Navy Medical Biological Centre in Jakarta was ceased due to a ‘conflict of interests’ and various violations. The Americans performed their works outside the agreed research programme, carried out unauthorised sampling, and refused to inform the Indonesian government on the purposes of their works and the results achieved. These biomaterials turned out to be used to the benefit of the Gilead company, affiliated with the Pentagon, that tested their preparations in Ukraine and Georgia (including, but not limited to).

– The Indonesian example was followed by Malaysia: the government of that country decided to establish special control over the activities of the U.S.-funded biolaboratory.

– Therefore, the concerns of the international community, related to the activities of the Pentagon-funded biolaboratories, is gradually increasing.

– The issues, raised by the Russian Federation at the international venues – the Nineth Review Conference of BTWC Member States, and the UN Security Council – have revealed the reluctance of the USA to conduct a substantive dialogue.

Russia considers it extremely important that the disclosure of the facts that reveal the illegal military and biological activities have caused various countries to consider possible consequences of their biosafety cooperation with the USA, and take a fresh look at the necessity and rationale of this kind of cooperation.

– The Russian Defence Ministry will continue its work in this direction and report on it.

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