European nations zoom in on establishing system to pinpoint how much damage Russia caused in Ukraine
Leaders from across Europe were wrapping a two-day summit on Wednesday, putting the final touches on a system to establish the damage Russia is causing during the war in Ukraine, in the hopes it can be forced to compensate victims and help rebuild the nation once the conflict is over. The Russian invasion of Ukraine was the dominant topic during the meeting in the Icelandic capital, Reykjavík, where delegations from the Council of Europe discussed how the continent’s preeminent human rights organization can support Kyiv. The most tangible outcome of the meeting — the first summit the Council of Europe has held in nearly two decades — is the creation of the register of damages. Expected to be housed in The Hague, the register will allow victims of the war to report the harm they have suffered. Also Read: Russia's threat to exit Ukraine grain deal adds risk to global food security “When we think in terms of reconstruction it’s an enormously important judicial element to have this register of damages to give justice to the victims,” said European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, speaking at the opening of the summit late Tuesday. The record is “intended to constitute the first component of a future international compensation mechanism” according to a Council of Europe document. The operation will be financed by the signatories. Such a register could be used to distribute reparations from a proposed tribunal to prosecute the crime of aggression, another concept backed by the Council of Europe. In his address to the summit on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reiterated his country’s wish for such a court. Also Read: G-7 leaders likely to focus on the war in Ukraine and tensions in Asia at summit in Hiroshima There will be no reliable peace without justice,” he said, speaking to the opening session via video link. The Council of Europe's secretary general, Marija Pejčinović Burić, announced ahead of the summit that the body intends to support the international effort to establish a judicial organ to prosecute the crime of aggression — the literal act of invading another country. The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and another official for war crimes, accusing him of personal responsibility for the abductions of children from Ukraine. But the court lacks the ability to prosecute aggression. Not all of the Council of Europe’s 46 members are backing the damages register, however. Ten countries, including Hungary, Turkey and Serbia have refused to sign up. Switzerland has also not joined, but this is a result of domestic legal requirements, according to Swiss officials, and the Alpine nation plans to become a signatory as soon as possible.
Zelenskyy visits UK on European tour seeking military aid
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was visiting Britain on Monday, as the staunch ally of Ukraine prepares to give more military aid in an effort to change the course of the war. The U.K. government confirmed Zelenskyy's arrival early Monday and said he would meet with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. It is the fourth European country Zelenskky has visited in the past few days. He made an unannounced visit to Paris on Sunday evening to meet French President Emmanuel Macron, after trips to Germany and Italy, where he met those countries' leaders and Pope Francis. A message posted Monday on Zelenskyy's official Telegram Channel said: "Today — London. The UK is leading the way when it comes to expanding our capabilities on the ground and in the air. This cooperation will continue today. I will meet my friend Rishi. We will conduct substantive negotiations face-to-face and in delegations.” Sunak's office confirmed the two leaders would meet at Chequers. the prime minister's country retreat outside London. It's Zelenskyy's second trip to the U.K. since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. The U.K. has become one of Ukraine's major military allies, sending Kyiv short-range missiles and Challenger tanks and training 15,000 Ukrainian troops on British soil. Last week Britain announced it had sent Ukraine Storm Shadow cruise missiles, which have a range of more than 250 kilometers (150 miles) — the first known shipment of the weaponry that Kyiv has long sought from its allies. Sunak's office said that on Monday Britain will confirm it is giving Ukraine hundreds more air defense missiles, as well as “long-range attack drones" with a range of more than 200 kilometers (120 miles). “This is a crucial moment in Ukraine’s resistance to a terrible war of aggression they did not choose or provoke," Sunak said. "They need the sustained support of the international community to defend against the barrage of unrelenting and indiscriminate attacks that have been their daily reality for over a year. “We must not let them down.” Russia stepped up attacks across Ukraine with drones and missiles over the weekend. On Sunday, Russia shelled two communities in the northern border region of Sumy, the region’s military administration said in a statement on its official Telegram channel. It said 109 explosions were recorded. Zelenskyy toured European capitals over the weekend to seek more aid as Ukraine prepares a long-anticipated spring offensive to retake territory seized by Russia. Zelenskyy and Macron met for about three hours at the French presidential Elysee Palace — an encounter kept under wraps until shortly before the Ukrainian leader’s arrival in Paris. Macron’s office said France will supply dozens of light tanks and armored vehicles “in the weeks ahead,” without giving specific numbers. Also promised were more air defense systems, but again details weren’t made public. More Ukrainians will also be made battle-ready, with France aiming to train about 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers in France this year and nearly 4,000 others in Poland as part of a wider European effort, Macron’s office said. France has supplied Ukraine with an array of weaponry, include air defense systems, light tanks, howitzers and other arms and equipment and fuel. France had dispatched a plane to pick up Zelenskyy in Germany, where he met with Chancellor Olaf Scholz earlier Sunday and discussed his country’s planned counteroffensive. It was his first visit to Berlin since the start of the invasion and came a day after the German government announced a new package of military aid for Ukraine worth more than 2.7 billion euros ($3 billion), including tanks, anti-aircraft systems and ammunition. After initially hesitating to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons, Germany has become one of the biggest suppliers of arms to Ukraine, including Leopard 1 and 2 battle tanks, and the sophisticated IRIS-T SLM air defense system. Modern Western hardware is considered crucial if Ukraine is to succeed in its planned counteroffensive. In the western German city of Aachen, Zelenskyy also received the prestigious International Charlemagne Prize, awarded to him and the people of Ukraine. On Saturday. he met Francis and Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni in Rome. On the European trip, Zelenskyy said it will aim to liberate Russian-occupied areas within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, and not attack Russian territory. The Washington Post cited previously undisclosed documents from a trove of U.S. intelligence leaks suggesting that Zelenskyy has considered trying to capture areas in Russia proper for possible use as bargaining chips in peace negotiations to end the war launched by Moscow in February 2022. This would put him at odds with Western governments that have insisted that weapons they provide must not be used to attack targets in Russia. Asked about the report, Zelenskyy said: “We don’t attack Russian territory, we liberate our own legitimate territory.” “We have neither the time nor the strength (to attack Russia),” he said, according to an official interpreter. “And we also don’t have weapons to spare with which we could do this.” “We are preparing a counterattack for the illegally occupied areas based on our constitutionally defined legitimate borders, which are recognized internationally,” Zelenskyy said. Among areas still occupied by Russia are the Crimean peninsula and parts of eastern Ukraine with mainly Russian-speaking populations.
In the EU’s inflation crisis, the humble egg takes the cake
The humble egg has become a star performer for all the wrong reasons as inflation has hit households across the European Union extremely hard over the year. The EU's statistical agency Eurostat announced Friday that the average price of an egg — that important staple for poor families and gourmet cooks alike — had risen by 30% over the year to January 2023, becoming a symbol of how the cost of living has hit everyone in the 27-nation bloc. Even if the latest inflation figures show that annual inflation in the 20-nation eurozone has started to decline to 8.5% in February, the sector of food, alcohol and tobacco continued to rise and stood at 15%. Also Read: European inflation eases for 3rd month but prices still bite And then, eggs outperform just about all. Two years ago, egg inflation still stood at a lean 1%, rising to 7% the year after before reaching 30% in February. Egg prices were whipped up the most in the Czech Republic, rising 85% over the year, followed closely by two other central European nations — Hungary (80%) and Slovakia (79%). Germany and Luxembourg stood at the other end, with both experiencing a relatively lower increase of 18%. In the United States, egg prices have surged over the past year because of the ongoing bird flu outbreak and the highest inflation in decades. The national average retail price of a dozen eggs hit $4.25 in December, up from $1.79 a year earlier, according to the latest government data.
A look at some of Europe’s train disasters in recent times
A head-on collision between a passenger train and a freight train in Greece has killed dozens of people and injured scores more. Rail travel in Europe is a common and relatively affordable and convenient way for many Europeans to travel. It also has a good safety record overall, growing safer in past years. Yet the tragedy in Greece is a reminder of how deadly crashes can be when they happen. Here is a look at some of the most deadly train crashes in recent years. FUNICULAR FIRE In November 2000, a cable car on a funicular railway caught fire in a mountain tunnel in Kaprun, Austria, killing 155 people. Those who died were skiers and snowboarders heading to the slopes of the Kitzsteinhorn mountain. Read more: Rescuers comb wreckage of Greece’s deadliest train crash HIGH-SPEED TRAIN HITS BRIDGE In June 1998, a high-speed train traveling at 200 kph (125 mph) collided with a bridge at Eschede, Germany, causing it to collapse, a crash that killed 101 people and injured more than 100. It was Germany’s deadliest postwar rail disaster. SPANISH COMMUTER TRAIN In July 2013, a commuter train hurtled off the rails as it came around a bend near the northwestern Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela, killing 80 and injuring 145 others. An investigation showed the train was traveling 179 kph (111 mph) on a stretch with an 80 kph (50 mph) speed limit when it left the tracks and smashed into a wall. The case finally went to trial in October with the driver and a former railway security director accused of professional negligence. A verdict is expected in the coming months. SPANISH SUBWAY TRAIN A subway train traveling at excessive speed crashed in an underground tunnel in the eastern city of Valencia in July 2006, killing 43 people and injuring scores more. It took 13 years for a court to find four managers of the city’s subway system guilty of negligent manslaughter for not taking the necessary safety measures needed to prevent the tragedy. Read more: Fiery Greece train collision kills 32, injures at least 85 TRAIN PLUNGES INTO RAVINE In January 2006, a failure of the braking system in a train caused it to derail and plunge into a ravine outside the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica. The crash killed 45 people, including five children, and injured a further 184. It was the worst train disaster in Montenegro’s history. EXPLOSION AT STATION In 2009, a freight train carrying gas derailed at the Viareggio station, near the Tuscan city of Lucca, and exploded, killing 32 people. Poorly maintained axels of the train were blamed. HEAD-ON CRASH IN LONDON The worst rail crash in Britain in the past 30 years happened in October 1999, when a train heading out of London’s Paddington station went through a red light and crashed into an incoming high-speed train, killing 31 people. Around 400 people were injured. COMMUTER TRAINS CRASH In July 2016, two Italian commuter trains collided head-on in late morning between towns in the southern region of Puglia, killing 31 people and injuring scores more. An investigation found an error of communication between the stations that each train had departed from. RUSH HOUR CRASH NEAR BRUSSELS On Feb. 15, 2010, two commuter trains slammed into one another just outside Brussels during morning rush hour when one ran a red light. In all, 19 people were killed and 171 injured in the nation’s worst train crash. Compounding the tragedy was that a similar red-light crash had happened years before and that promises to add security measures weren’t fully implemented.
‘Love doesn’t exist’: Immigrants defy forced marriage abroad
From the day of her birth in Pakistan, Iram Aslam was betrothed to a cousin 17 days older. But to the young woman, who emigrated as a teenager to this Italian farm town on the Po River plain, the cousin felt like a brother. So on a visit to her homeland, she played for time, telling her aunts she wasn’t ready for marriage. “They did everything possible to make me marry him,″ said Aslam, now 29. She said she told them: ”‘I don’t want to marry him and please don’t ask me anymore.’” Her family, in both Italy and Pakistan, kept scheming to have her wed a man of their choice — and their caste. Aslam dismissed around 30 potential husbands. “In the end, I made everyone angry, and no one talks to me anymore,” she said of her relatives in Pakistan. In two murder trials this month, Italian prosecutors are seeking justice for Pakistani immigrant women allegedly killed because they refused marriages imposed by their parents. The cases highlight differences, often misconstrued as religion-based, between centuries-old immigrants’ cultural traditions and Western values prizing individualism. Also Read: Nearly 1 million asylum requests in the EU in 2022 “I liked another person, wanted another one,″ Aslam said of her own situation. “But they didn’t want it, because among us, love doesn’t exist.” Love is viewed “as a sin,” she added, her thick, wavy brown hair covered by a multicolored headscarf. She asked that her face not be fully shown for fear of further antagonizing Pakistani neighbors in Guastalla, a town of 15,000 where they are the dominant immigrant community. To escape marriage-obsessed relatives, Aslam went for a time to live in Germany. But there was no escape for 18-year-old Saman Abbas. Like Aslam, she emigrated as a teenager from Pakistan to an Italian farm town, Novellara, 11 kilometers (seven miles) from Guastalla. In what appears to be an identity card photo taken shortly after her arrival, Abbas’ face is framed by a black hijab, or headscarf. But the young woman quickly embraced Western ways, appearing in social media posts with her hair tumbling out from under a bright red headband. In one, she and her Pakistani boyfriend were shown kissing on a street in the regional capital, Bologna. According to Italian investigators, that kiss enraged Abbas’ parents, who wanted their daughter to marry a cousin in Pakistan. Also Read: Italy contributes €3mn to UNHCR for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh In November, her body was dug up in the ruins of a Novellara farmhouse. She had last been seen alive a few hundred yards away on April 30, 2021, in surveillance camera video as she walked with her parents on the watermelon farm where her father worked. A few days later, her parents caught a flight from Milan to Pakistan. Abbas had reportedly told her boyfriend she feared for her life, because she refused to be married to an older man in her homeland. An autopsy revealed a broken neck bone, possibly caused by strangulation. An uncle and a cousin were extradited from France, and another cousin from Spain. They are now on trial in Reggio Emilia, the provincial capital with jurisdiction over Novellara, accused of Abbas’ murder. Also indicted is her father, Shabbir Abbas, arrested in his village in eastern Punjab. The whereabouts of her mother, who is also charged, are unknown. A lawyer for her father, Akhtar Mahmood, told Italian state television that the young woman’s family is innocent. He disputed prosecutors’ allegations, contending that she had wanted to return with her family to Pakistan to flee Western ways. Asked about Italy’s request for Shabbir Abbas’ extradition, Pakistan’s ambassador to Italy, Ali Javed, told The Associated Press that the Pakistani government would “not hesitate” to do so. However, Italy has no extradition treaty with Pakistan. Javed blamed “individual ignorance″ for forced marriage, which is illegal in Pakistan. In 2019, Italy made coercing an Italian citizen or resident into marriage, even abroad, a crime covered under domestic violence laws. Late this month, police in Spain detained the father of two sisters who were allegedly murdered while visiting family in Pakistan. The women had reportedly refused to have their husbands come to Spain after being forced to marry their cousins. In the United Kingdom, home to Europe’s largest Pakistani community, the government’s Forced Marriage Unit cautioned that the problem of forced marriage isn’t “specific to one country, religion or culture” and said statistics don’t reflect “the full scale of the abuse” since forced marriage is a “hidden crime.” Under the Italian justice system, civil plaintiffs can attach lawsuits for damages to criminal trials, and two organizations representing Islamic communities in Italy are among those suing in the Abbas trial. Other plaintiffs include women’s advocacy organizations. Tiziana Dal Pra, whose group, Trama delle Terre, promotes intercultural relations, said that while violence surrounding forced marriage “gets interpreted as religious,” what’s really at play is “patriarchal control” of women’s bodies. In December, a court in the northern city of Brescia convicted and gave five-year prison sentences to three Pakistani immigrants — the parents and older brother of four girls — for beating them and keeping them out of school. According to court documents, the parents threatened their daughters that if they refused arranged marriages, they would end up like that “girl in Pakistan.” The court said that threat referred to 25-year-old Sana Cheema, who was slain when she returned from Italy to Pakistan in 2018, allegedly at her parents’ insistence. By her friends’ accounts, Cheema, who had taken Italian citizenship, loved her life in Brescia, where she worked out at a gym, went out for coffee with girlfriends and danced with them at a disco. She was proud of her job teaching at a driving school in the northern city. Brescia prosecutors are now trying Cheema’s father and brother in absentia on a novel charge: murder in violation of the political right to marry one’s own choice. In 2019, a court in Pakistan acquitted the two on murder charges, citing insufficient evidence. But Italy’s justice ministry ruled the Brescia trial could go forward since Pakistan and Italy have no agreement governing cases involving so-called judicial double jeopardy. Cheema’s family initially told Pakistani authorities that she died of a heart attack the day before she was supposed to fly back to Italy. Two friends testified in Brescia this month that Cheema told them her parents wanted her to marry a cousin in Pakistan. They also quoted from Facebook messages in which Cheema said her parents had confiscated her passport and phone in Pakistan. With the Italian Embassy closely following the case, Cheema’s body was exhumed. An autopsy indicated she was likely strangled. Prosecuting the case in Italy sends the message that “exercising the right of who you want to live with, above all, who you want to marry, is a political right” to be guaranteed “with utmost firmness,” Brescia Prosecutor General Guido Rispoli told the AP. At the edge of a field near the farmhouse where Saman Abbas’ body was found, mourners have left a stuffed toy squirrel and bunches of flowers at an improvised shrine. “It will continue to happen, I tell you, that’s how it is,″ Aslam said of violence linked to forced marriage. What progress has been made with trials like the ones in Reggio Emilia and Brescia isn’t enough, she added: “It’s like salt in flour.”
UK’s Sunak set to say security guarantees need for Ukraine
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Saturday will call on world leaders to “double down” on support for Ukraine, saying arms and security guarantees are needed to protect the country and the rest of Europe from Russian aggression now and in the future. Sunak will deliver the message in a speech to the Munich Security Conference, an annual meeting of heads of state, defense ministers and other world leaders. This year’s meeting will focus on threats to the accepted rules of international relations a year after Russian troops invaded Ukraine. Highlighting Britain’s recent commitment to provide battle tanks, advanced air defense systems and longer-range missiles to Ukraine, Sunak will urge other nations to follow suit before Russia launches an expected spring offensive. “Now is the moment to double down on our military support,” Sunak said in excerpts released ahead of the speech. “When Putin started this war, he gambled that our resolve would falter. Even now he is betting we will lose our nerve.” Sunak will also call on NATO to provide long-term security guarantees for Ukraine. Such commitments are necessary to shield Ukraine from future Russian aggression and to protect the system of international rules that have helped keep the peace since the end of World War II, Sunak is expected to say. “It’s about the security and sovereignty of every nation,” Sunak says in the excerpts. “Because Russia’s invasion, its abhorrent war crimes and irresponsible nuclear rhetoric are symptomatic of a broader threat to everything we believe in.”
Bodies of 18 migrants found in abandoned truck in Bulgaria
Police in Bulgaria on Friday discovered an abandoned truck containing the bodies of 18 migrants, who appeared to have suffocated to death. The Interior Ministry said that according to initial information, the truck was carrying about 40 migrants and the survivors were taken to nearby hospitals for emergency treatment. Bulgarian Health Minister Assen Medzhidiev said most of the survivors were in very bad condition. “They have suffered from lack of oxygen, their clothes are wet, they are freezing, and obviously haven’t eaten for days,” Medzhidiev said. The truck was found abandoned on a highway near the capital, Sofia. The driver was not there, but police discovered the passengers in a secret compartment below a load of timber. Authorities did not immediately give the nationalities of the migrants. Bulgarian media reported they all were from Afghanistan. Bulgaria, a Balkan country of 7 million and the poorest member of the European Union, is located on a major route for migrants from the Middle East and Afghanistan seeking to enter Europe from Turkey. Very few plan to stay, with most using Bulgaria as a transit corridor on their way westward. Bulgaria has erected a barbed-wire fence along its 259-kilometer (161-mile) border with Turkey, but with the help of local human traffickers many migrants still manage to enter. Read more: 37 Bangladeshi migrants feared dead trying to reach Europe: Govt In Britain in October 2019, police found the bodies of 39 people inside a refrigerated container that had been hauled to England. British police said all the victims, who ranged in age from 15 to 44, came from impoverished villages in Vietnam and were believed to have paid smugglers to take them on a risky journey to better lives abroad. Police said they died of a combination of a lack of oxygen and overheating in an enclosed space. The truck discovered in the town of Grays, east of London, had arrived in England on a ferry from Zeebrugge in Belgium.
European inflation eases for 3rd month but prices still bite
Europe's inflation rate dipped at the start of the year, giving some relief to consumers but still leaving them facing higher prices that have driven protests and will likely press the European Central Bank into another interest rate hike Thursday. The consumer price index for the 20 countries that use the euro currency reached 8.5% in January compared with a year earlier, European Union statistics agency Eurostat said Wednesday. That's down from the annual rate of 9.2% in December. It's the first report on consumer prices that includes data from Croatia, which joined the eurozone on Jan. 1, but lacked unavailable figures from Germany, Europe's biggest economy. Inflation in Europe has now slowed for the third month in a row, falling from a record high of 10.6% in October. Food and energy prices are persisting as the major factors driving up European inflation. Prices for food, alcohol and tobacco rose at a 14.1% annual pace in January, while energy prices rose 17.2%. Russia's war in Ukraine has shaken up food and energy markets, and while commodity prices have fallen from all-time highs last year, consumers are not yet seeing relief on their utility and grocery bills. Natural gas prices have dropped from records last summer thanks to a scramble to find supplies outside Russia and warmer winter weather that eased energy demand for heating. While Europe may have dodged fears of energy rationing and shortages after Russia cut off most supplies, natural gas prices are still three times higher than before Russia started massing troops on Ukraine’s border. The energy upheaval has made the cost-of-living squeeze more painful in continental Europe and the United Kingdom than in the U.S., leading to protests and strikes from workers in several countries seeking pay that keeps pace with inflation. U.S. annual inflation dropped to 6.5% in December, while the U.K. reading of 10.5% signaled how the British economy was a striking exception to the International Monetary Fund's brighter outlook for 2023. Read more: Europe's inflation slows again but cost of living still high In the eurozone, so-called core inflation, which doesn't include volatile food and energy costs, held steady at 5.2% last month, underlining how prices also are rising for both services and goods such as clothing, appliances, cars and computers. Germany’s inflation number wasn’t available because of a technical issue so an estimate was used. Economists said that means the inflation figure should be taken with a pinch of salt. Still, “when it comes to monetary policy, this is just noise,” Jack Allen-Reynolds of Capital Economics said in a report. “The core inflation rate is sending a clear signal: underlying price pressures remain strong.” With inflation far above its target of 2%, the ECB has been raising interest rates that make it more expensive for consumers to borrow money. Aiming to get price spikes under control, the central bank is expected to institute another half-point hike Thursday. That will come a day after a decision by the U.S. Federal Reserve and the same day the Bank of England acts on borrowing costs. The central bank moves to cool inflation also strain the economy, with Europe eking out just 0.1% growth in the final three months of last year and 3.5% for all of 2022. That outpaced the 2.1% expansion in the U.S. and China’s 3% growth last year.
Iran sanctions Europeans over criticism of protest crackdown
Iran on Wednesday announced sanctions targeting more than 30 European individuals and entities, portraying the move as a response to recent European sanctions against officials linked to a crackdown on nationwide protests. Those targeted with sanctions include Britain's attorney general and army chief of staff, several European parliamentarians and European military officials. Also targeted are the French intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy and three senior staffers at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which recently published a series of cartoons lampooning Iran's clerical rulers. The sanctions would bar travel to Iran and allow authorities to block bank accounts and confiscate property in Iran. Those targeted are unlikely to have either, rendering the move largely symbolic. The move came two days after the European Union widened its sanctions to target dozens of Iranian officials and organizations linked to the violent suppression of recent protests. It stopped short of branding Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group despite an appeal from the European Parliament. Iran has long been under heavy U.S. and European sanctions linked to its disputed nuclear program and support for regional militant groups. The nuclear sanctions were lifted under a landmark 2015 agreement with world powers, but President Donald Trump restored them after unilaterally withdrawing the U.S. from the deal. Read more: US imposes more sanctions on Iran over Mahsa Amini's death Iranians have taken to the streets since September over the death of a 22-year-old woman who was arrested by the morality police for allegedly violating Iran's strict Islamic dress code. The demonstrations have called for the overthrow of Iran's theocracy and pose one of the biggest challenges to the ruling clerics since the 1979 revolution that brought them to power. Rights groups say security forces have used live ammunition, bird shot and beatings to disperse protests. At least 527 protesters have been killed and over 19,500 people have been arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that has closely monitored the unrest. Iranian authorities have not provided an official count of those killed or detained, and have blamed the protests and violence on foreign powers without providing evidence. The demonstrators say they are fed up after decades of social and political repression by a clerical leadership they view as corrupt and incompetent.
France, Germany renew alliance strained amid war in Ukraine
France and Germany are seeking to overcome differences laid bare by Russia's war in Ukraine and shore up their alliance with a day of ceremonies and talks Sunday on Europe’s security, energy and other challenges. Germany’s entire Cabinet is in Paris for joint meetings, and 300 lawmakers from both countries are coming together at the Sorbonne University to mark 60 years since a landmark treaty sealed a bond between the longtime enemies that underpins today’s European Union. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will oversee two rounds of talks at the Elysee Palace, focusing first on energy and economic policy, and then on defense. Read more: German caution on Ukraine arms rooted in political culture A top priority is working out Europe’s response to the subsidies for U.S. electric car makers and other businesses in the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act, according to senior French and German officials. France wants Europe to counter what it considers an unfair move by Washington. Paris is pushing for the EU to relax rules on state subsidies in order to accelerate their allocation, simplify the bloc's support for investments and create an EU sovereign fund to boost green industries. Berlin, however, warns against protectionism. On defense, the neighbors are expected to discuss military aid to Ukraine, according to French and German officials who weren't authorized to be publicly named according to their governments’ policies. Both countries have contributed significant weaponry, but Ukraine is asking for tanks and more powerful arms as Russia’s war drags on. Read more: Russia claims progress in eastern Ukraine; Kyiv craves tanks The war has exposed differences in strategy between the two countries, notably in European talks on how to deal with the resulting energy crisis and punishing inflation, as well as over future military investment. Sunday’s gathering is the first such in-person joint government meeting since 2019. It was originally scheduled for October, but was repeatedly delayed. The officials are marking the 60th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty signed by French President and wartime anti-Nazi resistance leader Charles de Gaulle and West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer on Jan. 22, 1963.