Good morning. Greece is months away from regaining its investment grade credit rating, its central bank chief has told my Athens colleague, after more than 12 years in the junk-bond wilderness following an economic implosion that threatened the entire eurozone.
Today, we reveal the EU’s plans to source critical raw materials that could mean harming the environment to save the climate, and I explain why Brussels is concerned about Georgia’s MPs punching each other.
To speed up the green transition, the EU wants to source and process more strategic raw materials such as boron or magnesium on its own territory. But at what cost?
Context: the EU is highly dependent on other countries for some of clean tech’s key ingredients such as cobalt, which is used in batteries and mostly comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo and is refined in China.
Draft legislation seen by Laura Dubois and Alice Hancock in Brussels, aims for EU countries to extract enough ores, minerals and concentrates to produce at least 10 per cent of their strategic raw materials by 2030. At least 40 per cent of the used materials should be processed in the EU by then.
But producing the goods to go green could end up harming nature.
The European Commission wants the strategic raw material projects to be considered in the public interest, meaning they could get derogations from certain nature protection laws.
For the commission, speed is of the essence. Under the proposal, mining projects should be given permits in no more than 24 months, with a deadline of 12 months for projects involving only processing and recycling. They may also benefit from a variety of public and private investment schemes.
Conservationists are unsurprisingly unhappy. “We’re very critical of the weakening of protected and high biodiversity areas for mining projects,” said Tobias Kind-Rieper of the WWF.
And what if there are no raw materials to source? Member states should go looking for them, drawing up national exploration programmes to be updated every five years.
Industry players, however, are sceptical whether the new rules can address their true woes.
Evangelos Mytilineos, president of the EU metals trade body Eurometaux, said the bigger issue for the industry was the cost of energy in the bloc.
“Unless they act [on energy], then there’s no reason to introduce the Critical Raw Materials Act because there’ll be no one around to produce any critical raw materials anyway,” Mytilineos said.
The European Commission did not immediately comment on the draft law, which was to be unveiled on March 14.
Chart du jour: Closing in
Russia’s potential capture of Bakhmut would not “change the tide of this fight”, US defence secretary Lloyd Austin said yesterday, amid suggestions Kyiv could order a retreat after almost nine months fighting for the eastern Ukrainian city.
Fist fights in parliament over a law your aspirational western allies say is straight out of Vladimir Putin’s playbook? Not a good look for Georgia’s wheezing democracy.
Context: Georgia, a Nato and EU membership hopeful, was once seen as a beacon of western values in a troubled post-Soviet neighbourhood. But more than a decade of increasingly heavy-handed government by the Georgian Dream party has clouded that image.
Underscoring concerns about its political trajectory is a recently proposed law to regulate “foreign influence” that has been compared to Russian legislation against free media and NGOs.
As lawmakers yesterday debated the law, a brawl broke out in the chamber, during which the chair of the legal affairs committee punched the leader of the opposition United National Movement party, which opposes the legislation.
The law would target organisations which get more than 20 per cent of their funding from overseas, and place them under government monitoring. That’s remarkably similar to Russian legislation passed in 2012, which has since been used to shut down almost all civil society groups and independent media outlets.
Georgian Dream has defended the need for “transparency” of funding; opposition groups said yesterday’s protests against the law would continue.
The country’s would-be international partners meanwhile have roundly condemned the project.
“This legislation is not needed . . . and it is not in Georgia’s best interest,” said US ambassador to Tbilisi Kelly Degnan yesterday. The EU has said it is “inconsistent with [bloc membership] aspirations and with EU norms and values”.
Few will be lining up to launch peace talks. Roughly two years ago, EU council president Charles Michel waded into Georgia’s last major political meltdown, when the leader of the opposition was arrested (an incident that also involved parliamentarians fighting.) Michel struck a deal that April, declaring the crisis “over”. Three months later, Georgian Dream tore it up.
What to watch today
Mass strikes across France’s railways, city transport systems, petrol refineries, power stations and schools by unions protesting pension reforms
EU defence ministers meet for dinner ahead of informal talks tomorrow in Sweden.