Tag: Austria

HMS Northumberland welcomes crew for sea trials after upgrade

HMS Northumberland is a Type 23 frigate of the Royal Navy.

Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigate HMS Northumberland has welcomed her crew back following a major refit at the frigate refit complex in Devonport.

Justin Mills, ship project manager, handed over the Type 23 frigate to the new Commander Alexandra Pollard.

This is Pollard’s first command having previously served as the executive officer aboard HMS Richmond.

Now that the ship has been delivered to the crew by shipbuilder Babcock, it is set to undergo a series of sea trials and training evolutions before returning to operations.

The ceremonial handover included the raising of the White Ensign on board.

In addition to upgrades to her weapon systems, infrastructure and navigation equipment, HMS Northumberland received four new diesel generators and associated upgraded power distribution delivered by Rolls-Royce subsidiary MTU. The new generator equipment, being manufactured in Germany and Austria, is being installed at Her Majesty’s Naval Base Devonport during planned upkeep periods. All frigates are set to receive them by 2024.

 

No proof of bribery in Eurofighter deal: Austrian parliament report

Austrian Air Force (German: Österreichische Luftstreitkräfte) Eurofighter Typhoon 7L + WN

VIENNA (Reuters) – A parliamentary inquiry into Austria’s $2 billion Eurofighter deal found no indications of bribery or that Airbus (AIR.PA) and its partners illegally influenced Austrian politicians, according to the final report on the matter.

Lawmakers launched their inquiry in March to check whether politicians might have accepted bribes from the makers of Eurofighter to approve the deal.

Vienna prosecutors are pursuing a separate investigation into allegations of fraud against Airbus and the Eurofighter consortium BAES.l based on earlier complaints from the defense ministry, which is seeking up to 1.1 billion euros in compensation.

Airbus and the consortium, which includes Britain’s BAE Systems (BAES.L) and Italy’s Leonardo (LDOF.MI), rejected the accusations as politically motivated and, on Monday, threatened Austria’s defense minister with legal action.

Allegations that decision-makers pocketed money for their approval of the Eurofighter deal surfaced almost immediately after the original purchase was agreed in 2003.

Legislators investigated a settlement Austria reached with Eurofighter in 2007 to reduce the order to 15 jets from 18 as well as the volume of so-called offset deals meant to provide business for the local economy to 3.5 billion euros ($4.2 billion) from 4 billion. MPs said they did not have enough time to clarify the circumstances of the initial order.

Airbus’s company logo is pictured at the Airbus headquarters in Toulouse,

Former Defence Minister Norbert Darabos, a Social Democrat who negotiated the settlement with Eurofighter, was one of the politicians strongly criticized for allegedly having allowed Airbus to outwit him.

But the parliamentary report said no indications were found “that there would have been unacceptable influence on Darabos and his entourage in the context of the settlement negotiations”.

Airbus declined comment on the report.

It was not immediately clear if the report would have any impact on the separate criminal investigation.

“A parliamentary inquiry is no substitute for the prosecutor and not a criminal court, but it can deliver valuable hints for the prosecutor’s investigation,” said Karlheinz Kopf, who chaired the lawmakers’ inquiry.

While dismissing bribery allegations, the report also repeated a Defence Ministry complaint that the Alpine republic appeared to have been “deceived” regarding its partners’ ability to deliver certain jets as initially agreed.

It also highlighted findings from a decade ago that Airbus had provided millions of euros in sponsorship money in connection with the Eurofighter deal to a soccer club that is seen as close to Austria’s Social Democrats.

The parliamentary report further assessed that Darabos did not liaise sufficiently with other ministries and agencies while negotiating the settlement and was not transparent enough to allow a court audit of the deal.

The legislators wound up their investigation earlier than planned because Austria called snap elections for Oct. 15, a year ahead of schedule. Airbus has clashed with other European governments, notably Germany, before, but the row with Austria is unique in its fury.

The defense ministry said this week said it was open to an out-of-court settlement with Airbus and the consortium. But if no agreement were possible, it would also consider filing a lawsuit based on U.S. rules.

Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; editing by Mark Heinrich

 

Shocking news – most Europeans (and their leaders) actually agree with ‘wicked’ Donald Trump

AFP PHOTO / John MACDOUGALL

Angela Merkel knew she was taking a risk by holding the G20 in Hamburg. Such summits attract protesters with a penchant for balaclavas and Molotov cocktails, so it’s normally safer to use remote resorts, like Evian and Gleneagles, that are easier to defend. But things have been quieter in recent summits and the German elections are coming up in the autumn. So Mrs Merkel decided to hold the G20 a few months early, and invite the world to her birthtown. It all promised to be reasonably quiet, until Donald Trump was elected president.

His welcoming committee has been in the city for some time. A Porsche dealership has been set ablaze, shopkeepers have been boarding up their windows and water cannon were used on protesters even before he arrived. Their general theme, standing up to the wicked Mr Trump, looks set to continue inside the G20 summit itself. Emmanuel Macron, the French president, has called for a “return to reason” on climate change and Mrs Merkel has chosen to hold talks on areas where the EU disagrees with Trump most: trade, immigration and global warming.

So the stage is being set for a clash between progressive European values and American cold-heartedness – but there are two problems with the general idea. The first is that many EU leaders are coming around to Mr Trump’s way of thinking, and the other is that, in many areas, European popular opinion is firmly on his side.

Take his notorious decision to ban immigration from various Muslim countries. Even to raise such a proposal would shock most of those at the G20, and it’s generally taken to be a policy that proves the blackness of Mr Trump’s heart.

But if European voters disagree with him, it’s more likely to be because they don’t think he goes far enough. A survey by Chatham House this year showed that a majority in Austria, France, Germany, Greece and Italy would support a blanket ban on all immigration from Muslim countries. In Poland, which Mr Trump visited first, almost three quarters of the public would back a ban.

President Trump signs ban on Muslims

This does filter through into politics. A few weeks ago, Slovakia’s prime minister declared that Islam has “no place” in his country. The Czech Republic has told the EU it will not take any Muslim asylum seekers.

Mark Rutte only won re-election in the Netherlands after telling immigrants to “behave normally or go away”. They might not say this on Twitter, but the language is as shocking as anything coming out of the White House.

When it comes to building walls against neighbours, Mr Trump should spend his time at the G20 today looking for tips. Macedonia built a wall with Greece last year, Lithuania is currently fencing off Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave, and Norway is building a wall to keep out those making the rather heroic journey 
over its Arctic border with Russia.

Brazil, also a G20 member, has gone for a “virtual” wall, monitored by drones and satellites, around its 10,000-mile border. So you can disagree with Mr Trump’s plan to build a wall, but it’s hard to dismiss the idea as crazy.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, some 40 countries have built fences against 60 neighbours. The nation state is back in demand, as are walls: both are seen as useful tools to help manage a new era of mass immigration. The EU’s idea of borderless travel was invented when net migration was at a fraction of today’s levels. Now, we see chaos. For some Europeans, even a wall is not enough: Austria has been talking about deploying soldiers and armoured vehicles against migrants who might come over from Italy. Enough to shock even Mr Trump.

Border fence on the Hungarian-Serbian border

On trade, it’s unclear what Mrs Merkel – or any EU leader – has to teach. Trump’s “America-first” trade policy simply mimics the Europe-first protectionism that has defined the EU since its inception. Trump has at least decided to keep Nafta, the free trade deal with Canada and Mexico. The EU struggles to agree deals with any of its major trading partners; this week’s much-feted agreement with Japan is only an ‘‘outline’’. And the US has been quicker than the EU to start free trade negotiations with Britain; talks start this month.

The difference is, mainly, one of language. The EU talks about being globally minded, while practising shameless protectionism. Trump boasts about his protectionism, while not (so far) managing to do very much of it.

Even on climate change, Mr Trump is not the villain that he pretends to be. He walked out of the Paris Agreement, but America’s record is – and continues to be – strikingly impressive. Thanks to the fracking energy revolution, and ever-more-efficient cars and machinery, the per capita carbon emissions in the US are now at levels not seen since the 1960s. The work might have been done by basic consumer demand rather than government diktats, but the US is doing rather well with marrying economic growth and decarbonisation.

An attempt by the G20 to sign a draft statement, chiding him on climate change, looked to be falling apart last night. And deservedly so: on the environment, the US should be judged by its achievements, not its promises.

And if Mr Trump saying he’s not too worried about global warming, he’s also speaking for a lot of Europeans. A Pew survey shows just two in five say that they are very concerned about climate change, perhaps because environmental progress is doing rather well under its own steam. So, again, it comes down to language.

 

Mr Trump was elected president, in part because he has a genius for provoking his enemies into a deranged frenzy. But there’s not much point in the EU, or any country, succumbing to the same temptation: this is how populists win.

He might be jaw-droppingly undiplomatic, pointlessly argumentative and routinely offensive – characteristics that needlessly harm America’s reputation. But he won because a great many of his supposedly fringe views are popular and, ergo, mainstream. Hard as it may be for his European counterparts to admit, this is true on both sides of the Atlantic.

Original article: By Fraser Nelson, the Daily Telegraph.

Austrian troops, armored vehicles ready to block migrants crossing from Italy

Austrian Bundeswehr troops equipped with weapons and riot gear on the Austria-Italian border

UPI, By Allen Cone   |   July 4, 2017

July 4 (UPI) — Austria’ plans to use 750 soldiers and four armored vehicles in an effort to block migrants crossing its border from Italy, the government said Tuesday.

Austria is increasing its military presence at Brenner Pass, a key trade and transport route through the Alps, officials said.

Asylum seekers are crossing the Mediterranean from the coast of Libya into Italy — a distance of 290 miles. So far this year, 101,000 migrants have entered Europe from the Mediterranean, and 2,247 people have died or are missing at sea, according to data from the Missing Migrants Project

Italy also has summoned Austria’s ambassador Rene Pollitzer.

The troops are on standby and will be sent to the border if there is an urgent need, officials said.

“I expect border controls will be introduced very soon,” Peter Doskozil, the defence minister, told the newspaper Kronen Zeitung. “But we see how the situation in Italy is becoming more acute and we have to be prepared to avoid a situation comparable to summer 2015.”

Several hundred thousands refugees and migrants streamed into Western Europe along the so-called Balkan Route after crossing the Aegean to Greece from Turkey two years ago.

Austria has border checks with Hungary and Slovenia, but in other areas it adheres to the European Unon open borders system.

France and Switzerland closed their borders to migrants last year.

Italy has said it cannot handle the level of migrant arrivals, and could close its ports and impound aid agencies’ rescue ships.