Cтраница новостей Europe


Kosovo: bloodshed has already begun

The process of normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, orchestrated by the West, is on the verge of breakdown. The situation in northern Kosovo has deteriorated sharply in recent days. The disturbances began on May 29 in Zvecan, where clashes between Serb demonstrators and NATO forces resulted in injuries of about 50 Serbs and about 40 soldiers of the KFOR mission. Official Belgrade considers the Kosovo special forces, whose fighters took control of the local government buildings in the predominantly Serb populated municipalities of Zvecan, Zubin Potok, northern Kosovska Mitrovica, and Leposavic, to be the instigator of the conflict. The elected Albanian mayors began their work on 26 May, following the municipal elections held the month before. The strange situation was due to the boycott of the vote by the main local political force, the Serb List, supported by Belgrade. The turnout in these areas was only 3.5% (!). However, the United States and the European Union considered the elections to be legitimate. The story itself began last November, when the Serb leaders of local municipalities collectively resigned because of disagreement with the decision of the Kosovo government to begin re-registering about 10,000 cars with Serbian to "Republic of Kosovo" plates. This is actually why there was a need for new elections. In Zvecan, Serbs blocked the passage of the Kosovar mayors, elected with little support, to their workplaces. KFOR fighters responded by trying to disperse the protesters with rubber bullets, stun grenades, and tear gas. The protesters reacted with stones and bottles. By order of President Aleksandar Vucic, the Serbian army was put on high alert, and some forces were redeployed to the border with Kosovo. The North Atlantic Alliance, for its part, decided to urgently redeploy 700 troops to support the 4,000 KFOR troops on the ground. "A big explosion is brewing in the center of Europe. In the very place where in 1999 NATO carried out aggression against Yugoslavia in violation of every imaginable principle of the Helsinki Final Act and OSCE documents. The situation is alarming, but the West has embarked on a course of total subjugation of everyone who in any way expresses his own opinion," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, commenting on the situation in Kosovo. In fact, both sides bet on escalation instead of following the normalization agreements that President Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti reached in Brussels on February 27 and finally consolidated on March 18 in Ohrid, North Macedonia, mediated by the EU. Observers generally consider the current crisis the most dangerous escalation since the 1998-1999 armed conflict and Kosovo's declaration of independence in 2008. At the summit of the European political community, which ended in Moldova on June 2, the two leaders of the opposing sides tried to attract the attention of the participants, proving each of them right. In vain. Brussels believes that it has already fulfilled its peacekeeping function by mediating in the difficult negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo. Now, they say, it's a matter of implementing the agreements at the bilateral level. However, neither Pristina nor Belgrade considers it possible to retreat. They do not seem to care that the failure of the agreements will close the process of integration into the European Union, and for Kosovo – also into NATO. Apparently, the case went "on principle." EU and U.S. emissaries arrived in Belgrade on May 5 in an attempt to help resolve the crisis. Vucic is called upon to lower the level of combat readiness of the armed forces and withdraw units from the border. One thing that draws attention is the harsh pressure from the U.S. on the Pristina authorities, which is quite unexpected. The State Department said that it was the decision to gain access to municipal buildings by force that led to the "abrupt and unnecessary escalation." The Kosovars seem to have acted contrary to U.S. advice. In order to defuse some of the tension, there is a strong demand from across the ocean to place elected mayors in "alternative facilities." However, Prime Minister Kurti said that Belgrade was to blame for leading an "extremist mob," and that he would reduce the police presence only after "the criminal groups are gone." According to him, a new vote could only be considered if there were peaceful protests. Now there is no such possibility. By the way, Pristina has already been punished for its insubordination and disobedience: the U.S. ostentatiously excluded Kosovo from the last stage of the Defender Europe-23 exercise, which began with the participation of Kosovo security forces on May 21. In the meantime, the situation continues to escalate. Even though a failure to reach an agreement would cost both sides a high price. For President Vucic and Prime Minister Kurti, for example, their future political careers are at stake. Whether the U.S. and EU mediators will be able to calm the tensions and pacify the conflicting sides again is a big question.

"Drunk" summit

The second meeting of the European Political Community was held in Moldova's Mimi Castle, where both wine tasting rooms were working at full capacity. The summit of the European Political Community, which ended on June 2 in Moldova, did not bring any concrete results. What, however, is expected: the platform was created for discussions and not for decision-making. However, Moldovan President Sandu and her Ukrainian colleague Zelensky did not believe in it until the very end. For some reason they hoped that the participants would discuss and voice the outlines of a "road map" that would lead Chisinau and Kiev to the European Union in the near future. Sadly, it didn't happen. "All they talked about was Serbia, Putin, sanctions against Russia. <...> This is their only conversation," summed up Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who tried in vain to draw attention to the escalating conflict in northern Kosovo. And Romanian President Klaus Iohannis gave a punch in the gut, advising Chisinau and Kiev not to make plans to join the EU in the near future. "There should be no illusions, these procedures are very complicated. You may get the impression that they will never end, but these are necessary things," he said. Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer was even harsher, promising not to let the "couple" join the European integration bloc. In general, it was usual European talk "à la Brussels or Strasbourg" with the Moldavian wine, which was pouring like a river. As a result, Sandu did not get the "green light" to the EU, while Zelensky, in addition, got extra money and fighter jets. But a loud scandal did occur. The office of the Moldovan president was forced to quickly deny the statement spread on the Internet about Sandu's readiness to allow the AFU into the country so that the "soldiers of light" could gain access to Russian military depots in Transnistria and to deal with local separatists at the same time. Zelensky also confirmed that this was a fake.  "Ukraine has no legal basis for military action in Transnistria unless the Moldovan authorities ask for it. <.... > And no such request has been received yet," he stated with regret. At the same time, the head of the Kiev regime did not hide his desire to get to Transnistria and drive out the Russian military contingent, which, among other things, is responsible for the security of the largest Russian military warehouse in Eastern Europe, where, according to Western sources, 22 kilotons of ammunition are stored.  "We see where the aggression is coming from, who the aggressor is. But the Russian contingent has been in Transnistria for more than 30 years. And how long will it stay there? This question must be answered," Zelensky noted. By the way, in spite of Moscow, he called for stopping the talks on the Transnistrian settlement in the "5+2" format (the "five" includes the OSCE, Russia, Ukraine, the U.S. and the EU observers, and the "two" includes Moldova and Transnistria. – Auth.). And he boldly stated that Kiev was ready to take the leading role in this process. However, Zelensky has been inadequate for a long time. The participants, and probably the doctors as well, were alerted by the video of his meeting with the British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in the margins of the summit. It was clearly visible, that this is not a character tired of a light Moldavian "Aligoté", but a man densely "sitting" on drugs. Zelenski was, as the cameras recorded, in a state of extreme abstinence or, to put it simply, withdrawal. Now it's time to figure out what kind of new forum this is – the European Political Community, to the second meeting of which almost 50 presidents and heads of government of European countries dutifully arrived. All of them from the entire EU space (heavyweights like President Macron, Chancellor Scholz, the chief of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen), and, in addition, from Great Britain, Azerbaijan, Iceland, Georgia and Armenia. And a number of other states. The instigator of the initiative was restless Emmanuel Macron, who announced it in May last year. His decision was allegedly affected by the escalation of the Ukrainian crisis. The European Political Community is an intergovernmental organization established for political and strategic discussions on the future of Europe, including issues of strengthening security and stability. The first meeting was held in Prague on October 6, 2022, with the participation of 44 countries. As for poor but ambitious Moldova, such a representative international forum was a headache not only for the local security services, but also for the additional forces brought in from the EU. Exercises were held throughout May. During the summit airspace was open only for aircraft carrying official delegations. The village of Bulboaca, where the Mimi castle (30 km from Chisinau) is located, was taken into a tight ring of defense. What's more, the authorities decided to celebrate the last bell in the schools a little earlier than usual, on May 30, not 31! It is connected to the fact that since May 31 foreign guests started arriving to Moldova. On the positive side, the road leading from the capital to the village was repaired, the Chisinau railway station and the Bulboaca railway station were renovated. To prepare for the event, which she regarded as her benefit, President Sandu seriously strained the state treasury. She also strained herself along with her friend Zelensky, who, it should be noted, tried with all his might to push her to the background. But the "drunk" summit did not yield the desirable results. Even the wine did not help.  

European Parliament wants to humiliate Hungary

The elected officials of Europe think that Budapest is an ugly duckling and unworthy of chairing the Council of Europe. Hungary and Greece finally blocked the 11th package of European anti-Russian sanctions, which "aims to combat the circumvention of restrictive measures. These countries, according to Brussels, are using their opposition to the new wave of restrictions, seeking to use this "political leverage" in order to get their companies removed from the Ukrainian list of "international sponsors of war." They assume that this issue should not be dealt with by individual EU members, but by the European Commission. The fact that Budapest and Athens are slowing down the practice of increasing pressure on Russia does not please European officials and MEPs. It has reached the point of absurdity: several parties in the European Parliament have drafted a resolution to deprive Hungary of its rotating presidency of the Council of Europe next summer. The initiators of this unprecedented action raise the question of whether Budapest "can fulfill this task in good faith, given its non-compliance with EU law and its deviation from the values enshrined in Article 2 of the EU Treaty, as well as from the principles of sincere cooperation." The document calls on EU governments "to find an appropriate solution as soon as possible," which MEPs will undoubtedly support. Let me remind you of the provision of this very Article 2: "The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are shared by the member states within a society characterized by pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men." And the Hungarian authorities (nasty!) oppose the promotion of sodomite perversions and stand for the preservation of the authority of the church and family, for a fair distribution of financial benefits within the EU and the rejection of the migration policy imposed by Brussels. The project, which will be put to a vote soon, is supported not only by the three largest parties of the European Parliament – the conservative European People's Party, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats and the liberal Renew Europe faction – but also by the Greens and the Left. It is noteworthy that Hungary is to begin its six-month presidency on July 1, 2024, less than a month after the next elections to the European Parliament. Who knows what the new composition of this legislative body will be? That is why the current servants of the European people, ignoring pluralism, tolerance and non-discrimination, are in a hurry to humiliate the Magyars in advance. For the record, the Presidency of the Council of the EU is tasked with representing this body in its dealings with the other institutions of the European Union. This country discusses the texts of laws with the European Parliament and contacts the European Commission. The main concern is to "translate EU priorities into concrete and formal decisions under the leadership of the European Council." It turns out that Hungary, which defends "normal" values and its national interests, in the opinion of the overwhelming number of MEPs, is not worthy of this role. Unworthy. Hungarian government official Zoltán Kovács said that MEPs were resorting to "the old, tired accusation that Hungary violates the basic principles of the EU and therefore cannot chair it. "But the real reason is different: they do not like our peaceful position, and they seek to drag us into the conflict," he added. The point is that Budapest believes that endless sanctions against Russia are already hurting Europe itself – and is against giving "unlimited" military and financial aid to Ukraine. "We will not allow them to take this opportunity from Hungary (Presidency of the Council of Europe. – Auth.)," stressed Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga. The rest of Europe does not understand what the Magyars are guided by in their actions, and the media of the collective West twist the facts. For example, the American news agency Bloomberg wrote a couple of days ago that Hungary is negotiating with Qatar to buy gas in order to "reduce dependence on Russia in the field of energy." And here is Prime Minister Viktor Orban's direct speech: "Half of Hungary's energy needs are covered by long-term contracts from Russia. For the other half we have to find other partners. We are looking for partners all over the world, and Qatar is a potential partner for us." What does "reducing dependence" mean? Especially since negotiations with this Persian Gulf country are still ongoing. If they succeed, supplies will begin no earlier than 2026. Until then, should they be freezing? Let me remind you that Hungary, which is not always obedient to the EU system, has the possibility, if necessary, to receive larger volumes of Russian natural gas than stipulated in the existing long-term contract. This was agreed upon by the Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Economic Relations, Peter Szijjártó, during his visit to Moscow. Additional supplies are coming through the Turkish Stream pipeline. So the Hungarians are not threatened by a freeze.

Germany finally slipped into recession

The key problem is inflation. Because of it, the technical recession can turn into a deeper and longer crisis. The entire European Union will be in trouble. Everyone was breathing a sigh of relief. Not Germany's GDP contraction, but just zero in the first quarter of this year, as reported by the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) at the end of April, looked almost miraculous. But the miracle did not happen. After additional data was collected and processed more carefully, German statisticians revised their preliminary estimate and on May 25 it was announced that GDP declined by 0.3% in the first three months compared to the fourth quarter of 2022. The latter, in turn, ended with a minus of 0.5% compared to the preceding three-month period. According to the accepted scientific definition, a contraction of the economy for two quarters in a row means a recession. Germany experienced its previous one in 2020 due to the pandemic of the insidious coronavirus. At that time, GDP collapsed (after a decade of economic growth) by 4.9% in annual terms. Experts are now wondering how long and deep the current recession will be. Will it be limited to two quarters of negative growth and a technical recession, or will Europe's largest economy face a longer and more severe crisis? And this, of course, will inevitably affect the whole European Union. Destatis names a decline in individual consumption "due to the still high rate of price increases" – for food, beverages, clothing, shoes, and furniture – as the main reason responsible for the decline in GDP. Germans bought fewer new cars than usual, which is partly attributed to the abolition of subsidies for the purchase of plug-in hybrids (cars with both internal combustion engine and electric motor. – Auth.) and their reduction in the purchase of electric cars. The decline in consumer spending was 1.2% (excluding price increases, seasonal and calendar factors), but it was enough to knock out the entire economy. Why do German economists and statisticians call the current recession merely a "technical recession"? They use this term to describe a situation in which a decrease in GDP is formally recorded, but it does not lead to painful symptoms of the economic crisis: widespread curtailment of production, a sharp increase in bankruptcies, mass unemployment. Paradoxically, employment in Germany, which has a severe skills shortage, continues to rise. Destatis notes that compared to the first quarter of last year, the number of self-employed rose by 446,000 to 45.6 million. This means that the main macroeconomic problem is still inflation, and not only in Germany, but in the entire European Union. In mid-May, the European Commission presented its own GDP growth forecast for "its possessions" this year, highlighting unexpectedly stable core inflation. This figure does not take into account the strongly fluctuating prices of energy and unprocessed foods. And energy resources in the eurozone have become very cheap, especially natural gas. Because of the Ukrainian crisis and the disruption of Nord Stream, the price of a thousand cubic meters soared to a whopping $3,500 at the end of last summer. Now futures contracts with delivery "one month ahead" on the gas hub TTF in the Netherlands are trading at about $280. And they are moving steadily closer to the $150-$250 range in which they have fluctuated over the past decade. A barrel of Brent oil, which cost about $120 a year ago, is now selling for $75-77. The same is happening with coal. We are talking, however, about stock prices. It will probably take a few months for German consumers to see the reduction in retail electricity rates. But gasoline at gas stations was already cheaper in the spring than last year. To summarize, Germany's economy is currently teetering on the dangerous brink. Either it will fail and slide into the abyss, dragging the entire European Union down with it, or it will still hold on to zero GDP figures. Growth, judging by statistical estimates, is out of the question. Neither the revival of the German defense industry, nor the fact that investment activity of German companies has grown and export volumes have increased, can help the situation. What, as they say, is the bottom line? Food sales in Germany fell by 10.3% in May compared with last year's figures. The traditional "sausage-makers" set another anti-record in meat consumption. There has not been such a decline in Germany since 1989. Against the backdrop of economic problems, the coalition government is also in trouble. Until recently German Vice-Chancellor and Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) was the public's favorite, but now he has fallen to the bottom of the second ten in the popularity rating of politicians. Not surprisingly, since the "German machine" has been stalling

Conspirators were run by a former teacher

The trial of the members of the terrorist group, which planned the seizure of the Reichstag and the military putsch, has started in Germany. The high court in Koblenz began the proceedings in the high-profile case of an attempted coup d'etat. The leaders of the so-called "Reichsbürgers" are accused of creating a terrorist group, planning a violent seizure of power and kidnapping the German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach. Four men aged 44 to 56 and a 75-year-old Frau are in the dock. The representatives of the stronger half of humanity were detained in April of last year. The woman, whom the investigators believe to be the ringleader, was detained six months later, in October. According to the weekly Der Spiegel, among the five suspects and 14 witnesses in the case, there are three police officers, four former and one active serviceman. Of particular interest is the mysterious Frau N. Not much is known about this person, whose name, according to the rules in Germany, is not disclosed before the verdict is pronounced. She was a retired teacher and was arrested in the East German state of Saxony. This lady of solid age, according to the Federal Chambers of Justice, insisted on "restoring the German Reich's legal capacity" and prepared letters explaining the conspirators' actions to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Polish President Andrzej Duda and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. She also "issued a warrant" for the arrest of Federal Minister Lauterbach. Let me remind you that the nationalist "Reich Citizens' Movement" unites people who do not recognize the legitimacy of the existence of the FRG and call themselves citizens of the Reich, which has existed since 1871. Its members have their own passports and driving licenses and recognize Germany only within the borders that existed before 1937. The movement emerged in the 1980s, and the "Reichsbürgers" began active in the 2010s. According to the German counterintelligence, this association has more than 16 thousand supporters, and 500-600 of them are registered as persons inclined to right-wing extremism. As they believe, Germany is governed by members of the so-called anti-people "deep state" (according to "conspiracy theory" – a group of civil servants who influence the country's policies without regard to the democratically elected leadership. – Author's note). The details of the plan to seize power, which was divided into three stages, were determined. First, the plan was to disable power supply systems throughout Germany for at least two weeks. That is, to provoke chaos. Then there was to be an armed seizure of the Minister of Health of the Federal Republic of Germany. If his bodyguards resisted, they were to be eliminated. Finally, the conspirators intended to create by their actions "conditions close to civil war." They intended to seize the Reichstag, to declare a change of power, to establish a provisional military government and a return to the monarchical form of government. They intended to "enthrone" the 71-year-old Henry XIII of the noble family of Reuss. After the coup, the main body of government was to be a council, which would include the ministers of foreign and internal affairs, justice and health. However, their plans did not come true: when they purchased weapons, they came into contact with a secret service officer acting in an undercover capacity. Firearms, ammunition, cash, gold bars, silver coins and foreign currency were seized during the searches. The whole story, which made a lot of noise, began on December 7 last year, when 11 of the 16 federal states, as well as Austria and Italy, carried out a large-scale police operation with the participation of 3,000 "cops." They conducted searches and arrests at 130 addresses. 25 people were arrested on warrants from the Federal Prosecutor's Office. It is noteworthy that some of them were "under the hood" of the special services. This operation, which looked more like a farce, took place one day before the big day – exactly one year had passed since the formation of the coalition government headed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz. When passions subsided, many German media wrote that the conspirators would hardly have had the strength to carry out their plan. In short, the law enforcement authorities made a big deal out of this. But was it true? Germany's Federal Criminal Office (BKA) released data showing that politically motivated crimes continued to rise in the country in 2022. The total number of such acts reached a new high of 58,916, up 7 percent from a year earlier. According to BKA, right-wing extremism poses a particular danger to democracy. The number of offenses on this basis increased by 7% to 23,493. The number of criminal offenses committed by "Reichsbürger", which include former and active members of the special forces and police, and their kindred "self-managers" (also questioning the legitimacy of the FRG. – Auth.), increased by 40% to 1,865 cases. The most frequent incidents were "coercion, threats, and insults." But that is for now. What will happen when unscathed mercenaries arrive in Germany and a wide river of stolen weapons from the fields of the Ukrainian crisis floods in?

Hungary has gone against the grain again

The European Union has so far failed to break Budapest's resistance to anti-Russian sanctions and further financing of arms supplies to Ukraine. The foreign ministers of the European Union failed to agree on a new (11th in a row) package of sanctions against Russia and another tranche of military aid to Ukraine at a meeting in Brussels on May 22. This was stated by Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó. "Today at the meeting, despite the fact that the proposals were promoted by most countries, there was no decision on further financing of arms transfers or sanctions," he said. The new restrictions "raise objections not only from Hungary, but also from a number of other countries," said Josep Borrell, Europe's chief diplomat. He believes that the differences can be ironed out. This figure is behaving like the cartoon cat Leopold, who was always repeating: "Let's live in peace!" And if he fails, then Brussels will break the dissenters over their knees. Borrell cautiously hinted that the next package of sanctions could be adopted by the "usual qualified majority"... Now for what Budapest is seeking. The Magyars opposed the allocation of 500 million euros from the European Peace Fund to repay debts to particularly zealous European countries for military supplies already made to Ukraine. Once again: this is not new money for the AFU, but compensation for those in Europe who emptied their arsenals to satisfy Kiev. The Hungarian position "will remain as firm as a rock," Szijjártó stressed. But until the situation with the Hungarian bank OTP, which continues its activities in Russia, is resolved. On May 4 this year, the National Agency of Ukraine for the Prevention of Corruption included it in the list of "international sponsors of war." The decision was made on the basis of "the position of the bank's management to continue operations in Russia and the actual recognition of the so-called Donetsk and Lugansk people's republics. And more: for preferential lending to the Russian military. In fact, the OTP Bank branch ranks eighth in Russia in the credit card market and has the second-largest share of POS loans (loans taken out in stores. – Auth.). Who takes these consumer credits – ordinary citizens or military servicemen – is better known, it seems, to anti-corruption fighters from Ukraine. Borrell, by the way, promised to settle this «misunderstanding". In addition, Budapest does not support the inclusion of Russian nuclear power in the new EU sanctions package because it considers such a move a threat to its energy sovereignty. In Hungary, the Paks nuclear power plant, built with Soviet technology and using Russian nuclear fuel, is successfully operating. It provides half of all electricity produced and one third of all electricity consumed in the country. Currently, four power units with VVER-440 reactors are operating at the plant, located 100 kilometers south of Budapest on the Danube bank. At the same time, preparations are underway to build facilities for the second stage of Rosatom's project, the so-called Paks-2. Moscow has confirmed its readiness to finance it. It is estimated to cost €12.5 billion. 80% of this amount is Russian credit. The Hungarian government is counting on the fact that once the two new VVER-1200 nuclear reactors are on line, the plant's capacity will increase from the current 2,000 MW to 4,400 MW. You have to agree that there is a lot to fight for. Finally, Szijjártó reiterated that his country would not support Ukraine's integration steps into the European Union and NATO until the Transcarpathian Hungarians regain the rights that existed before 2015. In fact, there are no very friendly gestures towards Russia on the part of the Magyars. Budapest acts pragmatically, demonstrating how a small and poor country can defend its national interests within the huge, U.S.-oriented European Union. By the way, the Magyars also have a special approach to arms supplies to Ukraine. Hungary is almost the only EU country that has not yet been involved in this track. Defense Minister Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky believes that European Union members arming Ukraine have reduced their strategic reserves to the limit and created a risk to their own security. There is an urgent need to replenish the arsenals. How? In Hungary, a plant for the production of Lynx infantry fighting vehicles by the German concern Rheinmetall, a small arms factory of the Czech company Colt CZ Group, and a plant for the production of helicopter parts by the European concern Airbus were built in a short period of time. A plant for large-caliber ammunition and explosives is also planned to be launched with foreign participation. This is the "Hungarian neutrality." You give to Ukraine as much as you can, and we will help replenish your reserves. In short: both ours and yours… That's what Hungary is like. It is neither a friend nor an enemy.

British "gifts" to Kiev

London has sharply moved to the forefront of the Ukrainian conflict, brazenly and rashly violating the "red lines." The office of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak released a statement that during the Council of Europe summit in Reykjavik on 16 May, London and Amsterdam agreed to form a coalition, which was immediately joined by Belgium and Denmark, in order to buy F-16 fighter jets for Ukraine from the US and to start pilot training in Albion this summer. Experts claim that it will take at least four months to retrain Ukrainian pilots. Earlier, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed Western media information about supplies to Ukraine of long-range Storm Shadow missiles, which are considered particularly effective against bunkers and logistics. He "for operational reasons" refused to name the exact quantity transferred, limiting himself to stating that "they are enough to meet Kiev's needs at the moment. Thus, Great Britain became the first NATO country to send such missiles to Ukraine. Theoretically, they can reach the Crimean bridge, military facilities in Sevastopol and Dzhankoy, as well as the airfield in Saki. Previously, the US artillery systems with a maximum range of 85 km were in service with the AFU. Now the picture seems to be changing: the range of destruction increased almost threefold! What's more, by the way, Rostov-on-Don and Taganrog could be in the crosshairs. Storm Shadow is a precision-guided, long-range air-launched cruise missile. It is a French-British joint development by MBDA and manufactured at Le Plessis-Robinson, France. It can hit targets within 250 km and is capable of carrying a BROACH warhead with a penetrating charge weighing up to 450 kg. Each such "toy" costs 2.5 million euros. The Storm Shadow was adopted relatively recently, in 2002, but has already been used by the Royal Air Force on numerous occasions in various operations. For example, in Iraq, Libya and Syria. The problem is that these missiles are suspended on Western fourth- and fifth-generation fighters, which Ukraine does not yet have. However, military experts claim that Soviet MiG-29 fighters will be converted for Storm Shadow. From the technological point of view, this task is not easy and requires some time, but it is feasible. It is noteworthy that the Polish mission to the EU reported that of the 28 Soviet aircraft that Poles transferred to Kiev, there are 14 MiG-29s. It can be assumed that some of them have already been prepared for mounting British missiles. Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that Russia considers such supplies "very negatively" and that it "will require an adequate response from our military as well." The Russian missile defense system has such capabilities. It was only a week after Ben Wallace reported that missiles had been sent to Ukraine, and the hunch that the MiG-29 had been adapted in advance was confirmed. On May 15, the Russian Defense Ministry reported the first interception of Storm Shadow, which was used by Ukrainians to hit Lugansk. Then, on May 19, long-range missiles were fired at Mariupol, with explosions near the old airport. On May 21, they struck Berdyansk in Zaporozhskaya Oblast. Four Storm Shadow missiles and three decoys were fired. Six were intercepted by missile defense, one was not. It landed on the outskirts of the city, destroying the canteen. Fortunately, no one was injured. By the way, the British generosity has already backfired on Poles. On May 17, the Polish newspaper Iublin 24 reported a sharp increase in the radiation background level in Lublin. The spike was also marked on the charts of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie University, which is located in the same city. Information appeared on Polish social networks that the emergency was connected with the destruction by the Russian Armed Forces of a depot with Western weapons in the Khmelnitskaya Oblast. The depleted uranium shells from Britain were stored there. After the explosion, a toxic cloud rose, which, presumably, was carried by the wind. The Polish State Agency for Atomic Energy gave very contradictory comments in this regard. On the one hand, it claims that the spike in radiation is not connected with Khmelnitsky, but, on the other hand, it admits "an increase in the air of bismuth-214." This is the same isotope that is "responsible" for the increase in ionization after the use of depleted uranium projectiles. The story is actually taking a serious turn. "The United States also "helped" Ukraine by pressuring its satellites and supplying depleted uranium munitions. Their destruction caused a radioactive cloud moving toward Western Europe," said Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia's Security Council. And such people do not joke! Meanwhile, in Khmelnitsky they started handing out memos about the threat of radiation hazards and rules of conduct. "Close windows and doors, reduce penetration of radioactive particles into apartments. Pack precious things, documents, canned food and water for 2-3 days and be ready to evacuate", it says. Well, that's a start

May Poland not perish

What can lead to Russophobia and imperial ambitions of this country, which has revived the old slogan "Poland from sea to sea." While accusing Russia of imperial ambitions, the Poles somehow "failed to notice" that they themselves have become hostages of their imperial aspirations. By announcing a "Sarmatian treaty" between Poland and Ukraine, which is not yet completely clear, and by talking about the return of the "Kresy" (as they call the western parts of Ukraine), Poles, in fact, seek to recreate the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Judge for yourself: the Poles are always talking about a union with Ukraine – a joint, almost united state – but in fact they mean the inclusion of Ukraine into Poland. And then they will start to claim a part of western Belarus. Seeking to recreate the Poland of the 1920s, they also claim Kaliningrad (not without reason they recently decided to return it to the Polish name) and the Vilna region. True, I doubt that Lithuania is ready to cede Vilnius, given by the USSR in 1939, and Czechs are not eager to return Teshinskaya Oblast. That is why Poles put the main emphasis on Ukraine for now. But it is obvious that if the idea of annexation of Western Ukraine passes, then their territorial claims to other neighbors are not excluded. Nothing has changed since World War II, when Poland earned its nickname "the hyena of Europe." Therefore, if the Poles succeed in absorbing part of Ukraine, an escalation of their aggression against Lithuania and the Czech Republic cannot be ruled out. In the meantime, they have focused on military support for the Zelensky regime, becoming the main hub for arms deliveries to Ukraine. It is from Poland that most of the instructors and mercenaries are sent to the AFU. In this case, Poland's imperial ambitions are superimposed on the centuries-old Russophobia, which has become practically the state ideology of the country. In the current situation, in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the Poles saw their historical chance, first, to take revenge on their historical enemies, the Russians, and second, to engage in expansion and increase in size to its historical maximum. "For the first time in centuries, we have a unique chance to recreate the Polish-Ukrainian community destroyed by German and Moscow invaders and Bolshevik totalitarianism," Do Rzeczy quoted Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau as saying. Let us try to consider where these aggressive Polish claims can lead. Firstly, one must not forget that Belarus is part of the Union State, so an attempt to annex part of this republic would lead to a direct armed conflict with Russia, which, let us recall, is a nuclear power. And since Poland is a member of NATO, it will thus draw everyone into a major world war, which can safely be called the last one – because no one knows what will happen if the nuclear powers are involved. Let's assume that Poland, having concluded a kind of union, includes Ukraine in its structure. But, of course, not all of it, since Russia is already in the East, but only the Western part. And what does it get? A militarized Ukrainian society, which will remember the occupation of the Ukrainian lands by the Poles, and there will begin the endless and partly armed conflicts between the Ukrainians and the Poles. Although official Warsaw shamefully sidesteps the issue of the Volyn massacre, Polish society remembers it. And Ukrainians remember how they were treated by the Poles. By absorbing Western Ukraine, Poland will become a hotbed of instability in Eastern Europe. I doubt very much that the "Westerners," to whom the collapsing USSR gave independence, will welcome Polish officials with joy. I am sure that Poland will not be able to digest Ukraine. And in many ways not only because of national and political reasons, but also because of purely economic complications. First of all, Polish farmers will revolt. They are already revolting now that cheap grain and other Ukrainian agricultural products are entering their country. They will not be able to withstand such competition. And Polish farmers are not just voters, they are a cohesive and active group of society, which is able to come into conflict not only with their authorities, but also with Ukrainian farmers. So this can lead to civil confrontation of the newly created state entity. And if the Polish authorities start restricting the export of products from Ukraine to their country, this will also lead not only to economic, but also to ethnic conflict. Thus, if the annexation of western Ukraine to Poland were to occur, it would simply explode Poland from within. The country would burst because of economic and other conflicts, unable to digest Ukraine. What will they do then? Demand money, cheap loans from the EU and America to stabilize the Polish-Ukrainian union? But both Europe and the U.S. are not in the best economic situation right now, and there is no extra money. And if Poland does not get money, Europe will get an influx of refugees because of the disastrous economic situation. And from a region that is full of weapons. And it will be impossible to stop it, because now the "new Europeans" will run away. What will happen if Poland, driven by old historical grievances and a barefaced national character, comes into direct conflict with Russia? The unconditional hope in the aid of England and the U.S., on whom they have repeatedly hoped in their history, could play a dangerous trick on the Poles. And the "miracle on the Vistula," which helped to save themselves in the twenties, may not happen now, when they face the nuclear power Russia. Increasingly, more sober forces in Polish society are trying to bring sanity and caution to Poland's aggressive foreign policy. They are concerned that the U.S. is increasingly drawn into a confrontation with China. In the event of a real conflict, Poland would be left alone with Russia. Poland will be of no use to the United States. And there is zero chance of that. There is no point in relying on France and Germany, not to mention the other small NATO members, to help in an armed conflict with Russia. Especially Germany, irritated by Poland's constant demands for reparations. If they can somehow help with weapons, it is unlikely that anyone would want to send their soldiers to die for Polish interests. After all, in this case the military-economic collapse will cover not only the whole of Europe, but the whole world. Involving more countries would lead to a full-scale world war and a change of regimes and political system throughout Europe. And who will Poland be able to rely on if the U.S. enters into a direct armed conflict with China? They have given their weapons to Ukraine in significant quantities, and the economic problems will not go away either. All the stories about the power of the Polish Army seem to have ended after the rocket incident in Bydgoszcz. The story is fantastic, but it shows the real condition of the Polish Army. Last December, the Poles say, a missile without a warhead, allegedly fired by a Russian bomber, crashed near the city of Bydgoszcz. The funny thing is that it flew halfway across the country, but it was not only impossible to shoot it down – not even the wreckage could be found. Only in April of this year, a woman, riding her horse, accidentally found it in the woods. This story was a bucket of cold water for the hotheads of those who wanted to teach the Russians a lesson. Local newspapers wrote: Before we dream of a powerful army, let us first learn how to find rockets that have flown halfway across Poland. So when Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak declares: "The Polish land forces in two years will be the strongest in Europe," Poles, drawing historical parallels, remember the year 1939, then the Polish army lived under the motto: "Strong, united and ready." And how did it end in '39? A catastrophic defeat of the strong, united and ready. But history teaches us that it teaches no one. And Poland continues to arm itself. According to Polish newspapers, "By the end of 2025, 180 Korean K2 tanks, 116 used American M1A1 Abrams tanks and the first new M1A2s of the 250 ordered should arrive on the shores of the Vistula. By then, it may also be possible to upgrade to about a hundred Leopard 2s. That's about 400 in total." And by 2030 Poles are going to create a fleet of 1,000 modern, or almost modern, base tanks. But why do Poles need so many tanks, which are offensive weapons? Obviously, they are going to fight Russia. But won't they first have to face the Ukrainian army, which already has combat experience? After all, Ukrainians have for centuries dreamed of their own nation-state, free of polonization, and it is unlikely that the descendants of Bandera and Shukhevich will be happy to be second-raters in the Polish-Ukrainian state. And will Poland survive the civil war? If there is a union with Western Ukraine, what about the Ukrainian Armed Forces? Should they join the Polish army? But it is unlikely that the Ukrainian army, which has combat experience and has been shelled, will agree to become an appendage of the Polish military machine. The conflict here is simply inevitable. According to the latest data, since February 24, 2022, when the special military operation began, more than 11.5 million Ukrainian refugees have crossed the Polish border. According to the Interior Ministry, 1.5 million Ukrainians are now permanently living in Poland, and in some cities the number of Ukrainians is approaching half of their population. And what did Poles get with Ukrainian refugees? Strengthening of their economy? Not at all. They got an increase in crime, arms trafficking, dissatisfaction of the indigenous population. Poland, having turned into a training ground for Ukrainian soldiers, got a huge number of disloyal armed people. And some of Poland's politicians are simply afraid and don't understand against whom they will turn their guns. In the meantime, the Polish authorities are eagerly defying Russia, engaging in outright provocations: they claim their right to Kaliningrad and rename it, they arrest the accounts of the Russian embassy in Warsaw, they close a Russian school. What are the Poles counting on? The beginning of a new world war and the return of Poland to the borders from "sea to sea"? In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Morawiecki, the Polish prime minister, went so far as to call the defeat of Russia "the Polish reason for living." But as if these ambitions would not lead to the disappearance of Poland itself.

"Golden Visa" has faded

Under pressure from the European Commission, Russian rich people who received a convenient second citizenship for business have begun to lose their "golden passports." As reported by the influential German media (Der Spiegel weekly and Die Zeit newspaper), Cyprus and Malta revoked "golden passports" from 45 citizens of Russia and Belarus. Nicosia revoked the citizenship of nine Russian investors and 34 members of their families. Valletta revoked the passports of two more people. The data came from the European Commission at the request of Moritz Kerner, a 32-year-old German member of the European Parliament representing the Free Democratic Party of Germany. The FDP is part of the ruling three-party coalition in Germany. "Russians and Belarusians on the EU sanctions list do not deserve EU citizenship," Kerner commented on the decisions of the authorities of the two island states. Let me remind you that until recently, four member states of the European Union were selling their citizenship. They were Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta. 12 EU members were trading residence permits – Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Greece, Latvia, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Bulgaria, Netherlands, France and Great Britain. The total amount of foreign direct investment attracted through the "golden visa" was 25 billion euros. Last year (after the start of the Russian special military operation in Ukraine), the European Commission declared this practice illegal and recommended that EU states consider abolishing such citizenship. Brussels stated that this program allegedly posed serious risks to the security of EU residents – in particular, those related to money laundering and corruption. Since February 24, 2022, Portugal has not granted citizenship in exchange for investments to a single Russian citizen. The EU sued Malta, although it excluded citizens of Russia and Belarus from the program. Cyprus and Bulgaria stopped issuing "golden passports", and the Cypriot authorities began revoking them from Russians. The names of those 45 people who have recently lost their Cypriot and Maltese passports were not disclosed. However, last April, the Cypriot publication Phileleftheros reported that the authorities were planning to revoke the citizenship of the following Russian investors who had fallen under sanctions: Mikhail Gutseriyev, the main shareholder of the Safmar industrial and financial group; Alexei Kuzmichev, one of the founders of the Alfa Group investment consortium; Vadim Moshkovich, former senator from the Belgorod Oblast and ex-chairman of the Rusagro Group LLC board of directors; Alexander Ponomarenko, former chairman of the board of directors of JSC Sheremetyevo International Airport. As well as their close relatives. Whether this is true remains to be seen. In any case, the named persons have not yet given any comments. The scheme for granting citizenship in exchange for investment has been in effect in the island states for a long time. For example, a Cypriot passport could be obtained by investing at least 2 million euros in real estate or at least 2.5 million euros in securities. In addition the applicant had to donate to the Government of the Republic of 200 thousand euros. This did not stop rich people. So, only in the period from 2013 to 2019, more than 4000 people received such a document. Mostly from Russia, China, Ukraine, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. The Cypriot authorities have hit the jackpot – about 9.7 billion euros. However, on November 1, 2020, the program was suspended. According to the Chamber of Accounts, during the program's existence, more than 7 thousand people were granted Cypriot citizenship. The reason was "long-standing deficiencies" as well as "abuse of the provisions of the Cyprus Investment Program." It was found that the budget of the country had suffered losses due to non-payment of VAT of 200 million euros and another 25 million euros from non-payment of duties. Pennies, compared to the total amount of income! 3.8 thousand people had become passport holders thanks to investments of their relatives though there is no such permission in the legislation. The Cypriot Interior Ministry was hiding this data from the Ministry of Justice, while the government and parliament were receiving incomplete information about the applicants for citizenship. In the European media there is constant information about Russians who have Cypriot passports. We will leave it to their conscience whether this is true or not. Most often billionaire Oleg Deripaska was called a new Cypriot. He does not deny that he had a Cypriot passport from 2017 to 2022. Another Cypriot citizen, as speculated by the same Western media, since 2012 is the billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev. By the way, he is the owner of the soccer club Monaco, the eight-time champion of France. According to rumors, in 2017, Russian pop diva Alla Pugacheva and her husband Maxim Galkin obtained Cypriot passports by purchasing expensive real estate. However, they are now based not in Cyprus, but, as you know, in Israel. This couple certainly will not fall under Western sanctions. Maybe they had to sell Cypriot real estate to settle comfortably in the "Promised Land." Well, who knows? In any case, it should be recognized that the "golden visa" for the Russian rich, which allowed them to move easily around the world and have legal business in EU countries, is losing its value right before our eyes.

Choose me. The battle for investors by new rules

Macron gathered 200 of the world's biggest entrepreneurs in Versailles for the Choose France forum. France holds first place in Europe in attracting foreign investment, and for the fourth year in a row. The analytical agency Ernst & Young notes that between 2017 and 2021, foreigners launched 6,910 projects in France, creating 182,900 jobs. Last year, the same agency counted 1,259 investment projects, and importantly, 40 percent were investments in industry. Back in 2018, Macron conceived of a business summit called "Choose France." It was supposed to be held in winter, before Davos, and to discuss the main areas of investment in French industry. But the pandemic had other plans. The current forum, which brought together two hundred leaders of the largest companies in the world, opened in Versailles. Half of the participants were Europeans, 20% came from North America and 15% from Asia. Here are some results and impressive figures. A solar cell factory will be built in the Moselle department. The investment is 710 million euros, plus the creation of 1,700 jobs. One of the main shareholders is Siemens. "For years we have subsidized the production of foreign batteries, now we will use and sell our own," said the French Minister of Industry. In Dunkirk, the Taiwanese ProLogium group will build a battery factory for electric cars: 5.2 billion euros, 3,000 jobs. Company president Vincent Yang wanted to build in the U.S., given Biden's tempting offer formulated in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA, about that later), but ended up choosing France because of its new approach to nuclear power: "We need quality electricity – cheap and environmentally friendly," he explained. Also in Dunkirk, the Chinese STS is investing 1.5 billion with the French in the production of lithium batteries, which are now needed everywhere. 1.5 billion, 1,700 jobs. British startup Newcleo will build a small modular nuclear reactor for $3 billion. Ikea will create a new logistics center in Toulouse; Pfizer will shell out half a billion for new oncology research. Ilon Musk did not name specific figures, but intriguingly stated, "I am impressed by the attention paid to industrial development here, and I am confident that Tesla is ready for serious investment." A total of 28 projects for 8,000 jobs have been approved at this forum alone, so Macron's idea is understandable. Loïc Le Floch-Prigent is not the last man in the French business establishment. He ran the oil giant Elf-Aquitaine, the state-owned Gaz de France, and the National Society of French Railways. "Macron is completely disconnected from reality," he believes. – "The president understands nothing about industry and does not know how it works. Industry is not developed by money, by subsidies, by smart people who say: do this and don't do that. This is "green," and this is not. It develops when people want to do something they can't do because they are hindered by administration, local authorities, texts, regulations, controllers, activists of all stripes. And they just need to stay out of the way and it will work." But they are not foolish people in Versailles either. What attracts them to France? "The time when Chinese slaves produced cheap stuff for the French unemployed is over," says Jean-Pierre Robin, an economic columnist for Le Figaro. And France's Minister of Economy and Finance believes that "we accelerated inflation by moving industry to cheap countries and sharply chased a carbon-free economy." "Even if we tame inflation, caused by the surge in demand after the pandemic, the complete disruption of global production networks, the irrepressible creation of financial bubbles in the 2010s, the impact of events in Ukraine, we will never get back to the global inflation rate of two percent that has settled in Europe, the United States, even China," Robin says. – "From now on, it will take months, if not years, to negotiate with investors to get any serious investment." Until about 2015, France was not at all interested in investors. But since 2017, that is, since the beginning of Macron's first term, things have suddenly shifted. "We are seeing lower corporate taxes, lower compulsory social benefits, and labor market reforms," notes Mark L'Hermite, an Ernst & Young expert. And scientists, the developers of innovations, were given a tax deferment. Since 2010, the cost of cheap labor has decreased significantly, and it is in demand in the early stages of the formation of industrial enterprises. France was significantly losing to its competitors precisely because of the administrative disaster and the cost of labor: because of this, the country created half as many jobs as its neighbors. The "Green Industry" bill just announced proposes spending 700 million euros to develop and educate people for the "professions of the future." Make it as easy as possible to approve industrial projects, or invest a billion in land allocation for industrial facilities. Add to this a skilled workforce and a good geographical location for re-export. Ironically, Brexit also helped France's investment popularity. Britain has traditionally attracted foreign capital, but "now it is becoming increasingly difficult for London to convince business leaders to invest in the United Kingdom and then re-export to Europe because there are so many logistical and administrative problems," says Mark L'Hermite. The number of foreign investment projects in Britain fell by 6 percent last year. Macron could not oppose the American Inflation Reduction Act, that Biden signed in August 2022. It provides an unprecedented $350 billion in benefits to businesses that, while complying with the strictest modern environmental regulations, will locate in the U.S. or invest in the American economy. From the EU's point of view, this is a rather aggressive move on the part of the allies. Marc L'Hermite believes that "the Europeans must react instantly and work as clearly and openly as possible to deter those who have now decided to invest in our economy."

German defense industry gaining weight

Enterprises of the German military industry are making record profits "on the blood" of the Ukrainian crisis. Bundestag deputy Johann Wadephul called for allowing Ukraine to use German weapons on targets in Russia as well. He is not an ordinary member of parliament, but the deputy head of the CDU/CSU opposition bloc in parliament. "There is no justification at either the international legal or political level why Ukraine is not allowed to attack targets in Russia," said this foreign policy expert in an interview with Berlin's Tagesspiegel newspaper published on May 13. Let me remind you that Chancellor Olaf Scholz said just a few days ago that an agreement had been reached with Ukrainian President Zelensky that German weapons should not be used to attack Russian territory. On May 14, the head of the Kiev regime arrived in Berlin. He has come to demand another supply of tanks and other offensive weapons. He will also ask for fighter jets, which he has not yet been given. It is not surprising that against the backdrop of the Ukrainian crisis, the German defense industry has revived and sharply increased. Until recently, the largest German defense concern Rheinmetall was little known to the general public both in Germany and around the world. Weapons deals do not like publicity! However, with the beginning of the special military operation, its name began to appear frequently in the media space. In March 2023, the Rheinmetall company, which employs 28,000 people, promptly entered the main German stock exchange index DAX, which unites 40 largest public companies of the Federal Republic of Germany. Now the company, headquartered in Düsseldorf, is known to many people because it manufactures (independently or with partners) a number of weapons that Ukraine receives from Germany. We are talking, for example, about Leopard 2 tanks, Marder infantry fighting vehicles, Panzerhaubitze 2000 self-propelled artillery systems, SurveilSPIRE automated reconnaissance systems, Skynex short-range air defense systems, NATO 155mm artillery shells and military trucks. All this equipment is already fighting against Russian Armed Forces on the Ukrainian territory. In a couple of months, the company will start supplying shells for Gepard self-propelled air defense systems to Ukraine, which will become possible after the launch of a new plant in Germany to produce ammunition for this effective weapon that the Bundeswehr removed from service. Since the shells for the Gepards supplied to Kiev in the necessary quantities were not available at the German depots, they were searched all over the world. And they were found in far away Brazil... Now the situation will change. By the way, Armin Papperger, the company's chairman, visited Kiev not long ago, where he was welcomed with open arms personally by the head of the regime, Zelensky. It was announced that Rheinmetall established a joint venture with the Ukrainian concern Ukroboronprom, which is planned to carry out all repair, production and maintenance of military equipment on the territory of Ukraine. The joint venture will be 51% owned by the flagship of the German defense industry. He will also assume the management. The production of the equipment, including the newest model Panther tanks, can begin within a year, if the existing assembly lines are used. If a new plant has to be built, the process will take another year. In the next few days, the Germans intend to sign contracts with Kiev for two more joint ventures to produce ammunition and air defense equipment. "By doing so, we will ensure that Ukraine is able to defend itself in the medium and long term," Papperger stressed at the virtual AGM, which took place – think about it! -, on May 9. This year promises to be even tighter. In addition to the Ukrainian track, contracts have been signed to supply various military equipment to the armies of Australia, Austria, Hungary, USA, Finland, as well as a number of other states. Remarkably, they manage to do everything and everywhere. Rheinmetall receives over a third of its profits as a supplier of components for such a key sector of the German economy as the automotive industry. By the way, it actively cooperates with China as well. For example, in April, contracts were signed with China's automotive industry leaders SAIC and Geely for the supply of components for electric and hybrid cars. And more recently, Rheinmetall has begun to develop a completely new line of business – heating systems that do not use natural gas. The concern is urgently setting up production of electric compressors, which are a key element of heat pumps. The largest order not related to the production of weapons was received for this – for 770 million euros from Viessmann. By the way, a few days ago it was sold for 12 billion euros to the American corporation Carrier. The German media ironically says that Rheinmetall's ascent to the mountain is a kind of "generous gift from Putin." If there had not been a war in Ukraine, if Germany had not turned off the Russian gas valve, where would the German concern with its tanks and shells be now? Truly, some die at war, and some make profits of it.

That hasn't happened since the war

Franco-Italian relations, already in crisis, are now sinking. The Italian Foreign Minister has canceled his trip to Paris. And the whole government is waiting for a public apology for the words spoken to Giorgia Meloni. The other day the French Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin said that Meloni "is not able to solve the migration problem, although it was the issue on which she won the elections." So, according to the French minister, Meloni is lying to her voters. Migrants have been spoiling life for both neighbors for a long time. Meloni was elected last September, and a month and a half later the first crisis occurred. The salvage ship Ocean Viking picked up 230 migrants at sea and tried to take them to Italian shores. But the country's new right-wing government stood firm – your moorings will not be in our ports. After a long showdown, involving the highest EU powers and convening special EU meetings, the ship sailed to the French port of Toulon, where the migrants disembarked. The French reaction was very "aggressive," as the Italian prime minister described it at the time. And four years before the events described, France quarreled with the Italian leaders Salvini and Di Maio and even the French ambassador was recalled from Rome, one of the most extreme measures in diplomacy. Franco-Italian relations have been called "the worst since World War II." The current episode is related to the fact that groups of refugees, mostly teenagers aged 16-17 and children, are coming from Tunisia. Parents themselves send their children to Europe, because it is impossible to imprison them as minors, but what if they manage to catch on and drag their whole family through a program of family reunification? In 2020, there were 7,000 underage refugees in Italy. And in 2022 there were 20,000. According to the EU migration rules, the first country in the Union where a person applies for asylum is subsequently responsible for him. That is, if he is caught without documents in Germany, it would send him, for example, to Italy, where he declared his intentions. The Tunisian teenagers understand that they will be refused in Italy right now, but it is the closest place to the coast. So they have to cross the "boot," move to France, where the rules and conditions are more tolerant, and apply there and wait. During the four months of this year, according to the Italian Ministry of the Interior, 36,000 people entered Italy from the Mediterranean Sea. Roughly speaking, three hundred a day. Last year during the same period Italians counted 9,000 visitors. That is an increase of times. And the UN International Organization for Migration estimated that the deaths of migrants in the first quarter of 2023 broke the "record" of 2017. In this context, France sent an additional contingent of gendarmes and police – 150 men for the present – to the frontier department of the Alpes-Maritimes and announced the creation on this basis of a new unit, for some reason called in English "Border Force." French government spokesman Olivier Veran said that his country will no longer be able to implement bilateral agreements, which stipulate that France is ready to host 3,000 refugees currently on Italian territory as mutual assistance. "In Australia," the French Minister of the Interior did not relent, "everything works fine. At the border, they 'accept' refugees, check their documents and send them away." In 2019, the country's then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison reopened the once-banned migrant camp on Christmas Island because of unrest that erupted. It's in the Indian Ocean, 2,300 kilometers from Western Australia's capital, Perth. It's practically near Indonesia. There is no time limit under Australian law for the preparation and review of a refugee file. Somehow the French did not like Meloni immediately, although Macron declared that France would work with any prime minister. Meloni's campaign slogans nevertheless puzzled his neighbors. France's Secretary of State for European Affairs, Laurence Boone, and, indeed, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne emphasized that they would "closely monitor" respect for human rights in Italy and, in particular, women's right to abortion – these positions in Meloni's electoral program particularly puzzled the French leadership. The Italian prime minister said that such statements were "nothing but interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign EU member state." Then there was a rather offensive episode for Meloni, connected with Zelensky's visit to Paris. Then Macron invited German Chancellor Scholz to participate in the meeting, but not the Italian prime minister. She was then indignant and recalled "European unity and the driving forces of the EU." It turns out, in principle, that Meloni is just keeping her electoral commitments, but the French minister does not like it. The migrants are falling on his head. And Italy, most likely, just does not prevent the illegal transit of Tunisians through its territory, and it does not even register them – thus it does not bear any responsibility. But they are not in Italy – so the obligations are fulfilled. On top of everything else, French Minister of the Interior Darmanin is preparing to present a new draft law on immigration to the French parliament, which will surely be a fight. And after barely pushing through a pension reform, resorting to a constitutional trick with Article 49.3, which allows the law to be approved without parliament, the government has now run out of options. There will be a real fight over the migration law – its discussion has already been postponed, and there are crowds of Tunisians from Italy. Meloni's official state visit to Paris is scheduled for early summer. But somehow it is hard to believe it.