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Closer EU military cooperation with U.S., Canada, Norway is quantum leap, Germany says

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BERLIN (Reuters) -Military cooperation in the European Union will get a boost as the 27 nation bloc is admitting for the first time outside partners such as the United States, Canada and Norway into one of its projects, Germany said on Thursday.

“It will be a quantum leap in terms of concrete cooperation,” German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said ahead of the first in-person meeting with her EU counterparts in over a year in Brussels.

The EU project on military mobility is designed to facilitate the movement of troops across Europe, something NATO deems as crucial in the event of a conflict with Russia.

While NATO has spearheaded efforts to reduce conflicting regulations across 27 EU countries for transfers of U.S. troops, the EU has a budget to back the reconstruction of bridges too weak for tanks and has more power over changing bloc-wide rules.

“Talking about military mobility, making sure that troops can be moved across borders within Europe is a very important issue not only for the European Union but also for NATO,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

The decision, to be formally taken by EU defence ministers on Thursday, means NATO members Norway, Canada and the United States also become the first foreign countries to collaborate in the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) pact, which aims to deepen defence ties.

The pact was agreed by EU leaders in December 2017 after Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

The bloc has since earmarked 1.7 billion euros ($2 billion) from its joint budget until 2028 to improve so-called military mobility in support of NATO. The NATO alliance has 30 allies, many of whom are also EU members.

Military mobility aims at improving the exchange of information between EU countries and cutting red tape at borders, including harmonising customs rules to allow for swift deployments and easier transport of military equipment.

At their meeting in Brussels, EU defence ministers will also discuss the situation on the Ukrainian border where Russia had concentrated tens of thousands of troops a few weeks ago, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell said.

(Reporting by Sabine Siebold, editing by Marine Strauss and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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Brazil’s Vale says output begins at Reid Brook nickel deposit in Canada

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Vale’s Voisey’s Bay nickel mine in Northern Labrador has started the production at its Reid Brook deposit, the Brazilian miner said in a securities filing on Tuesday.

Vale said the Canadian Reid Brook and Eastern Deeps mines are likely to produce 40,000 tonnes of nickel by 2025.

 

(Reporting by Carolina Mandl; editing by Jason Neely)

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EU, U.S. agree to talk on carbon border tariff

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The United States and European Union agreed on Tuesday to hold talks on the bloc’s planned carbon border tariff, possibly at the World Trade Organisation, EU chief executive Ursula von der Leyen said.

U.S. President Joe Biden met European Commission President von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel on Tuesday for a summit tackling issues from trade to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The leaders also discussed climate change policy, including the EU’s plan to impose carbon emissions costs on imports of goods, including steel and cement, which the Commission will propose next month.

“I explained the logic of our carbon border adjustment mechanism,” von der Leyen told a news conference after the summit.

“We discussed that we will exchange on it. And that WTO might facilitate this,” she said.

Brussels and Washington are keen to revitalise transatlantic cooperation on climate change, after four fractious years under former president Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, they outlined plans for a transatlantic alliance to develop green technologies and said they will coordinate diplomatic efforts to convince other big emitters to cut CO2 faster.

But the EU border levy could still cause friction. A draft of the proposal said it would apply to some U.S. goods sold into the EU, including steel, aluminium and fertilisers.

Brussels says the policy is needed to put EU firms on an equal footing with competitors in countries with weaker climate policies, and that countries with sufficiently ambitious emissions-cutting policies could be exempted from the fee.

The United States and EU are the world’s second- and third- biggest emitters of CO2, respectively, after China.

A draft of the EU-U.S. summit statement, seen by Reuters, repeated commitments the leaders made at the G7 summit at the weekend to “scale up efforts” to meet an overdue spending pledge of $100 billion a year by rich countries to help poorer countries cut carbon emissions and cope with global warming.

It did not include firm promises of cash. Canada and Germany both pledged billions in new climate finance on Sunday, and campaigners had called on Brussels and Washington to do the same.

The draft statement also stopped short of setting a date for the United States and EU to stop burning coal, the most polluting fossil fuel and the single biggest of greenhouse gas emissions.

Brussels and Washington said they will largely eliminate their CO2 emissions from electricity production by the 2030s.

 

(Reporting by Kate Abnett, additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Marguerita Choy, Andrew Heavens and Barbara Lewis)

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U.S. fine Air Canada $25.5 milliom over delayed refunds

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The U.S. Transportation Department said on Tuesday it was seeking a $25.5 million fine from Air Canada over the carrier’s failure to provide timely refunds requested by thousands of customers for flights to or from the United States.

The department said it filed a formal complaint with a U.S. administrative law judge over flights Air Canada canceled or significantly changed. The penalty is “intended to deter Air Canada and other carriers from committing similar violations in the future,” the department said, adding Air Canada continued its no-refund policy in violation of U.S. law for more than a year.

Air Canada said it believes the U.S. government’s position “has no merit.” It said it “will vigorously challenge the proceedings.”

Air Canada obtained a financial aid package this spring that gave the carrier access to up to C$5.9 billion ($4.84 billion) in funds through a loan program.

The carrier said it has been refunding nonrefundable tickets as part of the Canadian government’s financial package. Since April 13 eligible customers have been able to obtain refunds for previously issued nonrefundable tickets, it said.

The Transportation Department disclosed it is also “actively investigating the refund practices of other U.S. and foreign carriers flying to and from the United States” and said it will take “enforcement action” as appropriate.

The administration said the Air Canada penalty sought was over “extreme delays in providing the required refunds.”

Refund requests spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March 2020, the Transportation Department has received over 6,000 complaints against Air Canada from consumers who said they were denied refunds for flights canceled or significantly changed. The department said the airline committed a minimum of 5,110 violations and passengers waited anywhere from five to 13 months to receive refunds.

Last month, a trade group told U.S. lawmakers that 11 U.S. airlines issued $12.84 billion in cash refunds to customers in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic upended the travel industry.

In May, Democratic Senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal called on carriers to issue cash refunds whether flights were canceled by the airline or traveler.

($1 = 1.2195 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by David Shepardson in WashingtonAdditional reporting by Allison Lampert in MontrealEditing by Matthew Lewis)

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