If the diplomatic spat between Portugal and the United States is anything to go by, Lisbon will be among the European capitals with most to lose on Tuesday.
Another four years of Donald Trump in the White House could see Washington follow through on its threats to the Portuguese.
Washington has put pressure on Lisbon to ban Chinese telecoms giant Huawei from its future 5G network infrastructure.
European countries have been trapped in the middle of a geopolitical battle over Huawei and 5G infrastructure, with the US alleging Beijing could use the networks for cyberespionage. The company denies the allegations.
In June, according to Portuguese press reports, Lisbon decided not to place any restrictions on who could bid to supply its 5G infrastructure.
In an interview with the Portuguese newspaper Expresso (subscription required), published on September 26, the US ambassador to Portugal, George Glass, said the Portuguese have to choose between “its allies and the Chinese”. He warned that choosing China on 5G may have consequences for Portugal, such as the defence relationship between the two countries.
Glasss statements upset Lisbon. Foreign affairs minister Augusto Santos Silva did not take long to respond: “In Portugal, the decision-makers are the Portuguese authorities, who take the decisions that interest Portugal.”
Some days later, Keith Krach, the US Under Secretary of State for Growth, Energy and the Environment visited Portugal as a part of a European tour that had 5G on its agenda.
In an interview with the Portuguese agency Lusa, Krach stressed the US “respects Portugals right to make its own decisions”. But he added: “For the good of the Portuguese, I’m really hopeful that they are now following the European Unions 5G toolbox, which is the same type of standards we use in the United States”.
In June, the Portuguese press revealed the Government would not apply any restrictions to the choice of brands that may supply components or equipment of the fifth generation mobile networks (5G)
‘Portugal suffers in US-China game of cat and mouse’
“The United States must realise that today Portugal and other countries have options on the table,” Professor Paulo Duarte, an expert on China and its relations with the European Union and the USA, told Euronews. “And a small state like Portugal, which was once a large empire, has to maximise its gains regarding different actors and China is one of them.”
Portugal, added Prof Duarte, from the University of Minho, “is doing what a small state does to take its interests forward” and Huawei is just one of the issues that interest both the United States and China.
Other mutual interests include the deepwater port of Sines, which the Americans see as a springboard for exporting liquified natural gas into Europe. The port also plans to grow its container terminal and that project has drawn the interest of China, whose ambitious Belt and Road strategy aims to build infrastructure around the world and increase Beijings influence.
“The USA has become the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas and it is not by chance that after China had expressed interest in the port of Sines, the United States sent a delegation to Sines to, in fact, show the relevance of the port to the USA, as a gateway to the vast European market,” said Prof Duarte.
“There is an action-reaction game between the USA and China, a game of cat and mouse. Portugal is another piece of that chess game and we also suffer. All the world suffers from the impact of the Chinese-American trade war, but I think we reacted well.”
Portugal and China signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on Beijing’s Belt and Road strategy in 2018. In the same year, Chinese businesses invested or committed to invest around €10 billion in the country.
Portugal also became the first EU country to issue government bonds in China’s currency, a sign of the relationship between the two.
“Portugal seems to be taking the opposite path and this bothers the United States,” said Prof Duarte.
“If this cooperation with China proves to be effective, other European countries will probably want to follow this model.
“If we see that China is replicating its attitude in Portugal as it does in other parts of the world – mere copy-paste, disrespect, lack of fair play in competition – then, that will give reason to the United States and other actors like Germany or France, who are highly sceptical about this Portuguese receptivity.”
Prof Duarte said if the Portuguese did not exclude Huawei and Donald Trump wins the US election, then Lisbon-Washington relations could be adversely affected. He also thinks Portuguese companies would face sanctions.
But if Joe Biden wins, prospects could be brighter. “The discomfort would remain, but eventually it [Biden administration] would not punish Portuguese interests as much or at least as intensely as the Trump administration,” he said.
‘We should be agnostic regarding technology’
“For me, it is inevitable that this material from Huawei will appear in our operators,” said Luís Antunes, director of the centre for competencies in cybersecurity and privacy at the University of Porto. “Even if it is not in Portugal it will be in NATO countries.
Prof Antunes said he understood the US argument that “in order to give classified information to the Portuguese government or Portuguese organisations, it will have to rely on the infrastructure that Portugal uses to support and store these documents.” But, he added, “the US should promote on a global scale what Ronald Reagan said: Trust, but verify.”
“I think we should be agnostic regarding technology, but we should completely audit all the material that we install in Portugal, whether it is American or Chinese because in order to trust, we have to check,” he said.
“Only [by] checking and doing an analysis can we have some level of confidence in what we are installing.
“This problem only shows that the European Union has lost the productive capacity of this type of material over the past decades, which is worrying.
“The European Union must have a strategy to recover this productive capacity and to try to have some cyber-sovereignty, otherwise we will always be hostage to geopolitics, geostrategy and commercial interests.”
The post Why Portugal fears a backlash if Trump is re-elected US president first appeared on NewswireNow – A Press Release Publishing Service.
Bosnia: Icy struggle for many migrants stuck in freezing tents
Thousands of refugees and migrants urgently need proper shelter in Bosnia-Herzegovina after weeks outdoors in freezing cold, the UN has warned.
Some 2,500 people are in unheated tents or sleeping rough near the northern town of Bihac. A UN official says some are now being moved to heated tents.
Local authorities have refused to reopen a nearby reception centre.
Instead hundreds have been forced to return to a temporary camp that was ravaged by fire last month.
Peter Van der Auweraert of the UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has tweeted photos of the basic tents erected at the Lipa camp by the Bosnian army a few days ago.
But his latest post is upbeat. Lipa is carpeted with heavy snow, he says, so the relocation of migrants to heated tents, now under way, is an “important step forward”. The new tents were brought in by the army.
The camp was set up hastily in the summer when the coronavirus pandemic forced crisis measures including border closures.
But aid agencies pulled out of the camp in December, saying it was unsustainable without water and electricity.
Some residents forced to leave the facility looted equipment and set fire to tents, police said.
However, about 900 migrants had to go back there, after local officials refused to let them move to the empty reception centre in Bihac. Another 1,500 are struggling in primitive conditions elsewhere near the town.
The migrants are from South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and got stuck in Bosnia while trying to reach Croatia, an EU member state seen as a gateway to the EU.
Some of the migrants have refused to use the tents in Lipa because they lack heating and sanitation. Some also went on hunger strike, angry at the lack of amenities.
But on Tuesday many did receive Red Cross food parcels.
“We want people in proper reception centres where they have access to services, like the 6,000 other people in Bosnia,” Mr Van der Auweraert, the IOM’s head in Bosnia-Herzegovina, told the BBC’s Balkans correspondent Guy De Launey at Lipa.
The IOM says about 8,500 non-EU migrants are living in Bosnia, still hoping to get to northern Europe.
“Here is too much cold. You know, the weather is rainy and the weather is very cold, and we can’t sleep in here,” one migrant told our correspondent.
In recent years thousands of people, including refugees from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria, have entered Bosnia hoping to get asylum in the EU.
Bosnia’s central government ordered the reopening of a reception centre in an old factory on the outskirts of Bihac, but the local authorities refused.
The city’s mayor, Suhret Fazlic, told the BBC: “We are not satisfied with approach of EU – people coming from Greece and Bulgaria want to get to Croatia, but stuck in Bihac.”
The EU has told the Bosnian authorities that they “must assume their responsibilities”. The country of 3.5m has ambitions to join the EU.
On Wednesday the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the EU had funded the still empty shelter in Bihac, but Bosnian officials had “ignored repeated appeals to provide basic and secure living conditions and humane treatment”.
His spokesman Peter Stano said “over the last two years, we provided over 90m euros (£81m; $110m) for centres, equipment, medical and social care.
“We need them to move – not play political games with people’s lives,” he complained.
Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-55589090
Covid: Sweden official defends Christmas trip to Canary Islands
A top Swedish official involved in the coronavirus response has defended a Christmas holiday in the Canary Islands in the face of heavy criticism.
Dan Eliasson is head of the civil contingencies agency, which earlier in December had texted all Swedes urging them to avoid travel.
He was photographed in Las Palmas airport on the island of Gran Canaria.
Mr Eliasson insisted the trip was necessary “for family reasons”.
He told Swedish media that he had “given up a lot of trips during this pandemic” but thought this one was necessary because he had a daughter living in the Canaries.
“I celebrated Christmas with her and my family,” he told Expressen newspaper. He also said he had been worked remotely while in the Canaries.
Sweden has had 437,000 confirmed cases and 8,700 deaths – many more than its Scandinavian neighbours. The country has never imposed a full lockdown.
However, alarmed by rising numbers of cases last month, the Swedish government reversed some of its guidance and sent a text message to all Swedes asking them to read updated guidelines.
The guidelines included asking Swedes to avoid unnecessary trips and not to make new contacts during a journey or at the destination.
Mr Eliasson was then photographed several times in Gran Canaria, including at the airport.
There have been calls for Mr Eliasson, an experienced official who has worked at several important departments, to be fired.
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and other ministers have not yet commented, according to Swedish media.
Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-55523587
UK regulator approves Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine
UK regulators have approved the use of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, which is cheaper and easier to distribute than some rivals and could in time offer a route out of the pandemic for large parts of the world.