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UKRAINE

How Spain plans to lessen the economic impact of the war in Ukraine

The Spanish government announced a package of measures on Wednesday to protect the country's economy from the consequences of the war in Ukraine, with everything from jobs to energy rates covered.

How Spain plans to lessen the economic impact of the war in Ukraine
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez gives a statement on Russia's attack on Ukraine at La Moncloa Palace in Madrid. Jon Nazca/ POOL/AFP

In a speech in parliament, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced a series of measures on a national and European level to prepare for the consequences of the EU’s harsh economic sanctions imposed on Russia, as well as its shipment of weapons to Ukraine.

The conflict will have an impact on Spains exports, investment and tourism, as well as an increase in electricity bills. 

“It is very likely that energy prices remain high and volatile in the future, directly impacting the consumer price index and the purchasing power and wellbeing of our compatriots,” Sanchez said.

“The result will be an economic slowdown in our country and in Europe, and less investment at a key moment for Europe as we consolidate the recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.”

READ ALSO: How Spain could be impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Energy prices

In order to ease the costs on households and businesses, Sánchez said he would extend a series of tax breaks on energy until June 30th.

These include the social energy tariffs (bono social de electricidad) a government programme to reduce energy poverty) which gives  vulnerable groups a 60 per cent discount on electricity and a 70 per cent discount to severely vulnerable groups. Tax breaks on value added tax on electricity, electricity production tax and special electricity tax will also be extended.

Sánchez also encouraged regional governments to “protect the most vulnerable” in the next Conference of regional presidents, which is to be held on the Canary island of La Palma on March 13th.

Additional renewable energy investment

In order to increase renewables generation capacity, Sánchez announced the government would dedicate another €1 billion to a plan backed by EU recovery funds to boost production and storage of renewable energy.

Furlough and measures for tourism and agriculture

Regarding employment, the Spanish government will accelerate the implementation of the new ERTE furlough scheme, in anticipation of temporary shortages, increased costs or reduced demand in certain sectors.

The government will also increase the promotion of the most exposed tourist destinations in this crisis, those where tourism from Russia is significant, such as Andalusia and Catalonia.

Regarding agriculture, Spain will ask the European Commission to use all means to facilitate the supply of grains and oilseeds to farmers. “If necessary, we will also ask for more support from the Common Organisation of Agricultural Markets,” Sánchez said.

Joint gas purchases in Europe and decoupling gas from electricity

Sanchez explained that the energy impact in Spain will be “more limited” than in other European countries, since imports from Russia account for only 4.6 percent of oil and 8 percent of gas.

The European Commission has already announced the adoption of measures proposed by Spain, such as joint purchases of gas and the creation of strategic reserves between various countries.

The Spanish government will also advocate for the adaptation of the fiscal rules, to push for the Covid-19 recovery.

Finally, Spain will promote in the EU and in the OECD the declaration of Russia as a tax haven, including that country in the black list of tax havens.

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UKRAINE

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, boosting spirits in the embattled nation fighting off a Russian invasion that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people.

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Riding a huge wave of public support, Kalush Orchestra beat 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania”, a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms.

“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” implored frontman Oleh Psiuk in English from the stage after their performance was met by a cheering audience.

In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the triumph was met with smiles and visible relief.

“It’s a small ray of happiness. It’s very important now for us,” said Iryna Vorobey, a 35-year-old businesswoman, adding that the support from Europe was “incredible”.

Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum-pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognisable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.

“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.

Music conquers Europe

The win provided a much-needed morale boost for the embattled nation in its third month of battling much-larger Russian forces.

Mahmood & BLANCO  performing for Italy at Eurovision 2022

Mahmood & BLANCO perform on behalf of Italy during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.

“This win is so very good for our mood,” Andriy Nemkovych, a 28 year-old project manager, told AFP in Kyiv.

The victory drew praise in unlikely corners, as the deputy chief of the NATO military alliance said it showed just how much public support ex-Soviet Ukraine has in fighting off Moscow.

“I would like to congratulate Ukraine for winning the Eurovision contest,” Mircea Geoana said as he arrived in Berlin for talks that will tackle the alliance’s expansion in the wake of the Kremlin’s war.

“And this is not something I’m making in a light way because we have seen yesterday the immense public support all over Europe and Australia for the bravery of” Ukraine, Geoana said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom”.

And European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine”.

‘Ready to fight’
Despite the joyous theatrics that are a hallmark of the song contest, the war in Ukraine hung heavily over the festivities this year.
 
The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbour.
 
“Stefania”, written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb
to perform their act.
 
 
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” resonated all the more as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.

Kalush Orchestra received special authorisation from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.

Psiuk said he was not sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.

“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.

Britain’s ‘Space Man’

Ukraine beat a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, who sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national healthcare while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.

Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.

After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.

Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.

Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.

Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant
“Sentimentai”.

Other offerings included Greece’s “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord and “Brividi” (Shivers), a duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.

Italy had hoped the gay-themed love song would bring it a second consecutive Eurovision win after last year’s “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin.

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