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ENERGY

Spain to lower taxes for sectors affected by Ukraine war 

The Spanish government will roll out tax reliefs to alleviate the economic impact of Russia’s invasion war in Ukraine on the Spanish economy’s most affected industries, with plans to also speed up renewable energy projects. 

Spain to lower taxes for sectors affected by Ukraine war 
Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez speaks during a press conference following a Conference of Regional Presidents. Photo: JAVIER SORIANO /AFP

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Sunday announced his government will help industries confront rising costs and energy prices derived from Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. 

The price of electricity, natural gas, fuel and countless other raw materials and products has spiked over the past two weeks as a result of the conflict and its ensuing energy crisis,  at a time when inflation in Spain was already at its highest in the last three decades. 

A number of steel plants and factories across Spain have ground operations to a halt in recent days as a result of not being able to face spiralling costs. 

During the Conference of Regional Presidents on the Canary island of La Palma on Sunday, Sánchez agreed with the country’s 17 regional leaders to reduce taxes for the most affected sectors, without specifying what the tax cuts will consist of or which industries will have access to them. 

What the Spanish premier has said is that the tax discount will not come for at least another two weeks, expected around March 29th. 

Popular Party presidents such as Madrid’s Isabel Díaz Ayuso called for there to be a complete temporary suspension of all electricity and gas taxes, to which Sánchez responded that his administration had already agreed to lower these rates at a cost of €10 to €12 billion to public coffers. 

To help reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian energy, Sánchez also called for renewable energy projects in Spain to be sped up, in particular gas, green hydrogen and renewable energy connections between Spain and the continent.

The EU believes Spain can play a pivotal role in reducing Europe’s dependence on Russian gas as it has the largest gas storage and regasification capacity of all Member States, but the lack of existing gas pipeline connections between Spain and the rest of mainland Europe poses a problem.

READ ALSO: Is Spain ready to be the EU’s main natural gas supplier?

For Sánchez achieving this energy autonomy is essential as the conflict is going to be “long and risks becoming chronic”.

Spain’s Prime Minister has the backing of the regional presidents when it comes to his proposal to the EU of separating the price of electricity from that of natural gas as another means of reducing the influence Russia can have on Europe’s energy prices.

Regional heads have also agreed to coordinate the reception and housing of more Ukrainian refugees in the days and weeks to come, with the initial figure of 12,000 likely to rise if the war continues.

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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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