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Good morning. The EU, US and UK are pushing the United Arab Emirates to halt exports of critical goods to Russia that could assist its war economy, as data shows a huge surge in shipments of microchips and other electronic equipment last year from the Gulf state — and exports of drones.
Today, our Athens correspondent explains that 15 days before the fatal railway crash in Greece on Tuesday night, the country was served a legal warning that its regulations were not up to scratch. Plus, a new study suggests that less than a third of EU financial support to cushion against high energy prices last year went to households that need it most.
Fifteen days before the worst railway crash Greece has seen in decades, the European Commission had referred the country to the European Court of Justice for “failing to fulfil its obligations” under the Single European Railway Area Directive, writes Eleni Varvitsioti.
The reason: Greece had failed to sign an agreement regarding infrastructure investments and emergency procedures between competent national authorities and the railway infrastructure manager back in 2015.
Two weeks later, the accident in central Greece late on Tuesday night resulted in the death of at least 38 people, while a further 85 were injured.
Transport minister Kostas Karamanlis resigned yesterday, admitting that his efforts at the helm of the ministry had not been enough to prevent such an accident. “This is very heavy for all of us and for me personally,” he said.
It’s unclear whether things would have panned out differently had Greece signed the agreement required under the EU railway directive.
“Despite exchanges between the Commission and Greece, the national authorities have still not signed and published the contractual agreement with the Greek railway infrastructure manager,” the commission wrote in the referral, sent on February 15.
Greece’s railway has long been considered one of the worst in Europe. As part of the country’s eurozone bailout programme, the Greek railway TrainOSE sold its trains to the Italian group Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane in 2017.
The newly formed company was expected to invest hundreds of millions of euros on needed infrastructure but has yet to deliver. In a statement yesterday, the company said it would “ensure the maximum support to the injured and their families”.
Chart du jour: Shades of green
The EU has drawn up a set of standards to fight “greenwashing” in the bond market, the first step towards regulatory oversight for a fast-growing asset class that has so far largely governed itself. The rules could sharply reduce the volume of bonds that qualify for a green label.
Spray and pray
EU governments were repeatedly urged last year to ensure their efforts to cushion the impact of high energy prices were carefully targeted, as well as temporary.
New research suggests many of them didn’t listen, writes Sam Fleming.
Less than a third of the massive fiscal interventions put in place by European governments to shelter households from punishing price rises were targeted at vulnerable individuals, according to the Bruegel think-tank.
That flies in the face of official advice from the likes of the IMF and the European Central Bank urging governments to focus their fiscal response on those who most need it.
Spraying public money too haphazardly during an energy crisis is unwise for a number of reasons, explains Bruegel’s research.
It reduces incentives to save energy while straining government finances at a time when public indebtedness is already at sky-high levels. Untargeted measures to dampen energy prices can also stoke up inflation over the longer term.
Bruegel recommends that governments follow what it has has called a “green triple-T” strategy instead. Policies should be transition-proof, meaning they encourage use of renewables; they should be tailored to encourage energy savings; and they should be targeted to the most vulnerable households.
Music to the ears of the ECB and IMF, perhaps, but that doesn’t mean EU capitals will necessarily heed it.
What to watch today
Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, speaks at the UN rights council in Geneva. Press briefing at 1130am.
Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni begins a two-day visit to India.
Now read these
Vote away: Turkey will hold elections on May 14, president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, quashing speculation of an earthquake-induced delay.
Superbonus: Italy’s fiscal deficits for the past three years have widened sharply, due to a pandemic tax credit scheme that revitalised the construction industry.
Music for morale: Gillian Tett on what a rock concert on the front line reveals how Ukrainians are organising their response to Russia’s invasion.
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