Гончарук та Маркарова зустрілися з місією МВФ

Прем’єр-міністр України Олексій Гончарук та міністр фінансів України Оксана Маркарова зустрілися з керівником місії Міжнародного валютного фонду Роном ван Роденом та економістом Габором Пулою. Про це повідомляє Урядовий портал.
Сторони обговорювали умови відкриття нової трирічної програми фінансування.
«Україна продемонструвала та продовжує демонструвати швидке та успішне втілення реформ, задекларованих президентом, нашим урядом і парламентом. Протягом останніх тижнів український Парламент прийняв за основу проект закону про обіг земель сільськогосподарського призначення, а також ухвалив за основу та в цілому закон про анбандлінг. Останній вже підписав президент. Відтак ми сподіваємося на узгодження нової довгострокової програми розширеного фінансування, яка підтримає наші зусилля, спрямовані на прискорення економічного зростання», – зазначив Гончарук.
Ван Роден у свою чергу наголосив на важливості реформ, здійснених українським урядом та висловив сподівання на прискорення їх темпу.
Місія Міжнародного валютного фонду розпочала роботу в Києві 14 листопада. Згідно із базовим прогнозом Національного банку, за новою програмою співпраці з МВФ Україна може отримати два мільярди доларів від фонду у 2019 році та ще по два мільярди у 2020 й 2021 роках.


Зеленський підписав закон про відкремлення ГТС від «Нафтогазу» – Ковалів

Заступник керівника офісу президента Володимира Зеленського Юлія Ковалів повідомила про підписання ним закону про відокремлення газотранспортної системи від НАК «Нафтогаз» – так званий анбандлінг.
«Закон забезпечує необхідні умови для виконання зобов’язань України щодо відокремлення діяльності з транспортування газу та забезпечення діяльності оператора газотранспортної системи відповідно до європейського законодавства. Попри намагання блокувати та затягувати прийняття рішень, Україна впевнено рухається на шляху до європейської інтеграції та демонструє готовність до сертифікації оператора газотранспортної системи відповідно до правил ЄС та Третього енергетичного пакету», – написала вона у фейсбуці.
31 жовтня Верховна Рада ухвалила законопроєкт про анбандлінг «Нафтогазу». Документ передбачає, що ГТС залишиться у державній власності, однак для управління нею буде створено окрему компанію-оператора, на яку «Нафтогаз» впливати не зможе.
Анбандлінг «Нафтогазу» одна з умов, які дадуть можливість Україні могла укласти новий контракт про транзит газу з Росією за європейськими правилами, зазначав раніше глава Міненерго Олексій Оржель.
У липні компанія «Нафтогаз» заявляла, що негайне проведення відокремлення оператора газотранспортної системи зараз неможливе через чинний транзитний контракт з російським «Газпромом».
Наразі «Нафтогаз України» здійснює повний цикл операцій розвідки та розробки родовищ, експлуатаційного та розвідувального буріння, транспортування та зберігання нафти і газу, постачання природного і скрапленого газу споживачам. Відокремлення функцій, зокрема, транспортування газу вимагає, серед іншого, так званий Третій енергопакет нормативних актів Європейського союзу, втілити які зобов’язалася й Україна. «Нафтогаз України» є одноособовим акціонером компанії «Укртрансгаз», яка займається транспортуванням газу.
Реформа «Нафтогазу» передбачає проведення демонополізації компанії. Оператор української ГТС має бути виділений в юридичну особу, не пов’язану ні з «Нафтогазом», ні з іншими підприємствами, які займаються видобутком і генерацією енергії.


Archbishop Describes Kidnapping by Separatist Fighters in Cameroon

Separatists in Cameroon’s restive English-speaking regions have freed a prominent Catholic archbishop they kidnapped Tuesday. 

Archbishop Cornelius Fontem Esua says he was abducted by separatist fighters in a locality called Njinikejem while on a trip to preach peace in regions where a separatist war has raged for the past two years.

“The road was blocked,” he said. “I stood there for sometime, some boys came in and said, ‘No, you cannot go, you should go back.’ They gave me the number of a certain general [commander of separatist fighters]. They called and said, ‘Let me talk to him.’ He said, ‘No, you cannot pass, it has been blocked.’ I came down, I removed the barrier and I passed. The boys came, about 5 or 6 of them very aggressively shouting, ‘Who do you think you are,’ mishandled my driver. ‘No, we are taking you to our camp.'”

Esua says he was taken to the bush with four of his companions. He says they were not physically assaulted while in captivity.

The archbishop says he told the hundreds of youths and the man who called himself the general commanding separatist forces in the area that they should stop killing, maiming and abducting people whom they say they are trying to liberate.

“I told them, ‘You are making people to suffer.’ I said we cannot achieve anything good with evil. Thou shall not kill, thou shall not make other people to suffer. People whom you pretend to be fighting for are suffering. I told them a lot about education. Get the schools open,” he said.

Esua says they listened to him, and replied that they were fighting to save their land and people. He says he was asked to leave after more than 13 hours in captivity; he did not say if a ransom was paid for his release.

Previous abductions

It was not the first time clergy have been abducted by the English-speaking separatists, who want to break away from Cameroon’s French-speaking majority. 

The Catholic Church says dozens of its nuns and priests have been kidnapped and released.  Many believe the church paid to secure their release, an allegation the church denies. 

Security analyst Eugene Ongbwa, a consultant with Cameroon’s NGO Ecumenical Service For Peace, says the separatists have not been killing priests because the Catholic Church has preached against abuses by the government, and has called on the central government to listen to the fighters.

When the crisis began, separatist fighters kidnapped and killed missionaries and foreign workers to put pressure on the international community to force the government of Cameroon to grant their requests, Ongbwa said, adding that separatists seem to have dropped that option. The archbishop’s life may have been spared because he has been neutral, though vocal, about the need for the government to listen to the separatists, Ongbwa said.

The Catholic Church says at least nine clergy members have been killed, including American-born Charles Wesco, who died in Bamenda in crossfire with separatist fighters, and Kenyan-born Cosmas Omboto Ondari, who was shot in the southwestern town of Mamfe in a crossfire incident last November.


Kenyan Activists Celebrate Halt to Coal Plant in World Heritage Town

Kenyan activists are celebrating after a Chinese-backed plan to build East Africa’s first coal-fired power plant near the World Heritage site island town of Lamu has again been halted.  Ruud Elmendorp reports from Lamu on the continuing controversy. 


Biden, Sanders, Harris Among 2nd Group of Democratic Hopefuls Set for Miami Debate

Another 10 Democratic U.S. presidential contenders will debate Thursday night, including a larger number of leading candidates, following a spirited Wednesday night debate in the first major event of the 2020 election campaign.

Thursday’s participants include former Vice President Joe Biden and other top-tier possible choices, including Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Kamala Harris of California; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of the Midwestern city of South Bend, Indiana; along with six others.

All twenty Democratic presidential hopefuls hope to oust Republican President Donald Trump after a single term in the White House.

The immediate focus Wednesday was on Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a progressive lawmaker from the northeastern state of Massachusetts who national surveys show has edged closer to Biden as a Democratic favorite to oppose Trump in the election set for Nov. 3, 2020.

Democratic presidential hopeful Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren participates in the first Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, June 26, 2019.

She told a live audience in Miami, Florida, and millions more watching on national television, “I want to return government to the people.” She added, referring to major corporations, “What’s been missing is courage, courage in Washington to take on the giants. I have the courage to go after them.”

Later, Warren said she supports a government-run health care system that could end the private insurance-based health care now used in the U.S. Some Democratic candidates and most Republicans, including Trump, oppose such a change as costly and a mistake for the country.

But Warren, a former Harvard law professor, said, “Health care is a basic human right and I will fight for basic human rights.”

Even with Warren’s strong performance in the two-hour debate, the other candidates had their moments to control it in their attempt to gain a foothold in the unprecedentedly large field of 25 Democratic candidates.

Democratic presidential hopeful former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro participates in the first Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign.

Immigration

Former U.S. housing chief Julian Castro, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and other contenders called for major changes in U.S. immigration policies, voicing numerous objections to the way Trump has tried to block Central American migrants from entering the U.S. to seek asylum.

“We must not criminalize desperation” of migrants to reach the U.S., said Castro, who frequently began his answers in Spanish before repeating them in English. He said this week’s photo of an El Salvadoran father and his 23-month-old daughter drowning in the Rio Grande River on the southern U.S. border with Mexico “is heart-breaking…and should piss us all off.”

Warren was also joined on the debate stage by Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, former Congressman Beto O’Rourke of Texas and five others as they parried each other’s policy planks and aimed verbal shots at Trump and his 29-month White House tenure. “Immigrants do not diminish America,” Klobuchar said at one point in a rejoinder to Trump, even as she added that some border restrictions must be kept to stop human traffickers.

Democratic presidential hopefuls, from left, Bill de Blasio, Tim Ryan, Julian Castro, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar and Tulsi Gabbard arrive to the first Democratic primary debate in Miami, June 26, 2019.

For many Americans, it was the first chance to size up many of the Democratic presidential candidates, to see whether they might like any of them as an alternative to Trump, the country’s surprise winner in the 2016 election.

The crowd in Miami, a Democratic stronghold in a state Trump won in the 2016 election, cheered raucously at verbal swipes at Trump, with Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee perhaps drawing the biggest response when he contended that Trump was the world’s biggest security threat to the U.S., while the other candidates gave more traditional answers to the same question, naming Russia, China, and global warming.

Democratic presidential hopeful Governor of Washington Jay Inslee speaks during the first Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, June 26, 2019.

The Democrats are staging a dozen debates over the coming months, well ahead of the first Democratic election contest to eventually pick the party’s presidential nominee: caucus voting in the Midwest farm state of Iowa in the dead of winter next February.

The unwieldy field of candidates, in addition to another five that did not meet the Democratic National Committee’s minimal political standards to merit a spot in the debates, all sense they might have a chance to unseat Trump.

Democratic voters, however, so far seem uncertain of what they are looking for in their party standard-bearer — someone who best represents their political views on such contentious issues as health care, abortion, foreign policy, immigration, taxes and more, or possibly a candidate who has one overriding quality: the best chance of defeating Trump.

 


US Senate Approves Funds to Address Border Crisis

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved bipartisan legislation to address the humanitarian crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border with more than $4 billion in supplemental funds and new requirements for the care of detained migrants, especially children.

The 84-8 vote came amid renewed scrutiny of the Trump administration’s treatment of minors in its custody and amid widespread revulsion over the deaths of a father and daughter from El Salvador who perished trying to cross the Rio Grande River into the United States.

“There is no longer any question that the situation along our southern border is a full-blown humanitarian and security crisis,” Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama said, adding that there was “no excuse” for delay in addressing the situation.

“Inaction is simply not an option for those who care about alleviating the suffering of desperate children and families seeking refuge in the United States,” Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy said.

The Republican-led Senate approved the bill after voting down a House version that also boosted funds for U.S. Customs and Border Protection and other federal agencies stretched to the breaking point by border arrivals totaling more than 100,000 a month, the highest numbers recorded in more than a decade.

Although broadly similar, the Senate version is less extensive in regulating the care of detained children. Unlike the House version, it provides $145 million for the Pentagon to assist in border operations.

To reach President Donald Trump’s desk, the Senate bill would need to pass the House. Hpwever, majority-Democrats in the House have signaled they want changes to the bill. As a result, a bicameral committee is expected to be formed to try to hammer out a version that can pass both chambers. Time for swift action is growing short, as Congress will be in recess next week for America’s Independence Day holiday.

Speaking with reporters before departing the White House, Trump hailed legislative movement on border funding.

“I believe the House is going to be getting together with the Senate. Hopefully, they can get something done,” Trump said.

Earlier in the day, the president once again blamed Democrats for the border crisis, tweeting: “The Democrats should change the Loopholes and Asylum Laws so lives will be saved at our Southern Border. They said it was not a crisis at the Border, that it was all just manufactured.’ Now they admit that I was right – But they must do something about it. Fix the Laws NOW!”

On the Senate floor, Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer fired back.

“We can do something about this [crisis] if the president would stop playing the political game of blame, blame, blame,” Schumer said. “Mr. President, you are the president of the United States. You are head of the executive branch. You control what’s happening at the border.”

Schumer spoke alongside a blown-up photo, widely distributed by news organizations, of the drowned Salvadoran father and daughter, as reaction poured in across Capitol Hill and beyond.

“I don’t want to see another picture like that on the U.S. border,” Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said. “I hope that picture alone will catalyze this Congress, this Senate … to do something.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has faced renewed criticism on Capitol Hill after news reports emerged earlier this week of squalid living conditions at a CBP facility in Texas that houses detained migrant children.

A Senate panel on Wednesday pressed administration officials on the subject.

“What are you doing to actually make sure that children are getting the care and the sanitary conditions and the food that they need?” New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan asked.

The Border Patrol’s chief of law enforcement operations, Brian Hastings, responded that detention facilities are being upgraded with shower facilities and increased medical care. He added that more funds are being devoted to basic supplies, such as diapers and baby formula.


Voters Get First Up-Close Look at 2020 Democratic Contenders

It is more than 16 months until the next U.S. presidential election in late 2020, but 20 Democratic presidential contenders are set to debate each other Wednesday and Thursday nights to give Democratic voters a first look at whom they might want to pick as the party’s nominee to try to oust Republican President Donald Trump.

Ten of the Democratic candidates, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, one of the current front-runners for the party nomination; Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke of Texas, are set to spar tonight for two hours. They will appear before a live audience in Miami, with millions more watching on national television.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the leader for the nomination in national surveys, is joining other top-tier possible choices on the debate stage Thursday night, including Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Kamala Harris of California; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of the Midwestern city of South Bend, Indiana; along with six others.

The unwieldy field of candidates, in addition to another five that did not meet the Democratic National Committee’s minimal political standards to merit a spot in the debates, all sense they might have a chance to unseat Trump after a single term in the White House.

Political issues, electability

Democratic voters, however, so far seem uncertain of what they are looking for in their party standard-bearer in the Nov. 3, 2020, election — someone who best represents their political views on such contentious issues as health care, abortion, foreign policy, immigration, taxes and more, or possibly a candidate who has one overriding quality: the best chance of defeating Trump.

On the streets of Miami, Florida voter Dawn Schonwetter looked forward to the Democratic debates and stressed the importance of the state in the upcoming presidential election.

“We’re a big state. We have a lot of electoral votes, so I think it is a major battleground state – that makes it very exciting here for us at election time,” she said.

Traffic moves past Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center the day before 20 Democratic U.S. presidential candidates begin a two night debate that will be the first debate of the 2020 U.S. presidential election in Miami.

Another Florida voter, Republican-turned-progressive Democrat Eduardo De La Vega, said he intends to choose the candidate with the best plans for health care and education.

“This is why I’m here – to see who is the right person. It’s going to be really exciting because if a Democrat wins the state, it’s over for the Republicans,” he said.

Trump, as he left Washington for the Group of 20 economic meetings in Japan, said he would watch the Wednesday debate from Air Force One and taunted Biden — who won’t be on the stage until Thursday.

“It just seems very boring, but I’m going to watch it,” he told Fox News.

“Biden is a lost soul,” Trump claimed. “He doesn’t know where he is.”

A key unknown ahead of the debates is whether the Democratic challengers will spend more of their time attacking each other for their differences over policy issues or chiefly aim their political barbs at Trump.

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Crowded Democratic Presidential Field Ready for First Debate video player.

Already, some of the Democrats are trying to diminish Biden’s nomination chances, attacking him for his recent recollection that 40 years ago when he was a young U.S. senator, he had working relationships in the Senate with segregationists adamantly opposed to the equality of blacks and whites.

Although the candidates have been campaigning for months in the early states where Democrats next year will hold presidential party nominating contests — including Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — for millions of Americans watching on television, it will be their first chance to size up the candidates and see whether they find someone they might favor over Trump.

No shoo-in

Despite a robust U.S. economy — a normal election-year barometer favoring an incumbent U.S. president’s re-election — Trump is by no means a shoo-in for a second four-year term.

FILE – Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum, June 5, 2019, in Elkhart, Indiana.

Polling shows the one-time New York real estate magnate, a surprise winner in 2016, has yet to win over many voters beyond the hard core of populist and Republican voters that has supported him through his 29-month presidency. More voters than not, surveys repeatedly show, disapprove of his performance in office.

U.S. political pundits dismissed Trump’s chances of a victory three years ago, but he could win again.

At the moment, however, surveys show several Democrats leading the 73-year-old Trump. Biden, who is 76 and was President Barack Obama’s two-term vice president, holds the biggest edge of more than 10 percentage points over Trump. But polls this far ahead of the election are not necessarily predictive and may be just a snapshot of a moment in time.

In all, a dozen Democratic presidential debates are planned between now and the first months of 2020, although the number of candidates appearing in them will diminish over time as contenders drop out for lack of voter support and campaign funds. The first voting in Democratic primaries and caucuses to decide the presidential nomination starts February 3 in the Midwest farm state of Iowa.

All of the Democratic presidential candidates, to one degree or another, have staked out positions on key issues they think are important to reshape policy debates in Washington, while at the same time attacking Trump for his views about domestic issues and international relations during his unprecedented presidency.

The Democrats running for the U.S. presidency have broadly adopted a much more expansive liberal role for the federal government than either the more conservative Trump or Republicans who control the Senate. Democrats, in philosophical political agreement with many of their presidential candidates, took control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 congressional elections.

Political differences

The Democratic presidential candidates do have policy differences among themselves and often have emphasized a variety of issues they think might help them connect with voters when there is such a large field of candidates.

Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden takes photos with supporters at an event at Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, June 11, 2019.

Warren and Sanders, neck and neck in second place behind Biden in nomination surveys, are both pushing for far-reaching changes to the country’s economic policies to help middle-class families, paid for with higher taxes on wealthy people. Warren wants new taxes on people with more than $50 million in assets, while Sanders called this week for wiping out all $1.6 trillion in student college debt.

O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman, has called for a $5 trillion plan to combat climate change, an issue that resonates with many Democrats after Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

Senators Booker and Klobuchar have advanced more moderate proposals on several issues in hopes of capturing the mass of voters not willing to go as far to the left politically as some of the other Democrats have.

Biden, to a large degree, has stayed above the fray of debate over policy issues, preferring to present himself as the voice of American stability, a correction to Trump’s unpredictable, tweet-filled presidency.

Mocking Trump’s long-standing political slogan, “Make America Great Again,” Biden recently told voters, “Let’s make America America again.”

But appearing on the same stage with other Democrats may force him to explain and account for his four decades as a Washington political figure and twice-failed presidential campaigns.

The candidates

The other candidates debating Wednesday include Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney.

Thursday’s list of candidates also includes New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, California Rep. Eric Swalwell, entrepreneur Andrew Yang and self-help author Marianne Williamson.


Car Bomb Targets Former IS Stronghold in Syria

A powerful explosion on Wednesday rocked a town in northeast Syria, local sources told VOA. 
 
The car bomb attack, which took place on a main street near the center of Tabqa, wounded at least two security personnel and one civilian, the sources said. 
 
“There are definitely more casualties, but we don’t have any details yet as local security forces have blocked the entire area,” a Tabqa-based aid worker who requested anonymity for security reasons told VOA. 
 
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Islamic State terror group has carried out similar attacks in the past against U.S.-backed forces in the town and elsewhere in northeast Syria. 

Taken by SDF
 
Tabqa, which is administratively part of Raqqa province, was under IS rule from 2014 until 2017, when U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces took control of the town. 
 
“The city has been secured since we liberated it from [IS] terrorists,” an SDF commander, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to reporters, told VOA. “But these occasional incidents are expected as [IS] still has sleeper cells throughout the region.” 

SDF officials said they had arrested members of IS-affiliated sleeper cells in two northern Syrian cities this week. 
 
“Counterterrorism units arrested five members of Daesh’s sleeper cells in two separate successful raids in Raqqa and Manbij countryside,” SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said Wednesday in a tweet, using the Arabic acronym for IS. 
 
Earlier this week, IS took responsibility for a motorcycle explosion that wounded at least five civilians in the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli in northeast Syria. 
 

FILE – A member of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces watches over people who were evacuated out of the last territory held by Islamic State militants, outside Baghouz, Syria, March 5, 2019.

In late March, the SDF declared victory over IS in its last stronghold in eastern Syria. But some experts charge that the group continues to pose a major threat to local forces in the war-torn country. 
 
“IS will remain a threat in Syria as long as there is no political stability in Syria,” said Sadradeen Kinno, a Syrian researcher who closely follows IS activities in the country. 
 
“It’s true that they don’t hold territory anymore, but IS has proven time and time again that it can wage attacks from within communities it once ruled,” he told VOA.   
 
Since 2011, Syria has been devastated by a multilayered civil war that has led to the rise of several terror groups, including IS and al-Qaida. 
 
This week, political directors of the U.S.-led coalition against IS convened in Paris to discuss stabilization efforts in Syria and Iraq after the military defeat of the terror group. 
 
Islamic State’s “territorial defeat does not represent the terrorist group’s eradication or the end of the terrorist threat it poses,” the coalition said in a statement Tuesday. 
 
“While it continues to inspire terrorist attacks through active propaganda efforts, [IS] has also proved its resilience and adaptability, continuing to conduct lethal attacks,” the statement added. “It has used its active cells in the region to attack our partners and the civilian populations both in Iraq and in Syria where we have recently seen an increase of [IS] attacks in the Levant.”