EU unveils new rules to curb tech giants

EU unveils new rules to curb tech giants
An activist from the global citizens movement Avaaz, wearing a mask of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, during a protest in Brussels. (AP)
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Updated 16 December 2020

EU unveils new rules to curb tech giants

EU unveils new rules to curb tech giants
  • The EU outlined its long-awaited sweeping overhaul of digital regulations

BRUSSELS: The EU on Tuesday unveiled tough draft rules targeting tech giants such as Google, Amazon and Facebook, whose power Brussels sees as a threat to competition and even democracy.
The landmark proposals, which come as Silicon Valley faces increasing global scrutiny, could shake up the way Big Tech does business by menacing some of the world’s biggest firms with mammoth fines or bans from the European market.
EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager said the bloc’s draft laws to regulate the internet aimed to bring “order to chaos” and rein in the online “gatekeepers” that dominate the market.
“The Digital Service Act and Digital Markets Act will create safe and trustworthy services while protecting freedom of expression,” she told a press conference.
The EU says the legislation would see internet behemoths face fines of up to 10 percent of their turnover for breaking some of the most serious competition rules, or even risk being broken up.
It also proposes fining them 6 percent of revenues or temporarily banning them from the EU market “in the event of serious and repeated breaches of law which endanger the security of European citizens.”
The Digital Services Act and its accompanying Digital Markets Act will lay out strict conditions for doing business in the EU’s 27 member countries as authorities aim to curb the spread of disinformation and hate speech online, as well as Big Tech’s business dominance.
A source close to the European Commission said 10 firms face being designated as “gatekeepers” under the competition legislation and subject to specific regulations to limit their power to dominate markets.
The firms that would be subject to stricter regulation are US titans Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and SnapChat, China’s Alibaba and Bytedance, South Korea’s Samsung and the Netherlands’ Booking.com.
Search engine Google said it will carefully study the proposals, but complained that they “seem to specifically target a handful of companies.”
The draft laws will go through a long and complex ratification process, with the EU’s 27 states, the European Parliament, and a lobbying frenzy of companies and trade associations influencing the final law.
The Digital Services Act is being touted as a way to give the European Commission sharper teeth in pursuing social media platforms when they allow illegal content online, such as extremist propaganda, hate speech, disinformation and child pornography.
Under the Digital Markets Act, the EU is seeking to give Brussels new powers to enforce competition laws more quickly, and to push for greater transparency in their algorithms and use of personal data.
The rules are designed to update legislation that dates back to 2004, when many of today’s internet giants either did not exist or were in their infancy.
A Facebook spokesperson said the proposed regulations “are on the right track to help preserve what is good about the internet,” and insisted it looks forward “to engaging with EU lawmakers.”
The social network took aim at fellow tech giant Apple, insisting it wants the rules to “set boundaries” for the iPhone maker, with which it has tussled over privacy.
Activist group Avaaz said the legislation could prove a “bold and brave move,” but insisted Brussels must make sure it is fully enforced.
“This is a strong framework and the EU has the heft and democratic values to hold the platforms to account, regulate the reach of disinformation and protect the free speech of the users,” legal director Sarah Andrew said.
European Parliament member David Cormand, who sits on its internal market committee, said the legislation is a “step in the right direction” but lacks the ambition to “regain power over our digital services.”
For the past decade the EU has taken the lead worldwide in trying to grapple with the power of Big Tech, for example slapping billions in antitrust fines on Google, but critics believe the method has been too cumbersome and has done little to change behavior.
The EU has also ordered Apple to pay billions of euros in back taxes to Ireland, but that decision was quashed by the bloc’s highest court.
Tuesday’s moves in Brussels come as regulators around the world have increasingly become concerned about the financial and social power of Big Tech.
US authorities have taken up the call, with several major antitrust cases targeting Google in addition to a legal bid to strip Facebook of its Instagram and WhatsApp products.
Britain’s government was on Tuesday also expected to announce proposed legislation to tackle “online harms” by introducing the threat of fines for internet giants.


Oil remains near multiyear highs as energy crunch continues

Oil remains near multiyear highs as energy crunch continues
Updated 5 sec ago

Oil remains near multiyear highs as energy crunch continues

Oil remains near multiyear highs as energy crunch continues

NEW YORK: Oil edged higher on Tuesday and was near multiyear highs as an energy supply crunch continued across the globe, while falling temperatures in China revived concerns over whether the world’s biggest energy consumer can meet domestic heating needs.

The Brent crude benchmark rose 34 cents to $84.67 a barrel by 11:11 a.m. EDT (1511 GMT). US West Texas Intermediate futures rose 46 cents to $82.90 a barrel.

Prices have been climbing the last two months. Since the start of September, Brent has risen by about 18 percent, while WTI has

gained by around 21 percent. “Supply-demand balances show that the market is experiencing a supply deficit, which is spurring deep inventory draws and driving prices upward,” said Louise Dickson, senior oil markets analyst at Rystad Energy.

“This market tightness is expected to extend into most of 2022, and crude oil demand will only catch up with crude supply by the fourth quarter of next year.”

With temperatures falling as the northern hemisphere winter approaches and heating demand increasing, prices of oil, coal and natural gas are likely to remain elevated, traders and analysts said.


Greece, Egypt, Cyprus sign energy deal with Europe in mind

Greece, Egypt, Cyprus sign energy deal with Europe in mind
Updated 19 October 2021

Greece, Egypt, Cyprus sign energy deal with Europe in mind

Greece, Egypt, Cyprus sign energy deal with Europe in mind
  • The deal concerns the "interconnection" of the neighbours and transfer of electricity to their respective networks, Greek prime minister said
  • The announcement comes as countries around the world face an energy crisis, with the prices of natural gas, oil and coal rising

ATHENS: Greece, Cyprus and Egypt on Tuesday signed an electricity agreement that could include Egyptian solar power and potentially supply power to other European countries.
The protocol was signed during a meeting between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the presidents of Egypt, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, in Athens.
The deal concerns the “interconnection” of the neighbors and transfer of electricity to their respective networks, Mitsotakis said.
“As energy sources diversify, Egypt can become a supplier of electric power, which will be mainly produced by the sun, and Greece will become a distribution station for Europe,” Mitsotakis added.
The announcement comes as countries around the world face an energy crisis, with the prices of natural gas, oil and coal rising.
El-Sisi said the agreement aims to “reinforce energy cooperation.”
In a joint statement, the Mediterranean neighbors said: “This interconnection reinforces cooperation and energy security, not only between these three countries but also with Europe.”
“It will be a way to transfer important quantities of electricity from and to the eastern Mediterranean,” the statement said.
The three countries also expressed their intention of exploring and transferring natural gas in the region.
Energy cooperation between eastern Mediterranean countries regularly irritate Turkey, which has its eyes set on oil and natural gas deposits in the region.
“Unfortunately, Ankara does not understand the message of the times and its aspirations to the detriment of its neighbors are obviously a threat to peace in the region,” Mitsotakis said.
Tensions soared last year when Turkey sent an exploration ship and small navy flotilla to conduct research in waters that Greece considers its own under treaties.
The Turkish foreign ministry later Tuesday lambasted the joint statement as another example of the “hostile policy” toward Turkey and Turkish-held northern Cyprus.
While Ankara supported energy projects which “increased cooperation between regional countries,” the ministry stressed that Turkish and northern Cyprus’ rights and interests “should not be ignored by these projects.”
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey seized the north in response to a coup orchestrated by an Athens-backed junta seeking to annex the island to Greece.
Despite attempts this year to normalize relations with Egypt after falling out in 2013, the Turkish ministry also criticized Cairo’s cooperation with Greece and Cyprus.
“The inclusion of Egypt indicates that the Egyptian administration has not yet grasped the real address where it can cooperate in the eastern Mediterranean,” it added in a written statement.


Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law

Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law
Updated 19 October 2021

Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law

Saudi Arabia raises penalty for violating finance companies law

RIYADH: Saudi Cabinet on Tuesday approved raising the penalty for violating the Finance Companies Law to not more than SR2 million ($0.53 million), the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Following the amendment, the penalty shall be SR2 million or 10 percent of the value of finance to which the violation was carried out, or imprisonment for a period of not more than two years, or one of those two penalties.


Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report

Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report
Updated 19 October 2021

Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report

Route to net zero emissions will cost global economy $5tr annually: Report

A report from Bank of America has warned reaching net zero will cost the global economy $5 trillion annually for the next 30 years.

On the eve of the UN’s COP26 environmental conference in Scotland this month, where countries who signed the 2015 Paris Agreement to reduce carbon emissions will review their progress and outline policies to achieve net zero by 2050, the report offers a stark reminder of the cost of transitioning to greener energy.

However, the report also warned that failing to address climate change could lead to the loss of 3 percent of global gross domestic product annually this decade, amounting to around $69 trillion by the end of this century.

A key priority at COP26 is for governments to agree on specific cash-backed policies that will accelerate the transition toward net zero, including a commitment to phase out the use of coal, sharply reduce deforestation, speed up the transition to electric vehicles and green heating systems, and implement fiscal measures to encourage increased investment in renewable energy.

In addition, the summit, which is taking place in Scotland’s former industrial heartland of Glasgow, will also attempt to get western governments to make good the $20 billion a year shortfall in helping emerging nations transition to greener energy.

Developed nations had agreed to provide $100 billion per year to emerging nations. Not only have they fallen short on that commitment, but the UN wants agreement in Glasgow to increase that funding further.

The UN Environment Programme estimates the cost of transition in emerging countries will reach $140-300 billion by 2030, and $280-500 billion by 2050. San Francisco based think tank, the Climate Policy Initiative, estimates Africa on its own may require up to $3 trillion by the end of this decade.

Against this backdrop, Bank of America estimates the total cost of transitioning will be $150 trillion, at least four times the amount that global COVID-19 stimulus packages are forecast to cost governments this decade.

The report states financing the trillions of dollars of investment needed for net zero will require “significant changes in capital allocation.”

As Arab News reported last week, the World Resources Institute said G20 countries still account for 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, a report by Moody’s Investors Service revealed financial institutions in the G20 were carrying almost $22 trillion of exposure to carbon-intensive sectors.

However, Bank of America said the use of labelled bonds and loans to address environmental issues is expanding rapidly.

It is forecasting more than $1 trillion in labeled bond issuance this year, with $900 billion in green, social and sustainability bonds and a further $100 billion in sustainability-linked bonds.

The report adds that labeled bonds already account for more than 20 percent of European high grade and European high yield issuance for corporates this year, driven by environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns and EU regulations, more than twice the rate in 2020.

However, while the report is bullish about the ability of Western governments to pay for greening the planet, the report notes that while around 50 countries, along with the EU — which between them account for almost 75 percent of CO2 emissions — have committed to reaching net zero, only 10 countries have so far enshrined that commitment in legislation.

The report adds while a number of the countries have pledged to long-term targets, centered on 2050 or the end of the century, they have failed to make 2030 commitments in line with the Paris Agreement.

The good news? Well, Bank of America’s cost estimate is considerably lower than an earlier forecast, published in the summer, by BloombergNEF’s closely watched New Energy Outlook, which put the figure at $173 trillion, of $5.8 trillion annually.

Progress of sorts as the world heads to Glasgow. 


Saudi-Moroccan Business Council to hold expo in Jeddah


Saudi-Moroccan Business Council to hold expo in Jeddah

Updated 19 October 2021

Saudi-Moroccan Business Council to hold expo in Jeddah


Saudi-Moroccan Business Council to hold expo in Jeddah


RIYADH: The Saudi-Moroccan Business Council on Tuesday signed four memorandums of understanding to strengthen partnership in tourism, electricity, renewable energy, logistics and food sectors.

The council also revealed plans to launch the “Two Kingdom’s Forum and Exhibition” in Jeddah in the first quarter of 2022.

Ali Al-Yami, head of the council, said a list of participating companies is being prepared.