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Energy crisis on leaders’ minds at EU summit

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This article is an on-site version of our Europe Express newsletter. Sign up here to get the newsletter sent straight to your inbox every weekday and Saturday morning

Good morning and welcome to Europe Express.

When leaders gather tomorrow for a two-day summit in Brussels, energy will not be officially on the agenda. But as the International Energy Agency is warning today that the bloc must prepare immediately for the complete severance of Russian gas exports this winter, the continuing energy crisis has the potential to dominate leaders’ discussions once again.

With the European Commission proposing tighter enforcement of sustainability sanctions in new trade deals today, we’ll look at how that squares with a call from more than half of EU countries to sign more trade agreements.

And in Polish news, we’ll explore the reasons behind Jarosław Kaczyński’s decision to withdraw from government.

Hot button issues

The worsening energy crisis may not feature in the draft conclusions for the EU’s summit this week — or indeed in European Council president Charles Michel’s invitation letter — but it will be top of many leaders’ minds as they arrive in Brussels tomorrow, write Sam Fleming and Valentina Pop in Brussels.

The situation is becoming increasingly dire. Energy prices were up nearly 40 per cent in May compared with a year earlier, making it far and away the biggest driver of the euro area’s heady 8.1 per cent inflation rate. Gas prices are now at least six times more expensive in the euro area than they were before the pandemic.

The situation is just becoming worse as Russia throttles back gas deliveries. The question is what member states can do about it, as the politically toxic spectre of inflation hangs ever more heavily over their electoral fortunes.

There are few easy answers. Brussels has touted its efforts to identify alternative gas supplies and drive fresh renewables investment, and it is busy encouraging member states to do more to save more energy, including by lowering the settings on air conditioners.

But many of the solutions are likely to remain quite country specific.

Germany, for example, ranks alongside the member states (among them also the Netherlands and Austria) that are firing up coal plants as they try to offset soaring power prices. The moves have already prompted a warning from the commission that member states should not lose sight of their green goals.

Christian Lindner, the German finance minister, this week tweeted on the previously unmentionable idea of extending the lifespans of his country’s nuclear power plants, something that has generally been viewed as politically impossible.

Mario Draghi, the Italian prime minister, reiterated his appetite for the imposition of price caps when he spoke to the country’s parliament yesterday, saying action at EU level was even more urgent, given reduced gas supplies from Moscow.

He will probably come to Brussels ready to proselytise on the topic once again. But he has struggled in the past to win over the EU’s 27 member states to the idea. Looming in the background is the fraught question of whether energy rationing may be needed, as the EU works on co-ordinated plans in case the supply situation worsens.

The energy topic is set to play out at G7 level too, as a summit looms in Germany on Sunday. The US has been imploring its allies to consider price caps on oil as it seeks to drive down the Kremlin’s revenue — and undercut the momentum behind the rampant US inflation rate.

This idea, too, has been met with scepticism from a number of big European capitals, but it remains a live debate going into the G7 summit in the Bavarian Alps. There may be more mileage in the concept if the price cap is targeted at lower and middle-income oil importers.

As for the leaders’ discussions in Brussels, the euro summit on Friday is likely to see an eruption of angst over soaring inflation and energy prices, as member states become increasingly alarmed by where the region’s economies are heading.

“With Ukraine’s candidate membership out of the way, it offers room for EUCO to turn into a group-therapy session to discuss domestic issues such as energy prices and inflation,” said an EU diplomat.

Chart du jour: ECB warning

Read more here about why the European Central Bank is projecting that food prices in the eurozone will continue to rise at near-record rates for at least another year.

Free trade alliance

More than half the EU’s member states have written a forthright letter to trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis telling him to sign more free trade agreements, writes Andy Bounds in Groningen.

Several deals are on ice because of concerns over deforestation, cheap food imports or security (talks with Australia froze temporarily after it cancelled a contract to buy French submarines in favour of Anglo-American ones).

The 15 governments signing the letter, sent on Monday, include noted free traders such as Germany and Sweden but also Portugal and Italy. The signatures of two of the big three member states puts pressure on the third, France, which has used its presidency to delay approval of deals with Chile and New Zealand.

The letter warns that other countries are overtaking the EU in expanding trade ties.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) between Asean and Japan, China, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand enters into force this year and “should be a wake-up call for Europe”, the letter says.

“With RCEP in place, Japan will have free trade agreements covering 80 per cent of its trade. The EU’s trade agreements cover only about a third of our external trade. With 85 per cent of the world’s future growth projected to occur outside the EU, we need to do better than this.”

The commission has relaunched talks with India last week and officials say a New Zealand deal could be ready within weeks.

But today Dombrovskis will announce tighter enforcement of sustainability sanctions in new deals, which could make getting partners to sign harder.

The letter calls for the acceleration of trade agreements with New Zealand, Australia, India, and Indonesia and the adoption of concluded deals with Chile, Mexico, and Mercosur.

Trade deals “would ensure our access to key foreign markets, our long-term economic growth, and our geopolitical standing in the world” when the Russian invasion of Ukraine has showcased the rise of autocracies.

“We need to take advantage of windows of opportunity when they open, otherwise others will,” it warns.

Out, but not quite

By announcing his withdrawal from government yesterday, Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of Poland’s governing Law and Justice party, set off the unofficial starting gun for the campaign ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections, writes Raphael Minder in Warsaw.

His withdrawal was anticipated, since Kaczyński had made clear before the Ukraine war that he would leave a government in which he retained a second-tier role, as deputy prime minister as well as head of a national security committee.

But as the mastermind of his party, Kaczyński remains Poland’s most influential politician, with the result that his announcement brought the focus back on Poland’s tense domestic politics after months in which they had been eclipsed by the more pressing issue of containing Russia’s military threat.

In a comment made to Poland’s national news agency, Kaczyński said “I have decided to concentrate on what is most important for the future of Poland”, namely helping his party win elections that are expected to take place in the autumn of 2023.

Since February, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has not only overshadowed Poland’s internal political debate but also helped the staunchly anti-Russian government in Warsaw recast itself as a defender of western democratic values, having previously been castigated as the largest flouter of EU rules within the 27-nation bloc.

Having threatened to withhold post-pandemic recovery funds for Poland, the commission instead approved earlier this month a financial aid package of as much as €36bn that had been held up because of a dispute over whether the Polish judiciary has sufficient independence.

Kaczyński was also quick to distance Poland from Hungary — its previously clearest ally in its disputes with Brussels — and denounce instead Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister, for maintaining his allegiance to Moscow. In a radio interview in April, he described Hungary’s stance in the Ukraine conflict as “very sad.

As further evidence of the reversal of roles, Hungary blocked last week an EU corporate tax deal that Poland had previously opposed but on which Poland has now changed tack.

The Ukraine war has helped Law and Justice widen its lead over rival parties, according to opinion polls. But as a wily veteran politician, Kaczyński will also know that his party is facing an uncertain year in which the nationalist sentiments sparked by Russia could gradually be overtaken by economic malaise, as Poland now finds itself struggling with one of Europe’s highest inflation rates.

As Kaczyński warned yesterday, his party “must regain vigour” in order to win a third term in office.

What to watch today

  1. Prime minister of Croatia, Andrej Plenković, speaks in the European parliament

  2. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez present an initiative for vaccine co-operation with Latin America

  3. European Commission tables proposals on halving the use of pesticides by 2030

Notable, Quotable

  • German controversy: Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s foreign policy adviser, Jens Plötner, has sparked controversy yesterday when he said the media should focus more on Germany’s future relationship with Russia than on arming Ukraine and criticised Kyiv’s structural problems with the rule of law.

  • Petrol engine fan: Germany’s finance minister, Christian Lindner, has rejected EU plans for a de facto ban on the sale of new combustion engines cars by 2035. He also floated the possibility of keeping Germany’s nuclear reactors going instead of using coal-powered plants.

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Economy

The high cost of producing cheap food

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Anyone who wants to better understand the costly economic and political externalities that come with cheap food should spend some time in America’s Midwestern farm country. I did last week, driving from Wisconsin to Missouri through hundreds of miles of corn and soyabeans, the vast majority of which is grown not as food but as feed for cattle.

It was easy to find fast food and red meat in the small towns I passed, but it was often tough to find a decent supermarket with fresh fruits and vegetables. What a terrible irony that some of the richest farmland in America is often where you are most likely to find a “food desert”, or a place where it is challenging to source the components of a healthy diet.

Nearly a century on from the Great Depression, we still farm as we did then, trying to produce cheap calories for growing numbers of hungry people — and using huge amounts of fossil fuels — rather than providing better nutrition for an overfed yet undernourished population in ways that might support the planet and local communities.

Consumers have become used to cheap food. But it’s a model that makes little sense environmentally, and has led to tremendous consolidation on the production side.

Consider that in the middle of the biggest commodity price spike since the 1970s, some farmers are still struggling to stay in the black. Texas A&M University research shows that two out of three rice farmers will lose money this year, since input costs including fuel and fertiliser are rising even faster than commodity prices. Corn and soyabean producers will make money, but not as much as you’d think.

As Joe Outlaw, a professor at Texas A&M, put it in his testimony on the topic to the House Agricultural Subcommittee, consumer inflation may be 8.5 per cent but farmers have been hit with price increases at double that rate on seed. For other inputs, inflation is even higher. Herbicide is up 64 per cent from 2021 to 2022, and nitrogen fertiliser, perhaps the most important input of all, is up a whopping 133 per cent. Corn, meanwhile, is up only 4.84 per cent per bushel, and soyabeans are up a little over 7 per cent year on year.

Farmers have tried to hedge and hoard to account for these spikes, but they are outgunned by large, highly concentrated companies that control much of the agriculture supply chain. As Outlaw explained: “Simply put, the input suppliers would not lock in a price until the producers [meaning farmers] agreed to take delivery.” 

The result is that many farmers, particularly small and medium-sized ones, will scale back on inputs this planting season, which will in turn hurt their future harvest. Grain trading giants such as Cargill are getting rich, as are many multinational energy companies. But growers themselves are barely in the black.

All of this speaks to a model that no longer works. Farming in America has been about cheap food for nearly a century. The New Deal encouraged the production of massive amounts of subsidised cereal grains to feed an influx of urban dwellers. The Reagan revolution encouraged further consolidation — as an illustration, consider that four companies control up to 85 per cent of the meat market.

Democratic President Bill Clinton then passed the “Freedom to Farm” act, which eliminated any government management of supply and demand. This is one reason farmers were dumping milk after the pandemic; overproduction encourages boom and bust cycles. It also makes it difficult to get food inflation under control now. While the US has strategic petroleum reserves, it has no grain reserves for domestic buyers despite being one of the world’s largest producers.

The “pile it high, sell it cheap” paradigm assumes that simply driving down prices will create a healthy market. But it comes with obvious costs for the planet, our health, and in some parts of the country, for politics. One would think that a state like Missouri, for example, would be fertile ground for Democrats campaigning on a message of corporate greed. In fact, the state voted for Donald Trump in the last election — in part because the failed industrial farming model hasn’t been replaced by much else, creating a disenchanted population that’s ripe for the former president’s dog whistles and his brand of populism, with its empty promises of help for the white working class.

Plenty of neoliberal economists might shrug at all this and note that farmers make up less than 2 per cent of the labour force (the agricultural sector as a whole is slightly over 10 per cent). They might even shrug at the fate of a state like Missouri, since they tend to think about overall numbers, not individual people in so-called flyover states. But in America’s electoral college system, states like this still matter — a lot. Taken together, they can make the difference between winning or losing.

So, what’s to be done? The Biden administration is correct to go after concentration in agriculture and energy, as in other industries. Indeed, the discrepancy between input costs and raw commodity prices makes me think that the White House has a point about corporate price gouging. If the commerce department gets its way, more rural broadband would help too. But ultimately, we are going to have to rethink the entire way we farm in America. Like so much of our economic system, it was built for a different era.

rana.foroohar@ft.com



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Economy

China’s Yangtze Memory takes on rivals with new chip plant

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The Chinese memory chip producer Yangtze Memory Technologies plans to bring online a second plant in its home city of Wuhan as early as the end of this year, sources familiar with the matter say, in a move that could further close the company’s technology and output gap with global leaders such as Samsung of South Korea and Micron Technology of the US.

The company, also known as YMTC, needs to expand production after a growth spurt that put it on the world’s semiconductor map and delivered a notable success in Beijing’s attempt to reduce China’s reliance on imported chips.

Its original plant has been running near capacity and churned out 100,000 wafers a month at the end of 2021, two people told Nikkei Asia.

YMTC held a global market share of nearly 5 per cent last year, according to analyst and industry estimates. It has become the world’s sixth-largest Nand flash memory maker behind Samsung, SK Hynix, Kioxia, Western Digital and Micron, and the only one from China.

About 40 per cent of its output at present is 128-layer 3D Nand flash memory, the most advanced produced so far by a Chinese chipmaker. But that is one or two generations behind global leaders Samsung, SK Hynix and Micron. The rest of YMTC’s output is of older 64-layer 3D Nand flash memory.

This article is from Nikkei Asia, a global publication with a uniquely Asian perspective on politics, the economy, business and international affairs. Our own correspondents and outside commentators from around the world share their views on Asia, while our Asia300 section provides in-depth coverage of 300 of the biggest and fastest-growing listed companies from 11 economies outside Japan.

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The new plant would first build mainly 128-layer flash memory and could later shift to even more cutting-edge chips, such as 196-layer or 232-layer 3D Nand flash memory, assuming development goes smoothly in 2023 and 2024.

Apple has been testing YMTC’s flash memory products since last year and could place its first order for “limited quantities” as soon as this year, two people familiar with the matter told Nikkei Asia. The US tech giant has been talking with the Chinese chipmaker since 2018 in hopes of finding a cost-effective source of storage components.

Securing a deal with Apple would be a milestone, highlighting the quality of Yangtze Memory’s chips, industry executives say. Apple’s Chinese suppliers, including those from Hong Kong, already outnumber those from Taiwan, making China the largest source of suppliers to the US company, according to a Nikkei Asia analysis. Apple also has close ties with several Chinese electronics manufacturers, including Luxshare, Goertek and BYD.

Yangtze Memory’s success is also viewed as a victory for China, as the world’s second-largest economy strives to localise semiconductor production and build industry champions. Yangtze Memory is backed by the China Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund, Beijing’s most important chip investment funding vehicle. And YMTC is bullish on its growth prospects, increasing its investment budget from $24bn in 2016 to the equivalent of $32.8bn this year.

The Chinese chipmaker is currently installing equipment at the new chip plant, a key step before it goes into production. The factory will eventually have twice the capacity of the first, several people briefed on the matter said. The total capacity for the two factories will reach 300,000 wafers per month and could help YMTC expand its market share to more than 10 per cent globally.

The company is split into two parallel teams composed of hundreds of top engineers tasked with developing 196-layer and 232-layer flash memory, one of the people said. Its aim is to catch up with foreign rivals.

The most advanced products on the market, which Samsung, Micron and SK Hynix have all succeeded in producing, are 176-layer 3D Nand flash memory chips. They are now racing to create chips composed of more than 200 layers. Kioxia and Western Digital said they will be making 162-layer 3D Nand flash memory by the end of the year.

The more layers a flash memory chip has, the more advanced the chips are — and the harder they are to develop and produce commercially. Nand flash memory is a vital storage component used in all kinds of electronic devices, from smartphones and PCs to data centre servers and connected cars.

Most YMTC flash memory is currently used to make consumer-grade solid-state drives (SSDs), mainly for the Chinese market. Its clients include leading storage makers Lenovo, Longsys and Kimtigo of China, as well as Adata of Taiwan. YMTC has also introduced its own brand, ZhiTai, to sell SSDs directly to consumers.

Its share of the global flash memory market has risen quickly from 1.3 per cent in 2019, when it first put 64-layer Nand flash memory into production, according to Counterpoint Research, which believes it could grab nearly 6 per cent of the market by 2023, up from 4.8 per cent in 2021.

Brady Wang, an analyst at Counterpoint, told Nikkei Asia that Yangtze Memory had been working on its technology even before the company was formally launched in 2016. It had demonstrated its capabilities and gradually become a viable global player after years of effort, Wang said. It had also more than doubled its payroll in four years, to about 8,000 employees currently.

“It recruits many engineers and veterans who have Chinese backgrounds but used to work for multinational tech and chip companies,” Wang said. “Managing a plant, however, is different from managing several plants at a massive scale. It remains to be seen if it [can] successfully ramp up production.”

Political tension between the US and China also increases uncertainties for Chinese companies like YMTC, Wang said.

Washington has slowed the advance of China’s semiconductor industry by adding the country’s top chipmaker, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Co, and the telecom equipment group Huawei, to a trade blacklist to restrict their use of American technology. Yangtze Memory has been among the most aggressive companies in pushing ahead with the development of domestic chipmaking equipment, but it continues to maintain good relationships with US and other foreign vendors to ensure its expansion plans come to fruition.

YMTC declined to comment for this story.

A version of this article was first published by Nikkei Asia on June 23, 2022. ©2022 Nikkei Inc. All rights reserved.



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Economy

Gatherings for central bankers and military chiefs

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This article is an on-site version of our The Week Ahead newsletter. Sign up here to get the newsletter sent straight to your inbox every Sunday

Hello and welcome to the working week.

Now would seem a good time for central bankers to get together and brainstorm some ways of getting their economies out of a global inflationary crisis. So thank goodness for the European Central Bank’s annual Forum on Central Banking, a gathering amid the palaces in the pretty Portuguese Riviera town of Sintra to discuss the challenges for monetary policy in a rapidly changing world: a title that organisers admit was only recently agreed upon given the, er, rapidly changing world that the eurozone economies now face. Federal Reserve chair Jay Powell, World Trade Organization head Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey are among the top drawer list of speakers.

Geopolitical summits are again a bit of a theme this week. Nato will gather in Madrid on Tuesday for three days of discussion, including its expansion in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Among the topics for deliberation are maintaining support for Ukraine, reinforcing partnerships and maintaining an open door, and strengthening transatlantic unity.

This also happens to be the week for Ukraine’s Constitution Day, a public holiday for the country marking the foundation of an independent state in 1996.

Talking of separation, Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon is expected on Tuesday to set out in detail how she plans to hold a second independence referendum. Read Robert Shrimsley’s excellent opinion piece to appreciate the reasons why Sturgeon is choosing to do this now. The future of Britain is the subject of a conference taking place in London, jointly organised by the Tony Blair Institute and the Britain Project, a cross between a campaign group and a think-tank.

Of course, reorganising countries is a controversial business as will no doubt be debated on Friday, the 25th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong by the UK to China. The story of journalist-turned-political-activist Claudia Mo, powerfully told in this weekend’s FT Magazine, recalls the battles fought and ultimately lost by those seeking to maintain autonomy for the city region in the last quarter century — although that will not stop protesters from taking to the streets on Friday.

This week will also see the next instalment of the UK’s summer of discontent with barristers walking out on Monday in ongoing protests over cuts to legal funding — although the Ministry of Justice questions this, saying that criminal legal aid is increasing by £135mn a year. Postal workers may follow the lawyers on to picket lines as the Communication Workers Union this week sends out ballots for industrial action to more than 115,000 of its members.

In need of a little lighter entertainment? Well, it’s a good week for major sporting tournaments with the start of both Wimbledon fortnight and the Tour de France, which this year begins in Copenhagen. The FT has also published its list of summer reading recommendations.

Thanks again for your messages about this newsletter. If you have yet to comment, or wish to say more about what does and does not warrant a mention, then email me at jonathan.moules@ft.com.

Economic data

Consumer confidence reports, inflation and gross domestic product updates this week will give some indication of the effectiveness of the various monetary policy tightening measures in play, and will no doubt give the central bankers in Sintra food for thought.

Sweden and Hungary’s central bankers are making interest rate decisions this week.

Companies

A quieter week for diaried corporate announcements. The most significant earnings announcements are all from the US. Investors in Nike, the global sports brand, might be more interested in the senior leadership team than the numbers. Nike’s head of diversity Felicia Mayo will leave the company at the end of next month after just two years in the role.

Key economic and company reports

Here is a more complete list of what to expect in terms of company reports and economic data this week.

Monday

  • The annual European Central Bank Forum on Central Banking begins in Sintra, Portugal

  • US, May durable goods orders data

  • Results: Nike Q4

Tuesday

  • France, consumer confidence figures

  • Germany, consumer confidence figures

  • Hungary, interest rate decision

  • UK, Office for National Statistics publishes the first results from the 2021 Census in England and Wales

  • US, monthly consumer confidence and house price index figures

Wednesday

  • Germany, preliminary consumer price index (CPI) figures

  • Japan, May retail figures

  • Spain, flash inflation and retail sales data

  • Sweden, Riksbank’s monetary policy meeting

  • UK, British Retail Consortium shop price index

  • UK, EU chief Brexit negotiator Maroš Šefčovič will speak at Bloomberg’s London HQ on the EU-UK partnership

  • US, Q1 GDP figures

  • Results: General Mills Q4

Thursday

  • Canada, April GDP data

  • EU, May unemployment figures

  • France, May producer price index (PPI) data and June CPI data

  • Germany, June unemployment figures, May import prices plus May retail trade data. Also, ECB president Christine Lagarde’s speech at the first meeting of the Simone Veil Pact, organised by Renew Europe.

  • Italy, May unemployment figures plus May PPI data

  • Japan, May industrial production data

  • UK, final Q1 GDP figures and consumer trends report plus Nationwide’s June house price data

  • Results: Walgreens Boots Alliance Q3

Friday

  • China, France, Italy, UK, US: Caixin and S&P Global manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) data

  • The ECB will end its long-running bond-buying scheme, part of stimulus measures introduced a decade ago, to help battle stubbornly high inflation

  • EU, flash June inflation figures

  • Italy, May CPI data

  • Japan, monthly unemployment rate

  • UK, consumer credit figures

  • US, construction spending statistics

World events

Finally, here is a rundown of other events and milestones this week.

Monday

  • The UN Ocean Conference, co-hosted by the governments of Kenya and Portugal, begins in Lisbon

  • UK, the Wimbledon tennis tournament begins at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in south west London amid controversy over the banning of Russian players

  • UK, lawyers who are members of the Criminal Bar Association begin strike action in an escalating dispute with the government over funding of trials. The walkout by criminal defence barristers is likely to cause widespread disruption to court hearings across England and Wales.

Tuesday

  • France, the new National Assembly holds its first session after the June 12 parliamentary election results created a hung parliament — read Martin Sandbu’s (premium) Free Lunch newsletter for a more complete explanation. Also, Australia’s new prime minister Anthony Albanese is due to visit Paris to “reset” relations with France after tensions erupted over a scrapped submarine deal.

  • Spain, Nato’s summit in Madrid begins with heads of government from its 30 member countries expected to attend and discussions to include Sweden and Finland’s applications to join the military alliance. 2022 marks the 40th anniversary of Spain joining Nato.

  • Ukraine, Constitution Day marking the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution of Ukraine in 1996

  • UK, London mayor Sadiq Khan hosts the State of London debate at the O2 in Greenwich plus the Henley Royal Regatta begins on the river Thames

  • US, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell is due to be sentenced after being found guilty in a sex abuse trial

Wednesday

  • Belgium, the Ommegang festival, including a pageant re-enacting the historical entry of Charles V, begins in Brussels

  • UK, Committee on Climate Change publishes its 2022 progress report to parliament, assessing the UK’s chances of achieving net zero by 2050. Plus another strike threat looms with a ballot for industrial action at Royal Mail over plans to remove 542 frontline delivery managers amid wider restructuring.

Thursday

  • Philippines, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, son and namesake of the notorious late dictator, takes office as the country’s new president

  • UK, the Future of Britain conference, organised by the Tony Blair Institute to discuss progressive solutions to the country’s problems, begins in London

Friday

  • Brazil takes over the presidency of the UN Security Council for July

  • Canada Day, federal holiday commemorating the formation of the union of the British North America provinces that created Canada in 1868

  • Denmark, the Tour de France begins in Copenhagen. It will end on the Champs-Élysées in Paris on July 24.

  • EU, the Czech Republic assumes the six-month presidency of the EU

  • Hong Kong, 25th anniversary of the reversion of the former colony from British to Chinese rule

  • India, annual Rath Yatra, or Chariot, Hindu festival

  • Rwanda, National Day commemorating independence from Belgium

  • Somalia, National Day commemorating the country’s creation from British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland

  • UK, deadline for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to launch an appeal against the decision to extradite him to the US to face espionage charges

Saturday

  • Italy, the Palio di Siena, Italy’s most famous (and controversial) horse race, takes place in the street of Siena’s Piazza del Campo

  • UK, 50th anniversary of the Pride in London parade

  • US, World UFO Day takes place on the anniversary of the Roswell incident in New Mexico in 1947

Sunday

  • Belarus, Independence Day

  • UK, the 134th annual Wenlock Olympian Games — believed to have inspired the modern games — begin in Wenlock, Shropshire

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