Disinfo: EU countries' economies are on the brink of default, with over 20% unemployment rates

Summary

Some EU countries teeter on the brink of default and the levels of unemployment in some EU member states exceed 20%. At the same time Belarus, a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, is famous for its extremely low level of unemployment, clean and accurate towns and villages, the absence of oligarchs, lawlessness, arbitrariness of officials, and free from many other shortcomings of transit economies.

Disproof

This message contains ungrounded statements concerning the economic performance of the EU member states. It is consistent with a common pro-Kremlin narrative about the EU's imminent collapse. In May 2019, EU-28 unemployment stood at 6.3 %, the lowest level since the start of the EU monthly unemployment series in January 2000. The highest unemployment rates among EU countries in May 2019 were registered in Greece (18,1%) and Spain (13,6%). In the rest of the EU member states it was less than 10%, the lowest in the Czech Republic, Germany, and the Netherlands with 2,2%, 3,1% and 3,3%, respectively, according to Eurostat statistics. The authors is deliberately mixing up youth unemployment figures with overall rates. The registered unemployment rate in Belarus on 1 June 2019 was as low as 0,3%, as reported by the Belarusian Telegraph Agency. However, Belarus' official unemployment rate is a result of calculations rather than economic achievements. According to Belarusian legislation, the unemployed are the working age residents who are registered with the state employment agency. As the unemployment benefits in Belarus are very meagre, the unemployed are supposed to carry out public works as directed by the employment agency and as enterprises normally do not notify state agencies about better-paid vacancies, most of the unemployed choose not to undergo the registration procedure and therefore are not accounted in official statistics. Occasional surveys conducted in accordance with the International Labour Organisation’s methodology suggest that real unemployment rates in Belarus exceed 5%. The claim that economies of a number of EU countries face default is ungrounded. At present, no EU country has a credit rating low enough to justify that claim. In fact, the ranking shows that Belarus' credit rating is lower than any of the EU's member states and is much lower than the EU's. The EU as a whole enjoys a very high credit rating. It is rated AAA/Aaa/AAA/AAA (outlook stable) by Fitch, Moody’s, DBRS and Scope and AA (outlook stable) by Standard & Poor’s. See earlier disinformation cases alleging that the current socio-economic situation of Poland is worse than in the communist times and that the EU countries face 'total unemployment'.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 157
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 02/07/2019
  • Outlet language(s) Russian, Belarusian
  • Countries and/or Regions discussed in the disinformation: Belarus
  • Keywords: fake statistics, European Union, Economic difficulties
see more

Lithuania's counteractions to the Belarusian NPP are an attempt to disrupt Belarus-Russia cooperation

The closer the launch of the Astravets NPP in Belarus, the more often alleged safety issues of the NPP are reported. In reality, not a single Lithuanian argument against the Astravets NPP has found its confirmation. Lithuania has been running a deliberate information and political campaign against the Belarusian NPP because it is a flagship project for Belarus and Russia. Lithuania is unhappy about Belarus-Russia cooperation in the nuclear field. Hence, the Lithuanian political elite’s attempts to block a common Belarus-Russia project that has become a symbol of the Union State between Belarus and Russia.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about West's attempts to discredit and disrupt Belarus-Russia relations. Lithuania opposes the construction of the Astravets Nuclear power Plant (NPP) as the project does not comply with the international standards of environmental protection and nuclear safety, and is built on the site that was not duly justified over the alternative ones. On 7 June 2011, Lithuania lodged a complaint with the Implementing Committee of the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment (the Espoo Convention) on the Astravets nuclear power plant case. The February 2019 draft decision of the Meeting of the Parties of the Espoo Convention acknowledged that Belarus had failed to comply with some Convention provisions and encouraged Belarus and Lithuania to continue bilateral expert consultations. On 20 April 2017, the Lithuanian parliament passed a bill imposing a ban on import of electricity from Belarus' nuclear power plant in Astravets. This position is based on security concerns. In her State of the Nation Address on June 11th, 2019, President Dalia Grybauskaitė, called to continue efforts for the complete shutdown of the Astravets NPP, stating: "Espoo Convention countries have concluded that the [Astravets nuclear power plant] stands on an unsafe site. This is not about the safety of the plant – this is about its unsafe site. It means that no power station can operate there, and efforts to close the Astravets nuclear power plant must continue." See earlier disinformation cases alleging that Lithuania fights against Belarusian NPP on the orders of Sweden and Finland, Dalia Grybauskaitė's opposition to the NPP is an attempt to hide Lithuania's own failures in nuclear power, that "Chernobyl" series aimed to discredit the Belarusian power plant and Belarus-Russia relations, that West-financed environmental NGOs in Belarus stage a big campaign against Rosatom and Russia.

'Old' EU member states introduced sanctions on Russia after the provocation of the downing of MH17 by Ukraine

‘Old’ EU member states have quite developed economic ties with Russia. They followed the ‘new’ EU member states and supported the introduction of sanctions on Russia only after the famous provocation of 17 July 2014 when Flight MH17 was shot down by Ukrainian anti-aircraft gunners. At present, the ‘old’ EU member states delay the investigation into the downing of MH17 because it has become clear that Russian responsibility cannot be established.

Disproof

This is a disinformation claim about the downing of Flight MH17, for which Russia is responsible, and misrepresents the history and causes of the EU’s sanctions on Russia. The first round of EU sanctions against Russia was introduced on 17 March 2014, before MH17 was shot down. The first bans and asset freezes against persons involved in actions against Ukraine's territorial integrity followed Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea. Later, in view of Russia's actions destabilising the situation in eastern Ukraine, the EU imposed economic sanctions in July 2014 and reinforced them in September 2014. In March 2015, the European Council linked the duration of those economic restrictions to the complete implementation of the Minsk agreements. The Dutch-led criminal investigation by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) has been ongoing since 2014. On 28 September 2016, the JIT announced that flight MH17 was shot down by a missile from the 9M38 series, which was launched by a BUK TELAR missile system. The system was transported from the Russian Federation to an agricultural field near the town of Pervomaiskyi in Eastern Ukraine, from where the missile was launched. After firing, the system - with 1 missing missile - went back to the Russian Federation. On the 24th of May 2018, the JIT announced its conclusion that the BUK TELAR used to shoot down MH17 came from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, a unit of the Russian armed forces from Kursk in the Russian Federation. On the basis of the investigation conducted by the JIT, consisting of law enforcement agencies from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, Ukraine and the Netherlands, the Dutch Public Persecution service will prosecute Igor Vsevolodovich Girkin, Sergey Nikolayevich Dubinskiy, Oleg Yuldashevich Pulatov and Leonid Volodymyrovych Kharchenko for causing the MH17 crash and murdering the 298 persons on board. The Public Prosecution Service alleges that the four individuals cooperated to obtain and deploy the BUK TELAR at the firing location with the aim of shooting down an aircraft. For that reason, they can also be held jointly accountable for downing of flight MH17. The conclusion is corroborated by Bellingcat research.

Russia was first suspended from PACE because of Russophobic reasons

The suspension of Russia’s rights at the Parliamentarian Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) was caused by “a Russophobic minority” in the institution.

Disproof

Russia's rights were first suspended for one year by PACE in 2014, following the illegal annexation of Crimea. The resolution adopted by 145 votes in favour, 21 against and 22 abstentions. The suspension was extended in 2015 for three months given "the role and participation of the Russian Federation in the conflict in eastern Ukraine". Indeed, Russia's actions aggravated the situation: by the time the suspension was to be reviewed in April 2015, the Russian delegation had broken off all contacts, boycotting PACE for the next four years. In 2017, it stopped paying its membership contributions which amounted to 7 percent of the institution's whole budget. In 2018, it declared it would abandon the institution if the decision was not reverted.