European Union Current Affairs
European Space Agency (ESA) has successfully launched wind-sensing satellite named Aeolus into orbit on board of Vega rocket from French Guyana. It is world’s first wind-sensing satellite dedicated to map Earth’s wind on global scale in particular tropical winds which are very poorly mapped because of almost complete absence of direct observations.
The satellite is Aeolus named after guardian of wind in Greek mythology. It will be placed at altitude of 320km above the Earth. It is part of the Copernicus project, a joint initiative of European Union (EU) and European Space Agency (ESA) to track environmental damage and aid disaster relief operations.
Aeolus satellite is equipped with single instrument Doppler wind lidar (named Aladin), which is advanced laser system is designed to accurately measure global wind patterns from space. It will probe lower layers of atmosphere, down to altitude of about 30 km to yield vertical profiles of wind and information on aerosols and clouds.
Significance: Aeolus satellite will provide much-needed data to improve quality and accuracy of weather forecasting. It will help to improve understanding of working of atmosphere dynamics and contribute to climate change research.
Working of Doppler lidar
It transmits short, powerful pulses of laser light toward Earth in ultraviolet (UV) spectrum. Particles in air (such as moisture, dust, gases) scatter small fraction of that light energy back to transceiver, where it is collected and recorded. The delay between outgoing pulse and so-called backscattered signal reveals wind’s direction, speed and distance travelled. Data transmitted from Aeolus satellite will be downloaded at ground station in Svalbard, Norway.
Note: Aeolus space mission was fifth of ESA’s planned Earth Explorer missions. Others already have completed or in operation. They have measured Earth’s gravity and geomagnetic fields, soil moisture, ocean salinity and frozen expanses collectively known as cryosphere.
European Union (EU) and Japan have signed Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). It was signed at EU-Japan summit in Tokyo by EU Presidents Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. It is biggest ever trade deal negotiated by the EU and creates free trade zone covering nearly third of the world’s GDP.
Key Parts of EPA
Agricultural exports: It scraps Japanese duties on many cheeses such as Gouda and Cheddar as well as on wine exports. It allows EU to increase its beef exports to Japan and duty-free trade in pork, processed meat and almost duty-free trade for fresh meat. It ensures protection in Japan of more than 200 high-quality European agricultural products, so called Geographical Indications (GIs), and protection of selection of Japanese GIs in EU.
Services markets: EPA opens up services markets, in particular financial services, e-commerce, telecommunications and transport.
Procurement markets: It guarantees EU companies access to large procurement markets of 48 large Japanese cities and removes obstacles to procurement in economically important railway sector at national level.
Automotive sector: It addresses specific sensitivities of EU in this sector and elimination of customs duties in transition periods of up to 7 years.
Trade and sustainable development: EPA includes comprehensive chapter on it. It sets very high standards of labour, safety, environmental and consumer protection. It strengthens EU and Japan’s commitments on sustainable development and climate change and fully safeguards public services.
Data protection: The negotiations completed by both sides on this matter will complement EPA. Both sides recognise each other’s data protection systems as equivalent, allowing data to flow safely between EU and Japan and creating world’s largest area of safe data flows.
EPA removes vast majority of €1 billion of duties paid annually by EU companies exporting to Japan and number of long-standing regulatory barriers, for example on cars. It opens up Japanese market of 127 million consumers to key EU agricultural exports and will increase EU export opportunities in range of other sectors. In addition, it will strengthen cooperation between Europe and Japan in range of areas, reaffirm their shared commitment to sustainable development. It also includes for the first time a specific commitment to the Paris climate agreement.