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Danish vote NO on EU justice rules


Posted 13/12/2015

Denmark has rejected a government proposal to deepen the EU member's participation in the bloc's justice cooperation, Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said.

"It is a clear no... I have full respect for the Danes' decision," he said at a press conference after the referendum.

Mr Rasmussen had campaigned for the Yes side which had advocated for international coordination in the fight against cross-border crime, including violent extremism.

The No camp was led by the anti-EU, anti-immigration Danish People's Party (DPP) which believes dropping Denmark's justice 'opt-out' would have given too much power to Brussels and risked leading to more immigration.

"It is my clear impression that it's not so much what we have voted about that the Danes have turned their backs on, but perhaps what we haven't voted on," Mr Rasmussen said.

The result reflected "insecurity and uncertainty" over the consequences of a Yes vote and "maybe also general EU scepticism,” he said.

Denmark does not fully participate in the EU's justice and home affairs policies after Danish voters - wary of the "ever closer union" - rejected the Maastricht Treaty in 1992.

Copenhagen was then granted opt-outs on several EU policy areas, including justice, and Danes then said Yes to Maastricht in 1993.

With all the votes counted, the No camp won 53.1% against 46.9% to the Yes camp with a turnout of 72%, which was higher than expected.

"The Danes know that when things are left to Brussels, they're left a long way away in a non-transparent system where we lose a lot of our democracy," the Danish People's Party leader Kristian Dahl Thulesen said after most of the votes had been counted.

Such sentiment reflects a growing scepticism within the 28-member bloc as Brussels struggles to deal with problems ranging from Greece teetering on bankruptcy, a massive refugee crisis and the spread of attacks linked to Islamic militants.

The No victory will cheer Britain's UK Independence Party, which wants a total withdrawal, or a "Brexit," from the EU as well as other far-right factions such as the French National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

Danes were told by the government that certain EU laws were needed to keep the country within the cross-border police agency, Europol.
But instead of seeking approval for the 22 EU acts slated for adoption, Danes were instead asked to entrust to parliament the power to decide on such opt-ins.

That, analysts said, made it easy for the No camp to play on Danish distrust of politicians.

"It has been easy to create insecurity about what would happen with a Yes vote because what was on the menu was giving parliament a wider frame to involve Denmark in the EU," Aarhus University Professor Rune Stubager said.

Source: AFP/Reuters

 



 

 

European leaders take action against ISIS


Posted 26/11/2015

Cameron sets out case for UK air strikes on Islamic State

Britain "cannot afford" to stand aside from the fight against the so-called Islamic State terror group in Syria, David Cameron has said.

The Prime Minister set out his case for the extension of RAF air strikes from Iraq into Syria in a written response to a parliamentary committee which had urged caution over the move.

Mr Cameron acknowledged that air strikes alone will not be enough to defeat IS, but said they would help to degrade the group's military capability and halt its advance.

He rejected the idea that joining the US, France and other nations in bombing IS in its Syrian strongholds would put Britain at risk of Paris-style terror attacks, saying that the threat to the UK was already "very high." And he told the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee: "One thing is clear: the threats to our interests and to our people are such that we cannot afford to stand aside and not to act."

Mr Cameron then made a statement to the Commons, in which he admitted that IS - also known as Isis, Isil and Daesh - could not be defeated by air strikes alone. But he argued it was a key part of a wider "comprehensive" strategy to deal with the threat.

Mr Cameron said he would not call a vote in the Commons on air strikes in Syria until he was sure there was a clear majority in favour of action as defeat would be a "publicity coup" for IS.

He told MPs that Britain must judge whether inaction in Syria carried greater risks than action.

And he added: "The military advice and diplomatic advice and the security advice all says that the risks of inaction are greater."

Addressing concerns that joining air strikes in Syria would put Britain at risk of Paris-style terror attacks, the PM said that security agencies agreed that the UK was already "in the top tier of countries that Isil is targeting.”

"The only way to deal with that reality is to address the threat we face and to do so now," he said.

Mr Cameron acknowledged that air strikes alone would not be enough to defeat IS, but said they would help moderate Syrian forces which deploy an estimated 70,000 troops on the ground.

The full answer to the threat from IS would not be delivered until there is a new Syrian government which is genuinely representative of all the country's people, he said.

Mr Cameron said his "first responsibility" and that of all MPs was to "keep the British people safe."

 

Rajoy faces growing internal and external pressure to help France

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is facing growing pressure inside and outside Spain to say how he plans to help France in its global fight against jihadism.

Just hours after Angela Merkel offered to send 650 German troops to Mali to relieve French soldiers on a mission there, the Spanish king asked for Europe to “stand united and firm against terror,” while the emerging party Ciudadanos told Rajoy not to base his choices on the effects they might have at the upcoming general elections, on the 20th of December.

Two weeks after the Islamist attacks in Paris, which triggered a wave of worldwide support for France, the conservative Popular Party (PP) government is keeping “all hypotheses open on the table” but has failed to take any specific action.

 

Now, the Spanish executive claims it is waiting for Paris to ask for something, but French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has made it clear that they are the ones awaiting suggestions from Spain.

Meanwhile, back in Spain, Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera told the government to “stop thinking about the ballot boxes” and make a decision regarding France.

Felipe VI, while stopping short of exhorting Rajoy to take action, said that EU members must “stand united and firm before the terrorist challenge that seeks to destroy our freedom.”

 



 

 

Brussels security alert


Posted 21/11/2015

Brussels is at its highest terror threat level and the city's Metro has been shut for the day over fears that an attack like that seen in Paris is "imminent."

The Belgian capital's underground transport system will be closed until Sunday afternoon, dozens of events have been cancelled and many public places closed.

Heavily armed soldiers and police are patrolling the city amid fears at least one suspect in the Paris attacks could be in Belgium.

Belgian PM, Charles MichelBelgian PM, Charles MichelBelgium's Prime Minister Charles Michel said "the terror alert was as a result of quite precise information about the risk of an attack like the one that happened in Paris."

Mr Michel said the security situation would be reviewed on Sunday.

It comes after a meeting of top ministers, police and security services in the city, which is also home to the headquarters of the European Union and NATO.

A spokesman for the country's crisis centre said: "Following our latest evaluation... the centre has raised its terror alert to level 4, signifying a very serious threat, for the Brussels region.

"The analysis shows a serious and imminent threat requiring specific security measures as well as detailed recommendations to the population."

Three quarters of the shops in some areas have been closed.

The rest of the country, outside Brussels and the Vilvoorde area, remains at level 3, meaning an attack is “probable.”

Belgium, and Brussels in particular, have been at the centre of investigations into the Paris attacks after it emerged that two of the suicide bombers had been living in the country.

Three people detained in Brussels are facing terrorism charges.

The brother of one of the suicide bombers, who was also living in Brussels, is still on the run. Salah Abdeslam was briefly pulled over by French police near the Belgian border last Saturday morning along with two of those in custody.

The Belgian interior minister has reportedly said that he wants a headcount in the Molenbeek area of Brussels, where Abdeslam lived, as the authorities do not know exactly who lives there.

Belgian news website Nieuwsblad reported Jan Jambon as saying: "It's unacceptable that we don't know who is living on our territory. Right now, there are flats where two people are listed but 10 are actually living?the local authorities need to knock on every door and ask who really lives there."

 

Meanwhile, The Federal Prosecutors Office in Brussels denied reports in Belgian magazine Derniere Heure that chemicals and explosives were among an arsenal found during searches on Friday night.

Officials confirmed that police had searched the house of a person who was arrested on Friday but had only found “a few weapons.”

 



 

Presidents Juncker and Tusk condemn Paris attacks


Posted 15/11/2015

Statement by Donald TUSK, President of the European Council, on behalf of the EU Heads of State or Government and the leaders of the EU institutions, in response to the terrorist attacks in Paris. 

Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Juncker has urged caution over 'base' Paris reaction.

European Union countries should not give in to base reactions of rejecting refugees after the Paris attacks because the shooters in France were criminals, not asylum seekers, the head of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said.

Senior officials from Poland and Slovakia poured cold water on the EU refugee relocation plan right after the attacks, saying the violence underlined the concerns of Europeans about taking in Muslim refugees.

"We should not mix the different categories of people coming to Europe," Mr Juncker told a news conference on the sidelines of a G20 summit of world leaders in the Turkish resort town of Belekin the coastal province of Antalya.

The holder of a Syrian passport found near the body of one of the gunmen who died in Friday night's attacks passed through Greece in October, a Greek minister has said, and another suspected attacker was thought to have entered Europe the same way.

"The one responsible for the attacks in Paris... he is a criminal and not a refugee and not an asylum seeker," Mr Juncker said.

"I would invite those in Europe who try to change the migration agenda we have adopted -- I would like to remind them to be serious about this and not to give in to these basic reactions that I do not like," Mr Juncker said.

"I see the difficulty but I don't see the need to change our general approach," he said.

 



 

Former West German leader Helmut Schmidt dies aged 96


Posted 10/11/2015

Helmut Schmidt, who served as Chancellor of West Germany from 1974 to 1982, has died at the age of 96. The Social Democrat leader died at his home in Hamburg.

His leadership coincided with a dramatic period of history in terms of the Cold War. He was elected as chancellor after the resignation of fellow Social Democrat Willy Brandt, who left office after it was discovered that a top aide of his was an East German spy. Schmidt's own time in office was hit by turbulent times.

 

He was in charge when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and supported the US-led boycott of the Moscow Olympics in 1980 but said later the move had "brought nothing" as a result.

He explained later that he felt he could not "afford extra conflict with America" because he had already fallen out with President Jimmy Carter over financial and defence issues.

 

The West German former chancellor was at the helm soon after the 1973 oil crisis - which saw Arab countries imposing an oil embargo following US support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War.

As a result of that, Schmidt was one of the leaders behind the first economic summit of leading industrial nations that began as a way of warding off global recession - it later became known as the G7.

'The German Autumn'

He also had to face internal problems with the rise of the left-wing terror group, the Baader Meinhof gang, which was at the peak of its activities in the mid-1970s.

During a campaign of violence in 1977 that became known as the "German Autumn," the group murdered, among others, West Germany's chief federal prosecutor and the chief executive of Dresdner Bank.

Schmidt refused their demands to release jailed leaders of what by then had become the Red Army Faction despite the kidnapping of Hanns-Martin Schleyer, the head of the country's industry federation.

Circa 1940Circa 1940"The state must react with all the necessary toughness," Schmidt insisted.

While Schleyer was being held captive, hijackers commandeered a Lufthansa plane to the Somali capital, Mogadishu, to force the release of the Red Army Faction leaders.

On Schmidt's orders, West German anti-terrorist commandos stormed the jet, successfully rescuing 86 hostages. Soon after, three of the terrorist group's leaders killed themselves in prison and Schleyer was found murdered.

Schmidt later said "I was prepared to resign" if the Mogadishu operation had gone wrong.

Schmidt's early life was controversial in that he was the son of a half-Jewish teacher who joined the Hitler Youth when his rowing team was included in the Nazi youth group.

However, he was suspended at the age of 17 "probably because my griping got on their nerves."

He served in World War II and said that, as a young soldier, he had recognised the regime's lunacy but not, at first, its criminal nature.

 



 

Thousands protest in Madrid against domestic violence


Posted 08/11/2015

"Stop male chauvinist violence" demanded tens of thousands of feminists from all over Spain in a demonstration in Madrid on Saturday.

Tens of thousands of people from all over Spain marched in the capital on Saturday to denounce violence against women, which has caused 41 deaths this year, an AFP journalist said. Protesters answered a call by more than 400 feminist groups to flood downtown Madrid, carrying banners that read "Stop 'machista' violence" and shouting "We aren't all here, the dead are missing!"

Organizers said participants had travelled to the city on Saturday morning on 300 buses. Representatives of the main parties and unions also took part, as the country gears up for a general election on December 20.

"The economic crisis means many women have not left their aggressors because they do not have the means," said 61-year-old protester Marisa Teijero, adding that "it is more important than ever to unlock public funds."

IT specialist Nacho Molina, 49, said the presence of men at the protest was key. "In Spain, there is still a need to educate men so that they put an end to 'machismo' (male chauvinism)," he said.

In 2015, 41 women were murdered as a result of violence at the hands of a partner or an ex-partner.

 

Only seven of the victims had lodged official complaints against their aggressors before their deaths. Each of their deaths by stabbing, beating and even burning was reported in Spanish media.

Spain adopted a ground-breaking law in 2004 to fight violence against women, including through setting up a hotline that would not appear on users' phone bills, offering free legal aid free and establishing shelters for victims.

From January 2003 to May this year, 779 women were killed in Spain by their partners or ex-partners. Since 2008, the number has been steadily decreasing. From 71 in 2003, the toll went down to 54 in 2014.

Feminist organisations are calling for the campaign against gender-based violence to be broadened to include sexual violence, harassment in the workplace and trafficking in women.

 



 

Immigrant crisis: First Relocation Flight from Greece


Posted 04/11/2015

Today Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and Luxembourg Minister for Foreign Affairs Jean Asselborn travelled to Greece.

Together with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, European Parliament President Martin Schulz and Greek Alternate Minister of Interior and Administrative Reconstruction responsible for Migration Policy Ioannis Mouzalas met with the first group of asylum seekers to benefit from the EU's relocation scheme from Greece. Thirty asylum seekers travelled by plane from the Athens International Airport to have their applications processed in Luxembourg.

Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Avramopoulos said yesterday: "Tomorrow the first flight will leave Greece under the EU's relocation scheme. More than 600,000 people have entered the EU through Greece so far this year. Today's relocation is a symbolic moment, but it is also a crucial first step in a process that has to become systematic. It is now time to step up a gear, to have all hotspots fully functioning, and to make relocation a regular occurrence. We commend Luxembourg for being the first Member State to relocate people from Greece, as well as for their political efforts as Council Presidency to get this scheme started. We are counting on all Member States to take the necessary steps so that more relocations can follow swiftly from Greece and Italy."

Today's first flight from Greece is the result of intensive preparatory work on the ground by the Greek and Luxembourgish authorities, Frontex, EASO, Europol, Eurojust, IOM, UNHCR and local NGOs, and by the special envoys which the European Commission has deployed on the ground to make sure that the decisions on relocation adopted by the Council are implemented in Greece.

Commissioner Avramopoulos and Minister Asselborn were joined by Prime Minister Tsipras, President Schulz and Alternate Minister Mouzalas in greeting the asylum seekers at Athens International Airport, before the departure of their flight. 

 



 

Deutsche Bank to cut workforce by 15,000


Posted 29/10/2015

Deutsche Bank is cutting 15,000 global jobs and shedding assets in which some 20,000 staff are employed.

The cuts come as new chief executive John Cryan starts to implement a deep overhaul aiming to improve returns at Germany's biggest bank.

John Cryan said the bank will sacrifice its 2015 and 2016 dividends as it seeks to bolster its finances and retain money to pay for sins of the past.

"I do not think that 2016 and 2017 will be strong years," he said today.

Cryan is under pressure to overhaul Germany's biggest bank, with costly litigation from past scandals and fallout from a market rout in Asia pushing its valuation well below rivals.

The bank said it would close branches in Germany, and will also shut businesses in Malta, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Finland, Peru, Uruguay, Denmark, Norway and New Zealand.

"Deutsche Bank does not have a strategy problem. We know exactly where we want to go. But we have had a grave problem in implementing it," Cryan said, addressing reporters in German.

This was in contrast to his predecessor Anshu Jain who regularly drew criticism for never mastering the language.

Cryan said staff will feel the pain

"I have said that it would not be all sweetness and light," he said, adding it would be unacceptable not to share some of the cost of the settlement of interest-rate rigging and consequences of poor past behaviour.

In the context of the group making a 2015 loss, its supervisory board will discuss if it will be appropriate for the board to pay bonuses, he said.

Co-CEO Juergen Fitschen acknowledged the bank has not yet done enough in changing its behavioural culture.

"Cultural change ... it needs to be filled with content. What we have brought about is only the beginning," Fitschen said.

The lender is to axe 9,000 full-time jobs and 6,000 external contractor positions. Three quarters of the other 20,000 jobs to go are at retail unit Postbank, which Deutsche Bank is spinning off.

"We were concerned that our shareholders thought cost-cut goals were not ambitious enough. We think they are realistic based on the need to remain competitive," Cryan said.

John Cryan, Chief executive Deutsche BankJohn Cryan, Chief executive Deutsche Bank"We think we should retain capital in order to strengthen the company. Because we have to run business on the basis that we could encounter stress. We need to build a buffer above the minimum."

Deutsche Bank said late last night that it was targeting a reduction of its risk-weighted assets to about €320 billion by the end of 2018 from €416 billion at the end of June, towards the top end of analysts' expectations.

"The plan is based on the elimination of the Deutsche Bank common share dividend for the fiscal years 2015 and 2016," it said in a statement, adding it aimed to resume paying dividends thereafter.

Ever since its post-World War Two re-establishment in 1952, Deutsche Bank has always paid a dividend.

Earlier this month, the lender announced it would split its investment bank in two and part ways with three of its eight management board members.

 

The bank also said it was aiming to bring down adjusted non-interest expenses to less than €22 billion by 2018 from €23.8 billion in 2014, and to reduce its cost/income ratio to 70% in 2018 from 84.3% at the end of June.

By comparison, Barclays, Credit Suisse and UBS, which are also cutting costs and devising new strategies, currently only spend 64 to 77 cents to earn a euro.

Other major international banks such JP Morgan and UBS made swifter changes to address persistently low interest rates and tighter regulation after the financial crisis.

While Credit Suisse, which also intends to slim down its investment bank, plans to raise 6 billion Swiss francs from investors to bolster capital, Deutsche Bank has not so far signalled it is considering such a step.

Deutsche Bank also posted a 20% rise in revenue at its lucrative bond trading business in the third quarter, helping take the sting out of a record €6 billion group pretax loss.

Revenue at its Corporate Banking and Securities business rose 2% to €3.2 billion, helped by higher revenue in rates, credit and distressed and emerging markets.

Peers such as Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs reported steep declines in bond trading performance in the quarter.

The loss was caused by massive charges for goodwill and legal expenses at its investment bank and on assets earmarked for disposal, as well as higher litigation charges.

 



 

Portugal socialists pledge to topple government


Posted 25/10/2015

Portugal's opposition Socialists pledged to topple the centre-right minority government with a no-confidence motion, saying the president had created “an unnecessary political crisis” by nominating Pedro Passos Coelho as Prime Minister.

The move could wreck Mr Passos Coelho's efforts to get his centre-right government's programme passed in parliament in ten days' time, extending the political uncertainty hanging over the country since an inconclusive 4th of October election.     

Mr Coelho was named prime minister on Thursday after his coalition won the most votes in the national election but lost its majority in parliament, which swung to leftist parties. 

This set up a confrontation with the main opposition Socialists, who have been trying to form their own coalition government with the hard left Communists and Left Bloc, who all want to end the centre-right's austerity policies.         

"The president has created an unnecessary political crisis by naming Passos Coelho as Prime Minister," Socialist leader Antonio Costa said.    

The Socialists and two leftist parties quickly showed that they control the most votes when parliament reopened yesterday, electing a Socialist speaker of the house and rejecting the centre-right candidate.     

 

“This is the first institutional expression of the election results," Costa said. "In this election of speaker, parliament showed unequivocally the majority will of the Portuguese for a change in our democracy.”           

Earlyon Friday, Mr Costa's party gave its lawmakers a mandate to “present a motion rejecting any government programme” that includes similar policies to the last government.     

After the national election, Mr Passos Coelho tried to gain support from the Socialists, who instead started negotiating with the Communists and Left Bloc.     

Pedro Passos CoelhoPedro Passos Coelho

Antonio Barroso, senior vice president of the Teneo Intelligence consultancy in London, said Costa was likely to threaten any Socialist lawmaker with expulsion if they vote for the centre-right government's programme.         

"Therefore, the government is likely to fall, which will put the ball back on the president's court," Mr Barroso said in a note.

The political stand-off has prompted concerns that the economy's recovery after a bailout could stumble.        

But, so far, bond market investors have focussed instead on the likelihood of more quantitative easing from the European Central Bank. Benchmark 10-year bond yields were slightly higher at 2.38 percent on Friday.  

Portugal's PSI20 stock index was up 1%.

Passos Coelho's government pursued austerity measures and tax hikes during the past four years under a bailout which plunged Portugal into a three-year recession. The economy returned to growth last year and accelerated this year.

 



 

Turkey PM hails 'better approach' from EU on refugees after Merkel talks


Posted 18/10/2015

German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered Turkey the prospect of support for faster progress on its bid to join the European Union today in return for cooperation in stemming the flow of migrants and taking back those rejected by Europe.

Speaking in Istanbul at a joint news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Chancellor Merkel said Germany could help accelerate the path to visa-free travel to the EU for Turks and push forward Ankara's protracted EU membership talks.

In return, she expected Turkey to agree more quickly to take in migrants sent back by the EU, so-called "read mission agreements" that Mr Davutoglu has said he will sign up to only if there is progress on liberalising the visa regime for Turks.

"I think we have used the crisis we are experiencing, through a very disorderly and uncontrolled movement of refugees, to again achieve closer cooperation on many issues, both between the European Union and Turkey, and between Germany and Turkey," Chancellor Merkel said after meeting the Turkish premier.

Chancellor Merkel, who only ten days ago reiterated her opposition to Turkey joining the EU, said the talks were "very promising."

 

Faster Turkish accession may be hard for some in her conservative party, long opposed to Turkish membership, to swallow.

Dubbed a "punch-bag" for her own party by some German media due to frustrations over the refugee crisis, Chancellor Merkel wants to cement a European deal with Turkey on aid and closer ties in return for help in encouraging refugees there to stay put.

She has resisted pressure to tighten Germany's border controls and turn away refugees arriving from Austria, even as Germany expects 800,000 to one million new arrivals this year.

Both the Turkish and German leaders said they had agreed there could be no lasting solution to the migration crisis without resolving the conflict in Syria, from where more than 2 million refugees have now fled to Turkey.

A "safe zone" in northern Syria, a proposal long championed by Turkey but which has gained little international traction, is badly needed, Mr Davutoglu said.

"Our priority is to prevent illegal immigration and reduce the number of people crossing our borders. In that respect we have had very fruitful discussions with the EU recently," he said. 

But Mr Davutoglu said while progress had been made on an EU offer to Turkey last week of an action plan including "re-energised" talks on joining the bloc, several issues remained to be resolved.

"Firstly, the sharing of the refugee burden should be fair. The amount of aid ... is secondary. What is more important is the common will to tackle this issue. Turkey has been left alone in recent years," he said.

 

Visa-free travel for Turks should be brought forward to July 2016 instead of the current planned 2017 in exchange for Turkey signing up to the readmission agreement, he said. He also said Turkey should have a seat at EU summits.

"Germany is ready to offer support," Chancellor Merkel said. "If we take the question of visa liberalisation, we can talk in the German-Turkish working group ... about specific possibilities to push through visa facilitation."

 

Just two months ago, Chancellor Merkel was practically able to dictate terms to Greece over an aid plan to tackle its debt crisis. Over neighbouring Turkey she has far less leverage.

President Tayyip Erdogan, whom Chancellor Merkel also met, said he had asked her - as well as France, Britain and Spain - for support on accelerating Turkey's EU membership bid.

 



 

Scottish Ebola nurse now critically ill


Posted 15/10/2015

Pauline Cafferkey was thought to have recovered from the virus which she contracted while in Sierra Leone.

Pauline Cafferkey, the British nurse being treated for Ebola, has "deteriorated" and is "critically ill," the Royal Free Hospital has said.

A military plane flew her from Glasgow to London on Friday after an "unusual late complication" caused her to fall ill again.

It was thought she had recovered from the virus.

"We are sad to announce that Pauline Cafferkey's condition has deteriorated and she is now critically ill," said a statement.

"She is being treated for Ebola in the high level isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital."

Pauline CafferkeyPauline CafferkeyMs Cafferkey contracted the disease after treating patients in Sierra Leone at the height of the outbreak which has killed more than 11,000 people.

She was first treated at the Royal Free Hospital in December and discharged in January.

The 39-year-old from South Lanarkshire won a Pride of Britain Award last month and met the British prime minister's wife Samantha Cameron at Downing Street.

Doctors "missed a big opportunity" to notice Ms Cafferkey had become unwell again, her family have claimed.

Her sister Toni Cafferkey called it "absolutely diabolical" that a GP in Glasgow had sent her home after she went to an out-of-hours clinic.

Twenty-five people recently treated by the nurse have been getting an experimental vaccination as a precaution, having had close contact with her.

In total, 58 people are being monitored but the risk of infection is considered extremely low.

Dr Derek Gatherer, from Lancaster University, says that people who fight off Ebola produce antibodies that "kill off the virus in most bodily fluids."

But he added: "In areas of the body where the immune system is not particularly active - one of these is the central nervous system ... the Ebola virus can survive in very small quantities."

Last week, the three countries at the centre of the Ebola epidemic recorded their first week with no new cases since March 2014.

A Save The Children report said Ms Cafferkey was probably infected because she had used a visor to protect her face after struggling to get her goggles to fit.

 



 

UK Police no longer to guard Assange


Posted 12/10/2015

Interestingly a day after we published a story about a BBC interview with Edward Snowden, today we hear that police in the UK are no longer guarding the Ecuadorian Embassy where Wikileaks' Julian Assange has been taking refuge, Scotland Yard says.

The founder of the controversial whistleblowing website has been hiding out at the diplomatic mission since 2012.

He fled there after being sought in Sweden where he is wanted in connection with sex allegations.

It is estimated to have cost British police forces more than €16m to have the embassy guarded in case he left the building.

The round-the-clock police presence has become increasingly controversial as the cost has spiralled with no sign of an end.

Swedish prosecutors were seeking his extradition but the whistleblowing campaigner refused to leave Britain.

He was arrested on a European Arrest Warrant in December 2010 and told he would have to submit to the legal process.

After seeking sanctuary in the embassy, the Australian claimed that if he went to Sweden he could be handed over the US authorities for prosecution over WikiLeaks disclosures.

In a statement the Metropolitan Police Service said he was still wanted for arrest but added, "Like all public services, MPS resources are finite.”

"With so many different criminal, and other, threats to the city it protects, the current deployment of officers is no longer believed proportionate."

The force said it was not going to comment on what form its future operations would take but added it would deploy a "number of overt and covert tactics to arrest him."

The Foreign Office released a statement saying: "The head of the Diplomatic Service, Simon McDonald, summoned the Ecuadorean Ambassador today to register once again our deep frustration at the protracted delay.”

"The UK has been absolutely clear since June 2012 that we have a legal obligation to extradite Assange to Sweden. That obligation remains today."

Mr Assange was granted political asylum by Ecuador under the 1951 Refugee Convention, which covers embassies in foreign countries.

In a recent interview, he claimed he had not had any fresh air or sunlight, for three years!

He said: "There are security issues with being on the balcony. There have been bomb threats and assassination threats from various people."

WikiLeaks' reacted by tweeting: "BREAKING: UK police announce extra covert efforts against Assange after spending €16m."

 


 


 

Belgian national protest infiltrated by anarchists


Posted 07/10/2015

After only a few short weeks since the EU quarter of Brussels was locked down by dairy farmers protests, and where Belgian police were stretched to their maximum, today and for the second time in a year people gathered to protest free-market regulations and austerity measures that the centre-right government has been pushing through during its first year in office.

Belgium’s three main unions joined Wednesday behind a common platform, arguing that the government of Prime Minister Charles Michel is promoting big companies at the expense of the workforce.

The unions specifically complain about a freezing of the link between inflation and wages, an increase of the retirement age, cuts in social services and tax measures that they claim unfairly benefit employers.

After a few hours of peaceful protests, it would seem that just 200 anarchist demonstrators caused incidents.

Clashes broke out Wednesday afternoon around the Brussels-Midi station, after a Belgian national protest brought together around 80,000 protesters according to police (100,000 according to trade unions). Police had to repeatedly use self-pumps and tear gas at that point. At 14:30, the situation was under control, police said.

The Brussels-Capital / Ixelles police reported fourteen arrests for acts of vandalism, assault and rebellion, other three administrative arrests were carried out for disturbance of public order.

According to several sources, the 200 anarchist demonstrators, dressed in black and hooded, were the cause of these incidents. 

Allegedly they threw cobblestones at police as far as Midi train station in Brussels. According youth organizations, undocumented immigrants have also participated in these clashes.

After several attempts, security forces managed to encircle a hundred troublemakers up to the esplanade where union leaders made their speeches. Police made several arrests, according to the press agency Belga.

Brussels Midi train station was temporarily deprived of public transport including buses, trams and metro. The vast majority of demonstrators left by early evening and public transport resumed services.

 



 

New Irish passport card is launched


Posted 05/10/2015

It will allow Irish citizens to travel within all EU Member States.

The new Irish passport card is now available, which will allow people to travel to 30 European countries.

It will allow Irish citizens to travel within all countries of the European Union and European Economic Area (EEA) - but the passport book must be used for all other foreign travel, including to the United States.

Adult citizens who already have a valid Irish passport book are eligible to apply for the card - which is designed to fit into any wallet or purse.

The card has a maximum validity of five years, or the remaining validity of your passport book.

The application fee is €35, plus a credit card transaction cost.

Applications will be received online through the Department of Foreign Affairs website - or through an app for smart phones and tablets.

The Passport Service says it has the capacity to process 3,000 passport card applications per week, and that - depending on demand - it is estimated applications will be processed within 20 to 25 working days.

Speaking at the announcement, Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said: "I am delighted to announce that applications for the new passport card can be submitted on-line from today through my Department's website and also through a new mobile app which has been specifically designed for the purpose.”

"The introduction of the passport card is a significant innovation that will enhance the travel experience for Irish people as they go on holidays or business trips to 30 countries throughout Europe. Citizens who apply will need to have a valid passport book already but they will be able to use the passport card alone for travelling to such popular destinations as Spain, France and Italy,”

He says you can also use your own camera to take your passport photo.

The passport card is valid for entry into the following countries:

 

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Republic of Cyprus

 

 

  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France

 

 

  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Italy
  • Latvia

 

 

  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Poland

 

 

  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain

 

  • Sweden
  • UK
  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Norway



 

Spanish PM offers Catalonia “dialogue” within bounds of law


Posted 28/09/2015

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Monday offered the Catalan government “dialogue and institutional loyalty” within the bounds of the law.

The head of the centre-right Popular Party (PP) appeared at La Moncloa, the seat of central government, to assess the results of the regional elections held in Catalonia on Sunday.

The election was won by pro-independence forces, which secured a majority of seats although they failed to obtain more than 48 percent of the popular vote.

Catalan Premier Artur Mas had cast these parliamentary elections as a proxy vote on independence, and Sunday’s results suggest that secessionists will carry on with their project to break away from Spain – even though Mas’s continuation at the helm of the regional government is uncertain.

Rajoy’s offer of dialogue on Monday was a gesture of goodwill that had not been on view for many months. Ever since Mas failed in his attempt to secure more financial powers for the region in the summer of 2012, the relationship between both men had broken down almost completely.

The Prime Minister has been criticized for his unyielding position even as the Catalan independence drive went into high gear and the more radical secessionists threatened to make a unilateral declaration of independence.

The German government was the first European executive to issue a public statement regarding the Catalan elections. Berlin underscored the same message expressed by Chancellor Angela Merkel at a meeting with Rajoy earlier this month, when she talked about the importance of respecting European legislation.

“We are convinced that it is important, despite everything that is happening at the moment, to maintain the rule of law with regard to the European Union treaties and to national legislation, that is to say, the Spanish Constitution,” said the German government spokesman, Steffen Seibert, at a press conference.

Seibert nevertheless stressed that Germany considers the Catalan elections a domestic Spanish issue.

But despite his new willingness to “listen and talk,” Rajoy also said he would not accept any “liquidation of the law,” nor was he ready to discuss “the unity of Spain or national sovereignty.”

Rajoy also highlighted the fact that secessionists had failed to win a majority of the popular vote, despite their victory in terms of parliamentary seats.

Rajoy called on the new Catalan executive to emerge from the elections to “govern for all the Catalans” and “to replace the monologues and the unilateral imposition with constructive dialogue, because what emerged yesterday is that Catalonia is a very plural place.”

The conservative leader is not expected to make any specific proposal to the Catalan executive, despite calls by Raül Romeva, the top candidate for the winning Junts pel Sí pro-sovereignty bloc, for Madrid to organize a referendum.

“When the SNP won in Scotland, Britain called a referendum. The same thing happened in Quebec. Let’s hope there is a clear message in these results,” he said.

 



 

VW CEO resigns amid emissions scandal


Posted 23/09/2015

Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn has resigned amid the emissions scandal engulfing the German car-maker.

Mr Winterkorn announced his resignation to the stock market, saying he had made the decision for the good of the company.

He said he was "shocked" at the scandal.

“I am doing this in the interests of the company even though I am not aware of any wrong doing on my part,” he said in a statement.

“Volkswagen needs a fresh start - also in terms of personnel. I am clearing the way for this fresh start with my resignation.”

A five-member executive committee had grilled the 68-year-old since morning at the company's headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany.

The company was under huge pressure to take decisive action, with its shares down more than 30% in value since the crisis broke, and the bad news still coming.            

German prosecutors said today they were conducting a preliminary investigation into the manipulation of vehicle emission test results at Volkswagen, while French Energy Minister Segolene Royal said her country would be "extremely severe" if its investigation into the firm found any wrongdoing.            

US authorities are planning criminal investigations after discovering that Volkswagen programmed computers in its cars to detect when they were being tested and alter the running of their diesel engines to conceal their true emissions.            

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had urged Volkswagen to move "as quickly as possible" to restore confidence in a company held up for generations as a paragon of German engineering prowess.

 

Germany's transport minister earlier rejected accusations that he had prior knowledge of the emissions control technology used by Volkswagen to rig test results.

"I have made it very clear ... that the allegations of the Greens party are false and inappropriate," Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt told journalists.

"We are trying to clear up this case. Volkswagen has to win back confidence," he said, adding that the first he knew about the case was when he read it in a newspaper.

He said experts were now examining how to deal with the millions of cars with such devices.

“Volkswagen has said that this part is not active. The commission will now examine what kind of impact an inactive part can have on the engine. Afterwards, you can decide what will happen with these cars,” he said.

Volkswagen's admission that some of its cars cheated clean-air tests in the US has led to calls for stricter testing in Europe.

The German car-maker said 11 million vehicles worldwide might have been fitted with software to trick testers into believing they met environmental standards.

It is not known whether cars on Ireland's roads are affected - or how many of them - but campaigners abroad have demanded that the process for testing vehicles is made more stringent.

Tim Barlow, air quality expert at Britain’s Transport Research Laboratory, said Europe's laboratory system, which dates back to 1996, needs to be brought up to date.

He said: "Current testing methods are outdated and offer room for error or optimisation, so it's imperative that industry, governments and regulatory bodies work together to find the best way forward.

“Ideally we need to move towards a testing model that's based on real driving emissions, carried out with vehicles operated on normal roads.”

“This should be followed up with in-use compliance testing, whereby a sample of vehicles already in use are tested to check they still comply with the emissions limits.”

 

The US Environmental Protection Agency said cars had been fitted with sophisticated software to switch engines to a cleaner mode when they are undergoing official emissions testing.

This is a type of software known as a "defeat device." Once on the road, the cars produced nitrogen oxide pollutants at up to 40 times the legal standard.

Monique Goyens, director general of European consumer organisation the BEUC, said real-life testing was urgently needed on this side of the Atlantic too.

“We've been saying long before this scandal broke out that one of the problems in the EU, unlike in the US, is the absence of a surveillance system which would require independent on-the-road testing,” she said.

“The EU needs to implement such a system to restore trust amongst consumers in emissions and fuel consumption test programmes.”

Details of a real driving emissions test incorporating modern technologies and on-road conditions are being discussed by the industry and the European Commission.

It has been proposed that the test is introduced in 2017, but there have now been calls for it to be introduced as soon as possible in the wake of the VW scandal.

 



 

Spanish central bank warns against Catalan independence


Posted 21/09/2015

Bank of Spain governor Luis Linde said Catalonia would lose access to credit from the ECB if it votes for independence. Spain's central bank today warned of financial risks from the Catalonia region's potential secession from Spain, days ahead of an election there framed as an indirect vote on independence.

Bank of Spain governor Luis Linde said Catalonia would drop out of the euro zone if it broke away from Spain and would lose access to credit from the European Central Bank.

He followed European leaders, businesses and big commercial banks in warning of the financial risks of secession for the rich but heavily indebted northeastern region.

Nationalist leaders in Catalonia have vowed to declare independence within 18 months if they win the vote on September 27.

"Leaving the European Union means automatically leaving the euro zone," so banks in Catalonia would "stop having access to the ECB's facilities," he said.

He said there was a risk, albeit a "highly unlikely" one, that Catalonia would end up having to impose banking restrictions as Greece did in June at the height of its debt crisis.

The latest opinion polls show separatist parties could win a majority in the Catalan regional parliament on the 27th of September.

The independence drive has intensified over the recent years of economic crisis. Catalans complain about how much of their tax money is redistributed to the rest of Spain.

Their vows to secede have posed a tough political challenge to the conservative central Spanish government.

It is looking to strengthen Spain's economic recovery and preparing to fight a general election in December.   

 



 

Jeremy Corbyn sweeps to victory in Labour leadership vote in UK


Posted 13/09/2015

The British Labour Party has elected Jeremy Corbyn as their new leader after he secured almost 60% of the first round vote at a special party convention in London.

After 32 years on Labour's backbenches, the 66-year-old Islington North MP won only a handful of votes from his fellow MPs but was swept to victory in the race to replace Ed Miliband by a surge of enthusiasm from members in the country as well as new "registered supporters" who paid £3 to secure a vote.

He now faces the massive challenge of forming a shadow cabinet which will deliver his anti-austerity, anti-war policies without splitting the party.

Mr Corbyn faced his first front bench resignation within moments of his victory, as shadow health spokesman Jamie Reed announced he was quitting.

Just hours after being announced as the new leader of the Labour Party Mr Corbyn was addressing a rally in central London.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He was greeted with cheering and chanting as he spoke to the thousands who had gathered to protest at the British governments response to the refugee and migrant crisis.

With resignations already received from the Labour shadow cabinet it is clear that party unity will now be a central issue.

Mr Corbyn's predecessor Ed Miliband advised him this afternoon to reach out to all wings of the party in what he said could be a difficult and demanding job

In the coming days Mr Corbyn will announce his shadow cabinet.

All eyes will be on who he chooses as an indicator of just how inclusive he intends to be.

In a result which marks a fundamental change of direction for the party, the veteran left winger defeated rivals Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall in the first round of counting, taking 251,417 (59.5%) of the 422,664 votes cast.

Supporters at the QEII conference centre in Westminster sang "the Red Flag."

In his victory speech, Mr Corbyn said: "During these amazing three months, our party has changed. We have grown enormously, because of the hopes of so many ordinary people for a different Britain, a better Britain, a more equal Britain, a more decent Britain.

"They are fed up with the inequality, the injustice, the unnecessary poverty. All those issues have brought people in in a spirit of hope and optimism.

"I say to the new members of the party, or those who have joined as registered or affiliated supporters - welcome. Welcome to our party, welcome to our movement. Can I say to those returning to the party who were in it before and felt disillusioned and went away. Welcome back, welcome back to your party, welcome home."

He said his campaign had given the lie to claims that young Britons are apathetic about politics, showing instead that they are "a very political generation that were turned off by the way in which politics was being conducted."

He said: "We have to and must change that."

Mr Corbyn said: "The fightback now of our party gathers speed and gathers pace."

However he has urged critics to respect this 'huge mandate' - as Labour’s new leader he seeks to assemble a shadow cabinet that could accept his radical left-wing programme.

Details of the top new-look top team are expected to be revealed over the next 48 hours, as Ed Miliband's successor gears up for his first appearance before the Parliamentary Labour Party in the Commons tomorrow.

The scale of the veteran MP's victory among party members as well as trade unionists and new-found supporters has quietened talk of a push by disgruntled moderates to oust him.

But the resignations of a string of senior figures who declared themselves unable to serve in his top team underlined the task he faced uniting the party behind his anti-war, anti-austerity platform.

John Woodcock, who chairs the Blairite Progress group, warned colleagues against "a fresh round of division and resentment between MPs who choose to be 'innies' and those who are 'outies'."

He added: "If we are to move on from here we must recognise how damaging it has been for Labour people - who have all basically wanted the same thing - to have knocked lumps out of each other for 20 years."

Mr Corbyn told the Observer newspaper it was important to recognise that his triumph - with 59.5% of the votes - represented "a huge mandate for a new democracy in the party."

"I think the membership and supporters will want and expect members of the parliamentary party to cooperate with the new leader and let us develop an effective strategy for opposing the Tories on the issues I outlined in my speech: welfare reform, trade unions, budget and so on," he said.

His first move was to keep Rosie Winterton on as chief whip, a crucial role likely to be a headache over issues such as military action in Syria, which Mr Corbyn opposes.

Among those tipped for the crucial role of shadow chancellor are Angela Eagle and his campaign chief and fellow left-winger John McDonnell, though his appointment to the role could alienate other potential allies.

Defeated leadership rivals Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall are among those to have declared they would not take a role - with Tristram Hunt, Rachel Reeves, Chris Leslie, Emma Reynolds and Jamie Reed also returning to the backbenches.

Ed Miliband - whose resignation after leading the party to general election disaster in May provoked the contest - called on the party to join him in supporting Mr Corbyn but indicated that he too would not seek a return to the frontline.

It remained unclear whether Andy Burnham - who came a distant second in the leadership contest and had said he could work with Mr Corbyn - and Chuka Umunna - who issued a plea for unity - would accept jobs.

Mr Corbyn is not expected to take to the airwaves today - giving up a scheduled appearance on the BBC's flagship Andrew Marr Show to Tom Watson, who was elected the new deputy leader.

He will concentrate instead on forming his team and preparing for a busy first week - including Commons debate of Government anti-strike laws, a speech to the TUC annual conference and his first Prime Minister's Questions session.

Mr Corbyn has asked supporters to suggest what they would like him to ask Mr Cameron at the weekly set-piece, which he has promised will be a less confrontational encounter with him at the helm.

Downing Street said the PM - who has warned Labour under Mr Corbyn posed a threat to the UK's security and economic health - had telephoned his new adversary to congratulate him.

 



 

Elizabeth II becomes longest reigning UK monarch


Posted 09/09/2015

Queen Elizabeth II today becomes Britain's longest-serving monarch when she overtakes Queen Victoria's reign of 63 years and seven months.

The Queen will break the record previously held by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria whose reign, according to Buckingham Palace, lasted for 23,226 days, 16 hours and 23 minutes - or around 63 years and 216 days.

Princess Elizabeth became Queen when she was only 25 years of age, on the 6th of February 1952, after her father died.

It is thought Queen Elizabeth II will break Queen Victoria's record at around 5.30pm this afternoon, but it's difficult to pinpoint a precise time because the exact moment of her father's death is not known. It is inevitable that comparisons will be made between the two women, and some experts argue Queen Victoria would become an ideal role model for her great great granddaughter.

Video courtesy of UK Parliament

Historian Kate Williams said: "When Elizabeth came to the throne, yes she was 25, yes she was a mother of two.

"But yet, people were still rather dubious about a female: they said she's just a woman, it was the 50s, and a very sexist Britain. But actually it was very important for her to have the example of Victoria, saying a woman can do the job in the 19th century - I can do the job now."

There are not any large scale national events planned to mark this milestone, and members of her family will not be seen to celebrate the moment.

The Queen herself has said she doesn't want any fuss, and expects it to be business as usual, treating the day like any other.

It is understood this is partly out of respect for Queen Victoria, but also because large celebrations are being planned for Her Majesty's 90th birthday next year.

But the Queen, who is currently on her summer holiday at her private Scottish home of Balmoral, will travel to Edinburgh and then down to the Borders to open a new railway line.

Accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, she will board a train at Edinburgh Waverley station pulled by the steam locomotive the Union of Africa, taking a two hour journey to Tweedbank, where she is expected to be met by large crowds.

There has been speculation that the Queen may make a rare public speech to mark the moment.

Buckingham Palace hasn't yet released the Queen's full programme for the day, but if she does speak publicly it's likely to focus on the railway line rather than her own achievements.

It comes as a poll suggests the monarchy and the Queen remain as popular as ever.

The results from Sky Data found that 70% of people think Britain should remain a monarchy forever, with 61% saying they did not think the monarchy was a waste of money.

Some 58% also said they trusted the Queen more than most politicians.

British Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to the queen, telling Cabinet colleagues at their weekly meeting in Downing Street yesterday that she had a "remarkable record" and was "a symbol of Britain's enduring spirit admired around the world."

Video courtesy of YouTube user CGP Grey - an excellent, concise - if a little intensive - of the history of the British Royal family since 1066. Subscribe to his channel for more history studies!



 

Migratory pressure at the heart of EU discussions in Luxembourg


Posted 06/09/2015

An informal Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the EU was held on the 4th and 5th of September in Luxembourg, part of which focused on migration, Luxembourg's Minister for Foreign and European Affairs, Jean Asselborn, solicited a European solution to migratory pressure and called for solidarity.

"This issue goes beyond the financial crisis in Greece and will keep us busy into the next decade," stated the Minister who is co-chairing the Informal Meeting alongside the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. "There can be no national solutions, only a solution at European level," he said. "Europe is synonymous with values, international law and humanity. Europe is at risk of losing face and its essence and will be blameworthy if these values are called into question," he insisted, adding that "the image of Europe worldwide is at stake." 

Jean Asselborn welcomed the announcement by the United Kingdom to receive thousands of additional Syrian refugees and called for the EU to support Greece which is experiencing "serious problems." Refugees and migrants arriving in Greece must be registered, given clothes and undergo a health check, he said. "We must put an end to this migration pattern from the South to the North," he stated, and also called for a system of quotas or a plan for a "humane" distribution of migrants" to be set up. "It is possible and it is our duty," he added, noting that he is waiting for concrete results for the October Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council, following the extraordinary JHA Council convened by the Luxembourg Presidency scheduled for the 14th of September 2015. "There is no country in Europe that can claim not to have a culture or tradition of receiving refugees," he concluded.

Asked about the proposal for a European System of Border Guards which he put forward during a speech to the EU Ambassadors' Conference held on the 3rd of September 2015 in Brussels, Jean Asselborn said that it would be feasible in times of crisis to implement such a measure in Member States unable to implement it themselves. Highlighting the "significant differences" in terms of recognition rates and the treatment period for processing an application for asylum, the Minister also called for specialised European jurisdiction to lay down common rules and standards in all Member States for asylum cases, a task that should be entrusted to the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).

Federica Mogherini stressed even upon her arrival that migration and the refugee crisis would be at the heart of discussions. We will focus on cooperating with countries of origin and transit, she noted. "We will therefore continue the work of Ministers for Defence and Ministers for Home Affairs," she added, stressing the need for a coherent approach across EU internal policies.

The Hungarian Minister, Péter Szijjártó stated that Hungary is facing a "tragic situation" and has registered the arrival of some 163,000 migrants of which 99.3% arrived across the border with Serbia. "Hungary is dedicated and committed to complying with all European regulations, whether the Schengen Agreement or the Dublin Regulation," he said, highlighting the fact that, under the Schengen Agreement, it is up to the Member States located at the external borders of the EU to manage and "defend those borders" and to ensure that there are official border crossing points. "That is why we erected a fence," he continued, referring to the barbed wire fence erected by Hungary along the 175 km of shared border with Serbia.

The Minister also said that Hungary had received and was prepared to receive refugees "but not economic migrants," calling for a "clear distinction" to be made. "Europe must stop creating unrealistic expectations among people who want to come to Europe simply for economic reasons."

 



 

 

Refugees found 'suffocated' in Austrian lorry


Posted 27/08/2015

The bodies of up to fifty refugees have been found in the back of a lorry in Austria, it has been reported.

The refrigerated vehicle was discovered on the hard shoulder of the A4 highway, close to Parndorf, about 50 km southeast of the capital Vienna and about 25km from the Hungarian and Slovak borders, according to Krone newspaper.

It is thought they were trapped in the trailer and suffocated after being unable to get out - but police said it was too early to confirm the cause of death.

The van had been seen stationary by staff at a nearby service station and when it failed to move for some time, they called the police.

One witness said that liquid was seen leaking out of the back of the chilled foods lorry. The driver is believed to have fled the scene and is currently being sought by police.

At a press conference in Eisenstadt, Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said it demonstrated "the despicable methods used by Mafia traffickers in all their ugliness in Austria."

"Today is a dark day," she said vowing there would be zero tolerance shown towards any that were caught.

Ms Mikl-Leitner said: "These people belong behind bars! These Mafia traffickers must know that they cannot feel safe in Austria."

The interior ministry confirmed there had been between twenty and fifty deaths.

A picture of the lorry was shown on the website of the Krone. It appeared to have writing on the side in the Slovakian language.

Earlier, three other vehicles were seized in Bruck an der Leitha, a short distance further northwest, one of which contained 34 refugees.

That group had been saved but had complained about being almost unable to breathe once inside the back, Krone said.

It was alleged that the driver had ignored multiple requests to stop on their journey from the Serbian border to Austria.

It came as thousands of migrants and refugees a day are being travelling between Greece to Hungary as they seek a better life in the European Union.

They are taking the perilous "Balkan Corridor," with many of the countries on the way feeling the strain of so many people passing through.

The shocking find came as Austria hosted a summit in Vienna on Europe's refugee crisis for Western Balkan nations, which have been overwhelmed this year by the tens of thousands of migrants trying to get into Europe via their territory.



 

French President salutes train heroes for preventing 'carnage'


Posted 24/08/2015

French President Francois Hollande has presented three US citizens and a Briton with the Legion d'Honneur medal in recognition of their bravery in stopping a gunman on a packed train.

Airman Spencer Stone, 23, and his friends, student Anthony Sadler, 23 and National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, 22, along with 62-year-old Briton Chris Norman were honoured at a ceremony at the Elysee Palace this morning.

Mr Hollande said: "A terrorist decided to commit an attack. He had enough weapons and ammunition to carry out a real carnage, and that's what he would have done if you hadn't tackled him at a risk to your own lives.

"You have shown us that, faced with terror, we have the power to resist. You have given a message of courage, solidarity and hope."

Mr Hollande added: "I did not want you to return to your countries without receiving this honour.

"Faced with the peril of terrorism, it's in refusing to back down, in refusing to be afraid, it's by standing up together that we overcome."

A French citizen who also tackled the gunman, but wishes to remain anonymous, is to receive the honour at a later date, as will a Franco-American passenger recovering from being shot during the attack, a source said.

Mr Stone told a press conference yesterday that the French man "deserves a lot of credit" because he was the first one to try to stop the gunman, who authorities have identified as 26-year-old Moroccan national Ayoub el Khazzani.

The Legion d'Honneur, France's highest accolade, was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 and is awarded in recognition of both civil and military achievements.

The train passengers were awarded the Chevalier de l'ordre national de la Legion d'Honneur, or Knight of the national Order of the Legion of Honour.

 

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, US Ambassador to France Jane Hartley and members of France's government all attended the award ceremony.

Mr El Kkhazzani opened fire on the Paris-bound train on Friday, injuring a man before being wrestled to the floor and subdued.

"I went over, saw that he was squirting blood out of the left or right side of his neck," Mr Stone said.

"And I was going to use my shirt at first, but I realised that wasn't going to work, so I just stuck two of my fingers in the hole, found what I thought to be the artery, pushed down and the bleeding stopped."

Mr Stone held that position until paramedics arrived.

The man whom Mr Stone helped remains hospitalised, but US Ambassador to France Jane Hartley said at the news conference that he was "doing pretty well."

Mr Stone sustained a serious hand injury during the attack and thanked doctors who reattached his thumb, which was almost severed by the gunman, who was armed with a boxcutter, a pistol and a Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle.

The three Americans, who grew up together near Sacramento, in California, were touring Europe, partly to celebrate Mr Skarlatos' return from a recent tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Mr Norman is a consultant who lives in France.

Mr Skarlatos has disputed a statement the gunman made, through a lawyer, that he just wanted to rob the train because he was hungry.

"It doesn't take eight magazines to rob a train," Mr Skarlatos said. "The guy had a lot of ammo. His intentions seemed pretty clear."

 

Source: AFP

 



 

Corbynmania - the Jeremy Corbyn phenomena


Posted 20/08/2015

EU Spectator would not necessarily be the greatest fan of the youthful – looking British Journalist, writer and Labour activist Owen Jones, but not to be ageist and in the interest of impartiality, we have featured this video interview he did recently, in which he offers his view on the recently coined “Corbynmania” phrase, an obvious reference to the incredible rise in support for the Labour MP in the Leadership battle.

At this stage it feels like the hustings have been going on forever, but unless the whole Leadership race is scuppered, we should have a result by September 13th. Jones expands and qualifies his views beyond the UK - siting political change right across Europe, and the reasons why he feels this trend against the EU political status quo started, and why it will continue.  We actually agree with some of his arguments and analysis; but you will have to judge for yourself!

Video courtesy of Novara Media

Interview:Aaron Bastani

Camera/Edit: Ralph Pritchard

 



 

A Wallet Sized Passport - Unique Irish InnovationRandall CalvinRandall Calvin


Posted 09/08/2015

By Randall Calvin

Being an Irish passport holder, this unique EU, if not world first initiative, caught my attention.

Like the UK, with which the Irish Republic shares a land-border, neither country has a universal system of national ID cards, much to the bemusement of our EU continental cousins. Indeed the latter wonder how life is possible without such a system to keep tabs on its citizens. In defence of our Island mentality I often protest that the obligatory carrying of identification is culturally repugnant to our national tradition and liberty.

Some years ago Tony Blair, then Prime Minister, floated the idea of a European style identity card for the UK, but needless to say the idea went down like a lead balloon. It is not to say that British and Irish people don’t bear some form of ID, they do, from student cards, driving licences, and of course passports. Thus as you do not need a passport to travel between the British Isles, Ireland and Great Britain did not join the Schengen Agreement.

This Agreement led to the creation of Europe's borderless Schengen Area.     The treaty was signed on the 14th of June 1985 by five of the then ten member states of the European Economic Community near the town of Schengen in Luxembourg but was not implemented (partially) until 1995. It proposed the gradual abolition of border checks at the signatories' common borders.

 

 

Measures proposed included reduced speed vehicle checks which allowed vehicles to cross borders without stopping, allowing of residents in border areas freedom to cross borders away from fixed checkpoints and the harmonisation of visa policies.

In 1990 the Agreement was supplemented by the Schengen Convention which proposed the abolition of internal border controls and a common visa policy. The Schengen Area operates very much like a single state for international travel purposes with external border controls for travellers entering and exiting the area, and common visas, but with no internal border controls. It currently consists of 26 European countries covering a population of over 400 million people and an area of 4,312,099 square kilometres (1,664,911 sq mi).

Prior to 1999, the Schengen treaties and the rules adopted under them operated independently from the European Union; however, the Amsterdam Treaty incorporated them into European Union law, while providing opt-outs for the only two EU member states which had remained outside the Area: Ireland and the United Kingdom. Schengen is now a core part of EU law and all EU member states without an opt-out which have not already joined the Schengen Area are legally obliged to do so when technical requirements have been met. Several non-EU countries are also included in the area. I and most Irish citizens remain opposed to obligatory ID cards, however as a Brussels-based expat who regularly travel between my home country and other EU member states, welcome this world-first initiative, a credit-card passport, rather than the traditional visa book form. It will enable holders to travel within the European Union and the European economic area using a new Irish passport card from late September.

The new credit-card sized document will be issued as a supplement to existing passports.

The card will be valid for a maximum of five years and will cost €35.

However I learned today that there is a delay due changes in the manufacturing area.

A two-month delay in the roll-out of the new Irish passport card was caused by changes to the manufacture of the credit card-sized document.

The Passport Card, which will allow travel within the European Union and the European economic area, was promised for mid-July but will not be available until the end of next month.

The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs said the manufacturer "deemed it necessary" to alter the polycarbonate structure to improve the durability of the card.

"It has caused a slight lengthening of the time it takes to manufacture the card and the new target date of issue is mid to end September," it added.

The card will be available to all Irish citizens over 18 and who already hold a valid passport.

So for me a very intelligent practical compromise between the traditional European plastic ID card, and my passport that I simply pop into my wallet. This also offers the extra security, that if you should decide to bring your book-form passport with you on holiday or business, and should you have the misfortune of having your wallet stolen, you can still have your paper passport safely in your hotel safe. However I foresee myself arguing with airport police from Brussels to Barcelona doing an on-the-spot education class as they of course will never have seen such a thing before! Fingers crossed!!!

 



 

Focus on France


Posted 03/08/2015

Increased security measures agreed over Calais migrant crisis

Security measures around the Channel Tunnel are to be increased after the UK and France agreed a package including extra private security guards, French police reinforcements, additional fences and more CCTV surveillance.

The measures were agreed following a phone conversation between Prime Minister David Cameron and President Francois Hollande on Friday.

Mr Cameron has warned disruption at the French port town could go on all summer.

More than 5,000 migrants are living in a tent city close to the tunnel terminal in the hope of finding a way to the UK.

Options to relieve traffic back-ups on the M20 motorway under consideration by the British Ministry of Defence and Department of Transport are understood to include the use of spare car parking space at Ebbsfleet railway station or the disused Marston airport, as well as increasing capacity on other ferry routes.

The M20 was reopened for normal traffic yesterday evening after the last lorries being held under Operation Stack procedures were allowed through to the Channel Tunnel and ferry ports.

The operation had seen thousands of lorries parked on the coast bound carriageway for much of the last month.

Eurotunnel, the firm that runs freight and passenger shuttles via the Channel Tunnel, says it is struggling to cope and migrants have become better organised, mounting nightly attempts in large groups to storm the facilities.

At least ten migrants have died attempting to cross into the UK since June.

British Home Secretary Theresa May and her French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve issued a joint statement saying the new measures send 

Eurotunnel, the firm that runs freight and passenger shuttles via the Channel Tunnel, says it is struggling to cope and migrants have become better organised, mounting nightly attempts in large groups to storm the facilities.

At least ten migrants have died attempting to cross into the UK since June.

British Home Secretary Theresa May and her French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve issued a joint statement saying the new measures send   "a clear message."

They said the world was facing "a global migration crisis" that required a European and international response, and warned that the burden of tackling the problem should not lie with Britain and France alone.

"Many of those in Calais and attempting to cross the Channel have made their way there through Italy, Greece or other countries," they said.

Ultimately, the crisis had to be addressed at the roots by "reducing the number of migrants who are crossing into Europe from Africa" for economic reasons.

"Our streets are not paved with gold," they said, adding that both governments were currently sending back around 200 migrants a month who do not qualify for asylum.

 

Calais migrant crisis: David Cameron accused of 'playing politics'

The Swedish justice and migration minister has accused David Cameron of "playing politics" with the migrant crisis in Calais.

Morgan Johansson said scenes in Calais had resulted from France and the UK not taking "responsibility" for accepting more asylum seekers.

Migrants in Calais are making nightly bids to cross the Channel.

The UK and French governments have announced they will bolster security around the Eurotunnel site in Calais.

Thousands of migrants have attempted to access the Eurotunnel terminal in the last week, and nine have died trying to access the tunnel since the start of June.

David Cameron has said the UK will not become a "safe haven" for migrants and warned illegal immigrants would be removed from the country.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend programme, Mr Johansson criticised Mr Cameron for using the word "illegal" about asylum seekers before they have been through the asylum process, and said they were seeking a basic human right.

Sweden allows anyone from Syria into the country, and last year Sweden accepted 30,000 asylum seekers compared to the UK's 10,000.

Mr Johansson called on the rest of the European Union, including the UK, to take more people in.

"I hear what he [Mr Cameron] is saying about illegal immigrants and about swarms and everything like that," he said.

"I think he's playing on strings - that he wants to actually divide people - and that's not a constructive way."

They said the world was facing "a global migration crisis" that required a European and international response, and warned that the burden of tackling the problem should not lie with Britain and France alone.

"Many of those in Calais and attempting to cross the Channel have made their way there through Italy, Greece or other countries," they said.

Ultimately, the crisis had to be addressed at the roots by "reducing the number of migrants who are crossing into Europe from Africa" for economic reasons.

"Our streets are not paved with gold," they said, adding that both governments were currently sending back around 200 migrants a month who do not qualify for asylum.

 


 

 

Saudi king cuts short controversial holiday in France

King Salman of Saudi Arabia has cut short a holiday on the French Riviera where the closure of a beach for his security caused an uproar.

After only eight days of what was planned as a three-week stay, the king flew on to Morocco, officials said.

With him were at least half of his 1,000-strong entourage, regional official Philippe Castanet added.

More than 100,000 people signed a petition against the closure of the public beach at Vallauris.

The Mirandole beach is directly below King Salman's private villa and French officials agreed to seal it off for the monarch's security.

Critics of the move said it was a breach of French laws on equality.

A Saudi source quoted by Reuters said the king's departure was part of his holiday programme and not connected to the media coverage the visit had attracted.

'Lift removed'

It is not clear if the king plans to return to the villa this summer.

Mr Castanet told AFP news agency that the beach would reopen to the public on Monday morning.

He said a temporary lift connecting the beach with the villa - which had also angered local residents - would be removed in the coming weeks.

Building the lift had involved pouring a large concrete slab on the sand.

The royal party generated mixed emotions among the local population.

While some were unhappy at the closure of the beach, many traders warmly welcomed the king and his wealthy entourage. More than 100,000 people had signed a petition last week against the closure of a beach on the French Riviera to allow Saudi King Salman to holiday in private.

The petition insisted the public beach in Vallauris should be “available for the benefit of all.”

Authorities sealed off the beach early on Saturday to prevent any protesters from occupying it as King Salman was due to arrive in the area.

The Saudi monarch is expected to stay at his villa for three weeks.

He and his entourage of about 1,000 people arrived at Nice airport on Saturday on board two Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 747s.

The king's inner circle is staying at the villa - between Antibes and Marseille - while about 700 others will stay at hotels in Cannes.

Michel Chevillon, president of an association of Cannes' hotel managers, said the visit was "clearly good news" for hotels and the local economy.

"These are people with great purchasing power," he said.

However, the closure of a section of La Mirandole beach beneath the king's villa had outraged many local residents.

"We recall that this natural zone, like all maritime public estates, is an intrinsic public property that should be available for the benefit of all, residents, tourists, French, foreigners or people passing through," the petition says.

"We ask the state to guarantee the fundamental principle of the equality of all citizens before the law."

The mayor of Vallauris had also written to President Francois Hollande in protest at unauthorised work carried out at the property.

A cement platform has been poured on to the beach to provide a lift up to the king's villa, although the Saudis have promised to remove it when they leave.

"We understand the security reasons and the nation's greater interest. But nobody can exonerate himself from the laws of the land," Mayor Michelle Salucki wrote.

There is also a ban on coming within 300m of the villa by sea.

"We're sick and tired of this messing around," one local woman said, quoted by AFP news agency.

"I can see it's normal that you need to guarantee their security, but they should let us go for a swim."

 



France sends 120 extra police to secure Eurotunnel


Posted 29/07/2015

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has said that 120 additional police officers would be sent to Calais to secure the Eurotunnel site, after attempts by migrants to storm the area.

Mr Cazeneuve said that Eurotunnel "must also take responsibility" for securing its premises.

Meanwhile, one person has died after 1,500 migrants tried to storm the terminal again, French police said.

The migrant, a man of Sudanese origin believed to be aged between 25 and 30, was hit by a truck that was leaving a cross-Channel ferry, a police source said.

The latest fatality brings the number of migrants who died near the Channel Tunnel terminal site to nine since June.

It is the second night in a row that has seen up to 2,000 migrants attempt to enter the channel tunnel at Calais as they try to reach the UK.

Six migrants were injured in what was the biggest incursion effort in the last few weeks at the tunnel entrance near Calais, late on Monday and early Tuesday morning, a local official said.

"Some 2,100 of them entered the site overnight, 1,900 of them were quickly pushed back outside and 200 were arrested," the official told Reuters.

Tunnel operator Eurotunnel confirmed the intrusion on Twitter, saying it had caused traffic delays.

Such disruption has become common as some 5,000 migrants, mostly from Africa and the Middle East, have set up camp around the northern French port and regularly try to board trucks travelling by the rail tunnel or by ferry to Britain.

Eurotunnel said it had blocked over 37,000 migrants trying to enter its French premises and make their way to Britain since January and spent €13m on boosting security.

"The pressure we are now under every night exceeds that which an operator can reasonably handle, and calls for an appropriate reaction from the states" of France and Britain, Eurotunnel said in a statement.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has expressed concern over the attempt by an estimated 2,000 migrants yesterday to enter the UK via the Eurotunnel.

He told reporters during a visit in Singapore that "we are working very closely" with French authorities to address the situation.

He added that British Home Secretary Theresa May will chair a meeting of the government's Cobra emergency committee to discuss the most recent Calais incident.

President of the Irish Road Haulage Association Verona Murphy has said French authorities are doing nothing to address the migrant situation in Calais.

 

She said it is virtually impossible for drivers to detect migrants gaining access to trucks.

"The situation ... has been there for almost 15 years, it's just escalated due to the strike and one thing or another and the lack of policing.

"We have the LÉ Niamh that has been put down into the Mediterranean to safeguard migrants and to rescue them. There is nothing being done about the wellbeing or safety of our drivers. Absolutely nothing.

"I am very, very much aware that a driver last week was held at knife-point. Did he need to be stabbed before action would be taken, or before anyone would recognise the serious risk to the industry?," she asked.

 



 

High Representative Mogherini visit to Cyprus and the region


Posted 27/07/2015

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini hailed Cyprus peace talks Friday on a visit during which she also praised the island's role as a key player in the Middle East.

Mogherini, who is also the European Union's high representative for security policy, met Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades at the presidential palace in Nicosia.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.

"We had a very good long meeting with the president... passing all our European support... to the talks in view of the settlement of the Cyprus issue and recognising his leadership and his commitment in this respect," said Mogherini.

EU High Representative and Commission Vice President Federica Mogherini makes her statements to the press during her visit to Cyprus.

 

 

Profile of Cyprus


Situated in the north-eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea and to the south of Turkey, Cyprus is the largest island in the eastern Mediterranean as well as being the third smallest country in the EU, after Malta and Luxembourg. Cyprus joined the EU as a de facto divided island but the whole of Cyprus is EU territory. Turkish Cypriots are EU citizens as they are citizens of an EU country - the Republic of Cyprus - even if they live in a part of Cyprus not under government control.

The most important sectors of Cyprus’s economy in 2014 were wholesale and retail trade, transport, accommodation and food services (28.6 %), public administration, defence, education, human health and social work activities (20.7 %) and real estate (11.5 %).

Cyprus’s main export partners are Greece, the UK and Israel, while its main import partners are Greece, Israel and the UK.

 Capital: Nicosia

  • Geographical size: 9 251 km²
  • Population: 858 000 (2014)
  • Population as % of total EU population: 0.2 % (2014)
  • GDP: € 16.503 billion  (2013)
  • Official EU language(s): Greek
  • Political system: presidential republic
  • EU member country since: 1 May 2004
  • Seats in the European Parliament: 6
  • Currency: Eurozone member since 1 January 2008

Schengen area member? No, Cyprus is not a member a member of the Schengen Area.

Presidency of the Council: Cyprus has held the revolving presidency of the Council of the EU once, in 2012.

 

Cyprus in the EU

European Parliament

There are six members of the European Parliament from Cyprus. Find out who these MEPs are.

Council of the EU

In the Council of the EU, national ministers meet regularly to adopt EU laws and coordinate policies. Council meetings are regularly attended by representatives from the Cypriot government, depending on the policy area being addressed.

Presidency of the Council of the EU

The Council of the EU doesn't have a permanent, single-person president (like e.g. the Commission or Parliament). Instead, its work is led by the country holding the Council presidency, which rotates every 6 months.

During these six months, ministers from that country's government chair and help determine the agenda of Council meetings in each policy area, and facilitate dialogue with the other EU institutions.

Dates of Cypriot presidencies: Jul-Dec 2012

More on the current presidency of the Council of the EU.

European Commission

The Commissioner nominated by Cyprus to the European Commission is Christos Stylianides, who is responsible for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.

The Commission is represented in each EU country by a local office, called a "representation".
Commission representation in Cyprus

European Economic & Social Committee

Cyprus has six representatives on the European Economic and Social Committee. This advisory body – representing employers, workers and other interest groups – is consulted on proposed laws, to get a better idea of the possible changes to work and social situations in member countries.

Committee of the Regions

Cyprus has six representatives on the Committee of the Regions, the EU's assembly of regional and local representatives. This advisory body is consulted on proposed laws, to ensure these laws take account of the perspective from each region of the EU.

Permanent representation to the EU

Cyprus also communicates with the EU institutions through its permanent representation in Brussels. As Cyprus' "embassy to the EU", its main task is to ensure that the country's interests and policies are pursued as effectively as possible in the EU.

Budgets and funding

How much does Cyprus contribute and receive?

Member countries' financial contributions to the EU budget are shared fairly, according to means. The larger your country's economy, the more it pays – and vice versa. The EU budget doesn't aim to redistribute wealth, but rather to focus on the needs of all Europeans as a whole. 

Breakdown of Cyprus's finances with the EU in 2013: 

  • Total EU spending in Cyprus:  € 0.227 billion
  • Total EU spending as % of Cypriot GNI: 1.41 %
  • Total Cypriot contribution to the EU budget: € 0.170 billion
  • Cypriot contribution to the EU budget as % of its GNI: 1.05 % 

EU-funded projects in Cyprus 

The money paid into the EU budget by Cyprus helps fund programmes and projects in all EU countries - like building roads, subsidising researchers and protecting the environment.

Find out more about how Cyprus benefits from EU funding.

 



 

 

History of the Bundestag


Posted 23/07/2015

 

The German unification and freedom movement (1800 - 1848)

The late 18th century saw the emergence throughout Europe of political movements dedicated to the pursuit of national unification on the basis of liberty. In Germany this development began relatively late. Political conditions in the Holy Roman Empire - known in Germany as the ‘Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation’ - were still entirely determined by the traditional structures of the authoritarian state that characterised the latter part of the age of absolutism. Although the Ancien Régime had been criticised from several quarters in the German territories, it took a long time for any recognisable signs to appear of developments that might seriously challenge the existing order.

Not until the Napoleonic conquests of the early 19th century was the old regime undermined and a comprehensive process of political modernisation set in motion. Reforms in the states of the French-occupied Confederation of the Rhine and a new awareness of the evident inferiority of the old order triggered reformist efforts in other German states, particularly in Prussia. At the same time, resistance against the French occupation contributed to the formation of a German nationalist movement, which not only sought the liberation of the French-occupied areas but also propagated demands for national unification and political self-determination.

 

The Empire (1871-1918)

The German Empire was characterised by modernism and traditionalism. Its foundation marked the start of a stormy marriage between democracy and the monarchy, in which - as is apparent in retrospect - the scope for development of the Constitution of 16 April 1871 was often an issue. Was there any chance, after 1871, of a transition to a parliamentary monarchy, in which the Kaiser’s influence on affairs of state would have been reduced to a minimum, or had strict limits been drawn to prevent such a development?

Under the Constitution, the Imperial Chancellor, whom the Kaiser appointed and who was not dependent on the confidence of a parliamentary majority, was confronted by a Reichstag without the consent of which it was, in principle, impossible to enact any law and which had to approve the national budget. From 1871 the Reichstag initially met in the former Royal Prussian Porcelain Works in Leipziger Strasse. Not until 6 December 1894 did it move into the Reichstag building.

 

The Weimar Republic (1918 - 1933)

As a result of the November Revolution of 1918, Germany’s constitutional monarchy was replaced by parliamentary democracy. Throughout its entire existence, the Weimar Republic, named after the town where its constitution was adopted, was continuously subjected to internal and external stresses and strains. From the very start, advocates of the Republic had to withstand pressure from radical forces of the Left and Right.

Parliament

The Reichstag, elected for a four-year term, was the central legislative body under the Constitution of the Weimar Republic. Its main functions were legislation, including approval of the budget, and scrutiny of the Reich Government. It organised its work by means of a system of permanent committees. The Chancellor was not elected by Parliament but appointed by the President of the Reich. In the exercise of his office the Chancellor depended on the confidence of the Reichstag.

The President of the Reich, directly elected by the people, was vested with extensive powers by the Weimar Constitution so that he would be a counterweight to the Reichstag. Among his powers as head of state were the right to dissolve the Reichstag and the authority, in the event of public safety being endangered, to declare a state of emergency and enact emergency decrees, which had the status of laws. At the very start of the Weimar Republic, the first-past-the-post election system was replaced by proportional representation, and for the first time women were granted the right to vote and to stand as candidates. The voting age, moreover, was lowered from 25 to 20.

Video courtesy of Rick Steves Europe

National Socialism (1933 - 1945)

The parliamentary system of the Weimar Republic had already been undermined before 30 January 1933, the day on which President Hindenburg appointed Hitler Chancellor of the Reich. Hitler had commended himself to the elite conservative circles that shared his distaste for the Republic, not least through his desire to replace the parliamentary system with an authoritarian monocratic state or Führerstaat. Like the chancellors of the preceding presidential cabinets, Hitler prevailed upon Hindenburg to dissolve the Reichstag on 1 February 1933 and call a general election. The Reichstag fire on the night of 27 to 28 February 1933 provided a welcome pretext for the enactment of the Presidential Order for the Protection of the Nation and the State, commonly known as the Reichstag Fire Decree, which suspended the fundamental individual rights enshrined in the Weimar Constitution ‘until further notice’; in fact, they remained in abeyance until the end of the Third Reich.

 

The German Democratic Republic (1949 - 1990)

The German Democratic Republic (GDR) regarded itself as the first Socialist state on German soil, the governmental structure of which was to be based on the principles of ‘democratic centralism’, in other words on the principles established by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin for the leadership of Communist parties. The representative assembly of the GDR, the Volkskammer or People’s Chamber, however, remained an exceptional phenomenon in the development of German parliamentary democracy. The process of creating the People’s Chamber ran parallel to the creation of the German Bundestag, and it was conceived as an alternative model to that of the Bundestag, although it was unable to dispense entirely with the conventions of liberal constitutional parliamentary practice.

 

The Federal Republic of Germany

When the Parliamentary Council adopted the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany on 8 May 1949, it set the compass for a stable parliamentary system of government. This was by no means a foregone conclusion. The failure of the Weimar Republic was also the failure of a parliamentary system. Moreover, there was a legacy of anti-parliamentarian traditions in Germany.

For this reason, the Basic Law assigned key rights and functions to Parliament. For example, the German Bundestag is the only organ of the Constitution that is directly elected by the people; it is the task of Parliament to elect the Federal Chancellor; lastly, the Basic Law places special emphasis on the functions of political parties. Whereas the Weimar Constitution gave the President and Parliament of the Reich concurrent powers to appoint and dismiss the Chancellor, the Basic Law considerably curtailed the rights of the Federal President in favour of the German Bundestag. Under Article 67, the Chancellor may be voted out of office by the German Bundestag only if it elects a new Chancellor; this process is known as the constructive vote of no confidence.

The safeguards written into the Basic Law to favour a strong parliament and stable majorities are the result of historical experience gained in both the Empire and the Weimar Republic. The German Bundestag has never been plagued by chronically fragile coalitions and powerless chancellors. Its power to scrutinise the Government and to co-govern reflects a historically conditioned shift in the distribution of roles between the Government, Parliament and the Head of State.

 

Parliamentary track record of the Federal Republic of Germany

The period of the first Social Democratic-Liberal cabinet (1969 - 1972) saw the great reconciliation debates and the conclusion of the Treaty on the Basis of Relations with the German Democratic Republic. In 1973, during the second term of the SPD-FDP coalition, the Bundestag ratified the accession of the Federal Republic of Germany to the United Nations. In 1982, a coalition of CDU/CSU and FDP took over the reins of government and faced an earth-shattering sequence of events when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.

This had a decisive influence on the work of the Bundestag. In a speech to the Bundestag, Helmut Kohl presented his ten-point programme for German unification. The Unification Treaty had to be ratified by the Bundestag, and on 20 December 1990 a freely elected Parliament representing the whole of Germany met for the first time since 1932 to take up its duties. In 1991, the same Parliament decided that the Government and Parliament were to move from Bonn to Berlin by 1999.

The German Bundestag has shown itself to be an efficient and adaptable institution in close contact with the people. Its track record speaks for itself. The system of checks and balances, which includes the dependence of the Federal Government on the formation of majorities in the Bundestag, has proved its worth. Achievements of the Federal Government are parliamentary achievements too. Nevertheless, imprinting this track record on the minds of the population is a challenge that still confronts Parliament, the political parties, the media and providers of political education.

In terms of political stability, professionalisation of the activity of Parliament and its Members and the existence of effective political parties, the German Bundestag boasts an impressive track record.

 

 



 

 

Greek banks to re-open Monday after a three week closure


Posted 18/07/2015

Greek banks are to re-open on Monday after a three week closure. Capital controls will remain in place with a weekly withdrawal limit at €420 or €60 per day.

The move comes as Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's new cabinet was sworn in after he expelled ten dissidents who voted against reforms demanded by international creditors in return for a third bailout package.

Mr Tsipras sacked hardline former Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis and two deputy ministers yesterday in a change that marked a split with the main leftist faction in the ruling Syriza party following a rebellion over the bailout terms.

The deal, approved with the support of opposition parties on Thursday after 39 Syriza rebels withheld their backing, agrees a painful mix of tax hikes, spending curbs and pension cuts as well as a roll back of collective bargaining agreements.

In addition, €50bn in public assets are to be placed in a special privatisation fund to act as collateral for loans of up to €86bn that must now be agreed with European partners.

Negotiations on the package are set to begin next week after parliaments in Germany and other European countries gave their assent and European authorities approved emergency funding that should enable Athens to avoid defaulting on a €3.5bn debt repayment due next Monday.

Video courtesy of The Guardian

The European Central Bank has also agreed to release €900m in emergency credit next week to the stricken Greek banking sector.

But banks remain closed until at least tomorrow and it is still unclear whether they will be able to reopen immediately.   

Elsewhere, the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras mother said that he eats and sleeps poorly and rarely manages to see his family.

Speaking to a Greek tabloid newspaper Aristi Tsipiras, 73, said: "Alexis lately does not eat, does not sleep, but he has no choice -- he has a debt to the people who put their faith in him,"

"I rarely see him anymore. He goes from the airport straight to parliament. He has no time to see his children, how can he see me?" Ms Tsipras said.

"When we speak, I tell him to do the best for the country and take care of himself. He tells me not to worry, and that everything will be fine," she said.

Source: AFP/Reuters

 



 

 

Free to Speak?Randall CalvinRandall Calvin


Posted 16/07/2015

By Randall Calvin

Andrew Copson and Bonya Ahmed discuss assassination of humanists on BBC

A subject that had once been relegated to only academic debate, and even then strictly confined to free speech in a political sense, today the subject is rightly focused on perhaps the greatest scourge of our time. 

Video courtesy of the BBC

Faith and religious belief, of whatever stripe, always enjoyed the protection of social taboo status, meaning you just never talked about it in polite society. Thank goodness that double standard has changed for the better. Let me be very clear that religious fundamentalism in not the sole preserve of Islam in terms of the three monotheistic faiths, we have our Christian and Jewish fundamentalists also, regarding which I could offer exhaustive examples – but in recent times there is no doubt that certain members of Islam globally have raised the bar to a new and barbaric level for Allah.

 EU Spectator has touched on this story before, but we thought you might be interested to see an interview with the widow of Avijit Roy, followed by an open discussion.

In February 2015, Avijit Roy was brutally murdered on the streets of Dhaka for his humanist writings, and his wife Bonya barely survived the attack. She came to London in July to give the British Humanist Association (BHA)'s Voltaire Lecture on freedom of expression and the persecution faced by writers like Avijit, one of 84 people on a hit list in Bangladesh for writing about Humanism who are progressively being killed off by Islamic extremists.

Bonya spoke to the BBC's Sunday Morning Live about the lecture and her experiences later that month, and BHA Chief Exec Andrew Copson was on the show to add a little context to the plight of non-religious people overseas. Thirteen countries have a death penalty for atheism and many more punish blasphemy or turn a blind eye to attacks against the non-religious. The moral of the story is that nobody and nothing, regarding the behaviour of our human species, should be above reproach, illumination, questioning, or criticism.  

 



 

7/7 Victims Remembered At Memorial Services


Posted 07/07/2015

The UK fell silent and memorial services were held to remember the 52 victims of the 7/7 bombings 10 years on. Four suicide bombers blew up three London Underground trains and a double-decker bus during the morning rush hour on the 7th of July 2005.

Survivors, families of the dead, emergency workers and dignitaries, including Prince William, attended a service at the 7/7 memorial in Hyde Park in the afternoon.

One of the survivors, Emma Craig, who was 14 years old when the train she was on was blown up at Aldgate station, gave an emotional reading at the service.

"All of us lost our innocence on that day, our naivety, the thought that something like that could never happen to me or even to London," she told the audience of around 400 people.

"Now I can't stand up here as many of have done before and say that the London bombings has had an effect on me that has changed my life positively because it was and still is very much a part of my growing up, my childhood, my adolescence.

"But quite often people say, 'It didn't break us', 'Terrorism won't break us'. The fact is, it may not have broken London, but it did break some of us.

"Sometimes I feel people are so hell-bent on trying to make a point about terrorism not breaking us that they forget about all the people who got caught up in it. Not for my sake, but for the people who were killed on those days and their families.

"They are the people we are here to remember. May we never forget."

The service was the culmination of a day of remembrance that began with a minute's silence at the scene of the bombings.

Earlier in the day, the names of the victims were read out at a service at St Paul's Cathedral, which was attended by the Duke of York, the Prime Minister and the Mayor of London.

 

During the service, a minute's silence, at 11.30am, was held across much of the country. At the same time, London buses also stopped on the side of roads in tribute.

The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, said in his address at St Paul's: "There could have been so easily demonstrations of anger but beyond the numbing shock there was solidarity.

"London had been attacked and our unity was in our grieving." Candles representing the site of each bombing were carried through St Paul's by those who helped in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, which left more than 700 people injured.

 

 

They included doctor Peter Holden, who provided treatment at the scene, and George Psaradakis, the driver of the number 30 bus blown up in Tavistock Square.

Ahead of the service, Mr Psaradakis joined people laying flowers at the square.

One message, left in honour of Shyanuja Parathasangary, 30, read: "Our precious daughter Shyanu. When heaven took our angel back, they left two broken hearts."

Families of the victims also joined David Cameron and Boris Johnson as they laid wreaths at the Hyde Park memorial in the morning.

The ceremony took place at 8.50am local time - around the time the first three explosions went off.

On the card attached to his wreath, Mr Cameron wrote: "To the victims of terrorism in London 10 years ago today. We grieve your loss and will honour your memory forever."

Mr Johnson wrote: "Ten years may have passed, but London's memory is undimmed. We honour again today the victims of 7/7. You will live forever in the hearts of the people of this city."

Also at 8.50am, survivors and victims' relatives laid flowers and held a minute's silence at Edgware Road station.

Similar events took place at King's Cross and Aldgate, which were also affected by the attacks.

"It's still raw 10 years on," said 40-year-old train driver Mark, who was fighting back tears outside King's Cross.

He was on duty on the day of the attacks and said he was involved in the rescue operations.

"You see things you don't want to see again. It was horrendous," he said.

In Leeds, where three of the four bombers lived, Lord Mayor Judith Chapman led a silent tribute.

"They did not represent this city 10 years ago and they do not represent it now," she said.

Ten years ago to the day, the suicide bombers - Mohammed Sidique Khan, Shezhad Tanweer, Habib Hussain and Jermaine Lindsay - met at Luton station in the morning and travelled to King's Cross.

 

Within three minutes of 8.50am, Tanweer detonated his bomb at Aldgate, Khan set off his device at Edgware Road and Lindsay blew himself up between King's Cross and Russell Square.

Hussain detonated his device on board the number 30 bus at Tavistock Square at 9.47am.

It comes just four days after Britain paid a similar tribute to those killed when an Islamist gunman opened fire at the Tunisian resort of Sousse.

A further service was held this afternoon at the memorial site for survivors and relatives, which Prince William is attending.

Britain is currently on its second highest alert level of "severe."

 

That means a militant attack is considered highly likely, mainly due to the danger the authorities say is posed by so-called Islamic State group fighters and Britons who have joined them.

Among the victims on that tragic July morning were citizens from Poland, Israel, Australia, France, Italy, Afghanistan, Nigeria, New Zealand and a Vietnamese-American. 

 



 

API / IPA Celebrating 40 years of EU journalismRandall CalvinRandall Calvin


Posted 01/07/2015

By Randall Calvin

Welcome to the 40th anniversary of the International Press Association which was held yesterday at the Résidence Palace - International Press Centre.

Guest speakers were European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and an address by Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament. The event was followed by a reception. 

President Juncker seemed a little tired, or perhaps tired and emotional, which came as no surprise after the week that has been with the Greek situation; Martin Schulz made a very positive contribution, but again you could see that his thoughts were elsewhere. 



 

Anti social dumping protest at the European Parliament in Brussels


Posted 25/06/2015

By Randall Calvin

Social dumping and the EU integration process. There was a very large anti "social dumping" protest in Plz Luxembourg in Brussels yesterday.

Popular debates on social dumping have accompanied various initiatives towards trade liberalization and advances in economic integration between ‘high-’ and ‘low-wage’ countries.

Cross-national differences in wage levels and extents of social protection, as well as different degrees to which labour market regulations are actually implemented, have often been a source of concern among high-wage country actors about the potential negative consequences of integration processes.

The fear is that as the liberalization agenda progresses, differences in social standards could be used by low-wage country actors to gain a higher market share, which would hurt the job prospects and earnings of the actors in high-wage settings.

These arguments featured in debates on the World Trade Organisation’s social clause and were also raised in the discussions that preceded the conclusion of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the EU’s enlargement to the south and to the east.



 

Hundreds of migrants rescued off the coast of Tripoli by Irish Naval Forces


Posted 23/06/2015

The LÉ EITHNE, from the Irish Naval Service, successfully located and rescued a total of 519 migrants off three separate vessels, 50 Nautical Miles north-west of Tripoli, the Libyan capital yesterday.

The LÉ EITHNE successfully located and rescued 104 migrants on an inflatable craft, 50 Nautical Miles north-west of Tripoli, in the early hours of yesterday morning. Conditions at the time were good with the operation commencing at 5.16 am, all migrants on board by 6.31 am.

 Immediately following the first rescue the LÉ EITHNE was re-tasked to assist with the rescue of a further 362 migrants on a barge, 50 Nautical Miles north-west of Tripoli. The rescue commenced at 7.18 am and all migrants on board by 10.16 am.

The LÉ EITHNE was then re-tasked with a third rescue of a further 53 migrants on a small fibreglass boat. The rescue commenced at 11 am and all migrants were on board by 12.40 pm.

There are now approximately 519 rescuees on board; 401 males, 98 females and 20 minors.


The LÉ EITHNE is awaiting direction from the Italian Maritime Rescue Co-Ordination Centre for next tasking.

The LÉ EITHNE departed on the 16th of May from Naval Service Headquarters in Haulbowline, Cork to assist the Italian Authorities in the humanitarian search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean.

The role of the Irish Naval vessel will be to provide a search and rescue capability and to undertake humanitarian rescue operations at sea in the Mediterranean. Assistance to persons in distress at sea will be provided in accordance with the applicable provisions of international conventions governing search and rescue situations.  The Naval Service vessel will be deployed in the Mediterranean for a period of up to six months over the summer period, subject to the operational demands and requirements arising in the theatre of operations.

 



 

Waterloo 1815-2015: a battle to remember


Posted 21/06/2015

By Randall Calvin & Raquel Jimenez

It has been a weekend to remember. The re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo marking its bicentenary will be kept in the hearts and minds of thousands of visitors and volunteers that participated in the recreation of the battle that ended 26 years of fighting between France and the European powers at that time.

EU Spectator was there not only to admire the spectacle, but to offer you, our readers, a glimpse of one of the most dramatic battle recreations in modern history. A battle that ended with Allied troops triumphant over the military might of the experienced Napoleonic forces.

More than 6,000 passionate re-enactors came to waterloo, who without any doubt, were the architects of the bicentenary commemorations. Without them, the event could not have taken place.

Volunteers from the four corners of the World came together in the largest re-enactment ever organised. More than 1,100 volunteers came from Germany, matched with approximately the same number of British re-enactors. Nearly 650 French enthusiasts participated in this battle reconstruction, which brought together Waterloo “soldiers” from 47 different countries, even from as far as New Zealand.

The famous fields of Waterloo did not see anything like it since Wellington and Napoleon faced off against one another 200 years ago. The Allied ranks alone included 50 cannons, 170 cavalry and close to 2,500 infantry. The French were a truly international cast of re-enactors, including units from Britain, Germany, Norway, Russia - and of course France itself (although they seemed to be well outnumbered by the foreign enthusiasts).

Undoubtedly, they were the soul of the spectacle which kicked off on Thursday, 18th June, with an official ceremony at the Waterloo memorial.

That night, spectators admired the opening show of the bicentenary of the battle: “Inferno”. The show’s challenge was to tell the story of the Battle of Waterloo in a different way, based on the great Victor Hugo’s poem “L’Expiation” (Atonement), which helped to conduct a spectacular show with dancers, acrobats, all involving lights and pyrotechnics helping to bring back the myth.

But the main features of this weekend were the two re-enactments that took place on Friday and Saturday. The first, consecrated the re-creation of the French attack, while the second focused on the Allied counter attack. A solemn recreation that paid homage to the deceased and injured in this historic battle.

A total of 200,000 spectators made their way to Waterloo, now regarded as a suburb of Brussels, nearly as numerous as the amount of soldiers that fought in the battle itself. Their expectations were satisfied, however one of the most recurrent complaints was the lack of visibility, as you can appreciate from our video, the fumes and smells were not apt for everyone’s sensibilities. Nevertheless, if one is trying to be as authentic as possible, in a re-enactment, as Luc Petit intended, then one has to put up with the real noise of canon and musket fire, and the smell of gun powder.

These two days of battle re-enactments culminated last night on a muddy field south of Brussels, where enthusiasts from school teachers to advertising executives became infantrymen and cavalry officers. The rain held off for the two days, but a light drizzle started falling soon after 10p.m on Saturday.

Overall, the logistics and the show were excellent, thus a big congratulations to the organisers. One can only hope that in the near future, re-creations of battles and wars, are just that, bringing together people and not setting them apart.

 



 

Human tide reaches Calais


Posted 15/06/2015

The number of migrants now queueing up to enter Britain illegally has reached crisis point with 4,000 living in a crimeridden ghetto in Calais.

Steven Woolfe is a British politician and barrister. Since his election in the 2014, he has been a Member of the European Parliament for the North West England region for the UK Independence Party (UKIP). He recently visited a camp site in Calais to inspect the living conditions of those seeking entrance to the UK.

Mr Woolfe said: “It’s simply shocking to see the numbers already here. It’s not a camp anymore it’s a ghetto, a thriving community and staging post for getting to the UK.”

“They don’t want to stay in Italy, Germany or France because they see Britain as the only place where it’s easy for them to get jobs, healthcare and benefits – and we have heard that from their own mouths.”

“They say Britain is the only place they feel they can go and live.      They know once they’re there they can settle, bring their families and will not be removed. Our leaky borders encourage people to come here.

“Until we find a strong solution on dealing with asylum seekers and illegal immigrants this will continue.”

Alp Mehmet, of MigrationWatch UK, said: “We must continue doing everything possible to prevent illegal entry into the UK including putting in place more resources for the task.”

The Home Office said: “We continue to strengthen the security of our borders to stop those who have no right to enter the UK.                   The maintenance of law and order on French soil is the responsibility of the French government.”

Video Courtesy of UKIPwebmaster

Editor's note: Whilst EU Spectator magazine does not support any political party, we think it is an educational exercise by Mr Woolfe to take the time to see the reality of life for these migrants, and thus in our opinion, deserves full credit for that.

 

 



 

Tsipras loses favour with the European Commission


Posted 10/06/2015

There was confusion this morning as to whether the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Junker would meet Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras as scheduled in Brussels today following the effective rejection of the latest proposals from Greece to resolve its debt crisis.

According to reports from officials, Mr Junker, who had been one of the European officials who has been most sympathetic to the Greek position - even though the Commission is not a creditor - is growing increasingly exasperated with the Greeks and has said "they have lost the Commission."

The Commission President seems to have taken exception to     Mr Tsipras describing Europe's proposals to deal with Greece's economic issues as "absurd" when addressing the Greek parliament on Friday.

Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera quotes Mr Tsipras as saying that we could be witnessing, "the beginning of the end for the eurozone" if these negotiations fail.

The Greek government submitted its latest economic reform programme last night but officials reported that it failed to bridge the gap in terms of the pension and VAT reforms demanded and that it focuses heavily on debt relief, which creditors say will not be discussed until detailed financial reform measures are agreed.

Video courtesy of EPPTV - EPP Group at the European Parliament - Strasbourg

It appears that a meeting between Alexis Tsipras and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and French President, Francois Hollande, will go head ahead today - they will hold side line talks at the 8th EU-Latin America and Caribbean Summit.

 



 

Camerone à N'Djamena - Légion étrangère


Posted 08/06/2015

Le 2e Régiment étranger de parachutistes fête Camerone 2015 à N'Djamena.

The French Foreign Legion is a military service wing of the French Army established in 1831, unique because it was exclusively created for foreign nationals willing to serve in the French Armed Forces.

Commanded by French officers, it is also open to French citizens, who amounted to 24% of the recruits as of 2007. The Foreign Legion is today known as a unit whose training focuses not only on traditional military skills but also on its strong esprit de corps.

As its men come from different countries with different cultures, this is a way to strengthen them enough to work as a team. Consequently, training is often described as not only physically challenging, but also very stressful psychologically.

A soldier who becomes injured during a battle for France can immediately apply for French citizenship under a provision known as "Français par le sang versé" ("French by spilled blood"). 

The Foreign Legion accepts people enlisting under a nationality that is not their own. As of 2008 members come from 140 countries.

Regarding recruitment age limits, recruits can be accepted from ages ranging from 17 (with parental consent) to 40 years old.

Today the majority of enlisted men originate from outside of France, while the majority of the officer corps consists of Frenchmen. Many recruits originate from Eastern Europe and Latin America.

"Le Boudin" is the marching song of French Foreign Legion. Posted in tribute to our French Legion brothers in arms for peace, and their work with the Irish/UNIFIL Batt during the war in Lebanon. Merci, et Vive la France ! 

 



 

Ban Ki Moon Visit to Ireland


Posted 31/05/2015

This week United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon visited the Curragh Camp where he met with the Minister for Defence Mr Simon Coveney T.D. (Member of Parliament) and the Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Conor O'Boyle.

He received a Guard of Honour from the 91st Cadet Class accompanied by the Army No 1 Band, as well as briefs from United Nations Training School and the Military College and Ordnance School instructors.

In advance of his visit to Ireland to receive the Tipperary International Peace Prize, Ban Ki Moon penned an opinion piece for The Irish Times in which he drew correlations between the dreadful famine experienced by the Irish people over 160 years ago and their commitment to International peace in the modern day.

From the first major deployment to the Congo in the 1960s, to the courage shown by sending peacekeepers to the Middle East and a Naval vessel to the Mediterranean amidst palpable dangers in both.

"Ireland’s history with the United Nations shows a country that does not shy away from risk or difficulty. As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the United Nations and look back at our achievements and setbacks, we can look to the future with some confidence knowing that the people of Ireland are so strongly committed to upholding the Organisation’s values of peace and security, development and human rights in every corner of the world."



 

Second Hand IrelandDavid McWilliamsDavid McWilliams


Posted 30/05/2015

Together, DoneDeal and David McWilliams take a look at a mass retail movement of hundreds of thousands of people online buying and selling everyday items.

The 24/7 online shopping revolution is being led by the second hand Ireland market, and in particular, by Ireland’s largest classified advertising website, DoneDeal.ie, who last year alone valued goods traded on its site at over €300 million per month, representing almost 3% of Ireland’s GNP.

This amounts to a sizeable €4.5 billion market in second hand trading activity in 2014.

Writer / Director / Narrator: David McWilliams
Producer / Filming /Editing: Ado Brett - www.clickzoom.ie
Illustrator: Mark Flood
Audio: John Davis

For more information visit http://tomorrowsireland.ie/



 

Conservative Duda wins Poland's presidential vote


Posted 26/05/2015

Andrzej Duda ousts incumbent President Bronislaw Komorowski with 51.55 percent of vote.

Conservative challenger Andrzej Duda has won Poland's presidential election and ousted the incumbent in a runoff vote, according to official results.

Duda, a right-wing member of the European Parliament, won with 51.55 percent of the vote, the State Electoral Commission said on Monday.

President Bronislaw Komorowski, allied with the ruling pro-business Civic Platform, garnered 48.45 percent in the second round of voting on Sunday, with a turnout was 55.34 percent.

Duda, a 43-year-old lawyer with experience in the government, will be take office in August.

Poland's president is the head of the armed forces, and can propose and veto legislation. In foreign policy, the president's role is chiefly ceremonial.

Duda's Law and Justice presents itself as a protector of those who haven't benefited from the capitalist transformation and as a defender of national interests abroad, but the president-elect said he plans to leave the party, following a tradition of Polish presidents breaking formal ties to their parties to represent the entire nation.

Law and Justice is staunchly pro-US, but has a sometimes defiant stance toward other European countries, which has created tensions in the past with the EU and neighbouring Germany.

Duda says he wants new taxes on the foreign-owned banks and supermarkets to protect Polish interests, suggesting an approach similar to that of Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary.

He also said he wants banks returned to Polish control.

Duda's win could herald a major political shift in the European Union's sixth-largest economy, a country that has been able to punch above its weight in Europe without belonging to the 19-nation eurozone. 

 



 

Ireland says Yes to same-sex marriageRandall CalvinRandall Calvin


Posted 24/05/2015

By Randall Calvin

Ireland has become the first country in the world to bring in same-sex marriage by a popular vote.

The official result was declared at Dublin Castle shortly before 7pm yesterday evening.

A total of 1,201,607 people (62.1%) voted Yes and 734,300 (37.9%) voted No.

The total poll was just under two million.

The result has been described as a social revolution, an expression of decency and a country coming of age.

Large crowds gathered from this morning at Dublin Castle to hear the final official result.

A number of campaigners against the marriage referendum congratulated the Yes side on its campaign early today.

The highest Yes vote, at almost 75%, was declared in Dublin South East.

One constituency voted No; the result in Roscommon-South Leitrim saw over 51% of voters there reject the marriage referendum proposal.

The tightest margin was in Donegal South - West where it was Yes by just a whisker, with only 33 votes separating the sides there.

More people voted in the same-sex marriage referendum than in any other since the foundation of the State, reflecting the growth in the size of the electorate, and the substantial numbers that applied for late registration.

Over 1.9 million voters turned out yesterday compared with over 1.8 million who voted in 2004 in the poll to restrict Irish citizenship.

Over 1.6 million voted in the divorce referendum 20 years ago.

 

Reacting to the result, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said "Gone are the dark clouds that had me down, it's gonna be a bright, bright shiny day."

Mr Kenny said today "Ireland is a small country with a big message," adding "people truly answered Ireland's call."

Tánaiste Joan Burton said "Together the people of Ireland have struck a massive blow against discrimination."

Quoting the late US LGBT rights activist Harvey Milk, she said, "Hope will never be silent."

She also thanked her predecessor, former Labour party leader Eamon Gilmore, saying without him "today would not have happened."

Mr Gilmore stood over his comments made in mid-2012, that gay marriage was "the civil rights issue of a generation."

He said this referendum "was a moment where Irish people expressed their decency and their generosity."

 

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said that legislation will be brought in this summer to make same sex-marriage a reality.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said it was a special day.

"It seems to me that the Irish people had their minds made up on this some time ago," he said.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said right across the country there is a big endorsement of a new attitude towards a minority that had been discriminated against for far too long.

Rory O'Neill, aka Panti Bliss, said: "It's an incredible day that even two years we could not have even dared to imagine."

 

Crowds began gathering in the upper courtyard of Dublin Castle yesterday morning to watch the declarations being announced for the results of the referendums on the big screen.

Senator David Norris, one of the key figures in having homosexual acts decriminalised in the 1990s, said it was a wonderful result. "I believe that by the end of today gay people will be equal in this country. I think it's wonderful," he said.

"It's a little bit late for me. As I said the other day I've spent so much time pushing the boat out that I forgot to jump on and now it's out beyond the harbour on the high seas, but it's very nice to look at."

Director of the National Youth Council of Ireland Mary Cunningham praised a new generation of voters for making a difference.

"It represents a victory not only for the Yes side, but also for Irish society, Irish democracy and the young people of Ireland," she said.

"This result sends a strong message to young people across Ireland that they are valued equally; and that we want to promote respect and eliminate homophobia."

Yes Equality spokesperson Grainne Healy said: "It's an extraordinary day. We were going out not telling people to vote Yes, we were going out saying I am voting yes and I'd like to tell you why. That's how the campaign started and that's how it has worked."

Senator Katherine Zappone said she had anticipated a Yes but was not sure how wide the margin would be.

She said every person who had voted Yes and all of those who had campaigned had got Ireland to this point.

 

Following the passing of the same-sex marriage referendum the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, told RTÉ News that the Catholic Church needs "to have a reality check across the board."

Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid MartinArchbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid MartinHe said that he appreciates how gay and lesbian people feel.

"This is a social revolution that did not begin today," he said, adding that it had been going for quite a while.

Archbishop Martin said that the church has a huge task in getting its message out to young people. "The church needs to ask itself if it has completely drifted away from young people," he said.

He added that most people who voted Yes went to Catholic schools for 12 years, so "there is a big challenge for us to get the message of the Catholic church across."

Church of Ireland Bishop Paul Colton said that he is proud to have been the first bishop to have supported the referendum proposal to legalise same-sex marriage. In a statement, the Iona Institute said it was "proud to have helped represent the many hundreds of thousands of Irish people who would otherwise have had no voice in this referendum because all of the political parties backed a Yes vote".

Independent Senator Rónán Mullen wished everybody well on the Yes side, and said what was in the vote about affirmation, love and respect for gay people was all a very good thing.

He said he was disappointed the Constitution was going to change and he thought that would have some negative impacts.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath, who campaigned for a No vote, said that "the people have spoken."

In a statement, Mother and Fathers Matter congratulated the Yes campaign and said the result was achieved by the Government after it issued promises about surrogacy, adoption and other issues and said "a lot of voters believed those assurances and they must now be kept."

The group said it represented a proportion of the population greater than those who support any political party and "one in three Irish people in this campaign was not represented by the political establishment, the media, or the institutions of State."

 

By Randall Calvin

 



 

Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles begin Irish visit


Posted 19/05/2015

Gerry Adams and Prince Charles shake hands in Galway-Ireland

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and Britain's Prince Charles shook hands at an event in Galway this afternoon.

It is the first meeting in the Republic between Sinn Féin leadership and a member of the British Royal family since partition. Mr Adams said he hoped the meeting would assist the process of peace and reconciliation in Ireland.

It is the first meeting in the Republic between Sinn Féin leadership and a member of the British Royal family since partition. Mr Adams said he hoped the meeting would assist the process of peace and reconciliation in Ireland.

Speaking as he arrived at NUI Galway’s (NUIG) university campus, Mr Adams said he would be thinking not only of the victims of the IRA bomb attack in Mullaghmore, Co Sligo, which included the prince's great uncle Lord Mountbatten, but also of other victims of the Troubles.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Mr Adams said he would express regret at the IRA's murder of Lord Mountbatten, but stressed his meeting with Prince Charles would be one of equals.

Mr Adams also said he stood over remarks he made at the time of the killing that Lord Mountbatten knew the danger involved in coming to this country and that, given his war record, he could not object to dying in what was clearly a war situation. 

In 2012, Mr McGuinness shook hands with Queen Elizabeth at a function in Belfast's Lyric Theatre in his capacity as Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister.

Prince Charles and his wife arrived in the west of Ireland this morning at the start of a four-day visit.

The British royal couple will also visit the grave of poet WB Yeats, NUIG, and the Burren.

Security restrictions will be in place for the campus tour, where they will meet students, plant a tree and attend a reception celebrating links with Britain and Irish crafts, music and dance.

NUIG, which is live-streaming the visit on the internet, said the visit will also focus on key research areas, including Irish language and Celtic studies, biomedical science and engineering, environment, marine and energy, social science, informatics, data analytics, physical and computational sciences and the humanities.

 

The couple will then split for separate engagements, with Prince Charles travelling around the bay to the Marine Institute in Oranmore and then to the Burren in Co Clare.

 

Prince Charles has a particular interest in the marine, the environment and in organic farming practices, as reflected in the so-called “black spider” letters he wrote to British government ministers serving under then-prime minister Tony Blair between 2004 and 2005, which were published last week.

The Duchess of Cornwall will visit the Claddagh National School in Galway where she will talk to students involved in the Suas literacy programme before joining a school assembly.

Ms Parker Bowles is patron of Britain’s National Literacy Trust.

She will also attend a reception at the Mick Lally Theatre to mark the Druid Theatre company’s 40th anniversary, and a brief performance will be staged for her.

“Royal” themes of power, sovereignty, loyalty and betrayal are reflected in the theatre company’s new production of Druid theatre Shakespeare, written by Mark O’Rowe and directed by Garry Hynes, which opened in Galway at the weekend.

Ms Parker Bowles will attend an event celebrating “regional food and drink from the Wild Atlantic Way” at the House Hotel, before leaving the city. Afterwards, the couple will have a private dinner with President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina at Lough Cutra Castle, Co Galway, on Tuesday evening.

On Wednesday, they will travel to Sligo for a series of events , including a civic reception and a viewing of the Niland Art Collection at the Model contemporary arts centre. Prince Charles will visit the Sligo Institute of Technology and the couple will attend a service of peace and reconciliation at Drumcliffe Church, where they will also visit the grave of poet WB Yeats and will plant a tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The couple will then be taken to Mullaghmore harbour, where the prince’s great-uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten died in an IRA bombing almost 36 years ago.

Lord Mountbatten (79), who took holidays each summer at Classiebawn Castle near Mullaghmore harbour, had embarked on a lobster-potting and angling expedition on August 27th, 1979, when a bomb on board detonated just a few hundred yards from the harbour.

Mountbatten died of his injuries, as did his grandson Nicholas Knatchbull (14), Paul Maxwell (15), from Co Fermanagh, and Lady Brabourne (83), his eldest daughter’s mother-in-law. Nicholas Knatchbull’s parents and twin brother, Timothy, survived, but with serious injuries.

Thomas McMahon of Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, was convicted of the bombing, which the IRA claimed responsibility for, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. As a point of history, the third member of the IRA who detonated the remote-controlled bomb was never caught or brought to justice.

Thomas McMahon was released in 1998 under the terms of the Belfast Agreement.

The couple will conclude their day with a visit to the Sligo Races, and will then travel to Northern Ireland for a two-day itinerary on Thursday and Friday.

Prince Charles will meet community organisations on Thursday at East Belfast Community Development Association and the Duchess of Cornwall will attend a reception for supporters of The Big Lunch, which she is patron of, and will also visit Ballyhackamore Credit Union.

They will attend a reception and concert at Hillsborough Castle on Thursday night, and will spend Friday at Mount Stewart gardens and Corrymeela peace and reconciliation organisation.

Prince Charles undertook the first official visit to the State by a member of the British royal family since independence when he travelled to Dublin on May 31st, 1995.

 

His second official visit here, in 2002, had scheduled a trip to the Burren, Co Clare, but this part of the itinerary was cancelled due to the death of his aunt, Princess Margaret.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall visited Northern Ireland in June 2013, and April, 2014.

This tour is being billed as next phase of improved relations initiated by Queen Elizabeth’s first State visit to Ireland in 2011 and President Higgins’s first State visit by an Irish president to Britain last year.

It has been welcomed by Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan, and by Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, who said last month that he was “conscious that Prince Charles is the symbolic head of the British army’s Parachute Regiment” and referred to “the grievous wrong they have done, including to the people of Derry and Ballymurphy where I grew up.”

 “However I am also conscious that the British royal family have also been directly affected by the actions of republicans,” Mr Adams said, and expressed the hope that the visit would be “an occasion to promote reconciliation, respect and understanding.”

 



 

 

 

Spain swelters in July-like heatRaquel JimenezRaquel Jimenez


Posted 12/05/2015

By Raquel Jimenez

Seville, Madrid and other capitals could break May temperature records on Wednesday

Spain’s national weather service has confirmed that the country is experiencing “July weather in May.”

And it’s about to get worse, warns AEMET spokeswoman Ana Casals.

The excessive heat will last “at least a week” and produce “exceptionally high” temperatures for spring, she said.

Already on Monday, many parts of Spain were registering temperatures of between 30°C and 36°C.

The reason is a body of hot, dry air moving in from Africa that will cause thermometers to rise “between seven and 15 degrees more than usual, practically across the entire Iberian peninsula.”

 

“Records are going to be beaten, because temperatures are going up today, a little more tomorrow, and even more on Wednesday,” Casals said on Monday.

In Seville, for instance, “they’re going to get fried, since temperatures could easily hit more than 40°C.”

If forecasts are right, the Andalusian city could on Wednesday experience its hottest day in May in the last three decades. And the same may also happen in Madrid.

Even so, the phenomenon cannot technically be described as a heat wave, because that requires three straight days of significantly above-average heat, said the spokeswoman.

This will only happen in the Canary Islands, where “there will be a heat wave between May 11th and 16th.”

For the rest of the country, the hottest day will be Wednesday except in the Valencia region, where Thursday is scheduled to be the real scorcher.

“Friday will be cooler, but by then temperatures will have risen so much that, even if they drop, they will remain high,” warns Casals.

The short respite will be followed by excessively hot weather again on Saturday and for much of next week.

Authorities are warning about the health risks of sun exposure without adequate skin protection, especially in Andalusia.

 

How to sleep in the Spanish heat

But is it possible to sleep coolly in the Spanish summer without air conditioning? Tradition says yes. Ancient Egyptians used to moisten their bedclothes to sleep better and combat heat waves, which pose a serious risk to public health. According to the results of a scientific study carried out by the Spanish National Research Council, mortality rates for those aged over 75 increase 20.1 percent for each degree that the maximum daily temperature rises above 36°C.

Our ancestors have passed down to us a long legacy of tricks for staying cool. You can sleep under cotton sheets, for example, which aid perspiration. At the same time you can also put your sheets in the fridge or freezer inside a plastic bag for a few minutes before sleeping – they won’t stay cool the whole night, but it will be long enough for you to fall asleep – or fill a hot water bottle with cold water to cool down your bed. Here are a few more suggestions.

1. Be creative. Come up with methods to stop hot air from entering the room. For instance, point a fan toward the windows, or place a bowl full of ice or very cold water in front of the fan to cool the air further. A damp sheet placed over the window also helps.

 

2. Wear light pyjamas. That’s the advice from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), though you can also sleep naked if you like. It’s a question of preference. According to a study by the Association of American Cotton Producers Cotton USA carried out in the UK, 57 percent of people who sleep naked are happier in their relationship with their partner.

 

3. Apply compresses dipped in lukewarm water on parts of the body most sensitive to heat, such as the neck, elbows, ankles and the backs of the knees.      The contact with cool water has a refrigerating effect that triggers a narrowing of the blood vessels, heating up the skin. In turn, the heat cools you down as a result of the difference in the surrounding temperature, explains the CDC.

 

4. Sleep alone. It’s the best thing to stay cool. Sleeping alongside someone else increases your body temperature although over half of people who sleep naked are happier in their relationship with their partner. However, snuggling together makes the bedclothes cling, explains dormir.org.es, a website devoted to sleep problems. What’s more, doing so at floor level will make you even cooler as hot air tends to rise.

 

5. Shower in warm water to reduce your body temperature. This is a good tip for feeling fresh and clean. Many people say that, even though the shock of a cold shower produces an instant feeling of coolness, it reactivates your body and energy consumption, which makes you feel the heat more quickly afterwards than if you had showed in warm water, explains the Biological Health Institute. Also, be sure to keep your feet cool as heat enters the body here. Washing them before you turn in for the night or sleeping with them outside the bed are two good tips.

 

6. Eat salad for dinner. Avoid big meals and hot dishes such as stews, soups and roast chicken. These force the body to produce more heat in order to digest them. A yoghurt, salad or that Spanish summer favourite, cold gazpacho, are perfect for summer nights. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water, the WHO says: the body uses it to get rid of heat.

 

7. Turn off all lights and electronic gadgets completely. Putting them on standby is not enough: they go on using energy and giving off heat, according to the International Energy Agency – between five and 10 percent of what they would use when switched on. Also: replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones, which produce the same amount of light but use a fifth of the energy and give off less heat, according to the emergencies centre in Arlington, Virginia.

 

Lastly, if you are able to sleep out in the open air, do so. Set up a camp on the roof or head out into the country to sleep close to a place next to water (the moisture in the air has a cooling effect), turning a night of stifling heat into one of adventure.

 

By Raquel Jimenez for EU Spectator

 

 



 

EU, IMF disagreement holding up debt deal – Greece


Posted 06/05/2015

Greek ministers are in Frankfurt, Brussels and Paris as efforts to avoid cash crunch continue

With time quickly running out to unlock bailout funds needed to repay its debts, the Greek government has said that differences between the EU and IMF were blocking an agreement.

"Serious divergences and contradictions between the creditors, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund are hindering the negotiations," the Greek government said in a statement.

Given "this inability of the institutions to reach an agreement... there can be no compromise" which is needed to reach a deal with Greece, said Athens.

It said the current situation is "the exclusive responsibility" of the EU and IMF.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said earlier that he does not expect to reach a deal with his counterparts at a May 11 meeting in Brussels to unlock €7.2 billion from Greece's current bailout programme.

There are growing concerns about the Greek government's ability to repay the almost €1bn it owes to the IMF in two payments this week and next.

The Greek government statement said that the IMF insists on tough reforms to the country's retirement and labour market, but was willing to allow a reduction in the primary budget surplus.

A reduction in the primary budget surplus, the budget balance before foreign debt payments, would give the Greek government more room for social spending but means less money would go to debt repayments.

The Greek government statement noted a reduction in the primary budget surplus also implied "the reduction of the country's public debt so that it remains sustainable."

The IMF can only support countries whose debt is judged as sustainable, so if it is judged as unable to make payments and continue functioning then the debt should be cut.

Greece's debt, already the highest in the euro zone, is expected to soar to 180.2% of annual economic output this year, before falling slightly to 173.5% in 2016, according to EU figures released Tuesday.

 

However, the European Commission is opposed to any restructuring of Greece's debt, the Greek government statement said. Most of Greece's debt is now owed to EU countries and the EU bailout fund.

But the Greek government said that the Commission is more "flexible on the tough reforms" to the retirement system and labour market.

"Taking into account these major differences, the Greek government has decided not to advance legislation on the reforms before an agreement" with the EU and IMF, said the government statement.

Greece yesterday stepped up diplomacy with euro zone partners to try to avert a potentially catastrophic funding crunch as a result of its big debt repayment to the IMF as cash reserves dry up.

 

Ministers travelled to Frankfurt, Brussels and Paris to plead for a loosening of the financial stranglehold on Athens.

These meetings came after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras spoke by telephone to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Europe's pre-eminent leader.

"They discussed the course of the negotiations in Brussels and exchanged views on the issues of Greece's deal with its lenders," a Greek government official said of the call last night, without elaborating.

"Italy's government considers it short-sighted and dangerous to underestimate the Greek crisis," Gentiloni said, adding that the idea of a Greek exit from the euro zone could not be taken lightly.

In a goodwill gesture, a senior privatisation official said Athens was ready to finalise a €1.2 billion deal with German operator Fraport to run regional airports and to reopen bidding for a majority stake in the port of Piraeus.

European Economics Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said the aim was for euro zone finance ministers to be able to officially register "strong progress" in the negotiations when they meet next Monday but did not suggest a deal was possible by then.

The political uncertainty prompted the Commission to cut its forecast for 2015 Greek economic growth to 0.5% from 2.5% just three months ago. It also cut its estimate for Greece's primary budget surplus before debt service.

"The fact that negotiations are still going on without having been concluded after more than three and a half months, all that has an impact on expectations for growth and public finances in Greece," Moscovici told a news conference.

Meanwhile, Greek Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis is due to meet ECB chief Mario Draghi in Frankfurt to urge the bank to increase a liquidity lifeline for Greek banks and permit them to buy more short-term treasury bills, easing the government's immediate funding crunch.

ECB policymakers will hold their weekly review of emergency lending assistance (ELA) to Greek banks tomorrow amid pressure from hardliners led by Germany's Bundesbank to tighten the collateral terms, ECB sources said.

Pointing to recent credit rating downgrades of Greece and its banks, the hawks want the ECB to increase the "haircut" on Greek securities that banks present as collateral for funding.

But an ECB source said he did not expect the council to make a dramatic change that would put Greek banks in immediate difficulty while negotiations are continuing.

Mr Varoufakis, sidelined by Tsipras from the negotiations after alienating his euro zone colleagues, met his French counterpart, Michel Sapin, in Paris and was due to see Moscovici later in Brussels.

Moscovici stressed the Commission's goal was to keep Greece in the euro zone and avert what he called an "accident".

While Germany and its allies have pointed to calm in bond markets to suggest that a Greek default or exit from the euro zone would not cause a wider financial meltdown, as it might have done in 2012, other EU countries are more concerned.

Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni warned against belittling the risks of a possible "Grexit".

"Italy's government considers it short-sighted and dangerous to underestimate the Greek crisis," Gentiloni said, adding that the idea of a Greek exit from the euro zone could not be taken lightly.  

 

Source: Reuters

 



 

 

Last surviving soldier pardoned over WWII diesRandall CalvinRandall Calvin


Posted 03/05/2015

By Randall Calvin

Although the Irish Republic officially adapted a neutral stance during the Second World War, thousands of Irish men joined the British Army to fight the scourge of the Nazis. Many of these soldiers were actually serving in the Irish Defence Forces at the time, and so simply exchanged one uniform for another. One of those men was Phil Farrington, who died today in Dublin at the age of 94. He was the last surviving soldier to have received an amnesty after leaving the Defence Forces to fight in World War II. He joined the British Army at the start of the war, and was involved in the liberation of the Belsen concentration camp.

 

At the time Ireland was not yet even a Republic, but had Free State dominion status in the British Commonwealth since 1922. However when war was declared in 1939, the then Irish Premier Éamon de Valera fiercely defended Irish neutrality against withering attack from Winston Churchill. Towards the end of the war, Winston Churchill, in his Victory in Europe Day speech broadcast to the world, again criticised Taoiseach Éamon de Valera and Ireland's policy of neutrality throughout the war. Three days later, de Valera, in a much anticipated reply, outlined Ireland's right as an independent state to remain neutral.

His response was praised widely in Ireland for its strength, dignity and restraint.

Besides the political duelling by the two over the airwaves at the time, we now know that Ireland was hardly neutral during the conflict. In secret contemporary documents released since, it is clear that Ireland was neutral -in favour of the Allies. In brief, this can be seen in the very different treatment of British and German soldiers. The latter who crashed over Irish territory were interned for the duration of the war, while British service personnel were safely escorted across the border to Northern Ireland.

 

We also see how Ireland assisted the US Air Force with direction beacons strategically placed on the west coast of the country to help guide American planes. And it was in this spirit that so many Irish men wanted to play their part in the war. But as I have said above, very many of the soldiers were ostracised in their own communities when they returned home.

Thus it was in May 2013 the then Irish Minister for Justice Alan Shatter brought forward legislation as an apology and amnesty for Irish World War II soldiers who were branded deserters.

The legislation provided for the granting of an amnesty and apology to Irish Defence Forces members who fought with Allied forces during World War II and the Bill passed all stages in the Dáil (Irish Parliament) and Senate.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said the legislation would help make amends for the shameful way they were treated after World War II.

The Second World War Amnesty and Immunity Bill 2012 was brought in to recognise the courage and bravery of around 5,000 soldiers court-martialled or dismissed from the Defence Forces for absenting themselves without leave or permission.

Mr Shatter said it was time to acknowledge the contribution made by Irish soldiers who deserted to fight against the Nazis in WWII.

Peter Mulvany, co-ordinator of the Irish Soldiers Pardons Campaign, said at the time, the passage of the bill was a good day for the country.

 

Giving an example of what some soldiers faced when they returned to Ireland after the war ended in 1945, Mr Mulvany said that one Irish army deserter who was involved in the liberation of the Belsen concentration camp had to emigrate after struggling to find work.

The man only returned to Ireland a few years ago, Mr Mulvany said.

He said that the men were ostracised in their own communities and considered traitors when it was learned that they had served in the British Army.

Mr Phil Farrington - Last Irish surviving soldier pardoned over WWII Mr Phil Farrington - Last Irish surviving soldier pardoned over WWII Mr Shatter won praise from the Opposition Parties, with Fianna Fáil acknowledging that he could "take a bow" after introducing the legislation.

Party spokesman Seán Ó Fearghaíl welcomed the legislation, but said the penalties the men and women suffered may have been understandable at the time.

Sinn Féin's Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said that others who had fought fascism in the Spanish Civil War, who were excommunicated by the Catholic Church and isolated by society when they returned, should also be acknowledged.

Mr Shatter said it was an important day for the families of those involved, and that it was a tribute to how far we had come as a society that such a sensitive issue could get practically unanimous support from all sides in the Dáil.

However, he also acknowledged the work done by those who had remained loyal to the Defence Forces.

He said those who served during the war had performed a crucial duty for the State at a key time in its history.

So with the passing of Mr Farrington, this Irish Rover, we see the end of another war-related chapter. It was a long time coming, but it is heartening to think that he, and his comrades, went to their graves knowing that they were no longer classed as deserters. 

 



Earlier this year...

Sweden to hear Julian Assange warrant appeal


Posted 28/04/2015

Julian Assange has been sheltering in Ecuador's London embassy since June 2012

Sweden's Supreme Court has said it would hear a legal appeal from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to overturn the arrest warrant against him.

"The Supreme Court grants leave to appeal in the matter regarding the arrest," the court said in statement.

The 43-year-old Australian has been sheltering inside Ecuador's London embassy since June 2012 to avoid a British extradition to Sweden, which wants to question him on allegations of sexual assault, which he denies...read more...

 



 

Horsemeat Probe Arrests


Posted 26/04/2015

The horsemeat probe involved police in France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, UK & Netherlands

 

Police from seven European countries have arrested 26 people in a crackdown on a horse meat trafficking ring two years after a tainted meat scandal that rocked the European Union.

The operation involved officers and the judiciary in France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Britain, the European Union agency said.

The EU's judicial agency Eurojust said in a statement that the swoop gathering hundreds of police and judicial officials "succeeded in stopping an organised criminal network involved in trade in illegal horse meat."...read more...



 

Auschwitz bookkeeper admits to 'moral guilt'


Posted 21/04/2015

Oskar Groening is accused by prosecutors of being an accessory in the murder at Auschwitz

Oskar GroeningOskar Groening

Former SS officer Oskar Groening, known as the "bookkeeper of Auschwitz," admitted at his trial to "moral guilt" over the mass murder at the death camp and asked for "forgiveness".

"For me there's no question that I share moral guilt," the 93-year-old told the judges, admitting that he knew about the gassing of Jews.

...read more... 



 

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias gives King Felipe ‘Game of Thrones’ box set


Posted 15/04/2015

The Spanish Monarch appeared amused with gift, despite politician skipping protocol to hand over discs.

The leader of anti-austerity party Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, skipped protocol on Wednesday in order to personally deliver a gift to Spain’s King Felipe VI.

The pony-tailed Iglesias, whose new party is faring well in the opinion polls ahead of this year’s general election, handed over a box-set of Game of Thrones to the monarch.

"That’s great, I haven’t seen it,” the King said with a grin...read more...



 

Germany to bring tanks back into serviceGuadalupe del OlmoGuadalupe del Olmo


Posted 11/04/2015

By Guadalupe del Olmo

On the 18th of March this year US military tanks arrived in Poland to take part in NATO military exercises as tensions continue to simmer in Eastern Europe.

Over two dozen US military vehicles, along with around 200 soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, will take part in the exercises and will stay in Poland until the end of June.

Further to that we learn today Germany plans to bring 100 retired tanks back into service in what is widely seen as a response to rising tensions with Russia over Ukraine and to presumably reinforce “NATO’s resolve.” ...read more...

 



Blair's warning over Cameron's EU referendum promise


Posted 07/04/2015

British Prime Minister David Cameron's plan to hold a European Union membership referendum if he is re-elected would lead to an intense period of uncertainty for businesses, former British prime minister Tony Blair has said.

Mr Cameron's Conservatives are neck-and-neck with the opposition Labour Party in most polls ahead of the 7 May vote.

He has promised to renegotiate Britain's ties with Brussels, and then hold a referendum by the end of 2017.

I"Think of the chaos produced by the possibility, never mind the reality, of Britain actually quitting Europe," Mr Blair said...read more...



 

British woman with Ebola is cured after taking new drug


Posted 27/03/2015

Anna Cross was the first Ebola patient in the world to be given MIL 77

A radiograph film showing Ebola virus protein | Image: Cliff Owen / Associated PressA radiograph film showing Ebola virus protein | Image: Cliff Owen / Associated Press

A British military health worker who became infected with Ebola while in Sierra Leone has been declared free of the virus.

Anna Cross (25) was admitted to the Royal Free Hospital on March 12th, and was the first Ebola patient in the world to be given the experimental drug MIL 77.

Speaking at a press conference in London after she was discharged from hospital, Corporal Cross thanked the medical team who looked after her...read more...



 

A tragedy on our SoilGuadalupe del OlmoGuadalupe del Olmo


Posted 24/03/2015

By Guadalupe del Olmo

As we a constantly assured, statistically flying is by far the safest way to travel. However one cannot feel that this mantra is of little comfort to the families and friends when such a tragic event occurs.

The last eighteen months have not been so good for the aviation industry internationally, and this crash as yet to be investigated obviously, will not assuage those with a fear of flying.

The skies over Europe are the busiest in the world with the number of fights increasing yearly, due to demand and aggressive competition particularly between ‘low-fares’ airlines.

Now that it seems to be confirmed, 150 have died as Germanwings jet 'disintegrated' in the French Alps...read more...



Canarian wrestling – Lucha CanariaRandall CalvinRandall Calvin


Posted 19/03/2015

By Randall Calvin

Although I lived in Spain for many years, and thought I knew everything about Spanish cultural traditions, I had never heard of Canarian wrestling or Lucha Canaria. Seeming like a cross between Judo and Sumo, the event was organized by Spanish MEP Gabriel Mato and his staff from the EPP Group at the European Parliament.

The event lasted for just less than two hours but there were many bouts including female wrestlers. The event closed with a fine buffet of Spanish wine and excellent tapas...read more...



 

The Guardia Civil at the European Parliament


Posted 14/03/2015

By Randall Calvin & Guadalupe del Olmo

In a week when the European Parliament (Strasbourg) discussed subjects from the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, the rise of anti-Semitism, islamophobia and violent extremism, to the dark issue of sexual abuse on the internet.

The EPP Group hosted a delegation from the Spanish policing and law enforcement services. The purpose of their visit was to show a three-part exhibition honouring the past victims of terrorism particularly the 243 Guardia Civil officers killed on duty...read more...



 

French dilemma threatens to shake Eurozone, say experts


Posted 08/03/2015

Paris facing challenges in seeking to cut its deficit without raising taxes, economists.

The French government faces a dilemma in finding  € 4 billion in the next three months in order to meet the European Commission's 2017 deficit target, after it was recently granted an additional period of two years to reduce the figure.

 

...read more...



 

Britain wins court ruling against ECB


Posted 04/03/2015

Europe's highest court has overturned an ECB rule requiring clearing houses which trade in euro to be based in the eurozone.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has said that there is no explicit requirement in EU law which gives the ECB oversight on such activities.

The ruling has been eagerly awaited since a finding in favour of the ECB rule could have had major implications for the City of London.

 

...read more...



 


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