EU, Indonesia discuss security issues

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epa07493030 An Indonesian naval anti-terror team display their skills during an anti-terror drill in Jakarta, Indonesia, 09 April 2019. The Indonesian military are preparing to secure the country for the upcoming general elections on 17 April 2019. EPA-EFE/BAGUS INDAHONO

The fourth session of the EU-Indonesia Security Dialogue was held on 12 November in Brussels.

Both delegations discussed issues encompassing Common Security and Defence Policy, countering terrorism, violent extremism and radicalisation, maritime security, cyber security, organised crime and crisis management.

The discussions reflected the ambitions to develop and strengthen the EU-Indonesia partnership and cooperation in security and defence. The implementation of the EU Partnership Instrument project with Indonesia and four other countries in Asia on enhanced security cooperation, was also discussed.

The next Dialogue round will be held next year in Indonesia.

Mogherini meets with Uzbekistan’s FM

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epa07780369 Uzbekistan Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov speaks during a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang in Beijing, China, 19 August 2019. EPA-EFE/WU HONG / POOL

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, met on 12 November with the Minister of foreign affairs of Uzbekistan, Abdulaziz Kamilov, and the first deputy chairman of the Senate of the country’s Parliament, Sadyk Safoev.

During the meeting, Mogherini and Kamilov discussed issues of common interest, including the peace process in Afghanistan, as well as regional cooperation in Central Asia, for which Mogherini praised Uzbekistan’s role.

They also reviewed progress in negotiations for a new Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and Uzbekistan, launched last year, which aims to deepen bilateral relations and support reforms.

Illegal tobacco factory dismantled in Europol-led operation

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epa04323584 (FILE) A woman smokes a cigarette in Berlin, Germany, 26 May 2014. A US jury has awarded Cynthia Robinson a widow of a long time smoker 16 million US dollar in compensatory damages and on top of that another 23 billion US dollar in punitive damages, in Pensacola, Florida, USA, 19 July 2014. The jury found against the second largest tobacco company in the US, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and determined the company negligent for not informing about the dangers of smoking. EPA/CHRISTOPH SCHMIDT

With the support of Eurojust, the Hungarian National Tax and Customs Administration have uncovered an illegal tobacco factory on 12 November.

The factory operated in a warehouse in Budapest, which had been rebuilt to cater to the network’s illegal activities. Its employees were forced to live and work in the factory, locked from outside by the criminal group, primarily Romanian and Moldavian citizens.

Europol provided the authorities with the analytical support to detect the international links and organised operational meetings to set out the strategy.

EU launches 13 new defence cooperation projects

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epa06326510 A general view on a plenary hall as 23 EU member states sign the notification on Permanent Structure Cooperation (PESCO) on the margin of a foreign affairs council at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium, 13 November 2017. EPA-EFE/EMMANUEL DUNAND / POOL

EU defence ministers approved on 12 November the third wave of 13 new proposals under the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation –PESCO framework, raising the number of joint military projects to 47.

The PESCO framework was adopted in 2017, following a decision of the EU Council. It allows EU states to jointly develop defence capabilities and enhance the readiness of their armed forces.

Five of the new wave of projects focus on training, covering areas such as cyber, diving, tactical, medical as well as chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defence training, while the other projects focus on enhancing joint EU actions.

EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said after a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in Defense Formation, that the focus now turns to implementation and “making sure that these projects deliver on their purpose”.

The Union’s 2021-2027 budget has €20 billion earmarked for defense, which includes €13 billion for the European Defence Fund.

Police in Tuscany averts terrorist attack against Muslim community

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epa05101273 Florence Prosecutor Giuseppe Creazzo speaks during a press conference over last week's murder in Florence of Ashley Olsen, a 35-year-old American woman, Florence, Italy, 14 January 2016. Reports state undocumented Senegalese migrant identified as Cheik Diaw, 27, was charged with murder of Olson who was found dead at her apartment on 09 January. EPA/MAURIZIO DEGL INNOCENTI

Police in Tuscany averted a far-right extremists attack against the Muslim community in Siena on Tuesday.

The Italian police detained 12 people in and around Siena and Florence in connection to a planned to attack against a mosque at Colle Val d’Elsa near Siena by blowing up a gas pipe. Two of them were formally arrested and charged, namely Andrea Chesi, 60, a bank worker, and his son Yuri, aged 22.

During raids at Sovicille, Poggibonsi, and the centre of Siena, police seized weapons and explosives. A bomb squad was called in. The group cannot be linked to known far-right groups.

The suspects under investigation will be charged with possession of weapons with the aim of setting up an association with subversive ends.

The men had been under surveillance for some time.

One of the men is heard in a wiretap referring explicitly to the plan, namely to “… blow up the gas thingy so that the whole lot would have been blown up.”

According to the police, the group was composed of people “of a certain age,” without a criminal record, who had fascist and racist ideological motives, as indicated by online activity. One of them, aged 60, posted photos of himself wearing a uniform with SS insignia, another holding a rocket launcher, and another on Benito Mussolini’s execution site making a sign that he is shooting a sign belonging to partisan association ANPI.

The group apparently did not proceed with the attack as they feared arrests.

The investigation is ongoing and is now pursued by Italy’s General Investigations and Special Operations Division (DIGOS), an elite unit charged with sensitive cases involving terrorism and organised crime.

“The searches are the first act in a probe that has to be developed,” Florence anti-mafia unit chief prosecutor Giuseppe Creazzo said in a statement to Italy’s public news agency, ANSA.

EIB to boost gender equality across Africa

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epa04624508 A woman sells mobile cell phones in a busy market in Ikeja, Lagos, 17 February 2015. Nigeria is africa's most populous nation, and the continent's fastest growing economy. EPA/AHMED JALLANZO

The European Investment Bank has launched on 12 November a new initiative supporting gender equality, SheInvest, that aims to mobilise €1 billion of investment.

Under the scheme, the EU bank will invest in projects that can increase the capacity of women across Africa to participate in the labour market. They will also be provided with training on how to get better access to finance.

The initiative also promotes gender-responsive climate financing, acknowledging the key role played by women in climate action, and targets climate and gender responsive infrastructure projects enhancing women’s access to water, clean energy, and sustainable public transport.

Delta will not increase stake in Alitalia

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Despite competition from Lufthansa, Delta Airlines will not increase its proposed stake in a consortium that is to restructure Italy’s national carrier, Alitalia. In a statement on Monday, the US carrier reiterated its offer of a €100 million for a 10% stake in the venture.

“Delta is continuing to work with Ferrovie dello Stato (FS) and Atlantia and it can confirm that it is ready to invest up to 100 million euros for a 10% stake in Alitalia,” a spokesperson told the Italian public news agency ANSA.

In effect, that means that Delta will not succumb to pressure by the Italian government to up the ante and extend its financial commitment. During a speech in Rome in September, Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte urged the US company to scale up its financial commitment beyond the 10% mark.

Delta is not budging. The state-controlled Ferrovie dello Stato (FS) rail group and motorway group Atlantia have joined forces for a first of its kind multi-modal transport consortium that will relaunch the country’s national air carrier. But Delta is not willing to commit further in a state-controlled consortium.

Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri called on Monday for a “credible industrial plan,” underscoring the strategic role of Italy from a touristic and commercial perspective.

On October 17, the German national carrier Lufthansa expressed an interest in buying a stake in Alitalia. Lufthansa favours a solution that will give private shareholders majority ownership. Lufthansa’s entry in the consortium would be mutually exclusive to Delta.

Alitalia has been run by special administrators since May 2017.

Alitalia’s cash reserves stood at €310 million in September and the company needs a cash infusion to prepare for next year’s peak summer season. This autumn a number of airlines closing down due to luck of credit has been surging across Europe: Thomas Cook, Adria, Aigle Azur, XL and earlier this year, WOW, Germania, and Flybmi.

Clinton calls UK decision to bury Russian election-meddling report “shameful”

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epa03866041 Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton (L), with St Andrews University principal and vice-chancellor Professor Louise Richardson before she received an honorary degree from St Andrews University, St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, 13 September 2013. Mrs Clinton is also gave the graduation address during the ceremony to mark the 600th anniversary of the founding of the University. EPA/DANNY LAWSON UK AND IRELAND OUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the decision of the Conservative government to bury a parliamentary report on Russian meddling in UK politics “shameful.”

The report by the parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) on Russian interference in UK democracy has been cleared by the security services. According to the BBC, it includes allegations of espionage, subversion, and election-meddling. It was sent to the British prime minister Boris Johnson on October 17.

However, prime minister Johnson did not approve its publication and, therefore, it will not be seen before the December 12 vote. That means the publication of the report could be delayed for months or it may never see the light of day. Members of the parliament’s intelligence committee have been highly critical of Johnson’s failure to release the report.

“I find it inexplicable that your government will not release a government report about Russian influence. Inexplicable and shameful,” Clinton told the BBC.

“Every person who votes in this country deserves to see that report before your election happens,” Clinton added, going on to compare the US and the UK experiences. Clinton said that the US public should have known Russia’s engagement with the Trump campaign before the election.

“There is no doubt – we know it in our country, we have seen it in Europe, we have seen it here – that Russia, in particular, is determined to try to shape the politics of Western democracies,” Clinton said.

The British government claims that the publication of the report is a matter of normal procedure. Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak told the BBC that the report had to be “properly processed” before being made public. The same view was echoed by Chancellor Sajid Javid, who called the timescale of the publication “perfectly normal.”

That is claim has been rejected by the Chair of the Committee responsible for the report, the Conservative former attorney general Dominic Grieve.

Britain and the US have accused Russia of meddling in their electoral process. Moscow repeatedly denied any meddling, blaming all allegations to anti-Russian hysteria.

The British parliament’s report was completed in March 2019 and includes testimonies and evidence from Britain’s main intelligence agencies, MI5, GCHQ and MI6. The CIA has produced similar reports.

The Labour Party says that the report is not being published to avert any revelations of links between the former campaign manager of the Leave campaign and Johnson’s senior adviser, Dominic Cummings, to Russia.

Spain steps towards its first coalition government

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epa07990897 Spanish acting Prime Minister and leader of Socialist Party, Pedro Sanchez (L) greets leader of Podemos left party, Pablo Iglesias (R) during the signing of a pre-agreement to form a coalition government following the 10 November 2019 general elections, at the Congress of Deputies in Madrid, Spain, 12 November 2019. Spanish Socialist Party and Podemos announced a pre-agreement to form Government two days after elections. The Socialist Party, that won the elections with 120 seats, will need more support than the 35 seats of Podemos to be invested. EPA-EFE/PACO CAMPOS

Spain’s Socialists and far-left party Unidas Podemos have reached a coalition deal, La Vanguardia first reported on Tuesday.

“An agreement has been reached for a coalition government between Unidas Podemos and the Socialists,” UP lawmaker Alberto Garzon said in a tweet.

The agreement is a political milestone.

The failure of the two parties to reach an agreement in April led to new elections in November, in which both parties sustained electoral losses. Since the country’s transition to democracy in 1976, Spain has not had a coalition government.

But this alliance was only the first step and perhaps not the hardest.

The combined parliamentary power of the two parties will not suffice. The Socialists gained 120 seats and Unidos Podemos 35. A majority in the 350-seat parliament requires 176 seats. The coalition is 21 seats short.

The small leftist Mas Pais may add its three seats to the tally. To this one may add the six MPs of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV). Smaller parties of the regional bloc are likely to join. The big question is whether the left will secure centre-right or Catalan support.

The alliance would have a functioning parliamentary majority if it were joined by 15 MPs pf the Catalan leftwing separatists Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC). But their support will accentuate the divisions within the Spanish left over the question of autonomy  and the right to self-determination of Spain’s constituent nationalities.

Thus far, the Socialists have proved uncompromisingly unitarian. ECR could demand a Scottish type independence referendum, sanctioned by the state, as a price to pay for their support. That is why the second step towards a coalition government will be the harder one to make. This would bolster the conservative backlash.

The alternative for the Socialists is to turn to the centre-right for a German-style grand coalition. For the moment that appears to be a political dead-end. The 10 seats of the Centre-right party Ciudadanos may not be forthcoming.

Following the resignation of their leader, Albert Rivera on Tuesday, the party confirmed they would be unwilling to join a left-leaning government, calling on the Socialists to join a grand coalition with the Conservative People’s Party (PP).

“We appeal to the responsibility of PSOE and PP to reach a moderate and constitutionalist agreement with Ciudadanos based on state deals that are good for our country,” the party said.

EU, Indonesia hold human rights dialogue

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epa07776046 (FILE) - A picture made available 15 August 2019 shows a general view of the building in Jakarta, Indonesia, 05 July 2019. The president proposed to set up the new capital city in Borneo as Jakarta struggles with bad traffic and pollution. EPA-EFE/BAGUS INDAHONO

The eighth session of the EU-Indonesia Human Rights Dialogue took place on 8 November in Brussels.

Both delegations discussed a wide range of topics defined by the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, such as access to justice to international humanitarian law, minorities rights, freedom of expression, freedom of association, and Cooperation in the UN and other multilateral fora.

Representatives from the EU expressed the Union’s concerns about some parts of the proposed new Penal Code, and reiterated its principled position against the death penalty, to which Indonesia’s delegates explained that the country had not implemented it over the last three years.

Both parties shared the main developments in the field of human rights since the previous meeting in 2018 and agreed on the importance of complying with International Humanitarian Law. They reiterated their commitment to the UN human rights system and underlined the need to reinforce the cooperation in multilateral fora within the UN and ASEAN contexts.

The next Human Rights Dialogue between EU and Indonesia will be held next year.

Romania’s Iohannis wins first-round of presidential vote

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epa07986828 Romanian acting President Klaus Iohannis gestures while addressing the media after first exit-polls results were announced, at the PNL headquarters, during the first round of presidential elections in Bucharest, Romania, 10 November 2019. Romania's centre-right acting president Klaus Iohannis will face former leftist Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, the leader of the PSD (Social Democracy Party), in the presidential run-off on 24 November, according to the first exit polls. Pollsters projected Iohannis with 39 per cent, Vioriva Dancila of PSD with some 22.5per cent, while Dan Barna of USR had 16.4, all ahead of any of the remaining 11 candidates, as earlier opinion polls predicted. EPA-EFE/ROBERT GHEMENT

Romania’s incumbent president, Klaus Iohannis, won a clear victory in the first round of his country’s elections held on November 10.

Iohannis, who was backed by the governing National Liberal Party, is expected to receive more than 40% of the votes. His opponent, the recently ousted Social Democrat Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, garnered 24% of the vote.

With the turnout low, Romania’s sizable diaspora turned out in record numbers to cast 675,000 votes, the majority of which went to Iohannis, the pro-EU centre-right candidate. In the run-up to the election, Iohannis pledged to continue strengthening the rule of law “to eliminate the toxic interventions in the past years”.

Romania has been frequently slammed by the EU for its inadequate judicial reforms and history of endemic corruption.

A second round is scheduled for November 24, which will see Iohannis again face-off with Dancila. The former is expected to win but will be likely deprived of a majority.

Brussels announces €58 million in humanitarian aid to Sudan

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epa000306160 (FILES) Picture dated Tuesday 19 October 2004 of a Sudanese IDP (internally displaced people) woman holding her baby at Al-Jeer Sureaf IDP camp near Nyala, South Darfur, Sudan. The Sudanese army and police surrounded the Al-Jeer Sureaf and Otash IDP camps, Tuesday, 02 November 2004, and later relocated a number of IDP's according to World Food Programme reports Chief U.N. envoy to Sudan, Jan Pronk, was quoted as saying the forced relocation of homeless people in Darfur camps was "in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law." EPA PHOTO/NIC BOTHMA EPA/NIC BOTHMA

The European Commission announced on 11 November a €55 million in humanitarian aid to Sudan, as some 6.3 million people do not have enough food to meet their needs. One in six children is also suffering from acute undernourishment.

The package contributes to responding to the most critical needs, through food and nutrition assistance, emergency health care, including in tackling the current cholera outbreak, support to refugees and host communities, as well as education for children in areas hit by the crises.

Since 2011, the EU has allocated over €518 million in humanitarian aid to help vulnerable people caught in the country’s humanitarian crises.

EIB to support road connections in the Western Balkans

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epa07983679 A general view of the highway and tunnel during the opening ceremony of the Highway Nis - Sofia near Nis in Serbia, 09 November 2019. The new highway connects the cities of Sofia in Bulgaria and Nis in Serbia. EPA-EFE/DJORDJE SAVIC

The European Investment Bank announced on 11 November that it has provided a total of €265 million to the construction of the Corridor X Motorway between Serbia and Bulgaria, which is crucial to connecting EU with the Western Balkans.

Corridor X is part of the strategic pan-European transport infrastructure passing through Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, North Macedonia and Greece. The support represents around 40% of the total costs of the project in Serbia, and covers the most complex and demanding sections of the motorway.

This is the second-largest public sector project the EU bank has financed in Serbia since 1977, the first being a €314 million loan for the E-75 highway. Since 2000, the bank has lent more than €5.74 billion to Serbia, supporting transport, health, research and development and small and medium businesses.

EU auditors assess Schengen IT system

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epa05891797 Motorist pass checkpoints at the Polish-Ukrainian border crossing in Medyka, east south Poland, 06 April 2017. On Friday, 07 April 2017 more stringent provisions of the Schengen Borders Code will be applied, concerning the rules governing the crossing of the EU's external borders. The change of regulation imposes on all Member States the obligation to closely check every person entering or leaving the Schengen territory. The amendment of the Schengen Borders Code is a reaction of the European Union to persistent terrorist threats in Europe. EPA/DAREK DELMANOWICZ POLAND OUT

According to a new report by the European Court of Auditors published on 11 November, national authorities should focus more on entering complete data promptly in the EU’s information systems of the Schengen area’s external borders.

The auditors visited Finland, France, Italy, Luxembourg and Poland, and examined how well the main IT systems for border control allowed border guards to check individuals entering at authorised border-crossing points.

The report finds that some data is not included in the systems, while other data is incomplete or not entered in a timely manner.

The auditors, therefore, recommend that the EU Commission promote further training on the IT systems, improve data quality procedures, educe delays in data entry and shorten the time taken to correct weakness.

Kazakhstan proposes to create Global Alliance of Leaders for Nuclear-Free Peace

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NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan – First President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed on 12 November the establishment of the Global Alliance of Leaders for a Nuclear-Free World, which he said should become an authoritative global platform for advancing the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation agenda.

“We have repeatedly talked about the need to halt the erosion of existing nuclear disarmament agreements. In the run-up to the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons next year, we should again reflect on the need to universalise the basic provisions of this instrument,” he told the Astana Club. “I believe that it is necessary to tighten measures of international responsibility for withdrawal from the Treaty, supported by relevant resolutions at the UN Security Council level,” Nazarbayev said.

At the same time, he spoke about the need to develop effective security guarantees for North Korea by all members of the UN Security Council and to form a Catalogue of Confidence-Building Measures between Pyongyang and Seoul aimed at stabilising the situation on the Korean peninsula.

Cambodian opposition leader out of house arrest

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epa07009692 (FILE) - Kem Sokha, President of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), attends a congress at the party Headquarters in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 02 March 2017 (reissued 09 September 2018). The Municipal Court released Kem Sokha on bail on 10 September after he was formally charged with treason and espionage over an alleged plot against the government with unnamed foreigners. EPA-EFE/MAK REMISSA

Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha has been released from house arrest after being held for more than two years on treason charges. He is accused of plotting to overthrow the country’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been in power for more than three decades.

The European Union welcomed the move, saying it is “a first step in the right direction”.

However, the charges have not been lifted, and he remains banned from conducting political activities or leaving Cambodia.

In that context, the EU added that it expects “the Cambodian authorities to reinstate the political rights of all opposition members banned from political life and to fully release all opposition members, supporters and activists recently put under detention”.

EU agrees sanctions on Turkey over Cyprus drilling

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epa07660391 The Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz leaves from Dilovasi port in city of Kocaeli, Turkey, 20 June 2019. Turkey's second drilling ship will operate off the Karpas Peninsula to the northeast of the island of Cyprus. Yavuz will be determined by geology and geophysics studies of the vessel and it will take place at a depth of approximately 1,000 meters on the seabed and some 3,000 meters of drilling will be made, Bilgin said, adding that the ship will move to its second location once the first drill is completed. EPA-EFE/ERDEM SAHIN

The European Union Council adopted on 11 November a framework for restrictive measures in response to Turkey’s “unauthorized drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean”.

“The framework will make it possible to sanction individuals or entities responsible for or involved in unauthorised drilling activities of hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean”, the Council stated.

The sanctions will consist of a travel ban to the EU and an assets freeze for persons and entities, who will be forbidden from making funds available to those listed.

Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, insisting that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus also has rights to the resources in the area.

EIB expands investment to West Africa

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epa07924475 A general view on Africa's tallest building, The Leonardo (C), towering over other building in Sandton City, Johannesburg, South Africa, 16 October 2019. The Leonardo is 55 floors high and is a mixed-use property development currently under construction in Sandton that, when completed, will have reached a height of 234 metres, taller than the current tallest building in Africa. EPA-EFE/KIM LUDBROOK

The European Investment Bank agreed at the Africa Investment Forum, in South Africa on 11 November, to support membership expansion of the African Trade Insurance Agency -ATI, with three prospective members – Cameroon, Niger and Togo.

The investment insurance is expected to transform public and private sector investment in the countries,by strengthening investment and reducing project financing costs.

The EIB will finance capital participation that will enable the three countries to access guarantee and insurance mechanisms provided by ATI. Full membership in ATI is expected to follow in the coming months.

France, UK, Germany, EU warn Iran over nuclear breaches

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epa07654182 (FILE) - A general view of the Iran's heavy water reactor in the city of Arak, Iran, 15 January 2011, reissued 17 June 2019. Media reports on 17 June 2019 state that Tehran has increased the countdown to its breaching the nuclear deal, reporting that it will break the uranium stockpile limit set in the deal in the next 10 days. The country?s atomic agency also said Tehran could from 07 July 2019 start the process of enriching uranium up to 20 percent, closer to weapons-grade levels. EPA-EFE/HAMID FORUTAN

The European Union, France, Germany and Britain have said on 11 November that they are “extremely concerned” by Iran’s decision to re-start nuclear activities at one of its key sites, in breach of the 2015 nuclear deal, and warned they might take action against Tehran.

In its latest report on Iran on 11 November, the International Atomic Energy Agency said it has detected uranium particles at an undeclared site in Iran, and confirmed that it has ramped up uranium enrichment, with its stockpile now reaching the equivalent of 551 kilograms, as opposed to the 300-kilogram limit laid down in the deal. The report concluded that Iran has prepared a new facility for testing enrichment centrifuges.

“The Foreign Ministers of France, Germany and the United Kingdom and the High Representative of the European Union are extremely concerned by the latest announcements that Iran is restarting uranium enrichment activities at the Fordow facility, as confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in its November 11 report,” EU and the three countries said in a joint statement.

“We underline the importance of the full and effective implementation of the JCPOA by all sides and confirm our determination to continue all efforts to preserve the agreement, which is in the interests of all,” the statement reads.

Iran has repeatedly warned the remaining parties to the deal that the agreement can only be rescued if they help the country avoid US sanctions.

EU extends sanctions against Venezuela for one year

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epa07976462 View of the Federation Arch in the Ezequiel Zamora Park, in downtown Caracas, Venezuela, 4 October 2019 (issued 6 November 2019). Venezuela is going through a severe crisis that has reduced economic activity, including tourism, and that results in widespread shortages and hyperinflation. Representatives of the sector maintain that citizen insecurity, road deterioration, state exchange control and lack of promotion play against tourism activity in the South American country. EPA-EFE/RAYNER PENAR

The European Union announced on 11 November that it is extending sanctions against Venezuela for a year due to the political and economic crisis blamed on the government of President Nicolás Maduro.

“In light of the ongoing political, economic, social and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela with persistent actions undermining democracy, the rule of law and the respect for human rights, the Council today extended the restrictive measures against Venezuela for one year, until 14 November 2020,” the European Council said in a statement.

The measures include an embargo on arms and on equipment for internal repression, as well as a travel ban and an asset freeze on 25 listed individuals in official positions.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, nearly 5.000 people leave Venezuela every day due to the instability, and three million Venezuelans have left since 2015. EU’s foreign ministers said that the sanctions “are flexible and reversible” and do not target ordinary Venezuelans.

British Steel bought by China’s Jingye Group

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epa07775880 (FILE) - The British Steel steelworks in Scunthorpe, Britain 10 November 2015, reissued 21 May 2019, reissued 16 August 2019. Media reports on 16 August 2019 state that Turkey's military pension fund has reached a tentative deal to take over British Steel. British Steel, which directly employs 4,500 people, and Britains second-biggest steel maker has been in compulsory liquidation since May 2019. EPA-EFE/LINDSEY PARNABY

China’s Jingye Group agreed in principle to buy British Steel for £70m on Monday, averting the company’s liquidation.

British Steel’s previous owners, Greybull Capital, walked away in May. There were negotiations with a Turkish state-military pension fund in August but the deal did not go through.

The prevailing Chinese investor is a conglomerate with 23,500 employees and manufactures iron and steel for construction. It exports in over 80 countries and regions. British Steel accounts for about a third of the country’s production and manufactures mostly high-quality rail and heavy sections. The two companies appear complementary in terms of capacity.

The Chinese company vows to increase production from 2,5 million to over three million tonnes a year but warns that productivity must also increase.

The British government will facilitate the Chinese takeover by extending loan guarantees and other financial support, shielding 4,500 employees from unemployment and protecting an additional 20,000 jobs in the supply chain. The deal also includes plants in the Netherlands and France.

Turkey begins EU Jihadi fighters repatriation

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epa07892511 EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos (L), Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu (C) and German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (R) attend a press conference after their meeting in Ankara, Turkey, 03 October 2019. German Interior minister Horst Seehofer (not pictured), EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos, and Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu meet in Ankara for discussing cooperation on migration management. EPA-EFE/STR

Turkey started deporting foreign IS fighters to their home countries, The Guardian first reported on Monday.

The first deportation was of a US citizen. A German and a Dane were to follow later on Monday. According to the Turkish Interior Ministry, Turkey will extradite 21 EU nationals, including seven Germans, eleven French, and two Irish until November 14.

The complete number of EU citizens under Turkish custody is unknown and also includes women children. There are at least 1,300 foreign Jihadis in Turkish prisons, of whom an unknown number of Europeans.

Last week, Interior Minister, Suleyman Soylu, warned that Turkey will not be a “hotel for IS members from any country.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that there are 1,201 Islamic State prisoners in Turkish prisons, while an additional 287 militants were detained in Syria.

Syrian Kurdish forces are said to hold 11,000 IS fighters, including thousands of women and children who are family members of foreign fighters. About 20% of the total is believed to be European.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas asked Turkey to provide information for legal action against the returnees before their deportation. Over ten German citizens will be deported this week, according to the German public broadcaster DW.

On Monday Italy sentenced an Italian woman to two years and eight months in jail for association with ISIS. Lara Bombonati converted to Islam and married an Italian fighter, Francesco Cascio. She was arrested in Turkey in June 2017 and extradited to Italy.

Britain has stripped IS fighters of their citizenship to prevent their repatriation. Australia has also passed legislation preventing fighters from returning. France and the Netherlands have moved to return children but are trying to limit the possibility of return for their guardians.

The Dutch government must ‘make all possible efforts’ to repatriate 56 Dutch children in refugee camps in Northern Syria but is not required to bring back their mothers, a court in The Hague ruled on Monday.

The courtroom was packed with families of the 23 women, held by Kurdish forces. A lawyer for their families, André Seebregts, says he expects more clarity on how the judgment will be implemented but he cast doubt on the idea of sending the children to the Netherlands without their mothers.

Farage will not campaign against Conservative MPs

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epa07981352 Brexit party leader Nigel Farage speaks during Brexit Party general election campaign in Pontypool, South Wales, Britain, 08 November 2019. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called a general election for 12 December 2019. EPA-EFE/NEIL MUNNS

In a televised conference on Monday, Brexit party leader Nigel Farage said his party will not field any candidates in 317 constituencies held by ruling Conservatives focusing instead in Labour-held constituencies.

That is what Farage calls a “unilateral” Leave alliance.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed Farage’s decision, claiming it would help to avoid another hung Parliament. Markets also responded positively to Farage’s pledge.

The Brexit Party leader had previously threatened to field 600 candidates across the country unless the Conservatives abandoned the Withdrawal Agreement concluded between the European Commission and Johnson. Now, Farage is changing strategy and will only field candidates in seats the Conservatives do not already hold.

The Conservatives are hoping to seize traditional Labour seats in northern England, uniting the Leave vote. But analysts are split as to whether Farage poses a bigger threat to the Conservatives or to Labour.

Farage claims that traditional working-class voters who voted Leave are more likely to support the Brexit party than stand behind the toxic Tory brand. Tory chairman James Cleverly said on Monday that the danger remains that the Brexit Party will split the Leave vote in the North of England, depriving the Conservatives of a victory and, thereby, “frustrate the Brexit process”.

Farage justified his conciliatory move by suggesting he is meeting Johnson halfway. On Sunday evening, Johnson vowed not to extend the post-Brexit transition period beyond the end of 2020 and to negotiate “a straight” trade deal, like Canada, with no normative alignment. “This sounds more like Brexit,” Farage said.

“This is a Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson alliance with Donald Trump to sell out our country and send £500 million per week from our NHS to US drugs companies,” Labour Party Chairman Ian Lavery said on Monday. He was referring to a trade deal with the US that may entail US pharmaceuticals imposing higher prices on Britain’s NHS.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Sir Ed Davey said Mr Farage’s decision “shows the Conservatives and the Brexit Party are now one and the same”.

Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon said the Conservatives have “effectively become the Brexit Party”.

Anti-Brexit parties Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats have made a comparable pact not to run against each other in 60 seats across England and Wales.

The leader of Spains’ liberal Ciudadanos resigns

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epa07988399 Leader of Spanish Ciudadanos party, Albert Rivera reacts after announcing his resignation as the party's president and member of parliament (MP) during a press conference in Madrid, Spain, 11 November 2019. Rivera announces his resignation a day after the general elections in which Ciudadanos lost a total of 47 seats in Parliament. Albert Rivera also announced he will also be retiring from politics. EPA-EFE/RODRIGO JIMENEZ

In a televised address on Monday, the leader of Spain’s liberal Ciudadanos, Albert Rivera, resigned on Monday.

One year ago, Spain had one of the biggest liberal parties in Europe and no representative of the far-right. This was one of the biggest newcomers for the liberal family in Europe, second only to Emmanuel Macron‘s En Marche. By Monday morning it became apparent that the third-largest party in Spain was Vox rather than Ciudadanos.

Rivera saw Ciudadanos’ electoral influence sink from 57 seats in April to just 10 in November, forcing him to take responsibility for the party’s “poor result.”

For months, Ciudadanos refused to negotiate with Sánchez to join a coalition government, insisting in an alliance exclusively with the centre-right popular party and the far-right, drawing criticism from Macron.  Ciudadanos and Macron’s platform are part of the same political family in the European Parliament. As the French president has identified populist and extreme-right movements as Europe’s main threat, Ciudadanos emerged as the “odd one out” in the group.

Most cities in Spain announced the formation of their local council on June 16. For the first time in decades, the far-right Vox was given the chance to play an important role in Spanish politics with the ultra-conservative and anti-migration party, will not rule a regional government but has become a key player to help other parties reach a governing majority. The most representative example is the case of Madrid, where the conservative Popular Party (PP) will return to power after four years in the opposition thanks to a coalition with Ciudadanos and the external support of Vox.

The turn to the right triggered resignations by four senior party officials and ultimately a crushing electoral defeat. But it is unclear whether this electoral result will suffice for Ciudadanos to change strategy.

The incumbent socialist prime minister Pedro Sánchez won a pyrrhic victory on Sunday, securing just 120 seats compared to April’s 123. He may now depend on the goodwill of the remaining 10 liberal MPs to form a government in the 350-seat parliament.

The far-left Unidas Podemos retained 35 of the 42 seats it secured in April. The leader of UP, Pablo Iglesias, called for a coalition government between his party and the PSOE, noting that “what in April was an opportunity (…) is now a necessity.” In July Sánchez offered Iglesias three ministerial positions and a deputy PM post for his support. Iglesias rejected the offer calling the positions offered “decorative.” Sanchez then called new elections rather than concede more power to the left.

To break the political stalemate today, Sánchez will need the support of both the Liberals, the far-left, as well as the backing of several regional parties. That is a tall order.

The big winner of Sunday’s election is Vox leader Santiago Abascal, who celebrates the emergence of his party into the third biggest political force in Spain. Abascal promised on Monday to close nationalist parties, like the Baque Nationalist Party (PNV) and send the Catalan premier Quim Torra to prison.

EU body highlights potential of blockchain technology

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epa06661347 Traffic pass a roundabout with the allegedly world's first Bitcoin monument in Kranj, Slovenia, 11 April 2018. The forth largest city in Slovenia, Kranj, has in March inaugurated what its representatives claim to be the first Bitcoin monument in the world. The monument, dedicated to Bitcoin and in general to Blockchain technology, is located in a rotonda in the town center and has been financed by the bitcoin exchange company Bitstamp and the software company 3fs, both originated in Kranj, Slovenia. EPA-EFE/ANTONIO BAT

The European Economic and Social Committee, EESC, adopted on 30 October an own-initiative opinion on blockchain technology, an attractive tool for redefining security in digital transactions.

According to the EESC, blockchain technology has the potential to transform society, but there is a need for legal clarity and a common EU approach. It, therefore, called on the EU Commission to launch a comprehensive initiative to make the EU a global authority in this field.

The opinion explains that blockchain can be applied in many sectors to increase security and can contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and it proposes a new, EU-wide platform that will bring together representatives from the EU institutions, EU states, industry, consumers and academics, and would provide a space for sharing good practices.

It also gives concrete examples of how this technology can be used to harness significant opportunities in the context of the single market, for example by making data processing secure and helping build mutual trust between blockchain participants.

EU’s climate contribution exceeds €20bn in 2018

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epa06298544 (FILE) - Smokes billow out of chimneys at a chemical plant in north China's Tianjin municipality, 23 December 2008 (reissued 30 October 2017). Media reports on 30 October 2017 state the greenhouse gas bulletin by World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere of the earth has considerably increased in 2016, with last year's increase being 50 per cent higher than the average of last 10 years. Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the earth atmosphere surged at a record-breaking speed in 2016 to the highest level in 800 000 years WMO said. EPA-EFE/RYAN TONG

According to the conclusions adopted by EU finance ministers on 8 November, EU states’ contributions to help developing countries cope with the impacts of climate change have more than doubled since 2013.

The total contributions of EU countries’ public climate finance amounted to €21.7 billion in 2018, and €20.4 billion in 2017.

This fund is considered an important step to achieve the targets set by the climate change agreement reached in Paris in December 2015. The conclusions also stress the importance of an urgent implementation of the Paris Agreement, and highlight the recent progress achieved in legislative reforms at EU level on sustainable finance.

EU institutions join forces in the fight against intellectual property crime

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epa02804674 An exterior view of the new Europol headquarters, the alliance of the European Union police and a multinational research organization, in The Hague, The Netherlands 01 July 2011. The headquarters were officially opened 01 July. EPA/Lex van Lieshout

The European Union’s Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, Europol, and its Intellectual Property Office, EUIPO, have signed an agreement on 7 November to increase cooperation in fighting online and offline infringements of intellectual property rights.

The two institutions have been collaborating since 2013. In 2016, they created a specialist unit within Europol funded by the EUIPO, known as the Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition, or IPC3. Its main task is to coordinate cross-border operations aimed at tackling IP crime across the Union. So far, it has identified and dismantled over a hundred organised crime groups, and has seized goods valued over €980 million.

Kazakhstan increases uranium mining by 5%

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NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan – The volume of uranium mining in Kazakhstan during ten months of this year increased by 5% and amounted to 18.7 thousand tonnes, Kazakhstan’s Energy Ministry said on 11 November.

“The volume of uranium mining amounted to about 18.7 thousand tonnes with an increase of 5% compared to the same period in 2018,” the ministry said.

According to ministry, uranium production in Kazakhstan in January-October 2018 reached 17.8 thousand tonnes.

The national company Kazatomprom in 2019 plans to produce 22.75-22.8 thousand tonnes of uranium. The production level in proportion to the share of Kazatomprom in other companies in 2019 will be 13-13.5 thousand tonnes, taking into account the announced plans to reduce production by 20%.

Kazatomprom is the national operator of Kazakhstan for the export of uranium and its compounds, rare metals, nuclear fuel for nuclear power plants and special equipment. The Samruk-Kazyna State Fund owns 81.2% of Kazatomprom shares, 18.8% is freely traded on the Astana International Financial Center (AIX) and the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

EU, UN call for restraint as Bolivian president resigns amid protests

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epa07986427 Bolivian President Evo Morales delivers a statement in El Alto, Bolivia, 10 November 2019. Morales announced the call for new general elections, following the report of the Organization of American States (OAS) that recommends the repetition of the first round of the elections held on October 20. He also assured that the new appointment with the polls will be held with a renewed electoral body, due to the allegations of fraud in the first round of which the current one is accused. EPA-EFE/STR

Bolivia’s president Evo Morales resigned on 10 November, after the military called for him to step down and the police withdrew their support following weeks of unrest over disputed election results. Morales’s vice-president, Álvaro García Linera, also resigned.

“We are accused of dictatorship by those who lost to us in so many elections. Today Bolivia is a free country, a Bolivia with inclusion, dignity, sovereignty and economic strength”, Morales stated.

In the wake of his resignation, the United Nations chief, António Guterres, has urged all concerned parties to “refrain from violence, reduce tension and exercise maximum restraint”, and appealed to all actors to “commit to achieving a peaceful resolution of the current crisis and to ensuring transparent and credible elections”.

The European Union also underlined the need for the demonstrations in Bolivia to remain peaceful. In a statement issued by its foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, it called for “a new and timely electoral process that is credible and which faithfully reflects the will of the people”.

“A new Electoral Court should be appointed that can offer guarantees of transparent elections. We note positively the government’s announcement to move swiftly in this direction. We call on all parties, especially on the authorities, to assume their democratic responsibilities and take the appropriate decisions that will allow quick reconciliation and avoid further violence”, the statement reads.

Iran discovers major oil field but unlikely to be able to profit from it in near future

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epa07987601 Iranian oil minister Bijan Namdar Zangeneh (L) speaks at a media event in Tehran, Iran, 11 November 2019. According to media reports, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that Iran has discovered a new oil field in the country's south with over 50 billion barrels of crude oil. EPA-EFE/STR

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced on 10 November in a speech in the desert city of Yazd that his country has discovered a new oil field in the country’s south with over 50 billion barrels of crude.

As Iran faces stringent US sanctions that have crippled the Islamic republic’s exports, the latest discovery could reportedly boost the Islamic republic’s proven reserves by a third but it is unlikely that Iran would be able to profit from it in near future.

Some 53 billion barrels would be added to Iran’s proven reserves of roughly 150 billion, AP quoted Rouhani as saying. “I am telling the White House that in the days when you sanctioned the sale of Iranian oil and pressured our nation, the country’s dear workers and engineers were able to discover 53 billion barrels of oil in a big field,” Rouhani said.

Iran currently has the world’s fourth-largest proven deposits of crude oil and the world’s second-largest deposits of natural gas.

The new oil field could become Iran’s second-largest field after one containing 65 billion barrels in Ahvaz. The field is 2,400 square kilometres, with the deposit some 80 metres deep, Rouhani was quoted as saying.

EU simplifies VAT rules to tackle fraud and boost small businesses

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The Berlaymond Building in Brussels, Thursday 26 January 2006. The Berlaymond building is the European Commission headquarter, home for 2,700 bureaucrats and the 25-members of the EU executive. EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET

The European Commission adopted on 8 November the Council’s proposal to create a central database of value-added tax payments, with the goal of tackling VAT fraud.

The legislation will facilitate the transactions by enabling EU states to coordinate the collection of records made available electronically by payment service providers, which is necessary for tax authorities to detect fraudulent activities.

EU finance ministers also agreed on an update to the VAT rules for European small and medium businesses, giving more opportunity for cross-border activities by simplifying their obligations, such as registration and reporting.

EIB to modernise Finland’s Helsinki Airport

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epa06954261 An image taken through a window showing Nordic Regional Airlines NORRA ATR 72-212A(500) passenger plane with OH-ATI registration at Helsinki-Vantaa airport in Finland, 27 May 2018. EPA-EFE/MAURITZ ANTIN

The European Investment Bank and the Finnish airport company, Finavia Corporation, have signed a loan agreement of €150 million to finance “phase IV” of the expansion of Helsinki Airport.

The so-called phase IV of the airport’s expansion plans includes the extension of Terminal 2 with new arrivals and departures halls, new gates, increased border control capacity, and better connections to public transport and taxi services.

The financing is expected to boost links to public transportation by removing hold-ups in the Schengen area, as well as between the airport and the rail, bus and taxi services. It will also allow smoother transit of passengers and luggage, by expanding the baggage handling system and passport control areas.

With these interventions, Helsinki Airports annual capacity is expected to rise to about 30 million passengers per year.

European consumers to get higher standards of protection

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epa07507039 Swedish People's Party of Finland leader Anna-Maja Henriksson attends the parliamentary election night media event at the Annex to the Parliament Building in Helsinki, Finland, 14 April 2019. Finns across the country are heading to the poles to vote in the Finnish parliamentary election. EPA-EFE/JARNO KUUSINEN

Following an agreement with the European Parliament in March, the Council of the EU adopted on 8 November a directive that modernises EU law on consumer protection.

“The Directive guarantees higher standards of protection for EU consumers when they buy products or services online. It also provides for more robust measures against unfair or misleading trade practices across the EU”, said Finnish minister of justice, Anna-Maja Henriksson.

The directive facilitates the enforcement of consumers’ rights by harmonising the criteria for infringements, removing burdens such as outdated means of communication, clarifying information for consumers in case of price reduction, enhancing transparency in online transactions, clarifying misleading rules and providing the right to individual remedies for consumers when they are harmed by unfair commercial practices.

The measures will start to apply six months after EU states implement them.

EU-Singapore trade deal to enter into force this month

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epa07606787 (37/42) High-rise residential apartments blocks line the periphery of the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park in Singapore, 04 May 2019. Singapore has a green reputation as the Garden City, a vision of its former Prime Minister, the late Lee Kuan Yew. There are about two million trees planted along roads as well as in parks which occupy an area of 25 square km. Somewhere in every big Asian city, there is a green pocket, patch, or park, serving as a vital green lung in a body of concrete, but in most Asian cities they are far too few. Asia claims 99 of the worlds 100 most polluted cities. Air pollution and improving air quality in cities across the world is the theme of World Environment Day 2019, marked on 05 June 2019. EPA-EFE/WALLACE WOON ATTENTION: For the full PHOTO ESSAY text please see Advisory Notice epa07606750

The Council of the European Union gave on 8 November the green light to the free trade deal between the bloc and Singapore signed last year, removing nearly all customs duties and non-tariff barriers. It is due to enter into force on 21 November.

Over 10,000 European companies are established in Singapore. Apart from removing all tariffs on EU products, the deal will also boost EU services’ providers in key sectors, such as telecommunications, environmental services, and maritime transport.

The deal comes after the EU suspended efforts to strike a bloc deal with the 10-member Association of South-east Asian Nations, ASEAN, in 2009, due to disagreements.

The total bilateral trade in goods is over €53 billion, and the trade in services amounts €51 billion, making Singapore the number one location for European investment in Asia.

France calls into question NATO’s relevance

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epa06883227 France's President Emmanuel Macron during a press conference on the second day of the NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium, 12 July 2018. NATO member countries' heads of states and governments gather in Brussels on 11 and 12 July 2018 for a two days meeting. EPA-EFE/TATYANA ZENKOVICH

In an interview with the Economist, the President of France Emmanuel Macron called NATO “brain dead”

Asked to comment on Macron’s dismissal of NATO on Friday, the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo noted that “… if nations believe that they can get the security benefit without providing NATO with the resources that it needs, if they don’t live up to their commitments, there’s a risk that NATO could become ineffective or obsolete.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned France on Sunday against undermining NATO. “Without the United States, neither Germany nor Europe will be able to effectively protect themselves,” Maas wrote in a column published by Der Spiegel magazine.

Washington but also Paris has often noted that Germany fails to meet the 2% of GDP expenditure threshold set by NATO allies.

Nonetheless, Maas called for the creation of a European Security Council in which Britain should also be a member – irrespectively of EU membership – a plan that will be presented in the second half of 2020 during the German EU Presidency.

For her part, the incoming President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday that NATO has proved a superb “shield of freedom”; however, she told an audience in Belin that the EU had to go beyond “soft power” to develop “muscle.”

“Soft power alone won’t suffice today if we Europeans want to assert ourselves in the world. Europe must also learn the language of power,” Von der Leyen said.

However, in opposition to Macron’s position, von der Leyen also noted that the EU cannot only make demands from North Macedonia and Albania but must also honour its obligations.

Moody’s threatens to downgrade Britain’s sovereign debt profile

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epa05455001 The British Pound in London, Britain, 04 August 2016. Pound Sterling dropped against the US Dollar and the Euro ahead of the expected Bank of England Interest Rate cut, 04 August. The currency continues to trade at around 31-year lows against the dollar. EPA/ANDY RAIN

The UK’s credit rating could be downgraded by rating agency Moody’s, according to a rating issued on Friday.

The UK is currently rated Aa2 – the third-highest grade for sovereign debt. The rating agency changed the outlook on its Aa2 from “stable” to “negative” that implies a cut to the actual rating is imminent.

Aa2 is at par with France but below Germany’s AAA rating. The UK has lost its top AAA credit rating for the first time since 1978 in 2013.

Both the ruling Conservatives and the Labour opposition are campaigning on a fiscally expansionist program. In its statement, the rating agency concludes that “in the current political climate, Moody’s sees no meaningful pressure for debt-reducing fiscal policies.”

According to Moody’s, the UK’s £1.8trn public debt – more than 80% of its GDP – is likely to surge while the economy is “more susceptible to shocks than previously assumed”.

The last UK rating downgrade in 2017 had little impact on the cost of borrowing but further downgrade could be significant. For the moment, British government borrowing costs are close to record lows given the context of an economic slowdown and the reduction of interest rates by all developed economies.

A BMG opinion poll (November 5-8) suggests the Conservatives are leading the race with 37% — compared to 31% in October) while Labour has seen their support decline from 29% to 26% and the Liberal Democrats have seen their support from 20% to 16%. Separate polls for the Mail on Sunday and Observer put the Conservatives on 41% and Labour on 29%, while a Sunday Times poll put the Conservatives on 39% and Labour on 26%.

The prospect of a political stalemate could prove as damaging to the economy as a fiscally expansionist policy, reducing the ability of the government to respond to changing circumstances.

Twitter data-leak scandal linked to Saudi journalist killing

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epa03865721 ILLUSTRATION - The App of Twitter and a Shareholder App featured on a smart phone are pictured in Cologne, Germany, 13 September 2013. Social media company Twitter announced on 12 September 2013 through its own service that it has filed paperwork for a planned initial public offering of shares EPA/MARIUS BECKER

Saudi journalist and writer Turki Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Jasser died in prison after being tortured, the New Khaleej reported last Thursday. The killing has been linked to thousands of user data leaked from the social media platform Twitter to the Saudi government.

Twitter has come under fire as this is the second Saudi Journalist whose death is linked to personal data leaks from the organisation. Jasser was arrested in Riyadh on March 15 for allegedly running a Twitter account called Kashkool.

The Kashkool account disclosed rights violations committed by the Saudi authorities and the royal family. The evidence now suggests that his arrest was facilitated by the moles the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had inside Twitter. The British daily Metro reports that Jasser was arrested on the basis of evidence provided by the Twitter office in Dubai, citing an anonymous source.

Jasser died in prison under torture.

Last week, the US Justice Department charged two former Twitter employees with spying for Saudi Arabia. Specifically, the two men sold personal user data of dissidents to the Saudi government. The two agents were handled by Ahmed Almutairi, a man linked to the Saudi Royal family.

The charges were unveiled last Wednesday in San Francisco, following the arrest of former Twitter employees, Ahmad Abouammo. Another Twitter employee that is charged as being a mole for the Kingdom is the Saudi citizen Ali Alzabarah, who allegedly sold data from 6,000 Twitter accounts.