European Space Agency sees historic budget rise

epa08028251 ESA Director General, Jan Woerner (L), Spanish acting Science and Innovation Minister, Pedro Duque (C), and Sevilla's Mayor, Juan Espadas (R), attend the European Space Agency Council Meeting at Ministerial Level in Seville, Spain, 27 November 2019. The Council Meeting was held to approve a budget of 14,300 million euros for the next five years, which it will spend to carry out projects in relation to the Moon, gravitational waves or launch vehicles. EPA-EFE/RAUL CARO

The European Space Agency got its biggest financial boost in a generation on Thursday, with 22 member states agreeing to invest €14.4bn over the next five years.

At a two-day conference in Seville, Spain, the balance of financial contributions changed, with Germany becoming the biggest contributor to the ESA budget. Germany contributes 22,9% of the budget, followed by France with 18.5% and Italy with 15.9%. The UK also hiked its contribution, paying in 11,5% of the budget.

Germany is expected to benefit massively from new R&D contracts.

Among the practical implications of the investment is that the ESA will be able to develop a network of satellites able to track carbon dioxide emissions across the globe. Furthermore, the ESA will develop a satellite system to support 5G networks.

The agency will also start to plan missions to the Moon and Mars, in cooperation with NASA. The ESA will fund two propulsion units for the American Orion crew capsules valued at €2bn. In addition, the ESA will proceed with Gateway, the first space station to orbit the moon, eventually allowing European astronauts to land on the moon.

Italian company wins solar power plant bid in Kazakhstan

epa07906927 A worker assembles floating barges with solar panels on the Lac des Toules, an alpine reservoir lake, in Bourg-Saint-Pierre, Switzerland, 08 October 2019 (issued 09 October 2019) Upon completion the floating solar panel station will consist of 36 floating barges featuring 2'240 square meters of solar cells targeting to deliver 800'000 kilowatt-hour per year, the annual power consumption of approximately 220 homes. EPA-EFE/VALENTIN FLAURAUD ATTENTION: This Image is part of a PHOTO SET

NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan – An auction to select an investor for the construction of a solar power plant with an installed capacity of 50 MW near the village of Shaulder, Turkestan region in southern Kazakhstan took place in Kazakhstan. LLP Arm Wind, whose main shareholder is the Italian oil major ENI, has won in the auction the press service of the Ministry of Energy of Kazakhstan said on 28 November.

“Seven companies from six countries: Kazakhstan, Germany, Italy, China, the Netherlands and Russia took part in the auction. During the trading session, the marginal auction price – 29 tenge/ kWh decreased by 2.3 times. The winner of the auction was Arm Wind LLP with a price of 12.49 tenge/kWh, which is approximately 3.2 US cents,” the Kazakh Energy Ministry said.

According to the Kazakh Ministry of Energy, this tariff is a record low on the solar energy market in Kazakhstan.

“The winner of the auction has the right to conclude a 15-year contract with a single renewable energy purchaser – the Settlement and Financial Center for RES – and sell all generated electricity at an auction rate,” the ministry said.

At the same time, the ministry said the tariff is subject to annual indexation, taking into account changes in the exchange rate of the national tenge and taking into account inflation.


EU, Southeast Asian nations discuss human rights

epa03602750 Irish Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore delivers a statement at the High-Level Segment of the 22nd Session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, 27 February 2013. The 22nd Session runs from 25 February to 22 March 2013. EPA/MARTIAL TREZZINI

The European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – Asean, reaffirmed their commitment to the protection of fundamental freedoms, on 27 November in Brussels.

The EU-Asean 3rd human rights dialogue was a part of the four-day visit to the EU by the Asean representatives. It took place after meetings on human rights with civil society representatives. It was hosted by EU’s special representative for human rights, Eamon Gilmore, and by the chair of the Asean intergovernmental commission on human rights, Amara Pongsapich.

During the dialogue, both sides exchanged views on recent developments in their regions. The meeting covered a wide range of human rights issues, including human rights institutions, freedom of expression, opinion and freedom of religion.

Gender equality, child labour, human trafficking, impact of climate change on human rights, as well as business and human rights were also discussed. Both sides agreed to strengthen their cooperation in tackling hate speech and disinformation.

Finally, the EU encouraged Asean to continue to play a role in the issues of Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where armed conflict has displaced more than 92.500 civilians.

UK’s Labour rolls out race and faith manifesto

epa08026856 A woman reads the manifesto as she attends the Labour Party's unveiling of the party's Race and Faith manifesto in London, Britain, 26 November 2019. Britons go the polls in a general election on 12 December. EPA-EFE/ANDY RAIN

The UK’s main opposition Labour Party has unveiled what they called an “ambitious” manifesto on race and faith that is designed to educate children about the historical injustices of colonialism and the role the British Empire played in suppressing the religious and cultural practices of the dominions that were once under its rule.

Labour, which is headed by its hardline leftist leader Jeremy Corbyn, has laid out a pre-election proposal that is designed to tackle inequalities in employment, education, and what it calls “representation in public life”.

“Labour is the party of equality and human rights. Our Race and Faith Manifesto presents our unshakable commitment to challenge the inequalities and discrimination that has faced too many communities,” Corbyn said, adding, “Labour will tackle head-on the barriers that have unfairly held back so many people and communities.”

With the manifesto, Corbyn hopes that if he becomes the next British prime minister following the December 12 snap elections he will be able to push through a bill that would make learning about colonialism and the so-called “evils of the British Empire” a part of the national school curriculum. Corbyn, who has long been dogged by accusations of antisemitism and his past associations with hardline Marxists, calls his revanchist history programme “the Emancipation Educational Trust”.

Labour contends that a race equality unit needs to be established in the finance ministry to review spending commitments and their impact on minority communities.

“These communities already suffer from significant inequalities in employment, education and representation in public life. The manifesto is a direct culmination of the consultations that Labour has hed. This helps make it a unique people-powered manifesto that will have an impact for a positive change,” Labour’s statement said.

The traditionally centre-left party is seeking to return to power after almost a decade in opposition. Under Corbyn, however, the party’s politics has lurched to the radical left and has alienated much of the British public.

Corbyn’s divisive attempts to push the party to the outer fringes of hardline Socialist politics and the widespread accusations of entrenched anti-Semitism amongst Corbyn’s most ardent supporters have hurt Labour’s election prospects as has an investigation by Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission regarding the anti-Semitism charges.

Europeans support action on air quality, study shows

epaselect epa07164409 A chimney belches smoke into the smoggy air in Salgotarjan, Hungary, 14 November 2018. According to reports, the level of air pollution is on unhealthy level in the capital and in four other cities in the country. Due to the high concentration of airborne dust particles sixteen other municipalities have discommended air quality. EPA-EFE/PETER KOMKA HUNGARY OUT

Over two thirds of Europeans think that the Union should propose additional measures to improve air quality.

These are the results of a new Eurobarometer survey, designed to analyze the Europeans’ perceptions of the level of awareness about air quality problems, and their preferred level of action.

More than 27.000 citizens were interviewed in all EU states between 11 and 29 September. According to the survey, two thirds of Europeans have not heard of the EU air quality standards. 54% of respondents do not feel well-informed about the issue in their country. Half of interviewees say it should be addressed at European level and half say it should be addressed at the national level.

71% of respondents think the EU should propose additional measures to address air quality-related problems, while 38% would like to be able to express their views on such measures.

For 44% of interviewees, applying stricter pollution controls on industrial activities is the most effective way to tackle air quality-related issues.

The results of the survey came ahead of the opening of the EU Clean Air Forum in Bratislava on 28 and 29 November. The forum will focus on health and air quality; energy and air quality; agriculture and air quality; and clean air funding mechanisms.

Benin expels EU ambassador citing “interference” in its domestic affairs

epa05278512 Benin President Patrice Talon holds a joint press conference with French President Francois Hollande (not pictured) after their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, 26 April 2016. EPA/JEREMY LEMPIN

Benin has ordered the European Union’s ambassador to the country, Oliver Nette, to leave, accusing him of meddling in state politics, said a statement from the President’s office on Wednesday.

Nette has until December 1 to leave the country, as he is now considered “persona non grata”. While the EU ambassador has been described as “harmful”, government officials stated that the West African country had nothing against the EU.

The German-born ambassador has been accused of frequently undermining the legitimacy of Benin’s current parliament, that was elected in April under a new controversial election law.

Benin has been facing a crisis after the adoption of the new election law in April, which excluded opposition parties from running, under the justification that they do not fit the prerequisite legal criteria and anti-government protests were calling for Beninese President Patrice Talon to step down.

Various African countries have slammed ambassadors the last months, with Rwanda expelling German ambassador in March, Somalia accusing UN envoy over interference in the country’s sovereignty, Burundi closing UN offices in the country and the Democratic Republic of Congo ordering EU envoy to leave the country, in December 2018.



EU sues Denmark over misuse of term ‘feta’ on Danish cheeses

epa07770683 Feta cheese on display in a store at the Adelaide Central Market in Adelaide, South Australia, Australia, 13 August 2019. Australian producers of Feta, Gruyere and dozens of other products face being barred from using the names of their products under a list of demands made by the European Union (EU) as part of a multibillion-dollar trade deal. EPA-EFE/DAVID MARIUZ AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

The European Commission decided on Monday to refer Denmark to the EU Court of Justice for failing to prevent or stop local companies from making and exporting outside the EU white cheese labelled as “feta”, a term limited to cheese originating in Greece.

“Feta” is a PDO registered product since 2002 and as such, it can exclusively be produced in Greece according to a set of production specifications.

Although the Commission had launched infringement proceedings against Denmark in January 2018, it was concluded that Denmark had not addressed the issues raised and thus, the Commission decided to refer Denmark to CJEU.

The Commission considered that Denmark has breached its obligations under EU law on the protection granted by the registration as Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and since the Danish authorities have also failed to prevent or stop it, the country also infringed the Regulation on quality schemes and the principle of sincere cooperation between the Union and Member States.

The latter is likely to affect on-going negotiations between the EU and third countries for the conclusion of bilateral agreements ensuring the protection of European PDOs and the promotion of EU quality products outside the EU.


EU Parliament declares climate emergency

epa07507593 Climate change activists stage a protest demanding that EU governments declare a state of climate and ecological emergency near the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, 15 April 2019. The protest is part of a week-long non-violent civil disobedience action in Belgium and around the world by citizens demanding decisive action from governments to address the climate change. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET

In a wake-up call ahead of the COP25 climate conference that will be held in Madrid from 2 to 13 December, the EU Parliament approved, during Strasbourg’s plenary session on Thursday, a resolution declaring climate and environmental emergency in Europe and globally.

The resolution was adopted with 429 votes for, 225 votes against and 19 abstentions, after much pressure was put by European stakeholders and scientists across the world. The Parliament also voted for a resolution that calls the EU to submit its strategy for 2050 climate neutrality, as soon as possible.

MEPs also urged the EC to ensure that all relevant legislative and budgetary proposals are fully aligned with the objective of limiting global warming to under 1.5 °C and that its President, Ursula von der Leyen includes a 55% reduction target of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 in the European Green Deal.

The EU Commission has already proposed the net-zero emissions by 2050 target, but the European Council has still not endorsed it, as Poland, Hungary and Czechia are opposed.

“The European Parliament has just adopted an ambitious position in view of the upcoming COP25 in Madrid..[..]. It also sends a clear and timely message to the Commission a few weeks before the publication of the Communication on the Green Deal”, said Pascal Canfin, Chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, during Monday’s debate.

The COP25 conference, that was moved from Chile to Spain at short notice due to civil unrest, is Europe’s chance to demonstrate leadership talks backed-up by transformative action in the fight against climate change, especially on the just transition to fossil-free energy.

EU police arrest 9 in Spain for football match-fixing

epa06545104 A policeman (R) escorts one of the soccer players arrested in a police operation against match-fixing in Murcia, southeastern Spain, 19 February 2018 (issued 20 February 2018). A total of 24 people, including six soccer players, were arrested for their allegedly involvement in a network for match-fixing in Segunda Division B (Second Division B), the third level of the Spanish football league system after Primera Division and Liga Adelante or Second Division A. The network is allegedly led by two former professional soccer players. EPA-EFE/Marcial Guillen

With the support of Europol’s sports corruption experts, the Spanish police arrested on 26 November nine people linked to professional football. They are accused of match-fixing and money laundering during the 2016-2017 season.

The arrests are part of the second phase of operation “Oikos”. The evidence uncovered earlier this year, during the first phase, revealed that the suspects made deals to arrange results of second division matches so the team could enter the first division in the Spanish National League.

Specifically, the police found four handwritten sheets “with the description of the operation of collection, distribution of funds and delivery of funds for the conditioning of the outcome of a Second Division match.”

Europol supported the operation on-the-spot. It also deployed an expert to Spain, to provide analytical support and digital forensic assistance with a mobile office.

26 migrants found injured in overturned truck in North Macedonia

epa04986802 Migrants leave the registration camp and walk to board a bus heading to the Serbian border, near the city of Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on 21 October 2015. Thousands of migrants continue to arrive in Macedonia on their way to EU countries. Europe is grappling with the biggest migrant influx since World War II, and more than half of those arriving are estimated to be from Syria. EPA/GEORGI LICOVSKI

26 injured migrants, including seven minors, have been found on 27 November in an overturned truck on a local road in North Macedonia, police said.

Among them were 15 Afghans, 9 Pakistanis and one Iraqi. They were all transferred to a local hospital.

The migrants sustained minor injuries and were released, hospital officials confirmed. One of them suffered serious spine injures and was transferred to the general hospital in the capital, Skopje. The minors were without serious injuries, officials said.

The group entered the country illegally from Greece, police believe. They will be transferred to the migrant center in the southern town of Gevgelija.

Wiewiórowski selected as EU’s data protection watchdog

IPEN Workshop 2015 in presence of the European Data Protection Supervisor

Wojciech Wiewiórowski has been selected by the Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee  to serve for a 5-year mandate as European Data Protection Supervisor.

The EP committee grilled three candidates in a public hearing on Monday morning to evaluate their suitability for the post and MEPs chose their order of preference of the candidates for the EDPS position in a secret ballot on Tuesday morning.

Wiewiorowski was selected as the top candidate with 36 votes, followed by Yann Padova from France with 25 votes and the Hungarian Endre Szabó who only gathered 3 votes.

Wiewiorowski was appointed in 2014 as EPDS Assistant Supervisor and has been serving as acting replacement for the European Data Protection Supervisor Giovanni Buttarelli, since 21 August 2019.

The European Data Protection Supervisor is the Union’s independent data protection authority. It supervises how the EU institutions and bodies process personal data to ensure compliance with privacy rules and advises them on all aspects of personal data processing and related policies and legislation. The EDPS also works with the national authorities of EU countries to ensure consistency in data protection.



EU hails peaceful presidential election in Guinea-Bissau

epa08021850 Guinea Bissau President and independent presidential candidate Jose Mario Vaz (JOMAV) casts his ballot for the Presidential elections at a polling station in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, 24 November 2019. Presidential elections is being held in Guinea-Bissau today with a round between 12 candidates from a range of parties with a second round planned for 29 December if no candidate receives more than 50 per cent of the vote. EPA-EFE/ANDRE KOSTERS

Presidential elections took place on 24 November in the West African nation of Guinea-Bissau. They are expected to bring an end to the country’s instability that began in 2015.

Two former prime ministers will compete in a runoff on 29 December, the electoral commission has announced. Domingos Simões Pereira, representing the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), topped the election with 40%. Umaro Cissoko Embalo, who represents Madem, an opposition party composed of PAIGC rebels, is second with 28%.

Incumbent President Jose Mario Vaz failed to advance to the second round, recieving 12% of the vote. He is the first president in 25 years to reach the end of his corruption-shaken mandate without being forced out in a military coup.

The European Union hailed the “peaceful, orderly and transparent conduct of the elections” confirmed by international observers and national civil society monitors, and promised to continue to follow the situation closely, as well as work with regional and international partners “to ensure the consolidation of democracy in the country”.

“It is important that all actors respect the next steps in the electoral process and the agreed Code of Conduct. Any possible complaints should be resolved by legal means”, the EU stated.

Following years of political instability, the country’s main challenges include poverty, corruption, drug trafficking, and improvements in health care and education. Another round of campaigning will kick off 13 December.

Franco-German drive for EU institutional overhaul by 2022

epa07925778 French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) hold a press conference following a German-French Ministerial Council at the Haute-Garonne Prefecture in Toulouse, France, 16 October 2019, one day before a key EU summit that may approve a divorce deal with Britain. EPA-EFE/GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO

Paris and Berlin jointly called for a “Conference on the Future of Europe” by 2022 on Wednesday; the proposal echoes a European Commission proposal for a 2020-2022 conference.

In a joint two-page statement the Franco-German axis called for and EU that is “more united and sovereign” in order to address a range of challenges, not least economic competition and security threats.

The paper calls for a pulling together of resources in digitalisation, climate change, migration, the fight against inequality, and the rule of law.

“Any changes in how the union works agreed by member states, in consultation with the EU institutions, outside experts and civil society could lead to a treaty changes,” the document says.

The statement also calls for a bottom-up process of policy consultations, especially following the Brexit experience.

These Franco-German proposals are to be presented to the European Council for debate on December 12. If the reform outline is approved by European leaders, a reform secretariat could be set up, RFI reports.

However, this does not mean the two historical partners do not have deep disagreements over the future of Europe. Emmanuel Macron campaigned on a promise to advance an agenda of economic and political consolidation of the eurozone, to which Germany and the Netherlands have resisted fiercely. Now Macron has called NATO “brain dead” and France is calling for an overhaul of the enlargement process, positions that collide with Berlin.

For the moment, the political initiative rests with Berlin, as Germany assumes the Presidency of the European Council in the second half of 2020.

Merkel commits to NATO 2% expenditure threshold

epa07979052 German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and Secretary General of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Jens Stoltenberg (L) attend a joint press conference at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, 07 November, 2019. Secretary General Stoltenberg is on an official four-day visit visit to the German capital, he is expected to meet with the German government officials as, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer in addition he will participate in commemorations for the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. EPA-EFE/OMER MESSINGER

With days to go before NATO’s Summit in the UK, Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated Germany’s commitment to NATO.

NATO is more essential to Germany and Europe today than during the Cold War, Merkel said. In sharp contrast to President Emmanuel Macron’s aphorism of NATO as “brain dead,” Chancellor Merkel underscored the significance of the Alliance.

“At the moment, Europe is unable to defend itself,” Merkel said.

However, Merkel’s commitment is for Germany to meet the alliance’s 2% of GDP defence expenditure threshold by “early 2030,” long after she will have retired from German politics.

A 2014 agreement stipulates that NATO member states commit to meet the target by 2024.

Current defence spending in Germany is in the region of 1,25%. In July 2019, Merkel’s successor in the leadership of the Christian Democrats (CDU), Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK), committed Germany to meeting NATO’s 2% defence spending benchmark by 2024. That commitment now appears politically unlikely to be fulfilled.

The former Defense Minister and President of the incoming European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, vowed to raise German defence spending to just 1,5% by 2024, meeting the ire of the government’s junior coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPD). The SPD has accused the CDU of succumbing to US pressure to raise expenditure and oppose a steep and quick rise in the budget.

NATO signs $1 billion contract with Boeing to modernise its fleet

epa08029117 NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (R) and Sir Michael Arthur (L), President of Boeing International, give a press conference on the modernisation contract between NATO and Boeing AWACS at the Melsbroek Airport near Brussels, Belgium, 27 November 2019. NATO and the Boeing Company sign a one-billion contract to modernise the Alliance's fleet of AWACS aircraft. EPA-EFE/STEPHANIE LECOCQ

NATO and Boeing Company signed a landmark contract of $1 billion, to modernise the Alliance’s fleet of AWACS aircraft, during a ceremony at Melsbroek Airport in Brussels, on 27 November.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the contract with Boeing shows the Alliance’s strong commitment to working with industry to keep the trans-Atlantic Alliance strong, as it is a major investment in NATO’s fleet of AWACS surveillance aircraft.

“NATO AWACS have been our eyes in the sky, supporting our airborne operations for decades, from patrolling American skies after 9/11, to our operations in Afghanistan, and as part of the Global Coalition against ISIS”, commented NATO’s SG.

Stoltenberg also added that the deal will provide NATO’s 14 AWACS with sophisticated new communications and networking capabilities and will ensure that NATO AWACS continue to support the Alliance’s missions until 2035.

“NATO AWACS is a symbol of trans-Atlantic excellence, in terms of technology and partnership between Boeing, NATO and Europe. This modernisation programme will ensure the aircraft continue to thrive”, concluded Sir Michael Arthur the President of Boeing International.

The in-service E-3A AWACS aircraft is a modified Boeing 707, easily identifiable by its large fuselage-mounted radar dome. NATO is planning to replace the E-3 fleet after 2035, to include modern technologies, such as autonomous systems, artificial intelligence and big data.






Britain steps up commitment to European Space Agency

epa07061012 The moon next to a logo of the European Space Agency ESA at the International Astronautical Congress IAC in Bremen, northern Germany, 01 October 2018. More than 6,000 scientists and space experts meet for the 69th edition of one of the world's biggest space-related congresses which runs until 05 October. EPA-EFE/FOCKE STRANGMANN

The UK is expected to raise its subscription to the European Space Agency.

The British delegation in Seville, Spain, was instructed to raise British government support for the agency, as the UK aims to remain a market leader in a post-Brexit environment.

Over the last two days, ESA’s member states negotiate the agency’s three-year budget. According to the BBC, the UK is set to increase its €355m (£305m) annual subscription by “more than 15%”.

The ESA’s most significant contributors are France and Germany.

Britain is one of the technology leaders in the European aerospace industry and weakening its links to European value chains would cost millions in Research & Development and thousands of well-paid jobs in the satellite industry. The UK’s withdrawal from the Galileo program means Britain will have to go it alone in creating a global positioning system.

Headquartered in Paris, the ESA is not an EU institution, although there was a plan to integrate the ESA into the EU by 2014. Brexit could complicate this process. Founded in 1975, the ESA is an intergovernmental organisation in which Switzerland, for example, is a full member and Canada is an associate member. Special cooperation agreements have also been signed with Ukraine and Israel.

The ESA asked for more support from its 22 member states on Wednesday, as the space industry is becoming increasingly more competitive. ESA’s Director-General Jan Wörner wanted a 10% increase in the budget over the next three years. The organisation’s current budget is €5.72bn, that is, about a third of NASA.

Both NASA and the ESA are now facing private-sector competition by emerging global players such as China, India, and Elon Musk‘s Space X. This means space-related initiatives are becoming increasingly cheaper, widening the field for competition.

Twitter to delete inactive accounts

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

Twitter is setting a December 11 deadline before deleting inactive accounts.

“Inactive” is defined as not logging in for six months.

The scope of this definition may widen in the future, a spokeswoman for Twitter said on Wednesday, to describe engagement. In effect, Twitter only pitches to advertises that log in at least once a day. By September 2019, Twitter boasted a 145 million user base.

The new policy is expected to rid the platform of hundreds of thousands of accounts, including dead people, as well as free up usernames. The firm will not offer a “memorialisation” option similar to Facebook for dead people.

A spokeswoman on Wednesday said the cleaning-up operation will begin outside the US. One of the effects would be the removal of dormant accounts from people’s follower counts.

EU goals for 450 GW of offshore wind are achievable, says WindEurope

epa07017611 A general view of the wind farm 'Arkona' in the German Baltic Sea near the island of Ruegen, Germany, 13 September 2017. The currently largest wind farm in the Baltic Sea is in its final construction phase with 40 of the planned 60 wind turbines already built. The last turbine is expected to be installed by the end of October 2018. The wind park with a capacity of producing up to 385 megaWatts of electric power costs 1.2 billion euros. It is planned to start its electricity production at the beginning of the year 2019. EPA-EFE/JENS KOEHLER

The European Commission’s big goals for offshore wind – between 230 and 450 GW by 2050 – are achievable provided the right investments in electricity grids and governments take the right approach to maritime spatial planning, a new WindEurope report released on 26 November at Offshore 2019 in Copenhagen shows.

According to WindEurope, the report is a remit from the Energy Ministers of the 10 ‘North Seas’ countries who coordinate their work on offshore wind with each other and the Commission.The report examines where 450 GW of offshore wind could be deployed most cost-effectively around Europe, bearing in mind there is only 20 GW today. 450 GW of offshore wind is part of a European Commission scenario to deliver climate neutrality by 2050.

The report concludes that 212 GW should be deployed in the North Sea, 85 GW in the Atlantic, including the Irish Sea, 83 GW in the Baltic, and 70 GW in the Mediterranean and other Southern European waters. This reflects the relative wind resources, proximity to energy demand and the location of the supply chain. The report also breaks down how would each country would deploy in an optimal scenario. The 380 GW that would deployed in Northern European waters would require less than 3% of the total space there.

“The EU says Europe needs at least 10 times as much offshore wind as we have today to meet the 2050 goal of decarbonising energy,” WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson said. “The International Energy Agency (IEA) believes offshore wind could become the no. 1 source of power generation in Europe in the early 2040s. The report said that it is do-able and affordable. But three things need to happen: (1) the offshore wind supply chain keeps growing; (2) we build the grid connections; and (3) we get the maritime spatial planning right,” he added.

“The wind industry is ready to expand the supply chain provided Governments give long-term visibility on volumes and likely revenues. The grid investments are also manageable provided Governments coordinate them. And on maritime spatial planning, we need a long-term approach with climate priorities at its heart. And more multiple use, e.g. allowing fishing in offshore wind farms,” Dickson said. “Do all this, and we can deliver the scenarios that the Commission and the IEA have set.”

The report considers how much it would cost to build these large volumes of offshore wind. It shows how maritime spatial planning is key to minimise costs, WindEurope said, adding that at least 60% of the North Seas it is not possible to build offshore wind farms today.

These “exclusion zones” exist either for environmental reasons or because space is set aside for fishing, shipping and military activity, the report said. They mean we can only build less than a quarter of the required volumes at very low cost – below €50/MWh. But with a different approach to maritime spatial planning, with climate change at its heart, we could build much more at these prices – and benefit fully from the spectacular cost reductions achieved in recent years. Multiple use, e.g. allowing certain types of fishing in offshore wind farms, would really help.

Building 450 GW offshore wind by 2050 requires Europe to install over 20 GW a year by 2030 compared to 3 GW today. The industry is gearing up for this, but it’s crucial that Governments provide visibility on volumes and revenue schemes to give long-term confidence for the necessary investments.

Governments should also anticipate this significant growth in offshore wind in their planning for both offshore and onshore grid connections, the report said, adding that least since there is a 10-year lead time on planning and building the grids needed for offshore wind. Offshore grid investments will need to rise from less than €2 billion in 2020 to up €8 billion a year by 2030.

Europe also needs to provide a regulatory framework for offshore wind farms that have grid connections to more than one country. These “hybrid” projects will enable us to pool assets and infrastructure and reduce costs.

Capital expenditure on offshore wind including grids will need to rise from around €6bn a year in 2020 to €23 billion by 2030 and thereafter up to €45 billion.


Pope condemns nuclear weapons as ‘immoral’

epaselect epa08021438 Pope Francis waves to well-wishers at the start of a holly mass at a baseball stadium in Nagasaki, southwestern Japan, 24 November 2019. The pope is on a four-day visit to Japan, the first in 38 years and only the second in history. EPA-EFE/KIMIMASA MAYAMA

The use and possession of weapons should be made “immoral” under official Catholic teaching, Pope Francis told reporters aboard the papal plane on November 26, comments that ratchet up the Vatican’s position on the nuclear proliferation issue.

The Pope also expressed concerns about the continued use of nuclear energy, saying, “An accident through the possession of nuclear technology or the folly of some leader could destroy humanity. I have a personal opinion – I wouldn’t use nuclear energy until it is totally safe to do so.”

Francis made the comments during a news conference on his way back from a week-long Papal visit to Thailand and Japan.

While in Japan, Pope Francis visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the two cities the were subjected to atomic bomb drops during the latter stages of World War II in August 1945, an event that the Pontiff classified as a “cruel act”.

Francis also commented on the political unrest and ongoing protests in Hong Kong saying he was against the extradition of the region’s residents to mainland China.

European maritime sector gets port cybersecurity guide

epa08026341 Spanish humanitarian rescue vessel 'Aita Mari' arrives with 78 rescued migrants onboard in the port of Pozzallo, Sicily island, southern Italy, 26 November 2019. The migrants, 71 men, six women and a child, will be transferred to the Pozzallo hot spot. EPA-EFE/FRANCESCO RUTA

The European Union’s Agency for Cybersecurity published on 26 November a guidance for ports to strengthen their cybersecurity.

Because of the economic importance of ports in EU trade, they must integrate cybersecurity to ensure their safety, security, compliance and commercial competitiveness.

The report is called “Good practices for Cybersecurity in the Maritime Sector – Port Security” and presents ways to tackle emerging cybersecurity threats that port stakeholders are facing due to increased digitalisation.

The guide presents an overview of stakeholders involved in port ecosystem, describes cyber-attack scenarios and lists the main challenges that port stakeholders are facing.

It also proposes security measures for port authorities, such as defining a clear governance, enforcing the technical cybersecurity basics, and enforcing detection and response capabilities at port level.

ENISA promises to continue addressing key issues and recommendations in the following years, to help strengthen the cybersecurity of the EU maritime sector.

EU, South Korea deepen defence cooperation

epa07834292 An aerial view shows bumper-to-bumper traffic on a highway near Seoul as people make their way out to regional towns to visit relatives or head to the capital city, during the Chuseok holiday in Seoul, South Korea, 11 September 2019. Chuseok is the autumn harvest celebration of the Lunar Calendar and is one of Korea's major traditional holidays, which falls on 13 September. Many Koreans take long trips to their hometowns on Chuseok to visit family and pay homage to their ancestors. EPA-EFE/KIM CHUL-SOO

The European Union and South Korea held their third security and defence dialogue on 26 November in Seoul.

Stressing the importance of their strategic partnership, both sides discussed ways to deepen defense and shared their views of regional security situations.

They highlighted their mutual interest in key issues, such as denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, and maritime security, in particular the EU NAVFOR Atalanta mission aiming to counter piracy off the coast of Somalia.

South Korea was represented by Lee Won Ik, director general of international policy at the Ministry of National Defense and the EU was represented by Pawel Herczynski, managing director for common security and defence policy and crisis response.

The security dialogue between the two sides was launched in 2015 and has been held once in two years.

Facial recognition technology sparks fundamental rights concerns

epa06566971 A technician worker from Israeli company Mantis Vision looks at his portrait made by face recognition technology during the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain, 26 February 2018. The MWC presents the latests advances in mobile technologies and will be held from 26 February to 01 March 2018. EPA-EFE/Toni Albir

The European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) published a new paper that analyses the fundamental rights implications of relying on live facial recognition technology.
The study explores the use of facial recognition technology for law enforcement and border management purposes, as several EU states are considering to use it to fight crime.

Therefore, before using this technology, the study identifies key aspects to take into consideration, that might affect people’s fundamental rights.

First, it calls for a detailed legal framework. It also stresses the need to only use the technology in exceptional cases, such as detecting missing persons, because it might spark fear. For the same reason, the paper also suggests that the technology should not be used during demonstrations.

Fundamental rights also need to be considered during the procurement of facial recognition technologies. Authorities are advised to do an assessment of the application of facial recognition technology they aim to procure and use. After the procurement, monitoring by independent supervisory bodies is proposed.

Although the accuracy of these recognition technologies is improving, the risk of errors still remains, and might violate people’s fundamental rights, the report concludes.

Europe moves step closer to building first supercomputers

epa04135059 A view of the Supercomputer 'Piz Daint' in the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre in Lugano, 21 March 2014. The Swiss National Supercomputing Center (CSCS) announced 21 March that the upgraded Cray XC30 supercomputer 'Piz Daint', in operation at CSCS since April 2013, has exceeded petaflops sustained performance in scientific production runs. At the same time 'Piz Daint' demonstrates significant improvements in the energy efficiency. This important milestone will enable researchers to study more detailed models with higher accuracy. EPA/KARL MATHIS

The European Union signed on 26 November in Strasbourg the hosting agreements, to allow the procurement process for its first supercomputers, that will support researchers, industry and businesses in developing new applications in many fields.

The hosting locations were selected in June. The centers will become operational in the second half of next year. North Macedonia was welcomed as the 30th country that joined the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking’s (EuroHPC) initiative.

“By the end of next year, eight world-class supercomputers will help European researchers and industry, wherever they are in the EU, run applications that require large amounts of computing power to make significant advances in fighting climate change, designing new medicine, developing new materials, and many other areas”, said EU Commissioner for digital economy and society, Mariya Gabriel.

The EuroHPC initiative will be jointly funded by its public members with a budget of around €1 billion. The EU’s financial contribution is €486 million. The procurement process for the acquisition, installation and maintenance of the new machines is due to launch by the end of the year.

Simplified Schengen visa regime for Kazakh citizens discussed in Nur-Sultan


NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan – Representatives of the EU Council Working Group on Eastern Europe and Central Asia (COEST) are in Kazakhstan for a two-day visit, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry said on 27 November.

During the visit, they met with the Deputy Foreign Minister Roman Vassilenko and they discussed the prospects for the development of cooperation between institutions of Kazakhstan and the EU.

“The head of the Working Group, Jutta Edthofer, praised the prospects for strengthening political, trade and economic cooperation between Kazakhstan and European countries. Thanking the European delegation for the interest in Kazakhstan, Roman Vassilenko noted that for several years the EU has maintained leadership among Kazakhstan’s trade and investment partners, occupying about 50% of the country’s total trade and being the source of almost half of the accumulated foreign direct investment in the economy of the republic,” the press release read.

During the meeting, the parties paid attention to the issue of simplifying the visa regime for citizens of Kazakhstan by the EU, removing trade barriers for the export of Kazakhstani agricultural products to the markets of the EU countries.

The EU Council Working Group on Eastern Europe and Central Asia (COEST) plays the role of a liaison between the European Commission and EU Member States, coordinates and directs the work of the EC on all aspects of cooperation with Central Asian countries, the press release read.

COEST coordinates and amends the draft bilateral documents, agendas and content of events, approves and formulates the main positions of the EU, as well as prepares draft conclusions of the EU Council on Foreign Affairs concerning the Central Asian region. COEST consists of diplomats from each of the Permanent Missions of 28 EU Member States.


Thirteen French soldiers killed in helicopter crash in Mali

epa08025956 (FILE) - A military helicopter carrying French President Emmanuel Macron (upper-L) flies over Gao during a visit to France's Barkhane counter-terrorism operation in Africa's Sahel region, northern Mali, 19 May 2017 (reissued 26 November 2019). According to recent reports, 13 French soldiers died in helicopter crash during the Barkhane counter-terrorism operation against jihadists in Mali. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON / POOL

Thirteen French soldiers were killed on 25 November in a collision between two helicopters during an operation against jihadist militants in northern Mali.

French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his “deep sadness” at the deaths, sharing his condolences for the families of the soldiers who lost their lives. The European Union also sent its “deepest condolences” to the families of the French soldiers.

“France’s commitment is an essential contribution to the EU’s efforts in the region”, said the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini.

The country’s military has been present in Mali since 2013, when it launched an intervention against Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists who had overrun the country’s north. Britain is also supporting France’s anti-terrorist Barkhane force in Mali with heavy-lift helicopters, the United States is providing intelligence and funding for the G5 Sahel force and the EU has been running a military training mission in Mali since the beginning of the operation.

The EU Commission, however, pointed out that the other countries’ logistical support seems symbolic, compared to the 41 French soldiers who have died since 2013. France last week urged other European nations to increase their action in west Africa, warning that jihadist groups threaten the continent as a whole.

Saudi Arabia arrests writers and intellectuals in latest crackdown

epa07852425 A handout photo made available by the United States Department of State (DOS) shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud during his meeting with US Secretary of State Pompeo in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, 18 September 2019 (issued 19 September 2019). Pompeo is in Jeddah to discuss the recent attacks on two Saudi oil facilities. EPA-EFE/RON PRZYSUCHA/US DEPARTMENT OF STATE HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Saudi Arabia has over the past week detained at least eight writers, bloggers and journalists, the London-based Saudi rights group, ALQST, said on 25 November.

Security officials raided homes, seizing laptops and mobile phones belonging to intellectuals, in the capital Riyadh, Jeddah, and other cities, amid a two-year crackdown on free expression in the kingdom.

Liberal activists say that the kingdom’s continued crackdown on women activists, businessmen and senior officials is an “increasing repression”. Public protests, political parties, and labor unions are banned, and protesters are arrested and labeled traitors.

The crackdown is seen as a power play of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. After his crowning, the government has become increasingly autocratic.

Saudi Arabia is still facing international criticism over last year’s murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the premises of the consulate-general of the kingdom. The Crown Prince has denounced his involvement: “But I take full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government”, he said.

Criticism of the royal family in Saudi Arabia can lead to prison.

EU, UN to assist earthquake-hit Albania as death toll reaches 25

epa08027342 Rescue teams of firemen, army and police search for survivors in the rubble of a collapsed building after an earthquake in Durres, Albania, 26 November 2019. Albania was hit by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake on 26 November 2019, the strongest recorded in decades. According to reports, at least 18 people have died and several are injured in the eartquke EPA-EFE/MALTON DIBRA

At least 25 people have died and over 600 people have been injured in a 6.4 magnitude earthquake that struck Albania on 26 November, officials said.

Search-and-rescue teams from Kosovo and Montenegro have been trying to find survivors after several buildings collapsed, burying residents in the rubble. Neighboring North Macedonia as well as Bulgaria have also offered assistance, Prime Minister Edi Rama said.

The European Union’s Civil protection Mechanism was activated at the request of the Albanian authorities. Under the Mechanism, the EU deployed 3 search-and-rescue teams from Italy, Greece and Romania. Hungary, Germany, Croatia, France, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Turkey, have also offered help through the Mechanism.

The EU expressed its “deep condolences to the people and the authorities of the country”, in a statement by its foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, as well as EU Commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management, Christos Stylianides, who reaffirmed the Union’s readiness to help during a phone call with the country’s President, Ilir Meta.

The United Nations announced that it is sending two experts from UN’s Disaster Assessment and Coordination office to the country, and expressed its readiness to provide assistance to Bosnia, where damage was recorded from a separate, magnitude-5.4 earthquake on the same day.

Albania has declared 27 November a day of mourning for the country’s earthquake victims.

Japanese consortium takes over Dutch energy company Eneco

epa08024354 Exterior of Eneco's head office, in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 25 November 2019. The energy company is taken over by a consortium of Mitsubishi Corporation and Chubu. EPA-EFE/OLAF KRAAK

A Japanese consortium have agreed to buy Dutch energy company Eneco for €4,1bn.

The Dutch privatisation means the energy company will be transferred from the city of Rotterdam, which held 32% of Eneco, to a consortium made up of Mitsubishi Corporation and Chubu.

Eneco will remain headquartered in Rotterdam and will become the European center for all Mitsubishi Corporation’s energy-related activities.

Chubu is the 3rd largest Japanese energy company with about 10.2 million retail customer contracts and focusses on non-fossil energy sources.

That is the third major Dutch energy privatisation after Nuon and Essent. Nuon was bought by Swedish state-owned company Vattenfall in 2009 and Essent to Germany’s RWE.

Future of Iran nuclear deal to be decided on December 6

epaselect epa08024558 Iranians hold pictures of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and wave national flags during a rally to show their support to the Islamic Republic system and to condemn recent violent protests following fuel price hike in the country, in Tehran, Iran, 25 November 2019. EPA-EFE/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH

The signatories to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are reviewing their commitment to the framework agreement as Tehran is gradually disengaging.

The so-called E3 plus 2 Commission is due to meet in Vienna on December 6 with officials from China, Russia, France, Germany, and the UK convening for a joint committee chaired by the EU’s External Action Service Secretary-General Helga Maria Schmid.

The meeting takes place as the Iranian government is under growing domestic pressure from hardliners and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to pull out of the landmark non-proliferation treaty.

Earlier this month, the Iranian government took additional steps to back out of the deal, which first began to unravel after the Americans withdrew over Tehran’s violations of the terms of the agreement and reimposing stiff economic sanctions.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has repeatedly expressed Washington’s frustration at Europe’s reluctance to abandon the deal. The White House has applied harsh international pressure on companies that continue to deal with Iran and has threatened to impose secondary sanctions on any company or individual who fails to comply with the current sanctions.

In retaliation for Europe’s refusal to break the US embargo, Iran has been pursuing a process of step-by-step disengagement from the agreement. The Islamic Republic has also be rocked by mass protests over hikes in utility prices. The demonstrations sparked a violent crackdown by the Revolutionary Guard, leading to the death of more than 100 protestors.

VW under fire for its factory in China’s Xinjiang province

epa05858513 A Volkswagen logo on a 'Budd.e' concept car is pictured at the CeBIT computing trade fair in Hanover, northern Germany, 19 March 2017. Reports state that more than 3.000 exhibitors from 70 countries are showing their products and solutions at the fair which expects to see about 200.000 visitors from 20 to 24 March 2017. EPA/FOCKE STRANGMANN

German car manufacturer Volkswagen has been the subject of withering criticism for continuing to maintain a large manufacturing plant in Urumqi, the capital of China’s Xinjiang region, despite widespread reports of gross human rights violations against and the forced detention of the region’s indigenous Uyghur population.

In a statement released on November 26, VW said it expects strong economic growth in the region and reiterated its commitment to a joint venture with the Chinese company SAIC.

According to a report by Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), VW operates at a loss in the region in order to secure contracts with China’s Communist Party.

Beijing has imprisoned, without trial, more than a million Muslim Uyghurs in dozens of re-education camps throughout Xinjiang.

Maltese government resignations over the Caruana Galizia case

epa08027627 The Malta Law Courts, in Valletta Malta, 25 November 2019. People demonstrate on 26 November in Valletta following the resignations of Minister Konrad Mizzi and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's Head of Staff Keith Schembri and Minister Chris Cardona suspending himself from any activities of his party (Partit Laburista) as Malta police investigations into the murder of late journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017 continue. EPA-EFE/DOMENIC AQUILINA

The government of Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat suffered three resignations on Tuesday as the investigation over the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia unfolds.

Two years following the assassination of the investigative journalist, Muscat’s chief aide, Keith Schembri, was being questioned by police on Tuesday.

Schembri offered his resignation. This was followed by the resignations of Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and Economy Minister, Chris Cardona.

All three members of the cabinet deny any wrongdoing. Political tension is rising as protestors threw eggs and coins against prime minister Muscat, shouting “Muscat must go.”

Maltese authorities must prosecute Keith Schembri for his “wide-ranging and long-running criminal activity” immediately, the family of the assassinated journalist said in a statement on Tuesday. The family also urged Europol to provide support to Maltese investigators following the money trail of a Malta-Azerbaijan money laundering network that Caruana Galizia was reporting on at the time of her assassination.

The investigation into Caruana Galizia’s assassination is picking up pace as one of the suspected middlemen in the affair, Melvin Theuma, was given immunity in return for testimony.

The arrest of businessman Yorgen Fenech accelerated the pace of the investigation. The businessman was released on bail on Tuesday and it appears he is also seeking a pardon in exchange for testimony. Fenech is said to have provided evidence against the prime minister’s signor chief of staff, Schembri.

Italian government admits no consortium is ready to take over Alitalia


Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte confirmed on Tuesday that Alitalia’s rescue is nowhere near completion.

“We do not have a market solution within reach,” Conte said on Tuesday.

For months, the government put its weight behind a consortium back by the state-owned railway group Ferrovie dello Stato (FS), motorway group Atlantia, and Delta Airlines.

Delta Airline has said it is unwilling to commit only €100 million while Atlantia has pulled out.

European Commission ready to be seated without UK nominee

epa08017689 European Parliament President David Sassoli attends the conference organized by the Church of Genoa for the path of socio-political formation of church doctrine, in Genoa, Italy, 22 November 2019. EPA-EFE/LUCA ZENNARO

The members of the EU have given the green-light to the incoming European Commission to take over on December 1 without a UK representative, a decision that will likely open the door for further legal perplexities that could arise.

They also formed an amended list of Commissioners to be part of the upcoming cabinet, with the college now being left with 28 members and 27 Commissioners-designate.

Commission President-electUrsula von der Leyen has requested from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson that he propose a British nominee by November 22. Jonhson intentionally missed the date, saying he was bound by the UK’s pre-election rules and could name a nominee before Britain holds an early general election on December 12.

The UK’s failure to appoint a Commissioner has forced Brussels to tell the British government that if it again fails to meet its obligations under EU law, the Commission may send a request to the EU Court to begin infringement proceedings.

The Parliament’s Conference of Presidents, including the President of the European Parliament David Sassoli, along with the political group leaders, formally closed the confirmation hearings on November 21.

“Over the next five years, Europe has many issues to face – from providing long-term solutions on migration and asylum to leading the world in the fight against climate change. We need a European Commission ready to act on the issues that matter to Europeans. As the direct link with EU citizens, the Parliament will continue to hold the Commission to account and ensure it delivers on its promises,” said Sassoli.

FBI report says Jews are the target of most ethnoreligious hate crimes

epa07130276 Two women hug before placing flowers at the Star of David memorials in front of the Tree of Life Synagogue two days after a mass shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, 29 October 2018. Officials report 11 people were killed by the gunman identified as Robert Bowers who has been charged with hate crimes and other federal charges EPA-EFE/JARED WICKERHAM

A recent FBI report revealed that in 2018 Jews and Jewish institutions were the main targets of crimes motivated by ethnoreligious hatred in the United States.

In its annual report on hate crime statistics, the FBI found that the total number of hate crimes decreased slightly in 2018 after three consecutive years of growth, totalling 7,120 cases. Although crimes that targeted specific religious groups were down 8% in 2018 from the year before, nearly 60% of the hate crimes in 2018 were directed against Jews and Jewish institutions.

“It is unacceptable that Jews and Jewish institutions continue to be at the centre of religion-based hate crime attacks,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, which publishes its own annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents. “We need to take concrete action to address and combat this significant problem.”

Following the report, the Anti-Defamation League called on American lawmakers and law enforcement officials to take action to address the deeply disturbing climate of racial and religious hatred that has grown in the United States since Donald J. Trump became president three years ago.

“We strongly urge Congress to immediately pass the Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer National Opposition to Hate, Assault, and Threats to Equality (NO HATE) Act. By improving hate crime training, prevention, best practices, and data collection, we can stem hate crimes nationwide,” said ADL CEO Greenblatt.

The report notes that race-related crimes were the most common type of hate crime, followed by religious hate crimes.  Almost 50% of hate racial crimes were directed against African-Americans, while religious hate crimes accounted for almost one in five (18.6%) of all hate crime cases. Sexual orientation bias accounted for 16.9% of all hate crimes.

In 2018, 24 hate crimes were committed, the highest since the FBI began tracking and reporting similar cases in 1991. The crimes included a deadly massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018, an attack that saw 11 Jews were killed by an anti-Semitic shooter.

“The fact that such a small percentage of the population has seen such a large percentage of hate crime incidents should be worrying for all of us,” said Ira Forman, a former State Department anti-Semitism envoy from 2013 to 2017 and now a senior adviser on anti-Semitism to Human Rights First.

“You see numbers like this or worse in European countries like France where hate-crimes against Jews are way out of proportion to the overall number of Jews in France,” Forman added.

Russia moves to ban sales of devices without pre-installed domestic software

epa07212101 A visitor of a Yandex store looks at the new smartphone 'Yandex Phone' launched by Russian company Yandex in Moscow, Russia, 06 December 2018. Today began the sale of the Yandex Phones in Russia, which cost 17,990 rubles (237 euros) and run Android and are designed around the company?s own apps, including a custom launcher. EPA-EFE/YURI KOCHETKOV

Russia has adopted a new law prohibiting the sale of imported “complex electronic” devices unless Russian-made software is pre-installed.

The legislation passed a final vote in the State Duma, Russia’s lower house, earlier in November and now must pass in the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house, and the receive President Vladimir Putin’s signature before it becomes a law.

The full list of affected gadgets that must have pre-installed Russian software has not yet been made public, but the Kremlin has said that it will later release a full list of devices and programmes, which are expected to include smartphones, computers and Smart TV systems, that will be subjected to the law.

Russian lawmakers claim that locally produced domestic applications are more convenient for Russian citizens as they will be pre-programmed to operate using the Cyrillic, rather than the Latin, alphabet. This, the Kremlin says, allows Russian speakers to use software that does need require additional downloads to translate some of the apps from English into Russian.

The Kremlin’s supporters say the law helps promote Russian applications in the technology market. Companies that do not comply with these recommendations will be fined up to €2,900 euros.

“When we buy electronic devices, they already have individual applications, mostly Western ones, pre-installed on them,” he said, adding, “Naturally, when a person sees them… they might think that there are no domestic alternatives available. And if alongside pre-installed applications, we will also offer Russian ones to users, then they will have a right to choose.”

Manufacturers and distributors of electrical equipment are unhappy with the new legislation as there are serious concerns that Russia’s spy agency, the FSB, might use the software to spy on users.

Europol successfully targets ISIS’ online presence

epa06846905 Executive Director of Europol Catherine De Bolle speaks speaks during his visit at Europol in The Hague, The Netherlands, 28 June 2018. Avramopoulos visits Europol, the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, to address the current and new security challenges. EPA-EFE/Koen van Weel

Europol has reported that it dealt a “severe blow” to the online presence of the Islamic State after it knocked 26,000 ISIS-linked pieces of content off the web during an operation carried out on November 21-24.

The operation came after Belgian police began investigating ISIS’ self-proclaimed official propaganda outlet, Amaq. As part of the operation, Europol police also arrested a man suspected of being one of the main distributors of the terrorist organisation’s online content.

The spokesman for the Belgian prosecutors, Eric Van Der Sypt, stated during a news conference in The Hague that ISIS online activities have disappeared from an important part of the internet”, adding that “We will see how they recover from this. It will take a huge effort for them to come back.”

Europol has in recent months been working with some the largest online platforms, including with Google, Twitter, Instagram and Telegram, to counter the spread of ISIS propaganda operations. In the case of Telegram, the bulk of the extremist material that was removed from the internet was found on the server of the cloud-based instant messaging and voice over IP service.

ISIS has suffered major setbacks since 2018 when its self-declared capital Raqqa, in eastern Syria, was recaptured by US-backed Kurdish forces in October 2017. Since then, ISIS’s so-called caliphate has collapsed after its forces were defeated on the battlefield by an American-led Western coalition and the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish force that has been at the forefront of the fight against the Islamic State since ISIS first emerged in mid-2014.

The terrorist group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed on October 26 during a raid on his hideout near the Syrian-Turkish border by American special forces. Despite the setbacks, Western intelligence agencies – including the CIA, MI6, and Germany’s BND – say that ISIS has begun to reconstitute, particularly after Turkey and its Islamist allies in the Free Syrian Army launched an invasion of northern Syria as part of Ankara’s campaign to destroy the Syrian Democratic Forces and occupy areas that the Kurds liberated from ISIS.

The Islamic State’s digital footprint has become more robust since the fall of Raqqa and the terrorist group is actively seeking to improve its technical sophistication in order to spread its online presence.





EU body launches online platform for defence-related projects

epa07371803 A tug boat turns the frigate F213 'Augsburg' of the German Navy (Bundesmarine) as it returns from the EUNAVFOR MED (European Union Naval Force ? Mediterranean) Operation SOPHIA to its home port Wilhelmshaven, northern Germany, 15 February 2019. After five month in the Mediterranean Sea, the almost 30 years old vessel finishes its last official mission before being decommissioned in late 2019. EPA-EFE/FOCKE STRANGMANN

The European Defence Agency launched on 25 November “B2B Platform”, its new online tool which aims to facilitate cross-border partnerships in the European defence industry by making it easier to search for partners for defence-related projects.

The user-friendly platform is a result of the new EU defence initiatives. It enables all registered stakeholders to post their specific demands, and to reply to requests, publicly or anonymously.

In particular, applicants are asked to introduce different types of information regarding their project, as well as the required characteristics of potential partners. After submission, the request will be validated by an EDA administrator, published on the Platform and notified to the participants.

The platform is in line with one of EDA’s core goals, to increase industry engagement in defence. It is accessible on the agency’s website.