Category Archives: European Union

Eurodrones: Too politically loaded a venture for Europe?

Euractiv reports:

A Taranis drone prepares for takeoff at an airfield in England. [© 2014 BAE Systems]‘[...] The Transnational Institute, a research body in Amsterdam, and the London-based advocacy group Statewatch, estimate that the EU has invested at least €300 million in drone research and that the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the European Space Agency have both carried out drone work that could have military uses that skirt European funding rules. “EU drone policy is being fashioned through entirely technocratic processes that remain largely invisible to the parliaments and peoples of Europe,” the groups said a joint report – Eurodrones Inc., published in February. More broadly, there are concerns about interference with regulator air traffic and the potential for mistakes made by pilots who do not have the benefit of being on-site.

Still, momentum is growing for multinational cooperation on developing an EU long-range drone capability, a market now dominated by the United States and Israel. European officials publicly lamented the lack of surveillance drones during missions in Mali and Central Africa Republic, where French-led forces intervened in increasingly gruesome civil conflicts, as well is in NATO’s Operation Unified Protector, in Libya. Eurodrones are also seen as bolstering the EU’s ability to monitor illegal migration across remote borders and the Mediterranean, or supplementing overstretched search, rescue and humanitarian operations within Europe and in projecting soft power to foreign countries.’

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Berlusconi’s Acquittal: Italy’s Still Bunga-Bunga Country

Tom Gill writes for CounterPunch:

‘[...] Over the last two decades – a period during which he has dominated Italian politics -  Berlusconi has featured in at least 20 major court cases in which he has been accused, but, nearly always not convicted, of corruption, bribery, fraud, false book-keeping, money laundering, tax evasion and other crimes. This, thanks in no small way to dozens of ‘ad personam’ laws and the best lawyers his billions can buy. The only charges that have stuck are for a £300 million tax fraud charge, for which he’s doing a few hours of community service in a facility for Alzheimer’s patients, conveniently located near Milan.

The political repercussions of all this are rosy for Berlusconi. As leader of a major (if no longer the leading) party, he could yet mount a comeback. And Silvio knows he can count on a little help from his friends. In particular, Democrat leader and PM Matteo Renzi, who has publicly shown nothing but the utmost respect for the tax convict (for which Berlusconi’s TV channels and newspapers have amply rewarded Renzi with good press). Most importantly Renzi needs the media mogul’s support to push through his neo-liberal ‘reform’ process.

Berlusconi’s political death certificate has been signed by journalists, political opponents and commentators many times, most recently when he was ousted in 2011 for getting on the wrong side of the ‘markets’, and then when he was booted out of Senate in November, following his definitive tax fraud conviction. It is a fair bet that 77-year old Berlusconi will only really be ‘dead’ when he’s six feet under.’

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Greece tops eurozone poverty rate

Enet reports:

‘Greece ranks first in the eurozone and fourth among the 28 members of the European Union for the percentage of its citizens living on or below the poverty line, according to a new report. The study, conducted by the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE), found that just over a third (34.6%) of Greeks – some 3,795,100 individuals – were living on less than 60% of the national median income in 2013.

This percentage has risen steadily since 2010, when the country began implementing austerity measures, increasing from 27.6% in 2010 to 27.7% the following year, 31% in 2012 and 34.6% in 2013. The publication of the study, which is based on Hellenic Statistical Authority (Elstat) data, coincided with the 40th anniversary of the effective ending of military rule in 1974.’

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Gaspipe Diplomacy: How Ukraine Set Off a New U.S.-Russian Energy Fight

Sylvia Todorova writes for WhoWhatWhy:

South Stream pipeline’s planned route through the heart of Europe‘Now that all eyes are on Ukraine and the potential of a bigger war looms, there’s never been a more important time to understand what is at stake. The real reasons surrounding a conflict are often buried under the headlines and rhetoric. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that, behind the scenes, oil and natural gas are driving a big piece of the U.S. response to Russian involvement in Ukraine. If you want to understand where the rubber meets the geopolitical road in the Ukraine war, you need to learn about the 1,480-mile South Stream natural gas pipeline.

The pipeline is core to the larger battle being fought over Europe between Moscow and Washington. It may even have been a motivation behind Russia’s annexation of Crimea. And if there’s a crack in the unified front between the U.S. and Europe over Russia’s role in Ukraine, South Stream is it. Why does South Stream matter? It’s a $21.6 billion project to connect Russia’s gas reserves—the world’s largest—to Europe’s markets.  Europe relies on Russia for about 30 percent of its natural gas. Any delays in finishing the pipeline—scheduled for completion in 2018—can only help Russia’s competitors in the international energy business.  And one player gearing up to challenge Russia in the European energy market is the United States.

This year, the United States became the largest producer of natural gas and oil hydrocarbons in the world, surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia. There’s solid evidence that the U.S. is seeking both commercial advantage and political influence by gaining a foothold in Europe’s oil and gas markets. The evidence comes, in part, from the targets the Obama administration has chosen to punish for Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula. All of this raises the question of how much the confrontation in the Ukraine is about who gets to sell natural gas (and later oil) to one of the world’s biggest energy consumers: Europe.’

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General Dempsey: We’re Pulling Out Our Cold War Military Plans Over Ukraine

Jon Queally writes for Common Dreams:

‘Hours after the U.S. State Department on Thursday claimed (though failed to describe) new evidence that Russia’s military was both increasing the flow of arms to rebel fighters in eastern Ukraine and firing artillery at Ukrainian Army positions across its border, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey elevated the  rhetoric against Russian President Vladimir Putin and directly invoked the idea that a new Cold War-like posture is now being taken by the U.S. military.

Speaking from the Aspen Security Forum, a defense industry conference in Colorado, Dempsey said Pentagon planners are now looking at military options “we haven’t had to look at for 20 years” and warned that Putin—who he characterized as escalating the crisis inside Ukraine—“may actually light a fire” he cannot control. And not just in Ukraine or eastern Europe, Dempsey said, but globally.

Drawing a dramatic historic comparison, Dempsey equated Putin’s alleged involvement in eastern Ukraine to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Poland in 1939: “It does change the situation. You’ve got a Russian government that has made a conscious decision to use its military force inside another sovereign nation to achieve its objectives. It’s the first time since 1939 or so that that’s been the case,” Dempsey said. “They clearly are on a path to assert themselves differently not just in Eastern Europe, but Europe in the main, and towards the United States.”’

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Obama on the new world (dis)order

Editor’s Note: Many people, especially within the conspiracy community, get excited whenever the term ‘new world order‘ is uttered by politicians. The ‘new world order’ often spoken of by U.S. leaders over the past 25-30 years, starting with George H.W. Bush at the end of the Cold War, refers to an American led global order. In recently years there has been a challenge to this American led system through the growth of the BRICS countries which has weakened U.S. global military and financial power. It is the growth of Russia and China in particular that TTIP and TPP are designed to stifle economically. You also have the Asia Pivot (aimed at China) and American/NATO involvement in Ukraine (aimed at Russia) which come into it on the side of foreign policy. It’s all essentially one big game of chess that has been going on for many years now.

Ben White reports for Politico:

‘President Obama at a fundraiser last night outside Seattle: “People are anxious. Now, some of that has to do with some big challenges overseas. I am very proud that we have ended one war, and by the end of this year we will have ended both wars that I inherited … But whether people see what’s happening in Ukraine, and Russia’s aggression towards its neighbors in the manner in which it’s financing and arming separatists; to what’s happened in Syria … to the failure in Iraq for Sunni and Shia and Kurd to compromise … to what’s happening in Israel and Gaza” …

“Part of people’s concern is just the sense that around the world the old order isn’t holding and we’re not quite yet to where we need to be in terms of a new order that’s based on a different set of principles, that’s based on a sense of common humanity, that’s based on economies that work for all people. … But here in the United States, what people are also concerned about is the fact that although the economy has done well in the aggregate, for the average person it feels as if incomes, wages just haven’t gone up; that people, no matter how hard they work, they feel stuck.”’

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Bulgaria’s Prime Minister resigns amid banking crisis

Sean Carney reports for The Wall Street Journal:

‘Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski late Wednesday submitted his resignation to parliament, a move that will lead to his entire cabinet stepping down after a tumultuous year marked by public protests, a banking crisis and confrontations with the European Union. The resignation raises questions about the fate of several important projects.

Bulgaria’s single-chamber parliament needs to approve the resignation for it to become valid, and the vote is likely to come Friday, according to reports by Bulgarian media which couldn’t be verified. This would set the stage for President Rosen Plevneliev to appoint a caretaker cabinet in early August that will lead the country to early elections already slated for the first weekend in October.

Mr. Oresharski’s cabinet had been in office for only 421 days of the four-year term, but faced strong public opposition due to controversial personnel appointments at the start of its time in office that led to nationwide protests and calls for the cabinet to step down. The resignation leaves several key issues unresolved.’

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European Court of Human Rights Holds Poland Responsible for Allowing CIA Torture & Rendition

Kevin Gosztola writes for Firedoglake:

‘The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Poland had violated the United Nations Convention Against Torture when it allowed the CIA to torture and abuse prisoners on its territory. It also ruled that the country had violated the Convention by allowing the CIA to transfer prisoners, even though they would likely be subject to undisclosed detention. And the court ruled that Poland had violated the Convention by transferring prisoners to a country where they had a real risk of facing a “flagrant denial of justice.”

The complaints of violations of the torture convention came from Abu Zubaydah [PDF] and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri [PDF]. Poland was ordered to pay 130,000 euros to Zubaydah and $100,000 to Nashiri for “enabling US authorities” to subject the two men to torture and ill-treatment. ECHR also sought to hold the country accountable for its “failure to carry out an effective investigation,” a violation of the torture convention as well. The Polish government has not decided whether it would like to appeal. Throughout the ECHR proceedings, the government consistently refused to constructively participate and provide information that would help the court make a fair ruling.’

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General Breedlove calls for a retooling of NATO’s Response Force

Steven Beardsley reports for Stars & Stripes:

breedlove 722‘[...] The general also used the news conference, attended mostly by Italian journalists, to underline the need for changes to NATO posture during the alliance’s summit in September. Breedlove said Russian actions in Ukraine require a retooling of the NATO Response Force — a military unit combined from member nation forces stationed across Europe — as well as the creation of new headquarters focused on Article 5 military response in Europe’s north and south. Article 5 requires NATO members to support one another in case of attack. He also said that NATO needs to position resources forward on its eastern flank in response to the concerns of nations close to Ukraine.

“Pre-positioned supplies, pre-positioned capabilities and a basing area ready to rapidly accept follow-on forces,” he said. “And how we man that in a rotational or nonpermanent basis is what we’re looking at now to propose in NATO and we will be looking at that with the (North Atlantic Council).” Poland, in particular, has argued for forward supplies and permanent bases to be moved to eastern member states, a measure opposed especially by Germany, which claims a 1997 agreement between Russia and NATO prohibits such a shift. Poland argues the agreement, known as the Founding Act, is no longer valid after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in the spring. Italy, like Germany and France, has balked at harsh measures toward Russia favored by countries like Poland.’

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Is Angela Merkel Angling for the Top Spot at the United Nations?

Adam Chandler writes for The Wire:

Photo Gallery: Merkel's Approaching End?

‘According to a report, Angela Merkel may be considering stepping down from the German chancellorship to pursue the European Council presidency or to helm the United Nations. Both positions will be open in 2017 and Merkel has reportedly signaled that she doesn’t wish to serve out her entire term, which ends in 2017.’

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Pepe Escobar: A chessboard drenched in blood

Pepe Escobar writes for the Asia Times:

‘ [...] The Big Picture spells out the Empire of Chaos elites as extremely uneasy. Take Dr Zbigniew “The Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski, who as a former foreign policy mentor has the ears of the increasingly dejected White House paperboy. Dr Zbig was on CNN this Sunday challenging Europe’s leaders to “stand up to Putin”. He wonders if “Europe wants to become a satellite” and worries about “a moment of decisive significance for the future of the system – of the world system”.

And it’s all Putin’s fault, of course: “We’re not starting the Cold War. He [Putin] has started it. But he has gotten himself into a horrendous jam. I strongly suspect that a lot of people in Russia, even not far away from him who are worried that Russia’s status in the world is dramatically being undermined, that Russia’s economically beginning to fail, that Russia’s threatened by the prospect of becoming a satellite to China, that Russia’s becoming self-isolated and discredited.”

Obviously Dr Zbig is blissfully unaware of the finer points of the Russia-China strategic partnership, as well as their concerted voice inside the BRICS, the G-20 and myriad other mechanisms. His trademark Russophobia in the end always gets the better of him. And to think that in his latest book, Strategic Vision (2012), Dr Zbig was in favor of an enlarged “West” annexing Turkey and Russia, with the Empire of Chaos posing as “promoter” and “guarantor” of broader unity in the West, and a “balancer” and “conciliator” between the major powers in the East. A quick look at the record since 2012 – Libya, Syria, Ukraine, encirclement of China – reveals the Empire of Chaos only as fomenter of, what else, chaos.

Now compare a fearful Dr Zbig with Immanuel Wallerstein – who was a huge influence in my 2007 warped geopolitical travel book Globalistan. In this piece (in Spanish) Wallerstein argues that the Empire of Chaos simply can’t accept its geopolitical decadence – and that’s why it has become so dangerous. Restoring its hegemony in the world-system has become the supreme obsession; and that’s where the whole “policy” that is an essential background to the MH17 tragedy reveals Ukraine as the definitive do or die battleground.

In Europe, everything hinges on Germany. Especially after the National Security Agency scandal and its ramifications, the key debate raging in Berlin is how to position itself geopolitically bypassing the US. And the answer, as pressed by large swathes of German big business, lies in a strategic partnership with Russia.’

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Jean-Claude Juncker’s real scandal is his tax-haven homeland of Luxembourg

Nick Cohen writes for the Guardian:

Jean-Claude Juncker‘[...] Juncker has dedicated his career to ensuring that society becomes less fair; that wealthy institutions and individuals can avoid the taxes little people and small businesses must pay. “Everywhere do I perceive a certain conspiracy of rich men seeking their own advantage,” wrote Sir Thomas More in 1516. He might have been describing Mr Juncker.

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg’s Ruritanian title carries a whiff of archaic glamour. But it is nothing more than a piratical state. The only difference between pirates old and new is that instead of using muskets and cannons to seize other people’s money, Luxembourg uses accountants.’

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Pentagon still claiming Russian troops massing near Ukrainian border

Philip Ewing reports for Politico:

3453453‘[...] There are about 10,000 to 12,000 regular Russian combat troops inside their border with Ukraine, Kirby told reporters at a Pentagon briefing, an increase from a few weeks ago but a smaller force than the roughly 40,000 that were there earlier in the standoff.

Press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby also confirmed that defense officials have long observed movements of weapons and advisers from Russia to pro-Russian separatists inside Ukraine, although he said the Pentagon has not specifically seen a heavy, tracked surface-to-air missile launcher like the one believed to have shot down the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777.’

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MH17: Tony Blair calls for EU defence plan to stand up to Putin

Matthew Holehouse reports for The Telegraph:

‘The EU urgently needs a common defence policy in order to stand up to Russian aggression “on its doorstep”, Tony Blair said today. Europe is “powerless” without the help of the United States in the face of crises threatening the region because its militaries do not co-operate, Mr Blair said. In an apparent endorsement of David Cameron’s approach, he urged European leaders to match the wide-ranging sanctions imposed on Russian companies by the United States, saying the West needs to have a shared position.

…Mr Blair said: “There is such an urgent need today for Europe to have a strong foreign policy and indeed defence policy. If you look at any of the crises that are happening, whether it’s in Syria on the doorstep of Europe, Libya on the doorstep of Europe, Ukraine on the doorstep of Europe, we are completely dependent on the United States. I’m a great fan of the US and it’s important we remain strong allies of the US, but it’s important we develop the capability to be able to handle the problems on our own doorstep.”‘

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Legislating the Way to World War 3? The U.S. Senate’s “Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014″

Eric Draitser writes for New Eastern Outlook:

234234‘The US Congress is doing its part to escalate the tensions with Russia over Ukraine and a host of other issues. In so doing, the legislative and executive branches of the US Government work hand in glove to further the US-NATO agenda in Eastern Europe. The bill, propagandistically titled the “Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014,” (S.2277) was proposed by right wing Republican Senator Bob Corker, and has been cosponsored by a significant number of prominent Republicans in the Senate. While Democrats have yet to cosponsor the bill, they are almost without exception behind President Obama and his aggressive policy towards Russia and Ukraine. Indeed, this bill, though obviously partisan in its political character, represents the consensus within the US political establishment – a consensus that presumes US aggression in Eastern Europe to be defensive in the face of Putin’s “expansionism” and “imperial ambitions.”

It goes without saying that such a distorted world-view is par for the course in Washington, where upside-down logic is the predominant way of thinking about the world. However, the proposed legislation is less a response to perceived aggression from Moscow, and more of an attempt to capitalize on the crisis in Ukraine, using it as a convenient pretext for the expansion of NATO, continued militarization of Eastern Europe, promotion of corporate oil and gas interests, and much more. Essentially, the bill provides a blueprint for US intentions in Ukraine and Eastern Europe for the coming years. Moreover, it reflects the greatest concern of all for Washington and its NATO allies: the loss of hegemony in the post-Soviet space. Seen in this way, S.2277 is not truly about punitive measures to punish Russia for its “aggression,” but rather is about pre-emptively attacking Russia politically and economically, while building up to a possible military confrontation. Needless to say, such dangerous and destabilizing actions are a reflection of the moral bankruptcy, not to mention utter insanity, of the US political establishment and the ruling class it serves.’

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How the Clintons Set the U.S. on the Dangerous Path of Confronting Russia

John V Walsh writes for Unz Review:

shutterstock_179155100

‘The most damning indictment yet of the Clintons on the world stage comes in the book Superpower Illusions by former Ambassador to the USSR, Jack Matlock. The book came out way back in 2009, but it is worth examining again as we confront the possibility of a return to Clintonism. And Matlock is a man who knows whereof he speaks.

[...] Being a diplomat, Mattlock speaks diplomatically of the colossal, damaging shift in U.S.-Russia relations under the Clintons who reversed the approach of Reagan and Bush I. He gets to the point right away in the preface to Superpower Illusions:

“The Clinton administration’s decision to expand NATO to the East rather than draw Russia into a cooperative arrangement to ensure European security undermined the prospects of democracy in Russia, made it more difficult to keep peace in the Balkans and slowed the process of nuclear disarmament started by Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev.”’

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Are bioethicists tools of policy technocrats?

Michael Cook writes for BioEdge:

‘Although bioethicists are believed to provide fearless independent advice, challenging policy-makers to make the “right” decisions, a Swiss expert in bureaucracies contends that  this is often not the case. Writing in the journal Governance, Annabelle Littoz-Monnet, of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, in Geneva, contends that bureaucrats use ethical experts to get their own way when they have to deal with controversies like GM foods or embryonic stem cell research.’

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Wall Street Buys NATO Microwave Towers in Traders’ Speed-of-Light Quest

Jesse Westbrook and Sam Mamudi reports for Bloomberg:

‘An 800-foot microwave tower in a Belgian cow pasture transmitted messages for the U.S. armed forces in 1983 when suicide bombers killed hundreds of military personnel at Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Now it’s being used by high-frequency traders.

Jump Trading LLC, a Chicago-based company founded by former pit traders, bought the tower last year through a U.K. affiliate called Toren Navo Aansluiting Ltd., according to documents filed in the U.K. and Belgium. The English translation of the name: “NATO connection tower.”

Trade orders that were once executed using shouts and hand signals now travel across continents with a swiftness that can approach the speed of light. Fiber-optic cable used to be the choice of electronic trading firms such as Jump that are locked in a contest to be the fastest. Now they’re adopting microwave technology, which can convey data in nearly half the time, to squeeze profit from fleeting and often tiny price discrepancies in assets traded around the world.’

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US and EU boost sanctions on Russia

From BBC News:

The US and EU have bolstered sanctions against Russia over its alleged support for separatists fighting in Ukraine. The US has targeted major banks including Gazprombank, defence firms and energy companies including Rosneft.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted as saying sanctions would take US-Russia relations to a “dead end”. Saying it would give sanction details by the end of July, the EU said it would ask its EIB investment bank no longer to fund Russian projects.

The new round of US sanctions announced by the US treasury significantly expands previous penalties by Washington, which were limited to individuals in Russia and Ukraine and a number of companies.’

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France to Shift Mali Troops to Battle Regional Terrorism

From Reuters:

France said Sunday that it was reorganizing its forces in Mali and surrounding countries into a single regional body focused on battling terrorists in northwestern Africa. The announcement came just days before the start of peace talks to end Mali’s separatist rebellions.

“It’s a regional operation to ensure the security of the area and prevent jihadist groups from emerging again,” the French defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said on Europe 1 radio. France has 1,700 troops in Mali, but under the new plan about 3,000 French soldiers, based in Mali, Chad and Niger, will become part of a regional counterterrorism operation.’

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Cypriots File War Crimes Complaint Against Turkey

From the AP:

‘A group of Cypriots on Monday filed a war crimes complaint against Turkey at the International Criminal Court over what they say is its policy of settling Cyprus’ breakaway north with mainland Turks.

Cyprus split into a Turkish-speaking north and an internationally recognized Greek-speaking south in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup that aimed to unite the island with Greece. A Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence is recognized only by Turkey, which maintains 35,000 troops there.’

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German Police Fired 85 Bullets in One Year, U.S. Police Use 90 on 1 Person

 

Ikea funds went to Romanian secret police in communist era

Matei Rosca reports for the Guardian:

Romania‘s brutal communist-era secret police received covert six-figure payments from Ikea as part of the Swedish group’s deals with a local furniture manufacturer in the 1980s, according to documents obtained by the Guardian.

Recently declassified files at the National College for Studying the Securitate Archives (CNSAS) in Bucharest suggest that the furniture firm agreed to be overcharged for products made in Romania. Some of the overpayments were deposited in an account controlled by the Securitate, the secret police agency.

The documents suggest Ikea was complicit in the arrangement. Ikea denies complicity, but has launched an internal investigation into the matter. It says it was unaware of the Securitate’s involvement in its commercial operations.’

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BNP Paribas Fine Shows Financial Crime Still Pays Big Time: Interview with Bill Black

German intelligence employee arrested on suspicion of spying for US on Bundestag NSA committee

DW reports:

NSA-Untersuchungsausschuss Sitzung vom 22.05.2014‘German media said on Friday that an employee of the country’s foreign intelligence agency (BND) was being held in police custody under the suspicion of espionage. The information was reported by public broadcasters NDR, WDR and the news daily Süddeutsche Zeitung. According to initial reports, authorities apprehended a 31-year-old member of the BND on Wednesday. Germany’s Federal Prosecutor confirmed the following day that he had been arrested on the “strong suspicion” of spying activities.

During questioning, the suspect reportedly told investigators that he had gathered information on an investigative committee from Germany’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag. The panel is conducting an inquiry into NSA surveillance on German officials and citizens. A spokesperson for the Federal Prosecutor’s office declined to provide further details about the case, according to news agency AFP. German-US relations have been on the rocks since revelations of mass surveillance not only on German citizens, but also on Chancellor Angela Merkel and other politicians made headlines last year.’

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Police ‘lose explosives’ in French airport exercise

From The Local:

Police 'lose explosives' in French airport exercise‘Police in the southern city of Marseille have spent a week trying to find some explosives that they lost in the cargo area of Marseille airport.

According to Europe1 radio, the material was hidden during an exercise to train police dogs to find explosives. The only problem is officers forgot where they had placed it and it seems the dogs had not been sufficiently trained to be able track down the scent.

According to a preliminary inquiry “there was a negligent supervision” of the exercise.’

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France’s burqa ban upheld by European human rights court

Kim Willsher reports for the Guardian:

A woman wearing a burqa in Paris, France‘Judges at the European court of human rights (ECHR) have upheld France’s burqa ban, accepting Paris’s argument that it encouraged citizens to “live together”. The law, introduced in 2010, makes it illegal for anyone to cover their face in a public place. While it also covers balaclavas and hoods, the ban has been criticised as targeting Muslim women.

The case was brought by an unnamed 24-year-old French citizen of Pakistani origin, who wears both the burqa, covering her entire head and body, and the niqab, leaving only her eyes uncovered. She was represented by solicitors from Birmingham in the UK, who claimed the outlawing of the full-face veil was contrary to six articles of the European convention. They argued it was “inhumane and degrading, against the right of respect for family and private life, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of speech and discriminatory”.’

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Spanish princess Cristina de Borbon charged with money laundering and fraud

Maria Tadeo reports for The Independent:

Spain‘Spanish princess Cristina de Borbon has been charged with fraud and money laundering as part of a major corruption investigation that has tarnished the royal family’s reputation. On Wednesday, a Palma de Mallorca court formalised the charges against the princess following a two-year long investigation into her husband Inaki Urdangarin’s business dealings.

[...] The couple could now be put on trial just days after her brother, Felipe, was crowned King of Spain after Juan Carlos announced he would abdicate in favour on his son on 2 June following a series of scandals, including an expensive elephant hunting trip that infuriated many Spaniards facing mass unemployment. Princess Cristina did not attend the ceremony last week and reports suggest the relationship between the two is almost non-existent as Felipe seeks to distance himself from the scandal. Her husband has been barred from attending public events.’

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Nicolas Sarkozy arrested over ‘influence peddling’

From The Irish Times:

‘Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was held today for questioning over suspicions that a network of informers kept him abreast of a separate inquiry into alleged irregularities in his 2007 election campaign, a legal source said. It was the first time a former head of state had been held for questioning in modern French history. The conservative politician denies wrongdoing in a string of investigations which could derail his hopes of a come-back after his 2012 presidential election defeat by Francois Hollande.

[...] The former leader is the focus of an investigation launched in February into whether he sought to use his influence to get information about a separate inquiry into allegations that late Libyan leader Muammar Gadafy funded his 2007 election campaign. Investigators suspect Mr Sarkozy and his lawyer kept tabs on the case by using a network of well-connected informants, which only came to light following phone taps. Mr Sarkozy has likened the magistrates behind the phone-tapping to the “Stasi” police of former Communist East Germany.’

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Putin to West: Stop turning world into “global barracks”, dictating rules to others