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June 8, 2016

EU divided over Russia sanctions

EU divided over Russia sanctions – Wikinews, the free news source

EU divided over Russia sanctions

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

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Greece, Italy, Germany, Finland and Brussels are reported to be in favour of relaxing the trade sanctions imposed against Russia, following its invasion of Ukraine in 2014.

Ahead of a NATO summit in July[1], which will discuss furthering the sanctions, Russia has sought to strengthen its diplomatic ties with EU nations involved in the summit, which it hopes will lead to a relaxation of the sanctions.

The sanctions restrict EU investment in Russian banks and energy firms, and the import and export of Russian military equipment.[2]

While EU relations with Russia appear to be warming, the U.S. has dispatched envoys to the EU, urging its member states to extend the sanctions. Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, told a Senate Relations Committee that “the largest piece of leverage that we have on Russia is the sustainment over two years of deep and comprehensive sanctions across the U.S. and EU countries… So again this is why we are advocating – because Minsk is not being implemented – that the sanctions have to be rolled over again.”[3]

Russian opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza also recommended that the committee extend the sanctions to other Russian politicians and journalists, who he claims are buying property and educating their children in the West.

“The most effective way and frankly the most principled way… to deal with those human rights abusers is to place them on that sanctions list,” he said.[4]

The EU has suspended travel and frozen the assets of 149 Russian nationals[5], while the U.S. has imposed similar sanctions on 39 individuals.[6]

Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has voiced strong opposition to the sanctions, telling reporters at a press-conference in May that, “We have repeatedly said that the vicious circle of militarisation, of Cold War rhetoric and of sanctions is not productive. The solution is dialogue.”[7]

Recent comments by German senior ministers reflect a softening of the German Chancellery’s previously hard-line stance on Russian sanctions, with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmier saying that, “My approach has aways been that sanctions are not an end in themselves. When progress is made on the implementation of the Minsk Protocol, we can also talk then about easing sanctions.”[8]

The Russian sanctions will be a key item on the NATO summit’s agenda, to be held in Warsaw on July 8-9.[9]



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May 26, 2016

Belgium officials announce arrests of four new terror suspects

Filed under: Belgium,Brussels,Crime and law,Disputed,Europe,Terrorism alerts — admin @ 5:00 am

Belgium officials announce arrests of four new terror suspects

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

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Belgium officials have released a statement today announcing they have put a stop to a possible terrorist attack, arresting four individuals in Antwerp who were suspected of attempting to recruit individuals for ISIS.

A statement released by officials claims that while the arrested individuals were suspected of being involved in future possible attacks, they were not involved in Belgium’s previous terrorist attacks, specifically the two suicide bombings in March at Brussels airport and a metro station which killed 32 people.

An investigating judged ordered the arrests of two of the suspects but one was later released with an electronic bracelet, while the remaining two were permitted to be released under strict conditions.

These new reports indicate Belgium continues to deal with high terror threats, with the country recently changing their terror threat level in March from four to a three. This change was made just two days after the two suicide bombings; with government officials claiming attacks were now less imminent.

However, previous reports which surfaced in April with Belgium officials stating citizens needed to remain vigilant, with attacks still being possible despite arrests continuing to be made.



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March 22, 2016

Explosions at Brussels airport and subway systems

Explosions at Brussels airport and subway systems

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

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At least 26 people, according to Belgian officials, have been killed and many more have been injured today following attacks on transport infrastructure in Brussels, the capital of Belgium. Authorities have stated one of the explosions, at approximately 08:00 (Central European Time, UTC+1) in the check-in area at Brussels Airport, was likely conducted by a suicide bomber. There was a subsequent attack at the Maelbeek/Maalbeek metro station, very close to the offices of the European Commission and the Council of the European Union.

Locations of the attacks in Brussels.
Image: Rauletemunoz.

Passengers at the metro station were forced to walk along tracks to escape the blast. The Brussels metro system has been shut down.

Jef Versele, a business traveller intending to fly to Rome, witnessed the events at the airport. In remarks to NBC News, he said, “There was dust everywhere, glass everywhere there was chaos. There were people on the floor everywhere. The roofing came down. It was quite a mess. […] A lot of people were in panic. I saw a lot of blood, a lot of people were injured. People were crying, on the floor, covered by parts of the roofing. I saw a lot of leg injuries, a lot of people couldn’t move anymore. There were quite a lot of people injured. In the departure hall — you saw people storming out, it was like run for your life.”

File photograph of Maelbeek/Maalbeek metro station
Image: bsubway.net.

All flights to Brussels Airport have been diverted and the airport has been shut down. Eurostar has stopped the international train service from London and the train company Thalys have shut down their entire network.

Jan Jambon, the Belgian interior minister, said the country’s alert level had been at maximum following the capture in Brussels of Salah Abdeslam, who is alleged to have been involved in the attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015.

Charles Michel, Belgium’s Prime Minister, described the attacks as “blind, violent and cowardly” and a “dark moment for our country”.

Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said: “These attacks mark another low by the terrorists in the service of hatred and violence”

The French President, François Hollande, has held a cabinet meeting to discuss security. After the meeting, Hollande said “terrorists struck Brussels but it was Europe that was targeted”. The French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, said: “we are at war. We have been subjected for the last few months in Europe to acts of war.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron has convened a COBRA meeting to discuss Britain’s response. He said he was “shocked and concerned by the events in Brussels” and pledged Britain would do “everything we can to help”. U.S. President Barack Obama has been briefed on the attack during his trip in Cuba. The U.S. Embassy in Brussels has advised U.S. citizens in Belgium to not use public transport and to stay where they are.



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November 24, 2015

Suspects detained in Belgium raids

Suspects detained in Belgium raids – Wikinews, the free news source

Suspects detained in Belgium raids

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

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Authorities in Belgium said police on Sunday and yesterday arrested 21 people suspected of connections with terrorism following more than twenty raids on Sunday evening and further searches yesterday in Belgium’s capital Brussels and Belgian cities Charleroi and Liège. However, Salah Abdeslam, suspected of being part of the attacks in Paris on November 13, was not found.

The aftermath of the attacks in Paris on November 13.
Image: Maya-Anaïs Yataghène.

Police did not discover any guns or explosives in the raids, and Brussels remained in lockdown, with the maximum terror alert for the city. Prime Minister of Belgium Charles Michel said any possible attacks could involve “several individuals striking simultaneously in several places.”

In response to the possibility of an attack, the Brussels Metro remained closed yesterday, schools and universities were also closed and police and soldiers patrolled the streets of Belgium’s capital city. The search also continued for Salah Abdeslam in Belgium. During a television interview, Abdeslam’s brother, Mohammed Abdeslam, encouraged Salah to surrender to the police.

Authorities planned to review of security yesterday to assess the level of security required in Brussels. Prime Minister Michel said he wants Brussels to return to normal: “we are doing everything we can to return to normality as soon as possible”.



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January 12, 2015

Millions march in France and around the world in support of Charlie Hebdo

Millions march in France and around the world in support of Charlie Hebdo

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Monday, January 12, 2015

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Marchers in Paris.
Image: Yann Caradec.

Following the shootings at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, millions of people turned out yesterday for marches in Paris, in cities across France, and around the world. Reported estimates of between 1.5 and 2 million people rallied in Paris, and the French interior ministry estimated 3.7 million or more rallied across France.

44 world leaders attended the Paris march including French President François Hollande; German Chancellor Angela Merkel; British Prime Minister David Cameron; Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy; Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi; the President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority; King Abdullah II and Queen Rania of Jordan; Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu; the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov; the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban; and the President of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba.

US Ambassador to France Jane D. Hartley attended. White House Spokesman Josh Earnest responded to criticism for not sending a higher level representative on behalf of the United States: “It is fair to say we should have sent someone with a higher profile.” Earnest said the rally had been planned on Friday and President Obama attending the rally on such short notice presented “significant security challenges”. Secretary of State John Kerry said he already had a prior engagement in India.

Charlie Hebdo has previously published cartoons featuring the Islamic prophet Muhammed. These include original depictions and reprints of controversial cartoons originally by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Some of these cartoons were on display at the marches.

Marche Charlie Hebdo Paris 07.jpg

Paris: flowers and tributes to the victims of the shooting.
Image: Guerric Poncet.

6 Marche républicaine 11 janvier 2015 Paris - Le crayon comme pancarte AB P1340202.jpg

Paris march: a protester holding up two colouring pencils, in solidarity with journalists and cartoonists killed in the attack.
Image: Basili.

Crayons libres 2.jpg

Paris march: protestors holding up two giant pencils.
Image: Eric Walter.

Les crayons.jpg

Paris march: more protestors holding up giant pencils.
Image: Eric Walter.

Foule en défilé.jpg

Paris march: marchers fill the street.
Image: Eric Walter.

Marche du 11 Janvier 2015, Paris (4).jpg

Paris march: more marchers filling the streets.
Image: Yann Caradec.

Pancarte 2.jpg

Paris march.
Image: Eric Walter.

Paris Rally, 11 January 2015 - Boulevard Beaumarchais - 05.jpg

Paris march: marchers moving up Boulevard Beaumarchais.
Image: Poulpy.

2 Marche républicaine 11 janvier 2015 Paris - Foule des manifestants quai station Mirosmenil AB P1340193.jpg

Paris march: marchers fill the platform at the Miromesnil Métro station.
Image: Basili.

Rassemblement de soutien à Charlie Hebdo - 11 janvier 2015 - Bordeaux 10.JPG

Bordeaux rally.
Image: LeJC.

Bourg-en-Bresse rally in support of the victims of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting, 11 January 2015 (2).JPG

Rally in Bourg-en-Bresse.
Image: Benoît Prieur.

Marche républicaine 2015, Chambéry 9.JPG

Rally in Chambéry.
Image: Florian Pépellin.

Marche républicaine du 11 janvier 2015 à Lyon 49.JPG

Rally in Lyon.
Image: Jitrixis.

Manifestation en soutien à Charlie Hebdo et aux victimes des fusillades, Rennes, 2015-01-11-1.jpg

Rally in Rennes.
Image: Édouard Hue.

Manifestation en soutien à Charlie Hebdo et aux victimes des fusillades, Rennes, 2015-01-11-11.jpg

A sign at the march in Rennes showing a number of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.
Image: Édouard Hue.

Manifestation en soutien à Charlie Hebdo et aux victimes des fusillades, Rennes, 2015-01-11-7.jpg

Rally in Rennes.
Image: Édouard Hue.

Rennes 11 janvier 2015 - Marche républicaine 03.jpg

Rally in Rennes.
Image: Pymouss.

Dimanche 11 janv 2015 Reims soutien à Charlie 05969.JPG

Rally at the Place Royale in Reims.
Image: G.Garitan.

French flag projected onto The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London.JPG

French flag projected on to the side of the National Gallery in London as a sign of solidarity.
Image: Simeon87.

Tributes to the victims.jpg

Signs, pens, sketch pads and cartoons left as a memorial in Trafalgar Square in London.
Image: Zefrog.

Participant holding a pen.jpg

A pen held up as part of the rally in London’s Trafalgar Square.
Image: Zefrog.

Je suis Charlie rally at Daley Plaza in Chicago, 11 January 2015 (5).jpg

A man holding both a French and American flag at a rally in Daley Plaza in Chicago.
Image: Stel Cape.

Cologne rally in support of the victims of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting-191954.jpg

A small rally in Cologne.
Image: Raimond Spekking.

JeSuisCharlie in Moscow S0147494 (16255052582).jpg

Candle lights at a rally in Moscow.
Image: Ilya Schurov.

JeSuisCharlie in Moscow S0177502 (16070064457).jpg

Snow-covered flowers and tributes outside the office of the French Ambassador in Moscow.
Image: Ilya Schurov.

JeSuisCharlie in Moscow S0357555 (16068596810).jpg

At the rally in Moscow.
Image: Ilya Schurov.

Je suis Charlie, Stockholm 11 January 2015 (2).jpg

Rally in Stockholm.
Image: Henrik M F.

Stockholm rally in support of the victims of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting (15).jpg

Rally in Stockholm.
Image: fcruse.

Stockholm rally in support of the victims of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting (9).jpg

A pencil in the snow at the Stockholm rally.
Image: fcruse.

Wien - Gedenkkundgebung Gemeinsam gegen den Terror - Je Suis Charlie - I.jpg

Rally in Vienna.
Image: Haeferl.

Je suis Charlie, Berlin 11 January 2015 (2).jpg

Rally in Berlin.
Image: Tim.

Je suis Charlie, Brussels 11 January 2015 (122).jpg

Rally in Brussels.
Image: Miguel Discart.



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July 5, 2012

ACTA rejected by European Parliament, protesters rejoice

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

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The proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was defeated in a plenary session of the European Parliament with an overwhelming 478 votes against versus 39 supporting; 165 parliamentarians chose to abstain.

Pressure and activist groups across Europe celebrated the defeat of the legislation, attributing their success to mobilising the public to bring pressure to bear on MEPs. In thanking supporters, the UK’s Open Rights Group (ORG) cautioned that Karel de Gucht, current European Commissioner for Trade, deferred any decision as-to how the Commission will move forward until after a ruling from the European Court of Justice on ACTA’s compatibility with European law.

The controversial copyright- and patent-related trade agreement previously provoked massive rallies and demonstrations across the continent involving hundreds of thousands. A petition against ACTA accrued two million signatures. In an editorial on the resounding defeat, where MEPs held up placards post-vote which read “Hello Democracy Goodbye ACTA”, The Guardian’s technology editor Charles Arthur said the agreement “didn’t stand a chance”. Arthur points out that some of the counterfeiting problems ACTA was, in part, supposed to address are ones which should concern people, particularly the risks associated with fake drugs. However, with the vague wording of the trade agreement raising the possibility of travellers’ electronic devices being searched for copyright-infringing content at customs and border checkpoints, he concluded the secretly-negotiated deal “never stood a chance against the internet tidal wave” of opposition.

Arthur also highlighted that secrecy surrounding the drafting of ACTA encouraged widespread public opposition; negotiations began under the presidency of George W. Bush, which rebuffed requests from the Electronic Frontier Foundation stating that all but ten pages of the 800+ page draft were “classified in the interest of national security”. Following Barack Obama taking office, another Freedom of Information request was filed; again, access was denied with the Obama administration asserting that national security concerns justified the entire draft and related documents remaining secret.

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“ACTA has become a symbol for policy made in secrecy”, stated Sebastian Nerz, vice-president of the Pirate Party of Germany. “We are hopeful now that Brussels has taken a stance against lobbyist interests. Upholding fundamental rights and civil liberties online seems no longer to be merely empty words for the European Members of Parliament.” The Pirate Party previously included criticism of ACTA’s failure to involve the people in its decision-making as part of its election campaigns in several German states, the most recent being in North-Rhine Westphalia.

Protesters criticised the vague wording and legal uncertainty ACTA would have introduced. Widespread censorship of the internet and curtailment of freedom of speech were feared; patent regulations were highlighted as having potentially adverse impact on access to medicines and crop seeds. The trade agreement, which US-based pressure group Accessnow.org described as “giving the U.S. a structural competitive advantage over other countries” had already been ratified by Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States.

The long-running campaign against ACTA can largely be traced to publication of a leaked draft of the agreement on whistleblowing site Wikileaks. Their analysis concluded that parts of the document were written as “a Pirate Bay killer”; the then-leaked draft would force internet service providers to provide “perfunctionary disclosure of customer information” and would “likely outlaw multi-region CD/DVD players”.

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March 13, 2012

Imam dead in Shia mosque attack in Belgium

Imam dead in Shia mosque attack in Belgium

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The area around Anderlecht (marked in red) is home to a large number of Muslim immigrants

An imam in the Belgian municipality of Anderlecht, near the capital, Brussels, has died following a suspected arson attack at a Shia mosque.

It is thought the mosque was attacked by a man wielding an axe, petrol and Molotov cocktails on Monday evening. The imam, in his mid-forties, reportedly died of smoke inhalation while trying to put out the resulting blaze. Another person was injured during the attack.

Police spokeswoman Marie Verbeck confirmed the death, and said a suspect has been arrested in connection with the fire. Police are not seeking anyone else in relation to the incident.

Belgium’s interior minister Joëlle Milquet said: “This person went in [to the mosque] hurling statements linked to the Syrian conflict. It appears to be a problem between Sunnis and Shias … Belgium will not tolerate this type of act and the importing of this type of conflict on its territory”.

She stressed that details on the motive for the crime are unclear. The area around Anderlecht is home to a large number of Muslim immigrants. The last imam to have been killed in an attack in Belgium’s capital was Saudi Abdullah Muhammad al Ahdal, who was shot in 1989.



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May 15, 2011

Solar-powered airplane makes first international flight

Solar-powered airplane makes first international flight

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Solar Impulse during its first flight on December 3, 2009
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Sunday, May 15, 2011

The solar-powered airplane Solar Impulse touched down at the Brussels National Airport late Friday night, after completing a 13-hour flight from its home base in Payerne, Switzerland. It was the first international flight by a fully solar-powered aircraft.

The experimental aircraft was piloted by André Borschberg, co-founder and chief engineer for the Solar Impulse project, which hopes to circumnavigate the globe using only the sun’s energy in 2013. “Our goal is to create a revolution in the minds of people…to promote solar energies — not necessarily a revolution in aviation,” Bertrand Piccard, the group’s other co-founder, said in an interview after the flight.

The aircraft collects energy from the sun using 12,000 extremely thin solar cells affixed to the wings and tail section. An on-board battery can store enough electricity to fly all night, allowing the Solar Impulse to stay aloft indefinitely. This allowed the aircraft to maintain a holding pattern over the Brussels airport as other flights landed and conditions were right for the Solar Impulse to land. Because the aircraft weighs only about 3,500 pounds and has a wingspan of 200 feet, it is extremely sensitive to wind and needs calm conditions to land safely.



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April 22, 2010

Belgian prime minister offers resignation

Filed under: Archived,Belgium,Brussels,Europe,Politics and conflicts — admin @ 5:00 am

Belgian prime minister offers resignation

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

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Belgian prime minister Yves Leterme has offered to resign amid a political dispute, the press office of the Belgian parliament reported on Thursday.

File photo of Yves Leterme

The Belgian king, King Albert II, has not yet accepted the prime minister’s offer. He and Leterme met on Thursday’s afternoon, the office said. The king said that the resulting political turbulence from the resignation “seriously threatens” the country’s standing in the European Union.

“[He] had no other choice than to inform us that he would go to the king immediately to tender the government’s resignation,” said Belgium’s health minister, Laurette Onkelinx.

The Belgian palace commented on the issue in a written statement. “The king and the prime minister jointly underlined that […] a political crisis would be inopportune and would seriously damage both the economic and social well-being of the citizens and the role of Belgium in Europe.”

Leterme also resigned as prime minister in late 2008 over a banking scandal. He returned to office last November when former PM Herman van Rompuy gave up the post to become the first, full-time head of the European Union.

This latest resignation is a fallout of Belgium’s long-term power struggle between the country’s French-speaking Walloons and Flemish-speaking majority.

The latest disagreement centers on special rights for Walloons living near Brussels; specifically, the location of electoral boundaries around the capital. A key coalition member, the Flemish liberal Open VLD Party, pulled out of the government, frustrated over the failure to resolve the dispute. Party chairman Alexander De Croo said that”[w]e have not agreed on a negotiated solution and therefore Open VLD no longer has confidence in the government.”

Without the VLD, the other four government parties have 76 of 150 lower house seats in the parliament, although governing with such a small majority would be hard, Al Jazeera says.



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March 27, 2010

Greek debt deal reached

Greek debt deal reached – Wikinews, the free news source

Greek debt deal reached

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

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A meeting in Brussels has produced a plan, supported by all 16 countries in the eurozone, to make available up to 22 billion euros in financing to support Greece, which is laden with debt.

The deal would come into force only if Greece was unable to borrow money from commercial lenders, and would require approval from all 16 eurozone countries. While no figures were included in the agreement, anonymous officials said the total package would be around 22 billion euros, of which European countries would provide two-thirds. The remainder would be supplied by the International Monetary Fund.

Germany and France were the architects of the document, which was subsequently approved by the other members of the eurozone. While it is seen as a partial retreat for countries such as France that previously opposed any IMF participation in the loans, it is nevertheless regarded as a breakthrough in negotiations. Germany had been insistent on relatively strong terms for the plan, a large amount of which was in the final version.

Despite the agreement, there are no plans for it to take immediate effect, as the Greek government has not requested financial aid, and officials said that they hoped the option would never have to be used. The president of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, said that “the mechanism decided today will not normally need to be activated.”



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