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European Commission: ‘Team Ursula’ gears up

The European Parliament will vote on the new commission on Wednesday, after a month’s delay. President-elect Ursula von der Leyen wants it to be “geopolitical,” green and cost-effective. It hasn’t been an easy start for Ursula von der Leyen’s team: The European Parliament rejected three candidates from France, Romania and Hungary, whose governments then had to find replacements. French President ... Read More »

Europe heat wave: Paris latest to break record with 42.6C

Paris saw a record high temperature of 42.6C (108.7F) on Thursday, amid a heatwave that broke records across Western Europe. A red alert was issued in north France. Germany also set a new national temperature record of 41.5C, passing the figure set just a day before. The UK recorded a record temperature for July of 38.1C, with trains told to ... Read More »

Air pollution linked to half million premature deaths in Europe

Air quality in Europe has nonetheless improved in recent years due to better regulations and technology. Environmental officials said the results indicate its time to double down on cutting air pollution. Air quality across Europe has improved but remains an "invisible killer" that causes nearly a half million premature deaths each year, the European Environment Agency said in an annual reportreleased Monday. Air pollution continues to remain above EU and World Health Organization (WHO) limits in large parts of Europe, the data collected in 2016 from 2,500 measuring stations showed. About 422,000 premature deaths in 41 European countries were caused by tiny particulate matter known as PM2.5 in 2015, of which 391,000 were in the 28-member EU, the report said. "Air pollution is an invisible killer and we need to step up our efforts to address the causes. In terms of air pollution, road transport emissions are often more harmful than those from other sources, as these happen at ground level and tend to occur in cities, close to people," said EEA chief Hans Bruyninckx. At the same time, stricter air quality standards and technological improvements across Europe have resulted in the number of premature deaths per year due to PM2.5 being slashed by a half a million since 1990. "It shows us that air policy does work, but it also reminds us that we need to make it work even better to achieve clean air across Europe, for all citizens," said EU Commissioner for Environment Karmenu Vella Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution from vehicles was tied to another 79,000 premature deaths across 41 European countries in 2015. Ground level ozone (O3) was responsible for another 16,400 premature deaths. Short and long-term exposure to air pollution has been linked to heart disease, stroke, cancer and respiratory problems. Maternal exposure to air pollution is associated with negative impacts on fertility, pregnancy, newborns and children. Air pollution can also have adverse impact on ecosystems. European governments and automakers are under pressure to take action to improve air quality, with a number of states and cities moving to phase out or ban combustible vehicles and diesel. The release of the EEA report came the same day as UN heath agency said in a separate study that globally an estimated 600,000 children under the age of 15 die every year from respiratory problems associated with air pollution. A stunning 93 percent of children, or 1.8 billion, are exposed to PM2.5 levels above WHO air quality guidelines, the report said. Children in low- and middle-income countries are particularly impacted by indoor and outdoor air pollution, the report said.

Air quality in Europe has nonetheless improved in recent years due to better regulations and technology. Environmental officials said the results indicate its time to double down on cutting air pollution. Air quality across Europe has improved but remains an “invisible killer” that causes nearly a half million premature deaths each year, the European Environment Agency said in an annual ... Read More »

SPD’s Martin Schulz defends his ‘United States of Europe’

Leader of Germany's Social Democrats Martin Schulz has called for a "United States of Europe" by 2025. But what did he mean? And where does that lead the SPD? The former European Parliament president told DW more. "Daydreamer," "Europe radical," "the best way to destroy the EU:" these were just some of the comments thrown at Social Democrats leader Martin Schulz by media and opposition politicians after proposing the establishment of the "United States of Europe" at the SPD's party conference on Thursday. Only eight years from now, Schulz's envisioned treaty would also see member states who don't agree politely asked to leave Brussels. Returning to the stage for day two on Friday, the former European Parliament president defended his proposal, calling on the 600 present delegates to "once again develop a passion for Europe." "Economic, cultural, social and political integration: The best protection against fascism, war and anti-Democrats," he added, prompting rapturous applause across the conference hall. If the overwhelming response was anything to go by, the Social Democrats seem largely united on the issue — unlike the evident division a day earlier over whether they should enter exploratory talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel and her conservatives. Read more: SPD open to grand coalition talks, re-elects Schulz as party chair How about a united SPD? In an interview with DW at Friday's party conference, Schulz brushed off accusations of division in the SPD. "Our proposals tabled yesterday, unanimously adopted by the bureau of the party, for the opening of negotiations — first of all about content, about improving the domestic situation in Germany and the situation in the European Union — got an overwhelming majority, around 90 percent. That opens a path for open-ended negotiations, for sure," Schulz said. With the SPD's top names due to meet with Merkel and her conservatives on Wednesday, Europe now looks to be one of the Social Democrat's key issues at the table. So far, however, Merkel's conservatives have been reluctant to show any desire in supporting the proposals for EU reform, suggested by French President Emmanuel Macron — including an EU finance minister. "Discussing — especially after Brexit — how the remaining 27 EU states can improve the basis of the cooperation that's the Lisbon Treaty, which is visibly not sufficient for solving a lot of problems we have internally, and international relations. That's what I mean with the United States of Europe," Schulz told DW. "It wouldn't be a kind of United States of America on European soil." Failing Social Democrats in EU But not everyone's entirely convinced. Michelle Rauschkolb, who sits on the national board of Jusos — the SPD youth wing — told DW that although she supports Schulz's call for closer cooperation between EU member states, the SPD should be concentrating right now on redefining its image after the party's disastrous show in September's elections, where they walked away with just 20.5 percent of the vote. At the same time, she added that moving Europe into the foreground of the SPD's agenda could be useful in pulling back voters, especially among Germany's youth. "We've seen the demise of Social Democrats across Europe, so it's important for us, as Germany's Social Democrats to encourage a better, closer Europe. It's our job to push on improving social issues in Europe." Echoing Schulz's sentiments over the SPD's unity, however, was Member of the European Parliament and Chairman of the SPD in the EU, Jens Geier. "The party isn't divided," he told DW against a backdrop of postcards and free drawstring bags for party conferencegoers, emblazoned with the words: "We are Europe, baby!" "Everyone is entitled to a different opinion. And these exploratory talks with Merkel's conservatives sets nothing in stone about a grand coalition," Geier said, adding that Europe would play an important role in any discussions. Read more: What you need to know about another Angela Merkel-led grand coalition in Germany "The fact alone that the topic of Europe has been put so high upon the agenda is a new quality for the SPD," he said, referring to the party's ongoing attempts to redefine itself. "Look at all the proposals put forward for EU reforms from French President Macron. And what have we heard from the conservatives? 'No'." With Macron and Schulz's political relationship blossoming — the French president even encouraged Schulz last week to form a grand coalition with Merkel — Geier was quick to add: "Macron's not one of us." "We don't have to sign everything he says, but he's the only president in the EU actively calling for reform and more cooperation right now. So the least we can do is be open to talks with France," Geier said. Read more: European allies urge Martin Schulz to form a government But before the Social Democrats get anywhere near talks with their French neighbors, first come Wednesday's talks, a little closer to home with Merkel's conservatives. Schulz, however, is in no rush. "We have no need to speed up," he told DW. "Especially considering the fact that the so-called 'Jamaica' allies crashed completely with negotiations. They took two months to disagree." Bearing the leisurely pace in mind, while there might be no "United States of Europe" by 2025, Germany might, if it's lucky, at least have a new government.

Leader of Germany’s Social Democrats Martin Schulz has called for a “United States of Europe” by 2025. But what did he mean? And where does that lead the SPD? The former European Parliament president told DW more. “Daydreamer,” “Europe radical,” “the best way to destroy the EU:” these were just some of the comments thrown at Social Democrats leader Martin ... Read More »

Europol postcards tell Europe’s most wanted: ‘Wish you were here’

Police agency Europol has issued a series of sassy postcards telling criminals on the run that a special welcome is waiting for them back home. The mock-ups promote a 'Europe's Most Wanted 2017' summer campaign. The EU-wide policing agency Europol is hoping to track down some of the continent's most wanted criminals with the help of a bold summer campaign imploring villains to return home. The "friendly" postcard messages are mainly aimed at provoking a feeling of homesickness in individuals who have committed serious crimes in some 21 countries. Each postcard features one country's most-sought fugitive thought to be hiding in another country. Each appeals to that individual by their first name followed by a "wish you were here" message. Read: German police seek volunteers for facial recognition surveillance "Dear Artur, Belgian fries are the best and we know you miss them," says the postcard from police in Belgium. "Come back to enjoy them - we'll have a nice surprise in store for you." Hardest to catch Full information about each real-life miscreant, including a picture of them, is featured on the Europe's Most Wanted Fugitives website. "If you click on the website you can see the real picture and name of the criminal as well as a form that goes directly to the team in the country, for instance Belgium or Italy, that would follow it up," Europol spokesman Jan Op Gen Oorth told DW. "The main goal of Europol is to arrest as many EU fugitives as possible. These are the ones that are hardest to catch, and there's a real need to catch them." Read: German police shortages 'threaten rule of law' Since the Hague-based policing organization launched the Europe's Most Wanted Fugitives website early in 2016, more than 2.5 million unique visitors have been to the website.

Police agency Europol has issued a series of sassy postcards telling criminals on the run that a special welcome is waiting for them back home. The mock-ups promote a ‘Europe’s Most Wanted 2017’ summer campaign. The EU-wide policing agency Europol is hoping to track down some of the continent’s most wanted criminals with the help of a bold summer campaign ... Read More »

Belarus cracks down on mounting protests

Belarusian police have arrested dozens of people after its president warned of a Western plot to oust him. Mounting protests against the authoritarian president have drawn thousands of people in recent weeks. Belarusian police carried out arrests of protesters attending a banned demonstration in the capital, Minsk, on Saturday amid a rising wave of discontent challenging the country's authoritarian government. About 700 protesters braved the threat of a crackdown after police earlier raided the offices of a human rights organization and arrested an opposition leader. While it remains unclear exactly how many protesters were detained, the human rights group Viasna said more than 400 people had been arrested. Among those arrested were about 20 journalists, according to the Belarusian Journalists' Association. The nongovernmental organization (NGO), said authorities raided its office ahead of the protest and arrested 57 people, including foreign observers. The group has recorded more than 100 arrests of opposition supporters in the days leading up to Saturday's protests. Police on Saturday also detained leading opposition leader Vladimir Nekliayev as he was on a train to Minsk. President Lukashenko in power for 23 years Belarus has witnessed rare protests drawing thousands of people in recent weeks against a new tax for those who work less than six months a year. Facing pressure, the government then suspended collection of the tax. The protests have channeled broader discontent against a mismanaged state-run economy under President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the country for 23 years. Lukashenko initially allowed the protests but this week warned Western intelligence agencies were supporting a "fifth column" of provocateurs to overthrow him. State television tried to back up the claim by reporting the discovery of alleged weapons caches. Like his close ally Russian President Vladimir Putin, Lukashenko has long warned of a "color revolution" such as those in Ukraine and Georgia toppling his government.

Belarusian police have arrested dozens of people after its president warned of a Western plot to oust him. Mounting protests against the authoritarian president have drawn thousands of people in recent weeks. Belarusian police carried out arrests of protesters attending a banned demonstration in the capital, Minsk, on Saturday amid a rising wave of discontent challenging the country’s authoritarian government. ... Read More »

Multiple deaths as extreme weather sweeps Europe

Blizzards, icy roads and dangerously low temperatures over the past two days have claimed more than a dozen lives in parts of Europe. The harsh winter weather has also cut off towns and caused massive power outages. Four Portuguese tourists were killed and some 20 others were injured on Sunday when their bus skidded off an ice-covered highway in eastern France. Authorities said the Switzerland-bound bus plummeted into a ditch in the Saone-et-Loire region near Lyon. "It was very icy," state prosecutor Karine Malara said. "The weather conditions this morning were very bad." Severe conditions across Europe have caused fatalities in a number of countries in recent days. Black ice across northern and western Germany was blamed for dozens of road accidents and injuries overnight. One person died near Hannover after their car skidded into a tree, the German Press Agency reported. Meanwhile, firefighters in the city of Hamburg said Sunday they had received 415 emergency calls for weather-related incidents. Freezing temperatures In Poland, two men died of hypothermia on Saturday, bringing the nation's death toll from winter weather to 55 since November 1, authorities said. Some parts of the country saw temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsuis (minus 22 Fahrenheit). In the neighboring Czech Republic, three people died because of the icy weather, according to the CTK agency. Eight weather-related deaths were reported in Italy, including a man who died of cold on a street near Florence's Arno River. Police in Bulgaria said two Iraqi men and a Somali woman died from cold in the mountains near Turkey as they attempted to walk toward Europe. Bulgarian authorities said a passenger train derailed in the center of the country on Sunday after it hit a pile of snow. Meanwhile, several villages to the north were left without electricity and water. Similar conditions were reported in Serbia's south, where some towns were cut off by heavy snow and around 70 kilometers (43 miles) of water pipes froze. Snow also fell on Istanbul, Turkey, for a third straight day, prompting major delays and hundreds of flight cancellations at the city's two main airports.

Blizzards, icy roads and dangerously low temperatures over the past two days have claimed more than a dozen lives in parts of Europe. The harsh winter weather has also cut off towns and caused massive power outages. Four Portuguese tourists were killed and some 20 others were injured on Sunday when their bus skidded off an ice-covered highway in eastern ... Read More »

Austrians vote in presidential showdown watched Europe-wide

Austrians have returned to the polls to decide the presidential race between a right-wing populist and his left-leaning rival. The vote is being watched, as a far-right win could boost populist movements in Europe. Voters in Austria headed to the polls on Sunday morning at the end of a bitterly fought campaign between Greens-backed Alexander Van der Bellen (pictured above left) and the anti-migrant Freedom Party (FPÖ) candidate Norbert Hofer (pictured above right). Most polling stations opened at 7 a.m. (0600 UTC) and will close by 5 p.m. on Sunday. Results are expected to arrive later in the evening, but the winner may not be known until absentee ballots are tallied on Monday. Van der Bellen, a former Greens party leader, narrowly won the first run-off election in May when he received 50.3 percent of the vote - less than 31,000 votes ahead of Hofer. The Freedom Party successfully appealed the result by presenting evidence of ballot counting irregularities, winning a repetition of the election. Voter surveys indicate Sunday's race will also be close. With 20 percent fewer postal votes this time around, Hofer might have a slight advantage. Although the presidency in Austria is a mostly ceremonial role, the results are sure to reverberate across Europe, as a win by Hofer could boost other populist, euroskeptic movements in next year's elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands. It would also make Hofer the first far-right elected president since World War II. Hofer's FPÖ party has been leading opinion polls for months and is set to win the next parliamentary election, according to voter surveys. End of a bitter campaign Van der Bellen, a 72-year-old economics professor, is running as an independent although he has the backing of the Greens party. He is a pro-European liberal who aspires to a fence-free "United States of Europe" and is a supporter of gay marriage. He has garnered the support of young Austrians and celebrities, calling for the country to be guided by "reasons not extremes." Hofer, a 45-year-old engineer and gun-enthusiast, has stoked and benefited from a growing sense of unease in Austria over globalization and multiculturalism. In May, he told a young Austrian Muslim on a talk show that Islam "has no place in Austria" as it threatens Austria's Judeo-Christian values. He has also said he wants a "Europe of fatherlands" or a less "centralized" form of the EU. Hofer has also said he would call for a referendum on Austria's EU membership if Turkey joins the bloc or if Brussels takes too much power from member states. Despite its largely ceremonial role, the Austrian constitution grants the president several previously unused powers such as dismissing the government. Austria's vote also comes on the same day as a high-stakes referendum in Italy which will decide the political fate of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. It could also renew chaos in a bloc already rattled by the United Kingdom's June vote to leave the EU and Donald Trump's surprising electoral win in the US.

Austrians have returned to the polls to decide the presidential race between a right-wing populist and his left-leaning rival. The vote is being watched, as a far-right win could boost populist movements in Europe. Voters in Austria headed to the polls on Sunday morning at the end of a bitterly fought campaign between Greens-backed Alexander Van der Bellen (pictured above ... Read More »

US issues travel advisory for Americans travelling in Europe

US authorities have warned Americans that there may be terrorist attacks in Europe in the run-up to the holiday season. The advisory comes as France conducted another series of terror-related arrests. The US State Department said it had received credible information indicating that militants belonging to the so-called "Islamic State" movement (IS) as well as al Qaeda and other groupings were planning attack in Europe. "US citizens should exercise caution at holiday festivals, events, and outdoor markets. This Travel Alert expires on February 20, 2017," its travel alert said, adding that travelers should also apply caution on public transport, places of worship, restaurants and hotels. "While extremists have carried out attacks in Belgium, France, Germany, and Turkey in the past year, the Department remains concerned about the potential for attacks throughout Europe." The travel alert also recognized that European authorities were continuing with raid to disrupt terror plots, stressing that the Department of State and various European government worked closely together, routinely sharing information in order to combat terrorism. France plot foiled The statement by the State Department came as police in France broke up a terror ring plotting an attack, arresting seven suspects in the cities of Strasbourg and Marseille over the weekend. But the AFP news agency reported that the mayor of Strasbourg, Roland Ries, said the interior ministry had told him the targets were "in the Paris region" and not in his city, which will be opening a major Christmas market later this week. The DPA news agency reported that French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve later told Ries that the Christmas market had not been the target of the intended attack. The French interior minister said 418 people had been arrested for suspected links to terror networks since the start of the year. France has suffered three major attacks since January 2015 when gunmen targeted the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, followed by last November's coordinated attacks across Paris, killing 130, and a self-radicalized extremist driving a truck through crowds in the southern city of Nice in July, killing 86.

US authorities have warned Americans that there may be terrorist attacks in Europe in the run-up to the holiday season. The advisory comes as France conducted another series of terror-related arrests. The US State Department said it had received credible information indicating that militants belonging to the so-called “Islamic State” movement (IS) as well as al Qaeda and other groupings ... Read More »

Hungary’s migration policy protects ‘European freedom,’ says Orban

Speaking to Bavaria's state legislature, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has likened Hungary's border closure to opening its borders with Austria in 1989, allowing hundreds of East Germans to flee to the West. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Monday defended his anti-migrant stance, claiming it's his nation's "duty" to protect cherished values in Europe. "I promise you that Hungary will ... always be on the side of European freedom," Orban told the state legislature in Germany's Bavaria. "In 1989, we acted for the freedom of Europe and now we're protecting this freedom," the Hungarian premier added, referring to Budapest's decision to open its border with Austria, allowing hundreds of Germans living under communist rule to flee to the West. In the summer of 2015, Hungary closed its borders to asylum seekers fleeing conflict in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, leaving tens of thousands stranded during their journey towards wealthier EU nations. Seehofer backs Orban Bavarian State Premier Horst Seehofer, known as a vocal critic of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door policy towards refugees, invited Orban to give a speech to the Bavarian parliament for the 60-year anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising against the Soviet Union. Opposition parties, including the Social Democrats and Left Party, criticized Seehofer's Christian Social Union (CSU) for providing Orban with a platform at the state legislature. Seehofer and Orban have met on three separate occasions over the past year. Nearly 900,000 migrants crossed Germany's borders in 2015, many of them Syrians fleeing war in their homeland.

Speaking to Bavaria’s state legislature, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has likened Hungary’s border closure to opening its borders with Austria in 1989, allowing hundreds of East Germans to flee to the West. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Monday defended his anti-migrant stance, claiming it’s his nation’s “duty” to protect cherished values in Europe. “I promise you that Hungary will ... Read More »

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