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EU calls on Turkey to release 13 people arrested for links to Gezi Park protests

The 13 people arrested were reportedly accused of trying to create "chaos and mayhem" and overthrow the government. More than 50,000 people have been arrested in Turkey since a failed coup attempt in 2016. The European Union has called for the immediate release of 13 people arrested by Turkish police for alleged links to the businessman and activist, Osman Kavala, during early morning raids on Friday. "Repeated detentions of critical voices and the continued widespread pressure on civil society representatives run counter to the Turkish government's declared commitment to human rights," the EU statement said. Police had issued arrest warrants for 20 people associated with Kavala's Anatolia Culture Association prior to the raids, according to Turkey's DHA news agency. They are suspected of "creating chaos and mayhem" and "seeking to overthrow the government," state-owned Anadolu Agency reported. The Cumhuriyet newspaper said they were also accused of trying to bring in foreign "activists" to support anti-government protests. The dean of the law school at Istanbul Bilgi University and mathematics professor Betul Tanbay, who also serves as the vice president of the European Mathematical Society, were among those arrested. 'Brutal assault on Turkish civil society' Kavala, Anatolia Culture Association's chairman, was arrested more than a year ago but has not yet been charged with any crime. He is accused of working with foreigners in a 2016 failed coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and supporting anti-government protesters who rallied in Gezi Park in 2013. The European Parliament's Turkey rapporteur, Kati Piri, also denounced Friday's arrests, writing in a tweet that they were "another brutal assault on Turkish civil society." Opposition lawmaker Sezgin Tanrikulu wrote in a tweet that "those who expect normalization from this regime should continue to dream." Gulen connection Separate raids in the capital Istanbul ended with the arrest of 14 people accused of financing "terrorism" in connection with Fethullah Gulen, according to DHA. Erdogan accuses the exiled Islamic cleric of orchestrating the 2016 coup. Other anti-Gulen operations on Friday saw police arrest 17 people in the city of Izmir and another 86 people, most of them military personnel, across the country, Anadolu and DHA reported. Turkish authorities have arrested more than 50,000 people working in academia, journalism, the military, the civil service and human rights organizations as part of a broad crackdown following the 2016 coup.

The 13 people arrested were reportedly accused of trying to create “chaos and mayhem” and overthrow the government. More than 50,000 people have been arrested in Turkey since a failed coup attempt in 2016. The European Union has called for the immediate release of 13 people arrested by Turkish police for alleged links to the businessman and activist, Osman Kavala, ... Read More »

Germany, Europe see little hope for Trump policy change after US midterm election

Berlin isn't expecting Trump to change his "America First" stance following the US midterm elections, Germany's foreign minister said. Other German and European politicians hailed the results as a setback for Trump. Although Democrats made electoral gains in Tuesday's midterm elections, officials in Germany and other European Union countries said they do not believe the results will prompt a change in US President Donald Trump's approach to foreign policy. "It would be a mistake to expect a course correction from Donald Trump now," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas wrote on Twitter. He emphasized that the United States remains Germany's closest partner outside of Europe, but in order to maintain that partnership he said, "We will have to recalibrate and adjust our relationship with the USA." The Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives in Tuesday's polls, but Trump's Republicans strengthened their grip on power in the Senate. The transatlantic coordinator for the German government, Peter Beyer, was also skeptical that Tuesday's election results will ease Europe's worries, particularly since NATO matters and international trade are under the jurisdiction of the Republican-controlled Senate. "I don't think we should expect too much from this outcome and the impact on us," Beyer told German public broadcaster ZDF. EU politicians praise Democrat wins Frans Timmermans, the vice president of the European Commission, wrote on Twitter that US voters "chose hope over fear, civility over rudeness, inclusion over racism, equality over discrimination." "They stood up for their values. And so will we," the Dutch politician added, looking ahead to the European Parliament elections in 2019. Pierre Moscovici, a former French finance minister who is the European commissioner for economic and financial affairs, made an ironic comment about Trump's claim of "tremendous success" in the election. "The Democrats win the House of Representatives for the first time in eight years despite powerful Republican gerrymandering," Moscovici wrote on Twitter. "Donald Trump is right: 'Tremendous success tonight.'" Manfred Weber, a German politician who heads up the European Parliament's center-right European People's Party (EPP), said the results were a "mixed signal." With Democrats in control of the House of Representatives, pushing through Trump's legislative agenda will now be harder, Weber told local public broadcaster Bayerische Rundfunk, adding that Republicans and Democrats will have to work together to find solutions and "that is perhaps the good news of the day." Good day for democracy in America' Some in Germany saw the election results as an opportunity to forge better ties with Congress, and possibly block actions from Trump that could negatively impact Europe. "Now there are more people in office who might be more open to having a constructive dialogue with Europeans and I think Germans will use that opportunity," Daniela Schwarzer, Director at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) told DW. Jürgen Hardt, the foreign policy spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc in parliament, said Germany needs to quickly line-up talks with the new members of Congress in Washington. Berlin especially needs to make clear the "the importance of the transatlantic relationship" to the new representatives and senators, he told public broadcaster SWR. Annalena Baerbock, the co-leader of the Greens, hailed the election as a "good day for democracy in America," adding that the results show "that discriminatory rhetoric and policies of marginalization do not win over the majority." Overall, Democratic candidates for Congress won nearly 14 million votes more than Republican nominees. Backing for Trump came from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), who congratulated the US leader on his victory in the Senate, saying the results were due to his "successful economic and migration policy," reported DW's Thomas Sparrow.

Berlin isn’t expecting Trump to change his “America First” stance following the US midterm elections, Germany’s foreign minister said. Other German and European politicians hailed the results as a setback for Trump. Although Democrats made electoral gains in Tuesday’s midterm elections, officials in Germany and other European Union countries said they do not believe the results will prompt a change ... Read More »

Unemployed in Germany have greatest risk of poverty in the EU

Despite being one of Europe's wealthiest and economically-stable countries, Germany has the highest risk of poverty for the unemployed. According to the latest EU figures, the risk is as high as 70 percent. Those who are unemployed in Germany face a much bigger risk of falling into poverty than in any other European Union country, according to figures released by European statistics office Eurostat on Monday. After analyzing data from 2016, Eurostat found that the risk of poverty for those on unemployment benefit in Germany is at 70.8 percent - significantly higher than the average of 48.7 percent across Europe. Read more: Poverty, homelessness on the rise despite German affluence Lithuania was a distant second at 60.5 percent, followed by Latvia with a poverty risk of 55.8 percent. The countries with the lowest risk poverty for the unemployed — all under 40 percent — were France, Cyprus and Finland. Eurostat defines people as being at risk of poverty if their income is less than 60 percent of the national median. That means, in effect, that incomes of poorer people in Germany are growing at a slower rate than those above the median. Read more: The ticking timebomb of German poverty Forcing people into poorly-paid work Germans who have lost their jobs can at first claim 60 percent of their salaries as unemployment benefit (or 67 percent if they have children) - provided they have been paying social insurance contributions for at least 12 months. After a certain period, which depends on how long they were in work, unemployed people must claim a standard benefit known colloquially as "Hartz IV," - currently set at €416 ($512) a month. Housing benefits have to be claimed separately. "The new numbers don't surprise me," said Ulrich Schneider, head of the Paritätische Gesamtverband, an umbrella organization for a number of charities and social equality organizations. "This is the fruit of German social security policies. In 2005 we abolished a benefit for the unemployed that ensured that many unemployed people got something beyond Hartz IV - the result is that there is a bigger gap between the employed and the unemployed than elsewhere." Schneider also said he was baffled that Germany's welfare system has a reputation for generosity abroad. "These were conscious political decisions, because it was hoped that this would force more people into low income jobs," he told DW. "Germany's social state has been deliberately pared down since 2002. Look at health insurance: nowadays you can't get eyeglass prescriptions anymore, and waiting times for doctors have grown." The fallout, Schneider argued, is growing social fragmentation - even if Germany's poor are still better off than their counterparts in Bulgaria, say, they end up more cut off from their own society. "If I can't keep up with the average income, I get marginalized. That means many things that are natural for others are impossible for me - being a member of a sports club, for example, or allowing my child to learn a musical instrument." Opposition outrage Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister-party the Christian Social Union (CSU) have been presiding over Germany's welfare state in coalition with the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) since 2013. The opposition did not waste the opportunity to attack the government. Left party leader Katja Kipping called the Eurostat figures a "resounding smack in the face for the CDU, CSU and SPD." Kipping said the coalition government "has to answer for the catastrophic situation," but has "apparently no desire to change anything." The Green party's labor market spokesmen Wolfgang Strengmann-Kuhn and Sven Lehmann were equally outraged, describing the figures as "sorry proof of the inadequacies of our social welfare system." "We have to improve the access to unemployment insurance for everyone, including short-term contractors, the self-employed, and others without security," they said in a joint statement. But Christoph Schröder, senior researcher at the Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW), pointed out that the total unemployment rate had dropped significantly in the past decade. Calculated as the percentage of unemployed people of all those available to the job market, the rate is currently at 5.8 percent, down from 11.7 percent in 2005. That equates to a total of 2.57 million people, down from 4.86 million in 2005. "I think that shows that the people that are still unemployed now are likely to be long-term unemployed," Schröder told DW. "But we have also criticized that less money is being spent on helping the long-term unemployed than previously." "We did have increasing inequality, and increasing poverty risk rates, since the end of the 1990s until around 2005, though since then there hasn't been a particular increase," he added. "There has been an increase because of the relatively high immigration rate - but if you take that out you have only a slight increase in inequality." Read more: Rich vs. poor: How fair and equal is Germany?

Despite being one of Europe’s wealthiest and economically-stable countries, Germany has the highest risk of poverty for the unemployed. According to the latest EU figures, the risk is as high as 70 percent. Those who are unemployed in Germany face a much bigger risk of falling into poverty than in any other European Union country, according to figures released by ... Read More »

Germany’s EU bill to rise by 16 percent post-Brexit: report

Germany will need to pay an extra €3.8 billion into the EU's coffers once Britain leaves the bloc. A new report, which is likely to rile German taxpayers, suggests France and Italy will face much lower budget hikes. Germany is being threatened with significantly higher contributions to the European Union's budget when Britain completes its departure from the bloc in 2019. The Funke-Mediengruppe newspapers on Friday cited a report by the European Parliament, suggesting that the Berlin government would suddenly be on the hook for an extra €3.8 billion ($4.2 billion), a rise of 16 percent. In 2016, Germany's net contribution — minus EU monies returned to fund projects in the country — amounted to €15.6 billion. By comparison, France would face an additional €1.2 billion per annum bill on top of its €5-6-billion net contribution, and Italy would pay an extra €1 billion. "Brexit does not just increase the financial burden for the EU-27, but also changes the distribution of that burden," the newspaper group cited the report as saying. Read more: 50 London banks in talks for post-Brexit move Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden currently benefit from reduced payments due to Britain's EU membership, it said. Britain is currently the second largest net contributor to the EU after Germany; its departure is expected to leave a €10.2-billion hole in the EU's finances. EU austerity needed? The EU study says discussions are underway about whether cuts should be made to the EU budget or whether new revenue sources can be opened up, including taxes. The budget gap revelations come as British negotiators meet with their EU counterparts in Brussels for the sixth round on Brexit talks, in an attempt to settle the country's financial obligations to the bloc. The EU has set a figure of €60 billion, while British officials have, to date, offered just €23 billion. On Thursday, the Financial Times cited an anonymous EU diplomat as saying that the UK government had been given a three week deadline to improve its offer. At stake is Britain's future trade deal with the EU, which Brussels has refused to discuss until the financial settlement has been finalized. Meanwhile, Germany's largest industry group BDI said on Friday that it would be impossible to reach a comprehensive deal on future economic relations between the EU and Britain within the two-year deadline. In doing so, it added its voice to growing calls for a transitional arrangement where Britain remains in the EU's single market and customs union for a longer period. Read more: Brexit: Why people are increasingly talking about the 'Norway model' The group last month told German firms in the UK to prepare for the possibility of a so-called hard Brexit, where Britain quits the bloc without a trade deal. BDI Managing Director Joachim Lang is due to meet British Prime Minister Theresa May in London on Monday. Despite talking up the possibilities of a transitional arrangement in recent months, Britain on Friday said it planned to enshrine its EU leaving date, March 29, 2019 into the Brexit law, which is currently being studied by parliament.

Germany will need to pay an extra €3.8 billion into the EU’s coffers once Britain leaves the bloc. A new report, which is likely to rile German taxpayers, suggests France and Italy will face much lower budget hikes. Germany is being threatened with significantly higher contributions to the European Union’s budget when Britain completes its departure from the bloc in ... Read More »

Malta’s overdue struggle against corruption, crooks and imbeciles

The murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has re-focused attention on corruption and money-laundering scandals in Malta. The island that critics - including her own son - described as a "mafia state." After the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, EU lawmakers have called on the European Commission to do more to combat money-laundering and corruption in Malta after looking the other way for too long. Caruana Galizia was the first to reveal the Maltese names in the "Panama Papers," the 11.5 million documents leaked in May 2016 that revealed how wealth was hidden and laundered across the world. Perhaps most notably, she wrote about offshore shell companies held in Panama and elsewhere by members of Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's government - as well as his wife. Many of the accusations in her widely read blog, whose last post was published less than an hour before her death on Monday, were repeated by her son Matthew Caruana Galizia in a Facebook post published on Tuesday. "It is of little comfort for the prime minister of this country to say that he will 'not rest' until the perpetrators are found," he wrote. "First he filled his office with crooks, then he filled the police with crooks and imbeciles, then he filled the courts with crooks and incompetents. If the institutions were already working, there would be no assassination to investigate - and my brothers and I would still have a mother." MEPs step in The German Green party Member of European Parliament Sven Giegold, who met Daphne Caruana Galizia as a member of the European Parliament's Panama Papers inquiry, wrote his own blog post in the wake of the journalist's death, accusing the European Commission of doing too little to end the "culture of impunity" in Malta. "We had a plenary debate [on Malta] in June, and after the debate, we put questions to the European Commission asking for precise information on possible treaty violations by Malta, and the Commission until now has not answered," he told DW. "I believe Malta is breaking EU money-laundering laws, and the European Commission has been idle. They have not enforced money-laundering laws in many areas." The problem with Malta Malta, like many smaller EU states and separate entities within states, such as the UK's islands Jersey and Guernsey — create financial environments that ease tax evasion and allow corruption. Other members of the EU inquiry were "shocked" by the circumstances on Malta, according to Molly Scott Cato, MEP of the British Green party, who said the information Caruana Galizia provided helped to set up the committee. "This is coming out of the free flow of capital that's been around since the 1980s," Cato said. "It's enabled the global plutocrat to spread money around to avoid paying tax. The problem is, once you start with that, corruption follows — so we know we've got criminal money, we've got money financing terrorism. "The level of corruption in Malta doesn't come as a surprise to me," she added. "But it's obviously shocking that someone would be killed like this. Our absolute priority is that we need to have a full inquiry, and it needs to be seen to be independent, because, unfortunately, there is no longer much confidence in the ability of the Maltese authorities to conduct their investigations." That much was backed up by a tweet sent out by Herman Grech, a journalist at the Times of Malta newspaper, who said the investigation has been slow to get started. But Grech was also keen to defend Malta's reputation: "If you were to ask me is the police in a bad state, my answer is yes: I don't think the police are competent and equipped enough to deal with certain problems this country is facing. Is this place a mafia state? No it's not. I find it quite ridiculous that it is being called that." Not that there weren't systemic problems in the country, Grech added. "It's a problem that former politicians are appointed to the bench," he said. "We're filling up important posts with partisan people. So I'm not discounting corruption." Grech also said that while the Maltese crime rate was relatively low, gang-related crime had always been a problem. "Statistically, Malta is one of the safest countries in Europe, but we've had five or six car bombs in the last two years - none of them have been resolved," he said.

The murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has re-focused attention on corruption and money-laundering scandals in Malta. The island that critics – including her own son – described as a “mafia state.” After the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, EU lawmakers have called on the European Commission to do more to combat money-laundering and corruption in Malta after ... Read More »

Brexit talks: EU, Britain say ball is in the other’s court

Six months of Brexit negotiations have passed with little progress. With British Prime Minister Theresa May due to address parliament, both sides have now said that the other is responsible for making the next move. As the EU and Britain started the fifth round of Brexit talks on Monday, both sides quarreled over who was responsible for making the next move in the stalled negotiations over Britain's departure from the bloc. Theresa May told the British parliament on Monday that a new agreement "will require leadership and flexibility, not just from us but from our friends, the 27 nations of the EU," adding that "the ball is in their court." Key points from the speech: - Britain will not be a member of EU institutions during the two-year "implementation" period after it leaves the union on March 29, 2019, but it will retain access to the EU single market until the implementation period is over. - Both sides can only resolve the problem of how much Britain owes the EU if they consider the future EU-UK relationship after the implementation period. - Britain will not revoke Article 50, which would stop the Brexit talks and keep Britain in the EU. - Government ministries have been preparing "for every eventually," a hint that Britain could accept leaving the EU without a deal. But before May had given the speech, European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas had told reporters in Brussels that "there has been so far no solution found on step one, which is the divorce proceedings." "So the ball is entirely in the UK court for the rest to happen," he said. Phase one troubles The EU has repeatedly said that both sides can only discuss a new partnership agreement – which is expected to include a new EU-UK trade deal – after "sufficient progress" had been made on Britain's exit from the union. The first four rounds of negotiations have so far focused on three major exit issues: - How much Britain owes the EU - The status of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland - The rights of EU citizens in Britain and British citizens in the EU after Brexit British leaders have criticized the EU for demanding a strict division in the talks, saying agreements on specific exit issues depend on whether both sides can agree on the terms of the post-exit partnership. But EU leaders have so far resisted that call. Initial plans to complete phase one by mid-October has looked increasingly unrealistic after talks during the summer failed to achieve much progress. The will to compromise Both sides have indicated they may compromise to avoid Britain exiting the EU without any final deal. May said in a speech in Florence, Italy in September that Britain would agree to abide by EU rules and pay into the common budget for two-years after Brexit in March 2019. She also said London would pay any outstanding amount it owed to Brussels, but did not say how much she thought the bill should be. Both sides have clashed on how to calculate the final exit bill. Speaking to the Guardian newspaper on Monday, Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen called on Britain and the EU to be flexible, saying "this will never be a 100 percent win for one side or the other side. This will be a political compromise." All eyes on Brussels EU leaders are set to meet in Brussels for a summit on October 19-20 wherethey will formally decide whether "sufficient progress" has been made to open up phase two negotiations. With six months of the two-year negotiating period already up, officials and business leaders have become increasingly worried that both sides may not agree to a final deal in time. May, however, struck a confident tone during her speech on Monday, telling MPs: "I believe we can prove the doomsayers wrong."

Six months of Brexit negotiations have passed with little progress. With British Prime Minister Theresa May due to address parliament, both sides have now said that the other is responsible for making the next move. As the EU and Britain started the fifth round of Brexit talks on Monday, both sides quarreled over who was responsible for making the next ... Read More »

EU lawmakers slam lack of Brexit progress, putting trade talks out of reach

The European Parliament has overwhelming backed a motion urging EU leaders not to move on to the next phase of Brexit negotiations with Britain. The move has dealt a blow to London's hopes of moving on to trade talks. Lawmakers in the European Parliament approved a resolution on Tuesday saying that not enough progress has been made to allow negotiations to proceed to the next level. The text says that "sufficient progress has not yet been made" in areas including the rights of EU citizens living in Britain, Irish relations and financial obligations to the EU. It was approved by a vote of 557 to 92 with 29 abstentions, with all major groupings in the European Parliament backing the resolution. Two British Conservative MEPs supported the motion. Read more: What does the German election mean for Brexit? Speaking at the plenary session in Strasbourg on Tuesday, EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told MEPs that there although the negotiation mood improved following British Prime Minister Theresa May's speech in Florence last month, "serious differences" remained — particularly concerning Britain's divorce bill from the EU. Barnier also rejected accusations from euroskeptic British MEPs that the EU was attempting to hold the UK ransom in the talks. "There is no ransom, no exit bill, there is only the fact that when you decide to leave we ask you to settle your accounts — no more, no less than to pay what you agreed," Barnier said. Read more: 'Miracles' needed to advance Brexit talks by October deadline 'Please sack Johnson' Manfred Weber, the head of the largest group in the European Parliament said that divisions in May's cabinet were blocking Brexit negotiations. "The top question I think for the moment is: Who shall I call in London? Who speaks for the government — Theresa May, Boris Johnson, or even [Brexit Minister] David Davis?" asked Weber, a member of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats and the head of the center-right European People's Party alliance in the European Parliament. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Minister David Davis, both advocates of "leave" during the Brexit referendum, have sometimes appeared to contradict May's take on some aspects of Brexit. "Please sack Johnson, because we need a clear answer on who is responsible for the British position," Weber urged. "Theresa May, please don't put the party first — please put Britain first, please put the citizens first." Trade talks stalled Although Tuesday's vote was not binding, it reflected EU lawmakers' current mood after four rounds of Brexit talks. The European Parliament will have to approve any final separation deal, currently due for March 2019, or possibly at a later point during a transitional period leaving the EU. The fifth round of talks is due to start next week, but lawmakers said that "unless there is a major breakthrough," EU leaders should hold off on expanding the talks during their October 19 - 20 summit. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also said on Tuesday that it was too soon to move on to the next phase of negotiations. "We first need to agree on the terms of the divorce and then we see if we can half-lovingly find each other again," Juncker told the EU parliament. Britain has been eager to move on to the next phase of talks in order to start hammering out a trade deal, arguing that it would make sense to discuss these matters in parallel with the EU's priority topics — EU citizen's rights in the UK, financial settlements on exit, and what to do with the Irish border. Last month, May offered the EU concessions in her speech in Florence on the Brexit bill and called for a two-year transition period after the UK leaves the EU in order to ease the impact on citizens and businesses.

The European Parliament has overwhelming backed a motion urging EU leaders not to move on to the next phase of Brexit negotiations with Britain. The move has dealt a blow to London’s hopes of moving on to trade talks. Lawmakers in the European Parliament approved a resolution on Tuesday saying that not enough progress has been made to allow negotiations ... Read More »

EU-NATO hybrid threat center launched in Finland

The EU and NATO have teamed up in Europe's far north to fight hybrid threats from "tweets to tanks". A new center of excellence focuses on resilience to menaces from little green men to huge humanitarian catastrophes. Hybrid threats require hybrid resistance and now the European Union and NATO have established their first joint center to counter the multifaceted menaces to the stability of their members. Finland is the host of the new European Center of Excellence (CoE) for Countering Hybrid Threats, a facility officially inaugurated by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and EU High Representative Federica Mogherini. Read more: NATO in Europe needs 'military Schengen' NATO already has two dozen accredited centers of excellence, but this is the EU's first and the first to link the two organizations. Eleven European nations, including Finland, plus the US, have signed on as supporters. What are hybrid threats? Stoltenberg described how difficult it is to combat these "disguised intentions" even though they've been around, he pointed out, at least since the days of the legendary Trojan Horse. Hybrid threats are a "mixture of military and non-military means of aggression, a combination of covert and overt operations and measures," he explained, "everything from propaganda, from disinformation to actually the use of irregular forces, from tweets to tanks. Sometimes soldiers in uniform, sometimes out of uniform, sometimes in cyberspace and sometimes things that happenat our border." What's changed in recent years, the secretary general emphasized, is the "scale and the scope and speed" with which perpetrators can conduct their attacks. That's why this new EU-NATO partnership, the clearinghouse of ideas and experiences is so essential. The institution will continuously analyze the type of attacks being leveled at Europe and the US and figure out how best to counter them. "I have been struck at how quickly NATO and the EU have ramped up their responses to hybrid threats," said Daniel Fiott, Security and Defense Editor and the EU Institute for Security Studies (EUISS). "Hybrid threats are the key reason why EU-NATO cooperation has blossomed over the past year or so," he told DW, adding that more focus is needed on developing cyber capabilities and conducting exercises. Fiott said the EU "increasingly understands" that its adversaries exploit the obvious current gaps in its responses. Why Finland? Finland weathered the last century better than some of its neighbors, fending off the Soviets in the 1930's and 40's to remain independent when much of the region found itself locked behind the Iron Curtain. The small country has at times in its history been criticized for its methods of keeping peace with its aggressive neighbor, but now the non-NATO ally is getting kudos for its ability to keep the Kremlin at bay while integrating further with Europe. The CoE has been created on Finland's initiative. Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said his country looks forward to sharing its methods of coping in a cool way. "We need to identify our vulnerabilities and we need to be prepared and resilient," Niinistö said at the inauguration. "One must remain levelheaded about the threats we face. Sometimes the threat can also be less than meets the eye. At times I have been struck by the level of alarmism." Niinisto says the high stakes of conflict in his region serve as their own deterrent. "If there is a war in the Baltics, it would be mean World War III," he told journalists in Helsinki including DW, and that's why he doesn't believe it will happen. Nonetheless, he says the EU needs to focus debate on how it will provide security for its citizens in the future. As Finland has no plans to join NATO, it's a strong proponent of building up a security and defense capacity within the EU. Threat center threatened from start The hybrid center got a preview of things to come immediately upon its launch. A website with a similar-looking logo but hosted at ".ru" – Russia – popped up, spreading fake news stories via social media. The group, believed to be supported by Russia, even held an event in Helsinki to discuss the conflict in eastern Ukraine. One Twitter account from the false company has been suspended but there are others, as identified by troll watchers at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab. But instead of being concerned, Daniel Fiott says he's reassured. "We should not be surprised that a fake version of the website made it online," he said, noting this is a classic hybrid tactic. "What I find incredible is how quickly the real Hybrid CoE discovered the fake site and put its counter narrative out there. They responded quickly and decisively, even though their work had just begun. This bodes well for the future."

The EU and NATO have teamed up in Europe’s far north to fight hybrid threats from “tweets to tanks”. A new center of excellence focuses on resilience to menaces from little green men to huge humanitarian catastrophes. Hybrid threats require hybrid resistance and now the European Union and NATO have established their first joint center to counter the multifaceted menaces ... Read More »

EU lawmakers slam lack of Brexit progress, putting trade talks out of reach

The European Parliament has overwhelming backed a motion urging EU leaders not to move on to the next phase of Brexit negotiations with Britain. The move has dealt a blow to London's hopes of moving on to trade talks. Lawmakers in the European Parliament approved a resolution on Tuesday saying that not enough progress has been made to allow negotiations to proceed to the next level. The text says that "sufficient progress has not yet been made" in areas including the rights of EU citizens living in Britain, Irish relations and financial obligations to the EU. It was approved by a vote of 557 to 92 with 29 abstentions, with all major groupings in the European Parliament backing the resolution. Two British Conservative MEPs supported the motion. Read more: What does the German election mean for Brexit? Speaking at the plenary session in Strasbourg on Tuesday, EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told MEPs that there although the negotiation mood improved following British Prime Minister Theresa May's speech in Florence last month, "serious differences" remained — particularly concerning Britain's divorce bill from the EU. Barnier also rejected accusations from euroskeptic British MEPs that the EU was attempting to hold the UK ransom in the talks. "There is no ransom, no exit bill, there is only the fact that when you decide to leave we ask you to settle your accounts — no more, no less than to pay what you agreed," Barnier said. Read more: 'Miracles' needed to advance Brexit talks by October deadline 'Please sack Johnson' Manfred Weber, the head of the largest group in the European Parliament said that divisions in May's cabinet were blocking Brexit negotiations. "The top question I think for the moment is: Who shall I call in London? Who speaks for the government — Theresa May, Boris Johnson, or even [Brexit Minister] David Davis?" asked Weber, a member of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats and the head of the center-right European People's Party alliance in the European Parliament. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Minister David Davis, both advocates of "leave" during the Brexit referendum, have sometimes appeared to contradict May's take on some aspects of Brexit. "Please sack Johnson, because we need a clear answer on who is responsible for the British position," Weber urged. "Theresa May, please don't put the party first — please put Britain first, please put the citizens first." Trade talks stalled Although Tuesday's vote was not binding, it reflected EU lawmakers' current mood after four rounds of Brexit talks. The European Parliament will have to approve any final separation deal, currently due for March 2019, or possibly at a later point during a transitional period leaving the EU. The fifth round of talks is due to start next week, but lawmakers said that "unless there is a major breakthrough," EU leaders should hold off on expanding the talks during their October 19 - 20 summit. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also said on Tuesday that it was too soon to move on to the next phase of negotiations. "We first need to agree on the terms of the divorce and then we see if we can half-lovingly find each other again," Juncker told the EU parliament. Britain has been eager to move on to the next phase of talks in order to start hammering out a trade deal, arguing that it would make sense to discuss these matters in parallel with the EU's priority topics — EU citizen's rights in the UK, financial settlements on exit, and what to do with the Irish border. Last month, May offered the EU concessions in her speech in Florence on the Brexit bill and called for a two-year transition period after the UK leaves the EU in order to ease the impact on citizens and businesses.

The European Parliament has overwhelming backed a motion urging EU leaders not to move on to the next phase of Brexit negotiations with Britain. The move has dealt a blow to London’s hopes of moving on to trade talks. Lawmakers in the European Parliament approved a resolution on Tuesday saying that not enough progress has been made to allow negotiations ... Read More »

UK to seek special customs deal after Brexit

The British government is hoping to secure an interim customs union with the EU right after Brexit. Businesses welcomed the news, but Europe is growing impatient with Britain's slow progress. According to a partial government document set to be published on Tuesday, the UK is hoping to minimize the strain on business and consumers when it leaves the EU in March 2019, and wants to secure the freest possible trade deal. The idea is to create a "time-limited" customs union while all the other necessary changes fall into place, in order to provide certainly for companies and investors. "Ministers will announce an intention to seek an 'interim' period with the EU of close association with the customs union that would allow for a smooth and orderly transfer to the new regime," said a government statement ahead of the publication of its proposals. While British businesses welcome the proposal, the EU warned that it would only negotiate trade deals after sufficient progress had been made on the UK's withdrawal from the bloc. The Confederation of British Industry also said that "the clock is ticking" and that it was counting on the government to give "companies the confidence to continue investing as quickly as possible." Read - UK to cap Brexit fee at 40 billion euros Brexit minister: The EU is 'quite cross' Brexit Minister David Davis told LBC Radio that a "long haggle" lay in store for Britain. According to Davis, chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier is "getting quite cross with us. He's saying 'You should make your proposal.'" Many EU officials have accused the British government of being ill-prepared for the first round of Brexit talks, and the issue of free trade is likely to increase Europe's irritation. Prime Minister May's government is hoping that its position paper to be published Tuesday, as well as a document to follow Wednesday on the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, will deescalate the tension.

The British government is hoping to secure an interim customs union with the EU right after Brexit. Businesses welcomed the news, but Europe is growing impatient with Britain’s slow progress. According to a partial government document set to be published on Tuesday, the UK is hoping to minimize the strain on business and consumers when it leaves the EU in ... Read More »

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