Category: Europe

St. Petersburg Station Attack Shows Signs Of Terrorism; Putin Lays Flowers Near Bombing Site

On Monday afternoon, a homemade explosive filled with fragments and shrapnel exploded in St. Petersburg’s Tekhonologichesky Institut subway station. It killed 11 people and wounded 40 other people. Authorities cordoned the area and looked for other possible explosives in the area. Russia’s second-largest city was thrown into chaos as shown by videos taken by individuals in social media.

Russian authorities suspect the attack as terrorism-related but Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the authorities have yet to conduct a final investigation to qualify the attack as such. He said investigators have to “consider all theories” before academically concluding the incident as maliciously made by a terror group.

After the attack, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with security and law-enforcement services on Monday where he was informed about preliminary breakthroughs in their investigation. Putin had also visited the site of attack and laid flowers for those who had died during the attack.

The Russian President also speculated terrorists were behind the attack. No terrorist group had come forward to claim responsibility for the attack but authorities suspect southern Russian militants involved in the conflict in Chechnya and Caucasus. The group is believed to be strongly involved with the Islamic State group and repeatedly threatened attacks the previous year.

US-Europe Data Agreement Fails

US and European Senior Officials failed to reach an agreement on financial information, social media and other digital information can be transferred between the two regions. The two sides had opposing views on many specific details to reach a proper deal.

The deal would help US-based tech firms such as Google, Facebook and other tech companies avoid legal troubles in the EU.

The transfer of vital online business financial information has been a big issue for most European businesses. Google’s long-running case with Europe involved the use of information that favoured certain businesses, according to European officials.

Non-tech companies, such as GE, move data related to customers and employees and how well their products are used.

According to Global Head Of Privacy And Data Protection In Linklaters law firm Tanguy Van Overstraeten, many uncertainties are happening and a solution is needed.

American officials proposed the creation of a Data Ombudsman within the State Department. The office would give Europeans a direct contact point with the United States should information have been mismanaged. Europeans are also advised to seek arbitration with American companies should digital information be perceived as misused.

However, officials from Europe said the moves wouldn’t hold up should it be challenged in European courts.

Europeans also want more information on American limits to intelligence agency intelligence gathering and methods to allow Europeans to file legal claims to US tech companies or any firm that had misused their data.

France Will Destroy Islamic State – Hollande

French President Francois Hollande vowed that France will destroy the Islamic State after its deadly attack in the capital of Paris claiming 148 lives in the process. Hollande promises to create a bill that would extend France’s state of emergency for three months after the attack. He also promises reforms in the French constitution.

These include:

  • 5,000 extra police posts in the next two years and no new cuts in the defence budget
  • Making it easier to strip dual nationals of their French citizenship if they are convicted of a terrorist offence, as long as this did not render them stateless
  • Speeding up the deportation of foreigners who pose “a particularly grave threat to the security of the nation”
  • Pushing for greater European action against arms trafficking and greater penalties for it in France

Immediately, France sent out warplanes into Iraq and Syria to bomb IS targets, many of which include a command centre and shipping area.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for simultaneous bombing attacks in six different Parisian sites, including attacking a concert hall that claimed 129 lives.

UN ‘Minute of Silence’

The UN Security Council held a minute of silence for the victims of the Paris attack and terrorism worldwide.

In Beirut, about 43 people died after a suicide bomber detonated himself before the Paris attacks.

About 15 individuals remain unidentified after the Paris attacks.

Volkswagen Scandal Stretches To Porsche, Audis

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, several undeclared Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi models also have the ’emissions cheating’ device that enabled other Volkswagen models to pass strict emissions testing regulation in Europe.

Sports cars sporting 3L engines, including the VW Touareg, 2015 Porsche Cayenne and the 2016 Audi A6 Quattro, had exceeded nine times the permitted Nitrogen Oxide emissions.

Volkswagen, now in the middle of a scandal and an international investigation by regulators from Asia to the United States, face massive fines for the 11 million vehicles with emissions cheating devices. However, it does not admit that its sports utility lines had sported the same defeat device.

Scandal Sees No End

According to EPA Assistant Administrator, Volkswagen’s sports utility vehicles had exhibited clear evidence of additional violations

“We have clear evidence of these additional violations and we thought it was important to put VW on notice and to inform the public.”

US investigators and lawmakers seized the opportunity to find out the extent of Volkswagen’s deception.

“The EPA expanding its investigation prompts questions regarding the prevalence of the emissions cheating and how it went undetected for so long … Our bipartisan investigation continues — it’s time for Volkswagen to fully come clean.”

Europe Tightens Its Borders Bracing For Migrant Crisis

In an attempt to control the influx of refugees from Syria’s four million displaced citizens, Germany is asking for Turkey’s support in curbing the number of refugees coming from Turkey and the Middle East to Europe.

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The EU is pleading against Turkey to aid in the newest plan to control and set a uniform approach in handling the Syrian refugee crisis.

It involves Turkey receiving financial support and manpower from the EU nations to curb the flow of Syrian refugees migrating from the Middle East to the EU to guarantee their safety.

Turkey To Control The Flow Of Syrian Refugees

Turkey is tasked to control the flow of Syrian refugees as the EU prepares to re-settle huge numbers or refugees on EU territory.

Turkish authorities are not quick to pick up the plan. According to an anonymous Turkish official, the EU is in a hurry. He said Turkey, having housed more than two million refugees for four years since the incident began, has fulfilled all that the EU is asking it to do. He agreed that funding must be increased along with some other needs Turkey needs to have in the draft.

European Commission Chief Jean-Claude Juncker presented a draft action plan to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last October 5.

Does Not Compute

President Erdogan said Turkey houses more than 2.5 million Syrian refugees and 300,000 Iraqis fleeing from ISIS militants.

It has not formally approved the plan as the country needs to look at its strained economy and its decreasing resources in maintaining the lives of the two millions Syrians it houses.

Meanwhile, Europe has agreed to take more than 507,000 Syrian refugees should Turkey agree with the EU’s proposal.

As Greek Referendum Closes, Greeks Try To Remain Calm And Collected

Greeks have been lining up next to ATMs before the National Bank closes. While this is not a signifier that Greeks are trying to stay calm, they try their best.

If the Greek government decides to stand firm with its decision to refuse EU austerity, Greece will be the first developed nation to fail to pay its debts to the IMF, EC and ECB, the “troika”of international finance. Greece owes the IMF a whopping sum of €1.6 billion by 5pm Tuesday, local time.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras refused the bailout package as the austerity-battered nation has had its poor and retired refused their welfare and public services have a shortage of funding. Tsipras had left the decision for Greece with the referendum that will allow the voting of yes or no to the EU austerities in exchange for the third bailout package for the country.

Some greeks said they have been trying to remain calm and have tried not to be nervous by maintaining their habits and not changing their daily lives. However, pensioners, heavily hit by the austerities and the lack of public funding, find it difficult to get money with the government’s strict limit of €60 withdrawal per day.

Francoise Hollande Calls Charlie Hebdo Magazine ‘Reborn’

Recently releasing its newest magazine cover, Charlie Hebdo’s portrayal of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad crying while saying “all is forgiven” is a re-ignition of its ability to spearhead the world’s right to the freedom of speech. According to French President Francois Hollande “Charlie Hebdo is alive and will live on.”

After the January 7 attacks on Charlie Hebdo headquarters that claimed 12 lives, including those of its well-loved cartoonists and editor, the French government and several other backers had funded the small magazine to release its newest edition.

Hollande adds “You can murder men and women but you can never kill their ideas,”

Charlie Hebdo’s publication had increased from its usual 60,000 quantities to five-million issues. It was called the “Survivors’ issue,” currently available in English, Arabic and Turkish. The proceeds of the new edition’s sales will be given to the victims’ families.

According to a video that authorities attribute to the Al-Qaeda in Yemen, it funded the Hebdo attack as retribution for the prophet. However, it did not have enough evidence to support its claims.

Charlie Hebdo is known for its satirical and black comedic handling of current events and issues, which include religion. Its previous magazine cover had featured the prophet Muhammad telling readers they will die of 100 lashes if they do not find the jokes in the magazine funny.

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Germany Floods Force Thousands From Their Homes

German flooding continues to go through Stendal, Germany as thousands of homes become devastated by the ensuing flood alongside the River Elbe on Wednesday. People are now being evacuated from their homes in helicopters and amphibious vehicles to move them to safety. Some residents still remained but were forced by authorities to leave.

The village of Fischbeck near Stendal was completely flooded when the waters destroyed its dike. The repairs to the dike had failed. News correspondents cannot even reach the critical and dangerous condition of the village.

The interior ministry of Saxony-Anhalt said that they expect the waters to further destroy cities. They also said that they were trying to build new emergency dikes to stop the floods. City and town residents claim that this is the biggest and the worst flooding Germany has ever had in 30 years.

Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the flood hit regions of the country on a tour. In the following days she will hold talks to put up a relief find where there is no upper limit to financial aid to anyone afflicted by the floods.

Her debate will focus on counting the cost of the floods, removing the “price tags” of the flood damages and putting together the relief package. She will meet with Germany’s 16 premiers to resolve the issue.

The UK government will help the British civil servants and troops in Cyprus

Chancellor George Osborne announced that the British civil servants and military personnel will be protected from the savings tax in Cyprus. The said levy on savings will be part of eurozone bailout amounting to £8.7bn. It is estimated that there is around 2 Billion Euros of British deposits in Cyprus. There are also a lot of British people working and serving in Cyprus.

During the Andrew Mar Show in BBC, Mr. Osborne said that the Cypriot Banks in the United Kingdom will not be affected by the levy on savings in Cyprus. He added that the British civil servants and military personnel will not be part of the bailout because Prime Minister David Cameron has already got them out when he became Prime Minister. He added that when there will be affected British people in Cyprus, the UK government will compensate them. They will be protected from the Cypriot bank tax.

It has been a dilemma in Cyprus when the news about the levy on savings erupted. Nicos Anastasiades, the Cypriot President delayed the informal meeting with politicians because of the unrest that happened in the country after the news on levy broke out. It was reported that Cyprus was already the 5th country who asked the eurozone for support. The new agreement in the country aims to increase the corporation tax by 2.5%. The European parliament’s chair on economic and monetary affairs committee, Ms. Sharon Bowles said that the bailout seems to rob the small investors on the protection that were promised to them. She said that is Cyrus was a bank; it was already brought in court due to mis-selling.