EU flag removed from Arc de Triomphe after right-wing outrage

A giant European Union flag displayed at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris to mark France taking on the bloc’s presidency has been removed after it was criticized by right-wing politicians. Far-right leader Marine Le Pen said “replacing” the French flag at the monument was an attack on the country’s identity. A government minister said the move was only ever meant to be temporary. France has taken over the EU’s rotating presidency for the next six months. Ms Le Pen, who is a candidate in the presidential election in April, had vowed to file a complaint with the State Council, … Continue reading EU flag removed from Arc de Triomphe after right-wing outrage

Malta becomes first EU nation to legalize cannabis

Malta has become the first EU country to legalize the cultivation and personal use of cannabis. Adults will be allowed to carry up to seven grams of cannabis, and grow no more than four plants at home. But smoking it in public or in front of children will be illegal. Several other nations have similar plans, such as Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland. Countries like the Netherlands tolerate cannabis use in certain circumstances. Malta’s parliament voted in favour of the reform on Tuesday afternoon, with the bill winning 36 votes in favour and 27 against. Equality Minister, Owen Bonnici, said the … Continue reading Malta becomes first EU nation to legalize cannabis

Europe region faces 700,000 more deaths by March – WHO

A further 700,000 people could die of Covid-19 by March in Europe and parts of Asia, the World Health Organization has warned. The death toll already exceeds 1.5 million in the 53 countries of what the WHO terms as its Europe region. The WHO warned of “high or extreme stress” in intensive care units in 49 of the nations by March 2022. Europe is facing a surge in cases, prompting Austria to return to lockdown and others to consider fresh measures. A number of countries – including France, Germany and Greece – could also soon make booster jabs a requirement … Continue reading Europe region faces 700,000 more deaths by March – WHO

EU to widen Belarus sanctions as row intensifies over border crisis

The European Union is to step up sanctions against Belarus in response to an escalating migrant crisis on the border with Poland. Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell confirmed the move, saying that vulnerable migrants were being exploited in a “hybrid war” that is “intensifying”. Belarus is accused of pushing migrants towards its borders to undermine security, a charge it denies. On Monday, hundreds of migrants were blocked at a crossing by Polish troops. Those migrants came from a large makeshift camp at the Kuznica crossing, where thousands have settled in tents just inside Belarus. “Goodbye!” called out a smiling girl, … Continue reading EU to widen Belarus sanctions as row intensifies over border crisis

UK and France blame each other over fishing row stalemate

Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron remain at loggerheads in the ongoing dispute over permits for fishing boats. On Sunday, the leaders met to discuss tensions and the UK government said it was “up to France” to step back from threats over port access. But Mr Macron said the ball was “in Britain’s court” and he hoped there would be a positive response on Monday. Mr Macron added it was not a bilateral issue for the nations but an EU issue. The row comes ahead of Tuesday, which is the deadline for more permits to be granted for French … Continue reading UK and France blame each other over fishing row stalemate

Poland told to pay €1m a day in legal row with EU

The EU’s top court has told Poland to pay a daily fine of €1m (£850,000) in a row over judicial reforms. Earlier this year, Poland was ordered to suspend a controversial disciplinary chamber, but has not yet done so. It is the latest development in a bitter feud with the EU over changes that are seen as weakening the independence of Polish courts. The hefty penalty was immediately denounced as “blackmail” by Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller. Some fear the escalating situation could put Poland’s membership in the EU at risk. Earlier this month, Poland’s constitutional court ruled that Polish … Continue reading Poland told to pay €1m a day in legal row with EU

Polish PM accuses EU of blackmail as row over rule of law escalates

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has accused the EU of blackmail in a heated debate with European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen over the rule of law. The clash in the European Parliament follows a top Polish court ruling that rejected key parts of EU law. Mrs von der Leyen said she would act to prevent Poland undermining EU values. In response, Mr Morawiecki rejected “the language of threats” and accused the EU of overstepping its powers. Poles overwhelmingly support being part of the EU, opinion polls suggest, but Poland’s right-wing nationalist government has increasingly been at odds with … Continue reading Polish PM accuses EU of blackmail as row over rule of law escalates

Facebook to hire 10,000 in EU to work on metaverse

Facebook is planning to hire 10,000 people in the European Union to develop a so-called metaverse. A metaverse is an online world where people can game, work and communicate in a virtual environment, often using VR headsets. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been a leading voice on the concept. The announcement comes as Facebook deals with the fallout of a damaging scandal and faces increased calls for regulation to curb its influence. “The metaverse has the potential to help unlock access to new creative, social, and economic opportunities. And Europeans will be shaping it right from the start,” Facebook said … Continue reading Facebook to hire 10,000 in EU to work on metaverse

Police arrest 106 people tied to mafia-connected cybercrime group

After a year-long investigation, police in Europe say they have arrested 106 people in connection to a large cybercrime ring with close ties to the Italian mafia. The group, which cops say operated out of a headquarters in Spain’s Canary Islands, is alleged to have defrauded hundreds of victims by carrying out a variety of online schemes, including phishing operations, business email compromise attacks, and SIM swapping. Criminal operations allegedly encompassed a wide range of activities, including “online fraud, money laundering, drug trafficking and property crime.” Police said they had recently raided 16 houses in Spain and Italy as part of the … Continue reading Police arrest 106 people tied to mafia-connected cybercrime group

Polish army deployed to Belarus border amid migrant surge

Poland has deployed hundreds of troops to support its border guards at the frontier with Belarus as a surge of refugees and migrants sought to enter the country. Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said on Wednesday that more than 900 Polish troops were involved in the operation. It is understood that most of the refugees and migrants trying to cross are from Iraq. Late on Tuesday, a Polish deputy interior minister tweeted that the border with Belarus is sealed and that the soldiers have been there for a week. Poland, like Lithuania and other Baltic nations, accuses the authoritarian government of … Continue reading Polish army deployed to Belarus border amid migrant surge

No breakthrough on NI protocol after PM speaks to EU chief

Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen have failed to reach agreement on UK demands to reshape post-Brexit arrangements in Northern Ireland. The PM and president of the European Commission spoke earlier about the UK’s suggested changes to the Northern Ireland protocol. Ms von der Leyen said that the EU will “not renegotiate” the original deal. But a Downing Street spokesman said the PM reiterated the protocol is “unsustainable” and must be changed. Mr Johnson also urged German Chancellor Angela Merkel to consider “significant changes” to the agreement during a call on Thursday, No 10 said. The UK and EU … Continue reading No breakthrough on NI protocol after PM speaks to EU chief

EU Commission approves Czech recovery plan of 7 billion euros

The European Commission approved on Wednesday the Czech Republic’s 7 billion euro plan to recover from the pandemic and transform the economy to become greener and more digitalized in coming years. The scheme will be financed from EU grants until 2026. Once the plan is also approved by EU finance ministers, Czechia will get 910 million euros in pre-financing for projects foreseen under the plan. More cash will be paid out on completion of agreed stages of the reforms and investment spelled out in the approved plan. The Commission said Czechia planned to spend 42% of its money to reach … Continue reading EU Commission approves Czech recovery plan of 7 billion euros