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Friday, February 24, 2017

EU: Spain MPs to probe €60bn bank bailouts- by Sarah Morris

Spanish MPs have voted unanimously to set up a commission to examine mistakes that led to a €60 billion bank bailout in 2012.

In a rare display of unity in Spain's fragmented parliament, all parties signed up to a deal on Wednesday (22 February) to “create a commission to investigate the financial and banking crisis, the listing of savings bank Bankia and its later rescue, the action taken by regulators and the weaknesses, needs and challenges of the financial system”.

In 2012, a government led by current centre-right prime minister Mariano Rajoy sought a bailout from the EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF) after Bankia requested €22.5 billion in aid just a year after its flotation under the previous Socialist government. Dozens of other savings banks also needed state cash.

The cross-party deal this week came after the opposition Socialists, anti-austerity group Unidos Podemos and Catalan party Republican Left all lodged separate petitions for commissions.

Expected to hear evidence from April for about six months, the parliamentary commission will in particular look at the controversial listing of Bankia, the largest bank bailout still in public control.

In recent years, Spain's courts have looked into hundreds of corruption allegations linked to the property boom. Between July 2015 and September 2016, 399 people were convicted of corruption-related offences like embezzling public money, the General Board of Judicial Power (CGPJ), which oversees Spain’s judiciary, said in a report last month.

The creation of the parliamentary commission comes after the high court said last week it would question the former governor of the Bank of Spain, Miguel Angel Fernandez Ordonez, over Bankia's regulation.

Five other officials at the central bank and two former senior managers of stock market regulator, the CNMV, will also be questioned.

Read more: Spain MPs to probe €60bn bank bailouts

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Netherlands: Dutch far-right leader Wilders cancels public events over alleged security leak but police say Wilders' safety "never in question".

Fake News Leadership
Anti-Islam Dutch MP Geert Wilders and his far-right Freedom Party suspended all public activities Thursday after a police agent was arrested for allegedly leaking information about him to a Moroccan gang.

 "Very disturbing news. The Freedom Party is suspending all public activities until all facts in connection with the investigation are known," Wilders said on Twitter, as Dutch political parties gear up for a crunch election on March 15.

The firebrand MP, who has courted controversy with his hardline anti-Islam, anti-immigrant stance and his incendiary insults against Moroccans and Turks, has long been under 24-hour police protection.

Tensions are escalating ahead of the election in which the Freedom Party is running neck-and-neck with the Liberals of Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

On Saturday, Wilders upped the tone at the launch of his official campaign, denouncing "a lot of Moroccan scum who make the streets unsafe".

The highly-respected NRC daily newspaper reported Wednesday that the agent was arrested for allegedly passing on information about Wilders to a Moroccan crime gang.

Dutch police chief Erik Akkerboom confirmed an investigation had been opened but that Wilders' safety "was never in question".

However the matter was deemed so serious that Rutte, who is now campaigning for his own Liberal VVD party, met Wilders to discuss the issue.

The suspected agent was released on Thursday pending the investigation, Dutch news agency ANP said.

Netherlands is no stranger to political violence, even though the small country of just 17 million people has largely gained a reputation for tolerance.

Flamboyant far-right leader Pim Fortuyn was assassinated just nine days before Dutch elections in 2002, shocking the country to the core.

Just two years later in November 2004, filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim radical.

Wilders, 53, has vowed in his party's one-page manifesto that if elected he would ban the sale of Korans, close mosques and Islamic schools, shut Dutch borders and ban Muslim migrants.

Note EU-Digest: Obviously one must question  the true value of this story about Wilders - that it is not another populist stunt by him and his followers to give his sinking popularity in the polls a boost. Also to be noted is that Mr.Wilders is never able to provide any detailed plans about how he wants to carry out his party's "one page" manifesto.  

Read more: Dutch far-right leader Wilders cancels public events over security leak - France 24

Internet Privacy: E-Mail Services List of Secure Email Providers that take Privacy Serious

Privacy laws and the internet
When you need an e-mail account and you want to start using the very popular and widely used Gmail services please note that the following is what you will be asked to agree on before you can get it and I quote: "Google Privacy Terms By choosing “I agree” below, you agree to Google’s Terms of Service.

You also agree to our Privacy Policy, which describes how we process your information, including these key points: Data we process when you use Google When you use Google services to do things like write a message in Gmail or comment on a YouTube video, we store the information you create.

When you search for a restaurant on Google Maps or watch a video on YouTube, for example, we process information about that activity – including information like the video you watched, device IDs, IP addresses, cookie data, and location. We also process the kinds of information described above when you use apps or sites that use Google services like ads, Analytics, and the YouTube video player.

Depending on your account settings, some of this data may be associated with your Google Account and we treat this data as personal information. You can control how we collect and use this data at My Account (myaccount.google.com).

Why we process it? We process this data for the purposes described in our policy, including to: Help our services deliver more useful, customized content such as more relevant search results; Improve the quality of our services and develop new ones; Deliver personalized ads, both on Google services and on sites and apps that partner with Google;Improve security by protecting against fraud and abuse; and Conduct analytics and measurement to understand how our services are used.

Combining data We also combine data among our services and across your devices for these purposes. For example, we show you ads based on information from your use of Search and Gmail, and we use data from trillions of search queries to build spell-correction models that we use across all of our services".Bottom-line: whatever you write or do on Gmail is not really private and belongs to Gmail.

For a list of secure email providers that take your privacy serious and do not track you (* = recommended, last updated December 7, 2016)click on the link below.

Read more: List of Secure Email Providers that take Privacy Serious - FreedomHack

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

EU Medicine Agency: Crowded race to win EU medicines agency- by Aleksandra Eriksson

The London-based European Medicine Agency (EMA) will need a new home after Brexit, and almost a dozen European cities are already vying over the regulatory gem.

Today, almost all new or innovative medicines are submitted to EMA for assessment, which evaluates whether they are safe to put on the EU market. The agency comes with almost 900 expert workers, paid for by the EU; comprehensive research networks; and a €300 million a year budget.

Acting as a host for EMA is a boon for a country's life science sector, but also benefits the hospitality sector: some 400 people fly in to the agency each day.

Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Dublin, Lisbon, Milan and Stockholm have already declared willing to be the next host of the EMA, but more candidates are mulling their bids. Sources say that at least 20 member states are considering throwing their hat into the ring.

As much things related to Brexit, the race will be uncharted waters. There is no fixed procedure for how to elect the next headquarters; the new seat must only be chosen by unanimity in the Council, where EU member states are represented, which doesn't make the task easier.

"We are expecting the process to get mired in basic, competitive instincts," said one EU diplomat working on her country's EMA bid.

So far, cities are entering the contest as a beauty pageant, touting themselves as pro-European, cosmopolitan, with good food, and better weather than London. All also stress their vibrant pharmaceuticals industries.

Amsterdam puffs up its "outstanding international connections".

Read more: Crowded race to win EU medicines agency

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Weapons Industry: International arms trade shoots up to highest level since end of Cold War – by Daniel Mützel

The global arms race grew significantly last year and sales shot up by 8.4%, according to a study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) that compared the last five years with the 2007-2011 period. It called it the highest level since the end of the Cold War.

The five largest arms suppliers, the United States, Russia, China, France and Germany, are responsible for 74% of weapons traded around the world.

According to the SIPRI, the reason for this increase in sales is the growing demand presented by Asia and the Middle East.

Read more: International arms trade shoots up to highest level since end of Cold War – EurActiv.com

Monday, February 20, 2017

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Spain - Refugees: Barcelona protest to support refugees draws thousands

Some 160,000 people have demonstrated in Barcelona to demand the government allow more refugees into Spain from war-hit areas such as Syria.

Marchers carrying placards and banners- many in the Catalan language - accused the Madrid government of dragging its feet over the issue.

They say it has not honoured its pledge made in 2015 to allow more than 17,000 refugees into Spain within two years.

Over that time, Spain has accepted only about 1,100 refugees.

Police gave the estimate of the turnout at Saturday's protest in the capital of Catalonia, organised by the Our Home is Your Home group, with many denouncing the government for not living up to its promises.

Protest organisers quoted by local media said that as many as 300,000 people took part.

Note EU-Digest: Bravo Spain ! Refugees don't come to Europe because they prefer it there. They come because their homes are being destroyed by war and bombs, many of these bombs are from our own Western military (NATO). High time to stop this stupidity and for Europe to get out of all these military adventures where nobody succeeds and everybody suffers.
 

Read more: Barcelona protest to support refugees draws thousands - BBC News