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2/21/17

EU and Japan resolved to swiftly conclude free trade deal

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday that he and European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom had confirmed their resolve to swiftly conclude free trade negotiations between the two economies.

“We reaffirmed that it is extremely important (to reach) a broad agreement … as soon as possible in order to counter protectionist moves,” Kishida told reporters after meeting with Malmstrom in Bonn.

“We agreed to continue negotiations and keep the momentum,” Kishida said, adding that he and the EU trade chief had agreed to promptly arrange the next round of negotiations.

While a broad agreement is now within sight, the parties remain divided over certain aspects of market access and tariff removal.

The meeting, requested by the EU side, came on the sidelines of a two-day foreign ministerial session of the Group of 20 major economies through Friday.

Read more: EU and Japan resolved to swiftly conclude free trade deal – News of the European Union

Britain: Anti-Trump protesters pack London's Parliament Square as 1.8 million sign petition against visit

MPs clashed on Monday over whether or not to invite US President Donald Trump to the UK for an official state visit. Such a visit traditionally means the visiting dignitary meeting the Queen.

But this drew ire from the British public, as 1.8 million people signed a petition asking for the invitation to be rescinded. 

Only 300,000 people signed another petition in favor of the visit. 

Read more: Anti-Trump protesters pack London's Parliament Square | Euronews

EU Economy: Greece and creditors break bailout deadlock- by Eric Maurice

The Greek government agreed on Monday (20 February) to make new reforms to cut up to 2 percent of GDP in spending in the coming years.

Greece accepted budget cuts worth up to €3.6 billion that it had previously refused as the only way to break the deadlock with its creditors in talks to unblock a new tranche of the €86 billion bailout programme agreed in 2015.

Experts from the creditor institutions - the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the European Stability Mechanism and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - will be able to go back to Athens and prepare reforms on tax, pensions and the labour market with the Greek government.

Read more: Greece and creditors break bailout deadlock

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

Germany: Is Wolfgang Schäuble As Dangerous To The EU As Donald Trump? - by John Palmer

President Donald Trump is widely seen by allies of the United States as posing a potentially serious threat to the cohesion of the NATO alliance and – more broadly – to the post-Second World War global economic, political and security system. The European Union, fearful of the rise of right-wing populism and nationalism across the Atlantic, rightly insists it will meet both this challenge (and the disruption caused by the UK’s prospective Brexit) by strengthening its cohesion and effectiveness.

The EU, however, faces another, equally dangerous challenge but this time one from within its own ranks. The primary source of this threat is, moreover, to be found in Germany – the country which, more than any other, has shouldered the main responsibility for giving enlightened leadership to the long process of European democratisation and unification over many decades.

Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister and the Ayatollah of current EU austerity doctrine, may seem an unlikely candidate for comparison to Trump. He has a distinguished record in German politics over decades for his advocacy of greater economic and political European integration.

He is also a man who has shown impressive courage and resilience in recovering from a terrorist life-threatening assassination attempt. But his long, unchallenged hegemony over government economic strategy in the EU’s German economic powerhouse now risks igniting another, potentially lethal, phase of instability in the Euro area single currency system.

It remains to be seen whether reports of another looming crisis in relations between Greece and its Euro area creditors will prove quite as terminal as some suggest. It may be that the reported “showdown” will – once again – be deferred to another day. Greece may continue to be drip fed financial loans to prevent outright collapse – but without tackling the crisis at root.

Read more: Is Wolfgang Schäuble As Dangerous To The EU As Donald Trump?

2/20/17

Europe: Dangerous radioactive particles have been detected across Europe from unknown source - by J. Hamill

DANGEROUS radioactive particles have been detected in seven different European countries and scientists can’t explain where they have come from.

Traces of Iodine-131 were found in Norway, Finland, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, France and Spain in January, but the public were not immediately alerted.

These radioactive particles are produced by atomic bomb explosions or nuclear disasters such as Chernobyl or Fukushima.

They appear to be emanating from Eastern Europe, but experts have not been able to say exactly what produced them.

Astrid Liland, head of emergency preparedness at the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority, told the Barents Observer that the health risk was very low – which was why she did not raise the alarm after detecting Iodine-131 during the second week of January.

Read more: Dangerous radioactive particles have been detected across Europe and no-one knows where they came from

European SOCIAL Networking: Top 10 European Social Networking Sites

Here is a list of the Top 10 European Social Networking Sites, for and about Europeans networking around the world.

Read more: Top 10 European Social Networking Sites - American Vouchers [sponsored by Armis]

USA: Paul Krugman dissects the staggering ignorance of the Trump White House - by Janet Allon

Is the Trump White House evil or just stupid? The answer to that burning question is, well, both. In Monday’s column, Paul Krugman takes as his subject the incompetence piece, which is evident in matters both large and seemingly trivial.

Though when you can’t be bothered to learn how you should address the Prime Minister of Japan, or the relatively simple fact that in Asia, the order of names is reversed, it seems more than a little representative of a certain incurious attitude. Trump addressed Abe Shinzo as Prime Minister Shinzo, the equivalent of calling Trump President Donald.  “Trivial?” 

Krugman asks. “Well, it would be if it were an isolated instance. But it isn’t.” In fact it appears that for both the Republican-led Congress and the clowns in the White House, ignorance is seen as a kind of strength.

Examples abound, per Krugman.
We see this on legal matters: In a widely quoted analysis, the legal expert Benjamin Wittes described the infamous executive order on refugees as “malevolence tempered by incompetence,” and noted that the order reads “as if it was not reviewed by competent counsel at all” — which is a good way to lose in court . . .
We see it on national security matters, where the president continues to rely on a chief adviser who, suspicious closeness to the Kremlin aside, appears to get his strategic information from right-wing conspiracy theorists . . . 
We see it on education, where the hearings for Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, revealed her to be completely ignorant about even the most elementary issues . . . We see it on diplomacy. How hard is it to ask someone from the State Department to make sure that the White House gets foreign leaders’ names right?
Too hard, apparently: Before the Abe flub, the official agenda for the state visit by Theresa May, the British prime minister, repeatedly misspelled her name.
Read more: Paul Krugman dissects the staggering ignorance of the Trump White House - Salon.com

France: Marine Le Pen 'made EURO 7,020 -a-month fake job for bodyguard'

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has admitted setting up a fake job in the European parliament for her ex-paratrooper bodyguard nicknamed 'The Gorilla', according to a report by the European Anti-Fraud Office.

It was all part of a criminal scam worth up to EUR 351, 000.00to Ms Le Pen's far-right National Front (FN) party that could now see the 48-year-old jailed.

A previously confidential report by Olaf, the European Anti-Fraud Office, contains the allegations, all of which are today published in French investigative outlets Mediapart and Marianne.

Le Pen has denied the allegations and said on Friday that she has not admitted to the claims.

Read more: Marine Le Pen 'made £6000-a-month fake job for bodyguard' | Daily Mail Online

Sweden: 'What has Trump been smoking?': Swedes scratch heads at Trump's suggestion of major incident

Swedes have been scratching their heads and ridiculing U.S. President Donald Trump's remarks that suggested a major incident had happened in the Scandinavian country.

During a rally in Florida on Saturday, Trump said "look what's happening last night in Sweden" as he alluded to past terror attacks in Europe. It wasn't clear what he was referring to and there were no high-profile situations reported in Sweden on Friday night.

Trump said in a tweet Sunday afternoon that his statement was in reference to a story that was broadcast on Fox News concerning immigrants and Sweden.

Read more: 'What has he been smoking?': Swedes scratch heads at Trump's suggestion of major incident - World - CBC News

2/19/17

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