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Europe House Media Group Extend Their Best Wishes For A Peaceful, Happy, and Prosperous 2018

The Europe House Media Group, including the editors of Almere-Digest, EU-Digest, Insure-Digest, and Turkish-Digest wish their readers, sponsors and advertisers a Peaceful, Happy and Prosperous 2018.

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Bulgaria takes up EU presidency for 2018

Bulgaria, the EU's poorest member state and seen as its most corrupt, takes up the rotating presidency of the EU Council from January 1
Among its priorities are the "EU candidate countries": in the Western Balkans.

"The pre-accession period is very important for these countries," Daniel Smilov from the Center for Liberal Strategies told Euronews.

"In fact, Bulgaria experienced its fastest development and most important reforms during this period. So if we give the Western Balkans a clear perspective, we can expect a good development. On the other hand, the government will be able to divert attention from topics that are not very pleasing to it, such as the fight against corruption."

Bulgaria and the fYRoM signed a "friendship treaty": in 2017, but difference still exist between the neighbours.

"The problem that arises every time between Bulgaria and Macedonia (fYRoM) always has the same origin: the non-recognition of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria and the questioning of the Macedonian nation," explained Stoiko Stoikov, OMO-Ilinden-Pirin.

"It has always caused conflict. Unfortunately, since the signing of this agreement, and with Sofia's policy, there has been no real development on this issue."

An "EU-Western Balkans summit": is scheduled for May 2018.

Read more: Bulgaria takes up EU presidency | Euronews


Germany: Here is what 2018 has in store for Germany - by Rose-Anne Clermont

Next year, Germany will still be waiting on a government. But with everything from an upcoming World Cup to more benefits for parents, there is a lot to look forward to.

1. Time's up: Merkel has to pick coalition partners
Chancellor Angela Merkel has still yet to successfully form a coalition government, even though federal elections took place three months ago.

With pressure mounting and her popularity waning, Merkel will have to go back to the political negotiating table with her opponents and form a government in 2018.

2. More economic growth, and in some cases, more jobs
Germany's economic upswing is expected to continue, according to a survey by the Institute of German Industry. Of 48 industry associations, two-thirds will continue to see production expansion in 2018.

3. Housing will get more expensive (but not exorbitantly so)
Real estate prices in major German cities will increase but not at the rate we have seen in recent years, Analyse Emperica told German public broadcasting channel ZDF.

4. More benefits for parents
For parents and soon-to-be parents there will also be a few silver linings in 2018, despite January's cloudy weather.

5. Another day off (for one state)
Lower Saxony is set to get an additional national holiday, most likely on Reformation Day, which was a nationwide public holiday in commemoration of Martin Luther's 500th birthday in 2017.

6. Free streaming for online subscription services across the EU
Starting on March 20th, there will be free streaming for users of Netflix, Sky Go or Maxdome - thanks to a change in the European Parliament's rules that previously barred free streaming.

7. More protection when you book holidays online
If you plan on booking your next vacation online, especially if booking multiple services (flights, rental cars, hotels, etc.), there will be more protection to online consumers beginning July 1st 2018.

8. Time for the World Cup
And after what feels like a long wait for many, the World Cup will take place again in June 2018 in Russia, with Germany playing its first match on June 17th against Mexico.

Read more: Here is what 2018 has in store for Germany - The Local

Britain: Trump's social media posts straining ties with Britain, experts say

US President Donald Trump's latest social media posts, which triggered a heated quarrel between Washington and London, have put strain on bilateral ties.

Trump sparked global controversy in recent days after re-posting what critics say are anti-Muslim social media posts from a Britain-based far right group that allegedly depict violence carried out by Muslims. The authenticity of the videos in the posts has not been verified.

"Trump's (re-posting) of anti-Islamic videos has put a great strain on US-UK relationships," Brookings Institution senior fellow Darrell West told Xinhua.

"He took material from a far-right organization and gave it great legitimacy at a delicate time as Britain is negotiating its exit from the European Union (EU)," West said, referring to England's break-off from the EU, a matter of controversy underscored by tensions between classes in England.

"The British Prime Minister has condemned Trump's actions and reprimanded him for giving extreme voices an international platform," West added.

 Read more: Trump's social media posts straining ties with Britain, experts say - World -

Technology: 17 biggest tech scandals of 2017 - by Avery Hartmans

Years of sexual misconduct in the tech industry (and elsewhere) were brought to light this year.

Tech giants like Facebook and Google had to answer questions about their roles in swaying the 2016 election.

Apple finally owned up to intentionally slowing down old iPhones.

Even YouTube star PewDiePie had a fall from grace, losing out on a lucrative deal with Disney for making anti-Semitic comments.

In short, it's been quite a year in tech.

What follows are the biggest scandals in the tech industry over the course of the last year. Grab some popcorn:

Read the full report at:: 17 biggest tech scandals of 2017 - Business Insider


N-Korea: China hits back at Trump tweet accusing it of selling oil to North Korea - by Jane Onyanga-Omara

China denied Friday that it was supplying oil to North Korea in violation of United Nations sanctions aimed at curbing Pyongyang's nuclear and missile program, hours after online criticism from President Trump.

"Caught RED HANDED - very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea. There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen!" Trump tweeted Thursday.

Read more: China hits back at Trump tweet accusing it of selling oil to North Korea

Poland and Hungary want their cake and eat it also: EU’s biggest challenge for 2018: Poland, Hungary- by Beata Stur

The conflict between the European Commission and Poland and Hungary could be the greatest challenge awaiting Brussels in the new year. According to Jon Henley, reporting for the Guardian, the two former communist bloc countries face the risk of becoming the EU’s “first rogue states”.

“How Europe deals with members deliberately flouting the core western liberal norms and values it strives to embody – social tolerance, respect for free speech, an independent judiciary – could dominate 2018 far more than Britain’s exit,” Henley wrote.

In December, Brussels triggered Article 7 of the EU Treaty against Poland over changes to the judiciary by the country’s ruling conservatives. The mechanism could ultimately lead to Poland losing its EU voting rights.

In the same month, the European Commission referred Hungary to the European Court of Justice over Viktor Orban’s “ongoing assault on political freedoms”.

Both governments have also met with criticism for refusing to take in refugees.

While the formal warning to Poland – which could strip the country of its EU voting rights, seems unlikely because it requires a unanimous vote of all member states, calls to make EU funds conditional on upholding the rule of law are more real.

Poland and Hungary are among the largest net recipients of EU funds. Countries such as Germany, France and the Nordic states support this approach.

Note EU-Digest: Like Britain, Hungary and Poland seem to think that you can have your cake and eat it also in the EU. "That is not the way the cookie crumbles". 

 Read more: EU’s biggest challenge for 2018: Poland, Hungary


USA: President Trump again falsely claims he's signed more bills than any president - by Brian Bennett

The President of the No 1 Super Power - "What a guy !"
After another morning at his Florida golf club, President Donald Trump visited firefighters and paramedics at a West Palm Beach firehouse and praised his own performance as president, including a false boast.

Trump touted his administration’s work to roll back government regulations and cut taxes and claimed credit for the stock market hitting record highs. He also said he’s signed more bills into law than any other president, which isn’t true.

“We have signed more legislation than anybody,” Trump said, standing in front of a rescue vehicle inside the fire station.

Note EU-Digest: the King of the BS strikes again. Those who have followed Trump’s career say his lying isn’t just a tactic, but an ingrained habit. New York tabloid writers who covered Trump as a mogul on the rise in the 1980s and ’90s found him categorically different from the other self-promoting celebrities in just how often, and pointlessly, he would lie to them. In his own autobiography, Trump used the phrase “truthful hyperbole,” a term coined by his ghostwriter referring to the flagrant truth-stretching that Trump employed, over and over, to help close sales. Trump apparently loved the wording, and went on to adopt it as his own.

Read more: Tribune News Service | Preview | President Trump again falsely claims he's signed more bills than any president


USA: House Democrats Vote to Block Consideration of Trump Impeachment- by William Boardman

On December 6, a majority of Democrats in the House joined all House Republicans in voting to prevent the House of Representatives from even debating articles of impeachment against President Trump. The House voted 364-58 (with 10 non-votes) to table impeachment articles (H RES 646) sponsored by Texas Democrat Al Green. Over the strong objections of Democratic leaders (an oxymoron), Green had brought his impeachment resolution to a vote by invoking his personal privilege as a House member. Green’s resolution began:

Note EU-Digest:Participants in a question on real-money prediction website PredictIt on Thursday gave an 18 percent chance that Trump would be impeached by the end of next year. The percentage on the site, which allows users to make and trade predictions on the future, has been level for the past 90 days, dipping above and below 20 percent. The percentage could rise next year based on a number of factors.

Bottom line: Trump will probably sit out his 4 years term as President.
Read more: House Democrats Vote to Block Consideration of Trump Impeachment | Global Research - Centre for Research on Globalization

Europe's 'best-kept secret' - its booming bio-economy- by David Burrows

Europe's bio-economy is worth €2.2 trillion and employs 18.6 million people across the bloc, but a third of citizens are unaware it exists.

"People are completely unaware that the EU is number one in the world [for bio-based products] and they don't know it is investing [in the bio-economy]," said Susanna Albertini, managing director of FVA, the Italian partner of the Bioways project, at the first stakeholder forum for the bio-based industries (BBI), which took place in Brussels on 7 December.

The BBI joint undertaking (BBIJU), running from 2014-2020, is a €3.7 billion public-private partnership between the EU and the Bio-based Industries Consortium. EU funding through Horizon 2020 has committed €975 million, with the rest coming from private investment.

So far, for every €1 put in by the EU, €2.59 has been invested by the private sector. Companies outside the EU are "getting interested" in what is going on here, said Philippe Mengel, executive director of the BBIJU. "The EU is back on the map as a place to invest in bio-based industry."

Since the BBIJU started in 2014, 45 new bio-based building blocks have been developed, exceeding the 2020 target of 30, as well as 90 new bio-based materials, against a target of 50.

Some 40 new bio-based consumer products have also been launched (the target was 30).

One innovation with considerable potential – not least given the focus on disposable plastics currently – is PEF (polyethylene furanoate), a bio-based alternative to PET (polyethylene terephthalate).

Around 70 percent of soft drinks are now packaged in PET plastic bottles, but PEF is the "first example of a polymer that's better than the petroleum-based ones", said Tom Van Aken, CEO of Avantium, which has developed the technology.

Stronger and thinner than its oil-based cousin, PEF also has improved barrier properties, said Van Aken, so the shelf-life of products can be extended.

Backed by a €25 million BBI subsidy, the company is part of a consortium developing a supply chain for FDCA (2,5-furandicarboxylic acid), the building block for PEF. Coca-Cola and Danone have also invested in Avantium's research.

For bio-based products, supply chains are critical.

New markets for agricultural and forestry products that are used in bio-based materials could reportedly create around 700,000 jobs by 2030, 80 percent of them rural, and much has been made of the potential in the bio-economy to tick a number of boxes in terms of economic and environmental sustainability.

PEF won't be available commercially before 2020, for example, but it is part of a global bio-plastics market that is set to grow 20 percent in the next five years, according to research published at the European bioplastics conference in Berlin in November.

Asia accounts for the largest share of production (50 percent). Europe represents 20 percent, but this should expand to 25 percent by 2022, thanks to the European Commission's commitment to transitioning to a circular economy model.

A political deal on the circular economy package was struck on Monday (18 December).

A full review of the bio-economy strategy – which is seen as complementary to the circular economy – is planned for 2018, but a progress report published in November has already concluded that "there is great potential in a sustainable circular bio-economy".

With forward-thinking policies in place more investment should follow. As Europe's science and research commissioner Carlos Moedas has said: "Private money goes where stability is and where policies are predictable."

Much less predictable is how consumers view bio-based products. It was through a couple of new surveys with 500 people that Bioways – which was set up to raise awareness of bio-based products – discovered just how poor people's understanding is. "It's a mess," admitted Albertini.

To date, there has been little research on people's perceptions regarding bio-based products.

One of the few academic studies there are suggested a general state of confusion. Researchers in the Netherlands quizzed 89 people from five EU countries (a fair-sized study in qualitative terms) and concluded that a large number of them had questions, felt uncertain or had "mixed feelings" regarding the whole thing.

"It [bio-based] is very strange. What does it mean?" admitted one of the consumers involved. Others suggested the whole thing could be a "marketing gimmick".

Concerns certainly intensified when the products in question are not 100 percent bio-based (one of the products given to them was Coca-Cola's part-plant bottle), or if they were produced outside the EU in countries (for example, a hemp-based T-shirt from China).

Companies will need to tread carefully when it comes to marketing their wares. Whether it's face creams enhanced by cellulose microfibrils, thistles for compostable packaging or waste milk proteins that are used to make dresses, the message from the study was to keep things simple and clear.

The term 'bio-based' doesn't help in that respect. But this shouldn't stop companies ramping up their efforts to communicate the environmental benefits and functionality of their products.

MEP Lambert van Nistelrooij, the Dutch Christian Democrat member of the Europe People's Party, said Europe's design ability isn't always matched by its selling techniques. He called on the sector to "be visible and be touchable."

Some already are. In a survey of 40 brands by bio-economy communications specialists, Sustainability Consult, published in November, 71 percent said they were already communicating their use of bio-based products externally.

Consumer demand for environmentally-friendly products was the key driver for their investment.

More and more member states have also adopted bio-economy strategies, which will help raise awareness at a national level. And the potential of the bio-based economy will no doubt continue to appeal to a commission that has made jobs, growth and investment a priority.

"I think 2018 is going to be a turning point for the bio-economy as it moves from niche to norm," said John Bell, bio-economy director at DG research and innovation.

At €2.2 trillion and 18.6 million jobs you could say the bio-economy has already arrived – but many people are still waiting for the bang.

Read more: Europe's 'best-kept secret' - its booming bio-economy

The Netherlands: Iran Rejects Dutch MP’s Claim on Tehran’s Christmas Gift

Dutch Parlimentarion Henk Krol
The Iranian embassy in The Hague has reacted to a Dutch MP’s throwing away of a Christmas gift sent by Iran, saying that the New Year’s congratulation messages have been sent to different figures regardless of their gender.

A video recently aired by POW channel showed Henk Krol, the parliamentary leader of 50PLUS party in the House of Representatives of the Netherlands, dumping a Christmas gift he had received from the Iranian embassy. Krol claimed in this video that the gift had been sent only to male members of the Dutch parliament.

In reaction to the move, Iran’s embassy in The Hague said many women have been among the recipients of the message of the Iranian Ambassador as well.

According to a Farsi report by IRNA, the embassy announced in its statement that the video of throwing away of the Christmas gift sent by Iran’s embassy has been released by a cheap and yellow media.

Iran’s embassy said that every year the embassy sends a greeting card and a small gift to Dutch officials and salient figures on the New Year’s Eve.

“This year, the number of recipients of the message increased and the congratulatory message was sent to the parliamentary figures as well. Unfortunately, this person, with an incomplete and negative outlook at the Islamic Republic of Iran, claimed that the embassy congratulations were sent only to men.

While the fact is that the New Year greetings have been sent to officials and personalities regardless of their gender, and many women have also been among the recipients of the greetings of the Iranian Ambassador,” reads the statement.

According to the statement, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also expressed regret at this ignorant act of the Dutch party figure.

Many Iranians living in the Netherlands have also denounced the move calling on this person to apologize.

Read More: Iran Rejects Dutch MP’s Claim on Tehran’s Christmas Gift

Sweden: What America Can Learn from Sweden About Combatting Fake News - by Nina Mast

In 2016, the story of a juvenile sex crime in an Idaho town swept through the national right-wing media ecosystem, picking up fabricated and lurid details along the way; several months later, the newly inaugurated President Donald Trump falsely suggested that a terrorist attack had recently taken place in Sweden, baffling the country. The two incidents, though seemingly unrelated, were spurred by the same sentiment: rabid anti-immigrant bias fueled by a sensationalistic, right-wing fake news ecosystem.

Misinformation about the case was initially spurred by anti-Muslim activist groups, such as ACT for Americaand Refugee Resettlement Watch, as well as anti-Muslim media figures and various white nationalists who had been seemingly preparing for an incident to exploit in Twin Falls since a local paper reported in early 2015 that the city would soon be accepting Syrian refugees. After the incident, far-right websites including BreitbartInfowarsThe Drudge ReportThe Rebel 

Media, WorldNetDaily, and fake news website MadWorldNews ran with the story, fabricating new details for which there was no evidence, including that the young boys were Syrian (they weren’t), held the girl at knifepoint (they didn’t), and their families celebrated afterward (they didn’t).

In the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, Breitbart produced daily content on the story and sent its lead investigative reporter, Lee Stranahan, to investigate the “Muslim takeover” of the town. Infowars attempted to link the assault to Chobani, an immigrant-owned yogurt company that employs several hundred refugees, in a report headlined “Idaho Yogurt Maker Caught Importing Migrant Rapists.” Chobani sued Jones over the claim, and eventually settled; Jones issued an apology and a retraction. The story also bled into mainstream conservative news.

Former Fox host Bill O’Reilly claimed the national media chose to not cover the local crime story because they “want[ed] to protect the refugee community.” O’Reilly pushed the narrative that sexual assault is committed frequently by Muslim refugees, saying, “the cultural aspect of the story is valid” in response to a Fox News contributor claiming that “we're seeing sexual assaults happen across the world from refugee populations” in Germany and Norway

In the case of Twin Falls, many commenters explicitly extrapolated the mythical migrant crime wave of Europe to the American heartland. The Times quoted one American woman writing, “My girl is blond and blue-eyed. ... I am extremely worried about her safety.” It is therefore not surprising that the vast majority of Trump voters think illegal immigration is a very serious problem for the country, particularly in the context of crime. And thanks to “alt-right” outlets like Breitbart, which consistently use crime in Europe to fearmonger about immigration into the U.S., local crime can have policy implications across continents. As the so-called “alt-right” attempts to expand its reach internationally, these high-profile crime stories are powerful fodder.

In the case of Twin Falls, many commenters explicitly extrapolated the mythical migrant crime wave of Europe to the American heartland. The Times quoted one American woman writing, “My girl is blond and blue-eyed. ... I am extremely worried about her safety.” It is therefore not surprising that the vast majority of Trump voters think illegal immigration is a very serious problem for the country, particularly in the context of crime. And thanks to “alt-right” outlets like Breitbart, which consistently use crime in Europe to fearmonger about immigration into the U.S., local crime can have policy implications across continents. As the so-called “alt-right” attempts to expand its reach internationally, these high-profile crime stories are powerful fodder.

What's happening in Sweden is what's happening in sleepy towns in the United States. The ideologies, tactics, and goals are all the same. There will be another case like the Twin Falls assault and another story like that of the Swedish church, and in the context of a media landscape eager to exploit these situations and a presidential administration that encourages xenophobia and has deep ties to the far-right and a burgeoning fake news ecosystem, the impact of the next viral story could be much worse.

In order to confront the problem of anti-immigrant sentiment flamed by misinformation and fake news, mainstream media and governments alike need to be realistic about the challenges and possible solutions. In a recent report released by the Swedish government, the authors noted, “One important question is where the limit is for which expressions are harmful to society in large and its citizens.” It’s a question that may never have a perfect answer, but seeking to understand the ecosystem and its players, ideologies, relationships, and methods is a good start.

For the complete report go to: : What America Can Learn from Sweden About Combatting Fake News | Alternet

USA: Trump poll: 'Idiot' most common word used by voters to describe US President - by Caroline Mortimer

“Idiot” is the first word that springs to people’s minds when they think about Donald Trump, a new poll has revealed.

The Quinnipiac University Poll, a survey centre based at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, surveyed adults across the US and found 53 voters first thought of the word “idiot” when describing the President.

Meanwhile 44 voters described Mr Trump as a “liar” and 36 said he was “incompetent”.

Read more: Trump poll: 'Idiot' most common word used by voters to describe US President | The Independent


EUROZONE ECONOMICS: Pierre Moscovici sees big leap for eurozone – by Matthew Karnitschnig

European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici said Friday he was confident eurozone countries would pursue an ambitious restructuring of their currency union after upcoming elections in France and Germany. “It will be a window of opportunity that we must not miss,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund’s spring meeting.

Though he acknowledged there is still no political consensus on whether to pursue such a course, he argued that the challenges the single currency faces will force policymakers to act.

“I’m confident that consciousness will come that it is of basic common interest that we have stronger tools for the eurozone,” Moscovici said, adding that he expected the Commission’s upcoming paper on the future of monetary union to be “ambitious.” “This debate is not over, it is starting.”

 Read more: Pierre Moscovici sees big leap for eurozone – POLITICO

EU Security Services: Border Security 2018

Following the success of the previous sell-out events, SMi Group’s Border Security Conference returns in 2018 with its biggest and best agenda to date.

 In addition, with free-movement a critical and divisive focus of Brexit negotiations, as well as a new administration in the White House, this year's event is more topical and relevant than ever.

With rapid globalisation impacting every continent, added pressures to borders around the world need addressing. Border Security 2018 will provide amplatform for leading representatives of industry and government to discuss the political and technological solutions being utilised to secure national borders.

Read more: Border Security 2018 — | EU news, business and politics


Christmas: Majority of Americans do not view Christmas primarily as a religious holiday - by Eugene Scott

Christmas was a big day for President Trump. His first Christmas as president gave him the opportunity to fulfill a campaign promise —technically
Trump had promised his supporters — many of whom are upset at the increasing secularization of the Christmas holiday — that they would be able to say “Merry Christmas” again if they elected him.

On Sunday night, Christmas Eve, Trump tweeted: "People are proud to be saying Merry Christmas again. I am proud to have led the charge against the assault of our cherished and beautiful phrase. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!"

Although no American was barred from wishing others a “Merry Christmas” before Trump entered the White House, some of his supporters were frustrated, if not angered, by the number of politicians saying “Happy Holidays” in addition to “Merry Christmas.” President Barack Obama, Trump’s predecessor, wished Americans a “Merry Christmas” multiple times when he was president — and continues that tradition to this day.

But some within Trump’s base, especially the white evangelicals who voted for him in high numbers, are uncomfortable with America increasingly becoming a multifaith nation.

Evangelical leader Franklin Graham told Fox News that it is essential that people know that Christmas is a Christian holiday. “Christmas is really about the birth of Jesus Christ, and that's what we're all celebrating,” he said.

But the likelihood of Americans getting on “the same page” as Cobb and other Trump supporters about the meaning of Christmas is not good.

The majority of Americans do not primarily view Christmas as a religious holiday. According to Pew Research Center polls, only 46 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas as primarily a religious (rather than cultural) holiday, a 5 percent decrease from 2013.

And this doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon, considering that millennials are even less likely than older adults to include a religious component in their Christmas celebration.

And most Americans recognize this, with a majority of adults — 56 percent — saying the religious aspects of Christmas are less emphasized in society than in years past.

When asked whether Christian symbols such as nativity scenes should be allowed on government property, the percentage of Americans who say such displays should not be allowed is growing — from 20 percent three years ago to 26 percent today.

Although most Americans gladly celebrate Christmas and probably will continue to wish others a “Merry Christmas,” for many Trump supporters, America won’t truly be great again until Christianity regains its central position in this increasingly multifaith and secular society.

“Christmas is all about Christ. I'm so excited that the president isn't afraid to mention the name of Jesus Christ,” he added.

But the data suggests that for many Americans, what would make the nation great is acknowledging the diversity of its citizens' values while allowing them the freedom to celebrate the birth of Christ as they please.

Note EU-Digest: Hopefully the Christian community will keep reminding those of other faiths and Christmas shoppers about, the reason for the holiday season.

 Read more: Majority of Americans do not view Christmas primarily as a religious holiday


EU: Building a positive agenda for the Mediterranean – by Fathallah Sijilmassi

Today there are three main reasons why we need to mobilise all our efforts to ensure a true partnership between both sides of the Mediterranean.

Firstly, it has never been clearer that the challenges facing the Euro-Mediterranean region call for a collective and concerted response. From security threats to our endeavor of living together to the socio-economic challenges, everything now points to the fact that no response can be solely national or confined to a limited geographical area.

At a time when inward-looking attitudes and nationalist sentiments are on the rise, today we must say loudly and clearly that it is by working together that we will succeed, or else we will all fail.

This is the purpose of the roadmap for the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), adopted in January 2017 in Barcelona by the foreign affairs ministers from its 43 Member States. It is also in this spirit that the recent African Union – European Union (AU-EU) summit was held in Abidjan. The EU is also in a process of consolidation in view of the need to act collectively in response to the different challenges.

The stability and security of Europe, the Mediterranean and Africa are obviously closely linked.

Secondly, limiting the Southern Mediterranean to the sole task of managing the “negative agenda”, which must of course be firmly and decisively dealt with (terrorism, irregular migration, radicalism, etc.), would be an enormous injustice for the millions of Mediterranean people who are part of the spirit of openness and modernity and whose daily accomplishments are remarkable.

These women and men in the Southern and Northern Mediterranean are the region’s greatest asset and the finest ambassadors for the shared values that we seek to defend and promote. They should be at the centre of our attention and actions.

Thirdly, we must strengthen our collective political engagement to foster concrete actions.

Today the Mediterranean does not need a romantic vision of the glorious past of our sea, “mare nostrum”, a defeatist, anxiety-inducing conversation about the state of the region, or constant theories about the eternal need to restructure the partnership.

The institutions already exist. We must make greater use of them. The funding already exists. We must ensure that it is used fully and effectively for actions that strengthen the bonds between people and bring tangible results which meet their expectations.

It is on the basis of these three observations that the Union for the Mediterranean gives priority to action on the ground rather than to media headlines.

Under the direction of its two Co-Presidencies – the European Union and Jordan – and the action taken by its Secretariat, the activities of the UfM have enabled it to achieve three major strategic objectives in a challenging context in recent years:

    To become a platform for regional political dialogue;
    To bring together governments and regional cooperation actors (international organisations, NGOs, the private sector, local authorities, etc.); and
    To promote specific regional projects for the benefit of people.

The UfM embodies today the will to have a working framework for strengthening the regional cooperation in the Mediterranean. This framework addresses all the serious and unfortunately growing challenges of our region. It also allows us to do so with a global and balanced perspective that fully recognises the existence of important opportunities and addresses the root causes of the current problems we face, such as the challenges of youth employment, education, health, and justice.

From concrete projects for young people – the Euro-Mediterranean University of Fez, the Mediterranean Initiative for Jobs (Med4Jobs), the Sciences Po’s WOMED women’s leadership project, to name but a few – to sustainable development programmes in the areas of water, the environment, the blue economy, transport, urban development, energy and climate change, the opportunities are real and numerous.

Confidently building a positive agenda for the Mediterranean is critical, and it must be done with strength and conviction.

Read more: Building a positive agenda for the Mediterranean –


The Netherlands: US ambassador to Netherlands describes own words as 'fake news - Martin Belam'

The US ambassador to the Netherlands faced an excruciating moment on television when he denied ever saying that there were no-go zones in the Netherlands, calling the suggestion “fake news”.

Trump’s new choice for ambassador, Pete Hoekstra, who was only sworn in by the vice president, Mike Pence, on 11 December, was being interviewed for current affairs programme Nieuwsuur by reporter Wouter Zwart.

Zwart says: “You mentioned in a debate that there are no-go zones in the Netherlands, and that cars and politicians are being set on fire in the Netherlands.”

Hoekstra replies: “I didn’t say that. This is actually an incorrect statement. We would call it fake news.”

Hoekstra is then shown clips of him saying: “The Islamic movement has now gotten to a point where they have put Europe into chaos. Chaos in the Netherlands, there are cars being burnt, there are politicians that are being burnt ... and yes there are no-go zones in the Netherlands.”

Challenged about having called this “fake news”, Hoekstra then went on to deny to Zwart that he had in fact used the phrase “fake news”.

“I didn’t call that fake news. I didn’t use the words today. I don’t think I did.”

Hoekstra, who was born in Groningen in the Netherlands, was a Republican Congressman for Michigan between 1993 and 2011, and served as chair of the House intelligence committee for two years during that time.

Note EU-Digest: "No Mr. Hoekstra, we also don't believe that story of the Dutch boy putting his finger in the dike

Read more: US ambassador to Netherlands describes own words as 'fake news' | World news | The Guardian


Spain: Catalan Separatists secure majority while Inés Arrimadas’ Ciutadans wins the regional elections

Situation confusing: “Today we have opted for the union of all Catalans, we have voted to unite, in favor of coexistence, common sense and a Catalonia for all,” said Arrimadas as her supporters chanted “president, president” in Plaça d’Espanya, Barcelona.

According to the winner of Thursday’s Catalan elections, this victory “makes it more visible that Catalonia is plural” and that has sent a “message” to Spain and the world that “the social majority feels Catalan, Spanish and European, and will continue to do so.“

As of this Thursday, “it has become clearer that the social majority of Catalans is in favor of the union,” and assured that the separatists “will never be able to speak on behalf of Catalonia.”

Read more: = bCatalan Separatists secure majority while Inés Arrimadas’ Ciutadans wins the regional elections


EU Trade agreement with Mexico: EU and Mexico fail to conclude political agreement on trade deal – by Iana Dreyer

European trade officials had been more optimistic about the prospects for a deal with Mexico than with the South American bloc Mercosur, talks towards which ended in a limbo in early December.

But European Commission hopes to announce a ‘political agreement’ with Mexico by year-end were nonetheless dashed.

The issues that required ironing out over the last days included market access in agriculture, agreement over a few geographical indications on cheeses (such as Manchego) and the EU’s investment court system.

EU trade chief Cecilia Malmström said today: “We are confident we can solve all the remaining political issues. But we need a little bit more time.”

Read more: EU and Mexico fail to conclude political agreement on trade deal –

Spain: Catalonia election set to give victory to pro-independence parties

Catalan pro-independence parties look set to hold on to their absolute majority in Thursday’s snap regional elections, dealing a severe blow to the Spanish government, which called the polls in the hope of heading off the secessionist threat.

With 90% of the votes counted, the three separatist parties are on course to win 70 seats in the 135-seat regional parliament even though the centre-right Citizens party appears to be the single party with the most seats.

Together for Catalonia, the party led by deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, is expected to take 34 seats, the Catalan Republican Left 32 and the far-left, anti-capitalist Popular Unity Candidacy four. Between them, they will have enough seats to reassemble the parliamentary majority that put them into office after the 2015 elections.

The Citizens party, which has taken a fiercely anti-independence stance, is on track to win 36 seats, the Catalan socialist party 17, Catalunya en Comú-Podem (the Catalan version of the anti-austerity Podemos party) eight and the conservative People’s party four.

Xavier Albiol, the leader of the Catalan People’s party, congratulated the Citizens party on its results and conceded it had not gone well for his own party.

Thursday’s vote is the latest chapter in the extraordinary showdown that has pitched the defiantly separatist former government of Catalonia against the Madrid authorities and brought about Spain’s worst political crisis since its return to democracy four decades ago.

Read more: Catalonia election set to give victory to pro-independence parties | World news | The Guardian

USA: U.N. Defies Trump's Bullying and Threats by Passing Resolution on Jerusalem - by Kambiz Foroohar

The United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly backed a measure critical of President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel despite U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s warning that the move could put funding for their nations and the global body at risk.

The nonbinding UN resolution passed on Thursday by a vote of 128-9, with 35 nations abstaining. Key U.S. allies backing the measure over Trump’s threats included the U.K., France, Italy, Japan and Germany. The U.S. was joined in opposition by countries including Guatemala, Nauru and Micronesia. Abstentions included Australia, Canada and Argentina.

“The United States will remember this day when it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly,” Haley said at the U.N. podium ahead of the vote. “We will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they often do, to pay even more. This vote will be remembered.”

That threat was repudiated by speakers from countries supporting the resolution, which says the status of Jerusalem must be resolved through negotiations. A similar resolution had 14 votes in favor in the 15-member Security Council last week, prompting Haley to exercise the first U.S. veto since 2011.

“We were all asked to vote no or face the consequences,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said before Thursday’s vote. “Some even threatened to cut development aid. This is bullying. It is unethical to think that the votes and dignity of member states are for sale.” 

Read more: U.N. Defies Trump's Threats by Passing Resolution on Jerusalem


Netherlands population getting more diverse; To hit 18 million by 2031 - by Janene Pieters

The Dutch population will continue to grow in the coming decades to over 18.4 million people by 2060, according to the latest prognosis by Statistics Netherlands. The 18 millionth inhabitant is expected in 2031. By 2040 almost a quarter of the Dutch population will be elderly, and by 2060 just over a third will have their roots in the outside world, according to the stats office.

The population of the Netherlands is growing because more people move to the Netherlands than move away, and because of the increasing lifespan. "In the coming years, more children will also be born, but that will not be sufficient in the long run to compensate for the increasing number of deaths", Statistics Netherlands writes. According to the current forecast, from the end of the 2030s more residents will die each year than are born.

Over the past two decades, the Dutch population grew by 1.5 million people. 86 percent of this increase involve people with a migration background. People immigrating to the Netherlands for work or study increased sharply over the past en years. And more recently, the Netherlands also saw a mass increase in asylum migrants. Though immigration from tradition countries of origin like Morocco, Turkey and Suriname decreased.

In the coming decades, the number of Netherlands residents with a migration background will increase, while the residents with a Dutch background will decrease, Statistics Netherlands expects.

This year 23 percent of the population have a migration background, by 2060 this will increase to 34 percent. "Both now and in the future, more than half of those with a migration background were born in the Netherlands, with at least one parent born abroad."

The number of elderly residents will also increase in the coming decades, due to the high birth rates immediately after the Second World War and in the 1950s and '60s. Another factor is that lifespan increased over the paEU-Digestst years and continues to rise. According to the prognosis, the proportion of the population aged 65 and older will increase from 18 percent in 2017 to 24 percent in 2040.

According to Statistics Netherlands, this prognosis has a level of uncertainty. Migration fluctuates from year to year, which means there is great uncertainty in the prognosis of immigration and emigration on the short term. Birth and mortality rates are easier to predict in the short term, but uncertainty increases in the long term. Taking these uncertainties into account, the Dutch population will be between 17.2 million and 19.7 million people in 2060.

Note  EU -Digest: Bottom line: the Netherlands needs more immigrants, obviously this immigration stream needs to be far better controlled and administered than it is presently done. New citizens should also be required to swear their alliance to the Netherlands/EU during a special Public ceremony in presided over by a Judge, when inducted as citizens of the Netherlands/EU and agree not to serve in any other military force, except that of the Netherlands or the common EU defense force.

Read more: Netherlands population getting more diverse; To hit 18 million by 2031 | NL Times

USA Pharmaceutical Prices all over the map: Want cheaper prescription drugs? You better shop around

The American Health-Care System rated worst in the Western World
Consumer Reports found that in the US cash prices for several common generic medications like Cymbalta could vary greatly from pharmacy to pharmacy, even in one zip code.

Desiree Bercilla's life was jolted in May when her boyfriend was diagnosed with Bell's palsy. She received another surprise when she phoned her local pharmacy and found the drug he needed, the antiviral Valtrex, would cost nearly $600.

That was the price for the brand-name version but even the generic was more than $200. Bercilla continued to make calls until Costco, the warehouse chain, quoted her a price of less than $39 for the generic.

"My initial reaction was shock," Bercilla said. "Because I can't believe that in order for me to get the best price from the pharmacy, I have to shop around."

Bercilla, a 37-year-old with a 3-year-old daughter, got similar results when NBC News asked her to check the cash price — the amount paid by someone not using insurance — of Valtrex in her area again last month.

Prices ranged from a high of $596 at Walmart to $473 at Costco for the brand-name prescription. For the generic, Walgreens had the highest price at almost $242 while the cheapest was at Costco, selling for just under $39.

Experts say the disparity Bercilla encountered isn't a fluke. Lisa Gill, prescription drug editor at Consumer Reports, told NBC News that prices vary wildly from pharmacy to pharmacy, even in the same region.

A new Consumer Reports survey of 1,200 adults on prescription medication found 22 percent — which would translate into about 27 million Americans — saw a price hike for at least one drug. For one in three of those consumers, the hike cost them at least $50 extra per month.

That's why shopping around can really pay for consumers, many of whom don't even realize how much they can save.

"When we look at retail prices across the country we see — for the same drug, for the same dose, for the same quantity, everything the same — incredible price differences even within the same zip code," Gill said.

"It can be up to 10 times bigger," Gill said.

Read more: Want cheaper prescription drugs? You better shop around | Euronews

EU-Bitcoin Concerns:The Bitcoin Surge Sparks Bubble Warning by Top European Official - by Alexander Weber

The frenzy on virtual-currency markets has prompted the starkest warning yet from the European Union’s financial-services chief, who said that investors are at risk of losing everything.

EU Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis asked the heads of the EU’s three financial supervisors to update their warnings to consumers “as a matter of urgency” in light of recent market developments, acording to a letter seen by Bloomberg.

“The developments relating to bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in recent weeks require our heightened attention,” Dombrovskis wrote in the letter. “While I acknowledge the important opportunities offered by blockchain technology and its various applications, the current market developments around bitcoin constitute the signs of a pricing bubble, even if -- in terms of global volume -- it remains at the moment within a small share of the financial markets.”

Read more: Bitcoin Surge Sparks Bubble Warning by Top European Official - Bloomberg

Germany: Formation new Government; Merkel and Schulz aim to wrap up initial talks by mid-January – by Janosch Delcker

Angela Merkel’s conservatives and Martin Schulz’s Social Democrats want to wrap up their first inner-circle talks on forming Germany’s next coalition government by January 12, in what will be the chancellor’s last chance to form a stable government.

Top party officials from Merkel’s CDU, its Bavarian sister party the CSU, and Schulz’s SPD met Wednesday to discuss the timeline of the talks. They agreed exploratory talks would begin on January 7, with negotiators hoping to present the results to their party faithful five days later. Schulz

had tweeted Tuesday that he did not expect the talks to take off until after a CSU party summit on January 6.

“It was a good conversation in an atmosphere based on trust,” the three parties said in a joint statement about the meeting.

Read more: Merkel and Schulz aim to wrap up initial talks by mid-January – POLITICO

Poland - European Independent Judiciary Systems: Poland facing EU sanctions because "EU membership does not mean you can have your cake and eat it too"

The real reason why the EU is considering starting sanction proceedings is Poland's refugee policy, the pro-government news website believes:
“The EU elites are mounting a massive attack. In their line of fire is the disobedient Poland, for whom common sense and the security of its citizens are more important than the idiocy of the left-wing elites and their infantile ideology. ... We're being threatened with the activation of Article 7, financial punishment and exclusion from the group of EU decision-makers just because we refuse to take in refugees. ... War has already come to their territory. The terror and destruction of which we warned them in vain are simmering, ready to ignite. ... But we're not going to die for their multiculturalism.”
The PiS could even benefit from the dispute with the EU, explains leftist journalist Jakub Majmurek in a commentary for Newsweek Polska:
“The PiS is already behaving as if any criticism of the government casts doubt on the election results and constitutes treason. The possibility of the internal dispute in Poland being connected to EU sanctions only strengthens this rhetoric. It's hard to explain to the public why one supports sanctions against one's own country. So if the opposition doesn't come up with a clever PR strategy that blames the PiS for the row with Brussels very soon, then it's not certain that the PiS will come out of the conflict with the EU as the loser. At least not until it's clear to all normal citizens what the consequences of Poland's being sidelined in Europe would be.”
Note EU-Digest: When will some countries in the EU,  like Poland realize that membership in the EU does not mean they "can have their cake and eat it too"
 Read more: Poland facing EU sanctions | eurotopics.]\


EU Migration Problems: Former PM Mikuláš Dzurinda of Slovakia "EU must seek solution for migration outside its borders" – by Lucia Yar

The solution to the migration crisis is beyond the European Union borders and the EU must be prepared to talk to all relevant players in troubled countries and provide financial and logistical help, the former prime minister of Slovakia told EURACTIV.

It is necessary to act. When I say that agreements with relevant players are needed, these agreements should be directed in such a way that they don’t create modern concentration camps where people are raped and abused. The conditions in centres in which people spend the time needed for an asylum procedure must be dignified.

I do not feel nervous that some accents are now different in Warsaw or Budapest. Rather the opposite, the accents should be understood. Sometimes even the Slovaks could be interpreting them in Brussels or Paris.

Not everything that Orbán or Kaczynski say is foolish. Yet, the degree of centralisation worries me. I often feel that the European administration in Brussels interferes with the member states’ competence and that they are barely consulted.

All of these processes need to be seen very soberly, and the Visegrad Four needs to be cultivated. It does not need to be pushed to the position of a breaker. It should become a unifier.

Read more: Dzurinda: EU must seek solution for migration outside its borders –

USA - Tax Bill:: House passes massive tax package; Senate to vote next - .by S Ohlemacher and M. Gordon

 Gleeful Republicans on Tuesday muscled the most sweeping rewrite of the nation's tax laws in more than three decades through the House. House Speaker Paul Ryan dismissed criticism of the widely unpopular package and insisted "results are what's going to make this popular."

The vote, largely along party lines, was 227-203 and capped a GOP sprint to deliver a major legislative accomplishment to President Donald Trump after a year of congressional stumbles and non-starters.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Senate would vote Tuesday evening, sending the legislation to Trump for his signature.

Read more: House passes massive tax package; Senate to vote next

USA: Economic optimism soaring, helping Trump: says "bogus" CNBC survey - Or is it another Stock Market Fata Morgana?

"American optimism" - (not sure which people this includes except maybe the wealthy) on the economy is reaching "new heights" and President Donald Trump's approval ratings look to be benefiting, at least somewhat.

The "CNBC All-American Economic Survey" found that for the first time in at least 11 years, more than half of "respondents" to the survey rated the economy as good or excellent, while a near record 41 percent expected the economy to improve in the next year.

Note EU-Digest: Is this another Wall Street Fata Morgana? Who was covered in this bogus survey? Certainly not the one out of 4 Americans who live in poverty.  How do we explain the great proven disparity between poor and rich in America. Tell us another one CNBC.  



French Guiana - ESA: Getting the New European Ariane 6 Space Vehicle launch pad ready by July 2020

The New ESA Ariane 6
When Euronews visited, around 500 people were active on the site from six in the morning until ten at night, with attention focused on two key elements of the pad – firstly the huge flame trench which will take the hot gases away from the rocket on launch, and the new building in which the Ariane 6 will be built.

Every element of the new launcher has been built with efficiency and savings in mind, as Europe’s space sector seeks to halve the cost of launching an Ariane 6 compared to today’s heavyweight Ariane 5.

One of the key innovations is that the Ariane 6 will be built horizontally, like the Americans and Russians already do, rather than vertically. This allows for big economies in terms of air conditioning costs and the need for special safety equipment for staff working on high-level platforms.

Didier Coulon, who manages the site for the European Space Agency, explains the steps a rocket will go through: “Once we’ve assembled the launcher, it will be put on a transporter, and we send it to the launch zone, and there it’s raised up vertically, we then bring along the boosters, and at that moment we carry our a general check of the launcher, and that gives the green light to bring along the upper composite with the satellite inside. Once we’ve done that we pull back the 90 metre high mobile portico and we go ahead with the launch.“

Read more: Race to build Ariane 6 rocket launch pad | Euronews

Pollution-Trash:EU legislators strike early morning deal on waste - by Paola Tamma

After marathon talks, negotiators from the European Parliament and the Council of EU member states reached agreement on a proposed package of waste legislation in the early hours of Monday (18 December).

The package includes four EU directives introducing new binding recycling targets, a cap on landfilling, and schemes to ensure that manufacturers cover the end-of-life treatment of products.

The agreement was struck at 4.30am after almost 18 hours of negotiations, EURACTIV has learned.

Read more: EU legislators strike early morning deal on waste –

USA - Building a Wall Around America - the Isolationist Trump Doctrine and Strategy as unveiled by Donald Trump

A wall around America, instead 
of one between Mexico and US
President Donald Trump declared a new national security strategy on Monday,December 18, stressing the "America first" message of his 2016 campaign and faulting previous U.S. leaders for failing to measure up to it and look out for the nation's citizens. Isolation

"Our leaders engaged in nation building abroad while they failed to build up and replenish our nation at home," he said, pointing to the economy's strong performance and predicting even better under his policies.

His security strategy envisions nations in constant competition, reverses Obama-era warnings on climate change and affirms that the United States will unilaterally defend its sovereignty, even if that means risking existing the agreements with other countries that have dominated the United States' foreign policy since the Cold War.

The strategy from the Republican president could sharply alter U.S. international relationships if fully implemented. It focuses on four main themes: protecting the homeland, promoting American prosperity, demonstrating peace through strength and advancing American influence in an ever-competitive world.

Trump's doctrine holds that nation-states are in perpetual competition and that the U.S. must fight on all fronts to protect and defend its sovereignty from friend and foe alike. While the administration often says that "America First" does not mean "America Alone," the national security strategy makes clear that the United States will stand up for itself even if that means acting unilaterally or alienating others on issues such as trade, climate change and immigration.

Despite the risk of potential isolation presented by Trump's strategy, its fundamentals are not a surprise. The strategy emphasizes that U.S. economic security is national security. And it stresses that the U.S. is interested only in relationships with other countries, including in alliances such as NATO, that are fair and reciprocal.

The strategy also details the threats of "rogue regimes," like North Korea. It says that China and Russia "challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity."

Despite international challenges, the document cites emerging opportunities to advance American interests in the Middle East. "Some of our partners are working together to reject radical ideologies and key leaders are calling for a rejection of Islamist extremism and violence," it says. "Encouraging political stability and sustainable prosperity would contribute to dampening the conditions that fuel sectarian grievances."

Note EU-Digest: Obviously the President of the USA can and must do what in his eyes he believes is good for America. As to the EU, what is good for America, necessarily does not have to be good for the EU. Consequently, as has been written many times, the EU must stop being the "lapdog" of America, given its importance as a world class economy, with a population of close to half a billion people, and establish its own independent foreign policy based on EU principles and  priorities, and include a review of its military objectives within this context.

As to the leaders of European Populists and Nationalist parties, like Geert Wilders, Jean Marie Lr Pen, Nigel Farage, and others, who apparently admire Trump's "America First Isolationist Doctrine",  we  recommend they pack their bags and request asylum in the US  from their idol Donald Trump.   

Read more: Trump unveils details of 'America First' security strategy


Ocean Pollution and Fishing Industry: Are seafood lovers really eating 11,000 bits of plastic per year?

Fishing Industry Under Pollution warning
The claim: Seafood lovers could be eating up to 11,000 microscopic pieces of plastic a year.

Reality Check verdict: There is evidence of plastic microparticles being found in the particular mussels and oysters examined, but the research suggests that in order to consume that much plastic you'd have to be eating an average of more than four oysters or between 17 and 18 mussels a day.

The figure of 11,000 bits of plastic a year, which has been reported by the Daily Mail and others recently, comes from a piece of Ghent University research dating back to June 2014.

The researchers were investigating how much plastic is consumed by humans via water molluscs such as mussels and oysters.

The researchers looked at mussels which lived on farms in the North Sea and were bought in Germany, and at oysters from Brittany in France which were farmed in the Atlantic Ocean.

Farming in this context means the mussels and oysters lived on "rope" that hangs in seawater while they were growing.

First they examined the combined tissue of three mussels and two oysters which was about 15-20 grams of meat and found that there was an average of 0.42 plastic particles per gram.

While reports of this figure featured photographs of plastic bottles and other waste washed up on beaches, these particular particles are very small - if you put 11,000 of them in a line it would cover about 4in (11cm).

To get an idea of how many particles people were likely to be eating, the authors accessed data from the European Food Safety Authority's food consumption database.

Read more: Are seafood lovers really eating 11,000 bits of plastic per year? - BBC News

EU Politics: Europe Far Right and Populists hails Trump, slams EU, Islam, migrants - Philip Heijmans

ar right leaders promised to build a new Europe without the EU, as they rallied against Islam and praised US President Donald Trump's hardline immigration policy at a meeting in Prague over the weekend.

Populist politicians from France, the UK, Poland, Austria and the Netherlands wrapped up their gathering on Sunday, held under the banner: "For a Europe of sovereign nations".

The conference was hosted by the Czech Republic's anti-Islam Freedom and Direct Democracy party, which won nearly 11 percent of the vote in October and is chaired by Tomio Okamura, a Czech-Japanese politician.

The meeting closed a year of far-right gains across Europe, as demonstrated most recently in Austria.

Members of the Freedom Party of Austria, who were present at the Prague conference, were lauded for having just entered the country's new coalition government.

The National Front's Marine Le Pen, who lost out on the French presidency earlier this year after reaching the final round of voting, said the development was "excellent news for Europe.

"These successes show that the nation states are the future, that the Europe of tomorrow is a Europe of the people," she said.

Along with Dutch Geert Wilders, who leads the Party for Freedom, Le Pen upped a call to unify opposition to the EU under the Europe of Nations and Freedom coalition (ENF) - the smallest group, launched in 2015, in the European Parliament.

Closing Europe's borders to asylum-seekers is one of the group's key ambitions.

Read More: Europe far right hails Trump, slams EU, Islam, migrants | Czech Republic News | Al Jazeera

Germany′s Angela Merkel and SPD assess chances for grand coalition

Chancellor Angela Merkel, leader of Germany's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), is set to meet Social Democrats (SPD) leader Martin Schulz on Wednesday evening for the first unmediated discussions about whether to extend the country's current "grand coalition" government.

After their worst electoral performance in post-war German history, the SPD is wary about signing on for another stint as the junior partners to the CDU, along with their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). Indeed, Schulz twice categorically dismissed another grand coalition before being forced to change his position.

"It certainly wasn't a very good idea to rule out entering into another grand coalition so soon," political scientist Lothar Probst of Bremen University told DW. "But naturally the SPD still feels the pains of two grand coalitions in nine years, and many members of the grass roots — and not only there — feel that another one would be to their detriment."

Read more: Germany′s Angela Merkel and SPD assess chances for grand coalition | Germany | DW | 13.12.2017

USA Retail Stores In Trouble: Sears is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and Kmart could be its first casualty - Hayley Peterson

Wall Street analysts have made the same prediction every year for nearly the last decade: Sears is imminently going bankrupt. But the retailer has managed to stay afloat with loans from its CEO, the sale of valuable real estate, and the slow dismantling of its exclusivity over some big American brands.

This year is no different. Sears' pool of assets is shrinking and its core business is showing no signs of improvement, making the possibility of a bankruptcy or restructuring seem more likely than a turnaround at this point, according to Christina Boni, vice president at Moody's Investors Service.

"Continuing to fund shortfalls is becoming more challenging, particularly as Sears continues to bleed its asset pool," Boni told Business Insider. "This increases and elevates the risk of a bankruptcy."- by

Read more: Sears is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and Kmart could be its first casualty


USA Economy: US becoming 'world champion of extreme inequality' under Donald Trump, says UN poverty envoy - by Philip Alston

The United States under Donald Trump is fast becoming “the champion of inequality”, according to a scathing report by the United Nation’s expert on poverty.
While the US is one of the richest nations, entrenched poverty already experienced by many will be made worse by policies promoted by Mr Trump and the Republicans, in particular a planned tax overhaul that critics say gives huge cuts to the wealthy, it added.

“The American dream is rapidly becoming the American illusion, as the United States now has the lowest rate of social mobility of any of the rich countries,” said Philip Alston the UN Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

For the complete report on Mr. Alston's investigative visit go to 

Note EU-Digest: the obvious question the EU Commission and EU member states should ask themselves -"Isn't it important to urgently develop and maintain an independent economic and political course for Europe which benefits all its citizens? 

Read more: US becoming 'world champion of extreme inequality' under Donald Trump, says UN poverty envoy | The Independent

Spain-Poll: Only 24 Percent of Catalans Want Secession Bid to Continue

 A month after Spain cracked down on Catalonia's push for independence, an opinion poll shows that less than a quarter of the region's residents would like the secession bid to continue after the Dec. 21 election.

The poll published recently in El Pais newspaper showed 24 percent of Catalans favor pressing ahead with independence after the election while 71 percent would prefer an agreement with the central government on resolving Catalonia's problems within Spain.

Spain fired Catalonia's government, dissolved the regional parliament and called the election after lawmakers there declared independence Oct. 27.

Former regional leader Carles Puigdemont and some of his ex-Cabinet ministers are presently fighting extradition from Belgium and leading the election campaignnfor the upcoming elections.

Read more: PoOnly 24 Percent of Catalans Want Secession Bid to Continue | Business News | US News

EU - Portugal: United socialists & democrats commit to a progressive future for Europe

Progressive activists, party members and political leaders discuss their experiences at the PES Council in Lisbon, and our shared strategy to change Europe for the better. and more progressive Europe.

Read more and view video: United socialists & democrats commit to a progressive future for Europe – POLITICO


Germany: ′Free internet′ for Germany despite US repeal says Government

The US FCC on Thursday moved to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules,however,  the German Economics Ministry said Friday it would continue to support EU internet rules that forbid discriminatory access to the web.

"An open and free internet is indispensable for the successful development of a digital society that everyone wants to take part in," the ministry's spokeswoman, Beate Baron, told reporters. She declined to comment directly on the FCC's decision, but said that the German government had "taken note" of the US move.

Led by Trump appointee Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 in favor of scrapping 2015 rules, ending regulations that were meant to ensure all internet services are treated equally.

Pai said rolling back net neutrality was "restoring the light-touch framework that has governed the internet for most of its existence."

′Free internet′ for Germany despite US repeal | Business | DW | 15.12.2017

EU Military Staff, European Defence Agency, Military Communications Institute to Discuss Cyber Security in The Tactical Communications Domain

Attendees of the next Mobile Deployable Communications conference, taking place in Warsaw on the 1st and 2nd February 2018, will hear how leading military nations ensuring secure communications are being effectively operated in contested environments - with a dedicated focus on cyber security in the tactical communications domain.

At the event, Colonel Heinrich Krispler, Branch Chief Policies and Requirements, Communications and Information Systems Directorate, from EU Military Staff will present: 'Ensuring Robust and Efficient CIS Architectures and Cyber Defence for Military EU CSDP Missions and Operations'. This will cover: CSFP including goals of the Global Strategy; CSDP overview military and civilian missions and operations;

Cyber strategy and overview of conceptional framework of the EU including CIS and Cyber concept; Overview and status of different CIS and Cyber projects including EUMS approach FMN and CWIX; Vision EUMS: How to enhance information priority, CIS effectiveness and Cyber defence for military CSDP missions and operations.

Major Salvador Llopis, Project Officer Cyber Defence Technology, from European Defence Agency will present: 'An Insight into the Cyber Impact and the Convergence with Electronic Warfare on Deployable Communications'. Covering: Information Requirements for Cyber Defence and Electronic Warfare decision making;

The Value of Architectures for planning the CIS Infrastructure and their Defences for EU-led Operations; On the road to ensure the availability of the state-of-the art of Cyber Defence Technology.

Lieutenant Colonel Bartosz Jasiul, Head of Cyber Security Laboratory, C4I Systems' Department, from Military Communications Institute will present: 'Cyber Security of Communication Systems based on R&D activities of Military Communication Institute'. Covering: Threats targeting communication and IT systems; Risks assessment of critical infrastructure; Cyber Security Laboratory capabilities; National and international initiatives.

Read more: EU Military Staff, European Defence Agency, Military Communications Institute to Discuss Cyber Security in The Tactical Communications Domain — | EU news, business and politics

The Netherlands tops the Good Country Index - by Mina Solanki

Amsterdam downtown
This year, the Netherlands has climbed to the top of the Good Country Index. Based on several indicators, this index ranks countries according to what they contribute to the greater good of humanity.

A Good Country is a country that helps its people and does not harm, but preferably furthers the interests of people in other countries as well. No moral judgements are made about the country being assessed.

This year, the Good Country Index published its third edition, with previous editions assessing countries in 2016 and 2014. In this edition, the index focussed on 163 countries and ranked them according to seven categories.

The seven categories were: global contribution to science and technology, culture, international peace and security, world order, planet and climate, prosperity and equality and health and wellbeing.

For each category, five indicators were used, which were given fractional rankings. The category ranking resulted from calculating the mean of the five indicators, and the overall ranking from the average of the categories. The data used to determine the ranking was from 2014, unless otherwise purported in the results.

The Netherlands took overall first place, in the 2017 edition, scoring particularly well on global contributions to culture, world order and prosperity and equality. In these categories, the Netherlands scored second, third and fourth place respectively. Notably, the Netherlands did not score first place in any one category.

Taking second and third place were Switzerland and Denmark. Switzerland obtained its highest score, second place, in the global contribution to planet and climate, and Denmark also landed second place in the global contribution to prosperity and equality.

Following on from Switzerland and Denmark, Finland and Germany placed fourth and fifth in the Good Country Index. Neither scored first place on any one category. In sixth place is the first of the countries assessed to score first place on a category, namely Sweden, with first place for the global contribution to health and wellbeing.

Finishing at the bottom of the ranking are Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan in respective 161st, 162nd and 163rd place. Libya takes last place in the global contribution to culture.

Read more: he Netherlands tops the Good Country Index