Thursday, 14 October 2021: MP Claudia Webbe could face jail after harassment conviction, EU offers to improve N Ireland deal, At least five people killed in bow and arrow attack in Norway

⊂ UNITED KINGDOM ⊃

MP Claudia Webbe could face jail after harassment conviction: An MP who made threatening phone calls to a woman because she was jealous of her relationship with her partner has been found guilty of harassing her. Claudia Webbe, a former Labour MP for Leicester East, who is now independent, was found guilty of one charge of harassment. The trial was told she had called Michelle Merritt, a friend of her partner, a slag, threatened to “use acid” and said she would distribute naked pictures of Merritt to her family. Following the guilty verdict and a warning from the judge that she could face a prison sentence, Labour called for Webbe to quit her seat, which would trigger a byelection. Webbe protested her innocence and made clear that she planned to continue as an MP.
bbc.com, theguardian.com

EU says it will recognise NHS Covid pass soon: Trips to Europe over October half-term could become easier for British travellers after Brussels said a technical tie-up with the EU ensuring the NHS Covid pass is recognised across over 40 countries would be “going live soon”. Meanwhile, the NHS Covid Pass app has stopped working, potentially leaving thousands of travellers with no means of showing their vaccine status. Users reported seeing an error message on Wednesday afternoon on the NHS smartphone app, saying that high demand was limiting access to the service.
theguardian.com, independent.co.uk

UK and Italy kick off talks on new trade partnership: The UK and Italy have started discussions on a new export and investment partnership aimed at boosting trade between the two countries, the International Trade Secretary announced. Speaking alongside Italian minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation Luigi Di Maio in Sorrento, Italy, Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “Enhancing our bilateral relationship with Italy is a win-win, which will boost export opportunities and investment promotion for our businesses.
independent.co.uk

Autumn budget: Rishi Sunak urged to cut business rates to unlock billions in investment theguardian.com
Study: English school return spurred Covid in children, but cases fell in adults reuters.com
Environment Bill sent back to MPs with big changes bbc.com
Christmas shortages: Only 20 foreign trucker visas approved – and each one takes three weeks to process independent.co.uk

⊂ POLITJOBS UNITED KINGDOM ⊃

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⊂ EUROPE ⊃

EU offers to improve N Ireland deal
apnews.com, bbc.com, politico.eu

  • EU’s top Brexit official, Maros Sefcovic, proposed major practical changes in the Byzantine system of customs and checks in Northern Ireland
  • The new plan, which seeks to calm a long-running dispute over a key part of the Brexit agreement, would remove about 80% of spot checks, the EU said
  • EU said customs paperwork would also be cut by 50%
  • Sefcovic said he had listened to, and engaged with, those in Northern Ireland: „Today’s proposals are a direct, genuine response to their concerns.“
  • Dominic Cummings, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s former top aide, claimed the UK government signed the deal agreeing post-Brexit trade arrangements for Northern Ireland but always intended to ditch bits it didn’t like later

EU’s tools to combat energy price spike
reuters.com, theguardian.com, cnbc.com

  • EU Commission outlined measures on Wednesday the EU could use to combat surging energy prices, and said it would explore joint gas purchasing among countries as a way to cushion price spikes
  • Governments are reminded, for example, that they could give grants to the poorest consumers for energy-saving measures; take action to prevent people being cut off for unpaid bills; cut energy taxes; and consider moving renewable energy levies off energy bills for a period
  • Record-high electricity and gas prices this year have curtailed industrial production and hiked consumers‘ heating bills, prompting 20 EU countries to draw up emergency measures, including energy tax cuts or subsidies for poorer households
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that his country is not using energy as a weapon against Europe and that Russia stands ready to help the region as its energy crisis continues
  • At an energy conference in Moscow, Putin also said that Russia will strive to be carbon neutral no later than 2060 reuters.com

EU aims for greater Arctic role
theguardian.com, politico.eu

  • The EU has called for oil, coal and gas in the Arctic to stay in the ground, as it announced aspirations to play a greater role in the world’s northernmost region
  • Brussels will attempt to convince partner countries to agree to an end to oil and gas explorations in the region, seeking a „multilateral legal obligation not to allow any further hydrocarbon reserve development in the Arctic or contiguous regions, nor to purchase such hydrocarbons if they were to be produced.“
  • EU, which has three member states with Arctic territory, said there was a „geopolitical necessity“ for it to be involved in the region, as global heating opens up competition for resources and the prospect of new shipping lanes

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Facebook faces privacy fine of up to €36M: The Irish Data Protection Commission has proposed a fine of between €28 million and €36 million for Facebook for violations of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. According to two people with knowledge of the process, the draft decision concerns Facebook’s legal basis for handling users‘ personal information and is related to a complaint initially filed with the Austrian data regulator by activist group, noyb.eu, in May 2018, which was then passed to the Irish data regulator.
politico.eu

Apple again makes its case against sideloading apps on iPhones: Apple’s spent years marketing its iPhones and iPads as more secure and reliable than competing devices powered by Google’s Android software. One of the primary reasons is the App Store, the only sanctioned way to download apps for the iPhone and iPad. Though other phone makers have their own app stores too, they often allow what’s called sideloading, where users can find and download apps from sources other than their device’s primary app store. On Wednesday, Apple pushed to bolster its case in favour of controller App Stores and against sideloading with a new research paper pointing to increasing attacks and malware infections on competitor’s devices.
cnet.com

Manfred Weber reelected as EPP group leader: The European People’s Party (EPP) on Wednesday reelected Manfred Weber for a third term as leader of its group in the European Parliament. The Bavarian secured 162 out of 173 votes cast, with 11 abstentions. The 178-member group also reelected most of its current vice presidents, including Spanish MEP Esteban González Pons and his Dutch colleague, MEP Esther de Lange.
politico.eu

After submarine dispute: Australia’s Trade Minister Dan Tehan has come to Brussels to press for a resumption of EU-Australia trade talks. de.euronews.com

Biodiversity: EU takes action against invasive species spiegel.de
Eurozone industrial output falls as supply bottlenecks take toll ft.com
EU Court of Justice: Two judges of the General Court appointed consilium.europa.eu
Cybersecurity: US hosts global cybersecurity meeting — without Russia dw.com
Colombia: Havana syndrome reported at US embassy bbc.com

⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃

There is no legal basis for the Commission to withhold money from the fund.
Poland’s former foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski said if the EU Commission withholds money from the newly created reconstruction fund, the Polish government could in turn stop payments to the EU.
spiegel.de

⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃

At least five people killed in bow and arrow attack in Norway
theguardian.com, npr.org

  • A man armed with a bow fired arrows at shoppers in the Norwegian town of Kongsberg Wednesday, killing five people before he was arrested, authorities said
  • Two other people were wounded and hospitalised in intensive care, including an officer who was off duty and inside the shop where the attack took place
  • Police were alerted to the attack around 6:15 p.m. and arrested the suspect about 30 minutes later
  • Acting Prime Minister Erna Solberg described reports of the attack as „horrifying“ and said it was too early to speculate on the man’s motive

Germany pays tribute to troops who served in Afghanistan
apnews.com, dw.com

  • Germany’s leaders paid tribute Wednesday to its troops that served over nearly 20 years in Afghanistan
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and other top officials joined a final roll call for the troops at the Defence Ministry in Berlin
  • Defence ministry: „The Afghanistan mission shaped the Bundeswehr — 59 comrades lost their lives.“
  • Steinmeier spoke of the sacrifices made by the armed forces, of „hope and disillusionment,“ and the very different things that Afghanistan means to Germany society at large and to those who served in the armed forces there
  • After lamenting the fact that Germany failed to meet its larger political aim of establishing a stable Afghanistan, the president called for „more honest, clever and stronger foreign and security policy“ in the future

Austrian opposition seeks graft inquiry in next headache for Kurz
bloomberg.com, reuters.com, derstandard.at

  • Austria’s opposition parties agreed on Wednesday to set up a parliamentary commission of inquiry into alleged corruption by officials from the ruling conservative party after its leader Sebastian Kurz stepped down as chancellor at the weekend
  • Kurz denies wrongdoing but has been placed under investigation along with nine others including senior aides on suspicion of corruption offences to do with using public funds to manipulate public opinion in favour of Kurz when he was seeking to take over as party leader and later chancellor
  • „What we know so far may only be the tip of the iceberg,“ the opposition lawmakers from the Socialists, liberal NEOS and far-right Freedom Party said in a statement on Wednesday
  • New Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg will travel to Brussels this Thursday, where he will hold talks with EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council President Charles Michel

Poland’s Kaczyński to quit government role

  • Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, will step down from his role in government at the beginning of 2022, the state-run Polish Press Agency reported on Wednesday politico.eu
  • Poland’s Constitutional Court has declared parts of the EU Treaty unconstitutional. If the EU withholds funds because of this, Poland could cut its contribution payments accordingly, said former foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski spiegel.de
  • Poland plans border wall with Belarus politico.eu
  • Belarusian cyber-activists claim to have targeted a riot police building in northeastern Minsk in a first-of-its-kind drone attack last month euronews.com

Kosovo Serbs clash with police over smuggler arrests
dw.com, euractiv.com

  • At least 10 Serbs and six police officers were injured on Wednesday in clashes that broke out after police carried out raids on suspected smugglers in an ethnic Serb area of northern Kosovo
  • Kosovo police said officers met resistance in Mitrovica as they carried out an operation to seize smuggled goods
  • A statement said police responded when protesters in Mitrovica used hand grenades and stun grenades against officers. It said six police officers were injured
  • The incidents come at a time when relations between Kosovo and Serbia are particularly low after a row in September sparked by Kosovo’s ban on cars with Serbian registration plates
  • EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, called for an immediate end to the violence, adding that all „open issues must be addressed through the EU-facilitated dialogue“ between Belgrade and Pristina

Farewell call: Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and China’s President Xi Jinping discussed preparations for upcoming G20 summit and climate protection issues. politico.eu

Covid pandemic: France’s government is looking to extend the use of its health pass until 31 July 2022, restricting access to cinemas, bars and restaurants to those who can show a certificate. brusselstimes.com

Slovakia’s central bank governor charged in corruption case ft.com
German Nursing Day: Health Minister Spahn calls for a stronger voice of nursing staff zeit.de
Pandora Papers: Catalan Popular Party mayor was linked to a firm created in a tax haven english.elpais.com
Spain: As many as 800 more residents evacuated in La Palma as lava from volcano approaches english.elpais.com
Italy: Eritreans of Italian descent demand Rome finally grant them citizenship theguardian.com

⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃

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⊂ LAST BUT NOT LEAST ⊃

Russian oligarch buys Finnish land with Cypriot „golden passport“: The sale of a large island from a strategically important area in Finland to a Russian oligarch has raised concerns on so-called “golden passports”, a scheme where EU countries exchange citizenship for investment by wealthy foreign nationals.
euractiv.com

 

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