Council of Europe (CoE) - European Human Rights Court - founding fathers (1949)

Council of Europe (CoE) - European Human Rights Court - founding fathers (1949)
French National Assembly head Edouard Herriot and British Foreign minister Ernest Bevin surrounded by Italian, Luxembourg and other delegates at the first meeting of Council of Europe's Consultative Assembly in Strasbourg, August 1949 (AFP Photo)

EU founding fathers signed 'blank' Treaty of Rome (1957)

EU founding fathers signed 'blank' Treaty of Rome (1957)
The Treaty of Rome was signed in the Palazzo dei Conservatori, one of the Renaissance palaces that line the Michelangelo-designed Capitoline Square in the Italian capital

Shuttered: EU ditches summit 'family photo'

Shuttered: EU ditches summit 'family photo'
EU leaders pose for a family photo during the European Summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on June 28, 2016 (AFP Photo/JOHN THYS)

Merkel says fall of Wall proves 'dreams can come true'


“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013. They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."
"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)
(Subjects: Who/What is Kryon ?, Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" Managed Business, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)


"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

MEPs narrowly elect von der Leyen to EU top job

Yahoo – AFP, Marie JULIEN, Céline LE PRIOUX, July 16, 2019

Ursula von der Leyen has been elected as the first woman to be president of
the European Commission (AFP Photo/FREDERICK FLORIN)

Strasbourg (France) (AFP) - German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen was narrowly elected president of the European Commission on Tuesday after winning over sceptical lawmakers.

The 60-year-old conservative was nominated to become the first woman to hold Brussels' top job last month by the leaders of the bloc's 28 member states, to the annoyance of many MEPs.

The Strasbourg parliament would have preferred a candidate chosen by one of its political groups, but in the end a small majority -- 383 members of the 751-member assembly -- voted for her.

She will now replace Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the EU executive on November 1, one day after Britain is due to leave the union, and serve a five-year term.

"The task ahead of us humbles me. It's a big responsibility and my work starts now," the polyglot mother-of-seven told lawmakers, thanking all members "who decided to vote for me today."

Ursula von der Leyen has still not managed to win over the Greens and the 
far-left (AFP Photo/FREDERICK FLORIN)

"My message to all of you is let us work together constructively, because the endeavour is a united and strong Europe," she said, urging capitals to nominate an equal number of men and women to join her commission.

If von der Leyen had lost, Brussels faced a summer of infighting instead of preparing for Brexit, battling Italy over its debt and confronting Hungary and Poland over threats to democratic values.

'A majority is a majority'

At a news conference after the vote, von der Leyen played down the narrowness of her win, noting that a "majority is a majority" and acknowledging that some members had opposed the nomination process.

"Two weeks ago I didn't have a majority because no one knew me. There was a lot of resentment because I wasn't a lead candidate," she admitted, adding that she was happy to build a majority so quickly.

"It's a good base to start with," she said. The veteran minister will head briefly to Berlin on Wednesday to say farewell to her government and the German armed forces, then return to work on building an administration.

In Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel praised her long-time ally as a "committed and convincing European" who would "tackle with great vigour the challenges facing us as the European Union".

Brussels-born Ursula von der Leyen won over a majority in the European 
Parliament (AFP Photo/Gal ROMA)

The president of the European Council of EU leaders, Donald Tusk, also congratulated von der Leyen, having previously declared "she will be a passionate fighter for Europe's unity."

From the left, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez also offered his congratulations, but said von der Leyen must push for "a more social, fair, sustainable and feminist Europe."

Von der Leyen has had only a short time since the 28 EU leaders nominated her to win over the main centre-right EPP, socialist S&D and liberal Renew Europe blocs she hoped would get her the necessary 374 votes.

In the hours between her speech and the start of voting, party officials suggested she could count on the centre-right, almost all of the liberals and maybe two-thirds of the left.

The election was by secret ballot, but the tight margin of victory suggested that she had only won over the pro-European centre -- and that several mainstream members abstained.

Top jobs package

The nominee announced Monday that she would step down from Angela Merkel's German government this week whatever happened in the vote, underlining her European ambitions.

How the new European Parliament's membership breaks down (AFP 
Photo/Paz PIZARRO)

Juncker received 422 votes five years ago, and Brussels-born von der Leyen's 383 was seen as disappointing in comparison, given she was backed by figures like France's President Emmanuel Macron.

Von der Leyen's nomination was part of a package of so-called "top jobs" and outgoing Belgian premier Charles Michel is still in line to head the European Council of EU leaders.

IMF director Christine Lagarde's appointment to the European Central Bank also remains on course, and on Tuesday the French former finance minister announced her resignation from the global body.

In addition to Brexit and the other issues facing the EU, member states are also wrangling over new rules for distributing migrants and refugees after Italy's populist government began to prevent rescue boats from landing.

For that, the commission president will need a reliable majority in Strasbourg, after this year's elections threw up a more fragmented EU parliament than ever.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Merkel says 'very well' despite third shaking spell

Yahoo – AFP, Hui Min NEO, July 10, 2019

German Chancellor Angela Merkel suffered her third public shaking spell in a 
month (AFP Photo/Tobias SCHWARZ)

Berlin (AFP) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted she was "very well", despite suffering her third trembling spell in less than a month on Wednesday that has focused attention on her health.

Merkel began shaking involuntarily as national anthems were being played at the reception of Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne.

But she attended a press conference as planned just around an hour later, telling journalists that her health was no cause for concern.

"I feel very well, there is no need to worry," she said, adding that she was simply still in a phase of "processing" a previous shaking spell, but that "there has been progress".

"I will have to live with it for a while," added Merkel, who turns 65 next week.

"Just like how it has come, one day it will go away too," she said.

A source close to the government had said the cause of the repeat shaking was now psychological, with memories of the first incident provoking renewed trembling at events with similar settings.

Episodes played down

The shaking on Wednesday was visible although less severe than during the first episode in June.

On that occasion she appeared unsteady and shook as she stood in the midday sun next to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, whom she was welcoming with military honours.

That first bout of shaking was blamed on dehydration. But a second episode struck a week later at the end of June, just hours before she was due to board a plane for a G20 summit in Japan.

Officials had sought to play down fears over her health then, saying that she was fine and that she would not be cancelling any planned engagements.

Longtime leader

Merkel has been leader of Europe's biggest economy for almost 14 years.

Merkel's latest shaking bout struck as she received the Finnish prime minister 
in Berlin (AFP Photo/Tobias SCHWARZ)

Frequently called the European Union's most influential leader and the most powerful woman in the world, Merkel has said she will leave politics at the end of her term, in 2021.

But she has struggled to stamp out repeated speculation that she may leave the political stage earlier than planned.

The coalition that she had forged with the centre-left Social Democratic Party was fragile from the start, and has lurched from crisis to crisis.

The latest health scare has prompted additional questions over the length of her reign.

There were brief concerns about her well-being in 2014 when she was taken ill during a television interview. The broadcast was interrupted when she experienced a drop in blood pressure.

Merkel's spokesman explained at the time that the leader did not feel well for a moment, then ate and drank something and continued the interview.

Earlier that same year, she fractured her pelvis while cross-country skiing in Switzerland and was ordered to cut back her schedule dramatically and stay in bed as much as possible for three weeks.

A keen hiker too, Merkel herself once asserted she had a "camel-like" ability to store energy for sleepless all-night summits.

German media, which had largely refrained from speculating about Merkel's health during her second spell of shaking, said they could not look away a third time.

"Angela Merkel's health is now a political issue," said Germany's largest selling daily Bild.

"If signs of physical or psychological weaknesses appear often, the government would have to rethink its stonewalling tactic. Otherwise, rumours will take on a life of their own," warned the daily.

In case of emergency, Merkel would be replaced by Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who would carry out her duties until parliament elected a new leader.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

North Macedonia hosts first Pride parade

France24 –AFP, 29 June 2019

Gay Pride participants carry carry a giant rainbow flag through the streets of
Skopje as North Macedonia holds its first ever such parade. AFP

Skopje (Republic of North Macedonia) (AFP) - A sea of rainbow colours filled Skopje's streets on Saturday as North Macedonia held its first Pride parade, with marchers calling for an end to LGBT discrimination in the largely conservative Balkans region.

Hundreds joined the march with whistles, an enormous rainbow flag, and signs as they walked through the city amid a formidable police presence.

"I am here to support human rights, but also to support friends who have been struggling to live fully and freely because of who they are," said Dafina, a 29-year-old Skopje resident.

Several ministers, MPs and ambassadors also joined the event which ended with a concert from local pop star Tamara Todevska, who sung her Eurovision hit "Proud".

"This (march) shows that our society is growing into a more mature society and moving forward," said Koco Andonovski, an LGBT activist from the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights.

But in different part of the capital, a conservative group organised a counter-rally for "family" values.

"If they want to a have parade, than we are not going let them be alone like winners on the street; we will parade for the right values as well," said one of the participants, 58-year-old Velko Veleski.

Discrimination against the LGBT community remains widespread in much of the Balkans region, though more countries are increasingly holding events like Pride parades to raise awareness.

North Macedonia is one of the last countries in the region to follow suit, with Bosnia next as it prepares its first Pride march in Sarajevo in September.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Britain's Prince William: 'fine by me' if children gay

Yahoo – AFP, June 26, 2019

Prince William's comments came during a visit to a charity dedicated to helping
young people made homeless due to their sexual orientation (AFP Photo/Jonathan Brady)

London (AFP) - Britain's Prince William said Wednesday it would be "fine by me" if his children came out as homosexual, but worried about the pressures it could place on them.

William and his wife Kate have three children: five-year-old Prince George, Princess Charlotte, four, and Prince Louis, who turned one in April.

William, 37, is second in line to the throne after his father Prince Charles, with George third in line to become king.

His comments came during a visit to the Albert Kennedy Trust (AKT), a charity dedicated to helping young people made homeless due to their sexual orientation.

During a discussion with people being supported by the organisation, William was asked how he would react if one of his children came out.

The Duke of Cambridge replied: "You really don't start thinking about that until you are a parent, and I think -- obviously absolutely fine by me.

"The one thing I'd be worried about is how they, particularly the roles my children fill, is how that is going to be interpreted and seen."

Message for society

Due to the monarchy's hereditary nature, William's children, in time, will become key figures in the royal family -- above all George.

The sovereign is the supreme governor of the Church of England and separately head of state of 16 countries around the world.

"It is something I'm nervous about, not because I'm worried about them being gay or anything -- it's more about the fact that I'm worried about the pressures... that they're going to face and how much harder their life could be," William said.

"I wish we lived in a world that it was... really normal and cool, but particularly for my family, and the position that we are in, that's the bit I am nervous about.

"I fully support whatever decision they make, but it does worry me from a parent point of view, how many barriers, hateful words, persecution, all that, and discrimination that might come.

"That's the bit that really troubles me.

"But that's for all of us to try and help correct and make sure that we can put that to the past."

AKT chief executive Tim Sigsworth, who is gay, said the prince's words would make a "massive difference".

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Council of Europe assembly authorises Russia's return

Yahoo – AFP, June 25, 2019

Pro-Russian demonstrators carry a giant Russian flag as they rally in central
Simferopol on February 27, 2014 (AFP Photo/VIKTOR DRACHEV)

Strasbourg (France) (AFP) - The Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly agreed Tuesday to allow Russian representatives to return to the body, five years after it was stripped of its voting rights over the annexation of Crimea.

Despite strong opposition from Ukraine, 118 parliamentarians from Council of Europe member states agreed that Russia could present a delegation, paving the way for it to participate in the election of a new secretary general for the pan-European rights body on Wednesday.

Sixty-two members of the Strasbourg-based body's parliamentary assembly voted against the move and there were 10 abstentions following Monday's late-night debate.

Moscow representatives were stripped of their voting rights after Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Russia responded by boycotting the assembly, and has since 2017 refused to pay its 33-million-euro ($37-million) share of the annual budget of the human rights watchdog.

It had threatened to quit the body altogether if it was not allowed to take part in Wednesday's election, a move that would have prevented Russian citizens from being able to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Amelie de Montchalin, France's Secretary of State for European Affairs, said "it would be dangerous... to deprive millions of citizens of access to bodies that protect their rights".

Ukraine, which has been supported by Baltic countries and the United Kingdom, had been against Russia's return to the council.

It has previously warned that reopening the door to Moscow would be the first crack in international sanctions imposed on Moscow after it annexed Crimea.

Volodymyr Ariev, head of the Ukranian delegation, said it sends "a very bad message: do what you want, annexe another country's territory, kill people there, and you will still leave with everything".

The Council of Europe, which is seperate from the European Union, has no binding powers but brings together around 300 lawmakers from 47 states to make recommendations on rights and democracy.

Its centrepiece is the European Court of Human Rights.

The Council's Parliamentary Assembly will on Wednesday elect a new secretary general to replace Norway's Thorbjorn Jagland.

Two candidates are in the running: Belgium's Deputy Prime Minister Didier Reynders and Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Minister Marija Pejcinovic Buric.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Britain's Lloyds bank freezes 8,000 offshore accounts

Yahoo – AFP, June 24, 2019

Lloyds froze accounts after failing to get detailed information about their
owners (AFP Photo/DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS)

London (AFP) - Britain's Lloyds Banking Group has frozen 8,000 customer accounts under a wider crackdown on money-laundering, the lender announced Monday.

LBG took action late last year after a change to money-laundering rules in Jersey, home to the lender's international division, the Financial Times had reported.

Lloyds froze the accounts after failing to obtain details regarding customer identities despite multiple requests, a company spokesman told AFP.

"In January 2016, we began to contact certain expatriate banking customers to ensure we were provided with up-to-date information for our records, where customer information was missing," the spokesman said.

"This was required to meet international regulatory standards... Unfortunately, where a customer has not provided us with this necessary information we have had to freeze their account until we get the information."

The news comes amid international moves towards greater tax transparency, including in UK crown dependencies Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

The three last week announced plan to publish secret information on company ownership in the offshore territories by 2023.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Four charged over MH17, Russia slams 'unfounded allegations'

Yahoo – AFP, Charlotte VAN OUWERKERK with Danny KEMP in The Hague, June 19, 2019

The Joint Investigation Team named the four suspects who they said would be tried
for murder next year (AFP Photo/Robin van Lonkhuijsen)

Nieuwegein (Netherlands) (AFP) - International investigators on Wednesday charged three Russians and a Ukrainian with murder over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, the first people to face justice over the tragedy five years ago in which 298 people were killed.

The trial of the four men with military and intelligence links will start in the Netherlands in March next year, although they are likely to be tried in absentia as neither Russia nor Ukraine extradites their nationals.

Moscow slammed the "absolutely unfounded accusations" over the downing of the plane, which was travelling between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur when it was hit by a missile over part of eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russian rebels.

The Dutch-led inquiry team said international arrest warrants had been issued for Russian nationals Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, all of whom are suspected of roles in the separatist Donetsk People's Republic.

Graphic showing previously established details about the shooting down of 
Malaysia Airlines MH17 in 2014. (AFP Photo/John SAEKI, Adrian LEUNG, Gal ROMA)

Dutch prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said the four were to be held responsible for bringing the BUK missile system from Russia into eastern Ukraine "even though they have not pushed the button themselves."

"We won't demand their extradition because Russian and Ukrainian law forbids the extradition of their nationals. But we ask Russia once more to cooperate -- many of our questions remain unanswered," he told a press conference.

The same investigation team said in May 2018 that the BUK anti-aircraft missile which hit the Boeing 777 had originated from the 53rd Russian military brigade based in the southwestern city of Kursk.

'Waiting for five years'

Relatives of those killed aboard MH17 welcomed the news.

"It's a start. I'm satisfied," Silene Fredriksz, whose son and daughter-in-law were killed in the disaster, told reporters. "I am happy that the trial is finally going to start and that the names have been announced."

Relatives of passengers and crew have waited for five years for a trial (AFP Photo/
MOHD RASFAN)

Asked if she personally blamed anyone for the crash, Fredriksz said: "Mr (Russian President Vladimir) Putin. Because he made this possible. He created this situation. He is the main responsible person."

Piet Ploeg, president of a Dutch victims' association who lost three family members on MH17, told AFP that it was "very important news".

"The relatives of the victims have been waiting for this for nearly five years," he said.

Girkin, 48, is the most high-profile suspect, having previously been the self-proclaimed defence minister in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine before apparently falling out with the Kremlin.

Girkin, who is thought to be living in Moscow, denied the separatists were involved. "I can only say that rebels did not shoot down the Boeing," he told Russia's Interfax news agency.

Dubinskiy, 56, who was formerly in the Russian military intelligence agency GRU, was head of the intelligence service of the Donetsk People's Republic, while Pulatov, 52, an ex-soldier in the GRU's Spetznaz special forces unit, was one of his deputies.

MH17 was travelling between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur when it was hit by a missile 
over part of eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russian rebels (AFP Photo/Menahem KAHANA)

Kharchenko was a military commander in Donetsk at the time, the Dutch prosecutors said.

During the press conference by the investigators, number of telephone intercepts were played that they said showed the four were involved.

'Absolutely unfounded'

Russia vehemently denied all involvement, and complained that it had been excluded from the probe.

"Once again, absolutely unfounded accusations are being made against the Russian side, aimed at discrediting Russia in the eyes of the international community," the foreign ministry said in a statement on its website.

Russia insisted last year that the missile was fired by Kiev's forces, adding that it was sent to Ukraine in the Soviet era.

The war in eastern Ukraine and the MH17 disaster continue to plague relations
between Russia and the West (AFP Photo/Alexander KHUDOTEPLY)

Despite claims by Ukraine's government and Dutch media that senior Russian officers would also face charges, none were named by the prosecutors on Wednesday.

The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the attack includes Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine, representing the countries hardest hit by the disaster.

The Netherlands and Australia said in May last year that they formally "hold Russia responsible" for the disaster. Of the passengers who died, 196 were Dutch and 38 Australian.

Australia said Wednesday's announcement was a "significant step" towards achieving justice, while NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said it was "an important milestone in the efforts to uncover the full truth".

A serial number on a part of the BUK missile that was fired (AFP Photo/Robin
van Lonkhuijsen)

Ukraine's foreign ministry urged Russia to "acknowledge its responsibility", while the office of President Volodymyr Zelensky's said he hoped to see "everyone who is to blame for the murder of innocent children, women and men" go on trial.

The war in eastern Ukraine and the MH17 disaster continue to plague relations between Russia and the West.

Since 2014, some 13,000 people have been killed. Kiev and its Western backers accuse Russia of funnelling troops and arms to back the separatists. Moscow has denied the claims despite evidence to the contrary.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Slovakia swears in first woman president Caputova

Yahoo – AFP, June 15, 2019

Caputova made an inauguration speech which analysts found susprisingly mild,
given her previous government criticism (AFP Photo/VLADIMIR SIMICEK)

Bratislava (AFP) - Slovak environmental lawyer Zuzana Caputova was on Saturday sworn in as the EU member's first female president, surprising observers with a speech that lacked the government criticism she was known for on the campaign trail.

The community activist, who ran on the slogan "Stand up to evil," was largely unknown before she launched her presidential bid in the eurozone member of 5.4 million people.

The 45-year-old environmental lawyer won the March ballot with 58 percent of the vote thanks in part to voter disillusionment with the governing coalition a year after the murder of an investigative journalist plunged the country into crisis.

"I did not come to rule, I came to serve citizens, and residents of Slovakia," the liberal politician, who is pro-choice and promotes greater rights for same-sex couples, said in her inaugural speech in Bratislava.

"I offer expertise, I offer emotion and I offer a healthy activist approach. So I offer my mind, my heart and my hands," she added alongside family, former presidents, politicians and members of her presidential campaign.

After the ceremony, Caputova walked to a nearby cathedral for an ecumenical service, shaking hands with people along the way, before hosting a lunch for seniors from across Slovakia.

Analysts called her inaugural speech surprisingly mild, given her past criticism of the government.

"The new president's speech was non-confrontational. It was formulated positively, not attacking political opponents," political analyst Juraj Marusiak told AFP.

Caputova "does not want to divide, she wants to unite. She talks about the common good, a common path, often using the word 'we'."

Caputova was among the tens of thousands of protesters who took to the streets after journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee were gunned down at home in February 2018.

Kuciak was about to publish a report on alleged ties between Slovak politicians and the Italian mafia.

The premier at the time, Robert Fico, was forced to resign but he remains the leader of the ruling Smer-SD party and is a close ally of current Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini.

In her speech, Caputova declared unequivocal support for Slovakia's membership in the EU and NATO and also spoke out in favour of protecting the environment.

"The process of global climate change must be slowed down and reversed, otherwise it can have major consequences," she said.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Russian journalist walks free as drugs charges dropped after outcry

Yahoo – AFP, Anna SMOLCHENKO, June 11, 2019

Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov walks free from a Moscow police
station after drug charges against him are dropped (AFP Photo/Vasily MAXIMOV)

Moscow (AFP) - A Russian investigative journalist walked free late Tuesday after authorities in Moscow dropped drug charges against him in a rare climbdown by law enforcement following a public outcry.

Ivan Golunov, a reporter with independent media outlet Meduza, walked out of the gates of a Moscow police building to cheers from waiting journalist and wept as he thanked supporters.

"This all happened so quickly and thank you for that, that you supported me. I think it somehow influenced the course of events," Golunov said, with tears running down his cheeks.

He said he hoped his case would change police practices and "such situations will not happen again to anyone in this country."

The journalist vowed to continue his investigative reporting for Meduza, which is based in EU-member Latvia to allow it to work more freely.

"I will be doing investigations because I have to justify the trust of those who supported me," he said.

The 36-year-old was detained last week on charges supporters said were trumped up to punish him for his investigative work and placed under house arrest.

The case sparked outrage in Russia and abroad over what critics slammed as the impunity and corruption of law enforcement agencies.

In a surprise announcement on Tuesday Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said Golunov was to be released from house arrest and charges against him lifted.

Kolokoltsev also said he would ask President Vladimir Putin to sack the head of a Moscow police department and another senior official in charge of drug control in the capital.

The EU welcomed the news, with a European Commission spokesperson calling it a "positive outcome", but demanding a probe into reports police beat Golunov in detention.

Journalists and activists reacted with joy.

The arrest triggered a public outcry, and Russia's most respected newspapers on 
Monday publishing headlines reading "I am (we are) Ivan Golunov" (AFP Photo/
Yuri KADOBNOV)

"This is victory... I'm crying," said Meduza editor-in-chief Ivan Kolpakov.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny called it "an inspiring and motivating example of what simple solidarity... can achieve".

Golunov's Meduza colleague Ilya Zhegulev told AFP: "An unbelievable event has happened."

"Even the most optimistic didn't believe this would happen, and happen so quickly."

Arrest sparked outrage

Golunov had been charged with attempting to deal a "large amount" of drugs and was placed under house arrest at the weekend, facing up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The reporter said he was beaten in detention. His lawyers alleged drugs had been planted on him to justify his arrest.

Moscow police admitted photographs published on its website that they said showed drug paraphernalia found at the crime scene were not taken at Golunov's flat.

Golunov's lawyer Sergei Badamshin said Golunov's fingerprints were not found on any of the items police said they seized during a search of his flat.

The officers who arrested Golunov last week have been suspended pending an investigation, Kolokoltsev said.

"I believe that irrespective of any citizen's professional activities his rights should always be protected," the minister added.

After Golunov's arrest, hundreds protested outside a court and the Moscow police headquarters.

Supporters had organised a march to happen in Moscow for Wednesday to press for his freedom. But Golunov as he walked free said he would prefer supporters spend time with "loved ones and family."

Journalists and activists reacted with joy to Gulonov's release (AFP Photo/
Vasily MAXIMOV)

'We are Ivan Golunov'

The international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders hailed what it called the "historic mobilisation of the Russian civil society".

"Now those who tried to set him up must be judged," the NGO wrote on Twitter.

"We are happy that the authorities listened to society," the editorial team of Meduza and several other prominent journalists said in a statement. "This is just the beginning, a lot of work lies ahead."

As part of an unprecedented campaign of solidarity, major newspapers Kommersant, Vedomosti and RBK published the same front page on Monday with headline "I am/we are Ivan Golunov" in giant letters.

Even some staunchly pro-Kremlin television journalists such as RT chief editor Margarita Simonyan expressed support for the independent reporter.

Golunov has investigated everything from Russia's shady funeral industry to corruption at Moscow city hall.

His release came a month after days of protests forced authorities to backtrack over plans to build a controversial new cathedral in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg.

During his two decades in power, Putin has silenced most of his critics and sought to muzzle the media.

The few opposition and independent media that still operate in Russia are under huge pressure, Kremlin critics say.

The Meduza website is based in Latvia to circumvent censorship, but some of its journalists like Golunov live in Russia.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

EU states adopt 'panda bonds' in Chinese outreach

Yahoo – AFP, Juliette RABAT, June 9, 2019

European countries are reaching out to China by issuing 'panda bonds' that
raise Beijing's profile on global financial markets (AFP Photo/PHILIPPE LOPEZ)

Paris (AFP) - EU members Hungary, Poland, Portugal and soon Austria are strengthening ties with China by issuing attractive "panda bonds" that help Beijing raise its profile on international financial markets.

Italy might join the trend as well, despite EU concerns that China may be seeking a way to increase its influence on the continent.

On May 30, Portugal became the first eurozone nation to issue renminbi-denominated bonds, raising two billion renminbi (around 250 million euros, $280 million) via a three-year instrument at a rate of 4.09 per cent.

The offer attracted strong demand, and Portugal's junior finance minister Ricardo Mourinho Felix told the financial news website ECO that Lisbon's goal was "to enter a large market with strong liquidity."

Poland and Hungary have already issued bonds on the Chinese market, in 2016 and 2017-2018 respectively, and Austria and Italy -- eurozone members like Portugal -- have said they might do so as well.

The cost of borrowing on Chinese markets is much higher than in Europe however, so the reasons for such a move likely lie elsewhere.

Portugal's deepwater port in Sines could be an Atlantic gate for Beijing's 
'Belt and Road' project (AFP Photo/PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA)

Portugal, which faced problems with financing when it was bailed out by the EU and IMF in 2011-14, now can offer less than 1.0 percent to borrow money for 10 years on European markets.

But by helping China become a bigger actor on the global financial stage, governments can get into Beijing's good books, and attract investment in sectors like financial services, infrastructure and transportation.

The Portuguese port of Sines is interested in attracting Chinese investment as part of Beijing's global "Belt and Road" network, for example.

"There are also key political or reputational concerns," notes Liang Si, an Asian debt market expert at French bank BNP Paribas.

"Any kind of sovereign issuer issuing in panda bonds could be seen as a positive political gesture to further establish their ties with China, now the second biggest economy in the world."

The bonds have existed since 2005 but they took off four years ago when the Chinese central bank decided to encourage their use as Beijing launched the "Silk Road" initiative aimed at furthering China's economic and technical influence.

"Little by little, China is trying to open its market to investors and transform its money into a reserve currency," said Frederic Rollin, an investment strategy advisor at Pictet AM.

At $48 billion, the total amount of 'panda bonds' is tiny compared with the 
overall value of China's debt market (AFP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Limited financial interest

At $48 billion, the total amount of "panda bonds" issued to date palls in comparison with the overall value of China's debt market, which is around $13 trillion.

"There are few foreign issuers in the yuan market," because it is "not particularly attractive," acknowledged Frederic Gabizon from HSBC, using another name for the renmimbi currency.

His London-based bank was one of those underwriting the Portuguese issue.

Typical operations have remained small, at between $145 million and $434 million for short-term issues.

That said, "China's importance from an economic point of view is well established, and many countries therefore wish to help it develop its financial markets," Gabizon explained.

Since 2009/2010, China has begun to look for greater influence in Europe, 
says Christopher Dembik at Saxo Banque (AFP Photo/Parker Song)

Amid growing trade tension between China and the United States, Portugal has followed Greece and several Eastern European countries in joining the "Belt and Road" project. Italy has as well, becoming the first member of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialised nations to back the project.

Rome has also said it would consider issuing "panda bonds," as Austria did in late April.

That has caught the attention of big EU nations like France and Germany.

"Since 2009/2010, China has begun to look for Trojan Horses" in Europe, said Christopher Dembik at Saxo Banque.

Beijing targets "countries that often have a greater need for investments and accept in exchange, and through an implicit agreement," to support the "panda bond" market, he added.

France and Germany, which have no problem placing sovereign debt in euros, are wary of Beijing's intentions.

It is looking for the "weak underbelly for Chinese investment in Europe and to consolidate" assets already acquired in Spain and Portugal despite reservations of other EU member states, the president of Paris-based think tank Asia Centre, Jean-Francois Di Meglio, told AFP in November.