Kryon Berlin Tour & Seminar - Berlin, Germany, Sept 17-22 2019 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Carroll)

Kryon Berlin Tour & Seminar - Berlin, Germany, Sept 17-22 2019 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Carroll)
30th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

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. …

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

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/

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/

"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/

'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.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Hungary boat tragedy captain already under investigation over earlier accident

Yahoo – AFP, June 6, 2019

Candles have been lit close to the Danube in memory of the victims (AFP

The captain of a river cruise ship involved in a deadly collision last week with a smaller sightseeing boat in Budapest is already under investigation over another accident in April, Hungarian prosecutors said Thursday, as the toll rose to 17.

After last week's crash, the 64-year-old Ukrainian captain of the larger Viking Sigyn ship was arrested on suspicion of "endangering waterborne traffic resulting in multiple deaths".

Hungarian press reports said the same man, named as Yuriy C., was being investigated over the collision of another Viking ship, the Idun, with a chemicals tanker near the Dutch city of Terneuzen on April 1.

"He is being treated as a suspect in Holland," the Metropolitan Chief Prosecutor's Office told AFP in a statement, citing information from the EU judicial agency Eurojust, but without confirming the incident they were referring to.

In a statement sent to AFP on Thursday, Viking said: "We can confirm that even though the captain of the Viking Sigyn was onboard the Viking Idun on April 1, he was not serving as the ship's captain at the time of the incident."

"We are unable to comment further while the investigations of both incidents are ongoing," the statement added.

At the time of the April collision, the Idun had 43 crew and 137 passengers on board. Several passengers were injured.

Dutch authorities are still investigating the circumstances of that collision.

Hungarian prosecutors also said Thursday that the captain was suspected of "deleting data from his telephone after the collision" in Budapest.

The captain's lawyers could not be reached for comment on Thursday but said in a statement issued last Friday that he was "devastated" by the accident and insisted that he did not make any errors.

Meanwhile the death toll rose to 17 after the bodies of two more South Korean tourists were identified, leaving 11 people still missing from the occupants of the Mermaid sightseeing vessel -- nine South Koreans and two Hungarian crew members.

The Mermaid overturned and sank on May 29 seconds after colliding with the Viking Sigyn on a busy stretch of the Danube river in the heart of Budapest.

Only seven people are known to have survived the accident.

Divers have been unable to enter the sunken boat due to the strong current in a river swollen after weeks of rain.

A barge carrying a crane powerful enough to lift the Mermaid arrived in Budapest Wednesday but was to remain docked in the north of the city until the river level subsides enough to allow it to pass under several bridges to reach the accident scene.

Experts said the crane was unlikely to begin the salvage operation before the weekend.

The Viking Sigyn left Budapest with a new captain last Friday but Seoul has reportedly asked Hungarian authorities to return the ship to Budapest for the duration of the investigation.

Uprooted tree leads Dutch police to major cocaine lab

Yahoo – AFP, June 6, 2019

Clean-up workers removing a tree uprooted by a storm noticed a chemical smell and
"suspicious" men walking about a nearby farmer's shed (AFP Photo/EMMANUEL DUNAND)

The Hague (AFP) - A tree uprooted during a storm in the Netherlands has led to the discovery of one of the largest cocaine laboratories in the country, police said on Thursday.

Clean-up workers were removing the tree after the storm early Thursday when they noticed a chemical smell and "suspicious" men walking about a nearby farmer's shed in the southern Dutch village of Oud-Vossenmeer.

"Police were called and agents discovered the laboratory in the shed," a police statement said, adding it was "one of the largest discovered to date in the country."

Police declined to say how much cocaine was found, but admitted taking the laboratory apart will take "several days."

No arrests were made, with the suspects having fled.

Record quantities of increasingly pure cocaine are being seized by European authorities, the EU drugs agency said in a report published on Thursday.

EU member states seized 140 tonnes of cocaine in 2017, the highest level ever recorded, with an average street price of 55 to 82 euros ($62-92) per gram in the EU, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) said.

The purity of cocaine at street level reached its highest level in a decade in 2017, while its retail price has remained stable.

Belgium accounted for the highest proportion of cocaine seizures with 45 tonnes, followed by Spain with 41 tonnes.

An increase in trafficking via shipping containers is a "major challenge", the report said.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Swiss women strike for equal pay again, three decades on

Yahoo – AFP, Agnès PEDRERO, June 4, 2019

The organisers are calling on women to stop work whether they have paid 
employment or do housework at home (AFP Photo/Fabrice COFFRINI)

Geneva (AFP) - Nearly 30 years after staging a first nationwide strike for equal pay, women across Switzerland say they are preparing fresh action to push for wage parity next week.

On June 14, 1991 -- 10 years after equality between the sexes was enshrined in the Swiss constitution -- half a million women walked out of their workplaces or homes to protest persistent inequalities.

Three decades on, however, unions and rights groups say things have barely improved.

They are calling on Swiss women to join a fresh strike, again on June 14, to demand "more time, more money, more respect".

Women in Switzerland on average still make 20 percent less than men.

And for men and women with equal qualifications, the wage gap remains nearly eight percent, according to the national statistics office.

"Even if you take into account all of the regular excuses and you only compare women and men in the exact same position with the same professional experience, the fact remains that a woman in Switzerland is cheated out of 300,000 Swiss francs ($313,000, 266,000 euros) over the course of her career, just because she is a woman," Switzerland's largest union UNIA said in a statement last year.

Strikers will also be demanding zero tolerance for violence against women and more respect and better pay for women's work, including through the introduction of a minimum national salary.

The idea of another nationwide women's strike was born out of frustration at a bid to change the law to impose more oversight over salary distribution, which passed through the Swiss parliament last year

The final text only applied to companies with more than 100 employees -- affecting fewer than one percent of employers -- and failed to include sanctions for those that allow persistent gender pay gaps.

Swiss women are angry that, decades after the constitutional recognition of the 
equality of women, they are still not getting paid as much as men (AFP Photo/

'Women work for free'

Organisers have called upon women to snub their jobs, and also housework, for the entire day to help raise awareness about the vital contribution women make across society.

"Really, the objective is to block the country with a feminist strike, a women's strike," activist Marie Metrailler told AFP.

For those women unable to take a full day, the organisers urge them to at least pack their things and go by 3:24 pm -- in recognition of the male-female pay disparity.

"After that, women work for free," said Anne Fritz, the main organiser of the strike and a representative of USS, an umbrella organisation that groups 16 Swiss unions.

Gaining recognition of women's rights has been a drawn-out process in Switzerland.

It was one of the last countries in Europe to grant women the right to vote, in 1971 -- and in the conservative Appenzell region women only won that right in 1991.

And while Switzerland did enshrine gender equality into its constitution in 1981, it took another 15 years before the law took effect.

"In 1991, we determined that... nothing was moving. So we went on strike," Geneva author Huguette Junod told AFP.

Around 500,000 women -- a high number in a country that at the time counted fewer than 3.5 million female inhabitants -- marched and organised giant picnics in the streets. Some women hung brooms from their balconies.

The large turnout was all the more remarkable given that work stoppages have been extremely rare in Switzerland since employers and unions signed the "Peace at Work" convention in 1937. It states that differences should be worked out through negotiation rather than strikes.

Junod, 76, recalls that many women were blocked from participating in 1991.

But, she said, "those who were not permitted to strike wore a fuchsia-coloured armband ... and took a longer break".

Women demonstrated on May 14 in Lausanne, a month ahead of the nationwide
action to press for equal pay (AFP Photo/Fabrice COFFRINI)


Organisers are bracing for a repeat of that situation, for while the strike has some support, the employers' organisation flatly opposes it.

"This strike is illegal," Marco Taddei, one of the organisation's representatives, told AFP.

He stressed that the demands put forward "do not solely target working conditions", and that the constitution "stipulates that a strike can only be used as a last resort."

The unions disagree.

"What is illegal is wage discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace," Fritz said.

Recognising that many women will not be able to get away from work, organisers have declared purple the colour to wear this time to show support for the strikers.

Over the past three decades, womens' rights advocates in Switzerland have made some gains. Abortion was legalised in 2002, and 2005 saw the introduction of 14 weeks of paid maternity leave.

But Switzerland still offers no paternity leave, and limited access to over-priced daycare is seen as a major hindrance to women's full participation in the world of work.

Switzerland "is very conservative on the question of women's rights," Eleonore Lepinard, a sociologist and associate professor of gender studies at Lausanne University, told AFP.

The authorities have yet to commit to collective policies on day-care and elderly care, which would make it easier for women to enter, remain and thrive in the workforce.

Women's forced absence from the workforce for years at a time "benefits men on the employment market and in terms of salaries", Lepinard said.

She hailed women's growing ability to speak up and make their grievances known.

The question, she said, is: "Do the politicians know how to listen?"

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