Weekly News 21st- 25th November

Monday 21st 

Finland: Several NATO and EU countries are planning to establish a center in Helsinki to research how to counter “hybrid” warfare, a senior Finnish government official said Monday. Finland has a 1,300-km (800-mile) border with Russia, which has been accused of mounting “hybrid” campaigns in the Ukraine conflict. The Nordic state, a militarily non-aligned EU member, last month voiced concern about what it sees as an intensifying propaganda campaign against it by the Kremlin. Under-Secretary of State Jori Arvonen told reporters Finland had discussed the Helsinki “center of excellence” with the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Sweden and the Baltic countries, as well as with EU and NATO officials. (The Daily Star)

France: Nicolas Sarkozy, will not play the second turn of the primary elections of the right wing. The former President of Republic gained only the 20,7% of votes. He has been defeated by François Fillon (44,1%) and Alain Juppe (28,4%). The two winners will compete next Sunday, November 27th, for the second turn to decide who will be the candidate of Les Republicains of the next Presidential elections. As consequence of the electoral defeat, Sarkozy announced his retirement from the political life and invited the electors to vote for Fillon. (France Info)

A new terrorist attack has been thwarted during the weekend, as it was announced by the French Ministry of the Interior, Bernard Cazeneuve. The minister said that the individuals arrested in Strasbourg and Marseille were five French, one Moroccan and one Afghan, aged 29 to 37 years. “Six of the individuals were unknown to the police and the Moroccan national was signaled by a compatriot,” said Bernard Cazeneuve. Their target was not specified, but it is supposed to be the Christmas Market of Strasbourg that will be inaugurated on Friday. All are currently being held in police custody by the police. (Le Monde)

Germany: During a conference at the Konrad Adenauer house, Chancellor Merkel affirmed that she wishes to be leading the CDU party during such “unsafe years” and to participate to the governmental elections of 2017. Merkel said that the decision to candidate for a fourth mandate has not been taken without difficulties, but that she is willing to do so “for the nation, for the party and for herself”. (Süddeutsche Zeitung)

Italy: The Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal have both dedicated articles to the possible impact of a No vote in next month’s referendum on Premier Matteo Renzi’s Constitutional reform. “If Matteo Renzi, Italian prime minister, loses his constitutional referendum on December 4, I would expect a sequence of events that would raise questions of Italy’s participation in the Eurozone”. The underlying causes were not linked to the referendum itself, but to Italy’s poor economic performance since it adopted the euro in 1999 and the EU’s failure to build proper economic and banking union after the Eurozone crisis of 2010-2012. “The referendum matters as it could accelerate the path towards euro exit,” the piece said. (Ansa)

Tuesday 22nd

Egypt: Egypt’s Court of Cassation overturned on Tuesday a life sentence against deposed President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood and ordered a retrial in the case that revolves around accusations of espionage with Palestinian group Hamas. The court last week overturned a death sentence against Morsi in a separate case, meaning he no longer faces execution. Democratically elected after the 2011 uprising, Morsi was overthrown in mid-2013 by Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi following mass protests against his rule, and was immediately arrested. He remains in jail on separate convictions. (The Daily Star)

Migrant crisis: 1400 were rescued during the day, Italian coastguard said, and eight dead bodies recovered. The Italian coastguard coordinated the rescue with ships belonging to other NGOs such as Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS). The death toll in the Mediterranean is estimated to be 4,655 in 2016, 1000 more than in all of 2015, the International Organization for Migration reported. More than 168,000 have reached the Italian coasts this year, which outnumbers the 154,000 that took the same way in 2015. The March treaty that the European Union signed with Turkey in order to cut the Greek way explains the discrepancy with 2015 migration toll. (Reuters)

Turkey: Turkey’s government has withdrawn a controversial bill that would have granted amnesty to some men convicted of child sex assault if they married their victims. The announcement on the bill came after street protests at the weekend and criticism from civil society groups, including a women’s rights organisation whose deputy chief is President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s daughter, Sümeyye Erdoğan Bayraktar. The proposed amnesty for some child sex offenders was part of a larger bill approved by lawmakers in a hearing to reform the criminal code. It would have suspended the sentences of men convicted of sexual assault of a minor if they married their victims and could prove the act was carried out without force or “restriction on consent”. (The Guardian)

Wednesday 23rd

Iraq: the so-called Islamic State remains isolated after that the last supply line from Mosul to Syria has been severed by Iraqi-led forces. Shia-Muslim paramilitary forces Hashed al-Shaabi have captured the road linking Tal Afar to Sinjar west of Mosul on Wednesday and linked up with Kurdish forces there. This happens after that an air strike by the US-led coalition hit the fourth bridge on the Tigris river in Mosul, leaving the city with a single functioning connection and further disrupting IS’ supply lines. As Shia troops are entering the city of Tal Afar west of Mosul, civilians flee southward and northward: “people are fleeing due to the Hashed’s advance, there are great fears among the civilians”, a Tal Afar representative in the Nineveh provincial council said. Humanitarian organisation are concerned of the possibility that civilians flee into IS-controlled territories, where aid cannot be sent to them. (Aljazeera)

Thursday 24th

Bulgaria: about 1,500 migrants started a riot in Bulgaria’s largest refugee camp on Thursday amid growing tensions in displaced persons reception centers across the Balkans. The protest erupted over a recently imposed ban on migrants leaving the premises of the centers. The situation has been put under control and negotiations are underway between protesting migrants and the state refugee agency. (The Daily Star)

EU: European Parliament urges governments to stop the negotiations for the access of Turkey into the European Union. Turkey has reacted negatively after the vote and the migration deal may be endangered. 471 to 37 MEPs voted to halt accession talks, with politicians ranging from the Conservative group to the Greens lining up to back a resolution that condemned the disproportionate repressive measures of the Turkish government after the failed military coup in July. (The Guardian)

Iraq: bomb blast near Hilla targets Shia Muslim pilgrims returning from Arbaeen pilgrimage in the holy city of Karbala. At least 80 people have been killed and dozens wounded in a massive suicide truck bomb blast at a petrol station south of Iraq’s capital Baghdad, according to security forces. The so-called Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. The attack involved a petrol tank near a petrol station with an adjacent restaurant. The death toll so far is 80 people, but that is likely to rise as there are several more in critical condition. In the past months IS attacks have intensified in the attempt to weaken the offensive on Mosul. (Aljazeera)

Syria: Syrian rebels in Aleppo have agreed to a U.N. plan for aid delivery and medical evacuations, however the approval from Russia and Syrian government has not been confirmed yet. About 275,000 people are trapped in east Aleppo, the last U.N. food rations were distributed on November 13 and conditions are getting worse with the winter setting in. There is approval from rebel groups with which the U.N. has contact, this does not include former Nusra Front militants. Humanitarian adviser Jen Egeland hopes the plan can be carried out in the next days, this would include rotation of the 30 doctors still in eastern Aleppo. Air strikes in the past weeks have hit hospitals and left residents even shorter of medicines, food and fuel. (Reuters)

Friday 25th

Egypt: Egypt has passed an anti-protest law which contributes to its legalisation of authoritarianism. Since the summer of 2013, following the military coup led by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the ruling regime in Egypt has managed to handcuff the public space. The military clique’s goal now is to evacuate citizens from the public space and to eliminate the autonomy of civil society organisation. Furthermore, political parties not close to the regime are highly marginalised. This is one of the legal tools employed in the attempt to crack down on opposition and isolate voices of dissent. (Al Jazeera)

Israel:Israeli police said Friday that at least 12 people were in custody on suspicion of starting a series of huge fires that has forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes and left widespread damage across the country.Some of the fires, which started Monday night, were still burning Friday and numerous countries, including Russia, Turkey, Jordan and Egypt, had sent emergency crews and firefighting planes to help Israel tackle the blazes. The Palestinian Authority also sent four firefighting teams. (The Washington Post)

Turkey: Erdogan is threatening to open borders to migrants coming to Europe. This follows the EU vote on Thursday of halting access negotiations for Turkey into the European Union. With provoking words, the Turkish president affirmed that ‘if such attitude would go further, the doors to EU will open’. Mrs Merkel reacted saying that threatening the EU does not take anywhere. (Le Monde)

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