petak, 25. rujna 2015.

Migrants: Serbia-Croatia border remains blocked, 17 km line


BELGRADE - A line in Serbian territory is stretching over 17 kilometers with trucks waiting to cross at the Serbian-Croatian Batrovci-Bajakovo border post, which remains blocked as Belgrade and Zagreb remain engaged in a fierce discussion and reciprocal accusations on the immigration emergency. Serbia, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina said that if the blockade will continue - another seven border crossings at the Serbian-Croatian border that are less important remain closed - an emergency meeting will be requested of the Cultural Exchange Free Trade agreement (CEFTA) between central European countries over the significant economic damage caused by the paralysis of the circulation of trucks.

Meanwhile the EU commissioner in charge of enlargement Johannes Hahn, together with Serbian Premier Aleksandar Vucic, visited this morning a centre for refugees in Sid, in north-western Serbia at the border with Croatia. The labour and social affairs minister, Aleksandar Vulin, who is in charge of the immigration emergency, was also present. Hahn has on the agenda a day of meetings also with the interior minister, Nebojsa Stefanovic, and the minister for European integration, Jadranka Joksimovic. In statements made on the eve of his visit to Belgrade, Commissioner Hahn praised Serbia's behavior in the dramatic crisis of immigrants and refugees who are being treated ''with dignity, in line with international standards'', he said.

Refugee crisis: Demonstrators attack asylum seekers in Finland Government condemns

Demonstrators threw stones and launched fireworks at a bus full of asylum seekers arriving at a reception centre in Lahti in southern Finland, late on Thursday, Finnish media reported on Friday.

Between 30 and 40 demonstrators, one in a white robe like those worn by the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan in the United States, waved the Finnish flag and shouted abuse at the bus.

Some demonstrators also hurled stones and let off fireworks at the vehicle carrying 40 asylum seekers, including several young children, Finnish television YLE said.

Meanwhile, a petrol bomb was thrown at another reception centre in Kouvola, also in southern Finland, police said. No one was known to be hurt in the incidents.

"The Finnish government strongly condemns last night's racist protests against asylum seekers who had entered the country," the government said in a statement. "Violence or the threat of violence is always to be condemned."

Prime Minister Juha Sipila this month offered to take in refugees at his home, a move that attracted international attention but also criticism in Finland.

"Sipila's noble-minded gesture was like a Christmas gift for human traffickers and refugees. The news about open doors in Finland have sent many young men on a journey towards the promised land," Mika Niikko, a deputy from anti-immigrant party The Finns, said last week in a statement.

So far this year more than 13,000 asylum seekers, most of them from Iraq, have come to Finland, compared to just 3,600 in the whole of last year.

In recent days, about 500 refugees per day have crossed the Finnish land border in Tornio, near the Arctic Circle, after a long journey through Sweden.

The Finnish government has launched random border checks and identity checks around the country amid the influx of refugees.

Finland was the only European Union state to abstain from this week's vote about relocating asylum seekers across the member countries. It accepted its two per cent share of 120,000 asylum seekers in question but said it was opposed to a mandatory quota system.

utorak, 22. rujna 2015.

Brazil: Demonstrators burn out city buses to demand better service

Several city buses were completely engulfed by flames in the central Brazilian city of Goiania on 21 September, as demonstrators set them on fire to demand better transportation services in the city and surrounding areas.
Bus company Metrobus, which operates in Goiania and services surrounding areas, said at least six of its vehicles were completely burnt out and nine others damaged by vandals who hurled rocks and other objects at the vehicles, smashing windows and causing other damages. Thick, black smoke rose up from the flaming buses forcing a highway leading to the city to close for about six hours.
Buses from other companies were also vandalised in other attacks the same day. At least nine had their windows shattered by rocks. Local reports cited police sources saying approximately 400 people participated in the demonstrations against the companies.
Police in riot gear came out to clear the crowds as patrol officers struggled to keep calm. A person who witnessed the mayhem said vandals took advantage of the situation to cause more harm. He said: "The people took advantage of the situation to be able to do what they did. This type of vandalism is repulsive."

Alexis Tsipras takes oath of office after victory in Greece general election

Almost eight months to the day after he was first sworn in, leftwinger vows to get country out of current crisis

Alexis Tsipras has taken the oath of office as Greece’s new prime minister after his unexpectedly strong victory in snap elections.
On Monday, almost eight months to the day after he was sworn in at the helm of Athens’s first ever far-left government, Tsipras stood before the president of the republic for a second time pledging to serve his people and country. He then walked through pouring rain to the prime ministers’ office – premises he vacated barely a month ago after calling the poll following a revolt in his Syriza party and loss of parliamentary majority.
“Our commitment is to try to get this country out of the crisis in which it has been for the last five years,” he told the interim prime minister Vassiliki Thanou, a supreme court judge and the nation’s first female leader.
Earlier, Tsipras prepared a new government to negotiate the difficult path that lies ahead for his country.
Sunday’s general election victory marked a personal triumph for the 41-year-old, who had gambled on the election last month to see off a revolt by party radicals over his U-turn on accepting more austerity measures in exchange for Greece’s third international bailout.
Syriza’s stronger-than-expected win secured it 145 of 300 parliamentary seats, short of an outright majority but enough to allow the party to govern with only one small coalition partner. Ignoring criticism at home and abroad, Tsipras moved ahead to forge a joint power-sharing arrangement with his previous partner, the small, nationalist Independent Greeks party (Anel).
Despite predictions that they would struggle to cross the 3% threshold to get into parliament, the Independent Greeks gained 3.6 % of voter support giving them 10 MPs.
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Echoing the same consternation he had expressed at the power-sharing arrangement in January, European parliament president Martin Schulz repeated that officials in Brussels regarded Anel as a “strange, far-right party.”
But emerging from talks with Panos Kammenos, Anel’s leader, Tsipras said the two men were poised to govern for the next four years.
“We now have the great opportunity, taking steady steps and using the four years of our mandate to implement our main commitment, which is to give an honest fight and to shed our blood if necessary to stop our people bleeding further,” he told reporters.
The leftist leader, who managed to rally supporters despite rolling back on almost every promise he had made, emphasised that the government’s “first big battle” would be to revive the country’s crippled economy, starting with the banking system under capital control since June.
Debt relief – the condition set by the International Monetary Fund to participate in Athens’ latest bailout – would top his list of demands.
“We will continue negotiations in the coming period, with the debt issue being the first and most important battle,” a senior Syriza source insisted. “We will ask all political forces to support our effort.”
Greek debt, the fount of many of the nation’s financial woes, amounts to 180% of GDP – by far the highest in the EU.
With political commentators now speaking of the Tsipras phenomenon, the leftist stepped up pledges to sweep away the old political order – in power since the collapse of military rule in 1974 and widely blamed for the country’s economic decline and dysfunctional public sector.
“He will fight to change the system from within,” said Prof Konstantinos Tsoukalas, Greece’s preeminent sociologist and a former Syriza MP. “It was absolutely right that he signed [the bailout agreement]. The alternative would have been catastrophic,” he said, admitting that many of the terms attached to the deal were counter-productive.
“If Greece fails it will be a serious set back for a new possibility of a leftwing alliance taking place in Europe.”
The former culture minister Nikos Xydakis described the state sector as “nests upon nests upon nests of corruption, everywhere you look you see the rotten ancien regime”.
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Tsipras will now have to deal with EU officials who still openly question Athens’ ability to remain in the eurozone. Much will depend on the debt-stricken nation’s rapid and effective implementation of spending cuts and reforms – the price for being bailed out to the tune of €86bn this summer.
Congratulating him on his return to office, senior EU mandarins emphasised the herculean tasks that lay ahead. European Union president Donald Tusk said he hoped the election results would “provide for the political stability necessary to face all the challenges at hand”.
Germany – which has provided the bulk of the €326bn Greece has received in rescue loans since mid-2010, but has often been a caustic critic – said it will work in partnership with the new government.
Keeping both creditors and voters happy will not be easy. Lenders want to see reforms passed with record speed. More than 100 pieces of legislation – many foreseeing a complete overall in the way the public administration is run and brutal cuts in well-fare hand-outs including pensions – have to be enacted by the end of October.
The new government’s first task – with a new €3bn tranche of aid at stake – will be to revise the 2015 budget to take into account the reforms. It must also finalise a procedure to recapitalise Greek banks by December if it wants to remove the banking resitrictions imposed to prevent a full-blown bank run three months ago. Record high abstention rates – only 55 % turned out for the vote – could raise legitimacy fears.
“A general strike has already been decided, we will all be taking to the streets, there will be no let up,” said Petros Constantinou with the far left Antarsya group.
“There will be a huge revolt against a leftwing government taking such measures. This winter will be the most explosive yet.”

Volkswagen scandal: US chief says carmaker 'totally screwed up'

Michael Horn admits carmaker was dishonest with US regulators as France calls for Europe-wide inquiry into emissions-fixing scandal

The US chief executive of Volkswagen has said the company has “totally screwed up” over the emissions scandal that has rocked the automotive industry.
Michael Horn admitted at an event in Brooklyn, New York, on Monday night that VW had been dishonest with regulators and the public.
The world’s second-biggest carmaker could face a fine of up to $18bn (£11.6bn), criminal charges for its executives, and legal action from customers and shareholders due to US claims it used a defeat device to falsify emissions data. The device recognises when the car is being tested and immediately cuts emissions to a level that is much lower than normal and unsustainable under usual driving conditions.
Shares in Volkswagen fell by another 5% on Tuesday after losing almost a fifth of their value on Monday.
In further developments, France’s finance minister called for a “Europe-wide” investigation into diesel cars to “reassure” the public.
Michel Sapin told French radio: “This is not a minor subject, it’s not about speed or the quality of leather. What we are dealing with is making sure people avoid being poisoned by pollution.”
South Korea said on Tuesday it would investigate emissions of the VW Jetta and Gold models plus Audi A3 cars produced in 2014 and 2015. If problems are found, South Korea’s environment ministry said its inquiry could be expanded to all German diesel imports, which have surged in popularity in recent years in a market long dominated by local producers such as Hyundai.
The US Congress also confirmed it is investigating the scandal. The House energy and commerce committee chairman, Fred Upton, and the oversight and investigations subcommittee chairman, Tim Murphy, announced that the oversight and investigations subcommittee will hold a hearing.
In addition, the US Department of Justice could conduct a criminal investigation into Volkswagen.
Horn, speaking at an event to launch a new version of the Passat sedan, which featured rock star Lenny Kravitz, said: “Our company was dishonest with the EPA, and the California air resources board and with all of you, and in my German words: we have totally screwed up.
“We must fix the cars to prevent this from ever happening again and we have to make this right. This kind of behaviour is totally inconsistent with our qualities.
“We are committed to do what must be done and to begin to restore your trust. We will pay what we have to pay.”
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The comments from Horn are the first in public by a senior VW executive since the scandal emerged, although the company apologised on Sunday. He left the event without taking questions.
One of the officials involved in uncovering the alleged behaviour has told the Guardian that the emissions-fixing scandal could extend to other companies and countries.
Billions of pounds have been wiped off the value of global carmakers amid growing concerns that emissions tests may have been rigged across the industry.
“We need to ask the question, is this happening in other countries and is this happening at other manufacturers? Some part of our reaction is not even understanding what has happened exactly,” said John German, one of the two co-leads on the US team of the International Council for Clean Transportation (ICCT), the European-based NGO that raised the alarm.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on Friday that VW hadinstalled illegal software to cheat emission tests, allowing its diesel cars to produce up to 40 times more pollution than allowed. The US government ordered VW to recall 482,000 VW and Audi cars produced since 2009.
In response, Martin Winterkorn, chief executive of VW, said in a statement on Sunday he was “deeply sorry” for breaking the trust of the public and ordered an external investigation.
A British expert in low-emission vehicles claimed the manipulation of air pollution data could be widespread and that tests in Europe are “much more open to this sort of abuse”.
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Greg Archer, a former government adviser and head of clean vehicles at the respected Transport & Environment thinktank, said: “I am not surprised. There has been a lot of anecdotal evidence about carmakers using these defeat devices. All credit to the EPA for investigating and finding the truth.”
Archer, the former managing director of the UK’s Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership and non-executive director for the government’s Renewable Fuels Agency, said the scandal could spread into petrol cars and CO2 levels. “It is probably not limited to diesel and not limited to emissions,” he added.
The devices are thought to work by injecting more urea – an exhaust fluid – into the car when it is being tested. This limits nitrogen oxide emissions to a fraction of their usual level. The car detects it is being tested because devices such as the anti-collision systems have to be turned off when it is in the laboratory. The extra urea is not injected into the car when it is on the road because it would quickly run out.
Archer claims European tests are more open to abuse because they are conducted before the car goes into mass production and by companies that have been paid by the carmakers. These testing companies have been verified by regulators in each country, such as the Vehicle Certification Agency, but in the US the tests are conducted by an independent body.
Industry leaders in Britain claimed there was no evidence that manufacturers are cheating the system in Europe but admitted it needs to be reformed.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the industry trade body, said: “The EU operates a fundamentally different system to the US – with all European tests performed in strict conditions as required by EU law and witnessed by a government-appointed independent approval agency. There is no evidence that manufacturers cheat the cycle.
“The industry acknowledges, however, that the current test method is outdated and is seeking agreement from the European commission for a new emissions test that embraces new testing technologies and is more representative of on-road conditions.”
The US allegations involve a series of diesel cars produced by VW and the brands it owns, such as Audi. These include the Audi A3, VW Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Passat models. VW has halted sales of these models.