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News digest: 23 April 2013

Albania election commission row alarms CoE (Balkan Insight): "The Council of Europe expressed concern on Friday that a power struggle among Albanian parties to control the Central Electoral Commission, CEC, will hamper the June 23 elections"

BALKANS: Regional co-operation praised in drug arrests (SETimes.com): "The recent crackdown on an organised crime group suspected of selling drugs, hailed as as one of the biggest regional co-operation efforts to date, has made a huge cut in the Balkan drug smuggling route, officials said"

BALKANS: Turkey and Balkans battle drug trafficking (SETimes.com): "The international drug trade continues to ply the "Balkan route," bringing narcotics through Turkey and the Balkans to Europe in a multi-billion euro illicit industry run by sophisticated organised crime groups, the European Union's law enforcement agency, Europol, found in its annual report"

Bulgaria secretly arrested Iranian Burgas bomb suspect (Balkan Insight): "Bulgarian authorities arrested several suspects last year following the terror attack in the Black Sea city of Burgas in July, including an Iranian agent with a Canadian passport, the Israeli daily, Jerusalem Post, reported on Monday"

CZECH REPUBLIC: Hundreds take part in Prague march against anti-Semitism (Prague Daily Monitor)

CZECH REPUBLIC: New centre to help develop education of Roma (Prague Daily Monitor): "A new centre of IQ Roma servis in Brno that opened Thursday aims to develop young Romanies' education, its director Katarina Klamkova has told CTK, adding that the centre is equipped with computers, a community radio and other aids"

CZECH REPUBLIC: Police to raise staff by 500 to 39,000 this year (Prague Daily Monitor)

CZECH REPUBLIC: Zeman wants euro in five years, tougher crackdown on terrorism (Prague Daily Monitor): "Czech President Milos Zeman can imagine the Czech Republic adopting the euro in foreseeable future, he told the Bavarian daily Passauer Neue Presse out on Saturday, adding that the Czechs could join the euro zone in five years"

DENMARK: Danish F-16s confronted Russian fighter jets approaching Sweden (The Copenhagen Post): "The Russian military has increased its presence in the Baltic region over the past few years, much to the consternation of the Swedes"

DENMARK: 'Leg-lock' death and pepper spray incident put spotlight on police tactics (The Copenhagen Post): "Police kept secret new evidence that suggested officers were responsible for the death of a prisoner in 2011, while police complaint board recommends a review of pepper spray policy"

EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmström welcomes the signing of the EU-Armenia Readmission Agreement (Europa, press release): "Today, the European Union and Armenia signed an agreement on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation. A visa facilitation agreement with Armenia, opening the way for easier travel and people-to-people contact across Europe, was already signed on 17 December 2012"

EU crime opt-outs 'could damage UK crime fighting' (BBC News): "Government plans to opt out of 130 European Union police and criminal justice measures could weaken the UK's ability to fight crime, peers say." See also: EU policing and justice opt-out would endanger internal security, Lords warn (The Guardian); Government has not made a convincing case for opt-out (Lords Select Committee); and UK would jeopardise military standing by leaving EU, says German minister (The Guardian)

EU: A quarter of Romanians and Bulgarians say they want to look for work in UK - not that they're doing anything about it (The Independent): "One in 25 Buglarians and one in 100 Romanians are actively looking for jobs in Britain next year when they will gain the right to live and work in this country, according to polls for BBC2’s Newsnight released last night."

EU: Kosovo and Serbia reach historic deal in Brussels (Balkan Insight): "After four hours of EU-mediated talks between Belgrade and Pristina, the two delegations sealed a long-awaited deal, the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said on Friday afternoon." See also: Serbia and Kosovo*: historic agreement paves the way for decisive progress in their EU perspectives (Europa, press release)

EU: MEPs say Croatia is ready to join the EU in July (European Parliament, press release): " Croatia is on track to become the EU's 28th member state on 1 July, MEPs said on Thursday in their last resolution before it is scheduled to join. They highlighted the strength of Croatia's democracy, social market economy and capacity to fulfil its membership obligations and called on the last two member states that still have to approve Croatia's accession to do so without delay"

EU: Parliament approves EU visa facilitation agreements with Ukraine and Moldova (European Parlament, press release): "Ukrainian and Moldovan journalists, civil society representatives, NGOs and young people will find it easier to get short-stay visas for trips to the EU thanks to visa deals backed by Parliament on Thursday"

FINLAND: Foreigners make up disproportionate number of criminals (Helsinki Times): "A foreigner is almost three times more likely to be suspected of illegal activity than a native Finn"

FINLAND: Paatero: Only few groundless entries on suspect list (Helsinki Times): "Mikko Paatero, the national police commissioner, approximates that the police's suspect data system contains only few entries made on insufficient grounds. In an interview with MTV3 on Thursday, the commissioner affirmed that such entries will be deleted upon detection, while emphasising that, at the very least, a reasonable criminal suspicion is necessary to justify an entry"

FRANCE: Probe opens into alleged Libyan aid to Sarkozy (France 24): "French prosecutors on Friday opened a probe into allegations that the Libyan regime helped finance the 2007 presidential campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy, according to a judicial source. The former French president has denied similar claims in the past"

GERMANY: German firm arms Qatar with tanks (Deutsche Welle): "Qatar buys modern tanks and weapons from Germany, but opposition members in German parliament criticize the arms deal with the Gulf state. Democracy doesn't exist in Qatar, political scientists say"

GERMANY: Friend reportedly helped neo-Nazi on the run (The Local): "Investigators suspect a close friend of Beate Zschäpe helped the alleged neo-Nazi terrorist when she was on the run from police, according to media reports on Monday"

GERMANY: Gorleben returns as nuclear disposal possibility (Deutsche Welle): " The German government wants to find a site to store nuclear waste - just not in Gorleben, for many years the preferred location. But many politicians are revisiting the battles of the past." See: Policing popular mass protests: the transport of nuclear waste at Goleben, Germany (Statewatch Journal) and Military to be deployed against Gorleben protesters (Statewatch News Online)

GERMANY: Migrant's case highlights modern slavery in Germany (Spiegel Online): "Injured on the job, a Bulgarian migrant worker desperately needs surgery, but his official status as an independent contractor has allowed the companies involved to shirk responsibility. His case exposes a troubling gray area in Germany's labor market"

GERMANY: NSU trial lottery: 'The fairest method of all' (Deutsche Welle): " A Munich court will reallocate press passes for the neo-Nazi NSU terror cell trial accused of killing 10 people, eight with Turkish heritage. Turkish media had previously not received any seats in the courtroom." See also: Neo-Nazi trial delay heightens media fiasco (Deutsche Welle) and Victim's father calls for video transmission of trial (Spiegel Online)

GERMANY: Report calls for German Internet commissioner (Spiegel Online): "A special Internet and Digital Society Commission convened by parliament has released several hundred recommendations for addressing data protection and other Internet-related issues in Germany. Chief among them: establishing a permanent Internet commissioner"

GERMANY: UN body reprimands Germany over Sarrazin comments (Spiegel Online): "When former Berlin politician Thilo Sarrazin made critical remarks about Muslim immigrants four years ago, many found them offensive, though prosecutors rejected complaints, citing free speech laws. A UN committee disagrees, however, and has accused Germany of violating an anti-racism convention"

GREECE: Detention takes toll on inmates awaiting deportation, doctors warn (Ekathimerini): "A high number of inmates awaiting deportation at a former army camp in Amygdaleza, northwest of the capital, who were arrested by police after failing to display proper residence and work papers, as well as those held at the Aliens Bureau on Petrou Ralli Street in Athens as they undergo processing, are suffering from dermatological and psychological problems, according to a report published recently by the nongovernmental organization Iatriki Paremvasi (Medical Intervention), which provides free healthcare and psychological support to migrant inmates." See also: Big drop in number of immigrants trying to across Greece's Evros border

GREECE: Into the Fire – new documentary about the hidden victims of austerity in Greece (PICUM): "Greece is in crisis. But the economic crisis is not the only one. An asylum crisis has gripped the country at this time of severe austerity. Refugees and migrants, including minors, suffer greatly and are often victimised by racist attacks after fleeing their countries to find safety. The documentary Into the Fire shows how they are trapped in Greece, how police forces side with the right wing extremist group Golden Dawn and systematically hunt down and beat up migrants. But it also gives a voice to those groups and citizens in Greece who resist these developments such as Doctors of the World who provide them with medical care and the anti-fascist movement"

GREECE: Many Greeks prefer Junta to austerity (Greek Reporter): "A survey published on the April 21 anniversary of the start of a seven-year military dictatorship that imprisoned, tortured and exiled thousands of people has found that 30 percent of Greeks said life was better during those rigid times than during today’s crushing economic crisis"

GREECE: Nea Manolada foremen face magistrate over shooting of strawberry pickers (Ekathimerini): "The three foremen at a farm in Nea Manolada, in the Peloponnese, who opened fire on a large group of Bangladeshi strawberry pickers last week, injuring about 30 people, are to face a magistrate in Amaliada on Monday." See also: Financial police arrested a farm owner, uncover offenses after shooting of strawberry pickers and Two arrested over shooting of migrant farm workers in Nea Manolada (Ekathimerini); Immigrant shooting suspects face court and Vangelatos says no blood on his strawberries (Greek Reporter)

GREECE: Pressed by human rights activists, Greece pledges to stop deportations of Syrian refugees (Ekathimerini): "Greece on Wednesday pledged to halt deportations of Syrian refugees, as human rights activists called for measures to ensure that asylum seekers from the war-torn Middle Eastern state have access to Greek territory and safety." See also: Greece stops deporting illegal Syrian migrants (Greek Reporter)

GREECE: UN expert in Athens to assess austerity impact on human rights (Ekathimerini): "United Nations expert Cephas Lumina will visit Greece on Monday to assess the impact of austerity policies on the country's human rights record"

Hungary may boost contribution to NATO as GDP rises, state secretary says (Politics.hu)

HUNGARY: Commies, Nazis have one more week to strut their stuff in public under new law (Politics.hu): "Parliament on Monday passed new rules to ban the public use of symbols associated with dictatorial regimes." See also: Parliament poised to overturn court ruling on totalitarian symbols

HUNGARY: Majority of Hungarians reject policy of punishing homeless, Medián poll finds (Politics.hu)

HUNGARY: Police ban second attempt to hold far-right motorcycle rally, tour marking Hitler’s birthday (Politics.hu)

IRELAND: Campaign to End Institutional Living: Day of Action on Direct Provision (Human Rights in Ireland): "Today, Human Rights in Ireland is hosting a blog carnival on the system of direct provision. The blog carnival coincides with country wide events that are calling for a change in the current system whereby individuals who are claiming asylum may live in accommodation centres for several years while their claim for asylum or protection is being determined." See also: Blogs on direct provision

IRELAND: Govt to consider Mali peacekeeping force (RTÉ News): "The Government is to give serious consideration to members of the Irish Defence Forces serving in any UN peacekeeping force that may be created to assist Mali"

ISRAEL: Israeli official says drones could replace planes (ABC News): " Israel's air force is on track to developing drones that within four to five decades would carry out nearly every battlefield operation executed today by piloted aircraft, a high-ranking Israeli officer told The Associated Press Sunday"

ITALY: Extremists mark birthday of Adolf Hitler in Varese (Gazzetta del Sud): "It is "absolutely inconceivable" that a celebration of Adolf Hitler was permitted in an Italian city, Puglia Governor Nichi Vendola said Monday. The country's interior minister should explain how this was allowed, said Vendola, leader of the Left Ecology Freedom (SEL) party"

ITALY: Napolitano wiretaps destroyed (Gazzetta del Sud): "A judge in Palermo on Monday destroyed wiretaps of President Giorgio Napolitano, effectively ending a judicial clash that pitted the sanctity of the presidency against the duties of Mafia investigators"

ITALY: Residency permit scam busted in Turin (Gazzetta del Sud): "Hundreds of immigrants in the northern Italian city of Turin obtained residency permits through a scam paying bribes of 3,000-4,000 euros, Italian finance police said on Wednesday. A cooperative - in truth defunct for years - fictitiously hired the non-European immigrants seeking to stay in Italy"

Kosovo cable TV operator accused of censorship (Balkan Insight): "Kosovo rights groups alleged that telecoms firm IKPO had attacked independent media by demoting private broadcaster KTV to a lower channel on its cable system without warning"

MACEDONIA: Journalists take Macedonia media law to task (Balkan Insight): "The first of a series of debates on the new media law revealed that Macedonian journalists and media organizations are still deeply suspicious of the proposed changes"

MACEDONIA: EU reports on Macedonia as Ashton visits (Balkan Insight): "Ashton arrives in Skopje officially on a mission to tell the authorities to work harder on resolving the dispute about Macedonia's name with Greece and to restore political stability at home." See: European Commission: The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: Implementation of reforms within the framework of the high level accession dialogue and promotion of good neighbourly relations (pdf)

MALTA: Commissioner denies involvement in 1985 brutality claims (Times of Malta): "Police commissioner Peter Paul Zammit has denied that he oversaw police brutality in 1985"

MALTA: Jailed Romanian thieves’ rights intact (Times of Malta): "A court yesterday ruled that the fundamental human rights of five Romanians were not breached when they admitted charges of theft and were each sent to prison for three years"

MALTA: Two directors proposed for Corradino prison (Times of Malta): "Corradino prison is to have two directors, one responsible for operations and the other focused on the rehabilitation of prisoners, a Home Affairs Ministry spokesman said"

NETHERLANDS: Dolmatov asylum failings not an isolated incident, experts say (Dutch News): "Failings such as those in the treatment of Russian asylum seeker Aleksander Dolmatov, who killed himself when he was wrongly scheduled for deportation, are not uncommon, experts have told Nos television." See also: Junior justice minister survives debate over Dolmatov suicide (Dutch News)

NETHERLANDS: Dutch army needs more young recruits, despite staffing cuts (Dutch News): "The Dutch armed forces have been hit by an acute shortage of young recruits, defence minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert told Nos radio on Wednesday"

NETHERLANDS: Dutch security information 'helped foil al-Qaeda attack': minister (Dutch News): "Information from the Dutch security service AIVD at the end of last year helped foil an al-Qaeda terrorist attack, home affairs minister Ronald Plasterk said in a briefing to parliament"

NETHERLANDS: Illegal cleaners fight government plans (Dutch News): "Illegal cleaners without residency permits are openly campaigning against the government's plans to make illegality a criminal offence, the Volkskrant reports on Tuesday"

NETHERLANDS: Up to 300 asylum seekers wrongly registered as 'removable': minister (Dutch News): "Almost 300 asylum seekers in the Netherlands have been wrongly registered as ‘removable’ by immigration officials even though their appeal process is still ongoing, junior justice minister Fred Teeven told MPs in a briefing"

NETHERLANDS: Utrecht wants 'cannabis clubs' to be allowed to grow drug for medical research (The Amsterdam Herald): "Two organisations in Utrecht are to ask the Dutch government to allow cannabis users to grow their own supplies for medical reasons"

NORTHERN IRELAND: OFMDFM heads Information Commissioner's complaints list (The Detail): "A fifth of all complaints to the Information Commissioner regarding government departments in Northern Ireland over the last two years related to the Office of First and Deputy First Minister"

POLAND: Soldiers found guilty of 1970s deaths (New Poland Express): "Two Communist-era army commanders were found guilty by a Warsaw court this week for the fatal beating that caused the deaths of protestors in Gdynia in 1970. The Deputy Prime Minister from that time, Stanislaw Kociolek, was cleared of the charges he faced"

Portugal seeks to recapture spirit of 1974 ‘revolution’ for battle against austerity (The Irish Times): "When Portuguese prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho makes his annual tax declaration this year, he could be in for a shock. At least that’s the hope of the Movimento Revolução Branca (or White Revolution Movement), a civic group that peacefully campaigns for an overhaul of the political system. It has encouraged people to put the prime minister’s name and tax number on all receipts they get for purchases from shops"

Romania abandons target date to join Eurozone (Balkan Insight): "Romania plans to submit to the European Commission a programme on progress towards adoption of the euro, which for the first time will not have a target date"

Romania’s Supreme Court gives an increased, definitive 7-year jail stretch to former senator Voicu, while in hospital (Romania Insider): "Former Romanian senator Ca(ta(lin Voicu has been definitively sentenced to seven years in prison by a panel of Supreme Court judges. The decision came yesterday (April 22 ) after prosecutors from Romania’s anti-corruption directorate (DNA) had asked for an increase in his original jail sentence to nine years. Although the Supreme Court did not hand down a nine-year sentence, they did increase the sentence from the original five to six years given last year"

ROMANIA: Bogdan Aurescu: US-NATO missile defence system, not pointed against and not targetting Russia (ACTMedia): "Romanian Foreign Affairs Ministry (MAE) Secretary of State for Strategic Affairs Bogdan Aurescu in a security conference in Bratislava reiterated that the US-NATO missile defence system was not pointed against and did not target the Russian Federation, as it could not be used for offensive purposes." See also: US Gottemoeller to visit Romania to discuss missile defense cooperation and Rose Gottemoeller started her visit to Bucharest (ACTMedia)

ROMANIA: Ministry of Defense to organize weekend military pageants in Romanian cities to foster national pride (Romania Insider): "The cultural institutions under the umbrella of Romania’s Ministry of National Defense (MApN) will give large public displays in major cities around the country on every weekend, according to the Romanian Defense Minister Mircea Dusa"

ROMANIA: US Department Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 in Romania: Government corruption remained a widespread problem that affected all sections of society (Romania Insider): "According to the US Department Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012, major human rights problems included police and gendarme mistreatment and harassment of detainees and Roma, including the death of three Roma at the hands of police and gendarmes. Government corruption remained a widespread problem that affected all sections of society. Threats to journalists undermined media freedom"

SPAIN: Thousands in Spain protest health privatisation (France 24): "Thousands of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers, many wearing white lab coats, and their supporters marched in Madrid Sunday to protest against government spending cuts and plans to partly privatise medical services"

UK: Al-Swaiedi inquiry: Teenager was tortured and hanged, claims his uncle (The Independent): "A teenager who it is claimed was unlawfully killed by British troops in Iraq had been tortured and hanged, his uncle has claimed"

UK: Asylum-seekers in last-ditch effort to keep their homes (Morning Star): "Campaigners rallied outside Glasgow Sheriff Court today as asylum-seekers continued their battle to block a bid to throw them out of their homes. The case brought by a handful of asylum-seekers follows the UK Border Agency's 2011 decision to drop charity Y People (formerly the YMCA) as its housing contractor, handing it to private security transnational Serco"

UK: Brighton counting cost of street march (The Argus): " Brighton and Hove is counting the cost of its largest police operation for more than 20 years after a nationalist parade brought the city centre to a standstill." See also: English fascists took their first beating of the summer in Brighton this weekend (Vice)

UK: Jury continues to debate bomb detector case (This is Somerset): "An Old Bailey jury has retired for a second day in the case of a Somerset businessman accused of selling fake bomb detectors." See also: Jury still out in 'fake bomb detectors' trial (Times of Malta)

UK: Justice & Security Act 2013 - misleading furore over "secret courts" but Norwich Pharmacal nobbled, ISC FOIA & witness protection (Spy Blog): "The Justice and Security Bill 2013 is now awaiting Royal Assent and the Pariament website has not yet published the consolidated final text of the Act online. However it is possible to see amendments which have been passed"

UK: Minorities stopped disproportionally in decade after Macpherson report (The Guardian): "Ethnic minority Britons were subjected to nearly one-and-a-half million more stop and searches in the 10 years after the Macpherson inquiry than if the police had treated them the same as white people, the Guardian can reveal." See also: Ethnic minority stop and search rates double since 1999: get the data and Metropolitan police still institutionally racist, say black and Asian officers (The Guardian)

UK: NUJ condemns police search of 9 journalists (National Union of Journalists)

UK: Sussex Police probe Councillor John Cherry's race remarks (BBC News): "Comments by a former Tory councillor about children from ethnic minorities are being looked into by Sussex Police"

UK: The Cardiff Five: Innocent beyond doubt (The Justice Gap): "It should not have required the conviction of the real murderer of Lynette White to convince anyone. Any objective review of the evidence should have led inexorably to that conclusion. As with other miscarriage of justice cases, the evidence and common sense ought to have prevented not only wrongful convictions, but the wrongful arrests too"

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