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News digest: 21 February 2013

AUSTRIA: Votivkirche refugees end hunger strike (Austrian Times): "Hundreds of people had marched through Vienna on Saturday in support for the plight of the refugees freezing in the Votivkirche. The refugees had sought shelter in the church near the university, having marched from the insalubrious Traiskirchen detention centre in November last year." See also: Caritas has concerns over hunger strike

Belarus border guard jailed over teddy bear air drop (BBC News) "A court in Belarus has sentenced a border guard to two years in prison for failing to stop a plane dropping hundreds of teddy bears carrying pro-democracy messages over the country." See also:Sweden in Diplomatic Row With Belarus After Teddy Bear Drop (Business Week)

Bulgarian govt resigns amid bloody protests (Balkan Insight): "After mass protests against high utility bills turned violent, the Bulgarian government has called it a day - PM saying he feels 'shamed' by the bloodshed." See also: Bulgaria government to resign, PM Boika says (BBC News); Bulgaria Protests Continue After PM's Resignation; Bulgaria Turmoil 'May Hit Romania's Schengen Bid' (Balkan Insight) and: The Bulgarian winter: between the devil and the deep blue sea (Critic Atac)

CZECH REPUBLIC: Citizens of far more states can get Czech green card (Prague Daily Monitor): "The number of the non-EU countries whose citizens can apply for a green card in the Czech Republic to facilitate their access to the Czech labour market was extended from 12 to 64 Wednesday, the Interior Ministry's spokesman Vladimir Repka told CTK"

CZECH REPUBLIC: Trial of Czech far-right extremists over racism charges starts (Prague Daily Monitor): "A Brno district court wants to question 17 Czech proponents of extremist ideas on charges of spread of Nazism and racism in the next three days of their trial that started Tuesday, court panel chairwoman Lenka Nekudova has said"

EU: Bulgaria, Romania counter anti-immigrant campaigns (SETimes.com): "A campaign launched by Great Britain to stem an expected immigration wave from Bulgaria and Romania after labour restrictions on the two countries are lifted on January 1st 2014, has sparked counter-initiatives in the hope of turning the situation into a positive one"

EU: Poverty Migration: Berlin Urges Bulgaria, Romania to Integrate Roma (Spiegel Online): "With the tide of Bulgarians and Romanians flooding Germany showing no signs of abating, officials in Berlin have called on the two countries to stem the exodus by boosting efforts to integrate Roma into their own societies. Poverty migration, they argue, must be combatted at the source"

EU: Serb Officials Travel to Secure EU Start Date (Balkan Insight): "As Brussels readies to decide on whether to grant Serbia a start date for EU accession talks, Serbian officials are heading to EU capitals to muster support."

FRANCE: A Gypsy apartheid in the Paris suburbs (El Pais): "During his presidential campaign, François Hollande promised a different immigration policy from that of his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy. "There will be no mass deportations, just on a case-by-case basis," said the Socialist candidate to the French presidency. "No minority will be stigmatized or used as a scapegoat.""

FRANCE: English football fans injured in Lyon pub attack (euronews): "Two pubs full of English football supporters have been attacked by an apparent neo-Nazi group in the French city of Lyon"

GERMANY: 'Don't let NSU murders be forgotten' (Deutsche Welle): " Barbara John is the German government's ombudsperson for the NSU victims' families. She told DW that it's important that the neo-Nazi murders should not be forgotten." See also: NSU victims' families want more than sympathy

GERMANY: Dual Citizenship Demands Have Merkel on Defensive (Spiegel Online): "Hardly a campaign season goes by in Germany without at least one bout of hand-wringing over the twin issues of immigration and integration. And this year, as comments on Monday and Tuesday have shown, is shaping up to be no different. Suddenly everyone is talking about the country's tortured approach to dual-citizenship -- and whether that approach should be changed to allow the possession of two passports"

GERMANY: Net activists slam Germany's open data portal (Deutsche Welle): "Germany's long-awaited open data portal govdata.de has opened for business. It follows similar moves in the US and UK. But how open is open data in Germany? Not very, say the net activists"

GERMANY: Neo-Nazis blamed for stunting east Germany (The Local): "Eastern Germany will never attract enough investment to start growing again if it fails to root out its neo-Nazi problem, a leading management consultant said this week"

GERMANY: Private security firms under scrutiny in Germany (Deutsche Welle): "Since the recent move by online retailer Amazon to fire a private security company over allegations of racism, the role of private security providers has been put in the spotlight in Germany." See also: Amazon's former private security firm with neo-Nazi employees is one of many, say reports (Statewatch News Online)

GREECE: Anti-austerity strike brings Greece to a standstill (Ekathimerini): "Greek workers walked off the job on Wednesday in a nationwide protest against wage cuts and high taxes, keeping ferries docked in ports, shutting state schools and leaving hospitals working with emergency staff." See also: Anti-Austerity Protests Draw 60,000 in Athens (Greek Reporter); Thousands rally in anti-austerity strike; scuffles break out [Update] and Media blackout in Greece on Tuesday as journalists walk out ahead of general strike (Ekathimerini)

GREECE: Attack on mine project fuels political turmoil: "A 54-year-old man was arrested on Monday on charges of being the “moral instigator” behind an arson attack on Sunday on a gold mining project in Skouries, in the northern prefecture of Halkidiki. He was released a few hours later." (Ekathimerini) See also: Toskas to sue Hellas Gold security guards for defamation

GREECE: Greek officials hail results of Evros fence (Ekathimerini): "A crackdown on illegal immigration code-named Aspida (“shield”) appears to be yielding fruit since its launch in August last year. Last July, 6,000 people were arrested in Orestiada, according to police data. In January the number dropped to 45. The construction of the 12.5-kilometer barbed-wire fence along the land border with Turkey, which was met with skepticism at home as well as from many EU officials, has allegedly succeeded in blocking one of the most popular transit routes for migrants seeking to make their way to the West. “Nothing can get through the fence,” Orestiada police chief Giorgos Salamangas told Kathimerini."

GREECE: Kasidiaris sues police after man slapped outside Golden Dawn offices (Ekathimerini): "Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kasidiaris (photo) sued the police on Wednesday for breach of duty after they arrested one of the party’s members following an altercation outside the far-right group’s offices in Anavyssos, southeast of Athens"

GREECE: More than 30 officials questioned over Lagarde list (Ekathimerini): "A cross-party parliamentary committee investigating the so-called Lagarde list of possible tax cheats began on Thursday the process of questioning more than 30 officials who worked Giorgos Papaconstantinou when he was finance minister in 2010 and 2011"

GREECE: Navy shadows Turkish corvette in Greek territorial waters (Ekathimerini): "Hellenic Navy vessels were on Wednesday evening monitoring the movements of a Turkish Navy corvette that was seen in Greek territorial waters between Myconos and Naxos in the eastern Cyclades between 11 a.m. and 2.30 p.m"

HUNGARY: Hungary court overturns ban on Nazi and Communist symbols (euronews): "The decision by Hungary’s Constitutional Court to reject a ban on Nazi and Communist symbols has been deemed unworkable by several political groups. Some socialists say a constitutional amendment may be needed to prevent anyone from sporting a swastika, red star or SS badge, which Hungarian Jews or surviving victims could justly find offensive."

IRELAND: Double murderer refused appeal over killing Polish men (Irish Independent): "Double murderer David Curran was today refused leave to appeal two mandatory life sentences for the killing of two Polish nationals"

IRELAND: State paid firm €89m to house asylum seekers (Irish Independent): "A company has been paid over €89m by the State in a decade to provide accommodation to asylum seekers"

 ITALY: Girl slapped, called racial slurs caught on tape in Tuscany (Gazzetta del Sud): "Italian police said Wednesday they are investigating the bullying of a young woman of colour who suffered a beating and endured racial slurs - all captured on video and later shared on the Internet"

ITALY: Immigrants 'revolt' at Rome detention center (Gazzetta del Sud): "A blaze on Monday morning at a detention center for immigrants on the outskirts of Rome was subdued by firefighters and police who were called to contain a 'revolt'"

ITALY: Maroni attacks claims Finmeccanica paid bribes to Lega Nord (Gazzetta del Sud): "Roberto Maroni, the center-right candidate for governor of Lombardy in upcoming elections, on Tuesday said a police report that pointed to presumed bribes paid by defense contractor Finmeccanica to Maroni's Northern League (Lega Nord) party was bogus"

Macedonia Journalists Wary of PM's Olive Branch (Balkan Insight): "Macedonian journalists say conditions are not ripe for resuming talks with the government following the forced removal of reporters from parliament in December, which left relations in tatters."

Macedonia will focus on regional security, NATO bids (SETimes.com): "The focus of Macedonia's presidency of the Adriatic Group will be to advance regional security co-operation and to boost member country's NATO bids"

MALTA: Prisoners sleeping in corridor because of overcrowding - foundation (Times of Malta): "A growing prison population is causing overcrowding problems, an NGO which works for the prisoners said this evening." See also: Should prisoners have the right to vote?

Moldova focuses on human rights (SETimes.com): "Moldova should step up efforts to improve its human rights record, which remains merely satisfactory despite recent government measures, civil society experts said"

NETHERLANDS: Fewer unaccompanied children arrive in Holland as refugees (Dutch News): "In 2011, 485 youngsters under the age of 18 arrived in the Netherlands and claimed asylum, according to new figures from the national statistics office CBS"

NETHERLANDS: Integration minister plans 'terms and conditions' contract for new migrants (Amsterdam Herald): "New immigrants to the Netherlands should be required to sign a declaration that they will abide by the country’s constitution and laws, under plans set out by deputy prime minister Lodewijk Asscher."

NETHERLANDS: Ombudsman to investigate medical care for refugees (Dutch News): "National ombudsman Alex Brenninkmeijer is to investigate the medical care available to asylum seekers in the Netherlands, following reports that doctors tending people in the Ter Apel protest camp are unable to cope"

NORTHERN IRELAND: 24 years after Finucane killing, the damage limitation continues (The Detail): "Today [12 February] marks 24 years since solicitor Pat Finucane was shot dead in a killing which has become a defining symbol of the state’s complicity in the Troubles. The government-commissioned report into the murder has yielded secrets of the “dirty war” which still have the power to shock – such as the existence of a senior RUC officer helping loyalists procure weapons – but other pieces of the picture remain off-limits to this day"

NORWAY: Inquiry commission leader raps Norway security authorities (The Foreigner): "Norway’s Police Security Service (PST) is under fire for using an undercover informant to snitch on far-to-extreme left-wing organisations following media-uncovered revelations. The matter could have political repercussions." See also: Terrorists and spies threaten national security (Barents Observer)

POLAND: Outrage after '3 throws at a Jew' football fan game (The News): "Local government in Lodz, central Poland, says that a game played by fans of first division football club LKS Lodz, where objects were thrown at 'a Jew', is “offensive and anti-Semitic”"

POLAND: Policeman 'slipped' in shooting incident? (The News): "Polish police have claimed that a shot that injured a mistaken assault suspect was fired because an anti-terrorist officer “slipped” while making an arrest"

SPAIN: Over 2,000 judges strike to protest Justice Ministry reforms (El Pais): "Not a profession given to going on strike, thousands of judges and prosecutors failed to show up for work across Spain on Wednesday in order to protest a rash of recent reforms undertaken by Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón"

SPAIN: Police search offices of Método 3 as political spying inquiry widens (El Pais): "Police officers on Tuesday searched the Barcelona and Madrid offices of Método 3, the now-defunct private detective firm at the center of a political spying scandal in Catalonia. Investigators, including two anticorruption prosecutors, were seen bringing out boxes of confiscated documents from the buildings." See also: Catalan PP leader files charges against detectives who spied on her; Judge accepts PP leader’s suit against spying firm and demands client list be handed over and Catalonia spy case company has dossiers on judges and politicians

SWEDEN: Malmö mayor concerned about Islam-critical show (The Local): "The mayor of Malmö has slammed an upcoming exhibition of work by controversial Swedish artist Lars Vilks, saying he hoped no one would visit the gallery to see artwork he said was "associated with xenophobes""

SWEDEN: Use Patriot missiles to defend Sweden: minister (The Local): "Sweden should consider placing US-made Patriot missiles on the island of Gotland to help deter resurgent neighbour Russia, Sweden's deputy prime minister has argued in a call for greater military spending."

UK: David Cameron gives green light for aid cash to go on military (The Guardian): "Hundreds of millions of pounds from Britain's aid budget are expected to be diverted to peacekeeping defence operations as the government moves to build up support on the Tory benches for overseas development." See also: Is Britain's arms trade making a killing?

UK: EDF sues activists for £5m - an attack on peaceful protest? (Channel 4 News): "A group of activists plead guilty to aggravated trespass for a protest at an EDF power plant, but now face a civil claim of up to £5m in damages - something they say is an attack on peaceful protests." See also: Press release: EDF suing climate activists for £5 million 0 protesters face losing homes (No Dash for Gas)

UK: Elite Scotland Yard officer found dead with gunshot wound (The Guardian): "Member of Met's specialist protection command found shot dead at home in Camden, north London"

UK: E.ON lobbied for stiff sentences against Kingsnorth activists, papers show (The Guardian): "The UK chief executive of energy giant E.ON repeatedly lobbied the then-energy secretary Ed Miliband and others over the sentencing of activists disrupting the company's power plants, warning that any failure to issue "dissuasive" sentences could "impact" upon investment decisions in the UK." See also from 2009: Kingsnorth protests report criticises 'counterproductive' policing tactics and No justice for Kingsnorth Fitwatchers (Fitwatch)

UK: Marine Le Pen sparks protest on Cambridge visit (France 24): "Hundreds of students gathered outside Cambridge University’s prestigious debating society on Tuesday to protest a speech by French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, whose visit sparked an outcry among anti-fascist groups in the country"

UK: One step closer to reversing the 'big brother' effect (NUS connect): "The attendance monitoring policy that has sparked a wave of extended checks on students, issued by UKBA (United Kingdom Border Agency), has caused enormous issues across the UK"

UK: The Copyright Fight (British Press Photographers' Association): "As the song goes ‘There may be trouble ahead’…except this time there is no ‘maybe’ about it. For those that recall the less-than-wonderful “Clause 43” of Labour’s “Digital Economy Bill” which proposed to legalise the use of Orphan Works and Extended Collective Licensing – well, despite its defeat it’s back and this time it’s personal"

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