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News digest: 6February 2013

AUSTRIA: Anti-corruption law affects major events in Austria (Austrian Times): "The recent spate of corruption scandals in ministries as well as in companies associated with the federal government in Austria have had an impact on event organisers. Before 2013, so-called "generous gifts" to office holders were common practice, including the provision of free tickets to major events. However, a stricter anti-corruption law came into force this January"

AUSTRIA: Two men arrested after arson attack at asylum camp in Vorarlberg (Austrian Times)

Balkans 'Making No Progress on Human Rights' (Balkan Insight): "Human Rights Watch said Balkan states were still not properly addressing issues like war crimes, the abuse of ethnic minorities and refugees’ rights to return home." See: Human Rights Watch World Report 2013 (pdf)

BALKANS: Asylum seekers transform sleepy Balkan villages (Balkan Insight): "Serbia and Macedonia are struggling to cope with the fast growing number of asylum seekers crossing their countries on their way to Western Europe"

BULGARIA: Bulgarian left-wingers demand ad-hoc committee on 'Buddha' scandal (Novinite): "The oppositional Bulgarian Socialist Party has demanded the establishment of a parliamentary committee of inquiry that would discuss Prime Minister Boyko Borisov's alleged past as a secret informant for the country's anti-mafia unit back in the 1990s." See also: Bulgaria's ruling GERB condemns 'Buddha' (Novinite)

BULGARIA: National security probes Bulgaria's faltering military plant (Novinite): "The State Agency for National Security, DANS, has started a probe at Bulgaria's heavily indebted State-owned arms manufacturer, VMZ Sopot"

CROATIA: 20,000 Croatian war veterans protest in Vukovar (Balkan Insight): "The rally against the Croatian government’s decision to make Serbian an official language in the war-ravaged town was followed by an alleged assault in a nearby village"

CZECH REPUBLIC: CR may send 30 instructors to Mali (Prague Daily Monitor): "The Czech Republic can send some 30 instructors to Mali where the local military along with French units is fighting against Islamists who still dominate the north part of the country, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg told journalists today"

DENMARK: Immigrants closing education gap (The Copenhagen Post): "Female descendants of non-Western immigrants are receiving an education at the same rate as Danes, and male descendants are also closing in on their Danish counterparts"

EU urges free and fair Albania elections (Balkan Insight)

EU: Turkish prime minister slams half-century delay for EU admission (The Independent): "The Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, says it is “unforgivable” that Turkey has been made to wait half a century to become part of the European Union and it should be admitted without delay"

EU: UK govt split on Romanian, Bulgarian migrants (Balkan Insight): "Official talk of restricting the rights of Bulgarians and Romanians to claim benefits in Britain next year has the governments junior party worried." See also: UK hasn't moved to curb Bulgarians, Romanians - Barroso and UK migrant scaremongering puts at risk new ties with EU (Novinite)

German activists punch out big brother's eyes (Wired): "It’s being called Grand Theft Auto for the surveillance generation, only instead of being played out in the digital world, it’s played out in the real world. And the object of the game isn’t to steal cars or pull off other underworld pranks but to take out Big Brother’s eyes by destroying CCTV surveillance cameras spread across the city"

German cities complain of high immigration (Spiegel Online): "Immigration to Germany from southeastern Europe has dramatically increased in recent years and the country's municipalities are struggling to absorb the influx. Now, German cities are taking a close look at the problem and may ask for help from Berlin or even the European Union"

GERMANY: Munich Security Conference likely to focus on Mali, Syria (Deutsche Welle): "The Munich Security Conference has begun, with conflict-ridden Mali and Syria most likely to top the agenda. US Vice President Joe Biden has already arrived in Berlin ahead of the annual conference"

GERMANY: Trial in spring: Court approves neo-Nazi terror cell trial (Spiegel Online): "NSU terror cell member Beate Zschäpe has been charged with complicity in 10 murders. According to information obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE, the Higher Regional Court in Munich has allowed the prosecution's charges against the suspected neo-Nazi terrorist and four of her presumed accomplices to stand"

Greece should improve migrant detention, UN group says (Ekathimerini): "A group of United Nations independent experts on Thursday said that Greece should improve detention conditions for migrants. The experts also reported that the country should implement recent legislation in view of enhancing screening procedures for asylum-seekers." See also: Working Group on Arbitrary Detention statement upon the conclusion of its mission to Greece (21 - 31 January 2013) (UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights)

GREECE: Ankara US embassy bomber passed through Greece, reports say (Ekathimerini)

GREECE: Altered mug shots spur probe in Greek police beatings (Retuers): "A Greek prosecutor ordered an investigation on Monday into whether four suspected bank robbers were beaten in custody after police published mug shots that were altered to make their injuries appear less severe." See also: Greek police ‘Photoshop away’ signs of brutality from mugshots (Amnesty International) and Justice minister 'chilled' by photographs of arrested youths and Minister defends doctoring of suspects' photos, pledges punishment in case of abuse (Ekathimerini)

GREECE: Golden Dawn in contact with Bavarian neo-Nazis to expand presence in Germany (Ekathimerini) : "Golden Dawn is attempting to establish a presence in Bavaria and is being monitored by the state’s intelligence agency, according to a report in Der Spiegel on Monday"

GREECE: Golden Dawn marches to US embassy over 1996 islet incident (Ekathimerini): "More than 5,000 supporters of Greece's extreme-right Golden Dawn party marched past the US Embassy in Athens on Saturday night, chanting anti-Turkish, anti-US and anti-immigrant slogans to commemorate a 1996 border incident that caused a crisis between Greece and Turkey"

GREECE: Government ponders civil mobilisation as sailors extend their strike (Ekathimerini): "The government is examining the possibility of issuing a new civil mobilization order to force sailors to return to work after they decided on Sunday to extend their strike into this week." See also: Greek seamen's strike rolls on (Greek Reporter) and Dockworkers extend their strike (Ekathimerini)

GREECE: Human rights watchdog says racist violence in Greece 'a real threat to democracy' (Ekathimerini): "Europe’s top human rights watchdog on Friday urged Greek authorities to take action against the burgeoning wave of attacks against migrants in the country describing racist violence “a real threat to democracy”." See: Racist violence a real threat to democracy in Greece (Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights)

GREECE: Immigrant dies during police operation in Athens (Demotix): "An immigrant from Senegal died falling from a height, on the rails of the subway in Thiseio station in central Athens, during an operation of Municipal Police to remove peddlers from tourist area"

GREECE: Migrant smugglers arrested at bus depot (Ekathimerini)

GREECE: Greece’s neo-fascists are on the rise... and now they’re going into schools: How Golden Dawn is nurturing the next generation (The Independent): "On a recent Thursday night, seven teenage boys in the central Greek city of Larissa decided to have what they described as “fun”. Armed with rocks and wooden batons, the group of 15-year-olds attacked the shop of a Pakistani resident. His son was treated for head injuries. Attacks by children are rare, but there are fears that they are on the rise as a harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric with undercurrents of violence takes root in the malleable minds of patriotic youths as they watch their country's sovereignty being eroded by foreign creditors"

Greek police arrest two in terror group (Greek Reporter): "With political violence and crime rising, Greek police said they have arrested two of four suspects that authorities believe robbed a bank and post office and said they are wanted members of a domestic terrorist group"

Iceland kicked out FBI agents who flew in unannounced to investigate Wikileaks operations in the country (The Cleveland Leader): "According to the RUV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, FBI agents landed in Reykjavík in August 2011 without prior notification in an attempt to investigate WikiLeaks operations within the country. However, their plan was interupted when Home Secretary Ögmundur Jónasson learned about the FBI's visit and sent them packing. The Icelandic government then formally protested the FBI's activities with U.S. authorities"

IRELAND: Magdalene laundries: Government knowledge of forced detention in workhouses to be laid bare (Irish Independent): "Survivors of Catholic-run workhouses in Ireland are awaiting an apology from state and church over their forced detention in the institutions." See also: Magdalene report to be published today (RTÉ News)

IRELAND: Smithwick Tribunal: Taoiseach Enda Kenny hits out at republicans who refuse to give evidence (Irish Independent): "Taoiseach Enda Kenny has hit out at republicans who have refused to give evidence at the Smithwick tribunal into IRA-Garda collusion. Mr Kenny criticised the decision by former Provisionals on the back of renewed calls from Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams for a truth and reconciliation forum to cement the Northern Ireland peace process"

IRELAND-UK: Press watchdog gives briefing to Commons (Irish Independent): "Press Ombudsman Professor John Horgan is to appear at a UK House of Commons committee to discuss how the print media is regulated in Ireland"

ITALY: Former CIA chief in Italy sentenced to 7 years (Gazzetta del Sud): "Milan's Court of Appeal on Friday sentenced the CIA's former Italy chief, Jeff Castelli, to seven years in prison for involvement in the abduction of Muslim cleric Hassan Mustafa Omar Nasr from the city in 2003, while a separate court in Perugia acquitted the former head of Italian secret services for illegal spying charges in the case." See also: 12 years sought for ex-Italian spy chief in CIA snatch case (Gazzetta del Sud)

KOSOVO: Suspected Migrant Smugglers Arrested in Kosovo (Balkan Insight): "The EU rule of law mission, EULEX, and Kosovo police on Wednesday arrested three suspected smugglers as part of a wider EU operation"

MACEDONIA: Suspected gay editors outed in Macedonia (Balkan Insight): "The move to "out" gay journalists in Macedonia is only the latest bizarre twist in the media - as a competition to outdo a recent spoof interview in Serbia appeared to spiral out of control"

Macedonian journalists hit back against 'forced apologies' (Balkan Insight): "Macedonian journalists have issued a satirical ‘collective apology’ to the country’s leaders after growing numbers of reporters were forced to retract their articles or face big fines"

MALTA: Migrant escapes from detention centre - two arraigned (Times of Malta)

NETHERLANDS: Chilean 'frigate gate' is just a rumour for Dutch MoD (Campagne tegen Wapenhandel)

NETHERLANDS: Last page of Aleksandr Dolmatov's suicide note claims he struggled with 'drugs and narcissism' (Amsterdam Herald): "The controversy over the death of the Russian opposition activist Aleksandr Dolmatov in Rotterdam has intensified after a website published the missing page of his suicide note"

NETHERLANDS: Opposition to digital patient records mounts, court case to go ahead (Dutch News): "The family doctors’ association Vereniging van Praktijkhoudende Huisartsen is pressing ahead with legal action against the introduction of a new electronic patient records system because its backers have failed to meet agreements on internet security and privacy"

NETHERLANDS: Refugees plan musical protest in the Paradiso (Dutch News): "A group of failed asylum seekers, who are living in a former church in the west of Amsterdam, are holding a concert in the city’s Paradiso venue to raise awareness of their situation"

NETHERLANDS: The Netherlands' top judge warns on legal system overload (Dutch News): "The quality of the Dutch legal system is under threat from the extreme pressure judges are being forced to work under, according to the Netherlands’ most senior judge"

NETHERLANDS: We need to reduce Brussel's powers, says Dutch CDA leader (Dutch News): "The Netherlands needs to get back a large part of the powers it has handed over to Brussels, Christian Democrat leader Sybrand Buma says in an interview with Tuesday’s Volkskrant"

NORTHERN IRELAND: Fermanagh gets facelift ahead of G8 summit (Irish Independent): "Parts of Co Fermanagh are set for a facelift ahead of this summer's G8 summit. Environment Minister Alex Attwood has released £380,000 to tackle dereliction in and around Enniskillen before the arrival of the world's most powerful leaders in June"

POLAND: Human rights court to declassify 'CIA prison in Poland' documents (The News): "Justice Minister Jaroslaw Gowin told Polish Radio on Tuesday that he was “very disturbed” about the court's decision, announced Monday night, and that it constituted a “threat to Polish security”."

Romania president rejects law on MPs' immunity (Balkan Insight): "The President has refused to promulgate a law that would strengthen the immunity of MPs from criminal investigation and potential prosecution"

UK: Another critique of the new Immigration Rules' codification of Article 8 (UK Human Rights Blog): "The Upper Tribunal has concluded that new Immigration Rules do not adequately reflect the Secretary of State’s obligations under Article 8 of the ECHR"

UK: Capita gets bigger slice of UK immigration cake, chokes on first bites (Corporate Watch): "Thousands of migrants received threatening text messages over the Christmas holiday telling them they did not have the right to be in the UK and should leave the country immediately. But many of them reportedly had valid visas, leaves to remain or even British passports. The texts were sent on behalf of the immigration authorities by the outsourcing giant Capita under a new £30 million contract to trace and contact 'overstayers'. Was this the first of to-be-expected cock-ups in this new 'bounty hunters' venture, or is it the shape of things to come as Capita and other private companies take over the immigration and asylum 'market'? Corporate Watch takes a look"

UK: Combe Haven eviction (Schnews): "It took three days and a huge security operation to evict the last of the three camps on the route of the Bexhill bypass this week. The eviction had been delayed by over a week because of the snow. Campers used the extra time to build more defences including a tunnel, barricades and more nets in the trees. Everything pointed toward the eviction starting on Monday so Sunday saw hordes of people arrive from all round the country. This included the Chief Executives of Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the Wildlife Trust and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England. Around 40 people stayed (none of the Chief Executives alas) overnight to greet the Shergroup bailiffs in the morning"

UK: Indifference to asylum seekers' property (Institute of Race Relations): "As if being detained for removal is not trauma enough, asylum seekers in the North East are finding it impossible to reclaim their property from their asylum hostels"

UK: Met chief summoned to explain why police stole identities of dead children (The Guardian): "Deputy assistant commissioner Pat Gallan summoned before MPs to respond to revelations officers used IDs of children"

UK: Who firebombed London's oldest anarchist bookshop? (Vice Magazine): "Staff at Freedom Press, London’s oldest anarchist publisher and bookshop, woke last Friday to the news that someone had tried to burn their shop down in the early hours of the morning"

UKRAINE: Hacks and cyberattacks target opposition in Ukraine (Global Post): "The authorities here have generated headlines by their dogged pursuit of what the opposition calls a political witch-hunt against their rivals, chief among them the jailed former Prime Minister and Orange Revolution heroine Yulia Tymoshenko"

USA: January 2013 update: US covert actions in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia (Bureau of Investigative Journalism)

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