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Posts tagged ‘Europe Section’

Rain slows in Albania but agricultural land still underwater

December 03, 2017

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albanian authorities say that despite less rainfall and lower river levels, thousands of homes and scores of schools have been damaged, and agricultural land is still submerged.

The government said Sunday that 600 families were evacuated Saturday in two southwestern districts. More than 3,000 homes, 56 schools and 16,000 hectares (40,000 acres) of agricultural land have been flooded. Many roads and 28 bridges have been damaged.

Authorities have started calculating the damage to consider financial compensation. At least one person has died in the last several days of heavy rainfall that has flooded many parts of Albania. Ports and the only international airport were temporarily closed for part of the weekend.

Schools were closed Friday and the Education Ministry will make a decision soon about Monday’s classes.


Supporters free ex-Georgian president detained in Ukraine

December 05, 2017

MOSCOW (AP) — Hundreds of protesters chanting “Kiev, rise up!” blocked Ukrainian police as they tried to arrest former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili on Tuesday. He later escaped with help from supporters and led them on a march toward parliament, where they planned to call for President Petro Poroshenko to resign.

The detention of Saakashvili, now an anti-corruption crusader in his adopted home and arguably the country’s most popular opposition politician, has raised fears that Ukraine could be facing its most acute political crisis since the 2014 revolution. Ukrainian prosecutors accuse him of colluding with Ukrainian businessmen who have ties to Russian intelligence as part of an effort to topple the president.

Saakashvili poses a threat to Poroshenko, who appointed him as governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region before the two had a falling-out. Saakashvili resigned in 2016, complaining that his efforts to root out corruption were being obstructed by officials.

When the SBU, Ukraine’s Security Service, went to detain Saakashvili at his home in Kiev on Tuesday, he climbed onto the roof and reportedly threatened to jump off. SBU officers went after him, detained him and led him to a waiting van.

Several hundred supporters surrounded the van, refusing to let it drive off. Footage from the scene showed protesters picking up cobblestones and construction rubble to build barricades. One protester climbed atop the van and waved the Ukrainian flag.

After Saakashvili escaped, he told his supporters that he would “lay down his life for the freedom of Ukraine” and called on them to follow him to the Supreme Rada, or parliament. He also called on Ukrainians to rally on Maidan, Kiev’s main square, the epicenter of protests in 2013 and 2014, to demand Poroshenko’s resignation.

Footage showed Saakashvili with the yellow-and-blue Ukrainian flag around his neck marching in central Kiev, surrounded by crowds. “I will leave here only with the Ukrainian people, only as a winner,” the former Georgian president told supporters outside the Supreme Rada late Tuesday afternoon. “Call your family and neighbors, let them all come here, let’s all stand together.”

Serhiy Knyazev, chief of the Ukrainian police, in a statement posted on Facebook warned the protesters against “breaking the law” and “provocations.” Saakashvili was Georgia’s president for nearly a decade before he was prevented from running again by term limits. He left the country in 2013.

Poroshenko revoked Saakashvili’s Ukrainian citizenship in July. Saakashvili forced his way across Ukraine’s border with Poland earlier this year, with help from protesters. Saakashvili’s standoff with Poroshenko ignited long-simmering popular discontent with the slow pace of reforms the latter has promised.

The Security Service said in a statement that Saakashvili is facing a criminal investigation for “assisting members of criminal organizations or hiding their criminal activities.” Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko said on TV that prosecutors have evidence that Saakashvili’s representative received $500,000 from Ukrainian businessmen with ties to Russia to finance protests.

Saakashvili has spearheaded several protests in Kiev, but they typically drew fewer than 4,000 people. At one of the rallies, Saakashvili called on Poroshenko to resign. “All the rallies were financed by foreign oligarchs that aimed to seize power by illegal means,” Lutsenko said. The prosecutors plan to ask the court to place Saakashvili under house arrest, he said.

Analysts in Kiev, however, don’t see the Saakashvili case sparking protests big enough to challenge Poroshenko. “Saakashvili has a small but a noticeable number of hyperactive supporters ready for action,” Kiev-based analyst Volodymyr Fesenko told The Associated Press. “They can make a lot of noise but most Ukrainians are wary of negative and unpredictable consequences of a new Maidan.”

Yuras Karmanau contributed to this report from Minsk, Belarus.

Saakashvili calls for protest camp in Ukraine’s capital

December 03, 2017

MOSCOW (AP) — Anti-corruption campaigner Mikheil Saakashvili is urging Ukrainians to set up a protest camp in Kiev’s main square if parliament fails to adopt a law on presidential impeachment within a week.

He made the call at a Sunday rally that news reports say attracted 2,500 people. Saakashvili was a key figure in the 2003 Rose Revolution protests in Georgia that ousted the country’s president. He then served as president for nearly a decade.

He left Georgia in 2013 and later was appointed governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region. But he quit that office in 2016, complaining that his anti-corruption efforts suffered official obstruction. His citizenship was revoked this year while he was out of the country, but he returned in September when supporters broke through a police line at the Polish border.

Polish PM sends tweet seen as a sign she might be replaced

December 05, 2017

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s Prime Minister Beata Szydlo sent a tweet early Tuesday that seems to read like a farewell, amid rumors in Warsaw that she might be replaced by Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

Szydlo sent the tweet after midnight following talks in her conservative ruling Law and Justice party on reshuffling the government. There have been rumors for weeks that party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski could become the next prime minister though recent Polish reports suggest the most likely new leader will be Morawiecki, a deputy prime minister who is also the minister for development and finance.

Kaczynski is widely seen as the real power behind the government, guiding its decisions from his party headquarters and from his seat in parliament where he serves as one of 460 members of the lower house, or Sejm. This is not expected to change even if Szydlo is replaced.

Szydlo wrote: “Regardless of everything the most important thing is Poland. One that takes care of family and values (and is) safe. That grew from the foundation of Christian values, tolerant and open. Modern and ambitious. That is my country. An example for Europe and the world. That’s who we Poles are.”

The rumors that Szydlo is likely to be replaced have been reported for weeks in pro-government media outlets, as well as those critical of the government, including the Polish edition of Newsweek. The daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita reported Tuesday, citing unnamed sources, that that Kaczynski has presented to party lawmakers his plan for Morawiecki to take the helm of the Cabinet next week.

Morawiecki, 49, has won praise for overseeing an economy that has boomed in the two years since the Law and Justice party took power and he is widely considered one of the government’s most skilled and competent members.

Critics, however, say the boom is largely thanks to the fiscal discipline of the previous centrist government and growth across Europe that is improving conditions in many places. Morawiecki is a former international banker who ran Spanish bank Santander’s operations in Poland before Law and Justice won power. It seems an unlikely background for someone who has played a key role in a nationalistic party that opposes foreign influence in the country and global capitalism.

Under Morawiecki, Poland has taken steps to “re-Polonize” the banking industry, for example by re-taking control of one of the country’s largest banks, Pekao SA, formerly controlled by Italy’s UniCredit.

Law and Justice also launched a hugely popular welfare program that pays monthly cash bonuses to families with at least two children.

Snowfall leads to 2 deaths, canceled flights in Germany

December 03, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — Heavy snow in Germany is being blamed for two deaths, several accidents and dozens of canceled airline flights. The German news agency dpa reported that an 86-year-old woman died in Uelzen in Lower Saxony on Sunday when a car veered on a slippery road and crashed into another vehicle traveling in the opposite direction.

Police said an 83-year-old man with dementia froze to death in Koelleda in eastern Germany. Officers found his body in the snow on the side of a road near the nursing home where he was living and think he might have gotten lost.

In Frankfurt, more than 80 flights had to be canceled Sunday because of the weather. Several high-speed ICE trains were ordered to slow down in central and southern Germany because of the snow.

Study: Europe’s Muslim population to grow, migration or not

November 30, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — Europe’s Muslim population will continue to grow over the next several decades even if all immigration to the continent should stop, according to a study published Thursday. The Pew Research Center report modeled three scenarios for estimating the number of Muslims who would be living in Europe by 2050. All three used a mid-2016 estimate of 25.8 million as a baseline, but assumed different future migration rates.

Under the “zero migration” scenario, an estimated 30 million Muslims would make up 7.4 percent of Europe’s population by 2050 compared to the 4.9 percent they comprised last year, the report projected. The researchers said that is mostly because Muslims are on average 13 years younger than other Europeans and also have a higher birthrate, the Pew researchers said.

The study estimates 58.8 million Muslims would account for 11.2 percent of the population in a “medium migration” scenario that has migration maintaining a “regular speed” — defined by the Pew researchers as migration motivated by economic, educational and family reasons — but not for seeking asylum as a refugee.

In the “high migration” scenario, the study projects that the record flow of migrants who came to Europe between 2015 and 2016 would continue indefinitely, resulting in 75 million Muslims in Europe, a 14 percent increase, by the middle of the century.

Even with the most immigration, Muslims would “still be considerably smaller than the populations of both Christians and people with no religion in Europe,” the researchers concluded. Muslim immigrants have been a politically sensitive topic in Europe following the influx of newcomers in 2015 and 2016. Some countries have seen backlashes that have included populist parties campaigning on anti-Islam messages.

The study was based on census and survey data, population registers, immigration data and other sources. The 30 countries it covered include the 28 European Union members, plus Norway and Switzerland.

Not all countries would be affected evenly by future immigration, according to the Pew report. In the high migration scenario, Germany and Sweden would have the biggest increases because both countries took in the most asylum-seekers during the height of the refugee crisis two years ago.

While Muslims made up 6 percent of Germany’s population last year, their proportion would go up to 20 percent by 2050. Sweden’s Muslims, who were at 8 percent in 2016, would account for 31 percent of the population in that same scenario.

Meanwhile, some countries that had comparatively few Muslim residents in 2016 would continue to have few by 2050 in all three scenarios.

UK extradition hearing to start for tycoon sought by India

December 03, 2017

LONDON (AP) — Indian tycoon Vijay Mallya is set to face an extradition hearing in London that should determine whether he is sent back to India to face money laundering allegations related to the collapse of several of his businesses.

The Westminster Magistrates Court hearing, which begins Monday and is due to last about eight days, will be widely followed in India, where Mallya is known for his flashy lifestyle and lavish parties attended by fashion models and Bollywood stars.

Mallya, who denies the allegations, was once hailed as India’s version of British entrepreneur Richard Branson for his investments in a liquor company, an airline, a Formula One team and an Indian Premier League cricket club.

In November, he called the allegations “baseless and fabricated.” Asked by reporters outside the courthouse why he didn’t return to India to answer the charges, he snapped back: “That’s none of your business.”

The 61-year-old was also a politician for six years before resigning from the upper house of India’s parliament last year, a day before an ethics committee was set to recommend his expulsion. Mallya launched Kingfisher Airlines in 2005 and the carrier set new standards for quality and service, forcing competing airlines to improve. But it ran into trouble as it expanded. The Indian government suspended the airline’s license in 2012 after it failed to pay pilots and engineers for months.

That triggered the collapse of several more of Mallya’s businesses. He left India last year after a group of banks demanded he pay back more than $1 billion in loans extended to his airline. He has been living in Britain since March 2016 and has refused to return to India to face trial in the Kingfisher Airlines case. India canceled his passport and began an extradition process.

In May, India’s Supreme Court ruled Mallya had disobeyed its order barring him from transferring $40 million to his children. Gurcharan Das, a New Delhi author and former chief executive of Procter & Gamble India, said Mallya was an excellent salesman who built a great brand that included one of the nation’s favorite beers and a high-performing airline.

He said that Mallya, like many others, tried to expand too quickly, buying a no-frills airline that wasn’t a good fit with his company. He said Mallya’s political connections have made him a national symbol of the perils of crony capitalism.

“I see it as a bit of a tragedy. He is somebody who had quite outstanding talents,” Das said. “What hurt him was his flamboyant lifestyle. He didn’t bother to hide it. He flaunted it. That, too, in the public imagination has made him a villain.”

He said Mallya kept up to a dozen homes with full staff as well as buying private jets and yachts, all in a poor country where most rich people tend to hide their wealth. But Das said Mallya’s biggest mistake was to leave India.

“He should have just toughed it out here,” Das said. “There are a number of other businessmen who owe far more money to the banks than he does. He just got scared and skipped out.” Mallya has argued that Britain has long been a second home for him.

India’s government this month rejected Mallya’s argument that he wouldn’t be safe in an Indian jail if he was sent back, and was planning to tell that to the London court, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

Nick Perry reported from New Delhi.

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