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Brussels extends Russia sanctions | New Europe



The European Union extended on 12 December the economic sanctions against Russia over the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, for six more months.

The measures were first implemented in 2014 after Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, and were set to expire in January. According to the United Nations, about 13,000 people have died since the beginning of the conflict.

The announcement follows the Paris meeting between Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky. During the meeting, they agreed a ceasefire and a prisoner exchange, but failed to agree on other key issues.

The talks were mediated by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who, after the meeting, recommended an extension of the restrictive measures against Moscow, till the end of July 2020.

The EU’s economic sanctions against Russia include: limited access to EU capital markets for certain Russian banks and companies; export and import ban on trade in arms; export ban for dual-use goods for military use or military end users in Russia; as well as reducing Russian access to technologies that can be used for oil production.



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Europe will likely miss 2030 climate goals – VoxEurop (English)


While the Commission is unveiling its Green Deal on 11 December, the European Environmental Agency’s latest report says that Europe as a while will not achieve its 2030 climate and energy targets if no urgent action is taken in the 10 coming years.

The European Environmental Agency (EEA) new report published on 4 December predicts that Europe will not achieve its 2030 climate and energy targets “without urgent action during the next 10 years”. The report also calls on Europe’s policymakers to put Europe on track “to avoid irreversible change and damage”. Investing in sustainability and stopping funding for environmentally damaging activities, especially fossil fuels, is needed it said.

The current European policy actions provide an essential pillar for the future progress of the European Union in climate, but they also require “better implementation and improved coordination,” warns the EEA report. European biodiversity and nature remains the biggest area of “discouraging progress” – only two of the 13 specific policy objectives set for 2020 in this area are likely to be met.

While EEA report notes that most of the 2020 targets will not be achieved, it acknowledges that there is still a chance in the next decade to meet longer-term goals, due to increased public awareness, technological innovation and the shift in Europe’s political agenda. “We have a narrow window of opportunity in the next decade to scale up measures to protect nature, lessen the impacts of climate change and radically reduce our consumption of natural resources,” said EEA executive director Hans Bruyninckx.

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As a result, the European social systems of production and consumption (food, energy and mobility) must be transformed, since the society’s resource use is mostly linked to economic activities and lifestyles, states the report.

Most solutions are already identified but they require urgency, concludes the report – which was outlined at COP25 climate talks in Madrid and used to frame EU environmental policy. According to Bruyninckx, “we already have the knowledge, technologies and tools we need to make key production and consumption systems such as food, mobility and energy sustainable”.

Additionally, the report warns that the acceleration of climate change (heat waves, forest fires, flooding and changing patterns in the prevalence of infectious diseases) is likely to bring elevated risks, particularly for vulnerable groups.

“Environmental risks to health do not affect everyone in the same way, and there are pronounced local and regional differences across Europe in terms of social vulnerability and exposure to environmental health hazards,” warns the report.

“The science is clearer than ever: We are in the process of destroying the very ecosystems that sustain humanity,” said Ester Asin, the director of European policy at NGO WWF. “EU governments must provide strong support on delivering the European Green Deal [and] demonstrate through concrete actions that they have heard the citizen protests which have dominated much of this past year,” she added.

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The first-ever European climate law to achieve a transition to climate-neutrality by 2050 will be officially presented in March 2020, although the package will be unveiled by the commissioner for the Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, on December 11.

According to Timmermans earlier this month: “In the next five years we will put in place a truly transformative agenda,” adding that “there will be multiple benefits for Europe and Europeans if we get this right”.

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“In the European Green Deal, new European Commission President von der Leyen will set the tone. There is no alternative but to rapidly phase out all fossil fuels and pollution, abandon failed market mechanisms, cap our use of resources, and bring back nature,” said the director of NGO Friends of the Earth Europe Jagoda Munić. According to Greenpeace EU spokesperson Franziska Achterberg, “the new commission must follow its own agency’s advice and rethink the economic system that for decades has rewarded pollution, environmental destruction and human exploitation”.

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Call for respect for press freedom and journalistic independence in Europe – VoxEurop (English)



At the conference it is organising in Paris on 6 December, the Association of European Journalists (AEJ) joined forces with other organisations defending press freedom to call on European institutions and governments to adopt effective measures to protect the Fourth estate for the sake of democracy. VoxEurop joins the call.

Association of European Journalists

Reporters Without Borders

European Federation of Journalists

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom

South East Europe Media Organisation

the International Press Association

Meeting in Paris, this 6 December,

We note that, while European journalists enjoy a generally privileged situation compared to many other regions of the world, Europe is no longer a completely safe place for the profession and for press freedom. Indeed we observe that Europe is the part of the world where press freedom has deteriorated the most in recent years.

With the erosion of the “European model”, as mentioned by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in its latest report on press freedom around the world, journalists have become the target of increasingly virulent, even violent, attacks by political leaders. Using social networks to bypass the sometimes critical mediation of professional journalists, politicians no longer hesitate to designate the press as an outright adversary. They call on their supporters to attack news organisations reputed to be hostile, and obstruct the work of journalists through judicial harassment. This phenomenon is all the more obvious given the current trend of societies towards polarization, which is making public debate increasingly fraught.

Over the past five years, the AEJ, the EFJ, RSF and the eleven other partner organisations of the Council of Europe Platform for the Protection of Journalism have reported 256 serious violations of press freedom in the member states of the European Union, including 60 cases of violations of the physical integrity of journalists (including 14 murders of journalists in France, Poland, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Malta). Of these 256 press freedom violations in the EU, public authorities were the direct source of the threat in 57% of cases.

In addition, there have been breaches of the rule of law in several member states of the European Union and the Council of Europe. These weaken the democratic framework essential for the existence of a free and independent press and, by also attacking public broadcasting, prevent it from playing its essential role fully, particularly during elections. If the rule of law is not respected, the press and the judiciary are at the mercy of politicians.

To this can be added the growing mistrust of elites, supposedly including journalists, as well as measures restricting individual freedoms and press freedom adopted by governments under the guise of combating terrorism, and economic difficulties linked to the crisis in the media sector.

Against this background, with the press under attack, the credibility of journalists is undermined, public support falters, and a sense of impunity sets in among those who are the subject of investigative journalism.

In addition to the threats and insults of political leaders, we see interference by state authorities and attacks by criminal organisations operating in Europe, which target investigative journalists in particular. In addition to the high-profile cases of Daphne Caruana Galizia and Ján Kuciak, physical attacks and death threats by mafia groups against journalists are frequent in several countries.

While we welcome the efforts made so far by the European Union and the Council of Europe to respect the rule of law and freedom of the press, we believe that this is not enough to guarantee a healthy and safe environment for this freedom to be fully exercised. For this reason we ask Europe’s political leaders, and the institutions of the European Union:

  • To address judicial harassment and “gag procedures” (SLAPPs, strategic lawsuits against public participation) by adopting legislative measures that afford effective protection to journalists against such practices, whose sole purpose is to limit journalists’ freedom of expression, and by ensuring a favourable and safe environment in which journalists can work;

  • To put an end to the application of exorbitant criminal sanctions, including prison sentences, in defamation proceedings in all European states;

  • To ensure that measures to protect press freedom and pluralism are implemented effectively by the European Union, by expressly assigning this competency to a member of the European Commission;

  • To ensure the pluralism and independence of public-service broadcasting so that it can fully play its public-service role of informing citizens in an inclusive and pluralistic manner, by putting in place effective safeguards against political interference, in particular with regard to appointments to editorial posts;

  • To create an effective early warning mechanism against any violation of press freedom along the lines of the Council of Europe’s “Platform to strengthen the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists”;

  • To guarantee the integrity of the public space against the spread of false news, while fully preserving freedom of information and freedom of speech;

  • To impose democratic guarantees in the digital space so as to guarantee freedom of opinion and expression, as promoted by the “Information & Democracy” initiative launched by Reporters Without Borders;

  • To support the “Journalism Trust Initiative”, also launched by RSF, which aims to promote freedom, independence, pluralism and reliability of information, as well as other similar initiatives and projects from other organisations recognised by the journalism community;

  • To set up educational programmes on media and news in late primary, and secondary, education;

  • That the European Parliament periodically assess respect for press freedom in all EU member states and candidates for membership, particularly during election campaigns;

  • To extend the powers of the European Ombudsman so that this office may verify compliance with the European Charter of Fundamental Rights not only by the European institutions but also by all its member states;

  • That the member countries of the European Union and the Council of Europe implement without delay Recommendation 2016/4 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe “on the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists and other media actors”;

  • That the member countries of the European Union and the Council of Europe ensure that the United Nations: 1. adopt the “International Convention on the Safety and Independence of Journalists and Other Media Professionals” proposed by the International Federation of Journalists, so that crimes and attacks against journalists worldwide no longer go unpunished, and 2. create the mandate of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Safety of Journalists, called for by a coalition of more than 100 organisations and media.

A free and independent press is the best guarantee for the proper functioning of democratic institutions, and a bulwark against authoritarian abuses and manipulation of public opinion. It is in everyone’s interest that the press remains this way, and the duty of public authorities to ensure it.



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#Huawei ‘is a trusted ally of Europe’


In response to the opinion piece by US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo published today (2 December) in Politico Europe Huawei issues the following statement:

“Huawei categorically rejects the defamatory and false allegations spread by the government of the United States. These are malicious and well-worn accusations. All they do is to undermine the reputation of the United States. Furthermore, they are an insult to Europe’s sovereignty and to the technical expertise of telecom operators.”

We wish to make it absolutely clear:
Huawei is a 100% privately-owned company. We are not controlled by any arm of the Chinese state.

Huawei does not receive favorable subsidies from any government. Certainly Huawei is not particularly favored by the Chinese government. And certainly there is no “massive state support”.

Huawei is not and has never been involved in espionage of any kind.

We have an extraordinary reputation: Huawei leads on Cybersecurity and has a clean track record without one single major data breach incident in the last 30 years. As Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei has underlined: rather than hand over customer data to a government, we would shut down the company.

Huawei welcomes and encourages the EU’s facts-based approach towards the security of 5G networks. Indeed, this is the model that both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have endorsed as the gold standard for 5G verification.

Huawei is Europe’s natural partner for deploying 5G together and for supporting Europe in attaining its digital sovereignty.

Huawei’s 5G solution is safe and innovative. It is a key contributor towards mitigating the effects of climate change and connecting the world. And it is a central element to safeguard Europe’s values and the European way of life for future generations.

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Europe and America have a Right To Know About #5G Safety


Google announced they are testing a new 5G smartphone, a move that aims to expand the company further into the branded hardware market – writes Theodora Scarato,  Executive Director of Environmental Health Trust.

 

September 10, Apple launched three new iPhones (iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max). Not to be shut out of the game, also last month, Samsung released their much anticipated Samsung Galaxy Fold, the first foldable smartphone. As the leading tech companies vie for first place in the 5G smartphone market, will they also issue clear warnings to the consumer public that their phones are not intended to be used in close body contact?

 

On August 22, 2019, the law firm of Fegan Scott filed a class action lawsuit against Apple and Samsung alleging that these two tech companies are misleading customers because their cellphones are marketed on the premise that the devices can always be used in close contact to the body (i.e. in the pocket). But phones in these very positions could result in the body absorbing high levels of cell phone radiation. So high, in fact, that the phones could violate the radiation safety limits set by the Federal Communications Commission.

 

The litigation was prompted by disturbing findings released in an August 21, 2019 Chicago Tribune investigation into cell phone radiation. The Tribune independently tested several popular cell phones and found that the phones emitted far more radiation than reported by the  manufacturers. Most importantly, radiation levels skyrocketed from 2 to 5 times the legal limit when phones were tested in positions close to the body, such as mimicking a phone in a pants pocket.

 

Many people incorrectly assume that cell phone radiation levels are safe, no matter how or where the phone is being used. But fine print warnings buried deep in the manufacturers’ manuals state that the phone is radiation tested a specific distance away from the body. For the iPhone 7 that distance is 5mm, but for the iPhone 3 it was 15mm.

 

In 2017, the government of France was pressured by Dr. Marc Arazi into finally releasing data from the hundreds of cell phones they tested since 2012. The  majority exceeded the legal limits when tested at body contact. In response, the European Union strengthened compliance tests so the distance can’t exceed 5mm and several smartphone models have now been withdrawn from the market or software updated. As many models with excessive radiation levels still remain on the market, Arazi of the Phonegate association has now filed legal action against Nokia and Xiaomi stating, “The manufacturers have deceived the users of more than 6 billion mobile phones.”

 

The radiation levels found in the smartphones tested by France could violate US  limits by 11 times according to published analysis. Fegan Scott characterized the situation as the “Chernobyl of the cell phone industry, cover-up and all.”  This October, the French Health Authority released a report recommending that phones be radiation tested at body contact- not at 5mm. In response to this report,  the French ministries of Health, Ecology and Economy issued a press release statement announcing their recommendation that phones be tested at body contact. They also called for the public to reduce cell phone radiation exposure. US National Institutes of Health scientist published their findings of DNA damage associated with cell phone radiation in their 30 Million dollar animal study.  This really should be the crack in the dam. Yet in the US, the FDA has been informed but taken no action.

 

What’s far more curious is that over the years, phone manufacturers have wordsmithed these fine print warnings such that consumers are adequate confused.

Why not directly state: “If you carry or use your phone in a pants or shirt pocket, or tucked into a bra, when the phone is on and connected to a wireless network, you may exceed the federal guidelines for exposure to RF radiation.”

 

In Berkeley, California, retailers are required to state this exact warning to cell phone consumers after the city passed their Cell Phone Right To Know Ordinance in 2015. It should be noted that after the Ordinance passed, the telecom industry group CTIA litigated all the way to the Supreme Court claiming the ordinance violated their free speech rights.

 

For two years after the Apple iPhone 6 debut in 2015, Apple shared the following statement regarding the model, “Carry iPhone at least 5mm away from your body to ensure exposure levels remain at or below the as-tested levels.” While this sentence was still on their website on March 2, 2017, it was removed by November 9, 2017. Similarly, the iPhone 7 was released in 2016, along with the same online instructions to carry it “5mm away from your body” which disappeared from the Apple website by November 9, 2017.

 

Apple’s website still includes information that cell phones are tested with a separation distance. However, the text is absent of clear instructions to consumers. Years ago, iPhone 3 filings to the FCC stated “iPhone’s SAR measurement may exceed the FCC exposure guidelines for body-worn operation if positioned less than 15 mm (5/8 inch) from the body (e.g. when carrying iPhone in your pocket).” They clearly stated, “When using iPhone near your body for voice calls or for wireless data transmission over a cellular network, keep iPhone at least 15 mm (5/8 inch) away from the body.” Were iPhone 3 consumers aware of these instructions then? Why not inform users now?

 

Fegan Scott claims that “research strongly suggests that cell phone manufacturers knew – or should have known – that the radiation levels were well above what they were claiming”.

 

Babies are handed cell phones to cuddle in shopping carts.  A child’s first cell phone is seen as a rite of passage and yet many don’t even know how to turn the phone off. They carry phones in their pockets- as do most men. Women carry phones directly against their body- tucked in their bras and spandex pants.

 

As with Dieselgate, the problem lies in the test itself.  A 2012 Government Accountability Report found human exposure limits and test protocols decades outdated. A  Harvard expose points to “undue industry influence” in US regulatory agencies and published analysis document conflicts of interest in the international “authorities” many countries rely on.  Phones are simply not radiation tested the way we use them- at body contact. It is time to hit the reset button. Before deploying 5G infrastructure and allowing 5G phones on the market, the US should first hold Congressional hearings on the oversight and safety of wireless devices.

 

 

Theodora Scarato is Executive Director of Environmental Health Trust.

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