France's Hollande calls for permanent EU crisis fund
12 Dec 2013 | 10:06 pm
French President Francois Hollande called for a "permanent European fund" to finance emergency interventions in crises such as the situation in the Central African Republic. Hollande said he would request the fund, which would be used before peacekeeping operations are in place in crisis zones, during next week's European Council meeting in Brussels. "Europe does a lot but it only intervenes from time to time. We need a permanent European fund, not a fund for each individual operation," he said during a state visit to Brazil.
European response to Syrian refugees 'pitiful': Amnesty
12 Dec 2013 | 9:34 pm
European leaders should "hang their heads with shame" over their treatment of Syrian refugees fleeing the country's brutal conflict, rights group Amnesty International said on Friday. "An international failure: The Syrian refugee crisis", the charity states that European Union (EU) member states have only offered around 12,000 places to Syrian refugees as part of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' goal of securing 30,000 places. "The EU has miserably failed to play its part in providing a safe haven to the refugees who have lost all but their lives," said Amnesty Secretary General Salil Shetty. Only 10 EU member states offered resettlement or humanitarian admission places to refugees from Syria, according to the report.
Desperate Syrians find little comfort in new homes
12 Dec 2013 | 3:53 pm
They fled air strikes and shelling, but many of Syria's three million refugees have found little comfort elsewhere, suffering in squalid camps and risking death to reach Europe's shores. In Lebanon, many crowd into makeshift shelters in agricultural fields that will soon be blanketed in thick snow, and in Egypt they have faced government crackdowns and deportation. A lucky few have found asylum in Sweden or Germany, but many more have ended up in the EU's poorest nation Bulgaria, held in overflowing shelters. Some of the estimated three million Syrian refugees are treading paths well-worn by economic migrants from Niger, Eritrea and elsewhere -- people fleeing poverty as much as conflict.
Film taking aim at Saudi monarchy opens in Syria
12 Dec 2013 | 3:23 pm
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syria is hitting back at Saudi Arabia for supporting rebels who want to topple President Bashar Assad by promoting an English-language movie that depicts the founder of the monarchy as a bloodthirsty womanizer.
Kiev protesters gather, EU dangles aid promise
12 Dec 2013 | 2:28 pm
By Richard Balmforth KIEV (Reuters) - Thousands of anti-government protesters gathered in central Kiev, rebuilding barricades torn down by police, on Thursday as the European Union held out a promise of increased aid for Ukraine if it signed a trade and cooperation pact. Ukraine's first deputy prime minister Serhiy Arbuzov flew to Brussels with a high-level delegation seeking billions of euros of aid from the EU in return for signing the agreement, which Kiev suddenly backed away from last month. He said Ukraine, which is on the brink of bankruptcy, would "soon sign" the accord, but declined to provide any date. EU enlargement chief Stefan Fuele pledged more aid to Kiev if it signed the agreement, and to help it negotiate a loan from the IMF, but gave no figures.
EU promises more aid for Ukraine to sign EU deal
12 Dec 2013 | 2:23 pm
BRUSSELS (AP) — Ukraine's deputy prime minister said Thursday his financially troubled country will soon sign a trade and cooperation deal with the EU after the bloc promised more aid to the former Soviet republic.
Opponents of French surveillance law race to get support for review
12 Dec 2013 | 2:22 pm
By Emile Picy and Leila Abboud PARIS (Reuters) - Opponents of a new law in France that expands government powers to monitor phone and Internet connection data without judicial review scrambled for support on Thursday to force a review by the Constitutional Council. The measure, tucked in a military budget law passed on Tuesday, grants monitoring powers to more agencies such as tax and finance authorities, broadens the grounds for surveillance, and strips judges of the power to review monitoring requests. To force a review by the top constitutional watchdog, opponents need the backing of 60 senators or 60 deputies before the law is promulgated by President Francois Hollande, which is supposed to happen within 15 days of the law's passage. In a blow to the campaign, center-right UMP parliamentary floor leader Christian Jacob wrote to his 190 colleagues on Thursday that the group would not seek a legal review.
Plague 'epidemic' kills 39 in Madagascar
12 Dec 2013 | 1:58 pm
An outbreak of plague even more vicious than the bubonic strain dubbed the black death has killed 39 people in Madagascar, the government said Thursday. A government doctor said 90 percent of the cases were pneumonic plague, a strain much more vicious than the common bubonic plague that can kill within three days, leaving little time for antibiotics to work. "There is an epidemic in Madagascar which is currently affecting five districts (out of 112). The plague is an ancient evil that has claimed hundreds of millions of lives over the millennia, and still causes outbreaks today, despite the effectiveness of antibiotics
Catalonia sets referendum date next year, Spain says no
12 Dec 2013 | 1:35 pm
By Elisabeth O'Leary and Teresa Larraz Mora MADRID (Reuters) - Separatist parties in Spain's Catalonia region set November 9 next year as the date for a proposed independence referendum on Thursday and agreed the wording, but the Spanish government immediately poured cold water on the plan. Catalan regional government head Artur Mas said the vote, which the Spanish government says would be unconstitutional, would ask two questions: "Do you want Catalonia to be a state?" and "Do you want that state to be independent?" Calls for independence in Catalonia, a wealthy industrial region of northeastern Spain which accounts for a fifth of the country's economic output, have grown as a prolonged Spanish recession and cuts in public spending have hit the area, creating a headache for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
Roberts confident in future of Welsh regions
12 Dec 2013 | 12:46 pm
British and Irish Lions centre Jamie Roberts believes Welsh club rugby will come through its current difficulties and emerge stronger. Racing-Metro's Roberts is one in an ever-lengthening list of Wales internationals who have chosen to ply their trade outside their homeland. Added to that, the four Welsh regions currently playing in the Celtic League have suggested they may try to switch to the English Premiership, in part due to the continuing impasse over European competition that could see two rival European Cup events held next season. It has all left a feeling of doom and gloom over Welsh rugby, which was hardly lifted with media reports last week suggesting that international hooker Richard Hibbard could be the next exile, leaving Ospreys for Northampton.
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