Seven Days in Europe

Angela Merkel told Barack Obama that “spying on friends doesn’t work” after Der Spiegel alleged that her phone had been tapped by US intelligence agencies. It was reported that Merkel was convinced that the research was plausible and substantial enough to demand clarification from the White House, and the German foreign minister has called the US ambassador to a personal meeting to discuss the allegations. Le Monde also reported that NSA internal memos showed evidence that the US had spied on French diplomats in America and at the UN.

The scandal is threatening to overshadow this week’s European Council summit. The agenda focuses on efforts to consolidate Europe’s economic recovery, digital economy, innovation and services, jobs, and migration from Africa and the Middle East following the Lampedusa shipwreck tragedy. Earlier in the week, the European Parliament moved to secure data privacy and curb transfers with the US.

Member states agreed that negotiations with Turkey about EU accession would resume on 5 November. The discussions were originally scheduled for June, but were postponed after the violent police response to anti-government protests in Istanbul and other Turkish cities. Turkish accession has been a slow process – the country was awarded candidate status in 1999, but progress has been stalled by Member State objections, particularly from Cyprus. Turkey’s human rights record is also a regular sticking point.

On Wednesday the European Parliament voted to curtail subsidies for fishing vessels. The grants for new boats were introduced to benefit fishermen affected by the Common Fisheries Policy’s restrictions on catches. However, environmental campaigners argued that these grants were counter-productive and encouraged more and larger vessels, contributing to over-fishing. MEP Chris Davies said:

“We still have too many boats chasing too few fish, so to use public money to pay for building new boats would only make the problem worse. Grants of this kind were scrapped a decade ago, when 90% of the money was going to France, Spain and Portugal. To have reinstated them would have been a massive step backwards.”

After a blue-eyed, blonde haired girl was removed from a Roma family in Greece and efforts were made to track down her biological family, another child living with a Roma family was taken into care in Ireland. Authorities believed the girl was unrelated to her parents, but DNA tests proved that she was indeed their biological daughter. A spokesperson from Pavee Point said:

“We hope it is not the beginning of some sort of pattern where children of Roma parents who are not dark-skinned and have brown eyes are taken away one after the other for DNA tests. It’s outrageous. It’s quite despicable.”

The European Roma Rights Centre has urged the media to act responsibly in reporting these cases, stating that irresponsible reporting could have severe, negative consequences for Roma families across Europe. They quoted a report from Serbia that skinheads had tried to take away a two-year old boy from his parents because he was “not as dark as his parents”.

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