The European Union on Wednesday committed to be “creative” in the very final stages of the Brexit trade negotiations but warned that whatever deal emerges, the United Kingdom will be reduced to “just a valued partner” far removed from its former membership status.
EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said “genuine progress” had been made on several issues “with an outline of a final text,” little more than a month before Britain’s transition period as a former EU member runs out.
And she said that on the divisive issues of fisheries, governance of any deal and the standards the U.K. must meet to export into the EU, the bloc is “ready to be creative, but we are not ready to put into question the integrity of the single market, the main safeguard for European prosperity and wealth.”
In the EU single market, goods and services can freely flow from one of the 27 member states to another without barriers like customs or checks, and it is seen as a cornerstone of the EU. With Britain deciding to walk out, von der Leyen insisted it should feel the cold.
“One thing is clear. Whatever the outcome, there has to be and there will be a clear difference between being a full member of the union and being just a valued partner,” she told legislators at the European Parliament. Britain however is seeking to maintain many of the advantages of membership while insisting on full sovereignty within its borders and its fishing waters.
The EU legislators will have to approve any deal and many scoffed at the extended negotiations past a slew of deadlines which ever more reduces its powers to seriously vet the deal ahead of the Jan. 1 cutoff date.
“We cannot just simply agree to anything that comes up in the last minute. This parliament needs time for scrutiny and for debating any possible agreement,” said Greens leader Ska Keller.
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“We will look very closely if this is an agreement that is of mutual benefit, that safeguards social and environmental standards, and that does not endanger the peace in Northern Ireland. And we will not hesitate to defend those rights and standards.”
There are widespread fears in the EU that Britain will slash those standards and pump state money into U.K. industries, becoming a low-regulation economic rival on the bloc’s doorstep.
Britain has long said the EU is making unreasonable demands and is failing to treat it as an independent, sovereign state, especially when it comes to the control of its fishing waters. It insisted EU negotiator Michel Barnier was sticking far too long to negotiating lines which would make any compromise impossible.
It made von der Leyen’s concession to be “creative” all the more significant. It even applied to fisheries. For a long time, demands were that EU trawlers would be allowed to continue to roam British waters like before, as if Brexit had never happened.
On Wednesday, von der Leyen sounded more conciliatory. “No one questions the U.K. sovereignty in its own waters, but we ask for predictability and guarantees for our fishermen and fisherwomen who have been sailing in these waters for decades, if not centuries.”
Negotiators from both sides are still talking remotely after an EU official tested positive for COVID-19, forcing Barnier into quarantine. He might be free to travel and negotiate face-to-face again as of Thursday, and observers expect a breakthrough once that happens.
Scotland has become the first country to allow free and universal access to menstrual products, including tampons and pads, in public facilities, a landmark victory for the global movement against period poverty.
It means period products will be available to access in public buildings including schools and universities across Scotland. According to the new rules, it will be up to local authorities and education providers to ensure the products are available free of charge.
“The campaign has been backed by a wide coalition, including trades unions, women’s organisations and charities,” Monica Lennon, the lawmaker who introduced the bill last year, said ahead of the vote. “Scotland will not be the last country to make period poverty history.”
After the vote, Lennon said the decision was “a signal to the world that free universal access to period products can be achieved.”
The bill’s accompanying financial memorandum estimates it could cost around £8.7 million a year by 2022, depending on the number of women who will take advantage of the free products. In a document supporting the legislation, Lennon said it was reasonable to expect 20% uptake of the scheme given the fact that official inequality statistics show that nearly 20% of women in Scotland live in relative poverty.
The new law was praised by a number of equality and women’s rights groups as well as politicians from across the parties represented in the Scottish Parliament.
“Proud to vote for this groundbreaking legislation, making Scotland the first country in the world to provide free period products for all who need them. An important policy for women and girls,” Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on her official Twitter page after the vote.
One in 10 girls in the United Kingdom have been unable to afford period products, according to a 2017 survey from Plan International UK. The survey also found that nearly half of all girls aged 14 to 21 are embarrassed by their periods, while about half had missed an entire day of school because of them.
Scotland’s move follows a string of recent attempts to tackle period poverty in the country.
In 2018, the government announced that students in schools, colleges and universities across the countries would be able to access sanitary products for free, through a £5.2 million investment. In 2019, it allocated another £4 million to make period products available for free in libraries and recreational centers.
2020 has been far from festive, but as the year comes to an end, many of Europe‘s governments are scrambling to avoid stringent lockdowns over the Christmas holidays.
The push to save the celebration comes despite the fact that other religious festivals — including Christian ones — have been marked in a muted fashion in recent months.
The UK government on Tuesday unveiled plans to temporarily relax coronavirus restrictions for five days, from December 23 to 27, allowing up to three households to celebrate together in “Christmas bubbles.” This means small groups of family and friends will be able meet in person for what may be the first time in months.
England is currently under its second national lockdown and the UK as a whole has recorded more than 1.5 million Covid-19 cases.
“This year, Christmas will be different,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “Many of us are longing to spend time with family and friends, irrespective of our faith or background, and yet we cannot throw caution to the wind. The virus doesn’t know that it’s Christmas.”
The previous day, Johnson cautioned that while the festive period may be “the season to be jolly … it is also the season to be jolly careful, especially with elderly relatives.”
Rules relaxed for Christmas
The message that stricter autumn rules could lead to a more relaxed Christmas period has been repeated across Europe.
In France, a second national lockdown was imposed at the end of October, but despite non-essential businesses across the country being closed, the government has permitted the sale of Christmas trees, by decree.
A slowdown in the spread of the virus means France’s lockdown will begin to ease this weekend, President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday. The restrictions could be lifted further on December 15, if the daily number of cases drops under 5,000 and there are only 2,000-3,000 in hospital ICUs.
“We will therefore once again be able to travel without authorization, including between regions, and spend Christmas with our family,” Macron said.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte urged people to abide by the country’s Covid-19 restrictions in order to enjoy Christmas, in a speech earlier this autumn. but Italy has since struck a more cautious note.
Sandra Zampa, an undersecretary at Italy’s Ministry of Health, said on November 11 that the government wanted to avoid large Christmas parties. Instead, she said gatherings would likely be limited to close relatives such as parents, children and siblings. “I don’t think we can go any further,” Zampa said in a local television interview.
The Irish government is set to ease restrictions for nearly two weeks around the Christmas period and is considering allowing up to three households to gather for the holidays, Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told state broadcaster RTE on Wednesday.
And in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel asked the public to obey social distancing restrictions in October, in order to preserve the country’s Christmas celebrations.
“We must do everything to ensure that the virus does not spread in an uncontrolled way. Every day now counts,” she said on October 17. “How the winter will be, how our Christmas will be, that will be decided in the coming days and weeks.”
German MPs are currently considering a draft proposal which would allow up to 10 people to celebrate Christmas and New Year together, CNN affiliate n-tv reported.
Celebrations shifted online
Christmas occupies a unique and outsize place in the religious calendar. But since the epidemic began, Passover, Easter, Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, Rosh Hashanah and Diwali have all been celebrated across Europe.
All were marked quietly, without government debate. None attracted the fervor inspired by the prospect of a pandemic Christmas.
Anjana Singh, 48, runs Amikal, a Hindu community group in Berlin. Singh organized an all-day virtual Diwali celebration to replace the more traditional festivities this November.
“Usually we have a lot of spectators, 500 to 1,000, this is how usually we celebrate Diwali,” she told CNN. “In February it was evident that corona was here. So Amikal decided, let’s do it online.”
“Christmas could also easily be celebrated online,” she added. “Through the digital platform we all can be together, yet we can be safe.”
The sense that some festivals are prioritized over others also exists in Britain. Many Muslims in northern England were caught off guard in July when the government restricted people’s movements in some areas, just hours before Eid al-Adha prayers were due to begin.
“I think it was right to go into lockdown during the Eid period,” said Nadir Mohamed, the executive director of the Centre for Muslim Policy Research, a think tank based in London.
“I think it wasn’t so much that people disagreed with the lockdown itself, it was … a very last hours sort of thing,” he said. “There was no effective, or timely communication [about the restrictions.]”
Secular and spiritual event
Elizabeth Oldfield, the director of Theos, a Christian think tank, told CNN that Christmas’ importance now extends beyond religion, making it a national and secular event as well as a spiritual one.
“Christmas is less the crux of the [Christian] theological year compared to Easter,” Oldfield told CNN.
This year, she pointed out, “Christians weren’t able to mark Good Friday or celebrate Easter Sunday, which for the majority of Christians is really important.”
She added: “This ‘saving Christmas’ is almost entirely a cultural, civic Christian [idea.] This is not about religion at all, it’s about national identity, civic identity.”
Oldfield also said governments know that a large number of people celebrate Christmas in Europe, compared to other religious days. In the UK alone, a 2018 survey by polling company YouGov found that nine out of 10 people celebrated Christmas with gifts.
“Sometimes I feel there are two festivals at the same time,” Oldfield said. “There’s the secular, pagan and consumer-led festival which brings its own joys and then there’s the actual Christian festival.”
Mohamed said: “Christmas is an occasion that isn’t seen in the UK as a purely Christian thing. We’re way past those days, everyone gets involved in the festivities one way or another.”
Regardless of government efforts, some hallmarks of a European Christmas have already been canceled due to Covid-19.
In Belgium, all Christmas markets have been canceled, as has the market in the German city of Cologne. The Viennese Christmas Dream market in Austria, the Strasbourg Christmas Market in France and the Basel Christmas Market in Switzerland are all going ahead, however.
On November 10, Estonia announced that all events in the country, including Christmas parties, would be canceled, though the government added that: “Celebrating Christmas with family is, of course, allowed.”
Restrictions set to return
In Britain, government medical adviser Susan Hopkins has said that if people mix during the Christmas break, everyone will need to reduce their contacts again following the holiday.
“Coming into Christmas, we’ll need to be very careful about the number of contacts that we have and to reduce transmission before Christmas and get the cases as low as possible,” Hopkins said on November 18.
But other experts believe people should not risk gathering for the holidays at all.
“We have not made nine months of sacrifices to throw it all away at Christmas,” Gabriel Scally, visiting professor of public health at the University of Bristol, tweeted on November 19.
Epidemiologist Shikta Das agrees with Scally.
“The pandemic is going to stay here. The government is doing its [best] but these decisions won’t help. We will go into lockdown after Christmas and the R rate will go up,” Das told CNN.
“If you have a very ill person in your family, it’s probably better not to meet. Probably not a very good idea,” she added.
If Europe does choose to celebrate Christmas with a softening of lockdowns, there may be a price to pay in the new year.
Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said the country was a cautionary tale for the holiday season.
“The question is, have you got the disease under enough control to start with, and can you, in a sense, allow people a little bit more freedom over … the Christmas period, which generates a sense of confidence and a sense of joy in the community, which people need right now — without letting the virus let rip again within our communities. And this is a very important tradeoff,” Ryan said at a news briefing on Monday.
Oldfield points out that it is natural for people to want to gather together to celebrate.
“Sometimes this saving Christmas [idea] feels bonkers, because you don’t want more deaths in return for your pigs-in-blankets,” she told CNN. “But at the same time there’s a very deep theological [concept] about thriving through human connection. This is really [happening] because we just want to be together.”
The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has warned David Frost that without a major negotiating shift by Downing Street within the next 48 hours he will pull out of the Brexit negotiations in London this weekend, pushing the talks into a fresh crisis.
In talks via videoconference on Tuesday, Barnier told his British counterpart that further negotiations would be pointless if the UK was not willing to compromise on the outstanding issues.
Should Barnier effectively walk out on the negotiations it would present the most dangerous moment yet for the troubled talks, with just 36 days to go before the end of the transition period.
While Brussels might hope such a move would put the UK prime minister under pressure to give Frost new negotiating instructions, it might also embolden those within the Tory party who believe no deal is the better outcome.
During a speech in the European parliament on Wednesday, the European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, said the EU was willing to be “creative” to get a deal with the UK but admitted an agreement was in the balance with “very little time ahead of us”.
Physical talks are on hold after a member of the EU negotiating team tested positive for coronavirus, but Barnier is expected to leave quarantine on Thursday evening. He is due to head to London on Friday for a last-ditch push for an agreement once he receives a negative coronavirus test.
“These are decisive days for negotiations with the United Kingdom,” Von der Leyen told MEPs. “But, frankly, I cannot tell you today if in the end, there will be a deal.”
European leaders and officials are not expecting transatlantic relations to snap back to the way things were before Donald Trump was elected U.S. president, but they do anticipate a narrowing of the gaps between America and Europe with Joe Biden in the White House.
“Relations will be less abrasive and we won’t have to weather a presidential commentary of needling all-caps tweets,” a senior German official told VOA. “But there’s also much that divides us. It isn’t just that America has changed — so, too, has Europe,” he added.
But the official, who advises German Chancellor Angela Merkel and is not authorized to brief the media, says there is an expectation of a much more multilateralist approach from Washington as well as a determination to shore up the rules-based international framework the United States long championed before Trump.
Trump expressed a general distrust of multilateral organizations, seemingly returning to an era of powerful, independent nation states dealing with each other bilaterally rather than via international organizations. Biden is expected to reset Trump’s “America First” foreign policy and to reverse several of Trump’s signature moves.
More than a dozen European officials and analysts consulted by VOA say the biggest change they foresee is one of tone and style. Biden, they say, will be unlikely to approach diplomacy as a zero-sum game. They view Biden as the most pro-Atlanticist president since George HW Bush. But they caution policy towards China could divide the two continents and that Washington will likely stick to pressing NATO’s European members to boost their defense spending.
They predict, too, there will be further disputes over trade issues — including over subsidies for aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing. Both the U.S. and Europe have turned more protectionist.
Biden said in a town hall meeting last month, “America First has made America Alone,” but he pledged on the campaign trail to avoid any new trade agreements “until we’ve made major investments here at home, in our workers and our communities.”
That could be bad news for Britain, which is eager for a free-trade deal with the U.S. to help compensate for commercial losses from Brexit.
The Biden plan includes $300 billion in public spending to boost research and development in the United States, and an additional $400 billion in a “Buy American” government procurement program.
The Europeans, too, are turning more protectionist and as they struggle with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic they are resorting to ever larger state subsidies to business. Even before the pandemic EU leaders talked of boosting European industrial state champions to compete with American and Chinese firms.
David McAllister, chair of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, reckons there aren’t huge differences in the demands a Biden administration is likely to make of Europe from those made by the Trump administration. How the demands are couched will alter, with friendlier smiles. Gone will be the encouragement of the continent’s Euro-skeptic populists by the White House.
Biden is steeped in the values of traditional post-1945 American diplomacy and has already made clear that he will seek to repair frayed ties with European allies. He emphasized on the campaign trail that in office he will reinstate U.S. funding of the World Health Organization and rejoin the Paris climate change accord.
“President Biden will be much more calm. Much more reflective,” predicts former British diplomat Peter Ricketts. “He will be predictable,” he added in an interview with a British broadcaster.
But there are plenty of issues that will continue to divide the U.S. and Europe, says Hans Kundnani of Britain’s Chatham House. He suspects not everything will go back to the way it was before Trump — both America and Europe have changed in the past four years as structural shifts have emerged. He identifies the issue of China as a nagging thorn in the side of transatlantic relations.
“The United States is increasingly under pressure to devote more resources to the Pacific. And so I think what that means is that for Europeans the debates that have taken place in the last few decades about greater burden sharing, in other words, about Europeans taking greater responsibility for their own security, are going to become much more acute,” Kundnani told VOA.
Even before Trump was elected there was a bipartisan consensus in Washington that Europe needs to take more responsibility for its own security. Biden, though, won’t engage in the episodic questioning of the very value of the transatlantic defense pact engaged in by President Trump in bruising encounters with European leaders and via brusque tweets. But European reluctance to help to rebalance NATO will likely remain a source of tension, predict officials and analysts.
Differences over how to handle China will likely go beyond greater European defense burden sharing, says Kundnani.
“I think the economic relationships that European countries have with China, and I am thinking here particularly of Germany, are also going to become a real issue in transatlantic relations,” he says. A Biden administration will “maintain pressure on the Europeans to basically decouple from the Chinese economy. And I think there’s going to be a lot of resistance to that in countries like Germany. I think continental Europe and the European Union is going to see that as a kind of a violation of ‘European sovereignty,’” he adds.
Not all officials and analysts VOA consulted agree, however. Europe’s attitude towards China is altering, says Christopher Skaluba of the Atlantic Council, a New York-based think tank. He says there’s been a shift in European thinking that’s quickened since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
“There is not quite as much resistance as you might expect and there’s a broad consensus in Europe on the need for something to be done,” says Skaluba, who had a lengthy tenure as the principal director for European & NATO Policy at the Pentagon.
He says European alarm about China has mounted thanks partly to Beijing’s aggressive “wolf warrior” diplomacy. The security risks of using Chinese technology in the development of the continent’s 5G wireless networks are now being recognized as well as the danger to democratic Western powers of a non-democratic rival developing a lead when it comes to technology as a whole.
Western diplomats privately predict that a Biden administration might not align closely with Europe on relations with Russia or Iran. On the latter Biden has signaled he wants to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal that Trump walked away from, if Tehran comes back into compliance. But some Western diplomats doubt the Iran deal can be restructured in the way that will satisfy Washington or a Republican-controlled Senate.
How to curb the Kremlin’s expansionist foreign policy may prove especially challenging, say analysts and diplomats, and not just because of a rift between Washington and Europe, but also because of sharp differences between Central and Western Europeans.
“There’s a temptation to think of Europe as being a unified bloc, but it’s actually not,” says Chatham House’s Kundnani. Transatlantic disputes are almost always intra European disputes, he says. And that’s reflected when it comes to what strategies to adopt towards Putin with Central Europeans favoring a tougher approach than their counterparts in the West, he says.
The construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline linking Russia and Germany will remain likely a source of irritation not only when it comes to transatlantic relations, but in relations between Central Europeans and Germany.
“Russia is also potentially for the West a problem. America is going to need European support, but the Europeans are also going to need assistance from the Americans, particularly the Central Europeans, who are very anxious about Russia,” says Kundnani.
Recently, Central Europeans were appalled to hear Thierry Breton, one of France’s EU commissioners, say, “Belarus is not Europe,” a statement they took as reflecting a lack of Western European urgency over the months-long confrontation between the Moscow-backed Belarusian leader and pro-democracy campaigners.
Likewise, they’re wary of increasing talk from Brussels about ‘European sovereignty,’ which often seems to be defined as being “Not America.” They embraced the EU not to distance themselves from Washington but from Moscow.
If the diplomatic spat between Portugal and the United States is anything to go by, Lisbon will be among the European capitals with most to lose on Tuesday.
Another four years of Donald Trump in the White House could see Washington follow through on its threats to the Portuguese.
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Washington has put pressure on Lisbon to ban Chinese telecoms giant Huawei from its future 5G network infrastructure.
European countries have been trapped in the middle of a geopolitical battle over Huawei and 5G infrastructure, with the US alleging Beijing could use the networks for cyberespionage. The company denies the allegations.
In June, according to Portuguese press reports, Lisbon decided not to place any restrictions on who could bid to supply its 5G infrastructure.
In an interview with the Portuguese newspaper Expresso (subscription required), published on September 26, the US ambassador to Portugal, George Glass, said the Portuguese have to choose between “its allies and the Chinese”. He warned that choosing China on 5G may have consequences for Portugal, such as the defence relationship between the two countries.
Glasss statements upset Lisbon. Foreign affairs minister Augusto Santos Silva did not take long to respond: “In Portugal, the decision-makers are the Portuguese authorities, who take the decisions that interest Portugal.”
Some days later, Keith Krach, the US Under Secretary of State for Growth, Energy and the Environment visited Portugal as a part of a European tour that had 5G on its agenda.
In an interview with the Portuguese agency Lusa, Krach stressed the US “respects Portugals right to make its own decisions”. But he added: “For the good of the Portuguese, I’m really hopeful that they are now following the European Unions 5G toolbox, which is the same type of standards we use in the United States”.
In June, the Portuguese press revealed the Government would not apply any restrictions to the choice of brands that may supply components or equipment of the fifth generation mobile networks (5G)
‘Portugal suffers in US-China game of cat and mouse’
“The United States must realise that today Portugal and other countries have options on the table,” Professor Paulo Duarte, an expert on China and its relations with the European Union and the USA, told Euronews. “And a small state like Portugal, which was once a large empire, has to maximise its gains regarding different actors and China is one of them.”
Portugal, added Prof Duarte, from the University of Minho, “is doing what a small state does to take its interests forward” and Huawei is just one of the issues that interest both the United States and China.
Other mutual interests include the deepwater port of Sines, which the Americans see as a springboard for exporting liquified natural gas into Europe. The port also plans to grow its container terminal and that project has drawn the interest of China, whose ambitious Belt and Road strategy aims to build infrastructure around the world and increase Beijings influence.
“The USA has become the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas and it is not by chance that after China had expressed interest in the port of Sines, the United States sent a delegation to Sines to, in fact, show the relevance of the port to the USA, as a gateway to the vast European market,” said Prof Duarte.
“There is an action-reaction game between the USA and China, a game of cat and mouse. Portugal is another piece of that chess game and we also suffer. All the world suffers from the impact of the Chinese-American trade war, but I think we reacted well.”
Portugal also became the first EU country to issue government bonds in China’s currency, a sign of the relationship between the two.
“Portugal seems to be taking the opposite path and this bothers the United States,” said Prof Duarte.
“If this cooperation with China proves to be effective, other European countries will probably want to follow this model.
“If we see that China is replicating its attitude in Portugal as it does in other parts of the world – mere copy-paste, disrespect, lack of fair play in competition – then, that will give reason to the United States and other actors like Germany or France, who are highly sceptical about this Portuguese receptivity.”
Prof Duarte said if the Portuguese did not exclude Huawei and Donald Trump wins the US election, then Lisbon-Washington relations could be adversely affected. He also thinks Portuguese companies would face sanctions.
But if Joe Biden wins, prospects could be brighter. “The discomfort would remain, but eventually it [Biden administration] would not punish Portuguese interests as much or at least as intensely as the Trump administration,” he said.
‘We should be agnostic regarding technology’
“For me, it is inevitable that this material from Huawei will appear in our operators,” said Luís Antunes, director of the centre for competencies in cybersecurity and privacy at the University of Porto. “Even if it is not in Portugal it will be in NATO countries.
Prof Antunes said he understood the US argument that “in order to give classified information to the Portuguese government or Portuguese organisations, it will have to rely on the infrastructure that Portugal uses to support and store these documents.” But, he added, “the US should promote on a global scale what Ronald Reagan said: Trust, but verify.”
“I think we should be agnostic regarding technology, but we should completely audit all the material that we install in Portugal, whether it is American or Chinese because in order to trust, we have to check,” he said.
“Only [by] checking and doing an analysis can we have some level of confidence in what we are installing.
“This problem only shows that the European Union has lost the productive capacity of this type of material over the past decades, which is worrying.
“The European Union must have a strategy to recover this productive capacity and to try to have some cyber-sovereignty, otherwise we will always be hostage to geopolitics, geostrategy and commercial interests.”
The man who killed four people in a shooting rampage in Vienna on Monday had sought to join the so-called Islamic State (IS) and most likely acted alone, Austrian authorities said on Tuesday.
Authorities have named the gunman, who was carrying an assault rifle and a fake suicide vest, as Austrian-North Macedonian dual national Kujtim Fejzula.
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He was shot dead by police.
The 20-year old had previously served time in prison following an April 2019 conviction for an attempt to travel to Syria to join IS.
He was granted early release from his 22-month jail term in December under juvenile law, authorities said.
Authorities had initially feared that multiple gunmen were involved in the attack, but Interior Minister Nehammer told reporters early in the afternoon that evidence showed no indication there had been other assailants.
He added that 14 people close to the suspected perpetrator had been detained and that 18 properties in and around the Austrian capital had been searched.
Two men, aged 18 and 24, were also arrested near Zurich, Swiss police have said.
Four people — two men and two women — were killed in what Chancellor Sebastian Kurz a “repulsive terrorist attack” as residents of the capital enjoyed a final night out before the city entered a partial coronavirus lockdown. One of the victims was a German national, Germany’s Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, confirmed on Twitter.
A further 22 people were injured, some of the “seriously”, police said. Austrian news agency APA reports that Viennas hospital service said seven people were in life-threatening condition.
A minute of silence was held across the country on Tuesday afternoon to commemorate all the victims.
Kurz has convened the country’s national security council to discuss what should happen next and stressed that the fact that the attacks were carried out by Islamists did not mean that Austrians “should condemn all members of a religion”.
“It is a fight between the people who believe in peace and the terrorists,” he said at a news conference.
He said it was clearly an “Islamist” attack and said that the attackers were motivated by hatred of Austrian democracy and its way of life.
What do we know about the attack?
It began at just after 8 pm CET on Monday night in a street close to Vienna’s main synagogue and, speaking Monday, Kurz said the attackers may have had anti-semitic motives.
A witness to the attack, Eveline, told AP that she and others had taken refuge in a local hotel.
“Suddenly the shooting started, at first we did not know what it was … Then there was shooting again, but closer, so we started to run away,” she said.
Oskar Deutsch, a Jewish community leader, said it was too early to say whether the temple was one of the targets but confirmed there had been “a shooting in the immediate vicinity of the city temple.”
Deutsch said that both the synagogue in Seitenstettengasse and an office building at the same address were closed at the time of the attack.
Nehammer said that the army was guarding key locations in the city as hundreds of police hunted for the remaining gunmen.
The minister told people in Vienna to stay indoors and avoid the city centre and encouraged parents not to send their children to school on Tuesday.
The attack has echoes of those in London in 2017 and Paris in 2015 when attackers roamed the streets of the two cities armed with knives and guns, killing maiming civilians in restaurants and bars.
What have we heard from the scene?
Vienna’s Chief Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister told broadcaster LBC in a radio interview that he was in the Seitenstettengasse synagogue’s compound and saw multiple gunmen firing into bars and restaurants.
“The gunmen were running around, shooting at least 100 rounds or even more, in front of our building,” he added.
He said he “doubted it was an attack on the synagogue, adding: “At this time of night there is no activity taking place in the great synagogue, we don’t really know, however, what’s going on.”
Police asked social media users not to share photos or videos that purported to show the incident because it “endangers both emergency services and the civilian population”.
In videos shared on social media, people were pictured running as what appeared to be gunshots could be heard.
Czech police said Monday evening that they were “carrying out random checks on vehicles and passengers” at the country’s border with Austria after the attack.
“Police officers exercise increased supervision over the most important Jewish buildings in the Czech Republic,” the force added in a tweet. “We assure the public that the measures taken are exclusively preventive in nature.”
And Germany has put controls in place at the border too, which a German police spokesman said were a “tactical priority”.
“Europe strongly condemns this cowardly act that violates life and our human values,” President of the European Council Charles Michel wrote on Twitter.
“I am deeply shocked by the terrible attacks in Vienna tonight. The UKs thoughts are with the people of Austria – we stand united with you against terror,” said UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“Terrifying, disturbing reports reach us this evening. Even if the extent of the terror is not yet known, our thoughts are with the injured and victims in these difficult hours. We must not give way to the hatred that is intended to divide our societies,” the German foreign ministry said in a tweet.
“We the French share the shock and grief of the Austrian people,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote. “After France, an ally country has been attacked. This is our Europe. Our enemies must know who they are dealing with. We will not give up.”
France has been struck by two violent attacks in a matter of weeks; a knifeman killed three people last week at a church in Nice and on October 16 a French teacher, Samuel Paty, was beheaded after showing cartoons depicting Islam’s prophet in a class on freedom of speech.
Italy recorded its highest daily COVID-19 death toll in nearly six months on Tuesday as Hungary and the Netherlands tightened restrictions to further in an effort to combat the virus.
According to figures from the Italian health ministry, 353 people died from COVID-19 in the country in the previous 24 hours — the highest daily increase since May 6.
More than 39,400 people have now lost their lives in the pandemic in the southern European country, while the number of infections recorded grew by 28,244 to nearly 760,000.
In the Netherlands, the government said the partial lockdown imposed three weeks ago is starting to pay off with the number of infections going down by 5 per cent week on week to just over 64,000 recorded over the past seven days.
The weekly death toll has, however, increased to 435 from 329 previously, prompting the government to announce further restrictions for the next two weeks, including a ban on public meetings of more than two people not in the same family.
More than 7,450 people have died from COVID-19 in the Netherlands and a further 367,700 have been infected, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, also announced that a new state of emergency would be introduced at midnight. He said lawmakers would be asked to extend it to 90 days.
Other measures announced by Orban include a nighttime curfew from midnight to 5am, the mandatory use of face masks and new restrictions on sports and cultural events.
“The spread of the pandemic has accelerated,” he said in a Facebook video. “By the middle of December, our hospitals will reach the limit of their capacity.”
“It is time to take further steps to protect the operability of our hospitals and also to protect the lives of the elderly,” he added.
The nation of 9.7 million has so far recorded more than 86,700 infections and 1,973 deaths, according to the ECDC.
These announcements came as new measures took effect Tuesday in Austria, Greece and Sweden.
“We are going in the wrong direction. The situation is very serious,” Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said. “Now, every citizen needs to take responsibility. We know how dangerous this is.”
Contrary to other European countries, Sweden opted not to impose a national lockdown in the spring. The new measures kicking in on Tuesday include limits on capacity in restaurants and cafés with a maximum of eight people at any table.
The Scandinavian country announced local restrictions in three more counties that include Sweden’s largest cities.
In Russia, more than 18,000 daily coronavirus cases were recorded for a fifth straight day on Tuesday.
The country currently has the world’s fourth-largest coronavirus caseload of 1.6 million but authorities have resisted a second lockdown or shutting down businesses despite reports about overwhelmed hospitals, drug shortages and inundated medical workers.
In Britain, the government has announced plans to trial a new citywide coronavirus testing programme in Liverpool, offering regular testing to everyone who lives and works in the city of 500,000 in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
Liverpool has one of the highest infection rates in England, with more than 410 cases per 100,000 people.
The UK is Europe’s most heavily-impacted country with its death toll growing by 397 on Tuesday — the highest one-day increase since late May — to reach over 47,250 COVID-19.
The upsurge in cases has prompted the government to announced a second national lockdown in England, which will come into force on Thursday.
Across the Channel, France, which has been under its own second national lockdown since Thursday, recorded more than 400 deaths for the second day in a row on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 36,330.
Katrin Jakobsdottir was discussing the impact of the pandemic on tourism with the Washington Post when her house started to shake, visibly startling the Icelandic leader."Oh my god, there's an earthquake," she said with a gasp. "Sorry, there was an earthquake right now. Wow."But Jakobsdottir quickly pivoted back to the matter at hand, laughing: "Well this is Iceland" and continuing her response to the question."Yes I'm perfectly fine, the house is still strong, so no worries," she later added.Jakobsdottir, 44, has been Iceland's Prime Minister since 2017.The 5.6 magnitude earthquake struck on Tuesday afternoon 10 kilometers southwest of Hafnarfjordur, a coastal town near the capital of Reykjavík, according to the United States Geological Survey, which measures quakes worldwide.The tremble led to reports of damage around the capital. Earthquakes are common in Iceland, which boats a sweeping landscape dotted with dozens of volcanoes. Jakobsdottir isn't the first world leader to be interrupted by a quake this year; in May, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was discussing lifting coronavirus restrictions
Pope Francis says in a film released on Wednesday that homosexuals should be protected by civil union laws, in some of the clearest language he has used on the rights of gay people.
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"Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it," Pope Francis says in the documentary "Francesco" by Oscar-nominated director Evgeny Afineevsky.
"What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that," he said.
Papal biographer Austen Ivereigh told Reuters that the pope's comments in the film were some of the clearest language the pontiff has used on the subject since his election in 2013.
The pope, who early in his papacy made the now-famous "Who am I to judge?" remark about homosexuals trying to live a Christian life, spoke in a section of the film about Andrea Rubera, a gay man who with his partner adopted three children.
Rubera says in the film that he went to a morning Mass the pope said in his Vatican residence and gave him a letter explaining his situation.
He told the pope that he and his partner wanted to bring the children up as Catholics in the local parish but did not want to cause any trauma for the children. It was not clear in which country RuberaRead More – Source