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Sat Sep 25, 2021, 08:27 AM

Five Stories from Europe You May Have Missed

1. Russian Actors Jailed In Latest Clampdown On Political Parody


In recent months and years, several stand-up comics and other performers have faced prosecution.

Last summer, Aleksandr Dolgopolov fled Russia after he was threatened with criminal charges over a joke he made about President Vladimir Putin. And last month, the Interior Ministry banned comic Idrak Mirzalizade from the country for life after he made fun of habits he suggested many Russians share, though a court later suspended the ban.

The latest episode in this crackdown appears to be taking place in the Primorye region of Russia's Far East, thousands of kilometers from Moscow and the epicenter of its stand-up scene.

This week, a court in Ussuriisk, north of the regional capital, Vladivostok, sentenced two local actors to short jail stints because of their appearances in an online comedy sketch ribbing local officials and the ruling United Russia party.


2. Poland Reports Fourth Migrant Death At Belarusian Border In Days

The Polish border guard service says an Iraqi migrant has died near the country’s frontier with Belarus, the fourth such death in the area over the past week amid a surge in illegal migration across the European Union's eastern flank that officials accuse Minsk of fueling.

In Brussels, the EU executive said on September 24 that allowing border guards of the EU border agency Frontex on the border with Belarus would be "a very good idea."

"It is essential for Poland to carry out border management duties effectively. However, this should not come at the expense of human life. We urge member state authorities to ensure that people at the border are given the necessary care and assistance," a European Commission spokesman told a news conference.

Earlier in the day, the Polish Border Guard announced that a group of immigrants from Iraq was detained last night 500 meters from the border with Belarus.


3. Voters mull one of Europe’s most radical ripostes to gentrification Access to the comments


But voters will be weighing in on much more than Merkel’s successor on Sunday. State elections in Berlin also fall on September 26, and a referendum that could send shockwaves throughout Europe is on the ballot.

Residents in the capital will decide if Berlin should expropriate so-called "mega-landlords". If so, the law will be one of Europe’s most radical responses to gentrification and the rising cost of housing, socialising roughly 240,000 apartments.

The referendum campaign, called Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen after one of Germany’s biggest property companies, is a reflection of growing frustration and helplessness among renters in the city.


Though speculation in real estate has grown globally in recent years, the city of Berlin has significantly exacerbated the issue by selling off its public housing stock at a pittance after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Since 1990, Berlin has sold roughly 200,000 apartments to hedge funds and private equity firms.


4. Hard power: Europe’s military drift causes alarm

The EU was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2012 in recognition of “six decades of promoting peace and reconciliation” in Europe. In his acceptance speech in Oslo, the then president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, said the world could “count on our efforts to fight for lasting peace, freedom and justice”.

Yet less than a decade on, the EU is taking two big steps to bolster its defence capacity and engage in military conflicts through training and equipping governments outside the bloc. In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic these developments have slipped under the radar, but they represent a significant expansion in security policy with wide-ranging consequences.

An €8bn (£6.9bn) European defence fund (EDF), aimed at developing and acquiring new weapons and technology for militaries within the EU and abroad, was agreed last December. The EU also recently launched the European peace facility (EPF), a mechanism that will boost the bloc’s ability to provide training and equipment – including, for the first time, weapons – to non-European military forces around the world.


The twin initiatives will bolster the EU’s economic and diplomatic influence with a hefty dose of “hard power”, say advocates who also point to the inefficiency of 27 national militaries acquiring their own new weapons systems. But the measures will also benefit the European arms industry by providing research and development funds and new outlets for arms sales overseas.


5. Albanian court reopens case against former defense minister over fatal blast

Albania's former defence minister is facing a fresh investigation over a deadly blast at a munitions factory in 2008.

Fatmir Mediu has denied any wrongdoing related to the explosion in Gerdec, which killed 26 people.


The decision was made by Judge Saida Dollani of the Tirana Appeals Special Court Against Corruption and Organised Crime, which handles top officials' corruption cases.

A charge for abuse of power against Mediu was dismissed in 2009 because he held immunity from prosecution as a re-elected member of parliament. He resigned from his governmental position two days after the explosion.

But parliamentary immunity from criminal cases was abolished in Albania in 2012.


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