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News digest: 17 January 2013

AUSTRIA-EU: Data retention in Austria: Constitutional Court turns to the CJEU (EDRi): "The Austrian Constitutional Court has reservations that the EU Directive on the Retention of Data could be incompatible with the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. For this reason, the 14 constitutional judges have addressed the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), submitting questions on the interpretation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union"

BALKANS: Freedom House ranks Balkans 'partly free' and free' (Balkan Insight): "The US watchdog Freedom House has ranked Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia "partly free" countries, while Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia are deemed "free"." See: Freedom House: Freedom in the World 2013 (pdf)

Bulgaria to start Afghanistan withdrawal process (Balkan Insight): "Cabinet expected to agree on Wednesday to partly terminate the military mission to the NATO-led force in Afghanistan"

Bulgarian far-right leader accused of assaulting journalist (Novinite): "A Bulgarian journalist has claimed that Volen Siderov, the notorious leader of far-right party Ataka (Attack), kicked him in the party's parliamentary office"

Cybersleuths uncover 5-year spy operation targeting governments, others (Wired): "An advanced and well-orchestrated computer spy operation that targeted diplomats, governments and research institutions for at least five years has been uncovered by security researchers in Russia"

CZECH REPUBLIC: Former defence minister to be charged with corruption (Prague Daily Monitor): "Dusan Taborsky, the attorney supervising the investigation of the dubious purchase of Tatra lorries for the Czech army, yesterday said he will file corruption charges against former defence minister Martin Bartak and MPI Group armament firm's owner Michal Smrz later in January"

CZECH REPUBLIC: Young Roma call on gov't to keep human rights section (Prague Daily Monitor): "Romany students and young activists have asked the Czech government to preserve the human rights section at its office and not to move its agenda to particular ministries, in a letter by the "emergency committee" of young Romanies the government office has passed to CTK"

ECHR: Turkish block on Google site breached Article 10 rights, rules Strasbourg (UK Human Rights Blog): "In the case of Yildrim v Turkey the European Court of Human Rights decided that a Court order blocking access to “Google Sites” in Turkey was a violation of Article 10. The measure was not “prescribed by law” because it was not reasonably foreseeable or in accordance with the rule of law." See also: European Court rules against blanket internet access ban (Open Society Foundations), ECHR press release (pdf) and Judgment (French only, pdf)

EU-KOSOVO-SERBIA: Kosovo-Serbia border talks in stalemate (Balkan Insight): "Talks on implementing the "Integrated Border Management Agreement" and preparing for the next round of the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia on January 17 ended inconclusively on Tuesday"

EU: Iceland slows down EU membership talks (Novinite)

EU: Ireland to back Bulgaria's Schengen bid (Novinite): "Bulgaria has fulfilled all requirements for joining the Schengen area and Ireland is ready to support its membership bid. The statement was made Tuesday by His Excellency John Rowan, Ambassador of Ireland in Bulgaria"

EU: Irish EU Council Presidency proposes destruction of right to privacy (EDRi): "The Irish Presidency of the European Council has distributed a "discussion paper" on the protection of citizens' personal data ahead of this week's Justice and Home Affairs Council in Dublin. As the first Presidency in this “European Year of the Citizen”, we had every reason to expect the Irish to produce novel ways of protecting citizens. Their first suggestions are definitely novel, but certainly are not protective of citizens' fundamental rights"

EU: Large increase in EU arms exports revealed - but annual report is untransparent, incomplete and unpublicised (European Network Against Arms Trade): "The “Fourteenth Annual Report on Exports Control of Military Technology and Equipment” reveals that in 2011 European Union (EU) countries licensed arms exports valued at 37.5 billion euro – an increase of almost one fifth on 2010. The largest and fastest growing markets for weapons were in the Middle East and Asia, including countries embroiled in the uprisings of 2011, while Saudi Arabia replaced the USA as the largest customer." See: Fourteenth Annual Report on Exports Control of Military Technology and Equipment (18.8mb, pdf)

EU: Ukraine will signs agreement with EU, says PM (Epoch Times): "Ukraine’s prime minister says that the country will be ready this year to sign the much anticipated association agreement with the European Union. Finalizing the agreement may, however, prove difficult for Ukraine. The agreement was created in 2011 and would establish a free-trade agreement and visa-free travel, but it requires Ukraine to go through—or at least take steps toward—some serious reforms"

French president faces a potential Mali quagmire (Global Post): "In Mali, French troops face a formidable enemy in a hostile Saharan environment. The conflict could last months"

From the age of the warrior to the age of the drone: The new face of modern warfare (Urban Times)

GERMANY: Serbia tops Germany's asylum seekers list (Balkan Insight): "Data from the German Foreign Ministry show that 8,477 of the 64,539 people who requested asylum in Germany in 2012 came from Serbia, ranking the country first in the list of asylum seekers"

GREECE: Police chief disbands Volos narcotics squad after officer's arrest for dealing (Ekathimerini): "The head of the Greek Police, Nikos Papagiannopoulos, gave orders on Wednesday for the anti-drugs squad in Volos, central Greece, to be disbanded and reformed after a second officer from the agency was arrested on suspicion of selling banned substances"

GREECE: Police clash with protesters objecting tax office merger (Ekathimerini): "Police fired tear gas on Wednesday outside the premises of a tax office in Naoussa, northern Greece, to disperse representatives of local businesses protesting the merging of the office with another in the nearby town of Veria"

ITALY: Experts says medical staff failed to save arrested Cucchi (Gazzetta del Sud): "Doctors and nurses paid no attention to the mistreatment and malnutrition that took the life of Italian detainee Stefano Cucchi, according to an expert report released Wednesday during a criminal court trial into his death"

ITALY: Two prison guards injured in Italian juvenile prison row (Gazzetta del Sud)

Macedonia opposition threatens bigger protests (Balkan Insight): "Opposition Social Democrats threaten to intensify road blockades after Friday, if the government has not by then accepted their terms for taking part in the next elections"

NETHERLANDS: Dutch media reports total failure of xenophobic site (Novinite): "Dutch daily NRC Handelbslad has reported a full failure for the controversial website created by the far-right PVV party of Geert Wilders"

NETHERLANDS: The right-wing VVD were the big winners of coalition formation (Dutch News): "The right-wing Liberal VVD emerged from the cabinet formation process more strongly than the Labour party (PvdA), according to an analysis of the new government’s plans"

NORWAY: Breivik defence counsel goes public (The Foreigner): "Geir Lippestad, who defended Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Behring Breivik, is to publish his account of the trial"

POLAND: Blogger charged with insulting Polish president (The News): "A 42-year-old man is due to stand trial under the controversial charge of insulting the Polish head of state, marking the second such case during the presidency of Bronislaw Komorowski"

UK: Bexhill camp resists (SchNews): "In what looks like turning into a long and protracted ruck for the future of Combe Haven Valley, the main camp at Bexhill took to the trees and tunnels as bailiffs and police arrived on mass this Wednesday (16th)"

UK: llicit Arms Trade (BBC Radio 4): "File on 4 investigates the British arms dealers brokering weapons for some of the world's most dangerous regimes. Some have done work for the Ministry of Defence. One was even a firearms advisor to the Home Office. Allan Urry asks what this means for the UK's licensing and arms export regimes, claimed to be among the best in the world"

UK: Media organisations question Government's legal basis for copyright reforms (Out-Law.com): "A number of major media organisations have threatened to launch a legal challenge to proposed new laws affecting the UK's copyright framework"

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