News Digest: round-up of news stories from across Europe (13.5.16)

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BULGARIA: Ombudsman: Burqas Ban Should Be about Discrimination, Not National Security (Novinite, link): "Bulgaria's National Ombudsman Maya Manolova has warned that restrictions to wearing full-face veils, introduced on some cities, should not be justified with national security as they are unlikely to address the issue.

The right to covering most of one's face and body, however, clashes with non-discrimination and gender equality principles despite the fact that religious garments are part of the European Convention on Human Rights."

CROATIA: Croatian Journalists Protest for Freedom of the Press (, link): "Around 200 journalists protested in front of the Croatian Ministry of Culture because of violations of the freedom of the press. They demanded the resignation of Minister of Culture Zlatko Hasanbegovic and laid their pencils in front of a banner with the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the article of the Constitution about the freedom of the media. It was a symbolic act to point out that the government buried these rights. The Croatian Journalists' Association warned that, after the last change of government, the level of media freedom is the lowest in the last 25 years."

EU: Slovakian Presidency of the Council: Slovakia to fight EU 'fragmentation' (EUobserver, link): "Slovakia's main objective when it takes the EU Council presidency in July will be to avoid "fragmentation" and combat the perception of an East-West divide, its Europe minister has said.

"Buzzword number one is to tackle fragmentation," Ivan Korcok told journalists in Brussels on Thursday (12 May).

He said there were "many good reasons to spread defeatism across Europe", but he did not share the view of an East-West divide and insisted Slovakia regarded its role "from a positive angle"."

Germany to quash historical convictions of gay men (The Guardian, link): "Germany is to annul the convictions of tens of thousands of gay men who were criminalised under a 19th-century law.

More than 50,000 men were convicted and sentenced to sometimes lengthy jail terms between 1946 and 1969 under the infamous Paragraph 175, which deemed homosexuality to be a punishable crime.

While homosexuality was decriminalised in 1969, the law was not abolished until 1994 and the sentences were never lifted."

GERMANY: Munich police brace for rival protests at anti-refugee party's meeting (The Guardian, link): "Rival demonstrations are expected to take place on Friday night outside one of Munich’s best-known beer halls, where Adolf Hitler gave his first political speech and where the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party is hosting a meeting.

Police in the southern German city said they were ready to respond and were “fully determined” to prevent a repeat of violent clashes that saw more than 400 demonstrators arrested outside the rightwing party’s first full conference in Stuttgart last month.

“We hope everything will go peacefully but if it doesn’t, we’re ready,” a spokesman said."

Italy approves gay civil unions after long parliamentary battle (Reuters, link): "Italy's parliament approved same-sex civil unions and gave some rights to unmarried heterosexual couples on Wednesday after Prime Minister Matteo Renzi called a confidence vote to force the bill into law.

Italy is the last major Western country to legally recognize gay couples and an original draft law had to be heavily diluted due to divisions in Renzi's ruling majority.

The bill had faced stiff opposition from Catholic groups who said it went too far, while gay activists said it was too timid."

NORTHERN IRELAND: Attorney General orders fresh inquest into shooting of escaped internee Hugh Coney (The Irish News, link): "ATTORNEY General John Larkin has ordered a fresh inquest into the death of a Co Tyrone man shot dead while trying to escape from Long Kesh internment camp more than 40 years ago.

Hugh Gerard Coney was shot in the back by a British soldier as he and other internees tried to escape in November 1974.

From Annaghmore, near Coalisland, Mr Coney was detained without charge in June 1973.

An inquest held in 1975 delivered an open verdict and his family has been campaigning to have the case re-examined."

UK, Bulgaria PMs Talk Migration, Corruption, Energy Security (Novinite, link): "The migration crisis in Europe, protection of borders, fight against corruption, and energy security have been discussed in a meeting between Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and his British counterpart David Cameron in London.

"We talked about the processes that unfold between the [European] Commission, [European] Parliament and Turkey, the state of our border," Borisov said after the meeting, according to a news release from the government press office in Sofia."

UK: Hillsborough victims honoured with freedom of Liverpool (The Guardian, link): "The 96 people who died in the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 are to be posthumously awarded the freedom of the city of Liverpool, the local council has announced.

Kenny Dalglish, the manager of Liverpool FC at the time, and his wife, Marina, are also to be awarded the freedom of the city, along with the former bishop of Liverpool James Jones and Prof Phil Scraton, a campaigner for the bereaved families’ cause."

UK: Still fighting the complacency at the heart of our justice system (The Justice Gap, link): "REVIEW: Miscarriages of justice used to be big news, and investigating them commanded big media budgets. In the 1980s, both Granada and Yorkshire television invested heavily in the issue, making films with high production values and months of research devoted to the cases they chose to examine."

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