Round-up of news stories from across the EU 27.5.16

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France PM Valls hints at tweaks to labour laws as strikes and protests go on (euronews, link): "France has been hit by another day of strikes and protests against controversial labour reforms.


Public transport, oil refineries and fuel supplies, nuclear power stations… all continued to be disrupted on Thursday.

The state rail company SNCF said fewer trains were affected than during a similar strike last week.

Estimates for the number of protesters on the streets mirrored the gap between the government and its opponents: 19,000 in Paris said the authorities; 100,000 was the unions’ figure.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls has insisted the government will not withdrawn the law and will break up the blockades. He has hinted there could be some tweaks to the reforms but not on any of its key measures."

NETHERLANDS: Shrinking Civic and Democratic Space (Pakhuis de Zwijger, link): "We witness worrying trends of systematic crackdown on civil and individual liberties across Europe. From Hungary to Spain, from France to Poland, democracy and the freedom of expression and assembly has been undermined by democratically elected governments. This escalation of measures has led to recently speaking about “Illiberal democracies”. But while Europe remained silent for a long while in the defense of its founding values, regressive forces have gained growing audience, with the risk in the long run to seriously undermine solidarity and trust in a common future.

The workshop will enquire civil society capacity to channel democratic frustration into positive action and resistance to such worrying tendencies."

Romania positioned as Eastern Europe’s hub of ballistic missile defence as NATO’s Aegis Ashore facility certified operational (Defence IQ, link): "In one of the most significant European missile defence developments in recent years, the Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defence facility at the Deveselu facility in Romania was declared operational on 12 May.

The missile defence installation is designed to detect, track, engage, and destroy ballistic missiles in flight outside the atmosphere. Lockheed Martin’s Aegis Ashore is the first operational land-based version of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defence system, a sophisticated collection of phased-array radars, fire control directors, computers and missiles. The Aegis BMD system has been proven in-theatre for over 40 years, which meant Lockheed Martin was well placed to produce the new system for Romania."

SCOTLAND: Police Scotland under fire after new evidence of Sri Lankan torture (The Ferret, link): "Police Scotland is seeking to extend a controversial training project with Sri Lankan police despite new evidence of the force’s involvement in torture, The Ferret can reveal.

Police Scotland had a contract that expired at the end of March this year to train Sri Lankan police officers and develop “ethical leadership” at its National Police Academy.

The project proved highly controversial at the outset in 2012 due to Sri Lanka’s appalling human rights record but Police Scotland defended the new relationship at the time, arguing that it was aiming to improve the human rights situation.

However, a new report from Freedom from Torture revealed that last year 17 Sri Lankan asylum seekers – including a child – who were tortured after President Sirisena’s election in January 2015 were referred to the charity."

UK: Armed police to patrol six London boroughs after rise in gun crime (BBC News, link): "Armed police patrols will target London's gun crime hotspots such as Hackney, Lambeth and Southwark after a rise in the number of shootings.

Met Police chiefs say there are more guns on the streets which have fuelled a "significant" rise in the number of shootings in the past three months.

There were 226 shootings in 2015. So far this year there have been 122, with a particular rise since March.

Newham, Haringey and Brent were also highlighted as shooting hotspots.

Operation Viper, with 50 officers, will aim to crack down on gun crime in the six areas, with marksmen accompanying officers on traffic stops. "

UK: Body-worn cameras associated with increased assaults against police, and increase in use-of-force if officers choose when to activate cameras (University of Cambridge, link): "Preliminary results from eight UK and US police forces reveal rates of assault against officers are 15% higher when they use body-worn cameras. The latest findings, from one of the largest randomised-controlled trials in criminal justice research, highlight the need for cameras to be kept on and recording at all stages of police-public interaction – not just when an individual officer deems it necessary – if police use-of-force and assaults against police are to be reduced. "

UK: Finding the blacklist (The Independent, link): "Phil Chamberlain is associate head of department for broadcast and journalism and teaches investigative journalism to MA students. He has 20 years of experience writing for national newspapers and magazines. Here he explains how one article led to an eight-year investigation to uncover how the UK’s biggest construction companies secretly conspired to deny thousands of people work."

UK: Gross misconduct against five officers /police staff proven after IPCC investigates Hull custody incident (IPCC, link): "An IPCC investigation into an incident in which a man with broken legs was strip searched and left naked in a cell for five hours, has led to disciplinary proceedings against several Humberside Police officers and staff, along with recommendations for improving detainee handling in custody.

The IPCC independently investigated the circumstances surrounding the arrest of a 49-year-old man in Hull on 13 February, 2014 and his detention at Clough Road police station. The IPCC’s investigator expressed the view that there was a case to answer for the way the man had been treated by some police and detention officers.

The man, who spoke little English, was taken in a police van after being arrested. No action was subsequently taken against him after it was discovered the allegation was a false report."

UK: MSP calls for probe into undercover police activities to be extended to Scotland (Holyrood, link): "A Labour MSP has called on Scottish politicians to back the extension of an inquiry into the undercover activities of police officers to Scotland.

The Pitchford Inquiry was set up to look into police infiltration of political of political and social justice campaign groups in England and Wales.

However, Labour MSP Neil Findlay has written to all Scottish MPs, MSPs and MEPs, urging then to add their voice to calls for the probe to be extended to Scotland.

Findlay said that if the UK Government does not agree to such a move that Scotland should hold its own inquiry into the alleged activities of undercover police who targeted campaigners. "

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