Paintings on Cuba Exhibited at European Parliament

The European Parliament hosted a four-day exhibition of paintings on Cuba made by painters Francisco Arredondo, from Cuba, and Linda Starbatty, from Germany, said today diplomatic sources.

Norma Goicochea, Cuban Ambassador in Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union, visited the exhibition that tackles Cuban religion and culture.

Arredondo said that the paintings show his view on the African cultures prevailing in Cuba, which he represented with symbols, rites and signs.

Arredondo added that the color is used as a symbol to express feelings and emotions, to share representations and ceremonies as means to balance the composition.

Meanwhile, Starbatty's paintings show buildings and landscapes from the cities of Baracoa and Havana, with the evident influence of Yoruba religion and Cuban culture.

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Terrorist threat higher in Europe than anywhere else except war zones – EUCOM chief

The threat posed by violent extremism is higher in Europe than anywhere else in the world, apart from actual war zones and hotspots, US European Command head General Curtis Scaparrotti said, commenting on Wednesday’s terrorist attack in London.

“The number of threat streams that we have of this type within Europe – it’s probably higher in Europe than any other part of the globe, with the exception of the places we’re actually physically fighting [terrorists], like Syria […] Afghanistan and Iraq,” the senior US military leader in Europe, who is also NATO's Supreme Allied Commander, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

He said that Europe is faced with a “difficult challenge” posed by extremists.

 
©

Europe is challenged by both the flow of terrorists returning from Syria and other places. They’re challenged by an internal threat of those inspired by ISIS [Islamic State or IS] or directed by ISIS and this is another, an example of the attacks that we’ve seen in Europe in the past year. It’s a difficult challenge.”

On Wednesday five people, including the assailant, were killed in the attack in central London, after a car plowed into pedestrians near the British Parliament. Police identified the attacker as 52-year-old British citizen and Muslim convert Khalid Masood, born Adrian Russell Ajao. Eight more people were detained in connection with the case in raids at six different UK locations.
IS claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the terrorist group’s ‘news agency’ Amaq.

Scaparrotti expressed his condolences to those injured or killed in the tragedy, noting that the United States is ready to further support its NATO ally, the UK.

 
© Denis Balibouse

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to these victims and their families impacted by this senseless attack. We strongly condemn this attack, and will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our NATO ally, and our partners, to defeat terrorism,” he stated.

Asked by committee Chairman John McCain whether there is any “connection” between the increased European terrorism threat and the inflow of refugees from the globe’s hotspots, Scaparotti said he is particularly concerned by the criminal groups that smuggle asylum seekers into Europe illegally.

He stated that apart from people whose identities it is difficult to establish given the circumstances of their arrival into Europe, these groups “are more than willing to move equipment, personnel, weapons” to carry out terrorist plots.

Before reports of the London attack broke on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hosted a meeting of 68 nations of the global anti-IS coalition, aimed at finding ways to defeat the jihadists and reduce the spread of terrorism on a global scale.

READ MORE: Brussels district hosts 51 NGOs with suspected terrorist links – report

While stressing the importance of IS’ defeat, Tillerson warned against a possible spillover of the terrorist threat to other areas once the group is defeated in the Middle East.

“As we stabilize areas encompassing ISIS' phony physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria, we also must prevent their seeds of hatred from taking root elsewhere,” he said, as cited by Military.com.

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Hungary Training 3,000 Civilians to Hunt Down Migrants

Orban would undoubtedly support Trump in his bid to build a wall at the Mexican border.

U.S. President Donald Trump made promises to enforce border security, specifically with neighbors Mexico. This has yet to come to fruition. But on the other side of the pond Trump will find a kindred spirit in Hungarian authorities.

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The European country is training thousands of civilians to provide extra security for its southern border. Hungary shares a border with Croatia and Serbia in that area. These states are not a part of the 'free travel' schengen group – a coalition of European countries that seemingly operate without borders. The more than two dozen states in this group have discontinued the use of passports and promote borderless travel throughout.

The 523 km border to the south of Hungary is secured with a razor-wire fence and is already heavily patrolled, an ordered given by Prime Minister Viktor Orban two years ago. The government stated that this measure has already prevented thousands of illegal crossings. But they are eagar to shore up the sector regardless. Hungary has employed the services of 3,000 civilians to train in combat and arrest techniques. This, they say, is to provide reinforcement for the 10,000 security forces who are currently charged with patrolling the area.

RELATED: US Bans Large Electronics From 8 Muslim Country Airline Flights

Orban would no doubt support Trump – who he has enjoyed positive exchanges with – in his bid to build a wall at the Mexican border. “He invited me to Washington, I told him that I hadn’t been there for a long time as I had been treated as a ‘black sheep’, to which he replied, laughing: ‘Me too’.” The prime minister said in an interview published online by business daily Vilaggazdasag that Trump made it clear to him that “he thinks highly of Hungary.”

Trump and Orban also share other ideologies. Hungary along with Poland, Czechia and Slovakia are less than receptive to immigrants entering Europe from Africa and the Middle East.

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Brussels installs memorial to mark attack anniversary

A Belgian artist is installing a metal sculpture shaped like rising waves near the seat of the European Union to honor the victims of the militant attacks on Brussels a year ago that killed 32 people and wounded hundreds.

On March 22, 2016, three Islamic State suicide bombers targeted Brussels airport and a metro train in the capital, the deadliest such attack in Belgian history. It followed coordinated attacks on Paris four months earlier that killed 130 people and sent shockwaves across Europe and beyond.

The sculpture by Jean-Henri Compere is called "Wounded But Still Standing in Front of the Inconceivable" and is constructed from two 20-metre (66 feet) long horizontal surfaces rising skywards.

"Well, it means we've been wounded down to the ground, but we have to stand up and say 'no' to those acts that are not believable, that are not bearable," Compere told Reuters at the memorial site.

Compere said the sculpture could also symbolize two plane wings, or a subway train.

"It's a piece that should stay in the city," he said. "I want that the sculpture lives with the city, that it takes on its sheen, that it gets through the years, because time helps us build ourselves back up."

The memorial will be unveiled on March 22, exactly one year after the attacks.

"I like the fact that it's supposed to visualize the strength of the city and the resilience of the city," said U.S. citizen Evan Lamps, 31, who works in Brussels.

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Turkey could send 15k refugees a month to Europe to ‘blow its mind’ – interior minister

Turkey's interior minister says Ankara could send 15,000 refugees a month to Europe, to “blow its mind.” He said the bloc is “playing games” to prevent Turkey from becoming strong, taking direct aim at Germany and the Netherlands.

“I’m telling you, Europe, do you have that courage? If you want, we could open the way for 15,000 refugees that we don’t send each month and blow your mind,” Süleyman Soylu said late Thursday, according to Hurriyet.

The minister was referring to a deal between the EU and Ankara, under which Turkey agreed to help stop the flow of refugees across its border and take back migrants rejected for asylum in Europe.

 
FILE PHOTO. © Eric Vidal

Ankara agreed to the deal in exchange for billions in refugee assistance from the EU and accelerated talks on becoming a member of the bloc.

It also rallied for visa-free travel to Europe's Schengen zone as part of the deal, but was told by the EU that a list of 72 conditions must first be met – a key sticking point of which is Turkey's strict anti-terrorism laws, which Europe has said must be loosened in order for the agreement to go ahead.

The EU parliament has also expressed concern about Turkey's “disproportionate” reaction to last year's failed coup attempt, which prompted Ankara to launch a mass crackdown. Those targeted included Turkish opposition figures, teachers, journalists, and civil servants deemed sympathetic to Kurdish separatism and self-exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey says was the mastermind behind the unrest.

Europe's hesitation to fulfill its side of the refugee deal has led to Ankara threatening to pull out of the agreement numerous times. However, a German government spokesman said on Friday that there are no signs that the refugee deal has been suspended, Reuters reported.

Soylu went on to specifically address Germany and the Netherlands, both of which have interfered with rallies aimed at encouraging expatriate Turks to vote ‘yes’ in an upcoming referendum which would give Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers.

 
© Umit Bektas

“Who are the main ones trying to get things done? Germany and the Netherlands. Are the elections going to be held in Germany? Will the charter change in Germany or the Netherlands?” he asked, referring to the April 16 referendum.

“This is our internal issue. What do you care? Why are you getting involved in it? Did you accept Turkey into the European Union? Did you provide support to Turkey in its fight against terrorism?” he said.

“There are games being played against Turkey in order to prevent it from becoming strong in the future,” Soylu said.

He went on to state that Turkey is in its strongest period and that “some people can't handle it.”

Turkey has been particularly vocal against the Netherlands in recent days, after Dutch authorities banned ministers from addressing a rally in Rotterdam and dispersed hundreds of protests outside the Turkish consulate on Sunday.

Erdogan has made his distaste for the country well known since then, accusing it of acting like “Nazi remnants,” state terrorism, and having a “rotten” character.

Ankara has also imposed diplomatic sanctions on the Netherlands, suspending high-level talks and barring the Dutch ambassador from returning to Turkey.

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Bodies of more than 70 migrants wash up on Libya's coast

(CNN)The bodies of 74 migrants have been recovered by the Libyan Red Crescent after washing up on the country's northern coast near the city of Zawiya.

Circumstances surrounding the incident are unclear but a torn rubber dinghy was reportedly found nearby. Volunteers, who responded to a call yesterday morning, say they believe the individuals drowned while trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.
 
"There are still bodies in the sea but our team could not reach them because the sea is very troubling and they don't have boats so they can't reach them easily," Taha K. Sultan Elbarghathi, international relations officer for the Libyan Red Crescent, told CNN.
 
"74 have been collected and the rest are expected to wash ashore too," Elbarghathi said, adding that this was the biggest number of bodies retrieved by the local Zawiya branch in a single mission.
 
He said the bodies are all those of African men, of varying ages; their boat is thought to have got into difficulties at the weekend.
 
 
Libyan Red Crescent volunteers collect the bodies of men who drowned and were washed ashore.
Elbarghathi said they are uncertain how many migrants were on the vessel but that there could have been around 150 individuals on board, given the type of dinghy recovered nearby.
 
He said: "We don't know the exact time the boat capsized but the boat did not totally sink ... One of the sides has lost its air."
 
Photographs posted to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Twitter account for the Middle East and North Africa show dozens of black body bags lining the shore as aid workers stand nearby.
 
Volunteers have spotted more bodies in the water but have so far been unable to reach them.
Volunteers are continuing to collect bodies as they wash ashore and prepare them for transfer to a local hospital.
 
 
"It's another one of the tragic incidents that have happened so far this year and certainly reminds us that the risk faced these days (is) one that often goes unnoticed by most of the world," Stephen Ryan, IFRC spokesperson told CNN.
 
Ryan said statistics from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) indicate the number of migrants crossing between Libya and Europe is on the rise.

"And in fact, although still early, the numbers of people that have successfully made the journey is higher than it was last year."
 
In the first weeks of 2017, 272 migrants and refugees have drowned in the Mediterranean, according to the IOM. Last year was the deadliest year on record for migrant deaths at sea, with 5,082 lives lost.
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Romania confidence vote falls but more protests planned

The Romanian government has survived a no-confidence vote, called after mass protests forced it to scrap a decree that would have weakened anti-corruption measures.

Lawmakers from the three-party ruling coalition abstained, denying opponents the 50% support needed to pass the vote.

More protests are planned this weekend.

The decree has been scrapped, but protesters say the government has proved itself untrustworthy.

They also fear that new legislation, promised by the prime minister when he abolished the decree, might contain some of the same elements in a different form.

Read more:

Was government U-turn strategic retreat or surrender?

Protesters not backing down after decree repeal

Protesters light up huge rally with phone torches

The decree would have decriminalised abuse of power offences where sums of less than €44,000 (£38,000; $47,500) were involved.

That was seen by many as an attempt by the government to let off many of its own officials caught in an anti-corruption drive. The government had argued that the changes were needed to reduce prison overcrowding and align certain laws with the constitution.

On Tuesday, President Klaus Iohannis accused the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) of plunging the country into crisis with its "strange kamikaze strategy" only two months after convincingly winning national elections.

Mr Iohannis, who is a member of the opposition centre-right National Liberal Party, told a joint session of parliament that it was too early to hold snap elections.

But he called on the government to come up with solutions. Social Democratic legislators staged a walk-out.

The Constitutional Court is due to rule this week on whether decree number 13, the legal measure which provoked mass demonstrations, broke the constitution or not.

The decree has already been revoked, but the court's ruling too will affect what the government does next, says the BBC's Nick Thorpe in Bucharest.

The issue has sparked Romania's largest protests since communism fell in 1989.

Lawmakers of the ruling coalition leave the hall as sign of protest against Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, who is addressing both parliament chambers (background, at the tribune) at the parliament headquarters in Bucharest, Romania, 7 February 2017President Iohannis's stark criticism of the government's handling of its first two months in office prompted ruling lawmakers to walk out on Tuesday / EPA

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Stranded Migrants in Greek Camp Protest over Living Conditions

About 60,000 refugees and migrants have been stranded in Greece from border shutdowns throughout the Balkans.

A group of migrants and refugees on Monday blocked a Greek minister from entering the former Athens airport terminal, where they have been stranded for months, in a protest against their living conditions.

Dozens of protesters, among them many children, rallied outside a gate chanting, "Go, Go!" and "Liar!" to Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas. One migrant handed him a crying child as he reached the chained gate.

The government wants to clear out the entire compound, which consists of venues used in the 2004 Olympic Games and the former Athens airport, as Greece has agreed to lease it to private investors under its bailout program. About 1,600 people, mostly Afghans, are camped in these facilities.

About 600 people live at the former arrivals' terminal where Monday's protest took place.

The protest, a day after local media reported that a group of migrants were going on hunger strike, was brief. Mouzalas said the reports that they were going on hunger strike were unfounded.

About 60,000 refugees and migrants have been stranded in Greece from border shutdowns throughout the Balkans, halting the onward journey many planned to take to central and western Europe.

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