EU Court: Search and rescue ships can be inspected in case of risks

Brussels (ANSA) – Vessels carrying out search and rescue operations at sea and belonging to humanitarian organizations such as Sea Watch can be inspected by the port authorities in the state of landing. However, “the port state may adopt detention measures only in the event of a clear risk to safety, health or the environment, for which the burden of proof lies with the state.” This was determined on Monday, August 1, by the Court of Justice of the European Union in response to preliminary questions by the Sicilian Regional Administrative Courts (TAR) in the case Sea Watch against Italy.

The case examined by the EU court relates to events which occurred in the summer of 2020: After having landed migrants rescued at sea in Palermo and Empedocle, the ships Sea Watch 3 and Sea Watch 4 were subjected to inspection by the respective harbor master’s offices on the grounds that they had no authorization for search and rescue (SAR) operations at sea, and the number of people embarked clearly exceeded the applicable safety limits.

On Monday, the Grand Chamber of the EU Court of Justice for the first time acknowledged “a fundamental duty to render assistance to persons in danger or distress at sea.” Rescued persons therefore “must not be taken into account” when verifying compliance with the authorizations granted, regardless of the type of vessel used. Rescued persons on board therefore do not yet constitute a situation that per se justifies a review. According to the EU judges, the port state may order an inspection, but in order to do so must prove serious indications of a risk on board or to the environment. And it is up to the referring court to verify that these conditions exist.

Moreover, Italy “does not have the power to demand proof” that ships engaged in SAR activities have certificates other than those issued by the flag state, “or that they comply with all the requirements applicable to another classification.” “In the event that the inspection reveals the existence of deficiencies,” a court note continues, “the port state has the power to adopt such corrective measures as it deems necessary.” They must, however, be “suitable, necessary and proportionate.” (August 1)

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Deportations of illegal migrants from Pakistan

Sarajevo (FENA) – Bosnia and Herzegovina is the first country on the Western Balkan migrant route to begin with the deportation of Pakistani citizens illegally residing in the state.

After completing complex and lengthy procedures, the BiH Service for Foreigners returned the first group of migrants from Sarajevo International Airport under the Agreement on Readmission between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Pakistan, which was signed in November 2020, the Ministry of Security of BiH announced.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the few countries that was able to sign such an agreement with Pakistan and to start carrying out forced deportations. The readmission will also be used to check the effectiveness of return procedures. Afterwards, it is expected that the return of further groups of illegal migrants from other countries will follow. Pakistani citizens are one of the biggest groups of illegal migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although the total number of illegal migrants has been significantly reduced in the last few years, around 1,500 of them are still accommodated in special camps near Sarajevo and Bihać in Northwest Bosnia. (July 31)

Eurozone grows while inflation hits record high

Brussels (dpa/ EFE) – The Eurozone economy grew significantly stronger than expected in the spring. In the second quarter, the gross domestic product (GDP) of the 19 euro countries grew by 0.7 percent compared to the previous quarter, as the statistics office Eurostat announced on Friday. Economists had expected an average of 0.2 percent. Compared to the same period last year, the Eurozone economy grew by 4 percent. The development was similar across the EU. Of the countries that have already published data, Spain recorded the most significant growth in the eurozone, while the German economy stagnated.

At the same time, year-on-year inflation in the eurozone reached a new record high in July at 8.9 percent. According to Eurostat’s preliminary data, year-on-year inflation in the euro area increased by 0.3 percent from June to July. By segments, energy was the main driver of price increases, although rate of annual increase dropped to 39.7 percent in July (from 42 percent in June). The energy sector was followed by food, alcohol and tobacco, which saw a year-on-year increase of 8.9 percent in June and 9.8 percent in July, while inflation on manufactured goods grew from 4.3 to 4.5 percent. (July 29)


Report: Digital progress still lagging behind

Brussels (AFP) – The EU countries have made progress in adopting digital technologies during the pandemic, but they suffer from a shortage of skilled talent. Small and medium enterprises (SME) are struggling to catch up, according to a report published on Thursday.

Among the 27 member states, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden are the most advanced in digitization, followed by Ireland, Malta and Spain, says the European Commission’s annual report, which is based on the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI).

According to the indicator, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece have the lowest score. The indicator measures progress in four main areas: people’s skills, infrastructure, business transformation and digitization of public services.

France is in 12th place, between Slovenia and Germany. Even the most advanced EU countries “have gaps in key areas,” such as the use of artificial intelligence and big data or the availability of skilled talent, the Commission notes. Only 54 percent of Europeans aged 16-74 have at least “basic digital skills,” it said. The EU is aiming for 80 percent by 2030. (July 28)

Slovenia plans to apply to EU Fund for mitigation of damage caused by fires

Ljubljana (STA) – Following the largest fire in Slovenia’s history, the Slovenian Ministry of Defense is preparing an assessment of the damage, and Slovenia plans to apply for assistance from the EU Solidarity Fund. The fire broke out in the Karst region and devastated some 3,500 hectares of land.

According to Minister of Defense, Damir Črnčec, Slovenia may apply to the EU Solidarity Fund for assistance if the total damage caused by the fires in the Karst region amounts to at least 279 million euros. He expects the damage assessment to be completed by mid-September. If the aid is granted, the funds would mainly be used for infrastructure repairs.

So far, Slovenia has applied for assistance from the fund four times – three times for flood damage and once for hail damage. The amounts of aid received ranged from 7.5 million to 18 million euros. (July 28)

This is a compilation of the European coverage of enr news agencies. It is published Wednesdays and Fridays. The content is an editorial selection based on news by the respective agency.