Slovak firefighters help fight forest fire on the island of Rhodes

Bratislava (TASR) – Slovak firefighters were deployed to fight a forest fire on the Greek island of Rhodes. They arrived in Athens on Friday morning, spokeswoman Katarína Križanová of the Slovak Presidium of the Fire and Rescue Corps (HaZZ) confirmed. On Saturday, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs announced that the Greek rescue forces had evacuated several Slovak citizens from the fire-hit areas of Rhodes.

Prime Minister Ľudovít Ódor is in intensive contact with the foreign ministry. “The situation is being closely monitored and coordinated with travel agencies. If the situation requires it, we are ready to immediately send a government aircraft to Rhodes,” Interior Ministry spokeswoman Zuzana Eliášová said on Sunday. However, she added that the situation regarding the fire on the Greek island of Rhodes did not require the dispatch of a government special for the time being. (24 July)

First European School on Artificial Intelligence opens in Ljubljana

Ljubljana (STA) – The European Summer School on Artificial Intelligence is underway until Friday at the Faculty of Computer Science and Informatics in Ljubljana, with courses and lectures by world-renowned experts. This is the first edition of the European Summer School on Artificial Intelligence, which is the result of the merger of the summer school organised by the European TAILOR project over the last two years and the long-standing Advanced Course on Artificial Intelligence (ACAI).

This year’s Summer School will feature lectures by top experts from Stanford, Yale, Washington, Oxford, Cambridge, KU Leuven, TU Darmstadt, Sapienza in Rome, CNRS in France, as well as from companies such as Google DeepMind, Microsoft and VMware Research.

According to Vida Groznik of the University of Ljubljana, head of the local organising committee, the conference will be attended by over 570 participants from all parts of Europe, North and Latin America and Asia.

As Groznik explained, recent talk in the field of artificial intelligence has focused largely on language models such as Chat GPT, and the event is intended to present the full scope of artificial intelligence. As such, the event will offer 36 courses that will showcase the full diversity of AI. (24 July)

Divided Spain leaves future of the government in limbo

Madrid (EFE) – Spaniards left the future of their country in suspense after Sunday’s general elections, in which neither the right-wing nor the left-wing bloc won a sufficient majority to govern, meaning that pacts will play a key role for both groups.

Alberto Núñez Feijóo‘s conservative Popular Party (PP) was the winner with 136 seats, with more than 99 percent of the votes counted, while the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) of the now Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez won 122 seats. Santiago Abascal‘s far-right Vox lost 19 seats in these elections, leaving it with 33 deputies in Congress, while Sumar, the left-wing coalition led by the second Vice-President of the government and Minister of Labour, Yolanda Díaz, came in fourth with 31 seats, four seats less than its predecessor Unidas Podemos had won in the previous elections.

With these results, neither of the two left/right blocs have an absolute majority, which in Spain is set at 176 seats.

Among the Catalan pro-independence parties, ERC suffered a severe setback, falling from 13 to seven deputies, while Junts per Catalunya lost one deputy and is now left with six. Meanwhile, the Basque pro-independence party EH-Bildu overtook the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) for the first time, with six deputies compared to five. Despite declines, these parties could still hold the key to forming a government.

Voter turnout in these elections was 70.18 per cent, almost four points higher than in the general election of 10 November 2019, when it was 66.23 per cent, according to official data. This increase was influenced by the postal vote of 2.4 million voters, a historic figure in Spanish democracy, due to the holiday period in which these elections were held. (23 July)

Von der Leyen: The migration agreement with Tunisia is a model for others

Rome (Tanjug) – The EU’s migration agreement with Tunisia could serve as a model for other countries, said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. She stressed that the EU was fighting to stop the flow of illegal migrants across the Mediterranean.

Last week, the EU and Tunisia signed a “strategic partnership agreement” that includes cracking down on people smugglers and tightening border controls. “We want our agreement with Tunisia to be a model and a plan for future partnerships with other countries,” von der Leyen told a conference in Rome.

Illegal flows of migrants were damaging Mediterranean countries, said Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, calling for a joint fight against human traffickers. Contrary to previous hardline rhetoric, Meloni stated during her presentation in Rome that her government was open to accepting more refugees who came legally, pointing out that “immigration is needed both in Italy and in Europe.”

“Mass illegal immigration harms everyone. It only benefits criminal groups who enrich themselves at the expense of the weakest and use their power even against governments,” Meloni warned.

In addition to the EU-Tunisia deal on migration, agreements have also been reached under which the EU will invest money in digitalisation, the modernisation of education and sustainable energy projects in Tunisia, among other things. Brussels wants to reach agreements of this kind with several countries, which was confirmed by Meloni, who called it “a new model of relations with countries in North Africa.” (23 July)

Habeck stresses need for free trade agreement with India

New Delhi (dpa) – German Economy Minister Robert Habeck has stressed the need for a free trade agreement between the EU and India, but expects complicated negotiations. India is currently not the only country the EU is negotiating free trade agreements with and, in New Delhi on Thursday, the Green politician said that the agreement with India would certainly be one of the most difficult. “That has to be said, because India has a tradition of protecting its market,” Habeck stated. “That would have to be overcome.” Conversely, India also demands a lot from Europe, such as easier access to patents.

“With regard to the details, interests do not necessarily run parallel,” Habeck said. The trade deal was complicated, he added. “That is why it has taken so long and no progress has been made. At the same time, we have to see what opportunities are now involved and what needs to be done. And that is why I am very much in favour of putting more effort into it now.”

During a visit to India in February, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had said that he wanted to speed up the negotiations on the free trade agreement between the EU and India. “I am in favour of developing more pressure now, of developing a strong will,” he said at the time after talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi.

The EU and India have been trying to reach a free trade agreement for years. Negotiations took place from 2007 to 2013, but failed. From Germany’s point of view, the obstacles included protective measures for the Indian car sector. Negotiations resumed last year. (20 July)

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