Von der Leyen after Crotone shipwreck: ‘redouble efforts for migration pact’

Brussels (ANSA) – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has called for redoubling “our efforts on the Pact on Migration & Asylum and on the Action Plan on the Central Mediterranean” after the tragic deaths of migrants that occurred off Steccato di Cutro in southern Italy. “I am deeply saddened by the terrible shipwreck off the coast of Calabria. The resulting loss of life of innocent migrants is a tragedy,” von der Leyen wrote in a tweet.

So far, 59 bodies have been recovered and 80 people rescued. Twenty-one are in hospital, over 100 are presumed dead. The number of dead children is said to be around 20. The boat on which the migrants were traveling, a wooden sailing vessel that left four days ago from Turkey, broke in two because of the rough sea. At the end of 2020, the European Commission had presented a new pact on migration and asylum, including a common European framework for migration and asylum management as well as a crisis preparedness and response system (February 26).

New EU sanctions over Ukraine war target 121 individuals and entities

Brussels (AFP) – The European Union’s new sanctions over the war in Ukraine target 121 individuals and entities, including Iranian drone manufacturers, the EU announced on Saturday.

The successive round of EU measures are “the most far-reaching sanctions ever – depleting Russia’s war arsenal and biting deep into its economy,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. “We are also turning up the pressure on those trying to circumvent our sanctions,” she added.

The latest package of EU sanctions targets an additional 96 Russian entities (companies or state agencies) including three Russian banks, an EU statement said.

The package also covers seven Iranian entities, all of which are manufacturers of explosives drones used by Russia to strike Ukrainian targets, including infrastructure and residential buildings. (February 25)

Marches in major Bulgarian cities to mark one year since the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Sofia (BTA) – Marches in support of Ukraine took place in Sofia and many other Bulgarian cities to mark one year since the start of the war.

In Sofia, the march began with chants of “This is not Moscow”. Participants demanded that Russian Ambassador Eleonora Mitrofanova should be recalled from Bulgaria and that arms should be sent to Ukraine.

President Rumen Radev will honor the Ambassador of Ukraine to Bulgaria, Vitaly Moskalenko, with The Madara Horseman Order – conferred on foreign and Bulgarian nationals with particularly big contributions to the establishment, as well as the strengthening and development of bilateral relations with Bulgaria – for the ambassador’s dedicated work in the difficult conditions of the war against his country. The decoration is also awarded for Moskalenko’s particularly great services to the deepening and expansion of bilateral relations between Bulgaria and Ukraine, the presidency said in a statement.

The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) said that since the first day of the war it has consistently been demanding a policy of supporting diplomatic efforts to achieve peace, of refraining from providing arms to war parties, in favor of de-escalation and against imposing economic sanctions.

The leader of the conservative GERB party Boyko Borissov stated that Bulgaria had to take sides in this aggression and this conflict. He pointed out that he had joined the demand of “Democratic Bulgaria”, submitted three years ago, to dismantle the Soviet Army Monument in Sofia.

Continue the Change Party, which is seen at first or second place by newest express polls before the parliamentary elections on April 2, promised to follow-up on Parliament’s decision to send more weapons to Kiyv. (February 24-27) 

All EU businesses and households to have high-speed internet by 2030

Brussels (Belga) – The European Commission wants to make high-speed internet available to all households and businesses by 2030. On Thursday, European Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton proposed a strategy.

The existing European infrastructure is no longer sufficient to give citizens, businesses and governments smooth access to things like artificial intelligence (AI) or virtual reality, which are likely to play a bigger role in the future. This will require more bandwidth at higher speeds.

Investing in that infrastructure for ‘Gigabit connectivity’ is expensive. The European Commission wants to lower the price tag for governments and network operators by amending a 2014 directive on the rollout of 5G and fiber optic networks. It would speed up the process by reducing red tape as much as possible. For instance, the Commission wants to digitize permit applications and facilitate consultation between local governments and network operators so that they can work together to build underlying infrastructure. According to Breton, cost savings of up to 70% are possible.

The Commission also wants all new or substantially refurbished buildings to have fiber optic lines unless there are valid reasons not to install them, and the European Union’s executive board is going to consult the sector on how to share the costs of rolling out 5G and broadband. “The burden of these investments is increasingly heavy,” Breton said at a press conference in Brussels on Thursday. This is “due, among other things, to the low return on investment in the telecommunications sector, the rising cost of raw materials and the global geopolitical context,” he added.

According to financial news agency Bloomberg, the EU has long been thinking about making major streaming services such as Netflix or YouTube co-pay for telecom infrastructure rollouts. Telecom operators have been demanding this for years. (February 23)

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.