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September 18, 2021

European round-up

EU steps up fight against human trafficking and child sex predators

The European commission called this week for tougher laws against human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children, saying Europe is losing the battle against these crimes, reads a communiqué. Few reliable statistics exist on the number of people trafficked into or within Europe, but it is probably around several hundred thousand, mostly for prostitution and menial labour. Yet in 2006, the most recent year for which figures are available, prosecutors brought just 1 500 criminal trafficking cases to court in the whole of the EU. Only 3 000 victims received assistance. Trafficking in humans is extremely profitable, and most traffickers are professional organised criminals. Most are based outside the EU but there are now growing networks inside too, especially since the bloc’s eastward expansion. Existing laws would be updated, encouraging EU countries to go after nationals who commit crimes in other countries and to use more aggressive methods for investigating organised crime, like phone taps. The draft rules also call for more consistency in how EU law is applied from one country to another and for more protection and assistance for victims. Independent national bodies would be set up to monitor implementation.

Child pornography sites to be blocked

Concerning the sexual exploitation of children, the commission wants a combination of harsher penalties and more effective treatment for offenders. The new laws would also restrict offenders from activities involving contact with children. About 20% of convicted child sex predators become repeat offenders. Systems would be developed to block access to child porn sites. Studies suggest between 10% and 20% of children in Europe will suffer some form of sexual abuse during their youth. Some kinds of abuse are on the rise, including websites devoted to child pornography.

High-speed Internet not the answer,
say satellite operators

The EU’s strategy for connecting more people to the Internet is “a little detached from reality,” argues Aarti Holla from the European Satellite Operators Association. In an interview with EurActiv, the ESOA secretary-general said countries will lose money by focusing on Internet speeds. Recently, the Commission has said it wants 50 per cent of the EU to have speeds of 30 MBs by 2013 and 100 MBs by 2020. The EU and the US are both feeling the heat coming from Asia’s dominant connectivity to the Internet, and are investing heavily to catch up with their eastern competitors. The EU’s Internet penetration rate, at 28% per 100 inhabitants, is almost half that of Asia. The long-standing argument against satellite has been that it is slower but Holla insists the EU has room for a mixture of different technologies. History has shown that a fixation on speed via land-based fibre networks could drain public authorities of valuable resources that would be better spent elsewhere, Holla said. On balance, it appears that terrestrial broadband is cheaper than satellite. In 2008 the average monthly subscription fell to €37 a month compared to €52 a month in 2007, according to figures from the European Commission. EU projects exploring satellite’s usefulness also concluded that terrestrial network capacity can be saved by exploiting the advantages of satellite technology.

Europe`s first ever execution-free year undone by Belarus

For the first time ever, no one was executed anywhere on the continent of Europe last year, according to Amnesty International`s annual executions report, a human rights record that was undone just a few days ago when Belarus executed two individuals some time around 18 March, according to EUObserver. While the European Union outlaws capital punishment from Lapland to Lisbon and campaigns for its universal abolition, and a total of 48 out of 50 European states have abolished the practice, Belarus is the last European country to retain the death penalty. In a letter to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, on Tuesday the human rights watchdog called on her to condemn the Belarussian executions, in which two men were shot, and to step up the campaign for an international moratorium on the death penalty. The group said that hoped Ms Ashton would make abolition of the death penalty one of “top priorities” of the External Action Service, the EU`s new diplomatic corps. By the afternoon, the high representative`s office had put out a policy statement on Belarus, expressing “grave concern” at the harassment of journalists, NGOs and opposition groups. The two men who were executed were the last two individuals on death row in the country and were sentenced last year for a pair of murders, committed separately. Their families were not informed of the executions, and only found that their relatives had been killed when one mother went to deliver a food parcel and was informed of the executions. Their names were Andrei Zhuk and Vasily Yuzepchuk.

EC updates list of airlines banned from European airspace

The European Commission has adopted on Tuesday the thirteenth update of the Community’s list of airlines banned in the European Union to include all air carriers of two additional countries: Sudan and the Philippines, on the basis of safety assessments by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). With this update, restrictions placed on Air Koryo from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and TAAG from Angola are partially lifted under certain conditions, while the operations of Iran Air will be restricted.

Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for Transport, said: “Safety comes first. We are ready to support countries that need to build up technical and administrative capacity to guarantee the necessary standards in civil aviation. But we cannot accept that airlines fly into the EU if they do not fully comply with international safety standards.”

The Commission imposes an operating ban on all operations of Sudanese air carriers, due to a poor safety performance of the civil aviation authority of Sudan resulting from persistent non-compliance with international standards in the area of oversight. The Commission acknowledges the recent efforts launched by the competent authorities to reform the civil aviation system in the Philippines and steps taken to address safety deficiencies reported by the FAA and ICAO and measures taken by two carriers – Philippines Airlines and Cebu Airlines – to ensure safety of operations. It is ready to support the Philippines to overcome serious safety deficiencies.

Following an examination of the safety of Iran Air’s operations into the EU through ramp checks of its aircraft in the Community, evidence of serious incidents and accidents suffered by the carrier and insufficient oversight from the authority over the past year, the Air Safety Committee concluded unanimously that the operations of Iran Air to the EU should be restricted. The carrier will only be allowed to use certain aircraft for flights to Europe.

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