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Footage released in #Romania reveals protester violence and premeditated provocation

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It is rare that Romania makes it onto the news of international television broadcasters and when it does, coverage is usually related to protests.  It is difficult not to be stirred by the sight of large numbers of people on the streets.  International media coverage of Romanian protests is usually brief and very visual.  On 10 August, world attention was drawn to allegations of police violence and international condemnation came quickly, with commentators quick to side with the ‘Rezist’ protestors, writes James Wilson.

Footage and images have been revealed in Romania that show the protestors behaving in a way that suggests they have been instructed.  The videos released in Romania also show protestors violently attacking police and trying to breach government buildings, causing a reassessment of the previously accepted version of events.

One set of footage shows that although half the protest area in Victoriei Square is empty, protestors deliberately blocked the main road intersection at 7pm local time. They then continued to block Kiseleff Boulevard before appearing to move to another location.  But just before exiting Victoriei Square, the protestors made a sharp right turn and rushed to the entrance of the government building.  Fifty minutes later, rocks and other heavy objects were thrown at the police.

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Further footage shows direct violence against the police, with an attacker racing up behind an officer and kicking him to the ground.  The video shows that groups were planted within the crowd and signals were given to them from a truck.  The role of these groups was to throw objects at the law enforcement officers to provoke them. The timing of each group’s throwing of objects was different, to make it difficult for the police to remove them and force the police to use tear gas.  They were also set back and not in the front row.  Later in the evening, pyrotechnic materials were thrown at police, leaving the police in no doubt of their violent intent.  Protestors were advised by police to disperse otherwise there would need to be an intervention.  Increasingly amplified sound was used to encourage the safe dispersal of protestors.

Just after 11pm, protestors managed to detain two police workers, a man and a woman.  While some protestors tried to help the police workers, others attacked them.  One protestor stole the policewoman’s gun.  They then pulled her helmet off and beat her.

After the sound amplification and flare guns signals, the police proceeded to disperse the crowd.  They used standard, strategic formations, water cannons and tear gas.  Close to midnight, on a nearby street, protestors built a barricade and proceeded to burn street furniture.  After starting fires, they tried to push parked cars from the side of the road into the fire so that they too would catch fire.  Protestors are then heard saying: “Let’s get them with the bottles boys!”, referring to their Molotov cocktail bottles.

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Given the safety issues caused by the protestors and the violent attacks on the police, the footage shows a response that is comparable with those used in France, the US, Germany  and the UK.

A television interview with General Bertrand Cavalliere, a High Unit Commander in the French Gendarmerie and an expert in public order said: “I believe, even at the global level, the actions of the Romanian Gendarmerie were correct and coherent.  I have no negative remarks, even more, I can say everything was normal and even at a global level, the situation was handled correctly.

General Cavalliere went on to explain the nature of the protests: “The facts show us that there was a high degree of complexity in this manifestation.  We are talking first of all about a phenomenon in which a compact crowd is involved.  Secondly, within the crowd there were people that behaved very aggressively and the Gendarmerie had to handle this situation.  They also had to guarantee the integrity of the government institution which was assaulted, which was fundamental because the protestors were attacking it and they wanted to get inside the building and we have to understand the imperative of reinstating order in such a situation.

He added: “I want to state as well that protests in our country do not take place near government institutions of major interest.  So by our law, it is forbidden for demonstrations to take place near locations like this.  But we have the same procedures.  At this moment, if serious violent acts take place, the head of the gendarmerie and police decide the implications of using force and the means they have at their disposal.  It’s a very good, structured force, I have analysed carefully, I am not talking about people separately, I am talking about the whole.  It was very good that the Gendarmes were there, otherwise the consequences would have been severe.  If they had not reacted well, imagine what would have happened if the protestors had made it into the government building. Imagine the internal as well as the international impact.”

Romania has also heard revelations this week about Mihai Bumbes, the protest leader of ‘Rezist’ who runs training camps in the mountains.  The camps are used to recruit young people and photographs revealed this week in Romania show training exercises that teach youngsters how to attack police.   A former member of Rezist was filmed talking about Rezist’s plans for the 10 August protest.  He described the sophistication of the Rezist movement in organizing the logistics of the rally and the involvement of media and politicians online.  He described how the ‘Rezist’ organisers had learned to have their instigators placed several rows back, so as to be away from the very front line.  He also gave details about how they responded to signals.

The author, James Wilson, is the Founding Director of the International Foundation for Better Governance

 

 

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Economy

Issuance of green bonds will strengthen the international role of the euro

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Eurogroup ministers discussed the international role of the euro (15 February), following the publication of the European Commission's communication of (19 January), ‘The European economic and financial system: fostering strength and resilience’.

President of the Eurogroup, Paschal Donohoe said: “The aim is to reduce our dependence on other currencies, and to strengthen our autonomy in various situations. At the same time, increased international use of our currency also implies potential trade-offs, which we will continue to monitor. During the discussion, ministers emphasized the potential of green bond issuance to enhance the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate transition objective.”

The Eurogroup has discussed the issue several times in recent years since the December 2018 Euro Summit. Klaus Regling, the managing director of the European Stability Mechanism said that overreliance on the dollar contained risks, giving Latin America and the Asian crisis of the 90s as examples. He also referred obliquely to “more recent episodes” where the dollar’s dominance meant that EU companies could not continue to work with Iran in the face of US sanctions. Regling believes that the international monetary system is slowly moving towards a multi-polar system where three or four currencies will be important, including the dollar, euro and renminbi. 

European Commissioner for the Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, agreed that the euro’s role could be strengthened through the issuance of green bonds enhancing the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate objectives of the Next Generation EU funds.

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Ministers agreed that broad action to support the international role of the euro, encompassing progress on amongst other things, Economic and Monetary Union, Banking Union and Capital Markets Union were needed to secure the euros international role.

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EU

European human rights court backs Germany over Kunduz airstrike case

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An investigation by Germany into a deadly 2009 airstrike near the Afghan city of Kunduz that was ordered by a German commander complied with its right-to-life obligations, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday (16 February), writes .

The ruling by the Strasbourg-based court rejects a complaint by Afghan citizen Abdul Hanan, who lost two sons in the attack, that Germany did not fulfil its obligation to effectively investigate the incident.

In September 2009, the German commander of NATO troops in Kunduz called in a U.S. fighter jet to strike two fuel trucks near the city which NATO believed had been hijacked by Taliban insurgents.

The Afghan government said at the time 99 people, including 30 civilians, were killed. Independent rights groups estimated between 60 and 70 civilians were killed.

The death toll shocked Germans and ultimately forced its defence minister to resign over accusations of covering up the number of civilian casualties in the run-up to Germany’s 2009 election.

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Germany’s federal prosecutor general had found that the commander did not incur criminal liability, mainly because he was convinced when he ordered the airstrike that no civilians were present.

For him to be liable under international law, he would have had to be found to have acted with intent to cause excessive civilian casualties.

The European Court of Human Rights considered the effectiveness of Germany’s investigation, including whether it established a justification for lethal use of force. It did not consider the legality of the airstrike.

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Of 9,600 NATO troops in Afghanistan, Germany has the second-largest contingent behind the United States.

A 2020 peace agreement between the Taliban and Washington calls for foreign troops to withdraw by May 1, but U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is reviewing the deal after a deterioration in the security situation in Afghanistan.

Germany is preparing to extend the mandate for its military mission in Afghanistan from March 31 until the end of this year, with troop levels remaining at up to 1,300, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.

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EU

Digitalization of EU justice systems: Commission launches public consultation on cross-border judicial co-operation

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On 16 February, the European Commission launched a public consultation on the modernization of EU justice systems. The EU aims to support member states in their efforts to adapt their justice systems to the digital age and improve EU cross-border judicial co-operation. Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders (pictured) said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of digitalization, including in the field of justice. Judges and lawyers need digital tools to be able to work together faster and more efficiently.

At the same time, citizens and businesses need online tools for an easier and more transparent access to justice at a lower cost. The Commission strives to push this process forward and support member states in their efforts, including as regards facilitating their cooperation in cross-border judicial procedures by using digital channels.” In December 2020, the Commission adopted a communication outlining the actions and initiatives intended to advance the digitalization of justice systems across the EU.

The public consultation will gather views on the digitalization of EU cross-border civil, commercial and criminal procedures. The results of the public consultation, in which a broad range of groups and individuals can participate and which is available here until 8 May 2021, will feed into an initiative on digitalisation of cross-border judicial cooperation expected at the end of this year as announced in the 2021 Commission's Work Programme.

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