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#SakharovPrize - 2018 laureate Oleg Sentsov receives his award

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Oleg Sentsov 2018 Sakharov Prize Winner_Oleg Sentsov (left) with European Parliament President David Sassoli 

2018 Sakharov Prize laureate Oleg Sentsov was finally able to accept his award in person in Strasbourg on 26 November.

The Ukrainian film director and human rights activis was able to collect the 2018 prize for Freedom of Thought after being released from jail on 7 September as part of a prisoner exchange deal between Russia and Ukraine. He was imprisoned for protesting Russia’s annexation of his native Crimea on Independence Square in Kyiv.

Awarding the prize, Parliament President David Sassoli said: “You have clearly stood by your principles and convictions, Mr Sentsov, for which you have paid a very high price of freedom. No person should ever pay for that.”

Sassoli praised the courage of freedom fighters who speak up when human rights are being violated. “Mr Sentsov had been released but many others, including bloggers and journalists like Stanislav Aseyev, are still held hostage in Eastern Ukraine. We call for them to be freed.”

Receiving the prize, Sentsov said: “It is a huge honour and a huge responsibility to receive this prize. I accept and take this prize not as a personal honour, but as a prize to all Ukrainian political prisoners that have been in Russian prisons and to all that are still there.” He praised the EU and its democratic values and criticised Russia's “militarist” practices.

About Oleg Sentsov

Sentsov is a Ukrainian film director, sentenced to 20 years in prison for “plotting terrorist acts” against Russian de facto rule in Crimea. Amnesty International has described the court process as “an unfair trial before a military court”.

He has become a symbol for the approximately 70 Ukrainian citizens illegally arrested and given long prison sentences by the Russian occupation forces in the Crimean peninsula.

Sentsov was on hunger strike from mid-May until 6 October 2018, when he ended it under threat of being force-fed.

Watch this video to find out more about him.

The 2018 finalists

Find out more about the other finalists for the 2018 prize - the NGOs protecting human rights and saving migrant lives across the Mediterranean Sea; and Nasser Zefzafi, the leader of Hirak, a mass protest movement in the Rif region in Morocco - in this article.

More on the Sakharov Prize

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named in honour of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov, has been awarded annually since 1988 to individuals and organizations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.

EU

WHO says working with Commission to manage regional COVID vaccine donations

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WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) is working with the European Commission to co-ordinate COVID-19 vaccine donations for other countries on the continent, the head of its European office said on Thursday (25 February), write Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Kate Kelland in London.

Hans Kluge, asked about doses for countries in the Balkans, told a news conference: “We are also working closely with the European Commission at all levels on the issue of donations.”

Austria would be co-ordinating those donations, he said.

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coronavirus

Coronavirus disinformation: Online platforms took more actions fighting vaccine disinformation

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The Commission has published the new reports by Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, TikTok and Mozilla, signatories of the Code of Practice on Disinformation. They provide an overview of the evolution of the measures taken in January 2021. Google expanded its search feature providing information and a list of authorised vaccines in user's location in response to related searches in 23 EU countries, and TikTok applied the COVID-19 vaccine tag to over five thousand videos in the European Union. Microsoft co-sponsored the #VaxFacts campaign launched by NewsGuard providing a free browser extension protecting from coronavirus vaccines misinformation. Additionally, Mozilla reported that curated authoritative content from its Pocket (read-it-later) application gathered more than 5.8 billion impressions across the EU.

Values and Transparency Vice President Věra Jourová said: “Online platforms need to take responsibility to prevent harmful and dangerous disinformation, both domestic and foreign, from undermining our common fight against the virus and the efforts towards vaccination. But platforms' efforts alone will not suffice. It is also crucial to strengthen co-operation with public authorities, media and civil society to provide reliable information.”

Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton added: “Disinformation poses a threat that needs to be taken seriously, and platforms' response must be diligent, robust and efficient. This is particularly crucial now, when we are acting to win the industrial battle for all Europeans to have a fast access to safe vaccines.”

The monthly reporting programme has been recently extended and will continue until June as the crisis still unfolds. It is a deliverable under the 10 June 2020 Joint Communication to ensure accountability towards the public and discussions are ongoing on how to further improve the process. You will find more information and the reports here.

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Agriculture

CAP: New report on fraud, corruption and misuse of EU agricultural funds must be wake up call

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MEPs working on protection of the EU's budget from the Greens/EFA group have just released a new report: "Where does the EU money go?", which looks at the misuse of European agricultural funds in Central and Eastern Europe. The report looks at systemic weakness in EU agricultural funds and maps out in clear terms, how EU funds contribute to fraud and corruption and undermining the rule of law in five EU countries: Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania.
 
The report outlines up to date cases, including: Fraudulent claims and payments of EU agricultural subsidies Slovakia; the conflicts of interest around Czech Prime Minister's Agrofert company in Czechia; and state interference by the Fidesz government in Hungary. This report comes out as the EU institutions are in the process of negotiating the Common Agricultural Policy for the years 2021-27.
Viola von Cramon MEP, Greens/EFA member of the Budgetary Control Committee, comments:   "The evidence shows that EU agricultural funds are fuelling fraud, corruption and the rise of rich businessmen. Despite numerous investigations, scandals and protests, the Commission seems to be turning a blind eye to the rampant abuse of taxpayer's money and member states are doing little to address systematic issues. The Common Agricultural Policy simply isn't working. It provides the wrong incentives for how land is used, which damages the environment and harms local communities. The massive accumulation of land at the expense of the common good is not a sustainable model and it certainly shouldn't be financed from the EU's budget.
 
"We cannot continue to allow a situation where EU funds are causing such harm in so many countries. The Commission needs to act, it cannot bury its head in the sand. We need transparency on how and where EU money ends up, the disclosure of the ultimate owners of large agricultural companies and an end to conflicts of interest. The CAP must be reformed just so it works for people and the planet and is ultimately accountable to EU citizens. In the negotiations around the new CAP, the Parliament team must stand firm behind mandatory capping and transparency."

Mikuláš Peksa, Pirate Party MEP and Greens/EFA Member of the Budgetary Control Committee said:   “We have seen in my own country how EU agricultural funds are enriching an entire class of people all the way up to the Prime Minister. There is a systemic lack of transparency in the CAP, both during and after the distribution process. National paying agencies in CEE fail to use clear and objective criteria when selecting beneficiaries and are not publishing all the relevant information on where the money goes. When some data is disclosed, it is often deleted after the mandatory period of two years, making it almost impossible to control.
 
“Transparency, accountability and proper scrutiny are essential to building an agricultural system that works for all, instead of enriching a select few. Unfortunately, data on subsidy recipients are scattered over hundreds of registers, which are mostly not interoperable with the Commission’s fraud detection tools. Not only is it almost impossible for the Commission to identify corruption cases, but it is often unaware of who the final beneficiaries are and how much money they receive. In the ongoing negotiations for the new CAP period, we cannot allow the Member States to continue operating with this lack of transparency and EU oversight."

The report is available online here.

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