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Italy sends help to Banksy's overloaded migrant rescue boat

Reuters

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The Italian coastguard sent help on Saturday to a rescue boat funded by British street artist Banksy after the vessel issued urgent calls for assistance, saying it was stranded in the Mediterranean and overloaded with migrants, writes Gavin Jones.

The coastguard said a patrol boat dispatched from the southern Italian island of Lampedusa had taken on board 49 of “those considered most vulnerable” among the 219 migrants picked up by the ship since Thursday off the coast of Libya.

Named after a French feminist anarchist, the Louise Michel started operating last week. Despite the help from Italy, it has still not found a safe port for the rest of the mainly African migrants on board.

The 49 people who were transferred off the ship include 32 women and 13 children, the Italian coastguard said.

The Louise Michel, a German boat manned by a crew of 10, issued a series of tweets overnight and on Saturday saying its situation was worsening, and appealing for help from authorities in Italy, Malta and Germany.

“We are reaching a state of emergency. We need immediate assistance,” said one tweet, adding that it was also carrying a body bag containing the corpse of one migrant who had died.

Another tweet said the boat was unable to move and “no longer the master of her own destiny” due to her overcrowded deck and a life raft deployed at her side, “but above all due to Europe ignoring our emergency calls for immediate assistance.”

Before Italy’s coastguard intervened, an Italian charity ship, the Mare Jonio, said it was leaving the Sicilian port of Augusta, much further away than Lampedusa, to offer assistance.

Two United Nations’ agencies called for the “urgent disembarkation” of the Louise Michel and two other ships carrying a total of more than 400 migrants in the Mediterranean.

Some 200 are on the Sea Watch 4, a German charity ship, while 27 have been on board the commercial tanker Maersk Etienne since their rescue on 5 August.

The International Organisation for Migration and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said in a joint statement they were “deeply concerned about the continued absence of dedicated EU-led search and rescue capacity in the Central Mediterranean”.

“The humanitarian imperative of saving lives should not be penalized or stigmatized, especially in the absence of dedicated state-led efforts,” they said.

Italy is the destination of most migrants who have departed from Libya across the Mediterranean in recent years. The influx has created political tensions in Rome and fuelled the success of Matteo Salvini’s right-wing League party.

The 30-metre long (98-foot) Louise Michel, a former French Navy boat daubed in pink and white, was bought with proceeds from the sale of Banksy artwork.

The side of the vessel’s cabin features a picture of a girl holding a heart-shaped life buoy in Banksy’s familiar stencilled style.

Bristol-born Banksy, who keeps his identity a secret, is known for his political or social-commentary graffiti that has popped up in cities around the world.

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Commission approves €400 million Danish aid scheme to support production of electricity from renewable energy sources

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, a Danish aid scheme to support electricity production from renewable sources. The measure will help Denmark reach its renewable energy targets without unduly distorting competition and will contribute to the European objective of achieving climate neutrality by 2050. Denmark notified the Commission of its intention to introduce a new scheme to support electricity produced from renewable energy sources, namely onshore wind turbines, offshore wind turbines, wave power plants, hydroelectric power plants and solar PV.

The aid will be awarded through a competitive tendering procedure organised in 2021-2024 and will take the form of a two-way contract-for-difference premium.. The measure has a total maximum budget of approximately €400 million (DKK 3 billion). The scheme is open until 2024 and aid can be paid out for a maximum of 20 years after the renewable electricity is connected to the grid. The Commission assessed the measure under EU state aid rules, in particular the 2014 Guidelines on state aid for environmental protection and energy.

On this basis, the Commission concluded that the Danish scheme is in line with EU state aid rules, as it will facilitate the development of renewable electricity production from various technologies in Denmark and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in line with the European Green Deal and without unduly distorting competition.

Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy (pictured), said: “This Danish scheme will contribute to substantial reductions in greenhouse emissions, supporting the objectives of the Green Deal. It will provide important support to a wide range of technologies generating renewable electricity, in line with EU rules. The wide eligibility criteria and the selection of the beneficiaries through a competitive bidding process will ensure the best value for taxpayers money and will minimise possible distortions of competition.”

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Russia: Summoning of the Russian Ambassador to the EU

EU Reporter Correspondent

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European Commission Secretary General Ilze Juhansone and External Action Service Secretary General Stefano Sannino jointly summoned the Ambassador of Russian Federation to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov (pictured) to condemn the decision of the Russian authorities from last Friday (30 April) to ban eight European Union nationals from entering the territory of the Russian Federation. 

Ambassador Chizhov was informed of the strong rejection and firm condemnation by the EU institutions and EU member states of this decision, which was purely politically motivated and lacks any legal justification.

Secretaries-General I. Juhansone and S. Sannino also recalled Russia's expulsion of Czech diplomats and the executive order of the Russian Federation of so called “unfriendly states”, expressing their grave concern for the cumulative impact of all these decisions on the relations between the EU and the government of the Russian Federation.

They also noted that the EU reserves the right to take appropriate measures in response.

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Parliament launches the Daphne Caruana Galizia journalism prize

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The European Parliament has launched a journalism prize in tribute to Daphne Caruana Galizia (pictured), a Maltese investigative journalist murdered in 2017.

The Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism, launched on 16 October 2020, the third anniversary of her death, will reward outstanding journalism reflecting EU values.

"The Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize will recognize the essential role that journalists play in preserving our democracies and serve as a reminder to citizens of the importance of a free press. This prize is designed to help journalists in the vital and often dangerous work they do and show that the European Parliament supports investigative journalists," said Parliament Vice President Heidi Hautala.

Prize money of €20,000

The €20,000 annual prize will be awarded as of October 2021 to journalists or teams of journalists based in the European Union. Candidates and the eventual laureate will be chosen by an independent panel.

Who was Daphne Caruana Galizia?

Daphne Caruana Galizia was a Maltese journalist, blogger and anti-corruption activist who reported extensively on corruption, money laundering, organised crime, sale of citizenship and the Maltese government’s links to the Panama Papers. Following harassment and threats, she was murdered in a car bomb explosion on 16 October 2017.

The outcry over the authorities’ handling of her murder investigation ultimately prompted the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. Critical of failings in the investigation, in December 2019, MEPs called on the European Commission to take action.

Published on 28 April, the report Platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists from the Council of Europe lists 201 serious violations of media freedom in 2020. This figure marks a 40% increase from 2019 and is the highest figure recorded since the platform was established in 2014. A record number of alerts concerned physical assault (52 cases) and harassment or intimidation (70 cases).

Parliament strongly advocates the importance of a free press. In a May 2018 resolution, MEPs called on EU countries to ensure adequate public funding and to promote a pluralist, independent and free media. Parliament has once again underlined the importance of media freedom in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Watch this Facebook live interview about the Daphne Caruana Galizia Journalism Prize.

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