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Microsoft to build hub for cloud services in Greece




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Microsoft Corp. MSFT.O is to build a data centre hub in Greece as it invests in cloud services infrastructure in the country, a boon to an economy weakened by a decade-long debt crisis and the coronavirus pandemic, write George Georgiopoulos and Angeliki Koutantou.

Speaking at a virtual event in Athens on Monday (5 October), Microsoft President Brad Smith said the new hub would be beneficial to business, consumers and banks.

The size of the investment was not disclosed but government spokesman Stelios Petsas said that it would involve new infrastructure at a cost of €500 million and annual spending of €50 million in the coming years.

“There will be benefits for Greece given our commitment to training for thousands of people,” Microsoft’s Smith said through a translator.


He later tweeted that the investment will be Microsoft’s biggest in Greece in its 28 years of operating in the country. “This reflects our optimism in Greece’s future and economic recovery,” he said.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the data centre would bring long-term financial benefits of 1.0 billion euros (904 million pounds) to Greece.

“Greece will become a world hub for cloud,” Mitsotakis said, adding that the state-of-the-art centre would also upgrade the country as an investment destination.


He said the project will include a training program in digital skills for about 100,000 people.

European Commission

Macro-financial assistance: EU disburses €125 million to Bosnia and Herzegovina and €50 million to the Republic of Moldova



The European Commission, on behalf of the EU, has carried out another round of disbursements under the €3 billion macro-financial assistance package for ten enlargement and neighbourhood partners. The programme is a concrete demonstration of the EU's solidarity with its partners to help respond to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Commission has disbursed €125 million to Bosnia and Herzegovina and €50 million to the Republic of Moldova. This support is provided through loans at very favourable rates. With these disbursements, the EU has successfully completed five out of the 10 MFA programmes in the €3 billion COVID-19 MFA package, and disbursed the first tranches to all partners. The Commission continues to work closely with the rest of its MFA partners on the timely implementation of the agreed policy programmes. 


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European Commission

NextGenerationEU: European Commission endorses Finland's €2.1 billion recovery and resilience plan



The European Commission has adopted a positive assessment of Finland's recovery and resilience plan. This is an important step towards the EU disbursing €2.1 billion in grants to Finland under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). The financing provided by the RRF will support the implementation of the crucial investment and reform measures outlined in Finland's recovery and resilience plan. It will play a significant role in enabling Finland to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The RRF is the key instrument at the heart of NextGenerationEU which will provide up to €800bn (in current prices) to support investments and reforms across the EU. The Finnish plan forms part of an unprecedented coordinated EU response to the COVID-19 crisis, to address common European challenges by embracing the green and digital transitions, to strengthen economic and social resilience and the cohesion of the Single Market.

The Commission assessed Finland's plan based on the criteria set out in the RRF Regulation. The Commission's analysis considered, in particular, whether the investments and reforms contained in Finland's plan support the green and digital transitions; contribute to effectively addressing challenges identified in the European Semester; and strengthen its growth potential, job creation and economic and social resilience.


Securing Finland's green and digital transitions  

The Commission's assessment finds that Finland's plan devotes 50% of the plan's total allocation on measures that support climate objectives. Finland has announced an ambitious target for achieving carbon neutrality by 2035. The reforms and investments included in the plan will make an important contribution to Finland achieving this objective. The plan addresses each of the highest emitting sectors in turn, namely energy, housing, industry and transport. It includes reforms to phase out the use of coal in energy production, changes to taxation to favour cleaner technologies, and a reform of the Waste Act with increased targets for recycling and reuse. On the investment side, the plan will finance clean energy technologies and related infrastructure, industry decarbonisation, the replacement of oil boilers with low- or zero-carbon heating systems and private and public charging points for electric cars.

The Commission's assessment finds that Finland's plan devotes 27% of its total allocation on measures that support the digital transition. The plan includes measures to improve high-speed internet connectivity, particularly in rural areas, support the digitalisation of businesses and the public sector, enhance digital skills of the workforce and support the development of key technologies such as artificial intelligence, 6G and microelectronics.


Reinforcing Finland's economic and social resilience

The Commission considers that Finland's plan includes an extensive set of mutually reinforcing reforms and investments that contribute to effectively addressing the economic and social challenges outlined in the country-specific recommendations addressed to Finland in recent years.

It contains a broad set of reform measures to raise the employment rate and strengthen the functioning of the labour market, ranging from the transformation of Public Employment Services to improving and facilitating access to social and healthcare services. The plan includes specific measures to provide integration support for young people and people with partial work-capacity. The plan also includes measures to strengthen the effective supervision and enforcement of Finland's anti-money laundering framework.

The plan represents a comprehensive and balanced response to the economic and social situation of Finland, thereby contributing appropriately to all six pillars referred to in the RRF Regulation.

Supporting flagship investment and reform projects

Finland's plan proposes projects in all seven European flagship areas. These are specific investment projects, which address issues that are common to all Member States in areas that create jobs and growth and are needed for the green and digital transition. For instance, Finland has proposed to provide €161 million to investments in new energy technologies and €60m toward the decarbonisation of industrial processes to support the green transition. To support the digital transition, the plan will invest €50m in the rollout of rapid broadband services and €93m to support the development of digital skills as part of continuous learning and labour market reforms.

The Commission's assessment finds that none of the measures included in the plan significantly harms the environment, in line with the requirements laid out in the RRF Regulation.

The Commission considers that the controls systems put in place by Finland are adequate to protect the financial interests of the Union. The plan provides sufficient details on how national authorities will prevent, detect and correct instances of conflict of interest, corruption and fraud relating to the use of funds.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “I am delighted to present the European Commission's endorsement of Finland's €2.1bn recovery and resilience plan. I am proud that NextGenerationEU will make a significant contribution to support Finland's goal to become carbon neutral by 2035. The plan will also help bolster Finland's reputation for excellence in innovation with support for the development of new technologies in areas such as artificial intelligence, 6G and microelectronics. We will stand with Finland throughout the plan's implementation to ensure that the reforms and investments it contains are fully delivered.”

An Economy that Works for People Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said: “The Commission has today given its green light for Finland's recovery and resilience plan, which will set the country on a greener and more digital path as it recovers from the crisis. This plan will help Finland to meet its ambitious carbon-neutrality target by 2035, with reforms and investments that will reduce carbon emissions from energy production, housing, industry and transport. We welcome its focus on high-speed connectivity, particularly for sparsely populated areas to help maintain their economic activity, and on digitalising smaller businesses and the public sector. With reforms to boost employment and strengthen the labour market, Finland's plan will promote smart, sustainable and inclusive growth once it is put into effect.”

Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said: “Finland's €2.1bn recovery and resilience plan is strongly focused on the green transition. No less than 50% of its total allocation is set to support climate objectives, helping to speed the country towards its ambitious target of carbon neutrality by 2035. The plan also contains an array of measures to boost Finland's already strong digital competitiveness. I particularly welcome the Finnish plan's strong social elements, with measures to raise the employment rate, tackle youth unemployment and facilitate access to social and healthcare services.”

Next steps

The Commission has today adopted a proposal for a decision to provide €2.1bn in grants to Finland under the RRF. The Council will now have, as a rule, four weeks to adopt the Commission's proposal.

The Council's approval of the plan would allow for the disbursement of €271m to Finland in pre-financing. This represents 13% of the total allocated amount for Finland.

The Commission will authorise further disbursements based on the satisfactory fulfilment of the milestones and targets outlined in the recovery and resilience plan, reflecting progress on the implementation of the investments and reforms. 

More information

Questions and Answers: European Commission endorses Finland's €2.1bn recovery and resilience plan

Factsheet on Finland's recovery and resilience plan

Proposal for a Council Implementing Decision on the approval of the assessment of the recovery and resilience plan for Finland

Annex to the Proposal for a Council Implementing Decision on the approval of the assessment of the recovery and resilience plan for Finland

Staff-working document accompanying the proposal for a Council Implementing Decision

Recovery and Resilience Facility

Recovery and Resilience Facility: Questions and Answers

Recovery and Resilience Facility Regulation

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Brussels seminar to unite forces against sects and their supporters



Recently, the F.C.C.E. held a special seminar in Brussels, where guests from legislative, religious and governmental backgrounds discussed the topics of respecting, protecting religious beliefs and exposing the dangers of sects, writes Laurent Jacques.

At the meeting, independent journalist Roland Delcourt who followed sects’ activities introduced a sect called "Almighty God" or "Eastern Lightning", clearly exposing fundamental differences between religions and sects.

F.C.C.E. special seminar in Brussels

Delcourt claimed that in order to grow and increase the number of their followers, the Church of Almighty God engages in dubious activities, discriminating and slandering other sects and different Christian religions.

Christian opponents and the international media have in turn described it as a sect and even as a "terrorist organization".

It seems pretty clear that this movement has nothing Christian other than its name.

The Vatican has rejected the sect which claims to be Christian. In April 2013, the Vatican news agency Agenzia Fides made the following remarks about it: "with its methods of abuse and blackmail against the heads of the Catholic Church, used to mount cleverly constructed scandals", The Church of Almighty God "sows confusion among evangelical and Catholic Christians".

Roland Delcourt also presented a report about “Bitter Winter” and its founder Massimo Introvigne, who has defended groups as diverse as the Unification Church "Moonies", the Church of Scientology, the Chinese Church Eastern Lightning (accused of links to the murder of Wu Shuoyanen in 2014), the Order of the Solar Temple (responsible for 74 deaths in mass murder-suicides), Aum Shinrikyo (responsible for the 1995 Tokyo sarin gas attack) and Shincheonji “Church of Jesus”, accused of having furthered the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Korea as a result of its follower’s unethical behaviour.

He believes that Bitter Winter and Massimo Introvigne find a favourable response only in ultra-conservative and far-right circles.

 Mr Introvigne is never the last when it comes to attacking those who propose means of combating the phenomenon of sects, such as Alain Gest, who chaired a Commission of Inquiry into Sects and whose observatory Guānchá Tái was created following the report made in 1995 by a parliamentary commission of inquiry on sects, chaired by and whose rapporteur is Jacques Guyard.

In his book: Une Secte au cœur de la République, Serge Faubert reveals to us, with supporting documents, the extent of the infiltration of sects in the political class, economic circles, national defence and the education.

In an article published on March 15, 2021 on Bitter Winter, Introvigne attacks Luigi Corvaglia, member of the board of directors and of the scientific committee of F.E.C.R.I.S. (European Federation of Research and Information Centers on Sectarianism), for claiming that Bitter Winter is the only source that claims the Church of Almighty God is being persecuted in China.

He also castigates Luigi Corvaglia for having organised, according to him, an anti-sect coalition in the company of Gerry Armstrong (former member of the Church of Scientology, persecuted by the sect), Alexander Dvorkin, vice-president of F.E.C.R.I.S. and Pastor Thomas Gandow (who was amoung the first to make the link between sects and the far-right), during a conference in Salekhard, Siberia.

Finally, Mr Delcourt quoted Bruno Fouchereau (author of: Mafia des Sectes) who wrote in Le Monde Diplomatique: “90% of sects are of American origin or based in the United States, and others like Almighty God are from Asia but are remotely controlled and mainly financed from the United States.“

At the meeting, Mr. André Lacroix, an independent writer who has been to Tibet many times and published several books, gave a special insight into how some Western media mislead the people and use untrue and false news to gain attention and achieve a certain kind of political Purpose. In particular, some organisations, under the banner of freedom of belief, are doing the work of helping sects, confuse the public, and create factors of instability for society.

Whether in Europe or other parts of the world, we should always be alert and mindful of the rise and threats to society of various sectarian organisations.


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