-Top News EU News Europe

AI Laws Up for EU Approval

The legislation aims to make the use of AI in the EU safer and is based on a proposal made by the European Commission in 2021…reports Asian Lite News

European Union (EU) ministers are set to give the final approval to stricter rules governing artificial intelligence (AI) in Brussels on Tuesday.

The legislation aims to make the use of AI in the EU safer and is based on a proposal made by the European Commission in 2021.

Negotiators from the European Parliament and EU countries reached an agreement on the regulation of AI in December after marathon negotiations.

The regulations aim to ensure that AI systems are as transparent, comprehensible, non-discriminatory and environmentally friendly as possible.

An important aspect is that AI systems are monitored by humans and not just by other technological systems.

AI systems are to be categorised into different risk groups in the future. The higher the potential risks of an application, the higher the requirements will be.

For example, AI systems, considered particularly high-risk and used in critical infrastructures or the education and healthcare sectors, will have to fulfil strict requirements.

AI applications that violate EU values are to be banned altogether. This includes the evaluation of social behaviour, otherwise known as “social scoring”.

In China, this is used to rate citizens’ behaviour, allowing them to unlock benefits for good behaviour.

Additionally, emotion recognition will be prohibited in the workplace and educational institutions in the EU.

The hope is that the rules will be replicated in other legal systems around the world.

ALSO READ: European Union, Japan plan security accord

-Top News EU News Europe

Rocket Attack Sets Fuel Depot Ablaze in Luhansk

According to Ukrainian media, a Russian military base was also hit in the missile attack…reports Asian Lite News

 Rocket attacks on a town in the Russian-occupied Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine have caused a fuel depot to catch fire, according to the occupation authorities.

“As a result of a missile strike with cluster munitions on Sverdlovsk, a fuel and lubricants storage facility was damaged,” wrote Leonid Pasechnik, the head of pro-Russian separatists forces in the Luhansk region, on Monday on his Telegram channel.

Ukraine renamed the small town of Sverdlovsk, which has been occupied by Russian forces since 2014, and Dovzhansk in 2016.

According to Ukrainian media, a Russian military base was also hit in the missile attack.

Videos on social networks show heavy clouds of smoke, but also a burning multi-storey barracks-style building.

The Russian authorities on the ground have not officially released any information on casualties or injuries.

Ukraine has been fending off a full-scale Russian military invasion for more than two years.

Kiev has recently fired missiles at oil processing plants and fuel depots in addition to purely military targets to hamper the Russian military’s logistics.

ALSO READ-Missile Strike Ignites Fuel Depot in Occupied Luhansk

-Top News EU News Europe

EU Accused of Censoring Russian Media

Volodin accused the West, which repeatedly complains about censorship in Russia, of double standards…..reports Asian Lite News

The leader of the Russian Parliament has accused the European Union (EU) of censorship and violating freedom of the press and expression after the latter decided to ban several Russian media.

Taking to Telegram, Vyacheslav Volodin, a confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin, on Saturday, said that the European Union made the move because it lacks arguments to convince its own citizens and, therefore, has blocked what he said were alternative points of view.

Volodin accused the West, which repeatedly complains about censorship in Russia, of double standards.

In Russia, many media outlets that report critically on Putin’s policies and thousands of websites are blocked.

On Friday, the EU member states imposed sanctions on the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, the government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the Voice of Europe (VoE) platform and the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia, which also owns a television station.

VoE was targeted for alleged involvement in distributing pro-Russia propaganda. The four media outlets are prohibited from distributing their content across the EU over their support for the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

However, the punitive measures do not prevent staff from the outlets from carrying out their work like interviews and research, an EU statement said

Russia said it will respond to the EU move.

In a previous incident, it stopped Germany’s foreign broadcaster, Deutsche Welle (DW), from broadcasting in Russia. DW had to close its office in Moscow, and its journalists had to leave the country.

That was in response to a ban on broadcasting by the Russian state broadcaster RT (formerly Russia Today).

Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of neighbouring Ukraine more than two years ago, EU countries have withdrawn the licences of several media outlets. The aim is to prevent Russian war propaganda and disinformation from being disseminated in the EU.

ALSO READ: Sikh-Muslim Tensions in the Europe’s Diasporic Communities

-Top News EU News Europe

Slovak PM stable but in serious condition

On May 15, Robert Fico (59) was shot five times as he was leaving a government meeting and greeting people in Handlova….reports Asian Lite News

Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico remained in “serious condition” in hospital while the court decided that the man accused in the assassination attempt would be held in custody, Al Jazeera reported.

On Saturday, Slovakian Minister of Health Zuzana Dolinkova said that Fico underwent a two-hour surgery on Friday to remove dead tissue from multiple gunshot injuries, which “contributed to a positive prognosis”.

Slovakian Deputy PM Robert Kalinak said it was unlikely that Fico will be transferred from the hospital in Banska Bystrica to Bratislava, in the coming days as he remains in “serious condition.”

On May 15, Robert Fico (59) was shot five times as he was leaving a government meeting and greeting people in Handlova.

Meanwhile, a court in Pezinok on Saturday said that the suspect will be held in pre-trial detention, a spokesperson said, according to Al Jazeera report.

The prosecutor requested the court that the suspect, reportedly a 71-year-old former security guard at a shopping mall and the author of three collections of poetry be placed in custody after he had been charged with a premeditated attempted murder.

Slovakian Minister of Interior Matus Sutaj Estok said, “If the shot went just a few centimetres higher, it would have hit the prime minister’s liver,” Al Jazeera reported, citing broadcaster TA3.

Earlier, prosecutors asked police not to publicly identify the suspect or release other information about the case. However, some details were reported by local media outlets.

Officers wearing balaclavas and carrying rifles guarded the court while the journalists were not allowed inside. Police on Friday had taken the suspect to his residence in Levice and seized a computer and some documents, Al Jazeera reported, citing Slovak broadcaster Markiza.

Prosecutors said the attacker acted alone. However, Fico’s supporters said the opposition is partly to blame for raising political tensions. Fico’s closest ally Kalinak criticized opposition lawmakers and “selected media” on Friday for calling PM Fico a criminal, dictator or Russian President Vladimir Putin’s servant before the attack.

In an emotional message posted on the website of their political party, Smer said, “All these lies are the main reason why Robert Fico is fighting for his life today.” He accused political parties and the media of fanning acrimony by encouraging protests against the policies of the government.

Slovak opposition party leader Michal Simecka termed the shooting as an attack on democracy and said that he, his wife, and child had received death threats.

Outgoing pro-Western President Zuzana Caputova and her successor, Peter Pellegrini, another Fico ally who will assume office in June, called on the people of Slovakia to refrain from “confrontation”. (ANI)

ALSO READ: Burkina loyalists rally after gunfire near presidency

-Top News EU News Europe

Austria to resume aid to UN agency for Palestinians

In the weeks that followed, numerous donor states, including Austria, suspended or paused some $450 million in funding….reports Asian Lite News

Austria said Saturday it will restore its funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees after suspending it over allegations that staff were involved in the October 7 Hamas attacks.

Israel alleged in January that some United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) employees may have participated in the Hamas attacks on October 7 that triggered the war in the Gaza Strip.

In the weeks that followed, numerous donor states, including Austria, suspended or paused some $450 million in funding.

Many, including Germany, Sweden, Canada and Japan, had since resumed funding, while others have continued to hold out.

“After analizing the action plan in detail” submitted by UNRWA “to improve the functioning of the organization,” Austria has decided to “release the funds,” its foreign ministry said in a statement.

A total of 3.4 million euros ($3.7 million) in funds have been budgeted for 2024, and the first payment is expected to be made in the summer, the statement said.

“Some of the Austrian funds will be used in the future to improve internal control mechanisms at UNRWA,” it added.

Austria said it will “closely monitor” the implementation of the action plan with other international partners, noting that “a lot of trust had been squandered.”

The Alpine country said it has substantially increased support for the suffering Palestinian population in Gaza and the region since 7 October, making 32 million euros ($34.8 million) in humanitarian aid available to other international aid organizations.

The Hamas attack on October 7 resulted in the death of more than 1,170 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Israel’s campaign in Gaza has since killed at least 35,303 people, also mostly civilians, according to data provided by the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

ALSO READ: Burkina loyalists rally after gunfire near presidency

-Top News EU News Europe

No Plans to Capture city of Kharkiv, Says Putin

Putin said the buffer zone around Kharkiv is needed because the Belgorod region was being massively bombarded with drones and missiles from Kharkiv….reports Asian Lite News

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that at the moment he has no plans to capture the city of Kharkiv, but that Russian forces were establishing a buffer zone in the area because of attacks from Kharkiv on the Russian region of Belgorod.

He made his comments in response to a question from Russian state media reporters at the end of his visit to China in the city of Harbin.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the heavily attacked Kharkiv region on Thursday and said the situation had stabilised. The area has come under heavy Russian attack recently.

Putin said the buffer zone around Kharkiv is needed because the Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine, was being massively bombarded with drones and missiles from Kharkiv.

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, who is currently deputy head of the National Security Council, described Zelensky’s trip to Kharkiv as a farewell visit.

Russian leaders repeatedly refer to Kharkiv as a Russian city, leading many experts to assume that the Kremlin wants to annex the region. Putin’s denial, at least for the time being, is the first time he has stated that there are no current plans to do so.

ALSO READ: Russia, India Eye Visa-Free Tourism Agreement

-Top News EU News Europe

EU Presses Microsoft on Bing GenAI Compliance

The Commission has intensified its enforcement actions against Microsoft, giving the company until May 27 to provide the requested information….reports Asian Lite News

The European Commission on Friday directed Microsoft to provide more information about the generative AI (GenAI) features in its search engine Bing else face fine, as the tech giant failed to respond to a March 14 request for inputs regarding specific risks stemming from Bing’s GenAI features.

The Commission stepped up its enforcement actions against Microsoft and the company now has time till May 27 to provide the requested information to the Commission on Bing’s generative AI features, notably “Copilot in Bing” and “Image Creator by Designer”.

If Bing fails to reply within the deadline, the Commission may impose fines up to 1 per cent of the provider’s total annual income or global turnover and periodic penalties up to 5 per cent of the provider’s average daily income or worldwide annual turnover.

The regulator can also impose fines up to 1 per cent of the provider’s total annual income or worldwide turnover for incorrect, incomplete, or misleading information in response to a request for information.

“Following its designation as ‘Very Large Online Search Engine’, Bing is required to comply with the full set of provisions introduced by the Digital Services Act (DSA),” said the Commission.

Microsoft was yet to react to the “legally binding request for information,”.

ALSO READ: Microsoft Bets Big on Cloud

-Top News EU News Europe

15 EU states demand plan to send asylum seekers to third countries

They want the EU to toughen its asylum and migration pact, which introduces tighter border controls and seeks to expedite the deportation of rejected asylum seekers…reports Asian Lite News

Fifteen EU states called for “new ways” to handle irregular migrants, including sending some to third countries, in a letter to the European Commission.

The member states made the demand as the bloc plots how to implement a recently adopted overhaul of its asylum rules.

The push comes less than a month before European Parliament elections across the 27-nation European Union, in which far-right anti-immigration parties are forecast to make gains.

Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania signed the letter.

In it, they ask the European Union’s executive arm to “propose new ways and solutions to prevent irregular migration to Europe”.

They want the EU to toughen its asylum and migration pact, which introduces tighter border controls and seeks to expedite the deportation of rejected asylum seekers.

The pact, to be operational from 2026, will speed up the vetting of people arriving without documents and establish new border detention centres.

The 15 countries also want to see mechanisms to detect and intercept migrant boats and take them “to a predetermined place of safety in a partner country outside the EU, where durable solutions for those migrants could be found”.

They said it should be easier to send asylum seekers to third countries while their requests for protection are assessed. They cited as a model a controversial deal Italy has struck with Albania, under which thousands of asylum seekers picked up at sea can be taken to holding camps in the non-EU Balkan country as their cases are processed.

The European Commission said it would study the letter, though a spokeswoman, Anitta Hipper, added that “all our work and focus is set now on the implementation” of the migration and asylum pact.

EU law says people entering the bloc without documents can be sent to an outside country where they could have requested asylum – so long as that country is deemed safe and the applicant has a genuine link with it.

That condition differentiates it from a scheme set up by non-EU Britain under which irregular arrivals will be denied the right to request asylum in the UK and will be sent instead to Rwanda.

The 15 nations said they want the EU to make deals with third countries along main migration routes, citing the example of the arrangement it made with Turkey in 2016 to take in Syrian refugees fleeing war.

“In legal terms, these models pose many questions and are very costly in terms of resource mobilisation and at the operational level,” Camille Le Coz, associate director of think tank the Migration Policy Institute, said.

The opening date for migrant reception centres in Albania set up under the deal with Italy had been delayed, she noted.

With the June 6-9 EU elections leading to a new European Commission, the proposals put forward by the 15 countries would go into the inbox of the next commission for it to weigh them, she said.

She also noted that EU heavyweights France, Germany and Spain had not signed on to the letter.

“For certain member countries, the priority really is the implementation of the pact, and that in itself is already a huge task,” Le Coz said.

Meanwhile, the incoming Dutch government led by nationalist Geert Wilders’ PVV party will aim to pursue its curbs on immigration by opting out of European Union migration rules, setting up a clash with Brussels before it has even taken office.

Wilders won an election nearly six months ago and reached a deal on Wednesday to form a coalition with three right-wing partners. He has not yet proposed his choice for prime minister, but has ruled himself out.

In its government plan published early on Thursday, the four-party coalition says it will aim for the “strictest-ever asylum regime” with stronger border controls and harsher rules for asylum seekers who arrive in the Netherlands.

“An opt out clause for European asylum and migration policies will be submitted as soon as possible to the European Commission,” the coalition says in its pact.

Wilders said the plan would make the Netherlands less attractive for asylum seekers, adding that “people in Africa and the Middle East will start thinking they might be better off elsewhere”.

The Netherlands would join Hungary and Poland’s previous nationalist government in challenging EU migration policy. Brussels is likely to resist, as EU countries have already agreed on their migration pact and opt-outs are usually discussed in the negotiating phase.

ALSO READ-EU ‘concerned’ by Tunisia arrests

-Top News EU News Europe

German police raid properties as pro-Palestinian group banned

Germany has repeatedly stated its support for Israel, calling it a “reason of state” for the country while declaring efforts to tackle antisemitism…reports Asian Lite News

German police in the western city of Duisburg carried out raids on Wednesday on four properties linked to a pro-Palestinian group over its alleged support for Hamas.

The interior ministry of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Germany’s most populated state where the city is located, said it had banned the group Palestine Solidarity Duisburg.

“This ban comes at the right time and sends the right signal,” NRW Interior Minister Herbert Reul said in a statement.

“In many cases, solidarity with Palestine hides nothing other than hatred of Jews — as is the case with the organization banned today,” he added.

“We are using all legal options to dry up antisemitism and ideological support for terror. The state has shown a clear stance against extremism today.”

Germany has repeatedly stated its support for Israel, calling it a “reason of state” for the country while declaring efforts to tackle antisemitism.

The state’s Interior Ministry cited the group’s use of slogans such as “From the river to the sea,” which is banned in Germany.  The ministry said the group “continuously incites hatred against the state of Israel and holds it solely responsible for the Middle East conflict.”

The group organizes protests and events against what it describes as Israeli “apartheid” and “genocide” against Palestinians, both of which Israel has denied. The group’s website platforms other pro-Palestinian groups, including Jewish organizations. The group has repeatedly reported on social media about police “censoring” its protests.

The ministry said Palestine Solidarity Duisburg was also linked to “like-minded” groups such as the banned Samidoun organization. Authorities in Germany have previously raided and banned pro-Palestinian groups, accusing many of their members of supporting terrorist organizations.

In December, police in Berlin conducted raids targeting members of Zora, a pro-Palestinian, left-wing feminist group. German security also banned the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network in November.

Germany, the United States, the European Union, Israel and several Arab countries classify Hamas as a terrorist organization.  According to estimates by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency BfV, some 450 people in Germany have been involved in Hamas. There is no official branch of the group in Germany.

ALSO READ-German right-wing extremist organisation disbanded

-Top News Asia News EU News

Putin, Xi to hold talks on May 16

Pyongyang, an economy almost entirely dependent on China, is believed by Western governments to be aiding Russia with war supplies…reports Asian Lite News

Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to visit China on Thursday, marking his second visit in less than a year as the conflict escalates in Gaza and Ukraine.

Putin will arrive in China just over a week after entering a new term in office, extending his term until 2030.

His visit set to begin on May 16 and will conclude on May 17, according to Chinese state media, mirrors Xi’s own state visit to Moscow just over a year ago, where he marked the norm-shattering start of a new term as president – like Putin, after rewriting rules around how long leaders can serve.

Moreover, their meeting comes ahead of the US Presidential elections and as Washington faces international backlash over its support for Israel in its war with Gaza.

It will further provide a platform for the leaders to discuss how all this can advance their shared ambition to degrade and offer an alternative to American power.

Pyongyang, an economy almost entirely dependent on China, is believed by Western governments to be aiding Russia with war supplies.

Similarly, according to the US, Tehran is being bolstered economically by Russia and China and is a powerful player in the conflict in the Middle East.

Putin will arrive for the two-day state visit emboldened by the survival of his wartime economy and amid a major new offensive along key points of the front line in Ukraine.

However, for the Chinese leader, who has recently returned from a European tour, the visit is an opportunity to showcase that his allegiance to Putin has not broken his ability to engage with the West.

The US has been putting pressure on Beijing over its alleged support for Russia’s defence industry.

But the Chinese leader, as he hosts Putin this week, is seen to be boosting relationships to underscore a growing global split that could deepen divisions with the West, whose technology and investment, experts say, China needs, CNN reported.

“We live in a more dangerous world, authoritarian powers are increasingly aligned. Russia is receiving support for its war of aggression from China, Iran and North Korea,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned last month.

“This reminds us that security is not regional, security is global. And we must work with our like-minded partners around the world to preserve and protect transatlantic security.” (ANI)

ALSO READ-Putin warns West of risking a global conflict