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The Czech Republic has passed an amendment to its gun legislation, following the recent mass shooting at Charles University. The amendment, proposed prior to the incident, still needs approval from the senate and the president and won’t be effective until 2026. Despite being considered insufficiently transformative, the amendment aims to address loopholes that allowed the shooter, a licensed gun user, to amass eight legally-owned weapons, including an AR-10 semi-automatic assault rifle.

The shooter, a 24-year-old graduate student with a history of depression, killed 14 people on campus. The legal changes propose an updated online register of guns and owners accessible to doctors, including psychiatrists. Gun shops will be obligated to report suspicious purchases, and the system will flag individuals acquiring numerous weapons. Police will gain the authority to seize weapons preventatively, especially if the owners make threats on social media, a power currently unavailable to them.

However, mandatory psychological tests for gun licenses, common in other countries, will not be enforced. Czech doctors can request such tests but are not obligated to do so before signing license applications. The legislation may undergo further amendments in parliament, but the fundamental right to bear arms for self-defense, added to the constitution in 2021 amid EU attempts to restrict weapon possession, is unlikely to be altered. With over 300,000 licensed gun owners and a million guns in the country, the Czech Republic, known for hunting and biathlon, has a majority of licenses granted for personal protection rather than sports or hunting purposes. The necessity of such personal protection in cities like Prague and Brno remains unclear in one of Europe’s safest countries.

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Members of Parliament in Poland have voted to remove the parliamentary immunity of far-right politician Grzegorz Braun after he extinguished candles lit for the Jewish festival of Hanukkah in a highly controversial act. The global condemnation of Braun’s actions resulted in a fine in December, but the recent decision to revoke his parliamentary immunity now exposes him to potential criminal charges. Braun, affiliated with the ultra-nationalist Confederation party, used a fire extinguisher to put out the Hanukkah candles and referred to the celebration as “satanic.”

Prosecutors are planning to bring several charges against Braun, including destruction of property, insulting an object of religious worship, and violation of bodily integrity. The unanimous support for revoking his immunity came from all political parties, except the Confederation party, highlighting the widespread agreement that Braun’s behavior was unacceptable. Lawmakers emphasized the need to hold him accountable for his actions.

Grzegorz Braun has a history of provocative stunts, further contributing to his controversial reputation. In addition to the Hanukkah incident, he gained notoriety for dumping a Christmas tree decorated in the colors of the EU and Ukraine into a bin and damaging a microphone during a talk by a Holocaust historian. Prosecutors also intend to charge him for separate incidents that occurred in 2022 and 2023.

The removal of Braun’s parliamentary immunity signifies a significant step in potential legal consequences for his actions, with prosecutors aiming to address various charges related to his behavior. The broader context of his controversial actions and statements adds to the ongoing debate about the boundaries of free speech and the consequences for those who engage in offensive or harmful behavior.

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In early November, 50 opposition MPs in Georgia urged NATO and EU member states to unite against Russia’s plan to establish a permanent naval base in Abkhazia, a breakaway region. The move has raised concerns that it could involve Georgia in Russia’s conflict in Ukraine and disrupt Tbilisi’s plans for a Black Sea port. Abkhazia, though internationally recognized as part of Georgia, has been under Russian and separatist control since the 1990s.

Georgia’s foreign ministry condemned Russia’s plan as a violation of sovereignty, but officials downplayed the immediate threat. Satellite imagery suggests ongoing dredging and construction at the port, indicating potential infrastructure for larger cargo ships. Some fear the base could involve Georgia in a conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

The head of Georgia’s Foreign Relations Committee emphasized the government’s focus on immediate threats, such as Russian forces near the occupation line. Despite assurances, concerns exist that the naval base could impact Georgia’s mega-infrastructure project—a deep-sea port in Anaklia, crucial for the Middle Corridor, a fast route between Asia and Europe avoiding Russia.

The Anaklia project was canceled in 2020, with accusations that the government yielded to Moscow’s interests. The cancellation led to international arbitration. The government maintains plans to revive the deep-sea port.

While Georgia has a pro-EU population, its government has a complex relationship with Moscow. Accusations of a pro-Russian stance were labeled “absurd,” citing EU agreements and aspirations. However, the delicate situation underscores Georgia’s vulnerability due to its history of conflicts with Russia and lack of NATO security.

Georgia alleges Russia is using the naval base to pressure against EU integration. A decision on Georgia’s EU candidate status is expected at a December summit. Officials assert Russia aims to undermine Georgia’s stability and European integration, showcasing its influence in the South Caucasus.

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Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo has accused Russia of aiding migrants in entering Finland illegally, alleging that some have received assistance from Russian border guards. The number of unauthorized crossings has increased this week, with around 89 incidents recorded in two days, compared to 91 in the preceding four months. Finnish officials reveal that migrants, including individuals from Iraq, Yemen, and Syria, are arriving legally in Russia but lack authorization to enter Finland, an EU member state.

Colonel Matti Pitkaniitty of the Finnish border guard noted a change in Russian policy, asserting that Russian guards traditionally prevented people without proper documents from reaching the Finnish border. The migrants are exploiting an agreement allowing cycling across the border, prompting Finland to recently ban bicycle crossings. Most activity is concentrated around the Nuijamaa and Vaalimaa border crossings in south-eastern Finland. Prime Minister Orpo claimed that Russian authorities are facilitating these illegal crossings, emphasizing the assistance provided by border guards.

In 2021, a significant number of migrants from the Middle East and Africa entered EU member states Poland and Lithuania by flying to Belarus, a close Russian ally. The EU accused Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko of using migration as a tool of “hybrid warfare” to destabilize the bloc. Colonel Pitkaniitty, while acknowledging the manageable current numbers, stated that Finnish authorities are prepared to react if crossings increase.

Interior Minister Mari Rantanen announced plans to enhance border security, emphasizing the government’s commitment to addressing the situation. Colonel Pitkaniitty noted that the route into the EU via Russia is considered safer than other options, such as crossing the Mediterranean by sea. He expressed concern that word of this route’s safety might attract more migrants, potentially leading to a rapid increase in numbers, emphasizing the unpredictability of when the opportunity might end.

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A legal adviser to the European Court of Justice has recommended a reassessment of the ruling that permitted Apple to evade €13 billion in back taxes. The original decision, overturned three years ago, alleged that the Irish government had provided Apple with illegal tax breaks. Advocate General Giovanni Pitruzzella contends that the previous ruling overlooked crucial legal errors and failed to adequately assess methodological mistakes that, according to the European Commission, tainted the tax rulings in Apple’s favor. Although this legal opinion is not binding, the court typically leans towards such recommendations in the majority of cases.

Apple responded to the recent development, with a spokesperson emphasizing that the initial ruling explicitly stated that the company received no selective advantage or state aid. The tech giant believes this position should be upheld. In 2016, the European Commission determined that Apple had received preferential treatment from the Irish government, resulting in a significantly lower tax rate compared to other companies. The Commission argued that this amounted to illegal aid granted to Apple by the Irish state and symbolized its efforts to combat what it perceived as significant tax avoidance by multinational corporations.

The Irish government has consistently argued against the repayment of back taxes by Apple, asserting that the country’s loss was justified in making itself an appealing destination for large companies. Ireland, with one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the EU, serves as Apple’s regional base for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. While corporate tax rates fall under national jurisdiction, the EU wields substantial power in regulating state aid. In this case, the EU contended that Ireland, by applying very low tax rates to Apple, was providing an unfair subsidy.

Two years ago, the General Court, responsible for the initial ruling’s overturning, deemed the European Commission’s decision legally flawed. However, the recent recommendation from the advocate general suggests that this ruling itself may now face reconsideration, potentially reviving the debate over Apple’s back taxes.

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In Poland’s recent general election, the opposition parties have gathered enough votes to remove the ruling right-wing populist Law and Justice (PiS) party from power. The National Election Commission confirmed PiS’s victory with 35.38% of the vote, surpassing the centrist opposition Civic Coalition led by Donald Tusk, which secured 30.7%.

Donald Tusk, with the support of the center-right Third Way and New Left parties, is likely to form a broad coalition, thus ending PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s eight-year rule. With 248 seats in the 460-seat Sejm, Mr. Tusk’s coalition would exceed the 231-seat threshold required for a majority.

Despite PiS losing 41 seats compared to the last election, their potential coalition with the far-right Confederation party would still fall short by 19 seats. The opposition had alerted Poles that this election was crucial in safeguarding democracy. Voter turnout was reported at 74.38%, the highest since the fall of communism in 1989.

Celebrations erupted in Warsaw, with Mr. Tusk addressing enthusiastic supporters, emphasizing that Poland and democracy had emerged victorious. Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski praised the power of civil society, highlighting the significant voter participation in the capital.

Poland’s stock market surged more than 6%, and the Zloty, its currency, also strengthened on the anticipation of a new government. International observers noted that although parties were allowed to campaign freely, PiS had an advantage due to biased state media coverage and the misuse of public funds.

PiS’s tenure has been characterized by an emphasis on Catholic family values, increases in the minimum wage, and enhancements in child support and pensioner payments. It also imposed a near-total ban on abortion in 2021 and faced criticism for politicizing the judiciary.

Mr. Tusk has pledged to improve relations with the EU and unlock €36bn of EU Covid pandemic recovery funds, frozen due to disputes over PiS’s judicial reforms. His coalition also aims to liberalize abortion laws.

Poland’s strong support for Ukraine since Russia’s invasion and its acceptance of a million refugees are expected to continue under the new government. However, the process of forming a new government might extend until December, following President Andrzej Duda’s announcement that the winning party would be given the first opportunity to form a coalition, adhering to Polish tradition.

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Azerbaijan’s defense ministry has initiated “anti-terrorist” operations in regions of Nagorno-Karabakh controlled by Armenia. Tensions have remained elevated for several months concerning the disputed ethnic-Armenian enclave, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.

In Karabakh’s main city, air raid sirens and mortar fire were heard. Tragically, eleven Azerbaijani police and civilians lost their lives in a mine explosion and another incident.

Officials from the breakaway region of Karabakh stated that the Azerbaijani military breached the ceasefire by launching missile and artillery attacks along the entire line of contact. Representatives from Karabakh described it as a “large-scale military offensive.”

Azerbaijan and Armenia, neighboring nations, have previously engaged in two conflicts over Nagorno-Karabakh: first in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union and again in 2020. Three years ago, Azerbaijan successfully regained territories surrounding Karabakh, which had been held by Armenia since 1994.

Since December, Azerbaijan has imposed an effective blockade on the only route into the enclave from Armenia, known as the Lachin Corridor.

On Tuesday, Baku’s defense ministry accused Armenian forces of “systematically shelling” its military positions and claimed to have responded by launching “local, anti-terrorist activities” aimed at disarming and securing the withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from Azerbaijani territories. They emphasized that their targets were strictly military and not civilians or civilian infrastructure.

Armenia’s defense ministry denied claims of Armenian military fire, stating that they did not correspond to reality.

The sounds of artillery and gunfire were reported from Khankendi, the regional capital of Karabakh, known as Stepanakert to Armenians. An estimated 120,000 ethnic Armenians reside in this mountainous enclave.

Journalist Siranush Sargsyan reported that residential areas of the city had been struck, including a neighboring building.

Armenian officials noted that, as of 14:00 (10:00 GMT), the situation along Armenia’s own borders was “relatively stable.”

Russia’s foreign ministry disclosed that it had been informed of the Azerbaijani offensive only moments before it occurred, urging both nations to respect the ceasefire that was signed after the 2020 war. The EU’s regional special representative, Toivo Klaar, emphasized the “urgent need for an immediate ceasefire.”

The fragile truce that ended the six-week war in 2020 had been under increasing strain in recent months. Approximately 3,000 Russian peacekeepers were deployed to monitor the ceasefire, but Russia’s attention has been redirected to its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan recently stated that Russia was “spontaneously leaving the region.”

Azerbaijan had denied increasing troop numbers in the region. On Monday, it permitted aid from the International Committee of the Red Cross to enter Karabakh via two routes, one through the Lachin Corridor from Armenia and the other on Azerbaijan’s Aghdam road.

Hopes for tensions to ease were dashed when Azerbaijani officials reported six casualties, including four police officers, in an incident where their vehicle hit a landmine in the Khojavand area, which had been retaken during the 2020 war. Meanwhile, ethnic Armenian officials in Karabakh asserted that it was Azerbaijan’s military that had violated the ceasefire.

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The European Union’s highest court has rejected a case against the European border agency Frontex, which was brought by a Syrian refugee family forcibly sent from Greece to Turkey in 2016. The family’s lawyers argued that Frontex should be held responsible for the deportation of refugees without the opportunity to apply for asylum, which is considered illegal under international law.

However, the European Court of Justice dismissed their challenge, stating that Frontex lacks the authority to assess the merits of return decisions or asylum applications, and therefore cannot be held liable for any harm caused.

The Syrian family, consisting of a husband, wife, and four young children, arrived in Greece in 2016 as part of the European migrant crisis. They registered their intention to seek international protection on the Greek island of Leros but were subsequently transported to the island of Kos. After just eleven days in Greece, the family alleges that they were flown to Turkey by Frontex and Greek authorities without being given the opportunity to apply for asylum or receiving an expulsion decision. The family claimed that they were misled into believing they were being taken to Athens when they boarded the plane. During the flight, the parents were reportedly separated from their children, who were between one and six years old at the time, and they were not allowed to communicate with anyone during the journey.

The family was released in Turkey but lacked access to housing, water, or sanitation. They later fled to northern Iraq. In 2021, they brought their case to the European Court of Justice, supported by human rights lawyers and the Dutch Council for Refugees.

Following the court’s ruling, the family expressed their disappointment, emphasizing that Frontex should be held accountable for their unjust treatment. Their lawyers indicated that they intended to appeal the decision.

Legal experts argued that individuals should not be deported to another country without a proper assessment of their need for asylum, which they claim did not occur in this case.

The Dutch Council for Refugees and the law firm representing the family stated that the ruling raised questions about how Frontex should ensure respect for fundamental rights in its activities, as mandated by its role.

Frontex responded by requiring EU member states to confirm that individuals were given the opportunity to seek international protection and that their applications were processed in accordance with EU laws.

The European Parliament had previously noted that human rights organizations, media, and civil society groups regularly reported cases of pushbacks or collective expulsions at the EU’s borders, often involving excessive force by EU member state authorities. Frontex had faced accusations of failing to protect individuals in these situations.

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Italy’s Defense Minister, Guido Crosetto, criticized the country’s decision to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), calling it “improvised and atrocious.” Crosetto claimed that the initiative had not effectively boosted Italy’s exports, making China the primary beneficiary.

In 2019, Italy became the first developed economy to join the BRI, a move that was met with criticism from its Western allies. The BRI aims to connect China with Europe and other regions through infrastructure projects, but critics view it as a means for China to expand its influence.

Crosetto expressed the need to find a way to withdraw from the BRI without damaging relations with Beijing. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni had previously mentioned the possibility of talks with China about potential withdrawal. The deal is set to be automatically renewed in March 2024 unless Italy formally requests to withdraw by December of this year.

China has been actively campaigning to persuade Italy to renew the agreement, emphasizing the mutually beneficial cooperation and fruitful results achieved through the BRI.

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A deadly wave of Mediterranean wildfires has resulted in over 40 deaths and forced thousands to evacuate in Algeria, Italy, and Greece.

The situation remains dire as high temperatures and dry conditions persist, making firefighting efforts challenging. The island of Rhodes has declared a state of emergency, and other regions, including Corfu, Evia, Sicily, and Puglia, have also been severely affected.

Climate scientists warn that human-induced climate change played a significant role in the intensity of this month’s heatwave across Southern Europe, North America, and China. Italy faced contrasting extreme weather events, with deadly storms in the north and wildfires in the south.

Portugal, Croatia, and France also witnessed wildfires and took measures to combat them. The widespread impact of these fires has caused immense human and economic losses across the region.

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