German bank considers loans for projects in HCM City

BRUSSELS: Poland has missed an EU deadline to respond to concerns over controversial court reforms by the rightwing government, which Brussels fears will erode judicial independence, a Brussels spokesman said on Sunday (Aug 27). Protesters criticised a controversial reform of the Supreme Court Polish lawmakers adopted in July despite the threat of unprecedented EU sanctions. (Photo: AFP/John MacDougall) On Jul 26, the European Commission gave Warsaw a month to end what it considers a "systemic threat" to the rule of law and inform the EU executive branch of measures taken to modify the reforms. "As far as I am aware, we have still not received a response," a commission spokesman told AFP. The EU executive will meet Monday to consider the issue, he added. The Polish foreign ministry, for its part, told AFP that "as the deadline falls on a holiday, we consider that it ends on the first working day after that". The ministry later added that it would send its response on Monday. Tensions between Warsaw and the EU have been growing over what Brussels sees as a growing threat, not just to democratic standards in Poland but across the 28-nation bloc. It could eventually lead to a case against Poland before the bloc's highest court, the European Court of Justice, and possibly a fine. The commission has said the threat to judicial independence comes from the Polish justice minister getting "discretionary power to prolong the mandate of judges who have reached retirement age as…... [read more]

The European Union should not "drag its feet" in negotiating Brexit, a British government source said on Sunday ahead of a fresh round of UK-EU divorce talks in Brussels this week. "Both sides must be flexible and willing to compromise when it comes to solving areas where we disagree," the source said. "As the EU itself has said, the clock is ticking so neither side should drag its feet." The Brexit ministry in a statement also called for the European Commission to be "more flexible", as British negotiators push for talks on future trade ties alongside the divorce. "Conversations about our exit and the future deep and special partnership we want with the EU are inextricably linked," the ministry said. But the EU says there must first be "sufficient progress" on three issues -- the status of EU nationals in Britain, the bill for the divorce and the future of Northern Ireland's border with the Irish republic. An EU official told a press briefing on Friday that there was "a very big gap" between "where we are and where we need to be" and there was a "lack of substance" in the negotiations so far. The official said it was "unlikely" there would be "major steps" in the coming days of talks. The ministry said the negotiations between Brexit minister David Davis and Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, would begin on Monday and wrap up on Thursday. The precise date for the start had been in doubt, as…... [read more]

ROME: Italy said on Monday (Aug 21) it has found traces of fipronil in two eggs samples, making it the latest country hit by the Europe-wide insecticide scandal, while a batch of tainted frozen omelettes was also withdrawn. Fipronil, which can harm human health, has been discovered in eggs in 17 European countries since the scandal came to light on Aug 1. (AFP/Guido KIRCHNER) The two positive samples were from a total of 114 samples so far tested. One involved Italian-sourced eggs, while the other was still under investigation, said the Italian health ministry. Separately, a regional official said a batch of frozen omelettes containing traces of fipronil had been withdrawn from sale in Milan. The omelettes were supplied by German group Kagerr and distributed by an Italian group, a Lombardy regional official told reporters. He said 127 units from the batch had been withdrawn, but 117 had already been sold to consumers. Fipronil is commonly used to get rid of fleas, lice and ticks from animals but the European Union has banned its use in the food industry. The insecticide has now been discovered in eggs in 17 European countries since the scandal came to light at the start of August, and was even found as far away as Hong Kong. Millions of eggs have been pulled from supermarket shelves and dozens of poultry farms closed, and the European…... [read more]

A van driver ploughed into crowds of pedestrians on Barcelona's most popular street in broad daylight on Thursday, killing 13 people in an attack claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group. Police announced the arrest of two suspects, identified as a Spaniard and a Moroccan, but said the driver was still on the run. Hours later in Cambrils, a city 120 kilometers south of Barcelona, police said e they shot dead "four suspected terrorists" and left another injured in a "possible terrorist attack." The incident in Cambrils took place in the early hours of Friday, but police gave no further details, nor did they mention whether the shooting was linked to the Barcelona attack. Witnesses in Barcelona told of scenes of chaos and horror, with bodies strewn along the famous Las Ramblas boulevard as other people fled for their lives, screaming in panic. The rampage in a city hugely popular with tourists from around the world is the latest in a wave of attacks in Europe where vehicles have been used as weapons of terror. As world leaders united in condemning the carnage, the IS propaganda agency Amaq claimed that it was carried out by "soldiers" from the jihadist group. "We're united in grief," Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in a televised address after rushing to Barcelona, the biggest city in Catalonia, a region in Spain's northeast whose separatist government is defying Madrid. "Above all we're united in the firm intention to defeat those who want to take…... [read more]

BARCELONA: A van driver ploughed into crowds of pedestrians on Barcelona's most popular street in broad daylight on Thursday (Aug 17), killing 13 people in an attack claimed by the Islamic State militant group. Medical staff members and policemen stand in a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd, injuring several persons on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. (AFP Photo/Josep Lago) Police announced the arrest of two suspects, identified as a Spaniard and a Moroccan, but said the driver was still on the run. Witnesses told of scenes of chaos and horror, with bodies strewn along the famous boulevard as other people fled for their lives, screaming in panic. The rampage in a city hugely popular with tourists from around the world is the latest in a wave of attacks in Europe where vehicles have been used as weapons of terror. As world leaders united in condemning the carnage, the IS propaganda agency Amaq claimed that it was carried out by "soldiers" from the militant group. "We're united in grief," Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in a televised address after rushing to Catalonia where Barcelona is located - a region in Spain's northeast where a pro-independence movement has caused friction with the central government. "Above all we're united in the firm intention to defeat those who want to take our values and way of life…... [read more]

BERLIN: A German state minister charged on Wednesday (Aug 16) that over three times more eggs contaminated with the insecticide fipronil had entered the country than the national government has admitted. Germans are in a scramble over the number of tainted eggs in their country. (AFP/PHILIPPE LOPEZ) While Berlin puts the total at 10.7 million eggs, the agriculture minister of the state of Lower Saxony said that 35 million possibly tainted eggs had made it to his state alone from the Netherlands. The state minister, Christian Meyer of the ecologist Greens party, accused Berlin of "playing down the problem" and said his figures were backed by EU data. At the national level, a spokeswoman for Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt of the conservative CSU party denied the claim and accused Meyer of politicising the issue ahead of a national vote on Sep 24 and a state poll in October. "One shouldn't use consumer fears for election campaigns," said Schmidt's spokeswoman, Christina Wendt. Fipronil is commonly used to get rid of fleas, lice and ticks from animals but is banned in the European Union from use in the food industry. The insecticide has now been discovered in eggs in 17 European countries since the scandal came to light at the start of August and was even found as far away as Hong Kong. Millions of eggs have been pulled from supermarket shelves…... [read more]

HONGKONG: Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific on Wednesday (Aug 16) reported a massive net loss of HK$2.05 billion (US$262.07 million) for the first half of the year as the airline struggled with intense competition from rivals. Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific reported a massive net loss of HK$2.05 billion for the first half of the year as the airline struggled with intense competition from rivals. (Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace) The results, which were worse than analysts predicted, came after Cathay saw its first annual loss in eight years in 2016, as lower cost Chinese carriers eat into its market share. Wednesday's results pave the way for the first ever back-to-back annual losses in the company's 70-year history. Bloomberg analysts had forecast a year-on-year loss of HK$1.2 billion (US$153 million) for the first half of 2017. Chairman John Slosar described the results as "disappointing" to reporters and said competition was the most significant factor. Companies like China Eastern and China Southern Airlines are offering direct services to Europe and the United States from the mainland, while budget carriers like Spring Airlines have targeted regional travellers, undermining Cathay's position. The airline is also losing premium travellers as it comes under pressure from Middle East rivals which are expanding into Asia and offering more luxury touches. That has led to promotional prices for Cathay's top tickets as they are sold to leisure…... [read more]

BUDAPEST: Hungary on Tuesday (Aug 15) became the latest European country to withdraw egg products imported from Germany containing the insecticide fipronil. Millions of eggs have been pulled from supermarket shelves and destroyed across Europe and dozens of poultry farms closed since the discovery of contamination with fipronil, which can harm human health, was made public on Aug 1. (AFP/TENGKU Bahar) The EU member state's food safety agency Nebih said it had ordered the withdrawal of Asian-style frozen foods imported from Germany by a Hungarian catering trade supplier. "The Hungarian firm supplied catering units exclusively," Nebih said, adding that all of the suppliers' clients have been informed of the withdrawal order. The move followed a notification by Germany to the EU's food safety alert system that traces of fipronil had been found in the products of the exporter, Nebih said in a statement posted on its website. The insecticide has now been discovered in eggs in 17 European countries since the scandal came to light at the start of August and was even found as far away as Hong Kong. Millions of eggs have been pulled from supermarket shelves and dozens of poultry farms closed, with the European Commission due to hold a crisis meeting in September. Fipronil, an insecticide, is commonly used to get rid of fleas, lice and ticks from animals but is banned in the European Union from…... [read more]

LONDON: Britain said on Tuesday (Aug 15) it would seek a "temporary customs union" with the European Union after Brexit, in an opening gambit for trade negotiations that received a cool response from Brussels. Britain's membership of the EU customs union precludes it from striking its own trade deals. (Photo: AFP/Daniel Leal-Olivas) The government proposed to continue for around two years the kind of tariff-free arrangements that apply now to EU-UK trade in goods, to give businesses more time to adapt to new post-Brexit systems. But unlike under the current customs union, London said it wanted to be able to negotiate free trade agreements with non-EU countries during the interim period, which would then be implemented afterwards. Brexit minister David Davis told BBC radio it was "sensible" to have a "shortish period in which we maintain the current arrangements", lasting "something like two years". The proposal was welcomed by the Confederation of British Industry, Britain's big business lobby group, but critics dismissed it as "fantasy". Britain has said it will leave the EU customs union and single market - its largest trading partner - when it leaves the bloc in March 2019, but wants trade to continue as smoothly as possible. The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, said on Tuesday that it would "take note" of the proposals, but warned: "'Frictionless trade' is not possible outside the single market and…... [read more]

A scandal involving eggs contaminated with insecticide spread to 15 EU countries, Switzerland and as far away as Hong Kong on Friday as the European Commission called for a special meeting on the growing crisis. Ministers and food safety chiefs from around the European Union are set to meet on September 26 in a bid to get countries to stop "blaming and shaming" each other over the scare involving the chemical fipronil. Millions of eggs have been pulled from supermarket shelves across Europe and dozens of poultry farms closed since the discovery of fipronil, which can harm human health, was made public on August 1. The issue has sparked a row between Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, the three countries at the epicenter of the crisis, about how long they knew about the problem. "Blaming and shaming will bring us nowhere and I want to stop this," Vytenis Andriukaitis, the European Commissioner for health and food safety, told AFP as he announced the meeting. "We need to work together to draw the necessary lessons and move forward instead." European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said that "this is not, let's be clear, a crisis meeting" and it is being held next month to get "distance to the events". Fipronil is commonly used to get rid of fleas, lice and ticks from animals but is banned by the European Union from use in the food industry. The EU insists there is no threat to human health, but the World Health Organization…... [read more]




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