Posts Tagged ‘netherlands’

Information wars: Europe aims to set the global standard with GDPR

May 20, 2018

The EU’s rules for data privacy were once derided as restrictive, but after the Facebook scandal Brussels hopes they will help bring big tech to heel

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Sarah Gordon and Aliya Ram In London 


Vera Jourova, the EU’s justice commissioner, describes it as a “loaded gun” in the hands of regulators. This week the bloc introduces the General Data Protection Regulation, which will, its advocates argue, dramatically improve the care with which organisations both within the EU and elsewhere treat our personal data.
GDPR will harmonise data protection rules across the world’s largest trading bloc, give greater rights to individuals over how their data is used, put in place significant protections for children and streamline regulators’ ability to crack down on breaches.When the new rules were first proposed, many executives in Silicon Valley derided them as restrictive and anti-competitive. But in the wake of the scandal over the use of Facebook data by Cambridge Analytica, Europe’s approach to data privacy has started to appear much more relevant.

According to many companies and data protection authorities, GDPR could become the global norm, setting standards for behaviour not just in the EU but in countries where hitherto individuals have had few weapons to defend their rights online.

“Europe was way ahead on this,” Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, admitted last month.

Yet as the final countdown to May 25 begins, cracks in the EU’s vision have appeared. Many businesses are unprepared for the new rules and several countries have failed to pass the necessary legislation to implement them nationally. Serious questions have also been raised about the ability of data protection authorities across the bloc to enforce the new rules adequately.

“Everybody is leaving it until the last conceivable moment, despite the fact there was a two-year deadline,” says Harry Small, head of data protection law at Baker McKenzie. “Quite a lot of companies have not really woken up.”

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Vera Jourova, the EU’s justice commissioner © Bloomberg


Even critics acknowledge that GDPR will introduce a new rigour into the messy patchwork of rules governing how our data are treated across Europe. It requires any organisation anywhere in the world that handles the personal information of an EU citizen to be transparent about how it collects, stores and processes it.
Organisations must obtain unambiguous consent to use and retain data, keep it up to date, delete old data and — if they have a large volume of personal information, data subjects and range of items — will have to appoint a protection officer.Consumers will have the right to ask for the information companies hold about them and request that their data is deleted from business databases. The rules forbid companies from processingdata on race, ethnicity, political opinions, religious beliefs, trade union membership or sexual orientation without explicit consent.

Ultimately, the impact of GDPR will depend on whether individuals decide to exercise the greater powers the rules give them. They are part of a growing worldwide push for customers to mature into “digital adults”, with both greater control over and responsibility for their own information. Proponents hope that GDPR will help individuals become both more demanding and more aware of their power.

“Data subjects are going to become increasingly aware of their rights, and they’re not going to put up with poor practices by organisations,” says Helen Dixon, Ireland’s data protection commissioner.

But she points to the fact that Facebook’s registered users have increased even while the Cambridge Analytica scandal has raged as an example of the so-called “privacy paradox”, that while people say control over their data matters to them, they have remained, by and large, casual about relinquishing it.

GDPR: how Europe’s data law works

GDPR’s reach is already spreading well beyond the EU. According to Graham Greenleaf, a professor of law and information systems at Australia’s University of New South Wales, 120 countries globally had data protection laws in 2017, but GDPR is probably the broadest and most rigorous.

For a start, any country wanting to sign a trade deal with the EU will have to sign up to respecting GDPR, the first time the EU will formally address the issue of trade and data flows as part of its role negotiating free trade agreements on behalf of its 28 member states.

For many large multinationals, it could make sense to adopt GDPR globally both from a cost and consistency standpoint. Regulators in places such as Hong Kong have based their laws on the EU’s 1995 data protection directive, and have said they intend to update them to reflect GDPR.

Yet despite the predictions about global impact, there are big questions about how it will actually be implemented within the EU.

Given the scope of the new rules, which run to more than 200 pages, preparing for GDPR has proved both onerous and expensive. Companies in the UK’s FTSE 100 are estimated to have had to spend an average of £15m each to comply with them, according to research by the legal tech firm Axiom. Meanwhile, in the US, the International Association of Privacy Professionals and EY say members of the Fortune 500 will spend a combined $7.8bn on compliance, an average of almost $16m each.

The survey suggests that Fortune 500 companies have each had to hire on average five full-time dedicated privacy employees — such as data protection officers — as well as another five employees to work part-time on compliance.

For some businesses, GDPR has required them to conduct an audit of what information they hold, but the task of “cleansing” databases of old or duplicate information, and contacting individuals for consents, has often taken months of staff time.

For one small recruitment agency in London — the sort of business where personal data about potential clients is vital — getting ready for GDPR has involved “not just a database project, but a whole programme of change”. The company has employed one staff member just to “cleanse” the data on individuals which it holds, and to contact people for consent to continue holding it.

“We used to make the assumption that because someone’s information was in the public domain, like LinkedIn or their own website, that there was no problem with us holding it,” says the person at the agency in charge of implementing the new regulations.

Given the scale of the task, a significant number of organisations will not be ready in time for May 25. A survey of nearly 200 global businesses by SAS, an analytics company, in February found that fewer than half expected to be fully compliant by deadline day.

Smaller companies across the EU and elsewhere are at particular risk. In March, the UK’s Federation of Small Businesses found that fewer than one in 10 small businesses in the UK were fully prepared for GDPR, with just under one in five unaware even of the existence of the new rules.

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Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says Europe has taken the lead on data protection


It is not just organisations which are lagging behind. In January the European Commission said that of the bloc’s 28 member states only Austria and Germany had fully adopted changes to their legislation ahead of the new regulations. While countries such as the UK are expected to pass the laws at the last minute, Baker McKenzie says five EU countries, Bulgaria, Greece, Malta, Portugal and Romania, have not even published a bill or proper information about how they will implement GDPR.
For organisations which remain in breach of the new rules, failure to comply could bear a high cost, with fines of potentially 4 per cent of global turnover or €20m, whichever is the greater. The cost of putting things right, as well as the reputational hit, could be even higher.But there are significant question marks over whether those in charge of enforcing the new rules are up to the task.

As early as 2015 Jacob Kohnstamm, former chairman of the Netherlands’ data protection authority, was warning that organisations breaking the rules faced “little chance of being caught”. Given his organisation’s budget to do investigations, “the chance of having the regulator knock on your door is less than once every thousand years”.

The resources available to most European DPAs’ budgets are still a fraction of those in North America — and have only risen by about a quarter on average across the bloc in response to the increased demands on them that GDPR represents.

Giovanni Buttarelli, the EU’s European data protection officer, warned at the end of last year that the number of people working for regulators in the EU — about 2,500 — was “not many people to supervise compliance with a complex law applicable to all companies in the world targeting services at, or monitoring, people in Europe”.

Last September Elizabeth Denham, the UK’s information commissioner, said she needed more staff on better pay if the regulator was to effectively enforce GDPR. After a boost in government funding, the Information Commissioner’s Office will increase headcount by a third to about 700 by 2020, but DPAs and companies across the bloc are fighting to hire the trained staff they need.

“It’ll take time to build staff,” Ms Denham told the FT. “We have started more investigating . . . of social media companies and elections. I’d call that more of a proactive [investigative] culture. The whole approach needs to change.”

Ms Dixon’s office in Ireland has 100 staff and she plans to recruit 40 more this year, bringing in litigators, criminal lawyers and staff with investigative experience, for example from the insurance sector. “To use the big corrective powers that really bite we will have to be demonstrably showing we’ve followed fair process,” she says.

Ms Dixon is well aware of the scale of the task ahead, given that Dublin is the European home to many of the US tech groups such as Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, LinkedIn and Airbnb.

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‘Solid’ web supporter: Sir Tim Berners-Lee © Getty


Under GDPR one authority will take the lead on cases such as data breaches and related issues rather than the current situation where a company can face multiple legal challenges from regulators in different EU member states. In theory, GDPR prohibits “forum shopping” by companies keen to choose their preferred regulator, and objective criteria should govern who leads on specific cases.
Facebook would be the Irish DPA’s responsibility, given its central administration is in Ireland, its terms of service are associated with its Irish entity and it has a substantial data protection and privacy team in Dublin.For companies such as Google, which provides services through its global headquarters, regulation will depend on where cases are brought in Europe. This will make it less clear which regulator has oversight over the company’s data use and privacy practices.

There are other grey areas. Advertising technology businesses that harvest data from third-party websites may have to seek consent from users. Google has dealt with this by defining itself as a “controller” of data under GDPR when handling third-party information. But the designation has been resisted by publishers which will have to seek consent to share information with Google, raising concerns among their own users.

Privacy campaigners have cried foul over the imperfections of GDPR. But as the world’s attention zeroes in on data protection after revelations about Facebook’s massive data leak, officials in Brussels will hope the rules can mark a new beginning in how personal information is policed.

Control your information: Rules call for more consumer ownership


Europe’s new data privacy rules are underpinned by the basic principle that individuals — not companies — should own their personal information. For Tim Berners Lee, the British computer scientist widely credited with inventing the worldwide web, this is crucial to promoting competition on the internet, which he argues is increasingly dominated by a handful of platforms.
“We could imagine that in a better world . . . you’d have a choice of search engine and a choice of social network to join,” he told the FT. “All the photos you have on LinkedIn, Flickr and Facebook would be yours. “In a better world you’d have complete control over your information.”The lawmakers who drafted the General Data Protection Regulation paid a visit in the summer of 2016 to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Sir Tim is based. There they were given a short talk on his solid decentralised web project, which aims to improve privacy by building technical tools that give users ownership over their data.

The idea, which has already been implemented by some non-governmental organisations and data brokers, is a central plank of the GDPR. The rules mandate companies to allow citizens to download their data in a “commonly used and machine-readable format” that would allow them to share or sell it with other companies.

This would theoretically make it possible for a user to move between social media companies with all their information — or sell it back to the company for a price. However, Robin Jack, an independent analyst, says that most data is still unreadable. “Data is messy,” he says. “There are lots of things that are inconsistent, like date formats, whether the prices of things have currencies or not, whether times have time zones.”

Social media companies argue that the data they gather is inherently incompatible with other companies. For example the “audience” profiles created by Facebook cannot be matched with the lifestyle categories generated by Snapchat.

“It’s difficult to create that interoperability between those companies,” says Katherine Tassi, Snap’s deputy general counsel. “For example, Snap giving access to its service to another service is not necessarily meaningful.”

https://www.ft.com/content/1aa9b0fa-5786-11e8-bdb7-f6677d2e1ce8

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Anbang Insurance Founder’s Stunning Fall Ends With 18-Year Prison Term

May 10, 2018

Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court also fined Wu $1.65 billion

Anbang’s Wu Xiaohui in Beijing last year.
Anbang’s Wu Xiaohui in Beijing last year. PHOTO: THOMAS PETER/REUTERS

Disgraced Chinese insurance magnate Wu Xiaohui was sentenced to 18 years in prison on Thursday after being convicted of fraud and abuse of power connected with the meteoric rise of the company he founded, Anbang Insurance Group Co.

The penalties handed down by Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court, which included a confiscation of 10.5 billion yuan ($1.65 billion) in assets, followed a one-day trial of Mr. Wu in late March. The 18-year jail term combines a 15 year sentence for fraud—including illegal fundraising—and 10 years for abuse of power stemming from Mr. Wu’s efforts to mask how he controlled Anbang, the court said.

The jail term is one of the lengthiest given to a fallen private business executive in China. It also caps a dramatic reversal in fortunes for Anbang, which was seized by government regulators earlier this year following an overseas acquisition spree that saw it snap up the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York and other overseas luxury properties. Regulators have described Anbang’s blazing expansion as a potential systemic risk to the country’s financial system.

Mr. Wu, 51 years old, expressed remorse and asked for leniency during his trial, according to a summary published by the court in March. But Mr. Wu also pushed back against the prosecution by saying Anbang’s growth strategies weren’t unique in the industry. He also expressed doubt that he violated laws.

It isn’t clear if Mr. Wu appeared or made a statement during the Thursday sentencing. A lawyer for Mr. Wu couldn’t be reached.

In its sentencing statement, the court said Mr. Wu instructed other people to falsify documents and he personally pocketed some premiums from Anbang’s insurance products, according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency. The sentence also suggested Anbang abused its mandate as an insurer by selling what were essentially short-term, high-yielding investment products, estimating costs to the nation of about $10.2 billion.

The Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York early last year.
The Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York early last year. PHOTO: KATHY WILLENS/ASSOCIATED PRESS

In early April, Anbang said it would receive a capital injection of nearly $9.7 billion from an industry rescue fund to keep the company solvent and help stabilize its operations. Chinese authorities have said they plan to oversee Anbang’s operations for at least a year while it seeks new investors, and they intend for the company to remain a private insurer.

In a statement Thursday, Anbang said Mr. Wu was previously removed from the firm and that under government supervision its operations “remain stable.” It added that it has sufficient cash flow to fulfill its commitments to all customers “and ensure that the legitimate rights of policyholders are effectively protected.”

In fewer than two decades starting in the early 2000s, Mr. Wu built Anbang from a small regional car insurer into the country’s third-largest insurer by assets. Mr. Wu’s employees described him as hands-on as the company designed new investment options for younger people and marketed the products nationwide using the internet. As its premium income soared, Anbang plowed funds into building a global financial services brand by buying weak insurers in South Korea and the Netherlands and a bank in Belgium. Mr. Wu spoke of making the businesses tech savvy and responsive to a fast-changing global financial sector.

But Anbang captured international attention with its purchases of trophy hotel and property assets in the U.S. and elsewhere, including its $2 billion splurge on the Waldorf in 2015.

This week, an Anbang spokesman said the firm has no plans to shed overseas assets, but the company has been speaking with bankers in the wake of the government takeover so they can have “a better understanding of the situation of the value” of the holdings.

Chinese authorities, with increasing doubts about economic growth and a continuing buildup of debt, have recently been redoubling efforts reduce risks in the nation’s financial sector. Mr. Wu is the first tycoon to be formally prosecuted in this push.

Mr. Wu’s trial started without notice in March about nine months after he disappeared last summer, raising questions about the fates of other high-profile Chinese executives whose whereabouts aren’t known and are widely believed to be under investigation by Chinese authorities.

Xiao Jianhua of bank holding company Tomorrow Group, for instance, hasn’t been seen since early 2017. He hasn’t made a statement. More recently, oil-focused conglomerate CEFC China Energy Co.’s Ye Jianming also disappeared with no statement.

The challenges aren’t confined to private businesspeople. Last month, the Communist Party unveiled an investigation into possible graft by the chairman of the country’s largest state-owned debt restructuring company, Lai Xiaomin of China Huarong Asset Management Co.

Write to James T. Areddy at james.areddy@wsj.com and Stella Yifan Xie at stella.xie@wsj.com

Appeared in the May 10, 2018, print edition as ‘China Sentences Tycoon To Prison.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/anbang-insurances-wu-xiaohui-sentenced-to-18-years-in-prison-1525923337

EU, US police cripple Islamic State media mouthpieces — “Attacking the online infrastructure.”

April 27, 2018

European and US police forces have struck at the heart of Islamic State’s propaganda machine, seizing servers and “punching a hole” in its ability to spread its radical jihadist message online.

© AFP / by Jo Biddle | The Islamic State group, whose flags are pictured here in northern Iraq, has lost large swathes of its territory since a US-led alliance started an offensive in 2014

AFP

The transatlantic takedown was spread over eight countries and was coordinated by the EU’s police agency in “a major operation over a two-year period”, the head of Europol Rob Wainwright told AFP on Friday.

Wednesday and Thursday’s operation was the latest in a campaign targeting in particular the Amaq news agency used by IS to broadcast claims of attacks and spread its message of jihad.

“With this takedown action, targeting major IS-branded media outlets like Amaq, but also al-Bayan radio, Halumu and Nasher news, IS’s capability to broadcast and publicise terrorist material has been compromised,” Europol said in a statement.

The “simultaneous multinational takedown” was coordinated by Europol from its headquarters in The Hague, and led by the Belgian federal prosecutor.

– ‘Technically challenging’ –

“Dozens and dozens” of national police forces fanned out in their countries, seizing servers in the Netherlands, Canada and the United States as well as in Bulgaria, France and Romania.

The goal was “to destabilise this apparatus by seizing and dismantling servers used to diffuse IS propaganda and to identify and arrest its administrators,” the Belgian prosecutor said in a statement.

“With this groundbreaking operation we have punched a big hole in the capability of IS to spread propaganda online and radicalise young people in Europe,” Wainwright said.

Britain’s Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit was also involved in identifying “top-level domain registrars abused by IS”.

“It was so technically challenging that we were only really able to do it because of our experience in major cybercrime takedowns,” Wainwright told AFP.

“We basically ran the cyber playbook against IS,” he said, adding police forces around the world had spent years gathering intelligence to locate the servers being used by the jihadists.

Europol began warning about the rise of Amaq in late 2015, stressing “the technical resilience of the terrorist online infrastructure”.

– ‘Squeezed’ in battle and online –

While a US-led international coalition has been combatting IS on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria gaining back territory it seized in 2014, nations have also warned about that a multi-pronged attack was needed, including choking off its online access.

“They’ve been squeezed on the battlefield, and now they’ve been really badly squeezed, badly hit, on the online platform as well,” said Wainwright.

IS used Amaq to claim “every major attack since 2015 in Europe”, he said, including the deadly assaults in Paris, Brussels, Barcelona and Berlin.

Amaq was also used to claim the March supermarket siege in Trebes, France, where a 25-year-old gunman killed four people, including a policeman who took the place of a hostage.

“The technical infrastructure which allows it to put these terrible propaganda videos and messages out has been knocked offline,” Wainwright told AFP, speaking on his last day as Europol chief.

But Europol’s investigation is still ongoing, and arrests could follow.

Al-Bayan radio, which once broadcast on frequency mode and offered a wide range of statements, news and talks in several languages, had long moved online and reduced its activities, only offering sporadic updates.

On Friday however, Nasher news — the main Telegram account on which Amaq statements were posted in the region — remained active, claiming jihadist fighters had damaged three Syrian army vehicles in fighting in the Qadam neighbourhood of southern Damascus.

“We are realistic in recognising that there still might be a retained possibility of re-establishing the network,” Wainwright said, highlighting that this week’s action was the third in a series of such takedowns.

“But we’re getting stronger every time, and narrowing the space for them to re-create their online presence.”

by Jo Biddle

Shell accuses ex-exec over illegal activity in corruption riddled Nigeria

March 28, 2018

AFP

© AFP/File | Though the complaint from Shell around a 2011 deal in Nigeria is not connected to the billion dollar OPL 245 deal, the employee was working for Shell when both deals took place

LAGOS (AFP) – Shell has filed a criminal complaint in the Netherlands against a former employee in connection with a 2011 oil deal in Nigeria, a company spokesman said Wednesday.News of the complaint, which was filed last week, comes at the same time the energy giant is facing a criminal trial in Italy over an allegedly corrupt scheme to acquire a Nigerian oil block called OPL 245.

Though the complaint is not connected to the billion dollar OPL 245 deal, the employee was working for Shell when both deals took place.

“Based on what we know now from an internal investigation, we suspect a crime may have been committed by our former employee…against Shell in relation to the sale process for Oil Mining Lease (OML) 42 in Nigeria in 2011,” said a Shell spokesman in an emailed statement.

“We have filed a criminal complaint with the Dutch authorities and are considering other steps we could take.

The spokesman said that the two deals are “unrelated” and that there is “no case against Shell or its former employees” in the OPL 245 case.

The employee may have received kickbacks through a company listed in Seychelles during the “unusual” sale of OML 42 to Nigeria’s Neconde Energy in 2011, said a company source.

Anti-corruption campaigners welcomed the news as a promising development.

“After years of saying that there is no place for bribery or corruption in their company, they have finally admitted that one of their most senior executives may have taken kickbacks in return for an oil deal,” said Barnaby Pace of Global Witness, an international non-governmental organisation.

Corruption is rife in Nigeria, one of Africa’s biggest economies, but perpetrators elude prosecution, often relying on an elaborate web of shell companies and middlemen to avoid detection and obfuscate blame.

EU tells Poland time running out to restore rule of law

February 27, 2018

Reuters

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Western EU states told Poland on Tuesday that time was running out for it to address concerns in a dispute over democratic freedoms, but held off from further action as a deadline for a response from Warsaw approaches.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets across Poland urging Duda to exercise his veto [Reuters]Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Poland last year

In a long-running and bruising clash, the executive European Commission has accused Poland’s nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party of undermining the rule of law with reforms to the judiciary and state media since taking power in late 2015.

After repeatedly declining to backtrack on its judicial reforms, Warsaw has now sat down to negotiations as paralell talks on the bloc’s next joint budget starting in 2021 get under way.

EU ministers held their third debate on the matter in Brussels on Tuesday, with Germany and France warning Poland against using discussions with the Commission as a smokescreen.

“The clock is ticking. The European Commission and a series of EU members are very concerned about the rule of law situation, particularly the independence of the judiciary,” said Michael Roth, Germany’s minister for EU affairs.

“In recent days I have noticed positive signals of willingness (from Poland) to engage in dialogue. That’s an important point, but at the end it’s not about promises but concrete acts,” Roth told reporters.

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Jaroslaw Kaczynski

Brussels has recommended that the bloc launch an unprecedented Article 7 punitive procedure against Warsaw – which could lead to suspending Poland’s voting rights in the EU – unless it concedes ground by March 20.

“JUDICIARY SHOULD BE INDEPENDENT”

Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister Konrad Szymanski said Warsaw would soon publish an explanation of some 13 laws PiS has passed on the court system to demonstrate to other EU states it acted to rid Poland of the vestiges of communist rule.

“We expect member states to make their own assessment of this situation and really consider whether there is any serious risk of a serious breach of the rule of law. In our view, there is no such serious risk,” he said.

The Commission and the bloc’s founding members – which include the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Italy as well as France and Germany – say the PiS measures risk undermining the EU’s internal market and judicial cooperation.

“The need for reform of the judiciary can never be an excuse to enhance political control over the judiciary. The judiciary should be independent. The separation of powers is a fundamental principle,” Commission deputy head Frans Timmermans said.

Timmermans said he would assess the new Polish document when it comes to see whether it was promising enough to continue talks, or else ask EU states to take action against Warsaw.

Stripping Poland of its voting rights is highly unlikely to occur because it would require unanimity, and Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has promised to block any such action against his Polish ally.

But the dispute could badly hurt Poland if other member states move to cut vital funding in the looming budget talks. Poland is currently the biggest beneficiary of the EU budget.

Senior Polish officials have hinted Warsaw could tweak some of the new judiciary laws, though details have yet to be agreed.

The ministerial session on Tuesday ran for longer than planned, suggesting a lively discussion. Some of Poland’s fellow ex-communist neighbors said the Commission should not push Warsaw too hard.

“Today is no time for decisions,” said Deputy Prime Minister Ekaterina Zakharieva of Bulgaria, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, adding that Poland’s willingness to enter again into talks with Brussels represented “huge progress”.

Dutch parliament recognizes 1915 Armenian massacre as genocide

February 22, 2018

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – The Dutch parliament on Thursday passed a motion recognizing as genocide the massacre of as many as 1.5 million Armenians in 1915.

 Image result for House of Parliament, in The Hague, photos

FILE PHOTO – A general view shows the House of Parliament, in The Hague 

The move, passed with the support of all major parties, risks further straining diplomatic relations between The Hague and Ankara, which have been tense since the Dutch barred a Turkish minister from campaigning in the Netherlands last year.

Nearly a dozen other EU countries have passed similar resolutions. Turkey denies that the killings, which took place at the height of World War One, constitute genocide.

Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

Qualcomm Set to Raise Bid for NXP to $44 Billion

February 20, 2018

Move could also help chip giant as it seeks to fend off takeover interest from Broadcom

Chip giant Qualcomm Inc. is set to raise its bid for NXP Semiconductors NV to about $44 billion in an effort to win shareholder support for the acquisition, according to people familiar with the matter.

The move could also help Qualcomm as it tries to fend off a $121 billion takeover approach from Broadcom Ltd., which has threatened to withdraw its offer if Qualcomm makes a higher offer for NXP.

San Diego-based Qualcomm is expected to raise its bid for rival chip maker NXP to about $127.50 a share, up from its initial offer of $110, or $39 billion, the people said. The higher offer could come as soon as this week.

The move is meant to appease Elliott Management Corp. and several other hedge funds that had argued the original bid was too low. New York-based Elliott, which owns a 7.2% stake, had been among the most vocal advocates for a higher price, arguing that NXP, the world’s largest developer of chips for automobiles, was worth at least $135 a share. It cited NXP’s better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings among other factors.

NXP, headquartered in the Netherlands but listed in New York, last traded at $118.50 a share, a strong signal of investor expectations of a higher offer.

Under the deal terms, first announced October 2016, Qualcomm at a minimum needs support from NXP shareholders holding 80% of the company’s shares.

That threshold gave NXP shareholders considerable leverage to block the deal, putting pressure on Qualcomm to raise its bid. Qualcomm is expected to receive substantial support for the revised offer, helping to ensure it can complete the acquisition, according to the people familiar with the matter.

In addition to shareholder support, Qualcomm is still seeking approval from Chinese antitrust authorities.

Write to Ben Dummett at ben.dummett@wsj.com

Seeking post-Brexit unity, EU leaders find more fights

February 18, 2018

AFP

© AFP/File / by Danny KEMP | European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was picked after European elections in 2014 by a controversial “Spitzenkandidat” system — German for “lead candidate”

BRUSSELS (AFP) – EU leaders face difficult talks this week on the thorny issues of how to plug holes in the post-Brexit budget and choose a successor for European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker.A special one-day summit in Brussels on Friday of the 27 leaders without Britain is meant to be a key step in the roadmap to a leaner and more unified bloc after Britain leaves in just over a year.

But cracks have already appeared between French President Emmanuel Macron, leading the charge for a reformed Europe, and Juncker with his federalist vision of how top EU officials should be chosen in future.

The row means the EU’s attempts to overcome the shock of losing a major member are running into the classic problems that have bedevilled it for its six decades of existence: money and sovereignty.

Juncker was picked after European elections in 2014 by a controversial “Spitzenkandidat” system — German for “lead candidate” — under which the political group with the most votes gets to nominate its candidate for the job.

Both the European Parliament and Juncker back a repeat after the May 2019 European election, saying it gives the public a direct say in who heads the commission, the EU’s powerful executive arm.

– ‘Right and obligation’ –

European Council President Donald Tusk — who coordinates summits and represents the EU member states — is expected to lay out options at the summit, including whether to continue with the Spitzenkandidat system.

Leaders are expected to say it is their own “right and obligation” to choose the commission chief, while “taking into account” the views of parliament, as the EU treaties state, an EU source told AFP.

Many national leaders are bitterly opposed to the Spitzenkandidat process, saying it sidelines democratically elected heads of government in favour of a backroom deal by Brussels-based political parties, and also makes the job of commission chief too political.

Macron this week slammed the Brussels establishment as ideologically incoherent and called for a “political revamp” to give the commission a clear mandate, defined by the national leaders.

Juncker however said earlier this week that the Spitzenkandidat system was “completely logical”. He also called for the commission chief’s job to be merged with Tusk’s.

The row has become particularly fierce after the European Parliament earlier this month dealt Macron a slap by voting against “transnational lists” — which would allow 30 of the 73 seats vacated by Britain to be elected on pan-European tickets, instead of directly to constituencies.

“Why should we have Spitzenkandidaten if we have no transnational list for elections?!” Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel tweeted.

– Fixing a hole –

Filling the hole that Brexit leaves in the EU’s multi-year budget from 2020 threatens to open up even deeper divisions — but this time between member states themselves.

Tusk will ask the leaders at the summit whether they want to increase the budget, decrease it or keep it the same, sources said.

EU Budget Commissioner Guenther Oettinger has said that Britain’s exit could leave a hole of as much as between 12 and 15 billion euros ($15-19 billion) and suggested that contributions be increased to between 1.1 percent and 1.2 percent of GDP from the current level of one percent of GDP in the 2014-2020 budget.

The Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, Sweden and Finland, all net contributors, are said to be against that idea.

Warnings by Oettinger of cuts on agriculture — a bugbear for France — and “cohesion funds” that benefit poorer eastern European states are also likely to go down badly.

But there is little appetite for suggestions that the EU could try to bring countries like Poland and Hungary into line on issues including the rule of law and migration by making cohesion funds “conditional” on good behaviour.

With these tensions in the background it is no surprise that the EU has been stressing the need for unity in Brexit talks with Britain.

Tusk is expected to ask leaders on Friday if they want to push ahead next month with issuing negotiating red lines on a post-Brexit future relationship with Britain.

Uncertainty over Britain’s wishes, and difficulties in negotiations on a post-Brexit transition period, could push that back.

by Danny KEMP

Netherlands recalls ambassador from Turkey — “We could not reach an agreement on how to normalize relations.”

February 6, 2018

The spat between the Netherlands and Ankara stems from the Dutch refusal to allow Turkish ministers to campaign for a 2017 referendum. The Dutch foreign ministry said repeated efforts to normalize relations have failed.

Türkei Proteste in Istanbul gegen die Niederlande (picture-alliance/abaca/AA/S.Z. Fazlioglu)

The Netherlands has officially withdrawn its ambassador from Turkey, the Dutch foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday.

The ministry added that it will not allow a new Turkish ambassador in Amsterdam as long as there is no Dutch ambassador in Ankara.

Despite recent talks between the two countries, Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra said “we could not reach an agreement on how to normalize relations.”

The Dutch foreign ministry has “paused” talks with Turkey on resolving the matter, it said.

Riot police clash with protesters in RotterdamProtests erupted in Rotterdam in March last year after a Turkish minister was denied permission to address a campaign rally ahead of Turkish referendum

Turkish referendum 

The withdrawal of the ambassador is a largely symbolic gesture as the diplomat has been barred from Turkey since March 2017, when relations between the two countries took a downward turn over the Dutch refusal to allow Turkish ministers to campaign in the Netherlands ahead of a referendum.

Protests erupted in Rotterdam after the Netherlands expelled Turkey’s Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kayar before she could address a campaign rally of Dutch-Turkish citizens in favor of the vote which sought to expand the powers of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Turkish government demanded an apology for the minister’s treatment from Prime Minister Mark Rutte and blocked the Dutch ambassador, who was not in Turkey at the time, from returning to Turkey.

The referendum also strained relations between Germany and Turkey after German authorities canceled several rallies where Turkish officials were expected to speak in favor of the constitutional amendments.

ap/rt (AFP, Reuters, AP)

Cambodia arrests foreigners for ‘pornographic dancing’

January 29, 2018

In this photo dated Jan. 27, 2018, issued by Cambodian National Police, a group of foreigners stand after they were arrested for “dancing pornographically” at a party in Siem Reap town, near the country’s famed Angkor Wat temple complex. (AP)
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodian prosecutors charged 10 foreigners Sunday with producing pornographic pictures after they were arrested at a party in Siem Reap town, near the country’s famed Angkor Wat temple complex.
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Police said they raided a rented villa on Thursday where the foreigners were taking part in what organizers billed as a pub crawl and found people “dancing pornographically.” While almost 90 foreigners were detained, all but 10 were released.
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The 10 arrested are five British nationals, two Canadians, one Norwegian, one New Zealander and one from the Netherlands. A statement on the arrests posted on the National Police website Sunday included photos showing clothed young adults rolling around together on a dance floor.
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The prosecutor of the Siem Reap provincial court, Samrith Sokhon, told The Associated Press by phone that those charged face up to a year in prison if convicted.
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He said after producing the photos, the foreigners shared them on social media.
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“Any people producing pornography is contrary to Cambodia’s traditions,” he said.
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The United Kingdom’s Foreign Office confirmed they were in contact with British nationals in Cambodia.
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“We are assisting five British men arrested in Cambodia and are providing support to their families,” the office said in an emailed response to questions from the AP.
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