EU Hits Apple with Music Streaming Charge in Boost for Spotify

EU regulators accused Apple on Friday of distorting competition in the music streaming market, siding with Spotify in a case that could lead to a hefty fine and changes in the iPhone maker’s lucrative business practices.   The preliminary findings are the first time Brussels has leveled anti-competitive charges against Apple, although the two sides have had bruising clashes in the past, most notably a multibillion-dollar tax dispute involving Ireland.   Apple, Spotify and other parties can now respond. If the case is pursued, the EU could demand concessions and potentially impose a fine of up to 10% of Apple’s global turnover – as much as $27 billion, although it rarely levies the maximum penalty.   Apple found itself in the European Commission’s crosshairs after Sweden-based Spotify complained two years …

Blinken Heads to Ukraine After Russia Sends 150K Troops to Border

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is heading to Ukraine next week as Washington coordinates closely with Kyiv over Russia’s recent military buildup along Ukraine border.     Blinken will travel to Ukraine on May 5-6, “where he will meet with President Zelensky, Foreign Minister Kuleba, other officials, and representatives of Ukrainian civil society to reaffirm unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement Friday.   The United States is keeping a close watch on Russia’s movement after Moscow announced last Thursday that it would begin withdrawing its troops from the border of Ukraine.      Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said this week it is too soon to tell and are taking …

Turkish Government Under Fire Over COVID-19 Alcohol Ban

The Turkish government’s decision to ban alcohol sales as part of a nearly three-week lockdown to contain COVID-19 is causing a political storm, with opponents accusing the Islamic-rooted government of using the pandemic to pursue a religious agenda.   The alcohol ban is part of a national lockdown that took effect Thursday and will end on May 17. The ban is stoking tensions and suspicion over the Islamist roots of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who critics accuse of seeking to undermine the 90-year-old secular state, said columnist Mehves Evin of the Duvar news portal. “Erdogan’s regime, it’s like trying all the little ways to change the way, he thinks it’s the right way for people to live. Meaning, for example, the way they are building up the Imam Hatip religious schools. The way …

Russia Releases Video of Black Sea Military Drills

Russia’s defense ministry released video Friday of its warships firing rockets during military drills in the Black Sea, the Reuters news agency reported Friday.   The drills were conducted earlier this week amid rising tensions between Russia and the west over Russia’s military buildup near the border it shares with Ukraine.     Russia said the troop buildup was part of drills it planned in response to what it said was NATO’s threatening behavior. Last week, Russia ordered a pullback of some troops from the border area.     U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a May 5-6 visit to Ukraine “to reaffirm unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression,” Blinken’s …

Blinken Heads to Ukraine Amid Russia’s Recent Military Buildup Along Border

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is heading to Ukraine next week as Washington coordinates closely with Kyiv over Russia’s recent military buildup along Ukraine border.     Blinken will travel to Ukraine on May 5-6, “where he will meet with President Zelensky, Foreign Minister Kuleba, other officials, and representatives of Ukrainian civil society to reaffirm unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement Friday.   The United States is keeping a close watch on Russia’s movement after Moscow announced last Thursday that it would begin withdrawing its troops from the border of Ukraine.      Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said this week it is too soon to tell and are taking …

Germany to Return Looted Benin Bronzes to Nigeria

German officials say they have reached an agreement with Nigeria to return some of the famed Benin Bronzes that were looted from Nigeria in the 19th century.About 500 of the plundered artifacts are on display in several German museums.The handoff is expected to take place next year under an agreement reached between Germany and Nigeria on Thursday.The return of the artifacts is “a turning point in our approach to colonial history,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.In 1897, British soldiers snatched thousands of exquisitely decorated bronze and brass plaques and sculptures created by guilds in the Kingdom of Benin in what is now Nigeria.  The objects have become known as the Benin Bronzes and are on display in museums around the world.The British Museum has more than 900 of the …

In France, Chauvin Conviction Has Not Brought Comfort

The trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin made headline news in France. But much of the reporting about the trial, and its underlying themes of police violence and racism, largely zoomed in on the United States.“I think it’s viewed as an American problem with some resonance in France,” said Steven Ekovich, a U.S. politics and foreign policy professor at the American University of Paris.American University of Paris professor Steven Ekovich says the French viewed the Derek Cauvin trial in the death of George Floyd as an American problem, but with some resonance in France. (Lisa Bryant/VOA)”It also feeds into a certain strain of French anti-Americanism, on the left and on the right, so that the French can moralize about the United States, and its difficulties and its flaws,” …

In France, Derek Chauvin Verdict Brings No Comfort  

Reports of police violence and racial injustice resonate especially strongly in France, with its large population of ethnic Africans and Arabs. Yet cautious optimism by some in the United States and elsewhere that the guilty verdict in American former police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder trial might trigger societal change is less shared in France. From the Paris suburb of Bobigny, Lisa Bryant reports for VOA.   Camera:   Lisa Bryant, Agencies   …

German Health Minister Says COVID-19 Infection Numbers Have Fallen

German health officials had good news for the country Thursday in terms of falling COVID-19 infection rates and record numbers of vaccinations delivered but said there is still a long way to go.   At a Berlin news conference, Germany Health Minister Jens Spahn, along with Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases (RKI) President Lothar Wieler, noted the average number of new infections per 100,000 people in the country fell to 155 Thursday for the third day in a row, its lowest level in two weeks. On Monday, the rate was 169.   But to Spahn, the dropping numbers reflected a “stagnation” of rising numbers of cases, and it has yet to be determined if this was a one-time occurrence or if it reflected an actual reversal of recent trends. …

Greek and Turkish Cypriots Remain Far Apart on Reunification 

U.N. efforts to restart talks on reunifying the divided island of Cyprus have hit an impasse as Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders remain apart on the key issues. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres convened three days of informal meetings seeking a pathway to revive the dormant Cyprus reunification talks.  The Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders as well as the foreign ministers of Greece, Turkey and Britain shared their views. Despite great efforts, Guterres acknowledged not enough common ground was found to allow for the resumption of formal negotiations to resolve the Cyprus problem. “As you can imagine, this was not an easy meeting. And we conducted extensive consultations in a succession of bilateral meetings and plenary meetings in order to try to reach common ground,” he said. Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey …

Turkey in New Lockdown as Its COVID Numbers Surge

Turkey on Thursday starts a strict new three-week lockdown as COVID-19 infections surge. Initially, Turkish authorities claimed success in curbing the pandemic, but the country could be paying the price for a premature easing of restrictions.   It is the country’s most severe lockdown since the onset of the COVID pandemic, with schools closing, alcohol sales banned, and only essential businesses like food shops being allowed to remain open.       For this Istanbul shoe shop, owner who asked to remain anonymous, there is fear for the future.   He said he does not want to call the 18-day shutdown unjust but he really sees it as “the end.” He said Turks are in a state of complete hopelessness.  “We are finished,” he said, adding one can endure this “only …

WHO Europe Reports First Drop in COVID Cases in 2 Months

The World Health Organization’s Europe Regional Director Hans Kluge reported Thursday the number of new COVID-19 infections in the region dropped significantly in the last week for the first time in two months. Speaking from WHO regional headquarters in Copenhagen, Kluge said hospitalizations and deaths were also down in the past week. He also said as of Thursday, 7% of Europeans have been totally vaccinated, more than the 5.5% of the population that has contracted COVID-19. Kluge cautioned that while that is good news, the virus remains a threat, as infection rates remain high in several areas. He said individual and collective public health and social measures remain dominant factors in shaping the pandemic’s course. A man receives his first dose of the of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, at a vaccination center in …

A Gaunt Navalny Appears in Court After Hunger Strike

In his first court appearance since ending a three-week hunger strike, Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “naked, thieving king.” Navalny appeared Thursday in a video link from prison to a Moscow courtroom where he was appealing a guilty verdict for defaming a World War 2 veteran. According to news reports, Navalny appeared thin, and his head was shaved. “I looked in the mirror. Of course, I’m just a dreadful skeleton,” he said. Yulia Navalnaya, wife of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, is seen in a courtroom, in Moscow, Russia, April 29, 2021, in this still image taken from video. (Press Service of Babushkinsky District Court of Moscow/Handout via Reuters)Navalny began his hunger strike March 3 and ended it April 23. Later in Thursday’s hearing, he took the opportunity to attack …

Spain’s Matadors Fight Back After COVID-19 Nearly Kills Their Art

For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, crowds are expected to return on Sunday to Las Ventas bullring in Madrid, the spiritual home of this controversial spectacle. Six matadors will do battle with bulls in front of 6,000 cheering aficionados amid tight health restrictions that included limiting ticket sales to 25% of capacity.  However, for lovers of what is known in Spain as the fiesta nacional it will be a huge emotional boost after a year in which rings across the country have remained closed. The charity bullfight will raise money for matadors and some of the 200,000 people who work in this sector who have been hard-hit by the coronavirus. In normal times, the bloody spectacle generates $4.8 billion for the economy annually, almost 1% of GDP, according to the …

Court Rules German Climate Plan Falls Short

Germany’s highest court ruled Thursday that the government has to set clear goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions after 2030.   A 2019 law committed Germany to cutting emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, and includes specific policies for achieving the goal such as incentivizing renewable energy, expanding electric car infrastructure and carbon trading.      The country also aims to be largely carbon-neutral by 2050.   The court said Thursday that the government lacks specificity about how it will achieve the further carbon reductions after 2030.   The government has until the end of next year to come up with the new targets. …

Social Media Giants Comply with Turkish Demands

The decision by global media giants to comply with demands by the Turkish government to open offices in Turkey is prompting concerns about media freedoms. Press freedom advocates say because the companies will now be subject to Turkish laws, that could mean Turkey’s people will no longer have a venue to freely express their views. For VOA, Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul.  …

Third Straight Win Produces a Test for Albania’s Socialist Party

The United States and the European Union are urging Albania’s leaders to set aside their differences and move forward toward establishing a stable democracy after elections Sunday that gave the ruling Socialist Party a third consecutive mandate.   Prime Minister Edi Rama’s party is the first to achieve the feat since the collapse of communism more than three decades ago. It secured 74 out of 140 seats in Parliament, more than enough to govern without coalition partners, if it chooses to do so.  However, the main opposition Democratic Party has not yet accepted the results, which follow a heated and occasionally violent campaign. What comes next may determine whether Albania can move forward toward becoming a full-fledged democracy and integrate in the European Union.   The United States — an ally and strong supporter of reforms in the country — recognized Rama’s win and called …

Is EU-China Investment Deal ‘Dead as a Doornail’? 

China may have sabotaged its own prospects for securing a sought-after investment agreement with the European Union when it penalized a long list of politicians, researchers and institutions – including a key member of Germany’s Green Party – in response to recent EU sanctions.The Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, or CAI, was agreed to in principle at the end of last year but remains as much as a year from final ratification by the European Parliament, where support from Germany is seen as crucial to its approval.Recent polling shows the Greens – who are considered much tougher on China than the current administration in Berlin – as well positioned to participate in or even lead the next German government after elections expected in late September.And that could leave the investment deal …

Germany’s Merkel Presses Chinese Prime Minister on Human Rights

During a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a return to discussions on human rights, saying such consultations in the past have improved relations between their two nations. The comments came during wide-ranging governmental consultations between Merkel and Li — held virtually due to the pandemic — on issues like the fight against the spread of the coronavirus, economic cooperation and other issues. Merkel, who is not running for re-election, noted the regular consultations between the two countries during her nearly 16 years in power improved cooperation on issues from climate change to business. She said those talks at times covered areas of disagreement such as human rights and Hong Kong. Merkel said, “Part of our partnership includes addressing difficult topics and putting everything on …

EU Official Warns of Risks of Disjointed COVID Vaccine Records

European Union countries introducing their own COVID vaccination certificates would have to grapple with a myriad of disjointed systems if the bloc fails to build a shared one, a senior official said on Wednesday.   The EU is pushing to have a shared digital health pass to allow tourists to travel freely this summer. But discussions are not yet settled on costs, data and privacy issues, as well as technical and medical aspects of the new system.   “If we can deliver politically, the technical solution will be ready in time. If we don’t, we risk fragmentation across Europe, with a multitude of possibly incompatible national solutions,” EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said.   “We would risk having a variety of documents that cannot be read and verified in other …