Tag Archives: Spain

Europol: Spain exotic birds traffickers arrests

Police have recovered 280 exotic birds, valued at over one million euros, among which featured macaws, parrots and cockatoos, all of which are endangered species protected by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). These birds were destined to be sold to North African countries – Morocco in particular, where the demand for them is high.

Codenamed ‘ORATIX’, this operation took place earlier this year in February and March in the Spanish cities of Malaga, Murcia, Granada, Alicante and Asturias.

The investigation initiated in 2019 uncovered how this criminal group would sell these endangered species to North African buyers using forged documents. The criminals would then arrange for the birds to be smuggled out of Spain hidden in buses heading to the African continent. The traffickers were supported by a Moroccan citizen who worked in a travel agency and arranged the logistics. They also developed their illegal business online, where they would sell birds but never deliver them, despite the buyers having paid for them. In addition, over 400 marijuana plants were discovered during the house searches, indicating that this group of traffickers was involved in a variety of criminal activities.

Europol supported this investigation from its on-set, providing operational and strategic analysis and piecing together evidence to identify the route used by the smugglers. One of its experts was also deployed on-the-spot in Spain to assist the law enforcement authorities with the cross-checking of information against Europol’s databases.

It is believed that parrot smuggling worldwide is on the rise. Some species can reach several hundreds of thousands of euros on the black market. The demand driving this illicit trade comes from collectors and breeders, but also citizens who want them as pets. However, this desire to own such exotic birds is killing them off.

A number of parrot species are threatened with extinction due in part to pressures from collecting for the pet trade. There is however legal protection in place. All but two parrot species are protected under CITES, as a result of which their commercial trade is either prohibited or strictly regulated with export permits.

With dedicated staff working on environmental crime, Europol supports EU Member States in their investigations to stop criminals damaging our ecosystems beyond repair.

Gentiloni: EU faces unprecedented shock

“..Indeed, we are facing a shock without precedent since the Great Depression. Its economic and social consequences pose policy challenges unlike any we have seen in our lifetimes.
The inflation rate is further evidence of this. Data released this morning shows the inflation rate at just 0.3%. In April last year, it was 1.7%.
This is the first time that I present our country-specific recommendations, but it is in fact the tenth set of recommendations that the Commission has presented” Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said, addressing Brussels press corps on May 20

“The first time was in 2011, when Europe was in in the depths of a very different crisis – in the aftermath of the Great Recession – to the one we face today.
And because, as they say, this time it’s different, so are the recommendations we present today. They are different. They come one week before the recovery plan and these are strictly linked steps.

Our recommendations present, first and foremost, the immediate challenges we are confronted with as a direct result of the pandemic: strengthening our healthcare systems; supporting our workers; and saving our companies.

At the same time, the sustainability and competitiveness challenges we faced before the crisis have not gone away.
Our climate is still suffering, our environment is still hurting. People in cities around the world have experienced clear skies and clean air, in many cases for the first time in their lives – but we know that this is just a pleasant side-effect of a dreadful, yet temporary situation.
If millions of people have been able to carry on working while locked down, including the staff of the Commission, it is a reminder of the huge task Europe faces to be competitive in the digital age.

So as we look to the future, our investment and reform objectives must remain focused on making a success of the green and digital transitions, as well as on social sustainability. I think it is very important that we are speaking today after having adopted the SURE instrument. The Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations are and must remain our compass.

Let me now make four specific points.
First, in terms of fiscal policy, our message is crystal clear: there needs to be a supportive fiscal stance in all Member States and we recommend that all Member States “take all necessary measures to effectively address the pandemic, sustain the economy and support the ensuing recovery”.
When it comes to the question of excessive deficit procedures, our conclusion – which is that “at this juncture a decision on whether to place Member States under EDP should not be taken” – is fully coherent with the decision taken two months ago to activate the general escape clause.

Finally, we underline that public expenditure and investment are important to support the green and digital transition. Once fiscal policy normalises, it will be vital to avoid making the mistakes of the past: in the fiscal consolidation of ten years ago, investment was the first victim. To repeat this approach would be to sacrifice our long-term priorities.

Second, the fight against Aggressive Tax Planning again features in our recommendations and I must say this is an even clearer priority this in the past. All Member States, especially in the recovery situation, must be able to rely on their fair share of tax revenues to implement the fiscal support needed to get through this crisis.

Third, our European Union is also a Union in which the rule of law is of paramount importance. Also on economic grounds. When the rule of law is questioned, it impacts on the business environment and investment climate. Our recommendations this year also clearly highlight this issue.

We have also adopted today the latest enhanced surveillance report for Greece.

The report concludes that, considering the extraordinary circumstances posed by the coronavirus pandemic, the country has taken the necessary actions to deliver on its specific reform commitments.
I expect this report to pave the way for a positive decision by the Eurogroup on the next tranche of debt relief measures worth €748 million.

We also adopted streamlined post-programme reports for Spain and Cyprus.
In conclusion, before passing the floor to Nicolas. I have mentioned the Great Depression and the Great Recession. We must ensure that this crisis will not be remembered as the Great Fragmentation, in which a symmetric shock leads to asymmetric outcomes for countries, sectors, regions, individuals and generations.
This is why we need to help individuals and companies absorb the shock. We need to repair the shortfall in investment and equity. And we need to transform our economies, with a new growth model embracing the green and digital transition.

In a nutshell, we need a well-funded recovery plan. We will present it next week”.

COVID19: Viticulture counts on EU aid

Sales at British liquor stores leapt a third in March, while those for alcohol at U.S. retailers shot up more than 50% in the week after the country entered a state of national emergency.

But the drinks industry isn’t celebrating.

The surge in demand came as sales through bars, clubs and restaurants fell to zero as they were closed to contain the COVID-19 virus. And even as countries start to ease restrictions, these venues are likely to be re-opened in the very end of lock down.

There are various estimates that in Europe, the closure of this important distribution channel could lead to a 35% reduction in sales volume, which could reach more than 50% loss in sales value”, said Pau Roca, managing director of the International Wine Organization (OIV) during an audio conference.

Pau Roca estimated that the impact of these containment measures would not be the same in all regions and, for example, that the Mediterranean countries would be “probably more affected than the others”. He puts forward two reasons to support this forecast:

First, the highest incidence of bars, restaurants and sidewalk cafes, and second, the radical suppression of the highly developed tourism industry, which will be severely limited, even a once containment has ended ”.

The top three global wine producers in 2019, Italy, France and Spain, alone accounted for 25% of global wine consumption last year, according to data released at the press conference.

If the OIV mentions an increase in sales in grocery stores and supermarkets, “this good news does not compensate for all the losses caused” by the reduction in sales in hotels, cafes and restaurants, underlines Pau Roca. The characteristics of the retail commercial distribution channel “limit purchasing capacity”, he says, referring to an offer more geared “towards low and homogeneous prices”.

Finally, it plans to develop distance selling or electronic commerce offered by various virtual stores. “Via this third distribution channel, orders could not always be guaranteed” due to a saturation of logistics and delivery services, said the OIV manager.

Once this problem is resolved and the sector adapts to this new demand, direct home sales will certainly continue to increase in the future,” he adds. Nevertheless, “even if we are witnessing a spectacular transfer between the distribution channels, the overall balance expected is a reduction in consumption, a reduction in average prices and therefore an overall decrease in the total value of sales of turnover, margins and ultimately the profitability of producers, vineyards and in particular SMEs which are linked to traditional distribution channels and which are located outside supermarket networks, ”says Pau Roca.

After the taxes of Trump, who planted part of the wine companies, today with the closing of restaurants, the closing of lounges, the closing of cellars, the closing of sales on farms, French wine growers are in the process of to be completely suffocated, “said French Minister of Agriculture Didier Guillaume on LCI TV Channel.

While Europe proposed new measures for other agricultural sectors in crisis, such as milk and meat, Pau Guillaume now hopes for a gesture for viticulture from the European Commission.

French, Italian and Spanish wine cooperatives, which claim a total of half of European production, asked the Commission “to open without delay a European crisis distillation of 10 million hectoliters with a budget exceptional European investment of 350 million euros ”.

A crucial measure to relieve producers, even if last year, world production fell by 12% compared to 2018, a record vintage, to 260 million hectoliters, according to the latest figures from the OIV.

While more than four out of ten bottles usually cross borders, “trade flows are and will continue to be seriously affected,” said Pau Roca. He believes that the two largest markets in the world, Europe and the United States, could reduce their imports, but hopes on the other hand that “other regions less affected by the pandemic or which could recover more quickly, such as the countries Asian ”, will provide“ short-term partial relief”.

Borrell visits EU Satellite Centre

The EU top dipolmat Josep Borrell visited the European Union’s Satellite Centre, SatCen, in Torrejón de Ardoz to get a first-hand debriefing about its activities. (Image above: illustration)

“The SatCen plays a fundamental role in the decision-making under the Common Security and Defence Policy, and actions of our 17 civilian and military missions and operations around the world. From Torrejón de Ardoz, it offers geostrategic analysis of intelligence for both the EU’s institutions and its Member States” said the diplomat during his visit.

The SatCen is under the operational direction of the High Representative. It is the only autonomous operational geospatial intelligence centre of the EU. It contributes, including through the production of satellite and aerial imagery, to the decision-making and actions of the EU in the field of the Common Foreign And Security Policy, and in particular Common Security and Defence Policy.

Gibraltar considers joining Schengen

Gibraltar is considering to joint the Schengen free movement area in a gesture of guranteeing the fluidity on its border with Spain after the UK left the European Union, the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said.

Picardo remarks, made in an interview with AFP came just two weeks before Britain and Gibraltar formerly leave the bloc and enter into an 11-month period of intense negotiations to shape the future the UK-EU relationship.

“We talked about this issue before Brexit… about Gibraltar becoming part of the Schengen zone,” Picardo said.

The British enclave at the soutern point of Iberian peninsula, Gibraltar modus operandi counts on 28,000 crossings daily, and preserving it will be one of the central elements to talks when the transition period begins on February 1.

Spain horsemeat sham

The Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil), supported by Europol, has dismantled an organised crime group selling horsemeat which was deemed unsuitable for human consumption. The criminal organisation – active in the province of Barcelona – falsified documents to support their illegal activities. Law enforcement also carried out searches in various horse stables in Catalonia.

Officers from the Spanish Environment Protection Service (SEPRONA) detected that the horsemeat unfit for human consumption on the market came from 300 horses slaughtered in slaughterhouses. The documents of more than 10 000 horses were checked during the searches. The operation resulted in the arrests of 15 suspects and the investigation of 13 others. The investigation led to the seizure of 185 falsified horse passports and the detection of 100 other horses uncompliant with food market regulations.

The members of the criminal network, active since 2015, falsified the horse passports in slaughterhouses and farms in the province of Barcelona. The seized false documents confirmed that the organised crime group could have been responsible for introducing meat from hundreds of slaughtered animals onto the market, which failed to comply with national and European regulations. The slaughterhouse, several livestock farms, cattle dealers and veterinarians were all involved in the criminal activities.

Spain: Cupid fraud for migrants

On 10 December 2019, the Spanish National Police (Policía Nacional), supported by Europol, dismantled an organised crime group involved in the facilitation of illegal immigration by arranging sham unmarried partnerships in Spain. The partnerships of convenience were set up to ensure legal permanent permits of residence for irregular migrants.

The operation led to 11 searches of properties and companies, 30 arrests and the seizures of a luxury car, over €10 000 in cash and a high number of documents. Solid evidence of facilitation of illegal immigration and document fraud was found during the searches.

The organised crime group recruited Spanish women willing to be part of unmarried partnerships. Non-EU migrants, wanting to migrate or formalise their stay in Europe, acquired similar rights of EU citizens through the fraudulent partnerships with the Spanish women. Each migrant had to pay between €8 000 and €12 000 for this service. The woman in these pretend partnerships were paid €3 000 for their “I do” as a pretend partner.

The members of this highly complex organised crime group owned several shell companies and were Moroccan and Spanish nationals. The women, also members of the crime group, were registered as employees in these companies. Their employment contracts allowed them to justify their revenues and gave the companies a legitimate legal appearance. A money laundering component was also detected during the investigation.

Europol provided coordination and analytical support and facilitated the information exchange. On the action day, Europol also deployed experts on-the-spot to cross-check operational information in real time against Europol’s databases and to provide technical expertise.

Puigdemont attends Strasbourg Plenary

In spite of the arrest warrant issued in Madrid, on January 13 Catalan independence leader Carles Puigdemont attended Plenary session in Strasbourg in his right of a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), due to immunity guaranteed by the status.
The former Catalan president has been elected to the European Parliament upon the political programme aiming at independence referendum for Catalonia, legally exiting the Kingdom of Spain.

Upon his arrival to the court of the Europarliament, Puigdemont called for an immediate release from a Spanish jail of Oriol Junqueras, the fellow Catalan MEP

“Mr.Junqueras should be here with us. He has the same rights,” Puigdemont said, backed by the group with posters “Free Junqueras.”

Puigdemont arrived together with the other Catalan MEP, Toni Comín.
Both politicians are wanted in Spain for their role for the 2017 independence referendum, considered ‘illegal” by Madrid. They have narrowly escaped the arrest and persecution in Spain, by fleeing to Belgium, where they continued their activities, struggling for the interests of their electorate.

In a statement made in four languages Catalan, Spanish, French and English, Puigdemont underlined the problem of Catalan protracted argument with Madrid is not a regional, but “European affaire“, because in spite of being the EU member state, Spain does not respect fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens. He also mentioned the extraordinary resources behind the attempts of Spain to prevent him to enter his MEP office. Puigdemont added that he feels no fear in France, because his MEP immunity is respected there. He expressed hope that Spanish judiciary will also respect the decision of the European Court of Justice ruling on 19 December 2019, clearly stating that Junqueras had parliamentary immunity as he was an elected MEP and should have been released from prison.

Junqueras is currently serving a 13-year prison sentence after being convicted in Madrid of sedition and misuse of funds by Spain Supreme Court for his engagement in organising the October 2017 referendum, considered “illegal“. Furthermore he was accused for the subsequent unilateral declaration of independence passed in the Catalan parliament. At the time of the events in 2017, Junqueras was deputy regional president, while Puigdemont was president and Toni Comín a minister in the regional government.

EP President calls for Catalan MEP release

Catalan independence leader Oriol Junqueras(pictured)has been protected by the immunity as an Member of the European Parliament when he was jailed by the Spanish Supreme Court , and according the EU Court ruling should be fully restored in his rights, and subsequently given an opportunity to exercice his function.

“I call upon the competent Spanish authorities to align with the ruling. I have given a mandate to the services to evaluate its possible impact on the composition” the President of the European Parliament David Sassoli said.

Following the advice issued last month by Advocate General, Maciej Szpunar, the European Court of Justice said that Junqueras became an MEP from the moment the European election results were announced at the end of May and that he thus “enjoys the immunity guaranteed by Article 9 of the Protocol.

The ECJ also underlined that Junqueras also protected by “the immunity as regards travel” which applies “while they are travelling to the place of meeting of the European Parliament, including to that first sitting”.

Spanish courts prevented Junqueras to take an oath on the country’s constitution, which they say is necessary to become an MEP.

Junqueras, who had been in pre-trial detention since 2017 was elected to the EU Parliament in May 2019 for the Greens/European Free Alliance group.

Borrell’s undiplomatic offensive

European Commission has been confronted with questions of journalists over a Twitter micro blog embarrassing message, mounting up to “malfeasance in office” by its next EU top diplomat and incumbent Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell, who posted a sensitive document from UK authorities on his feed.

The document, not meant for public release, related to a Spanish request for the arrest and extradition from Britain of a Catalan politician, Clara Ponsati, who is engaged as an academic at a Scottish university.

It contained a British query, made through an EU police cooperation database for the Schengen free movement area called SIRENE, asking for more information to support the Spanish warrant and revealed some of Ponsati’s personal data.

Borrell posted it to his Twitter account on Wednesday and later deleted it — but not before its was screengrabbed and triggered a complaint from a Catalan MEP, Diana Riber, who demanded Borrell be barred from taking up his job as the next EU High Representative for foreign affairs.

A spokeswoman for the European Commission told reporters Friday that “there are very clear rules in place regarding access to and use of the Schengen Information System… and we would expect that everyone shall respect the letter and spirit of these rules, notably any confidentiality requirements.”

The spokeswoman, Mina Andreeva, said it was a Spanish matter and should not affect Borrell’s future post in the Commission.

“This tweet was posted by Mr Borrell in his capacity as acting foreign minister. It is now for the national competent authorities to look into this matter,” she said, passing the buck to Madrid.

Claiming to be Catalan, Borrell, 72, is endorsed to become the EU’s top foreign policy official in the Ursula von der Leyen Commission.

That new team was scheduled to start working this month but has been delayed by at least a month because some of nominated commissioners failed to receive their consent. 

Spain’s European arrest warrant against Ponsati is part of Madrid’s crackdown on Catalan independence movement.

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