Abandoned at sea, part 1: Syrian crew stranded for two years at Libyan port

Our team has obtained rare footage from sailors abandoned by their employers years ago, leaving them far from their homes in ports or open water. During this three-month investigation, we looked at official documents and contracts provided by crewmembers as well as open-source data to trace the navigation history of these dilapidated vessels before their abandonment. The first part of this special edition, produced in partnership with independent Syrian investigators SIRAJ, reveals a complex set-up of shell companies used by a group of Syrian-Romanian ship owners to evade legal disputes and Western sanctions.

When the East Express, a 97-metre general cargo ship flying the flag of Togo, docked in the Libyan port of Misrata on January 18, 2022, its crew thought they would offload their cargo of sugar and move on. But the port authorities declared the sugar unfit for consumption and impounded the ship. The crew have been there ever since -– two years and counting.

This legal impediment prevented the delivery of the sugar to its Libyan purchaser, eventually leading the ship’s registered owner, Mina Shipping Ltd., to  abandon the vessel with its 12-member crew still on board: ten Syrians, one Egyptian and one Indian. 

‘We don’t have any food, or water, or wages’

The East Express is capable of carrying more than 5,000 tons of goods, fuel, and ballast. Ammar Sheikha, one of the Syrian sailors stranded on the East Express, explains:

For me, ‘abandonment’ means asking for food, drinks and daily necessities, and not being able to get them from the ship’s owners and manager.

He declared in a video that he sent us in September 2023 that the crew had been “completely abandoned” by the company. “We have no food, no water, and no salaries,” he told us. 

The crew contacted ITF Seafarers, a transport workers’ union that provides assistance to the crews of abandoned ships, but say they did not hear back for months.

Ian Ralby, an expert in international maritime law, explains what abandonment is:

Abandonment is when a vessel owner literally abandons the claims to a vessel. It can mean that the crew is left without anyone who actually has legal responsibility for ensuring that they get the fuel, the food, the water and all the services that they need.

With no fuel or electricity, life on board quickly became unbearable. Sheikha told us:

We began to suffer from a lack of supplies and money … We spend most of our time sleeping or on our mobile phones. This is our only distraction. We talk to our families and friends until the day is over.

The crew have not been paid in 12 months. They believe that staying on board is the only way they’ll get their money. At one point, Sheikha says, the company owed him $17,000. When it arrived in Misrata, the East Express flew the flag of Togo, West Africa. Publicly available maritime registries like Marine Traffic and EQUASIS indicate that it was owned by Romania-based Mina Shipping Ltd.

When we contacted Mina Shipping at the Romanian number that appeared on the sailors’ contracts, a woman who said she was a former employee told us: “Mina Shipping is an offshore company whose owner died years ago.” 

The ship’s captain told us that the owner of Mina Shipping is a man named Samir Fahel, from Tartus, Syria.

Posts shared by his family show that Mr. Fahel died in February 2023. 

A former life under a different name

Fahel regularly posted pictures of ships. One in particular caught our attention: the Nadalina.

In this photo posted by Mina Shipping owner Samir Fahel, the Nadalina is seen after a refit at a ship repair yard in the port of Navodari, Romania, in 2019. © Photo shared on Samir Fahel’s Facebook page in 2016.

We looked up the Nadalina using its IMO number (every ship has a unique identification number issued by the International Maritime Organization). It turns out that the Nadalina is the same ship as the East Express, abandoned in Misrata. 

Ship owners and operators regularly change not only their names, but also the countries in which they are registered as well as the companies that manage and own them. Industry analysts say the complex ownership structure makes it easier for ship owners and operators to walk away when a ship encounters legal or financial problems. “It’s sometimes better to abandon an asset than to retain it and have the liability for it,” says Ralby.

The East Express (IMO number 8215754) has had three different names in the last seven years.
The East Express (IMO number 8215754) has had three different names in the last seven years. © Ammar Sheikha (left), Marine Traffic / Babur Haluluport (center/right ).

Tracking the ‘Nadalina’: history of sanctions violations

Ships must broadcast regular signals intended to ensure the safety of navigational traffic, and sites such as MarineTraffic pick up these signals to plot their locations. FRANCE 24 used the data – nearly 3,000 daily locations over eight years – to track the Nadalina’s movements from 2016 to 2023.

The data shows that the ship made regular trips in the Mediterranean, including to Tunisia, Libya and the Russian-managed port of Tartus in Syria and through Turkey to the Black Sea, coming and going from the Romanian port of Constanta.

The Nadalina’s route in the Mediterranean between 2016 and 2023 shows that it made regular visits to the Russian-managed Syrian port of Tartus.
The Nadalina’s route in the Mediterranean between 2016 and 2023 shows that it made regular visits to the Russian-managed Syrian port of Tartus. © FRANCE 24 Observers

It also reveals that the Nadalina made trips to the so-called “closed ports” of the Crimean Peninsula.

The Nadalina’s route in the Black Sea between 2016 and 2019 shows that it made regular visits to the so-called
The Nadalina’s route in the Black Sea between 2016 and 2019 shows that it made regular visits to the so-called “closed” ports of the Crimean peninsula placed under international sanctions following Russia’s invasion of the Ukrainian territory in 2014. © FRANCE 24 Observers

Ukraine banned international cargo carriers from docking at Crimean ports after Russia’s illegal annexation of the peninsula in 2014. The United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on ships visiting Crimea.

Ukrainian and international media outlets documented at least 10 visits by the Nadalina to sanctioned Crimean ports between 2015 and 2019. 

“We found a group of ships that regularly visited the closed ports in Crimea,” says Kateryna Yaresko, an online investigator with the Myrotvets Center’s Seakrime project who has extensively worked on the Nadalina question. “They were connected to a group of Romanian-Syrian businessmen based in Constanta, Romania. This group was the worst offender.”

With her team, she obtained photographs showing the Nadalina docked illegally in Crimean ports such as Sevastopol and Feodosia between 2015 and 2019, and being loaded with cargoes of scrap metal or grain.

The Nadalina docked at the port of Sevastopol in Crimea on December 27, 2018 and was loaded with a cargo of scrap metal.
The Nadalina docked at the port of Sevastopol in Crimea on December 27, 2018 and was loaded with a cargo of scrap metal. © Seakrime, Myrotvorets Center

The Ukrainian investigators reported that the Nadalina was part of a group of ships operated by a company called Bia Shipping Co.

A shipping registry in 2015 gave Bia Shipping’s contact info as addresses at “joharshipping.ro”.

While “joharshipping.ro” is no longer online, we recovered versions of the site via an internet archive. The archived site belonged to a company called Johar Shipping and listed at least five of the ships operated by Bia Shipping Company. 

© France 24 Observers

Both this site and another Johar Shipping Co. archived site called “johar.ro” listed a man called “Adnan Hassan” as managing director, and “Johar Hassan” as in charge of general operations. 

© FRANCE 24 Observers

We found Adnan Hassan’s social media accounts. One clip he shared on Facebook shows him relaxing on board an 18-metre yacht with Johar Hassan, his brother. Photos also showed him with Samir Fahel.

This photo posted on the Facebook account of Samir Fahel in 2017 shows him in the company of Adnan Hassan.
This photo posted on the Facebook account of Samir Fahel in 2017 shows him in the company of Adnan Hassan. © Photo shareb on Samir Fahel’s Facebook page on 2017

The families respond

We repeatedly tried to contact the companies associated with the Hassan brothers and Fahel, using all the email addresses and phone numbers that we were able to find. 

A member of Fahel’s family told us that after his death, the family was still responsible for the East Express. She said a family member was assigned to manage the ship and assured us he would give an interview for our investigation. She gave us an email address that she said was for the family company Mina Shipping, but neither she nor the family responded to subsequent requests.

Adnan Hassan confirmed to us in a series of telephone interviews that he and his brother Johar had owned Johar Shipping Co. He said their company had acted as an agent for the ship on at least one occasion during the 2015 to 2019 period when it was known as the Nadalina and visited the closed ports of Crimea. He said they did not follow politics and were unaware that the Crimean ports were sanctioned, and that the visits to Crimea by the Nadalina and other ships they handled stopped after Romanian authorities investigated Johar Shipping. 

The Romanian Foreign Ministry confirmed having investigated the Nadalina’s visits to Crimea. “A check was performed on the financial transactions of companies connected to this ship,” they wrote. “The competent authorities concluded that there was not enough evidence that said payments constituted breaches of the prohibition.” They said they had notified “the economic operators involved of the risks of infringing the restrictive measures on the illegal annexation of Crimea”, and that Romania “strongly condemns” Russia’s “war of aggression against Ukraine”. 

Regarding the ship’s current status as the East Express and the plight of its crew in Libya, Adnan Hassan said the ship was owned by Samir Fahel and Mina Shipping. He said he was a friend of Fahel’s, but had no business relationship with him or Mina Shipping. He said the family contacted him seven months after Fahel’s death. “I wanted to be of help to his family to help them get the ship released,” he told us. “But I learned that the ship’s debts were greater than its value … I told the crew: ‘I will pay your wages only if the ship leaves the port, and I can examine it. That’s when you’ll get paid. Something to help you out.’”

Four crew members repatriated; seven remain on board 

The crew told us they had received small payments from Fahel before his death but had never received their full salaries. 

After FRANCE 24 contacted the ITF Seafarers union to inquire about the fate of the East Express crew, Sheikha told us the union agreed to send some money to cover his flight back to Syria. He sent us a message from the airport: “I can’t believe I’m on the way back home to my family after two years of suffering – without any savings. It’s tragic!” 

As of publication, Sheikha and three of his companions have returned to Syria, while seven of their companions remain on board the ship.

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Transforming HIV prevention in Europe

This article is part of POLITICO Telescope: The New AIDS Epidemic, an ongoing exploration of the disease today.

The world’s battle to end the HIV epidemic is being fought on two fronts. The first involves getting as many people as possible who are living with the virus diagnosed and rapidly onto antiretroviral medication. This reduces the virus inside their bodies to such a low level that it is undetectable and therefore cannot be passed to others. The approach is known as “undetectable = untransmittable” or “U=U*.”

The second front is focused on protecting people from contracting the virus in the first place, even if they have been exposed to it — an approach known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP. Taken as prescribed, PrEP makes a person’s body almost entirely resistant to HIV infection.

There is a critical need to bring forward new PrEP options that are informed by and designed for the communities that could benefit from PrEP in Europe.

Jared Baeten MD, PhD, vice president for HIV clinical development at Gilead Sciences

PrEP comprises antiretroviral drugs that can be taken intermittently, around the time someone expects to be sexually active. They protect against the virus in two ways: by increasing the production of antibodies in the cells in the rectal or vaginal lining, making them less receptive to HIV in the first place, and by interfering with the ability of HIV to replicate in the body.

Nearly 5 million people around the world have taken PrEP at least once — including about 2.8 million in Europe — and it has been shown to reduce the incidence of HIV infection during sex by 99 percent. In the European Union, new HIV infections have fallen by about 45 percent since PrEP was licensed in 2016, although this decline is also partly due to U=U.

PrEP as part of combination prevention strategies

Missing doses or running out of PrEP can mean becoming susceptible to HIV again. I via Shutterstock

Today, PrEP comes primarily in the form of an oral tablet, which has the advantage of being cheap to produce and easy to store. But it is not a universal solution. Because it needs to be taken regularly while someone is sexually active, missing doses or running out can mean becoming susceptible to HIV again. What’s more, in the same way that some bacteria are developing resistance to antibiotics, the HIV that does enter the bodies of people who have paused or discontinued their use of PrEP has a greater chance of being resistant to subsequent antiretroviral medications they may then need.

PrEP taken in tablet form is also an issue for people who need to keep their use of PrEP private, perhaps from family members or partners. Having to take a pill once a day or two or three times a week is something that may be hard to hide from others. And some people, such as migrants, who may not be fully integrated with a country’s health care system, may find it hard to access regular supplies of daily medication. Limitations such as these have prompted the development of alternative, innovative ways for people to protect themselves that are more tailored to their needs and life situations. These include longer-acting drugs that can be injected.

Like existing oral medications, injectable PrEP works by preventing HIV from replicating in a person’s body, but its effect lasts much longer. In September, the EU approved the use of the first intramuscular injectable that can be given every two months. Gilead is, until 2027, running trials of another injectable option, which, once the required efficacy and safety have been demonstrated, could be administered subcutaneously just once every six months. This would be more convenient for many people and more adapted to the circumstances of certain populations, such as migrants, and may therefore lead to better adherence and health outcomes.

HIV continues to be a public health threat across Europe, where in 2022 more than 100,000 people were newly diagnosed with HIV.

Jared Baeten MD, PhD, vice president for HIV Clinical Development at Gilead Sciences

Further ahead — but still in the early stages of development and testing — are patches and implants, which would provide a continuous supply of antiretroviral drugs, and immunotherapies. Immunotherapies would comprise a broad spectrum of naturally produced or manufactured antibodies against HIV, which, in theory, would pre-arm their bodies to resist infection.

As more types of PrEP become available, we will see a greater awareness of its benefits, as more people are able to find the version of PrEP that best suits their living conditions and personal requirements. This is a fundamental principle of “combination prevention,” or innovative interventions that reflect the specific needs of the people they are trying to reach.

Preparing for the future

Despite clear scientific evidence of the benefits of PrEP, there are still some hurdles we need to overcome to make it a powerful tool to end HIV altogether. These include investments and funding in prevention and availability, and programs to combat stigma.

Although the EU licensed PrEP in 2016, availability varies across the bloc. In France, the U.K., Spain, Germany and, more recently, Italy, oral PrEP is available at no cost to those who would benefit from it. In Romania, although PrEP is included in the country’s new HIV National Strategy, it is not yet funded, and it is only available via non-governmental organizations that rely on external funding sources. And in Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria, PrEP is not state funded and there are no current plans to make it so. In many member states, even though PrEP is technically licensed, in practice it can be hard to get hold of, in particular for specific communities, such as women, migrants or trans people. Potential users may find it hard, for example, to access testing or even doctors who are willing to prescribe it.

Jared Baeten MD, PhD, vice president for HIV clinical development at Gilead Sciences

Another key challenge that health systems and providers face is communicating the importance of PrEP to those who would most benefit, and thereby increase uptake. Many respondents in multiple studies have indicated that they don’t feel HIV is something that affects them, or they have indicated that there is a general stigma in their communities associated with sexual health matters. And some groups that are already discriminated against, such as sex workers, people who inject drugs, and migrants, may be hesitant to engage with health care systems for fear of reprisals. Again, injectable PrEP could help reach such key populations as it will offer a more discreet way of accessing the preventive treatment.

“There is a critical need to bring forward new PrEP options that are informed by and designed for the communities that could benefit from PrEP in Europe,” says Jared Baeten MD, PhD, vice president for HIV clinical development at Gilead Sciences. “At Gilead, we are excited to engage with communities and broader stakeholders to inform our trials efforts and partner with them in our goal to develop person-centered innovations that can help end the HIV epidemic in Europe.”

Europe is leading the world’s efforts toward ending HIV, but, even in the bloc, PrEP usage and availability varies from country to country and demographic to demographic. If the region is to become the first to end the HIV epidemic entirely, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the governments of member states will need to lead the way in fighting stigma, promoting and prioritizing HIV prevention in all its aspects including innovation in therapeutics strengthening the financing and funding of healthcare systems, and establishing effective pathways to zero transmission to end HIV entirely.

“HIV continues to be a public health threat across Europe, where in 2022 more than 100,000 people were newly diagnosed with HIV,” says Baeten. “HIV prevention is critical and has the potential to change the trajectory of the epidemic, but stigma and other barriers limit the impact that PrEP medications can have on reducing HIV infections in Europe. We all have a responsibility to collaboratively partner to make this work.”

*U=U is true on two premises: taking HIV medicines as prescribed and getting to and staying undetectable for at least six months prevents transmitting HIV to partners through sex. Undetectable means that the virus cannot be measured by a viral load test (viral load <200 copies/mL)

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Will Romania be the next EU country to vote for the far-right?

Romania’s far-right party AUR is growing in popularity and could enter a government coalition next year after the country’s parliamentary election.


Romania, a member of the European Union, will hold local, presidential, parliamentary and European elections next year – making 2024 a crucial time for the country and for Europe, as the far-right is expected to continue gaining ground.

“These elections are important for the political situation in Romania as well as for the entire European Union, where the far-right has risen in popularity in many member states like Sweden, Slovakia and now the Netherlands,” Fernando Casal Bertoa, an associate professor in Comparative Politics at the University of Nottingham, told Euronews.

The elections next year might determine “a completely new direction for the country,” he added.

A recent survey by pollster INSCOP released in early November showed that the country’s ruling coalition government – which includes the leftist Social Democrats (PSD) and centre-right Liberals (PNL) – would fall short of an outright majority in the parliamentary election next year.

The coalition government has been struggling this year with keeping the country’s public finances in check – a situation which has paved the way for the far right to gain ground in Romania.

According to the opinion poll – which was commissioned by Romanian news website News.ro and conducted among a sample of 1,100 people between 23 October and 2 November – 29.5% of Romanians would vote for Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu’s PSD and 18.4% for the Liberals in the parliamentary elections next year.

According to the INSCOP poll, the ultra-nationalist opposition party Alliance for the Unity of Romanians, AUR – an abbreviation for “gold” in Romanian – would have 20.2% of voters’ support – putting the party ahead of the Liberals.

What is AUR, and what does it stand for?

In December 2020, the little-known AUR, which had been formed in the autumn of the previous year, rose from obscurity to take almost 9% of the overall vote in Romania’s parliamentary elections. Since then, the party has been steadily gaining more support in recent opinion surveys.

The rise of the party was due in part to the overwhelming support of the Romanian diaspora, which, according to Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, a professor of Comparative Public Policy at the LUISS Guido Carli University in Rome, “has a large percentage of low-skilled, marginal people who in fact only work seasonally in Europe.”

“I called them, much to the indignation of some people, a ‘lumpen-diaspora’, to paraphrase Karl Marx,” Mungiu-Pippidi explained, referring to a term which in Marxist contexts indicates a population uninterested in revolutionary advancement.

“They needed a radical ‘F… you’ alternative to the existing political system and they found it” in AUR, she added.

The pandemic also “tremendously helped” the rise of AUR, the same way it helped Alternative for Germany (AfD) grow its base, Mungiu-Pippidi said. “They were the anti-vaccine party, and in Romania – also with the complicity of the Orthodox church – half the population did not get a vaccine. This was the main wind in their sails,” she added.

“Same as in the Netherlands, people are really unhappy with the way the country is being governed,” Claudiu Tufis, associate professor of political science, University of Bucharest, told Euronews explaining the popularity of the far-right party.

“There isn’t a lot of representation in the Romanian political system, with pretty much the same coalition uninterruptedly leading the country for almost 10 years now. They are looking for someone who speaks their own language,” he added.

AUR declares to be standing for “family, nation, faith, and freedom,” but Mungiu-Pippidi told Euronews that it actually stands for “anti-science, Christian fundamentalism and sovereignism.”

The party has also positioned itself as an anti-corruption party at a time when the country was facing significant corruption scandals – a move that has been embraced by other populist parties in Europe, like Italy’s Five Star Movement.

AUR is also known to oppose same-sex marriage and has called for the Republic of Moldova’s unification with Romania. In 2018, AUR founder – former journalist Claudiu Tarziu – called for a referendum that attempted to ban same-sex marriage, which failed.

Could AUR be part of a new coalition government?

According to Casal Bertoa, whether AUR would one day become part of a coalition government with the PSD would depend on the results of the election. “The Liberals might want to govern with the far-right party but not under them – so they might bring them if they have a bigger backing than AUR, but not vice versa. It’s difficult to predict,” he continued.


“But anything is possible,” he added. “We have seen a trend in Europe to normalise the far right and the far left, and the elections in the Netherlands are a clear example of that.”

“I expected AUR to win a little bit more than they did in the last round of elections,” Tufis said. “But they probably will be in a position that won’t allow it to form a coalition, the political parties are arguing that AUR should be kept at a distance,” he continued. 

“It’s probably more likely that the Social Democrats and the Liberals will continue with the same coalition they had for the past 10 years.”

With the level of support currently estimated in polls, AUR could claim between 8 and 11 MEPs after the EU elections in June 2024. The party is then likely to ally with Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, which AUR president George Simion said is “a political model for us.”

Is the EU keeping an eye on Romania?

Casal Bertoa thinks that the EU is looking closely at what’s happening in Romania, as well as other countries like Spain and the Netherlands, “and the great thing is that the EU has mechanisms to intervene if these far-right parties threaten democracy or the rule of law.”


The problem, he added, is that “it has no way to stop the rise of the far right.”

Tufis agrees, saying that even if AUR wins big in the European election, “they will be controlled within the European Parliament.”

Mungiu-Pippidi thinks the EU has no reason to worry about AUR. “Romania is well controlled by a left-right coalition solidly supported by its much too powerful secret services and military establishment,” she said.

“The church may flirt with AUR, but it always stands with the power establishment. AUR would get co-opted, like all radicals before them, with governmental perks, though until then they may provide some colourful moments in the European Parliament,” she added.

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AI could be the great equaliser the less well-off parts of Europe need

The promise of a better life for those who were historically on the fringes means that investment into AI should be further supported, and not stifled, Cristian Gherasim writes.

Barely a day goes by without hearing about yet another mind-blowing artificial intelligence advance. The beauty of AI is that we all have access to it, more so than with any other technological discovery from past epochs. 


Though still very much ahead, rich countries no longer hold the monopoly over this new invention and AI developments are happening all across the globe, owing more to a nation’s capacity to innovate than to its overall wealth.

Eastern Europe is no exception, and despite the region remaining Europe’s most impoverished, research and development in AI seem to have picked up speed in various sectors. 

If harnessed wisely, AI could provide a boost towards growth for a region battling decades of communist-era shortages and post-communist economic inequality and deprivation.

World’s first AI-powered government adviser is Romanian

Though still behind the western world, some central and eastern European countries made significant inroads in the AI sector.

For a few years now, Poland has been spearheading the fight against hate speech on the internet. 

In 2019, its Samurai Labs developed AI-based software that detects hate speech, violence and fake news across online media platforms. The tool proved particularly useful in the years following the Brexit vote with the UK Police ending up hiring the company to investigate anti-Polish content online. 

Aside from fake news and hate speech, this AI-powered tool has also been used to combat online paedophilia and other crimes.

In Romania, the Humans.ai start-up delivered the world’s first AI-based government adviser, ION, to help the Romanian prime minister understand the needs of constituents. 

The project done in collaboration with AI researchers and professors from Romania aims to get a better sense of public opinion and how the public reacts to certain events, key issues and policies. 

The company is branching out, partnering with research centres in the Middle East such as in the Emirati city of Ras Al-Khaimah (RAK), where it aims to reshape the tech landscape and create the first free zone and hub in the world dedicated exclusively to AI innovation and development. 

Furthermore, Humans.ai will provide blockchain technology for the region’s AI ecosystem and startups.


Moldova’s pest management and Ukraine’s hi-tech warfare

Romania’s neighbour Moldova is also putting AI to good use, training it to detect pests and implement weed management for local crops. 

The program — developed by the local company DRON Assistance and financed by the United Nations — is being tested on a 73-hectare field in the village of Onitcani.

In Ukraine, artificial intelligence is already at the forefront of the country’s defence strategy against Russian aggression. 

AI helps identify Russian soldiers, track troop movement, establish new targets and intercept enemy communications, together with helping fend off Russian disinformation.

Drones and robots have already revolutionised not only the war in Ukraine but warfare in general. Ukraine is indeed a testing ground, a living lab for AI warfare. 


This is also leading to the development of a strong tech civil sector where through partnerships, Ukrainian start-ups are growing.

What does Eastern Europe stand to benefit?

According to research by Goldman Sachs, AI could bring a near $7 trillion (€6.47tn) increase in annual global GDP over a ten-year period.

The potential for economic growth is limitless and eastern Europe can tap into that.

Some sectors are already witnessing AI-powered changes. Aside from its military use that we see at play in Ukraine, the technology can have a crucial role in shaping the region in years to come.

Agricultural drones flown by AI software sprinkle on average up to 40% less active substance allowing for more accurate spraying and safer crops. 


These AI-powered drones present a far more ecological option to farmers who thus have no need for tractors and avoid burning fossil fuels that pollute the crops.

AI could also help the region in developing better waste management with smart recycle bins and facilities helping to sort and collect rubbish more efficiently.

Healthcare is another thorny problem, the region being notorious for its lack of doctors with Romania ranked as having the worst healthcare system in Europe. 

Aside from poor financing and systemic corruption, hospitals in the region are facing a severe shortage of physicians. 

AI can help supplement a dwindling number of medics so that more people can access medical supervision, with studies showing that the technology is capable of performing tasks as well or better than humans.

AI could turn out to be the ‘great equaliser’

AI can undoubtedly be a force for good in Eastern Europe as much as anywhere else, but when so much is happening so fast, the conversation tends to become too broad and at times so abstract that those trying to make sense of it end up being exposed to the fringes, either loving or loathing the technology.

As with every new tool, however, cautious optimism should drive the approach as well as a better understanding of what that new tool can do for you, your home country and your region. 

The European Union has also a role to play by both fostering the development of AI and making Europe a leading competitor alongside tech juggernauts like the US and China and also keeping an eye on potential risks through thorough checks and balances.

At the same time, the promise of a better life for those who were historically on the fringes means that investment into AI should be further supported, and not stifled.

If we do this carefully and with our joint progress in mind, we could see the harnessing of AI turn out to be the great equaliser the less well-off parts of Europe need — and something our entire continent would benefit from. 

Cristian Gherasim is an analyst, consultant and journalist with over 15 years of experience focusing on Eastern and Central European affairs.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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Blockaded on all fronts: Poland and Hungary threaten to cut Ukraine’s export route to the West

As Russia once again bombards and blockades Ukraine’s Black Sea ports — through which the country exports its vast agricultural produce — Poland and Hungary threaten to cut off the country’s western exit routes.

Poland will unilaterally block trade with Ukraine if the European Commission fails to extend temporary restrictions on grain imports at least until the end of the year, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told a meeting of agriculture ministers from five Eastern EU countries in Warsaw on Wednesday.

“I want to make it clear,” Morawiecki told reporters, “we will not open our border. Either the European Commission will agree to jointly work out regulations that will extend this ban, or we will do it ourselves.”

Hungarian Agriculture Minister István Nagy echoed Morawiecki, saying his country would “protect Hungarian farmers with all its means.”

Days after killing a deal to allow Ukraine to export grain across the Black Sea, Moscow unleashed a wave of attacks on the Ukrainian ports of Odesa and Chornomorsk — two vital export facilities — damaging the infrastructure of global and Ukrainian traders and destroying 60,000 tons of grain.

The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borell, called Russia’s escalating offensive “barbarian” on Thursday. “What we already know is that this is going to create a huge food crisis in the world,” he told reporters in Brussels, adding that EU countries needed to step up alternative export routes for Ukraine.

Ukraine is one of the world’s biggest exporters of corn, wheat and other grains. Following Russia’s invasion and blockade of its Black Sea ports last year, the EU set up land export routes through its territory.

In the year since, export corridors set up by the EU called ‘solidarity lanes’ have carried about 60 percent of Ukraine’s exports — mostly along the Danube to the Romanian port of Constanța. The remaining 40 percent has trickled through the country’s own ports under the now-defunct Black Sea Grain Initiative brokered by the U.N. and Turkey.

But the opening of the overland routes also led to an unprecedented influx of cheap Ukrainian grain into neighboring EU countries — Romania, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovakia — which was bought and resold by local traders instead of being exported further afield. The glut has put the solidarity of the bloc’s Eastern members with Ukraine in its war of defense sorely to the test.

With an election looming this fall, Poland sought to appease local farmers — a vital constituency for the right-wing government — by closing its border this spring to Ukrainian imports. Hungary, Slovakia and Bulgaria followed suit while Romania, which didn’t impose its own restrictions, joined the four in calling for restrictions at EU level.

In May, the five countries struck a deal with the Commission to drop their unilateral measures in exchange for €100 million in EU funding and assurances that Ukrainian shipments would only pass through the five countries on their way to other destinations. 

It’s these restrictions, which will expire on September 15, that the five countries want extended.

Other EU countries have criticized the Commission’s leniency towards the five Eastern troublemakers, saying the compromise undermined the integrity of the bloc’s internal market.

Open the borders

Borrell said that, instead of restricting trade, the EU should respond to Russia’s Black Sea escalation by opening its borders further.

“If the sea route is closed, we will have to increase the capacity of exporting Ukrainian grain through our ports, which means a bigger effort for the Ukrainian neighbors,” he said before a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

“They will have to contribute more, opening the borders and facilitating transport in order to take the grain of Ukraine from the Black Sea ports. This will require from Member States more engagement. We have done a lot, we have to do more.”

Separately on Thursday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called on the EU to make “maximum efforts” to facilitate grain exports from the country.

“While Russia destroys the Grain Initiative, attacks Ukrainian ports and tries to make money on rising food prices, Ukraine and the European Union should make maximum efforts to simplify food exports from Ukraine, particularly by increasing the capacity of alternative transport corridors ‘Solidarity Lanes’ as much as possible,” he said.

During Wednesday’s meeting in Warsaw, agriculture ministers from the five EU countries signed a declaration calling on Brussels to extend and expand the trade restrictions, amid concerns that Russia’s renewed Black Sea blockade could further pressure their domestic markets.

Only Poland and Hungary threatened to take unilateral action if the restrictions were lifted.


Despite the threat, a senior Commission official said on Thursday it was “premature” to say whether there was a need to extend the restrictions beyond the September 15 deadline.

In recent months, officials have stepped up surveillance and customs checks, and Romania and other countries have significantly increased investment in infrastructure and investment to facilitate the transit of grain through their countries and to other markets, the Commission official said.

But in the year since the land-based export routes were opened, Poland has taken no major steps to improve its own infrastructure or the capacity of its Baltic ports. Analysts say it is unlikely the country will be able to repeat the feat come this summer’s harvest. The Polish government has repeatedly blamed Brussels for not providing enough help.

Despite the ongoing trade dispute, officials in Kyiv have been careful not to openly criticize their counterparts in Warsaw.

That’s because Poland has played a leading role in supporting Ukraine since the war broke out, acting as the main transit point for Western weapons and sending plenty of its own. It has also taken in millions of Ukrainian refugees.

“We highly appreciate all the work done so far within the solidarity lanes by the European Commission and neighboring member states,” Ukraine’s ambassador to the EU, Vsevolod Chentsov, told POLITICO.

Still, he added: “Statements by some member states of the need to extend the ban on the export of Ukrainian agrarian production [cause] serious concerns.” Without naming Poland he said that this “politicizes” the practical reality of what is a logistical challenge “jeopardizes the effectiveness of the solidarity lanes.”

Jacopo Barigazzi contributed reporting

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Europe has a tobacco smuggling problem it needs to curb

Putting an end to tobacco smuggling would mean extra money in the budget to help those who need it the most — an ideal the European Union leaders vowed to uphold, Cristian Gherasim writes.

Unfortunately, contraband and counterfeit goods have always been making their way into the EU with great costs to the economy, health and security of its member countries. 

The illicit tobacco market stands out for its sheer size and the many problems that it brings. 

According to the World Health Organisation, the illicit tobacco market may account for as much as one in every 10 cigarettes consumed globally, and the problem is particularly acute in Europe. 

Furthermore, the European continent leads in the highest number of contraband tobacco product seizures in the world, with some years accounting for as much as 95% of all cigarettes confiscated globally. 

EU’s eastern border an intentional target

The points of entry for contraband goods into the EU are several, with France having fought the flow of illegal cigarettes coming from Algeria for many years. 

The port in Antwerp — Europe’s second-largest — has also been used to bring illicit goods to the continent, while the Belgian authorities dismantled a large-scale illegal cigarette factory some 40 kilometres from the city mere days ago.

Yet, one of the most lucrative regions over the past decade for tobacco smugglers is on the EU’s eastern border. 

Illegal trade is big business in Romania’s eastern region, one of the poorest in the EU, especially in the areas bordering Ukraine and Moldova. Data shows that one in every 10 contraband cigarettes in the EU is smoked in Romania.

The war next door has created new opportunities for smugglers at the Romanian-Ukrainian border in response to an ever-growing demand for cheaper, albeit more dangerous, cigarettes.

The industry reports a 19% increase in smuggling over last year in Romania alone.

According to Stop Contrabanda, a website monitoring contraband cigarette busts, 110 million contraband cigarettes were seized by the Romanian authorities in 2022 alone. 

The risks of illicit trade are growing and manifold, as pointed out by OLAF, the European anti-fraud office.

From ‘Mister Marlboro’ to the ‘Tobacco Metropolitan’

It’s no secret that cigarette smuggling has helped fund terrorism and organised crime around the globe. 

Notoriously, the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has been using cigarette smuggling to finance its terrorist operations, in particular while under the notorious Algerian commander, smuggler and arms dealer Mokhtar Belmokhtar — also known as “Mister Marlboro”.

Russian Orthodox Church’s Patriarch Kirill, known both for his vast unexplained riches and vocal support of Vladimir Putin and his war against Ukraine, was dubbed “Tobacco Metropolitan” for his alleged profiteering off of duty-free cigarettes in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s dissolution.

Now-former Montenegrin President Milo Đukanović, who ruled the small Balkan country for nearly three decades, was also implicated in accruing significant wealth by means of cigarette smuggling during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.

In southeastern Europe, on Romania’s eastern border, smugglers are opening up new routes counting on the mountainous terrain to force Romanian police officers less inclined to patrol the area, thus allowing traffickers to reach their destination.

These routes end up being used not only by smugglers but also by various groups of organized crime, weakening the EU’s border at the time of conflict.

Billions of euros lost could have gone into fighting poverty

It’s not only the EU’s southeastern border that’s at risk; the Ukrainian state is being targeted at a time of great need. 

Ukrainian state coffers are losing money because of illicit trade. According to GLOBSEC think-thank, in Ukraine, the illicit tobacco trade resulted in revenue losses of as much as 20.5 billion hryvnias (€505 million) in non-paid or underpaid taxes in 2022 alone.

For the EU, cigarette smuggling and other forms of illicit trade in tobacco products cause an estimated €10bn of revenue loss to the bloc’s and national budgets each year. 

Romania — as both a point of entry and a consumer of smuggler products — lost over €6bn over the past decade due to the illicit trade of cigarettes. 

This money could go into fighting poverty in the very same eastern regions most prone to smuggling activities.

Probably worse than smoking is smoking contraband and counterfeit tobacco.

Besides the heavy yearly losses to the budgets of EU countries and the EU institutions in lost customs duties and taxes, illegal tobacco poses a great health risk as counterfeit cigarettes aren’t checked by anyone with anything from hay to asbestos possibly going into their manufacturing.

The industry and civic society both play a role

Increasing border police activity, and strengthening and enforcing legislation, including laws on online sales of counterfeit goods, are much-needed measures.

At the EU’s southeastern border, Romanian authorities should be further engaging stakeholders to stop illicit trade. 

Some initiatives are already underway both by the tobacco industry, which is also affected by the illicit trade, as well as with NGOs targeting it. 

For example, British American Tobacco is giving scanners and cameras to Romanian border police and running anti-smuggling campaigns to raise awareness, according to local media reports. 

The Romanian NGO ACTIV is educating the public about counterfeit goods, what gives them away as being fake and the risks associated with using them. 

National authorities should also engage international bodies like the WHO to eliminate illicit trade, the EU’s External Action Service to secure borders and trade, as well the European Commission. 

European Union’s ideals are at stake, too

The European Commission, via its Anti-Fraud Office, has the mandate to fight tobacco smuggling into the EU as this is a cross-border issue affecting multiple member states simultaneously.

Partnering with local communities to both uncover smugglers and routes as well as to alleviate poverty and the social problems that fuel illicit trade in the first place should also be high on the agenda.

Health safety and squandered public money are sufficient motives to want to stop illicit trade, and with a war raging next door, security is on everyone’s mind.

But most importantly, putting an end to tobacco smuggling would mean extra money in the budget to help those who need it the most — an ideal the European Union leaders vowed to uphold.

Cristian Gherasim is an analyst, consultant and journalist with over 15 years of experience focusing on Eastern and Central European affairs.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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Pandemic-born far-right party has rattled Romania’s democratic future

By Andrei Tiut, Programme Director, GlobalFocus Centre

The main parties’ belief that they can regain far-right voters lost to AUR through nationalist and ultra-conservative discourse might resurrect the ghosts of Romania’s past even further instead of letting them go once and for all, Andrei Tiut writes.

The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic seemed to be a testament that Romanian democracy, while challenged, still functioned. 

Like other Eastern European countries, Romania had imposed relatively severe restrictions from the start, which led to a “flattening of the curve” in the first months of the pandemic. 

Yet, at some point, and without any instantly apparent reason, things began to unravel. 

Exceptions were carved out for some. The prime minister, the minister of health, and other officials were photographed violating the rules they themselves imposed. 

While the restrictions actually softened over time, they became harder and harder to understand and, therefore, accept. 

As politicians continued to fumble, confidence in the government’s decisions collapsed. Vaccination rates declined, and conspiracy theories flourished despite the visibly increasing number of cases and deaths.

The far-right rises to the occasion

Two propaganda forces came to the fore in this period. Firstly, the Archbishop of Tomis took advantage of the initial confusion within the Romanian Orthodox Church to oppose the restrictions and encourage believers to attend liturgy despite legal limitations. 

Secondly, a new party called Alliance for the Unity of Romanians or AUR came to the forefront of political debate.

It combines elements of the “unionist” discourse — that is, promoting the unification between Romania and the neighbouring Republic of Moldova — with elements of Christian nationalism with fascist undertones. 

The party is led by George Simion, a well-known advocate for the unification between Romania and the Republic of Moldova, and Claudiu Târziu, an apologist for the Romanian fascist period and its historical personalities.

In the December 2020 elections, AUR, which had also brought Diana Șoșoacă — previously the public advocate of the Archbishop of Tomis — to its party lists, scored a surprising 9%. 

The party would continue to grow during the pandemic, briefly ranking as the second-strongest party in Romania according to some polls. 

Currently, AUR and Șoșoacă’s breakaway party SOS together hold around 20% of the vote.

Communist dictatorship spawns sympathy for Romania’s fascists

In Romania, the fascist past comes in two flavours. 

On the one hand, we have the Legionary Movement, also known as the Iron Guard, which espouses boilerplate fascism, including the cult of death and mystical discourse. 

It remains, however, notable for its chaotic and disorganised character, to the point that Hitler himself had to authorise World War II fascist dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu (with whom the Iron Guard shared the government) to eliminate them through a coup.

During the post-war period, Romania’s communist dictatorship’s persecution of the Iron Guard fed the myth espoused by their supporters today. 

After the war, both fascists and democrats were imprisoned by Nicolae Ceaușescu’s regime in the same prisons. 

They shared the same cells, ate the same food, prayed together to the same God, and many of them died due to the same inhumane treatment. 

After the 1989 Revolution, with the help of some right-wing intellectuals, they were rediscovered and promoted together under the label of “saints of the prisons”.

‘Overly liberal’ Soviets make some Romanian communists turn to nationalism

The second legacy is that of Marshal Antonescu. As he took over the full leadership of the state and turned it into a para-fascist personal dictatorship similar to Franco’s Spain or Salazar’s Portugal, Antonescu ordered pogroms and deportations in the occupied territory of the Soviet Union, making Romania infamous as a major actor in the Holocaust.

After the war, he was put on trial for war crimes and executed in 1946. 

But, after the initial purge of elements from the old regime, hardline Romanian communists sought to distance themselves from the Soviet Union, whose leaders, from Khrushchev to Gorbachev, could occasionally be too “liberal” for their taste. 

To attract the Romanian population to their side, a new ideology aggregated communist propaganda with nationalist elements, turning into what historians call national-communism. 

Texts by Marx criticising the Tsarist Empire — ergo, Russia — were used, peppered with elements of the far-right discourse. In this context, certain parts of the memory of Antonescu survived albeit discreetly, for example, in literary works that managed to get past the censors.

In today’s Romania, AUR combines and capitalises on both of these traditions. 

Football hooliganism, racism, and Nazi apologia

Its charismatic leader, George Simion, first became infamous in the world of football after organising no less than two fan clubs-turned-hooligan groups. 

He promoted a nationalist-unionist message that appeared to be tolerant of more radical elements.

While Simion kept his distance from some of the seedier aspects, football stadiums in Romania are known for anti-Roma chants, including occasional calls for the “Antonescu solution” — meaning, pogroms.

Initially, the party had dual leadership: the other president was Claudiu Târziu, a well-known apologist who had tried to defend historical Iron Guard figures against the accusations levelled against them.

They were joined by Șoșoacă, who became well-known in the public eye for her extremely vocal position against pandemic restrictions. 

She brings to Romanian politics a volcanic style reminiscent of the nationalist leader Corneliu “Vadim” Tudor — a senator and MEP known for his anti-semitic, homophobic, and racist views who was famously accused of keeping a blacklist of his political enemies to be arrested and persecuted if he ever came to power.

For what it’s worth, AUR is more conspiratorial than extremist

With such a pedigree, we might be tempted to consider AUR a new iteration of ultra-nationalism and fascism. However, it is not clear that the party’s members and voters would agree. 

There are no clear studies of the motivations of AUR’s electorate in present-day Romania, but the party’s rise did not coincide with any marked worsening of ethnic relations. 

The party seems to thrive on socio-economic crises, including the handling of the pandemics and high inflation. 

Moreover, Târziu, representing the intellectual and ideological side of the party, seems to have been marginalised, leaving Simion in the driver’s seat, whose discourse is more populist and aimed at the “common man”. 

Extremist language is still there — a signature brand of the party playing the role of an outsider who is there to iritate mainstream politicians and intellectuals — but the main focus is on fearmongering and anti-Western conspiratorial discourse. 

It is more likely to hear AUR members fantasising about how European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will force them to eat insects than to see them requesting a new “final solution”.

Prodded by growing discontent, others turned to imitating AUR

The most worrisome part is not so much reflected in the natural growth of the far right, particularly since the beginning of the war when AUR began having problems reconciling its pro- and anti-Kremlin constituencies. 

It is the panic of mainstream politicians who seem to believe that imitating AUR is the key to taking back their electorate.

Starting from December 2022, a series of issues have put Romania in conflict with Austria regarding Romania’s entry into the Schengen area and with Ukraine regarding the treatment of minorities and the fate of the Bystroye canal — a deepwater canal on the Danube delta between Romania and the latter. 

Additionally, Romanian farmers are going through a crisis that is the combined result of low production, cheap imports from Ukraine, and poor negotiation with the EU regarding financial compensation. 

On these issues, with the exception perhaps of grain imports, Romania has arguably legitimate grievances against both Austria — which keeps using Romania’s application to the Schengen for its own internal politicking — and Ukraine, which is pushing the limits of international treaties. 

We should stop resurrecting the ghosts of Romania’s past

Legitimate criticism that could have been expressed in a liberal language focused on the values of the rule of law was, nevertheless, instrumentalised in a nationalist and populist manner by the main political parties.

However, in all instances where research done at the GlobalFocus Centre measured discussions on these subjects in social media, the conversation was dominated authoritatively by AUR, even when one of the governing parties invested money in promoting its messages. 

It was, after all, predictable. When major parties normalise extremist discourse, the electorate will usually turn towards the parties from which this discourse originated, choosing the original over the copy.

Anti-Western discourse seems to have calmed down lately, possibly due to pressure from Western partners and almost certainly due to pressure from President Klaus Iohannis. 

However, the main parties’ belief that they can regain far-right voters through nationalist and ultra-conservative discourse does not seem to have disappeared entirely.

This, in turn, should be cause for concern that Romanian politics might resurrect the ghosts of the country’s past even further instead of letting go of them once and for all.

Andrei Tiut is Programme Director for Democratic Resilience at the Bucharest-based GlobalFocus Centre. Tiut specialises in the Romanian far right and Russian-aligned propaganda.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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The Andrew Tate case shows we must find a way to confront woman-haters

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

Ever since the Romanian authorities arrested Andrew Tate in late December along with three others for alleged rape, human trafficking, and forming an organised crime group, the international press has been obsessed with the hypermasculine misogynist influencer — but not always for the right reason.

Andrew Tate and his brother Tristan are a much bigger, transnational example revealing a major overlap between technology-facilitated gender-based violence, socio-economic grievances, radical right tenets, and the failure of institutions and digital platforms to protect women’s rights and democracy. 

I am fully aware that these are all “big words” to tackle. 

Yet, we should have a serious conversation, addressing these issues that go well beyond the usual worldwide voyeurism accompanying highly-publicised and sordid cases like Tate’s.

We are hesitant to do something while damage keeps getting worse

Sexual exploitation of women hardly comes as a surprise given the self-professed online narratives where Andrew Tate boasted about women as properties of men, women as responsible for getting raped, and women as relegated to the sphere of domesticity. 

At the same time, I sincerely doubt one can dissociate between Tate’s digital world persona and the alleged narrative that “Tate is a decent human being in real life.” 

I’ll let the justice professionals address the contents of his criminal record. 

However, the blunt sexism professed by the digital “star” deserves to be discussed more broadly, expanding the conversation beyond a questionable — and all-too-simplistic — explanation grounded in the idea of resentment against women and their achievements.

Scholars and activists have warned everyone for a long time about the deeply ingrained misogyny of the radical right and an increasing “manosphere” that encourages resentment and hatred towards women and girls. 

But we are failing to act while they are getting stronger.

Any attempt to dismantle sexist-dominant beliefs about women that range from denial of agency to brutal commodification has become more difficult as the online networks of mostly male “bros” continue to grow in size and reach.

The hyper-masculine views they peddle, such as by the likes of Tate, support a culture that risks normalising abusive behaviour, including gender-based violence. 

The existing and compelling research on the rise of the radical right, their use of digital media, forceful mobilisation of anti-gender campaigns and opposition against feminism should be convincing enough to address undermining women’s rights and social cohesion.

We are, however, still hesitant while the damage continues to compound. If we allow this to ossify, we risk normalising harmful beliefs that will eventually become impossible to undo.

Some of it is the internet’s fault

Despite a wider-shared belief that “women are all right in the 21st century” and so are their rights, political and institutional developments show otherwise.

Illiberal actors take advantage of gender conservatism to gain support and shift the fragile gender equality and women’s rights agenda. 

And then there are the social networks of today: although digital platforms have not invented sexism or radical right, they did become best friends over the years.

Poorly regulated, they offer opportunities for diverse actors to loudly voice their radical right views and gain followers and make money. 

Needless to say, there is a match made in heaven between platform algorithms, polarisation and controversial harmful narratives boosting visibility and reach for commercial interests.

In the case of Tate and his “brotherhood,” digital platforms allowed the dissemination of sexist content even after banning him for infringement of rules. 

In this sense, research on digital media highlighted that it could play a significant role in the erosion of democracy itself. 

Tate is not the first or the last — but we can make it harder for his ilk

The politics of resentment, especially online, are also intrinsically linked to the not-so-convincing responsiveness of countries and their governments in addressing gender inequality.

And there is a reason why the likes of Tate want to capitalise on the weaknesses of societies like the one in Romania.

After all, the Balkan country is struggling to advance gender equality and has ranked second to last in 2022 in the European Gender Equality Index.

One can hardly argue that the country is a haven for women’s emancipation. 

Gender conservatism and populist and nationalist narratives strongly infused with religious tropes alongside increased opposition against gender equality and feminist politics do not create the atmosphere for a constructive, positive change towards a more just society. 

In this sense, the radical right leanings require a multilayered discussion that includes a critique of neoliberal governance and political economy, their focus on the entrepreneurial individual and capitalist market relations, and the precarity of housing and the labour market, to name a few issues that contribute to the problem.

Tate is not the first or the last internet sexist advocating for a radical right world, while capitalising on explicit or latent gender conservatism. 

But he needs to be stopped, so that others can see we are taking this seriously.

Nowhere should “owned by Tate” — a disturbing phrase seen tattooed on some of the women who worked for his webcam enterprise akin to a branding — become a trademark. 

Nor should the Tate brothers grow into a Tate brotherhood. 

This is not only a women’s or feminist struggle. It ought to be a core issue for democratic societies that have come to recognise the human dignity of women, question the outcomes of neoliberalism, and also envision a new social contract online.

_Dr Oana Băluţă is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Journalism and Communication Studies at the University of Bucharest. Her research interests include topics such as contemporary feminist politics and movement, gender-based violence, and media, gender and politics. She has been a women’s rights activist in Romania for over 15 years.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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Building Europe’s future, focusing on IT skills rather than degrees

As the digital transformation of economy and society accelerates, the question of a just and inclusive transformation must be at the forefront of considerations for deciders in the public and private sector.

“The Digital Decade is about making digital technology work for people and businesses. It is about enabling everyone to have the skills to participate in the digital society. To be empowered. It is about empowering businesses. It is about the infrastructure that keeps us connected. It is about bringing government services closer to citizens. Europe’s digital transformation will give opportunities for everyone.” Margrethe Vestager, executive vice president for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age, July 2022.

The Digital Decade is about making digital technology work for people and businesses.

The European Union (EU) has grasped the urgency and importance of providing digital skills to citizens, declaring 2023 the European Year of Skills. Reaching the EU’s goal of 80 percent of Europeans with basic digital skills and 20 million ICT specialists by 2030 won’t happen in a snap. The opportunities here are immense: the World Economic Forum predicts 97 million new jobs related to technology. Many promise to be better jobs than the ones they will replace. Because skills in cybersecurity or the internet of things, for example, can lead to positions that offer opportunities for advancement and life-changing opportunities for people everywhere, including underprivileged or marginalized communities around the world.

The scale of the digital skills challenge and opportunity demands close collaboration with the tech industry, governments, and academia — to close the gap in technology skills that stood at 2 million unfilled tech jobs globally in 2022[1].

What’s more, those who have been displaced will in many cases be good candidates to upskill for the new roles. A high percentage of these jobs don’t necessarily require a high-level degree, for example. Many roles demand candidates have the right tech skills rather than degrees.

Accessibility and flexibility are key

If there is one glaring truth that surfaces from all my encounters throughout Europe it’s that for a training and upskilling program to work, learners must be empowered in ever more flexible ways, to learn where and when they want.

For a training and upskilling program to work, learners must be empowered in ever more flexible ways, to learn where and when they want.

A learner-centric approach is what will make a training program relevant to learners. I firmly believe that our focus on regularly offering new pathways and learning formats is one of the main reasons the Cisco Networking Academy has managed to empower over 17 million learners in 25 years.

Our new Skills For All offering, which proposes self-paced introductory and intermediary courses in cybersecurity, networking and data management, will continue to contribute to this success. It lowers the barriers to entry by allowing learners to dip their toes in the water on their own terms before deciding whether to take the plunge.

Jobs in IT can provide an accessible opportunity for people looking to change their lives and launch themselves into a new career. This is even more true for the underprivileged, underrepresented and underserved.

One obvious starting point is addressing the gender gap in tech. Historically, 26 percent of Networking Academy students over the past 25 years have been women. We’ve made strides forward, but we seek more to benefit from the wider perspective and fresh ideas that the strong inclusion brings of women in the IT sector. This flexibility, however, must be accompanied with a clear effort to remain accessible to as many stakeholders as possible. One of the secrets to the success of our program is the long-term collaboration with public-sector education, administrations, and even armed forces. A collaboration that rests on our focus on keeping our program free of charge and vendor agnostic, and on focusing on training learners in the skills required in the industry.

Reaching every sector with the right digital skills

The challenge we face is that the digital transformation in Europe is not exclusively the business of tech and IT. It impacts everything, from the average agricultural cooperative in Romania, Greece, France or Spain that needs to understand the impact that digital transformation can have on farming, to the local administrations needing to better protect the information of their citizens as increasing numbers of services digitize.

Each scenario requires skills-focused learning pathways so that learners can quickly and easily acquire the knowledge they need in a simplified format.

A responsibility to the future

Today, we are at a critical turning of the tide. I look forward to being able to touch down in any European city in 10 years and see the impact of the talent that we’ve nurtured and empowered. Talent that includes more women, minorities, people with disabilities, adult reskillers, school leavers… the list goes on.

Cisco stands ready to support Europe in its objectives to bring digital skills to more citizens to maximize the opportunity that technology offers, by developing the next generation of talent.

At Cisco, we feel we have a responsibility to make the digital transformation an inclusive one. And I’m incredibly excited to see how our incredible ecosystem of over 11,800 educational institutions and more than 29,000 instructors will strive to deliver on our goal of upskilling 25 million people in the next 10 years.

Cisco stands ready to support Europe in its objectives to bring digital skills to more citizens to maximize the opportunity that technology offers, by developing the next generation of talent who will push the capabilities of technology even further and to give people the skills to engage with technology more securely. Because when people are empowered to craft a more inclusive digital transformation journey, it becomes synonymous with a more prosperous society.

[1] https://technation.io/people-and-skills-report-2022/#key-statistics

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Hot scoop about Andrew Tate getting busted by pizza box was based on BS cooked up by Alejandra Caraballo

It has not been the greatest week for kickboxer, social media influencer, and genuinely toxic masculine man Andrew Tate.

Earlier this week, he got owned — and we do mean owned — by Greta Thunberg. That was embarrassing enough. But then yesterday, things managed to get even worse for Tate when he was detained in Romania on suspicion of human trafficking, rape, and organized crime. Or at least attempting organized crime.

More from NBC News:

On Thursday, prosecutors said that they found evidence that six women had been sexually exploited “using physical violence and mental constraint” by members of the group.

The women had been forced into making pornographic content for distribution on social media for financial gain to the group, they said.

Prosecutors said that the brothers have been under criminal investigation since April, according to Reuters, when Tate’s Bucharest mansion was searched by police in connection with human trafficking allegations.

Yikes. Tough break, Andrew.

Now, as much as we’re enjoying the prospect of Andrew Tate getting his comeuppance, it’s still important to be honest about how his arrest came to pass. Interestingly, Greta Thunberg is actually getting credit for ultimately being the one who brought him down:

“This is what happens when you don’t recycle your pizza boxes,” she wrote in a tweet, an apparent reference to reports in the Romanian newspaper Gândul that Tate’s social media activity, including a video message posted by the influencer that used pizza boxes from a Romanian takeout chain as a prop, alerted authorities to his presence in the country.

The thing is, apparently a pizza box had nothing whatsoever to do with the arrest:



OK, so if this wasn’t about a pizza box, then how did the whole “pizza box” narrative get started? Well, ladies and gentlemen, you will no doubt be shocked to know that the narrative appears to have originated with Alejandra Caraballo. We know, we know … who’d’ve guessed that a serial liar with no sense of journalistic ethics would do something like that?

But here we are:

Look at all those sweet, sweet likes and retweets! Makes the lie totally worth it!

There’s another moral to this story, of course. And that moral is: Do not, under any circumstances, take Alejandra Caraballo at her word, because she is a lying liar who lies.

Of course, she has very little incentive not to lie because there are so many people and media outlets who are willing to treat her as though she is a serious person who should be taken seriously.

Could no one be bothered to verify Caraballo’s claims immediately after she made them? It’s not like she hasn’t given the media cause to question her motives before.

“One very unreliable Twitter account.” Yeah, that’s basically Alejandra Caraballo in a nutshell.

But see, that last bit, “and next time it could be on something far more important,” is exactly why Caraballo’s lie is actually a very big deal and a huge problem. Almost 100,000 retweets and more than half a million likes on a tweet that’s an outright lie. If Caraballo or someone like her can get away with that, can actually be cited by ostensibly respectable news outlets as a reliable source, then what’s to stop a far more egregious and damaging lie from catching fire?

Dreyfuss is absolutely correct. That’s why we’re going to post his tweets linking to his own write-up on the subject:

Dreyfuss actually looked into this stuff and, realizing he himself had been mistaken, took the time to correct his own rushes to judgment.

More media should take their cues from Dreyfuss — and stay the hell away from Alejandra Caraballo.



Because of course.



About the expert media’s consulting for reports on Musk creating a dangerous atmosphere…

WaPo’s expert source on Twitter doesn’t mind doxxing those fascists who are for ‘free speech’

Glenn Greenwald takes ‘relentlessly hateful and dishonest’ Alejandra Caraballo apart in SAVAGE thread


Help us keep owning the libs! Join Twitchy VIP and use promo code AMERICAFIRST to receive a 25% discount off your membership!

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