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Around The World Paris Terrace chill

Paris
Terrace chill: Café owners in France are to be banned from using outdoor patio heaters, to help the country meet its climate change targets. Unveiling the measure, the ecology minister, Barbara Pompili, described the use of outdoor heaters as akin to assisting “ecological aberrations”. Some towns already ban them. However, she said that as the restaurant sector is already struggling in the pandemic, the national ban won’t come into force until next year. It was one of a number of proposals put forward by a citizens’ body for climate action set up by President Macron. Others included a ban on shops and other public buildings from keeping their front doors open when using central heating or air conditioning.

Berlin
Covid warnings: The head of Germany’s public health agency has blamed “negligent” behaviour for a rise in Covid-19 infections and has advised people to wear masks outdoors for the first time. “We are in the middle of a rapidly developing pandemic,” said Lothar Wieler. This week, Germany introduced mandatory testing for travellers returning from high-risk countries including the US and Turkey, and issued a travel warning for parts of Spain. In Belgium, the PM said that restrictions were being reintroduced to prevent a return to total lockdown that would disrupt the start of the school year. The number of people in a permitted social bubble has been reduced to five; and a night-time curfew has been imposed in the city of Antwerp, where the infection rate is up 500%. The Balkan region is particularly badly affected by the rise in infections across Europe: Kosovo recorded a record rise of 300 new infections on Tuesday.


Budapest
Media gagged: More than 70 journalists and staff of Index, Hungary’s biggest independent news website, resigned this week, in protest at the sacking of its editor-in-chief. Szabolcs Dull was fired after warning of government interference, and moving the site’s Freedom Barometer to “in danger”. In the past decade, allies of the nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orbán, have gradually taken control of the country’s media. Fears for Index, one of the last remaining independent outlets, have been growing since April, when a pro-Orbán businessman, Miklós Vaszily, bought a 50% stake in the company that controls its advertising. Vaszily invested in another media site in 2014 that has since adopted a pro-government editorial line.

Bilbao, Spain
Subsea link: Google has announced plans to build a new undersea cable connecting Europe with the US. It would be the company’s fourth and most advanced privately owned subsea link, and it will make landfall in Bilbao, in northern Spain; in Bude, in the west of England; and in New York. Named Grace Hopper, after the US computer scientist, it will bring faster data speeds, and enable Google to expand its cloud storage facility. The first ever transatlantic telecommunications cable was built in 1858. Now, there are 750,000 miles of cable running between continents. Google estimates that 98% of all data is carried on such cables, and tech companies are scrabbling to improve and expand their high-speed links as demand for the internet grows. In Europe, usage soared during lockdown: in the UK, people are estimated to have spent a quarter of their waking hours online.

Madrid
Royal mistress probed: The reported former mistress of Juan Carlos, the emeritus king of Spain, is to be questioned over claims that he received a secret payment to help a Spanish consortium broker a $7bn rail contract with Saudi Arabia. The scandal broke last year, after the media published recordings that were said to be of Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, a Danish businesswoman, discussing the payment with an ex police officer who is now in custody facing money laundering charges. She denies that she is the woman in the recording. An earlier investigation was shelved, because the allegations date from before Juan Carlos’s abdication in 2014, when he still enjoyed immunity from prosecution. But the inquiry has now been reopened, to see if it leads to evidence of “other types of infractions”. A Swiss inquiry into offshore accounts has linked Juan Carlos to a s65m payment from the Saudi royal family.


Swieqi, Malta
Witness stabbed: A key witness into the car bomb murder of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was found in his apartment with multiple knife wounds last week, hours before he was due to give evidence in court. Melvin Theuma (pictured), who is currently in hospital, says that he recruited the alleged hitmen now on trial for the murder, in October 2017. He has claimed that the hit was ordered by the gambling tycoon Yorgen Fenech, to stop Caruana Galizia looking into his affairs. Theuma was granted a pardon in November. Police have said his injuries are consistent with attempted suicide.

Kastellorizo, Greece
Naval row: Tensions between Greece and Turkey flared last week after Turkey threatened to send a survey ship into waters close to the Greek island of Kastellorizo, off Turkey’s south coast. Greece complained to the EU that this would violate its sovereign territory. Both countries then said they would send naval ships to patrol the area. The Nato allies have been competing to develop energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean. Huge gas reserves were discovered a few years ago off Cyprus, which has been divided since Turkish troops invaded the north in 1974, leading to fraught negotiations over drilling rights. Relations between Athens and Ankara have been further soured by rows about migrants crossing from Turkey into Greece, and by Ankara’s recent decision to turn the Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul (originally an Orthodox cathedral) back into a mosque.


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