Weekly roundup

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Terrorism returned to the streets of Europe this week, with four people dying in a gun attack on a Christmas market in the French city of Strasbourg. The terrorist, a man with 27 criminal convictions, was killed by police two days later after he opened fire on officers when questioned.

France’s president Emmanuel Macron said: “It is not only France that has been hit… but a great European city as well,” according to AFP, referring to the fact that Strasbourg is the home of the European Parliament. MEPs and other politicians were undertaking debates and votes in the Parliament building at the time of the attack.

Coincidentally, on the day after the attack the Parliament adopted recommendations for combating terrorism, including setting up anti-radicalisation programmes and creating an EU terrorism coordination centre. One of the MEPs who led the work, Monika Hohlmeier, said: “Yesterday’s attack on the Christmas market in Strasbourg was an attack on European citizens and the common EU values and principles in the worst possible way. The incident has shown us again that we need to leave empty slogans and unrealistic measures behind and concentrate our activities on what really makes Europe safe.”

Over in Brussels, the EU’s main political base, about 5,000 people took part in an anti-immigration protest march, the BBC reported. The march was instigated by right-wing Flemish political parties, it said. Police used tear gas and water cannons in clashes with protesters.

Two weeks ago the EU’s implementing body, the European Commission, presented an action plan for countering disinformation, including increasing the size of EU communications teams, setting up a Rapid Alert System for information sharing and assessment, and monitoring the practices of online platforms.  This week, as reported by EurActiv, the Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker accused some of the EU’s own heads of government – in particular Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán – of themselves disseminating “fake news”.

Ukraine’s Orthodox Church has established independence from Russia, the BBC reported. President Petro Poroshenko said: “This day will go into history as a sacred day… the day of the final independence from Russia.”

The BBC also reported that Russia’s president Vladimir Putin has said he wants the government to “take charge” of Russian rap music.

Photographer Alicia Canter captured the transformation of the French city of Lyon by its festival of lights (Fête des Lumières) for the Guardian.

While the BBC has a nice selection from a British photography exhibition celebrating female MPs in the country.

Over on The Conversation, researcher Beate Peter looked at why illegal raves are once again on the rise in Britain, 24 years after they were first criminalised.

A copy of Marcel Proust’s book Swann’s Way, the first in his seven-volume Remembrance of Things Past, sold for 1.51 million euros at auction, AFP reported – the highest sum ever paid for a French book. Proust had dedicated the copy to his “little darling” Lucien Daudet, a fellow novelist over whom he fought a duel with another writer, Jean Lorrain, after Lorrain questioned the nature of their relationship.

Finally, Danes’ famed fondness of Hygge – cosy surroundings – has come under threat after researchers warned about the dangers that burning candles poses to people’s lungs. The Guardian quoted scientist Lars Gunnarsen as saying: “Danes burn more candles than anywhere else in the world, and we have a shorter life expectancy compared to other European countries. Probably a lot of this may be explained by smoking and drinking, but it could also be because we pollute our homes more with candles.”

Words: Craig Nicholson

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