A car has been driven into the gates of Angela Merkel’s Federal Chancellery building in Berlin, German police say.
A 54-year-old man was detained but the background to the incident was unclear.
The Volkswagen car had messages daubed in white on both sides. One called for an end to “globalisation politics” while another referred to “you damned killers of children and old people”.
The incident came hours before Mrs Merkel held talks with regional leaders on extending Covid safety measures.
It is not known if she was in the building at the time. Germany’s “lockdown light” is expected to be extended until 20 December and the restrictions have prompted protests from Covid deniers and far-right activists.
However, there were indications that Wednesday morning’s low-speed crash was not related to the protests.
An interior ministry spokesman later confirmed German reports that the man detained had also driven into the gate in February 2014. On that occasion the car had different white slogans daubed on the side. One called for an end to climate change while another read simply: “Nicole, I love you.”
Police said they were trying to establish whether the driver on Wednesday had a psychological condition or a particular motive. A government spokesperson said at no point was there any risk to the chancellor or anyone else.
Mrs Merkel is discussing a draft proposal agreed by Germany’s 16 state premiers to keep hotels and restaurants shut and limit private gatherings to five people (not including children under 14). A special Christmas exemption from 23 December to 1 January would allow gatherings of up to 10 people.
German health officials reported 410 deaths from Covid-19 on Wednesday – the highest daily number since the pandemic began. However, Germany has seen proportionally far fewer fatalities than other Western European countries, with a total of 14,771.
Germany has a large protest movement against Covid-19 measures, including many anti-vaccination activists. Protesters rallied in the centre of Berlin last week close to the parliament building, the Reichstag, before the protest was broken up by police.
Angela Merkel, 66, has just marked 15 years as chancellor and is planning to step down from the post next year. She does not live in the chancellery but instead leads a modest life in a Berlin flat with her husband, Prof Joachim Sauer.
Her Christian Democrat (CDU) party is doing well in the opinion polls, partly because of her handling of the pandemic. The government agreed on Wednesday to hold parliamentary elections on 26 September 2021 but the race to succeed Mrs Merkel as the CDU’s candidate for chancellor is still to run.
The CDU will hold an online congress in January 2021 when they are expected to select a new party leadership.
Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-55069047
Bosnia: Icy struggle for many migrants stuck in freezing tents
Thousands of refugees and migrants urgently need proper shelter in Bosnia-Herzegovina after weeks outdoors in freezing cold, the UN has warned.
Some 2,500 people are in unheated tents or sleeping rough near the northern town of Bihac. A UN official says some are now being moved to heated tents.
Local authorities have refused to reopen a nearby reception centre.
Instead hundreds have been forced to return to a temporary camp that was ravaged by fire last month.
Peter Van der Auweraert of the UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has tweeted photos of the basic tents erected at the Lipa camp by the Bosnian army a few days ago.
But his latest post is upbeat. Lipa is carpeted with heavy snow, he says, so the relocation of migrants to heated tents, now under way, is an “important step forward”. The new tents were brought in by the army.
The camp was set up hastily in the summer when the coronavirus pandemic forced crisis measures including border closures.
But aid agencies pulled out of the camp in December, saying it was unsustainable without water and electricity.
Some residents forced to leave the facility looted equipment and set fire to tents, police said.
However, about 900 migrants had to go back there, after local officials refused to let them move to the empty reception centre in Bihac. Another 1,500 are struggling in primitive conditions elsewhere near the town.
The migrants are from South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and got stuck in Bosnia while trying to reach Croatia, an EU member state seen as a gateway to the EU.
Some of the migrants have refused to use the tents in Lipa because they lack heating and sanitation. Some also went on hunger strike, angry at the lack of amenities.
But on Tuesday many did receive Red Cross food parcels.
“We want people in proper reception centres where they have access to services, like the 6,000 other people in Bosnia,” Mr Van der Auweraert, the IOM’s head in Bosnia-Herzegovina, told the BBC’s Balkans correspondent Guy De Launey at Lipa.
The IOM says about 8,500 non-EU migrants are living in Bosnia, still hoping to get to northern Europe.
“Here is too much cold. You know, the weather is rainy and the weather is very cold, and we can’t sleep in here,” one migrant told our correspondent.
In recent years thousands of people, including refugees from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria, have entered Bosnia hoping to get asylum in the EU.
Bosnia’s central government ordered the reopening of a reception centre in an old factory on the outskirts of Bihac, but the local authorities refused.
The city’s mayor, Suhret Fazlic, told the BBC: “We are not satisfied with approach of EU – people coming from Greece and Bulgaria want to get to Croatia, but stuck in Bihac.”
The EU has told the Bosnian authorities that they “must assume their responsibilities”. The country of 3.5m has ambitions to join the EU.
On Wednesday the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the EU had funded the still empty shelter in Bihac, but Bosnian officials had “ignored repeated appeals to provide basic and secure living conditions and humane treatment”.
His spokesman Peter Stano said “over the last two years, we provided over 90m euros (£81m; $110m) for centres, equipment, medical and social care.
“We need them to move – not play political games with people’s lives,” he complained.
Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-55589090
Covid: Sweden official defends Christmas trip to Canary Islands
A top Swedish official involved in the coronavirus response has defended a Christmas holiday in the Canary Islands in the face of heavy criticism.
Dan Eliasson is head of the civil contingencies agency, which earlier in December had texted all Swedes urging them to avoid travel.
He was photographed in Las Palmas airport on the island of Gran Canaria.
Mr Eliasson insisted the trip was necessary “for family reasons”.
He told Swedish media that he had “given up a lot of trips during this pandemic” but thought this one was necessary because he had a daughter living in the Canaries.
“I celebrated Christmas with her and my family,” he told Expressen newspaper. He also said he had been worked remotely while in the Canaries.
Sweden has had 437,000 confirmed cases and 8,700 deaths – many more than its Scandinavian neighbours. The country has never imposed a full lockdown.
However, alarmed by rising numbers of cases last month, the Swedish government reversed some of its guidance and sent a text message to all Swedes asking them to read updated guidelines.
The guidelines included asking Swedes to avoid unnecessary trips and not to make new contacts during a journey or at the destination.
Mr Eliasson was then photographed several times in Gran Canaria, including at the airport.
There have been calls for Mr Eliasson, an experienced official who has worked at several important departments, to be fired.
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and other ministers have not yet commented, according to Swedish media.
Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-55523587
UK regulator approves Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine
UK regulators have approved the use of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, which is cheaper and easier to distribute than some rivals and could in time offer a route out of the pandemic for large parts of the world.
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