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| CITYAIRBUS NEXTGEN MAKES ITS DEBUT

© Airbus

Airbus has presented its full electric CityAirbus NextGen prototype to the public, ahead of its maiden flight later this year. The two-tonne class CityAirbus, with a wing span of approximately 12 metres,  is being developed to fly with a 80 km range and to reach a cruise speed of 120 km/h, making it perfectly suited for operations in major cities for a variety of missions.

The unveiling coincided with the opening of the new CityAirbus test centre in Donauwörth, Germany, which will be dedicated to testing systems for electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles (eVTOLs). The centre, which is part of Airbus’ ongoing and long-term investment in Advanced Air Mobility (AAM), began its operations with the CityAirbus NextGen’s power-on in December 2023 and it will be now used for the remaining tests required before the prototype’s maiden flight later in the year. These tests cover the electric motors with their eight rotors as well as the aircraft’s other systems such as flight controls and avionics.

© Airbus

“Rolling out CityAirbus NextGen for the very first time is an important and very real step that we are taking towards advanced air mobility and our future product and market. Thank you to our community, team and partners all over the world for helping us make this a reality,” said Balkiz Sarihan, Head of Urban Air Mobility at Airbus.

At the same time, Airbus is expanding its global network and partnerships to create a unique ecosystem that will foster a successful and viable AAM market. Airbus recently signed a partnership agreement with LCI, a leading aviation company, to focus on the development of partnership scenarios and business models in three core AAM areas: strategy, commercialisation and financing.

| FIRST-EVER EUROPEAN DEFENCE INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY TO ENHANCE EUROPE’S READINESS AND SECURITY

German Tiger helicopter © Sgt. Rick Frost

The European Commission and the High Representative have presented the first-ever European Defence Industrial Strategy at EU level and proposed an ambitious set of new actions to support the competitiveness and readiness of its defence industry.

With Russia’s unjustified war of aggression against Ukraine, high-intensity conflict has returned to the European continent.  This is why a new, first-ever European Defence Industrial Strategy has been put forward. It sets a clear, long-term vision to achieve defence industrial readiness in the European Union.

To support Member States in achieving these goals, the European Defence Industrial Strategy presents a set of actions aiming at:

  • Supporting a more efficient expression of the Member States’ collective defence demand. This will be based on existing instruments and initiatives, such as the Capability Development Plan (CDP), the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) and the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). It will be supported by incentivising Member States’ cooperation in the procurement phase of defence capabilities;
  • Securing the availability of all defence products through a more responsive EDTIB, under any circumstances and time horizon. Investments by Member States and the European defence industry in developing and bringing to market tomorrow’s state of the art defence technologies and capabilities will be supported. Measures are also proposed to ensure that the EDTIB has at its disposal what it needs even in crisis periods, thereby increasing the EU’s Security of Supply;
  • Ensuring that national and EU budgets support with the necessary means the adaptation of the European defence industry to the new security context;
  • Mainstreaming a defence readiness culture across policies, notably by calling for a review of the European Investment Bank’s lending policy this year;
  • Developing closer ties with Ukraine through its participation in Union initiatives in support of defence industry and stimulating cooperation between the EU and Ukrainian defence industries;
  • Teaming up with NATO and our strategic, like-minded and international partners, and cooperating more closely with Ukraine.

The Strategy sets indicators, aimed at measuring Member States’ progress towards industrial readiness. Member States are invited to:

  • Procure at least 40% of defence equipment in a collaborative manner by 2030;
  • Ensure that, by 2030, the value of intra-EU defence trade represents at least 35% of the value of the EU defence market;
  • Make steady progress towards procuring at least 50% of their defence procurement budget within the EU by 2030 and 60% by 2035.

“Russia’s brutal war of aggression against Ukraine has brought back high intensity warfare to Europe. After decades of under-spending, we must invest more on defence, but we need to do it better and together. A strong, resilient, and competitive European defence industry is a strategic imperative and a pre-condition to enhance our defence readiness. We must also step up our military support to Ukraine, including by supporting its defence industrial base. This Strategy marks a paradigm shift towards a Union that is a strong security and defence actor and a better partner, in line with objectives of the Strategic Compass.” says Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age

| EUROPEAN COMMISSION’S USE OF MICROSOFT 365 INFRINGES DATA PROTECTION LAW FOR EU INSTITUTIONS AND BODIES

Wojciech Wiewiórowski, European Data Protection Supervisor © Europa.eu

Following its investigation, the EDPS has found that the European Commission (Commission) has infringed several key data protection rules when using Microsoft 365. In its decision, the EDPS imposes corrective measures on the Commission.

The EDPS has found that the Commission has infringed several provisions of Regulation (EU) 2018/1725, the EU’s data protection law for EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies (EUIs), including those on transfers of personal data outside the EU/European Economic Area (EEA). In particular, the Commission has failed to provide appropriate safeguards to ensure that personal data transferred outside the EU/EEA are afforded an essentially equivalent level of protection as guaranteed in the EU/EEA.

Furthermore, in its contract with Microsoft, the Commission did not sufficiently specify what types of personal data are to be collected and for which explicit and specified purposes when using Microsoft 365. The Commission’s infringements as data controller also relate to data processing, including transfers of personal data, carried out on its behalf.

Wojciech Wiewiórowski, EDPS, said: “It is the responsibility of the EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies (EUIs) to ensure that any processing of personal data outside and inside the EU/EEA, including in the context of cloud-based services, is accompanied by robust data protection safeguards and measures. This is imperative to ensure that individuals’ information is protected, as required by Regulation (EU) 2018/1725, whenever their data is processed by, or on behalf of, an EUI.”

The EDPS has therefore decided to order the Commission,effective on 9 December 2024, to suspend all data flows resulting from its use of Microsoft 365 to Microsoft and to its affiliates and sub-processors located in countries outside the EU/EEA not covered by an adequacy decision. The EDPS has also decided to order the Commission to bring the processing operations resulting from its use of Microsoft

365 into compliance with Regulation (EU) 2018/1725. The Commission must demonstrate compliance with both orders by 9 December 2024.

The EDPS considers that the corrective measures it imposes are appropriate, necessary and proportionate in light of the seriousness and duration of the infringements found.

Many of the infringements found concern all processing operations carried out by the Commission, or on its behalf, when using Microsoft 365, and impact a large number of individuals.

The EDPS also takes into account the need not to compromise the Commission’s ability to carry out its tasks in the public interest or to exercise official authority vested in the Commission, and the

need to allow appropriate time for the Commission to implement the foreseen suspension of relevant data flows, and to bring the processing of data into compliance with Regulation (EU) 2018/1725.

The measures imposed by the EDPS in its decision of 8March 2024 are without prejudice to any other or further action that the EDPS may undertake.

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) is the independent supervisory authority for the protection of personal data and privacy and promoting good practice in the EU institutions and bodies.

He does so by:

  • monitoring the EU administration’s processing of personal data;
  • monitoring and advising technological developments on policies and legislation that affect privacy and personal data protection;
  • carrying out investigations, including in the form of data protection audits/inspections;
  • cooperating with other supervisory authorities to ensure consistency in the protection of personal

| EU INTRODUCES NEW RULES ON TRANSPARENCY AND TARGETING OF POLITICAL ADVERTISING

A French Rassemblement National Party electoral advertising © RN

An electoral poster of the French political party ‘Rassemblement National’, for the upcoming European Parliament elections  © RN

The Council has adopted a new regulation on the transparency and targeting of political advertising, aimed at countering information manipulation and foreign interference in elections.

The regulation will make it easy for citizens to recognise political advertisements, understand who is behind them and know whether they have received a targeted advertisement, so that they are better placed to make informed choices. It will also ensure that political advertising takes place in full respect of the right to privacy and that the freedom of opinion and freedom of speech are protected.

Main elements of the new regulation

The new rules cover the transparency and targeting of political advertising in relation to an election, referendum, or a legislative process at EU level or in a member state. They do not affect the content of political advertisements nor other aspects of political advertising, such as the conduct of political campaigns, which remain subject to the specific national rules of member states.

Content under editorial responsibility, as well as views expressed in a personal capacity, are not covered.

According to the rules:

  • Political advertisements must be made available with a transparency label and an easily retrievable transparency notice. These must clearly identify political advertisements as such and provide some key information about them, including their sponsor, the election or referendum to which they are linked, the amounts paid, and any use of targeting techniques.
  • Targeting political advertising online will be permitted only under strict conditions. The data has to be collected from the data subject and it can be used only after the data subject have given explicit and separate consent for its use for political advertising. Special categories of personal data, such as data revealing racial or ethnic origin or political opinions, cannot be used for profiling.
  • To prevent foreign interference, there will be a ban on the provision of advertising services to third country sponsors three months before an election or referendum.

The regulation will now be signed, published in the EU’s Official Journal and enter into force 20 days later. Most of its provisions will start to apply 18 months after the regulation’s entry into force, i.e. in autumn 2025.

| TIME IS UP FOR CRIMINAL ORGANISATION COUNTERFEITING LUXURY WATCHES IN ANTWERP

15 suspects arrested in Belgium, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Israel for producing and importing fake watches to the “Diamond District”

Europol has supported a large-scale operation led by Belgian law enforcement authorities to dismantle an Israeli organised criminal group. The criminal organisation allegedly produced and imported counterfeit luxury watches and diamonds to Antwerp’s “Diamond District”. The successful operation led to the arrest of 15 suspects in Belgium (11), Israel (2), Netherlands (1) and Slovakia (1).

During the action day on 12 March, authorities also conducted 26 searches in Belgium, Israel, Netherlands and Slovakia, resulting in the seizure of:

  • 165 luxury watches with certificates, jewellery and other counterfeit products;
  • 200 diamonds;
  • EUR 209 000 in cash;
  • Crypto ledgers;
  • Weapons;
  • 14 kg of drugs;
  • Multiple electronic devices, including phones and computers;
  • Credit cards and financial documentation.
Additional involvement in drug trafficking

The investigation started in 2022, when the police intercepted a package containing 600gr of cocaine in Brussels destined for Israel. Thanks to a subsequent investigation, it was revealed that a large criminal organisation which engaged in drug trafficking also counterfeited luxury items. According to law enforcement authorities, the criminal network manufactured fake luxury watches outside the EU by mixing original parts with fake components to mislead potential customers.

Once the watches were produced, they would import them to Belgium and introduce counterfeit diamonds and watches into the market. Besides confusing buyers, this modus operandi also undermines the reputation of Antwerp’s “Diamond District” and calls into question the unique certification applied to these luxury items in which customers place their trust.

The suspects also trafficked cocaine and synthetic drugs across the world. They also laundered money through complex schemes, including cryptocurrencies, illegal banking systems and reinvestments in real estate, notably in Portugal.

Europol’s role in the investigation

Europol deployed specialists with expertise in cryptocurrencies and OSINT capabilities to Antwerp on the action day. The agency supported the investigation by fostering the exchange of information, organising operational meetings, and providing operational coordination and analytical support.

The operation was supported by the @ON Network, funded by the EU Commission and led by the Italian Anti-mafia Investigation Directorate (DIA).

| A FERRARI F50, AMONG OVER $60 MILLION WORTH OF HYPERCARS AND ICONIC CARS AUCTIONED BY SOTHEBY’S IN TORONTO, MIGHT BE SOLD FOR MORE THAN 4 MILLION EUROS

1996-Ferrari-F50 Darin Schnabel ©2024 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

The Ferrari F50 is widely considered to be one of Maranello’s most expressive modern hypercars, combining 1950s-style aesthetics with competition-developed performance technologies. Starting with a lightweight carbon fiber tub, Pininfarina mounted curvaceous new coachwork molded from carbon fiber, Kevlar, and Nomex honeycomb. The cockpit could be completed with either a removable soft top or a separate hard top stored in an accompanying road case, which allowed the F50 to strike the pose of a barchetta or berlinetta, encapsulating the best of both worlds.

European-spec car delivered new via Garage Francorchamps in Belgium and originally owned by a Monaco-based collector for 13 years

Driven 20,910 km (~12,993 miles) at cataloguing and importantly accompanied factory-issued flight case for the removable hardtop; certified in 2015 by Ferrari Classiche to retain its numbers-matching chassis, engine, and transaxle

A new naturally aspirated 4.7-liter V-12 was dropped into this spectacular marriage of body and chassis in a mid-rear architecture that ensured optimal weight distribution. The type F130B engine began life in Ferrari’s 1992 Formula One car before undergoing further development in the 4-liter 333 SP sports car, which won numerous driver’s and constructor’s championships in IMSA GT and FIA sports car racing. With an enlarged displacement of 4.7 liters and yet detuned for more reasonable revving and tractable road manners, the new high-compression V-12 developed 513 horsepower and 347 pound-feet of torque, capable of launching the F50 to 60 mph from standstill in just 3.6 seconds, while achieving a top speed of 202 mph.

Stopping power was provided by Brembo brakes with huge rotors (14 inches in front and 13.2 inches at the rear) anchored by aluminum pistons. Although the F50 abounded in Formula One-specification equipment, from the racing-style fuel bladder to the LCD dashboard instruments, the model was still appointed with creature comforts such as leather-trimmed seats, air conditioning, and adjustable ride height.

More refined than the brutal F40, yet not as cossetting as contemporaries such as the McLaren F1, the F50 was a difficult car to pigeonhole; this was a machine built for pure experience, rather than the pursuit of any specific, granular performance benchmark.

Built from 1995 through 1997, the breathtaking F50 was earmarked for an official production cap of only 349 examples, ensuring a rarity that instantly established the model as a bona fide collectible. The F50 remains a favorite of marque-focused collectors, often serving as the centerpiece of modern Ferrari collections, and as a critical component of the illustrious “Big Five” hypercar portfolio that is relished by dedicated Maranello enthusiasts today.

An F50 in Monaco

This fabulous F50 claims fastidious single ownership by a Monaco-based collector for 13 years prior to a period of care by one of the world’s foremost Ferrari specialists, resulting in a highly desirable example. As confirmed by its production plate, chassis number 106400 is the 182nd example built, and in July 1996 the car was issued a manufacturer’s certificate of origin (a copy of which is on file).

According to a deep file of documentation that includes former registrations, bills of sale, a Marcel Massini history report, and a Ferrari Classiche Red Book and corresponding Certificate of Authenticity, this beautiful European-specification F50 completed assembly in July 1996, finished in Rosso Corsa over a Nero leather interior with red seat inserts. Retailed through the well-known preferred distributor Garage Francorchamps in Belgium, the Ferrari was immediately sold to a local enthusiast who relocated to Monaco in 1999. Over the following nine years the car was regularly serviced by marque dealer Groupe Cavallari’s respected Monaco Motors. In early 2010 the owner sold the F50 to DK Engineering, the highly respected Ferrari specialist in the UK, and DK continued to intermittently service the car over the next four years.

Dare to Dream Collection by RM SOTHEBY’S, Toronto 31 May – 1 June 2024

| ANNUAL PROFITS FROM FORCED LABOUR AMOUNT TO US$ 236 BILLION, ILO REPORT FINDS

The new study on forced labour in the private sector reveals a 37 per cent rise in illegal profits from forced labour since 2014

Forced labour in the private economy generates US$236 billion in illegal profits per year, a new report from the International Labour Organization (ILO) has found.

The total amount of illegal profits from forced labour has risen by US$64 billion (37 per cent) since 2014, a dramatic increase that has been fuelled by both a growth in the number of people forced into labour, as well as higher profits generated from the exploitation of victims.

The ILO report, Profits and Poverty: The economics of forced labour , estimates that traffickers and criminals are generating close to US$10,000 per victim, up from US$8,269 (adjusted for inflation) a decade ago.

Total annual illegal profits from forced labour are highest in Europe and Central Asia (US$84 billion), followed by Asia and the Pacific (US$62 billion), the Americas (US$52 billion), Africa (US$20 billion), and the Arab States (US$18 billion).

When illegal profits are expressed per victim, annual illegal profits are highest in Europe and Central Asia, followed by the Arab States, the Americas, Africa and Asia and the Pacific.

Forced commercial sexual exploitation accounts for more than two-thirds (73 per cent) of the total illegal profits, despite accounting for only 27 per cent of the total number of victims in privately imposed labour.

These numbers are explained by the huge difference in per victim profits between forced commercial sexual exploitation and other forms of non-state forced labour exploitation – US$27,252 profits per victim for the former against US$3,687 profits per victim for the latter.

After forced commercial sexual exploitation, the sector with the highest annual illegal profits from forced labour is industry, at US$35 billion, followed by services (US$20.8 billion), agriculture (US$5.0 billion), and domestic work (US$2.6 billion). These illegal profits are the wages that rightfully belong in the pockets of workers but instead remain in the hands of their exploiters, as a result of their coercive practices.

“Forced labour perpetuates cycles of poverty and exploitation and strikes at the heart of human dignity. We now know that the situation has only got worse. The international community must urgently come together to take action to end this injustice.” says ILO Director-General, Gilbert F. Houngbo

There were 27.6 million people engaged in forced labour on any given day in 2021. This figure translates to 3.5 people for every thousand people in the world. Between 2016 and 2021 the number of people in forced labour increased by 2.7 million.

The report stresses the urgent need for investment in enforcement measures to stem illegal profit flows and hold perpetrators accountable. It recommends strengthening legal frameworks, providing training for enforcement officials extending labour inspection into high-risk sectors, and better coordination between labour and criminal law enforcement.

Yet forced labour cannot be ended through law enforcement measures alone, enforcement actions must be part of a comprehensive approach that prioritizes addressing root causes and safeguarding victims, underlines the report.

| IRREGULAR BORDER CROSSINGS DOWN IN CENTRAL MED, UP IN EASTERN MED AND WESTERN AFRICA

© Frontex

The number of irregular border crossings into the European Union in the first two months of 2024 reached 31 200, similar to the level from a year ago, according to preliminary calculations. The Central Mediterranean saw the biggest drop in detections of irregular crossings among the major routes (-70%), while the Western African and Eastern Mediterranean routes experienced the highest increases (+541% and +117%, respectively).

The Central Mediterranean route, which saw the largest number of irregular crossings in 2023, continued to show a downward trend from the recent months, with a year-on-year drop of 70% to slightly above 4 300. In January, there were around 2000 detections on the route.

Meanwhile, the Western African route remained the busiest migratory route in the EU, with arrivals in January and February reaching nearly 12 100. This was the highest total for these two months since Frontex began collecting data in 2011.

In recent months criminal groups involved in people smuggling in Mauritania were quick to seize opportunities presented by the increased demand from sub-Saharan migrants transiting their country seeking to enter the European Union via the Canary Islands. People smugglers have been cramming an increasing number of migrants onto Cayuco boats, putting the lives of the people on board in even larger danger.

Last year, the Western African route experienced the biggest percentage rise in irregular crossings.

The second most active migratory route was the Eastern Mediterranean, with the number of detections more than doubling to 9150 in the first two months of the year.

Frontex remains committed to safeguarding the EU’s borders, with nearly 2700 officers and staff engaged in various operations. Currently, close to 200 Frontex officers and staff are supporting Spain on the Canary Islands and the Western Mediterranean.

© Frontex

Key highlights for the first two months of 2024 include:

  • Central Mediterranean saw a 70% drop (y/y) in detections, highest among major migratory routes into the EU.
  • Western Balkans also continued to see significantly lower numbers (-65%).
  • Western African route recorded the biggest rise, accounting for one of every three detection at the EU’s external border.
  • Arrivals more than doubled Eastern Mediterranean.
  • Top three nationalities on all routes this year: Mali, Syria and Afghanistan.

Sea crossings remain fraught with peril for the people undertaking irregular migration. Data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) indicates that 255 individuals have been reported missing in the Mediterranean so far this year. The vast majority of them were navigating the perilous Central Mediterranean route.

During the January-February period, authorities reported 3050 detections of irregular border crossings on the Western Balkan route, down 65% from a year ago.

On the Channel route, the number of detections increased by 10% to over 6 100 in the first two months of the year, despite often difficult weather conditions that endanger the lives of the people seeking to reach the UK.

Note: The preliminary data presented in this article refer to the number of detections of irregular border crossing at the external borders of the European Union. The same person may cross the border several times in different locations at the external border.

| SWEDISH FLAG RAISED AT NATO HEADQUARTERS

© Nato

The Swedish flag was raised at NATO Headquarters for the first time in a ceremony to mark the country’s membership of the Alliance. Sweden became NATO’s 32nd Ally on 7 March upon depositing its instrument of accession to the North Atlantic Treaty with the United States government in Washington D.C.

The Secretary General welcomed Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson to NATO Headquarters for a flag-raising ceremony to mark Sweden’s accession. Speaking ahead of the ceremony, the Secretary General thanked Prime Minister Kristersson for his strong personal leadership and commitment to leading Sweden into NATO. He said: “Sweden has taken its rightful place at NATO’s table under the shield of Article 5 protection – the ultimate guarantee of our freedom and security. All for one and one for all.”

Sweden’s flag was hoisted to join the flags of the other 31 Allies, as the Swedish national anthem and the NATO hymn were played. Flag-raising ceremonies took place simultaneously at Allied Command Operations (SHAPE) in Mons (Belgium) and Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, Virginia (United States). Standing alongside Prime Minister Kristersson, the Secretary General said: “Sweden’s accession shows again that NATO’s door remains open. No one can close it. Every nation has the right to choose its own path, and we all choose the path of freedom and democracy.”

Noting that NATO will mark its 75th anniversary this year, Mr Stoltenberg underlined that the transatlantic bond between Europe and North America has ensured our freedom and security. Sweden will help to build an even stronger NATO at a critical time for Euro-Atlantic security, he said, adding that “joining NATO is good for Sweden, good for stability in the North, and good for the security of our whole Alliance.”

| SPACE: EU CARRIES OUT SPACE THREAT RESPONSE ARCHITECTURE 2024 EXERCISE

AI-generated image depicting a Russian missile taking out a satellite

The EU carried out the Space Threat Response Architecture (STRA-X-24) exercise in the European External Action Service Headquarters in Brussels.

The exercise tested the EU´s response capacity to a situation in which EU space assets are subject of an attack targeting space services which are essential for governments, businesses, and citizens. Space assets are essential for the functioning of EU economies and activities, as well as for security and defence.

As part of the exercise, the EU´s space threat response mechanisms were activated to mobilise all relevant political, diplomatic, and technical actors, from the Galileo Security Monitoring Centre (GSMC) to the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Commission and the Council.

The STRA exercise addressed both the technical and more high-level policy aspects of the detection, attribution, and responses to space threats. This included information sharing on space threats, as part of the space threat landscape analysis performed by the Single Intelligence Analysis Capacity (SIAC), complemented with the geospatial intelligence products provided by EU Satellite Centre (SatCen). Some Member States also contributed Space Domain Awareness (SDA) related information which allows timely responses by the EU when confronted to certain threats.

In the second part of the exercise, the Political and Security Committee held a tabletop discussion where the challenges around detection and attribution of space security incidents, as well as the possible reaction by the EU, were addressed. This discussion also touched upon the invocation of the mutual assistance as enshrined in the EU Treaties (Article 42(7) of the Treaty on the European Union) in case a space related incident would amount to an armed aggression on the territory of one or several EU Member States.

The STRA 2024 exercise was organised by the EEAS in coordination with Member States, EUSPA and the Directorate-General for Defence Industry and Space (DG DEFIS) at the European Commission.

Background

The Space Threat Response Architecture Exercise (STRA-X-24) was the sixth exercise of its kind and was organised by the EEAS, together with the Commission and the EU Space Programme Agency (EUSPA).

The EU is increasingly dependent on space-based assets and services for the functioning of its economy, its society and for security and defence. Russia’s aggression on Ukraine has emphasised the vulnerability of today’s defence forces and economies to threats affecting space services and infrastructure.

Today more than ever, the EU needs to be prepared for a more competitive and contested space environment, marked by a wide range of threats carried out intentionally by strategic competitors, mainly focused on targeting governments and institutions, including their critical infrastructures, and economies that rely on space-dependent services.

Attacks against space infrastructures can have a relevant impact on operation and services delivery but also political and diplomatic consequences, while the attribution of responsibility remains difficult. Such attacks on space services can take various forms including direct attacks on a satellite, cyber-attacks and spoofing or jamming of satellite signals.

The Council Decision (CFSP) 698/2021 on the security of the systems and services deployed, operated and used under the Union Space Programme, defines the responsibilities of the Council and of the High Representative in the event of a threat to, or through, these systems and services. To be better prepared, the EU carries out a yearly exercise on the implementation of the Decision.

This year’s exercise, STRA-X-24, consisted of two interconnected parts, addressing different stakeholder groups.As per the previous exercise, STRA-X-24 was based on a hybrid threat scenario, which reflects the current geopolitical landscape and emerging Space threats. The triggering space events corresponded to attacks against EU satellites.

The first part was designed to test the incident detection and information sharing on space threats as well as the triggering of possible responses by the EU in the area of Common Foreign and Security Policy and Common Security and Defence Policy.

The second part of the exercise was designed to use the outcomes and material of the first part to run a tabletop discussion with the Political and Security Committee (PSC). The PSC reflected on the reinforcement of the EU Space Threat Response Architecture and on its preparedness for the mutual assistance as enshrined in the EU Treaties (Article 42(7) of the Treaty on European Union).

STRA-X-24 has contributed to nurturing a common strategic approach to security-relevant situations in space.

| STI CASES ON THE RISE ACROSS EUROPE

© Edm

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has published its latest Annual Epidemiological Reports shedding light on the state of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EEA).

The findings reveal a troubling surge in cases of syphilis, gonorrhoea, and chlamydia, indicating a pressing need for heightened awareness of STI transmission, and the need to enhance robust prevention, access to testing, and effective treatment to address this public health challenge.

In 2022, the number of reported cases saw a significant increase compared to the previous year, with gonorrhoea cases rising by 48%, syphilis cases by 34%, and chlamydia cases by 16%. In addition, cases of lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) and congenital syphilis (caused by transmission from mother to fetus) have also substantially increased.

These trends underscore the urgent need for immediate action to prevent further transmission and mitigate the impact of STIs on public health

ECDC Director Andrea Ammon, expressed deep concern over the rising STI rates, saying, “Addressing the substantial increases in STI cases demands urgent attention and concerted efforts. Testing, treatment and prevention lie at the heart of any long-term strategy. We must prioritise sexual health education, expand access to testing and treatment services, and combat the stigma associated with STIs. Education and awareness initiatives are vital in empowering individuals to make informed choices about their sexual health. Promoting consistent condom use and fostering open dialogue about STIs can help reduce transmission rates.”

In light of the rise in STI cases across Europe, individuals should take proactive steps to protect themselves and their partners. Testing for STIs, especially for those persons with new or multiple sexual partners, is essential for early detection and prompt treatment. Given that some of these infections can be asymptomatic and transmitted further without knowledge, it is important for sexual partners to get tested before having sex without a condom. If someone suspects they may have contracted an STI, they should immediately seek medical advice, as timely treatment is vital for preventing further transmission and potential complications of the disease.

While sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis, are treatable, they can still lead to serious health complications if left untreated. These include, amongst others, pelvic inflammatory disease or chronic pain. Additionally, chlamydia and gonorrhoea can lead to infertility while syphilis can cause neurological and cardiovascular issues. Untreated syphilis infection during pregnancy can lead to serious adverse outcomes in children.

ECDC emphasises the importance of proactive measures to address the rising STI rates and protect public health. One of the most effective ways to prevent STIs is by practising safe sex, including regular and correct condom use during sexual activity. Moreover, fostering open and honest communication about sexual health with partners can help reduce the risk of STI transmission and promote overall well-being.

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