Death toll climbs to 88 from Greek wildfires

The aftermath of a wildfire is seen in Mati, Greece July 24, 2018 in this photo obtained from social media on July 27, 2018. (Aris Erdogdu/via Reuters)
Updated 28 July 2018

Death toll climbs to 88 from Greek wildfires

  • A woman has died in hospital taking the death toll from Greece’s worst wildfires to 88
  • The Health Ministry said a dozen other people remained in hospital with serious injuries

ATHENS: A woman has died in hospital taking the death toll from Greece’s worst wildfires to 88, many of them children, officials said Saturday.
The unnamed woman in her 40’s had been in hospital since fire ravaged the seaside village of Mati, east of the capital Athens, on Monday.
The Health Ministry said a dozen other people remained in hospital with serious injuries.
Forensics experts have faced a difficult task trying to identify the bodies of those who perished, many completely charred.
A private detective employed by one family which lost three children and their grandparents told reporters Friday night that nine year-old twins Sophia and Vassiliki had been identified.
They were found wrapped in the embrace of their grandparents among 26 bodies outside a villa near the sea at Mati.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Friday he assumed “political responsibility” for the tragedy as a bitter debate raged over who was to blame.
The opposition earlier accused the government of refusing to take responsibility after it said arson was suspected.
Officials citing information from satellite maps have said that 13 fires broke out Monday at the same time across the Attica region.
At a cabinet meeting broadcast live, Tsipras said he wanted “to assume completely before the great Greek people the political responsibility for this tragedy.”
“I believe that is what the prime minister and the government should do,” he added.
The government has come in for strong criticism over its response to the disaster despite a 40-million-euro relief fund.
Experts have said that a mix of poor urban planning, including a lack of proper access routes and the construction of too many buildings next to combustible forest areas, contributed to what were Europe’s worst wildfires this century.
The fires struck coastal villages popular with holidaymakers and burned with such ferocity that most people fled to the safety of the sea with just the clothes on their backs.


EU leaders split over $1.2 trillion post-Brexit budget

Updated 18 October 2019

EU leaders split over $1.2 trillion post-Brexit budget

  • Under a proposal prepared by Finland, the next long-term budget should have a financial capacity between 1.03% and 1.08% of the EU GNI, a measure of output
  • After the meeting, some EU leaders and officials described the talks as difficult

BRUSSELS: European Union leaders discussed a new budget plan on Friday that could allow the EU to spend up to 1.1 trillion euros ($1.2 trillion) in the 2021-2027 period, but deep divisions among governments may block a deal for months.
Under a proposal prepared by Finland, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, the next long-term budget should have a financial capacity between 1.03% and 1.08% of the EU gross national income (GNI), a measure of output.
That would allow the EU to spend 1 trillion to 1.1 trillion euros for seven years in its first budget after the departure of Britain, one of the top contributors to EU coffers.
After the meeting, some EU leaders and officials described the talks as difficult.
The Finnish document, seen by Reuters, is less ambitious than proposals put forward by the European Commission, the EU executive, which is seeking a budget worth 1.1% of GNI. The EU parliament called for an even bigger budget, 1.3% of GNI.
But the Finnish proposal moves beyond a 1% cap set by Germany, the largest EU economy. And it has displeased most of the 27 EU states, EU officials said, suggesting long negotiations before a compromise can be reached.
Talks on budgets are usually among the most divisive in an EU increasingly prone to quarrels. The member states are deeply split over economic policies, financial reforms and how to handle migrants.

DEEP SPLIT
The Finnish proposal, which cuts spending on farmers and poorer regions, has managed to unite the divided EU leaders in their criticism.
“The text has caused nearly unanimous dissatisfaction,” a diplomat involved in the talks said.
New, expensive policies, such as protecting its borders and increasing social security, have been enacted, but states are reluctant to pay more.
Germany and other Nordic supporters of a smaller budget argue that because of Brexit, they would pay more into the EU even with a 1% cap because they would need to compensate for the loss of Britain.
Eastern and southern states, who benefit from EU funds on poorer regions and agriculture, want a bigger budget and are not happy with Finland’s proposed cuts on these sectors.
Under the proposal, subsidies to poor regions would drop to less than 30% of the budget from 34% now. Aid to farmers would fall to slightly more than 30% from over 35% of the total.
To complicate matters, the new budget should also include rules that would suspend funding to member states with rule-of-law shortcomings, such as limits on media freedom or curbs on the independence of judges.
This is irking states like Poland and Hungary, which Brussels has accused of breaches in the rule of law after judiciary and media reforms adopted by their right-wing governments.
Friday’s meeting was not supposed to find a compromise, but divisions are so deep that many officials fear a deal may not be reached by a self-imposed December deadline. A later deal would delay the launch of spending programs.
The Finns remained confident, however, and insist their suggested spending range would eventually be backed by EU states. “The fact that almost everybody is against our text shows we have put forward a fair proposal,” one diplomat said.