Austrian far-right march, Ryanair plane 'seized' and four other stories from around Europe

Austrian far-right march, Ryanair plane 'seized' and four other stories from around Europe
Copyright Reuters
By Chris Harris
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Here are six stories from around Europe to know about this Friday lunchtime.

1. Far-right march ban overturned


A court in the Polish capital Warsaw overturned the city mayor's decision to call off a far-right march scheduled for Sunday to celebrate the centenary of Polish independence.

Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz had banned the annual march, saying Warsaw had "suffered enough due to aggressive nationalism" but organisers appealed the decision.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he did not accept the far-right’s march and that the government would hold its own one following the same route.

It was not clear how the two plans could be reconciled; the organisers of the far-right march have insisted all along that they will march as planned.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend the far-right march from around Poland and Europe, in what could to be the largest anniversary march to date.

Last year's version drew around 60,000 participants and far-right groups from across Europe. Many carried banners with slogans such as "Pure blood, clear mind" and "Europe will be white or uninhabited".

2. Ryanair plane seized in Bordeaux

French authorities say they have seized a Ryanair plane in a bid to recover public money given to the budget airline.

It happened at an airport near Bordeaux in southwest France on Thursday evening.

It was to recover money given to the airline concerning its activities at Angouleme airport, according to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGAC).

DGAC said the European Commission had judged the payment illegal in 2014.

Authorities said the seizure of the plane was the last chance bid to recover the money after other avenues failed.

DGAC said 149 passengers were put on another flight but arrived at their destination five hours later than planned.

Ryanair did not immediately respond to Euronews’ requests to comment on this story.

3. Austria suspects officer 'spied for Russia’

Austria thinks a recently-retired military officer spied for Russia for decades.

Vienna has now demanded an explanation from Moscow, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Friday.

The case involved a colonel whose spying activities were believed to have begun in the 1990s, Kurz told reporters, without naming the officer.

"If the suspicion is confirmed, such cases, regardless of whether they take place in the Netherlands or in Austria, do not improve relations between Russia and the European Union," he said.

4. Weber is centre-right’s choice to replace Juncker as EU chief

Manfred Weber won the backing of Europe's centre-right parties on Thursday to stand in the race to become European Commission president in 2019.


Weber, a German MEP, beat former Finnish prime minister Alexander Stubb to become the European People's Party's (EPP) top candidate in the European Parliament elections next May.

That makes him an early front-runner for the EU's most influential job, the head of the bloc's executive, which proposes legislation and negotiates free-trade deals.

He would replace incumbent Jean-Claude Juncker

Weber, who is little known outside of Germany or Brussels and has never held a ministerial position, won 79 percent of the support of delegates from Europe's largest political grouping.

Read more: Who is Manfred Weber, the man in line for the EU's top job?


5. Italy: biggest heroin haul this century

Italian police discovered 270 kilograms of heroin hidden in a container that arrived aboard a ship from Iran, the biggest such haul for at least 20 years in Italy, police said on Thursday.

The freight ship had set sail from the Iranian Gulf port of Bandar Abbas and stopped off in Hamburg, Germany and Valencia, Spain before reaching the Italian port of Genoa on October. 17, where police discovered the heroin stashed away in a consignment of Bentonite clay.

A police spokesman said investigators were not sure when or where the drugs were brought onto the ship.

Police allowed a small portion of the illicit cargo to continue its planned journey by truck to the Netherlands. They tracked the vehicle as it crossed Switzerland, France and Belgium before reaching the Dutch town of Roosendal.

When the vehicle pulled into a warehouse on November 2, Italian and Dutch police raided the premises and arrested two men of Turkish origin. The truck driver apparently did not know heroin was in his rig, police said.


6. Macron stirs controversy with Petain tribute

French President Emmanuel Macron insists it is "legitimate" to pay tribute to Marshal Philippe Petain, who led the French army to victory in WWI's Battle of Verdun but decades later collaborated with Nazi Germany during WWII.

Macron's plan to honour Petain and other French marshals who directed military campaigns during WWI — which ended 100 years ago on Sunday — has unleashed criticism from Jewish groups, political opponents and on social media.

"I consider it entirely legitimate that we pay homage to the marshals who led our army to victory," Macron said in the eastern town of Charleville-Mezieres that once lay on the front line between French and German troops. "Marshal Petain was a great soldier in World War One."

Macron himself later told reporters his intention was not to excuse the crimes committed by Petain during WWII but to ensure French history was accurately remembered.

It comes as Macron was set to host British PM Theresa May in northern France as part of events to mark the centenary of WWI.

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