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Europe briefing: five stories to know about today

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By Euronews
Europe briefing: five stories to know about today
Copyright  Reuters

1. EU-Japan trade deal comes into force

The opening of the biggest free-trade zone in the world was marked on Friday as the accord between the EU and Japan came into force.

Over 600 million people live in the zones covered by the new trade agreement, pegged as another step towards the European ideal of multilateralism in a world seemingly gripped by the idea of protectionism, according to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

"Europe and Japan are sending a message to the world about the future of open and fair trade," Juncker said in a statement.

"Our agreement shows that trade is about more than quotas and tariffs, or millions and billions. It is about values, principles and fairness."

2. EU agrees UK citizens should be granted visa-free travel to Schengen countries after Brexit

The EU Council said on Friday UK citizens should be granted visa-free travel after Brexit when travelling to Schengen area countries for short stays.

"Visa exemption is granted on condition of reciprocity," a statement from the council said.

The UK government has already maintained that EU citizens travelling to the UK for short stays will not require a visa.

3. Meet the man crowdfunding his bid to be Ukraine’s next president

A former journalist is trying to crowdfund €78,000 in less than a fortnight so he can join the race to be Ukraine’s next president.

Dmytro Gnap, who spent nearly a decade investigating corruption in Ukraine, has to raise the cash by February 3. | read more

4. Migrant rescue boat blocked from leaving Catania port

Sea-Watch 3, a German NGO rescue boat, has been blocked from leaving a port in Catania, Sicily, due to "non-conformity" issues.

Italy's coast guard released a statement on Friday saying it found "a series of non-conformities regarding both the safety of navigation and compliance with the regulations on the protection of the marine environment," after carrying out technical checks.

The boat had docked in Catania just hours earlier with 47 migrants aboard, following a 12-day standoff with Italian authorities.

Authorities had initially prevented the boat from docking without assurances that the 47 rescued migrants would be accepted by Germany and the Netherlands.

A deal was eventually struck with six EU member states — France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal and Romania — who agreed to take the migrants in.

5. Travel disruptions reported as deep freeze hits the UK

The UK's Met Office issued an amber weather warning on Friday morning as heavy snowfall was reported across parts of the country.

A number of flights were affected by delays and cancellations with British Airways cancelling planes flying out of Heathrow, and Bristol Airport being forced to close until at least midday.

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