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Europe briefing: Five stories to know about today

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Europe briefing: Five stories to know about today
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Reuters
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1. NATO members sign accession protocol with Republic of North Macedonia

NATO members completed the signing of the accession protocol with the Republic of North Macedonia on Wednesday morning, paving the way for the country to join the defence alliance.

In a tweet immediately after the signing, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg heralded an "historic day".

"I look forward to the day when 30 flags will fly outside NATO HQ," he added, in reference to the flags for each of NATO's 29 current members.

2. Trump set to visit London again for December summit

In further NATO news, the next meeting for heads of state and government will be held in London later this year.

Stoltenberg said the meeting would "be an opportunity for Allied Heads of State and Government to address the security challenges we face now and in the future and to ensure that NATO continues to adapt in order to keep its population of almost one billion people safe."

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said she was "very pleased" to host the December meeting, which will mark the 70th anniversary of the alliance.

However, many have noted that the meeting would involve a visit from US President Donald Trump, whom, on his last trip to the UK, sparked huge protests.

3. British anti-deportation protesters to be sentenced on terrorism-related charges

Hundreds of people took part in a protest outside a British court on Wednesday morning, ahead of the sentencing of 15 anti-deportation protesters, known as the Stansted 15, for terrorism-related offences.

The Stansted 15 were found guilty late last year for endangering the safety of an aerodrome, a terrorism-related charge, after they blocked the take-off of a UK government-chartered flight at Stansted Airport, which was due to deport 60 people to several countries across Africa.

The group faces potential life sentences for the conviction.

4. EU vetoes Siemens-Alstom merger, marking a blow to France and Germany

The European Union has vetoed a proposed railway merger of Siemens and Alstom, saying it would harm competition on the European market.

"Without sufficient remedies, this merger would have resulted in higher prices for the signalling systems that keep passengers safe and for the next generations of very high-speed trains," European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager said.

"The Commission prohibited the merger because the companies were not willing to address our serious competition concerns."

The decision marks a blow to France and Germany, who supported the merger, despite fears of price hikes from other EU countries, including Belgium, Netherlands, Spain and the UK.

5. Madrid taxi drivers end weeks-long strike against ride-hailing services

Taxi drivers in Madrid called off their indefinite strike against ride-hailing services such as Uber and Cabify on Wednesday, despite not receiving government concessions.

The open-ended strike was launched in mid-January but was called off after just 16 days.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday morning, Madrid's Federation of Taxis said it would "continue the fight".

"Today we return to the streets, and with renewed energy, we will work with more strength to achieve our goals," the post said.

As it happened on Wednesday, February 6

This is how we covered key developments this morning: