US security agency spied on Merkel, other top European officials through Danish cables

The US National Security Agency (NSA) has used a partnership with Denmark’s foreign intelligence unit to spy on senior officials of neighbouring countries, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to Danish state broadcaster DR.

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Briefing – The financial management of visitor groups to the national parliaments – 08-07-2021

In most Member States, visitor’ groups are not sponsored to visit the national parliament. A visit to the national parliament is free of charge, and all the costs related to the visit, for example travel costs, accommodation and local minor expenses, need to be paid by the visitors themselves.
Germany is the only country which has various kinds of programmes where visitors can be reimbursed. Members of Parliament can invite up to 200 people a year of which the travel costs are partially covered by the German Bundestag. There is also a programme which consists of more days for which all the costs related to travel and accommodation are covered by the German government. The German Bundesrat has a programme in which the 16 federal states can invite people for a visit of multiple days to Berlin. In this case the travel costs and accommodation are paid for by the Bundesrat. For all reimbursements, the rules apply that the receipts and underlying documents need to be provided to the Bundestag and Bundesrat after the visit. All documents and receipts are checked through an ex-post control.
The United Kingdom has a programme in which costs are reimbursed, and this programme is funded by the commercial tours of the parliament. In this case, it can be MPs, Peers or the House of Commons or Lords who can invite visitors who are eligible for reimbursement.
In Hungary, only schools can get reimbursement for their travel costs and the entry fee for the national parliament. All the receipts need to be provided to the visitor service of the parliament.
Some countries do have other schemes in which they provide coverage for schools or costs are covered by the MPs’ own funds.
The Council of the EU does not sponsor visitor groups. All visits are requested by visitors themselves and they need to cover all the costs related to the visit themselves. The questions were also sent to the European Commission but no answer was received.

Source : © European Union, 2021 – EP

Briefing – Artificial Intelligence in smart cities and urban mobility – 23-07-2021

Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabling smart urban solutions brings multiple benefits, including more efficient energy, water and waste management, reduced pollution, noise and traffic congestions. Local authorities face relevant challenges undermining the digital transformation from the technological, social and regulatory standpoint, namely (i) technology and data availability and reliability, the dependency on third private parties and the lack of skills; (ii) ethical challenges for the unbiased use of AI; and (iii) the difficulty of regulating interdependent infrastructures and data, respectively. To overcome the identified challenges, the following actions are recommended: • EU-wide support for infrastructure and governance on digitalisation, including high performance computing, integrated circuits, CPUs and GPU’s, 5G, cloud services, Urban Data Platforms, enhancing efficiency and ensuring at the same time unbiased data collection. • Inclusion of urban AI in EU research programs addressing data exchange, communication networks and policy on mobility and energy, enhancing capacity building initiatives, also through test and experimentation facilities. • Harmonising AI related policies in the EU, taking into account the context specificity: necessary research. • Adoption of innovative procurement procedures, entailing requirements for technical and ethically responsible AI.

Source : © European Union, 2021 – EP

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