EU backs Sweden in Belarus teddy bear stunt row
Published: 10th Aug 2012 19:59:29
The EU has backed Sweden after urgent talks over a diplomatic row the country has had with Belarus.
A stunt by a Swedish PR firm which dropped toy bears with pro-democracy messages over Belarus led to Swedish diplomats being effectively expelled.
EU diplomat Olof Skoog said "a very clear message" would be sent to Belarusian embassies in the next few days expressing support for Sweden.
However, the EU stopped short of further action against Belarus.
The ex-Soviet republic has been subject to EU sanctions since 1996, two years after Alexander Lukashenko became president, but no new sanctions were imposed at Friday's meeting.
Reports before the meeting suggested a mass recall of EU ambassadors from Belarus would be discussed, but this did not transpire.
However, sanctions against Belarus will be reviewed again by the EU in October.
Sweden has responded by taking action against Belarusian diplomats.
Mr Lukashenko sacked his air defence chief and head of border guards after the incident on 4 July when some 800 teddy bears were dropped from a light plane.
Belarus's KGB state security service has also arrested two Belarusian men on suspicion of involvement in the stunt. One of them is said to have merely uploaded photos of the teddy bears.
Hannah Frey, a Swedish woman who says she piloted the plane which dropped the teddy bears, told the BBC's Russian Service that a total of four people had been involved in the stunt, all of them Swedish nationals.
She denied any knowledge of the Belarusian nationals currently under arrest.
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Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. EU backs Sweden in Belarus teddy bear stunt row [Online] (Updated 10th Aug 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1445647/EU-backs-Sweden-in-Belarus-teddy-bear-stunt-row [Accessed 29th Jul 2014]
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With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com