Halsberg Central News Agency

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    ?Emperor Jules Should Step Aside? ? High President

    TRAKEN, TRAKEN UNION - The High President has condemned ?in the strongest possible terms? the seizure of power in Groot Belgie by the Emperor Jules van Tongelen. According to Belgian media, the Emperor has had most, if not all, members of the previous government arrested in what is being described as an obvious coup d?etat. Speaking during a visit to the newly opened Centre for World Faith in Haligovina, the High President indicated he was most distressed by the reports coming out of Groot Belgie:

    ?Well obviously we?re monitoring the situation very closely. It is certainly very disturbing, some of the things we?re hearing from the country, and we?ll be working closely with our partners and allies throughout. One thing is clear though, Emperor Jules should step aside. He?s evidently disregarded the principles of democracy and freedom we hold, and has proved himself and illegitimate leader. We?re already making preparations to evacuate Halsbergian citizens from the country, should the need arise. At present, we?re asking people to reconsider travelling to Groot Belgie, if they possibly can.?

    When asked about the possibility of military intervention, as several other countries have suggested, the High President dismissed the idea:

    ?Oh no, we?re not considering going down that route. Obviously, if our friends and allies decide that this is the best course for them, we?ll support them, but it is highly unlikely there will be Halsbergian servicemen and women in Groot Belgie in the foreseeable future. We?re much more interested in powerful economic sanctions that will really hurt the new regime, should Emperor Jules refuse to step aside. Indeed, I hear that the Inimicans have introduced a trade embargo, and that is certainly something we?ll be willing to look at.?

    Meanwhile, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Wayne Martinelli (UCP ? Advensch?n) issued an official statement of condemnation. In it, he called for a return to democratic government and for Emperor Jules to relinquish absolute power immediately. He also threatened to join with other nations in the region to enact tough sanctions on Groot Belgie, should the self-styled Emperor of Empires continue down his current path. Trau Martinelli also warned that should the Emperor and his supporters fail to return the country to democratic governance Halsberg may reconsider its recognition of the nation, echoing comments made by the Duxburian Union?s Steward Maximilian.

    Leading economists have predicted that the harm to Halsberg?s economy resulting from possible sanctions against Groot Belgie would minimal. According to eminent economist Professor Weldon Madi, Halsbergian-Belgian trade is not particularly significant. Indeed, he has joined with many political figures throughout the commonwealths in criticising the government for its approach. They argue that sanctions would do little to punish Emperor Jules and his supporters, as they would be almost unnoticeable thanks to the lack of major trade with the country. Veroni?s Supreme Governor Tandra Helsing has argued for a tougher approach, but stopped short of calling for military intervention. Writing in her weekly column in Veroni?s Press and Journal newspaper, Krau Helsing called for the High President to show the region he was ready to defend against tyranny:

    ?The High President has been willing to defend the territorial integrity of foreign nations, he?s been willing to blockade nations in the name of ?peacekeeping?. Why then, when the most fundamental principles that we hold dear are threatened does he sit back and do nothing? He hopes that the public will be satisfied with vague mentions of sanctions and ?tough multilateral action?, which are of course codenames for inaction. We need to make sure the region knows we are ready to defend against tyranny, against oppression, no matter where it rears its ugly head. The High President must take the lead in this situation; he must stop making vague promises of ineffective sanctions and instead make sure this would-be despot is removed from his post.?

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    Statement on The Sahrawi Union

    Thurston, Thurston Metropolitan Area - The Ministry of Foreign Affairs today released this statement concerning the Halsbergian recognition of the independence of The Sahrawi Union from the Kingdom of Marrakechia:

    _"The Twelve Commonwealths of Halsberg has today formally recognized The Sahrawi Union as a sovereign and independent state. We congratulate the people of the Western Sahara on this historic occasion.

    High President Solomon has responded affirmatively to a request from The Sahrawi Union to establish diplomatic relations between our two countries. The establishment of these relations will reaffirm the special ties of friendship that have linked together the people of Halsberg and the Sahara.

    Several years ago, the people of the Sahara were embroiled in a conflict which saw their land be divided between two occupying forces, Inquista and the Kingdom of Marrakechia. More recently, we have seen Inquistan forces, with assistance from their allies and partners, take administrative control of the Marrakechian occupied zone. The following regional dispute strained relations withing the European Union, with some almost reaching breaking point. Thankfully, a peaceful solution was reached, and the people of The Sahrawi Union now have a free and democratic country that they can call home.

    We strongly welcome such progress, and encourage the people of the Sahara to continue down this path. Though we found ourselves on opposite sides of the dispute regarding the Sahara, the governments of Inquista and its allies have been very responsibly handling the transition to nationhood the Sahara is going through. We hope this declaration is received by Inquista, its allies and above all The Sahrawi Union as a gesture of goodwill and friendship.

    The Twelve Commonwealths takes this opportunity to reaffirm our strong relationship with Marrakechia. We highlight our role in defending the Marrakechian royal family in Laayoune, who were otherwise defenceless, as a key example of the partnership we have. We also call on Marrakechia's leaders to work together with Halsberg, The Sahrawi Union and our partners to accomplish shared goals, such as the protection of the rights, security, culture and livelihood of the Marrakechian community in the Sahara.

    As The Sahrawi Union begins its life as an independent state, The Twelve Commonwealths of Halsberg pledges to continue to be its close friend and partner."_

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    Acting European Councillor Causes Storm With Shock Vote

    Europolis - It seems Inquista is not alone in becoming mired in controversy following the presentation of the "Purity of the Union Act". The proposed legislation, which would make same sex marriage, adoption by same sex couples and indeed the promotion of LGBT ideas illegal throughout the EU, is currently under vote. At the time of going to press, only Halsberg's acting European Councillor, Lynwood Strachan, has voted in favour of the bill, causing considerable controversy. Strachan, a former Catholic preacher operating mainly on Golgosan television, has been heavily criticised for voting in favour of the legislation, and has reportedly been recalled to Thurston for meetings with government officials. However, unlike Inquista's Edward Firoux, Strachan has not been removed from office, nor are there plans to do so, according to sources.

    Councillor Walters, who has been taken unwell and is currently in hospital, was a firm critic of the Purity of the Union Act, and made clear his intentions to vote against it during the debate in the European Council on national sovereignty grounds. He too is facing criticism from some for not challenging the alleged homophobia that some claim was at the heart of the Bulgarian Councillor's bill.

    In a statement released by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the government disowned Strachan's views as purely his own:

    There has been understandable concern from members of the public and indeed from within this government regarding Acting Councillor Strachan's vote in the European Council. I'd like to make clear that the vote represents the views of Lynwood Strachan and Lynwood Strachan alone. The Foreign Affairs Office has officially summoned acting councillor Strachan to Thurston, where he will explain his actions, actions which go against the views of this government. We shall take appropriate action based on the outcome of these meetings. In the meantime, Acting Councillor Strachan will remain as European Councillor for Halsberg until such time as Councillor Walters is well enough to return to the post or further decisions are taken.

    The response by the government has been seen as watered down and weak by many. Parliamentary Councillor Conrad Whitman of the Libertarian Coalition was particularly fierce in his criticism. He claimed the UCP government was being "held hostage by the religious right" and that it should have removed Strachan from office immediately. He went on to claim that this "shows the UCP cannot not be trusted to combat homophobia, racism or sexism in any meaningful way".

    Acting Councillor Strachan refused to comment on the situation, saying it would be "inappropriate at this time".

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    Strachan Responds to Groot Belgie Accusations

    Europolis - Acting Councillor Lynwood Strachan, who earlier this week caused considerable controversy in voting in favour of the Purity of the Union Act, has responded to comments made by the councillor of Groot Belgie. After calling for the Acting Councillor's vote to be made invalid, Groot Belgie's representative expanded upon his reasoning, claiming that "It is quite suspicious that the councillor of halsberg is sick over night". He implies that the Acting Councillor, or indeed others, are to blame got Councillor John Walters' illness, claims which Strachan and indeed the government have dismissed. When leaving the Office of Foreign Affairs after a meeting with senior figured, he was asked for his response to the Belgian's accusations.

    "Complete nonsense really, that's all I can say. I'm not even going to give the Belgian councillor the time of day if he makes such stupid remarks. I'm not surprised though, that he's gone on this moronic tirade. He is the one that tried to insult Councillor Walters' mother in the same debate. I really do hope Speaker Devoy does something about this guy"

    Councillor Walters left hospital this morning, and is currently resting at his home in Roeburg. A short statement released by his wife assured the region that he was doing well, and would be healthy enough to return to office by next week.

    The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was also quick to condem the remarks of the Belgian councillor. In an interview with HCNA, he called on the Councillor to apologise:

    "These types of allegations are just idiotic really. The Belgian councillor obviously wants to seem like the Saviour of Europe's sidekick, defending the region from the forces of darkness, like obvious Council poisoning and intrigue. I think he should apologise to the European Council for wasting their time, to the Halsbergian government and to Lynwood Strachan himself. It's about time he stopped living in a fantasy land of your mum jokes and Agatha Christie."

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    Councillor Walters Returns to Europolis

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    Councillor Walters in Roeburg, just before setting off to Europolis

    St Phillips - Halsberg's European Council set off to Europolis earlier today after fully recovering from his illness. Although his recovery was longer than expected, he has confirmed he is "healthier than ever and eager to get back in the game". Councillor Walters' return to the Council Chamber brings to an end the somewhat controversial stewardship of Lynwood Strachan, Walters' deputy. During his few weeks in office, he was heavily criticised for voting in favour of the Bulgarian "Purity of the Union Act", which would have made homosexual marital unions illegal throughout the EU. Strachan ended up being the only councillor to vote in favour of the act, and as such has become a bit of a pariah in the council complex, at least according to sources. Some say this is the reason behind is uncharacteristically quiet spell.

    Walters however was quick to defend his deputy during the press conference at St. Phillips' airport terminal building:

    "Of course people are going to disagree with him, he's a politician for goodness' sake. I disagree with him, but I'm not some kind of rabid dog baying for blood like some people seem to be towards him. But whatever problems people have with him, they can be put to rest for now. I'm back baby."

    The Councillor's return coincides nicely with Commission elections being held today, the results of which will be delivered by Councillor Walters later this evening. Early indications predict the turnout will be reasonable for a Commission election, although there is still much doubt over the placement of the candidates. All that seems to be certain is that it'll be a very close run for first preference.

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    Halsberg's Commission Results

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    The Big Three, the candidates who make up Halsberg's first, second and third preferences.

    Thurston, Thurston Metropolitan Area - The results are in for Halsberg's first nationwide poll for the European Commission elections. The race for the first preference was extremely close, with Maloulay Piszckoszi only just winning out. The Angleteric candidate received 31% of the vote, only just very slightly beating his nearest rival Eric Hitchens. Mr Hitchens, of Inimicus, was supported by 30% of the voters, while Ben Reiher of Prussia followed closely with 28%.

    Analysis by Ignatius Crosswickz:

    Piszckoszi was seen by many Halsbergians to have performed strongly in the debates, presenting original and effective ideas for the different Commission departments. According to many voters, the independent candidate had succeeded in carving a distinctive image and policy platform for himself, crucial in any election.

    Inimican Eric Hitchens came a close second behind Mr Piszckoszi with only a thousand or so votes between them. It has been suggested that Hitchens' ties to the UEC europarty were a bonus to his campaign, rather than a pitfall as many had claimed it would be. Natural UCP/UEC voters flocked to Hitchens' campaign, eager to see the Inimican carry on the persistent UEC representation in the Commission.

    Ben Reiher of Prussia was, despite his insistence to the contrary in the debate, seen as the candidate for big business in Halsberg. Though this didn't have as detrimental an effect that it may have done, it is the main reason why he has gained Halsberg's third preference, rather than first. Although still coming in with a respectable 28%, ultimately Mr Reiher's brand of centre-right policy was deemed to be too right wing for many voters. His anti-regulation rhetoric no doubt pushed many voters into the hands of the more economically liberal Hitchens and Piszckoszi.

    Full results below:

    Maloulay Pizsckoszi: 31%
    Eric Hitchens: 30%
    Ben Reiher: 28%
    Jean-Marie d'Arc: 5%
    Craig Kielburger: 2%
    Raul Morland: 2%
    Barney Stinsons: 1%
    Lucas Suarez: 1%

    Councillor Walters, who returned to Europolis earlier today, will deliver the results and officially cast Halsberg's vote in accordance with the electorate's wishes.

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    Statement on The War in Groot Belgie and Bulgaria

    _It is unfortunate that war has once again shown itself in Europe, especially so soon after a Commission which pledged to protect the peace was elected. The fact foreign dignitaries were shot and killed in a Commission-led summit in Europolis is even more striking. The Commissioner for Defence and Peacekeeping, and indeed the wider Commission, faces many questions regarding its handling of security. To ensure the safety of our diplomatic staff and political leaders, Halsberg shall refrain from sending the aforementioned officials to Europolis unless absolutely necessary, until such time as we can be assured of their safety.

    It is with caution that we observe the events in Groot Belgie and Bulgaria. However, we are glad that Groot Belgie has been successfully challenged. Halsberg considers the country to be a rogue state, and as such a threat to the rest of the region. While armed conflict is never desirable, it is sometimes preferable to allowing such a nation to continually destablise both itself and its neighbours.

    The Twelve Commonwealths shall be remaining neutral in this conflict, however military training and operations in our bases around the region shall be stepped up. Operations in the Westfallon Air and Naval Base, along with our presence with our friends in Poland-Lithuania shall be increased, with more men and equipment being sent in the coming days. The supercarrier HNS Nicki Minaj, along with a small group of accompanying cruisers will depart for a training mission in the Atlantic without hindrance, following plans laid out some months ago.

    Also increasing will be Halsberg's naval presence in the Caspian Sea. The recent disruption to regional stability may ripple out towards the east, and the Twelve Commonwealths feels it is imperative to secure our interests in the Caspian. Joining the regular patrols in our territorial waters shall be a small number of cruisers, which include the recently refitted HNS Billie Piper.

    Testing of advanced new weaponry shall increase in pace, the recent conflict reminding us how imperative it is that Halsberg is armed with the most advanced and sophisticated means of defence. We can confirm rumours that a new form of missile and delivery system was tested earlier this week in the Caspian Sea, following a launch from within Halsberg. It represents a large step forward in the Twelve Commonwealth's defensive arsenal, following on from previous work on ASBM and hypersonic glide vehicle technology.

    We urge the nations of Europe to show restraint during this time, and hope a solution can be reached soon._

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    Walters Under Fire For Cannabis Bill

    Europolis ? The fervent debate that has gripped the European Council this past week has come to an end with the passing of the European Cannabis Act. From April 20th, the possession of cannabis for personal use shall become legal throughout the European Union, with the implementation of commercial and medical aspects coming later this year. It has been hailed as a major step forward for common sense by some, but decried as a hideous infringement on national sovereignty by others.

    Halsberg's Councillor, Speaker John Walters, was one of the bill's authors, and as such was a particularly vocal supporter. Some within Halsberg have been scathing in their criticism, claiming he has abused the trust placed in him. One of the most high profile figures has been the Chairman of Golgosa's Committe for Moral Integrity, Merril Steiger. The Commonwealth leader has led calls for Walters to be removed from his post, claiming that he has acted against the will of both God and the Halsbergian people. He went on to announce, rather cryptically, that the Commonwealth of Golgosa will explore all avenues with the Confederal government regarding the issue.

    The government in Thurston has dismissed his concerns, a spokesman saying ?...Speaker Walters has broken no rule, he has expressed an opinion acceptable to this administration and, as recent polls suggest, the people of Halsberg. As such he shall remain as Councillor.?

    The spokesman referred to an opinion poll released yesterday, showing that 48% of respondents were in favour of legalisation, while 45% were opposed. 7% were undecided.

    The bill has thrust internal divisions within the Unionist and Conservative Party into the limelight once again, with many Commonwealth and local UCP officials expressing their dislike of Speaker Walters' actions, while the majority of the central government are broadly supportive. Indeed, Russell Elwood (UCP), the Secretary of State for Public Health, has commended the Speaker.

    ?Something like this has needed to happen for a long time, something to wake people up to the benefits of proper regulation and taxation of drug use. Once this comes into effect in all Commonwealths, the ones that have held back from the legalisation will come to recognise all the benefits it will bring to their people.?

    Currently, only two Commonwealths have legalised cannabis use. Sandvolg's Presidium approved the move in 2012, with the city of Veroni following suit in late 2014. Reliable statistics are available only for the former, which show cannabis use amongst adults falling slightly since legalisation, whilst usage amongst under-18s has nosedived.

    In an interview earlier today, the leader of the Sandvolg Presidium, Benedict Iavarone (LibCoal) espoused the benefits legalisation would bring to Halsberg and the rest of the region:

    _?We've had nearly three years of experience with this thing down in Sandvolg, and its actually worked. Crime is down, usage is down, people are healthier, the list goes on. This new law is going to revolutionise attitudes to drug use up and down Europe, which we sorely need if we're going to help victims of drug abuse better, which when it comes down to it this is all about.

    ?I was a bit uneasy listening to Trau Steiger earlier, saying how legalisation was somehow 'ungodly'. Well, if Trau Steiger's god has a problem with what we're doing, he's had 3 years to stop us. Seems like he's helping us along, really. Anyway, I commend Speaker Walters for what he's done, even though I'm sure he's been getting all kinds of criticism from the UCP about this.?_

    The new law comes into effect on April 20th, meaning possessing cannabis for personal use will be legal throughout all the Twelve Commonwealths.

  • Veroni Closes its Doors to Kaasian Refugees

    Veroni, now no longer accepting Kaasian refugees.

    VERONI, VERONI COMMONWEALTH- Supreme Governor Constance Clarke has announced that the Commonwealth of Veroni shall no longer accept Kaasian and other refugees, following a devastating attack in Davishire that has left scores of people dead. In a press conference, Krau Clarke expressed concern that her city, which has borne the brunt of people fleeing the ongoing conflict in Dromund Kaas, would fall victim to the same kind of attack that has been seen in New London in the past few hours.

    While there have been no confirmed details on the scale of the attack, its perpetrators or their motives, there is general consensus that New London was targeted thanks to Davishire's involvement in the Teutonic State.

    Supreme Governor Constance Clarke announcing the closure of Veroni to displaced Kaasians.

    We need to keep our city and its residents safe” , Krau Clarke told reporters. “Veroni has for countless months accepted thousands of Kaasian refugees, almost double the amount of all other Commonwealths combined. This is unsustainable, especially in light of the developing news from New London. While Halsberg has never been part of the coalition taking part in the conflict in Dromund Kaas, there is mounting evidence something similar to what we're seeing in the Teutonic States is forming there. A storm is coming, and we need to batten down the hatches as best we can.”

    There are currently around 312,000 Kaasian refugees living legally in Halsberg, however the number of undocumented migrants who have crossed the border illegally is expected to be much greater. Until recently, the policy of the Confederal government has been to accept only the most vulnerable groups, High President Solomon's so-called “Woman and Children First” policy, despite the name being misleading. In the last month or so, however, Thurston has began to display increasing reluctance over the issue, with the number of Kaasians crossing the border surging past the expected figures.

    High President Solomon, who is currently in the United Kingdom for a summit with leading regional partners, has not yet commented on the events in Davishire, yet has indicated in the past he is uncomfortable with the Kaasian situation. Earlier this year, the High President warned that without an EU-wide strategy dealing with refugees from Dromund Kaas and other conflict zones, a handful of countries would be overwhelmed.

    Raphael Stasney, leader of the Libertarian Coalition and High Presidential candidate, has condemned the Supreme Governor's actions, labelling them “monstrous” and a “disservice to Halsberg”. In an interview with The Golgosan Kunnianosoitus, the main Golgosan language newspaper, Trau Stasney called for a Kaasian resettlement plan that required every Commonwealth to take a share of the refugees. He dismissed security concerns, pointing out that there is not yet any evidence linking the events of New London to refugees, and hoped Halsbergians could “rediscover a sense of human decency that some of us have lost” .

    Some religious leaders have also condemned the move by Krau Clarke, with the Archbishop of Veroni and Deshvara appealing to Pope Aloysius to intervene in the debate and to be “...the champion of the displaced and helpless” . Others have been more supportive of the Supreme Governor, such as the Golgosan Committee for the Preservation of Moral Integrity, who unanimously voted to begin looking into implementing similar measures in Golgosa.

    When approached for comment, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Wayne Martinelli chose his words carefully, saying “...each Commonwealth government is entitled to make these decisions, we can't interfere. We're working with our foreign partners in the region to find a peaceful solution to the situation in Dromund Kaas, which is the only way these people will be able to return home. We've also dispatched several more naval vessels into the Caspian Sea, to rescue refugees who attempt the near-suicidal crossing. To say we're doing nothing in this area is wrong”

  • First Annual Gladiatorial Games Begin in Golgosa

    KATHRYN'S COVE, GA – Amidst considerable controversy, the Golgosan Committee for the Preservation of Moral Integrity (CPMI) have pressed ahead with the reintroduction of Gladiatorial Games at the Arena of the Blessed in the city of Kathryn's Cove, with a view to expanding elsewhere throughout the Commonwealth. The Games, in which competitors fight to the death in a variety of methods, opened earlier on Saturday, drawing huge crowds to the opening ceremony and the ancient First Fight. According to Committee Chairman Allsan Poe, the Games are an important tactic in the renewal of Golgosan heritage and orderliness, as well as in the fight against crime.

    Incarcerated persons serving a sentence of 10 years or more in a Golgosan prison are now given the option to take part in the Games, the winner being given his or her freedom. Uptake within the prisons for this edition of the Games has been good, with the organisers promising a packed schedule. Critics have labelled the event “monstrous” and “without a shred of human decency”. Trau Poe hit back, pointing out that all competitors take part willingly, and that corporate sponsorship, as well as massively increased footfall, has caused Kathryn's Cove's local economy to skyrocket.

    Its simply giving those who've done wrong the chance to give something back to their community, through the economic and social benefits the Games will, and already have, brought. The liberals, the elite and the media in Thurston will show us as some kind of backwards, barbarians because of this, but they have no idea what Golgosa is like, so I don't lose any sleep over their opinion. The opinion of Golgosans and God himself is the only opinion I care about, and I can say with absolute certainty both of those are behind me.”

    Despite his defiant words, there has been an outcry across the Twelve Commonwealths ever since the Games were announced in October. Raphael Stasney, Adelaide Fontaine and Dalton Rackham, leaders of the Libertarian Coalition, New Left Alliance and Independence Party respectively, issued a joint statement earlier condemning the Games and promising should they be elected High President they will work to bring them to an end. Notably, incumbent High President Solomon, leader of the Unionist and Conservative Party, was silent on the issue, along with all Confederal Government representatives HCNA contacted.

    The Games are to be televised throughout the Twelve Commonwealths, with the CPMI having sold broadcasting rights to the Halsberg-wide premium network Galaxy. Outside of Golgosa and Romanvorg, however, the often graphic climactic scenes will be censored.

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