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Ford partners with geocoding startup what3words

Posted by on Feb 25, 2019 in android, Automotive, Cabify, Ford, Logistics, Lonely Planet, red cross, Software, Spain, Sync 3, TomTom, Transportation, United Nations, what3words | 0 comments

Ford is partnering with what3words to give drivers access to the startup’s novel addressing system.

Under the partnership, drivers will be able to connect to the free what3words app — on an iOS or Android device — to their vehicle via their SYNC 3 infotainment platform. Drivers can find the three-word address on website contact pages, guidebooks and business cards. Drivers can enter the addresses via voice or text input and receive directions through the vehicle’s navigation system.

The startup, founded in 2013, has divided the entire world into 57 trillion 3-by-3 meter squares and assigned three words to each one. Users of the what3words app, which is available in 26 languages, has been adopted by logistics, travel, automotive and humanitarian organizations because it provides exact locations anywhere in the world.

The system is used by Lonely Planet, which has rolled out three-word addresses for each of its listings, as well as Mercedes-Benz, ride-hailing app Cabify, the UN, Red Cross and TomTom.

The startup has also attracted an interesting mix of investors, most recently Sony’s venture capital arm. And last year, Daimler took a 10 percent stake in what3words, following an announcement in 2017 to integrate the addressing system into Mercedes’ new infotainment and navigation system — called the Mercedes-Benz User Experience, or MBUX. MBUX is now in the latest Mercedes A-Class and B-Class cars and Sprinter commercial vehicles.

“We are more mobile than ever before, but with that comes its challenges. The growing traction that what3words is gaining within the automobility industry is a testament to how we are improving journeys and customer experiences,” CEO and co-founder Chris Sheldrick said.

What3words will initially be available to Ford owners in the U.K. and Ireland, Germany, Spain, the U.S. and Mexico. More markets and languages will follow later in the year. The addressing system can be downloaded for free on iOS and Android.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Startups Weekly: Squad’s screen-shares and Slack’s swastika

Posted by on Jan 19, 2019 in alex wilhelm, altos ventures, AnchorFree, Andreessen Horowitz, Autotech Ventures, Aviva Ventures, berlin, bird, bluerun ventures, Business, ceo, Ciitizen, crowdstrike, CrunchBase, economy, editor-in-chief, entrepreneurship, Finance, First Round Capital, Flash, France, Greenspring Associates, Ingrid Lunden, Italy, josh constine, Lance Armstrong, Maverick Ventures, Next Ventures, norwest venture partners, Portugal, Private Equity, redpoint ventures, resolute ventures, Rubrik, series C, slack, slow ventures, Spain, Startup company, Startups, switzerland, Tandem Capital, TC, TechStars, tools, unicorn, valar ventures, Venture Capital, zack Whittaker | 0 comments

We’re three weeks into January. We’ve recovered from our CES hangover and, hopefully, from the CES flu. We’ve started writing the correct year, 2019, not 2018.

Venture capitalists have gone full steam ahead with fundraising efforts, several startups have closed multi-hundred million dollar rounds, a virtual influencer raised equity funding and yet, all anyone wants to talk about is Slack’s new logo… As part of its public listing prep, Slack announced some changes to its branding this week, including a vaguely different looking logo. Considering the flack the $7 billion startup received instantaneously and accusations that the negative space in the logo resembled a swastika — Slack would’ve been better off leaving its original logo alone; alas…

On to more important matters.

Rubrik more than doubled its valuation

The data management startup raised a $261 million Series E funding at a $3.3 billion valuation, an increase from the $1.3 billion valuation it garnered with a previous round. In true unicorn form, Rubrik’s CEO told TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden it’s intentionally unprofitable: “Our goal is to build a long-term, iconic company, and so we want to become profitable but not at the cost of growth,” he said. “We are leading this market transformation while it continues to grow.”

Deal of the week: Knock gets $400M to take on Opendoor

Will 2019 be a banner year for real estate tech investment? As $4.65 billion was funneled into the space in 2018 across more than 350 deals and with high-flying startups attracting investors (Compass, Opendoor, Knock), the excitement is poised to continue. This week, Knock brought in $400 million at an undisclosed valuation to accelerate its national expansion. “We are trying to make it as easy to trade in your house as it is to trade in your car,” Knock CEO Sean Black told me.

Cybersecurity stays hot

While we’re on the subject of VCs’ favorite industries, TechCrunch cybersecurity reporter Zack Whittaker highlights some new data on venture investment in the industry. Strategic Cyber Ventures says more than $5.3 billion was funneled into companies focused on protecting networks, systems and data across the world, despite fewer deals done during the year. We can thank Tanium, CrowdStrike and Anchorfree’s massive deals for a good chunk of that activity.

Send me tips, suggestions and more to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or @KateClarkTweets

Fundraising efforts continue

I would be remiss not to highlight a slew of venture firms that made public their intent to raise new funds this week. Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures filed to raise $350 million across two new funds and Redpoint Ventures set a $400 million target for two new China-focused funds. Meanwhile, Resolute Ventures closed on $75 million for its fourth early-stage fund, BlueRun Ventures nabbed $130 million for its sixth effort, Maverick Ventures announced a $382 million evergreen fund, First Round Capital introduced a new pre-seed fund that will target recent graduates, Techstars decided to double down on its corporate connections with the launch of a new venture studio and, last but not least, Lance Armstrong wrote his very first check as a VC out of his new fund, Next Ventures.

More money goes toward scooters

In case you were concerned there wasn’t enough VC investment in electric scooter startups, worry no more! Flash, a Berlin-based micro-mobility company, emerged from stealth this week with a whopping €55 million in Series A funding. Flash is already operating in Switzerland and Portugal, with plans to launch into France, Italy and Spain in 2019. Bird and Lime are in the process of raising $700 million between them, too, indicating the scooter funding extravaganza of 2018 will extend into 2019 — oh boy!

Startups secure cash

  • Niantic finally closed its Series C with $245 million in capital commitments and a lofty $4 billion valuation.
  • Outdoorsy, which connects customers with underused RVs, raised $50 million in Series C funding led by Greenspring Associates, with participation from Aviva Ventures, Altos Ventures, AutoTech Ventures and Tandem Capital.
  • Ciitizen, a developer of tools to help cancer patients organize and share their medical records, has raised $17 million in new funding in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz.
  • Footwear startup Birdies — no, I don’t mean Allbirds or Rothy’s — brought in an $8 million Series A led by Norwest Venture Partners, with participation from Slow Ventures and earlier investor Forerunner Ventures.
  • And Brud, the company behind the virtual celebrity Lil Miquela, is now worth $125 million with new funding.

Feature of the week

TechCrunch’s Josh Constine introduced readers to Squad this week, a screensharing app for social phone addicts.

Listen to me talk

If you enjoy this newsletter, be sure to check out TechCrunch’s venture-focused podcast, Equity. In this week’s episode, available here, Crunchbase editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm and I marveled at the dollars going into scooter startups, discussed Slack’s upcoming direct listing and debated how the government shutdown might impact the IPO market.

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Source: The Tech Crunch

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Amazon warehouse workers in Europe stage ‘we are not robots’ protests

Posted by on Nov 23, 2018 in Amazon, eCommerce, Europe, France, GMB Union, Italy, London, madrid, Spain, Strikes, United Kingdom, warehouse workers | 1 comment

Amazon warehouse workers in several countries in Europe are protesting over what they claim are inhuman working conditions which treat people like robots. It’s the latest in a series of worker actions this year.

They’ve timed the latest protest for Black Friday, one of the busiest annual shopping days online as retailers slash prices and heavily promote deals to try to spark a seasonal buying rush.

In the UK, the GMB Union says it’s expecting “hundreds” to attend protests timed for early morning and afternoon at Amazon warehouses in Rugeley, Milton Keynes, Warrington, Peterborough and Swansea.

At the time of writing the union had not provided details of turnout so far. 

Protests are also reported to be taking place in Spain, France and Italy today. Although, when asked about strikes at its facilities in these countries, Amazon claimed: “Our European Fulfilment Network is fully operational and we continue to focus on delivering for our customers. Any reports to the contrary are simply wrong.”

The demonstrations look intended to not only apply pressure on Amazon to accept collective bargaining but encourage users of its website to think about the wider costs involved in packing and despatching the discounted products they’re trying to grab.

Spanish newspaper El Diaro reports that today’s protests by workers at Amazon’s largest logistics center in the country, in San Fernando, Madrid, mark the fourth round of strikes over working conditions in Spain.

Protestors in Madrid this morning reportedly chanted: “We will not accept discounts to our rights.”

A report by AP quotes the spokesman of the protest group in Spain, Douglas Harper, claiming that around 90 percent of workers at a logistics depot in near Madrid joined the walkout — leaving just two people at the loading bay. Though Amazon reportedly diverted cargo deliveries to its other 22 depots in the country.

Update: Amazon disputes the 90% figure. A spokesman told us: “The numbers released by the unions are categorically wrong. Today, the majority of our associates at Amazon’s Fulfillment Center in San Fernando de Henares (Madrid) are working and processing our customers’ orders, as they do every day.”

French press also reports warehouse workers striking locally, and a union representing Amazon logistics workers calling for a national strike.

In the UK the GMB Union is calling on Amazon to recognize its representation of workers, and has attacked the company for what it dubs “Victorian working practices”. 

This summer an investigation by the Union revealed ambulances had been called to Amazon’s UK warehouses 600 times during the past three financial years.

Earlier this month the Union also revealed a total of 602 reports have been made from Amazon warehouses to the Health and Safety Executive since 2015/16 — with workers reported to have suffered fractures, head injuries, contusions and collisions with heavy equipment.

It added that one report detailed a forklift truck crash caused by a ‘lapse of concentration possibly due to long working hours’.

In a statement on Wednesday announcing the Black Friday protest, Tim Roache, the GMB’s general secretary, said: “The conditions our members at Amazon are working under are frankly inhuman. They are breaking bones, being knocked unconscious and being taken away in ambulances. We’re standing up and saying enough is enough, these are people making Amazon its money. People with kids, homes, bills to pay — they’re not robots.”

“Jeff Bezos is the richest bloke on the planet; he can afford to sort this out,” he added. “You’d think making the workplace safer so people aren’t carted out of the warehouse in an ambulance is in everyone’s interest, but Amazon seemingly have no will to get round the table with us as the union representing hundreds of their staff. Working people and the communities Amazon operates in deserve better than this. That’s what we’re campaigning for.”

In a further update today the GMB Union said Amazon has not replied to a joint plea, backed by a shadow minister, for a health and safety review to reduce the hundreds of ambulance call outs to its warehouses.

Two UK MPs wrote to Amazon’s director of public policy for UK and Ireland last week to suggest a joint audit with the union and also a meeting hosted by them in parliament — to discuss the issues. But the union said Amazon has so far failed to respond.

Responding to today’s protest action, a spokesman for Amazon UK provided us with the following statement:

Amazon has created in the UK more than 25,000 good jobs with a minimum of £9.50/hour and in the London area, £10.50/hour on top of industry-leading benefits and skills training opportunities.

All of our sites are safe places to work and reports to the contrary are simply wrong. According to the UK Government’s Health and Safety Executive, Amazon has over 40% fewer injuries on average than other transportation and warehousing companies in the UK. We encourage everyone to compare our pay, benefits, and working conditions to others and come see for yourself on one of the public tours we offer every day at our centers across the UK uk.amazonfctours.com.

The spokesman declined to respond to additional questions.

In October, facing rising political pressure on its home turf after senator Bernie Sanders introduced legislation targeting low rates of pay at the coal face of Amazon’s business, the ecommerce giant said it would raise the minimum wage of its US workers to $15 per hour. That change went into effect at the start of this month.

In another change to its business announced yesterday, also just before the Black Friday spending binge kicked off, Amazon reversed a decision that had been triggered by a change in Australian tax law earlier this year, when it had shuttered its US store to shoppers in the country to avoid paying a 10% levy — deciding to suck up the charge to lift a geoblock that had proved unpopular with customers.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Samsung acquires network analytics startup Zhilabs to help its transition to 5G

Posted by on Oct 17, 2018 in 5g, Fundings & Exits, network analytics, Samsung, Samsung Electronics, Spain, Startups, TC, Zhilabs | 0 comments

Samsung Electronics is betting that acquiring Zhilabs, a real-time networks analytics startup based in Barcelona, will ease its transition from 4G to 5G technologies. Financial details of the deal, which was announced today, have not been disclosed. Zhilabs will be fully owned by Samsung, but it will continue to operate independently under its own management.

The acquisition of Zhilabs is part of Samsung’s initiative, announced in August, to invest 25 trillion won (about $22 billion) in businesses working on AI, 5G, components for self-driving vehicles, and biopharmaceutical technologies.

In a statement, Youngky Kim, Samsung Electronic’s president and head of networks business, said “5G will enable unprecedented services attributed to the generation of exponential data traffic, for which automated and intelligent network analytics tools are vital. The acquisition of Zhilabs will help Samsung meet these demands to assure each subscriber receives the best possible service.”

Founded in 2008, Zhilabs’ products are used by customers including Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Vodafone, and Telefonica to analyze and test network performance in real-time. Because its solutions allow service issues to be automatically detected and fixed, Zhilabs’ AI-based automation will help Samsung launch new services related to the industrial Internet of Things and smart cars.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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California may mandate a woman in the boardroom, but businesses are fighting it

Posted by on Aug 12, 2018 in author, board of directors, Business, California, Column, Director, economy, Finance, France, gender diversity, gender equality, Germany, Italy, law, Norway, president, san diego, Senate, Spain, TC | 0 comments

California is moving toward becoming the first state to require companies to have women on their boards –assuming the idea could survive a likely court challenge.

Sparked by debates around fair pay, sexual harassment and workplace culture, two female state senators are spearheading a bill to promote greater gender representation in corporate decision-making. Of the 445 publicly traded companies in California, a quarter of them lack a single woman in their boardrooms.

SB 826, which won Senate approval with only Democratic votes and has until the end of August to clear the Assembly, would require publicly held companies headquartered in California to have at least one woman on their boards of directors by end of next year. By 2021, companies with boards of five directors must have at least two women, and companies with six-member boards must have at least three women. Firms failing to comply would face a fine.

“Gender diversity brings a variety of perspectives to the table that can help foster new and innovative ideas,” said Democratic Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara, who is sponsoring the bill with Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins of San Diego.”It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s good for a company’s bottom line.”

Yet critics of the bill say it violates the federal and state constitutions. Business associations say the rule would require companies to discriminate against men wanting to serve on boards, as well as conflict with corporate law that says the internal affairs of a corporation should be governed by the state law in which it is incorporated. This bill would apply to companies headquartered in California.

Jennifer Barrera, senior vice president of policy at the California Chamber of Commerce, argued against the bill and said it only focuses “on one aspect of diversity” by singling out gender.

“This bill basically mandates that we hire the woman above anybody else who we may be fulfilling for purposes of diversity,” she said at a hearing.

Similarly, a legislative analysis of the bill cautioned that it could get challenged on equal protection grounds, and that it would be difficult to defend, requiring the state to prove a compelling government interest in such a quota system for a private corporation.

Five years ago, California was the first state to pass a resolution, authored by Jackson, calling on public companies to increase gender diversity. In response, about 20 percent of the companies headquartered in the state followed through with putting women on their boards, according to the research firm Board Governance Research. But the resolution was non-binding and expired in December 2016.

Other countries have been more proactive. Norway in 2007 was the first country to pass a law requiring 40 percent of corporate board seats be held by women, and Germany set a 30 percent requirement in 2015. Spain, France and Italy have also set quotas for public firms.

In California, smaller companies have fewer female directors. Out of 50 companies with the lowest revenues, 48 percent have no female directors, according to Board Governance Research. Only 8 percent of their board seats are held by women.

The 2017 study said larger companies did a better job of appointing women, with all 50 of the highest-revenue companies having at least one female director and 23 percent of board seats held by women.

“The main issue is still that a lot of companies headquartered here don’t have women on their boards,” said Annalisa Barrett, clinical professor of finance at the University of San Diego’s School of Business. “We quite often like to think of California as progressive and a leader on social issues, so that’s kind of disappointing.”

Barrett publishes an annual report of women on boards in California. Public companies are major employers in the state, and their financial performance has a big impact on public pension funds, mutual funds and investment portfolios. “Financial performance does really impact the broader community,” she said.

The National Association of Women Business Owners, sponsor of the bill, says an economy as big as California’s ought to “set an example globally for enlightened business practice.” In a letter of support, the association cites studies that suggest corporations with female directors perform better than those with no women on their boards.

One University of California, Davis study did find that companies with more women serving on their boards saw a higher return on assets and equity, but the author acknowledges this may not suggest a cause-and-effect.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Spanish ‘anti-Uber’ taxi strike ends after government agrees new regulation

Posted by on Aug 2, 2018 in Apps, barcelona, Cabify, carsharing, Commuting, e-bikes, Europe, Government, madrid, Spain, strike, transport, Transportation, Uber, VTC | 1 comment

A national six-day taxi driver strike in Spain has ended after the government agreed to pass regulation that will allow the country’s autonomous communities to cap the number of private hire vehicle permits within their cities.

The VTC licenses are used by Uber and local ride-hailing rival Cabify to offer professional driver services in the country. So the government’s decision looks likely to limit the size of their businesses in regional markets which choose to uphold the cap.

Previous decisions by European courts have essentially closed down Uber’s p2p (non-professional driver) ride-hailing services in the region. So lobbying cities to deregulate and reform taxi laws in its favor is Uber’s game now.

But it’s a long game, and one that may not work in every market — underlining the drivers behind the company repositioning itself as a multimodal transport platform, after buying its way into e-bikes.

Spain’s Development Ministry issued the news the taxi industry had been pressing for yesterday, in a press release, following a meeting of the National Transport Conference that had been forward as a result of the strikes. It said measures to enable the country’s regional governments to regulate the VTC sector locally, allowing them to put in place their own urban mobility policies, will be implemented in September.

Taxi associations have parked their strike as a result — albeit, making it loud and clear on Twitter that they’ll be returning to keep up the pressure on legislators come September.

It was an attempt by the mayor of Barcelona to pass a law to locally enforce the 1:30 ratio — subsequently blocked by the courts — that triggered the latest strike.

A strike that — as Uber hyperbolically tells it — “paralyzed Spain”.

Of course the reality was rather closer to an inconvenience, and mostly for tourists, given the country has multiple, typically low cost urban public transport options. And locals love to scoot.

Spain’s taxi associations have been holding fierce strike protests for several years, ever since Uber re-entered the market with a licensed service offering — after some of same associations had successfully challenged its p2p service in the Barcelona courts and got UberPop banned.

Taxi drivers denounce Uber and another local ride-hailing player, Cabify, as exploitative and corrupt, and have been applying pressurize on local and national governments to protect their industry.

A judgement from the CJEU at the end of last year, deeming Uber a transport company — and therefore firmly subject to local transport laws — looked like the final nail in the coffin for ride-hailing platforms to circumvent taxi regulations in Europe.

Making lobbying for deregulation and (in the case of Uber) pushing into multi-modal transport options the regional long play for ride-hailing startups. Uber’s e-bikes are heading to Europe this summer.

In Spain the taxi industry’s anger has been focused on failure to uphold a 2015 reversion of a transport law which reinstated an earlier VTC license cap, dating back to 1990, that sets a ration of one VTC per 30 taxis.

However the provision has not been actively enforced, and has seemingly been easy (though not necessarily cheap) for ride-hailing firms to circumvent in practice — with the firms buying up VTC licenses from local operators and recruiting drivers via social media ads and job ad platforms like Jobandtalent.

Reuters reports there are currently 9,000 VTC permits granted to the online services vs 70,000 taxi permits. If the 1:30 ratio were to be upheld it would mean at least 6,600+ fewer permits — so likely thousands of Uber and Cabify contractors being put out of work.

 

VTC association, Unauto VTC, has sought to block attempts to enforce the cap — such as by challenging the Barcelona city authority’s attempt to enforce the ratio last month.

And ride-hailing companies appear to be seeking legal avenues to block the government’s latest move to devolve regulatory powers (for instance an Uber spokesperson pointed us to this report, in Mercado Financiero, which quotes a law professor questioning the constitutional validity of the government’s use of a decree to transfer the competency).

At the same time they are making public noises about wanting to work with the taxi industry.

In a blog post responding to yesterday’s government announcement that VTC regulatory powers would be devolved, Uber holds out an olive branch to taxis, calling for all players in the urban mobility space, private and public, to work together — and arguing that if people are going to leave their cars at home “we must offer them more and more alternatives, not less”.

“If we have learned something these days, we should work together. All together. Because although some insist on presenting this problem as a war, the truth is that it is not so different from the crossroads that all the great cities of the world live,” it writes.

“And at this crossroads, it is in our hands to decide which path we want to take. We can restrict the new mobility alternatives, or we can start working to achieve the objective that we share with the Government, the City Councils, the taxi sector, the VTC and Uber: that fewer private vehicles circulate on our streets every day.”

The company also makes a direct plea to taxi drivers to work with it by backing deregulation of the taxi industry, instead of a cap on the number of VTCs.

“We firmly believe that the solution is not to restrict the VTC, but to make the taxi more flexible so that it can compete better. So you can compete with Uber, not against Uber. Uber and the taxi? It may sound weird, but it is not. We already do it in several cities around the world, and we want to do it in Spain,” it writes.

“It is not about VTC or taxi. It is about that, little by little, we learn to work together to fulfill the objective of all: that you leave your car at home.”

An Uber spokesperson we reached for comment also told us: “The ways people move around cities is changing around the world — we want to partner with all local stakeholders, including taxis, to build better cities in Spain together.”

A spokeswoman for Cabify said the company did not have anything to add beyond its statement last week when it also made a similar plea for stakeholders to unite around a multi-modal urban transport mix — writing then: “We believe that unilateral solutions are not the right solutions to build the mobility of the future and that all players must work together with the administration in order to find the way to ensure the market’s evolution and the protection of all of those who operate in it.”

However the taxi industry’s attacks on the ride-hailing companies include claims that their platforms create precarious ‘jobs’ and underpay their workers.

Neither Uber nor Cabify’s public statements have engaged with that critique.

The most recent taxi strikes started last month in major cities including Spain’s capital Madrid and in the capital of Catalonia, Barcelona.

The strikes were initially scheduled to run for two days but the drivers changed up a gear — announcing a huelga indefinido and going to on spend almost a week blocking streets and making life especially miserable for suitcase-laden summer tourists trying to make trips to and from airports.

There were also violent scenes witnessed on the first day of the strike in Barcelona — which drew widespread condemnation after cars were damaged and there were reports of drivers being attacked and threatened.

The violence was not repeated after appeals for calm, including from one of the main taxi associations organizing the protest action.

This same organization, the Elite Taxi association, has since tweeted that Barcelona taxis have been offering free trips to hospitals to improve relations with citizens.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Dozens of Migrants Drown Off Tunisia and Turkey; Hundreds Rescued Off Spain

Posted by on Jun 3, 2018 in Europe, Middle East and Africa Migrant Crisis, Refugees and Displaced Persons, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey | 0 comments

At least 46 died when their boat sank in the Mediterranean off Tunisia, and Turkey said nine, including six children, died when a vessel capsized off its southern coast.
Source: New York Times

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Mariano Rajoy Ousted in Spanish No-Confidence Vote

Posted by on Jun 1, 2018 in Basques, Ciudadanos Party (Spain), Corruption (Institutional), Legislatures and Parliaments, Podemos (Spanish Political Party), Politics and Government, Popular Party (Spain), Rajoy, Mariano, Sanchez Perez-Castejon, Pedro (1972- ), Secession and Independence Movements, Spain | 0 comments

The vote effectively ends the political career of one of Europe’s longest serving leaders, and could amplify political uncertainty in southern Europe.
Source: New York Times

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