Iceland may ban MasterCard, Visa over WikiLeaks censorship

Credit card companies that prevented card-holders from donating money to the secrets outlet WikiLeaks could have their operating licenses taken away in Iceland, according to members of the Icelandic Parliamentary General Committee.

Representatives from Mastercard and Visa were called before the committee Sunday to discuss their refusal to process donations to the website, reports Reykjavik Grapevine.

“People wanted to know on what legal grounds the ban was taken, but no one could answer it,” Robert Marshall, the chairman of the committee, said. “They said this decision was taken by foreign sources.”

The committee is seeking additional information from the credit card companies for proof that there was legal grounds for blocking the donations.

Marshall said the committee would seriously review the operating licenses of Visa and Mastercard in Iceland.

WikiLeaks’s payment processor, the Icelandic company DataCell ehf, said it would take immediate legal action against the companies to make donations possible again.

“DataCell who facilitates those payments towards Wikileaks has decided to take up immediate legal actions to make donations possible again,” DataCell CEO Andreas Fink said last week. “We can not believe WikiLeaks would even create scratch at the brand name of Visa.”

“It will probably hurt their brand much much more to block payments towards WikiLeaks than to have them occur,” Fink added.


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Serbia will submit EU candidacy bid

The Serbian government on Saturday decided formally to submit a membership bid to join the European Union.

A decision on when that bid is formally submitted will depend upon Sweden, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetković, told RTS television in Belgrade.

Serbia has been under pressure to increase its cooperation with the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague before its bid is likely to be successful.

The Netherlands, in particular, has been blocking Serbia’s hope of membership, due to a lack of arrests of fugitives, in particular Ratko Mladić.

Mladić was an army chief of the Army of the Republika Srpska (Bosnian Serb Army), and is wanted in relation to the killing of around 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995 – an area for which Dutch UN peacekeeping forces were responsible.

The announcement of the bid came on the day that the EU allowed visa-free travel for citizens of Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro.

On November 30, the EU decided to scrap the strict visa regime for states within the Schengen Area. The move comes 17 years after they were imposed amid the break-up of the former Yugoslavia that featured bloody wars.

EU officials said the decision to scrap visas for the three former Yugoslav republics was a signal affirming their European future.

All three are aspiring EU members, but only Macedonia has formally attained the status of a candidate. Of the former Yugoslav republics, Slovenia joined the EU in 2004 and Croatia is next in line.

The visa-free regime applies to 25 out of 27 EU countries, as well as Norway, Switzerland and Iceland. Visas are however needed for Britain and Ireland, countries that are not members of the so-called Schengen Zone.

Latvia’s Government Falls

Latvia‘s center-right coalition government collapsed Friday, a victim of the country’s growing economic and political turmoil and the second European government, after Iceland, to disintegrate because of the international financial crisis.

The government in Riga, faced with forecasts of a severe drop in the economy this year, was the first in Eastern Europe to succumb to turmoil caused by the crisis. Its collapse rounded out a week that saw worries about feeble investment, banks and output in Central and Eastern Europe coursing through international markets.

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