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(MENAFN - AFP) The EU imposed additional sanctions Thursday on Crimea, banning all investment and restricting trade to force home the message the bloc will not recognise Russia's "illegal annexation" of Ukraine territory.

"The annexation is illegal and what we are doing is part of the non-recognition" policy, European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said, calling on ...

 
(MENAFN - AFP) Johann-Dietrich Woerner, head of German aerospace giant DLR, is to succeed Frenchman Jean-Jacques Dordain as next director-general of the European Space Agency, ESA announced on Thursday.

Woerner, 60, will start the four-year term on July 1, the agency said, quoting a decision by ESA's ruling body.

ESA traces its roots back 50 years with the foundation ...

 
(MENAFN - AFP) Airbnb and Amsterdam said on Thursday they had reached a deal for the online lodging site to collect tourist tax on behalf of the city, the first such agreement in Europe.

The deal will "simplify the payment of tourist tax by collecting and remitting these taxes on behalf of hosts," the company said in a statement.

The agreement follows criticism from ...

 
(MENAFN - AFP) Switzerland on Thursday cut its growth forecast for 2015 as a recovery in the eurozone turns out to be more sluggish than earlier thought.

The national statistics agency said it still expects Swiss output to expand by 1.8 percent this year.

But the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, or SECO said growth for 2015 would be at 2.1 percent rather than ...

 
(MENAFN - AFP) German business confidence rose again in December, the Ifo economic institute said Thursday, as the prospects for Europe's biggest economy grew sunnier.

The Ifo institute's closely watched business climate index rose to 105.5 points this month from 104.7 points in November, the think tank said.

"The outlook for the months ahead continued to brighten," ...

 
(MENAFN - AFP) President Putin on Thursday attempted to assuage fears of economic collapse and promised rapid recovery as he faced hundreds of journalists during the worst financial crisis of his rule.

Speaking at his annual press-conference, the Russian leader said that the economic downturn will last two years at the most and he promised to support the poorest segment of ...

 
(MENAFN - AFP) German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed Thursday that Europe's goal remains a free and whole Ukraine and that Western sanctions against Russia remain unavoidable until that goal is reached.

She was speaking to parliament hours before the start of a European summit in Brussels that will look at the standoff with economically-battered Russia over the fate of ...

 
(MENAFN - AFP) Saudi Arabia, the largest producer in the OPEC oil cartel, cannot reduce its output, the kingdom's oil minister said on Thursday despite plunging prices.

Ali al-Nuaimi added that commodity price fluctuations are to be expected, and he expressed optimism for the future despite crude's price drop of about 50 percent since June.

"It is difficult, or even ...

 
(MENAFN - AFP) British retail sales rose strongly in November from a month earlier as shoppers snapped up bargains on 'Black Friday' ahead of the festive season, official data showed on Thursday.

Sales jumped by 1.6 percent last month and by 6.4 percent year-on-year, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement. Analysts had forecast a monthly increase of 0.4 percent ...

 
(MENAFN - AFP) Asian markets mostly rallied on Thursday, with investors reversing a recent sell-off spurred by a Wall Street recovery and indications the Federal Reserve will keep rates on hold until mid-2015.

The dollar was boosted by comments from US central bank policymakers, which analysts said suggested they have changed tack and will not start to lift rates from record ...

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