INTL Europe: Politics, Economics and Military. January 2020

Plain Jane

Veteran Member
Last month's thread is here.

I have not posted about this case because it did not seem like a big deal. But it is turning into one.

Mother of Briton jailed for alleging gang rape backs boycott of Cyprus


LONDON (Reuters) - Holidaymakers should boycott Cyprus after a court found a British woman guilty of lying about being gang-raped by a group of Israeli youths, the woman’s mother said on Thursday.
In a case that Britain’s foreign ministry said raised serious concerns, a district court ruled on Tuesday that the woman, aged 19 at the time, had lied about being sexually abused by 12 Israeli teenagers. Sentencing has been set for Jan. 7.
The woman, who has not been identified by media, was arrested after police said she had withdrawn an accusation that the teenagers had raped her in a hotel room at the holiday resort of Ayia Napa in July.
The woman maintained that she had recanted her accusation only under duress from police, during persistent questioning without a lawyer present. Prosecutors and the court dismissed that justification.

The case has attracted widespread media coverage in Britain, which accounted for a third of the 3.9 million tourists who visited Cyprus in 2018. The woman faces a jail sentence of up to one year. Her lawyers have said she intends to appeal the verdict.

Speaking to BBC radio, the woman’s mother said she supported calls on social media for British holidaymakers to avoid the island.
“My personal view is that’s a good thing to do,” she said.
“The place isn’t safe - it is absolutely not safe. And if you go and report something that’s happened to you, you’re either laughed at, as far as I can tell, or, in the worst case, something like what’s happened to my daughter may happen.”
Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by Peter Graff
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member
Strange bedfellows here but depending on the agenda, it just might work.

Austrian conservatives and Greens reach coalition deal, Greens say

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian conservative leader Sebastian Kurz on Wednesday reached a coalition deal with the Greens to ensure his return to power and bring the left-wing party into government for the first time, a Greens spokeswoman and a source close to the talks said.
The deal comes three months after Kurz’s party clearly won a parliamentary election on Sept. 29 with 37.5% of the vote, requiring a coalition partner to command a majority in the lower house. The Greens finished fourth with 13.9%. Kurz and his Greens counterpart will issue statements later in the evening.
Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by David Gregorio
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

JANUARY 1, 2020 / 3:24 PM / UPDATED 13 HOURS AGO
Poland hit by bird flu outbreak on turkey farms


WARSAW (Reuters) - Bird flu has been detected in turkeys in eastern Poland, authorities said on Wednesday, and local media reported that the outbreak could require up to 40,000 birds to be slaughtered.
Poland, Europe’s largest poultry producer according to data from Eurostat, has not had an outbreak of bird flu since 2017.

Andrzej Danielak, president of Polish Association of Breeders and Poultry Producers, said that three farms might be affected, with up to 350,000 birds at risk in a three kilometer radius.

“Veterinary services are implementing virus eradication procedures in this situation,” local authorities in Lubartowski county said in a press release issued on Tuesday, adding that the virus was a subtype of highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu that can also threaten people
The authorities said crisis meetings had been held, while footage from private broadcaster Polsat showed police cars blocking a road in the area.
Reporting by Alan Charlish and Alicja Ptak; Editing by David Gregorio
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

Croatia's EU presidency: What will it bring for Europe?
On Wednesday, Croatia assumes the six-month rotating presidency of the EU Council. With countries wanting both in and out of the bloc, what can the EU’s youngest member do?

Croatia is not stinting on the superlatives when describing the country's upcoming presidency of the EU Council. Media and politicians are agreed that their country faces "the biggest challenge in modern history." They describe it as a "historic event for Croatia" and the "most difficult test of its maturity since independence." Starting on Wednesday, the youngest member of the European Union will serve as first among equals for the next six months. International conferences will be held under its presidency; the EU's highest representatives, as well as hordes of journalists, will be knocking at its door.

The country will be in the spotlight — a great opportunity to present itself positively. However, it is expected of any country holding the EU presidency that it will set its own interests aside and promote pan-European issues rather than its own national goals. It is expected to act as a mediator, to help resolve current problems and find compromise solutions.

Where foreign policy is concerned, there are three main issues Croatia will have to deal with.

Read more: What's in store for the EU in 2020

Migration and EU border protection

In the past two years, Croatia has proved an extremely reliable guardian of the bloc's external border, especially along what is referred to as the "Balkan route." Although not all EU states will say so openly, the majority clearly want to allow as few refugees into the EU as possible, and Croatia implements this very effectively. Its eastern border with the neighboring state of Bosnia-Herzegovina is strictly guarded, and any refugees who manage nonetheless to get through to Croatian — and thus EU territory — are immediately sent back.

Croatian police are far from squeamish about this. There have been numerous reports from NGOs, and by various witnesses of "pushbacks" — refugees being returned illegally — as well as about abuse and the use of force by Croatian police.

Footage of Croatian authorities deporting refugees without legal process (ARD)
Footage of Croatian authorities deporting refugees without due process

In May , video footage was released that appears to show Croatian police forcibly returning migrants to Bosnia across the "green border" in the countryside, where there are no official crossing points. Human Rights Watch (HRW) published an open letter calling on the Croatian government to stop this practice. Croatia's president, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, actually confirmed in an interview for Swiss television that "pushbacks" did take place, and that "of course a little force" is required.

Just a few days ago, the Croatian news portal exposed an unofficial network within the Croatian security authorities whose task is to collaborate with local taxi companies in tracking down refugees and deporting them to Bosnia. The refugees do not have a chance to file applications for asylum.

However, Croatian authorities routinely deny all such allegations, insisting that everything is done in accordance with EU regulations and that no violations of the law have been registered.

In doing this, Croatia is also acting in its own interest. Croatian officials are hardly concerned about whether refugees might want to stay in the country — most want to go further west. Instead, the country is trying to present itself as a vigilant border guard in order to be accepted into the Schengen Area as soon as possible — one of the stated priorities of Croatian foreign policy.

In the meantime, the Croatian government has received absolution for its activities from the highest authority. At the end of November, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said in Zagreb: "From the perspective of a country that's supposed to protect the external [EU] border, it, of course, looks different compared to the perspective of a country [such as Germany] in the middle of the Schengen Area."

Read more: Asylum claims in Germany fall in 2019

Croatian Prime MInister Andrej Plenkovic (picture-alliance-AP/D. Vojinovic)
Croatian PM Plenkovic: We will be a 'fair and honest broker' as EU leader
Western Balkans and EU enlargement

One of the declared aims of Croatia's EU Council presidency is to press ahead with negotiations on the further European integration of the western Balkan countries. In particular, this refers to the announcement of a date for the start of accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. However, the continuation of negotiations that are already underway with Serbia, as well as closer rapprochement with Bosnia-Herzegovina, are also on the agenda. A separate EU summit will also be held to address these in Zagreb in May.

However, France, in particular, has huge reservations about further enlargement. It is also uncertain to what extent Croatia is able to act as a "fair and honest broker" in this process, and be seen as such, as the Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic has declared it will. Croatia's relations with its former enemy Serbia and with neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina are not exactly characterized by mutual trust.

Read more: EU's broken promises in the Balkans lead to rocky road in 2020

Watch video01:08
EU holds accession talks with Western Balkans
Croatia is still in dispute with Serbia over various unresolved issues from their recent war-torn past. Zagreb places particular emphasis on the importance of clarifying the fate of the many people who are still missing and unaccounted for. It accuses Belgrade of failing to cooperate properly on this. Furthermore, it expects the Serbian government finally to put the war criminals from its own ranks on trial, and also, ideally, to admit that it was guilty of aggression.

In its relations with Bosnia-Herzegovina, the main bone of contention is the status of the Croats living there. The government in Zagreb, and above all the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), see themselves as patron saints of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Croats and accuse the current central government in Sarajevo of trying to marginalize them. They're especially at odds with Zeljko Komsic, the Croatian member of the three-member presidium, as he was elected predominantly with the support of Muslim Bosniaks.

There is also a dispute about plans for an EU-funded bridge across a Bosnian-Herzegovinian bay on the Adriatic. Croatia's good relations with the Bosnian Serb leader, Milorad Dodik, who has never concealed his separatist aspirations, are also regarded with suspicion in Sarajevo.

Watch video01:54
Great Britain on course to leave EU on January 31, 2020
Brexit perspective

The United Kingdom is scheduled to formally leave the European Union on January 31. After that, negotiations over Britain's future relations with the EU, including a free trade agreement, will begin. However, Croatia's role in this process will be more of a supporting one.

"We want to help all EU members and the European Parliament to ratify the treaty ending British EU membership as early as January, so that we then have eleven months to reach an agreement on future relations," Andrej Plenkovic has said. The Croatian prime minister has emphasized that Michel Barnier will continue to be the EU's main Brexit negotiator. In any case, Brexit is only of peripheral interest for Croatia — it is more a task for the big players, such as Germany, which will take over the bloc's presidency from Croatia on July 1.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member
Wow! Grandma is going to be turned in to authorities?

Protests Follow German State Broadcast Showing Kids Singing About Grandmas Being "Environmental Pigs" For Eating Meat
Profile picture for user Tyler Durden
by Tyler Durden
Fri, 01/03/2020 - 03:30

Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via Summit News,
German state broadcaster WDR2 faced protests after it broadcast a video in which a group of children were taught to sing about how their grandmas were “environmental pigs” for driving non-electric vehicles and eating meat.

The controversy began after WDR2 aired the clip in which the kids sing, “My grandma drives in the chicken coop with her motorcycle…that’s thousands of gallons of gas every month, my grandma is an old environmental pig!”

In another part of the song the children sing,Every day my grandma fries herself a pork chop…she does it because discount meat costs nearly nothing, my grandma is an old environmental pig!”

An almost immediate backlash prompted WDR2 to delete the online version of the clip before angry grandmas descended on WDR’s offices in Cologne to protest against the broadcaster.
We are grandmas. Not #Nazi Pigs!” read one of the signs at the rally while another said, “My grandma is an old environmental pig. WDR exploits children to slander the elderly. Shameful! Stop causing division.
If one of my children were to allow one of their children to sing something like this, which would never be the case, the shit would really hit the fan,” said one of the protesters. Without us grandmas, this country would have crapped out a long time ago.”

Commentators warned that the backlash was being exploited by “right-wing extremists,” prompting an Antifa presence at the grandma protest and the sight of left-wing radicals literally getting angry at grandmas for expressing their free speech.

The whole controversy was later dubbed ‘Grandmagate’ and although it is legitimately creepy that kids are being indoctrinated via climate change hysteria to hate their own family members, some think there’s bigger fish to fry in Germany.

Well. The invasion of hundreds of thousands of third-world migrants is not enough to get ordinary German citizens to take to the streets. Not even if those culture-enrichers engage in rape, assault, robbery, arson, and other forms of general mayhem. But insulting their grandmas — that’s going too far!” commented the Gates of Vienna blog.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

Russia halts oil supplies to Belarus in push for closer ties
MINSK, Belarus (AP) — Russia has halted oil supplies to Belarus as talks on strengthening economic ties remained stalled over concerns that Russia could effectively swallow up its neighbor.

In a case that has echoes of Russia’s relationship with Ukraine before it annexed the Crimean Peninsula, Belarus’ state-owned oil company said Friday that Moscow has stopped supplying crude until contracts for this year are drawn up. Belarus’ two main refineries were operating at low capacity, running on reserves.

Russian oil company Transneft confirmed the suspension, which does not affect oil transit to Europe or the supply of natural gas.

Later on Friday Belarus suspended its oil exports, which contribute up to 20% of annual GDP. State-owned oil company Belneftekhim said there were enough reserves to cover the country’s needs.

Belarus relies on Russia for more than 80% of its overall energy needs, including gas. Over 90% of its crude oil imports come from Russia. And it has been has been relying on discounted prices and loans from Russia for more than a quarter century.

But it has one point of leverage: Russia depends on Belarus to ship oil to wealthier markets in the rest of Europe. About 10% of Western Europe’s oil supplies come from Russia, via a pipeline transiting Belarus.

The Kremlin has recently increased pressure on its ally, raising energy prices and cutting subsidies. It argues that Belarus should accept closer economic integration if it wants to continue receiving energy resources at Russia’s domestic prices.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko held two rounds of talks in December, but failed to reach an agreement on deeper integration and on oil and gas prices.

Putin said Russia was not ready to “subsidize” energy supplies without a closer economic integration with Belarus, and Lukashenko insisted he would not sign off on the integration until the issues with oil and gas supplies were resolved.

In late December, Lukashenko ordered his government to look for alternative oil suppliers, though in practice that will be difficult considering the country’s near-total reliance on Russia.

There are concerns in Belarus that the economic discussions are a plot by Russia to swallow up Belarus. Those concerns have been fueled by Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and its support for separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine.

Before relations soured completely with Ukraine, Russia had likewise used energy supplies as political leverage to keep the country in its economic orbit and from developing closer ties with Europe.

There also has been speculation that Putin, who has been in power for nearly two decades, could contemplate a merger with Belarus as a way to stay at the helm of the new union state of Russia and Belarus after his current Russian presidential term expires in 2024.

Lukashenko repeatedly rejected the idea, vowing that his country would never become part of Russia.

“Russia has started to strong-arm Minsk by trying to get Belarus’ Soviet-style economy off its oil needle, but Lukashenko is fighting really hard, as he doesn’t want to become a Russian governor,” said Alexander Klaskovsky, a Minsk-based political analyst.


Daria Litvinova in Moscow contributed to this report.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

German government may offer 'silence money' for living near windmills
Legal resistance to wind farms has become more common in Germany as the country switches to renewable energy. The Social Democrats have suggested direct financial compensation for those who live near a windmill.

Wind farm in NRW (picture-alliance/dpa/O. Berg)
The Social Democratic Party (SPD) has proposed a new answer to people complaining about wind farms in Germany: offering money to those willing to live near them.

"Those people who accept windmills in their neighborhood, and so make the expansion of renewable energy possible, should be rewarded," SPD environment spokesman Matthias Miersch told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper.

The cash could be handed to local community authorities, with the stipulation that it be spent on direct benefits to citizens, though Miersch is also prepared to offer "direct financial incentives for people who live in those regions."

Wind farms are vital to the German government's energy plans, with both a transition away from coal and nuclear power currently being undertaken, though too slowly for the demands of environmentalists in the face of the ongoing climate crisis.

Read more: Wind farms: climate protection vs. nature protection

Delayed wind

Despite this, local newspaper reports in Germany are filled with reports of people unhappy with having wind farms on their doorsteps, with complaints about noise "like a helicopter" (as one family told the Waldeckische Landeszeitung), and subsequent legal battles slowing down construction.

On the other hand, the Baden-Württemberg newspaper Leonberger Kreiszeitung reported on Wedndesday that the village of Weissach is seeking to turn a profit from its local wind farm by investing €435,000 ($487,000).

The center-left SPD, as junior coalition partner to Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), is concerned that further delays to the construction of new windmills will make its country's targets impossible to reach. Germany's official target is to draw 65% of its electricity from renewables by 2030.

But the rate of wind farm construction has slowed down, with only 160 new windmills planned until November this year: the lowest number for 20 years. "We cannot allow ourselves the long-winded planning processes we have now if we want to manage this enormous transformation," said Miersch.

Read more: Europe's climate woes - can this tech help?

Watch video06:12
Climate pioneers from the Allgäu region

Money for silence

Local governments aren't necessarily impressed with the idea. Uwe Brandl, president of the German Association of Towns and Municipalities, practically dismissed the payments as hush money during a press conference in Berlin on Friday.

"What we're noticing now is more in the direction of paying people to keep quiet," he said. "I don't think that's the right direction. If we start paying for people to keep quiet, then it'll start with windmills and will go on with roads and other infrastructure measures."

"I think the government would be well-advised to sensitize people to the fact that they're part of this game, part of this society, and change is only possible if everyone is ready to participate in it," he added.

The idea of paying people living near wind farms has been implemented elsewhere. As the taz newspaper reported, two German states have also offered compensation to communities living near windmills, either in the form of shares in the company, or in the case of Brandenburg, €10,000 per windmill to all communities within three kilometers (1.86 miles).

Meanwhile, the debate is threatening to open up a new flashpoint in Merkel's coalition government. In response to the ongoing court cases, the government recently introduced a measure stipulating that wind farms had to be built at least 1,000 meters from residential estates. These were defined as five or more homes — a stipulation that Miersch and the SPD would like to lift. The Green party, meanwhile, considers the restriction as unacceptable.


Plain Jane

Veteran Member
If I am not mistaken this is the deal that George Papadopoulos initially put through, an act that put him in the crosshairs of the Obama Administration in the first place. Papadopoulos was initially consulting and working with the Ben Carson campaign and reports that his wierd encounters with IC people began during that time.

Greece, Israel & Cyprus Sign Landmark EastMed Gas Pipeline Deal Despite Turkey's Wrath
Profile picture for user Tyler Durden
by Tyler Durden
Sat, 01/04/2020 - 09:55

Long in the works, but coming at a geopolitically sensitive moment for the region given expanding Turkish maritime claims, the East Med gas pipeline deal was signed this week between the countries of Greece, Cyprus and Israel.
The three signed the deal on Thursday to build a 1,900 km (1,180 mile) subsea pipeline to transport supplies from the rapidly advancing gas fields of the eastern Mediterranean to Europe.
A massive undertaking to supply energy-hungry Europe, the East Med pipeline project was first proposed by Greek energy minister Yannis Maniatis in 2014, and has since been hailed as "the longest and deepest gas pipeline in the world". At an initial estimated cost of $6-7 billion, it will be financed by "private companies and institutional lenders," according to prior Israeli Energy Ministry statements.
The energy ministers of Greece, Israel and Cyprus - Kostis Hatzidakis, Yuval Steinitz and Yiorgos Lakkotrypis - attending the signing ceremony on Thursday. Image source: Reuters.

The underground, sub-sea pipeline is proposed to connect Israel, via Cyprus, to Greece and Italy, in a massive construction project estimated to take five or six years to complete, and which once online is expected initially pump 10 billion cubic meters of gas per year.

The energy ministers of Greece, Israel and Cyprus - Kostis Hatzidakis, Yuval Steinitz and Yiorgos Lakkotrypis - attended a signing ceremony in Athens which finalized the project's moving forward, according to Reuters.

Predictably, Turkey is actively opposing the project, given its own expanding oil and gas exploration claims which have now completely surrounded Cyprus (using the excuse of "rights" based on the contested so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus) and have even cut into Greece's Exclusive Economic Zone as well. Per Reuters:

Although Turkey opposes the project, the countries aim to reach a final investment decision by 2022 and have the pipeline completed by 2025 to help Europe diversify its energy resources.
Last month a Turkish official said there was no need to build the EastMed pipeline because the trans-Anatolian pipeline already existed.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry complained this week that the East Med pipeline "ignored the rights of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots" and thus would be doomed to failure.

Via The Weekly Standard
“The most economical and secure route to utilize the natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean and deliver them to consumption markets in Europe, including our country, is Turkey,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said Thursday, just as the deal was being signed in Athens.

Turkey has lately angered countries like Egypt, Greece and Cyprus over its disputed maritime boundary agreement with Libya, which many see as a big and illegal maritime grab for drilling rights in the southern Mediterranean.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades shot back, however, saying “It (the agreement) ... supports a common aim for peace, security and stability in the particularly vulnerable region of the Eastern Mediterranean,” underscoring that it's actually good for the region's security in a historically restive area where neighboring countries rarely get along.

Map via the AFP
The transformation of the eastern Mediterranean into an "energy hotspot" could have huge global geopolitical implications, especially given that currently the EU relies on Russia for a third of its gas.

It's especially southeast Europe that's been entirely reliant on Russian gas, given its lack of infrastructure. Thus Europe has greeted the project as part of a broader push for "energy diversity" that such other projects as the Nord Stream 2 Russia-Germany pipeline is meant to satisfy as well.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

JANUARY 4, 2020 / 1:02 PM / UPDATED 12 HOURS AGO
French knife attacker was radicalized, anti-terrorism prosecutors say

Simon Carraud

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s anti-terrorism prosecutors on Saturday took over the investigation of a fatal knife rampage near Paris, saying they had established that the attacker had been radicalized and had carefully planned an act intended to spread terror.

A man identified only as Nathan C. stabbed one person to death on Friday in a park in Villejuif, just outside southern Paris, and wounded two others. The attacker, who had a history of drug and psychiatric problems, was shot dead by police.

“While the troubling psychiatric problems of the individual have indeed been confirmed, the investigations carried out in the last few hours have allowed us to establish a definite radicalization of the suspect, as well as evidence of planning and preparation carried out before the act,” the anti-terrorism prosecutor’s department said.

“The steps taken to carry out the murderous act were carefully thought through, and were intended to spread intimidation or terror among the general public.”

The department said it was also looking into whether or not Nathan C., who was born in 1997 in Lilas, a northeastern suburb of Paris, had any accomplices. Religious texts including a copy of the Koran were found among his belongings.

The attacker had been to hospital a few months earlier and was undergoing psychiatric treatment. He also had drug problems.

Paris has suffered major attacks by Islamist militants in recent years.

Coordinated bombings and shootings in November 2015 at the Bataclan theater and other sites around Paris killed 130 people - the deadliest attacks in France since World War Two.

Reporting by Simon Carraud, Antony Paone and Sudip Kar-Gupta; editing by James Drummond and Kevin Liffey
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

Austria suspects foreign state behind cyberattack on ministry


ZURICH (Reuters) - Austria suspects a foreign country is behind a serious cyberattack on information systems at its Foreign Ministry that continued on Sunday, the ministry said.
“Given the type and seriousness of the attack we assume this probably concerns a state actor and not criminals,” a ministry spokesman said.
He declined to give technical details about the assault or speculate on who might be behind it. “Experts have informed us that these things can last several days,” he added.

The Austrian government reported the attack late on Saturday, noting other European countries have also been targeted for similar attacks in the past.
The attack came on the same day the environmentalist Greens party backed forming a coalition government with Sebastian Kurz’s conservatives.
The ministry said “countermeasures” were in place while an inter-agency task force reviewed the situation. Services such as travel information were still available on its website.

Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Alison Williams
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member
Depending on world events, especially in MENA there are some governments in Europe that might not be able to maintain their coalition. Austria is only one.

Former Bosnian Refugee to Become Austria’s New Justice Minister

Danijel Kovacevic
Banja Luka
January 3, 2020
Alma Zadic, who came to Austria as a ten-year-old refugee, will be the country’s youngster-ever Justice Minister – and the first to come from an immigrant background.

Leader of the Austrian People’s Party (OVP) Sebastian Kury (L) and leader of the Austrian Green Party Werner Kogler (R) and their teams during negotiations, Photo: EPA/Florian Wieser

Bosnian-born woman who came to Austria as a child refugee will be Austria’s new Justice Minister, it was confirmed on Thursday.

Thirty-five-year-old Alma Zadic, a lawyer and member of the Green Party, will also be the youngest Justice Minister in Austrian history and the first to come from an immigrant background.

The leaders of the centre-right Austrian People’s Party, OVP, and the Greens, Sebastian Kurz and Werner Kogler, reached an agreement to form a new coalition government on Wednesday. Under the agreement, Kurz will become Chancellor again and Kogler will be Vice-Chancellor.

Of the 15 ministries, four will belong to the Greens, and one of them will be the Justice Ministry, now headed by Zadic.

The deal is yet to be approved by the Greens, meeting for a congress on Saturday. If the deal passes, the new government could assume power as soon as next week.

Zadic came to Vienna in 1994 at the age of ten as a refugee, escaping from the 1992-5 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After studying law in Vienna, she completed her internship at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, in The Hague.

She gained international experience in law firms in New York and London and graduated from Columbia University. On her return from the US, she worked in Austria as a lawyer for seven years.

She won her first seat in the Austrian parliament in the 2017 elections as a candidate for the Pils list, and became the first MP with a Bosnian migration background. “Bosnia and Herzegovina can count on me,” she told the Bosnian media at the time. In the 2019 elections, she ran as a member of the Greens, and was re-elected.

" I left my job as a lawyer and went into politics because I wanted to show that diversity and cohesion make us strong. When I fled to Austria as a 10-year-old girl with my family because of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we were accepted. Now I’m in politics to give society back what I got – opportunities!” Zadic wrote on her party web page.

In Peter Pilz’s team, she had been in charge of integration issues and had advocated the formation of a special ministry for integration issues. In an earlier interview, she stated that she had left the international law firm and embarked on a career to combat discrimination because she believed Austria was standing at a crossroads, that fear of refugees and migrants was spreading, and right-wing parties were taking advantage of it.

However, not everyone has received news of her appointment with enthusiasm. Verbal attacks have followed from right-wingers, mostly from members of the far-right Austrian Freedom Party, FPO.

She has been the target of such verbal attacks before. In June 2018, during a discussion on the protection of intelligence officials, an MP from the OVP – the party with whom her Greens will now share the government – said: “You are not in Bosnia, do not interfere!” The deputy, Johann Raedler, later stated that he had not meant anything wrong.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

Turkey Hails ‘Gulenist’ Deportation From Albania as MIT ‘Success’

Hamdi Firat Buyuk and Gjergj Erebara
Sarajevo, Tirana
January 3, 2020
Media claims that Turkey’s state intelligence service played the key role in the extradition of an alleged Gulenist, Harun Celik, have embarrassed Albania – which denies foreign involvement.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama. Photo: EPA/STR

Albania has denied that the Turkish state intelligence agency, the MIT, was involved in the extradition on January 1 of an alleged supporter of the exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Teacher Harun Celik was arrested in Albania in July 2019 while apparently trying to travel from Kazakhstan to Canada via Tirana on fake documents.

A Turkish pro-government TV station, AHaber TV Channel, said Celik was now in Istanbul Police Station, and would be transferred to court after the paperwork and interrogation are done.

Celik mostly likely faces charges of being a member of a terrorist organisation and of spying against the Turkish state – the usual charges for alleged “Gulenists”.

Albania insists that everything was done in line with normal procedures for expelling a foreign national who had attempted to enter the country using fake documentation.

“This person was in prison after border police arrested him at Rinas [international airport] using fake papers. Based on the law, ‘On Foreigners’, he will be expelled,” police spokesperson Gentjan Mullai told BIRN.

Mullai refused to comment on the alleged role of the MIT and said: “an official statement will be released later”.

However, Turkish media have hailed the rendition as “a successful operation” carried out by the MIT, a claim that has embarrassed the Albanian authorities, which continue to rebuff claims of foreign involvement.

Tirana has also denied that Celik’s forced return to Turkey was a product of the close relationship between Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“This was a matter of legal procedures, not related to the Prime Minister’s office,” Endri Fuga, Rama’s spokesperson, told BIRN.

Celik’s lawyer in Albania, Alban Bengasi, said the alleged “Gulenist” had submitted an application for political asylum, so his expulsion from Albania was illegal.

Opposition parties have expressed concern about whether due process was followed.

“It is the utmost priority for any democratic country, especially for the [sake of its] European Union integration processes, to respect these principles, rights and obligations,” the opposition Democratic Party stated on Twitter, referencing Albania’s EU membership hopes.

The Turkish government accuses Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the US, of being behind a failed coup attempt in 2016. After the coup attempt, it started to refer to Gulen’s movement as the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organisation”, or FETO, for short.

Since then, it has arrested tens of thousands of people, fired hundreds of thousands from public-service jobs and closed down thousands of companies, NGOs and educational institutions because of alleged links with Gulen.

Ankara has also pressured Balkan states to hand over alleged Gulenists and close down any institutions related to the cleric’s movement.

Most have resisted the Turkish government’s call for extraditions, but the MIT intelligence agency has been involved in two controversial operations to send back Gulenist suspects, from Kosovo and Moldova, which sparked political rows in both countries.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member
If those sympathetic to Iran wanted to create mass deadly confusion, this would be an opportunity.

Montenegro Religion Law Protests Spread Around Serbia
Serbian Orthodox Church priests and citizens during the protest in Podgorica, Montenegro, January 2, 2020. Photo: Milos Vujovic.

Samir Kajosevic and Maja Zivanovic
Belgrade, Podgorica
January 3, 2020

As protests over a new law on religion in Montenegro spill over into neighbouring Serbia, all eyes are on whether Serbia’s President will carry out his plan to visit Montenegro and support local Serbs there.
Following mass protests by ethnic Serbs in Montenegro against the recently adopted Law on Religious Freedom, which they say targets the assets of the Serbian Orthodox Church, agitation against the law has spread to neighbouring Serbia.
On Thursday, several thousand fans of the Belgrade sports club Red Star marched to the Montenegrin embassy to support the protests in Montenegro against the law.
Singing “Serbia and Montenegro are family”, and “Milo, thief, we won’t give you holy places”, they launched fireworks at the Montenegrin flag on the building. [The reference to “Milo” was to Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic.]

Several far-right organisations also joined the rally. Although the event was announced, the embassy was left unguarded by the Serbian police, with only undercover security units present, which sparked sharp criticism from Montenegro.

On Friday, the Montenegrin Foreign Ministry summoned the new Serbian ambassador, Vladimir Bozovic, to protest over the football fans’ rally and the attempt to target the flag.

Serbia has a history of violent protests in front of diplomatic missions. In 2008, Serbian nationalists torched the US embassy in Belgrade during a protest against US support for Kosovo’s declaration of independence.

All eyes now are on Orthodox Christmas Eve in Montenegro, on January 6, when tens of thousands of believers are expected to protest again in Montenegro – and when Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has said he may join them.

Vucic has never officially visited Montenegro since he took the power in 2012, nor ever officially attended the Christmas liturgy in Serbia as either president or prime minister – but has announced plans to do so in the north of Montenegro.

“It is my desire and obligation to be with our people when it is difficult …. the greatest Orthodox holiday is a time for forgiveness and reconciliation, a time to show unity as a people, without offending or provoking. I do not plan to give political speeches,” Vucic told Serbian TV station Pink on Friday.

He said a final decision about whether to visit Montenegro would be made in the next 36 hours – but added that his plan had already been blessed by Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Irinej.

Some Serbs in Montenegro have criticised the announced visit, however, saying Vucic is not welcome, partly because he has not spoken out much in support of the protests until now.

The Montenegrin authorities, which regularly complain of “interference” from Serbia, have reacted to the announced visit surprisingly mildly, calling it a “private visit”, prompting speculation that it has been agreed with President Djukanovic.

The leading Serbian bishop in Montenegro, Metropolitan Amfilohije, is no fan of Vucic’s and has criticised him before – mainly for his allegedly soft stance towards the breakaway former province of Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008.

The 82-year-old Metropolitan has used almost every available opportunity to talk about Kosovo – and accuse Vucic and other Serbian leaders of planning to recognise its independence.

On Thursday, the Rector of Cetinje Theology, Gojko Perovic, an influential member of the Serbian Church in Montenegro, said Vucic should visit in an official capacity but not during the Christmas holidays.

“Religious holidays are not an opportunity for this, especially not in a situation where we are fighting for the rights of the Church, not of any nation or ethnic group,” Perovic told the daily Dan on Friday.

A theologian from Serbia, Mladen Aleksic, told BIRN that the Serbian authorities and the Serbian Church leadership usually cooperated, and Vucic’s announced arrival in Montenegro was clearly intended to send a clear message of support to the Serbian Church there.

But Aleksic added that while Vucic wished to support the Church and Patriarch Irinej in particular, he might not be ready to support all the bishops, referring to the famously hard-line Amfilohije.

Aleksic noted that that some pro-government media were trying to denigrate bishops who opposed Vucic, even spinning that Amfilohije was “trying to split the Church of Montenegro and make himself Patriarch of a newly formed Montenegrin Church”.

the run-up to Orthodox Christmas Eve on Monday, when the Church in Montenegro is expected to announce its strategy to fight the law, the protests in Montenegro have become bigger.

For five days, both believers and suppporters of the pro-Serbian opposition parties have organised peaceful walks and processions in Montenegrin towns. The Church estimated that around 50,000 people attended walks on Thursday, which is almost 10 per cent of the total population.

Tens of thousands were expected to take to the streets on Friday in several towns and cities, including the capital, Podgorica.

During a church service in Bijelo Polje on Thursday, one of the leading bishops, Joanikije, again called on the government to withdraw the law, and said the protests would continue.

“We do not fight with fire and sword but with truth and justice. When it all came to this absurdity, we went out to publicly testify to our disagreement, along with our people,” Joanikije said.

Last week, police clashed with protesters and both sides suffered injuries, but since then the Church has taken the lead, switching over to processions and peaceful walks.

The Church has announced that it will challenge the law before the country’s Constitutional Court, but has so far offered no details about the strategy.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member
I guess Cyprus decided to end what could have become a big fiasco in its tourism not to mention the military situation heating up.

UK woman in Cyprus gang rape case gets suspended sentence

PARALIMNI, Cyprus (AP) — A Cyprus court on Tuesday handed a four-month suspended sentence to a 19-year-old British woman who was found guilty of public mischief after authorities said she made up claims that she was raped by up to a dozen Israelis.

The woman continues to insist that she was raped, and that she was coerced into withdrawing her statement. Her lawyers say she will appeal.

Judge Michalis Papathanasiou said although the public mischief charge was a serious offense, he decided to give the woman a “second chance” because she admitted through her lawyers during mitigation that she made a mistake in making the false rape claim.

He also cited other reasons, including her young age, immaturity, clean criminal record, personal circumstances, psychological condition and the fact that she had already spent a month in detention during the six months that legal proceedings including her trial lasted.

The judge said he also took into account that the huge publicity that her case has received in U.K. and Israeli media had weighed against the woman, who had to put her academic career on hold as she was due to start university in September.

Papathanasiou also fined the woman 140 euros ($156) and told her defense lawyers that the sentence could be activated if she commits another serious offense within three years.

Under Cyprus law, public mischief carries a maximum one-year prison term and a 1,700-euro ($2,000) fine.

The woman’s mother told reporters that she was “very relieved to be going home” after months of legal proceedings. Despite the suspended sentence, she said defense lawyers would try to overturn the conviction so that it’s expunged from her permanent record.

British lawyer Lewis Power, who’s part of the woman’s defense team, said an appeal would be filed with Cyprus’ Supreme Court and possibly with the European Court of Human Rights for “elements of this case which did not result in a fair trial.”

“(The woman) intends to have a positive outlook to move on from this process, not to let this process ruin her life,” Power told The Associated Press. “She’s delighted today, not just for herself, but for the impact that this case has had on all those women that are the subject of sexual assaults around the world.

She said she was “inspired and motivated” by the public support her daughter received from the U.K., Israel and Cyprus.

The case drew widespread interest in the U.K. and Israel after initial reports that the woman was the victim of a gang rape evolved into her being charged with making up claims of rape. The guilty verdict also triggered strong reaction from activist groups.

The woman insisted that she was raped in a hotel room at a coastal resort town on July 17 and that she was forced to sign the retraction 10 days later while under police questioning. All of the Israelis, aged 15-20, were then released and allowed to return home.

Reading his verdict last week, Papathanasiou said the defendant didn’t tell the truth and tried to deceive the court with “evasive” statements in her testimony.

The judge said the woman had admitted to investigators that she made up the claims because she was “ashamed” after finding out that some of the Israelis had videoed her having consensual sex with her Israeli boyfriend on their mobile phones. He had also said her admission was “the only time the defendant told the truth.”

While the judge was reading his sentence, a noisy group of demonstrators who showed up to support the woman chanted slogans outside the court house including, “Cyprus justice, shame on you” and “Stop blaming the victim.” Many cheered when they heard that the judge handed down a suspended sentence.

Anna Kleiman, of the Israeli activist group LOTEM, called the woman’s conviction “disgraceful” because it leaves her with a criminal record and makes it difficult for her to “pursue her dreams.”

“This is shameful that she was even suspected for the beginning and it’s unbelievable. We are furious,” Kleiman told the AP.

Nir Yaslovitzh, who represented some of the Israelis in the case, had called for a harsh sentence, but said it sufficed that the court convicted the woman.

“We respect the court’s decision. What was important to us was that the woman would be convicted and the version told by the clients I represented would be accepted,” he said.

Power said it remains to be seen if the “triumphalism” that some of the Israelis exhibited on their return to Israel after their release from Cyprus police custody were the actions “of people who were innocent of a crime.”


AP writer Ami Bentov in Lod, Israel, contributed to this report.


Disaster Cat
The "boys" (young men's soccer team) were stupid enough to film the whole thing and then when they got back to Isreal were singing "The Brits a Hoorer" at the airport!

All the medical doctors and professionals I've seen talking about this insist the gang rape of some sort did happen, she had injuries consistent with it, and was in grave danger of serious illness or worse if jailed.

It seems that this judge has a history of "going light" on such things and used the fact that the girl had consented to sex with ONE player (who she was having a Summer Romance with) who then held her down so all his teammates could have a go.

While originally the public in Isreal I gather supported the young men, that is starting to turn there too as more facts come out - no one sane in this day and age believes that consenting to sex with one person is the same as agreeing to gang rape, leaving obvious injuries and a video!

Tourist companies were pulling out of their Cyprus contracts right left and center, it was constant front-page news in the UK and Cyprus knew it was about to be blackballed from one of its most important sources of income (European Tourism) for the next five or six years if things were not sorted.

As it is the outcome isn't perfect, but at least the young women is to go home and I suspect will never be forced to go back, the Brits are livid about this one (and they should be).

Yes there are cases where women make false accusations but this in no way seems to be one of them.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member
Orban must be giving a humdinger of a speech today. Two stories from Reuters!

Hungary PM says European conservatives losing influence, flags new party grouping

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - The European People’s Party, the European parliament’s umbrella centre-right bloc, is losing influence as it has shifted toward liberal and centrist policies which needs to change, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Thursday.

“If the European People’s Party is unable to change course, then a new initiative will be needed in European politics, a new direction,” Orban told a news conference.

“If we cannot achieve this change within the People’s Party, then we will present a new initiative in European party life, because we need to create a counterweight to the rise of (French President Emmanuel) Macron’s movement,” Orban said.

The EPP suspended membership of Orban’s Fidesz party last year over concern about Orban’s populist anti-immigration campaigns and erosion of the rule of law, freedom of the press and minority rights under his tenure.

Orban said the question was whether his ruling Fidesz would be able to have an impact on the EPP’s future direction and in the coming weeks this will become clearer.

Orban, a staunch opponent of mass immigration to Europe from the Middle East, Asia and North Africa, said the EPP should return to its conservative roots on issues of immigration, the traditional family model and the supremacy of national culture.

He declined comment on whether this meant he would try to forge a new conservative group within the European Parliament, however, he noted that he had met with his Polish ally, ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski this week.

The EPP has said it would send a group of “wise men” to investigate conditions in Hungary and decide whether to keep Fidesz among its ranks, a process that new EPP Chairman Donald Tusk expects to close by the end of January.

Orban said he had not seen any document drawn up by the panel and did not know whether such a document existed.

Reporting by Marton Dunai and Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Toby Chopra
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Hungary wants EU position on Iran to be closer to U.S. stance: PM

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary wants the European stance on the U.S.-Iran conflict to be closer that held by the Unites States, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Thursday.

The European Union’s foreign ministers meet on Friday in Brussels to discuss the Iran crisis, with a focus on easing tensions between Washington and Tehran.

European Council President Charles Michel said on Thursday he had spoken to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and urged Tehran to comply with a 2015 arms control agreement with world powers to curb its nuclear ambitions. Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday urged world powers to quit the accord that Washington abandoned in 2018 and work for a new deal. Iran has rejected new talks.

“I would like for the European stance, which is not clear on this Iranian issue, to be oriented toward the Israeli-United States stance,” Orban told a news conference.

Orban, who has frequently chafed at EU policy, met Trump last year, when Trump lauded him for being tough on immigration, a policy area in which the two leaders have similar visions. Orban also has warm relations with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

Orban said conditions were in place to evacuate Hungarian troops from Iraq if necessary.

Reporting by Marton Dunai and Krisztina Than; Editing by Toby Chopra and Alison Williams
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member
Spain formed a coalition government under the Socialists on Tuesday because some parties, especially the Catalonian separatists agreed to abstain from the vote. I think Spain's high court may have just blown up that deal.

Spain's top court says jailed Catalan separatist cannot be released: El Mundo


MADRID (Reuters) - The sentencing of Catalan separatist leader Oriol Junqueras to 13 years in prison barred him from enjoying immunity as a member of the European Parliament and he has to remain behind bars, Spain’s Supreme Court ruled on Thursday, according to El Mundo newspaper.

The decision comes three weeks after the European Union’s highest court ruled that the Catalan leader was entitled to immunity as an MEP. A spokeswoman for the court said she was unaware of the contents of the ruling.

Junqueras was sentenced in October over his role in Catalonia’s failed bid for secession in 2017. He was elected an MEP while in prison awaiting the verdict and has not been able to take up his seat.

Reporting by Jose Elías Rodríguez and Inti Landauro; Writing by Ashifa Kassam
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member
It has finally dawned on me that this is a BIG DEAL in the UK. But then what do I know with war on the horizon? I'm just a dumb yank.

Uproar in UK over Harry and Meghan’s step back from royals

Britain’s royal family scrambled Thursday to contain the fallout from the surprise announcement by Prince Harry and Meghan that they plan “to step back” from royal duties, a shift that ignited media outrage and public unease in the U.K.

The couple’s declaration that they planned to forge a “progressive” new path for royals in the modern world clearly upset senior royals — who apparently weren’t told of the decision in advance.

Britain’s media didn’t like it either, lambasting the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in articles, columns and editorials Thursday that expressed everything from disappointment to fury.

The Daily Mirror said in an editorial that the couple’s failure to tell Harry’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, about their plans “shows shocking disregard for a woman whose entire life has been ruled by a sense of public duty and honor.” The Times of London accused Harry of “petulance and hot-headedness,” while the Daily Mail said the couple wanted “the status of being ‘senior’ royals but the privacy and freedom of being private citizens.”

The Sun and the New York Post described the departure as “Megxit,” a play on Brexit, Britain’s impending departure this month from the European Union. The New York Post, a Rupert Murdoch paper, featured a cover cartoon drawing of the couple’s alleged future: the duchess in curlers holding a cigarette while Harry in a stained T-shirt cradled a beer in front of a television.

Harry, 35, is Elizabeth’s grandson and sixth in line to the British throne, behind his father, brother and his brother’s three children. With his ginger hair and beard, he is one of the royal family’s most recognizable and popular members and has spent his entire life in the public eye.

Before marrying the prince in a royal wedding watched around the world in 2018, the 38-year-old Duchess of Sussex was American actress Meghan Markle, star of the TV legal drama “Suits.” The couple’s first child, Archie, was born in May 2019.

Full Coverage: Harry and Meghan
The uproar began Wednesday with a statement from Buckingham Palace, described as “a personal message from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.” It said Harry and Meghan intend to become financially independent and to “balance” their time between the U.K. and North America.

“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution,” the statement said. “We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the royal family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support her majesty the queen.”

Hours after Harry and Meghan’s announcement, though, a difference of opinion was laid bare. Buckingham Palace issued a second statement, saying many issues still had to be worked out before the couple’s plan could be realized and discussions with the couple “were at an early stage.”

That communique hinted that Harry and Meghan’s statement had caught the royal household by surprise.

“We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through,″ it read.

The message about their future plans was also posted on the couple’s official Instagram page and referred readers to their website for information. But the statement and launching of the website was apparently not cleared with senior royals or their advisers.

It was not known exactly where in North America the couple planned to spend some of their time. Meghan grew up in Los Angeles and lived in Toronto while filming “Suits.”

Harry and his family skipped the queen’s traditional Christmas gathering at her Sandringham estate last month to spend the holidays on Vancouver Island off the west coast of Canada and see Markle’s mother Doria, who lives in California.

The royal pair described their new roles on their new website. The site noted that the Sovereign Grant, which funds the monarchy, covers just 5% of the costs for the duke and duchess and is used for their official office expenses. They said they want to cut this financial tie.

The couple also announced a new media relations policy “to ensure diverse and open access to their work.″ The policy includes them opting out of a pool system that guarantees media coverage of royal events to Britain’s media.

“Under this system, the rota, or pool, gives these British media representatives the opportunity to exclusively cover an event, on the understanding that they will share factual material obtained with other members of their sector who request it,″ the website said. “The current system predates the dramatic transformation of news reporting in the digital age.″

As an actress and a human rights activist, the duchess was accustomed to media attention before her marriage, but she has made no secret of the fact that the transition to being a global celebrity and part of Britain’s royal family was difficult. The royal couple particularly took issue with their treatment at the hands of the British tabloids, whose aggressive coverage of all things royal is legendary.

The royal couple revealed their struggles with the media during an ITV documentary “Harry & Meghan: An African Journey,” which followed them on a recent tour of Southern Africa. Both said they had struggled with the spotlight, particularly because they say much of what is printed is untrue.

The duchess told ITV last year that her British friends warned her not to marry the prince because of the intense media scrutiny that would follow in his country. But the U.S. television star said she “naively” dismissed the warnings, because as an American she didn’t understand how the British press worked.

“I never thought this would be easy, but I thought it would be fair,″ she said. “And that is the part that is hard to reconcile.”

The announcement left a slew of questions in its wake, including whether the couple should repay taxpayer funds used on their home, Frogmore Cottage in Windsor. Taxpayers paid 2.4 million pounds to renovate the Grade-2 listed building.

Simon Webb, 73, of King’s Lynn in eastern England, said the couple should pay the money back if they are stepping back from royal duties.

“I don’t think they can keep dipping in and out as it suits them, because that’s what they seem to do,″ he said.

The royal family will also be watching to see how the public reacts to the news. Many royal watchers on Thursday offered sympathy for the queen.

“We don’t mind them having an ordinary life. What we don’t like is the queen not being informed about nothing,” said royal fan John Loughrey, adding that the British public did not want to see the royal couple “isolated” abroad.

“It is a crisis,″ he said. “We have got a crisis here. Seriously.”


Associated Press reporters Jill Lawless and Gregory Katz contributed.


Follow full AP coverage at


Disaster Cat
It is the fact they didn't inform the queen (or get her permission) that is shocking and causing extreme reactions in the UK, even Edward the Seventh was careful to abdicate and step down properly and with respect to the office he held and was giving up for his intended wife.

Just blowing it out there, well it does threaten the monarchy especially on the heels of Randy Andy's exploits - not as long as the Queen is alive probably, but there has always been the question of "value for money" when it comes to keeping a royal family and there are plenty of "Republicans" (those who want an elected head of state rather than a king or queen) in the UK.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

UK lawmakers back EU exit deal, turning page on Brexit crisis


LONDON (Reuters) - Lawmakers approved legislation on Thursday which will allow Britain to leave the European Union on Jan. 31 with an exit deal, ending more than three years of tumult over the terms of the unprecedented divorce.

They voted 330 to 231 in favor of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, which implements an exit deal agreed with the EU last year.

That allows Prime Minister Boris Johnson to turn the page on one of Britain’s deepest political crises in decades, putting an end to the fears of an immediate disorderly exit which had cast a shadow over the economy and fueled divisions over the 2016 referendum decision to leave the EU.

“It is time to get Brexit done. This bill does so,” Brexit minister Stephen Barclay told lawmakers, summing up hours of debate in parliament.

The legislation now heads to parliament’s upper chamber and is expected to become law in the coming weeks, leaving enough time to allow Britain to leave at the end of the month with a deal to minimize economic disruption.

In recent years, financial markets have been mesmerized by the twists and turns of Britain’s Brexit drama, with its acrimonious negotiations in Brussels, knife-edge votes in parliament and heavy defeats for unstable governments.

But after Johnson called a snap election late last year and then won a large majority by promising to deliver Brexit at the end of January, the uncertainty over when and how Britain will leave the EU has largely abated.

The focus has instead turned to upcoming talks on long-term arrangements with the EU that will kick in when a transition period - during which Britain remains subject to EU rules - ends on Dec. 31.

Johnson is adamant that the free-trade deal he wants can be negotiated in time, but his EU counterparts are less convinced.

On Wednesday, Johnson met European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in London hours after she had made a speech saying it would be “basically impossible” to agree everything by the end of the year.

FILE PHOTO: Anti-Brexit protesters are seen in front of Downing Street in London, Britain, January 8, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Johnson’s opponents, many of whom argued to stop Brexit or give the public another vote, say his approach risks creating another ‘no-deal’ cliff-edge at the end of the year when the transition period ends.

However, Von der Leyen has indicated that even if a whole deal cannot be negotiated in time, the most important and potentially disruptive parts can be prioritized.

Reporting by William James, editing by Elizabeth Piper and Stephen Addison
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

EU Negotiator: EU Must Control UK State Aid Policy After Brexit or No Deal
European Union lead negotiator Michel Barnier has warned that the bloc is still preparing for a No Deal Brexit, particularly if Britain will not let the EU dictate how it administers state aid.
“If the UK wants an open link with us for the products – zero tariffs, zero quotas – we need to be careful about zero dumping at the same time,” the Frenchman said in Stockholm, Sweden.

“I hope that this point is and will be correctly understood by everybody. We will ask necessarily certain conditions on state aid policy in the UK,” he warned.
Most countries around the world agree to certain restrictions on the extent to which national governments can come to the aid of national industries through subsidies, tax breaks, and so on, in rules outlined by the World Trade Organization (WTO) — but the European Union goes much further, making it even more difficult for member-state governments to favour domestic firms for government contracts, assist ailing steel plants, etc.
The EU has been clear that one of its negotiation objections during the upcoming “transition” period — in which Britain will be out of the EU in name but an EU member-state without institutional representation in practice while a trade deal is negotiated (or not) — is to make Britain agree to continue to follow EU state aid rules.

The bloc has also indicated that it wants to exercise some control over the extent to which Britain can cut its taxes in the name of a so-called “level playing field” — fearing that a less bureaucratic, lower tax Britain would be too competitive compared to a European Union notorious for red tape and inflexibility.

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“If Prime Minister Johnson does not want an extension of the transition period beyond the end of the year – and yesterday when we met him with [President of the European Commission] Ursula von der Leyen, he told us very clearly that he does not want such an extension – we will have less than 11 months to conclude a deal,” Barnier warned.
“If we fail, the transition period will end on 1 January 2021 without any arrangements for a new future relationship in place,” he continued — in other words, if United Kingdom in the European Union cannot agree a trade deal by the end of the “transition”, they will revert to a “No Deal” trade relationship based on WTO rules.
“[This] would mean the return of tariffs and quotas: a total anachronism for interconnected economies like ours,” he said.
“Of course, this is not what the EU wants. But it is nonetheless a scenario that everyone must continue to prepare for – at EU level, but also at national level, and here in Sweden.”
However, many Brexit campaigners — most notably Brexit Party leaders Nigel Farage and Richard Tice — have long argued that WTO-based “Clean Brexit” is in fact be the most desirable form of Brexit if the EU will not agree a simple free trade agreement based on zero tariffs and mutual recognition of standards, given it would give Britain maximum control over domestic policy and maximum flexibility to turn the country into a commercial powerhouse.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

Europe's Nigerian Mafia
Profile picture for user Tyler Durden
by Tyler Durden
Fri, 01/10/2020 - 03:30

Authored by Judith Bergman via The Gatestone Institute,
One of the fastest growing criminal networks in Europe is now the Nigerian mafia, which is spreading its criminal activities across the continent. It consists of rival groups such as Black Axe, Vikings and Maphite. Most recently, authorities in Italy, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Malta conducted an international operation directed at two of the major Nigerian mafia groups. Police accused the gangs of human-trafficking, drug trafficking, robbery, extortion, sexual violence and prostitution.

According to a June 2019 report by the Washington Post on the Nigerian mafia in Italy:

"They hold territory from the north in Turin to the south in Palermo. They smuggle drugs and traffic women, deploying them as prostitutes on Italy's streets. They find new members among the caste of wayward migrants, illicitly recruiting at Italian government-run asylum centers."
The Nigerian mafia, according to the report, is "trafficking women by the tens of thousands". Italian intelligence has named the group "the most structured and dynamic" of any foreign crime entity operating in Italy, according to the Washington Post.
"Some experts say that as many as 20,000 Nigerian women, some of them minors, arrived in Sicily between 2016 and 2018, trafficked in cooperation with Nigerians in Italy and back home."
It is no wonder that the Nigerian group has become so prominent in Italy: the country has been one of Europe's front doors for migrants entering Europe.

What distinguishes the Nigerian crime networks is their severe brutality -- Italian police have described them as using "urban guerilla warfare" to hold on to territory in Italy -- and their use of voodoo rituals. According to a July 2017 report by the UN's International Organization for Migration (IOM), sex trafficked victims give an oath "sealed with a voodoo ritual or a rite of initiation (the victim is committed to honouring her agreement)" to their traffickers and also harbor "a fear of retaliation by traffickers on the victim's family members back in their country of origin".
According to the 2017 IOM report:
"Over the past three years, IOM Italy has seen an almost 600 per cent increase in the number of potential sex trafficking victims arriving in Italy by sea. This upward trend has continued during the first six months of 2017, with most victims arriving from Nigeria".
In its report, IOM estimated that 80 per cent of girls, often minors, arriving from Nigeria -- whose numbers soared dramatically from 1,454 in 2014 to 11,009 in 2016 -- were "potential victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation".
The Nigerian mafia has not limited its operations to just Italy. It has spread as far north in Europe as Germany and Sweden. In London, a trio of Black Axe members was found guilty of laundering almost £1 million, which had been stolen through phone and email fraud. The Nigerian mafia, specifically the group Black Axe, has also spread to Canada, where a 2015 report by the Globe and Mail described it as a "death cult" originating in Nigeria, where it has been linked to "decades of murders and rapes, and its members are said to swear a blood oath". In the US, the FBI recently linked a series of financial frauds to Black Axe. According to the news report, "In the United States and around the world, the group is responsible for the loss of millions of dollars through a variety of elaborate cons".

In Sweden, police has described Black Axe as "one of the world's most effective crime syndicates". Swedish media recently ran a story that shows how Black Axe operates: A 16-year-old Nigerian girl was promised a job in Sweden as a hair stylist. When she arrived, Black Axe forced her to work as a prostitute, after she had gone through a voodoo ritual. "We have your blood now", Black Axe members told her, "If you run we will always find you".
In 2018, three Nigerians were prosecuted in Malmö for luring Nigerian women to Sweden with the promise of jobs and then forcing them into prostitution after making them go through a voodoo ritual that involved the eating of a raw chicken heart. According to the Swedish prosecutor, the voodoo ritual is a way to control and exploit the trafficked victims, who believe in voodoo.
Similar rituals went on in the UK in 2018, when a trafficker sought to traffic Nigerian women from Nigeria to Germany and in Spain, also in 2018, when a trafficking ring of 12 Nigerians was arrested, also for forcing women into prostitution and putting them through similar voodoo rites. In Germany, according to a recent report by Deutsche Welle, a growing number of Nigerian women are ending up as prostitutes in one of Germany's largest red-light districts in Duisburg, and according to Barbara Wellner of Solidarity with Women in Distress, "Nigerian human traffickers are responsible for smuggling in most of them".

The number of Nigerian women trafficked into prostitution in Germany, while still relatively small, has been growing in recent years, according to a March 2019 report by Info-Migrants. In 2013, just 2.8% of known victims were from Nigeria. That went up to 5% in 2016 and up to 8% in 2017. According to the report, which quotes Andrea Tivig from the women's rights organization, Terre des Femmes, the traffickers use the asylum system:

"I've heard reports in Italy... that traffickers tell victims of human trafficking to apply for asylum and then get a status to be able to stay here in Germany, but they continue to be exploited in prostitution."
The Nigerian mafia groups form just one part, albeit very troubling, of the total picture of imported migrant gang crime in Europe. As previously reported by Gatestone Institute, migrant gang crime already poses a threat to European citizens. In November 2018, Naser Khader, member of the Danish Parliament for the Conservative Party and co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement, wrote in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten:

"In addition to a common fondness for crime, the culture of immigrant gangs is a cocktail of religion, clan affiliation, honor, shame and brotherhood... The harder and the more brutal [you are], the stronger you are, and then you create awareness of yourself and attract more [people]".
In Sweden, migrant gang crime has become an almost insurmountable problem: some commentators there have described the situation as "war". Denmark is increasingly fighting migrant gang crime. In Germany, where the migrant gangs are known as criminal family clans, authorities expect to be fighting the problem for decades to come.

In policy debates, the detrimental effects of migration on crime, particularly gang crime, do not receive nearly the attention -- if any -- they deserve. They should.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

EU parliament stops recognizing jailed Catalan separatist as lawmaker

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Jailed Catalan leader Oriol Junqueras’ mandate as a European Union (EU) lawmaker is over, the legislature’s head said on Friday, in a blow to the Spanish separatist movement.

European Parliament president David Sassoli said decisions this month by Spain’s electoral board and Supreme Court blocking Junqueras from occupying his seat meant he had effectively no longer been a legislator for the bloc from Jan. 3.

Junqueras was sentenced to 13 years in prison in Octoberover his role in Catalonia’s failed bid for secession in 2017.He was elected an EU parliament member while in prison awaiting the verdict, but has not been able to take up his seat.

His case had got a boost last month after the EU’s highest tribunal ruled Junqueras was entitled to immunity, but Spain’s Supreme Court rejected that on Thursday.

Junqueras’ Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) party said it was “outraged” by the EU parliament’s decision and would appeal. “We ... demand that ... the interests of a member state do not prevail over the interests of the union,” it said.

Spain’s constitution prohibits regions from breaking away and the Catalan independence drive, including a banned referendum in 2017, has been a national political crisis.

Reporting by Marine Strauss; Editing by Jessica Jones and Andrew Cawthorne
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

JANUARY 10, 2020 / 12:10 PM / UPDATED 4 HOURS AGO
Northern Ireland to get devolved government back after three-year gap

Ian Graham

BELFAST (Reuters) - The main Irish nationalist and pro-British unionist parties in Northern Ireland agreed to return to a power-sharing government on Friday after a three-year hiatus, ending a standoff that had threatened a key part of the province’s 1998 peace settlement.

FILE PHOTO: Northern Ireland's Sinn Fein politicians Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O'Neill talk to the media outside the Houses of Parliament, as uncertainty over Brexit continues, in London, Britain, Britain, April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Sinn Fein, the largest nationalist party, followed its rival, the Democratic Unionist Party, in backing a draft deal brokered by the Irish and British governments to end the devolved assembly’s suspension.

London had taken on greater administrative responsibility for the British province as the two parties blamed each other for the failure of successive attempts to break the deadlock. They had faced the threat of fresh elections if a deadline on Monday passed.

“We now have a basis for power sharing and we’re up for that,” Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said, almost three years to the day after her party walked out saying the DUP was not treating it as an equal.

“There is absolutely no doubt that there are serious challenges ahead but the most significant challenge will be ensuring we have genuine power-sharing, based on equality.”

The importance of the devolved administration has increased because a provision in Britain’s European Union withdrawal deal will give the assembly the right every four years to consider whether to maintain alignment with EU market rules.

The tortuous Brexit process had complicated talks in Belfast, with Irish nationalists wanting to remain in or close to the EU and unionists fearing such alignment could undermine the province its place in the United Kingdom and pave the way to a united island of Ireland.
Northern Ireland, which suffered through three decades of sectarian violence before the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, is the only part of the UK to have a land border with an EU nation, and the divorce deal ensures its border with Ireland remains open.
The DUP propped up a minority British government for more than two years until last month’s snap election, another stumbling block in the talks with Sinn Fein that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s emphatic victory removed.
The two big Northern Irish parties’ share of the vote fell in those elections while budget issues in the health service, culminating in a strike by local nurses this week, also raised pressure on them to cut a deal.
Sinn Fein had been seeking increased rights for Irish speakers and a reform of the system of governance to prevent the DUP, the largest party, from blocking legislation using a clause from the 1998 peace deal to protect minority rights.

The draft deal offers a new cultural framework to “protect and enhance” the Irish language as well as the related Ulster Scots language, while meaningful reform of the so-called ‘petition of concern’ mechanism would mean it would no longer constitute a veto for one party.
The influential Orange Order, a pro-British society that holds large annual parades and counts DUP politicians among its members, said it opposed the deal due to the “far reaching” Irish language provisions.
Reporting by Ian Graham, writing by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Kevin Liffey
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

EU in danger? Deadly African swine fever in Bulgaria puts pork industry at risk
THE EUROPEAN UNION’s pork industry is under threat as thousands of pigs have been slaughtered across Europe following a deadly outbreak of African swine fever.
16:04, Fri, Jan 10, 2020 | UPDATED: 16:22, Fri, Jan 10, 2020

Bulgaria is the latest nation to be hit as the deadly disease has been identified in four different regions already in 2020. At least 24,500 animals were killed on Tuesday on a large pig farm in the north-east of Shumen, according to the TV station bTV. Other cases of swine fever have been recorded in the Sliven area in the southeast and near Gabrovo in the Balkan Mountains. And the latest outbreak has been in a farm in the village of Brestak.

This has brought the total number of pigs slaughtered to 39,600.

Bulgaria has tried to prevent swine fever hitting for many years.

This is due to neighbouring country Romania having a rampant number of cases.

130-kilometre fence was even built across the border in 2018 in a bid to stop the disease spreading through.
Thousands of pigs have been killed following an outbreak of African Swine Fever

Thousands of pigs have been killed following an outbreak of African Swine Fever in Europe (Image: GETTY)

African swine fever is not a health danger for humans.

However, it is deadly for pigs and boars.

The disease first spread in Africa, before hitting Europe and Asia.

It has killed hundreds of millions pigs overall, which has greatly reshaped global meat markets.

Bethan Wilkins, senior analyst at the UK’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, a state-backed market information body, warned Poland’s pork industry could be affected.

She told the FT: “Producers can see that if the disease spreads to the big exporters like Germany this could lead to big problems [in Europe].”

Germany’s government said at the end of last year it was also stepping up measures to prevent further cases of African swine fever.

Poland recorded 55 outbreaks of African swine fever in wild boar near the German border last month, the world animal health body said on Thursday.

The Polish farm ministry to the OIE were discovered between December 4 and December 23 in neighbouring villages in the states of Lubuskie and Wielkopolskie.

These areas are 75 to 100km from the German border.

A report posted on the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) website also showed that the disease had now been found in a village less than 30km from Germany.

This has sparked fears the deadly virus is spreading near one of the European Union’s biggest pork exporters.

There are said to be concerns in Germany that its exports of pork to China and other Asian countries could be in danger.
This is due to import bans regularly being imposed on pig meat from regions where African swine fever has been discovered.
A series of 90 cm high fences similar to those used to close farm fields were built by the state of Brandenburg in December to stop the disease spreading.
The state also allowed more shooting of boar, the state agriculture ministry confirmed.
There are fears the swine fever outbreak could affect global meat markets

There are fears the swine fever outbreak could affect global meat markets (Image: GETTY)

The state of Saxony said it is this week building a 4.5km electrified fence along a high risk sector close to the border with Poland.

Countries infected by severe animal diseases such as African swine fever or highly pathogenic bird flu, must warn the OIE immediately and submit regular follow-up reports.

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

France, The "Budding Islamic Republic"
Profile picture for user Tyler Durden
by Tyler Durden
Sat, 01/11/2020 - 08:10

Authored by Giulio Meotti via The Gatestone Institute,
"Five years after the killings at Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher, France has learned to live with the Islamist threat," wrote Yves Thréard, deputy editor at the daily newspaper Le Figaro.
"Not a month goes by... without a murderous attack with the cry of 'Allahu Akbar' taking place on our soil.... But what is the point of fighting the effects of Islamism if we do not tackle the origins of this ideology of death? On that front, however, denial continues to compete with naiveté. Nothing has changed in the last five years. On the contrary.
"In the name of diversity, non-discrimination and human rights, France has accepted a number of blows to its culture and history... Islamists are a hot-button issue. They continue the fight which, even without weapons, has all the allure of a war of civilizations. Is the famous 'Charlie spirit', which some people thought was blowing after the January 2015 attacks, just an illusion?"
France has been marking the fifth anniversary of the deadly jihadist attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which took place on January 7, 2015. Last month, French Senator Nathalie Goulet warned that more attacks were likely. "In France we have a serious problem and we need to do more to prevent extremists from acting. As it stands, there will be more attacks," said Goulet said.

There are believed to be 12,000 radical Islamists on France's terror watch-list, "however only a dozen are thought to be under 24-hour surveillance."
This week was marked by yet a new string of Islamist terror attacks: police injured a knife-wielding man on a street in the northeastern city of Metz, two days after a suspected Islamist radical in the Paris suburb of Villejuif stabbed a man to death, an act that prosecutors are treating as a terror attack. In both incidents, the assailants shouted "Allahu Akbar." This type of attack was dubbed "ordinary jihad" in a Le Figaro editorial this week.
On January 7, 2015, the cartoonists and journalists Cabu, Charb, Honoré, Tignous and Wolinski, the psychoanalyst Elsa Cayat, the economist Bernard Maris and the policeman Franck Brinsolaro fell under the bullets of the jihadist brothers Chérif and Saïd Kouachi. Charlie Hebdo's 2020 anniversary issue commemorated the massacre and slammed the "new gurus of monolithic thinking" who are trying to impose politically correct censorship.

The outburst of indignation of the French people, gathered in Paris for a massive demonstration on January 11, 2015, was not enough to awaken the spirit of resistance of the French leaders and elites against Islamism and its collaborators. "The seriousness of the Islamist political fact in France is strongly underestimated", says the lawyer Thibault de Montbrial, president France's Center for Internal Security Studies.
In a country that used to stand for freedom of expression, self-censorship is soaring.
"For the humorists in France, it's always easy to make fun of the Pope and the Catholics, it's always easy to make fun of Jews, it's always easy to make fun of Protestants," confesses a long-time Charlie Hebdo columnist, Patrick Pelloux. For Islam, it is not easy.
"We feel that this religion is scary. The word Islam is scary, and on that, the terrorists have won."
Submission is winning.
While French prisons have become a breeding ground for jihadists, the Islamization of the cities' suburbs, the banlieues, is proceeding full tilt. The weekly Le Point recently devoted a cover story to the "territories conquered by the Islamists." In many of these areas, violence rages; 1,500 cars were torched there on New Year's Eve. In recently published book, "Les territoires conquis de l'islamisme" ("The Territories Conquered by Islamism"), by Bernard Rougier, a professor at the University Sorbonne-Nouvelle and director of the Center for Arab and Oriental Studies, he explains that Islamism is an "hegemonic project", splintering working-class neighborhoods. These "ecosystems", he states, work on a "logic of rupture" of the French society, its values and institutions, and are built on mosques, bookstores, sport clubs and halal restaurants.

Hugo Micheron, a researcher at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, suggested that jihadists are comfortable in "territorial and community isolation". "Today," said the president of the Ministry of Education's Conseil supérieur des programmes, Souâd Ayada, "the visibility of Islam in France is saturated by the veil and the jihad".
While Islamist preachers and recruiters are out on the streets, seeking out the weak minds that will form the first line of their holy war, political Islam also forms electoral lists in France's suburbs. French President Emmanuel Macron opposed banning these political groups. "France is a budding Islamic republic," noted the Algerian novelist Boualem Sansal. In those "territories", he said, live many of the terrorists who attack France, from the Kouachi brothers of Charlie Hebdo to the jihadists who murdered scores of people at the Bataclan Theater.
Two populations who live "side by side" would soon find themselves "face to face", said Gérard Collomb, a former Minister of the Interior. He was right. Islamists are also housed inside public institutions.
Islamists have, in addition, recruited dozens of French soldiers and ex-servicemen who have converted to Islam. Many have come from commando units with expertise in handling weapons and explosives. France is turning into a "society of vigilance" in its fight against the "Hydra" of Islamist militancy, as Macron said.

In the five years since the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, which targeted freedom of expression, Islamists have been able to commit atrocities against targets such as a priest in a Catholic Church in Rouen; a national secular holiday (the Bastille Day attack in Nice); Jewish communities (from Paris to Toulouse), and ordinary people. Last October, an Islamist struck in one of France's most secure buildings: the monumental Paris Police headquarters near Notre Dame cathedral, where he murdered four of his colleagues. "This is a major turning point in Islamist terrorism", said Gilles Kepel, an expert on Middle East and jihadism.
"It is hard to believe that the police on which we rely to protect us and which is supposed to be our last rampart against terrorism, can itself be the victim of terrorism, with throats slit in the holy of holies of the Police Prefecture".
In the wake of the attack, seven police officers, "suspected of radicalization," had their guns confiscated.
"I have the impression that our immune defenses have collapsed and that Islamism is winning", says the French writer Pascal Bruckner.

Its main demands have been met: nobody dares to publish caricatures of Mohammed anymore. Self-censorship prevails.... Hate is directed against those who resist obscuring information rather than against those who obscure it. Not to mention the psychiatrization of terrorism, in order better to exonerate Islam. If we had been told in the early 2000s that in 2020, around 20 French cartoonists and intellectuals would be under police protection, no one would have believed it. The threshold of servitude has increased."
Five years after the terrorist murders at Charlie Hebdo, free speech is less free in France. "No one today would publish the cartoons of Muhammad", said Philippe Val, the former editor of Charlie Hebdo, recently.

"For the past five years, I've been going to the police station every month or so to file a complaint about death threats, not insults, death threats", says Marika Bret, a journalist at Charlie Hebdo today.

In Paris, five years after the murders at Charlie Hebdo, there was a big march to protest not terrorism, but "Islamophobia". "Voltaire fades before Muhammad, and the Enlightenment before the Submission", wrote the author Éric Zemmour. And Qatar still freely finances the construction of French mosques.

In 2017, two years after Jews were murdered in a terrorist attack at a kosher supermarket in Paris, a Jewish woman, Sarah Halimi, was tortured and murdered in her Paris apartment by her neighbor, Kobili Traoré, who was yelling "Allahu Akbar." A court of appeals recently ruled that Traoré, because he had smoked cannabis, was "not criminally responsible" for his actions. As France's Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia said, it is a "license to kill Jews".

"Anti-Semitism today is so blatant that it would be difficult to hide it without falling into ridicule," said the historian Georges Bensoussan. "What is taboo is the anti-Semites" -- meaning that today, in France, it is taboo to say that Islamism is the most important source of anti-Semitism.

One week after the terror attack on Charlie Hebdo, in which nine of its staff members were killed and another four wounded, the magazine published a cover depicting the Prophet of Islam with a tear on his cheek, and saying: "Tout est Pardonné" ("All is forgiven") . Five years later, all actually does seem to have been forgiven. Then, many proudly said, "I am Charlie". Most proved they were not.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

JANUARY 12, 2020 / 8:41 AM / UPDATED 2 HOURS AGO
Ireland's PM sets stage for possible February election


DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland’s Prime Minster Leo Varadkar said on Sunday he had made a decision on the timing of a general election, with many media outlets and politicians predicting a Feb. 7 poll.

Speaking to national broadcaster RTE, Varadkar said he would meet his cabinet on Tuesday before announcing the date. He would have preferred to go to the country in summer but the parliamentary arithmetic has changed, he added.

A minority government led by Varadkar’s center-right Fine Gael has ruled since 2016 after an initial three-year cooperation deal with Micheal Martin’s Fianna Fail was extended through to 2020 due to uncertainty created by Brexit talks.

With Britain set to leave the European Union at the end of this month, Varadkar and Martin had both said an election should be held by May.

However a demand by Varadkar for Fianna Fail support on a number of additional issues between now and then has raised the prospect of a snap election as early as next month if the parties cannot agree a short legislative program.
“I have made a decision but there is some respective protocol around this so I would like to speak to the cabinet and the leader of the opposition,” said the prime minister.
“The cabinet will meet on Tuesday and the Dail (the lower house of parliament) will reconvene on Wednesday.”
Varadkar held talks with Martin last week to discuss the matter and is due to meet him again this week.

Independent lawmaker Michael Lowry, on whose support the government depends, said he expected Varadkar to call the election in early February. The headline in the Irish version of Sunday Times, meanwhile, proclaimed: “Leo Varadkar poised to call election for February 7”.
Fine Gael and center-right Fianna Fail are closely matched in opinion polls, and some distance ahead of their other rivals, increasingly the likelihood that whoever edges ahead at the next election will lead another minority government.
Reporting by Graham Fahy; Editing by Mark Potter and Pravin Char
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


Disaster Cat
Yep, he has to, after the Winter hospital crises thas saw hundreds of patients (over 700 in one day) who NEEDED hospital beds (they had been vetted already, they were ill) on "trollies" (gurneys) and at one point a fire official being called for safety violations - they were going to lose the "vote of confidence" in their Health Minister.

In a parliamentary system, if a party can't get the votes on certain types of major issues (this is one of them) it fails and elections usually have to be called.

Besides this is the government that resulted in an election where the majority of voters voted for independents and other parties but the result was the two major parties who hated each other since modern Ireland began came together to "form a government."

Or as I said at the time, "so let me get this straight, the majority of people voted to have neither of these two yahoos in power but instead we get both of them?"

This was never going to end least elections here are only about three weeks long...

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

Leader of Georgian breakaway region resigns after protests

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The leader of the Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia tendered his resignation late on Sunday following days of protests, the president’s office said.
Crowds of protesters broke into the president’s headquarters on Thursday and demanded the exit of local president Raul Khajimba, who led the region from 2014 and won a second term in September.

“The president is resigning the powers of head of state in the name of peace and stability in the country,” the president’s office said in a statement on its website.
Abkhazia broke away from Georgia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Most countries still consider it a part of Georgia, but Russia recognized its independence after winning a short war against Georgia in 2008. Russia has troops in Abkhazia.

Vladislav Surkov, an influential Kremlin official, traveled to the isolated region on Sunday and held talks with leaders of the opposition, the RIA news agency reported.
The local parliament in Abkhazia is expected to formally accept Khajimba’s resignation on Monday and appoint an interim head, the TASS news agency reported.
(This story was refiled to correct misspelling of “tendered” in first paragraph)
Reporting by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Alex Richardson
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

Royal showdown: queen to chair crisis talks over Meghan and Harry

SANDRINGHAM, England (Reuters) - Queen Elizabeth and her heirs will meet Prince Harry on Monday to thrash out a plan for Harry and Meghan after the couple triggered a royal crisis by announcing they would be stepping back from their duties and spending more time in North America.
Prince Charles, heir to the British throne and Harry’s father, and Prince William, Harry’s elder brother, will attend the meeting at the queen’s Sandringham estate in Norfolk, eastern England.

Harry and Meghan’s shock announcement that they would step away from royal duties and spend part of their time in North America has tipped the Windsor family into crisis by exposing divisions among senior royals and triggering a discussion about just what it means to be a royal in the 21st Century.
The couple consulted neither the queen nor Charles on the announcement, made on Instagram and their own website, a step seen as impertinent and premature by a family which traces its roots back through a thousand years of European history.

Harry and Meghan said they wanted to carve out a progressive new role for themselves and work to become “financially independent.”
But it was unclear how the couple will become what royal biographers said was akin to being a “half royal” - and who will pay for their transatlantic lifestyles. Meghan has returned to Canada to be with their son Archie after the couple spent six weeks in the country in late 2019.
In a sign of just how tense royal relations have become, British newspapers said that Harry and Meghan could threaten to give an extensive interview to a major U.S. network.
Reporting by Toby Melville; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Kate Holton
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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Prague mayor hits out at ‘unreliable’ China, as Czech capital switches from Beijing to Taipei in twinning deal

fair use
Agence France-Presse
Published: 5:11pm, 12 Jan, 2020

The mayor of Prague condemned China as an “unreliable partner” on Sunday and told a German newspaper his city will sign a twinning agreement with Taipei.
In guest commentary for the weekly paper Welt am Sonntag, Zdenek Hrib, from the Czech Pirate Party, said China was “full of resentment” and was trying to influence Czech public opinion.
The 38-year-old mayor, who has been running Prague since November 2018, sought to explain his administration’s decision to cancel a sister city agreement with Beijing in October.
The decision has soured relations between China and the Czech Republic despite President Milan Zeman’s efforts to build closer ties between the two countries.

The deal was agreed in 2016, but later torn up after Zdenek’s administration backed out of a controversial clause concerning the one-China policy.

Zdenek wrote that he could not sign an agreement that forced Prague to “speak out against the independence of Tibet and Taiwan”.

Beijing views Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to retake the island one day, by force if necessary.
The Prague mayor said he would instead sign a twinning agreement with Taipei on Monday.

“That way, we have lost one partner but won another,” he said.

If it goes ahead, the Taipei twinning would come days after Taiwan emphatically re-elected incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen, a result widely seen as a blow to Beijing.
Zdenek said he did not advocate breaking off diplomatic or economic ties with China, but urged European democracies to think hard about “jumping into bed with such a risky and unreliable partner.”

“I call on all of you not to give up your values and personal integrity in the face of threats and blackmail,” he wrote.

Zdenek also accused the Czech government of “neglecting” the ideals of the peaceful 1989 Velvet Revolution that ended four decades of communist rule in the Czech Republic.
“As mayor I am working to fulfil my campaign promise to return to a course of respect for democracy and human rights,” he wrote.
“These are the values of the Velvet Revolution, which the current leadership of our republic is neglecting.”
“I call on all of you not to give up your values and personal integrity in the face of threats and blackmail,” he wrote.

Zdenek also accused the Czech government of “neglecting” the ideals of the peaceful 1989 Velvet Revolution that ended four decades of communist rule in the Czech Republic.
“As mayor I am working to fulfil my campaign promise to return to a course of respect for democracy and human rights,” he wrote.
“These are the values of the Velvet Revolution, which the current leadership of our republic is neglecting.”

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

Turkey Muscles-In On Israel-Greece-Cyprus EastMed Gas Pipeline Deal
Profile picture for user Tyler Durden
by Tyler Durden
Tue, 01/14/2020 - 02:00

Authored by Soeren Kern via The Gatestone Institute,
Israel, Greece and Cyprus have signed an agreement for a pipeline project to ship natural gas from the Eastern Mediterranean region to Europe. The deal comes amid increasing tensions with Turkey as Ankara seeks to expand its claims over gas-rich areas of the Mediterranean Sea.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, along with their energy ministers, signed the so-called EastMed pipeline deal in Athens on January 2.

The 6-billion-euro ($6.6 billion) project envisages the construction of a 1,900-kilometer (1,180-mile) undersea pipeline that would carry up to 20 billion cubic meters of gas a year from Israeli and Cypriot waters to Crete and then on to the Greek mainland. From there, the gas would be transported to Italy and other countries in southeastern Europe.
Israel, Greece and Cyprus hope to reach a final investment decision by 2022 and have the pipeline completed by 2025. The EastMed project, which would bypass Turkey, could eventually supply up to 10% of Europe's natural gas needs.
The signing of the EastMed pipeline project came a month after Turkey and Libya reached a bilateral agreement on maritime boundaries in the southeastern Mediterranean Sea. The deal, signed on November 27 by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the UN-backed leader of Libya, Fayez al Sarraj, attempts to redraw existing sea boundaries so that Libya ostensibly can claim exclusive rights over 39,000 square meters of maritime waters that belong to Greece.
The bilateral agreement — which establishes a new Turkey-Libya economic zone that the EastMed pipeline would now have to cross — appears aimed at giving Turkey more leverage over the project. Referring to the Turkey-Libya deal, Erdoğan said:

"Other international actors cannot conduct exploration activities in the areas marked in the Turkish-Libyan memorandum. Greek Cypriots, Egypt, Greece and Israel cannot establish a natural gas transmission line without Turkey's consent."
In mid-December, the Turkish Foreign Ministry reportedly summoned Israel's top diplomat in Ankara to inform him that Israel's plan to lay down a natural gas pipeline to Europe would require Turkey's approval.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said there was no need to build the EastMed pipeline because the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline already exists. "The most economical and secure route to utilize the natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean and deliver them to consumption markets in Europe, including our country, is Turkey," he said in a statement.
The European Union dismissed the Turkey-Libya deal was inconsistent with international law. In a statement issued on January 8, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, said:
"The recent Turkey-Libya Memorandum of Understanding on the delimitation of maritime jurisdictions in the Mediterranean Sea infringes upon the sovereign rights of third States and does not comply with the Law of the Sea and cannot produce any legal consequences for third States."
Egypt condemned the Turkey-Libya deal as "illegal and not binding or affecting the interests and the rights of any third parties."
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias noted:
"Any maritime accord between Libya and Turkey ignores something that is blatantly obvious, which is that between those two countries there is the large geographical land mass of Crete. Consequently, such an attempt borders on the absurd."
On December 11, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu hinted that Ankara could use its military to prevent gas drilling in waters off Cyprus that it claims as its own. "No one can do this kind of work without our permission," he said in an interview with the newspaper Habertürk. "We will, of course, prevent any unauthorized work."

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied the northern third of the island. Turkey, which does not have diplomatic relations with the southern Republic of Cyprus, an EU member, claims that more than 40% Cyprus's offshore maritime zone, known as the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), is located on Turkey's continental shelf and therefore belongs to Ankara or to Turkish Cypriots.
Cyprus is perched on the maritime edge of several large gas finds in the Levant Basin, including Leviathan off Israel and Zohr off Egypt. In the past, Turkey has used military force to obstruct progress on drilling activities waters it claims as its own.
In December 2019, for instance, the Turkish navy intercepted an Israeli ship in Cypriot waters and forced it to move out of the area. The ship, Bat Galim, of the Israeli Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institution, was conducting research in Cyprus's territorial waters in coordination with Cypriot officials, according to Israel's Ministry of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water.
In February 2018, two weeks after the Italian energy giant Eni announced that it had found "a promising gas discovery" in Cyprus's EEZ, Turkish military ships stopped a ship hired by Eni to drill for gas off the Cyprus coast.

In October 2018, the Turkish navy interdicted a Greek frigate that was monitoring the Turkish seismic vessel "Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa," which Greek authorities said was operating in waters claimed by Cyprus. A few days later, Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Dönmez announced that the drilling ship "Fatih" would begin drilling for oil and gas off the coast of Cyprus.
In May 2019, Turkey announced that it would begin drilling for gas in waters claimed by Cyprus. "The legitimate rights of Turkey and the Northern Cypriot Turks over energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean are not open for argument," Erdoğan said. "Our country is determined to defend its rights and those of Cypriot Turks," he added.
The United States subsequently warned Turkey against offshore drilling operations in waters claimed by the Republic of Cyprus. "This step is highly provocative and risks raising tensions in the region," said State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus. "We urge Turkish authorities to halt these operations and encourage all parties to act with restraint."
In July 2019, EU foreign ministers formally linked progress on Turkish-EU accession talks to Cyprus. A measure adopted by the European Council on July 15 stated:
"The Council deplores that, despite the European Union's repeated calls to cease its illegal activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey continued its drilling operations west of Cyprus and launched a second drilling operation northeast of Cyprus within Cypriot territorial waters. The Council reiterates the serious immediate negative impact that such illegal actions have across the range of EU-Turkey relations. The Council calls again on Turkey to refrain from such actions, act in a spirit of good neighborliness and respect the sovereignty and sovereign rights of Cyprus in accordance with international law....
"In light of Turkey's continued and new illegal drilling activities, the Council decides to suspend ... further meetings of the EU-Turkey high-level dialogues for the time being. The Council endorses the Commission's proposal to reduce the pre-accession assistance to Turkey for 2020."
In October 2019, Turkey defied the European Union by sending another drilling ship, the Yavuz, to operate inside waters claimed by Cyprus. Cyprus accused Turkey of a "severe escalation" of violations of its sovereign rights. Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi subsequently said that his company will not drill wells off the coast of Cyprus if Turkey sends warships to the area: "If someone shows up with warships I won't drill wells. I certainly don't want to provoke a war over drilling wells."
On November 11, European Union foreign ministers agreed to a package of economic sanctions over Turkey's drilling off the coast of Cyprus. In a statement, the Council of the EU said:

The framework will make it possible to sanction individuals or entities responsible for or involved in unauthorized drilling activities of hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean.
"The sanctions will consist of a travel ban to the EU and an asset freeze for persons, and an asset freeze for entities. In addition, EU persons and entities will be forbidden from making funds available to those listed."
On November 15, Turkish authorities again defied the EU by announcing that the Turkish oil-and-gas drilling ship Fatih had started operating off the coast of northeastern Cyprus.

Despite the tensions with Turkey, supporters of the EastMed pipeline project remain upbeat. At the project's signing ceremony in Athens, Prime Minister Netanyahu said:

"This is a historic day for Israel, because Israel is rapidly becoming an energy superpower, a country that exports energy.
"This is a tremendous change. Israel was always a 'fringe' country, a country that did not have any connections, literally and figuratively. Now, in addition to our foreign relations, which are flourishing beyond all imagination and everything we have known, we have a specific alliance towards these important goals in the Eastern Mediterranean.
"This is a true alliance in the Eastern Mediterranean that is economic and political, and it adds to the security and stability of the region. Again, not against anyone, but rather for the values and to the benefit of our citizens."
Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis said that the pipeline was of "geostrategic importance" and would contribute to regional peace. Greek Energy Minister Kostis Hatzidakis called it "a project of peace and cooperation" despite "Turkish threats." Cypriot President Anastasiades said that his aim was "cooperation and not rivalry in the Middle East."

Meanwhile, Israel's $3.6 billion offshore Leviathan field, the largest natural gas field in the Eastern Mediterranean, commenced production on December 31, 2019, paving the way for multi-billion-dollar gas export deals with Egypt and Jordan.

Natural gas from the Leviathan field began flowing to Jordan on January 2, 2020, in accordance with a $10 billion deal signed in 2016. Egypt will begin importing Israeli gas by the middle of January.

The amount of gas extracted from Leviathan, located 130 kilometers west of the port city of Haifa, is expected to reach 105 billion cubic meters (bcm) over 15 years, while the nearby Tamar field will export nearly 30 bcm in the same period. The value of the exports is estimated at $19.5 billion, with $14 billion coming from Leviathan and $5.5 billion from Tamar.

"For the first time since its establishment, Israel is now an energy powerhouse, able to supply all its energy needs and gaining energy independence," said Yossi Abu, the CEO of Israel's Delek Drilling, one of the partners in the Leviathan project. "At the same time, we will be exporting natural gas to Israel's neighbors, thus strengthening Israel's position in the region."

The President of the Texas-based Noble Energy, Brent Smolik, summed it up this way: "We think it's a huge day for Israel and the region."

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

Italian 'League' Leader Matteo Salvini Is Ready For His Political Comeback
Profile picture for user Tyler Durden
by Tyler Durden
Tue, 01/14/2020 - 02:45

When Matteo Salvini and his League Party were banished to the Italian opposition late last summer after a failed coup attempt, he swore that he would have his revenge on his former coalition partners, the Five Star Movement, who formed a new coalition with the centrist-establishment PD and booted the League out of the government.

In the months that have followed, Salvini has been an incredibly effective leader for Italy's opposition. And polls reflect his success: Most public opinion polls suggest the League is the most popular party in Italy.



Matteo Salvini’s League party continues to dominate Italy’s polls.

The latest poll has Salvini and the League at 34%, only half a percentage point behind the combined support for the Five Star Movement and the Democratic Party, which form the current ruling coalition government.
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Via his Twitter account, Salvini engages with voters while expounding on the problems facing Italy: drugs, crime a general sense of economic stagnation and malaise. With his folksy appeal, he has managed to win over areas in the Italian north that were once thought to be staunchly left-wing turf.
In its latest 'Big Read', the Financial Times explores how Salvini and his party have won over areas of Italy that were strongholds of the Italian Communist Party for decades. Even into the new millennium. Of course, the Italian Communist Party morphed into a left-wing social democrat party after the fall of the Soviet Union, like most other Communist Parties across Europe and Asia.
The FT story begins with Alan Fabbri, the mayor of the city of Ferrara, in northern Italy's Emilia Romagna region. His parents were staunch communists, and his grandparents were partisans who fought against Mussolini. Yet, he registered as a member of the League when he was 19, and eventually rose to be mayor of Ferrara, despite it's tradition of electing leftists.
But as a teenager, he joined the Northern League, which was then a right-wing separatist party. But under Salvini's leadership over the past six years, the re-branded "League" has become a national right-wing party known for its anti-migrant stance. And according to most polls, it holds a plurality, even in regions with a history of a strong leftist tradition.


As the FT explains, because many former communists believe that the League is now the party that protects workers. It mirrors the shift in the US, as many unions backed President Trump and his position as a champion of workers.

Fabbri said his grandfather always had a copy of a Marxist newspaper on his kitchen table even though he was illiterate.

But for the new generation, things are changing. Nobody remembers WWII and the heroic efforts of the partisans fighting the fascists.

Many here used to believe people could never vote for a right-wing party because of their family traditions, but that has changed. Many ex-communists now vote League as we defend workers. The left has taken this region for granted, they thought they had already won and they were shocked."
All of this is important for one critical reason: Later this month, Italians in Emilia Romagna will head to the polls for regional elections that could help throw the balance of power in Italy's parliament back in Salvini's favor.

Incidentally despite it's leftist tradition, the region is also one of Italy's wealthiest.

Polls show the right-wing candidate, League stalwart Lucia Borgonzoni, is polling neck-and-neck with her left-wing rival.

Her victory would "trigger a crisis in the ruling coalition, threatening to bring down Italy's government for the second time in six months.

Opinion polls are showing the rightwing coalition candidate, the 43-year-old League senator Lucia Borgonzoni, may be able to smash through Italy’s red wall. She is neck and neck with the incumbent centre-left Democratic party (PD) president of the region, Stefano Bonaccini.
Mr Salvini is bullish. "Let it be clear, we are going to win here," he said on the campaign trail last week in Modena. "From the 27th of January the world is going to change...Everyone here tells me that they used to vote communist but now they don’t any more because they are no longer communists, they are something else now."
Should Ms Borgonzoni triumph, not only would it deal a hammer blow to the PD, it would also probably trigger a crisis in the ruling coalition with the Five Star Movement, which could threaten to bring down the government. With Mr Salvini’s party far ahead of its rivals in national polls, new elections could then see the League leader sweep to power as Italy’s prime minister.
"If the PD lose in Emilia-Romagna, it 100 per cent has the potential to bring down the national government and set Salvini on course to become prime minister," says Daniele Albertazzi, an academic at the University of Birmingham and expert on the history of the League. "It really is too close to call."
If that happens, Salvini could finally realize his dream of becoming prime minister...and the new European Commission just might face its first crisis of confidence if Salvini pushes for 'Italeave' or even dropping the euro.

And for all of his critics who have branded Salvini a dangerous fascist, remember: he has supporters for a reason.

See Alex Ferrari II's other Tweets

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

Emboldened Catalan leader Puigdemont mulling visit to Spain
By RAF CASERTyesterday

STRASBOURG, France (AP) — Exiled Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is considering going back to Spain if he gets assurances that he is immune from arrest through his new status as a European legislator.

After his first plenary session in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, he told The Associated Press in an interview Monday that he would work for the release from jail of a fellow proponent of Catalonia’s independence from Spain.

Puigdemont said he was looking for a ruling from the European Parliament “within weeks” over whether he can visit without being arrested. He specifically wants to visit the former Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras, who was also elected to the European Parliament in May’s elections.

Why not?” he said. “Spain must recognize my immunity.”

Like Junqueras, Puigdemont was at the forefront of the illegal referendum campaign in Catalonia in 2017 but he managed to flee to Brussels when Spanish authorities issued an arrest warrant for him.

Puigdemont, who was Catalonia’s president until Spain imposed direct rule following the illegal referendum, said he was looking for more legal protections from the European Parliament before he would make the trip. Spain has sought to have him extradited three times over the past two years.

“We hope, in a few, not too (many) months, probably weeks, we have a clear statement from the board of the European parliament,” he said.

In his first act as a European legislator, Puigdemont waved a yellow poster demanding “Free Junqueras.” In October, a Spanish court sentenced Junqueras in October to 13 years in prison for sedition.

He should be here with us,” he said. “He has the same rights.”

Puigdemont’s ability to use one of the European Union’s main institutions to relay his message is somewhat of a blow to the authorities in Madrid, who have steadfastly sought to blunt the independence movement in Catalonia.

“They said you will never take your office in the European parliament,” he told the AP in reference to the Spanish authorities. “They failed in all the battlefields. Yes, it is a powerful state, but we won, we won, and we are here.”

Puigdemont arrived at the legislature in the early afternoon, cheered by a few hundred supporters who had over a dozen Catalan flags fluttering in the midday winds outside the legislature in northeastern France. “Puigdemont president,” they shouted in unison.

Puigdemont arrived together with fellow EU legislator and former Catalan minister Toni Comín.

The two, who are both wanted in Spain for their role in the 2017 secession bid, were only able to take up their seats in the European Parliament after the EU’s top court ruled that they could.

Catalonia’s regional coalition government was also in Strasbourg support the pair and demanded Junqueras should also have the right to join them as members of the European Parliament.

“Three MEPs ... were elected for the European elections by some 2 million European citizens and these citizens have the right of representation,” Alfred Bosch, the foreign minister of the regional Catalan government, said of Junqueras.

“He has the same rights as we have,” said Puigdemont. “He got more than a million votes. Freedom was not respected.”

The European Parliament said it was legally bound not to give the convicted Junqueras a seat.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

JANUARY 14, 2020 / 5:40 AM / UPDATED 8 HOURS AGO
Irish PM seeks to put Brexit at center of Feb. 8 election

Padraic Halpin, Graham Fahy

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Tuesday called a parliamentary election for Feb. 8, pitting his record on Brexit and Ireland’s fast growing economy against struggling services in a contest polls suggest is too close to call.

Varadkar’s Fine Gael and the fellow center-right Fianna Fail are closely matched in opinion polls, and some distance ahead of their other rivals, increasingly the likelihood that one of the two parties with similar policies on the economy and Brexit will lead to another minority administration.

After Britain’s tortuous exit from the European Union dominated politics in neighboring Ireland following the last election in 2016, Varadkar sought to put Brexit at the center of the campaign. He also acknowledged more had to be done for people to feel the strength of the economy in their pockets.

Brexit is not done yet. In fact, it’s only half-time,” he said in a speech in front of government buildings.

“The next step is to negotiate a free trade agreement that protects our jobs, our businesses, our rural communities... The capacity to do everything else that needs to be done - health, housing, climate action, tax reform - depends on achieving this outcome.”

Varadkar, 40, became the once-staunchly Catholic country’s first gay premier in 2017 when his party hoped a generational shift could lead them to a first ever third successive term.

He highlighted his success so far on Brexit, where a hard border between EU member Ireland and British-ruled Northern Ireland was avoided, as well as his own high profile in a video posted on Twitter that began with clips of international broadcasters saying his name.

Fianna Fail, which has swapped power with Fine Gael at every election since the state’s foundation a century ago, focused on anger among some voters over a health service bursting at the seams and a dysfunctional housing market where rents have become prohibitively high for many.

“It clearly is a time for a new government that will really focus on tangible improvements in health, housing and reducing the cost of living,” Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin told reporters.

Fine Gael has led a minority government since 2016 through a cooperation deal with Fianna Fail - its fiercest rivals as far back as the country’s civil war in the 1920s - after neither came close to forming a working coalition last time out.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fail refuse to govern with Ireland’s third largest party Sinn Fein, once the political wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), meaning smaller parties such as the resurgent Greens could decide who leads the next government.

Analysts say one of the two big parties would need to move to a percentage share of the vote in the mid-30s from the 25% to 27% range they are currently polling to form a multi-party coalition and avoid another ‘confidence and supply’ deal.

“All of the polls are telling us that the fragmented party landscape is still there,” said Theresa Reidy, a politics lecturer at University College Cork.

Ratings agency S&P Global, which handed Ireland back its double-A sovereign debt rating in November, said in a note that the election was unlikely to sway economic policy, regardless of the outcome.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin, Editing by William Maclean and Angus MacSwan
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

Putin proposes power shift to parliament and PM, in possible hint on own future

Andrew Osborn, Vladimir Soldatkin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday proposed giving parliament the power to choose Russia’s prime minister and other key positions, a major change to the Russian constitution that may offer a hint about his own future.

Putin’s comments are likely to reignite speculation about his plans once his current presidential term ends in 2024.

Critics have long accused him of plotting to stay on in some capacity to wield power over the world’s largest nation after he steps down. He remains popular with many Russians who see him as a welcome source of stability even as others complain he’s been in power for too long.

In his annual state-of-the-nation speech, Putin said the changes he was proposing to Russia’s political system — handing parliament and the prime minister more power at the expense of the president — were so serious that he wanted a nationwide referendum to be held to agree them.

In power as either president or prime minister since 1999, Putin, 67, is due to step down in 2024 when his fourth presidential term ends.

Under the current constitution, which bans anyone from serving more than two successive presidential terms, Putin is barred from immediately running again.

But critics have suggested he is considering various options to remain at the helm, including by shifting power to parliament and then assuming an enhanced role as prime minister after he steps down in 2024.

On Wednesday, Putin told Russia’s political elite he wanted to allow the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, to be given the power to confirm the candidacy of the country’s prime minister.

The new prime minister would then present parliament with candidates for the country’s deputy prime ministers and government ministers which parliament would also confirm.

“The president would be obliged to appoint them (the parliament’s confirmed picks) to these jobs,” said Putin. “He would not be allowed to reject candidates confirmed by parliament.”

Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Mike Collett-White
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

See Breaking News- Russian Government Resigned

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Plain Jane

Veteran Member

Germany raids offices, homes of suspected China spies


BERLIN (Reuters) - Police have raided homes and offices in Brussels and across Germany in a case involving three people suspected of spying for China, prosecutors said on Wednesday.
Der Spiegel magazine, which first reported the raids, said one of the three suspects was a German national who until 2017 had worked as a senior diplomat for the European Union’s foreign service, including multiple stints as an EU ambassador.
The case is the first in recent years involving concrete allegations of spying by China against Germany and the EU. It comes amid growing concern across Europe and the broader West at China’s ramping up of its worldwide spying activity as it builds political influence to match its economic weight.
Germany and other European countries are under pressure from Washington to exclude China’s state-owned telecoms equipment maker Huawei from tenders to build fifth generation mobile telephony networks.

“I can confirm that we are carrying out an investigation into intelligence agent activity,” said Markus Schmitt, spokesman for German federal prosecutors. None of the suspects had been arrested, he said.

Raids were conducted in Brussels, Berlin and the two southern states of Baden-Wuerttemberg and Bavaria, the main centers for Germany’s advanced manufacturing industries.

Der Spiegel reported that the former diplomat had held a string of senior posts in the EU’s foreign service. On leaving the EU civil service he had set up as a lobbyist, the magazine reported.

He is also believed to have visited China in the company of his handling officer. Prosecutors declined to confirm the identity or professions of the three suspects.

Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Peter Graff
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

Greece aims to speed up migration policy under new ministry


ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece said on Wednesday that migration policy will be implemented faster from now on by a new ministry as the country struggles with a resurgence of migrant and refugee arrivals.
Until now, migration issues were managed by a department of the country’s Civil Protection Ministry.
The new conservative government, elected in July, announced plans to shut overcrowded refugee camps on Greek islands and replace them with more restrictive holding centers, mostly on the mainland.

It has promised to deploy more border guards to “shut the door” to migrants not entitled to stay.
“What is needed is a faster implementation of this plan,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas told state TV ERT.
The government appointed deputy Labour Social Affairs Minister Notis Mitarachi as head of the new Ministry of Migration and Asylum.
Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas; Editing by Susan Fenton
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

Irish farmers fire election warning shot with Dublin tractor protest

Conor Humphries

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish farmers paralysed parts of central Dublin for the second time in as many months by parking more than 100 tractors in the streets on Wednesday in a protest against the government on the first day of its re-election campaign.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar launched his party’s campaign for the Feb. 8 vote - which he called on Tuesday - near the border with Northern Ireland to focus on his key role in Britain’s divorce deal with the European Union.
But in Dublin, farmers arrived on tractors from all over Ireland to protest over low beef prices and government climate-change initiatives they say unfairly target their livelihoods.
Varadkar acknowledged on Tuesday that more had to be done for people to feel the benefit of the booming economy in their own finances, and his re-election could hinge on the attitudes of those whom opposition parties say feel left behind.
“(Varadkar’s Fine Gael party) will suffer in rural Ireland,” said protester Ollie Gargan, 43, who runs a farm with 30 suckler cattle in the northern county of Cavan. He voted for Fine Gael in the 2016 election but ruled out doing so again.

“They are just throwing crumbs from the top table. There’s no future for young farmers,” Gargan said.
Some farmers who left their tractors to protest at the gates of government buildings could be heard shouting at Varadkar as he greeted EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen outside his office ahead of a meeting between the pair.
Farmers staged a similar protest in cordoned-off areas of Dublin in November when, rather than leave at the allotted time, many slept in their vehicles overnight and refused to leave until Agriculture Minister Michael Creed met them.
Creed said on Wednesday the government could not intervene on beef prices but had secured an extra 120 million euros ($133.88 million) of income support for farmers this year in what he acknowledged was a difficult year for the industry.
At the wheel in tractors covered in placards with slogans such as “Stop Farmer Exploitation” and “Help Save Rural Ireland”, angry farmers said that was not enough.

“There’s been no effort. Zilch,” said John Denash, a 50-year-old beef farmer from the western county of Roscommon.
The woes farmers face, including potential losses from increased barriers to trade with post-Brexit Britain, may become a battleground in rural districts just as high rents and housing shortage is set to dominate the campaign in urban areas.
Fine Gael and the main opposition Fianna Fail are closely matched in opinion polls, some distance ahead of their other rivals, increasingly the likelihood that one of the two centre-right parties will head the next government.
Writing by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Hugh Lawson
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

Veteran Member

Grrrrr! Angry herders secure bear ban from France’s Macron

PARIS (AP) — The bears have cute names — Bubble, Feather, Snowflake and the like — and look so soft and huggable when caught on video by remote cameras that study their habits. But to herders high in the Pyrenees mountains of southwest France, the animals are stone-cold killers, ravaging flocks and undermining farming livelihoods.

Pyrenean livestock farmers who raise sheep for meat and famously pungent cheeses are rejoicing after getting an assurance from President Emmanuel Macron that he won’t authorize the release into the wild of any more of the bears blamed for a surge in deadly attacks.

He promised that the re-insertions (of bears) are finished, that he won’t release any more,” said Jean-Pierre Pommies, who raises sheep and cows. Pommies wore his broad farmer’s beret to Tuesday’s meeting with the suit-and-tied Macron in Pau, a Pyrenean town with sweeping views of the mountains.

“He was able to understand that it’s a big problem for us,” Pommies added. “We have reached the bottom, and the situation was ridiculous for Pyrenean herders.”

When France’s last pocket of brown bears appeared headed for extinction in the Pyrenees in the 1990s, the country began importing animals from Slovenia, where the population is booming. A total of eight were freed into the wild in 1996, 1997 and 2006. Another release of two Slovenian female bears — Claverina and Sorita — followed in 2018, the first first full year of Macron’s presidency.

The population is now estimated at around 40 bears, doubling its size since 2010 and roaming over a long and expanding swath of the mountains that form the border between France and Spain, stretching from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.

Bear attacks on livestock have grown, too. Having long been largely stable, mostly between 100 and 200 attacks per year across the Pyrenees, including Spain, France and Andorra, they surged to close to 400 in 2018, according to the most recent official annual report.

Herders who suffered included one of Pommies’ friends, whose flock was devastated in an attack last year, he said. The sheep took fright and plunged off a cliff together.

“There were 256 piled up at the bottom,” he said. “They had to finish some of them off with their knives. For us shepherds, that is traumatic.”

He believes the presence of the predators is simply “incompatible” with the Pyrenean mountain economy that rests largely on herding.

“I love bears. I’m passionate about them as animals. But I love that they live happily in Yellowstone, in Canada, in Romania and Slovenia,” he said. In the Pyrenees, “the people who are pro-bear say that it used to work for the old timers, that they used to deal with it. And that is completely false. History shows that men have always killed them.”

The Pyrenees are only one of the battlegrounds in Europe over efforts to preserve wild fauna and flora. In France’s other major mountain range, the Alps, wild wolves that also prey on flocks are a persistent source of tension between herders and those opposed to the deployment of large dogs to keep wolf packs at bay.

In Germany, wolves have been a source of political friction. The far-right opposition Alternative for Germany party accused the government of failing to defend farmers’ interests against the 75 wolf packs counted there in 2018. There is also debate in Belgium about the reappearance of wolves after infrared cameras spotted a pair together in woods and a pregnant wolf was killed in northern Belgium last summer.

Slovenia’s brown bear population is so plentiful that authorities are culling the animals that are becoming a headache for farmers, raiding beehives and even attacking people in the small Alpine state. Around 170 bears were shot in 2019, said Damjan Orazem, the Forest Service director.

Herders including Pommies pounced on Macron to talk about the Pyrenees’ bears when the French leader turned up at the Tour de France last year on a day when the bicycle race swung through the peaks. Pommies said he threatened to release his animals into the riders’ path unless Macron agreed to a meeting. That brief encounter elicited a pledge from Macron that he’d hold talks with them at length at a later date, an offer he made good on this week.

Emmanuelle Wargon, a deputy environment minister who attended the meeting, told broadcaster Sud Radio that Macron “reaffirmed that we don’t have any plans to reintroduce (more) bears,” adding: “It was important to tell them this.”

For bear preservationists, herders are greatly exaggerating the risk posed by the predators. Alain Reynes, director of the group Country of the Bear, said he believes the actual number of animals killed by bears is far smaller than the 1,500, mostly sheep, that Pyrenean herders claim they lost last year.

Reynes also said that Macron’s moratorium on bear releases can’t last, because France is obliged by European law to ensure that the bear population remains viable.

“The president can only speak for the period of his mandate,” he said. “There have always been bears. The history in the Pyrenees is one of cohabitation, even if it hasn’t always been easy. ... There have been bears in Europe for 250,000 years. This is their space.”


Associated Press writers Raf Casert in Strasbourg, France; Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Serbia, and Mike Corder in The Hague contributed to this report.