With all the top jobs at the European Union coming open, EU leaders gathered Thursday for a major bout of political horse-trading, trying to pick candidates who will have a major impact on the bloc over the next five to eight years while keeping its 28 nations happy. That’s not an easy task. The EU is responsible for coordinating common policies on sectors ranging from the single market to agriculture, from competition issues to immigration. The main posts up for grabs Thursday are the head of the EU’s powerful executive arm, the European Commission — now held by Jean-Claude Juncker — and the president of the European Council, the body that represents the member states in Brussels. That position is currently held by Donald Tusk. Other key jobs to be filled include the president of the European Parliament, chairman of the European Central Bank and the EU foreign policy chief. The EU’s parliament must endorse some of the posts. French President Emmanuel Macron hit Brussels early for a series of meetings, hours before the summit started, meeting with several European leaders and holding talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. That set off a chain reaction of informal huddles involving Merkel — leader of the EU’s biggest power — to weigh up potential candidates based on their political affiliation, nationality and gender, and perhaps their diplomatic acumen. Merkel said this two-day summit might not necessarily succeed in filling all top jobs at stake, an issue that has divided the 28 members.
Boris Johnson increased his lead Tuesday in the race to become Britain’s next prime minister as one of his rivals was eliminated in a party vote, while upstart candidate Rory Stewart defied expectations to stay in the contest. Boris Johnson, a flamboyant former foreign secretary, won 126 of the 313 votes cast Tuesday in a second-round ballot of Conservative Party lawmakers that left five contenders standing. The total all but guarantees that Johnson will be one of the candidates in a runoff that will be decided by party members. Dominic Raab, who tried to vie with Johnson for the votes of committed Brexit supporters, got only 30 votes Tuesday, three short of the threshold needed to go through to the next round. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Stewart all remain contenders in what is now effectively a race for second place and a runoff spot. All five candidates were taking part in a live television debate on Tuesday evening, two days after Johnson skipped another televised debate despite being the front-runner. Tory lawmakers will vote again Wednesday and Thursday, eliminating at least one candidate each time. The final two contenders will go to a postal ballot of all 160,000 Conservative Party members nationwide. The winner, due to be announced in late July, will replace Theresa May as both party leader and British prime minister. Theresa May stepped down as party leader earlier this month after failing to secure Parliament’s approval for her
Turkey will not back down from its decision to buy Russian S-400 missile defence systems despite U.S. warnings that it will lead to Ankara’s exclusion from the F-35 fighter jet programme, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday. In what has become the main source of tension between Ankara and Washington, the NATO allies have sparred publicly for months over Turkey’s purchase of the S-400s, which Washington has said could trigger U.S. sanctions. U.S. Acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan last week sent his Turkish counterpart a letter warning that Ankara would be pulled out of the F-35 jet programme unless it changes course from its plans to install the defences. In what was Turkey’s first direct response to the letter, Cavusoglu said no one can give Turkey ultimatums. “Turkey will not back down from its decisions with these kinds of letters,” he said. “Turkey bought S-400, it is going to be delivered and stationed in Turkey.” The S-400s are not compatible with NATO’s defence systems and Washington says they would compromise its F-35s, which Turkey also plans to buy. Turkey has proposed that the allies form a working group to asses the impact of the S-400s, but has yet to receive a response from the United States. Cavusoglu on Thursday repeated Turkey’s call for the joint working group, saying experts from both countries should come together to evaluate U.S. concerns. A day earlier, President Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey had completed the deal with Russia and that the systems
Turkey said on Tuesday a U.S. House of Representatives’ resolution condemning Ankara’s purchase of Russian defence systems and urging potential sanctions was unacceptably threatening. Relations between the two NATO members have been strained on several fronts including Ankara’s plans to buy Russia’s S-400 air defence systems, the detention of U.S. consular staff in Turkey, and conflicting strategy over Syria and Iran. The standoff threatens to bring U.S. sanctions, which would hurt Turkey’s already recession-hit economy, and raise questions over its role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The resolution, introduced in May and entitled “Expressing concern for the United States-Turkey alliance”, was agreed in the House on Monday. It urges Turkey to cancel the S-400 purchase and calls for sanctions if it accepts their delivery, which may come as soon as July. That, the resolution said, would undermine the U.S.-led transatlantic defence alliance. In response, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that its foreign policy and judicial system were being maligned by “unfair” and “unfounded” allegations in the resolution. “It is unacceptable to take decisions which do not serve to increase mutual trust, to continue to keep the language of threats and sanctions on the agenda and to set various artificial deadlines,” it added. PILOT PROGRAMME WOUND DOWN President Tayyip Erdogan’s government faces a balancing act in its ties with the West and Russia, with which it has close energy ties and is also cooperating in neighbouring Syria. The United States is also pressuring Turkey and other nations to
A Moldovan court relieved President Igor Dodon of his duties on Sunday, deepening a standoff between rival political parties over the formation of a new government after months of deadlock. His successor, former prime minister Pavel Filip, immediately announced a snap election for September, while thousands of supporters of Filip’s party gathered to rally in the capital, Chisinau. The crisis threatens more instability in one of Europe’s smallest and poorest nations of 3.5 million people, where entrenched corruption and low living standards have pushed many citizens to emigrate to Russia or wealthier European countries. Dodon’s Russian-backed Socialist party had on Saturday announced it was forming a coalition government with the pro-European Union ACUM bloc, an unlikely alliance designed to keep a party run by tycoon Vladimir Plahotniuc out of power. Plahotniuc’s Democratic Party of Moldova said the new administration had tried to usurp power at Russia’s behest, criticising Dodon’s refusal to dissolve parliament after parties missed a court-mandated June 7 deadline to form a government. Dodon said the court was not politically independent and accused the Democrats of trying to cling to power. He called on the international community to step in. “Moldovan citizens with different views on domestic and foreign policy can unite for the sake of a common goal: liberation of the Republic of Moldova from the criminal, dictatorial regime,” Dodon said in a statement. “In this situation, we have no choice but to appeal to the international community to mediate in the process of a peaceful transfer
The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, gave a boost on Friday to Croatia’s hopes of joining the EU’s “open-border” Schengen zone and also the waiting room for adopting the euro currency. Croatia joined the EU in 2013 but to join the passport-free Schengen area it must convince Brussels that it is able to effectively manage the bloc’s external border, a particularly sensitive issue since Europe’s 2015 migrant crisis. “I would like the European Commission to give a recommendation before the end of our term in office for Croatia’s Schengen zone accession,” Juncker told reporters after talks with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic. The current Commission’s mandate expires in October. Once it gives a recommendation, European Union member states usually approve it, meaning that Croatia could join the Schengen area as early as next year. Plenkovic said he expected the Commission, the EU’s executive arm, to confirm in the autumn that Croatia meets all the technical criteria for joining Schengen. Schengen membership brings closer political and economic integration with the rest of the EU, removing delays to the movement of people and goods. The Schengen zone comprises 22 of the EU’s 28 member states as well as four non-EU members – Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. As well as Croatia, the other EU members not in Schengen are Britain, Ireland, Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus. Juncker also said on Friday the Commission would support Croatia’s bid to join the European Exchange Mechanism (ERM-2), a two-year waiting room for euro membership,
Michael Gove, a leading contenders to replace British Prime Minister Theresa May, said he would delay Brexit rather than rush into a no-deal exit that could trigger an election that would propel Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to power. The United Kingdom could be heading towards a constitutional crisis over Brexit as many of the candidates vying to succeed May are prepared to leave the EU on Oct. 31 without a deal but parliament has indicated it will try to thwart such a scenario. Nearly three years since the United Kingdom voted 52%-48% to leave the EU, the ruling Conservative Party had its worst result in centuries in a European election last month, and opinion polls indicate a snap election would produce a hung parliament. Gove, who scuppered the 2016 leadership bid of former foreign minister Boris Johnson by withdrawing his support at the last moment to run himself, said he would seek a further delay to Brexit if efforts to renegotiate the deal were close to a breakthrough. “Would it really be in our best interests to opt for a no-deal exit when just a little more time and effort could make all the difference?” Michael Gove said in an article in the Daily Mail newspaper. Other contenders – including Johnson, Andrea Leadsom, Dominic Raab and Sajid Javid – have said they would seek to negotiate a deal but, if that were not possible, they would then lead the world’s fifth largest economy out of the EU without any agreement.
President Donald Trump read from a prayer delivered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as he joined other world leaders and veterans Wednesday in marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Roosevelt went on national radio on June 6, 1944, to address the U.S. for the first time about the Normandy invasion. Trump, with images of an American flag and Roosevelt projected behind him, read to the crowd: “Almighty God, our sons, pride of our nation, this day, have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our republic, our religion and our civilization and to set free a suffering humanity.” Trump traveled to the southern coast of England Wednesday to pay respects to American service members and allies who helped rescue Europe from Nazi Germany. He sat in a VIP area with other world leaders and in between Queen Elizabeth II and first lady Melania Trump during the program, which focused on a telling of events leading up to D-Day. Some 300 World War II veterans also attended the seaside ceremony. A chilly breeze blew as Trump arrived for the event, the first of two he is attending to mark the 75th anniversary of the day when Allied soldiers, sailors and airmen conducted an invasion that helped liberate Europe from Nazi Germany. Trump joined in giving a standing ovation to a group of World War II vets who appeared on stage as the commemoration began. He was the second world leader to speak, following Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in
The abrupt resignation of the leader of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) after disastrous European and regional elections has thrown the future of the ‘grand coalition’ with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives into doubt. The government looks set to limp on until elections in three former Communist eastern states in September and October. But if the SPD and Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) do badly, the risk of a government collapse would increase sharply. The SPD, led by an interim triumvirate for the next few months, will later this year pick a new leader and review its role in the coalition. To reinvent itself in opposition and win back defectors from the resurgent Greens, the SPD may, under a new leader, ditch its marriage with Merkel. Here are the main scenarios for Germany if the coalition between the conservative bloc and SPD collapses: NEW ELECTION The option most analysts are talking about, a snap election before the next scheduled one in 2021, poses enormous risks for the conservatives and SPD. Merkel has said she will not stand for a fifth term as chancellor. The conservative bloc of the CDU and its Bavarian CSU sister party is polling at 26%-29%, below their 2017 election result. Merkel’s heir apparent Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has failed to boost the CDU’s ratings since taking over as its leader in December. The SPD faces decimation, at 12%-17% in polls, paying the price for sharing power as Merkel’s junior partners for six years and 10 of the last 14. A
More than 40,000 people have been intercepted in the Mediterranean and taken to detention camps and torture houses under a European migration policy that is responsible for crimes against humanity, according to a legal document asking the International Criminal Court to take the case Monday. Citing public European Union documents, statements from the French president, the German chancellor and other top European Union officials, the document alleges that European Union officials are knowingly responsible for deaths of migrants at land and sea, and their widespread rape and torture at the hands of a Libyan coast guard funded and trained at the expense of European taxpayers. It names no EU official but cites an ongoing ICC investigation into the fate of migrants in Libya. “We leave it to the prosecutor, if he dares, if she dares, to go into the structures of power and to investigate at the heart of Brussels, of Paris, of Berlin and Rome and to see by searching in the archives of the meetings of the negotiations who was really behind the scenes trying to push for these policies that triggered the death of more than 14,000 people,” said Juan Branco, a lawyer who co-wrote the report and shared it with The Associated Press. The ICC is a court of last resort that handles cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide when other countries are unwilling or unable to prosecute. Germany’s government spokesman, Steffen Seibert, rejected any responsibility for conditions in Libya and said any
The future government of Antti Rinne of Sdp intends to allow the use of footwear for asylum seekers who have received a negative decision. According to information from several sources from the HS, an agreement has been reached in the negotiating team which is no longer open to the party chairmen. The Aliens Act currently has criteria for detaining an alien. The idea behind Pantaseuranta is that instead of detention, a foreigner could be subject to technical control. In practice, this is a locational footman. At present, firing is used in Finland for persons sentenced to surveillance punishment. The legislative change envisaged by the future government applies to foreigners in general, but is intended for asylum seekers who have received a negative decision in practice. It does not apply to all those who have received a negative decision, but to those for whom the criteria laid down by law are met and the authorities consider the measure justified. More detailed criteria for the use of footwear will be defined in the course of drafting the law. So far, for example, there is an open question as to whether children and minors would also have access to footwear. It is also open to the question of whether the same or looser criteria could be imposed on the football stock than currently imposed by the Aliens Act on detention. The Aliens Act defines six possible conditions for detention. These include, for example, the risk of concealment or escapement, suspicion of crime or
Hungary unexpectedly announced the indefinite suspension of a new administrative court system on Thursday, backtracking on a reform that had raised concerns over judicial independence. Changes to Hungary’s judiciary proposed by the nationalist ruling Fidesz party have been at the heart of a confrontation with the European Union, which says some of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s reforms threaten democracy and the rule of law. In another apparent gesture to appease mainstream European allies, Orban’s Fidesz for the first time all but ruled out joining forces with Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini’s eurosceptic group after last week’s European elections. Hungary passed a law late last year to set up courts overseen directly by the justice minister, a move critics said could allow political interference in judicial matters. Early this year, Hungary had already modified some aspects of the reform criticised by the Venice Commission, a European panel of constitutional law experts. “The government will initiate the indefinite suspension of the launch of the administrative court system,” Gergely Gulyas, Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, told a news conference. “We believe that the law meets European standards and rule-of-law requirements,” he said. “However, the administrative court system has been caught up in debates in Europe, which have unjustifiably called judicial independence into question.” The administrative courts had been due to take over cases about government business such as taxation and elections currently handled in the main legal system. Gulyas pointed to a challenge by the European Commission against Polish reforms affecting judges,
The European Union will not renegotiate the Brexit deal that Prime Minister Theresa May agreed, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Tuesday, as concerns grew that a successor to May could trigger a confrontation with the bloc. Brexit is up in the air after Theresa May announced plans to step down, triggering a leadership contest in the ruling Conservative Party that could bring a new prime minister to power who wants a much more decisive break with the EU. One of the candidates, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, said it would be “political suicide” to pursue a no-deal Brexit, a reprimand to frontrunner Boris Johnson who said last week that Britain should leave with or without a deal by the end of October. Hunt, who voted to stay in the EU in the 2016 referendum but now accepts Brexit, said he would try for a new agreement that would take Britain out of the EU customs union while “respecting legitimate concerns” around the Irish border. The EU, though, said there would be no renegotiation. “I will have a short meeting with Theresa May, but I was crystal clear: There will be no renegotiation,” Jean-Claude Juncker said before a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels. Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he believed the risk of Britain crashing out of the bloc without any divorce agreement was growing. “Well I think there is a growing risk of a no deal. There’s a possibility that the new British prime minister may try to
Nigel Farage’s anti-EU Brexit party has topped European Parliament polls in the U.K., putting intense pressure on the ruling Conservatives — who suffered a historic rout — and raising the chances of a no-deal outcome. The single-issue Brexit Party, founded just three months ago by Farage, combined with pro-EU forces to trounce the nation’s two dominant political parties in the European Parliament election, as angry voters blamed the ruling Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party for the country’s Brexit impasse. With complete results announced Monday, the Brexit Party had won 29 of the U.K.’s 73 EU seats up for grabs and almost a third of the votes. On the pro-EU side, the Liberal Democrats took 20 percent of the vote and 16 seats — a dramatic increase from the single seat it won in the last EU election in 2014. The opposition Labour Party came third with 14.1 percent, followed by the pro-European environmentalist Greens who captured nearly 12.1 percent. The Conservatives — apparently blamed by voters for failing to deliver Brexit in March as planned — were in fifth with under 10 percent of the vote. The election leaves the U.K.’s exit from the EU more uncertain than ever, with both Brexiteers and pro-EU “remainers” able to claim strong support. The result raises the likelihood of a chaotic “no deal” exit from the EU — but also the possibility of a new Brexit referendum that could instead reverse the decision to leave. A triumphant Farage said he doubted the
Austrian lawmakers voted conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s government out of office on Monday, passing a motion of no confidence days after it became a caretaker administration in the aftermath of a video sting scandal. Kurz’s People’s Party came out on top in Sunday’s European Parliament election, only a week after the sting prompted Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache of the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) to step down and Kurz to scrap the coalition between their parties. Kurz hoped to use his position as chancellor during the transition as a springboard for re-election, presenting himself as more of a victim of the political crisis set off by the video than an enabler of it who brought the far right to power. But with the next parliamentary election expected in September, opposition parties said Kurz must share the blame and voted his minority government – in which FPO ministers had been replaced by civil servants – down. “Kurz gambled away his chances and, Mr Chancellor, you bear full responsibility,” the Social Democrats’ (SPO) deputy parliamentary faction head Joerg Leichtfried said in a speech, minutes before his party submitted the motion. FPO lawmakers earlier unanimously agreed to support the SPO motion. Combined, the two parties have a majority of 103 seats in the 183-seat lower house. Austria’s president must now nominate a new chancellor to put together a caretaker government able to last until the election. While he could in principle choose Kurz again, that is highly unlikely. “To topple the government a few
The European Union’s traditional center splintered in the hardest-fought European Parliament elections in decades, with the far right and pro-environment Greens gaining ground on Sunday after four days of a polarized vote. Turnout was at a two-decade high over the balloting across the 28 European Union countries. The elections were seen as a test of the influence of the nationalist, populist and hard-right movements that have swept the continent in recent years and impelled Britain to quit the EU altogether. Both supporters of closer European unity and those who consider the EU a meddlesome and bureaucratic presence portrayed the vote as crucial for the future of the bloc. In Britain , voters went for the extremes, with the strongest showing for Nigel Farage’s the newly formed Brexit party and a surge for the staunchly pro-European Liberal Democrats, versus a near wipeout for Conservatives. In France, an electorate that voted Emmanuel Macron into presidential office in 2017 did an about-face and the party of his defeated opponent, Marine Le Pen, drew into first place. In Germany , Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition saw a drastic loss in support to the Greens and, to a lesser extent, the far right. Italy’s League party, led by Matteo Salvini, claimed 32% of the vote in early projections, compared with around 6% five years ago. “Not only is the League the first party in Italy, but Marine Le Pen is first in France, Nigel Farage is first in Great Britain. Therefore, Italy, France and England: