Contains selective news articles I select

Posts tagged ‘Europe Section’

Claiming to mistrust Italy, aid group sets sail for Spain

July 18, 2018

MADRID (AP) — An aid group says it won’t dock its boat in an Italian port and that instead it’s seeking a go-ahead to disembark in Spain with the woman who survived a migrant boat wreck and the dead bodies of another woman and a toddler.

Spanish rescue group Proactiva Open Arms has accused Libya’s coast guards and the Italian authorities financing and training them of abandoning the three people in the Mediterranean Sea on Monday after taking 158 other migrants from the boat and destroying it.

Proactiva said on Wednesday that it can’t trust how Italian authorities will handle the investigation into the event after the country’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini, referred to the group’s claims and account of the rescue operation as “lies and insults.”

Italy’s new populist government has vowed to halt the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean.

Advertisements

Montenegro more puzzled than affronted by Trump’s attention

July 19, 2018

PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — World War III? Not us, say the puzzled people of Montenegro. Public officials in this tiny European nation didn’t know what to say initially when U.S. President Donald Trump suggested that NATO’s newest and smallest member, which has a military with fewer than 2,000 members, could be the spark that sets off a global Armageddon.

That the leader of the world’s dominant superpower would characterize the 620,000 or so Montenegrins as “very strong” and “very aggressive people” rendered their government speechless. It found its voice Thursday, and what came out was less a battle cry than a chorus of “Kumbaya.”

“We build friendships, and we have not lost a single one,” read a statement issued in the capital, Podgorica, in response to the media’s clamoring for comment. “It does not matter how big or small you are, but to what extent you cherish the values of freedom, solidarity and democracy.”

Living in a region that has seen more than its share of volatile conflicts, Montenegrins say they are much more interested in tourism than war. Montenegro, a former Yugoslav republic like Slovenia, the home country of U.S. first lady Melania Trump, is known for its long Adriatic Sea beaches.

“I laughed when I heard that and figured it could be a good advertisement,” retiree Slavka Kovacevic, 58, said of Trump’s depiction while taking a break from her morning shopping. Trump ventured his thoughts on Montenegro during an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson conducted Monday after the summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. They were discussing NATO’s mutual defense pact.

If Montenegro, for example, were provoked, having NATO behind it could embolden “a tiny country with very strong people” to engage, the president said. “They are very strong people. They are very aggressive people, they may get aggressive, and congratulations, you are in World War III,” he added.

The comment was not the first time Trump had taken notice of Montenegro in a way that attracted oversized attention. At a NATO summit last year, his first as president, Trump shoved Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic out of the way while trying to get in front for a leaders’ group photo.

Back then, Markovic refused to make a fuss over the American president’s manners. Markovic also took the high road regarding Trump’s comments this week. He noted in a parliamentary debate Wednesday that Trump spoke within the context of questioning NATO financing and was not trying to put down a particular ally.

“Therefore, the friendship and the alliance of Montenegro and the United States of America is strong and permanent,” Markovic’s government said in its statement Thursday. Trump’s views have some basis in history. Montenegro, which means “Black Mountain,” does boast of a heroic warring tradition forged over centuries of conquest and contemporary conflicts in the troubled Balkans.

Montenegro was a rare country in the region to retain a level of autonomy during the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Its past ties to Russia, with whom Montenegro shared a predominantly Slavic and Orthodox Christian culture, were so strong that its leaders were said to have declared a war on Japan in 1904 just to support Russia.

Montenegro became part of Yugoslavia after World War I. During the breakup of Yugoslavia, Montenegro was bombed by NATO forces in 1999 before it split from Serbia in 2006. “I just want to remind all the American public opinion and President Trump that Montenegro was an ally with American soldiers in two wars, in the first world war and the second world war,” former parliament speaker Ranko Krivokapic told The Associated Press.

“Montenegrins are not aggressive … but the nation of brave warriors,” he said. As it happens, the governor of the U.S. state of Maine, Paul LePage, was visiting Montenegro in hopes of strengthening ties with business and political leaders when the president’s interview aired. Maine is six times as big as Montenegro and has had a partnership with the country since 2006. LePage says it originally focused on disaster relief, emergency management and border security.

The Balkans have a difficult history, but “everybody likes Montenegro,” the governor said in a video the U.S. Embassy in Montenegro posted Tuesday. The embassy followed up Thursday with its own statement, saying “the United States is proud to call Montenegro an ally.”

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters seeking clarification of the president’s thoughts on NATO commitments in general and Montenegro in particular Wednesday that any elaboration would have to come from the White House.

“I can tell you that the president reiterated our ironclad commitment to NATO’s collective defense last week” at a NATO leaders’ meeting in Brussels, Nauert said. “Their summit declaration that came out at the end of the summit stated clearly that any attack against one ally will be regarded as an attack against all.”

Although its land mass and military are small, Montenegro was seen as an important addition to NATO when it defied Russia and joined last year. Along with having been a Russian ally in the Balkans, the country sits on a southern stretch of the Adriatic Sea that Moscow has been keen to control.

Montenegrin authorities accused Russia of being behind a foiled coup in 2016 that was intended to kill the country’s pro-NATO prime minister. Russia has denied the allegation. Given the recent tensions, some Montenegrin observers worried Trump’s comments might need to be taken seriously.

Former parliament speaker Krivokapic described Trump’s remark as “very strange.” “I hope (it was) just a mistake, nothing else,” Krivokapic said. “And I hope that Montenegro was not part of (the) Helsinki talks.”

The reaction of Miljan Kovacevic, 34, a lawyer in Montenegro, was more akin to his prime minister’s post-shove aplomb. “He is the president of America, but he has not done too well with his statements lately,” Kovacevic shrugged.

Jovana Gec contributed from Belgrade.

EU urging members to step up plans for no-deal Brexit

July 19, 2018

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union is urging member states to step up preparations for a possible disorderly British exit from the bloc, in which no deal on future relations has been agreed. With Brexit negotiations at an impasse largely because the British government is struggling to command a majority in parliament, there is growing concern that the country could end up crashing out of the EU without a deal.

“We need to be prepared for all eventualities,” Mina Andreeva, spokeswoman at the EU’s executive Commission, said Thursday. The European Commission published a document warning over the potential impact of no deal, from the ability to travel to the collection of tariffs and the need to safeguard EU standards and regulations.

The document was published ahead of the first meeting between EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and the British government’s new Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab. His predecessor David Davis resigned less than two weeks ago after disagreeing with the latest plan of Prime Minister Theresa May that would see Britain maintain extremely close links with the EU in terms of trading goods, including the use of a “common rule book.”

Britain and the 27 EU nations both say they want a smooth Brexit when it officially takes place in March, but talks over the past year have got bogged down amid deep political divisions in London on what strategy to take.

“We have a lot of work to do with our teams,” said Barnier as he welcomed Raab to EU headquarters, highlighting there were only 13 weeks left before an October target for a full deal. The remaining months would be needed for ratification in the European Parliament and national legislatures.

Raab said that after the slow progress to get a clear British position on the future relations with the EU, he was now full of “renewed energy vigor and vim” to close down the remaining differences. “Michel has told us the clock is ticking. And so I’m looking forward to intensifying heating up the negotiations,” Raab said.

Netanyahu greets Hungary’s Orban as ‘true friend of Israel’

July 19, 2018

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday welcomed Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, calling him a “true friend of Israel” despite the outcry over the visiting leader’s past remarks that have been interpreted as anti-Semitic.

Orban and Netanyahu held a joint press conference in Jerusalem following the Hungarian premier’s arrival in Israel the day before. The four-time Hungarian prime minister drew criticism last year for praising Miklos Horthy — Hungary’s World War II-era ruler who introduced anti-Semitic laws and collaborated with the Nazis — and employing tropes that were anti-Semitic in tone against billionaire philanthropist George Soros during his re-election campaign.

Orban evoked anti-Semitic language in denouncing Soros, saying that Hungary’s enemies “do not believe in work, but speculate with money; they have no homeland, but feel that the whole world is theirs.”

Despite global Jewish condemnation of those remarks, Netanyahu praised Orban for combatting anti-Semitism and thanked him for Hungary’s pro-Israel stance. Netanyahu said the two leaders shared an understanding “that the threat of radical Islam is a real one. It could endanger Europe. It could endanger the world. It certainly endangers us and our Arab neighbors.”

Orban has cast himself as champion of a Christian Europe and adopted an aggressive stance to halt the flow of African and Muslim migrants through Hungary. The populist, right-wing politician campaigned earlier this year for re-election on a staunchly anti-migrant platform.

Orban chalked up his country’s strong bilateral ties with Israel to the two leaders’ “excellent personal ties” and “because the two countries have patriots as leaders.” Netanyahu visited Hungary last year — the first visit by an Israeli premier since the 1980s — and was warmly received by Orban. During the trip, Orban said the European Union’s ties with Israel were “not rational enough,” criticizing its stipulation that closer ties would follow resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Israeli premier has taken flak in Israel for embracing Orban amid the Hungarian leader’s increasing authoritarianism, as well as for striking a deal with Poland over a controversial Holocaust speech law. Critics of the compromise with Poland contend Netanyahu appeared to capitulate to the claim that Poles were only victims of the Nazis. Historians say anti-Semitism was prevalent in pre-war Poland and that some Poles collaborated with the Nazis in the Holocaust.

Opposition lawmaker Yair Lapid, whose father was a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, scorned Netanyahu ahead of his meeting with Orban. “After he disrespected the memory of Holocaust victims in the agreement with Poland, today Netanyahu will pay honors to Hungarian Prime Minister Orban, who hailed and praised the anti-Semitic ruler who collaborated with the Nazis in destroying the Jews of Hungary,” Lapid wrote on Twitter. “Shame!”

Lapid and fellow opposition politician Tamar Zandberg, head of the Meretz party, called for a boycott of Orban’s visit. “Netanyahu has a thing with anti-Semitic leaders around the world, from Hungary and Poland, to the head of the Philippines, (Rodrigo) Duterte, who compared himself to Hitler, and instead of suffering condemnation, was invited as well for a state visit with the prime minister of Israel,” Zandberg wrote on Facebook.

Protesters were later expected to demonstrate at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, during Orban’s visit there. Amnesty International in Israel organized a protest against Orban’s visit to the memorial, rejecting “restraint toward the words of praise for anti-Semitism, for racism and anti-democratic persecution.”

World Cup afterglow gives France a sorely needed boost

July 16, 2018

PARIS (AP) — The members of France’s victorious World Cup team returned home from Russia to triumphant arcs of water heralding their airplane’s arrival and a red carpet welcome Monday, and that was before the formal homage that awaited them in Paris.

Goalie Hugo Lloris, brandishing the golden trophy from soccer’s eminent tournament, and coach Didier Deschamps led the team from the Air France plane to the tarmac at Charles de Gaulle Airport. Airport personnel and French Sports Minister Laura Flessel, a former champion fencer, were the first to tell them “merci” on behalf of a grateful nation that was sorely in need of a boost.

“Eternal Happiness” read Monday’s headline in French sports daily L’Equipe, summing up the mood of many who hope the euphoria will last for months — even years. The team expected to take a victory lap down the grand Champs-Elysees, the grand Paris avenue where hundreds of thousands thronged after France’s 4-2 victory Sunday over Croatia to capture the trophy.

For a third day in a row, the avenue was transformed into a boulevard of pride and happiness following a Bastille Day parade of French military might Saturday that, in hindsight, was a preview for the elation of France’s World Cup win.

The team’s appearance on the Champs-Elysees will be followed by a reception at the presidential palace. Hundreds of guests, including people from soccer clubs connected to the French players, were invited. A club in the poor suburb where 19-year-old star Kylian Mbappe grew up is among them.

France has been short of reasons to feel proud, and now is the moment. Several Paris Metro stations were temporarily adjusting their names to honor the team and its members, the transport authority tweeted. The Champs-Elysees Clemenceau has become the Deschamps-Elysees Clemenceau to honor national team coach Didier Deschamps.

The Etoile station is, for now, “On a 2 Etoiles” (We have 2 stars), to denote France’s second victory in soccer’s World Cup. The Victor Hugo station is now Victor Hugo Lloris, after France’s standout goalie and team captain.

Celebrations were spread across the nation, and among the still-dazed French players themselves. “We are linked for life now with this Cup,” defender Raphael Varane told BFM-TV on Monday before departing from Moscow.

French President Emmanuel Macron exulted on the field in Moscow and in the locker room, hugging players as they received their medals even as the skies poured rain. Macron clearly hoped the World Cup glow would rub off on him, raising him up in the eyes of a nation where his economic reforms have drawn fierce protests.

It was the players, though, who captured the French imagination. The mostly youthful, diverse team represents a generation with which traditionalists have yet to come to terms. Flessel, the sports minister, told Europe-1 radio that the World Cup victory allows France’s youth — like those in the poor suburbs where many of the players grew up — “to dare to believe in their dreams.”

Joy over the win brightened the Monday morning commute in Paris, where young people in cars sang and shouted. In the eastern Paris neighborhood of Belleville, Vincent Simon said, “Both teams deserved to win. France won, and that’s good for the country. That will do us good for some months.”

The victory came at a time when many French were in need of good news. “It represents enormous things,” said Goffrey Hamsik, dressed in a hat resembling a rooster — the French national symbol — and a shirt with Mbappe’s No. 10 number.

“We’ve had lots of problems in France these past years,” he said at Sunday’s festivities, recalling deadly terror attacks. “This is good for the morale … Here, we are all united. We mix. There is no religion, there is nothing, and that’s what feels good.”

Still, celebrations in France typically end up with a spate of violence by troublemakers, and Sunday was no exception. Broken shop windows, pillage and other destruction lined a section of the Champs-Elysees, the postgame site for revelers. Riot police used water cannon and tear gas to end the violence.

French media reported that authorities detained 90 people for questioning in the Paris region and some 290 around France.

Chris den Hond in Paris contributed.

British PM accepts key amendments from hardline Brexiteers

July 16, 2018

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday accepted amendments to a customs bill put forward by Brexit hardliners who oppose her plan for a “common rule book” with the European Union after the country leaves the bloc.

Even with those unwanted concessions, the government only barely won a Monday night vote, gaining 305 votes in favor and 302 against. The bill would prevent Britain from collecting tariffs on behalf of EU nations unless the EU does the same for the UK

The government avoided what would have been an embarrassing defeat, but the razor-thin margin reveals the fragility of May’s support as she tries to find a way to move the complex Brexit process forward.

A Downing Street spokesman said the government accepted the amendments because it sees them as consistent with the prime minister’s plan as set out in a formal white paper last week. However, critics said May had caved in to pressure from Brexit supporters who want a complete break with Europe. They said the changes would greatly limit May’s ability to move forward with the plan that prompted two hardliners in her Cabinet to resign in protest last week — and fresh resignations of lesser figures Monday.

The amendments seek to limit the government’s ability to set up the customs arrangements May has advocated, which would keep close ties to Europe. They were proposed by the European Research Group, the research arm of May’s Conservative Party which is headed by lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Another Conservative Party legislator, Anna Soubry, who opposes the “hard” Brexit that would see Britain leave the EU without a trade deal in place, said the government’s acceptance of the four amendments mean that Rees-Mogg is now effectively “running Britain.”

May also came under fire Monday from a former Cabinet minister who called for a new Brexit referendum, an idea immediately rejected by the prime minister’s team. Former Education Secretary Justine Greening, also a Conservative, said the U.K. Parliament was “gridlocked” over the divisive issue. She said she and other senior Tory lawmakers favor a new vote.

Greening said she would campaign to keep Britain in the EU, if a new referendum were held. The day’s developments heaped additional pressure on the beleaguered May, whose party is deeply split and does not enjoy majority control in Parliament.

Her recent white paper outlining plans for a common rule book with the EU over trade in goods has infuriated those who favor a complete break even if it risks causing an economic shock. May defended her plan as she opened the Farnborough International Airshow. She said it would safeguard vital jobs in the aviation industry and keep Britain’s tradition as a nation in the forefront of the aviation industry.

The issue is sensitive because Airbus signaled in June that it would have to consider its long-term plans for Britain if there is no Brexit deal. May said the plan outlined in the white paper honors the wishes of British voters — who in June 2016 backed Brexit with 52 percent of the vote — while protecting industry and national security.

May’s authority has been weakened with the resignations of major figures Boris Johnson and David Davis and a series of lesser officials who disagree with her Brexit plan. The skirmishes are expected to continue Tuesday when a different trade bill is debated. There is also a move for Parliament to begin its summer recess several days early in a bid to curtail the chaos of recent weeks.

Japan, EU to sign trade deal eliminating nearly all tariffs

July 17, 2018

TOKYO (AP) — The European Union and Japan are signing a widespread trade deal Tuesday that will eliminate nearly all tariffs, seemingly defying the worries about trade tensions set off by President Donald Trump’s policies.

The signing in Tokyo for the deal, largely reached late last year, is ceremonial. It was delayed from earlier this month because Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe canceled going to Brussels over a disaster in southwestern Japan, caused by extremely heavy rainfall. More than 200 people died from flooding and landslides.

European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who arrived Monday, will also attend a gala dinner at the prime minister’s official residence. Both sides are heralding the deal, which covers a third of the global economy and more than 600 million people.

Prices of European wine and pork will fall for Japanese consumers. Japanese machinery parts, tea and fish will get cheaper for Europe. The deal eliminates about 99 percent of the tariffs on Japanese goods to the EU, but remaining at around 94 percent for European imports into Japan for now and rising to 99 percent over the years. The difference is due to exceptions such as rice, a product that’s culturally and politically sensitive and has been protected for decades in Japan.

The major step toward liberalizing trade was discussed in talks since 2013 but is striking in the timing of the signing, as China and the U.S. are embroiled in trade conflicts. The U.S. is proposing 10 percent tariffs on a $200 billion list of Chinese goods. That follows an earlier move by Washington to impose 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods. Beijing has responded by imposing identical penalties on a similar amount of American imports.

Besides the latest deal with the EU, Japan is working on other trade agreements, including a far-reaching trans-Pacific deal. The partnership includes Australia, Mexico, Vietnam and other nations, although the U.S. has withdrawn.

Japan praised the deal with the EU as coming from Abe’s “Abenomics” policies, designed to wrest the economy out of stagnation despite a shrinking population and cautious spending. Japan’s growth continues to be heavily dependent on exports.

By strengthening ties with the EU, Japan hopes to vitalize mutual direct investment, fight other global trends toward protectionism and enhance the stature of Japanese brands, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The EU said the trade liberalization will lead to the region’s export growth in chemicals, clothing, cosmetics and beer to Japan, leading to job security for Europe. Japanese will get cheaper cheese, such as Parmesan, gouda and cheddar, as well as chocolate and biscuits.

Japanese consumers have historically coveted European products, and a drop in prices is likely to boost spending.

Tag Cloud