Friday, 15 March 2019: British parliament votes to delay Brexit, Orban offers apology to EPP for „useful idiots“ comment, EU rejects opening US trade talks

⊂ EUROPE ⊃

British parliament votes to delay Brexit: With two weeks to go before Britain is due to exit the European Union, the British parliament voted in favour of postponing Brexit. In a vote Thursday, the parliament approved a government plan to ask the EU for an extension to the Brexit process. In another vote, Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May beat back a power play by lawmakers who wanted to wrest control of the Brexit process from her. Lawmakers also voted against holding a second referendum on the matter. May plans to bring her Brexit deal before parliament for a third time on Wednesday, following two humiliating defeats of her plan. If May’s deal is defeated a third time, then the prime minister says she will have to ask EU leaders for a much longer extension, which also might not be approved by the EU. The difference between a short delay and a long one could be significant. A longer extension could mean time for a second referendum on Brexit or even a general election that could push May’s Conservative Party from power. European Council President Donald Tusk said EU leaders will consider pressing Britain to delay Brexit by at least a year to find a way through its domestic deadlock.
npr.org, nytimes.com, reuters.com

Orban offers apology to EPP for „useful idiots“ comment: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has apologised to Belgian centre-right party leader Wouter Beke for calling him and other critics in the European People’s Party (EPP) seeking his party’s ouster from the group „useful idiots“. Orban said in a letter that the term was a quote from Lenin, with which he had intended to criticise a certain policy and not certain politicians. Orban’s letter came after several parties within the EPP pushed for his Fidesz party to be suspended or thrown out of the group amid concern over its increasingly antisemitic rhetoric, as well as over a poster campaign directed at the financier George Soros and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
politico.eu, euronews.com

EU rejects opening US trade talks: The European Parliament has failed to pass a resolution supporting the start of trade negotiations with the United States. MEPs voted down a resolution on the talks by 223 votes to 198 on Thursday. The defeat of the proposal means the EU Parliament has neither formally passed a resolution in favour of nor explicitly against opening talks. MEPs voiced their concerns about opening negotiations with US President Donald Trump while the steel and aluminium tariffs punishing European exporters remained in place. The chair of the Parliament’s international trade committee, Bernd Lange, said the EU had already done many concessions, and he wondered where the concessions from the US were. EU member states will now have to approve the approve the negotiating mandates, which were issued by the European Commission in January. Trump warned the EU that his administration could inflict severe economic pain on the bloc if it did not engage in trade talks with Washington.
euractiv.com, independent.co.uk, ft.com

Civil war victims in Syria receive more aid: International donors have pledged around 7 billion US dollars (6.2 billion euros) in humanitarian aid for Syria and Syrian refugees who fled the conflict-ravaged country. EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Christos Stylianides said the pledge fell short of the 8 billion dollars that the United Nations had hoped to raise. Nearly 12 million people inside Syria need emergency aid, and 5.6 million refugees are being housed and fed in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt. The emergency aid pledges came at a conference at which Western donors have had to wrestle with the question of whether to begin providing longer-term reconstruction assistance, now that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has all but won the war. The EU, the world’s biggest aid donor, announced that it would provide 560 million euros (633 million dollars) this year, while planning to offer the same amount next year and in 2021.
washingtonpost.com, reuters.com

European Central Bank: ECB to launch new overnight rate in October; EU Parliament confirms Lane’s ECB appointment reuters.com; euronews.com
Money laundering: EU Parliament criticises Council’s rejection of money laundering blacklist europarl.europa.eu

⊂ QUOTES ⊃

I will do my best to obtain a veto.
British Brexiteer and former Ukip leader Nigel Farage said he will lobby EU countries to make sure one of them vetoes a possible extension of Article 50 past the 29 March deadline.
euractiv.com

⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃

Businessman charged over Kuciak’s murder: Police in Slovakia have charged businessman Marian Kocner with ordering the murder of investigative reporter Jan Kuciak, local media reported on Thursday. Special prosecutors named the suspect only as Marian K. during a televised news conference. Newspapers identified the man as the politically connected Kocner, who had been a subject of Kuciak’s reporting. Before his death, Kuciak had investigated fraud cases involving businessmen with Slovak political ties. Kocner has previously denied having anything to do with Kuciak’s killing. A few months before, Kuciak told police that Kocner had threatened to start collecting information on him and his family. Police pressed no charges.
politico.eu, reuters.com

Ethiopian Airlines black boxes flown to Paris for investigation: The black boxes recovered from Ethiopian Airline’s crashed 737 MAX have arrived in France for analysis. France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety announced the boxes had arrived and that it would be investigating them. The US National Transportation Safety Board, representing the country of manufacture, will also play a role in the probe. Boeing’s new 737 MAX aircraft were grounded across the world after the Ethiopia crash over fears its new automatic control system may be driving aircraft into the ground. Airlines, which have 350 of the planes in their fleets, have also begun to demand compensation for their losses during the grounding.
dw.com, nytimes.com

Former British soldier to be prosecuted in „Bloody Sunday“ shootings: Detectives investigating the biggest mass killing committed by British troops in Northern Ireland, the „Bloody Sunday“ massacre in 1972, have arrested one of the soldiers who opened fire that day. The former soldier, identified only as Soldier F, will be charged in the killings of James Wray and William McKinney, and with the attempted murder of four others. 18 others, including 16 former British soldiers and two nationalist gunmen said to have fired shots that day, will not be prosecuted, the officials said, on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to provide a reasonable chance of conviction. „Bloody Sunday“ refers to 30 January 1972, when British troops fired on unarmed civil rights protesters in Derry, or Londonderry, in Northern Ireland. It is among the most notorious incidents that took place at the height of Northern Ireland’s civil unrest, a four-decade-long conflict between Roman Catholic Irish who supported a united Ireland and the British along with Protestant Irish who wanted to remain a part of the United Kingdom.
nbcnews.com, nytimes.com, npr.org

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France battles to stop oil spill spreading: French authorities are trying to contain an oil spill off the Atlantic coast on Thursday after an Italian cargo ship sank in the Bay of Biscay. The sheet of oil is reportedly 10 km long and one kilometre wide and is threatening to hit parts of the country’s southwest region near Bordeaux over the weekend. Environment minister Francois de Rugy said according to government forecasts, fragments could reach some areas of the coast in Nouvelle-Aquitaine by Sunday or Monday owing to bad weather, which also risked making the anti-pollution operation more difficult. The regional prosecutor has opened an investigation, and France has issued a formal warning to the ship’s operator to assess the damage and help prevent more leaking.
euronews.com, independent.co.uk

France: Environmental groups take government to court over climate change inaction reuters.com
Germany1: Court hears case on Germany’s role in US drone deaths in Yemen dw.com
Germany2: Government under fire over Nato defence spending politico.eu

⊂ JOB-BOARD ⊃

politjobs.eu: Bitkom sucht Referent europäische Digitalpolitik (w/m) *** Int. Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory seeks Innovation Project Manager *** Int. Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory seeks Project Assistant for EU Funded Projects *** PwC seeks Public Affairs Senior Manager Belgium *** Johnson & Johnson seeks Policy Assistant, Government Affairs & Policy EMEA *** Public Policy Manager, Connectivity *** Ryanair offers Public Affairs internship
politjobs.eu, politjobs.eu/submit (Inserat schalten)

⊂ MALFUNCTION ⊃

EU asylum applications fall to pre-2015 levels: The number of first-time asylum applications in the EU fell to 580,845 in the year 2018. This marks an 11% fall from 2017. At the height of the migrant movements into Europe in 2015, asylum applications exceeded 1.2 million. Eurostat findings also confirmed a downward trend of people entering the EU through irregular crossings. Most first-time asylum-seekers in the EU came from Syria. Greece and Cyprus were the migrants‘ main destinations.
dw.com

 

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