Monday, March 11th 2019: Merkel successor backs Macron’s EU call, floats own ideas, Puigdemont to run in EU election, Italy halts project to build train line to France


Merkel successor backs Macron’s EU call, floats own ideas: The leader of Germany’s ruling Christian Democrats (CDU), Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, has backed French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent call for a stronger European Union, but suggested some solutions that are unlikely to be welcomed in Paris. Kramp-Karrenbauer echoed Macron by calling for a reform of the EU’s migration policy, but rejected his idea for a European minimum wage and cautioned against collective debts. Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is Chancellor Angela Merkel’s protege and in pole position to succeed her as chancellor, called for an internal European banking market to ensure that Europe’s businesses can secure financing in the EU. She also said a joint EU innovation budget should fund new technologies, tax loopholes should be closed in the bloc, and a digital tax introduced based on an Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development model.,

Puigdemont to run in EU election: Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont announced Sunday he will run in May’s European Parliament election. It is not clear if Puigdemont could be sworn in as member of the EU Parliament if he is elected. The requirements for candidates are decided at the national level. Puigdemont, who went into self-imposed exile in Belgium in 2017 after the regional parliament declared independence, will be the lead candidate for his pro-independence Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) party, according to the party’s website. The Spanish government ousted Puigdemont and his government to impose direct rule following the independence declaration, and he still faces charges of rebellion for his role in the separatist push if he returns to Spain.,

Tensions mount in Venezuela following power outage: The fight for the future of Venezuela reopened Saturday on the streets of its capital, with electricity flickering in-and-out around the country for most of the last three days. Venezuela’s embattled president Nicolas Maduro and his opposition rival Juan Guaido held dueling rallies in the capital Caracas on Saturday. The South American nation continues to struggle with an ongoing power outage – parts of Venezuela remained without power over the weekend after 70% of the country had an outage late last week. At Venezuelan hospitals, the blackout combined with the absence or poor performance of backup generators led to the death of 17 patients across the country, non-governmental organization Doctors for Health said on Saturday. Maduro initially blamed sabotage, likely American, for knocking out the electricity. Rampant inflation and food scarcity have gripped Venezuela under Maduro, and thousands have fled to neighboring countries as shortages, political turmoil and crime rates have soared. Blackouts have become a daily occurrence as the economic crisis has worsened.,,,

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EU Commission postpones economic policy reform proposals: The Commission has repeatedly postponed the presentation of its economic policy reform recommendations to the EU member states, triggering criticism. Originally, the proposals were supposed to be submitted on May 22nd, but the presentation was postponed to 26 May and then to 5 June because of the European elections. German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz has announced that he wants to talk about this with the responsible Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis in the EU Council of Finance Ministers. Countries that are good at implementing EU reform recommendations will be rewarded financially, while countries that fail to implement recommendations will suffer financial losses, according to a letter from the EU.

European People’s Party: EU Parliament President Tajani wants to keep Orban in EPP; EPP leader Weber to meet Orban in Budapest;


It is tragic to see how, in this hour of fate, party politics determine the future of a country.
German conservative Manfred Weber, the European People’s Party (EPP) candidate to be EU Commission President, has spoken out against a Brexit delay and called on British politicians to deprioritize their own careers and party considerations.


Italy halts project to build train line to France: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has halted the launch of tenders for a high-speed rail link to France through the Alps. The move is designed to calm a dispute over the project which had threatened to bring down the government. Conte announced in a Facebook post that he had asked the TELT company overseeing the project to stop the tenders as his government was completely rediscussing the project. The parties in Italy’s ruling coalition have been at odds over building the rail link. The multibillion-euro project is backed by the League party but strongly opposed by its coalition partner, 5-Star Movement. It argues that Italy’s share of the funding would be better spent upgrading existing roads and bridges.,

German journalists forced to leave Turkey: Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has spoken out against Turkey’s decision to expel three German journalists. He said the decision was unacceptable and he would campaign against it. Thomas Seibert, a reporter for the Berlin-based “Tagesspiegel” daily, and Jörg Brase, a correspondent for public broadcaster ZDF, flew to Germany on Sunday after their accreditation to work in Turkey was not renewed. The reporters were given ten days to leave the country. It is thought to be the first time Turkey has formally rejected the accreditation of foreign journalists. ZDF is planning on taking legal action against the decision. The incident has reignited concerns over a clampdown on press freedom in Turkey. Currently, about a dozen German correspondents and a number of other international journalists are still waiting for their new annual press accreditation more than two months after their old documents expired.,

Turnout falls to lowest yet in French “Yellow Vest” protests: Turnout at “Yellow Vest” protests across France, a backlash against high living costs that has lasted nearly four months, fell on Saturday to its lowest level yet. Some 28,600 people turned out overall, according to the interior ministry, with 3,000 of those in Paris – down from 39,300 across France the previous Saturday, and a far cry from the nearly 300,000 who blocked roads and marched in cities in mid-November. The Paris protest on Saturday started with a festive note with women, some carrying pink balloons, leading a calm and orderly march while advocating for equal rights and equal pay a day after International Women’s Day.,

Serbian protesters surround state TV building: Protests against Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic have entered their fourth month with another large rally in the capital, Belgrade. Several thousand protesters surrounded Serbia’s state broadcaster RTS headquarters on Saturday. The move was a call from demonstrators for greater media freedom in country. The crowd booed and jeered outside the TV building in central Belgrade, expressing their discontent with what they consider to be the station’s biased reporting. Protesters blockaded the entrance to RTS for roughly one hour. Protesters have demanded for an end to Vucic’s stranglehold on the media. Opponents accuse Vucic’s government of fostering hate speech and divisions while curbing democratic freedoms.

Netherlands: Tens of thousands march for stronger climate change policies
Germany: President Steinmeier calls for decisive fight against antisemitism

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Dog owners protest against Brexit: Dogs and their owners gathered in Westminster on Sunday to take part in an anti-Brexit protest. Billed as “the world’s biggest dog’s dinner”, the event was organized by Wooferendum, a campaign group supporting calls for a second referendum. Founder Daniel Elkan said he hoped the event would persuade people unhappy with Brexit to engage in the public debate. The Wooferendum campaign has also received support from MPs.,


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