⊂ UNITED KINGDOM ⊃
Parliament moves towards special inquiry into abuse of MPs: The British parliament is moving towards a special inquiry into the abuse and harassment of MPs after repeated threats and other forms of intimidation in relation to Brexit and other issues. The proposal for a Speaker’s conference was made by Harriet Harman and Ken Clarke, the longest continuously serving female MP and male MP in parliament. A panel of cross-party MPs will examine evidence and make recommendations for police, prosecutors and others. The panel would consider how best to balance the right to protest with helping MPs carry on with their jobs, Harman told reporters. He said the idea was first considered more than a year ago, but had been lent fresh impetus by the barracking and abuse of MPs such as Anna Soubry by pro-Brexit protestors outside parliament in recent weeks.
Sturgeon under fire for discussing harassment claims with Salmond: Opposition parties have challenged Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to justify her decision to have a series of discussions with Alex Salmond about sexual harassment allegations against him. Scottish Labour and the Scottish Tories said those private discussions, two of which took place in Sturgeon’s home, raised further serious questions about the Scottish government’s botched investigation into two harassment complaints against Salmond. Sturgeon’s government has admitted in court that a key civil servant’s conflicts of interest in the case rendered its investigation unlawful and potentially biased.
MPs want hunger minister role introduced: A group of MPs wants the government to introduce a Minister for Hunger to respond to a growth in food insecurity in the UK, especially among children. The Environmental Audit Committee says 19% of children under 15 in the UK live with adults who struggle to buy food. It says ministers have failed to recognise and respond to the problem. The committee wants to see the appointment of a new minister with responsibility and accountability for combating hunger and food insecurity within the UK. The job would involve exploring the scale, causes and impact of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition and implementing strategies to improve the situation.
Forced marriage: Victims will no longer have to take out loans bbc.com
University: Oxford and Cambridge reject Adonis proposal for ‘access’ colleges theguardian.com
Kent: MP Craig Mackinlay cleared of election expenses fraud bbc.com
⊂ JOB-BOARD UNITED KINGDOM ⊃
politjobs.uk: Association of Directors of Children’s Services seeks Policy Officer *** The Royal Society seeks Senior Policy Adviser (Education) *** ITV Cymru Wales seeks Public Affairs Manager *** Independent Age seeks Public Affairs Officer *** Dogs Trust seeks European Policy Advisor (Publish your job ad)
⊂ EUROPE ⊃
Rescued refugees on German ships allowed into port: Malta has allowed people on two German NGO rescue ships to enter port after they were stuck in limbo for weeks in the Mediterranean Sea. Maltese President Joseph Muscat said refugees would be distributed to eight EU states: Germany, France, Portugal, Ireland, Romania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Italy. Muscat also said the agreement included plans to send home or relocate within the EU another 249 people who had landed in Malta in recent days. The German Interior Ministry said more countries might be forthcoming. A German government spokesman admitted that the compromise was an ad hoc measure and not an indication that the EU had made progress toward a long-term agreement on how to distribute refugees throughout the bloc. Oxfam has condemned the EU over inhumane conditions in Greece’s largest refugee camp. The British-based NGO described the increasingly dangerous state of the EU-sponsored Moria camp on the island of Lesbos, where a 24-year-old man from Cameroon was found dead in the early hours of Tuesday as temperatures fell below freezing. In Germany, 884 refugee children under the age of 13 are missing. A Saudi woman who fled her family and refused to leave a Bangkok hotel has been declared a legitimate refugee by the UN, the Australian government says. Hundreds of people being held at an immigrant detention centre in Australia have gone on hunger strike in a protest against their living conditions.
dw.com, politico.eu (Malta), theguardian.com (Greece), bbc.com (Saudi woman), stern.de (Australia)
EU lawmakers decry Washington downgrading of EU ambassador: The US Congress has been sent an open letter by EU parliamentarians fuming over the sidelining of the EU’s mission in Washington. The letter criticised the White House’s increasingly harmful approach to trans-Atlantic relations and urged Congress to help strengthen and not undermine ties. The European delegation said neither the ambassador nor the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, had been notified of the demotion of the EU Ambassador to the United States, David O’Sullivan, in advance. O’Sullivan lost his rank on the US Diplomatic Order of Precedence and had been relegated to the bottom of the list. This was no way to treat partners, they wrote. Together the 28-nation EU and the US should face shared challenges from countries such as China, Russia and Iran” as well as climate change and economic inequality, the signatories added. EU Trade chief Cecilia Malmström will request a mandate from member states to start trade negotiations on industrial goods with the US, she confirmed on Wednesday in Washington.
dw.com, euractiv.com (Trade)
May suffers parliament defeat as Brexit debate resumes: British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered an early defeat to her Brexit plans on Wednesday when parliament demanded the government come up with a plan-B within days if she loses a vote on her deal to leave the EU. With less than three months before Britain is due to quit the EU, parliament began a five-day battle over May’s Brexit plan with a show of force – undermining her preferred timetable if lawmakers vote down her blueprint next Tuesday. There were turbulent scenes in parliament when some in May’s Conservative Party accused the speaker of bias.
Italy and Poland want “new spring” in Europe: Italy and Poland should join forces to reshape Europe, Italy’s far-right Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said on Wednesday during a visit to Warsaw. The eurosceptic governments in Rome and Warsaw are both keen to repatriate some EU powers from Brussels to national capitals and hope like-minded parties will do well in the May elections. Salvini, who has often blamed EU lawmakers for allowing the refugee crisis to spin out of control, said he wants Poland and Italy to work together on a new Europe. Salvani’s ties to Russia could become his main hurdle in garnering support from Poland’s conservative politicians — like many in Poland, Jaroslaw Kaczynski is distrustful of Moscow. Kaczynski, who runs Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), has clashed with Brussels on a range of issues and said the EU should stop meddling in his country’s affairs.
Romania’s Dragnea files lawsuit against EU Commission: Romania’s most powerful politician has filed a lawsuit against Brussels after claims of corruption involving EU funds. The country’s anti-corruption directorate accused Liviu Dragnea, leader of the ruling Social Democrats (PSD), of a 21 million euro scam. It based its accusations against Dragnea on investigations by the European Commission’s anti-fraud office, OLAF. Dragnea rejects the claims and has now moved to sue the Commission because it is Olaf’s supervisory body.
⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃
Head of French national debate Jouanno resigns: Days before France launches a national debate in response to weeks of “yellow vest” protests, the former minister picked to lead the exercise has stepped down. Among their multiple demands, many “gilets jaunes” complain that they are unable to make ends meet with precarious, low-paid jobs. Chantal Jouanno has left her position amid an outcry over her monthly salary of 14,666 euros. Jouanno resigned on national TV on Tuesday evening, saying she was doing so because she believed in the debate. French President Emmanuel Macron had hoped that Jouanno, a former sports and ecology minister in the Sarkozy administration, would preside and pilot the commission and convince the disenchanted French their ire was being taken seriously.
Police arrest suspect linked to 2015 Paris terror attacks: Belgian prosecutors confirmed Wednesday the arrest last month of a suspect in connection with the Paris terror attacks in November 2015. The man was arrested in Belgium shortly before Christmas. The suspect faces charges of supplying automatic rifles to the attackers, Belgian federal prosecutors spokesman Eric Van Duyse told AFP Wednesday. More than 130 people were killed by a group of gunmen and suicide bombers in the Paris attacks on November 13, 2015, which targeted the Bataclan concert hall, a stadium, restaurants and bars in the French capital.
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Egypt confirms one German detained, another unaccounted for: German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adelbahr confirmed Wednesday that 23-year-old German-Egyptian student Mahmoud Abdel Aziz was in the custody of Egyptian authorities. The student was detained in December at Cairo airport. Adelbahr said German authorities were trying very intensively to get access to Aziz, but have not yet been able to see him. Thus far, no reason has been given for the man’s arrest. The man, who hails from the northern German city of Göttingen, was traveling with his brother Malik at the time he was detained. The men were en route to visit their grandparents.
Greece: Urban guerrillas OLA claim TV station attack reuters.com
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⊂ MALFUNCTION ⊃
Prosecutor requests no conviction for French cardinal: French prosecutors announced on Wednesday that they will not seek to convict Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who is accused of failing to report a priest for sexual abuse, because the statute of limitations has expired. Barbarin and five other members of his diocese have been on trial since Monday. Barbarin has refuted any allegations that he had sought to quash the scandal and reiterated his claim that he only became aware of the abuse in 2007, years after he was made Archbishop of Lyon and then Cardinal.