Thursday, 13 December 2018: French and German police search for Strasbourg attacker, May survives party confidence vote, EU lawmakers back free trade deal with Japan


French and German police search for Strasbourg attacker: French authorities have identified the suspect who is on the run following a mass shooting near a Christmas market in the city of Strasbourg. Hundreds of police in France and Germany have been dispatched to look for the attacker, who was injured during a gun fight with police. Two people were killed in the attack, one person is brain dead, and a dozen others were injured in the shooting Tuesday night, prosecutor Remy Heitz said at a news conference. He said that witnesses had heard the attacker yell “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great” in Arabic, and that the targets and the suspect’s profile justified the opening of a terrorism investigation. The 29-year-old suspect was radicalised in prison and was monitored by French intelligence services since his release in late 2015 on suspicion he was a religious extremist, the AP reported, citing a French interior ministry official. Born in Strasbourg, he is a French citizen and has some 27 convictions in France, Germany and Switzerland to his name.,,,

May survives party confidence vote: British Prime Minister Theresa May survived a confidence vote by her conservative party on Wednesday. While 200 Conservative lawmakers voted in support of May as leader, 117 dissented, indicating opposition not only from several dozen supporters of a hard Brexit but also from other lawmakers. Ahead of the confidence vote, May had announced that she would not seek to lead her party into the next general election, even if she won the vote. MPs listening to the prime minister speak ahead of the ballot said from inside the room that May gave clear indications she would step down ahead of the election at the end of the parliament. She spent much of Wednesday meeting Tory MPs and reportedly reassured sceptics that it was not her intention to fight the next general election.,

EU lawmakers back free trade deal with Japan: The European Union and Japan will launch the world’s largest free trade zone early next year after their economic partnership cleared a final hurdle on Wednesday. EU Parliament lawmakers backed the agreement that binds two economies accounting for about a third of global gross domestic product, creating an open trading zone covering 635 million people. EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said the deal would bring clear benefits to EU companies and farmers. Japan’s parliament approved it on Saturday. The agreement will, amongst other things, remove tariffs on industrial products in sectors where the EU is very competitive, such as cosmetics, chemicals, textiles and clothing and commit Japan to international car standards, with the result that EU exports of cars to Japan is made significantly easier.,

Germany backs extending EU sanctions against Russia: Germany will back an extension of the EU’s sanctions against Russia at an upcoming summit of EU leaders, Chancellor Angela Merkel told lawmakers on Wednesday. Russia’s detention of three Ukrainian military vessels and their crews in the Kerch Strait – a body of water shared between the two countries – has led to widespread calls in Europe and the U.S. for sanctions against Moscow to be toughened.

European Economic Commissioner Moscovici: French, Italian budget situations not comparable
Euro budget: EU moves forward with its own budget
United States: Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen sentenced to three years in prison


We are not at all betraying the trust of Italians.
Italian Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte said on Wednesday the new deficit target would allow Italy to avoid the threat of EU fines without sacrificing key pension reforms and basic income subsidies.


EU sees progress on budget row with Italy: The Italian government has offered to lower its deficit target for next year, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Wednesday, with the EU Commission declaring that good progress has been made in a dispute over the country’s budget. Conte flew to Brussels to try to head off disciplinary measures over his government’s expansionary draft budget, which originally targeted a headline deficit of 2.4% of gross domestic product – a level the Commission rejected as too high. Finance Minister Giovanni Tria will continue talks with the Commission on Thursday in Brussels, his spokeswoman said.

Polish PM wins confidence vote: Poland’s government of the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party won a vote of confidence in the lower house of parliament on Wednesday. Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had called for the vote to ensure that his government has a mandate for its reforms ahead of Thursday’s summit of EU leaders. A total of 231 MPs came out in favour of the government with 181 against in a vote that was more a show of strength than a real test and followed a debate dominated by Morawiecki. The PiS party has seen its popularity ratings edge slightly down following a corruption scandal in the financial regulator.,

Hungarian opposition upset over “slave law”: Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban tightened his grip on power on Wednesday, as the parliament, controlled by Orban’s far-right party, approved the creation of a parallel court system that cements executive control over the judiciary. The parliament passed a set of controversial laws amid scenes of chaos, as opposition MPs sounded sirens, blew whistles and angrily confronted Orban. One of the new laws raises the amount of overtime employers can demand their employees work and has been labelled a slave law by critics. Another establishes new courts to consider government business with a greater role for the justice minister. Orban’s justice minister will control the hiring and promotion of its judges, who will have jurisdiction over cases relating to public administration — including politically sensitive matters like electoral law, corruption and the right to protest.,

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German opposition to probe defence minister over spending scandal: Opposition parties in the German parliament have agreed to launch an investigation into Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen’s role in a spending scandal involving her ministry’s allocation of lucrative contracts. Lawmakers from the Greens, Left Party and Free Democrats (FDP) approved the move after von der Leyen gave an inadequate testimony on the affair at a Defence Committee hearing Wednesday, the opposition said. The defence minister admitted in November that her ministry had made mistakes in allocating contracts to external consultants worth hundreds of millions of euros.

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Trump uses Strasbourg attack to advance push for border wall funding: US President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he would move to fortify US borders even more in the wake of the attack in France, without elaborating on his plans. “Chuck and Nancy must give us the votes to get additional Border Security!”, Trump tweeted. He had met Tuesday with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi over his $5 billion request for funding to build the border wall, a sit-down that quickly devolved into a partisan brawl on live television.


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