Thursday, February 7th 2019: Tusk warns of special place in hell for Brexit proponents, EU competition policy under fire after Siemens-Alstom deal blocked, Maduro blocks aid for Venezuela


Tusk warns of special place in hell for Brexit proponents: The European Union’s frustration with the British government over Brexit erupted into the open on Wednesday. European Council President Donald Tusk spoke of a “special place in hell” for those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan of how to carry it out safely. Tusk also reinforced the EU’s stance that the Withdrawal Agreement was not open for renegotiation and hoped that British Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to Brussels this Thursday had a realistic suggestion on how to end the impasse. Tusk, whose role is to represent the leaders of the 28 EU member nations, was speaking after talks with Irish premier Leo Varadkar in Brussels. His unscripted comments came just 24 hours before May is due to sit down with him to try and find a way forward. The leader of the Commons, Andrea Leadsom, described Tusk’s comments as spiteful and called for an apology. Downing Street said it was a question for Tusk whether he considered the use of that kind of language helpful. British cabinet office minister, David Lidington, who is May’s de facto deputy, said on Wednesday that extending the negotiating period for Britain to leave the EU would only defer a decision by parliament on a Brexit deal.,,,

EU competition policy under fire after Siemens-Alstom deal blocked: Siemens and Alstom’s plan to create a European rail champion collapsed after EU regulators rejected the deal, prompting Germany and France to call for an overhaul of EU competition policy. German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier and his French colleague Bruno Le Maire announced on Wednesday that Berlin and Paris are working on a proposal to change European competition rules. Altmaier said Europe should change its rules to facilitate cross-border mergers and create European champions which could compete with rivals from China and the United States. He did not want to elaborate on competition issues in the specific case of Siemens and Alstom just hours after the EU Commission’s decision on the case, but he hinted that he would like to see a second push for the merger.,

Maduro blocks aid for Venezuela: The Venezuelan government, led by embattled President Nicolas Maduro, has blocked a bridge connecting Venezuela to Colombia, effectively blocking the passage of humanitarian aid called for by Venezuela’s opposition. New images show an orange oil tanker and two large blue containers positioned midway across the three-lane Tienditas Bridge, which connects Cucuta, Colombia, with Venezuela. Cucuta is one of three collection points for international humanitarian aid called for by Venezuela’s opposition leader and self-declared president Juan Guaido amid Venezuela’s debilitating economic crisis. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has demanded Venezuela reopen the bridge to let aid reach the starving people in the country. Guaido has secured the backing of over 40 countries, including the US and most Latin American and European nations. Maduro still has the support of China and Russia.,

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North Macedonia paves way for Nato membership: The newly-named Republic of North Macedonia has signed up to become Nato’s latest member. At a ceremony in Brussels, Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the accession would bring more stability to the Western Balkans, which was good for the region and for Euro-Atlantic security. Last month the Greek parliament backed a deal ending a decades-long conflict over its northern neighbor’s name. Lawmakers approved the name Republic of North Macedonia. Greece had argued the country’s name infringed on its northern province, also called Macedonia, blocking the country’s membership of Nato and the European Union. North Macedonia is now on its way to become Nato’s 30th member. Leaders of the Nato allies will hold a summit in December in London.,,

Climate: 2018 was world’s fourth hottest year on record, scientists confirm
INF treaty: Latvia pushes for new international agreement
Bertelsmann study: Half of all EU citizens unaware of what an algorithm is


I’m less Catholic than my good friend Donald. He strongly believes in heaven and by opposite in hell. I believe in heaven and I have never seen hell, apart from during the time I was doing my job here. It’s hell.
EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker described his job as “hell” on Wednesday as he weighed into the controversy caused by European Council President Donald Tusk.


EU court adviser sides against Austria over German road toll: A planned German highway toll does not discriminate against foreign drivers, a senior adviser to the Court of Justice of the European Union said on Wednesday. Germany passed a law in 2015 planning a toll for use of the country’s highways, which is due to start by 2021. Those with vehicles registered in Germany will automatically be charged an annual fee, but will benefit from a corresponding reduction in motor vehicle tax. Austria, also backed by the Netherlands, complained that the tax relief for German residents meant only foreign drivers were paying the infrastructure charge. Advocate General Nils Wahl said that the European Court of Justice should dismiss Austria’s action. He found that Austria had a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of discrimination. One major problem with Austria’s argument, he wrote, was the idea that domestic drivers and foreign drivers use German highways at the same rate. Furthermore, foreigners are not subject to Germany’s infrastructure charge and motor vehicle tax. The court itself still has to rule on the case.,

France declares day marking Armenian genocide: French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday declared April 24th to be a national day to commemorate the 1915 Armenian genocide. He told an annual dinner of the Coordination Council of Armenian Organizations in France that France was among the first nations to denounce the murderous hunt of the Armenian people in the Ottoman Empire. Turkey on Wednesday strongly condemned the announcement, accusing the French president of using the event as political fodder. Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War One, but contests the figures and denies the killings were systematically orchestrated and constitute a genocide. Nearly 30 other countries have recognized the massacres as genocide.,

Berlin and Paris announce deals for warplanes: France and Germany on Wednesday announced a contract financed equally by both countries over two years as the first act of a joint program to design a next-generation combat jet system. Dassault Aviation and Airbus will build the system which is expected to be operational from 2040 with a view to replacing over time Dassault’s Rafale and Germany’s Eurofighters. France’s Safran and Germany’s MTU Aero Engines will jointly develop the new warplane’s engine. French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly and her German counterpart Ursula von der Leyen announced the deal at a Safran site in northeastern Paris, where representatives of the two companies signed a memorandum of understanding.

Romania to block own candidate from EU prosecutor role: The new European Public Prosecutors Office will coordinate national law enforcement efforts with the European police and law agencies Europol and Eurojust, as well as the EU anti-fraud office Olaf. The European prosecutor will have the power to coordinate police investigations, freeze and seize assets, and arrest suspects across borders. Laura Codruta Kövesi, the former chief prosecutor of Romania’s anti-corruption agency (DNA), is the first choice to lead the prosecutor’s office. She has been acclaimed in Brussels and in EU capitals, but not in her home country, where the ruling social-democrats obtained her removal from office last July. Romania’s justice minister Tudorel Toader reportedly plans to undermine Kövesi by sending to the ministers from the other 27 member countries sitting in the Justice and Home Affairs Council the reasons for her dismissal from DNA. The EU Parliament and European Council intend to vote on the appointment in the coming weeks.,

Netherlands: Police shoot and kill gunman near central bank in Amsterdam
Italy: EU Commission to cut Italy 2019 growth forecast
Spain: Father loses custody over his children for smoking too much

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Trump nominates outspoken critic to head World Bank: US President Donald Trump has nominated Treasury Department official David Malpass, a vocal critic of the World Bank, to head the international financial institution. Malpass has long faulted the World Bank for its billions of dollars in loans to China, which he says has enough resources of its own, and has taken aim at multilateral organizations like the Washington-based bank for growing “larger and more intrusive”. If approved by the countries that control the World Bank’s governing board, which is considered likely, Malpass would replace Jim Yong Kim, who announced his resignation in January and stepped down before his term ended.,


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