Wednesday, 16 May 2018: Scottish parliament rejects EU withdrawal bill, US blocks UN call for independent probe into Gaza deaths, Iran and Europe try to save nuclear deal


Scottish parliament rejects EU withdrawal bill: The Scottish parliament has voted against British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit legislation by a large margin, putting the UK on the brink of a major constitutional dispute. Holyrood rejected the UK government’s EU withdrawal bill by 93 votes to 30 on Tuesday after Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Scottish Greens backed Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to oppose proposals on post-Brexit power sharing set out in clause 11 of the bill. The vote is not legally binding but it will force the prime minister to make a high-risk decision to impose those power-sharing plans on Scotland or make further concessions to the Scottish government to avoid a crisis. The British government has announced that a White Paper setting out its Brexit position will be its „most significant publication on the EU“ since the 2016 referendum.,

US blocks UN call for independent probe into Gaza deaths: The United States blocked a United Nations Security Council statement drafted Monday that called for an independent investigation into the deaths of at least 58 Palestinians along the Israeli-Gaza border. Several European leaders on Monday expressed concern over the violence, reiterating their support for a „two-state solution.“ Turkey and Israel expelled each other’s senior diplomats on Tuesday in a dispute over the killing by Israeli forces of 60 Palestinians a day earlier during protests on the Gaza border. Turkey has been one of the most vocal critics of Israel’s response to the Gaza protests and of the US Embassy move to Jerusalem, recalling its ambassadors from Tel Aviv and Washington and calling for an emergency meeting of Islamic nations on Friday. Belgium has also summoned the Israeli ambassador. Ireland’s foreign ministry has also called for an independent investigation into the events and summoned the Israeli ambassador to a meeting on Tuesday, according to Irish media.,,

Iran and Europe try to save nuclear deal: Iran and European powers have made a good start in talks over how to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal but much depends on what happens in the next few weeks, Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said on Tuesday. “We are on the right track … a lot will depend on what we can do in next few weeks,” Zarif said after a 90-minute meeting with the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany and the European Union’s foreign policy chief. The US administration has designated the head of Iran’s central bank as a terrorist and hit him with sanctions intended to further isolate Iran from the global financial system. The Treasury Department accuses Valiollah Seif of helping transfer millions of dollars to Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militant group. Seif is the governor of the Iranian central bank. He’s being named a “specially designated global terrorist.”,,

US threatens sanctions as WTO raps Airbus subsidies: The World Trade Organization ruled on Tuesday the EU had maintained illegal support to Airbus, prompting the United States to threaten sanctions against European products in the first of two key aircraft subsidy decisions due this year. The WTO report coincides with mounting trade tensions over U.S. aluminium and steel tariffs and the impact on European firms of Washington’s decision to exit the Iran nuclear pact. It is also part of a two-way battle between the EU and the United States over aircraft subsidies that could spark tit-for-tat reprisals between the two trade superpowers.

EU plans cut in truck CO2 emissions: The EU Commission will propose at least a 30 percent reduction target for CO2 emissions from trucks by 2030, an EU source said on Monday, as the bloc seeks to slash greenhouse gas emissions. The target will be the first ever CO2 standard for trucks in the EU, which has no limits on what accounts for almost one quarter of the bloc’s transport-related emissions. Some EU member states, including France, are pushing for a higher target for 2030 of up to 45%. They also want a 24% interim target for 2025. The Commission is expected to propose an intermediary target of 15%, though it is unclear if this would be mandatory. Automakers have warned that that the Commission is trying to transplant its car CO2 regulation onto trucks, although they are two very different vehicle types.,

IMF: High unemployment threatening EU economic recovery
Dombrovskis: Bulgaria will take at least three more years to join euro zone
LuxLeaks: Antoine Deltour fully exonerated


It explained that we really are living in the kind of jungle where we are losing ourselves.
The Facebook scandal has laid bare the urgency of protecting personal information in a digital „jungle,“ the EU’s justice minister Vera Jourova said before new European data rules become law.


Soros foundation leaves Hungary: Under intense political pressure and the threat of legal sanctions, George Soros’s Open Society Foundations said on Tuesday that it had become impossible to work in Hungary, whose prime minister has blamed Soros for the country’s problems, and that the foundations would move their operations to Berlin. Open Society Foundations will move its international operations in Budapest to Berlin in Germany, according to a press release Tuesday. The foundations, which promote democracy, free expression and civil rights, have come under growing political and legal pressure from Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has stifled dissent and declared last week that “the era of liberal democracy is over.” The foundations have been a frequent target of the Hungarian government, and Orban himself has painted Soros as a shadowy figure seeking to undermine the country’s sovereignty.,

New Catalan leader wants to talk with Rajoy: Catalonia’s new regional leader Quim Torra on Tuesday called for dialogue with Madrid to end the conflict with the Spanish government, saying to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy: “Give me a time and place.” Torra, who was elected Catalan president by the regional parliament on Monday, was speaking at a press conference in Berlin with former President Carles Puigdemont, who is awaiting a decision from a German court on whether he will be extradited to Spain. Puigdemont said he hoped that authorities in Madrid would “accept their public offering for dialogue” in order to “find a political solution to this political conflict.” Torra also called for the Spanish government to return control of Catalonia’s finances to the regional government, saying that the lifting of direct rule would not be enough.

Slovak president will not seek re-election next year: Slovakia’s President Andrej Kiska said on Tuesday he would not seek a second term in a presidential election in 2019 because of the “burden” posed by his involvement in political crisis which erupted after the murder of an investigative journalist. Jan Kuciak had been covering high-level corruption when he and his fiancee were killed in February. Their deaths, as yet unsolved, raised public anger and led to Slovakia’s biggest public protests since the fall of communism in 1989. Kiska, a successful businessman-turned-philanthropist, was a political newcomer when he beat then-Prime Minister Robert Fico in the 2014 presidential election to take over the largely ceremonial post. The pro-European and pro-western Kiska often clashed with Fico, considered a populist leader.,

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France’s ex-budget minister found guilty of tax fraud: Former French Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac has been found guilty on charges of tax fraud and money laundering. A Paris Court of Appeals sentenced Cahuzac, who served under former President Francois Hollande, to four years in prison, two of which are suspended, and slapped him with a €300,000 fine. The former minister is unlikely to serve out his two-year custodial jail sentence, however, as he is eligible for “adjustments,” according to AFP. He will be barred from holding public office for five years. Cahuzac’s illegal fiscal activities were first made public in a 2012 investigation by French news site Mediapart, which reported he had failed to declare to fiscal authorities money kept in a Swiss bank account for close to 20 years.

Italian parties struggling to agree on government pact: Italy’s far-right League, struggling to stitch together a coalition deal with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, said on Tuesday it was ready to wage war on EU budget rules. The two parties held a sixth day of negotiations aimed at creating a government and ending 10 weeks of political stalemate following an inconclusive election on March 4. They had been widely expected to unveil a deal at a meeting with President Sergio Mattarella on Monday, but in the event had to ask for more time after differences emerged over policies and over who should head any new administration. With frustration growing, League leaders turned their fire on EU financial restrictions which, if followed to the letter, would make it impossible for the anti-immigrant party to enact its big-spending electoral promises. With tensions high, Valdis Dombrovskis, the vice president of the European Commission, warned that Italy should maintain its commitment to gradually reduce the public deficit and debt.

Crimea annexation: Ukraine raids Russian media outlets
Moscow: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is jailed for 30 days
Cyber risk: Dutch government to phase out use of Kaspersky anti-virus software

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World Cup visa approved by Russia for German journalist who uncovered doping: A German journalist who uncovered Russia’s systematic doping in several sports has been granted a visa for the duration of the World Cup this summer after intervention of the German government, but he may still face further questioning. Hajo Seppelt had initially been banned from covering the World Cup for ARD TV after Russia declared his visa invalid on Friday. The network said last week it was informed their reporter was on a list of people who are „persona non grata.“ However, the Investigative Committee of Russia released a statement on Tuesday that Seppelt will be subject to questioning if he were to return to the country because he has failed to testify in the country’s investigation into former doping laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov.



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