Wednesday, February 6th 2019: Juncker prepares ground for Alstom-Siemens merger rejection, May to visit Brussels in search of a Brexit deal, French parliament passes law to curb violent protests

⊂ EUROPE ⊃

Juncker prepares ground for Alstom-Siemens merger rejection: The European Commission will stop two mergers this Wednesday, according to German media reports. The EU competition authority will block the planned merger of the train divisions of Siemens and Alstom, as well as the sale of the flat rolled products division of the Hamburg-based copper group Aurubis to Ulm’s Wieland-Werke. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has defended the EU’s anti-trust rules as they are, pointing out that in nearly 30 years, the Commission has approved more than 6,000 deals and blocked fewer than 30. He said this was a message for those who were saying that the Commission was composed of stubborn technocrats. He added that the institution will never play favorites and that it demonstrates a belief in competition, as long as it is fair for all businesses and, ultimately, consumers.
faz.net, euractiv.de

May to visit Brussels in search of a Brexit deal: British Prime Minister Theresa May has said her commitment to not implementing a hard border in Northern Ireland is unshakeable. In a speech in Belfast, May said she wants changes to the controversial backstop but suggested she is not seeking to remove it from her Brexit deal. The backstop is an insurance policy designed to avoid a hard border under all circumstances between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic after Brexit. May will travel to Brussels on Thursday to tell EU leaders they must accept legally binding changes to the Irish border arrangements of Britain’s divorce deal or face the prospect of a disorderly no-deal Brexit. She will meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and then European Council President Donald Tusk.
bbc.com, reuters.com

EU aid for Venezuela: The EU Commission has allocated additional humanitarian assistance of 5 million euros to help those most in need as many people continue to suffer from the socio-economic crisis in Venezuela. The Lima Group, a group of Latin American countries and Canada, has urged the Venezuelan military to support opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president. In a statement published Monday, 11 of the 14 members of the Lima Group called for a peaceful transition through political and diplomatic means without the use of force. Guaido has declared himself interim president and won support from major powers including the US. President Nicolas Maduro says he is the legitimate leader of Venezuela. The Lima Group also underscored the need for an urgent delivery of humanitarian aid and insisted international governments take measures to prevent the Maduro regime from doing business in oil, gold and other assets.
reliefweb.int, bbc.com, cnbc.com

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Deutsche Bank deflects EU lawmakers’ questions: Deutsche Bank’s chief anti-financial crime officer Stephan Wilken dodged questions from exasperated MEPs during a European Parliament hearing on Monday evening about the German lender’s involvement in a major money laundering case. Wilken faced questions about his bank’s involvement in the scandal from the parliament’s special committee on financial crimes, tax evasion, and tax avoidance. But he left European lawmakers frustrated by offering little detail on how billions of suspicious cash went through its payment system unnoticed. Deutsche’s deflective stance drew frustration from the committee’s chair, Petr Ježek, who bemoaned that the hearing probably did not provide as many answers that the scale of the problem would require. German MEP Sven Giegold said Wilken had shown one of most close-minded attitudes he had ever seen in the committee.
politico.eu, euractiv.com

United States: President Trump says state of the union is strong cnn.com
Euro finance ministers: Eurogroup opacity is deliberate, says NGO euobserver.com
European Central Bank: Draghi’s long farewell may delay ECB guidance move: sources reuters.com
Copyright: Germany and France agree on controversial EU copyright reform zeit.de

⊂ QUOTES ⊃

The Council is gravely concerned by Iran’s ballistic missile activity and calls upon Iran to refrain from these activities.
The EU has voiced its concerns over Iran’s recent ballistic missile launches.
euractiv.com

⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃

French parliament passes law to curb violent protests: The parliament on Tuesday passed a bill aimed at curbing violence at protests in response to three months of anti-government demonstrations by the grassroots „Yellow Vest“ movement. The law bans protesters from hiding their faces, gives police greater powers to extract potential trouble-makers from demonstrations, and grants local authorities the right to ban individual protesters. It would also allow administrative rather than judicial authorities to issue protest bans against certain individuals that they consider to be a serious threat to public order. Human rights advocates have criticized the bill, arguing it infringes upon the freedom to protest. Thousands of „Yellow Vest“ protesters joined union rallies across France on Tuesday. Italian deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio met with leaders of the „Yellow Vests“ in Paris, and the two sides agreed to touch base again in Rome. During a tour of France for a national citizens‘ debate, French President Emmanuel Macron has conceded there has been a clear breakdown in equality in high-rise suburbs and housing estates on the edge of major cities. As an answer to „Yellow Vest“ protests, Macron had launched the two-month national debate involving town-hall meetings across France where citizens can present their views on taxation, democracy, environment and the way France is run.
reuters.com, politico.eu (Anti-hooligan law); thetimes.co.uk (Protests); politico.eu (Di Maio); theguardian.com (Macron)

Apple pays back-taxes to French authorities: Apple has agreed to pay ten years of back taxes to France, marking the latest victory for European governments pushing tech multinationals to pay their fair share in local markets. Apple’s French division confirmed the tax payment agreement, but did not disclose how much it had agreed to pay. France is pushing for an EU-wide tax on the world’s top digital and software companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple that use complex intra-group arrangements to pay low single-digit tax rates on profits derived from European customers.
theguardian.com, reuters.com

Tsipras and Erdogan want to overcome crises between Greece and Turkey: Following a meeting in Athens, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced plans to expand the cooperation between the two countries. Tsipras spoke of an effective and honest meeting. He said it was important to create a climate of cooperation in the Aegean Sea. Erdogan echoed Tsipras‘ sentiments, saying disputes between Greece and Turkey could be resolved peacefully. The Turkish president said he expected more cooperation from Greece in the repatriation of eight soldiers who fled to Greece following a 2016 coup attempt. Earlier on Tuesday, Turkey updated a list of former military officers wanted for their alleged role in a 2016 coup attempt to include the eight officers who have been granted asylum in Greece. Tsipras said that coup suspects were not welcome in Greece, but the case regarding the eight Turkish servicemen was a judiciary matter. Meanwhile, Erdogan said he had not yet seen an acceptable plan from the United States for the creation of a safe zone in northeastern Syria.
tagesspiegel.de, reuters.com, dw.com, reuters.com (Syria)

Germany reveals plan to stop foreign takeovers: The German government could take stakes in key domestic companies to prevent foreign takeovers, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Tuesday. He officially launched a plan aimed at developing the country’s industrial sector and increasing its international competitiveness in technology and innovation. Though it was the first time Altmaier fully detailed the „National Industry Strategy 2030“, some key points had previously been revealed to the German media the previous week, prompting the minister to take the defensive against claims of protectionism and intrusive state intervention. New national and European champions needed to be created in order to compete with China and the US, Altmaier said. He identified Germany’s key industrial sectors as: steel and aluminium, chemicals, machine and plant engineering, optics, autos medical equipment, Green technologies, defense, aerospace and 3D-printing.
dw.com, reuters.com

Belgium: Minister resigns over school-strike conspiracy claims theguardian.com
Germany: Chancellor Merkel says Huawei must provide assurances on data cnn.com
Nato: Greece to ratify Macedonia’s Nato membership this week abcnews.com

⊂ JOB-BOARD ⊃

politjobs.eu: Alfa Fellowship Program seeks Young German, British, and American Leaders *** FTA seeks Regulatory Affairs Advisor (m/f) *** Bayer seeks Trainee (m/f) *** ISN seeks Advocacy Officer (m/f) *** Politico seeks Lobbying Reporter (m/f) *** EGEC seeks Trainee (m/f) *** Facebook seeks Public Policy Manager (m/f) *** Google seeks Public Policy and Government Relations Manager (m/f) *** DEKRA offers Internship (m/f) *** European Friends of Amernia seeks Communications and Media Engagement Officer (m/f) *** International Crisis Group seeks Analyst (m/f)
politjobs.eu, politjobs.eu/submit (Inserat schalten)

⊂ MALFUNCTION ⊃

Far-right Dutch politician converts to Islam: A former far-right MP and right-hand man to anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders revealed he has converted to Islam. Joram van Klaveren once fiercely advocated Wilders‘ policies of banning the Koran and closing down mosques. However, van Klaveren said he changed his mind halfway through writing an anti-Islam book, when he discovered that he had more in common with Islam than he initially thought when he started his research. He said the book has now become a refutation of objections non-Muslims have against the religion. Some see his conversion as a publicity stunt for his book.
dw.com, telegraph.co.uk

 

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