This Week in Europe: EU-Japan trade deal, Commission fine to Google and more

, by Juuso Järviniemi, Lorène Weber

This Week in Europe: EU-Japan trade deal, Commission fine to Google and more
Image by Samuel Mork Bednarz.

Members of the TNF team recount big events from Europe from the past week, and point attention to news that may have passed notice. What did we miss? Comment on our Facebook page at !

Helsinki hosts controversial Trump-Putin summit

US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Helsinki, Finland on Monday. At the summit where no lead figures from EU institutions were present, the two presidents discussed matters of foreign policy including the war in Syria. However, what captured attention was Donald Trump’s statement that he did not believe Russia had interfered in the 2016 American presidential election, despite American intelligence reports pointing to the contrary. Subsequently to the meeting, Donald Trump expressed his willingness to invite Vladimir Putin to the White House.

EU and Japan sign landmark trade deal

The EU and Japan signed their trade deal on Tuesday, removing trade barriers in an area that covers approximately one third of the world economy. According to President of the European Council Donald Tusk, the agreement is the “biggest bilateral trade deal ever”.

It is estimated that the main beneficiaries of the deal will be European food producers, including cheese and wine producers, as well as Japanese carmakers. The European Commission estimates that EU exports of processed food to Japan will rise by up to €10 billion as a result of the deal.

Radio France removes two Europe-themed broadcasts

Less than one year before the European elections, Radio France, the French public service radio broadcaster, has decided to remove two broadcasts dedicated to Europe. “Tous Européens” (All Europeans) and “En direct de l’Europe” (Live from Europe) will thus disappear from the French radio by next September. European Movement France and JEF-France have strongly criticised this decision, at a time when Euroscepticism is growing and when the need for quality information about the European Union appears more than necessary.

During the last European elections in France, the rate of abstention reached 57%, as Front National arrived first with almost 25% of the votes. Radio France follows the path taken in 2014 by France Télévisions, the French public audiovisual broadcaster, which had refused to broadcast the debate between the Spitzenkandidaten running for the European Commission Presidency.

Salvini sues investigative journalist for mafia tweet

Italian Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini has announced that he will sue Roberto Saviano, an author and investigative journalist, for calling him a “minister of the underworld”. Roberto Saviano has lived under police protection since 2006, as he has received death threats from the Camorra, a criminal league about whose activities he reported. Roberto Saviano is known as a fervent critic of Matteo Salvini and his views on immigration.

EU hits Google with a record €4.34bn fine

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager announced on Wednesday that Google would get fined with €4.34 billion. The American web giant is punished for exploiting its dominant market position to gain prominence in online search results. The move provoked reaction on both sides of the Atlantic. American President Donald Trump calling Vestager a “tax lady” who “hates the US”. Meanwhile, The Independent, the progressive British newspaper, characterised Vestager as “the EU’s Harry Kane” in a comparison to the England football striker.

Commission publishes preparation documents for no-deal Brexit

The European Commission has published dozens of “preparedness notices” to businesses and citizens to help them prepare for a “no-deal Brexit” in the event that Brexit negotiations collapse. The documents warn about “considerable disruption” that such a clean break would cause.

The Commission had been preparing the months for a long time, but they came at a time when political uncertainty in the UK has increased markedly. With less than 15 weeks to go until the October European Council meeting, the Northern Irish border question remains a major challenge in the Brexit negotiations.

EU aid helps fight Swedish wildfires

As unprecedented wildfires are raging in Sweden, the country’s government has requested EU assistance. The European Commission has coordinated a response, with planes, helicopters, firefighters and other staff from 8 other EU countries participating in the operation. The coordination is carried out by the Commission under the EU Civic Protection Mechanism, and it is based on voluntary offers of aid from other EU member states.

Pablo Casado to lead Spanish conservatives

At the party conference of the Spanish Popular Party, communications secretary Pablo Casado was elected as the party’s new leader. The leadership election followed a no-confidence vote against the now-former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy earlier this summer. The election has been described as a move towards the right. The new leader has taken a tough stance on the Catalan independence movement, calling for a reform of the Spanish criminal code to disincentivise the pro-independence movement.

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