This Week in Europe: Fake News, Immigrants and More

, by Radu Dumitrescu

This Week in Europe: Fake News, Immigrants and More

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 !

Finnish president re-elected

On Sunday, President Sauli Niinisto of Finland was re-elected in the first round with nearly 63% of the votes. It was the first time that the Finnish presidency was won in the first round of voting, the other candidates obtaining only 12% (Green Party) and 7% (Finn’s Party). The Swedish People’s party candidate, which argued for NATO membership, came in last with 1.5%.

Austria and Hungary against immigrants

On Tuesday, Hungarian and Austrian PMs agreed to continue fighting illegal migration and to dismantle the Balkan migration route. “We must stop illegal migration in order to ensure safety across the bloc,” said Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, vowing to put all of his country’s efforts into “strengthening the subsidiarity inside the EU”. Hungarian PM Viktor Orban continued by naming the “mass exodus to Europe” as “the biggest threat today.”

Real news beating fake news

According to a report by Reuters’ Institute for the Study of Journalism, people spend more time on legitimate news sites than fake ones. France’s Le Figaro, for example, had a 22.3% average monthly reach, while Italy’s La Repubblica topped the charts with 50.9%. The most popular fake websites, by comparison, had a reach of only 3.5% in 2017, with most stagnating at 1%.

The Commission’s “Drinking Water” Directive

On Wednesday, in an attempt to mandate measures to boost access to water, a prerogative that was previously held by the national governments, the European Commission advanced the Drinking Water Directive. Whereas previous directives only addressed quality, the current draft introduces “an obligation for member states to improve access to and promote use of drinking water. The Commission also acknowledges that the draft comes as a result of the Right2Water initiative, marking the first time a legal text credits a citizens’ initiative.

EU commissioners will be shamed in public

Commissioners that breach the rules of conflict of interest will be “reprimanded in public”, as part of a new code of conduct meant to prevent embarrassments such as the scandal that followed after the former president of the Commission, Jose Barroso, was hired by Goldman Sachs, the bank that was essential in the triggering of the 2008 financial crisis. The new code took effect on Wednesday, 31st of January, and applies to every commissioner under the Juncker commission.

Romania and Poland reject conditioning funds on rule of law

On Thursday, Romanian and Polish Foreign Ministers held a joint conference to reject the proposals of EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova to tie EU subsidies to the member states’ adherence to rule of law. The governments of both countries have been singled out as infringing upon the principles of rule of law by the European Commission and have been shaken by anti-government protests. On Wednesday, after meeting with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that if the parliament in Bucharest did not amend current legislation on the judiciary, it could be putting its Schengen passport-free future at risk. Both Romania and Bulgaria have been a part of a EU’s judicial oversight, the CVM, since they joined the EU in 2007.

Terrorist targets immigrants in Italy

An Italian man by the name of Luca Traini was arrested on Saturday after shooting 6 people in the city of Macerata in a drive-by. The suspect had an Italian flag wrapped around his neck when he was detained, raising suspicions of a racially-motivated act. All of his victims were of African descent. Moreover, Traini took part in the regional elections for the anti-immigration Northern League in 2017, and his act comes after a Nigerian man was arrested in connection with the murder of an Italian woman in the same city.

Turkey overturns its decision to release Amnesty chief

On Thursday, Amnesty International declared that Taner Kilic, the head of the organization’s Turkey office who has been detained by the Turkish authorities on terrorist charges since July, has not and will not be released. A trial court in Istanbul overturned its own release verdict, keeping Kilic behind bars.

EU to protect Palestinians after US budget cut

On Wednesday, EU’s foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini promised €42.5 million to Palestine. The decision comes after the United States cut its U.N. funding for the occupied territories. The EU’s funds will be spent on alleviating poverty, state building and the protection of the Palestinian character of Jerusalem.

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