This Week in Europe: Greens, Shampoo and Defense Fund

, by Radu Dumitrescu

This Week in Europe: Greens, Shampoo and Defense Fund

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 http://facebook.com/thenewfederalist.eu !

Venezuela blocks EPP delegation from entering

Last Sunday, Venezuela blocked four MEPs from the EPP from entering the country, accusing them of having “conspiratorial motives.” The delegation was supposed to mean with opposition leader Juan Guaido, the one recognized as the country’s interim head of state by the United States and Europe after Nicolas Maduro refused to organize new elections. Instead, the MEPs had their passports retained and forced out of the country. In response, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said that European extreme-right parties will not be allowed “to disturb the peace and stability of the country.” The EPP, through Manfred Weber, stated that Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro is scared of what the observers would have seen.

Trump to EU: Take back ISIS fighters

This week, U.S. president Donald Trump tweeted that Britain, France, Germany, and other EU allies should take back and put on trial over 800 ISIS fighters captured by the United States in Syria. If the European countries do not take them back, Trump threatened to simply release the IS fighters. The tweet caused outrage at the Munich Security Conference. The announcement came without warning, as the one through which Trump unilaterally pulled American troops out of Syria. During the prolonged war in Syria, numerous European citizens decided to join the Islamic State. Their capture started a debate about what should be done with them.

Conservatives & Labor MPs walk out on their parties

This week, the Independent Group in the British Parliament has grown after 3 conservative MPs and 9 Labour MPs walked out on their parties. The conservatives that left had been highly critical of PM Theresa May and her Brexit strategy. In a joint letter, they accused May of having taken a shift to the right, towards the Brexiteer group of backbenchers, thus alienating large parts of the British people. The Labour MPs that had left their party, on the other hand, did so after having been disillusioned by their own party’s approach to Brexit, not to mention anti-Semitism and foreign policy. The MPs cite being ashamed of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, whom they accuse of having handed the party to the extreme left.

OLAF seizes 400 tons of counterfeit shampoo

This week, EU’s anti-fraud office, OLAF, helped seize almost €5 million worth of counterfeit shampoo in Colombia and Mexico. The shampoo was headed to Europe after having been produced in China illegally. Working with the authorities in both countries and Spain, OLAF found 400 tons of fake shampoo in several ports. The counterfeits included brands such as Dove, Head & Shoulders and Pantene. After following the shipments, OLAF decided to stop them in Colombia, fearing that they could have been lost if they traveled any further.

Agreement reached on the European Defence Fund

Two major issues, budget and eligibility, were settled by EU institutions and member-states this week regarding the European Defence Fund (EDF). A series of trilogues produced a partial agreement between the Council and Parliament this Thursday, in what is considered a major step in making European defense a reality. The Fund will promote innovative defense industries and raise the EU’s autonomy in terms of technological leadership in the domain. The EDF will total at around €13 billion in the EU’s next long-term budget and will finance projects through grants for collaborative defence research, co-financing for development and ensuring certification and testing. One of the first projects will be the Euro drone and the German-French battle tank. The EDF, however, will not have any parliamentary scrutiny, as lawmakers gave up their position on delegated acts.

Green MEPs arrested after protesting U.S. nuclear bombs presence

This Wednesday, four MEPs from the Green group broke into a Belgian military airbase to protest against the presence of U.S. nuclear bombs on European soil. They called for a nuclear-free Europe and were shortly taken into custody. Eleven other activists were arrested. The protests come after the withdrawal of the United States from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty at the direction of president Donald Trump. While MEPs enjoy immunity from prosecution, it is unclear if the same immunity would cover state security laws, which normally carry sentences of up to 5 years in prison. The Greens/EFA group released in statement in support of the 4 MEPs, arguing for the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear bombs in Europe, the ratification of the Treaty of Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by all EU member states and the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Europe.

Juncker: Orban and Fidesz should leave the EPP

On Tuesday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that the party of Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, Fidesz, should leave the center-right European People’s Party. Previously, the Hungarian government launched a campaign specifically targeting Juncker and connecting him to the financier George Soros, both of whom supposedly pushed migration policies that threatened Hungary’s security. According to Juncker, Manfred Weber, the EPP’s Spitzenkandidat, should ask himself if he needs Orban in his corner, and he and his party no longer represent Christian democratic values. “There’s no place for them in the European People’s Party,” said Juncker.

“Untouchables” arrested in Lithuania after anti-corruption crackdown

On Wednesday, Lithuanian authorities arrested 26 people, including 8 judges and 5 lawyers. The arrests come as part of a wider anti-corruption crackdown called by PM Saulius Skvernelis against the so-called “untouchables.” According to Lithuania’s Prosecutor-General, a system of corruption had been uncovered in the investigation, involving bribes up to €100,000 that were given in order to influence the outcome of court cases. Lithuania consistently ranks as one of the most corrupt countries in Europe, with one Eurobarometer survey showing that 93% believe that corruption is widespread.

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