This Week in Europe: NATO Summit, Protests and World Cup

, by Radu Dumitrescu

This Week in Europe: NATO Summit, Protests and World Cup

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 !

Brexit leaders resign from government

This week, United Kingdom’s foreign secretary, Boris Johnson and U.K. Brexit Secretary David Davis rocked the British island and plunged the government of Theresa May in disarray. May had just received formal backing for a “softer Brexit”, which allowed perpetuity of EU rules and regulations on goods and products even after Britain’s departure from the Union. Johnson allegedly described the plan as a “big turn”, as reported by POLITICO Europe. In commenting the departures, British PM Theresa May admitted that Johnson and Davis did not agree with her version of Brexit. In turn, Davis denied that he and Johnson had acted together and stated that the Conservative MPs would still support the May government.

Thousands protest Trump visit to U.K.

Still in London, thousands of protesters took to the streets of London on Friday to protest a visit by U.S. President Donald Trump. However, the American president bypassed the protest, meeting 40 miles away with the Bristh PM, Theresa May, and then with the Queen, at Windsor. The protests included groups sponsored by the Women’s March London, Amnesty U.K. and other organizations, with organizers puting the number of participants at 100,000. Later the same day, a Greenpeace paraglider flew a protest sign over the Scottish golf club where the U.S. president was staying.

A day before Trump’s arrival to Britain, populist right-wing leaders from all across Europe checked into a hotel in London, reportedly at the invitation of Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon. Participants included Louis Aliot, right-wing French politician and boyfriend of Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage, the mastermind of Brexit, Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of a London conservative tank and others. Bannon’s aim, as stated in an interview, was to “contextualize Trump” and to explain him to a deeply anti-Trump EU audience.

German court: Puigdemont can be extradited

This Thursday, a court in Schleswig-Holstein ruled that the former Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, can be extradited from Germany to Spain. However, the threat of extradition was not for rebellion, grounds on which extradition was not considered admissible since it has no equivalent in German law, but for misappropriation of public funds. Puigdemont has been in Germany after being detained under a European Arrest Warrant issued by Spain, which accused him of misusing public funds over the 2017 independence referendum in Catalonia. Meanwhile, Spain’s new socialist PM, Pedro Sanchez, re-opened the bilateral talks with Catalonia in a meeting with the region’s leader, Quim Torra. The new government has taken a softer approach toward the Catalan separatists ever since it gained power. The previous conservative PM, Mariano Rajoy, had imposed direct rule over Catalonia and jailed regional officials. While Sanchez sought to normalize relations with Catalonia, he also maintained that the region’s self-determination is not allowed under the Spanish constitution.

Mick Jagger’s nod to protests in Poland

Performing last Sunday, Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger offered a message of support to the people protesting the Polish government’s recent judicial reforms. The changes, pushed and adopted by the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) government forced dozens of judges to retire early. Speaking in Polish, Jagger said “I’m too old to be a judge, but I’m young enough to sing” and then continued in English, “we came to Poland in 1967...I hope you get to hang onto everything you’ve learned since then.” The singer was referring to the Stones’ first concert in Poland, one of the first times a Western band performed behind the Iron Curtain. The comment came as a response to Lech Walesa, former leader of the Solidarity and winner of the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize, who had previously called for the Rolling Stones to stay something to the people defending freedom. The EU criticized the new judicial reforms as a threat to the separation of powers,

Trump rails Germany for Russian gas

The NATO summit this Wednesday was arguably the most important event of the week. During the meetings, U.S. President Donald Trump singled out Germany and condemned it for its support for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which bypasses Ukraine through the Baltic sea, thus securing Russia’s grasp on the former Soviet republics. In his attacks, aside from demanding increased military spending from his allies, Trump claimed that Germany’s use of Russian oil makes it “totally controlled by Russia.”

With interests from all over Europe, sides are well-drawn. Among the opponents of Nord Stream 2, one can find Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki, European Council president Donald Tusk and European Commission VP Maros Sefcovic, all citing the power that it would give to Russia over the region. Among its supporters, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian president Vladimir Putin, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and some within the European Commission, such as the influential secretary-general Martin Selmayr.

Romania’s top anti-corruption prosecutor dismissed

On Monday, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis signed a decree dismissing the chief prosecutor of the National Anti-Corruption Directorate, Laura Codruta Kovesi. The president’s act came in compliance with a ruling by the country’s Constitutional Court. Making a public appearance later on, Iohannis denied that Kovesi’s departure would change anything and vowed to continue the anti-corruption fight. With Kovesi at its helm, however, the DNA gained praise from outside partners, including the European Commission and other international bodies. The institution prosecuted ministers, mayors and other officials for corruption, turning its leader into the top target for the now ruling coalition of PSD-ALDE. In February, the PSD Justice Minister Tudorel Toader called for Kovesi’s removal due to her overstepping her mandate and not respecting the parliament’s authority. While Iohannis refused to do so initially, the coalition threatened him with suspension from office for ignoring the Constitutional Court.

Trade war cuts into European growth

This week, the European Commission was forced to cut the expected EU growth for this year by 0.2% due to the ongoing trade war initiated by U.S. president Donald Trump. The latest forecast, published on Thursday, the EU area will grow by only 2.1% this year. EU economic affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici underlined the risks existing on the external side and warned against an escalation of the trade war that includes the U.S. and China. Another concern is the “policy uncertainty in some member states”, as Moscovici explained - tensions with Italy, Hungary and Poland.

Erdogan fires 18,000 civil servants before inauguration

Last Sunday, not long after Recep Tayyip Erdogan was re-elected as Turkey’s president, it was revealed the 18,000 civil servants are to be fired. 9,000 police officers, hundreds of academics and around 5,000 members of the military personnel will be fired as the 2-year emergency state comes to a halt. Aside from being fired, the passports of the former civil servants will also be cancelled, and the pensions of some will be annulled. The ruling also closed down two NGOs, three newspapers and one TV station. The move adds to the list of victims of the Erdogan regime, which now amount to 160,000 fired and 50,000 detained since the failed coup of 2016. The state of emergency in Turkey, put in place in july, after the coup, will end in 3 days, on 18th of July 2018.

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