This Week in Europe: Sarkozy arrested, Cambridge Analytica and more

, by Radu Dumitrescu, Samuel Mork Bednarz

This Week in Europe: Sarkozy arrested, Cambridge Analytica 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 http://facebook.com/thenewfederalist.eu !

Norway to ban full-face veils

According to a new bill announced on Friday, full-face Muslim veils will be banned from Norway’s schools while teaching is taking place. The reason for the ban is that the garments prevent good communication between students and teachers. The bill represents the return of an initiative by the government that was made last June. Since then, the officials have taken criticism into account and have watered down the bill. “Pupils, students and teachers must be able to see each other’s faces,” said Iselin Nybø, Norway’s minister for research and higher education.” The proposed rules would not apply to the wearing of headscarves. The bill represents the first attempt of a Nordic country to introduce such a ban, following the example of other European countries such as France, Belgium and the Netherlands, which imposed restrictions on wearing burqas and niqabs.

On Tuesday, Justice Minister Sylvi Listhaug resigned ahead of a no-confidence vote she was likely to lose. She had sparked anger earlier this month after accusing the opposition Labour party of putting the rights of terrorists ahead of national security. The debate was centered around a bill that would have stripped Norwegians suspected of terrorism of their citizenship without judicial review.

Spanish Supreme Court charges Catalan leaders with rebellion

On Friday, the Spanish Supreme Court stated that it would try the 13 Catalan leaders, including regional President Carles Puigdemont, on charges of rebellion. The secessionist leaders face 25 to 30 years in jail. In total, 25 former officials and pro-independence leaders are charged with misuse of public funds or disobedience. Judges also ordered the defendants to pay back €2.1 million to cover the cost of last year’s referendum, which Madrid declared illegal. Puigdemont’s heir apparent is also included in the 13 tried for rebellion. In the meantime, another pro-independence leader, Marta Rovira, also left the country and went on exile.

Sarkozy taken into custody by French police

In 2016, French-Lebanese businessman and arms broker Ziad Takieddine said in several interviews that he had once personally brought €5 million in cash to Sarkozy, who was then campaigning for president. On Tuesday, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was taken into custody and questioned about the allegation that his 2007 campaign was financed by the Libyan government. He was released on Wednesday, following two days of questioning. Denying any wrongdoing, Sarkozy says that the allegations made by the Libyans are retribution for his decision to deploy French warplanes during the uprising which overthrew Gaddafi in 2011. One of Mr Sarkozy’s former ministers and a close ally, Brice Hortefeux, was also reportedly questioned by police on Tuesday.

Terrorist shot dead by French Police

On Friday, French police reported that they have shot dead a gunman who killed three people and injured three others in the town of Carcassonne, southwestern France. The terrorist, Redouane Lakdim, hijacked a car and attempted to run down police officers, then opened fire on a supermarket, taking several hostages. He also claimed allegiance to the Islamic State, which later claimed the attack, prompting prosecutors to treat the case as a terror incident.

U.K. police raid Cambridge Analytica

On Friday night, British authorities raided Cambridge Analytica’s offices, investigating whether the consulting firm illegally acquired Facebook data. “We will now need to collect, assess and consider the evidence before coming to any conclusions,” said the Commissioner’s Office. Both U.S. and U.K. officials are looking into Cambridge Analytica after allegations that it may have used 50 million Facebook users’ data without proper consent in order to help current president Donald Trump win the 2016 elections. Both Cambridge Analytica and Facebook deny they did anything illegal.

Eastern states block common agriculture policy due to subsidies

On Monday, EU agriculture ministers left a meeting without reaching a consensus on the common agriculture policy of the Union. The main opponents to the proposals were Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia. The source of discord was the distribution of subsidies. Presiding over the meeting, the Bulgarian minister highlighted that “there’s a difference between the average amount paid per hectare, a difference which comes into play when we talk about ’new’ and ’old’ member states” - meaning that Western states tend to get more subsidies than Eastern states. As the EU budget is set to shrink, the debate is set to continue.

Macron’s approval ratings drop

In a poll published on Friday, it was revealed that only 40% of the French population said they have favorable opinion of president Emmanuel Macron, with 57% holding a negative opinion. Macron’s approval ratings have steadily dropped, reaching the same levels as those of his predecessors during the same period of their mandate - Hollande (35%) and Sarkozy (40%). The president lost support in low-income households and among voters under 35, but also with voters above 65. Among other criticism, Macron was viewed as “too arrogant” or a “president for the wealthy” and that he is launching “too many reforms.”

Post-Brexit passports to be made in EU

Sources suggest that the Franco-Dutch firm Gemalto, which won the race for the £490m job, will produce the new blue passports following Britain’s exit from the EU. The colour change is seen by some Brexiters as a symbol of restored sovereignty. Interviewed on BBC Radio 4, the chief executive of the company that used to produce British passports. De La Rue, said that the race was unfair, while acknowledging at the same time that his firm had been beaten on price in an open competition. According to him, the decision “to offshore the manufacture of a British icon” is unwise.

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