The world’s youngest leader, 31, wins power in Austria

Gareth Davies and Scott Campbell – October 15, 2017

The leader of Austria’s right-leaning People’s Party has declared victory in a national election that puts him on track to become the world’s youngest leader.

Austrian foreign minister Sebastian Kurz, 31, claimed the win on Sunday night after projections gave his party a comfortable lead with more than 90 percent of the ballots counted.

He fell well short of a majority, but has not ruled out the possibility of forming a minority government once the final result comes in.

The young leader, dubbed Wunderwuzzi in his home country, which translates to Wonderkid, has pledged to cut benefits for all foreigners in Austria and has vowed to stop the European Union meddling in the country’s politics.

Kurz, dubbed the Conservative Macron due to his age and his party reform, said: ‘I would of course like to form a stable government. If that cannot be done then there are other options,’ adding that he planned to talk to all parties in parliament but would first wait for a count of postal ballots that begins on Monday.

Here’s why you should pay attention to this weekend’s German election

September 20, 2017

European elections countdown: In this part of our occasional series, we take a look at what is at stake in the upcoming German election.

If you’re searching for the opposite of last year’s loud, long and controversial American election, look no further than Germany.

On Sunday, voters there will head to the polls in a crucial yet strangely quiet election.

The two main contenders, conservative incumbent Angela Merkel and social democrat Martin Schulz, held only one TV debate, in which many of the key issues went undiscussed. And with the vote still days away, German parties are preparing to collaborate after the election rather than emphasizing their differences to sway the undecided.

Spanish Police Storm Government Buildings Trying To Stop Independence Referendum

Mac Slavo – September 20, 2017

Spanish national police have stormed ministries and buildings belonging to Catalonia’s regional government to put a stop to the region’s independence referendum.

In the early morning hours, armed officers arrived at various Catalan ministries, including the economics department, foreign affairs department, and social affairs department, and made arrests in an effort to stop Catalan independence.

The Guardia Civil, which acts with the authority of Madrid’s interior ministry, is searching for evidence regarding the planned October 1st referendum on Catalan independence, which Spain’s Constitutional Court has declared illegal.

The Catalan president has accused the Spanish government of effectively suspending the region’s autonomy and declaring a de facto state of emergency.

Police officers raided Catalan government offices on Wednesday and arrested 12 senior officials in a bid to stop an independence referendum being held in less than two weeks’ time.

Spanish authorities step up efforts to stop independence vote in Catalonia

DW – September 17, 2017

Spain’s central government is cracking down on information ahead of Catalonia’s October 1 vote that it considers illegal. Police have seized large troves of campaign material and shut down at least one website.

Spain’s paramilitary national police force said on Sunday that its agents had seized more than 1.3 million posters, flyers and pamphlets promoting Catalonia’s planned secession referendum.

The Civil Guard announced that the material was confiscated during a raid on an unnamed business that distributes advertising material in Barcelona province.

Also Sunday, Spain’s chief public prosecutor Jose Manuel Maza warned that Carles Puigdemont, the president of the Catalonian regional government, risks being arrested depending on how events unfold.

EU Prepares to Criminalize Pro-Life Views and ‘Abortion Denial’

Liam Deacon – September 15, 2017

The European Parliament has been accused of trying to “criminalise” pro-life views after passing a report which describes reducing access to abortion as “violence against women and girls”.

The MEPs who authored the document denied the paper was an attack on “Christian values” or promoting a “liberal agenda”, but appeared to conflate a rise in violence against women with the election of President Trump in the U.S.

The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) produced the interim report, which calls on all EU member-states to “urgently” ratify a new convention on violence against women, and “recommends”:

“The EU strongly affirms that the denial of sexual and reproductive health and rights services, including safe and legal abortion, is a form of violence against women and girls.”

All member-states must also “guarantee comprehensive sexuality education, ready access for women to family planning, and the full range of reproductive and sexual health services, including modern contraceptive methods and safe and legal abortion”.

Catalonia kicks off banned independence referendum campaign

DW – September 14, 2017

Catalan separatists have officially launched their campaign for an independence referendum. The region has also said it will stop sending financial accounts to Madrid to prove public funds aren’t going to the referendum.

Crowds packed into a bull ring in the port of Tarragona on Thursday night to open the pro-independence campaign for a planned referendum on seceding from Spain.

Supporters sporting makeshift ballot boxes as hats shouted “We will vote!” as they waved around non-official ballot papers.

The high-profile event was attended by Catalan President Carles Puigdemont as well as representatives from Catalonia’s main pro-independence parties and associations.

The “yes” camp has two weeks to rally support for the vote and win over critics who are reluctant to take part in the referendum, which is due to take place on October 1.

EU Chief Wants to Force Single Currency on All Member States

Vijeta Uniyal – September 13, 2017

In his State of the Union speech, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker laid out his plan to impose a single currency on all the 28 EU member states. Presently only 19 members of the EU have introduced the euro as their official currency. Juncker also called for a more centralized union with its own ‘European finance minister’ and ‘European monetary fund.” He “wants to make the euro compulsory throughout the European Union, including in poorer eastern countries,” the British newspaper Daily Express noted.

The EU Chief’s statements come at a time when several eurozone countries face severe economic and social crises, often a direct result of fiscal imbalances caused from a single European currency. The youth unemployment in Greece, Spain and Italy ranges between 40 and 50 percent. Despite the rescue packages worth more than € 200 billion, the Greek economy is still teetering on the verge of total bankruptcy.

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who was in the EU parliament during the State of the Union speech in his capacity as the British MEP, lambasted Juncker’s proposal to expand the powers of the EU without consulting the people, comparing the EU to the Communist Soviet Union.

EU Anti-Terror Chief Reveals 1,500 ISIS Terrorists Back Home in Europe

Vijeta Uniyal – September 12, 2017

Instead of putting these Islamist criminals — who beheaded their victims and kept sex slaves — before a war crimes tribunal, the EU official wondered aloud, “How can we help the national security agencies with the evaluation of streaming data? How can we integrate these ISIS-returnees again into the society? These are the important questions.”

EU counter-terrorism czar Kerchove made these statements in an interview given to Die Welt:

Around 5,000 Europeans had gone to fight for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, out of which 1,500 persons have come back and nearly 1,000 fighters have died. Many of the estimated 2,500 European fighters who are still in Iraq and Syria are going to die while fighting or be killed by ISIS, because the group does not tolerate deserters. Others will move to conflict zones such as Somalia, Libya and Yemen. […]

I think the returning [ISIS fighters] from Iraq and Syria will be taking various routes to enter Europe. For instance, they will travel through different countries employing a “broken travel” [tactic] and some will try to infiltrate the refugees entering Europe without papers. [Translation by author]

UK government finds majority of 36 to pass EU withdrawal bill

DW – September 12, 2017

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill aims to convert around 12,000 EU laws and regulations into UK domestic laws on the day Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019.

After an eight-hour debate on Monday, the House of Commons voted 326-290 in favor of the bill’s second reading, which allows it to pass to the next stage of the parliamentary process.

Earlier in the day, Brexit Secretary David Davis said “a vote against this bill is a vote for a chaotic exit from the European Union.”

“The British people did not vote for confusion and neither should Parliament,” he said.

Welcoming the vote, Prime Minister Theresa May issued a statement: “Although there is more to do, this decision means we can move on with negotiations with solid foundations and we continue to encourage MPs (lawmakers) from all parts of the UK to work together in support of this vital piece of legislation.”

Spain’s top court overrules Catalan referendum law

DW – September 9, 2017

Judges in Madrid have suspended a law passed by Catalonia’s parliament which allows a public vote on independence to proceed. The Constitutional Court’s decision means the ballot, slated for October 1, could be delayed.

Spanish media reported the court’s decision late on Thursday, a day after MPs in the northeast autonomous region of Catalonia approved a law legitimizing a new public vote to decide whether to break away from Spanish rule.

The decision by the Constitutional Court in Madrid suspends the referendum legislation while judges consider arguments that the vote breaches the country’s constitution, according to court officials.

The suspension lasts for five months and throws into question whether the vote will proceed. However a previous referendum was held three years ago despite being overruled by the top court.

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont insisted later on Thursday that neither central Spanish authorities nor the courts could halt their plans.