UK lawmakers suggest postponing Brexit in committee report

DW – March 18, 2018

The UK must consider delaying the country’s departure from the EU in the event that key issues are not resolved, said the House of Commons’ Exiting the European Union Committee in a report published Sunday.

“If substantial aspects of the future partnership remain to be agreed in October 2018, the government should seek a limited extension to the Article 50 time,” said the committee, which contains lawmakers from all parties represented in parliament.

Labour lawmaker Hilary Benn, who chairs the committee, said the British government has yet to provide concrete solutions to major issues, including the Irish border. London and Brussels have agreed that Brexit should not undermine the island’s peace by erecting a hard border.

“The government must now come forward with credible, detailed proposals as to how it can operate a ‘frictionless border’ between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland,” said Benn.

NATO Salutes Europe’s Defense Budget Rise Amid Trump Pressure

Newsmax – February 14, 2018

The head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization hailed its first annual review of members’ defense-spending plans amid persistent U.S. calls for European allies to foot more of the collective security bill.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the initial batch of national military-expenditure plans demanded by the U.S. show progress toward a goal for alliance members to spend at least 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense by 2024. That target will be met by eight NATO countries this year, up from three in 2014, and by at least 15 alliance members by 2024, according to Stoltenberg.

“All allies are committed to increase defense spending,” he told reporters on Wednesday in Brussels after a meeting of defense ministers from the 29-nation NATO. “The direction of travel is clear, but we have to continue to move in that direction.”

Brussels on the Brink: EU’s Hostile Front Against UK Faces Collapse as Italy Election Winners Back Brexit

Jack Montgomery – March 10, 2018

The EU’s hostile front against the UK in the ongoing Brexit talks faces collapse, as the populists who routed the establishment in the Italian elections insist the bloc must back down and offer a generous and constructive deal.

“Great Britain is a friendly country with a long tradition of trading with Italy,” said Matteo Salvini, the populist firebrand who is in line to become prime minister, after his Lega party proved the most popular of the parties making up the centre-right coalition which took first place in the Italian elections.

“You made a free choice with Brexit and I very much hope that it will be possible to maintain completely open trade with the EU without any penalties,” he told The Telegraph.

Lega’s economics chief, Claudio Borghi, confirmed a Salvini-led government would refuse to go along with the current intransigent strategy, which he believes will damage European economies in the service of German interests.

“There will be no blind trust in what Germany wants,” he declared.

Extreme cold results in severe agricultural damage across Europe, food prices rising

– March 05, 2018

A prolonged period of extremely cold temperatures, accompanied by icy rain and snow that hit Europe after unusually warm January and February claimed lives of at least 50 people and caused severe agricultural damage across the continent.

While it’s too early to know the full extent of the damage at this time, European farmers say many cultures were almost in bloom and ready for spring before extremely cold temperatures arrived.

Prolonged below freezing temperatures were latter accompanied by freezing rain and snow, accumulating damage with each passing day and forcing farmers to increase their food prices.

EU Establishment Reels As Populist Parties Dominate Italian Elections

Will Racke – March 5, 2018

Right-wing and populist parties rode concerns over immigration and the economy to big gains in Italy’s parliamentary elections Sunday, dealing a major blow to the European Union establishment.

The Euroskeptic, anti-establishment Five Star Movement was the biggest single winner with about a third of the vote, though it will not have enough seats to form a government. A separate coalition comprising the far-right League and center-right Forza Italia is set to win most seats in the lower house of parliament, with a combined 37 percent of the vote.

In contrast, the ruling center-left coalition, composed of the Democratic Party and the liberal More Europe, mustered just 23 percent.

“It’s a fantastic victory which fills us with pride,” League leader Matter Salvini said, according to the BBC. He added that Italian voters had “made a step forward to be free from the cages and ties that are bringing back hunger and insecurity in Europe.”

Europe’s bruised ‘Queen’ Merkel lives another day

Frank Zeller – March 4, 2018

Berlin (AFP) – Long dubbed the “Queen of Europe”, Germany’s veteran Chancellor Angela Merkel emerges as the bruised survivor of her deepest crisis to govern for what many expect will be her final term.

After 12 years at the helm of Europe’s top economy, the pastor’s daughter often called the world’s most powerful woman goes on to live another day after post-war Germany’s longest stretch of coalition haggling.

If she indeed serves out her fourth four-year term, the 63-year-old could match or surpass the marathon tenure of her late mentor, Germany’s “reunification chancellor” Helmut Kohl.

But a growing band of observers doubt she will stay in power that long as many voters have grown wary of “Mutti” (mummy) and talk is rife of the “twilight” of her reign.

New German government: What is at stake for the EU

DW – March 3, 2018

The EU Commission is preparing itself for the worst-case scenario, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in discussions last week. He is particularly concerned about the outcome of the Italian parliamentary elections, in particular that Italy may “not get an effective government” due to an unclear majority structure. Juncker even brandished the specter of financial market turmoil, although he later said that he had been misunderstood. He cited the SPD members’ vote as a further reason for his concern: Without the SPD members’ agreement, there will be no grand coalition and therefore no government for Europe’s leading power.

Angela Merkel also appreciates the importance of a future government for Europe. In her most recent government statement on European policy last week, she said, “We need a new start for Europe.” This was even outlined in the coalition agreement. 2018 is the year in which the foundations for the future must be laid. But she is still only making such statements as the acting chancellor. She gave the impression, after the recent EU special summit, that European partners are now expecting German politics to deliver a stable government. This was a clear solicitation to SPD members to agree to forming a coalition with the conservative Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU).

Italian Voters Set to Shake European Union to Its Core as Anti Mass Migration and Euroscepticism Dominate Election

Chris Tomlinson – March 1, 2018

The Italian national election has the potential to send a wave through Europe not seen since the Brexit vote in 2016. The migration crisis, which has flooded Italy with hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants, along with EU rules preventing bank bailouts and soaring migrant crime and unemployment, has fueled the growth of populism and the collapse of the political establishment.

There are three main contenders in Sunday’s election. Two of them belong, at least in part, to anti-establishment populist movements while the other, the currently-ruling centre-left alliance is struggling in polls.

The centre-right coalition consists of the conservative Forza Italia led by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the populist Lega party (formerly Lega Nord) led by Matteo Salvini, and two smaller parties embracing national conservatism and Christian democracy.

EU lawmakers support Article 7 action against Poland

DW – March 1, 2018

The European Parliament has backed a resolution supporting a recommendation from the European Commission to invoke Article 7 against Poland. The lawmakers voted in favor of taking action against Poland for undermining the EU rule of law with reforms to the Polish judiciary.

Following two years of talks with Poland’s ruling nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS) that have achieved no results, the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, last December recommended Article 7 be triggered against the Polish government, a move that could result in the suspension of its voting rights in the EU, unless it concedes ground by March 20.

The European Parliament on Thursday voted 422 in favor to 147 against, with 48 abstentions, on a nonbinding resolution to support the Commission’s action against the EU’s largest former communist state.

Scotland, Wales defy London with laws to keep powers after Brexit

DW – February 28, 2018

On Tuesday, as Britain debates how to best incorporate EU law into national legislation once it exits the bloc, the governments of Scotland and Wales announced that they would introduce their own laws to prevent London from weakening their autonomy as a result of Brexit.

In the coming days, laws aimed at strengthening regional powers — including in the agriculture and fishery sectors, which are currently governed by EU frameworks — will be debated by the devolved parliaments in Edinburgh and Cardiff.

The Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh governments are concerned that the London parliament, which legislates on behalf of the whole of the UK, will seek to pass laws unilaterally that incorporate EU treaties into British national law, denying the three countries a say on key regional policies.

The three nations have been negotiating with London over exactly how the EU powers will be returned, but have reached a stumbling block.