Weekly News 16 – 20 April 2018 | Mediterranean Affairs
Monday, 16 April 2018
France: French President Emmanuel Macron has justified Saturday’s airstrikes on Syria as “legitimate”. In a marathon televised interview of nearly three hours he was grilled on a variety of subjects, but it was the strikes by France, the United States and Britain against Syrian regime targets, which dominated. (euronews)
Montenegro: Pro-European Union politician Milo Djukanovic has won Montenegro’s presidential elections with 53.9% of the vote, according to pollster the Centre for Monitoring and Research CeMI. Djukanovic — a candidate for the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS)— said his win marked “another important victory for (Montenegro’s) European future,” on Sunday, adding that the results confirmed voters’ “strong determination to continue on the European road”.
Russia: The editor of a Russian investigation reporter who died after falling from from his fifth-floor apartment window has expressed doubt amid police claims that the journalist killed himself. Maksim Borodin, 32, who worked for news agency Novy Den (New Day), failed to regain consciousness and died from injuries sustained in the fall on Sunday (April 15), three days after the incident. Amid the ensuing investigation, Borodin’s editor-in-chief, Polina Rumyantseva, said she didn’t believe the reporter tried to take his own life, RFE/RL reported.
Tuesday, 17 April 2018
Italy: Italians are the worst in the EU at over-estimating the proportion of immigrants living in their country, a new report claims. Respondents to a Eurobarometer survey claimed around a quarter of Italy’s population were foreign born. Out official Eurostat figures show the proportion of immigrants in the country was just 7% last year. (euronews)
EU: The top EU official in charge of negotiation with Turkey said the country is moving rapidly away from the path of European Union membership on Tuesday. “Our analysis shows that the country (Turkey) continues to take huge strides away from the European Union, in particular in the areas of rule of law and fundamental rights” said European Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn. (euronews)
Addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, French President Emmanuel Macron urged Europeans to halt a retreat into nationalism and rebuild the European Union as a bulwark of liberal democracy. He won applause from lawmakers after condemning the rise of “illiberal democracies” even within the EU. Echoing the language of historians about Europe’s slide into war a century ago, Macron said he would not belong to another “generation of sleepwalkers” and let the EU wither in what he called an atmosphere of “civil war”.
Bulgaria: When Bulgarian student Zhelyaz Andreev got a job at the Sofia office of a Miami-based company to help pay his way through university the last thing he expected was to be sucked into an international incident. He was wrong. Last week, Bulgarian authorities arrested him following an Interpol Red Notice on a U.S. Department of Justice indictment for conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and violate the Syria embargo by selling aircraft parts to Syrian Arab Airlines. (Reuters)
Malta: The family of a murdered Malta journalist fear they will never find out who ordered her killing, it’s emerged. Daphne Caruana Galizia, who used her blog to allege corruption on the island, died in a car bombing six months ago. Three men have been arrested and charged with her murder but police have yet to give a motive. Her killing sent shockwaves across Europe and prompted a team of 45 journalists to carry on her investigative work. (euronews)
Wednesday, 18 April 2018
EU: To comply with a new EU data privacy law, Facebook said it would begin seeking Europeans’ permission this week for a variety of ways the social network uses its data. Yet people would still have to accept targeted ads. Facebook has made sure that its voice is heard on the corridors of power in Brussels. Since last year, the company has more than doubled its lobbying expenditure from one million to 2.3 million euro. That makes Facebook one of the most influential corporations in the EU. (euronews)
Turkey: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for snap parliamentary and presidential elections to be held on June 24, more than a year earlier than planned. In an address at his presidential palace on Wednesday, Erdogan said the country urgently needed to make the switch to an executive presidency. (Al Jazeera)
EU: The European Commission is pushing for the EU to expand into the western Balkans, a region with the reputation for lawlessness. Brussels has given the greenlight to FYROM and Albania to start accession talks, but needs the OK from member states. That could happen at a summit in June. (euronews)
Belgium: Three Belgian companies are being brought to court by the Belgian Customs for exporting chemicals to Syria — including one that could be used in the production of sarin nerve gas. Isopropanol also known as rubbing alcohol is found in disinfectants and paint varnishes but can also be used to make sarin, which Western countries say was used by the Syrian government in a chemical attack against Syrian people in April 2017. Antwerp Criminal Court set a trial date for May 15 for three companies — Belgian chemical group AAE Chemie and two handling agents, Danmar Logistics and Anex Customs — Roland Cassiers, a spokesman for the court, told Euronews.
Lybia: Rockets hit Libya’s main airport and damaged a plane as it was waiting to take off early on Thursday, a security force said, the same day as the United Nations envoy and France’s ambassador were visiting the capital to discuss a peace plan. One rocket hit an Airbus 320 and others struck the arrivals hall at Tripoli’s Mitiga airport at around 2 a.m. (midnight GMT), but no one was injured, a spokesman for the Special Deterrence Force (Rada) said. (reuters)
Thursday, 19 April 2018
UN: Britain and Russia have traded barbs in the UN Security Council over last month’s poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal. Russia accused London of “lies and conjecture” and concealing information in its investigation, while Britain accused Moscow of being disingenuous. (euronews)
Attempts by chemical weapons experts to enter Syria’s Douma to examine the site of a suspected gas attack appear to be at a standstill . International frustration is growing at the delays in allowing the investigators from the OPCW to gain access to the suspected site. Despite being told by Syria on Wednesday (April 18) that they would be allowed into Douma, an advance UN security team came under fire, preventing the visit. (euronews)
Israel: Israelis on Thursday (April 19) celebrated the nation’s 70th anniversary, with military honour guards and a reception at the presidential residence. President, Reuven Rivlin, and his Chief of Staff, Gadi Eizenkot, inspected an honour guard, with the Israeli army marching band playing in the background. Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman walked side by side with Rivlin as they marked the start of Thursday’s Independence Day celebrations. During the ceremony Netanyahu spoke of the need for Israeli’s to make sacrifices to ensure a secure future. (euronews)
Austria: Austria could start checking traffic to Germany as part of stepped-up border controls in the second half of this year when it holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, its far-right interior minister said. Austria, Germany and some other European countries suspended the Schengen system of open-border, passport-free travel in 2015 after over 1 million refugees and migrants, mainly from the Middle East, flooded into Europe. (Reuters)
Friday, 20 April 2018
Gaza: At least two Palestinians have been killed and scores injured amid renewed unrest along Gaza’s frontier with Israel. Israeli troops are said to have opened fire with live ammunition on Friday after thousands of Palestinian protesters took part in further demonstrations at the border fence. In addition to the dead, health officials said around 80 people needed hospital treatment. Organisers, who have billed the protests as the “Great March of Return”, say they are demanding the right to go back to their former homeland. Friday’s violence brings the total number of killed to at least 33 as protests enter their fourth week. (euronews)
Hungary: George Soros’s Open Society Foundation is making contigency plans to close its Budapest office and move to Berlin in face of the Hungarian governments plans to ban its activities. Prime Minister Viktor Orban wants to pass a so-called “stop Soros” law shutting down NGOs who support immigration. (The Guardian)
Romania: Romania’s government has backed moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, drawing a warning from the president – who has the final say – that the move could break international law. (Reuters)