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INTL Europe- Politics, Economics, Military- December 2019
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  1. #1

    Europe- Politics, Economics, Military- December 2019

    Thread from November 2019

    German far-right AfD party elects new leader backed by radical wing
    Joseph Nasr
    4 MIN READ

    BRUNSWICK, Germany (Reuters) - The far-right Alternative for Germany on Saturday elected a decorator from the east backed by a radical wing within the party as one of two co-leaders.

    The election of Tino Chrupalla, a lawmaker from Saxony, is a tribute to former Communist eastern states where the AfD has made big gains in three elections this year.

    He will lead Germany’s largest opposition party with Joerg Meuthen, an economics professor from the industrial southern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg who serves as a European Parliament lawmaker.

    "It is time to send a clear signal with a double leadership made up of representatives from both the east and west,” Chrupalla told delegates, who elected him in a run-off with over 54% of the vote.

    Meuthen secured reelection against two candidates with a two third majority, which made a run-off unnecessary.

    “We must become fit to govern,” Meuthen said. “This is our task for the next two years. My path is conservative, peaceful and patriotic.”

    The AfD is the biggest opposition party in the Bundestag national parliament, which it entered for the first time in 2017, propelled by voters angry at conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision in 2015 to admit almost one million mainly Muslim asylum seekers.

    The AfD also sits on opposition benches in all of Germany’s 16 state parliaments, where it is ostracized by all established parties, including Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD).

    Alexander Gauland, 78, a unifying figure in the AfD who has been a co-leader since 2017, did not stand for reelection. He has said he wants to pass on the baton to a new leadership that ensures the party join a governing coalition with Merkel’s CDU, at least at the state level.

    “They call us Nazis, fascists and right-wing terrorists,” Gauland told delegates. “But we need to be wise and resilient. The day will come when a weakened CDU has only one option: us.”

    Merkel’s conservatives have said they cannot work with the AfD, saying its anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic rhetoric contributes to an atmosphere of hate that encourages political violence.

    As delegates started arriving at the Volkswagen Halle in the western city of Brunswick, hundreds of protesters waved rainbow flags, while some held banners reading, “Against the AfD and its incitement.” Riot police fenced off the arena.

    Volkswagen had asked organizers to cover up the carmaker’s name that usually sits on top of the entrance to the venue.

    Slideshow (3 Images)
    “If we want more success we need to change,” Chrupalla said on Friday during a reception. “We want to move toward the center. This will work because the CDU keeps moving to the left.”

    The AfD won around a fourth of votes in elections in three eastern states this year. The party is more popular in former Communist eastern states, with double the support that it has in the west of the country.

    “In a few years, we may well have an AfD-CDU coalition, most likely at the state level in the east,” said Matthias Quent, director of the Institute for Democracy and Civil Society. “This could split the CDU. Some CDU members in the east are openly in favor of such a coalition.”

    He added: “The AfD’s radicalization will definitely make it more difficult for the party to improve its polling numbers in the west where people are more alarmed by its ethnic nationalism than in the east.”

    Additional reporting by Petra Wischgoll and Susanne Neumayer-Remter; Editing by Frances Kerry

    Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

  2. #2

    Focus on early release of terror convict in London stabbings

    LONDON (AP) — Usman Khan was convicted on terrorism charges but let out of prison early. He attended a “Learning Together” conference for ex-offenders, and used the event to launch a bloody attack, stabbing two people to death and wounding three others.

    Police shot him dead after he flashed what seemed to be a suicide vest. Khan is gone, but the questions remain: Why was he let out early? Did authorities believe he no longer believed in radical Islam? Why didn’t the conditions imposed on his release prevent the carnage?

    Britons looked for answers Saturday as national politicians sought to pin the blame elsewhere for what was obviously a breakdown in the security system, which had kept London largely free of extremist violence for more than two years.

    Police said Khan was convicted in 2012 of terrorism offenses and released in December 2018 “on license,” which means he had to meet certain conditions or face recall to prison. Several British media outlets reported that he was wearing an electronic ankle bracelet that allowed police to track his movements at the time of the attack.

    Authorities seemed quick to blame “the system” rather than any one component.

    The Parole Board said it had played no role in Khan’s early release. It said the convict “appears to have been released automatically on license (as required by law), without ever being referred to the board.”

    Neil Basu, the Metropolitan Police counterterrorism police, said Saturday afternoon that the conditions of Khan’s release had been complied with. He didn’t spell out what those conditions were or why they failed to prevent him from killing two people.

    The automatic release program apparently means no agency was given the task of determining if Khan still believed in radical views he had embraced when he was first imprisoned for plotting to attack a number of sites and individuals in London.

    It is not yet known whether he took part in any of the “de-radicalization” programs used by British authorities to try and reform known jihadis.

    The former head of Britain’s National Counter Terrorism Security Office, Chris Phillips, said it is unreasonable to ask police and security services to keep the country safe while at the same time letting people out of prison when they are still a threat.

    “We’re playing Russian roulette with people’s lives, letting convicted, known, radicalized jihadi criminals walk about our streets,” he said.

    Khan had been convicted as part of an al-Qaida linked group that was accused of plotting to target major sites including Parliament, the U.S. Embassy and individuals including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, then the mayor of London, the dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and two rabbis.

    Khan admitted to a lesser charge of engaging in conduct for the preparation of acts of terrorism. He had been secretly taped plotting attacks and talking about martyrdom as a possibility.

    Khan and his accomplices had links to radical preacher Anjem Choudary, one of the highest-profile faces of radical Islam in Britain. A mobile phone seized at the time contained material related to a banned group that Choudary founded. The preacher was released from prison in 2018 but is under heavy surveillance and a curfew.

    Several people who attended Choudary’s rallies when he was under no controls have been convicted of attacks, including the two al-Qaida-inspired killers who ran over British soldier Lee Rigby and stabbed him to death in 2013.

    The two chief contenders in the Dec. 12 election — Johnson and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn — condemned the system Saturday.

    Johnson, who visited the scene Saturday, said he had “long argued” that it was a “mistake to allow serious and violent criminals to come out of prison early.” He said the criminal justice system “simply isn’t working.”

    Johnson spoke Saturday with U.S. President Donald Trump, who offered his condolences following the attack, according to White House spokesman Judd Deere.

    Corbyn said it is not clear if the Probation Office was involved at all and questioned whether the Parole Board should have been given a role.

    “We have to ensure that the public are safe,” he said. “That means supervision of prisoners in prison but it also means supervision of ex-prisoners when they are released ahead of the completion of their sentence, to have tough supervision of them to make sure this kind of danger is not played out on the public in the future.”

    He stopped short of blaming Johnson, who was not in office when Khan was set free.

    Police said 28-year-old Khan was attending a program that works to educate prisoners when he launched Friday’s attack just yards from the site of a deadly 2017 van and knife rampage.

    Basu, the top counterterrorism police officer, said the suspect appeared to be wearing a bomb vest but it turned out to be “a hoax explosive device.” He said police believe Khan was acting alone.

    The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying Khan was one of its fighters. The group’s statement, however, didn’t provide any evidence.

    One of the victims was named in British media reports as Jack Merritt, a graduate of Cambridge University who was helping organize the conference where the attack began. His father David Merritt tweeted that his son had been killed and had a “beautiful spirit.”

    Basu said he could not name the victims until they had been formally identified by the coroner. He asked the public for help with video, photos and information about the attack.

    Health officials said two of the wounded were stable and the third had less serious injuries. A victim who had been in critical condition has improved and is now listed as stable, officials said.

    Police on Saturday were searching an apartment block in Stafford, 150 miles (240 kilometers) northwest of London, for clues. Khan was believed to have lived in the area after his release from prison. Police also conducted searches in Stoke-on-Trent.

    Learning Together, a Cambridge University-backed prison education program, was holding a conference at the hall when the attack started.

    Footage from the attack showed several passers-by — including one armed with a narwhal tusk apparently taken from the hall and another with a fire extinguisher — fighting with the suspect before police arrived.

    Queen Elizabeth II said in a statement that she and her husband, Prince Philip, were sending their thoughts to everyone affected by the “terrible violence.” She thanked police and emergency services “as well as the brave individuals who put their own lives at risk to selflessly help and protect others.”


    Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed to this report.

  3. #3
    Greece to ask for NATO’s support in dispute with Turkey

    Greece’s prime minister says he will ask other NATO members at the alliance’s London summit to support Greece in the face of fellow member Turkey’s attempts to encroach on Greek sovereignty

    By DEMETRIS NELLAS Associated Press
    1 December 2019

    Greece’s prime minister said Sunday he will ask other NATO members at the alliance’s London summit to support Greece in the face of fellow member Turkey’s attempts to encroach on Greek sovereignty, notably last week’s agreement with Libya delineating maritime borders in the Mediterranean.

    Kyriakos Mitsotakis told the ruling conservative New Democracy party’s congress Sunday that NATO can’t remain indifferent when one of its members “blatantly violates international law” and that a neutral approach is to the detriment of Greece, which has never sought to ratchet up tensions in the area.

    Cyprus, Egypt and Greece have all condemned the Libyan-Turkish accord as contrary to international law. The foreign ministers of Egypt and Greece, Sameh Shoukry and Nikos Dendias, discussed the issue Sunday in Cairo.

    Spokesman Ahmed Hafez said in a statement after the meeting that the two ministers agreed that the Turkey-Libya deal was “illegal” and that Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj doesn’t have the right to sign memorandums with other countries outside (the scope of) the U.N.-brokered deal that established his government.

    “We agreed that that Mr. Sarraj most likely lacks the mandate to sign (two agreements with Turkey), which anyway function as destabilizing factors in the area,” Dendias said after the meeting. “We also agreed with (Shoukry) to accelerate talks between teams of experts to define and delineate Exclusive Economic Zones between Greece and Egypt,” Dendias added.

    While Greece and Egypt are across from each other in the Mediterranean Sea, as are Greece and Turkey, Libya is geographically further from Turkey and the waters between the two countries are mostly those between Greece and Egypt.

    The Turkey-Libya deal added tension to an ongoing dispute with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt over oil-and-gas drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

    Turkey doesn’t recognize Cyprus as a state — but does recognize the breakaway Turkish Cypriot entity, the only country to do so — and is conducting exploratory gas drilling in waters where the ethnically divided island nation has exclusive economic rights.

    Ankara says it’s defending its rights and those of the Turkish Cypriots to regional energy reserves.


    Sam Magdy contributed to this report from Cairo.


    This story has been corrected to show that the Greek foreign minister said talks were about Exclusive Economic Zones between Greece and Egypt, not Greece and Turkey.

  4. #4
    Israeli leader censures Europe for pursuing trade with Iran

    Israel’s prime minister is lashing out at European countries for joining a body that would allow some trading with Iran despite U.S. sanctions

    By The Associated Press
    1 December 2019

    Israel’s prime minister is lashing out at European countries for joining a body that would allow some trading with Iran despite U.S. sanctions.

    Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday in a video statement that European countries “should be ashamed of themselves” for seeking to trade with Iran. He says the countries were enabling Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

    Last week, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden said they were joining INSTEX, a body designed to facilitate European trade with Iran.

    INSTEX was created by Germany, France and Britain to coordinate import and export payments so European companies can do business with Iran despite U.S. pressure, and thereby convince Tehran to stick to a 2015 deal that limits its nuclear efforts.

    Iran has given INSTEX a cool reception in part because it doesn’t include vital oil trade.

  5. #5

    Majority of French support country's Mali military operation: poll

    PARIS (Reuters) - Fifty-eight percent of French people back the country’s military operations in Mali, despite last week’s army helicopter crash that resulted in the deaths of 13 troops, said a survey on Monday.

    “The level of support from French people remains very stable,” said Jerome Fourquet, who helped carry out the survey for Ifop, which was published in La Lettre de l’Expansion.

    Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron ordered the military to review its operations against Islamist militants in West Africa and pressed his allies to do more after the 13 soldiers died during their combat mission.

    A national ceremony for the 13 dead soldiers is due to take place in Paris later on Monday.

    Reporting by Caroline Pailliez and Sudip Kar-Gupta

    Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

  6. #6

    Hungarian police find 2 tunnels used by migrants on border
    November 29, 2019

    BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungarian police said Friday that they discovered two tunnels used by migrants to enter the country from Serbia.

    Police said that a tunnel 34 meters (37 yards) long was discovered near the southern village of Asotthalom, where they also detained 44 migrants who had used the precarious passageway.

    Police Col. Jeno Szilassi-Horvath said a Serbian citizen suspected of human trafficking had been detained along with the migrants.

    The tunnel near Asotthalom was about 50 centimeters (20 inches) wide, 60 centimeters (2 feet) high, and had been dug as deep as about 6 meters (20 feet) below the surface without any support beams or other elements to prevent its collapse.

    Szilassi-Horvath said the dig, which likely lasted a few weeks and was done without any machines, had gone undetected thanks to the thick underbrush in the area and because the soil dug out was dumped in a nearby canal.

    He added that security officials were using drones and scanners to search for any more tunnels.

    The other tunnel, in the village of Csikeria, was 21.7 meters (71 feet) long, but no successful migrant crossings took place there. Police said they discovered both tunnels not long after their construction was completed, and filled both of them up again.

    In 2015, at the height of the migration crisis, Hungary built razor-wire fences on its southern borders to stem or divert the flow of people, many from the Middle East and Asia, making their way to Western Europe.

    In recent weeks, the number of migrants found near the border in Hungary and expelled back to Serbia through gates in the fences has been on the rise, from usually far less than 200 a week earlier this year to 375, 492 and 642 in the past three weeks.

    Asylum-seekers may file their claims at two transit zones along the border, but recent legal changes allow authorities to reject the vast majority of the claims of those arriving from Serbia.

  7. #7
    Survey: National populist True Finns Party largest party in Finland

    By Arthur Lyons
    Voice of Europe
    2 December 2019

    The True Finns Party, a national populist party that’s critical of the European Union, mass migration, and the Islamization of the West, is now the largest party in Finland, a new survey has revealed.

    The survey, carried out by the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, showed that if an election was held today, the True Finns would garner more than 22.4 percent of the vote, making them the largest party in the country.

    Research data shows that the True Finns enjoy widespread support throughout Finland which spans across various population groups and ages. The party does, however, enjoy substantially more support from men than it does women, Susanna Ginman – a lead writer for Hufvudstadsbladet, one of the largest newspapers in Finland – says.

    Like other populist parties operating throughout Europe, the True Finns have positioned themselves as the only real alternative to the globalist visions adhered to by traditional center-right and center-left parties.

    The poll also revealed that the Social Democrats, who won April’s parliamentary elections by a slim majority, slipped to the third most popular party in the country just after the centrist Coalition Party.

    A separate survey carried out by Yle early last month put the Social Democrats as Finland’s fourth-largest party.

    The survey’s results come just weeks after a poll in Sweden revealed that the national populist Sweden Democrats are now the most popular party in Sweden, with 24 percent of the country’s electorate supporting it.

    Despite constant attempts by the mainstream media to smear them as a radical right-wing party, support for the True Finns has only continued to expand

  8. #8

    Trump criticizes European allies before NATO anniversary meet
    Robin Emmott, Phil Stewart
    5 MIN READ

    LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump lashed out at European allies before a NATO anniversary summit in London on Tuesday, singling out France’s Emmanuel Macron for “very nasty” comments on the alliance and Germany for spending too little on defense.

    Underlining the breadth of strife in a transatlantic bloc hailed by its backers as the most successful military alliance in history, Trump demanded that Europe pay more for defense and also make concessions to U.S. interests on trade.

    The attack echoed a similar tirade by Trump ahead of NATO’s last summit in July 2018. It will add to the growing doubts over the future of the 29-member alliance, described last month by Macron as “brain dead” in the run-up to a London meeting intended to be a 70th anniversary celebration.

    It’s a tough statement, though, when you make a statement like that, that is a very, very nasty statement to essentially 28, including them, 28 countries,” Trump told reporters as he met the head of NATO in London.

    “Nobody needs NATO more than France,” he said, adding that France, where Macron is seeking to push through delicate reforms of its large state sector, was “not doing well economically”.

    Explicitly linking his complaint that Europe does not pay enough for NATO’s security missions to his staunch “America First” defense of U.S. commercial interests, Trump said it was time for Europe to “shape up” on both fronts.


    “It’s not right to be taken advantage of on NATO and also then to be taken advantage of on trade, and that’s what happens. We can’t let that happen,” he said of transatlantic disputes over everything from the aerospace sector to a European “digital tax” on U.S. technology giants.

    Dismissing recent signals from Germany that it was ready to do more to match a NATO target of spending two percent of national output on defense, Trump accused it and other nations which spend less than that of being “delinquent”.

    NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who shared omelette and sausages with Trump at their breakfast meeting, tweeted that the pre-summit talks had got off to an “excellent start”.

    U.S. President Donald Trump meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, ahead of the NATO summit in Watford, in London, Britain, December 3, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
    But the U.S. leader’s broadside came only hours after splits opened up elsewhere in the alliance, with Turkey threatening to block a plan to defend Baltic states unless the alliance backs it in recognizing the Kurdish YPG militia as a terrorist group.

    The YPG’s fighters have long been U.S. allies on the ground against Islamic State in Syria. Turkey considers them an enemy because of links to Kurdish insurgents in southeastern Turkey.

    "If our friends at NATO do not recognize as terrorist organizations those we consider terrorist organizations... we will stand against any step that will be taken there,” Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said before traveling to London.

    Erdogan, who has already strained alliance ties with a move to buy Russian air defense systems, said he would meet Polish President Andrzej Duda and leaders of Baltic countries.

    While Trump hailed Turkey as a good NATO ally, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper earlier warned Ankara in a Reuters interview that “not everybody sees the threats that they see” and urged it to stop blocking the Baltics plan.

    Queen Elizabeth will host the leaders at Buckingham Palace. But even the British hosts, for generations among the most enthusiastic champions of the trans-Atlantic partnership that NATO represents, are disunited over their project of quitting the EU and distracted by a rancorous election due next week.

    “The question is, as we celebrate 70 years, are we waving in celebration or do people think we are drowning?” said a senior European NATO diplomat.

    In a bid to placate Trump, Europe, Turkey and Canada will pledge $400 billion in defense spending by 2024, and also agree to reduce the U.S. contribution to fund the alliance itself.

    Slideshow (7 Images)
    The allies will approve a new strategy to monitor China’s growing military activity, and name space as a domain of warfare, alongside air, land, sea and computer networks.

    Leaders will issue a statement condemning Moscow’s Crimea annexation and its military build-up, recommitting to the alliance’s collective defense pledge.

    While giving few specifics, Trump said he believed Russia wanted deals on arms control and nuclear issues, and that he would be willing to bring China into such accords.

    Reporting by Robin Emmott in London, Ali Kucukgocmen in Istanbul, Joanna Plucinska in Warsaw; Writing by Mark John; Editing by Gareth Jones and Peter Graff

    Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

  9. #9
    Finland’s prime minister resigns over postal service dispute

    Finland's prime minister says he is resigning after a key coalition partner withdrew its support from his five-party Cabinet

    By JARI TANNER Associated Press
    3 December 2019

    Finland's prime minister resigned Tuesday after a key coalition partner withdrew its support from his five-party government following a strike at the country’s postal service that spread to the national flag carrier Finnair.

    Antti Rinne, who only took office in June, has faced heavy criticism in recent days over how he and a fellow Social Democratic minister dealt with a two-week strike of the country’s state-owned postal service Posti in November.

    Rinne, who used to be a trade union leader, and Sirpa Paatero were accused of giving inaccurate and contradictory information in the run-up to the strike, specifically over the transfer of work contracts for 700 Posti package handlers, which effectively would have led to lower pay. Paatero, a minister who was in charge of state-owned companies, resigned on Friday.

    Rinne had been under pressure for days over the Posti case and his role in the strike that ended on November 27 after a compromise deal was reached that allowed package handlers to remain under current work contracts for now.

    He said it became “obvious” after Paatero’s resignation that the Posti affair, which he described as “a messy case with plenty issues to be cleared” wouldn’t be settled with the minister’s departure.

    “My biggest mistake has been that I’ve trusted only in the information I’ve been presented with,” Rinne said, without elaborating.

    Rinne had accused Posti’s senior management for misleading him over potential pay cuts.

    The strike led to a one-day sympathy strike by the Nordic country's transport sector, including Finnair, which had to cancel almost 300 flights.

    Rinne, who will remain in post until a successor is decided upon next week, has denied any wrongdoing. His government holds a comfortable majority of 117 seats in the 200-seat Eduskunta, Finland’s parliament.

    His resignation prompted the formal resignation of the Cabinet that is made up of Rinne's Social Democratic Party, the Center Party, the Greens, the Left Alliance and the Swedish People's Party of Finland.

    Lawmakers will decide on a new prime minister next week. Until then, the current Cabinet will continue as a caretaker government until a new one takes over as planned on December 13, according to Finnish media. It’s unclear whether Rinne will represent Finland at next week’s European Union leaders’ summit in Brussels. Finland currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU.

    The Social Democrats retain the power to appoint one of their own to the post of prime minister and are set to decide in the coming days on Rinne’s successor.

    Transport minister Sanna Marin or Antti Lindtman, who leads the Social Democrats’ parliamentary grouping, are widely considered to be the most likely successor to Rinne.

    The Center Party pulled its support from Rinne’s government on Monday and urged him either to resign or to face a no-confidence vote.

    “There has been lack of trust shown by the Center Party and in discussions today they detailed reasons for that,” Rinne said in his resignation statement.

    “After receiving that reply, I naturally reflected on what that meant for the government and I drew my own conclusions.”

    Rinne said he would continue as the chairman of the Social Democratic Party at least until next summer’s party congress.

    “Thanks for the short, but many moments of good cooperation,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said on accepting Rinne’s resignation.


    Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.

  10. #10
    France threatens retaliation if US doubles Champagne price

    France’s finance minister is threatening a “strong European riposte” if the Trump administration follows through on a proposal to hit French wine, cheese, handbags and other products with tariffs of up to 100%

    By ANGELA CHARLTON Associated Press
    3 December 2019

    The president will meet with the Queen and our allies as tensions run high over Brexit and a possible trade war between the U.S. and France.

    France is threatening a “strong European riposte” if the Trump administration follows through on a proposal to hit French cheese, Champagne, handbags and other products with tariffs - of up to 100%.

    The U.S. Trade Representative proposed the tariffs on $2.4 billion in goods Monday in retaliation for a French tax on global tech giants including Google, Amazon and Facebook.

    “I’m not in love with those (tech) companies, but they’re our companies,” Trump said Tuesday ahead of a sure-to-be-tense meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in London.

    The move is likely to increase trade tensions between the U.S. and Europe. Trump said the European Union should “shape up, otherwise things are going to get very tough.”

    French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the U.S. tariff threat is “simply unacceptable. ... It’s not the behavior we expect from the United States toward one of its main allies.”

    Le Maire said the French tech tax is aimed at “establishing tax justice.” France wants digital companies to pay their fair share of taxes in countries where they make money instead of using tax havens, and is pushing for an international agreement on the issue.

    “If (the world) wants solid tax revenue in the 21st century, we have to be able to tax the digital economy,” he said. “This French taxation is not directed at any country, or against any company.”

    He also noted that France will reimburse the tax if the U.S. agrees to the international tax plan.

    Le Maire said France talked this week with the European Commission about EU-wide retaliatory measures if Washington follows through with the tariffs next month.

    EU Commission spokesman Daniel Rosario said the EU will seek “immediate discussions with the U.S. on how to solve this issue amicably.”

    The U.S tariffs could double the price American consumers pay for French imports and would come on top of a 25% tax on French wine imposed last month over a separate dispute over subsidies to Airbus and Boeing.

    French cheese producers expressed concern that the threatened new tariffs would hit small businesses hardest. It would also further squeeze exporters hit by a Russian embargo on European foods.

    The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative charges that France’s new digital services tax discriminates against U.S. companies.

    Le Maire disputes that, saying it targets European and Chinese businesses, too. The tax imposes a 3% annual levy on French revenues of any digital company with yearly global sales worth more than 750 million euros ($830 million) and French revenue exceeding 25 million euros.

    “What we want is a plan for international tax that is on the table” at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Le Maire said.

    The U.S. investigated the French tax under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 — the same provision the Trump administration used last year to probe China's technology policies, leading to tariffs on more than $360 billion worth of Chinese imports in the biggest trade war since the 1930s.


    Aamer Madhani and Zeke Miller in London, Darlene Superville and Paul Wiseman in Washington and Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this report.

  11. #11
    I am pretty sure (but not certain) that as a sovereign nation France is perfectly free to put a tax on a multinational company like Amazon if wants to.

    Amazon is also perfectly free not to sell anything in France.

    This is the flipside of formerly US Corporations going "global" to avoid paying taxes in the US.

    If I recall Trump was pretty unhappy when he visited Ireland when he found out that the official Apple HQ (and tax base) was in Ireland and not the US.

    He actually said something like "I thought Apple was a US company, not an Irish one?" not his exact words but you get the drift.

    The US is also perfectly free to tax Amazon/Facebook/Google etc and to pass laws that make it more attractive to have an HQ in the US rather than Ireland (I think that would be wise actually).

    This whole France vs. The US spat (really the Macaroon trying to play tough guy vs Trump) during an already difficult NATO summit is, I'm sorry to say, making both of them look like little boys in a sandbox - although yes, this time the Macaroon did start it.
    expatriate Californian living in rural Ireland with husband, dogs, horses. garden and many, many cats

  12. #12
    They may be trying to put a good face on it but this NATO summit seems to be more about clearing the air than actually getting something done. Clearing the air is probably necessary though.

    Division pervades NATO as the 'brain dead' meet the 'delinquent'
    Robin Emmott, William James
    5 MIN READ

    WATFORD, England (Reuters) - NATO leaders gathered at a golf resort near London on Wednesday for a summit acrimonious even by the standards of the Trump era, aiming to tackle sharp disagreements over spending, future threats including China and Turkey’s role in the alliance.

    With U.S. President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron blowing hot and cold over NATO’s function, the 29-member military alliance is looking for reinvigoration as it marks the 70th anniversary of its Cold War-era founding.

    “Clearly it is very important that the alliance stays together,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters as he prepared to welcome heads of state and government. “But there is far, far more that unites us than divides us.”

    Leaders held preliminary meetings in London on Tuesday, during which stark differences were aired, with Trump, who in the past has called NATO obsolete, criticizing Macron for comments last month about NATO’s strategic “brain death”.

    Trump said Macron’s remarks were “nasty”. He also described allies who spend too little on defense as “delinquent”.

    Macron held his ground, saying as he arrived that it was important for leaders to discuss issues in an open and forthright manner if they were to find solutions.

    “I think it’s our responsibility to raise differences that could be damaging and have a real strategic debate,” he said. “It has started, so I am satisfied.”

    Earlier, in a message on Twitter, Macron was direct about the challenges NATO faces. “It is a burden we share: we can’t put money and pay the cost of our soldier’s lives without being clear on the fundamentals of what NATO should be,” he said.

    In an illustration of the awkward mood, Macron, Johnson and the prime ministers of Canada and the Netherlands were caught on video at a Tuesday evening Buckingham Palace reception, apparently making light of Trump’s media appearances.

    “It was like a 40-minute press conference,” Canada’s Justin Trudeau can be heard saying, with Queen Elizabeth’s daughter Princess Anne listening on. “I just watched his team’s jaws drop to the floor,” Trudeau added with a chuckle.

    One of Macron’s chief complaints is that Turkey, a NATO member since 1952 and a critical ally in the Middle East, has increasingly acted unilaterally, carrying out incursions into Syria, taking up arms against the Kurdish YPG militia that had been allied with Western forces against Islamic State, and buying the S-400 missile defense system from Russia.

    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has pushed back, saying he will oppose NATO’s plan for the defense of Baltic countries if the alliance does not recognize groups that Turkey deems terrorists, including the YPG.

    As he arrived at the summit, his back stooped, Erdogan declined to speak. His increasingly close ties with Russia, particularly over Syria, and his differences with the European Union over migration among other issues, have made him a more difficult NATO partner and, conversely, a more essential one.

    Arriving at the 18th-century estate that once hosted a golf championship won by Tiger Woods, Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas - whose country depends on NATO as a shield against Russia - said he was confident divisions could be overcome.

    NATO is strong. NATO’s deterrence is 100% credible,” he said. “Transatlantic ... cooperation is a cornerstone for us, for our security, for both sides of the Atlantic.”

    At the summit, Europe, Turkey and Canada are expected to respond to Trump’s accusations that they spend too little on defense by pledging an extra $400 billion by 2024. Germany, a frequent target of Trump’s blandishments to spend more, has promised to spend 2% of national output by 2031.

    France and Germany want the alliance to consider a bigger role in the Middle East and possibly Africa, a shift from its historically eastern-facing posture. They aim to win support to set up a “wise persons” group to draw up reform plans.

    Slideshow (34 Images)
    In a final communique, NATO allies will recommit to their pledge to defend each other. Britain is expected to put six warships, two fighter squadrons and thousands of troops at NATO’s disposal to meet a U.S. demand for European armies to be more combat-ready.

    NATO will also warn China for the first time that it is monitoring Beijing’s growing military might. Leaders will agree to prepare for conflicts in space, the Arctic and computer networks, as well as traditional land, sea and air battles.

    NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told diplomats ahead of the gathering that even though disputes were making headlines, the alliance was flourishing.

    “I’m a politician, and I’m used to being criticized for good rhetoric but bad substance,” Stoltenberg said. “In the case of NATO it is the opposite. We have had bad rhetoric but extremely good substance.”

    Additional reporting by Andreas Rinke, John Chalmers and Johnny Cotton in Watford, and Estelle Shirbon in London; Writing by Luke Baker; Editing by John Chalmers and Peter Graff

    Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Central PA

    Belarus invites Serbia to join Russian economic bloc (fair use)

    In a joint press conference with Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic, Belarus' president Alexander Lukashenko called on Serbia to establish closer ties to the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), a Russian-led economic bloc, AP reports. Lukashenko said that it will take at least 10 to 15 years before Serbia might join the EU and that Serbia "will not regret" joining the EEU - which comprises Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.



  14. #14

    Ukraine threatens to wall off part of Donbass region if no agreement with Russia
    1 MIN READ

    LONDON (Reuters) - A top Ukrainian presidential aide on Thursday said Ukraine would wall off the rest of the country from occupied territories if Russia failed to agree to a ceasefire and prisoner swap at a summit in Paris next week.

    If Russia doesn’t want to agree to a deal “in this case we will be building a wall and life will go on,” Andriy Yermak said at a forum in London. “We will be living unfortunately in a scenario of a frozen conflict.”

    The leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany will meet on Monday for the first time in more than three years to try to end a conflict in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed forces and Ukrainian troops that has killed more than 13,000 people.

    Reporting by Marc Jones; Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Hugh Lawson

    Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

  15. #15

    Striking unions cripple France in stand-off with Macron
    Sybille de La Hamaide, Richard Lough
    4 MIN READ

    PARIS (Reuters) - Railway workers, teachers and emergency room medics launched one of the biggest public sector strikes in France for decades on Thursday, determined to force President Emmanuel Macron to abandon plans to overhaul France’s generous pension system.

    Transport networks in Paris and cities across France ground to a near halt as unions dug in for a protest that threatens to paralyze France for days and poses the severest challenge to Macron’s reform agenda since “yellow vest” protests erupted.

    Railway and metro stations in Paris were largely deserted during the early rush hour as commuters dusted off old bicycles, turned to carpooling rides or worked from home.


    “What we’ve got to do is shut the economy down,” Christian Grolier, a senior official from the hard-left Force Ouvriere union, told Reuters. “People are spoiling for a fight.”

    Airport workers, truck drivers, police and garbage collectors and others are all expected to join the strike at a time of widespread discontent towards Macron’s drive to make France’s economy more competitive and cut public spending.

    Macron wants to simplify France’s unwieldy pension system, which comprises more than 40 different plans, many with different retirement ages and benefits. Macron says the system is unfair and too costly.

    French SNCF railway workers stand on a platform to provide assistance for passangers at Lille railway during a day of national strike and protests against French government's pensions reform plans, in Lille, France, December 5, 2019. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
    He wants a single, points-based system under which for each euro contributed, every pensioner has equal rights.

    The battle between Macron and the unions for public support will be pivotal to the strike’s success. An Opinion poll last month showed almost half of all French opposed the reform.

    "For 30 years successive governments have tried to bring reform and fail because the unions cripple the country,” said 56-year-old cafe owner Isabelle Guibal. “People can work around it today and tomorrow, but next week people may get annoyed.”

    Before sunrise, riot police erected barriers in streets surrounding the president and prime minister’s offices and searched the bags of pedestrians along the Champs Elysees boulevard, ahead of a day of street protests which the government has warned may be infiltrated by violent groups.

    Protesters will march from the capital’s Gare du Nord to Place de la Nation in the afternoon.

    Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said thousands of anarchist “black bloc” and hardcore “yellow vest” protesters were expected to wreak havoc. He ordered shops along the route to close. Some 6,000 police will be deployed, including dozens of rapid-response officers on motorbikes.

    The SNCF state railway said only one in 10 commuter and high-speed TGV trains would run. Train operators Eurostar and Thalys have canceled services linking Paris with London and Brussels. The civil aviation authority asked airlines to cancel 20% of flights because of knock-on effects from the strike.

    In southern France, protesters blocked at least one oil facility. Power output was down at two coal-burning power plants and one gas plant as some energy workers walked out, though there were no impact on nuclear output, grid operator RTE said.

    Past attempts at pension reform have ended badly. Former president Jacques Chirac’s conservative government in 1995 caved into union demands after weeks of crippling protests.

    For Macron, this week’s showdown with strikers will set the tone for the second half of his mandate, with more difficult reforms to come, including to unemployment benefits.

    Reporting by Caroline Pailliez, Geert de Clercq, Sybille de La Hamaide, Marine Pennetier and Richard Lough; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Christian Lowe

    Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Central PA

    Greece to expel Libyan ambassador over maritime border MoU (fair use)
    FRIDAY DECEMBER 6, 2019 [Reuters]

    Greece said on Friday it was expelling the Libyan ambassador, angered by an accord between Libya and Turkey signed on Nov. 27 that maps out a sea boundary between the two countries close to the Greek island of Crete.

    Libya called the move unacceptable. Turkey dismissed it as outrageous.

    Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said the Turkey-Libyan accord was a "blatant violation of international law", telling a news briefing that the ambassador, Mohamed Younis AB Menfi, had 72 hours to leave the country.

    The move did not mean Greece was severing diplomatic relations with Libya, Dendias said. Another foreign ministry official said Libya had "deceived" Greece.

    "This is a legally invalid document," Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told parliament.

    "Not only is it geographically and historically invalid -- wiping Greek islands off the map -- but because it led Turkey to an unprecedented diplomatic isolation," he said.

    "It's just a piece of paper nobody recognizes."

    Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Siyala told Reuters Greece's decision was not acceptable, and Libya would have reciprocated if Greece had diplomatic representation in the country.

    "It is Greece's right to go to the International Court of Justice and to the legal channels to remove any confusion. But to take the stand of expelling the ambassador, summoning him and escalating the situation, this is unacceptable to the Libyan government," Siyala said.

    Oil, gas reserves

    Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also condemned the move. "Expelling an ambassador just because of the (agreement) that we signed is not a mature behaviour in diplomacy. This is outrageous," he told reporters in Rome.

    The expulsion is the latest twist in a saga of Mediterranean states jostling to claim mostly untapped oil and gas reserves in the region.

    Turkey and the internationally recognised government of Libya signed the accord in November defining their boundaries and a deal on expanded security and military cooperation, a step Turkey said was protecting its rights.

    Greece called the accord absurd because it ignored the presence of Crete between the coasts of Turkey and Libya.

    "The text of this agreement carries the signature of the Libyan foreign minister. It is the same person who, in September, had assured the Greek side otherwise," Dendias said.

    Mitsotakis said the speaker of Libya's parliament would be in Athens in coming days for consultations.

    Greece and Turkey are at odds over a host of issues ranging from mineral rights in the Aegean Sea to ethnically-split Cyprus. Tensions are also running high because of Turkish drilling off Cyprus, and the European Union has prepared sanctions against Turkey in response.

    On Thursday, Cyprus said it had petitioned the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to safeguard its offshore rights. It said an attempt to deliver a notice of its intentions to the Turkish embassy in Athens was not accepted.

    Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy told reporters in Ankara that Turkey was not aware of any such petition.




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