From Greece’s ‘German Reparations’ to UK’s EU Elections: EU’s Top Stories from April 17, 2019, Ranked

From Greece’s ‘German Reparations’ to UK’s EU Elections: EU’s Top Stories from April 17, 2019, Ranked

The 10 EU news and developments from April 17, 2019, that matter the most.

Following are the top news stories from April 17, 2019, concerning the European Union and its member states, with ranking and commentary by European Views journalist Ivan Dikov.

 

1. Greece Demands World War II Reparations from Germany

Greece’s Parliament has voted to given Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras a mandate to start talks with Germany for seeking World War II reparations over the killing of some 300,000 Greeks and a forced loan from the Bank of Greece. No figure was mentioned now but in 2016 a Greek parliamentary committee came up with an estimate of EUR 300 billion, more than Greece’s annual GDP.

Despite Tsipras’s denial, the issue seems clearly connected with the Greeks’ resent of Germany for the austerity policies Greece has had to adhere to as part of its EU debt crisis bailout in the past decade.

While many Greeks are convinced that Germany owes them a fortune, Germany says the matter was settled in 1960. It doesn’t seem likely that Athens will get very far in World War II reparation talks with Berlin – but the formalization of the claims will surely uplift the Greek – German relations to a new level of enmity and mutual resent.

News story here and here

 

2. EU Considers Imposing USD 20 billion in Tariffs on US Goods over Boeing Aircraft Subsidies

The EU is mulling slapping USD 20 billion worth of tariffs on imports from the US after the World Trade Organization ruled earlier this month that the US authorities had been subsidizing aircraft manufacturer Boeing unfairly.

Regardless of that, the US recently said it was considering USD 11 billion worth of tariffs on EU products in response to subsidies for European aircraft manufacturer Airbus. Earlier this week, the EU approved plans for trade talks with the United States to avoid a trade war and reduce trade barriers.

The EU mulling tariffs over Boeing subsidies is another step raising the stakes in the EU – US trade relations. With the seeming brinkmanship willingness of the Trump Administration, it is far from certain the talks will have a positive outcome – although last July Trump did stand with “Jean-Claude”, EC chief Juncker, for a news conference that “avoided a trade war”, he has kept on lashing out against the EU on trade ever since.

News story here

 

3. Bus Crash in Portugal’s Madeira Island Kills 29

A least 29 people, most probably only German tourists, have been killed, and another 27 have been injured in a tragic bus crash near Caniço, on Portugal’s Madeira Island in the Atlantic. The bus plunged off the road but the cause of the crash remains unclear for the time being.

A similar bus crash in Madeira killed five Italian tourists back in 2006.

News story here

 

4. Efforts to Rebuild Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris Gain Greater Traction

French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to have the emblematic Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris rebuilt within five years, after it was badly damaged in a colossal fire earlier this week, while Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced France would invite architects from around the world to submit their designs on how to rebuild the collapsed Notre-Dame spire.

It is inspiring to decisive French as well as international efforts to cope with the aftermath of the Notre-Dame fire. Yet, that is a reminder of the fates of numerous other historical monuments of similar importance from all around the world that never get that much attention. It’s for the same cynical reason why a terrorist attack somewhere in Western Europe, for example, would draw far more global attention than a crime of similar scale committed somewhere across the wider Middle East…

News stories here and here

 

5. EU, Canada Band Together against US Cuba Sanctions

In another episode of disagreement with the Trump Administration, the EU, this time backed by US neighbor Canada, warned the United States not to allow US lawsuits against foreign investments in Cuba.

The EU – Canada statement came after earlier Trump and US State Secretary Mike Pompeo made it clear a 1996 law, the Helms-Burton Act, delayed until now would go into effect, allowing lawsuits in US courts over property seized by Cuba. The measure would hit mostly European companies operating out of properties nationalized after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, and EU Commissioners made it clear the Union would use “all means at its disposal” to defend EU interests.

News story here

 

6. European Parliament Backs Stalled Massive Expansion of EU Border Agency Frontex

The European Parliament called for boosting Frontex, the EU border agency, by increasing its staff from around 1,500 to around 10,000, thus backing a measure agreed in principle by EU leaders in the summer of 2018.

While there has been much talk of expanding Frontex substantially in terms of numbers, powers, and efficiency, four years after the peak of the 2015 migrant crisis, little has changed in practical terms, seemingly because most of the 28 EU member states have misgivings the EU border agency might cut into their sovereignty to an unforeseen effect. For the time being, it does not appear that Frontex will see a very tangible boost very soon.

News story here

 

7. German Cabinet Backs Seehofer’s Bill to Prevent Migrants from Avoiding Deportation

Germany’s Cabinet has supported Interior Minister Horst Seehofer’s Orderly Return Bill (Geordnete-Rückkehr-Gesetz) which is supposed to facilitate the deportation of migrants refused asylum. In 2018, Germany managed to deport only 25,000 people out of a total of 250,000 who were told they didn’t qualify for asylum and had to leave.

As the prime EU destination for Middle Eastern and African migrants, Germany has seen adverse effects: the authorities have been struggling with their integration, while resentful voters have started backing the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

While Bavarian conservative, Interior Minister Seehofer, has been pushing through some tougher measures to reduce the number of migrants refused asylum, their efficiency remains unclear. Meanwhile, immigration will likely become an ever more division issue in Germany, among other things, boosting support for far-right politicians.

News story here

 

8. European Parliament OKs Law to Prevent Spread of ‘Terrorist Content’ Online

The European Parliament approved on Thursday a bill which is supposed to prevent the spread of “terrorist content” online by setting a one-hour deadline for its removal. The proposed measure is another EU regulation targeting the large social media, especially Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (Google), after the new EU Copyright Directive adopted earlier this week.

The European Commission, however, has misgivings about amendments to the “terrorist content” made by the Parliament, making it clear that it would seek to work out the remaining issues of the bill with the new European Parliament to be elected after the elections in May. In addition to disagreement between the Commission and MEPs over legal issues raised by the new draft EU legislation, it has been criticized for its potential to erode the freedom of speech.

The developments over the EU “terrorist content” bill will be one thing to be watched closely in the months after the 2019 European Parliament elections.

News story here

 

9. Turkish Opposition Confirmed to Have Won Istanbul Local Elections

In a blow to Turkey’s President, and former Istanbul Mayor in 1994 – 1998, Recep Erdogan, opposition CHP party candidate Ekrem Imamoglu was confirmed the winner of the mayoral elections in the largest Turkish city. Meanwhile, the ruling AKP party said it was going to attack the Istanbul results with a criminal complaint over irregularities.

The win in Istanbul solidifies the serious electoral gains of the main opposition party CHP in the March 31 local elections, after it won the capital Ankara and most of Turkey’s Aegean and Mediterranean coast.

News stories here and here

 

10. UK Parties Preparing for 2019 EU Elections against the Backdrop of Unfinished Brexit

British political parties are rushing in a hurry to prepare for participation in the 2019 European Parliament elections now that Brexit has been delayed until October 31, 2019, at the latest. Under the terms of the Brexit extension granted to the UK by the EU leaders, Britain has to hold the May 2019 EU vote to elect its new MEPs, or crash out of the Union without a deal on June 1.

With the UK having the misfortune of Brexit’s supposed date roughly coinciding with an EU elections year, the situation is somewhat absurd, but also highly decisive as voter turnout and voter support may now be seen as something like a new referendum on Brexit now that so many uncertainties stemming from the decision to leave the Union have been made better known.

News story here

 

Bonus Story: Greta Thunberg’s Climate Change Campaign Endosed by Pope Francis

Pope Francis publicly supported the global campaign to fight climate change launched by Swedish student activist Greta Thunberg. The 16-year-old girl and the Pope met on St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican.

For the time being the prospects of humanity tackling climate change successfully don’t seem great, rising planet temperatures will probably spiral out of control in the decades to come, breaking loose all kinds of hell. Yet, if there’s any hope of preventing that from happening, it comes from individuals such as Greta Thunberg.

News story here

Ivan Dikov

(Banner image: Greek Parliament on Twitter)

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