Crucial vote on Brexit in British parliament after EU assurances

Crucial vote on Brexit in British parliament after EU assurances

The vote on the Withdrawal Agreement will take place this afternoon after it was as cancelled last December. The main issue will be the Irish backstop solution for avoiding a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Unless an alternative solution can be found, the whole of the UK will continue to stay temporarily in a customs union with the EU. Both UK and EU agree on the need of a smooth and orderly withdrawal but the backstop arrangements may jeopardize the agreement. In a personal letter yesterday (14 January)…

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Every effort needs to be made to avoid a hard Brexit – Juncker

Every effort needs to be made to avoid a hard Brexit – Juncker

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker stressed on Friday that “every effort” should be made to avoid a no-deal Brexit between now and a crucial ratification vote in the British parliament, scheduled for next Tuesday. The head of the European executive said that the Commission and he himself were in continuous contact with Downing Street as British Prime Minister Theresa May continued to seek new arguments to convince Parliament to ratify the withdrawal accord negotiated with the remaining 27 EU members. “No-deal would be a catastrophe, both for our British friends…

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European Parliament refuses to touch ban on weekend cab rest

European Parliament refuses to touch ban on weekend cab rest

The European Parliament’s Transport Commission on Thursday rejected proposals aimed at increasing the driving time of truckers and weakening the ban on resting in cabins at weekends. The European Parliament has been studying for months the European Commission’s “Mobility Package”, which should amend the rules on drivers’ rest time, cabotage and the seconding of drivers, mainly to address social dumping while maintaining the sector’s competitiveness. On Thursday, a majority of the parliamentarians once again rejected the proposals on driving time and rest, blocking one proposal aimed at authorising drivers of…

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EU imposes sanctions on Iranian officials for assassination attempts on European soil

EU imposes sanctions on Iranian officials for assassination attempts on European soil

The European Union decided on Tuesday to slap sanctions on an Iranian service and two of its officials for assassination attempts on European soil, Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said on Tuesday within the framework of investigations in Denmark, France and Belgium. The sanctions take the form of a freeze on assets held in Europe by a branch of the Iranian intelligence ministry placed on the European list of terrorist organisations and two of its members. Copenhagen had accused Tehran in October last of mounting an operation on its soil…

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British Universities fearful of Brexit fallout

British Universities fearful of Brexit fallout

The leaders of 150 British universities have warned in an open letter to their country’s parliament of the negative effect the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU would have on academic institutions, the BBC reported on Friday. They said Brexit was “one of the biggest threats our universities have ever faced” and they would need decades to recover from it. With no more access to European research networks, British universities would face a rapid deterioration of their quality, with the attendant effect on the 21 billion pounds they inject into…

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Amos Oz, Israeli writer who became universal, has died

Amos Oz, Israeli writer who became universal, has died

World-known Israeli author and peace activist Amos Oz died of cancer last Friday at the age of 79. His funeral took place yesterday at Kibbutz Hulda where he had been living in the past. Amos Oz was born in Jerusalem in 1939 and belonged to Israel’s founder generation. At the age of 14, after his mother’s suicide, he changed his surname from Klausner to Oz (“courage” in Hebrew) and moved to a Kibbutz Hulda in central Israel. In 1986 he moved from the kibbutz to the desert town Arad because…

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What’s next for 2019 after ECB measures to save the Euro?

What’s next for 2019 after ECB measures to save the Euro?

European Central Bank (ECB) President Draghi confirmed on 13 December that its quantitative easing (QE) extended asset purchase programme (APP) would come to an end after almost 4 years. The “move of last resort” was taken in January 2015 and followed likewise decisions by the Federal Reserve (2008), Bank of England (2009) and Bank of Japan (2013). Circa €2.5 trillion of government bonds, public sector securities; corporate sector bonds; asset-backed securities and covered bonds were bought. It included monthly purchases of €60 billion in March 2015-March 2016; €80 billion in…

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Russia’s gas exports to Europe reach record high

Russia’s gas exports to Europe reach record high

Russia’s gas exports to Europe reached a record high in 2018 despite diplomatic tensions and the will of the European Union to reduce its dependence on Russia, Gazprom reported on Friday. Gazprom, which has a monopoly on exports through gas pipelines, sold 201 billion cubic metres of gas to Europe and Turkey in 2018, 3.5% more than in 2017, its general director Alexeï Miller, told Russian agencies. These exports represent the lion’s share of Russia’s sales to Europe. A smaller share, open to competition, was exported in the form of…

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Kurds in Syria abandoned by EU and US

Kurds in Syria abandoned by EU and US

President Trump announced last Wednesday in a Tweet that the US would withdraw its diplomats at once from Syria and the remaining 2,000 American special forces in the north of the country within a short period. Ignoring the geopolitical consequences of the decision, his motivation for the sudden decision was that US does not want to be the policeman in the Middle East and that he had promised his electoral base to withdraw the troops. The decision took his own administration and the rest of the world by surprise. His…

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Non-transparent EU funding to NGOs

Non-transparent EU funding to NGOs

The European Court of Auditors (EAC) criticized on Tuesday the way in which EU funding is channelled through NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations). The current system of classifying organisations as NGOs is not reliable, warn the auditors, and the European Commission does not have sufficiently detailed information on how the money is spent. There is a similar lack of clarity when EU money is paid to NGOs indirectly through United Nations bodies. NGOs help the European Commission to design, implement and monitor EU programmes in many policy areas, such as humanitarian and…

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