Shuttered: EU ditches summit 'family photo'

Shuttered: EU ditches summit 'family photo'
EU leaders pose for a family photo during the European Summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on June 28, 2016 (AFP Photo/JOHN THYS)

EU founding fathers signed 'blank' Treaty of Rome (1957)

EU founding fathers signed 'blank' Treaty of Rome (1957)
The Treaty of Rome was signed in the Palazzo dei Conservatori, one of the Renaissance palaces that line the Michelangelo-designed Capitoline Square in the Italian capital

Merkel says fall of Wall proves 'dreams can come true'


“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013. They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."
"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)
(Subjects: Who/What is Kryon ?, Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" Managed Business, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)


"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Europe, Japan sign massive free trade deal

Yahoo – AFP, 17 July 2018

The huge deal was signed as President Donald Trump unsettles allies and
provokes rivals with his aggressive "America First" trade policy

The EU and Japan signed a sweeping free trade deal Tuesday that officials called a "clear message" against protectionism, as Washington imposes controversial tariffs and threatens a trade war.

The deal signed in Tokyo by the EU's top officials and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is the biggest ever negotiated by the EU and creates a free trade zone covering nearly a third of the world's GDP.

"We are sending a clear message that we stand together against protectionism," EU Council President Donald Tusk said.

"Together we are making -- by signing this agreement -- a statement about free and fair trade, we are showing that we are stronger and better off when we work together," added Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker.

The huge deal was signed as President Donald Trump unsettles allies and provokes rivals with his aggressive "America First" trade policy.

Both the EU and Japan have been hit with new US tariffs despite their longstanding alliances with Washington.

Juncker said the deal sent a message that "trade is about more than tariffs and barriers, it is about values".

"There is no protection in protectionism," he said.

Abe, standing alongside the two EU officials, said the agreement, "shows the world the unshaken political will of Japan and the EU to lead the world as the champions of free trade at a time when protectionism has spread".

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Irish Senate backs law banning trade with Israeli settlements

Yahoo – AFP, July 11, 2018

A picture taken on November 8, 2017 shows a general view of construction work
in Gilo, a Jewish settlement in the mainly Palestinian eastern sector of Jerusalem
(AFP Photo/AHMAD GHARABLI)

Dublin (AFP) - The Irish Senate gave its support Wednesday to a draft law prohibiting the import of goods produced in occupied territories around the world, including Israeli settlements considered illegal under international law.

Israel reacted angrily to the proposal calling it "populist, dangerous and extremist", while a spokesman for the PLO expressed "sincere appreciation" for the initiative.

The proposed law was introduced by an independent senator and drew support from all of Ireland's major political parties, except the governing Fine Gael party.

The Irish government said the measure, unprecedented for a European Union member, was unworkable because it would impose a trade barrier within the European Union's single market and could harm Irish influence in the region.

Senators voted in favour of the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill by 25 votes to 20, with applause rippling through the chamber after an impassioned debate.

It will now undergo further scrutiny in a senate committee, with the government set to continue trying to block it becoming law.

"We may have a long path ahead of us," said Senator Frances Black, the bill's author. "But I believe... we've made the case clearly."

Calling Israeli settlements a "war crime", she compared her proposal to early Irish efforts to oppose apartheid in South Africa, adding Ireland "will always stand on the side of international law, human rights and justice."

But Foreign Minister Simon Coveney warned it risked "fanning flames" in the Middle East.

"I respect this house and its decision but respectfully disagree," he said.

'Palestine's St Patrick's Day'

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said the vote would have "a negative impact on the diplomatic process in the Middle East".

"The absurd in the Irish Senate's initiative is that it will harm the livelihoods of many Palestinians who wo work in the Israeli industrial zones affected by the boycott," he said.

"Israel will consider its response in accordance with developments regarding the legislation," he said.

Saeb Erekat, Palestine Liberation Organisation secretary-general, welcomed the move.

"This courageous step builds on the historic ties between Ireland and Palestine, as well as it shows the way forward for the rest of the European Union," he said.

Israel has acted angrily to such moves in the past, heavily criticising the EU after it backed labelling products produced in its settlements in 2015.

It summoned the Irish ambassador for clarifications over the proposed legislation when it was first introduced in January.

Fadi Quran, Palestinian senior campaigner at pressure group Avaaz, who was in the senate when the bill passed, heralded July 11 "Palestine's St. Patrick Day".

"The settlements are immoral and illegal under international law, and Ireland is the first country to practise what the whole world preaches," he said.

"Now, others need to follow the Irish example."

Proponents of the measure argued Israel is profiting from its illegal settlements in the Palestinian territories and the stalled peace process shows no signs of yielding a resolution.

"The status quo has failed... that is why we are seeking a change," said Senator Colette Kelleher, who co-signed the bill.

"I'm asking you to lead Europe," she added, addressing her comments to Coveney.

But those opposed to the move said it could draw Ireland into trade disputes over contested territories in places like China, Cyprus and Crimea.

Friday, July 6, 2018

British PM wins cabinet backing for UK-EU free trade area

Yahoo – AFP, Dario THUBURN, July 6, 2018

Leaked proposals suggest Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May will propose
to keep and commit to future EU rules on trade (AFP Photo/Tolga AKMEN)

London (AFP) - British Prime Minister Theresa May won agreement Friday from her warring cabinet to pursue "a UK-EU free trade area" after Brexit, as she bids to unblock negotiations with the bloc amid warnings time is running out to get a deal.

The proposal would create "a common rule book for industrial goods and agricultural products", May said in a statement following a day of talks at Chequers, the 16th-century manor house near London that serves as her official country retreat.

She added ministers also settled on "a new business-friendly customs model", which would maintain high standards but allow Britain "to strike new trade deals around the world" once it has left the European Union next March.

The government believes that plan would allow Britain to maintain frictionless trade with the EU in goods, avoid customs checks on the sensitive Irish border, and end both free movement of people and jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Britain.

The positions were agreed at the much-anticipated cabinet meeting as rumours swirled that ministers such as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson could oppose elements of the stance and resign.

"Today in detailed discussions the cabinet has agreed our collective position for the future of our negotiations with the EU," the prime minister said.

"Next week we will be publishing a white paper which will set out more details of how we will be taking back control of our money, laws and borders," she added.

"Now we must all move at pace to negotiate our proposal with the EU."

'Stick to timetable'

Less than nine months before Britain leaves the bloc, May's government is finally setting out exactly what it wants following public splits about how aligned it will remain with the EU.

The lack of progress has frustrated European leaders, who are stepping up preparations in case there is no agreement at all, and businesses which are being increasingly vocal about the risks to jobs and investment.

The cabinet agreed Friday that Britain's own preparations for a so-called "no deal" scenario with the EU should also be intensified, according to the government.

Socio-economic indicators comparing the UK with other
EU states (AFP Photo)

Agreeing a common position among her divided ministers is only one element of the Brexit process -- the hardest part will be getting agreement from Brussels, which has repeatedly warned Britain to lower its expectations.

The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Friday said: "I'm ready to adapt our offer should the UK's red lines change... Ideally the UK's proposals will facilitate both the UK's internal political debate and the negotiation with us."

Faced with the risk of an impasse, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, has mentioned the possibility of extending talks and therefore delaying Britain's departure date.

But this would depend on a unanimous decision by EU leaders.

"We want to stick to the timetable agreed," European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said Friday.

Businesses have upped the pressure for an agreement ahead of the meeting, with Airbus chief executive Tom Enders saying at a briefing on Friday that May's government had "no clue or at least no consensus" on avoiding serious harm from Brexit.

Half-in, half-out

Under the cabinet's plan, Britain would be half-in, half-out of the European single market -- something the EU and Brexit hardliners in May's own Conservative party will struggle to accept.

The hoped-for free trade area and new customs arrangement "would avoid friction at the border... and ensure both sides meet their commitments to Northern Ireland and Ireland", according to a Downing Street summary.

London has pledged to avoid customs checks on the border between Northern Ireland, which will be leaving the EU along with the rest of Britain, and Ireland, which will remain a bloc member.

The issue has proved a key sticking point in Brexit negotiations.

The newly-agreed plan would smooth trade in agricultural, food and fisheries products, and protect integrated supply chains and just-in-time processes.

The British cabinet also agreed to strive for "a joint institutional framework" to interpret and apply any future relationship, No. 10 said.

"This would be done in the UK by UK courts, and in the EU by EU courts –- with due regard paid to EU case law in areas where the UK continued to apply a common rulebook," it said.

But Brexiteers in parliament have voiced strong opposition to any continued role for the European Court of Justice.

Meanwhile, the cabinet proposal would retain regulatory flexibility for its dominant services sector, "where the potential trading opportunities outside the EU are the largest", in return for restricted access to EU markets.

It accepts the end to current "passporting" rights allowing British financial firms to operate freely in the EU, but suggests arrangements "that preserve the mutual benefits of integrated markets and protect financial stability".

Although May appeared to avoid any ministerial resignations Friday, initial reaction to the plan did not bode well.

"We have now seen Theresa May's true colours," said John Longworth, of the Leave Means Leave pro-Brexit pressure group.

"This is a bad deal for the UK which will only slide further as the EU take more and more."

Monday, June 25, 2018

European countries to formalise EU defence force plan

Yahoo – News, 25 June 2018

French Defence Minister Florence Parly said the proposed new EU defence
force will include Britain

Nine EU nations will on Monday formalise a plan to create a European military intervention force, a French minister said, with Britain backing the measure as a way to maintain strong defence ties with the bloc after Brexit.

The force, known as the European Intervention Initiative and championed by French President Emmanuel Macron, is intended to be able to deploy rapidly to deal with crises.

A letter of intent is due to be signed in Luxembourg on Monday by France, Germany, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Estonia, Spain and Portugal, French defence minister Florence Parly told the newspaper Le Figaro.

The initiative involves "joint planning work on crisis scenarios that could potentially threaten European security", according to a source close to the minister, including natural disasters, intervention in a crisis or evacuation of nationals.

It would be separate from other EU defence cooperation, meaning there would be no obstacle to Britain taking part after it leaves the bloc.

"This is clearly an initiative that allows the association of some non-EU states," the French minister said.

"The UK has been very keen because it wants to maintain cooperation with Europe beyond bilateral ties."

Twenty-five EU countries signed a major defence pact in December, agreeing to cooperate on various military projects, but it is not clear whether Britain would be allowed to take part in any of them after it leaves the bloc.

The EU has had four multinational military "battlegroups" since 2007, but political disagreements have meant the troops have never been deployed.

Paris hopes that by focusing on a smaller group of countries, its new initiative will be able to act more decisively, freed from the burdens that sometimes hamper action by the 28-member EU and 29-member NATO.

Italy had originally shown interest in the proposal. The new government in Rome "is considering the possibility of joining" but has not made a final decision, Parly said.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Britain's Prince William in Jordan for historic Middle East tour

Yahoo – AFP, Mussa Hattar, June 24, 2018

Britain's Prince William and Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah walk
along the red carpet at Amman's Marka military airport at the start of William's tour
of the region on June 24, 2018 (AFP Photo/KHALIL MAZRAAWI)

Amman (AFP) - Prince William flew in to Jordan on Sunday at the launch of a Middle East tour that will see him become the first British royal to pay official visits to both Israel and the Palestinian territories.

He was greeted at Amman's Marka military airport by Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah, hosting William for the two-day visit in Jordan.

The 36-year-old Duke of Cambridge's Royal Air Force plane touched down at the small airport in eastern Amman, where he was given a red-carpet welcome by the heir to the Jordanian throne.

Royal guards carrying rifles fitted with bayonets and wearing Jordan's traditional red-and-white chequered keffiyeh scarves stood to attention as the prince, in a dark suit, descended from the plane.

The visit by the second in line to the British throne has been billed as a chance to bond with 23-year-old Prince Hussein, a fellow graduate of Britain's Royal Sandhurst Military Academy.

On Sunday evening, William attended a birthday party in honour of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, whose official 92nd birthday was celebrated on June 9, at the British ambassador's residence.

"I greatly admire the resilience you in Jordan have shown in the face of the many security and humanitarian challenges that have confronted you as a result of conflicts in this region," William said at the party.

"The way in which you opened your doors to hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria, not to mention your longstanding commitments to Palestinian refugees, is remarkable," he said.

"In so many ways, Jordan as an open and stable society is a beacon of hope for many other people in the Middle East."

Britain's Prince William attends a birthday party in honour of his grandmother, 
Queen Elizabeth II, at the residence of the British ambassador Edward Oakden's (L) 
house in the Jordanian capital Amman on 24 June, 2018 (AFP Photo/AHMAD ABDO)

On Monday, William will visit the ancient Roman ruins of Jerash, north of the capital, as well as a vocational training college for young Jordanians and Syrian refugees.

That evening, he will begin his history-making visit to the Jewish state and occupied West Bank during which he will meet both Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

Seeds of conflict

Kensington Palace has underlined the "non-political nature of His Royal Highness's role -- in common with all royal visits overseas".

But the region is a minefield of sensitivities.

The visit comes at a particularly volatile time after US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as capital of Israel and moved Washington's embassy there, sparking Arab outrage and deadly clashes.

Britain governed the region under a League of Nations mandate for almost three decades until Israel's independence 70 years ago, and is still blamed by both sides for sowing the seeds of a conflict that continues to wrack the region.

Ahead of William's arrival, the official schedule's reference to east Jerusalem as "in the Occupied Palestinian Territories" sparked anger among right-wing Israeli politicians.

Britain's Prince William and Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah walk 
along the red carpet at Amman's Marka military airport at the start of William's tour 
of the region on June 24, 2018 (AFP Photo/KHALIL MAZRAAWI)

Official visits by British royals take place at the request of the UK government, but statements from the prince's household have given little explanation for the timing of this trip.

Israel has long pushed for an official visit by a member of the British monarchy.

Other members of William's family -- including his father Prince Charles -- have made unofficial visits to Israel and east Jerusalem in the past.

During the trip, William will have plenty of reminders of Britain's role in the region.

In Jerusalem, he will stay at the King David hotel, which was Britain's administrative headquarters during its rule of Palestine prior to Israeli statehood in 1948.

In 1946, militant Jews waging violent resistance against British rule bombed the building, killing and wounding scores of people, many of them British civil servants or military personnel.

Whilst in Jerusalem, William will lay a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.

He will also visit the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and pay tribute at the tomb of his great-grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece, who has been honoured by Israel for sheltering Jews during World War II.

In the West Bank city of Ramallah, he is to hold talks with Abbas and also meet Palestinian refugees and young people.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Vatican jails Italian priest for child porn

Yahoo – AFP, 23 June 2018

An Italian priest who served as a diplomat in the Holy See's Washington Embassy
has been sentenced to jail for five years by a Vatican court for downloading and
sharing child pornography

A Vatican court on Saturday jailed for five years an Italian priest who worked as a diplomat for the Holy See's Washington embassy, for possessing and sharing child pornography.

Monsignor Carlo Alberto Capella pleaded guilty on Friday, the opening day of the court hearing, saying he had gone through a "personal crisis" and felt "useless" as a counsellor at the embassy.

The 51-year-old told the three lay Italian judges at the tiny courtroom in the Vatican City that he had started looking at child pornography online on Tumblr in July 2016 and exchanged pictures with other users.

The Vatican gendarmerie said more than 40 pornographic photos and videos, some showing sexual contact between adults and pre-pubescent children, were found on the priest's mobile phone.

The US State Department had told the Vatican last August that an embassy diplomat may have violated the law with child pornography pictures.

The Vatican did not answer an official request to lift his diplomatic immunity, State Department sources said, and the priest was recalled to Rome last September.

He was placed in custody in April after an inquiry had been opened.

Canada also issued an arrest warrant for Capella on suspicion of downloading child pornography from inside a church in the Ontario town of Windsor.

Faced with a growing number of cases worldwide and repeated criticism for the way the Catholic Church has handled the scandals, Pope Francis brought in new legislation in 2013 covering child sex abuse and pornography and sentences of up to 12 years for priests.

In one of the latest scandals, the Chilean church has been rocked by accusations of wide-scale covering up of child abuse during the 1980s and 1990s.

Last Wednesday it emerged that the former archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, had been removed from the ministry following allegations he sexually abused a teenager nearly 50 years ago when he was a priest in New York.

Related Article:


Monday, June 18, 2018

Shell facing €7bn bill for ‘anti-competitive’ tax avoidance deal

DutchNews, June 18, 2018

Photo: Depositphotos.com 

Oil giant Shell faces having to pay €7 billion in backdated taxes after an MEP said he would ask the European Commission to investigate its deal with the Dutch authorities. 

Paul Tang, leader of the Labour party’s (PvdA) group in the European Parliament, claimed the agreement was a clear breach of European rules on state aid for private companies. 

The deal dates back to 2005, when Shell, previously an Anglo-Dutch concern, merged its two branches to establish a single headquarters in The Hague. The Dutch tax office allowed the company to exempt its UK-based shareholders from paying dividend tax by routing payments through an offshore trust in Jersey. 

Tang said the tax service’s decision to approve the construction was similar to other officially sanctioned tax avoidance schemes, such as Apple’s deal with Ireland. 

‘This is state aid, a tax construction solely intended to solve a problem for one company which other companies cannot take advantage of,’ he told Trouw

In 2016 the European Commission ordered Apple to pay €13 billion in back taxes after ruling that its agreement with the Irish tax service was anti-competitive. 

Around 40% of Shell’s shareholders are based in the UK. The remaining 60% are liable to pay dividend tax in the Netherlands. The current government has agreed to abolish dividend tax for foreign-based shareholders after being lobbied by Shell and Unilever during last year’s coalition negotiations. 

Last year online retailer Amazon was ordered to pay €250 million in tax to Luxembourg after it was found to have gained an unfair competitive advantage through its tax arrangements, while Starbucks’s deal with the Dutch tax authorities also fell foul of European regulations. The coffee chain, which has its European headquarters in Amsterdam, was told to pay €25.7 million. Apple, Amazon and Starbucks have all appealed against their respective rulings.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Greece, Macedonia sign historic deal to end name row

Yahoo – News, Vassilis KYRIAKOULIS, Saska Cvetkovska, 17 June 2018

The name change was agreed on in talks between Greek Prime Minister Alexis
Tsipras, seen on the right, and his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev, both of
whom were at the signing ceremony

Greece and Macedonia on Sunday signed a historic preliminary agreement to rename the small Balkan nation the Republic of North Macedonia, ending a row that has poisoned relations between the two neighbours since 1991.

"This is a brave, historic and necessary step for our peoples," said Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

"We are here to heal the wounds of time, to open a path for peace, fraternisation and growth for our countries, the Balkans and Europe," he said.

"Our two countries should step out of the past and look to the future," said Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.

"By signing the agreement... we have really moved mountains," he stressed.

But as the two countries' foreign ministers signed the deal Greek protesters clashed with riot police, who beat them back with tear gas near the small village of Pisoderi, 25 kilometres (16 miles) away from the ceremony.

Six policemen and six protesters were injured, police said, as around 500 demonstrators waving Greek flags tried to approach the signature ceremony.

The accord aims to start unravelling one of the world's longest diplomatic disputes, which began 27 years ago with Macedonia's declaration of independence but whose roots date back centuries.

"The time has come again to sing happy songs in the Balkans," Tsipras said, moments before the document was signed by the foreign ministers.

Greece's northern province of Macedonia was the cradle of Alexander the Great's 
empire and is a source of intense pride for modern-day Greeks

Zaev and several of his ministers arrived by speedboat at the picturesque fishing village of Psarades under a sunny sky, on the southern bank of Lake Prespa, one of the natural boundaries between the two countries.

Tsipras and Zaev embraced on the village dock and were treated to a standing ovation by gathered dignitaries.

UN under-secretary-general for political affairs Rosemary DiCarlo, longterm UN negotiator Matthew Nimetz, EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini and EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn were on hand, snapping pictures with their smartphones.

Nimetz, who turned 79 on Sunday, and was given a birthday cake, has been trying to broker a solution since 1994, first as a US envoy and subsequently on behalf of the United Nations.

But it was the election of Zaev in 2017, replacing nationalist prime minister Nikola Gruevski, that proved crucial.

An economist and former mayor of Strumica, Zaev made a rapprochement with Greece a priority to secure his country's membership of the European Union and NATO, blocked by Athens for years.

After the signature, Tsipras crossed over to the Macedonian side of Lake Prespa for lunch, becoming the first Greek prime minister to visit the neighbouring state.

Since 1991, Athens has objected to its neighbour being called Macedonia because it has its own northern province of the same name, which in ancient times was the cradle of Alexander the Great's empire -- a source of intense pride for modern-day Greeks.

Protest rallies against the name change took place in both countries

The two premiers, born just months apart in 1974, have bucked strong hostile reactions at home to push ahead with the agreement.

Accusations of treachery

Tsipras has been accused of treachery by Greek hardliners, and on Saturday defeated a vote of censure against his government amid protests and clashes with police outside parliament.

In Macedonia, President Gjorge Ivanov plans to exercise a one-time veto option to block the deal that the nationalist opposition has called a "capitulation".

The Macedonian parliament is scheduled to start debating the agreement the coming week.

The accord still needs to be approved by Macedonia's parliament and then pass a referendum.

The Macedonian constitution must also be revised by the end of the year, before Greece's parliament is called to ratify it.

On Sunday, some 5,000 people marched against the name deal in Bitola, in southwestern Macedonia, an event organised by the main opposition VMRO-DPMNE party.

"Macedonia was hit by a hurricane today, and that hurricane has a name -- Zoran Zaev," VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski told the crowd. He reiterated that his party would not support any constitutional bid to change the country's name.

The one-hour protest held under slogan "Child North Macedonia -- Father Tsipras, Mother Zaev" ended peacefully.

'Brave steps'

Tsipras' domestic critics say he has bargained away Greece's diplomatic advantages -- the power of veto over EU and NATO accession -- for a deal that could backfire.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Dutch PM outlines challenges facing Europe, closer union ‘no goal’

DutchNews, June 13, 2018

Rutte addressing MEPs

Prime minister Mark Rutte has outlined his views on the future facing Europe at a meeting of the European parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

In the speech Rutte, who has been tipped as a possible successor to EU president Donald Tusk, outlined what he saw as the challenges facing Europe and the need for Europe to make choices. 

‘Recent developments make it very clear that we cannot take our way of life, our way of doing business or our way of conducting international relations for granted,’ he said. 

‘We must deal with the fact that Russia has chosen to distance itself from its neighbours in the West,’ Rutte said. In addition, the conflict in Syria and ‘arc of instability around Europe’ need to be dealt with, the prime minister told MEPs. 

‘The multilateral order is being challenged in a way that we haven’t seen in decades, and the geopolitical balance of power is shifting,’ he said. 

The NRC described the speech as the ‘most pro-Europe made by Rutte to date’, despite his renewed calls for constraint. 

Unity 

‘More and more is not the answer to the problems people have in their daily lives,’ Rutte said. ‘For some, ever closer union is still a goal in itself. Not for me. ’Unity’ and ‘ever closer union’ are not the same.’

‘You don’t achieve unity by simply doing more in more areas. You achieve it by doing things really well in a few important areas,’ Rutte said. ‘The EU needs to under-promise and over-deliver. Because focusing on core tasks will promote the Union’s effectiveness, strength and identity.’ 

Focus 

The areas where Europe needs to focus include the single market and international trade policy, EMU and the euro, a common migration policy and joint control of the EU’s external borders and climate policy, which is by definition a cross border issue, Rutte said. 

He went on to propose increasing the current target of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to 55%, to MEPs applause. 

Rutte also restated the Netherlands objection to paying more towards the EU budget. ‘The Netherlands is willing to pay its share, but countries with a comparable level of prosperity must make a comparable net contribution per capita,‘ he said. 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Rainbow flags fly across Europe at Gay Pride parades

Yahoo – AFP, June 9, 2018

Marchers carry a rainbow flag aloft at a Gay Pride parade in Zagreb, Croatia
(AFP Photo/STRINGER)

Bucharest (AFP) - Thousands of people took to the streets to support LGBT rights in cities across Europe on Saturday, with marchers waving rainbow flags and condemning discrimination in all its forms.

Peaceful parades took place across European cities including the capitals of Italy, Greece, Latvia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania and Poland.

In Bucharest, some 3,000 people marched through the city centre with many celebrating a ruling made by the EU's top court earlier this week.

The European Court of Justice ruled in favour of Romanian gay man Relu Coman's right to have his US husband Robert "Clai" Hamilton live with him in Romania.

"Clai and I are two people who did not accept discrimination. If more of us did the same, the world would be better," Coman told AFP at the march.

Romania does not recognise same-sex marriage and had argued that Hamilton was not entitled to EU residency rights awarded to spouses.

The European court ruling means that same-sex partners of EU citizens have the right to live in any member state whatever their nationality, even in countries that do not recognise gay marriage.

Two men kiss at the Baltic Pride parade in Latvia's capital Riga (AFP 
Photo/Ilmars ZNOTINS)

In Warsaw, tens of thousands marched for the annual "Equality Parade" to protest discrimination not just against LGBT people but also women, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities.

Organisers said 45,000 people took part, while the town hall gave a lower estimate of 23,000.

'Love knows no boundaries'

"I come from a small town and first marched for equality 10 years ago, without telling my parents," Dominika Wroblewska said at the Warsaw parade.

"It's very moving for me, especially since I came out a year ago," she said.

Rainbow flags fly at the parade in Riga (AFP Photo/Ilmars ZNOTINS)

Her partner Alicja Nauman said she was marching "because I want to live in a place where all love is accepted, because love knows no boundaries".

"The situation in Poland is bad because same-sex couples cannot marry or adopt children."

Thousands, including members of a LGBT police association, also turned out for the 14th edition of Gay Pride in Athens.

The Athens events had previously been largely shunned by institutions and notably harassed by far-right groups, but this year's edition was attended by a delegation from the liberal-conservative New Democracy party.

Not to be outdone, the facade of parliament, overlooking Syntagma square at the heart of the festivities, was symbolically lit up in all colours of the rainbow in a government initiative.

Since the leftist government took office in 2015, Greece has extended civil partnerships to same-sex couples, authorised sex changes from the age of 15 and legislated for children to be adopted by same-sex partners -- though New Democracy voted against the reforms which the powerful Orthodox Church also opposes.

The "Baltic Pride" parade in Latvia's capital Riga included members of the gay community from fellow Baltic states Estonia and Lithuania.

A handful of anti-gay protesters rally before the parade in Riga (AFP Photo/
Ilmars ZNOTINS)

One of the organisers, Kaspars Zalitis, told AFP that about eight thousand people marched.

"Latvia is in last place in the European Union when it comes to the rights of LGBT people," Zalitis said.

"There is no protection against hate crimes, no respect for trans people, that's why we think this issue is greatly urgent."

About 30 people protested before the start of the parade in Riga, following a call by a rightwing group for a demonstration against "the promotion of homosexuality".

In Rome, thousands also marched Saturday just days after Italy's new families minister from the far-right League party caused a storm, saying homosexual families do not legally exist.

"It's very important that we're here, because we need to respond and show that it's not true that we don't exist," said Andrea, 27.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Spain swears in mostly-female government

Yahoo – AFP, Daniel SILVA, 7 June 2018

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and his 11 new female ministers

King Felipe VI on Thursday swore in Spain's new pro-EU government, with women holding the majority of ministerial posts.

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez named 11 women to top posts including defence and economy in a cabinet with six male ministers.

That makes it the European government with the highest ratio of female cabinet ministers, ahead of Sweden's, which has 12 women and 11 men.

But Sanchez's administration risks not lasting until the end of the current mandate in 2020, however, given the fragmented state of Spain's political parties.

His Socialist Party holds just 84 seats in the 350-seat congress, the smallest parliamentary presence of any Spanish government since the return to democracy in the 1970s.

Sanchez, 46, ousted conservative veteran Mariano Rajoy as prime minister last Friday in a parliamentary no-confidence vote.

The vote was sparked by corruption convictions against former officials from Rajoy's Popular Party (PP), which had governed for six years.

Equality a priority

At Thursday's ceremony, the ministers broke with tradition by taking their oaths on the constitution rather than the Bible.

They followed the example set by Sanchez, who became the first Spanish prime minister to forego religious symbols during his own swearing-in on Saturday.

The first minister to take the oath was veteran Socialist Carmen Calvo, a former culture minister, who became deputy prime minister and will also be in charge of equality.

Equality is a priority for Sanchez's government in a country where women staged an unprecedented strike to defend their rights in March.

Calvo said her government would work to "build the greatest equality, that between men and women".

The first measure the Socialists will propose to congress concerns gender violence training for judicial officials, the head of the party's parliamentary group, Adriana Lastra, told reporters.

'An ordeal'

With its parliamentary minority, the government will rely on the votes of far-left party Podemos as well as Basque and Catalan nationalist lawmakers who supported his confidence motion.

Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias wished the new government "good luck", adding during a TV interview that trying to govern with such a small minority "would probably be an ordeal" for Sanchez.

Podemos is pushing for greater social spending -- a delicate issue given the European Union's demands on budgetary discipline.

Sanchez has said the "main priority" will be to respect Madrid's deficit reduction commitments to the EU.

Spain has promised to reduce its deficit to 2.2 percent of GDP in 2018, which would bring it at last under the three percent limit set by Brussels.

To maintain "stability," Sanchez has also pledged to implement the 2018 budget crafted by the previous conservative government which includes pensions hikes and a salary increase for civil servants.

Sonia Lopez, a 40-year-old pastry chef, said she was not "expecting anything" from the new government.

"Before the government only looked after bosses, this one says it will look after workers. But if it does, it's because it's already competing for election next time round," she said as she smoked a cigarette outside the luxury Madrid hotel where she works.

Pro-EU government

EU budget manager Nadia Calvino was sworn-in as economy minister in a move welcomed by the EU Commission, and former European parliament president Josep Borrell became foreign minister.

The new Spanish executive's pro-EU credentials sets it apart from certain other parts of Europe.

They contrast with the eurosceptic stance of the populist government about to take office in Italy and the Brexit process in Britain.

Anti-terror prosecutor Dolores Delgado became justice minister and former Supreme Court judge Margarita Robles defence minister.

Other women have been put in charge of budget, education, employment and health.

The new interior minister is Fernando Grande-Marlaska, an openly gay former judge at Spain's top-level National Court.

He has handled cases against Basque separatist group ETA.

New foreign minister Borrell, who fiercely opposes the independence movement in his home region of Catalonia, will be tasked with defending abroad his government's commitment to Spanish unity.

Meritxell Batet, another Catalan, has been put in charge of relations with Spain's regions.

She will have the prickly task of trying to ease the situation in her own deeply divided home region.

Sanchez's new team also includes a minister in charge of science -- Spain's first astronaut, Pedro Duque.