Council of Europe (CoE) - European Human Rights Court - founding fathers (1949)

Council of Europe (CoE) - European Human Rights Court - founding fathers (1949)
French National Assembly head Edouard Herriot and British Foreign minister Ernest Bevin surrounded by Italian, Luxembourg and other delegates at the first meeting of Council of Europe's Consultative Assembly in Strasbourg, August 1949 (AFP Photo)

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

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)

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. …

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Lagarde urges policymakers to resolve manmade economic threats

MSN – AFP, 20 September 2019

Eric BARADAT Outgoing IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde gives an
exclusive interview to AFP journalists at the IMF headquarters in Washington
on September 19, 2019

Accustomed to being the first woman in influential leadership positions and speaking frankly to men in power, Christine Lagarde says manmade threfinats to the global economy can be "man-fixed."

Lagarde only last week left her post as head of the International Monetary Fund after eight years, the first woman to serve in that role, and she is expected to put another "first" on her resume by the end of the year: first woman to serve as president of the European Central Bank.

Eric BARADAT Christine Lagarde is expected to take over
leadership of the European Central bank and calls for
 policymakers to address manmade threats to global growth

She sees a world economy where growth is "fragile" and "under threat" from trade frictions and Brexit, and perhaps an over-reliance on the efforts of central banks like the ECB.

But while she tried to urge action during her time at the IMF -- she took over in 2011 in the aftermath of the global financial crisis -- she said a central bank should "stick to its mandate," which perhaps is a clue to how she will run the ECB.

Or perhaps not.

She carefully avoided a commitment about how she would use her influence in the new post.

Manmade problems can be 'man-fixed'

In perfect English and always engaging and crisply professional, Lagarde sat down with AFP on Thursday to review her legacy at the Washington-based crisis lender, where she arrived after being the first woman finance minister of France.

In bare numbers, her record is impressive: the IMF helped to avoid a global depression, 90 countries -- nearly half of its members -- benefitted from some form of lending or credit line during the crisis, and the lending capacity was doubled to $1 trillion.

One of her main regrets is that she ran out of time to convince the member governments to increase those resources further, since the IMF, which sits "right at the core, at the center of the global financial safety net," may not have enough cash to address the next inevitable crisis.

Still, the IMF remains influential over economic and financial policy matters.

"I think we have spoken truth to power, not always to the power's pleasure," Lagarde said.

But as she leaves Britain is poised to crash out of the European Union, with no deal to cushion the blow in place as yet, while "America First" President Donald Trump has waged a multi-front trade war primarily targeted at China.

Those threats have undercut confidences and business investment as well as exports, and global growth could by some estimates fall to the slowest pace since 2008 at the start of the financial crisis.

But Brexit and trade frictions "are manmade and can be man-fixed," and Lagarde quipped, "A bit of woman wouldn't hurt."

Where are the roof fixers?

She has often urged governments to "fix the roof while the sun is shining," borrowing from former US President John F Kennedy, pushing for spending while times are good to fix long-term problems and help people left behind by globalization and technological change.

Yet even amid a worldwide wave of anger against trade and globalization, officials who control the purse strings of governments have not done enough, Lagarde said.

Instead central banks have done much of the heavy lifting in preventing the financial crisis from becoming a depression.

"I think central bankers have done an awful lot and were for many years regarded as the only game in town," she said.

If confirmed, Lagarde will step into her new post as one of those central bankers in an environment where Trump has maintained a relentless campaign against the US Federal Reserve for not cutting interest rates aggressively to stimulate growth, while others in Europe have criticized outgoing ECB President Mario Draghi for cutting rates further into negative territory to juice a sluggish EU economy.

Experience shows that when politicians meddle with central bank independence it "doesn't pan out very well," she cautioned, but at the same time "a central bank has to do the job that it is assigned to do... they should stick to facts and data so that they could be predictable."

In her new post leading the ECB, she pledged to focus on job creation and stability, but stability alone may not be enough in the lives of real people.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Two priests should be tried in altar boys abuse case: Vatican

Yahoo – AFP, September 17, 2019

Pope Francis has apologised for predatory priests but cover-ups in the
Vatican have severely damaged trust (AFP Photo/Alberto PIZZOLI)

Vatican City (AFP) - An Italian priest accused of sexually abusing altar boys in a seminary and another priest who allegedly facilitated that abuse have been referred to Italian justice, the Vatican said Tuesday.

A statement said the Vatican’s Promoter of Justice has recommended that Father Gabriele Martinelli stand trial over charges of sexual abuse, and that Father Enrico Radice also be tried over charges of covering it up.

The alleged abuse took place at the pre-seminary of St Pius X, an institution located on Vatican grounds that trains altar boys and is very close to Pope Francis's residence.

"The investigation was launched in 2017 following press reports," the Vatican said.

Martinelli was a seminarian and aged 21 when the alleged abuse took place and was in charge of training the boys.

A Polish roommate of one of the victims said he had witnessed repeated sexual assaults, according to Italian media.

He along with two other seminarians denounced Martinelli to superiors and also in a letter written to cardinals.

The alleged abuse was the subject of 2017 book called "Original Sin" by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi.

Nuzzi said the young seminarian, who lived there between the ages of 13 and 18, was sent back in 2014 after sounding the alarm on the alleged abuse.

The seminarian claimed that Martinelli came to his room to have sexual relations with his roommate -- who was then aged 17.

He claimed he had witnessed such acts up to 140 times and that Martinelli used "power and intimidation" to impose his will on young seminarians.

The Polish man, who says he is gay, accused the priests of double standards, saying: "During the day, they are homophobes and at night they unwind in gay discos."

Pope Francis has apologised for predatory priests but cover-ups in the Vatican have severely damaged trust in the centuries-old institution, and there is still much to be done to protect minors from clerical paedophiles.

In May, the pontiff passed a landmark new measure to oblige those who know about sex abuse in the Catholic Church to report it to their superiors, in a move which could bring countless new cases to light.

Related Article:

".... Let me tell you what else is in the field. Two things: These are going to be things that exist now in the field and they are upcoming potentials. The reason I give you these potentials is so if they happen, just like the handshake, you might believe a little more in this process.

There will come a time when Big Pharma will fall over because of a growing higher consciousness of the public. [Applause in the audience] There is a consciousness growing here that begins to have a new respect for each other, so that abuse of women will no longer be tolerated. Things that never happened before will begin happening, like bishops and cardinals resigning. [All 34 bishops in the Catholic Church resigned May 2018 after the new wild card pope called them on their reaction to child abuse for years by their colleagues.] All the things my partner brought today [in the seminar] are actually happening now. Why should some of these drug companies fail? Because there will be a strong reaction from your general public when they realize there are companies that have policies that would keep a Human sick or let him die for money. [Applause in the audience] It would be unconscionable, and the potential grows stronger daily that it's going to happen. The trigger? It's coming. When it does, that industry will be in trouble. Not all pharma is this way, dear ones - understand this - but the ones who are will fall. ..."

Apple slams EU as epic court battle over tax bill begins

Yahoo – AFP, Catherine KURZAWA, 17 September 2019

The EU has taken a 13-billion-euro bite out of Apple

Apple went on the offensive against Brussels in an EU court on Tuesday, fighting the European Commission's landmark order that the iPhone-maker reimburse Ireland 13 billion euros ($14 billion) in back taxes.

The EU's tax demand, made three years ago, "defies reality and common sense," Apple's lawyer Daniel Beard told the EU's lower General Court.

The commission's "conclusion... is wrong," he added at the start of two days of hearings.

Lawyers for the world's biggest company faced EU officials in the Luxembourg court, challenging a decision that CEO Tim Cook slammed at the time as "total political crap" with no basis in law.

Ireland, which is similarly appealing the decision, lashed out at the EU's "astonishing" interpretation of tax law.

"The Commission decision simply ignores Irish laws," Ireland's representative Maurice Collins told judges.

The commission's historic decision was delivered in August 2016 by Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, a shock decision that put Europe at the forefront of an emerging effort to rein in the power of America's largest technological companies.

The EU accuses Apple of parking untaxed revenue earned in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and India in Ireland, which has become a European hub for US-based big tech.

This privilege allegedly gave Apple an advantage over other companies, allowing it to avoid Irish taxes between 2003 and 2014 of around 13 billion euros which, according to Brussels, constituted illegal "state aid" by Ireland.

An EU lawyer pushed back at Apple and Ireland's arguments, insisting that the iPhone-maker was on the hook to pay taxes in Ireland.

The judges are not expected to hand down their decision before 2020. Any appeal would then go the EU's highest court, the European Court of Justice, for a final ruling that could land as late as 2021.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, in charge of the world's biggest company, has called the 
EU tax case "total political crap"

'Rewrite history'

Apple fiercely rejects the tax bill, while the US government insists the order by Brussels constitutes a major breach of international tax law.

"The European Commission has tried to rewrite Apple's history in Europe, to ignore Ireland's tax laws and, in doing so, to disrupt the international tax system," Tim Cook said in an open letter in 2016.

The group insists that it is in the United States, where the company invests in research and development and thus creates wealth, that it must pay taxes on the revenue in question.

This became possible after a major tax overhaul in the US at the end of 2017 that allowed Apple to repatriate profits made abroad. Apple has promised to pay Washington a tax bill of $37 billion, in addition to the taxes already paid in the United States.

That argument is "perfectly irrelevant", said the commission's lawyer.

"There is no tax mismatch here," said the lawyer.

The two days of hearings are taking place in a tense trade context between the EU and the United States. President Donald Trump accuses Europeans of deliberately attacking American technology giants.

The EU's competition supremo, Vestager, has in particular been accused by Trump of "hating" the US. He has slammed her as the "tax lady" because of the investigations and heavy fines imposed on US tech firms such as Google.

Pending the conclusion of the case, Apple has blocked the funds in an escrow account: a total of 14.3 billion euros after interest.

The group, which has been present in Ireland since the 1980s, employs around 6,000 people in Cork, the country's second-largest city.

The first indications of how the Apple case may finish will come as early as September 24 when the same EU court will rule on whether Vestager was right to demand unpaid taxes from Starbucks and a unit of Fiat Chrysler.

Monday, September 16, 2019

New EU chief doubles down on 'European way of life' tag

France24 – AFP, 16 September 2019

Brussels (AFP) - The European Commission's incoming chief, Ursula von der Leyen, on Monday defended a controversial "Protecting our European Way of Life" title for her new migration commissioner, rejecting calls to change it.

The monicker is under fire from European lawmakers, rights groups and some member states for echoing the xenophobic rhetoric of the far-right.

But, in a statement run by various European newspapers, she said it was grounded in the "tolerance" and "non-discrimination" expressed in the European Union treaty.

Von der Leyen, a former German defence minister, acknowledged that the wording "triggered a debate" and that "for some, the European way of life is a loaded, politicised term".

But she called the polemic "a good thing" that promoted transparency.

"We cannot and we must not let ourselves have our linguistic expressions taken away -- they are also part of who we are," she said, warning against "adversaries of Europe" trying to undermine "this European way of life".

While von der Leyen's statement focused on the wording in the EU treaty and appealed to higher ideals, she made no mention of the link she made between the title and the tasks linked to it.

In her mission letter to the incoming commissioner, Greece's Margaritis Schinas, von der Leyen wrote she wanted him to be one of several vice presidents whose mandate would cover education, integration, migration and cross-border security.

"Protecting our European way of life... highlights the need for well-managed legal migration, a strong focus on integration and ensuring our communities are cohesive and close-knit," the letter stated.

"We must address and allay legitimate fears and concerns about the impact of irregular migration on our economy and society," it said.

"This will require us to work together to find common solutions which are grounded in our values and our responsibilities."

Confirmation hearings

The row that has blown up around the term could threaten confirmation hearings for von der Leyen's that the European Parliament is to hold from September 30.

Several major political groupings, apart from the European People's Party (EPP) of von der Leyen and Schinas, have demanded the wording of the migration portfolio be changed.

But the head of the EPP in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber, wrote in an opinion piece for the French daily l'Opinion that the controversy "to me seems particularly misplaced" and asked: "Should we be ashamed of our values?"

The outgoing Commission chief, Jean-Claude Juncker, who hands over the reins to von der Leyen at the end of next month, also criticised the title in an interview with Euronews last week.

"I think that this (title) will have to be changed," he said, adding: "I don't like the idea that the European way of life is opposed to migration."

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Key EU ministers ignore budget rule revamp for Italy

France24 - AFP, 14 September 2019

Helsinki (AFP) - The EU's most powerful members on Saturday ignored a call by Italy to reform the European Union's budget rules, handing an early setback to the pro-European government in Rome.

EU finance ministers meeting in Helsinki discussed a possible update to the EU's rules on public spending, but key countries Germany, France and the Netherlands were represented by subordinates.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called this week for the EU's Stability and Growth Pact, which limits budget deficits to three percent of gross domestic product in member states, to be "improved" and simplified.

The pact was the main bone of contention between the European Commission and the previous populist government in heavily indebted Italy, which must submit a balanced budget to Brussels in the coming weeks.

Reforming the rules, which also include a 60 percent of GDP cap on debt, sharply splits Italy from the EU's richer members that are loathe to ease the pressure on Rome's chronic overspending.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said any attempt to modify the rules would be too contentious and the EU must prioritise other challenges, especially investment.

"I am very cautious on ideas to change the rules," Le Maire said in Helsinki on Friday before jetting off early from the two-day meeting.

A reform would be "very difficult, very long, and very uncertain," added Le Maire, who was seen as a potential ally for Rome in the debate.

Officials said the long-planned discussion on Saturday very generally explored ways to simplify the rules and new ways to measure national spending.

Northern countries, led by the Netherlands, accuse the European Commission of loosely interpreting data in order to give deficit-running countries leeway. The current system has helped absolve countries such as Spain, Belgium and France, critics allege.

EU commission vice president Valdis Dombrovkis said an overhaul would only take place if an agreement seemed possible.

"We should avoid the scenario where we just open legislation without knowing how we'll close it and then have a long and divisive debate on this and not achieve results," he said.

Italy's new finance minister Roberto Gualtieri downplayed the significance of his absent counterparts, which also included Spain's finance minister.

"We are in a preliminary phase of reflection... It was an informal discussion," Gualtieri told reporters.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

EU climate chief appoints fellow Dutch Labour man to top job

DutchNews, September 11, 2019

Diederik Samsom in June. Photo: Laurens van Putten via HH

Former Labour party leader Diederik Samsom is moving to Brussels as right hand man of EU commissioner Frans Timmermans, who has been charged with implementing Europe’s climate strategy. 

Samsom, who led negotiations to draw up a climate agreement between some 600 organisations in the Netherlands, will head a 12-man cabinet which will support Timmermans in his daily work, Dutch media reported. 

Timmermans, also a former Dutch Labour MP, reportedly said that Samsom is the ‘best man’ for the job. 

Earlier this week, Timmermans was made first executive vice president for a ‘European Green Deal’

His mission is to ‘look at everything from how we use and produce energy, unlock private investment and support new clean technologies, all the way through to the transport we use, the food we eat and the packaging we throw away’, according to a briefing by incoming commission chief Ursula von der Leyen.

Frans Timmermans (Pic: Flickr/PES Communications)

Related Article:

Monday, September 9, 2019

France says 'time has come' to ease tensions with Russia

Yahoo – News, Marina LAPENKOVA, 9 September 2019

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (L) and Defence Minister Florence
Parly held the first meeting in the so-called "2+2" format suspended after Russia
seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014

France said Monday that the time had come to start easing tensions with Russia as senior ministers held four-way talks in Moscow not seen since the crisis over Ukraine broke out.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said there was a "window of opportunity" for resolving the Ukraine conflict after a landmark prisoner exchange on Saturday, but that it was too soon to talk of lifting sanctions on Russia.

Le Drian and French Defence Minister Florence Parly were in Moscow for talks under the so-called "2+2" format that been suspended since Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

French President Emmanuel Macron has launched a diplomatic push for a detente in Europe's relations with Russia.

"The time has come, the time is right, to work towards reducing distrust," Le Drian told a press conference of the four ministers after the talks.

"We have come to suggest... a new agenda of trust and security."

He said the prisoner exchange -- which saw 35 detainees handed over on each side -- had created goodwill that needed to be reinforced.

"It is not yet the deadline for lifting sanctions. It's a new state of mind, which we have not seen for several years," Le Drian said.

Lavrov said progress on rebuilding ties with Europe was "possible and necessary".

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) said progress on rebuilding ties 
with Europe was "possible and necessary"

Prisoner swap 'a good sign'

He welcomed recent statements by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as "very, very positive" and described the prisoner exchange as "a good sign" for future progress.

Ties between Russia and Europe have been deeply strained since 2014, when the European Union and United States imposed sanctions over the annexation of Crimea and Russia's support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Macron embarked on his bid to bring Russia in from the cold this summer, hosting President Vladimir Putin in southern France last month and renewing high-level diplomatic contacts.

The two men spoke by phone on Sunday, hailing the prisoner exchange as a step forward in peace efforts.

Attempts to resolve the Ukraine crisis have revived since the election in April of comedian-turned-president Zelensky, who has made ending the conflict his main priority.

Macron announced a summit under the so-called "Normandy format" of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine in his talks with Putin, but a date has not yet been set.

The focus of the summit will be reviving the Minsk accords, which Germany and France helped to negotiate but failed to stop the fighting in eastern Ukraine, where more than 13,000 have been killed.

Analysts said Macron is looking to take the lead on Russia in Europe. As head of the G7 and Council of Europe, and with Germany and Britain focused on internal politics, the French president sees an opportunity.

"Emmanuel Macron is telling himself that if there's a chance of doing something on Ukraine, it's now," said Florent Parmentier, a researcher at Sciences Po university in Paris.

"It won't be easy but it's not a rash move," he added, pointing to France's "real diplomatic advance" by promoting Russia's return to the Council of Europe, the continent's foremost human rights body, last June.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Top UK minister quits in new Brexit blow to PM Johnson

Yahoo – AFP, Dmitry ZAKS, September 8, 2019

Amber Rudd becomes the latest MP to leave the Conservative benches

London (AFP) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson received a fresh blow Saturday when senior minister Amber Rudd quit her work and pensions post in protest at his handling of the Brexit crisis.

Her resignation caps a miserable week for Johnson as he tries to steer his splintered country through its biggest political crisis since World War II.

Rudd was a moderate member of former prime minister Theresa May's government whose endorsement Johnson coveted during his successful UK leadership challenge in July.

But she said Saturday that she could no longer endorse Johnson's approach to negotiations with Brussels -- or handling of domestic politics.

"I have resigned from Cabinet and surrendered the Conservative Whip," Rudd tweeted.

"I cannot stand by as good, loyal moderate Conservatives are expelled," she said referring to Johnson's decision to expel 21 MPs from the Conservative party for voting against the government on Brexit.

Rudd said in her resignation letter that she felt uneasy about Johnson's commitment to take Britain out of the EU on October 31 even if the two sides fail to reach a negotiated deal.

The 56-year-old said she had once viewed Johnson's threat of a messy "no-deal" divorce as a useful negotiating tactic to take with Brussels.

"However, I no longer believe leaving with a deal is the government's main objective," she wrote in her resignation letter.

"The government is expending a lot of energy to prepare for 'no deal' but I have not seen the same level of intensity go into our talks with the European Union."

'Government falling apart'

Johnson has been adamant that he will not seek a third Brexit delay this year.

He is instead seeking to hold an early general election on October 15 that could give him a mandate to take Britain out on time and at any cost.

Johnson said this week that he would "rather be dead in a ditch" than seek a Brexit extension until January that more moderate forces demand.

The main opposition Labour Party is plotting a strategy with smaller parliamentary groups that could leave Johnson with no other alternative but to seek an extension to the Brexit talks or resign.

They are expected to push through legislation Monday forcing Johnson seek a Brexit delay from Brussels unless he can strike a deal at an EU summit next month.

They are also trying to make sure that a general election is held only after Johnson is forced to go back on his word and push Brexit back again.

Johnson has branded the delay bill a "surrender" that would allow the other 27 EU leaders to dictate the terms on which Britain leaves its closest neighbours after 46 years.

Both Labour leaders and rebel Conservatives praised Rudd's decision to walk away from Johnson.

"Everyone has a point beyond which they cannot be pushed," centrist Conservative MP Nick Boles tweeted.

"Amber Rudd has reached hers. How much more of the party he inherited will Johnson destroy before he has second thoughts or is stopped by his Cabinet colleagues?"

Labour's Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said Johnson was "being totally found out" six weeks into his job.

"Johnson government falling apart," Starmer tweeted.

But Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage -- an anti-EU populist who is trying to forge an election alliance with Johnson -- said the British leader made a mistake by taking Rudd on in the first place.

"Why did Boris give ministerial posts to all these Remainers in the first place?" Farage asked in a tweet.

"Confused thinking to say the least."

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Russia, Ukraine swap prisoners in landmark 'first step' to ease tensions

Yahoo – AFP, Oleksandr Savochenko with Michael Mainville in Moscow, September 7, 2019

Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov was the country's most prominent
political prisoner (AFP Photo/Sergei SUPINSKY)

Kiev (AFP) - Russia and Ukraine made a long-awaited swap of 70 prisoners on Saturday, a deal hailed as a first step towards ending five years of tensions and conflict.

Two planes carrying 35 prisoners from each side landed simultaneously in Moscow and Kiev, where the passengers emerged under sunny skies.

"We have taken the first step," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on the tarmac after greeting and hugging former detainees. "We have to take all the steps to finish this horrible war."

In emotional scenes at Kiev's Boryspil airport, family members embraced and handed flowers to the former prisoners, many weeping with joy.

Among those swapped were 24 Ukrainian sailors, Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and Russian-Ukrainian journalist Kyrylo Vyshynsky.

"I am overflowing with happiness," Natalya Mokryak, the mother of one of the sailors, told AFP at the airport. "I have finally seen this come true."

Two groups of 35 prisoners from each side were released simultaneously 
(AFP Photo/Vasily MAXIMOV)

Russian state television showed the Russian prisoners emerging from the plane at Moscow's Vnukovo-2 airport used for government flights.

Among those handed over to Moscow was Vladimir Tsemakh -- a fighter with Moscow-backed separatists considered a key witness in the downing of flight MH17 -- who was returned home despite pleas from the Netherlands.

Western leaders welcomed the exchange, with US President Donald Trump saying it could be "a first giant step to peace" and German Chancellor Angela Merkel calling it a "sign of hope".

French President Emmanuel Macron hailed the release of Sentsov in particular, saying in a tweet that "we have always been by his side".

Anticipation had been building for the swap, which involved weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations.

Anticipation had been building for days for the exchange (AFP Photo/

Relations between Kiev and Moscow nose-dived in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea and Moscow backed separatists in the eastern industrial regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. Fighting there has claimed more than 13,000 lives over the past five years.

Smiles and tears

Zelensky's election in April has raised hopes that a stalled peace process could be revived.

The comedian-turned-politician vowed to have Ukrainian prisoners in Russia returned and has said that ending the conflict with Russia is his top priority.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said this week that the exchange would be "a huge step towards normalising relations" with Kiev.

Saturday's swap was "very important", Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the swap was a 'sign of hope' (AFP Photo/

"It's necessary to maintain this drive to solve problems as much as possible," she said.

The release of filmmaker Sentsov will be seen as a major victory for Kiev. The 43-year-old was Ukraine's most famous political prisoner and the subject of a star-studded international campaign calling for his release.

He was arrested in 2014 and had been serving a 20-year sentence in an Arctic penal colony for planning "terrorist attacks" in Crimea.

"I thank all the people who have fought for us," Sentsov said at the airport in Kiev, where he was greeted by his teenage daughter who wept and smiled.

"I am hoping that the rest of the prisoners will be released soon," he added.

The sailors, including two members of Ukraine's SBU security services, were detained last year when Russia seized three Ukrainian vessels off Crimea.

Moscow had wanted to put them on trial for violating Russia's maritime borders.

The commander of the Ukrainian Navy, Admiral Igor Voronchenko, broke into tears as he embraced one of the freed sailors.

Vladimir Tsemakh -- a fighter with Moscow-backed separatists considered a key
 witness in the downing of flight MH17 -- was handed over to Russia (AFP Photo/

MH17 witness handed over

Among those who flew to Russia was Vyshynsky, a 52-year-old journalist at Russia's RIA Novosti state news agency.

The Russian-Ukrainian dual national was facing charges of "high treason" but was released on bail ahead of the swap.

The release of Tsemakh -- who was reportedly in charge of air defence in the area where the MH17 came down -- was a demand by Russia for the swap to go ahead, said Ivan Bakanov, the head of Ukraine's SBU.

The Dutch government contacted Ukraine "several times and at the very highest level" to try to prevent Tsemakh's handover, Foreign Minister Stef Blok said.

Blok said the authorities had the opportunity to question Tsemakh before he left for Russia but the Netherlands still profoundly regretted the outcome.

Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down by a Russian-made missile in July 2014 over eastern Ukraine, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board, two-thirds of them Dutch.

Efforts have intensified to ease tensions between Moscow and Kiev since Zelensky's election, with Macron calling for a summit of the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany this month.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Brexit bill passes UK upper house in blow for Johnson

Yahoo – AFP, Joe JACKSON and Sylvain PEUCHMAURD, 6 September 2019

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seeking an early general election

Britain's upper house on Friday gave final approval to a law that would force Boris Johnson to delay Brexit, in a fresh setback for the British Prime Minister who is struggling in his bid to call an early election.

The draft, which now requires formal assent by Queen Elizabeth II to become law, would seek to postpone Brexit beyond the current deadline of October 31 if Johnson does not manage to strike a divorce agreement with the EU next month.

Johnson, who has said he would rather be "dead in a ditch" than ask for a delay, wants an early general election that could give him a mandate to take Britain out of the European Union with or without a divorce deal.

He spent Friday morning campaigning in Scotland among fishermen, who strongly backed the Brexit referendum in 2016.

Johnson received a boost when the High Court in London rejected a legal challenge against his decision to suspend parliament from next week.

But it granted permission for the case to go to the Supreme Court for an appeal scheduled for September 17.

"My legal team and I will not give up the fight for democracy," pro-EU campaigner Gina Miller told reporters.

Johnson has branded the bill a "surrender" that would allow the other 27 EU leaders to dictate the terms on which Britain leaves its closest neighbours after 46 years.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is struggling with his 'do or die' effort to pull Britain 
out of the European Union

He sacked 21 Conservative rebels who voted for the legislation in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

The decision left him without a working majority in parliament.

Johnson's opponents are now widely expected to block for the second time Monday his attempt to schedule snap polls for October 15.

"Never in history has there been an opposition party that has been given a chance to have an election and has turned it down," Johnson said in Scotland.

"I think that they are making an extraordinary political mistake."

Deal 'not possible'

Johnson has been adamant that he will not seek a third Brexit delay this year.

The main opposition Labour Party is planning a strategy with smaller groups that could leave Johnson with no other alternative but to resign.

They are reportedly trying to make sure that an election is held only after Johnson is forced to go back on his word and seek a divorce delay.

Britain's Boris Johnson spent the morning campaigning in Scotland among fishermen 
who strongly backed the Brexit referendum in 2016

This would happen if no new agreement is reached when Johnson attends an October 17-18 EU leaders' summit in Brussels.

None is expected and EU officials say they have heard no new proposals from Johnson's team.

Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne -- whose Nordic country holds the rotating EU presidency -- said a chaotic "no-deal Brexit" seemed unavoidable.

"I hope that we can reach a situation where this can be solved so that there is no mess, but it seems not possible now," Rinne said in Helsinki.

"We don't know what's happening there. It seems very obvious that we are not getting Brexit with an agreement."

Johnson disagreed.

"I don't think we'll get a no-deal Brexit," he said in Scotland.

"I am very confident I will get an agreement at the summit on October 17."

Boris Johnson says he remains confident Britain will get a new Brexit 
agreement from the EU

'Cunning wheeze'

Labour was negotiating on Friday with the pro-EU Scottish National Party (SNP) and smaller groups about their preferred date for the imminent election.

Johnson was also set to meet his team over the weekend to prepare for what promises to be another momentous week in the Brexit saga.

Labour foreign affairs spokeswoman Emily Thornberry said lawmakers did not trust "this prime minister, who is as slippery as can be".

She accused Johnson of trying to use an election "as a distraction whilst they, by some cunning wheeze, bounce us out of the EU".

SNP's parliamentary leader Ian Blackford also signalled his party's refusal to back an October 15 poll.

"The idea that he is coming with a motion to try and force an election having lost one (motion) this week is insane," he said.

"He is not going to compel parliamentarians to give him a mandate to determine the timing -- we don't trust him."