14 September 2017
Week in Brief: International
EU: The European Court of Justice rejected Hungary’s and Slovakia’s legal challenge to the EU’s national quotas for migrant relocation. Slovakia has accepted the ruling, but Hungary continues to defy it, backed by Poland and the Czech Republic.
According to a leaked report, the EU is considering restricting aid and stopping the issuing of visas to political and business leaders of countries that refuse to take back migrants deported from Europe.
FRANCE: A “day of social mobilisation” was organised by the CGT union to protest against the government’s proposed changes to the labour laws. Tens of thousands of demonstrators took part in marches in the capital, and hundreds of thousands throughout the country. Hundreds of masked anarchists fought violent battles with the police in Paris, Nantes and Lyons.
GERMANY: Christian Lindner, leader of the liberal FDP (Free Democratic Party) is taking a tough line on refugees, calling for their repatriation if their native countries are safe. The FDP, polling third place, is a potential coalition partner for Mrs Merkel’s CDU (Christian Democratic Union).
NORWAY: General elections this week saw the right-wing minority government re-elected, backed by two centre parties.
RUSSIA: In this week’s local elections in Moscow, a record number of opposition candidates were registered, and enjoyed a small but significant success, taking control of 14 municipal councils (out of 124). Elsewhere in the country the governing United Russia party won elections for all 16 regional governors.
SPAIN: Separatist MPs in the Catalan parliament overcame opposition MPs to win a vote securing October 01 as the date for a referendum on independence from Madrid. Spain’s highest court, the constitutional court, upheld the Spanish government’s appeal that the referendum is illegal. Police raided printers’ shops and newspaper offices in Barcelona in search of ballot boxes and voting papers.
Middle East and Africa
ALGERIA: Migrants from Algeria are sailing to Europe via Sardinia in increasing numbers. 800 have crossed this year. The Italian and Algerian interior ministers met to discuss the problem.
EGYPT: 18 police officers were killed and seven wounded in an ambush on their convoy by militants in northern Sinai.
SYRIA: Israeli jets attacked a weapons factory used by the regime to manufacture missiles and chemical weapons.
Regime troops, supported by Shia militias, are reportedly preparing to cross the Euphrates from Deir Ezzor in order to secure Syrian/Iraq border crossings east of the river. They risk conflict with the Western-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (an alliance of the Kurdish YPG with rebel forces and local Arab tribes) and the Free Syrian Army who are fighting Isis between the Euphrates and the Syrian/Iraq border. The Western backers have instructed the SDF and the FSA to avoid conflict with the regime. Land east of the Euphrates is supposed to be a ‘deconfliction zone’ according to the US and Russia.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: A branch of Paris’s Louvre museum and art gallery opened in Abu Dhabi. It will display 600 works of art in 23 exhibition halls across 8,600 square metres.
Far East, Asia and Pacific
AUSTRALIA: Tens of thousands of demonstrators rallied in support of legalising gay marriage. A postal vote on the issue will take place this week. The prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and the labour leader Bill Shorten support legalisation, but previous prime ministers Tony Abbott and John Howard oppose it.
BURMA: Fellow Nobel peace prize laureates Malala Yousafzai and Bishop Desmond Tutu have called on Aung Sn Suu Kyi to act against the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in her country. The UN accused Burma of ethnic cleansing, and the Dalai Lama condemned the violence of Budhist mobs and troops.
CHINA: The drinking of alcohol by public employees at official functions has been banned.
INDIA: Journalist Gauri Lankesh, who was the editor and publisher of the newspaper Gauri Lankesh Patrike, was murdered by gunmen outside her home. She was a secularist who had criticised hardline Hindu groups.
KOREA, NORTH: The UN security council unanimously imposed new sanctions, including a cap on oil imports, a cut to petrol imports, and bans on the sale of natural gas, on textile exports and on the issue of new work permits. The US had been pressing for a complete oil embargo and the freezing Kim Jong-un’s assets, but these were resisted by China and Russia. The US is also suggesting cyber-attacks and the deployment of nuclear weapons in South Korea as potential retaliations to any further North Korean weapons tests.
PAKISTAN: At last week’s BRICS economic summit in Xiamen, China demanded that Pakistan cease sheltering militant groups such as the Haqqanis (a tribal militia allied to the Taliban). China is investing heavily in Pakistan, but supported India (Pakistan’s traditional enemy) in condemning Pakistani-based militant groups. It follows President Trump’s condemnation of “Pakistan’s safe haven for terrorist organisations”, when he spoke last month about US troops in Afghanistan.
HURRICANE IRMA: The most powerful Atlantic storm ever recorded devastated Caribbean islands with 185mph winds and extreme flooding.
BRAZIL: Police found £12 million in cash hidden in suitcases and cardboard boxes in a property which appears to belong to a former minister who was an aide to President Temer.
Former presidents Luiz Inacio da Silva and Dilma Rousseff were charged with “running a criminal organisation”.
MEXICO: An undersea earthquake of magnitude 8.1 hit the southern pacific coast, causing widespread destruction and at least 58 deaths.
USA: Florida was hit by Hurricane Irma. Reconstruction may cost up to $100 billion. A quarter of all homes in the Florida Keys were destroyed.
President Trump co-operated with the Democratic opposition to get the federal budget passed.
VENEZUELA: President Maduro imposed price controls on 50 essential items as the country’s economic crisis continues to fuel hyper-inflation. Previous attempts to impose price controls have led to shortages and boosted the black market. He is also renegotiating its debt to Russia.
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