Catalonia declares independence

Catalonia declared independence from Spain less than an hour before a vote in the country’s Senate gave Madrid the power to seize the region’s autonomous powers. The vote in the regional parliament followed a tense week of last-ditch negotiations between Madrid and Barecelona. Seventy of 135 Catalan deputies voted for independence, with 10 opposed and two blank ballot slips. Rounds of applause broke out in the chamber as members of the parliament hugged and shook hands. Thousands of people watched the voting process and the counting live on big screens outside Catalonia’s parliament in Barcelona, and cheered and danced after the motion was passed. The motion calls for beginning an independence process that includes drafting Catalonia’s new top laws and opening negotiations “on equal footing” with Spanish authorities to establish co-operation.

 Catalan president Carles Puigdemont had ruled out calling a snap election, thought to have been a potential way of defusing tension with the central government. Mr Puigdemont said he had not received sufficient guarantees that Madrid would hold off on its attempts to take control of the region.
Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, tweeted immediately after the vote calling for calm. He said the rule of law would be restored in Catalonia.

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UK General Election : Theresa May v Jeremy Corbyn

The United Kingdom general election of 2017 is taking place on 8 June 2017. Each of the 650 parliamentary constituencies will elect one Member of Parliament (MP) to the House of Commons, the lower house of Parliament. In line with the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, an election had not been due until 7 May 2020, but a call by Prime Minister Theresa May for a snap election received the necessary two-thirds majority in a 522-to-13 vote in the House of Commons on 19 April 2017.
The Conservative Party, which has governed since 2015 (and as a senior coalition partner from 2010), is defending a majority of 12 against the Labour Party, the official opposition. The third largest party, the Scottish National Party, won 56 of the 59 Scottish constituencies in 2015. The Liberal Democrats and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party are the fourth and fifth largest parties, with 9 and 8 seats respectively.
Negotiation positions following Britain’s invocation of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union in March 2017 to leave the EU featured in the election campaign, as did the regular major issues of the economy, education, jobs and the NHS. Following a bombing in Manchester and a terrorist incident in London, leading to temporary campaign suspensions from 23 to 24 May and on 4 June respectively, national security became a particularly prominent election issue. Opinion polling for the popular vote since the election was called gave May’s Conservatives a lead over Labour led by Jeremy Corbyn, although their lead narrowed significantly over the course of the campaign.

Macron defeats Le Pen

Emmanuel Macron is elected president of France, defeating Marine Le Pen, who threatened to take France out of the European Union. Emmanuel Macron was elected president of France on Sunday with a business-friendly vision of European integration, resoundingly defeating Marine Le Pen, the far-right nationalist who threatened to pull out of the European Union.
The centrist’s emphatic victory, which also smashed the dominance of France’s mainstream parties, will bring huge relief to European allies who feared another populist upheaval to follow Britain’s vote to quit the EU and Donald Trump’s election as US president. Macron – the 39-year-old former investment banker, who served for two years as economy minister but has never previously held elected office – will now become France’s youngest leader since Napoleon with a promise to transcend outdated left-right divisions.

Protesters storm Macedonia’s parliament

Protesters stormed into Macedonia’s parliament and assaulted the leader of the Social Democrats after his party and ethnic Albanian allies voted to elect an Albanian as parliament speaker. Around 200 demonstrators, many wearing masks, broke through a police cordon and entered Macedonia’s parliament, attacking MPs in protest at the election of a new speaker despite a months-long deadlock in talks to form a new government. The protesters stormed parliament on Thursday night after the country’s opposition Social Democrat party and others representing Macedonia’s Albanian ethnic minority voted for a new speaker. Shouting and throwing chairs, the protesters attacked MPs, including the opposition leader, Zoran Zaev.
Television footage showed Zaev bleeding from the forehead and other Social Democrat MPs surrounded by protesters waving national flags, shouting “traitors” and refusing to allow them to leave. Broken glass littered the floor and traces of blood were seen in hallways. Police later fired flash grenades in an attempt to disperse protesters outside the parliament and clear the way for the evacuation of politicians still in the building. In a televised address, the country’s president, Gjorge Ivanov, called for calm and said he had summoned the leaders of the country’s main political parties for a meeting on Friday. Ivanov said the constitution had been been violated and appealed “for reasonable and responsible behaviour”.

The rise of right-wing extremism in Europe

Europe is facing a rising tide of right-wing extrem­ism. Extremist parties — whether called right-wing or far-right or ultra-nationalists — are in government in Finland, Austria, Slovakia, Hun­gary and Poland. So far, those groups are in gov­ernment just as coalition partners but indicators are that Europe is experiencing a distinct move to the right amid rising rhetoric against migration and the idea of open bor­ders. This is something that could become a threat to European unity, particularly given Britain’s decision to leave the European Union fol­lowing a referendum in which the main issue was migration. In light of what is the worst ref­ugee crisis since the end of World War II, a number of EU govern­ments have taken stances that seem to go against the stated objec­tives and values of the union, par­ticularly in terms of human rights and freedom of movement. The European Parliament has seen the rise of right-wing extremist parties, with 23% of the members of the body belonging to far-right-wing parties.

Courtesy : The Arab Weekly

The burning Jungle of Calais

Migrants in Calais torch tents and shelters in a last act of defiance as French authorities clear the squalid camp that once housed more than 6,000 people. Fires are raging across parts of the “Jungle” migrant camp in Calais, three days into a French operation to demolish it. It was unclear who set the dozens of fires overnight and in the morning. The clearance began on Monday and about 4,000 migrants – out of some 7,000 – have been taken from the squalid camp to shelters around France. The prefect of Pas-de-Calais said authorities now expected to finish the evacuation operation on Wednesday. The camp has become a key symbol of Europe’s migration crisis, with its residents desperate to reach the UK.

Armed French police begin ‘clearing’ Calais refugee camp

More than 1,200 police and officials in France have begun an operation to clear the “Jungle” migrant camp in Calais. The camp has been housing at least 7,000 people in squalid conditions. Migrants queued peacefully to be processed, and the first of some 60 coaches that will carry them to refugee centres across France have now left. There is concern that some migrants will refuse to go because they still want to get to Britain and that weekend clashes with police could be repeated. 

Spain seeks to jointly govern Gibraltar

Spain seeks to jointly govern Gibraltar after the British territory voted in favor of remaining in the EU.
 Spain will seek to jointly govern Gibraltar with Britain following the British vote to leave the European Union, acting foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said on Friday. The peninsula on Spain’s south coast, a British territory since 1713 known to its 30,000 residents as “the Rock”, is a major point of contention in Anglo-Spanish relations. Spain has long claimed sovereignty over the enclave.
“It’s a complete change of outlook that opens up new possibilities on Gibraltar not seen for a very long time. I hope the formula of co-sovereignty – to be clear, the Spanish flag on the Rock – is much closer than before,” Garcia-Margallo said. Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo told the territory’s parliament there would be no talks on such a deal. Co-sovereignty with Spain was rejected by around 99 percent of Gibraltarians in a referendum in 2002.
“Let others make irrelevant noises about flying flags over our Rock if they want to waste their breath. Such ideas will never prosper,” he said. The majority of people living in Gibraltar – designated as a British Overseas Territory – are British citizens with British passports, although thousands of Spaniards cross from mainland Spain every day for work. Gibraltarians voted overwhelmingly in favor of Britain remaining in the European Union but were outnumbered in Thursday’s referendum and now face the consequences.
Garcia-Margallo said Spain would push to keep Gibraltar out of any general Brexit negotiations between Britain and the European Union and will aim for bilateral talks to seek co-sovereignty and eventually Spanish control of the peninsula. Britain rejects any notion of Spanish sovereignty against the wishes of the people of Gibraltar, one of the most prosperous regions in Europe with a thriving economy based on financial services, tourism and Internet gambling. The mood was subdued in Gibraltar on Friday, with people apprehensive and confused about what the result may mean for the movement of labor and capital over the border with Spain.
  

Drowned baby picture captures week of tragedy in Mediterranean

A photograph of a drowned migrant baby in the arms of a German rescuer was distributed on Monday by a humanitarian organization aiming to persuade European authorities to ensure safe passage to migrants, after hundreds are feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean last week. The baby, who appears to be no more than a year old, was pulled from the sea on Friday after the capsizing of a wooden boat. Forty-five bodies arrived in the southern Italian port of Reggio Calabria on Sunday aboard an Italian navy ship, which picked up 135 survivors from the same incident.
German humanitarian organization Sea-Watch, operating a rescue boat in the sea between Libya and Italy, distributed the picture taken by a media production company on board and which showed a rescuer cradling the child like a sleeping baby. In an email, the rescuer, who gave his name as Martin but did not want his family name published, said he had spotted the baby in the water “like a doll, arms outstretched”. “I took hold of the forearm of the baby and pulled the light body protectively into my arms at once, as if it were still alive … It held out its arms with tiny fingers into the air, the sun shone into its bright, friendly but motionless eyes.”
The rescuer, a father of three and by profession a music therapist, added: “I began to sing to comfort myself and to give some kind of expression to this incomprehensible, heart-rending moment. Just six hours ago this child was alive."Like the photograph of the three-year-old Syrian boy Aylan lying lifeless on a Turkish beach last year, the image puts a human face on the more than 8,000 people who have died in the Mediterranean since the start of 2014. Little is known about the child, who according to Sea-Watch was immediately handed over to the Italian navy. Rescuers could not confirm whether the partially clothed infant was a boy or a girl and it is not known whether the child’s mother or father are among the survivors.