This Week in Europe: Davos, Venezuela, Salmond and more

, by Pascal Letendre-Hanns, Radu Dumitrescu

All the versions of this article: [Deutsch] [English]

This Week in Europe: Davos, Venezuela, Salmond and more

Members of the TNF team recount big events from Europe from the past week, and point attention to news that may have passed notice. What did we miss? Comment on our Facebook page at !

EU calls for elections in Venezuela

This week, the situation in Venezuela saw another dramatic turn as Juan Guaido, leader of the Parliament, declared himself president and was subsequently recognized by the U.S., Canada and most of South America as protests followed. Guaido argued that Article 233 of the Venezuelan constitution gave him the right to act as interim president, seeing as last year’s elections had been rigged by Nicolas Maduro. The EU, on the other hand, called for elections in order to defuse the situation - which already led to the death of dozens of Venezuelans. A statement released by the Union’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, threatened that if elections are not called within 8 days, the EU would also recognize Guaido as the legitimate president. France, Germany, Spain and the U.K. issued similar statements. Maduro responded by expelling U.S. diplomats and threatened to do the same with the Spanish.

Queen Elizabeth calls for common ground regarding Brexit

As the drama of Brexit unfolded further this week, Queen Elizabeth called for “common ground” and for the Brits to not lose sight of the bigger picture. The aging monarch, who was speaking as Sandringham Women’s Institute in Norfolk, had refrained from intervening in debates surrounding Brexit, seeing as she traditionally remains neutral when it comes to political issues. The Queen also mentioned that one should always “speak well of each other and respect different points of view.” In her traditional Christmas message, the Queen had also called for “treating the other person with respect” despite possible differences.

Scotland’s Alex Salmond charged with rape

On Thursday, Alex Salmond, longtime leader of the Scottish National Party, was charged with multiple sexual offenses, including attempted rape. Salmond made no response to his charges in court and was released on bail. After leaving the court, however, Salmond claimed to be innocent and denied all allegations. Nicola Sturgeon, Salmond’s successor as first minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP, refused to comment and said that the criminal proceedings must be followed. In 2018, Salmond had several complaints lodged against him and was the subject of a Scottish governmental investigation. The investigation, however, was mishandled, and the former leader walked free. After losing the independence referendum in 2014, Salmond stepped down and even lost his seat in the British parliament, turning to host a show on Russia Today, a move which attracted great criticism.

France fines Google for breaching GDPR

This week, France’s data protection watchdog, the Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL), fined Google with €50 million for breaching the European privacy rules over ad targeting on Android phones. This is the first time Google has been fined for violating the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) since the rules came into effect in May. Google’s ads lacked a legal basis for processing data for personalized online ads, something of which users were not even made aware. Google put out a statement in reply saying that they are determining their next steps and remain committed to the expectations of the GDPR.

Elmar Brok MEP accused of making money out of guest visits

Elmar Brok, a long-serving German MEP, apparently charged constituents €150 to cover the costs of visiting him at the European Parliament. It has been discovered however that he was also claiming money from the legislature itself to cover these same costs. He is believed to have made thousands of euros out of this system. Brok was charging his constituents as recently as last year. Brok himself claimed that the extra money was necessary as the money provided by the European Parliament was insufficient, yet there is no evidence to back up this claim. Brok will not be seeking another term after the party (the CDU) in his home region decided not to place him on their candidate list.

European leaders meet in Davos

World leaders, including European politicians, gathered in Davos this week for the annual World Economic Forum gathering. Unlike previously, this year’s meeting seemed to fall flat. Little from the event was able to generate headline news and many key players, whether Trump, Putin or Macron decided to stay away this time round. In a time of rising populism, arguably this meeting of global politicians and business leaders has never felt further away from most people’s lives.

Italy’s populists launch war of words against France

Lately both of Italy’s populist leaders, Salvini and Di Maio, have been launching fierce attacks against France and its President, Macron. Di Maio openly backed the Gilets Jaunes anti-government protests in France and he, along with Salvini, both attacked France for a variety of policies from Libya and the West African currency to the exile granted to Italian extremists convicted decades ago. It was always expected that the two governments would see relations sour in the run up to the European Elections - Macron and Salvini are seen as standard bearers for very much opposing sides - but the intensity and the wide range of the attacks was surprising to many. The French government’s own position has been to avoid responding directly, with Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau, saying that France would not join a “competition to be the most stupid”. At any rate, it is unclear whether the Italian government is gaining much at all from these attacks.

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