This Week in Europe: Ex-comedian scores election win, rapper detained and more

, by Radu Dumitrescu

This Week in Europe: Ex-comedian scores election win, rapper detained and more
Image by Samuel Mork Bednarz.

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 !

Spain fails to form a government

The Spanish Parliament twice rejected formally investing Pedro Sánchez as the country’s next Prime Minister this week. Sánchez lost investiture votes held on Tuesday and Thursday after failing to secure the support of far-left party Podemos. Though the two parties did attempt to negotiate a coalition deal, the distribution of ministerial posts proved to be an insurmountable obstacle. While Podemos argued that the posts they were being offered were too minor to be considered as a serious coalition proposal, Sánchez’s PSOE responded that Podemos’ demands were too great for a party that came fourth in the elections. The failure to win Parliament’s support means that a two-month countdown has now started. Sánchez will be free to try and win an investiture vote during that time, and if he succeeds then he would officially become Prime Minister. Otherwise, if no government is formed in those two months then Spain will automatically be headed for new elections.

EU moves towards reformed refugee policy

14 Member States have approved a plan for a new way of distributing refugees in Europe in order to relieve the pressure being built up at Europe’s borders. According to French President Emmanuel Macron, these 14 countries include France, Germany, Finland, Luxembourg, Portugal, Lithuania, Croatia and Ireland, with a further 8 countries looking to take part. The meeting of Interior Ministers was boycotted by Italy’s Matteo Salvini. Though Italy (along with Greece) has borne the brunt of new refugee arrivals to Europe, and has repeatedly called for other EU states to take in more refugees, Salvini declared that the agreement did not meet Italy’s demands, which now include an insistence that other countries open up their ports to boats carrying asylum seekers. Salvini’s ire was particularly (and characteristically) directed at Macron, saying that if the French President wished to discuss migration, he should do so in Rome. Macron’s sponsorship of this plan therefore seems to have played at least a big a role in Salvini’s denunciation as any practical details.

Boris Johnson takes over as new UK Prime Minister

Boris Johnson, the former Foreign Secretary and one of the leaders of the Vote Leave campaign has become the UK’s Prime Minister after winning the Conservative Party leadership election. He received around two-thirds of the vote among party members, comfortably defeating his rival. Johnson has also appointed a new Cabinet, a process which involved a major exodus of MPs who are opposed to a No Deal exit. Though this means the new UK government will be more right-wing and more aggressive with the EU than before, it will also make its position in Parliament, where the governing alliance only has a majority of a few seats, much more fragile. The chances of early elections have therefore risen considerably, even if Johnson’s team are saying this is not their plan.

German Greens aim to ban domestic flights by 2035

This week, a paper of the Greens’ parliamentary group in the German parliament, the Bundestag, revealed plans of the party aiming to make domestic flights “obsolete” by 2035. To do this, the Greens want to introduce a tax on kerosene and gradually increase rail traffic through cheaper tickets, reliable journey times and good on-board wifi. To achieve the set goal, the Greens want to fund the German railway system, the Deutsche Bahn, with 3 billion euro annually. A “European night train network” and travel times of a “maximum of 4 hours” are also to be introduced. According to the environmentalist party, the aeroplane is the most climate-damaging mode of transport and it is still “being subsidised with billions of euros”, as quoted by POLITICO.

British Lib Dems pick first female party leader

This week, the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats of Britain picked their first female leader - Jo Swinson. She was a business minister during the 2010-2015 coalition government and has been a deputy leader since 2017. With almost 48.000 votes over the competitor’s 28.000, Swinson won easily. In her acceptance speech, Swinson encouraged MPs who might want to defect to the Lib Dems and argued that the main parties, Labour and the Conservatives, failed. “We can stop Brexit, we can stop Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn”, she added, arguing for a pact with fellow pro-Remain parties like the Greens and the Plaid Cymru. In May, the Lib Dems came in second during the European Parliament elections, winning 20% of the votes, by campaigning on overturning the 2016 EU referendum. The Brexit party, however, won 31% of the votes.

Comedian-turned-president of Ukraine wins parliamentary elections

Last Sunday, Ukraine had its first parliamentary elections since Volodymyr Zelenskiy became president. In these elections as well, the comedian’s party won a decisive victory, giving him a broad mandate to reform the country and to fight against corruption, as he promised in the campaign. Zelenskiy had disbanded the former parliament and called for a snap election in order to harness more power for his party, Servant of the People (which shares the same name as his former TV show). The party won 42% of the vote, followed by the pro-Russian Opposition Platform - For Life, Poroshenko’s European Solidarity, Yulia Tymoshenko’s Fatherland and the party of a rock star, Voice. Zelenskiy rejected the idea of forming a colaition with Poroshenko’s party and instead said he was open to talks with the Voice party.

Rapper A$AP Rocky detained in Sweden

This Thursday, American rapper A$AP Rocky was charged with assault in Sweden over a street fight. Nuermous celebrities in the US, including president Donald Trump, have rallied to his support. The rapper was in Stockholm for a music festival when, according to him, two men began following his entourage, finally leading to a fight, in which he only defended himself. According to the Swedish prosecutor working the case, however, the events “constitute a crime, despite claims of self-defense”, according to the AP.

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