This Week in Europe : New Year’s Edition

, par Pascal Letendre-Hanns, Radu Dumitrescu

Toutes les versions de cet article : [English] [Español]

This Week in Europe : New Year's Edition
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 !

Yellow Jackets leader arrested

On Wednesday, Eric Drouet, one of the leaders of the French anti-government Yellow Jackets movement, was arrested. A truck driver, Drouet is accused of the “organization of an event without prior notification” in the night before, somewhere near Champs-Elysées. Drouet had been arrested last month as well - he was carrying a baton at one of the protests, and had been part of a group seeking to commit violence. After the arrest, far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, himself under investigation for misuse of funds, tweeted a short video in support of Drouet, demanding his release. Protests and clashes continued this Saturday in France, but at a much smaller scale, with protesters demanding the resignation of French president Emmanuel Macron.

Brussels sees violence on New Year’s Eve

On Wednesday, Belgian Interior Minister Pieter De Crem condemned the violence that occurred on the streets of Brussels during New Year’s Eve. Shops were looted in the Molenbeek and Anderlecht areas, and security forces were attacked, prompting an investigation from the police. At least five cars and one house were set on fire and 25 people were arrested.

Orban attends Bolsonaro inauguration

On Tuesday, Hungarian PM Viktor Orban attended the inauguration of Brazil’s new far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro. The Brazilian president is the latest right-wing populist star to be elected in office. He campaigned for the right to bear arms for every citizen and against corruption and crime. Bolsonaro’s nationalist, anti-LGBTQ discourse came close to the line pushed by the far-right icon of Europe, Viktor Orban, who was the only EU leader attending the event.

Labour members support second referendum

75% of Labour members want the party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to come out in favour of a second referendum on EU membership according to a new survey. This compared to only 18% who opposed the idea. The Party Members Project, led by members of Queen Mary University of London, also found that 88% of Labour members would vote to stay in the EU. In spite of the overwhelming support among party members, Labour’s leadership has stuck to its position of opposing May’s deal and arguing that a new Labour government could negotiate a better deal. Labour has been reluctant to oppose Brexit for fear of losing Labour-Leave voters but the party, whose members, MPs and voters all show majorities in favor of Remain, could soon find that its prevarication leads to losses among Remain-voting supporters.

London lights up for Europe

During the New Year’s Eve fireworks the London Eye was lit up in the EU’s blue-and-yellow colors, as part of a message by mayor Sadiq Khan to Europe that the capital would stay "open-minded" after Brexit, angering hardline Brexiteers. One Conservative MP called it "a betrayal of democracy", while another politician likened it to displaying the Argentinian flag during the Falklands war the UK fought with the South American country.

Volkswagen taken to court by German state

Baden-Württemberg, home of Volkswagen, is taking the car company to court over diesel vehicles that the state bought. Baden-Württemberg wants compensation for 1400 vehicles that were bought from Volkswagen for a variety of state services. The claim is another blow to the company in the wake of the Dieselgate scandal and the state is aiming to reclaim millions of euros. This comes at the same time as several German cities look to ways to restrict the use of diesel cars in order to promote environmentally-friendly alternatives. The most polluting diesel cars could even face outright bans.

Danish support for EU reaches new high

Long seen as one of the most eurosceptic countries, support for EU membership has increased dramatically in Denmark as Brexit’s negative consequences continue to unfold. The latest poll shows that if a referendum on EU membership were to take place, 66% of Danes would vote to stay in the Union. Over recent decades, opinion on the EU in Denmark has tended to be much nearer to 50-50 but the difficulties associated with Brexit seem to have reinforced belief in the positive benefits of staying in the EU. Pro-EU parties, the Liberals (Venstre) and Social Democrats, have clear support from their voters on the issue while eurosceptic parties have failed to make gains since the last general election in 2015.

Italian Mayors take on Salvini

The mayors of three large Italian cities are in open conflict with far-right deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini after refusing to obey a controversial anti-immigration law. Authored by Salvini, the law is considered unconstitutional by the mayors of Florence, Palermo and Naples. Moreover, Naples offered to take in migrants stranded at sea that the Italian government sought to turn away. The rebellious mayors say that the law incites criminality, violates human rights and that it would mean that people legally residing in Italy would become illegal overnight. Moreover, it will be much easier to expel new arrivals and limit residence permits. In return, the deputy PM asked for the resignations of the three mayors, saying that they “hate Italians and will answer to Law and History.” Salvini’s reaction backlashed - the mayors of Venice, Genoa, and Verona signed a letter of support for the interior minister. According to the Un High Commissioner for Refugees, 113,482 migrants crossed the Mediterranean into Europe last year, with 2,262 losing their lives.

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