This Week in Europe: Spain changes governments, AfD leader’s clothes stolen, and more

, by Radu Dumitrescu

This Week in Europe: Spain changes governments, AfD leader's clothes stolen, 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 !

Anti-immigration party victorious in Slovenia

The Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) received 25% of the votes in Slovenia’s elections of last Sunday. LMS, the center-left party led by a comedian, came in second with 12.7%, followed by the Social Democrats with 10%. The elections took place a week in advance due to the resignation of PM Miro Cerar of the Modern Center Party (9.75% of votes). Cerar had resigned due to the defeat suffered in a referendum concerning a railway project. The SDS modeled its campaign on Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, arguing for policies of “Slovenians first.”

Thieves steal far-right AfD leader’s clothes

This week, it was reported that Alexander Gauland, leader of the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany, was bathing near Potsdam when a thief ran off with his clothes. The thief allegedly shouted “no bathing for Nazis” before promptly disappearing. Gauland was then escorted by the police back home. The clothes thief remains at large.

Also this week, an AfD meeting with 600 participants scheduled to take place in Bavaria’s Augsburg encountered problems. Two of the city’s hotels cancelled their reservation, stating that guests who don’t want “an open-minded society” are not welcome.

ECJ: States have to recognise same-sex marriage

On Tuesday, the remaining 6 EU countries that do not recognize same-sex spouses’ immigration rights will be forced to do so. Ruling in the C-673/16 - or Coman-Hamilton - case, the EU Court of Justice decided that within the exercise of freedom of movement, the term “spouse” is gender-neutral and therefore covers same-sex spouses of an EU citizen. The verdict goes against the Romanian civil code, which does not recognize same-sex marriage contracted abroad. The same goes for Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia. If they do not follow the ECJ ruling, all above mentioned countries could face fines and infringement proceedings. However, the ruling covered residency rights only and did “not require [any given] member state to provide, in its national law, for the institution of homosexual marriage”, the EU tribunal clarified.

EU caps price for calls and texts

On Wednesday, the European Parliament convinced national dimplomants and European Commission representatives to limit the price of phone calls between EU countries to 19 cents per minute, and texts at 6 cents per SMS. The negotiations ran for months and ended on Wednesday only at 2 AM, after a 12-hour session of debates. After the ban on mobile roaming charges last year, the new move is seen as the groundwork for the introduction of 5G all over the Union. In the end, however, the Commission added a clause that will allow national telecom regulators the ability to exempt companies from the price gap if they can prove that it would cripple their business.

Austria shuts down mosques

On Friday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced that his government will shut down seven mosques and several other organizations in an effort to combat “political Islam.” Austria will therefore dissolve the Arab Cultural Community, close a mosque ran by Turkish ultra-nationalists, and look to terminate the residency permits of 40 to 60 imams who accept foreign funding. The move comes after Turkish children studying in mosques were shown reenacting World War I battles, playing dead wrapped in Turkish flags.

Spain gets socialist, pro-EU, women-dominated cabinet

On Wednesday, newly appointed Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez unveiled a pro-EU government with the most women in history, 11, and 6 men. After replacing conservative Mariano Rajoy as Prime Minister, the new socialist leader included in his cabinet an astronaut, a former EP president, an anti-terror prosecutor and more experts of their fields. Sanchez, a pro-European, called for the “reduction of inequalities suffered by Spanish and European citizens.” Moreover, in order to deal with the Catalan bid for independence, the new government includes Catalans who are supporters of Spanish unity. However, the Socialist government is a minority one, supported by 84 of their own lawmakers in the 350-seat parliament. The other parties that supported the no-confidence vote against the ousted Rajoy were the far-left Podemos as well as Basque and Catalan nationalist parties.

Salvini: Italy not Europe’s refugee camp

Sworn in as minister of interior, Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy’s far-right Northern League, proclaimed his intention of kicking out at least half a million immigrants living in Italy without authorisation. He also branded the NGOs who save migrants from downing in the Mediterranean and bring them to Italian ports as “people smugglers”. Moreover, he announced that immigrants who are refused humanitarian protection will be shut into closed encampments. Salvini pointed to Tunisia, whose citizens make up 21% of total migrants reaching Italy, as an exporter of “convicts”, drawing condemnation from the government in Tunis. Visiting a migrant centre in the south of Italy, Salvini said that his country could no longer be “Europe’s refugee camp.”

In connected news, the executive director of the EU’s asylum agency resigned this week after allegations of staff harassment. An investigation by OLAF revealed that Jose Carreira, head of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), was involved into alleged misconduct in procurement procedures but also a “culture of irresponsibility” and bullying. Carreira denied any wrongdoing.

U.S. ambassador: We want to empower anti-establishment parties in EU

Last Sunday, far-right news site Breitbart published an interview with U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell in which he stated that he “absolutely wants to empower other conservatives throughout Europe” and to encourage people to rise up against elites. In response, this week German politicians, including former S&D leader Martin Schulz and Sahra Wagenknecht of the left-wing Die Linke, called for the ambassador to be recalled. Schulz described Grenell, who has been in office for less than a month, as a “far-right colonial official” who failed in maintaining a neutral stance toward his host country.

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