The Western Europe Section of IR Insider publishes breaking news reports and analysis from the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and other Western European nations. Topics covered by the Western Europe Section may range from Brexit to negotiations within the European Union and beyond. Our writers Era Gjonbalaj, Selin Avcilar, and Shana Pareemamun produce weekly. Our section editor is Leigh Anderson.
When Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel was sworn in for his second term on Wednesday, his governing coalition announced plans to offer free public transportation for all starting in early 2020.
A dispute with state-owned rail operator Deutsche Bahn led German rail union EVG to initiate a workers’ strike on Monday. The strike lasted four hours and caused chaos among millions of German commuters, with delays continuing throughout the day even after the strike ended at 8 a.m. GMT. Long-distance rail traffic, commuter, and freight trains were disrupted after EVG talks with Deutsche Bahn fell apart Saturday.
Spain’s far-right party, Vox, won 12 parliamentary seats in the Andalusian regional elections on Dec. 2. The results of the election have come as a surprise, since the far-right party, led by Santiago Abascal, was only expected to win five seats. There are 109 seats in the Andalusian regional parliament, and with this win, Vox could form a right-wing governing coalition with the conservative People’s Party (PP) and Citizens party.
As a part of President Macron’s five-year plan to restrain climate change, France has recently released plans to triple its onshore wind power capacity by 2030 and increase its solar power generation by five times. These recent actions have been in support of the nation’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
On Saturday, Nov. 17, more than a quarter-million people took to the streets all over France to protest planned increases in gas taxes. The majority of the 2,000 demonstrations were concentrated in the suburbs and rural regions of France where there is a heavy reliance on motor vehicles for day-to-day activities. Demonstrators blocked highway access roads, roundabouts, intersections, and even border crossings.
All 27 members of the European Union met in Brussels on Sunday to discuss British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal. After twenty months of negotiations, EU leaders approved the deal in less than an hour of discussion. The meeting was mostly symbolic, as approval was expected despite concerns from Spain about the British territory of Gibraltar.
Since President Trump’s announcement in May of reimposing harsh economic sanctions on Iran, European countries have struggled to implement an alternative paying mechanism to continue their purchasing of oil and other Iranian goods. Although the U.S. pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as the Iran nuclear deal, Iran and the other countries within the deal have remained.
Leaders from around the world gathered in France this weekend to commemorate the centennial of the end of World War I. The war, which lasted four years from 1914 until 1914, cost the lives of some 9.7 million soldiers and 10 million civilians. French President Emmanuel Macron hosted a solemn Armistice Day ceremony and a three-day peace summit — the Paris Peace Forum — in the French capital.
The foremost Jewish organization in Germany has called for special classes against anti-Semitism for Muslim immigrants. Its vice president, Abraham Lehrer, said that immigrants are arriving from countries where “anti-Semitism is part of the rationale of the state” and integration classes should be “tailored” to the respective country of each immigrant.
In an effort to lure in investment funds leaving Britain after Brexit, numerous countries have taken action to attract firms.
Thousands protested the horrid degradation of the Italian capital in Rome’s ancient forum on Saturday. The organizers’ message, “Roma dice basta,” or “Rome says enough,” is now trending online. Outside city hall, citizens condemned Mayor Virginia Raggi for not addressing large quantities of garbage and potholes in the roads, among other concerns.
On Wednesday, Oct. 17, the 27 leaders of the European Union convened in the European Council in Brussels, Belgium to discuss Brexit. In June 2016, Britons voted 52 percent to 48 percent in favor of leaving the EU. More than two years later, negotiations are still underway to find a Brexit deal that both the British government and EU leaders can agree on.
A 15-year-old male student in France was charged with aggravated violence for threatening his teacher with a fake gun. The student made the threats on Thursday at his high school in Creteil, a southeastern suburb of Paris. The student, whose name remains confidential, appeared before a youth judge on Sunday.
The results of the election in Germany’s southern state of Bavaria on Sunday, October 14 could mean trouble for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s grand coalition. More than 600,000 first-time voters participated at polling stations, contributing to a total voter turnout of 72.5 percent.
The general elections in Sweden this year have been marked by the rise of far-right populism. One group in particular, the Sweden Democrats, has attracted a lot of attention for its “anti-establishment and anti-immigrant” stance. They can be compared to other populist, anti-immigrant, and Eurosceptic political parties in Europe such as the Five Star Movement in Italy or the Alternative für Deutschland party in Germany.
Because of the continuous failure by Britain and the European Union to reach an agreement, various voices are now calling for a second referendum regarding Brexit. The demands reveal the deep divide in British society regarding the economic and political future of the country.
However, even after the Pope’s statements at a press conference covering his four-day trip to Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, there seems to be little, if any, increase in transparency. In addressing the abuses, he referred to the molestations as an event of another time in which “these things were covered up.”
May’s “Chequers” plan that she presented at a summit in Austria on Thursday caused significant indignation amongst EU leaders. Skeptics are now wondering whether the Brexit negotiations hit an impasse.
A new study that was commissioned by the Catholic Church itself revealed that more than 3,600 children in Germany were assaulted by Roman Catholic priests between 1946 and 2014. The report was planned to be published at the end of September but leaked earlier, forcing German clergyman to react fast to the new allegations.
The firm became widely known for its questionable contributions to the latest US elections.
The Trump Administration decided last-minute on Tuesday to delay punitive aluminum and steel tariffs in Europe by a month. This news annoyed European leaders, who view the act not as one of generosity or conciliation, but as another 30 days of uncertainty that will undermine supply networks and deter economic growth.
Member states voted to ban the outdoor use of neonicotinoid insecticides throughout the EU on Friday.
The case doesn’t only pose questions regarding the decision-making authority for a child, but also a question of judgment.
French President Emmanuel Macron became the first foreign leader to make a state visit under President Donald Trump this week in Washington, D.C. Although his relationship with the American president has earned him the nickname the “Trump whisperer,” Macron, alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, will be visiting with the president this week in a last-minute lobbying effort to prevent him from walking away from the Iran nuclear deal, and discuss a variety of issues including climate change, counterterrorism, and Russian aggression.
UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt threatened to introduce news laws for social media firms if they do not introduce new measures to protect young people using their platforms.
The apology proceeded the Commonwealth leaders summit this week and is considered a response to the increasing pressure by more than 140 British MPs on Prime Minister Theresa May.
Following the aftermath of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica’s alleged misuse of 87 million user profiles for the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, the European Union plans to impose a strict set of data privacy rules.