The World in a Flash
The Round-Up this week gives you a brief glance at the news dominating headlines around the world. From political tensions in the United Kingdom to France’s Presidential Elections to US Cabinet scandals and much more!
Jeff Sessions latest in Russian Ties Drama
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is the latest member of Trump’s administration to be dogged by questions regarding his relationship with Russian officials. He has been accused of perjury during his Senate hearing when he lied about having had contact with anyone connected to the Russian government with regard last year’s elections. Sergei Kislyak, winner of most-distanced-from-individual 2016/17 and Russia’s ambassador to the US, is at the heart of this newest controversy which is making waves mainly because senators and members of congress keep blatantly lying about their contact with him. Trump’s already come out and said that he has total confidence in Sessions and does not believe the AG should recuse himself from the FBI’s investigation.
Brexit Bill Hits Another Roadblock
As the Uk Government forges ahead with Brexit, the Bill to trigger Article 50 has hit another roadblock, this time in the House of Lords. Peers in the upper chamber backed an amendment to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK including terms of healthcare and pensions. This has caused tensions between the two houses, and No 10 Downing Street which is convinced on passing the Bill as is. Although the government has said they would work to preserve the rights of EU citizens, there is no explicit guarantee which is what the Lords were seeking to ensure. Rumours have spread amuck as to what the government might do including abolishing the upper chamber, but this has been firmly squashed by Theresa May’s government. Instead, they praised the House of Lords of contributing vigorously to the debate. It is unclear if the amendment will be accepted by the House of Commons.
Sweden Brings Back Military Conscription
Sweden has brought back mandatory military service due to increasing concerns over Russian actions. It will be 4,000 men and women chosen from 13,000 people born in 1999. Those chosen will undergo a year of service after which they will be encouraged to join the military service full time or the reserves. The Russian annexation of Crimea and ‘the security change in the neighbourhood’ have worried Swedish MPs. This is part of a larger initiative to continue a strong alliance neighbouring countries. The strongest alliance is with Finland, another non-NATO member.
Macedonia’s President Throws Down on NATO & Ethnic Albanians
Macedonia’s President Gjorje Ivanov came under fire this week for refusing to allow the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), which won 49 seats in the recent parliamentary elections, to form a coalition government with the country’s largest Albanian party, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), which won 10 seats, after the SDSM agreed to adopt the “Tirana Platform,” at the request of the DUI. The ruling center-right VMRO-DPMNE party led by Nikola Gruevski won 51 seats, has agreed to support the SDSM government if they reject the “Tirana Platform.” Ivanov stated that the Platforms adoption would destabilize the country. The Platform is an Albanian-sponsored initiative, whose goal is to increase Tirana’s influence in Macedonia politics, or to ensure cultural support for the Macedonian Albanians who have traditionally be marginalised, depending on who you ask. Albanians make up roughly 25 per cent of Macedonia’s population. Specifically, the platform calls for the Albanian language to be granted official national status in Macedonia, as well as judicial reform, and membership in the EU and NATO. The EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, called on the President to respect the results of the election, which Ivanov and the VMRO-DPMNE responded to with the expected hostility, telling the EU, Western countries, and NATO to stay out of Macedonian politics.
Mubarak Acquitted Over Charged Relating to 2011 Uprising
Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been acquitted of complicity in the killing of nearly 900 protesters during the 2011 uprising that ended his reign over the country. Since 2011, Mubarak was sentenced to death in 2012, had that overturned in 2014, and has spent most of his time in a military hospital. Mubarak, who is no 88 years old, was brought into court on a stretcher for this ruling. Most of the charges that have been brought against Mubarak and members of his government have been dismissed. In this case, the court denied appeals by lawyers representing the victims to reopen civil trials meaning there is no remaining recourse in the form of trials or appeals for the victims.
Marine Le Pen Loses Her Parliamentary Immunity
Controversy perennially follows Marine Le Pen, and her Presidential campaign has taken another hit this week after the European Parliament has lifted her immunity from prosecution. Le Pen tweeted graphic images of ISIS violence in 2015. Potentially she may be charged with ‘publishing violent images’ which carries a possible fine of $79,650 and three years imprisonment. The request to remove immunity came after a request from the French judiciary. Le Pen has used this opportunity to cast the EU in a negative light, and expose its ‘agenda’ of stopping her candidacy. It will be interesting to see whether this helps her popularity, or hurts it. She is currently projected to win the first round of elections.