Category Archives: European Union

Jean-Claude Juncker’s real scandal is his tax-haven homeland of Luxembourg

Nick Cohen writes for the Guardian:

Jean-Claude Juncker‘[...] Juncker has dedicated his career to ensuring that society becomes less fair; that wealthy institutions and individuals can avoid the taxes little people and small businesses must pay. “Everywhere do I perceive a certain conspiracy of rich men seeking their own advantage,” wrote Sir Thomas More in 1516. He might have been describing Mr Juncker.

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg’s Ruritanian title carries a whiff of archaic glamour. But it is nothing more than a piratical state. The only difference between pirates old and new is that instead of using muskets and cannons to seize other people’s money, Luxembourg uses accountants.’

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Pentagon still claiming Russian troops massing near Ukrainian border

Philip Ewing reports for Politico:

3453453‘[...] There are about 10,000 to 12,000 regular Russian combat troops inside their border with Ukraine, Kirby told reporters at a Pentagon briefing, an increase from a few weeks ago but a smaller force than the roughly 40,000 that were there earlier in the standoff.

Press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby also confirmed that defense officials have long observed movements of weapons and advisers from Russia to pro-Russian separatists inside Ukraine, although he said the Pentagon has not specifically seen a heavy, tracked surface-to-air missile launcher like the one believed to have shot down the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777.’

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MH17: Tony Blair calls for EU defence plan to stand up to Putin

Matthew Holehouse reports for The Telegraph:

‘The EU urgently needs a common defence policy in order to stand up to Russian aggression “on its doorstep”, Tony Blair said today. Europe is “powerless” without the help of the United States in the face of crises threatening the region because its militaries do not co-operate, Mr Blair said. In an apparent endorsement of David Cameron’s approach, he urged European leaders to match the wide-ranging sanctions imposed on Russian companies by the United States, saying the West needs to have a shared position.

…Mr Blair said: “There is such an urgent need today for Europe to have a strong foreign policy and indeed defence policy. If you look at any of the crises that are happening, whether it’s in Syria on the doorstep of Europe, Libya on the doorstep of Europe, Ukraine on the doorstep of Europe, we are completely dependent on the United States. I’m a great fan of the US and it’s important we remain strong allies of the US, but it’s important we develop the capability to be able to handle the problems on our own doorstep.”‘

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Legislating the Way to World War 3? The U.S. Senate’s “Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014″

Eric Draitser writes for New Eastern Outlook:

234234‘The US Congress is doing its part to escalate the tensions with Russia over Ukraine and a host of other issues. In so doing, the legislative and executive branches of the US Government work hand in glove to further the US-NATO agenda in Eastern Europe. The bill, propagandistically titled the “Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014,” (S.2277) was proposed by right wing Republican Senator Bob Corker, and has been cosponsored by a significant number of prominent Republicans in the Senate. While Democrats have yet to cosponsor the bill, they are almost without exception behind President Obama and his aggressive policy towards Russia and Ukraine. Indeed, this bill, though obviously partisan in its political character, represents the consensus within the US political establishment – a consensus that presumes US aggression in Eastern Europe to be defensive in the face of Putin’s “expansionism” and “imperial ambitions.”

It goes without saying that such a distorted world-view is par for the course in Washington, where upside-down logic is the predominant way of thinking about the world. However, the proposed legislation is less a response to perceived aggression from Moscow, and more of an attempt to capitalize on the crisis in Ukraine, using it as a convenient pretext for the expansion of NATO, continued militarization of Eastern Europe, promotion of corporate oil and gas interests, and much more. Essentially, the bill provides a blueprint for US intentions in Ukraine and Eastern Europe for the coming years. Moreover, it reflects the greatest concern of all for Washington and its NATO allies: the loss of hegemony in the post-Soviet space. Seen in this way, S.2277 is not truly about punitive measures to punish Russia for its “aggression,” but rather is about pre-emptively attacking Russia politically and economically, while building up to a possible military confrontation. Needless to say, such dangerous and destabilizing actions are a reflection of the moral bankruptcy, not to mention utter insanity, of the US political establishment and the ruling class it serves.’

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How the Clintons Set the U.S. on the Dangerous Path of Confronting Russia

John V Walsh writes for Unz Review:

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‘The most damning indictment yet of the Clintons on the world stage comes in the book Superpower Illusions by former Ambassador to the USSR, Jack Matlock. The book came out way back in 2009, but it is worth examining again as we confront the possibility of a return to Clintonism. And Matlock is a man who knows whereof he speaks.

[...] Being a diplomat, Mattlock speaks diplomatically of the colossal, damaging shift in U.S.-Russia relations under the Clintons who reversed the approach of Reagan and Bush I. He gets to the point right away in the preface to Superpower Illusions:

“The Clinton administration’s decision to expand NATO to the East rather than draw Russia into a cooperative arrangement to ensure European security undermined the prospects of democracy in Russia, made it more difficult to keep peace in the Balkans and slowed the process of nuclear disarmament started by Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev.”’

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Are bioethicists tools of policy technocrats?

Michael Cook writes for BioEdge:

‘Although bioethicists are believed to provide fearless independent advice, challenging policy-makers to make the “right” decisions, a Swiss expert in bureaucracies contends that  this is often not the case. Writing in the journal Governance, Annabelle Littoz-Monnet, of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, in Geneva, contends that bureaucrats use ethical experts to get their own way when they have to deal with controversies like GM foods or embryonic stem cell research.’

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Wall Street Buys NATO Microwave Towers in Traders’ Speed-of-Light Quest

Jesse Westbrook and Sam Mamudi reports for Bloomberg:

‘An 800-foot microwave tower in a Belgian cow pasture transmitted messages for the U.S. armed forces in 1983 when suicide bombers killed hundreds of military personnel at Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Now it’s being used by high-frequency traders.

Jump Trading LLC, a Chicago-based company founded by former pit traders, bought the tower last year through a U.K. affiliate called Toren Navo Aansluiting Ltd., according to documents filed in the U.K. and Belgium. The English translation of the name: “NATO connection tower.”

Trade orders that were once executed using shouts and hand signals now travel across continents with a swiftness that can approach the speed of light. Fiber-optic cable used to be the choice of electronic trading firms such as Jump that are locked in a contest to be the fastest. Now they’re adopting microwave technology, which can convey data in nearly half the time, to squeeze profit from fleeting and often tiny price discrepancies in assets traded around the world.’

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US and EU boost sanctions on Russia

From BBC News:

The US and EU have bolstered sanctions against Russia over its alleged support for separatists fighting in Ukraine. The US has targeted major banks including Gazprombank, defence firms and energy companies including Rosneft.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted as saying sanctions would take US-Russia relations to a “dead end”. Saying it would give sanction details by the end of July, the EU said it would ask its EIB investment bank no longer to fund Russian projects.

The new round of US sanctions announced by the US treasury significantly expands previous penalties by Washington, which were limited to individuals in Russia and Ukraine and a number of companies.’

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France to Shift Mali Troops to Battle Regional Terrorism

From Reuters:

France said Sunday that it was reorganizing its forces in Mali and surrounding countries into a single regional body focused on battling terrorists in northwestern Africa. The announcement came just days before the start of peace talks to end Mali’s separatist rebellions.

“It’s a regional operation to ensure the security of the area and prevent jihadist groups from emerging again,” the French defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said on Europe 1 radio. France has 1,700 troops in Mali, but under the new plan about 3,000 French soldiers, based in Mali, Chad and Niger, will become part of a regional counterterrorism operation.’

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Cypriots File War Crimes Complaint Against Turkey

From the AP:

‘A group of Cypriots on Monday filed a war crimes complaint against Turkey at the International Criminal Court over what they say is its policy of settling Cyprus’ breakaway north with mainland Turks.

Cyprus split into a Turkish-speaking north and an internationally recognized Greek-speaking south in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup that aimed to unite the island with Greece. A Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence is recognized only by Turkey, which maintains 35,000 troops there.’

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German Police Fired 85 Bullets in One Year, U.S. Police Use 90 on 1 Person

 

Ikea funds went to Romanian secret police in communist era

Matei Rosca reports for the Guardian:

Romania‘s brutal communist-era secret police received covert six-figure payments from Ikea as part of the Swedish group’s deals with a local furniture manufacturer in the 1980s, according to documents obtained by the Guardian.

Recently declassified files at the National College for Studying the Securitate Archives (CNSAS) in Bucharest suggest that the furniture firm agreed to be overcharged for products made in Romania. Some of the overpayments were deposited in an account controlled by the Securitate, the secret police agency.

The documents suggest Ikea was complicit in the arrangement. Ikea denies complicity, but has launched an internal investigation into the matter. It says it was unaware of the Securitate’s involvement in its commercial operations.’

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BNP Paribas Fine Shows Financial Crime Still Pays Big Time: Interview with Bill Black

German intelligence employee arrested on suspicion of spying for US on Bundestag NSA committee

DW reports:

NSA-Untersuchungsausschuss Sitzung vom 22.05.2014‘German media said on Friday that an employee of the country’s foreign intelligence agency (BND) was being held in police custody under the suspicion of espionage. The information was reported by public broadcasters NDR, WDR and the news daily Süddeutsche Zeitung. According to initial reports, authorities apprehended a 31-year-old member of the BND on Wednesday. Germany’s Federal Prosecutor confirmed the following day that he had been arrested on the “strong suspicion” of spying activities.

During questioning, the suspect reportedly told investigators that he had gathered information on an investigative committee from Germany’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag. The panel is conducting an inquiry into NSA surveillance on German officials and citizens. A spokesperson for the Federal Prosecutor’s office declined to provide further details about the case, according to news agency AFP. German-US relations have been on the rocks since revelations of mass surveillance not only on German citizens, but also on Chancellor Angela Merkel and other politicians made headlines last year.’

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Police ‘lose explosives’ in French airport exercise

From The Local:

Police 'lose explosives' in French airport exercise‘Police in the southern city of Marseille have spent a week trying to find some explosives that they lost in the cargo area of Marseille airport.

According to Europe1 radio, the material was hidden during an exercise to train police dogs to find explosives. The only problem is officers forgot where they had placed it and it seems the dogs had not been sufficiently trained to be able track down the scent.

According to a preliminary inquiry “there was a negligent supervision” of the exercise.’

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France’s burqa ban upheld by European human rights court

Kim Willsher reports for the Guardian:

A woman wearing a burqa in Paris, France‘Judges at the European court of human rights (ECHR) have upheld France’s burqa ban, accepting Paris’s argument that it encouraged citizens to “live together”. The law, introduced in 2010, makes it illegal for anyone to cover their face in a public place. While it also covers balaclavas and hoods, the ban has been criticised as targeting Muslim women.

The case was brought by an unnamed 24-year-old French citizen of Pakistani origin, who wears both the burqa, covering her entire head and body, and the niqab, leaving only her eyes uncovered. She was represented by solicitors from Birmingham in the UK, who claimed the outlawing of the full-face veil was contrary to six articles of the European convention. They argued it was “inhumane and degrading, against the right of respect for family and private life, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of speech and discriminatory”.’

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Spanish princess Cristina de Borbon charged with money laundering and fraud

Maria Tadeo reports for The Independent:

Spain‘Spanish princess Cristina de Borbon has been charged with fraud and money laundering as part of a major corruption investigation that has tarnished the royal family’s reputation. On Wednesday, a Palma de Mallorca court formalised the charges against the princess following a two-year long investigation into her husband Inaki Urdangarin’s business dealings.

[...] The couple could now be put on trial just days after her brother, Felipe, was crowned King of Spain after Juan Carlos announced he would abdicate in favour on his son on 2 June following a series of scandals, including an expensive elephant hunting trip that infuriated many Spaniards facing mass unemployment. Princess Cristina did not attend the ceremony last week and reports suggest the relationship between the two is almost non-existent as Felipe seeks to distance himself from the scandal. Her husband has been barred from attending public events.’

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Nicolas Sarkozy arrested over ‘influence peddling’

From The Irish Times:

‘Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was held today for questioning over suspicions that a network of informers kept him abreast of a separate inquiry into alleged irregularities in his 2007 election campaign, a legal source said. It was the first time a former head of state had been held for questioning in modern French history. The conservative politician denies wrongdoing in a string of investigations which could derail his hopes of a come-back after his 2012 presidential election defeat by Francois Hollande.

[...] The former leader is the focus of an investigation launched in February into whether he sought to use his influence to get information about a separate inquiry into allegations that late Libyan leader Muammar Gadafy funded his 2007 election campaign. Investigators suspect Mr Sarkozy and his lawyer kept tabs on the case by using a network of well-connected informants, which only came to light following phone taps. Mr Sarkozy has likened the magistrates behind the phone-tapping to the “Stasi” police of former Communist East Germany.’

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Putin to West: Stop turning world into “global barracks”, dictating rules to others

NATO chief to move forces from U.S. to Europe to respond to Russia in Ukraine

James Rosen writes for McClatchy:

‘NATO’s top military commander said Monday that American troops from the United States will be dispatched to Europe starting in October to help respond to Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, supreme allied commander of the Western military alliance, said the U.S.-based troops will buttress American forces that have already been moved in recent months from Germany, Italy and elsewhere in Europe for stepped-up ground and air patrols in the three Baltic countries of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, plus Poland and Romania.

“It’s a very momentous time in Europe, probably the most since the end of the Cold War, especially because of the recent changes wrought by Russia,” Breedlove told reporters at the Pentagon. Breedlove said Moscow has supplied pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine with tanks, armored personnel carriers, anti-aircraft artillery and other heavy weapons.’

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TTIP: Leaked document shows EU is going for a trade deal that will weaken financial regulation

From Corporate Europe Observatory:

EU Trade Commissioner de Gucht at the New York Stock Exchange. The Commission has teamed up with the financial sector in the EU and US to make financial regulation part of trade negotiations. ‘If the EU has its way, a final agreement between the EU and the US to establish a free trade and investment agreement the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will weaken regulation and raise obstacles to much needed reform of the financial sector. That is the conclusion after the leak of an EU proposal for so-called “regulatory cooperation” on financial regulation tabled by the EU in March 2014. Regulatory cooperation is a continuous process of ironing out disagreements and differences between the two Parties to ensure agreement on what constitutes legitimate regulation  – which in this case, would serve the interests of the financial industry. In the document, the EU suggests a number of mechanisms that will both scale back existing regulation, and prevent future regulation that might contradict the interests of financial corporations from both sides of the Atlantic. The leak follows news that EU negotiators have increased political pressure on the US to accept negotiations on “financial regulatory cooperation”, which the US negotiators have so far refused.

The document shows that the EU is prioritising the protection of the EU’s banking sector over strict financial regulation and supervision: these so-called “regulatory cooperation” proposals would guarantee that the financial sector is not harmed by measures taken by regulators, would allow EU banks to operate in the US on the EU’s (generally laxer) rules, and in general that financial corporations on one side of the Atlantic do not have to abide by host country’s laws but only by home country laws on the other side of the Atlantic. The implications for decision-making on financial reforms and control over the financial sector are serious.’

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Pope Francis condemns the West’s declining moral standards

Tom Kington reports for The Telegraph:

The Pope’s half-joking reference was part of a message about everybody having the right to be baptised‘Pope Francis has condemned the “moral decay” of the city of Rome, citing the child prostitutes that ply their trade and the busy soup kitchens of the Italian capital. In a broadside against declining moral standards in the West, the Pontiff cited the darker sides of the streets of his adopted home as an example of modern society’s failings.

Despite it being the home of the Vatican, Pope Francis said, “The Eternal City, which should be a beacon to the world, is a mirror of the moral decay of society.” In a wide-ranging interview with Rome daily Il Messaggero, he also lashed out at political corruption, joblessness and Europe’s low birth rates. He claimed that many Europeans found it easier to own pets than raise children.’

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How America’s Work Obsession is Killing Our Quality of Life

Abby Martin discusses President Obama’s criticism of US maternity leave policy and goes over how the US stacks up against other countries when it comes to this issue.’ (Breaking the Set)

Britain to deploy 10,000 officers at NATO summit

Press TV reports:

Nato summit logo‘Britain is planning to deploy 10,000 police officers to shut out anti-war protests during NATO’s summit in the Welsh city of Newport, documents reveal. The Police Federation briefing documents released on Friday showed that there will be one officer for every protester at the Celtic Manor Hotel, which will host the NATO summit on September 4 and 5.

“To ensure the safety and secure passage of the event a mutual aid authority has been agreed to secure the deployment of nearly 10,000 officers,” it said. This would be one of Britain’s biggest police operations since the 2012 Olympics and the biggest in Welsh history.

Peace activists, who have pledged to descend on the summit venue to express their outrage at NATO’s warmongering policies, criticized the British government’s decision, saying it is spending millions to protect NATO leaders from peaceful protesters.’

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NATO will not offer Georgia membership step, avoiding Russia clash

Adrian Croft reports for Reuters:

NATO will stop short of approving a formal step to membership for Georgia at its summit in September, officials said on Wednesday, dodging a possible confrontation with Moscow over the alliance’s expansion to Russia’s neighbours.

NATO members agreed in principle to draw up a “substantive package” of cooperation with Georgia that would help it move closer to NATO, Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters at a meeting of alliance foreign ministers. But that falls short of an invitation to join NATO’s Membership Action Plan (MAP) – a formal step towards membership – that Georgia, which fought a brief war with Russia in 2008, had hoped for.

Putting Georgia on a path to NATO membership would have angered Russia, which is deeply hostile to the Western military alliance advancing into former Soviet republics, and some allies feared it could provoke Russian retaliation. Welcoming Georgia into the alliance would mean NATO could be obliged to go to its defence in the event of another war with Russia. And with NATO-Russia tensions running high after Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region, any invitation to Georgia to join the MAP has become even more of a political hot potato.’

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EU signs trade pact with Ukraine, ceasefire extended

Robin Emmott and Justyna Pawlak reports for Reuters:

The European Union signed an historic free-trade pact with Ukraine on Friday and warned it could impose more sanctions on Moscow unless pro-Russian rebels act to wind down the crisis in the east of the country by Monday. Shortly after returning to Kiev from Brussels where he signed the pact, Poroshenko announced on his website that Ukraine had extended a ceasefire by government forces against pro-Russian separatist rebels by 72 hours until 10 p.m. on Monday.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko came to Brussels to sign a far-reaching trade and political cooperation agreement with the EU that has been at the heart of months of deadly violence and upheaval in his country, drawing an immediate threat of “grave consequences” from Russia. Georgia and Moldova signed similar deals, holding out the prospect of deep economic integration and unfettered access to the EU’s 500 million citizens, but alarming Moscow, which is concerned about losing influence over former Soviet republics. The week-long ceasefire had been due to expire on Friday.’

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Albania on the rocky road to EU membership

Angelina Verbica writes for DW:

‘Albanians are cheering the news. Albania is now officially an EU accession country. The wish to “belong to Europe” has been strong for a while now in Albania after decades of communist isolation and the ensuing chaotic years of democratization. Now the moment has arrived: The country of 3 million people received official candidate status from the EU heads of states on Friday.

Most people in Albania know that the hardest part still lies ahead, despite the euphoria in the country. “To be a candidate country means that we have to work even harder and that we can’t lean back confidently,” said Klajda Gjosha, EU integration minister, in an interview with DW. It doesn’t mean that the accession negotiations will start soon. The EU stipulates that Albania first has to initiate several reforms. The main issues are tackling corruption in the justice system and civil services as well as the fight against organized crime.

“The implementation of the rule of law is key. Therefore I would focus on judicial reform,” said Hellmut Hoffmann, Germany’s ambassador in Albania, in an interview with DW. A corrupt justice system is hampering economic development. That was also Angela Merkel’s message to Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama during his Berlin visit in March. It seems that the message has got through: it is probably no coincidence that a week ahead of the decision in Brussels the police in Albania brought a stronghold of for the growing of marihuana under control. In the village of Lazarat, which is known as Europe’s biggest cannabis-growing area, the police has destroyed 12 tons of marihuana.’

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Corsican terror group lays down arms in battle for independence from France

Michael Day reports for The Independent:

‘After 10,000 violent attacks in 40 years, the National Liberation Front of Corsica, the Mediterranean island’s largest armed group fighting for independence from France, has declared a permanent and unconditional ceasefire, citing progress made in Northern Ireland and the Basque region of Spain. The terrorist group said in its 14-page declaration that it had decided “without further notice or conditions” to “unilaterally begin a demilitarisation process and a gradual exit from clandestine activities”.

FLNC’s apparent decision to renounce violence appears to have been prompted by the recent decision by the island’s regional assembly to give Corsican-born people priority in buying property on the island. Greater foreign ownership of property had proved a source of contention for decades. Many attacks by the organisation, formed in 1975, were targeted at the homes and businesses of foreigners. In its statement the FLNC cited “these debates on topics forbidden for many years to suggest the outline of a political solution”. The group said that there would be no preconditions regarding the release of “political prisoners”. But law enforcement officials say the group has been seriously weakened by internal blood-letting and the increasingly strong evidence of its links to organised crime.’

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EU wants stronger military industry

Nikolaj Nielsen reports for EU Observer:

‘The European Commission on Tuesday (24 June) laid out plans on how to boost the EU’s military and defence industries. It wants to create a single market on defence, make it more profitable, and intensify and merge research with the civil sector.

Antonio Tajani, the EU industry commissioner, said greater defence collaboration is needed between member states to enable the EU to “adequately face its security challenges”. Tajani described the plan in terms of helping the EU pull itself out of the economic crisis… The 14-page plan wants to expand on ‘dual-use technology’, in which equipment can be used for both civilian and military objectives.’

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Belgium unable to form government again

From MINA:

‘One month after the national elections in Belgium, the process of forming a new government is going nowhere, EUobserver reports. The lead negotiator and chairman of the Flemish nationalist N-VA party, Bart De Wever, returned his mandate to form a government to the King on Wednesday (June 25).

The move has prompted fears that Belgium is heading for another lengthy round of talks on the shared rule. Less than three years ago, it took almost 550 days to make the deal, being a world record. After the May 25 elections, there was optimism that this time it would be different.’

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