Shuttered: EU ditches summit 'family photo'

Shuttered: EU ditches summit 'family photo'
EU leaders pose for a family photo during the European Summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on June 28, 2016 (AFP Photo/JOHN THYS)

EU founding fathers signed 'blank' Treaty of Rome (1957)

EU founding fathers signed 'blank' Treaty of Rome (1957)
The Treaty of Rome was signed in the Palazzo dei Conservatori, one of the Renaissance palaces that line the Michelangelo-designed Capitoline Square in the Italian capital

Merkel says fall of Wall proves 'dreams can come true'


“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013. They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."
"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)
(Subjects: Who/What is Kryon ?, Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" Managed Business, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)


"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Merkel softens her opposition to gay marriage

Yahoo – AFP, June 27, 2017

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had repeatedly voiced her opposition
to gay marriage, said that lawmakers could vote according to their conscience,
and not toe the party line (AFP Photo/TOBIAS SCHWARZ)

Berlin (AFP) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday softened for the first time her opposition to gay marriage, as her conservative party comes under growing pressure on the issue ahead of elections in September.

Merkel, who had repeatedly voiced her opposition to gay marriage, said that lawmakers could vote according to their conscience, and not toe the party line.

Germany introduced civil unions for gay and lesbian couples in 2001, but they do not have the right to marry.

"I would like to orient the discussion in a direction which raises the question of a decision according to conscience rather than imposing anything," she told Brigitte, a women's magazine.

This is a significant shift for Merkel, who in 2013 said she opposed same-sex unions for "the well-being of children."

Merkel's Christian Democratic Party has so far opposed gay marriage in order to not alienate its most conservative supporters and to avoid entering into a conflict with its ally, the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) which strongly backs the concept of traditional families.

The CDU and the CSU are due on Monday to present their common programme ahead of the September 24 legislative election.

Related Article:


Friday, June 23, 2017

'Emmangela' show reasserts EU's Franco-German alliance

Yahoo – AFP, Danny KEMP, June 23, 2017

'Emmangela': German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President
Emmanuel Macron stage a joint press conference after the EU summit,
projecting their will to drive Europe's leadership after the shock of Brexit
(AFP Photo/EMMANUEL DUNAND)

Brussels (AFP) - Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel used the French president's first Brussels summit Friday to deliver an unmistakeable message: their countries intend to lead the EU's post-Brexit revival.

The Franco-German power couple held an unusual joint press conference after meeting their 26 European Union counterparts, against a backdrop of their respective flags and the bloc's blue banner with yellow stars.

"When France and Germany speak with one voice, Europe can move forward," newcomer Macron told a room almost filled to bursting point with reporters as he stood alongside the German chancellor.

"There can be no pertinent solution if it is not a pertinent solution for France and Germany," the 39-year-old centre-right leader.

Despite her more pragmatic tone, the message from 62-year-old Merkel was the same.

"This press conference shows that we are resolved to jointly find solutions to problems," she said.

The joint press conference came exactly a year after Britain's shock referendum vote to become the first country to leave the European Union, which prompted dire predictions of the break-up of the bloc.

But Europe has jumped on the bandwagon of Macron's stunning election victory over French far-right leader Marine Le Pen to trumpet a newfound optimism after years of austerity and crisis despite Brexit.

At the heart of that is the idea that Macron may be able to repair the traditional "engine" behind European integration -- the post-war alliance of Paris and Berlin after centuries of conflict.

'More than a symbol'

The French and German leaders -- variously dubbed Merkron, Mackerel and Emmangela in the style of celebrity couple nicknames -- said they intended to use that engine to get moving.

Macron insisted that the decision of the two leaders to appear together was more than just a piece of political posturing.

"It is more than a symbol, it is a true work ethic," he said.

Merkel and Macron insisted on their unity on a host of issues including plans to boost Europe's defence capabilities, with the continent unable to rely on Britain or the United States under Donald Trump.

They also proclaimed their togetherness on climate change-- especially after Trump pulled out of the Paris climate deal -- counter-terrorism and trade issues.

However they were careful to avoid going into the details of delicate subjects like the reform of the eurozone, a pet project of Macron who wants it to have its own parliament and finance minister.

"We don't announce in advance things that we can't hold to," said the ever-sensible chancellor, when asked if they would finally commit to concrete proposals after German elections in September.

The pair also both took a cautious stance on British Prime Minister Theresa May's offer on the rights of EU citizens living in Britain after Brexit.

But in one area, Macron may have found that his summit honeymoon was over almost before it started.

His EU colleagues poured cold water on his proposal to hand Brussels more powers to control Chinese investments in strategic European industries.

"Fairer trade is preferable than the law of the jungle," Macron told the press conference as he defended his plans.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Germany clears gays convicted under Nazi-era law

Yahoo – AFP, Deborah COLE, June 22, 2017

Friedrich Schmehling poses in his appartment during an AFP interview in
2016 (AFP Photo/TOBIAS SCHWARZ)

Berlin (AFP) - Germany's parliament voted Thursday to quash the convictions of 50,000 gay men sentenced for homosexuality under a Nazi-era law which remained in force after the war and offer compensation.

After decades of lobbying, victims and activists hailed a triumph in the struggle to clear the names of gay men who lived with a criminal record under Article 175 of the penal code.

An estimated 5,000 of those found guilty under the statute are still alive.

The measure overwhelmingly passed the Bundestag lower house of parliament, where Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling right-left coalition enjoys a large majority.

It offers gay men convicted under the law a lump sum of 3,000 euros ($3,350) as well as an additional 1,500 euros for each year they spent in prison.

Germany's Article 175 outlawed "sexual acts contrary to nature... be it between people of the male gender or between people and animals".

Sex between women was not explicitly illegal.

Although it dated from 1871, it was rarely enforced until the Nazis came to power, and in 1935 they toughened the law to carry a sentence of 10 years of forced labour.

More than 42,000 men were convicted during the Third Reich and sent to prison or concentration camps.

In 2002, the government introduced a new law which overturned their convictions, but that move didn't include those prosecuted after World War II.

The article was finally dropped from the penal code in East Germany in 1968.

In West Germany, it reverted to the pre-Nazi era version in 1969 and was only fully repealed in 1994.

'A stain removed'

"More than two decades after Article 175 was finally wiped from the books, this stain on democratic Germany's legal history has been removed," Sebastian Bickerich of the government's anti-discrimination office said in a statement.

Convicted under the law as a teenager in 1957, Fritz Schmehling, 74, told AFP: "Back then, you lived with one foot in prison."

Schmehling said he wished his long-time partner Bernd, who died in 2011, had lived to see justice served.

"He told me, 'I don't think I'll ever see the day these convictions are lifted'. I think he would have been as happy as when the Berlin Wall fell."

Another beneficiary of the law, also 74, gave his name as "Heinz Schmitz" because of enduring shame about his conviction at the age of 19 for his family.

He said Article 175 robbed him of many of the best years of his life.

"I was as beautiful as a young god and men were always after me. But I was always afraid I would end up in prison," he said with a smile.

The vote marks a victory for the Social Democrats three months before a general election in which they plan to campaign on a more liberal stance on gay rights than Merkel's conservatives.

Germany legalised registered partnerships for same-sex couples in 2001 but has stopped short of granting full marriage rights -- including adoption of children -- common in many EU member states.

European court tears up pre-pack bankruptcy deal, backs workers

DutchNews, June 22, 2017


The European Court of Justice on Thursday ruled in favour of four daycare workers sacked in a pre-packed bankruptcy deal. 

The case was brought by the FNV trade union representing the four who lost their jobs when daycare group Estro went bust in 2014 and restarted immediately as Smallsteps. In total, 1,000 of the 3,800 members of staff lost their jobs. 

A pre-pack deal allows companies to restructure and prepare a restart as part of the bankruptcy process but has been condemned for leaving staff and suppliers in the lurch. Unions say it is often used by companies as a way to force through a reorganisation. 

The court, which had been asked to rule on the situation by a lower Dutch court, said that workers involved in a pre-pack bankruptcy should keep the same rights as in a normal takeover. In the pre-pack set-up they often end up with worse pay and conditions and only a small financial settlement if made redundant. 

Claim

The court ruling means all Estro staff are officially employed by Smallsteps because ‘European law takes precedence’ labour law professor Evert Verhulp told news agency ANP.

 ‘However, to claim back pay, they should have made it clear that they wanted to continue in their jobs. That does apply to the four who went to court. The others will be able to apply for a golden handshake but it is unclear if Smallsteps will be able to pay.’ 

Other companies which have used the pre-pack bankruptcy construction include McGregor, prawn processor Heiploeg, travel agency Neckermann, lingerie retailer Marlies Dekker and the Free Record Shop.

‘This ruling means that the pre-pack is no longer an attractive way to reorganise and get rid of staff and secondary benefits cheaply,’ FNV deputy chairman Kitty Jong said in a statement. ‘Up to today, workers had no rights if a company went bust.’

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Europe's top rights court blasts Russian 'gay propaganda' law

Yahoo – AFP, Arnaud Bouvier with Anna Malpas in Moscow, June 20, 2017

Although homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993, prejudice is common
and human rights activists allege widespread abuse (AFP Photo/OLGA MALTSEVA)

Strasbourg (France) (AFP) - The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday blasted as discriminatory Russian legislation banning the promotion of homosexuality, saying it fuelled homophobia and prejudice.

The ruling was welcomed by gay activists in Russia who had lodged the case, but Moscow said it would appeal.

The legislation had made "promoting non-traditional sexual relationships" among minors an offence punishable by a fine. It was also an offence to say that gay relationships were equal to heterosexual ones.

The Strasbourg-based court said the Russian laws "reinforced stigma and prejudice and encouraged homophobia," which was "incompatible with the values of a democratic society".

Although homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993, prejudice is common and human rights activists allege widespread abuse.

Three gay activists -- Nikolay Bayev, Aleksey Kiselev and Nikolay Alexeyev -- had staged protests outside a school, a children's library and a government building holding banners that said homosexuality was not a perversion.

They were subsequently fined and appealed against the ruling in Russian courts. But their complaints -- right up to the Constitutional Court -- were unsuccessful.

The Constitutional Court had said the ban was justified on the grounds of protection of morals and spoke of the potential dangers of "creating a distorted impression of the social equivalence of traditional and non-traditional marital relations".

'These laws must be abolished'

The trio then filed applications with the European rights court in 2009 and 2012.

The Strasbourg court said the fines imposed on them breached articles in the European Convention of Human Rights regarding freedom of expression and discrimination.

It ordered Russia to pay 8,000 euros ($8,900) in damages to Bayev, 15,000 euros to Kiselev and 20,000 euros to Alexeyev.

Russia's justice ministry said it would appeal, and was "preparing legal arguments explaining Russia's position."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not react immediately, saying: "Certainly we will be examining this decision. I have not seen the wording of it, so I cannot comment."

Alexeyev, who runs the GayRussia website, told AFP: "This is an enormous legal victory for the LGBT in Russia. The ruling is yet one more proof that LGBT activists are discriminated in Russia and their rights are violated.

"These discriminatory laws now must be abolished," he said in a statement, adding that they had no place "in a free, civilised and democratic and country in the 21st century".

Under the various Russian laws, if individuals use media or the internet for homosexual "propaganda" they can be fined up to 100,000 rubles ($3,000). Organisations can be fined up to one million rubles andrisk being closed down for up to 90 days.

Foreign nationals who use media or the internet for propaganda, can be fined up to 100,000 rubles, detained for up to 15 days and deported.

Another law makes "public actions expressing clear disrespect for society and committed to the goal of offending religious feelings of the faithful" punishable with up to a year in jail and fines of up to 300,000 rubles.

The same actions committed in places of worship are punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to 500,000 rubles.

The ruling dismissed Russia's defence that it was defending traditional values, said a statement from the court.

People had the right to "openly identify themselves as gay, lesbian or any other sexual minority, and to promote their own rights and freedoms," it said.

The ruling also rejected Moscow's claims that minors risked being swayed by others into becoming homosexual. Russia had provided no "science-based evidence" to support the claim, said the ruling.

Homosexuality was considered a crime in Russia until 1993 and categorised as a mental illness until 1999.

Related Article:


Monday, June 19, 2017

German veteran leader, EU visionary Kohl dies

Yahoo – AFP, Hui Min NEO, June 16, 2017

Tributes are flooding in from world leaders for former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl

Germany's longest serving post-war leader Helmut Kohl, the father of national reunification and an architect of European integration, died Friday at the age of 87.

Kohl helped a Germany that was split during the Cold War between a capitalist west and a communist east make the traumatic transition to a unified democracy.

The towering figure of European contemporary history also worked with France's Francois Mitterrand to shape the European project and pushed Germans to part with their cherished Deutschmarks in favour of the single European currency, the euro.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a moving tribute to her mentor, declaring that "Kohl changed my life decisively".

Merkel, who grew up in the communist German Democratic Republic, said that thanks to him, she, "like millions of other people, could leave a life of GDR dictatorship and enter into a life of freedom".

"All that has happened in the past 27 years from then until today would have been unimaginable without Helmut Kohl," said Merkel, dressed in black.

"It will be a while before we will truly be able to measure what we have lost with his passing," Merkel said, adding that she was "personally thankful that he was there".

"I bow down before his memory," said Merkel, who described Kohl as a "great German and great European".

Germany's longest serving post-war leader Helmut Kohl, shown here with Soviet 
president Mikhail Gorbachev, has died

Tributes also poured in from abroad, with former US president George H.W. Bush hailing "one of the greatest" post-war leaders, and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker honouring him as the "very essence of Europe".

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev underlined Kohl's role in ending the Cold War, noting that "he was without doubt an exceptional personality who left his mark on German, European and international history".

Kohl, Gorbachev said, had demonstrated "a deep interest for Russia" and had helped bridged East and West as he "warned the West against taking on a contemptuous attitude towards Russian interests".

'True friend of freedom'

Kohl died peacefully in his bed at home in Ludwigshafen, in the southwestern state of Rhineland-Palatinate, said the Bild newspaper, adding that his wife Maike Kohl-Richter was by his side.

Mourning his mentor and friend, Juncker said: "Helmut Kohl filled the European house with life -- not only because he built bridges to the west as well as to the east, but also because he never ceased to design even better blueprints for the future of Europe."

Bush, describing Kohl as "a true friend of freedom", said: "Helmut hated war -- but he detested totalitarianism even more".

Kohl worked closely with French president Francois Mitterand to shape the
European project and cement Franco-German reconciliation

"Working closely with my very good friend to help achieve a peaceful end to the Cold War and the unification of Germany within NATO will remain one of the great joys of my life," added the former US president.

France's President Emmanuel Macron posted on Twitter a picture of Kohl standing with the late Mitterrand, saying: "An architect of united Germany and Franco-German friendship: with Helmut Kohl, we have lost a great European."

- 'Mantle of history' -

Born into a Catholic family on April 3, 1930 in the industrial city of Ludwigshafen, Kohl studied history and political science and rose quickly through the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, his ever-smiling first wife Hannelore, with whom he had two sons, by his side.

He became chancellor of West Germany in 1982 and as the Cold War ended with the Berlin Wall coming down in November 1989, he moved to "grab the mantle of history," as he later said, forging a political stature commensurate with his towering height.

Kohl persuaded Bush to accept a larger, reunified Germany, and convinced Gorbachev to withdraw troops from East Germany.

His vision was for a reunified Germany that was at the heart of an enlarged European Union and a staunch NATO member.

Merkel lauded his contribution to German and European integration in 2012, on the 30th anniversary of his becoming chancellor, declaring that Europeans were "united in our luck" thanks to Kohl's efforts.

'Don't close doors on Britain'

Kohl considered Konrad Adenauer -- West Germany's visionary first chancellor, who allowed the nation to make a fresh start after World War II -- as an ideological forefather.

Mentor to Merkel, Kohl was later ousted by his protege, who urged their party to drop the self-declared "old warhorse" when he became embroiled in a campaign finance scandal in 1999.



Saturday, June 17, 2017

Taboo-breaking liberal mosque opens in Berlin

Yahoo – AFP, Yannick PASQUET, June 17, 2017

Lawyer and women's rights activist Seyran Ates opened the
Ibn-Rushd-Goethe-Mosque with words of welcome before Christian and
Jewish guests and a large media contingent (AFP Photo/John MACDOUGALL)

Berlin (AFP) - With a mission to spread a liberal form of Islam, a mosque where men and women pray side by side has opened its doors in Berlin, complete with female imams.

The Arabic phrase "Allahu Akbar" ('God is greatest') resonated through the crowded Ibn-Rushd-Goethe-Mosque Friday as US-Malaysian Ani Zonneveld, one of the world's few female imams, launched the call to prayer.

Then one of the founders of the new place of worship, lawyer and women's rights activist Seyran Ates, opened the event with words of welcome before Christian and Jewish guests and a large media contingent.

"We want to send a signal against Islamic terror and the misuse of our religion," said Turkish-born Ates, 54, dressed in a long white robe. "We want to practise our religion together."

Ates -- no stranger to breaking taboos, having called for a "sexual revolution" in the Muslim world -- vowed she would not allow ultra-conservatives "to rob me of my right to be Muslim".

Kneeling on green carpets, the faithful -- men and women, side by side -- bowed to Mecca for the traditional prayer as the imam spoke in German.

Some of the women wore veils or head coverings, others did not.

'Depoliticise' Islam

The new mosque, the 88th in the German capital, is located in a rented room on the third floor of the Protestant Johanniskirche (St. John's Church) building.

Founded by Seyran Ates, the mosque aims to establish a humanistic, 
secular and liberal reading of Islam (AFP Photo/John MACDOUGALL)

All Muslims -- Sunni or Shia, Alawite or Sufi -- are welcome in the mosque named after one of Germany's greatest writers, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and 12th century Islamic scholar Ibn Rushd, also known as Averroes.

The seven founding members said they want to open their prayer hall to all groups, including gays and lesbians.

"This mosque allows Muslims to define themselves in a new way," said co-founder and German Islam scholar Abdel-Hakim Ourghi.

He added that "we will try to depoliticise Islam", as the religion was being torn by rival political movements. "Because religion is a private matter."

Police stood guard outside the entrance of the building.

The founders said they had not received any threats or insults, but that they fully expected not everyone would be happy.

Time for change

Germany, with some four million Muslims, has been the target of jihadist attacks, the deadliest last December when a truck tore through a Berlin Christmas market crowd killing 12 people.

Seyran Ates -- who has campaigned against forced marriages,
domestic violence and so-called "honour killings" among Muslim
migrants -- said the project was eight years in the making (AFP
Photo/John MACDOUGALL)

The arrival of more than one million refugees, most from mainly Muslim countries, since 2015 has worsened the fears of some Germans.

Ates -- who has campaigned against forced marriages, domestic violence and so-called "honour killings" among Muslim migrants -- said the project was eight years in the making.

"Many left along the way," she said. "They told us it was dangerous, that they were afraid."

Elham Manea, a Swiss political scientist of Yemeni background, said the time had come for change, with other so-called liberal mosques having also opened in the United States, Britain and Switzerland.

The Berlin mosque, financed by private donations, is located in the Berlin district of Moabit, which has a large immigrant population.

It was in this neighbourhood that Tunisian Anis Amri, the Christmas market attacker, frequented a radical mosque that has since been closed.

Pakistani human rights activist Mukhtar Mai (C) receives a standing ovation
as she takes the stage following performance of the opera 'Thumbprint', at
the Roy and Edna Disney/Calarts Theater (REDCAT) in Los Angeles, on
June 16, 2017 (AFP Photo/Robyn Beck)

Related Articles:



Yassmine el Ksaihi poses in the prayer hall of the Polder Mosque in Amsterdam, 
Netherlands, Tuesday, March 2, 2010. Uniquely in the Netherlands, men and 
women pray together in her mosque, albeit segregated, with the women praying
 in the back of the prayer hall. Devotions and sermons are conducted mostly in
 Dutch rather than Arabic. And non-Muslims are welcome. Across Europe Muslims
 are seeking a formula that lets them be an inseparable part of their country while
 maintaining their loyalty to their faith and origin. (AP Photo/ Evert Elzinga)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Openly gay Ana Brnabic set to become prime minister of Serbia

Serbian strongman Aleksandar Vucic has named his public administration minister, Ana Brnabic, as the new head of government. Brnabic is the first woman and the first openly gay politician on the job in the Balkan nation.

Deutsche Welle, 15 June 2017

Ana Brnabic in her office

The 41-year-old minister would replace Vucic at the head of the government, after Vucic himself took over the office of president two weeks ago.

"I believe Ana Brnabic has all the personal and professional qualities" to do a good job as prime minister, Vucic said on Thursday.

"Much remains to be done in different areas, from public health to education, in order to implement reforms," said Vucic.

While Vucic's nomination still needs to be confirmed in Serbia's parliament, the vote itself is expected to be a formality because the coalition gathered around the president commands an overwhelming majority.

Brnabic is set to become the first woman and the first openly gay state official to head the government in Serbia. This marks a significant leap for the conservative country and the entire Balkan region, where members of LGBT groups still face the threat of violence in their daily lives.

Vucic to 'mentor' new head of government

The public administration minister studied at the US Northwood University and holds an MBA in marketing from the University of Hull in England. She has worked for USAID for several years, and served as an executive in several companies and NGOs in Serbia. Notably, she was appointed minister as an independent candidate and not a member of Vucic's Progressive Party.

Responding to the news of her nomination, Brnabic said it was "an honor to serve one's country."

"I will be personally committed to working on goals that are bigger and more important than any of us individually," she added in the statement cited by the Serbian Danas newspaper.

Brnabic took part in the Belgrade
Pride Parade in 2016
Despite Brnabic's formal distance from Vucic, analysts believe that the new president would maintain his grip on the cabinet even from his new and largely ceremonial posting. While the Serbian constitution grants wide powers to the office of prime minister, Vucic controls the ruling coalition and is widely seen as the highest political authority in the country.

Brnabic herself seemed to confirm this perspective last week, during an appearance on state-controlled RTV broadcaster.

"Vucic should mentor the prime minister for the first several months," she said, commenting on then-unconfirmed reports that Vucic would nominate her.

She also slammed statements from some coalition partners, who publicly stated that the prime minister should be "a family man with children."

"I don't like when being gay is used as an indicator of personality. Why is that important? Should we not focus on that person's honesty, their love for their country, hard work?" she asked.

Vucic's nomination comes only a day after 38-year-old Leo Varadkar was officially elected as the prime minister of Ireland, becoming the first openly gay man to hold this position.

dj/msh (AFP, dpa, AP, Beta)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Ireland's first gay prime minister enters office

Yahoo – AFP, June 14, 2017

Ireland's new premier Leo Varadkar is regarded as relatively liberal on social issues
but has been criticised by opposition parties for his right-wing economic views
(AFP Photo/Paul FAITH)

Dublin (AFP) - Leo Varadkar promised a "republic of opportunity" Wednesday after he became Ireland's youngest prime minister and the first who is openly gay.

The Dublin-born politician's Indian immigrant father and Irish mother were in parliament to watch as the 38-year-old was formally confirmed as taoiseach.

Varadkar, who won the leadership of the ruling centre-right Fine Gael party earlier this month, was confirmed by 57 votes to 50, with 47 abstentions.

In his acceptance speech, Varadkar emphasised youthful energy, arguing that the politics of the past were no longer fit for purpose.

"The government that I lead will not be one of left or right because those old divisions do not comprehend the political challenges of today," he said.

Varadkar takes over a minority government from Enda Kenny, who said his successor reflected a changed Ireland.

"As our youngest taoiseach, he represents a modern, diverse and inclusive Ireland and speaks for them like no other," Kenny said.

He added Varadkar would meet "head on" the challenge of Brexit, an issue of particular concern to Ireland as it shares the only EU land border with Britain.

Varadkar did not mention the government's Brexit strategy in his speech, but has previously warned against taking too tough a line with London in negotiations due to begin next week.

"It has always been the view of the party that we don't want to see Britain being punished" for voting to leave the European Union, he said on June 2.

"We regret that decision but we do respect it and a 'hard Brexit', whether it's a hard Brexit driven from London or forced on London, is one in which Ireland could be a big loser," he said.

Varadkar confirmed he would meet this week with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland to discuss Brexit.

Although regarded as relatively liberal on social issues such as gender equality and abortion rights, Varadkar has been criticised by opposition parties for his right-wing economic views.

Adams said earlier that his party would vote against him noting that "not all young people are progressive" and expressing fears the new taoiseach would "drag this government even further to the right".

The abstention of the biggest opposition party, Fianna Fail, allowed Varadkar to gather the necessary votes required to lead a fragile minority government.

In a move designed to heal any divisions in his own party, Varadkar on Tuesday appointed the man he defeated, Simon Coveney, as deputy leader of Fine Gael.

As part of a cabinet reshuffle expected Wednesday evening, Coveney is widely expected to be appointed minister for foreign affairs, with a key role in communicating Ireland's position on Brexit.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Macron says 'door always open' for UK to stay in EU

Yahoo – AFP, Adam PLOWRIGHT, June 13, 2017

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May (L) and France's President Emmanuel
Macron meet at The Elysee Palace in Paris on June 13, 2017 (AFP Photo/
CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT)

Paris (AFP) - French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday the door was "always open" for Britain to remain in the EU even after Prime Minister Theresa May said Brexit talks would begin next week.

"Of course the door is always open as long as the negotiations on Brexit have not finished," Macron said in a press conference.

But he stressed that the British people had taken the sovereign decision to leave the 28-member bloc in their referendum a year ago, adding that the start of talks was an important milestone.

"Once it (the Brexit process) has started we need to be collectively clear that it's more difficult to reverse course," he said at the Elysee palace.

May stressed that she would stick to her timetable of starting Brexit discussions next week in Brussels, saying the talks were "on course" despite her domestic difficulties.

Her Conservative party lost its parliamentary majority in a bungled snap election last week which some observers suggested might lead May to abandon her plans for a so-called "hard Brexit".

"I think there's a unity of purpose among people in the UK. It's a unity of purpose having voted to leave the EU that their government gets on with that and makes a success of it," she said.

Football diplomacy

After their talks, May and Macron watched a friendly game of football between England and France where a minute's silence was held before kick-off to remember the victims of recent terror attacks in Manchester and London.

Britain and the EU: negotiating a new relationship (AFP Photo/Valentina 
BRESCHI, Alain BOMMENEL)

The order of the national anthems was also reversed, leading thousands of French fans to put aside centuries of rivalry, war and their own history of regicide in a moment of cross-Channel solidarity.

"God Save The Queen" they thundered before the match began.

The poignant moment served to underline May and Macron's main message, namely that France and Britain will continue to work together despite Brexit.

They announced a joint action plan to crack down on extremism and terror propoganda online, accusing internet companies and social media networks of doing too little to tackle the scourge.

The measures aim "to ensure the internet cannot be used as a safe space for criminals and terrorists and it cannot be used to host the radicalising material that leads to so much harm," May said.

Priorities include looking into encrypted communication platforms used by extremists to evade security forces and new laws to impose penalities on internet companies which fail to remove offensive content.

Facebook, Twitter and other social networks had long argued that they were unable to monitor content posted online by their users, but have grown increasingly sensitive to criticism.

Germany lawmakers recently introduced legislation requiring internet companies to remove content flagged as hate speech within 24 hours.

Macron vs May

Before May's arrival in Paris to meet Macron, many commentators had underlined their contrasting fortunes.

He is a 39-year-old centrist leader seemingly clearing all obstacles from his path after standing in and winning his first-ever election this spring.

Players stand during a minute's silence ahead of the international friendly 
football match between France and England at The Stade de France Stadium
 in Saint-Denis near Paris on June 13, 2017 (AFP Photo/Thomas SAMSON)

Last Sunday, his new Republic On The Move party won the first round of parliamentary elections and is on course for an overwhelming majority in the new parliament.

She is a 60-year-old rightwing veteran who is now fighting to keep her job following the loss of the Conservative party's majority in the British parliament.

"Everyone assumes that she's a zombie," Francois Heisbourg, a former French diplomat and chairman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, told AFP this week.

He also repeated the conclusion of May's former cabinet colleague George Osborne, now the editor of the London Evening Standard newspaper, who called her a "dead woman walking".

Macron's comments on leaving the "door open" are likely to encourage Britain's minority europhiles who still dream of keeping Britain inside the EU.

May signalled she does not plan to change course, however, and the reversal of the historic Brexit decision last June would probably require another referendum.

Macron's comments were echoed on Tuesday by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.

"If they wanted to change their decision, of course they would find open doors, but I think it's not very likely," Schaeuble told Bloomberg Television.