This Week in Europe: Notre Dame, Irish riots and more

, by Radu Dumitrescu

All the versions of this article: [Deutsch] [English]

This Week in Europe: Notre Dame, Irish riots 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 !

Journalist killed in Northern Ireland riots

On Thursday night, a young journalist was killed during riots in Derry, Northern Ireland. In what police are calling a “terrorist incident”, violence broke out following police searches. Petrol bombs were thrown at police cars during the fighting. Caught in between the “violent dissident republicans” and the police was Lyra McKee, a rising star of investigative journalism at the Mediagazer magazine in Belfast. Lyra had been named in Forbes’ 30 under 30 in media in Europe in 2016. The murder investigations involves the New IRA, according to the police. Party leaders in Ireland and politicians from across Europe and the United States voiced their dismay at the tragedy.

Portugal rocked by energy crisis

On Wednesday, Portugal declared a national energy crisis as striking fuel-truck drivers refused to supply gas stations. In turn, the Portuguese government ordered truckers to resume deliveries to airports, hospitals and other essential services, calling on security forces to ensure the deliveries. With officials struggling to ensure that airports, gas stations and oil refineries continue working, motorists lined up through the night for gas. Diesel shortages spread throughout the country as many Portuguese planned to travel for the Easter holiday. The National Union of Dangerous Goods Drivers, spearheading the strike, is demanding higher wages and recognition of a special status for its drivers.

Finnish center-left narrowly secures victory in elections

Last Sunday, Finland’s Social Democrats secured their first win in the country’s parliamentary elections in two decades. The center-left won 17.7% of the votes, beating the far-right Finns Party and its 17.5%. Outgoing Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s Center Party finished fourth with 13.8%, while the center-right National Coalition Party (NCP) — the Center Party’s junior government partner — finished in third place with 17%. The Social Democratic leader, Antti Rinne, is in pole position for PM. A center-left victory is rare in present times in Europe, but polls in the Nordic countries show that it has been faring better than expected. Rinne promised to tackle health care and education with a special focus. However, coalition options are unclear. The S&D could ally with the Center Party or the NCP, but differences in tax policy remain. The Finns Party, on the other hand, focus on immigration.

Germany speeds up deportations of unsuccessful asylum seekers

On Wednesday, the German cabinet passed legislation meant to speed up the process through which unsuccessful asylum seekers - those who applied for asylum but were rejected - are deported. The so-called “orderly return law”, however, would break EU law, according to critics, seeing as unsuccessful asylum seekers awaiting deportation could be placed in ordinary prisons alongside convicted criminals. In 2014, the ECJ ruled that deportees could only be held in prisons on an exceptional basis. Germany’s interior ministry replied that the country had no facilities to house deportees awaiting removal and that they would be kept separate from criminals while in prison.While Interior Minister Horst Seehofer promised to resolve the situation, criticism could be heard even from the governing Christian Democrats. Germany deported 23,600 people last year, but nearly 31,000 who were obliged to leave managed to stay. Another draft bill still in the discussion would make it so refugees who have already been granted international protection by another EU state not to be entitled to financial support in Germany.

Czech PM Babis accused of misuse of EU funds

This week, Czech police recommended that charges be brought against current PM Andrej Babis and several others over alleged misuse of EU funds. After an investigation, the police filed their report with the public prosecutor along with a motion to bring an indictment. Babis repeatedly rejected allegations of wrongdoing in the so-called Stork’s Nest case, in which he is accused of illegally accepting €2 million in EU subsidies related to a farm and convention center. The PM could face several years in jail after the EU’s anti-fraud agency, OLAF< found irregularities in the case. Late last year, the European Parliament adopted a resolution raising concerns about conflict of interest and the use of EU money in the Czech Republic. A member of ALDE, Babis’s case could easily become politicized in the coming European elections - similar to the way in which Orban became a liability for the EPP and how the Romanian S&D fulfill the same capacity for the Social Democrats in the EP.

Press freedom deteriorating in Europe

On Thursday, the NGO Reporters Without Borders issued its latest Press Freedom Index, signaling that press freedom was declining in multiple countries and regions, including Europe. “The decline in press freedom in Europe… has gone hand in hand with an erosion of the region’s institutions by increasingly authoritarian governments.” The murder of journalists in Malta, Slovakia, and Bulgaria also gave cause for great concern. Another lingering threat for journalism in the continent comes from organized crime in Italy, where Interior Minister and strongman Matteo Salvini suggested the withdrawal of police protection for a journalist who is on the mafia’s hit list. The Netherlands, usually at the top of the rankings, dropped to fourth place after threats against journalists were made by criminal gangs. In France, left-wing politician Jean-Luc Melenchon argued that it was “healthy and just” to hate journalists. In Hungary, Viktor Orban refuses to talk to journalists who are not “friendly” toward his party. “The hostility towards journalists expressed by political leaders in many countries has incited increasingly serious and frequent acts of violence that have fuelled an unprecedented level of fear and danger for journalists,” the RSF report says.

Notre Dame ablaze

On Monday night, Europe watched in horror as the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris caught on fire. The flame collapsed the narrow spire and melted the roof. Fortunately, there was no loss of life, but one of the landmarks of Paris was seemingly lost. At the heart of Paris for almost 1,000 years, the cathedral burned. Only the main structure of the building, including the beautiful rose windows and the twin towers at the western end survived. According to the Paris fire department, the fire started accidentally in the scaffolding recently erected for restoration work. French president Emmanuel Macron said that “part of us is burning.” In the wake of the fire, donations from all across Europe started flooding in, amounting to a billion euro for the reconstruction.

Your comments

Warning, your message will only be displayed after it has been checked and approved.

Who are you?

To show your avatar with your message, register it first on (free et painless) and don’t forget to indicate your Email addresse here.

Enter your comment here

This form accepts SPIP shortcuts {{bold}} {italic} -*list [text->url] <quote> <code> and HTML code <q> <del> <ins>. To create paragraphs, just leave empty lines.

Follow the comments: RSS 2.0 | Atom