This Week in Europe: Renew Europe, Boris Johnson & more

, by Radu Dumitrescu

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

This Week in Europe: Renew Europe, Boris Johnson & 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 !

Swiss women protest lack on gender equality

On Friday, women in Switzerland organized a nationwide protest against their country’s lack of action on gender equality. The protest included calls for women to not go to work or do housework - and if they do, to leave by 3:24 PM, so as to symbolize the gender pay gap. Organizers hold that women in Switzerland earn a fifth less than men - meaning that they work for free from 3:24 PM. Under the slogan “Pay. Time. Respect.”, the protest harked back to a walkout in 1991, when 500.000 Swiss women took to the streets. Switzerland adopted universal federal suffrage only in 1971, with the last canton doing so only in 1990. In 1981, the country enshrined gender equality in its constitution, but progress was nowhere to be seen. In the Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum, Switzerland ranked 44th for wage equality.

Russians meddled in the 2019 European elections

According to a report put together by Brussels-based institutions, Russian groups organized a widespread disinformation campaign in order to influence the European elections of last month. Using digital tactics to undermine the EU’s democratic legitimacy, the Russians used controversial topics in order to anger European internet users. They aimed to suppress turnout and influence voter preferences particularly by appealing to migration and sovereignty as topics. Ever since the 2016 US presidential elections, Western officials have grown suspicious that Moscow was conducting disinformation campaigns, especially on social media. In the last European elections, the goal of the fake news bits was to polarize national political debates. To combat fake news and Russian disinformation, the EU created a voluntary code for digital platforms as well as a strategy that involves cross-national cooperation between member-states. The Commission vowed to find more effective ways to counter disinformation in the future.

Liberals and nationalists form European families

This week, the newly-formed centrist liberal group in the European Parliament - which includes French president Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche and the former members of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) - chose its name: Renew Europe. The name was chosen after Macron’s party showed signs of wanting to avoid the term “liberal”, seeing as in France it is used negatively to represent supporters of the rich. The group has a total of 110 seats in the new Parliament, 41 more than the old ALDE group.

Also this week, Italian far-right leader Matteo Salvini named his nationalist alliance in the European Parliament - Identity and Democracy (ID). The group reunites parties from the old Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) family, such as the Italian League party and the French National Rally, headed by Marine Le Pen, or the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. The group holds 73 seats, in fifth place, behind the Greens.

Venezuela crisis leads to immigration on the rise again in Europe

This year, the number of people seeking asylum in the EU has increased, reversing a downward trend that has been going on since 2015. From January to April, 206.500 people applied for asylum for the first time in Europe, representing a 15% increase from the same period last year. The increase is due to the refugees coming from Venezuela, Colombia and the western Balkans. The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) signaled a 20% increase in March - compared to March 2018 - as well. The largest number of asylum seekers now come from Syria, Venezuela, and Afghanistan.

Boris Johnson leads race for Conservative leadership

This week, the governing Conservative party of the United Kingdom had its first round of voting for the next party leader, following the resignation of Theresa May. Three candidates, Andrea Leadsom, Esther McVey and Mark Harper were forced to withdraw due to having the fewest supporters. Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary who vowed to renegotiate the Brexit deal or to leave at the end of October with no deal, received 114 votes out 313 from the part of the Conservative MPs. Further rounds of voting will be held, eliminating the candidates with the fewest supporters, until only two remain to face a ballot of around 160.000 Conservative party members. The winner will not only lead the party but also the government. Meanwhile, the U.K. saw a dramatic fall in car production resulting from temporary shutdowns coming in anticipation of Brexit. GDP growth slowed across the last 3 months as a result.

Russia detains journalist, releases him due to international pressure

This week, Russian journalist Ivan Golunov was arrested on drug charges after police allegedly found drugs in his backpack and apartment. However, accusations of a politically-motivated campaign against independent reporters quickly surfaced around the world, leading Russian authorities to drop the case “for lack of evidence.” The head of the Drug Control Department and the Director of Moscow Police were in the aftermath. Golunov is a journalist who writes for the anti-governmental news site Meduza, reporting on alleged corruption by Russian officials and businesspeople. “The case against Ivan Golunov is closed. This is the result of an unprecedented international solidarity campaign among both journalists and their allies,” the leadership of Meduza wrote.

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