Posts Tagged ‘European Union’

Romania says Britain more ‘positive’ on Brexit talks, so is EU

October 20, 2017

 

Reuters

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said on Friday it was clear that British Prime Minister Theresa May was “more positive and result-oriented” after she addressed European Union leaders over a dinner in Brussels on Brexit.

Image result for Romania's President Klaus Werner Iohannis, photos, brexit

Romania’s President Klaus Werner Iohannis arrives at the EU summit meeting in Brussels, Belgium, October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Dario Pignatelli

“If somebody says that the negotiations got stuck – they didn’t get stuck,” he told reporters. “It’s just that the negotiations have not fostered enough progress.”

“My hope is that, in the end, we will reach sufficient progress on all three chapters … It’s obvious that everybody is looking for a success story. Nobody tries to block the negotiations,” he said, adding that there was “absolutely no guarantee” both sides would arrive at a deal by December.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, editing by Elizabeth Piper

Advertisements

Merkel sends positive signal to May on Brexit talks

October 20, 2017

Reuters

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in a markedly positive response on Friday to an EU summit appeal by Prime Minister Theresa May for help with Brexit, said talks with Britain were moving forward and were unlikely to break down.

Macron, May and Merkel

May shares a joke with Macron and Merkel on Day 1 (Thursday)

Merkel made her comments at the end of the first day of a European Union summit and after May had appealed to her fellow leaders to help her silence critics at home and break a deadlock in the talks.

“In contrast to how it is portrayed in the British press, my impression is that these talks are moving forward step by step,” Merkel told a late-night news conference, dismissing as “absurd” suggestions in Britain that the talks should be broken off.

“I have absolutely no doubts that if we are all focused … that we can get a good result. From my side there are no indications at all that we won’t succeed,” she said.

Arriving for the second day, others emphasized the positive too: Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat called May’s speech her “best performance yet” and “a warm, candid and sincere appeal”. Ireland’s Leo Varadkar said it was “very strong”.

But others complained they had heard little new of substance and rejected May’s repetition of London’s view that demands for money from Brussels have “no legal framework”. Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said “rhetorical progress” needed to be followed by “tangible conclusions”.

After May leaves the summit on Friday, the other 27 leaders are expected to rule that there has not been sufficient progress to push the talks forward but will call on their staff to prepare for talks on a transition period that would smooth Britain’s exit in 2019.

May made no comment as she arrived for a breakfast meeting with summit chair Donald Tusk. Near midnight, speaking at the end of a dinner of butternut squash gnocchi and pheasant, she had sought to calm fears Britain would use its departure in March 2019 to undercut the EU economy by lowering standards.

She appealed to EU leaders to respond in kind to her efforts to break the Brexit stalemate, making clear she was disappointed at their plan to announce on Friday that talks have not yet made enough progress to move on to a discussion of future trade ties.

The EU is seeking a clearer commitment from Britain that it will settle financial obligations linked to its exit. Leaders will on Friday set a target of December for London to improve its divorce settlement offer.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May and European Council President Donald Tusk pose before a bilateral meeting at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium October 20, 2017. REUTERS/Olivier Hoslet/Pool

But they will also make a gesture by launching internal preparations for the next phase of the negotiations.

FRIENDLY

In choreography that contrasted with images of May standing isolated in Brussels at previous summits, Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron were filmed by television cameras engaging the British prime minister in an animated conversation at the start of the summit.

Merkel said the three had been discussing the need to safeguard the Iran nuclear deal after U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision last week to “decertify” it.

It was a response May was looking for after explaining over dinner the “difficult political background” she faces if she returns home empty-handed and how she had worked hard to get the talks back on track after realizing their perilous state at the end of the summer.

“I took stock, listened to what the people in the UK were saying and what my friends and partners in Europe were saying and I made a step forward,” she was quoted as saying by a British official, referring to a speech she made in Florence on Sept. 22.

There was no discussion after May spoke, according to an EU diplomat. Tusk said only that the leaders took note of her comments.

Weakened after losing her Conservatives’ majority in a June election and by failing to rally support at a party conference, May needs to keep the talks on the road to silence the voices calling for her to walk away from the negotiations.

Unwilling now to increase her offer on the divorce bill, May instead proposed more moves to protect the rights of EU citizens in Britain — one of three issues the bloc says must be settled before moving to discuss a future trading relationship.

“There is increasingly a sense that we must work together to get to an outcome we can stand behind and defend to our people,” May told the other leaders, according to the British official.

Additional reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, Jan Strupczewski and Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Catherine Evans

Related:

 (Day 1)

See also:

EU SUMMIT 2017: Theresa May faces Tusk as Juncker says there will be NO Brexit ‘miracle’

http://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/868337/EU-summit-2017-live-updates-theresa-may-juncker-angela-merkel-brexit

May and Tusk have met for a 15 minute meeting EP

May and Tusk have met for a 15 minute meeting

Angela Merkel EBS

Merkel arrives in Brussels for the second day of talks

Theresa May at European Council admits for the first time that Brexit negotiations have been in ‘difficulty’ — Angela Merkel says the UK has not done enough

October 20, 2017

PM makes urgent plea to leaders over dinner

By Jon Stone Brussels
The Independent

gettyimages-863040326.jpg

Theresa May has admitted for the first time that Brexit negotiations have hit “difficulty” as she beseeched European leaders to give her a deal she can sell to the British people.

The Prime Minister explicitly conceded last night that talks were in trouble ahead of her key intervention in Florence two weeks ago, prompting her to try and get negotiations back on track.

She told Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and other EU leaders that there is now the “urgent” need for progress with the threat of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal looming.

Speaking on Thursday evening at a working dinner with other heads of government in Brussels, Ms May said that at the end of the summer she “recognised the difficulty the process was in”.

“I took stock, listened to what the people in the UK were saying, and what my friends and partners in Europe were saying, and I made a step forward,” she said.

 Image result for Theresa May ,, october 20, 2017, photos

“There is increasingly a sense that we must work together to get to an outcome we can stand behind and defend to our people,” she said, adding that when the 27 remaining member states convene tomorrow to discuss Brexit in private “the clear and urgent imperative must be that the dynamic you create enables us to move forward together”.

The PM and world leaders dined on gnocchi and pheasant supreme at the dinner, followed by fresh pineapple.

European Commission chief negotiator Michel Barnier has repeatedly said he is “worried” about “deadlock” in negotiations, but the line from the UK government has always been significantly more optimistic, stressing “concrete progress”.

The PM’s intervention comes as the European Council appears set to refuse to allow the UK to move to trade and future relationship talks – which it has said can only start once “sufficient progress” has been made on settling the divorce bill, Northern Ireland border, and EU citizens’ rights.

The 27 remaining EU leaders will meet tomorrow to discuss Brexit without Ms May, whose address to dinner was not followed by any discussion or debate.

Theresa May: No Brexit breakthrough on the cards

They are expected to tell Britain to come back in December once more progress has been made for another assessment of whether it is ready for trade talks.

Senior UK government officials also admitted that the prime minister was “working against a difficult political backdrop” at home – an apparent reference to Tory MPs who were pushing her for a no deal.

Arriving at the summit on Thursday Angela Merkel said she believed there were “encouraging” signs that sufficient progress could be made in December. Ms May said the summit was a time to take stock of the progress that had been made in talks so far.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte however told reporters in Brussels that Ms May had to “come up with more clarity on what she means by ‘other commitments’ in her Florence speech”.

“I phoned her last week, and tried to encourage her to do that and so far she hasn‘t,” he said.

Image result for Theresa May ,, october 20, 2017, photos

The Prime Minister’s spokesperson told journalists in Brussels: “The Florence speech intended to create momentum and we achieved that. In all our talks with EU leaders they have been responsive and we hope that will continue.”

Other issues such as forest fires and migration have dominated the first day of European Council discussions, with Britain’s departure not even getting a mention in the first press conference between Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk after hours of talks.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-theresa-may-negotiations-difficulties-eu-council-juncker-merkel-macron-a8009971.html

See also:

Theresa May calls for new dynamic for Brexit deal – but Angela Merkel says it’s ‘still not enough’

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/10/19/angela-merkel-points-december-brexit-breakthrough-eu-leaders/

 **********************************************
.

The Prime Minister has played down hopes of a breakthrough in Brexit negotiations as she arrives at this week’s European Council summit.

On her way into the Justus Lipsius building in Brussels on Thursday the Prime Minister said the summit was an opportunity to “take stock” of progress in talks.

The Independent confirmed yesterday that the PM would have no opportunity for a direct dialogue with EU leaders about leaving the EU at the summit – sticking to the strict framework of negotiations.

The PM said she would be setting out “ambitious plans” for further negotiations in the weeks ahead, and said she wanted to inject a new “urgency” into discussions on the post-Brexit rights of EU citizens living in the UK and Britons on the continent.

It had previously been hoped that the UK would be judged to have made “sufficient progress” in Brexit talks at the summit, so that negotiations could move to trade and transition. The latest indications are that this next phase has been delayed until at least December, however.

The two-day European Council summit comes as Ms May spoke directly to the estimated three million European Union citizens living in Britain, to tell them that she wants them to be able to stay after Brexit and that a deal on their rights are “in touching distance”

Britain’s hopes of getting the green light for trade talks at the European Council meeting in Brussels were dash after a series of top EU figures came out against them. Chief negotiator Michel Barnier, Council President Donald Tusk, European Parliament Brexit Chief Guy Verhofstadt, and European Parliament president Antonio Tajani also said talks had not reached a mature enough stage.

But Ms May is hoping to persuade the leaders of the 27 remaining EU states to at least agree to begin discussions among themselves on the transition to Brexit and the future trade relationship. She will address them in an after-dinner speech on Thursday evening but there will be no discussion or reply from the leaders, a spokesperson for the European Council presidency confirmed.

The other 27 EU leaders will then discuss Brexit in full without Ms May on Friday – sticking to the strict protocol of only conducting negotiations within the framework agreed by the Council.

Arriving in Brussels, Ms May said: “This Council is about taking stock. It is also about looking ahead to how we can tackle the challenges that we all share across Europe.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-theresa-may-european-council-summit-a8009191.html

Schaeuble successor at finance ministry in focus of German coalition talks

October 20, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Tom BARFIELD | Feared and respected: Schaueble will leave his successor big shoes to fill

FRANKFURT AM MAIN (AFP) – This week saw German political parties open talks to form a first-ever four-way coalition, with a successor to respected and feared paymaster Wolfgang Schaeuble at the finance ministry one of the top prizes.

Observers beyond Germany’s borders know a new finance minister in Berlin could help shape the future of the European Union and the euro single currency — or stymie the far-reaching reforms urged by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Wolfgang Schaeuble, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s money master since 2009, has stepped aside to become president of the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) after years spent fighting European fires while securing massive budget surpluses at home.

He insisted on strict adherence to EU debt and deficit rules for countries pummelled by the financial crisis, believing only scrupulous enforcement could buttress financial stability and growth.

The policy earned him respect but also made him a hate figure among Greeks and other heavily-indebted southern nations that faced biting austerity programmes.

But anyone expecting a more relaxed Berlin in future is likely to be disappointed.

A hoped-for “Jamaica” coalition — named after the colours of the centre-right CDU (black), pro-business FDP (yellow ) and ecologist Greens, matching the Caribbean country’s flag — would largely share Schaeuble’s tough-love outlook.

Around 80 percent of German voters support Schaeuble’s policy of creating no new debts, known as the “black zero”, polls show.

While both Greens and FDP have to varying degrees laid claim to the ministry, Merkel ally and CDU parliamentary leader Volker Kauder told news weekly Der Spiegel “I want the finance ministry to stay in our hands” to “preserve Schaeuble’s legacy”.

Berlin’s “reservations about sharing risks” in a eurozone budget “will remain significant” if a Jamaica coalition is sealed, analyst Tristan Perrier of Amundi Asset Management said in September.

Berlin could back Paris’ hopes for a Brussels budget and finance minister “by giving them a very limited scope in terms of sums of money and powers,” he added.

– Chaining Merkel –

Merkel has hinted that she is open to some of Macron’s ideas.

Paris has mooted a common eurozone budget to smooth out crises, or the creation of a European Monetary Fund that could lend to stricken states in exchange for economic reforms.

Elements of her CDU/CSU and the FDP reject such plans, fearing they would create a permanent “transfer union” of richer eurozone economies subsidising poorer ones.

They are now wondering how to restrain the chancellor from embracing the president too tightly.

“I recommend separating the chancellery and the finance ministry politically,” FDP leader Christian Lindner told the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung earlier this week.

Merkel often overruled party ally Schaeuble on European policy, robbing the finance chief of his role as an “expert corrective” to the chancellor, he added.

Liberal poster boy Lindner has thus far stopped short of demanding the keys to the former Nazi air ministry building that now houses the treasury, saying securing an FDP finance minister was of “secondary importance” to checking Merkel.

– How to spend it? –

Green leaders are less anxious than either FDP or CDU that neighbours want to pick Germany’s pockets — and have also signalled interest in the finance ministry.

The “exciting” job “sets the direction in government and has a lot of influence at the European level,” parliamentary group leader Anton Hofreiter told news site Spiegel Online.

Aside from Europe, the finance ministry will be a key lever of domestic policy in the next government, channelling bumper budget surpluses to increased spending or lower taxes.

But investment or stimulus at home are unlikely to compensate for the massive trade surpluses racked up by Europe’s powerhouse, as EU countries, international organisations and trade partners further afield have demanded.

Elsewhere, battles are likely to spring up over Germany’s costly renewable energy subsidies or promises to spend more on police, security services and the military.

Coalition talks are expected to inch forward, with an agreement unlikely before Christmas — if one is reached at all.

In the meantime, “Germany is unable to decide anything” in Europe, Lindner told the FAZ, leaving Macron marking time as he waits for his indispensable partner.

by Tom BARFIELD

Brussels overcharging Britain on liabilities by €7billion, say diplomats

October 19, 2017

British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks with the media as she arrives for an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017

Brussels spat: a new row over Britain’s financial obligations has blown up as Theresa May prepares to meet EU counterparts CREDIT: GEERT VANDEN WIJNGAERT/ AP

The EU is trying to over-charge Britain for its share of Eurocrats’ pensions to the tune of €7bn (£6.2bn), it has been claimed, even as European capitals continue to squeeze the UK over the so-called European capitals continue to squeeze the UK over the so-called Brexit bill.

British Brexit negotiators are questioning EU calculations over the size of pension liabilities – listed as some €67bn in the EU accounts – of which the UK share would be around €11bn on the point of exit.

However, figures published by The Times argue that the EU is unfairly using the current rock-bottom rate on investment returns of 0.3pc to calculate the total cost of servicing the ultra-generous 70pc final salary EU pension scheme.

Diplomats and pensions experts argue that the fairer rate – based on an average of investment returns over the last 21 years of 3.1pc – would reduce the UK’s liability from €11bn to €3.5bn.

Investment return rates, based on government bond yields, are…

Read the rest:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/10/19/eu-pensions-rip-off-brussels-overcharging-britain-liabilities/

(Paywall)

Corbyn Beats May to Brussels, Getting His Brexit Pitch in First

October 19, 2017

Bloomberg

By Thomas Penny and Nikos Chrysoloras

Follow @Brexit for all the latest news, and sign up to our daily Brexit Bulletin newsletter.

Introduced as the next prime minister of the U.K., Jeremy Corbyn received a standing ovation from European Socialists in Brussels, hours before the actual head of government could make her case to fellow leaders.

In a piece of political theater that aims to undermine Theresa May at a key European summit, the leader of the Labour Party hammered away at the theme that she should get out of the way and let him lead talks with the European Union.

Jeremy Corbyn in Brussels on Oct. 19.

Photographer: John Thys/AFP/Getty Images

“As the government’s splits and Brexit bungling become ever more damaging, Labour stands ready to take up responsibility for the Brexit negotiations,” Corbyn said. “We are clear in our priorities: a jobs-first Brexit which maintains free access to the single market.”

He went further: “I am unapologetic in taking every opportunity to seek to influence the final Brexit deal in the interests of the many, not just the few.”

Still, when Corbyn said he was going to respect the results of the Brexit referendum, he was met with complete silence.

— With assistance by John Follain

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-19/corbyn-beats-may-to-brussels-getting-his-brexit-pitch-in-first

************************************************

No Brexit Deal Would Be A Disaster

BRUSSELS (AFP) – 

British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn warned Thursday that failing to reach a Brexit deal would be “catastrophic” for industry, as London’s divorce negotiations with the European Union teeter on the brink.

Corbyn, in Brussels to meet fellow left-wing European politicians on the sidelines of a crucial EU summit focused on Brexit, told Britain’s Sky News he had come to the heart of Europe to “make sure that negotiations get on track”.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is set to plead with the other 27 EU leaders at a dinner on Thursday to unlock the second phase of negotiations about Britain’s future relationship with the bloc — and crucially the issue of trade.

As May fights growing rebellions in her Conservative Party and increasing frustration from Brussels about the lack of progress in Brexit talks, Labour Party leader Corbyn said May had “managed to upset just about everybody”.

“It is up to her to get the negotiations back on track. We cannot countenance the idea that we just rush headlong into no deal with Europe,” Corbyn said.

“It would be catastrophic for manufacturing industry jobs and we would have real problems all through the economy.”

The other EU nations are set to say that not enough progress has been made on divorce issues to move on to the second phase of talks, and the most they can do is to start internal preparations to discuss trade and a transition deal in December.

Five rounds of Brexit negotiations have produced limited results and fears are growing that Britain may fail to strike a withdrawal agreement before its formal departure on March 29, 2019.

Iran’s Guards say missile program will accelerate despite pressure

October 19, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person, beard and outdoor

ANKARA (Reuters) – Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards said on Thursday that the country’s ballistic missile program would accelerate despite pressure from the United States and European Union to suspend it, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

In a major U.S. policy shift, President Donald Trump last Friday refused to certify Tehran’s compliance with a landmark 2015 nuclear deal, signaling he would take a more aggressive approach to Iran over its ballistic missile program.

“Iran’s ballistic missile program will expand and it will continue with more speed in reaction to Trump’s hostile approach towards this revolutionary organization (the Guards),” the Guards said in a statement published by Tasnim.

The Trump administration has imposed new unilateral sanctions targeting Iran’s missile activity. It has called on Tehran not to develop missiles capable of delivering nuclear bombs. Iran says it has no such plans.

Tehran has repeatedly pledged to continue what it calls a defensive missile capability in defiance of Western criticism.

Image result for Qassem Soleimani, photos

Qassem Soleimani talking to Iran’s President Rouhani

No Brexit breakthrough coming at summit: EU’s Tusk — “We need more concrete proposals from the British side to be honest”

October 18, 2017

AFP

© AFP | EU President Donald Tusk said he does not expect a breakthrough on Brexit at the European summit

BRUSSELS (AFP) – EU President Donald Tusk on Wednesday warned Britain not to expect any breakthrough in Brexit negotiations at a European summit this week, saying London needed to come up with more concrete proposals.

Leaders of the other 27 EU members meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday are set to postpone until at least December a decision on whether enough progress has been made in talks to move on to discussing Britain and the EU’s future relationship.

Fears are growing that Britain may fail to strike a withdrawal agreement before its formal departure on March 29, 2019 and London had hoped the summit — where Prime Minister Theresa May will plead her case at a working dinner — might clear the logjam.

“I don’t expect any kind of breakthrough tomorrow — we have to work really hard in between October and December to finalise this so-called first phase and to start our negotiations on our future relations with the UK,” Tusk said.

Five rounds of talks have made some progress but major differences remain on the key issues of citizens’ rights, the future of the Irish border after Brexit and in particular how much Britain will pay in to EU budgets as it leaves the bloc.

Britain wants Brussels to acknowledge the progress made in talks, particularly since May’s speech in Florence last month in which she pledged that no other country would have to pay more into the EU or receive less from it as a result of Brexit.

But EU leaders and officials insist that London needs to translate the goodwill into detailed commitments.

“I am absolutely sure that it’s still possible to achieve this final of first phase in December but for this we need more concrete proposals from the British side to be honest,” Tusk said.

Underlining the increasingly tense atmosphere around the talks, European Parliament president Antonio Tajani ignited a fresh row late on Tuesday when derided Britain’s 20 billion euro offer on the financial settlement as “peanuts”.

“I have never seen 20 billion peanuts in my life,” Tusk joked when asked about Tajani’s comment.

His comments came on the same day that the British and EU chief negotiators clashed over a claim by London that Brussels is deliberately stalling the divorce haggling to extract more cash.

‘Czech Trump’ fans eurosceptism two days before vote — “Czech Republic will not adopt the euro”

October 18, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Jan MARCHAL | Czech billionaire and leader of the ANO 2011 political movement Andrej Babis is the clear favourite for prime minister in the October 20-21 general election

PRAGUE (AFP) – A billionaire populist known as the “Czech Trump” wooed eurosceptic voters on Wednesday with promises of a “fair” deal from Europe if he wins this week’s general election as expected.

Andrej Babis, 63, who heads the ANO (Yes) movement, is the clear favourite for prime minister in the October 20 and 21 ballot where traditional pro-EU parties are forecast to take a thrashing.

Analysts say that already-strong eurosceptism in the EU member country could further intensify, echoing trends in neighbouring countries in the bloc.

Voters on Wednesday received a letter in the mail from Babis vowing that “the Czech Republic will not adopt the euro” should he take office.

But he insisted he is “all for a single Europe which plays fair and where nobody is a second-class member”.

– ‘Czexit’ chatter –

After Britain’s vote to leave the EU in the Brexit referendum, some have even started to talk about the prospect of “Czexit”.

Two-thirds of Czechs said the EU’s decisions were not in the interest of their country in an April survey by the independent CVVM pollsters.

“Some voters, politicians and journalists are inclined to present these elections as a kind of referendum on Babis, but what’s worse and more dangerous is that topics like the migrant crisis and criticism of the EU are gaining more ground,” Charles University analyst Josef Mlejnek told AFP.

Babis echoes other eastern EU leaders — especially in Hungary and Poland — who also oppose mandatory EU refugee quotas and various rules they see as attempts by Brussels to limit national sovereignty.

While Babis has ruled out “Czexit”, he does want changes to the bloc’s rules on free movement of capital, goods, labour and services.

– Far-right rise –

An openly far-right anti-EU party with links to Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France is also set to gain ground, thanks in large part to its staunchly anti-migrant stance.

Led by Tokyo-born entrepreneur and lawmaker Tomio Okamura, Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD), has scored between 7.3 to 10.5-percent support in the polls, which would take is past the five-percent threshold needed to enter the 200-seat parliament.

In a recent poll by the Czech Academy of Sciences, ANO scored 30.9 percent — more than the combined support for two traditional heavyweights in Czech politics, the Social Democrat CSSD and the rightwing ODS. They scored 13.1 percent and 9.1 percent respectively.

– Corruption scandals –

ANO already held key posts in the current rocky centre-left coalition under Social Democrat Bohuslav Sobotka, with Babis holding the finance portfolio between January 2014 and May this year.

The Slovak-born tycoon — ranked by Forbes as the Czech Republic’s second wealthiest citizen — is riding high on “strong voter aversion to political parties tarnished by corruption scandals,” analyst Mlejnek told AFP.

So far, Babis’s popularity has not been touched by various scandals, including recent fraud charges over EU subsidies received by one of his companies.

Voter support for ANO has surged as he sticks to his promise to fight graft in public life and to “manage the state like a family business”.

“He offers the voters a populist alternative by presenting himself as someone capable of managing the state because he has already successfully managed his conglomerate,” Mlejnek said.

Heavily dependent on car production and exports to the eurozone, the Czech economy has fared well in recent years.

Unemployment stood at just 3.8 percent in September and economic growth is expected to pick up to 3.1 percent this year after 2.6 percent in 2016, according to the finance ministry.

– Anti-EU coalition? –

Babis insist he “can’t imagine” forging a governing coalition with anti-EU parties like Okamura’s far-right SPD or the far-left KSCM communist party, which scored up to 14.4 percent in recent polls.

But critics noted that the three parties joined forces in parliament on Monday to oppose granting an Australian company mining rights to a Czech lithium deposit.

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said that he “sees the seeds of a coalition between Babis, (communist head Vojtech) Filip and Okamura.”

Sobotka, who handed the leadership of his struggling CSSD Social Democrats to pro-European Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek during the elections, insists that any possible future coalition deal with ANO would not include Babis.

Three months after this week’s general election, Czechs will choose their new president in the second-ever direct presidential election.

Outspoken leftwinger Milos Zeman, a 73-year-old pro-Russian, pro-Chinese, anti-immigration Babis supporter, will compete for his second five-year term in that vote.

by Jan MARCHAL
.
Related:
.

Xi Jinping hails ‘new era’ at opening of China congress — Xi now a transformative leader alongside Deng Xiaoping and Mao Zedong.

October 18, 2017

Party conclave likely to cement president’s status as a transformative leader

China anti-corruption purge hits Central Committee

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, suit and indoor

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the opening session of the Chinese Communist Party’s five-yearly Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 18, 2017. Credit Wang Zhao – AFP – Getty Images

.
By Tom Mitchell and Lucy Hornby in Beijing
FT (Financial Times)

President Xi Jinping declared that China had “entered a new era” as he opened a landmark Communist party congress that he hopes will cement his status as a transformative leader alongside Deng Xiaoping and Mao Zedong.

“The Chinese nation now stands tall and firm in the east,” Mr Xi said on Wednesday in Beijing at the opening of the party’s 19th congress, marking the formal start of his second five-year term as party leader. The congress, attended by about 2,300 delegates, will deliberate for one week before Mr Xi’s new party leadership team is revealed on October 24.

In an address that ran for more than three hours and was attended by his predecessors Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, Mr Xi urged his party colleagues to “work tirelessly to realise the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation” and hailed the economic progress made during his administration’s first term.

Image result for Xi Jinping, young school children sitting at attention in their classrooms, October 18, 2017, photos

President Xi Jinping’s (right) first term line-up was influenced by his predecessors Jiang Zemin (centre) and Hu Jintao. Photo: Reuters

“The Communist party is entering the Xi era,” said Sima Nan, a patriotic blogger. “Mao and Deng’s shadows still loom large, but Xi is his own man.”

As the hours ticked by, pictures circulated on social media showing young school children sitting at attention in their classrooms as they watched the president’s address on television.

Image result for chinese school children sit at attention, photos

AFP Photo

Mr Xi, however, offered little in the way of concrete plans and warned that “severe challenges” awaited China’s ruling party. “We have a long way to go in protecting the environment,” he said as air pollution in the Chinese capital hovered at officially “unhealthy” levels.

This is an era that will see China move closer to the centre of the world and make more contributions to humankind

“The last leg of a journey just marks the halfway point,” Mr Xi added, quoting a Chinese proverb. “Achieving national rejuvenation will be no walk in the park; it will take more than drum beating and gong clanging to get there.”

Upon assuming power in November 2012, Mr Xi declared China’s rejuvenation as one of the world’s great powers to be the “dream” of the Chinese people.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling

After a stock market crash and run on China’s currency in late 2015 and early 2016, which marked the low points of Mr Xi’s first term in office, the party’s confidence surged as economic growth stabilised and Europe and the US were rocked by the rise of economic nationalism.

Mr Xi indirectly alluded to these events, most notably Britain’s decision to leave the European Union and Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the 2016 US presidential election, in Wednesday’s address.

“China’s cultural soft power and the international influence of Chinese culture have increased significantly,” Mr Xi said. “China’s international standing has risen as never before.”

Mr Xi noted that, during his time in office, China’s annual economic output surged from Rmb54tn to Rmb80tn ($8.2tn-$12tn), accounting for about one-third of total global growth.

“China has seen the basic needs of over 1bn people met,” the president said. He added that an average of 13m new urban jobs had been created each year, while some 60m people have been lifted out of poverty.

The Chinese president also highlighted the accomplishments of his signature anti-corruption campaign, which has ended the careers of more than 150 senior officials including 18 members — or about 9 per cent — of the party’s outgoing Central Committee.

One of the speech’s biggest applause lines was Mr Xi’s pledge to maintain the campaign’s “unstoppable momentum”. He said anti-graft investigators would continue to “take out tigers, swat flies and hunt down foxes”, referring to officials of all ranks and corruption suspects who have fled abroad.

“We have solved many tough problems that were long on the agenda … but never got done,” the president added.

“The focus for Xi has clearly been party-building and cleaning out corruption,” said Andrew Polk at Trivium China, a Beijing-based consultancy. “Everything else has been secondary.”

Mr Xi also outlined a vision for China through the middle of the 21st century, predicting that the world’s most populous nation would be “moderately prosperous” by 2035 and “prosperous, strong and democratic” by 2050. “It will be an era that sees China moving closer to centre stage and making greater contributions to mankind,” he said.

The president’s long-term vision has stoked speculation that he might seek to stay on as party leader beyond the traditional 10-year term.

Additional reporting by Xinning Liu
.
https://www.ft.com/content/1fa302f6-b3b1-11e7-a398-73d59db9e399