Four More Countries Vote in EU Election

Voters in Slovakia, Malta, Latvia and the Czech Republic are casting ballots Saturday in European Parliament elections.

The stakes for the European Union are especially high in this year’s selections, which are taking place over four days and involve all 28 EU nations.

Many predict nationalists and far-right groups will gain ground, and would try to use a larger presence in the legislature to claw back power from the EU for their national governments.

Moderate parties, on the other hand, want to cement closer ties among countries in the EU, which was created in the wake of World War II to prevent renewed conflict.

Britain, Ireland and the Netherlands have voted, and the Czech Republic started voting Friday and continues Saturday.

Slovakia, Malta and Latvia are holding their European Parliament elections Saturday, and all the other nations vote Sunday.

Official results will be released Sunday night, after all countries have voted.

A Dutch surprise?

Voting in the Netherlands may have already produced a surprise. An Ipsos exit poll forecast a win for the Dutch Labor Party, and predicted that pro-European parties would win most of the Netherlands’ seats in the European Parliament, instead of right-wing populist opponents.

Overall, the European Parliament’s traditional political powerhouses are expected to come out with the most votes. But the center-right European People’s Party and the center-left Socialists & Democrats look set to lose some clout and face their strongest challenge yet from an array of populist, nationalist and far-right parties skeptical of the EU.

Emulating Trump, Brexiteers

Those parties hope to emulate what President Donald Trump did in the 2016 U.S. election and what Brexiteers achieved in the U.K. referendum to leave the EU: to disrupt what they see as an out-of-touch elite and gain power by warning about migrants massing at Europe’s borders ready to rob the continent of its jobs and culture.

The traditional parties warn that this strategy is worryingly reminiscent of prewar tensions, and argue that unity is the best buffer against the shifting economic and security challenges posed by a China and U.S.-dominated new world order.

Voters across Europe are electing 751 lawmakers, although that number is set to drop to 705 when Britain eventually leaves the EU. Each EU nation gets a number of seats in the EU parliament based on its population.

The legislature affects Europeans’ daily lives in many ways: cutting smartphone roaming charges, imposing safety and health rules for industries ranging from chemicals and energy to autos and food, supporting farming, and protecting the environment.

Senate Foreign Relations Chief: North Macedonian NATO Accession Vote Possible by June

This story originated in VOA’s Macedonian Service. 

WASHINGTON — U.S. lawmakers may vote to approve North Macedonia as the 30th member of NATO as early as next month, according to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator James Risch.

“The process is that we need to have a hearing on it in the Foreign Relations Committee, and I have tentatively scheduled that for approximately two weeks from now,” the junior Idaho Republican senator told VOA’s Macedonian Service. “Then, as far as when it will be finalized, it goes to the Senate floor, and we would very much like to have that done in June, and we are cautiously optimistic that we can get that done in June.”

North Macedonia’s long-standing bid to join the military alliance was blocked for more than a decade because of a name dispute with neighboring Greece, which has a province called Macedonia.

North Macedonia, formerly known as Macedonia, changed its name under the Prespa Agreement in June 2018 with Greece, opening the path to NATO and EU membership.

North Macedonia’s accession protocol was signed by all member states in Brussels on Feb. 6. The accession process continues in the capital of each allied nation, where individual protocols are ratified according to national procedures.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has praised the country as a “steadfast security partner,” submitted its NATO accession protocol to the Senate for ratification on April 30.

North Macedonia’s full accession to the alliance would represent a blow to Russia, which opposes NATO expansion and, therefore, the country’s accession.

Asked if North Macedonia’s NATO membership can reduce Russian influence or political meddling within North Macedonia, he said “that’s going to be up to the North Macedonian people themselves.”

“But they’ve already spoken on that,” Risch said. “I think the election itself, regarding accession, was a good, clear indication that they don’t want that Russian influence, that they don’t want that Russian propaganda. So, this taking of what would really be a final step into NATO is a final rejection of Russia and what it stands for and the kind of malign influence they bring.”

Last August, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson and Connecticut Democrat Senator Chris Murphy, sponsored a bipartisan resolution to put the tiny Balkan country on the path to NATO and European Union membership.

Risch also said he anticipates near-unanimous support for North Macedonia’s accession protocol when the bill arrives on the Senate floor.

 

Senate Foreign Relations Chief: North Macedonian NATO Accession Vote Possible by June

This story originated in VOA’s Macedonian Service. 

WASHINGTON — U.S. lawmakers may vote to approve North Macedonia as the 30th member of NATO as early as next month, according to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator James Risch.

“The process is that we need to have a hearing on it in the Foreign Relations Committee, and I have tentatively scheduled that for approximately two weeks from now,” the junior Idaho Republican senator told VOA’s Macedonian Service. “Then, as far as when it will be finalized, it goes to the Senate floor, and we would very much like to have that done in June, and we are cautiously optimistic that we can get that done in June.”

North Macedonia’s long-standing bid to join the military alliance was blocked for more than a decade because of a name dispute with neighboring Greece, which has a province called Macedonia.

North Macedonia, formerly known as Macedonia, changed its name under the Prespa Agreement in June 2018 with Greece, opening the path to NATO and EU membership.

North Macedonia’s accession protocol was signed by all member states in Brussels on Feb. 6. The accession process continues in the capital of each allied nation, where individual protocols are ratified according to national procedures.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has praised the country as a “steadfast security partner,” submitted its NATO accession protocol to the Senate for ratification on April 30.

North Macedonia’s full accession to the alliance would represent a blow to Russia, which opposes NATO expansion and, therefore, the country’s accession.

Asked if North Macedonia’s NATO membership can reduce Russian influence or political meddling within North Macedonia, he said “that’s going to be up to the North Macedonian people themselves.”

“But they’ve already spoken on that,” Risch said. “I think the election itself, regarding accession, was a good, clear indication that they don’t want that Russian influence, that they don’t want that Russian propaganda. So, this taking of what would really be a final step into NATO is a final rejection of Russia and what it stands for and the kind of malign influence they bring.”

Last August, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson and Connecticut Democrat Senator Chris Murphy, sponsored a bipartisan resolution to put the tiny Balkan country on the path to NATO and European Union membership.

Risch also said he anticipates near-unanimous support for North Macedonia’s accession protocol when the bill arrives on the Senate floor.

 

Turmoil Deepens With May’s Exit in Britain

Theresa May became Britain’s prime minister in 2016 after the country’s vote to leave the European Union prompted the resignation of her predecessor, David Cameron. Now, three years later, May has announced her own resignation,  saying she bitterly regretted failing to deliver a Brexit deal.

“I believe it was right to persevere even when the odds against success seemed high,” she said in a speech given outside her official residence in London. “But it is now clear to me that it is in the best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort.”

Her voice cracking, the prime minister struggled to hide her emotions.

“I will shortly leave the job that has been the honor of my life to hold — the second female prime minister, but certainly not the last. I do so with no ill will, but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love.” 

Three attempts

May tried three times to get a parliamentary majority to back the Brexit deal she had negotiated with Brussels. But her Conservative Party had seen enough. The party will choose a new leader after June 7, a process that could take two months or more.

Analyst Fabian Zuleeg of the European Policy Center told VOA via Skype that “the difficulty for any new leader is that the majorities in the House of Commons have not changed.” 

 

More than a dozen Conservative members of Parliament are expected to put their names forward to replace May. Most are demanding a tougher line with Brussels. 

 

“The chances that the EU will substantively reopen the withdrawal agreement are pretty much zero,” he said. “Given how unpopular that deal has proven to be in the U.K., I think the chances of no deal are very high.” 

Many leadership candidates say Britain must walk away with no deal if the EU doesn’t budge from its terms — among them former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, now the front-runner in the race to replace May.

May will still be in office for U.S. President Donald Trump’s state visit to Britain at the beginning of June. It’s likely to be her final act on the global political stage.

Turmoil Deepens With May’s Exit in Britain

Theresa May became Britain’s prime minister in 2016 after the country’s vote to leave the European Union prompted the resignation of her predecessor, David Cameron. Now, three years later, May has announced her own resignation,  saying she bitterly regretted failing to deliver a Brexit deal.

“I believe it was right to persevere even when the odds against success seemed high,” she said in a speech given outside her official residence in London. “But it is now clear to me that it is in the best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort.”

Her voice cracking, the prime minister struggled to hide her emotions.

“I will shortly leave the job that has been the honor of my life to hold — the second female prime minister, but certainly not the last. I do so with no ill will, but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love.” 

Three attempts

May tried three times to get a parliamentary majority to back the Brexit deal she had negotiated with Brussels. But her Conservative Party had seen enough. The party will choose a new leader after June 7, a process that could take two months or more.

Analyst Fabian Zuleeg of the European Policy Center told VOA via Skype that “the difficulty for any new leader is that the majorities in the House of Commons have not changed.” 

 

More than a dozen Conservative members of Parliament are expected to put their names forward to replace May. Most are demanding a tougher line with Brussels. 

 

“The chances that the EU will substantively reopen the withdrawal agreement are pretty much zero,” he said. “Given how unpopular that deal has proven to be in the U.K., I think the chances of no deal are very high.” 

Many leadership candidates say Britain must walk away with no deal if the EU doesn’t budge from its terms — among them former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, now the front-runner in the race to replace May.

May will still be in office for U.S. President Donald Trump’s state visit to Britain at the beginning of June. It’s likely to be her final act on the global political stage.

Turmoil Deepens With May’s Exit in Britain

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May announced her resignation Friday, plunging the country deeper into chaos as it tries to negotiate its exit from the European Union. As Henry Ridgwell reports, the race to become her successor will begin June 7, and the scene is set for more political drama and uncertainty.

Turmoil Deepens With May’s Exit in Britain

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May announced her resignation Friday, plunging the country deeper into chaos as it tries to negotiate its exit from the European Union. As Henry Ridgwell reports, the race to become her successor will begin June 7, and the scene is set for more political drama and uncertainty.

Pompeo to Make Up Canceled Germany Trip on Europe Tour

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo next week will make up a trip to Germany he canceled earlier this month amid heightened tensions with Iran.

The State Department says Pompeo will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin before heading to additional stops in Europe.

Pompeo abruptly canceled a planned May 7 stop in Germany to make an unexpected visit to Iraq, shortly after the Trump administration announced it was sending an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf in response to threats from Iran.

After meeting Merkel and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, the department said Pompeo would travel on to Switzerland and the Netherlands before joining President Donald Trump on his state visit to Britain in London. Pompeo leaves Washington on Thursday.

 

Pompeo to Make Up Canceled Germany Trip on Europe Tour

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo next week will make up a trip to Germany he canceled earlier this month amid heightened tensions with Iran.

The State Department says Pompeo will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin before heading to additional stops in Europe.

Pompeo abruptly canceled a planned May 7 stop in Germany to make an unexpected visit to Iraq, shortly after the Trump administration announced it was sending an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf in response to threats from Iran.

After meeting Merkel and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, the department said Pompeo would travel on to Switzerland and the Netherlands before joining President Donald Trump on his state visit to Britain in London. Pompeo leaves Washington on Thursday.

 

Blast in French City of Lyon Wounds 7; Causes Unknown

An explosion on a busy street in the French city of Lyon wounded seven people Friday, local officials said.

The cause of the blast wasn’t immediately known, said Kamel Amerouche, the regional authority’s communications chief. Authorities couldn’t confirm reports that it was a small package that exploded.

Amerouche told The Associated Press the wounded suffered leg injuries that weren’t life-threatening. He said the explosion occurred in or outside a store of the bakery chain Brioche Doree. 

 

Earlier, French officials said eight people were wounded, but later lowered the figure to seven.

The street was blocked off by police in Lyon’s second district. The area, the Presqu’ile, is the center of the city between the Rhone and Saone rivers that run through France’s third-largest city.

French President Emmanuel Macron, during a live interview about the European Parliament elections, called the blast an “attack,” confirmed that there are had been no fatalities and sent “a thought for the injured and their families.”