Global Review – 9th February

France, Germany, Poland ‘united’ in keeping European peace

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said Germany, France and Poland were all “united” in the goal of keeping European peace. Scholz hosted French President Emmanuel Macron and Polish President Andrzej Duda in Berlin on Tuesday, on the heels of talks with US, Russian and Ukrainian leaders. Scholz said NATO allies were in agreement on the situation at present and what the consequences should be if Ukraine’s territory and sovereignty were violated. Flanked by Duda and Macron, Scholz said, “Our common goal is to avoid a war in Europe.” Polish President Duda said the three countries would not give up in their efforts to de-escalate tensions with Moscow and Kyiv. French President Macron called for security talks with Moscow in order to stress the inviolability of Europe’s borders.

Frenzied diplomatic rounds continue

Tuesday’s meeting came after President Putin told Macron on Monday that Russia “would not be the source of an escalation” during talks in Moscow. On the heels of those talks in Moscow, Macron met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who said he would welcome concrete steps from Putin for de-escalation. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also visited the front line in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on Tuesday. It also follows Scholz’s meeting with US President Joe Biden on Monday where the pair threatened Russia with grave consequences if it invades Ukraine. Envoys from France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine are to meet on Thursday in Berlin.

Libya PM defiant as lawmakers set to name new leader

Libya’s prime minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, has taken a defiant stand against efforts to appoint a new interim government, saying in a televised speech that he will not hand over power as the country’s parliament is scheduled to name a new premier on Thursday. Dbeibah warned that naming a new prime minister would lead the country back to “division and chaos” after nearly two years of relative calm. He called for street protests to denounce the appointment of a new transitional government.

Johnson implements mini-reshuffle in response to Partygate

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has reshuffled his Cabinet in response to the threat that continues to loom over his leadership as a result of the so-called ‘Partygate scandal’. The most significant change concerns the promotion of loyal Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg as a full member of the Cabinet Council and head of the newly-formed Ministry for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency. Chris Heaton-Harris becomes the new chief whip, in charge of disciplining Conservative MPs, some of whom have called on Johnson to resign. His predecessor, Mark Spencer, replaces Rees-Mogg as leader of the House.

Poland to avoid paying EU fines

Poland says it will use all legal means to avoid paying fines levied by the European Court of Justice over a mining dispute. Warsaw had failed to obey a court order to close a lignite mine. Earlier, the European Commission said it would, next week, reduce EU funds allocated to Poland to pay the fine of almost €15 million.

UCLA to pay $250m for gynaecologist’s sex abuse

The University of California has agreed to pay nearly $250m (€219m) to over 200 women who allege they were sexually assaulted by a campus gynaecologist. Hundreds of women, some of whom had cancer, accuse the university of deliberately hiding James Heaps’ alleged sexual abuse of patients. Heaps was based at the UCLA student health centre during his 35-year career between 1983 and 2018. The university did not begin investigating complaints against Heaps until 2017.

1 million British children ‘set to go hungry’

The ‘i’ newspaper reports on the cost of living crisis in the UK and the call for free school meals to prevent as many as 1.45 million children who are ineligible for free school meals going hungry unless the rules are changed in response to the rising cost of living. Close to two million pupils in Britain get the free school meals but fears are growing for children who do not qualify, because parents are facing the crippling cost of rising food bills. Ministers have been urged to take action immediately, with millions of households facing spiralling costs in April as rising energy bills come on top of the rising cost in food bills, which could soar by 6% by Easter.

Environmental protection enshrined in Italian Constitution

The Italian parliament has voted on a law enshrining the protection of the environment, biodiversity and ecosystems in the Constitution. The Bill passed with 468 votes in favour, one against and six abstentions. The Senate had approved it with a two-thirds majority last year. Consequently, it immediately enters into force and is not subject to a referendum.

Lourdes grotto to reopen on Friday

After two years of closure due to coronavirus, the Lourdes grotto will reopen to the public next Friday.The closure of the famous cave, where the Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858, had a negative impact on the second hotel city in France. Lourdes has 14,000 inhabitants and 90% of its economy is linked to tourism.

UK’s oldest pub closes due to COVID-19

‘Ye Olde Fighting Cocks’, a pub in St Albans, Hertfordshire, considered the oldest in England with over a thousand years of history, is the latest victim of COVID-19 pandemic. According to its official website, the pub’s foundations are part of the building of the sovereign Offa di Mercia dating back to around 793, while the plan of the current building is dated to the 11th century. Offa  was King of Mercia, a kingdom of Anglo-Saxon England, from 757 until his death in 796).

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