Europe/Americas update: November 12 2018



The Cypriot governments opened two border crossings between the country’s Turkish and Greek regions on Monday. The openings went relatively peacefully and are seen as a critical step toward resuming talks on reunifying the island nation, which has been divided since a 1974 pro-Greek coup in Nicosia prompted a Turkish invasion and occupation of the northern part of the island.


The incumbent “leaders” of Ukraine’s breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk republics, Denis Pushilin and Leonid Pasechnik respectively, won this weekend’s elections handily, confirming their positions in a vote that was derided internationally as illegitimate and a violation of the Minsk peace process. Russia, which has been the patron of both breakaway republics, defended the elections, arguing that the people of eastern Ukraine have been “abandoned” by the Ukrainian government, leaving Donetsk and Luhansk no choice but to organize their own governments.


The Bulgarian government on Monday joined the governments of the Czech Republic, and Poland in signaling its opposition to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The treaty was approved in July by every United Nations member except the United States, but Austria and Hungary have since withdrawn from it arguing that it represents an effort to overrule national sovereignty on migration issues. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Poland haven’t outright quit the accord yet but are definitely not fans.


The leader of Sweden’s Moderate party, Ulf Kristersson, said on Monday that he plans to attempt to form a minority government along with the Christian Democrats, in what is presumably a last ditch effort to avoid a snap election. September’s inconclusive election left the country’s center-right and center-left coalitions unable to form a government on their own, with the toxic fascist Sweden Democrats holding the balance of power. Kristersson’s plan would be to gain the support of the Sweden Democrats plus the other two parties in the center-right coalition, the Centre and Liberal parties, without including any of those parties in the government. It’s almost certain to fail. eaders of both parties have said they will oppose any government that relies on the Sweden Democrats for support, and the Sweden Democrats have said that they will demand policy concessions in return for their support. Acceding to the demands of fascists seems unwise, and it’s unclear how much Kristersson is willing to give for their help.


Right-wing German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer says he will step down as leader of the Bavarian Christian Social Union party, the long-time coalition partner of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party. Seehofer made his decision in response to Merkel’s decision to step down as CDU leader, arguing that it’s the right time for both parties to make a fresh start. He will remain interior minister.


Theresa May says that Brexit talks are “now in the endgame,” and she doesn’t mean that she and the European Union are close to a deal:

Theresa May’s efforts to secure a Brexit deal by the end of March have suffered a serious setback after it emerged that UK and European Union negotiators were struggling to bridge the gap over the Irish border backstop in time for a November summit.

The prime minister was forced to admit that “significant” issues remained despite talks that went on until the early hours of Monday morning. Unless there is dramatic progress by the end of Wednesday, the exit timetable will become increasingly squeezed.

Cabinet members, who had been expecting to sign off the final Brexit negotiating position on Tuesday, were told that the issue would hardly be discussed at the meeting beyond an update of the UK’s preparedness for no deal.

Negotiators stayed up until 2.45am on Monday in pursuit of a breakthrough that did not come as the EU made a series of last-minute demands by attaching fresh conditions to the customs backstop, which is designed to come into force if no long-term free trade deal can be signed by the end of 2020.

The EU and UK had been planning a special Brexit summit later this month to finalize their big deal, but that’s almost certainly off now, with the EU’s next summit in mid-December likely the earliest possible time when a deal could be considered. The two sides still can’t agree on the contours of the Irish backstop, including measures to allow the UK to withdraw from the arrangement and to prevent the UK from unfairly benefiting by remaining in the EU customs union while escaping the obligations that go along with that. And there are reports that May is increasingly losing the support of her Conservative Party, which will mean even if she negotiates a deal she probably won’t be able to get it through parliament.



In an attempt to beat the rush, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a statement on Monday expressing “profound concern over the current state of human rights in Brazil, and their future.” Weird, for some reason they don’t seem to think that Brazil’s fascist president-elect is going to be a big defender of human rights. The commission managed not to mention Jair Bolsonaro by name in its statement but did talk about some of the policy plans he floated during his presidential campaign as well as the already tenuous state of human rights in Brazil.


The Central American migrant caravan has reached the Mexican city of Guadalajara with an assist from several Mexican drivers. The migrants were taken to shelters in the city and offered food, clothing, and internet access. The migrants seem intent on going to Tijuana, which is still more than 1500 miles away. It’s taken them about a month to travel  1200 miles from Honduras, but with many now hitchhiking instead of walking (due in part to colder weather), they may be able to make the second half of their trip more quickly. Mexican authorities continue to try to sell migrants on remaining in Mexico with promises of jobs, but most seem committed to reaching the US border.


Finally, the Washington Post is reporting that Donald Trump is looking to can Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. She’s apparently been too reticent about setting up concentration camps for migrant infants, or maybe she’s refused to mine the border or something, I don’t know. The Post says Trump wants a DHS secretary “who will implement his policy ideas with more alacrity,” which we know is bullshit because there’s no way Trump knows what the word “alacrity” means.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (Nielsen’s predecessor at DHS) is reportedly fighting to keep her in the job, but Trump hates Kelly now too so he probably doesn’t have much influence anymore. Nielsen reportedly hates her job anyway–I can’t imagine why–but she wanted to make it through at least one year before quitting and she’s still almost a month shy of that.


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