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Spain’s place in the European Union: In EU’s post-Brexit reshuffle, Spain drops out of race to replace Britain | Brexit | International



Spain is not willing to compete to replace Britain as one of the three driving forces of the European Union, together with France and Germany.

Instead of trying to fulfill the role of the United Kingdom, which officially left the EU on January 31 in a process known as Brexit, the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is opting for ad hoc alliances with different member states depending on the issue at hand and Spain’s own interests, said diplomatic sources.

“We could be with Germany or Italy on issues like immigration, and with France with matters such as a digital tax,” said sources familiar with the matter.

The new strategy represents a dramatic change to Spain’s former ambition of beating candidates such as Italy or Poland to join the traditional French-German bloc. While Britain’s departure from the EU has triggered a movement to reshape political alliances, Spain’s current administration is dropping out of the race to fill the void left by London.

We could be with Germany or Italy on issues like immigration, and with France with matters such as a digital tax

Unnamed source

This diplomatic shift fits in well within the new EU, where a growing number of ad hoc alliances are being crafted by member states to deal with specific issues, as the old Franco-German axis starts to wane.

The new model also seems to meet the needs of Spain’s first coalition government since the democratic transition of the late 1970s. Formed by the pro-European Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) and the Euro-skeptics of the leftist Unidas Podemos, the newly formed Spanish government will find it easier to accommodate its own differing views about the European project by refusing to adhere to any one specific bloc within the EU.

“The idea of a new directorate has become outdated,” said Spanish diplomatic sources just 48 hours after French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Poland, where he revived the idea that the so-called Weimar Triangle – a loose alliance between France, Germany and Poland – could take the reins of Europe following Britain’s departure.

Spain is clearly on the side of deeper political and economic ties

Germany, meanwhile, has close ties to the Netherlands, another country that longs for a key spot in the EU club. Italy, as the third-largest economy in the bloc, seemed like the natural candidate to fill Britain’s shoes, but its political instability, and above all the tremendous strength of the Euro-skeptics there (Matteo Salvini’s right-wing League won the European elections last year with 34.2% of the vote, although more recently it lost out to the left at the regional elections in Emilia-Romagna) work against it, given Germany’s and particularly Macron’s clearly pro-European views.

The question marks hanging over Italy had made Spain the most likely candidate to become the third member of the European leaders’ club. With a population of 46.6 million (eight million more than Poland), the bloc’s fourth largest economy is also one of the most enthusiastic about Europe’s political and economic integration.

But Spain’s Foreign Ministry does not consider seeking out this position a priority. “There is a debate about replacing Britain, as though it could actually be replaced,” said a diplomatic source ironically.

Britain has a population of 66 million and an economy twice the size of Spain’s and five times that of Poland. It also has nuclear weapons, a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, and is home to the biggest financial center in the euro zone.

No other triple alliance could beat the combined weight of Berlin, Paris and London. And in fact, both France and Germany have made it clear that Britain will continue to be a privileged partner in defense and foreign affairs, even after Brexit.

As the EU prepares for a two-year “Conference for the Future of Europe,” Spain is clearly on the side of deeper political and economic ties, even though it refuses to commit to backing France and Germany on all issues.

Diplomatic sources said that the Sánchez administration has been welcomed by the more pro-European member states, “since it could be an ally to push back against other tendencies that oppose integration.”

The first post-Brexit test of political alliances will be the new Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021-2027. Spain is planning to attend the February 20 summit as part of a loose grouping that’s been dubbed “Friends of Cohesion,” which includes Poland and Hungary, which are led by right-wing governments, as well as Portugal, which is governed by the left.

English version by Susana Urra.

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Canadian police investigating Manitoba residential school abuse claims | Indigenous child graves



A branch of Canada’s federal police force says it has spent the last decade conducting a “large-scale investigation” into allegations of sexual abuse at a former residential school.

On Tuesday, the Manitoba Royal Canadian Mounted Police said it launched a criminal investigation in 2011, investigating claims that students were assaulted during their time at the Fort Alexander residential school.

The rare disclosure of an ongoing investigation was prompted by questions from the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper.

“Due to the many people affected by this investigation as well as the larger social implications, it was determined to be in the public interest to provide as much information on the ongoing investigation as we can,” the RCMP said in its news release.

At least 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools across the country, which were funded by the federal government and run by churches as part of the campaign to strip the youth of their cultural identity.

The Fort Alexander residential school, 125km (78 miles) north-east of Winnipeg, opened in 1905. Children often tried to run away from the institution, according to the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre. In 1928, two boys drowned while trying to escape by boat.

It was closed by the federal government in 1970. Elders have long spoken about abuse within the institution, including testifying at the country’s truth and reconciliation commission.

More than 80 RCMP officers have been involved in the investigation so far, which has involved speaking to more than 700 people across North America.

Investigators travelled to Ottawa to scour archival records from the school, as well as the province of Manitoba’s records. They also canvassed residents in the area where the school was located, on the grounds of the Sagkeeng First Nation.

Police obtained 75 witness and victim statements.

Grand chiefs of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Southern Chiefs’ Organization have worked closely with police on the investigation, as have the chief and council of the Sagkeeng First Nation.

In addition to testimony of abuse, survivors have long said children went missing or died while attending the school.

Last week, teams searched the grounds of Sagkeeng First Nation using a drone and ground-penetrating radar technology to look for human remains.

To date, more than 1,300 unmarked graves have been discovered on the grounds of former schools, prompting a national reckoning over Canada’s colonial past.

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EU urges Lebanon to form government ‘without delay’



The EU called on Tuesday on Lebanon political leaders to form a government without delay, following the nomination of businessman Najib Mikati as prime minister. “It is now of crucial importance that a credible and accountable government is formed in Lebanon without delay, one that is able to address the severe economic and social crises the country is facing,” the EU said in a statement.

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Boeing With 165 People On Board Safely Lands in Simferopol After Reporting Engine Problems




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Sputnik International

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – A Boeing aircraft with 165 people on board is preparing for an emergency landing at Simferopol airport due to technical problems with its engine, an emergency services spokesperson said.

“A Boeing is preparing for an emergency landing in Simferopol, on board of which, according to preliminary information, there are 165 passengers,” the spokesperson said.

The aircraft, which performs a flight from Yakutia to Crimea, had vibration in one of the engines, he added.


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