France’s Macron to push EU lawmakers on reforms

French President Emmanuel Macron will travel to Berlin for crucial talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to try to win her support for his plans for the future of the eurozone. (AFP)
Updated 17 April 2018
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France’s Macron to push EU lawmakers on reforms

  • EU leaders are set to adopt preliminary Macron-backed plans for eurozone reforms and for an overhaul of its troubled asylum system in June

STRASBOURG, France: French President Emmanuel Macron will on Tuesday address the European Parliament for the first time in a bid to shore up support for his ambitious plans for post-Brexit reforms of the EU.
The energetic young French leader wants big changes in the face of growing skepticism about the European project, but there has been a marked lack of enthusiasm from Berlin to Budapest.
Macron’s speech to MEPs in the eastern French city of Strasbourg is part of a charm offensive ahead of European Parliament elections in May 2019, the first after Britain’s departure.
“He will say that it is urgent to take action at a difficult time both inside the European Union, and outside,” said the Elysee, the French presidency, ahead of Macron’s address.
Internal problems include election results in Italy and Hungary which both saw euro skeptics surge in popularity, compounding fears that the 2016 Brexit vote was part of a pattern.
Externally the EU is dealing with the war in Syria — France and Britain joined the US in air strikes targeting the regime’s alleged chemical weapons at the weekend — a hostile Russia, and the unpredictable figure of Donald Trump in the United States.
Macron said in a television interview on Sunday that Europe was experiencing a “rise in illiberalism... the populism of people who call the rule of law into question.”
Later this week Macron will travel to Berlin for crucial talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to try to win her support for his plans for the future of the eurozone.
Merkel’s conservative CDU party pushed back on Monday against plans for deeper eurozone integration, including a separate eurozone budget and the expansion of the EU’s bailout fund.
Any reforms have to be “in the European and in the German interest,” CDU secretary-general Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told reporters.
EU leaders are set to adopt preliminary Macron-backed plans for eurozone reforms and for an overhaul of its troubled asylum system in June, but there is still a large amount of work to do.
Merkel is due to address the European Parliament in November, officials said on Monday.
In contrast, Merkel made a joint speech with then-French president Francois Hollande in Strasbourg in 2015 in which they urged unity in the face of the migrant crisis.
European lawmakers welcomed Macron’s decision to address the parliament but urged him to turn words into action as soon as possible.
Macron had “lots of projects for Europe” but “not everything he has proposed has been well received,” said Manfred Weber, a Merkel ally who heads the center-right European People’s Party, the biggest group in the European Parliament.
He added that it was a “handicap” that Macron — who rose to power on the back of his new En Marche party — did not belong to any of the main political groups in the European Parliament.


Indonesia investigates reports top Daesh commander killed

Updated 9 min 28 sec ago
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Indonesia investigates reports top Daesh commander killed

  • Online messages from Daesh propagandists say Bahrumsyah, an Indonesian national, died after US air strikes hit Hajjin, north of the Syrian city of Abu Kamal
  • His death, if confirmed, would be a blow to pro-Daesh forces in Southeast Asia

JAKARTA/MANILA: Indonesia is investigating reports from Daesh supporters that the most senior Southeast Asian commander of the militant group was killed by US air strikes in eastern Syria last week, counter-terrorism officials said.
Online messages from Daesh propagandists viewed by Reuters say Bahrumsyah, an Indonesian national, died after US air strikes hit Hajjin, north of the Syrian city of Abu Kamal, last Tuesday.
A spokesman for Indonesia’s foreign ministry, Arrmanatha Nasir, said the embassy in Syria had made enquiries but had yet to confirm Bahrumsyah’s death.
Two senior Indonesian counter-terrorism officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were taking the online reports seriously.
“We are in the process of investigating,” said one senior official with Indonesia’s counter-terrorism agency.
If the reports were true, it would become a “motivation to carry out reprisal attacks” in Indonesia, the senior official said.
A Pentagon spokesman, Eric Pahon, said US aircraft were bombing the “general area” in eastern Syria on the day Bahrumsyah is believed to have died but was unable to confirm his death.
As well as leading Katibah Nusantara, an armed unit comprising more than 100 Southeast Asians, Bahrumsyah also organized funding for the Islamist rebels who captured part of the southern Philippines city of Marawi in a bloody siege last year, analysts and officials say.
A message purportedly from the Daesh figure Abu Nuh reviewed by Reuters said Bahrumsyah had been attending a meeting of leaders when he was killed. An Daesh headquarters and a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device factory were destroyed in the attack, the message said.
Another post eulogized the Indonesian, receiving sympathetic comments and crying emojis.
There were reports last year of Bahrumsyah’s death, but analyst Sidney Jones from the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict said the latest had a “much higher degree of credibility”.
“As far as we know, he was the highest ranking Indonesian to fight with ISIS. The fact that he commanded a fighting unit that was recognized by ISIS underscores his importance,” said Jones, using an alternative acronym for Daesh.
His death, if confirmed, would be a blow to pro-Daesh forces in Southeast Asia, where fears of hardened fighters returning from Syria as the militants’ self-declared caliphate crumbles has authorities on alert.
More than 600 Indonesians, including at least 166 women and children, traveled to Syria to join Daesh, according to data from Indonesia’s counter-terrorism agency reviewed by Reuters.
A further 482 Indonesians were deported by foreign governments trying to join Daesh.
“I don’t expect a flood of people to come back (to Indonesia), although there will be some people trying,” Jones said.