France, Germany sign European jet fighter deal

The defense ministers signed the agreement during the Paris Air Show. (AFP)
Updated 17 June 2019

France, Germany sign European jet fighter deal

  • The new agreement will include a new generation combat aircraft
  • The development phase is expected to start by 2030

LE BOURGET, France: France, Germany and Spain agreed Monday to develop a European fighter jet and air combat system, as they bolster efforts to reduce their dependency on the United States.
Defense ministers from the three countries signed an agreement at the Paris Air Show that lays out how the countries will cooperate on the project, which would include a new-generation combat aircraft.
French President Emmanuel Macron presided over the signing. The project fits in with his ambition to increase European cooperation at a time when the United States under President Donald Trump is showing an increasing reluctance to support the continent militarily.
It’s going to take time though. The Future Combat Air System (FCAS) is not expected to be operational until 2040. Requirements for the air combat system that will also include drones will be decided by 2027 and the development phase should start by 2030.
French Defense minister Florence Parly said the deal is “concrete proof that Europe is capable of anticipating tomorrow’s great strategic challenges.”
“The FCAS is a major asset to tackle the power struggles of the second half of the 21st century. What is happening today is historic,” she said.
Dassault Aviation and Airbus are set to build the jets which will eventually replace Rafale and Eurofighters.
The program was launched by Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2017. Airbus says it will be connected and operable with a wide variety of aircraft, satellites, NATO systems as well as land and naval combat systems.
Authorities have not said how much it would cost but the dpa news agency estimates it could be $112 billion.


Leading Hong Kong activists charged for Tiananmen vigil gathering

Updated 40 min 58 sec ago

Leading Hong Kong activists charged for Tiananmen vigil gathering

  • Hong Kongers defied a ban on rallies to mark the June 4 anniversary of Beijing’s deadly 1989 crackdown
  • China’s leaders have rejected calls to give Hong Kongers universal suffrage

HONG KONG: Thirteen prominent Hong Kong democracy activists appeared in court on Monday charged with holding an unauthorized gathering to mark the Tiananmen Square crackdown, the latest in a string of prosecutions against protest leaders in the restless financial hub.
Last month tens of thousands of Hong Kongers defied a ban on rallies to mark the June 4 anniversary of Beijing’s deadly 1989 crackdown against students pushing for democracy.
The annual vigil has been held in Hong Kong for the last three decades and usually attracts huge crowds. It has taken on particular significance in recent years as the semi-autonomous city chafes under Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian rule.
This year’s vigil was banned for the first time with authorities citing coronavirus measures. At the time local transmission had largely been halted.
But thousands turned out to hold candles in their neighborhoods and in Victoria Park, the traditional site of the vigil.
Police later arrested 13 leading activists who appeared at the Victoria Park vigil.
All appeared in court on Monday to be formally charged with “inciting” an unlawful assembly, which carries up to five years in jail.
Among them are Jimmy Lai, the millionaire owner of the openly pro-democracy Apple newspaper, veteran democracy activists such as Lee Cheuk-yan and Albert Ho as well as young campaigner Figo Chan.
When asked if he understood the charge, Lee invoked the hundreds who were killed by Chinese tanks and soldiers at Tiananmen.
“This is political persecution,” he said. “The real incitement is the massacre conducted by the Chinese Communist Party 31 years ago.”
Some of those charged on Monday — and many other leading democracy figures — face separate prosecutions related to last year’s huge and often violent pro-democracy protests.
China’s leaders have rejected calls to give Hong Kongers universal suffrage and portrayed the protests as a plot by foreigners to destabilize the motherland.
Earlier this month Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law aimed at stamping out the protests once and for all.
The law targets subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign collusion, with sentences including life in prison.
But its broad phrasing — such as a ban on encouraging hatred toward China’s government — has sent fear rippling through a city used to being able to speak its mind.
Police have arrested people for possessing pro-independence or autonomy material, libraries and schools have pulled books, political parties have disbanded and one prominent opposition politician has fled.
The law bypassed Hong Kong’s legislature and its contents were kept secret until the moment it was enacted.
It empowered China’s security apparatus to set up shop openly in Hong Kong for the first time, while Beijing has also claimed jurisdiction for some serious national security cases — ending the legal firewall between the mainland the city’s independent judiciary.
China has also announced global jurisdiction to pursue national security crimes committed by anyone outside of Hong Kong and China, including foreigners.