The Cable

The EU Turns 60, Brexit Looms, Crackdowns in Russia and Belarus: The Weekend Behind, the Week Ahead

Catch up on top news from the weekend.

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On Saturday, the European Union celebrated its 60th birthday (the Treaty of Rome was signed 60 years ago). The leaders of 27 EU member states met in Rome and signed a declaration reaffirming their commitment to the European project.

Celebrations, however, are likely to be short lived. The leader of the 28th member state, British Prime Minister Theresa May, is expected to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, on Wednesday, after which the terms of the U.K.’s departure can begin to be negotiated, though negotiations won’t start until the summer.

But the Brits may soon get a taste of their own referendum medicine. On Tuesday the Scottish parliament is expected to hold a vote to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence; the first, in 2014, failed, but that was before Brexit, which Scots were overwhelmingly against. May has said that a second referendum should not be held until after Brexit is completed; Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants it to be in 2018 or 2019, before Scotland is officially out of the European Union. Sturgeon can’t technically do so without May’s blessing, but Scotland’s lawmakers, who postponed the vote because of last week’s terror attack in London, are expected to give her theirs.

Europe’s celebrations were also dampened by other events on the continent. In Belarus, over 400 were detained on Saturday over planned protests against the country’s “parasite tax” on the under-employed. Still more were arrested for demonstrating on Sunday. This, in addition to the 150 already detained for protesting the tax (now suspended until 2018) earlier in March. Mikalay Statkevich, a prominent opponent of the Belarusian government, was missing for three days, according to his family, only to reappear Monday saying he’d been taken by security services.

Belarus had crackdown company on Sunday. Hundreds were detained across Russia for taking part in anti-corruption protests, including opposition figure and presidential candidate Alexei Navalny and American journalist Alec Luhn. Luhn was released after more than five hours. Navalny was to spend the night in prison and appear in court, again, on Monday.

Some in the United States noted their government’s unusual silence on Sunday’s events — the State Department waited hours to say anything about the crackdowns.

“The United States government cannot be silent about Russia’s crackdown on peaceful protesters,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said in a statement on Sunday. Whether U.S. President Donald Trump’s White House comments on the largest protests in Russia in five years will be seen in the week ahead.

Photo credit: OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering ambassadorial and diplomatic affairs in Washington. @emilyctamkin

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