Morning Brief

Leaders Meet Over EU’s Future

Plus: Netanyahu faces a deadline to form a coalition, a mass stabbing in Japan, and what to watch in the world this week.

People walk across carpeting with the EU flag  at the German Christian Democrats (CDU) headquarters during European Parliament elections on May 26 in Berlin, Germany.
People walk across carpeting with the EU flag at the German Christian Democrats (CDU) headquarters during European Parliament elections on May 26 in Berlin, Germany. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Leaders meet to chart out Europe’s future, Netanyahu struggles to form a government in Israel, a mass stabbing in Japan, and what to watch in the world this week.

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National Leaders Meet After EU Elections

National leaders from across the European Union will meet today in Brussels to discuss the next steps for the bloc, including appointments for top jobs, after the EU Parliament elections. The vote saw higher voter turnout than usual (almost 51 percent) and an end to centrist dominance—with a strong showing for Greens and limited gains for nationalists. The parties backing closer EU integration started bargaining over policy on Monday.

French President Emmanuel Macron, whose party came in second to Marine Le Pen’s in France, is still expected to mount a campaign for influence in Brussels. He and German Chancellor Angela Merkel hope to reach an agreement over how to pick the next EU Commission president. Macron will come up against Italian far-right leader Matteo Salvini, who hopes to unite the nationalist parties and push for big tax cuts.

Fragmentation at the center. The center-right and center-left parties lost a majority in the Parliament, but wins for liberals—including the Greens—suggest a likely four-party, pro-EU alliance. Right-wing and Euroskeptic parties had limited success, winning 171 of 751 seats. On the left, the Green parties’ gains could give climate policies a boost.

National-level effects. After suffering defeat, Germany’s Social Democratic Party will hold a vote on party leadership—casting some doubt on its coalition with Merkel. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called snap elections after his party lost. And Polish nationalists gained significantly ahead of a national election this year.

In Britain, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has reacted to his party’s poor showing in the EU elections (it won 14 percent, down from 25 percent in 2014) by pledging to back a public referendum on any Brexit deal negotiated by Parliament. Corbyn faced intense pressure, including from close allies, after pro-Remain Labour voters deserted the party for the Liberal Democrats.

Meanwhile, the strong showing of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party could set up a fight in the British Parliament over leaving the European Union without a negotiated deal. Whoever succeeds Prime Minister Theresa May faces a dilemma and “could well end up as doomed as May was,” Owen Matthews writes for FP.

What’s the timeline? EU negotiations will probably last until a key summit on June 20 and 21. Expect a standoff between the winning parties and national leaders over the next EU Commission president.

What We’re Following Today

Netanyahu faces deadline to form a government. Israel could be headed for a snap election as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu struggles to form a coalition government ahead of the Wednesday deadline. Since the country’s general election in April, in which his Likud Party won the most votes, Netanyahu has been unable to forge a deal with right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties to secure a fifth term in office.

A key obstacle is his former defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who declared that his Yisrael Beiteinu party will not join a Netanyahu-led coalition along with ultra-Orthodox parties. Lieberman has been at odds with the religious parties over a bill that would increase military service among ultra-Orthodox men, most of whom currently receive deferments or are exempted from conscription.

The prime minister has pledged to resolve the crisis before Wednesday. Over the weekend, thousands of Israelis protested against legislation that would grant Netanyahu—who faces indictment for corruption—immunity from prosecution.

Stabbing rampage in Japan. A 50-year-old man armed with knives attacked schoolchildren at a bus stop in the city of Kawasaki near Tokyo, killing an 11-year-old girl and a 39-year-old man before stabbing himself to death. An additional 17 people, most of them children, were injured in the attack. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared “We must keep our children safe at all costs.” He told reporters he had “instructed the related ministers to take immediate action to ensure the children’s safety in going to and leaving school.”

Facebook executives to ignore Canadian subpoena. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg were summoned to testify before an international committee on technology, privacy, and democracy in Canada this week. They won’t attend, and could be found in contempt of Parliament. Politicians from at least 10 countries are expected at the hearings.

Prison violence in Brazil. At least 40 prisoners in four jails in the Brazilian city of Manaus were killed on Monday, the second day of deadly violence between drug gangs—which wield de facto control over Brazil’s prisons. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has promised to bring prisons back under state control.

The World This Week

A Taliban delegation is expected to meet with Afghan politicians on Wednesday in Moscow to discuss the country’s peace process. Last month, planned talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government in Qatar failed to come together.

The Gulf Cooperation Council will hold an emergency summit in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, following drone attacks on Saudi oil installations. Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of ordering the attacks—claimed by the Houthi rebels in Yemen—amid escalating tensions in the region.

Representatives of the Venezuelan government and its opposition will return to Norway this week for talks on Venezuela’s ongoing crisis, though opposition leader Juan Guaidó remains skeptical. Russia has offered its assistance as a potential mediator.

China will raise tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods on Saturday in retaliation for this month’s tariff hike by the United States, as the trade war between the countries continues.

Keep an Eye On

A petition to oust Moon Jae-in. The South Korean government is expected to respond to a petition with over 200,000 signatures calling for the impeachment of President Moon Jae-in.  The petition alleges that Moon has condoned North Korea’s nuclear program. Support for the president is falling as the economy stagnates and talks with North Korea have stalled.

Islamic State trials in Iraq. An Iraqi court has sentenced four French citizens to death for joining the Islamic State. While France has refused to take back its Islamic State fighters, it condemned the death penalty. The prosecutions in Iraq have been criticized for reliance on forced confessions or circumstantial evidence.

Deaths on Mount Everest. Eleven climbers have died or gone missing on Mount Everest this season, making it one of the deadliest. Those on the ground attribute some of the deaths to overcrowding and inexperience. The Nepali government issued a record number of climbing permits this year.

Paramilitaries in Northern Ireland. The New Irish Republican Army has been implicated in increasing violence in Northern Ireland, including the death of the journalist Lyra McKee last month. While some have blamed Brexit, the paramilitary activity is linked to deteriorating conditions and high unemployment, Dan Haverty writes for FP.

British Conservative Party Leadership Race. Michael Gove, the current environment secretary and one of the leaders of the Vote Leave campaign in 2016, is running to replace Theresa May and is reportedly planning to offer free and unconditional British citizenship to 3 million EU citizens living in the U.K. The move suggests Gove is trying to attract moderates in the party who think May disregarded the interests of EU nationals while reminding hardline Brexit supporters that he was one of the original proponents of leaving the EU.

Odds and Ends

Ethiopia’s foreign ministry apologized for posting a map on its website that included neighboring Somalia as part of Ethiopia. The countries have previously fought over their borders, though relations have thawed since Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power.

Experts in China have captured an image of an all-white, albino panda—the first to be documented, the New York Times reports.


The haze of pollution in Kabul. Ivan Flores for Foreign Policy

Air pollution in Afghanistan is killing more people than the country’s long war: as many as 26,000 in 2017, photojournalist Ivan Flores reports. The smog comes primarily during the winter—brought on by industrial pollution, home heating, and generators—and causes chronic respiratory illnesses. Flores visited Kabul, including the respiratory ward of the Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital, capturing the human toll of Afghanistan’s pollution problem.

That’s it for today.

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Audrey Wilson is the newsletter editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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