Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer says Merkel is safe, for now; In an exclusive interview with DW, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the new leader of Germany’s Christian Democrats (CDU), has said that she wants Angela Merkel to see out her remaining three years as chancellor. The new head of Germany’s Christian Democrats (CDU) Annegret Kramp-Karrenbau spoke to DW shortly after the conclusion of the party conference. DW asked her if she still thinks that Merkel will remain in office for the remaining three years of her term. On becoming chancellor: Kramp-Karrenbauer said: “We have a federal government that has been elected for this legislative period. Angela Merkel has said she’s available to see out the legislative period. And the party conference yesterday showed very clearly that that’s what members wish — and it is also my personal wish. “And I also see it as my task as the leader of the ruling party to ensure that this government has the stability it needs to fulfil its electoral mandate.”
Nearly 1,400 arrests in French ‘yellow vest’ protests as government offers dialogue; Some 125,000 people across France donned yellow safety jackets to rally against President Emmanuel Macron and the high cost of living. In Paris, armored vehicles and thousands of police contained the demonstrators. More than a thousand people were arrested across France on Saturday as police clashed with “yellow vest” demonstrators in the fourth week of anti-government protests.
Some 125,000 people took to the streets across the country, officials said, with around 10,000 gathering in Paris. Protests in several areas of Paris saw police use tear gas and water cannons against demonstrators. Some protesters set fire to cars and smashed windows. French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said 1,385 people had been arrested.
Belgian PM reshuffles cabinet after right-wing party quits over UN migration pact; Prime Minister Charles Michel stood firm against calls from a coalition partner to quit the international migration pact. He now faces the delicate task of reshuffling his cabinet along linguistic lines.Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel has vowed to continue his administration as a minority government after the largest party in his coalition quit over his intention to sign the United Nations’ controversial migration pact. The leader of the Flemish-speaking N-VA party, Bart De Wever, announced his party’s withdrawal late on Saturday after Michel, a French-speaking liberal, said: “I stand by my word, I will leave for Marrakesh.” World leaders are to meet in the Moroccan city next week to sign the UN migration pact, which has elicited a strong backlash from right-wing parties in many countries. Conservative governments in Australia, Austria, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic have withdrawn their support for the deal, which sets out non-binding measures for regulating global migration. Michel fended off N-VA pressure last week when a majority in the Belgian parliament voted in favor of maintaining Belgium’s support for the agreement. With N-VA’s departure, Michel will need to reshuffle his cabinet to ensure it conforms with a legal statute that requires an equal number of French- and Dutch-speaking ministers. His French-speaking liberal MR and the Flemish-speaking center-right CD&V and Open VLD parties will remain in the coalition. The next federal election is scheduled for May.
Brazil’s Odebrecht cuts deal with Peru to name bribed officials; Four former presidents and the opposition leader are currently under investigation in the Odebrecht graft scandal. The deal commits the construction giant to provide information about bribes it paid to officials. Peruvian authorities have reached a deal with Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht’s Peruvian unit that will allow the scandal-tainted firm to operate in Peru in exchange for fines and divulging information about officials it bribed, local media and Reuters reported on Saturday. Odebrecht has been at the center of a major graft scandal after it admitted to US, Brazilian and Swiss prosecutors in 2016 of paying nearly $800 million (€ 703 million) in bribes to politicians in a dozen Latin American countries, including Peru. Peruvian anti-graft prosecutors are currently investigating former presidents Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006), Alan García (1985-1990, 2006-2011), Ollanta Humala (2011-2016) and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (2016-2018), in addition to the former presidential candidate and opposition leader Keiko Fujimori, who is in prison. The internet portal El Comercio reported that the agreement between prosecutors and Odebrecht includes a commitment for the firm to provide information on bribes it paid to Peruvian officials.
Frans Timmermans elected European socialists’ lead candidate for 2019 vote; The European Commission vice president and former Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans will lead the Party of European Socialists (PES) in the 2019 European elections. He was the only candidate on the ballot. European socialist parties have approved Frans Timmermans of the Netherlands to lead them in May elections and to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the European Commission. Juncker is due to step down in mid-2019. Timmermans, who currently serves as Juncker’s deputy, won the election at the 11th congress for Europe’s alliance of socialist parties in Lisbon on Saturday after his only rival, Slovakia’s Maros Sefcoviv, dropped her candidacy in November. The 57-year-old has been at the forefront of the EU’s standoff with Poland’s right-wing government over its attempts to undermine the rule of law. “I am aware of the burden on my shoulders,” Timmermans said in a speech to delegates in Lisbon. “But how can I fail with a family like this behind me.” Socialist parties have suffered major electoral defeats across the continent in recent years amid a surge in support for anti-establishment and nationalist parties.
Armenian PM seeks to bolster authority in early parliamentary election; Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian wants to weaken his predecessor’s party in the parliament and cement his leadership. He took over as prime minister in May after weeks of leading anti-corruption protests. Armenians are voting in an early parliamentary election on Sunday after acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian dissolved parliament in October to shore up his authority. Pashinian, a former journalist, is hoping the My Step Alliance, which includes his Civil Contract Party, will achieve a parliamentary majority ahead of the former ruling Republican Party. Polls show that the alliance is on course to easily win a majority. “We set big and difficult goals and we will achieve them, because we are a powerful, victorious free and happy nation,” he said at a recent campaign rally.
Hungarian workers protest ‘slave law’ overtime rules; Hungarians have taken to the streets to protest against labor law changes that would allow employers to demand up to 400 hours overtime per year. The government says it needs greater worker flexibility.Thousands of workers demonstrated in Budapest on Saturday, objecting to a change in the labor code proposed by Prime Minister Victor Orban’s right-wing Fidesz party. A draft bill proposed by Fidesz would see a rise in the amount of overtime that employers can demand from workers, along with an extended time period for settling compensation. Union leaders claim that the so-called “slave law” proposals underline the intention of Orban’s government to increase corporate profits at the expense of workers. Several thousand people protested in front of the Hungarian parliament building to show their opposition. “In Hungary, we carry the largest burden on our back and, in return, we get the lowest wage in Europe,” Laszlo Kordas, president of the Hungarian Trade Union Confederation, told protesters.
‘Yellow Vest’ protests: Nearly 1,400 detained in new day of unrest in France; Businesses, museums and other attractions in the French capital had shuttered on Saturday in anticipation of the violent new clashes during the critical Christmas shopping season. French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said 125,000 demonstrators had taken to the streets across the country, including 10,000 in Paris. Paris and other French cities including Bordeaux, Lyon and Toulouse saw significant clashes between protesters and police. About 120 protesters and 20 law enforcement officials were injured nationwide, the interior minister said. Nearly 1,400 people were arrested. French PM Edouard Philippe called for dialogue and said President Emmanuel Macron would soon be proposing measures to “nourish” that dialogue and rebuild national unity.
‘Green vests’: Paris climate marchers spot overlap with ‘yellow’ comrades; An effort to raise the alarm about “the social and climatic emergency”, the march coincided with the United Nations’ COP24 climate conference taking place in the Polish city of Katowice. It was organised by environmental activist groups including Alternatiba and Les Amis de la Terre (Friends of the Earth). Similar marches were slated for more than 120 cities in France including Marseille, Lyon and Bordeaux on Saturday, alongside others around the world. The Paris edition of the march saw its route modified at the last minute in order to avoid potential spillover from the Yellow Vest protests that have had the city on tenterhooks for a fourth consecutive Saturday, but organisers rejected authorities’ entreaties to postpone to event. Demonstrators were initially meant to set off from Trocadéro to the Champ-de-Mars, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower in the west of the city, but the procession was shifted eastward instead. The climate protesters marched from the Place de la Nation to the Place de la République, where speeches and a concert were slated to conclude the proceedings. Organisers said 25,000 people had arrived on the Place de la République by 4pm.
Yemen’s Houthis say port city of Hodeida should be neutral; The Houthi group control major population centres in Yemen, including the capital Sana’a and the port of Hodeida on the Red Sea. The Houthi negotiator, Mohammed Abdusalam, also told Reuters his group was open to the possibiliy of giving the United Nations a role at Sana’a airport as part of an effort to get it reopened.
Protestors call for more effort at COP24; Thousands of protestors have marched through the Polish city of Katowice, where the UN climate conference is taking place, to demand countries do more to fight global warming. People came from as far afield as India and the United States to protest. Some held signs with a picture of a clock and shouted “time is short” and “save the Earth.” Delegates at the COP24 conference are wrangling over rules to ensure the 2015 Paris climate accord is implemented. They are struggling to agree on how to finance efforts by developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris agreement is a framework to address global warming beyond 2020. It calls for all countries to strive to limit the rise in average global temperature to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level. But a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said the targets countries have set are not enough to meet that goal. An Austrian woman in her 20s said she came to protest to tell the delegates how urgent the situation is, and to urge them to speed up the negotiations. Some protestors carried a large effigy of Brazil’s President-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, who has threatened to roll back conservation efforts. The American woman who made the effigy said Bolsonaro is a threat to efforts against global warming.
Yemen port, airport on peace talks agenda; Peace talks aimed at ending the civil war in Yemen continue in Sweden. One of the main focuses is the reopening of an airport in the capital, Sanaa. Delegates from the Yemeni government and rebel forces are sitting down for UN-mediated talks that began on Thursday. On Saturday, the two sides were unable to bridge their differences over the airport. Houthi rebels supported by Iran are demanding it be fully reopened. But government delegates say it should reopen only to domestic flights, citing concerns about the possibility of weapons flooding into the country. The government, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, controls the air space and closed the airport to passenger planes. Another focus of the talks is a proposal to put the port city of Hodeidah under the temporary supervision of the United Nations. Government forces and rebels are engaged in fierce fighting at the port, which is the country’s main entry point for food aid. The civil war has been raging for more than 3-and-a-half years. It has been called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The lack of access to food and other relief supplies has been blamed for the deaths of tens of thousands of children.
China lodges protest over arrest of Huawei CFO; China’s Foreign Ministry says it has lodged a protest with the Canadian embassy over the detention of a senior executive of Huawei Technologies. The ministry says Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng summoned the Canadian Ambassador to China, John McCallum, on Saturday over the arrest of Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer, Meng Wanzhou. On December 1st, Meng was arrested at an airport in Canada, at the request of the United States. Le said the arrest violates the Chinese national’s rights and is “extremely nasty.” He urged the Canadian side to release Meng immediately, and to protect her lawful and legitimate rights. Le warned that Canada will have to accept responsibility for any consequences that result, if Meng is not released. The US alleges that Huawei used a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment to Iran, in violation of the US’s sanctions against Tehran. At Friday’s court hearing, a Canadian prosecutor said Meng should be held until she is extradited to the US because she poses a flight risk. Meng’s lawyer sought bail. The lawyer told the court that she will not flee overseas. The hearing will resume on Monday.
UNSC gives up on N.Korea human rights meeting; The UN Security Council is giving up on holding an annual meeting on human rights in North Korea by the end of the year, as it failed to get enough support. Support from at least 9 Security Council member countries is needed for such a meeting. Diplomatic sources say the US got support from only 8 countries, including Britain, France and Peru. China and Russia oppose discussing human rights in North Korea at the Security Council. Bolivia and Kazakhstan also opposed the meeting. Three African countries appeared set to oppose or abstain. The meeting has been held every December since 2014 in response to a proposal by the United States. This year’s meeting was scheduled for Monday next week. Past meetings have taken up the issue of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese citizens. Observers say the US and Japan are likely to have trouble getting support to deal with human rights in North Korea.
Malaysian Muslims rally to defend privileges; Tens of thousands of Malaysian Muslims have taken to the streets in Kuala Lumpur to defend privileges that have long been enjoyed by ethnic Malays. The protest took place on Saturday amid speculation that Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad might review a preferential program that gives Malays privileges in jobs, education, and other areas. At the UN General Assembly in September, Mahathir expressed his intention to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, or ICERD. But this spurred a backlash from opposition parties that have many Malay supporters. They say the ratification of ICERD will lead to a review of the preferential program. Local police say more than 50,000 people took part in the Saturday rally. It was organized by opposition parties including the United Malays National Organization. Demonstrators marched through the city center while shouting their opposition. Some held placards saying Malaysian Muslims will unite to fight. Mahathir returned to power this year with strong support from voters of Chinese and Indian descent. Observers say Mahathir apparently meant to quell complaints of the non-Malays by ratifying ICERD. But they say it may be difficult to abandon the preferential treatment as opposition remains strong.