Here are this week’s headlines:
- Update on the Catalonia election
Reported by Anna Flaherty
Catalonia have had a second vote concerning their independence from the rest of Spain, with a record number of people coming to vote. Polls suggest that the separatist parties, in favour of independence, will win. However, the vote is said to be very tight.
This vote comes after Spain refused to acknowledge the separatist Catalan government in October, saying that the original referendum was illegal. Currently, Catalonia is a semi-autonomous state, with it having its own police force and some of its own public services. In the October vote, organisers claim that 90% of the people from Catalonia voted for independence. This said, only approximately 43 percent of the population voted, partly due to Spanish national police attempting to prevent individuals from voting.
Despite accusing Catalonia of “crushing democracy”, the Madrid government (which controls the budget and taxes of Catalonia) called the snap-election as a measure to resolve some of the unrest in the region.
This political crisis is the biggest Spain has had in the last 40 years. The result of this election could significantly affect Spain’s economy, therefore bringing consequences to all of the countries within the eurozone. This means that other European countries, as well as the Spanish population, will be nervously watching the results of this election.
- The UK Supreme Court rules out smoking ban in prison
Reported by Jutha Cheewat
After an attempt to ban smoking by prisoner Paul Black, who suffers from health issues, the UK Supreme court decided unanimously that crown premises are exempt from enforcing any health regulations.
Lady Hale, the current president of the Supreme Court, said that they came to a “considerably reluctant” conclusion but the 2006 Health Act, when passed, did not intend to include crown premises. The court did not find an element of the ‘necessary implication’ that could bind the crown through this statutory provision.
However this does leave a question for Parliament to decide whether such extension would be enforceable in the future. She further explained:
“It might well be thought desirable, especially by and for civil servants and others working in or visiting government departments, if the smoking ban did bind the crown. But the legislation is quite workable without doing so.”
Reacting to his loss in the Court of Appeal, he expressed his concern and said “I am disappointed with the judgment. Throughout this case, I simply wished non-smoking prisoners and prison staff to have the same level of protection from the risks of second-hand cigarette smoke as non-smokers living in the wider community.”
Read more here.
- ECJ decision means Uber subject to stricter regulations
Reported by Radhika Morally
The decision from the European Union’s highest court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg has ruled that Uber is in fact classed as a transport company rather than just an app. This means that it will be required to accept stricter regulations and licensing within the EU as a taxi operator, which will extend to the UK, with costly and more complex implications for possible expansion plans.
The decision was made after a challenge was brought by taxi drivers in Barcelona. Uber denied it was a transport company, reasoning that it was a computer services business linking drivers and passengers.
The taxi drivers’ lawyers argued that Uber was directly involved in the carrying of passengers, and was therefore contrary to the EU rules on the freedom to provide services expressly excluding transport. The ECJ agreed with the taxi drivers, ruling that a service whose purpose was ‘to connect, by means of a smartphone application and remuneration, non-professional drivers using their own vehicle with persons who wish to make urban journeys’ must be classified as a transport company.
Although the US-based company has insisted the ruling will not affect its UK operation, it is clear that this judgment will have a large effect not just on Uber but on the gig economy as a whole. Rohan Silva, a tech entrepreneur and former adviser to David Cameron, has stated that other sharing economy services such as Airbnb will likely face more regulations as a result of the ruling.
- Peru’s President fights impeachment
Reported by Andrew MacDonald
Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has made a last-minute plea before making an appearance before Congress that could end his tenure as the 66th President of Peru.
Opponents of Kuczynski allege that he received illegal payments from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. This comes days after it was held that Marcelo Odebrecht, the founder of Latin America’s largest construction company, could spend the remaining seven years of his 19-year jail sentence at home.
The Odebrecht Scandal emerged from Brazil as being a political kickback scheme on an immense scale. The scheme helped Odebrecht secure around 100 projects in 12 different countries including Portugal, Mozambique and Mexico. This contributed to creating $US3.3 billion in ill-gotten gains.
The scandal has affected Peru. In February 2017, a Peruvian judge ordered the arrest of Peru’s 63rd President, Alejandro Toledo, for allegedly accepting US$20 million in bribes from Odebrecht from the period 2001 to 2006. Kuczynski urged the US to consider deporting Toledo, who is believed to be in San Francisco.
The country’s last President, Ollanta Humala, is in detention facing charges of laundering money from the company. Additionally, a governor, Felix Moreno, has been placed in ‘preventative prison’ for 18 months for accepting $US4 million in bribes in exchange for awarding Odebrecht a 2014 contract to build a 5 km highway along the country’s central coast.
Now Peru’s current President Kuczynski is embroiled in accusations of misconduct. It has emerged that he concealed previous dealings with the company spanning over 10 years. On television Kuczynksi addressed the developments as ‘a coup disguised as supposedly legitimate legal interpretations.’
Kuczynski went before Peru’s Congress on Thursday. Kuczynski claimed he was innocent of the ‘permanent moral incapacity’ charge that the Congress is set to vote on. He also apologised for not being more attentive to business issues.
‘But that doesn’t make me corrupt. …. What is at play here is not the issue of removing a president, but a democracy,’ he stated.
He also said his two vice presidents would resign if he was ousted from office. This would then bring up the question as to which politician would succeed Kuczynski as president of Peru.
- Trump’s recognition of of Jerusalem as capital and UN’s anger
Reported by Spencer Yap
In a major move from President Donald Trump, the US moved its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. On top of this, in a short speech, President Trump broke precedent and officially recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. President Trump’s predecessors have usually not commented on the sovereignty of Jerusalem, leaving negotiations to the Israelis and Palestinians. This controversial move sparked outrage from the global community, even America’s allies. The British prime minister called the move “unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region”, with France and Germany also condemning the move.
However, Trump justifies his move by saying “After more than two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result.” Some have suggested that this was merely a political move, a gift to his ally, the Prime Minister of Israeli – Benjamin Netanyahu.
Following the announcement, tensions are running high in the UN. An astounding 128 nations voted in favour of the resolution which condemns American for its actions. These 128 nations include many of US allies, even those which receive foreign aid from America. The delegations which were absent from the vote, suggests that US warning over reduction of aid provided and Israeli’s lobbying may have some effect. However, the US hit back, with Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, threatening those who voted for the resolution by saying “United Stated will remember this day.” Furthermore, Haley insinuated that America would reduce its funding to the UN, if the international community does not support America’s agenda.