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Incarcerated Catalan leader to run for Barcelona Mayor!

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BARCELONA: A former Catalan separatist leader who is in jail for alleged rebellion pending a trial over the 2017 secession bid said today he will run for mayor of Barcelona.

In a tweet, Joaquim Forn said he had “taken the decision” to head up “a unifying, reliable and transversal” electoral list in Barcelona for municipal polls on May 26. The announcement comes as a trial against him and 11 other pro-independence leaders begins shortly over a failed attempt to separate the northeastern region of Catalonia from the rest of Spain in October 2017.

At the time, Forn was in charge of interior matters in the pro-independence executive of former regional president Carles Puigdemont, who fled Spain for Belgium. Prosecutors want Forn to be jailed for 16 years for rebellion and misuse of public funds. A councilor in Barcelona’s city hall for 18 years, Forn will head up the list of Puigdemont’s separatist party PDeCAT in the municipal elections.

His main rivals will be Ada Colau, the current left-wing mayor of Spain’s second biggest city, former French prime minister Manuel Valls who was born in Barcelona and Ernest Maragall for the separatist ERC party. Maragall is the brother of Barcelona’s ex-Socialist mayor Pasqual Maragall, still popular for his role in the city’s successful bid for the 1992 Olympics. In his statement, Forn said being in jail would not be a problem. 

“I can’t accept that just because I am locked up I cannot set in motion the transformation project I have for Barcelona,” he said. This is not a first in Catalonia. In snap regional elections in December 2017, Catalonia’s former vice president Oriol Junqueras was an ERC candidate and campaigned from jail via various writings and speeches read by colleagues. He won a seat in the regional parliament as did other jailed separatists. Junqueras will also stand for European elections due on May 26, the same day as the municipal polls

 

 

 

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Business

BMW, Daimler to invest 1b euros

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BERLIN: German auto giants BMW and Daimler said Friday they would invest one billion euros ($1.1 billion) in combining and extending their carsharing schemes, in future offering a slew of joint “mobility services”, including for electric cars.
“We are pooling the strength and expertise of 14 successful brands and investing more than one billion euros to establish a new player in the fast-growing market for urban mobility,” Dieter Zetsche, chief executive of Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler said in a statement.

 

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Europe

Brexit: 9th MP leaves Labour in a week!

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Hitachi freezes British nuclear project

LONDON: The Labour party contingency of Britain’s parliament lost more blood Friday, with a ninth MP leaving Labour in less than a week, blasting alleged anti-Semitism in the party leadership.
Ian Austin, representing Dudley North in the West Midlands, chose the local paper Express and Star to make his announcement, in a guest op-ed slamming the party as “broken.” Citing the alleged anti-Semitism in the party, Austin said he was “appalled at the offense and distress [leader] Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party have caused to Jewish people.”
“I always tell them the truth and I could never ask local people to make Jeremy Corbyn prime minister,” he said. “It is terrible that a culture of extremism, antisemitism, and intolerance is driving out good MPs and decent people who have committed their life to mainstream politics,” he wrote. He said that he had not spoken to the new Independent Group, now made up of eight Labour MPs and three former Conservative MPs.
“The hard left is now in charge of the party, they’re going to get rid of lots of decent mainstream MPs and I just can’t see how it can return to the mainstream party that won elections and changed the country for the better,” Austin said. He added, “I think the Labour party is broken and clearly things have to change but that’s not what today is about, and I’ve not talked to them about that.”
A Labour spokesman said the party “regrets” Austin quitting, adding, “He was elected as a Labour MP and so the democratic thing is to resign his seat and let the people of Dudley decide who should represent them.” Earlier this week, amid the continuing chaos over Brexit, a group of seven MPs resigned from Labour and said they would stay in parliament as independent lawmakers, followed soon thereafter by an eighth. Three Conservative MPs also resigned their party this week to join the Independent Group.

 

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Economy

Months-long slide in German business

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FRANKFURT AM MAIN: Confidence among business leaders in Germany fell for the sixth month in a row in February, a closely-watched survey showed Friday, as global trade struggles cast a pall over Europe’s powerhouse economy.
The Munich-based Ifo institute’s business confidence index slid 0.8 points this month to reach 98.5, its lowest level in four years.
“The German economy is experiencing a downturn,” Ifo president Clemens Fuest said in a statement.
A sub-index measuring companies’ view of the present business situation dipped 1.1 points, to 103.4, while another gauging expectation for the coming months lost 0.5 points, to 93.8.
Looking to different areas of the economy, manufacturing firms had “far more pessimistic” expectations compared with January.
Services, trade and construction indexes also fell – with the building sector losing ground “for the first time in years,” Fuest noted.
Friday’s Ifo release comes one day after an account of the European Central Bank’s January meeting highlighted fierce headwinds in international trade weighing on the 19-nation eurozone.
With its export-oriented manufacturers and massive trade surplus, Germany is one of the countries most exposed to the uncertainty caused by rising protectionism and trade conflicts.
“The threat from the USA of punitive tariffs on our most important export good – cars – is hovering closer than ever,” noted Joerg Zeuner, chief economist at public investment bank KfW.
US President Donald Trump on Monday received a Department of Commerce report that sources said classed European car imports as a national security threat — potentially justifying swingeing new tariffs.
Meanwhile “our important partner Great Britain continues to race towards the Brexit cliff… and the global economy is no longer running smoothly,” Zeuner added.
Such fears have prompted downgrades to the growth outlook by private- and public-sector observers, with Germany’s economy ministry now forecasting just 1.0 percent expansion in 2019, compared with a 1.8 percent prediction last autumn.

 

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