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Fishing row a test of UK’s credibility – Macron

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bbc– Emmanuel Macron has raised tensions with Britain by warning that the dispute over fishing rights is a test of the UK’s global credibility.

The French president spoke out ahead of the G20 summit in Rome, which sets the stage for the COP26 climate summit.

France and the UK are embroiled in a dispute over post-Brexit fishing rights and licences for French boats.

Mr Macron told the Financial Times that UK backpedalling on Brexit commitments “is not a big sign of… credibility”.

He was referring to the fishing row and disputes over Northern Ireland.

The argument, which began when the UK and Jersey denied fishing licences to dozens of French boats last month, is essentially over how many French fishing boats are allowed to fish in UK waters.

Mr Macron said: “Make no mistake, it is not just for the Europeans but all of their partners.

“Because when you spend years negotiating a treaty and then a few months later you do the opposite of what was decided on the aspects that suit you the least, it is not a big sign of your credibility.”

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France has said it could stop UK boats landing in its ports if the row over licences is not resolved.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he fears the EU-UK trade agreement may have been breached.

He added that the UK government would do “whatever is necessary to ensure UK interests”.

Meanwhile, the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg says she has seen a letter that appears to show the French Prime Minister Jean Castex appealing to the EU to demonstrate there is “more damage to leaving the EU than to remaining there”.

Jean-Marc Puissesseau, president and chairman of the ports of Calais and Boulogne, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the dispute concerned only about 40 boats, “a drop of water in an ocean”.

He said that these boats had been unable to prove their history of fishing in British waters either because they had been unable to take part in a monitoring survey or because the fisherman had replaced their boats with newer models.

If the French sanctions go ahead, “it will be terrible for both sides of the Channel, for you, for us, for the ports, for the fishermen in your country, for the fishermen in our country – and that’s only for 40 little boats that are not allowed to fish in your country”, he said.

Analysis

By Damian Grammaticas

At the heart this is about whether a few dozen small French boats get licences for waters around Jersey based on their history fishing the area.

It’s a technical issue and should be relatively easily to deal with.

That it’s escalated so the French president and the British prime minister are weighing in tells us much.

Brexit has meant renegotiating old arrangements.

There’s not yet a new equilibrium, but plenty of opportunities for friction. Access to fishing waters is particularly emotive for both sides.

Mr Macron has stressed that he sees fishing alongside the Northern Ireland Protocol as issues that go to the heart of the UK’s “credibility”, suggesting that the UK is not honouring the deals it has done.

And France in particular is prepared to retaliate if its interests are threatened.

Boris Johnson, by saying he’s “puzzled” at France’s irritation, seems not to want things to escalate over fishing.

But will the UK grant more licences? The tensions are clear. And it all comes just as the UK and the EU need to find agreement on the far bigger, more difficult issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

France was angered by a decision from the UK and Jersey last month to deny fishing licences to French boats, arguing it was a breach of the Brexit deal.

The country then warned it would block British boats from landing their catches in some French ports next week and tighten checks on UK boats and trucks if the dispute was not resolved by Tuesday.

On Friday morning, Environment Secretary George Eustice said if necessary the UK would respond in turn, saying “two can play at that game”.

The government also said it was considering launching “dispute settlement proceedings” with the EU if France goes ahead with the “unjustified measures”.

Tensions escalated further when a British trawler was detained on Friday in Le Havre and another one fined.

The French people are deeply attached to their fishing industry, suspicious of the British government, and share the general confusion about why some French boats are being given licences and others refused.

They take at face value their own government’s claim that it is all grossly unfair, and that the planned retaliation against the UK is simply a defence of the national interest.

Which is not to say there aren’t also worried voices urging caution.

The big fish and seafood traders based in Boulogne-sur-Mer depend heavily on British produce either unloaded at the quayside or brought in by lorry.

If those imports dry up, hundreds of jobs could be at stake – not to mention the valuable Christmas market for coquille saint-jacques and other shellfish.

It’s commonplace in the UK to hear that by acting tough President Macron is merely playing to the gallery with an eye on next April’s presidential elections.

And it’s commonplace in France to hear that Boris Johnson is merely playing to his political gallery by baiting the oh-so-baitable French.

Suffice to say that right now neither side seems particularly inclined to do the other any favours.

Europe

Ursula von der Leyen offers speedy response to Ukraine’s bid to join EU

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European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the civilian deaths in the Ukrainian town of Bucha showed the “cruel face” of Russia’s army and pledged to try to speed Ukraine’s bid to become a member of the European Union.

During a visit to Bucha on Friday, where forensic investigators started to exhume bodies from a mass grave, Von der Leyen looked visibly moved by what she saw in the town northwest of Kyiv where Ukrainian officials say hundreds of civilians were killed by Russian forces.

Russia denies targeting civilians and has called the allegations that Russian forces executed civilians in Bucha while they occupied the town a “monstrous forgery”.

As EU officials were about to arrive in Kyiv, at least 50 people were killed and many more wounded in a missile strike at a railway station packed with civilians fleeing the threat of a major Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine.

At a news conference, Von der Leyen condemned what she called “the cynical behaviour” of those who wrote “for our children” on the weapons found near the scene.

Saying the EU could never match the sacrifice of Ukraine, Von der Leyen offered it a speedier start to its bid for bloc membership.

Handing the president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a questionnaire which will form a starting point for a decision on membership, she said: “It will not as usual be a matter of years to form this opinion but I think a matter of weeks.”

Zelenskiy told the same news conference he would come back with answers in a week.

“Russia will descend into economic, financial and technological decay, while Ukraine is marching towards the European future, this is what I see,” Von der Leyen said.

Earlier in Bucha, she told reporters: “The unthinkable has happened here. We have seen the cruel face of Putin’s army. We have seen the recklessness and the cold-heartedness with which they have been occupying the city.”

Von der Leyen’s trip to Kyiv was aimed at offering Zelenskiy moral and some financial support.

She pledged her support for Ukraine to “emerge from the war as a democratic country”, something, she said, the European Union and other donors would help with.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s chief diplomat, said he hoped the EU could allocate a further €500m (£420m) to Ukraine for arms purchases in a couple of days.

Zelenskiy has urged Brussels to do more to punish Russia, including banning purchases of Russian oil and gas, and has called on the EU to accept Ukraine as a full member.

Earlier, Borrell said oil sanctions were “a big elephant in the room“, with some concerns that a move to cut out Russian crude could cause a spike in prices that would be painful to European economies. He said a decision on exports would be raised on Monday in Brussels.

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Dutch officials drop case against Rijksmuseum over ‘racist’ word

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The director of the Rijksmuseum said he was “happy” as Dutch prosecutors announced they would not proceed with an investigation into complaints over a newly opened exhibition on Indonesian independence, the first of its kind in Europe.

The exhibition, Revolusi! Indonesia Independent, at the Netherlands’ national museum, has been a source a controversy since one of its curators, Bonnie Triyana, said the term “bersiap”, or stand by, would not be used in reference to the violent upheaval that followed a declaration of independence from the Dutch state.

Triyana claimed that use of the word, a battle cry for young Indonesians seeking independence, “takes on a strongly racist connotation” in the Netherlands today that “always portrays primitive, uncivilised Indonesians as perpetrators of the violence”. He said: “The team of curators has decided not to use the word bersiap as a common term referring to the violent period in Indonesia.”

In a sign of the ongoing sensitivity in Dutch society over the country’s colonial history, the comments drew a furious response in some quarters, with the head of the Federation of Dutch Indonesians, Hans Moll, accusing the Rijksmuseum of genocide denial by ignoring that “thousands of Dutch people were brutally tortured, raped and murdered by Indonesians because of their Dutch or European ethnicity”.

Complaints were made to the general prosecutor last month but Taco Dibbits, the Rijksmuseum’s director, said he had learned on the eve of the exhibition’s opening on Thursday that the justice ministry would not be proceeding with the case.

“I’m happy and had expected the decision that the case is not viable,” he said. “But I think it is very good that there is discussion about these concepts. It is our duty to broaden our view of history.”

Dibbits said the exhibition did make reference to the term bersiap but put it in the context of violence endured by a large range of people, and that the show explored the entire period from 1945 to 27 December 1949 when the Dutch withdrew.

He said: “The term ‘bersiap’ is used in the Netherlands by different communities that had to flee Indonesia and were repatriated during the revolution. It marks a very specific moment in time in the four and a half years of the revolution, the moment of the fall of 1945, when Indonesia has just declared itself independent and groups of insurgents executed extreme violence against several groups: Indo-Europeans, Moluccans on the Dutch side, and Chinese and others they thought were on the Dutch side. It takes place in the chaos just after the declaration of independence.

“We explain the source of the word, which started to be used in the Netherlands in the 1980s, and give it a historical context, but also speak about the violence against other groups during the revolution. We speak about violence in a much broader sense.”

Dibbits said he felt it was a “pity” that complaints had been made to the prosectors before the exhibition had opened. A second complaint, which is also not being pursued, was filed with prosecutors after Dibbits clarified before the opening that the bersiap concept would be referenced.

Dibbits said: “One claimed that not using the term was against history and the second complaint said the using of the term was against history.”

Indonesia became a member of the United Nations in 1950 and today the country counts about 270 million inhabitants across more than 17,000 islands.

The exhibition explores the personal stories of independence fighters, artists, diplomats, politicians, journalists and those seeking to maintain Dutch hold over the territory by displaying more than 200 objects, including privately owned keepsakes and paintings.

Dibbits said among the most powerful artefacts was a bundle of baby clothes made out of book covers, belonging to a young woman called Julia Nelisse. She had given birth to a daughter, Merani, in a leper colony in Pelantungan, modern-day Java, on 6 September 1947.

Corpses of fighters and civilians were regularly washing up on the river shore, which Nelisse laid out on cloth shrouds. Due to the lack of remaining cloth, she had to take the covers from books in the abandoned colony library to make into clothes. On show is a vest, a pillow and a nappy. “It is very emotional to see and brings it very close,” Dibbits said.

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Heidelberg shooting: One dead in gun attack on German students

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A lone gunman has killed one person and seriously injured three others inside a lecture hall at Heidelberg University in the south-west of Germany, before shooting himself dead.

He was an 18-year-old German student.

German police said the shooter, who was armed with two guns, had used a “long gun”, and fired shots around the amphitheatre “wildly”.

The bloodshed triggered a large operation at the university’s campus in the Neuenheimer Feld area.

Police asked people to avoid the area so rescue workers and emergency services could move around freely.

German media reported that the gunman appeared to have no religious or political motive.

Police have searched his flat in the city of Mannheim, and found a WhatsApp message he had sent shortly beforehand, in which he spoke of punishing people.

Heidelberg is a university town with about 160,000 inhabitants.

The country has some of the strictest gun laws in Europe, and school shootings are rare. Anyone under 25 is required to pass a psychological evaluation before getting a gun licence.

Police initially said four victims had been wounded, with a later update confirming one had died in hospital.

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