Britain and the Netherlands go to the polls on Thursday, starting the ball rolling on elections to the European parliament that are expected to see a swing towards populist right-wing parties. The elections, spread over four days in the EU's 28 member states, are likely to see major gains for parties bent on dismantling the European Union from the inside. When the results are announced from 2100 GMT on Sunday, eurosceptic parties may top the polls in Britain, France, Italy and the Netherlands. The anti-immigration and anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) of Nigel Farage, and Geert Wilders' virulently anti-Islam Party of Freedom (PVV), are both forecast to make big gains.
Chinese manufacturing activity saw a sharp improvement in May, hitting a five-month high, HSBC said on Tuesday, but it warned more government action was needed to kickstart the world's number two economy. "The improvement was broad-based with both new orders and new export orders back in expansionary territory," Qu Hongbin, HSBC's Hong Kong-based economist, said in the statement. In the first three months of 2014 China's economy grew 7.4 percent, weaker than the 7.7 percent in October-December and the worst since a similar 7.4 percent expansion in the third quarter of 2012. Premier Li Keqiang in March announced a growth target of "around 7.5 percent" for this year.
The United States is ready to help organize new elections in Libya in hopes of ushering in a more stable government, US officials said Wednesday amid growing concern at the political turmoil. Libya's electoral commission said Tuesday that polls will take place on June 25 to replace its disputed interim parliament, according to the LANA state news agency. "We're prepared to help support elections preparation from here," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, cautioning that Washington was still waiting for official word from Tripoli. Washington has a range of tools at its disposal, she said, declining to confirm however whether the US would be prepared to help with security arrangements.
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy called for the end of Europe's visa-free Schengen area and the creation of a Franco-German economic bloc at the heart of the eurozone, in an opinion piece in Le Point magazine published Thursday. As France prepares to vote in EU-wide elections on Sunday, Sarkozy said "Schengen I must be immediately suspended and be replaced by a Schengen II of which member countries can only be a part if they previously agree to the same immigration policy". "Europe is not meant to organise social and migratory dumping, almost systematically at the expense of France," he warned. The Schengen area comprises 26 European countries that have abolished passport or any other type of border control in-between their common borders.
By Edith Honan and Gabriel Debenedetti NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The scandal over a made-up study that badly disrupted traffic at the George Washington Bridge may not be New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's biggest problem after all. Less than a year after the charismatic governor was the toast of the Republican Party and a leading contender to run for the White House in 2016, the story was supposed to be about a New Jersey economy that he had managed to turn around and budget problems he had been able to solve. At the same time, New Jersey's economy is less than buoyant - its jobless rate is 6.9 percent, higher than the national rate of 6.3 percent. Christie had built up a picture of a savvy politician and efficient administrator who could reach out to his Democratic opponents and get them to help him solve the state's problems, as he did in getting the support of President Barack Obama when Superstorm Sandy devastated the Jersey Shore in 2012.
A US federal judge ordered the government Wednesday to provide the medical records and 34 videos of a Syrian hunger-striking prisoner who was forced-fed at Guantanamo. Abu Wa'el Dhiab, 42, was cleared for release by the Obama administration in 2009 but has remained at the US naval base in Cuba for more than a decade without charge or trial. US District Judge Gladys Kessler ordered President Barack Obama's administration last week to temporarily stop force-feeding Dhiab, also asked that it turn over his medical records from last year. Dhiab has been "harassed and intimidated" by Guantanamo staff that he would face a so-called forcible cell extraction if he did not stop refusing food, according to the filing that described the "bodily pain" inflicted upon the prisoner by the FCE team.
US Attorney General Eric Holder will travel to Germany to discuss privacy concerns after the NSA spying scandal damaged relations between the two allies, Germany said Wednesday. German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere told journalists in Washington that Holder has accepted an invitation from Berlin to explain how the US would curb spying on foreign nationals overseas. "We will have this discussion together in Germany," he said. The US Justice Department did not immediately confirm the trip and de Maiziere said that Holder's visit would not take place "before the summer recess."