Macron admirer, young & openly gay: Ireland poised to appoint Leo Varadkar as new PM

Macron admirer, young & openly gay: Ireland poised to appoint Leo Varadkar as new PM
Ireland’s likely next prime minister Leo Varadkar will be the nation’s youngest, and one of the world’s only openly gay leaders. Commentators say that his blend of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism is what will make him stand out in modern Ireland, however.

Varadkar beat his rival Simon Coveney in the race for leadership of the Fine Gael party in a close race, with the vast majority of party members voting for Coveney but the overall majority of councilors and Fine Gael MPs voting for Varadkar. The soon-to-be prime minister dismissed speculation of a split within the party.

“It’s not something that defines me. I’m not a half-Indian politician, or a doctor politician or a gay politician for that matter. It’s just part of who I am, it doesn’t define me, it is part of my character I suppose,” Varadkar told Irish state broadcaster RTE when asked about his unique background, as cited by Quartz.

Leo: I am a politician who is evolving and I am a person who is still evolving.

Leo not ruling out the possibility of a future coalition with Fianna Fáil.

Varadkar still has to meet with independents and opposition leaders with a view to forming a coalition government – which may prove difficult, given Ireland’s ongoing austerity measures.

While Fine Gael claims that austerity policies are easing off and the economy is improving, Varadkar will still have to grapple with an ongoing homeless crisis, mass youth emigration and, most notably, the fallout from the UK’s Brexit vote.

Leo Varadkar says will be one of his first priorities as leader of Fine Gael

Some in the media have made comparisons between Varadkar and other youthful political leaders, such as Canada’s Justin Trudeau and France’s Emmanuel Macron.

In April, Varadkar met then-French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron at a rally in Paris, saying it was “a privilege to attend” and that Macron is “a man whose character and values I admire.” Varadkar made specific references to Macron’s pro-EU stance and his “socially and economically liberal campaign.”

Varadkar has decried the current state of global politics and the rise of populism.

“The political division in the world is no longer one of left versus right. It’s increasingly been progressivism and open on one side versus regressivism and closed on the other,” Varakar has said, the Irish Times reported.

While known as somewhat charismatic and personable, Varadkar is known to wield a sharp tongue when necessary. “The gutter is Bertie Ahern’s natural habitat,” he said of one of Ireland’s former prime ministers, as cited by the Irish Independent.

Irish gay bar defaced with Nazi & homophobic graffiti 2 years after same-sex couples marriage referendum (PHOTOS) https://on.rt.com/8c84 

Varadkar, 38, came out publicly as gay in 2015, almost two decades after homosexuality and divorce were both legalized in Ireland – but before the gay marriage referendum was successfully passed by popular vote.

However, his recent campaign to clamp down on alleged abuse of Ireland’s welfare system, through a telephone hotline, led to widespread criticism from left-wing parties.

Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All, Varadkar calls on public to report welfare fraud at launch of hard-hitting campaign: http://www.welfare.ie/en/pressoffice/Pages/pr180417.aspx 

He also famously described his Fine Gael party as representing the “people who get up early in the morning,” which drew the ire of a popular satirical news website in the country.

However, despite the initial backlash to the campaign, a recent poll showed that the vast majority of Irish people surveyed support the controversial program, privately at least.

Barring any unlikely political hiccups along the way, Varadkar is expected to take office in the next two weeks, taking over from outgoing Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who stepped down in May.

Varadkar also added that he expected to announce a referendum on the extremely sensitive issue of abortion in 2018.


EU mulls economic measures for US after Trump’s withdrawal from Paris agreement

EU mulls economic measures for US after Trump’s withdrawal from Paris agreement
The EU is considering taking economic measures in response to President Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement. These could include halting trade talks, forging closer ties with Russia, and imposing heavy carbon taxes on US exports.

In a tit-for-tat retaliation, former EU Parliament President Martin Schulz has pledged to respond to Donald Trump’s pullout by refusing to engage in transatlantic trade talks.

“If the US drops out of the climate agreement… for European trade policy, this means that American production sites don’t need to abide by the climate goals,” Germany’s center-left chancellor candidate said on Thursday, speaking at the WDR Europa Forum in Berlin.

“That is a competitive distortion against which we can only protect ourselves by saying: Whoever wants to have access to our market – and the European market is the biggest market in the world – needs to respect the European standards,” he added, as cited by Politico.

Speaking on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said that Washington’s decision to quit the agreement means that new partnerships should be established, including with Russia.

“I can clearly see that America quits the current power game, and the decision on the Paris climate agreement only confirms it. For us and for everyone else, this means that we must move forward and form new alliances, with Russia being an important partner,” Kern told RIA Novosti news agency.

The Austrian politician said Europe should in no way change its climate plans just because president Trump doesn’t want to be part of them. Alternatively, the EU “should enhance cooperation” in the field, and strengthen its alliances with other global powers, including Russia, China, and India, he said.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel called the decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement “a brutal act” and “an irresponsible decision that detracts from the promises made.”

“If companies in the US benefit from this, we shouldn’t be naïve. We must protect and defend our economy in Europe,” Michel told VRT radio on Friday, as cited by Standard.be. “I’m in favor of free trade, so we must work together with our partners to see what instruments are available to us,” he said.

The EU will not be looking to impose sanctions on the US, however, according to EU Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete.

“That is not something we are considering,” he told Reuters on Thursday.

Trump sparked global outcry on Thursday when he announced the decision to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The move wasn’t unexpected. Media outlets citing sources close to the issue had been reporting during the week that Trump was likely to withdraw from the deal agreed to by his predecessor.

On Tuesday, Schulz accused Trump of wrecking Western values and undermining international cooperation.

Trump is “the destroyer of all Western values,” the outspoken Social Democrat told reporters in Berlin, adding that the US president was undermining beneficial cooperation between nations based on respect and tolerance.

The Paris Agreement, which was reached in April of 2016, provides a framework for dealing with climate change globally. Countries representing 55 percent of the world’s emissions originally committed to adhere to the agreement, which aims to limit the increase in global average temperatures to “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.”

The Trump administration argued that the deal was unfair to the US economy.

“What we have to remember, when it comes to environmental agreements and international agreements with respect to things like the Paris Agreement, is we have nothing to be apologetic about as a country,” US Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt told reporters on Friday, noting that the US has reduced its carbon footprint by more than 18 percent this century, which has “been largely accomplished through innovation and technology, not government mandate.”

“Exiting Paris does not mean disengagement,” he added. Paris was “a bad deal for this country,” but “it doesn’t mean that we’re not going to continue the discussion, to export our innovation, to export our technology to the rest of the world, to demonstrate how we do it better here is, I think, a very important message to send.”

Some of that innovation includes hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, and horizontal drilling, Pruitt said.

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