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Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: EU's Budget Deal Includes First-Ever Spending Cuts

EU states and lawmakers reached a last-minute deal (FT) on Thursday on the hotly contested 2014–2020 budget after weeks of arduous negotiations. The €960 billion package, down from the current €994 billion budget cycle, included spending cuts for the first time (Bloomberg) as the region faces an ongoing recession and record unemployment. The breakthrough came just hours before leaders gathered in Brussels for a June summit focused on job creation (EUObserver), and will allow leaders to offer €6 billion to tackle youth unemployment earlier than planned.


"Once again, short-term national interests are taking precedence over the need for a forward-looking, flexible, and efficient EU budget. The European Parliament, which for the first time must approve the MFF [Multiannual Financial Framework], should use its newfound influence to uphold the EU-wide public interest and offset the blinkered, vested interests of individual member states," writes Guy Verhofstadt for Project Syndicate.

"It appears that under the new deal, the figures agreed will remain unchanged but, in a concession to the European Parliament, unspent money will be transferred from one year to the next, rather than returning to national budgets as at present," writes the BBC.

"When EU leaders convene for the European Council on Thursday, one of their priorities will be to find new ways to tackle youth unemployment. It is time politicians caught up with economic reality: with almost 15m under-30s who are neither in employment, education, nor training, Europe faces a generational crisis," writes an editorial for the Financial Times.



U.S. Ambassador to China Makes Rare Tibet Visit

Ambassador Gary Locke is on a rare three-day visit to Tibet this week (Quartz), marking the first trip by an American ambassador to the region since 2010. Locke will meet with officials to raise concerns about human rights in light of Tibetan self-immolations protesting Chinese rule.

CFR's Yanzhong Huang reviews the Dalai Lama's self-immolation dilemma in Tibet in this blog post.

SOUTH KOREA: South Korean president Park Geun-hye held her first summit (Yonhap) with Chinese president Xi Jinping on Thursday in a meeting focused on North Korea's nuclear program.



Mongolia Reelects President

Mongolia reelected President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj to a second four-year term (NYT), giving him enough votes to avoid a runoff election. Observers say Elbegdorj is likely to continue with his anticorruption and pro-growth policies that have drastically expanded the economy.

PAKISTAN: The head of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, Pakistan's conservative political bloc, supported the Doha peace talks, urging the Pakistani government to hold discussions with the Taliban (Dawn).



U.S. Begins Weapons Shipments to Syrian Rebels

The CIA has begun moving weapons to Jordan as part of a new covert plan (WSJ) authorized by President Barack Obama to begin arming small groups of vetted Syrian rebels within a month. The move expands U.S. support of moderate forces fighting President Bashar al-Assad.

CFR's Micah Zenko discusses President Obama's decision to provide military support to the Syrian opposition in this op-ed.

EGYPT: In a speech reviewing his first year in office (al-Jazeera), President Mohammed Morsi acknowledged mistakes and said the polarization of Egypt's politics threatened democracy.



Obama Visits Senegal

President Barack Obama arrived on Thursday in Senegal (BBC), where he will meet with President Macky Sall, kicking off the first leg of a three-nation tour of Africa. Observers say his decision to visit the Muslim-majority country was to acknowledge its strides in achieving democracy.

He is due to visit the Supreme Court to speak about the importance of independent judiciaries and the rule of law in Africa's development.

This Foreign Affairs article discusses Africa's economic boom.

SOUTH AFRICA: Former South African leader Nelson Mandela's conditioned worsened on Thursday (Reuters), prompting President Jacob Zuma to cancel a trip to neighboring Mozambique.



Albanians Clash with Police in Kosovo

Hundreds of ethnic Albanians opposed to normalizing ties with Serbia clashed with riot police in Pristina, Kosovo's capital, on Thursday (Reuters). The protest was started by an opposition party that objects to an EU-brokered deal that would give Kosovo's Serbs a degree of autonomy.



U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Gay Marriage, Expands Federal Rights

The Supreme Court handed down two historic judgments (WashPost) on Wednesday, ruling that same-sex couples are entitled to federal benefits and declining to decide a challenge from California, effectively allowing same-sex marriage to continue in the state.

ECUADOR: Ecuador said on Wednesday that the United States must submit its position regarding U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden in writing. Quito is currently reviewing his request for asylum (MercoPress).



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