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Reuven Rivlin elected 10th president of State of Israel

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Reuven_Rivlin_2011On 10 June, Likud senior figure and former Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin was elected the tenth president of the State of Israel after he scored a victory over Hatnua Member of the Knesset Meir Sheetrit in the second round of secret voting at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

75-year-old Rivlin received 63 votes in the second round, while Sheetrit received 53 votes.

A veteran Likud MK, Reuven Rivlin was as first elected to the Knesset in 1988.

He will officially replace Shimon Peres as the 10th President when he steps down in July after a seven-year term.

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Rivlin was born on 9 September 1939 in Jerusalem, then part of British Mandatory Palestine.

Rivlin qualified and worked as a lawyer before entering politics.

In 1978 he was elected to the Jerusalem city council, a position he held until 1988.

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Between 1981 and 1986 he served as a member of the executive council of Israel’s national airline El-Al.

Rivlin was elected to the Knesset with the Likud in 1988. He lost his seat in 1992 but regained it in 1996.

He served as Minister of Communications in the government of Ariel Sharon (2001-2003).

He was speaker of the Knesset from 2003-2006 and 2009-2013.

In 2007 he stood against Shimon Peres in the Israeli Presidential election.

Rivlin is an avid supporter of Beitar Jerusalem FC, having served as a legal advisor to and Chairman of the Beitar Jerusalem Sports Association. In 2013 he strongly condemned widely reported racist outbursts by sections of Beitar Jerusalem’s supporters.

As Speaker of the Knesset, Rivlin developed a reputation as a staunch supporter of democracy and civil liberties; many of his decisions angered his allies on the right.

In 2010 he made efforts to prevent the removal of Haneen Zoabi MK’s parliamentary privileges, over her participation in the Mavi Marmara flotilla and he has a friendship with Ta’al MK Ahmed Tibi, despite their diverging views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Rivlin is a veteran Likud MK considered a staunch defender of Israeli democracy and the independence of the Knesset; a fact which led him to fall out with Prime Minister Netanyahu during the last Knesset.

Although he personally opposes the two-state solution, he has said he would not intervene in the decisions of Israel’s elected politicians.

In an interview with Times of Israel he emphasised the importance of the neutrality of the president, saying, “It’s not for the president to determine the arrangements between Israel and the Palestinians, and the Arab world … but to be the bridge between opinions, and to facilitate dialogue and understanding.”

In an article, he recently described the politicisation of the presidency as a threat to the institution. He wrote: “On a constitutional level, the presidency is symbolic, rather than a source of authority.” He added: “The duty (and right) of the elected government to govern obliges the President to give appropriate support to government’s decisions”, even though the President may personally disagree with these decisions.

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Economy

Issuance of green bonds will strengthen the international role of the euro

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Eurogroup ministers discussed the international role of the euro (15 February), following the publication of the European Commission's communication of (19 January), ‘The European economic and financial system: fostering strength and resilience’.

President of the Eurogroup, Paschal Donohoe said: “The aim is to reduce our dependence on other currencies, and to strengthen our autonomy in various situations. At the same time, increased international use of our currency also implies potential trade-offs, which we will continue to monitor. During the discussion, ministers emphasized the potential of green bond issuance to enhance the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate transition objective.”

The Eurogroup has discussed the issue several times in recent years since the December 2018 Euro Summit. Klaus Regling, the managing director of the European Stability Mechanism said that overreliance on the dollar contained risks, giving Latin America and the Asian crisis of the 90s as examples. He also referred obliquely to “more recent episodes” where the dollar’s dominance meant that EU companies could not continue to work with Iran in the face of US sanctions. Regling believes that the international monetary system is slowly moving towards a multi-polar system where three or four currencies will be important, including the dollar, euro and renminbi. 

European Commissioner for the Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, agreed that the euro’s role could be strengthened through the issuance of green bonds enhancing the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate objectives of the Next Generation EU funds.

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Ministers agreed that broad action to support the international role of the euro, encompassing progress on amongst other things, Economic and Monetary Union, Banking Union and Capital Markets Union were needed to secure the euros international role.

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EU

European human rights court backs Germany over Kunduz airstrike case

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An investigation by Germany into a deadly 2009 airstrike near the Afghan city of Kunduz that was ordered by a German commander complied with its right-to-life obligations, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday (16 February), writes .

The ruling by the Strasbourg-based court rejects a complaint by Afghan citizen Abdul Hanan, who lost two sons in the attack, that Germany did not fulfil its obligation to effectively investigate the incident.

In September 2009, the German commander of NATO troops in Kunduz called in a U.S. fighter jet to strike two fuel trucks near the city which NATO believed had been hijacked by Taliban insurgents.

The Afghan government said at the time 99 people, including 30 civilians, were killed. Independent rights groups estimated between 60 and 70 civilians were killed.

The death toll shocked Germans and ultimately forced its defence minister to resign over accusations of covering up the number of civilian casualties in the run-up to Germany’s 2009 election.

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Germany’s federal prosecutor general had found that the commander did not incur criminal liability, mainly because he was convinced when he ordered the airstrike that no civilians were present.

For him to be liable under international law, he would have had to be found to have acted with intent to cause excessive civilian casualties.

The European Court of Human Rights considered the effectiveness of Germany’s investigation, including whether it established a justification for lethal use of force. It did not consider the legality of the airstrike.

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Of 9,600 NATO troops in Afghanistan, Germany has the second-largest contingent behind the United States.

A 2020 peace agreement between the Taliban and Washington calls for foreign troops to withdraw by May 1, but U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is reviewing the deal after a deterioration in the security situation in Afghanistan.

Germany is preparing to extend the mandate for its military mission in Afghanistan from March 31 until the end of this year, with troop levels remaining at up to 1,300, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.

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EU

Digitalization of EU justice systems: Commission launches public consultation on cross-border judicial co-operation

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On 16 February, the European Commission launched a public consultation on the modernization of EU justice systems. The EU aims to support member states in their efforts to adapt their justice systems to the digital age and improve EU cross-border judicial co-operation. Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders (pictured) said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of digitalization, including in the field of justice. Judges and lawyers need digital tools to be able to work together faster and more efficiently.

At the same time, citizens and businesses need online tools for an easier and more transparent access to justice at a lower cost. The Commission strives to push this process forward and support member states in their efforts, including as regards facilitating their cooperation in cross-border judicial procedures by using digital channels.” In December 2020, the Commission adopted a communication outlining the actions and initiatives intended to advance the digitalization of justice systems across the EU.

The public consultation will gather views on the digitalization of EU cross-border civil, commercial and criminal procedures. The results of the public consultation, in which a broad range of groups and individuals can participate and which is available here until 8 May 2021, will feed into an initiative on digitalisation of cross-border judicial cooperation expected at the end of this year as announced in the 2021 Commission's Work Programme.

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