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Brexit delay vote, NATO's annual report, and Ethiopian Airlines crash update | Europe briefing

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 Brexit delay vote, NATO's annual report, and Ethiopian Airlines crash update | Europe briefing
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UK Parliament to vote on delaying Brexit as PM tries to revive rejected deal

Britain's parliament was due to vote on Thursday on whether to delay Brexit beyond March 29.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Theresa May prepared to push lawmakers to vote again before then on her EU divorce deal, which they have twice rejected. Key to May's plan will be an attempt to persuade the most pro-Brexit lawmakers to reverse their opposition to her deal in the face of a possibly long delay.

European Council President Donald Tusk said on Thursday he would ask EU leaders to be open to granting Britain a long extension of Brexit talks if London needs time to rethink its strategy. He was echoed by Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney who said the EU may offer Britain to delay its exit from the bloc by up to 21 months.

READ MORE: British MPs vote to take no-deal Brexit off the table

NATO report: Europe getting closer to US spending targets

REUTERS/Yves Herman
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses a news conference on the alliance's annual report at NATO's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium March 14, 2019.REUTERS/Yves Herman

NATO's 2018 annual report showed on Thursday that the alliance moved closer to a pledge to dedicate 2% of national economic output on defence every year, with European allies reaching the 1.51% level — a five-year high.

The report found sharp rises in the Baltics, Poland and the Netherlands but only six governments met the target sought by the United States. Germany lagged behind.

US President Donald Trump, as the alliance's de facto leader, has made defence spending a priority after years of cuts following the 1945-90 Cold War.

READ MORE: ExclusiveRussia trying to meddle in Balkan countries joining NATO, Jens Stoltenberg tells Euronews

Ethiopian Airlines turns to Europe after Boeing plane crash

The black boxes from the crashed Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 were sent to Paris for analysis on Thursday, a company spokesman said.

The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder will be handed over to the French bureau of investigation and analysis (BEA) later in the day.

Meanwhile, European planemaker Airbus is discussing a new order with Ethiopian Airlines, a French presidential source said.

READ MORE: US joins EU in grounding all flights on Boeing 737 MAX planes

EU summit on Syria’s future wraps up as battle for last ISIS enclave continues

Foreign Ministers from dozens of countries, including Lebanon and Turkey, as well as senior UN officials are meeting in Brussels for a political discussion on the multiple aspects of the Syria crisis. They are also expected to make pledges of financial assistance.

The meeting comes as US-backed fighters besieging the so-called Islamic State group's final shred of territory in eastern Syria said they had pushed further into the enclave following clashes and air strikes by the US-led coalition.

REUTERS/Rodi Said
Islamic state fighters and their families walk as they surrendered in the village of Baghouz, SyriaREUTERS/Rodi Said

Orban asks European conservatives not to expel his Fidesz party

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has written to conservative European leaders who initiated the expulsion of his Fidesz party from the European People's Party group, apologising for offensive language but maintaining his political positions.

REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
A government billboard is seen in Budapest, Hungary, March 12, 2019. The billboard reads: "You also have the right to know what Brussels is up to," accusing European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker of pushing migration plans encouraged by U.S.-Hungarian businessman George Soros, in a media campaign rebuked by the commission.REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

According to a copy of a letter obtained by Reuters, Orban asked the leader of the Flemish Christian Democrats, Wouter Beke, to reconsider his proposal to eject Fidesz. A government spokesman said similar letters were sent to all 13 parties that backed the proposal.

READ MORE: Hungary covers up some anti-EU posters during Manfred Weber's visit

NGOs sue French State for failing to act against climate change

Four environmental NGOs including the French branches of Greenpeace and Oxfam have filed a lawsuit against France for failing to act against global warming, the non-profits said.

The lawsuit follows an online petition signed by 2 million people.

It is believed to be the first legal case of this kind brought on such scale against the French state, although other examples exist across Europe.

UN Human Rights expert slams own agency for Kosovo contamination scandal

The UN forced Roma families and other ethnic minorities to live in toxic camps in Kosovo and then failed to compensate them appropriately, according to a report by a UN Human Rights expert, released Wednesday.

REUTERS
A Roma family is seen in the Cesmin Lug Camp outside Trepca mine, on the outskirts of Mitrovica in 2009REUTERS

Around 600 people were placed in camps for internally displaced persons between 1999 and 2013 on contaminated land. Approximately half were children under the age of 14, UN expert Baskut Tuncak said.

The area was known to be the source of lead contamination since the 1970s. Lead poising is believed to have contributed to the death of several children and adults, Tuncak found in earlier reports.