Prime Minister David Cameron has arrived in Riga, Latvia, where he will begin talks to set out reforming Britain’s relationship with the EU. EU leaders are meeting in Riga to discuss relations with former Soviet states. In particular, leaders will discuss the EU’s relationship with Russia in light of the conflict in Ukraine, where Russia is believed to be funding separatist rebels. The Prime Minister will also use the summit to discuss EU reforms. In a statement, the Prime Minister said that Britain should expect difficult negotiations ahead of the UK’s EU membership referendum scheduled for 2017. Cameron did not set out exact details on what changes would be sought in negotiations, but greater autonomy for the UK, and expanding Britain’s mandate to ‘opt-out’ of EU policies, is to be expected. Next week, the Prime Minister will hold one-on-one talks with Germany’s Chancellor Merkel and France’s President Hollande. The talks will be the first meetings with leaders since the Prime Minister secured a majority Conservative government in the general election on 7 May.
European Union nations have agreed a €1.8 billion loan to Ukraine, the largest loan it has given to a non-EU member. The loan was agreed at a summit of EU member nations in Riga, Latvia, where relations with former Soviet nations are high on the agenda. The loan will alleviate some strain on Ukraine’s economy, which has been damaged by the country’s civil war between government forces and pro-Russian separatists. Ukraine must undertake anti-corruption measures as a condition of the loan, along with other reforms. In 2014, Ukrainians held protests against the government’s scrapping of a deal promising closer ties with the EU – protests that toppled the country’s then-leader and escalated into a full-blown civil war that has killed over 6,000 people. At the summit, EU states have also pledged €200 million grants to several former Soviet nations, including Georgia, Belarus and Azerbaijan. The loan to Ukraine, and grants to other former Soviet nations, could serve to raise tensions with Russia – a country already suffering from international isolation over its alleged involvement in the Ukrainian conflict.
China is likely to hold a 25-30 percent stake in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), it has been announced. India is likely to be the second largest shareholder in the bank, with a 10-15 percent stake, it has also been reported. Asian member nations will approximately hold a 75 percent stake in the bank, with non-regional members holding the rest. Delegates made the announcements after a three-day summit in Singapore between AIIB founding members to discuss governance of the bank. Articles of agreement have been finalised and are expected to be signed by the end of June. Some insiders expect the AIIB to be operational by the end of 2015, while others have expressed scepticism over the time required for individual nations to pass legislative approval. The AIIB consists of 57 member nations to date, including the UK.
Immigration and the European Union make the headlines the day after figures showed net migration into the UK to have risen in 2014. Playing on tomorrow’s Eurovision Song Contest, The Independent writes that Prime Minister David Cameron’s “song for Europe” will be “stop these migrant benefits”. Cameron is to head to a summit in Latvia with a “pledge for further crackdown” on illegal immigration. The Prime Minister will thus embark on a “whirlwind EU tour”, The Times writes in its headline, travelling between European capitals “in search of support for reforms” of EU policies. The Prime Minister will also use the tour to lay out Britain’s terms for staying in the EU. Politics also makes the front page of The Guardian, after Home Secretary Theresa May came under fire from fellow Conservative Cabinet Ministers. May had proposed using broadcasting watchdog Ofcom to “vet British broadcasters’ programmes” to counter extremist content. Former Culture Secretary Sajid Javid countered that the plans would change Ofcom from regulator “to censor”. The Daily Telegraph leads with news of a “Sugar tax to pay for treating obesity”. Under a law proposed by Life Sciences Minister George Freeman, “Companies that continue to produce foods that lead to poor lifestyles will be penalised”, the paper writes. The Financial Times leads with news of “Hong Kong turmoil” after a second share sell-off “wipes $16bn from Goldin’s value”. The fall in Goldin’s share value came just days after another firm, Hanergy Thin Film Power, lost almost half its value through a similar stock sell-off.
British Media on China
On China and Latin America: several China-related articles also had a focus on South America today. The BBC reports that Mexico is to compensate China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) US$1.3 million for its cancellation of a US$3.75 billion high-speed rail contract. The BBC reports that the construction project was called off last year “over controversy in the bidding process” for the contract. CRCC gave Mexico a list of costs incurred in securing the bid and had requested compensation, the BBC writes. The Guardian reports that Brazil has ditched a commitment to climate change targets that it had been expected to make in a joint statement with China ahead of bilateral talks. Brazil had also “watered down Chinese proposals for a partnership on solar energy”, the paper writes.