Wider Europe

Current: Brexit crisis

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Theresa May's new ambassador to the European Union is a "hard-headed" diplomat who has faced down Vladimir Putin and is ideally placed to "hit the ground running" in Brussels, ministers have said. Sir Tim Barrow has been appointed as Britain's new EU ambassador after a life-long career in the foreign office which has seen him serve in senior roles twice before in Brussels. He also served as Britain's ambassador to Moscow between 2011 and 2015, one of the most testing periods in relations between the two countries.

Linked to this, the outgoing president of the European parliament, Martin Schulz, has said the EU has failed to move on from the cataclysmic Brexit vote and is hamstrung by the failure of national leaders to sell the European vision at home. He said Brussels was “treading water” because national governments had lacked political courage in the face of the rise of the populist right. In his last major interview before a widely expected move to the frontline of German politics, Schulz told the Europa group of newspapers there had been a paradigm change in national leaders’ attitudes to the EU, which was threatening to undermine its stability. “The generation of Kohl and Mitterrand travelled to Brussels with the attitude that a strong Europe is in the interest of our country,” he said. “The Orbán generation says ‘we have to defend the interests of our country against Europe’ – as if they were being attacked by Brussels.”

Recent: European events

In June 2016, a referendum arranged by the UK Parliament was held on the country's membership of the EU. The result was 52% in favour of leaving and 48% in favour of remaining, with a turnout of 72%. Withdrawal from the EU has been a right of EU member states since 2007 under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. The process for the UK's withdrawal is uncertain under EU law. Article 50, which governs the withdrawal, has never been used before. Unless extensions are agreed, the timing for leaving under the article is two years from when Britain gives official notice, but this is unlikely to be given immediately. The assumption is that during the two year window new agreements will be negotiated, but there is no requirement that there be new agreements.

The ongoing refugee crisis worsened as Russia became more deeply involved in supporting the Assad regime inside Syria against its opponents.

Lithuania joined the euro on 1 January 2015, one year after Latvia.

Croatia became the 28th member state of the European Union on 1 July 2013.

On 29 June 2012, Montenegro started EU accession negotiations, barely six years after declaring independence, overtaking Macedonia on the EU accession path.

Serbia was granted candidate status on 1 March 2012, following its application for EU membership in 2009. Negotiations started in January 2014

The EU is reopening membership talks with Turkey, more than three years after freezing negotiations, in an attempt to boost the prospects for democratic reforms.

Lampedusa - closer to Tunisia than Sicily - has become the gateway into the EU for migrants escaping unrest and civil war in the Middle East and Africa.

Brussels now fears there is a 'poverty trap' for half of Europe as the North-South gap widens. Some 19m people are seeking employment across the eurozone.

Greece offers a residence permit to foreigners who buy property valued at €250,000. A non-EU national who buys a €500,000 house in Portugal can gain citizenship after six years. A foreigner who invests £1m in a UK company today can apply for permanent residence five years from now, but must be resident in the UK for six months in each of those years. Malta has declared it will sell a Maltese passport to anyone who pays €650,000.

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