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Featured Image: the Spanish royal family in 2009 – Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia with King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia. Attribution: photo by Esther shared under a CC BY-ND 2.0 license

This Week in Europe brings you a rundown of the biggest or most interesting stories in Europe from the week, every weekend.

Belarus election stirs protests

In the weeks leading up to elections in Belarus, protestors have taken to the streets. In the capital Minsk, activists are staging demonstrations against Europe’s longest-serving ruler President Alexander Lukashenko. He is running for reelection for the sixth time since 1994. The election’s previous three frontrunners were either arrested or barred from running by the Belarus Central Election Commission. As a result, protestors turned out in Minsk and cities all over the country, clashing with police forces.

Victory Square in Minsk
Victory Square in Minsk, Belarus

Lukashenko’s opponents have rallied behind another contender for president, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. Tikhanovskaya is the wife of Sergey Tikhanovsky, a blogger and presidential candidate who was charged and detained by Belarusian authorities. She’s rapidly gained support from the opposition, urging people to defend their right to vote in free and fair elections. She’s also calling on EU countries to pay close attention to Sunday’s election in Belarus. It’s clear Lukashenko won’t give up power easily and may try to rig the vote counts.

Former Spanish king leaves Spain

On Monday, the former king of Spain, Juan Carlos, announced he’d be leaving the country. Under multiple investigations concerning his financial past, Spain’s former monarch sought to distance himself from his son, King Felipe VI. Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014, but his ongoing judicial problems and the resurfacing of his past personal scandals have been troublesome for Spain’s monarchy. Although Spanish officials don’t know Juan Carlos’ current whereabouts, the former king is not hiding from his prosecutors. He had said in a letter that he would comply in his ongoing judicial proceedings. After Juan Carlos’ departure, some Spanish cities are removing his name from streets and districts.

U.S. will remove troops from Germany and send more to Eastern Europe

Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that nearly 12,000 American troops would be pulled from Germany. He cited Germany’s lack of adequate spending on NATO defense as the reason. This week, Trump and Polish President Andrzej Duda announced the addition of 1,000 troops to Poland, adding to the near 4,500 already rotating through the country.

The troop withdrawal from Germany is intended as a punishment by the Trump administration and German officials were angered by the news. But a YouGov poll released this week shows that 47 percent of Germans are in favor of American troop withdrawal. Another 66 percent said they wanted the removal of the 20 nuclear bombs the U.S. stores in Germany as well.

Aid promised to Lebanon – if there’s reform

Following the deadly explosion in Lebanon’s port city Beirut, European leaders expressed statements of solidarity. Some have pledged support, albeit with conditions. Lebanon was dealing with a political and social crisis before the disaster, which many blame on the corrupt government elite. French President Emmanuel Macron was the first foreign leader to visit Beirut after the explosion. He announced plans for an international aid conference in the coming days but said the fund would go directly to NGOs and other such groups. The move is supposed to keep money out of the hands of corrupt government officials. Macron also called on Lebanese authorities to do a “political reset” and issue significant reforms by September.

matyrs monument in Beirut
The Matyrs’ Monument in Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square. Volunteers were distributing food and clothes to victims of the blast from the city’s central square in the days afterward

Other Interesting Stories This Week

Amid EU rejection of funds to Polish towns for anti-LGBT policies and three people arrested for hanging LGBT flags on Polish monuments, Polish MPs stood in protest at the President’s swearing-in on Thursday

Tourists arriving in the UK from Belgium must self-quarantine for two weeks

Convoluted immigration policies force a man born in France and raised in Belgium to apply for asylum so he’s not deported to the DRC

Despite travel bans, some Americans are still finding ways into Europe

Read last week’s edition of This Week in Europe

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Welcome to All Abroad

Thanks for stopping by! My name's Courtney. I'm a travel and politics writer based in Brussels, Belgium. I write about travel, culture, expat life, and food & wine - infusing a bit of politics into each. Learn more about this blog here.