Survivors: Up to 117 Missing From Sunken Boat Off Libya 

Three survivors of the sinking of a rubber dinghy in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya say up to 117 other migrants were aboard at the time, a U.N. migration official said Saturday. 

It appeared to be the latest tragedy on the dangerous central Mediterranean route from North Africa to Europe. 

Flavio Di Giacomo of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) told Italian state TV that “unfortunately about 120” migrants were reported by survivors to have been on the overloaded smugglers’ dinghy when it was launched from Libyan shores on Thursday evening. 

“After a few hours, it began sinking and people began drowning,” Di Giacomo said. 

Among the missing were 10 women and two children, including a 2-month-old baby, he said. Survivors indicated their fellow migrants came from Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Gambia and Sudan, Di Giacomo said. 

Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who has urged that the government show more compassion for migrants, expressed his “deep sorrow for the tragedy that has taken place in the Mediterranean.” 

Premier Giuseppe Conte told reporters he was “shocked” at the reports of the sinking and vowed that Italy would continue to combat human traffickers. 

Italy’s populist government has banned private rescue boats from bringing migrants to Italian shores. Together with Malta, Italy has also launched probes of the rescue groups themselves, claiming their operations might facilitate trafficking. 

Friday rescue

The three survivors of the sinking were plucked to safety by an Italian navy helicopter on Friday afternoon, the navy said.  

The Italian navy said when its patrol plane spotted the sinking dinghy it had about 20 persons aboard. The plane’s crew launched two life rafts near the dinghy, which inflated, and a navy destroyer 100 nautical miles (200 kilometers) away sent a helicopter to the scene.  

That helicopter rescued the survivors, two from a life raft and one from the water, the navy said, adding that all had hypothermia. 

They were flown to Lampedusa, an Italian island near Sicily, and treated in a hospital, Di Giacomo said.   

Many migrants cannot afford to pay for life vests, an extra cost when boarding a smuggler’s boat in Libya. The survivors said the migrants aboard the dinghy didn’t have any. 

It wasn’t immediately clear exactly how many migrants might have died before the navy plane spotted the sinking dinghy. 

The Italian Coast Guard says Libya asked a nearby cargo ship to search for survivors but the ship reported it found no one. 

Libyan navy spokesman Ayoub Gassim said one of its boats was sent Friday to the scene but it “had a mechanical issue and we had to call it back.” The official said 50 migrants were believed to have been aboard the dinghy when it set sail. 

According to the IOM, at least 2,297 people died at sea or went missing trying to reach Europe in 2018. In all, 116,959 migrants reached Europe by sea routes last year, it says. 

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said Saturday it was “appalled” at the news of the latest migrant deaths in the Mediterranean. In a statement from its Geneva headquarters, it said in addition to those missing off Libya, 53 people died in recent days in the western Mediterranean, where one survivor was rescued by a fishing boat after being stranded for more than 24 hours at sea.  

Can’t be ignored

“We cannot turn a blind eye to the high numbers of people dying on Europe’s doorstep,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. 

Italy has trained and equipped the Libyan coast guard so it can intercept and rescue more migrant boats closer to their shores. But U.N. refugee officials and rights advocates say the migrants rescued by the Libyans are returned to dangerous, overcrowded detention facilities, where detainees face insufficient rations, rape, beatings and torture. 

Libyan navy official Ayoub Gassim said Saturday that the Libyan navy had stopped two smuggling boats, one with 67 migrants aboard and the other with 20.  

In a separate operation, the German rescue group Sea-Watch said it rescued 47 people from a rubber boat off the coast of Libya. 

After Italy’s populist government took power in June 2018, the number of migrants reaching Italy after rescue at sea dropped off sharply, as anti-migrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini refused to let humanitarian rescue vessels enter Italian ports.

Salvini says Italy has received hundreds of thousands of migrants rescued from Libyan-based smugglers in unseaworthy boats in the last few years and demands that other European Union countries do their part. 

After the latest sea tragedy, Salvini said that when humanitarian rescue boats patrol off Libya, “the smugglers resume their dirty trafficking [and] people start dying again.” 

Clashes Break Out in France in Latest ‘Yellow Vest’ Protest

Clashes broke out throughout France on Saturday, as an estimated 84,000 “yellow vest” demonstrators took to the streets in a 10th consecutive weekend of protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s government. 

The demonstrations passed off relatively peacefully in Paris where 7,000 turned up, although Reuters Television reporters saw scuffles briefly break out between police and demonstrators, some wearing masks, in the capital’s Invalides district. 

Protesters threw firecrackers, bottles and stones at police, who responded with water canon and tear gas to push them back. 

“Macron, resign!” some protesters shouted. 

The protests, named after the fluorescent jackets French motorists are required to carry in their cars, began in November over plans to raise fuel taxes. The number of demonstrators on Saturday was roughly the same as last week’s figure.  

The fuel tax hikes were subsequently scrapped, yet the movement has morphed into a broader protest against Macron’s government and general anger over taxes and the cost of living. 

“How can we continue to live with so little?” said Bernard Grignan, a 65-year old retired manager who took part in the Paris demonstrations. 

 

Trouble in Toulouse

In Paris, some demonstrators carried mock coffins symbolizing the 10 people who have died during the protests, mainly because of accidents when demonstrators blocked roads. 

December’s demonstrations saw some of the worst violence in decades in Paris, as rioters burned cars and vandalized shops. 

Protests in Paris this month have not seen the same level of trouble, although video of a former French boxing champion punching and kicking police in Paris shocked many. 

Despite a relative decline in crowd trouble in Paris, however, disturbances have flared up in other cities. 

According to official figures, the biggest demonstration on Saturday occurred in the southern city of Toulouse, where around 10,000 people took part. The demonstration turned violent as evening fell, as protesters vandalized a bank and other shops. 

Eight people were injured and there were 23 arrests. Reuters correspondents also reported disturbances in Bordeaux, Lyon and Marseille, while the local government building was attacked in Angers, northwest of Paris. 

Macron has launched a series of national debates to help quell public discontent and restore his standing.  

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen — soundly beaten by Macron in the 2017 presidential election — is looking to take advantage of the “yellow vest” crisis and win ground in the May 2019 European Parliament elections. 

‘Legitimate’ revolt

On Saturday, Le Pen reiterated her support for the protesters at a meeting near Marseille, at which she described the movement as a “legitimate” and “courageous” revolt. 

The Angers member of Parliament, Matthieu Orphelin, a member of Macron’s LREM centrist party, said he would cancel talks with members of the “yellow vests” in light of the trouble in Angers. 

“It fills me with fury to see our beautiful town attacked in this way, in particular the damage caused to symbols of the republic,” Orphelin said in a statement. 

Greeks Plan Massive Rally to Protest Deal With Macedonia

Demonstrators in Greece are planning a massive rally Sunday to protest a deal that would normalize Greek relations with Macedonia.

Greeks have been divided over the deal, in which Macedonia will change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia and Greece will drop its objections to the Balkan country’s joining NATO and the European Union.

The U.S. State Department said in a tweet Friday that Sunday’s demonstration in Athens is expected to draw 150,000 or more participants.

Greek identity

Greek protesters say Macedonia’s new name represents an attempt to appropriate Greek identity and cultural heritage. Macedonia is the name of Greece’s northern province made famous by Alexander the Great’s conquests.

Opposition to the deal is particularly strong in the Greek province of Macedonia, where many people have put up posters urging local lawmakers to vote against the agreement.

A nationwide poll in Greece this week found that 70 percent of respondents oppose the deal.

The agreement has caused Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to lose his four-year coalition in parliament after his nationalist allies defected to protest the deal. Following the upheaval, Tsipras narrowly won a confidence vote in parliament Wednesday.

Tsipras has called for a televised debate on the planned name deal with Macedonia before parliament votes on the agreement.

The Greek prime minister and his Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev, brokered the compromise in June to end a 27-year name dispute between the two neighbors.

​Macedonia approves

Last week, Macedonia’s parliament approved a constitutional revision to change the country’s name. The agreement has also caused protests in Macedonia, with critics there saying the government gave up too much in the deal.

Tsipras has argued the Macedonia deal will bolster stability in Europe’s Balkan region. European Union countries have also strongly backed the deal.

Russians Plunge Into Icy Waters to Mark Feast of Epiphany

Across Russia, the devout and the daring are observing the Orthodox Christian feast day of Epiphany by immersing themselves in frigid water through holes cut through the ice of lakes and rivers.

Epiphany celebrates the revelation of Jesus Christ as the incarnation of God through his baptism in the River Jordan.

Russian believers imitate the baptism by entering the water and ducking themselves three times either on the evening before Epiphany or on that Jan. 19 feast day. Many make the sign of the cross, some others hold their noses.

Some of the people who do it scurry out quickly and wrap themselves in large towels. But many seem unfazed by it all and extol the practice as strengthening both the soul and the body.

The ritual is watched by priests who have blessed the water. Emergency workers are also on hand in case anyone succumbs to the heart-racing shock of the icy immersion.

There’s usually a contingent of warmly dressed onlookers, too, maybe wondering if they’ll have the boldness to try it next year.

Some Orthodox pilgrims get to dunk themselves in the actual River Jordan, which is a whole lot warmer.

US Senator Meets Turkish Leader to Defuse Tensions

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with visiting U.S Senator Lindsey Graham in Ankara Friday, in the latest effort to defuse bilateral tensions over Syria.

Turkish forces remain massed on the northeast Syrian border, poised to launch an offensive against the YPG Kurdish militia, a critical American ally in the war against Islamic State. Ankara deems the YPG terrorists linked to an insurgency inside Turkey.

Differences over Syria saw Erdogan shun U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton earlier this month when he visited Ankara. Graham met not only with Erdogan but withTurkey’s defense and foreign ministers and intelligence chief.

“At our meeting, w/ U.S. Senator @LindseyGrahamSC discussed recent developments in #Syria and #Turkey -#US bilateral relations,” tweeted Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Ahead of his visit, Graham appeared to reach out to Ankara by addressing key Turkish concerns.

“I have long contended that there are elements among the Syrian Kurds that represent a legitimate national security threat to Turkey. Turkey’s concern regarding YPG elements must be addressed in a real way to ensure that Turkey’s borders are secure and are protected from any threats,” wrote Graham.

The meeting marks the senator’s second with Erdogan in six months. Graham is a member of three powerful Senate committees: Foreign Relations, Budget, and Appropriations. Analysts suggest the senator’s relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump explains Ankara’s warm reception.

“He is very close to Donald Trump, he is a man of confidence to Trump,” said international relations professor Huseyin Bagci of Ankara’s Middle East Technical University. “He is more politician than John Bolton who is considered more a diplomat. So Graham’s visit is a higher level of meeting in Ankara’s eyes, so it’s welcomed in Ankara. I am sure Trump has sent him.” Bagci added.

Analysts point out Erdogan sees Trump as his only trusted interlocutor, blaming U.S. officials for the current bilateral tensions. Erdogan welcomed Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria; however, the Turkish president condemned what he said were attempts by senior U.S. officials to delay the withdrawal and link it to conditions including guaranteeing YPG security.

Graham has criticized Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria, claiming it was premature in the war against Islamic State. The senator’s talks in Ankara reportedly focused on America’s Syria withdrawal and Ankara’s threatened military operation in Syria.

“We won’t stop until we drain the terrorist swamp next door (referring to Syria). We won’t rest until justice is served,” presidential communications director Fahrettin Altun wrote on Twitter Friday. “Terrorists have killed more than 2,000 innocent people in Turkey since 2015. Many of those attacks were planned in northern Syria. The Turkish people suffered more than their fair share,” Altun added.

Analysts suggest Ankara is not looking for a confrontation with Graham. “I expect Turkey will offer some concessions to the United States,” said Bagci, “because even though Turkey has the military capability to intervene in Syria and control the area, without American green light, it would be very difficult for Turkey.”

Ankara is seeking common ground with Trump’s proposal to create a buffer zone in Syria between the Kurdish militia and the Turkish border.

Erdogan welcomed the proposal but maintains that Turkish forces will create the 30-kilometer deep zone into Syria. The YPG leadership is strongly opposed, warning it would resist.

“If Turkish forces created the 30-kilometer buffer zone, the YPG forces would have nowhere to go; there is only desert beyond,” said Aydin Selcen, a former senior Turkish diplomat. “The alternative is for them to disarm.”

Turkish pro-government media are filled with reports of American conspiracies. “Their steps with respect to forming a 32-kilometer safe zone on our Syria border is a new distraction trick,” wrote columnist Tamer Korkmaz in Turkey’s Yeni Safak newspaper, Friday. “They want to delay Turkey’s possible military operation, and if possible, prevent it. Would they accept the kind of buffer zone Turkey wants?” he continued.

Since Trump has proposed the Syrian buffer zone, no details have been provided by Washington on how it will be created or enforced. Graham reportedly discussed the zone during his talks in Ankara.

Analysts warn Ankara could also face pushback from Arab countries in the region if it acted unilaterally.

“Turkey ultimately will not be allowed to control this area,” said Bagci. “Some Arab countries will consider this an occupation of Arab lands. So that Turkey would be viewed as an aggressive revisionist state, from a historical perspective, as this is all formally land belonging to the Ottoman empire. Turkey has to convince the world that Turkey is protecting the Kurds from the Syrian Assad regime, rather than just fighting terrorism,” he said, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia too has voiced concern about a Turkish incursion, saying Syria has to approve of it. Erdogan is due to visit Moscow next week to meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. “Turkey has a weak hand, with Russia, America and Damascus opposed to any Syrian military operation,” said Bagci.

Prince Philip, 97, Recovering After Car Crash

Queen Elizabeth II’s 97-year-old husband was recovering Friday at the royal Sandringham estate after the Land Rover he was driving rolled on a nearby highway in a collision with another vehicle.

Witness Roy Warne told the BBC he was driving home from work when the accident involving Prince Philip’s black Land Rover and a compact car unfolded in front of him. Warne said he helped free a baby from the second car, a Kia, before helping the prince out of his vehicle, which was lying on its side.

“I saw a car, a black [Land] Rover, come out from a side road and it rolled and ended up on the other side of the road,” Warne said. “I saw it careering, tumbling across the road and ending up on the other side.”

Warne found Philip trapped in the car, but persuaded him to move one leg at a time to get out. He then pulled him out of the Land Rover through the windscreen or sun roof. The prince was able to immediately stand and walk around.

“He was obviously shaken, and then he went and asked if everyone else was all right,” Warne said.

Police conducted breath tests on the drivers after the accident, shortly before 3 p.m. Thursday. Both tested negatively.

The driver of the Kia, a 28-year-old woman, suffered cuts to her knee while her passenger, a 45-year-old woman, suffered a broken wrist. Both were taken to the hospital and released. A 9-month-old baby in the Kia was not injured.

The prince was checked by a doctor after the accident and determined to be fine, Buckingham Palace said.

“We are aware of the public interest in this case, however, as with any other investigation it would be inappropriate to speculate on the causes of the collision until an investigation is carried out,” Norfolk Constabulary said in a statement.

By coincidence, authorities in the area had planned to consider improving safety on the road, the A149. Norfolk County Council will discuss reducing the speed limit on the road from 60 mph to 50 mph and installing safety cameras.

Philip has largely retired from public life but is well known for his fierce independence and his love of cars. He has seemed to be in generally good health in recent months.

He and Elizabeth, 92, have been on an extended Christmas vacation at Sandringham, one of her favored rural homes.

May’s Foes Gather as Britain’s Brexit Stalemate Drags On

Prime Minister Theresa May held talks Friday with European leaders and British Cabinet colleagues, but efforts to end Britain’s Brexit stalemate appeared deadlocked, with neither May nor Britain’s opposition leader shifting from their entrenched positions.

May has been meeting with politicians from several U.K. parties this week to try to find a way forward after her European Union divorce deal was overwhelmingly rejected by Parliament.

Despite that, May has been unwilling to move her “red lines” in the Brexit negotiations, which include taking Britain out of the bloc’s customs union. And opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has refused to meet with May unless she rules out the possibility of Britain leaving the EU with no deal — a scenario that many believe would hurt the British economy.

May on Friday also spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and planned more calls to European colleagues over the weekend.

But the talks yielded little progress.

The European Commission said tersely that the May-Juncker call was “an exchange of information on both sides” and that the two had “agreed to stay in touch.”

May, who narrowly defeated a no-confidence vote in her Conservative government triggered by Corbyn this week, said it was “not within the government’s power to rule out no-deal” because by law Britain will leave the EU without an agreement on March 29 unless Parliament approves a deal before then.

May is due to publish her revived Brexit blueprint on Monday, before British lawmakers debate it — and doubtless try to alter it — on Jan. 29.

The prime minister is in a bind. Many lawmakers think a “soft Brexit” that keeps Britain in the EU’s single market or customs union is the only plan capable of winning a majority in Parliament. But a large chunk of May’s Conservative Party is vehemently opposed to that idea.

Britain’s political chaos has spurred EU nations to step up preparations for a disorderly British exit. France and other countries are spending millions, hiring thousands of workers and issuing emergency decrees to cope with the possibility that Britain will crash out of the bloc, sparking major disruptions to travel and trade.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Friday inspected some of the country’s preparations for a no-deal Brexit, visiting the Eurotunnel complex and meeting with small businesses on the English Channel coast.

France is paying special attention to the Channel tunnel, which carries millions of passengers annually between Britain and France, as well as freight trucks that play a significant role in Britain’s trade with the continent.

On Friday, a group of high-profile Germans made an emotional appeal to Britain to stay in the bloc. A letter published in the Times of London said “without your great nation, this Continent would not be what it is today: a community defined by freedom and prosperity.”

It went on to list things Germans would miss about Britain, among them “tea with milk” and “going to the pub after work.”

The signatories include Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, Airbus chief Tom Enders and former German national soccer player Jens Lehmann.

Amid the political impasse, May’s domestic opponents are gathering. Brexit-backing former-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson used a speech Friday at a bulldozer factory to accuse May of lacking the “gumption” to get a good deal from the EU.

Johnson, a likely future contender to replace May as Conservative leader and prime minister, urged her to “go back to Brussels and get a better deal,” even though EU leaders have said the withdrawal agreement won’t be renegotiated.

He dodged a question of whether he would support May as party leader if a sudden general election is called, saying instead that Britain does not need a new vote.

“I think most people in this country feel they have had quite enough elections,” he said. “I certainly do.”

EU Wants to Exclude Agriculture From Trade Talks With US

The European Union insisted Friday that agriculture be kept out of the EU-U.S. trade negotiations, despite Washington’s wishes to include the vast sector, and said any overall deal will be limited in scope.

The EU Commission announced its pro posals for a negotiating mandate from the 28 member states and said that the EU negotiations will be “strictly focused on the removal of tariffs on industrial goods, excluding agricultural products.”

EU Trade Chief Cecilia Malmstrom also said that she is preparing a target list of American products it will hit with punitive tariffs if the Trump administration goes through with its threat to impose duties on European auto imports.

Last July, during a period of heightened tensions over trade, U.S. President Donald Trump and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker agreed to start talks meant to achieve “zero tariffs” and “zero subsidies” on non-automotive industrial goods.

With the U.S. criticizing the Europeans for allegedly dragging their feet in the talks, Malmstrom said “the EU is committed to upholding its side of the agreement reached by the two Presidents.”

Any agreement would fall well short of the scope of the free trade deal that had been discussed in recent years — but paused in 2016 after Trump slammed such wide-ranging international deals as unfair to the U.S.

Instead, Malmstrom said, the deal both sides are now looking at could be concluded “quite quickly. We could finalize this and it would be beneficial to all of us.”

 

Gloomy Davos: Plenty of Crises, Few World Leaders

An array of crises will keep several world leaders away from the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos next week, which takes place against a backdrop of deepening gloom over the global economic and political outlook.

Anxieties over trade disputes, fractious international relations, Brexit and a growth slowdown that some fear could tip the world economy into recession are set to dominate the Jan. 22-25 Alpine meeting.

The WEF’s own Global Risks Report set the tone this week with a stark warning of looming economic headwinds, in part because of geopolitical tensions among major powers.

​No Trump, Macron or May

Some 3,000 business, government and civil society figures are scheduled to gather in the snow-blanketed ski resort, but among them are only three leaders of the Group of Seven most industrialized countries: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte.

Donald Trump, who stole the Davos limelight last year with a rare appearance by a sitting U.S. president, pulled out of this year’s event as he grapples with a partial U.S. government shutdown.

On Thursday, the White House said Trump had also canceled his delegation’s trip to Davos because of the shutdown, now in its 27th day. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had been expected to lead the U.S. team, according to two senior administration officials.

French President Emmanuel Macron is also skipping the meeting as he seeks to respond to the “yellow vest” protests, while British Prime Minister Theresa May battles to find a consensus on Brexit.

​No Xi, either

Outside the G7, the leaders of Russia and India are shunning Davos, while China —whose president, Xi Jinping, was the first Chinese leader to attend the elite gathering in 2017 to offer a vigorous defense of free trade — is sending Xi’s deputy instead.

That will leave the likes of British Finance Minister Philip Hammond, Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan and a host of central bankers with the task of trying to reassure business chiefs.

“Davos will be dominated by a high level of anxiety about stock markets, a slowdown in growth and international politics,” said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Markit. “The leadership presence is lower than last year but those who are going … will be seeking to impart a sense of confidence and calm business and investors’ nerves.”

​Forum still has its glitz

Before the U.S. cancellation, a Trump administration official had said the U.S. delegation would also discuss the importance of reforming institutions such as the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Trump has harshly criticized globalization and questioned U.S. participation in multilateral institutions such as the WTO, calling for a revamp of international trade rules.

Davos watchers said the absence of so many top leaders this year did not mean the glitzy forum had lost its status as a global stage for top politicians to present their agendas.

“Abe is going to Davos not just as Japanese prime minister but also as chair of the G20. It will be a perfect opportunity to lay the groundwork of upcoming G20 meetings,” said a Japanese government source familiar with international affairs.

“Of course there may be inconveniences such as missing opportunities to hold bilateral meetings, but that won’t undermine the importance of Davos,” he said.

A Chinese official who has attended Davos regularly but will not go this year said China had never expected to make progress at the meeting on the trade dispute with the United States. 

“It’s just an occasion for making a policy statement,” he said.

​Networking opportunities

The low turnout among major Western leaders may also give more prominence to political personalities who may otherwise be upstaged. Davos will be the first major international outing for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, elected on a wave of anti-establishment and conservative nationalism also seen elsewhere.

He said on Twitter he would present “a different Brazil, free of ideological ties and widespread corruption.”

For business chiefs, the value of Davos lies not so much in the public sessions but in the networking and deal-making opportunities on the sidelines of the main conference.

“It’s the best place to pitch for ideas, build connections and get your brand known,” said Chen Linchevski, chief executive of Precognize, an Israel-based start-up developing software that prevents technical or quality failures at manufacturing plants.

“It’s the kind of place where in a few days you meet people you wouldn’t easily meet otherwise,” said Linchevski, who is paying 50,000 Swiss francs ($50,495) to attend the event.

Norway PM Solberg to Form Majority Government

Norway’s minority centre-right government has struck a deal with the small Christian Democratic Party to form a four-party majority coalition, it said on Thursday, confirming earlier  reports.

The agreement fulfils a long-standing goal of Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg, in power since 2013, who hopes ruling in a majority will provide stability and help ease her path to re-election in 2021.

“We had tough negotiations,” Solberg said, celebrating the pact alongside leaders of her existing partners the Progress Party and the Liberal Party as well as the Christian Democrats.

She said the government would focus on a “sustainable welfare society”, help combat climate change, reduce taxes for small and medium businesses, strengthen family and children’s rights, and ensure stronger security for all.

The three parties also agreed to slight changes in abortion laws at the demand of the Christian Democrats.

Recent opinion polls have shown a majority of voters backing the Labour-led center-left opposition.