INTL Europe: Politics, Economics, and Military- September 2020

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB
An interesting development for BREXIT.


The EU Is To Blame For The Latest Brexit Crisis
Profile picture for user Tyler Durden
by Tyler Durden
Mon, 09/14/2020 - 02:00
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Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk,
The UK is threatening to ignore the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. How did we get here?

"No Miserable Squabbling"

Boris Johnson has urged Conservative MPs to back his Plan to Override Part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
In a Zoom call with about 250 of them, he said the party must not return to "miserable squabbling" over Europe.
The EU has warned the UK it could face legal action if it does not ditch controversial elements of the Internal Market Bill by the end of the month.
And a Tory MP has proposed an amendment to the bill, which would affect trade between Britain and Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, the European Parliament has threatened to scupper any UK-EU trade deal if the bill becomes UK law.
Another EU Bluff Underway
German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz was out with another EU bluff on Saturday: No-Deal Brexit Would Hurt Britain More Than EU.
“My assessment is that an unregulated situation would have very significant consequences for the British economy,” Scholz told a news conference after a meeting of EU finance ministers in Berlin.
“Europe would be able to deal with it and there would be no particularly serious consequences after the preparations we have already made,” he added.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday that a planned bill, which would breach a divorce treaty with the bloc, was needed to protect Britain’s integrity.
Obvious Bluff

If "Europe could deal with this with no serious consequences", then why would it care?
The fact of the matter is German exports to the UK would crash in the absence of a deal.
But how did we get to this point?
EU Made a Power Grab and the UK Responded in Kind

Eurointelligence fills in the missing pieces of the puzzle.

Our twitter feed exploded yesterday after the UK's Northern Ireland Secretary admitted that the no-deal legislation constituted a breach of international law, in a very specific and limited way, as the minister put it. The anticipated breach of law relates to Northern Ireland: Under the withdrawal agreement, the region would continue to have custom-free links to the Republic, while new customs borders would have to be erected along the Irish Sea. The legislation seeks to nullify this arrangement in the event of no deal. Readers may recall this was the single biggest controversy in the withdrawal agreement negotiations.
It is worth reflecting on how we got to this point. The moment the EU tried to make a power grab for UK state-aid policy, the negotiation turned into an ugly battle of egos.
We heard a lot of tough-luck arguments. The EU is the bigger of the two sides, and can impose its will, for example by anchoring the level-playing-field to its own conditions. This was a short-sighted argument.
The International Court of Justice in the Hague may well end up ruling against the UK. But, first, this won’t happen before the end of the year. And, second, the ICJ has no enforcement powers. If you start playing the relationship talks in the spirit of a geopolitical power game, don’t be surprised when the other side plays in the same spirit.
What determines whether there will be a deal or not is the readiness of the EU to accept a compromise on state aid. If it does, then there will be a deal. If not, there won't.
Forget the EU's Bluff

We are here because the EU demanded fishing rights and interfered in UK internal policies on state aid.

Boris Johnson responded in kind.

If the EU will not compromise, the EU will shoot itself in the foot and Germany in the head.
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

How Spain Became A Squatter's Paradise
Profile picture for user Tyler Durden
by Tyler Durden
Mon, 09/14/2020 - 03:30
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Authored by Nick Corbishley via WolfStreet.com,
Since the burst of Spain’s madcap housing bubble in 2009, squatting - the unlawful occupancy of uninhabited buildings or unused land - has become a major problem. By 2019, following a 58% surge in cases in five years, close to 100,000 properties were occupied by okupas (squatters), according to estimates by the Insititut Cerdá. The number does not include dwellings occupied by tenants who have simply stopped paying their rent, since this does not count as squatting.

But Spain’s squatting problem could be about to explode as more and more non-paying tenants lose their homes, and take to squatting. For the past six months tenants of apartments owned by large private landlords or public companies have been protected from eviction by a government ban, but that ban is scheduled to expire at the end of September.

Once that happens, evictions are likely to surge. As in many other countries, it’s not clear how many tenants are not paying their rents since reliable sources of data do not exist. But what data does exist suggest that by late May around 17% of tenants were not paying their rent. If that number is even half accurate, it means Spain will soon see “an alarming spike in evictions”, as the advocacy group Platform for Mortgage Victims (PAH) has warned. Many of those who are evicted may end up squatting somewhere.

Spain has become a squatter’s paradise for five main reasons:
1. Its huge stock of vacant properties. Spain has a crazy number of empty homes — largely a legacy of the last housing crisis. In the last census, of 2011, the government registered a total of 3.4 million empty residential properties — equivalent to almost a third of all of Europe’s empty housing stock. Since then, the number has gone down but no one knows by how much.

Many of the empty properties belong to bank’s property arms, private equity funds or wealthy investors, many of which are not interested in renting out the properties; they just hold onto them to make money on the capital gains — or at least they did while prices were generally rising, which stopped happening with the lockdown.

Roughly 70% of the properties that were illegally occupied in 2017 belonged to banks or other financial entities, according to the Institut Cerdá. They include dozens of blocks of entirely abandoned buildings that were “reoccupied” by PAH, to accommodate Spain’s burgeoning ranks of homeless families.

For many people, squatting is a desperate last resort, while for some it is a lifestyle choice or a political statement. Barcelona, which is ground zero of Spain’s squatting phenomenon, attracts squatters from all over Europe. In recent years, more and more young locals — including many with jobs — who have been priced out of the rental market or who simply don’t want to pay the inflated rents have also turned to squatting.

As a police officer from Barcelona who specializes in evicting okupas told me, removing squatters from properties belonging to private equity funds is a slow, arduous process, due largely to the difficulty of identifying the actual owner of the property — Blackstone, for example, operates in Spain through dozens of different subsidiaries — and then tracking down a representative with whom to liaise. “This takes up a huge part of our day-to-day work,” he says.

2. Juicy money-making opportunities for enterprising criminals. In recent years, enterprising criminal gangs have begun specializing in locating and breaking into vacant apartments. Once they find a place, they quickly change the locks and rig the apartment to the neighbors’ gas, water and electricity supplies. They then “sell” the flat to a squatter, or group of squatters, for between €1,000-€2,000.

In this way, a burgeoning black market has sprouted up. In the Raval neighborhood of Barcelona, the market is controlled by a gang from the Dominican Republic; they charge around €1,500 for each property “sale.” The squatters get to live in a fully serviced apartment without having to pay rent or utilities for a period of around six months. If the flat in question is owned by a fund and the squatters don’t draw undue attention to themselves and the neighbors don’t cotton on to the fact they are effectively subsidizing their utilities consumption, they can often stay a lot longer.

3. Spanish property law tends to protect squatters more than owners, particularly if the property that has been occupied is not a primary residence. If a squatter occupies a person’s primary residence, he or she can be charged with breaking and entering, for which the punishment is usually a prison sentence of between six months and two years. However, thanks to a change of law in 1995, if a squatter usurps a property that is not being used as a main residence, including sometimes second homes, they are likely to be charged with ocupación (squatting), for which the punishment is generally much lighter, ranging from a few-hundred euro fine to a six-month prison sentence.

4. Slow judicial process. If a property that is not a primary residence is occupied illegally, the owner can take one of two paths. He can go through the civil courts to try to recover the property, which means hiring a lawyer, paying court fees and often waiting a long time. At the very least, the owner can rest assured that at the end of it, he or she will recover the property.

The alternative is to take the penal route, which is free of charge and can sometimes be faster, but the outcome depends largely on the efficacy of the police officers involved. The only chance they have of evicting squatters quickly is if they can prove in next to no time that the property has only just been occupied. But that is easier said than done, especially if they have no access to the property. More often than not, the investigation goes nowhere, leaving the property owner little option but to take the civil route.

In 2018, the government tried to expedite the civil process by introducing an “express eviction” clause that allows affected owners to petition the courts to request the return of the property, while asking the judge to adopt the precautionary measure of eviction prior to sentencing. If granted, the squatters have, in theory, just a few days to either present “sufficient title” to remain or leave the property. In reality, it can take much longer, especially if the squatters in question are a family with children. Also, this process is not available to large-scale private property owners.

5. Spain is no country for tenants. For decades Spain has been a country of home owners. Before the crisis, it had one of the highest home ownership rates in Europe, of more than 80%. At the height of the housing bubble, in 2003-05, around 700,000 homes were being built a year, more than were being built in Germany, France, Italy and the UK combined. When the housing bubble burst, in 2009, over half a million households lost their homes. Many of the newly built houses were never occupied.

Since then, the rental market has taken on a much bigger role, but conditions in the market are not exactly consumer-friendly. Many apartments are barely fit for purpose yet somehow command high rents. In some places (Barcelona, Madrid, Malaga…) rents have soared by over 50% since 2013, while wages have gone nowhere. It’s not just the rents that are prohibitive; so, too, are the upfront fees and deposits tenants have to pay.


After the crisis, many social housing projects were sold off to international funds belonging to Wall Street giants like Goldman Sachs and Blackstone. As a result, rented social housing, which normally offers cheaper rents, now makes up just 2% of all residential property in Spain, down from 3.5% in 2005. That compares to 30% in the Netherlands, 24% in Austria, 21% in Denmark and 17% in the UK and France.

Ironically, the right of all Spanish citizens to decent and adequate housing is enshrined in Article 47 of Spain’s 1978 constitution. Yet in large cities such as Barcelona, Madrid, Malaga and Palma de Mallorca, more and more local residents are finding that such a right no longer exists in the city they were born in. Unless this trend is reversed and as long as Spain’s legal system continues to protect squatters in a way that almost no other country does, many more people will opt to squat.
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB


Kremlin set for victory in Russia's local elections, Navalny's allies make gains in Siberia
Issued on: 14/09/2020 - 04:34
Members of a local electoral commission empty a ballot box at a polling station after polls closed for municipal elections in Tomsk, Russia September 13, 2020.

Members of a local electoral commission empty a ballot box at a polling station after polls closed for municipal elections in Tomsk, Russia September 13, 2020. REUTERS - MAXIM SHEMETOV
Text by:NEWS WIRES
4 min
Allies of poisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said Sunday they had secured city council seats in Siberia as independent monitors condemned a reported "stream" of voting irregularities in regional polls.


In several dozen of the country's 85 regions, Russians voted for regional governors and lawmakers in regional and city legislatures as well as in several by-elections for national MPs.

The polls came a year ahead of parliamentary elections and are seen as a test for the Kremlin, as the ruling party faces sinking popularity and simmering public anger over economic woes.

In an effort to fight President Vladimir Putin's electoral machine, Navalny and his team have urged Russians to vote tactically by backing the strongest candidates against the ruling party United Russia.

Some of the highest-profile campaigns have taken place in Novosibirsk, Russia's third-largest city, and neighbouring Tomsk where Navalny travelled last month.

On Sunday night, his team said that the heads of Navalny's offices for Novosibirsk and Tomsk both secured city council seats.

Navalny had been in Siberia to promote his "smart voting" campaign when he was poisoned with what Germany says was a Novichok nerve agent.

'First victory'
Ksenia Fadeyeva, the 28-year-old head of Navalny's Tomsk office, said she won a city council seat along with another Navalny ally.

"This is the first victory of a Navalny office head," Ivan Zhdanov, director of the opposition politician's Anti-Corruption Foundation, said on Twitter.

"It was in Tomsk where Navalny was poisoned."
In Novosibirsk, the 37-year-old head of Navalny's local office, Sergei Boiko, also won a council seat.

To counter United Russia and the Communist Party, Boiko has created an opposition alliance, which has put forward around 30 candidates for the city legislature.

Voter Damir Adgamov, a 26-year-old dental technician, said he backed Boiko's coalition after watching Navalny's videos on YouTube.

"I decided to try," he said. "I don't know if things will be better with Navalny or Boiko or worse, but at least we'll see."

Vladimir Semyonov, a 57-year-old retired army officer, said he had also voted for an opposition candidate, "to change something, so we don't have stagnation".

Boiko said his supporters had recorded dozens of violations, including an attempt to illegally remove observers while a safe containing early votes at one polling station had its seals broken.

Ballot stuffing
United Russia chairman Dmitry Medvedev praised the party's electoral successes, saying that according to exit polls it was heading for victory in regional legislatures.
According to initial results, a second-round runoff was not expected in any of 18 regions that elected governors.

Officials are expected to announce the first results on Monday.

Several regions recorded large turnouts in two days of early voting, with more than 50 percent of the electorate casting ballots early in the far eastern Jewish Autonomous Region and in Tatarstan.

The independent election monitor group Golos said it had received a "stream of reports" that observers had been denied their legal rights to view documents and submit complaints, with conflicts sometimes ending in "fisticuffs".

It had also received reports of ballot stuffing and officials switching ballot papers cast by real voters for ones they had filled in, the group added.

For the first time, elections in the country were held over three days and some polling stations for early voting were open-air.

Navalny's ally Leonid Volkov said the scheme was thought up to combat the tactical voting system.

"At night, God alone knows what happens to the ballots and it's not clear how to monitor and count this," he said.

Electoral chief Ella Pamfilova denounced such "unobjective and mean" accusations.
"Currently we do not see that many violations," she said.

The three-day system was first used this summer for a national vote on constitutional amendments that made it possible for Putin to stay in power until 2036.

Political analysts say the results of the polls will help the Kremlin determine whether the unpopular ruling party needs to be reformed. The poisoning of Navalny could have also influenced voters.

After he was evacuated from Siberia to Berlin, German doctors said Navalny had been poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent.

His associates believe the use of the banned chemical weapon shows that only the Russian state could be responsible.

Navalny is now out of a medically induced coma and reacting to speech, the Berlin hospital treating him said on Monday.
(AFP)
 

Melodi

Disaster Cat
MPs are starting to resign in the UK and now five former Prime Ministers from both parties have come out against Johnson's "Only Breaking the Law in a Limited Way" bill.

This really isn't about "calling the EU's bluff" (though that plays a role) and it isn't "helping" Northern Ireland the way Johnson claims it would more likely restart the civil war on the Island.

It would pretty much force the Republic to put up some sort of hard border on the Island and that would result in a return to violence in the North (just the threat of it already has to a small degree).

Not to mention that BoJo's government is becoming a laughing stock and people are asking "if the government isn't going to obey the law, why should I?"...

I was going to paste a hilarious parody of "I broke the Law" heavy metal song by the same UK comic that did the parody of "F...k All" for the quarantine but I can't find it - I suspect it violated You Tube's standards or something - if I find it again I will post.

Edit_ it is still on facebook but won't copy - here is the link - warning this is not child or worksafe
View: https://www.facebook.com/OfficialMitchBenn/videos/1174785519572765
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB
Apparently BoJo won the first round of votes.


BoJo Wins First Vote On Bill To Modify Brexit Deal, Infuriating Brussels
Profile picture for user Tyler Durden
by Tyler Durden
Mon, 09/14/2020 - 17:49
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has effectively placed Britain on the path to an "Australia-style" trade arrangement with the EU after his "intermarket bill" - which has been criticized for effectively overriding parts of the UK-EU withdrawal treaty - passed its first important procedural vote in the House of Commons Monday.

Passage has opened the door to a messier exit from the EU for Britain, while also raising the possibility that a "hard" border could return to the island of Ireland separating Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland (an EU member state). Many fear that could lead to a revival of sectarian violence in a return to "the troubles".

Though cable's reaction to the news was relatively muted, investors are now faced with the likelihood that the EU27 will walk away from negotiations, as they have threatened to do. Brussels has also threatened legal action against London should the bill move forward.


The new bill, which had its first reading on Wednesday, outlines a new "safety net” of rules for trade between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to prevent disruption to the internal market inside the UK, even in the event that Britain and the EU do not reach a comprehensive trade agreement by the end of 2020. The bill would ensure there will be no new checks on goods moving from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK, and gives Parliament the power to “disapply” rules relating to the movement of goods. It also specifically states that provisions in the law will override parts of the withdrawal agreement, where applicable.

The bill will now pass on to its 2nd reading after a vote of 340 vs 263. Following the second reading is the final vote to make the bill into legislation. Though, as ITV's Paul Brand points out, a large number of abstentions in this vote suggests the bill could face tougher votes in the future.

Once again, Johnson was credited with putting down a "conservative rebellion" , according to a report published a few hours ago by the FT, as more MPs fret over Johnson's confrontational style, which has infuriated the UK's former continental partners.


Source: Bloomberg
Importantly, the vote comes just as hedge funds turned the most bullish they've been in five months, Bloomberg reports.

A team of Goldman FX analysts said in a note to clients that the market is currently pricing in a 40-45% chance of the "no deal" Brexit outcome. The team says it sees potential long-term upside for any traders able to persevere through some short-term volatility, since "beyond the very short-term we would see meaningfully lower odds of a 'no deal' Brexit than the market appears to be implying,
the bank said.




They argued that while a "no deal" scenario would ultimately be bad for Britain's economy, Johnson has often favored such tough negotiating tactics in the past. In the end, Goldman believes, a trade deal is still the most likely outcome, which could send the pound to 87 pence to the euro.
 

northern watch

Has No Life - Lives on TB
Russia’s Kavkaz 2020: International Participation and Regional Security Implications

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 17 Issue: 126
By: John C. K. Daly

Jamestown.org
September 14, 2020 04:12 PM Age: 6 hours


(Source: TASS)

Despite some disruptions to this year’s military training schedule caused by the COVID-19 pandemic (see EDM, April 21, 22), the Russian Armed Forces are preparing to hold their annual capstone strategic-operational exercise on September 15–26. “Kavkaz 2020” (“Caucasus 2020”) will feature large-scale drills spread across the southern Astrakhan region, Prudboi, Ashuluk, Kapustin Yar, Nikolo-Aleksandrovskii and several air-training grounds. According to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, “The [Kavkaz 2020] exercise will assess the ability of the Southern Military District to ensure military security in the southwest of the Russian Federation” (Vestnik Kavkaza, September 8).

The latest Kavkaz exercise promises to be a multinational endeavor. Beyond Russia and fellow Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) members China, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, additional foreign participants reportedly will include Mongolia, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Belarus, Turkey, Armenia, Turkmenistan and even Myanmar (RBC, September 6). India, initially scheduled to take part with 200 troops, ultimately dropped out on the excuse that Pakistan and China were included (Swarajya, August 30). On September 5, Azerbaijan backed out as well (APA, September 5). Baku gave no official reason for its withdrawal from the Russian-led drills (Facebook.com/NewsofAzerbaijan, September 6); though, bilateral relations have recently been under serious strain over Azerbaijan’s anger at Russian military transport flights to Armenia in the midst of Azerbaijani-Armenian border clashes (see EDM, September 11). Despite its decision not to participate in Kavkaz 2020, Azerbaijan will, nonetheless, send two military observers to attend the maneuvers (TASS, September 5).

The fact of an inclusion of such a broad Middle Eastern contingent during Kavkaz 2020—Syria, Iran and Egypt, alongside North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member Turkey—is noteworthy in itself. But equally striking is Turkmenistan’s participation, given its internationally recognized neutrality status. It is likely that Ashgabat felt compelled to take part this year due to a perceived need to cultivate warm relations with Moscow as the negative health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic take their toll on Turkmenistan and the stability of its government (see EDM, July 21). In mid-August, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent to the parliament for ratification a 2003 signed bilateral agreement on boosting security cooperation for ten years (Trend, August 19). In 2017, Putin and his Turkmenistani counterpart, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, signed an agreement boosting bilateral ties to the level of a “strategic partnership,” which was mutually ratified the following year (Mid.ru, August 11, 2018).

Shoigu announced that the exercises will be held across the Southern Military District; beyond the Astrakhan region, the maneuvers will also occur at the Kapustin Yar and Ashuluk military ranges, with naval deployments on the Black Sea and the Caspian (Vestnik Kavkaza, September 8). The most intriguing element of the initial press reports about the exercise is that, in addition to a land forces contingent, China is additionally sending a three-ship naval deployment to Kavkaz 2020 (Swarajya, August 30). Given Astrakhan’s geographical position near the mouth of the Volga on the Caspian, unless the People’s Liberation Army Navy limits its deployments to the Black Sea, the only possible way that Chinese maritime elements could participate in Caspian operations is by using the Volga-Don Canal, an internal waterway under Russian sovereign control. In 2018, the Volga-Don Canal’s value as a strategic asset was emphasized when the Russian navy’s Caspian Flotilla used the waterway to dispatch a number of smaller vessels into the Sea of Azov in order to raise the pressure on Ukraine (TV Zvezda, April 26, 2018; see EDM, May 31, 2018, June 28, 2018, November 27, 2018). The Volga-Don Canal’s utility as a naval asset is limited, however, by its depth, which prohibits ships above 5,000 tons from transiting the channel, which has led the Russian government to consider various projects for widening and deepening (or potentially replacing) the waterway (RIA Novosti, July 27, 2012; see EDM, August 6, 2020).

Earlier this summer, a retired senior United States military official ascribed sinister possible motives to Kavkaz 2020. In an exclusive interview with LB.ua, the former commander of US Army Europe, General Ben Hodges, stated his conviction that Russia intended to gain full control of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast from Odesa to Kerch and that Russia, “under the cover” of the Kavkaz 2020 exercise, might try to seize a portion of Ukraine’s hydraulic infrastructure in the Kherson region, adjacent to the North Crimea Canal (LB.ru, July 3). Prior to 2014, Ukraine provided up to 85 percent of Crimea’s fresh water via the North Crimean Canal, running from the Dnipro River, before shutting off this supply in response to Russia’s annexation of the peninsula. Hodges’ concerns are shared by the commander of the Ukrainian Naval Forces, Admiral Oleksiy Neizhpapa, who does not rule out that Russian troops could try to break through to Ukraine’s Kherson region from Crimea to secure water resources for the drought-stricken occupied territory (Tsn.ua, July 7; see EDM, May 21, June 2, August 12).

Unsurprisingly, the Russian military presents the Kavkaz 2020 “strategic command-and-staff exercise” in a different, nonaggressive light, while asserting that it is being held as the US and NATO conduct active large-scale maneuvers near its borders in countries that were previously Soviet republics. Lieutenant General (ret.) Yuri Netkachev observed about the increasingly confrontational context, “What is alarming is that first, the concentration of the Alliance’s forces is happening on the territories of post-Soviet countries, in Ukraine and Georgia” (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 6).

Kavkaz 2020 is Russian military’s largest international exercise in many years. The Russian defense ministry estimates that roughly 150,000 military personnel will participate (Defence Aviation Post, September 4). Broadening the military exercise’s itinerary, Defense Minister Shoigu announced, on September 4, that defense ministers from the SCO, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) had agreed to expand cooperation in the fight against terrorism, with the first joint exercises in this regard being held as part of the Kavkaz 2020 maneuvers (Kommersant, September 4, 2020. Thus, after the dust settles and the participating units return to their home countries, this terrorism agreement may well prove to be Kavkaz 2020’s most lasting legacy for the Eurasian region.

 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

German investigators say stabbing may be linked to AfD political ad
A suspected Islamist knife attack may be linked to local elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, investigators said. The victim's father, a Turk, appeared on a campaign ad for the anti-immigration AfD party.



Uniformed police in Germany (picture-alliance/dpa/F. Gentsch)

German authorities are looking into a possible political motive for a stabbing which took place ahead of local elections in the western town of Stolberg, officials said on Monday.

A 21-year-old German-Iraqi has been arrested in connection to the incident. Officials believe he stabbed a German national with a Turkish background early on Sunday, hours before polls were set to open.

The attacker allegedly opened a car door while the victim was inside the vehicle and stabbed him in the arm. He reportedly shouted "Allahu akbar" (God is greatest) during the incident.
Read more: Violence breaks out at Germany's far right party conference

The 23-year-old survived but sustained "serious injuries" which required emergency surgery.
According to the authorities, the victim's father is Turkish and had previously appeared in a political ad for the far-right AfD party. The father was shown with a group of people including the local AfD leader, Hans Wolf, and a caption reading "German Turks also want change."


Watch video02:28
Von Storch: No reward for arson

Wolf told the German DPA news agency that the photo was taken accidentally during a visit to a local municipality. Wolf also said people shown on the photo agreed for the image to be published online. Separately, investigators said the father of the victim told them he did not consent for the photo to be used for campaign purposes, and had no knowledge of it.
Read more: Populism in Germany declines sharply, says Bertelsmann study

Police said they had visited Wolf for a "preventive consultation" on his own security on Sunday.

Anti-terrorism investigators have taken over the stabbing probe, according to DPA. According to German prosecutors, the suspected attacker had already attacked someone in a similar manner in March this year.


Watch video02:01
Far-right German politician fired over hate postings
dj/dr (AFP, dpa)
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

US & Greece Hold Joint Tank Drills Near Turkish Border: Greek Media
Profile picture for user Tyler Durden
by Tyler Durden
Tue, 09/15/2020 - 03:30
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Via AlMasdarNews.com,
Greece, in conjunction with the United States, will begin a five-day military exercise using tanks on Monday near the land border with Turkey.
According to the Greek newspaper Ethnos, the joint Greek-American tank exercises will be held from September 14th to September 18th at the Xanthi Training Center. According to the report, the Abrams tank modified for the M1A2 will participate.
Greek Leopard 1A5 file image, via Tanks-Encyclopedia

The newspaper said there will be a competition between the tank crews participating in the maneuvers in the art of driving and accuracy of shooting (Tank Challenge 2020), organized by the Xanthi IV Corps of the Greek Army.
Earlier, the Greek “Open TV” channel indicated that the joint exercises of Greece and the United States with the participation of tanks and armored vehicles would be held in order to maintain the utmost readiness.
The channel reported that this is the first time that Americans participate in such ground exercises in northeastern Greece. Where previously conducted Greek military exercises with the participation of military units from France and the United Arab Emirates.

The joint Greek-American tank maneuver was announced on September 8 amid reports from Ankara that 40 Turkish tanks had been transferred to the border with Greece.
 

Melodi

Disaster Cat
I wasn't totally surprised the bill passed the first "reading" and BoJo may manage to force it through because under their system most of his MPs face the sack if they don't go along with the government.

They would still be MPs but not conservative party members and most don't survive the next election - BoJo has already made it clear he will do this even to long-standing and well-known party members (like Churchills grandson).

He will come out of this considerably weaker though and with a largely enraged public (including many conservatives), and if this doesn't cause a no-confidence vote, I won't be surprised if he faces one on something else (or the consequences of this bill, possibly in the courts) by early next year or even sooner.
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB




Click to copy
Greece wants the EU to help run its island migrant camps
By PETROS GIANNAKOURIS and DEREK GATOPOULOSyesterday



1 of 14
European Council President Charles Michel, center, accompanied by Greek officials, looks at the new temporary refugee camp in Kara Tepe during his visit on the northeastern island of Lesbos, Greece, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Greece has called on the European Union to jointly run new refugee camps being built on its eastern islands as part of a planned overhaul of the bloc's migration policy. (Dimitris Tosidis/Pool via AP)

KARA TEPE, Greece (AP) — The Greek government on Tuesday urged the European Union to jointly run new refugee camps on Greece’s eastern islands as part of an overhaul of the EU’s migration policies.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis made the proposal at an Athens meeting with European Council President Charles Michel as Greece works to house thousands of asylum-seekers left homeless after fires gutted the squalid, overcrowded Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos.

The government says the fires were set deliberately by migrants protesting a coronavirus lockdown, and authorities on Tuesday announced the arrests of six suspects in the case.

The suspects, all from Afghanistan, include two 17-year-olds who were transferred to mainland refugee camps after the fires. They were being questioned by police, who identified them using videos posted on social media and witness accounts.

Some 12,500 people fled last week’s fires at the Moria camp. Most are still homeless and many are refusing to leave a road where they have camped out for almost a week, fearing they could be detained for months at a new camp the Greek army is building.

“We have already started the new facility, and that is where the flags of Greece and the European Union must fly,″ the Greek prime minister said. ″There must be shared responsibility not only for construction, but also for the operation of the camp.″

Michel, who flew to Lesbos after his talks in Athens, did not comment directly on Mitsotakis’ proposal but said the EU was determined to show greater solidarity toward Greece.

The EU’s executive commission could present its proposals for revising the bloc’s migration policies as early as next week. The plans are expected to include tougher border policing and more uniform asylum procedures across EU member nations.

“We know that it’s a very complex political debate ... but we need progress,” Michel said.
Germany said Tuesday it will take in 1,553 asylum-seekers -- 408 families with children -- from Greece who already have been granted protected status. This would not include asylum-seekers and migrants from Moria.

German Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz said there need to be talks on “an overall European solution ” to migration.

Most of the 5,000 spaces in tents newly erected by the army on Lesbos remain empty, with only 800 migrants having agreed to relocate, officials said Tuesday. Greece’s migration minister said the government will use force, if necessary, to move homeless migrants into the tent city.

Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said it would take at least six months to build a permanent structure that will replace the Moria camp and it will be at a different location, acknowledging that Moria’s migrants and refugees would spend the winter in tents.
New detention sites for asylum-seekers are also planned on four other Greek islands in the eastern Aegean Sea, replacing overcrowded open facilities.

Late Tuesday, police said a wildfire broke out near a camp with 4,600 asylum-seekers on the eastern island of Samos but it was not immediately threatening the camp. ___ Gatopoulos reported from Athens. Costas Kantouris in Thessaloniki and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed.

https://apnews.com/9d9cc12fc83c7c60d4116f3415bc14b6
 

northern watch

Has No Life - Lives on TB
Poland’s Intermarium Idea Very Different From What It Was—or What Moscow Thinks It Is

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 17 Issue: 127
By: Paul Goble


Jamestown.org
September 15, 2020 07:19 PM Age: 20 hours


(Source: three-seas.eu)

Russian analysts fail to recognize that Warsaw no longer views the Intermarium—a historical term that today refers to the lands “in between” Russia and the West and the Baltic and Black Seas—as it did in the 1920s and 1930s but rather conceives it as a means for the integration of a broader area, including Russia, to the benefit of all, Michał Sadłowski, a professor of law at the University of Warsaw, says (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 14). And Russia’s inability to understand that reality risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, leading Moscow to take actions that could drive Warsaw back to its older conception of promoting “the countries in between” Poland and Russia as a cordon sanitaire or defensive buffer against Russian aggression (Marek Chodakiewicz, Intermarium: The Land Between the Black and Baltic Seas, Transaction Publishers, 2012; Politcom.ru, June 1, 2016; Riafan.ru, June 21, 2016; Riata.ru, June 16, 2016).

In an important article in Moscow’s Nezavisimaya Gazeta yesterday (September 14), Sadłowski bluntly contends that Polish ideas about the lands in between, “the Polish Intermarium,” are no longer, if they ever were, “an imperial conception.” Treating them as if they are what they may have been a century ago is thus a dangerous misconception, which can lead to the deterioration of relations between Russia and Poland and to new tensions across a region already under multiple strains (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 14).

“Undoubtedly,” he writes, “the territory of Central-Eastern Europe and, above all, the portion of it that, until recently, was within the Soviet Union has again become a space” where new unifications and divisions are taking place with remarkable speed. In this, “one can name Warsaw and Moscow as the two ideological centers of this process,” centers whose ideas often are at odds. Indeed, many Russian writers in talking about Poland’s ideas about the Intermarium act as if nothing had changed in Warsaw’s thinking since the 1920s and 1930s and that Polish references to its policies toward the countries in between are only an updated version of what they see as an older “Polish imperial project.” But in fact, there has been an important evolution, the legal scholar argues.

Ideas about the Intermarium extend well into the past and have changed over time, Sadłowski notes. In the 1920s and 1930s, Warsaw believed that the emergence and strengthening of the countries in between Poland and Russia could serve as a defensive buffer against any Russian revanchism. “In this sense,” he continues, “the idea of the Intermarium arose as a response to the imperialism of the Russian tsars and, then, as a response to the expansion of the Soviet state.” Some of the Polish advocates of this idea at that time imagined that, in due course, they could create a federal state consisting of all these countries. However, such hopes repeatedly came to nothing because all of the countries in between wanted to retain their own independence.

Both before World War II and afterward (primarily in the diaspora), Polish scholars recognized that the old, interwar conception of the Intermarium needed to be modified. Among the most important of the advocates for change were Jerzy Giedroyc, who for many years edited the influential Paris-based magazine Kultura, and Juliusz Mieroszewski, who wrote widely about international affairs from his home in London. They, more than their predecessors, are responsible for developing the new conception of the Intermarium, the one on which Warsaw relies today but that Moscow has failed to recognize.

Giedroyc and Mieroszewski argued, Sadłowski explains, that Poland must give up any aspirations to reclaim territories to the east and also any desire to subordinate the countries in this region to itself. Instead, it must promote democracy and cooperation in these states as the best means of boosting their security and Poland’s. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, this view became predominant as Poland, and many of its neighbors experienced their own “end of history moment.” And at that time, Warsaw made clear that it wanted to support the sovereignty of its eastern neighbors not so much to put pressure on Russia as an end in itself, but because this would eventually facilitate the transformation of Russia as well. Such a conception, Warsaw officials and commentators said, could help reduce old and future tensions between Poland and the Russian Federation.

According to Sadłowski, overcoming those tensions will not be easy; but a major first step will be for all concerned to recognize that what Poland means by Intermarium now is not what it meant in the 1920s. If Russian thinkers continue to insist otherwise, the Polish scholar suggests, progress will be difficult and may even be reversed by a tragic self-fulfilling prophecy in which Moscow will act in ways that force Warsaw to consider a return to its earlier conception.

The appearance of this article in Moscow now is especially important for at least two reasons. First, it challenges Russian suggestions that Warsaw is involved in seeking to pull Belarus away from Russia or even make claims on what is now Belarusian territory. And second, it provides a much-needed corrective to those Russian writers who have conflated the original notion of the Intermarium with the Three Seas Initiative (strongly encouraged by the United States) and the development of a Baltic–Black Sea waterway across Ukraine, Belarus and Poland (Qha.com.ua, June 5, 2016; Postimees, December 19, 2019; see EDM, April 28, May 4, 13).

If Moscow cannot escape from its misconceptions about the nature of contemporary Polish thinking on the Intermarium countries, the consequences will be serious and negative—not only for Poland and Russia and the countries in between but also for East-West relations as a whole, including the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Proper understanding and contextualization matters. And Sadłowski’s article represents a major contribution to that task.

 
Last edited:

northern watch

Has No Life - Lives on TB
Poland’s Intermarium Idea Very Different From What It Was—or What Moscow Thinks It Is

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 17 Issue: 127
By: Paul Goble


Jamestown.org
September 15, 2020 07:19 PM Age: 20 hours


(Source: three-seas.eu)

Russian analysts fail to recognize that Warsaw no longer views the Intermarium—a historical term that today refers to the lands “in between” Russia and the West and the Baltic and Black Seas—as it did in the 1920s and 1930s but rather conceives it as a means for the integration of a broader area, including Russia, to the benefit of all, Michał Sadłowski, a professor of law at the University of Warsaw, says (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 14). And Russia’s inability to understand that reality risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, leading Moscow to take actions that could drive Warsaw back to its older conception of promoting “the countries in between” Poland and Russia as a cordon sanitaire or defensive buffer against Russian aggression (Marek Chodakiewicz, Intermarium: The Land Between the Black and Baltic Seas, Transaction Publishers, 2012; Politcom.ru, June 1, 2016; Riafan.ru, June 21, 2016; Riata.ru, June 16, 2016).

In an important article in Moscow’s Nezavisimaya Gazeta yesterday (September 14), Sadłowski bluntly contends that Polish ideas about the lands in between, “the Polish Intermarium,” are no longer, if they ever were, “an imperial conception.” Treating them as if they are what they may have been a century ago is thus a dangerous misconception, which can lead to the deterioration of relations between Russia and Poland and to new tensions across a region already under multiple strains (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 14).

“Undoubtedly,” he writes, “the territory of Central-Eastern Europe and, above all, the portion of it that, until recently, was within the Soviet Union has again become a space” where new unifications and divisions are taking place with remarkable speed. In this, “one can name Warsaw and Moscow as the two ideological centers of this process,” centers whose ideas often are at odds. Indeed, many Russian writers in talking about Poland’s ideas about the Intermarium act as if nothing had changed in Warsaw’s thinking since the 1920s and 1930s and that Polish references to its policies toward the countries in between are only an updated version of what they see as an older “Polish imperial project.” But in fact, there has been an important evolution, the legal scholar argues.

Ideas about the Intermarium extend well into the past and have changed over time, Sadłowski notes. In the 1920s and 1930s, Warsaw believed that the emergence and strengthening of the countries in between Poland and Russia could serve as a defensive buffer against any Russian revanchism. “In this sense,” he continues, “the idea of the Intermarium arose as a response to the imperialism of the Russian tsars and, then, as a response to the expansion of the Soviet state.” Some of the Polish advocates of this idea at that time imagined that, in due course, they could create a federal state consisting of all these countries. However, such hopes repeatedly came to nothing because all of the countries in between wanted to retain their own independence.

Both before World War II and afterward (primarily in the diaspora), Polish scholars recognized that the old, interwar conception of the Intermarium needed to be modified. Among the most important of the advocates for change were Jerzy Giedroyc, who for many years edited the influential Paris-based magazine Kultura, and Juliusz Mieroszewski, who wrote widely about international affairs from his home in London. They, more than their predecessors, are responsible for developing the new conception of the Intermarium, the one on which Warsaw relies today but that Moscow has failed to recognize.

Giedroyc and Mieroszewski argued, Sadłowski explains, that Poland must give up any aspirations to reclaim territories to the east and also any desire to subordinate the countries in this region to itself. Instead, it must promote democracy and cooperation in these states as the best means of boosting their security and Poland’s. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, this view became predominant as Poland, and many of its neighbors experienced their own “end of history moment.” And at that time, Warsaw made clear that it wanted to support the sovereignty of its eastern neighbors not so much to put pressure on Russia as an end in itself, but because this would eventually facilitate the transformation of Russia as well. Such a conception, Warsaw officials and commentators said, could help reduce old and future tensions between Poland and the Russian Federation.

According to Sadłowski, overcoming those tensions will not be easy; but a major first step will be for all concerned to recognize that what Poland means by Intermarium now is not what it meant in the 1920s. If Russian thinkers continue to insist otherwise, the Polish scholar suggests, progress will be difficult and may even be reversed by a tragic self-fulfilling prophecy in which Moscow will act in ways that force Warsaw to consider a return to its earlier conception.

The appearance of this article in Moscow now is especially important for at least two reasons. First, it challenges Russian suggestions that Warsaw is involved in seeking to pull Belarus away from Russia or even make claims on what is now Belarusian territory. And second, it provides a much-needed corrective to those Russian writers who have conflated the original notion of the Intermarium with the Three Seas Initiative (strongly encouraged by the United States) and the development of a Baltic–Black Sea waterway across Ukraine, Belarus and Poland (Qha.com.ua, June 5, 2016; Postimees, December 19, 2019; see EDM, April 28, May 4, 13).

If Moscow cannot escape from its misconceptions about the nature of contemporary Polish thinking on the Intermarium countries, the consequences will be serious and negative—not only for Poland and Russia and the countries in between but also for East-West relations as a whole, including the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Proper understanding and contextualization matters. And Sadłowski’s article represents a major contribution to that task.

I have often wondered if Poland would try to get back territory it lost to the Soviet Union in 1939


The prewar eastern Polish territories of Kresy, which the Red Army had overrun during the Nazi-Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939 (excluding the Białystok region) were permanently ceded to the USSR by the new Polish communist government, and most of their Polish inhabitants expelled. As a result of the Potsdam Agreement to which Poland's government-in-exile was not invited, Poland lost 179,000 square kilometres (69,000 square miles) (45%) of prewar territories in the east, including over 12 million citizens of whom 4,3 million were Polish-speakers. Today, these territories are part of sovereign Belarus, Ukraine, and Lithuania.

 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

UK seeks to calm US fears over Brexit and Northern Ireland
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab sought to allay fears the UK was endangering peace in Ireland with its most recent Brexit brinksmanship. Raab directly rebutted a warning from US presidential candidate Joe Biden.



Raab and Pompeo at a press conference (Nicholas Kamm/AP Photo/picture-alliance)

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK's commitment to the Good Friday Agreement was "absolute," as he stood alongside his US counterpart Mike Pompeo in Washington on Wednesday.

Raab's statement, as well as another delivered on the US cable news network CNN, came in direct response to a tweet by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden — an Irish-American Catholic.

"We can't allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit. Any trade deal between the US and UK must be contingent upon respect for the agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period,'' Biden wrote on Twitter.

Raab: 'We've been crystal clear all along'
Speaking on CNN, Raab said: "The Good Friday Agreement is not in jeopardy ... We've been crystal clear all along, we're committed to it. Rest assured, we want to resolve the issues with our European partners, but there is not going to be any hard border [in Ireland], certainly not applied by the UK."

Read more: At Irish border, Brexit evokes history of violence
At issue is the latest bit of Brexit brinksmanship from Westminster, in which the British House of Commons on Monday passed the so-called Internal Market Bill, in direct violation of its EU Withdrawal Agreement.


Watch video09:18
Joe Biden warns Britain not to break Brexit agreement
The move has caused outrage among EU negotiating partners who claim it is a threat to peace in Northern Ireland as it would potentially require a hard border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, a member of the European Union.

The idea of an open border is key to the Good Friday Agreement, and the current UK government's course has set off alarms in Brussels as well as the UK, with five former British prime ministers railing against the concept of violating the legal terms of the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

EU 'food blockades' and other fearmongering
Raab on Thursday sought to shift blame instead to the EU, saying, "The threat to the Good Friday Agreement, as it is reflected in the Northern Ireland Protocol, comes from wathe EU's politicization of the issue ... our commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and to avoid any extra infrastructure at the border at the North and the South is absolute."

Raab's comments come in the midst of repeated statements by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the UK is only acting to secure a lifeline between Britain and Northern Ireland, even going so far as to suggest that the EU would set up "food blockades" to cut ties between mainland Britain and its provincial ward.

Raab echoed those sentiments Thursday, saying, "We cannot have the EU trying to erect a regulatory border in the Irish Sea."
Read more: The Irish border — what you need to know

Johnson, who was instrumental in the UK's Brexit referendum, has consistently argued that the EU is negotiating in bad faith. That has drawn strong rebuttals from the EU, with spokesman Eric Mamer challenging Johnson to "ask any of the EU's hundreds of international treaty partners" if the bloc "negotiated in good faith."

Brussels has insisted the UK drop its controversial Internal Market Bill by the end of September or face legal action. Many observers are uncertain whether Johnson is aiming for a so-called no-deal Brexit, or simply trying to force concessions from the EU for a better trade deal after the divorce is final.
The EU, Irish and UK flags in Brussels (picture-alliance/dpa/AP/F. Seco)
Brexit negotiators from the EU and UK talked for months on the issue of Ireland and Northern Ireland

Strong Irish influence in the US
Though the idea is often scoffed at by British observers, the Republic of Ireland exerts strong influence in the United States. This has historical and ethnic grounds — with some 35 million Americans claiming Irish roots on the last US census — but it also has to do with politicking on the part of the Republic of Ireland.

Ireland has always maintained close ties to Irish-American politicians. And US lawmakers have also shown strong historical support for the Irish republic, from backing its independence to being actively engaged in the cause of peace in Northern Ireland. It was influential Irish-Americans who lobbied President Bill Clinton to forge ahead with the historic Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

Raab is meeting with some of those politicians while in Washington this week. He met Wednesday with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the most powerful person in the US House of Representatives.

Pelosi released a statement after the visit. In it, she wrote that she had reiterated the message she delivered last year in London, saying: "If the U.K. violates its international agreements and Brexit undermines the Good Friday accord, there will be absolutely no chance of a US-UK trade agreement passing the Congress. The Good Friday Agreement is valued by the American people and will continue to be proudly defended in the United States Congress."
js/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)


See this thread as well:

 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB


After showdown, UN rights body OKs more scrutiny of Belarus
JAMEY KEATENyesterday



1 of 3
Yury Ambrazevich, Head of Belarus' delegation and Permanent Representative to the UN Office, listen to the speeches, during the opening of 45th session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, September 14, 2020. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP)

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N.’s top human rights body on Friday passed a resolution backed by the European Union seeking quick and enhanced scrutiny of alleged violations in Belarus by authorities under President Alexander Lukashenko, after rejecting efforts to squelch speakers and water down the text.

The Human Rights Council voted 23-2 with 22 abstentions on the resolution that calls on the U.N. human rights chief to look into the situation of rights in the former Soviet republic and report back by year-end. The 47-member body rejected 17 amendments that had sought to alter the language.

The vote followed a dramatic “urgent debate” in which Belarus and backers like China, Russia and Venezuela sought to muzzle speakers like Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a former English teacher who placed second to Lukashenko in the country’s disputed presidential election last month.

The four countries had, in essence, argued a breach of procedural rules by letting her and others speak. Council president Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, the Austrian ambassador in Geneva, allowed speakers to continue decrying a string of alleged rights violations in Belarus.

“The council’s consideration of the recent events in Belarus is timely,” U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said in remarks delivered by her deputy. “Peaceful mass demonstrations have continued to contest the declared result of last month’s presidential elections.”

“We are witnessing thousands of arrests. Hundreds of reports of torture and other ill-treatment, including sexual violence and the reported torture of children,” Bachelet’s statement said, referring to a police crackdown on post-election protests plus troubles from a decade ago. “Excellencies, it is vital for the future of Belarus to break these cycles of increasing repression and violence.”

In a dramatic showdown at the normally staid council, Belarus’ ambassador, Yury Ambrazevich, took the floor to insist that allowing U.N. human rights advocates and other speakers to address the council violated the rules, arguing that only national envoys should be allowed to speak. The council president overrode the objections.

Ambrazevich broke in briefly seconds after Tsikhanouskaya said in a video message that peaceful protesters were being deliberately beaten and raped in Belarus while some “have been found dead.”

“We request that the intervention by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya be stopped,” the Belarusian ambassador said, referring to the opposition leader and her remarks.

Council president Tichy-Fisslberger brushed off the appeal, and the former presidential candidate finished her statement.

Ambrazevich, in his more elaborate response, shot back, faulting the “mass media and social networks” for showing a “lopsided picture of reality presented by the losers in the elections.”
“We deny the unfounded accusations of sexual violence against protesters. There is no official record of this. There is no confirmation also of claims that people disappeared in association with the protests,” he said. “As with regards to political detentions, this has not taken place. Some people have been taken into custody in compliance with the legal procedural code.”

In the debate, several European Union countries spoke out in favor of the speakers and decried rights violations in Belarus. The resolution presented by Germany raises concerns about torture, “arbitrary deprivations of life,” and sexual and gender-based violence linked to the Aug. 9 election.

The resolution also cited alleged intimidation, harassment and detention of opponents of Lukashenko’s government before and after the election. The autocratic Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet republic for 26 years, was declared the winner, but opposition activists have challenged the election as rigged.

The European Union and the U.S. government have called the vote neither free nor fair and urged the government to enter a dialogue with the opposition as post-election protests continue.

The German resolution calls for Bachelet to look into recent violations and report back to the council by year-end. That would entail a relatively fast-track response for the often deliberate and slow-moving council.

Germany’s move suggested speed was among its priorities. The resolution stops short of seeking more onerous, in-depth measures in the council’s arsenal, such as deploying a fact-finding mission or assembling a panel of experts to examine the situation.

The text cites allegations of “torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by law enforcement and prison officials.” It calls on Belarus authorities to “cease the use of excessive force against peaceful demonstrators” and stop arbitrary arrests on political grounds and release all political prisoners, journalists and others detained around the election cycle.


 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB


Virus measures targeted by protesters despite case spikes
By SYLVIA HUI and VADIM GHIRDAyesterday



1 of 8
A protester holds up a placard in front of police officers during a "Resist and Act for Freedom" protest against a mandatory coronavirus vaccine, wearing masks, social distancing and a second lockdown, in Trafalgar Square, London, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

LONDON (AP) — Demonstrators took the streets of London, Tel Aviv and other cities on Saturday to protest coronavirus restrictions, decrying how the measures have affected daily life even with infection rates rising in many places and the global death toll approaching 1 million.

In the U.K., the latest official estimates released Friday showed that new infections and coronavirus hospital admissions have been doubling every seven to eight days. Britain has Europe’s highest death toll since the start of the pandemic, with 41,821 confirmed virus-related deaths.

The government recently banned social gatherings of more than six people in the hopes that it would help reverse a steep rise in COVID-19 cases and suggested that tougher restrictions could be coming.

Saturday’s protest in Trafalgar Square, which was themed “Resist and Act for Freedom,” ended in clashes between demonstrators and London police, as officers tried to disperse hundreds of people holding banners and placards scrawled with anti-restriction messages such as “This is now Tyranny.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has warned that the city may add curfews, force pubs to close earlier and ban household visits to try to limit the city’s sharp rise in new cases.

“I am extremely concerned by the latest evidence I’ve seen today from public health experts about the accelerating speed at which COVID-19 is now spreading here in London,” Khan said Friday. “It is increasingly likely that, in London, additional measures will soon be required to slow the spread of the virus.”

In Israel, meanwhile, authorities ordered a full lockdown that began Friday and coincided with the Jewish High Holidays, which are typically celebrated with family gatherings and large prayer services.

Demonstrators in swimsuits gathered on a beach in Tel Aviv and waved black and pink flags connoting various protest movements.

In Australia, about 100 protesters gathered in the Melbourne beachside suburb of Elwood on Saturday before being scattered by police.

Police in the region have tried to dissuade lockdown opponents from protesting, but the rallies have become routine. The Victoria police said in a news release that “the behaviour of these selfish few who choose to blatantly ignore the directions will not be tolerated.”

In Romania’s capital city, Bucharest, several hundred people protested against virus restrictions, including the mandatory use of masks in schools. About 2.8 million children in Romania began the school year Monday and schools took various precautions to try and prevent outbreaks.

Romania is among the countries that has had a new spike in confirmed cases, including a national daily record of 1,713 cases earlier in the week and 1,333 more on Saturday. In all, Romania has had 111,550 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 4,402 deaths from the disease since the start of the pandemic.

Protesters in Bucharest’s University Square drew parallels between the protective measures against the pandemic and Nazi regimes. One of the speakers compared the measures to the torture of dissidents during communism.

The virulent language and comparisons echoed that of conservative protesters at rallies in dozens of U.S. cities earlier in the pandemic, including some who successfully pressured governors and local officials into lifting restrictions on businesses and social activities.

Experts have said some state authorities gave up on the restrictions too quickly, allowing the virus to continue spreading this summer in parts of the country that didn’t experience the full force of the pandemic early in the year.

As of Saturday, Johns Hopkins University reported nearly 200,000 deaths in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic and 6.7 million confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S.
___
Ghirda reported from Bucharest, Romania.
___
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB



Italians vote in 7 regional contests shaped by pandemic
By COLLEEN BARRY and FANUEL MORELLI2 hours ago



1 of 10
A man casts his ballot at a polling station, in Rome, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. On Sunday and Monday Italians are called to vote nationwide in a referendum to confirm a historical change to the country's constitution to drastically reduce the number of Members of Parliament from 945 to 600. Eighteen million of Italian citizens will also vote on Sunday and Monday to renew local governors in seven regions, along with mayors in approximately 1,000 cities. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

ROME (AP) — Italians in seven regions headed to the polls Sunday for two days of voting shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Voters were required to wear masks and maintain social distancing as they cast ballots in regional contests originally scheduled for the spring but delayed due to the pandemic. Italy’s outbreak has claimed more than 35,600 lives — the second-worst confirmed death toll in Europe after Britain — and stricken 296,500 people since February.

For the first time, voters over 65 will have preferential access and will be guided to the front of any line by volunteers from Italy’s civil protection agency.

Once inside, voters may lower their masks just long enough to confirm their identity against voting cards and ID documents. And in a change, voters leaving the voting booths will place the ballots inside the boxes themselves, instead of turning them over to poll workers.

Veneto Gov. Luca Zaia of the right-wing League party is expected to win his third mandate handily after helping Veneto avoid the worst of the pandemic through targeted testing early on and protocols that took the pressure off intensive care wards.

In the region of 5 million people centered around Venice, confirmed virus deaths have numbered 2,158, compared with 16,917 in Lombardy, the epicenter of Italy’s epidemic with a population of 10 million.

The other races are considered a test of the strength of the right-wing opposition, led by League leader Matteo Salvini, against the ruling parties of the 5-Star Movement and the Democratic Party. The toughest contest is expected in Tuscany, where Salvini is betting his candidate can oust the Democratic Party from the left-wing stronghold.

Regional leadership is also being decided in Liguria, Le Marche, Campania, Puglia and Valle d’Aosta. Mayoral races also were being held in 1,000 towns and cities.

Despite the complications presented by coronavirus, analysts are projecting a strong turnout, as the pandemic emphasized the significance of local and regional leadership. In Italy, health care is administered at a regional level.

Regional presidents “are quite powerful and people understand this,” said Cristina Fasone, a professor at Rome’s LUISS University. “I think even more so after we experienced the first months of the pandemic.’’

Italians also are voting on a referendum to reduce the number of national lawmakers, backed by the 5-Star Movement, which has made reforming Italy’s often moribund institutions a central political plank. The move would cut lower house lawmakers from 630 to 400 and those in the Senate from 315 to 200. The 5-Stars, which have the most members of any party in the lower house after the 2018 election, say the move will save 500 million euros ($580 million) each five-year legislative period.

Most parties back the constitutional reform, which has already been passed by parliament but without the two-thirds majority that would have avoided a referendum. Still, many top political voices say they are voting ’’no″ as the move would reduce regional representation.
Polls will close at 3 p.m. on Monday.
____
Barry reported from Milan.
___
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB
Part 1


FinCEN Files: Deutsche Bank tops list of suspicious transactions
Leaked documents shed a light on Deutsche Bank's central role in facilitating financial transactions deemed suspicious. Many of these could have enabled the circumvention of sanctions on Iran and Russia.



Deutsche Bank's skyscraper headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany under a dark grey sky

Germany's largest bank Deutsche Bank is no stranger to scandals. But the leaked FinCEN files suggest the bank was aware it was facilitating suspicious transactions amounting to over $1 trillion dollars, including for a period after it had promised to clean up its act.

The FinCEN files are a huge cache of secret reports detailing suspicious financial activity, filed by banks to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a bureau of the US Treasury Department (USTD).

BuzzFeed News obtained the files and shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). Over the past 16 months, 400 journalists from 88 countries have been investigating the documents.

German bank reports over half of all suspicious activity
Deutsche Bank accounts for 62% of all Suspicious Activities Reports (SARs) filed to FinCEN in the leaked documents.



Watch video02:14
What is a Suspicious Activity Report?
These SARs reflect the concerns of watchdogs within banks and are not necessarily evidence of any criminal conduct or wrongdoing. Financial institutions operating in the US are required to file these reports with the USTD, and failure to do so can result in penalties.

Between 1999 and 2017, $2 trillion (€1.68 trillion) in transactions were flagged by financial institutions' internal compliance officers as suspicious. Reasons include possibly money laundering, sanctions violations or other criminal activities.

Of these, $1.3 trillion (€1.09 trillion) worth of transactions passed through Deutsche Bank, which reported the activities to FinCEN.

Deutsche Bank previously fined hundreds of millions
This is not the first time Deutsche Bank has been implicated in suspicious money transfers. In 2015 it agreed to a $258 million fine for violating US sanctions.

A probe by US and New York banking regulators found the bank had moved $10.9 billion (€9.2 billion) on behalf of Iranian, Libyan, Syrian, Burmese and Sudanese financial institutions sanctioned by the US between 1999 and 2006. The bank was accused of carrying out transactions for its customers using "non-transparent methods and practices" to disguise its actions.

"Since then we have terminated all business with parties from the countries involved," a Deutsche Bank spokeswoman said at the time.

Continued involvement in suspicious money transfers
The FinCEN Files suggest that Deutsche Bank continued to move money for people and companies deemed suspicious, as indicated by SAR filings from the bank, after the big 2015 settlement.

One case that stands out is that of Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader. He pleaded guilty in 2017 in a US federal court to helping Iran evade sanctions.

Deutsche Bank's US affiliate, Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas (TCA), submitted an SAR about a company with close ties to Zarrab to FinCEN in March 2017. The report states that the company, Nadir Döviz, which is involved in the gold trade, had more than $28 million (€23 million) transferred in its name.

Deutsche Bank TCA filed its SAR because Nadir Döviz was being investigated for its involvement in a money-laundering scheme. The document says the transactions occurred between March 2016 and February 2017.

In its report, Deutsche Bank stated that the suspicious activities were intra-company payments dispersed between several Turkish banks. "This SAR is being filed because the transactions originated from a high-risk country [Turkey], there were multiple large, round dollar transactions, and no commercial purpose was identified through the transaction details," it reads.

One of these suspicious transactions was for $1.5 million (€1.2 million) from Nadir Döviz in Turkey to Nadir Gold in Dubai on September 12, 2016. No reason was provided for the transfer.

Bank says it 'learned from mistakes'
Upon receiving a catalogue of detailed questions from ICIJ, a spokesman for Deutsche Bank said the information contained in the files is "not new information to us or our regulators" and that these issues date back to the years prior to 2016, adding that Deutsche Bank is "a different bank now."
Symbolbild Deutsche Bank (Christoph Hardt/Geisler/picture alliance)
How much did Deutsche Bank know about transactions it facilitated?

In his statement from September 9, the spokesman emphasized: "We acknowledged past weaknesses in our control environment, we apologized for this and accepted our respective fines. Most importantly: we learned from our mistakes, systematically tackled the issues and made changes to our business perimeter, our controls, and our personnel."

The dates of the recorded Suspicious Activity Reports give rise to questions about how much Deutsche Bank knew about Döviz's connection to Zarrab and the Turkish trader's involvement in what turned out to be a gold for oil scheme to circumvent sanctions against Iran.

Reza Zarrab's billion-dollar operation
When Iranian banks were cut off from the global SWIFT transaction system, the country's companies could no longer use international banking transfers to receive payment for oil and gas exports.

To get around the ban, Iran began collecting gold as payments instead. Reza Zarrab played a key role in this billion-dollar scheme to help Iran evade sanctions.

Zarrab was first indicted and arrested in December 2013 in Turkey, as part of a larger corruption investigation aimed at ministers in the ruling AKP government. Among the charges directed at him were bribing ministers, money laundering and gold smuggling.

According to a report by Turkish prosecutors at the time, Zarrab used Nadir Döviz for buying gold. Zarrab's bagman Adem Karahan later told Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, that he was a cash courier for money going from Dubai to Turkey and from Dubai to Iran.

One of the companies he received money from was Nadir Gold LLC, a subsidiary of Nadir Döviz in Dubai. It is precisely these two companies that Deutsche Bank lists in its March 2017 Suspicious Activity Report to FinCen.

At the time, the Erdogan administration refuted all allegations against Zarrab and likened the investigation to a coup attempt, purging and arresting the prosecutors who initiated it. After two and a half months in prison, Zarrab was released.

Reza Zarrab inside a US court surrounded by journalists and microphones
Iranian-Turkish gold dealer Reza Zarrab was convicted for helping Iran dodge US sanctions
In March 2016 Zarrab was arrested again, this time in the US while on route to Disney World with his family. US authorities accused him of money laundering, fraud and helping the Iranian government to evade the economic sanctions.

He pleaded guilty and later testified as a protected star witness in a trial against a manager of Turkey's Halkbank.

During this trial in November 2017, Zarrab claimed that Turkish government officials, including President Erdogan, had allowed Halkbank to create a complex web of shell companies and sham transactions in gold to help Iran get around US sanctions.

Nadir Döviz and Deutsche Bank both declined to answer specific questions about their involvement with each other and with Reza Zarrab. But what is apparent is a pattern of Deutsche Bank connections with suspicious customers.
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB
Part 2


One bank refused, Deutsche Bank moved
The FinCEN Files reveal that Deutsche Bank also conducted transactions for an oil refinery in Turkmenistan, despite it being in possible violation of Iranian sanctions.

Deutsche Bank's US affiliate filed two SARs in October 2014 and February 2015 related to these transactions.



Watch video02:40
What are the FinCEN Files?
In these reports, Deutsche Bank states that "Turkmenbashi Oil Processing Complex is still involved in commercial activities restricted under EU sanctions," on the grounds that it exports liquid petroleum gas to Iran. Turkmenbashi Oil is the biggest oil and gas producer in Turkmenistan.

According to the SARs filed by Deutsche Bank TCA, it facilitated transactions worth $168.5 million between April and September 2014 for Turkmenbashi Oil.

It processed nearly $113 million in further transactions between September 2014 and January 2015.

While Deutsche Bank TCA moved money for Turkmenbashi Oil, BNY Mellon, another bank that offers correspondence banking services in New York, refused to process transactions for the company around the same time.

Russian oligarchs under sanctions
The leaked SARs also suggest that Deutsche Bank may have allowed companies to evade sanctions in Russia as well as Iran.

Surgutneftegas is one of Russia's largest oil companies. It was sanctioned in the US in September 2014 for supporting Russia's war against Ukraine.

The sanctions forbid providing any equipment or technical support to Russian oil firms, as well as transactions that enable this.

As correspondent bank, Deutsche Bank TCA was involved in 47 transfers amounting to nearly $430 million (€363 million) to and from Surgutneftegas between the beginning of March and mid-May 2015 — well after the announcement of the sanctions.

Headshot of Oleg Deripaska
Deutsche Bank continued to complete transactions for Oleg Deripaska despite knowing he was under investigation by US and UK authorities
ICIJ's analysis of the FinCEN Files indicates that Deutsche Bank also shuffled more than $11 billion in transactions between 2003 and 2017 for companies tied to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire and a longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — despite being fully aware of ongoing investigations.

Deutsche Bank itself filed a SAR in November 2016 stating, "Deripaska, is under investigation by US and UK authorities in connection with a $57.5 million wire transfer in 2007."

The report noted that "in the past, authorities in the US have accused Mr. Deripaska of having links to organized crime."

Deripaska was put on the US list of sanctioned individuals in 2018 for money laundering, extortion and links to organized crime groups. He himself denies laundering funds or committing financial crimes and is suing the US government in an effort to reverse the sanctions.

Doing it for the money?
Logo FinCEN Files
Banks determine the flow of money
Deutsche Bank has been penalized many times in the past for facilitating suspicious activities. So why would they continue even after the hefty penalty of $258 million in 2015?

For Tim White, a consultant at AML Right Source, an anti-money laundering consulting firm, the answer is simple: Money.

White says that "by going ahead with these suspicious transactions, banks are making more money than the possible cost of the violations."

*******
See this thread also:

 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB


Italy government bolstered as Salvini falls short in regional polls
Issued on: 21/09/2020 - 21:09Modified: 21/09/2020 - 22:02
Italy's hard-right League leader Matteo Salvini had been hoping for a clean sweep in the regional polls.

Italy's hard-right League leader Matteo Salvini had been hoping for a clean sweep in the regional polls. © Alessandro Garofalo, REUTERS
Text by:FRANCE 24Follow
|
Video by:Seema GUPTA
4 min
Italy's rightwing opposition leader Matteo Salvini failed to make the breakthroughs he had hoped for in regional elections, voting results showed on Monday, in a boost to the fragile coalition government.

As the count proceeded, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) looked sure to hold on to three regions it already rules, while the right made just one gain and stayed in charge of two other regions.

Crucially, the PD was heading for a comfortable hold in Tuscany, which the left has ruled without interruption since regional councils were first elected in 1970.
Earlier this month, League leader Salvini had said he was aiming for a clean sweep.

Italian sovereign debt spreads narrowed on the early vote count, with investors hoping the results of the Sept. 20-21 ballot would bolster stability at a time when the government is battling the economic slump triggered by the coronavirus.

Culture Minister and prominent PD official Dario Franceschini said the result bolstered the party and its leader Nicola Zingaretti. "Now that he and the PD are stronger, the government can press ahead," he said in a tweet.

There are growing signs Salvini is losing some of his appeal to Italians. The League remains the country's most popular party but has declined steadily in opinion polls over the last year, along with Salvini's personal approval ratings.

Most attention was fixed on Tuscany, where Salvini campaigned tirelessly in recent weeks – as he had in January when he tried and failed to win another left-wing stronghold, Emilia-Romagna.

A partial vote count gave the PD candidate a comfortable lead of 6.4 points over his League challenger.

Until the Emilia-Romagna setback, Salvini had led his conservative allies to eight straight regional victories since the last national ballot in March 2018.

Five-Star Movement hails referendum win
In a national referendum held alongside the local elections, Italians voted strongly in favour of cutting the number of lawmakers in the upper and lower houses of parliament to 600 from 945.

Some 70% of voters backed the measure – a clear victory for the co-ruling Five-Star Movement, which has championed the reform, arguing that it would reduce costs and improve parliamentary efficiency.

"This is an historic result. We can go back to having a normal parliament, with fewer privileges and 345 fewer seats," said Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, a top Five-Star official.
In the regional ballot, the right easily kept control of the northern regions of Veneto and Liguria, while the PD retained Campania in the south.

The right took Marche from the PD, but the centre-left incumbent looked certain to win Puglia, the heel of Italy, defying recent polls that suggested he would lose.

In another potentially worrying sign for Salvini, the League's incumbent president of Veneto, Luca Zaia, seen as a possible future challenger to his party chief, won with a crushing 75% of the vote.

Zaia's own personal list of candidates got around 41%, while the League's official party list took just 16%.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Belarus: Alexander Lukashenko sworn in as president, state media reports
After weeks of protest surrounding the disputed August election, the inauguration was unexpectedly brought forward. Belarus state media report that it took place in a secret ceremony.



Alexander Lukashenko

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been sworn in for a sixth term, the official news agency Belta reported Wednesday.

The inauguration took place in secret and with no prior announcement. Hundreds of top government officials were reportedly present for the ceremony held in the capital, Minsk.
During the ceremony, state media reported that Lukashenko placed his right hand on the constitution and swore to "serve the people of the Republic of Belarus, respect and protect rights and freedoms of people and citizens."

Opposition calls for more protests
The ceremony would normally have been publicized in advance as a major state occasion. However, Lukashenko's disputed election victory on August 9 hasunleashed weeks of mass protest across Belarus.

Following the secret inauguration ceremony, the Belarusian opposition called for an "immediate civil disobedience campaign."

Pavel Latushko, an opposition politician, said the ceremony was like a secret meeting of "thieves."

"Where are the jubilant citizens? Where is the diplomatic corps?" Latushko posted on social media.

Belarusian authorities have responded to the demonstrations with violent crackdowns and mass arrests. Many top opposition figures have been exiled or detained.

A rigged election?
Lukashenko has been in power for 26 years. The opposition says the recent election was rigged. Much of the international community also rejected Lukashenko's claim that he won the election with 80% of the vote.

Last month, the EU said the election was "neither free or fair."

Belarusian opposition leader, and Lukashenko's election opposnent Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, traveled to Brussels on Monday in a bid to convince the EU to follow through on sanctions the bloc threatened last month in response to the crackdown.

Read more: EU response to Belarus protests hampered by internal divisions
A list of some 40 Belarusian officials to be hit with travel bans and asset freezes has yet to be approved by all member states.


Watch video01:47
Tens of thousands rally in Belarus despite crackdown
wmr/rt (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

EU aims to reform asylum policy
Only a handful of EU member states are ready to accept asylum-seekers. Now, the European Commission is trying to reform the bloc's asylum rules, but few of its proposals seem to break new ground.



Asylum-seekers on Lesbos at a protest hold a sign that reads EU save us, please (picture-alliance/dpa/P. Giannakouris)

The European Commission will table a plan on Wednesday aiming to reform the bloc's asylum system and organize a fair redistribution of asylum-seekers across the EU. It's the latest in a series of similar, albeit unsuccessful, reform attempts made in 2015 and 2016.

The recent blaze that destroyed the overcrowded Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, EU diplomats have said, has lent the debate new urgency. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wants to scrap and replace the existing Dublin Agreement that governs where people can apply for asylum in the EU.

But with unanimous approval necessary for a major shift in asylum policy, it is unlikely the new framework will require countries to take in refugees and asylum-seekers since several EU members have rejected any form of mandatory redistribution.

The wrangling among EU states over who will take in some of the 12,000 homeless asylum-seekers from Lesbos illustrates how politicized the issue has become.
  • Germany announced it will take in 1,500 people from camps on various Greek islands, along with some unaccompanied 150 minors.
  • France said it intends to take in the same number of youths,
  • The Netherlands will allow 100 to enter. The Dutch government, however, regards this as part of its UN quota so it will accept 100 fewer people from other places.
  • Finland will accept 12 unaccompanied youths.
  • The remaining 23 EU member states have either not committed or refused to take anyone in.
Read more: Opinion: Moria migrant camp in Greece is the EU's flaming failure
Lack of unity
Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer of the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) said bringing asylum-seekers from the former Lesbos camp to other parts of Europe would "send the wrong signal." He implored his European colleagues "not to give in to violent migrants," by which he presumably was referring to the handful people suspected of setting fire to the Moira camp with the hope of being allowed to travel to mainland Greece.

Rather than accept any asylum-seekers, Austria has sent 55 tons of goods to Greece for the construction of a new migrant camp.
Read more: The EU's refugee policy: Doomed to division?
  • An Afghan boy refugees followed by his family walks towards the road where refugees have found temporary shelter following the fire at Moria camp (DW/M. Karakoulaki)

Protests in favor of taking migrants in, such as those held in Germany last weekend, are rare in the EU. Swedish researchers have, in vain, urged their government to take in migrants. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have flat out refused entry to asylum-seekers from Greece and Italy, even though the European Court of Justice this year ruled all three had failed to uphold their refugee quotas.

Anti-migrant sentiments are prevalent throughout much of the bloc, according to a 2020 study by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre. It analyzed regional and European election data as well as other surveys and found parties that explicitly reject migrants took some 60% of the vote in Hungary and Italy. In Portugal and Romania, by contrast, such parties have the least support. Anti-migrant sentiment in Germany placed in the middle of the European table.


Watch video05:07
Greece: Chaos after the fire in the Moria refugee camp
Murky migration figures

In its annual report, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) states that in 2019, 142,000 individuals entered the EU "irregularly." This refers to individuals who, for example, enter an EU country without a visa or proper documents and then apply for asylum. The number of people entering the bloc in an "irregular" fashion has dropped drastically since 2015.

Last year, most (83,000) "irregular" migrants entered the EU via the Greek islands, followed by Spain (24,000) and Italy (24,000). Frontex has stressed that 720,000 asylum applications were submitted in 2019 — far more than the number of "irregular" entries registered that year. This means a sizable number of migrants entered the EU undetected or applied for asylum in more than one place. A survey among asylum-seekers in Germany last year found that about 40% flew in by plane. Most of them arrived with a tourist visa and applied for asylum once it expired.

The Frontex report also states that an unknown number of migrants has entered the EU without ever registering or applying for asylum. These individuals live largely off the radar.

Infographic of first-time asylum applications by country of origin

Most applications are made in Germany

Germany received 165,000 asylum applications last year — more than any other EU member state, according to Eurostat. Spain, France and Greece saw the second, third and fourth-most applications, respectively. Two-thirds of all asylum-seekers sought to gain asylum status in one of these four countries. By contrast, 500 applications were filed in Hungary. Small nations like Cyprus and Malta, meanwhile, registered the highest number of asylum applications in relation to their respective population sizes.

Read more: For recognized refugees in Greece, the hardship isn't over

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer of the Christian Social Union (CSU) said these figures prove the Dublin system — stipulating that the country of first entry is where a person must apply for asylum — does not work. Estimates show that at least 60% of asylum-seekers in Germany who did not enter the country by plane, must have traveled through another safe EU state, where Dublin rules say they should have applied for asylum. These days, months-long trials are held to determine how individuals traveled to Germany to ascertain which EU state is responsible for processing their asylum application. Still, returning someone to such a country often proves extremely complicated.


Watch video04:12
How have migrants and refugees who arrived in Germany in 2015 fared?
Suggested reforms

Margaritis Schinas, the European Union's commissioner in charge of migration, plans to reform this asylum system in three steps. He wishes to see transit countries like Tukey, Libya, Tunisia and Morocco block migrants from traveling onwards to the EU. In addition, he wants to seal the bloc's maritime borders, with asylum applications being processed on the external frontiers. Lastly, the EU hopes to oblige EU states to show solidarity with each other when it comes to migration issues. These are notions that have been suggested in the past but all failed to pass muster for political or logistical reasons.

His plans do not, however, equate to EU-wide quotas. "One lesson we have learned is that some states no longer subscribe to the asylum framework; they do not want to take any refugees in," says Catherine Woollard of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles. "This means an interim redistribution system will only work with countries willing to participate."
 

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Bulgaria asks EU to stop 'fake' Macedonian identity
In another Balkan historical dispute, Sofia has asked its fellow EU members to stop North Macedonia's accession bid. Sofia wants its neighbor to admit to sharing a common history with Bulgaria.



A person salutes flags from North Macedonia and the EU (DW/P. Stojanovski )

A long-simmering historical dispute between two Balkan neighbors is about to enter the corridors of Brussels again as North Macedonia expects an official start to the EU accession negotiation process in December. An EU candidate country since 2005, North Macedonia hoped that solving the name dispute with Greece would end the historical quarrels with its Balkan neighbors and, after having entered NATO in March, start the country down the long road to full EU membership.

But Bulgaria has different ideas.

Read more: EU's 'no' to Western Balkans could spark conflict
A document titled the "Explanatory Memorandum on the relationship of the Republic of Bulgaria with the Republic of North Macedonia in the context of the EU enlargement and Association and Stabilization Process" caught the attention of the media in North Macedonia last week. The six-page memorandum, sent to 26 EU capitals from Sofia in August, lays out Bulgaria's position on several historical issues. Key among them, as Sofia claims: "the ethnic and linguistic engineering that has taken place" in North Macedonia since World War II.

"The accession path of the Republic of North Macedonia provides a valuable opportunity for its leadership to break with the ideological legacy and practices of communist Yugoslavia," the Bulgarian memorandum stated. "The enlargement process must not legitimize the ethnic and linguistic engineering that has taken place under former authoritarian regimes."
North Macedonia's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and his Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borissov (Reuters/O. Teofilovski)
Bulgaria's Borisov, left, traveled to Skopje to meet Zoran Zaev in August 2019

According to the official Bulgarian view of history, people of Slavic descent who live in North Macedonia are Bulgarians who speak the Bulgarian language but were brainwashed during the Josip Broz Tito's communist regime in the former Yugoslavia and were artificially given a new "Macedonian" identity and language in the process.

Pressing nationalistic views
The claim is not new. It is the official position of the Bulgarian state since the 1950s and, as a result, the historical misunderstandings between the two neighbors often boiled over in the political arena. As a member of the European Union, Bulgaria sees an advantage and aims to use it.

Ulf Brunnbauer, chair of history of Southeast and Eastern Europe at the University of Regensburg, said the memorandum is Bulgaria's way of "pressing its own nationalistic view on the history and culture of another country and its people."
Deutschland Ulf Brunnbauer Professor (Anna Perezolova)
Bulgaria and North Macedonia's disagreement should not affect EU talks, Brunnbauer told DW

"It would be similar to Germany telling the Austrians that they are actually Germans, or Denmark calling the Norwegians an anomaly because they used to be part of their empire and their standard language developed later than Danish," Brunnbauer told DW.

The memorandum caused consternation in North Macedonia and condemnation in parts of the Bulgarian academia as well.

Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Dimitrov said, "Language is not subject to recognition or nonrecognition because in the 21st century, especially in Europe, the right to self-determination and self-expression cannot be denied."

Bulgarian sociologist Ivaylo Ditchev wrote for DW that the primary "accusation" made in the Bulgarian memo is the fact that "North Macedonia exists at all."

"And if that new nation persistently refuses to abolish itself — Bulgaria considers that an act of aggression," Ditchev wrote.

Occupation or liberation?
During the Second World War, the Kingdom of Bulgaria was part of the Axis powers and occupied the territory of what is today North Macedonia. Macedonian history considers this period "Bulgarian fascist occupation." But Bulgaria denies that assertion and claims that its forces liberated what it considers its brethren in the west. In a declaration adopted by the parliament last year, Sofia told Skopje to stop using the term "fascist occupation" in reference to Bulgaria in its history books and to remove all such mention on the World War II monuments in the country.

Disagreements like this were supposed to be solved by a commission formed after the signing of a bilateral friendship agreement in 2017.

A group of historians and education experts from both countries started working on the long list of divisive issues but stopped last year. The official reason was because of the elections in North Macedonia and later the coronavirus pandemic, unofficially, there were insurmountable disagreements. Now the Bulgarian government insists that the commission continue its work and show results or North Macedonia's path towards the EU would be stopped before it can begin in earnest.

No place for bilateral issues
While the EU has so far been quiet on the issue, Germany, as the current holder of the rotating European Council presidency, called on both countries to resolve outstanding problems in the history commission. German Ambassador in North Macedonia Anke Holstein rejected Bulgaria's attempt to include the bilateral issues in the EU negotiations framework.
[IMG alt="German Ambassador Anke Holstein (Dt. Botschaft Nordmazedonien
)"]https://www.dw.com/image/54329208_404.jpg[/IMG]

The EU isn't the place for Bulgaria and North Macedonia to solve their differences, Holstein said

"Bilateral problems should be solved bilaterally," Holstein told Radio Free Europe.
But, according to Dragi Gjorgiev, president of the Macedonian team of experts in the Macedonian-Bulgarian commission, that won't be an easy task.

"The Bulgarian memorandum, which denies the modern Macedonian language and identity, is not helpful for the commission's success," Gjorgiev told DW.

While Ditchev, and other political analysts on both sides of the border think the memorandum might be a PR-stunt of Boyko Borisov's Bulgarian government to turn the attention of the public opinion after months of anti-corruption protests in the country, others disagree.

Watch video02:47
Bulgaria's anti-corruption rallies enter third month
"Protests in Sofia have nothing to do with this," Andrey Kovatchev member of the European Parliament from Bulgaria's governing conservative GERB party, wrote in an op-ed for DW Macedonian on Saturday. The government in Sofia would not change its position, Kovatchev said, adding that North Macedonia will not be allowed to start the EU accession negotiations unless it accepts Bulgaria's demands.

"Do not hope! You will never find another traitor like Georgi Dimitrov [the first communist leader of Bulgaria 1946-1949, who recognized the existence of a separate Macedonian nation and Macedonian language] in Bulgaria to get this thing done for you.," he said.

German historian Brunnbauer, on the other hand, called on Brussels and "especially Berlin" to put pressure on the Bulgarian government.

"The question of how historians or politicians in (North) Macedonia interpret the history of their nation and of their language might enrage Bulgarian nationalists (and vice versa)," he said. "But it has zero connection with the Copenhagen criteria or any other criteria an accession country needs to fulfill for membership in the EU."
 
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