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Brussels at odds with Germany over future migrant deals

EU Minister Johannes Hahn has called out the German government for saying African transit countries could receive the same migrant deal as Turkey. Hahn and Chancellor Merkel will travel to Africa this week for talks. Contrary to popular discourse within German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, Brussels said the European Union's migrant deal with Turkey should not serve as a blueprint for potential future agreements with North African migrant transit countries. Johannes Hahn, the EU's commissioner for neighborhood policy and enlargement negotiations, said it was counterproductive for the German government to habitually compare the migrant crises in Turkey to those in Africa. Brussels holds that the situations in Turkey and North Africa are not comparable, since Turkey has become home to almost 3 million Syrian refugees, while North African countries, such as Egypt, are considered transit countries for migrants entering Europe. His comments come ahead of Merkel's three-day state visit to Africa, where she will travel to Mali, Niger and Ethiopia. The continent's migrant flow towards Europe is likely to be the main point of discussion. Ahead of her visit, the chief of the German Chancellery and one of Merkel's most trusted advisors, Peter Altmaier (CDU), reiterated the importance of a North African migrant deal in the German magazine "Der Spiegel." In September, Merkel told a European delegation in Vienna that: "Agreements similar to the one with Turkey must by all means be agreed with other countries, such as Egypt and other African countries." The EU-Turkey deal, agreed in March, stipulates that Turkey will receive 3 billion euros in EU aid for the 3 million migrants currently grounded in the country. The money is designated for housing and schooling for refugees. In exchange, Turkey has agreed to take back migrants from the Greek Aegean Islands, just off its coast. Almost no other official advocated the deal more than Merkel. However, Brussels now reportedly fears that Merkel's announcement and the CDU's discourse will lead other transit countries, such as Egypt, to expect the same level of aid. Hahn will travel to Egypt on Wednesday to discuss partnership opportunities with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

EU Minister Johannes Hahn has called out the German government for saying African transit countries could receive the same migrant deal as Turkey. Hahn and Chancellor Merkel will travel to Africa this week for talks. Contrary to popular discourse within German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, Brussels said the European Union’s migrant deal with Turkey should not ... Read More »

Global donors pledge billions to support Afghan government

A group of international donors have agreed on more than 15 billion dollars in aid for Afghanistan. While leaders praised an Afghan commitment to tackle corruption, not all were convinced. International donors who gathered in Brussels on Wednesday pledged 15.2 billion dollars (13.6 billion euros) in aid for Afghanistan over the next four years. Although there had been fears of donor fatigue - particularly in light of the Syrian war - the amount that was pledged fell only slightly below the four billion dollars per year that donors pledged at the last conference, in Tokyo in 2012. "Some were skeptical that we are going to face donor fatigue after 15 years," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told a press conference. EU development commissioner Neven Mimica said the pledges "surpassed some of our best case scenarios." 'Work begins tomorrow' Afghan President Ashraf Ghani hailed it as a "truly remarkable day," but acknowledged that work was needed to meet attached conditions, which include tackling the corruption that is rife in the country. "The work from the Afghan side begins in earnest tomorrow, Ghani said. "A credit line has been extended," he said. "If we do not muster the political will in the practical ways of dealing with corruption, these pledges will remain pledges." UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Afghanistan's leaders "have been making impressive reforms and development plans to change the lives of people that have been suffering too long." Dismay over promises However, some participants at the conference complained that there was insufficient pressure on the government to tackle the problem of graft. Ikram Afzali, from the anti-corruption civil society group Integrity Watch Afghanistan, told The Associated Press that the Afghan government's promises amounted to no more than "window dressing." "The commitments to fighting corruption are very weak and we are disappointed," Afzali said. Earlier, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini denied reports the EU was making aid conditional on Afghanistan taking back migrants who have fled to Europe. Mogherini said there was "never a link between our development aid and what we do on migration." Afghanistan has relied on Western aid and military support over the past 15 years, since a US-led coalition ousted the Taliban for harboring al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2001.

A group of international donors have agreed on more than 15 billion dollars in aid for Afghanistan. While leaders praised an Afghan commitment to tackle corruption, not all were convinced. International donors who gathered in Brussels on Wednesday pledged 15.2 billion dollars (13.6 billion euros) in aid for Afghanistan over the next four years. Although there had been fears of ... Read More »

CETA ‘clarifications’ only, says Gabriel

The draft Canada-EU free trade deal will be backed by Germany's SPD party, German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has forecast while visiting Montreal. Only "clarifications" were needed, he added. Speaking at a press conference alongside Canada's trade minister, Chrystia Freeland, Gabriel said that the CETA treaty was the "most progressive" imaginable and he was confident a German Social Democrat (SPD) conference on Monday would back it. Strong opposition has emerged in Germany and other European countries to the planned pact, widely seen as a precursor to a larger deal with the US, with large demonstrations due Saturday in major German cities. Among the opponents to the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is Germany's DGB trade union federation, a traditional supporter of Gabriel's historically center-left SPD. SPD delegates meet in Wolfsburg in northern Germany on Monday, but the party basis unconvinced that the elimination of almost all restrictive tariffs on goods and services, agreed in principle in 2014, will bring societal benefits. On Wednesday, European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said CETA was crucial for job creation in Europe. Some 30 million jobs in Europe were dependent on exports to the rest of the world, he added. Freeland rules out further negotiations Meeting Gabriel, Freeland ruled out further negotiations on CETA, beyond what Gabriel term "clarifications" on investor protection and employee rights and added that she would attend Monday's SPD conference in Wolfsburg. Gabriel, who doubles as German Economy Minister, began his visit by meeting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and praising Canada's recently elected Liberal government for implementing changes to CETA's draft text that had made it more palatable for Germany and the EU. Gabriel reiterated that a disputed resolution system now foreseen within CETA would have independent judges governed by a code of conduct and paid a regular salary, instead of "private investment courts" using arbitrators paid fees. Referring to Trudeau's election last year, Gabriel said: "We found a progressive government, which had the same targets like we did. And it was very easy to come to a common understanding of what a fair agreement for the future should be."

The draft Canada-EU free trade deal will be backed by Germany’s SPD party, German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has forecast while visiting Montreal. Only “clarifications” were needed, he added. Speaking at a press conference alongside Canada’s trade minister, Chrystia Freeland, Gabriel said that the CETA treaty was the “most progressive” imaginable and he was confident a German Social Democrat (SPD) ... Read More »

Juncker rallies support for EU in State of Union address

Jean-Claude Juncker has used his State of the Union speech to attack populism and urge unity within the EU. He also outlined an agenda for the future of the bloc for the first time since the UK Brexit referendum. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker sought to reassure EU leaders on Wednesday that the bloc was not about to break up, despite uncertainty triggered by Britain's vote to leave. "We respect and at the same time regret the UK (Brexit) decision. But the EU as such is not at risk," Juncker said in his speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Still, he stressed that the Brexit referendum on June 23 should serve as a warning that nationalism in Europe poses a threat to unity. "The European Union doesn't have enough union," Juncker told lawmakers. "Far too often national interests are brought to the fore. ... There are splits out there and often fragmentation exists where we need further effort from the union, and that is leaving room for galloping populism." The 61-year-old head of the EU's executive arm called on Britain to take steps as soon as possible so that official divorce negotiations could begin. He said he wanted ties with London to "remain on a friendly basis," but added that the UK should not expect to get the same access to the EU's unified market as it did before. The highly anticipated speech comes at a challenging time for the EU. Besides carving a way forward without Britain, the bloc is also grappling with the threat of terrorism and the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War. Policies for the future In his speech, Juncker also unveiled a number of measures aimed to boost prosperity and security in the EU. He proposed doubling the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) to 630 billion euros ($707 billion) by 2022 in a bid to foster economic growth. "Investment means jobs. Today, we propose to double the duration of the fund and to double its financial capacity," he said. The Commission is launching a similar fund with an initial pot of 44 million euros to bolster the private sector in Africa as way of stemming emigration to Europe. Juncker also floated the idea of creating a European defense fund to support research and innovation, as well as a common military force to protect EU interests. He called on EU leaders to show more solidarity in confronting the migrant crisis, and urged states to complete the setting up of a European Border and Coast Guard. "The next 12 months are the crucial time to deliver an EU that protects and preserves the European way of life, that defends our citizens at home and abroad, and takes responsibility," Juncker added. Meeting in Bratislava Juncker's address before the European Parliament aimed to set the scene for a special summit of the 27 EU leaders in the Slovakian capital, Bratislava, on Friday. At that meeting, leaders are set to start working on a roadmap for the future, including a joint initiative by France and Germany for a "more active" European defense policy without Britain. In a summit invitation letter published late Tuesday, EU President Donald Tusk said it would be a "fatal error" for the EU to ignore the lessons of Brexit, adding that Bratislava should be a "turning point" for securing the EU's borders.

Jean-Claude Juncker has used his State of the Union speech to attack populism and urge unity within the EU. He also outlined an agenda for the future of the bloc for the first time since the UK Brexit referendum. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker sought to reassure EU leaders on Wednesday that the bloc was not about to break up, ... Read More »

Amid outrage, EU Commission launches probe into Barroso’s new job at Goldman Sachs

Two months after former EU Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso announced his new position at US banker Goldman Sachs, the EU is investigating whether the job meets ethical standards. Martin Kuebler reports from Brussels. Jose Manuel Barroso, the former president of the European Commission from 2004 to 2014, is facing accusations that he has damaged the EU's "integrity and reputation" with his decision to join US investment bank Goldman Sachs. On Sunday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced he had ordered a probe into Barroso's new role at Goldman Sachs - the institution with strong links to both the 2007-2008 financial crisis and the Greek debt debacle, which destabilized the euro currency - to determine whether Barroso had breached EU ethics guidelines. In his letter to EU Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly, Juncker said he would be seeking clarification from Barroso on his new responsibilities and the terms of his contract with Goldman Sachs. He also assured the ombudsman that Barroso would be treated as a lobbyist when received in Brussels, not as a former president. Juncker's move came after widespread criticism since the announcement in early July that Barroso would serve as the bank's non-executive chairman and adviser on the impact of the UK's decision to leave the EU. At the time, Goldman Sachs said the hiring had "nothing to do with the outcome of the Brexit vote." Barroso took the job 20 months after leaving office, well beyond the EU rules that restrict former commissioners from taking new jobs for 18 months. But the rules also stipulate that commissioners are obliged to act "with integrity and discretion" after their time in office, something that many contend the former Portuguese prime minister has failed to do. "It's very hard not to interpret this move as the former Commission president swapping sides, against the EU," said Vicky Cann, a transparency campaigner for the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO). "It will just compound the already high level of European skepticism that we already see." 'Challenging time for the EU' Last week, O'Reilly, who in her role investigates complaints about misadministration in EU institutions, agencies and bodies, sent a letter to Juncker requesting clarification on the Commission's position on Barroso's appointment. "Your predecessor's action has generated understandable international attention given the importance of his former role and the global power, influence and history of the bank with which he is now connected," O'Reilly wrote in her call for Juncker to take action. O'Reilly also asked whether the Commission was considering issuing any guidance to Michel Barnier, a former EU commissioner and close colleague of Barroso, who is leading the European Commission's Brexit negotiating team as special adviser, when it came to meetings with his former boss. Though the EU's transparency rules cover meetings with lobbyists, they don't apply to meetings with special advisers - meaning any such meeting is unlikely to be recorded by the Commission. "Mr. Barroso's move has generated concern at a very challenging time for the EU and particularly in relation to citizen trust in its institutions," she added, emphasizing that "former commissioners have the obligation to behave with integrity." She also cited the public outrage sparked by the appointment, referring to a petition by EU staff calling for "strong exemplary measures to be taken against Barroso, whose behavior dishonors the European civil service and the EU as a whole." As of Monday, the petition addressed to the three presidents of the European institutions had collected nearly 140,000 signatures. Barroso's new job is "a very severe attack on the trust of EU citizens in their institutions and the EU project, which is already very low," an EU staffer behind the petition told DW. "We don't need this - absolutely not." "It is, at the worst possible moment, a disastrous symbol for the EU and a gift horse for the europhobes that a former Commission president is associated with the unbridled and unethical financial values that Goldman Sachs represents." Commission took too long to act: transparency campaigners The ethics probe was welcome news to transparency organizations on Monday, though many have criticized the Commission and Juncker for waiting more than two months to respond. "This should have been the first thing they did when this case first came to light," said Cann, of the COE. She pointed out that Juncker could have taken the decision back when he first heard of the news from Barroso, but instead "he chose to sit on his hands for two months. "This is the result of public pressure," she told DW. "The Commission has been pushed on the back foot on this by public opinion, by the various petitions, by [members of the European Parliament] and by some very robust comments by the European ombudsman, who's been very proactive on this." "It's a very good step that they've taken, it sets an important precedent," said Carl Dolan, EU director for Transparency International. But the fact that the Commission took so long to act "makes it look a bit like they were forced into it." Dolan said the work of the ethic committee will need to be "swift and transparent," and he stressed that the group's minutes, advice and opinion should be published as soon as possible - "within the next two or three weeks." Both Dolan and Cann think the current 18-month "cooling off" period should be increased to at least three years for commissioners and, in the case of former presidents, five years. They also believe the regulations should rule out all jobs that have a likelihood of provoking conflicts of interest, and ban all lobbying directed at EU institutions. Dolan believes there's a good case to be made against Barroso for breach of integrity or discretion, and thinks financial sanctions are a possibility. Those could include the possibility of the former president being stripped of his EU pension or transition allowances, which are paid to commissioners for up to three years after the end of their mandate. But Dolan thinks that any financial hit won't be first in Barroso's mind. "The financial incentives are important, but perhaps more symbolic than anything else," he said. "I think the main deterrent here is actually Mr. Barroso's reputation."

Two months after former EU Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso announced his new position at US banker Goldman Sachs, the EU is investigating whether the job meets ethical standards. Martin Kuebler reports from Brussels. Jose Manuel Barroso, the former president of the European Commission from 2004 to 2014, is facing accusations that he has damaged the EU’s “integrity and reputation” ... Read More »

OSCE judges Belarusian election less harshly, but still not free or fair

The OSCE has said having two dissident candidates in parliament doesn't change the overall shortcomings of the election. Media coverage is not free and fair - and ballot boxes were left unguarded. Two opposition candidates have won mandates in Belarus' 110-seat parliament - becoming the first government opponents to join the legislature since 2008. Anna Kanapatskaya of the opposition United Civil Party and Alena Anisim of the Belarusian Language Society each won a seat in Sunday's nationwide vote, according to the country's election commission. "The victory by Anna Kanapatskaya is symbolic, it shows that when the vote count is honest, the opposition can win," said United Civil Party leader Anatoly Lebedko, a prominent opposition figure who was jailed for several months after challenging President Alexander Lukashenko for the country's top job in the 2010 election. Still, the opposition fielded some 200 candidates in Sunday's polls, meaning just 1 percent made it into parliament. Critics insist that despite the tiny headway they made, a vote held under Lukashenko's repressive regime could never be fair. "We won't change our view of this campaign. There are no free elections in Belarus," Lebedko said. International monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were less scathing than usual in their election assessment. Still, they cited "systematic shortcomings" in the election campaign, including restrictions on political rights and unfair media coverage. "It remains clear that Belarus still has some way to go to fulfill its democratic commitments," Kent Harstedt, head of the OSCE observer mission, said in a statement. Europe's last dictator The vote itself went smoothly in terms of being nonviolent and without intimidation, however, ballot boxes were left unguarded during the five days of early voting - creating ample opportunity for ballot stuffing. Lukashenko, a man once dubbed "Europe's last dictator," is now eager to curry a limited amount of favor with the West in order to get help for his country's ailing economy. In particular he is seeking a $3 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. With that in mind, he released all political prisoners ahead of the election. The future of the bank loan remains uncertain but earlier in the year the European Union lifted most economic sanctions imposed in 2011 in response to Lukashenko's brutal crackdown on dissidents. In 2015 Lukashenko won by a landslide re-elected victory for a fifth term - he has ruled the country virtually unchallenged since 1994. "We've done everything so that there aren't complaints from the Western side," Lukashenko told journalists after casting his vote in the capital, Minsk. "We accommodated their requests." Opposition leader Yuras Gubarevich ran unsuccessfully for a parliamentary seat. He cautioned the West against being taken in by cosmetic changes. "Authorities have built a democratic facade for the West," he said, "without changing the essence of the system, which still aims to get a rubber-stamp parliament."

The OSCE has said having two dissident candidates in parliament doesn’t change the overall shortcomings of the election. Media coverage is not free and fair – and ballot boxes were left unguarded. Two opposition candidates have won mandates in Belarus’ 110-seat parliament – becoming the first government opponents to join the legislature since 2008. Anna Kanapatskaya of the opposition United ... Read More »

Turkish EU accession far off, says Gabriel

Dropping talks with Turkey, currently Europe's "difficult partner," make little sense, Germany's center-left Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has said. Any Turkish EU accession remains "10, 20 years" distant, he added. Germany's Social Democrat (SPD) vice chancellor Gabriel told public ARD television Sunday that "every communications channel" to Turkey must be sought, given three weeks of post-coup tensions. Gabriel, as guest on ARD's summer vacation interview series with leading German politicians, is currently the focus of German media speculation on whether his party will pick him to challenge conservative Angela Merkel at next year's federal election. Currently, they and their parties form Germany's grand coalition government. On ARD, Gabriel dismissed Turkey's accession bid - begun at talks in 2005 and centered on hopes for a visa-free entry to Europe - saying currently the EU was not at all in shape to admit "even a small state" to its 28-nation' ranks. 'Illusion, 'complete nonsense' "The illusion … here comes someone to soon become a full member in the EU … that's complete nonsense … that will not eventuate." said Gabriel, who is also Federal Economy Minister. If Turkey under President Tayyip Reccip Erdogan introduced the death penalty then it would make no sense to negotiate accession further, Gabriel added, because this would violate a "central element" of the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights. Asked about Turkish threats to cancel the EU-Turkey deal reached in March to stem migrant flows along the "Balkan route," Gabriel said Turkish hopes of visa-free access to Europe and the migrant pact had "nothing to do with each other." Integration hampered Germany's acceptance of more than one million asylum seekers last year had been hampered, Gabriel asserted, by Merkel's conservatives who were "not willing after the reception of so many people to create the conditions so that it could be done." "We had to negotiate and wrangle over every police post, over every course for refugee integration, over every language course, over the question how to respond to young [asylum seekers] traveling alone… in cabinet and with the [federal] Finance Minister - for months, and sometimes for more than a year," he said. "There was a lot of wasted time that we could have used better," Gabriel said, adding that Merkel's motto of last September "we can do it" was not sufficient. "One must also make it happen," said Gabriel, a former teacher, who once taught German to foreigners in his home state of Lower Saxony in northern Germany. Boost police funding Commenting on recent terror attacks in Germany's southern state of Bavaria, Gabriel told the "Bild am Sonntag" newspaper that Germany's Federal Police or Bundespolizei needed boosted funding after years of cost-savings. "The Bundespolizei must at long last be adequately equipped, with sufficient personnel and necessary technology, Gabriel said. De Maizíere rejects criticism Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizíere, a close Merkel ally with the Christian Democrats (CDU) rejected Gabriel's criticism, saying for years his ministry had pursued a policy of boosting the Bundespolizei which is chiefly responsible for Germany's railway stations, airports and external border. "To talk of austerity measures cannot be the case," de Maizíere said. Jörg Radek, the deputy chairman of the German GdP police officer trade union told "Bild am Sonntag" the funding situation was "alarming." "The Bundespolizei lacks five helicopters. On top of that there's a massive backlog in maintenance," Radek said. If the cost-saving trend continues in the coming year then the operation capability of the Bundespolizei will be endangered."

Dropping talks with Turkey, currently Europe’s “difficult partner,” make little sense, Germany’s center-left Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has said. Any Turkish EU accession remains “10, 20 years” distant, he added. Germany’s Social Democrat (SPD) vice chancellor Gabriel told public ARD television Sunday that “every communications channel” to Turkey must be sought, given three weeks of post-coup tensions. Gabriel, as guest ... Read More »

EU-Turkey refugee deal hinges on Greece

The EU-Turkey refugee deal is not going to plan. That has less to do with Turkey, and more with Greece. The deportation and resettling of refugees has been sluggish. Bernd Riegert reports from Brussels. Turkey has threatened to no longer adhere to its refugee deal with the European Union if its citizens do not receive visa-free entry into the bloc by October. The question officials in Brussels are now asking: Do we need the refugee deal, and is it even working? The answer to this question is not clear. The number of asylum seekers and migrants who have traveled from Turkey to Greece has indeed dropped dramatically since March 20. But experts say that is because the EU's asylum policy relies on the closing of the Balkan route, which has a deterring effect on migrants. The conditions in Greek camps like those on the islands of Idomeni and Lesbos have also acted as a deterrant. The prospect of being sent from those camps back to Turkey has clearly discouraged many refugees from making the expensive and dangerous crossing. Few deportations thus far The number of actual deportations from so-called "hot spots" - the registration centers on Greece's Aegian islands - to Turkey is thus far lower than the architects of the refugee deal had described back in March. From April to the end of July, exactly 468 people have been sent back to Turkey from Greece. At the EU-Turkey summit, European officials who prepared the deal had spoken of thousands of deportations. Exaggerated plans? EU member states are set to send up to 4,000 officials to Greece to assist the country's overwhelmed government workers. The two responsible EU authorities, the Frontext border protetion agency and the EASO asylum agency, are calling for the necessary personnel from the bloc's member states. Currently, 61 translators, 92 asylum experts, two deportation experts and 66 border protection officials have been sent to Greece. The procedures in Greece, which are supposed to lead to Syrian civil war refugees and migrants who entered the country illegally being deported to Turkey, is taking much longer than expected. At the closing of the EU-Turkey summit, EU officials talked about a few days or weeks. It is four months later and the preliminary registration of asylum applicants has just finished. Now those seeking asylum can officially register and begin the interview process. Only then will authorities decide whether or not to grant asylum. Waiting for Greece Refugees have not been moved from the islands onto mainland Greece since March 20. Instead, they remain in the 9,399 so-called "hot spots." Greek authorities said on Monday that 57,115 people have completed their preliminary registration for asylum. In the first months of the year, Greek asylum authorities completed 588 applications - 410 were rejected, 178 were accepted. If Turkey decides to no longer accept the rejected asylum applications, it would have little immediate impact on the ground. Only the psychological effect of such a decision on refugees and migrants currently waiting in Turkey would be of concern to the EU. They could feel encouraged and still head for Greece, even if they cannot continue to western Europe from there. Sluggish resettlement within the EU The direct resettlement of "obviously vulnerable" people from Greece to other EU states is only taking place to a limited extent. Just 2,681 people have been resettled since last summer. The resettlement of nearly 12,000 people had been assured. But it has been a sluggish process, because the accepting states' selection process for those in consideration for resettlement is very slow. The mayor of Kos, capital of the island of the same name, warned in a letter to the Greek government of the consequences of a further wave of refugees. "It would be a disaster for our efforts to limit losses in the tourism industry," Giogros Kyritsis wrote to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Greece's refugee minister Yiannis Mouzalas suggested a new plan to Germany's mass-circulation "Bild" newspaper, should Turkey reneg on the refugee deal. "We do not need a Plan B," answered EU Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva. "We have a Plan A in action now." Public health authorities: Close Greek camps The conditions in Greece's temporary camps may act as a deterrant to future refugees. They are not up to international standards - that is not just according to NGOs, but to the Greek government itself. The Greek Center for Disease Control inspected 16 camps at the beginning of July. The authorities reccommended all the camps be closed due to unsanitary conditions and water supply. The situation in Greece would likely worsen if Turkey backs out of the refugee deal. Or would the conditions in Greece and the closed Balkan route serve as enough of a deterrant to keep migrants in Turkey? EU officials in Brussels are not the only ones asking themselves that question.

The EU-Turkey refugee deal is not going to plan. That has less to do with Turkey, and more with Greece. The deportation and resettling of refugees has been sluggish. Bernd Riegert reports from Brussels. Turkey has threatened to no longer adhere to its refugee deal with the European Union if its citizens do not receive visa-free entry into the bloc ... Read More »

Turkey out of migrant deal if EU fails on visa-free travel: Cavusoglu

Turkey's foreign minister has warned of the consequences should the EU fail to deliver on visa-free travel. EU officials are wary of easing travel restrictions after the crackdown in the wake of the recent failed coup. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned that Ankara would back out of an agreement to stem the flow of irregular migrants to the EU if Brussels failed to deliver visa-travel for its citizens by October. "But all that is dependent on the cancellation of the visa requirement for our citizens which is also an item in the agreement of March 18," Cavusoglu said in comments published in the Monday edition of the German daily "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung." "If visa liberalization does not follow, we will be forced to back away from the deal on taking back [refugees] and the agreement of March 18," he noted. Cavusoglu added that while the government had not set a specific date for visa liberalization, "it could be the beginning or middle of October." Turkey-EU agreement met with criticism In March, the EU and Turkey forged an agreement that would speed up accession talks for the country to join the bloc in exchange for Turkey stemming a wave of migration to Greece. Part of the deal included Brussels speeding up visa liberalization for Turkey. However, the agreement, which has been met with criticism from human rights organizations, also stipulated an exchange of Syrian refugees in Greece for those in Turkish camps. "For every Syrian readmitted by Turkey from the Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to the EU member states," the proposal said. It added that the EU will "evacuate completely refugees from the Greek islands and readmit only those who crossed into the islands after a date to be determined," it added. Earlier this month, EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger said he did not see the EU granting Turkish citizens visa-free travel this year following a nationwide crackdown in the wake of a failed coup earlier this month.

Turkey’s foreign minister has warned of the consequences should the EU fail to deliver on visa-free travel. EU officials are wary of easing travel restrictions after the crackdown in the wake of the recent failed coup. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned that Ankara would back out of an agreement to stem the flow of irregular migrants to the EU ... Read More »

UK’s Theresa May prepares to enter Downing Street as new prime minister

Theresa May, the longest-serving home secretary of recent times, has been known as a modernizer, an authoritarian - and above all, a pragmatist. Samira Shackle reports from London on Britain's new prime minister. It is characteristic of the upheaval in Britain in recent weeks that Theresa May will step into office much sooner than had been anticipated. The Conservative Party had planned a nine-week leadership contest that was cut short after the shock withdrawal of her rival Andrea Leadsom on Monday. This means that May had 48 hours rather than nine weeks to prepare her new government. "As someone who wanted the UK to stay in the EU, there will be pressure to give prominent cabinet roles to those who backed Brexit," says Alex Forsyth, political correspondent at the BBC. "May has promised radical social and economic reform - fuelling speculation over the future of current senior figures. With limited time to make delicate political choices, the new prime minister must weigh change versus continuity, while trying to unite the Conservative Party after a bruising EU referendum campaign," he told DW. May, 59, has been home secretary since 2010, making her the longest-serving home secretary in modern times. Long known to have leadership ambitions, she has carefully cultivated an image of decisiveness, unflappability and calm in a crisis. As top Brexit campaigners Michael Gove and Boris Johnson jostled with each other before falling out of the Conservative leadership contest all together, May emphasized that she was the "serious" and "grown up" candidate to take Britain through these tumultuous times. Right-wing credentials While her choice of footwear garners a disproportionate amount of attention in Britain's media (she famously favors colorful kitten heels), May has for 17 years been one of a small number of women at the top of the Conservative party. As home secretary she made a name for herself with her hardline positions on immigration, which the government pledged to reduce to the tens of thousands (at the last count, net migration stood at 330,000). In 2015, she gave a controversial speech in which she said that immigration makes it "impossible to build a cohesive society." Among her punitive policies was a rule barring British citizens from bringing spouses or children into the country unless they earned more than £18,600, regardless of their non-British spouse's income. Families split up because of the rule are currently challenging the law in the supreme court. "As someone working with refugees, I have seen that May's policies have actively and directly made life worse for migrants to this country," Lucy Walker, a London-based caseworker, told DW. "Given the current climate of increased hostility to all immigrants, I [am] profoundly worried about what her premiership will mean." Another controversial policy proposed by May was the so-called snoopers charter that would require internet service providers and mobile phone companies to maintain records of each user's internet browsing history. Although liberal commentators argue that these policies illustrate an authoritarian streak, May is broadly in line with mainstream conservative opinion. "Many of the positions May has taken as home secretary have won her credibility with the right-wing of the party, such as her position on deportation, her desire to leave the European Convention on Human Rights, her general position on immigration, and her willingness to stand up to police federation," says Matt Cole, a teaching fellow in the department of history at Birmingham University. Modernizing past However, May is also seen as a pragmatist who has taken different positions during her long career in politics. In 2002, she gave a speech warning that Conservatives were seen as the "nasty party" and needed to reform. She backed same-sex marriage, and recently warned against racial profiling by police. "May was the original modernizer and those of us who have been involved with trying to create socially liberal spaces within the party have always looked to her as a founding light, even though she's moved away from that," says conservative writer Kate Maltby. May campaigned to remain in the EU, but she has said that "Brexit means Brexit" and that there will not be a second referendum. In addition to promising to "make a success" of EU withdrawal, she has pledged radical reforms to aid social mobility and the most disadvantaged in society. Her air of calm and her political experience mean that many see her as a firm pair of hands to steer the country through challenging times. "I am not a Conservative voter, but I am relieved to see that someone with solid governmental experience has taken charge in this chaotic period," says Manchester-based lawyer Matt Pembroke. "I don't want to see more upheaval in the form of an election, I just want someone who can try to salvage something from the disaster we are in," he told DW.

Theresa May, the longest-serving home secretary of recent times, has been known as a modernizer, an authoritarian – and above all, a pragmatist. Samira Shackle reports from London on Britain’s new prime minister. It is characteristic of the upheaval in Britain in recent weeks that Theresa May will step into office much sooner than had been anticipated. The Conservative Party ... Read More »

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