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Survey: Europeans fear refugees raise terror threat

In the minds of Europeans, the "refugee crisis and threat of terrorism are very much related," a survey said. In Germany, 56 percent of pro-AfD respondents held negative views of Muslims already living in Europe. The Washington-based Pew Research Center published a survey on Monday that found roughly half of Europeans fear the arrival of refugees raises the threat of terrorism in their country. At least half of the public in eight out of the 10 countries, representing 80 percent of Europe's population, believe that "incoming refugees increase the likelihood of terrorism in their country," said the survey. Hungary and Poland had the strongest views from respondents, with 76 and 71 percent respectively. In Germany, 61 percent of respondents shared the view, while 52 percent voiced the same fears in the UK. However, only 46 percent of respondents in France, which was hit by multiple terrorist attacks in 2015, believed refugees "The refugee crisis and the threat of terrorism are very much related to one another in the minds of many Europeans," the survey noted. "The recent surge of refugees into Europe has featured prominently in the anti-immigrant rhetoric of right-wing parties across the continent and in the heated debate over the UK's decision to exit the European Union," it added In 2015, over 1 million irregular migrants entered the EU, many of them asylum seekers fleeing conflict in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. "It is important to note that worries about refugees are not necessarily related to the number of migrants coming to the country," the survey said, referring to the discrepancy between countries larger host countries, such as Germany and Sweden, and those that took fewer refugees, such as Poland and Hungary. The study also found that perceptions of refugees are influenced in large part by negative attitudes towards Europe's Muslims. "In Hungary, Italy, Poland and Greece, more than six-in-ten say they have an unfavorable opinion of the Muslims in their country - an opinion shared by at least one-in-four in each nation polled," the survey said. At least 59 percent of respondents who expressed favorable views to the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) held a negative view of Muslims in general. The survey comprised several EU member states, including Germany, Sweden, the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Poland and Greece.

In the minds of Europeans, the “refugee crisis and threat of terrorism are very much related,” a survey said. In Germany, 56 percent of pro-AfD respondents held negative views of Muslims already living in Europe. The Washington-based Pew Research Center published a survey on Monday that found roughly half of Europeans fear the arrival of refugees raises the threat of ... Read More »

Restore EU trust with pragmatism, urges Germany’s Schäuble

Europe needs fast and pragmatic moves to demonstrate a strong EU to citizens stunned by Brexit, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has said. He added that governments might need to override a sluggish Brussels. Schäuble, Germany's finance minister and long-time advocate of a "deeper" EU, has urged Europe's governments to quickly tackle and solve "several central problems" to restore trust among its 508-million population. Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative ally told newspaper "Welt am Sonntag" (WamS) on Sunday that it was not the time for visions or treaty reforms. Instead, "pragmatic" efficacy must be demonstated by the remaining 27 governments - assuming Britain formally exited the bloc, Schäuble said. Shift to inter-governmental precept? "If from the outset not all of the 27 pull their weight, then start with a few less," he told the paper. "And, if the [European] Commission does not act jointly, then we'll take the matter into our hands and just solve the problems between governments." "This inter-governmental approach proved itself during the euro crisis," Schäuble added, mentioning Europe's asylum and migration policies as issues to which EU citizens wanted answers. Europe's member states each needed to clarify what they could do at national level, and "what we can't do ourselves must be done at European level," he said. Carrying on as usual was untenable amid "growing demagogy and deeper euroskepticism," he added. Training for young, digital 'Cloud' As solutions he listed an EU-wide training scheme for Europe's millions of young unemployed; an "energy union" to benefit eastern EU partners, joint EU military procurement to save money; and a European digital "Cloud" to challenge "the American monopoly." "Let's be honest, the question of whether the European Parliament should get the deciding role or not is not one that especially moves the public," said Schäuble, who was one of the architects of German reunification in the early 1990s. Meanwhile, Schäuble's jab at Germany's Social Democrat (SPD) Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier for inviting his counterparts from the EU's founding nations to Berlin drew a quick repost on Sunday. SPD chief whip Christine Lambrecht said Schäuble should stick to his finance portfolio and leave foreign affairs to Steinmeier. Schäuble told the WamS that Europe's current priority should be to prevent "wildfire" disintegration and to avoid "the usual rhetoric," adding that dumping EU treaties was no immediate answer. "We have to stay serious," he said, insisting that it was not the moment to concentrate on reform of EU institutions. 'Pushed' for Juncker Asked whether Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Juncker was the right person as current president of the European Commission, Schäuble replied, "I pushed for Juncker." "A personnel debate doesn't get us any further. The Brexit decision must be a wake-up call for Europe," the cabinet veteran said. "That's what it's about," the 73-year-old, who in the 1980s was ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl's chief of staff. Asked about French and southern EU attitudes to the eurozone stability pact, Schäuble replied that "Europe-frustration" stemmed from the many rules established "but not upheld, also by the EU commission in the whole debt and Greece crisis." In her weekly video podcast on Saturday, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe should become the most "competitive and knowledge-based continent in the world." Also on Saturday, Economy Minister and SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel said Europe must shift its emphasis to a "growth pact" based on investment programs and "active" policies to boost its labor market.

Europe needs fast and pragmatic moves to demonstrate a strong EU to citizens stunned by Brexit, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has said. He added that governments might need to override a sluggish Brussels. Schäuble, Germany’s finance minister and long-time advocate of a “deeper” EU, has urged Europe’s governments to quickly tackle and solve “several central problems” to restore trust among ... Read More »

Brexit: Why people are increasingly talking about the ‘Norway model’

After voting for Brexit, the UK has to negotiate its trade relations with the EU and other countries. In this context, the so-called 'Norwegian model' has emerged as a favorable option, but what does it actually mean? Norway is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), but not a member of the EU. This means that much like Iceland and Liechtenstein, Norway has to comply with all EU rules, but it cannot vote on them. Its exports to the EU are also subject to customs checks, since it is not a member of the bloc's Customs Union, which also includes Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the new non-EU member, the UK. Membership in the union means that customs are not levied on goods traveling within the borders, and that member countries enforce a common tax rate on all goods entering it from outside. The country also has to pay annual contributions to keep its EEA membership, and according to figures published by the Norwegian government and the Norwegian Mission to the EU, the per capita fee the country is paying the bloc is rather similar to Britain's. Norway also pays grants to poorer EU Member States, which are renegotiated periodically, and makes contributions to a number of EU programs in which it wishes to participate (such as Erasmus student exchanges). That's why it may seem like there is no reason for Norway not to be a member of the EU, and indeed, some Norwegians now wonder whether it's better for the country to join the bloc since it's already paying similar contributions. A British government report from March has pointed out one of the major problems in implementing the Norwegian model: "If the UK negotiated the model we would be bound by many of the EU's rules, but no longer have a vote or veto on the creation of those rules," a result which sounds contradictory to what 52 percent of British citizens have wished for. Since it is not a member, Norway also has no representation and no vote in deciding EU law. The Norwegian Prime Minister does not attend the European Council; Norway does not participate in the Council of Ministers; and the country has no Members in the European Parliament (MEPs). "It has no national member of the European Commission, no judge on the bench at the European Court of Justice (ECJ), and its citizens do not have the right to vote in EU elections, or to work in EU institutions," the report states. So where are the advantages? Every rule has an exception There might actually be a light at the end of the Norwegian tunnel, even for Leave supporters: Chapter 4 in the EEA agreement, called Safeguard Measures, effectively allows member countries to "unilaterally take appropriate measures" in cases of "serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties [...] in order to remedy the situation." This means that in a case of an emergency, the UK could potentially use these measures and declare a crisis, the same way Iceland reacted following its 2008 economic crisis. Since Norway is also investing millions of euros in common programs with EU countries, the UK might still be able to choose its cooperations, thus allowing Britons to work or study in the EU if it decides to. Some financial institutions would also be able to operate in the bloc - surely a sigh of relief for worried Britons from both camps. 'Renegotiating could take years' However, the British government's report also stressed that the Norway model would give the UK considerable but not complete access to the free-trade Single Market. "We would be outside the EU Customs Union, and we would lose access to all of the EU's trade agreements with 53 other markets around the world," the report stated, adding that "renegotiating these would take years." Switzerland, for example, has 120 different agreements with the EU, making such a model highly complicated to recreate. As the report claims, "the web of bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU has taken many years to negotiate," and there is no reason to believe similar agreements with the UK could be achieved any quicker. And Switzerland is not the only country with a complex relationship to the EU. Unlike Norway, Turkey is a member of the EU Customs Union. Turkey's arrangements with the EU cover industrial goods and processed agricultural goods, so that customs checks are not required for these products. However, arrangements do not cover raw agricultural goods or services, and in areas where Turkey has access to the EU market, it is required to enforce rules that are equivalent to those in the EU. Having your cake and eating it? Despite the seemingly optimal Norwegian model, it still contains many potential compromises for Leave voters, predominantly, the EEA's free movement of people. Norway is obliged to accept this and has also chosen to be part of the Schengen border-free area. Following several racist incidents in the UK that received the general name 'Post-Brexit Racism,' it seems like some people would not be satisfied by this part of the agreement, if imposed. And even if Britain decides to use the safeguard measures mentioned in the EEA agreement, it is unclear how long such emergency conduct could last, or how long the other members would allow it to have its cake and eat it, too.

After voting for Brexit, the UK has to negotiate its trade relations with the EU and other countries. In this context, the so-called ‘Norwegian model’ has emerged as a favorable option, but what does it actually mean? Norway is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), but not a member of the EU. This means that much like Iceland ... Read More »

Could Germans vote to exit the EU?

In the wake of Britain's Brexit vote, many Europeans think their country should also hold a national referendum on EU membership. For Germans, however, the hurdles are high. Britain's historic vote on opting out of EU membership has led to a heightened interest in giving citizens a say. In a pre-Brexit poll of some 6,000 Europeans, 45 percent of the interviewees said their own country should hold a referendum on its EU membership. Far-right French and Danish political leaders are calling for an EU membership referendum in their respective countries. Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party says they will call a vote if they enter parliament in the 2017 national election. "Next year the AfD will enter the German parliament and 'Dexit' will be top on our agenda," Franz Wiese declared, referring to an exit by Germany (Deutschland) from the EU. Germany's Left Party also demands a "new start" in the EU and "a debate and a vote on a European future." Party leader Sahra Wagenknecht urges holding an EU referendum in Germany, too - though not on an exit but only on certain deals. The people should have a say Wagenknecht told Die Welt newspaper her party wants to change Europe so it doesn't fall apart, adding that people should have "the chance to vote on important issues like the planned free trade TTIP deal, or other European agreements." Germany's post-war constitution, however, does not easily allow for a binding nationwide referendum. Heidelberg-based lawyer Uwe Lipinski says Germans could only vote on exiting the EU if they first change their constitution to include such "direct democracy" at the national level. Only then could the Berlin government or parliament call a referendum. Germany's 16 states allow for indirect popular initiatives, but with an eye on the country's Nazi past, the federal constitution only forsees a national vote in two cases: on changes to territory, or in case of constitutional reforms. Theodor Heuss, a German politician and president from 1949 to 1959, called direct democracy a "premium for every demagogue." More than seven decades after the end of WWII, the time has come to think about changing the constitution to include such "direct democracy," Lipiniski told DW, pointing out Switzerland and citizens' initiatives at the German state level as positive models. Germany's More Democracy organization has long called for making possible popular national referendums in the country. On its website, the group argues that the government merely presents "politics without any alternative" which parliament then "nods through." Europe-friendly Germans A German opinion poll just days ahead of Britain's EU membership vote showed that, if there had been a similar vote in Germany, the outcome would have been different. An overwhelming majority of 79 percent would have voted against leaving the EU, the Forsa pollsters found. Only 17 percent would have voted for an exit - and of the latter, 60 percent were AfD supporters. Just a few years ago, at the height of the euro debt crisis in 2012, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said Germans would likely have to vote in a referendum on a new constitution - probably rather sooner than later. If the country keeps on handing sovereign decisions to Brussels, he predicted, Germany's constitution will reach its limits. Perhaps that time is inching closer. "The Bundestag is increasingly turning into a tool for the implementation of EU law," lawyer Lipinski warns.

In the wake of Britain’s Brexit vote, many Europeans think their country should also hold a national referendum on EU membership. For Germans, however, the hurdles are high. Britain’s historic vote on opting out of EU membership has led to a heightened interest in giving citizens a say. In a pre-Brexit poll of some 6,000 Europeans, 45 percent of the ... Read More »

Leaked papers allege US pressuring EU over TTIP free trade deal

German media say secret documents reveal the US has pressured the EU to approve a transatlantic free trade deal. The reports say Washington may block easier car exports if the EU doesn't open up its agricultural market. German media say 240 pages of text from secret transatlantic free trade talks obtained by Greenpeace show that the US is pressuring the EU. Washington was blocking European car exports into the US to force the 508-million-population EU to buy more environmentally risky US farm produce, claimed the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" (SZ) newspaper and two German public television channels. Greenpeace said it would publish the material later on Monday, contrary to strict secrecy maintained by US and EU negotiating teams during three years of talks on the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The TTIP is unpopular in Germany. On the eve of US President Barack Obama's visit to a major Hanover trade exhibition last week, tens of thousands of opponents demonstrated. Documents seem authentic The German news agency DPA said persons close to the talks had confirmed the authenticity of the documents. Accessibility so far has been strictly limited. By blocking an easing of car exports into the US, Washington wanted the EU to replace its precautionary consumer safety principle by the liberal US approach of permitting foodstuffs until risks are proven, said the media outlets, including the ARD network's channels NDR and WDR. The EU's principle that goods must first be certified as safe has often been cited by the EU to constrain imports of American gene-manipulated and hormone-treated produce. Public arbitration panels blocked The German outlets said the documents disclosed by Greenpeace also showed that the US was blocking an EU demand that arbitration panels to handle corporate lawsuits be public not private as sought by Washington. Greenpeace trade expert Jürgen Knirsch said what had so far trickled out of the talks had "sounded like a nightmare." "Now we know that this could very much become reality," said Knirsch. The head of Germany's consumer advisory bureaus Klaus Müller told the SZ that the texts confirmed "pretty much all of our fears in terms of what the US-Americans want to achieve on the food produce market through TTIP." Urgency sought by Obama, Merkel Visiting Hanover last week, US President Barack Obama together with German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for urgency at the TTIP negotiations. Obama said he hoped it would the talks would be concluded in 2017, beyond the next US presidential election due in November this year. Last Friday in New York, the lead US and EU negotiators - US Trade Representative Daniel Mullaney and the European Commission's Ignacio Garcia Bercera - said they hoped to reach a deal before Obama leaves office in January.

German media say secret documents reveal the US has pressured the EU to approve a transatlantic free trade deal. The reports say Washington may block easier car exports if the EU doesn’t open up its agricultural market. German media say 240 pages of text from secret transatlantic free trade talks obtained by Greenpeace show that the US is pressuring the ... Read More »

Obama wades into Brexit debate on UK visit

US President Barack Obama has arrived in Britain, where he has already entered into the debate about whether Britain should leave the EU. Obama said the bloc magnified British influence rather than diminished it. The president's Air Force One plane touched down at London Stansted Airport on Thursday evening, to begin what could well be his final trip to Britain as president. On the agenda was a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II just after her 90th birthday celebrations, as well as talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron ahead of the June 23 "Brexit" referendum on whether Britain should leave the EU. Even before arriving, Obama entered the toxic debate on Britain's EU status, making an appeal in the largely euroskeptic, right-wing "Daily Telegraph" newspaper. "The European Union doesn't moderate British influence - it magnifies it. A strong Europe is not a threat to Britain's global leadership; it enhances Britain's global leadership," Obama wrote in the article, apparently addressed to British voters. "The United States sees how your powerful voice in Europe ensures that Europe takes a strong stance in the world, and keeps the EU open, outward looking, and closely linked to its allies on the other side of the Atlantic. "The US and the world need your outsized influence to continue - including within Europe," the article said. Hypocrisy or friendly words? Pro-Brexit campaigners have called on Obama to stay out of the referendum debate, saying it is a matter for the British people to decide. However, Obama said the common histories and interests of Britain and the United States meant that he felt compelled to comment. "I will say, with the candor of a friend, that the outcome of your decision is a matter of deep interest to the United States," Obama wrote. "The tens of thousands of Americans who rest in Europe's cemeteries are a silent testament to just how intertwined our prosperity and security truly are." Widening gap good for 'Remain' camp Two opinion polls published on Wednesday appeared to show the pro-EU "Remain" campaign had gained momentum ahead of the referendum. An Ipsos MORI telephone opinion poll showed that the Remain camp, supported by Cameron, had a 10 percent lead on those who planned to vote for a Brexit. A TNS poll the same day also showed a widening gap, putting the Remain campaign on 38 percent compared with 34 percent in favor of the Brexit. After his visit to the UK, the US president will head to Germany for a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders.

US President Barack Obama has arrived in Britain, where he has already entered into the debate about whether Britain should leave the EU. Obama said the bloc magnified British influence rather than diminished it. The president’s Air Force One plane touched down at London Stansted Airport on Thursday evening, to begin what could well be his final trip to Britain ... Read More »

European Parliament President Schulz warns of ‘implosion of EU’

The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, has said the EU is on an open-ended "slippery slope." The silent majority underestimated the danger, he warned, and called on EU politicians to show commitment. European Parliament President Martin Schulz urged the European Union on Tuesday not to underestimate the current threat to the 28-member bloc. The trust of many people in "entire institutions, whether national or European," was lost, Schulz told the German daily "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" (FAZ). Schulz said there was the risk of an "implosion of the EU," partly due to Euroskeptic movements within EU member states, "If the British leave the EU, there will be demands for further escape referendums," the German Social Democrat politician said, referring to the UK's upcoming "Brexit" referendum in June. While admitting that Euroskeptics remained in the minority, Schulz said the silent majority was taken in by the notion that in the end everything would be fine. The negative outcome of last week's Dutch referendum on the Association Agreement with Ukraine showed that this was a fallacy that wasn't to be relied upon, he added. 'Reach the hearts of the people' "In Europe, we are on a slippery path," the EU president said, accusing EU leaders of showing too little commitment to the European idea. "Hardly any of the governments are really fighting to reach the hearts of the people," he added, urging them to counter the "easy answers" of EU skeptics with a clear commitment to the bloc. In light of the Netherlands referendum, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn also warned of further referendums regarding complex questions. "If someone wants to break Europe, then they just need to hold more referendums," he said, adding that the Netherlands referendum had mainly been used by Eurocritics as a domestic vote against Mark Rutte's government and the EU.

The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, has said the EU is on an open-ended “slippery slope.” The silent majority underestimated the danger, he warned, and called on EU politicians to show commitment. European Parliament President Martin Schulz urged the European Union on Tuesday not to underestimate the current threat to the 28-member bloc. The trust of many people ... Read More »

EU ministers set for emergency meeting in wake of Brussels attacks

Police are still hunting a fourth man wanted in connection with the terrorism attacks in Brussels. Meanwhile, EU ministers are set to meet in order to discuss the fallout from the attacks. The emergency meeting is set to take place on Thursday in Brussels, as authorities continue the search for a fourth, unidentified man in connection with Tuesday's terrorist attacks. Three other men have been identified by police: Najim Laacraoui and siblings Khalid and Ibrahim El Bakraoui. According to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the latter of the two brothers was deported from Turkey last year. Erdogan criticized Belgian authorities for failing to track Ibrahim, who was a convicted robber. Laacraoui, meanwhile, a known fighter with the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) terrorist organization, is suspected of making suicide belts used by some of the perpetrators in the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris. Last will Federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said investigators had turned up evidence linked to one of the perpetrators in an apartment in the Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussels. The official said a computer was discovered with a supposed last will from Ibrahim, who said he felt "hunted." Apparently referring to key Paris suspect Salah Abdeslam, Ibrahim also wrote: "I don't want to end up in a cell next to him." The fourth man The man currently being hunted by authorities - seen in blurry surveillance footage wearing a hat and white jacket - was in the airport with Ibrahim and Laacraoui, but managed to flee after his bomb failed to detonate. That bomb was discovered by police and destroyed. Since the deadly attacks, which killed 31 and injured 300, other officials besides Erdogan have voiced criticism of Belgium's failed security policies. US Defense Secretary Ash Carter urged NATO members to do more to fight extremism in the Middle East. In response to the fallout from the attacks, EU interior ministers will meet to discuss a coordinated approach to combating terrorism.

Police are still hunting a fourth man wanted in connection with the terrorism attacks in Brussels. Meanwhile, EU ministers are set to meet in order to discuss the fallout from the attacks. The emergency meeting is set to take place on Thursday in Brussels, as authorities continue the search for a fourth, unidentified man in connection with Tuesday’s terrorist attacks. ... Read More »

Poland abandons promise to take in refugees after Brussels attacks

Poland's government has said it is not willing to take in the 7,000 refugees agreed by its liberal predecessors in 2015. The country is the first in the EU to do so, but maybe not the last. Poland had planned to admit an initial 400 refugees this year, and the rest would come in over the next three years. The first refugees were due to arrive in Poland late March or early April. "After what happened in Brussels yesterday, it's not possible right now to say that we're OK with accepting any number of migrants at all," Prime Minister Beata Szydlo told broadcaster Superstacja. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia voted against the deal in 2015, while Poland had been in favor under the previous Civic Platform (PO) government. Holding the line At a press conference in Warsaw Wednesday, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo - of the right.-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party which came to power last October - criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel for having "invited migrants into Europe." "This carefree attitude led to the problems that we have today," she said. President Andrzej Duda's security advisor Pawel Soloch also warned against rising numbers of refugees. "Let's be careful that 10,000 doesn't turn into 100,000," he told TVN24 broadcaster Wednesday. Playing to the gallery The PiS government has clashed repeatedly with the EU's executive over constitutional and other issues since its October election win. It has also been highly vociferous in its antipathy to taking in refugees, with a majority of Poles against the EU's quotas, according to polls. EU leaders forced through a one-off controversial deal in September to relocate 120,000 refugees among member states. Poland finally agreed to accept more than 5,000 of the 120,000 people to be shared between the 28-member EU - in addition to an initial 2,000. The PO government had pledged to open 10 centers for refugees. Polish officials now argue the country is already taking in large numbers of people from neighboring Ukraine fleeing the armed conflict. "Our stance is very cautious, which gives rise to major criticism from other countries in what we call the old EU, who hastily agreed to this influx of migrants into Europe," Szydlo said. "We're forced above all to ensure the security of our fellow citizens," she added, also urging Europe not to accept "thousands of migrants who come here only to improve their living conditions." Among these migrants, she said, "there are also terrorists." Szydlo's spokesman, Rafal Bochenek, later told journalists that the government "can't allow for events in western Europe to happen in Poland." After the attacks in Brussels on Tuesday, Szydlo said; "I regret to have to say that the EU is not drawing lessons from what is happening." Anti-refugee sentiment growing Thousands of Poles took to the streets and social media to promote anti-refugee marches across the country organized by far-right nationalist movements such as the National Radical Camp in 2015. Duda, also of PiS, said in late 2015 that the government should take steps to protect its citizens from refugees bringing in "possible epidemics." This followed PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski's remarks that there is "cholera in the Greek islands" and "dysentery in Vienna." He accused refugees of "bringing in all kinds of parasites, which are not dangerous in their own countries, but which could prove dangerous for the local populations" in Europe. Physical abuse of Poland's very small number of refugees has also been reported. About 53 percent of Poles opposed accepting migrants, according to a January survey by the CBOS center. A lower number, 41 percent, were in favor of offering them temporary shelter and 4 percent said the country should allow migrants to settle permanently. No flag, no problem Meanwhile, Syzdlo 's press conference in Warsaw took place against a backdrop without the EU flag on display, as is usual, and only the red and white Polish one. The new government won the election after eight years in opposition and is skeptical about the EU and wants greater independence from Brussels. "We're an active EU member... but we adopted the approach that statements after government meetings will take place against a backdrop of the most beautiful ... white-and-red flags," Szydlo said.

Poland’s government has said it is not willing to take in the 7,000 refugees agreed by its liberal predecessors in 2015. The country is the first in the EU to do so, but maybe not the last. Poland had planned to admit an initial 400 refugees this year, and the rest would come in over the next three years. The ... Read More »

Turkey needs more than the EU’s money

EU and Turkish leaders meet on Monday to discuss implementing a 3-billion-euro aid package intended to reduce the number of asylum seekers and economic migrants heading for Europe. Dalia Mortada reports from Istanbul. In a deal that Human Rights Watch has labeled as "a flawed and potentially dangerous policy response" to the influx of refugees, the European Union promised Turkey 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) back in November to go toward efforts that would keep refugees and other migrants in Turkey. Although the conditions are still vague, Turkey has said it would allocate the money in such a way that would both prevent refugees and migrants from taking illegal means to reach Europe as well as provide incentives to stay in Turkey. While Syrian refugees who are registered with the Turkish government have legal access to health care and education, only half of all Syrian kids in Turkey are going to Turkish schools. Turkey has promised to step up the integration of children in its school system. Until recently, refugees in Turkey had no legal right to work. A few weeks ago the government passed new conditions for Syrian refugees to obtain legal work permits, under certain circumstances. However, Zeynep Alemdar, professor of political science and international relations at Okan University in Istanbul, said that job regulations are too rigid. Only 3 percent of refugees, she told DW, could actually get jobs - there just wasn't access, "or where they're located, there aren't jobs." Even if some of the terms are still unclear, Turkish officials have concrete ideas where the money could flow. "[The money] will help with infrastructure - like water sanitation and sewage - in those areas very populated with Syrians, like [the southern border town of] Kilis, where more than half the population is Syrian," said a Turkish government official close to the issue, who spoke with DW on condition of anonymity. Asked how much had actually already been allocated, the answer was somewhat sobering: "The true answer would be 0," the official said, before going on to explain that none of the money had arrived because the joint EU-Turkey committee hadn't figured out how the money would actually be delivered - whether it would go directly to Turkey or via a third party, like the UN refugee agency (UNHCR). That said, the official was confident that some 250 million euros would arrive soon. "The point is the EU cannot send all the money right away." Just peanuts While the 3 billion euros is intended to be put to good use, "it's actually peanuts compared to what we have spent helping refugees," the official said. But the money, said Alemdar, is not what this deal is really about. "The real deal for Turkey would be the visa liberalization," Alemdar told DW - the promise of visa-free entry into the Schengen zone for Turkish citizens. In fact, talks on the EU-Turkey refugee deal are hinging on simultaneous conversations that could jump-start a better "harmonization" of relations between the EU and Turkey. "Many meetings are ongoing on different issues," explained the government official. "Therefore visa liberalization, accession negotiations, high level dialogues on energy and customs unions - they're all part of [this process]," he added. Meanwhile, some 12,000 migrants have amassed at the Greek-Macedonian border, sleeping in makeshift tent cities, braving the cold late-winter temperatures in the hope that officials will unlock the fences currently preventing people from making their way to Western Europe. Thousands more are stranded in Athens and the Greek islands. Most are asylum seekers from Turkey's southern neighbors, Syria and Iraq, as well as refugees from Afghanistan, Iran and some African nations. The majority crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey. 'Not good justice' The fear among many of those stuck in Greece, especially as Turkey and the EU negotiate the readmission of certain migrants to Turkey, is that they'll be sent back to where they came from. "This is not in line with the Geneva Conventions," explained the government source. "It's not good justice, I would say, as [the EU] wants somehow for Turkey to accept Syrian refugees [trying to reach Europe], but since they are fleeing war that would be violating international humanitarian law," he added. Many have criticized the deal for considering Turkey a "safe" country for those fleeing war. "It is naked self-interest and wishful thinking to say Turkey is a safe country of asylum - it is not, and this deal could cause much more harm than good," acting deputy Europe director of Human Rights Watch, Judith Sunderland, told DW. A report issued by the organization states that Turkey "does not provide effective protection for refugees and has repeatedly pushed asylum seekers back to Syria," violating the 1951 Refugee Convention. Indeed, with incidents that involve targeted attacks on Syrian asylum seekers residing in Turkey, many agree it does not meet "safe country" requirements. Just before the new year, Syrian journalist and filmmaker Naji Jerf, known for exposing "Islamic State" (IS) atrocities in the Syrian town of Raqqa, was assassinated in the Turkish border city of Gaziantep. This came just a couple months after two anti-IS Syrian activists, Ibrahim Abd al-Qader and Fares Hamadi, were beheaded in the nearby Turkish town of Sanliurfa. That said, those trying to reach Europe for other reasons can be deported. "Two days ago we accepted 308 applications from Greece," the Turkish government official explained. Those being returned to Turkey came mostly from North African countries. More than 1 million migrants crossed into Europe in 2015, and 130,000 have journeyed so far in 2016. Europe has labeled the recent mass migration a "crisis." But Alemdar said that the term could be an exaggeration. "Naming this a crisis while only two out of 1,000 - 0.2 percent - of people in Europe are refugees, whereas 3.3 percent of people in Turkey are refugees, is a comparison we should keep in mind," she said. "The EU should be more honest itself in terms of calling this a crisis and finding better ways to deal with it than throwing some money at Turkey"

EU and Turkish leaders meet on Monday to discuss implementing a 3-billion-euro aid package intended to reduce the number of asylum seekers and economic migrants heading for Europe. Dalia Mortada reports from Istanbul. In a deal that Human Rights Watch has labeled as “a flawed and potentially dangerous policy response” to the influx of refugees, the European Union promised Turkey ... Read More »

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