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Boat carrying hundreds of migrants capsizes off Egyptian coast

At least 29 people have died after a boat carrying hundreds of migrants capsized near the Egyptian coastline. The boat was reportedly carrying migrants and refugees from Egypt, Syria and several African countries. A rescue mission is underway off the coast of Egypt after a boat carrying hundreds of migrants sunk, killing 29 people and injuring five, reported health officials on Wednesday. "Initial information indicates that the boat sank because it was carrying more people than its limit. The boat tilted and the migrants fell into the water," a senior security official in the northern province of Beheira told Reuters news agency. The dead include 18 men, 10 women and one child, reported local authorities. Around 155 people have been rescued so far, said Beheira official Alaa Osman, adding that workers are still pulling bodies from the water. Other Egyptian officials have said the migrants and refugees on board came from Syria, Egypt, Sudan and several African countries. Initial reports from Egypt's state news agency MENA said 600 people were aboard the vessel. Another report from the private Egyptian newspaper al-Masry al-Youm said the boat was carrying 300 migrants. It was not immediately clear where the boat was headed, but authorities believe the ship was en route to Italy. Dangerous route With the closure of the Balkan route and a migrant deal with Turkey to halt departures, asylum seekers trying to reach Europe have looked to other paths, turning more and more to departure points in Egypt and Libya. Egypt is starting to become a departure country," Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri told the Funke Group of German newspapers in June. "The number of boat crossings from Egypt to Italy has reached 1,000 (so far) this year," he said. Human smugglers often overcrowd the boats, which are typically unfit for the dangerous sea crossing. Around 320 refugees drowned off the Greek island of Crete in June. Afterwards, survivors told officials that the boat set off from Egypt. in the first six months of this year, according to the International Organization for Migration.

At least 29 people have died after a boat carrying hundreds of migrants capsized near the Egyptian coastline. The boat was reportedly carrying migrants and refugees from Egypt, Syria and several African countries. A rescue mission is underway off the coast of Egypt after a boat carrying hundreds of migrants sunk, killing 29 people and injuring five, reported health officials ... Read More »

In Estonia, Merkel and Roivas talk Russia and internet

Angela Merkel's visit to Tallinn comes at the time when Germany has taken more interest in Estonia. The two countries share a long history and are cooperating on EU, security and digital affairs. Thursday's visit to the St. Mary's Cathedral in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel a chance to look back on Europe's history. On display, the cathedral has three letters Martin Luther wrote regarding the sending of preachers to Tallinn. The countries share a long history: The Baltic German nobility was in charge of Estonia for over 700 years, and German was the official language until Estonia's independence in 1918. Since Estonia regained independence from the Soviet Union 25 years ago, dialogue between the countries has increased again. As chancellor, Helmut Kohl had played a major part in convincing Russian President Boris Yeltsin to withdraw troops from Estonia in the mid-1990s. Today, almost 2,000 Germans live in Estonia. The Goethe-Institut, a nonprofit cultural association, operates a branch in Tallinn - albeit one of the smallest of its 159 outposts worldwide - to promote German language and culture. 'Some fundamental issues' Staunchly pro-EU, budget-disciplined, and oriented toward business, Estonia has become a loyal political and economic ally to Merkel's government. And the European Union is high on the agenda during Merkel's visit. "The main topic of our meeting is the future of the EU," Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas told DW. "There are some fundamental issues to be clarified: where Europe is going, which values we want to hold on to and protect, and the choices to be made for the sake of a strong and functioning union." Estonian officials are looking for German military support. After Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and subsequent military incursions into Ukraine, Estonian officials grew concerned about their eastern neighbor again. Memories of the long occupation by Soviet Russia are still relatively fresh. Security worries Although Estonia joined NATO in 2004, it wasn't until Russia's most recent aggression that the decision to commit multinational troops to the Baltic states was made. At this summer's summit in Warsaw, NATO approved the deployment of battalions to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. At the summit, Prime Minister Rõivas and Chancellor Merkel set a date for her visit. Germany will send up to 1,000 soldiers to Lithuania, and a Bundeswehr unit arrived in Estonia last month, where it is participating in exercises and will remain through the end of September. German special forces participated in a recent training exercise against terrorism in Estonia. Germany's air force has repeatedly taken responsibility for patrolling the skies over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as part of the NATO mission - the Baltic states do not have their own airborne defense capabilities. German jets will return to Estonia's Amari Air Base again this September. Estonia's digital society Apart from the security matters, Germany and Estonia have initiated digital cooperation. In May, Merkel had invited her Estonian counterpart to a German government meeting in Meseberg. At the meeting, Roivas presented a report, introducing the Estonian e-government and the nation's experience in cybersecurity. According to Siim Sikkut, a digital policy adviser with the Estonian government, the Germans were genuinely intrigued - the planned one-hour meeting stretched over two hours. The constructive interest of German cabinet members was mostly focused on how to attract more people to use digital opportunities based on Estonia's experience. Roivas is optimistic. After meeting with Merkel in Tallinn on Wednesday, he said pooling Estonia's expertise in information technology with Germany's industrial power "could give a new impetus to Europe's economies." Merkel will speak on digital cooperation between the countries and receive a briefing on how Estonia's electronic services, such as the digital signature, work in practice. On Thursday, Prime Minister Roivas will present Merkel with an e-residency card - allowing the chancellor to become a digital resident and try out Estonia's digital solutions firsthand.

Angela Merkel’s visit to Tallinn comes at the time when Germany has taken more interest in Estonia. The two countries share a long history and are cooperating on EU, security and digital affairs. Thursday’s visit to the St. Mary’s Cathedral in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel a chance to look back on Europe’s history. On display, ... 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 »

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 »

Top law firm to challenge UK government on Brexit

A leading UK law firm is to take legal action against the government if parliament is not consulted before triggering Article 50 to leave the EU. Mishcon de Reya said a final decision resides with parliament. The UK parliament must first debate and vote on whether to trigger Article 50, starting a two-year process to leave the European Union, London lawyers Mishcon de Reya said on Sunday. Acting a behalf of a group of clients, the firm said it would challenge the government in court if it proceeded to leave the EU without first getting permission from parliament. Recognizing a majority of UK voters expressed a desire to leave the 28-member bloc, the law firm said the referendum was not legally binding and was meant as an "exercise to obtain the views of UK citizens." Referendum among other factors "But the decision to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty of European Union, the legal process for withdrawal from the EU, rests with the representatives of the people under the UK Constitution," the law firm said in a statement on Sunday. "If the correct constitutional process of parliamentary scrutiny and approval is not followed then the notice to withdraw from the EU would be unlawful, negatively impacting the withdrawal negotiations and our future political and economic relationships with the EU and its 27 Member States, and open to legal challenge," the firm said. "Everyone in Britain needs the Government to apply the correct constitutional process and allow Parliament to fulfil its democratic duty which is to take into account the results of the Referendum along with other factors and make the ultimate decision," Kasra Nouroozi, a partner at Mishcon de Reya said. Britain does not have a codified constitution but an unwritten one formed of Acts of Parliament, court judgments and conventions. This adds further questions about the constitutional process for an exit from the EU. Rudderless The surprise June 23 Brexit vote outcome has catapulted Europe and the UK into uncharted territory, with all sides scrambling on how to navigate through a turbulent and uncertain period. In the UK, lawmakers for and against leaving in the EU are at odds over how to negotiate an exit, and when to start the process to leave. On the continent, European leaders are pushing for the UK not to drag out implementing Article 50 for too long over concern a long delay adds uncertainty and could roil financial markets. A legal challenge could throw any departure date into further uncertainty, and if accepted by the court could bog down an exit. Scotland, meanwhile, has indicated its parliament may take measures to try to block a Brexit or hold a second referendum on leaving the UK altogether so it can remain in the EU.

A leading UK law firm is to take legal action against the government if parliament is not consulted before triggering Article 50 to leave the EU. Mishcon de Reya said a final decision resides with parliament. The UK parliament must first debate and vote on whether to trigger Article 50, starting a two-year process to leave the European Union, London ... 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 »

Zika exacerbated by ‘massive policy failure,’ says WHO chief

The head of the UN's public health body has blamed inadequate mosquito control policy for the proliferation of the virus. Europe is at risk of a Zika outbreak, according to the WHO's latest assessment. WHO Secretary-General Margaret Chan on Monday blamed "massive policy failure" for the spread of the mosquito-borne virus Zika across many parts of North and South America. "The spread of Zika, the resurgence of dengue and the emerging threat from chikungunya are the price being paid for a massive policy failure that dropped the ball on mosquito control in the 1970s," Chan said during her speech to the 69th World Health Assembly. The WHO chief noted that the "failure to provide universal access to sexual and family planning services" revealed an "extreme consequence" of the Zika virus outbreak. "The rapidly evolving outbreak of Zika warns us that an old disease that slumbered for six decades in Africa and Asia can suddenly wake up on a new continent to cause a global health emergency," Chan added. In April, US officials announced that that there was a likely link between Zika and a rise in newborns with microcephaly, a rare condition resulting in a smaller head than normal. The WHO has investigated the link between the virus and the medical condition. More than 1.5 million people have been infected with Zika in Brazil, with over 1,000 cases of microcephaly registered since last year, according to AFP news agency. The mosquito-borne virus has also been reported in several countries in the Americas and the Caribbean, including Colombia, Haiti and Mexico. Europe alert Earlier this month, the WHO officials warned "there is a risk of spread of Zika virus disease in the European region." The UN's public health body said an outbreak was more likely in countries where Aedes mosquitoes are present. "With this risk assessment, we at WHO want to inform and target preparedness work in each European country based on its level of risk," said Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO's regional director for Europe. "We call particularly on countries at higher risk to strengthen their national capacities and prioritize the activities that will prevent a large Zika outbreak," added Jakab.

The head of the UN’s public health body has blamed inadequate mosquito control policy for the proliferation of the virus. Europe is at risk of a Zika outbreak, according to the WHO’s latest assessment. WHO Secretary-General Margaret Chan on Monday blamed “massive policy failure” for the spread of the mosquito-borne virus Zika across many parts of North and South America. ... Read More »

Russia’s love for damn lies and statistics

Opinion polls can make or break a government but in Russia they are used very differently - as part of a strategy to manufacture consensus. Fiona Clark reports. The headline on Russia's Sputnik news website states that "One Third of Europeans and Americans Consider Crimea Part of Russia." The finding comes from a poll commissioned by the Kremlin-owned news agency asking residents in several European countries and the US on who they thought the peninsula belonged to. Around 1,000 were questioned in each country and the results showed that 26 percent of US and French residents thought Crimea was now Russian territory while 32 percent of Dutch, 33 percent of Brits, 37 percent of Germans and 39 percent of Italians agreed. Sputnik's story claims this is evidence of a gradual change of heart by the west, moving away from its refusal to recognize the referendum in which 97 percent of Crimeans who voted were in favor of breaking away from some 20 years of Ukrainian rule and reuniting with Russia. It sites UK academic Richard Sakwa, a Professor of Russian and European politics at the University of Kent, as saying Westerners are coming to "an acceptance that the overwhelming majority of the Crimean people did want to rejoin [sic] Russia." But since there is no previous poll to compare it to we can't assume there has been any change of heart. And, in line with the old adage 'damn lies and statistics,' you can look at it from the other side - 74 percent of Americans and French don't agree Crimea belongs to Russia along with around 66 percent of Europeans. And of course the result you get in any poll depends on what question you asked - which wasn't stated in the Sputnik story. But asking "who does Crimea belong to" and "do you agree that Crimea is legally part of Russia" or "should Crimea remain part of Russia" could yield very different results. Terrific timing The timing of the poll is interesting as various French and Italian politicians have recently voiced concerns over the West's ongoing sanctions against Russia, claiming it's time they were lifted. They say President Vladimir Putin's counter sanctions are doing more harm to Europe than the West's sanctions on Russia. Russia stopped buying a variety of fresh produce and other goods from Europe after sanctions were imposed on it which is costing farmers across the EU dearly. Russia's economic crisis has also meant that Russian's are now penny pinching and have cut back on foreign travel. They've reduced their holiday spending in Europe by about a third according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). It says Russians spent around $15 billion (13 billion euros) less in 2015 than they did the previous year, down from $50 billion to $35 billion. Fortunately for Europe Chinese travellers have been picking up the slack by spending a massive $292 billion but the loss from Russia is biting traditional summer holiday markets like Spain, Italy and Greece. Crisis? What crisis? The poll, no doubt, is part of an ongoing strategy aimed at showing opinion poll-driven European countries that their voters are not overwhelmingly against Russia and its policies. It's a not-so-subtle version of its domestic practices where the media control is used to manufacture consensus which is reflected and reinforced by opinion polls. An example of the strategy's effectiveness is another recent poll which showed that 56 percent of Russian's hadn't heard about the Panama Papers. Russian's are avid TV watchers so you'd think it would be impossible for that number to have no idea about the financial scandals the papers revealed that implicated 12 former and current world leaders and their own president's inner circle of friends. But the Kremlin's warning of an imminent character assassination attempt on the president and it's strict control over media coverage seems to have worked. Of those who had heard about the allegations against Putin's inner circle, 37 percent thought it would have no effect on the country or its leadership. When asked about why the papers were released 34 percent said they thought they were published with the specific intention of discrediting the Russian president - which is exactly what the Kremlin had said. And just like water off a duck's back the most recent popularity poll showed 84 percent of Russian voters were willing to re-elect Putin as the country's president and 82 percent were happy with his performance as the country's leader. After all, majority rules.

Opinion polls can make or break a government but in Russia they are used very differently – as part of a strategy to manufacture consensus. Fiona Clark reports. The headline on Russia’s Sputnik news website states that “One Third of Europeans and Americans Consider Crimea Part of Russia.” The finding comes from a poll commissioned by the Kremlin-owned news agency ... Read More »

Munich Security Conference debate on future of NATO turns attention to Russia

What was intended as a debate about NATO at the Munich Security Conference became one about Russia. DW's Michael Knigge reports from the Bavarian capital. Antagonistic remarks by the Russian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (photo with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier) earlier in Munich on Saturday, created a sense in the air that their statements had not been met with the appropriate response. Or put differently: what many perceived as factually incorrect remarks by the Kremlin's emissaries had not been debunked or received the necessary pushback from Western leaders. Whoever may have shared that notion, should have watched the debate about "the future of NATO," which - with few exceptions - was essentially a discussion about how to deal with a single country: Russia. Interestingly, the most ironic comment in the discussion was probably made by the chairman of NATO's Military Committee General Petr Pavel who said that "containment is not our aim with Russia, deterrence is." Poland's Defense Minister Witold Waszcykowski, not surprisingly, was more outspoken and decried Russia's aggression vis-a-vis Ukraine and also what he described as Moscow's efforts to redefine international order. Non-NATO Sweden Waszcykowsk was seconded by Peter Hultqvist, defense minister of Sweden, a country that while not a NATO member is currently mulling that option in light of Moscow's increasingly aggressive stance. Hultqvist delivered an unusually blunt assessment of Russia. The Kremlin's goal, Hultqvist said, was to keep the illegal annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region off the international agenda. Hultqvist added that “Russia is the biggest challenge to Europe's security” and that “we cannot accept what Russia has done.” Hultqvist's strongest point, however, was made via a rhetorical question: “Why does Russia continue to bring up its nuclear capabilities?” Russia's ambassador to NATO, who was in the audience and later posed a question himself, perhaps wisely, chose not to answer Hultqvist's question. Defending NATO to the east and west Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg for her part agreed with the sentiment expressed especially by the Polish defense minister that NATO should consider the defense of its eastern flank as equally important as the defense of its western flank. The alliance, she said, must “ensure security for all allies.” But she was less willing to accept that improving NATO's eastern defense capabilities required deploying permanent troops and building new installations there. “The biggest threat is hybrid warfare”, Solberg said. “You don't address that threat with more military bases.” The conference continues in Munich on Sunday.

What was intended as a debate about NATO at the Munich Security Conference became one about Russia. DW’s Michael Knigge reports from the Bavarian capital. Antagonistic remarks by the Russian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (photo with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier) earlier in Munich on Saturday, created a sense in the air that their statements had not ... Read More »

‘Not ideal’: climate change experts criticize emissions pledges ahead of Paris summit

At least 140 countries have submitted their tentative pledges to limit their greenhouse emissions ahead of Paris. A quartet of climate research bodies has criticized the pledges, saying they're "not ideal." The Climate Action Tracker (CAT) announced Thursday that pledges made by 140 countries to limit their impact on global warming marked the first time rising temperatures come under 3 degrees Celsius by 2100 compared to pre-Industrial Revolution levels. The group of four European research bodies, which began projecting the impact of countries' carbon emissions pledges in 2009, noted that the targets were a significant improvement to the pledges made at last year's UN Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru. According to CAT's statement, Thursday's pledges would result in global warming reaching 2.7 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times by the end of the century, down from the research group's 2014 projections of 3.1 degrees Celsius. 'Seriously reconsider' However, climate researcher Kornelis Blok of Ecofys, which forms part of CAT, said the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) - countries' proposed emissions cutbacks - were "not ideal." "All big emitters should seriously reconsider improving their INDCs between now and Paris, or soon after. That only two governments have climate commitments rated sufficient is not ideal, only two months before Paris," Blok said, referring to China and India. While India has yet to formally submit their pledges in anticipation of an announcement on Friday, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, CAT said that their targets were estimated using publically available information. Meanwhile, China's greenhouse emissions are expected to peak in the late 2020s, with "substantial consequences for post-2030 emissions, resulting in lower overall global warming." The announcement comes amid commitments made in September by the US and China to drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions in September . Thursday's pledges by 140 nations across the globe were submitted ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in November in a bid to secure an accord at the Paris summit .

At least 140 countries have submitted their tentative pledges to limit their greenhouse emissions ahead of Paris. A quartet of climate research bodies has criticized the pledges, saying they’re “not ideal.” The Climate Action Tracker (CAT) announced Thursday that pledges made by 140 countries to limit their impact on global warming marked the first time rising temperatures come under 3 ... Read More »

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