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Ai Weiwei’s film “Human Flow” makes Oscar shortlist

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei first worked with his smartphone camera until he was joined by a German producer on his powerful refugee documentary. "Human Flow" is now among 15 contenders for Best Documentary at the Oscars. Filmed over a year armed with drones, his iPhone and about 200 crew members, Ai Wei Wei visited more than 40 refugee camps in 23 countries to make his first feature length film, "Human Flow," which he hoped would spur people to help refugees. Now the film has been selected from among 170 documentaries for the 15-strong shortlist for the Oscars. Five films will end up receiving a nomination on January 23, 2018, before the Oscars will be awarded on March 4. Among the other contenders are "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power," a 2017 follow-up to the climate documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" (2006) that was honored with an Academy Award in 2007. Another favorite is the documentary "Jane" about gorilla researcher Jane Goodall. Read more: Ai Weiwei's 'Human Flow' and 11 other memorable films on refugees German producer Heine Deckert participated in the production of Weiwei's documentary which travelled to refugee camps in Greece, France, Kenya, Lebanon and Gaza, with some scenes set at the borders between the US and Mexico, as well as Serbia and Hungary. Ai Wei Wei, who was once jailed in China and has lived in Berlin since 2015, said he wanted the film to make people see refugees in a different light as they were victims of man-made problems. In this light, the artist is critical of Britain's decision to leave the European Union, saying at the December release of "Human Flow" in the UK that Brexit is a backward step that will make the country more isolated. Read more: Progress in Brexit talks, but Britain still divided "I think it is backward in terms of opening up globalisation and will not do Britain any good but rather to become more conservative and more exclusive," Ai told the Thomson Reuters Foundation at the film's launch on December 5 in London. The documentary has run in German movie theaters since November 16.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei first worked with his smartphone camera until he was joined by a German producer on his powerful refugee documentary. “Human Flow” is now among 15 contenders for Best Documentary at the Oscars. Filmed over a year armed with drones, his iPhone and about 200 crew members, Ai Wei Wei visited more than 40 refugee camps in ... Read More »

Turkey, EU agree 3-billion-euro aid deal to stem migrant crisis

Turkey and the European Union (EU) have agreed on a plan to tackle the record influx of migrants into Europe. The bloc has promised Turkey 3 billion euros in aid money and renewed talks on its EU membership. EU Council President Donald Tusk confirmed the deal following a four-hour summit with Turkey and leaders from the bloc's 28 nations in Brussels on Sunday. In a joint press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Tusk said the talks marked a new starting point in relations with Ankara. "We expect a major step towards changing the rules of the game when it comes to stemming the migration flow that is coming to the EU via Turkey," Tusk said. A key element of the plan is a 3-billion-euro ($3.2-billion) aid package over two years for Turkey to raise the living standards of the more than two million Syrian refugees currently living in the country. The EU has also pledged visa-free travel for Turkish citizens in the Schengen zone by October 2016 and to relaunch talks on Turkey's EU membership process. In return, Turkey will aim to tighten border security, take back migrants who don't qualify for asylum, and crack down on illegal traffickers. Leaders at the meeting also agreed to hold two EU-Turkey summits per year. Unprecedented task Europe is grappling with its biggest refugee crisis since World War II. According to the International Organization for Migration, close to one million migrants and asylum seekers have entered the EU so far this year. Turkey is a main gateway for Europe-bound refugees, many of whom aim to eventually reach countries like Germany and Sweden. "I can guarantee that Turkey ... will be completing, and will be fulfilling all the promises mentioned in the joint action plan," Dovutoglu said. French President Francois Hollande said the promised EU money would only be released "bit by bit," and that Turkey's progress in reducing the number of migrants would be monitored closely. Hollande also said verification measures need to be in place to check those coming through Turkey, because some "terrorists" have infiltrated the refugee flow. Reviving EU talks Another important part of the deal is the pledge to restart Turkey's EU accession process, which has made little headway since talks stalled 10 years ago. EU foreign ministers will formally approve the opening of the next chapter of talks with Ankara on December 14. "Turkish membership will be an asset, not only to the EU, to Turkey, but also to global peace," Dovutoglu said. Despite the shift towards closer ties, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned that the criteria for joining the bloc would not change. He said the EU would not "forget about the remaining divergences and differences we can have with Turkey over human rights and freedom of the press, and we will return to them."

Turkey and the European Union (EU) have agreed on a plan to tackle the record influx of migrants into Europe. The bloc has promised Turkey 3 billion euros in aid money and renewed talks on its EU membership. EU Council President Donald Tusk confirmed the deal following a four-hour summit with Turkey and leaders from the bloc’s 28 nations in ... Read More »

Conservative opposition declares victory in Croatia election

Croatia's conservative opposition has narrowly won the country's first general election since it joined the EU in 2013. They now face the challenge of negotiating with smaller parties to form a coalition government. The state electoral commission said Monday that the conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) had won 61 seats in the 151-seat parliament, with about 70 percent of the vote counted. Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic's center-left Social Democrats took 53 seats. "We won the parliamentary elections... The victory brought us responsibility to lead our country, which is in a difficult situation," HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko (pictured above) told cheering supporters. "Whoever wants to fight with us for the quality of life in Croatia is welcome." The preliminary result means both blocs have failed to win an outright majority. The forming of the new government will now depend on several small parties that entered parliament. Hung parliament The kingmaker could be the third-placed party, Most ("Bridge" in Croatian), with a projected 19 seats. Prime Minister Milanovic called on the party, which was founded just three years ago, to start talks on a new coalition. "Croatia has decided for a change," Milanovic said. "We cannot do it alone." Most leader Bozo Petrov said during the campaign that his party would not enter into an alliance. However, he also said Most would only support a future government if it took steps to improve the business environment, and reform the judiciary and public administration. "For each of those reforms we would set deadlines and if deadlines were not met, we would demand a parliamentary no-confidence vote," he told national broadcaster HRT. "We know that, as things stand now, we control the majority in the parliament." Challenges ahead Whatever its makeup, the new government will have its work cut out for it. Sunday marked the Balkan country's first parliamentary election since joining the European Union in 2013. It is currently emerging from six years of recession and remains one of the EU's poorest performing economies. The country of 4.2 million is also grappling with a migrant crisis, which has seen 330,000 people crossing its borders on their way to northern Europe. The nationalist HDZ, which steered Croatia to independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, has accused Milanovic's government of being too soft on migrants. They've pledged to take tough measures like erecting fences and deploying the army to manage the flow.

Croatia’s conservative opposition has narrowly won the country’s first general election since it joined the EU in 2013. They now face the challenge of negotiating with smaller parties to form a coalition government. The state electoral commission said Monday that the conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) had won 61 seats in the 151-seat parliament, with about 70 percent of the ... Read More »

Strained Slovenia weighs border fence of its own

Slovenia has sought relief after Hungary's border fence redirected thousands of migrants to the small nation. The EU hopes to agree to a more cooperative solution at its summit on Sunday. Fearing an insufficient response from the European Union summit called for Sunday, Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar announced on Friday that he was "considering" blocking off the flow of migrants with a fence along the country's border with Croatia. The move would follow the example of Hungary, whose recently completed southern border fence put Slovenia center stage on the so-called Balkan route into the EU. Slovenia is now the main point of entry into the EU's open-border Schengen Zone for migrants on the Balkan route. Some 47,500 have arrived at the country's borders since Hungary's fence was completed on October 17. As of Friday morning, 14,000 were in refugee camps in Slovenia, waiting to move on to Austria. Prime Minister Cerar referred to the border fence as a back-up planm, saying that blocking off the 400-mile border with Croatia could require funds and resources that the nation does not have. "We are still looking for a European option," Cerar said. Slovenia, with a population of 2 million, has asked the EU for police backup, logistical support and at least 60 million euros ($68 million dollars). European Commission Chief Jean-Claude Juncker called a mini-summit for Sunday involving the leaders of countries struggling with the migrant flow in southeastern Europe.

Slovenia has sought relief after Hungary’s border fence redirected thousands of migrants to the small nation. The EU hopes to agree to a more cooperative solution at its summit on Sunday. Fearing an insufficient response from the European Union summit called for Sunday, Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar announced on Friday that he was “considering” blocking off the flow of ... Read More »

Paris, Berlin, London call for urgent meeting on EU refugee policy

The EU needs immediate action to deal with the influx of immigrants, the interior ministers of Germany, France and Britain have said in a statement. The three countries urged new "hot spots" for registration of refugees. The politicians asked "the Luxembourg presidency to organize a special meeting of justice and interior ministers within the next two weeks, so as to find concrete steps" on the crisis, said Germany's Thomas de Maiziere, Britain's Theresa May and France's Bernard Cazeneuve. The ministers also called for an EU-wide list of "safe countries of origin" in their joint statement on Sunday. Such a list would help identify people threatened by war and persecution by automatically sifting out migrants from politically stable countries. In addition, the representatives of the three biggest EU countries called for the establishment of "hot spots" in Greece and Italy, allowing the authorities to take fingerprints and register the incoming migrants. The checkpoints should be established by the end of the year, the ministers said. "We agree that we have no more time to lose. The current situation demands immediate action and solidarity in Europe," said de Maiziere. A meeting of the bloc's interior ministers to discuss the crisis was then called for September 14, to take place in Luxembourg. Berlin under pressure Germany is an especially vocal supporter of the EU-wide list of safe countries, as it would make thousands of asylum seekers from Balkan nations easier to deport. The European powerhouse is set to receive some 800,000 refugees by the end of the year, and is struggling to provide housing and security. The officials hope that reducing the number of so-called "economic refugees" would free up resources for helping people from crisis areas such as Iraq and Syria. Germany has also called on other EU countries to pull their weight in taking in immigrants. "The challenges can be overcome only with a joint European asylum policy," de Maiziere said. 'Scandalous' Also on Sunday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius urged "Europe as a whole" to assume its responsibilities towards the refugees. "When I see a certain number of European countries, particularly in the east, who do not accept quotas (of migrants), I find it scandalous," he told Europe 1 radio. Fabius specifically criticized the barrier Hungary erected along its border with Serbia, in a bid to stop the flow of migrants. The razor-wire barrier does "not respect Europe's common values", according to Fabius. The EU member Hungary has intercepted more than 140,000 migrants coming across the Serbian border this year. The barricade is soon to be enforced with a four-meter-high (13-foot) fence.

The EU needs immediate action to deal with the influx of immigrants, the interior ministers of Germany, France and Britain have said in a statement. The three countries urged new “hot spots” for registration of refugees. The politicians asked “the Luxembourg presidency to organize a special meeting of justice and interior ministers within the next two weeks, so as to ... Read More »

European leaders ‘shaken’ by grisly discovery of migrant bodies in Austria

European leaders have called for urgent solutions to the migrant crisis after the discovery of up to 70 dead refugees in a truck in Austria. Forensics teams have been working through the night to examine the corpses. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was "shaken by the awful news," which broke as European leaders gathered in Vienna for a summit on the migrant crisis. "This reminds us that we in Europe need to tackle the problem quickly and find solutions in the spirit of solidarity," Merkel said. Police found the abandoned truck parked on the side of a major highway near Austria's border with Hungary. "Today is a dark day... This tragedy affects us all deeply," Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said, pledging to crack down on the people smugglers who arrange for migrants to travel to Europe, often in exchange for exorbitant fees. Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann also condemned smuggling networks: "Today, refugees lost the lives they had tried to save by escaping, but lost them in the hand of traffickers." Tens of thousands of refugees fleeing violence in the Middle East, Asia and Africa risk their lives each year for a chance to come to Europe. Some attempt the perilous sea journey across the Mediterranean. Others take the land route through the Western Balkans. Traveling through Serbia into Hungary is especially popular with asylum seekers hoping to enter the European Union - and Thursday's deaths show it can also be dangerous. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told participants at the conference in Vienna she hoped the tragedy would push member states to "take decisions and responsibility." Investigations underway Austrian police have launched an investigation to establish how the migrants in the truck perished, and who may be responsible for their deaths. Authorities discovered the vehicle at around midday on Thursday, and soon realized something was wrong when they noticed blood dripping from the cargo area and the smell of dead bodies. The truck was later towed to an air-conditioned location near the border with Hungary, where workers in white protective suits could be seen wheeling body bags into a building. Forensics experts worked through the night to find out what they could before the bodies are transferred to Vienna on Friday for further examination. Senior police official Hans Peter Doskozil said he'd received information to suggest the truck had crossed the border from Hungary into Austria overnight before it was abandoned. He also said it was likely the victims were already dead before the truck entered the country.

European leaders have called for urgent solutions to the migrant crisis after the discovery of up to 70 dead refugees in a truck in Austria. Forensics teams have been working through the night to examine the corpses. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “shaken by the awful news,” which broke as European leaders gathered in Vienna for a summit ... Read More »

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