Weekly News 18-23 June 2018 | Mediterranean Affairs
Monday 18 June 2018
Germany: German Chancellor Angela Merkel was given two weeks Monday to agree a new migration policy with European leaders or face a renewed rebellion from her own government that is threatening to bring her 13-year rule to an end.
The architect of the division is her interior minister, Horst Seehofer of the Christian Social Union (CSU) — the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s own Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
Seehofer last week defied Merkel to announce a tough new immigration policy that would see some asylum seekers turned away at the borders of Germany. He had suggested he could implement the proposals unilaterally, in defiance of both European regulations and the chancellor. But Merkel announced Monday that the two parties have agreed that she will seek to reach bilateral agreements in the next two weeks with other European Union leaders to allow Germany to turn back asylum seekers at the border, and nullify any need for unilateral action. (CNN)
Italy: Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte met German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday with the pressing issue of migration among the subjects on the agenda.
German government spokesperson Steffen Seibert said the leaders will also discuss other matters, including the “economic issues of the eurozone and unemployment”. (ANSA)
Tuesday 19 June 2018
Migration crisis: The EU is to consider the idea of building migrant processing centres in north Africa in an attempt to deter people from making life-threatening journeys to Europe across the Mediterranean, according to a leaked document.
The EU wants to look at the feasibility of setting up such centres in north Africa, where most migrant journeys to Europe begin. “Such platforms should provide for rapid processing to distinguish between economic migrants and those in need of international protection, and reduce the incentive to embark on perilous journeys,” says the document seen by the Guardian. (The Guardian)
Italy: Matteo Salvini vowed to turn “words into action” in his drive to root out and expel thousands of nomadic Roma from Italy as he shrugged off critics who said the far-right interior minister was adopting illegal policies reminiscent of the country’s fascist past.
Salvini has called for a new census of Roma and for all non-Italian Roma to be expelled from the country.
He also praised on Twitter the demolition of an “illegal” house used by Roma in Turin – which had been ordered by a local council controlled by Salvini’s League party – even as he was condemned by rival politicians and a top Jewish leader. Luigi Di Maio, the leader of the anti-establishment M5S, called Salvini’s order for the creation of a new Roma registry “unconstitutional”. (The Guardian)
Wednesday 20 June 2018
Afghanistan: Taliban fighters have killed 30 security forces in an ambush on two checkpoints in the western province of Badghis on Wednesday, the provincial governor told the Reuters news agency. The attack early on Wednesday comes days after the Taliban said they would resume fighting despite President Ashraf Ghani extending the Eid ceasefire by 10 days ended last Sunday. The Taliban did not immediately comment on the attacks. (Al Jazeera)
Hungary: Hungary’s parliament has passed a series of laws that criminalise any individual or group that offers to help an illegal immigrant claim asylum.
The legislation restricts the ability of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to act in asylum cases and was passed in defiance of the European Union and human rights groups.
Under the law, officially called “Stop Soros”, individuals or groups that help illegal migrants gain status to stay in Hungary will be liable to prison terms. (The Guardian)
Israel: Israeli jets have attacked 25 targets linked to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, after the group launched rockets and mortar shells at Israeli territory, the military said.
Three Palestinians were lightly injured during the attacks in the early hours of Wednesday, residents said. (Al Jazeera)
Italy: Interior Minister Matteo Salvini is meeting Premier Giuseppe Conte on Wednesday to discuss the government’s stance on migrants and a possible Italian proposal to tackle the pressing issue at the EU level.
Italy is one of seven EU countries, along with France, Germany, Spain, Greece, Bulgaria and Austria, that are set to take part in an informal summit on migrants on Sunday ahead of next week’s European Council. (ANSA)
Turkey: Muharren Ince, the challenger to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in early elections to be held in Turkey on Sunday, told journalists “our choice is the West”.
The latest polls show Ince at around 30%, which could force Erdogan into a runoff on July 8.
Ince said the most urgent priority is the judicial system, and said he wants a return to respect for the rule of law and a parliamentary system, abandoned after last year’s referendum on the presidential system. Meanwhile on Tuesday evening, voting by Turkish citizens living abroad closed with a record 47.78% turnout, according to the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) in Ankara. (ANSAmed)
Thursday 21 June 2018
Israel: The wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been charged with fraud relating to the alleged misuse of state funds.
Sara Netanyahu is charged with misusing 359,000 shekels ($100,000; £77,000) for catering services at the prime minister’s official residence.
She is also charged with a breach of trust following a police inquiry, the justice ministry says.
Mrs Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing. Her lawyers described the indictment as absurd and delusional. On Thursday, she was charged along with Ezra Seidoff, a former deputy director general of the prime minister’s office. According to the details of the indictment, Mrs Netanyahu and Mr Seidoff are suspected of involvement in expenses claims made between September 2010 and March 2013 for food delivered to the prime minister’s official residence and for hiring private chefs. (BBC)
Syria: Thousands of civilians have fled regime bombardment on rebel-held areas in Syria’s southern province of Deraa since Tuesday, with most moving into other rebel-held areas in the south, according to media reports. The civilians fleeing al-Herak and Busra al-Harir were “heading to nearby villages under rebel control not affected by the bombardment near the Jordanian border”. The fresh offensive further undermines an international “de-escalation” agreement backed by the United States in the face of a threatened offensive. (Al Jazeera)
Friday 22 June 2018
Migration crisis: A ship with more than 200 migrants and refugees on board is being blocked from entering Italian waters.
The ship, named Lifeline and operated by the German aid group Mission Lifeline, had 234 people on board whom its crew pulled from the Mediterranean.
Matteo Salvini, the Italian interior minister, had previously indicated that the ship may not dock in Italy and that Malta should take it in.
Italian Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said on Friday on his Facebook page that Malta had refused to take in the ship, calling the decision “absurd” and “inhumane”.
He also posted a photo of an email from the Maltese Armed Forces saying the “Lifeline” was not in an Search and Rescue (SAR) situation. The Maltese email also said the ship “has not manifested any distress”. In response, a Maltese government spokesperson told dpa news agency that “the operation was initially handled by the Rome rescue coordination centre, with the Libyan authority assuming responsibility of the [search-and-rescue] cases. In these cases, Malta was neither the coordinating nor the competent authority.” (Al Jazeera)
Saturday 23 June 2018
Migration: French President Emmanuel Macron says he’s in favour of imposing financial sanctions on European Union countries that turn away migrants seeking asylum. At a meeting with the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, he condemned countries that benefit from European unity while claiming national self-interest when it comes to taking in migrants. The two leaders also backed setting up reception centres where migrants would be held while their asylum claims are considered. ”Once on land, we’re in favour of closed centres that would be run in accordance with UNHCR principles, with European funding,’’ Macron said. (euronews)
Turkey: There has been a final push for political support in Istanbul, a day before presidential and parliamentary elections widely viewed as the most crucial in Turkey for decades. The winner of the presidential vote will gain sweeping new executive powers under a constitutional overhaul backed by incumbent, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But with Turkey’s economic woes mounting, his AK Party is facing a strong challenge from a revitalised opposition. His main challenger, Muharram Ince of the secularist Republican People’s Party, has been a hit on the campaign trail, drawing huge crowds. (euronews)