Weekly News 02 – 07 July 2018 | Mediterranean Affairs


Monday 02 July 2018

Denmark: Pupils in 24 Danish schools will be “guinea pigs” for a new policy aimed at integrating non-Western immigrants into Danish society. From 2019, it will become law for schools that take more than 30 percent of their students from “ghetto” areas to force their students to take language tests, making them some of the first to be affected by the Danish government’s new sweeping laws aimed at eradicating immigrant “ghettos” by 2030. Denmark‘s government currently lists 22 areas as “ghettos,” areas with social problems where more than 50% of residents are non-Western immigrants. Merete Riisager, the Danish minister of education, has made no secret of the fact that the tests are aimed especially at children and parents with a Middle Eastern background.(TIME)

Germany: Angela Merkel is due to meet her interior minister, Horst Seehofer, on Monday afternoon for a last-ditch attempt to find a compromise over migration policy, following weeks of strife which threatens to bring down her coalition government.
Seehofer threatened to resign on Sunday night both as interior minister and head of the Bavarian CSU party, Merkel have signalled their readiness to meet once again in an attempt to save their centre-right alliance, which has been a force in German politics for almost 70 years. The sticking point between the two concerns Seehofer’s demand that asylum seekers wishing to enter Germany should be turned away if they have already registered in another EU country. Merkel has rejected the proposal, fearing it would cause a domino effect across Europe, placing too much of the burden on countries such as Greece, Malta and Italy. She was due to meet with leading members of her party ahead of the meeting with Seehofer. (The Guardian)

Italy: League leader Matteo Salvini said Sunday the anti-migrant Euroskeptic party would rule Italy for 30 years and would launch a transnational League of Leagues to fight European elites in next year’s European Parliament elections. (ANSA)

Italy: Italy is to give Libya 10 motor launches and 2 ships to beef up its efforts to stop migrant trafficking according to a a draft of a decree issued Monday. The decree also earmarks 1.4 million euros over two years to maintain the vessels and train Libyan navy and coast guard personnel. (ANSA)

Poland: On the eve of new Polish measures that could mean dozens of senior judges losing their jobs, the European Union has launched a legal case against the country’s right-wing government. The EU’s executive has already accused the Polish authorities of bringing in laws that “interfere significantly” with the judiciary. Now it has given Warsaw a one-month deadline to answer its concerns.
Under the laws, up to 40% of Supreme Court judges could be forced out.
The first president of the court, Malgorzata Gersdorf, could be among those pushed out before her six-year term ends, by a rule that brings down the retirement age from 70 to 65, the EU warns. Many in Brussels, as well as international legal and human rights groups, are concerned that the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party is trying to politicise the judiciary and erode the separation of powers. (BBC)

Tuesday 03 July 2018

Italy: Matteo Salvini’s electoral victory in the southern region of Calabria during the Italian general election this year was supported by a former politician who law enforcement authorities have claimed has close ties to the ‘Ndrangheta, the criminal organisation that controls most of the cocaine trade in Europe. The far-right interior minister and head of the League party, who has emerged as a de facto prime minister, won his senate seat in the region with the backing of a former mayor of Reggio Calabria, Giuseppe Scopelliti, with whom Salvini had a political alliance and who was arrested weeks after the March poll for forging documents while he was mayor.
In a previous mafia case in which he was not charged, Scopelliti was described in court documents as being “sponsored” by one of the ruling clans of the ‘Ndrangheta. Prosecutors also alleged in records seen by the Guardian that the most powerful criminal clans in the area played a “crucial role” in Scopelliti’s political career. There is no suggestions that Salvini has any direct ties to the criminal organisation. But the Guardian has examined Salvini’s ties to individuals who are alleged to have close links to the ‘Ndrangheta, because of the interior minister’s role overseeing law enforcement and domestic security. (The Guardian)

UK: The official Brexit campaign is expected to be found guilty of four charges of breaking electoral law, the BBC has been told.
The draft of an investigation into Vote Leave concludes it broke spending limits and failed to comply with some of the rules. It also imposes fines as a result of its findings.
But the group’s former chief executive claimed the Electoral Commission had not followed due process.
Matthew Elliott has submitted a 500-page dossier to the Electoral Commission rebutting the claims. The commission said Vote Leave had taken the “unusual step” of going public having seen the draft report. (BBC)

Wednesday 04 July 2018

Poland: The head of Poland’s Supreme Court has arrived for work surrounded by hundreds of supporters, rejecting a controversial law forcing dozens of senior judges to retire early. Chief Justice Malgorzata Gersdorf, 65, had been told to step down at midnight on Tuesday and a replacement was named. She has branded the reforms, which require judges to retire at 65 instead of 70, a “purge”.
Poland’s prime minister defended his government’s drive to impose changes. There were protests in several Polish cities against the reforms late on Tuesday, including outside the Supreme Court in Warsaw.
Hundreds of supporters returned on Wednesday morning to greet Prof Gersdorf on her arrival with chants of “constitution” and “we are with you”. A number of colleagues also welcomed her as she addressed the protesters at the entrance, vowing to defend the rule of law. (BBC)

Syria: A son of Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been killed in a battle in Syria, IS news outlets say.
Hudhayfah al-Badri died in a “commando operation” against Syrian government and Russian forces at a power plant in Homs province, a Telegram message said.
It gave no further details but included an image of a youth holding a rifle. (BBC)

UK: A man and woman feared to have been exposed to an unknown substance are in a critical condition, prompting police to declare a major incident. The pair, in their 40s, were found unconscious in what was thought to be in a drugs-related incident in Amesbury, Wiltshire, on Saturday. Further tests on the substance are being carried out to identify it. Amesbury is about 10 miles from Salisbury, where a former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned.
Sergei Skripal and daughter Yulia were poisoned with Novichok, a suspected military nerve agent, in March. (BBC)

Thursday 05 July 2018

Migration crisis: German leader Angela Merkel has chided Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban over migration, saying they should not forget the issue was about people.
At a joint news conference in Berlin, she said if Europe wanted to retain its soul it could not ignore people’s needs and suffering. But Mr Orban said the best way to be humane was to close borders and help the countries that migrants came from.
The two leaders embody the EU’s split over migration. Germany allowed a million people to enter in 2015, while Hungary has so far rejected a scheme to relocate 160,000 refugees from overcrowded camps in Greece and Italy. (BBC)

Italy: Italy’s hardline Interior Minister Matteo Salvini on Thursday said he wants to end migrant arrivals in Italy by boat.
The aim is that “not one more person arrives by boat” on Italian shores, said Salvini during a news conference with Ahmed Maiteeq, vice president of the Libyan UN-backed Government of National Accord. Salvini said that as “a minister and a father” he did not want any more “women or babies to get into rubber dinghies”. Interior Minister says pregnant women, children and refugees will remain in Italy. (Al Jazeera)

Friday 06 July 2018

Germany: In extracts from a  Der Spiegel interview with Seehofer published on Friday, the interior minister said Germany would have to take unilateral action if an agreement was not reached with other EU countries.  His comments came two days after Merkel defended her government’s refugee policy while urging “more regulation regarding every type of migration” and European cooperation. (Al Jazeera)

Migration crisis: Rights groups and watchdogs have expressed concern over several countries’ proposals to return asylum seekers to Greece as several European leaders call for refugee routes to be closed. In Greece, however, rights groups and observers say refugee camps are already overcrowded. On Thursday, it was reported that Italy, Germany and Austria are expected to hold talks to seal the southern refugee route, while Germany’s interior minister and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban separately called for returning more asylum seekers to Italy and Greece. (Al Jazeera)

Iran: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has called on European powers to implement economic measures to protect the 2015 nuclear deal before US sanctions against Tehran snap back between August and November. Zarif made the statement on Friday after meeting in Vienna with foreign ministers from the remaining countries signatory to the international deal following the US’ unilateral withdrawal in May. Iran has threatened to withdraw from the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), if it does not receive enough economic guarantees from Europe. (Al Jazeera)

Syria: The world’s chemical weapons watchdog says it has found proof that chlorine was used in an attack in April on the Syrian town of Douma which killed dozens of people, according to medics and rescuers. Published on Friday, the preliminary report by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is based on eyewitness accounts and evidence collected at the site of the attack.
It said chlorine traces were found in two of four investigated locations. No evidence of nerve agents was found. (Al Jazeera)

Saturday 7 July 2018

Turkey: Turkey’s new members of parliament have been sworn in following last month’s elections that significantly expanded the powers of the presidency.
Six hundred politicians from five parties on Saturday took oaths to serve in parliament in the capital, Ankara.
Among them are 295 MPs from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and 49 from the allied Nationalist Movement Party. Erdogan, 64, kept his seat in the June 24 twin presidential and parliamentary elections. He is expected to be sworn in on Monday. Meanwhile, the AK Party on Saturday nominated Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, whose current office will cease to exist soon, as parliament speaker. (Al Jazeera)