Posts Tagged ‘France’

Macron, Trump Agree to Work Together if New Syria Chemical Attack-Elysee

June 27, 2017

PARIS — President Emmanuel Macron agreed with U.S. President Donald Trump in a phone call on Tuesday that they would work together to find a common response in case of a new chemical attack in Syria, the French presidency said in a statement.

Macron also invited Trump to attend the July 14 Bastille Day celebrations in Paris which will this year commemorate 100 years since the United States joined World War One.

The French leader has previously said that Paris could launch unilateral air strikes against targets in Syria if a chemical attack took place.

(Reporting by Marine Pennetier; writing by John Irish; editing by Michel Rose)


Macron says France will not recognise Crimea ‘annexation’

June 26, 2017


© POOL/AFP | French President Emmanuel Macron (R) shakes hands with his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko during a joint press conference after a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on June 26, 2017

PARIS (AFP) – President Emmanuel Macron said Monday France refuses to recognise Russia’s “annexation” of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.Speaking after talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Paris, Macron said: “France is committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty with its recognised borders.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday visited Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014, in a trip that Kiev condemned as a violation of its sovereignty.

Western powers accuse Russia of failing to honour its commitments under the Minsk accords framework for ending the violence between government forces and Kremlin-backed rebels in Ukraine’s east.

EU leaders agreed last week to extend stringent economic sanctions against Russia for another six months, saying Moscow had failed to meet its commitments on the ceasefire in Ukraine.

The French foreign ministry said OSCE observers in Ukraine were being subjected to “unacceptable intimidation and obstacles”.

When Macron met Putin in May, shortly after the new French leader took office, he admitted the two had “disagreed on a number of things”.

Psychology: Non religious people found to be more closed-minded

June 26, 2017
Image may contain: 1 person, text

New research indicates that religious believers can be better at perceiving and integrating different perspectives than atheists in Western Europe.

“The main message of the study is that closed-mindedness is not necessarily found only among the religious,” the study’s corresponding author, Filip Uzarevic of the Catholic University of Louvain, told PsyPost.

The research was published April 27, 2017, in the peer-reviewed journal Personality and Individual Differences.

“The idea started through noticing that, in public discourse, despite both the conservative/religious groups and liberal/secular groups showing strong animosity towards the opposite ideological side, somehow it was mostly the former who were often labeled as ‘closed-minded’,” Uzarevic explained. “Moreover, such view of the secular being more tolerant and open seemed to be dominant in the psychological literature. Being interested in this topic, we started to discuss whether this is necessarily and always the case: Are the religious indeed generally more closed-minded, or would it perhaps be worthy of investigating the different aspects of closed-mindedness and their relationship with (non)religion. ”

The researchers found that Christian participants scored higher on a measure of dogmatism than nonreligious participants. The Christian participants, for instance, were more likely to disagree with statements such as “There are so many things we have not discovered yet, nobody should be absolutely certain his beliefs are right.”

But two other measures of closed-mindedness told a different story.

Atheists tended to show greater intolerance of contradiction, meaning when they were presented with two seemingly contradictory statements they rated one as very true and the other as very false. They also showed less propensity to be able to imagine arguments contrary to their own position and find them somewhat convincing.

“In our study, the relationship between religion and closed-mindedness depended on the specific aspect of closed-mindedness,” Uzarevic told PsyPost. “The nonreligious compared to the religious seemed to be less closed minded when it came to explicitly measured certainty in one’s beliefs. However, and somewhat surprisingly, when it came to subtly measured inclination to integrate views that were diverging and contrary to one’s own perspectives, it was the religious who showed more openness. In sum, closed-mindedness (or at least some aspects of it) may not be reserved only for the religious. Moreover, in some aspects, the nonreligious may even ‘outperform’ the religious.”

The study was based on 788 adults from the United Kingdom, Spain, and France. The majority of participants reported being atheist (302) or agnostic (143). The remaining participants were Christian (255), Muslim (17), Buddhist (17), Jewish (3), or identified as “other” (51).

“There are, of course, some limitations to this study. They are especially important to keep in mind since the psychological study of nonreligion is still in its infancy, and the findings should be approached tentatively,” Uzarevic said.

“Firstly, we do not know whether the findings are typical only for the Western European (secularized) context in which the study was conducted, or it reflects more global tendencies.”

“With that in mind, and the fact that the effect sizes found in our study were quite small, a replication would be due to confirm the stability of the findings. Again highlighting the importance of replication, one possible limitation is that the study was done online, which naturally opens several questions (e.g. possible non-representativeness of the sample, impossibility to fully control the structure and the quality of the sample). However, despite these limitations, the study did offer relatively consistent results, and a good starting point for future research.”

The study, “Are atheists undogmatic?“, was also co-authored by Vassilis Saroglou and Magali Clobert.

East-west divide in the EU deepens

June 25, 2017

While the German and French leaders celebrated the close ties between their countries during this week’s EU summit, divisions between western and eastern European leaders grew. Christoph Hasselbach reports from Brussels.

Belgien EU-Gipfel in Brüseel | (Reuters/E Dunand)

The summit was intended to spread a bit of optimism. The professionals, it was announced, would now take care of Brexit negotiations, and the British government even promised to protect EU citizens’ rights in the United Kingdom after withdrawal. Although that proposal is now being criticized as inadequate and vague, it is still being touted as a sign of progress. After that, the remaining 27 member states sought to create momentum for new projects.

The joint press conference held by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron was then appropriately symbolic. Merkel described the mood of the two-day summit, which ended on Friday, as “optimistic and dynamic.” Such words are more easily uttered in the knowledge that economies in almost all member states, even those which were heretofore weak, are starting to grow again. The eurozone has just completed its best quarter in almost six years, which, however, isn’t saying much considering the crisis that has been plaguing the continent for the last several years.

Yet Estonia, which will take over the European Council’s rotating presidency in July, has said that more must still be done. Estonia is considered a role model for EU digitization. In Brussels, Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas urged: “Data is the next steel and coal. So we need to be ready for a next 60 years of digitization in Europe. Europe has to become the world leader in digital.” In the case of German Chancellor Merkel, Ratas is preaching to the converted. She was full of praise, “because Estonia is an example of how digitization is already being lived out.”

The EU also wants to take the lead in maintaining free trade around the world, which member states see threatened by the protectionist tendencies of US President Donald Trump. But, as French President Macron said, the EU is not “naive” either. Openness also necessitates fairness. European governments find it unfair that some countries seemingly flood the European market with dumping prices, or that companies from third states buy European firms while at the same time blocking European takeovers in theirs. The main culprit in both instances is China.

Belgien - EU-Gipfel in Brüssel - Juncker (picture allianceBELGA/dpa/T. Roge)European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also made a relaxed impression

Refugee distribution? Hopeless

But the generally positive mood that has come on the heels of the Brexit depression did not brighten every topic of discussion – such as that of immigration. Macron, who is seen by many as Europe’s new hope, began the conference by angering eastern European countries that have refused to accept refugees from the bloc’s main countries of arrival, Italy and Greece. Macron complained that members were not in a “supermarket” and that the EU was not about “handing out money without regard for European values.”

Although he did not name names, those he was referring to, such as Hungary, felt attacked. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban snapped back that Macron’s comments were a “kick.” He labeled Macron a “newbie” whose start in office was “not very encouraging.” Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern, on the other hand, stood by Macron: “I cannot always make demands and then shirk my responsibilities.”

In an effort to smooth over differences, Macron also met separately with heads of government from the so-called Visegrad Group: Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Nothing, however, came of the meeting. After the summit, Merkel said that all members were “very, very much in agreement” on the issue of fighting the root causes of migration and the control of Europe’s exterior borders. She resignedly added: “Unfortunately, we made no progress on the question of distribution,” noting that very little time had been allotted for discussing the issue, “since it was clear that we would not be able to make any progress.”

In his joint press conference with Merkel, Macron added: “The current refugee crisis is not a temporary, but rather a long-term challenge, which can be resolved only through long-term stabilization in Africa and the Middle East and through ambitious European development policies.”

Read more: EU leaders agree on trade but remain split over refugees

Symbolbild Flüchtlinge Italien Salerno (picture-alliance/dpa/M. Amoruso/Pacific Press via ZUMA Wire)The EU’s system of refugee redistribution is meeting with resistance from some member states

Competition from Eastern Europe

Macron’s discussion with the Visegrad Group was delicate for another reason as well. The French president fears that the entire European project is in jeopardy because workers in wealthy western European countries feel threatened by eastern European competition. Macron recently even cited the issue in explaining the Brexit: “How could Brexit happen? Because workers from eastern European countries were taking British jobs.” Macron is therefore calling for changes to the so-called “Posting of Workers Directive.” He envisions that workers sent to fill western European jobs should be paid according to local wage scales. The proposal was greeted by high-wage countries such as Germany and Austria. But eastern Europeans are vehemently refusing to cede their competitive advantage.

Deutschland Wohnungsbau in Hamburg (picture alliance / dpa)Eastern European competition often makes itself felt in the construction industry

The summit made clear that Emmanuel Macron’s election has given a jolt of energy to the French-German duo that will perhaps be able to drive new European projects. But at the same time, it also highlighted the threat that the divide between new EU member states from the east and old ones from the west could grow ever deeper.

Turkey’s Erdogan denounces demands on Qatar

June 25, 2017

By Al Jazeera

Turkish leader criticises list of demands presented by Saudi-led countries that cut ties with Qatar and prompted crisis.

Erdogan says the Saudi-led ultimatum is ‘against international law’ [File: Matt Dunham/EPA]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has welcomed Qatar’s stand on a list of demands from Saudi Arabia and its allies, saying that the ultimatum is “against international law”.

Qatar has rejected the accusations and said the measures are “unjustified”.

“We welcome [Qatar’s position] because we consider the 13-point list against international law,” Erdogan was quoted as saying by the state-run Anadolu news agency on Sunday.

Turkey has offered support to Qatar after Saudi Arabia and several other countries severed ties with Qatar over accusations of funding terrorism and fomenting regional instability.

On June 7, Turkey’s parliament fast-tracked legislation to allow troops to be deployed to a military base in Qatar, two days after the Saudi-led countries cut ties with Doha in the worst diplomatic crisis in the region in years.

Turkey has a military base in Qatar that currently houses about 90 Turkish soldiers.

The Turkish forces conducted their first training at Tariq bin Ziyad military base earlier this month in a drill that had been long planned.

Qatar on Saturday denounced the ultimatum as unreasonable and an impingement on the emirate’s sovereignty.

The list was received by Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on June 22, the state-run Qatar News Agency said.

“This list of demands confirms what Qatar has said from the beginning – the illegal blockade has nothing to do with combating terrorism, it is about limiting Qatar’s sovereignty, and outsourcing our foreign policy,” Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al Thani, director of the Qatari government’s communications office, said in a statement on Friday.

WATCH: What is behind the campaign against Al Jazeera?

Qatar also said it is reviewing the demands and is preparing an official response after confirming the receipt of the document containing the demands.

“The state of Qatar is currently studying this paper, the demands contained therein and the foundations on which they were based, in order to prepare an appropriate response to it and hand it over to the state of Kuwait,” QNA said, citing a statement by the ministry of foreign affairs.

Kuwait has been acting as a mediator to defuse the crisis that erupted on June 5 when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt announced they were severing relations with Qatar, accusing it of supporting “terrorism”.

The four countries have not provided any evidence, and Qatar has repeatedly denied the allegations as baseless.

Deadline for compliance

Earlier on Friday, reports emerged that the Saudi-led bloc had given Qatar 10 days to comply with 13 demands, which included shutting down the Al Jazeera Media Network, closing a Turkish military base and scaling down ties with Iran.

In the document, the countries demanded that Qatar severs all alleged ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and with other groups, including Hezbollah, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.

The document also states that Qatar must consent to monthly compliance audits in the first year after agreeing to the demands, followed by quarterly audits in the second year, and annual audits in the following 10 years.

The list includes a demand that Qatar pay reparations and compensation for loss of life and other financial losses allegedly caused by Qatar’s policies in recent years.

The document did not specify what the countries will do if Qatar refuses to comply.

Amir Handjani, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Al Jazeera that the demands are a “non-starter”.

“This is a very aggressive position that the Saudi coalition is taking. I think it’s an opening gambit in a long, protracted negotiation,” he said.

“The Saudis are signalling to the Qataris that they are willing to dig in. And I think the Qataris are not going to cave. So I expect tensions to rise.”

Handjani said that the demands amounted to a request that Qatar give up its sovereignty.

READ MORE: The GCC crisis – Draconian demands and juvenile politics

“I am sure as temperatures rise, other countries such as the United States, the UK, the French – who have longstanding ties with the GCC countries … will step in and try and play a mediating role,” he said.

The White House said on Friday that the rift between the countries is a “family issue” and the four Arab states “should work it out”.

Sean Spicer, the US press secretary, said the US will not intervene unless it is “asked to join … and facilitate” discussions between the countries involved.



Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

‘Emmangela’ show reasserts EU’s Franco-German alliance

June 23, 2017


© AFP / by Danny KEMP | ‘Emmangela’: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron stage a joint press conference after the EU summit, projecting their will to drive Europe’s leadership after the shock of Brexit

BRUSSELS (AFP) – Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel used the French president’s first Brussels summit Friday to deliver an unmistakeable message: their countries intend to lead the EU’s post-Brexit revival.The Franco-German power couple held an unusual joint press conference after meeting their 26 European Union counterparts, against a backdrop of their respective flags and the bloc’s blue banner with yellow stars.

“When France and Germany speak with one voice, Europe can move forward,” newcomer Macron told a room almost filled to bursting point with reporters as he stood alongside the German chancellor.

“There can be no pertinent solution if it is not a pertinent solution for France and Germany,” the 39-year-old centre-right leader.

Despite her more pragmatic tone, the message from 62-year-old Merkel was the same.

“This press conference shows that we are resolved to jointly find solutions to problems,” she said.

The joint press conference came exactly a year after Britain’s shock referendum vote to become the first country to leave the European Union, which prompted dire predictions of the break-up of the bloc.

But Europe has jumped on the bandwagon of Macron’s stunning election victory over French far-right leader Marine Le Pen to trumpet a newfound optimism after years of austerity and crisis despite Brexit.

At the heart of that is the idea that Macron may be able to repair the traditional “engine” behind European integration — the post-war alliance of Paris and Berlin after centuries of conflict.

– ‘More than a symbol’ –

The French and German leaders — variously dubbed Merkron, Mackerel and Emmangela in the style of celebrity couple nicknames — said they intended to use that engine to get moving.

Macron insisted that the decision of the two leaders to appear together was more than just a piece of political posturing.

“It is more than a symbol, it is a true work ethic,” he said.

Merkel and Macron insisted on their unity on a host of issues including plans to boost Europe’s defence capabilities, with the continent unable to rely on Britain or the United States under Donald Trump.

They also proclaimed their togetherness on climate change– especially after Trump pulled out of the Paris climate deal — counter-terrorism and trade issues.

However they were careful to avoid going into the details of delicate subjects like the reform of the eurozone, a pet project of Macron who wants it to have its own parliament and finance minister.

“We don’t announce in advance things that we can’t hold to,” said the ever-sensible chancellor, when asked if they would finally commit to concrete proposals after German elections in September.

The pair also both took a cautious stance on British Prime Minister Theresa May’s offer on the rights of EU citizens living in Britain after Brexit.

But in one area, Macron may have found that his summit honeymoon was over almost before it started.

His EU colleagues poured cold water on his proposal to hand Brussels more powers to control Chinese investments in strategic European industries.

“Fairer trade is preferable than the law of the jungle,” Macron told the press conference as he defended his plans.

by Danny KEMP

Theresa May’s Presentation at the EU Summit Called ‘Below Our Expectations’ by Donald Tusk — Merkel says May’s Brexit proposals ‘not a breakthrough’ — ‘We will not allow ourselves to be divided.’

June 23, 2017


German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the end of an EU summit in Brussels on Friday that proposals from British Prime Minister Theresa May on preserving the rights of EU citizens after Brexit were “not the breakthrough”.

Speaking at a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, Merkel said: “It was a good start but it was also not the breakthrough, to put it conservatively.”

“It became clear during the discussion last night that we have a long path ahead of us. And the 27 (other EU countries), especially Germany and France, will be well prepared, we will not allow ourselves to be divided.”

The two leaders also made clear that they would not pursue changes to the EU’s Lisbon Treaty unless reform of the bloc demanded it, saying much could be achieved short of treaty change.

And they sent the same message to eastern countries like Poland and Hungary who have been accused by the European Commission of threatening the rule of law by taking steps to limit the powers of the media and judiciary.

“The EU is based on common values,” Merkel said. “If we see that these values are being damaged … we need to speak out.”

(Reporting by Noah Barkin)



Theresa May’s Presentation at the EU Summit Called ‘Below Our Expectations’ by Donald Tusk

Theresa May holds a press conference in Brussels on Friday afternoon CREDIT: GEERT VANDEN WIJNGAERT/AP


  • Theresa May sets out plans to allow 3 million EU citizens to stay in UK
  • But European leaders line up to criticise the proposals 
  • Donald Tusk: Offer below our expectations, risks worsening situation
  • Jean-Claude Juncker: Offer is not sufficient
  • Angela Merkel: PM’s plans a good start but many issues remain
  • Dutch PM: ‘Thousands of questions to ask’ about proposals
  • George Osborne’s Evening Standard claims May blocked EU citizens offer
  • PM rejects accusation: Certainly not my recollection

Theresa May has been forced to defend her offer to give more than three million European Union citizens living in the UK the right to stay permanently post-Brexit after EU leaders lined up to criticise the proposals.

The Prime Minister made a “fair and serious offer” to European leaders in Brussels as she pledged that all citizens who arrived in Britain before she triggered Article 50 in March would…

Read more:

Merkel and Macron To Hold Joint News Conference at End of EU Summit

June 23, 2017

BRUSSELS — German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron will hold a joint news conference on Friday at the end of a European Union summit, a rare step which underscores the push for deeper cooperation between Berlin and Paris.

German and French officials confirmed that the two would respond to post-summit questions from reporters together. The last time leaders from both countries held a joint news conference at an EU summit was in Bratislava in September, when Merkel appeared with Francois Hollande.

(Reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey; Writing by Noah Barkin)

Image result for Macron, Merkel, photos

Will Djibouti Become Africa’s Dubai?

June 23, 2017

It’s a weird place, really, says one foreign diplomat of the tiny, strategically located republic on the Horn of Africa that’s made itself a global player with help of Chinese investment without losing its soul


The South China Morning Post
23 JUN 2017

Nowadays, however, this tiny republic of about 900,000 people on the Horn of Africa has grand plans to establish itself on the global stage. And international powers are increasingly interested in what it has to offer: “an oasis in a bad neighbourhood”, as one foreign ambassador puts it.

Since gaining independence from France, in 1977, Djibouti has carved out a regional role by virtue of its strategic and commercial relevance. At the junction of Africa and the Middle East, and at the confluence of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, Djibouti overlooks waters used by 30 per cent of the shipping that passes through the Suez Canal.

Obock, a small town in Djibouti. Picture: James Jeffrey

Chinese investment totalling more than US$12 billion is funding the building of six ports, two airports, a railway and what is being touted as the biggest and most dynamic free-trade zone in Africa. Enthusiastic officials talk of the capital, Djibouti City, becoming an African Dubai.

All aboard for Africa’s heartland – on a train built in China

Overseas powers view Djibouti as some of the most valuable military real estate in the world, necessary to both counter the piracy threatening that key shipping lane and to shore up regional stability. Foreign military personnel already stationed in Djibouti – including those from the United States, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Japan – number about 25,000. China’s first overseas military base will house a further 10,000 military personnel.

But beyond the barracks, construction cranes and new flashy hotels, a very different Djibouti survives.

A ferry from the capital sails across the Gulf of Tadjoura to the small town of Obock. Passengers sit on the open deck, above a handful of cars and boxes of cargo crammed in tight, whiling away the two-hour journey by vigorously fanning themselves, sipping Ethiopian coffee freshly brewed over a coal brazier and perching on the forward raised walkways to enjoy the breeze and the views over the water towards the distant Goda Mountains.

A China-funded port under construction in Djibouti. Picture: Alamy

In 1862, the Afar sultans sold their land to the French, and construction of Obock began. But it was soon eclipsed by Djibouti City and little remains to suggest that Obock, with its dusty streets and small fishing industry, was once the country’s capital.

How a Chinese investment boom is changing the face of Djibouti

Come sunset, wooden fishing boats are tied up along the beach a stone’s throw from ramshackle huts on the town’s edge. Beside the ferry pier, lights come on at Obock’s large mosque, as preparations are made for evening prayers.

A further 40km west by minibus, along the surf-pounded shore, Tadjoura nestles in the shadow of the green Goda Mountains. With its palm trees, whitewashed houses and numerous mosques, there’s an Arabian feel to this town, even allowing for the daily queues of people waiting outside bakeries to collect baguettes – a Gallic-inspired scene repeated across the country.

A container terminal in Djibouti. Picture: James Jeffrey

Djibouti’s days as colonial French Somaliland have left a mark in other ways. Along with Somali, Afar and Arabic, French remains one of the main languages. A constant stream of “bonsoirs” greets the visitor during an evening wander amid the colonial-style architecture, orderly avenues and boulevards of Djibouti City’s so-called European quarter and its focal point, Place du 27 Juin 1977, a large square of white­washed buildings and Moorish arcades named for the date of national independence.

Welcome to limbo: Somaliland, country that never was

To the south lies the dustier and more ramshackle African quarter. Here, a heady melting pot bubbles: cafés brew coffee in the traditional Ethiopian style, Yemeni restaurants serve their speciality poisson Yemenite and the haggling in the open-air markets is in rapid-fire Somali.

The streets become livelier still once the sun has set, as people take advantage of a slight easing of the heat to peruse street-side stalls and markets, meet over sweet Somali tea in open-air cafés or ice cream in the giant Place Mahmoud Harbi square, in the lee of the Hamoudi Mosque, or simply find a spot on the street in which to sit and chew the mildly narcotic khat and gossip away the long hot night.

Locals in Tadjoura buying their daily baguettes. Picture: James Jeffrey

Whether this lively blend will withstand modernisation is a concern for some locals, proud of their country’s past and its mixture of traditions.

“My fear is not about cultural change, because we need that as this is an ultra-conservative society,” says an elegant Djiboutian professional in her early 30s, her hair covered in the Muslim style, a cigarette clasped in her slender fingers as the sun dips behind the distant old port. “It is more about the effects on our customs, such as traditional clothing, food and decorations that symbolise our identity.”

The good, bad and ugly sides of Cape Town – world’s No 2 destination in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2017 guide

Others are more outspoken, criticising Djibouti’s strategic and economic upswing and lamenting a country run by a business-savvy dictatorship that has reaped profits from its superpower tenants while not doing enough to relieve poverty.

The “African quarter” in Djibouti City. Picture: James Jeffrey

Admittedly, dreams of a Dubai-type future don’t appear to have much relevance for most Djiboutians, 42 per cent of whom live in extreme poverty while up to 60 per cent of the labour force are unemployed. Furthermore, a 2014 US State Department human-rights report cited the authorities’ restrictions on free speech and assembly, their use of excessive force, including torture, as well as the harassment and detention of government critics.

Foreign visitors are unlikely to encounter this side to the country, however. Djibouti is one of the safest destinations in Africa, with the large Western military presence being an influential factor. Even pickpocketing is rare. A greater danger is presented by unscrupulous tour operators overcharging for a trip into the interior to see the country’s otherworldly offerings.

Tiny African nation of Djibouti banks on Chinese tourists

Located 140km southwest of Djibouti City, Lake Abbe has been described as a slice of the moon on the crust of the Earth. Its science-fiction-like landscape is dotted with hundreds of limestone chimneys, some as tall as 50 metres, belching out puffs of steam. Nomads depend on the area’s mineral-rich springs to nourish pasture for their camels and goats. Flamingoes gather on the banks of the lake at dawn.

Men play a traditional Afar game at a beach in Tadjoura. Picture: James Jeffrey

Lake Assal, 100km west of the capital, displays another of Africa’s most spectacular natural phenomena. Encircled by dark, dormant volcanoes, this crater lake 155 metres below sea level is the lowest point on the continent. Its aquamarine water is ringed by a huge salt flat, 60 metres deep in parts and mined for centuries by the Afar nomads, who can still be seen loading up their camels for the long trek inland to Ethiopia’s markets.

Harar: ancient Ethiopian city that reveres ‘magical’ hyenas

Meanwhile, back in the 21st century, ships continue to glide to and from the nation’s ports, where cranes offload containers onto waiting trucks late into the night under arc lights. Lacking a river or extractable minerals, Djibouti’s location has always been its most precious resource, accounting for the armies, mercenaries, smugglers, gun­runners and traders – anyone and everyone concerned with the movement or control of merchandise – it has attracted in the past 150 years.

“It’s a weird place, really,” says a foreign diplomat in neighbouring Ethiopia. “I don’t know why more isn’t reported about it.”

Location of Djibouti

EU leaders will take on the issue of globalisation at a Brussels summit — And how to deal with others seeking more protections like France and the U.S.

June 23, 2017


© AFP / by Alex PIGMAN | EU leaders will take on the issue of globalisation at a Brussels summit

BRUSSELS (AFP) – EU leaders tackle the thorny topic of globalisation at a summit on Friday with deep divisions between proponents of free markets and others seeking more protections, most notably France.

The election of “America First” President Donald Trump has sown confusion in Europe, with free trade advocates asking that the EU take leadership and sign new trade deals with Japan, Mexico and South America.

But French President Emmanuel Macron has warned leaders to prioritise protections for Europeans worried about globalisation or risk a spike in populist sentiment that helped Trump win the presidency and brought on Brexit.

“It’s not a secret that there is not one single view on how globalisation can be better controlled,” a senior EU diplomat said ahead of the summit, on condition of anonymity.

“There are quite a few nuances between those who are more free on trade and those who want to have more controls,” he added.

The most divisive issue is a proposal spearheaded by pro-EU Macron to hand Brussels more powers to control Chinese investments in Europe’s key industries.

“I’m in favour of fair protection… I’m in favour of free trade, not of being naive,” Macron said after a first session of talks on Thursday.

Macron, who beat far-right leader Marine Le Pen in last month’s run-off, is asking that the summit launch measures towards screening investments by China in Europe that have startled some Europeans.

– Anti-dumping defenses –

But according to a draft of the summit conclusions seen by AFP, opponents of Macron’s efforts have so far succeeded in blocking the effort, in effect delaying discussion to an unspecified later date.

Instead, leaders will only ask the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, to “examine the need” to screen investments from countries outside the EU, with China the main target, the draft said.

Macron’s idea has faced significant opposition from Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic, as well as European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem, all highly suspicious of French-style meddling in the open market.

“We don’t want to hurt investment,” Malmstroem told a conference organised by Politico on Monday.

Historically, export-driven Germany has steered clear of protectionism, but recently got spooked by the acquisition of leading robot-maker Kuka by Chinese firm Midea, a transaction that caused a stir domestically.

Germany for now has quietly backed Macron in his quest to screen sensitive Chinese investments and will heavily influence the final outcome of the debate.

The summit is less divided on finding ways to set up stronger anti-dumping defenses against China and other countries.

Beijing has faced international condemnation for flooding the world with super cheap steel, solar panels and other products, leaving international rivals on their knees.

EU leaders are expected to urge EU institutions to swiftly implement anti-dumping measures currently under negotiation in Brussels.

by Alex PIGMAN