Posts Tagged ‘Hungary.’

EU refugee quota row flares up ahead of summit — “The paper prepared by President Tusk is unacceptable, it is anti-European.”

December 13, 2017

AFP

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© AFP/File | Refugees protest outside the German embassy in Athens to demand a faster family reunification process in Germany

BRUSSELS (AFP) – A row over controversial quotas for the sharing out of refugees across EU countries broke out on Wednesday on the eve of a summit where leaders will discuss the way forward on migration.EU President Donald Tusk said in a pre-summit letter to leaders that mandatory relocation was “ineffective” and “highly divisive”, recommending that efforts should instead be directed to securing Europe’s borders.

Under a scheme introduced in 2015, asylum seekers from the frontline states of Greece and Italy were moved to other EU countries under a quota system, but Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic have refused to take almost any.

Plans by the European Commission to introduce a permanent mechanism for refugee-sharing for any future crises have been stalled for months due to fierce opposition from some member states.

EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos launched a stinging attack on Tusk on Tuesday, saying that “the paper prepared by President Tusk is unacceptable, it is anti-European.”

European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas returned to the subject on Wednesday, insisting there was “no dispute, no drama”.

But Schinas said the commission, the executive arm of the EU, “firmly disagrees with the statement that relocation as an emergency response has been ineffective.”

He said that over 32,000 people had been relocated under the plan, or 90 percent of those eligible. The scheme was originally meant to relocate 160,000 refugees.

Germany and Sweden lead the states backing a permanent quota system under a reform of the EU’s asylum rules in the wake of the biggest migration crisis in its history.

But many central and eastern European states are against them, promising a long night of talks on the issue on Thursday.

“We can expect a very lively and maybe controversial debate,” one EU diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

Reflecting the divisions, another European diplomat said that Avramapoulos had overstepped the mark “by far” with his comments, but a third said that there had been “criticism of the balance” in Tusk’s note.

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Netanyahu in Brussels With EU’s Mogherini: Israel Should Give Peace a Chance

December 11, 2017

Netanyahu’s visit comes on the heels of a harsh exchange with the organization’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who fiercely opposed Trump’s Jerusalem move

(Brussels, Belgium) Dec 11, 2017 9:24 AM
Image result for Netanyahu, Federica Mogherini, photos

File photo: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and the European Union chief of foreign policy 

An Israeli prime minister has not traveled to Brussels, the heart of the EU, in 22 years.

Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, and the ramifications of the policy shift, are expected to be a dominant issue during the meetings. Various EU leaders have slammed Trump for the Jerusalem-recognition move, saying that by doing so he has taken Israel’s side on the Jerusalem issue.

The EU has for years adopted the Palestinian position on the matter, saying east Jerusalem needs to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Despite Mogherini’s tough words about the recognition, the EU foreign ministers did not immediately issue a condemnation of the move, because of opposition from Hungary and the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic – a strong ally of Israel inside the EU – followed Trump’s recognition by announcing that it was recognizing west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists in Paris protested on Saturday against Netanyahu’s visit, holding Palestinian flags and pictures of Macron branded as an “accomplice.” Protests also took place in numerous capitals over the weekend, including in Berlin, Beirut, London, Mogadishu, Amman and Tehran, as well as in Istanbul.

The Turkish daily Hurriyet quoted a presidential source as saying that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Macron spoke by phone on Saturday and agreed to “close cooperation” on the Jerusalem issue.

According to Huriyet, the two presidents “agreed to continue efforts to convince the US to reconsider its decision.”

Erdogan has called for an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul on Wednesday to discuss the matter. Observers in Jerusalem say that the Turkish president is trying to “ride” the issue into a leadership position on the Arab and Muslim street, similar to what he did following the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010 when he became the temporary darling of the Muslim world for his tough rhetoric and confrontational approach to Israel.

Erdogan also spoke on the phone with the presidents of Lebanon, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan on Saturday regarding the issue. Israel has strong ties with both Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.

One senior diplomatic official said that Netanyahu’s visit to Paris and Brussels will undoubtedly be “hot,” and that the prime minister is “furious” at Mogherini for her comments.

According to assessments in Jerusalem, there are influential voices in the EU saying that this is an opportunity to “provide an alternative” and to initiate a peace plan of their own, perhaps reviving the French initiative that died earlier this year when presidents François Hollande of France and Barack Obama of the US left office.

Netanyahu, according to diplomatic sources, has sought a meeting with all the EU foreign ministers for months, but had to overcome initial skepticism on their part.

He is expected to “stand up” to the Europeans, criticizing their “obsession” over the settlements and telling them that they are feeding Palestinian intransigence by giving the impression that a solution can be imposed on Israel from the outside.

Mogherini announced last week that she invited Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to meet the foreign ministers at their monthly parley next month.

http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Benjamin-Netanyahu/Defiant-Netanyahu-travels-to-lions-den-517565

See also Haaretz (Paywall):

https://www.haaretz.com/world-news/europe/.premium-1.828186

BRUSSELS – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded a possible peace deal being drafted by the White House while speaking at the European Union in Brussels…
read more: https://www.haaretz.com/world-news/europe/.premium-1.828186

Netanyahu faces pressure in Europe amid Jerusalem protests — Netanyahu has taken aim at what he called Europe’s “hypocrisy,” for condemning Trump’s statement

December 11, 2017

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he leaves the Elysee Palace on Sunday in Paris. (AFP)

BRUSSELS: Israel’s leader faces renewed pressure from Europe on Monday to reboot the Middle East’s moribund peace process following widespread criticism of the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be in Brussels for an informal breakfast with EU foreign ministers who will urge him to “resume meaningful negotiations,” according to the bloc’s diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini.

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The talks come after French President Emmanuel Macron met Netanyahu in Paris on Sunday and called on him to freeze settlement building and to re-engage with Palestinians following widespread protests over the US move.

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Last week’s decision by the administration of US President Donald Trump upended decades of US diplomacy and broke with international consensus.

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Speaking alongside Netanyahu on Sunday, Macron again condemned the decision as “contrary to international law and dangerous for the peace process.”

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“I urged the prime minister to show courage in his dealings with the Palestinians to get us out of the current dead end,” Macron said after talks in Paris with the Israeli leader.

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“Peace does not depend on the United States alone… it depends on the capacity of the two Israeli and Palestinian leaders to do so,” the French leader said.
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Netanyahu has praised Trump’s decision as “historic” and he explained Sunday that Jerusalem “has always been our capital and it has never been the capital of any other people.”
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“It has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years, it has been the capital of the Jewish state for 70 years. We respect your history and your choices and we know that as friends you respect ours. I think this is also central for peace,” he said.
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“The sooner the Palestinians come to grips with this reality, the sooner we’ll move toward peace.”
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Before leaving Israel, Netanyahu had taken aim at what he called Europe’s “hypocrisy,” for condemning Trump’s statement, but not “the rockets fired at Israel or the terrible incitement against it.”
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Pointedly, Macron began his pre-prepared remarks with a clear condemnation “with the greatest of clarity of all forms of attacks in the last hours and days against Israel.”
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Despite the obvious differences between the 39-year-old French leader and the Israeli hard-liner, there were also attempts to show they had developed a good early working relationship and held common views.
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“Does this mean Emmanuel Macron and me agree on everything? No, not all of it, but we’re working it,” Netanyahu said at one point, joking later: “The lunch in the Elysee is superb, the conversation is superb too.”
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The two countries are keen to reset ties after often difficult exchanges under ex-president Francois Hollande.Most EU members, including the bloc’s biggest countries, have expressed alarm over the Trump administration’s policy shift.
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Mogherini has warned the decision on Jerusalem “has the potential to send us backwards to even darker times than the ones we’re already living in.”
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Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Friday, she repeated Europe’s stance that “the only realistic solution” for peace was two states — Israel and Palestine — with Jerusalem as the capital of both and the borders returned to their status before the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
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“It is in Israel’s security interest to find a lasting solution to this decades-long conflict,” she added.
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But the 28-member block is not unified on the issue — Hungary, Greece, Lithuania and the Czech Republic in particular favor warmer ties with Israel.
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Last week Hungary broke ranks to block a joint statement from the EU that was critical of Washington’s Jerusalem shift.
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Trump’s announcement on Wednesday has been followed by days of protests and clashes in the Palestinian territories.
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Four Palestinians were killed either in clashes or from Israeli air strikes in retaliation for rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.
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Tens of thousands have also protested in Muslim and Arab countries, including Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia.
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Further protests were held in Lebanon, Indonesia, Egypt and the Palestinian territories on Sunday.
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Macron was also asked if France would attempt to launch another peace initiative to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict following failed efforts in the past.
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“There’s a desire by the Americans to mediate which remains and I don’t want to condemn it ab initio (from the beginning),” he said. “We need to wait for the next few weeks, the next months to see what will be proposed.
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“And I think we have to wait to see whether the interested parties accept it or not.”
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Netanyahu was an outspoken critic of efforts by former French president Hollande to push a Middle East peace process.

 

Czech PM designate: EU should not push us over migrants — EU might embolden extremist elements

December 9, 2017

Reuters

PRAGUE (Reuters) – The designated Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said that the European Union should not push Czechs over their refusal to shelter asylum-seekers, because it could strengthen extremist parties in the country.

 Image may contain: 1 person, standing, suit and indoor

Czech newly appointed Prime Minister Andrej Babis attends a news conference at Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic December 6, 2017. REUTERS/David W Cerny

The European Union’s executive will sue Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic in the bloc’s top court for their refusal to host asylum-seekers, Brussels said on Thursday.

Babis, whose government is due to be appointed by President Milos Zeman on Dec. 13, repeated his country’s stance on migrants.

“The (European) Commission can withdraw the charge at any moment. We have to negotiate on this and to offer different models, like guarding the borders or help to other countries. But we don’t want any refugees,” Babis said in an interview published on Saturday by the Pravo daily paper.

He will represent his country at the EU summit on Dec. 14 and Dec. 15, where European leaders will discuss migration.

The Czechs have declined to shelter asylum-seekers despite an overall drop in arrivals due to tighter borders and projects beyond the EU’s frontiers to discourage migration to Europe.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) cases could lead to financial penalties but may take months, or years, to conclude.

Babis said that by pushing on with the case, the EU might embolden extremist elements.

“The EU has to understand, that if it won’t listen to our proposals, then the influence of extremist parties like (Germany‘s) AfD or (Czech) SPD will grow, whose strategy actually is to destroy the EU,” he said.

Despite his ANO party winning the parliamentary election by a landslide in October, it is unclear whether Babis will be able to win a confidence vote for his government by mid-January as required by the constitution. He also faces the threat of prosecution in connection with his business interests.

The far-right, anti-EU and anti-NATO SPD party and the Communists have lent ANO support in several initial votes in parliament in return for committee posts for their members, raising the prospect that they may have some kind of agreement to back ANO.

But Babis reiterated in the Pravo interview that there was no deal in place and he would talk to all parties to either back the cabinet or abstain from the vote to help ANO win.

Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

EU steps up pressure on Hungary over Soros school, NGO laws, migration

December 7, 2017

Image result for Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Hungary, photos

Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Hungary

Reuters

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s executive on Thursday stepped up its pressure on the nationalist government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Hungary over its treatment of immigrants, non-governmental groups (NGOs) and a liberal school.

Orban has been locked in a series of running battles with the EU, where Western states and the Brussels-based executive Commission decry what they see as his authoritarian leanings, the squeezing of the opposition and the free media.

In a series of legal announcements, the European Commission said it was taking Budapest to the bloc’s top court, the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice, over its NGO laws as well as a higher education law that has targeted a Budapest university founded by U.S. financier George Soros.

Brussels also confirmed it was taking Hungary – along with eastern EU peers Poland and the Czech Republic – to the tribunal over refusing to host asylum-seekers under an EU-wide quota system.

It has in addition stepped up its legal case against Budapest over Hungary’s asylum laws.

Separately on Thursday, European lawmakers were debating whether the rule of law and democratic standards in Hungary are under threat more generally and to an extent that would merit the triggering of an unprecedented punishment against Budapest.

The so-called Article 7 procedure would shame Orban by denouncing his government as undemocratic and could even lead to the maximum – though practically highly unlikely – sanction of stripping Hungary of its voting rights in the EU.

The Commission’s First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, however, made clear the executive did not side with the parliament’s broader, tougher view of Hungary.

“We believe that we are dealing with very specific issues where we have disagreements with the Hungarian government,” Timmermans told a news conference. “For now, the Commission does not see the need to move to another track.”

“The situation in Hungary is not in that sense comparable to the systemic threats to the rule of law which we see in Poland,” he said of Orban’s closest EU ally, the euroskeptic, nationalist Polish government of the Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, Lily Cusack and Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Hugh Lawson

Soros rebukes ‘bad’ Hungary PM Orban

December 1, 2017

AFP

© POOL/AFP/File | (FILES) This file photo taken on April 27, 2017 shows George Soros, Founder and Chairman of the Open Society Foundations as he arrives for a meeting in Brussels.George Soros spoke out Monday, November 20, 2017, for the first time about Hungary’s “survey” on the US financier and philanthropist’s views and alleged intentions on immigration, accusing Budapest of “distortions and outright lies”.

BUDAPEST (AFP) – 

US billionaire George Soros launched a fresh broadside Friday at Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, accusing him of taking an anti-democratic turn and of creating a “mafia regime”.

As a young leader of Hungary’s democratic movement before the fall of communism, Orban received a grant from the Hungarian-born Soros’s Open Society Foundation (OSF) to study at Oxford University.

“Our relationship went bad because he went bad, he has changed a great deal,” said the 87-year-old Soros in a video published on an OSF-run website.

“Back then, he was one of the leaders who helped to create democracy. But he changed and he transformed democracy into an anti-democratic regime.”

Orban has created a “mafia regime,” according to Soros, where “leaders used their positions to keep themselves in power and to get rich”.

“The current system suppresses people more than under the Russian occupation,” he said, as under communism it was easier to help people get information.

In the 1980s Soros sent photocopying machines to Hungarian civil groups to improve citizens’ access to information.

The comments follow a rare statement last week by Soros that blasted “lies” contained in a months-long government campaign attacking his alleged pro-immigration stance.

The right-wing Orban has been stepping up his attacks on Soros this year calling him a “public enemy” for his “liberal agenda” and alleged encouragement and even orchestration of mass migration into Europe.

Orban, who is running for re-election next year, says the “poison” of Muslim immigration poses a security risk and threatens Europe’s Christian culture and identity.

In October the government, which also says Soros is influencing EU policy, sent a “national consultation” survey to households to canvass opinion on what it calls the “Soros Plan”.

The survey, which the government calls a “democratic exercise”, has been accompanied by a nationwide poster and media blitz that prominently features the Jewish emigre financier’s laughing face, an image that Hungary’s leading Jewish organisation has said could stoke anti-Semitism.

Earlier this year parliament, dominated by Orban’s ruling Fidesz party, approved a law seen as targeting non-governmental organisations supported by Soros, and another that has threatened with closure a Budapest university Soros founded after the fall of communism.

In a radio interview on Friday Orban said the recent remarks by Soros amounted to an “entry” by his “network” into the 2018 election campaign.

Soros says Hungarian government lying in attacks against him

November 20, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

FILE PHOTO: Business magnate George Soros arrives to speak at the Open Russia Club in London, Britain June 20, 2016. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/File Photo Reuters

By Marton Dunai

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – U.S. financier George Soros on Monday denounced a Hungarian government campaign against him as “distortions and lies” designed to create a false external enemy.

Soros, 86, is a Hungarian-born Jew whose longtime support for liberal and open-border values in eastern Europe have put him at odds with right-wing nationalists, in particular the government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Orban, who faces elections in April 2018, last month sent to voters seven statements attributed to Soros that, among other things, called for the European Union to settle a million migrants a year and pay each of them thousands of euros.

“The statements… contain distortions and outright lies that deliberately mislead Hungarians about George Soros’s views on migrants and refugees,” said a statement issued by Soros’s Open Society Foundations.

“With Hungary’s health care and education systems in distress and corruption rife, the current government has sought to create an outside enemy to distract citizens. The government selected George Soros for this purpose,” it said.

It said each of the seven statements was a distortion or lie, refuting them one by one. It said Soros proposed admitting an annual 300,000 refugees to the EU only while strengthening European border controls and making migrant relocations within the bloc voluntary, not mandatory as Budapest asserted.

It said Soros proposed no payments to migrants, rather EU subsidies to member states to help them cope with migration.

“LIE”

To three other proposals attributed to Soros – that he wanted milder criminal sentences for migrants, to push national cultures and languages into the background to facilitate easier integration of migrants and sanctions against countries that oppose migration, the Open Society statement said, “Nowhere has Soros made any such statement(s). This is a lie.”

A Hungarian government spokesman was not immediately available for comment on the Open Society statement.

Orban once received a Soros grant to study at Britain’s Oxford University but later turned against the billionaire philanthropist, vilifying him as an alleged mastermind of a global agenda to weaken nation states.

The election campaign of Orban’s Fidesz party has built on a series of billboards warning Hungarians, “Don’t let Soros have the last laugh” and showing a laughing Soros in black and white. Some of the billboards have had “stinking Jew” scrawled on them.

The billboards, along with calls from Orban to preserve Hungary’s “ethnic homogeneity” and his endorsement of a World Two Hungarian leader who allied with Nazi Germany, drew accusations of anti-Semitism earlier this year.

Alluding to the billboards and to Orban’s rejection of immigration, especially from Muslim nations, the Open Society Foundations accused Budapest of “stoking anti-Muslim sentiment and employing anti-Semitic tropes reminiscent of the 1930s”.

Fidesz pulled the billboard campaign just before a July visit to Budapest by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Orban vowed to fight anti-Semitism.

The government has denied its campaign was anti-Semitic, and re-launched the billboards in the autumn in promoting a “national consultation” with voters.

(Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Polish Nationalist Youth March Draws Thousands in Capital

November 12, 2017

Crowd of mostly young people carries banners that read ‘Europe Will Be White’ and ‘Clean Blood’

WARSAW—Tens of thousands of Poles marched across downtown Warsaw on Saturday, in an independence-day procession organized by a nationalist youth movement that seeks an ethnically pure Poland with fewer Jews or Muslims.

The largely young crowd shot off roman candles and many chanted “fatherland,” carrying banners that read “White Europe,” “Europe Will Be White” and “Clean Blood.” Some of the marchers flew in from Hungary, Slovakia and Spain and waved flags and symbols that those countries used during their wartime collaboration with Nazi Germany.

A number of people in the crowd said they didn’t belong to any neo-fascist or racist organization but didn’t see a problem with the overall tone of what has become Poland’s biggest independence day event.

“There are of course nationalists and fascists at this march,” said Mateusz, a 27-year-old wrapped in a Polish flag, “I’m fine with it. I’m just happy to be here.”

The march, organized by a group called the National Radical Camp, underscores the rightward politics of a growing section of Polish youth. The Radical Camp presents itself as the heir to a 1930s fascist movement of the same name, which fought to rid Poland of Jews in the years just before the Holocaust. A second group, All Polish Youth, also named after an anti-Jewish interwar movement, co-organized it.

Demonstrators burned flares and waved Polish flags during the march.Photo: Czarek Sokolowski/Associated Press

Officials in the city government said they thought the march reflected poorly on Poland, but they said they had no choice but to approve the demonstration, as it fulfilled the legal requirements: It qualified as a celebration of Polish history. “This is not the type of event I would take my children to,” said Agnieszka Kłąb, spokesperson for the Warsaw City Council.

The Radical Camp has been holding independence-day marches since 2009. Until several years ago, it struggled to attract more than a few hundred people. In the past three years, it has become the largest independence-day occasion in Poland, and one of the largest nationalist marches of its kind anywhere in Europe. Saturday’s was expected to be the largest ever. Police estimated the crowd at 60,000.

“It’s getting more and more vicious,” said Jakub Skrzypek, 25, one of about a dozen counterprotesters standing behind a banner that read “We Are Polish Jews” and surrounded by police. “We are really in fear.”

The Radical Camp’s followers argue, on their social-media accounts and in their literature, that the influx of Syrian refugees into Europe is part of a conspiracy driven by Jewish financiers, who are working with Communists in the European Union to bring Muslims into Europe, and with them, Shariah law and homosexuality.

The group has regularly held events to mark a 1936 pogrom against Jews. Its symbols were displayed on a banner that appeared over a Warsaw bridge, reading: “Pray for Islamic Holocaust.”

People took part in a antifascist counterprotest held by an umbrella coalition for organizations and social movements that oppose nationalism in Poland.Photo: obara/epa-efe/rex/shutterstock/EPA/Shutterstock

This year, the group said it was adopting a new slogan, a quote from a July speech here by President Donald Trump : “We want God.”

“This march is just an expression of a bigger social phenomenon, which is definitely very troubling, and is the growing acceptance of extreme nationalism and xenophobia among young people in Poland,” said Rafal Pankowski, a political-science professor at private university Collegium Civitas in Warsaw. “It is a contrast: Polish parents and grandparents are paradoxically more liberal than their young.”

Richard Spencer, an American until recently banned from 26 European countries who wants to create a country just for white people in North America, was invited. The Polish government asked him to stay home, and he didn’t show up. Roberto Fiore, an Italian anti-immigration politician who describes himself as a fascist, was scheduled to appear.

Some Poles on Facebook and Twitter said they were staying away from the city center on their country’s independence day, to avoid potential violence. Three previous years’ marches devolved into tear-gas-clouded scuffles with police. Police detained at least 45 people Saturday.

The crowds drawn to Saturday’s march reflect the politics taking hold in the soccer clubs and youth hangouts where Radical Camp recruits. The group holds a staunch nativist standpoint, saying the European Union and Russia represent equal threats to Polish sovereignty. It argues that Polish people should nationalize the assets belonging to foreign corporations and distribute the profits across an ethnically homogenous state

The nationalist parade was held under the slogan ‘We Want God,’ a quote from a July speech here by U.S. President Donald Trump. Photo: zborows/epa-efe/rex/shutterstock/EPA/Shutterstock

Similar movements have taken hold—even captured seats in parliament—in Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic. Some of these countries are among Europe’s most prospering. Poland is the only country in the EU that didn’t experience a single quarter of economic contraction after the financial crisis.

Still, the fear that Poland is under siege by distant elites has captured the imagination of some here, as has the worry that hordes of immigrants could soon pour over the border. Government-controlled media broadcasts near-nightly reports on crimes committed by Muslims in Europe. On Saturday, Polish state television called the procession a “great march of patriots.

“It’s like this inner need we have,” said Lukasz, a 24-year-old protester. “We want a Poland that will be for Polish people.”

—Natalia Ojewska contributed to this article.

Write to Drew Hinshaw at drew.hinshaw@wsj.com

Amnesty International Secretary General Says President Duterte Runs a “War on the Poor” — “The national police are breaking laws they are supposed to uphold while profiting from murder”

October 8, 2017
Speaking about corruption during the One Young World Summit on Thursday (Friday in Manila), AI secretary general Salil Shetty cited Duterte as among the world leaders who fail to directly address significant issues hounding their respective constituencies. PCOO/Released

BOGOTÁ, Colombia – An official of international human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) criticized President Duterte during a youth summit here attended by over 1,300 international delegates.

Speaking about corruption during the One Young World Summit on Thursday (Friday in Manila), AI secretary general Salil Shetty cited Duterte as among the world leaders who fail to directly address significant issues hounding their respective constituencies.

“What (Donald) Trump is doing in the United States is not unique to the US,” Shetty said, referring to the US President’s controversial policies such as the ban on Muslims and refugees.

“Instead of dealing with issues such as corruption, inequality, discrimination, racial injustices, what he does and other leaders – take Duterte in the Philippines for example and (Prime Minister Viktor) Orbán in Hungary – instead of dealing with real issues, they divert their attention and (they use) particular parts of the community (as scapegoats),” he added.

Shetty did not provide additional details in his speech, although the organization is known to be a critic of Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs and the Hungarian government’s recent policy on foreign funding for non-government organizations.

AI claimed that the Philippine government may be held liable for crimes against humanity over the death of thousands in the so-called war on drugs.

“This is not a war on drugs, but a war on the poor. Often on the flimsiest of evidence, people accused of using or selling drugs are being killed for cash in an economy of murder,” the group claimed in its report in January.

“Under President Duterte’s rule, the national police are breaking laws they are supposed to uphold while profiting from the murder of impoverished people the government was supposed to uplift. The same streets Duterte vowed to rid of crime are now filled with bodies of people illegally killed by his own police,” it added.

The Philippine government has denied the claims and maintained that the campaign is necessary to address the drug problem in the country.

In his speech, Shetty maintained that AI is a non-partisan organization that is focused on ensuring human rights for all.

“Amnesty International just says the truth the way it is. It doesn’t beat around the bush. We have no political agenda, no religious, no economic, no orthodoxy. The only thing we do is we stand up for human rights,” he said.

Youth vs. corruption

During the summit, Shetty and other advocates urged the youth to take part in efforts to address corruption and seek accountability from officials.

“Corruption affects everybody, but there is no question that it affects the poor, the marginalized, the voiceless significantly more,” he said.

“Young people are standing up against injustice, against corruption. It’s not that you always win that battle, it’s a tough battle, but victories are not uncommon,” he added.

Thuli Madonsela, former public protector of South Africa who is in charge of investigating misconduct of government officials, said the problem of corruption is systemic all around world.

“Young people should use technology to hold governments accountable,” she said.

“They need to send strong messages to those who want to govern that say that if you don’t end corruption, we will not vote for you,” added Madonsela, who is also part of the team that drafted South Africa’s constitution signed by former president Nelson Mandela.

Nobel Peace Prize 2011 laureate Tawakkol Karman said states need to put into place legislation that tackles corruption and promotes transparency.

“If we want to fight corruption, we need a strong constitution, stable institutions and strict laws,” she said.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/10/08/1746642/ai-exec-hits-duterte-colombian-youth-summit

Macron’s eurozone plans put eastern EU members on the spot

September 28, 2017

French President Emmanuel Macron is impatient to reinvigorate the eurozone. But this puts the EU’s eastern members in a dilemma: stay out and risk losing clout in Brussels or join and risk losing economic sovereignty?

USA Präsident Macron vor der UN-Vollversammlung (Reuters/S. Stapleton)

Macron reiterated his view this week that a multi-speed Europe led by a core of ‘avant-garde’ countries could be the price worth paying for pushing the eurozone — and the European project more widely — forward in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.

“We should imagine a Europe of several formats — going further with those who want to advance, while not being held back by states which want to progress slower or not as far,” Macron said.

“It appears that Macron would like a tighter, more centralized eurozone with France and Germany at its heart,” Liam Carson of Capital Economics told DW. “However, he remained fairly vague on euro-zone specifics, probably because of the worse than expected outcome for [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel in the German election.”

But Macron’s words have fallen on some deaf ears in Central and Eastern Europe, a region struggling with political uncertainty and growing Euroskepticism, despite continued strong growth.

Of the nine new member states that joined the EU in 2004-2009, the Baltic countries, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta have adopted the euro, while Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia have not yet done so.

Critics argue that speeding up the process of monetary — as a precursor to fiscal — integration might fuel the overheating that was seen in Southern Europe after the 2007-8 financial crisis and subsequent recession.

But, “if the eurozone can generate growth throughout the 19 nations and not just the center, then any new institutions may prompt the non-euro members to want to join. If not, then the divisions would surely widen,” Linda Yueh, a professor of Economics at London Business School, told DW.

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‘It’s now or never’

Will Hutton, a British economist, told DW that while a two-speed Europe is a risk, “the time has come for this. Macron’s plans are the biggest boost to Europe since the early 1990s, the era of Jacques Delors.”

“Sure, Macron is using Merkel’s weakness, but Europe is on the cusp of an economic run and while some eastern European economies might not be able to stand the pace, Europe can’t go on at the speed of the slowest for much longer,” Hutton said, adding that the UK might even be knocking back on the EU’s door in the next five to ten years.

All non-euro EU member states except Denmark and the UK are already legally obligated to work toward adopting the euro, by satisfying various “convergence criteria,” namely:

Inflation — Member states should have an average rate of inflation that doesn’t exceed that of the three best-performing member states by over 1.5 percent for a period of one year before being assessed.

Government budgets — Member states’ ratio of planned or actual government deficit to GDP should be no more than three percent. Their ratio of government debt to GDP should be no more than 60 percent.

Exchange Rates — Member states should have respected the normal fluctuation margins of the exchange rate mechanism (ERM) and should not have devalued their currency against any other member state’s currency for at least the two years before being assessed.

Interest rates — Member states should have had an average interest rate over a period of one year before being assessed that does not exceed by more than two percentage points that of the three best-performing member states.

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Central & Eastern Europe: weary and ​​​​​wary 

“It seems unlikely that any of the major economies in Central and Eastern Europe will adopt the euro any time soon,” Carson says.

“With respect to the criteria, as things stand, Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic all meet the debt, interest rate and inflation criteria for joining,” although he added that there is a good chance that loose fiscal policy in Poland and Romania will cause budget deficits to widen beyond the 3 percent of GDP threshold by next year.

“Hungary’s deficit could also widen beyond 3 percent of GDP and with public debt still well above 60 percent of GDP, it also fails the debt criteria.”

“More importantly, political appetite for joining the euro is generally waning. Accession to the eurozone in Poland and Hungary is unlikely to happen under the ruling PiS (Law and Justice) and Fidesz governments, which have both become increasingly hostile towards EU oversight of domestic policy,” Carson says.

“Poland’s opposition is based on ideological grounds, but also public support is not sufficient. In the Czech Republic the main obstacle is public support. Most of the parties would have been open to introducing the euro, but public opinion has prevented that so far. In Hungary there is strong public support and a governmental decision ahead of the 2018 elections might be a popular step,” Daniel BarthaExecutive Director of the Center for Euro-Atlantic Integration and Democracy (CEID)  in Budapest, told DW.

The Palace of Culture and Science in WarsawPoliticians in Warsaw have warned that the creation of a multi-speed Europe could “break apart” the EU.

Poland

“Brexit is not a risk for the EU … A bigger threat is if the EU starts to break apart into a multi-speed union, into blocs where some are stronger and can decide about others,” President Andrzej Duda said this month. “The result could be a divided EU that’s not politically or economically viable, which may break apart the bloc,” he added.

The bedrock of common understanding that Merkel and ex-Polish PM Donald Tusk shared is now long gone. And ties between Warsaw and Paris have been strained since August after Macron’s speech criticizing what he called Warsaw’s attack on democracy and a French plan to tighten rules on EU posted workers, such as Polish truck drivers.

The Law and Justice (PiS) government has also taken aim at Germany, demanding war reparations, attacking plans to build a second Nord Stream gas pipeline to Russia that bypasses Poland and being highly critical of its western neighbor’s policies towards refugees.

Nonetheless, Poland will start to debate whether to join the eurozone when the bloc becomes a stable and transparent entity, Konrad Szymanski, the Polish deputy foreign minister in charge of European affairs, has said.

About 80 percent of Polish international trade is accountable in euros, so entering the eurozone will significantly decrease currency risk and simplify transactions with foreign companies. Despite this, over two-thirds of Poles oppose joining the euro area.

Prague, the Czech capitalA general election to be held October 20-21, will show whether the Czechs will seek to join the EU hard core.

Czech Republic

The Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka wants his country to set a date for the adoption of the euro and has “the ambition to belong among the most advanced European countries.”

The Czech Republic has been cautious about joining the euro, on both the left and the right. No firm date has been set and in recent years governments have shied away from making predictions.

The country has a long reputation for running a credible monetary policy and traditionally has had interest rates below those in the eurozone.

“In the Czech Republic, Andrej Babis, who is the heavy favourite to become Prime Minister following next month’s elections, has continued to strongly reiterate that the Czech Republic shouldn’t adopt the currency,” according to Carson.

Hungary

Hungarian economic policy cannot abandon its long-term intention of joining the eurozone, “but there is no rush,” the economy minister, Mihaly Varga, said in June. Vargo said a currency system where monetary policy is unified but fiscal policy is not is also a viable route.

But a senior Hungarian politician said in early August that Hungary could only consider adopting the euro when its level of economic development is closer to that of the eurozone countries.

“That is, if there is genuine convergence,” Andras Tallai, state secretary at the economy ministry, said.

Hungarian parliament bulilding is seen as ice floes float on the Danube river in Budapest In 2013, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán proclaimed euro adoption would not happen until the country’s purchasing power parity weighted GDP per capita had reached 90 percent of the eurozone average.

“Otherwise, Hungary could be the loser of accession similar to some Mediterranean countries,” he went on, adding that Hungary won’t yet enter the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) — a kind of ante-chamber for eurozone aspirants — but already meets all of the Maastricht criteria for adopting the euro, with the exception of the forint not being pegged to the euro.

Hungary has to enter to the ERM2 (the exchange rate mechanism) and meet the criteria for 2 years constantly. Hungary meets all other criteria: inflation was 0.1 percent, the deficit 2.4 percent and interest rates are also around 1 percent, and although the debt level is beyond the 60 percent limit, as it is constantly reducing, Hungary also meet that criterion.

Romania

Romanian Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu has said Romania will adopt the euro only after wages in the country come close to those in other EU member states.

Romania has second lowest minimum monthly wage out of 20 EU member states, of 1,450 lei ($341/321 euro), after Bulgaria, according to a study by KPMG.

A study conducted last November by the European Institute of Romania showed that the country could join the Eurozone 13 years from now – if it sustains the average growth rate of the last 15 years.

Currently, Romania is below 60 percent of the European Union average in terms of GDP per capita.

“The story is slightly different in Romania. The foreign minister, Teodor Melescanu, recently announced that Romania will adopt the euro. However, he stated that this won’t happen until 2022. And given that previous plans to adopt the euro have been shelved, this date could easily be delayed. In short, Romania won’t become a member of the euro-zone any time soon,” Carson says.

Frankreich PK Migrationsgipfel in Paris (Reuters/C. Platiau)Angela Merkel is supporting Macron’s call for a new powerful eurozone finance minister post to oversee economic policy across the bloc. She said the new role could provide “greater coherence” to economic policy.

Merkel holds the key

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also backed a plan for a European Monetary Fund (EMF) that would redistribute money within the bloc to where it was needed.

Macron believes that the monetary union suffers from too little centralization and needs its own budget, while Merkel views the bloc’s problem as over-centralization and too little national responsibility.

Merkel has backed her Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble‘s proposal to turn the European Stability Mechanism, the eurozone’s bailout fund, into the EMF, but she does not see the official possessing “expansive powers.”

Merkel has said she wants a budget of “small contributions” rather than “hundreds of billions of euros.”

France will implement these deep structural reforms on the proviso that Germany agrees to modest steps towards fiscal federalism in the eurozone. But many in Germany — and far beyond as well — appear skeptical about Macron’s ability to achieve his domestic goals.

Still, observers say, Merkel will want to help Macron politically as it is in Germany’s interests to see that he is not replaced at the next presidential election in France by Marine Le Pen of the National Front.

http://www.dw.com/en/macrons-eurozone-plans-put-eastern-eu-members-on-the-spot/a-40709205