Posts Tagged ‘Merkel’

EU lawmakers seek checks on arms exports fuelling Yemen conflict

November 14, 2018

Tougher checks on European Union arms exports are needed and sanctions should be imposed on those countries that flout the bloc’s rules, the European Parliament said on Wednesday.

EU lawmakers said European arms were stoking the conflict in Yemen, where a Saudi Arabia-led coalition is battling Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Arms sales to Saudi Arabia by EU states undermined the European arms control effort, they said.

Yemeni pro-government forces gather on the eastern outskirts of Hodeida, as they continue their battle to wrestle control of the city from Houthi rebels, Nov. 8, 2018.

Yemeni pro-government forces gather on the eastern outskirts of Hodeida, as they continue their battle to wrestle control of the city from Houthi rebels, Nov. 8, 2018.

“In Yemen, European weapons are fundamentally responsible for the war taking place,” said German EU lawmaker Sabine Losing, who is leading efforts to hold EU governments to account.

The European Parliament’s call to strengthen checks is non-binding but it is the second time in less than a month that EU lawmakers have passed a resolution urging limits on arms sales following the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The EU is the second largest arms supplier in the world — exporting more than a quarter of all global arms — after the United States, according to the EU’s annual report on weapons exports.

That has pitted its values of peace and support for human rights against business interests.

The European Union’s so-called Common Position on arms exports lists eight criteria governments must apply when taking a decision on an arms export license. Sales to Saudi Arabia violated six out of the eight, lawmakers said.

“The Common Position on arms exports must be implemented effectively. That includes, among others, a sanctions mechanism,” Losing said.

French President Emmanuel Macron‘s government has come under fire from rights groups and opposition lawmakers over sales of French arms to Saudi Arabia.

>> Read more: France’s Macron evades questions on halting Saudi arms sales

Paris has sought to increase its diplomatic weight in the Middle East through the sale of naval vessels, tanks, artillery and munitions to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Monday that the government adhered to strict rules that “stop us selling weapons that might impact civilians”.

Image result for Houthi rebels, weapons, pictures

Houthi rebels

Hodeida offensive ‘suspended’

The push for tougher checks on arms exports comes amid reports Yemen’s Saudi-backed loyalist forces have suspended their offensive on the rebel-held port city of Hodeida.

Three military officials reached by telephone told AFP the pro-government forces had been “ordered” to halt their offensive against Houthi rebels in the Red Sea city until further notice, but operations would resume if they came under attack.

This follows diplomatic efforts to end the conflict in Hodeida, whose Red Sea port serves as a key lifeline for the impoverished country.

The United Arab Emirates, a leading member of the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, said Wednesday it supports a UN plan for peace talks to be held in Sweden by the year’s end.

After failed peace talks in September, the UN is pushing to host a new round of negotiations between the government, backed by the coalition, and the Iran-linked Houthi rebels by the end of the year.

The United States, Britain and France have also called for an end to nearly four years of conflict in Yemen, particularly in Hodeida.

The Hodeida campaign has sparked fears of a new humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where 14 million people face the risk of starvation.



EU defence efforts musn’t hurt transatlantic bond: NATO chief

November 12, 2018

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned Europe against undermining transatlantic ties, following a defence spat between US President Donald Trump and French leader Emmanuel Macron.

Trump had tweeted on Friday that Macron’s call for a “real European army” was “insulting”.

The US leader’s criticism came after Macron spoke about the need for a European army and listed the US along with Russia and China as a threat to European security.

© AFP/File | Stoltenberg warned European members against duplicating NATO’s work and jeopardising relations with the United States

Without referring specifically to Macron’s call for a European army, Stoltenberg said he welcomed stronger EU efforts on defence that could strengthen NATO.

But he warned European members against duplicating the alliance’s work and jeopardising relations with the United States.

“More European efforts on defence is great but it should never undermine the strength of the transatlantic bond,” said Stoltenberg at a forum in Berlin.

“This is partly about substance but also partly about perception because perception matters.

“If we speak too much about a phrase like, for instance strategic autonomy? it sounds like you’re going to do these big strategic things alone and I don’t think that’s wise.

“Two World Wars and a Cold War taught us the importance of doing things together,” he said.

If they so wish, European allies can choose to carry out operations with or without the US within the framework of NATO, said Stoltenberg.

But he would oppose the EU developing structures that duplicated the alliance’s work.

“The reality is that we need one strong and capable command structure, we can’t divide those resources in two,” said the NATO chief.

Trump has repeatedly berated European NATO members like Germany for failing to meet spending targets set by the alliance.

But in an interview aired on Sunday, Macron said Europe should not raise their defence budgets in order to purchase US-made weapons.


Trump largely alone as world leaders take aim at nationalism

November 12, 2018

Visit to Paris for WWI commemorations highlights how the president has dramatically upended decades of US foreign policy and shaken its closest allies

US President Donald Trump takes part in a ceremony at the American Cemetery of Suresnes, outside Paris, on November 11, 2018 as part of Veterans Day and commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the 11 November 1918 armistice, ending World War I. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)

US President Donald Trump takes part in a ceremony at the American Cemetery of Suresnes, outside Paris, on November 11, 2018 as part of Veterans Day and commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the 11 November 1918 armistice, ending World War I. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)

PARIS (AP) — For President Donald Trump in Paris, America First meant largely America alone.

At a weekend commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, the president who proudly declares himself a “nationalist” stood apart, even on a continent where his brand of populism is on the rise.

He began his visit with a tweet slamming the French president’s call for a European defense force, arrived at events alone and spent much of his trip out of sight in the American ambassadors’ residence in central Paris. On Sunday, he listened as he was lectured on the dangers of nationalist isolation, and then he headed home just as the inaugural Paris Peace Summit was getting underway.

The visit made clear that, nearly two years after taking office, Trump has dramatically upended decades of American foreign policy posture, shaking allies. That includes French President Emmanuel Macron, who on Sunday warned that the “ancient demons” that caused World War I and millions of deaths were once again making headway.

Macron, who has been urging a re-embrace of multinational organizations and cooperation that have been shunned by Trump, delivered a barely veiled rebuke of Trumpism at the weekend’s centerpiece event: A gathering of dozens of leaders at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the base of the Arc de Triomphe to mark the passage of a century since the guns fell silent in a global war that killed millions. Bells tolled across Europe’s Western Front and fighter jets passed overhead to mark the exact moment the devastating war came to a close.

With Trump and other leaders looking on, Macron took on the rising tide of populism in the United States and Europe and urged leaders not to turn their backs by turning inward.

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) touches the knee of German Chancellor Angela Merkel (2nd R) as they sit next to US President Donald Trump (2nd L) and US First Lady Melania Trump (L) during a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on November 11, 2018 as part of commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the 11 November 1918 armistice, ending World War I. ( Mori / POOL / AFP)

“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism: Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism,” Macron said, adding that, when nations put their interests first and decide “who cares about the others” they “erase the most precious thing a nation can have … its moral values.”

After Trump was gone, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who recently announced that she will not be seeking re-election, made an impassioned plea for global cooperation at the peace forum, saying World War I had “made clear what disastrous consequences a lack of compromise in politics and diplomacy can have.”

Trump, who has made clear that he has limited patience for broad, multilateral agreements, sat mostly stone-faced as he listened to Macron, who sees himself as Europe’s foil to the rising nationalist sentiment, which has taken hold in Hungary and Poland among other countries.

Trump did engage with his fellow leaders, attending a group welcome dinner hosted by Macron at the Musée d’Orsay on Saturday night and a lunch on Sunday. He also spent time with Macron on Saturday, when the two stressed their shared desire for more burden-sharing during a quick availability with reporters.

But Trump was terse during some of his private conversations with world leaders, according to people with direct knowledge of his visit. One of the people described the president as “grumpy.” They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private conversations.

The symbolism during Trump’s visit couldn’t have been more stark.

Trump was missing from one of the weekend’s most powerful images: A line of world leaders, walking shoulder to-shoulder in a somber, rain-soaked procession as the bells marking the exact moment that fighting ended — 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918 — finished tolling.

(From L) Spain’s King Felipe VI, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaite, Denmark’s Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, Morocco’s Prince Moulay Hassan, Moroccan King Mohammed VI, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrive at Arc de Triomphe in Paris on November 11, 2018 to attend a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the 11 November 1918 armistice, ending World War I. (MARIN / POOL / AFP)

The president and first lady Melania Trump had traveled to the commemoration separately — White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders cited security protocols — from the other dignitaries, who had traveled together by bus from the Élysée Palace.

As Trump’s motorcade was making its solo trip down the grand Champs-Élysées, which was closed to traffic, at least one topless woman breached tight security, running into the street and shouting “fake peace maker” as the cars passed. She had slogans, including the words “Fake” and “Peace,” written on her chest.

Police tackled the woman and the motorcade continued uninterrupted. The feminist activist group Femen later claimed responsibility.

Also traveling on his own was Russian President Vladimir Putin, who shook Trump’s hand, flashed him a thumbs-up sign and patted Trump’s arm as he arrived. Trump responded with a wide smile.

National security adviser John Bolton had said at one point that Putin and Trump would meet in Paris, but they will instead hold a formal sit-down later this month at a world leaders’ summit in Buenos Aires. A Kremlin official said later that US and Russian officials decided to drop plans for the Paris meeting after French officials objected.

A balloon depicting the US President Donald Trump wearing a diaper flies at the Place de la Republique in central Paris on November 11, 2018, as leaders from around the world gathered in the French capital to mark 100 years since the end of WWI. (Zakaria ABDELKAFI / AFP)

Trump, who ran on an “America First” platform, has jarred European allies with his actions. He has slapped tariffs on the European Union, pulled the US out of the landmark Paris Climate Accord and the Iran nuclear deal and suggested he might be willing to pull the US out of NATO if member counties don’t significantly boost their defense spending. Trump’s eagerness to get along with the Russian leader — in spite of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and numerous other aggressive moves in recent years — has alarmed those who view Russia as a growing threat.

Trump has also repeatedly branded himself a “nationalist,” despite criticism from some that the term has negative connotations. At a news conference last week, Trump defended his use of the phrase. “You know what the word is? I love our country,” he said, adding: “You have nationalists. You have globalists. I also love the world and I don’t mind helping the world, but we have to straighten out our country first. We have a lot of problems.”

But Trump did not broach the divide as he paid tribute Sunday to US and allied soldiers killed in World War I during “a horrible, horrible war” that marked America’s emergence as a world power.

“We are gathered together at this hallowed resting place to pay tribute to the brave Americans who gave their last breath in that mighty struggle,” Trump said at the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial in the suburbs of Paris, where more than 1,500 Americans who died in the war are buried.

“It is our duty to preserve the civilization they defended and to protect the peace they so nobly gave their lives to secure one century ago,” he said after spending a moment, standing alone amid the cemetery’s white crosses, holding a black umbrella.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with US President Donald Trump as he arrives to attend a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on November 11, 2018 as part of commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the 11 November 1918 armistice, ending World War I. (MARIN / POOL / AFP)

The Veterans Day speech came a day after Trump was criticized for failing to visit a different American cemetery about 60 miles (100 kilometers) outside of Paris on Saturday because rain grounded the helicopter he had planned to take. A handful of senior administration officials, including White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, went in the president’s place, while Trump remained behind at the ambassador’s residence with no alternate schedule for hours.

Trump delivered the speech as other leaders were gathered for the Paris Peace Forum, which aims to revive collective governance and international cooperation to tackle global challenges. Afterward he flew back to Washington.

France was the epicenter of World War I, the first global conflict. Its role as host of the main international commemoration highlighted the point that the world mustn’t stumble into war again, as it did so quickly and catastrophically with World War II.


Macron and Merkel mark armistice centenary at Compiègne

November 10, 2018

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will mark on Saturday the centenary of the end of the First World War in a special ceremony at Compiègne. Watch FRANCE 24’s live coverage by clicking on the player above.


Merkel ally Horst Seehofer to resign CSU leadership

November 7, 2018

Sources close to the Interior Minister spoke told a respected German paper he plans to resign. Seehofer’s spokesperson has denied the reports.

CSU leader Horst Seehofer in the German parliament (picture-alliance/dpa/S. Stache)

Horst Seehofer, leader of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Bavarian sister party, will resign from his role in the next few day, according to a German media report.

Sources told Die Zeit newspaper that Seehofer’s decision to leave the helm of the Christian Social Union (CSU) has been influenced by Merkel’s planned resignation from the leadership of her own party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

What we know so far

  • Numerous sources close to Seehofer told Die Zeit he plans to step down from the party leadership but wants to stay on as Interior Minister.
  • The Minister’s spokesman denied the claims, saying Seehofer has not committed to stepping down from the role.
  • The CSU press office told DW it had no further information.
  • Seehofer later denied reports, calling them a “red herring.”

Seehofer’s tenure as CSU leader: Seehofer has been at the helm of the party since 2008. The CSU is the Bavarian sister of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU, and is part of the German government coalition. Despite the alliance, Seehofer has been a stark critic of Merkel, in particular of her open-doors migration policy.

Increasingly under pressure: The past few months have put Seehofer under increased scrutiny. On the one hand, the CSU performed poorly in last month’s state election in Bavaria; on the other, there have been increasing disputes with the party’s government coalition partners, the CDU and the Social Democrats (SPD). Two big topics of contention: migration policy and Seehofer’s support of disgraced former intelligence chief Georg Maassen.

Who could be his successor? The state premier of Bavaria, Markus Söder, is likely to succeed Seehofer as head of the CSU — if his resignation were confirmed. Söder has been one of Seehofer’s strongest rivals. Just over a year ago, Seehofer had stepped down from state premier to make room for Söder, after the CSU had performed poorly in Germany’s federal elections.

Angela Merkel’s twin resignation: Seehofer’s reported resignation comes less than two weeks after Angela Merkel announced she would be stepping down from the helm of the CDU. She said she will remain Chancellor until the end of her term in 2021.

gs/aw (Reuters, dpa)

Favoured Merkel successor vows to pursue chancellor’s path

November 7, 2018

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s favoured successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Wednesday presented herself as a moderate continuity candidate, refraining from criticism or bold new vision statements.

The 56-year-old usually dubbed “AKK” — or “mini-Merkel” — is running in December to take over as head of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) while Merkel hopes to serve out her government term as chancellor through to 2021.

While two other top candidates have criticised Merkel’s liberal immigration policy of years past and vowed to return the CDU to its conservative roots, AKK has signalled she will stick with a centrist stance.

At a press conference in Berlin, the former state premier of tiny Saarland said that new leaders “stand on the shoulders of those who came before them”.

She said “an era is ending and a new chapter is beginning” but was careful to refrain from signalling any bold policy changes.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is congratulated by Angela Merkel (Reuters/H. Hanschke)

A poll published on Monday showed more than 60 percent of CDU members favour sticking to Merkel’s centrist line.

Sounding much like the incumbent, AKK said her priorities were to maintain “prosperity and the good life”, to safeguard public security, and to boost social inclusion so that all citizens can “feel at home”.

She also refrained from challenging the other top candidates — corporate lawyer Friedrich Merz and Health Minister Jens Spahn — saying: “I am not campaigning but rather presenting an offer” and pledging to include them in her team if she wins.

The biggest change AKK, currently the CDU’s general secretary, promised was to improve the internal dynamics of a party that has been mocked for its lack of debate and internal democracy under “Mutti” (Mummy) Merkel.

At the height of Merkel’s power, when she regularly won support in the high 90 percent range at party congresses, the CDU was sometimes mocked as “the association for the reelection of the chancellor”.

Kramp-Karrenbauer promised that in future the CDU’s big decisions would trickle up from the party base via its block of lawmakers and into the government, rather than the other way around.


See also:

Merkel taps possible successor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as next CDU secretary general

World leaders to mark WWI in France amid warnings about nationalism

November 4, 2018

French President Emmanuel Macron on yesterday kicks off a week of commemorations for the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One, which is set to mix remembrance of the past and warnings about the present surge in nationalism around the globe.

Some 70-80 world leaders including US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are preparing to fly to the French capital next weekend for a ceremony marking a century since the guns fell silent.

This yesterday, Macron begins his own week-long tour around the country, which will see him criss-cross war-hit areas in northern and eastern France and attend individual ceremonies with the leaders of Germany, Britain and Mali.

French President Emmanuel Macron took part in last year’s remembrance ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.


The 40-year-old French centrist is expected to use the international spotlight to issue a rallying cry against nationalism, having recently warned that the world risked forgetting the lessons of the 20th century’s great conflicts.

“I am struck by similarities between the times we live in and those of between the two world wars,” he told a French newspaper last week, adding that nationalism was a “leprosy” spreading worldwide.

Trump, who has made “America First” his rallying cry, will be among the leaders gathered for the main ceremony on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on November 11, 100 years to the day since the armistice.

The commemorations at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on the Champs-Elysees avenue will be held under tight security following a string of deadly jihadist attacks in France over the past three years.

Remembrance events begin this yesterday with a concert celebrating the friendship between former war-time enemies France and Germany, in the border city of Strasbourg, attended by Macron and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Macron will then spend the week visiting the Western Front battlefields, from Verdun to the Somme.

On Tuesday, in honour of the “black army” of former colonial troops who fought alongside the French, he and Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita will visit Reims, a city defended by the African soldiers.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May will join Macron on the Somme on Friday, while on Saturday he heads to the village of Rethondes, where the armistice was signed, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

– Macron’s war on nationalism –

War commemorations aside, Macron is set to use his tour of northern France to visit areas hit hard by industrial decline, where far-right leader Marine Le Pen performed strongly in last year’s presidential election.

“After paying homage to those who died for their country it will be back to dealing with social and economic problems,” said Bruno Cautres of political think-tank CEVIPOF.

The former investment banker — who has struggled to shake off an image as a “president of the rich” — will zip through 17 towns, holding Wednesday’s weekly cabinet meeting in the Ardennes where the German army had its headquarters for four years.

“Each stop will be an opportunity to speak about the current concerns in those areas, which are trying to bounce back from de-industrialisation or major changes in agriculture,” an aide to Macron said last week.

The 40-year-old president, whose approval rating is languishing at a dismal 21 percent according to a YouGov poll released Thursday, has dismissed rumours that he is suffering from burn-out.

He sparked rampant speculation by taking a few days off ahead of the tour, which aides have insisted were to gather his energy before an intense week of diplomacy.

This week is an opportunity for the centrist to “reflect a strong presidential image” both at home and abroad, Cautres said.

Macron is attempting to position himself as a champion of centrist politics and multilateralism in the run-up to European parliamentary elections in May, saying he expects the duel to be one between “progressives” and “nationalists”.

After next yesterday’s ceremony, world leaders are set to attend a three-day peace forum opened by Merkel, an event which France wants to turn into an annual multilateral peace conference.


Ukraine: Poroshenko’s promises, Merkel’s disappointment

November 2, 2018

Angela Merkel has visited Ukraine’s President Poroshenko, who is in the midst of an election campaign. There’s disappointment in Kyiv at his failure to implement reforms, and hopes of EU-style democracy are fading.

Ukraine Besuch Angela Merkel bei Petro Poroschenko (Reuters/Handout Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/M. Palinchak)

The German chancellor’s visit to Kyiv can safely be filed under the heading of “reliable diplomacy.” Since early 2016, when Angela Merkel committed Germany to long-term engagement with Ukraine by supporting the second Minsk peace agreement, there’s been plenty of contact between the countries’ leaders, in person and on the phone. Berlin and the majority of its EU partners have condemned both Russia’s annexation of Crimea — illegal under international law — and its military campaign in eastern Ukraine. The United States has even gone so far as to supply arms to the Ukrainian army.

Read moreSix stumbling blocks in German-Russian relations

Kyiv’s most important supporter in the European Union has announced she will not seek re-election in 2021. Merkel has demonstrated her commitment, but Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko has been less conscientious about keeping his promises.

Ukraine Besuch Angela Merkel bei Petro Poroschenko (Reuters/Handout Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/M. Palinchak)Merkel is visiting Poroshenko in the midst of an election campaign and as disappointment rises in Kyiv at his failure to implement reforms.

Forthcoming Ukrainian election

Assuming Angela Merkel really does hang on until the end of her term in office, she may be in a position to welcome Poroshenko’s successor. Elections will be held in Ukraine in March and April 2019, and most opinion polls are placing Poroshenko fourth or fifth. This is predominantly his own fault.

As a successful chocolate manufacturer from the town of Vinnytsia, when Poroshenko was elected president after the pro-European Maidan protests in the winter of 2013/2014, he initially said he would sell his business empire. Becoming president was a remarkable career move. After all, as an economic expert, Poroshenko had been part of the inner circle of the previous, pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was chased out of office in February 2014.

Oligarchs have increased their wealth

The president’s companies are reportedly now worth even more than they were when he took office. Since the publication of the Panama Papers, Ukrainians know rather more about their president’s morals. Poroshenko made use of a Cyprus connection and a trustee arrangement to ensure that, if his companies were sold, they could, in theory, be located abroad, making them tax-exempt. His advisers insist that all this was perfectly legal.

Poroshenko is in the same position as other oligarchs in his country. While many Ukrainians have been hit hard by the continuing fall in the value of the domestic currency, the hryvnia, oligarchs have remained unaffected. Most have stabilized their fortunes, or even managed to increase them, since the economic collapse that followed the Maidan revolution. So far, the system of the oligarchy is the only victor of the post-Maidan process.

Playing on national pride

However, the first post-revolutionary resident of Kyiv’s presidential palace has clearly developed a taste for the trappings of political power. Petro Poroshenko is playing the last card of the unpopular politician: He’s running a patriotic election campaign, appealing to Ukrainians’ national pride. The war cry of the Maidan revolution — “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!” — has been made the official greeting for soldiers and police. Back then, it was a battle cry against the post-Soviet servitude of Muscovite imperialists under Putin, but it acquires an unsavory nationalistic flavor when shifted away from civil society to the state authorities. It also sounds very strange to secular European ears when Poroshenko positions himself at the head of a movement calling for the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

In a historic decision, the Kyiv Patriarchate was recently recognized by the Patriarch of Constantinople as an independent Orthodox Church. The Russian Orthodox clergy in Moscow are furious. But why the secular President Poroshenko, of all people, should take the credit is a mystery. All this is clearly intended to distract from the fact that the post-Maidan politician still has not kept his most important promise: to turn Ukraine into a European-style democracy.

Economic success

However, three years after the Euromaidan there have been some successes, too. At the end of November, the third German-Ukrainian Economic Forum will take place in Berlin. German industry helped to found a German-Ukrainian chamber of commerce, where the two countries have equal status. Economic development has detached itself from the political problems, showing that new structures are emerging despite the powerful oligarchy.

In the capital Kyiv, for example, more and more foreign investors from Western countries are looking around for apartments in old buildings. They’re assuming that, over the coming decade, the Ukrainian property market will develop similarly to those of the central European countries that joined the EU in 2004. Whether this bet will actually pay off depends largely on political developments.

Right now, many Ukrainians have lost hope that things will improve in the long term. They have grown impatient. Rapprochement with Europe is not happening fast enough for them, so many are packing their bags and heading for Europe themselves. Ukrainians now top EU immigration statistics and are being swallowed up by the hungry job market in neighboring Poland. They’re unlikely to be tempted back by more of Petro Poroshenko’s empty promises.

German President calls for dialogue in Chemnitz to end far-right extremism

November 2, 2018

Two months after far-right violence and ensuing demonstrations rocked Germany, the German president has made a subdued if cordial visit to the city now associated with far-right extremism. His message: We need to talk.

    A far-right demonstration of the Pro Chemnitz movement in September (picture alliance/dpa)

The photos and the videos were seen around the world. Here at in front of the imposing Karl Marx bust – or the Nishel as locals call it – was the backdrop to scenes of far-right extremist violence, which many thought had long disappeared from Germany’s streets.

Two months on, things are much quieter. The only obvious signs of the demonstrations that electrified Germany are two banners that hang down in protest against the far-right sentiment, which has become synonymous with the name “Chemnitz,” formerly known as “Karl-Marx-Stadt” (city) prior to German reunification.

In this Aug. 27, 2018 photo protesters light fireworks during a far-right demonstration in Chemnitz, Germany.Jens Meyer / AP

“Chemnitz is neither grey nor brown,” read the banners, referring to the colors traditionally associated with the far-right.

Read more: Merkel urges understanding for eastern Germans

Kate Brady@kbrady90

is neither grey nor brown,” reads a banner referring to the far-right at the city’s Karl Marx monument.

In August, thousands of protesters, inc. far-right extremists, demonstrated here after the killing of a German. The protest quickly escalated into violent riots.

Following the killing of Daniel H. in August, thousands of demonstrators took the streets. A Syrian and an Iraqi stand accused of fatally stabbing the 35-year-old following an altercation.

The demonstrations quickly escalated into xenophobic riots, attended by far-right extremists and known neo-Nazis. While some protesters were accused of hunting people they believed to immigrants, others were seen making the illegal straight-armed Nazi salute.

Some nine weeks later, Chemnitz is still on its search for normality – one which isn’t going to end soon. A vicious circle of historical, economical and social factors have all contributed to the rise of the far-right and xenophobic sentiment in the eastern German city.

Read more: Crossing Germany’s divide – encounters with far-right protesters

Promoting open discussion

In a bid to promote dialogue between locals, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Chemnitz for the first time as president on Thursday, where he met with a group of citizens at a so-called “coffee table.”

“I’m not here to talk about citizens,” he said shortly after his arrival. “I’m here to talk with them.”

For two and a half hours, 13 Chemnitzers shared their concerns and opinions with the German president and Chemnitz mayor Barbara Ludwig. But conversation wasn’t quite as light and fluffy as the flower arrangement and plates of cake lining the table might first suggest – particularly when it came to discussing Germany’s handling of the migration crisis in 2015.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaks with residents of Chemnitz (Getty Images/S. Gallup)Over the traditional afternoon coffee and cake, Steinmeier listened to locals’ views

In light of the anti-migrant protests, Maythan Yabar, who works for development and social service Caritas, said the discussion with Steinmeier and other locals was an “opportunity to express what the migrants I work with tell me. ‘We want to live here in peace,’ is what they say.”

Housewife Heike Bämmer, however, told DW that “migration and crimes committed by migrants are the main issues.”

“I don’t go out at night any more,” she said. “People are scared.”

Likewise, a ballet dancer at Chemnitz opera said she, too, had been more wary since the August violence – but for a different reason.  Soo-mi Oh is from South Korea.

“Even our director has warned us. We’re a very international ballet company,” she says, adding that the weekly anti-migrant protests still being held  by the group “Pro Chemnitz” are particularly worrying.

Read moreChemnitz fact check: Were foreigners chased down during protests?

National effects

Protesters were nowhere to be seen in Chemnitz on Thursday afternoon, but that’s likely to be a different story come November 16 when Chancellor Angela Merkel visits the same city. Thousands of far-right demonstrators are expected to hit the streets.

Following the national trend, Merkel’s conservative CDU party in Saxony – the state in which Chemnitz lies – has started to lose its grip in recent years, particularly since the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany party (AfD). In last September’s federal election the AfD won 27 percent of votes in Saxony.

Read more: Merkel hits out at AfD on far-right violence

The wounds of August’s violence in Chemnitz will still need a long time to heal. In the meantime, far-right parties continue to attract support. But despite the polarized opinions around Thursday’s “coffee table,” participants agreed on at least one point: dialogue was a “start.”

“One thing, however, is clear,” Steinmeier added in a warning against a repetition this summer’s riots. “The state, and only the state, is responsible for security and criminal prosecution.”