Posts Tagged ‘Sweden’

Europeans leaders worry Trump wants to fulfill promise to bring American troops home

July 6, 2018

After 18 months of Donald Trump’s “America First” presidency, European leaders meeting with him next week fear the United States may change its traditional course and begin to bring American troops home from the continent.

It comes as nations, especially in Eastern Europe, are lobbying the United States to increase the number of troops on the continent as they worry about combating an increasingly aggressive Russia.

Trump has talked about bringing U.S. troops home from around the globe since he was on the campaign trail espousing a strategy he dubbed “America First” but he has yet to act.

“They are scared to death,” former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told McClatchy. “They are worried about a very unpredictable president of the United States. They are increasingly worried he is going to do things not based on what’s in the best interest..but based solely on his vision of ‘America First.’ “

The Pentagon is already reviewing the impact of withdrawing some of the 35,000 active-duty American troops in Germany, the Washington Post reported last month.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with President Donald Trump during the Group of 7 summit meeting in La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, June 9, 2018. The photo quickly went viral after it was shared on Merkel’s Instagram account. Jesco Denzel German Federal Government via The New York Times

The fate of American troops in Europe are not expected to be on the agenda of the Brussels meeting of NATO — the alliance formed after World War II to counter a Soviet, now Russian, threat — but will loom large, as it comes just before Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland.

Some worry an unpredictable Trump, at the U.S.-Russia summit, could agree to take the first steps to embolden Russia, such as halting military exercises or agreeing that Crimea, a region of Ukraine annexed by Russia in 2014, belongs to Russia.

Magnus Nordenman, who worked as a defense analyst and a strategic planning consultant for major European defense industry companies, said European allies are “absolutely worried” after hearing Trump disparage allies of the G-7, as well as NATO members’ contributions and seeing him eager to meet Putin as well as North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

“There is element of uncertainty in all this,” said Nordenman, now the director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. “But we all need to take a bit of a breath here…and hope the president is in a good mood when he goes to Brussels.”

A senior administration official with knowledge of the situation but not authorized to speak publicly did not initially answer the question about possible troop withdrawals on a conference call with reporters. But when asked a second time, the official said Trump is not expected to threaten troop withdrawals in Germany or elsewhere.

Congress is likely to oppose troop withdrawals and could pass legislation to prevent Trump from using money to move the military.

Trump has criticized international alliances and organizations, even the United Nations, and European allies fear he is less committed to their security and NATO as previous U.S. presidents. Last month, he abruptly refused to sign a joint statement with the G-7, the world’s largest economies following a meeting in Canada.

“At a time when the transatlantic relationship between Europe and the U.S. is under a lot of pressure over disagreements on Iran and trade, NATO is really at the core of this relationship and will Trump — by basically criticizing the Europeans and conditioning American support — bring more disunity within the alliance,” said Erik Brattberg, director of the Carnegie Endowment’s Europe program who is in touch with a few diplomats who are concerned about Trump’s possible reduction of troops. “It would weaken the alliance and provide new opportunities for countries like Russia to take advantage of that.”

A third of active-duty U.S. military troops overseas — more than 60,000 — are stationed in Europe, including 35,000 in Germany, 12,000 in Italy, 8,500 in the United Kingdom and 3,300 in Spain, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of information from the Defense Manpower Data Center, a statistical arm of the Defense Department. Thousands more rotate into other European countries temporarily.

Many U.S. troops are there to do more than protect those countries. They are strategically located to help in other regions of the world, such as counter Iran or strike the Islamic State.

The Trump administration has been supportive of NATO and European countries at a tactical level — actions generally credited to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. It has sent more military equipment, participated in regional exercises, signed new defense agreements with Sweden and Finland and increased the number of Marines in Norway on a rotational basis by 350 and in Poland by a battalion.

Poland, Romania and the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have been asking the U.S. for additional troops for several years. Poland is willing to spend up to $2 billion to lobby the U.S. to build a permanent military base there, according to a Defense Ministry proposal.

Still, Trump has repeatedly threatened to punish countries if they don’t spend enough on defense, even suggesting the U.S. may not protect them if they don’t pay their fair share. That’s in direct contradiction of NATO’s pledge that an attack against one member is considered an attack against all of them.

“That’s the question: Is the U.S. security conditional?” asked Heather Conley, who served as a deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau for European and Eurasian Affairs for Bush and is now a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.

In June, he sent letters to several allies complaining they are not abiding by a 2014 commitment to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on national defense. Kay Bailey Hutchison, U.S. ambassador to NATO, said this week that all 29 NATO members are increasing defense spending with 16 of them on track to meet the 2 percent goal.

Daniel DePetris, a military expert as at Defense Priorities, a D.C.-based foreign policy organization focused on a strong military and restrained foreign policy that is in periodic conversations with the Trump administration, said the countries either don’t believe Russia is a real threat to them or that the U.S. will protect them.

“Either they have to step up and do what’s rational based on their economic power or it is appropriate for us to reduce our contingent over there,” he said.

The White House declined to say if and how Trump might punish the countries. “I’m not going to get ahead of any announcement or any action he could potentially take, but as you guys know, he’s shown some frustration there on the financial burden that the United States unfairly is forced to bear, and he wants changes,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told reporters this week.

In recent weeks, Trump suggested withdrawing more than 25,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea after trying to persuade Kim to rid his country of nuclear weapons.

Pentagon leaders canceled military exercises there at Trump’s direction but they quickly reaffirmed the United State’s ‘ironclad commitment’ to defend South Korea.



Prague, Budapest reject Merkel’s plan to return migrants

July 1, 2018

Details of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s plan to solve her government’s migration crisis – and avoid a possible break-up of her coalition – were revealed on Saturday in a letter to the leaders of her two coalition partners.

The letter said that Merkel had secured agreements with 14 countries for the rapid return of asylum seekers trying to enter Germany who first registered in those countries.

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The countries listed in the letter are Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Belgium, France, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden.

The prime ministers of Czech Republic and Hungary – two of the fiercest critics of Merkel’s decision to admit migrants – vehemently denied they that agreed to any such measures.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said that “Germany did not approach us, and in this moment I would not ratify such an agreement … We are not planning negotiations. There is no reason to negotiate. We decisively reject this.”

A German government spokesman later said Merkel “regretfully” accepted Prague’s decision, insisting however that “the Cezch side had expressed willingness to make a deal for better cooperation in the return [of migrants]” at an EU summit in Brussels.

Hungarian leader Viktor Orban referred to the deal as “fake news.” Speaking to state news agency MTI, he said “there was no such agreement.”

The number of migrants arriving in Germany who are returned to where they first registered currently stands at 15 per cent. With the agreements revealed in the letter – even without the participation of Prague and Budapest – this number should rise significantly.

Germany already announced a similar agreement with Greece and Spain earlier this week.

According to the plan, larger collection centres in Germany – so-called “anchor centres” – would be used to house migrants while their asylum requests are considered and unsuccessful applicants would be deported from there.

Also laid out in the letter is a plan to send German police by the end of August to help strengthen the EU’s external border in Bulgaria in order to reduce the number of migrants entering the passport-free Schengen zone.

In 2017, the letter said, tens of thousands of asylum seekers had a corresponding entry in the EU’s visa information system.

With stricter allocation procedures, “we could substantially reduce visa abuse and with it the number of asylum seekers in Germany,” it said.

In addition, the European border protection agency Frontex should be strengthened in Greece along the borders with Macedonia and Albania.

“We must also be prepared to help support Slovenia and Croatia with border control if necessary,” the chancellor said.

The rapid-return agreements in particular are meant to satisfy German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, the leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the more conservative sister party of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU).

The Bavaria-based CSU, and Seehofer in particular, have been holding Merkel’s feet to the fire on asylum policy, including a threat to close Germany’s southern border to large groups of migrants without Merkel’s consent.

Merkel was scheduled to host Seehofer in the chancellery late Saturday for an emergency meeting to try to convince him that her efforts to stop the influx in coordination with other EU countries makes border closure redundant.

The results of the meeting were not expected to be made public before a series of meetings of the parties’ respective leadership teams on Sunday.

A split between her conservative CDU and the CSU, a political alliance that has existed since 1949, would rob Merkel’s three-way coalition with the centre-left SPD of its parliamentary majority.

A broader EU asylum deal, reached after marathon negotiations between EU leaders in Brussels, foresees the creation of “controlled” processing centres, firstly in Europe, and then later in North Africa.

On Saturday, Merkel denied some interpretations of the deal by CSU members that it gave them carte blanche to go ahead with unilateral border closures.

The summit had called on EU members to come up with “internal” legal and administrative measures against secondary migration with the EU, a Berlin spokesman said.

Those measures include better surveillance of outbound mobility and residency requirements for asylum seekers in external border nations.

“Unilateral measures at the expense of other countries are not what is meant,” said the spokesman, adding that they are neither “internal,” nor do they fulfill the summit’s desire for cooperation.

EU leaders tackle political flare-up over migrants

June 24, 2018

EU leaders headed to Brussels for emergency talks Sunday over migration as Italy’s new populist cabinet turned away another rescue ship, vowing no longer to shoulder Europe’s migrant burden.

The talks involving 16 of the bloc’s 28 leaders aim to mend rifts over burden sharing but also to shore up German Chancellor Angela Merkel, pressed by her own government to tighten her liberal approach to asylum.

The meeting was called last week to clear the air before a scheduled full summit on Thursday and Friday.

With four eastern anti-migrant EU countries snubbing the meeting, Merkel and other leaders have downplayed hopes of an EU-wide agreement, saying smaller ad-hoc deals may be the only way forward.

The urgency of finding a solution was highlighted by the plight of the Lifeline, the second rescue vessel left adrift in the Mediterranean after Italy and neighbouring Malta refused it permission to dock.

The German charity operating the ship, which is carrying 239 Africans, on Sunday took a swipe at Italy’s far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini over his reference in a Facebook post to its consignment of “human flesh”.

“Dear Matteo Salvini, we have no meat on board, but humans,” it said in a statement.

In a sign of the growing tensions within the EU, French President Emmanuel Macron suggested Saturday that countries who refused to pull their weight on accepting asylum seekers should have their EU benefits cut.

In a dig at Poland, Hungary, Slovenia and the Czech Republic, he said “countries that benefit massively from EU solidarity” could not invoke “national self-interest when it comes to the issue of migrants”.

The four former communist states, who have ducked out of Sunday’s talks, have long been opposed to taking in migrants.

– ‘Number one enemy’ –

Macron also riled Italy, the main landing point for African migrants, by saying that the migration emergency, which peaked in 2015, had passed and was now mainly a political issue.

“The immigration emergency continues in Italy, partly because France keeps pushing back people at the border,” Italian deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio shot back on his Facebook page, warning Macron risked turning France into “Italy’s number one enemy” on the issue.

Since assuming office several weeks ago, Italy’s new government has refused to admit foreign-flagged rescue ships packed with hundreds of migrants.

After turning away the Aquarius, which later docked in Spain, Rome vowed Saturday to block the Lifeline.

Mission Lifeline/AFP/File / Hermine POSCHMANN
After turning away the Aquarius, which later docked in Spain, Rome vowed Saturday to block the Lifeline, a German charity vessel with more than 230 people aboard

Reflecting popular anger over the failure of EU members to shoulder more of the migrant burden, Rome has pledged not to take in any more asylum-seekers.

Its stance has raised tension both with Germany and within Merkel’s coalition government, with EU diplomats saying the mini-summit is to help “save” the chancellor.

A populist backlash over her liberal asylum policy left Merkel weakened in elections last year.

In the latest crisis, her new hardline interior minister Horst Seehofer has given her until the end of June to find a European deal to curb new arrivals.

If that fails, he has vowed to order border police to turn back migrants, which means many will likely have to return to Italy.

– Schengen in danger –

Under the EU’s so-called Dublin rules, asylum-seekers must be processed in the country where they first arrive, often Mediterranean countries such as Italy, Greece and Spain.

EU leaders last December had set the end of June as a deadline to reform the rules by establishing a permanent mechanism to relocate asylum-seekers throughout the bloc.

With an agreement appearing elusive, Germany says it is now pushing for “bilateral, trilateral and multilateral” deals.

Asylum requests in Germany

Merkel convinced a reluctant Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to attend Sunday’s talks by telling him pre-written conclusions had been withdrawn, Italian officials said.

The draft conclusions included calls to speed up returns to countries tasked with processing them, such as Italy, causing anger in Rome.

EU diplomats and sources said the talks due to begin at 3 pm (1300 GMT) will also tackle how to further boost patrols on the bloc’s external borders.

Cooperation deals with Turkey and Libya, the main transit countries, have sharply cut, at least for now, the flow of migrants to Europe since a 2015 peak of over one million.

The leaders are also to discuss proposals for centres in countries outside the bloc to separate genuine war refugees from economic migrants, who can be sent home.

But with fears of new migrant surges in the future, diplomats warn the asylum reform impasse could destroy the EU’s signature achievement, the Schengen system of borderless travel.

AFP/File / Christof STACHE
With fears of new migrant surges in the future, diplomats warn the asylum reform impasse could destroy the EU’s signature Schengen system of borderless travel

Rounding out the 16 leaders, EU officials said, are those from Austria, Greece, Malta, Bulgaria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Croatia, Slovenia, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Luxembourg.


U.S. exempts certain steel products of Japan, four other nations from 25% import duties

June 21, 2018

The Commerce Department said Wednesday it has exempted some steel products from Japan and four other countries from the U.S. global tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports.

The exemption applies to seven U.S.-based companies importing steel products from Japan, Sweden, Belgium, Germany and China, the department said.

It was the first time that the United States has taken such action on a product basis since President Donald Trump invoked global tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum in March, citing the need to defend “national security.”

The action covers 42 “exclusion requests” from the seven companies, including razor maker Schick Manufacturing Inc. of Connecticut, cutting tool maker Nachi America Inc. of Indiana and specialty steel supplier Hankev International Inc. of California.

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U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross attends a Senate Finance Committee session discussing U.S. President Donald Trump administration’s imposing of tariffs on steel and aluminum in Washington Wednesday. | GETTY IMAGES / VIA KYODO

But it was not known for which products manufacturers from the five countries have won the exemptions.

The decision came after a process to determine whether the domestic industry can provide those products of a satisfactory quality and in sufficient quantity, as well as whether it is in the U.S. national security interest to grant an exemption for a specific product, according to the department.

“This first set of exclusions confirm what we have said from the beginning — that we are taking a balanced approach that accounts for the needs of downstream industries while also recognizing the threatened impairment of our national security caused by imports,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement.

The Trump administration initially exempted Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Mexico and South Korea from the import duties, but drew criticism for imposing the tariffs on Canada, the European Union and Mexico on June 1.

The tariffs were apparently targeting China as the administration continued to push the emerging powerhouse to reduce its excess capacity — and exports — in these metals, a situation that Trump claims undermines American industry and jobs.

Scientific study finds asylum seekers boosting European economies

June 21, 2018

Asylum seekers moving to Europe have raised their adopted nations’ economic output, lowered unemployment and not placed a burden on public finances, scientists said on Wednesday.

An analysis of economic and migration data for the last three decades found asylum seekers added to gross domestic products and boosted net tax revenues by as much as 1 percent, said a study published in Science Advances by French economists.

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The findings come amid a rise of anti-immigrant sentiment across Europe, where immigration peaked in 2015 with the arrival of more than a million refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa.

An annual report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees released on Tuesday showed the global number of refugees grew by a record 2.9 million in 2017 to 25.4 million.

The research from 1985 to 2015 looked at asylum seekers – migrants who demonstrate a fear of persecution in their homeland in order to be resettled in a new country.

“The cliché that international migration is associated with economic ‘burden’ can be dispelled,” wrote the scientists from the French National Center for Scientific Research, the University of Clermont-Auvergne and Paris-Nanterre University.

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The research analyzed data from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Asylum seekers contributed most to a country’s gross domestic product after three to seven years, the research found. They marginally lowered unemployment rates and had a near-zero impact of public finances, it said.

Greece, where the bulk of migrants fleeing civil war in Syria have entered Europe, was not included because fiscal data before 1990 was unavailable, it said.

Chad Sparber, an associate professor of economics at the U.S.-based Colgate University, said the study was a reminder there is no convincing economic case against humanitarian migration.

But he warned against dismissing the views of residents who might personally feel a negative consequence of immigration.

“There are people who do lose or suffer,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Immigration on balance is good,” he said. “But I still recognize that it’s not true for every person.”

Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit


Immigration: a deeply divisive topic in Europe

June 20, 2018

The arrival of massive numbers of migrants in Europe over the past few years has stirred fierce debate in many EU member states, and a number of governments have started to take a much tougher line as public opinion becomes increasingly hostile to the new arrivals.

Meanwhile, the number of migrants arriving via the Mediterranean has tailed off. After peaking at more than one million in 2015, the number fell to 362,000 in 2016, 172,000 in 2017 and just 37,000 so far this year, according to EU and UN figures.

© AFP/File | The Aquarius, carrying 630 rescued migrants, sparked a major migration row in Europe

Another point of friction is how the burden can be shared across the EU — especially when large swathes of the population are increasingly hostile to the idea of taking more migrants.

– Germany –

German Chancellor Angela Merkel allowed more than one million asylum seekers into the country in 2015, a decision that was welcomed at the time but has fuelled anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe’s biggest economy.

Merkel’s CDU party suffered stinging losses in last year’s general election, and she only just managed to hang on to power, while the far-right anti-immigrant, anti-Islam AfD party won seats in parliament for the first time.

The CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the CSU, has since threatened to shutter German borders if Merkel does not adopt a harder position on migration, an impasse that could topple her government.

An opinion poll last week showed that nearly 90 percent of Germans favour a tougher stance on migration.

– Italy –

The main gateway into Europe for refugees arriving by sea, Italy is struggling under the burden placed on it by the so-called Dublin rules, which require migrants to apply for asylum in the first country they enter.

An anti-migrant coalition between Italy’s far-right and anti-establishment parties was sworn in to government earlier this month after March’s election.

One of its first decisions was to refuse to allow the Aquarius rescue ship carrying 630 migrants to dock in Italy.

Italy has seen around 700,000 migrants arrive since 2013. Since January 1, the number of new arrivals has fallen by 78 percent to just over 15,600, according to data compiled by the interior ministry.

– France –

France, one of the countries where many migrants have said they would most like to settle, has also experienced tensions, particularly at its border with Italy which authorities have attempted to close.

The majority of French people have said they are opposed to illegal immigration, with 56 percent saying they were against the Aquarius being allowed to dock in France.

Nearly half of the 630 migrants on board, mostly of African origin, want to apply for asylum in France.

Last year asylum applications in France rose to more than 100,000, a 17.5 percent increase.

– Austria –

Conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who claims to have helped shut down the so-called Balkan route for migrants in 2016, said Tuesday the debate in Germany could help accelerate efforts to find a Europe-wide solution.

Austria received 200,665 applications for asylum between 2013 and 2017, equivalent to 2.3 percent of its population of 8.7 million.

After peaking at 88,160 in 2015, the annual figure fell to 24,715 in 2017.

– Belgium –

Belgium awarded refugee or equivalent status to around 40,000 people between 2015 and 2017, according to official data.

The government has toughened its stance, particularly under the state secretary for asylum and migration, Theo Francken, who recently said he was opposed to all illegal immigration in the EU and that only refugees who have been sent from UN-administered camps in war zones should be allowed in.

– Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia –

The four so-called Visegrad countries are opposed to any refugee quota system that the EU has tried to impose on them in the two years since the migrant influx peaked at more than 1.26 million in the entire bloc in 2015.

– Spain –

Spain is the third main point of arrival after Italy and Greece, but seems to be one of the few countries within the bloc where public opinion is not deeply divided. And more than 9,300 migrants have arrived on the Spanish coast since the beginning of the year, double the number for the same period in 2017.

The new Socialist government under Pedro Sanchez agreed to allow the Aquarius to dock and to handle the migrants’ applications for asylum. He argued that the crisis over the boat should help “nudge” other countries within the bloc.

– Sweden –

Sweden, which previously had a very open refugee policy, has toughened its stance since the end of 2015.

According to the official figures, it awarded asylum to more than 144,000 people, primarily from Syria, between 2015 and 2017, compared with an overall population of under 10 million.

Immigration is one of the main issues in legislative elections being held in September. The populist anti-immigration hard right is currently polling at 18-20 percent in the opinion polls.


New poll shows British people have become more positive about immigration

May 28, 2018

Michael Gove, the British environment secretary, sparked a heated debate when he said recently: “Britain has the most liberal attitude towards migration of any European country. And that followed the Brexit vote.”

His implication that the Brexit vote was a force for a more positive view of immigration in Britain has been vigorously challenged by some.

And you can see why it might grate: analysis by King’s College London shows that media coverage of immigration tripled in the campaign, and was “overwhelmingly negative”.


But Gove is right to sImage may contain: one or more people and textay that people in Britain are now more positive about immigration, as shown by new polling released by Ipsos MORI, tracking attitudes towards immigration after the recent Windrush scandal.

Gove cited an Ipsos survey from the end of 2017, which does indeed show that from the ten European countries included, Britain is most likely to think immigration has had a positive effect on the country.

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A more recent European Commission survey across all 28 EU countries shows that, while the UK is not quite top, it is the third most likely to say that immigration is an opportunity rather than a problem, behind only Sweden and Ireland.

And this is a shift that can’t be explained purely by the weight of negative media coverage of immigration dying down after the referendum. I’ve been reviewing immigration attitudes for nearly 20 years, and I’m really not used to seeing Britain at the top of any league table of immigration positivity: this is something new.

As the chart below shows, positive attitudes have doubled in Britain since 2011, while they’ve flatlined at a low level in most other countries, or fallen in the case of Sweden .

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Reassurance and regret

There are two broad explanations for why this is happening – that the change is being driven by “reassurance”, or “regret”.

The first is the idea that people feel they can now say that immigration has positive aspects, because numbers are coming down, or they believe numbers will be lower in the future, as a result of Brexit.

Regret, on the other hand, could be driven by a realisation of what we’re losing from lower immigration: as numbers fall and warnings of skills shortages and economic impacts increase, the extent to which the country benefits from immigration becomes more obvious.

Clearly these are simplifications – there are other explanations and these are not mutually exclusive views. But in our latest survey, we tried to assess the balance between these two explanations for the first time, by simply asking people why they are more positive.

And as the chart below shows, there is an almost perfect balance between the two explanations: around four in ten say they’re more aware of the contribution that immigrants make, and the same proportion say they’re reassured numbers are falling or will fall.

Why have British people become more positive about immigration? Ipsos MORIAuthor provided

An emotive debate

As with so much about immigration attitudes, there is no one clear answer or view, and therefore no clear indication for future policy and political direction. The very real trends of increased positivity actually give the government little clue as to whether they should loosen their drive to control numbers, or stick to their guns on the “hostile environment” immigration policy that has come in for so much criticism in recent months.

Read more: ‘Hostile environment’ immigration policy has made Britain a precarious place to call home

Immigration is well recognised as a polarising issue, and one of the key topics in a referendum vote that split the country down the middle.

But what’s more often missed is that our views are also full of nuance and contradiction. There are not just two immovable and monolithic pro- and anti-immigration blocs, as shown by our previous research, and another of our just released polls for the Evening Standard. For example, the majority of the public would like to see the government’s cap on the number of doctors coming to the UK from outside the EU lifted entirely or increased – but the majority support the cap, or even greater restrictions, on computer scientists.

One thing seems clear – British people’s increased positive outlook seems to be little to do with the Brexit debate leading people to be better informed on immigration facts, at least on key aspects like the scale of immigration. When we asked what percentage of the population immigrants make up, which we’ve done regularly over many years, the average guess was 28%, compared with a reality of around 13%: we are just as wrong as we’ve always been.

Of course, this is because our emotions colour our views of scale as much as the other way round. The immigration debate remains an emotive one, caught up in our identity, culture and values more than cold calculations.

But all these challenges don’t mean that attitudes to immigration should be ignored in setting immigration policy. There is a case that Brexit was partly a result of ignoring immigration concerns, rather than either acting to reassure people, or challenging their views.

With a white paper on the post-Brexit immigration system now expected by July, the risk for the government comes not from listening to apparently fickle and contradictory public opinion, it comes from mishearing or caricaturing it – again.

How to make up for what schools have stopped doing

May 27, 2018

When I became a US citizen, I had to swear I would bear arms on behalf of the country when required by law. That didn’t much worry me. I had aged out, and there’s been no political demand to reinstitute conscription since we moved to an all-volunteer military in 1973. But perhaps now’s the time to rethink our opposition to the draft.

Several first-world countries have a draft. Finland requires half a year’s service. Sweden and Greece have compulsory military service for a year. Israel mandates military service of 32 months for men and 24 months for women. It doesn’t seem to hold back people in those countries. If anything, it gives their young people a leg up in life’s journey.

You can see the abolition of the draft as a great libertarian moment, freeing millions of young Americans from involuntary servitude. But we already mandate involuntary servitude in school up to age 16, and what I’m suggesting is one more year for 17-year-old males, with compulsory military service as the default and some form of public service for conscientious objectors.

By F. H. Buckley
New York Post

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What’s the point of public education, in any event? If it’s just about reading and writing and ’rithmatic, our schools are nothing to write home about. On cross-country tests of what our 15-year-olds have learned, we’re an honorary member of the third world.

And it’s supposed to be more than learning basic skills. Horace Mann, the father of American public education, said public schools were supposed to offer a moral as well as an intellectual formation — that is, “such a training of the body as shall build it up with robustness and vigor.” Can anyone say that describes our high-school grads?

By the term education, said Mann, “I mean such a culture of our moral affections and religious susceptibilities, as, in the course of Nature and Providence, shall lead to a subjection or conformity of all our appetites, propensities and sentiments to the will of Heaven.” If that’s the kind of moral formation Mann had in mind, today’s K-12 schools are engaged in moral deformation.

Our public schools preach entitlement, the sense that things are owed to students. They seek to foster self-expression at the expense of imparting useful learning. Their morality is progressive politics without any greater sense of personal responsibility. They do an abysmal job of teaching English, math and science, but make up for it with lectures on gender fluidity, beginning in kindergarten.

As The Washington Post admiringly notes, “Some city and suburban school boards are shedding their stodgy reputation and staking out ardent positions on political and social issues. Skeptics question the utility or appropriateness of those declarations, but some boards view decrying gender and racial inequity as part of their professional duty.”

That’s how the students graduate, and they need to have all that nonsense knocked out of them. They need to be taught that the world owes them nothing, that they need to take responsibility for their lives, and I can’t think of a better way of doing this than compulsory military service.

What our public schools do teach well is anti-Americanism, probably better even than Russian schools. That’s new. Our schools used to unite us as Americans.

“The free common school system,” said Adlai Stevenson, “is the most American thing about America.” But now they’re almost the most anti-American thing about America, and if the country is riven by ideological differences, if we’re divided into two solitudes, we don’t have to look hard to see whom to blame.

The abolition of the draft was more than a libertarian moment. It was also an aristocratic moment. Thereafter our wars would be fought by the children of the lower classes, and in time that has led to a disconnect between America’s professional upper classes and America the country. Upper-class kids would be cocooned from contact with the lower orders. That’s why they need to meet them in the army.

People might agree the army would provide a good moral education, but not at the cost of killing students. So is there some way to distinguish between simple draftees and warriors? Yes, we could limit armed combat to true volunteers. Mind you, we might be a more pacific nation, with fewer combat deaths, if we did put draftees in harm’s way.

F.H. Buckley is author of “The Republican Workers Party: How the Trump Victory Drove Everyone Crazy, and Why it Was Just What We Needed,” due out soon.

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Google, Facebook and Snap challenge governance standards — Investors claim “one share – one vote” being eroded by companies

May 27, 2018
Tech groups dual class structures threaten principle of ‘one share, one vote’ — Worry grows that principles to protect investors are being watered down…

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Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook — File Photo

Attracta Mooney and Robin Wigglesworth

Snap, the disappearing messaging app, caused uproar among investors last year after it sold $3.4bn of stock with no voting rights during its initial public offering.
It was the latest sign for many investors that the long-held principle of “one share, one vote” was being eroded by companies, which readily accept fund managers and pension funds’ money but were, the investors believed, increasingly unwilling to give them sufficient say on how those businesses were run.In the months since, a growing number of investors have stepped up their lobbying efforts against what they see as the watering down of governance standards globally, warning that shareholders need to be able to hold companies to account.

Deborah Gilshan, environmental, social and governance investment director at Standard Life Aberdeen, one of Europe’s largest-listed fund houses, says: “One share, one vote is the bedrock of corporate governance. It has always been the case that you should have a vote for every share you own.”

The focus on unequal voting rights comes as asset managers are under growing pressure to hold companies to account. Many pension funds and other clients are increasingly asking their fund managers to ensure companies behave responsibly.

Mary Leung, head of advocacy for Asia Pacific at the CFA Institute, the global body for investment professionals, says: “We are seeing increasing engagement between investors and companies and it would be sad to see that decline because investors have fewer rights.”

Three decades ago, dual share classes were uncommon and typically found in family-controlled companies, such as South Korea’s Samsung, Switzerland-based healthcare company Roche and Sweden’s H&M, the retailer. But that changed when Google decided to list in 2004. Rather than follow the long-held practice of offering every shareholder a vote for each share they held, the technology group’s initial public offering featured dual-class shares — giving some shareholders more say than others.

As other west coast companies followed in the footsteps of Google, and the valuation of technology groups grew rapidly, companies with dual-class shares began to account for a bigger proportion of indices, the benchmarks investors used to measure performance. Businesses with unequal voting rights accounted for just 4 per cent of the MSCI World Index by weight in 2004, but the figure now stands at 10 per cent.

Rob Dowling, a fund manager at Legal and General Investment Management, which oversees $1tn in assets, says there is growing concern among investors about this shift towards unequal voting rights. “When it was a smaller proportion of companies, it wasn’t ideal but it wasn’t a major concern. But as the proportion of companies [with unequal voting rights] has grown, it has become a bigger issue.”

Ms Leung says the decision by Google, led by Sundar Pichai, and later Facebook, founded by Mark Zuckerberg, to list with unequal voting rights led to rapid changes in governance. “Because [Google and Facebook] were so successful a lot of companies want to emulate them. Rightly or wrongly, [some management] see having a dual share class structure as being part of that success,” she says.

In a sign that big investors are losing their battle against dual-class share, Dropbox, the internet storage group, listed this year with unequal voting rights. Its B shares carry 10 votes for every class-A vote.

Entrepreneurs have argued that by keeping control of the company, they are able to make decisions for the long-term rather than react to the short-term whims of shareholders. But Ms Leung says that argument holds little sway with the CFA. While she acknowledges that, sometimes, it might make sense at the time of listing to have dual-class shares, she argues they should be phased out over time. “We believe one share, one vote is the golden principle.”

The US, Sweden, Germany, South Korea and Brazil are all home to companies with two share classes. Now other countries are looking to follow suit.

Hong Kong changed its rules this year to allow companies to list with dual-class shares. The move came after it missed out on the listing of Alibaba, the Chinese ecommerce group led by Jack Ma, which opted for New York. Singapore is expected to make a decision about changing its rules in the next few weeks, while other exchanges are also understood to be considering revisiting the issue.

“With Hong Kong changing its rules and Singapore close to follow, it will kick-start a chain reaction. I don’t know who will be next. For us, it is very worrying,” says Ms Leung.

Andrew Ninian, director of stewardship and corporate governance at the Investment Association, the UK trade body, describes the trend of stock exchanges globally lowering listing standards to attract new companies as a “race to the bottom”. He adds that it is “essential the UK continues to uphold these robust principles to protect investors”.

Investors have already had some success with their lobbying over unequal voting rights. After Snap’s move last year, the largest index providers — which are the benchmarks that fund managers are typically measured against — decided to exclude Snap from their indices. FTSE Russell also said it would exclude from its benchmarks stocks that did not give shareholders at least 5 per cent of the voting power, and is planning a further consultation this year.

S&P Dow Jones Indices no longer allows companies with multiple share classes to join various indices including the S&P 500, the index of large US companies. Existing constituents, such as Berkshire Hathaway and Facebook, can remain.

In January, MSCI, the index provider, launched a consultation to examine how it should deal with other types of unequal voting structures. It has proposed that it will continue to include stocks with unequal voting rights in its indices but will adjust the weights of these stocks to reflect both their free floats and their company level listed voting power. MSCI is expected to make a decision next month.

Sacha Sadan, director of corporate governance at LGIM, says he backs the moves by index providers, arguing it is vital that all parts of the investment chain work to stop any watering down of governance standards.

Others have been less supportive. BlackRock, the world’s biggest investor, said in April that index providers should leave corporate governance standard-setting to regulators rather than try to engineer improvements through benchmark exclusions.

Vanguard, the second-largest investor, says its underlying stance is in support of “one share, one vote”. “However, when it comes to inclusion in an index, we believe companies with limited voting rights cannot be excluded from the indices at this time. If an index intends to be representative of the market, companies that meet these stated standards should be included and properly weighted to reflect their market cap.”

Others argue that it is vital that companies are not incentivised to list with unequal voting rights. They point to Facebook, where the issue of unequal voting rights has left many shareholders with less say — something they argue could have influenced the recent scandals at the social media company.

Aeisha Mastagni, a portfolio manager, corporate governance, at Calstrs, the US pension fund, said this month that it was time for Facebook’s voting structure to evolve. “It is time to end the dual class,” she said.

Ms Gilshan adds: “If you are engaging with a company with unequal voting rights, your voice means less.”

Race for 5G Speeds Up, Lifting West’s Top Suppliers

April 27, 2018

Nokia and Ericsson say U.S. wireless carriers are planning to upgrade to 5G sooner than expected

Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri—seen above in Barcelona in February—said U.S. wireless carriers should start significant spending on 5G equipment in 2018’s second half. Carriers originally weren’t expected to spend heavily on 5G until 2019 or later.
Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri—seen above in Barcelona in February—said U.S. wireless carriers should start significant spending on 5G equipment in 2018’s second half. Carriers originally weren’t expected to spend heavily on 5G until 2019 or later. PHOTO: YVES HERMAN/REUTERS

The race for 5G, the next generation of wireless technology, is heating up sooner than expected.

That is promising to benefit two struggling Nordic telecommunications-equipment makers just as their two largest competitors—both from China—are hitting potentially serious hurdles.

Ericsson AB of Sweden and Finland’s Nokia Corp. NOK +1.53% said in the past week that U.S. wireless carriers were planning to upgrade their networks sooner than expected, which would give a boost to both companies’ long-declining equipment sales.

“5G momentum is building fast,” Nokia Chief Executive Rajeev Suri said Thursday, referring to the next, superfast generation of network technology. “There is competition between countries on 5G, with many pushing to be first, the United States and China to be sure, Japan and South Korea, but also within the Nordics and the Middle East.”

Mr. Suri said U.S. wireless carriers should start significant spending on 5G equipment—which includes cellular-tower electronics and related components—in the second half of 2018. Carriers originally weren’t expected to spend heavily on 5G until 2019 or later. The new technology promises superfast connections.

Meanwhile, China’s booming telecommunications-equipment makers, Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. , are facing growing pressure in the U.S.

Last week, the Commerce Department all but banned ZTE from buying components from U.S. suppliers, though much is still unclear about how sweeping enforcement will be.

The sanctions stemmed from U.S. allegations that ZTE broke the terms of a previous settlement, brokered after the company admitted to shipping U.S. telecoms equipment to Iran and North Korea, in breach of U.S. sanctions.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that the Justice Department is investigating whether Huawei also violated U.S. sanctions related to Iran. After that report, the company scrapped plans for a €500 million bond sale.

The actions come amid a broader Washington campaign to curb Huawei and ZTE over national-security fears that their equipment could be used to spy or disable communications. Both companies have said they pose no threat.

The Modern Cell Carrier: How We Got Here

The U.S. wireless industry is dominated by four major players: Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint. Now that just about everyone has a cellphone, each operator is looking for new ways to grow. But how did we go from the days of one giant landline monopoly to four competitive cell companies? Illustration: Shaumbe Wright/WSJ

Nokia and Ericsson once dominated the global telecom-equipment industry, but have steadily lost ground to the Chinese rivals in the past decade. Huawei in 2017 led the global telecom-equipment market with a 27% share, followed by Nokia’s 17%, Ericsson’s 13%, and ZTE’s 10%, according to Dell’Oro Group, a research firm.

Besides different countries vying to win the 5G race, customers are generally demanding faster internet, for streaming videos and other reasons, Nokia’s Mr. Suri said Thursday. Wireless carriers want to keep up with rivals who will be advertising their 5G networks. Mr. Suri said manufacturers are also investing in 5G connections for factories and other industrial uses.

Partly because of the stepped-up pace, Nokia said Thursday it now expects industrywide declines in equipment sales to carriers to come in less than feared. Nokia said those sales should fall just 1% to 3% in 2018. In February, Nokia predicted a 2% to 4% drop.

Turning Up?Nokia and Ericsson are both showing signs ofa turanround. Quarterly net incomeattributable to shareholdersEricssonSource: FactSet$1= 8.71 Swedish krona
.billion Swedish krona2015’16’17’18-20-15-10-50510
NokiaSources: FactSet, the company (Nokia 1Q 2018)€1=$1.21

Meanwhile, Ericsson shares have risen 20% since it reported last week that its losses narrowed sharply. Investors see a turnaround effort—involving cutting jobs and divesting itself of businesses that aren’t related to selling telecom equipment—taking hold. Ericsson also sees 5G momentum rising in the U.S.

Chief Executive Borje Ekholm said carriers in North America are “investing heavily…in order to be early on 5G.”

There is still a long way before either company climbs out of the deep holes that years of losses have left them in. They are both still losing money, just not as much of it.

Ericsson said its first-quarter loss was 725 million Swedish kronor ($83 million), compared with 10 billion kronor in the same period a year earlier. Sales fell 9% to 43.4 billion kronor.

On Thursday, Nokia reported a first-quarter loss of €191 million ($232 million), compared with €450 million a year earlier. Its first-quarter revenue was €4.9 billion, down 8%.

Huawei is the world’s biggest telecoms-equipment maker and it is the No. 3 smartphone manufacturer behind Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Last month, it said its net profit rose 28% to 47.5 billion yuan ($7.5 billion) for 2017 on the back of strong smartphone sales.

Write to Stu Woo at

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