EU: a mixed record (

Berlin. The top politicians of the German government are generally satisfied with the recent German EU Council Presidency. “I think we delivered what was expected of us,” said Foreign Minister Heiko Maas of the dpa. The SPD politician referred to the agreement reached at the last minute on the Brexit trade pact with Great Britain, the EU budget and Corona aid as well as the discussion that had begun on more European sovereignty.

However, Maas and some of his colleagues had hoped for even more. He was disappointed that there was no breakthrough on the issue of migration in the past year. “I would have liked to have progressed there too, but that was not possible due to the blockade of individual countries,” said Maas. “That remains one of the big rifts in the European Union.”

Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) wanted to reach a political agreement between the EU states on the key points of an asylum reform before the end of the year. However, the EU Commission did not make a reform proposal until September – much later than expected due to long preliminary talks with the EU countries and the corona crisis. A breakthrough did not succeed in the remaining time. The controversial question of the distribution of asylum seekers in the EU remained unresolved. Some EU states insist on this, others want a “flexible mechanism” instead.

The organization Pro Asyl had criticized the fact that the EU Commission would in fact introduce a two-class asylum system with its plans: Some receive a fast-track procedure at the border, others a regular asylum procedure. “But border procedures are not fair asylum procedures. The aim of this procedure is to quickly reject and then quickly deport «, says Pro Asyl.

The Green European politician Sven Giegold complained in the short message service Twitter that the German EU Council Presidency had not become an ambitious climate presidency. “On the EU climate law, a much weaker position has prevailed among national governments than in the EU Parliament,” criticized Giegold. For example, MEPs called for the end of all fossil fuel subsidies and a European scientific climate council. The Commission is still striving for the EU to become climate neutral by 2050.

Heavily dependent on coal, Poland demanded further concessions in December to help transform its economy. Just one day before the UN climate summit, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) was able to announce an agreement to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030.

The left-wing member of the Bundestag Andrej Hunko recently dealt with German EU politics in an article for the magazine “Clara”. “Instead of trend-setting impulses for solving the major crises in the European Union, we found that Brussels and Berlin were largely standing still and lacking ideas,” said Hunko. In the health system in particular, it is currently becoming alarmingly clear what contradiction between profit logic and the common good, said Hunko with a view to the corona pandemic.

However, he also saw a ray of hope. “After all, small cracks have finally been made in the dogma of austerity that has dominated the EU for years. The strict rules of the Stability and Growth Pact, which were used to justify tough cuts, especially in southern European countries, have been temporarily suspended, ”explained Hunko.

The EU heads of state and government negotiated for four days and four nights in July to agree on the € 750 billion aid fund against the economic consequences of the corona crisis. But Poland and Hungary vetoed in November because they did not want to accept the planned reduction in EU funds in the event of violations of the rule of law. There was great praise for Merkel that this blockade fell at the December summit.

The summit compromise was bought with a grace period. A compromise worked out by the German EU Presidency provides that there is no risk of EU funds being cut in the event of complaints from Warsaw and Budapest before the European Court of Justice against the rule of law mechanism. The start could thus be postponed until 2022. Agencies / nd


when nostalgia becomes a political weapon

“What scares me about nostalgia is that it has become a political weapon. The politicians have created nostalgia for an England that never existed. And to which they sell as something we can return to, ”explained the recently disappeared John le Carré in an interview with the BBC last year. The British novelist, whose real name was David Cornwell, was the spy who narrated the Cold War. He was always extremely critical of him Brexi. Is it nostalgia that has brought us here?

This December 31, it will finally be executed for practical purposes the UK’s disconnection from the EU. After years writing about this daily, believe me when I tell you that today everything seems strange to me. Like that morning of June 24, 2016. He still had the words – and especially the tone of voice – of the legendary journalist David Dimbleby recorded: “Gentlemen, we are out.”

He had internalized so much that “the relationship between the UK and the EU it wasn’t love, but it wasn’t bad enough to end in divorce ”which I had come to believe. I wanted to believe it. In my head, somehow, Brexit had been cornered as a long shot. But it was not like that: 51.9% of the votes compared to 48.1%. By a difference of 1,269,501 ballots (or what is the same, 1.9% of the votes), it was decided to end more than four decades of stormy relationship with the bloc.

What would have happened if the 2008 crisis had not doomed the UK to an era of austerity What led many citizens to use the referendum as a vote to punish the Government? What if the populist-opportunist Boris Johnson would you have decided to campaign for permanence in the EU? What if the Labor opposition had a leader other than radical (and Eurosceptic) Jeremy Corbyn?

The cornerstone of any risk management system is the so-called ‘Swiss cheese model’. It was created in 1990 by the English James T. Reason, after studying the causes of various disasters. If we cut the cheese, it is difficult for any of the holes to coincide in each and every one of the slices. But that does not mean that it is impossible. And this is what has happened with Brexit. A singular concatenation of factors has brought us here.

Boris Johnson. (Reuters)Boris Johnson. (Reuters)
Boris Johnson. (Reuters)

Although, frankly, from the moment David cameron starred in a tremendous political miscalculation, the chances of avoiding catastrophe were reduced. Because it was all a political miscalculation fueled, among others, by a Scottish independence consultation in 2014, which the then prime minister won very tightly.

The promised land

Citizens were not asking for a plebiscite on staying in the EU. It was the Conservative Party that took their eternal dispute to the streets. Throughout history, the European question has cost up to six ‘Tory’ leaders their jobs. Johnson, however, hopes the disconnection will restore his reign to him. With popularity on the floor for his more than questioned management in the face of the pandemic, the Downing Street tenant now shows himself which messiah leading a ‘global Britain’ that Eurosceptics present Like it’s a promised land

The UK has already entered a recession and is on track to run a historic peacetime deficit of 19% of UK GDP. But that does not matter. For the ‘Brexiters’, their greatest treasure now is having regained sovereignty. And they are not aware that for any future pact, whoever it is, and even if it is only minimal, concessions must be made.

Pure sovereignty not only does not exist but is also dangerous, because it leaves you isolated. As has happened now. Because no matter how much people talk about the fact that the trade and cooperation agreement with Brussels finally bridged the abyss at the last minute, the United Kingdom is now out of the single market and the customs union. And this is the same as talking about hard Brexit.

The United Kingdom did not have a leading role in Churchill’s United States of Europe

It is true that the British were never quite comfortable in the community club. Many consider that the famous speech that Winston Churchill offered in 1946 at the University of Zurich, where he spoke of the need to build a “United States of Europe”, it was the first step towards integration during the postwar period. But the truth is that he saw the United Kingdom more as an observer than as an integrator of that process.

Europe was considered an inheritance of the empire. As great victors in their fight against Nazism, London wanted to help the Old Continent develop, but supervising everything from the outside.

After not one, but up to two vetoes from the French general Charles de Gaulle, the entrance finally arrived in 1973. But from the first moment, everything was exceptional. From Thatcher’s British check to exclusion from the euro zone. The United Kingdom always enjoyed a special status. And the rest of the Member States agreed with that. The benefit of the British presence in the European project cannot be minimized either. London offered the link to the United States, a different view of the process, and a counterweight to France.

However, the concessions that Brussels came to offer to Cameron in his attempt to avoid divorce can even be considered humiliating. Sometimes, we forget those negotiations prior to the historic consultation of June 23, 2016. The European Commission even proposed an ’emergency brake’ to stop the entry of migrants – suspending social benefits, even those to which they were entitled EU citizens – if it proved that the UK could not bear the migratory pressure. In short, a white-glove slap to freedom of movement, the cornerstone of the single market. But even so, Westminster didn’t buy it.

The ‘Tories’ were already very nervous about the rise of UKIP. With his anti-immigration speech, a then unknown Nigel Farage was gaining more and more ground. It was the British –in particular, Tony Blair– those who most insisted on integrating the Eastern countries into the EU. But then it turned out that their immigration bothered them. Ironies of this complex process.

“Regaining control of the borders” became the great emblem of the Eurosceptic cause. Farage refused to apologize after presenting a gigantic poster showing a long line of refugees crossing the border between Croatia and Slovenia. The politician was accused of adopting “Nazi-style propaganda tactics” to help win Brexit. Along with the billboard was the following message: “The EU has failed us all.”

The ‘Brexiters’ began to manipulate a speech in which, in the midst of the era of austerity imposed by the Executive after the 2008 crisis, they accused immigrants of stealing jobs from the British and collapsing public health, demonstrations that were demonstrated they weren’t true.

David Cameron.  (EFE)David Cameron.  (EFE)
David Cameron. (EFE)

It also coincided that in 2015 Germany registered a record 1.1 million refugees from the Middle East, West Africa and South Asia. Many Britons voted for Brexit with the conviction that they could reduce immigration from these countries, without being aware that the debate was only limited to the European countries of the bloc. They put an end to freedom of movement. Of course the door worked both ways. Community members will no longer be able to enter the UK freely, but British people will not be able to travel freely through the 27 EU countries either.

After the Brexit victory was known, Cameron announced his resignation and made it to Number 10 for the last time humming (literally). Theresa May took the baton and activated Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, when she did not even know how to define what it all meant: “Brexit means Brexit.”

What is the alternative to Europe? If we are honest, we must say that there are none ”, wrote in his diary in January 1963 the conservative British prime minister. Harold Macmillan, several days after General Charles de Gaulle vetoed for the first time the entrance of the United Kingdom to the then European Economic Community.

What is the alternative? I don’t have an answer for it yet. Therefore, I say goodbye as the President of the European Commission did on Christmas Eve, Ursula von der Leyen, quoting the poet TS Eliot: “What we call the beginning is often the end. And to finish is to begin ”.


Africa, the perfect storm for Europe

Over the years we have witnessed the arrival of tens of thousands of African migrants to the islands of Lesbos and Lampedusa, now the focus is on the Canary Islands. The names of Barranco Seco and the port of Arguineguín are beginning to become familiar to us, substitutes for Moria and Kará Tepé, different names same situation. This year, through the so-called Canarian route, more than 18,300 migrants have arrived and it is estimated that more than 600 people have perished, because the dead you never know how many there are, because the sea stays with them as a tribute and nobody wait on the other side. They depart in flimsy boats from the coast of Western Sahara, southern Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal, almost distant 1,500 kilometers from Tenerife. Neither distance, nor the sea, nor the weather deter migrants from trying to reach European soil, because in their land they have lost all hope of subsisting with dignity.

In this century, the strong demographic growth in some African countries, precisely the poorest, will push many citizens to emigrate to other lands. According to the World Population Prospects report Nigeria, the largest country in Africa with 182 million people, will go from being the seventh state in the world in population to become the third. By 2050, Nigeria will have almost 400 million inhabitants, surpassing the United States, where the population will grow from about 322 million today to about 389 million. With the highest rate of population growth, Africa will contribute more than half of the increase in world population between 2015 and 2050. As a whole, Africa will go from having 1,186 million inhabitants today to 2,478 million in 2050 and some 4,387 million in 2100. For its part, Europe will see a very marked aging of the population, since 34% of the population It will be over 60 years old by 2050, reducing the total population from 738 million today to 707 by then.

It is clear that Africans are looking towards Europe and that the perfect storm is brewing in North Africa that could turn into human tragedy at the gates of Europe. Poverty and demographic explosion, political destabilization produced by failed states like Libya and terrorism in the Sahel, climate change that can force millions of people to displace. All of it aggravated by the pandemic that affects all the countries of the continent, it can cause an exodus without precedent in history. In a study conducted by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), it is stated that in Sub-Saharan Africa, one of the poorest regions in the world, this region of Africa is expected to have 144 million children living below the threshold by 2030 from extreme poverty, counting for their subsistence on just one euro a day, and they will make up 43% of the poorest population globally.

Africa in Europe

Stephen Smith, author of the recent essay “Flight to Europe” exposes the thesis that as Europe ages and depopulates, Africa grows and overflows with young people: 40% of its inhabitants are today less than 15 years old. He affirms that everything will lead to a massive wave of African immigrants to Europe that will lead to 30 years from now in the Old Continent. there are between 150 and 200 million Africans, compared to nine today.

It is estimated that nine million sub-Saharan Africans could arrive in Spain alone in the next 20 years. According to data from the Ministry of the Interior, the number of migrants arriving irregularly in Spain in 2017 amounted to 27,834 and in 2018 to 64,298, of which 57,498 did so by boat and 27,243 last year, in the first 10 months of this year there have been counted 27,551 migrants. These figures are a long way from Stephen Smith’s forecasts, which he estimated an annual arrival of 450,000 migrants, but they are still worrisome.

Faced with this challenge, European policy is focused on strengthening the effective control of the EU’s external borders, considerably increasing the effective returns of irregular migrants and trying to curb human smugglers operating from Libya or elsewhere. Several “immigration conventions” – agreements to pay for the retention of immigrants – have been signed with various African states. These policies raise ethical issues and delay decision-making. Europe behaves like a stingy old man who pays a third party to stay with migrants or refugees, as Turkey did with Syrian citizens fleeing the war. However, migratory pressure will continue to increase. Faced with the arrival of immigrants and refugees, the solution is not to turn the islands into retention camps without guarantees, unworthy of this century and contrary to the human values ​​of European society.

Europe must look beyond its borders and not limit itself to its control. Although it cannot solve the poverty of African countries in the short term, Yes, it should allocate resources to combat it with effective development policies. Launch emergency plans to fight hunger in the poorest areas, where climate change is raging. That the implementation of the so-called «Marshall Plan for Africa» do not stop at mere announcements and establish fairer and more equitable trade relations with Europe, let the wealth generated by raw materials stay and invest in Africa. Establish plans for an orderly arrival of migrants. These are the real problems that must be faced and not accumulate migrants on the islands and on the borders of neighboring countries. Europe feels safe knowing that the sea serves as a moatHe hopes that one day the migrants will give up trying to reach Europe and return to their homes, meanwhile Africa will continue, desperate and with more force, knocking on the doors of Europe.

*Francisco Pleite Guadamillas is a magistrate and doctor of Law, author of the book “Europe, between fear and hospitality”


IFRC shows how effective support helps refugees in Turkey get their lives back

Turkey is currently home to nearly four million displaced people, the world’s largest refugee population, and around 3.6 million of them are Syrians who fled the war that has devastated their country. International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC, for its acronym in English) is no stranger to these figures and this Tuesday, December 8, launches the digital campaign #powertobe, which connects Turkey’s most inspiring and talented refugees with influencers from all over Europe, like musician Antonio Orozco. An initiative that reflects the passions and dreams of four young refugees – a singer, a cook, a footballer and a parkour runner – who regain control of their lives through the largest humanitarian program in the European Union.

The campaign provides financial support to vulnerable refugees in Turkey struggling to make ends meet. The four participating in it are supported by the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), funded by the European Union and implemented by the IFCR and the Turkish Red Crescent, in partnership with the Government of Turkey.

Through the ESSN, about 1.8 million vulnerable refugees, the majority from Syria, receive small monthly payments using a debit card. Regular cash support allows them to pay for what they need most, such as food, rent, transportation, or medicine. An additional quarterly allowance is provided, depending on family size, with special payments for those in need of additional care.

This financial support gives families the dignity to choose and prevents them from adopting negative coping mechanisms, such as taking children out of school to contribute money to the family or going into further debt. Thanks to the ESSN, families regain control of their lives and, ultimately, the power to be themselves.

The digital campaign #powertobe It is launched in five countries – Austria, France, Romania, Spain and Turkey – with the aim of raising awareness about the challenges faced by people fleeing conflict, portraying them with different people with their own passions and talents.

The passions of Hamad, Davud, Amal and Bilal

Hamad, Davud, Amal and Bilal are four refugees who talk about their passion, their dreams and challenges, as they rebuild a new normal in Turkey with the assistance of ESSN. Through this campaign, which runs from December 8 to January 4, we can see these four displaced young people chat with influencers who are in other countries and how they discuss their common passions in video messages, online calls and clips of mobile phone to the eyes.

Hamad / singer: “You will find me singing anywhere”

Hamad likes to sing love songs at home, outdoors, with friends … Singing helps him overcome his problems. He fled Syria to Turkey as a refugee and thanks to the provision of ESSN he can buy the things that are most important to him. He exchanges mobile phone clips with Antonio Orozco, who listens to him from Spain, and with Feli, from Romania. He also rehearses some of his songs and always does it in Arabic.

For Hamad music is so important because it is the food of his soul. This is how she tells how she lives her passion for singing to Antonio Orozco, with whom she shares her passion for love songs: “The Red Crescent card helps us buy everything we need at home. We arrived from Syria only with the clothes that we were wearing. When faced with a difficult situation, I sing. Singing fills my soul. Singing is not just a passion, for me it is everything in life and you will usually find me singing anywhere. ”

Davud / parkour runner: “I have a lot of energy”

He likes sports of all kinds, although what he is really passionate about is parkour, ‘the art of displacement’, that practice that consists of moving from one point to another in the city adapting to the demands of the terrain with the only help of the own body. The streets with Davud’s gym, who also practices balance and somersaults on mattresses in his family’s living room, though he prefers to train outside.

In the campaign video, Davud shows off his favorite move, the “bargainer.” She has been living with her parents and siblings in Istanbul since she fled Syria and uses the ESSN grant to buy bus tickets or daily breakfast on the way to school. In the videos with Alex from Austria and Phosky from Spain, he talks about the best places to practice parkour. He is passionate about it and practices it almost every day with his friend Cengiz: “I came to Turkey in 2012. The lack of food in Syria made us have to move here. It is difficult to adapt to a new place, but I have a lot of energy. Parkour gives adrenaline “.

Amal / cook: “We came alone with our souls”

She has her own YouTube channel and regularly posts cooking videos with delicious recipes. For the digital campaign #powertobe She makes hummus, without garlic and with lots of tahini, which is her favorite. Amal talks about cooking with Idil from Turkey and Ryan from France. She is the mother of three children and uses the ESSN monthly allowance mostly to buy food.

The kitchen allows her to enter into herself and opens up new possibilities for her after being forced to abandon her studies in Syria. Amal would like to open her own restaurant one day: “I didn’t bring anything with me from Syria. We came alone with our souls. Cooking helps me forget the outside world. The money I get helps me so that my children don’t lack anything.” .

Bilal / footballer: “My dream is to play for Real Madrid”

When Bilal came to Turkey from Syria, he was only nine years old. His family uses almost all of the ESSN subsidy for rent. He lives in Istanbul, trains in the small soccer fields in his neighborhood and his brother Mahmoud is always with him. Online, he swaps clips with Hamit from Turkey and only talks about one thing: football.

The great idol of Bilal is Cristiano Ronaldo, although he still does not understand why the famous Portuguese footballer left Real Madrid for Juventus, since what he would like most would be to play for the Madrid team: “I don’t know why Ronaldo He left Real Madrid, I wouldn’t have done it because my dream is to play for Real Madrid and one of the great Turkish teams, Besiktas.

Influential engagement

Influential people, influencers from all over Europe, show their commitment to refugees in Turkey and participate in the campaign of IFRC, from the Spanish musician Antonio Orozco to the Turkish-American cook Idil Yazar.

Antonio Orozco / Spain / singer
The Spanish singer-songwriter and composer was born in Barcelona in 1972, the son of Sevillian workers. At age 15 he bought his first guitar and began composing songs. He has been awarded the Ondas Award and his success has allowed him to perform throughout Latin America and the United States.

Phosky / Spain / parkour runner
Phosky is a Spanish parkour athlete, member of the famous Galizian Urban Project, with which the parkour movement has had a lasting and global influence with his Spanish friends. Phosky’s movements are characterized by their flow, variety, and unique style. In addition to international projects, he teaches workshops, such as at the ParkourOne Academy in Berlin, on different approaches, philosophies and communities of parkour.

Alex Schauer / Austria / corredor parkour
He is a professional freerunner and parkour athlete from Austria. Alex works as an actor, content creator, director, and stuntman. His life revolves around discovering paths and possibilities that no one has explored before. Thanks to his many travels, he knows exactly what it is like to be in a foreign environment. His open-mindedness and willingness to cross borders make him a great ESSN ambassador.

Ryan Milstein / France / Cook
Ryan is one of the three founders of the La Main Noire cooking collective. The trio met in Melbourne, capital of modern brunch and coffee shops. After traveling several continents, always looking for new experiences and inspiration. They returned to Paris together and founded La Main Noire, a group specializing in the culture of those cafes and brunches that delight them. His ambitions: new ideas and new healthy, delicious and innovative products, to delight the Parisian coffee scene as well.

Feli Donose / Romania / music
Better known as Feli, this Romanian singer-songwriter became famous thanks to her participation in the Romanian show The Voice in 2012. Unlike other pop stars, Feli likes to show her reserved and unadorned side on her account. of Instagram, which makes her a close, friendly and accessible person for many.

Hamit Altıntop / Turkey / former footballer
Hamit was born in 1982 in Gelsenkirchen. He is a former professional soccer player and former player for the Turkish national team with a brilliant international career. His twin brother, Halil, was also a professional footballer and also played for the national team. Since June 1, 2019, Hamit has been a member of the board of directors of the Turkish Football Association, as well as a volunteer for the German Bone Marrow Donation Center DKMS. In 2010 he advertised all over Turkey about the importance of stem cell donation.

Idil Yazar / Turkey / cook
Born in 1985 and raised in the United States, Idil combines her business experience and culinary training with her passion for cooking online. In 2015, he opened his cooking channel on YouTube, which has become one of the most popular of all food on the video platform, with more than 600 published recipes and 700,000 subscribers.

The ESSN program

The ESSN prepaid debit card is available to all refugees in Turkey, home to the largest refugee population in the world – nearly four million people.

An average household of six people receives 720 lira (current exchange rate) Turkish each month. In addition, the family receives ‘extras’ every four months depending on their needs. Thanks to this help, 97% of families can maintain a balanced and varied diet.

The money can be used in stores or for paying rent, buying food or simply on a day-to-day basis.

This aid enables people to participate in community life and contribute to their local economies.


Turkey: Turkey on target

Since the signing of the Ankara Agreement in 1963, Turkey It was one of the closest partners of the then European Economic Community. With the signing of the agreement for a Customs Union in 1995 and its consideration as a suitable candidate for accession, it seemed that relations between the Eurasian country and the Union were at their best. Following the rise to power of President Tayyip Erdogan, relations between the Union and Turkey have been deteriorating, until reaching the current situation.

The government of Erdogan, aware of the geostrategic situation in Turkey, has tightened the rope on more than one occasion to exercise pressure on its European neighbors. Its privileged geographical position, bordering on Iran and Iraq and being the country that moves the Syrian war away from the borders of the Union, makes it a main actor to solve important geostrategic challenges. This role has come to interfere in the EU’s own policies, since most of the refugees from the Syrian war who have entered Europe have entered through Turkey and – on many occasions – with the consent of the authorities (causing one of the biggest humanitarian crises in decades).

Likewise, since gas was discovered in 2013 in the Eastern Mediterranean, conflicts over the delimitation of territorial waters between Greece, Cyprus and Turkey have been increasing. The Cypriot government, following Turkish explorations, has requested on more than one occasion the imposition of sanctions on Turkey. The drilling in the seabed would not only have caused seismic movements in parts of Greece and Cyprus, but also would have violated – according to these countries – their territorial sovereignty. Despite the lack of a common front within the European Union regarding sanctions against Turkey, The Union has already imposed sanctions against Turkish citizens related to the Government, as well as against companies involved in oil exploration and those who support them.

In addition to tightening the rope with the EU, Turkey also has diplomatic disagreements with the United States. Since the outbreak of the Syrian conflict, the intersection of accusations and the clash between the two powers has increased, at first they were the accusations of the then vice president, Joe Biden, on the possible financing that the Turkish Government was providing to Al-Nusra (one of the local affiliates of Al-Qaeda), the support of the American troops to the Kurdish militias or the increasing rapprochement between the Turkish Government and Russia from Vladimir Putin. The constant friction has led the Erdogan government to also consider Turkey’s possible exit from NATO, which would mean the definitive break with the West.

At the height of this dispute, the statements of the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, about Islam, caused a new clash between Tayyip Erdogan and the European Union. The Turkish president questioned the mental health of the French leader and called on other Muslim countries to boycott French products as a gesture of protest.

All these acts have been rejected by the European Union, which has been verified through the High Representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell who has expressed, together with Parliament and the Commission, their rejection of both President Erdogan’s personal attacks and the boycott of French products, which is contrary to the tariff agreements in force between Turkey and the Union. In addition, the turbulent situation in Cyprus has also led to the imposition of economic sanctions by the Union as well as to rethink the commercial relationship that gives a status singular and preferential to Turkey.

As is always the case when international sanctions turn out to be the tool of choice, the main losers are foreign companies who have made investments and are already present in the market. As for Spanish companies, Turkey has become one of its preferred investment destinations having increased investments from 2012 to 2019 between 3 and 4% per year. In addition to Spanish investment, commercial relations are intense given that Turkey is one of the main destinations for Spanish exports of automobiles and other metallurgical resources, while Turkey -for its part- exports a large quantity of textile products to Spain.

The risks posed by diplomatic tension and instability impairs trade relations with Turkey. In particular, the legal certainty on which the foreign investments already established and that bet on the Ottoman country as a developing market and regional ‘hub’ rest (as it enjoys a privileged position as a gateway to the markets of its surroundings). Proof of your promotion and ambition from the local authorities of consolidate Istanbul as ub financial and commercial of the region is the Istanbul Financial Center project, which aims to turn Istanbul into a center for business by 2022.

However, the Turkish government does not seem to be concerned about the increase in tension and is sparing no effort in clashing head-on with its European allies and the United States. It would seem that Erdogan’s dream of asserting Turkish influence over the region passes – with the support of Russia – through feel comfortable on the target.

* José María Viñals Camallonga. Socio en Squire Patton Boggs.


The Canary Islands will not be ″ a new Lesbos ″, says Spanish government | Europe up to date | DW

The archipelago of the Canary Islands, exposed for months to a massive arrival of migrants, will not be “a new Lesbos”, defended this Monday (11/16/2020) the Spanish government in reference to the Greek island where many migrants from Turkey were stranded .

“We are not going to turn the Canary Islands into a new Lesbos,” Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska told Antena 3 television.

This small Greek island, located a few kilometers off the coast of Turkey, became the main gateway to the European Union during the migration crisis of 2015. Many migrants were blocked there, in overcrowded fields and in poor conditions, according to several international organizations.

In the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago off the coast of northwest Africa, they fear experiencing a process similar to that in Greece, after having received more than 16,000 migrants in 2020, half of them in the last month, according to the regional executive.

The number of disembarked is ten times more than that registered in the same period of 2019 and reaches a figure not seen since 2006, when the islands received some 30,000 migrants.

“It is an urgent situation,” acknowledged the Interior Minister, who recently announced the upcoming closure of the makeshift camp in the port of Arguineguín, where there are around 1,800 migrants in precarious conditions, according to various non-governmental organizations. (afp)


Squatting: A Piece of Culture (

“We are here” and “Nobody is illegal”: In Amsterdam, refugees have to vacate an occupied car garage that offered them protection for a while.

Photo: dpa / Remko De Waal

The Keizersgracht with its magnificent buildings from the 18th century is located in the historic center of Amsterdam. Stately houses with bay windows, pillars in front and wide staircases up to the front door. Everyone in Amsterdam liked to live in such a canal house. But for most of them it remains a dream, because the rents here are astronomical.

Except for those who don’t pay rent. Such as the group in Keizersgracht 318 that has been occupying the building since July 2020. Since it had been vacant for several years, the squatters – called Krakers in Dutch – decided to use it as living space. A procedure that has been a tradition in the country since the 1960s.

On the facade hang banners with inscriptions: “Kraken gaat door” (squatting continues) and “We are back” (we are back). A note is stuck to the massive wooden entrance door. The text, in Dutch and English, explains that the building has been unused for years, while rents have exploded in Amsterdam, more and more hotels are being built and the waiting time for those seeking social housing can be up to 20 years. There is an electronic bell above it. Nothing happens on the first ring, the second time a voice from inside asks in English for names and wishes.

Squatting: A Piece of Culture

Photo: dpa / Remko De Waal

The door opens only hesitantly, just enough for a slim man to squeeze between the door and the wall. He is small, less than 1.70 meters tall, wearing a light blue, frayed denim jacket with black patches and black, laced leather boots. The dark hair is shaved to a millimeter length, the nose is pierced with a ring, and a thick silver link chain with a padlock hangs around the neck. He doesn’t want to talk to the press and is suspicious. Bad experiences have been made there. When asked, he reacts annoyed, but not aggressively, always withdraws behind the door, but does not close it. Finally a woman with dyed green hair comes out with a boxer hybrid on a leash. While the man is still quickly watering the plants in front of the house with a water bottle, she rolls a cigarette. Then the two walk away over one of the bridges.

Owner: “I can already understand people”

Squatting like this has existed in the Netherlands since 1964. Over the years, the number of members of the scene grew and the organization became more professional, until the situation escalated in 1980 and the police came with a tank to break through the squatters’ barricades and clear buildings. In 1994 a law was passed that prohibited occupying a building that had been vacant for less than a year. But only since 2010 has octopus, ie squatting, been generally considered a criminal offense. There is a threat of one year imprisonment, or two years and eight months in the event of violent resistance. In 2012, fueled by the arrival of many refugees, the scene strengthened again and the collective “We are here”, consisting of migrants and asylum seekers, occupied more than 30 buildings and parks in Amsterdam by the end of 2017.

One of the affected owners is Salih Ozcan. In the summer of 2019, his company hall in an industrial area in West Amsterdam, which was to be converted into a showroom for cars, was occupied by 40 men. “The police explained to me that they were professional squatters and therefore advised me not to go in there alone, as experience has shown that the situation often escalates,” he says during a conversation in the office of his garage in a suburb of Amsterdam. “Until then, I didn’t even know there were such groups. I found out later that the squatters had people looking for empty objects. “

Ozcan enlisted assistance from an AT5 television crew. “Actually, I wanted to show the responsible community that they have to find a solution for these people. But no sooner were we in the hall with the camera than we were thrown out again. “

Usually the asylum squatters stay for at least eight weeks, because that is how long it takes before the owner of the property can obtain a judge’s decision for an evacuation with the help of a lawyer. Only then do the police take action. In the case of Salih Ozcan, however, it went faster. After eleven days, accelerated by the great attention of national and international media, the police stepped in and cleared the building, in which there were already 100 people. A year later, Ozcan says: “I can understand people, but that’s not a solution either.”

Occupier: “We create living space, even if it is only for five people”

“Actually, buildings that we think are empty are observed over a long period of time. But there is a different urgency with the asylum squatters. Anything that looks empty promises to survive a little longer, «says Annemarie Dijkstra, who keeps her real name to herself because she prefers to remain anonymous. She has been part of the squatter scene for years. Dijkstra also wears black and the typical heavy, laced leather boots. Her nose is also pierced with a small ring, and she drinks her coffee – of course – black. “There is enough space in Amsterdam and the city would have enough money to accommodate the people,” she explains at a meeting in a café.

She has noticed that the squatter scene has shrunk noticeably in recent years since the law was changed. “Houses are cleared faster. Our entire infrastructure was taken from us. ”This also made it more difficult to ensure the safety of the members of the movement. »It can be dangerous, especially during the weekly consultation hours that we offer for people with living space problems. We never know who’s coming. ”The situation is particularly delicate for the women’s group in the“ We are here ”collective, as the young, often pregnant women, could easily become the target of right-wing extremists.

Annemarie Dijkstra admits that there is also fear of the squatter scene in society. That has mainly to do with clichés and the presentation in the media. “We’re always portrayed as drug addicts parasites who take something away from other people. We want to help. We create living space, even if only for five people. Then we just helped five people. “

Property that is now open to everyone after risky action

Ivo Schmetz, who in 1999 occupied the empty house OT301 on Vondelpark in Amsterdam’s city center, also wanted to create living space and space for creativity. Today it is an important part of the city’s cultural scene, as are the formerly occupied houses Paradiso and Melkweg, which are now used as concert halls. “The building was perfect for us. The only problem was that it hadn’t been empty for a whole year, which would have made us a criminal offense for trespassing «, he explains in the office of the OT301 with a view of the inner courtyard with its colorful graffiti art, bicycles and plants. Today the man, who has been a member of the scene for 20 years, no longer wears an anarcho look, but a green outdoor jacket and sneakers. “It was a risky occupation. The owner of the building, the city of Amsterdam, could have had it evacuated very quickly. «Fortunately, the idea of ​​the artist squatters’ group met with public approval, and so living space, work areas, studios and rooms for cultural events were created in the three-story house with an area of ​​2,000 square meters.

In 2006 the group bought the house and became legal collective owners. »There are currently six people living in the front building and as many in the main building. But it is important to us that our house is open to people. We are usually open six or seven days a week for exhibitions, readings, film screenings, yoga classes or self-defense courses. “

Although Ivo Schmetz officially no longer belongs to the squatters, he still supports their actions to this day. »I’m glad that there are still active squatters because the 2010 law changed Amsterdam. So it’s good that the movement is showing up again. People seem to forget that this culture has also given the city of Amsterdam a lot of good. Many buildings would have been demolished without the squatters – and thanks to the squatters, numerous cultural centers have emerged that still exist today, «says Schmetz.

Occupying houses creates space for diversity

It is important to have diversity in the city, with opportunities for everyone. “Occupying houses has always been a catalyst for bringing new things to life. But hardly any buildings of this type have been added in the past ten years, many have been evicted and closed. “

The way out of the OT301 leads through the inner courtyard and a corridor that runs under the front building, past black and white graffiti with Siamese cats and the friendly robot R2D2 from the “Star Wars” film. In the corner of an old cupboard is a small robot welded together from scrap metal. The heavy metal door to the main street slams into the lock. It is always open to those interested. Unlike in the Keizersgracht, where the house-to-house fight rages behind closed doors.


Al Assad accuses Turkey of blocking return of Syrian refugees

criticize the west – Syrian President Bashar al Assad yesterday accused the West and Turkey of blocking the return of millions of Syrian refugees who were forced to flee the country by the war that has lasted since mid-2011. “Western countries and other states in the region are cruelly exploiting the issue of Syrian refugees and turning them into a bargaining chip, “Al Assad said during his speech at the conference organized by Russia in Damascus on the future of Syrian refugees to explore ways that facilitate the return to their place of origin, according to the Syrian state television network.


Refugees adrift in the Aegean

After his boat broke down, Benyamín and the people who were with him in his barge had to wait several hours at the night solitude of the sea before the greek coast guard he rescued them. Benjamin, of Iran, had just left Turkey by boat with a clear objective: to reach Europe.

At first, everything seemed to be going well: the Greeks, after capturing them, told them not to worry, to give them their belongings and that, after a few days, after passing through Athens, they would send them to Italy. All good, you can continue. But it was a lie.

The Greek police beat us, took all our money from us and for two days they gave us neither food nor water. They took all our valuables: my phone, my gold necklace and even my glasses “, says the young man.

Life rafts adrift in the Aegean with migrants on board waiting to be rescued by the Turkish coast guard. / ADRIÀ ROCHA CUTILLER

After taking everything off and softening them up, the Greeks gathered several groups of migrants in the same patrol boat and took them out to sea again, in the direction, yes, to the turkish coast.

And there in the middle of the Aegean, at the point where the territorial waters from Greece and the ones from Turkey start, they put them in three life rafts without an engine and left to their own devices. They were 42 persons, and one of them, who was able to hide his phone, later managed to call the turkish coast guard. They were adrift for an hour: “The Greek policemen did things to us inhuman that I never imagined. They really are the most cops scoundrels of the world, “says Benyamín.


From the 2015 -When did it start the great wave of refugee migration from Turkey to Greece – hot returns, both by land and by sea, have been constant: Greece has been accused countless times of expelling people who had already entered Hellenic territory. But the cases, documented also by United NationsThey were very sporadic.

Everything changed, however, this past february. On the 28th of that month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that his police would stop stopping refugees and migrants who wanted to go to Europe. Tens of thousands went to the border and tried, and there they ran into a wall of violence, tear gas, kidnappings and robberies. The message that the conservative Greek government gave Kyriakos Mitsotakis it was clear: nobody is going to enter.

The Turkish coast guard patrols the waters of the Aegean. / ADRIÀ ROCHA CUTILLER

Since then, although the Greek authorities, consulted by this newspaper, deny it completely, hot returns have become the norm. So much that vSeveral reports even link Frontex, the European border control agency, with the summary expulsions of refugees. “The dominant perception in Greece is that migrant flows have become a weapon from turkey against Greece and that, therefore, migrants and refugees must be treated as such, “he explains Yorgos Christidis, professor at Macedonian University.

Public opinion Much has changed on this issue and only a small minority think in terms of international right and of our obligation to give refuge to people fleeing violence. In this regard, the Government enjoys public support. I suspect that if you ask people, the vast majority will say that the right thing is being done“, added Christidis.

And the right thing to do, stop them, is to stop the flow completely, whatever. According to statistics from UNHCR, the agency of the HIM-HER-IT for refugees, in January and February 2020 they arrived in Greece 7,552 asylum seekers. From March to now – since hot returns have become the norm – they have done it only 1.678. The Turkish coast guard, in this same period, ensures having rescued 7,682 people after being returned to the sea from Greece. It is easy to recognize them: the life rafts where the Greeks put and leave the migrants, of bright red and tent-shaped, they are seen for miles.


At night, however, it is difficult to find them. The sun has not yet risen over the horizon and the Turkish coast guards, who are patrolling the southern Aegean, near the Greek islands of Rhodes and Symi, you just received a notice. Near the coast of Marmaris, to the south, there is a group of refugees. But when they go there they find nothing.

This is when it happens: they receive the call of a refugee “The one who got the phone from him.” “It is a tactic of the greeks. They give us a false alarm so that we empty the area where they will return, so that we don’t see them, “says a Turkish coast guard.

Rescue of 42 refugees in the Aegean Sea: The Greek police lied to us

Speeding north, in the first light of day, there they are: three floating red tents that, full of people, shine and reflect the rays of the already shy autumn sun. “Hey! Does anyone speak Turkish? You? Okay, take the rope, and stretch, OK? Try to get to the back of the boat. There, to the platform. Now we will upload you one by one. The backpacks will be taken by us. Above all, tranquility, “say the Turks.

And while the migrants board the ship, in the distance, on the Greek coast, they can see two boats. They are the Greek Coast Guard. “After a return we always have watching from a distance, “says a Turkish agent.


When the operation ends, the 42 rescued are taken back to Turkey. Some are relieved to be back on solid ground; the majority, desperate to have lost everything on the way and to go back to where they came from. “What am I going to do now? The Greek policemen took my passport, mobile and money. Where will i go? I’m afraid of being deported back to Afghanistan. What do I do now? What I do?“he says, desperate, Captive, a boy 16 years old traveling alone. He wanted to meet his uncle in Germany.

Rescued refugees aboard the Turkish coast guard ship. / ADRIÀ ROCHA CUTILLER

Benyamín, meanwhile, tucks in and tries to comfort his girlfriend, who can’t stop crying. They have lost almost everything, but still have a suitcase with clothes. For them, there is no other option: “We will try again. We’re not staying. “

Upon arriving at the port, already in Turkey, the police make them get off the ship and confine them in a separate place. Will pass a few days in the barracks and then they will be free again. For some, it will be the end of the journey; they have already tired. For most, however, it will be one more stumbling block. Many, fleeing violence and going through violence, already have very little to lose.


the Chancellor’s complex relations with China, Russia and Turkey

Ethics and pocket: values ​​and interests. That is one constant dilemma in German foreign policy. Angela Merkel knows this well, for many years she has struck a difficult balance, promoting the international business of the DAX 30 while denouncing human rights abuses and defending democracy beyond her borders. But 2020 has gotten in his way. The opacity with which China concealed the beginnings of the pandemic, the abuses of Beijing in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, the poisoning with Novichok of the Russian opponent Alexéi Navalni and the Turkish aggressiveness in the eastern Mediterranean are making it impossible for the Chancellor to maintain her equidistant pragmatism . Their position, which has come to be seen as lucrative and inspiring, may end up being seen as self-serving, contradictory, and ultimately counterproductive.

Few leaders in Europe, and throughout the West, know how to quickly get the presidents of China, Russia and Turkey on the phone. When things go wrong with the coronavirus, with Ukraine or Belarus, with Syria, Nagorno-Karabakh or Libya, It is Merkel who speaks with Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But is his unappealable recourse to dialogue with these autocrats really effective? Is his conciliatory and negotiation-prone character worth the fait accompli and testosterone? Can the commercial interests of the largest European economy be demarcated from the foreign policy decisions of its Executive?

Carlos Barragan

That it is accepted to lose the idiosyncrasy of Hong Kong, between the indifference and the conformity of world public opinion, is the greatest symptom of a change of era between the superpowers

China: Hong Kong, the Uyghurs and covid-19

2020 was going to be the big year for Germany and China. Berlin had been carefully preparing for months its rotating presidency of the European Council, from July to December this year. The climax was to come in September, when an event was scheduled to take place in Leipzig (Germany). EU-China summit with the leaders of the 27 and the Chinese president. There, a bilateral investment protection agreement was to be signed with great pomp that would make the bloc the preferred partner of the Asian giant.

But the summit did not take place. There was hardly a video conference. The agreement was not reached either. And it seems difficult to finally reach an ambitious and consensual text by December, the deadline for Brussels. The EU has been disappointed by Beijing’s unwillingness to step forward. Europe demands reciprocity – that European companies can do in China what Chinese companies are allowed in Europe – and Beijing does not want to make that qualitative leap. The president of the European Commission (and former Merkel Defense Minister), Ursula von der Leyen, assured that China had a lot to do.

The agreement was ruined by the lack of economic progress, but the European side was seeing less and less politically digestible an agreement with China in the current context, regardless of the letter of the text. The image of Beijing has fallen whole in recent months due to political repression in Hong Kong – where it has ended judicial independence and freedom of expression – and in Xinjiang, where it is estimated that one million of members of the Uighur Muslim ethnic minority are in concentration camps. But also due to the increasing aggressiveness with Taiwan and the feeling that Beijing concealed the severity of the coronavirus in the early stages of the pandemic, which made it impossible to tackle it in time. In addition, it continues to refuse international experts to travel to Wuhan for an independent investigation and has raised its financial contribution to the World Health Organization (WHO), already questioned in its impartiality, increasing doubts about its independence.

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Under normal circumstances, WHO is often profiled in the media. But these are not normal circumstances and the proof is that you are reading this confined to home

These reasons have also led Merkel to distancing itself from China in recent months, blurring, one year after leaving power, one of the pillars of his legacy: his political and, above all, commercial approach to China. In her fifteen years at the Foreign Ministry, she has traveled to the Asian giant twelve times, always accompanied by a select group of businessmen. The chancellor has helped large transnationals such as Volkswagen, Siemens, Mercedes and BASF do multi-million dollar deals in the world’s second largest economy.

An example of this distancing is Germany’s turnaround on the thorny issue of 5G. If the German government, led by Merkel, began by defending the possibility that the Chinese Huawei participated in the deployment of this new telecommunications standard in its territory, now it is maneuvering so that, in practice, it is out of the game. After defending the importance of the free market and the need to adopt the latest technologies as soon as possible, the government’s draft of the new Telecommunications Security Law does not prevent Huawei’s participation, but it qualitatively limits it in practice. According to the economic daily ‘Handelsblatt’, the legislation provides for a technical control and a political scrutiny of each provider of critical elements of telecommunications networks.

File photo of Russian opponent Alexei Navalni.  (Reuters)File photo of Russian opponent Alexei Navalni.  (Reuters)
File photo of Russian opponent Alexei Navalni. (Reuters)

Russia: Navalny and the Nord Stream 2

For Merkel, Putin’s Russia has always been a difficult interlocutor, but an interlocutor. The chancellor did not consider cutting off the dialogue even in 2014, when Moscow militarily annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and armed and financed a separatist guerrilla in eastern Ukraine. He supported expelling Russia from the G8 and imposing a series of sanctions from Europe that are still in force, but kept in contact. In fact, it was mainly her, although she led the then French president, François Hollande, by the hand, who a year later he brought Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to the table, to seal the Minsk Accords.

Merkel has endured a lot from Putin (perhaps more than anyone) and not only in foreign policy, where the chancellor has received rudeness and indifference from the Russian president when addressing the crises in Syria, Libya or, more recently, Belarus. Also in matters that directly affected Germany. In 2016, the Bundestag suffered a serious cyber attack that experts say was launched from Russia, but Moscow denied the biggest. And last year a Chechen ex-combatant and confidant of various Western secret services was shot in broad daylight in Berlin. The author of the shots, arrested shortly after, was a Russian agent. But for the Kremlin it was all a hoax.

Carlos Barragan. Kyiv

The end of the war in Ukraine sheds light on the turbulent geopolitical landscape. Europe is divided, the US is in internal crisis, Russia is weakened and China is positioned as the silent giant

What reasons could Merkel have to put up with this behavior? On the one hand, there are historical ties of Germany and Russia, in the cultural and human. Like the relations between Spain and Morocco, they are not always simple. There is also the conviction that carrot it is always better than stick, a thesis supported by the chancellor and her government.

But there is also the mere business. The most obvious and controversial example is the Nord Stream 2. It is a gas pipeline that directly connects both countries through the Baltic Sea and that, in addition to providing cheap energy insurance for the German private sector, is an oxygen balloon for Gazprom, the Russian state gas company. The project, which is close to completion despite opposition from Washington -which has imposed extraterritorial sanctions against the companies involved- and several European partners, represents a significant financial setback for Ukraine, which according to an estimate will stop receiving 1.8 billion euros annually in passing taxes.

But Merkel’s patience seems to be over with the Navalni case. The Novichok poisoning of the Russian opposition leader has shocked the chancellor, who has demanded cooperation from Russia and a thorough and transparent investigation of what happened, because only the Russian state possesses this nerve agent. The German government has warned that the use of chemical weapons cannot be left “without consequences” and has advanced talks with its European partners for a “joint response”. It will be time to see if the Chancellor is serious and is really willing to break the deck. The suspension of the Nord Stream 2 would be a good start.

Turkey: The eastern Mediterranean and the refugee crisis

Merkel has once again bet on dialogue on the last front that has been opened to her, the crisis in the eastern Mediterranean between Turkey and Greece. Ankara’s oil prospecting in disputed waters has raised the temperature in the region. Numerous warships on both sides patrol the area and the possibility that human error could unleash an armed conflict has been warned.

The chancellor has once again displayed her ability to balance here, defrauding Athens and sparking skepticism within the EU. And at the last European summit he has gotten away with it. Merkel has opted to avoid confrontation with Turkey, sacrificing the possibility of building a common European front. He has insisted that we must show “solidarity” with Greece, but at the same time seek a diplomatic solution to the conflict. The chancellor has not taken sides with her community partner -as other members of the bloc have done-, but has wanted to act as a mediator, sending her Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, to speak with the two parties, as if they were two alike . Equidistantes.

Behind this diplomatic effort is its interest in keeping Turkey in NATO, but also its need, for internal political reasons, for Ankara to maintain its commitment to host Turkey in its territory. refugees arriving from Syria and Iraq, preventing them from advancing towards Europe. Because Merkel doesn’t want another crisis like the one in 2015, in which she kept her country’s borders open and allowed a million people to enter, but suffered great political wear and tear and caused a deep internal crisis within the conservative German bloc (and the take off of the extreme right). That cannot be repeated. Not a year from the elections.