Weekly News 9 – 14 July | Mediterranean Affairs
Monday 09 July 2018
Ethiopia – Eritrea: The leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea have signed a declaration saying that the state of war between the two countries is over.
A peace deal ending the 1998-2000 border conflict has never been fully implemented and there has been tension between the neighbours ever since. The countries have also agreed to re-establish trade and diplomatic ties. The declaration came at a landmark meeting between the two countries’ leaders in Eritrea’s capital, Asmara.
The summit between Eritrea’s President Isaias Afewerki and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed marked the first time the neighbours’ heads of state had met for nearly two decades. (BBC)
Gaza Strip: Hamas has condemned an Israeli decision to seal off the Karam Abu Salem commercial border crossing, the primary passageway that transfers necessities to residents of the besieged Gaza Strip.
The group, which governs the enclave, described Monday’s measure as a “crime against the people of Gaza”, blaming the international community’s prolonged silence that encourages Israel’s blockade on the Strip. The move, which will come into effect on Tuesday, will only allow for the transfer of humanitarian needs such as cooking gas as well as wheat and flour into the Strip. The closure of the Karam Abu Salem border crossing will also affect Gaza’s exports, further straining an already crippled economy brought to its kneed by the 12-year blockade.
Turkey: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hailed the beginning of a new chapter in the country’s history in his inauguration address, while promising improvements in “every” area. His comments on Monday came shortly after taking the oath of office to become Turkey’s first executive president with increased powers after his election victory last month. Monday’s inauguration concluded the transition from a parliamentary system to an executive presidency, in line with the constitutional changes approved in a referendum in April 2017. (Al Jazeera)
U.K.: Boris Johnson has quit as foreign secretary claiming in his resignation letter that the UK was headed “for the status of a colony” if Theresa May’s soft Brexit plans were adopted. The leading Brexiter said that he tried to support the line agreed at Chequers on Friday but said that he could not manage to support the plan agreed. Pressure on the foreign secretary had been mounting since fellow pro-Brexiter David Davis resigned as Brexit secretary on Sunday night, swiftly followed by his No 2 at the Department for Exiting the EU, Steve Baker. Johnson and his allies are concerned about the risk that Britain’s ability to strike trade deals with non-EU countries will be severely limited under the Chequers approach. (The Guardian)
Tuesday 10 July 2018
Italy: Italy has refused to allow a commercial vessel flying an Italian flag to bring ashore rescued migrants, sticking to a hardline policy on new arrivals as it presses European allies to share the burden of hosting an influx of displaced people. A commercial ship that supplies oil platforms off the coast of Libya pulled 66 migrants to safety on Monday, but it was told not to bring them to Italy, an Interior Ministry source said.
Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, who oversees the coast guard and the country’s ports, said the migrants had been transferred to an Italian coast guard vessel on Tuesday after some of them threatened the lives of the Italian crew.
They will be brought to Italy, one source said, though the interior ministry source would not confirm. (swissinfo.ch)
Migration crisis: The Austrian EU duty presidency has drawn up a proposal for migrant repatriation centres in third countries. The centres would be for those migrants who cannot be sent back because of a lack of cooperation by origin countries, said the proposal, a copy of which was obtained by ANSA. The document was discussed Monday at the strategic committee on immigration. (ANSA)
Nato summit: One of the EU’s most senior leaders has sharply criticised Donald Trump for not valuing European allies on the eve of a that is taking place at a time of increasing global tensionsThe European council president, Donald Tusk, said: “Dear America, appreciate your allies. After all you don’t have that many.” His blunt message came a day before the start of the two-day summit in Brussels. (The Guardian)
Wednesday 11 July 2018
Germany: Germany’s interior minister deflected blame on Wednesday for the suicide of an Afghan man among a group deported to Kabul, after opponents called for the immigration hardliner to resign for boasting that the deportations took place on his birthday. The 23-year-old Afghan man was found dead in Kabul shortly after he was flown back. Afghanistan said he had lived in Germany for eight years, having arrived as a teenager.
He was one of 69 people flown by Germany to Afghanistan last week on interior minister Horst Seehofer’s 69th birthday, an event which Seehofer had promoted at a news conference as evidence that he was increasing the pace of expulsions. (Reuters)
Seehofer, whose tough stance on immigration nearly brought down Angela Merkel’s government last week, defended himself on Wednesday in Innsbruck
Nato summit: US President Donald Trump has clashed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel over Russian influence and defence spending, ahead of a Nato summit.
Mr Trump said Germany was “totally controlled by Russia” because of the high level of natural gas it imported, and this was a “bad thing for Nato”.
Mrs Merkel hit back, comparing German independence now with the time when she grew up in the former East Germany. She also defended her country’s contribution to the Western alliance.
The last summit both leaders attended ended in acrimony in a row over trade. Mr Trump later made more conciliatory remarks after he and Mrs Merkel had met on the sidelines of the summit in Brussels on Wednesday. (BBC)
Nato summit: US President Donald Trump has urged Nato allies to commit 4% of their annual output (GDP) to military spending – double the current target. Of Nato’s 29 members, just five meet that target this year: the US, Greece, Estonia, the UK and Latvia. However, several, such as Poland and France, are close to the mark.
The White House confirmed he had made the remarks during the Western military alliance’s summit in Brussels.
The meeting also saw Mr Trump single out Germany for criticism over its defence spending.
Nato’s secretary-general said the main focus should be on all members reaching the current target of 2% of GDP. Previous US presidents have urged Europe to take more responsibility for their defence and reduce the burden on US taxpayers of maintaining forces in Europe long after the end of the Cold War – but none as bluntly as Mr Trump. All 29 Nato members released a declaration which reaffirmed a commitment to increase military spending.
The communique also condemned “Russian aggression”, including the annexation of Crimea, the use of a nerve agent in southern England and “election interference”. (BBC)
Migration crisis: Germany’s interior minister Horst Seehofer said on Wednesday that he hopes to reach an agreement with Italy by the end of the month on the vexed topic of returning migrants there from Germany.
A migrant deal with Rome is central to the compromise German Chancellor Angela Merkel reached with Seehofer to end a row over immigration within their coalition that has threatened to bring down the government.
Salvini said he and Seehofer shared a “common objective: fewer landings, fewer deaths, fewer migrants in Italy as well as in Germany”.
But the Italian minister said he expected to see more action to toughen the EU’s external frontiers before agreeing to any deal to take back migrants. (thelocal.at)
Thursday 12 July 2018
Nato summit: Nato allies have cast doubt on US President Donald Trump’s claim they had pledged to “substantially” raise their defence budgets, saying they simply remained committed to a 2014 deal. Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg told US broadcaster CNN the allies had “a commitment to spend 2%” of their annual output (GDP) on defence budgets.
Members agreed four years ago they would all reach that target by 2024.Italy’s new Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron also made it clear they had not signed up to anything more than what was agreed four years ago.
Mr Trump had hailed “tremendous progress” at Nato’s summit in Brussels.
During the press conference after the meeting with the Nato’s representative members, Trump said: “We made a tremendous amount of progress today. It has been really amazing to see the level of spirit in that room.”
It was, he said, “presently unnecessary” to consider quitting Nato. (BBC)
Migration crisis: Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has accused some migrants of hijacking the ship that rescued them off the Libyan coast. It is alleged that in order to avoid being returned to Libya, at least two passengers forced the ship to turn away from the inbound Libyan coastguard.The 67 passengers were eventually handed over to the Italian coastguard.
Mr Salvini called two suspects “violent hijackers, who will have to get off the Diciotti ship in handcuffs”.
Details of the incident remain unclear, but Italian media report that police boarded the coastguard vessel Diciotti to quiz its passengers. The Diciotti remained in the water off the city of Trapani, Sicily, while the investigation continued. The final decision on the fate of the alleged hijackers rests with the local prosecutor in Trapani. (BBC)
Migration crisis: Interior ministers from 28 European nations met on Thursday as they face intensifying pressure to introduce new policies to stem migrant arrivals, in their first meeting after Austria took the EU helm wit promises of a tough response to the issue. (thelocal.at)
UK: Businesses should be able to move “their talented people” from the UK to the European Union – and vice versa – after Brexit, according to the government’s strategy white paper, which was published amid chaotic scenes in the Commons.
The document also says the government is prepared to allow EU citizens to travel freely without a visa in the UK for tourism and temporary work and allow EU students to study in the UK.
Although the white paper is emphatic that there will be an end to the free movement of people at the end of the transition period in December 2020, the document says it will be necessary to recognise the “depth of the relationship and close ties between the peoples of the UK and the EU”. (The Guardian)
Friday 13 July 2018
Trump in Europe: European Council President Donald Tusk on Friday criticized Donald Trump’s behavior during his European trip, and his willingness to engage with authoritarian leaders.
Interviewed in his office in Brussels, Tusk said: he had spoken “eye to eye” with Trump on several occasions and the U.S. president has “an aversion towards the EU and NATO” but an “openness towards such people as the North Korean dictator and President Putin.” (politico.eu)
UK: Theresa May has revealed that Donald Trump advised her to “sue the European Union” rather than negotiate with the 27-country bloc, in a private conversation that the US president referred to during his visit to the UK on Friday. The prime minister smiled, and indicated she had disregarded the advice, saying “actually we’re going into negotiations with them”, in remarks that will be interpreted as a put-down of the president. Thousands of people have protested on the streets of London and across the UK against Donald Trump’s visit to the UK and the President himself. (The Guardian) (BBC)
UK: Donald Trump has discussed his private conversation with the Queen who, as well as being “beautiful inside and out”, he said thinks Brexit is “a very complex problem”. Trump enthused about his reception at Windsor Castle on Friday, where he and Melania spent 45 minutes with the Queen. (The Guardian)
Saturday 16 July 2018
Israel: Israel has carried out its biggest attack against Hamas militant targets in Gaza since the war in 2014, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says.
The raids were a response to rockets fired into Israel, he said. Hamas said a truce had been agreed, but further exchanges have been reported.
Palestinian health officials said two people were killed and 12 injured in an air strike in Gaza City on Saturday. Three Israelis were hurt by one of the rockets fired on Israel.
More than 200 projectiles – including rockets and mortars – had been fired into Israel since Friday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said. (BBC)
UK: Thousands of people have protested on the streets of Edinburgh against Donald Trump’s visit to the UK as the US president played golf at his Turnberry resort, on the west coast of Scotland. (The Guardian)