Friday, 29 June 2018

Lifeline ship resisted pressure to return refugees to Libya

This article was published by Al Jazeera International. 
Valletta, Malta - As Europe's leaders forged a new common policy on rescuing refugees at sea, one small ship came to embody the battle for the soul of the continent.

The MV Lifeline soared to notoriety this week after it refused to hand over 233 refugees and migrants it rescued to Libyan authorities.

The vessel, operated by German charity Mission Lifeline, picked the refugees up just outside Libya's 12-mile territorial waters on June 21. What followed pitted governments against freelance search-and-rescuers.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Lifeline reaches safe harbour, but Europe heads into migration storm

This article was published by Al Jazeera International

VALLETTA, Malta - As it slowly steamed toward Boilers Wharf to be impounded by Maltese authorities, the MV Lifeline faced disgrace with a note of triumph – two long toots on its horn, signalling pride in its rescue of 233 refugees and migrants between Italy and Libya.

Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, had earlier in the day said the Lifeline would be investigated for not being registered as a search and rescue ship but a pleasure boat, for disobeying Italian authorities co-ordinating rescue operations north of Libyan waters, and for sometimes switching off its transponder in an apparent attempt to conceal its whereabouts.

“It is extremely worrying that there was a vessel intercepting people, carrying people on board, claiming to have a particular registration…and we have it black on white – the Dutch are saying, ‘No, this is not the case.’”

Muscat’s intimation was that the Lifeline was abetting smugglers under the guise of conducting rescue, though he did not openly say this.

Friday, 22 June 2018

After 8 years of austerity, Greece declared fit for markets

This article was published by Al Jazeera International.

Eurozone extends debt repayment, but strict supervision on spending and reforms will remain for 40 years

Greece will officially graduate from eight years of financial dependence on its Eurozone partners in August, the currency bloc’s finance ministers announced late on Thursday, as they cleared the country to borrow from markets again.

This is not an ordinary moment. This is a magnificent moment,” said European Finance Commissioner Pierre Moscovici. “The Greek crisis ends here in Luxembourg tonight. This has been a long road… We’re talking about eight years of efforts coming to a close for Greece, and it is an important moment for the Eurozone, too. We’re seeing an end to a crisis that had threatened our common currency.”

He said Friday’s decision would “allow Greece to get back on its feet.”

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Greece's Muslims seek reform between civil and religious laws

This article was published by Al Jazeera International.

When he died almost a decade ago, Chatidje Molla Sali’s husband willed her a comfortable widowhood: at least a million dollars’ worth of rentable property in the northern Greek province of Thrace, where the couple lived, and in Istanbul, from where he hailed.

That financially secure life has so far eluded her. Molla Sali’s two sisters-in-law contested the will on the grounds that, as a member of Thrace’s Muslim community, their brother was bound by the precepts of Islamic law, under which they, too, should receive a share of his estate.

The Sali dispute has now escalated into a landmark case at the European Court of Human Rights and prompted the Greek government to radically alter the law governing its Muslims for the first time since they found themselves outside the jurisdiction of the Ottoman Empire in 1918.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Greek government faces censure over Macedonia deal

 This article was published by Al Jazeera International

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (L) and aides walk to the president's office to announce the Macedonia deal on 12 June

The Greek government faces a vote of no confidence over its deal with the former Yugoslav Macedonia.

The conservative opposition New Democracy party brought the motion on Thursday, saying the deal “is opposed by the overwhelming majority of the Greek people.” The vote is to take place late on Saturday.

To survive, the government needs at least 151 of its 154 MPs to vote against the censure motion in the 300-seat chamber. If it should fail to garner the votes, it would fall and an election would be called.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Severna Makedonja is born

This article was published by Al Jazeera International.

All smiles: Greek premier Alexis Tsipras (L) informs president Prokopis Pavlopoulos of the deal on Tuesday.

Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia announced a historic agreement on that country’s future name, ending a 27-year dispute. 

Severna (or Nor180612 thern) Macedonia was one of three names left on the table since talks began in January. Premier Zoran Zaev chose it over Gorna (Upper) Macedonia and Nova (New) Macedonia.

“I believe all greeks can today be proud,” Greek premier Alexis Tsipras said in a five-minute announcement on Tuesday night. “This is a great diplomatic victory and a historic opportunity… not just for our nation but for our entire region. A source of discord that undermined the region’s ability to go forward together is ended, and a window of friendship, cooperation, prosperity and mutual growth opens onto the future.”

Thursday, 7 June 2018

In Macedonia, Greece is torn between history and realpolitik

This article was published by Al Jazeera international.

PELLA, Greece – Tens of thousands of Greeks took to the streets across the country on Wednesday, to protest against a reportedly imminent deal between Athens and its northern neighbour that would share Macedonian identity between the two peoples.

Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have been in talks since January to establish full diplomatic relations for the first time since the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991. Key to that normalization is finding a name for the country whose government resides in Skopje that Athens can live with.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Europe's trade confrontation with US escalates

This article was published by Al Jazeera International.

The European Commission opened trade proceedings against the US a day after it announced tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from its closest allies, Canada, Mexico and the European Union, but restrained its rhetoric.

We’re not in a trade war but we are in a very difficult situation. It could escalate," said Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, adding that the US was “playing a dangerous game.”

This is bad news for European business, the transatlantic relationship and world trade,” said Marcus J Beyrer, Director General of BusinessEurope, an industry lobby group. “The EU needs to remain a strong leader against protectionism and unilateralism in support of rules-based trade,” he added.