Friday, 28 September 2018

Will a name-change referendum say yes to North Macedonia?

This article was published by Al Jazeera International.

On Sunday, just under 1.8 million voters in former Yugoslav Macedonia will vote on whether to change their country’s name to Northern Macedonia. Polls will open at 7am and close at 7pm.

The proposal stems from an agreement last June between the governments in Athens and Skopje, which aims to normalize relations between the two countries.

They have been at odds since the fall of Yugoslavia, when its six republics declared independence. The southernmost has called itself the Republic of Macedonia. Greece objects on the grounds that this implies territorial claims on its northern region of Macedonia.

In return for adding the qualifier “Northern” to its name, Greece will lift its standing veto on its neighbour’s membership in the European Union and NATO.

 The question put to voters is, “Are you in favour of NATO and EU membership, and accepting the name agreement between the Republic of Macedonia and Greece?”

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Proposal for rapid screenings of refugees at sea draws fire

This article was published by Al Jazeera International.

Europe’s increasingly hardline refugee policy is raising concerns about the transparency of search and rescue in the Mediterranean, now that all vessels operated by aid organisations have been put out of action.

Panamanian authorities informed Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on Sunday that they would revoke the registration of its vessel, the Aquarius, even as it plied the waters with 58 rescued asylum-seekers on board. It was the last non-state search and rescue vessel in operation.

“We’re looking for whatever flag will allow the ship to do its job… We’re in this process [of applying] to all [EU] member states,” Apostolos Veizis, head of MSF programmes in Greece, told Al Jazeera.

“Europe’s policy now is quite clearly pushbacks, border closure and detention,” he added. MSF has publicly blamed Italy for pressing the Panamanian government to revoke the Aquarius’ flag.