Sanctions: economy as punishment (neue-deutschland.de)

One instrument is becoming increasingly popular in traffic between states: economic sanctions. The USA and the EU in particular are using their central position on the world market to put governments under pressure. The list is long and growing: Russia, Cambodia, China, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, and Turkey and Belarus are expected to join soon. As popular as economic sanctions are, it is unclear whether they will achieve their goals. The question of effectiveness is old. What is new, however, is that the global economic powers are increasingly applying sanctions to each other.

In recent years, economic sanctions have “become the method of choice,” according to a research group led by Gabriel Felbermayr, head of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. The Global Sanctions Database, which he helped to design, but which only lasts until 2016, shows an increase in measures from 50 in the 1970s to around 180. Since then, the number has probably increased significantly. The declared goals of sanctions range from the enforcement of human rights to regime change and ending wars. The USA is the main actor in this field, followed by the EU. It has significantly increased its sanctions arsenal “to compensate for its lack of military power,” explains Gerald Schneider from the University of Konstanz.

It is no wonder that the USA and Europe in particular are pursuing foreign policy with sanctions. Sanctions are an instrument reserved for the powerful. Because in order for them to be effective, there must firstly be intensive business relationships with the sanctioned country. “Sanctions cannot change the behavior of the governments concerned if the volume of trade between sender and addressee is negligible,” explains Peter van Bergeijk from the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Second, the damage for the addressee must be greater than for the sender, i.e. the business relationships must be asymmetrical. Consequence: “Countries in North-West Europe have imposed the largest number of sanctions against African countries,” said Felbermayr. At the same time, there is not a single case of trade barriers by an African country against North-West Europe. Similarly, in the case of Russia: “Since the Russian economy is so much smaller than that of the Western countries, Moscow cannot respond to the sanctions effectively without seriously damaging itself,” explains Anders Aslund from the Atlantic Council.

Globalization has made it easier for the EU and the US to exert economic pressure. Because it intensifies world trade and thus creates more dependencies. Washington is making increasing use of this. While wars were still waged under President George W. Bush to achieve foreign policy goals, since Barack Obama “economic sanctions have become an essential feature of US foreign policy,” explains Aslund. What is remarkable is the previously unknown use of tariffs as economic sanctions to enforce the policy of “America First”.

Another mixture of trade and sanctions policy is the increasingly popular »blacklisting«: companies, institutions and individuals are placed on black lists and thus their access to the market is restricted. Washington’s “Entity List” now includes dozens of Chinese corporations, which are now only allowed to purchase US software to a limited extent. President Donald Trump justified this with dangers to “national security”. Other Chinese companies are listed because they are supposed to be involved in the suppression of the Uyghurs in China, for example one of the world’s largest providers of video surveillance, Hangzhou Hikvision. Still other firms are being punished for helping Beijing consolidate its military presence in the South China Sea.

China responds with its own list of “unreliable authorities” who “seriously harm the legitimate interests of Chinese companies.” In the case of Hong Kong, there is currently a showdown: While the USA is imposing a drastic restriction on the banks to do business with the ex-crown colony, Beijing is threatening all companies that follow the instructions of the USA with sanctions. The global corporations increasingly have to choose whose side to take.

It is controversial whether sanctions or sanction threats are effective at all. According to Schneider, they “often achieve their goal,” and economic coercion worked on average in 30 to 50 percent of the cases. For the same reason, other economists criticize sanctions as ineffective. Because a 30 to 50 percent success rate means: 50 to 70 percent of the cases the target is missed. The reasons for the failure are numerous: Affected countries can look for other supplier or buyer countries. For example, Iran recently signed an investment agreement with China that opens up new sales and procurement markets for the country. “The longer the sanctions are in force, the easier it is for the target country to adapt,” explains Bergeijk.

However, there is one thing that science is unanimous in: economic sanctions are more effective, the more united the sanctioning side appears, i.e. when the USA and the EU and others pull together. However, this unity of the world powers is being undermined more and more frequently as the US government uses the means of sanction according to its own interests, without consultation with its allies. In order to force the allies to comply with the US decisions, Washington is resorting to so-called secondary sanctions more and more frequently: Not only are American companies prohibited from doing business with one country, but companies all over the world are threatened with violating the important Lock out the US market. For example in the case of Venezuela: Ex-US security advisor John Bolton warned foreign companies against being excluded from the US market if they should become involved in Venezuela. Or in the case of Iran: While the EU has lifted parts of the sanctions against the country, the US is even expanding its bans. These bans are not legally binding for Europe’s corporations. But “in view of the gray areas created by US sanctions, they shy away from new investments or move away from affected markets,” states the Science and Politics Foundation. The EU is powerless against this. In addition, Washington is politicizing the energy markets with its sanctions against Iran, Venezuela and Russia and »undermines the strategic autonomy of Europe«.

As a global sanctioning power, the EU is therefore coming under pressure on several levels: Firstly, as in the case of the Russian-German Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, it is increasingly falling into the sanction sights of the USA itself. Second: In order to be able to adopt sanctions against other countries, the EU needs the consent of all its members. If, as is currently the case with Belarus, an EU country rejects sanctions, they cannot be waived. This week, “our credibility is at stake”, complained EU Commissioner Josep Borrell. And thirdly, as in the Iranian case, the EU is unable to defend itself against the US’s secondary sanctions, which weakens its foreign policy threat potential. No wonder that at its summit next week, the EU is primarily concerned with one thing: “strategic autonomy”. Because only those who are economically independent can credibly threaten others.

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desolation, anger and destitution in Lesbos

“How do you describe the disaster? “, asks Faris al Jawad of Doctors Without Borders Greece, present on the island of Lesbos. She is running out of time as the situation on the island is critical after the series of fires that have ravaged the insanitary migrant camp of Moria. “There are thousands piled up on the side of the road, but I am talking about women, pregnant women, children, many children, the elderly who have fled the war”, he is indignant. On the Greek islands nearly half of asylum seekers are Afghans, and 20% Syrians.

→ THE FACTS. Moria fire: 400 minor migrants taken care of in ten European countries

“We are like abandoned children. We endured things that we didn’t know could happen ”, testifies to the Greek daily Kathimerini a young Gambian, who calls the European Union “To come and support us”. They were, according to the daily, thousands to protest Friday, September 11 afternoon on the road between the Moria camp and Mytilene, the main town of the island, some holding up signs ” We want freedom ”(We want freedom).

“Migrants cannot cross police roadblocks”

For three nights, all have been sleeping in total poverty along the road and in the neighboring fields. “On Wednesday evening, a new fire broke out, creating an immense panic, all those who had returned to the camp in search of some belongings or in the hope of settling there in spite of everything had to flee again, c ‘was very traumatic ”, recognizes Faris al Jawad.

→ READ. Greece: state of emergency declared on the island of Lesbos

Thursday afternoon, September 10, a third fire finished destroying the little that remained of the official facilities of the camp and its wild extension, in the neighboring olive groves where a total of 12,700 asylum seekers were piled up.

According to him, sick people do not arrive at the MSF clinic in Mytilene. “They cannot cross the police barriers”. To his knowledge, they could not, either, board the ferry docked on the island and supposed to temporarily shelter a thousand people. And the two navy boats announced by the government to strengthen accommodation capacity by a thousand places had not yet arrived on Friday September 11.

Large police reinforcements have landed on the island, declared in a state of emergency for four months. Vans block access to the port. Residents have also erected roadblocks to prevent work to install new tents.

The island wind up against a new camp

Some of the 85,000 Lesbiotes and the local authorities have started a standoff with the government, determined to maintain Lesbos more than 12,000 asylum seekers at all costs; with the exception of the 406 unaccompanied minors who all boarded planes for Thessaloniki in northern Greece on August 9 and 10. They will then be welcomed in a dozen voluntary European countries, which have decided to reactivate the relocation promises made last March.

The fires are “The opportunity or never to definitively close Moria. We do not want another camp and we will oppose all the work undertaken ”, declared Vaguélis Violatzis, president of the neighboring municipality of Panagiouda. This opposition to temporary camps as durable “Is final”, added the municipality of Mytilene, adding that “it would be preferable for the competent authorities to understand and cooperate”, Kathimerini reports.

It is in this very tense context that aid begins to flow. Food and water are distributed “In very difficult conditions due to congestion”, recognizes the Greek agency Ana.

→ INVESTIGATION. In Greece, refugees under very high pressure

Shipments of tents and equipment arrived by plane began to arrive on September 11 near the small camp of Kara Tepe, which hosts families and vulnerable people in Mytilene. And several European countries have sent material. In particular Switzerland, whose ton of blankets and personal hygiene products was expected for September 11 at the end of the day. And a truck is driving from Germany.

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European Union: Crisis Policy in Slow Motion (neue-deutschland.de)

Hardly any other European country is currently as badly affected by the corona pandemic as Belgium. The number of reported infections in the past two weeks was 139 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Only five countries in the EU had higher values ​​during this period. It was therefore only a matter of time before the virus reached the circles of top politicians. In the middle of the week it became known that a bodyguard of Charles Michel was infected. The Belgian EU Council President had to be quarantined and the special summit of the heads of state and government planned for Thursday and Friday was postponed by a week.

The shift is symbolic of the current situation of the union of states, which is making slow progress in its crisis management. Not only Brexit and its consequences are a constant topic that should be on the agenda again at the summit. The British left the European Union at the beginning of the year. But things get complicated again because the London government wants to violate parts of the Brexit treaty with a single market law. The British plans could override special clauses for Northern Ireland, which should avoid a hard border with the EU state Ireland.

In addition, many other conflicts are smoldering within the EU and with its direct neighbors. After the European Commission presented its proposal for a migration pact this week, there was opposition from Hungary and the Czech Republic. The governments of these countries do not like the fact that their states should be obliged in exceptional cases to accept refugees. They also demand negotiations with dictatorships in North Africa over so-called hotspots, where the refugees are then crammed together and registered. The idea is not new, but so far there are no corresponding agreements with the North Africans.

Even so, the EU has found ways to stop asylum seekers before they reach Europe. To this end, the European Union is cooperating with the so-called Libyan Coast Guard, among others. She was trained by the Europeans and supported with technical means. A report recently presented by Amnesty International documents human rights violations committed against refugees who were picked up by the “coast guard” in the Mediterranean and brought back to Libya. Unlawful killings, enforced disappearances and exploitation of migrants are on the agenda, the report says. The perpetrators are both state and non-state actors.

War has raged in Libya since the fall of Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2011. The EU states decided on Monday to sanction individual companies from Turkey, Jordan and Kazakhstan for violating the UN arms embargo on Libya. These measures are rather symbolic given the large number of actors involved in the conflict. The government in Tripoli is militarily supported by Turkey, the opposition General Khalifa Haftar by a number of other countries, including Egypt and Jordan. It remains contradictory that the Federal Republic of Germany, for example, endorses the EU’s sanctions, but delivers armaments to countries that are involved in the Libyan conflict and create causes of flight.

This applies to Turkey, among others. When the conflict over natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean between Greece and Cyprus on the one hand and Turkey on the other was discussed at the EU level and the question arose as to whether one should proceed with sanctions against Turkey, the German government counted the brakes. Differences between Germany and France also became clear here. In the war in Libya, the French and Turks support different parties. The government in Paris is considered an ally of the rebel General Haftar. The French want to curb Turkey’s drive for power in the Mediterranean region as a whole and have therefore held military maneuvers with Cyprus and Greece. President Emmanuel Macron recently noted that he saw “no more partner” in Turkey and threatened sanctions in the dispute over drilling rights in the Aegean.

The federal government, on the other hand, did its utmost to prevent tough action by EU states against the country, which is ruled authoritarian by head of state Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, because, in its view, it should not be lost as an economic and geostrategic NATO partner. In addition, Erdoğan can use the numerous refugees who are in his country and would like to travel on to Europe as a means of pressure against the EU.

That is why Erdoğan does not have to be too afraid of very strict punitive measures by the European Union. Its partners there also tend to overlook the fact that Turkey is acting as an aggressor in the region not only with its military activities in Libya, but also through its raids on Kurdish areas in Syria. The federal government in particular is relying on amicable agreements with Erdoğan. For this, important prerequisites have now been created. After talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel and Charles Michel, the Turkish President has shown himself ready for a dialogue with Greece.

Cyprus now lacks reasons to continue to block the EU’s sanctions against Belarus. The island state only wanted to agree to this if punitive measures were also decided against Turkey. The latter should be off the table after the offer of dialogue, when there are no more major provocations from Ankara.

The EU basically agrees that it wants to create a threat against the Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Despite allegations of election fraud and major protests, he remains in office. Because the European Union’s plans are not going fast enough for them, the Baltic states have already taken their own steps. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania recently agreed to expand punitive measures against more than 100 people who are held responsible for the fraudulent presidential election in Belarus and the violence against peaceful demonstrators. Those affected are thus prohibited from entering the three Baltic EU countries.

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400 minor migrants supported in ten European countries

Ten European Union (EU) countries will welcome 400 unaccompanied minor migrants evacuated from the Greek island of Lesvos after the gigantic fire in the Moria refugee camp, the German Minister of the Interior announced on Friday (September 11th) , Horst Seehofer, specifying that Germany and France would each take care of 100 to 150 of these children.

These 400 unaccompanied minors have already been transferred to mainland Greece after the fire that devastated the unsanitary and overcrowded camp, and left the more than 12,000 people who lived there in the greatest poverty.

On the island of Lesbos, survive in the camps

“We are in discussion with other countries” of the EU that can accommodate these children, said Horst Seehofer during a press conference with the European Commissioner for Migration, Margaritis Schinas, who was participating by video from Athens. The Netherlands had offered Thursday, September 10 to take care of a hundred migrants, half of them minors.

The European Union is tearing itself apart

« [L’incendie du camp de] Moria is a stern reminder to all members of what we need to change in Europe ”, judged Margiritis Schinas, who was then to meet with the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis. “We need solidarity in migration policy” of the EU, he added.

→ READ. In Greece, refugees under very high pressure

The Moria tragedy has reignited the debate on the reception of asylum seekers in Europe, over which the EU countries are tearing themselves apart. The European Commission is due to present at the end of the month a long-awaited, and several times rejected, proposal for a new pact on migration and asylum.

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Europe’s Risk Areas – The Return of the Virus – Politics

Fearful memories have long been awakened. “The intensive care units,” warns Harvard professor Miguel Hernán, “were our last line of defense.” Spain is about to face another serious medical emergency, said the advisor to the Spanish government on Twitter. Doctors from 62 Madrid hospitals also turned to the public this week: Scenes like those in March could soon be repeated. No country in Western Europe is currently being hit as hard by the second wave of the pandemic as Spain. Unlike in Italy, where a similar number of people died in the spring, the number of cases in Spain is now higher than it was then. The Ministry of Health reports around 9,000 new cases every day, and more than 500 people have died in the past seven days.

Not long ago it seemed that people could breathe a sigh of relief. Over the summer, the number of infected people rose steadily, but not the number of dead, which may have been due to the fact that it was mainly younger people who were infected, who had to expect milder courses. Now, however, the virus could have found its way back into older and more vulnerable groups and the number of deaths skyrocketed. According to research by the daily newspaper The country 95 percent of the intensive care beds in Madrid are occupied by Covid patients, and operating theaters have already been converted into intensive care units in some public hospitals.

The capital is considered to be the driver of the second wave in the country. In particular, in the poorer districts in the south of Madrid, many people live in a confined space, the number of cases there has long since exceeded 1,000 infected people per 100,000 inhabitants. Madrid’s conservative regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso had to react: A partial lockdown has been in effect in 37 areas of the capital region since Monday.

The opposition and many health care experts criticize this as too late and insufficient. In fact, it is difficult to place restrictions on individual districts, while the residents of the surrounding streets can move largely freely. In addition, the approximately 850,000 inhabitants of the affected areas are still allowed to leave them to take the often overcrowded buses or subways to work, school or to the doctor.

Nevertheless, Díaz Ayuso wants to do without a lockdown of the entire capital. A full curfew would be too damaging to the economy, she believes. In spring, she harshly criticized Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s nationwide lockdown. In the end, however, Díaz Ayuso had to take a step towards Sánchez, gritting his teeth. Under pressure from her own authorities, she asked for assistance from soldiers, police and doctors.

France

In France, the government had long been optimistic. You have to “live with the virus,” said President Emmanuel Macron when he visited the Tour de France last week. The President showed how it was: put on your mask, disinfect your hands and still have fun. The fun is now over for a while. Health Minister Olivier Véran showed the new cartography of the virus on Wednesday evening. After the curfew ended in May, France was divided into green, orange and red zones. You can now do without green and orange. There is only red, redder and the redest of all. The latest figures: 13 072 corona infections in 24 hours. Marseille was hit particularly hard. The infection rate exceeds 250 cases per 100,000 population. The “maximum alert level” now applies there, and the high alert level in Paris. Bars and restaurants in Marseille have to close on Saturday, initially for 14 days. In Paris and other major cities, they are only allowed to open until 10 p.m.

There was little protest or resistance to the curfew in March, but the new restrictions immediately led to a dispute. The green mayor of Marseille, Michèle Rubirola, immediately tweeted her anger to the world. The steps have not been agreed with her, she is demanding a ten-day delay. The Paris mayor, the socialist Anne Hidalgo, also complained about the lack of agreements with the government. The measures are “very strict” and “difficult to understand”.

The unusually heated dispute between the government and the country’s two largest cities contradicts Macron’s promise from the summer that the regions would be given more responsibility in fighting the pandemic. The rapid increase in infections also shows that the government’s testing strategy has failed. Macron had announced a million corona tests per week. Although this number has been reached, it takes an average of more than 48 hours, often a week, until a result is available. Tracking the contacts of an infected person hardly works either. And the official Corona app has to be called a flop. Only four percent of citizens downloaded it.

Czech Republic

On August 31st, the prime minister appeared very self-confident. At an international forum in Bled, Slovenia, Andrej Babiš said: “We are best in Covid.” Less than four weeks later, the Czech Republic is one of the countries in Europe where the virus is spreading the fastest. Far more than 2,000 people are infected every day in the country with just under eleven million inhabitants, the other day it was even more than 3,000. The Corona crisis threatens to turn into a prime minister’s crisis.

Health Minister Adam Vojtěch resigned on Monday. A pawn sacrifice, wrote the media. From the opposition point of view, it is Babiš who created chaos and confusion. “He now has to let the health minister speak and hold back,” says Olga Richterová, party vice-president of the pirates. They are the third strongest force in parliament and are currently overtaking all opposition parties in polls. They finally got the crisis team to resume its work. “Our plan for a second wave has been in place since June, but Babiš preferred to talk about other topics.”

The new Health Minister Roman Prymula, as the top epidemiologist, brought the Czech Republic through the beginning of the pandemic. The Czech Republic reacted with extremely strict measures, declared a national emergency on March 12, and closed all borders. Six days later, a general mask requirement was in place – even outdoors. When the Czech Republic reopened its borders at the end of May, just 8955 people were infected. In summer all measures were lifted, including the mask requirement. Now the number of infected people has risen to more than 55,000, there are more sick people than those who have recovered. “There were hardly any reports from our country of severe progress,” says Richterová. Maybe that made people careless. The orders of the new health minister are mild: taverns and bars have to close at 10 p.m., but events with up to 1000 people remain indoors.

Austria

Health Minister Rudi Anschober had already thought about it two weeks ago on ORF, but the specific announcement was a shock for the tourism nation: Yes, skiing, après-ski only while sitting. No wild parties, no dancing to loud pop music; Unfortunately, according to Minister Elisabeth Köstinger, winter tourism is about more than just winter sports. What more is involved becomes more and more clear to the Austrians every day on which more than 800 newly infected people are reported. Many levers have to be turned if the industry, which is so important for the country, is to survive. Federal states in the west have brought the curfew, even outdoors you can only eat while sitting, in ski schools there are maximum group sizes, in cable cars it is mandatory to wear a mask. The ball season has been canceled, tests, tests and tests are to be carried out everywhere in order to prevent the “corona crash” of tourism that is forecast in Austria’s media. But the panic is growing, the bad news is mounting. Germany and Belgium have declared Vienna and now Vorarlberg a risk area, and the Belgians also have Tyrol on the red list. Tourism accounts for 15 percent of the country’s economic output.

In the government and parliament, mutual accusations have long since begun. In the spring, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was able to bask in positive reports across Europe that his coalition had managed the first corona wave well. Now there is criticism everywhere: too many restrictions lifted too early, chaotic crisis communication, sloppy laws, too late a reaction to the second wave. He himself had “wanted to tighten measures” earlier, so briefly insulted a few days ago, but it was not his “sole decision”. That was not well received by the Green coalition partner, and the dispute is growing among conservative politicians too. Lower Austria’s governor, Johanna Mikl-Leitner, said in a noticeably bad mood on Wednesday that when it comes to a crisis like this, she demands unity and clarity – also at the federal level. The citizens also demanded that.

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Poland criticized for rule of law, defends democracy in Belarus

The tone is rising dangerously, between Warsaw and Minsk, while the leader of the Belarusian opposition, Svetlana Tikhanovskaïa, is preparing to meet European foreign ministers on Monday, September 21, in Brussels. Ahead of this visit, Poland has just launched the idea of ​​a European stabilization fund for Belarus of at least 1 billion euros. The initiative responds almost symmetrically to the promise, a few days earlier, of Russian President Vladimir Putin to help the Belarusian head of state Alexander Lukashenko to the tune of 1.2 billion euros.

Cascading voltages

Both the EU and Poland are calling for new presidential elections in Belarus. Warsaw, as a neighboring capital, would like to take the initiative on behalf of the Europeans, with a plan for the peaceful withdrawal of power, while the mobilization started on August 9 continues against Alexander Lukashenko, accused of having rigged the ballot. But without waiting for a position at 27, Polish President Andrzej Duda threatened Belarus with “National sanction”, Friday September 18, in a telephone conversation with his Lithuanian counterpart.

→ EXPLANATION. Russia-Belarus union, an old project

The day before, Minsk had announced the closure of the borders with Poland and Lithuania, even if the latter remained open the following morning. The words had slipped anyway. Alexander Lukashenko called on the Lithuanians and Poles to “Stop their mad politicians and prevent war”, before asking the Kremlin for reinforcements.

Influence strategy

The European stabilization fund proposed by Poland would aim to anchor the Belarusian economy in the West, through investments in exporting companies in Europe. This “New Marshall plan”, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki takes it for granted, believing that it will be adopted at the end of the European Council of 24 and 25 September.

This role of great defender of the free world held by Warsaw, however, embarrasses Brussels, which this week has multiplied warnings against violations of the rule of law by the Polish government. The European Commission, which was to present an initiative to better sanction abuses on Wednesday 23 July, postponed its communication for a week.

Warsaw, for its part, fully assumes its strategy of influence in Belarus. For more than ten years, the Polish government has been financing the Bielsat television channel, which broadcasts from a distance and provides a series of direct reports on the mobilization against power in Minsk. On Thursday September 10, the opponent Svetlana Tikhanovskaya was ostensibly received, with the honors usually reserved for heads of state, by the Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki.

Democratic values ​​held hostage

Alexander Lukashenko thunders as soon as he can against this support from Warsaw to “Sheep” of the opposition. He regularly suggests that land claims are behind it all. The border region of Grodno, in the northeast, was indeed an integral part of Poland between 1919 and 1939.

→ READ. In Belarus, the regime facing the street alone

Mateusz Morawiecki nevertheless refutes any suggestion of this kind with regard to his neighbor. On the other hand, he urges the EU to respond to “The call of the people of Belarus », whose citizens would be eager to feel « the presence of the European Union in their lives ».

This speech would not be a problem if the European Parliament did not come, Thursday, September 17, to vote a resolution (513 votes in favor, 148 against, 33 abstentions), to express its concern about the functioning of the legislative and electoral systems, the independence of justice, the protection of fundamental rights in Poland and of sexual minorities. In response to criticism, the government in Warsaw contented itself with turning the charge against Brussels. It’s about a “Attack on democracy by EU elites”, defended the Minister of Justice, Zbigniew Ziobro.

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The Figaro Letter of September 23, 2020

This morning: the EU wants new rules to manage the flow of migrants, Édouard Philippe is thinking of a return, should Verlaine and Rimbaud enter the Pantheon together?

La Lettre du Figaro, your information meeting every morning.
Letter from Figaro, your information meeting every morning. Le Figaro

Hello dear readers,

We knew about “European solidarity” (well, we have vaguely heard of it but we have seen it little). We have learned to discover “compulsory solidarity”. This is “à la carte solidarity”! This invented expression designates the new rule regarding the reception of migrants desired by Brussels: “You (the Member States) do not want to welcome refugees? Very well! You will have to go to the cash desk or take them back yourself to their country of origin ”. For some leaders, the transit of the pill promises to be complicated. To the point of derailing the scheme drawn up by the European Commission?

The advice of the day comes from Emmanuel Macron: “Faced with the virus: 1. Wash your hands. 2. Wear your mask. 3. Keep your distance. ”

Have a nice day,

Ronan Planchon, journalist at Figaro

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Migrants: Europeans want to change the rules

A family of refugees from the Moria camp, destroyed on September 9, goes to a new temporary accommodation on the island of Lesbos on Tuesday. Y. NARDI/REUTERS

Failing full optimism, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson deserves credit

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Miners strike: secret service against buddy (neue-deutschland.de)

Combative: Ukrainian miners have had many labor disputes in recent years. Most of them lost them.

Photo: REUTERS / Alexander Ermochenko

For weeks there has only been one topic in Kriwij Rih (formerly Krivoy Rog): the miners’ strike. On September 3, workers at the Oktyabrskaya mine stopped working and have since refused to come up. Currently over 150 of them are still holding out underground.

In the course of the ongoing economic crisis and the war in Donbass, the once important mining sector in Ukraine has lost its importance – with far-reaching consequences for employees. Miners have to live on wages below 400 euros. Therefore, in addition to safe working conditions, they are demanding an increase in their wages to US $ 1,000 and the preservation of state social benefits.

“In the Ukraine there is still a not yet completely destroyed social system that guarantees the miners certain benefits,” says Yuri Samoylov in an interview with “nd”. He is chairman of the Independent Union of Metalworkers and Mining Workers (NPGU) and actively supports the industrial action. Because of the harsh working conditions, female employees were allowed to retire at the age of 45 and male employees at the age of 50 and were given good health insurance. But especially under ex-President Petro Poroshenko, these professionally guaranteed rights were increasingly disrupted, such as early women’s retirement. “The Ukrainian Constitutional Court declared that this step was illegal,” criticized Samoylov.

The strike is met with great support in Kriwij Rih. On September 7th, workers from three other mines joined. Together with other supporters, including the NPGU, they organize solidarity events and a daily plenum. »There are regular large labor disputes in the Kriwij Rih region. The only difference is that this year it will be run much harder and with the active participation of the miners, ”says Samoylov.

A quarter of all workers in the mines are women, they work in the manufacture of explosives, the ore enrichment and the transport of the miners into the shafts. But compared to their male colleagues, they earn almost three times less on average.

Even that is too much for corporate management. In her opinion, the strike is illegal, so she consistently rejects any offers of negotiation from the strikers. For Helmut Scholz, EU MEP of the Left Party, this is a scandal: “The refusal of the company management to negotiate with the employee side and the tough action of the security authorities violate essential ILO core labor standards,” he told “nd”.

As is so often the case in Ukraine, ownership of the iron ore works is unclear. The partner is a mailbox company registered in Cyprus, the real owners are well-known oligarchs. “According to our information, 50 percent belong to Rinat Akhmetov, the other half to Igor Kolomoysky. But because the latter is subject to sanctions and is not allowed to have direct business relationships with the EU, an intermediary is brought in to handle the trade, ”says Samoylov. The opaque ownership structure makes the miners’ industrial action all the more complicated.

Especially since the government is increasing the pressure. “In the past week, criminal proceedings against several dozen active strikers, including myself, were initiated,” reports Samoylov. First the indictment was incitement to mass riots, then the union activist was summoned by the Ukrainian domestic intelligence service SBU and learned that the charges had been tightened and that he and the other strikers were accused of hooliganism. During the election campaign, President Volodymyr Selenskyj presented himself as an independent innovator. But his support goes to the oligarchs Akhmetov and Kolomoyskyi. “Yuri Koryavchenkov, a member of the Presidential Party of People’s People and a former employee of Zelenskyi’s TV production company Kwartal 95, came to Kriviy Rih, but he made fun of the strikers and incited them against the unions,” says Samoylov.

The strikers, on the other hand, received support from the local area administration. It provided free food and medical care for workers. Probably for good reason: there are local elections in one month, so you don’t want to mess with the miners.

The EU, on the other hand, remains passive. “The strike in Kriwij Rih is not only important for Ukraine, it is also important from an EU perspective because it points to the deficits in the implementation of the sustainability chapter of the EU free trade agreement and to the precarious social and societal situation in the country,” says Scholz. In a letter to the EU Commission, the MP pointed out this problem, and an answer has not yet been received.

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European minimum wage will create fairer competition in the European Union

European Employment Commissioner Nicolas Schmit argues that the idea of ​​a European minimum wage is decisive for fair competition in Europe, which “cannot” be based on wage dumping and low wages.

“It is good for people, because minimum wages must make it possible to have a decent life, but it is also something we have to do for fair competition in Europe. We cannot base competition on wage dumping and low wages. It is not the right way, “Nicolas Schmit told Lusa.

“We live in a period of modernization of our economies in which productivity is decisive and it is not low wages that should be at the center of competition, are skills, investment in technology, knowledge and productivity “, he said.

The Luxembourgian commissioner was speaking to Lusa by telephone during an “online” conference with government officials, social partners and academics as part of the consultation process on the Action Plan for the European Pillar of Social Rights.

The Plan, which is expected to be approved at a Social Summit to be organized by the Portuguese presidency of the European Union (EU), in May, in Porto, will include “an important proposal” from the European Commission that will be “a directive on a framework for minimum wages ” in Europe.

The Commission’s initiative visa definer values ​​for minimum wages but indicators, criteria and objectives that ensure a decent quality of life for workers, compatible with the standard of living of the country where they work.

“This is what we intend […] We want a framework because we believe that convergence of wages is needed in Europe“said Nicolas Schmit, who oversees Employment and Social Rights in the European executive.

Asked about the minimum wage in Portugal, the commissioner pointed out that it has been and will continue to be increased and that “there are countries in Europe with much lower minimum wages”, insisting on the need for convergence and “accelerating this convergence” in the EU.

Nicolas Schmit said he is certain that, during the Portuguese presidency, it will be possible “to achieve a very solid and ambitious program” with “a very positive impact on European citizens”, because the Portuguese Government places great value on social rights.

The commissioner stressed that “it is precisely during a crisis that social rights must be preserved, consolidated, modernized and, in some areas, strengthened“.

Good social security is more important now than ever, because we have to protect people’s health and we have to protect people who lose their jobs or give them the opportunity to keep their jobs even if the economy slows down with temporary work protection schemes. Social rights can help to overcome the crisis and make the recovery more robust “, he defended.

According to data published last December by the European Commission, the variations between the minimum wages practiced in Europe continue to be marked, varying between 286 euros in Bulgaria and 2,071 euros in Luxembourg (values ​​of 2019), appearing Portugal in the second half of the table, in 12th position among the 22 countries that practice a minimum salary.

The minimum wage in Portugal increased on 1 January this year to 635 euros, compared to the value of 600 euros practiced in 2019, which, adjusted taking into account the 14 months, is equivalent to an increase from 700 to 740 euros, the values taken into account in the Eurofund calculations to establish a comparison between Member States.

Six EU member states have no minimum wage: Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Italy and Sweden.

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