Daily Archives: December 30, 2018

REMOVAL OF BLACK BEACH-GOERS SPARKS PUBLIC OUTRAGE IN S. AFRICA

CAPE TOWN, S. Africa African Environmental Affairs Minister, Nomvula Mokonyane, joined the chorus of condemnation, against the removal of blacks from a public beach in Cape Town.

The removal of black beach-goers is “discriminatory,” the minister said.

Last Sunday evening, the Professional Protection Alternatives (PPA), a private security company, allegedly removed black beach-goers from a popular beach in Clifton, an upscale community in Cape Town. The PPA said, it did so, upon instructions from the City of Cape Town.

The incident made news headlines in South Africa, as it is reminiscent of the apartheid days, when black people were denied access to certain public places.

The private security guards reportedly were hired by the Clifton residents, who allegedly don’t want black beach-goers to stay at the beach after sunset, for fear of crimes.

It is not acceptable for any security company to remove people from a public space, Nomvula said.

“We also have an obligation as South Africans, to make sure that when we use these public facilities, we maintain the mental standards and we do not also impose what is a preference of a minority or a certain group, because of their own proximity,” the minister said.

South Africa belongs to all who live in it, she added.

South African lawmakers also added their voice to the public outcry over the incident.

On Friday, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs condemned “this barbaric and racist act of the unlawful removal of beach-goers.”

South Africa will never return to the apartheid years, where black people were restricted from gaining access to certain public spaces, committee chairperson, Phillemon Mapulane, said.

Ruling African National Congress (ANC) accused the security company of “giving itself the authority to ignore our Constitution” and illegally ordering citizens to leave the beach.

The City of Cape Town, in a statement, distanced itself from the actions of the private security company.

Source: NAM News Network

Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs Giorgos Katrougalos’ interview with the newspaper “SUNDAY ETHNOS” with journalist Voula Kechagia

JOURNALIST: Minister, the completion of the Prespa Agreement is entering the final stretch. What will happen at the Greek Parliament?

G. KATROUGALOS: As we are obligated under the Agreement itself, but primarily because we consider its provisions to be nationally beneficial, we will bring it to Parliament for ratification after the other side has completed its corresponding obligations. I have no doubt that it will be passed by an absolute majority, as I have confidence in the judgment and responsibility of Greek MPs. Furthermore, as you are well aware, there are MPs and political forces other than our own parliamentary group who have declared an initial positive view towards the Prespa Agreement. I am certain that they will not risk their political dignity being disparaged and will remain consistent in their views.

JOURNALIST: What assurances can you provide for its full implementation without misinterpretations?

G. KATROUGALOS: The agreement itself lays down important checks for its application. However, I believe the relevant provisions will never be activated. This is because the political leadership and citizens of our neighbouring country have realised that they stand only to gain from its faithful implementation, primarily in terms of improvement of our bilateral relations and, most importantly, our economic relations. Additionally, they are also fully aware that their country’s European prospect, which we support, also depend on the faithful compliance with the Agreement without misinterpretations.

JOURNALIST: Some believe that A. Merkel’s visit to Athens is related to these developments. Are they wrong?

G. KATROUGALOS: The Chancellor has already visited our country during our time in government, as have the Presidents of the United States, France and Russia, as well as other political leaders and major figures of international politics. This is incontrovertible evidence of the upgraded international position our country enjoys as a direct result of our multidimensional and proactive foreign policy. Therefore, under no circumstances is her visit related to current political affairs. We develop our own foreign policy on the basis of our country’s national interests.

JOURNALIST: You recently attended important meetings in Washington in the framework of the US-Greece strategic dialogue commencing. Tell us about the cooperation schemes to be promoted…

G. KATROUGALOS: We achieved this upgrade to our cooperation precisely because we proved that we are a reliable strategic partner, in the context of equal relations of mutual respect and with the common goal of enhancing security and stability in our region. In the context of the strategic dialogue with the U.S., apart from geopolitical issues relating to defence, counter-terrorism and security, we also held in-depth talks on energy, trade and investments, with emphasis on innovation and cutting-edge technology. Both sides wish not just to maintain but to further boost the momentum achieved by Thessaloniki International Fair. For this reason, the strategic dialogue will be held annually and in the meantime committees of the ministries involved will ensure the implementation of the agreements reached, obviously with the involvement of the private sector.

JOURNALIST: Relations between our country and the U.S. have reached a very good point. Should we be expecting the Prime Minister to be visiting Washington once more in order to meet with the U.S. President?

G. KATROUGALOS: This is something that took place and may take place again when both parties find it useful. It is another achievement resulting from our upgraded bilateral relations: it is not a goal to be achieved, but a result of the good level of cooperation.

JOURNALIST: How is it that your government’s foreign policy can balance a good relationship of cooperation with the U.S.A. with an equally good relationship with Russia

G. KATROUGALOS: That is the essence of our multidimensional foreign policy. The EU is our political home, but we aim to serve as a bridge between the Union and other powers. We carry out multifaceted diplomatic initiatives at the multilateral and trilateral level, but none aimed against another country. Russia is a country with which we have traditionally had friendly relations and common historical and cultural traditions. We had a fleeting dark cloud in our traditionally good relations. Our response then was not due to differences in matters of foreign policy, but for reasons relating to the sovereignty of our country and good compliance with diplomatic rules. After all, short reckonings make long friends. But these are things that belong in the past. On 7 December, the leaders of the two countries discussed the substance of the steps for further improving relations between the two states, especially on the level of bilateral economic relations and contact between the two peoples. In fact, in April, the next meeting of the Joint Interministerial Committee will be held in Greece, while we agreed that the year 2019 would be dedicated to the culture and languages of both of our countries.

JOURNALIST: Did the issue of Turkish provocativeness and its arms upgrades come up during your talks?

G. KATROUGALOS: We always refer to Turkey’s revisionist policy as an issue of respect for international legality, and never before have our views been so broadly accepted. The March meeting of the European Council saw the clearest ever condemnation of Turkish provocations in the Aegean and Cyprus as violations of International Law. And never before had there been statements similar to those of the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Wess Mitchell, that Turkey’s view on the EEZ is a minority of one, or such a clear message to Ankara that any adventurism on its part will not remain unanswered.

JOURNALIST: What progress has been made with the issue of Mr. Tsipras’ visit to Istanbul?

G. KATROUGALOS: We want the visit to take place as soon as conditions allow, as we aim at enjoying friendly relations with all countries and especially neighbouring ones. This is, after all, proven by the fact that we are among the very few remaining EU member states supporting our neighbour’s European prospects, on the self-evident condition of its respect for European and international legality and good neighbourly relations.

JOURNALIST: The changes to the Constitution unquestionably bear the stamp of Syriza. Do you believe that the process will continue, or could the preservation of Article 16 and non-revisable endanger the revision?

G. KATROUGALOS: Revision requires consensus, which we pursued where possible and which – perhaps – has the greatest importance, such as abolishing the unacceptable system of immunity for Ministers and political staff in general. However, there can be no consensus where we are separated by deep political and ideological differences. Furthermore, the revision process cannot be subject to political extortion, such as the one promoted by the extreme wing of New Democracy, threatening to walk out if we do not vote for the change to Article 16, with which we absolutely disagree. Therefore, the outcome of the revision will show which political power is in favour of major patriotic and democratic reforms. Unfortunately, this is yet another area where New Democracy seems to wish to kick the ball into the stands. Fortunately for the Greek people, Syriza and the other responsible political forces will not allow New Democracy to play the divisive role it has chosen. Personally, I hope that, even at the last minute, the very few remaining moderate and reasonable voices, such as that of its General Rapporteur, will prevail within the party, but I am not particularly optimistic.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic

Problems Mar Long-Awaited Election Day in DRC

JOHANNESBURG Millions of citizens in the Democratic Republic of Congo voted Sunday in a contentious, chaotic national election that has been repeatedly delayed and marred with glitches and allegations of rigging. While voting day, too, was marked by chaos, confusion and anger, millions of people among a voters’ roll of 40 million participated in what may be the most important poll in this nation’s independent history.

This poll marks the nation’s first opportunity at a peaceful transfer of power in almost 60 years as an independent country.

Most Congo-watchers predicted chaos would ensue as the sprawling nation voted in Sunday’s long-delayed general election — and they were right. Perhaps nowhere was that clearer than in the capital, Kinshasa, where delays at polling stations prompted hundreds of angry voters to greet the head of the electoral commission Sunday morning with chants demanding his resignation. An unknown number of polling stations opened late in Kinshasa on Sunday — and as the sun set, a number remained open beyond closing time to handle the voters still waiting in line.

It has been, says analyst Stephanie Wolters of the Institute for Security Studies, a worrying scene. Like many avid Congo-watchers, she was not in Congo for this poll. The government has financed the poll itself and has been openly, vocally, hostile to foreign involvement.

We’ve seen polling stations that opened late, we’ve seen polling stations without electoral material being delivered, we’ve seen problems with the voting machines ranging from there not being voting machines at polling stations to voters not knowing how to use them, we’ve also seen a lot of cases where voters didn’t know where to go because the voters’ lists were posted late, and there’s been bad weather,” she said. “So there have been a number of quite significant challenges that we’ve seen so far.

The two top presidential contenders � ruling party candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary and opposition favorite Martin Fayulu � voted in Kinshasa in the morning.

Fayulu, a former oil executive and political newcomer, is predicted to win, according to a recent political opinion poll conducted by several respected Congolese and international think tanks. However, the groups noted in their report that this result is only expected if the poll is free and fair, which many observers and critics of the regime expect it not to be. Worryingly, the report also noted that the majority of voters say they will not accept the results if the ruling coalition candidate � Shadary � wins.

Also making an appearance at the polls was longtime president Joseph Kabila, whose reluctance to organize polls in when his mandate ended 2016 led to him staying in power two years beyond his term. He smiled and waved to the cameras as he cast his ballot in the upscale Gombe neighborhood, where just two weeks ago, a fire tore through an election depot and destroyed most of the voting machines meant for the capital, prompting officials to announce a one-week delay from the original date of December 23.

Fayulu stopped to speak to the press after voting.

Change is finally happening and there will be a change, a real change and we will make this country something you will not recognize, because we have all the tools, he said. The human means, the natural resources. We have men and women capable of running this country. Like the other nations of the world run their countries, developed nations.”

In the volatile east of the country, where the government had delayed the poll until March over an Ebola outbreak and other security concerns, a local politician told VOA that hundreds of residents queued up at the stadium in the town of Beni and voted anyway in a mock poll. The results of that poll were not yet available, though the area is an opposition stronghold.

That act of defiance, Wolters says, underscores the desperate desire for change and improvement in a nation rich with resources but severely lagging in infrastructure and most other developmental indices.

I think that what we’ve seen is that the Congolese population really wants to use its vote to determine its own future, feels very strongly about that. And so of course, in that sense, going out to vote today is a hopeful act. But I think that a lot of people are also very skeptical, and distrustful of the institutions that have been involved in preparing this vote, she said.

That hope extends far beyond Congo’s borders. On Sunday, Pope Francis threw in an unscripted plea for the people of Congo during his weekly prayer service at the Vatican. The head of the Catholic Church said he hoped for a peaceful climate that will allow the elections to be carried out in a regular and peaceful manner. He then exhorted the crowd to join him in his plea, by reciting the Hail Mary.

Source: Voice of America

EU migration policy

Since the height of the migration crisis in 2015, the EU has implemented measures to better control external borders and migration flows. As a result, irregular arrivals to the EU have been reduced by more than 90%.

The EU and its member states are intensifying efforts to establish an effective, humanitarian and safe European migration policy. The European Council plays an important role in this effort by setting the strategic priorities.

Based on these priorities, the Council of the EU establishes lines of action and provides the mandates for negotiations with third countries. It also adopts legislation and defines specific programmes.

Over the past years the Council and European Council have build up a strong response to migratory pressure.

The timeline on migratory pressures provides an overview of the key developments in the work of the Council and the European Council:

Timeline: response to migratory pressures

The presidency of the Council has also activated the integrated political crisis response (IPCR) arrangements. These provide concrete tools to help coordinate the political response to a crisis by bringing together key actors.

The Council’s response to crises (IPCR) (background information)

Central Mediterranean route

The Central Mediterranean route has become the most-used route to the EU in recent years. As a result of this most migrants from sub-Saharan and North Africa transit through Libya on their journey towards Europe.

This has encouraged the development of smuggling and trafficking networks in Libya. The EU has taken concrete actions to address the migration situation in Libya and to tackle the root causes of migration in Africa.

Central Mediterranean route (background information)

Eastern Mediterranean route

The Eastern Mediterranean route refers to the sea crossing from Turkey to Greece. Refugees seeking shelter from Syria’s war arrived in high numbers to the EU via this route in 2015. Since then the number of irregular arrivals on this route has greatly reduced thanks to close cooperation between the EU and Turkey.

Eastern Mediterranean route (background information)

Saving lives at sea and targeting criminal networks

Migrants and refugees trying to reach Europe embark on life-threatening journeys as smugglers use increasingly dangerous tactics to cross the Mediterranean. The EU has deployed 3 operations in the Mediterranean to rescue those migrants at risk and fight migrant smuggling. The EU also established the European migrants smuggling centre in 2016 to help member states crackdown on migrant smuggling.

Saving lives at sea and targeting criminal networks (background information)

How the EU manages migration flows

The EU has adopted various sets of rules and frameworks to manage legal migration flows for asylum seekers, highly skilled workers, students and researchers, seasonal workers, and family reunification.

Regarding other migration flows, the EU has common rules for processing asylum requests. The Council adopted a decision to relocate thousands of asylum seekers from Greece and Italy in 2015. The EU also establishes readmission agreements for returning illegal migrants.

How the EU manages migration flows (background information)

Integration of third-country nationals

Relocation and resettlement measures adopted in response to the refugee and migrant crisis have highlighted the need to support member states which have less experience with integration. In December 2016, the Council adopted conclusions on the integration of third-country nationals legally residing in the EU.

Integration of third-country nationals (background information)

Source: European Council of the European Union

Delays, Frustration in Congo for Presidential Election

KINSHASA, CONGO People in Congo have begun voting in a long-delayed presidential election that could bring the troubled country’s first peaceful, democratic transfer of power.

In the capital, voters who turned out early were met with a violent storm that knocked out the power in two polling stations visited by Reuters.

Hours after the election began, scores of polling stations had yet to open, the electoral commission chief confirmed Sunday, as he faced shouts of We wanted to vote! and frustrated people walked away.

Delays were reported in other polling stations in the capital, Kinshasa, and other parts of this vast country.

Adding to that fear of unrest is a last-minute decision to bar an estimated 1 million people from voting because of a deadly Ebola virus outbreak in the east. The decision has been widely criticized as threatening the credibility of the election.

Candidates vote

Two main opposition candidates, Martin Fayulu and Felix Tshisekedi, are challenging President Joseph Kabila’s preferred successor, the European Union-sanctioned former Interior Minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.

Kabila and Shadary have voted and Kabila urged others to vote: My message today to my compatriots is to come and vote for their candidates and brave the rain.

Shadary called for peace and calm, adding I am very confident in victory because the Congolese people will trust me, I campaigned all over the country.

Opposition candidate Fayulu voted in the same polling station where Kabila and Shadary voted earlier.

It is the departure ticket for Kabila said Fayulu as he cast his ballot. Today, we are writing the end of Kabila, the end of misery for Congolese people. Congo will stop being the laughing stock of the world and we think the results will be in accordance with what the Congolese people want.

Electronic voting machines

Congo’s 40 million registered voters are using electronic voting machines with touch screens for the first time, machines the opposition fears could be manipulated.

The majority of voters here are stressed, said Kayembe Mvita Dido, first in a line of dozens waiting to vote at a polling station in the shadows of the towering Nyiragongo volcano. Some do not even know how to use the voting machine, he said, referring to a new electronic voting system.

Some Congolese observers have said voting materials didn’t reach some polling stations in time.

At stake is a country rich in minerals, including those crucial to the world’s smartphones and electric cars, and yet Congo remains desperately underdeveloped. Corruption and insecurity are widespread.

In the capital, Kinshasa, at the Institut de la Gombe polling station in the center of the city, a few people began to vote. This station is where the ruling party’s candidate, Shadary, and Kabila, are expected to vote. There is a poster at the entrance explaining how to use the electronic voting machines.

Source: Voice of America