Europe’s Mediterranean migrant crisis
EU leaders are scrambling to respond to the deaths of thousands of refugees who have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean from Libya towards a better life in Europe. Ben Hall is joined by Peter Spiegel and Borzou Daragahi to discuss Europe’s migrant crisis.
Just like the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, the violence in eastern Ukraine is attracting foreign fighters – some with the pro-Russian separatists, and some with the Ukrainian government forces.
Many of these fighters are from European countries. This makes it curious that we don’t hear much about this phenomenon from European governments – which are, of course, clamping down on citizens who go to fight in the Middle East. Read more
EU officials have come under renewed pressure to take action against flotillas of migrants from Africa following the deaths of more than 1,000 people during attempted Mediterranean crossings over the past week alone.
A massive search and rescue operation remains underway to find survivors among the wreckage of a ship thought to be loaded with more than 800 migrants which capsized over the weekend off the coast of Libya, potentially representing the worst maritime disaster of its type in the Med. Only 27 of those on board have been rescued.
The migrant deaths have shone a spotlight on Libya’s lucrative people smuggling industry. While the human cargo consists mainly of young men from Africa and the Middle East, more than 900 children also embarked on the dangerous crossing in the first three months of 2015.
In the aftermath of Libya’s bloody civil war, business is booming for the people traffickers. These figures illustrate why. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
When 12 people were murdered by terrorists in the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris earlier this year, more than 2m came out on to the streets of France to demonstrate in sympathy and protest. It seems unlikely that there will be a similar outpouring of public emotion in response to the deaths of hundreds of would-be migrants who drowned in the Mediterranean over the weekend as they attempted to cross into Europe.
When 12 people were murdered by terrorists in the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, earlier this year, more than 2m came out on to the streets of France to demonstrate in sympathy and protest. It seems unlikely that there will be a similar outpouring of public emotion in response to the deaths of hundreds of would-be migrants - drowned in the Mediterranean over the weekend as they attempted to make the crossing to Europe. Read more
Predictions that the war in Ukraine might be past its worst point can only be advanced with caution and caveats. Over the past 18 months, the western world has been consistently surprised by unexpected escalations and brutal events – from the annexation of Crimea to the shooting down of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. Even now, fighting continues. Last week, saw an escalation of conflict around Donetsk, with six killed in one day.
And yet, for all that, a cautious optimism is growing in the west that the fighting may be past its worst. There are still armed militias on the ground and intermittent fighting continues. But, against expectations, the Minsk peace accords negotiated last February, seem to have succeeded in damping down the conflict. One well-placed EU diplomat calls the new situation, a “hybrid peace” – a play on the well-known idea that Russia is fighting a hybrid war. Read more
Three weeks to go until the UK general election, and whatever the result – most likely no party with an overall majority in parliament – the remarkable thing is the serious underperformance of the ruling Conservatives.
The Conservatives inherited a nascent economic recovery in 2010 from a desperately unpopular Labour government that had been in power for thirteen years, and, despite questionable economic policies such as excessive austerity, narrowly managed not to screw it up.
But instead of building on their modest 36.1 per cent vote share in 2010, which forced them to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, polls now show the Tories struggling to break above 35 per cent. Read more
Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba: how far can it go?
Gideon Rachman is joined by Geoff Dyer and John Paul Rathbone to discuss the rapprochement between Obama’s America and Castro’s Cuba. How far can it go and what are the international implications?
The European Central Bank’s governing council is meeting against a backdrop of an improving eurozone economy. The ECB kept its benchmark interest rate at a record low 0.05 per cent and its deposit facility at -0.2 per cent on Wednesday and is expected to continue its €60bn a month landmark quantitative easing programme.
But it is not all optimism in the eurozone. The ECB’s bond buying has helped push German 10-year bund yields towards zero raising concerns about the potential for distortions in financial markets, while jitters over the growing possibility that Greece could default on a debt repayment provides a great deal for ECB President Mario Draghi to discuss at his press conference, which starts at 1.30pm UK time. By Ralph Atkins and Lindsay Whipp
Immersed in thoughts about whether Greece will strike a last-minute deal with its foreign creditors to avoid a debt default, I found myself on Tuesday evening outside an Athens souvenir shop selling a T-shirt with this slogan:
To be is to do – Plato
To do is to be – Aristotle
Do be do be do – Sinatra Read more
Listen to the International Monetary Fund and you are liable to think it is giving out two contradictory messages. Last week Christine Lagarde, head of the fund, said the world was at risk of falling into a “new mediocre” and global growth was “not good enough”. Today her chief economist, Olivier Blanchard, is keen to stress medium term growth rates are “not the end of the world” and “there is no reason for doom and gloom”.
Bizarrely, these messages are not the contradiction they seem. How so – and what are the other four things to note in the IMF’s April 2015 World Economic Outlook. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
Last week, the British election went nuclear. Michael Fallon, a Conservative and the UK’s defence secretary, made the emotive claim that a Labour government might “stab the UK in the back” by refusing to fund the renewal of Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent.
In the lead-up to Hillary Clinton’s long-awaited announcement that she is running for president, potential Republican rivals for the presidency and GOP party leaders have had plenty of time to formulate an opposition strategy that has quickly coalesced around a single meme: “Stop Hillary”.
Iran and Saudi Arabia wage proxy war in Yemen
Ben Hall is joined by Roula Khalaf and Najmeh Bozorgmehr to discuss the civil war in Yemen, and the growing hostility between Iran and Saudi Arabia, who are backing different sides in the conflict.
This week Greece finally put a figure on its demand for war reparations from Germany – €278.7bn as compensation for the death and destruction visited by the Nazis during the war. Opinion polls suggest that this gambit is widely popular in Greece. But by bringing this issue up now, the Greek government may have made a serious miscalculation that could contribute to the country’s disorderly exit from the euro.
Greece’s reparations demand comes at a time when the government in Athens is running out of money and its creditors are running out of patience. The country is likely to need a new bailout package this summer. By putting the reparations issue on the table, the Greeks may feel they gain extra leverage – as well as the possibility that they will actually get debts written off, rather than simply extended. But they have also significantly raised the risk that the Germans will simply walk away from the table altogether – forcing Greece into a default and a disorderly exit from the euro. Read more
A blizzard of anti-western conspiracy theories has hit Turkey in recent months.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month suggested that the western forces who invaded the Gallipoli peninsula during the first world war still wanted to make the country a second Andalusia — the Spanish region that Christians reconquered from Muslims.
Other recent theories in the pro-government press include the idea that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is a foreign “project” intended to foil the rise of Turkey. So too were the 2013 anti-government protests and a subsequent corruption investigation into Mr Erdogan’s circle.
Some analysts say Mr Erdogan’s rhetoric is an attempt to shore up the nationalist vote ahead of critical elections in Turkey on June 7 — the run-up to which has become increasingly tense. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
Is military and ‘soft power’ enough to make up for relative US economic decline? Read more