Fear, a decisive force in these European elections

As the European Parliament elections approach, a growing sense of fear stemming from multiple — yet mutually reinforcing — sources seems to be the decisive force shaping electoral behaviour. Citizens of the EU experience uncertainty in the face of broad economic and cultural changes occurring at an unprecedented pace, coupled by unforeseen crises, such as Covid and the climate crisis, and the re-emergence of war conflicts, on a continent accustomed to peace for over half a century.

The survey

Last month, more than 10,800 European voters took a stand on the pressing issues and running challenges of the EU, as part of a large-scale comparative survey conducted by Kapa Research across 10 member countries (Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, and Spain) between May 4 and 24, 2024.

This survey goes beyond domestic dilemmas or voting intentions. Taking a closer look at emerging and established trends within European societies between 2019 and 2024, it examines what shapes the bloc’s social agenda today, citizen concerns about European and international issues, leadership expectations, and opinions about leading global figures. On question after question, responses reveal a strong undercurrent of fear impacting voting behaviour just days before June’s European elections, emanating from four critical realities.

Rising cost of living is the foremost concern for Europeans heading to the polls.

Fear cause No.1: Economic uncertainty

Rising cost of living is the foremost concern for Europeans heading to the polls. Inflation shocks that have stunned European economies during the post-pandemic period established a deep-rooted unease about people’s ability to make ends meet. Asked about issues that worry them most when thinking of today’s Europe, respondents, at an average of 47 percent , place “rising cost of living” as their top concern. The issue has become remarkably salient in countries like France (58 percent), Greece (55 percent), Romania (54 percent), Spain (49 percent), and Bulgaria (44 percent), yet, still, in the rest of the surveyed member countries the cost of living ends up among the top three causes of concern. This wide sense of economic uncertainty is further spurred by a lingering feeling of unfairness when it comes to the distribution of wealth: M ore than eight out of 10 (81 percent overall) sense that “in Europe, the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer”.

via Kapa Research

Anxiety transforms into fear when one realizes that the main political conflict has little to do with competing economic solutions to high living costs. Instead, it is more of a clash between systemic forces and extremists, primarily centred on the field of immigration and the perceived threat to the European way of life.

Fear cause No.2: Immigration

On the cultural front, since 2015, immigration in Europe has been a complex and multifaceted issue, with humanitarian and political implications. In our survey, immigration appears to be the second most important citizen concern with 37 percent (on average), while, at the same time, on the question of which areas should Europe focus on the next five years, calls for “stricter immigration control” are prevalent, with 36 percent of respondents across all surveyed countries ranking it as a top priority. This is notably evident in Germany (56 percent), in spite of its reputation as a welcoming country early in the migration crisis, and in Italy (40 percent), a hub-country into Europe for migrants and refugees. More importantly, the perception of immigration as a “threat to public order” is widespread, with 68 percent of respondents holding this view, compared to only 23 percent who see it as an “opportunity for a new workforce”.

via Kapa Research

Fear cause No.3: War on our doorstep

The return of war to Europe has reignited fears about security; conflicts in Ukraine and, more recently, in Gaza come into play as new factors impacting this year’s EU elections. In this survey, “the Russia-Ukraine war” is the third most pressing concern for 35 percent of respondents, only two percentage points below “immigration ”. Here geographical proximity is crucial as the issue is especially prominent in Estonia (52 percent), Hungary (50 percent), Poland (50 percent), and Romania (43 percent), all neighbouring countries to either Russia or Ukraine. Additionally, demand for immediate ceasefire on both fronts is prevalent: 65 percent believe that hostilities in Gaza “must stop immediately ”, while the same view is supported by 60 percent for the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

To this end, as the feeling of danger from wars and terrorism grows stronger, EU-UK relations become indirectly connected to the issue of security: 56% of respondents wish for a (re)alignment between Great Britain and the EU. At the same time, and compared to current leaders, former UK PM Tony Blair enjoys strong popularity ratings.

Fear cause No.4: The unknown reality of AI

Over time, technological advancement has been widely welcomed as a positive development for humanity, as a means of improving living conditions, and as a growth accelerator. The rapid rise of a rtificial i ntelligence in citizens’ day-to-day lives seems to be disrupting this tradition. Among the member countries surveyed, an average majority of 51 percent considers AI more as a “threat to humanity” rather than as an “opportunity” (31 percent ). Along the same vein, scepticism is reflected in the reluctance to embrace AI as a strategic goal for the EU in the next five years, with 54 percent opposing such a move.

via Kapa Research

Mixing all four of the above ingredients produces an explosive cocktail of fear within European societies.

Key takeaway

Mixing all four of the above ingredients produces an explosive cocktail of fear within European societies. While combined with the prevalent EU technocracy and the weak institutions-to-citizens communication, it is reasonable to expect mounted distrust and electoral consequences. Voters will use their ballot to send painful messages. However, our survey shows that the great majority still favo r strengthening the European acquis — security, freedom, democracy, growth, and social cohesion — and seek a competent leadership that can defend it.

via Kapa Research

See full survey report by Kapa Research here.



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An Irishman’s guide to Crete – what to see and where to stay

Every Irish person has an idea of Greece and – depending on your age and interests – they probably include blue skies, beautiful islands and chic resorts, or perhaps ancient temples and shrines, revered philosophers, and world-changing history.

But what about the food? We don’t talk enough about how good – and how good for you – Greek food actually is, or how their farm-to-table culture strongly resembles our own and how it can result in some of the greatest (and healthiest) meals of your life. 

Although the Greek influence on Irish literature is unmistakable shouldn’t it be a stronger influence on our cooking too?

On this trip – which was my first – I spent the majority of my time on Crete, the largest of all the Greek islands, along the way enjoying some of the best meals I’ve ever sat down to.

I thought I knew Greece through its literature, but only an in-person visit will reveal the real riches waiting to be found there. Arriving in the island’s largest city Heraklion (in the company of a very lively American tour group) I was welcomed immediately with a local delicacy, the delicious Kalitsounia pastry.

A feathery soft hand pie made of cream cheese and honey, it’s a light/heavy mix of the sweet and savory I became a little obsessed with after my first bite, to be honest. The Greeks clearly know how to make a delicious first impression, so when I think of Crete from now on it’ll be as a land of quite literal cheese and honey.

Delicious cheese and honey filled Kalitsounia pastries welcome you to Crete

On our first evening in the port city of Chania, we dined at Apostolis Restaurant in the Old Town, a legendary seafood restaurant that serves as the perfect gathering place for early summer revels. This is where we first discovered the true meaning of Greek hospitality.

We lost count of the endlessly arriving courses – including, eventually, a melt-in-the-mouth dessert made of fried cheese and honey called sfakiani that served as a nightcap. Between all the substantial plates and the flying raki shots, by midnight, you could probably have rolled us home. 

Freshly made sfakiani at Apostolis Restaurant in Crete.

Freshly made sfakiani at Apostolis Restaurant in Crete.

Crete is a quietly fascinating place, I discovered. I have never been somewhere where I felt so foreign and yet so completely at home. So was this some kind of past life recall? Or was it all down to the raki?

I don’t have the answer but I can tell you that my spirit was at ease in Crete in a way that I took note of. I felt restored to myself, reborn even. So this trip was not just a highlight of the year but of my life, I think. I really didn’t expect that, but I wasn’t resisting. 

Featuring microclimates that run from temperate to the subtropical, Crete offers visitors everything from superb mediterranean dining at venues like the Carte Postale Restaurant overlooking the city of Chania, to outrageously upscale luxury resorts like Villa Cavo Dago, which affords expansive panoramas of the Aegean sea. 

The luxurious Villa Cavo Dago overlooks the Aegean sea

The luxurious Villa Cavo Dago overlooks the Aegean sea

If for any strange reason like football or Guinness you should find yourself homesick for the old sod, Crete has got you covered with, by my count, no less than twenty Irish bars scattered across the island.

Young Irish college students seem to choose Crete as a perfect destination for summer work experience and who could blame them? It has both beauty and value for money written all over it.

Affordable hotels, like the chic Halepa Hotel, are conveniently located just minutes from the center of Chania and offer the calmer pace of the Halepa district which you may welcome after the buzz of the city center, which is just a short walk away.

If you’re the robust type then know that Crete is a haven for adventure holidays. You can enjoy island-wide hiking along the craggy shorelines or even trek up into the mountains – expect to meet many hearty Germans in sensible shorts and hiking boots – or alternatively, there’s kite surfing, sea diving, and coastal speedboat trips too. 

That last option saw us whizzing off from the seaside town of Chora Sfakion one morning to take a fast boat to otherwise inaccessible coastal villages like Loutro and the memorable Taverna Dialiskari located in the Marmara harbor. 

Catch a fast boat at Chora Sfakion to visit Taverna Dialiskari

Catch a fast boat at Chora Sfakion to visit Taverna Dialiskari

Sniffing around the kitchen at Taverna Dialiskari I immediately ordered the fried lamb with homemade chips (french fries) and they did not disappoint, resulting in one of the best meals that we had in Crete with the sea air sharpening our appetites.

In between courses, you could literally hop in the sea – and many did – because the taverna is right on the water’s edge, so it feels off the grid and yet chic in the way this island often does.

Freshly made fried potatoes at Taverna Dialiskari are worth a trip

Freshly made fried potatoes at Taverna Dialiskari are worth a trip

It turns out that Crete really knows how to craft a truly unforgettable vacation, but so too does the wily National Tourism Offices of Greece who invited five other fabulous, flinty US travel writers along with me on this magical mystery tour to see what Greek island life is all about.

First-time visitors will notice the natural beauty of the island, which features endless miles of pristine coastline for bathing and sunbathing, olive groves and orange groves (almost anything you can plant flourishes here), and rugged mountain ranges or stylish fully catered seaside resorts. 

But the biggest revelation to me was the Cretan people. Warm and friendly like the Irish, they know how to inhabit the modern world whilst keeping faith with centuries of tradition and culture. No wonder I felt so at home.

Sunset over Chania, Crete

Sunset over Chania, Crete

Our next stop, Mila Mountain Retreat and Restaurant was a place of astonishments where sustainable dining in a mountain setting is the attraction. Freshness that only comes from locally sourced produce was the watchword here and you can also stay in one of their luxury outback digs for a back-to-nature visit.

It’s easy to see how myths about the gods who live in the mountains got started in Greece. Just spend 20 minutes under a leafy canopy overlooking the surrounding hills and you’ll feel the genius of the place under your feet. Looking about it really would not have surprised me to see – as the poet Cavafy once did – a god descend from those “most venerable” halls in the clouds. 

In all my travels I have only found this kind of immanence in Japan and Greece – alongside Ireland, of course – where the line dividing us from the otherworld is at its thinnest. No wonder I fell so hard for the place. 

Driving back to the hotel along a steep gorge our driver suddenly stopped and told us to step out. The view of the valley below was impressive from this height but what happened next was one of the most beautiful things that I’ve ever seen: an aerie of golden eagles soared about twenty feet over our heads, one after another, gliding effortlessly in the gentle updraft, their immense wings fully extended, each of them looking haughty and regal and huge. 

It was heart-stopping to see them glide above me one by one, and I counted twelve overpasses before I just gave myself up to the beauty of the experience. My heart was in my chest to be this close to such grace and beauty, it was one of the most awe-inspiring moments of my life I think; the memory of it will never leave me. It was worth the air ticket alone. 

Like Ireland, Crete has a revolutionary history, which we explored at the Eleftherios Venizelos Museum, the once home of a key leader of the Greek national liberation movement and a charismatic elder statesman of the early 20th century. The pride taken in his life and achievements is evident in the tour guides faces, no translation was needed (although the tour is given in English).

It was on then to the nearby Taverna Leventogiannis. Located in the historic village of Therisso in Chania, it offered a delicious, gourmet traditional Cretan banquet, serving up plate after plate of authentic Cretan recipes, appetizers, main courses and flowing raki. Another highlight of a trip already filled with them. 

Chania Archaeological Museum tells the story of Crete from its earliest inhabitants

Chania Archaeological Museum tells the story of Crete from its earliest inhabitants

The next day, we visited the Chania Archaeological Museum, a personal wonder of the trip for me (please don’t miss it if you visit). The museum tells the story of Crete from its earliest inhabitants with a focus and quiet scholarship that I found fascinating. The venue itself is an architectural triumph that will delight both scholars and tourists eager to delve a little deeper into the remarkable island they’re visiting.

Onward then to Gouverneto Monastery. Here, you descend a giant gorge to a hidden church carved into the cliff face. The sea stretches out blue in front of you as you descend and you can progress all the way down to the water’s edge if you wish to, passing all the wild goats that abound here with their strange otherwordly eyes. It’s a memorable spot that would appeal to the hardier visitor – early Christians made it a gathering place to evade capture and you’ll soon see why. 

(Irish tip: bring a hat everywhere you go in Greece or suffer the inevitable Irish sunburn that no sunscreen can prevent!)

At Vinolio Creta, we were invited to sample the olive and grapes that are at the heart of the company’s superb wine and olive oil products set in the grounds of an old Venetian monastery. Discerning gastronomes and wine aficionados will enjoy the excellent offerings and the history here, and the olive oil is delicious. 

But let’s catch our breaths for a moment. Consider, as I often did during this trip, that Greece gave the world democracy, the modern alphabet, the Olympic games, classical philosophy, western theatre, even maps – but they still wear their history and achievements rather lightly, never taking themselves too seriously, whilst making room for every pastime under the sun. That’s some trick. 

 Anoskeli Winery Olive Mill is a must experience on any Crete visit

Anoskeli Winery Olive Mill is a must experience on any Crete visit

Our next stop was the verdant Anoskeli Winery Olive Mill, a company on a mission to produce and deliver the world’s best extra virgin olive oil and wine from Crete in a sustainable manner. I was there for about ten minutes before I had to concede they have succeeded in both. Offering tastings to visitors, their olive oils have an intense and fruity flavor profile I adored.

Traveling on at the breakneck speed of a event packed press trip, where the pace only slowed when we were among the islanders, things became much more serene at Anoskeli Winery Olive Mill when we sampled the olive oils that seemed to have the summer still alive in them. 

On this trip, I discovered Cretan cooking is sophisticated but unpretentious, insisting on the primacy of fresh ingredients, most locally sourced and paired with their superb local wines. And everywhere we traveled we were offered feta so fresh it surpassed Italian burrata and mozzarella (that’s not a small boast). 

Welcome cocktail at the Nautilux Hotel are an event in themselves

Welcome cocktail at the Nautilux Hotel are an event in themselves

Next up came the two highlights of my Cretan trip. The Nautilux Hotel, a glamorous all-inclusive resort hotel in Rethymno that seems to have combined the words naughty and luxe to deliver on both counts. Think of a White Lotus setting with every possible luxury amenity (including breakfast, lunch and dinner) where all that’s left to do is relax. 

I adored the chic rooms and the airy lightness of the wider hotel, which is fun to walk around and which manages the design trick of being both substantial in size and intimate in feeling, you’ll probably want to book your next stay as you’re checking out.

That evening we all arrived at Agreco Farm, a classic taverna/restaurant and olive oil producing company overlooking the blue Aegean sea that highlights and exemplifies the traditional Cretan diet. 

A locally sourced and delicious Greek salt at Agreco Farm

A locally sourced and delicious Greek salt at Agreco Farm

Sitting down to one of the best meals I had not just in Crete but in my life, this was a banquet such as Lord Byron might have enjoyed on a fabled 18 century grand tour. If you only make one local dinner booking in wider Crete, make it here.

Rethymno is the name of the charming city on the north coast of Crete and in its old town a Venetian Harbor is filled with fishing boats and lined with atmospheric tavernas. Picture a Greek town that has remained markably preserved over centuries, yet that still offers fun nightlife options for a pacier crowd.

They serve sumptuous multiple course meals at Agreco Farm

They serve sumptuous multiple course meals at Agreco Farm

The Pepi Boutique Hotel in the old town combines discreet elegance with value and location. From suites to superior rooms the emphasis is on comfort and affordability. It’s an adults only hotel of 13 rooms, 3 Junior Suites and 2 Suites surrounded by a beautiful garden and a small outdoor swimming pool. 

We stopped after that to visit Giorgos Hatziparaskos, the Last Phyllo Master of Greece. He has richly earned the impressive moniker. Inside a simple Venetian house with high, white walls, this artisan has been working ultra-thin pastry by hand since the Second World War (he’s about 86 now). That’s a long apprenticeship so no wonder his pastry is divine. 

After these exertions under the sun, our group retired to Avli, a white linen table restaurant and hotel which boasts fine dining in the Cretan style. A standout moment in a trip already brimming with unforgettable meals and moments, the dishes they brought to our table were not just consistently flavorful but plated so beautifully that they often go viral on Instagram.

Already a world-renowned restaurant, Avli also offers ten luxurious suites, an enticing wine cellar and a traditional Cretan products shop. The watchwords are here are local and sustainably sourced and you’ll feel the care they take in every visit. 

Avli Hotel and Restaurant locally sources its fresh produce

Avli Hotel and Restaurant locally sources its fresh produce

Later that evening, we visited the 7 Seas or 7 Thalasses Restaurant and Hotel in Rethymno. Each dish that arrived surpassed the previous one in a truly romantic by-the-sea setting. On top of the great food was the great service, with a staff so welcoming and attentive that the night was a blur of fun and fine dining.

The next day we arrived at Plakias Resort, an all-inclusive luxury resort featuring multiple bars and restaurants – a total vacation spot. Beach chairs and sun umbrellas are provided and you can order a cocktail here at any time of day, which is very civilized. There are other gorgeous beaches located nearby so if you want maximum relaxation and low stress, this is the spot. You’ll probably return over and over. 

The path to 7 Thalasses Restaurant and Hotel

The path to 7 Thalasses Restaurant and Hotel

For me one of the most charming meals of the entire trip was served at Pastos Escape Traditional Taverna, in operation in the small town of the same name since 1933. Here Ms Maria as she is known serves course after course of feta, salads, olive oils, cheeses, wine, fried lamb, baked lamb, pilaf, fried potatoes, casseroles and kaltsounia and sfakiani pies, a reminder that the Cretan diet is not just healthy but gourmet.

On our last night we dined in the village of Meronas, a place continually inhabited since Minoan times that has long developed its own unique customs and traditions. Surrounded by the tall mountains associated with the old gods, it embraces its past and future by offering outstanding local fare at off the beaten path prices. (And do make a point of sampling the ice cold well water that flows clear off the mountain when you visit). 

Here’s what I discovered in Greece: Irish people have a cultural advantage on a trip here. The spirited chat of the old famers will remind you of home, you’ll correctly guess that the elderly ladies who run the local restaurants can cook and bake dishes to fully restore your five senses, you’ll feel the pull and wildness of the landscape all around you the same way we do at home, and you’ll be – in every sense – in your element. 

The only other truly useful thing to know is that the Greek word for Sláinte! is Yamas! Happy travels.



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North Macedonia and Greece shook hands in Prespa. Don’t give up on it

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

The agreement is a welcome reality, even among many of its opponents, because reopening the dispute would be much worse. I plead for a display of leadership in both countries, Greece and North Macedonia, to face this reality and stop playing petty politics with this issue, Nikola Dimitrov writes.

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The swearing-in ceremony of the newly elected President of North Macedonia, Gordana Davkova Siljanovska, caused an uproar in Athens, Brussels, and many other European capitals.

Not because she is the first-ever female president of the country or because she just won a landslide victory. It also wasn’t about something she said. Actually, it was about what she did not say.

While taking her oath of office, President Davkova omitted the directional adjective “North” and said just “Macedonia” despite signing a formal oath under her country’s constitutional name on the same day.

Yet, given that she campaigned on a pledge to respect but not pronounce the full constitutional name of the country she now leads, citing her personal right of self-determination and taking into account her criticism of the Prespa Agreement, her gesture alarmed neighbouring Greece.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis warned that any deviation from the agreement would have severe consequences for the relations between the two and the European integration path of us here in North Macedonia.

The now infamous name issue strained the relationship between Skopje and Athens for 27 years, ever since the independence of the then-Republic of Macedonia in 1991, until it was resolved with the signing of the Prespa Agreement in 2018.

It also blocked North Macedonia’s NATO membership and EU accession for over a decade.

‘You are my hero, may you rot in hell’

I have personally spent 15 years trying to solve the problem: initially as a diplomat and chief negotiator, then as a co-agent before the ICJ on a related case, and finally serving as foreign minister. 

Together with my Greek colleague Nikos Kotzias, we achieved what had previously seemed impossible and succeeded where Sisyphus couldn’t.

Meeting half way took time for both nations. Kotzias and I both received threats and hate mail on one side and praise on the other.

“You are my hero” and “May you rot in hell” were the starkly contrasted greetings I received in Skopje on a daily basis back in 2017 and 2018.

The agreement we signed is a good compromise, addressing the critical concerns of both sides. It calmed bilateral relations at the time and kickstarted renewed connections between our peoples, opening the door for friendship and cooperation.

You can’t please everyone

Prespa has elements that are difficult for both countries. The Macedonian language, for instance — an expression of the right of self-determination of ethnic Macedonians — is something many Greek politicians struggle to accept or pronounce.

The same goes for the country’s international codes: we can still use MK and MKD, except on vehicle license plates.

Yet, although the international traffic rules say otherwise, these codes are not found on the road signs to Skopje across Greece. You wouldn’t even see “North Macedonia” beside the signs directing you towards Bulgaria or Turkey.

On our end, using “North” remains a stumbling block for many Macedonian politicians, especially when they have to say it back home.

However, if we had not accepted the use of the compound name North Macedonia for all official purposes and at all times, there would have been no deal because this was a critically important issue for the Greek side.

For many in Greece, even the compound name is unacceptable, as they would prefer their neighbouring country not to have the word Macedonia in its name at all.

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All this shows is that no agreement could be reached that would completely satisfy both sides.

Yet, the Prespa Agreement, globally praised as a triumph of diplomacy and the most significant agreement in the Balkans — the region has an abundance of disputes but few solutions — since Bosnia’s 1995 Dayton Peace Accord, was hampered by various sides.

How many blows can you take before collapsing?

The first blow came from VMRO-DPMNE, the landslide winner of the recent elections. In 2018, the party, in essence, boycotted the referendum on the compromise.

While the Macedonian citizens (or the citizens of North Macedonia, if you prefer) voted “yes” in huge numbers, the “no” votes — expected to come from VMRO-DPMNE’s supporters — were too few, and the required turnout was not reached. 

The boycott kept the national wound half-open. The people did not decide.

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The second blow — and this may come as a surprise to many readers not familiar with our pains in the Balkans — came from the EU itself.

Before the referendum on the Prespa Agreement, many European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel (France’s President Emmanuel Macron sent a video message), came to Skopje and made a public promise to the people: support the agreement and we will open accession talks with your country.

Well, that promise was broken. France first walked it back in 2019, with another neighbour, Bulgaria, proudly taking over the veto torch ever since.

Politics of humiliation prove costly

Worse still, Bulgaria adopted a formal hostile stance against one of the two fundamental pillars of the Prespa Agreement — the Macedonian language and identity.

As Bulgaria got away with its indecent and counterproductive policy on its smaller neighbour and managed to pave the European path for North Macedonia with Bulgarian demands, the EU as a whole became complicit in undermining the agreement it loudly praised, as well as its own enlargement policy.

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Not surprisingly, only about one-third of the Macedonian public today believes that the EU is serious about enlargement — an embarrassing defeat for Brussels, considering that an overwhelming majority of Macedonians trusted the EU just a few years earlier.

Finally, the outgoing government in Skopje’s gross incompetence in organising the replacement of the citizens’ ID cards, passports and driver’s licenses under the constitutional name — forcing citizens into a situation where they can’t travel, drive, or even go to the bank to get their paychecks or pensions — caused humiliation and aggravated the problem to the extreme.

On the other side of the border, the New Democracy government did not invest much political energy in implementing the Prespa Agreement. It simply tolerated it. I recently wrote that the incoming government of North Macedonia should do the same. It looks like I was wrong.

A plea for reason to prevail has to be made

What we need instead of tolerance is leadership. The agreement is a welcome reality, even among many of its opponents, because reopening the dispute would be much worse.

And I plead for a display of leadership in both countries, Greece and North Macedonia, to face this reality and stop playing petty politics with this issue.

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Face those within your respective constituencies who would only accept maximalist solutions for their side and who are nostalgic for disputes and antagonisms.

Remind them that they have lost. And push forward with the full implementation of the Prespa Agreement, including the challenging and sometimes painful steps.

Leadership is also desperately needed on the EU side. Deliver on your promise, limit the ridiculous number of veto opportunities in the accession process, and do not fall prey to the domestically driven past-century whims of any single member state on things that truly matter.

Be a force for good, and do not undermine but rather amplify the efforts of those who have invested political capital in solving intractable disputes.

Nikola Dimitrov is a diplomat, think-tanker and political activist from North Macedonia. As Foreign Minister, he negotiated and signed the Prespa Agreement in 2018.

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Pioneering policy leadership in a transformative era

With the European Parliament and U.S. elections looming, Europe is facing policy uncertainties on both sides of the Atlantic. Persistent geopolitical turmoil in Ukraine and the Middle East, and threats to democracy — coupled with concerns over slow economic recovery, demographic shifts, climate hazards and the rapid evolution of powerful AI — all add to the complex global political and economic landscape. Europe’s present and future demands leaders who are capable of effectively navigating multifaceted challenges.

At the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence, we are committed to developing a groundbreaking executive program that prepares professionals for multilevel policymaking of the 21st century. Our new EUI Global Executive Master (GEM) aims to transform policy professionals into agents of change and enhance their skills as effective managers and leaders who inspire and drive sustainable change.

Listening and responding to the needs of policy professionals is at the core of our new program.

New leaders wanted

George Papaconstantinou is dean of executive education of the European University Institute, and a former Minister of Finance and Minister of Environment and Energy of Greece. | via European University Institute

Just as public policy has changed in the past 20 years, so has executive education for public policy professionals. Listening and responding to the needs of policy professionals is at the core of our new program. The new GEM takes our commitment to training professionals to respond to today’s cross-border issues to the next level; it stands out from other executive master programs through its dedication to providing a personalized career development journey.

Launching in September 2024, the GEM has a two-year, part-time format, with three week-long study periods in Florence, and two additional visits to global policy hubs. This format, combined with online modules, allows policy professionals to integrate full-time work commitments with professional growth and peer exchange, building their knowledge, skills, and networks in a structured way.

This allows policy professionals to integrate full-time work commitments with professional growth and peer exchange.

During the first year, EUI GEM participants take four core modules that will set the basis for a comprehensive understanding of the complex task of policymaking, and its interaction with government, the economy and global trends. In the second year, they have the possibility to select courses in one or more of four specializations: energy and climate; economy and finance; tech and governance; and geopolitics and security.

These core and elective courses are complemented by intensive professional development modules and workshops aimed at enhancing skills in the critical areas of change management, project management, strategic foresight, leadership, negotiations, policy communications, and media relations.

Through the final capstone project, EUI GEM participants will address real policy challenges faced by organizations, including their own, proposing solutions based on original research under the guidance of both the organizations concerned and EUI faculty.

In addition, the program includes thematic executive study visits for in-depth insights and first-hand practical experience.

In addition, the program includes thematic executive study visits for in-depth insights and first-hand practical experience. Participants attend the EUI State of the Union Conference in Florence, a flagship event that brings together global leaders to reflect on the most pressing issues of the European agenda. They explore the role of strategic foresight in EU institutions’ policy planning through an executive study visit to Brussels, complemented by dedicated training sessions and networking opportunities. A final Global Challenge study visit aims to encourage participants to engage with local policy stakeholders.

Bridging academia and practice

Since its inaugural executive training course in 2004, the EUI has successfully trained over 23,000 professionals of approximately 160 nationalities, in almost 600 courses. The EUI GEM leverages this expertise by merging the academic and practical policy expertise from our Florence School of Transnational Governance and the Robert Schuman Centre, as well as the academic excellence in the EUI departments.

The EUI GEM’s aspiration to bridge the gap between academia and practice is also reflected in the faculty line-up, featuring leading academics, private-sector experts, and policymakers who bring invaluable expertise into a peer-learning environment that fosters both learning and exchange with policy professionals.

Effective, agile and inclusive governance involves interaction and mutual learning between the public sector, the private sector and civil society actors, all acting as change agents. That is why our program is designed to bring innovative perspectives on public policy from all three: the public and the private sector, as well as civil society, and we welcome applications from all three sectors. 

An inspiring environment

EUI GEM participants spend 25 days in residence at the magnificent Palazzo Buontalenti, headquarters of our Florence School of Transnational Governance. The former Medici palace harbors art-historical treasures in the heart of Florence. In September 2024, a dedicated executive education center will be inaugurated at Palazzo Buontalenti, coinciding with the arrival of the participants of the first GEM cohort.

The GEM is poised to redefine the standards for executive education and empower a new generation of policy practitioners. We are ambitious and bold, and trust that our first cohort will be, too. After all, they are the first to embark on this adventure of a new program. We can’t wait to welcome them here in Florence, where the journey to shape the future begins. Will you join us?

Learn more about the EUI Global Executive Master.

The EUI Global Executive Master | via European University Institute



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‘What we have achieved in Europe is unique in history,’ says Greek PM

Euronews asks Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Prime Minister of Greece, what’s at stake in the upcoming European elections.

The EU elections will take place in June, the first since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began and the ensuing energy crisis sent member states scrambling for supply diversification.

Consequently, major changes are expected to be made to the policies governing defence, health, the climate and energy over the next five years.

In this episode of the Global Conversation, Euronews’ Nikoleta Drougka sits down with Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Prime Minister of Greece, to find out what the EU elections will mean for Europe.

To watch the interview click on the video in the media player above or read in full below.

Nikoleta Drougka, Euronews: Prime Minister, thank you for having us. The European elections are less than three months away. What are the biggest challenges for Europe, in your opinion, and what are the stakes for this election?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister of Greece: I think these are particularly important elections for Europe as a whole, given the broader economic and geopolitical context. They’re taking place in a very turbulent period with a war raging on our eastern flank, with a substantial humanitarian crisis unravelling in Gaza, as Europe is exiting from a very, very difficult five years.

I think it is also an opportunity for us to take stock of what we have achieved during the last European electoral cycle and to highlight the significant successes of the European Union. 

Through the cooperation of all the institutions, we’ve been able to defend ourselves successfully against COVID-19. We set up the NextGeneration EU, which for countries such as Greece, has a particular importance in terms of helping us boost our growth and also facilitate the green and digital transition.

Nikoleta Drougka, Euronews: How concerned are you with louder and louder voices that are against Europe, anti-European voices?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister of Greece: I think there will always be voices that challenge the successes of Europe and indeed some of the, I would say, complaints may be justified. But at the end of the day, if one looks at the overall picture, I remain firmly committed that the future of the European Union is bright and that Europe has been able to deliver for its citizens.

And that is why we need to make the case regarding what we have achieved, but also what we need to achieve going forward. Because as you look at the next electoral cycle and the big issues that we have ahead of us, the ones that I would personally highlight are three. First of all, the need to turn strategic autonomy from a slogan into a real and effective policy.

Look at defence, for example. We not only need to spend more on defence, but we need to coordinate our defence spending. The second challenge has to do with overall European competitiveness. How we can ensure that Europe remains competitive vis-a-vis China, the US and the Global South? This will mean better jobs and better-paying jobs for European citizens.

The third challenge is to be more specific and more sectoral. It has to do with agriculture and our farmers at a time when food security is very high on our agenda. We need to understand that some of the steps that we took over the past five years regarding the green transition have put much more pressure than maybe we even anticipated on our farmers and that we need to make sure that the green transition is executed at a speed that does not significantly impact the income of our farmers.

Nikoleta Drougka, Euronews: Would you say that maybe sometimes the biggest enemy of the EU is the EU itself?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister of Greece: Look, there are 27 of us, and I’m talking about the European Council, which gathers numerous times a year in a room and we all need to agree by unanimity. This is a process that inevitably has to take time, and which also involves compromises and occasionally necessitates taking a step back to achieve the common European good.

That is the nature of the European Union. At the same time as we are contemplating European enlargement, we also need to look at ways of making our decision-making more effective. That is also going to be a complicated exercise because any change will again require unanimity and the agreement of all Member States. One needs to recognise that what we have achieved in Europe is unique in the history of the world.

We have voluntarily given powers to a supranational entity and we need to make this proper balance, between decision-making at the European and national level, work every day. But again, this is, in quotes, the “price” that we have to pay for us to also reap the benefits of participating in the European Union.

Nikoleta Drougka, Euronews: You mentioned something about Europe’s defence autonomy, as a challenge ahead. Would you also say that it should be the top priority, perhaps, of the next Commission and Parliament?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister of Greece: Defence is existential as we realised after the war in Ukraine and maybe some countries believed that the peace dividend that occurred after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the fall of the Soviet Union would last forever.

But that has proven to be a fallacy. We were never in that position because we always spent a significant amount on defence because of particular regional geopolitical challenges. But now we understand that we all need to step up to the plate and spend more, but also spend smarter, be more coordinated, streamline our defence procurement, and have maybe more European champions that can offer advanced defence solutions at a more competitive level than is currently the case.

Nikoleta Drougka, Euronews: Prime Minister, previously we have seen some EU Member States – Greece is not among them – struggle to convince their citizens to go and participate in the European elections. Why would you say, is it important for people to go out and vote?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister of Greece: Because what happens in Brussels and because who represents us at the European Parliament matters. The decisions that are taken in Brussels and Strasbourg are very important for our everyday lives, and we need to send qualified people to the European Parliament.

At the end of the day, the European elections are about the European Parliament – to ensure that the Parliament will be comprised of representative European citizens and will bridge this gap between decision-making in Brussels and what the European people really want.

The European Parliament is the most democratic of all our institutions and that is why participating in the European elections is important. We are a staunch pro-European party, so you wouldn’t expect me to say anything else. And of course, we are doing our best to mobilise people and to ensure that what traditionally is a low turnout election is going to maybe defy the trend and have increased participation.

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Far-right militants in Greece illegally ‘arrest’ migrants they blame for fires

Two videos posted online on August 23 show Greek members of the extreme right illegally “arresting” migrants in Evros, a Greek region bordering Turkey. The footage shows the militants forcing one group of men to sit in the dirt. Another group of terrified migrants have been crammed into a trailer. While members of the far right have carried out this type of illegal arrest of migrants before, it is rare to have footage of it. The attackers accuse the migrants of being responsible for the widespread fires in the region. These militiamen feel empowered by the political context hostile to migrants, say our Observers. 

Issued on:

5 min

“Four more … you see? It is noon and where are the authorities? […] We will contact the police, but there is never any response,” rages the man filming a video posted online on August 27. While it is clear the video was filmed in the region of Evros, it’s not clear when it was filmed.  

The man filming points the camera at four men, migrants, sitting on the ground in the dirt behind a Land Rover. Meanwhile, at least two other men loiter alongside the vehicle – seemingly in cahoots with the man behind the camera. At the end of the video, the man turns the camera on himself and you can see that he is bearded and wearing a black tee-shirt and camouflage pants. 

The video was posted on social media by an account under the name Walandi Abrassis – likely the man who filmed it.  

A video posted online a few days earlier shows a similar scene – albeit even more disturbing. The guy filming focuses the shot on his Land Rover, which has a trailer attached. When he opens the door, there are at least four men crammed inside, looking terrified. 

“I’ve loaded up 25 of them into the trailer. Get organised, get them all out and grab them,” he says. He seems to be speaking to his cronies about the migrant men in the trailer. “The whole mountain is full, guys.”

“They swore to burn us […] They will burn us, that’s all I’ll say,” he adds, this time referring to the wildfire that has been raging across the northeast of Greece, considered to be the largest ever recorded in the European Union. According to the local press, this video was filmed in Alexandroupoli, just a few kilometres from the Turkish border, the Evros River. 

The website the Press Project later reported that these militia men had “arrested” 13 migrant men, not 25 as the man filming claimed. The victims told journalists that the militants had beaten them with metal rods. 

“They took off all of our clothes and filmed us. We stayed there a long time, sweating and unable to breathe,” said one of the 13 men who was detained. 

Greek authorities have put the man who filmed this second video under house arrest awaiting charges.

‘These militia members arrest migrants but because they can’t deport them, they hand them over to police’

Panayote Dimitras is the spokesperson for the Greek Helsinki Monitor, a human rights NGO that gathers information on migrants who have been forcibly deported from Greece either by the police or civilians:

This phenomenon has existed for decades, but this time they decided to share videos of their actions themselves. This footage illustrates things that organisations like ours have been reporting for a long time. The release of the footage resulted in a deputy prosecutor of the Supreme Court assigning a local prosecutor to deal with it. That said, nothing has been done about all of these illegal deportations orchestrated by Greece, even though they have been widely documented. So it is doubtful that people will be punished here. However, all of this information can be added to the files that we can give to international institutions like the European Court of Human Rights to show how that happens to migrants in the region. 

We know that these militias cooperate with local police. In Evros, these militia members arrest migrants but because they can’t deport them, they hand them over to police. The police don’t report the incidents because if the migrants’ presence is recorded, then they have the right to claim asylum and can no longer be illegally deported. 

Far-right parties like the Golden Dawn and the Greek Solution are trying to find support in the region and it is clear that the men in these videos have links to local far right organisations.

The man who filmed the video posted on August 27 hasn’t yet been arrested. However, he was interviewed in a far-right publication as well as on Facebook. He claimed that he was just bringing water and assistance to migrants.  

Migrants blamed

On Greek social media, citizen patrol groups have been working together to chase off migrants who have crossed the border from Turkey, as shown in a report by the Press Project, which shared screengrabs of a conversation on Viber. Leaders of the far right openly blamed the fires on migrants travelling through Evros. The chairperson of the Greek Solution party, Paris Papadakis, who comes from Alexandroupoli, wrote on Facebook: “I have information about illegals who are disrupting the work of [Canadair] pilots. We need to act! […] We are at war”. 

On August 30, the rightwing Prime Minister, Konstantinos Mitsotakis, implied that migrants were behind the fire, though there is no proof of that. 

“It is almost certain that the causes are man-made,” the prime minister said. “It is also almost certain that the fire began on routes often used by illegal migrants who have entered our country.”

However, he added that “acts of self-defence and self-proclaimed sheriffs are not tolerated by this government”,

They have a certain ideology that is not very different to that of the state: to protect the border, not letting people cross, using violence to prevent them’

Eva (not her real name) lives in Evros and has been following the situation closely. She asked to remain anonymous:

In March 2020, when Turkey opened its borders to put pressure on the European Union, police  officially asked for help from civilians in controlling the migrants who entered the country. A local organisation of fishermen on Evros, Aenisio Delta Evros, became very active in arresting migrants. Officially, that’s no longer the case and the police don’t want people to think that they tolerate that. But when you ask them if they are still doing it … they won’t respond to the question, which says a lot. 

A lot of these people have very good relations with the police and the army especially the Aenisio Delta Evros association, and also the local authorities. It’s wrong to call them vigilantes: they have an internalised ideology of protecting the border, to serve the state. In their mind, they don’t do anything to go against the interest of the Greek state. They have a certain ideology that is not very different to that of the state: to protect the border, not letting people cross, using violence to prevent them, which is a very significant pattern in Evros.

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Alarm sounded over migrants stranded in no man’s land on Europe border

What’s happening in Greece’s Evros region “shows the dark side of EU migration policy”, one analyst told Euronews.

NGOs have raised the alarm over a large group of people stranded in a de facto no man’s land on the European Union border. 

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Alarm Phone, a hotline for refugees and migrants in distress, was alerted in mid-July to 52 people – including pregnant women, children as young as three years old and the elderly – stuck on a small islet in the Evros River (known in Turkish as the Meriç River), which separates Greece and Turkey. 

They have been stranded there ever since, with the group claiming to have been violently attacked each time they try to escape to either country.  

The Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) on Tuesday accused the Greek and Turkish armies of playing “football” with the group, pushing them back and forth between each other’s territory, as their humanitarian situation grows increasingly “dire”.

Greece’s Ministry of Civil Protection has been approached for comment. 

In a statement published on Monday, Alarm Phone alleged the besieged group – mostly from Syria and Iraq – had suffered “barbaric violence” during the weeks-long “odyssey” – despite repeated appeals to the authorities to evacuate them.

Authorities have also been called on to urgently provide food, water and medical care, with some members of the group injured and suffering health issues.

Two members of the group are reportedly missing, presumed dead. 

“The violent act of leaving people for days being stuck on an islet not only risks physical injuries, but is a mental torment in and of itself that traumatises people,” wrote Alarm Phone. 

Following the 2015 European Migration Crisis, Greece has been routinely accused of systematically detaining migrants and forcing them out of the EU in a practice known as pushbacks. 

Greek officials deny they are happening. 

Multiple pushbacks have been recorded by the BVMN and other NGOs where migrants are loaded onto small inflatable dinghies – often by masked men –  and dumped on small barren islands within the fast-flowing Evros River.

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They then remain in de facto no man’s land, outside the territory of either Greece or Turkey. Owing to the unclear status of the islets, authorities have claimed in the past they are outside of their jurisdiction, and therefore also outside their responsibility. 

Migrants have reportedly died while trying to swim off the islands or been forced to stay there for prolonged periods of time in wet clothes and freezing conditions, typically without water or supplies, after being forced to jump into the water and wade to the islands. 

“The situation at the Evros land border between Greece and Turkey is untenable,” said Hope Barker, policy analyst at BVMN. “Violence is routine and an everyday occurrence, people on the move are dying and going missing.”

“What’s happening in Evros shows the dark side of EU migration policy that has been pushed away from the eyes of Northern European states and is playing out in the shadowy militarised zones of frontline states where it can neither be seen nor heard.”

Alarm Phone said it alerted the Greek authorities on 13 July about the trapped group. Greek officials informed them on 22 July that despite “extensive searches… no human presence was found,” they said.

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The BVMN called Greece’s claim “implausible” given the “extensive funding” they received from the EU to police the border, alleging they were “concealing pushback operations”. 

Days later, on 28 July, the group informed Alarm Phone they had been stormed by “police and mercenaries… [who] started to hit the world,” forcing some to flee into the water. 

The group sent a video purporting to show the abuse, though Euronews cannot verify its authenticity.

Facing an untenable situation, the group reportedly tried to leave the islet on 3 August, but were intercepted by what they called “police”. 

One woman alleged she and other female members of the group were made to strip, with the men forced to stare at them, before they were returned to the island.

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The group claimed to have been assaulted once again on 7 August, which the BVMN reported put them in “extreme distress“, with some members of the group now in a “critical medical condition”.

These reports are consistent with a well-established pattern documented by BVMN and other NGOs regarding pushbacks from Greece. 

In 196 push-back victims’ testimonies collected by the BVMN since 2019, 92% contained reports of physical beatings and 58% of individuals being forcibly undressed. 

Forced stripping has also been documented by Human Rights Watch, besides assaults and theft against migrants in the Evros region by the Greek authorities. 

Greece denies engaging in illegal activity at their borders. 

All individuals inside the EU are protected from inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment, under the bloc’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. 

Turkey, which signed a €16 billion with the EU to stop people travelling irregularly to Greece, is obligated to offer people the right to claim asylum under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is currently home to the world’s largest refugee population, hosting 3.7 million people according to the UNHCR. 

“Greece protects the external borders of the European Union, in total compliance with international law and in full respect of the [EU] Charter of Fundamental Rights,” Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi insisted early last year.

BVMN policy analyst Barker called on the EU to stem pushbacks, which the UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, has warned that they “risk becoming normalised, and policy based”.  

“The EU cannot wash its hands of what is happening in the Evros border region, this is a direct result of their pushback policy which has become the silent, unspoken, yet central pillar of EU migration management,” said BVMN policy analyst Barker. 

“When people are systematically not given access to asylum, have their rights violated, and are attacked, and the Commission says nothing – they are complicit.”

Strandings on these islets are far from isolated. In August 2022, the BVMN documented a case of a large group of mostly Syrian nationals, who were trapped there for weeks in the extreme heat, without access to food or water.



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This summer is what climate change looks like, scientists say

The blistering heat threatening lives and fueling wildfires across Southern Europe and North America this July would have been “virtually impossible” without man-made global warming, scientists said on Tuesday. 

Their findings come as the planet’s ocean and land temperatures hit new records in recent weeks, with waters around Florida and the Mediterranean coast surpassing 30 degrees Celsius and parts of the Northern Hemisphere baking in heat of 45C or more. 

Scientists have long warned climate change would make heat waves hotter, longer and more frequent. Tuesday’s study found that this month’s extreme temperatures are no longer an outlier now that humans have warmed the Earth by about 1.2C above pre-industrial levels.  

In fact, “it could well be that this is what will be a cool summer in the future unless we rapidly stop burning fossil fuels,” said study co-author Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College London. “This is not the new normal. As long as we keep burning fossil fuels, we will see more and more of these extremes.”  

The study was published by the World Weather Attribution (WWA) consortium of scientists, which uses peer-reviewed methods to conduct rapid analyses of the role climate change plays in extreme weather events. 

The researchers found heat waves like those seen in mid-July can now be expected roughly once a decade in Southern Europe and every 15 years in North America. But if the global average temperature rises to 2C above pre-industrial levels, the upper limit of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, “events like this will become even more frequent, occurring every 2-5 years,” the researchers said. 

Current climate policies put the planet on track to warm at least 2.4C by the end of this century. 

China, which registered a new temperature record of 52.2C in mid-July, can already expect such heat waves to occur every five years, the WWA study found. Climate change made the Chinese heat wave 50 times more likely to occur, according to their models. 

But global warming hasn’t just made such heat waves more likely. It’s also made them more intense. 

The study found the European, North American and Chinese heat waves were 2.5C, 2C and 1C hotter, respectively, than they would have been without climate change.

On the ground, these abstract-seeming numbers translate into record-smashing temperatures. In the U.S., the city of Phoenix saw three weeks above 43C; across the Atlantic, Catalonia and Rome hit new heat records last week. Sardinia reached 46C. 

Such extreme heat is dangerous to human health. More than 60,000 Europeans died in last summer’s heat waves, a recent study found. Italian hospitals reported an uptick in hospitalizations last week; doctors in the southwestern U.S. are warning of an increase in severe, and sometimes deadly, burns from extreme surface temperatures. 

In countries like Canada and Greece, the heat contributed to tinderbox conditions allowing wildfires to spread with ease. The smoke from Canada’s fires continues to choke North American cities, while dramatic evacuation efforts are underway on several Greek islands. 

“The Mediterranean has seen a dramatic increase in the frequency of the hot-dry conditions that were considered extreme at the end of the last century, and these increases are expected to accelerate for each added degree of warming in future,” said Matthew Jones, a fellow at East Anglia University’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. 

NASA scientists expect this July to become the world’s hottest month on record. 

Other parts of the Northern Hemisphere have seen flash flooding, record-breaking hail, intense storms or a combination of all three this month. Last week, a hail storm sent a flood of ice through the northern Italian town of Seregno. 

While scientists say that climate change will fuel extreme precipitation or flash flooding in some parts of the globe, not all such events are attributable to global warming. A WWA study earlier this year, for example, found that climate change had no significant impact on deadly spring floods in Italy. 

Attributing heat waves to climate change is a more straightforward matter, and numerous studies have found a clear link. 

“It’s a very boring study, from a scientific point of view,” said Otto. “We see exactly what we expected to see.”

She also said that the arrival of El Niño — the warming cycle of a naturally occurring phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean — contributed very little to the high temperatures seen across the Northern Hemisphere. 

“Increased global temperatures from burning fossil fuels is the main reason the heat waves are so severe,” the study authors noted. 

Scientists have also said that El Niño, whose full warming effect won’t be felt until later this year, also isn’t to blame for current sea temperature anomalies in the North Atlantic. 

Coastal waters in Florida have reached about 35C — an existential threat to coral reefs — while last month, the sea around the British Isles registered temperatures 5C above normal. 

The EU’s Copernicus climate change service, which described the North Atlantic heating as “off the charts,” says a mix of global warming and “unusual” atmospheric circulation is driving the anomaly. Scientists also point to a reduction in shipping pollution and an absence of Saharan dust over the Atlantic as contributing factors. 

While the North Atlantic’s temperature spike looks especially dramatic, global sea surface temperatures have hit record highs in recent months. 

The arrival of El Niño will fuel warming both in the oceans and on land, boosting the likelihood of extreme weather events, according to the World Meteorological Organization, whose scientists have warned that the planet is entering “uncharted territory.” 

As the Northern Hemisphere’s extreme summer goes on, all’s not well on the other side of the planet, either. 

Antarctica’s sea ice is in sharp decline, setting new records at such a pace that scientists are increasingly fearing for its capacity to recover in the winter. 

Oceanographer Edward Doddridge told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation this weekend the unprecedentedly low sea ice extent “is a five-sigma event. So it’s five standard deviations beyond the mean. Which means that if nothing had changed, we’d expect to see a winter like this about once every 7.5 million years.” 

Doddridge added the root cause of the decline is likely climate change, although he cautioned that other factors can’t yet be ruled out. 

But there’s no doubt that ice loss at the poles further accelerates climate change. The bright ice caps reflect the sun’s warming rays back into space, while the dark polar waters absorb them. Less ice means the planet absorbs more heat. 

Earlier this year, a study found the rapidly melting Antarctic ice is slowing deep ocean currents, with potentially devastating consequences for ecosystems and the broader climate. 

The authors of Tuesday’s heat study stressed that governments now have to take urgent action on two fronts — reducing emissions to avoid disastrous climate change and enacting measures to adapt to rising temperatures. 

“Even if we stop burning fossil fuels today, temperatures will not go down. They will just stop getting even higher,” said Otto. “And so the heat waves we are seeing now, we definitely have to live with that.”



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Timeline of how migrant boat tragedy off the coast of Greece unfolded

A timeline of events that led up to one of the worst shipwrecks in recent Mediterranean history as hundreds of migrants are still missing off the coast of Greece.

Some 200 people in the Greek port city of Piraeus marched to the offices of European border agency FRONTEX and the Hellenic Guard on Sunday, protesting their handling of last week’s deadly shipwreck off the coast of Pylos. 

There are mounting questions as to whether the Greek coastguard should have intervened earlier to help get the migrants onboard to safety.

There are still more questions than answers about what led up to one of the worst shipwrecks in recent Mediterranean history. Critics say the Greek coastguard and Frontex should have intervened earlier

Up to 750 men, women and children from Syria, Egypt, the Palestinian territories and Pakistan were on board the vessel trying to reach Europe when it sank.

Below is a timeline of events based on reports from Greek authorities, a commercial ship, and activists who said they were in touch with passengers. They describe sequences of events that at times converge, but also differ in key ways.

All times are given in Greece’s time zone.

Around 11 am on Tuesday

Italian authorities informed Greece that a fishing trawler packed with migrants was in international waters southwest of the Peloponnese. Greece said the Italian authorities were alerted by an activist.

Around the same time, human rights activist Nawal Soufi wrote on social media that she had been contacted by a woman on a boat that had left Libya four days earlier.

The migrants had run out of water, Soufi wrote and shared GPS coordinates through a satellite phone showing they were approximately 100 kilometres from Greece.

Over the course of the day, Soufi described some 20 calls with people on the trawler in a series of social media posts and a later audio recording. 

11:47 am

A surveillance aircraft from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, commonly known as Frontex, spotted the overcrowded trawler and notified Greek authorities. On Saturday, Frontex said that its plane had to leave the scene after 10 minutes because of a fuel shortage, but that it had also shared details and photos of the “heavily overcrowded” trawler with Greece.

2 pm

Greek authorities established contact with someone on the trawler. The vessel “did not request any assistance from the coast guard or from Greece,” according to a statement.

But activists said that people on the boat were already in desperate need by Tuesday afternoon.

3:11 pm

Soufi wrote on social media that passengers told her that seven people were unconscious.

Around the same time, Alarm Phone, a network of activists said they received a call from a person on the trawler.

“They say they cannot survive the night, that they are in heavy distress,” Alarm Phone wrote.

3:35 pm

A Greek coast guard helicopter located the trawler. An aerial photo released showed that it was packed, with people covering nearly the entire deck.

From then until 9 pm, Greek authorities said, they were in contact with people on the trawler by satellite phone, radio, and shouted conversations conducted by merchant vessels and a coast guard boat that arrived at night. They added that people on the trawler repeatedly said they wanted to continue to Italy and refused rescue.

5:10 pm

Greek authorities asked a Maltese-flagged tanker called the Lucky Sailor to bring the trawler food and water.

According to the company that manages the Lucky Sailor, people on the trawler “were very hesitant to receive any assistance,” and shouted that “they want to go to Italy.” Eventually, the trawler was persuaded to accept supplies, Eastern Mediterranean Maritime Ltd. wrote in a statement. 

Around 6 pm

A Greek coast guard helicopter reported that the trawler was “sailing on a steady course and heading.”

6:20 pm

Alarm Phone said that people on board reported that they weren’t moving and that the “captain” had abandoned the trawler in a small boat.

“Please any solution,” someone on board told Alarm Phone.

The Greek authorities’ account suggested the trawler stopped around that time to receive supplies from the Lucky Sailor.

6:55 pm

Soufi wrote that migrants on board told her that six people had died and another two were very sick. No other account so far has mentioned deaths prior to the shipwreck. 

Around 9 pm

Greek authorities asked a second, Greek-flagged, merchant vessel to deliver water, and allowed the Lucky Sailor to leave.

Around 10:40 pm

A coast guard boat from Crete reached the trawler and remained nearby until it sank. According to the coast guard, the vessel “discreetly observed” the trawler from a distance. Once again, the coast guard said, the trawler didn’t appear to have any problems and was moving “at a steady course and speed.”

According to Soufi, attempts to deliver supplies may have contributed to the trawler’s troubles.

Around 11 pm

Soufi wrote that the trawler began rocking as its passengers tried to catch water bottles from another vessel. According to people on board, ropes were tied to the ship, destabilising it and causing a “state of panic,” she said.

The report from the Lucky Sailor said that no lines were tied to the trawler, and supplies were delivered in watertight barrels tied to a rope.

“Those on board the boat caught the line and pulled,” the company managing the Lucky Sailor said. 

The Greek coast guard said that its vessel had briefly attached a light rope to the trawler. A spokesperson stressed that none of the vessels had attempted to tow the trawler.

Commander Nikos Alexiou told Greek channel Ant1 TV that the coast guard wanted to check on the trawler’s condition, but people on board again refused help and untied the rope before continuing the course.

Soufi’s last contact with the trawler was at 11 pm. She said later in a voice memo that “they never expressed the will to continue sailing to Italy,” or refused assistance from Greece. “They were in danger and needed help.”

The captain of the coast guard vessel that reached the trawler less than three hours before it sank has testified to investigating authorities that the passengers refused any help. 

11:40 pm

The captain said that during the first approach, the passengers didn’t respond to his call and that he was ready to provide assistance.

Five minutes later, he said, the vessel stopped moving. His vessel inched closer and tied a rope to the ship’s bow but some passengers responded in English “No Help” and “Go Italy,” according to the news website kathimerini.gr which quotes from the captain’s deposition. Soon after, the migrants untied the rope and restarted the engine.

1:40 am Wednesday

According to authorities, the trawler kept moving until Wednesday morning when its engine stopped. The coast guard vessel then got closer to “determine the problem.”

A few minutes later, Alarm Phone had a final exchange with people on the trawler. The activists were able to make out only: “Hello my friend … The ship you send is …” before the call cut off.

In the Greek captain’s leaked testimony, he said that he was informed that the trawler’s engine had stopped again. The coast guard vessel then approached within 70 metres of the boat for an inspection. 

2:04 am

More than 15 hours after Greek authorities first heard of the case, the coast guard reported that the trawler began rocking violently from side to side, and then capsised.

People on deck were thrown into the sea, while others held onto the boat as it flipped. Many others, including women and children, were trapped below deck.

Fifteen minutes later, the trawler vanished underwater.

In the darkness of night, 104 people were rescued and brought to shore on the Mayan Queen IV, a luxury yacht that was sailing in the vicinity of the shipwreck. Greek authorities retrieved 78 bodies. No other people have been found since Wednesday.

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Questions mount over latest migrant tragedy in Mediterranean

Anger is growing over the handling of a migrant boat disaster off Greece last week that has become one of the biggest tragedies in the Mediterranean in years. The calamity is dominating the country’s political agenda a week ahead of snap elections.

The Hellenic Coast Guard is facing increasing questions over its response to the fishing boat that sank off Greece’s southern peninsula on Wednesday, leading to the death of possibly hundreds of migrants. Nearly 80 people are known to have perished in the wreck and hundreds are still missing, according to the U.N.’s migration and refugee agencies.

Critics say that the Greek authorities should have acted faster to keep the vessel from capsizing. There are testimonies from survivors that the Coast Guard tied up to the vessel and attempted to pull it, causing the boat to sway, which the Greek authorities strongly deny.

The boat may have been carrying as many as 750 passengers, including women and children, according to reports. Many of them were trapped underneath the deck in the sinking, according to Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. “The ship was heavily overcrowded,” Frontex said.  

About 100 people are known to have survived the sinking. Authorities continued to search for victims and survivors over the weekend.

The disaster may be “the worst tragedy ever” in the Mediterranean Sea, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said on Friday. She said there has been a massive increase in the number of migrant boats heading from Libya to Europe since the start of the year.

Frontex said in a statement on Friday that no agency plane or boat was present at the time of the capsizing on Wednesday. The agency said it alerted the Greek and Italian authorities about the vessel after a Frontex plane spotted it, but the Greek officials waved off an offer of additional help.

Greece has been at the forefront of Europe’s migration crisis since 2015, when hundreds of thousands of people from the Middle East, Asia and Africa traveled thousands of miles across the Continent hoping to claim asylum.

Migration and border security have been key issues in the Greek political debate. Following Wednesday’s wreck, they have jumped to the top of the agenda, a week before national elections on June 25.

Greece is currently led by a caretaker government. Under the conservative New Democracy administration, in power until last month, the country adopted a tough migration policy. In late May, the EU urged Greece to launch a probe into alleged illegal deportations.

New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who is expected to return to the prime minister’s office after the vote next Sunday, blasted criticism of the Greek authorities, saying it should instead be directed to the human traffickers, who he called “human scums.”

“It is very unfair for some so-called ‘people in solidarity’ [with refugees and migrants] to insinuate that the [Coast Guard] did not do its job. … These people are out there … battling the waves to rescue human lives and protect our borders,” Mitsotakis, who maintains a significant lead in the polls, said during a campaign event in Sparta on Saturday.

The Greek authorities claimed the people on board, some thought to be the smugglers who had arranged the boat from Libya, refused assistance and insisted on reaching Italy. So the Greek Coast Guard did not intervene, though it monitored the vessel for more than 15 hours before it eventually capsized.

“What orders did the authorities have, and they didn’t intervene because one of these ‘scums’ didn’t give them permission?” the left-wing Syriza party said in a statement. “Why was no order given to the lifeboat … to immediately assist in a rescue operation? … Why were life jackets not distributed … and why Frontex assistance was not requested?”

Alarm Phone, a network of activists that helps migrants in danger, said the Greek authorities had been alerted repeatedly many hours before the boat capsized and that there was insufficient rescue capacity.

According to a report by WDR citing migrants’ testimonies, attempts were made to tow the endangered vessel, but in the process the boat began to sway and sank. Similar testimonies by survivors appeared in Greek media.

A report on Greek website news247.gr said the vessel remained in the same spot off the town of Pylos for at least 11 hours before sinking. According to the report, the location on the chart suggests the vessel was not on a “steady course and speed” toward Italy, as the Greek Coast Guard said.

After initially saying that there was no effort to tow the boat, the Hellenic Coast Guard said on Friday that a patrol vessel approached and used a “small buoy” to engage the vessel in a procedure that lasted a few minutes and then was untied by the migrants themselves.

Coast Guard spokesman Nikos Alexiou defended the agency. “You cannot carry out a violent diversion on such a vessel with so many people on board, without them wanting to, without any sort of cooperation,” he said.

Alexiou said there is no video of the operation available.

Nine people, most of them from Egypt, were arrested over the capsizing, charged with forming a criminal organization with the purpose of illegal migrant trafficking, causing a shipwreck and endangering life. They will appear before a magistrate on Monday, according to Greek judicial authorities.

“Unfortunately, we have seen this coming because since the start of the year, there was a new modus operandi with these fishing boats leaving from the eastern part of Libya,” the EU’s Johansson told a press conference on Friday. “And we’ve seen an increase of 600 percent of these departures this year,” she added.

Greek Supreme Court Prosecutor Isidoros Dogiakos has urged absolute secrecy in the investigations being conducted in relation to the shipwreck.

Thousands of people took to the streets in different cities in Greece last week to protest the handling of the incident and the migration policies of Greece and the EU. More protests were planned for Sunday.



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