Saturday, September 03, 2016
ONE DEAD FROM TROPICAL STORM HERMINE IN FLORIDA OTHER STATES GET READY FOR FLOODING.
25 And there shall be signs in the sun,(HEATING UP-SOLAR ECLIPSES) and in the moon,(MAN ON MOON-LUNAR ECLIPSES) and in the stars;(ASTEROIDS ETC) and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity;(MASS CONFUSION) the sea and the waves roaring;(FIERCE WINDS)
26 Men’s hearts failing them for fear,(TORNADOES,HURRICANES,STORMS) and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth:(DESTRUCTION) for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.(FROM QUAKES,NUKES ETC)
Florida coastal town battered, bruised but not beaten by Hermine-[Reuters]-By Zachary Fagenson-September 2, 2016-yahoonews
CEDAR KEY, Fla. (Reuters) - Florida residents found power lines down and water rushing into their homes after Hurricane Hermine cut across the state on Friday, with many feeling they had dodged what could have been a much worse blow from a tempest predicted to be life-threatening.Just a few days before Hermine hit the state, Terry Williams, 60, and his partner Martin Kemp opened a coffee shop called 1842 Daily Grind on Cedar Key, a coastal town of about 700 people about 90 miles north of Tampa.Almost as soon as the store opened for business, sea surges generated by Hermine led to more flood water flowing in than coffee moving out."This is day four and we're repairing water damage," Williams said. Among the items damaged were wood flooring, coffee grinders and new appliances that they can now never use.In the spirit of resilience and hospitality, the pair set a record player outside their store, offering free cookies, bagels and muffins for neighbors surveying damage. Many in the town on Friday placed water-soaked carpets in the sun to dry.Hermine was a hurricane when it hit Florida, the first to make landfall in more than a decade in the state, which has a history of being battered by storms.One person was feared dead in the storm that left nearly 300,000 homes and businesses without power.Damage to property was significant, but nowhere the level of Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Andrew damaged more than 100,000 structures and caused billions of dollars in losses.Low-lying areas saw floods from Hermine and the state has not provided a tally for the damage, which appears significant.Molly Jubitz, manager of the Cedar Key public library, considers herself one of the lucky ones. She spent the night at a friend's home on high ground, fearing storm surges at her residence.She learned from a friend her house survived unscathed."Somehow no water got inside, which is amazing," she said.The same could not be said of the library, where the building had a water mark about a foot and half high on its walls showing where the flooding hit.Despite the risks from its low elevation and a global rise in sea levels, Jubitz said she and area residents cannot resist the laid-back lifestyle of coastal Florida."I'll do everything I can to keep my life out here."(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
Hermine pounds Florida, raising new Zika fears, then heads north-[By Letitia Stein]-September 2, 2016-yahoonews
TAMPA, Fla. (Reuters) - Hurricane Hermine wreaked havoc across Florida on Friday, knocking out power to nearly 300,000 homes and businesses, flooding low-lying areas and raising concerns about the spread of the Zika virus from pools of standing water left behind.The first hurricane to make landfall in Florida in 11 years, Hermine came ashore early on Friday near the Gulf shore town of St. Marks, 20 miles (30 km) south of the capital of Tallahassee, packing winds of 80 mph (130 kph) and churning up a devastating storm surge in coastal areas.Torrential downpours and high surf left parts of some communities under water early Friday, with mandatory evacuations ordered in parts of five northwestern Florida counties.One storm-related death was reported by authorities in the northern Florida town of Ocala, where a fallen tree killed a homeless man sleeping in his tent.Hermine, later downgraded to a tropical storm, was expected to snarl Labor Day holiday travel as it churned northeast after battering Florida's $89 billion tourism industry.As of 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT), the fourth named storm of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season was passing near Charleston, South Carolina with strong winds and heavy rains, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. The governors of Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia declared emergencies for all or parts of their states, and a state of emergency remained in effect for most of Florida.Though maximum sustained winds had weakened to 50 mph (80 kph), the tempest headed to the Atlantic seaboard along a path where tens of millions of Americans live, prompting storm watches and warnings stretching as far north as Rhode Island, NHC said.-LIKELY TO REGAIN STRENGTH OVER ATLANTIC-The storm was projected to creep north along the Carolina coast Friday night, then gather strength after moving offshore into the Atlantic on Saturday morning, possibly reaching near-hurricane intensity by late Sunday, according to the center.In addition to powerful winds extending up to 185 miles (295 km) from its center, Hermine was expected to unleash a dangerous storm surge in the Hampton Roads area of tidewater Virginia, where flooding could reach 3 to 5 feet deep, the NHC said.The storm also could douse several southeastern and mid-Atlantic states with up to 15 inches (38 cm) of rain through Sunday.New Jersey, still mindful of devastation from superstorm Sandy in 2012, was on high alert as emergency officials advised residents to prepare for flooding, high winds and a surge of seawater.New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday activated his state's emergency operations center and ordered officials to stockpile resources, including sandbags and generators.New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio said residents should avoid beach waters for fear of life-threatening riptides. "I say that to people who go the beach, I say that to surfers: Don't even think about it," De Blasio told reporters.In Florida, concerns over the standing water in which mosquitoes breed intensified as the state battles an outbreak of the Zika virus."It is incredibly important that everyone does their part to combat the Zika virus by dumping standing water, no matter how small," Florida Governor Rick Scott told a news conference, also warning people to watch out for downed power lines and avoid driving through standing water.Overnight, Pasco County crews rescued more than a dozen people after their homes were flooded.Richard Jewett, 68, was rescued from his home in New Port Richey, just north of Tampa, as emergency teams carried out a mandatory evacuation."The canal started creeping up toward the house, and even though it wasn't high tide it looked like it was coming inside," Jewett said.In the island community of Cedar Key, waters rose more than 9.5 feet (2.9 meters), among the highest surges ever seen, the National Weather Service said.(Additional reporting by Zachary Fagenson in Hudson Beach, Fla., Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee, Laila Kearney in New York and Jon Herskovitz in Austin; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Cynthia Osterman)
Hermine fells trees, blows out power, leaves one dead in US-[AFP]-Leila Macor-September 2, 2016-yahoonews
Miami (AFP) - Hermine uprooted trees, flooded streets and blew out power Friday as the hurricane swept across Florida's Gulf coast, grinding down to a tropical storm as it moved north.A homeless man was killed by a falling tree, Florida Governor Rick Scott said.There were no other reports of injuries but emergency crews worked "non-stop" overnight, rescuing 18 people from rising flood waters in Florida's Pascoe country, and several families in Hernando County, Scott said."Today, we know there is a lot of work left to do following this storm," the governor said in a statement."The number one thing is to stay safe," he said. "Life-threatening coastal flooding and rip currents will continue and we must all remain vigilant."Overall, the region appeared to have weathered the storm well, to the relief of local officials."Things are great here," said Van Johnson, the mayor of Apalachicola, near where Hermine roared ashore at hurricane strength around 1:30 am local time (0530 GMT)."We didn't experience any of the expected storm surges, damage to property," he told CNN. "The city fared well."Crews were out clearing away fallen trees and branches, and looking for downed power lines.Scott said 253,000 people were without power."Stay out of standing water especially near power lines," Scott advised Floridians.Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum said many power lines and trees were down and 100,000 customers left without electricity in his area."Our crews are right now out and surveying the damage," he told CNN.He warned residents to stay inside while authorities ensured there was no threat from downed power lines and other potential dangers.- Heading along US East Coast -At 2100 GMT, Hermine was 30 miles (50 kilometers) northwest of Charleston, South Carolina and moving along the Atlantic coast at 20 miles per hour (30 kilometers per hour).The storm was packing sustained winds of 50 miles per hour, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said, warning of possible storm surges.Hermine threatened to bring heavy rains, flooding and tornadoes up the East Coast on the country's summer-ending Labor Day weekend.A tropical storm warning was issued for areas as far north as Sandy Hook, New Jersey, a beach resort area located 40 minutes by ferry from New York."There is a danger of life-threatening inundation during the next 48 hours" in coastal areas from North Carolina to Connecticut, the NHC said.Georgia has declared a state of emergency in 56 counties, and North Carolina in 33 counties.Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said 100 Florida National Guard personnel were activated, with 6,000 more on alert in the state and 34,000 ready to deploy from elsewhere in the United States.President Barack Obama has asked FEMA administrator Craig Fugate to keep him updated on the situation "and to alert him if there are any significant unmet needs", said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.Hermine was expected to veer off the North Carolina coast by Saturday afternoon.The hurricane was the first to hit Florida in 11 years since Wilma in 2005.Its winds rose up to 80 miles per hour before it came ashore just east of the town of St Marks on Florida's Apalachee Bay.Local television stations broadcast footage of buffeting winds, lashing rain and flooded streets.Hermine is expected to dump five to 10 inches (12 to 25 centimeters) of rain over the southeastern United States, with possible isolated maximum amounts of 15 inches.The last hurricane to make landfall in the United States was Arthur in 2014 in North Carolina.
23 Thus he said, The fourth beast (EU,REVIVED ROME) shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth,(7TH WORLD EMPIRE) which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces.(TRADING BLOCKS-10 WORLD REGIONS/TRADE BLOCS)
24 And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings(10 NATIONS-10 WORLD DIVISION WORLD GOVERNMENT) that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings.(EITHER THE EUROPEAN UNION DICTATOR BOOTS 3 COUNTRIES FROM THE EU OR THE DICTATOR TAKES OVER THE WORLD ECONOMY BY CONTROLLING 3 WORLD TRADE BLOCS)
Brexit may not happen, EU top judge says By Andrew Rettman and Peter Teffer-sept 2,16-euobserver
Brussels, Today, 09:29-The EU court’s most senior judge has cast doubt on whether the UK will really leave the EU, while adding that it was never a fully-fledged member in the first place.Koen Lenaerts, a Belgian judge who is the president of the European Court of Justice, spoke out in a radio interview broadcast on Thursday (1 September).“I am a very great fan of the UK,” he told Dutch radio programme De Kennis van Nu. “I would find it very regrettable for the EU that it would lose [the UK's] input … if it ever comes to a Brexit.”“Because of course, we don't know yet if and when and under what conditions [it might happen]. We have had the referendum, which was a clear political signal, but a lot still has to happen,” he said.“Let me be clear, everything is still somewhat speculative. And until now nothing has changed - the United Kingdom is still a full member”, he added.The Belgian law professor also said that the UK authorities and the British public never really felt part of the EU.He gave as an example billboards that he saw at Britain’s leading airport which depicted the EU as a foreign land.“At Heathrow [airport in London] you will find signs saying: 'Flights to the European Union’,” Lenaerts told the Dutch radio station.Comparing the UK with Norway, which, unlike Britain, is a member of the EU’s open-borders Schengen zone, he said: “In a certain way, Norway is more of a member state without actually being one, than the UK which formally is.”His comments come 10 weeks after British citizens voted to leave the EU.British PM Theresa May has indicated that she will trigger the formal process of leaving the union early next year, but the talks could drag out until 2019 or longer, and, in the meantime, the UK will remain an EU member.Some British politicians have said that the UK parliament or the devolved governments of Scotland and Northern Ireland could block the exit.Others have called for a new general election or a second referendum.Others still have said that the UK could remain an EU member if the EU made far-reaching reforms to its current form in the next few years.But earlier this week, May said: "There’s no second referendum; no attempts to sort of stay in the EU by the back door ... we’re actually going to deliver on this”.
No imminent UK decision on Chinese-backed nuclear plan as PM May heads to China-[By William James]-September 2, 2016-yahoonews
LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Theresa May will not announce her keenly awaited decision on a partly-Chinese funded nuclear power project in the coming days, a British official said on Saturday as May flew to China to meet President Xi Jinping at her first G20 summit.May will make her major international summit debut on Sunday after Britain's shock vote in June to leave the European Union ousted her predecessor David Cameron and thrust her into control of the world's fifth-largest economy.She will use the meeting to try to persuade international partners that post-Brexit Britain will remain "open for business" and a champion of global free trade, the official said, in a bid to allay concerns of a more isolationist outlook.But despite scheduling a 30-minute meeting with Xi on Monday to discuss the two countries' future ties, May will stop short of sanctioning a Chinese-backed $24-billion plan for French firm EDF to build a nuclear power plant in southern England."We have said we'll make a decision this month, that remains the plan. I don't expect one in the next few days," the official told reporters ahead of the visit.The project is seen as a key test of May's attitude to Chinese investment in Britain after she upset Beijing by putting the deal on hold in July amid reports she was concerned the plan could harm national security.Before May became prime minister in July, Britain had expended huge diplomatic energy courting Chinese investors to finance billions of pounds of infrastructure projects, described by Xi as a "Golden Era" of relations between the two countries.The Hinkley Point project is seen as the frontrunner to closer ties with China on nuclear issues, paving the way for tens of billions of dollars of investment and another two nuclear power plants with Chinese involvement.The official said whatever the final decision on Hinkley was, it should not be over-interpreted as a guide to May's future trade and investment decisions."I'm not sure that when you look around the world at all the UK's partners that we are defined solely by one energy project," the official said.-OBAMA, PUTIN-British ministers have spent the months following the surprise 52-48 percent vote to leave the 28-country EU scrambling to work out an exit strategy that will avoid long term damage to the economy and the country's global influence.Rather than meet the European leaders with whom she will lock horns with over the coming years to define Britain's future ties to the EU, May will focus her attention in Hangzhou on courting non-EU countries with an eye on future trade deals.She will meet U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday and India's Narendra Modi on Monday, as well as making a lengthy address to all G20 nations during a trade-focused summit session, stating that Britain remains outward looking and economically strong."The prime minister will want to look at how we look to the future and now start planning for those relationships once the UK has left the European Union," the official said, adding that May would reiterate her intention not to trigger the formal 'Article 50' EU exit process this year.May will also use the summit, including a one-to-one meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, to stress that Brexit does not mean Britain will withdraw from its role in world affairs."It's a real opportunity for the prime minister to send a clear message to the world's largest economies that Britain will continue to play a bold, confident and outward looking role," the official said."We will continue to be a strong and dependable partner working with others to tackle the issues and challenges that countries around the world face."(Editing by Toby Chopra)
Czech intelligence alarmed by Russian 'threat' By Jakub Janda-euobserver
PRAGUE, 2. Sep, 19:20-The Czech domestic counter-intelligence agency, the Security Information Service (BIS), has just published its 2015 Annual Report.Besides terrorism and other threats, it provides more detailed insight into its counterintelligence activities than previously. And, as in past years, so too “in 2015, Chinese and Russian intelligence services were the most active in the Czech Republic”.The surge in Chinese economic activity is being supported by the Czech government and by president Milos Zeman, but it comes with a sting.“Chinese diplomatic, intelligence and economic entities focused on drawing on their success from 2014 … [and] actively worked on extending and maintaining Chinese influence in Czech politics and economy”, the BIS report said.The elephant, or bear, in the room is, however, Russia.“Russian intelligence services were the most active foreign intelligence services in the Czech Republic [in 2015]”, BIS said.By contrast, “BIS did not identify any significant activities of intelligence services of other former Soviet Union countries or of partner intelligence services”.One focal point is Russia’s diplomatic mission in Prague. It has 140 accredited diplomats, compared to some 70 US and 30 Chinese diplomats.But, according to BIS “a large number of Russian intelligence officers were active under diplomatic cover of the Russian embassy”.“Intelligence officers under diplomatic cover were active also at the embassies of other states; however, the number of Russian intelligence officials was much higher. Unlike intelligence officials of partner states, Russian (and some other) intelligence officers did not declare their status to the BIS”, it added.“Such clandestine behaviour, concealing the affiliation to an intelligence service, clearly signals activities threatening the security and other interests of the Czech Republic”.The problem also exists elsewhere in the EU.The Swedish counterintelligence agency, Sapo, estimates that one third of the 35 or so Russian diplomats accredited in Stockholm are intelligence officers.-Russian objectives-But the new BIS report goes further than ever in shedding light on the Kremlin’s objectives in the country.It said that, last year, Russia concentrated on “information operations” with six goals.The first was “weakening the strength of Czech media" (covert infiltration of Czech media and the internet, massive production of Russian propaganda and disinformation controlled by the state).It aimed “strengthening the information resistance of the Russian audience (prefabricated disinformation from Czech sources for the Russian audience)”.It also aimed at “exerting influence on the perceptions and thoughts of the Czech audience, weakening society’s will for resistance or confrontation (information and disinformation overload of the audience, relativisation of truth and objectivity, promoting the motto ‘everyone is lying’)”.The fourth objective was “creating or promoting inter-societal and inter-political tensions in the Czech Republic (foundation of puppet organisations, covert and open support of populist or extremist subjects)”.The next one was “disrupting the coherence and readiness of Nato and the EU (attempts to disrupt Czech-Polish relations, disinformation and alarming rumours defaming the US and Nato, disinformation creating a virtual threat of a war with Russia)”.The final objective was “damaging the reputation of Ukraine and isolating the country internationally (involving Czech citizens and organisations in influence operations covertly led in Ukraine or against it by Russia)”.The BIS also warned that, while Russia’s current operations centre around the Ukraine and Syria conflicts, “the infrastructure created for achieving these goals” is now a permanent feature in Czech life.It said boldly that “these activities pose a threat to the Czech Republic, EU and Nato” and that the “infrastructure” can be “used to destabilise or manipulate Czech society or its political environment at any time, if Russia wishes to do so”.-Three takeaways-There are three main takeaways from the findings.To begin with, there is an apparent shift towards public exposure of foreign hostile activities. In part, this is because the threat is bigger than before, but it is also due to the personal approach of the new BIS director, who was appointed just two weeks ago.The director has led BIS counter-intelligence operations for a decade, and has worked in the Czech services since the early 1990s.His new approach is still far from that of his colleagues in the Baltic states, who publish detailed evidence and even name individuals who pose a threat.But it is a welcome trend, given that surveys indicate that one in four Czech people now no longer trust their government or independent media and that the Czech president’s chancellery has been deeply infiltrated by the Kremlin.Next, the public warning of the Russian threat to Czech stability seems designed to put pressure on Czech decision-makers to take counter-measures.Finally, the BIS findings suggest that Russia’s current activities are just the starting line for future operations.In January 2018, the Czech Republic will hold presidential elections.Zeman, the Kremlin’s trojan horse, will seek a second term. He is already popular and he can play a useful geopolitical role for Moscow in the central European region.One can reasonably assume that the Kremlin will use its Czech infrastructure to do whatever it takes - including harsh intimidation and black propaganda - to keep its ally in Prague castle.Jakub Janda is deputy director of European Values, a Czech think tank, where he also runs the Kremlin Watch Programme
EU to help Ukraine cut gas dependence on Russia By Andrew Rettman-euobserver
BRUSSELS, 2. Sep, 18:30-The EU aims to help Ukraine become independent of Russian energy supplies in the next “three to four year”, its prime minister and an EU commissioner have said.Volodymyr Grossman, the prime minister, spoke of the plan in Kiev on Friday (2 September), while hosting the European Commission’s energy chief, Maros Sefcovic.He said Ukraine aims to “consume less energy and produce more energy” so that it can go from being “an energy importer to an energy exporter”, ensuring “energy independence” in “three or four years’ time”.Among the reforms, it aims to split up its notoriously corrupt national gas distributor, Naftogaz, to impose market prices for gas consumers, to create an independent energy regulator, and to create a new “energy efficiency fund”.Sefcovic said that Brussels and Kiev are “very close” to finalising a new memorandum on EU support for the initiatives.He said that if Ukraine created the efficiency fund, it would allow the EU to pay out a further €600 million in macro-financial assistance.He also pledged to get the European Investment Bank, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund to get behind the energy reforms.“Would Ukraine manage to increase its energy efficiency levels to the EU average level, the savings achieved would be greater than the energy consumption of Spain over a whole year. Ukraine could thus even become an exporter of energy”, the EU commissioner said.He added that part of the joint strategy would be to make sure Ukraine's poorest private households get relief from price hikes.Ukraine currently imports just 18 percent of its natural gas directly from Russia, compared to 34 percent in 2014. The drop is due, in large part, to reverse-flow purchases from Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.But its real dependence on Russia is higher, given that 90 percent of Slovak gas and some 45 percent of Hungarian and Polish gas originates in Russia.The dependence helps the Kremlin to exert political pressure on Kiev with cut-offs or threats of cut-offs in a situation set to get worse if Russia builds new pipelines under the Baltic Sea or Black Sea bypassing Ukraine, as well as its reverse-flow suppliers.The Russian timeline for the projects to be up and running is 2020 - the same as Grossman's "three to four years".With winter - the usual setting for Russian cut-offs - around the corner, Sefcovic added in Kiev that the EU commission is willing to mediate, as in the past, to keep the gas flowing to Ukraine and via Ukraine to Europe.“The trilateral format remains the most suitable for discussing gas supplies for the upcoming winter heating season. In this sense, I am also looking forward to meet with Russian authorities in the next weeks”, he said.
U.S., Russia said nearing deal on Aleppo truce, aid access-[Reuters]-By Arshad Mohammed-September 2, 2016-yahoonews
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and Russia are nearing a deal that would set a 48-hour ceasefire in Aleppo, allow U.N. humanitarian access and limit Syrian government aircraft flights, diplomatic sources said on Friday.The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the deal is not set in stone, key elements are still being discussed and critical stakeholders, including U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Syrian opposition groups, are likely to have doubts.If a deal were reached, it could lead to U.S. intelligence sharing with Russia that would allow Russian forces to target fighters of the group formerly known as Nusra Front, which the United States views as a terrorist group linked to al Qaeda."It's not done yet," said one source, saying U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov could announce a deal, if one is reached, as early as Sunday, though it appeared to be slipping to Monday or beyond.Among the elements of the deal under discussion are:- immediate humanitarian access to Aleppo via the Castello Road, which is currently controlled by Syrian government forces;- government checkpoints on the road would only be allowed to verify that U.N. seals on humanitarian trucks were intact, but not to inspect the cargoes or to remove their contents;- Syrian government aircraft would be limited to "non-combat" flights in designated areas;- if the agreement were respected, the United States could share intelligence to allow Russian forces to target the group formerly known as al Nusra. The militant group, which is seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar al Assad, in July said it had cut its ties to al Qaeda and changed its name to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, but Washington still regards it as a terrorist group.It was not clear what, if anything, the deal might say about a nationwide cessation of hostilities, something the United States has been seeking to restore since it unravelled earlier this year.Kerry and Lavrov failed a week ago in Geneva to reach a breakthrough deal on military cooperation and a nationwide cessation of hostilities in Syria, saying they still had issues to resolve before an agreement could be announced.The talks have been complicated since initial meetings in July by new government attacks on opposition groups and a major offensive in the southern part of the divided city of Aleppo led by opposition fighters intermingled with the Nusra Front.The United States and Russia back opposing sides in Syria's civil war, which shows little sign of ending after 5-1/2 years of violence in which as many as 400,000 have died and half the country's prewar population has been uprooted.Assad's future is not a focus of the current U.S.-Russian talks. Instead, they are focused on ending the violence as a first step to resuming on-again, off-again negotiations on a political transition in Syria.Among those likely to oppose the emerging deal are opposition groups which do not wish to return to talks until there is a wider halt to the violence and U.S. military officials loath to share sensitive information with Russia.The idea of sharing intelligence with Russia has caused disquiet among countries in the anti-Islamic State coalition, some of whose Arab members bitterly resent Russia’s military intervention to prop up Assad.A U.S. State Department spokesman declined to comment on the possibility of a deal.(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
EU ministers look for ways to appease Turkey By Eric Maurice-sept 2,16-euobserver
Bratislava, Today, 21:45-EU foreign affairs ministers on Friday (2 September) signaled a willingness to ease tensions with Turkey after relations were damaged by a failed coup against president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July.A meeting on Saturday with Turkey's Europe minister Omer Celik could also open the way to an agreement on visa liberalisation later this year."I expect that after tomorrow's meeting we will help to improve, normalise the atmosphere between the EU and Turkey," sais Slovakia's Miroslav Lajcak, whose country currently chairs the council of the EU."Turkey is an important partner, we need to clarify what it is that what we want from Turkey and with Turkey," he told journalists before the meeting in Bratislava.Since the coup and the widespread crackdown that followed, Ankara has accused the EU of not being supportive enough and Europeans have warned Turkish authorities against violations of human rights and the rule of law.Erdogan has also threatened to scrap a migrant deal signed off in March if his country was not granted a visa-free regime by the end of October.Lajcak expressed some kind of European mea culpa. He said that while visiting Ankara last week, he "could feel very strong emotions on the Turkish side that the EU reacted very slowly" to the attempted coup."We need to clean the atmosphere," a EU source told EUobserver, adding that Turkey is "too big to be ignored".The diplomacy chiefs exchanged their views before meeting Celik on Saturday.They held what the source said was a long and intense discussion on the issue and "nobody left the room even to go to the toilets".'Clear attitude'-Before meeting Celik they had "to mentally prepare", the source said, and bridge differences between themselves, with some countries holding a harder line towards Turkey.The Austrian minister Sebastian Kurz, in particular, repeated that his country wanted to suspend accession talks with Turkey."The EU and Turkey can intensively cooperate on economy and other issues, but I don't see Turkey as a member of the European Union," he said before the meeting."We consider that purges and attempt to muzzle dissent are a wrong path. The EU must show a clear attitude," he said.Kurz's compatriot and EU neighbourhood commissioner Johannes Hahn said the EU had "more important topics of discussion than accession" and that focussing on that issue "creates an artificial discussion".After both migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and European Parliament president Matin Schulz visited Ankara on Thursday and said that the EU and Turkey should be able to find a solution to grant Turkish citizens a visa-free regime, some EU officials said Friday that a compromise was at hand."There are signs on both sides that we want to find compromise," the EU source said.The official said that despite public threat, Turkey did not really want to scrap the migrant deal.-'Common interest'-He also said that while Turkish government was "pushing aggressively" to get visa liberalisation without changing an anti-terror law as required by the EU, it was showing a readiness to find a solution "to outline a way to fulfill" EU criteria.A solution could be that Turkey makes a commitment to change the controversial law so that the EU says the benchmarks are met.Asked by EUobserver, French minister Jean-Marc Ayrault did not comment about that possibility but said that it was EU and Turkish "common interest that things make progress".After weeks of tensions and with a Turkish government increasingly difficult to deal with, the EU source admitted that the EU would have to take a possible Turkish commitment at face value."What leverage do we have?," he asked, implying a negative answer.
Greece on edge, as Turkish coup prompts surge in new arrivals By Omaira Gill-sept 2,16-euobserver
Athens, Today, 08:51-After dropping for several months, the numbers of refugees pouring through Greece have started to increase again in recent weeks.When an EU-Turkey deal was hacked out in March 2016, it was hailed by EU governments as a success. The massive numbers that had transited through Greece in 2015 and early 2016 quickly whittled down to almost nothing.But people have not stopped coming, and the failed coup in Turkey on 15 July seems to have had consequences.The EU-Turkey deal came into effect on 20 March 2016.In February, UNHCR data showed 55,222 arrivals in Greece. This had fallen to 26,623 in March and 3,419 in April. The numbers for May and June were more or less steady at 1,465 and 1,489, respectively.But in July, the pattern began to change.There were 1,855 arrivals recorded for the month of July. This could be written off as part of the settling down period for the deal, until the numbers are broken down and matched with events which took place that month.On 15 July, an attempted putsch took place in Turkey. The number of arrivals from 1 July to 14 July came to 560. But that number jumped to 1,295 for the period 15 July to 31 July - an increase of 131 percent.Taking a step further back, between 15 June and 14 July, 1,438 arrivals were registered in Greece. But from 15 July to 14 August, the number was 2,675, representing an 86-percent increase in arrivals.-No Turkish police-In the face of this data, it is hard to ignore Turkey’s current instability as a driving factor behind refugee flows. Between 1 and 28 August, the latest available date for arrivals by the UNHCR, 2,810 refugees and migrants arrived on Greek shores.The EU-Turkey deal, already a precarious arrangement and widely condemned by human rights organisations, has many working parts.One is a convincing image of Turkey as a safe third country to return refugees to, something that Syrian refugees, and particularly Syrian Kurds, are not buying.The second is a stable Turkish government that does not have its attention taken up by internal unrest, and more recently, boots on the ground in Syria.The disarray left behind by the coup attempt has been seized upon and, in the fair summer weather, refugee numbers have begun climbing up.The third factor is Turkey’s cooperation, and it is this factor which could undo the deal.The UNHCR’s director Vincent Cochetel recently told the Guardian that parts of the deal are already de facto suspended due to the post-coup absence of Turkish police at the Greek detention centres.Meanwhile, the Turkish government has plainly stated that if there is no agreement for visa-free travel for Turkish nationals to the EU by October, as promised under the EU-Turkey deal, they will stop upholding their part of the bargain, and Greece could once more see record numbers flood across the sea.-Confusion in asylum process-As for those who do make it to Greece, the prospects are grim.Claiming asylum in Europe has been designed as a two-step process as of June this year under the approval of the UNHCR and the European Asylum Support Office.It was meant to ease the unrest growing among refugee populations and give authorities a more complete picture of who and where they are in order to process their claims fully.It was also meant to streamline the asylum process, but has caused confusion instead. Pre-registration comes first, after which the applicant receives an asylum seeker’s card granting them basic rights such as education for their children.The design of the process has left many convinced that the first step is the only one which needs completion, only for them to find there were still many more hoops to jump through before their dreams of life in Europe came closer to reality.There are currently more than 58,000 refugees in Greece. Around 10,000 of these are crammed into camps on the islands.It is a figure that has stubbornly refused to go down in any meaningful way thanks to a painfully slow relocation programme. Only around 4,000 of the 160,000 which EU member states pledged last year to take from Greece and Italy by September 2017 have actually been moved.Mayors from the Greek islands have spent the summer months making increasingly desperate appeals for something to be done about the backlog and the crawling pace of the relocation programme, citing the highly tense atmosphere both inside and outside the camps.Several communities do not want the refugees there, no more than the refugees want to be there themselves - an explosive combination.-Fear and confusion-Stuck in sub-standard, or as in the case of unofficial camps, non existent, accommodation, the refugees in Greece find themselves in limbo. In this environment, the ground is ripe for exploitation, which is already happening.Various groups who might not necessarily get along have been grouped together with little thought about the consequences.There is little by way of security, meaning that both religious fundamentalists and mafia groups prowl the camps looking for easy pickings.Cut off from viable work options, prostitution has become a means to survive for some migrants in the streets around Victoria Square, in downtown Athens.In Petra, under the shadow of Mount Olympus, a camp exclusively for Yazidis, a Kurdish minority, was set up after activists received reports that they were being constantly harassed and attacked by other refugees.Resentment is also growing between various refugee and migrant communities over who gets better treatment - Afghans, for example, are convinced that the Syrians are treated more favourably than they are, while Pakistani Christians are amazed at the lack of knowledge among Greek authorities about the persecution they face in their home country.Fights between Afghans and Pakistanis at the Elliniko camp in Athens are a regular occurrence (one such fight led to a fatality).Women and girls in particular suffer from being exposed to lack of adequate accommodation and lack of privacy. Reports of sexual harassment targeting women and children in official and unofficial camps in Greece are rife.In Greece, a climate of fear and confusion has taken hold.Several frontline islands, which rely heavily on tourism, have reported drops in tourist arrivals. Lesbos was hit particularly badly, with bookings down nearly 60 percent compared to last year.The battered infrastructure of these islands will not be able to withstand a repeat of the numbers seen last year.
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