Chinese President Xi Jinping is wrapping up his overseas jaunt of the year, visiting Europe on a mission to strengthen Beijing’s ties to the region.
The trip was described as being of “historic significance” to China, according to state media, with the country’s powerful leader visiting Italy, France and Monaco and signing a series of multi-billion-dollar deals over the past few days.
But one aspect of Mr Xi’s trip has Western observers and European allies particularly concerned — Italy’s decision to sign up to Beijing’s controversial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as well as more than two dozen other trade and infrastructure agreements.
In doing so, Italy has become the first Group of Seven nation — which includes powerful economies like the UK, the USA, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, and Canada — to join the initiative, which was previously rejected by most Western countries, including Australia.
The BRI under Mr Xi has been described by analysts as one of the largest and most ambitious foreign policy and economic plans in modern history, as it aims to re-establish a “silk road” connecting China’s underdeveloped regions to Europe via Asia.
Overnight, Mr Xi also signed a multi-billion-dollar deal with French President Emmanuel Macron, however the French leader did not agree to sign onto the BRI.
al-Maghrib al-Kabīr), or by some sources, the Berber world, Barbary and Berbery, is a major region of North Africa that consists primarily of the countries Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania.
This once famous middle east trade magnate in the recent years has mutated into ‘Africa to Europe by boat’.
The images are disturbing—hundreds of desperate young African men crowded shoulder to shoulder on rickety boats in the Mediterranean Sea, sailing toward an unknown future in Europe.
The story of this exodus, starting with long journeys through the punishing desert to North Africa, where they board the boats, is heart-rending. The fatalities are high. Yet daily more depart their home countries on similar journeys.
For African migrants, ‘extreme vetting’ from to Europe slams the door shut. The Trump administration’s immigration crackdown was only the beginning for Africans struggling to flee war and famine. New restrictions within Africa and opaque deals between European countries and African regimes could have a much more dramatic effect soon, Geoffrey York explains.
Tesfay Tesfaye Mebrastu, 16 left Eritrean capital Asmara in 2016 for Italy. “I saw a lot of my friends who had been to Europe come back to Eritrea with money and build houses for themselves,” he said, adding that many of his friends left without any documents.
“I thought I could be one of them,” Tesfay wrote for “I Am a Migrant”, a campaign sponsored by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that gives migrants a platform to tell their migration stories
A 253-feet long, 2,000-ton boat makes for an ungainly indoor political football ground – complete with supporting home crowd, especially when it is carrying some 629 desperate migrants and is staffed by a crew of angry humanitarian workers.
But since January 2015, when the MV Aquarius, a search-and-rescue vessel operated by Médecins Sans Frontières(MSF) and European NGO SOS Méditerranée, came to the aid of several dinghy-loads of imperilled migrants who had set off from the Libyan coast for Europe, the boat has become a symbol of the continent’s most intractable crisis.
“Italy is done bending over backwards and obeying, this time THERE IS SOMEONE WHO SAYS NO;” Italian Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini
That wouldn’t be the plight of the migrants, which is indeed dire, but rather the inability of the European Union to tackle an issue that threatens to tear the bloc apart: what to do about the migrants and refugees who are willing to risk everything, even their lives, to reach European shores.
Even though the mayor of Sicily’s major port city of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, said he would accept the Aquarius and her passengers, Salvini overrode the offer, launching a Mediterranean standoff.
“Malta takes in nobody. France pushes people back at the border, Spain defends its frontier with weapons,” Salvini wrote on Facebook. “From today, Italy will also start to say no to human trafficking, no to the business of illegal immigration.”
As UNHCR’s Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean, Vincent Cochetel, pleaded for sanity, calling for the issue of responsibility to be resolved after the migrants were safely offloaded, Spain finally stepped forward, offering its port of Valencia to the Aquarius. Salvini immediately tweeted “VICTORY.” But for the passengers, who have already spent the past three nights in discomfort upon the Aquarius’ steel decks, it is anything but. Valencia is at least another three days journey away, according to MSF, and bad weather is complicating matters with high winds and waves.
The boat also doesn’t have enough supplies to cater for the long journey. And so now the Italian Coast Guard is stepping back in, to resupply the Aquarius, take some of the load, and escort it out of Italian waters and over to Spain.
At least 1,500 migrants have died in the Mediterranean in 2018, one in 19 have lost their lives while trying to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy, according to the U.N. migration agency
ROME (Reuters) – Italy’ss flagship welfare reform kicked off in a busy but orderly fashion on Wednesday as thousands of poor and unemployed people applied in post offices and tax assistance centres for the “citizens’ income” scheme.
The populist 5-Star Movement, which governs with the right-wing League and has long promoted the measure, hopes it will lift its flagging fortunes ahead of European Parliament elections in May.
Italy’s Five Star Movement has risen to global prominence more for the colorful oddness of its founder, the comedian Beppe Grillo, than for the seriousness of its populist policies.Bloomberg Opinion
Despite a steady flow of applicants, warnings of chaos and long queues proved misplaced, as many people appeared to heed advice not to sign up on the scheme’s first day.
“This is so helpful, it will give me some breathing space to get to the end of each month,” said 36-year-old Svetlana Guerra as she left a small tax assistance center (CAF) in a densely populated quarter of south-eastern Rome.
Guerra, a Ukrainian-born widow who has lived in Italy for 19 years and survives thanks to odd jobs paid under the counter, said she expected the citizens’ income to give her about 280 euros ($315) per month to help her pay her rent.
Guerra is one of millions struggling to make ends meet in a country in its third recession in 10 years and where the economy has barely grown since the start of the century.
Eleonora Tonnicodi, who runs the center with just one assistant, said they had helped some 20 people apply for the new scheme in the first two hours of the morning.
Applicants can apply until the end of March and, if successful, the first month’s money will be paid in May.
Giuseppe Calafiore, a 66-year-old unemployed car mechanic, said he had no income and he and his wife were surviving on her disability pension of 780 euros per month.
“I’ve come to find out if I’m eligible …because it would at least help until I can get a (state) pension next year,” he said.Slideshow (2 Images)
Italians in absolute poverty, defined as not having enough money to buy a basket of basic goods and services, rose to 5.1 million in 2017, according to statistics office ISTAT. That is a more than threefold increase in a decade.
Italy has traditionally had a generous pension system and offered limited-term state benefits for those laid off from work, but until last year it was virtually unique among rich countries in having no means-tested welfare scheme.
The previous center-left government aimed to fill that gap, but the “inclusion income” program it launched ahead of elections a year ago set aside just 2 billion euros and was widely deemed inadequate.
The citizens’ income, a rallying call for 5-Star since its foundation in 2009, will cost 7 billion euros this year and is expected to go initially to 2.7 million people, according to ISTAT.
Critics say Italy’s strained public finances cannot afford it.
The 5-Star Movement was easily the biggest party at the March 2018 national election but has seen its support slide since then and been overtaken in opinion polls by the League.
“The state is finally taking care of the invisible ones… who have been on the fringes of this country and the political debate,” said 5-Star leader and Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio.
Reporting By Gavin Jones; editing by John Stonestreet
Rome (CNN)In a remarkable admission, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx said Saturday that documents that could have contained proof of clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church were destroyed or never drawn up.
“Files that could have documented the terrible deeds and named those responsible were destroyed or not even created,” said Marx, the archbishop of Munich and president of the German Bishops’ Conference.”
The stipulated procedures and processes for the prosecution offences were deliberately not complied with,” he added, “but instead cancelled and overridden.
“Such standard practices will make it clear that it is not transparency which damages the church, but rather the acts of abuse committed, the lack of transparency, or the ensuing coverup.”
Marx’s stunning admission came on the third day of a historic Vatican summit focused on combating clergy sexual abuse. The day’s theme was transparency, which Marx said could help to tackle abuse of power. A member of Pope Francis’ inner circle of advisers, Marx is one of the most powerful men in the Catholic Church
The four-day summit of 190 Catholic leaders, including 114 bishops from around the world, will conclude Sunday with an address by Pope Francis. On Thursday, at the beginning of the unprecedented summit, Francis urged the bishops to take “concrete measures” to combat the clergy abuse scandal
At a press conference later Saturday, Marx said that the information about destroying files came from a study commissioned by German bishops in 2014. The study was “scientific” and did not name the particular church leaders or dioceses in Germany that destroyed the files.”
The study indicates that some documents were manipulated or did not contain what they should have contained,” Marx said. “The fact in itself cannot be denied.”Marx said he doubts the destruction of files related to clergy sexual abuse was limited to one diocese.”I assume Germany is not an isolated case.”
The report commissioned by the German bishops also revealed that “at least” 3,677 cases of child sex abuse by German clergy occurred between 1946 and 2014.