German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe is facing a defining moment tackling the largest influx of refugees since World War II as diverging paths for handling the crisis came into focus across the region.
“I’ve rarely held such an innermost conviction that this is a task that will decide whether Europe is accepted as a continent of values,” Merkel said yesterday after talks with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Loefven in Berlin. “On this issue where the whole world’s eyes are upon us, we can’t just say Syria is too far away, we won’t deal with it.”
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said earlier in the day that providing 6 billion euros (US$6.7 billion) in added funds for refugees is an “absolute priority.” That contrasted with Istvan Simicsko, named Hungary’s minister of defense on Monday, who said his country would devote more resources to speeding up the fortification of a razor-wire border fence.
The two countries are indicative of a wider divide within the EU, with Germany among nations calling for greater burden sharing by introducing refugee quotas across the 28-member bloc, and others such as Hungary saying that doing so will simply encourage more migrants to come.
Hungary plans to deploy as many as 4,000 soldiers to complete construction of a sturdier fence on the country’s border with Serbia should parliament approve the measure, Simicsko told reporters in Budapest, calling the situation “extremely grave.”
Germany — which estimates that 800,000 migrants will enter the country this year, nearly four times last year’s figure — is backing a European Commission plan that is to be announced today.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is to propose relocating 120,000 migrants in Italy, Greece and Hungary to countries throughout the EU, said an EU official who asked not to be identified as they were discussing plans that are not yet public.
The list of nations deemed free of political persecution to which people can be safely returned will expand to include EU candidate countries in the western Balkans and Turkey, a move meant to speed up the deportation of those unlikely to get asylum, the official said.
“Sweden and Germany are of the opinion that we need binding quotas, binding numbers of refugees who have a right to asylum and who are then fairly distributed across EU member states based on certain principles,” Merkel said. “Unfortunately, we’re far off from that — and therefore we’re of the opinion that something has to change here.”
The UK, Ireland and Denmark will not be included in Juncker’s proposal because they have an opt-out on immigration policy. British Prime Minister David Cameron, who pledged on Monday to take 20,000 refugees over five years, will accept people directly from camps in the Middle East instead of those already in Europe.
Austria, which is expecting as many as 80,000 asylum requests this year, is one of the proponents of a quota system. Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann met Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico and Czech Premier Bohuslav Sobotka in Bratislava on Monday to discuss the plan, which the eastern European leaders oppose.
‘NO EQUILIBRIUM’: Taiwan’s increased defense spending is a good step, but it needs to do more to have the ability to deter aggression from China, a senior US official said The US plans to sell as many as seven major weapons systems — including mines, cruise missiles and drones — to Taiwan, four people familiar with the discussions said. Pursuing seven sales at once is a rare departure from years of precedent in which US military sales to Taiwan were spaced out and carefully calibrated to minimize tensions with Beijing. However, US President Donald Trump’s administration has this year become more aggressive with China, and the sales would land as relations between Beijing and Washington are at their lowest point in decades over accusations of spying, lingering trade tensions, disputes about the
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Several of the PLA fighter jets that crossed the median line of the Strait came within 68km of Hsinchu, drawing warnings from Taiwan, the ministry said At least 18 Chinese military aircraft yesterday flew into the nation’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on the second day of a US delegation’s visit, the Ministry of National Defense said, adding that the military responded by deploying an air defense missile system to monitor their activities. A delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach on Thursday started a three-day visit to Taiwan. The ministry from Thursday started publicizing the actions of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Taiwan’s ADIZ on its Web site and Twitter. According to ministry reports, 18 PLA aircraft
WORKING OVERTIME? NTU professor Lee Duu-jong denied that he had held a part-time position at a Chinese university or joined China’s Thousand Talents Program A candidate for the post of National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (NTUST) president yesterday dropped out of the race following a report questioning his links to Chinese academia and government programs. Lee Duu-jong (李篤中), a professor at National Taiwan University’s (NTU) chemical engineering department, was a member of China’s Changjiang Scholars’ Program in 2006 and was on the list of its Thousand Talents Program in 2017, a report by Chinese-language Mirror Media magazine said yesterday. The article said that Lee is suspected of having held a part-time job at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China and was the recipient
TWO CASES: The five allegedly conspired with conglomerates, threatening the nation’s governance and subverting the rules of ethical conduct, a deputy chief prosecutor said Taipei prosecutors yesterday charged three legislators and one former lawmaker with contravening the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例) in a case linked to former Pacific Distribution Investment Co (太平洋流通) chairman Lee Heng-lung’s (李恆隆) battle with the Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) over ownership of the Pacific SOGO Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨) chain, while independent Legislator Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇) was indicted in a separate case involving two funeral services companies and a plot of land in a national park. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and Sufin Siluko (廖國棟), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) and former New Power Party legislator