A Week In Europe's Migrant Crisis

A Week In Europe's Migrant Crisis

Though the flow of migrants into Europe has slowed dramatically since its peak in 2015, the politics of migration reached a fever pitch in recent days. Here are four snapshots of an ugly week in Europe.


Snapshot 1: The Chemnitz Problem – In the German city of Chemnitz, thousands of neo-Nazis and far-right protesters hit the streets to protest the murder of a German man, allegedly by two immigrants from Iraq and Syria. Far-right rallies are not a new phenomenon in eastern Germany, but the size and intensity of this latest event have shocked many there.

The most worrisome issue: public officials say someone with access to police files leaked the arrest warrant of the Iraqi suspect, and the report then found its way onto far-right websites. This is highly unusual in Germany, a country with strict rules on arrest information and privacy. On Thursdaypolice discovered the culprit was a prison guard in Dresden who had photographed the document and passed it along.

This kind of leak, which included information on the number of stab wounds, the full names of suspects, witnesses, the judge involved in the case, and the Iraqi man’s address, will inspire more vigilante violence. Beyond the Chemnitz protests, there have already been attacks on immigrants in other German cities, including in the northern city of Wismar, where police are now looking for three men suspected of using a chain to break an immigrant’s nose.

The leak of an arrest warrant, which is not proof of guilt, also undermines confidence in the integrity of the police. If anti-migrant groups have hidden allies within local police departments or the court system, all arrest information becomes suspect.

Germany’s largest opposition party, the far-right Alternative for Deutschland, which won dozens of parliamentary seats for the very first time last year by promising to crack down on immigration, has vowed that anti-immigrant protests will continue.

Snapshot 2: Europe’s Unite the Right – A meeting this week between Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban brought together the two most important anti-immigration politicians in Europe. Salvini has achieved this position with recent moves to block would-be migrants from reaching Italy by boat. Orban has led an effort by Central European governments to refuse migrants that were supposed to enter as part of an EU burden-sharing plan championed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2015. Salvini and Orban are now working together to strengthen anti-immigrant parties’ foothold in the European Parliament via elections next year.

Their primary nemesis here is not Merkel, but French President (and proud defender of pan-European values) Emmanuel Macron. During a joint press conference with Orban, Salvini accused Macron of delivering “preaching lessons to foreign governments” instead of helping them manage the migrants they’ve already accepted.

Macron wears the adversary label with pride. “If they want to see me as their main opponent, they’re right,” he told reporters on a visit to Denmark this week. He pledged he would not “cede any ground to nationalists and those who advocate hate speech.”

Snapshot 3: Macron’s “Own Gaul” – Unfortunately for Macron, that’s not all he said in Copenhagen. The French president hoped to use his visit to a country that combines flexible labor laws with generous social benefits to build support for reforms designed to create a similar system in his own country.

"What is possible is linked to culture,” said Macron. “These Lutheran [Danish] people, who have lived through the transformations of recent years, are not exactly Gauls, who are resistant to change," he continued, referring to French citizens by the name Imperial Romans used to describe residents of northwest Europe.

This seeming dismissal of his own people as fearful and stubborn is the latest example of political tone-deafness that, as Alex Kliment noted in your Tuesdayedition, has dropped Macron’s approval rating to 27 percent.

It’s much harder to play an effective role on the European stage against domestically popular leaders like Salvini and Orban, particularly on an emotional issue like immigration, when barely one in four of your own people think you’re doing a good job.

Snapshot 4: Eye of the Storm  Finally, there are the people at the heart of all these controversies—the migrants themselves. A report this week on life inside a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos paints a picture of suffering and despair.

The facility was designed as a transit camp, but many migrants have now lived there for more than two years. The details include extreme overcrowding, long lines for food, open sewage, respiratory disease, sexual harassment, deadly violence, extreme anxiety, and suicide attempts by children as young as ten.

The bottom line: These snapshots reveal the fears and frustrations of governments trying to cope, aid organizations trying to help, political leaders grandstanding, neo-Nazis gaining ground, citizens who want fair solutions, and migrants, many of them children, who are desperate for release from the cycle of misery. Though migrant flows have slowed in recent months, these issues will shape European politics for many years to come.

During the past year, 58% of all cyberattacks observed by Microsoft from nation-states have come from Russia. And attacks from Russian nation-state actors are increasingly effective, jumping from a 21% successful compromise rate last year to a 32% rate this year. Russian nation-state actors are increasingly targeting government agencies for intelligence gathering, which jumped from 3% of their targets a year ago to 53% – largely agencies involved in foreign policy, national security or defense. The top three countries targeted by Russian nation-state actors were the United States, Ukraine and the UK. These are just a few of the insights in the second annual Microsoft Digital Defense Report. Read additional highlights from the Microsoft on the Issues blog and find the full report here.

If you had to guess which current world leader has made the most trips to Africa, who would you say? China's Xi Jinping? Nope, hardly — he's been there just four times. France's Emmanuel Macron? Pas de tout.

The answer may surprise you: it's Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who's been to the continent more times than the leader(s) of any other non-African state. Just this week he notched his 28th visit, with stops in Angola, Nigeria, and Togo. Sure, being in power for two decades creates a lot of opportunities for exotic travel, but even Putin isn't close: he's been to Africa just five times, all to visit South Africa or Egypt.

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Former Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi was killed by rebels on 20 October, 2011, after a NATO intervention designed to protect civilians helped strengthen an uprising against his regime. Since then, the country has been mired in chaos as different factions have battled for control, resulting in extensive destruction and human causalities. Libya has been nominally governed since 2014 by warring administrations backed by foreign powers in the west and east of the country. Last year, UN mediation efforts finally began to gain traction with an agreement on a cease-fire and a roadmap for elections to be held later this year. We talked with Eurasia Group expert Ahmed Morsy to find out how things are going.

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China's GDP grew a lower-than-expected 4.9 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2021, a whopping three percentage points less than in the previous period. It's a big deal for the world's second-largest economy, the only major one that expanded throughout the pandemic — and now at risk of missing its growth target of 6 percent for the entire year.

Normally, such a drastic slowdown would have put the ruling Communist Party in a tizzy. But this time, Xi Jinping knows this is the price he must pay for his big plans to curb rising inequality and boost the middle class at the expense of the CCP's traditional economic mantra: high growth above all else.

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6,000: Poland has doubled the number of troops guarding its border with Belarus to almost 6,000 because of a surge in migrants trying to cross over (there were 612 attempts on Monday alone). Warsaw accuses Minsk of sending non-EU migrants into Poland as payback for EU sanctions against Belarus.

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Religious tension rising in Bangladesh: Clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Bangladesh have surged over the past week, leaving at least four people dead. After an image was posted on Facebook showing the Quran at the feet of a statue at a Hindu temple, Muslims burned Hindu-owned homes and attacked their holy sites. Both sides have taken to the street in protest, with Hindus saying that they have been prevented from celebrating Durga Puja, the largest Hindu festival in the country. Such acts of sectarian violence are not uncommon in Bangladesh, a majority-Muslim country where Hindus account for nine percent of the population. Indeed, as Eurasia Group's Kevin Allison recently warned, unverified social media content stoking inter-ethnic conflict is a massive problem throughout South Asia, where for many people Facebook is synonymous with the internet.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Read Ian Bremmer's wide-ranging essay in Foreign Affairs that puts in perspective both the challenge, and the opportunity, that comes from the unprecedented power of Big Tech.

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here on the road, something we haven't done very much recently, but will increasingly as we try to move through COVID. And I want to talk to you about a new article that I just put out in Foreign Affairs that I'm calling "The Technopolar Moment." Not unipolar, not bipolar, not multipolar, technopolar. What the hell does technopolar mean?

It means that increasingly big technology companies are themselves geopolitical actors. So to understand the future of the world, you can't just look at the United States, Europe and China. You need to look at the big tech companies, too.

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China gets away with a lot these days in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and elsewhere. That's because over the past decade, its economy has experienced explosive growth, making it an indispensable trading partner for almost every country in the world. At the same time, China has been expanding its share of the global economy, and is now set to overtake the US as the world's biggest economic powerhouse in the near term. We take a look at China's annual growth rate and share of the global economy based on GDP over the past decade.

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