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Europe's border crisis isn't over

The crisis at the Belarusian-Polish border appears to have eased, but is far from over. Thousands of people desperate to enter the European Union remain stuck in the border zone, waiting for Poland to at least consider their asylum applications.

Where do things currently stand and what are some of the key players hoping to achieve?

Belarus' Lukashenko: Accept me as I am

President Alexander Lukashenko – affectionately known as "Europe's last dictator" – created the current crisis by facilitating dozens of flights to Minsk from refugee hotspots in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Through an organized campaign that began in June, his government has lured thousands of migrants to Belarus with promises of eventual resettlement in the EU.

Why? By unleashing a migrant crisis, Lukashenko wanted to put pressure on Brussels to recognize his presidency, which the EU has refused to do since the strongman rigged presidential elections last year, unleashed a brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters, and hijacked an EU flight.

So far, Lukashenko's gambit hasn't worked. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made a point of referring to him as "Mr Lukashenko" rather than "President" in recent calls, which made him feel very unseen. Meanwhile, Washington and Brussels have in fact hit Minsk with more sanctions in recent weeks, though some apply to travel agencies, transportation companies and airlines that have shuttled migrants from the Middle East to Eastern Europe in recent months, rather than targeting Lukashenko and his cronies directly.

European Union: Faux outrage

Things have since settled down somewhat, with Minsk having caved to pressure to clear certain processing centers at the Polish border, as well as hit the brakes on incoming flights.

But these developments do not address the problem of what to do with the migrants who remain at the border. While some have already been sent back to Iraq, thousands remain stranded in swampy forestland, as Polish and Belarusian forces continue playing tug of war. The death toll at the border is now 10 – and climbing.

The basic problem is that six years on from the 2015 refugee crisis, the EU still does not have a coherent or effective policy on how to deal with migrants, leaving things largely, in practice, up to individual member states.

The European Commission had previously proposed a far-reaching immigration plan based on "a compulsory solidarity mechanism," which would compel each member state to host asylum seekers, as well as to share the burden of funding medical supplies and equipment at arrival zones.

But that proposal still needs to be approved unanimously in the European Council after consultation with Parliament (a very convoluted process). Stalemate persists because some state governments have opposed measures that would require countries to take in refugees and the EU remains powerless to force them.

But it's not just so-called "illiberals" in Poland and Hungary who feel this way. Data show that EU residents across the board see immigration from outside the bloc as presenting more of a "problem" (38 percent) than an "opportunity" (20 percent).

Meanwhile, migrants at the border remain in limbo. Warsaw – with support from the Polish constituency – continues to double-down on its hardline position. Human rights groups say that Poland's actions violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that everyone has a right to seek asylum from persecution. But even if EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen would like Poland to deescalate, allowing at least some migrants to be processed in the EU, she continues to strongly back Warsaw in its ongoing row with Minsk.

What now? Lukashenko claims that he does not seek further confrontation with the EU, which he said would make "war unavoidable." So far, the EU is not backing down, saying the onus is on Minsk to end the current crisis.

It's increasingly clear that the EU, for its part, has no mechanism to force member states to take in migrants even as migration remains a critical issue bloc-wide, not least as a big refugee crisis is already brewing in Afghanistan.

The EU takes a swing at Poland and Hungary

The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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The US and EU further talks on technology governance

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Hello, and welcome to the new Cyber In 60 Seconds. My name is Marietje Schaake, and you're finding me at the Democracy Forum in Athens. So, from my hotel room, I'm looking back at the Trade and Technology Council that took place in Pittsburgh this week.

For those who missed it, this gathering brought together high-level officials from the Biden administration and the European Commission. It was a long-anticipated meeting that was supposed to reach conclusions about a shared governance agenda for tech-related issues like AI, data, semiconductors, and foreign direct investments. But the Trade and Technology Council was also expected and hoped to mark a new start after very difficult years across the Atlantic. I think we all remember the years when President Trump was still in the White House. And thankfully, the August fallout and French anger did not end up pouring cold water over the events. Although, the general sentiment in Europe that the honeymoon weeks are over is widely shared.

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Europe's new Asia strategy looks to strengthen trade and political ties

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

Is Europe waking up to the reality of Asia?

I think that's the case. If you listen to the State of the Union speech by Ursula von der Leyen and the commission president yesterday, the new Indo-Pacific strategy of the European Union was a key part of her proposals. To develop new trade links, to intensify political cooperation, to look more at green and digital projects, to look at infrastructure projects together. And Korea is a good example of what can be achieved. We have a 10-year free trade agreement that has doubled trade between the European Union and Korea. And today, European Union is the single largest foreign direct investor in Korea. Much has been done. But if you listen to the voices in Brussels, yes, Asia is a key part of our future and policy steps are being taken.

Germany's floods make climate, competence top issues for election

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What will be the effects on the politics of Germany after the immense flooding?

Well, it's really been a catastrophe, nearly 200 people dead in Germany alone. First effect, naturally, questions about the competence of the government, has enough been done? And secondly, climate issues will be much more in forefront of the election campaign.

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European soccer’s civil war

Early this week, it took barely 48 hours for a multibillion-dollar separatist movement in European football to collapse. Twelve of the continent's richest clubs formed the Super League, a breakaway pan-European tournament from the world's biggest annual sports competition: the UEFA Champions League. In response to furious backlash from fans, players, managers, other clubs and governments, the project has been put on hold. But the very contentious issues that prompted the split in the first place remain unresolved.

While the dust settles, let's examine why the Super League's founders are so at odds with everyone else with a stake in European soccer, including some divisions with political undertones.

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Ursula von der Leyen's ambitious State of the Union speech

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, with the view from Europe:

How did President Ursula von der Leyen's first State of the Union address go?

Well, rather well, I thought. She was very strong on the health and the global health issues, needless to say, but also on the necessary green and the digital transition of Europe and the enormous amount of money that will be available to that. She was more ambitious on the climate target than has been the case so far and also stressed the competitiveness of the European economy long-term. I think she will get fairly high remarks for that speech.

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Europe offers support to Beirut; all eyes on Lukashenko's election

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, with the view from Europe:

How will Europe help with the catastrophe in Beirut?

You will see Europe mobilizing quite a lot of help. President Macron of France rushed there. That's natural due to the historical links between France and Lebanon, but also the European Commission and other countries are now mobilizing quite substantially. We are nearby. We have an interest in helping them.

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