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Can the EU get aid to Gaza?
Can the EU get aid to Gaza? | Europe In :60 | GZERO Media

Can the EU get aid to Gaza?

Carl Bildt, former prime minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on European politics - this week from Milan.

Can Europe help with the humanitarian crisis in Gaza?

Well, in theory, absolutely. The European Commission has tripled the amount of money available for humanitarian help to Gaza. But the problem is, of course, getting it in. For reasons that is beyond me, the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza is closed. There's a lot of floods of humanitarian help outside that has been flowing into Egypt, waiting to cross, but they are not opening up the border. I would hope that there will be soon an agreement to open up that border and allow the help to get into Gaza. There’re huge numbers, millions of people that are really suffering and need that particular help. Now, that is also politically important, obviously.

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Reuters

Hard Numbers: Lampedusa landings soar, Aussies rally for indigenous rights, Vatican makes Holocaust admission, Brand accused of rape

8,000: European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen traveled to the island of Lampedusa, which lies halfway between Sicily and Tunisia, after Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni called for the EU’s assistance with a wave of small boat arrivals there. Over 8,000 migrants have landed on Lampedusa since Friday. For more on how the immigration debate is dividing European governments, see our explainer here.

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Ukrainian kids celebrate International Children's Day In Krakow, Poland.

Beata Zawrzel via Reuters Connect

War, reforms & bureaucracy will decide Ukraine’s EU bid

It’s at war for its survival, yet Ukraine’s candidacy for European Union membership has just been endorsed. While success would be a game-changer for Kyiv, getting there won’t be easy, given the required internal reforms, international bureaucracy, and shifting geopolitics.

The European Commission is clear that Ukraine must carry out serious reforms to join the bloc, but some tough questions need to be answered. Does Ukraine deserve to be an EU member? What about the stringent process and requirements? Is there a natural tie-in to NATO membership? And what are the politics at play, given that Moldova, another former Soviet republic Russia considers to be in its sphere of influence, has been approved, while Georgia has not.

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Macron's reelection and the future of France
Macron Needs to Secure Parliamentary Majority | Europe In :60 | GZERO Media

Macron's reelection and the future of France

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from New Delhi, India.

What's the number one challenge for President Macron now, when he's been reelected?

First, of course, he has been reelected. That's highly important. He's the first French president to be reelected for a second term in 20 years. That's quite an achievement. But he now needs to secure some sort of parliamentary majority, and that election is coming up in a couple of weeks. That's going to be critical for all of his domestic reform agenda, which remains critical for the future of France.

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EU fast-tracks Ukraine membership application
Anti-Tank Weapons Needed To Achieve Peace in Europe | Europe In :60 | GZERO Media

EU fast-tracks Ukraine membership application

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Washington.

First question, what happened to Ukraine's application for EU membership?

Well, that's a process that takes a long time, but what was decided by the heads of state and government of the European Union yesterday was to send it immediately to the European Commission for its assessment. That's a process that normally takes some time, but the fact that it was done immediately is as strong a signal as you can get for a process that unavoidably takes a substantial amount of time.

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US pushes back on EU's proposed laws impacting US tech companies
US Taking Notice of EU's Tech Laws that Could Impact US Tech Companies | Cyber In :60 | GZERO Media

US pushes back on EU's proposed laws impacting US tech companies

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:

What are the EU's digital gatekeeper rules, and why does the US want them changed?

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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.

A carnival float depicting leader of the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) in Poland Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the traditional "Rosenmontag" Rose Monday carnival parade in Duesseldorf, Germany, February 12, 2018.

REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen

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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