Schengen recoil could turn EU travel back 20 years

Published on Sep 1, 2015

European Union border control systems are under an unprecedented strain with the asylum seeker crisis. The EU bloc’s external borders have physical boundaries and passport and customs checkpoints like anywhere else in the world, basically. Most of the borders inside the bloc no longer have this.

On June 14th 1985, European Economic Community Member States (Belgium, France, Germany (as it was then, pre-reunification), Luxembourg and the Netherlands) decided to get rid of internal borders — all…
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Islamic State Terrorists Caught Crossing Into Europe Posing As Refugees…

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BY LIAM DEACON

Five men have been arrested as they attempted to cross the Bulgarian-Macedonian border with decapitation videos and Islamic State propaganda on their phones. The terrorist suspects had been posing as refugees.

Bulgarian authorities near the Gyueshevo border checkpoint detained the five men, aged between 20 and 24, late on Wednesday, Bulgarian broadcaster NOVA TV reported.

The men were stopped by a border guard, who they attempted to bribe with a “wad of dollars.” However, they were searched and Islamic State propaganda, specific Jihadists prayers and decapitation videos were found on their phones.

In a move that suggests how seriously authorities are taking the case, the Bulgarian State Agency for National Security (DANS) has now taken control of the investigation under the supervision of the regional prosecutor’s office in Kyustendil.

The men chose to cross in a wooded area, local media have reported, and took a car from an accomplice who had crossed legally from Macedonia with the vehicle.

Bulgaria has recently completed a 15-foot high razor wire clad fence along 50 miles of its south-eastern border with Turkey to control the mass movement of migrants from the Middle East and Asia into Europe via the so-called Balkans route.

However, the Gyueshevo border checkpoint where the men crossed sits on Bulgaria’s western border with Macedonia. It is likely the men chose to enter there to avoid the new strict border controls on the other side of the country.

Following the recently foiled terror attack on an Amsterdam–Paris train, where the heavily armed terrorist was able to travel freely, European governments have been considering amending the Schengen border code, which eliminated systematic border controls across most of Europe.

In February, the Turkish intelligence service warned police in an internal memo that up to 3,000 trained jihadists are seeking to cross into Turkey from Syria and Iraq, who could then travel through Bulgaria and Hungry into western Europe. And in May, a Libyan government adviser warned Islamic State operatives were being “smuggled to Europe in migrant boats.”

At the time of the comments, UKIP leader Nigel Farage warned: “When ISIS say they want to flood our continent with half a million Islamic extremists they mean it, and there is nothing in this document [Common European Asylum Policy] that will stop them.

“I fear we face a direct threat to our civilisation if we allow large numbers of people from that war torn region into Europe.”

SEPTEMBER STOCKS START SOUR DOW -468

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BY

U.S. stocks plummeted Tuesday as continued signs of weakness in China and concerns about the Federal Reserve weighed heavily on investor sentiment. ( Tweet This )

The major averages ended in correction territory, down nearly 3 percent in their third-largest daily decline for 2015. Stocks failed an attempt to cut losses in choppy trade prior to the close.

In their worst start to September in 13 years, the Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500 had their worst first trading day of a month since March 2009. The Nasdaq had its worst first trading day of a month since October 2011.

[Programming note: CNBC will air a special at 7 p.m., ET on the markets]

The Dow closed about 470 points lower, off session after falling as much as 548 points. The Nasdaq composite wiped out gains for 2015, joining the other averages in the red for the year so far.

“Today is just a continuation of last night’s sentiment, plain and simple. Concerns continue to erupt about China’s economy and the growth (as well as the) decline in energy and WTI today,” said Ryan Larson, head of equity trading at RBC Global Asset Management (U.S.).

Crude oil settled down 7.7 percent, down $3.79 percent, at $45.41 a barrel, giving back much of Monday’s 8.8 percent surge.

Traders also continued to digest policymaker comments and U.S. data that could impact the timing of a rate hike.

“I think that is clearly the center of the weakness but I don’t know why people expect China to get any better,” said David Kelly, chief global strategist at J.P. Morgan Funds. “China has its problems but it’s not a big driver for the U.S. or earnings of U.S. corporations.”

“Nothing happened yesterday to affect the people’s perceptions of the Fed,” he said.

Other analysts attributed the volatility to a hawkish read on Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer’s comments over the weekend ahead of Friday’s key jobs report and the FOMC meeting later this month.

“The markets were counting on him to be more dovish and he wasn’t. That in conjunction with the weak PMI (in China)” pressured stocks,” said Krishna Memani, chief investment officer at Oppenheimer Funds.

Earlier, stocks extended losses in afternoon trade after Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren said in a speech that the central bank’s jobs target to raise rates has largely been met, but that its inflation target is not as clear cut. Rosengren is a nonvoting member.

“Regardless of whether you’re a voting member or not, if you [say] September’s on the table, that’s going to, in part, drive us lower,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.

Two sets of key Chinese data disappointed traders on Tuesday. The official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) edged down to 49.7 in August from 50 in July, while the final Caixin/Markit manufacturing PMI came in at 47.3 in August, the lowest reading since March 2009.

Read MoreThese battered stocks are China-proof

Even more worrying, China’s services sector, which has been one of the lone bright spots in the sputtering economy, also showed signs of cooling, a similar business survey said.

“Services PMI was a little weaker than expected,” said Ben Pace, chief investment officer at HPM Partners. He noted that many analysts were expecting the services sector to offset weakness in the manufacturing sector.

“I think it’s continuation of the volatility we’ve been seeing. Our thought is this kind of volatility (is present) particularly because we’re in the summertime. We’re also in a news vacuum. No (major) earnings out there,” Pace said.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, has held stubbornly high near 30 since last Monday’s plunge in stocks. The index approached 33 in the close.

“Granted, volatility tends to be more negative than positive in markets in general,” said Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab.

After the Dow futures fell more than 400 points ahead of the opening bell, the New York Stock Exchange invoked Rule 48 for the fourth time in two weeks.

Saving the Arctic? Kerry’s roadmap not melting hearts in Russia, China & India

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The US-led GLACIER environmental conference in Anchorage ended with a joint declaration calling for more international action to tackle climate change. China, India and Russia abstained from signing the document.

The Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience (GLACIER) that took place in Anchorage during the last days of summer has once again showed the division between leading nations over global climate change issues.

There are differing opinions on the environmental effect of the warming up of the Arctic, and how this will affect the world’s leading economies.

In his statement, US Secretary of State John Kerry said “climate change is not a distant threat for our children and their children to worry about.”

“It is happening now. Some people just want to write it off as a natural change,” said Kerry.

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The American diplomat wants to agree a roadmap regarding climate change in the Arctic before the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) regarding emissions is signed in Paris in December.

The final declaration of the GLACIER conference signed by high-ranking diplomats from the US, the EU and several Asian states maintains that “Arctic sea ice decline has been faster during the past 10 years than in the previous 20 years, with summer sea ice extent reduced by 40 percent since 1979.”

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“We take seriously warnings by scientists: temperatures in the Arctic are increasing at more than twice the average global rate,” the declaration reads, stressing that loss of ice from Arctic glaciers and ice sheets contributes to rising sea levels worldwide, increased risk of coastal erosion, persistent flooding and that Arctic warming may disrupt weather patterns globally.

“Actions to reduce methane — a powerful short-lived greenhouse gas — can slow Arctic warming in the near to medium term,” the declaration claims.

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But Russia (the world’s leading oil and gas producer), China (the world largest producer of goods), and India with its huge emerging economy opted not to sign the document, however nonbinding it might appear.

For China and India reducing emissions entails huge expenditure and loss of economic effectiveness, and for Russia the upcoming environmental deal brings additional costs to the oil and gas extraction industries.

Moscow is boosting Russia’s presence in the Arctic, including militarily, for at least two reasons: future hydrocarbons extraction and the Northern Sea Route, a much shorter way from Asia to Europe, which could soon be operable year-around because of less ice in the Arctic Ocean.

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READ MORE: Russia could protect interests in Arctic via military means – defense minister

However, Moscow does intend to reduce emissions considerably, in line with US President Barack Obama’s recent Clean Power Plan initiative, which aims to cut overall emissions in the US by 26 percent to 28 percent by 2030, based on 2005 levels.

READ MORE: New emissions rules for power plants bring fears of higher energy bills

Exploitation of its Arctic territories is a major principle for Russia and amounts to a national idea. With some 20 percent (3 million square kilometers) of the country lying within the Arctic Circle, Russia is the world’s largest Arctic nation. About 1.5 million Russians live above the 67th latitude (polar), which is several times more than in all other Arctic nations combined.

Most of the population (97 percent) of Canada, another great Arctic nation, lives below the 55th latitude, on a narrow strip of land along the border with the US. Moscow is also on the 55th latitude, while St. Petersburg lies some 600 kilometers further north. Russia’s second city has a population of 5.2 million, which is more than in the whole of Norway, another Arctic nation.

Altogether, there are nine Russian cities with populations over one million and seven cities with populations over 500,000 above the 55th latitude, with two of them, Murmansk and Norilsk, right above the Polar Circle.

Putin says dump dollar

Russian President Vladimir Putin has drafted a bill that aims to eliminate the US dollar and the euro from trade between CIS countries.

This means the creation of a single financial market between Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and other countries of the former Soviet Union.

“This would help expand the use of national currencies in foreign trade payments and financial services and thus create preconditions for greater liquidity of domestic currency markets”, said a statement from Kremlin.

The bill would also help to facilitate trade in the region and help to achieve macro-economic stability.

Within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) the countries have also discussed the possibility of switching to national currencies. According to the agreement between Russia, Belarus, Armenia and Kazakhstan, an obligatory transition to settlements in the national currencies (Russian ruble, Belarusian ruble, dram and tenge respectively) must occur in 2025-2030.

Today, some 50 percent of turnover in the EEU is in dollars and euro, which increases the dependence of the union on countries issuing those currencies.

Outside the CIS and EEU, Russia and China have been trying to curtail the dollar’s dominance as well.

READ MORE: China approves usage of ruble instead of US dollar for border city

In August, China’s central bank put the Russian ruble into circulation in Suifenhe City, Heilongjiang Province, launching a pilot two-currency (ruble and yuan) program. The ruble was introduced in place of the US dollar.

READ MORE: Time for Russia & Vietnam to think of switching to local currencies – Medvedev

In 2014, the Russian Central Bank and the People’s Bank of China signed a three-year currency swap agreement, worth 150 billion yuan (around $23.5 billion), thus boosting financial cooperation between the two countries.

Pentagon deploys drones to Latvia to maintain ‘security & stability’

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In a bid to show off how the US protects its allies, the Pentagon has deployed two MQ-1 Predator long-range unmanned surveillance drones and 70 airmen to Latvia on a training mission, the US Department of Defense said.

The deployment of the two unmanned MQ-1 Predators to Lielvarde Air Base over the weekend was the first time the US military sent a detachment of drones to Latvia to take part in what is referred to as partner training, a Pentagon spokesman, Navy Captain Jeff Davis, told Reuters.

The drones will be controlled from Lielvarde Air Base, and their mission is due to end on September 15, according to AFP.

Captain Davis said the deployment of the airmen, said to be members of the 147th Reconnaissance Wing of the Texas Air National Guard, was funded by the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI).

“This temporary deployment of aircraft and personnel will test the unit’s ability to forward deploy RPAs (remotely piloted aircraft) and conduct air operations in an effort to help assure our Latvian allies, NATO allies and European partners of our commitment to regional security and stability,” the US European Command reportedly said in a statement.

In May, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia jointly asked for permanent NATO bases, alleging that Russia has the capacity to invade them within four hours of ordering an attack. Moscow lashed out at the move, saying it contravenes the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act.
According to the United States European Command (EUCOM), the ERI was funded to the tune of $985 million. These monies are said to enable the Department of Defense to “continue its efforts to reinforce America’s solemn commitment to the safety and territorial integrity of our allies and to strengthen the security and capacity of our partners in the region.”

Among other things, the ERI enables the US Department of Defense (DoD) to continue its Operation Atlantic Resolve, a series of actions designed to “reassure NATO allies and partners of America’s dedication to enduring peace and stability in the region in light of the Russian intervention in Ukraine.”

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Since Russia’s reunification with Crimea and the outbreak of the military conflict in eastern Ukraine last spring, NATO has stepped up its military presence along the Russian border, including in the Baltic States and Eastern Europe. With relations between Russia and NATO plummeting to a Cold-War low, Moscow responded by increasing flights of its long-range ‘Bear’ or Tu-95 bombers near NATO members’ airspace and large-scale drills in Russia. Despite failing to provide any proof, the West blames Moscow for masterminding the Ukrainian unrest and supporting the rebels in the country’s eastern Donetsk and Lugansk Regions.

READ MORE: 49 NATO vessels, 5,600 troops gear up for major US-led drills in Baltics

One of the biggest series of drills this summer involved at least 49 vessels from 17 countries, with 5,600 troops taking part in the US-led BALTOPS exercises in the Baltic Sea in June. The war games took place just miles off the Russian coastal exclave of Kaliningrad, a gulf area sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly criticized NATO’s military buildup in neighboring states. It said they are taking place “under the false pretext of alleged ‘aggressive behavior’ by our country” and is accompanied by “unfriendly and malicious” rhetoric.

“We are not threatening anyone and we seek to resolve all conflict situations through political means, with respect toward international law and other nations’ interests,” Russian President Putin said in June.

In October, NATO will conduct its biggest military exercises in over 10 years, with a specific focus on battling Islamic State. Forces will be deployed across the Mediterranean.

Migrants: Austria tightens up border controls

Published on Aug 31, 2015

*Tailbacks of more than 20 kilometres are being reported on Hungary’s M1 motorway heading into Austria.*

The Austrian authorities have tightened controls on incoming lorries after last week’s gruesome discovery of 71 dead migrants in a truck.

Officials say 200 asylum seekers have been discovered and five alleged people traffickers arrested.

Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner told reporters they are seeing people traffickers becoming increasingly brutal and unscrupulous and have t…
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