Do Macedonians want their country to join NATO and the EU?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Do Macedonians want their country to join NATO and the EU? A historic referendum will decide

Rally in Skopje, MAcedonia in support for the referendum on EU and NATO accession.

Pro-referendum rally on 16 September 2018 in Skopje. Photo by Andreja Stojkovski via Twitter, used with permission.

On September 30, Macedonians will vote in a referendum to decide whether their country should join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance and the European Union (EU).

The referendum is part of a process that began in 1993, when all political parties in the then newly independent Republic of Macedonia declared joining NATO a key strategic priority. Many believe that membership in the military alliance would help protect Macedonia, located in the volatile Balkans region, from external aggression and civil war. Years later the country made a similar commitment to strive for EU membership.

Admission to both NATO and the EU require the consensus of all existing members, so Macedonia needed first solve bilateral disputes with its neighbors, some of which already belonged the two organizations.

The biggest obstacle was the long-standing naming dispute with Greece, which has hindered Macedonia’s development for 27 years. In June 2018, as a precondition for removing the Greek veto on its EU and NATO membership, Macedonia signed an agreement which obliges the country to change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia.

In spite of the agreement, the name change remains a core issue. The September 30 referendum explicitly asks:

‘Are you in favor of EU and NATO membership by accepting the Agreement between the Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Greece?’

A majority must participate

The referendum is not legally binding but rather consultative, and will only be considered valid if a majority of registered voters participate. But failure to reach the required 50 per cent voter turnout would not stop the NATO and EU accession process, which requires further action by parliament.

According to one Twitter user:

Мутен@toVornottoV

30 септември дава можност за конечно помрднуење од status quo-то у кое што смо заглавени и конечно ослободуење од бизарен проблем што не влече надоле скоро 30 године. Затоа ќе .

September 30 provides an opportunity to finally move from the status quo which has stymied us, to finally break free from a bizarre problem that has been holding us down for almost 30 years. That’s why #IVote.

For other voters, the referendum is both symbolic and cathartic, representing a return “to the right path” after “the lost decade” of democratic backsliding, and many have been holding their breath in anticipation:

mindрluмbеr@mindplumber

Цела држава се неуротизирала, све се остава за „после 30-ти“.
А бе, сендвич да сакаш да купиш, таа на скарата ќе ти каже „немој сеа, ај после 30-ти, да се расчисти“

The whole state has become neurotic, everything is left [for] ‘after the 30th’. Even if you want to buy a sandwich, the barbecue lady might say, ‘Not now, let’s do it after the 30th, after the situation clears’.

Calls for a boycott

This anxiety may have to do with the boycott campaign being waged by right-wing populist opponents and led by several fringe non-parliamentary parties, including pro-Russian, Euro-skeptic and anti-NATO United Macedonia, which styles itself on Putin’s United Russia.

The campaign stokes the fears of ethnic Macedonians by presenting the country’s name change as the first step along a slippery slope that will lead to genocide, or ethnocentric. The campaign is steeped in disinformation and hate speech, from intentional misinterpretations of the consequences of the agreement with Greece, to claims that the government has given citizenship to Albanians from Kosovo to boost the number of “yes” votes. There have even been suggestions of election fraud, to which one Twitter user replied:

Ленка многу кенка@RedRadish5

Кога стварно мислиш дека ќе местат гласање излегуваш да гласаш за да им отежнеш, а не седиш дома

When you really think that authorities plan voter fraud, citizens go out and vote to make it harder for them, they don’t sit at home.

Meanwhile, the main opposition party VMRO-DPMNE, a member of the conservative European People’s Party (EPP), has sat on the fence, neither openly endorsing the boycott campaign nor encouraging its supporters to participate in the referendum and vote against the agreement with Greece, which it considers “a capitulation”.

Other EPP members have accused VMRO-DPMNE of hypocrisy, as high ranking party officials participated personally in the boycott, and the campaign was vigorously promoted by media outlets reputed for being party mouthpieces.

Representatives of the ruling SDSM have also claimed that VMRO-DPMNE had attempted to make a deal, promising to throw its support behind the referendum if its former party leaders on trial for corruption were given an amnesty. The government refused, and the VMRO-DPMNE’s indecisive position is largely being interpreted as sign of weakness:

НиколаСтрез@NikolaStrez

За едно од најважните прашања за Македонија, вмро нема став и повикува секој да гласа по свое убедување.

Очекувам на следните избори, кога ќе сакаат да дојдат на власт, да излезат со истиот став и да не сугерираат за кого да гласаме.

VMRO-DPMNE has no official position on one of the most important issues for Macedonia, and has declared that people should vote according to their own preference. In the next elections, I expect that they will adopt the same position and won’t advocate whom to vote for.

Social media tactics and allegations about Russia

On social media the “I boycott” campaign (#бојкотирам) started over the summer, and involved mainly anonymous social media profiles and sock puppets from the VMRO-DPMNE troll army. Observers noticed a high number of new profiles appear in August 2018, suspected to be automated bots originating outside the country. The campaign was also shared via profiles linked to specific individuals, including VMRO-DPMNE’s foreign lobbyists, Macedonian nationalist organizations operating in the diaspora, and Macedonia’s president, who gained his position with the party’s support.

Around 50 people attended the Boycott campaign rally in Ohrid on 22 September. Photo by GV, CC-BY.

Western sources alleged that Russia was trying to obstruct the consolidation of the NATO and EU process; when asked, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev diplomatically said that the authorities have not found “evidence of direct Russian influence with fake news” regarding the referendum, and that he trusts Macedonia’s NATO allies on this matter.

Prior to that statement, however, Zaev was less reserved in pointing to Kremlin-related attempts — including the funding of violent protests by a Greek-Russian oligarch — to obstruct the deal with Greece. Moreover, an independent journalist discovered that back in 2015, a Russian troll farm specialist named Anna Bogacheva had visited Macedonia on business. She has since been named as one of 13 Russian nationals indicted over alleged interference in the 2016 United States election.

The “I Boycott” campaign has also employed tactics used by the American alt-right, including use of the Pepe the Frog meme, which was ridiculed even by VMRO-DPMNE members who couldn’t understand how their party’s symbol, the mighty lion, was reduced to a frog.

Ready for change

There have been attempts, mostly through cyber-bullying, to intimidate activists and ‘dissenting’ right-wing figures who have said they will take part in the referendum. Former VMRO-DPMNE government minister Nikola Todorov’s revelation that he would vote “no” exposed him to particularly vicious harassment on Facebook. But in spite of some of the threats issues, observers don’t expect much violence.

Numerous citizens have also expressed their support for both the referendum as the ultimate tool of democracy, and for the government-backed campaign to vote in it:

Бени@Shushmula

Скоро три полни децении живееме во пештера а сакаме светот да не знае и прифати.
Од сето тоа светот знае само дека живееме во пештера.

Almost 3 decades we’ve been living in a cave, while wanting the world to know about as and to accept us.
Out of all that, the world only knows that we’ve been living in a cave.
#IVote!

If surveys conducted in the months before the referendum are anything to go by, most Macedonian citizens are ready for change, even if that means swallowing the bitter pill of the name change in exchange for the long-term benefits of NATO and EU membership.

EU parliament votes to punish Hungary over ‘breaches’ of core values

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

EU parliament votes to punish Hungary over ‘breaches’ of core values

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses the European Parliament. 11 Sept 2018Image copyrightEPA
Image caption Viktor Orban launched an impassioned defense on Tuesday – but it was not enough

The European Parliament has voted to pursue unprecedented disciplinary action against Hungary over alleged breaches of the EU’s core values.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government has been accused of attacks on the media, minorities, and the rule of law – charges which he denies.

More than two-thirds of MEPs backed the censure motion – the first such vote against a member state under EU rules.

If also approved by national leaders, Hungary could face punitive measures.

The ultimate sanction, the suspension of Hungary’s voting rights, is unlikely as Poland is likely to veto any such move.

The BBC’s Nick Thorpe in Budapest says Mr Orban appears increasingly isolated among European conservatives but is being applauded by nationalist parties.

What is Hungary accused of?

Since coming to power, Mr Orban’s government has taken a hardline stance against immigration. It introduced a law which made it a criminal offence for lawyers and activists to help asylum seekers, under the banner of “facilitating illegal immigration”.

But there have also been reports of pressure being put on the courts and the electoral system, and of widespread corruption.

After the vote, the European Parliament said it was also concerned about:

  • The constitutional and electoral system
  • Privacy and data protection
  • Freedom of expression and religion
  • Academic freedom and freedom of association
  • Equal rights, particularly for refugees and minorities such as Roma and Jews

Mr Orban addressed the parliament on Tuesday in defence of his government, labelling the threat of censure as a form of “blackmail” and an insult to Hungary.

Rapporteur Judith Sargentini is congratulated after members of the European Parliament took part in a vote on the situation in HungaryImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionJudith Sargentini, author of the report on Hungary, was applauded by many MEPs after the vote

He claimed a report by Dutch Greens MEP Judith Sargentini was an “abuse of power”, and included “serious factual misrepresentations”.

Ms Sargentini’s report into Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party alleged such actions were “a clear breach of the values of our union”.

Grey lines

Centre-right split over Hungary action

Analysis by BBC Brussels reporter Adam Fleming

The opposition to Viktor Orban received a boost last night when Manfred Weber, leader of the European Parliament’s centre-right group the European People’s Party (EPP), lost patience with his erstwhile ally and announced he would vote to trigger Article 7.

But it has created a split within the EPP because Forza Italia, some Bulgarians, a few Germans and assorted others gave their backing to Budapest.

Most British Conservative MEPs supported the Hungarian government, arguing that the EU had intruded into purely national matters. They strongly deny it was to secure Hungary’s support in the Brexit process or out of admiration for the country’s leader.

However, this episode might not bother Mr Orban at all, as it boosts his image back home as a scourge of the European establishment.

Grey lines

What could happen now?

Under an EU rule called Article 7, breaching the union’s founding principles can lead to the suspension of a member state’s rights as a punitive measure.

However, Hungary is currently facing “preventative” measures, which the parliament says are designed to avoid sanctions entirely.

The BBC Reality Check team has explained the Article 7 process in detail. Broadly, the decision on Hungary will now be referred to the heads of the 28 EU member states to consider.

However, because this step has never been taken before, it is not clear what will happen next, or when.

Suspension of Hungary’s voting rights is the most serious possible consequence – but is considered unlikely.

Poland is also facing disciplinary proceedings, launched by the European Commission in December last year. The case has yet to reach the European Parliament.

What has the reaction been?

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto reacted angrily to the vote, calling it the “petty revenge” of “pro-immigration” politicians.

Some politicians from other countries also defended Mr Orban’s government. Britain’s Nigel Farage, a pro-Brexit MEP, wrote that the decision demonstrated “the authoritarian grip of the EU”.

Anti-Islam Dutch populist Geert Wilders tweeted: “Hungary is the example for all EU countries and Orban is a hero and deserves the Nobel Prize.”

But Ms Sargentini, who wrote the report on Mr Orban’s government, said the decision sent an important message that the EU would stand up for citizens’ rights.

“Viktor Orban’s government has been leading the charge against European values by silencing independent media, replacing critical judges, and putting academia on a leash,” she said.

“Individuals close to the government have been enriching themselves, their friends and family members at the expense of Hungarian and European taxpayers. The Hungarian people deserve better.”

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto holds a news conference in Budapest, September 12, 2018Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionHungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto reacted angrily to the vote

Amnesty International’s expert on human rights in the EU, Berber Biala-Hettinga, hailed the vote as “historic”.

“The European Parliament rightly stood up for the Hungarian people and for the EU. They made it clear that human rights, the rule of law and democratic values are not up for negotiation,” she said.

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, said that he would have voted for the measure if he was an MEP.

“The European Commission is using the tools we have, launching infringement procedures against countries that don’t respect EU law. [I] am in harmony with today’s decision,” he said through a spokeswoman’s Twitter account.

More on this story

  • Hungary pursued by EU over ‘Stop Soros’ migrant law
    19 July 2018
  • Nationalism in heart of Europe needles EU
    23 February 2018
  • Europe migrant crisis: EU court rejects quota challenge
    6 September 2017

Europe

IS THE E.U. GOING TO ‘LIBERATE TRIPOLI’?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Haftar Hints at ‘Liberating Tripoli’

Saturday, 8 September, 2018 – 09:15
European Parliament President Antonio Tajani arrives at a European Union leaders informal summit in Brussels, Belgium, February 23, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
Brussels, Cairo- Abdullah Mustafa and Khalid Mahmoud
Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Haftar said Thursday that the “Tripoli crisis shouldn’t go longer and liberating the Libyan capital is inevitable.”

Speaking to tribal leaders in Benghazi, he declared that he would liberate Tripoli through a well-structured plan to end what he called militia rule.

“We will not be silent about the current situation in Tripoli anymore,” he stressed.

Haftar warned that, if elections in Libya are not transparent, his LNA will obstruct them.

The parliament called on its members to attend two sessions at its headquarters in Tobruk Monday and Tuesday in order to enact the bill of a referendum over the constitution. These sessions are the last chance before heading to the presidential elections in case the quorum is not met to pass the bill.

Meanwhile, disputes continued between France and Italy over the Libyan crisis, although Italy’s Defense Minister Elisabetta Trenta urged cooperation between the two countries.

In a related matter, European Parliament president Antonio Tajani said Friday that “the future of Libya is being decided now, and the EU has to play a central role in managing this crisis. If we are not able to carry out this task, we will leave the door open for the ambitions and interests of countries.”

“In the absence of a stable Libyan government that can control the country´s borders and territory, managing migration flows from Libya´s coast will become more difficult,” Tajani said, adding that the smuggling of weapons and drugs will continue to help terrorists, putting in danger the safety of African and European citizens.

“The country is a powder keg ready to explode.

“The clashes in Tripoli that caused over 200 dead over the last few days have further exacerbated internal conflicts and, despite an agreement on a ceasefire, the situation remains extremely fragile.”

Lithuania: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Eastern European Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Lithuania

Introduction Lithuanian lands were united under MINDAUGAS in 1236; over the next century, through alliances and conquest, Lithuania extended its territory to include most of present-day Belarus and Ukraine. By the end of the 14th century Lithuania was the largest state in Europe. An alliance with Poland in 1386 led the two countries into a union through the person of a common ruler. In 1569, Lithuania and Poland formally united into a single dual state, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. This entity survived until 1795, when its remnants were partitioned by surrounding countries. Lithuania regained its independence following World War I, but was annexed by the USSR in 1940 – an action never recognized by the US and many other countries. On 11 March 1990, Lithuania became the first of the Soviet republics to declare its independence, but Moscow did not recognize this proclamation until September of 1991 (following the abortive coup in Moscow). The last Russian troops withdrew in 1993. Lithuania subsequently restructured its economy for integration into western European institutions; it joined both NATO and the EU in the spring of 2004.
History The first mention of Lithuania is found in a medieval German manuscript, the Quedlinburg Chronicle, on 14 February 1009. The Lithuanian lands were united by Mindaugas in 1236, and neighbouring countries referred to it as “the state of Lithuania”. The official coronation of Mindaugas as King of Lithuania was on July 6, 1253, and the official recognition of Lithuanian statehood as the Kingdom of Lithuania.

During the early period of the Gediminids (1316–1430), the state occupied the territories of present-day Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Poland and Russia.[5] By the end of the fourteenth century, Lithuania was the largest country in Europe, and was also the only remaining pagan state.[6] The Grand Duchy of Lithuania stretched across a substantial part of Europe, from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Lithuanian nobility, city dwellers and peasants accepted Christianity in 1386, following Poland’s offer of its crown to Jogaila, the Grand Duke of Lithuania. Grand Duke Jogaila was crowned King of Poland on February 2, 1386. Lithuania and Poland were joined into a personal union, as both countries were ruled by the same Gediminids branch, the Jagiellon dynasty.

In 1401, the formal union was dissolved as a result of disputes over legal terminology, and Vytautas, the cousin of Jogaila, became the Grand Duke of Lithuania. Thanks to close cooperation, the armies of Poland and Lithuania achieved a great victory over the Teutonic Knights in 1410 at the Battle of Grunwald, the largest battle in medieval Europe.

A royal crown had been bestowed upon Vytautas in 1429 by Sigismund, the Holy Roman Emperor, but Polish magnates prevented his coronation by seizing the crown as it was being brought to him. A new crown was ordered from Germany and another date set for the coronation, but a month later Vytautas died as the result of an accident.

As a result of the growing centralised power of the Grand Principality of Moscow, in 1569, Lithuania and Poland formally united into a single state called the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. As a member of the Commonwealth, Lithuania retained its institutions, including a separate army, currency and statutory law which was digested in three Statutes of Lithuania.[7] In 1795, the joint state was dissolved by the third Partition of the Commonwealth, which forfeited its lands to Russia, Prussia and Austria, under duress. Over ninety percent of Lithuania was incorporated into the Russian Empire and the remainder into Prussia.

Many Jews fled Lithuania following persecution and followed opportunities that lay overseas.

After a century of occupation, Lithuania re-established its independence on February 16, 1918. The official government from July through November 1918, was quickly replaced by a republican government. From the outset, the newly-independent Lithuania’s foreign policy was dominated by territorial disputes with Poland (over the Vilnius region and the Suvalkai region) and with Germany (over the Klaipėda region or Memelland). Most obviously, the Lithuanian constitution designated Vilnius as the nation’s capital, even though the city itself lay within Polish territory as a result of a Polish invasion. At the time, Poles and Jews made up a majority of the population of Vilnius, with a small Lithuanian minority of only 1%. In 1920 the capital was relocated to Kaunas, which was officially designated the provisional capital of Lithuania. (see History of Vilnius for more details).

In June 1940, around the beginning of World War II, the Soviet Union occupied and annexed Lithuania in accordance with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.[9][10] A year later it came under German occupation. After the retreat of the German armed forces (Wehrmacht), Lithuania was re-occupied by the Soviet Union in 1944.

From 1944–1952 approximately 100,000 Lithuanians participated in partisan fights against the Soviet system and the Red Army. More than twenty thousand partisans (“forest brothers”) were killed in those battles and many more were arrested and deported to Siberian GULAGs. Lithuanian historians view this period as a war of independence against the Soviet Union.

During the Soviet and Nazi occupations between 1940 and 1944, Lithuania lost over 780,000 residents. Among them were around 190,000 (91% of pre-WWII community) of Lithuanian Jews, one of the highest total mortality rates of the Holocaust. An estimated 120,000 to 300,000[11] were killed by Soviets or exiled to Siberia, while others had been sent to German forced labour camps and/or chose to emigrate to western countries.

Forty-six years of Soviet occupation ended with the advent of perestroika and glasnost in the late 1980s. Lithuania, led by Sąjūdis, an anti-communist and anti-Soviet independence movement, proclaimed its renewed independence on March 11, 1990. Lithuania was the first Soviet republic to do so, though Soviet forces unsuccessfully tried to suppress this secession. The Red Army attacked the Vilnius TV Tower on the night of January 13, 1991, an act that resulted in the death of 13 Lithuanian civilians. The last Red Army troops left Lithuania on August 31, 1993 — even earlier than they departed from East Germany.

On February 4, 1991, Iceland became the first country to recognize Lithuanian independence. Sweden was the first to open an embassy in the country. The United States of America never recognized the Soviet claim to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Russia currently refuses to recognize the occupation of Lithuania, claiming that Lithuanians decided to join the Soviet Union voluntarily, although the Russia signed a treaty with Lithuania prior to the disintegration of the USSR which acknowledged Lithuania’s forced loss of sovereignty at the hands of the Soviets, thereby recognizing the occupation.

Lithuania joined the United Nations on September 17, 1991 and on May 31, 2001 it became the 141st member of the World Trade Organization. Since 1988, Lithuania has sought closer ties with the West, and so on January 4, 1994, it became the first of the Baltic states to apply for NATO membership. On March 29, 2004, it became a NATO member, and on May 1, 2004, Lithuania joined the European Union.

Geography Location: Eastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, between Latvia and Russia
Geographic coordinates: 56 00 N, 24 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 65,200 sq km
land: NA sq km
water: NA sq km
Area – comparative: slightly larger than West Virginia
Land boundaries: total: 1,613 km
border countries: Belarus 653.5 km, Latvia 588 km, Poland 103.7 km, Russia (Kaliningrad) 267.8 km
Coastline: 99 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: transitional, between maritime and continental; wet, moderate winters and summers
Terrain: lowland, many scattered small lakes, fertile soil
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m
highest point: Juozapines Kalnas 293.6 m
Natural resources: peat, arable land, amber
Land use: arable land: 44.81%
permanent crops: 0.9%
other: 54.29% (2005)
Irrigated land: 70 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 24.5 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 3.33 cu km/yr (78%/15%/7%)
per capita: 971 cu m/yr (2003)
Natural hazards: NA
Environment – current issues: contamination of soil and groundwater with petroleum products and chemicals at military bases
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: fertile central plains are separated by hilly uplands that are ancient glacial deposits
Politics Since Lithuania declared independence on March 11, 1990, it has maintained strong democratic traditions. In the first general elections after the independence on October 25, 1992, 56.75% of the total number of voters supported the new constitution. There were heavy debates concerning the constitution, especially the role of the president. Drawing from the interwar experiences, many different proposals were made ranging from a strong parliamentary government to a presidential system similar to the one in the United States. A separate referendum was held on May 23, 1992 to gauge public opinion on the matter and 41% of all the eligible voters supported the restoration of the President of Lithuania. Eventually a semi-presidential system was agreed upon.

The Lithuanian head of state is the President, elected directly for a five-year term, serving a maximum of two consecutive terms. The post of president is largely ceremonial; main policy functions however include foreign affairs and national security policy. The president is also the military commander-in-chief. The President, with the approval of the parliamentary body, the Seimas, also appoints the prime minister and on the latter’s nomination, appoints the rest of the cabinet, as well as a number of other top civil servants and the judges for all courts. The judges of the Constitutional Court (Konstitucinis Teismas), who serve nine-year terms, are appointed by the President (three judges), the Chairman of the Seimas (three judges) and the Chairman of the Supreme Court (three judges). The unicameral Lithuanian parliament, the Seimas, has 141 members who are elected to four-year terms. 71 of the members of this legislative body are elected in single constituencies, and the other 70 are elected in a nationwide vote by proportional representation. A party must receive at least 5% of the national vote to be represented in the Seimas.

People Population: 3,565,205 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 14.5% (male 264,668/female 250,997)
15-64 years: 69.5% (male 1,214,236/female 1,263,198)
65 years and over: 16% (male 197,498/female 374,608) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 39 years
male: 36.4 years
female: 41.6 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: -0.284% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 9 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 11.12 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.72 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.53 male(s)/female
total population: 0.89 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 6.57 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 7.86 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.21 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 74.67 years
male: 69.72 years
female: 79.89 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.22 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 1,300 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: less than 200 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea and hepatitis A
vectorborne diseases: tickborne encephalitis (2008)
Nationality: noun: Lithuanian(s)
adjective: Lithuanian
Ethnic groups: Lithuanian 83.4%, Polish 6.7%, Russian 6.3%, other or unspecified 3.6% (2001 census)
Religions: Roman Catholic 79%, Russian Orthodox 4.1%, Protestant (including Lutheran and Evangelical Christian Baptist) 1.9%, other or unspecified 5.5%, none 9.5% (2001 census)
Languages: Lithuanian (official) 82%, Russian 8%, Polish 5.6%, other and unspecified 4.4% (2001 census)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99.6%
male: 99.6%
female: 99.6%

Luxembourg: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This European Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Luxembourg

Introduction Founded in 963, Luxembourg became a grand duchy in 1815 and an independent state under the Netherlands. It lost more than half of its territory to Belgium in 1839, but gained a larger measure of autonomy. Full independence was attained in 1867. Overrun by Germany in both World Wars, it ended its neutrality in 1948 when it entered into the Benelux Customs Union and when it joined NATO the following year. In 1957, Luxembourg became one of the six founding countries of the European Economic Community (later the European Union), and in 1999 it joined the euro currency area.
History The recorded history of Luxembourg begins with the acquisition of Lucilinburhuc (today Luxembourg Castle) by Siegfried, Count of Ardennes in 963. Around this fort, a town gradually developed, which became the centre of a small state of great strategic value. In 1437, the House of Luxembourg suffered a succession crisis, precipitated by the lack of a male heir to assume the throne, that led to the territory being sold to Philip the Good of Burgundy.[3] In the following centuries, Luxembourg’s fortress was steadily enlarged and strengthened by its successive occupants, the Bourbons, Habsburgs, Hohenzollerns, and the French, among others. After the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, Luxembourg was disputed between Prussia and the Netherlands. The Congress of Vienna formed Luxembourg as a Grand Duchy in personal union with the Netherlands. Luxembourg also became a member of the German Confederation, with a Confederate fortress manned by Prussian troops.

The Belgian Revolution of 1830–1839 reduced Luxembourg’s territory by more than half, as the predominantly francophone western part of the country was transferred to Belgium. Luxembourg’s independence was reaffirmed by the 1839 First Treaty of London. In the same year, Luxembourg joined the Zollverein. Luxembourg’s independence and neutrality were again affirmed by the 1867 Second Treaty of London, after the Luxembourg Crisis nearly led to war between Prussia and France. After the latter conflict, the Confederate fortress was dismantled.

The King of the Netherlands remained Head of State as Grand Duke of Luxembourg, maintaining personal union between the two countries until 1890. At the death of William III, the Dutch throne passed to his daughter Wilhelmina, while Luxembourg (at that time restricted to male heirs by the Nassau Family Pact) passed to Adolph of Nassau-Weilburg.

Luxembourg was invaded and occupied by Germany during the First World War, but was allowed to maintain its independence and political mechanisms. It was again invaded and subject to German occupation in the Second World War in 1940, and was formally annexed into the Third Reich in 1942.

During World War II, Luxembourg abandoned its policy of neutrality, when it joined the Allies in fighting Germany. Its government, exiled to London, set up a small group of volunteers who participated in the Normandy invasion. It became a founding member of the United Nations in 1946, and of NATO in 1949. In 1957, Luxembourg became one of the six founding countries of the European Economic Community (later the European Union), and, in 1999, it joined the euro currency area. In 2005, a referendum on the EU treaty establishing a constitution for Europe was held in Luxembourg.

Geography Location: Western Europe, between France and Germany
Geographic coordinates: 49 45 N, 6 10 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 2,586 sq km
land: 2,586 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Rhode Island
Land boundaries: total: 359 km
border countries: Belgium 148 km, France 73 km, Germany 138 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: modified continental with mild winters, cool summers
Terrain: mostly gently rolling uplands with broad, shallow valleys; uplands to slightly mountainous in the north; steep slope down to Moselle flood plain in the southeast
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Moselle River 133 m
highest point: Buurgplaatz 559 m
Natural resources: iron ore (no longer exploited), arable land
Land use: arable land: 27.42%
permanent crops: 0.69%
other: 71.89% (includes Belgium) (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Total renewable water resources: 1.6 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.06 cu km/yr (42%/45%/13%)
per capita: 121 cu m/yr (1999)
Natural hazards: NA
Environment – current issues: air and water pollution in urban areas, soil pollution of farmland
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification
Geography – note: landlocked; the only Grand Duchy in the world
Politics Luxembourg is a parliamentary democracy headed by a constitutional monarch. Under the constitution of 1868, executive power is exercised by the Governor and the cabinet, which consists of several other ministers. The Governor has the power to dissolve the legislature and reinstate a new one, as long as the Governor has judicial approval. However, since 1919, sovereignty has resided with the Supreme Court.

Legislative power is vested in the Chamber of Deputies, a unicameral legislature of sixty members, who are directly elected to five-year terms from four constituencies. A second body, the Council of State (Conseil d’État), composed of twenty-one ordinary citizens appointed by the Grand Duke, advises the Chamber of Deputies in the drafting of legislation.

The Grand Duchy has three lower tribunals (justices de paix; in Esch-sur-Alzette, the city of Luxembourg, and Diekirch), two district tribunals (Luxembourg and Diekirch) and a Superior Court of Justice (Luxembourg), which includes the Court of Appeal and the Court of Cassation. There is also an Administrative Tribunal and an Administrative Court, as well as a Constitutional Court, all of which are located in the capital.

People Population: 486,006 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 18.6% (male 46,729/female 43,889)
15-64 years: 66.6% (male 163,356/female 160,425)
65 years and over: 14.7% (male 29,206/female 42,401) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 39 years
male: 38 years
female: 40 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.188% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 11.77 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 8.43 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 8.54 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.69 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 4.62 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 4.62 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 4.62 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.18 years
male: 75.91 years
female: 82.67 years

Malta: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Mediterranean Island Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Malta

Introduction Great Britain formally acquired possession of Malta in 1814. The island staunchly supported the UK through both World Wars and remained in the Commonwealth when it became independent in 1964. A decade later Malta became a republic. Since about the mid-1980s, the island has transformed itself into a freight transshipment point, a financial center, and a tourist destination. Malta became an EU member in May 2004, and will begin to use the euro as currency in 2008.
History Early settlements of Malta

Malta is home to the oldest freestanding structure in the world: the oldest of all the megalithic temples on the islands is il-Ġgantija, in Gozo (Għawdex) dating back to before 3500 BC. One of the very earliest marks of civilization on the islands is the temple of Ħaġar Qim, which dates from between 3200 and 2500 BC, stands on a hilltop on the southern edge of the island of Malta. Adjacent to Ħaġar Qim, lies another remarkable temple site, l-Imnajdra. The people who built these structures eventually died out or at any rate disappeared. Phoenicians colonized the islands around 700 BC,[7] using them as an outpost from which they expanded sea explorations and trade in the Mediterranean.

After the fall of Tyre, the islands later came under the control of Carthage (400 BC), a former Phoenician colony, and then of Rome (218 BC). The islands prospered under Roman rule, during which time they were considered a Municipium and a Foederata Civitas. Many Roman antiquities still exist, testifying to the close link between the Maltese inhabitants and the people of Rome. The island was a favorite among Roman soldiers as a place to retire from active service. In 60 AD the islands were visited by Saint Paul, who is said to have been shipwrecked on the shores of the aptly-named “San Pawl il-Baħar” (Saint Paul’s Bay). Studies of the currents and prevalent winds at the time however, render it more likely that the shipwreck occurred in or around Daħlet San Tumas in Marsascala.[citation needed]

After a period of Byzantine rule (fourth to ninth century) and a probable sack by the Vandals, the islands were conquered by the Arabs in 870 AD. The Arabs, who generally tolerated the population’s Christianity, introduced the cultivation of citrus fruits and cotton, and irrigation systems. Arab influence can be seen most prominently in the modern Maltese language, a Semitic language which also contains significant Romance influences, and is written in a variation of the Latin alphabet.

The period of Arab rule lasted until 1091, when the islands were taken by the Siculo-Normans. A century later the last Norman king, Tancredo di Lecce, appointed Margarito di Brindisi the first Count of Malta. Subsequent rulers included the Swabian, Angevin, Aragonese, Castillians who reconstituted a County of Malta in 1283. The Maltese nobility was established during this period; some of it dating back to 1400. Around thirty-two noble titles remain in use today, of which the oldest is the Barony of Djar il-Bniet e Buqana.

Knights of Malta and Napoleon

In 1530 Holy Roman Emperor Charles V of Spain gave the islands to the Order of Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in perpetual lease. The Crown of Aragon had owned the islands as part of its Mediterranean empire for some time. These knights, a military religious order now known as the “Knights of Malta”, had been driven out of Rhodes by the Ottoman Empire in 1522. They withstood a full-blown siege by the Ottoman Turks in 1565, at the time the greatest naval power in the Mediterranean sea. After this they decided to increase the fortifications, particularly in the inner-harbour area, where the new city of Valletta, named after Grand Master Jean de la Valette, was built.

Their reign ended when Malta was captured by Napoleon en route to his expedition of Egypt during the French Revolutionary Wars in 1798. As a ruse, Napoleon asked for safe harbour to resupply his ships, and then turned his guns against his hosts once safely inside Valletta. The Grand Master knew that he could only allow a few ships at a time to enter the harbour, due to the Treaty of Trent. Grand Master Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim capitulated, and Napoleon stayed in Malta for a few days, during which time he systematically looted the movable assets of the Order, and established an administration controlled by his nominees. He then sailed for Egypt, leaving a substantial garrison in Malta.

The occupying French forces were unpopular, however, due particularly to their negative attitude towards religion. Their financial and religious reforms did not go down well with the citizens. The Maltese rebelled against them, and the French were forced behind the fortifications. Great Britain, along with the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, sent munitions and aid to the rebels. Britain also sent her navy, which instigated a blockade of the islands. The isolated French forces, under General Claude-Henri Belgrand de Vaubois, surrendered in 1800, and the island became a British Dominion, being presented by several Maltese leaders to Sir Alexander Ball.

British rule and World War II

In 1814, as part of the Treaty of Paris, Malta officially became a part of the British Empire, and was used as a shipping way-station and fleet headquarters. Malta’s position half-way between Gibraltar and the Suez Canal proved to be its main asset during these years, and it was considered to be an important stop on the way to India.

In the early 1930s, the British Mediterranean Fleet, which was at the time the main contributor for the commerce on the island, was moved to Alexandria as an economic measure. Malta played an important role during World War II, owing to its proximity to Axis shipping lanes. The bravery of the Maltese people in their long struggle against enemy attack moved HM King George VI to award the George Cross to Malta on a collective basis on April 15, 1942 “to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history”. Some historians argue that the award caused Britain to incur disproportionate losses in defending Malta, as British credibility would suffer if Malta was surrendered, as Singapore had been.[8] A replica of the George Cross now appears in the upper hoist corner of the Flag of Malta. The collective award remained unique until April 1999, when the Royal Ulster Constabulary became the second – and, to date, the only other – recipient of the collective George Cross.

Independence

After the war, and after the Malta Labour Party’s unsuccessful attempt at “Integration with Britain”, Malta was granted independence on September 21, 1964 (Independence Day). Under its 1964 constitution, Malta initially retained Queen Elizabeth II as Queen of Malta, with a Governor-General exercising executive authority on her behalf. On December 13, 1974 (Republic Day) it became a republic within the Commonwealth, with the President as head of state. A defence agreement signed soon after independence (and re-negotiated in 1972) expired on March 31, 1979 (Freedom Day) when the British military forces were withdrawn. Malta adopted an official policy of neutrality in 1980 and for a brief period was a member of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries. In 1989 Malta was the venue of an important summit between US President Bush and Soviet leader Gorbachev, their first face-to-face encounter, which signaled the end of the Cold War.

Malta joined the European Union on May 1, 2004.[9] Following the European Council of 21 to 22 June 2007 it joined the Eurozone on January 1, 2008.

Geography Location: Southern Europe, islands in the Mediterranean Sea, south of Sicily (Italy)
Geographic coordinates: 35 50 N, 14 35 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 316 sq km
land: 316 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly less than twice the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 196.8 km (does not include 56.01 km for the island of Gozo)
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
exclusive fishing zone: 25 nm
Climate: Mediterranean; mild, rainy winters; hot, dry summers
Terrain: mostly low, rocky, flat to dissected plains; many coastal cliffs
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Mediterranean Sea 0 m
highest point: Ta’Dmejrek 253 m (near Dingli)
Natural resources: limestone, salt, arable land
Land use: arable land: 31.25%
permanent crops: 3.13%
other: 65.62% (2005)
Irrigated land: 20 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 0.07 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.02 cu km/yr (74%/1%/25%)
per capita: 50 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: NA
Environment – current issues: limited natural fresh water resources; increasing reliance on desalination
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: the country comprises an archipelago, with only the three largest islands (Malta, Ghawdex or Gozo, and Kemmuna or Comino) being inhabited; numerous bays provide good harbors; Malta and Tunisia are discussing the commercial exploitation of the continental shelf between their countries, particularly for oil exploration
Politics Malta is a republic,[11] whose parliamentary system and public administration is closely modeled on the Westminster system. The unicameral House of Representatives, (Maltese: Il-Kamra tar-Rappreżentanti), is elected by direct universal suffrage through single transferable vote every five years, unless the House is dissolved earlier by the President on advice of the Prime Minister. The House of Representatives is made up of sixty-five Members of Parliament. However, where a party wins an absolute majority of votes, but does not have a majority of seats, that party is given additional seats to ensure a parliamentary majority. The Constitution of Malta provides that the President appoint as Prime Minister the member of the House who is best able to command a (governing) majority in the House.

The President of the Republic is elected every five years by the House of Representatives. The role of the president as head of state is largely ceremonial.

The main political parties are the Nationalist Party, which is a Christian democratic party, and the Malta Labour Party, which is a social democratic party.

The Nationalist Party is currently at the helm of the government, the Prime Minister being Dr. Lawrence Gonzi. The Malta Labour Party is in the opposition.

There are a number of smaller political parties in Malta that presently have no parliamentary representation.

On February 4, 2008 President Dr. Eddie Fenech Adami dissolved the Parliament, acting on a request from Prime Minister Dr. Lawrence Gonzi[12]. The general elections were held on the March 8, 2008, and four political parties presented candidates on all districts; namely, the two main parties, the Democratic Alternative (Alternattiva Demokratika), and the recently-formed National Action (Azzjoni Nazzjonali). The Nationalist Party won the election by a slim majority of 1580 votes, which were however enough to secure its third consecutive term[13]. The Malta Labour Party conceded the election on 10 March, and Dr. Alfred Sant resigned from the position of Party Leader later that morning.

People Population: 403,532 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 16.4% (male 33,954/female 32,158)
15-64 years: 69.7% (male 142,338/female 138,792)
65 years and over: 13.9% (male 24,240/female 32,050) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 39.2 years
male: 37.9 years
female: 40.6 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.407% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 10.33 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 8.29 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 2.03 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.76 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 3.79 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 4.25 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.3 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.3 years
male: 77.08 years
female: 81.64 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.51 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.2% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: less than 500 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: less than 100 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Maltese (singular and plural)
adjective: Maltese
Ethnic groups: Maltese (descendants of ancient Carthaginians and Phoenicians, with strong elements of Italian and other Mediterranean stock)
Religions: Roman Catholic 98%
Languages: Maltese (official), English (official)
Literacy: definition: age 10 and over can read and write
total population: 92.8%
male: 92%
female: 93.6% (2003 est.)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Malta
conventional short form: Malta

U.S.-Turkey Relations Will Never Be the Same

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BLOOMBERG NEWS)

 

U.S.-Turkey Relations Will Never Be the Same

Escalating tensions might simmer down, but we’re past the point of pretending these two governments’ values are compatible.

Hope you sold all your lira before this week.

Photographer: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

There are only two ways that the diplomatic rift between the U.S. and Turkey can end: a compromise that salvages the relationship as best possible, or a complete rupture with devastating consequences both for Turkey’s economy and America’s regional strategic interests. Either way, there is no going back to the way things were.

The arrest in Turkey of American pastor Andrew Brunson nearly two years ago has led to a diplomatic spat that threatens a full-blown economic meltdown in Turkey. Brunson, along with many foreign nationals that were detained in the wake of the failed 2016 coup attempt, has been accused of “supporting terrorism.” A deal for Brunson’s release seemed likely as Turkish officials traveled to Washington this week, but fell apart apparently over last-minute Turkish demands.

Meanwhile, tensions have ratcheted up. The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on Turkey’s interior and justice ministers. Erdogan threatened retaliation and got the support of most of the Turkish opposition. On Wednesday, Stars and Stripes reported that a group of pro-government lawyers in Turkey have filed charges against several U.S. officers at the Incirlik Air Base, accusing them too of ties to terrorist groups. They are demanding all flights leaving the base be temporarily suspended and a search warrant be executed.

The standoff is partly the accumulation of years of resentment, despite the pretenses of a faithful partnership. Turkey’s once-unassailable support among U.S. foreign policy leaders, and in Congress, has been weakened by years of authoritarian creep, a worsening human rights record and cooperation with Russia and Iran in Syria. Turkey’s plans for a $2 billion purchase of Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missiles, which NATO has said are incompatible with allied systems and restrictions on American use of the Incirlik Air Base, haven’t gone down well.

The feeling is mutual. Erdogan has never quite recovered from his anger at the way his allies seemed to sit on the fence in the hours after an attempted coup was announced in July 2016.

The Turkish leader is also furious at American support for the Kurdish militia fighting Islamic State in northern Syria. Earlier this year, he threatened American troops with an “Ottoman slap” if the U.S. tried to block Turkey’s military incursion into northwest Syria.

One major source of contention has been the U.S. refusal to turn over the Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, a one-time Erdogan ally and now an enemy, whom Erdogan alleges was behind the coup and other attempts to undermine him. Trump’s abandonment of the Iran nuclear deal is another sore point; nearly half of Turkey’s oil imports come from Iran, and the re-imposition of sanctions against Iran hurts Turkey’s economy.

The Brunson case made all of that impossible to ignore, as U.S. evangelicals took up the cause.

But “impossible to ignore” is not to say that the Trump administration has become a principled defender of human rights in Turkey. Far from it. Trump, whose name adorns luxury properties in Turkey, expressed only praise for Erdogan when they met in 2017. When Erdogan’s supporters and guards attacked protesters in Washington, the affair was handled quietly.

The administration has been silent on other arrests of U.S. and foreign nationals in Turkey. But it was ready to strike a deal for Brunson’s release. The U.S. had already asked Israel to release Ebru Ozkan, a Turkish national who was arrested there on suspicion of aiding Hamas (Israel deported herthe day after Trump called Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu). The Trump administration was also reportedly ready to allow Hakan Atilla, a former top executive of state-owned Halkbank, convicted for violating Iran sanctions, to serve out the rest of his prison sentence in Turkey. The deal was scuppered, reportedly, when Turkey wanted relief on a multibillion-dollar fine against Halkbank and an assurance that any investigations be dropped.

The U.S. can afford to play a longer game. The June 24 election may have strengthened Erdogan’s power further, but he didn’t win by a Putin-sized margin. (Erdogan cleared just over 52 percent, and that’s if we all agree to ignore the voting irregularities that presumably bolstered his numbers.) Turkey is divided politically, and the longer Erdogan rules by coercion, the more vulnerable he may become, especially if Turkey’s economy continues to suffer. As the main barometer of confidence in the country, the lira’s decline speaks volumes.

Even so, a diplomatic solution is clearly preferable to continued escalation. Erdogan is sacrificing the Turkish economy in order to keep Brunson as a bargaining chit. A fractured relationship with the U.S. will also put a strain on Turkey’s EU relationships and will give investors, already spooked, even more pause.

American support for Turkey doesn’t crumble in a day. The relationship is baked into ties on multiple levels, both inside and outside government, and for good reason. As Asli Aydintasbas and Kemal Kirisci argue in an April 2017 Brookings paper, however bad it looks, Turkey is crucial:

Without Turkey, it is difficult to see how a rule-based U.S.-led world order could be sustained in this region, and how a successful policy on containing chaos in the Middle East could be envisioned. Similarly, there are arguably no Muslim-majority nations apart from Turkey that can serve as a bridge with the Western world or achieve the democratic standards, to which Turks have grown accustomed and, inadvertently or not, still expect.

And yet, it has definitely changed, thanks not so much to national interests, but to failings in leadership. The U.S. will have to settle for something less loyal, less an alliance and more a transactional relationship. But then that seems to define these times pretty aptly.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Therese Raphael at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Philip Gray at [email protected]

Romania: The Truth Knowledge And The History Of This Great People

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

Romania

Introduction The principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia – for centuries under the suzerainty of the Turkish Ottoman Empire – secured their autonomy in 1856; they united in 1859 and a few years later adopted the new name of Romania. The country gained recognition of its independence in 1878. It joined the Allied Powers in World War I and acquired new territories – most notably Transylvania – following the conflict. In 1940, Romania allied with the Axis powers and participated in the 1941 German invasion of the USSR. Three years later, overrun by the Soviets, Romania signed an armistice. The post-war Soviet occupation led to the formation of a Communist “people’s republic” in 1947 and the abdication of the king. The decades-long rule of dictator Nicolae CEAUSESCU, who took power in 1965, and his Securitate police state became increasingly oppressive and draconian through the 1980s. CEAUSESCU was overthrown and executed in late 1989. Former Communists dominated the government until 1996 when they were swept from power. Romania joined NATO in 2004 and the EU in 2007.
History Prehistory and Antiquity

The oldest modern human remains in Europe were discovered in the “Cave With Bones” in present day Romania.[15] The remains are approximately 42,000 years old and as Europe’s oldest remains of Homo sapiens, they may represent the first such people to have entered the continent.[16] But the earliest written evidence of people living in the territory of the present-day Romania comes from Herodotus in book IV of his Histories (Herodotus) written 440 BCE, where he writes about the Getae tribes.

The province of Roman Dacia

Dacians, considered a part of these Getae, were a branch of Thracians that inhabited Dacia (corresponding to modern Romania, Moldova and northern Bulgaria). The Dacian kingdom reached its maximum expansion during King Burebista, around 82 BC, and soon came under the scrutiny of the neighboring Roman Empire. After an attack by the Dacians on the Roman province of Moesia in 87 AD, the Romans led a series of wars (Dacian Wars) which eventually led to the victory of Emperor Trajan in 106 AD, and transformed the core of the kingdom into the province of Roman Dacia.

Rich ore deposits were found in the province, and especially gold and silver were plentiful. which led to Rome heavily colonizing the province.[20] This brought the Vulgar Latin and started a period of intense romanization, that would give birth to the proto-Romanian. Nevertheless, in the 3rd century AD, with the invasions of migratory populations such as Goths, the Roman Empire was forced to pull out of Dacia around 271 AD, thus making it the first province to be abandoned.

Several competing theories have been generated to explain the origin of modern Romanians. Linguistic and geo-historical analysis tend to indicate that Romanians have coalesced as a major ethnic group both South and North of the Danube.[25] For further discussion, see Origin of Romanians.

Middle Ages

After the Roman army and administration left Dacia, the territory was invaded by the Goths, then, in the 4th century by Huns. They were followed by more nomads including Gepids, Avars, Bulgars, Pechenegs,and Cumans.

Bran Castle was built in 1212, and became commonly known as Dracula’s Castle after the myths that it the home of Vlad III Dracula.

In the Middle Ages, Romanians lived in three distinct principalities: Wallachia (Romanian: Ţara Românească—”Romanian Land”), Moldavia (Romanian: Moldova) and Transylvania. By the 11th century, Transylvania became a largely autonomous part of the Kingdom of Hungary,[33] and became the independent as Principality of Transylvania from the 16th century,[34] until 1711.[35] In the other Romanian principalities, many small local states with varying degrees of independence developed, but only in the 14th century the larger principalities Wallachia (1310) and Moldavia (around 1352) emerged to fight a threat of the Ottoman Empire.[36][37]

By 1541, the entire Balkan peninsula and most of Hungary became Ottoman provinces. In contrast, Moldavia, Wallachia, and Transylvania, came under Ottoman suzerainty, but conserved fully internal autonomy and, until the 18th century, some external independence. During this period the Romanian lands were characterised by the slow disappearance of the feudal system; the distinguishment of some rulers like Stephen the Great, Vasile Lupu, and Dimitrie Cantemir in Moldavia, Matei Basarab, Vlad III the Impaler, and Constantin Brâncoveanu in Wallachia, Gabriel Bethlen in Transylvania; the Phanariot Epoch; and the appearance of the Russian Empire as a political and military influence.

In 1600, the principalities of Wallachia, Moldova and Transylvania were simultaneously headed by the Wallachian prince Michael the Brave (Mihai Viteazul), Ban of Oltenia, but the chance for a unity dissolved after Mihai was killed, only one year later, by the soldiers of an Austrian army general Giorgio Basta. Mihai Viteazul, who was prince of Transylvania for less than one year, intended for the first time to unite the three principalities and to lay down foundations of a single state in a territory comparable to today’s Romania.[38]

After his death, as vassal tributary states, Moldova and Wallachia had complete internal autonomy and an external independence, which was finally lost in the 18th century. In 1699, Transylvania became a territory of the Habsburgs’ Austrian empire, following the Austrian victory over the Turks. The Austrians, in their turn, rapidly expanded their empire: in 1718 an important part of Wallachia, called Oltenia, was incorporated to the Austrian monarchy and was only returned in 1739. In 1775, the Austrian empire occupied the north-western part of Moldavia, later called Bukovina, while the eastern half of the principality (called Bessarabia) was occupied in 1812 by Russia.

Independence and monarchy

During the period of Austro-Hungarian rule in Transylvania, and Ottoman suzerainty over Wallachia and Moldavia, most Romanians were in the situation of being second-class citizens (or even non-citizens)[39] in a territory where they formed the majority of the population.[40][41] In some Transylvanian cities, such as Braşov (at that time the Transylvanian Saxon citadel of Kronstadt), Romanians were not even allowed to reside within the city walls.[42]

After the failed 1848 Revolution, the Great Powers did not support the Romanians’ expressed desire to officially unite in a single state, forcing Romania to proceed alone against the Ottomans. The electors in both Moldavia and Wallachia chose in 1859 the same person–Alexandru Ioan Cuza – as prince (Domnitor in Romanian).[43] Thus, Romania was created as a personal union, albeit a Romania that did not include Transylvania. Here, the upper class and the aristocracy remained mainly Hungarian, and the Romanian nationalism inevitably ran up against Hungarian one in the late 19th century. As in the previous 900 years, Austria-Hungary, especially under the Dual Monarchy of 1867, kept the Hungarians firmly in control even in parts of Transylvania where Romanians constituted a local majority.

In a 1866 coup d’état, Cuza was exiled and replaced by Prince Karl of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, who became known as Prince Carol of Romania. During the Russo-Turkish War Romania fought on the Russian side,[44] in and in the 1878 Treaty of Berlin, Romania was recognized as an independent state by the Great Powers.[45][46] In return, Romania ceded three southern districts of Bessarabia to Russia and acquired Dobruja. In 1881, the principality was raised to a kingdom and Prince Carol became King Carol I.

The 1878-1914 period was one of stability and progress for Romania. During the Second Balkan War, Romania joined Greece, Serbia, Montenegro and Turkey against Bulgaria, and in the peace Treaty of Bucharest (1913) Romania gained Southern Dobrudja.[47]

World Wars and Greater Romania
(1916-1947)

In August 1914, when World War I broke out, Romania declared neutrality. Two years later, under the pressure of Allies (especially France desperate to open a new front), on August 14/27 1916 it joined the Allies, for which they were promised support for the accomplishment of national unity, Romania declared war on Austria-Hungary.[48]

The Romanian military campaign ended in disaster for Romania as the Central Powers conquered two-thirds of the country and captured or killed the majority of its army within four months. Nevertheless, Moldova remained in Romanian hands after the invading forces were stopped in 1917 and since by the war’s end, Austria-Hungary and the Russian Empire had collapsed, Bessarabia, Bukovina and Transylvania were allowed to unite with the Kingdom of Romania in 1918. By the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, Hungary renounced in favour of Romania all the claims of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy over Transylvania.[49] The union of Romania with Bukovina was ratified in 1919 in the Treaty of Saint Germain,[50] and with Bessarabia in 1920 by the Treaty of Paris.

The Romanian expression România Mare (literal translation “Great Romania”, but more commonly rendered “Greater Romania”) generally refers to the Romanian state in the interwar period, and by extension, to the territory Romania covered at the time (see map). Romania achieved at that time its greatest territorial extent (almost 300,000 km2/120,000 sq mi[52]), managing to unite all the historic Romanian lands.

Romanian territory during the 20th century: purple indicates the Old Kingdom before 1913, orange indicates Greater Romania areas that joined or were annexed after the Second Balkan War and WWI but were lost after WWII, and pink indicates areas that joined Romania after WWI and remained so after WWII.

During the Second World War, Romania tried again to remain neutral, but on June 28, 1940, it received a Soviet ultimatum with an implied threat of invasion in the event of non-compliance.[53] Under pressure from Moscow and Berlin, the Romanian administration and the army were forced to retreat from Bessarabia as well from Northern Bukovina to avoid war.[54][55] This, in combination with other factors, prompted the government to join the Axis. Thereafter, southern Dobruja was awarded to Bulgaria, while Hungary received Northern Transylvania as result of an Axis arbitration.[56] The authoritarian King Carol II abdicated in 1940, succeeded by the National Legionary State, in which power was shared by Ion Antonescu and the Iron Guard. Within months, Antonescu had crushed the Iron Guard, and the subsequent year Romania entered the war on the side of the Axis powers. During the war, Romania was the most important source of oil for Nazi Germany,[57] which attracted multiple bombing raids by the Allies. By means of the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, Romania recovered Bessarabia and northern Bukovina from the Soviet Russia, under the leadership of general Ion Antonescu. The Antonescu regime played a major role in the Holocaust,[58] following to a lesser extent the Nazi policy of oppression and massacre of the Jews, and Romas, primarily in the Eastern territories Romania recovered or occupied from the Soviet Union (Transnistria) and in Moldavia.[59]

In August 1944, Antonescu was toppled and arrested by King Michael I of Romania. Romania changed sides and joined the Allies, but its role in the defeat of Nazi Germany was not recognized by the Paris Peace Conference of 1947.[60] With the Red Army forces still stationed in the country and exerting de facto control, Communists and their allied parties claimed 80% of the vote, through a combination of vote manipulation,[61] elimination, and forced mergers of competing parties, thus establishing themselves as the dominant force. By the end of the war, the Romanian army had suffered about 300,000 casualties.

Communism
(1947–1989)

In 1947, King Michael I was forced by the Communists to abdicate and leave the country, Romania was proclaimed a republic, and remained under direct military and economic control of the USSR until the late 1950s. During this period, Romania’s resources were drained by the “SovRom” agreements: mixed Soviet-Romanian companies established to mask the looting of Romania by the Soviet Union.

After the negotiated retreat of Soviet troops in 1958, Romania, under the new leadership of Nicolae Ceauşescu, started to pursue independent policies such as: being the only Warsaw Pact country to condemn the Soviet-led 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, and to continue diplomatic relations with Israel after the Six-Day War of 1967; establishing economic (1963) and diplomatic (1967) relations with the Federal Republic of Germany.[68] Also, close ties with the Arab countries (and the PLO) allowed Romania to play a key role in the Israel-Egypt and Israel-PLO peace processes.[69] But as Romania’s foreign debt sharply increased between 1977 and 1981 (from 3 to 10 billion US dollars),[70] the influence of international financial organisations such as the IMF or the World Bank grew, conflicting with Nicolae Ceauşescu’s autarchic policies. He eventually initiated a project of total reimbursement of the foreign debt by imposing policies that impoverished Romanians and exhausted the Romanian economy, while also greatly extending the authority police state, and imposing a cult of personality. These led to a dramatic decrease in Ceauşescu-popularity and culminated in his overthrow and execution in the bloody Romanian Revolution of 1989.

During the 1947–1962 period, many people were arbitrarily killed or imprisoned for political, economic or unknown reasons:[71] detainees in prisons or camps, deported, persons under house arrest, and administrative detainees. There were hundreds of thousands of abuses, deaths and incidents of torture against a large range of people, from political opponents to ordinary citizens.[72] Between 60,000 and 80,000 political prisoners were detained as psychiatric patients and treated in some of the most sadistic ways by doctors. It is estimated that, it total, two million people were direct victims of the communism repression.

Present-day democracy

After the revolution, the National Salvation Front, led by Ion Iliescu, took partial multi-party democratic and free market measures.[77][78] Several major political parties of the pre-war era, such as the Christian-Democratic National Peasants’ Party, the National Liberal Party and the Romanian Social Democrat Party were resurrected. After several major political rallies, in April 1990, a sit-in protest contesting the results of the recently held parliamentary elections began in University Square, Bucharest accusing the Front of being made up of former Communists and members of the Securitate. The protesters did not recognize the results of the election, deeming them undemocratic, and asked for the exclusion from the political life of the former high-ranking Communist Party members. The protest rapidly grew to become an ongoing mass demonstration (known as the Golaniad). The peaceful demonstrations degenerated into violence, and the violent intervention of coal miners from the Jiu Valleyled to what is remembered as the June 1990 Mineriad.

The subsequent disintegration of the Front produced several political parties including the Romanian Democrat Social Party (later Social Democratic Party), the Democratic Party and the (Alliance for Romania). The first governed Romania from 1990 until 1996 through several coalitions and governments and with Ion Iliescu as head of state. Since then there have been three democratic changes of government: in 1996, the democratic-liberal opposition and its leader Emil Constantinescu acceded to power; in 2000 the Social Democrats returned to power, with Iliescu once again president; and in 2004 Traian Băsescu was elected president, with an electoral coalition called Justice and Truth Alliance. The government was formed by a larger coalition which also includes the Conservative Party and the ethnic Hungarian party.

Post-Cold War Romania developed closer ties with Western Europe, eventually joining NATO in 2004, and hosting in Bucharest the 2008 summit.[80] The country applied in June 1993 for membership in the European Union and became an Associated State of the EU in 1995, an Acceding Country in 2004, and a member on January 1, 2007.

Following the free travel agreement and politic of the post-Cold War period, as well as hardship of the life in the post 1990s economic depression, Romania has an increasingly large diaspora, estimated at over 2 million people. The main emigration targets are Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, UK, Canada and the USA.

Geography Location: Southeastern Europe, bordering the Black Sea, between Bulgaria and Ukraine
Geographic coordinates: 46 00 N, 25 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 237,500 sq km
land: 230,340 sq km
water: 7,160 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Oregon
Land boundaries: total: 2,508 km
border countries: Bulgaria 608 km, Hungary 443 km, Moldova 450 km, Serbia 476 km, Ukraine (north) 362 km, Ukraine (east) 169 km
Coastline: 225 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
Climate: temperate; cold, cloudy winters with frequent snow and fog; sunny summers with frequent showers and thunderstorms
Terrain: central Transylvanian Basin is separated from the Plain of Moldavia on the east by the Carpathian Mountains and separated from the Walachian Plain on the south by the Transylvanian Alps
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Black Sea 0 m
highest point: Moldoveanu 2,544 m
Natural resources: petroleum (reserves declining), timber, natural gas, coal, iron ore, salt, arable land, hydropower
Land use: arable land: 39.49%
permanent crops: 1.92%
other: 58.59% (2005)
Irrigated land: 30,770 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 42.3 cu km (2003)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 6.5 cu km/yr (9%/34%/57%)
per capita: 299 cu m/yr (2003)
Natural hazards: earthquakes, most severe in south and southwest; geologic structure and climate promote landslides
Environment – current issues: soil erosion and degradation; water pollution; air pollution in south from industrial effluents; contamination of Danube delta wetlands
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: controls most easily traversable land route between the Balkans, Moldova, and Ukraine
Politics The Constitution of Romania is based on the Constitution of France’s Fifth Republic[131] and was approved in a national referendum on December 8, 1991.[131] A plebiscite held in October 2003 approved 79 amendments to the Constitution, bringing it into conformity with the European Union legislation.[131] Romania is governed on the basis of multi-party democratic system and of the segregation of the legal, executive and judicial powers.[131] The Constitution states that Romania is a semi-presidential democratic republic where executive functions are shared between the president and the prime minister. The President is elected by popular vote for maximum two terms, and since the amendments in 2003, the terms are five years.[131] The President appoints the Prime Minister, who in turn appoints the Council of Ministers.[131] While the president resides at Cotroceni Palace, the Prime Minister with the Romanian Government is based at Victoria Palace.

The legislative branch of the government, collectively known as the Parliament (Parlamentul României), consists of two chambers – the Senate (Senat), which has 140 members, and the Chamber of Deputies (Camera Deputaţilor), which has 346 members.[131] The members of both chambers are elected every four years under a system of party-list proportional representation.

The justice system is independent of the other branches of government, and is made up of a hierarchical system of courts culminating in the High Court of Cassation and Justice, which is the supreme court of Romania. There are also courts of appeal, county courts and local courts. The Romanian judicial system is strongly influenced by the French model, considering that it is based on civil law and is inquisitorial in nature. The Constitutional Court (Curtea Constituţională) is responsible for judging the compliance of laws and other state regulations to the Romanian Constitution, which is the fundamental law of the country. The constitution, which was introduced in 1991, can only be amended by a public referendum, the last one being in 2003. Since this amendment, the court’s decisions cannot be overruled by any majority of the parliament.

The country’s entry into the European Union in 2007 has been a significant influence on its domestic policy. As part of the process, Romania has instituted reforms including judicial reform, increased judicial cooperation with other member states, and measures to combat corruption. Nevertheless, in 2006 Brussels report, Romania and Bulgaria were described as the two most corrupt countries in the EU.

People Population: 22,246,862 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 15.6% (male 1,778,864/female 1,687,659)
15-64 years: 69.7% (male 7,718,125/female 7,791,102)
65 years and over: 14.7% (male 1,337,915/female 1,933,197) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 37.3 years
male: 35.9 years
female: 38.7 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: -0.136% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 10.61 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 11.84 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.13 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.69 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 23.73 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 26.81 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 20.46 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 72.18 years
male: 68.69 years
female: 75.89 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.38 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: less than 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 6,500 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: 350 (2001 est.)
Nationality: noun: Romanian(s)
adjective: Romanian
Ethnic groups: Romanian 89.5%, Hungarian 6.6%, Roma 2.5%, Ukrainian 0.3%, German 0.3%, Russian 0.2%, Turkish 0.2%, other 0.4% (2002 census)
Religions: Eastern Orthodox (including all sub-denominations) 86.8%, Protestant (various denominations including Reformate and Pentecostal) 7.5%, Roman Catholic 4.7%, other (mostly Muslim) and unspecified 0.9%, none 0.1% (2002 census)
Languages: Romanian 91% (official), Hungarian 6.7%, Romany (Gypsy) 1.1%, other 1.2%
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97.3%
male: 98.4%
female: 96.3% (2002 census)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 14 years
male: 14 years
female: 14 years (2006)
Education expenditures: 3.5% of GDP (2005)

Brexit bill becomes law, allowing UK to leave European Union

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Brexit bill becomes law, allowing UK to leave European Union

The EU (Withdrawal) Bill repeals the 1972 European Communities Act through which Britain became a member, and transfers decades of European law onto British statute books in a bid to avoid any legal disruption.

WORLD Updated: Jun 26, 2018 17:33 IST

Reuters
Reuters
London
European Union supporters, calling on the government to give Britons a vote on the final Brexit deal, participate in the People's Vote march in central London, Britain, on June 23.
European Union supporters, calling on the government to give Britons a vote on the final Brexit deal, participate in the People’s Vote march in central London, Britain, on June 23. (Reuters file photo)

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth granted royal assent to Prime Minister Theresa May’s flagship Brexit legislation on Tuesday, ending months of debate over the legislation that will formally end the country’s European Union membership.

The House of Commons speaker John Bercow said the EU withdrawal bill, passed by both houses of parliament last week, had been signed into law by the monarch, to cheers from Conservative lawmakers.

“I have to notify the House in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967 that her Majesty has signified her royal assent to the following acts … European Union Withdrawal Act 2018,” Commons Speaker John Bercow told lawmakers during a session of the house.

Should North And South America Copy EU Border Policies?

Should N. & S. America Copy EU Border Policies?

 

If you are from the Americas, simply meaning North of South America there is a good chance that you are aware of the border issues between the U.S. and Mexico. If you are aware of the U.S. President, Donald Trump then you are probably aware of his feelings about wanting a very high border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. It is my personal belief that there are good things and bad things about open, and about closed Borders between Nations. This should be obvious from the simple fact that there are good and bad people in every Nation, Religion and Ethnicity. I wish that I had the answers for everything concerning this issue, but I simply don’t. My goal with this article, just like almost all of the articles that I write, is to get the kind folks who read my articles to think deeper about the issues.

 

First I guess we would need to consider what we think about the EU example if we are going to possibly consider doing the same here in the Americas. Chancellor Merkel of Germany has been a huge driving force concerning open Borders though out all of Europe. The stats have shown that for many years the overall population of Western Europe has been declining. This would mean that, for example, you live in Germany and your economy is doing great, wages are up because companies are having to compete for quality workers, even untrained laborers. When the concept of Open Borders began in the Halls in Brussels it was pre-Arab Spring and pre-Syria melt down. The original idea would have made it much easier for a citizen of Spain or Italy to move to France if France’s job market and quality of life were better than the jobs and quality of life in Spain. This concept of Open Borders was not counting on their being several million refugees flooding into Europe because of turmoil outside of Europe’s Borders. With the large influx of Arab and Persian refugees flooding into Europe things like jobs, housing and the cost of food has become a big problem not only for the original residents but also for those migrating in. Even if there were no elevation in crime, petty or violent, you still have the makings for conflict.

 

Lets look at the ‘why’s’ for these migration issues for a moment please. Somethings come down to ‘animal’ instincts. Some may not like that statement but if you will think about it for a moment most of you will understand what I mean by that. For thousands of years, millions of years, animals have migrated with the seasons, with the food supplies, this is true of birds, big lizards and humans. Sometimes all of these creatures have migrated because of violence in their traditional homeland. With humans this usually means enslavement, death, or escape. For a moment lets look at the reality of Islamic Refugees flooding Europe. First we need to look at the why’s, why are these people risking their lives to migrate from Northern Africa and the Middle-East to Europe? Here are a few issues I would like you to think about for a moment. First lets start with unstable governments, horrible or no economies, not enough food, clean water or shelter and their biggest issue is violence/wars. My question to you is, under these realities wouldn’t you try to move, to get yourself and your family out of these conditions? Even under brutal Dictators these people mostly stayed in their home countries, in their own lands. You may well wonder why people would stay living under someone like al-Assad of Syria and I believe that the answer was simple, he made sure there was an efficient economy, he made sure that the lights were on and that there was food to eat and the trash got picked up off of the streets. Are there some very evil people like Jihadist mixing in with the masses? Of course there are and yes it is difficult to screen them out, but does Europe, does Christianity, throw out the starving, hungry and cold because of the one or two percent?

 

Now, lets talk about North and South American Countries for a moment please. When I Googled for the information I came up with a total of 55 ‘American’ Nations between the North, South, Caribbean and Central America. The Census from 2015 says that within these 55 Nations there are approximately 994 Million people living in these countries. China on the other hand has one Billion Three Hundred and Eighty Million residents, India has One Billion Three Hundred and Twenty Five Million people. The largest physical Nation on Earth is Russia and they have One Hundred and Forty-Five Million People. The U.S. it is said has Three Hundred and Twenty-Three Million residents.

 

To me it seems that President Trump only has a problem with our Southern Border with Mexico, not the much larger Border we share with Canada. I have never once heard him talk about building even a little short wall to divide our two Nations, have you? Do you ever consider if part of the issue here is skin color, or the reality that almost all of the people at our Southern Border are poor? Truth is that there are some violent gang members like members of the MS-13 folks mingled in with the families who are starving and have nothing who are only hoping for a safe place to live and to raise their children. Throughout the years I have spoken with quite a few people who were here working in the U.S. who were here illegally concerning the why question, why are they here instead of their homeland. The answers were always economic. I know that I never came across a person who told me that fear of gangs was a reason though I know that this is an issue for many and that many are too afraid to talk about that. All of the folks who would talk to me about why they are here instead of their homeland told me that they would much rather be home but that there are no jobs at home. These people were here working so that they could send money home to their families so that their families could survive. If here in the States, if there were no jobs, no money for food or housing but we found out that there were jobs in Mexico or Brazil, would you stay here and let your family starve to death? Some will say that they would wait here until they could get in legally and that sounds like a great idea, reality though is, how long, how many years can you and your family go without food or any housing while you wait on a list?

 

Since Mr. Trump has become President he has canceled several trade agreements with our allies and friendly Nation as well as putting higher tariffs on some of their imported products. One of the agreements that Mr. Trump hates is called ‘NAFTA’ this stands for the North American Free Trade Agreement. Free non-tariff trade between all Countries in North and South America was the goal of President Bill Clinton when he was President back in the 1990’s. Should all Nations open their Borders like Chancellor Merkel envisioned for the EU? Maybe we should build Mr. Trumps Wall (with him paying for it being the Mexican Government sure isn’t going too) and shoot anyone who tries to come into our Country any way other that through a designated doorway. Maybe instead of having an allowed immigration total of 50,000 people total each year maybe we should revise this number to about 350,000 with 250,000 of that total reserved for our ‘Sister’ Nations. These are just ideas, concepts of thought, what are your ideas? I know that I don’t have all the answers to this issue but it is an important issue that isn’t ever going to totally go away until there is a true workable solution. Personally I believe that the solution is going to have to be attacked with a multinational approach. Until every government quits selling out to the huge multi-national companies and creates quality employment and living standards for their own people these human waves of disparate people will only continue, and they will only grow in numbers. Friends, what other choice do these people really have?