EU urged to prolong border controls

INNOCENCE: A boy looks out through a window at refugee camp in Idomeni, near the Greek-Macedonian border, on Saturday. (AFP)
Updated 30 April 2016
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EU urged to prolong border controls

VIENNA: Austria and Germany said on Saturday they were in talks with the European Union’s executive body to extend temporary border controls brought in last year to help stem the migrant flow.

The measures — triggered in case of “a serious threat to public policy or internal security” — are due to expire on May 12.
“I can confirm that we are having discussions with the EU Commission and our European partners about this,” Austrian interior ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundboeck told AFP.
Member states must “be able to continue carrying out controls on their borders,” German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said in a written statement to AFP.
“Even if the situation along the Balkan route is currently calm, we are observing the evolution of the situation on the external borders with worry.”
His Austrian counterpart, Wolfgang Sobotka, said checkpoints along the Hungarian border had been reinforced in late April after “a rise in people-smuggling activity.”
“The introduction of a coordinated border management system with our neighboring countries after the [May 12] deadline expires would be the first step in the direction of a joint European solution,” Sobotka said.
The remarks came after German media had reported that several EU states were urging Brussels to extend the temporary controls inside the passport-free Schengen zone for at least six months.
The EU allowed bloc members to introduce the restrictions after hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees began trekking up the Balkans from Greece toward western and northern Europe last September.
Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany and Sweden have all clamped down on their frontiers as the continent battles its biggest migration crisis since the end of World War II.
“We request that you put forward a proposal, which will allow those member states who consider it necessary to either extend or introduce the temporary border controls inside Schengen as of May 13,” the six countries said in a letter addressed to the EU, according to German newspaper Die Welt.
A source close to the German government told AFP the letter would be sent on Monday.
The European Commission, which did not comment on the matter, is due to give its verdict on May 12 on whether Greece has done enough in recent weeks to protect the EU’s external borders.
In case of a negative assessment, the executive could give the green light for an extension of the border controls.
The influx of people fleeing violence and poverty in the Middle East and elsewhere has put a huge strain on the bloc’s 28 members.
While the flow via the Balkans route has slowed to a trickle after countries shut their borders, governments fear that the migrants will seek out new routes into the EU.
More than 26,000 migrants have already landed on Italy’s shores so far this year after setting off from Libya.


Sri Lanka president seeks talks to end power struggle

Updated 6 min 21 sec ago
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Sri Lanka president seeks talks to end power struggle

  • For 19 days, Sri Lanka had two claimants to the prime minister’s post
  • Both sides have also warned that a prolonged power vacuum could lead to unrest

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena on Sunday called crucial talks with political leaders in a bid to end a power struggle with the prime minister he sacked last month.
The Indian Ocean nation has been paralyzed since October 26 when Sirisena deposed Ranil Wickremesinghe as premier and replaced him with a former rival Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Wickremesinghe insists he is still prime minister while parliament voted twice last week to reject Rajapaksa.
“President Sirisena will chair a meeting of representatives of political parties in parliament today,” his office said in a statement.
“The president has called this meeting in order to end the current political unrest and conflict situation and to allow the normal functioning of the parliament.”
Brawling erupted in parliament with Rajapaksa loyalists smashing furniture, throwing chilli powder and projectiles at rivals in a bid to disrupt a no-confidence motion against the disputed prime minister.
After the second vote against Rajapaksa on Friday, Wickremesinghe demanded that his government be restored, but there has been no response from Sirisena yet.
Wickremesinghe has said Sri Lanka needs “stability” and that he was ready to work with Sirisena despite the personality clash that triggered the constitutional crisis.
After sacking Wickremesinghe on October 26, Sirisena dissolved parliament on November 9, but the Supreme Court suspended his action and restored parliament pending a full hearing into the legality of his actions.
For 19 days, Sri Lanka had two claimants to the prime minister’s post, but on Thursday parliament speaker Karu Jayasuriya held that he would recognize neither as premier. Officially, Sri Lanka no longer has a government.
Legislators say that with the administration at a stand still key sectors such as tourism are taking a serious battering.
Both sides have also warned that a prolonged power vacuum could lead to unrest.