Polish leaders welcome US troops: ‘We waited for decades’

Polish PM Beata Szydlo and Gen. Jaroslaw Mika attend an official welcoming ceremony for US troops deployed to Poland as part of NATO build-up in Eastern Europe, in Zagan, on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 15 January 2017
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Polish leaders welcome US troops: ‘We waited for decades’

ZAGAN: Polish leaders welcomed US troops to their country on Saturday, with the defense minister expressing gratitude for their arrival and calling it the fulfillment of a dream Poles have had for decades.
 
The ceremony in the western Polish town of Zagan comes some 23 years after the last Soviet troops left Poland. It marks a new historic moment — the first time Western forces are being deployed on a continuous basis to NATO’s eastern flank. The move has infuriated Moscow.
 
“Welcome to Poland,” Prime Minister Beata Szydlo told US troops in Zagan, the Polish town on the German border where the brigade will be headquartered, adding “we hope you feel at home.”
“The presence of American soldiers in Poland is another step in our strategy to ensure safety and security for Poland and the region,” she added.
 
“We have waited for you for a very long time,” Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz told the troops as snow fell. “We waited for decades, sometimes feeling we had been left alone, sometimes almost losing hope, sometimes feeling that we were the only one who protected civilization from aggression that came from the east.”
 
Hailing from Fort Carson, Colorado, the so-called “Iron Brigade” comprising some 3,500 soldiers and heavy equipment will also be deployed in NATO partners Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary on a rotational basis.
 
It is part of the Pentagon’s “Atlantic Resolve” operation aimed at countering security concerns triggered on NATO’s eastern flank by Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
“This is America’s most capable fighting force: A combat-ready, highly trained US armored brigade, with our most advanced equipment and weaponry,” US Ambassador to Poland Paul James said at the ceremonies, also attended by hundreds of Zagan residents.
 
“This force embodies America’s iron-clad commitment to honor our NATO treaty obligation to defend our NATO allies.”
The US troops and tanks began streaming into Poland Thursday as part of one of the largest deployments of US forces in Europe since the Cold War, an operation that Russia angrily branded a security “threat.”
 
The brigade’s deployment, ordered by the outgoing Obama administration, comes a week ahead of the inauguration of US President-elect Donald Trump, who has suggested his Republican administration will seek to ease tensions with the Kremlin.
 
Poland on Friday told Trump that any improvement in Washington’s ties with Moscow cannot come at the cost of harming Warsaw.
According to the defense minister, a total of 7,000 US and NATO troops will be stationed in his country in the coming years.
 
The Defense Ministry held “Safe Poland” picnics on Saturday in cities across the country, allowing average Poles to meet with Polish and newly deployed US troops, view military hardware and chow down typical Polish army grub including pea soup with ham.
 
Hundreds of residents attended the official welcome ceremonies in Zagan.
“The deployment is necessary and it’s great that they’re here. We can feel the support of our allies,” a Zagan resident who identified himself only as Pawel told AFP.
 


New Quebec law stresses migrants’ skills, thousands must reapply

Updated 33 min 49 sec ago
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New Quebec law stresses migrants’ skills, thousands must reapply

  • The law is similar to a proposed plan from US President Donald Trump that would shift his country’s visa system from family-based immigration toward bringing in more skilled workers
  • The law will attempt to more closely match the skills offered by would-be immigrants with the needs of the labor market in Quebec

MONTREAL: The Quebec provincial legislature on Sunday approved a controversial immigration bill that will replace a first-come, first-served standard for accepting migrants with one tied to an applicants’ skills.
The law is similar to a proposed plan from US President Donald Trump that would shift his country’s visa system from family-based immigration toward bringing in more skilled workers.
The law will attempt to more closely match the skills offered by would-be immigrants with the needs of the labor market in Quebec, Canada’s second most-populous province.
Under the new law, some 18,000 applications now on file will be shredded, affecting as many as 50,000 people, many of whom already live in the province.
The 18,000 existing applicants will have to restart the immigration process.
The provincial government promised to expedite processing of their new applications, saying qualified workers would have answers within six months rather than the current 36 months.
The 62-to-42 vote on the bill took place around 4 am (0800 GMT) at the end of a marathon session convened by the governing center-right Coalition Avenir Quebec, immigration minister Simon Jolin-Barrette announced on Twitter.
“We are modifying the immigration system in the public interest because we have to ensure we have a system which meets the needs of the labor market,” Jolin-Barrette told the National Assembly.
All three opposition parties opposed the measure, calling it “inhuman” and saying the government did not justify dropping the 18,000 pending applications.
“Honestly, I don’t think this bill will be seen positively in history,” Liberal Party MP Dominique Anglade said, according to the Montreal Gazette. “It’s the image of Quebec which gets tarnished.”
Premier Francois Legault’s government resorted to a special parliamentary procedure to limit debate over the proposal.
His party won power in October with a promise to slash by more than 20 percent the number of immigrants and refugees arriving each year in Quebec.
The assembly reconvened on Sunday and after sometimes-acrimonious debate passed a bill banning the wearing of religious symbols by public servants including police officers, judges, lawyers, prison guards and teachers.
However the new law will only apply to new recruits, with existing employees unaffected.
The proposal, also backed by Legault, puts the premier at odds with the multiculturalism advocated by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.