France wants EU expansion freeze amid Balkans war warning

French President Emmanuel Macron laid it on the line for the European Parliament when he stated: “I don’t want a Balkans that turns toward Turkey or Russia, but I don’t want a Europe that, functioning with difficulty at 28 and tomorrow as 27, would decide that we can continue to gallop off, to be tomorrow 30 or 32, with the same rules.” (Reuters)
Updated 18 April 2018
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France wants EU expansion freeze amid Balkans war warning

  • Accession to the 28-nation EU has been a powerful driver of political and democratic reform in countries like Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro — which recently joined NATO — Serbia and its former territory of Kosovo.
  • EU and Balkans leaders will meet in Bulgaria on May 17, but no country in the region is likely to be invited to join, even though some are involved in membership negotiations.

Brussels: French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday ruled out any expansion of the European Union until the bloc is reformed, as a top EU official warned that the volatile Balkans could face a return to war if countries in the region have no hope of joining.
The Balkans spiraled into conflict in the 1990s as former Yugoslavia broke apart, but ethnic and nationalist tensions continue to simmer more than 20 years on.
EU member states must agree unanimously for any country to become a member. Accession to the 28-nation EU has been a powerful driver of political and democratic reform in countries like Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro — which recently joined NATO — Serbia and its former territory of Kosovo.
But with Britain set to become the first country to leave the bloc next year, Macron told EU lawmakers in Strasbourg, France that “I will only support an enlargement when there is first a deepening and a reform of our Europe.”
“I don’t want a Balkans that turns toward Turkey or Russia, but I don’t want a Europe that, functioning with difficulty at 28 and tomorrow as 27, would decide that we can continue to gallop off, to be tomorrow 30 or 32, with the same rules,” he said.
But European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, whose institution recommends whether countries should be allowed in, insisted that Europe’s door must remain open.
“If we remove from these countries, in this extremely complicated region, I should say tragically, a European perspective, we are going to live what we already went through in the 1990s,” Juncker said. “I don’t want a return to war in the Western Balkans.”
When he took over at the European Commission four years ago, Juncker vowed that there would be no EU enlargement during his term.
EU and Balkans leaders will meet in Bulgaria on May 17, but no country in the region is likely to be invited to join, even though some are involved in membership negotiations.
Turkey is also a candidate for membership and has been promised fast-track accession negotiations in exchange for ensuring that tens of thousands of migrants — many of them Syrian refugees — don’t enter Europe from its territory. However, the talks are at a virtual standstill.
Countries like France, Germany and Austria would prefer some kind of “privileged partnership” with Turkey to letting it join.


Indian politician gets life over 1984 anti-Sikh riots

Updated 1 min 38 sec ago
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Indian politician gets life over 1984 anti-Sikh riots

NEW DELHI: A veteran Indian politician was given a life sentence on Monday over anti-Sikh riots in 1984 that killed nearly 3,000 people following the assassination of then-premier Indira Gandhi.
The Delhi High Court found Sajjan Kumar, 73, guilty of instigating mobs during the mass killings triggered by the death of Gandhi at the hands of her Sikh bodyguards.
At the time Kumar was an MP with the then-ruling Congress party. He was acquitted in 2013 but the High Court reversed the judgment on appeal from federal investigators.
He was found guilty over a case involving the murder of five members of a Sikh family in New Delhi after key testimonies from eye witnesses.
A two-judge bench convicted Kumar for criminal conspiracy, promoting enmity and acting against communal harmony, the Press Trust of India and other local media reported.
“It is important to assure the victims that despite the challenges truth will prevail,” the court said, according to the NDTV news network.
“The aftershock of those atrocities is still being felt.”
Kumar, who has been asked to surrender by the end of this month, will have to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
The 1984 carnage erupted just hours after Gandhi was shot dead at her residence in New Delhi.
It lasted three days with Sikhs raped and murdered, their homes and businesses torched.
Gandhi was killed over her decision to use military force to expel Sikh separatists from inside the Golden Temple — Sikhism’s holiest shrine in the northern Indian city of Amritsar.
Critics accuse Congress of turning a blind eye to the killings and the role of leaders such as Kumar and Jagdish Tytler.
Last week, Congress named Kamal Nath as the chief minister of the central state of Madhya Pradesh despite allegations that he had led one of the mobs during the riots.
Kumar, Tytler and others have always denied any wrongdoing.
Kumar last won a parliamentary election in 2004 but was forced to withdraw from the 2009 polls over the rioting allegations.
Last month, another accused, Yashpal Singh was sentenced to death for murder and rioting.
Sikhs make up some two percent of Hindu-majority India’s population of 1.25 billion.