Connect with us

Current

NGO personnel go on trial in Greece

Voice Of EU

Published

on

Imagine a universe slightly different to our own. The north Atlantic land bridge that in prehistoric times allowed people to cross between Europe and the Americas on foot still connects the continents. 

The northwest Atlantic region is war-torn, a site of geopolitical feuding over the Arctic’s rich resources. A brutal civil war breaks out, sending millions on the move.

Ireland is on the front line as people flee to Europe. A narrow stretch of sea separates the land bridge from Donegal, and desperate people begin making the crossing in flimsy boats.

Tory Island and Árainn Mhór locals rise to the challenge, organising food and clothing for those washed up on their shores. Heart-rending images and repeat tragedies as boats of men, women and children sink in the waves draw in NGOs, who help with rescues and accommodation, with volunteers arriving from Italy and Greece.

Mediterranean countries’ jadedness over migration has become established as the predominant view across national leaderships and in EU institutions

In the worst year, 50,000 people arrive. Tory Island and Achill become home to sprawling makeshift camps where thousands share just a few taps and toilets, waiting to be processed in a backlogged system.

Ireland appeals for European Union help. Most of the people arriving aspire to travel onwards to wealthy Greece and Italy. But those countries are reluctant to take in asylum seekers, and plans for a shared response stall.

As the years drag on, local people on the islands become angry about the camps. Relations are bad between the British and Irish governments, and many suspect the British coast guard of allowing – perhaps even causing – crossings into Ireland.

Suspicion turns to the NGOs, too. Are they really helping to fix the situation or prolonging it? Far-right groups exploit the situation; across society, almost no one is happy with the status quo. A new government comes to power, vowing to reduce the number of people making the crossing and to restore the islands’ peaceful past.

In our world of course, the situation is the reverse. Mediterranean countries are those that geography has determined to be the arrival point for people fleeing Africa and the Middle East.

Over the past two years, their jadedness over migration has become established as the predominant view across national leaderships and in EU institutions.

The act of crossing a border without a visa has not always been considered illegal. But this understanding and terminology has been adopted by the EU’s border agency, Frontex, which has been granted the largest budget of any EU agency to build up a force of 10,000 by 2027.

If such an act is illegal, then those who assist in it commit a crime, according to the logic. This is the background to the criminal prosecution of people involved in the NGO sector, which has happened in multiple countries across the EU since 2016.

You drag search-and-rescue organisations… through the courts, imposing massive costs on individuals. The limbo is very damaging personally, psychologically, professionally

Seán Binder, who grew up in Kerry and volunteered in search and rescue on the island of Lesbos, is among 24 people associated with the non-profit Emergency Response Centre International to go on trial in Greece this week. The charges relate to his monitoring of boat movements in the narrow sea passage from Turkey, by listening to the open maritime emergency radio frequency Channel 16, and communicating such information over WhatsApp.

Binder is scathing about the strength of the Greek authorities’ case, which characterises this activity as espionage. He believes the point of the trial is not to convict him but to dissuade NGOs in a misplaced hope this will reduce crossings.

“You drag search-and-rescue organisations… through the courts, imposing massive costs on individuals. The limbo is very damaging personally, psychologically, professionally,” he told The Irish Times. “This acts as a chill factor.”

Greek migration minister Notis Mitarachi, while not commenting on the specific case, told The Irish Times the issue was not with NGOs in general but “the very small number of individuals who have broken the rules”.

“I don’t think Europe should be closed. We should offer support to people in need,” Mitarachi said. “But we should not let the smugglers, who get paid thousands of euro from people suffering, decide who comes to Europe.”

Greece has long accused Turkey of influencing migration flows as a tool to exert political pressure. The use of this tactic by the Belarusian regime on the EU’s eastern border has now made migration as a border security issue a priority for several member states for which it was previously a more remote concern.

A diplomat was recently asked who were the remaining “bleeding hearts” among the EU’s 27 members: those focusing on the need for a humanitarian response to migration.

“There are no more bleeding hearts,” the diplomat replied.


Source link

Current

Taoiseach’s family shaped by their working-class roots

Voice Of EU

Published

on

As a special needs assistant at Bunscoil Chríost Rí in Turner’s Cross on the south side of Cork city, Mairéad Martin-Richmond is often asked how she manages financially.

Martin-Richmond, a 59-year-old separated mother of two grown-up children, is a sister of Taoiseach Micheál Martin and says her family’s working-class roots keep her grounded.

Source link

Continue Reading

Current

Hines invests in industrial portfolio in Northern Italy

Voice Of EU

Published

on

Hines has reached a binding agreement for an off-market investment to acquire 20 logistics assets located between Emilia Romagna and Lombardy through the Italian fund HEVF II Italy managed by Prelios SGR on behalf of the Hines European Value Fund 2 (HEVF 2). The transaction involves the acquisition of the real estate portfolio from four different selling companies and the simultaneous 15-year lease of the same portfolio to Snatt Logistica Group, a leader in the third-party logistics (3PL) sector focusing exclusively on the fashion industry. The portfolio of 20 logistics assets provides a total of 200,000m² of logistics space around Milan, Parma, Reggio Emilia, and Bologna. They are strategic, well-established logistic centres that enjoy effective, rapid connections with Italy’s main cities and the rest of Europe.

 

“We are pleased to start 2022 with an important investment in the logistics sector that consolidates our presence in the main intersections in Northern Italy. At Hines, we believe in the potential of the logistics sector in Italy and have set an investment target of around €1bn in 2022,” commented Mario Abbadessa, senior managing director & country head of Hines Italy. “We are proud to collaborate with Snatt Logistica Group, which is an international 3PL logistics leader in the luxury fashion industry, and we are certain that we will be able to develop a shared path for growth, guided by common values, including ESG, which is key to our DNA.”

 

Paul White, senior managing director and fund manager for HEVF 2 at Hines, said: “This is an attractive portfolio of assets with a strong, innovative tenant at the forefront of Italy’s fast-growing third-party logistics sector for the fashion industry. We believe that e-commerce will continue to drive long-term demand for high-quality logistics facilities in Italy’s northern cities, pushing the value of these investments forwards, while there is also a significant opportunity to enhance the sustainability performance of existing assets here. This is aligned with our ESG objectives as recognised by GRESB, with HEVF 2 achieving the award of Overall Global Sector Leader in the Diversified Office/Retail category for sustainability performance in 2021.”

 

Source link

Continue Reading

Current

Latest Coveney gaffe shows new knack of ‘making small problems big’

Voice Of EU

Published

on

“Don’t mind your press releases,” a Fine Gael source was told by a more experienced hand on their first day in Leinster House; “If you want something out there, just say it in the PP [parliamentary party meeting].”

It’s a truism of Irish politics that these meetings – especially those of the two larger Government parties – leak like the proverbial sieve. This got worse during Covid, when virtual meetings meant members were unencumbered by the need to even appear interested, and journalists were freely briefed in real time. The content of the meeting, coupled with the observations of parliamentarians – arch, knowing, and unfiltered – populated twitter streams and news copy.

So, when Simon Coveney’s remarks about his surprise at the meeting between the Russian ambassador to Ireland and the head of the defence forces were promptly headline news, it can’t have been too much of a shock. “He knows he’s speaking at the leakiest meeting in Leinster House,” observed a source present.

Still, some in the room thought when Michael Creed raised the issue, Coveney would just “warble on like you normally do”. Instead, after a gap of several minutes while other questions were fielded, the Minister for Defence bit down. He said he was “surprised to put it mildly”, several sources present said, and questioned the judgement of it.

Afterwards, sources close to Coveney quickly asserted the Minister meant the tweet from the Russians, and the accompanying picture, were the issue, not the meeting. But multiple sources at the parliamentary party interpreted it as referring to the meeting, and what’s more, as a direct rebuke to the chief of staff. “The tone I got was he was f***ing livid,” said one source.

Either way, the remark was leaked, it was controversial, and early the next morning, Coveney was mending fences in the Dáil, expressing confidence in Clancy and contrition for having brought him into the line of political fire.

A kind interpretation, offered by some at the meeting, is that he feels honour-bound to respond fully to questions from parliamentary colleagues. There is likely truth to that. But equally, many believe he would have known his comments would have been controversial, open to interpretation as a rebuke to the head of the Defence Forces, and that it was meant as a shot across the bows.

Others postulate that – perhaps more worryingly – he didn’t detect the political risk inherent in the remarks, which the Opposition would say had undermined the Chief of Staff . “Simon should have known this was going to result in public comment,” said another person there.

That, in truth is the bigger concern – that Coveney’s bad run of form is down to a blunted political dexterity. “You’d know by the way he said it he wasn’t trying to cause controversy,” one colleague said – adding that it was, however, evidence of Coveney’s new knack of “making small problems into big ones”.

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates 
directly on your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!