Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Tensions in Europe - 04/04/2017

Italy Furious After Austria Deploys Troops, Armored Vehicles To Border

4 July, 2017

An angry Italy summoned Austria's ambassador after the government in Vienna announced it was ready to re-introduce border controls and deploy troops and armored vehicles along the border to block any migrant influx out of Italy. Austrian Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil told Kronen Zeitung daily that troops could go to the Brenner Pass and that four Pandur armoured personnel carriers had been sent to the Tyrol region with 750 troops were on standby.

We need to prepare for the migration development in Italy, and I expect very promptly that border controls will have to be activated and assistance requested,” Hans Peter Doskozil told the online edition of the Krone daily, adding that a military deployment at the busy Alpine pass would be "indispensable if the influx into Italy [across the Mediterranean] does not diminish". While Austria has border checks with Hungary and Slovenia, elsewhere - such as on the border with Italy - it adheres to the EU open borders system.

Doskozil explained that “these are not battle tanks. These are armored vehicles without weapons which could block roads. These were already used during the refugee crisis 201/16 at the Spielfeld border crossing [with Slovenia],” just in case Italy got the impression that its northern neighbor was preparing to invade.

The Austrian border check point at Brenner.

The border controls will include the Alpine Brenner pass, which forms the border between Austria and Italy, one of the main mountain passes in the eastern Alps. There isn’t a strict time plan for the step-up in border security, but, according to Doskozil’s spokesman, “we see how the situation in Italy is becoming more acute and we have to be prepared to avoid a situation comparable to summer 2015” according to Reuters.

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said that Vienna is prepared to "protect" the frontier with Italy "if necessary," as he spoke with the Austria Press Agency. Later Italy's foreign ministry said it had summoned Austrian Ambassador Rene Pollitzer "following the Austrian government's statement about deploying troops to the Brenner (pass)".

The latest turmoil inside Europe's customs union comes two years after Germany admitted over a million mostly Syrian migrants, as part of Angela Merkel's "Open Door" (since shut) welcome, and just days after Italy's interior minister demanded other EU nations "step up" and relieve Italy of the sudden flood of inbound migrants.

The Italian governor of South Tyrol, Arno Kompatscher, sought to defuse tensions. According to BBC, he said Austria had issued similar warnings about the border previously, and the situation there remained "quiet and stable". Austria was gearing up for a general election in October, Mr Kompatscher noted. The anti-immigration Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) is expected to poll strongly.
People-smuggling gangs have been exploiting the violence and chaos in Libya. 

The shortest crossing from Libya to Italy is only about 460km (290 miles). Nearly 85,000 migrants and refugees arrived in Italy in the first half of this year, across the Mediterranean. The UN refugee agency UNHCR says that is about 20% more than in the first half of 2016.

To be sure, the UN joined Italy's appeal, with Vincent Cochetel, the UNHCR'S special envoy for the central Mediterranean, saying that “this is not sustainable. We need to have other countries joining Italy and sharing that responsibility." So far, nobody in the European "Union" has stepped up to "share the responsibility" of Europe's generous refugee acceptance program.

The latest report by the UNHCR, revealed another troubling statistics: few of the migrants coming to Europe will granted asylum: 30% of them are fleeing conflict or persecution, while 70% of those arriving in Italy are economic migrants. Most migrants and refugees are young, single men with little or no education, and almost 15% are unaccompanied minors.

Meanwhile, Italy has also warned that the current scale of migrant arrivals is unsustainable and that it could even close its ports and impound aid agencies' rescue ships. In other words, yet another refugee crisis in Europe is imminent.
It will be the second time this has happened in two years. In 2015, the EU's Schengen system, or the free movement across most European borders,  was overwhelmed by an influx of migrants and refugees, whoe reached Central Europe via the Balkans, and most sought asylum in Germany. Since then, tighter border controls in the Balkans have reduced the numbers heading north from Greece. Most of the influx to Austria was via Hungary. Many of those who came by train or on foot were refugees from Syria, Iraq and other conflict zones.
So far 101,000 migrants have entered Europe in 2017 via the Mediterranean and according to the latest figures, 2,247 people have died or are missing at sea.

Greek Coast Guard Fires At Turkish Freighter, 16 Bullet Holes Reported

3 July, 2017

A Turkish-flagged ship has comes under fire off the Greek island of Rhodes, according to Turkey's Deniz news, citing the ship’s captain, Haluk Sami Kalkavan, who told CNN TURK there were at least 16 bullet holes on board, although no injuries have been reported.

More details from CNN Turk, google translated:

According to the Deniz News Agency, the Greek Coast Guard boats from Iskenderun to the Gulf of Izmit have armed attack on the Turkish flagged M / V ACT named freighter. It was fired by Greek SSI boats on the island of Rhodes on the Turkish flagged dry dock named M / V ACT, which has a capacity of 4300 DWT carrying capacity towards the Izmit Gulf with the load it has loaded from ?skenderun.
M / V ACT named load cargo going to Izmit Gulf after ?skenderun's iron steel load, Greek Coast Guard boats in international waters on the outskirts of Rhodes are required to dock to Greek Harbor but the captain can not comply with this directive. he gave. While heading to Turkish territorial waters, the Greek Coast Guard M / V ACT carried out a military attack on the named freighter
'There are 16 holes on board'

Sami Kalkavan, the captain of the island told CNN TURK. Kalkavan said, 'Coast guard wanted immediate withdrawal of the ship from Port of Lodos, we did not accept it. They wanted to check, we did not accept it. They told us they would shoot if we did not stop. They did it. Now there are 16 holes in the ship. There's no danger of water getting in the ship, but we've done a great deal of danger. These were all good things about us, '' he said. 

Turkey's NTV adds that the Turkish Foreign Ministry is “in contact with relevant institutions” over the incident.
While it is unclear yet if this is the start of another major diplomatic incident between the volatile neighbors, NTV also adds that there are now 2 Turkish coast guard vessels off Rhodes following the incident.

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