Mediterranean Migrants Crisis: EU Pledge Triple Fund For Rescue

EU-on-Mediterranean MigrantsEuropean Union (EU) leaders have pledged to triple fund for search and rescue operations aimed at migrant boats in the Mediterranean sea, following the crisis that claimed more than 750 lives.

The member states at the emergency summit convened in Brussels on Thursday, agreed to triple funding to $9.7 million a month for the EU’s border operation that patrols the Mediterranean Sea.

Leaders from the 28 nation bloc also said that they were discussing laying the ground for military action against traffickers.

Germany and France pledged two ships while Britain committed three to move into the Mediterranean, and other member states also lined up more vessels and helicopters that could be used to rescue migrants.

French President, Francois Hollande, said that he would seek a United Nations (UN) resolution to support the destruction of traffickers’ boats.

The summit came after more than 750 people died on a boat crossing from Libya on Sunday.

Earlier, funerals for 24 of the victims were held in Malta.

The number of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa has risen sharply in recent months.

More than 35,000 are thought to have crossed from Africa to Europe this year and some 1,750 have died while attempting the journey. The estimated toll from Sunday’s capsizing was the worst on record.

Migrants Boat Capsize: Captain Charged

The captain of the migrants boat that capsized has been arrested and chargedThe Tunisian captain of a boat that capsized off Libya on Sunday, killing hundreds of migrants, has been arrested and charged with reckless multiple homicide, Italian officials say.

According to BBC, the Captain has been charged alongside a member of the crew with favouring illegal immigration.

The charges came after the European Union (EU) set out a package of measures to ease the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.

Search and rescue operations will be stepped up, and there will be a campaign to destroy traffickers’ boats.

A homicide investigation has been opened into the disaster, he added.

After speaking to the survivors, the United Nations (UN) refugee agency said about 800 people died in the disaster. Meanwhile, earlier accounts had put the death toll at about 700.

“There were a little over 800 people on board, including children aged between 10 and 12,” said Carlotta Sami, of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Italy.

“There were Syrians, about 150 Eritreans, Somalians… They had left Tripoli at about 8:00am on Saturday.”

It was earlier reported that the ship was in distress in the Mediterranean and sent out an SOS.

EU Gave INEC 8 Billion Naira For Infrastructure – Nick Westcott

EU The European Union (EU) has given the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Nigeria about 8 billion Naira to help the umpire put in place necessary infrastructure and training that will ensure elections are credible, an official of the body said.

In an interview with Channels Television on Saturday, the EU Managing Director (MD) for Africa, Mr Nick Westcott, said the funds were given as part of the EU’s commitment to ensuring that Nigeria’s elections were also peaceful.

“We want to ensure the election is peaceful, violence-free, transparent and fair to enable everyone and anyone who wants to vote have every opportunity to do so. We want to also ensure that the result will be accepted by everybody,” he said.

The EU MD further expressed confidence that the INEC would do a good and honest job. “It would be clear without no doubt.

“We have provided global observation, with 90 people spread across the country, as independent observers to report what they see,” he said.

Peace pact

Mr Westcott further expressed hopes that the peace pacts signed by candidates of different political parties would be respected not only by the leaders but the followers and all the States across Nigeria.

“Listen to what your leaders are saying, to what the peace pacts are saying. Let’s make it a peaceful process. Let’s not manipulate it. Let’s not disrupt it, but let the people have their say. He said.

“What is important is an outcome everybody will accept because it is transparent.”

Mr Westcott pointed out that Nigeria’s election was important to the EU, because it is one of the biggest democracies in the world.

“The country should set examples to other African countries as well as the world.

“We have been involved with Nigeria from the onset .We have been in partnership with the country, doing business and trading with the country,” he further said.

“What matters in Nigeria really matters to us, we want a peaceful Nigeria, increasingly prosperous, so that our people can travel here and your people can travel to Europe for any form of business, they could come freely without hindrances”.

The EU MD said he would also be observing the election.

“The street of Abuja is so quiet which I have never experienced”. He said.

2015 Elections: Commonwealth Observers Will Not Go To North-East

commonwealthThe Commonwealth observer mission to Nigeria’s general elections says it would not deploy any observer to north-east Nigeria despite the progress made by the Federal Government to restore security in the region.

The Chairperson of the group and former President of Malawi, Dr Bakili Muluzi, said that the Commonwealth mission would not take any risks, but get the information required from other bigger observer groups, as the security situation there remains a challenge.

Dr Muluzi said that the Observer Group would deploy its members across the country to witness the conclusion of the election campaigns, observe voting, counting, results, check the conditions available for credible elections and freedom for voters to exercise their franchise.

The Commonwealth Observer Group to Nigeria for the elections, starting this weekend is a high-powered 10-man delegation; consisting mainly of current and former African leaders and lawmakers, serving members of National Electoral Commissions from around Africa, led by the former President of Malawi, Dr Bakili Muluzi.

Dr Muluzi told a news conference in Abuja that their duty is only to observe and make recommendations towards improving democracy in Commonwealth nations.

He also said that observers would not take the risk of going into the north east where the Nigerian military is still battling the insurgents.

The Commonwealth Observer Group has a mandate to observe and consider the various factors affecting the credibility of the electoral process and determine whether the elections is conducted according to the standards for democratic elections.

This will be done alongside other observer missions such as ECOWAS, European Union and the National Democratic Institute.

Mali Nightclub Attack Kills Five In Bamako

Mali NightclubThere’s been a deadly gun and grenade attack on a Mali nightclub leaving five people dead in the West African country’s capital, Bamako.

Reports say a French national was shot dead at La Terrasse Bar. Two Malian men were also killed as the gunmen fled the scene.

In addition, a Belgian man died when a grenade was thrown at his car in a nearby street and a third European died in hospital.

Witnesses say the attackers shouted “god is great” in Arabic.

Police sources said two people connected to the Mali nightclub incident had been detained.

French President, Francois Hollande, condemned the attack, referring to it as “cowardly”, while his Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, said that it would strengthen the former colonial power’s resolve to “fight terrorism in all its forms”.

Belgian Foreign Minister, Didier Reynders, also called it a “cowardly act of terror”.

The European Council President, Donald Tusk, said that the EU would “not be intimidated by terrorism, at home or abroad” and would “remain steadfast in support of Mali and its people”.

Jonathan Meets Presidents Of Congo, Equatorial Guinea

presidentPresident Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria on Monday met with the President of the Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou Nguesso and the President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Mbasogo and held discussions on issues of common interest to the countries.

The visit by the two Presidents is a consolidation of a decision made by the Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), during their summit in Yaunde, Cameroon, on February 16.

The three Presidents reviewed the current security challenges facing some countries of the Economic Communities of West African States (ECOWAS) and Central African Regions, especially terrorism and the menace of the insurgency by Boko Haram.

They unequivocally condemned the insurgency, its destructive activities such as indiscriminate killing of people, the wanton destruction of property, the abduction of innocent women and children, especially young school girls, who had been turned to sex slaves.

The Presidents underscored the imperative of a multi-prolonged approach to fighting the terrorist group and in particular, commended the initiative of the member states of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), for a Multi National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), to combat the Boko Haram insurgency.

They welcomed the active support of the international community, especially the African Union, the United Nations and other partners, for the efforts of the LCBC and the Benin Republic to enable the earliest deployment of the MNJTF.

While underscoring the fact that the MNJTF is wholly owned and driven by the member states of the LCBC, they urged the international community to render necessary material, financial support and assistance to its on-going efforts.

The three Presidents welcomed the proposal to have a joint summit of the ECOWAS and ECCAS to further mobilise international support for the MNJTF.

President Jonathan promised to contact the ECOWAS chairman on the proposal while the visiting presidents promised to relay the positive outcome of the meeting to the other Heads of States and government of the ECCAS.

Greece Agrees Deal With Eurozone

greeceGreece and eurozone nations have agreed a deal to extend financial aid after bailout talks, officials said.

An agreement removes the immediate risk of Greece running out of money next month and possibly being forced out of the single currency area.

It provides a breathing space for the new leftist-led Athens government to try to negotiate longer-term debt relief with its official creditors.

Euro zone finance ministers reached an agreement to extend Greece’s financial rescue by four months, according to officials on both sides.

Euro zone officials said the accord required Greece to submit by Monday a letter to the Euro-group, listing all the policy measures it planned to take during the remainder of the bailout period, to ensure they complied with conditions.

The deal removes the immediate risk of Greece running out of money next month.

It also provides a breathing space for the new Greece government to try to negotiate longer-term debt relief with its EU creditors.

The euro gained against the US dollar on Friday following the announcement.

Sebastien Galy, a foreign exchange analyst at Societe Generale, said: “It certainly looks like we’re moving away from disaster. It should help a stress that has been building up in the market to be released.”

ECOWAS Asks Nigeria’s Presidential Candidates To Respect Constitution

GHANA-CEDEAO-KUFUORThe Economic Communities Of West African States (ECOWAS) has appealed to Nigerians and all the major gladiators in the Nigeria’s presidential election to be calm and show understanding and respect to the constitution, as the oil rich nation prepares for its general elections.

The President of the ECOWAS, Mr Kadre Ouedraogo, made the appeal at a meeting with Nigeria’s President, Goodluck Jonathan, in Abuja on Monday.

At the meeting, Mr Ouedraogo presented a document he called the findings and recommendations of the commission towards a peaceful conduct of elections to President Jonathan.

According to him, the ECOWAS has been monitoring situation in Nigeria following the postponement of the election date and has been meeting with the major presidential candidates to intimate them on their findings.

The meeting with the ECOWAS President came after President Jonathan had met with the European Union observer group led by Mr Santiago Fisas.

President Jonathan assured the group that the May 29 handover date was sacrosanct.

The leader of the EU election observer group, Mr Santiago Fisas, told reporters that they were in the presidential villa to exchange views with the president about the elections.

He said that the group had met with the presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress, Mohammadu Buhari.

The president also told the EU commission that there was no room for interim National government as being speculated in some quarters saying that those who are talking about that were just being mischievous.

“That is not the agenda of government,” president Jonathan said.

President Jonathan was apparently referring to a statement made by a former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, about a plan for an interim government.

Addressing a gathering in Ogun State, after he withdrew his membership of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party,  Obasanjo said: “Anybody in his right senses talks of interim government. Where is it in our constitution? But some of them are working for it. God will not allow them”. 

Russia President, Putin Renounces Right To Send Troops To Ukraine

Russian President Putin attends a state awards ceremony in the KremlinRussia President, Vladimir Putin, have  asked the Upper House, on Tuesday, to revoke the right it had granted him to order a military intervention in Ukraine in defence of Russian-speakers there, the Kremlin said in a statement.

This step by Putin would certainly be welcomed by the West as a sign that Moscow was ready to help engineer a settlement in Ukraine’s largely Russian-speaking east, where a pro-Russian uprising against Kiev began in April.

“The president has filed a proposal to the Federation Council on cancelling…the resolution on the use of Russia’s Armed Forces on the territory of Ukraine,” the Kremlin said in a statement on its website.

Federation Council Speaker, Valentina Matviyenko, said that the chamber would discuss Putin’s request on Wednesday.

Putin’s chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov, said Russia now expected Kiev to respond with measures of its own, without specifying what these should be.

President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine described it as “first practical step” following Putin’s statement of support last weekend for Poroshenko’s peace plan for easternUkraine.

In the March 1 resolution, the Federation Council had granted Putin the right to “use the Russian Federation’s Armed Forces on the territory of Ukraine until the social and political situation in the country normalises”.

That resolution, with the eventual annexation of Crimea from Ukraine by Russia, helped push East-West relations to their lowest ebb since the Cold War and led the United States and Europe to impose sanctions on Moscow.

European Union foreign ministers, on Monday, had held out the prospect of further sanctions if Russia did not do more to support a peace process in eastern Ukraine, and had also asked it to revoke the March 1 resolution.

Like many of eastern Ukraine’s Russian speakers, Moscow was infuriated by the toppling in January of President Viktor Yanukovich, after he pulled out of an association agreement with the EU in favour of closer ties with Moscow.

 

U.S, EU To Work Together On Tougher Russia Sanctions

Members of Ukrainian self-defence units hold a rally outside an office of Russia's Sberbank, in KievThe United States and the European Union agreed on Wednesday to work together to prepare possible tougher economic sanctions in response to Russia’s behavior in Ukraine, including on the energy sector, and to make Europe less dependent on Russian gas.

U.S. President Barack Obama said after a summit with top EU officials that Russian President Vladimir Putin had miscalculated if he thought he could divide the West or count on its indifference over his annexation of Crimea.

Leaders of the Group of Seven major industrial powers decided this week to hold off on sanctions targeting Moscow’s economy unless Putin took further action to destabilise Ukraine or other former Soviet republics.

“If Russia continues on its current course, however, the isolation will deepen, sanctions will increase and there will be more consequences for the Russian economy,” Obama told a joint news conference with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

In the keynote address of his European trip, Obama later told an audience of 2,000 young people that the West would prevail if it remained united, not by military action but by the power of its values to attract ordinary Ukrainians.

Russia would not be “dislodged from Crimea or deterred from further escalation by military force. But with time, so long as we remain united, the Russian people will recognise that they cannot achieve security, prosperity and the status they seek through brute force,” he said.

In the speech in a Brussels concert hall, which resembled a point-by-point rebuttal of Putin’s March 18 Kremlin speech announcing the annexation of Crimea, Obama voiced respect for a strong Russia but said “that does not mean that Russia can run roughshod over its neighbors”.

He also said NATO would step up its presence in new east European member states bordering on Russia and Ukraine to provide reassurance that the alliance’s mutual defense guarantee would protect them.

Russian forces in Crimea captured the last Ukrainian navy ship after firing warning shots and stun grenades, completing Moscow’s takeover of military installations in the Black Sea peninsula. Kiev has ordered its forces to withdraw.

Western concern has focused on Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s eastern border amid Kremlin allegations of attacks on Russian speakers in that industrial region of the country.

But Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, said it seemed likely that the firm Western response so far would stop Russia undertaking what he called “other acts of aggression and interference on the territory of Ukraine”.

The new Ukrainian authorities announced a radical 50 percent increase in the price of domestic gas from May 1, meeting an unpopular condition for International Monetary Fund aid which Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovich had refused before he was ousted last month.

The IMF is expected to announce a bailout package for Ukraine of about $15 billion as early as Thursday, the Financial Times said.

Kiev is seeking IMF assistance to help stabilise its shattered economy. Russia has said it will increase the price it charges Ukraine for gas from April.

We Will Support Nigeria To Defeat Terrorism – EU

The European Union on Tuesday said it would continue to support Nigeria “until terrorism is defeated” in the country.

The Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the EU to Nigeria and ECOWAS, David Macrae (Middle) addressing the media

The Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the EU to Nigeria and ECOWAS, David MacRae said this at a media luncheon hosted by the commission in Abuja.

Mr MacRae, however, said that terrorism should be tackled within the ambit of the rule of law.

He commended the Federal Government for its recent initiatives in addressing the issue.

“We welcome recent steps taken by government in recent weeks towards addressing insecurity in parts of the north, including the creation of two committees with the mandate to take a holistic look on radicalisation and factors that fuel it.

“The EU is convinced that a comprehensive approach based on security, good governance, development and improvement of social conditions is key to fighting terrorism and radicalisation”, he said.

The EU Ambassador also condemned the killing in Baga community of Borno state adding that measures should be put in place by the government to protect the lives and property of citizens.

He stated that those responsible for the action should be brought to justice accordingly.

“EU welcomes the decision of the Nigerian authorities to launch a full scale investigation into the Baga incident and is looking forward to thorough inquiry and bringing to justice anyone who may be responsible for any unlawful killings and conduct,” he added.