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September 4, 2015

Daily News Brief

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UN Presses EU Migration Crisis

Editor's NoteThere will be no Daily Brief on Monday, September 7. The DB will resume on Tuesday, September 8.

Antonio Guterres, the UN high commissioner for refugees, called on the European Union to admit (Guardian) up to 200,000 refugees as part of a mass relocation plan that would be binding on EU member-states. In the wake of France and Germany’s calls for binding EU quotas, UK Prime Minister David Cameron pledged (Bloomberg) to take in thousands of additional refugees from Syria. Meanwhile, in Hungary, hundreds of asylum-seekers left (Deutsche Welle) Budapest’s Keleti train station, setting off on foot for Austria. Separately, Hungary closed its southern border with Serbia after three hundred migrants broke out of a nearby reception camp. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban warned that Europe is "threatened (WaPo) by a mass inflow of people" that could see tens of millions reaching its borders. 


"Europe's failure to measure up to the human disaster has radically increased the human, financial and political costs of the crisis. One of the bedrocks of the EU, the Schengen free-movement zone, is now in jeopardy. It is not too late for the bloc to recover from a crisis largely of its own making. As hardline, anti-migrant parties surge in many countries, European governments must show they can work together to tame the chaos, uphold international law and show compassion to those in need," writes Peter Sutherland in the Financial Times.

"The best way to ensure refugees don’t hop between European countries is not to build fences, which encourages more dangerous forms of smuggling, but to ensure that the asylum system in every EU state operates to the same high standards, gives refugees the same level of benefits and grants the same length of residency. A common policy would also ensure that refugees were distributed proportionally throughout the EU. As it is some countries, particularly Greece and Italy, share a disproportionately large of the burden of the crisis. But such a move would be resisted by most European countries as many politicians believe it would cost them political capital at home," writes Patrick Kingsley in the Guardian.

"The trip is made by boat, foot, rail and bus—and over the more than 1,000 miles between jumping off points in Turkey and the safety of Germany, smugglers are almost always involved in at least part of the journey, law enforcement officials say. Swedish authorities think that 90 percent of refugees reaching their territory used smugglers to ease at least a part of their trip. European officials estimate that the business runs in the billions of dollars," writes Michael Birnbaum in the Washington Post.


South Korea Lowers Growth Forecast

South Korea cut (WSJ) its growth forecast for 2016 from 3.6 percent to 3.3 percent amid fears of a sharp downturn in China's economy. Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan said that because of the close linkages between the Chinese and South Korean economies, any slowdown in China would have an "extremely huge impact" on South Korea.

China's market upheaval is rooted in its leaders' struggle to manage a transition toward a less state-controlled economy, writes CFR's Robert Kahn in this Interview.

INDONESIA: Indonesian authorities dropped (AFP) plans for a high-speed rail line connecting Jakarta with the city of Bandung, approximately 100 miles away. Chinese and Japanese firms were competing for the multi-billion dollar contract. 


Pakistani Army to Continue Waziristan Operations Through 2019

Pakistani civilian and military leaders decided to continue military operations (Express Tribune) in the tribal areas of North and South Waziristan through 2019 to secure the Afghan border. More than 3,400 militants have been killed since last June. Separately, a spokesman for the Pakistani foreign ministry said that the country remains ready to facilitate (AP) peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

This CFR InfoGuide explores the two Talibans.

INDIA: The Indian government canceled (AFP) a license allowing environmental NGO Greenpeace to receive foreign donations on Thursday. Authorities claim that the organization violated foreign funding rules and accused it of damaging India’s economic interests. Greenpeace has been critical of government mining, deforestation, and nuclear projects, saying that they stand to cause environmental damage.


Islamic State Destroys Palmyra Tombs

Militants with the self-proclaimed Islamic State blew up (BBC) three funerary towers at the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria, according to the country's antiquities chief. The destruction comes days after militants destroyed two of the city's main temples. The Islamic State seized control of Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in May.

YEMEN: At least twenty-two servicemen from the United Arab Emirates, operating under the Saudi-led coalition against Houthi rebels, were killed (Al Jazeera) in Yemen's central Marib province. The rebels claimed to have fired a rocket at a weapons cache, while Yemeni military sources said the soldiers died as a result of an accidental explosion.


Twin Suicide Blasts Hit Cameroon

At least nineteen people were killed and another 140 injured in two suicide bombings (Deutsche Welle) in northern Cameroon on Thursday. The attacks are the latest in a series allegedly carried out by Boko Haram. The Cameroonian army joined a regional offensive with Benin, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria earlier this year to fight the Boko Haram insurgency.

SOUTH SUDAN: The UN Security Council will meet on Friday to discuss ongoing violence (Sudan Tribune) in South Sudan despite a recent peace deal between President President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar.

This CFR Backgrounder examines the UN Security Council's history and structure. 


ECB Signals Possible Expansion of Stimulus Program

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said the bank would be willing (FT) to purchase additional EU government bonds in a bid to boost economic growth within the eurozone and shore up falling prices. The signal comes after the ECB revised growth and inflation rate forecasts for the nineteen-nation monetary union. 


Obama Hosts Saudi King

U.S. President Barack Obama will host (NYT) King Salman of Saudi Arabia at the White House on Friday. The two leaders meet as the Pentagon is working to finalize a $1 billion arms agreement with Riyadh that will bolster Saudi efforts against militants of the self-proclaimed Islamic State and its intervention in Yemen. The agreement is partly aimed at assuaging Saudi concerns about the regional consequences of July’s accord to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

GUATEMALA: Vice President Alejandro Maldonado was sworn in (Merco Press) on Thursday as Guatemala's new president after President Otto Perez Molina resigned. A judge ordered Perez Molina’s arrest during pre-trail hearings for his alleged involvement in a corruption scandal.