Category: Politics Scene
With its cobblestone paving and Georgian façades, tranquil Hill Street is a haven in Edinburgh’s busy New Town. Compared to the Scottish capital’s looming castle or eerie closes, it doesn’t seem like a street with a secret.
Walk slowly, though, and you might notice something odd. Written in gold gilt above a door framed by two baby-blue columns are the words, “The Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel) No 1”. Further up the wall, carved into the sandstone, is a six-pointed star detailed with what seem – at least to non-initiates – like strange symbols and numbers.
Located at number 19 Hill Street, Mary’s Chapel isn’t a place of worship. It’s a Masonic lodge. And, with its records dating back to 1599, it’s the oldest proven Masonic lodge still in existence anywhere in the world.
That might come as a surprise to some people. Ask most enthusiasts when modern Freemasonry began, and they’d point to a much later date: 1717, the year of the foundation of what would become known as the Grand Lodge of England. But in many ways, Freemasonry as we know it today is as Scottish as haggis or Harris tweed.
From the Middle Ages, associations of stonemasons existed in both England and Scotland. It was in Scotland, though, that the first evidence appears of associations – or lodges – being regularly used. By the late 1500s, there were at least 13 established lodges across Scotland, from Edinburgh to Perth. But it wasn’t until the turn of the 16th Century that those medieval guilds gained an institutional structure – the point which many consider to be the birth of modern Freemasonry.
Take, for example, the earliest meeting records, usually considered to be the best evidence of a lodge having any real organisation. The oldest minutes in the world, which date to January 1599, is from Lodge Aitchison’s Haven in East Lothian, Scotland, which closed in 1852. Just six months later, in July 1599, the lodge of Mary’s Chapel in Edinburgh started to keep minutes, too. As far as we can tell, there are no administrative records from England dating from this time.
“This is, really, when things begin,” said Robert Cooper, curator of the Grand Lodge of Scotland and author of the book Cracking the Freemason’s Code. “[Lodges] were a fixed feature of the country. And what is more, we now know it was a national network. So Edinburgh began it, if you like.”
I met Cooper in his office: a wood-panelled, book-stuffed room in the Grand Lodge of Scotland at 96 George Street, Edinburgh – just around the corner from Mary’s Chapel. Here and there were cardboard boxes, the kind you’d use for a move, each heaped full with dusty books and records. Since its founding in 1736, this lodge has received the records and minutes of every other official Scottish Masonic lodge in existence. It is also meant to have received every record of membership, possibly upwards of four million names in total.
That makes the sheer number of documents to wade through daunting. But it’s also fruitful, like when the Grand Lodge got wind of the Aitchison’s Haven minutes, which were going for auction in London in the late 1970s. Another came more recently when Cooper found the 115-year-old membership roll book of a Scottish Masonic lodge in Nagasaki, Japan.
“There’s an old saying that wherever Scots went in numbers, the first thing they did was build a kirk [church], then they would build a bank, then they would build a pub. And the fourth thing was always a lodge,” Cooper said, chuckling.
That internationalism was on full display in the Grand Lodge of Scotland’s museum, which is open to the public. It was full of flotsam and jetsam from around the world: a green pennant embroidered with the “District Grand Lodge of Scottish Freemasonry in North China”; some 30 Masonic “jewels” – or, to non-Masons, medals – from Czechoslovakia alone.
Of course, conspiracy theorists find that kind of reach foreboding. Some say Freemasonry is a cult with links to the Illuminati. Others believe it to be a global network that’s had a secret hand in everything from the design of the US dollar bill to the French Revolution. Like most other historians, Cooper shakes his head at this.
“If we’re a secret society, how do you know about us?” he asked. “This is a public building; we’ve got a website, a Facebook page, Twitter. We even advertise things in the press. But we’re still a ‘secret society’ running the world! A real secret society is the Mafia, the Chinese triads. They are real secret societies. They don’t have a public library. They don’t have a museum you can wander into.”
Some of the mythology about Freemasonry stems from the mystery of its early origins. One fantastical theory goes back to the Knights Templar; after being crushed by King Philip of France in 1307, the story goes, some fled to Argyll in western Scotland, and remade themselves as a new organisation called the Freemasons. (Find out more in our recent story about the Knights Templar).
Others – including Freemasons themselves – trace their lineage back to none other than King Solomon, whose temple, it’s said, was built with a secret knowledge that was transferred from one generation of stonemason to the next.
A more likely story is that Freemasonry’s early origins stem from medieval associations of tradesmen, similar to guilds. “All of these organisations were based on trades,” said Cooper. “At one time, it would have been, ‘Oh, you’re a Freemason – I’m a Free Gardener, he’s a Free Carpenter, he’s a Free Potter’.”
For all of the tradesmen, having some sort of organisation was a way not only to make contacts, but also to pass on tricks of the trade – and to keep outsiders out.
But there was a significant difference between the tradesmen. Those who fished or gardened, for example, would usually stay put, working in the same community day in, day out.
Not so with stonemasons. Particularly with the rush to build more and more massive, intricate churches throughout Britain in the Middle Ages, they would be called to specific – often huge – projects, often far from home. They might labour there for months, even years. Thrown into that kind of situation, where you depended on strangers to have the same skills and to get along, how could you be sure everyone knew the trade and could be trusted? By forming an organisation. How could you prove that you were a member of that organisation when you turned up? By creating a code known by insiders only – like a handshake.
Even if lodges existed earlier, though, the effort to organise the Freemason movement dates back to the late 1500s. A man named William Schaw was the Master of Works for King James VI of Scotland (later also James I of England), which meant he oversaw the construction and maintenance of the monarch’s castles, palaces and other properties. In other words, he oversaw Britain’s stonemasons. And, while they already had traditions, Schaw decided that they needed a more formalised structure – one with by-laws covering everything from how apprenticeships worked to the promise that they would “live charitably together as becomes sworn brethren”.
Scotland’s true Masonic history, it turns out, is more hidden than the church that Dan Brown made famous. It’s just hidden in plain sight: in the Grand Lodge and museum that opens its doors to visitors; in the archivist eager for more people to look at the organisation’s historical records; and in the lodges themselves, tucked into corners and alleyways throughout Edinburgh and Scotland’s other cities.
Their doors may often be closed to non-members, but their addresses, and existence, are anything but secret.
The UK has voted to quit the European Union – a decision that will bring change for currencies, trade rules, and the status of UK markets and regulations. It’s a transition that could take several years to play out in full, so what does it mean for the items on your average UK shopping list or household budget?
The value of the pound versus the euro, dollar and other currencies sank following the results and the outcome will likely mean a rise in inflation, albeit from a very low level.
BBC Capital wanted to find out if and how a vote for the UK to quit the EU might impact the cost of the things we love, use and rely on every day – some might feature in your shopping basket, while others might be something your family spends on annually. This is an informed view of what could happen, but not a conclusive or definitive view as many drivers of prices currently remain unclear.
We have gone to multiple expert sources for the information contained in this infographic – trade bodies, unions, government organisations, think tanks, financial institutions and research organisations – some of whom have expressed publicly whether they believe the UK should vote in or out.
The Healthy Option
Nearly 90% of UK tomato imports come from the EU, mostly the Netherlands (40%) and Spain (35%). Higher import tariffs could raise prices. UK tomato production may step up to fill the import gap.
The price of clothes and footwear might fall if Brexit allowed the UK circumvent import tariffs. Foreign retails would still be welcome on our high streets, local authorities are committed to free competition.
If the UK is no longer bound by an EU rule banning rooming charges from April 2017 consumers could continue to pay a premium to use their phone abroad. Phone companies may well be unwilling to put charges back up just for UK consumers.
Your Daily Vitamin C Shot
Citrus fruit is not grown commercially in the UK, 770.000 tonnes of fruit was imported in 2015, over 40% from Spain. Rising import costs could affect prices.
Current customs rules allow virtually unlimited amount of duty paid alcohol and cigarettes to be brought to the UK from the EU. ıf the allowance tightens, expect fewer booze cruises between Britain and France.
French, Spanish and Italian wines could become more expensive if import costs rise. The EU currently charges a 32% tariff on its wine exports to non EU countries.
The UK is likely to negotiate a a better deal than this and would be free to remove existing import tariffs on ‘New World’ from countries such as New Zealand and California.
EU Budget Contribution
Likely to fall by around 25%, according to HM Treassury. Norway and Switzerland contribute to the UK budget, but a lower level than EU members. The UK would also be able to decide how to spend the money transferred back to it from the EU.
The Dinner Party Must-Have
Harvesting asparagus is highly seasonal, labour intensive work often performed by EU migrants, who made up 6% of UK agricultural workers in 2014. Labour shortages could hit UK production.
Half of UK farming income comes from EU subsidies. While a Brexit could could give back more control over spending, many are worried a lot of farmers would quickly go out of business without the support of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Your Fromagerie Habit
The UK import 62% of of its cheese, and 98% of this comes from the EU. If prices rise, consumers may be tempted to swap Gouda and Roquefort for Cheddar and Stilton.
The UK has its thriving cheese industry and higher initial prices may provide an incentive to increase domestic production, driving down prices in the long run.
If the pound falls, then foreign currency will become more expensive, according to the Association of British Travel Agents. For budget airfares to remain, the UK will have to negotiate access to the European Common Aviation Area (ECAA), which includes several non-EU mombers. Alternatively , the UK could try to reach a bilateral aviation agreement with the EU.
Importing cars from Europe could take longer and cost more. Cutting EU red tape could affect pricing either up or down. The Euro could also fall, which would cancel out changes in the value of the pound for travellers to Europe.
We all knew the Panama Papers would inspire a movie at some point, but there’s already a feature in the works that’s coming together quickly—and enticingly.
Just months after journalists exposed records from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonesca that detailed illegal financial activities committed by the rich and powerful, big names are already attempting to bring the scandal to the big screen—including Steven Soderbergh, who’s attached to produce and possibly direct the first film about the incident.
Soderbergh will adapt the yet-to-be-published book Secrecy World by Jake Bernstein—an award-winning journalist who was part of the team that broke the news, bringing more than 11 million records into the public eye—Deadline reports. Bernstein will executive produce, while frequent Soderbergh collaborator Scott Z. Burns will pen the film’s script.
A Panama Papers movie would mark the fourth project Soderbergh and Burns have worked on together, following Contagion, Side Effects, and perhaps most relevantly The Informant!, which managed to spin a comic yarn out of price fixing within agro-business. But if Spotlight’s Best Picture win at last year’s Academy Awards taught us anything, it’s that journalism movies don’t need to be funny to get attention—as long as they’re exposing something that lands with a bang.
Donald Trump is everywhere right now and while we know an awful lot about him, we can’t help but think that we know very little about his family.
Three marriages and five children later, Trump has got quite the family fan club behind him, all of which have their own achievements to boast.
Despite the fact not all of them want to follow in their father’s political footsteps, they are all doing incredibly well for themselves and it is about time someone sung their praises.
Not to mention, if this father-of-five’s promiscuity is anything to go by, there are bound to be a interesting facts lurking in the closet…
Without further ado, it is time to formally introduce you to Donald Jr, Ivanka, Eric, Tiffany and Barron.
Trump’s eldest daughter Ivanka has become a successful businesswoman in her own right. She’s not only the executive vice president of acquisitions and development for her father’s company, but she had a long career as a model before becoming a New York Times best-selling author.
In July 2009, Ivanka changed her name to Yael after she converted to Judaism. The busy mom of 3 loves her new kosher lifestyle admitting that they are pretty observant and thoroughly enjoys the family time they have during the sabbath.
Stunning beauty Ivanka, has also launched her own Ivanka Trump Brand, which includes a jewelry line, a fashion label and a lifestyle collection.
Donald Trump became the presumptive Republican presidential nominee this week, casting a more serious light on the policy proposals he has put forth during the GOP contest. Here’s a quick look at how some of Trump’s economic ideas could broadly affect your finances should he prevail with both voters and Congress (keeping in mind that his plans are likely to evolve as he prepares further policy speeches and chooses his running mate).
Your purchasing power
The hefty tariffs on imports Trump has proposed include many goods we take for granted and don’t have the capacity to produce within our own borders, said Mark Hamrick, Washington bureau chief and senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com. “Certainly agricultural sources in Mexico, they either become more expensive or unavailable,” Hamrick said. “Good luck eating dandelion greens for four months of the year.”
The threat of a 35 percent tax on auto imports from Mexico troubles Sam Stovall, U.S. equity strategist for S&P Global Market Intelligence. “That’s certainly going to hurt, because basically everything is imported, either in U.S. or foreign-made cars,” he said. And tariffs often spark retaliation, affecting U.S. exports as well.
On the other hand, if the tough talk succeeds in wresting concessions from partners, it could improve our trading position, Stovall said.
If Trump’s tariffs were enacted, including a 45 percent levy on Chinese goods, it would badly damage the economy and cost a lot of jobs, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. And if his tough immigration stance were put in place, Zandi warned, “it would be, to steal a phrase from him, a disaster.”
“If Trump could deport even a fraction of the 11 million immigrants, it would be very disruptive to business,” he said, creating a hole in an important sector of the labor force and removing a lot of consumers from the economy. “If he deported all 11 million, it could lead to a recession. It would be a mess.”
Repatriating foreign earnings and possibly enacting some corporate tax reform, as Trump has discussed, could bolster stocks and benefit investors. Companies have twice as much cash on their books as they did 10 years ago, Stovall noted, and a lot of it is overseas. If they get more favorable tax treatment in the U.S. and bring that money back, they “will have additional money with which to do dividends, do share buybacks, and it could help companies looking to build new plants and equipment.” That, he said, could bring “better performance of the shares of the companies that we’re invested in in our 401(k)s.”
But a repeal of the Affordable Care Act “would do nothing but throw the health-care industry into a tailspin,” Stovall said.
A recent change in the candidate’s views on the minimum wage would affect such industries as retail and restaurants. Trump said earlier that he would not raise the wage but now says he is “open to doing something” with it, though Stovall doesn’t think he would go as far as $15 an hour.
There really is something to the maxim that Wall Street dislikes uncertainty, said Hamrick. It weighs on financial markets and the performance of the economy. “That Trump is unpredictable is quite distasteful for many people trying to price in risk and opportunity,” he said. “Certain businesses are going to be cautious about making investments until they have a bit more clarity, and that includes clarity on how the leadership of the Congress is determined. There’s a lot of cash sloshing around in the system, but it’s not being put to work.”
If a business is booming, the uncertainly is less of a factor, he said. “If you’re a business on the margin, however, and wondering if you should take a risk, you might be more risk-averse.”
The Tax Policy Center, which analyzed Trump’s proposal to reduce marginal rates for individuals and businesses while boosting standard deductions, says the plan would provide an average tax cut of $1.3 million to the top 0.1 percent of earners. It could also mean $9.5 trillion less in federal revenue over its first decade, the Center figures. If huge spending cuts don’t come with it, the group said, it “could increase the national debt by nearly 80% of gross domestic product by 2036, offsetting some or all of the incentive effects of the tax cuts.”
The proposal is in flux, however. Trump told CBNC this week that “when you put out a tax plan, you are going to start negotiating.”
The smartest move you could make right now, amid the election year’s sound and fury, is simply to focus on building your financial future, said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones. With so much uncertainty on both the domestic and foreign fronts, that means owning both bonds and stocks, especially international stocks while the dollar is strong, and diversifying both across and within asset classes.
And no matter what the candidates say, remember that the U.S. is running a budget deficit, so you need to prepare for the possibility of higher taxes, Warne said. Investing in tax-free municipal bonds and taking advantage of any tax-deferred accounts, such as IRAs and 401(k)s, is a great way to start.
In short, she advises, pay less attention to the political discourse and more to what you need to do now. Certainly don’t sit on the sidelines, she said. “Stocks don’t wait,” Warne said. “So you shouldn’t wait either.”
A 2001 statue of a kneeling Adolf Hitler sold for a record $17.2 million at a Christie’s auction in New York.
“Him,” a wax statue of a child-like Hitler by the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, fetched a record for one of the sculptor’s works. The statue, originally estimated at $10 million to $15 million, was part of the auction house’s “Bound to Fail” sale of themed artwork. Cattelan’s work, which features real human hair, is from an edition of three depicting Hitler praying.
“Him” has caused outrage several times when exhibited. In 2010, the mayor of Milan forbid the reproduction of a poster illustrating a black-and-white photograph of Him, and in 2012, the work was publicly exhibited in a former ghetto in Warsaw, where an estimated 300,000 Jews died of starvation or disease or were sent to their deaths in concentration camps under Nazi rule, Christie’s said in its press release.
“I wanted to destroy it myself,” Cattelan has previously said of the work, according to Christie’s, “I changed my mind a thousand times, every day. Hitler is pure fear.”
The statue was sold Sunday to an anonymous bidder by telephone.
The conflict in Syria has taken a critical turn. Alawites, who have long rallied behind their co-religionist president, now want to execute his cousin for killing an Alawite army officer August 7 in an apparent road rage incident. It is rare for them to speak against the ruling regime publicly, but activists are now voicing their protest.
Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011, one-third of young Alawite men have died, mothers are hiding their sons and many men are fleeing the country. It seems that solidarity between Bashar Assad and the Alawites is weakening. Although Assad keeps the sectarian threat boiling, his fall would mean a hell for the Alawites by Sunni extremists, and many Alawites no longer doubt they are fighting a losing war.
With the Islamic State group advancing closer to the Alawite heartland, the next genocide will be of the Alawites, regardless of whether they stand with Assad. Their faith will bring them a worse nightmare than that of the Yazidis: Alawites are not only considered heretic, but also an enemy on the battlefield.
According to common understanding, Alawites became a Shia offshoot a thousand years ago. However, some scholars find this a problematic claim. A deeper understanding of the nature of this secretive faith will shed light on the complexity of the sectarian insecurity and manipulation that Assad has been using to sustain his power by the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Syrians since 2011.
The sect was originally called Nusayri, named after Muhammad ibn Nusayr (A.D. 859) who, after the death of the 11th Imam Hasan al-Askari, claimed he was the imam’s intimate messenger. The core of Nusayrism is the concept of God in triad, with God himself being manifested through Ali, cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad. Nusayris believe that God is Ali in the flesh, who created Muhammad from his spirit, who in turn created Salman al-Farisi, a Persian companion and evangelist. These three form a triad — Mana (Meaning), Ism (Name/Veil) and Bab (Gate).
Nusayrism is also cyclical. Nusayris believe that there have been seven times that God manifested in seven different trinities. The first was of Abel, Adam and Gabriel; the last in Ali, Muhammad and Salman. In all, the meanings, or manifestations, of God seem to be subordinate figures while the name/veil appear to be superior ones: Jesus is the name but God manifestation is actually Simon Peter; Muhammad is the name but God is manifested through Ali.
With this trinity concept, it is tempting to conclude that Nusayrism derives from Christianity. Nusayriyya is similar to Nasara, which means “Christian” in Arabic. Some scholars and observers have even accused Alawism of being a secret Christian proclivity because Alawites celebrate some Christian holidays and honor many Christian saints. In 1903, Jesuit scholar Henri Lammens believed that Nusayris were actually lost Christians.
For Nusayris, salvation goes through a succession of divine emanations. This shows its root in Gnosticism’s cosmogonies, which pre-date Islam. The concepts of transmigration of the soul and reincarnation after death were most likely borrowed from Hinduism through Manichaeism. Greek influences can be seen in the way Nusayris believe each soul is a star, the sinful will be reincarnated as inferior beings through nine levels of human existence and nobility. This mysterious religious cocktail then added elements from Zoroastrianism, Phoenician paganism and Mazdakism, thrown in for good measure.
Nusayris’ religious duties are also interpreted on the basis of gnostic cosmogony. Because people sin, they are no longer splendid stars and must redeem themselves by knowing God through ma’rifa — inner knowledge from one’s own direct experience of reality, something not possible through books. Consequently, traditional ritual and literal reading of scripture are not essential and can even lead to perdition.
With “inner knowledge” as a goal, the pillars of Islam are radically reinterpreted with “inner meaning.” For example, the five daily prayers are understood to be five members of the holy family, including Fatima (Muhammad’s daughter), despite the paradox that Nusayris regard women to be inferior and therefore unable to be reincarnated. Ramadan is allegorized and applied to speech, such as taking a vow of silence rather than abstaining from food.
It is very likely that the Shia principle of taqiyya (religious dissimulation) was the base for this interpretation. For Nusayris, revealing religious secrets to outsiders can lead to severe punishment. Their holy books and rituals are restricted to a few people who pledge to keep the secrets of the faith (Kitman); they are called Khassah while the ignorant majority are Ammah. The syncretic and mythical belief is a secret, even to its own believers.
People are increasingly identifying themselves as global rather than national citizens, according to a BBC World Service poll.
The trend is particularly marked in emerging economies, where people see themselves as outward looking and internationally minded. However, in Germany fewer people say they feel like global citizens now, compared with 2001.
Pollsters GlobeScan questioned more than 20,000 people in 18 countries. More than half of those asked (56%) in emerging economies saw themselves first and foremost as global citizens rather than national citizens.
In Nigeria (73%), China (71%), Peru (70%) and India (67%) the data is particularly marked. By contrast, the trend in the industrialised nations seems to be heading in the opposite direction.
In these richer nations, the concept of global citizenship appears to have taken a serious hit after the financial crash of 2008. In Germany, for example, only 30% of respondents see themselves as global citizens.
According to Lionel Bellier from GlobeScan, this is the lowest proportion seen in Germany since the poll began 15 years ago. “It has to be seen in the context of a very charged environment, politically and emotionally, following Angela Merkel’s policy to open the doors to a million refugees last year.”
The poll suggests a degree of soul-searching in Germany about how open its doors should be in the future. It says 54% of German respondents approved of welcoming Syrians to their country. In the UK, where the government has resolutely capped the number of Syrian refugees, the figure was much higher at 72%.
A significant proportion of Germans also sat on the fence when they were asked about issues to do with immigration and society.
On the question of whether intermarriage was a welcome development, for example, 46% of German respondents were not sure how to respond or they tried to qualify their answers by saying it depended what the circumstances were.
This is in stark contrast to other European countries, such as France, where people were much more emphatically in favour of marriages between people from different racial or religious backgrounds.
These grey areas on the bar charts could suggest Germany is still grappling with whether it wants to welcome newcomers or not.
“There is a lot of uncertainty there,” says Mr Bellier.
“German respondents are showing a high level of indecisiveness when they are asked if they approve or disapprove of these developments and whether they accept the fact that their country is taking a lead on refugees.”
According to the data, there are some clear divides in attitudes within continents.
In Europe, it is Russia which has the strongest resistance to intermarriage, with 43% of Russians actively disapproving of marriages between different races and ethnic groups.
Compare that with Spain, where only 5% would be opposed to such matches. Spain also noticeably has the most respondents who see themselves as global citizens.
Russia appears to have the strongest overall opposition to immigration. Only 11% of the Russians polled would approve of accepting refugees from Syria, for example.
On the other hand, Spain would be the most welcoming of all the countries polled when it comes to receiving refugees from the Syrian conflict. There, an eye-catching majority – 84% – believe they should take in more of those fleeing the five-year civil war.
What is ‘global citizenship’ anyway?
One problem with polling attitudes on identity is that “global citizenship” is a difficult concept to define and the poll left it open to those taking part to interpret.
For some, it might be about the projection of economic clout across the world. To others, it might mean an altruistic impulse to tackle the world’s problems in a spirit of togetherness – whether that is climate change or inequality in the developing world.
Global citizenship might also be about ease of communication in an interconnected age and being able to have a voice on social media.
And for many, it will be about migration and mobility. We are, after all, witnessing the biggest movements of people since the World War Two.
This is not just driven by war and conflict. It is also because the world as a whole is becoming more prosperous and air travel is becoming more affordable to the rising middle classes.
The EU’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini said Tuesday that Turkey would only get visa-free travel to the bloc once it has met all the required criteria.
Turkey has demanded its citizens be allowed to enter the European Union’s passport free Schengen zone without visas by June, in exchange for it taking back migrants from Europe.
But the EU insists that Turkey must meet 72 conditions before allowing visa-free travel, of which it is believed to have fulfilled about half.
“On free travel, this will be done only once all the criteria are respected, as for all countries with which we negotiate free travel for a limited period,” EU foreign policy chief Mogherini said on France Inter radio.
“It was the case with Georgia, it was the case with Ukraine, it is a discussion we are having with Kosovo. There are very strict, technical criteria that must be put in place, a very severe verification must be carried out to apply this measure.”
The EU struck the deal with Turkey to send back all “irregular” migrants which arrive in Greece after March 20 in a bid to halt mass migration which has created enormous strain in Europe.
Two sets of deportations expelling 325 migrants from Greece took place three weeks ago, and another 49 were sent back Tuesday.
The operation has been hampered by last-minute asylum applications and Turkey has also sounded the alarm several times about the EU failing to keep its side of the bargain.
The accord is awash with legal and moral concerns, and critics have accused the EU of sacrificing its values and overlooking Turkey’s growing crackdown on free speech in order to secure the deal.
The deal also promises to speed up talks on Turkey’s accession to the EU.
Mogherini said resuming talks on Turkey’s bid to join the bloc was “the only way we can help Turkey modernise its state (and) respect fundamental rights including press freedom… and also hold a larger conversation for example on relaunching peace talks with the Kurds.”
European Council president Donald Tusk said last week that “Europe must set clear limits to its concessions. We can negotiate money, but never our values.”
“Our powerlessness could lead to a temptation to blackmail Europe,” he warned.
The deal has already sharply reduced the number of people crossing from Turkey to Greece, though the International Organisation for Migration has said the numbers are “once again ticking up”, possibly as smugglers get more creative.
If Ankara meets its side of the agreement, the European Commission has promised to recommend next month that EU states approve visa-free travel for Turks.