Europe

Putin changes Constitution, passes law to keep him in power until 2036
Europe

Putin changes Constitution, passes law to keep him in power until 2036

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has effectively changed the entire Constitution of former Soviet Union. The newly passed law will now allow Putin to contest twice more in Presidential elections, thereby keeping him in power until 2036.The legislation was signed into law by Putin on Monday marking an end to what is rather a pretense of ‘referendum like’ voting that lasted a year. Critics lambast the whole charade as a move of “crude power grab” by infamously authoritarian Putin. Putin has been in power since 2000 after his predecessor Boris Yeltsin had resigned from office.

The new Russian law states that any Russian citizen can contest for the Presidential office for a maximum of two terms in entire lifetime. But interestingly, the law doesn’t include the past terms served by the presiding President – which means that past four terms served by Putin would not be counted and he can still contest for two more terms.

If Putin does stay in office till 2036, he will officially surpass the tenure of Joseph Stalin who had ruled the Soviet Union for 29 years. This will make him the longest serving leader of Moscow since the Russian empire.

After completing his first two terms, Putin had assumed position of Russia’s prime minister in 2008 but remained country’s de-facto leader. In 2012, Putin returned to power attracting criticism and protests from his critics, that were blatantly and ruthlessly put down.

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Putin is known to take down his critics and competitors in a very autocratic and despotic manner, many have been killed in the process rather inconspicuously. The latest example of such oppression has been Alexei Navalny, one of Putin’s most prominent critic and an opposition leader. Last year he was poisoned with a nerve agent Novichok, allegedly by Russia’s FSB under orders from Putin, charges that have been monotonously rejected by the leader. He underwent treatment at Berlin hospital. On his arrival in Moscow post treatment in January, Navalny was arrested by Moscow police over old charges. Since then he has been in custody in very questionable conditions and many times has been moved to undisclosed locations, alleged by his supporters and team.

Some experts say that the law doesn’t necessarily mean that Putin wants to remain in power for two more terms. But other set of analysts also say that history evidently displays that Putin never foregoes of an opportunity of staying in power – he has always anointed a competitor or successor whenever circumstances rose. Furthermore, the newly passed law also protects Putin and former President Dmitry Medvedev from prosecution.

Bulgaria: Borissov’s party to win election as per exit polls
Europe

Bulgaria: Borissov’s party to win election as per exit polls

Bulgaria witnessed its 11th parliamentary elections on Sunday, with more than 6.7 million people casting their votes to elect 240 lawmakers from 22 political parties and eight coalitions. As per the results of the exit polls, the center-right GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) party of Bulgaria’s long-serving prime minister Boyko Borissov is expected to win the national elections with 28-29 percent votes. This is essentially lower than the 33.5 percent votes that GERB won in the parliamentary elections four years ago.

GERB’s main opposition, the Socialists, managed to secure 17.6 percent of the votes – less than expected, as per an exit poll conducted by the Alpha Research pollster for the Bulgarian National Television. At the same time, TV entertainer SlaviTrifonov-led There Is Such A People (ITN) party received 15.5 percent votes, followed by the Movement for Rights and Freedoms which won 11 percent votes at the third spot. Reportedly, only seven political parties and coalitions managed to secure the 4 percent election mark.

Likely to fall short of a majority, Borissov’s ruling party may struggle to form a stable coalition as a number of opposition parties have vowed not to join hands with the Prime Minister to lead the country’s fragmented government.

While ruling the EU poorest member state for almost a decade, Borissov’s incumbent government has faced massive dissent in recent months in the backdrop of a surge in COVID-19 infections. Stalled reforms, persistent corruption, and a deteriorating economy have led to months of widespread anti-government protests in the country.

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Last summer, thousands of Bulgarians rallied for several months against the deep-rooted corruption in the system and degradation of the rule of law, demanding Borissov’s resignation. Borissov, who has been governing Bulgaria since 2009, is seeking a fourth term in power amid anti-establishment protests.

Taking note of the prevailing tensions in the political system, Bulgaria may struggle to tap benefit from the EU’s 750-billion-euro ($884 billion) Recovery Fund aimed at reviving the bloc’s economy from Coronavirus repercussions.

According to Bulgaria’s Central Election Commission, the voter turnout on Sunday was approximately 50 percent by 5 pm. Official results of the general elections are expected to be announced on Thursday. This was the first regular parliamentary polls in Bulgaria since 2008 as recent anti-government protests failed to trigger snap elections.

Europe seen by sovereigntists: the meeting of Salvini, Orbán and Morowiecki
Europe

Europe seen by sovereigntists: the meeting of Salvini, Orbán and Morowiecki

Europe and COVID19 vaccination plans. These are some of the issues addressed in Budapest by the Italian leader of right party La Lega, Matteo Salvini, during an hour and a half conversation with the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and the Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morowiecki. The three leaders insisted on the need for a “European Renaissance to overcome the health and economic emergency”. Furthermore, in the conversation, they shared “a new idea of ​​Europe, based on concrete themes starting from common roots, health, work and renewal”.

It was an intense day of work, in Budapest, with the Hungarian and Polish premier, putting Europe at the center, the European Renaissance after Covid, health, after vaccination failure, a new model of health, work, beauty, safety, agriculture, common Christian values, identity and future “, Salvini commented after the meeting.” We are working – he added – for a path that puts citizens at the center and not just finance, bureaucracy, and the failures of Brussels.”

“We agree on Europe, on the defense of borders and of life. There is a path that begins today and involves new families,” Salvini said during the press conference in Budapest. “We propose ourselves as an alternative historical nucleus to the left, without limits, to be the first. We want to become the first European group”. The leader of the League then warned: “We are here to build something long-lived”. Because? “There are great challenges – he specified – there is an Islamism at the gates that must find an embankment in EU values. We leave criticism to others, we put the right to life and the right to work at the center, I would steal the American declaration of the right to happiness. It is a sign of hope “. Finally, he argued that “the European Union, when it denied its Jewish-Christian roots in its constitutive charter, was wrong at the outset”.

During the press conference that the three leaders held after the meeting, the Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán praised the Northern League: “It’s no secret that we call Matteo Salvini ‘our hero’ because when someone said it was impossible to stop illegal immigration, as a minister he was able to arrest her “. We are grateful for what Salvini has done. And we have always appreciated it. ”

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Then, concerning the meeting, he clarified that it was “the first stage of a long journey. We talked about our values ​​and our Atlanticism commitment. We represent the values ​​of the traditional family and we take sides against communism – says the sovereign premier – against anti-Semitism, against illegal immigration. If the pandemic allows it, we will meet again in May, in Warsaw, and then also in Rome. The right has no extremists and we will demonstrate it. We will gather strength in favor of freedom “. Moreover, observes the Hungarian, “there are millions of citizens without political representation, having the EPP chosen to take sides by cooperating with the left. Christian Democrats have no representation and we are working to give them a voice”. “We need to lay the foundations for a new Europe. I like Matteo Salvini’s idea of ​​the European Renaissance. Let’s talk about values ​​to build the future”, said the Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morowiecki. Then, he once again reaffirmed the values ​​on which the path he will build with the leader of the Northern League and Orbán is based: Euro-Atlantic cooperation, NATO, integration into the EU, priorities that should respect national sovereignty and freedoms, values traditional and Christianity

Hungary Poland and Italy Organize An Alliance
Europe

Hungary Poland and Italy Organize An Alliance

Hungary, Poland and Italy are not going to stop at anything and are now planning to get together in an alliance, to ensure that their voice is heard loud and clear. The countries believe that the EU bloc continues to ignore their concerns over lacking sanctity of their Christian values.

In a meeting in Budapest recently, all three nations vowed to create a like minded alliance that would help them create a “European renaissance based on Christian values.”

The signing authorized signatories include Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Italy’s Matteo Salvini to form a new right-wing political alliance at European level.

The three nations do not see eye-to-eye with the rest of the European Union over Covid-19 vaccine candidate selection and other issues. The trio had also refused to participate in the stimulus funding contribution which was support the poorer nations of the bloc post the lockdown opening up.

They trio has discussed the distribution of Corona virus vaccines among EU member states and urged the European Commission to increase the pace of purchases.

The biggest bone of contention for the three remains the rule of law. Everything they are doing is centering on this one thing. They plan to reassemble in May, depending on the spread of the virus. Both Orbán and Morawiecki head right-wing governments, whose legislation has been often criticised by the European Commission and the European Parliament for its anti-liberal and authoritarian drift.

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Despite the show of unity and fraternity between Orbán, Morawiecki and Salvini, the ideologies they advocate are not completely compatible, with several issues, such as relations with Russia, representing a potential source of discrepancy. The Hungarian government has already purchased the Russian Sputnik vaccine, much to the disappointment of the rest of the EU bloc.

A new European Spy Story, what’s going on between Rome and Moscow?
Europe

A new European Spy Story, what’s going on between Rome and Moscow?

A spy story from the Cold War era, without a lot of computer devilry, simply secret information for money. It is the latest sensational episode of espionage carried out by the Kremlin in a European country, which in this case risks exacerbating relations between Italy and Russia, when Rome has so far always supported the line of dialogue with Moscow even in the face of those international fora that instead would like to isolate Vladimir Putin.

The plot of the spy story is one of the most classic: an Italian Navy officer, Walter Biot, was arrested on Tuesday evening while delivering classified documents relating to military telecommunications, sensitive for national security and NATO, to an official of the military attaché of the Russian Embassy in Rome. After long shadowing by the Italian counter-espionage, the two were stopped, in the dark of a parking lot in the capital, while one delivered a pen drive and the other 5,000 euros divided into small boxes. Arrested on charges of political and military espionage, the frigate captain Biot faces a 20-year life sentence.

“A hostile act of extreme gravity”, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio called it, who as soon as the matter came to light had the Russian Ambassador Sergey Razov summoned to the Farnesina, where the Secretary-General Elisabetta Belloni communicated the firm protest by the Italian government and the decision to expel two officials from the Russian diplomatic office. What happened is “unacceptable and there will be consequences”, Di Maio warned in the Senate, while reiterating that a communication channel is needed with international actors, so as not to favor an escalation that nobody wants. For his part, the ambassador expressed “regret” for the expulsion of the two officials, wishing at the same time that the incident will not be reflected in Italian-Russian relations.

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The same wish was expressed by the Kremlin, even if Moscow is not lacking those who threaten a “symmetrical reaction”. For the president of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Duma, Leonid Slutsky, that of Rome was “an extreme gesture”, destined to mark “a negative imprint” on bilateral relations and which demonstrates how now “the spy mania has also reached Italy”. The reference is to the multiple accusations of espionage advanced by the West – from the US to the UK – against Russia, which on the contrary denounces it as a Euro-Atlantic obsession.

 Still at odds with Moscow over the Litvinenko and Skripal cases – the former Russian agents who according to London were poisoned, the first fatally, on British soil by the long hand of the Kremlin secret services, the UK government immediately took sides. alongside Italy against “the malicious and destabilizing activity of Russia, which aims to undermine a NATO alliance, tweeted Foreign Minister Dominic Raab. While it’s very recent the expulsion of two Russian diplomats from Bulgaria after the arrest of 6 people suspected of spying for Moscow, including executives of the Sofia Defense Ministry who had access to classified documents relating to Bulgaria, NATO, and the EU. The script is the same: according to the investigators, the information was transmitted for a fee to officials of the Russian embassy in Sofia.

Coronavirus, how will Europeans live the Easter holidays?
Europe

Coronavirus, how will Europeans live the Easter holidays?

After more than a year from the start of the coronavirus pandemic, when it was expected to be able to return to life without too many restrictions, Europe is back to lockdowns. The only countertrend is the United Kingdom, which from 12 April will gradually resume a progressive opening of all activities, thanks to the perfect functioning of the vaccine machine and a hard three-month lockdown. On the other hand, there is no respite for the other European states, which are confirmed in the red zone, continuing to make citizens live in the nightmare of the increasingly stringent anti-Covi-19 bans. From the Easter period, we are preparing for a list of new limitations and closures.

Germany extended the security measures to contain the virus currently in force until April 18 but canceled the Easter super lockdown with an apology from Chancellor Angela Merkel. This is the fifth renewal of the restrictions since last December 16. Also, this time the obligation of surgical masks or FFp2 was introduced in shops and on public transport. The schools remain the responsibility of the Laender. From February 22, students up to 11-12 years old returned to class with teaching every other week or only a few hours a day. For the other students, distance learning continues.

Almost a third of the French population in and around Paris has entered a new one-month lockdown since March 20. Three other French regions, including the city of Lyon, have entered it since yesterday, again for four weeks. Non-essential businesses are closed, except hairdressers. You can do outdoor sports within 10 km from home but you cannot travel within the country without a valid reason. The schools are still open. The national curfew remains in effect from 7 pm to 6 am.

Spain has also extended the curfew from 11 pm to 6 am until May. During the rest of the day, you can only go out to work, to school, to buy medicine, or to take care of the elderly and children. Anyone over the age of six is ​​required to wear a mask on public transport and closed spaces. In some regions even outdoors.

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Italy remains divided into red and orange areas. The increase in infections in recent weeks has led to a new lockdown close to the Easter holidays. To discourage those who were thinking of leaving, the government announced a 5-day isolation and a negative COVID-19 test will be required upon departure and arrival at the airport.

Belgium extended the lockdown until April 1 and banned all non-essential travel. Only one person can be received at home, always the same, and the limit of four remains outdoors. The shops are open but you can enter alone and for up to 30 minutes. In the Netherlands, the lockdown has been extended until April 20. The curfew has also been extended, but from 31 March it will begin an hour later, from 10 pm to 4.30 am. The government has asked citizens not to book holidays abroad until at least mid-May. Secondary school pupils can go to school one day a week and from 26 April also university students will be able to attend at least one day. Bars and restaurants remain closed, along with non-essential shops. Gatherings of more than two people are prohibited. The Europeans are therefore preparing for an Easter at home.

Why European Economic Recovery Has Slowed Down?
Europe

Why European Economic Recovery Has Slowed Down?

Economic activity is not going to come back to pre-Covid times, even after the economic recovery stimulus, European nations are of the opinion. With most countries running behind their inoculation schedules, the economic situation continues to cripple recovery efforts.

A recent statement by French President Emmanuel Macron said that European Union (EU) will have to enhance its €750bn ($885bn) corona virus recovery fund. A third wave has already started to hit European nations and the new strain of the virus is even more deadly.

According to Yannis Koutsomitis, a European affairs analyst, the re-imposition of lockdowns across Europe amid resurgence of Covid-19, is the real reason for the quashing hopes of economic recovery.

Current statistics shows a seven week delay in the plans of mass inoculation by European nations. The delay is estimated to cause losses of €123bn ($145bn) to the 27 nations belonging to the bloc.

Each European nation has had its own reasons for a delay- Hungary was not sure of going for vaccinations in the first instance; for them herd immunity was the answer. Then, many EU nations stopped dead in their tracks over controversy brewing around the Astra Zeneca vaccine that was showing suspect side effects. Also, domestic productions have been slow. Further, there are indications of flawed vaccine diplomacy, where EU bloc has decided to hold back exports, putting pressure on its relations with other countries.  All this could have been avoided.

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For its part, the EU’s trade chief, Valdis Dombrovskis, said it is “highly unfair” to accuse the EU of vaccine nationalism, given that it is “one of the largest vaccine exporters.”

Data shows that the EU has exported 77 million doses of the shots to 33 countries since December, while 88 million have been delivered to EU countries. According to the key Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) compiled by IHS Markit for March, Germany, Europe’s strongest economy is shown doing better than France. The northern countries are generally doing better than their southern partners — Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal — which risk seeing their key tourist industries shackled for yet another year.

For Macron, the “Loi Climat et Résilience” risks becoming a decisive political battle
Europe

For Macron, the “Loi Climat et Résilience” risks becoming a decisive political battle

It had been presented as one of the most important laws of Emmanuel Macron’s mandate. The Loi Climat et Résilience, the Climate and Resilience law, arrives today at the Assemblée National preceded by a great mobilization that took place yesterday throughout France. Environmental activists and large environmental NGOs denounce a downward reform that will not allow France to comply with the objectives set by the Paris climate agreements. Thousands of protesters took to the streets accused Emmanuel Macron and the government of having betrayed the Convention Citoyenne Sur le Climat.

The convention consisting of 150 citizens drawn by lot was Macron’s idea, as an experiment in participatory democracy born after the yellow vest movement. Among the reasons for the protest then there was the Carbon Tax, a measure dropped from above by the government without enough consultation.

Mindful of that experience, in October 2019 the French leader entrusted citizens with the task of presenting proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030 (compared to 1990), with particular attention to “the social justice “. After nine months of work and the hearing of dozens of experts, the Convention presented a report consisting of 149 proposals.

Macron had promised citizens to pass their “unfiltered” measures to parliament. And instead, according to many of the authors of the report and the activists who took to the streets, not much remains in the law that comes before the deputies.

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During yesterday’s festive demonstration in Paris, many placards attacked the head of state’s turnaround. “Macron, ta Loi en carton, c’est la poubelle jaune”, Macron your cardboard law is a yellow garbage. The activist Cyril Dion, “guarantor” of the Convention, denounced the weight of the industrial lobbies that would have upset the objectives of the reform. And then he warned: “There are no negotiations possible with the climate, it is a race against time”. The co-chair of the Convention, economist Laurence Tubiana, who had participated in the negotiations for the 2015 Paris accords, also joined the demonstrators in the Montpellier march.

“The French are asking more of their deputies and their government,” commented Tubiana. “We need a truly ambitious climate law in which the social component is the pivot of this necessary transition”. The organizers have already made an appointment on May 9, in case the law is approved in its current version.

The parliamentary process of the Climate Law promises to be troubled. About 7,000 amendments have already been tabled and the majority itself is divided. Although there are some symbolically strong measures – such as the abolition of domestic flights when there are alternatives in less than two and a half hours by train, or the ban on renting apartments without thermal insulation by 2028 – critical voices are multiplying. About the obligation to improve energy efficiency, many proposals have been downsized. The Convention called for the complete renovation, including roof, insulation, windows, controlled heating, and mechanical ventilation, of 20 million homes.

Other measures that are slowly being advanced include the phasing out by 2030 of tax breaks on diesel for haulers, and the implementation of a regional eco-tax for heavy vehicles. Another measure advanced by the Citizens’ Convention concerned the ban on advertising for the most polluting companies. This idea was also limited. For vegetarian menus in canteens, a subject that has raised controversy with some municipal councils of the Greens, the government does not want to go beyond simple experimentation.

Ecological Transition Minister Barbara Pompili herself admitted that she wanted a more ambitious law. Pompili then recalled that the reform does not exhaust the government’s commitment and she recalled other measures taken by the government, some very symbolic such as the decision to introduce climate protection in the Constitution. For Macron, the approval of the Loi Climat et Résilience risks becoming a decisive political battle just over a year after the presidential elections. Not only because he has focused heavily on France’s green turning point, but also because he wants to counter the political rise of the Greens, who had a strong success in the last administrative elections.

Green light of the EU for new anti-covid vaccine production plants to overcome the impasse
Europe

Green light of the EU for new anti-covid vaccine production plants to overcome the impasse

The vaccination campaign across member States continues to proceed slowly, with the European Union accusing pharmaceutical companies, AstraZeneca in particular, for delivery delays. An arm wrestling is also underway between Brussels and London, with the government of Boris Johnson accused of slowing down exports to give priority to the British, an allegation denied but which is raising the tension.

The problem with the blockade is that its vial production facilities do not seem sufficient to satisfy all the demands of the 27 EU member countries, but that could soon change. In several nations, pharmaceutical company plants are being converted to dedicate them to the production of vaccines anti-coronavirus.  The first new plants to start should be in France, there will be two, Pfizer and Moderna. An additional Pfizer-Biontech plant is already operational in Germany, which will start deliveries to the Union from April. And this week, the long-awaited green light from the European Medicines Agency arrives for Helix, AstraZeneca’s second continental factory in Leiden, the Netherlands. This plant has been waiting for EMA’s go-ahead for weeks, to the point that London had repeatedly asked for the vaccines produced there to be sent to it, given that they cannot be used on the continent. But the request was refused to not lose doses that could be valuable in the future.

Brussels’ goal is to immediately increase supplies to be able to immunize 70% of the European adult population by the summer. To do this, Europe is progressively doubling the monthly capacity: in January it was 14 million doses, in February 28, and in March 60. But we still have to go up as vaccines come with a dropper. New deliveries may soon also arrive from Asia. In April, EMA experts will fly to India to certify AstraZeneca’s local plants that produce the Oxford vaccine, renamed Covishield there, and which could already arrive in Europe in May.

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According to Repubblica’s reconstruction, the first vials of the new production center of the BioNTech laboratory in Marburg, Germany, with a capacity of 750 million doses per year will also be delivered in April. The plant was inaugurated in February and will produce the active ingredient of Pfizer’s vaccine, while for the new serum from Johnson & Johnson (Janssen), the latest approved by EMA, plants in Spain and Italy are already on track for production, from the summer, those of the French company Sanofi.

Furthermore, between May and June, the EMA should give the green light to the fifth vaccine, that of Curevac, on which France and Italy have already mobilized among others. From July Sanofi – with plants in Germany – will also launch Pfizer-BioNTech production. The American start-up Moderna instead relied on the Swiss manufacturer Lonza, with the Visp plant being upgraded on three of its four production lines, and which, when fully operational, will each churn out 100 million doses per year. Pfizer’s factory in Puurs, Belgium has also been expanded. In the meantime, the filling of Moderna and Pfizer-BioNtech will start in France in the Loire, in Monts, and Saint-Rémy-Sur-Ave.

Britain To Withhold Visas For Countries Refusing To Repatriate Failed Asylum Seekers
Europe

Britain To Withhold Visas For Countries Refusing To Repatriate Failed Asylum Seekers

In an attempt to stop the inflow of migrants through the English channel and other entry points, Britain is now planning to issue a visa ban on certain countries that refuse entry to harried migrants or asylum seekers.

The countries most popular for doing this includes Iraq, Iran and Sudan. This plan has been laid out by the home secretary in an attempt that these countries don’t refuse entry of those individuals that once entering into British territory, once refused asylum status, are refused entry from the country they actually originated.

According to Priti Patel, this plan is a part of a “range of levers” that the government is considering in order to crackdown on illegal immigration into the United Kingdom. Since the Covid-19 crises, the number of those seeking a better chance of survival had reduced, but the numbers have again started surging. Illegal gangs and smugglers are also at work when it comes to ensuring a safe passage into foreign land, through asylum status.

On many occasions, some of the nations from where the asylum seekers are originating, have failed to cooperate with British authorities. They have refusing to issue travel documents, such as replacement passports, or by blocking charter flights from landing. This has made working out logistics from Britain very difficult, leaving migrants in a lurge.

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Britain is dealing with more than 42000 failed asylum seekers hiding and living illegally, while another 10000 criminals have not been deported and live freely around. This not only puts immense pressure on the resources of the country but also put lives of innocent civilians at risk.

Patel’s proposals also suggest making inadmissible claims from people who arrive into the country illegally — a measure targeted at the rising number of asylum seekers and migrants making the treacherous English Channel crossing from France to the UK. While many human rights organizations are terming these moves as ‘simple way of treating asylum seekers as commodities’, this is the only humane way that a country can deal with ones that are forcing their way into a land that does not have provisions to room everyone. A similar problem has been faced by France, Germany and some other European nations as well. Germany, of all have been most compassionate in trying to rehabilitate as many migrants as the country could accommodate. Many such migrants have been absorbed as they learned the German language and become employable, making the then Chancellor Angela Merkel’s work easier.

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