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UK’s Embattled May Faces Huge Anti-Brexit March

British Prime Minister Theresa May has told lawmakers she may not seek passage of her troubled Brexit withdrawal plan in Parliament next week.

The embattled leader, who faces a major protest march in central London on Saturday, wrote to lawmakers Friday night saying she would bring the European Union withdrawal back to Parliament if there seems to be enough backing for it to pass.

“If it appears that there is not sufficient support to bring the deal back next week, or the House rejects it again, we can ask for another extension before 12 April, but that will involve holding European Parliament elections,” she said.

May’s changing stance reflects the plan’s dismal chances in the House of Commons after two prior defeats.

She also says she would need the approval of House Speaker John Bercow to bring the plan back for a third time despite his objections. Bercow has said a third vote would violate parliamentary rules unless the plan is altered.

May said in her letter to lawmakers that if the deal is approved, Britain will leave the EU on May 22, a date agreed with EU officials.

Lawmakers have twice rejected the deal and haven’t shown any clear swing toward endorsing it in recent days. Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union on April 12 if no deal is approved.

Pro-Brexit forces are also girding for the possible political impact of a planned march in central London in support of holding a second referendum that would give British voters the option of remaining in the EU despite the 2016 vote in favor of leaving.

The organizers of the “People’s Vote March” predict that one of Britain’s largest-ever protest marches will grip central London. More than 4 million people endorsed an electronic petition this week in favor of revoking Article 50, the act that formally triggered the Brexit process.

The march will conclude outside Parliament, which remains divided over Brexit. No consensus on a way forward has emerged despite weeks of extensive debate.

May told lawmakers in her letter that Britain still has options including an extension that would require taking part in European Parliament elections in May.

She also said Britain could revoke Article 50 but characterized that as a betrayal of the Brexit vote in favor of severing EU ties.

She also said Britain could leave without a deal.

In a conciliatory tone, the prime minister offered to meet with lawmakers to discuss Brexit policy.

She had offended many legislators with a speech Thursday night that seemed to blame Parliament for the stalled Brexit process.

 

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Sources: EU Expert to Urge Monitoring 5G Risks, Not Huawei Ban

The European Commission will next week urge EU countries to share more data to tackle cybersecurity risks related to 5G networks but will ignore U.S. calls to ban Huawei Technologies, four people familiar with the matter said Friday.

European digital chief Andrus Ansip will present the recommendation Tuesday. While the guidance does not have legal force, it will carry political weight, which can eventually lead to national legislation in European Union countries.

The United States has lobbied Europe to shut out Huawei, saying its equipment could be used by the Chinese government for espionage. Huawei has strongly rejected the allegations and earlier this month sued the U.S. government over the issue.

​Use cybersecurity tools

Ansip will tell EU countries to use tools set out under the EU directive on security of network and information systems, or NIS directive, adopted in 2016 and the recently approved Cybersecurity Act, the people said.

For example, member states should exchange information and coordinate on impact assessment studies on security risks and on certification for internet-connected devices and 5G equipment.

The Commission will not call for a European ban on global market leader Huawei, leaving it to EU countries to decide on national security grounds.

“It is a recommendation to enhance exchanges on the security assessment of digital critical infrastructure,” one of the sources said.

The Commission said the recommendation would stress a common EU approach to security risks to 5G networks.

​Tougher on telecoms equipment

The EU executive’s guidance marks a tougher stance on Chinese investment after years of almost unfettered European openness to China, which controls 70 percent of the global supply of the critical raw materials needed to make high-tech goods.

The measures, if taken on board, will be part of what French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday was a “European awakening” about potential Chinese dominance, after EU leaders held a first-ever discussion about China policy at a summit.

Germany this month set tougher criteria for all telecoms equipment vendors, without singling out Huawei and ignoring U.S. pressure.

Big telecoms operators oppose a Huawei ban, saying such a move could set back 5G deployment in the bloc by years. In contrast, Australia and New Zealand have stopped operators using Huawei equipment in their networks.

The industry sees 5G as the next money spinner, with its promise to link up everything from vehicles to household devices.

Alongside the Huawei issue, the bloc also plans to discuss Chinese subsidies, state involvement in the Chinese economy and more access to the Chinese market at an EU-China summit April 9.

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Sources: EU Expert to Urge Monitoring 5G Risks, Not Huawei Ban

The European Commission will next week urge EU countries to share more data to tackle cybersecurity risks related to 5G networks but will ignore U.S. calls to ban Huawei Technologies, four people familiar with the matter said Friday.

European digital chief Andrus Ansip will present the recommendation Tuesday. While the guidance does not have legal force, it will carry political weight, which can eventually lead to national legislation in European Union countries.

The United States has lobbied Europe to shut out Huawei, saying its equipment could be used by the Chinese government for espionage. Huawei has strongly rejected the allegations and earlier this month sued the U.S. government over the issue.

​Use cybersecurity tools

Ansip will tell EU countries to use tools set out under the EU directive on security of network and information systems, or NIS directive, adopted in 2016 and the recently approved Cybersecurity Act, the people said.

For example, member states should exchange information and coordinate on impact assessment studies on security risks and on certification for internet-connected devices and 5G equipment.

The Commission will not call for a European ban on global market leader Huawei, leaving it to EU countries to decide on national security grounds.

“It is a recommendation to enhance exchanges on the security assessment of digital critical infrastructure,” one of the sources said.

The Commission said the recommendation would stress a common EU approach to security risks to 5G networks.

​Tougher on telecoms equipment

The EU executive’s guidance marks a tougher stance on Chinese investment after years of almost unfettered European openness to China, which controls 70 percent of the global supply of the critical raw materials needed to make high-tech goods.

The measures, if taken on board, will be part of what French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday was a “European awakening” about potential Chinese dominance, after EU leaders held a first-ever discussion about China policy at a summit.

Germany this month set tougher criteria for all telecoms equipment vendors, without singling out Huawei and ignoring U.S. pressure.

Big telecoms operators oppose a Huawei ban, saying such a move could set back 5G deployment in the bloc by years. In contrast, Australia and New Zealand have stopped operators using Huawei equipment in their networks.

The industry sees 5G as the next money spinner, with its promise to link up everything from vehicles to household devices.

Alongside the Huawei issue, the bloc also plans to discuss Chinese subsidies, state involvement in the Chinese economy and more access to the Chinese market at an EU-China summit April 9.

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Returning to London, Britain’s May Faces Mammoth Task to Change Minds on Brexit

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday began the mammoth struggle of persuading a deeply divided parliament to back her Brexit deal after an EU summit granted her more time but little to help change minds at home.

After a bruising day in Brussels, May secured a two-week reprieve to try to get the deal she negotiated in November through parliament at a third attempt or face a potentially chaotic departure from the European Union as soon as April 12.

EU leaders were clear that it was now up to the British parliament to decide the fate of Brexit — to leave with a deal in a couple of months, depart without an agreement, come up with a new plan or possibly remain in the bloc.

While the Brexit deadline may have moved from March 29, however, parliament shows no sign of budging.

In fact, incensed by comments from May on Wednesday night that pinned the blame for the Brexit chaos on them, many British lawmakers have now hardened their resistance to the deal she is due to bring back before them next week. In an appeal to lawmakers, May said in Brussels: “Last night I expressed my frustration. I know that MPs [members of parliament] are frustrated too. They have difficult jobs to do. I hope we can all agree, we are now at the moment of decision.”

She needs to change the minds of 75 more lawmakers to get her deal through after it was overwhelmingly rejected twice before. In a letter to British lawmakers on Friday, May hinted she might not hold a third vote on the deal at all if it was clear it would not be passed.

“If it appears there is not sufficient support to bring the deal back next week, or the House rejects it again, we can ask for another extension before April 12,” she wrote in the letter published on Twitter by a BBC reporter.

While EU leaders were keen to heap pressure on the British parliament, some — with the notable exception of France — suggested Britain could still win more time to prepare for a no-deal Brexit if lawmakers fail to approve the divorce deal by April 12.

‘Hope dies last’

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar summed up the mood in Brussels when he spoke of overwhelming Brexit fatigue.

European Council President Donald Tusk said: “The fate of Brexit is in the hands of our British friends. We are, as the EU, prepared for the worst but hope for the best. As you know, hope dies last.”

French President Emmanuel Macron took a potshot at Brexit advocates. “Brexiteer leaders told people leaving would be easy. Bravo.”

Leaders doubted whether May could get her deal through parliament, which like the country itself is deeply split over how, or even if, Britain should leave the EU after a 2016 referendum when 52 percent backed Brexit against 48 percent.

One senior EU official said a no-deal Brexit was more likely. “We are in general well prepared. But we can use these few weeks to prepare more for the rather likely no deal scenario,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

New votes

Parliament will start next week with another vote on Brexit, which business minister Greg Clark said would open the way “for parliament to express a majority of what it would approve.”

Those May must win over — euroskeptic lawmakers in her Conservative Party and the DUP, the Northern Irish party that props up her minority government, plus wavering members of the opposition Labor Party — did not seem to be softening.

The DUP’s Nigel Dodds said May had missed an opportunity to put forward proposals to EU leaders to improve the prospects of an acceptable deal, describing it as a “disappointing and inexcusable” failure.

Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said it was time for parliament to take over Brexit and for lawmakers to make their own decisions about Britain’s future.

His deputy Tom Watson said he was prepared to back May’s deal, however — but only if she agreed to holding a second referendum, something she has repeatedly ruled out.

With parliament deadlocked, the lack of certainty is encouraging some Britons to try to influence politicians.

Hundreds of thousands are expected to march through central London on Saturday calling for a second Brexit referendum, while an online petition demanding May revoke the EU leave notice and stop Brexit has got more than 3.5 million signatures.

Seven hours of summit brainstorming Thursday kept a host of options open for the EU leaders, who say they regret Britain’s decision to leave but are eager to move on from what they increasingly see as a distraction.

Now a May 22 departure date will apply if parliament rallies behind the British prime minister next week. If it does not, Britain will have until April 12 to offer a new plan or decide to leave the European Union without a treaty.

In the case of a longer extension, the main idea is for one year, EU officials said. That would give Britain time to hold an election, and possibly a second referendum, and avoid an even longer delay that would complicate negotiations for a new long-term EU budget.

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Returning to London, Britain’s May Faces Mammoth Task to Change Minds on Brexit

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday began the mammoth struggle of persuading a deeply divided parliament to back her Brexit deal after an EU summit granted her more time but little to help change minds at home.

After a bruising day in Brussels, May secured a two-week reprieve to try to get the deal she negotiated in November through parliament at a third attempt or face a potentially chaotic departure from the European Union as soon as April 12.

EU leaders were clear that it was now up to the British parliament to decide the fate of Brexit — to leave with a deal in a couple of months, depart without an agreement, come up with a new plan or possibly remain in the bloc.

While the Brexit deadline may have moved from March 29, however, parliament shows no sign of budging.

In fact, incensed by comments from May on Wednesday night that pinned the blame for the Brexit chaos on them, many British lawmakers have now hardened their resistance to the deal she is due to bring back before them next week. In an appeal to lawmakers, May said in Brussels: “Last night I expressed my frustration. I know that MPs [members of parliament] are frustrated too. They have difficult jobs to do. I hope we can all agree, we are now at the moment of decision.”

She needs to change the minds of 75 more lawmakers to get her deal through after it was overwhelmingly rejected twice before. In a letter to British lawmakers on Friday, May hinted she might not hold a third vote on the deal at all if it was clear it would not be passed.

“If it appears there is not sufficient support to bring the deal back next week, or the House rejects it again, we can ask for another extension before April 12,” she wrote in the letter published on Twitter by a BBC reporter.

While EU leaders were keen to heap pressure on the British parliament, some — with the notable exception of France — suggested Britain could still win more time to prepare for a no-deal Brexit if lawmakers fail to approve the divorce deal by April 12.

‘Hope dies last’

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar summed up the mood in Brussels when he spoke of overwhelming Brexit fatigue.

European Council President Donald Tusk said: “The fate of Brexit is in the hands of our British friends. We are, as the EU, prepared for the worst but hope for the best. As you know, hope dies last.”

French President Emmanuel Macron took a potshot at Brexit advocates. “Brexiteer leaders told people leaving would be easy. Bravo.”

Leaders doubted whether May could get her deal through parliament, which like the country itself is deeply split over how, or even if, Britain should leave the EU after a 2016 referendum when 52 percent backed Brexit against 48 percent.

One senior EU official said a no-deal Brexit was more likely. “We are in general well prepared. But we can use these few weeks to prepare more for the rather likely no deal scenario,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

New votes

Parliament will start next week with another vote on Brexit, which business minister Greg Clark said would open the way “for parliament to express a majority of what it would approve.”

Those May must win over — euroskeptic lawmakers in her Conservative Party and the DUP, the Northern Irish party that props up her minority government, plus wavering members of the opposition Labor Party — did not seem to be softening.

The DUP’s Nigel Dodds said May had missed an opportunity to put forward proposals to EU leaders to improve the prospects of an acceptable deal, describing it as a “disappointing and inexcusable” failure.

Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said it was time for parliament to take over Brexit and for lawmakers to make their own decisions about Britain’s future.

His deputy Tom Watson said he was prepared to back May’s deal, however — but only if she agreed to holding a second referendum, something she has repeatedly ruled out.

With parliament deadlocked, the lack of certainty is encouraging some Britons to try to influence politicians.

Hundreds of thousands are expected to march through central London on Saturday calling for a second Brexit referendum, while an online petition demanding May revoke the EU leave notice and stop Brexit has got more than 3.5 million signatures.

Seven hours of summit brainstorming Thursday kept a host of options open for the EU leaders, who say they regret Britain’s decision to leave but are eager to move on from what they increasingly see as a distraction.

Now a May 22 departure date will apply if parliament rallies behind the British prime minister next week. If it does not, Britain will have until April 12 to offer a new plan or decide to leave the European Union without a treaty.

In the case of a longer extension, the main idea is for one year, EU officials said. That would give Britain time to hold an election, and possibly a second referendum, and avoid an even longer delay that would complicate negotiations for a new long-term EU budget.

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Former US Diplomats Slam Response to 2018 Russian Attack on Ukrainian Ships

Recent Western-imposed sanctions targeting Russia — spawned by a naval attack on Ukrainian soldiers on the Sea of Azov late last year — are too little, too late, say former top U.S. emissaries to the region.

The United States, in coordination with Canada and the European Union, leveled the sanctions on more than a dozen Russian officials and businesses earlier in March, citing Moscow’s “continued aggression in Ukraine.”

On Nov. 25, 2018, Russian Coast Guard vessels rammed and then seized a trio of Ukrainian naval vessels as they moved across international waters of the Black Sea en route from one Ukrainian port to another. The two dozen Ukrainian sailors aboard those ships have since been jailed in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo prison.

“Where were we in March, April, May, June of 2018?” said former U.S. Ambassador Victoria Nuland of the timing of the latest sanctions. Nuland spoke in Washington at a recent roundtable event, titled, “Crimea after Five Years of Russian Occupation.”

Nuland was one of several former top State Department officials on hand at the roundtable jointly sponsored by U.S. Institute of Peace, the Ukrainian embassy and the Atlantic Council. Nuland, a former assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, echoed criticism by retired U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst, who was also in attendance.

“I know where George was [at that time],” she added, referring to George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, who was also at the discussion. “But I don’t know where the rest of the administration and the rest of Europe were as the harassment of Ukrainian shipping was beginning, as the first efforts to gain control of that [maritime] territory were beginning.

“As has already been said, perhaps we didn’t want to see, so we waited until the crisis emerged. And even after the crisis, where were we in trying to increase our presence in the Black Sea?” Nuland said. “We’re only just getting there now. Where were we in terms of supporting Ukrainian naval capacity? Where were we in terms of a fast, ready-sanctions reaction?”

Six Russian officials, six defense firms, and two energy and construction firms were targeted with U.S. sanctions, either over the seizure of Ukrainian vessels in the Kerch Strait, or for their activities in Russian-annexed Crimea or separatist eastern Ukraine, according to a U.S. Treasury statement.

‘Late and weak’

Although current and former diplomats all expressed support for the latest sanctions, Herbst said they were still not enough.

“Western sanctions were late and weak,” Herbst later told VOA’s Ukrainian service. “If they’d been late and strong, I’d be celebrating, but they were weak. They sanctioned low-level officials and some Russian maritime-related firms. That’s it. They should have done something like sanction some high officials or family members of high officials, and they should have taken a major step like going after Gazprombank, which would’ve had a real impact on the Russian economy. That would tell [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, ‘Don’t escalate again, or you’re going to get stung.'”

Senior Atlantic Council Fellow Anders Aslund largely echoed that sentiment in a Kyiv Post opinion piece.

Support for Western response

Deputy Assistant Secretary Kent, head of the European and Eurasian Affairs directorate, pushed back on the criticism, pointing out that the U.S. did respond to the Sea of Azov events in real time.

“I think we made our response clear, both in immediately calling Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo and calling President [Petro] Poroshenko the next day — as well as in our public comments condemning the attack and calling for the immediate release of both the ships and the sailors and personnel,” Kent told VOA.

“And if you recall, while there was a scheduled meeting later that week in Buenos Aires at the G-20, the U.S. and President [Donald] Trump canceled that meeting precisely because of the Russians’ refusal to release both the ships and the personnel who were — in violation of international law — seized and then detained,” he added. The G-20 group is made up of 20 of the world’s biggest economies.

Kent said the Trump administration is actively working to change the Kremlin’s “cost calculus” for aggression on foreign soil and on international waters.

Controversial referendum

In March 2014, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula in violation of the norms and standards of the international order. The Kremlin denies this charge, claiming that residents of Crimea voted in a referendum to secede from Ukraine.

The majority of the international community has not recognized the validity of the referendum.

Russia’s modernization efforts in the region include construction of a 19-kilometer (11.8-mile) bridge which opened last year across the Kerch Strait that links the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The $3.6 billion project gave Crimea a land link to Russia. Previously, a ferry crossing that was often interrupted by gales served as the only connection.

This story originated in VOA’s Ukrainian Service. Pete Cobus contributed reporting.

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Former US Diplomats Slam Response to 2018 Russian Attack on Ukrainian Ships

Recent Western-imposed sanctions targeting Russia — spawned by a naval attack on Ukrainian soldiers on the Sea of Azov late last year — are too little, too late, say former top U.S. emissaries to the region.

The United States, in coordination with Canada and the European Union, leveled the sanctions on more than a dozen Russian officials and businesses earlier in March, citing Moscow’s “continued aggression in Ukraine.”

On Nov. 25, 2018, Russian Coast Guard vessels rammed and then seized a trio of Ukrainian naval vessels as they moved across international waters of the Black Sea en route from one Ukrainian port to another. The two dozen Ukrainian sailors aboard those ships have since been jailed in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo prison.

“Where were we in March, April, May, June of 2018?” said former U.S. Ambassador Victoria Nuland of the timing of the latest sanctions. Nuland spoke in Washington at a recent roundtable event, titled, “Crimea after Five Years of Russian Occupation.”

Nuland was one of several former top State Department officials on hand at the roundtable jointly sponsored by U.S. Institute of Peace, the Ukrainian embassy and the Atlantic Council. Nuland, a former assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, echoed criticism by retired U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst, who was also in attendance.

“I know where George was [at that time],” she added, referring to George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, who was also at the discussion. “But I don’t know where the rest of the administration and the rest of Europe were as the harassment of Ukrainian shipping was beginning, as the first efforts to gain control of that [maritime] territory were beginning.

“As has already been said, perhaps we didn’t want to see, so we waited until the crisis emerged. And even after the crisis, where were we in trying to increase our presence in the Black Sea?” Nuland said. “We’re only just getting there now. Where were we in terms of supporting Ukrainian naval capacity? Where were we in terms of a fast, ready-sanctions reaction?”

Six Russian officials, six defense firms, and two energy and construction firms were targeted with U.S. sanctions, either over the seizure of Ukrainian vessels in the Kerch Strait, or for their activities in Russian-annexed Crimea or separatist eastern Ukraine, according to a U.S. Treasury statement.

‘Late and weak’

Although current and former diplomats all expressed support for the latest sanctions, Herbst said they were still not enough.

“Western sanctions were late and weak,” Herbst later told VOA’s Ukrainian service. “If they’d been late and strong, I’d be celebrating, but they were weak. They sanctioned low-level officials and some Russian maritime-related firms. That’s it. They should have done something like sanction some high officials or family members of high officials, and they should have taken a major step like going after Gazprombank, which would’ve had a real impact on the Russian economy. That would tell [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, ‘Don’t escalate again, or you’re going to get stung.'”

Senior Atlantic Council Fellow Anders Aslund largely echoed that sentiment in a Kyiv Post opinion piece.

Support for Western response

Deputy Assistant Secretary Kent, head of the European and Eurasian Affairs directorate, pushed back on the criticism, pointing out that the U.S. did respond to the Sea of Azov events in real time.

“I think we made our response clear, both in immediately calling Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo and calling President [Petro] Poroshenko the next day — as well as in our public comments condemning the attack and calling for the immediate release of both the ships and the sailors and personnel,” Kent told VOA.

“And if you recall, while there was a scheduled meeting later that week in Buenos Aires at the G-20, the U.S. and President [Donald] Trump canceled that meeting precisely because of the Russians’ refusal to release both the ships and the personnel who were — in violation of international law — seized and then detained,” he added. The G-20 group is made up of 20 of the world’s biggest economies.

Kent said the Trump administration is actively working to change the Kremlin’s “cost calculus” for aggression on foreign soil and on international waters.

Controversial referendum

In March 2014, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula in violation of the norms and standards of the international order. The Kremlin denies this charge, claiming that residents of Crimea voted in a referendum to secede from Ukraine.

The majority of the international community has not recognized the validity of the referendum.

Russia’s modernization efforts in the region include construction of a 19-kilometer (11.8-mile) bridge which opened last year across the Kerch Strait that links the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The $3.6 billion project gave Crimea a land link to Russia. Previously, a ferry crossing that was often interrupted by gales served as the only connection.

This story originated in VOA’s Ukrainian Service. Pete Cobus contributed reporting.

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UNESCO Campaign Tackles Racism 

The Paris-based U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on Thursday launched a campaign to fight prejudice. The move coincided with International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Begun with the French city of Bordeaux, the UNESCO billboard campaign features a variety of faces — old and young, men and women, and of many ethnic backgrounds. The tagline, “us different?” aims to make us think about who we are, and our prejudices.

 

“You would walk by it and hopefully react. … [Is that] person on the screen different?” said Magnus Magnusson, partnerships and outreach director at UNESCO’s social and human science division.

Mindful of stereotypes

“Ultimately, it’s about our own awareness of our own stereotypes, and we need to work, each one of us, on those stereotypes that could illustrate or be reflections on racism,” he said.

The campaign rollout comes at a time when experts say brazen forms of racism are resurging — in sports, on social media and in politics.

The initiative follows last week’s mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which a self-proclaimed white nationalist opened fire on worshippers at two mosques. Fifty people were killed. The suspect has been charged with murder.  

 

Migration is one factor behind the increase in racist incidents, experts say, but so is the power of social media in spreading and enforcing stereotypes.

 

Activists are fighting back. A round-table hosted by UNESCO featured imaginative ways to counter prejudice, including through chess. 

 

Cameroonian artist Gaspard Njock fights it with his pen. He’s the author of comic books and graphic novels sold in bookstores across France. 

Versatile medium

 

Njock said comics can be a powerful tool to fight racism, because it’s a medium that reaches all types of people and can tackle important themes. 

 

One of Njock’s graphic novels, Un voyage sans retour, is about the dangerous migration of sub-Saharan migrants to Europe. Njock arrived in Europe several years ago, making his way to France after a few years in Italy. 

Njock said he never considered himself a victim of racism — not because he never encountered it, but because he developed ways to fight it.

Magnusson of UNESCO said education is key to wiping out racism. So is being more aware of how we think and feel.

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France Urges Iran to Free Human Rights Lawyer

France on Thursday called for Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh to be released and warned Tehran that its adherence to a nuclear accord does not give it a blank cheque on human rights.

“We will do all we can to secure the release of Mrs. Sotoudeh,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told the upper chamber Senate.

“She was condemned under astonishing conditions,” for “defending the rights of women, in particular those who contest the obligation to wear the Islamic veil,” he added.

Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, told AFP on Sunday that his wife had been sentenced to a total of 33 years in prison over a case with seven charges, but she is to only serve the longest sentence, 12 years imposed on Sunday for “encouraging corruption and debauchery”.

She has also been convicted of espionage.

Sotoudeh has also been sentenced to a total of 148 lashes for appearing in court without the hijab Islamic head covering and for another offense.

According to Khandan, Sotoudeh has refrained from choosing a lawyer as attorneys on her previous cases have faced prosecution for representing her.

“We have been making considerable efforts in recent months to preserve the (Iranian) nuclear accord, despite America’s withdrawal,” said Le Drian.

“We are doing so because we respect our signature, but Iran must also respect its obligations in particular those international agreements relating to civil and political rights,” he added.

Last month the UN atomic watchdog said that Iran has been adhering to its deal with world powers on limiting its nuclear program, as diplomatic wrangling continues over the future of the accord.

The latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran was still complying with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with global powers under which Tehran drastically scaled back its nuclear programin return for sanctions relief.

Last week, European nations rejected a call from US Vice President Mike Pence to follow the US lead in withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear deal.

Le Drian said Thursday: “Our wish to preserve the Vienna accord does not grant carte-blanche to Iran and certainly not in the matter of human rights.”

Before her arrest, Sotoudeh, 55, had taken on the cases of several women arrested for appearing in public without headscarves in protest at the mandatory dress code in force in Iran.

Sotoudeh won the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov Prize in 2012 for her work on high-profile cases, including those of convicts on death row for offenses committed as minors.

She spent three years in prison after representing dissidents arrested during mass protests in 2009 against the disputed re-election of ultra-conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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Brexit Day Delayed as EU Seizes Control of Exit Date

In the past two years, British Prime Minister Theresa May has insisted repeatedly that Britain will exit the European Union on schedule on March 29 — she has said so 108 times from the dispatch box in the House of Commons.

But on Thursday, the embattled leader, whose days in office appear to be numbered, was forced to appeal to her fellow EU national leaders for a three-month postponement, throwing into deeper confusion a Brexit process that has pushed Britain into a constitutional crisis, dividing the country.

May’s face-to-face request at a summit in Brussels clearly strained the patience of the EU’s other 27 national leaders, who are close to a breaking point. They fear Britain’s tangled exit will never get resolved. During the summit, the Luxembourg prime minister told reporters: “We are not in a souk and we are not going to bargain for the next five years.”

French President Emmanuel Macron was especially reluctant about granting an extension, questioning why Britain should have more time to get its house in order, and skeptical whether it ever would.

“We are heading towards no deal,” he said as the leaders gathered.

His foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, told the French National Assembly on the eve of a two-day EU summit in Brussels this week that France would oppose a lengthy Brexit postponement. He said Paris would only support a short extension, one giving the British parliament sufficient time to approve a contentious withdrawal agreement May and the EU agreed to in November — but one that British lawmakers have overwhelmingly rejected twice.

Without that approval, “the central scenario is a no-deal exit — we are ready for it,” the foreign minister said.

Charles Grant, director of the research group Center for European Reform, says Macron worries most about the possible “spoiling” impact Britain may have on European Parliament elections this May, if Britain participates as a result of any lengthy Brexit delay. He “fears the UK will ‘pollute’ EU politics if the Brits hang around for a prolonged period,” Grant tweeted.

After more than two years of haggling with Britain over a transition deal, and amid accusations of British cherry-picking, some of the bloc’s national governments weren’t that far behind the French in toying with the idea of saying enough is enough, EU officials told VOA.

Short reprieve possible

Led by Germany, prudence overcame exasperation, and French resistance, on Thursday.

No EU country wants to be blamed for Britain crashing out of the bloc without a deal. Such a chaotic departure would undermine EU principles of fraternity and would not only deeply harm Britain economically but also several near European neighbors, including France and Ireland, EU leaders fear.

Initially, the EU 27 planned to agree to a shorter delay than May requested and one conditional on British lawmakers approving the transition deal, which is deeply unpopular with both hardline Brexiters in May’s ruling Conservative party and pro-EU lawmakers across the British political spectrum.

But they pulled back, fearing they might push Britain into crashing out without a deal, as much by accident as design. They also concluded, EU sources say, that May would fail a third time to get backing for her deal next week from the British parliament. They wanted to avoid having to hold an emergency Brexit summit next week to consider what to do again, enduring yet more cliff-edge drama.

Instead, after running hours past the time allocated to consider the British request, leaving the world’s media kicking their heels waiting for a decision, the EU 27 came up with what has been dubbed a “flextension” in a bid to seize more control of the process.

Britain now has a short reprieve until May 22, if the British parliament ratifies May’s deal next week. If it doesn’t, then Britain has until April 12 to announce it will take part in European elections and would then be accorded an extension until the end of 2019.

If it has not agreed to participate in the elections, then there can be no long extension. Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said the EU decided on the two options in a “positive spirit.”

Britain’s next move

What Britain does now remains unclear and the drama will shift from Brussels back to London and a deadlocked British House of Commons. There are few signs that parliament will change its mind and approve the negotiated transition deal, one which Brexiters’ fear could lock Britain into a semi-permanent customs union with the bloc. Pro-EU lawmakers worry it doesn’t tie Britain closely enough to the EU.

Prime Minister May hasn’t helped the prospect of the deal being endorsed, say critics, who accuse her of brinkmanship, daring British lawmakers to reject her agreement and court the dangers of a no-deal Brexit.

On Wednesday, she made a short, defiant statement from Downing Street, one that scorned British lawmakers and deflected blame for the crisis on parliament, in an apparent bid to turn voters’ anger on to MPs. “You are tired of the infighting; you’re tired of the political games and the arcane procedural rows, tired of MPs talking about nothing else but Brexit,” she told the British public in the televised address.

The statement angered many lawmakers, who dubbed it toxic and complained it was inflammatory at such a fevered time as this to describe the impasse as a matter of parliament versus the public.

“If you are trying to persuade MPs, you don’t help yourself by lambasting them,” said Conservative lawmaker Mark Francois, a hardline Brexiter. He says if May brings back her deal to parliament, she “will get the same answer.”

Phillip Lee, a pro-EU Conservative, accused May of stoking unrest by casting lawmakers as “enemies of the people.” Some lawmakers said they feel in physical danger, after receiving death threats following May’s statement.

“It is out of order. Lawmakers do their best for constituents and it is fundamentally wrong to undermine parliament,” he warned.

Some EU diplomats warned a no-deal British exit is still a possibility. Some are putting hope in the British parliament seizing control of the Brexit process from May and crafting a softer Brexit, even to revoke Britain’s application to leave the EU. That hope has been prompted by more than two million people signing a petition this week for Brexit to be abandoned.