After a war of words, Angela Merkel and Donald Trump make nice at NATO summit

After calling Germany a “captive” of Russia’s, President Donald Trump has now praised the US’s relationship with one of its most important strategic partners. Merkel cited her GDR childhood when rebuking the president.

    

Watch video00:21

‘Germany is totally controlled by Russia’

The NATO summit looked set for a rocky start on Wednesday, with Donald Trump earning a rebuke from Angela Merkel after claiming that Germany was “captive” to Russia for its concessions in pursuit ofa controversial gas pipeline deal. But, after a sit-down session with the chancellor, the US president was singing a revised tune, saying the bond between the increasingly uneasy allies was bigger — more “tremendous” even — than any differences between the leaders.

“We are having a great meeting,” Trump told reporters following his one-on-one with the chancellor. “We are discussing military expenditure, and we are talking about trade. We have a very, very good relationship.”

Merkel was more reserved with her assessment, saying the United States and Germany are “good partners, and we wish to continue cooperating in the future.”

In more official business at the summit on Wednesday, the alliance invited Macedonia to begin accession talks, after the Balkan nation resolved a long-running dispute with neighboring Greece, a NATO member that has a state with a similar name. Officials in Athens had successfully unilaterally blocked Macedonia’s candidacy for a decade. The new formal name for what the UN and EU officially label the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) still requires domestic political approval.

Read more:Aspiring NATO member Macedonia angles for membership invite in 2018

‘Germany is captive’

The dispute between Trump and Merkel started, as it often does with this US president, with an utterance.

“Germany is captive of Russia because it is getting so much of its energy from Russia,” Trump said, referring to Berlin’s Nord Stream 2 deal with Moscow. “They pay billions of dollars to Russia, and we have to defend them against Russia.”

Berlin hopes the 1,200-kilometer (750-mile) Baltic Sea pipeline will provide direct delivery of more than 55 billion cubic meters (2 trillion cubic feet) of Russian natural gas starting in late 2019.

Read more: US-German conflicts — what you need to know

Merkel cites childhood

The US and some East European countries have criticized the deal, fearing that it could make Germany overly reliant on Russia at a time of heightened diplomatic tensions between Moscow and NATO.

Watch video02:04

Does Trump have a point about NATO?

Speaking ahead of her one-on-one meeting with Trump, Merkel pushed back against the president’s characterization of Germany as subservient to Russian interests.

“I experienced, in person, that part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union,” Merkel, who grew up in Templin in the former East Germany (GDR), said. “I am very happy that today we are united in freedom … and that we can therefore also say that we conduct independent policies and can take independent decisions.”

Defense minister: Look at Germany’s output

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told reporters in Brussels that Germany was “used” to Trump’s criticisms and that the country could “cope” with his barbs.

She admitted that his criticism of Germany’s low spending on defense was fair, but appealed to his background as a businessman to consider the country’s defense contribution in a wider light.

Watch video08:13

Europe needs ‘strategic patience’

“I’d like to see the businessman Donald Trump not only look at the balance sheet, but at the output,” she said, adding that Germany contributed the second-highest number of troops to the alliance and has been its second-largest net contributor.

‘Appreciate your allies’

Trump’s stinging criticism of Germany came less than a day after he exchanged stern words with European Council President Donald Tusk over EU nations’ defense spending.

Shortly before arriving in Brussels, Trump slammed European NATO members for failing to meet the alliance target of spending at least 2 percent of GDP on defense.

“Many countries in NATO, which we are expected to defend, are not only short of their current commitment of 2 percent (which is low) but are also delinquent for many years in payments that have not been made. Will they reimburse the US?” he wrote on Twitter.

In Brussels, Tusk hit back at Trump for “criticizing Europe almost daily” and said the president should acknowledge that the EU is the US’s closest ally. “Dear America, appreciate your allies, after all you don’t have that many,” he said.

Donald Tusk

@eucopresident

Dear @realDonaldTrump. US doesn’t have and won’t have a better ally than EU. We spend on defense much more than Russia and as much as China. I hope you have no doubt this is an investment in our security, which cannot be said with confidence about Russian & Chinese spending 🙂

Read more: NATO in a nutshell: What you need to know

Tense talks ahead

The spat over defense spending is set to dominate the two-day meeting, where leaders are also expected to sign off on a new rapid reaction force, increased funding for Afghan security forces and an invitation for Macedonia to join the nearly 70-year-old alliance.

Only eight members of the 29-country bloc are expected to spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense in 2018: the US, Estonia, Greece, Britain, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania. Germany’s defense spending is currently 1.24 percent of its GDP.

The meeting is also be taking place amid heightened tensions over US tariffs on European steel and aluminum imports and Trump’s withdrawal from a nuclear deal with Iran that many European countries are eager to save.

In a signal to European allies, the US Senate voted on Tuesday 97-2 in a nonbinding resolution in support of NATO.

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, respectively the top Democrats in the House and Senate, issued a joint statement on Wednesday to take Trump to task for his comments: “President Trump’s brazen insults and denigration of one of America’s most steadfast allies, Germany, is an embarrassment.”

amp, mkg/msh (dpa, AFP, Reuters, AP)

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EU leaders seek migration deal in Brussels

At a “make or break” summit, European leaders are hoping to clinch a deal on migration. The European Council president warned that the alternative would be “some really tough proposals from some really tough guys.”

    
Angela Merkel in Brussels

European Union leaders are huddling together in Brussels on Thursday, where over the next two days they will discuss security, trade and, most importantly, migration.

Stakes are high after German Chancellor Angela Merkel described irregular migration as an issue that could “make or break” the EU. At home, she is under pressure to secure a bloc-wide deal or face the possible collapse of her government.

Some of the measures Merkel is hoping to clinch during the summit include bolstering Frontex, the EU’s border management agency, establishing a “solidarity-based agreement” to share the burden of hosting asylum-seekers and shoring up support for returning migrants under the Dublin system.

“Defense of our external borders is something which unites Europe. (We will talk about ) the issues of Frontex, border protection, secondary migration. The countries that are receiving a lot of refugees need support. But the refugees and migrants can’t choose in which country they request asylum,” Merkel said at the summit.

Several nations, including France, Hungary, have told reporters at the summit that they are open to bilateral agreements with Germany.

But by Thursday evening, Italy had vowed to block progress on any issue to pressure fellow members into action on migration. Leaders had hoped to pass joint statements on a range of issues and then come to an agreement on migration.

A French diplomatic source said on Thursday evening that France, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands and Spain had agreed on the wording of a draft summit text on immigration.

Finding common views

For Council President Donald Tusk, EU leaders should focus on the parts where there is the possibility of reaching an agreement, such as the bloc’s external border and a project to create disembarkation platforms.

“The alternative to this solution would be a chaotically advancing closure of borders – also within the EU – as well as growing conflict among EU member states,” said Tusk. “Trust me, if we don’t agree on them, then you will some really tough proposals from some really tough guys.”

Read more: Can EU summit help Merkel survive her domestic battle over migration?

But even the task of finding commonalities across the 28 members of the EU will be challenging as right-wing governments pushed for hardline policies that threaten freedom of movement within the bloc.

Meanwhile, Morocco has rejected the idea of setting up stations for migrants to determine who is eligible for asylum in Europe. Morocco is used as the base for the Western Mediterranean to Spain, used primarily by Algerians, Ivorians and Moroccans.

Merkel said: “We can talk about landing ships (of migrants) in other countries, for example in North Africa. But we need to talk with these countries. We can’t do this over their heads. The EU-Turkey deal was one that both sides agreed to. So we need to talk about the needs of these countries. We need to do this together with the UNHCR and the IOM.”

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini called for an additional €1 billion in funds for long-term aid to African nations to help them combat conditions that lead to people heading to Europe.

Not ‘one person more’

Matteo Salvini, Italy’s firebrand interior minister, has been instrumental in raising the level of confrontation in Europe by preventing rescue shops carrying migrants from docking at Italian ports, saying: “We cannot take one person more.”

Salvini has found support for his hardline policies from German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, Austria and Visegrad countries, including Poland and Hungary.

Read more: Where do EU countries stand on migration?

“We push for action based on consensus, not imposed relocation. We are against imposed relocation. As regards secondary migration, Poland has tough asylum regulation and will stick to these tough asylum regulations,” said Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

The Visegrad leaders met early on with Macron, telling news outlets they had agreed on strengthening the EU’s external borders, but were less focused on secondary migration.

However, Merkel has received support from some EU leaders for her proposed measures, including Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila.

Watch video26:00

Migrant Crisis: Time for Fortress Europe?

ls/aw (Reuters, dpa)

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Mayor calls for homeless to be detained as cold hits Brussels

The mayor of a Brussels neighborhood has said homeless people sleeping in parts of the city will be detained overnight if they refuse shelter. Brussels’ 3,000 homeless face expected subfreezing temperatures this week.

A woman walks in the snow in front of the European Parliament headquarters in Brussels,

The mayors of two central Brussels districts on Monday directed Belgian police to force all homeless people into public shelters, even if they were unwilling to go.

“The cold is a major risk,” said Vincent De Wolf, mayor of the Brussels district of Etterbeek, stressing that it was his responsibility to avoid potential deaths.

Snow and cold weather have disrupted travel in the neighboring Netherlands, where the chill has been labelled “the Siberian bear” and where a low of minus 17 celsius (1.4 degrees fahrenheit) is expected on Thursday.

‘In case of absolute necessity’
Across Europe, the cold spell has also caused havoc.

“As a consequence, the mayor of Etterbeek has authorized, in case of absolute necessity, the detention of homeless people who are acting in a way that would endanger their safety by refusing shelter,” Etterbeek council said in a statement.

Campaign groups estimate that over 3,000 homeless people live in the Brussels region.

Etterbeek, which houses the main offices of the European Union, was followed by Brussels City, another of the 19 councils that make up the greater Brussels region. Its mayor said he had given similar orders to police and asked them to prioritize children sleeping outside.

Berlin prepares for worst

Meanwhile, due to growing concerns of subfreezing temperatures, Berlin authorities have increased the number of overnight accommodations for the homeless.

Berlin’s Social Integration Senator Elke Breitenbach of the Left Party told InfoRadio that it will be a “big challenge” for authorities, but for now, an additional 100 beds have been added to a hangar of the former Tempelhof Airport.

An arctic cold front has swept across Europe, driving temperatures down. In Rome, it meant snowfall for the first time in years.

jbh/aw (Reuters, AFP)

Watch video04:05

Three-Star accommodation for the homeless

COURTESY: DW

Brexit talks: EU, Britain say ball is in the other’s court

Six months of Brexit negotiations have passed with little progress. With British Prime Minister Theresa May due to address parliament, both sides have now said that the other is responsible for making the next move.

Union Jack flag next to exit sign

As the EU and Britain started the fifth round of Brexit talks on Monday, both sides quarreled over who was responsible for making the next move in the stalled negotiations over Britain’s departure from the bloc.

Theresa May told the British parliament on Monday that a new agreement “will require leadership and flexibility, not just from us but from our friends, the 27 nations of the EU,” adding that “the ball is in their court.”

Theresa May in the House of Commons

Key points from the speech:

– Britain will not be a member of EU institutions during the two-year “implementation” period after it leaves the union on March 29, 2019, but it will retain access to the EU single market until the implementation period is over.

– Both sides can only resolve the problem of how much Britain owes the EU if they consider the future EU-UK relationship after the implementation period.

– Britain will not revoke Article 50, which would stop the Brexit talks and keep Britain in the EU.

– Government ministries have been preparing “for every eventuality,” a hint that Britain could accept leaving the EU without a deal.

Margaritis Schina speaking in BrusselsMargaritis Schina refuted May’s claim that the EU would need to make the next move

But before May had given the speech, European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas had told reporters in Brussels that “there has been so far no solution found on step one, which is the divorce proceedings.”

“So the ball is entirely in the UK court for the rest to happen,” he said.

Phase one troubles

The EU has repeatedly said that both sides can only discuss a new partnership agreement – which is expected to include a new EU-UK trade deal – after “sufficient progress” had been made on Britain’s exit from the union.

The first four rounds of negotiations have so far focused on three major exit issues:

– How much Britain owes the EU

– The status of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland

– The rights of EU citizens in Britain and British citizens in the EU after Brexit

Watch video00:55

May: ‘Our most important duty is to get Brexit right’

British leaders have criticized the EU for demanding a strict division in the talks, saying agreements on specific exit issues depend on whether both sides can agree on the terms of the post-exit partnership. But EU leaders have so far resisted that call.

Initial plans to complete phase one by mid-October have looked increasingly unrealistic after talks during the summer failed to achieve much progress.

The will to compromise

Both sides have indicated they may compromise to avoid Britain exiting the EU without any final deal.

May said in a speech in Florence, Italy in September that Britain would agree to abide by EU rules and pay into the common budget for two years after Brexit in March 2019.

She also said London would pay any outstanding amount it owed to Brussels, but did not say how much she thought the bill should be. Both sides have clashed on how to calculate the final exit bill.

Speaking to the Guardian newspaper on Monday, Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen called on Britain and the EU to be flexible, saying “this will never be a 100 percent win for one side or the other side. This will be a political compromise.”

Watch video02:09

European lawmakers vote against advancing Brexit

All eyes on Brussels

EU leaders are set to meet in Brussels for a summit on October 19-20 wherethey will formally decidewhether “sufficient progress” has been made to open up phase two negotiations.

With six months of the two-year negotiating period already up, officials and business leaders have become increasingly worried that both sides may not agree to a final deal in time.

May, however, struck a confident tone during her speech on Monday, telling MPs: “I believe we can prove the doomsayers wrong.”

amp/rt (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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Brussels attacker: Bomb making materials found in home

Belgium’s prosecutor says the man behind a bombing at Brussels central station may have supported the “Islamic State” extremist group. Investigators also found materials used to make explosives in the 36-year-old’s home.

Belgian police outside a house in Brussels

Police who raided the suspect’s home found “possible chemical substances and materials were found that could serve to make explosives,” Belgian federal prosecutor’s spokesman Eric Van Der Sypt said Wednesday.

The Moroccan national, identified by the initials O.Z., was shot dead by a soldier at Brussels main train station on Tuesday after trying to detonate a nail bomb.

“The preliminary results of the search carried out in the residence of the suspect O.Z. in Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, showed that he probably made the bomb there,” Van Der Sypt said in a statement.

Investigators said they also found indications that the suspect had “sympathies for the terrorist organization IS.”

Brussels on alert 

Belgian will keep its current terror alert level at three on a scale of four, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said on Wednesday.

Nevertheless, added security forces will be deployed across the country. Authorities also said that no events would be canceled, but warned those planning to attend not to carry backpacks with them.

Watch video03:15

Brussels explosion – DW’s Max Hofmann reports

Security will be particularly beefed up at the 50,000-seat King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels, where British rock band Coldplay is scheduled perform later on Wednesday.

Michel chaired a meeting of the National Security Council on Wednesday morning, after which he reported that authorities have no information suggesting further attacks are imminent.

Following the meeting, he tweeted: “We will not let ourselves be intimidated by terrorism. We will always defend our values of liberty and democracy.”

Brussels central station remained shut overnight, re-opening at around 8 a.m. local time (0600 UTC) on Wednesday.

Brussels has been on high alert since a group of suicide bombers carried out attacks at the Brussels airport and a subway station in March last year, killing 32 people.

Attacker details coming to light

Belgian media reported that the assailant lived in the largely immigrant Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek, a home and transit point for a number jihadis who carried out terror attacks in Brussels and Paris last year.

Read more: Molenbeek: Kicking away terror

Belgian authorities have carried out a host raids in the area over the past year.

Watch video00:31

Brussels suspect dies after ‘terror’ blast

Assailant used nail bomb in attack

Authorities revealed that the attacker detonated a suitcase containing nails and gas bottles. The passenger approached a group of around passengers at the station before grabbing his suitcase and causing a “partial explosion,” Van Der Sypt said.

“Fortunately nobody was hurt,” he added. “It could have been much worse. It is clear that he wanted to cause more damage than he did.”

The man left his luggage before it exploded a second time. He then charged at a soldier at the scene while screaming  “Allahu Akbar” (God is great). The soldier opened fire, killing the suspect.

Earlier reports had claimed that the attacker had worn an explosive belt, although those claims were dismissed.

dm/sms (AFP, dpa, AP)

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Brussels suspect shot after ‘small explosion’ in main station

Following what prosecutors called a “terror attack” at Brussels’ main train station, Belgian officials have said they identified the man allegedly responsible for the explosion. The suspect was the only casualty.

Watch video00:31

Brussels suspect dies after ‘terror’ blast

Authorities said on Wednesday that they determined the identity of the suspected terrorist thought to have set off a small explosion at Brussels’ main train station but would not immediately release his name, the Interior Ministry said. Investigators are working to establish further information on the suspect’s background.

“The terrorist’s identity is known. We have been able to identify him,” Interior Minister Jan Jambon told RTBF radio television on Wednesday without giving further details.

Following the explosion on Tuesday, the suspect was shot dead by soldiers patrolling the station.

The train station reopened Wednesday morning, according to DW’s Max Hofmann in Brussels.

Read more: Madrid to Manchester to London: A chronology of terror in Europe

Authorities later said that there were no other casualties in the incident.

Investigators are treating the incident as a “terrorist attack,” said Erik Van Der Sypt, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office.

Watch video02:16

Person ‘neutralized’ at central station: DW’s Georg Matthes from Brussels

The attack took place around 9 p.m. local time (1900 UTC) when the historic city center was packed with tourists and locals. Police evacuated the station, Gare Centrale, as well as the nearby Grand Place. Belgian media reported that a number of other public places in the Belgian capital had also been cleared.

Prime Minister Charles Michel and his interior minister were monitoring developments from the national crisis center.

“Thanks to our soldiers, security forces and SNCB (rail company) personnel for their professionalism and their courage,” Michel later wrote on Twitter.

Merci à nos soldats, aux services de sécurité et au personnel @SNCB pour leur professionnalisme et leur courage. Demain 9h CNS

Police wrote on Twitter that the situation was under control and urged the public to follow instructions. Gare Centrale and its surrounding roads remained closed through the night and into Wednesday.

‘Wasn’t exactly a big explosion’

National newspaper La Libre Belgique quoted the Brussels prosecutor’s office as saying the suspect was wearing a backpack and an explosive belt.

A witness in the train station told Agence France Presse a man “cried ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is great), and … blew up a trolley.”

Belgian media reported that the assailant is believed to have used a nail bomb, which failed to detonate completely.

Belgien Explosion am Zentral-Bahnhof in Brüssel (Reuters/Twitter/@remybonnaffe)Pictures reported to be of the explosion in Brussels’ central station were widely circulated around the social media.

“I was behind a wall when it exploded,” the witness, railway sorting agent Nicolas Van Herrewegen, said. “I went down and alerted my colleagues to evacuate everyone. He (the suspect) was still around but after that we didn’t see him.”

“It wasn’t exactly a big explosion but the impact was pretty big. People were running away.”

Brussels has been on high alert since twin suicide bombings killed 32 people on the Brussels subway and airport in March 2016. The bombings were carried out by the same extremist cell behind the November 2015 Paris attacks that killed 130 people.

Since then, combat troops have been stationed at major public buildings and landmarks around Brussels. The Belgian capital is home to the headquarters of NATO and the European Union.

nm/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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Madrid to Manchester to London: A chronology of terror in Europe

Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Manchester and now another attack in London? European cities have been increasingly targeted by Islamist extremists in recent years.

UK London am Tag nach dem Anschlag (Reuters/P. Nicholls)

London, March/June 2017

Watch video02:20

London police shoot attackers dead

On June 2, three men drove a van into civilians on London Bridge then exited the vehicle and stabbed people in restaurants and bars in the nearby Borough Market area. British police killed the three perpetrators, who were wearing fake suicide bomber vests, eight minutes after the first call was received by emergency services. An attacker steers a car into pedestrians on a bridge in the center of London and then stabs a policeman. Of the victims on the bridge, four eventually die of their injuries. British security forces shoot the perpetrator dead.

Read more: Opinion: In Britain, we stand against terror together

Manchester, May 2017

After a concert by US singer Ariana Grande, a 22-year-old suicide bomber detonated a bomb near the event’s exit area killing himself and 22 civilians, including several children. Over 100 more people were injured.

Stockholm, April 2017

Five people die after a truck hit pedestrians on a busy shopping street in the Swedish capital. On the same day, police arrested a 39-year-old Uzbek on suspicion of carrying out a terrorist act.

Paris, February/March/April 2017

In a series of incidents across the French capital at the start of the year, soldiers are targeted at the Louvre Museum in February and Paris’ Orly airport in March. In April, a gunman opens fire on a police vehicle on the Champs Elysees, killing one officer. The attacker, identified as a 39-year-old Frenchman, is quickly shot dead by other officers.

Berlin, December 2016

Twelve people are killed shortly before Christmas, when the German capital becomes a target. A supporter of the “Islamic State” (IS) militant group steers a captured truck into a Christmas Market. A few days later, the 24-year-old Tunisian is shot dead in a police check in the Italian city of Milan.

Deutschland Neun Tote und viele Verletzte auf Berliner Weihnachtsmarkt (picture-alliance/dpa/P. Zinken)Shortly before Christmas, an attacker steered a truck into a Christmas Market in Berlin

Nice, July 2016

At least 86 people are killed when an attacker drives a truck into the crowded Promenade des Anglais in the southern French coastal resort. IS claims responsibility for the atrocity.

Brussels, March 2016

Islamist attackers detonate a number of bombs at the airport of the Belgian capital and in a metro station, killing 32 people.

Istanbul, January 2016

An IS suicide bomber blows himself up in the middle of a tourist group near the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, killing 12 Germans.

Paris, November 2015

IS supporters kill 130 people and injure hundreds more in a coordinated series of attacks on the Bataclan music venue, several restaurants and the Stade de France football stadium.

Copenhagen, February 2015

A 22-year-old opens fire on a café in the Danish capital, killing one person. The attacker then shot and killed a man who was guarding a synagogue before himself being shot dead by police.

Paris, January 2015

Seventeen people die in an attack on the headquarters of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a seperate incident at a kosher supermarket in the French capital.

Brussels, May 2014

A French Islamist is arrested after four people are shot in the Jewish Museum of Belgium. The gunman, a self-proclaimed jihadi, had previously fought in Syria.

London, July 2005

Four British Muslims detonate bombs on the Tube – London’s underground rail system – and on a bus. The attacks kill 56 people and injure about 700.

Madrid, March 2004

Some 191 people are killed and 1,500 are injured when coordinated bombs explode on Spanish commuter trains.

wa/rc (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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