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Extra! "What Now" For Austria's Refugees?

Kurier, Sept. 7, 2015

"They reached safety — what now?," Vienna-based daily Kurier asks on its front page Monday, as at least 15,000 refugees crossed the border from Hungary over the weekend into Austria.

After days of confrontation between refugees — mostly fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq — and authorities in Budapest stopping them from travelling to Western Europe, Austria and Hungary agreed to ease asylum rules. This allowed groups of buses and trains operated by both Austrian and Hungarian authorities, but also activists, to bring refugees across the border.

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said these emergency measures would now be "phased out," explaining they cannot be a permanent solution. After meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban Sunday, he said the measures would now move step-by-step "towards normality."

Faymann also called for an emergency summit with EU leaders to resolve the migrant crisis. The meeting could take place on September 14, after discussions among interior ministers.

"There is no alternative to a common European solution," the Social Democrat was quoted as saying by the Austrian Press Agency (APA).

A few hundred refugees claimed asylum in Austria over the weekend, as most are expected to travel on to Germany, where Merkel's government said it would accept all Syrian asylum seekers, regardless of which EU country they reached first.

In Austria, migrants are afraid they could be sent back to Hungary, under the Dublin III regulation, which states that refugees must seek asylum in the first EU country the enter. Germany is expected to receive a record 800,000 asylum seekers this years, four times more than in 2014.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is slated to present a plan Wednesday to relocate 120,000 refugees across Europe. France is set to receive 24,000 refugees, and Spain could take in about 15,000, German daily Die Welt reports. British Prime Minister David Cameron said his country would take in "thousands" more refugees from Syria, without providing a specific number, the BBC reported.

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An End To Venezuela Sanctions? The Lula Factor In Biden's Democratization Gamble

The Biden administration's exploration to lift sanctions on Venezuela, hoping to gently push its regime back on the path of democracy, might have taken its cue from Brazilian President Lula's calls to stop demonizing Venezuela.

Photo of a man driving a motorbike past a wall with a mural depicting former President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, Venezuela

Driving past a Chavez mural in Caracas, Venezuela

Leopoldo Villar Borda


BOGOTÁ — Reports last month that U.S. President Joe Biden's apparent decision to unblock billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets, frozen since 2015 as part of the United States' sanctions on the Venezuelan regime, could be the first of many pieces to fall in a domino effect that could help end the decades-long Venezuelan deadlock.

It may move the next piece — the renewal of conversations in Mexico between the Venezuelan government and opposition — before pushing over other obstacles to elections due in 2024 and to Venezuela's return into the community of American states.

I don't think I'm being naïve in anticipating developments that would lead to a new narrative around Venezuela, very different to the one criticized by Brazil's president, Lula da Silva. He told a regional summit in Brasilia in June that there were prejudices about Venezuela — and I dare say he wasn't entirely wrong, based on the things I hear from a Venezuelan friend who lives in Bogotá but travels frequently home.

My friend insists his country's recent history is not quite as depicted in the foreign press. The price of basic goods found in a food market are much the same as those in Bogotá, he says.

He goes to the theater when he visits Caracas, eats in restaurants and strolls in parks and squares. There are new building works, he says. He uses the Caracas metro and insists its trains and stations are clean — showing me pictures on his cellphone to prove it.

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