TIME migrants

Migrants Wait With Hope and Resignation at French Camp Called ‘the Jungle’

“It is not a good life here"

When dawn breaks in Calais, France, Nabeel Edris’ hopes are momentarily dampened. Another night has passed, and the 29-year-old Eritrean has still not managed to reach England. As the sun rises, he begins his three-hour walk back to the dusty scrubland on the outskirts of Calais, to the makeshift camps known as “the Jungle” to its 3,000 residents. Edris has already ended up staying much longer than he imagined, but he refuses to call it home.

A brother, a son, a student, a citizen — Edris had once been many things to many people. But like everyone else in the Jungle, he now holds only the deracinated, dispossessed status of the migrant. “It is not a good life here, it is not good at all,” he says, picking at a yellowing wound on his shin, the souvenir of an attempt to scale the barbed-wire fencing that surrounds the port. Edris left his family behind in the Eritrean capital of Asmara nearly a year ago, fleeing the country’s compulsory lifelong military service. Eritrea’s repressive government scores lower on political and press-freedom rankings than even North Korea. Edris has crossed the sweltering expanse of the Sahara, made a perilous sea journey across the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy, and arrived in the French port city of Calais in the freezing depths of winter. But more than six months on, his quest is not over.

Edris shares the determination of countless migrants in Calais, who are desperate to escape the squalid conditions of the Jungle. Fueled by the belief that a better life awaits them on the other side of the Channel, they see their situation as temporary. They are drawn to England because they speak the language, have relatives and friends who have settled there or believe the job market will be better than in France.

Others feel differently. Many end up applying for asylum in France, giving themselves a time frame by which they will give up trying to reach England. Some continue to live in the Jungle while they endure the long wait for papers to be processed.

Calais Migrants camp
Rob Stothard—Getty ImagesSudanese men build a wooden structure at a make shift camp near the port of Calais in Calais, France, on July 31, 2015.

As a result, the Jungle is becoming a more permanent fixture in the Calais landscape. It sprung up without approval, but it has evolved into a shanty town of sorts — albeit one that falls far below international humanitarian standards. Though France is the world’s sixth biggest economy, the Jungle on the northern edge of Calais would not pass for a refugee camp in a developing nation. Guidelines from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees recommend a maximum of 20 people using one toilet, but in the Jungle, 300 migrants share a single toilet. Piles of garbage attract rats and flies, and the air is thick with the stench of sewage and rotting food.

However, locals who volunteer in the Jungle say conditions are slowly improving. In January the French government opened the Jules Ferry refugee center, built on a former children’s summer camp, with space for 120 women and children to sleep. In response to criticism from the U.N. and aid groups, the French government has begun a $550,000 project to improve the basic infrastructure in the camp. In the past month, streetlights have gone up and faucets providing cold water have been installed. Volunteers say that the camp is bigger than ever before, but also better organized.

“The government is more present on the ground here in Calais, and works more with the charities now,” said Carolyn Wiggins, 54, a longtime volunteer with the city’s migrant associations over the 11 years she has lived in Calais. In the past 18 months, she and her husband, Michel, have joined about 20 volunteers as part of the French aid organization SALAM. Five days a week, the couple help to serve 2,000 evening meals at the Jules Ferry center, where they have noticed a significant uptick in the number of people requiring food. They also collect supplies from the local foodbank, including vegetables, fruit and bread, and distribute them at the encampments twice a week.

The medical charity Médecins du Monde has also opened a makeshift hospital in wooden sheds where staff volunteers offer upwards of 40 consultations a day. Its director of operations, Jean-François Corty, told TIME that as well as infections caused by the filthy state of the camp, the staff are seeing more and more broken bones as migrants make even riskier attempts to stow away on Britain-bound vehicles.

Calais Migrants camp
Rob Stothard—Getty ImagesA tent at a make shift camp near the port of Calais in Calais, France, on July 31, 2015.

Of course, not all the wounds are visible. In every tent is a story of personal horror, and the psychological effects of the journeys endured by the refugees are all too evident. Mustafa, 27, was training to be a doctor in Khartoum, Sudan, before he fled his country’s political turmoil. He is still traumatized by the image of a 15-year-old Syrian girl who died of diabetic shock during their difficult eight-day voyage across the sea from Egypt to Italy. “The boat owner told her father that it was a five-star boat with a doctor, and so he paid $50,000 for the family to cross,” he said softly, adding that the smuggler made the family throw the girl’s body off the boat when she died. “I still see her, I see her in front of my eyes.”

The women of the Jungle are haunted too, by their vulnerability in a camp where 90% of residents are men. Corty of Médecins du Monde said there has been a sharp increase in women and children in the camp since last summer, but the Jules Ferry center has been full for a long time. Those not lucky enough to get a bed there must sleep in the Jungle. “I am always scared, always scared to sleep,” said a 22-year-old Eritrean woman who gave her name only as Fiyori.

Yet for the most part, people in the Jungle prefer to exchange jokes rather than stories of woe. Many of the migrants wearily accept that they will be in Calais longer than they would like: “Bored of Borders,” reads a sign outside one tent. In the Jungle, you can now get your hair cut, get your bike fixed and even pray in an improvised mosque or church. Some of the more enterprising residents walk to the supermarkets in the center of Calais, stocking up on baguettes, potato chips and canned goods to hawk for a profit back in the Jungle. There are over a dozen pop-up shops, selling everything from cell phone SIM cards and cigarettes to whiskey, Red Bull and Coca-Cola.

Calais Migrants camp
Rob Stothard—Getty ImagesMen buy from a shop run by Afghanis at a make shift camp near the port of Calais in Calais, France, on July 31, 2015.

There are reports of occasional alcohol-fueled scuffles when frustrations spill over but most people in the camp aren’t looking for more trouble. A Nigerian refugee recently set up a makeshift school where volunteers teach French and drawing and play games with the children. At night, people dance to Michael Jackson songs under a disco ball in a makeshift club.

In the Jungle, life goes on even as most of the residents vow to continue their attempts to reach England. Mahmoud, a 22-year-old Sudanese whose entire family was killed by Janjaweed militia, said he will keep trying to cross until he makes it — or dies trying. Friends and family have arrived in England successfully, escaping the squalor that he has endured for 15 months. He refuses to build a more permanent shelter, sleeping under a black plastic tarpaulin propped up by wooden sticks. Scrawled across the outside in white letters are the words: Ceci n’est pas une solution d’hébergement. This is not a housing solution.

Read more: Inside Calais’s deadly migrant crisis

TIME world affairs

Don’t Blame Germany for Greece’s Debt Crisis

German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a press conference after meeting with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama in Tirana on July 8, 2015.
Gent Shkullaku—AFP/Getty Images German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a press conference after meeting with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama in Tirana on July 8, 2015.

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

No country has done more to democratize and raise Europe's living standards

Germany knows a thing or two about being punished for bad deeds, but in recent weeks the country has been the poster child for the old adage that no good deed goes unpunished.

There is no other way to describe the reputational black eye Germans received as a result of the drawn-out Greek bailout negotiations that culminated last week in the approval of a deal struck with other eurozone countries.

No country has done more than Germany in recent times to raise living standards and democratic norms across Europe, which is one reason the country that once bedeviled the continent emerged as the world’s most admired nation in a 2013 BBC poll conducted in 25 countries. But over this summer, it’s been stunning to see how easily we can be lured back into embracing darker stereotypes of those bullying, inflexible Germans.

The prevailing narrative of the Greek crisis in U.S. media, and on social media, was that the poor Greek people and their idealistic young Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras were being driven to the brink by heartless creditors, led by Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble. The Germans, and their “troika” of servants – the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund – had saddled too much debt on the Greeks, imposed counterproductive austerity policies on its government and demanded humiliating reforms that violated Greek sovereignty.

It’s hard not to empathize with the people of Greece; The country’s GDP shrank by a staggering 25 percent in just five years. But the prevailing narrative of a morally tidy showdown between stingy, stubborn Germanic creditors and their victimized Greek debtors overlooked a number of inconvenient truths.

For starters, the Greek debt crisis was triggered in no small part by the 2009 revelation that the Greek government had falsified its economic data to make the country appear a member in good standing of the eurozone. A second fact often overlooked: This is actually the third bailout in the last five years, and in 2012, the Greeks did benefit from a $117 billion write-off of debt owed to private banks. Third, much of the roughly $380 billion in remaining debt is owed to sovereign nations, meaning that the true creditors in the story are German, Dutch, French, and other European taxpayers, not greedy banks or faceless international bureaucracies. Fourth, while Greece did adopt painful fiscal austerity in recent years, it has been slow to carry out many of the needed structural reforms (such as privatizing state-owned enterprises) it agreed to under the previous bailouts. This would be akin to a U.S. company gaining protection from creditors in a bankruptcy proceeding, without engaging in a difficult reorganization to make it a more viable enterprise going forward. The bloated and inefficient Greek state accounted for a stunning 59 percent of the nation’s GDP in 2013.

Furthermore, the issue of whether to provide more aid to Greece this summer was never solely a bilateral German-Greek issue. The countries most adamant about being tough on the Greek were not the Germans, but poorer eastern European Union member nations. But the only “real people” in too much of the coverage of the drama were Greeks, at the expense of people elsewhere in Europe who are understandably frustrated at bailing out a nation where many express their European solidarity by not paying their own taxes.

Among pundits eager to portray Berlin as the villain of the saga, a favorite charge (pushed by Thomas Piketty, among others) has been that the Germans are ungrateful hypocrites. Their own national debt, after all, was substantially reduced by international creditors in 1953. The extent to which this analogy has been repeated without any curiosity as to the underlying facts, or context, is a distressing case study in uncritical groupthink. A good portion of the debt at issue in 1953 dated back to the vanquished Nazi regime and its predecessors; after World War II, the Federal Republic had assumed responsibility for it (at old exchange rates favorable to creditors) as an act of good faith, as part of Germans’ larger sense of atonement. Germany literally lay in ruins, and was divided, and there was no doubt about whether the German people were doing their part to dig out of the rubble and make amends. That debt hadn’t been accumulated in just a few years while the country was simultaneously violating the terms of its obligations, as in the case of Greece.

It’s especially galling to hear Americans chide the Germans for their supposed lack of generosity, when you consider how differently Germany and the U.S. have reacted to the distress of less fortunate regional economic partners. German taxpayers invested for decades in the development of peripheral European Union members, spent trillions to develop Eastern Germany, and will now pay a good chunk of a third Greek bailout that will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 billion.

In contrast, the United States has refused to incorporate into the North American Free Trade Agreement the type of regional development funding that Europeans deemed essential to a functioning common market. And when Mexico faced an existential debt crisis in the 1980s that was far more severe than the one Greece is experiencing, Mexicans could only have wished that Washington had reacted to their plight as Berlin has reacted to the plight of Greeks.

After walking up to the cliff and contemplating a break-up of their currency union, the leaders of Greece and their European counterparts in Berlin, Paris, and Brussels all blinked, and worked out a deal to keep Greece in the eurozone, at a painful cost to both sides (more money coming out of the pockets of other European citizens, more painful austerity for Greeks). This was a case of political and historical imperatives trumping economics, at least for now.

The European Union is a monument to Germany’s atonement for its past sins. From its very inception in the 1950s, when it was born as a coal- and steel-producing union, what eventually came to be known as the European Union was considered by its French architects as a means to subvert German nationalism, and to make its repentant people pay more than their fair share for a common project largely directed by the French.

When Germany suddenly had the opportunity to end its postwar partition a quarter century ago with the fall of the Soviet Union, French and other European leaders pressed the Germans to abandon their cherished currency and symbol of hard-won stability, the deutsche mark, in favor of a shared European currency. The more intensely Germany was bound to a broader European Union, the theory went, the less likely a reawakening of a troublesome German nationalism. And so, Germany agreed to the euro once Europeans went along with German reunification.

I remember visiting Germany’s Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer in 2000, in the immediate aftermath of this transition. I asked Fischer if Germany could ever become a normal country again, fully off probation, fully atoned, fully entitled to wave its own flag, at least alongside that of the EU. Not really, he said, and then he talked passionately about Germany’s need to always act within the Atlantic and European communities.

But the ensuing years have proven bullish ones for German nationalism. Berlin surprisingly refused to go along with the United States in its showdown with Saddam Hussein. World Cup successes (as a host and contender) emboldened Germans to pull out their flags and cheer on their country as if it were no longer on probation.

But maybe the most shocking development has been the degree to which the European Union has come to be perceived as a project inspired by Germany, as opposed to one imposed on it. Henry Kissinger once said that Germany was to be pitied because it was too big for Europe but too small for the world. So it was perhaps inevitable that the EU would come to be seen as a projection of German influence. The euro, which initially Germans were so reluctant to adopt, proved a competitive boon to German exports, by raising costs in the rest of Europe.

This monetary straightjacket of 19 very different economies sharing the same currency has had its economic pluses and minuses, but the initial impetus to take this plunge into the economic unknown in the 1990s was all political – the goal of reinforcing a broader European identity across the continent. And whatever its economic merits, the political endeavor is backfiring: The shared currency has only strengthened nationalist sentiments. Try sharing a credit card, and thus your credit rating, with a very diverse group of friends, and sooner or later you’ll also find that it’s not easy to cheerily embrace the “we’re all in this together” plan.

Europe’s integration over time, and Germany’s role in it, is a nuanced, complicated tale, and Americans have a vested interest in its success. Lazy caricatures of Germany that harken back to World War stereotypes may make a dry economic tale more entertaining, and seduce us into thinking we’re rooting for the supposed underdog. But it is a disservice to the truth and our national interest. The Germany of Angela Markel, not a socialist Greece, is our indispensable ally, the democracy that shares our values and can still teach us a thing or two about improving the lives of people beyond its borders.

Andrés Martinez is the editorial director of Zócalo Public Square, for which he writes the Trade Winds column, and a professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME France

France Sends Extra Police to Port City as Migrant Crisis Worsens

More than 2,000 migrants tried to rush the Eurotunnel which leads to Britain in just one night

CALAIS, France — Police beefed up security in this port city at the center of Europe’s escalating migrant crisis, seeking to stem a flood of illegal border crossings from France into the U.K.

France dispatched 120 extra police to Calais after officials said Wednesday that more than 2,000 migrants tried to rush the Eurotunnel which leads to Britain in just one night. One migrant was killed — the ninth since June. Around 37,000 have been blocked at the Channel Tunnel this year.

When night fell on Wednesday, flashing police lights dotted the horizon. Officers patrolled on foot and formed lines near the fences…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME conflict

Fighting Between Turkey and Kurds Escalates Amid NATO Tension

A missile-loaded Turkish Air Force warplane takes off from the Incirlik Air Base, in the outskirts Adana, south-eastern Turkey on July 28, 2015.
Emrah Gurel—AP A missile-loaded Turkish Air Force warplane takes off from the Incirlik Air Base, in the outskirts Adana, south-eastern Turkey on July 28, 2015.

NATO members have shown support for Turkey, but urged the country to refrain from using excessive force

(ISTANBUL) — Fighting between the Turkish military and Kurdish rebels escalated Tuesday amid signs of unease from NATO allies attending an emergency meeting about Turkey’s conflicts with the Islamic State group and the Kurds.

On a violent day, Turkish fighter jets pounded rebels from the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK after soldiers were fired on with heavy weaponry in Sirnak province, according to a military statement. Turkish soldiers also came under attack in two other incidents.

Meanwhile, NATO allies met in a rare emergency meeting at Turkey’s request and proclaimed “strong solidarity” with the country’s fight against the Islamic State group.

“The security of the alliance is indivisible,” ambassadors from all 28 NATO nations declared in a joint statement after the meeting.

But a NATO official said members also used the closed-door meeting to call on Turkey not to use excessive force in reaction to terror attacks, while urging it to continue peace efforts with representatives of the Kurdish minority. The official was not authorized to speak on the record and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The special session of the alliance’s main political decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council, was held at Turkey’s request under a clause of NATO’s founding treaty that empowers member countries to seek consultations if they believe their security, territorial integrity or political independence is at risk.

It was called after Turkish warplanes last week started striking militant targets in Syria in response to an Islamic State group suicide bombing in southern Turkey that left 32 people dead, and another IS attack on Turkish forces, which killed a soldier.

But in a series of cross-border strikes, Turkey has also targeted Kurdish fighters affiliated with forces battling IS in Syria and Iraq.

The Syrian Kurds have been among the most effective ground forces in the fight against IS and have been backed by U.S.-led airstrikes, but Turkey fears a revival of the Kurdish insurgency in pursuit of an independent state.

The spike in violence in recent days has prompted concerns that a promising peace process between Turkey and Kurdish rebels is falling beyond repair.

German diplomats said Tuesday it would be a mistake for Turkey to break off the peace process with the PKK now.

“We believe that it’s right to continue the process of rapprochement and to build on the positive steps of the past years,” a diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

As the ambassadors were gathering at NATO headquarters, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a news conference in Ankara that it was impossible to advance a peace process with the Kurds as long as attacks on Turkey continue.

The Kurds are an ethnic group with their own language living in a region spanning present-day Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, has fought Turkey for autonomy for Kurds in a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives since 1984.

In the past few days, the PKK has launched a number of attacks on Turkish security forces and Turkish jets have targeted both the PKK’s mountainous headquarters in Iraq and Kurdish fighters in a Syrian village, a Kurdish militia and an activist group said.

On Tuesday, a Turkish soldier died after he was shot in the head by a Kurdish militant near the border with Iraq, Turkey said. In a second incident in Sirnak province, suspected PKK rebels hurled a bomb at a military vehicle, wounding one soldier, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

The developments follow a decision last week by Turkey’s leaders to allow the U.S. to launch its own strikes against the Islamic State group from its strategically located Incirlik Air Base.

Erdogan told reporters in Ankara that Turkish and U.S. officials were also discussing creation of a safe zone near Turkey’s border with Syria, which would be cleared of IS presence and turned into a secure area for Syrian refugees to return.

Asked for his opinion, NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said “NATO is not part of these efforts. This is something that is discussed on a bilateral basis between Turkey and the United States.”

Stoltenberg said the Turks did not use the meeting Tuesday to request military assistance from other NATO members.

“What we all know is that Turkey is a staunch ally, Turkey has very capable armed forces — the second largest army within the alliance,” the NATO chief told reporters after the session, which was the fifth such meeting in the alliance’s 66-year history and lasted a little over an hour.

The alliance official who spoke on condition of anonymity said Turkey’s allies unanimously spoke at the meeting in favor of its “right to defend itself.” One outside analyst said eliciting such support may have been why Turkey sought the unusual forum in the first place.

“I think the main purpose is to give them some reassurance in terms of their bombing campaign in Syria and northern Iraq so that they won’t be accused of violating international law,” said Amanda Paul, a senior policy analyst and specialist on Turkey at the European Policy Center, a Brussels think tank. “They wanted to cover their backs basically by having NATO say, ‘OK it’s fine.'”

For some NATO members and independent observers, it’s unclear whether Turkey’s No. 1 target in the recent attacks is the Islamic State group or the Kurds, said Ian Kearns, director of the European Leadership Network, a London-based think tank.

“There is no difference between PKK and Daesh,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Monday, using an Arabic acronym to refer to IS.


Dahlburg reported from Brussels. Mark D. Carlson in Brussels, Suzan Fraser in Ankara and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed.


TIME Greece

Greece Launches Bailout Talks as Plan to Leave Euro Remains in Discussion

The People Of Greece Vote In A Referendum Over Debt Bailout Terms
Milos Bicanski—Getty Images Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis speaks to the press after placing his vote in the austerity referendum at a local school in the suburbs of Athens on July 5, 2015

A recording of former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis discussing a parallel currency plan was made public

(ATHENS, Greece) —Greece’s government on Monday launched complex bailout negotiations with creditors, but faced rebuke following revelations that former finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, formed a secret committee to plan for the possible conversion of euros into drachmas “at a drop of a hat.”

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said late Monday that meetings in Athens had begun between Greek officials and negotiating teams representing creditors, with talks to intensify Tuesday, paving the way for higher level discussions possibly by the end of the week.

Before the talks started in Athens, a recording of Varoufakis discussing a parallel currency plan was made public.

Opposition parties have criticized Varoufakis and have urged Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to explain to lawmakers what he knew of his former finance minister’s actions.

In the recording of a telephone briefing for investors on July 16 in the wake of his resignation days earlier, Varoufakis claimed he and a childhood friend who was a computer expert hacked into his ministry’s computer systems as a first step to creating “a parallel banking system” in the event Greek banks were shuttered.

The Greek banks were closed on June 29 to avoid a bank run amid fears that Greece was heading for a euro exit. In theory, a parallel system formed from the effective cloning of tax accounts would have allowed the finance ministry to continue payments in the form of so-called IOUs.

Varoufakis said he had been authorized by Tsipras to undertake the planning prior to the general election in January when the radical left Syriza party swept to power. And he insisted that his actions were legal, in the public interest and aimed at keeping the country in the 19-country eurozone.

In essence, the plan, which Tsipras ultimately blocked, would have created a “functioning parallel system” to give the government “some breathing space.”

“It would be euro-denominated but at the drop of a hat it could be developed to a new drachma,” Varoufakis said.

Varoufakis confirmed the authenticity of the recording, which was released by the briefing organizers, London-based Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum.

The revelation that Varoufakis was working on a Plan B over Greece’s future was one of many in a wide-ranging discussion on the Greek crisis. He also said that German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble wanted Greece to leave the euro but that his boss, Chancellor Angela Merkel, was against so-called Grexit.

The recording prompted an outcry among opposition parties.

The main conservative opposition, New Democracy, accused Varoufakis of “dark methods that threaten democracy” and summoned Tsipras to brief parliament.

Tsipras, who is already facing a revolt within his radical left Syriza over a raft of austerity measures required by creditors for the talks to actually begin, is under pressure to call early elections once the bailout discussions are completed.

The technical discussions on a wide array of issues such as pensions and labor market reforms are designed to clear the path for high-level discussions between Greek ministers and senior European Union and International Monetary Fund officials later this week.

After passing a series of reforms demanded by creditors, such as steep sales tax hikes, the Greek government is hoping negotiations will be completed by Aug. 20 when the country has a big debt repayment of around 3.2 billion euros ($3.5 billion) to make to the European Central Bank.

Without the money from the expected three-year bailout totaling around 85 billion euros, Greece would be unable to make that payment — a development that would likely trigger fresh fears over the country’s future in the euro.

But the reforms have come at a price for Tsipras. One in four of his lawmakers refused to back them in two votes in parliament, arguing that they flew in the face of Syriza’s anti-austerity platform in January’s election.

The laws were passed with solid backing from pro-European opposition parties, but left Tsipras without an effective parliamentary majority. That has stoked talk of early elections, just six months into Tsipras’ four-year mandate.

“We must seal the (bailout) agreement and immediately afterwards launch an electoral process,” said senior Syriza official Dimitris Vitsas, who is the deputy defense minister. “After that (there will be) a new government with a fresh mandate.

Mina Andreeva, a spokeswoman at the European Commission, said teams from the institutions are “now already on the ground in Athens and work is starting immediately.”

She added that, while Athens has already delivered “in a timely and overall satisfactory manner” the reforms demanded for the talks to start, more will be required to secure a swift rescue loan disbursement.

“And this is also what is being discussed right now.”

Greece has relied on bailout funds for a little more than five years after being locked out of international bond markets. In return for around 240 billion euros worth of rescue money, successive Greek governments have had to enact a series of income cuts, tax hikes and economic reforms.

Though the measures drastically contained budget overspending, they hit economic activity hard and drove unemployment to record peacetime highs. And because the Greek economy is around 25 percent smaller than it was, the country’s debt burden has increased to around 170 percent of Greece’s annual GDP.

Some sort of debt relief for Greece is up for negotiation though a direct cut in the amount owed is off the agenda. The IMF has said Greece needs big relief and has advocated delaying Greek debt repayments to European creditors for many years.

ECB executive board member Benoit Coeure said in an interview published Monday that Greek debt relief “is no longer a matter of debate” but must come alongside measures to turn the Greek economy around.

“In truth, the question is not whether Greek debt should be restructured, but how to do it so it really benefits the country’s economy,” he told French daily Le Monde.


Derek Gatopoulos in Athens, Raf Casert in Brussels and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed.

TIME Spain

Spain Has Finally Made It Illegal for 14-Year-Olds to Get Married

The move is largely symbolic, as few Spaniards have wed younger than 16 in recent years

Spain’s legal marriage age increased from 14 to 16 on Thursday, bringing the country’s policies in line with the majority of Europe. The law also raises the legal age of sexual consent to 14 years old from 13.

The previous policy allowed some of the earliest marriages on the continent. Now, the only exceptions are Andorra and the Ukraine (age 14) and Estonia (age 15), El País reports.

Marriage at such early ages has declined significantly in recent years. Of the more than 28,000 people under 16 to get married in the country since 1975, only 365 of those did so after 2000 and less than ten in the last year, according to Spain’s National Institute of Statistics. With these trends in mind, politicians and activists alike say the new law is a mostly symbolic move against pedophilia and forced marriage. Even so, unions at 16 will require special permission from a judge; otherwise, the minimum will be 18.

The country’s sizable Gypsy population, known for its tradition of early marriage, has expressed support for the new measure. “It’s the 21st century and it’s normal for young people to take longer to get married,” Mariano González, manager of the Roma Union of Madrid, told El País. “In past decades, it was normal for any couple, Gypsy or not [to get married early]. Although our tradition is what it is, now we get married later. This law is a step forward.”

[El País]

TIME europe

Dozens of Migrants Reportedly Drown Near Italy

Italy Europe Migrants
Adriana Sapone—AP Rescued migrants sit in a bus after disembarking from the Swedish Coast Guard ship KBV 001 Poseidon at the Reggio Calabria harbor, Italy on July 23, 2015.

The dead were believed to be mostly sub-Saharan Africans, including at least 7 children

(ROME) — As many as 40 would-be refugees, including at least seven children, have died while trying to reach Italy from Libya in the latest Mediterranean migrant tragedy, Save the Children reported Thursday.

The aid group said some of the 80 survivors of the crossing who were brought ashore Thursday in Augusta, Sicily, reported the deaths that occurred the previous day when the dinghy they were travelling on took in water.

Eventually, a cargo vessel spotted them and alerted search and rescue authorities and the German navy, taking part in the EU’s Mediterranean rescue mission, came to their aid and brought them to shore.

The dead were believed to be mostly sub-Saharan Africans from Senegal, Mali and Benin and included at least seven children, the group reported in a statement.

So far this year, more than 80,000 migrants have come ashore in Italy, with a similar number arriving in Greece.

In the deadliest crossing, some 800 migrants were believed to have drowned in April when their boat capsized off Libya with hundreds of people trapped in the hold by smugglers; a few days before that tragedy another 400 people drowned.

TIME Media

Top Hollywood Movie Studios Smacked With Antitrust Charges

Disney, Warner Bros., Fox and more are accused of violating European law

Is the European Union about to add Hollywood’s finest to its collection of antitrust scalps?

After 18 months gathering material, the European Commission’s Competition directorate has accused six of Hollywood’s largest movie-makers of sabotaging the E.U.’s single market by signing country-specific deals with pay-TV providers.

The first so-called “statement of objections” have been sent out to the studios because of their licensing contracts with Sky U.K., the main operating asset of Sky Plc, but investigations into pay-TV providers in France, Germany, Spain and Italy are still ongoing and may yield further accusations.

The pay-TV companies in Germany and Italy are now 100%-owned owned by Sky, although they weren’t at the time the investigation was launched. Vivendi SA’s Canal Plus is the company under investigation in France.

The Commission’s beef is a variation on a theme of the charges it has laid at the door of Russian gas monopoly PAO Gazprom, in that country-specific deals forbid the free flow of goods and services, denying consumers the freedom of choice and, ultimately, their pricing power.

The accusations could be one of the first serious blows struck by the regulators in a campaign to modernize the E.U.’s digital economy, an area where Europe is badly lagging. The new Commission earlier this year identified the breaking down of nationally-defined copyright and licensing laws as one of the key elements of that campaign.

A prime example of this is the phenomenon of ‘geo-blocking': at present, a subscriber to an online pay-TV service in, for example, the U.K. can’t access that service in France or (more importantly for expatriated civil servants, lobbyists and politicians) Belgium because copyright and licensing law is still handled by national governments.

The Commission says it wants to ensure that users who buy online content such as films, music or articles at home can also access them while travelling across Europe.

The objections sent out this week by the E.U. don’t go as far as cutting that particular Gordian knot in one fell swoop. Instead, they zero in on contractual clauses which stop providers from selling outside a specific country. The regulators’ expectation is that if they pull on this loose end enough, the knot will unravel in time as the broader effort to modernize the Digital Single Market gains momentum.

In theory, if customers have the right to buy across borders, then the prices for products such as ESPN or Sky Atlantic will even themselves out across the E.U..

In practice, though, even after the contractual hurdle has been cleared away, companies will still be able to say ‘no’ on commercial grounds to customers who are trying to get a better deal than the one offered in their home countries (if, for example, the administrative cost would outweigh the benefits for the company).

The six studios to have received the so-called “Statement of Objections” are:

  • Walt Disney
  • 20th Century Fox
  • Warner Bros.
  • Paramount Pictures (a unit of Viacom Inc.)
  • Sony Pictures
  • NBCUniversal (Comcast Corp.)

Sky Thursday confirmed it had received the Commission’s objections and said: “We will consider this and respond in due course.”

Under the E.U.’s rules, it can fine companies up to 10% of their global annual revenue for antitrust violations.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Innovation

Lessons From a Town That Runs on Social Media

Digital networks have made it possible to build much faster, more efficient feedback loops

We recently visited a small Spanish town that is using social media in a new way. Our research lab is studying the town to learn how these technologies might help communities around the world become more responsive to their citizens. This is a brief report on what we know so far.

For the last four years, a town in southern Spain has been conducting a remarkable experiment in civic life. Jun (pronounced “hoon”) has been using Twitter as its principal medium for citizen-government communication. Leading the effort is Jun’s Mayor, José Antonio Rodríguez Salas, a passionate believer in the power of technology to solve problems and move society forward.

Since launching the initiative in 2011, Rodríguez Salas has been recruiting his 3,500 townspeople to not only join the social network but have their Twitter accounts locally verified at town hall. This extra step isn’t necessary to participate in the conversation — Twitter is open to anyone — but it helps town employees know they’re dealing with actual residents.

In the most basic scenario, a citizen who has a question, request or complaint tweets it to the mayor or one of his staff, who work to resolve the matter. For instance, in the sequence of tweets shown below (which we pulled from the 2014 Twitter data and translated into English), at 10:48 pm a citizen tells the mayor that a street lamp is out on Maestro Antonio Linares Street. Nine minutes later, the mayor replies that he’ll have the town electrician fix it the next day. The mayor’s tweet includes the Twitter handle of the electrician, who is automatically notified that he’s been mentioned and sees the exchange. That tweet is a public promise that the town will indeed take action, and to underline this it ends with the hashtag#JunGetsMoving. The next day, the electrician tweets a photo of the repaired fixture, thanking the citizen for his help and repeating the hashtag:

William Powers and Deb RoyA citizen alerts the mayor to a broken street lamp. Two tweets later, it’s fixed.

Governments have been responding to citizens for centuries. But digital networks have made it possible to build much faster, more efficient feedback loops. Each of the participants in the above transaction wrote a single text of less than 140 characters, and in less than 24 hours the problem was solved.

There are numerous cases of public officials responding to tweets. U.S. Senator Cory Booker made headlines several times for doing so when he was mayor of Newark, New Jersey. For a big city U.S. mayor, this was considered unusual behavior and therefore newsworthy. In Jun, however, it has been systematically adopted as the way things get done every day. If Rodriguez Salasdidn’t respond to an urgent citizen tweet, it would make headlines.

Because these communications occur on a public social platform, they can be seen by everyone in the community. This “mutual visibility” (sometimes called “mutual transparency”) serves as both a carrot and a stick. On one hand, the government’s performance comes under greater public scrutiny. If a broken streetlight isn’t fixed, everyone knows it and the slacking employee is more likely to be disciplined or, if it becomes a pattern, fired. That’s the stick.

But the good work done by public servants is also now visible to all and thus more likely to be recognized and rewarded. The carrots can be as small as a message being favorited or retweeted (the electrician received both), or as great as winning the esteem of one’s neighbors and new status in the community. The operator of the town’s street-sweeping machine, whose entertaining tweets have made him a local celebrity, told us that having his daily work seen and appreciated on the social platform has changed his life.

According to the mayor, this system is saving the town time and money. Tweeting is quicker than fielding and returning phone calls, which used to consume his day. He says these efficiencies have allowed him to reduce the police force from four employees to just one. Jun’s sole police officer told us he now receives 40 to 60 citizen tweets per day, ranging from the serious (there’s been a bad car accident) to the trivial (my neighbor is singing at all hours, please make him stop). He noted that being accessible to the public on a 24/7 social network has its downsides; to protect his family time, on arriving home in the evening he turns off his phone. But what if there’s an emergency, we asked. Answer: It’s a small town and everyone knows where he lives.

Jun citizens also use Twitter to voice their views on local issues. At town council meetings, which are streamed live on the web, those not physically present may participate by tweeting questions and comments, which appear on a screen in the council chamber.

Beyond government, the social network is broadly integrated into the town’s everyday life, used for a wide variety of tasks such as publicizing social and cultural events, booking medical appointments, following youth sports teams, and just keeping up with neighbors. The town employee who tweets the school lunch menu each weekday told us on that on weekends she enjoys sharing some of her family’s home life via tweets. One retiree who learned to use Twitter at a technology education center run by the town said the network has become his principal news source. “It’s just like a newspaper!” he enthused, noting that the mayor tweets so often about national and global events, he’s a one-man media outlet.

Jun essentially runs on Twitter, a groundbreaking use of social technology that, as far as we know, is unique. All over the world, digital technologies play a growing role in community management. In their book, The Responsive City, Stephen Goldsmith and Susan Crawford write about “the emerging cadre of officials and civic activists who are using the new data tools to transform city government” in Boston, Chicago, New York and elsewhere. The New York City police department recently started using Twitter to connect with citizens. But Jun is the first community to use a social medium comprehensively for all civic communication. And it happened in an entirely home-grown way. For the first couple of years, Twitter the company was not even aware of the experiment.

Our academic research group at the MIT Media Lab, the Laboratory for Social Machines, was founded last fall with a generous grant from Twitter, and one of us has a work relationship with Twitter. But the company doesn’t select or shape our research projects, and our interest in Jun is ultimately not about one platform: It’s about the future of all social media and their potential to reshape how communities large and small work. For studying these questions, Jun is an ideal laboratory, small enough that you can get a holistic feel for the place in a couple of days, and large enough that over time, through data analysis and on-the-ground research, meaningful lessons can be extracted. That’s our hope, anyway.

Many of the Jun citizens we interviewed told us that the initiative has had a net positive effect on the town. “Twitter is a plus, it makes the town better,” one said. Another noted that “it’s an easy and fast way to connect” and that “people can build on each others’ comments.”

But it is not without its critics. One resident said he dislikes the way the mayor uses Twitter for self-promotion, and how town employees tend to parrot everything the boss says. The same person feels public servants shouldn’t use their accounts to tweet about personal matters (“I don’t care that they had paella for dinner.”) Last time Rodríguez Salas ran for reelection, his opponent urged citizens to vote “for a real mayor, not a virtual one.”

The mayor himself has a few problems with the system. He jokingly calls Twitter “the Society of the Minute” and says it has a way of making citizens more impatient with government. “In the real world, one in every 43 people has a problem with everything. On Twitter, it is one in 27” — and they always expect an immediate response.

He notes that complicated public issues are difficult to discuss on Twitter because of its format. He also acknowledges that his ad hoc method for managing the incoming — checking his phone often and responding right away — could probably be improved. Somewhat miraculously, he’s been governing the town with Twitter and virtual duct-tape, and perhaps could use a data-driven dashboard that organizes it all.

For a clearer perspective, we have begun analyzing Jun’s Twitter data, along with other town records, from the beginning of the initiative to the present. Among the questions we’re seeking to answer: Is public engagement on the rise as result of the experiment, and is the demographic composition of the conversation changing? Do citizens vote and attend town meetings more than they did in the past? Are public issues solved more efficiently? Has the use of this tool simply amplified old ways of governing Jun, or has mutual visibility shifted it in some fundamental way, perhaps towards decentralization?

We don’t yet have the answers, but an initial mapping of the Twitter data has begun opening a new window on the town. In the screen shots below of a data explorer being developed by Martin Saveski, a graduate student at the Laboratory for Social Machines, each circle represents a Jun citizen or organization. The lines between the circles represent Twitter follower relationships. The larger the circle, the more “important” the position occupied by that person in the network (for this measure of Twitter importance — by no means the only meaningful kind of importance in the community — we used PageRank, Google’s original algorithm for ranking web pages). The four colors denote different sub-networks of people within Jun who are closely tied to each other by their Twitter activity. In each figure, the personal connections of one particular citizen (the white circle) are highlighted, and further details about that person are shown in the box to the right. The first shot focuses on the mayor, the second on the electrician.

Martin SaveskiA visualization of the mayor’s connections to the community (he’s the white circle). To the right, more details about his public Twitter activity.
Martin SaveskiFor electrician Miguel Espigares (the white circle), the picture is different, reflecting his work and unique role in the town.

Through such analyses, we hope to gain insights that will help Jun make its system more effective. Our longer-term goal is to determine if it can be replicated at scale in larger communities, perhaps even major cities.

One key question is the leading role played by the mayor, who has held office for the last eleven years and before that was deputy to his father. Throughout those years, Jun was a trailblazer in applying digital tools to democracy, including electronic voting and live-streamed town meetings.

Rodríguez Salas, with his relentless belief in innovation, spearheaded all these efforts. Even before the Twitter experiment, a Spanish newspaper called him “El Alcalde Digital” (The Digital Mayor) while a national TV report dubbed the town “El Increíble Jun” (The Incredible Jun). He convinced Junians to adopt a new flag with the town motto — “Love” — spelled out in binary code. Between his personal and official mayoral accounts, he has about 350,000 Twitter followers — that’s 100 times the population of Jun, and about 100,000 more followers than New York CityMayor Bill De Blasio has in his two verified accounts. This is not just any small-town mayor. He also has a warm personality and a common touch. As he walks down the street, a bunch of middle-school-aged boys run up to him shouting, “Mayor! Mayor!” and the first thing he does is make sure they’re on Twitter and he’s following them.

In short, the mayor has an unusual combination of tech sophistication and personal charisma. Is such a leader required for bringing government into the social age? Could the Jun system work in a metropolis with millions of citizens and a different kind of mayor? Rodríguez Salas thinks so and he has ideas about how.

For now, in conversation he returns often to his primary goal: making democracy more transparent and participatory. In his office, where the blue Twitter bird adorns the wall behind his desk (in the spot where a portrait of the Spanish king used to hang), he recently installed glass ceiling panels open to the sky to symbolize the new transparency. The citizens will soon have a chance to pass judgment on his work: In elections next month, they will decide whether to give him another term.

Meanwhile, we’ll be digging deeper into the data and sharing what we learn from one town’s surprising leap into the socio-political future. Stay tuned.

Deb Roy is associate professor at the MIT Media Lab where he directs the Laboratory for Social Machines, as well as Chief Media Scientist of Twitter.William Powers is a research scientist at the Laboratory for Social Machines and author of the New York Times bestseller Hamlet’s BlackBerry.

This article originally appeared on Medium

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Syria

3 Spanish Journalists Reported Missing in Syria

Khaled Khateb —AFP/Getty Images People walk past a damaged building in the al-Kalasa neighbourhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on July 19, 2015.

The three men disappeared while working in the northern city of Aleppo

(MADRID)—Three Spanish freelance journalists who traveled to Syria to report amid the country’s long-running civil war have gone missing around the embattled northern city of Aleppo, a Spanish journalism association said Tuesday, the latest ensnared in the world’s most dangerous assignment for reporters.

The disappearance of Antonio Pampliega, Jose Manuel Lopez and Angel Sastre, presumed to be working together, comes as most media organizations have pulled out of Syria, especially with the rise of the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) group. At least 84 journalists have been killed since 2011 in Syria, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, while others remain missing or have been released for ransom.

Elsa Gonzalez, the president of the association, told Spanish National Television in a telephone interview that the three disappeared while working in the Aleppo area. She said they entered Syria from Turkey on July 10 and were last heard of two days later.

Sastre, a television journalist, last posted on Twitter July 10, when he wrote “courage” in Arabic, English and Spanish. Pampliega worked as a freelance reporter, whose most recent work featured a story about Spaniard fighting with Kurds in Kobani against the Islamic State group. Spanish media identified Lopez as a photojournalist.

It was not clear where exactly the men went missing. Once Syria’s commercial center, the city of Aleppo been carved up between government- and rebel-held neighborhoods since 2012, with government forces controlling much of western Aleppo and rebel groups in control of the east.

The Islamic State group, which has kidnapped Western journalists in Syria and later killed them, is outside the city and controls parts of the northern and eastern Aleppo countryside. The extremists are responsible for most kidnappings in Syria since the summer of 2013, but government-backed militias, criminal gangs and rebels affiliated with the Western-backed Free Syrian Army also have been involved with various motives.

An unprecedented spate of kidnappings by Islamic State militants starting in summer 2013 has kept most journalists away, particularly since the group began killing foreign journalists and aid workers it holds, starting with American journalist James Foley in August last year. Foley’s taped beheading was followed by the killing of American-Israeli journalist Steven Sotloff, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, American aid worker Peter Kassig, as well as Japanese nationals Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto.

The group also has generated cash from ransoming European journalists.

Often media don’t report abduction cases at the request of the families or employers. It’s not clear how many foreign and local journalists remain held in Syria, though the number likely is in the dozens.

A Spanish Foreign Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with policy regulations said the ministry is aware of the situation and is working on it, declining to elaborate. Gonzalez did not say whether the journalists were on assignment for specific media organizations.

Aleppo is the scene of daily fighting. Government helicopters also regularly drop explosive barrels on rebel-held parts of the city.

A missile attack on a rebel-held neighborhood in Aleppo killed at least 10 people and wounded many others Tuesday, two activist groups said.

The Local Coordination Committees said the attack on the Maghayer neighborhood killed 10 people, including women and children.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack killed 18 people and wounded more than 50. It said the surface-to-surface missile destroyed several houses in the area.

It is not uncommon to have different death tolls in the aftermath of attacks in Syria, where the four-year conflict has killed more than 220,000 people.

Meanwhile near the border with Lebanon, Syrian troops backed by Hezbollah fighters captured several neighborhoods in the mountain resort of Zabadani that has been under attack for nearly three weeks.

Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television station said troops and Lebanese militants have besieged rebels inside Zabadani from all sides, adding that they inflicted heavy casualties among them. It said dozens of fighters were wounded in the fighting.

The Observatory, which has a network of activists around Syria, said the Syrian government air force has dropped 36 barrel bombs on Zabadani since Tuesday morning. The Observatory reported that dozens of airstrikes have targeted Zabadani since the offensive began on July, 3.

The capture of Zabadani would tighten Hezbollah’s grip on Syrian territories bordering Lebanon and strengthen the Syrian government’s control over of the Beirut-Damascus highway.


Karam reported from Beirut. Associated Press writers Bassem Mroue in Beirut and Jon Gambrell in Cairo contributed to this report.

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