Media Watch 20/4/15

By Rowan Williams

European Union representatives are to hold a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday to discuss the deaths of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea. The talks come after the capsizing of a boat carrying hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean over the weekend – a disaster causing the deaths of hundreds. Only 28 migrants have been rescued from the boat at present. The number of migrants to die crossing the Mediterranean in 2015 so far – 1,500 – is now 50 times higher than it was at the same point in 2014. An EU official meeting in Luxembourg will be used to urgently discuss the growing issue of Mediterranean migrant deaths. A 2014 EU decision to cancel the Mare Nostrum programme that rescued migrants in the Mediterranean has come under heavy criticism following the disaster. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Rinzi has called for an emergency meeting on the crisis, bemoaning a lack of EU solidarity on the issue. Other leaders have pointed to events in Libya as a chief cause of the crisis. Libya’s ongoing political crisis makes it easier for traffickers to use the country as a launching point for boats carrying migrants.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) is to launch its election manifesto on Monday, with the party promising what it claims to be a progressive “alternative to austerity”. Larger commitments in the manifesto are to include protecting the NHS and gaining autonomy for Scotland’s finances. The party has also made several headlines today after it claimed it would block defence budgets that included financing of the Trident nuclear missile programme. Media spotlight on the SNP has intensified as it becomes increasingly likely that the party will make large gains in the 7 May general election, potentially holding the balance of power in a coalition government. Critics have expressed fears that such a result would allow the SNP to hold the UK ‘to ransom’. However, fears of the SNP’s bargaining power with Labour may be overblown given the SNP’s outright rejection of the Conservative Party.

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Pakistan on Monday, as part of a visit in which China will unveil US$46 billion investment plan with the country. The figure dwarfs that of the United States, and reveals China’s commitment to forging ties with South and Central Asian nations and the development of a modern-day Silk Road. China hopes to create an economic corridor between the two countries. Cooperative projects are set to include coal, natural gas and solar energy developments. Roads, railways and pipelines will also be built. Cooperation between China and Pakistan on counter-terrorism operations will also feature on President Xi’s agenda. China wishes not only to secure the safety of its workers in Pakistan, but also to counter Uighur separatists in its own Xinjiang province, some of whom may be connected to Pakistani militants.

The Papers

The weekend’s migrant ferry disaster in the Mediterranean makes a few headlines today, as does the Scottish National Party (SNP). The Guardian leads with the headline “Hundreds feared dead as migrant vessel capsizes”. According to the paper, the disaster has triggered calls “for action to halt trafficking crisis”, as well as calls to reinstate the cancelled search-and-rescue programme that saved 100,000 migrants’ lives in 2014. The Independent leads with this thread, calling the disaster “The EU’s darkest day” in its headline. The paper cites “anti-immigration sentiment” hardening across the continent as one reason for the programme’s cancellation. The paper asks political leaders to “put shared humanity before political posturing” in addressing the crisis. In other news, The Times leads with a warning from the SNP that the party “will hold UK defence to ransom” by voting down the UK’s defence budget unless it included the scrapping of the Trident nuclear missile programme. The demand comes before the SNP’s manifesto launch, the paper writes. The Daily Telegraph leads with the same story, calling the demand a “ransom note” to Labour Leader Ed Miliband. The SNP could “shut down” the government in such events, the paper reports. The Financial Times leads with news that Deutsche Bank is considering selling its retail bank, Postbank, in a “strategic rethink”. “Weak markets and tighter rules” have taken their toll on profitability, the paper writes.

British Media on China

On China’s latest economic stimulus: The People’s Bank of China’s cutting of the reserve-requirement ratio, or RRR, has received coverage from the BBC and Guardian. The Guardian’s agency piece writes that the cut is “the single deepest reduction since the depth of the global crisis in 2008”. The BBC reports that Chinese stocks fell despite the news, in part due to a separate event on Friday: the BBC reports that on Friday the “China Securities Regulatory Commission said it would clamp down on the use of leverage in margin trading and allow funds to lend to short sellers”.

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