EU leaders will hold an emergency summit on Thursday to discuss action on the crisis of migrants crossing the Mediterranean into Europe. EU nations have come under fire for cancelling a Mediterranean search-and-rescue programme in October 2014. 2015 has already seen a rise in migrant deaths, with over 800 migrants drowning in one incident on Sunday. Draft proposals for the emergency summit show that the majority of migrants who survive the journey to Europe will be repatriated under a new rapid-return programme coordinated by Frontex, the EU’s border agency. The draft proposal offers 5,000 resettlement places for migrants qualifying for protection. Other proposals include increasing funding for Frontex and fingerprinting all migrants. A major expansion of current search-and-rescue operations did not feature on the proposal, however. The proposals include an earlier agreement to double funding in 2015 and 2016 for current search-and-rescue operations, which only patrol within 30 miles of Italy’s coast.
Chancellor George Osborne has defended the Conservative Party’s election campaign, and denied that it has been too negative. Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Osborne said that his party’s campaign had been positive and highlighted his party’s economic track record, though reiterated warnings over a coalition between Labour and the Scottish National Party (SNP). Labour has denied plans for a coalition with the SNP, though Conservatives have suggested the parties will work together with Labour relying on the SNP for Commons votes. Labour has continued its assault on Conservative spending cuts in its response to Conservative criticism. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) is expected on Thursday to release a financial assessment of each main party’s election pledges.
Li Chuncheng has begun trial in China on charges of bribery and abuse of power, authorities have said. Li had been the deputy Communist Party boss of Sichuan province, and has been linked to fallen former security tsar Zhou Yongkang. Several officials linked to Zhou have been arrested as part of China’s anti-corruption campaign. Zhou, once one of the most powerful men in China, has been charged with bribery. Investigations into Li’s case began in 2012, and in 2014 he was expelled from the ruling Communist Party. Li did not object to the charges against him laid out on Thursday, Xianning city court reported.
Money and politics are the issues of the day in the headlines. The Financial Times leads with news that the extradition trial of the Wall Street ‘flash crash’ trader sparks “alarm over weaknesses of US markets”. Londoner Navinder Singh Sarao appeared in court on Wednesday to fight extradition to the US for contributing to a brief £500 billion stock market crash in 2010. The Daily Telegraph warns in its headline that a Labour-Scottish National Party pact “would cost families £350 each”: according to independent Treasury analysis, increased borrowing costs from such a pact would lead to increased borrowing, equivalent to £358 per family. The Times leads with news that Mayor of London Boris Johnson is eyeing “the top prize”, after he admitted to his long-speculated “leadership ambitions” for the Conservative Party. The Prime Minister is meanwhile hoping to revive his ‘boring’ election campaign, the paper writes. The Independent leads with news that goverment ministers will be “forced to reveal diaries to public”. Court victories by transparency campaigners mean that records of ministers’ phone calls, meetings and engagement must be revealed, potentially revealing lobbying controversies. The Guardian leads with news that “only 5,000 refugees” will be offered resettlement places in an emergency EU summit on migrants crossing the Mediterranean. Most migrants will be repatriated, the paper reports.
British Media on China
On Hong Kong: British media have continued to report on the Hong Kong government’s formal commitment to pre-screening candidates for leadership elections. The Independent reports that “Beijing’s appointed leader” admitted the plans were “in strict compliance” with instructions from the mainland. The Financial Times notes that the plans stick to Beijing’s “tight framework”. A piece by David Blair in The Daily Telegraph writes that the UK’s stance on Hong Kong has “offended all sides”, with the UK speaking out enough to offend China, but “not enough to win credit for defending British values”. The piece explains the “dilemma” of speaking out as a former colonial power. The piece advises to “always speak out in favour of pro-democracy protesters”, as “you will surely pay the familiar penalties in any event”.