Netanyahu attack on EU policy towards Israel caught on microphone | World news

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has launched a withering attack on the European Union at a closed-door meeting of eastern European leaders in Budapest, saying the political grouping would wither and die if it did not change its policy towards Israel.

The remarks, caught on an open microphone, underlined Netanyahu’s often barely disguised contempt for the European political union, which has criticised Israel – and his government in particular – over issues including Jewish settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories and the peace process.

Netanyahu also made a rare public admission that Israel has struck Iranian arms convoys in Syria bound for Hezbollah “dozens and dozens of times”.

The overheard remarks were reported by Israeli journalists covering the trip.

The bombastic remarks, which bizarrely predicated Europe’s future on its attitude towards Israel – not one of the most burning issues on an EU agenda confronting the challenges of immigration, Brexit and economic growth – were made in a meeting with the leaders of Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland, whom Netanyahu urged to close their doors to refugees from Africa and the Middle East.

“I think Europe has to decide if it wants to live and thrive or if it wants to shrivel and disappear,” he said. “I am not very politically correct. I know that’s a shock to some of you. It’s a joke. But the truth is the truth – both about Europe’s security and Europe’s economic future. Both of these concerns mandate a different policy toward Israel.”

“The European Union is the only association of countries in the world that conditions the relations with Israel, which produces technology in every area, on political conditions. The only ones! Nobody does it,” Netanyahu said before officials realised the meeting was being overheard by reporters and cut the feed.

“It’s crazy. It’s actually crazy,” he added, urging the leaders present to help push Europe to expedite the EU association agreement with Israel that has been held up because of current Israeli policies.

Netanyahu’s remarks were made following criticism of his visit to Budapest, where he has been accused of soft-pedalling on accusations against the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, for allegedly stoking antisemitism, not least in a high-profile campaign targeting billionaire Jewish philanthropist George Soros.

Netanyahu’s comments also come in the midst of problems for the embattled Israeli prime minister at home, where he is under investigation in two police inquiries and amid an escalating corruption scandal involving his government over the purchase of German submarines.

“I think that if I can suggest that what comes out of this meeting is your ability perhaps to communicate to your colleagues in other parts of Europe: Help Europe … don’t undermine the one western country that defends European values and European interests and prevents another mass migration to Europe,” added Netanyahu.

“So stop attacking Israel. Start supporting Israel … start supporting European economies by doing what the Americans, the Chinese and the Indians are doing,” he said, referring to increasing technological cooperation.

“There is no logic here. The EU is undermining its security by undermining Israel. Europe is undermining its progress by undermining its connection with Israeli innovation,” he added.

“We are part of the European culture,” Netanyahu continued. “Europe ends in Israel. East of Israel, there is no more Europe. We have no greater friends than the Christians who support Israel around the world. Not only the evangelists. If I go to Brazil, I’ll be greeted there with more enthusiasm than at the Likud party.”

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80% of Britain’s 1.4m eastern European residents are in work | UK news

Around 1.4 million eastern Europeans are living in Britain, including 916,000 Polish people, and 80% of them are in work, according to the most complete official picture so far.

A study on migration from the eight eastern European countries known as the EU8, conducted by the Office for National Statistics, shows Lithuanians are the second largest EU8 group in the UK, with 170,000 living in the country.

The ONS study confirms that the food product manufacturing industry is particularly dependent on migrants, with EU8 citizens making up 25% of the total workforce.

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A third of all Czechs working in Britain are employed in banking and finance, and there are 83,200 eastern Europeans working in the health service, education or public administration.

The ONS also provides data on when EU-born residents of the UK first arrived in the country, showing that more than 1 million have been in England and Wales since the last century, including 623,000 who arrived before 1981.

Those figures include citizens of both eastern and western European countries. They confirm that 855,000 citizens of EU14 countries – which made up the EU before 2004 – came to live in England and Wales before 2000, compared with 474,000 who have arrived since 2000.

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The majority (932,000) of the EU8-born people living in England and Wales arrived after 2000, with 182,000 arriving before 2000. And 100,000 came to England and Wales before 1981.

The figures raise the possibility that Britain’s offer on EU citizens’ rights after Brexit will lead to more than 1 million people who arrived in the UK at least 17 years ago being fingerprinted and required to apply for a “settled status” biometric residence document.

The data does not take account of how many of these long-term residents have gained British citizenship. The ONS says the vast majority of Polish and other EU8 citizens keep their passports, with only 7,000 a year applying for British citizenship.

When it comes to securing reciprocal rights for British citizens living in eastern European EU countries, the ONS study shows the numbers involved are relatively small. Only 14,100 Britons live in the EU8 countries, including Poland, and 72% of them are working there. Only 6,000 people are claiming British state pensions in the EU8 countries.

Those eastern Europeans living in Britain are far more likely to be of working age than the resident British population, according to the study, with 74% of them in the 15-49 age bracket. Very few are aged over 65.

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EU takes action against eastern states for refusing to take refugees | World news

The European commission has launched a legal case against Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic for refusing to take in refugees, intensifying a bitter feud within the bloc about how to deal with migration.

The Eurosceptic governments in Poland and Hungary have refused to take in anyone under a plan agreed by a majority of EU leaders in 2015 to relocate migrants from frontline states Italy and Greece to help ease their burden. The Czech Republic initially accepted 12 people but has since said it would not welcome more.

Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, the EU’s migration chief, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said: “I regret to see that despite our repeated calls to pledge to relocate, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland have not yet taken the necessary action.

“For this reason, the commission has decided to launch infringement procedures against these three member states … I sincerely hope that these member states can still reconsider their position and contribute fairly.”

The legal action is likely to reinvigorate the debate over the independence of EU states from Brussels. It kickstarts months, or even years, of legal wrangling before a top EU court could potentially impose financial penalties.

Out of 160,000 refugees due to be taken under the scheme agreed in 2015, only 20,869 have been relocated. In theory, countries can be fined for every refugee in the quota they fail to accept.

The Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, nosediving in the polls and facing elections in November, claimed the commission was “blindly insisting on pushing ahead with dysfunctional quotas which decreased citizens’ trust in EU abilities and pushed back working and conceptual solutions to the migration crisis”.

He added: “Given the deteriorating security situation in Europe and the non-functioning of the quota system, the Czech government will not participate in it. We are ready to defend our position in the EU and the relevant judicial institutions.”

But speaking in Prague, the former Italian prime minister Massimo D’Alema said the EU “cannot tolerate countries that do not respect the law that is based on our fundamental values and those values are to respect human rights”.

He added: “The only way to solve the crisis is to share the burden. It is not acceptable for Germany to take 1 million refugees and for some EU states to simply say no. In that case, sanctions are needed.”

The eastern states are firmly opposed to accepting any asylum seekers, and believe their populations will not accept large numbers of migrants, especially if imposed by the EU.

Speaking in Hungary’s parliament earlier on Monday, the prime minister, Viktor Orbán, said: “We will not give in to blackmail from Brussels and we reject the mandatory relocation quota.”

Poland’s interior minister, Mariusz Błaszczak, said: “We believe that the relocation methods attract more waves of immigration to Europe; they are ineffective.”

The Czech Republic had initially taken in 12 people from their assigned quota of 2,691, but said earlier in June it would take no more, citing security concerns. Sobotka argued on Monday that the biggest crisis facing the EU was terrorism.

Poland and Hungary have refused to take in a single person under a plan agreed in 2015 to relocate 160,000 asylum seekers from Italy and Greece, which had been overwhelmed by an influx of people from the Middle East and Africa.

Although the number of refugees coming into Europe from Syria along the Balkan route has fallen, the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya has risen significantly, placing great pressure on local Italian authorities.

Critics of the eastern European countries’ stance over refugees claim they are willing to accept the economic benefits of the EU, including access to the single market, but have shown a disregard for the humanitarian and political responsibilities.

Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania opposed agreeing to the relocation scheme for asylum seekers in 2015, but were outvoted. Although generally opposed, Poland eventually voted with the majority.

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