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U.S. Government Shutdown Likely to Drag On into 2019; Iraqis in an Uproar over Trump's Visit; Market Turmoil; Protests in Tunisia, Congo and Sudan; The World's Innocent Victims; Iraqi Lawmakers Angry At Trump, Want U.S. Troops Out; U.S. Government Shutdown Likely To Drag On Into 2019; DHS Secretary Heads To Border After Migrant Boy's Death. Aired 12m-1a ET
Aired December 28, 2018 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The government shutdown blame game with Democrats and the president blaming one another.
What will it take to reopen the government?
Talk about a wild ride, U.S. markets made a dramatic comeback in the last hour of trading. How Asian markets are responding. We'll have a live report.
Plus, how the world failed to protect children in conflict this year. What must be done in order to save millions of our most vulnerable. We'll talk with someone about that. Hello, everyone.
Thank you so much for joining us. These stories and others ahead this hour. I'm Natalie Allen and this is CNN NEWSROOM.
ALLEN: Our top story, Donald Trump's surprise trip to Iraq may have calmed criticism that he hadn't visited U.S. soldiers in a war zone but it's created a whole new host of concerns.
Iraqi lawmakers, including the prime minister's own party, are furious over the trip and demanding U.S. troops get out of the country. They say the visit was disrespectful to Iraq sovereignty and the norms of diplomacy.
Meantime, back in Washington, the partial government shutdown is now in its seventh day and it looks likely to drag on into the new year. For more about it, here is CNN's Jessica Dean.
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Trump is back in Washington and back on Twitter less than two hours after arriving home after his whirlwind trip to Iraq, the president tweeted about the government shutdown, saying that the Dems realize that most of the people that are not getting paid are Democrats.
There president of the American Federation of Government Employees, one of the largest union representing government workers push back against Trump's claim the shutdown affects mostly Democrats. Saying, quote, "A government shutdown doesn't hurt anyone political party or anyone federal employee more than another. It hurts all of them."
While in Iraq, the president repeatedly avoided directly answering whether he'd accept $2 billion for the border wall instead of his original $5 billion request.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not going to talk about it now, but I will say this. We have been building a lot of wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEAN: Instead, Trump blamed Nancy Pelosi for keeping the government closed despite him repeatedly saying he wants the shutdown to continue until he gets border wall funding.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: But she's calling the shots and she's calling them because she wants the votes and probably if they do something, she's not going to get the votes and she's not going to be speaker of the house.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEAN: Pelosi does have the voted to become speaker and is expected to take the gavel when the new House convenes January 3. As the shutdown drags on, the president also faces questions about his trip to Iraq. He was in the country for three hours but did not meet with the Iraqi prime minister after their face-to-face was canceled due to differences over logistics.
Instead, President Trump spoke with the prime minister by phone. Trump was met by loud applause as he spoke to troops talking about their pay raise.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You know what, nobody deserves it more. You haven't gotten one in more than 10 years. More than 10 years. And we got you a big one. I got you a big one. I said no, make it 10 percent, make it more than 10 percent. Because it's been a long time. It's been more than 10 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEAN: But that's not true. Military pay has increased every year for more than three decades. The 2.6 percent increase in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act is the largest in the past nine years, but it's not the 10 percent Trump claimed. President Trump didn't shy away from politics while talking to the troops.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The Democrats don't want to let us to have strong borders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEAN: Late Thursday afternoon, Sarah Sanders put out a statement once again reinforcing that any bill that reopens the government has to have, quote, "adequate funding for border security." She also called out Democrats saying that Republicans in the administration had offered what she considered to be a compromise of a bill and that they had not provided an answer.
Well, Nancy Pelosi put out her own statement through her spokesman saying that in fact Democrats have offered Republicans three different chances to reopen the government but that they haven't taken them and that those three opportunities have had a border funding built within that bill, but that they were not funding the border wall -- Jessica Dean, CNN, the White House.
ALLEN: Joining me now from Los Angeles, CNN senior political analyst and senior editor at "The Atlantic," Ron Brownstein.
Howdy, Ron. Well, with President Trump, there is no break to say --
ALLEN: -- happy holidays.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
ALLEN: We plow on don't we?
Let's begin -- let's begin with the president's trip to Iraq, his first to visit troops in a war zone but he's receiving criticism back home and from the government of Iraq.
What should he have done to avoid this and make it better?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, I mean, obviously it's better that he visited troops in the war zone than not, especially after all this time. But it did continue the pattern of the president politicizing these kinds of appearances in a way that we simply had not seen previously.
I mean, it goes all the way back to his very first appearance, I think in his first week of the administration at the CIA where he did something similar. From signing the make America great again hats to attacking Democrats in front of the troops.
This is just one more example of the president kind of barreling past the informal constraints that have governed the way previous presidents have behaved and there is I think a risk in the political system of kind of being numb or inured to it.
I think it is striking though how many voices on different points of the political spectrums have raised concerns about this, showing off those norms are not being completely you know, obliterated.
ALLEN: And do you think this misstep has to do with the resignation at all of his very seasoned Defense Secretary Mr. Mattis?
BROWNSTEIN: No. And in fact, it's probably more like the opposite, don't you think that -- it's you know, it's more indicative of a decision-making style that contributed to the Mattis resignation. It's striking.
Again, if you look at the you know, what immediately preceded the trip, the announcement that he was withdrawing American forces from Syria, there is a case for that. And obviously there have been voices on both left and right who have questioned whether we need an indefinite commitment in Syria.
But the way that the president did the absence of input not only from foreign allies but even from his own military advisors really has drawn again remarkably widespread and uniform criticism from across the political spectrum.
And I think the fact, that again -- the fact that he would make this trip in a manner that was so outside the boundaries of traditional presidential behavior is really indicative of the broader style that laid Mattis to resign.
ALLEN: Let's talk about what he came back to. The U.S. government remaining partially shut down.
How does the president get out of this?
Is he playing a losing hand?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think that he's playing the same hand that he has played on almost every issue where he is focusing only on the priorities and in many cases the anxieties of his base at the expense of taking positions that alienate the broader electorate.
I have not seen a poll throughout this entire presidency where more than 43 percent of the country is supported building the border wall as he described it.
In the last CNN poll, it was only 38 percent. In a poll that came out today from Reuters only 35 percent of Americans said they wanted to see funding for the border wall included in a you know, a fiscal package that reopened the government.
He is as always enormously focused on mobilizing his base even while taking positions that alienate the majority of the country.
Having said that there is precedent for how something like this could get done. You know, both in the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill and even last year informally Democrats are willing to give him substantial funding for a border wall in return for priorities of their own on immigration.
In 2013, it was a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million roughly undocumented. Last year it was legal protection for the DREAMers, young people brought here illegally by their parents. None of that is on the table right now.
If the president is serious about ending the shutdown and getting his wall, he would presumably open broader discussions with Democrats about a wider immigration reform.
ALLEN: Well, we know what he thinks of Nancy Pelosi. He just pinned the shutdown on her. But a lot of -- most people don't seem to be buying that.
BROWNSTEIN: Well, in the polling today, most people blame him. And by the way, you know, the president is saying that Nancy Pelosi is not acting because you know, she is worried about having the votes.
Logically, the leverage of Democrats will go up in this confrontation next week when they assume the House Majority. At that point, there will not be the votes in either chamber for the budget that the president wants.
And it was kind of striking that is in their last act out the door the House Republicans in a way that kind of reflected their posture toward Trump over the entire two years enabled this strategy which they recognized that virtually no chance of success because it required what, nine Democratic votes in the Senate that are not forthcoming, absent some broader package.
So I think all of this -- you know, the president's position, he is on he is on the wrong side of the majority of public opinion. His legislative leverage will go down into the New Year. That doesn't mean a deal can't be had but it's simply I don't think is going to be had by kind of holding this weapon up against the Democrats and assuming they're OK.
BROWNSTEIN: Their voters, the voters who created this Democratic majority, 60 percent or more of every one of those groups, young people, minorities, college-educated whites oppose the wall. I don't think they're feeling much pressure to cave.
ALLEN: Ron Brownstein, always appreciate your insights. Thanks, Ron.
BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.
ALLEN: Well, after a day of whiplash on Wall Street, the Asia markets are apparently looking for a bit of calm. There was applause and cheers and a sigh of relief during Thursday's closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
In just the last half hour of trading, the Dow swung back into positive territory, closing up more than 1 percent after an uphill climb for most of the day and a more than 600-point plunge.
The S&P also came out from the red, gaining nearly 1 percent. The Nasdaq closed up more than a third of a percent.
So how are things playing out elsewhere?
Let's go to Hong Kong and CNN business reporter Sherisse Pham.
Markets barely rebounded in the U.S. Lots of relief sighs over here.
What's the story in Asia?
SHERISSE PHAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the story in Asia is the rebound that we saw in the United States is not playing out here, Natalie. Markets today are mixed across the board.
We're taking a look at the Nikkei. It's down about 0.1 of 1 percent. And the Hang Seng and the Shanghai Composite also trading up, having a few modest gains but nothing huge. The Shanghai Composite up about 0.1 percent and the Hang Seng up about a half a percent.
Really looking at the Nikkei, though, they had a huge rebound yesterday, roughly a gain of 4 percent. That pulled that index out of bear market territory. But now we're sort of seeing it creep back down into there.
So we've really been seeing these huge swings in the markets lately. And important to remember that trading is thin because of the holidays. We have fewer people participating in trading but, still, this is really, really rattling investors.
ALLEN: Absolutely. And there have been myriad things that have contributed to the up and the down, certainly corporations looking ahead to 2019. I'm not sure they're going to do as well as anticipated.
What else is causing it?
PHAM: There are a few things that are going on here. A lot of the things that had global investors worried are still at play. Let's take a look at some of those. So we've got, first and foremost, slowing economies in China and around the world. You saw that play out yesterday in Shanghai markets when industrial data came out showing a year on year drop in profits, the first time in nearly three years.
U.S.-China trade war. Of course that is an ongoing concern. Yes, there is news that China and the U.S. will be holding talks in January but there is no guarantee of resolution coming out of those talks.
Also, Brexit, the unpredictability surrounding Brexit and whatever outcome may happen there. And that certainly contributed to losses in London yesterday. The FTSE closing down about 1.5 percent. And let's not forget chaos in Washington. Investors get really uneasy
by, say, the president's signaling he wants to fire the Federal Reserve chairman or, say, a weird press release coming from the Treasury Secretary. All of those factors are rattling and spooking investors in Asia and around the world.
ALLEN: Right. Also, comments he made seemingly erroneously about some deal with China over trade and automobiles. So, yes, it's up and down and doesn't look like it's going to smooth out. Sherisse, thank you so much. We appreciate your insight.
PHAM: Thank you.
ALLEN: Other news we're following for you, protesters clash with police for a third night in Tunisia over the death of a journalist. Demonstrations have been going on since Monday when he set himself on fire.
The National Union of Tunisian Journalists says it was because of what it calls harsh social circumstances and a lack of hope. This was his message.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABDERRAZEK ZORGUI, TUNISIAN JOURNALIST (through translator): I will set myself on fire so, God willing, those unemployed will fire it up in the protest. It's about jobless people, those who don't have income, those who cannot afford buying food. They should stage protests and demand their right to have jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: His death bears a resemblance to the suicide of a man in 2010, which was seen as the beginning of the Arab Spring uprisings.
It was a similar scene in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. People have taken to the streets there, demanding to be included in the long-awaited presidential election. Voters in --
ALLEN: -- three cities now have to wait until March to cast their ballots while everyone else goes to the polls on Sunday.
The government says it is because of terrorism and the Ebola outbreak. But opposition parties say it's an excuse to block voters, excuse me, to block votes. The election result is still expected in January. It is not known how votes in the excluded cities would be factored into the election.
And a wave of street protests in Sudan shows little signs of weakening. The government is cracking down on the demonstrators as they demand a change in the presidency. Leone Lakhani has more on what has become the largest protest Sudan has seen in years.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LEONE LAKHANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As hundreds march through the Sudanese city of Atbara, the calls grow louder. Freedom, freedom, they chant, calling for an end to President Omar al-Bashir's nearly three decades of rule. Protests that began nearly a week ago erupted over rising food and fuel prices.
MARWA MAGEED, KHARTOUM RESIDENT (through translator): Everything has become very expensive and we don't know what's happening. It feels like there's a ticking time bomb and we don't know when it will explode.
LAKHANI (voice-over): From now, there's no sign the anger will die down. A state of emergency was declared in Atbara, after protestors targeted al-Bashir's party offices.
Speaking to his supporters on Tuesday, al-Bashir blamed the discord on external groups.
OMAR AL-BASHIR, SUDANESE PRESIDENT (through translator): Thank you for hosting me, thank you for your support and enthusiasm, which is a response to every foreign agent, traitor, outlaw and destructive person.
LAKHANI (voice-over): Protests have now spread across Sudan in the largest demonstrations in several years. In Khartoum, police disperse crowds with tear gas. In another mobile phone video, a demonstrator appears injured and is carried away.
Amnesty International said on Monday at least 37 people have been killed but the main opposition group is calling for investigations into the government's response -- Leone Lakhani, CNN, London.
ALLEN: Children in conflict zones around the world are under attack and no one is doing enough to help them. The U.N. has an urgent warning for the global community: don't let this become the new normal. We'll have a report coming up.
Plus, an inescapable heat wave in Australia. We'll get a check with the forecast to see if there is any relief in time for the new year. You won't believe how hot it is.
ALLEN: 2018 was a horrible year for many of the world's children. And 2019 doesn't look like it will be any better. UNICEF, the U.N. agency that works to protect children across the world says the world is failing these young victims.
In its year-end report, UNICEF warns millions of children trapped in conflict zones are suffering unspeakable cruelties every day. The agency singles out more than one dozen countries where children are especially at risk.
The atrocities committed against them include rape, abduction, forced marriages, starvation and deadly attacks. It sounds extremely grim.
Let's talk about it with Kieran Dwyer. He's a UNICEF spokesman. He joins me now from New York.
Thanks so much for being with us, Kieran.
KIERAN DWYER, SPOKESMAN, UNICEF: Thanks for having me.
ALLEN: This is certainly a very grim news for people, but we must talk about it. I want to begin talking about one deadly attack that stands out in my mind from this year, it was the bomb that landed on a school bus in Yemen.
Certainly, that country has been one of the most dangerous for children, has it?
DWYER: The children of Yemen and there are -- there are more than 11 million children facing life-threatening conditions today in this war that's well into four years have been facing imminent starvation in many areas, they've been facing bombardment and as you said, this terrible tragic story of tens of children in a school bus where they should be at their safest.
Any parent who's put their child on a school bus or waved their child off to school knows that you hope your child is going to a place of learning, a place where their future is secured. You many parents thought the same thing and this bus was came under bombardment.
We have seen in Yemen, we have seen in Syria, we have seen in the Central African Republic in Afghanistan. Schools coming under attack again and again and again. Children on their way to school, on buses, as they walk to school coming under attack.
And this is one of the patterns that UNICEF is raising the alarm on that in schools, in hospitals, in clinics, in their playgrounds. Children are constantly coming under attack in war, after war, after war, at the moment. And this is a pattern that we have to blow the whistle on and say, enough.
ALLEN: Let's talk about how we do that. And while we do, I want to mention the Rohingya nightmare, where some 700,000 fled, what is now reported to be genocide in Myanmar. Half were children and these families are still stuck in Bangladesh.
When you talk about world leaders have to think about what kind of situation they're putting children in, how does UNICEF get that message across and how do you work with children and say places like Bangladesh when there it is overwhelming the numbers who need help? DWYER: It's pretty powerful that you raise the situation of the Rohingya children. Of course, there are still hundreds of thousands of Rohingya children in Myanmar itself. Also is struggling to survive and many hundreds of thousands in the camp -- camps in Cox's Bazaar in Bangladesh.
The Rohingya crisis is so much a children's crisis. The first thing about UNICEF, we are the United Nations Children's agency and we work with partners around the world. We are in every war zone in the world where children are facing humanitarian crises.
So, the first step is to be on the ground with children, with families, talking to all sides. Our role is not political, our role is to be there to protect children and to bring the assistance that they need to survive, to heal from trauma and to start to plant the seeds of hope.
Every child, even in these war zones, when you're with children in Bangladesh, in Yemen, in Syria, in South Sudan, they always have the spark of hope.
ALLEN: I want to end with this question about this particular region and that is Afghanistan and Syria where we know U.S. troops will be leaving. How could that impact children in those countries for 2019? Any ideas?
DWYER: In Afghanistan, there has been conflict in war for so long. In Syria, we're going into eight years. Ultimately, children need peace. Whether U.S. troops and other international troops are in these countries. Ultimately, what we need to see is world leaders bring about the dynamic with national leaders and warring parties to --
DWYER: -- end conflicts.
What we do need is diplomatic engagement from all-powerful countries in the world to bring about peace. But also, if there is going to be fighting to insist that those who fighting are held to account for their actions.
If those people attacked children, they need to be held to account. They need to know that there are laws and that the world will not tolerate targeting of children, attacking of children by armed groups, by governments, by air strikes, by mortars, by recruiting children. So, this is the message that we have that in places like Afghanistan, where generations of children have suffered.
In Syria now, where there are 4 million children under the age of eight who only know war, we need to redouble efforts to end the war. And while those efforts are going on, we need governments around the world to insist that everybody must protect children until there is peace.
ALLEN: All right. That is a message we hope will carry into 2019. Thank you. Kieran Dwyer for us, UNICEF spokesman. Thank you.
DWYER: Thanks so much, Natalie.
ALLEN: Heavy rain and flooding are making life even more miserable for refugees in Northern Syria. A British-based human rights group says people living in camps there are facing catastrophic conditions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN (voice-over): My goodness. Look at that. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says entire camps, as you can see, have been submerged. Video posted on social media shows flooded roads, soaked tents and people wading in knee-high water. Certainly as we were just talking about the plight of children, children, so many live in those camps.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: Parts of Australia are sweltering in extreme heat, where it is summertime, of course. Temperatures in several states rose above 40 degrees Celsius on Thursday for the fourth straight day. Officials say there is a severe risk of wildfires associated with this.
January typically Australia's hottest month. Many fear this early heat wave may usher in more extreme weather for 2019, yet another example of the heat that we just see over and over again in various countries.
ALLEN: The head of Homeland Security is headed to the border after a second migrant child dies in U.S. custody. Hundreds of other migrants are simply dropped off. We'll have the latest. That's the little boy who died right there.
Also ahead, Europe's migrant crisis spans the English Channel. Desperate people in tiny boats risking everything to reach the U.K.
[00:30:00] COMMERCIAL BREAK
CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: This is the 100 CLUB, our look at companies that are 100 years old or older. Before Panasonic made all of these, it made this, a simple, affordable electrical device that carried power from light sockets to appliances.
MASAHIRO IZAKI, HISTORIAN, PANASONIC: People used to take electricity from ceiling light.
VANIER: It was a product to bring electricity to the masses. According to company historian, Masahiro Izaki, it was also the beginning of what would become an electronics industry giant, founded by Konosuke Matsushita in Osaka, Japan. The 1920s were a big decade, with the introduction of both the electric iron and an electric light for bikes. Just years later, a slew of new products were introduced, including its first washing machine, refrigerator, and television. The company grew to be a global household name, officially becoming Panasonic in 2008.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen. Let's update you on our top news this hour.
Iraqi lawmakers say U.S. troops are occupying their country, illegally, and should get out. They say Donald Trump's surprise visit to Baghdad Wednesday was disrespectful to their sovereignty. The U.S. President did not meet with any Iraqi officials while he was in the country.
The White House says the U.S. government shutdown will not end without funding to secure the nation's border. The Democrats say they will not approve money for President Trump's wall. Congress is adjourned until next week, with the shutdown now, in its seventh day.
A wild ride on Wall Street, Thursday. At one point, the Dow was down more than 600 points. Then, it rebounded to close up 260. Asian markets are hovering around the break even mark.
We now have photos of the 8-year-old boy who died in U.S. border patrol custody. Felipe Gomez Alonzo died at a hospital in New Mexico, in the U.S., on Christmas Eve, a few days after he and his father were detained for entering the U.S., illegally. He is the second child from Guatemala to die, this month, in U.S. custody.
His autopsy could reveal clues as to how this happened. But we do know he had been diagnosed with a cold and given medication. The boy's mother is in Guatemala. She wants his body returned, saying I need to see him. And she stressed he was fine when he left for the U.S. with his father.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CATARINA ALONZO, FELIPE'S MOTHER (through translator): It was a surprise when my husband said that my son died. When I said goodbye to him, he was healthy. But then, my husband said he died peacefully. They left because of poverty. My husband called me from Mexico. He said they'd had no problem, and that they were well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: The head of the Department of Homeland Security will go to the border herself, Friday. Kirstjen Nielsen said she wants to see firsthand the medical screenings and conditions at border patrol stations. She will go to El Paso, Texas on Friday.
In the past few days, immigration and customs enforcement, or ICE agents have dropped off hundreds of migrants at sites in El Paso, many at the bus station, others at non-profit agencies. ICE says they have to drop them off because they cannot legally be held any longer. There has been a sharp rise in the number of migrants crossing the English Channel, to reach the U.K. British authorities say at least 50 people have made the perilous journey since Christmas day. Most arriving in small inflatable boats, after risking their lives to cross one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.
[00:35:05] The French coast guard has been intercepting some of those boats, including this one, crowded with people. The U.K.'s immigration minister calls the situation, deeply concerning and partly blames organized crime groups who charge large sums of money to carry migrants across the channel.
At least some people are crossing the channel in the apparent belief the journey will become even more difficult after Brexit, but it's not just the U.K. The migrant crisis is affecting all of Europe, and the European Union is keenly aware it is not going away.
For more, here is CNN's Simon Cullen in London.
SIMON CULLEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: 2015, the height of Europe's migrant crisis. More than one million refugees arrived on European shores, many fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
YOUSEF KARAJAKES, SYRIAN REFUGEE: I lose everything there. I lose my wife and I lose my daughter. I lose my family. I lose -- they're dead, in the bomb, in the war.
CULLEN: The influx presented an unprecedented challenge for the European Union, which struggled to support member states bearing the brunt, particularly on the eastern border. As the migrants tried to move west, countries along the route began building border fences, setting the scene for violent clashes between migrants and police.
Since then, the number of migrants trying to reach the E.U. has been falling. But thousands of people continue to arrive each month, most coming on boats across the Mediterranean from North Africa, refocusing the migration pressure points on Italy and Spain. Italy's new government, in particular, reacted with force, banning some migrant ships from docking.
MATTEO SALVINI, INTERIOR MINISTER OF ITALY (through translator): My objective is that the people have the right to come to Italy, arrive in Italy by plane, maybe even in first class, not on boats.
CULLEN: Italy's anti-immigration government is not alone in Europe. Others like Austria, Hungary and Poland, have adopted a similarly hard line.
MATTHEW GOODWIN, SENIOR FELLOW, CHATHAM HOUSE: This is truly a historic change in Europe. And I think when you're living amid it, sometimes you lose sight of how significant it is.
CULLEN: The effects are already being felt. For years, the European commission has tried to find a long-term solution to the migrant debate, but staff differences remain about the best way for it.
DONALD TUSK, PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL: We can no longer be divided into those who want to solve the problem of illegal migrant flows and those who want to use it for political gain.
CULLEN: And with European parliamentary election scheduled for May, analysts warn there is little incentive for some key players to compromise.
GOODWIN: There are a number of E.U. governments and parties that have a vested interest in insuring that the European commission and the European parliament and council do not resolve the question of external border security.
CULLEN: The last time Europeans elected members of parliament in 2014, the key issue was the economy. This time around, it's immigration. According to opinion polling, carried out by the European commission, it ranks alongside terrorism in voters' minds.
What this means is for the year ahead, this is where the political battle lines will be drawn, potentially driving even deeper divisions within the E.U. and dramatically changing how Europe responds to migrants.
Simon Cullen, CNN, London.
ALLEN: In Hong Kong, conservation groups want an endangered species to be protected, ahead here, saving rare golden coin turtles from poachers.
[00:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ALLEN: Golden coin turtles are a critically endangered species. They can be found only in the wild, in Hong Kong, and their numbers are quite small. As Ivan Watson reports, efforts to breed the reptiles are being sabotaged by illegal trapping, so conservation groups want government action.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In the jungles above Hong Kong, there's a living treasure, an animal on the verge of extinction in the wild, which poachers risk jail time and big fines to capture. Conservationists are battling to save this golden coin turtle.
ANTHONY LAU, ECOLOGIST & LECTURER, HONG KONG BAPTIST UNIVERSITY: The main reason that we're doing this is because we want to reduce the threat to turtles and one of the main threats is illegal trapping.
WATSON: By a stream bank, researchers find evidence left by what they suspect are turtle trappers, who apparently ignore anti-poaching warnings from city authorities. YIK HAI SUNG, ECOLOGIST & RESEARCH ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG: So far, we don't find this very effective, because we don't see like real enforcement, follow this, like putting up this sign. Even worse, we thought about putting up this sign may tell people that there are turtles in the place.
WATSON: This is a female golden coin turtle. So, she's a critically endangered semi aquatic turtle that used to thrive all across southern China and parts of Southeast Asia, but now, these species only lives in the wild, here in Hong Kong.
Some people, they want to own her as a pet, or they want to eat her. And some actually believe that this species might have medicinal properties that could actually cure cancer. And it is her golden head and the three stripes on her shell that some people believe make her lucky, and as a result, even more valuable.
A conservation program set up by Kadoorie farm and supported by the government, aims to safely breed golden coin turtles. Conservationists had hoped to release them into the wild within five years, but 20 years later, that's still not considered safe.
PAUL CROW, SENIOR CONSERVATION OFFICER, KADOORIE FARM AND BOTANIC GARDEN: We're actually going to be running trials in the next couple of years to run small scale experiments in semi wild controlled environments to find out if the turtles know how to survive in the wild.
But still, we've got a couple of years of work, I think, before we're ready for that. And that's coincidentally not such a bad thing because the wild still needs a couple of years before it's going to be safe.
WATSON: Activists want stricter law enforcement to prevent the sale of these turtles and other endangered species in Asian markets. If not, they fear this ancient reptile may only survive in captivity.
CROW: One day, hopefully this animal will be in a stream in Hong Kong, and continuing the species' survival in Hong Kong.
WATSON: Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.
ALLEN: We wish the turtles well. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen. "WORLD SPORT" is coming next. See you in about 15 minutes.
[00:45:00] (WORLD SPORT)