Rob Schmitz

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For months, the government of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko has accelerated the number of visas it grants migrants seeking refuge from war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and beyond.

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Editor's note: Poland's government announced Thursday it plans to build a new barrier on its border with Belarus. The move comes as Poland says migrants from around the world are sneaking in from across the border. NPR's original story, published Tuesday, follows.

BERLIN – On the day after Germany's election, whichever party has won the most votes typically takes charge of enticing other parties with smaller shares of the vote to form a new government. But Sunday's election results were far from typical.

BERLIN — Germany's two largest parties have emerged from Sunday's election in what amounts to a dead heat, according to preliminary results. The first projected results released by national broadcaster ARD put the country's center-left Social Democrats at 24.9%, just two-tenths of a percentage point ahead of Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right party.

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BERLIN — Millions of Germans will head to the polls in a federal election on Sunday that will determine who will succeed Angela Merkel after 16 years as Germany's chancellor.

According to the latest polls, Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party is narrowly ahead of Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian partner, the Christian Social Union. They're closely followed by the Greens, the far-right Alternative for Germany and the libertarian Free Democratic Party, all holding onto double-digit poll numbers going into Sunday's election.

RUEGEN, Germany — It was a cold, misty morning in November of 1990 when the fishermen noticed a woman standing outside their hut. They'd been fishing in the Baltic Sea and were approaching shore, trying to make out who it was. Hans-Joachim Bull was worried the stranger might be an inspector sent by the government to enforce fishing quotas.

"We offloaded our fish and then we asked her what she wanted," he remembers. "She said she was running for parliament and wanted to learn how we fishermen were doing. So we naturally invited her into our hut to drink schnapps with us."

HAMBURG, Germany — The hammering typically begins at 8 o'clock sharp and continues through the day, its pulsing sound echoing along the gleaming renovated buildings and canals of this city's harbor district. It's the heartbeat of Hamburg.

For the past 10 years, this has been the soundtrack to the transformation of Germany's largest port from one of run-down warehouses to a thriving cultural center filled with loft apartments, hotels and pedestrian trails and capped with a massive philharmonic hall, a glass goliath whose roof is in the shape of undulating ocean waves.

Updated September 2, 2021 at 4:12 PM ET

RAMSTEIN, Germany — Hangar 5 at this giant U.S. air base can snugly fit some of the largest planes in the world. It was not meant to house people. But for the past two weeks as the United States conducts the largest airlift in its history, the base has hosted more than 25,000 Afghans waiting to be taken to America.

MALLERSDORF, Germany — The village church bells chime 11 in the morning and Hermann Zausinger has decided he needs more beer. He's a farmer, and by midday, he has worked up a thirst.

"My farm has vegetables, a fish pond, a herd of sheep," he says. "I grow everything for myself, except for beer."

He's just emerged from his village brewery and he plops four crates — 80 bottles — into the trunk of his car, smiles, and proclaims an oft-repeated phrase from these parts. "Beer is Bavarian bread."

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Germany and Belgium are beginning to recover from historic flooding that has devastated parts of those countries and left more than 180 people dead. German Chancellor Angela Merkel toured some of the affected areas today.

DUBROVNIK, Croatia — The first state-imposed quarantine happened here, in present-day Dubrovnik, Croatia, an ancient walled city atop the cliffs of the Adriatic Sea. The first people to ever be quarantined — more than 500 years ago — had a nice view but not-so-nice consequences if they decided they had had enough of it.

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SPLIT, Croatia — There's a lot of hype surrounding Froggyland. The brochure for the museum, located outside the walls of Split's ancient palace built for the 4th century Roman Emperor Diocletian, declares: "Froggyland and first love will never be forgotten!"

BERLIN – Germany is formally recognizing that its killing of tens of thousands of people belonging to two ethnic groups more than a century ago in present-day Namibia was a genocide.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced the recognition on Friday, saying "in light of Germany's historical and moral responsibility, we will ask Namibia and the descendants of the victims for forgiveness."

He added that Germany will support Namibia and the victims' descendants with more than $1.3 billion for reconstruction and development.

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Consequences are coming for Belarus. The European Union has called on all EU-based airlines to avoid flying over the Eastern European country after the government there forced a commercial flight to land so they could arrest a journalist.

SPLIT AND DUBROVNIK, CROATIA — The Croatian immigration agent isn't impressed with my flimsy CDC-issued COVID-19 vaccination card. The paper, filled out in loopy strokes of blue cursive by a pharmacist at a Sam's Club in Houston more than a month earlier, looks easy to forge.

"Your second vaccination date hasn't even occurred yet," the immigration agent says, lifting an eyebrow and pointing to its date: 04-12-2021.

I explain that in the United States, we write the month first, then the day. "Oh!" she shouts with a giggle.

BERLIN — Since 1913, beer from the tap of the Metzer Eck pub has flowed through two World Wars, a flu pandemic and the Soviet occupation of East Berlin, which came and went over mere decades of the establishment's history.

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BERLIN — Hungary's Klubradio station broadcast its news program on Feb. 14 as it had for more than two decades. The next day it was pulled off the air.

Some 3.5 million people in the capital of Budapest, more than a third of the country's population, tuned in for the show, according to the station's head of news, Mihaly Hardy. Now devoted listeners stream it online only.

"We have lost 60 to 70% of our usual audience," Hardy says.

Seven years ago, Mathias Döpfner was at a ceremony celebrating Tesla founder Elon Musk. Döpfner, the head of German media company Axel Springer, was seated next to a CEO of one of Germany's biggest carmakers, and he turned to him and asked, "Isn't this guy dangerous for you?"

As he later recounted, the CEO shook his head. "These guys in Silicon Valley, they have no clue about engineering, about building really beautiful and great cars," the CEO told him. "So we don't have to worry."

Germany's Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, is constantly on the lookout for potential threats to Germany's democratic constitutional system, and it has wide-ranging powers when it finds them.

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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny announced he plans to return home to Russia on Sunday from Germany, where he has spent months recovering from being poisoned.

In an Instagram post Wednesday, he said he purchased a plane ticket to Russia that morning after feeling "almost healthy enough to come back home."

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