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« Reply #5610 on: Apr 08, 2013, 06:41 AM »


April 7, 2013

Negotiators Find in Kazakhstan the Perfect Place to Disagree

By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
IHT

ALMATY, Kazakhstan — Plopped in a chair in a fifth-floor suite at the Rixos Hotel here, his eyes red from exhaustion, Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov of Kazakhstan spoke humbly about playing host to international negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.

“To put it in a nutshell, our role is very simple and very modest,” Mr. Idrissov said. “We have to prepare a nice coffee and nice tea, for the parties to be happy and have a really good atmosphere to work and focus on the issues of substance.” As if to illustrate the point, he sat in front of a lavish spread of pastries and finger cakes, but left them untouched in favor of puffing on an electronic cigarette.

Nothing is simple when it comes to high-stakes diplomatic talks, though — least of all deciding where they will be held. On that score, Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic on the steppes of Central Asia between Russia and China, has pulled off something of a coup. After two days of contentious discussions between Iran and six world powers that ended with no deal anywhere in sight, the negotiators were in accord on one point: they had found the perfect place to disagree.

One after another, delegation leaders gushed with satisfaction at their decision to return to Almaty for the talks last week, after holding a round here in February.

First it was Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief; then Saeed Jalili, the top negotiator for Iran. Even a senior United States official, who spoke about some of the grittiest details of the talks, took a moment to fawn. “Let me, once again, convey our gratitude to the government of Kazakhstan for their truly flawless performance in hosting these talks again,” the official said.

For many reasons, Kazakhstan was well positioned to serve as neutral turf for the talks. It lies across the Caspian Sea from Iran and has experience with nuclear issues. Though the country may still be best known in the West for its connection to an oddball comedy film (officials pleaded with a reporter not to mention it by name), in Soviet times it was a main testing ground for the world’s largest atomic arsenal, and its citizens have experienced firsthand the harm of radioactive fallout.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, Kazakhstan inherited a large stockpile of nuclear weapons, and voluntarily gave them up, offering something of a case study as the six world powers try to persuade Iran to limit is nuclear ambitions. And Kazakhstan today is the world’s largest producer of uranium, making it a major player in the civilian nuclear industry around the world and a close partner of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

That Almaty was more or less centrally situated — three-and-a-half hours by plane from Tehran; four-and-a-half from Moscow; five from Beijing; six from Berlin — did not hurt, either.

Most important, though, Kazakhstan fit Iran’s requirements for a venue — a country that recognizes Iran’s right to enrich uranium for civilian purposes and that had not directly leveled any sanctions against Iran. (Kazakhstan is enforcing United Nations sanctions but, unlike the United States or the European Union, has imposed none of its own.)

Talks have been held in three other cities over the past year — Istanbul, Baghdad and Moscow — but for various logistical and political reasons, the sides did not want to go back to any of them. After months of negotiations last fall, they settled on Kazakhstan for the February session that is now known as Almaty 1.

Ali Vaez, a specialist on Iran with the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit organization that works to prevent conflicts, said that sanctions seemed to loom largest in choosing a site for the latest round, while Kazakhstan’s nuclear experience did not.

“They haven’t mentioned that even once in the Iranian press — the background and history of Kazakhstan in terms of nonproliferation,” said Mr. Vaez, who was here last week for the talks now known as Almaty 2. “Insistence is on the fact that Kazakhstan has not sanctioned Iran.”

But Kazakhstan stressed that history in proposing itself as host. “I offered Almaty as a venue for negotiations in the hope that the experience of our young country would be useful,” President Nursultan A. Nazarbayev wrote in an essay published in The Washington Times last week. “We support the peaceful use of nuclear power. No other country can match our achievement of voluntary denuclearization.”

In Almaty, once Kazakhstan’s capital and still its largest city and economic center, the delegations have found modern, comfortable accommodations in a country whose fortunes have risen largely because of its vast deposits of oil and minerals. The diplomats were able to shuttle easily among the hotels and conference sites without having to contend with, for example, the snarled traffic of Moscow or the security worries of Baghdad, and they had the snowcapped Zalisky Alatau mountains for a backdrop.

Almaty has ambitions to become the capital of Eurasian chic, and now holds an annual fashion week. Salmat Bavaev, the director of the event, said the organizers make their own effort at diplomacy, inviting designers from both Iran and the United States to take part. Saks Fifth Avenue opened a store here in October.

While nuclear talks hardly have the popular appeal of a major sporting or entertainment event, they were still a source of pride last week for Kazakhs who were aware of them. “The whole world is here; it certainly helps to put Kazakhstan and Almaty on the world map,” said Alper Akdeniz, head of the Almaty office of PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm.

Mr. Akdeniz was meeting an associate — and watching the bustle — at the Intercontinental Hotel, where press briefings on the talks were held. “Whatever the outcome,” he said, “Kazakhstan wins.”

An American official who participated in the talks said that Mr. Idrissov, the Kazakh foreign minister, had hardly just served refreshment. Mr. Idrissov “played a constructive role, meeting with all parties and urging them to be serious,” the official said. “He passed messages appropriately, to be helpful without becoming a negotiator, and provided support in every conceivable way.”

Sitting in his hotel suite while the delegations packed their bags, Mr. Idrissov said Kazakhstan had an interest in the success of the talks. “Iran happens to be in our part of the world,” he said. “We do care about the long-term stability.”

And he conceded that his country was enjoying the attention: “We are happy that Kazakhstan has become at least one point on which all parties agree 100 percent.”


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« Reply #5611 on: Apr 08, 2013, 06:49 AM »

April 7, 2013

Ukraine President Frees a Rival’s Allies, but Leaves Her in Prison

By ANDREW E. KRAMER
IHT

MOSCOW — In a possible sign that political tensions are easing in Ukraine, President Viktor F. Yanukovich pardoned the country’s second-most-prominent political prisoner on Sunday, but his intentions concerning his biggest rival, who is also in custody, remained unclear.   

The pardoned prisoner, Yuri V. Lutsenko, is a former interior minister whose arrest in December 2010 on charges that he had abused his office raised concerns in the European Union and the United States that Ukraine’s democracy was at risk. Those worries were heightened the following year when the police arrested Mr. Yanukovich’s biggest rival, Yulia V. Tymoshenko, a former prime minister and the leader of the political opposition.

Mr. Yanukovich also freed several lower-profile figures on Sunday, including a former ecology minister, Georgy Filipchuk. But about a dozen other opposition figures remain in prison.

The pardon decree, published by Ukraine’s government, laid out a host of factors that went into the decision, including the prisoners’ former service to the state, their family affairs and their behavior while in prison.

The statement did not mention a campaign mounted by the European Union to win the release of prisoners in exchange for an agreement on broadened trade relations that includes provisions on human rights and the rule of law.

That agreement would open desperately needed access to European Union markets for Ukraine’s struggling economy. The human rights provision has turned the political prisoners into bargaining chips.

European governments are pushing for adoption of the agreement by this fall. The arrest of Ms. Tymoshenko in August 2011 scuttled an earlier opportunity for the agreement’s adoption last year. The process is complicated because all 27 member nations of the European Union must agree to such a treaty.

Diplomats have often cited the release of Ms. Tymoshenko and Mr. Lutsenko as conditions before the negotiations can continue. Western governments have called their prosecutions politically motivated.

It is unclear whether the release of Mr. Lutsenko and the other prisoners would suffice. Mr. Lutsenko, though, was upbeat concerning the wider significance of his release as he left Menskoi Prison on Sunday.

He told journalists that “this event for me is a victory for Ukrainian democracy, for world democracy” and that Ukraine was “making correct steps to end political repression.”

Ms. Tymoshenko’s case is likely to carry far more weight. She was a leader of the 2004 street protests known as the Orange Revolution and was elected to her first term as prime minister in 2005. After her narrow defeat by Mr. Yanukovich in 2010, she was sentenced to seven years in prison on charges that she abused her position in connection with the approval of a contract to buy natural gas from Russia. She now faces new charges involving the 1996 assassination of a member of Parliament.

**********

October 11, 2011

Former Ukraine Premier Is Jailed for 7 Years

By ELLEN BARRY

KIEV, Ukraine — From the moment President Viktor F. Yanukovich took office last year, a central question was whether he would lead Ukraine west, toward Europe, or into a tight symbiosis with the country’s Soviet-era masters in Moscow.

Nineteen months of cautious navigation hit a watershed on Tuesday, when a court in Kiev sentenced the country’s most prominent opposition politician, Yulia V. Tymoshenko, to seven years in prison. European leaders have condemned the case as politically motivated, and hinted that they are unlikely to ratify a free trade and association agreement with Ukraine, a project four years in the making.

Ms. Tymoshenko, an acerbic populist who represents the European-leaning west of the country, rose to drown out the judge’s voice as he read out the verdict, speaking directly to a bank of television cameras.

“This is an authoritarian regime,” she said. “Against the background of European rhetoric, Yanukovich is taking Ukraine farther from Europe by launching such political trials.” As bailiffs led her from the courtroom, Ms. Tymoshenko turned in the doorway to wave goodbye, a small figure in a white coat and a helmet of blond braids.

Prosecutors say Ms. Tymoshenko harmed Ukraine’s interests when, as prime minister, she carried out negotiations with Russia in 2009 over the price of natural gas. Tuesday’s ruling excludes her from politics for 10 years, and levies a fine of about $190 million.

But international legal experts say that she seems to have been performing a routine administrative function for which she might conceivably be disciplined, if the government was displeased with her performance, but not charged with a crime.

With Ms. Tymoshenko’s trial at an end, European governments will have to decide whether to make good on their warnings that imprisoning her will freeze efforts to integrate with Ukraine politically and economically. On one hand, Mr. Yanukovich has defied intense diplomatic pressure from Western partners, crossing what one analyst called “the reddest of red lines.”

On the other hand, Ukraine has been under pressure from Russia to join its own economic bloc, along with Kazakhstan and Belarus. Even compared with the other former Soviet nations, Ukraine — with a population of 46 million — seems to waver between Europe and Russia, so that isolating it from the West could have profound consequences.

Mr. Yanukovich has made integrating with Europe a central goal, and he is likely to head off catastrophic damage by softening Ms. Tymoshenko’s conviction swiftly. One route to this would be decriminalizing the article under which she was convicted. In that event, her name would be cleared and she would be able to run in parliamentary elections in 2012, said Serhiy Vlasenko, one of her lawyers. This could occur as soon as next week, so that Mr. Yanukovich would be welcome at European Union talks in Brussels scheduled for Oct. 20.

He suggested as much on Tuesday, when he told journalists, “This is not a final decision.”

“Ahead lies the appeals court, and it will without a doubt make a decision within the bounds of the law, but the decision will have great significance,” he said, in comments carried by the Interfax news agency.

In Brussels, Ukraine’s foreign minister emphasized the progress that the country has made toward meeting European benchmarks, saying the parties “have never been so close to the association agreement as they are now.” A Foreign Ministry statement argued strenuously against linking the Tymoshenko verdict with the European Union procedure, making the case that political leaders like Mr. Yanukovich could not interfere in judicial processes. As news of the verdict spread on Tuesday, though, some in Kiev said Ms. Tymoshenko’s conviction was already marked in Ukraine’s history.

Critics of the verdict warned that Ukraine could follow the pattern set by Belarus, whose nascent engagement with the West came to an abrupt end last year amid a crackdown on opposition figures.

“For the past 10 years, we were in the process of getting to a democratic state,” said Yulia Shcherban, a travel agent. “I agree that people who are dishonest must be charged. But in Ukraine, we are going back in the opposite direction and getting back to the days of the Soviet state: Either you are with those in power or you are against them and you are in trouble. She was against those in power.”

Criticism came from a range of foreign capitals on Tuesday. Poland’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying, “Ukraine’s image as a country that is undertaking a fundamental pro-European transformation has been tarnished.” The White House released a statement urging Ukraine to release Ms. Tymoshenko and other jailed political leaders, and to allow them to run in next year’s parliamentary elections. Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said the trial “unfortunately confirms that justice is being applied selectively in politically motivated prosecutions of the leaders of the opposition and members of the former government.”

Russia, too, condemned the verdict in Ms. Tymoshenko’s case — in part because her conviction centered on a deal she struck with Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin in 2009, agreeing to pay what prosecutors called an excessively high price for Russian natural gas. Russian analysts said Ukraine might be trying to annul Ms. Tymoshenko’s gas deal and renegotiate for a better price.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the prosecution was “initiated exclusively for political motives,” and noted “an obvious anti-Russian subtext to this whole story.” Mr. Putin, who is on a visit to Beijing, told reporters, “I don’t really understand what they gave her seven years for.”

Several hundred supporters of Ms. Tymoshenko set up tent camps outside the courtroom on Tuesday, and the police were nervous enough to deploy 1,500 riot police officers in balaclavas and camouflage. But the case is unlikely to mobilize the throngs that coalesced around Ms. Tymoshenko in 2004, when, dressed in the style of an unusually glamorous peasant woman, she became the face of the pro-Western Orange Revolution.

The euphoria faded over the next few years, as the members of the Orange coalition bickered endlessly among themselves and Ukraine’s economy foundered. During the last presidential election, Ms. Tymoshenko struggled to engage her voting base — Ukrainian speakers from the west of the country — and lost narrowly to Mr. Yanukovich, who represents the more Russified east.

Mr. Yanukovich surprised many by embracing an emphatically pro-European path, but that choice did not extend to domestic politics. His inauguration marked the opening of numerous criminal cases against his political rivals, a tactic some trace back to his experience in the bare-knuckled politics of eastern coal country.

Mr. Yanukovich also freed several lower-profile figures on Sunday, including a former ecology minister, Georgy Filipchuk. But about a dozen other opposition figures remain in prison.

The pardon decree, published by Ukraine’s government, laid out a host of factors that went into the decision, including the prisoners’ former service to the state, their family affairs and their behavior while in prison.

The statement did not mention a campaign mounted by the European Union to win the release of prisoners in exchange for an agreement on broadened trade relations that includes provisions on human rights and the rule of law.

That agreement would open desperately needed access to European Union markets for Ukraine’s struggling economy. The human rights provision has turned the political prisoners into bargaining chips.

European governments are pushing for adoption of the agreement by this fall. The arrest of Ms. Tymoshenko in August 2011 scuttled an earlier opportunity for the agreement’s adoption last year. The process is complicated because all 27 member nations of the European Union must agree to such a treaty.

Diplomats have often cited the release of Ms. Tymoshenko and Mr. Lutsenko as conditions before the negotiations can continue. Western governments have called their prosecutions politically motivated.

It is unclear whether the release of Mr. Lutsenko and the other prisoners would suffice. Mr. Lutsenko, though, was upbeat concerning the wider significance of his release as he left Menskoi Prison on Sunday.

He told journalists that “this event for me is a victory for Ukrainian democracy, for world democracy” and that Ukraine was “making correct steps to end political repression.”

Ms. Tymoshenko’s case is likely to carry far more weight. She was a leader of the 2004 street protests known as the Orange Revolution and was elected to her first term as prime minister in 2005. After her narrow defeat by Mr. Yanukovich in 2010, she was sentenced to seven years in prison on charges that she abused her position in connection with the approval of a contract to buy natural gas from Russia. She now faces new charges involving the 1996 assassination of a member of Parliament.


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« Reply #5612 on: Apr 08, 2013, 06:55 AM »

Putin critic and opposition leader: I’m ready for prison

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, April 8, 2013 7:20 EDT

Charismatic Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who goes on trial in just over one week, said Monday that he was mentally prepared for a prison sentence and had even packed a bag of clothes to take to jail.

In an interview published in opposition New Times weekly, Navalny said that he was ready to be imprisoned in his embezzlement case, which he believes is being personally directed by President Vladimir Putin.

“Mentally, I am ready for this. I have prepared for it: I’ve written out powers of attorney and discussed with my wife many times how and what we’ll do.”

“If they jail me, they jail me,” Navalny said defiantly.

His embezzlement trial will begin April 17 in the northern city of Kirov. It concerns an obscure business deal struck by the regional government which he advised in 2009.

Navalny’s pessimistic comments come days after he for the first time late week declared having the ambition of standing for Russian president, saying: “I want to change life in this country”.

Navalny, who insists he is innocent, said he believed Putin was “personally giving directions” in the embezzlement case and was likely to jail him for up to ten years rather than give him a suspended sentence.

Both outcomes would preclude him from ever holding office.

“He (Putin) and his entourage need to hold onto power. And to keep power they have no other mechanisms than to put people in prison — as they do.”

“I’m not the first and unfortunately not the last — we should expect that they will jail many more people.”

Nevertheless, he speculated that Putin may have hoped he would flee abroad ahead of the trial, since he was given advance warning of his charge and the start of the trial.

“I won’t run away, I won’t go into emigration,” he vowed.

Navalny said he had even worked out what he would need for his first days in prison.

“What will I take to prison? Slippers, tracksuit bottoms, pants, socks and trainers without an insole and with Velcro fasteners,” he said.

“You need trainers without laces right at the moment when they put you under guard in the courtroom.”

[Image via Agence France-Presse]


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« Reply #5613 on: Apr 08, 2013, 06:58 AM »

April 7, 2013

In France, Foreign Aid in the Form of Priests

By MAÏA de la BAUME
IHT

SAINT-VALLIER, France — In Togo, the Rev. Rodolphe Folly used to conduct exuberant Sunday services for a hundred believers of all ages, who sang local gospel music and went up to him to offer what they had.

In this quiet town in Burgundy, he preaches to a more somber audience of about 40 gray-haired retirees in an unadorned 19th-century church that can accommodate up to 600 people.

“In my country, we applaud, we acclaim, we shout,” said Father Folly, a Roman Catholic priest who spoke in the living room of his modern, modest house. “Here, even when I ask people to shake hands, they say no.”

Father Folly, 45, has settled in this town of about 9,000 residents, assigned to replace an aging priest. He has brought his jovial smile and good heart to a place where religious practice is weak, as it is in many other areas of France. He is part of a battalion of priests who have come to France from abroad — from places like Benin, Burkina-Faso, Cameroon but also Vietnam and Poland — who now represent about 10 percent of France’s declining clerical ranks.

The Catholic Church in Western Europe and the United States has been coping with a severe shortage of priests in the last few decades, as many abandoned the priesthood or passed away. So bishops in the developed world have been reaching out to their counterparts in the developing world to bring priests from Africa, Asia and Latin America, where the priesthood is still an appealing prospect and vocations are booming.

The flow of priests from the developing world to wealthier churches in the West amounts to a brain drain within the church. The ratio of priests to parishes is just as bad, if not worse, in the developing world as it is in the West, but the Western nations have the resources to relocate and support these foreign priests. Bishops from Europe and the United States recruit priests from the global south in ad hoc arrangements with local bishops and religious orders, usually without any involvement from the Vatican. The flow of Catholic missionaries, who used to leave France, Italy, Ireland and the United States for the developing world, has now been largely reversed.

The decline of the priesthood as a vocation is particularly pronounced in France, a country that defines itself as secular. Magnificent churches dot the country, but France’s clergy is old and ordinations of priests are in continuing decline. The average age of France’s 14,000 priests is 72.

About 1,600, the number of foreign priests has nearly tripled over the last eight years, with many being recruited to parishes in urban areas and the Parisian suburbs.

To church officials, this is not necessarily a bad thing. “They bring freshness, youth and another way to consider the pastoral,” said the Rev. Pierre-Yves Pecqueux, who heads international recruitment at the Conférence des évêques de France, the church’s bishops’ committee. “They have their own way to speak about faith, and a joy to believe in God.”

Most foreign priests are sent to France for three, six or nine years according to an agreement between bishops. They settle here on the basis of the “Fidei Donum,” (Gift of Faith), the 1957 encyclical that encouraged bishops to open themselves “to the universal needs of the church.” Some also serve as part-time priests, having come here primarily to study theology in French universities.

The church organizes sessions to welcome foreign priests and train them for the religious realities of France. The newcomers are given information about the history of Roman Catholicism in France, the specifics of state secularism and the use of social media.

For many priests, the fundamental problem is the church’s struggle to define itself for a new generation in a secular country and amid a de-Christianizing trend in Western Europe. Many young French people consider Roman Catholicism the religion of guilt, often ill-adapted to social realities and harmed by continuing scandals over pedophilia.

In 2012, only 56 percent of the French declared themselves Catholic, compared with 81 percent of the French in 1986, according to a study conducted in 2012 by the CSA polling institute. By last year, 47 percent of those aged 18 to 24 said they were “of no religion.” (The poll interviewed samples of 20,000 people.)

“If this tendency is confirmed, it is likely that people ‘of no religion’ will be the main group in the French population within the next 20 or 30 years,” said Yves-Marie Cann, the deputy director of the opinion department at CSA.

The church has tried to promote the priesthood, for example by distributing in 2010 about 70,000 postcards to bars, restaurants and movie theaters across France, featuring young and trendy men wearing lapel pins that read, “Jesus is my boss.”

There were 691 seminarians in France in 2012, a sharp drop from even a decade ago, when there were more than a thousand. Last year, only 97 priests were ordained, compared to 142 in 2000, according to the Conférence des évêques de France. The trend has accelerated with the urbanization of France. Where the “curé de campagne,” or countryside priest, was once a pillar, rural areas are now filled with overworked priests who run from one church to another, which prevents them from developing deep community ties.

The Rev. Thomas Magimel, who serves 48 churches in the Dordogne and leads about 280 funerals every year, said that the influx of African priests is not a long-term solution to the church’s problems. “They’re better placed to talk about the Gospel in their country,” he said, “and it would be selfish of us to abuse their generosity.”

Father Magimel was confident that the election of Pope Francis and his message of peace and humility would revitalize the Roman Catholic faith among young people. The priest, he says, will conduct fewer services, but he must turn each of them into a moment of “discussion and conviviality,” with more religious education and payers.

“We priests must try to encourage people to know each other, to eat a meal together,” Father Magimel said. “We need church to be more present.”

In Saint-Vallier, Father Folly, the Togolese priest, does his laundry, cooks his meals and puzzles over French practices. In Togo, he said, priests are respected figures who visit people’s homes and employ full-time cooks.

“Here the priest is a mere citizen who has a job that many others don’t do,” he said, driving around his parish in his white Renault Clio, where a tiny soccer ball hangs from the rearview mirror.

Once a month, Father Folly lays a table near the front door of his church and invites his parishioners for what he calls a “friendship drink” with red wine, snacks and candies for the children. Sometimes, he even slips a recording of a famous singer of poetry, Jean Ferrat, who died in 2010, into the CD player of the church to make the gathering more convivial.

“I’ve given up my culture, my family to come here and live in solitude,” Father Folly said. “But my presence here says how universal the church is.”


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« Reply #5614 on: Apr 08, 2013, 07:00 AM »

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher dies at 87

By Arturo Garcia
Monday, April 8, 2013 8:15 EDT

Former Prime Minister of Great Britain Margaret Thatcher died after suffering a stroke, the BBC reported on Monday.

Thatcher’s spokesperson, Tim Bell, confirmed her passing in a statement, saying, “It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother Baroness Thatcher died peacefully following a stroke this morning.”

The family is expected to deliver a statement later on Monday.

Thatcher, the first woman to serve in the position, was prime minister from 1979 to 1990, earning the nickname of the “Iron Lady” during her tenure.

According to ABC News, the 87-year-old former Conservative Party leader battled multiple health issues later in life, including dementia and several smaller strokes.

She was first elected to the House of Commons in 1959, representing Finchley, north London, and was named the country’s secretary of education when her party assumed power in 1970, paving the way for her challenge and defeat of former Prime Minister Edward Heath for Conservative leadership five years later. She was subsequently re-elected in 1979, 1983 and 1987.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]


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« Reply #5615 on: Apr 08, 2013, 07:02 AM »

Topless women protest Putin’s visit to Germany

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, April 8, 2013 7:40 EDT

Topless female demonstrators shouted at Russian President Vladimir Putin as he toured an industrial fair with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Monday, media reported.

Putin and Merkel were taking in a presentation of a new car model at the Volkswagen stand by the company’s chief executive, Martin Winterkorn, when the four bare-breasted women started chanting “fuck dictator”.

At least one of the women seen on rolling news channel NTV had the same words painted in black ink across her torso.

The protesters were eventually overpowered by security personnel, an NTV correspondent said.

Merkel and Putin were attending the Hanover Messe in northern Germany where Russia is this year’s guest country.

At the event’s inauguration late Sunday, Merkel urged Putin to “give a chance” to non-governmental organisations which she described as a “motor of innovation” as dozens of demonstrators protested a recent Russian crackdown on the groups outside the convention centre.

Last Thursday topless activists from the Ukrainian women’s power group Femen staged rallies in front of mosques and Tunisian embassies across Europe against what they called an Islamist attack on Arab women’s rights.

It was not clear whether the women in Hanover were Femen members.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]


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« Reply #5616 on: Apr 08, 2013, 07:03 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
04/08/2013 11:18 AM

Secret Athens Report: Berlin Owes Greece Billions in WWII Reparations

By Georgios Christidis in Thessaloniki

A top-secret report compiled at the behest of the Finance Ministry in Athens has come to the conclusion that Germany owes Greece billions in World War II reparations. The total could be enough to solve the country's debt problems, but the Greek government is wary of picking a fight with its paymaster.

The headline on Sunday's issue of the Greek newspaper To Vima made it clear what is at stake: "What Germany Owes Us," it read. The article below outlined possible reparations payments Athens might demand from Germany resulting from World War II. A panel of experts, commissioned by the Greek Finance Ministry, spent months working on the report -- an 80-page file classified as "top secret."

Now, though, the first details of the report have been leaked to the public. According to To Vima, the commission arrived at a clear conclusion: "Greece never received any compensation, either for the loans it was forced to provide to Germany or for the damages it suffered during the war."

The research is based on 761 volumes of archival material, including documents, agreements, court decisions and legal texts. Panagiotis Karakousis, who heads the group of experts, told To Vima that the researchers examined 190,000 pages of documents, which had been scattered across public archives, often stored in sacks thrown in the basements of public buildings.

The newspaper offered no concrete figure regarding the possible extent of reparation demands outlined in the report. But earlier calculations from Greek organizations have set the total owed by Germany at €108 billion for reconstruction of the country's destroyed infrastructure and a further €54 billion resulting from forced loans paid by Greece to Nazi Germany between 1942 and 1944. The loans were issued by the Bank of Greece and were used to pay for supplies and wages for the German occupation force.

Bad Time to 'Pick a Fight'

The total sum of €162 billion is the equivalent of almost 80 percent of Greece's current annual gross domestic product. Were Germany to pay the full amount, it would go a long way toward solving the debt problems faced by Athens. Berlin, however, has shown no willingness to revisit the question of reparations to Greece.

Athens too is wary of moving ahead with the demands. The government sees the report as being particularly sensitive due to the fear that it could damage their relations with Europe's most important supplier of euro-crisis aid.

The Greek public, however, has a different view. To Vima reflected the feelings of many by arguing that "the historical responsibility now falls on the three-party coalition government. It should publish all the findings and determine its position on this sensitive issue, which has detonated like a bomb at a time we are under extreme pressure from our lenders."

But political analysts believe that the Greek government is disinclined to raise the issue with Germany. The official government position, most recently expressed by deputy finance minister Christos Staikouras, is that Greece considers the issue open and "reserves the right … to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion."

The report is no longer in the hands of Finance Ministry officials. It was delivered in early March to Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulous and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. "It will be a top level, political decision regarding how to use it, and Mr. Samaras will be the one to decide," a senior government official told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "This is no time to pick a fight with Berlin."


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« Reply #5617 on: Apr 08, 2013, 07:06 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
04/08/2013 01:15 PM

Stasi Suspicions: Berlin Wall Developer's Past in Question

By Sven Becker and Peter Wensierski

Maik Uwe Hinkel, the controversial investor behind the luxury apartment complex that has displaced parts of Berlin's East Side Gallery, is a staunch socialist. There is also evidence that suggests he may have been a spy for East Germany's notorious secret police, the Stasi.

The investor sent his excavators in at dawn. Just before Easter, they removed parts of the world-famous East Side Gallery, the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall. There, in the former death strip between East and West Berlin along the Spree River, he plans to build a luxury apartment building.

When Petra Meier saw the headlines at a newsstand while on a short holiday in the German capital, she caught sight of the investor's photo and recognized him immediately. "That's Maik!" she said.

She had shared an office with Maik Uwe Hinkel at the city administration in the East German city of Zwickau during the 1980s. Then, after reunification, Meier found minute details of their time together in files about her kept by the Stasi, East Germany's feared secret police. The files included entries about discussions during breaks and notes she had left behind on her desk, all compiled by a "Jens Peter," the code name used by an "unofficial employee," as the organization's paid sources were known.

The documents suggest that Hinkel was the Stasi agent, a suspicion that will only heighten the outrage in Berlin, where protests of his upscale development project have been ongoing for weeks. Critics say they don't want the city's history to be shoved aside by business interests and gentrification, and have planned yet more demonstrations for this week.

Could a Stasi spy, of all people, be behind the controversial construction project? In Petra Meier's case, a tape of a verbal report from June 1986, along with other documents, contribute to this suspicion. They focus on a potential successor for Meier. "Jens Peter" reports that the head of Zwickau's city council had a discussion "with me" about the position held by "Meier."

"He proposed that I take over … the area of responsibility. In turn, I would be relieved of assignments that are in my view not in the interest of the MfS," the informant said, referring to the Ministry for State Security, commonly referred to as the Stasi. Hinkel ultimately ended up taking over Meier's duties.

A Staunch Socialist

For Andreas Richter, who was a student and good friend of Hinkel's at the time, the records tell a clear story. On May 1, 1985, Richter, a Catholic, even served as a witness to Hinkel's adult baptism in the "Holy Family" parish. Two days later "Jens Peter" informed the Stasi of the baptism, Richter learned from the files.

A call to "Jens Peter's" former case officer in Zwickau reveals that he now earns his money as an investment advisor. During the communist East German era, though, he wrote his university thesis about the exemplary work of the same man who spied on Richter and his friends. The title of the paper, finished in 1988, was: "Experiences and Problems in the Long-Term Development and Operations of an Unofficial Employee among Reactionaries in Church Circles."

After repeated inquiries, the former Stasi officer admits to having known Hinkel. "I knew him for a short while. That could be," he says.

But where did he know him from? "That is all in the files. What is it that you want from me?" he asks. The answer is more information on Hinkel, who is a controversial figure because of his decision to remove parts of the landmark East Side Gallery, which features iconic murals from artists around the world and has become one of Berlin's most popular tourist attractions.

"I can't do anything about it if he is controversial 30 years later," he says, not exactly a convincing denial.

Hinkel's lawyer Carsten Wegner, however, vehemently denies that his client was the informant "Jens Peter." He declines, however, to answer questions about the baptism incident.

Hinkel himself is less secretive and talks freely about his leftist political leanings. He reveals that he was a candidate for the Socialist Unity Party (SED), the East German communist party that was dissolved after the Wall fell. He is also still a member of the far-left Left Party, he says.

He avoids, however, being too open about his roots in the anti-capitalist milieu. "I didn't want to unsettle my clientele too much," he says.


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« Reply #5618 on: Apr 08, 2013, 07:09 AM »


Inquest begins into death of woman refused abortion

Savita Halappanavar inquest to hear evidence from doctors and nurses at Irish hospital where she died

Henry McDonald in Dublin
guardian.co.uk, Monday 8 April 2013 09.35 BST   

The full inquest into the death of a woman who was refused an abortion in an Irish hospital will begin on Monday.

Savita Halappanavar died at University Hospital Galway in October. At least 16 witnesses from the hospital, as well as expert witnesses, will give evidence before the coroner, Dr Ciaran McLoughlin, in the city's court.

Savita's husband, Praveen, claims they were told she could not have a termination to her pregnancy because "this is a Catholic country".

The couple made repeated requests for the termination because the 17-week-old foetus Savita was carrying had died. Savita later died of blood poisoning and her plight has become a focus for international protests against Ireland's near-total ban on abortion.

The coalition government in Dublin has promised to reform Irish abortion laws and allow for terminations in Irish hospitals in situations where a mother's life is at risk.

For the first time, the doctors and nurses who cared for Savita will be identified, give evidence under oath and be cross-examined.

Dr Peter Boylan, former master of the National Maternity hospital, is among five expert witnesses to be called.


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« Reply #5619 on: Apr 08, 2013, 07:15 AM »


French former minister tried to stash £13m into Swiss bank

Revelation that Jérôme Cahuzac attempted to deposit cash in secret account is the latest twist to an ongoing scandal

Kim Willsher in Paris
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 7 April 2013 19.34 BST   

Disgraced former government minister Jérôme Cahuzac was reported to have tried to deposit €15m (£12.7m) into a Geneva bank four years ago, in the latest twist to a scandal that has rocked France.

Cahuzac was forced to resign from his job as budget minister in charge of clamping down on tax evasion last month after it was revealed he had hidden €600,000 from the French taxman in a secret Swiss bank account.

The minister had vigorously denied the allegations, protesting his innocence face to face with President François Hollande and before the French parliament, saying: "I do not have a foreign bank account."

Last week, however, he admitted he had lied, causing shock waves though political circles and among the public. A poll on Sunday revealed almost one third of French electors wanted the Assemblée Nationale dissolved and new legislative elections less than a year after the last.

On Sunday Radio Télévision Suisse, claimed to have information from "banking sources" that Cahuzac had tried to transfer €15m to a Geneva bank in 2009. The bank, it reported, refused to accept the money fearing "future complications" because Cahuzac was a political figure. At the time, Switzerland had declared it was prepared to share information and cooperate legally in cases of fiscal evasion.

Cahuzac is now under formal criminal investigation for "laundering the proceeds of fiscal fraud". On Sunday evening his lawyer Jean Veil denied the new allegations.

The scandal has sparked one of the worst political crises in decades and added huge pressure to the beleaguered Hollande.

As Le Monde newspaper wrote: "the lie that opened a democratic crisis".

"How could Mr Cahuzac urbi and orbi (to the city and to the world) proclaim his innocence when he knew he was guilty?" it asked.

Libération added the crisis was "so fundamental" that the "contract of trust between people and government has now been broken".


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« Reply #5620 on: Apr 08, 2013, 07:17 AM »


Portugal's prime minister plans more cuts to health and education spending

Pedro Passos Coelho chooses not to raise taxes again in order to meet stringent targets set by international lenders

Martin Roberts in Madrid
The Guardian, Sunday 7 April 2013 20.26 BST   

Portugal's prime minister has announced plans for further cuts to health and education spending rather than raising taxes again, in order to meet tough targets set by international lenders after the constitutional court threw out budget measures on Friday.

"I shall instruct ministries to implement necessary reductions in functional spending to offset what the court ruling prohibited. It will certainly be a very difficult process," Pedro Passos Coelho said in a live broadcast on Sunday evening.. He added that while he respected the court, its ruling would hamper government plans to take back control of its own finances from international lenders next year.

The speech followed an emergency cabinet session on Saturday and a meeting between Passos Coelho and President Aníbal Cavaco Silva, who has the power to dissolve parliament but urged the government to complete a four-year mandate it won at the polls in June 2011.

On Friday the court found that proposed cuts in holiday bonuses for civil servants and pensioners were unconstitutional, as were reductions in sick pay and unemployment benefit, all of which would have trimmed €1.3bn from budget spending for this year, according to media estimates. The court, however, upheld other planned measures such as tax hikes.

Passos Coelho's conservative Social Democrats took power after his Socialist predecessor asked a "troika" of lenders for a bailout in March 2011, before resigning. Since then, the government has imposed stringent and unpopular spending cuts totalling €13bn – about 8% of Portugal's economic output – which have led to widespread protests in common with other eurozone countries suffering from a persistent economic slump.

The government failed to meet its budget deficit targets last year set by the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, and in order to fulfil the terms of its €78bn bailout Lisbon has pledged to trim a budget shortfall of 6.4% of gross domestic product in 2012 to 5.5% this year.

Passos Coelho survived his fourth vote of no confidence last Wednesday but faced renewed calls to resign over the weekend. Opposition Socialist leader António José Seguro accused the government of breaking campaign promises and said dole queues of almost a million people showed austerity had merely locked the country into a recessionary spiral, which might yet lead to a second bailout. Portugal's economy shrank by 3.2% last year.

"The country needs a different exit strategy from the crisis, one that prioritises economic growth," Seguro told state television. "The country is living in a social tragedy. This needs to change, and that change entails substituting the government."

In crisis-hit neighbouring Spain, meanwhile, the CSI-F union for civil servants said the government in Madrid should "take note" of the Portuguese court's decision and reimburse workers with a Christmas bonus axed last December in cuts which likewise aim to trim a yawning budget gap.


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« Reply #5621 on: Apr 08, 2013, 07:19 AM »


In France, Hollande is losing the battle for the eurozone

The president's woes matter outside France. The failure of his anti-austerity pledge has left the balance of power with Germany

Jonathan Fenby   
The Guardian, Monday 8 April 2013   

It is just 11 months since France elected François Hollande as its first Socialist president since 1995, spurring a wave of expectation on the European left that he would lead a pro-growth offensive against the cheerleaders of austerity. When his party and its allies won an absolute majority in the national assembly, it seemed Europe might be acquiring a real challenger to the Berlin-Brussels-London consensus.

It has not turned out like that, of course, evoking inevitable reminders of the last Socialist presidency, that of François Mitterrand. He came to office in 1981 on a reflationary platform declaring that there was nothing wrong with dreaming; the trouble was that waking up proved very jarring, as the Hollande administration is now discovering.

Growth under the would-be expansionary champion has not risen; in fact, it has positively slumped. Finance minister Pierre Moscovici says it might total 0.1% this year compared with the official forecast of 0.8%. The economy contracted by 0.3% in the last quarter of 2012. France will miss the target of reducing its deficit to 3% of national output in 2013. Unemployment is at 10.6%, and much higher among young people.

France has been running a monthly trade deficit of €5 billion and its falling competitiveness in costs is widely acknowledged. The structural reforms the economy needs have been held back by vested interests, largely in the public sector. Hollande is the first president of the Fifth Republic who is a creature of his own party rather than its progenitor, limiting his authority, while his attempt to be a "normal" president sits ill with the quasi-monarchical character of the post crafted by Charles de Gaulle for himself.

What's more, the political crisis that has blown up over a former French budget minister's secret foreign bank deposits, and the revelation by the Guardian and other newspapers that Hollande's presidential campaign treasurer has off-shore accounts in the Cayman Islands, gave the head of state his toughest test to date, exacerbated by his harping on the evils of money.

Already scoring the lowest opinion poll ratings of any president (27% in the latest survey), Hollande seems caught in a downward spiral. In a big television interview last week, he was earnest and spoke sense, but offered nothing to galvanise a jaundiced nation. At the weekend, the Elysée palace played down talk of a government reshuffle, but the prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, cuts a lacklustre figure and some Socialists are calling for a referendum on public morality. The National Front's Marine le Pen thunders about national decline and the hard-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon is mobilising his troops against "an intrinsically rotten system".

Hollande's woes matter outside France's frontiers. The way the country is stumbling economically has shown just how hard it is for the European left to craft policies to redress the continent. Ed Miliband is likely to be rather more circumspect in his embrace of the beleaguered figure in the Elysée than he was in the first flush of Hollande-mania.

That leaves the field to belt-tighteners and bond markets. The chaotic outcome of the election in Italy reinforces this; having saved his country from a Greece-style crisis, the prophet of austerity, Mario Monti, trailed in fourth place, but the Socialists have been unable to form a government. The Five Star Movement of comedian Beppe Grillo is a recipe for chaos and, incredibly, Silvio Berlusconi still lurks on the fringes of power. The crisis of authority across southern Europe has been exacerbated by scandal allegations against the government in Spain while Greece remains mired in the morass of dodgy accounting. The terms of the bailout of Cyprus introduce a whole new level of uncertainty.

The wider effect of all this and, in particular, of Hollande's troubles, is to reinforce Germany ahead of the federal elections in September. Berlin would prefer not to find itself in increasingly lonely leadership. But there is nothing Angela Merkel can do. Though her Christian Democrats have suffered setbacks at state elections and the polls show the CDU short of an overall majority – opening up the possibility of an alliance with the Greens against the Social Democrats – Merkel is personally popular. She enjoys support for her European policies. But the context is shifting.

Her country's relationship with France has provided the backbone for the construction of Europe since the Franco-German friendship treaty signed by de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer in 1963, but it is now in questionable shape. Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy did not get on well, but the Frenchman knew better than to get out of step with the chancellor in public. Paris and Berlin can agree on some things, such as their rejection of David Cameron's plan for a new European treaty to pacify his euro-sceptics. But Hollande's proclamation of a pro-growth agenda in his election campaign widened the division; the Germans regard the pace of French structural reforms as too slow and take a dim view of France's sympathy for critics of austerity in southern Europe.

If Hollande had been able to set out a strong pro-growth stall there might have been an equilibrium between the two big continental states, even if this discomforted Merkel. But his weakness makes that a remote prospect, with no serious alternative policies in sight to those put forward by the chancellor, despite popular resentment at austerity and the inner contradiction of expecting spending reductions to breed growth.

This means that a two-speed eurozone, divided between northern and southern states, becomes more likely, with Brussels and Berlin incurring rising unpopularity in the latter as anti-austerity election results underline the EU's democratic deficit. France risks being caught in the middle, its heart with the south, its economic prospects tied to the north, while Cameron's search for a fudge on Europe increasingly irritates leaders with more serious matters on their minds. Europe's politicians have been adept at kicking the can down the road in this crisis, but the nature of the road is changing, abetted by the storm swirling round the Elysée.

Jonathan Fenby is author of The General: Charles de Gaulle and the France He Saved


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« Reply #5622 on: Apr 08, 2013, 07:23 AM »


The Cyprus crisis is a symptom of what is rotten in the EU

Cyprus can't repay its debt and the EU can't go on throwing money at it. The entire banking system needs a radical overhaul

Slavoj Žižek   
The Guardian, Monday 8 April 2013 13.59 BST   

Recall the classic cartoon scene of a character who simply continues over the edge of the precipice, ignoring the fact that there is no longer ground under their feet – they fall down only when they look and notice they're hanging over an abyss.

Is this not how ordinary people in Cyprus must feel these days? They are aware that their country will never be the same again, that there is a catastrophic fall in the standard of living ahead, but the full impact of this is not yet properly felt, so for a short period they can afford to go on with their normal lives like the cartoon character suspended in mid-air. And we should not condemn them: such a delayed response is also a survival strategy – the real impact will come silently, when the panic is over. This is why it is now, when the Cyprus crisis has begun to disappear from the media that one should think and write about it.

There is a well-known joke from the last decade of the Soviet Union about Rabinovitch, a Jewish man who wants to emigrate. The bureaucrat at the emigration office asks him why, and Rabinovitch answers: "There are two reasons. The first is that I'm afraid that in the Soviet Union, the communists will lose power, and the new power will put all the blame for communist crimes on us, Jews – there will again be anti-Jewish pogroms …" "But", interrupts the bureaucrat, "this is pure nonsense, nothing can change in the Soviet Union, the power of the communists will last forever!" "Well," responds Rabinovitch calmly, "that's my second reason."

It is easy to imagine a similar conversation between an EU financial administrator and a Cypriot Rabinovitch today. Rabinovitch complains: "There are two reasons why we are in a panic here. First, we are afraid that the EU will simply abandon Cyprus and let our economy collapse…" The EU administrator interrupts him: "But you can trust us, we will not abandon you, we will tightly control you and advise you what to do!" "Well," responds Rabinovitch calmly, "that's my second reason."

This is the deadlock at the core of Cyprus's predicament: it cannot survive in prosperity without Europe, but nor can it with Europe – both options are worse, as Stalin would have put it. What we can see emerging on the horizon are the contours of a divided Europe: its southern part will be increasingly reduced to a zone with a cheaper labour force, outside the safety network of the welfare state, a domain appropriate for outsourcing and tourism. In short, the gap between the developed world and those lagging behind will now exist within Europe itself.

This gap is reflected in the two main stories told about Cyprus, which resemble two earlier stories about Greece. There is what can be called the German story: free spending, debt and money laundering cannot go on indefinitely, etc. And this is the Cypriot story: the brutal EU measures amount to a new German occupation that is depriving Cyprus of its sovereignty.

Both are wrong, and the demands they imply are nonsensical: Cyprus by definition cannot repay its debt, while Germany and the EU cannot simply go on throwing money to fill the Cypriot financial hole. Both stories obfuscate the key fact: that there is something wrong with the entire system in which uncontrollable banking speculations can cause a whole country to go bankrupt. The Cyprus crisis is not a storm in the teacup of a small marginal country, it is a symptom of what is wrong with the entire EU system.

This is why the solution is not just more regulation to prevent money laundering and so on, but a radical change in the entire banking system – to say the unsayable, some kind of socialisation of the banks. The lesson of the worldwide crashes after 2008 is clear: the whole network of financial funds and transactions, from individual deposits and retirement funds to the functioning of all kinds of derivatives, will have to be somehow put under social control, streamlined and regulated. This may sound utopian, but the true utopia is the notion that we can somehow survive with only cosmetic changes.


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« Reply #5623 on: Apr 08, 2013, 07:28 AM »


Balkans: ‘Montenegro without a president’

Vijesti,
8 April 2013

In the wake of presidential elections on April 7, both candidates are claiming victory. Outgoing president Filip Vujanović of the Democratic Party of Socialists insists he scored 51.3 per cent of the vote, and that his opponent, opposition challenger Miodrag Lekić, obtained 48.7 per cent.

Lekić of the centre-right Democratic Front has declared that he polled 50.3 per cent and accused Vujanović of perpetrating a coup d'Etat. The Democratic Front is claiming that 4 per cent of votes are "invalid", which, as the daily points out, "is precisely the difference between the two candidates."

The state electoral commission has announced that it will decide on the issue within 24 hours. Tipped as the favourite to win the election, Filip Vujanović owes his popularity to his alliance with political strongman Milo Đukanović, who has served either as president or prime minister of Montenegro for more than two decades.


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« Reply #5624 on: Apr 08, 2013, 07:30 AM »


European Union: All citizens are equal (but some are more equal than others)

8 April 2013
Dilema Veche Bucharest
   
European Union treaties guarantee the rights of citizens but in practice consumer rights seem to take precedence over more fundamental EU rights.

Mircea Vasilescu

Promotional spots proclaiming "I am a European citizen and I have rights" have been, for some time now, broadcast on nearly all Romanian television channels.

The ads show individuals in normal daily situations: a person has bought a faulty laptop; another wants to return a product bought on line; a third demands a refund on a hotel room because it lacks air-conditioning.

Confronted by the refusal of service providers to offer redress, the person proclaims in a resolute voice, "Do you know who I am? I am a citizen of Europe and I have rights!" This is certainly a useful campaign. Europe's Romanian citizens are learning that the EU has brought them some rights: that they can return a flawed product or request monetary compensation for unsatisfactory service.

But this campaign is constructed in the somewhat tedious style of the European Commission and its bureaucrats. For years Europe has been submerged by brochures and other TV and radio spots aimed at European citizens. Yet, citizens of Europe, even those that know their rights if their lap-tops crash or if they find horsemeat in their frozen lasagnes, seem very downcast these days. This is because some of their rights, including some considered as "pillars of European construction," such as the right to work and settle in any EU country, are not respected. The days of a "Citizens' Europe" have come and gone but the deliberately confident and sound bite-ready "informational material" it generated continues to be issued by the Commission and to live on in the speeches of politicians.
A show of solidarity is needed!

The economic crisis is not the only culprit, although austerity can still be found on our aging continent. For example, due to an EU decision, European citizens of Cyprus saw their bank accounts plundered. But this move was motivated by the need to save the euro – our common currency – hence we must all show solidarity. But this chaotic solidarity, decreed from the top, cannot function as long as isolationism blooms and the notion of the biblical scapegoat becomes fashionable nearly everywhere in the EU.

Populist movements in a good number of countries have seized upon the notion that European institutions lack democratic credentials and that, consequently, the citizens are not represented. Blaming others is a simple device that can bring in votes. The British, whose euro-scepticism has always been a guaranteed source of amusement, have recently fallen prey to the sad obsession of the Romanian/Bulgarian invasion.

The facts speak for themselves. Anti-immigration policies, such as those devised and applied by the European nations, are resounding failures. Europe is full of millions of immigrants from around the world who arrive by all possible means, often illegally.
Poverty fuelling immigrantion

It is true that poverty pushed European citizens to leave Romania. It is true that some of them live lives as "perpetual immigrants". It is true that some work off the books. But this is because the states have failed to eradicate their parallel economies rather than because of the implementation of the "pillar" of the EU treaty dealing with the freedom of movement of citizens. Some 2m Romanians simply applied the letter of the law. This principal cannot be meant to apply only to those who retire in the Canary Islands or in Southern Portugal.

Perhaps Romania does not bring a substantial contribution to the EU, but it must be given credit for trying to implement an idea that – on paper – is noble and beautiful: the right of European citizens to settle anywhere they choose within the EU.

Unfortunately, our old continent, which soon really will be needing immigrants, allows member states to be responsible for regulations regarding "foreigners". This opens the door to new failures which cannot be mended by the right to have a laptop under warranty repaired or by compensation for a holiday without air conditioning.
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