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Reflections

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REFLECTIONS

Delfi - Lithuania | 20/01/2016

Vladimiras Laučius on the failure of European liberal democracy

After attacks by migrants on women in Germany and Sweden, the right-wing conservative columnist Vladimiras Laučius predicts the end of liberal democracy in Europe on the online portal Delfi: "The events in Germany and Sweden are a disgrace for the West's entire policy - both on the right and on the left. It looks very much as if there is no longer either a true right that seeks to defend its culture from the barbarians or a true left that believes in social justice and not just Afghan mores. ... Liberal democracy - the political formula of our ruling class, as [Italian political scientist] Gaetano Mosca would say - is in crisis because it has become uninteresting for apolitical citizens. And the political class is veering in the direction of the one extreme, left-liberalism, synonymous with so-called political correctness. This, however, is not and can never be an authentic political formula for Western civilisation. It can only be a political aberration - like the behaviour of the police in Cologne, the lies of the media in Sweden and Germany, and the hypocrisy of the EU politicians." (20/01/2016)

Le Courrier - Switzerland | 19/01/2016

Benito Perez warns against punishing social protest as a crime

Eight former employees of the tire manufacturer Goodyear were sentenced to nine months in jail last week. They had taken two managers of their factory - which was menaced with closure - hostage for 30 hours. Benito Perez, editor of the Christian-social daily Le Courrier, is worried that protest actions are being criminalised: "This gagging of social protest is all the more insidious in that it is based on a dangerous illusion: that of a society where only criminals commit violence. However violence is everywhere and can potentially surface in any social relationship. The task of society does not consist in getting rid of it, in controlling and properly channelling it. Social clashes, demonstrations, strikes, occupations, and pickets all have a more or less symbolic violence and a more or less physical violence to them. Just like the power relations between a boss and an employee, a landlord and a tenant, a police officer and a protester. In this context a zero-tolerance policy leads primarily to disarming citizens - who already are not sitting in the driver's seat." (19/01/2016)

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy | 19/01/2016

Kofi Annan and Kishore Mahbubani on the disadvantages of sanctions

The global community must rethink the use of sanctions against states, the former UN general secretary Kofi Annan and diplomat and political scientist Kishore Mahbubani urge in the liberal daily Il Sole 24 Ore: "Today, the United Nations Security Council has more sanctions regimes in place than at any time in its history. Judging by this escalation, one might conclude that sanctions have proved a remarkably effective tool in promoting international peace and security. Unfortunately, that is far from being the case. In fact, academic studies suggest that sanctions have had limited success. But the potential problems with sanctions regimes extend far beyond ineffectiveness. There is also evidence that sanctions can be counterproductive, such as when targeted regimes enrich themselves by controlling black markets in prohibited goods. … Given the disputed impact of sanctions, a new approach is needed. After all, public policy should be guided by evidence, not intuition and emotion. And the evidence indicates that, in order to achieve success and avoid unintended consequences, carefully calibrated sanctions must be pursued in tandem with political engagement." (19/01/2016)

Göteborgs-Posten - Sweden | 19/01/2016

Alice Teodorescu calls for a debate about men on the losing side

The debate about sexual attacks is helped neither by blaming them specifically on refugees nor by placing all men under suspicion, writes social commentator Alice Teodorescu in the liberal daily Göteborgs-Posten: "The most recent discussions of the attacks in Cologne and Stockholm have started an interesting debate about gender and norms, as well as winners and losers. Some say that the lowest common denominator is the sex of the perpetrators. Others stress that this is all about values and cultural background. But there's yet another aspect: even if most of those who grope women are men, that doesn't mean that most men go around harassing women. And the argument that women are groped and harassed all over the world doesn't mean that all cases of harassment have the same cause. Some assaults occur in harmony with the social and cultural context, others in violation of it. For that reason we have to ask how we can best deal with this specific group of men who are at risk of being excluded from society - both as job seekers and family founders." (19/01/2016)

Le Monde - France | 15/01/2016

Emmanuel Droit hopes Merkel will remain the "Anti-Le-Pen"

In response to the refugee policy defended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the president of the far-right Front National Marine Le Pen styled herself at the start of October as an "Anti-Merkel". Historian Emmanuel Droit hopes in the centre-left daily Le Monde that the chancellor will remain an "Anti-Le-Pen": "At the start of 2016 Angela Merkel and Marine Le Pen continue to symbolise two political projects for Europe. With their political actions, their rhetoric and different attitudes they illustrate an unprecedented dividing line between a post-national, open Germany on the one hand and a nationalist France that is increasingly tempted to seal itself off from the rest of the world on the other. Rather than capitulating in the face of fear and far-right populism, Angela Merkel must stand her ground. The attacks in Cologne must not allow emotions to win out over sound policy. Germany must not abandon its culture of welcoming or join France on the path of fear. ... But Germany can't do everything on its own. It needs a certain type of France at its side, a generous and tolerant Marianne with whom it can work together to bring about a European integration policy. (15/01/2016)

Kathimerini - Greece | 17/01/2016

Alexis Papachelas on the Greeks' worst character traits

Columnist Alexis Papachelas reflects on similarities and differences between Greece and other Balkan countries in the English version of the conservative daily Kathimerini: "Every time I visit a Balkan country I think how fortunate we are. A journey across any provincial Greek road is not that different from driving along a Balkan one. We could very well be living in a typically Balkan country. … Despite it all, I sometimes feel that a strong force is pulling us towards what I would call our 'bad, Balkan self'. Our disrespect for institutions, our need to feel we're always the victim, our love for conspiracy, aesthetic disorder and sometimes sheer ugliness, are all surely part of our character. … Fortunately, we are light years away from Kosovo, Skopje, Albania and Bulgaria. But there is a difference. They know what they want to achieve and are giving it their all in order to achieve their targets, demonstrating strength and courage along the way. They want to become Europeans and reach our level. What is our goal as a nation?" (17/01/2016)

La Repubblica - Italy | 12/01/2016

Massimo Salvadori argues that the UK has sabotaged the EU right from the outset

The EU has failed and one member state in particular is to blame, writes political scientist Massimo L. Salvadori in the centre-left daily La Repubblica: "I believe it is not wrong to describe the UK's accession to the European Economic Community in 1975 as a strategic error which we are still paying for. Ever since then British politics has been inspired by the idea of sabotaging every attempt to form a common political government for the continent. The EU has grown but it lacks a core group that is strong enough to push the community towards federalism. … This union is more like a non-union: it does not have a common government, a common constitution, a currency that is used by all members, a central bank with the clout of the Federal Reserve, a foreign policy that takes precedent over national interests and it does not have a common defence mechanism. We have reached the point where the EU needs to be re-established. The initiative for this cannot only come from those in government. The citizens are called on now to decide whether they want to be truly European or to retreat into the citizenship of individual member states." (12/01/2016)

Jutarnji list - Croatia | 12/01/2016

For Miljenko Jergović Muslims are the new Jews

Muslims in Europe are increasingly being pushed into the role of Jews in the fascist states of the 1930s, observes writers Miljenko Jergović in the liberal daily Jutarnji List: "At the start of the 20th century the mayor of Vienna Karl Lueger announced that the Jews from the East represented the biggest threat to our way of living. The word 'Ostjude' [Eastern Jew] became an insult and threat all over Europe. Isn't something similar happening today? Except that this time it's not about the Jews but about Muslims and Arabs? When Muslims attacked defenceless white European women on streets and squares on New Year's Eve, the tabloids immediately proclaimed a new phase of fear and panic. Readers were paralysed with fear without realising that old legends were being revived. One of the legends of the 1920s and 1930s was the tale of Jews attacking respectable Christian women with the goal of dishonouring them. Legends need not be based on facts. They can still bring terrible suffering to communities. They are poison for Europe." (12/01/2016)

Spiegel Online - Germany | 08/01/2016

Wolfgang Münchau prefers Brits to Poles and Hungarians in the EU

In addition to a Brexit the EU is also facing a new conflict between Eastern and Western Europe given the EU politicians' criticism of the government in Warsaw, columnist Wolfgang Münchau writes on news website Spiegel Online. Yet in comparison to the governments in Warsaw and Budapest the British are true Europeans, he argues: "If you look at Orbán and Kaczynski you suddenly realise that we have a lot more in common with the British. There may also be an ultra-conservative party in the UK, Ukip, but in the last election it imploded. British politics consist, even more so than here, of a contest between a conservative and a social democratic party. [London's] disagreements with EU partners are resolved in negotiations, not through unilateral decisions. The British respect the existing laws. They want to change them, not break them. … With the benefit of hindsight I myself consider the EU's eastwards expansion to have been a huge mistake. Countries were made members that don't give a fig for European integration. Compared with them, the British are absolute team players." (08/01/2016)

El País - Spain | 07/01/2016

Ian Bremmer laments weakening of US-Europe alliance

The weakening of the alliance between the US and Europe will become increasingly apparent in 2016, comments political scientist Ian Bremmer in the centre-left daily El País: "The divisions between the US and Europe will be apparent this year on the issues of Ukraine and Syria. The US will stick to its principles: it will insist on maintaining the sanctions against Russia until Ukraine frees itself from Putin and on al-Assad's departure. The Europeans, who are suffering the direct consequences of these two situations, will opt for pragmatism. The EU will no doubt relax the sanctions against Russia and pick out its enemies in Syria one by one. The loss of substance in transatlantic relations will also mean that in the future it won't matter that the United States and Europe have more in common with each other than with China; the economic realities will weigh more than shared values. This is a pity for an alliance that, despite all its defects, has contributed more than any other to promoting democracy, freedom of expression and the rule of law." (07/01/2016)


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