maio 23, 2009

O regresso do passado otomano à Grécia? ‘Emigrantes muçulmanos confrontam-se com a polícia em Atenas‘ in Kathimerini

A Muslim immigrant shouts in front of a row of riot policemen during a rally in central Athens yesterday. Hundreds of Muslims marched through the center to protest the alleged defacement of a copy of the Quran by a Greek policeman.

Police clashed with hundreds of Muslim immigrants in central Athens for a second day yesterday in an escalating protest at reports that a policeman had defaced a copy of the Quran during a routine inspection earlier this week.

An estimated 1,500 demonstrators, mostly immigrants from Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, hurled sticks and stones at police officers in full riot gear who had been stationed outside Parliament yesterday afternoon. Police responded with tear gas and stun grenades. In the escalating unrest, which saw several store facades smashed, parked cars overturned and traffic lights vandalized, one officer and four protesters were said to have sustained minor injuries. More than 15 protesters were arrested. The demonstration followed a less violent protest that broke out near Omonia Square on Thursday in the wake of reports that a policeman had torn up a copy of the Quran and then stamped on it during a routine inspection conducted on four Syrian migrants in the city center. After word spread about the alleged incident, local migrant groups organized the protest. Later on Thursday an Afghan national was arrested in the run-down Athens district of Aghios Panteleimonas after allegedly throwing a firebomb at a police station, causing limited damage but serious injury to himself.

The Muslim Union of Greece, which represents thousands of immigrants in the capital, said that it had taken legal action against the unidentified policeman alleged to have defaced the Syrian’s copy of Islam’s holy book. Police said an internal investigation had been launched.

Meanwhile, in a related development, Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis welcomed a proposal by Athens Prefect Yiannis Sgouros to purchase the building of the old Athens appeals court in the city center where hundreds of illegal immigrants have been squatting for the past six months.
JPTF 2009/05/23

maio 22, 2009

‘Elites governantes sob fogo nas eleições europeias‘ in EU Observer

Ruling parties in some of the EU's biggest member states are coming under heavy fire in EU election campaigns, giving eurosceptic groups a chance to grab attention.

Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi, whose right-wing PDL party is polled to scoop up to 40 percent of the country's EU vote, faced calls to resign on Wednesday (20 May) over alleged links to a corporate bribery scandal.

A court in Milan has ruled that a Berlusconi proxy paid British-born lawyer David Mills €435,000 to act as a "false witness" for the premier in a series of fraud trials which implicated the media tycoon. The PM's spokesman said the resignation calls were "politically timed" to damage Mr Berlusconi, who heads his party list.

British eurosceptic party UKIP is to spend €2.3 million in the next two weeks to woo unhappy Labour voters in the wake of the parliament expenses scandal.

"Of the recent inquiries we have had from our first-time buyers [new supporters], around 60 percent of them have come from Labour," UKIP leader Nigel Farrage said, the Times reports. UKIP and Labour are both polling at around 16 percent, compared to UKIP's 6 percent at the start of May.

The anti-Lisbon treaty Libertas party has targeted the Conservative opposition party, which currently leads UK polls, with a video clip making fun of Tory leader David Cameron's apology for the expenses problem. Libertas says the clip has had over 1 million hits.

France's ruling UMP party has fended off a legal challenge against its promotional video, with the audiovisual regulator, the CSA, on Wednesday ruling the clip was not "propaganda."

The centre-right Civic Platform government in Poland has seen its approval ratings dip for the fourth month in a row, according to CBOS surveys. Approval dipped from 44 percent to 42 percent in May. Prime Minister Donald Tusk's personal rating fell three points to 48 percent.

Eurosceptic opposition Law and Justice party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski on Wednesday said Poland faces an "infernal [economic] crisis," urging Poles to give Civic Platform "a warning" in the EU vote.

Laziest MEPs shamed

The Polish political elite in general has come under fire in articles detailing the laziest MEPs and euro-deputies' lavish lifestyles. Tabloid Fakt said Civic Platform MEP Krzysztof Holowczyc was absent for 65 percent of EU parliament sessions. Daily broadsheet Rzeczpospolita wrote that from June, MEPs are to fly around Europe in business class and have in the past sipped cocktails on African beaches at symposia on poverty.

In Germany , a joint campaign by the ruling CDU and CSU parties is trying to appeal to the most conservative end of the spectrum of centre-right voters.

The campaign focuses on religious issues, such as making a reference to God in future EU treaties, keeping Turkey out of the EU and strengthening the role of the German language in the European Union. The parties also pledge to see if European competences can be clawed back to the national level.

Greek opposition socialist party Pasok has attacked the governing New Democracy faction for dissolving parliament early in what it sees as an attempt to run away from a series of corruption scandals. "Pasok is linking the European elections with national elections," socialist leader George Papandreou said on Wednesday. "We want citizens to ...change the direction of the country."

The Czech left-wing opposition party, the CSSD, is planning to pump up to €2.6 million into its EU election battle against the conservative ODS faction. CSSD chairman Jiri Paroubek said the recent ODS government managed to draw less than 1 percent of EU funds for the country available up to 2013.

Fears over voter apathy are being confirmed in Ireland and Romania , where people appear to be more interested in local by-elections and upcoming presidential elections, respectively, than the EU vote.

Election posters cause annoyance

Irish people have begun to complain about plastic EU election posters obscuring important road signs. In a letter to the Irish Times on Thursday, an academic from the Catholic University of Louvain informs Irish readers that the Belgian government erects temporary structures offering a designated space for a limited amount of recyclable paper posters instead.

Sweden is bucking the trend, however. In Gothenburg, pre-voting in the EU election at the major Nordstan polling station shows that 900 people cast ballots on Wednesday compared to just 278 at the same stage in the general election two years back.

Austrian Greens are doing their bit to kindle EU sympathies, with street theatre in Vienna on Wednesday designed to dispel cliches, such as the notion that Brussels spends all its time regulating on bendy bananas.

Meanwhile, the Spanish government has put forward a legal proposal to EU member states, which would allow the EU parliament to increase the number of MEPs from 736 to 754 as soon as the Lisbon treaty is ratified (potentially in early 2010) instead of in 2014 (as currently envisaged).

The move, reported by the Irish Times, is to be considered at the June EU summit. Spain, France, Sweden, Austria, Britain, Poland, Portugal, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Latvia, Slovenia and Malta stand to benefit from the extra seats if it goes through.
JPTF 2009/05/22

maio 21, 2009

‘Da Fatwa à Jihad: o caso Rushdie e o seu legado‘, de Kenan Malik

‘With images of Geert Wilders being turned back at Heathrow fresh in our minds, seldom can a book have had a more searing relevance to contemporary events. Seldom has a book offered a more revealing portrait of both a religion and a nation's frail carapace and intellectual and moral failings. And seldom do we see so clearly that one of the lessons of history is that no one learns the lessons of history.
The government's shameful and self-defeating ban on Wilders, continuing a policy of appeasement in the face of extremist threat, makes Malik's case for him: that the Rushdie affair continues to cast a long, baleful shadow over the British cultural landscape.
Malik, an Indian-born, Manchester-raised writer and broadcaster, is perhaps best known as an acute commentator on race and a staunch critic of multiculturalism, a case he has refined in his previous books The Meaning of Race (1996) and Strange Fruit: Why Both Sides Are Wrong in The Race Debate (2008). This book is both a social and intellectual history and a personal journey, since the Rushdie affair stands as a decisive turning point in his own relationship with the left, where, as a member of the Socialist Workers' Party in the 1980s, he cut his political teeth [...]‘. (Extracto da recensão do livro feita por Lindsay Johns para o New Humanist).

JPTF 2009/05/21

maio 09, 2009

Open Europe: informação e perspectiva crítica sobre a União Europeia

Com as eleições para o Parlamento Europeu a aproximarem-se, impõe-se aprofundar o conhecimento e a discussão sobre o rumo e as políticas da União Europeia. A Open Europe - um think tank britânico -, contrasta flagrantemente com a usual falta de informação e a visão monolítica que predomina nos media e no espectro político, onde ou se é europeísta ou então é-se eurocéptico (aparentemente, não há nada no meio...). Entre nós, instalou-se assim um absurdo consenso sobre a ‘política externa‘ (interrogação: as questões europeias não serão já política interna?), que se alimenta de fundos estruturais, despolitiza o debate e torna os cidadãos (ainda) mais alheados da Europa, pela óbvia falta de alternativas reais de escolha.

JPTF 2009/05/09

maio 08, 2009

Para quem vai o dinheiro da política agrícola europeia?

A Política Agrícola Comum (PAC) é tradicionalmente a maior despesa isolada da União Europeia. Mas quem são os seus principais beneficiários, quer em termos de Estados-membros da UE, quer, sobretudo, em termos de empresas que concretamente recebem esses benefícios? Esta informação, até há pouco tempo praticamente inacessível ao público, está agora disponível nos sites da e da Caphealthcheck.

JPTF 2009/05/08

Itália um nicho de ‘subsídios agrícolas milionários‘ in EU Observer

Companies in Italy received the biggest single payments from the EU's farm subsidies in 2008, with 180 of them provided with more than a million euros, a study released on Thursday (7 May) showed.

Sugar producers Italia Zuccheri and Eridania Sadam were also the only two companies winning more than a €100 million each under the EU's Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), being awarded €139.8 and €125.3 million respectively, according to a study by – a cross-border network of journalists, reasearchers and campaigners pushing for more transparency in the EU's Common Agricultural Policy.

The only non-Italian company to rank among the top five "farm-subsidy millionaires" was Ireland's Greencore Group – a manufacturer and supplier of food and food ingredients – which came fourth, having received €83.4 million.

Some 165 companies in Spain, 47 in the Netherlands, 38 in Portugal, 22 in Belgium, 21 in the UK and 12 in both Bulgaria and Romania received more than a million euros.

In France – the top overall beneficiary of the CAP, with €10.4 out of the total €55 billion – 142 companies were granted more than a million.

The Doux Group, which sells chicken products worldwide, was the biggest single recipient in the country, with €62.8 million and coming sixth in the overall millionaire ranking.

Altogether, the 707 millionaires received between five and 10 percent of the total amount of the CAP in 2008, said co-founder Nils Mulvad at a press conference in Brussels. He stressed however that full data from only 18 member states had been taken into account at this stage.

Data from Cyprus, Germany, the Netherlands and Slovakia has not been included because these countries "have not yet published data on farm subsidy beneficiaries or have made it very difficult to access the data they have published," the organisation said.

It explained that information from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland would be added to the study as soon as the conversion of the sums into euros is finalised.

Most countries breaching the rules

The research also included an evaluation of member states' transposition of the European Commission's transparency rules that oblige governments to disclose information on farm funds recipients.

Member states had until 30 April to publish information on the beneficiaries of farm subsidies for 2008, but the study found that only eight countries had fully complied with the rules.

Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Romania, Slovenia and the UK were the only countries to implement the commission's transparency law well.

Ten countries, including Spain and Ireland, but also a number of new member states such as Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia and Bulgaria, were "clearly in breach of the regulations."

Eight others – France, Greece, Hungary, Austria, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Sweden – presented "important deficiencies, likely to be in breach of the regulations."

The organisation cited Hungary, Ireland and the Netherlands as being among a number of countries "engaging in apparent deliberate obfuscation of their websites," saying that Hungary had presented its data in a "totally unstructured" PDF document of more than 13,000 pages.

Poland was also cited as "one bad example" publishing only the names of the person applying for the subsidies and not of the companies, while the Netherlands was criticised for failing to provide a total amount for each recipient, making it difficult to find out how much a particular Dutch company has received.

Germany bashed

Germany is the only member state refusing to publish its figures, arguing that it has legal constraints due to data protection laws in local districts.

But the European Commission has refused to give Berlin an extension and has said it would start infringement procedures against the country if it does not fall into line.

"All 27 agreed on [the rules] and took this obligation ... You take an obligation, you have to stick to it. It is that simple," said Kristian Schmidt, deputy head of EU anti-fraud commissioner Siim Kallas' cabinet.

He added the commission was "quite disappointed" by Germany's behaviour and its "last-minute second thoughts."

JPTF 2009/05/08

maio 03, 2009

‘A União Europeia ainda está a digerir o alargamento de 2004‘ in EU Observer

On 1 May 2004 the EU marked its biggest ever enlargement, accepting 10 new countries and bringing the number of member states to 25. Five years later, both "old" and "new" member states are still "digesting" the move, experts say, while prospects for future expansion look increasingly grim.

The 10 new member states – Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Cyprus and Malta – brought 73 million people to the union and moved its borders considerably further east.

The European Commission says that the accession of these countries, most of them formerly part of the Eastern Bloc, has been an unquestionable success.

"EU enlargement has served as an anchor of stability and democracy and as a driver of personal freedom and economic dynamism in Europe," EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn said during a speech in Berlin earlier this week.

In February, the commission published a report stressing the economic benefits enlargement brought to both old and new member states and saying that trade between them almost tripled in less than 10 years.

The bloc's executive has also encouraged old member states to scrap remaining restrictions to workers from the new countries insisting that "migration flows following the 2004 and 2007 enlargements have had positive economic effects in those countries which did not restrict free movement of workers."

On Friday (1 May) Denmark and Belgium lifted those restrictions, with Copenhagen also doing so for workers from Bulgaria and Romania, which joined the bloc on 1 January 2007.

This left only Germany and Austria with barriers in place for the so-called EU-8 countries (workers from Cyprus and Malta have been exempted from the restrictions). By contrast, most old member states still have restrictions for Bulgarians and Romanians.

Institutional machinery works

The biggest enlargement in the EU's history also brought institutional changes, swelling the size of the three main EU bodies - the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council (the secretariat of EU member states).

This has not damaged the decision-making process, as some had expected, says Sara Hagemann, an EU institutional affairs analyst with the Brussels-based European Policy Centre (EPC) think-tank.

"The decision processes [in all EU institutions] ...have not slowed down. There has not been a deadlock in the system, as some observers had predicted," she told EUobserver.

"The numbers of legislation adopted each year have actually, compared to the last few years, increased. So, one can say that the machinery is working and performing and meeting the demand for policy-making."

In terms of policy making, there has been no clear division between old and new, as neither group is a coherent entity. But some areas, especially where unanimity is required – such as justice and home affairs – have suffered as a consequence of the increase, according to Ms Hagemann.

"Research has shown that the numbers are low in terms of how much and how detailed legislation is provided from the EU level compared to what could be expected," in the justice field, she said, arguing that the Lisbon Treaty is a much needed tool for improving the new model bloc's functioning.

"It is not [simply] a political statement that the Lisbon Treaty has to go through."

Wanted: 'centre of gravity'

The last five years have changed the EU's political identity however, analysts argue.

"It's an EU of 27 member states, the dynamics are completely different," said EU affairs analyst Piotr Kaczynski from the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) think-tank.

The so-called Franco-German engine of the old EU setup is no longer "the centre of gravity" in the 27-nation bloc, he explained.

"Most of the questions between [German chancellor] Merkel and [French president] Sarkozy are now between France and Germany ...They are primarily Franco-German topics," Mr Kaczynski told this website.

"The centre of gravity has moved and we are looking for it ...This means that we have an inflation of summits – micro-summits, different groups meeting in different forms and different formulas, there are lots of government to government meetings. We have really multiplied levels of governance."

A report released earlier this week by the Open Society Institute-Sofia think-tank to which Mr Kaczynski also contributed, said that the EU agenda would look rather different from what it does today if the "new" member states were setting it alone.

The report, called Not Your Grandfather's Eastern Bloc, argues that EU expansion and economic liberalisation would be pushed further if the "new" states were the agenda-setters.

"If these countries had more clout, Europe would adopt Lisbon Treaty and grant membership to Croatia and Serbia in a matter of months, consider membership for Ukraine and Moldova, pursue more robust economic liberalisation, and take a 'Nato-first' approach toward European defence and security," it says.

"Despite the economic crisis, these countries would keep state protectionism at bay and fully liberalise labor markets."

Still digesting

The EU has not yet reached the point where the new member states can be the agenda-setters, however, both because those countries' governments are still too focused domestically and because the bloc has not yet finished "digesting" the big-bang enlargement, Mr Kaczynski says.

In this context, enthusiasm for further enlargement has cooled in several European capitals. The Lisbon treaty deadlock and the economic crisis have exasperated this trend.

And while enlargement to candidate and potential candidate countries from the western Balkans is still seen just as a matter of time, expansion beyond, to countries like Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia or even to EU candidate Turkey, is seen at the moment as unlikely in the foreseeable future.

"That [further enlargement] can only happen when digestion [of the latest enlargement] is over. When there is no long a question in the Eurobarometer 'how do you perceive the 2004 enlargement,' with the majority of western Europeans saying 'bad' and the majority of eastern Europeans saying 'good'," Mr Kaczynski said, referring to the EU's regular opinion poll service.

"As long as this is relevant, it means that digestion is not over. So, only when it's over, can you consider Ukraine and Georgia."
JPTF 2009/05/03