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The talk of the continent



 



A Soul for Europe conference 2017: Cities, Citizens & Culture are the key pillars of European Identity

Fri, 03 Nov 2017 10:04:21 +0100

A Soul for Europe, Berlin – Why and how cultural institutions could include the citizenship education component in all their activities is a matter of creating more awareness of the education capacity among initiators of cultural initiatives all over Europe, especially on local level, in the cities where they are based. See more.



Places in Motion – Tourism in Portugal: Walking in a good direction

Fri, 04 Aug 2017 23:00:02 +0100

, – In South-West Portugal an original path to economic development is being explored, based on sustainable tourism and the active involvement of the local community. A network of hiking trails, the Rota Vicentina, lies at the heart of the project. See more.



Places in Motion – UK local elections: Manchester – a new capital for Britain?

Fri, 05 May 2017 08:07:23 +0100

, – Apart from London, large urban areas have often been under-represented in the British political debate. Now this could change, as Greater Manchester and other cities have their first elected mayors – a novelty which might help to address some of England's growing divides. See more.



Bosnia and Herzegovina: The ethnic question comes to the European parliament

Tue, 07 Mar 2017 09:51:40 +0100

Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa, Trento – The tensions between Zagreb and Sarajevo over a potential third federal entity for Croats in Bosnia are reflected in the positions adopted by the political groups of the European parliament on Bosnia-Herzegovina's path towards EU accession. See more.



The EU's international role: Absent and consenting

Mon, 02 May 2016 10:46:25 +0100

There is something amiss in the official photo of Obama and European leaders gathered yesterday in Hannover,writes Lorenzo Ferrari in Il Post: “*on the right-hand side of the image, there is a strange asymmetrical element – a European flag by itself. It could almost be a compositional mistake, an oversight by the protocol team. Maybe, the historian asks, Jean-Claude Juncker had just then decided to nip to the toilet?”

And yet “there was no mistake, no hitch. At the summit between Obama and the main European leaders, the President of the Commission had simply not been invited, even though the discussion involved issues he too is working on. What’s more, Obama had just given an impassioned ‘speech to Europeans’ that described European integration as ‘one of the greatest political and economic successes of our era’” and, Ferrari adds, stressed “’that a united Europe – once the dream of a minority – remains the goal of a great number of people and a necessity for all of us’.

But the situation the US President encountered “is quite different from what he describes,” Ferrari continues:

A situation beautifully illustrated by yesterday’s photo. A united Europe is a rhetorical and marginal presence; the real Europe consists of four leaders who often disagree with each other. The marginalisation of the Commission is now taken as a given to the extent that no one seems surprised by this odd photo, not the press and certainly not the politicians who do not seem have have noticed Jean-Claude Juncker did not attend the summit.

In Brussels, the photo did not cause any confusion:

at the press conference, the Commission’s spokesperson announced that it was not at all a problem: European leaders are able to discuss any issue directly concerning the Commissions without even having to pay it lip service.

Ferrari concludes by arguing that from now on, “our common institutions count for nothing in practical terms” and “they no longer even ask to count for something”:

The European flag has not become the symbol of a federal super-state, but a simple ornament that is fit only for framing the edge of a photo.




EU-Turkey agreement on migrants: Europe is paralysed by fear

Wed, 16 Mar 2016 13:57:52 +0100

Internazionale, Rome – Instead of selling its soul in a deal with Turkey that stops migrants from entering Europe, the EU would do better to help member states who virtually have to deal with the wave of refugees alone. See more.



Turkey–EU: A fool’s game on refugees

Wed, 09 Mar 2016 16:47:13 +0100

, – At the summit between the EU and Turkey on 7 March, it was agreed that Turkey will take back the refugees that have arrived in Greece through its territory, in exchange for significant financial aid. For Cengiz Aktar, whose newspaper has been shut down by the Ankara government, the EU has abandoned its values in its dealings with aregime without scruples. See more.



Russia’s plan for Europe: Punish Germany, divide the EU, pressure Ukraine

Thu, 03 Mar 2016 09:12:08 +0100

Richard Herzinger, a columnist at German daily Die Welt, argues that Vladimir Putin is making tentative steps to extend Russian power into Europe. The fall of Angela Merkel is at the top of the Russian president’s wish-list. The Kremlin’s willingness to meddle in foreign affairs has only grown since the Ukraine crisis. Herzinger claims that a similar “infiltration strategy” is at work in Germany, where Russia now claims to be protecting German citizens of Russian origin. A fabricated story about a Russian-German girl raped by a gang of refugees was widely propagated by the Russian national media. Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, stepped in on behalf of the victim to criticise how the German justice system had handled the case. Herzinger argues these actions are part of Russia’s broader strategy to destabilise the European Union: “Moscow is constantly testing how far it can go without encountering significant opposition in the west.” Merkel’s rebuke to the intervention has had few repercussions. Nor has the decision of a British court to implicate Putin in the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian dissident poisoned in London. But what is driving Russia’s strategic interventions in Europe? Herzinger reckons that Putin aims to drive apart the EU’s member states and ultimately fragment the Union itself — The top man in the Kremlin dreams of isolated European nation states, outside the sheltered realm of the EU, which can no longer make any fundamental geopolitical decisions without seeking the approval of Moscow, the new dominant power. For this to happen, the transatlantic axis must be broken and America must be driven off the continent. Putin’s ambition for a Russian dominated Europe is grounded on a neo-imperial mindset which lumps together the Tsarist idea of Russian superiority with a revived pride in the legacy of the Soviet Union’s military dominance. Herzinger regards as naive analysts who are counting on economic sanctions to soften Russia’s stance and normalise its relationship with Europe. Russian society, he argues, has been primed to consider itself as playing a special role in world history. In this vision, Russia has the duty to save its western neighbours from the “liberal decadence” emanating from the United States. Putin plays a central role as the rescuer and renewer of “Russianness”. This carefully crafted position grants him a good deal of protection from economic shocks. And Putin’s geopolitical adventures do not stop at Europe. Syria has provided a perfect example of how a well-planned Russian intervention has confounded and outmanoeuvred the west. While diplomats try to paper over their differences by pointing to ISIS as their common enemy, Putin continues to support Assad’s onslaught on his own people. Terrorism serves as a convenient excuse for inaction in Europe’s eastern frontier as well — The western fiction that the Kremlin is an unavoidable partner in the war against terror has justified further appeasing Russian aggression in Ukraine, putting the country under pressure. Western governments have not labelled Russia’s actions in Ukraine as aggressive, despite its open infringement of the Minsk agreement and its continued hybrid war in eastern Ukraine. Instead, the US is now directly negotiating with Moscow to come to a modus vivendi regarding the issue. But even if the enormous costs of Putin’s war on two fronts – in Syria and Ukraine – meant he was prepared to make concessions, it would be foolish in the extreme to believe he would give up his claims on neighbouring countries. There are certainly no fundamental obstacles preventing an agreement with the Kremlin. But it must be based on the west’s common desire to set clear limits on Putin’s hegemonic ambitions. But the west’s faltering democracies seem further awa[...]



Europe and the migrant crisis: What lies beyond Valletta Summit

Wed, 11 Nov 2015 09:58:48 +0100

The Times of Malta, Valetta – The EU-Africa summit taking place in Malta is focusing on security issues and readmitting migrants rather than on cooperation, laments a humanitarian operator based on the Mediterranean island. See more.



More austerity for Greece: Loading up the boat

Sat, 18 Jul 2015 16:34:32 +0100

I Kathimerini, Athens – Cartoon. See more.



After the agreement on the Greek debt: ‘Greece might no longer be a country by the end of this week’

Tue, 14 Jul 2015 14:09:03 +0100

This press review has been made with the contribution of euro|topics and for Internazionale.After a deal between Greek and eurozone leaders was hammered out following 17 hours of arduous negotiations, there is really nothing to cheer about, writes Michał Sutowski in Krytyka Polityczna. “With PM Tsipras’ back against the wall, the German government has pushed through nearly all its conditions; it’s a minor consolation for the Greeks that a ‘temporary Grexit’ turned out to be a negotiation stunt rather than a real proposal and that the restructuring fund will be located in Athens instead of Luxembourg”, writes Sutowski. He stresses that the negotiations have clearly shown the EU leaders’ goal was “to crush the Greeks’ resistance and not to reach a compromise” –Angela Merkel had a chance to join the pantheon of the great, in a way, of “progressive” European conservatives. Had she forced through, against the German press and her own finance minister, a civilized reform package in exchange for a partial debt restructuring, she would have been on the same footing with Otto von Bismarck and Benjamin Disraeli. It seems though that she decided to become a ‘thrifty housewife’ instead.“It may sound a bit dramatic, but there is no better and shorter way to describe the emergency situation”: Greece might not be a country anymore at the end of this week, writes Tine Peeters, journalist at De Morgen. Due to the new agreement the Greeks no longer have self-determination, both on political as well as economic and financial level —The growing chaos can be attributed to the European and Greek leaders. Alexis Tsipras hoped by organising the referendum he would have made Greece stronger against Europe. But he has gambled it away and lost Greece everything. Now pawnshop-Europe takes over, under strict conditions, ‘the state formerly known as Greece’.Larry Elliott criticises the latest bailout conditions, which, he claims, rely on dodgy economics. By stripping the Greek government of “automatic stabilizers” – the ability to increase the deficit in bad times to promote growth – Greece’s creditors have condemned the country to further pain. Elliott suggests two ways to end the crisis —The first is to write off a large chunk of [Greece’s] debts. The other is to allow it to grow at a pace that allows it to service its debts. This deal offers neither. [...] This is not a solution. It is a chink of light filtering through the bars of the debtors’ prison.Stephan-Andreas Gasdorff points out one German politician that lost during the negotiations over Greece: Social-Democratic vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel. By flip-flopping his position on a temporary Grexit, Gasdorff writes, “Gabriel has failed his practical test” which required him being “trustworthy, value-driven, and consistent.”The drama around Greece has ended badly; but first and foremost for the SPD. Because the party lost a future candidate for Chancellor. […] And the worst part: everybody saw it; everybody knows it. Even Sigmar Gabriel himself – his political instinct will tell him this.Europe has deprived Greece of its sovereignty and is treating it like a little child, Lucio Caracciolo writes in anger in the centre-left daily La Repubblica:Greece has ceased to exist as an independent state. What remains are the Greeks, who are called on not only to make devastating economic sacrifices but also to suffer the humiliation of being treated like minors not allowed to take care of their own affairs. Custody is formally being handed to Brussels and Frankfurt, but effectively to Berlin. A strict father who was tempted not to recognise the child, but was eventually convinced that it would be better to act as if Greece retained a modicum of Hellenic sovereignty. [...]



Tsipras before the MEPs: Finally a glimpse of European democracy

Sat, 11 Jul 2015 19:17:36 +0100

, – Alexis Tsipras' appearance before the European Parliament on 8 July was a superb moment in Europe's democratic life, claims the blogger Fabien Cazenave. Of course, the debate did not resolve the Greek crisis. But what a difference to European Councils taking place behind closed doors. See more.



European press review: ‘Everybody has begun to agree that the eurozone is not one, sacred and indivisible’

Wed, 08 Jul 2015 15:51:48 +0100

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard argues that Tsipras never expected to win Sunday’s vote, with Greece is now “hurtling” towards eurozone exit. This is in no small part due to the shortsightedness of Europe’s leaders. In spite of US pressure –15 of the 18 governments now sitting in judgment on Greece either back Germany's uncompromising stand, or are leaning towards Grexit in one form or another. [...] [In the event of Grexit] it is hard to imagine what would remain of Franco-German condominium. Washington might start to turn its back on Nato in disgust [...] a condign punishment for such loss of strategic vision in Greece. Most in Brussels and in Berlin, writes Ulrich Schäfer, think that Varoufakis stepping down is a good thing. But despite “insulting” others, the former Greek finance minister “raised the right questions, the right subjects – but he used the wrong tone.” He raised questions about European crisis management, the sharing of social burdens, a debt write-off and the problem that a broken economy suffocates under more austerity.Varoufakis is not alone among economists for what he stood for. [...] But he disregarded the fact that to succeed in politics you need majorities – not only at home, in Greece, but also in 18 other countries of the eurozone. [...] But this should allow the EU to finally have the debate started by Varoufakis – and to go some way to correcting its policies.“An uncommon situation has occurred in Europe: everybody has started to agree that the eurozone is not one, sacred and indivisible”, writes Hubert Kozieł in Rzeczpospolita. As a result, top EU representatives are suggesting that “nothing terrible will happen” if the Greeks eventually leave the eurozone –Since nearly everybody agrees that the euro without Greece is possible, then maybe after the parliamentary elections in Spain everyone will suddenly admit that euro without Spain is also possible […]. And why not throw out the troublesome Italians, too? Or the Irish accused of tax dumping? Or Portugal and France, the latter often called the sick man of Europe? Indebted Belgium or Slovenia dealing with the banking crisis’ fallout? Maybe only Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Slovakia and Luxembourg should stay in the Eurozone? Finally we would have some peace and quiet while Europe could calmly integrate.Milan Vodička points out that the eurozone is divided into three groups regarding Greece. While Germany and Eastern Europe, which underwent painful reforms and austerity, do not have sympathy for Greeks, others are less severe and still strive to keep the country in the eurozone. Such division helps Tsipras to play his dangerous game.It's like a game of chicken when two cars in a movie are heading towards each other and the one who gives way loses. But driver of one car is well aware that in the other car a bunch of people with a different view of the race are at the steering wheel. Bart Eeckhout, commentator at De Morgen, calls the negotiations between the EU and Greece a poker game with high stakes. “The fact this highly risky, ‘playful’ tactic has won out over a problem solving strategy is the fault of both parties”, he writes. Although the negotiations are taking too long, Eeckhout sees one big advantage, the game is now played by “the real chiefs”:They are also playing poker with a lot at stake: the historical responsibility for breaking the unbreakable currency union. Even with all the precautionary measures taken, nobody knows how this will end. For the moment, Merkel and Hollande are too afraid to play this part. And so they should be. The political scientist José Ignacio Torreblanca argues that “the set of values governing the eurozone has deteriora[...]



After the referendum in Greece: ‘The odyssey is far from over’

Mon, 06 Jul 2015 12:28:49 +0100

“The odyssey is far from over” headlines The Guardian, which economics editor Larry Elliott gives as a warning to eurozone leaders determined to impose austerity on Greece despite Sunday’s no vote. “Put simply,” Elliott argues, “they should try a bit less stick and a bit more carrot” through debt relief. Even if leaders come to a deal, the crisis has unsettling long-term implications —Greece has highlighted the structural weaknesses of the euro, a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn’t suit such a diverse set of countries. One solution would be to create a fiscal union to run alongside monetary union [...]. This, though, requires the sort of solidarity notable by its absence in recent weeks. The European project has stalled.The message of the Greeks is clear, writes Bart Sturtewagen, editor-in-chief of De Standaard. After a week of (almost entirely) closed banks and the considerable damage this caused to daily life business and the economy, “an unexpectedly large majority anyway chose to take the risk to say no to the bailout of the European Union and the IMF.” Although the price to pay will be incredibly high and the results will be a dramatic blow to the eurozone and the European Union as a whole, Sturtewagen says —The inclination to no longer support the Greeks is an understandable reaction. But this is pre-eminently the moment to keep our heads cool. It is the dialectic of crime and punishment that has brought us in this misery. This approach has proven its uselessness over and over again. The question of a debt rearrangement can no longer be avoided. Even the IMF knows that. If Tsipras really wants to do something with his victory, he needs to prove his country doesn’t only want to receive money, but also wants to change himself and his government. Voting no was provocative, but unfortunately also the easy part.Athens is on the brink of Grexit following a referendum in which Greek voters rejected the terms of the bailout, but “there is still flickering hope” that there will be no return to the drachma, writes Tomasz Bielecki in Gazeta Wyborcza. The Warsaw daily stresses that it is now up to Paris and Berlin to decide what comes next —New aid for Greece has to be accepted by 18 eurozone members and Germany is not the most hawkish of them. However, if chancellor Angela Merkel were to yield to the Greeks, she would have to allay the anger of the Dutch, Spanish and Lithuanians who are tired with the Greeks’ stubbornness. It is not certain whether she would succeed as emotions fly high on both sides and the situation could easily spin out of control. “The EU must minimize the debris caused by the Tsipras government,” writes Stefan Ulrich in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The EU should, he argues, grant emergency aid to Greece; for any new big aid programme, Greece will have to make proposals for reforms or “the Euro could very well live without them.” He calls the result of the referendum a “no to compromise” —The Greeks are not the only people in Euro-Europe. They can decide their own destiny. But they cannot dictate anything to other people and their governments. And they especially cannot dictate terms to other eurozone members which would see Greece receive billions of euros from them with no conditions. Given the referendum’s outcome, SME’s Peter Schutz is sceptical about any deal on the Greek crisis and predicts a rather unpleasant future for the country. July 5 will enter the history books in a similar way to 9/11 or the Lehman Brothers, as the Greeks’ refusal of the creditors’ programme will start writing a new chapter in the history of Greece, the eurozone and even the EU, the liberal daily’s editorialist sug[...]



Greferendum: OXI!

Sun, 05 Jul 2015 22:31:50 +0100

To Ethnos, Athens – Cartoon. See more.



Referendum in Greece: Europe at its worst

Sat, 04 Jul 2015 15:53:17 +0100

eutopia, Rome – It could not have gone worse, says political scientist Piero Ignazi: the most pessimistic predictions have all turned out to be true. Worse than that, they are past every limit. There is, in fact, no limit to the worse. See more.



Greek Crisis: ‘Greece and euroland: A battle for credibility’

Thu, 02 Jul 2015 10:55:41 +0100

More billions of euros in aid is not the only thing Greece and the Eurozone are scuffling about as credibility is even more important, writes Rzeczpospolita. The Warsaw’s daily stresses that saving credibility is particularly essential for Chancellor Angela Merkel, the main advocate of the bailout plans offered so far to Greece –

Merkel has to defend her politics [towards Greece] in Germany as well as in Europe and must prove that euroland is alive and so are its rules. At this stage, it means resisting negotiations of any possible future compromises with the Greeks. At the other extreme of credibility is the Greek government. PM Alexis Tsipras is seen in Europe as totally unpredictable. He is sending new proposals to Brussels that nobody believes in. Maybe he is afraid of Greece entering unchartered waters of bankruptcy or maybe he fears for the result of the referendum in which distressed Greeks may not want to turn their backs on the euroland.




Referendum in Greece: Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz calls to vote ‘no’ to bailout plan

Thu, 02 Jul 2015 08:42:16 +0100

This weekend's referendum gives Greek voters a choice between two radically different futures, Joseph Stiglitz writes in Project Syndicate. Approval of the IMF-ECB-EU troika's terms will mean "depression almost without end" for the country, while a rejection leaves open the possibility of a "far more hopeful" outcome, even if Greece never regains its former prosperity.

Stiglitz notes that, when it comes to reducing a primary deficit, "few countries have achieved anything like what the Greeks have achieved in the last five years." But this has come at an unacceptably high human cost: austerity measures have so far been responsible for a 25% drop in Greece's GDP and a youth unemployment rate of 60%. That the troika is demanding further cuts is a sign that ideological motivations have trumped financial considerations.

The troika's demands on Greece, Stiglitz claims, are founded on "abysmal" economics. It wants a primary budget surplus (excluding interest payments) of 3.5% of GDP by 2018. "Economists around the world have condemned that target as punitive," he writes, "because aiming for it will inevitably result in a deeper downturn." The troika's current position has more to do with ideology than money: Greece must be forced into accepting not simply austerity, but punishment.

Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, calls attention to the real beneficiaries of the series of bail-outs so far issued to Greece —

We should be clear: almost none of the huge amount of money loaned to Greece has actually gone there. It has gone to pay out private-sector creditors – including German and French banks. Greece has gotten but a pittance, but it has paid a high price to preserve these countries’ banking systems. The IMF and the other “official” creditors do not need the money that is being demanded. Under a business-as-usual scenario, the money received would most likely just be lent out again to Greece.

But it is for the eurozone that Stiglitz reserves particularly strong criticism. He argues that representatives of the eurozone are attempting to force a democratically elected government to go against the wishes of its voters. The eurozone, for Stiglitz the "antithesis of democracy", believes it can bring down Syriza "by bullying it into accepting an agreement that contravenes its mandate." Given the severity of these bail-out conditions, there is, for Stiglitz, only one viable option: Greeks should put democracy first by rejecting the troika's terms. While the outcome is far from certain, a no vote would allow Greece, "with its strong democratic tradition, [to] grasp its destiny in its own hands."




Greek crisis: Greece will need much more

Wed, 01 Jul 2015 11:06:35 +0100

According to Czech economic daily’s editor David Klimeš negotiations between the Eurozone and Greece are seemingly technical as both sides are throwing out numbers but in reality the outcome will be pure politics as no credible data on Greek economy are actually available and Greek proposals are impossible to verify and Greece will need more money it asks now.

At the moment, the bargaining between Greece and the Eurozone is purely political exercise that is not about billions but rather a political will to save Greece or let it down. Everyone knows that numbers don’t match and that Tsipras' commitments to reforms are not worth much. We are left with one certitude that has become unfortunately a tradition: Greece will need much more than it says today.




Greek crisis: Greece is now in bad company

Wed, 01 Jul 2015 10:49:16 +0100

The Standaard editor-in-chief Bart Sturtewagen writes that today Greece has joined the same circle as Zimbabwe, Somalia and Sudan. Although it isn’t the first time the country has gone bankrupt, the fact it is now part of the European currency union changes everything.

The fact that a member of the eurozone is on the brink of default is a disgraceful defeat for all leaders concerned. The euro is not a market instrument only in the hands of the principle of supply and demand. It is the most concrete manifestation of the desire of hundreds of millions of Europeans to throw their lot with one another. The way it was messed about the last months and years, harms the credibility of the entire European project.




Greek crisis: Greece and the EU are flexing their muscles

Wed, 01 Jul 2015 10:43:57 +0100

Marek Beylin, Gazeta Wyborcza’s commentator, is urging Greece and EU to make a last-ditch effort to reach an agreement which should be, however, more favourable to Greeks. In the absence of it, the Greek crisis may spill over into the rest of Europe, including Poland, destroy “European solidarity”, strengthen europhobes and undermine Europeans’ “faith in the EU”. According to Beylin, "Grexit" will also pose other serious threats –

Bankrupt and abandoned, Greece may permanently destabilise Europe and become a breeding ground for extreme forces – fascist and neocommunist – radiating across the continent. Compared to them, Prime minister Tsipras’ Syriza would look as a good-natured centrist party. Most probably, Greece would also form an alliance with Russia thus weakening Europe’s security.




Greek debt crisis: Tsipras played his last chips

Tue, 30 Jun 2015 09:39:18 +0100

I Kathimerini, Athens – By calling for a referendum on 5 July on on the series of austerity measures demanded by Greece's creditors in exchange for a bail-out plan, Greek prime minister spread distrust among Eurozone partners and put his country on the brink of economic disaster. See more.



Greek debt crisis: Who’s got the ball?

Mon, 29 Jun 2015 16:19:52 +0100

I Kathimerini, Athens – Cartoon. See more.



Climate change – on the eve of COP21: How a ‘fiddled’ emissions scheme granted Serbia EU support

Thu, 25 Jun 2015 16:00:39 +0100

The Guardian, London – Belgrade's emissions pledge ahead of December UN climate conference in Paris has been enthusiastically labeled as 'exemplary' by the European commission. But its scheme will involve a de facto 15% increase in CO2 emissions, warn EU sources. See more.



Profile: Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the euro doc

Wed, 17 Jun 2015 10:31:13 +0100

Vrij Nederland, Amsterdam – Can he hold together the monetary union and prevent a Greek default? As Jeroen Dijsselbloem is likely to be reappointed as president of the Eurogroup, Vrij Nederland looks into the career and style of the Dutch Finance minister. See more.



Debt crisis: Tsipras the magician

Fri, 12 Jun 2015 14:01:15 +0100

De Groene Amsterdammer, Amsterdam – Cartoon. See more.



Legislative elections in Turkey: ‘Welcome to the new Turkey’

Mon, 08 Jun 2015 17:37:50 +0100

The legislative elections on 7 June saw the AKP, the conservative Islamic party in power since 2002 under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, lose the absolute majority in parliament, winning 257 seats out of 550. The AKP previously had 312. The vote was also significant because of the parliamentary breakthrough of the HDP, a mainly Kurdish secular and left-wing party, which won 79 seats.

Kurdish parliamentarians standing as independents numbered 29 in the last parliamentary session. The CGO (social-democrats) won 132 (against 125 in the last session) and the MHP (nationalists), 82 (against 52 previously). The turn-out was 86%.

According to Cumhuriyet,

For the first time since 2002, since the AKP began ruling alone, the concept of “electoral defeat” has been introduced. The AKP has lost absolute power for the first time, despite winning 40% of the vote. Erdoğan's “presidential dream” is coming to an end. For the first time since 2002, parliament has four political parties. For the first time, a Kurdish political movement has entered parliament undisguised. Because the AKP has lost the absolute majority, this 8 June Turkey has two possible options: a minority government or a coalition.




Debt crisis: Alexis Tsipras’ evolving discourse

Tue, 02 Jun 2015 20:20:01 +0100

L’Echo, Brussels – Cartoon. See more.



“Brexit”: Killer Dave

Sat, 30 May 2015 08:26:41 +0100

The Independent, London – Cartoon. See more.



“Brexit”: Killer Dave

Fri, 29 May 2015 18:48:45 +0100

The Independent, London – Cartoon. See more.



After the UK elections: “Brexit” would put Europe at stake

Fri, 15 May 2015 09:50:33 +0100

Following crises in the Mediterranean and Ukraine, “another glaring existential problem” has now emerged in Europe’s western front, writes Natalie Nougayrède in The Guardian. The success of the Conservative Party in the UK's general election last week poses serious questions for the European Union. British Prime Minister David Cameron, newly re-elected with a slim majority, is largely responsible for whether the UK can stay united and within the EU, Nougayrède argues. Cameron has promised a renegotiation of the UK’s EU membership, but risks disappointing Eurosceptics in the build-up to a nation-wide referendum on the matter— Nobody – in Berlin, Paris or anywhere else – wants to embark on a painful process of changing EU treaties. That is rightly seen as a high-risk game for the whole European edifice. Cameron’s electoral success is proof that he has weathered the storm of economic crisis better than almost any other European leader. He now stands with Angela Merkel as one of “a handful of political survivors” in the EU, a position that should give him considerable political capital. In spite of this, Cameron has pandered to populist demands to curb the free movement of people, "one of the pillars of the EU", which has damaged his credibility on the European stage. European policy makers are unsure about how all this will pan out. It is unclear how UKIP, a rabidly eurosceptic party, will influence Cameron's stance. And the Eurosceptics within his own party are an equally unknown quantity. More pressingly— [Britain's] allies are puzzled as to how the country will be able to rediscover the advantages of being part of a larger European endeavour, and reclaim a role for itself within that club. Nougayrède cautions against the gung-ho attitude to the European Union so often displayed during the election campaign, for “there is much at stake and much to lose” if Britain were to leave the Union. There is the very real risk of a Scottish secession. And an EU without Britain would lose a key economic and political partner. If Europe loses Britain, it runs the risk of self-destruction. And if Britain drops out of the EU, it will have to navigate uncharted waters, and risk becoming a small, insignificant player in a globalised world. Britain’s political class, and Cameron in particular, must ensure that the domestic debate around EU membership happens in a constructive and informed manner without the scare-mongering and jingoism that has come to dominate British politics. The stakes, Nougayrède concludes, could not be higher.[...]



Immigration: When the going gets tough

Wed, 13 May 2015 16:31:50 +0100

Il Manifesto, Rome – Cartoon. See more.



UK General elections: Sawing off

Fri, 08 May 2015 10:53:19 +0100

The New York Times, New York – Cartoon. See more.



UK general elections: The Flasher

Thu, 07 May 2015 08:09:46 +0100

De Groene Amsterdammer, Amsterdam – Cartoon. See more.



Greek crisis: Towards the exit?

Wed, 06 May 2015 14:03:08 +0100

Jyllands-Posten, Aarhus – Cartoon. See more.



Hungary: Far-right gets stronger in parliament

Tue, 14 Apr 2015 14:53:43 +0100

The far-right Jobbik party won a by-election in the Taploca constituency on 12 April, gaining its first ever individual constituency seat.

Jobbik’s candidate Rig Lajos obtained 35.3 per cent of the votes, while the candidate for Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party obtained 34.4 per cent.

“The ruling party’s strategy has been beaten down, and not by the left, but by the right”, notes Budapest daily Magyar Nemzet. Headlining with “the change coming from the right”, the paper writes that “a shift in power is in the air”. Fidesz already regards Jobbik – which has never before obtained more than 20 per cent of the vote – as a threat in the 2018 general election.

According to the conservative daily –

even if the majority of voters are unsatisfied with the government’s latest decisions — the internet tax, rapprochement with Russia — they do not entirely trust Jobbik. But it must be recognised that while the discourse of the extreme right has had a certain resonance, the ruling right-wing party has failed to mobilise itself.




Alexis Tsipras’s visit to Russia: Insert coin

Wed, 08 Apr 2015 19:18:34 +0100

I Kathimerini, Athens – Cartoon. See more.



Greece: A friend out there

Thu, 02 Apr 2015 15:06:49 +0100

Trouw, Amsterdam – Cartoon. See more.



Investigating Germany’s new role in Europe: The Fourth Reich, really?

Wed, 01 Apr 2015 11:56:12 +0100

Where does Germany stand in Europe? And are its downtrodden southern neighbours justified in comparing its current dominance to the dark days of Nazi rule? These are the questions that a group of journalists attempt to answer in a special enquiry for German weekly Der Spiegel. They draw from Germany's troubled past to argue that Europe's “reluctant leader” paradoxically considers itself both too big and too small to fulfil its current role: The eurozone is clearly ruled by Germany, though Berlin is not unchallenged. It does, however, have a significant say in the fates of millions of people from other countries. Such power creates a significant amount of responsibility, but the [German] government and other policymakers nevertheless sometimes behave as though they were leading a small country. Germany has gained de facto political dominance through economic success, but is largely unprepared to take up real political leadership by compromising on its short-term interests, Der Spiegel's writers argue. Its diplomatic brashness is born out of an intransigent desire to see all eurozone members adhere to the German principles of thrift and efficiency. This is grist to the mill for the increasingly vocal opponents to German hegemony — For almost all critics of German policy, a single word has become the focus of their complaints: austerity. It refers to policies of thrift, a concept that has positive connotations in Germany. But in European countries hit hardest by the debt crisis, it stands for a bleak policy of externally-imposed deprivation. Germany isn't just exporting its goods anymore, it is also exporting its rules. Interviewing dissenting figures from Greece, Italy and France, Der Spiegel's team reports that the comparisons to the Third Reich stem from Germany's efforts to safeguard its own economic interests. While the newspaper discounts such comparisons, claiming "no one would actually associate Merkel with Nazism", it adds that "further reflection on the word "Reich," or empire, may not be entirely out of place." For Germany undoubtedly exerts a powerful influence well beyond its borders, imposing a politics of austerity on unwilling economic partners. Historical precedents provide unsettling lessons for the current masters of Europe. Germany's Second Reich, formed under Bismarck and lasting until defeat in the First World War, found itself in a precarious position: it had become Europe's leading power and yet was not strong enough to dominate the continent alone. Germany, the authors argue, is in a similar situation today. Its trade surplus now stands at €217 billion, while capital exports from German banks have spread its economic interests across Europe. But while Germany towers over its neighbours, it is uniquely vulnerable to economic collapse in Europe's south. Once again, it is both too big and too small to lead effectively — Creditors want to have power over their debtors because they are afraid. Afraid that they won't see their money again. Germany could pay Gre[...]



UK general elections: Guns out

Tue, 31 Mar 2015 11:13:48 +0100

The Independent, London – Cartoon. See more.



The Balkans and the Crisis: The Deadlock in Bosnia

Fri, 20 Mar 2015 13:47:24 +0100

“Last year, Bosnia was rocked by a wave of protests [...] driven by poverty and unemployment,” writes Buka, a magazine in Banja Luka, in the Serbian area of the Republic of Bosnia. The protests started in the city of Tuzla and “rapidly spread across the rest of the country”. Town halls and government ministries were set alight by citizens tired of the inertia, corruption and economic stagnation engulfing the country. As Buka reports, Bosnia shares with Albania the dubious distinction of Europe’s poorest country, according to Eurostat figures. “Purchasing power here is a third of the European average,” Buka writes. “Only one in two inhabitants of working age are active and, of these, one third are unemployed.” As for the government, — whether at the local or national level, it has no strategy for developing the country beyond respecting the pact for growth and employment imposed by the European Union. But even this has not produced the desired results within the Union. Bosnia is between a rock and a hard place, shaken by a conflict similar to what is happening between northern and southern Europe. It is bound to the dogma of austerity and too indebted to find financing on the open market. As for the citizen committees that organised the 2014 protests, they have either disappeared or been absorbed into more “institutional” movements. Faced with this situation, Buka observes, the right-wing populist parties, currently in power both in the Croat-Muslim Federation and the Serbian area, find themselves in a deadlock, since — the only way to achieve social harmony would be to borrow more from international lenders at an exorbitant cost, a solution that would quickly become unsustainable. This is leading to fears of more protests like those of February 2014. And the government will have no choice: with a fall in tax revenue, it will have to cut public spending. [...] Ultimately, these protests, until now mainly attracting workers and small business owners, could increase in scope and become a real threat. Right-wing intellectuals claim that Bosnia-Herzegovina can only be saved by radical reforms, like the transfer of state power to private companies. It is hoped that they would be able to kick-start growth with the liberalisation of the economy. But it is a plan that requires time, and Bosnia cannot afford to wait. The difficult economic situation has been compounded by the arrival of another destabilising factor as unexpected as it is unsettling: the Islamic State (IS) has come to the region, as a journalist for La Stampa reports from Gornja Maoča. “Cleansed” of its Serbian population during the war, this village in the east of Bosnia has become a hotbed of salafism. The mujahideen who settled there after the war have imposed Sharia law, and IS flags were recently hung from balconies and windows before they removed by the police. Gornja Maoča is “a base” for Muslims from the Balkans who want to join the r[...]



Germany and the Greek bailout: Meet his Creator

Wed, 18 Mar 2015 15:59:31 +0100

Cartoon movement, Amsterdam – Cartoon. See more.



Immigration in Greece: Athens’ EU blackmail: we’ll open the gates to Europe

Wed, 11 Mar 2015 21:14:03 +0100

“Athens threathens to let illegal immigrants go through”, headlines De Volkskrant. According to the Dutch newspaper, the left-wing government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has begun to modify the Greek migration policy: one of the changes would be the creation of a symbolic “gap” in the four-metre-high fence between Greece and Turkey, built in 2012 with EU money to keep out illegal immigrants. Athens also wants to close the detention centres.

The first steps are already being taken by the government, writes Trouw: every day, around 30 asylum seekers, mainly refugees from Asia and the Middle East, are released from detention centres.

Human rights organisations are “pleased” with the “more humain policy” of Tsipras and his Alternate Minister of Immigration Policy, Tasia Christodoulopoulou, a former human rights activist. However, Europe is very worried since “most refugees don’t want to stay in impoverished Greece, where it is hard to build a new life. As soon as they get the chance, they travel to richer EU countries,” writes Trouw.

According to De Volkskrant, the Greek government uses the immigration issue to put pressure on Brussels —

Athens wants more help from Europe to receive and dispatch migrants over Europe. “Since the Europeans have no understanding of the issue, we can violate the Schengen agreements and provide papers to 300,000 migrants who can then go all over Europe,” already threatened Alternate Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection Yiannis Panousis in an interview.

The issue will be discussed by EU justice and interior ministers in Brussels on Thursday.




Anti-Orbán demonstrations in Budapest: Government faces corruption accusations in nuclear deal

Tue, 10 Mar 2015 13:23:57 +0100

In Budapest, demonstrations against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his nationalist policies have been growing for more than a year. Magyar Narancs reports that Hungarians took to the streets of the capital on 8 March to protest corruption and express discontent towards a new controversial measure: on 3 March, Parliament voted to extend the period during which the details of a civilian nuclear deal signed with Russia on 17 February will be classified as secret from 15 to 30 years.

Thousands who demonstrated at the call of the opposition carried placards reading “this government is corrupt” and cried “Mocskos Fidesz” (“Fidesz is dirty”) in reference to Orbán’s party, writes the daily.

The deal concerns a €10bn loan granted by Russia to Hungary in order to cover 80 per cent of the construction costs of two new reactors for the country’s only nuclear station at Paks, a project of Russian energy company Rusatom that provides Hungary with about 40 per cent of its electricity.

While the government cites a “matter of national security”, notes the site Hu-lala.org, the opposition believes that —

it is a matter of covering up corruption. While the opposition calls on János Áder, the President of the Republic, to use the Constitutional Court, the demonstrators plan to hit the street once again on 28 March.




Debt crisis: Black sheep Berlin

Fri, 06 Mar 2015 15:37:29 +0100

Greek newspaper Avgi, close to the Syriza party of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, has published a cartoon of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble “dressed in a uniform of the Wehrmacht, the army of the Third Reich, with a war cross around his neck”, observes Brussels correspondent Jean Quatremer of French newspaper Libération. Tsipras did not condemn the cartoon until two days after it was published. The Greek prime minister, writes Quatremer, was in fact the first to “open the floodgates of anti-German sentiment” by asking Germany for compensation for damage suffered by Greece during the Second World War. With the crisis, anti-German sentiment is creeping around the continent, and Berlin “is starting to worry”. In the United Kingdom, “part of the political class […] and the popular press are upset to see the loser of the two world wars impose itself as the uncontested master of the eurozone,” writes Quatremer, adding the hostility towards Germany is growing in France as well. Right-wing sovereigntist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan qualifies the European Union as the “Fourth Reich”, Left Front leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon says “the attitude of Germany is arrogant, domineering, and leading Europe to chaos”, and the leader of the National Front, Marine Le Pen, has denounced “Greece’s capitulation to Berlin’s blackmail”. The journalist notes anti-German discourse is even gaining ground with the centre-right UMP and ruling Socialist Party, due to divergences in the handling of the euro crisis. “The Germans work according to the rules. It’s only afterwards that they consider the context, while we and the Anglo-Saxons are much more pragmatic,” a French government minister tells Quatremer, who explains that — it is enough [for Berlin] to follow the agreed rules and to not get into creative interpretation or adapt to the circumstances. As such, their “neins” become repetitive: no to a European plan to rescue the banks, no to a European recovery plan, no to financial aid for Greece, no to a soft interpretation of the rules. However, the Bundestag endorsed the result of the most recent negotiations with Greece, “which was not a foregone conclusion”. German tabloid Bild campaigned against extending aid to Greece, and the plan was far from winning wide public support. Quatremer writes that — Each time, Germany has accepted what it initially rejected: keeping Greece in the eurozone, financial solidarity with countries in difficulty, banking union, relaxing the terms of the Stability Pact, the European Central Bank’s new expansionist monetary policy, the agreement given to a partial recognition of the reforms sought by Athens, and so on. The journalist asks whether France is responsible for these anti-German sentiments, since “the waning influence of [France] on the European political scene[...]



Greek bailout extension: Thumb up

Wed, 25 Feb 2015 08:52:13 +0100

De Groene Amsterdammer, Amsterdam – Cartoon. See more.






Hungary: ‘Putin is breathing down our neck’

Thu, 19 Feb 2015 10:13:22 +0100

Following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Budapest, left-wing magazine Magyar Narancs explains that “the Hungarian government cannot deny the importance of this visit” and that “Moscow also needs Hungary.” Noting demonstrations on the eve of the Russian president’s arrival, the Budapest monthly writes that Putin “needed to show the whole world there was still a European country that supports him” on his first visit to an EU member state since sanctions were imposed on Moscow.

For his part, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán underlined that “even if Hungary does not support the sanctions, peace is Ukraine is a prerequisite for reestablishing good relations between the EU and Russia.” Putin, isolated on the international stage and encountering trouble finding new takers for his goods and services, signed several economic agreements with Budapest in the domains of energy, nuclear power, higher education and medicine.




War in Ukraine: Next ceasefire

Thu, 12 Feb 2015 21:35:30 +0100

Trouw, Amsterdam – Cartoon. See more.



Greece and austerity: Athens’ toothless revolutionaries

Tue, 10 Feb 2015 12:32:44 +0100

He may have named his youngest son Ernesto and have hung until recently a Che Guevara poster in his office, but Alexis Tsipras is not willing to fan the flames of revolution, argues Newsweek Polska. He is not a “blind ideologist but a formidable strategist who loves political games”, adds the weekly, stressing that the new Greek leader skilfully filled the political vacuum created by the collapse of Greece’s long-established two­party system. As Greek historian and sociologist Iannis Carras explains – His main asset is the fact that many Greeks see him as a politician who stood up to defend his country. Which is why Tsipras will continue to use patriotic and nationalist rhetoric currently shared by the Greek left and the rightwing parties. But he won’t be able to meet the “unrealistic promises made during election campaign” even if he has started dismantling some of the reforms of his predecessor. He has suspended the privatisation of the Piraeus Container Terminal and DEI, an energy supplier, raised the minimum wage and plans to reemploy some of the Greece’s fired public sector workers. However, experts put the cost of Tsipras’ promises at 10bn dollars, money Greece simply doesn’t have. This is why, argues Gazeta Wyborcza, the new Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, has come up with a four­point recovery plan which is crucial to the government’s survival. It means linking the interest on government debt to GDP growth, continuing reforms but with “a laser not a butcher’s knife”, boosting investment by the European Investment Bank not only in Greece but across Europe and finally creating a new social assistance programme in the euro zone. Key elements of the plan depend on the consent of EU partners and Brussels. This explains why Tsipras and Varoufakis are tirelessly travelling across the continent seeking support and looking for allies. When asked what would happen if EU leaders and the Commission reject his proposals, Varoufakis recently admitted that “death would be better”. Small wonder Tsipras has toned down his revolutionary rhetoric ahead of the final showdown with the German chancellor. But Newsweek Polska stresses that Angela Merkel currently seems less willing to compromise than in 2012, when she feared that the collapse of Greece would result in the break­up of the euro zone – At present German chancellor is more inclined to accept a theory of the weakest link – getting rid of the burden of the weakest member would help the euro zone. The negotiations between Athens and Berlin will be extremely difficult. One of the German journalists has put it bluntly: “Mrs. Merkel finished off all her internal and external enemies starting with Helmut [...]