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Al Jazeera - Qatar | 29/01/2015

Global perspectives: Srećko Horvat on the small revolutions of the left

Europe's left is pinning its hopes on parties like Syriza in Greece or Podemos in Spain, but in view of the huge social changes taking place even relatively small measures in social policy would be a radical achievement, the Croatian philosopher Srećko Horvat argues in the blog of the Qatari news channel Al Jazeera: "We know that social democracy and the social welfare state cannot be equated with socialism. They were the result of a historical compromise between the workers and capital aimed at eradicating the spectre of communism. But the social circumstances in almost every European state are so catastrophic that even simply preserving or reforming the social welfare state would be a radical step. These measures are not really radical, but the same applies to them as to the recent proposal by [leftist economist] Thomas Piketty in his bestseller Capital in the Twenty-First Century: We are aware that high property taxes won't bring communism, particularly not if they aren't levied on a global basis. But given the current radical inequality even this measure, implemented only on a national basis, already seems radical." (29/01/2015) - Croatia | 28/01/2015

For Vuk Perišić there is no nation but only citizens

The conflict between citizenship and national affiliation has been the source of enduring conflict and war in the Balkans. Columnist Vuk Perišić calls for ethnic affiliation to be dropped as part of a state's self-description: "Croatia for example would then define itself exclusively as the state of all its citizens, and not - as is written in the preamble to its constitution - as 'a nation state of the Croatian people and the affiliated national minorities'. This ethnic definition of a state is pure discrimination because it raises a legally vague category like 'nation' (which rests on emotional assumptions) to the status of a category that divides citizens along majority - minority lines. This, however, is diametrically opposed to democracy, the rule of law and the basic moral values of modern civilisation. ... For ethnic Serbs, Italians or Bosnians to really feel like Croatian citizens in Croatia, the ethnic Croats would have to see themselves exclusively as Croatian citizens. That would be a win-win situation with no losers. Only the nationalists would be dissatisfied, but so they should be in a civilised society and a democratic state." (28/01/2015)

Corriere della Sera - Italy | 28/01/2015

Ernesto Galli della Loggia asks where religious sensitivities begin

Ernesto Galli della Loggia refuses to acknowledge religious sensibilities as a restriction on freedom of expression. The historian speaks out in the liberal-conservative daily Corriere della Sera against this boundary recently drawn by Pope Francis: "Even if we accept the principle of defending religious sensibilities, it's difficult, if not impossible, to draw an effective legal boundary on this subject. Numerous examples - from Kurt Westergaard to Salman Rushdie to Theo van Gogh - show that the religious tolerance threshold in Islam is extremely low. This begs the question: Must we make this threshold our own? Must we base our laws on it? If so, we would have to make it a maxim for all creeds. Consequently the cartoon of the pope as a crusader would have to be forbidden, as would criticism of the events of the family synod to avoid offending Catholic sensitivities, and Nietzsche's works, which harshly attack Christianity, would have to be withdrawn from circulation. Or how else are we supposed to approach this? Should we decide where the politically correct threshold of religious sensitivity lies, beyond which punishment is imposed? Using what criteria? And how effective would this be?" (28/01/2015)

Webcafé - Bulgaria | 27/01/2015

Ivaylo Dichev on the undeclared wars of the 21st century

When was the last time one country officially declared war on another? Cultural anthropologist Ivaylo Dichev wonders on the online portal Webcafé with the military confrontations in eastern Ukraine in mind: "In the past 50 years innumerable bloody conflicts have broken out between states. However what motivated them wasn't the will of one state to conquer another, but an internal conflict in which one side called on a big brother to intervene. ... The Russians don't plan to occupy Ukraine, they want to help the Russian separatists in Ukraine to gain power. The Americans don't plan to conquer Iraq, which they've now laboriously abandoned. The idea behind military interventions is no longer conquering territory: that doesn't pay off any more. ... The problem is that there's no end to these undeclared wars because there are no longer any peace treaties. Who would sign them, and with whom? We've entered a new era of chronic anonymous conflicts between faceless belligerents." (27/01/2015)

El País - Spain | 26/01/2015

Europe's future depends on Ukraine, warn Bernard-Henri Lévy and George Soros

Russia poses a major threat to radical change in Ukraine, philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy and US investor George Soros warn in a joint commentary piece in the left-liberal daily El País, and call on the EU to act: "Ukraine can defend itself militarily but it urgently needs economic aid. The bad thing about democracies is that they take a long time to react, and an association of democracies like the European Union takes even longer. Putin is taking advantage of this. Much depends on what happens in the next few days. Not just the future of Ukraine is at stake, but also that of the EU itself. The fall of Ukraine would be a terrible loss for Europe. It would give Russia the chance to divide and dominate the EU. If, however, Europe rises to the occasion and provides the economic aid the Ukrainians need, the time will come when Putin will be forced to give up his aggression." (26/01/2015)

The Daily Telegraph - United Kingdom | 24/01/2015

Iain Martin misses leaders like Churchill in the EU

On the 50th anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill journalist Iain Martin reflects on what the influential, cigar-smoking British statesman would think about today's Europe: "What would Churchill make of the mess in the EU today, as the euro plunges in value, the printing presses are cranked up and Greece goes to the polls to vote in a Left-wing populist government? Churchill would be pleased, and perhaps surprised, that Western Europe had made it through the last 70 years without a war. But it is easy to imagine him being unimpressed by the pitiful quality of leadership and substandard statesmanship offered by the eurozone's main leaders. ... Unfortunately, we British can take only limited comfort from staying outside the euro, a decision that looks better every day. For, as Churchill understood, we live in the European neighbourhood and problems on the mainland have a habit of ending up on Britain's doorstep." (24/01/2015)

La Repubblica - Italy | 23/01/2015

For Ian McEwan free speech is the protector of religion

Freedom of speech as an indispensable cornerstone of the open society also protects religion, writes British author Ian McEwan in the left-liberal daily La Repubblica: "Who will guarantee the peace? Not religion. In the cities of the West, richly layered in race and religion, the only guarantor of freedom of religious worship and tolerance for all is the secular state. … The principle of free speech is crucial. … The importance of free speech can't be overstated. It is emphatically not just the luxury of journalists and novelists. Nor is it an absolute. Where it is constrained it must be so through laws within democratic institutions. But without free speech, democracy is a sham. Every freedom we possess or wish to possess, has had to be freely thought and talked and written into existence. Freedom of speech - the giving and receiving of information, asking of awkward questions, scholarly research, criticism, fantasy, satire - the exchange within the entire range of our intellectual capacities, is the freedom that brings the others into being. Free speech is not religion's enemy, it is its protector." (23/01/2015)

El País - Spain | 23/01/2015

For Emilio Lamo de Espinosa regions and the central state are closely linked

Different nations within a single state structure are also inextricably bound up with the central state, sociologist Emilio Lamo de Espinosa points out in the left-liberal daily El País in relation to Catalan separatism: "If Spain is a composite structure, and it is, Catalonia is even more so. Catalonia too is a nation made up of nations and has Spain inside it just as Catalonia is inside Spain. Catalanism clearly perceives the diversity of Spain but it refuses to see its own diversity. ... If the states are supposed to renounce their 19th century claim to be able to enforce culturally homogeneous nation states (according to the French model), the regions must also renounce their claim to become states in their own right (according to the German model), which stems from the same century. The world (and the EU) would become a chicken coop if thousands of ethnic groups each demanded their own state. Europe's path, which is also the path to an emerging global civilisation, strengthens political unity, not division. If one can't be Catalan and Spanish at the same time, can one be Catalan and European?" (23/01/2015)

Les Echos - France | 22/01/2015

For Joseph Stiglitz Syriza must bring the Eurozone to its senses

The growing popularity of the left-wing Greek coalition Syriza in the run-up to Sunday's parliamentary elections should force Eurozone politicians to reform their absurd regulations, Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz writes in the liberal business paper Les Echos: "If Syriza wins but does not take power, a principal reason will be fear of how the EU will respond. Fear is not the noblest of emotions, and it will not give rise to the kind of national consensus that Greece needs in order to move forward. The issue is not Greece. It is Europe. If Europe does not change its ways - if it does not reform the eurozone and repeal austerity - a popular backlash will become inevitable. Greece may stay the course this time. But this economic madness cannot continue forever. Democracy will not permit it. But how much more pain will Europe have to endure before reason is restored?" (22/01/2015)

La Repubblica - Italy | 22/01/2015

For Vito Mancuso Islam needs a reformation

The danger of totalitarianism in Islam could be prevented with a reformation, theologian Vito Mancuso writes in the left-liberal daily La Repubblica: "Islam is all-encompassing. It is not just a religion and all that entails (ethics, aesthetics, a world view), it's also politics. This claim to be all-embracing contains the seeds of totalitarianism. Is it nevertheless possible to prevent religions - which are necessarily all-embracing - from becoming totalitarian? Christianity offers an answer. Why is this religion, which was once at least as all-encompassing and totalitarian as Islam, no longer so? The answer lies in the pronoun 'I'. Christianity has allowed the conscience to say 'I', and in so doing to break away from the totalitarian dimension of religion plus politics. The rupture came on 18 April 1521 at the Diet of Worms, when the Augustinian monk Martin Luther refused to recant his theses as Charles V had demanded, with the words: 'I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.'" (22/01/2015)

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