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REFLECTIONS

New Statesman - United Kingdom | 04/03/2015

Jana Bakunina on Putin's unbroken hold on power

After the killing of the Russian regime critic Boris Nemtsov, journalist Jana Bakunina explains in the left-leaning weekly magazine New Statesman why the Russian population is so staunch in its support for Vladimir Putin: "Putin has demonstrated his dedication to addressing the values Russians care about most: the integrity of their country, its sphere of influence in international relations, and its ability to withstand the US dictating its policies to the world at large. … Russian people have survived many periods of hardship since the Mongol invasion in the 13th century, which destroyed its peace, independence, culture and cities ... It is perhaps this early history, as well as the civil war after the Bolshevik Revolution, the famine that followed, the Second World War and the Stalinist repressions, which indicates that Russian tolerance for austerity is higher than in the western world. Russians do not seek prosperity but stability. They are less concerned with individual freedom than with the collective sense of status and integrity. Spanning both European and Asian continents, Russia has inherited the Eastern sense of community, attitude of acceptance and predisposition towards authoritarian government." (04/03/2015)

Financial Times - United Kingdom | 02/03/2015

Gideon Rachman calls for action to contain Russia

The murder of regime critic Boris Nemtsov has highlighted yet again that the West needs a new approach to dealing with the Russian leadership, columnist Gideon Rachman observes in the conservative daily Financial Times: "[The] Russian president and his acolytes undoubtedly created the atmosphere of nationalist paranoia that made his assassination permissible. … The Putin government's record of lies and violence should now prompt a further reappraisal. Mr Putin has shown that he is a threat to his own people and to neighbouring countries. It would be wise to assume that he is also a threat to the west. Efforts at dialogue with the Russian leader have proved largely futile. Instead, the west should concentrate on containing Russia - as it once contained the Soviet Union. That should mean increased economic aid to Ukraine. It should mean increased military spending and a stronger Nato presence in Poland and the Baltic states. And it should mean tightened economic sanctions on Russia, aimed particularly at the ruling elite." (02/03/2015)

El País - Spain | 02/03/2015

The world must strike deal with Iran and Syria, Lluís Bassets urges

The fight against the Islamic State presents the international community with a dilemma like the one it faced during the Second World War, namely that of joining forces with one dictatorship to fight another, Lluís Bassets observes in his blog for the left-liberal daily El País: "First of all the Islamic States' killing spree in Syria and Iraq must be stopped. Also for security reasons. ... The defeat of the Islamic State requires a pact with the Iran of the ayatollahs and Bashar al-Assad's dictatorship. This is the plain and hard truth. ... Like in the tragic Europe of the 1930s when the democracies had to choose between Hitler and Stalin, now they must once again choose between two unbearable evils. ... The absolute, imminent and existential threat is the terrorist caliphate. We must make our choice, or let's say choose to do things in the right order, one after another, rather than not doing anything while pretending to do everything. Action must be taken." (02/03/2015)

The Daily Telegraph - United Kingdom | 26/02/2015

David Abulafia on the myth of a united Europe

There is no real need to press on with European integration, historian David Abulafia warns in the conservative paper The Daily Telegraph, evoking present and past obstacles to deepening EU relations: "The events of the last few months have exposed serious shortcomings in the idea of a European demos. The current unwillingness of German creditors and Greek debtors to see eye to eye exposes the lack of solidarity at the heart of Europe. Far from making integration inevitable, the decisions of European leaders have pulled Europeans further apart. It is time to admit that a sense of 'Europeanness' cannot be traced far back in time. Europe is not one myth but many myths, myths rooted in an idealisation of the classical past and in fantasies about figures such as Charlemagne. Attempts to create an artificial notion of 'Europe' distract from the reality of the situation and make it harder to rectify the many problems that exist within the EU's institutions." (26/02/2015)

Delo - Slovenia | 26/02/2015

Mario Belović on why we learn nothing about the TTIP

Despite ongoing criticism details about the TTIP transatlantic free trade agreement between the EU and the US have yet to be made public, Mario Belović writes in the left-liberal daily Delo and sees three potential reasons for this silence: "One reason is the inability of politicians to comprehend the tectonic shifts [the agreement would trigger]. If critics of the agreement are proved right, European standards in the areas of social welfare, public services, consumer protection and the right to clean water will be shaken to their very foundations. The silence may also be an expression of a misconception of the European space in which our politics evolve. Instead of actively committing to national interests, promises are being made to other centres of power and their rules are being followed. The third reason could be collaboration with a conspiratorial operation which in essence is an attack by big business on the sovereignty of the European states and their civil rights." (26/02/2015)

Večernji List - Croatia | 24/02/2015

Marina Šerić prays for Francis and Varoufakis

Pope Francis and Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis have more in common than it would seem at first glance, writes Marina Šerić, columnist for the conservative daily Večernji List: "Europe will only experience spiritual renewal once it has regained the trust of the normal citizens, Varoufakis has pointed out. Pope Francis draws a similar conclusion: people must be at the centre of attention, above all the victims of unrestrained greed who live on the fringes of society. ... Varoufakis calls for politicians whose actions are guided by their moral compass and always aim to improve society. The pope relays the same message when he urges us to behave correctly. ... With their courage which borders on craziness they are always several steps ahead of everyone else. Both, the Marxist and the theologian, have recognised that we are at a dead-end in which neither business nor politics are focussed on the people they should serve but have become an end in themselves. May God send us more people like Francis and Yanis. Perhaps we can all gain some understanding and the world would have a chance to become a better place." (24/02/2015)

La Repubblica - Italy | 23/02/2015

Marc Lazaar on the appearance and reality of Matteo Renzi

Sunday marked the end of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's first year in office. The Social Democrat has only partially made good on his promises for reforms and those he has introduced are highly problematic for the parties on the left, notes French political scientist Marc Lazar in the left-liberal daily La Repubblica: "Renzi is the prototype of a 21st century leader: pragmatic, post-ideological, politically skilled, a 'killer' for his opponents and rivals and not averse to flirting with a certain brand of populism. But to properly assess Matteo Renzi's performance we must distinguish between the impact of his announcements of reforms (something in which he is truly a virtuoso) and the reality of those reforms and their concrete repercussions. Right now the gap between the two is considerable. Moreover the significance of the reforms for the left and for those who identify with that concept must be clarified. Is Renzi creating renewal and overcoming the rift between right and left - deemed by many to be obsolete? Or is he betraying the ideas of the left?" (23/02/2015)

Lost in EUrope - Belgium | 19/02/2015

Eric Bonse on Europe's three-tier democracy

The current bailout programme for Greece runs out at the end of the month. The short time frame granted for requesting an extension makes it clear that just a handful of countries call the shots in Europe, Eric Bonse criticises in his blog LostinEUrope: "The only ones who still count are the creditor countries and their politicians - but not all of them: just Germany, Finland and the Netherlands have the real power to tell Greece what to do. Because the current bailout programme for Greece runs out on February 28 and any change must be ratified by the parliaments of all three countries, this is a matter of some urgency. ... That's the only explanation for the ultimatum. If you think that through to the end, we live in a three-tier democracy. The parliaments of Germany, the Netherlands and Finland are at the very top. Their agendas dictate the rhythm in Brussels. At the bottom are the Greeks. Not even voting the corrupt elites out of power has changed their fate in the least. The rest of Europe is somewhere in the middle. ... In this way certain finance ministers are able to dictate ultimatums to others - without having been elected as EU officials or even informing the European Parliament." (19/02/2015)

Novinar - Bulgaria | 16/02/2015

Kalin Tersijski on the lack of pacifist voices in the Ukraine conflict

The voices of those who want confrontation are dominating the debate over the Ukraine conflict, author Kalin Tersijski laments in the daily newspaper Novinar: "In the not too distant past the intellectual pacifists would have long since drawn attention to the many cultural, linguistic and historical commonalities between Russia and Ukraine. The goal would have been to make people convince the powers that be and the warmongers in this world that there are more reasons for peace than for war. ... But today only dull fear prevails, fuelled by hate-filled voices: 'Russia is a threat to its neighbours', 'Ukraine is a Nazi state', 'The US is inciting a war because it wants to sell its weapons' or 'the Jewish bankers need another bloodbath to get their billions circulating'. The songs of the humanists and pacifists have faded into silence. Are they all gone?" (16/02/2015)

Corriere della Sera - Italy | 16/02/2015

For Ernesto Galli della Loggia Europe's peace efforts are naive

Europe must stop being naive and trying to always find a peaceful solution to conflicts, historian Ernesto Galli della Loggia warns in the liberal-conservative daily Corriere della Sera: "The Europeans are incapable of thinking of their own security because they have long since forgotten how to deal with the concept of war, namely to realise that in a crisis situation in which one side is clearly determined to use violence, there's only one way to stop it: to threaten with counter-violence. And if it becomes inevitable, to use it. For seventy years the Europe of Brussels has closed its eyes to this elementary fact. ... Principles alone are supposed to guide us in the world arena: justice, freedom, equality. And above all peace. It's a pity that these principles, unless defended with weapons, can only mean one thing: compromise at any price. ... Which ultimately amounts to capitulation. Because what, if not capitulation, can an EU that has halved its air force and shrunk its artillery of 40,000 guns to 20,000 be preparing for?" (16/02/2015)


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