ProjektN - Slovakia | 19/12/2014

Robert Žitňanský misses Václav Havel

On the third anniversary of his death on Thursday the former Czechoslovakian and Czech president Václav Havel was commemorated with hours of remembrance and a mass in Prague. In his blog on the online portal ProjektN journalist Robert Žitňanský mourns his passing: "For many people who experienced November 1989 Václav Havel was a hero, a symbol and a role model. No, Havel was by no means a perfect human being, but he was a perfect president. ... He was a thoughtful person with a conscience and an artist's soul who reflected inimitably on people, society and politics with visions, fears, irony and self-irony. Appealingly shy and plagued by doubt, he nonetheless had a talent for also saying unpopular things and making the right gestures. ... His actions and his strength stood in contrast not only to the greyness of communism, but also to those who have succeeded him. Today we lack a person like Havel. More and more, as far as I can tell." (19/12/2014)

Avgi - Greece | 14/12/2014

Giannis Kibouropoulos on fears of the left gaining power

Greek Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis warned on Monday that Greece may exit the EU if the leftist alliance Syriza comes into power. In the left-leaning daily Avgi columnist Giannis Kibouropoulos criticises the politicians' and markets' fear of a left-wing government: "The cynical 'rationalism' of the markets and the political elites can't dispel their almost metaphysical aversion towards all the left represents. ... At the heart of this fear is an irrational ideological hatred encased in a class-based dread that a government with leftist theories could create undesirable currents among the lower classes of an EU state. ... No matter how conciliatory and willing to compromise and negotiate the future government is, it won't manage to overcome the fierce enmity of the different blocks. The political wrecks in Athens, powerful Merkel and the wild beasts of the markets won't be assuaged. Perhaps for this reason it would be better to instil fear in them rather than try to calm them. Fear makes them angry, upsets them and ultimately makes them weaker." (14/12/2014)

Open Democracy - United Kingdom | 10/12/2014

Benjamin Ward warns against wrong measures against terrorism

Several European countries like Britain and Germany are considering using the withdrawal of citizenship to protect themselves against IS terror. But such measures will only make Europe more dangerous in the long run, Benjamin Ward of Human Rights Watch warns in the blog Open Democracy: "The most effective way to combat terrorism while preserving core values remains the criminal-justice system. Prosecuting fairly those who present a threat undermines their legitimacy while upholding the rule of law. By contrast, pre-emptive measures in the absence of concrete evidence are open to abuse, including profiling based on religious or community identity. ... Terrorism is a tactic of the weak - asymmetric warfare designed to provoke a strategic over-reaction. When it succeeds, societies become more closed and rights are curtailed, especially for groups perceived to be associated with the threat. If European governments forget the hard-learned lessons of the last decade and return again to anything-goes, abusive measures, Europeans will be less safe, not more, and those who threaten will be the victors." (10/12/2014)

L'Express - France | 08/12/2014

For Jacques Attali growth and climate protection can go hand in hand

Contrary to what some people would have us believe, economic growth and climate protection are not mutually exclusive goals, Jacques Attali writes in his blog for the weekly magazine L'Express: "Taking number-crunching to the point of madness, we could one day decide to stop manufacturing goods and having children to avoid further damage to nature. ... But the real solution, if we only dared, would simply be massive investments in sectors and technologies with low fossil fuel consumption, in organic farming, transportation infrastructure, data networks, the shared economy, holograms, 3D printers, nuclear energy, offshore wind parks and so many other technologies including those that neutralise greenhouse gases. In particular, France needs ports, canals, fibre-optic networks and buildings that produce their own energy. We should adopt the following attitude: the future lies in the reorientation of progress. Not in obscurantism." (08/12/2014)

La Stampa - Italy | 08/12/2014

Roberto Toscano calls for calm reaction to Putin

Europe and the West must act judiciously regarding Russia's president because they are partially to blame for his aggressive policies and rhetoric, political scientist Roberto Toscano warns in the liberal daily La Stampa: "We have committed a grave political mistake by underestimating Russia's interests, the matter of its security (in connection with the idea of Ukraine joining Nato) and its national pride. We have given Putin an excuse for his revanchism. To give in to Putin's aggressive policy would do as little good as to get into a panic. Rather we should remain calm and stick to the goal of a diplomatic solution. Diplomacy can only be credible if it goes hand in hand with the necessary resolve to help Ukraine to consolidate both economically and in terms of its political institutions. ... There will be a Russia after Putin. ... A Russia that despite all the Eurasian projects belongs historically and culturally to Europe, and which will one day belong to Europe economically and politically once more." (08/12/2014)

Le Figaro - France | 04/12/2014

Gérard Grunberg on the decline of Europe's social democrats

Not just France's Socialist Party but social democratic parties across Europe are facing hard times, writes Gérard Grunberg, political scientist at Paris's institute of political studies Sciences Po: "The coming elections promise to be particularly devastating for the left. Not only does it risk not making it to the second round of the presidential elections in 2017, it also runs the risk of being marginalised in the National Assembly after the next parliamentary elections. The left has never been so unpopular. ... It could be that a new cycle is beginning. And this is not just a French phenomenon; in almost all the countries of Europe, the left is no longer able to govern alone. In fact the Socialist Party finds itself in a vicious circle. It can't govern together with the other leftist parties while at the same time implementing the reforms that are necessary for our country, because a united left tends to be marked by conservatism. Today the only thing that holds the left together is immobility." (04/12/2014)

El Huffington Post - Spain | 03/12/2014

Alexandra Politaki warns Europe against cultural inbreeding

Europe is ruining its chances of crucial cultural renewal with its restrictive immigration policy, Greek journalist Alexandra Politaki warns in the left-liberal online paper El Huffington Post: "The great French historian, Fernand Braudel, wrote in his book La Mediterranee that, as regards its foundations, a culture is a geographical area organised by the people and by history. Vital to this process is the exchange of ideas and practices from other cultures. If Braudel is right, what does Europe's response to immigration tell us about European culture today? The short answer is that Europe is showing extreme reluctance to accept 'cultural goods'. It seems that it is currently looking to repulse, crush, and push back anything that is culturally different to what already exists on the continent. Cultural practices that are very different from what it already knows are almost automatically considered undesirable, even if they originate in great, deep, and historical cultures. The extreme version of this approach relates to human beings, who are of course the bearers of culture. If one is not already a European citizen, entry into Europe nowadays can be so hard that it turns into a matter of life or death." (03/12/2014)

Financial Times - United Kingdom | 01/12/2014

Gideon Rachman on the migration debate in the US and EU

Two weeks ago US President Barack Obama announced plans to give five million illegal immigrants legal status. By contrast British Prime Minister David Cameron called on Friday for stricter regulations for migrants in the EU. The populists will keep the upper hand in the Europe's immigration debate for the time being, the chief columnist of the daily newspaper Financial Times Gideon Rachman comments: "Implicit in the Obama argument is the idea that, in the era of globalisation, rich nations are just going to have to get used to the notion that they will continue to be a magnet for migrants from poorer parts of the world. ... There are several reasons why the Obama argument might work in the US. As the president pointed out, America was built by immigrants. It is also a continent-sized country that has plenty of space. And it has an established two-party system that makes it harder for single-issue, anti-immigration parties to gain ground. But none of those conditions prevail on the other side of the Atlantic. As a result, the populist right is likely to make the running in Europe's immigration debate for some years to come." (01/12/2014)

Corriere della Sera - Italy | 27/11/2014

Bernard-Henri Lévy says recognising Palestine is the wrong approach

The French parliament is due to vote on the recognition of Palestine next week. But this unilateral step would lead to a dead end, philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy writes in the liberal-conservative daily Corriere della Sera: "No honest observer can ignore the fact that both sides have a long way to go. No advocate of peace denies that between the governments in Jerusalem, which, from Rabin to Netanyahu, have never renounced the settlements policy, and a Palestinian leadership that has oscillated between accepting Israel as a fact and rejecting any Jewish presence on Arab land, there is blame enough to go around. But that is precisely what the proponents of unilateral recognition deny. It is very precisely what they forget when they go around saying 'we can't take anymore of this' and 'it is urgent that things move forward,' or that a 'strong gesture' is needed in order to 'apply pressure' and 'unblock the situation,' and that no better 'strong gesture' can be found than to impose on Netanyahu a non-negotiated Palestinian state. And that points to the last critique to be laid against them: their reasoning presupposes that there is only one blockage (the Israeli one) and only one party that needs to be pressured (Israel), and that nothing needs to come from the Palestinian camp." (27/11/2014)

Newsweek Polska - Poland | 25/11/2014

Tomasz Lis on a sloppy Polish state

The vote-counting fiasco in Poland's local elections is a further example of the sloppy mentality of the Polish state, writes Tomasz Lis in Newsweek Polska: "Naturally it's embarrassing for a state when it's unable to tell the people who they voted for. But this state already permitted the Smolensk disaster. And it didn't warn the nation about dubious banks. At the beginning of each year some major crisis occurs. So yet another scenario of chaos and irresponsibility shouldn't come as any surprise. The election debacle is just another event caused by the attitude that 'Somehow things will work out'. And the state always opts for the cheapest approach. ... This is simply the reflection of a sloppy state." (25/11/2014)

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