Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category
10,000 – 15,000 people marched on Monday the 15th of December through the eastern German city of Dresden in an anti-Islamisation demonstration.
The march was the largest yet for the far-right populist PEGIDA movement.
This demonstration and its background were given great prominence in le Monde yesterday (En Allemagne, le discours raciste se banalise). Le Monde emphasised how the numbers attending weekly marches have grown and grown.
The media had not brought up the eternal ‘German neo-Nazism’ hook but the result of the emergence of a growing anti-immigrant/migrant movement in the Germany, a country that has hitherto been immune to the appeal of UKIP/Front National politics. In other words xenophobia knows no European political borders.
The first signs of these developments was in the rise of Alternative für Deutschland.
“Alternative for Germany received 4.7% of the vote in the September 2013 federal election, narrowly failing the 5% threshold for representation.The party won 7 of Germany’s 96 seats for the European Parliament in the 2014 European election, and joined the European Conservatives and Reformists group in June 2014. The party exceeded forecasts in gaining its first representation in state parliament elections in Saxony, Brandenburg and Thuringia during 2014.”
The party is anti-Euro and against any transfer of sovereignty to the European Union. Its anti-immigration policies, and its ‘socially conservative’ (that is, reactionary) social stand, marks it even more firmly on the hard right.
Commentators (including Le Monde) observe an “overlap” between the AfD and PEGIDA,
Der Speigel is one of many media outlets to cover the story including those in the UK (Guardian)
15,000 march in anti-Islamisation PEGIDA (Patriotische Europäer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes) demonstrations in Dresden.
A record number of demonstrators turned out on Monday to march in support of the far-right populist PEGIDA group. The name loosely translates to “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West.”
“The people are with us!,” the group’s founder Lutz Bachmann shouted at the crowd. Monday’s turnout was 50 percent greater than that of a week ago. The rallies started in October in response to clashes between Kurds and Sunni Muslims over the West’s intervention in Syria.
But the nationalist group has largely been protesting over the immigration system in Germany, which has become Europe’s number one destination for asylum seekers – whose lands of origin include Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, as well as several African and Balkan nations.
The emergence of the movement has stunned politicians, one of whom – Ralf Jäger, the Social Democratic (SPD) interior minister for North Rhine Westphalia state – described PEGIDA’s members as “neo-Nazis in pinstripes.” While some neo-Nazis have been seen among the crowds, those gathered have mostly been disenchanted citizens.
More than 1,200 police kept a close watch on the non-violent crowds. Nearby, about 6,000 counter-protesters – made up of civic, political and church groups – marched under the banners “Dresden Nazi-free” and “Dresden for All.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the wave of PEGIDA marches and cautioned Germans against falling prey to xenophobic “rabble rousing.”
An associated right-wing BOGIDA protest took place in the western city of Bonn on Monday. While approximately 300 of the group’s supporters turned up, they were met by 2,000 counter demonstrators who called for peace and tolerance.
Taz carries more details about Pegida’s opponents whose counter-demo moblised 5.500.
The report by Michael Bartsch says that in response one marcher said that the threat was not the Islamisation of the West, but that of a reactionary and barbaric continent ( „Es droht nicht eine Islamisierung des Abendlandes, sondern eine reaktionäre Verrohung Europas!“) He notes however that this alliance against Pegida is “fragile” – it is composed of many very diverse groups, from the ‘anti-dogmatic’ far left, migrant and asylum groups, human rights organisations, religious bodies, to the established parties. The first group, prominent over years of anti-fascist activism, cannot easily co-operate with the later, particularly the governing CDU one of whose representatives, Martin Gillo, turned up at the end of their march.
This (from Wikipedia) relating to the way the Tories have reacted to the rise of AfD is interesting:
During David Cameron‘s prime ministerial visit to Germany in April 2013, the British Conservative Party is reported to have contacted both Alternative for Germany and the Free Voters to discuss the possibility of cooperation, which was supported by the European Conservatives and Reformists group of the European Parliament.
ConservativeHome, a British political website, viewed the AfD’s policies as, “wholly unremarkable,” in response to the AfD’s more cautious reception among the German public. The website also voiced the opinion that the party shouldn’t be compared to the UK Independence Party which calls for a British exit from the EU. According to the conservative grassroots site the AfD’s policies are much closer to those of the British Conservatives, who also reject the euro and wish to implement reform of the EU.
The Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan was speculated to have been advocating for the British Conservatives and AfD to link following the 2014 EU elections via the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists with possible membership in the EU parliament grouping European Conservatives and Reformists, which was formed after the Conservatives withdrew from the European Democrats sub group of the European People’s Party, to which Angela Merkel’s CDU belong.
Some British Conservatives such as Timothy Kirkhope were more reluctant to be seen as too openly courting the AfD, should it damage relations with Angela Merkel’s CDU, which they speculated could hinder attempts by the Conservative Party to renegotiate treaties before a proposed referendum on British EU membership in 2017. Hans-Olaf Henkel stated that the AfD had heard rumours that Angela Merkel had told David Cameron to keep his distance from the party during the run-up to the 2014 European Election.
Response from the political journalist Andrew Gimson writing at ConservativeHome was broadly positive about the possibility of the Conservatives working with AfD. Paul Goodman, editor of ConservativeHome has also been welcoming towards cooperation with AfD, playing down the risks that cooperation would affect the relationship between David Cameron and Angela Merkel.
Before the European Election Bernd Lucke had been in talks with the Czech and Polish parties of ECR, but acknowledged the concerns the British Conservatives had about the admission of the AfD into the group.
Socialist Party Leader Elio Di Rupo Backs Strikers.
Today the police in Belgium are observing a work-to-rule (grève du zèle).
The successful General Strike on Monday saw the country’s transport system grind to a halt, almost all public services closed, and workers in the private sector joined the protests.The unions also mobilised road Hauliers to bloc access to major cities.
There were a small number of clashes between strikers and scabs.
The left has described the strike as “historic”.
The International Monetary Fund has, however, just stated that the “reforms” launched the Belgian right-centred Coalition go in the “right direction” (La Libre Belgique).
Hard-right Bart de Weever, of the N-VA (Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie)which advocates the Scottish nationalist style break-up of the state, and who is seen by many as the éminence grise of the government, denounced the strike as “political”.
There were tense moments when Trade Unionists protested outside the Brussels headquarters of the N-VA shouting, “« N-VA, casse-toi, la Belgique n’est pas à toi », N-VA, Piss off! You don’t own Belgium!”
Further action is planned for mid-January.
At present negotiations are underway. Centre-right Coalition Minister, Willy Borsus (MR – Mouvement réformateur ) has already dismissed the day of action saying that the turn-out was “modest” ( “La mobilisation fut modeste” ) Le Soir
The Morning Star carries a good report.
BELGIAN trade unions capped a month of action against government austerity policies with a general strike today that paralysed air and rail traffic and halted businesses across the country.
The strike targeted measures by the nation’s right-of-centre government to cut into employees’ income, extend working hours and restrict social services.
The huge action had an immediate international impact since Brussels airport, a busy hub with connections throughout Europe and beyond, had no traffic whatsoever.
Airport spokeswoman Florence Muls said some 600 flights have been cancelled, affecting more than 50,000 passengers.
Flights to and from Belgium were grounded from late on Sunday as air traffic controllers joined the strike for the second Monday this month.
The series of trade union actions, which have been the toughest in years, started last month with a demonstration in the capital that drew more than 150,000 protesters.
The government led by new Prime Minister Charles Michel, who was sworn in two months ago, plans to cut expenditure by €11bn (£8.7bn) during the next five years.
The unions are opposing a government decision to scrap a cost-of-living wage rise next year. Belgian law currently mandates that wages rise at the same pace as inflation.
The unions are also protesting against public-sector cutbacks and plans to increase the retirement age.
The 24-hour strike was the largest to have taken place in Belgium for many years.
As well as the transport closures, it forced government offices and schools to close and the country’s ports were blockaded.
The Belgian government has claimed that it must operate its cuts strategy in order to stay within EU debt limits.
But the European Transport Workers’ Federation disagreed and welcomed the strike, warning that “the Belgian government is using EU austerity targets to penalise families, both employed and unemployed, students and the poorest people in society.
“It is not targeting the big capital that remains almost untouched by the government’s austerity measures.”
There is talk of extending trade union action into the new year, but concrete measures have yet to be put forward.
See also:« Messieurs De Wever et Michel, la Belgique en grève veut prendre un tout autre chemin que le vôtre » Parti du travail de Belgique – Partij van de Arbeid van België (PTB – PVDA). Bruxelles. Et après le 15? On continue, bien sûr! Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) et Socialistische arbeiderspartij (SAP)
Back our Belgian Sisters and Brothers!
BRUSSELS, Oct 16 (Reuters)
Belgium’s unions have called for a series of regional strikes culminating in a general strike on December 15 to voice their discontent over government plans to implement austerity measures and hike the pension age.
Belgium’s new federal government, which took office on Saturday, said it would raise the state pension age to 67 from 65, scrap a planned inflation-linked wage rise due next year and find savings in the public sector, including the health and social security budget.
“The government is deaf to the workers and recipients of social benefits but generous to the employers and the rich,” a common statement by the country’s three largest unions said.
The unions plan regional strikes every Monday starting November 24, culminating in a national strike on December 15.
The government said the austerity measures are needed to balance Belgium’s budget by 2018 and tackle the country’s national debt of about 100 percent of economic output, one of the highest in the euro zone. (Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Dominic Evans)
The general strike has been called by the FGTB (socialist), CSC (Christian) et CGSLB (liberal).
The scale of the action promises to be enormous.
Transport will be paralysed, public services will grind to a halt, the Union belge du transport (UBT) has urged lorry drivers to join the movement, and many in the private sector will support the mass protests (more here).
Des piquets de grève temporaires « volants », des cellules qui bloqueront donc différents points capitaux au cours de la journée, seront mis en place ce lundi et des équipes de militants de la FGTB se tiendront prêtes à venir porter renfort aux piquets manquant d’effectifs.
‘Flying pickets’ , that is ‘cells’ of moving strikers, will block different sectors of the Capital during the day. They will be set up by activists from the FGTB (socialist/social democrat union federation) who will help any pickets that need reinforcements.
The day will be marked by demonstrations in the streets.
More details in Le Soir.
Bart de Wever, the leader of the Flemish nationalist party (N-VA) and part of the ruling ‘Michel Coaltion’ (hard right to centre right),has criticised the strikes.
He said yesterday that the unions had come out with “une véritable désinformation et parfois de vrais mensonges” misinformation and sometimes outright lies. De Wever accsued the trade unions of being the “”bras armé du PS”, the armed wing, of the Socialist Party.
The leader of the Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste, and former Prime Minister, Di Rupo has backed the strikes – though underlines that the union federations have taken this action independently and on their own initiative.
Sciopero generale, trasporti bloccati 54 manifestazioni in tutta Italia.
General Strike, transport at a halt, 54 demonstrations across Italy.
Trade unions in Italy are staging an eight-hour general strike in protest against labor market reforms and austerity measures. The country is experiencing high unemployment, particularly among the young.
A general strike called by two major Italian trade unions on Friday hit schools, hospitals, airports, highways, ports and public transport across the country, as public and private sector workers protested against unpopular reforms to the labor market and cuts to public spending.
The strike was initiated by Italy’s first and third-largest unions, CGIL and UIL, with the second-largest labor confederation, CISL, refusing to participate.
More than 50 rallies or protest marches at various locations were expected to accompany the walkout, held under the motto “Cosi non va!” (approximately: “This is not the right way”).
Railways staff are among those taking part in the strike, despite having been initially banned from participation by the government.
The protests are directed mainly at the so-called Jobs Act, which in principle received parliamentary approval last week but has yet to be implemented.
The legislation will make it easier for companies to fire employees without giving them high severance payments. It would, however, also expand benefits and job-hunting services for the unemployed.
The unions are also outraged by planned cuts to public spending in the 2015 budget, proposed by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in a bid to boost an economy enmired in a three-year-long recession.
Unions want “to improve the labor law and the budget law, giving priority to labor, industrial policies, crisis-stricken manufacturing sectors, the defense and relaunch of public sectors and the creation of new and good jobs,” said Susanna Camusso, head of the CGIL union.
In a recent sign of how fragile the Italian economy is, unemployment rose to 13.2 percent in October, the highest rate since records began to be kept in 1977.
The number of jobless youth is more than three times that, standing at a massive 43.3 percent.
Italy has a ‘centre left’ government headed by Matteo Renzi of the ‘social democratic’ Partito Democratico (Democratic Party).
They are determined to ‘reform’ Italy, cut spending, and make the labour market more ‘flexible’.
Essential reading on Italian politics by Tobias Abse: Strikes, smoke bombs and tear gas. Toby Abse reports on the latest union action and the autonomists’ social strike (20.11.14).
And see: Renzi cows the unions. Hugh Edwards.
Radical Left Music Played on La Première this Morning.
BRUSSELS, Belgium — Belgian workers striking against government austerity plans have badly snarled rail and air service to and from the capital city of Brussels.
As of Monday morning, 44 per cent of flights at Brussels main airport were reported cancelled.
Labour union leaders announced they have also shut down Eurostar and Thalys train service to and from London, Paris and other international destinations.
Metro, bus and tram service in Brussels itself has ground to a halt.
The one-day strike, which also affects the French-speaking Brabant region south of Brussels, is the latest in a series of union actions intended to force the government of Prime Minister Charles Michel to backtrack on a programme to reform pensions, cut health and social security budgets and raise the retirement age
Videos and information on the Strike here.
This is the news this morning (le Soir)
La CGSP dépose un préavis de grève illimité à partir du 16 décembre
Le préavis concerne la fonction publique et les entreprises publiques autonomes.
The CGSP (socialist-social democratic – union federation of those working in the public services) has, conforming with Belgian law, made a formal announcement of an unlimited general strike.
It concerns those working in public sector, including in state enterprises.
Our Beloved Comrades the Jihadists are out to Murder.
“Rather than banning fighters from coming home, governments should consider employing them as spokespeople in their home communities.”
No this does not from the Guardian Comment is Free or from those see some elements of ‘progressive’ politics in the battle for the ‘Caliphate’.
It’s by “Josh Cohen …a former US State Department project officer. He currently works for a satellite technology company, contributes to a number of foreign policy-focused media outlets and tweets @jkc_in_dc. “
And it appears on Now.
It must rank, and it certainly ranks, as the most willfully vile suggestion that’s floating around.
We make a sharp distinction between attitudes and actions. All attitudes must be dissected and debated. This is the lifeblood of a democracy.”
One obvious question, then, is where the West’s Syrian jihadists — and would-be jihadists — land if prevented from returning home. Stateless and now rejected by their home countries, many will likely wind up in tertiary countries such as Yemen or Libya, where they are much more likely to come into contact with groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) or Ansar al-Shariah, and in turn potentially become part of a core of angry, “professional” jihadists dedicated to bringing destruction to Europe and the West.
Another important fact to consider is that many Westerners who have joined ISIS in Syria have become disillusioned with the organization upon discovering its brutality towards its fellow Muslims — not to mention the fact that jihad is not quite so glamorous when you are pulling washing duty and your iPod doesn’t work. One example of this phenomenon is the 30 British citizens with ISIS who have expressed a desire to return home but are stuck in limbo due to fears of long prison sentences when they arrive back in the UK. Rather than banning them from coming home, the UK government should consider employing them as spokespeople in their home communities as the perfect antidote to the tremendously effective social media recruitment campaigns with which ISIS targets young Western Muslims.
Finally, stripping returning jihadists of their citizenship may actually violate the UN Convention on Reducing Statelessness, as well as international human rights law. Referring to the UK’s revocation of citizenship, Dr. Christophe Paulussen, of the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism at the Hague, noted that “it becomes dangerous when measures are slowly eroding [international] law principles that we have cherished for so long and that we stand for.”
In Denmark, by contrast,
the municipality of Aarhus has implemented a unique program that focuses on inclusion rather than punishment.
And while implementing a de-radicalisation programme in the country,
…not all radicalization can be prevented, so Aarhus has also established a comprehensive reintegration and de-radicalization program for those returning from Syria. “The program’s core is that we have one entry point to help, but that help can have very different characteristics depending on the individual situation. It can be debriefing or psychological help; it may be in the form of a mentor, assistance with housing or something else. The program is rooted in the police, but includes many different disciplines,” Agerschou noted.
While some believe the Aarhus program is too soft, so far it is working. In 2013, 30 people travelled from Aarhus to Syria to participate in the conflict. As of August, however, only one person had been recorded travelling from Aarhus to Syria in 2014. Aarhus is also working with numerous returnees, most of whom are now engaged in work or education rather than the conflict in Syria. Word of Aarhus’ focus on rehabilitation and dialogue has spread in Syria, impelling many Danish Muslims — most of whom have also become disillusioned with jihad — to seek a way to return to Denmark and leave the jihadi life behind.
While there is no single anecdote for homegrown jihadism, Aarhus offers a model that Western governments would be wise to at least consider.
In our view those fighting with the genociders of Da’esh (Isis) and Al Nusra (also guilty of persecution, torture and mass murder) and should be investigated for war crimes.
They should indeed be excluded from society.
Fight for Public Services in Belgium.
Before next Monday’s general strike Brussels has been brought to a halt by strikes (part of a series of ‘ grèves tournantes’ rotating strikes) today.
Belgian workers striking against government austerity plans have badly snarled rail and air service to and from the capital city of Brussels.
As of Monday morning, 44 percent of flights at Brussels main airport were reported canceled.
Labour union leaders announced they have also shut down Eurostar and Thalys train service to and from London, Paris and other international destinations.
Metro, bus and tram service in Brussels itself has ground to a halt.
The one-day strike, which also affects the French-speaking Brabant region south of Brussels, is the latest in a series of union actions intended to force the government of Prime Minister Charles Michel to backtrack on a programme to reform pensions, cut health and social security budgets and raise the retirement age.
Le Soir reports on mass picketing and the barricades preventing traffic entry to the Belgium Capital (a map of these is published in the paper). The police have been called to a picket at the Saint-Gilles Prison.
This morning listening to the public radio station, La Première, I was impressed by the sheer number of pickets (over 500 in Brussels alone).
La Libre Belgique also publishes extensive reports.
More information on the site Solidarité Ouvrière.
Trade Union news on the General Strike (of all the 3 major union federations, ACV-CSC (Christian), la ABVV-FGTB (Socialist) et la ACLVB-CGSLB(Liberal) of the 15th of December: 15/12 grève nationale.
Largest Far left Party: Partij van de Arbeid van België, PVDA; Parti du Travail de Belgique, PTB
Video of Socialist Party (social democratic) participation in 6th of November mass demonstration against austerity, here.