Category - Europe

Record 137,000 migrants crossed Mediterranean

Reuters, July 1

More than 135,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe by sea in the first half of 2015, with most of the burden being borne by countries in southern Europe, according to a new report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“Desperate people resort to desperate measures and unfortunately … the numbers are expected to continue to soar,” said Brian Hansford, a spokesperson for UNHCR.

The number of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe in the first six months of 2015 increased more than 80 percent increase from the same time period in 2014, the UNHCR report said.

Greece debt crisis: ECB ‘to end’ bank emergency lending

The European Central Bank is expected to end emergency lending to Greece’s banks on Sunday, the BBC understands.

BBC, June 28

Well-placed sources told BBC economics editor Robert Peston a decision to end the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) would be made by the ECB’s governing council later on Sunday.

Greek banks depend on ELA funds daily.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said his government would consider overnight what measures to take “to minimise the burden on our people”.

Cutting the ECB lifeline could push Greece out of the euro.

Such an ECB cut would mean “Europe has failed”, Mr Varoufakis told the BBC’s World this Weekend.

Via Naked Capitalism: BBC: ECB to Stop Emergency Support of Greek Banks on Monday; Bank Holiday Likely

The Guardian: Greek crisis: Banks shut for a week as capital controls imposed – live updates

Greek banks will not open until July 7 in an attempt to avoid financial panic, after ECB capped the emergency funds keeping them running



Eurozone doomed whether Greece leaves or stays, study shows

The single currency is forcing its members further apart and cannot survive in its current form, new analysis shows

The Telegraph, By James Kirkup, June 21

The Eurozone is doomed and cannot survive in its current form, regardless of what happens to Greece, a major new study shows.

New research demonstrates that members of the single European currency are becoming more economically divergent, making a single rate of interest increasingly unsuitable for the bloc.

Political, social and cultural differences will also make it increasingly hard for the euro members to share a currency. Eventually, the Eurozone will have to either “integrate or disintegrate”, the analysis says.

The research, by economic consultants from the ECU Group, is part of Change, or Go, a wide-ranging study of Britain’s European Union membership and future prospects.

Austere brand of Islam on rise in Europe, stirring concerns

Associated Press, By Elaine Ganley, June 21

Paris — Its imams preach austere piety, its tenets demand strict separation of sexes — and some of its most radical adherents are heeding the call of jihad. Salafism, an Islamic movement based on a literal reading of the Quran, is on the rise in France, Germany and Britain, security officials say, with Salafis sharply increasing their influence in mosques and on the streets.

The trend worries European authorities, who see Salafism as one of the inspirational forces for young Europeans heading to Syria or Iraq to do battle for the Islamic State group. Experts, however, point out that the vast majority of Salafis are peace-loving.

In Germany, there are currently about 7,000 Salafis in the country — nearly double the 3,800 estimated four years ago, the Interior Ministry said last month. About 100 French mosques are now controlled by Salafis, a small number compared to the more than 2,000 Muslim houses of worship, but more than double the number four years ago, a senior security official told The Associated Press. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. France does not do head-counts by religious practices or origins.

In Britain the numbers are on the rise, too. Seven percent of Britain’s 1,740 mosques are run by Salafis, according to Mehmood Naqshbandi, an expert on Britain’s Muslims and counter-extremism adviser to the British government who keeps a database of the various currents of Islam in Britain. He says those numbers are steadily growing, especially among young people — and that a quarter to half of British Muslims under 30 “accept some parts or all of the Salafi theology.”

EU issues final warning to Greece as last-ditch talks achieve nothing

The Greek interior ministry has ordered governors and mayors to transfer all cash reserves to the central bank as bankruptcy closes in.

The Telegraph, By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, June 11

The European Union has warned Greece in the clearest language to date that its patience is exhausted and the country will be abandoned to its fate unless it accepts creditor demands in short order.

Donald Tusk, the EU’s president, said the radical-Left Syriza government must stop spinning out the negotiations and face hard choices before Greece spirals irrevocably into default.

“There is no more time for gambling. The day is coming, I’m afraid, that someone says that the game is over,” he said.

The blunt language came as the International Monetary Fund pulled its officials out of the talks, citing a failure to break the deadlock after four months of wrangling. “There are major differences between us in most key areas. There has been no progress in narrowing these differences,” it said.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn acquitted of ‘aggravated pimping’

BBC, June 12

A French court has acquitted former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of procuring prostitutes for sex parties in France, Belgium and the US.

Mr Strauss-Kahn stood alongside 13 co-defendants, most of whom were also acquitted of “aggravated pimping”.

He has always denied knowing that some of the women who took part in orgies he attended were prostitutes.

In Spain’s Seismic Elections, ‘It’s the Victory of David Over Goliath’

The country’s political landscape has changed beyond recognition, with left-wing parties gaining everywhere.

The Nation, By Bécquer Seguín & Sebastiaan Faber, May 26

“It’s the victory of David over Goliath,” said Ada Colau in front of an ecstatic crowd just before midnight on May 24. Colau, the former spokesperson of Spain’s anti-eviction movement (PAH) and the country’s most visible face of popular outrage against austerity, is likely to be the new mayor of Barcelona.

Spain’s local and regional elections have changed the country’s political landscape beyond recognition. Marking an end to thirty years of two-party dominance, they have shifted majorities everywhere to the left. The unprecedented rise of two new political forces—Podemos (“We can”) on the left, and Ciudadanos (“Citizens”) on the right—has siphoned traditional votes from the Socialist Party (PSOE) and, especially, the ruling Popular Party (PP). The PP, although it remained the largest party, lost some 2.5 million votes and, with them, the ability to govern in the majority of Spain’s autonomous regions as well as the cities of Madrid, Valladolid, and Valencia. The PSOE, for its part, has positively spun its otherwise unremarkable electoral showing by proclaiming itself the “top political force on the left.” Among the casualties of the seismic shift are a handful of longstanding smaller groups, including the United Left (Izquierda Unida).

To be sure, the new situation will take some getting used to. Spain now has four major national parties. Throughout the country, coalition governments will be the new norm. And looming over the difficult negotiations to build governing majorities are this fall’s national elections. Spain’s future hangs in the balance, and any misstep could prove costly.


The Guardian – Comment is free: The British left must learn to speak a new language – Spanish, Owen Jones

‘Politics has nothing to do with being right,” says the pony-tailed Spanish political phenomenon Pablo Iglesias. “Politics is about succeeding.” And succeed is what the Spanish left does.

The fortresses of Madrid and Barcelona fell in regional elections this weekend, now set to be ruled by two feminist radicals who are implacably opposed to austerity and the free market order. Movements linked to Podemos – the party led by Iglesias which was formed only last year – has mounted the biggest challenge to Spain’s two-party system since the restoration of democracy four decades ago. Spain has one of the fastest growing economies in the EU, but economic growth has not rescued the defenders of a grotesquely unequal order.

Poland Moves To The Right As Conservative Challenger Unseats Incumbent President

Forbes, By Luiza Oleszczuk, May 25

Polish president Bronislaw Komorowski has conceded the runoff election to his rival after partial official results and exit polls on Monday confirmed the victory of conservative candidate Andrzej Duda in Poland’s presidential race. Duda, of the right-wing Law and Justice party, defeated incumbent Bronislaw Komorowski of the center-right Civic Platform, which has governed Poland since 2007.

Duda won overwhelmingly among the rural regions, as opposed to cities, and geographically, in the eastern half of Poland. This illustrates how strongly the country is divided as far as economic development, social status and education (eastern Poland being much less economically and infrastructurally developed than its western half, with a generally less educated, more rural population). Komorowski actually took more voivodeships (Polish administrative regions), but Duda received more individual votes.
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Ireland Votes to Approve Gay Marriage, Putting Country in Vanguard

New York Times, By Danny Hakim & Douglas Dalby, May 23

Dublin — Ireland has become the first nation to approve same-sex marriage by a popular vote, sweeping aside the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church in a resounding victory Saturday for the gay rights movement and placing the country at the vanguard of social change.

With ballots from 34 out of the 43 voting areas counted, the vote was almost two to one in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. All but one of the districts that were counted voted yes, and it appeared to be statistically impossible for opposition votes to overcome the ayes.

Turnout was large — more than 60 percent of the 3.2 million people eligible to vote cast ballots. Government officials, advocates and even those who had argued against the measure said that the outcome was a resounding endorsement of the constitutional amendment.

Irish Times: Marriage Referendum
Irish Times: Marriage Referendum Results
Irish Times: Ireland becomes first country to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote

Ireland appears set to say ‘yes’ in gay marriage vote

National polls indicate country would back legalisation by margin as much as two-to-one, signalling major social shift.

Al Jazeera, May 17

A series of polls have indicated that Ireland is very likely to vote in a favour of legalising same-sex marriage in an upcoming referendum.

Polls on Saturday suggested that voters would back the move in a referendum set for Friday by a margin as much as two-to-one, making Ireland the first country to approve the policy in a national plebiscite.

Support for homosexual rights has surged in Ireland, which has been considered one of the most socially conservative countries in western Europe, in recent decades as the power of the Catholic Church collapsed in the wake of a series of child abuse scandals.

[…]

If Ireland votes yes, it will join 18 countries which have made, or are in the process of making the change, 13 of them in Europe.

[…]

Other European countries that have legalised gay marriage include Iceland, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, and Finland. The UK legalised same-sex marriage in England and Wales in 2013. [Also Belgium, The Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, Norway].

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