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De Europese Unie - Deel 13

Algemene informatie over Europa

Publicatie: 26 november 2005

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Raadpleeg hier: De Europese Unie - Deel 10

Raadpleeg hier: De Europese Unie - Deel 11

Raadpleeg hier: De Europese Unie - Deel 12



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- OVV Dossier "De Europese Grondwet": Deel 1 - Deel 2 - Deel 3 - Deel 4 - Deel 5 - Deel 6 - Deel 7 - Deel 8
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- Knack Dossier "Terreur in Europa": Terrorisme









EU tevreden over begrotingsbeleid Duitsland

De Volkskrant - 09/09/2006


Duitsland hoeft van Europees Commissaris Joaquin Almunia (monetaire zaken) geen extra maatregelen meer te nemen om het begrotingstekort verder terug te dringen. "Er zijn voldoende positieve en adequate maatregelen genomen", aldus Almunia zaterdag in Helsinki, na afloop van informeel overleg met de Europese ministers van Financiën.

Het Duitse begrotingstekort zou dit jaar nog uit kunnen komen beneden de limiet van 3 procent van het bruto nationaal product (bnp), de totale omvang van de nationale economie, die is vastgelegd in de regels voor eurolanden.

In het verleden ontstonden grote problemen omdat Duitsland, Frankrijk en Italië te hoge tekorten hadden. De nieuwe Duitse minister van Financiën Peer Steinbruck kreeg van Almunia zaterdag echter alle lof voor zijn inspanningen om het tekort terug te dringen.

Vrijdag riep minister Gerrit Zalm van Financiën zijn Duitse collega nog op om de hogere economische groeiramingen in de EU niet aan te grijpen om op de rem te trappen bij hervormingen en bezuinigingen. Dat is Steinbruck ook niet van plan. "Hij heeft vandaag een toespraak gehouden die ons als muziek in de oren klonk", aldus de Finse bewindsman en voorzitter van het overleg in Helsinki Eero Heinäluoma.

Almunia verwacht eind november nieuwe voorstellen van Duitsland, voor de begroting van 2007. Daarna zullen de ministers van Financiën van de EU beslissen of de gele kaart die Duitsland eerder kreeg voor het te hoog opgelopen begrotingstekort weer wordt ingetrokken.

Almunia en voorzitter van de Europese Centrale Bank Jean-Claude Trichet riepen de EU-lidstaten zaterdag, evenals Zalm op vrijdag, op om de hogere belastinginkomsten als gevolg van de stijgende economische groei te gebruiken om de begrotingstekorten terug te dringen. Verdere hervorming van de arbeids- en goederenmarkten en de financiële sector kan de EU volgens hen ook helpen om meer weerstand op te bouwen tegen mogelijke nieuwe schokken op de beurs en stijgende olieprijzen.

Verder is een voortgaande liberalisering van de wereldhandel nodig. Heinäluoma, Almunia en Trichet deden zaterdag een fors beroep op alle grote wereldeconomiën om de in het slop geraakte onderhandelingen over de vrijhandel weer nieuw leven in te blazen. Het stilvallen van de onderhandelingen in Doha, in Qatar, in juli van dit jaar heeft volgens Heinäluoma "negatieve effecten" gehad.

Volgens Almunia moet de EU in de tussentijd wel doorgaan met het afsluiten van aparte handelsverdragen met diverse landen, zoals dat zaterdag nog gebeurde met Zuid-Korea. "Dit is niet in strijd met het streven naar een algemeen, multilateraal wereldhandelsakkoord."

De opheffing van handelsbeperkingen en importheffingen staat zondag ook op de agenda van overleg in Helsinki tussen de EU-staats- en regeringsleiders en premiers en presidenten van tien Aziatische landen, verenigd in de ASEAN. Premier Jan-Peter Balkenende reist daarvoor ook naar Helsinki.






EU en China gaan nauwer samenwerken

www.vrtnieuws.net - 09/09/06


In de Finse hoofdstad Helsinki hebben China en de Europese Unie een akkoord over nauwere samenwerking ondertekend.

De Chinese premier Wen Jiabao praatte in Helsinki met voorzitter José Manuel Barroso van de Europese Commissie en de Finse premier Matti Vanhanen, momenteel voorzitter van de Unie.

China weigerde om de uitbreiding van de handel te koppelen aan de mensenrechten. Zo blijft de Chinese regering zweren bij de doodstraf. Volgens Amnesty International zijn er in China jaarlijks 10.000 terechtstellingen.

Anderzijds wilde Peking dat Europa het embargo op het leveren van wapens zou opheffen, maar Europa heeft daarover geen toegevingen gedaan.

Het embargo werd in 1989 ingevoerd na de de bloedige onderdrukking van de democratische opstand op het plein van de Hemelse Vrede in Peking.

De Europese Unie wil wel de handel met China opvoeren. Die bedroeg vorig jaar 200 miljard euro.






EU en China gaan onderhandelen over handel

De Volkskrant - 09/09/2006


De Europese Unie en China hebben zaterdag besloten onderhandelingen te beginnen die moeten leiden tot een breed verdrag over de handel en investeringen. Ook een aantal andere onderwerpen komt tijdens de besprekingen aan de orde, waaronder de naleving van de mensenrechten.

Brussel en Peking besloten om diverse onderwerpen gescheiden te behandelen, meldden de twee partijen na een bijeenkomst in de Finse hoofdstad Helsinki.

Toch streeft de EU naar een alomvattend akkoord met China, een zogenoemd Partnerschap en Samenwerkingsverdrag. China heeft de EU verder gevraagd het wapenembargo dat tegen het land van kracht is op te heffen.






EU-instellingen verspillen miljoenen euro's aan tolken

De Tijd - 05/09/2006


De Europese instellingen spenderen miljoenen euro's aan tolken die niet ingezet worden. In 2003 ging bijna 26 miljoen euro verloren aan aangevraagde, maar niet gebruikte diensten en wachtdienstregelingen.

Dat staat in een rapport van het Finse europarlementslid Alexander Stubb dat dinsdag in Straatsburg werd goedgekeurd.

De totale vertolkingskosten bedroegen in 2003 163 miljoen euro. Ongeveer 16 procent van dat budget, ofwel 25,9 miljoen euro, werd verspild aan de reservatie van tolken die vervolgens niet ingezet worden. Doorgaans ging het om tolken die vrijgemaakt worden voor vergaderingen die in laatste instantie geannuleerd werden.

Enkele media wezen de voorbije weken de Europarlementsleden als grote boosdoeners aan, maar het halfrond weigert het boetekleed aan te trekken. Volgens de Europese Rekenkamer mag slechts vier van de 26 miljoen euro op conto van het EP worden geschreven. Dat is redelijk goed, zo stelt het EP in een mededeling, aangezien het parlement de enige instelling is die bijna de hele tijd alle officiële talen moet gebruiken.

Bovendien, zo vervolgt het EP, krijgt gemiddeld tweederde van de beschikbare tolken na een annulering onmiddellijk een nieuwe opdracht toegewezen. Daardoor verspilde het halrond in de praktijk geen vier, maar slechts 2,5 miljoen euro aan overbodige tolken. Het EP wijst er tenslotte op dat er sinds 2003 verscheidene maatregelen zijn genomen om het aantal annuleringen tot een minimum te beperken.

Het vertaal- en tolkwerk kostte de Europese instellingen in 2003 één procent van het totale budget, ofwel ongeveer 1 miljard euro. Een aanvaardbare kostprijs voor de meertaligheid en culturele diversiteit van Europa en de gelijke behandeling van alle EU-burgers, beklemtoont Stubb in zijn rapport. Sinds de toetreding van Malta, Cyprus en acht landen uit het voormalige Oostblok, telt de EU twintig officiële talen.






Just a moment, or possibly more

Europe now has a chance to play more than a marginal role in the Middle East

The Economist - Aug 31st 2006


"It's Europe's moment in the Arab-Israeli arena," says Martin Indyk, a former American ambassador to Israel and head of the Saban Centre, a Washington DC think-tank. If true, that may mean a big change in one of the world's most dangerous spots.

Europeans have been marginal in the Middle East for years. Too pro-Palestinian to be trusted by Israel, they have not had much power or influence over the Arabs either. For many Americans, Europe's current involvement in Lebanon continues the tradition of irrelevance. It has been rather like a "three-stooges" show in which Jacques Chirac grandiloquently announces that France will save the world, offers to send three men and a popgun, and is finally shamed by—of all nations—Italy into sending 2,000 troops, which still won't be enough. Given an opportunity to show leadership in the region, Europe fluffs it. Again.

Is that too harsh? Of course, Europe's intervention may yet go horribly wrong, as have so many previous efforts. But to dismiss what is happening in advance is to miss its potential importance. Europeans are sending 7,000 soldiers to the United Nations' peacekeeping force in Lebanon. This, as it happens, is the number of British soldiers in Iraq—not a negligible force. Two or ten years ago, it would have been hard to imagine Europeans taking such a role. Something has clearly changed. Two things, in fact.

So long as America was trying to broker an Arab-Israeli peace (that is, under Bill Clinton), there was no room for more interlocutors; Europeans were relegated to the role of silent paymaster. But George Bush never picked up where Mr Clinton left off.

More immediately, almost everyone in the region is suffering stings of self-doubt—and a crisis of confidence can chasten people into thinking the previously unthinkable. Israel has clearly suffered a shock in Lebanon. But so has Hizbullah, to judge by the admission on television by its leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, that he would never have ordered the cross-border kidnapping of Israeli soldiers if he had known what Israel's response was going to be. Coincidentally, a spokesman for the Palestinians' Hamas joined in the self-recrimination. He complained, in a newspaper, that "Gaza is suffering under the yoke and anarchy and the swords of thugs" (he didn't mean Israel, for once).

And while it would be too much to claim the Bush administration has been shaken by comparable anxiety (at least in public), America's scope for action in the region is limited, partly by choice and partly by the fall-out from the occupation of Iraq.

That puts Europe into the unfamiliar position of being the one who hasn't messed up recently. The European-led UN force should give Israel an exit strategy from its Lebanese misadventure. In another European accomplishment, France last year helped America push Syria out of Lebanon—a feat Mr Bush hailed as a triumph (though that was before Israel's war against Hizbullah rained destruction on parts of this model state).

Less well known, but not entirely trivial, the European Union, under an Italian carabinieri general, monitors the only land crossing between the Gaza strip and the Arab world, preventing, or at least limiting, weapons smuggling to Hamas.

How sharp are your claws?

The question is whether this activity can amount to anything substantial. Can it, for example, move Israelis and Palestinians towards some sort of peace talks? The European Union is already in the so-called "quartet", the body that with America, Russia and the UN presides over the so-called "road map" to peace. As part of the quartet, the Europeans have been party to the controversial decision to suspend aid to the Palestinian Authority until Hamas, which now controls the Palestinian legislature, recognises Israel's right to exist and agrees to honour previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. The road map, however, is going nowhere, and the isolation of Hamas has so far added to Palestinian misery without persuading it to comply with the quartet's demands.

Mr Chirac says the time is right to relaunch the peace process. But how? European diplomats say that in Lebanon Europe should use its troops, influence and money to help the government of Fouad Siniora bring Hizbullah under control, making it a normal part of the Lebanese polity and less of an instrument of Iran and Syria. In the Palestinian territories the Europeans want to nudge Hamas and the more secular and accommodating Fatah movement towards some sort of coalition agreement, which may in turn help to break the impasse between the Palestinians and Israel.

To do these things, however, the Europeans will have to overcome tough opponents. Hizbullah does not intend to disarm, and neither Syria nor Iran wishes it to stop being a state within a state. Hamas's ideological objection to accepting Israel's right to exist is deeply held. As for Israel, it will not quickly overcome an instinctive distrust of Europe, or its preference for dealing with a superpower that has long been seen as the only outsider with a genuine understanding of the Jewish state's security needs. On that last score, much will depend on how seriously the Europeans in Lebanon are seen to take their job of policing the south and preventing arms transfers to Hizbullah.

Only if the Europeans pass these rather difficult tests will the European moment in the Middle East really amount to something. Italy's foreign minister, Massimo D'Alema, argues that co-operation over Israel, Lebanon and Palestine could help to improve ties with America, by showing that the Europeans and Americans can work together in the Arab-Israeli conflict just as they have already done in their efforts to stop Iran's suspected development of nuclear weapons. It is worth noticing, however, that close transatlantic co-operation on Iran, backed up by a resolution from the Security Council, has not yet persuaded the Islamic Republic to stop uranium enrichment. As Europe is about to rediscover, they play rough in the Middle East.






Le Premier ministre polonais veut rassurer l'Europe

La Libre Belgique - 30/08/2006


M. Barroso avait auparavant indiqué avoir fait part à M. Kaczynski des "inquiétudes" relayées par les médias concernant l'attitude du nouveau gouvernement polonais dominé par M. Kaczynski et son frère jumeau, notamment sur la peine de mort, l'homosexualité, ou l'antisémitisme.

Lors de sa visite mercredi à Bruxelles, le Premier ministre polonais Jaroslaw Kaczynski, frère jumeau du président Lech Kaczynski, a tout fait pour rassurer les responsables européennes sur le rôle et le comportement de la Pologne dans l'UE, devenus un sujet de préoccupation.

"J'ai dit (à M. Barroso) que la Pologne était une démocratie au sens le plus large du terme, et qu'elle restera une démocratie. C'est un pays à économie de marché et nous allons travailler à consolider le marché. Les changements que nous introduisons aujourd'hui servent justement à renforcer la démocratie", a déclaré le Premier ministre polonais lors d'un point de presse commun avec le président de la Commission européenne José Manuel Barroso.

M. Barroso avait auparavant indiqué avoir fait part à M. Kaczynski des "inquiétudes" relayées par les médias concernant l'attitude du nouveau gouvernement polonais dominé par M. Kaczynski et son frère jumeau, notamment sur la peine de mort, l'homosexualité, ou l'antisémitisme.

Le président de la Commission européenne a ajouté qu'il avait rappelé lors de ces entretiens la "communauté de valeurs" au sein de l'UE, notamment en matière de "droits de l'Homme et de non discrimination".

"Il m'a dit qu'il n'y avait aucune raison de croire les critiques qui ont été exprimées", a déclaré M. Barroso.

"C'est avec satisfaction que j'ai entendu qu'il n'y avait aucun doute quant à l'attachement de la Pologne aux valeurs que nous partageons tous", a-t-il ajouté.

Le Premier ministre polonais a quant à lui appelé les Européens à aller en Pologne pour vérifier par eux-mêmes que les accusations d'une "Pologne antisémite, homophobe et xénophobe" ne sont qu'un "mythe".

"Ne croyez pas au mythe d'une Pologne antisémite, homophobe et xénophobe", a déclaré M. Kaczynski.

"S'il vous plaît, venez en Pologne pour quelques jours, venez dans mon pays et vous pourrez juger vous-mêmes", a-t-il ajouté. Concernant l'engagement de l'actuel gouvernement conservateur polonais dans le travail des institutions européennes, M. Barroso s'est montré optimiste, assurant qu'il ne "voyait pas pourquoi" les relations avec la Pologne seraient moins bonnes maintenant que par le passé.

Le Premier ministre polonais a estimé que cet entretien avait permis de "dissiper plusieurs malentendus et lever certains doutes".

"Mon optimisme est encore plus fort" qu'avant, a-t-il indiqué ajoutant, qu'il était plus que jamais convaincu que la Pologne avait pris une bonne décision en adhérant à l'Union européenne en 2004.

Il a également assuré que la Pologne ne comptait pas rester absente du débat sur l'avenir de la Constitution européenne.

"Nous ne présentons pas le projet (actuel) à la ratification, car nous savons qu'il serait rejeté", a déclaré le Premier ministre polonais. "Nous ne voulons pas nuire à l'atmosphère", a-t-il ajouté. "La question de l'euroconstitution a été résolue sans notre participation", a-t-il dit, faisant référence au "non" prononcé lors des référendums en France et aux Pays-Bas.

La Pologne doit lancer un débat national sur la constitution à l'automne, a encore déclaré M. Kaczynski.

Lors de sa visite d'un jour à Bruxelles, premier déplacement à l'étranger en tant que Premier ministre, M. Kaczynski a également rencontré Guy Verhofstadt et devait s'entretenir dans la soirée avec le président du Parlement européen Josep Borrell et le Haut représentant pour la politique extérieure de l'UE Javier Solana.






Finland lanceert Latijn als EU-werktaal

Het Nieuwsblad - 30/08/2006


Finland, de nieuwe voorzitter van de EU, publiceert wekelijks een samenvatting van de activiteiten in Brussel in het Latijn.
Dat schrijft De Morgen woensdag.

"Het initiatief charmeert niet alleen classicisten en het Vaticaan, maar maakt van het duffe Europese jargon een poëtische belevenis", zo klinkt het.
Finland is het enige EU-land waar de openbare omroep al tien jaar lang een nieuwsprogramma in het Latijn uitzendt, "Nuntii Latini", en waar rocknummers in het Latijn populair zijn.






EU Could Revive Latin as a Working Language

Jonathan Luxmoore

Total Catholic - 29/08/2006


The Vatican's daily newspaper has called for Latin to be made the official working language of the European Union, after attempts by the new Finnish presidency to promote its use in EU departments.

"While Latin has been given up as a compulsory subject in schools over recent years, interest in the language is growing in Europe and other parts of the world," the semi-official L'Osservatore Romano said in a commentary.

"In these circumstances, it would constitute a suitable instrument for international communication."

The paper said a Latin-language news programme, Nuntii Latini, had been broadcast weekly for the past decade by YLE, Finland's equivalent to the BBC, making the ancient Roman language "potentially contemporary."

It added that Latin formulations had been found for numerous modern phenomena, such autocinetica (motorway), supervenalicium (supermarket), fullonica electrica (washing machine) and pilae coriaceae lusor (soccer star).

Besides Finland, which has a tradition of classical scholarship, other countries have reported a growing interest in Latin, whose renewed use as a once-universal language has also been encouraged by the Catholic Church.

The Finnish government set up a weekly news summary in Latin when it first assumed the EU's rotating presidency in 1999, and has repeated the service, alongside English, French and Swedish, since taking over the six-months presidency for its second term on 1 July.

Classics scholars have insisted use of the language would "turn EU jargon into poetry". As examples, they said the Common Agricultural Policy could be rendered as "Ratio communis agros colendi" ("common scheme for cultivating the fields"), while the EU's Acquis Communautaire, or body of laws and regulations, could be Latinised as "Corpus legum institutorumque iuris Europaei."

"Using Latin is a way of paying tribute to European civilisation and it serves to remind people of European society's roots, stretching back to ancient times," explained Mia Lahti, editor of the Finnish presidency's website.

"Latin isn't dead – it's still very much in use in different forms across the world today. After all, Italians, French and Spaniards all speak a new form of Latin."

Several Italian newspapers have backed the L'Osservatore Romano proposal, while noting that Finland itself was never part of the Roman Empire.






Polish leader set for Brussels charm trip

By Mark Beunderman

EU-Observer - 28/08/2006


European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso is preparing for a tricky post-summer break meeting this week with Poland's prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, whose twin brother and Polish president Lech Kaczynski recently caused a stir in Brussels with a plea to reinstate the death penalty.

The Brussels trip on Wednesday (30 August) is the first since Jaroslaw Kaczynski took over as prime minister in June, leading a government led by the socially conservative Law and Justice Party which is seen as maintaining cool and distrustful ties with Brussels.

In a row highlighting the problematic relationship, the European Commission earlier this month rebuffed a call by Lech Kaczynski for an EU-wide debate on reinstating the death penalty. "The death penalty is not compatible with European values," a commission spokesman said.

Jaroslaw Kazcynski in June expressed general uneasiness with EU values, stating in his inaugural speech "In the EU, we have to maintain our ability to take our own decisions...We will strive for Poland to keep its sovereignty in the area of culture and customs."

"EU laws do not and should not cover this area. We are different in our traditions, and there is no point in hiding it, from many other countries," he added.

Warsaw's ruling coalition, composed of two junior coalition parties which campaigned against Polish EU membership in 2004, is also said to be driving away pro-EU diplomats from key posts - a claim officially denied by Polish diplomats.

The recently resigned former director of EU affairs in the Polish foreign ministry, Pawel Swieboda, qualified the Kaczynski regime to EUobserver as "EU-wary."

Polish media report that Mr Kaczynski has cancelled a planned Wednesday address to the Brussels-based European Policy Centre, officially due to scheduling problems, but unofficially to avoid tough questions in public, from Brussels experts and journalists.

However, the Polish leader's EU trip is seen as a charm offensive to repair some of the damage caused, amid more positive signs from Warsaw on its interest in a new EU treaty, heavily pushed for by the commission.

The prime minister said in his June speech "The key feature of our policy is membership in the European Union. We want to be in the EU and, I stress this, to take part in everything that can lead to breaking today's EU crisis. This means finding a new [legal] foundation."

Borrell meeting

Also on Mr Kaczynski's Brussels agenda is a meeting with European Parliament president Josep Borrell, which could prove equally thorny.

Centre-left and liberal MEPs are highly critical about the Kaczynski government's hostile attitude towards gay rights as well as the alleged xenophobic character of one of its coalition parties, the League of Polish Families.

The European Parliament said in a June resolution that the League's leaders "incite people to hatred and violence."

This summer has also seen increasingly frosty relations between Poland and fellow EU member state Germany, which heavily backed Polish accession to the bloc in 2004.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski this month criticised the opening of a new exhibition on the fate of the millions of Germans expelled after the second world war.

He said the transferral of Germans after the war was "sad, even tragic" but added that it should be remembered "who was the perpetrator and who was the victim."

Warsaw has also clashed with Berlin over a planned direct gas pipeline between Germany and Russia, which Polish politicians claims deliberately circumvents Poland.






EU is idle onlooker to Bulgarian sleaze

By Julian Popov

EU-Observer -28/08/2006


Corruption and institutional incompetence are making Bulgarians more and more suspicious of Bulgarian political parties, parliament, government, the judicial system and the police.

The Bulgarian presidency alone was held in high regard, but with the latest revelations that president Georgi Parvanov used to work for the Communist state security service, the reputation of this institution is likely to collapse. And the European Commission appears as an idle and occasionally grumpy onlooker.

Bulgarians are voting with their feet. Cynical about the prospects for the fledgling regulatory authorities or the European Commission to have the ability or inclination to tackle corruption seriously they are studying in France and Germany, working in Madrid and London and holidaying in Greece and Austria.

People wonder where the European Commission was when in the last days of 2004 when a 35-year concession for one of the country's main highways was given away without a public tender; when successive privatisation transactions in power generation, tobacco and telecoms were blocked or delayed by government intrigue and when the courts, on the basis of a dubious procedural point, blocked the contracts for the key concession for the Bourgas and Varna airports first with Copenhagen Airports last year and now the contract with Fraport - essential infrastructure to support the development of tourism on which so many hopes are pinned.

From time to time, an outspoken ambassador to Bulgaria shakes things up a bit with refreshingly strong statements. Shamefully for the EU, this tends to be the US ambassador.

Brussels - watching, nodding and frowning

At last, Kauko Jamsen, the Finnish ambassador, has been widely quoted in the press complaining in July that corruption is on the rise. Transparency International now ranks Bulgaria on a level with Colombia. The European Commission, however, is satisfied with its "monitoring" - a ritual that combines watching, nodding and frowning.

This is a good environment for Bulgarian ministries and regulators to try to play Robin Hood and to launch occasional anti-corruption and anti-monopoly campaigns. They want to be seen as wise and just defenders of the people - punishing the rich to give to the poor. Sadly, in the Bulgarian case, the "poor" seems to mean public officials dividing the spoils amongst themselves.

The Index of Economic Freedom for 2006 by the Heritage Foundation ranks Bulgaria in 64th position, behind any EU member state, new or old. With an overall score of 2.88 (1 is best, 5 is worst), the country makes it into the "mostly free" box. This is thanks to foreign investment, banking and finance and wages and prices – all scoring 2.0. Had it been down to property rights and regulation (score 4.0), Bulgaria's economic freedom rating would have been labelled "repressed."

The prospects for the rule of law in Bulgaria are improving. The new prosecutor general is ambitious about repairing the damage to the system of law and order caused by the seven-year mandate of his erratic predecessor, who has mercifully been exported as ambassador to Kazakhstan.

Regulation, however, might prove harder to deal with. Quoting the US Department of Commerce, the Index of Economic Freedom survey explains the reason for the low rating as "an abundance of licensing and regulatory regimes, their sometimes arbitrary interpretation and enforcement by the bureaucracy, and the incentives thus created for corruption, (that) have long been seen as an impediment to investment."

Corruption a significant problem

The Economist Intelligence Unit adds that "corruption remains a problem in the state bureaucracy and is a serious impediment to business opportunities". A poll, completed in January 2006, by MBMD, a leading Bulgarian marketing survey agency, concluded that 60 percent of the Bulgarian civil servants say that corruption presents a significant problem in their work and 37 percent say that corruption is a problem in some degree. In 2000, these figures were 48 and 39 percent respectively.

Trust in European institutions is also evaporating. Bulgaria's press portrays the European Commission mainly as the institution which will impose preposterous taxes on homemade brandy and add to the volume of silly rules and regulations, while leaving enforcement in the hands of mistrusted domestic authorities. And that means more brown envelopes will change hands.

The commission is not doing much to change this image. It just waits at the final station, like the Fat Controller in Thomas the Tank Engine, to see if the Bulgarian train is on time.

The author is a Bulgarian journalist and political commentator and is one of the founders of the New Bulgarian University. He is actively involved in charity work for advancement of education and the author of the book "English Bulgaria".






Turken zien tegemoetkomen aan EU als heulen met de vijand

Nederlands Dagblad - 24/8/2006


Het enthousiasme bij de Turken over een lidmaatschap van de Europese Unie neemt snel af. Volgens Hasan Ünal, hoogleraar internationale betrekkingen aan de Bilkent Universiteit in Ankara, zou ook de Turkse regering nu het liefst de banden met de EU doorsnijden.

Toen in 2004 Turkije het groene licht kreeg voor het beginnen van onderhandelingen over toetreding tot de Europese Unie leefden de Turken wekenlang in een overwinningsroes. Maar slechts enkele maanden na het begin van die onderhandelingen is het al gedaan met de euforie. Nog maar 30 procent van de Turken is voor een Turks EU-lidmaatschap, blijkt uit een recente peiling.

Turkije wordt voortdurend op de vingers getikt door Brussel, omdat hervormingen zouden stagneren, terwijl premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan en zijn minister van Economische Zaken Ali Babacan (die het overleg met de EU leidt), geen gelegenheid onbenut laten om duidelijk te maken dat zij zich van die kritiek niets aantrekken. Zo weigert Turkije nog altijd Turkse havens en vliegvelden open te stellen voor schepen en vliegtuigen uit Cyprus. Een officiële erkenning van Cyprus is wat Turkije betreft al helemaal niet aan de orde.

Volgens Hasan Ünal, die internationale betrekkingen doceert aan de Bilkent Universiteit in Ankara, wil de Turkse regering nu het liefst van de EU af. Ünal: "Erdogan en de zijnen hoopten vooral politiek profijt te trekken van de Europese Unie. Ze wilden de macht van het leger terugdringen en meer religieuze vrijheid voor hun islamitische achterban. Maar tot dusver zijn hun eigen 'religieuze belangen' alleen maar tegengewerkt door Brussel.''

Ünal doelt daarmee op de kritiek die Erdogan, die zijn wortels heeft in de fundamentalistische islam, over zich heen kreeg toen hij een verbod op overspel wilde invoeren. Ook in zijn strijd tegen een verbod op het dragen van hoofddoeken moest zijn partij bakzeil halen. Het Europees Hof voor de Mensenrechten besloot dat een dergelijk verbod in Turkije geen bedreiging vormt van de godsdienstvrijheid.

Nu landelijke verkiezingen in zicht komen moet de regerende AK-partij alles op alles zetten om haar achterban tevreden te stellen. Daar die ook bestaat uit nationalistische zakenlieden, speelt Erdogan steeds vaker in op hun sentimenten. In een poging zo min mogelijk stemmen te verliezen aan de populairder wordende zeer rechtse partij MHP, haalt Erdogan nu steeds vaker uit naar de separatistische Koerdische partij PKK. En bij iedere gelegenheid roept hij dat Turkije Noord-Cyprus nooit zal opgeven.

"Erdogan gedraagt zich als een nationalist'' zegt Ünal. "Toekomen aan de eisen van de EU wordt nu door veel Turken gezien als heulen met de vijand. Erdogan wil vlak voor de verkiezingen niet worden uitgemaakt voor landverrader.''

De Turkse hoogleraar bezocht onlangs dertien Turkse steden om daar colleges te geven over de EU. Ook sprak hij met de plaatselijke bevolking over dat onderwerp. Een meerderheid van de Turken bleek anti-EU. "Mensen vinden dat de EU staat voor eerverlies, aldus Ünal. Brussel eist nu dat Turkije Turks-Cyprus uit handen geeft, de Armeense genocide erkent en als klap op de vuurpeil zal Brussel straks de vrijating van de PKK-leider Öcalan gaan eisen. De Turken geloven dat dat alles tot etnische onlusten zal leiden.''

Waarom eerverlies lijden, als daar niets tegenover staat, denken veel Turken. Ze hadden verwacht dat het begin van de onderhandelingen met de EU zou leiden tot groei van de Turkse economie en dat de werkloosheid snel zou dalen. Maar ze zien niets veranderen. En de toekomst belooft weinig goeds, meent Ünal. "Turkije zal nooit veel geld zien van de EU en waarschijnlijk staat ons aan het eind van de rit niet eens een volwaardig lidmaatschap te wachten. Meer en meer mensen beginnen dat te beseffen.''

Dat geldt ook voor de regering, die volgens Ünal dan ook steeds negatiever over de EU is gaan denken. Het rigoureus doorsnijden van de banden zou echter volgens de hoogleraar een economische catastrofe betekenen voor Turkije. Hij denkt dat uiteindelijk de EU en Turkije allebei hun zin krijgen. "De Europese Unie kan Turkije nu niet meer weigeren als lid en hoopt daarom dat het land het voor zichzelf verpest. Dan kunnen ze de schuld bij de Turken leggen. En die zullen er nauwelijks om treuren als de EU-droom voorbij is.''






Hungary to adopt euro in 2011 "at the earliest"

By Honor Mahony

EU-Observer - 24/08/2006


The Hungarian finance minister has said his country is unlikely to adopt the euro before 2011.

"The current programme would make possible the adoption of the euro in 2011 at the earliest," Janos Veres told public television, according to AFP.

His comments came a day after the government submitted new plans for joining the euro after Brussels in January rejected previous plans as not being credible.

Government overspending resulting in the country having the highest public deficit in the EU has meant Budapest has in past years missed its targets for joining the euro.

The Financial Times suggests analysts believe Hungary will not be able to adopt the common currency before 2014.






Eurozone creating jobs faster than US

By Honor Mahony

EU-Observer - 23/08/2006


Employment in Europe appears to be on the up with new jobs being created at a faster pace than in America.

"The eurozone is now creating jobs at a faster rate than the US," said Holger Schmieding, a European economist at Bank of America, on Monday (21 August).

He suggests that employment is rising by 200,000 a month across the 12-country eurozone, reports Financial Times Deutschland.

Germany and France, both recording several consecutive months of a drop in their unemployment rate, are leading the way in the job boom.

According to the expert, their improved performance is the main reason for the acceleration in job creation in the eurozone.

At the end of last week, France published employment figures showing that 51,900 jobs were created between April and June, up 0.3 percent on the previous quarter, while the German statistical office registered similar growth.

"The improvement in the employment market will make the economy of the eurozone better able to withstand external shocks," said Mr Schmieding.

Mr Schmieding was critical of the lack of an overview of the job market in the EU as there is in the US.

"While US payrolls drive financial markets on the first Friday of each month, hardly anybody ever pays attention to employment in the eurozone, the second largest economy in the world. That's a pity", he said.

Figures published by the EU's statistical agency in mid-August showed that the eurozone had registered its biggest economic growth in six years.

But analysts have been reported as sceptical about how long the growth will last.

For its part, the European Commission has predicted a slowing of growth for the eurozone in the coming months forecasting 0.5% to 0.9% for the third quarter of 2006 and 0.4% to 0.9% for the fourth quarter and 0.2% to 0.8% for the first quarter of next year.






Serbia says it will be ready to join EU in 2012

By Lucia Kubosova

EU-Observer - 21/08/2006


Despite current tensions in Serbia's ruling coalition over the handover of a war crimes suspect to the Hague, the country's finance minister argues that in terms of political and economic reforms, Belgrade will be ready to join the EU in about six years.

"After one more term in government, we will be ready. By 2012 we will have fulfilled all the reforms," Mladjan Dinkic told the Financial Times in an interview.

The optimistic remark comes at a time when Mr Dinkic's free-market-oriented G-17 Plus party is threatening to pull out of the coalition led by Vojislav Kostunica if Serbia's talks with the EU on the so-called Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) remain frozen by the end of September.

The SAA negotiations - aiming at establishing closer ties between the EU and Serbia - were suspended in May due to Belgrade's failure to catch Ratko Mladic a war crime suspect reportedly hiding in Serbia and deliver him to the UN tribunal in the Hague.

Prime minister Vojislav Kostunica presented a new action plan aimed at boosting activities leading to the general's capture in July, but both the EU and the UN chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte said that concrete results rather than new strategies and documents were needed for the bloc to resume talks with Serbia.

It is expected that EU officials will repeat this message in September and keep the negotiations on ice.

But Mr Dinkic said Serbia was closing in on the fugitive - held responsible for the 1995 massacre of around 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.

"According to the information I receive the circle [of supporters] around Mladic is very narrow. There are only very few people, and it is not as organised as it was before," he told the Financial Times.

He added "We are confident that if we resolve this issue we can completely leave the past behind," suggesting that General Mladic's capture would pave the way for "fast track" EU accession.






Europe's Fellow Travelers

Serge Trifkovic

Frontpage Magazine - 18/08/2006


The present technological, cultural and financial strength of Europe is a façade that conceals a deep underlying moral and demographic weakness. The symptoms of the malaise are apparent in the unprecedented demographic collapse and in the loss of a sense of place and history that go hand-in-hand with the expansion of the European Union.

The emerging transnational hyper-state is actively indoctrinating its subject-population into believing and accepting that the demographic shift in favor of Muslim aliens is actually a blessing that enriches the Old Continent's culturally deprived and morally unsustainable societies. Europe is losing the ability to define and defend itself, to the benefit of unassimilable multitudes filled with contempt for the host-society.

Many Muslims in Europe already consider themselves de facto autonomous, a community of believers opposed to the broader society of infidels. Jihadist networks now exist in every country west of the former Iron Curtain save Iceland. They are centered on mosques and Islamic centers often financed by Saudi money. Muslim population of Europe, which stands at some 20 million as of this writing, will double by 2025 and at that time it will account for a third of all live births in the "Old Europe" (the 15-nation core of the European Union).

Most Muslims in Europe live in a parallel universe that has very little to do with the host country. Their mindset has nothing but contempt for the liberal concept of "tolerance" and "diversity," and they possess a disdainful and hostile attitude to the host-society. Such hostility is clearly manifested in hard-core anti-Semitism – in its raw, unadulterated variety that is repugnant to most Europeans but regarded as normal, legitimate, and divinely ordained by most Muslims. But since the dictum of the multiculturalist ruling elite is that Islam is peaceful, tolerant, and as European as the Sistine Chapel, the truth must not be spoken.

In 2002, the European Union initiated a study on anti-Semitism in its member-countries. When the report was completed in February 2003, however, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) decided not to publish the 112-page study. Its finding that Muslims were major perpetrators of anti-Semitic acts in the EU was judged "inflammatory." The EUMC board member for Denmark, for instance, said the study was "unsatisfactory" and that some members had felt anti-Islamic sentiment and that this should be addressed too. The Danish border member clearly ignored the fact that in the previous two years the EUMC had published three reports on anti-Islamic attitudes in Europe.

Eventually another group, the Vienna-based Center for Research of Anti-Semitism, released the study which showed that there are "an increasing number of anti-Semitic attacks, committed frequently by young Arabs/Muslims in most EU member countries." In the sample month (May 15-June 15, 2002), the study found that physical attacks on Jews and the desecration and destruction of synagogues were acts "often committed by young Muslim perpetrators." Many of these attacks occurred either during or after pro-Palestinian demonstrations, which were also used by radical Islamists for hate speech and verbal abuse. France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK in particular, witnessed numerous physical attacks and insults directed against Jews and vandalism of Jewish institutions (synagogues, shops, cemeteries). In these countries, the violent attacks on Jews and/or synagogues were reported to be committed often by members of the Muslim-Arab minority, frequently youths.

That anti-Semitic offenders in some cases are drawn from Muslim minorities in Europe – whether they be radical Islamist groups or young males of North African descent – is certainly a new development for most [EU] Member States, one that offers reason for concern for European governments and also the great majority of its citizens.

The European Union hated this, and the EUMC came up with a revised version of the suppressed Report the following year, this time with the transparent objective of shifting the blame for anti-Semitic incidents away from the main culprits. Beate Winkler, director of the EUMC, thus told the European Parliament in Strasbourg that the most common perpetrator "appears to be young, disaffected white European, often stimulated by extreme right wing groups." Young Muslims were relegated to "a further source of antisemitism in some countries," with "antisemitic groups on the extreme right" allegedly playing a part even in stirring up Muslim opinion.

This oral summary by Ms. Winkler in fact contradicted the findings of the report she had just presented to the European Parliament. Furthermore, Victor Weitzel, co-author of the accompanying report on Jewish perceptions of anti-Semitism in the EU, complained that the EUMC exerted great pressure to play down the role of Islamic anti-Semitism in the attacks: "Everything is being tilted to ensure nice soft conclusions."

The term "Islamic anti-Semitism" may sound illogical as both Jews and Arabs are supposedly of the same or racially similar Semitic stock, but "anti-Semitism" was never meant to brand all Semitic peoples in the same category. It has always denoted, and was meant to denote, different types and degrees of animosity to the Jews. It has found a perfect fit in Islam, where scriptural odium is fully coupled with anti-Jewish attitudes on ethnic and geopolitical grounds. And yet the existence and implications of Islamic anti-Semitism are denied by Europe's Islamophile elite class. The utopian character of the denial is anchored in the myth of an Islamic golden age of tolerance, "inclusive and cosmopolitan, cosmopolitan here meaning an ease with different cultures: still so rare and threatened a value in the new millennium as in centuries past."

The situational morality of the Western elite class demands that no phenomena be judged as such. They don't treat "anti-Semitism" as a function of objective behavior but in accordance with the place of the actor within the ideological system. In this scheme of things, anti-Semitism — including hard-core Holocaust denial — is a grave sin, except when practiced by a protected group sanctified by its anti-Western otherness, i.e. by Muslim immigrants and their Western-born offspring.

The roots of this scandal may be traced to the E.U. Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation N0 1162 (19 September 1991) on "the contribution of the Islamic civilization to European culture." A decade later, in its General policy recommendation nr 5: Combating intolerance and discrimination against Muslims, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance emphasized "Islam's positive contribution to the continuing development of European societies, of which it is an integral part." It expressed concern "at signs that religious intolerance towards Islam" and expressed strong regret "that Islam is sometimes portrayed inaccurately [as] a threat." The Commission warned that "this prejudice may manifest itself in different guises, in particular through negative general attitudes." It then came to the point, and called on the E.U. member states to adopt measures that would effectively outlaw any serious debate about Islam and introduce pro-Muslim "affirmative action" that would far exceed some of the worst excesses of similar programs in the United States.

E.U. Commission Against Racism And Intolerance: recommendations to member states:

  • ensure that Muslim communities are not discriminated against as to the circumstances in which they organize and practice their religion;
  • impose sanctions in cases of discrimination on grounds of religion;
  • remove "unnecessary legal or administrative obstacles to the construction of sufficient numbers of appropriate places of worship for the practice of Islam";
  • ensure that public institutions make provision in their everyday practice for cultural and other requirements of the Muslim community;
  • prevent discrimination on religious grounds regarding access to citizenship;
  • eliminate any discrimination on grounds religion in access to education;
  • legislate against religious discrimination in employment and at the workplace;
  • encourage employers to devise and implement "codes of conduct" to combat religious discrimination and "to work towards the goal of workplaces representative of the diversity of the society in question" (i.e. apply affirmative action for Muslims);
  • prevent Muslims' "discrimination connected with social exclusion";
  • pay special attention to the situation of Muslim women who may suffer both from discrimination against women in general and that against Muslims;
  • modify curricula to prevent "distorted interpretations of religious and cultural history" and "portrayal of Islam on perceptions of hostility and menace";
  • ensure that religious instruction in schools respects cultural pluralism and make provision for teacher training to this effect;
  • interact with local Muslim communities to facilitate their selection of Imams;
  • raise awareness among the population of those areas where particular care is needed to avoid social and cultural conflict;
  • encourage debate in the media on the image which they convey of Islam and on their responsibility to avoid perpetuating prejudice and bias;
  • provide for the monitoring and e! valuatio n of the effectiveness of all measures to combat intolerance and discrimination against Muslims.

The diligence with which individual E.U. member countries translate this appalling list into national legislation, and the instances of "Islamophobia" all over the Union, are being tracked by the Vienna-based European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia – the same institution that has doctored its own data on anti-Semitism – and summarized in its reports such as Islamophobia in the Member States of the European Union (May 2002).

In recent years, a notable trend in the Monitoring Center's documents is to include "anti-Semitism and Islamophobia" under the same heading, with the definition of "Islamophobia" so broad as to preclude any possibility of meaningful discussion of Islam. The implication that Islamophobia thus defined and anti-Semitism are equally repulsive and deserving of similar legal sanction is a regular feature of the EU race relations industry output. It also routinely refers to "institutional Islamophobia" as an inherent social and cultural sickness of most European societies that needs to be rooted out by education, re-education, and legislation.

Such posture plays right into the hands of Islamic activists, the European Union's Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia and a host of similar governmental bodies. Also, NGOs all over the EU have a symbiotic relationship with the jihadist fifth column. The rampant insanity emanating from Brussels grows more unrestrained with each new attack, resulting in calls for more understanding of the "underlying causes" of terrorism (racism, Iraq, poverty etc.) and the insistence on greater inclusiveness and more stringent anti-Islamophobic legislation.

An ideological commitment to neoliberal globalization has turned multiculturalism and effectively open-ended Third World (overwhelmingly Muslim) immigration into two inviolable Euro-givens. The result is the inherent inability of Brussels to defend Europe from the threat of a resurgent and aggressive Islam, and to prevent the resurgence of anti-Semitism within its boundaries. Cynically defeatist, self-absorbed and unaccountable to anyone but their own corrupt class, the Eurocrats are just as bad as jihad's fellow-travelers; they are its active abettors and facilitators.

Serge Trifkovic received his PhD from the University of Southampton in England and pursued postdoctoral research at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. His past journalistic outlets have included the BBC World Service, the Voice of America, CNN International, MSNBC, U.S. News & World Report, The Washington Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, The Times of London, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He is foreign affairs editor of Chronicles.






The euro area's economies

A fair but fading wind


The Economist - Aug 17th 2006


Don't get your hopes up too high about growth in the euro area

In A field as error-strewn as economic statistics, caution is always wise. This week's data, though, leave little room for doubt. If the initial estimate for the second quarter of 0.9% is right - and adjustments to Europe's numbers, unlike America's, have tended to be upward - the euro area's GDP grew at an annual rate of 3.7%, its fastest for six years. For the first time in seven years, the zone outran America, Britain and Japan.

Does continental Europe, becalmed for so long, at last have the wind in its sails? It would be convenient for the world economy if it did, because America, the powerhouse for so long, seems to be slowing. But do not expect this summer's rate of knots to be maintained in the euro zone. That is partly because of a series of short-term changes in the economic winds that will make it harder for the euro economies. But the main speed limit remains the same familiar problem: the reluctance of governments, especially in France, Germany and Italy, to embrace bold structural reform.

Tougher sailing ahead

There are three short-term reasons to expect slightly choppier waters in the euro zone. The easiest one to exaggerate is the slowdown in America, where growth tumbled to (an annualised) 2.5% in the second quarter and where consumers will surely be less willing to snap up German plastics and French perfumes. In fact, the euro area's growth increasingly seems to be being pushed along by its own consumers' spending rather than exports. The zone as a whole depends on exports much less than its individual countries do: the 43% of Germany's exports going to other members of the club count as domestic demand at the level of the euro area. And America is less important as an export market for the zone than you might expect. Britain counts for more; so, combined, do other European Union countries. And when it comes to recent additions to exports - which is what really matters for growth - China is buying an ever bigger share. On the other hand, a slowing America is plainly no help to Europe's exporters.

The second reason to expect a slowdown is that some euro-area countries, notably Germany and Italy, are due to tighten their budgets. That their public finances need repairing is not disputable; the timing and style of the repairs is, especially in Germany. Just when German consumers seem to have recovered their confidence, after years of low wage-growth and worries about jobs and pensions, the government wants to raise value-added tax by three percentage points next January. Paradoxically, this may boost growth in the second half of this year, as spending is brought forward to beat the tax increase. But it will surely hold the economy down at the start of 2007.

Third, the European Central Bank (ECB) is providing less of a following wind than it did. It started raising interest rates last December and is expected to keep doing so at least until the end of this year. So far, there is little sign that these rate increases are holding the euro zone back, but eventually they will have an effect. And the second-quarter spurt makes further rises in interest rates more likely.

Not feeble, but slower than it could be

You may wonder why, if demand is likely to ease, the ECB is so eager to raise rates. The reason lies not with demand, but supply. No one knows for sure how fast the economy can grow without causing inflation to rise appreciably; but the ECB thinks that anything much faster than 2% looks dangerously quick. In the second quarter the euro zone seems to have grown at almost twice its sustainable pace.

Next to America, all this looks pretty feeble. In fact, it is mostly to do with Europe's slower population growth. Kevin Daly, an economist at Goldman Sachs, points out that in terms of GDP per head the euro zone has grown almost as fast as the United States in the past decade. And Europe's speed limit may be rising: inflation, although above the ECB's target, has been stable even though the unemployment rate has fallen.

That said, there is plenty that governments should do to make faster growth sustainable, by raising the proportion of people in work and by helping to make those with jobs more productive. This would be a good time to do it: those who balked at reform in sluggish times, worrying at the pain it might cause, now have less excuse. Competition in service markets is one area from which politicians have often shied away. And in several countries too many people are encouraged to quit work in their 50s. With the number of older workers bound to rise, this is a waste Europe cannot afford.






Wegens "reële dreiging"

EU wil nauwer samenwerken tegen terreur


NRC-Handelsblad - 17 augustus 2006


De landen van de Europese Unie gaan nauwer met elkaar samenwerken om het hoofd te bieden aan de toegenomen dreiging van terrorisme in de luchtvaart.

Dit zijn zes ministers van Binnenlandse Zaken, onder wie die van Groot-Brittannië, Frankrijk en Duitsland, gisteren tijdens beraad in Londen overeengekomen.

Het overleg was ingegeven door de arrestatie vorige week van een groep islamitische extremisten, die volgens de Britse politie terroristische aanslagen beraamden op een tiental transatlantische vluchten vanuit Groot-Brittannië.

"We worden geconfronteerd met een hardnekkige en zeer reële dreiging", aldus John Reid, de Britse minister van Binnenlandse Zaken naderhand op een persconferentie.

Besluiten over een nieuwe aanpak vallen op zijn vroegst volgende maand, wanneer EU-ministers in het Finse Tampere bijeenkomen om zich over concrete voorstellen te buigen.

Reid en Europees commissaris voor Justitie Franco Frattini schetsten gisteren echter al de contouren van enkele voorstellen. Zo zullen Europese deskundigen gaan bekijken hoe er in EU-verband kan worden opgetreden tegen het gebruik van vloeibare explosieven. Volgens de Britse politie wilden de arrestanten daarvan gebruik maken. Bekeken zal worden of er binnen de EU via een labelsysteem meer controle mogelijk is op de herkomst van explosieven.

Het is verder de bedoeling de strengere controles op handbagage, die inmiddels op Britse luchthavens gelden, ook elders in Europa in te voeren. Reid wees erop dat de Britse maatregelen zinloos zijn als terroristen zonder moeite naar het Europese continent kunnen reizen om vandaar alsnog explosieven mee te smokkelen op vluchten naar Groot-Brittannië.

Ook willen de ministers internet tot „een vijandiger omgeving" voor terroristen maken, zo schreven ze in hun slotcommuniqué. Ze willen dat onder meer doen door websites uit de lucht te halen waarop valt te lezen hoe bommen gemaakt kunnen worden.

Voorts streven de ministers naar een systeem, waarbij passagiersgegevens al voor de vlucht ter controle kunnen worden voorgelegd aan de autoriteiten. Met behulp van biometrische gegevens als irisscan en vingerafdrukken zou de identiteit van passagiers snel zijn te checken. Voor vluchten naar de Verenigde Staten geldt dit systeem al. Reid en Frattini ontkenden stellig dat ook was gesproken over controles op grond van etnische of religieuze achtergrond.

Om radicalisering van moslims tegen te gaan wordt gedacht aan meer Europese bemoeienis met de opleiding van imams. In welke vorm dit precies kan worden gegoten is echter nog niet duidelijk.

Intussen is de hechtenis van 23 van de 24 arrestanten, die worden verdacht van betrokkenheid bij het terroristische complot, gisteren verlengd. Eén verdachte, die pas deze week was aangehouden, werd vrijgelaten.






Hungarian leader says 2010 euro entry "unrealistic"


By Lucia Kubosova

EU-Observer - 17/08/2006


Hungarian centre-left prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany has admitted an earlier plan for his country to join the euro in 2010 is "unrealistic," with analysts expecting entry could be postponed a further three or four years.

Speaking to journalists after coalition talks on adoption of the euro on Tuesday (15 August), Mr Guyrcsany said his country is set to resume fiscal stability in line with the so-called Maastricht criteria underpinning the euro between 2008 and 2010.

It usually takes two years after a state meets those criteria - including a public deficit below 3 percent of GDP - to join the EU's common currency, but analysts predict a most likely date for Budapest to adopt the euro is 2013 or 2014, according to Portfolio, a Hungarian financial journal.

Mr Guyrcsany hopes to get the go-ahead for his team's emergency plan to cut the current budget deficit - set to be approved in Budapest on 31 August - from EU finance ministers later this year.

However, the plan will probably not include a concrete entry date - a move criticised by the opposition.






Hoogconjunctuur als gevaarlijke sluier


WV

De Tijd - 16/08/2006


De Europese economie presteert ijzersterk. De economische groei in de eurozone versnelde in het tweede kwartaal tot het hoogste peil in zes jaar en ligt daardoor voor het eerst in vijf jaar hoger dan in de VS. Kunnen we van een fundamenteel herstel spreken na verscheidene moeilijke jaren?

Hoopgevend is dat de economische heropleving in de voorbije maanden een bredere basis kreeg. Behalve de uitvoer trekken ook de investeringen en zelfs de consumptie aan. Voorts sijpelt de hogere economische groei door op de arbeidsmarkt. De werkloosheidsgraad daalde tot 7,8 procent, het laagste peil in vijf jaar en een evenaring van het laagste niveau in vijftien jaar.

Maar de Europese economie profiteerde ook van een paar uitzonderlijke factoren. De bouwactiviteit maakte een inhaalbeweging na de strenge winter en het wereldkampioenschap voetbal stimuleerde de consumptie.

De grote vraag is of de eurozone in staat is de hoge economische groei een lange periode vol te houden. De vooruitzichten zijn niet zo gunstig. De groeivertraging van de wereldeconomie en de geplande Duitse btw-verhoging - de grootste Duitse belastingverhoging sinds de Tweede Wereldoorlog - vormen een belangrijke bedreiging. Sommige economen noemen de btw-verhoging een zwaard van Damocles boven de groei. Er is veel kans dat de groei volgend jaar terugvalt tot onder het langetermijngemiddelde van 2 procent.

Intussen dreigt de hoogconjunctuur als een sluier het beperkte groeipotentieel en de structurele zwaktes van de Europese economie te verbergen. Het inkomen van de gemiddelde Europeaan is bijna 30 procent lager dan dat van de doorsnee-Amerikaan. Het ziet ernaar uit dat deze kloof in de komende jaren veeleer zal groeien dan krimpen, want de trage stijging van de productiviteit ondermijnt het groeipotentieel van de Europese economie.

De arbeidsmarkt is een van de belangrijkste knelpunten. Volgens de Organisatie voor Economische Samenwerking en Ontwikkeling (OESO) is de conjuncturele werkloosheid in de eurozone nagenoeg verdwenen. De nog steeds hoge werkloosheid is dus structureel. Een verdere, duurzame vermindering van de werkloosheid is alleen mogelijk als Europa de arbeidsmarkt hervormt.

Er werden al enkele stappen gedaan. Maar in het huidige tempo duurt het nog bijna 30 jaar om de structurele werkloosheidsgraad terug te dringen tot 5 procent, het niveau in de VS en Scandinavië.

Nochtans is Europa erg ambitieus. De staatshoofden en regeringsleiders willen van de Europese Unie de meest competitieve economie ter wereld maken tegen 2010. Maar nu al is duidelijk dat die doelstelling niet wordt gehaald. Om het groeipotentieel en de werkgelegenheid op te krikken, zijn een hervorming van de arbeidsmarkt en een grotere integratie van de dienstenmarkten noodzakelijk. Afwachten heeft geen zin. Het is nu het moment om de woorden om te zetten in daden.






Beter dan VS en Japan

Groei EU op hoogste peil in zes jaar


NRC-Handelsblad - 15 augustus 2006


Het gaat goed met de Europese economie. In het tweede kwartaal groeide de economie van de twaalf landen in de eurozone met 0,9 procent ten opzichte van het eerste kwartaal. Het is de hoogste groei in zes jaar.
Dit blijkt uit cijfers die Eurostat, het bureau voor de statistiek van de Europese Unie, heeft bekendgemaakt.

De groei in alle 25 lidstaten van de Europese Unie bedroeg ook 0,9 procent. Die tonen ook dat Europa het beter deed dan de VS en Japan in het tweede kwartaal. De Amerikaanse economie groeide in die periode met 0,6 procent, de Japanse met 0,2 procent.

Nederland zat met een groei van 1 procent net iets boven het Europese gemiddelde. Vorige week maakte het CBS bekend dat de economie vaart heeft. Ook het CBS meldde toen een kwartaal-op-kwartaal-groei van 1 procent.

De groei wordt onder meer geschraagd door de economische opleving van Duitsland en Frankrijk, de twee belangrijke landen van de eurozone.

Gisteren werd bekend dat de economische groei van Duitsland in het tweede kwartaal op 0,9 procent uitkwam. Volgens het Duitse bureau voor de statistiek was dit de sterkste kwartaal-op-kwartaal-groei van de laatste vijf jaar. Afgelopen vrijdag werd duidelijk dat de economische groei in Frankrijk het afgelopen kwartaal was verdubbeld ten opzichte van de eerste drie maanden van het jaar.

Ondanks de gunstige cijfers waarschuwde de Europese Commissie, het dagelijks bestuur van de Europese Unie, voor al te groot optimisme. De voorspelling voor het derde kwartaal van 2006 werd naar boven bijgesteld, maar de verwachtingen voor het vierde kwartaal zijn minder gunstig dan eerder was voorspeld.

De Commissie rekent in de eurozone nu op een groei van 0,7 procent in het derde kwartaal van dit jaar (was 0,5) en 0,65 procent gedurende de laatste drie maanden (was 0,75). De neerwaarts bijgestelde groei in het vierde kwartaal heeft volgens economen te maken met het gevaar voor verhoging van de rente door de Europese Centrale Bank. De bank in Frankfurt heeft daarop gehint.

Sinds het tweede kwartaal van vorig jaar groeide de economie in de eurozone met 2,4 procent. De twaalf landen die tot de eurozone behoren zijn België, Duitsland, Griekenland, Spanje, Frankrijk, Ierland, Italië, Luxemburg, Nederland, Oostenrijk, Portugal en Finland. In de gehele Europese Unie, die 25 landen telt, bedroeg de groei gedurende die periode 2,6 procent.






Eurozone growth highest in six years


By Honor Mahony

EU-Observer - 15/08/2006


The eurozone registered its strongest growth in six years, according to official statistics released by the EU statistical office on Monday (14 August).

The economy of the 12-nation zone grew by 0.9 percent in the three months to June, its fastest rate since 2000.

The bloc sharing the euro also pulled ahead of the US and Japan and surpassed a European Commission growth projection for the period. Brussels had projected 0.4 to 0.8 percent growth.

The commission on Monday revised upwards its growth forecast for the current quarter - ending in September - upwards to between 0.5 and 0.9 percent.

The latest statistics also revealed strong economic performances in the EU's two biggest economies - Germany and France.

Germany registered a 0.9 percent growth compared to the first quarter of the year while France saw an even bigger economic expansion at 1.2 percent.

Spain and the Netherlands also saw good economic performances registering 0.9 and 1.0 percent growth respectively.

However, Italy remained weak in comparison with 0.5 percent growth.

The Financial Times quotes economists cautioning that the eurozone could be hit in coming quarters by a slowing US economy and higher eurozone interest rates.

"Have we broken out of the phase of sluggish growth? Yes, unambiguously. Will it last for ever? No," said Ken Wattret, economist at BNP Paribas, quoted by the newspaper.

For its part, the commission predicts a slowing of growth for the eurozone in the coming months forecasting 0.5% to 0.9% for the third quarter of 2006 and 0.4% to 0.9% for the fourth quarter and 0.2% to 0.8% for the first quarter of next year.

The economy of the whole of the 25-nation EU also expanded 0.9 percent in the second quarter and 2.6 percent over one year.






Many Muslims in Britain Tell of Feeling Torn Between Competing Identities


By SARAH LYALL and IAN FISHER

The New York Times - August 13, 2006


As a Muslim, Qadeer Ahmed says, he believes that violence against civilians is never justified. But as a British Muslim, he is not surprised to find the country once again at the center of a reported terrorist plot by homegrown extremists.

"When people say it's Bush and Blair against the world, it's difficult to argue with them," said Mr. Ahmed, 37, a leader of the largest mosque in High Wycombe, where half a dozen young British Muslims were among the 24 arrested Thursday in what the authorities said was an elaborate plan to blow up planes on trans-Atlantic routes.

Despite government efforts over the last several years to reach out to community leaders - a tricky proposition, given that Muslims hardly speak with one voice - many Muslims have hardened their resentment of their country.

British policies in Afghanistan and Iraq, and now in Lebanon, are just the most recent in a long list of grievances - cultural, economic and political - among Muslims here. For a few, that has manifested itself in extremism and violence. For many others, it has meant a sharpening of a continuing struggle between two competing identities.

In a recent poll of Muslims in 13 countries conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, 81 percent of those surveyed in Britain said they considered themselves Muslims first and Britons second. That contrasts with Spain, where 69 percent of those surveyed considered themselves Muslims first and Spaniards second; Germany, where the comparable number is 66 percent, and even Jordan, with 67 percent.

Britain has never aspired to be a melting pot, and even second- and third-generation immigrants in England are likely to identify themselves - and, more significantly, be identified by the English - as belonging to their family's country of origin.

"In the U.S., people routinely talk of Irish-Americans, Portuguese-Americans, You Name It-Americans, but have you ever heard the English talk that way?" asked Roger Ballard, director of the center for applied South Asian studies at the University of Manchester. "The English have always had, since the days of the Reformation, this strong commitment to homogeneity."

For Muslims, with their adherence to religion in a country that is aggressively secular and their feelings of brotherhood with Muslims in the Middle East, the feelings of alienation are particularly acute.

"The war on terrorism is the war on us," said Mohammed Mowaz, 29, a computer engineer interviewed outside the Queen's Road Mosque in Walthamstow.

Nazim Akram, 23, an accounting trainee, said in an interview outside the mosque that he was skeptical about anything the authorities said, particularly after the botched raid by 250 officers in the Forest Gate section of London in June. After shooting a Muslim suspect, destroying his house, and arresting him and another Muslim man on suspicion of making chemical weapons, the police released them and said they had made a mistake.

Similarly, Mr. Akram said he believed that the suspects in the recent bombing case were "just normal guys."

Those who study Muslims in England say the current generation of young people - those whose fathers moved here in the 1960's to work in the textile mills in the Midlands and the north - is more inclined to be at odds with British society.

Many of the first wave of immigrants were from rural Pakistan, spoke poor English and never integrated much. But the generation that is coming of age now is caught between the traditionalism of their parents and the Western ideas they have been born in to, and the result can be toxic.

"They are deeply confused, because they have been brought up in Britain and are actually very Westernized," Mr. Ballard said. "They're seeking to discover an Islam through Western ideas." And, he said, they are rereading in literal terms.

Muslim ties to tradition are reinforced by frequent visits to where their families came from, and by arranged marriages to cousins who are likely to come from small Pakistani villages.

Feeling apart from mainstream society, finding it hard to get work in the depressed former mill towns near Manchester and Birmingham, some young men turn to local mosques - often run by imams who have moved from rural Pakistan themselves - as social, religious and educational centers.

Khalid Mahmood, a member of Parliament from Birmingham, said Muslims found it all too easy to shrug off the radicalization of some parts of their culture, particularly among young men.

"They are reluctant to discuss what reality is and come to terms with it," he said.

Mr. Mahmood is a friend of the family of Tayib Rauf, one of the suspects whose arrest was announced Thursday, and he said that the Rauf family was comfortably off and not in any way fundamentalist. He suspected, he said, that Mr. Rauf had become radicalized in college, perhaps by listening to a speech from a visiting speaker.

In a country where, for instance, Muslims were free to raise placards denouncing freedom of speech during a demonstration protesting the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed, Mr. Mahmood said British tolerance had allowed extremism to flourish. "We've been reluctant to curb freedom of expression or religious rights," he said. "We've played host to people who weren't allowed in their own country of origin."

Some British Muslims are repelled by what they see as the decadence and libertinism of Western society, particularly obvious in Britain.

"Among younger Brits in urban areas, which is where most British Muslims live, we drink more alcohol faster, sleep around more, live less in long-lasting, two-parent families, and worship less than almost anywhere else in the world," the writer Timothy Garton Ash argued in The Guardian recently. "It's clear from what young British Muslims themselves say that part of their reaction is against this kind of secular, hedonistic, anomic lifestyle."

But Taji Mustafa, a spokesman for the British branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a nonviolent group advocating a unified Muslim government in Muslim countries, said rejecting Western permissiveness in the name of Islam does not breed extremism.

"People say, 'Oh, he became more religious,' " Mr. Mustafa said in an interview. "What does that mean? Well, instead of spending time at the pub, he may spend more time with his family. When someone says, 'I'm Muslim first,' does that mean, 'I want to go bomb the Underground?' Nonsense!"

If some Muslims see themselves as apart from British society, said Massoud Shadajares, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, the feelings are cruelly reinforced by the British.

As an illustration, Mr. Shadajares described how at the time of the World Cup tournament in June, a secular Muslim friend from Nottingham ducked in to a pub to find the England team's latest score.

"He walked in and said, 'Hey, guys, how are we doing?' " Mr. Shadajares said. "And one of the English guys said, 'I didn't know that Pakistan was playing today.' "

By the same token, when Sajid Mahmood, a cricket star of Pakistani descent, took the field with the English team this week against Pakistan, fans of Pakistani descent booed him and called him a traitor.

Heather Timmons contributed reporting from Birmingham, England,for this article, and Souad Mekhennet and Karla Adam from London.






Poll reveals big change in Norwegian public opinion on EU


By Lisbeth Kirk

EU-Observer - 08/08/2006


A majority of Norwegians are still opposed to membership of the EU, but the lead has narrowed dramatically in recent weeks.

The no side was leading polls consistently by 10-15 per cent in the first half of the year, but according to a new poll published by Norwegian daily Nationen the gap between the two blocs has narrowed to just 3.8 percent.

Now 46.8 percent would vote against membership in a referendum, while 43 per cent would vote yes. Last month only 38.3 percent said they would vote yes while 48 per cent said they would vote no.

"A new room will open for EU discussion in Norway if the tendency continues and we will be ready for it, said Heming Olaussen, leader of the Norwegian cross-party No to EU organisation, according to Nationen.

Both the yes and the no fronts were taken by surprise by the new poll, which questioned 1000 people and was conducted by the Sentio institute between 25 and 31 July.

"There has been no major events during the past month that indicated a turn to the yes", said Grete Berget, secretary general of the pro-EU European Movement.

Meanwhile Iceland, the other Nordic country outside the EU appears to be moving in the opposite direction.

The chairman of the Social Democratic Alliance, Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir, said in an interview with the Icelandic TV station NFS that the party was prepared to put its policy of entering membership negotiations with the EU aside in order to be able to participate in a coalition government after the next general election due in May next year.

The Social Democratic Alliance is the only political party in Iceland in favour of entering membership negotiations with the EU, all other parties are against the idea.






Turkije veroordeeld voor foltering door Europees Hof voor de Rechten van de Mens


Het Europees Hof voor de Rechten van de Mens (EHRM) in Straatsburg heeft Turkije dinsdag veroordeeld voor het schenden van de Europese Conventie van de Rechten van de Mens. Het betreft de marteling van een man in voorlopige hechtenis.

De Tijd - 08/08/2006


Hüseyin Esen (48) werd tot twaalf jaar en zes maanden cel veroordeeld in Turkije voor het lidmaatschap van een gewapende, illegale organisatie van de communistisch, marxistisch-leninistische partij MLKP. Esen legde in oktober 1996 een klacht neer tegen zeven politieagenten die hij beschuldigde van foltering tijdens zijn voorlopige hechtenis in september 1996.

Hij zegt te zijn geslagen, opgehangen aan de armen, natgespoeld met water en bedreigd met de dood. Hij zou ook elektrochocs gekregen hebben. Dat zou gebeurd zijn in de lokalen van de antiterroristische sectie van de Directie van Veiligheid in Istanbul.

De vaststellingen van een geneesheer van het Instituut van wettelijke geneeskunde bevestigde de aantijgingen. Esens klacht leidde tot veroordelingen van elf maanden en twintig dagen tot een jaar en twee maanden. Het Turkse Hof van Cassatie verbrak echter de veroordelingen wegens verjaring.

Het EHRM acht de aanklachten van marteling voor waar en stelt een overtreding van de Conventie van de Rechten van de Mens vast. Het Hof veroordeelde Turkije eveneens voor het feit dat de procedure zeven jaar aansleepte en voor het bovenmatig vasthouden van de eisende partij in voorlopige hechtenis. Daarnaast heeft het Hof besloten dat ook de beroepsprocedure een buitensporige duur heeft. Het beroep dat Esen tegen zijn veroordeling aantekende, is meer dan negen en een half jaar na de feiten nog altijd hangende.






Slovakia pledges to stick to 2009 euro entry goal


By Lisbeth Kirk

EU-Observer - 07/08/2006


Slovakia's finance minister pledged on Monday (7 August) to resign unless his country met its goal to join the euro by 2009.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Jan Pociatek said, "It is my personal responsibility to follow the euro commitment," allaying fears that a new leftist government, elected in June, might delay the adoption of the single currency.

Mr Pociatek said that his main priority was to keep the Slovakian budget deficit under the Maastricht limit of 3% of GDP. "All extra spending has to be met from extra economic growth and cuts in government spending," he told the paper.

Slovakia hopes to be the first of the so-called Visegrad four - which also includes Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic - to join the single currency.

Hungary and the Czech Republic are expected to postpone their plans to enter until 2010 and Poland is the only one of the ten new member states yet to set a date for joining the euro.

Slovenia will be the first of these new EU states to enter the eurozone in January next year.

Slovenia's Central Bank governor Mitja Gaspari will join the ECB Governing Council in January, but the Slovenian finance minister Andrej Bajuk will sit on the eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers from September.

Beyond that, Malta, Cyprus and Estonia are targeting January 2008. Latvia initially said it wanted to join the eurozone on January 1 2008, but this date is now under review and most believe a target date of 2009 is more likely.

The last remaining country - Lithuania - saw its bid to join the euro rejected by the ECB and the European Commission earlier this year, after the country barely missed the eurozone's inflation criterion.

Whilst there is no new official target date, the prime minister in Vilnius, Gediminas Kirkilas, said in a recent interview that his country is now unlikely to adopt the euro before 2009.

All EU member states, with the exception of the UK and Denmark, are legally obliged to adopt the euro.

Sweden, although it is bound by the European Treaties to join the eurozone, looks unlikely to do so in the near future, after the people voted overwhelmingly against EMU membership in a September 2003 referendum.

Euro membership also looks a distant prospect in the UK and Denmark, as the issue has been kicked into the political long grass in both countries. Denmark's Central Bank Governor Nils Bernstein said recently that he expected his country to be sitting in the euro waiting room "for a very long time."






Propagandamachine Europa


Xavier Meulders

Politiek Incorrect - 04/08/2006


"Diegenen die zich het verleden niet herinneren, zijn veroordeeld om het verleden opnieuw te beleven", aldus de Indiase onafhankelijkheidsstrijder Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948). Hoewel Gandhi zeker geen Europeaan was - en er zelfs een sterke afkeer voor had, in het bijzonder van de Britse bezetter - zijn deze woorden zeker van toepassing op ons continent.

Iedere Europese burger met enig historisch besef kent dan ook waarschijnlijk de illustere naam van ene Joseph Goebbels, de man die op 18 februari 1943 voor een overvol Berlijns sportpaleis opriep tot een 'totale oorlog' en hiermee Duitsland de vernieling injoeg. Diezelfde Goebbels pleegde in het voorjaar van 1945 zelfmoord in Hitlers bunker, en daarmee was het einde gekomen aan het leven van een van Europa's grootste griezels.

Of toch niet? Zowel Nazi-Duitsland als de Sovjetunie mogen dan wel geïmplodeerd zijn onder het gewicht van hun imperialistische expansiedrang, maar dat wil niet zeggen dat het tijdperk van de tsarenrijken en Führerstaten voorbij zou zijn. Integendeel: tegenwoordig kennen wij zoiets als de Europese Unie. Een grootmacht die geen gebruik maakt van wapengekletter om haar territorium uit te breiden, maar van belastinggeld en beloftes vol gouden bergen aan toekomstige EU-lidstaten. Een ander typisch kenmerk van imperiums als de EU is hun democratisch deficit, door de EU belichaamd door op een sluikse manier steeds meer bevoegdheden te onttrekken aan de soevereine lidstaten (bv. door een Europese grondwet). De bevolking mort stilletjes, maar wordt weggelachen wanneer zij haar stem duidelijk verheft, zoals Frankrijk en Nederland gedaan hebben.

Om zo'n groot imperium te kunnen beheersen dat eigenlijk niet in goede aarde valt bij de bevolking is een zaak dan ook van cruciaal belang: propaganda. Vandaar dat meer dan zestig jaar na datum de geest van Goebbels nog steeds levendig rondspookt. En niet in een halfduistere kelder in Berlijn, maar in de Berlaymontresidentie te Brussel.
Goebbels en andere nazi-lieden trachtten het volk aan zich te binden door megalomane projecten zoals de uitbouw van Germania, de nieuwe Duitse hoofdstad die Berlijn en omliggende gemeenten zou omvatten, en waarvan de Halle des Volkes - letterlijk - het hoogtepunt moest worden.

Dit project is door de vernietigende kracht van de Tweede Wereldoorlog nooit tot uitvoering gebracht, maar het idee waait nu door de Europese kantoren. Zo hebben enkele eurocraten nu het waanzinnige plan bedacht een heus "EU-parlement bezoekerscentrum" in Elsene op te richten. Dit "bezoekerscentrum" gaat zelfs nog een stap verder dan de nu bestaande "infopunten Europa" (dat in Vlaanderen ook te vinden is in steden als Antwerpen en Brugge): terwijl de infopunten louter bedoeld zijn als verstrekkers van informatie over de EU aan de burger, heeft dit bezoekerscentrum zelfs een interactieve rol. Een toeristische attractie als het ware. Een EU-ambtenaar verklaart:

"De nadruk van het bezoekerscentrum ligt er vooral op om de bezoeker dingen te laten ervaren, en niet louter passief informatie vergaren."

Volgens de ambtenaar in kwestie is het zeker niet de bedoeling om van het bezoekerscentrum een propagandamiddel te maken, maar ontkent anderzijds niet dat het werd opgericht in nasleep van de Franse en Nederlandse nee-stemmen tegen de Europese grondwet. Buiten informatie over de EU-instellingen bekomen, kan de bezoeker ook "rollenspellen" spelen door, fictief, in de huid van een parlements- of commissielid te kruipen en nieuwe wetgeving uit te vaardigen. Ook quizzen over politiek en geschiedenis van de Europese Unie zullen aan bod komen. De nadruk zal er voornamelijk liggen op "actief burgerschap". Geen propagandamiddel?

Aan dit staaltje volksverlakkerij waar Goebbels nog een puntje aan zou kunnen zuigen is uiteraard een prijskaartje verbonden. Zo heeft de administratieve cel van het Europees Parlement 32,9 miljoen euro veil voor het hele project, dat tegen het einde van 2008 zou moeten voltooid zijn. En de verwachtingen zijn hooggespannen: volgens insiders zou deze nieuwe toeristische trekpleister jaarlijks 450.000 bezoekers moeten aantrekken. Dat is bijna evenveel als het National Constitution Centre in de VSA (500.000 bezoekers per jaar). Denkt de EU dat zij als artificiële constructie werkelijk zo populair is dit bezoekersaantaal te kunnen overtreffen?
Zo verklaarde de EU zich enkele maanden geleden nog "verheugd" over het bezoekersaantal van ca 100.000 personen op de Europese opendeurdag in het weekeinde van 6 mei dat in Brussel werd georganiseerd. Het was toen zelfs een mooi en zonnig weekend. Ter vergelijking: op de evenementen rond Independence Day in Philadelphia die op 4 juli laatstleden werden georganiseerd kwamen zo'n 3 miljoen bezoekers. Zit Europa dan misschien toch met een imagoprobleem?...

En wie zich kan vinden in de vergelijking tussen Europa en Nazi-Duitsland, kan Brussel nog steeds een Sovjetspiegel voorhouden. Zo stelde EU-commissaris voor Communicatie Margot Wallström voor om een heus "zangevenement" te organiseren naar aanleiding van de vijftigste verjaardag van de EU. Meteen rees een storm van protest uit de nieuwe Oost-Europese lidstaten, want dit deed hen denken aan de stalinistische tijd toen de mensen gedwongen werden te zingen voor de grootsheid van de leider. Wanneer zal de frisse wind van de perestrojka ook over dit continent waaien?






Energy From the Restless Sea

There is more riding the waves here than surfers, thanks to a growing number of scientists, engineers and investors


By HEATHER TIMMONS

The New York Times - August 3, 2006


A group of entrepreneurs is harnessing the perpetual motion of the ocean and turning it into a commodity in high demand: energy. Right now, machines of various shapes and sizes are being tested off shores from the North Sea to the Pacific — one may even be coming to the East River in New York State this fall — to see how they capture waves and tides and create marine energy.

The industry is still in its infancy, but it is gaining attention, much because of the persistence of marine energy inventors, like Dean R. Corren, who have doggedly lugged their wave and tidal prototypes around the world, even during the years when money and interest dried up. Mr. Corren, trim and cerebral, is a scientist who has long advocated green energy and pushed through numerous conservation measures when he was chairman of the public energy utility for the city of Burlington, Vt.

Another believer in the technology is Max Carcas, head of business development for Ocean Power Delivery of Edinburgh. "In the long run, this could become one of the most competitive sources of energy," said Mr. Carcas.

His company manufactures the Pelamis, a snakelike wave energy machine the size of a passenger train, which generates energy by absorbing waves as they undulate on the ocean surface.
With high oil prices, dwindling fuel supplies and a growing pressure to reduce global warming, governments and utilities have high hopes for tidal energy. The challenge now is turning an accumulation of research into a viable commercial enterprise, which for many years has proved elusive.

No one contends that generating energy from the oceans is a preposterous idea. After all, the "fuel" is free and sustainable, and the process does not generate pollution or emissions.

Moreover, it is not just oceans that could be tapped; the regular flow of tides in bodies of water linked to oceans, like the East River, hold promise too. In fact, it seemed like such a sensible idea that inventors started making the first wave of such generators centuries ago. Many operated like dams, trapping water and then releasing it after the tides fell. But they were outmoded with the rise of steam engines and other more efficient fuel sources.

Ocean energy had a brief revival when oil prices rose in the 1970's, and prototypes were tested in Europe and China. But financing dried up when oil prices were low in the 1990's, and advances in wind turbines and other renewable energy elbowed out tidal projects.
These days, wave power designs vary from machines that look like corks bobbing in the ocean to devices that resemble snakes pointing into waves. There are shoreline machines that cling, like limpets, to rocks.

Tidal power machines, in contrast, often come in the form of turbines, which look like underwater windmills, and generate energy by spinning as tides move in and out; some inventors also are testing concrete-and-steel machines that lie on the seabed and pipe pressurized water back to the shore.
Even big commercial power companies are joining the action. General Electric; Norsk Hydro, a Norwegian company; and the Germany power giant Eon have recently pledged money for new projects or investments in tiny marine energy companies.

"It is an untapped renewable energy source," said Mark Huang, senior vice president for technology finance in General Electric's media and communications business, which is financing marine projects. "There is no where to go but up," Mr. Huang said. He added that solar or wind energy should be viewed "as a case study" for the direction marine energy could take.

Right now, wave power generators are being tested near the shores of New Jersey, Hawaii, Scotland, England and Western Australia. A long-awaited East River tidal turbine project is to start this fall, and Representative William D. Delahunt, Democrat of Massachusetts, has proposed that the United States follow in Britain's footsteps to build an ocean energy research center, the country's first, off the Massachusetts coast.

A handful of commercial projects are also in the works, including the world's first "wave farm," as the fields of machines are known, being installed off the north coast of Portugal. A field of tidal turbines is also being built off the shore of Tromso, Norway.

Britain could generate up to 20 percent of the electricity it needs from waves and tides, according to an estimate by a government-financed group here called the Carbon Trust. That is about 12,000 megawatts a day at current usage, or three times what Britain's largest power plant produces now. In fact, England and Scotland have become experimental laboratories for ocean energy development. As reserves shrink and the offshore oil business in the North Sea winds down, governments are trying to capture the accumulated knowledge and transform oil industry jobs into other ways of generating energy.

One research center here in Newcastle is putting marine devices to the test in a wave pool, and another is deploying them in the roiling ocean off the Orkneys, the low islands off northernmost Scotland. The Scottish government has pledged to generate 18 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2010.

If marine energy replaces the burning of some fossil fuels like coal, it can help reduce overall carbon dioxide emissions and possibly increase the diversity and security of energy supply, said John Spurgeon, a marine energy specialist in the British Department of Trade and Industry. Since 1999, the government has committed more than $47 million to research and development, $93 million to commercialize that research and additional money to bring the energy into the electrical grid, Mr. Spurgeon said.

No energy source is perfect, though, and marine energy developers are running into some hurdles. While such generators do not emit smoky pollutants or leave behind radioactive waste, the machines are not small or delicate, and can be an eyesore. To draw energy from the ocean, they often need to be rooted on sea floors relatively close to shore, or mounted on rocks on the shore — places that have not traditionally been used for energy generation.

And despite their green-friendly intentions, inventors are finding some of the stiffest resistance is coming from environmental groups.
Take the case of Verdant Power, Mr. Corren's company, which has been trying for years to erect a small field of tidal turbines in the East River — a project that may finally get started this fall. Mr. Corren, the company's technology director, first developed the turbines as part of a New York University project in the 1980's and planned to attach them to the Roosevelt Island Bridge.

After the school pulled the plug on the project, the design team spent years trying to find a new home. One executive even brought a prototype to Pakistan, but the data it collected was lost when the computers and instruments went missing.

Verdant embarked on a new East River turbine project in 2003, but it has taken two and a half years to get regulatory approval for the project from environmental agencies and the United States Army Corp of Engineers. The issue was not blocking the river to boat traffic, or how it would hook up to the electrical grid or even how it might mar the view, because it is mostly underwater. It was the fish population of the East River.

"We had eight fish biologists against it, and no one on the other side advocating for clean air" or other environmental issues, said Ronald F. Smith, the chief executive of Verdant Power. "You can see that the regulatory process is extremely biased towards doing nothing," Mr. Smith said, adding that regulators were worried about complaints that could arise from any new projects.

To get approval, the company is installing $1.5 million in underwater sonar to watch for fish around the turbines "24 hours a day, 7 days a week," and the data will be shown online, Mr. Smith said. Verdant Power executives warn against looking forward to a live "East River cam" that broadcasts the murky mysteries beneath the water. Sonar transmissions look more like fuzzy black and white television, they say, and besides they have seen "very, very few fish" on their visits to the river.

Ultimately, Verdant estimates it can generate 10 megawatts of electricity from the East River's tidal flows — enough to power several thousand homes, though its test turbines will be used primarily to power a Gristedes grocery store on Roosevelt Island.
To date, studies on the effect of wave and tide machines on marine life have been sporadic and sometimes bizarre. For example, in one British trial, frozen fish were shot like projectiles onto a piece of metal that was supposed to estimate the effects of the turning blades of marine turbines.

Proper testing will involve putting some of these devices where they are not wanted, a problem reminiscent of the wind industry's battle to construct new turbines. Some leading environmental advocates say that the issue is part of a larger wrenching change being thrust on the green movement.

"It's a major psychological and cultural challenge for the environmental and conservation movement," said Stephen Tindale, executive director of Greenpeace UK. "What we need to combat climate change is a complete transformation of our energy system, and that requires a lot of new stuff to be built and installed, some of it in places that are relatively untouched."

But the potential of marine energy is too strong to ignore. For example, a recent report identified San Francisco Bay as being the largest tidal power resource in the continental United States. "There are tremendous resources for generating power along the northern coast of California," said Uday Mathur, a renewable energy consultant to government agencies and private enterprises.

The biggest hurdle is creating a landscape for development "where these technologies can thrive," he said, which includes a combination of government involvement, community support and of course the availability of financing.
"The situation is very similar to wind 15 years ago," said John W. Griffiths, a former British gas executive and founder of JWG Consulting, which advises on renewable energy projects. He added: "We think that this is an industry waiting to happen."






Europe: old and new information tricks

Disinformation: cold-war propaganda wars return


The Economist - Aug 3rd 2006


Soviet propagandists were experts in the art of disinformation: planting specious stories in obscure corners of the media, claiming, for example, that the CIA invented AIDS. Now Russia's interests are once again being promoted by information sources that look plausible, at least until you look closely at their antecedents.

Take, for example, the International Council for Democratic Institutions and State Sovereignty (ICDISS), a grand-sounding outfit that says it works on "result-oriented nation-building for new and emerging states". It produced a report in July supporting international recognition for Transdniestria, a breakaway region of Moldova that has had Russian support and Western disapproval since a brief civil war in 1992.

Slickly produced and heavily footnoted, the report was publicised in Russia and Transdniestria as evidence that influential outside opinion was conceding the case for independence. That would be in sharp contrast to all Western governments' policy to date, which has been trying, rather ineffectually, to reunite Transdniestria with Moldova.

The report says it is based on the work of a bunch of well-known international lawyers, including a serving State Department official, and academics from Stanford, Oxford and Harvard. It implies they attended a conference at the Beacon Hotel in Washington, DC, in April 2006.

The truth is rather different. For a start, the Beacon Hotel has no record of any such conference. None of the supposed outside experts attended it. Those contacted crossly denied involvement, though one, a doctoral student, says he did offer some advice. The ICDISS has now removed the names from the report.

That is puzzling enough. But the ICDISS is even odder. It has no address and no telephone number. Although its website, and an entry on a write-it-yourself encyclopedia, Wikipedia, claim that it was founded in 1999, there is no trace of its activities, or of its supposed staff members, in news databases or the internet before January this year. Since then, it seems to be solely involved in promoting Transdniestria. It claims to be based in America, but does not appear to be a charity there (for more on the ICDISS, see this article).

Its website is registered at a hotel address in Mexico, with a phone that does not answer, and operated from a server in Latvia. And that is positively illuminating compared with the report's other supposed publisher, the Euro-Atlantic Joint Forum Contact Group, which seems to have no existence other than its logo.

The report itself is written in professional legalese, peppered with Latin phrases and confident references to precedent. But some bits read awkwardly, with mistakes (telephone "centrals" rather than "exchanges") often made by Russians writing in English.

Reached by e-mail, the ICDISS programme director, identifying herself as Megan Stephenson, declined to talk on the telephone, or to give details of ICDISS financing, staff, headquarters or other activities. The group wished to keep a low profile because of its previous involvement in protests in Venezuela, which had led to the arrests of its activists, she explained. A sentence on a dormant Venezuelan opposition website does acknowledge help from the ICDISS, although how, when and where is not clear. "If you wish to reach for the somewhat strained conclusion that our little group of volunteers is a Kremlin front, then so be it, but I again state clearly for the record that this is not the case," insists Ms Stephenson.

The Transdniestria report is oddly similar to a recently published English-language "psychiatric assessment" of the Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili. This claims, falsely, to be endorsed by Western hospitals and research institutes. It portrays the Georgian leader (a Russian bugbear) as a paranoid hot-head.

One plausible conclusion is that the Kremlin is engaged in a new push to support Transdniestria and three similar statelets, as a response to the likely acceptance later this year of independence for Kosovo, a province of Serbia mostly populated by ethnic Albanians. Victor Yasmann, an analyst in Prague, predicts that Russia will invite the four to join the Commonwealth of Independent States, a Russian-led talking shop. That would be a half-way house to their full independence, a gain for the Kremlin and a setback for the West.

Certainly Moldova, poor, weak, divided and neglected like no other ex-communist country, seems to be hotting up. Transdniestrian politicians have blamed Moldovan provocateurs for a bomb attack on a bus in Tiraspol, the capital, that killed eight people on July 6th. Transdniestria will hold another referendum on independence on September 17th. Western countries will not recognise it, but Russia may.

In Moldova proper, the Gagauz minority (Orthodox by religion, Turkish by ethnicity), which is strongly pro-Russian, is restive. It may demand independence too. The economy is reeling from a Russian embargo on its main export, wine—which is also imposed on Georgia. Transdniestria's economy, based on arms, steel and trade (critics say smuggling) is thriving.

Faced with all this, some in Moldova despair of an independent future. Better, perhaps, to abandon dreams of joining a cold-hearted Europe, and fall in with Russia's wishes: a neutral and federal Moldova, with a special status for the Russian language. Others ponder dumping Transdniestria and rejoining kindred Romania, from which they were separated by Stalin in 1940. That idea seemed outlandish, until it was floated last month, with seeming seriousness, by Romania's president Traian Basescu.

Such thoughts are a distraction, argues Andrei Popov, at a think-tank in Moldova. The real task should be to reform the country's dismal justice system, local government and investment climate. Enviability is the best way to stability, not fretting over the means of failure.






Polen vindt doodstraf kunnen


Gazet van Antwerpen - 03/08/2006
Het Belang van Limburg - 03/08/2006


De Poolse regering wil het Europese verdrag voor de Rechten van de Mens zo laten veranderen dat de doodstraf toegelaten wordt.

"We willen een debat beginnen om een reële wijziging te verkrijgen van protocol nummer 6 van de Conventie dat de doodstraf in Europa verbiedt of bekomen dat het item ten minste onder de bevoegdheid van de nationale wetgevingen valt", verklaarde een medewerker van premier Kaczynski.

In een recent radio-interview zei de conservatieve Poolse president Lech Kaczynski, de tweelingbroer van de premier, eerder al dat hij een Europees debat over de doodstraf wil.

Hij verklaarde zich een voorstander van de doodstraf en voegde eraan toe dat er in Europa over gesproken moet worden. "Ik denk dat Europa daarover van mening zal veranderen met de tijd", aldus Lech Kaczynski.

Die verklaringen werden op felle kritiek onthaald in Brussel en Straatsburg. René van der Linden, de voorzitter van de Parlementaire Vergadering van de Raad van Europa, liet donderdag in een brief aan de Poolse staatsleider weten dat de herinvoering van de doodstraf een "behoorlijke achteruitgang" zou zijn en "totaal onverenigbaar met het lidmaatschap van de Raad van Europa" is.






Polen wil verdrag mensenrechten veranderen voor doodstraf


Het Laatse Nieuws - 04/08/06


De Poolse regering wil het Europese verdrag voor de Rechten van de Mens zo laten veranderen dat de doodstraf toegelaten wordt. Dat verklaarde Przemyslaw Gosiewski, een naaste medewerker van de conservatieve premier Jaroslaw Kaczynski, donderdag.

Debat

"We willen een debat beginnen om een reële wijziging te verkrijgen van protocol nummer 6 van de Conventie dat de doodstraf in Europa verbiedt of bekomen dat het item ten minste onder de bevoegdheid van de nationale wetgevingen valt", verklaarde Gosiewski.

In een recent radio-interview zei de conservatieve Poolse president Lech Kaczynski, de tweelingbroer van de premier, eerder al dat hij een Europees debat over de doodstraf wil. Hij verklaarde zich een voorstander van de doodstraf en voegde eraan toe dat er in Europa over gesproken moet worden. "Ik denk dat Europa daarover van mening zal veranderen met de tijd", aldus Lech Kaczynski.

Kritiek

Die verklaringen werden op felle kritiek onthaald in Brussel en Straatsburg. René van der Linden, de voorzitter van de Parlementaire Vergadering van de Raad van Europa, liet donderdag in een brief aan de Poolse staatsleider weten dat de herinvoering van de doodstraf een "behoorlijke achteruitgang" zou zijn en "totaal onverenigbaar met het lidmaatschap van de Raad van Europa" is.

"Misverstand"

De woordvoerder van de Poolse president noemde de brief van Van der Linden een "misverstand". "President Kaczynski is een ideologische voorstander van de doodstraf, maar hij heeft de herinvoering ervan nooit voorgesteld. Hij is zich perfect bewust van de verbintenissen die voortvloeien uit het lidmaatschap van de Europese Unie", zo verklaarde de woordvoerder aan de privételevisiezender TVN24. Nog volgens de woordvoerder zal de president volgende week antwoorden op de brief.

De Europese Commissie benadrukte woensdag dat er "een absolute onverenigbaarheid is tussen de EU en de doodstraf", terwijl de Poolse extreemrechtse partij LPR, die lid is van de regeringscoalitie, net de lancering van een "Europese campagne" aankondigde voor de toepassing van de doodstraf voor pedofiele moordenaars.

Polen, dat sinds 2004 lid is van de Unie, stopte in 1988 met het uitvoeren van de doodstraf en schafte ze af in 1997.






EU brushes off Polish call to bring back death penalty


By Helena Spongenberg

EU-Observer - 03/08/2006


The European Commission has rebuffed a call by the Polish president for an EU-wide debate on reinstating the death penalty.

"The death penalty is not compatible with European values," a commission spokesman said in Brussels on Wednesday (2 August).

Polish president Lech Kaczynski argued last Friday that "countries that give up this penalty award an unimaginable advantage to the criminal over his victim, the advantage of life over death."

"I think that over time Europe will change its view in this regard," he told Polish public radio.

The rightist Law and Justice party, led by twin brothers Lech and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, won elections last September, with Lech becoming Polish president and Jaroslaw taking over as prime minister in July.

In the meantime, the League of Polish Families, a nationalist minority party in Poland's governing coalition, launched a campaign for a partial restoration of the death penalty.

"We want to collect half-a-million signatures of EU citizens on a petition demanding the death penalty for paedophile murderers," the vice-president of the party, Wojciech Wierzejski, said according to press reports.

"The legal solutions for this disgusting crime in the European Union are an anachronism and are simply not adequate," he added.

The League has been criticized by the European Parliament, which said in a June resolution that it was to blame for a rise in xenophobia in Poland. It said that the League's leaders "incite people to hatred and violence."

The League's leader Roman Giertych however called the MEPs' report "slanderous."

"I call on the parliament members to show one instance where the party leaders called for violence," he declared.

The abolition of the death penalty is part of the human rights criteria of EU membership.

Most western European countries abandoned the death penalty in the 1960s while central and eastern European states did so in the 1990s.

Poland abolished capital punishment in 1997, following a nine-year moratorium on executions imposed in 1988.






"Servië geeft Kosovo niet op"


NRC-Handelsblad - 1 augustus 2006


Servië zal Kosovo niet opgeven, zelfs niet als dat betekent dat Servië geen lid van de Europese Unie kan worden.
Dat heeft de Servische premier, Vojislav Kostunica, gezegd in een vraaggesprek met het Servische blad Danas.

Volgens Kostunica is er sprake van een voorstel aan Servië om lid te worden van de Europese Unie in ruil voor het afstaan van Kosovo. Het voorstel zou afkomstig zijn uit "de internationale gemeenschap". Kostunica noemde evenwel geen namen. Hij noemde het voorstel "onmogelijk".
"Geen enkel land heeft ooit een deel van zijn grondgebied moeten opgeven om lid van de EU te worden." De voorwaarden voor toetreding tot de EU, aldus Kostunica, voorzien niet in territoriale concessies. "Daarom kan Servië ook niet om iets dergelijk worden gevraagd", aldus de premier.

De Servische premier verdedigde het behoud van Kosovo met het argument dat een democratische staat niet tegen zijn zin een deel van zijn grondgebied kan worden ontnomen. "Dat is geen lege retoriek, het is een constitutioneel-juridische formule", zo zei hij. Als Kosovo onafhankelijk wordt, is dat een "verdeling à la Cyprus". "Servië verwerpt een oplossing die Servië Kosovo ontneemt. Servië zal Kosovo altijd als deel van zijn grondgebied beschouwen."

Over de staatkundige toekomst van het sinds 1999 door de Verenigde Naties bestuurde Kosovo wordt sinds februari overlegd tussen de Serviërs en de Kosovo-Albanezen, onder auspiciën van de VN. Sinds februari is zo goed als geen vooruitgang geboekt in het overleg, dat – naar algemeen wordt aangenomen – eind dit jaar zal uitlopen op een voorwaardelijke onafhankelijkheid van Kosovo. Dat komt neer op onafhankelijkheid onder toezicht van de internationale gemeenschap. Vorige week werd het statusoverleg op het hoogste niveau gevoerd, in aanwezigheid van de presidenten en premiers van Servië en Kosovo. Hoewel de sfeer goed werd genoemd, werden er geen handen geschud.

Op het statusoverleg eist Kosovo volledige onafhankelijkheid. Servië biedt de Kosovo-Albanezen maximale autonomie, maar staat er wel op dat de regio formeel deel blijft uitmaken van Servië. Wat een EU-lidmaatschap van Servië betreft: voor hervatting van het overleg over een toetreding op termijn eist de EU eerst de arrestatie van Ratko Mladic, de gezochte oud-legerleider van de Bosnische Serviërs.






Poland losing grasp on Europe, diplomat warns


By Andrew Rettman

EU-Observer - 01/08/2006


The Polish government is weakening Poland's position in the EU and jeopardising its chances of running a successful EU presidency in 2011, the former director of EU affairs in the Polish foreign ministry, Pawel Swieboda, told EUobserver on Monday (31 July) after leaving his post on Friday.

"This government is focused on internal politics and EU affairs are a distant question. They don't adequately identify the impact of European policies on national politics," Mr Swieboda said, indicating that the "EU-wary" regime's Europe policy boils down to blocking new EU projects and protecting the status quo.

"The cost of this is that Poland won't be among those EU countries shaping new political realities," he explained. "It is not pro-active, getting involved at an early-stage in the decision-making process. It is defensive. It reacts to events. There won't be any catastrophe, but Poland will not be a country with any real power of action."

The ex-diplomat added that losing influence in Brussels will also make Poland less attractive as a strategic partner for the US, saying "America increasingly engages with the EU as a whole rather than with individual member states. These days, the more you have to say in the EU, the closer you are to Washington."

Meanwhile, the new regime's EU mistrust is driving away seasoned officials like Mr Swieboda himself, who left his post after five years to run a new Warsaw-based think-tank. His departure comes after eight senior diplomats recently quit the Polish EU embassy after becoming marginalised, to take their chances working for EU institutions instead.

"They [the government] do not trust people with documented pro-EU views. If you have demonstrated engagement with Europe over the past few years, you are not part of the inner circle," Mr Swieboda said, warning that Poland could find itself short of qualified officials to run the EU presidency in 2011.

"The process is accelerating this year. It's risky. Poland will have the EU presidency in five years. And it's not easy to find experienced people from one day to the next, enough to manage over 200 EU working groups," Mr Swieboda said, linking the insular mentality of Poland's new leaders to their lack of contact with non-Polish politicians.

God and death

The rightist Law and Justice party led by twin brothers Lech and Jaroslaw Kaczynski won elections last September, with Lech becoming Polish president and Jaroslaw taking over as prime minister in July. The party holds power in a coalition with two fringe eurosceptic groups - right-wingers the League of Polish Families and leftists Self-Defence.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski has made EU-friendly remarks on the need for an EU constitution-type treaty and the importance of keeping in with fiscal rules. But Warsaw has also antagonised Brussels by trying to derail VAT and sugar reforms, block foreign takeovers of Polish firms, constant wrangling with Berlin and its Roman Catholic views on gay rights.

Polish president Lech Kaczynski last Friday called for the EU to bring back the death penalty, saying "I think that over time Europe will change its view in this regard." Although a new EU project of sorts, the proposal fits in with Mr Swieboda's analysis by appealing to right-wing voters at home while poking a finger in the eye of EU law and prevailing liberal values.

"This would not gain any support at EU level," one EU diplomat said. "It is one of the core principles of the European Union." Some of the new government's policies, such as extending government control over the media and judicial appointments are also beginning to raise eyebrows about Poland's respect for European democratic standards.

But with Law and Justice leading Polish opinion polls, Mr Swieboda says the government has tapped a rich vein of anti-elite feeling in Polish society and cannot be easily dismissed. "People who have not done well in the past 17 years feel this government speaks their language. The EU project is very easy to portray as an elite project," he said.

Rebound possible

The diplomat-turned-analyst does not believe there will be early elections in spring 2007, but remains "optimistic" about Poland's future EU career on the grounds of pro-EU feelings among the population at large and the prospect of Jaroslaw Kaczynski gaining more exposure to EU colleagues around the table in Brussels.

"Polish society is strongly pro-EU. A June poll in the foreign ministry saw people against the idea of an EU president, but strongly federalist in all other areas such as having an EU army and an EU constitution," he explained. "At some point there will have to be a correction of social expectations into national politics."

"I don't expect any changes in the next few months," Mr Swieboda stated. "But as Poland heads for the EU presidency in 2011, in the next few years the issue of the presidency must become a priority in Polish society and politics and this will spark a debate [on Europe] sometime in advance."






No Kosovo trade-off for EU membership, says Kostunica


By Lucia Kubosova

EU-Observer - 01/08/2006


Serbian prime minister Vojislav Kostunica has said Belgrade will not agree to Kosovo's independence even if this attitude should damage the country's EU prospects.

After the first face-to-face meeting between Serbian and Kosovo Albanian authorities on the future status of the province failed to produce any results last week, Mr Kostunica said international negotiators should not use Europe as a bargaining chip in the UN-conducted talks.

"The argument of force is quite often on the side of the others, i.e. to certain parts in the international community, who tell us to give up on Kosovo for the sake of the EU integration process," Mr Kostunica told Belgrade's daily Danas.

He pointed out that EU membership conditions did not include "territorial concessions," adding, "Therefore, Serbia cannot be asked to do anything of the kind."

Belgrade rejects the calls for independence of the break-away region which has been administered by the UN since NATO's 1999 air raids on Serbia then governed by Slobodan Milosevic.

Instead, the current prime minister supports Kosovan autonomy within Serbia which is not enough for most ethnic Albanians living in the province.

Mr Kostunica said the world's leaders have not yet considered the positive aspects of such a solution, adding that Belgrade would use all legal means to avoid Kosovo's independence.

But he disapproved of the rhetoric of Serbian Radical Party representative Tomislav Nikolic who called on Serbia to defend Kosovo with arms in an interview, according to press reports.

The next round of talks on Kosovo are scheduled for 7-8 August and are expected to deal with local reform and minority rights, Associated Press reports.

The Serbian prime minister says the Vienna meeting will hear the very same message again.

"Serbia's position will be to reiterate that Kosovo is a part of Serbia. This is not empty rhetoric, but a legal and constitutional formulation," Mr Kostunica said.






Commissioner says Bulgaria has made "concrete progress"


By Helena Spongenberg

EU-Observer - 01/08/2006


EU justice and home affairs commissioner Franco Frattini has praised Bulgaria its recent reform progress ahead of the country's planned accession to the EU next year, but also told Sofia to step up the implementation of reforms.

"I am a bit more optimistic after my last visit here. I see concrete progress... Bulgaria is on the right track. Now the key word is implementation," Mr Frattini said after meeting Bulgarian prime minister Sergey Stanishev on Monday (31 July), according to AFP.

The commissioner also commended "important successes" dismantling organised crime groups, abolishing bank secrecy, improving external border protection and fighting top-level as well as petty corruption.

But he told the Bulgarians that they are not there yet.

"Bulgaria is on the right track," he said. "I am a bit more optimistic after this last visit but it is, of course, up to Bulgarian authorities to continue making all the possible efforts to meet the requirements by the end of 2006," reported AP.

In May the European Commission called, in its monitoring report on Bulgaria and neighbouring Romania's readiness to join the 25 member bloc, for "clear evidence of results in investigating and prosecuting organised crime networks" and also in "the fight against fraud and corruption."

Bulgaria and Romania are scheduled to join the EU on 1 January 2007. But the commission will produce a final report on 26 September in which it could still recommend the postponement of the two countries' EU entry by a year.

During a visit to Bulgaria's National Assembly, Mr Frattini was told that constitutional changes would guarantee the independence of the judiciary – something for which the Bulgarians have been heavily criticised in the past.

To introduce the proper amendments to its constitution, Bulgaria is carrying out consultations with the commission, according to Bulgarian daily the Sofia Echo.

Mr Frattini will be visiting Romania on Tuesday (1 Aug).






Turkey and Albania least popular of EU hopefuls


By Lucia Kubosova

EU-Observer - 31/07/2006


Almost half of Europeans are against Turkey joining the EU, according to a new survey published Friday (28 July).

The eurobarometer survey indicates that while 39 percent of European citizens are in favour of Turkey joining the EU, 48 percent are against the idea.

There were wide discrepancies between member states with Austrians being the most hostile about Turks joining (81%), according to AFP.

They were followed in their opposition by the Germans and Luxembourgers at 69 percent, Cypriots at 68 percent and Greeks at 67 percent.

The phrasing of the question on Turkey showed that respondents would be against the idea even if Ankara fulfilled all the bloc's criteria for getting into the club.

The Spanish, meanwhile, were the least opposed to Turkish membership with only 23 percent of respondents against the idea.

Europeans are more favourable to Balkan countries joining the EU although they are not enthusiastic, the survey reveals.

The poll found that 56 percent of respondents are in favour of Croatia joining, 49 percent in support of Macedonia, 48 percent for Bosnia and 47 percent for Serbia.

However, only 41 percent of respondents said they are in favour of Albania joining the EU - while a majority of 44 percent is against Tirana's accession.

More broadly, only 45 percent of Europeans support further enlargement of the bloc while 42 percent oppose it.

"European Union citizens do not perceive enlargement as a win-win situation; while they consider that the 2004 enlargement process benefits the new member states, they are more concerned about the problems that could arise," the researchers concluded.

"Furthermore they consider future accessions as primarily in the interest of the candidate and potential countries and fear the consequences for the economic situation of their own country."

EU expansion records more supporters than opponents in Greece, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and the UK.

But at the other end of the spectrum, more than 60 percent of the German, Luxembourg, French, Austrian and Finnish interviewees disapprove of the idea.




"Positie Turkse christenen blijft zorgelijk"

Zorgwekkende tendensen


Door Theo Borgermans (Bron: RD)

Rknieuws - 29/07/2006


De positie van religieuze minderheidsgroeperingen in Turkije, waaronder christenen, blijft zorgelijk, zo meldt Forum 18. De Noorse nieuwsdienst baseert zich op uitspraken van de Duitse mensenrechtendeskundige dr. Otmar Oehring.

Oehring, hoofd van de rooms-katholieke mensenrechtenorganisatie Missio, ontwaart een aantal zorgwekkende tendensen in de Turkse samenleving, aldus Forum 18. In de eerste plaats stelt de Turkse overheid zich zeer terughoudend op als het om godsdienstvrijheid gaat. Zo onderneemt zij weinig concrete stappen tegen schendingen van de vrijheid van godsdienst. Dr. Oehring: "Het is bekend dat telefoons regelmatig worden afgeluisterd en brieven worden geopend voordat ze worden bezorgd."

Een ander probleem is volgens de mensenrechtendeskundige dat alle christelijke kerken, ook al zijn voorganger en gemeenteleden van Turkse origine, door de Turken als buitenlands worden gezien. Dit nationale vooroordeel is volgens hem diepgeworteld en lijkt moeilijk te veranderen. Gesprekken tussen christelijke kerken en de overheid lopen bijvoorbeeld vaak via het ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken.

Hieraan gelieerd is, aldus dr. Oehring, het probleem van de "massale nationalistische indoctrinatie op scholen." Dit nationalisme kan volgens hem nog wel eens gevoed worden als paus Benedictus XVI in november een bezoek brengt aan Turkije. De meeste Turken zijn een tegenstander van het bezoek. Nationalistische Turken zullen het bezoek van Benedictus XVI vermoedelijk dan ook aangrijpen om hun afkeer van een toetreding van Turkije tot de Europese Unie kenbaar te maken.

Een sleutelrol als het gaat om de verbetering van de positie van christenen in Turkije is weggelegd voor Europa, meent dr. Oehring. De enige hoop op meer godsdienstvrijheid biedt volgens hem toetreding tot de Europese Unie. Vertraging in de onderhandelingen die Europa dit najaar aangaat met Turkije kan dan ook grote gevolgen hebben, stelt hij. "De positie van religieuze minderheden kan dan zelfs slechter worden dan voor de onderhandelingen. Ook zullen de nationalistische tendensen in Turkije extra gevoed worden."






EU gives glimmer of enlargement hope for South Caucasus states


By Andrew Rettman

EU-Observer - 28/07/2006


EU member states have agreed to insert subtle pro-enlargement wording into so-called action plans governing future relations with South Caucasus countries Georgia and Armenia, as regional tensions simmer over Georgian police action in the breakaway region of Abkhazia.

The EU action plans - set to be adopted in October - are now likely to carry the phrase that "The EU takes note that [these countries] have expressed their European aspirations" with member states' ambassadors finally coming to agreement after "some discussion" on Thursday (27 July).

The meaning of the wording is open to debate, with a Finnish EU presidency official saying "It's not that sensitive. I mean we are not talking about enlargement. It's semantics. You can ponder whether the aspirations refer to EU membership or European values in the metaphysical sense."

But diplomats from the South Caucasus states are reading the text as a step toward ever-closer EU integration with a potential target of membership 10 to 15 years from now. "This simply means that Armenia respects European values in the political and economic sphere," an Armenian diplomat said. "But membership is our ultimate goal."

Western European public opinion has turned against enlargement, especially in the Netherlands and France, following the no-votes on the EU constitution last year.

Ukraine is currently battling to get the phrase "the EU recognises the European aspirations" of Kiev into its draft partnership agreement with the EU for 2007 and beyond. Commenting on the South Caucasus wording, an EU diplomat said "That's not any commitment, but it's the minimum the EU could do."

The draft action plans also allow Georgia and Armenia the option to formally "align themselves" with "some" future EU statements on common foreign and security policy topics, despite objections from the French ambassador that this could lead to cherry-picking and loss of coherence on EU foreign policy issues.

Azerbaijan - the third South Caucasus country currently negotiating an action plan with the EU - was not included in the "aspirations" and foreign policy alignment discussion because it did not request to have either clause in its action plan text.

The South Caucasus is an important energy route for future gas and oil pipelines from the Caspian Sea basin to the EU, with a so-called "trojka" of high-level European Commission and EU presidency officials planning to go to the region to conclude the action plan deal in October.

Abkhazia shooting stops

Meanwhile, the Georgian ambassador in Brussels - Salome Samadashvili - said shooting has stopped in the Kodori Gorge in the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia, but added Georgian police officers on Friday captured five more rebel fighters and will stay in the area "for some time."

Georgian police entered the gorge on Tuesday to unseat local militant leader Emzar Kvitsiani and reinstall Abkhazian local government officials after their 12-year long exile in Tbilisi. "Kvitsiani was running the gorge as a personal fiefdom, extorting money and goods from local people," the Georgian ambassador said.

Tbilisi has pledged it remains committed to a peaceful resolution of the Abkhazia conflict, but separatist leaders in the Abkhazian capital of Sukhumi broke off talks with Georgia on Friday while Russian general Valery Yevnevich - who has "peacekeeping" troops in the zone - has warned his soldiers will fire back if attacked.

Armenia and Azerbaijan are monitoring the situation, with Baku giving full support to Tbilisi's "anti-terrorist operations" on its own "sovereign territory." The EU has not so far officially reacted to the Kodori operation - which left one woman dead - but Brussels is "concerned" about potentially worsening instability in its Black Sea neighbourhood.






After Reaching Outward, Poland Looks Back to Its Roots


By RICHARD BERNSTEIN

The New York Times - July 25, 2006


This modest village in central Poland, standing in the shadow of the Basilica of the Birth of Blessed Virgin Mary, finds itself reaching back to its deepest roots soon after Poland, and much of Central Europe, won the prizes of membership in and the European Union.

Many of the village's 600 residents have concluded with dismay that the tradition represented by their revered 14th-century basilica, which is closely connected to the unifying kings of Poland's past, is disappearing.

They have given their support to a nationalist Roman Catholic government that in the few months since coming to power has been defending what people here call Christian values and acting with an aggressiveness and a pugnacity that alarms more secular and liberal-minded people in Poland and elsewhere in Europe.

One villager, Wieslaw Cygan, who teaches in a technical college, is one of the 48 people here who voted for the League for Polish Families, a political party once deemed to occupy the Polish right-wing fringe that is now part of the governing coalition.

"I would like to see a new political party," Mr. Cygan said in an interview in his tidy home, sparsely decorated with the kind of religious and landscape paintings in fashion across much of Central and Eastern Europe. "I call it a People's Democratic Christian Conservative Party that would be Catholic and patriotic," he said.

The labels that Mr. Cygan attaches to his dream party suggest the struggle for identity that is going on in deeply Catholic and rural Poland and in some ways rippling across other formerly Communist countries in Europe. Now that they are firmly embedded in the European Union and the Western alliance, they seem to feel an urge to reassert older, more traditional parts of themselves.

Indeed, nearly 17 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and two years after Poland and other former Soviet bloc states joined the European Union, it is a surprising time in Europe. On the very heels of what could certainly be deemed a historic achievement, the defeat of Communist dictatorship and the merging of Eastern and Western Europe into a 25-member club of peaceful, secure and solidly democratic countries, Europe is in a strange and sour mood.

In the West, ever since the rejection by France and the Netherlands of a proposed constitution that was supposed to put enlarged Europe into its next phase of integration, there seems to be no energy and no political will directed toward what used to be enthusiastically called the European project.

Instead, the European Union is experiencing what the Center for European Reform in London has called an unprecedented malaise, signaled by a retreat into a narrow defense of national interests.

Meanwhile, members of the former Eastern bloc, though objectively in better shape economically and politically than at any other time in their histories, appear to feel lost, bereft of the purpose that inspired them when their only goal was to topple the Communists and, with that accomplished, to join the Western clubs open only to fully democratic countries.

The paradox is that neither the old members of the Union nor the new ones seem to be celebrating what really is a historic achievement, uniting a continent that for centuries was rent by war. Instead, in several countries - Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia in particular - the politics of lofty ideals and general high-mindedness has been replaced by a politics of bickering, accusations of corruption and ever changing coalitions.

"That was a very romantic time in Eastern Europe," Krisztian Szabados, director of Political Capital, a political analysis organization in Budapest, said of the immediate post-Communist period. "But the romantic time is over. Now politics is more professional, and professionalism means corruption and the dirty side of politics."

In Poland, a lesser zeal for Europe has coincided with an increased commitment to tradition, as interpreted by coalition leaders in Warsaw and their supporters in places like Wislica.

Here, the answer for the problems of Poland is symbolized by the solid, venerable and wholesome basilica, which anchors the village of just a few streets of modest houses and an expanse beyond of small farms. The church has long given life to the town.

Workers have restored the ruins of a ninth-century Romanesque church that was a predecessor to the Gothic basilica. A small museum depicts Wislica's history as one of Poland's medieval settlements, a crossroads visited by early kings.

But the government itself is not so solid. The coalition in Warsaw has had a rocky tenure since it came to power last fall. Some moderates fled the government as the Law and Justice Party eventually linked up with populist and far-right parties to stay afloat.

In early July the moderate prime minister, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, stepped down. To fill the post, President Lech Kaczynski appointed his twin brother, Jaroslaw, the leader of the Law and Justice Party, which the brothers created several years ago. The move gives the Kaczynskis a dominance in Poland unseen since the days of Communist rule.

President Kaczynski is well remembered in more liberal Europe for having banned a gay pride parade in Warsaw when he was mayor there two years ago. But more recently he reacted so vociferously to a parody of him in a leftist German newspaper - demanding that the German government investigate the newspaper and apologize for the article - that some German commentators argued that it had been a mistake to have allowed Poland into the European Union.

"The new Polish leadership stands for a negative trend in European politics," Süddeutsche Zeitung editorialized after Mr. Kaczynski's comments about the parody. "Nationalism and chauvinism are on the rise."

At home, Mr. Kaczynski has put loyalists into key government commissions supervising radio and television, and he has declined to speak out against what many people here have described as the growing power of a conservative Catholic nationalist radio station, Radio Maryja, which some people say is broadcasting a message of coded anti-Semitism.

And then there was the coalition with two populist parties that gave their leaders the Ministries of Education and Agriculture and made them deputy prime ministers to boot.

For some people inside and outside the country, the conservatism and pugnacity being shown in Poland signal an abrupt step backward in the direction of an aggrieved Slavic nationalism that was supposed to have disappeared with European Union membership.

The European Parliament, disturbed by the presence in the Polish government of the League of Polish Families, which echoes the Poland-equals-Catholicism nationalism of the 1920's and 30's, and noting a rightward turn in other parts of Central Europe, blasted the government for what it called "the general rise in racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic and homophobic intolerance in Poland." It also accused the leaders of the League of Polish Families of "inciting people to hatred and violence."

That statement was rebuffed by the Polish leaders and Parliament as exaggerated and alarmist. Indeed, while some league officials have made statements highly derogatory of homosexuality, and while the country's chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, was assaulted on a Warsaw street this spring, many Poles say those are isolated instances of bigotry that are not representative.

"The general tone of Polish opinion is that this was an overinterpretation of the situation," said Andrzej Jonas, editor of the English-language Warsaw Voice, referring to the European Parliament's resolution.

But while they think the European Parliament may exaggerate the degree of public intolerance and the government's complacency about it, many people say something worrisome is taking place.

"It's true that some of the demons of the past have returned," said Zbigniew Lewicki, a professor of American studies at Warsaw University. "I blame the leadership for it. They keep talking about the last 17 years as a time of dishonesty, a time that has to be accounted for, a time we should be ashamed of, and when these words come from a president, people say, "Well, maybe they are right."

"And people also ask, 'What do I believe in?' If they can't believe in the last 17 years, and they can't believe in the Communist tradition, they turn to the prewar tradition. And the only strong prewar tradition is nationalism, a sense of Polishness."

Indeed, the new government led by the Law and Justice Party has railed almost constantly against its predecessors, charging that they were corrupt domestically and failed to defend Poland's interests properly abroad, especially in the negotiations leading to European Union membership. The new government has evinced a good deal of animosity toward Poland's two larger and more secular neighbors, Germany and Russia.

And there are almost daily calls for a parliamentary investigation of the entire process by which Poland was transformed into a free-market economy.

A member of the coalition government, Andrzej Lepper, head of the Self-Defense Party, is emblematic of the complaints. He bitterly opposed Poland's joining the Union and argued that Poland's state assets had been sold off to private individuals and companies for "peanuts." He has criminal charges pending against him connected with anti-European Union, anti-globalization campaigns in the past.

Other shifts in the mood have resulted in some small but important changes in matters of everyday life, like a pledge to include questions about religion, meaning Catholicism, in the test that high school students must pass to get their diplomas. There is also a proposal to use government funds to build churches, but that is being contested in court.

It is the adoption of Catholicism as a sort of unofficial state religion that may have changed Poland's atmosphere the most.

"The reality is that we are like other European countries with our low birthrate, our divorces and abortions and all that," said Marek Ostrowski, an editor at the weekly magazine Polityka. "But there is much more sentiment in favor of a notion of the Polish tradition."

Mr. Ostrowski said, "Many people are happy that we finally we have a president who goes to church, and who doesn't avoid a church connection with major ceremonies," in contrast to recent past presidents, who were thought to represent the secular and international values of Western Europe.

For 17 years, he said, the political mainstream did not pay attention to the resurgent religious values. "Now that has changed," he said.






De Europese implosie en hoe die te stoppen

Europa zal over honderd jaar waarschijnlijk deel uitmaken van de Arabische wereld


Anders Wellebeeke

Het Vrije Volk - 24 juli 2006


De Europese beschaving - ooit leidend in de wereld - stevent af op een totale implosie met rampzalige gevolgen. Hoe heeft dit kunnen gebeuren? Hoe kunnen we de ineenstorting van onze beschaving voorkomen? Tijd voor een nieuwe doctrine.

Van expansie naar implosie

Vroeger bestond Europa uit succesvolle, expansieve culturen. Die expansie kon ontstaan omdat in Europa een vroege vorm van kapitalisme was uitgevonden en de wetenschap. Die dingen waren elders domweg afwezig, en zo kregen we eeuwenlang een structurele economische, technologische en dus militaire voorsprong op andere culturen. De Europese expansie over de wereld was dus niet immoreel, maar logisch.

Echter, na de Tweede Wereldoorlog stopte de expansie en werd Europa steeds meer een implosieve cultuurkring. De bevolking groeit niet langer, maar sterft uit. We veroveren niet langer de wereld, maar we laten de wereld ons veroveren. We exporteren geen beschaving, maar laten ons inferieure waarden opdringen. We scheppen geen stabiliteit buiten Europa, maar laten instabiliteit ontstaan binnen Europa. Wat heeft deze revolutionaire omslag veroorzaakt?

Het verlies van de wil om te winnen

De Europese implosie is niet het gevolg van de opkomst van andere beschavingen die het kapitalisme en de wetenschap hebben overgenomen zoals China. Was dat wel zo, dan zou de Amerikaanse cultuur in gelijke mate verschrompelen als de Europese. Dat is niet het geval. Integendeel. Amerika is de sterkste natie ter wereld. De Europese implosie is dan ook voor het grootste deel het gevolg van veranderingen in het Europese denken na WO2:

  • De dekolonisatie maakte de Europese expansie ongedaan. Hoewel die expansie destijds het logische gevolg was van de grote economische en technologische vooruitgang die Europa had geboekt, moesten we ons er voortaan schuldig over voelen.
  • Het blinde pacifisme van de jaren zestig maakte ons tot een militair lachertje. Hoewel de geallieerde bevrijdingsoorlog tegen de nazi's één van de meest gerechtvaardigde oorlogen was uit de geschiedenis, kwamen wij in de jaren zestig met het onnozele motto van nooit meer oorlog in plaats van nooit meer pacifisme. De enigen die profiteren van onze eenzijdige oorlogsban zijn mensen die helemaal niet geïnteresseerd zijn in vrede, zoals bijvoorbeeld Ratko Mladic in Srebrenica.
  • Het post-moderne cultuurrelativisme vernietigde ons zelfvertrouwen. Het leerde dat de waarden die onze cultuur hadden laten bloeien gelijk waren aan inferieure waarden, terwijl dat helemaal niet zo is. Een cultuur die rationaliteit en werklust beloont is beter dan een cultuur die dat niet doet.
  • Het (neo-)marxisme stelde het kapitalisme - de belangrijkste bron van onze welvaart - in kwaad daglicht door te verkondigen dat wij rijk waren omdat we anderen arm hadden gemaakt door uitbuiting en onderdrukking. In werkelijkheid zijn arme landen arm gebleven omdat ze het kapitalisme niet of onvoldoende hebben overgenomen en dus niet in staat zijn om zelf voldoende welvaart te produceren.

Wat de Europeanen door de acceptatie van deze ideeën in feite verloren hebben is de wil om te winnen, zowel op militair, cultureel als economisch gebied. De verspreiding van deze nieuwe Europese mentaliteit leidde tot een gevaarlijke verzwakking van de Europese culturen, zowel intern als extern.

De externe zwakte: het gevaar van eenzijdig pacifisme

Internationaal bekeerden we ons na het trauma van WO2 tot de pacifistische en cultuurrelativistische doctrine van Algeheel Respect voor Iedereen. Je zou dit een soort internationaal multiculturalisme kunnen noemen. De kolonies werden onafhankelijk en alle culturen waren voortaan even prachtig. Internationale conflicten zouden voortaan wel worden opgelost door "rond de tafel" te gaan zitten, en niet meer door oorlog. Er zou vanzelf een nieuwe vreedzame wereldorde ontstaan - een soort einde van de geschiedenis - die zou werken volgens onze pacifistische spelregels.

In werkelijkheid is de geschiedenis helemaal niet afgelopen, maar slechts een nieuwe ronde ingegaan. De relatief simpele Koude Oorlog is inderdaad voorbij, maar in de toekomst hebben we met een veelheid aan spelers te rekenen: Amerika, Rusland, China, India en de islamitische wereld. Het is een gotspe om te denken dat die gebieden aan onze pacifistische droom zullen meedoen, simpelweg omdat wij dat willen. Als er één is die dat niet doet, ligt Europa klaar om overgenomen te worden.

Vanwaar komt het gevaar? Niet uit Amerika. Amerika is ons duidelijk het gunstigst gezind. Dat is mooi, want met zijn militaire overmacht handhaaft Amerika de huidige, voor ons gunstige wereldorde. Veel Europeanen willen daar niets van weten. Zij haten Amerika omdat het niet meedoet aan ons blinde pacifisme. Maar zonder de militaire dreiging van Amerika is de zogenaamde soft power van Europa waardeloos.

De gezindheid van Rusland, India, en China ten opzichte van Europa is nog onbestemd. Het is zeer de vraag hoe de stemming in landen zich in de toekomst zal ontwikkelen.

Wat wel zeker is, is dat de islamitische wereld ons het kwaadst gezind is. Een groot deel van de islamitische wereld beschouwt zich als vijand van het Westen. Dat had geen probleem te hoeven zijn - de islamitische wereld lijkt vooralsnog militair te zwak om Europa te kunnen vernietigen - ware het niet dat de islamitische wereld door de vrije instroom van moslims nu tot in het hart van Europa reikt. Daarmee komen we op de interne zwakte van de Europese naties.

De interne zwakte: de onaanvaardbaarheid van ons bestaan

De interne verzwakking van de Europese culturen is veel ernstiger dan de externe. Deze zwakte is het gevolg van wat je de delegitimatie van onze cultuur zou kunnen noemen.

De afgelopen jaren is terecht korte metten gemaakt met de politieke correctheid. Het multiculturalisme zette een prijs op de hoofden van afvalligen, waardoor kritiek gelijk kwam te staan aan maatschappelijke zelfmoord. De resulterende zelfcensuur zorgde er voor dat wantoestanden bij immigranten niet besproken mochten worden. Dit was weliswaar een zeer kwalijke zaak en een schande voor onze geschiedenis, maar toch het ergste niet. Het allergrootste kwaad dat het multiculturalisme ons heeft berokkend is niets minder dan de delegitimatie van onze cultuur.

De delegitimatie van onze cultuur kwam op gang toen het valse schuldgevoel over het kolonialisme, het valse schuldgevoel over de armoede in de wereld, en het misplaatste cultuurrelativisme versmolten tot een maatschappijvisie die de Europese, monoculturele en blanke samenlevingen ging voorstellen als slechte, onaanvaardbare samenlevingen. Deze maatschappijvisie was het multiculturalisme. Onze cultuur kwam daarbij aan zo veel onterechte en vaak persverse kritiek bloot te staan, dat het bestaansrecht ervan in de ogen van veel mensen volstrekt is verdwenen.

In het multiculturalisme betekent de armoede in de wereld dat wij kapitalistische uitbuiters zijn die onze rijkdom niet met gekleurde mensen wilden delen omdat we racistisch zouden zijn. Om deze "misdaad" ongedaan te maken wenste het multiculturalisme onze samenleving weg te vagen en radicaal te vervangen door een glorieuze lappendeken van culturen, allen met verschillende talen, normen en waarden. Alleen door ons land en onze rijkdom onvoorwaardelijk te gaan delen zou onze samenleving weer aan bestaansrecht kunnen winnen. Massa-immigratie werd gepresenteerd als iets wat per definitie gunstig was.

Zoals de nazi's de legitimiteit van de joodse aanwezigheid in Europa met antisemitische propaganda langzaam maar zeker aantastten en zo draagvlak creëerden voor de holocaust, zo vernietigde het multiculturalisme geleidelijk aan de legitimiteit van onze eigen gelukkige en welvarende Westerse samenleving. Het multiculturalisme creëerde draagvlak voor onverantwoordelijke, maar nog altijd voortschrijdende retro-kolonisatie van ons grondgebied en de misdadige vernietiging van onze culturele habitat die daarmee gepaard gaat.

waan dat we in het verleden ons bestaansrecht hebben verspeeld en verkiezen daarom de nobele ondergang boven de strijd om het bestaan. Koloniale herstelbetalingen, positieve discriminatie, oneindige ontwikkelingshulp... het is allemaal niet genoeg. De enige manier om onze schulden in te lossen is onszelf definitief te onderwerpen aan onze vermeende slachtoffers. Wij snakken schijnbaar zo zeer naar verlossing van onze ingebeelde historische zondigheid dat we met massa-immigratie en het cultuurrelativisme het einde forceren van onze Europese identiteit. We voelen ons verplicht mee te werken aan een soort Europese Endlösung: zachtjes glimlachend zullen wij verdwijnen door met onze erfslachtoffers te versmelten, om bij de nieuwe dageraad te ontwaken als een nieuw moreel Zuiver Volk.

Geen nieuwe dageraad

Welnu, dankzij onze multiculturele volkswaan is onze homogene samenleving in het nieuwe millennium inderdaad weggevaagd en vervangen door een multi-etnische demografie. Alleen komt er helemaal geen nieuwe dageraad, geen glorieuze lappendeken met daarop - zoals op de paradijselijke brochures van Jehova's - een leeuw die een lammetje schoonlikt. Onze ooit blijmoedige samenleving worstelt thans met een enorme hoeveelheid laagopgeleiden en kansarmen die vaak ook nog een afkeer hebben van onze manier van leven. De sociale en etnische spanningen nemen toe en de nationale stabiliteit neemt zienderogen af.

Wanneer het botert tussen twee culturen, dan nemen die culturen steeds meer van elkaar over, zodat uiteindelijk een nieuwe monocultuur ontstaat. Dit is waarschijnlijk het geval met Surinamers en Nederlanders, en multiculturaliteit is dan slechts een tijdelijk tussenstadium, en geen eindstation. Wanneer het niet botert tussen twee culturen, dan gaan die culturen zich steeds meer tegen elkaar afzetten, en wordt het steeds moeilijker om een conflict te voorkomen. Dit laatste is waarschijnlijk het geval tussen moslims en Nederlanders. Multiculturaliteit is dan weliswaar een eindstation, maar geen wenselijk eindstation. In die zin is de Multiculturele Samenleving zoals die door veel mensen nog altijd beleden wordt dus een dubbele illusie.

Dat moslims en Nederlanders zich tegen elkaar afzetten is duidelijk. De islam is geen religie in Westerse zin met een scheiding van kerk en staat, maar de een religieuze, maatschappelijke en geopolitieke doctrine die gericht is op expansie ten koste van ons. Onder het multiculturalisme hebben we er te lang op gegokt dat de islam zich in Europa vanzelf zou ontwikkelen tot een Westerse religie met scheiding van kerk en staat. Sterker nog, dat is wat Links nog steeds doet. In werkelijkheid vindt er juist een radicalisering plaats, zowel in Europa als in de islamitische wereld. Het aantal moslims dat zich de laatste jaren bekeert tot de radicale islam is groeiende. Hoofddoekjes, niqaabs en in witte gewaden geklede baardmannen worden steeds algemener. De gok valt dus verkeerd voor ons uit, en respect voor de islam blijkt daarmee net zo gevaarlijk als bijvoorbeeld respect voor een ideologie als het communisme.

Bovendien ligt de loyaliteit van gematigde moslims ook niet aan de goede kant: 40 procent van de Marokkaanse jongeren wijst de democratie af. Deze groep mag dan niet direct gevaarlijk zijn en voor het grootste deel zelfs brave borsten, hun non-steun zal in de toekomst een ernstige verzwakking van onze staat kunnen vormen. Te meer omdat over twintig jaar het gehele Nederlandse stadsleven - de motor van onze cultuur - geïslamiseerd zal zijn.

Dat de tolerantie bij westerlingen voor moslims snel afneemt is dan ook niet alleen logisch, maar zelfs verstandig. Links interpreteert deze gezonde scepsis steevast als racisme en xenofobie, maar dat is niet accuraat. Moslims zijn geen ras, en met racisme heeft de verwijdering dan ook niets te maken. Wat we hier zien is dat het domweg niet botert tussen beide groepen.

Het is daarbij belangrijk om te beseffen dat de afloop van deze volksscheuring eigenlijk niet eens meer in Nederlandse handen ligt. De oplossing ligt niet bij het kweken van begrip en tolerantie bij Nederlandse niet-moslims, zoals Links vaak verwijtend beweert. Dat is allemaal irrelevant geworden met het opkomen van het explosieve geopolitieke conflict tussen het Westen en de islamitische wereld, en dat is waar interne zwakte en externe zwakte elkaar versterken. De kans dat Links ons boeltje tegen de geopolitieke stroom in bij elkaar zal kunnen houden is dan ook waarlijk klein. In plaats van een nieuwe dageraad wacht ons veeleer een geleidelijke Kulturdämmerung.

Een nieuwe doctrine voor de komende eeuw

De afgelopen decennia hebben wij onze samenleving gedestabiliseerd met de toelating van enorme hoeveelheden kanslozen. Bovendien hebben wij en ook andere Europese naties in onze wereldkundige onnozelheid de islamisering van onze grote steden gedoogd en gestimuleerd in een tijd dat nog niet duidelijk was dat we hiermee een groot geopolitiek conflict in huis zouden halen. De dreiging van islamisering is reëel, en langzaam begint het te dagen dat voor ons land, net als voor België, Frankrijk en Zweden, een Balkanscenario steeds waarschijnlijker wordt. Het keren van deze dreiging zal dan ook de vuurproef zijn voor de Europese beschaving in de komende eeuw.

Bij die vuurproef is een nieuwe doctrine onmisbaar. Deze doctrine zal tenminste drie onderdelen moeten bevatten om de islamisering van onze culturele habitat te kunnen stuiten: 1) een ideeënoorlog, 2) een moslimstop, en 3) een noodplan.

  1. Ideeënoorlog
    We verklaren nog meer dan nu de oorlog aan het koloniale schuldgevoel, het blinde pacifisme, het neo-marxisme, en het cultuurrelativisme die samen de vernietiging van onze culturele habitat legitimeren en stimuleren. Pas als we deze gevaarlijke ideeën hebben uitgeschakeld kunnen we voldoende draagvlak creeëren voor de volgende punten
  2. Moslimsstop
    We beëindigen onmiddelijk de instroom van moslims. Ten eerste omdat moslims niet integreren - hun cultuur verschilt te veel van de Westerse - zodat onze culturele habitat gekoloniseerd wordt. Ten tweede omdat we het explosieve geopolitieke conflict tussen de Westerse en islamitische wereld zo veel mogelijk buiten de deur moeten houden. Er komt daarom een absoluut immigratieverbod voor door ons vast te stellen gebieden. De Arabische wereld zal zeker tot die gebieden behoren.

    Illegalen, veelplegers, en moslimradicalen van wie bewezen kan worden dat ze vijanden van de Nederlandse Staat zijn worden gedenationaliseerd en gedeporteerd naar buitenposten die Nederland in samenwerking met andere Europese landen in een Afrikaans of islamitisch land zal pachten of stichten. Het afschrikwekkende effect hiervan zal inwoners van Nederland overtuigen van het nut van loyaliteit aan de Nederlandse Staat.
  3. Noodplan
    Het probleem van de moslimstop is dat we eerst de ideeënoorlog moeten winnen om draagvlak te creëren voor deze actie. Helaas is dit een race tegen de klok: als de ideeënoorlog te lang duurt zullen er al te veel moslims in Nederland zijn om een islamiseringsstop op democratische wijze te realiseren. Bolkestein denkt zelfs dat het nu al te laat is. Het is daarom noodzakelijk om een noodplan te ontwikkelen.

Indien door geopolitieke of interne oorzaken de spanning tussen niet-moslims en moslims uit de hand loopt, zal niet-loyale moslims het Nederlanderschap worden afgenomen. Hierin zal het leger, waarin overigens niet te veel moslims kunnen zitten, een grote rol spelen. Dit is geen mooie oplossing, maar wel een mooiere oplossing dan het Balkanscenario. Wanneer blijkt dat het niet meer gaat, zullen beide groepen net als bij een echtscheiding zo ordelijk en vreedzaam mogelijk uit elkaar moeten gaan.

Passen we de hier beschreven doctrine succesvol toe, dan zal de islam zich in Europa of ontwikkelen tot een Westerse religie met scheiding tussen kerk en staat, of ze zal zich hier niet ontwikkelen. Op deze wijze behouden we Europa voor het Westen, en kan Europa zelfs weer sterk worden. Nemen we de doctrine niet ter hand, dan zal Europa over honderd jaar waarschijnlijk deel uitmaken van de Arabische wereld.






The Twin Myths of Eurabia


Fjordman

Brussels Journal - 23/07/2006


Bat Ye'or is the most informed contemporary scholar of the unique Islamic institution of dhimmitude, the repressive and humiliating apartheid system imposed upon those non-Muslims (i.e., dhimmis) subjugated by Jihad. Sir Jadunath Sarkar, the pre-eminent historian of Mughal India, wrote the following in 1920 regarding the impact of centuries of Jihad and dhimmitude on the indigenous Hindus of the Indian subcontinent:

"The conversion of the entire population to Islam and the extinction of every form of dissent is the ideal of the Muslim State. If any infidel is suffered to exist in the community, it is as a necessary evil, and for a transitional period only. Political and social disabilities must be imposed on him, and bribes offered to him from the public funds, to hasten the day of his spiritual enlightenment and the addition of his name to the roll of true believers." "A non-Muslim therefore cannot be a citizen of the State; he is a member of a depressed class; his status is a modified form of slavery. He lives under a contract (zimma, or "dhimma") with the State: for the life and property grudgingly spared to him by the commander of the faithful he must undergo political and social disabilities, and pay a commutation money. In short, his continued existence in the State after the conquest of his country by the Muslims is conditional upon his person and property made subservient to the cause of Islam."

According to Bat Ye'or, Eurabia is essentially a political project for a demographic and cultural symbiosis between Europe and the Arab Muslim world, a new extended Mediterranean "continent" made possible by EU authorities through deliberately favoring Muslim immigration, promoting Multiculturalism and the dissemination of Arab and Islamic culture in Europe. In the essay Andalusian Myth, Eurabian Reality, co-authored with Andrew G. Bostom, editor of the comprehensive book The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims, Bat Ye'or dispels one of the founding myths of Eurabia: that of the alleged "tolerance" of medieval Spain under Islamic rule.

During the completion of the new Granada Mosque, which was marked by celebratory announcements July 10, 2003 of a "return of Islam to Spain," disconcerting statements were made by European Muslim leaders. Specifically, the keynote speaker at this conference, Umar Ibrahim Vadillo, a Spanish Muslim leader, encouraged Muslims to cause an economic collapse of Western economies (by ceasing to use Western currencies, and switching to gold dinars), while the German Muslim leader Abu Bakr Rieger told Muslim attendees to avoid adapting their Islamic religious practices to accommodate European (i.e., Western Enlightenment?) values.

Bat Ye'or and Andrew Bostom state that: "We believe that reiterating these ahistorical, roseate claims about Muslim Spain abets the contemporary Islamist agenda, and retards the evolution of a liberal, reformed "Euro-Islam" fully compatible with post-Enlightenment Western values." "Iberia [Spain] was conquered in 710-716 AD by Arab tribes originating from northern, central and southern Arabia. Massive Berber and Arab immigration, and the colonization of the Iberian peninsula, followed the conquest. Most churches were converted into mosques. Although the conquest had been planned and conducted jointly with a strong faction of royal Iberian Christian dissidents, including a bishop, it proceeded as a classical jihad with massive pillages, enslavement, deportations and killings."

"In the regions under stable Islamic control, Jews and Christians were tolerated as dhimmis - like elsewhere in other Islamic lands - and could not build new churches or synagogues nor restore the old ones. Segregated in special quarters, they had to wear discriminatory clothing. Subjected to heavy taxes, the Christian peasantry formed a servile class attached to the Arab domains; many abandoned their land and fled to the towns. Harsh reprisals with mutilations and crucifixions would sanction the Mozarab (Christian dhimmis) calls for help from the Christian kings."

The humiliating status imposed on the dhimmis and the confiscation of their land provoked many revolts, punished by massacres, as in Toledo (761, 784-86, 797), Saragossa from 781 to 881, Cordova (805), Merida (805-813, 828), and yet again in Toledo (811-819). The insurgents were crucified, as prescribed in the Koran 5:33.

According to Bat Ye'or and Bostom, "Feuding was endemic in the Andalusian cities between the different sectors of the population: Arab and Berber colonizers, Iberian Muslim converts (Muwalladun) and Christian dhimmis (Mozarabs). There were rarely periods of peace in the Amirate of Cordova (756-912), nor later." "Al-Andalus represented the land of jihad par excellence. Every year, sometimes twice a year, raiding expeditions were sent to ravage the Christian Spanish kingdoms to the north, the Basque regions, or France and the Rhone valley, bringing back booty and slaves. Andalusian corsairs attacked and invaded along the Sicilian and Italian coasts, even as far as the Aegean Islands, looting and burning as they went. Thousands of people were deported to slavery in Andalusia, where the caliph kept a militia of tens of thousand of Christian slaves brought from all parts of Christian Europe (the Saqaliba), and a harem filled with captured Christian women. Society was sharply divided along ethnic and religious lines, with the Arab tribes at the top of the hierarchy, followed by the Berbers who were never recognized as equals, despite their Islamization; lower in the scale came the mullawadun converts and, at the very bottom, the dhimmi Christians and Jews."

Richard Fletcher observed in Moorish Spain that "Moorish Spain was not a tolerant and enlightened society even in its most cultivated epoch." A prominent Andalusian jurist, Ibn Hazm of Cordoba (d. 1064), wrote that Allah has established the infidels' ownership of their property merely to provide booty for Muslims. Ibn Abdun forbade the selling of scientific books to dhimmis, under the pretext that they translated them and attributed them to their co-religionists and bishops.

Bat Ye'or and Bostom state that: "The Muslim Berber Almohads in Spain and North Africa (1130-1232) wreaked enormous destruction on both the Jewish and Christian populations. This devastation - massacre, captivity, and forced conversion - was described by the Jewish chronicler Abraham Ibn Daud, and the poet Abraham Ibn Ezra. Suspicious of the sincerity of the Jewish converts to Islam, Muslim "inquisitors" (i.e., antedating their Christian Spanish counterparts by three centuries) removed the children from such families, placing them in the care of Muslim educators."

"The socio-political history of Andalusia was characterized by a particularly oppressive dhimmitude that is completely incompatible with modern notions of equality between individuals, regardless of religious faith. At the dawn of the 21st century, we must insist that Muslims in the West adopt post-Enlightenment societal standards of equality, not "tolerance," abandoning forever their hagiography of the brutal, discriminatory standards practiced by the classical Maliki jurists of "enlightened" Andalusia."

Some modern Spaniards, however, seem to have forgotten the painful lessons inflicted by an Islamic occupation that ended as late as 1492. Every year, in a tradition that goes back to the 16th century, Spanish villages still celebrate the Reconquista, the liberation from the Moors (as the Muslims were locally called) during "Moros y Cristianos" festivals in which effigies of the prophet Muhammad – the so-called "la Mahoma" – are mocked, thrown out of windows, and burned. After the 2004 Madrid train bombings which killed 192 people, the village of Bocairent near Valencia decided to discontinue the century old tradition of mocking and burning effigies of Muhammad. Bocairent did not want to risk becoming the target of suicide bombers.

The Socialist government of PM Zapatero gained power after the bombings. Mr Zapatero's first act after winning the general election was to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq. He then turned on the Church, which he viewed as part of the "old Spain." The government drew up plans to finance the teaching of Islam in state-run schools and to give funds to mosques on the grounds that it would create greater understanding of the country's one million Muslims. Spain's leading archbishop, Cardinal Antonio María Rouco, denounced the Socialist government, saying its policies were taking the country back to medieval times, when Muslim invaders swept across the Straits of Gibraltar. "Some people wish to place us in the year 711," Cardinal Rouco said. "It seems as if we are meant to wipe ourselves out of history."

These days, we also hear claims that we in the West owe so much to Muslims because Muslim Spain preserved and passed on Greek knowledge to the West, without which there would have been no Renaissance. The funny thing is, nobody seems to ask the Greeks about how good Muslims have been at preserving their cultural heritage. They might disagree.

The classical and Greek heritage did not die when the Western Roman Empire collapsed, it continued in the Eastern Roman Empire, later known as the Byzantine Empire, as it was more Greek than Roman. It lived on there uninterruptedly until the 15th century when it was finally destroyed by, well, Turkish Muslims. The Byzantine Empire upheld the unbroken succession of Roman emperors for a thousand years after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The Byzantines played a crucial part in the transmitting the classical and Greco-Roman heritage to Renaissance Italy, especially after the Ottoman Muslim conquest and the many Greek scholars fleeing to the West.

The Greeks bore the brunt of the Jihad for more than a thousand years. Muslims wiped out Greek communities all over the Eastern Mediterranean for centuries, a process that continued in countries such as "Turkey," the formerly Greek-dominated region of Anatolia, and Egypt even after WW2. If this is how Muslims "preserve Greek heritage," I hope they will never be in a position to "preserve" mine.

Robert Spencer describes how on Tuesday, May 29, 1453, the armies of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II entered Constantinople, breaking through the defenses of a vastly outnumbered and indomitably courageous Byzantine force. Historian Steven Runciman notes what happened next: The Muslim soldiers "slew everyone that they met in the streets, men, women, and children without discrimination. The blood ran in rivers down the steep streets from the heights of Petra toward the Golden Horn. But soon the lust for slaughter was assuaged. The soldiers realized that captives and precious objects would bring them greater profit." It has come to be known as Black Tuesday, the Last Day of the World.

The jihadists also entered the Hagia Sophia, which for nearly a thousand years had been the grandest church in Christendom. Muslim men then killed the elderly and weak and led the rest off into slavery. Once the Muslims had thoroughly subdued Constantinople, they set out to Islamize it. According to the Muslim chronicler Hoca Sa'deddin, "churches which were within the city were emptied of their vile idols and cleansed from the filthy and idolatrous impurities and by the defacement of their images and the erection of Islamic prayer niches and pulpits many monasteries and chapels became the envy of the gardens of Paradise."

One of the worst burdens on the dhimmi population in the Ottoman Empire was devshirmeh, the forced collection of young boys from Christian Greeks, Croats, Bulgarians, Serbs and Albanians to build a slave army of Janissaries. Vasiliki Papoulia highlights the continuous desperate, often violent struggle of the Christian populations against this brutally imposed Ottoman levy:

"It is obvious that the population strongly resented [...] this measure [and the levy] could be carried out only by force. Those who refused to surrender their sons – the healthiest, the handsomest and the most intelligent – were on the spot put to death by hanging. Nevertheless we have examples of armed resistance. Since there was no possibility of escaping [the levy] the population resorted to several subterfuges. Some left their villages and fled to certain cities which enjoyed exemption from the child levy or migrated to Venetian-held territories. The result was a depopulation of the countryside."

Andrew Bostom describes how John Quincy Adams, diplomat and 19th century President of the United States, understood Jihad well, and had lots of sympathy with the Greeks, who, along with the Serbs, were the first to revolt against Turkish Muslim rule:

"If ever insurrection was holy in the eyes of God, such was that of the Greeks against their Mahometan oppressors. Yet for six long years, they were suffered to be overwhelmed by the whole mass of the Ottoman power; cheered only by the sympathies of all the civilized world, but without a finger raised to sustain or relieve them by the Christian governments of Europe; while the sword of extermination, instinct with the spirit of the Koran, was passing in merciless horror over the classical regions of Greece, the birth-place of philosophy, of poetry, of eloquence, of all the arts that embellish, and all the sciences that dignify the human character. The monarchs of Austria, of France, and England, inflexibly persisted in seeing in the Greeks, only revolted subjects against a lawful sovereign. The ferocious Turk eagerly seized upon this absurd concession, and while sweeping with his besom of destruction over the Grecian provinces, answered every insinuation of interest in behalf of that suffering people, by assertions of the unqualified rights of sovereignty, and by triumphantly retorting upon the legitimates of Europe, the consequences naturally flowing from their own perverted maxims."

The gradual loss of supremacy over their non-Muslim subjects and the Islamic anger this sparked culminated in the outright Jihadist genocide of the Christian Armenians in the early 20th century, a crime Turks are greatly reluctant to acknowledge even today. Serious riots broke out in Istanbul on the night of September 6, 1955, which led to looting in Greek neighborhoods and the destruction of many of the city's churches and synagogues. More than 5,000 shops belonging to the Greek minority were looted by an emotional crowd of several thousand people. The Turkish Pogrom resulted not only from "fervid chauvinism, or even [from] the economic resentment of many impoverished rioters, but [from] the profound religious fanaticism in many segments of Turkish society."

Ultranationalist Turks in 2005 attacked an exhibit in Istanbul of rare photographs of the violent anti-Greek incidents that occurred 50 years earlier, ripping photos off the walls, shouting "Turkey is Turkish and will stay that way." "I'm merely defending my country," one militant said. Turkey is officially 99 percent Muslim. 4,000 Greek Orthodox faithful live primarily in Istanbul. Known as Constantinople under Greece's last great empire, Istanbul remains the seat of the Eastern Orthodox patriarchate, the highest authority in the Orthodox world.

We often hear that "Islamic culture" was superior to Western culture in the Middle Ages, and that Westerners owe much of our technological progress to Muslims. If we say that the "Middle East" and the Eastern Mediterranean were culturally and economically superior to Europe in the Middle Ages, then this is true. However, this had been the case for thousands of years before Islam entered into history. The oldest civilizations know to mankind originated in a belt stretching from today's Egypt via Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq to Pakistan. It is not a coincidence that the first European civilizations began in countries that were geographically close to the Middle East: The island of Crete, later mainland Greece and the Balkans, then Rome. Even in the Roman Empire, the Eastern part of the empire was stronger and more urbanized than its Northern and Western regions, which is one of the reasons why the Eastern half proved much more durable while the Western half collapsed in the 5th century.

When the Arab Muslims, a collection of backward, nomadic warrior tribes who did not even have a fully developed script, conquered Egypt, Syria and Iran, they took control over some of the world's largest centres of accumulated knowledge. To say that "Muslims" or "Islamic culture" created the civilizations of the Middle East can be compared to an illiterate person storming into the planet's largest library, killing all the librarians and then claiming to have written all the books there. The cultural superiority of the Middle East in relations to Europe did not begin with Islam's entry into the area. In fact, it ended with it. One of the great riddles of history is how this once-dynamic region could become the world's number one problem spot. It so happens that this decline coincides with the region's Islamization, although some would claim that it had already started before this. Islam's much-vaunted "Golden Age" was in reality just the twilight of the conquered pre-Islamic cultures, an echo of times passed.

It is true that no civilization exists in a vacuum. Modern Western civilization owes much to Egyptians, Persians, Sumerians, Byzantines, Assyrians, Jews, Indians and Chinese. We owe little, if anything to Islam.

The esteemed F.A. Hayek, in his classic The Road to Serfdom, can have fresh lessons for us even today. According to him, "The most effective way of making people accept the validity of the values they are to serve is to persuade them that they are really the same as those which they, or at least the best among them, have always held, but which were not properly understood or recognised before." "The most efficient technique to this end is to use the old words but change their meaning. Few traits of totalitarian regimes are at the same time so confusing to the superficial observer and yet so characteristic of the whole intellectual climate as the complete perversion of language, the change of the meaning of words by which he ideals of the new regimes are expressed." "Gradually, as this process continues, the whole language becomes despoiled, words become empty shells deprived of any definite meaning, as capable of denoting one thing as its opposite and used solely for the emotional associations which still adhere to them." "With all the fatalistic belief of every pseudo-historian since Hegel and Marx this development is represented as inevitable: "We know the direction in which the world is moving, and we must bow to it or perish."

Isn't this exactly what is happening in the West now, with Multiculturalism and Muslim immigration? A massive rewriting of our history, and a perversion of language?

The European Commission proposed the controversial idea of a Eurovision-style singing event in all member states to celebrate the European Union's 50th "birthday," the 50th anniversary of the 1957 Treaty of Rome. Commissioner Margot Wallstrom was lobbying for big-style birthday celebrations to "highlight the benefits that European integration has brought to its citizens." Diplomats said the idea had sparked feelings of disgust among new member states, which were reminded of "Stalinist times" when people were forced to sing. Brussels also intended to spend around 300,000 on the appointment of 50 citizen "ambassadors," dubbed the "Faces of Europe," who were supposed to "tell their story" throughout the year on what the EU means to them in their daily life. Germany will in any case go ahead with its own idea to let thousands of its bakeries bake 50 sorts of cakes with recipes from all 25 member states.

Tariq Ramadan, the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, the most important Islamist movement of the 20th century, is a resident of Geneva, Switzerland. He is the author of a dozen books, among them To Be a European Muslim, translated into 14 languages. The EU Parliament consults him as an expert voice of "moderate Islam."

Mr Ramadan says decadent Europe will give way to an Islamized Europe. The 21st century, he says, will see a second role reversal between Islam and the West: "The West will begin its new decline, and the Arab-Islamic world its renewal" and ascent to seven centuries of world domination after seven centuries of decline. "Only Islam can achieve the synthesis between Christianity and humanism, and fill the spiritual void that afflicts the West." All good people are implicitly Muslims, he maintains, "because true humanism is founded in Koranic revelations."

Muslim identity is the only true source of universality, proclaims Tariq Ramadan. "It will fill the spiritual void that afflicts the West." In a clash with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somalian-born Dutch MP and critic of Islam, Ramadan said it was wrong to suggest that Muslims were in Europe to proselytize, and wrong to say that Europe had a Judeo-Christian past. "Islam is a European religion. The Muslims came here after the first and second world wars to rebuild Europe, not to colonise." Again, according to F.A. Hayek, "The Nazi leader who described the National-Socialist revolution as a counter-Renaissance spoke more truly than he probably knew. It was the decisive step in the destruction of that civilisation which modern man had built up from the age of the Renaissance and which was above all an individualist civilisation. Individualism has a bad name today and the term has come to be connected with egotism and selfishness. But the individualism of which we speak in contrast to socialism and all other forms of collectivism has no necessary connection with these."

"The essential features of that individualism which, from elements provided by Christianity and the philosophy of classical antiquity, was first fully developed during the Renaissance and has since grown and spread into what we know as Western European civilisation – the respect for the individual man qua man, that is the recognition of his own views and tastes." "From the commercial cities of Northern Italy the new view of life spread with commerce to the west and north, through France and the south-west of Germany to the Low Countries and the British Isles, taking firm root wherever there was no despotic political power to stifle it."

In sharp contrast to the Islamic world, "During the whole of this modern period of European history the general direction of social development was one of freeing the individual from the ties which had bound him to the customary or prescribed ways in the pursuit of his ordinary activities." "Perhaps the greatest result of the unchaining of individual energies was the marvellous growth of science which followed the march of individual liberty from Italy to England and beyond." "Only since industrial freedom opened the path to the free use of new knowledge, only since everything could be tried - if somebody could be found to back it at his own risk - and, it should be added, as often as not from outside the authorities officially entrusted with the cultivation of learning, has science made the great strides which in the last hundred and fifty years have changed the face of the world."

If this was all caused by the introduction of "Islamic science," how come none of it took place in Islamic lands? It is patently absurd to claim that Islam, perhaps the most anti-individualistic creed on earth, was somehow responsible for triggering the individual brilliance of Renaissance men such as Leonardo da Vinci, not to mention the grossly un-Islamic, figurative art of Michelangelo. So why is this assertion repeated, again and again?

The roots of Western civilization are primarily Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman. If you want to create a new entity, Eurabia, encompassing Europe, Turkey and the Arab world, you need first to establish that this cultural entity isn't "new" at all, but has always existed. The way to do this is to establish that Islam is a natural and integral part of Western civilization. You need to imprint in the minds of the people that yes, Muslims and Christians can indeed live peacefully together, as we did in the glorious days of Andalusia. Not only can we live with Muslims, we actually owe Muslims gratitude for helping us create the scientific achievements of the modern West. Thus we have the twin foundational myths of Eurabia. This is why French President Jacques Chirac can claim that "Islam has contributed just as much to Western civilization as Christianity," thus echoing Tariq Ramadan. Muslims believe that all people are born as Muslims. Jews and Christians share the same message as Muslims. If they disagree on something, this is because Jews or Christians have "misinterpreted" or "perverted" the true, Islamic message. All good things are essentially Islamic, as Mr Ramadan points out. It is thus an illusion to claim that there is such as thing as a separate, "Judeo-Christian" civilization. All Western achievements are Islamic, as they are the result of a civilization Muslims gave to us. Muslims should thus feel no gratitude for enjoying the benefits of the West, they are merely enjoying the legitimate benefits of their own civilization. In fact, Westerners should feel gratitude towards Muslims.

It is a time-tested Islamic tradition: If you cannot show significant historical achievements of your own, you can always steal somebody else's.

The EU elites see themselves as Julius Caesar or Octavian, but end up being Brutus, stabbing their own peoples in the back. They want to recreate the Roman Empire on both sides of the Mediterranean, bound together by some vague references to a "shared Greek heritage." Instead, they are creating a civilizational breakdown across much of Western Europe as the barbarians are overrunning the continent. The EU wants to recreate the Roman Empire and ends up creating the second fall of Rome.

It has been said that those who do not have a history also do not have a future. If so, maybe the reverse is true as well. Westerners have lost sense of much of our own cultural heritage. We have forgotten who we once were. Perhaps if we start reclaiming our past, we will discover that we have also gained a future, as an added bonus.






The Turkish Problem


James McConalogue

Brussels Journal - 22/07/2006


In recent months, the suppression of the freedom of expression in Turkey has reached new heights. An embarrassingly extensive list of journalists and writers are embroiled in the process of court sentencing, intimidation, imprisonment or legal proceedings. Among those cases has been the trial of Turkish writer, Orhan Pamuk at the end of 2005 after the author claimed in a Swiss newspaper that 30,000 Kurds and one million Ottoman Armenians were killed in Turkey yet nobody would talk about it - a trial dismissed earlier this year by the Ministry of Justice.

The charges have been brought against many authors under the notorious Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, which prohibits "insulting Turkishness" or insulting Turkish military service. Recent court decisions have further exacerbated the situation for writers, following the appeals against acquittals made by Kemal Kerincsiz, a leading member of a high-profile right-wing organization of lawyers named "The Unity of Jurists." The charges of "publicly insulting Turkishness" stem from the notorious Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. After previously reviewing the trial of Orhan Pamuk, it is clear that there is now an extensive list of journalists and writers whose freedom of expression continues to be intimidated and suppressed.

Recent estimates produced by the EU-funded "Network in Turkey for Monitoring and Covering Media Freedom and Independent Journalism" suggest that after only one and a half years of freedom of expression cases heard by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Turkey has already been summoned to make compensation payments of over 332,000 YTL (USD 207,500). The surveillance reported in the network's second quarterly report, dated up until June, also says: "While the reforms on the road to European Union memberships were important steps for freedom of expression, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has not only ignored the grave consequences created by the Criminal Code in just a year but has even passed a new form of the Anti-Terror Law (TMY) knowing it only brought more sentences at the ECHR..." The report also goes on to publicly record 56 new freedom of expression cases that have been filed against 67 individuals from the period April to June alone.

In recent days, EU Enlargement commissioner, Olli Rehn, has demanded that Turkey rewrite its laws which restrict free expression, in particular Article 301 of its penal code - a word of advice which immediately followed the Turkish courts upholding a suspended prison sentence against the editor of Agos, Hrant Dink. Since the 19th July, Hrant Dink faces renewed charges from the Sisli Public Prosecutor's Office following an interview with Reuters in which he declared his views on the Armenian Genocide. If prosecuted, the sentence will require him to serve his previously suspended six month sentence. I have also discovered that the Turkish citizen, Elif Shafak – author of Father and Bastard - also continues to face renewed charges of "insulting Turkishness" under the notorious legislation.

Alongside Shafak, the magazine writer Perihan Magden produced an article entitled "Conscientious Objection is a Human Right." Magden is awaiting trial but not without solidarity - Orhan Pamuk has lately taken to defending the controversial female columnist in the British press. Neither is Magden alone in court trials expressing the freedom of conscientious objection. Gokhan Gencay, working for the newspaper, Birgun, interviewed a conscientious objector only to discover that - like Magden - this reporting may soon lead to a three year sentence of imprisonment. Of those sentences, a terrifying trial awaits Birgul Ozbaris for her seven charges of news coverage on conscientious objection - if found guilty, she could face 21 years imprisonment.

There is a purposeful clan of intellectuals, writers and journalists in Turkey attempting to prove a basic issue: this basic requirement for the freedom of expression must not be meddled with. For a country eager to prove its fundamental liberal credentials, in addition to supporting a European package of equally accessible social rights, it might do well to celebrate those writers, not persecute them. All in support of one another, the collaborative clan are gradually being brought to the Turkish courts, tried on the charges of attempting to influence a fair trial. Murat Belge, writer for the newspaper, Radikal, was acquitted recently after criticizing the court's decision to prevent a Turkey-based conference on Ottoman Armenians. Murat Yetkin, among other writers for the Radikal newspaper, has not been as fortunate - Yetkin criticized the court proceedings against Orhan Pamuk, for which the writer may now face a 4.5 year term of imprisonment. This new "free expression club" of author's has some way to go in order to prove a reform of Article 301 and curb the authorities' intervention over free expression. Who knows – perhaps that impractical socialist cognoscenti club, the European Union, will increase its sanctioning power over the Turkish government until it can promise to not intervene and so enable to the conditions of free expression.

If Europeans are to insist on free expression, among other tenets of a modern society that each individual is able to enjoy, then they must provide its basic status and justification. That capacity to express oneself freely has been most ably articulated when it comes to propagating the personal freedom to express with regards to religious matters.

I recently began a debate with a blogger, writing my reply on whether I mistook the Turkish problem to be based - as I suggested - on the freedom of expression suppressed by Islam, rather than by the interventions of secular nationalists. I disagreed with the critic and in my defence suggested that if we remove ourselves from the specific charges - often meaningless - brought against author's, and instead look at the meaning of the charges and why they are made, then I do think the Turkish problem is concerned with the suppression and intimidation of free expression vis-à-vis Islam. After all, author's such as Orhan Pamuk had only been brought to court for disturbing Islamic orthodoxy in Turkey, discomforted by the open discussion on Armenian genocide and the persecution of the Kurds. The fact that the prosecutor, the legislative originators were not Muslims does not determine if the Turkish problem is about religion. It is about the intrusive status of religion in public life because of the nature of the charges. Free expression and the personal freedom of the individual are branches in the history of Christian liberal thought; a pattern of development severely at odds with the creation and modern inner-dynamics of the Islamic project.

Whichever way one chooses to look at it - and to give credit to my debating blogger - the free expression of differing religious, political and ethical doctrines must prevail in a modern European society. In the clearest doctrine on the freedom of expression, John Stuart Mill's On Liberty of 1859, it is clear that the most fundamental principle of a modern liberal society is the right to the "freedom of opinion." The only possible exceptions or limitations to this rule, which Mill believed were possible, were if we were to impose severe harm onto others, even though he declared these exceptions to be rare. Any state intervention into a literary controversy is not a viable option for a modern government, in particular one hoping for rapid and fluid EU entry.






Kaczynski: Mit der EU-Reform von vorn beginnen


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung - 08/03/2006


Unmittelbar vor seinem Berliner Antrittsbesuch an diesem Mittwoch hat Polens Staatspräsident Lech Kaczynski die Versuche Deutschlands und anderer europäischer Länder kritisiert, den Europäischen Verfassungsvertrag wiederzubeleben. Wer Demokratie ernst nehme, müsse anerkennen, daß sich in Frankreich und den Niederlanden das Volk gegen den Entwurf ausgesprochen habe, verlangte Kaczynski im Gespräch mit der Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung.

"Wenn wir jetzt verschiedene Manöver erleben, das Projekt trotzdem noch zu forcieren, dann hat das nur sehr geringe Chancen auf Erfolg." Zu den Politikern, die versuchen, den Verfassungsvertrag trotz der gescheiterten Abstimmungen in Kraft zu setzen, gehört unter anderem Bundeskanzlerin Merkel (CDU).

"Zu früh für einen europäischen Außenminister"

Kaczynski vermied es andererseits, sich einer Reform der EU ganz zu verschließen. Möglicherweise sei tatsächlich "ein neuer Grundvertrag für Europa" nötig, sagte er, allerdings müsse man bei seiner Gestaltung völlig von vorn beginnen. Der gegenwärtige Entwurf sei "nicht mehr aktuell" und führe zu "halbföderativen Zwitterstrukturen". Dafür sei die Zeit noch nicht reif.

Angesichts vieler Meinungsverschiedenheiten innerhalb der EU sei es außerdem zu früh für einen europäischen Außenminister oder einen europäischen diplomatischen Dienst. Was ein "neuer Grundvertrag" enthalten sollte, verriet der Präsident nicht. In diplomatischen Kreisen wird vermutet, daß sich hinter der Forderung nach einem völligen Neubeginn der Versuch verbirgt, den Vertrag von Nizza zu erhalten, der eine für Polen besonders vorteilhafte Stimmengewichtung bei Mehrheitsentscheidungen vorsieht.

"Pure Illusion"

Kaczynski trug noch einmal den polnischen Plan vor, die Staaten der EU und der Nato zu einem energiepolitischen Sicherheitspakt ("Gas-Nato") zusammenzuschließen, der Rußland daran hindern soll, einzelne Länder mit Lieferstopps zu bedrohen. Vorstellungen des deutschen Außenministers Steinmeier, wonach eine solche Struktur sich an den kooperativen Grundsätzen der Organisation für Sicherheit und Zusammenarbeit in Europa (OSZE) orientieren sollte, wies Kaczynski zurück. "Die OSZE ist keine besonders vitale Organisation", sagte der Präsident. "Jeder Versuch, eine so wichtige Angelegeneheit wie die Energiesicherheit des Kontinents an so eine Struktur zu binden, muß ernste Diskussionen auslösen".

Schon nach der Wende habe man versucht, Polen die OSZE an Stelle der Nato schmackhaft zu machen. "Zum Glück haben wir sehr schnell erkannt, daß das eine pure Illusion war."

Das vollständige Gespräch mit Lech Kaczynski lesen Sie in der Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung vom 8. März 2006.






"No chance" for EU constitution in Poland, Kaczynski says

Mark Beunderman

EU- Observer - 24/02/2006


Polish president Lech Kaczynski has said the EU constitution has "no chance" of being ratified in Poland, while pleading for a new, less centralist kind of charter.

The Polish leader made his remarks in an interview with French daily Le Figaro on Friday (24 February), ahead of a two-day visit to France on Friday and Saturday.

"This treaty has practically no chance of being ratified in Poland, neither by referendum, nor via the parliamentary route," he was quoted as saying.

Mr Kaczynski's interview reiterated earlier calls for a new EU charter, looser and more decentralised than the EU constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters last year.

The Polish leader told Le Figaro "In any case, it should take reality into account, that is to say the differences between the members of the union as far as the levels of development are concerned as well as traditions and expectations."

Underlining the central role of nation states in his thinking, he said "what interests the Poles is what will come out of Poland, not the future of the union as a whole. It's the same in France."

"What interests people is what Jacques Chirac says, not the declarations of Mr Barroso," he said mockingly.

On Wednesday he had stated that the current EU constitution text "brings us closer to a super-state," according to PAP.

Poland remembers "shut up" remark The trip to Paris constitutes Mr Kaczynski's first visit to a capital in "old" Europe, before a trip to Germany planned in March.

Le Monde writes that Mr Kaczynski's choice of Paris shows a warming-up in Franco-Polish relations which suffered during Poland's support for the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Mr Chirac famously said in 2003 after Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic backed the US position "They missed a good opportunity to shut up," adding "These countries have been not very well behaved and rather reckless of the danger of aligning

themselves too rapidly with the American position."

Poland has not forgotten Mr Chirac's "unfortunate" remarks, Mr Kaczynski indicated.

He told Le Figaro "to me, that way of thinking of the type 'we welcome you in the European Union, but you have to abide', that doesn't make sense."






Kosovo issue inflaming separatism in EU neighbours


Andrew Rettman

EU-Observer - 24/02/2006


The idea of Kosovan independence as a precedent for other separatist states is catching on in South Caucasus, with damaging implications for EU energy interests.

The breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the Armenian-occupied Azerbaijan region, Nagorno-Karabakh, are using the Kosovan model to legitimise their own "de facto states", UK-based analyst Oksana Antonenko said.

"The EU must develop a position on this. To say we don't recognise a linkage is not good enough," the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) expert added.

"The politicians and the elite continue to make a case to their people. The issue of Kosovo's status is changing their expectations, making them less willing to engage in the peace process."

Separatists will "scream about double standards" if the EU endorses independence in Kosovo but pushes reunification in South Caucasus, Brussels-based CEPS analyst Michael Emerson indicated.

Pristina and Belgrade are currently in talks to decide the status of Kosovo, a UN-administered province in Serbia since ethnic clashes subsided in 1999.

But senior UK diplomat John Sawers told Belgrade two weeks ago that the west has "decided" Kosovo should be independent.

Russian president Vladimir Putin gave weight to the Kosovo precedent idea on Russian TV on 30 January, with Moscow diplomats discussing the notion at UN level since.

"We need universal principles to find a fair solution to these problems," Mr Putin said.

"If people believe that Kosovo can be granted full independence, why then should we deny it to Abkhazia and South Ossetia?" he asked. "We know that Turkey, for instance, has recognised the republic of Northern Cyprus."

Russian troops in Georgia and Armenia give Moscow leverage against the pro-EU drift of South Caucasus.

But Mr Putin's words confused some experts, with Russia historically opposed to Kosovan independence and facing a legacy of separatism at home in Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.

"It's hard to know if they are serious or just trying to create pressure against Kosovan independence," former Estonian foreign minister and socialist MEP Toomas Ilves indicated.

"If Kosovo becomes a precedent and Transniestria recognises Abkhazia, Northern Cyprus recognises Nagorno-Karabakh, we could have a real mess on our hands."

Bosnian region Republika Srpska "will" also call for independence if Kosovo has its way, Serbian contacts told British conservative MEP Charles Tannock on a recent trip to Belgrade.

Brussels does not recognise Abkhazia, South Ossetia, or Nagorno-Karabakh, but the EU is stepping up conflict resolution and EU integration efforts in South Caucasus under its neighbourhood policy.

The EU buys oil from Azerbaijan through the so-called BCT pipeline, with plans afoot to build a new Caspian Sea gas link via Azerbaijan and Georgia under the Nabucco project, reducing energy dependency on Russia.

"If there was a new conflict [in Nagorno-Karabakh], the first target would be the pipeline and the oil terminals," senior OSCE diplomat Bernard Fassier indicated.

"It's essential the EU uses all the tools at its disposal...to get the message across that you have to respect compromise," he added.

EU special envoy to the region, Heikki Talvitie, said Europe has promised peacekeepers and a "blessing ceremony" for Nagorno-Karabakh if Armenia and Azerbaijan can clinch a deal.

He recently went to Moscow to endorse a Georgian-Russian plan for demilitarising South Ossetia.

EU neighbours on dangerous path International diplomacy's new interest in South Caucasus comes at a time when popular hardliners are gaining support for military solutions to the conflicts.

The region is arming for battle with Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan all doubling their military spending in the past two years.

"There is a radicalisation of public opinion and a push for more hardline solutions in the future," the IISS' Antonenko said. "What we have seen in the past few years is a serious arms race in South Caucasus."

The OSCE's Bernard Fassier recalled that young soldiers die "on a monthly basis" in border skirmishes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, while the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict claimed 10,000 lives in 1994.

"Time is not on our side," he stated. "Chekhov has taught us, if you have a pistol on the table in the first act, it will be fired by someone before the curtain drops."






Sarkozy wants national parliaments to control Turkey accession talks


Mark Beunderman

EU-Observer - 17/02/2006/


French interior minister and presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy has called for national parliaments' control of the EU's ongoing accession negotiations with Turkey and Croatia, while proposing quick implementation of parts of the EU constitution.

The French centre-right politician, who is seen as a strong candidate for France's presidential elections in 2007, set out his ideas in a speech before the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, the German conservative CDU's think-tank, in Berlin on Thursday (16 February).

Mr Sarkozy called for a political response to European citizens' uneasiness with EU enlargement, which in his view had been one key factor in the French and Dutch "no" votes against the EU constitution last year.

"The fiasco of the French and Dutch referendums has partly been provoked by hostility to a Europe without borders," he stated.

The French minister called for a strengthened principle of "absorption capacity" of the EU - the union's own capacity to integrate new members - to reassure citizens that enlargement would not take place without their control.

"I would like to organize a reinforced control of national parliaments on the accession negotiations which have just opened with Croatia and Turkey."

National parliaments should "control the union every time it wants to close one of the 35 chapters of the acquis communautaire [the EU's lawbooks] in its negotiations with its candidates."

Current practice does not work Mr Sarkozy argued that increased national parliament control on European Commission-led accession talks is necessary, as the safeguard of every member state's veto in accession talks is never used in practice.

"I note that the rule of unanimity in the accession negotiations is a false guarantee, because the practice demonstrates that no member state wants to appear to be the one that makes a blockade vis-a-vis a candidate state."

Mr Sarkozy recalled that the French parliament recently adopted an amendment to its constitution, securing a popular referendum on every single enlargement after Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia.

In his Berlin speech, the French politician also said the EU has to look for alternatives to the EU constitution.

He said he had told Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, that "for me, and I regret that, the constitutional treaty will not enter into force in its current form."

Referring to the negative outcome of the referendum on the charter in his country, he said "I will not be the one who will tell the French that they have misunderstood the question."

Mr Sarkozy instead proposed a three-stage plan for a better-functioning union.

The EU could immediately move to full transparency of EU ministers' meetings, introduce the possibility for citizens to propose EU laws (as foreseen in the constitution) and lift the national veto in penal matters.

In a second stage, the EU could implement a number of proposals in the constitution enjoying a "large consensus," such as the system of voting weights, a limitation of the national veto, creation of an EU foreign minister and increased checks against overregulation by national parliaments.

"These reforms could take the shape of a limited text of 10 or 15 important articles, which could be negotiated as fast as possible with the aim of giving the union the means for achieving efficiency."

In a third stage, the union should address fundamental future questions like a re-think of its financing and the establishment of its future borders, Mr Sarkozy said.






Europas grenzen


Nicolas Sarkozy

Die Welt - 17/02/2006


Hier in Berlin, einem Ort, der wie kein anderer die Wunden, die Zweifel und die Hoffnungen unseres Kontinents symbolisiert, möchte ich den historischen Erfolg der Einigung des Kontinents auf den Prinzipien der Freiheit und Demokratie hervorheben. Aber auch betonen, daß Europa einen neuen Schwung und neue Projekte benötigt, was effiziente Institutionen und stabile Grenzen voraussetzt.

Die Fragen, die wir uns stellen müssen, lauten: Was wollen wir aus Europa machen? Und wem soll das europäische Projekt dienen?

Jeder weiß, daß die föderalistische Idee der Vereinigten Staaten von Europa, welche die Gründerväter vor Augen hatten, mit unseren vielen Mitgliedsstaaten nicht mehr vereinbar ist. Während der Kampagne für die EU-Verfassung in Frankreich und in den Niederlanden haben wir gesehen, daß unsere beiden Völker den Verlust ihrer Identität, ihrer politischen und kulturellen Bezugspunkte nicht mehr hinnehmen wollen. Für sie ist Europa so undurchsichtig geworden, daß sie weder die Spielregeln noch die Ziele verstehen. Europa ist im Grunde unfähig geworden, Lösungen für die Probleme der Bürger zu finden. Sie können natürlich sagen, daß dies die Analyse eines Franzosen ist. Doch die Tatsache, daß die Regierungen von Großbritannien, Irland, Dänemark, Tschechien oder Polen darauf verzichtet haben, ein EU-Referendum abzuhalten, zeigt doch, daß auch deren Völker zum europäischen Projekt auf Distanz gegangen sind.

Unsere Aufgabe besteht somit darin, Europa wieder populär, bürgernah und verständlicher zu machen. Und hier sollten wir auf die einfache Idee der Gründerväter zurückgreifen: Das europäische Aufbauwerk muß leistungsfähig sein, damit es den Interessen seiner Bürger dienen kann. Ich gebe nur ein Beispiel: Bei der Harmonisierung der Mehrwertsteuer sind wir zu weit gegangen - mit dem Ergebnis, daß die Regierungen keinen Spielraum mehr haben, neue Arbeitsplätze zu schaffen.

Das europäische Projekt scheint mir nur dann sinnvoll zu sein, wenn es die Möglichkeiten der Globalisierung besser nutzt und zugleich unsere Bürger wirksamer gegen deren Exzesse schützt. Glauben Sie nicht, daß ich hier einem Protektionismus das Wort rede. Doch halte ich es für unverzichtbar, daß die Union ihre wirtschaftlichen Interessen gegen alle Formen unfairen Wettbewerbs in der Welt verteidigt. So sollten wir bei der Vergabe von öffentlichen Projekten europäische Unternehmen bevorzugen und einen Teil davon mittelständischen Betrieben zukommen lassen.

Keiner bezweifelt, daß der deutsch-französische Motor das europäische Aufbauwerk vorangebracht hat. Doch dies ist heute nicht mehr im gleichen Maße der Fall. Ich teile mit Angela Merkel die Vision, daß das deutsch-französische Paar nicht nur Deutschland und Frankreich, sondern dem allgemeinen Interesse der Union dienen muß. Darüber hinaus bin ich davon überzeugt, daß das Europa der 25 einen neuen Motor braucht. So sollten die sechs großen Länder in der Union die Verantwortung für jene übernehmen, die auf eine raschere Integration aus sind. Ich denke an Belgien und Luxemburg, die mit Deutschland, Spanien und Frankreich das Eurokorps bilden. Ich denke auch an Portugal und die Niederlande, die gerade mit Spanien, Italien und Frankreich eine europäische Gendarmerie geformt haben. Ich weiß, daß Angela Merkel, wie zuvor auch Helmut Kohl, die Sorge umtreibt, auf die Interessen der anderen Staaten Rücksicht zu nehmen. Diese Sorge teile ich mit ihr.

Ich kann nicht nach Berlin kommen, ohne meine Gedanken über die Zukunft der EU-Verfassung darzulegen. Ich bin natürlich traurig, daß dieses Vertragswerk nicht in Kraft treten kann. Stolz bin ich aber darauf, daß die Anhänger meiner Partei, der UMP, zu 85 Prozent Ja gesagt haben, auch wenn am Ende das Gesamt-Nein mit 55 Prozent der Stimmen vorn lag. Damit müssen wir leben, ob wir wollen oder nicht. Obwohl ich den positiven Voten in 13 EU-Staaten, darunter auch in Deutschland, den gleichen demokratischen Wert beimesse, kann ich mir doch nicht vorstellen, daß Franzosen und Holländer ein zweites Mal über einen identischen Text abstimmen werden. Deshalb schlage ich vor, daß wir an den institutionellen Fortschritten, die in der EU-Verfassung enthalten sind, festhalten, um das Funktionieren der Union rasch wiederherzustellen.

Um aus der aktuellen Blockadesituation herauszukommen, bieten sich drei Etappen an:

Als erstes sollten wird noch in diesem Jahr, am besten sofort, damit beginnen, ein besseres Funktionieren der Institutionen zu erreichen - und zwar im Rahmen der bestehenden Verträge, so wie dies Präsident Chirac vorgeschlagen hat. Ich denke an eine größere Transparenz in der Arbeit des Rates, an das Initiativrecht der EU-Bürger oder auch an den Artikel 42 des Vertragswerkes, der eine Mehrheitsentscheidung in der Zusammenarbeit beim Strafrecht vorsieht.

Als zweiten Schritt denke ich an die doppelte Mehrheitsentscheidung, den ständigen Präsidenten des Europäischen Rates, an die Ausweitung der qualifizierten Mehrheit auf die Außenpolitik und an die Kontrolle des Prinzips der Subsidiarität durch die nationalen Parlamente. Diese Reformen sollen in einem kürzeren Text mit zehn bis 15 Artikeln zusammengefaßt sein und so bald wie möglich verhandelt werden, um die Union wieder handlungsfähig zu machen.

Drittens sollten wir uns mit den Fragen beschäftigen, welche Grenzen die Union haben soll, und welche Finanzmittel für welche Politik zur Verfügung stehen sollen. Denn wie können wir weiter damit fortfahren, die Union durch ein System nationaler Beiträge zu finanzieren, das unsere Mitbürger nicht verstehen und in dem jeder Staat nur daran denkt, auf Kosten des Allgemeininteresses seinen eigenen Vorteil zu suchen? Diese Fragen müssen wir offen angehen, wenn 2008 die EU-Finanzpolitik neu verhandelt wird. Und warum sollten wir nicht an die Bildung einer großen Konvention denken, deren Mitglieder nach den Europawahlen von 2009 zusammenkommen könnten, um über die Zukunft der Union zu debattieren?

Lassen sie mich zum Schluß Grundsätzliches zu den Grenzen Europas sagen. Die Niederlagen der EU-Referenden in Frankreich und den Niederlanden wurden zu einem Teil durch die Abneigung gegenüber einem Europa ohne Grenzen provoziert. Der Grund: Innerhalb von drei Jahren, zwischen 2004 und 2007, wird die Union von 15 auf 27 Staaten angewachsen sein. Es ist also an der Zeit, offen die Frage nach der Aufnahmekapazität der Union und nach unseren Zielen zu stellen. Ich möchte einen ganz einfachen Vorschlag machen: Aufgrund der nicht jedem bekannten Tatsache, der zufolge die französische Verfassung für jede künftige Erweiterung ein Referendum zwingend vorsieht, sollten die Beitragsverhandlungen mit Kroatien und der Türkei der verstärkten Kontrolle der nationalen Parlamente unterworfen werden. Parallel dazu wünsche ich mir die Ausarbeitung eines Statuts der privilegierten Partnerschaft für jene Nachbarn der EU, denen es nicht bestimmt ist, Vollmitglied zu werden.

Ich lade somit die Europäer ein, aktiv zu werden. Ich sage mir zwar immer, daß man in europäischen Fragen geduldig sein müsse. Doch unsere Völker erwarten eine klare Perspektive und konkrete Projekte. Wir dürfen nicht länger warten. Wir müssen handeln. Denn das ist einzige Weg, das Projekt Europa wieder populär zu machen.

Der französische Innenminister Sarkozy hielt die Rede, die wir in Auszügen dokumentieren, gestern in der Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Berlin. Aus dem Französischen von Jochen Hehn.






Islam's problem with democracy


Suzanne Fields

Townhall - 16/02/2006


Religion has always been linked to political power, often controlled by kings and despots. In a democracy, there's a different kind of link. Freedom allows everyone to raise questions, confront dogma and challenge beliefs. That's why maintaining the complete separation of church and state is crucial.

Alexis de Tocqueville, visiting the United States in the early 19th century, identified this separation as crucial to democratic governance. Religion gave support to democratic political institutions because it restrained the exercise of liberties, appealing to conscience and morality in lieu of imposition by the state.

De Tocqueville's words came to life in the controversy over the cartoons satirizing Muhammed in the European newspapers, and Muslim reaction threw in sharp relief the differences between East and West. Cartoons in Middle Eastern newspapers depicting the Jewish star placed across a swastika and Jews with hooked noses adorned in Nazi helmets, slaying innocents, were widely reviled by Jews, but Jewish mobs did not set out to torch embassies or to kill one another in protest. So where is the outrage of "moderate" Muslims over the way the suicide bombers invoke the name of Muhammed on behalf of the slaughter of innocents?

The Frenchman was surprised by the pervasive religious atmosphere he found here, and in interviews with both clergy and laymen, he never met anyone who doubted that it was this separation of church and state that enabled religious belief to flourish. In times of enlightenment and democracy, he argued, the human spirit does not readily accept dogmatic beliefs except through faith. "... [A]t such times above all, religions should be most careful to confine themselves to their proper sphere, for if they wish to extend their power beyond spiritual matters they run the risk of not being believed at all," he wrote in his classic, "Democracy in America" (Ed. Note: This classic is on sale for 25% off this week at the Townhall Book Service.)

The Founding Fathers certainly thought this to be true, which is why God is invoked throughout our early history as the unifying force for equality, without dogma intruding into the specific details of government. The spirit rather than the letter of the law says "we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights." Like de Tocqueville, we cannot see into the secret places of the hearts of those who express faith in their religion; the benefit of the Judeo-Christian religious tradition is in its inspiration for our small-r republican institutions.

A century and a half before Samuel Huntington expressed concern for the "clash of civilizations," de Tocqueville identified the difference between our inheritance of Western religious values and the teachings of Muhammed that inspired Arabs in the Middle East. Muhammed contributed political maxims, criminal and civil rules and scientific theories to the Koran, mixing religion and politics, whereas the Gospels deal only with the relationship between man and God, and man and man: "That alone, among a thousand reasons," he wrote, "is enough to show that Islam will not be able to hold its power long in ages of enlightenment and democracy, while Christianity is destined to reign in such ages, as in all others."

An "open civilization" once flourished under the rule of Islam, but that was a long time ago, and the current incarnation of Islamic rule is theocratic and usually despotic, demanding that all see the world through the same lens. The Islamic scholar Ralph Ghadban, writing in a Swiss newspaper, argues that "a marked retrogression is observable in the Islamic world." He observes that the strict blasphemy laws being introduced in Muslim countries are intended less to protect Islam than to get rid of other religions. The Islamists are eager to see whether they can transport their theocratic bans to Europe.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Dutch writer and politician who wrote the film script for the movie that inspired an Islamist terrorist to murder filmmaker Theodore van Gogh, told the Danish newspaper that first reprinted the cartoons of Muhammed: "It's important to remember that Islam hasn't undergone all the reforms and adjustment which Christianity and Judaism have undergone over the past thousand years." This controversy brings attention to the Muslim taboos that are incompatible with democratic values. Subjugating women and imprisoning writers is anathema to Western religions.

If religious institutions are to be capable of maintaining themselves in a democratic age, observed de Tocqueville, "their power also depends a great deal on the nature of the beliefs they profess, the external forms they adopt, and the duties they impose." This is history's challenge to Islam.

Suzanne Fields is a columnist with The Washington Times.