Posts tagged "Europe"
New party tries to woo Hungary’s Roma (via AFP)

With elections looming on April 6, a new party is trying to win over Hungary’s largest ethnic minority, the Roma, a community scarred by deep poverty and racism and disillusioned by traditional politics. “Until now, the Roma have never had credible…

h/t: Cécile Alduy at The Nation


A fresh new wave of protests is rocking Turkey, as tens of thousands march on the streets to demonstrate against the government. But unlike what’s going on in Ukraine and Venezuela, the protests in Turkey mark a second, renewed round of protests that began last summer. If you have not caught up on the latest developments, or don’t know what the people are protesting about, here are 11 photos that sum up what’s been happening on the ground:



Protests began with the death of a teenager named Berkin Elvan, who was in a nine-month coma after being injured during last year’s government rallies. Thousands attended his funeral in Istanbul and marched in the streets afterwards.



Tens of thousands are also protesting across Turkey, especially in big cities such as Ankara and Izmir.



The government’s response has been to send riot police to clash with the protesters. The tactics have mostly been restricted to tear gas, water cannons and beatings.



It seems that police may have forgotten that’s how Elvan died — he suffered a head injury when he was hit in the head with a tear gas canister. He was passing by the protests to go buy bread for his family.



On Wednesday, a protester died from a head injury while a police officer also passed away from a heart attack



Around 36 children were arrested in Ankara for protesting on the streets. Over a hundred people were also arrested in Izmir.



Students across the country are also organizing school boycotts and sit-ins.



Elvan’s death marks the eighth casualty resulting from last year’s protests.



Protests began last year over the development of Gezi Park in Istanbul, although it quickly spread into a widespread anti-government demonstration.



Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has yet to comment on Elvan’s death.



Turkey will hold local elections on Mar. 30. Erdogan has promised to step down if his ruling AK Party loses power.

Source: Eileen Shim for Policy Mic


The latest escalation in the crisis also saw Moscow lash out at Washington for promising “illegal” financial assistance to Kiev leaders who rose to power on the back of three months of deadly protests that toppled a Russia-friendly regime.


The US conceded on Sunday that Moscow had “complete operational control of the Crimean peninsula” and announced that the secretary of state, John Kerry, will fly to Kiev in an attempt to halt a further Russian advance into Ukraine.

Senior US officials dismissed claims that Washington is incapable of exerting influence on the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, but were forced to admit that Crimea had been successfully invaded by 6,000 airborne and ground troops in what could be the start of a wider invasion.

“They are flying in reinforcements and they are settling in,” one senior official said. Another senior official said: “Russian forces now have complete operational control of the Crimean peninsula.”

On Monday, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said he had discussed Ukraine with his Chinese counterpart and their views coincided on the situation there.

Lavrov said in a statement that the two veto-wielding UN security council members would stay in close contact on the issue. 

Meanwhile, Ukrainian border guards reported a buildup of armoured vehicles near a ferry port on the Russian side of the Kerch Channel – a narrow sea channel dividing Russia and the Ukraine. A statement from the guard spokesperson said Russian ships had also been moving in and around the city of Sevastopol, where the Russian Black Sea fleet has a base, and that Russian forces had blocked telephone services in some areas.

Although President Barack Obama’s administration called for Putin to withdraw troops to Russian military bases on the peninsula, its objective appeared to have shifted to using political and economic threats to prevent any further military incursion.

One senior official said the major decision facing Putin was whether to “continue to escalate troop movements into other parts of Ukraine”.

“We’ve already seen the intervention in Crimea,” the official said. “It would be even further destabilising to expand that intervention into eastern Ukraine.”

The official added: “Our bottom line is they had to pull back from what they’ve already done, go back into their bases in Crimea. We’ll be watching very, very carefully of course and will be very, very concerned if we saw further escalation into eastern Ukraine.”

Kerry will fly to Kiev on Tuesday, to meet Ukraine’s new government and display “strong support for Ukrainian sovereignty”, a state department official said. However, in Washington there were mounting questions, particularly from Republican opponents of the administration, about the influence Kerry and other officials have over Moscow.

Kerry, Obama and other senior officials spent the last 24 hours frantically attempting to rally an international coalition of countries to condemn Moscow over the Crimea invasion, and commit to economic sanctions in order to prevent a further advance into other pro-Russian parts of Ukraine.

Obama spoke by phone with the British prime minister, David Cameron, Polish president Bronisław Komorowski and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.

“We are concerned as we watch this situation that the Russians have badly miscalculated,” one of the senior officials said. “There is a very fierce and proud tradition in Ukraine of defending their sovereignty and territorial integrity. So far Ukraine has showed, and Ukrainians individually have showed, marked restraint … but the longer this situation goes on, the more delicate it becomes.”

Earlier on Sunday, Kerry told CBS leading western nations were prepared to enact economic sanctions against Russia over what he called an “incredible act of aggression”.

“You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th-century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext,” Kerry said. “It is really a stunning, wilful choice by President Putin to invade another country. Russia is in violation of the sovereignty of Ukraine. Russia is in violation of its international obligations.”

Asked how the US and its allies might respond, Kerry stressed the economic harm that could befall Russia if it continued its occupation of Crimea, but repeatedly said “all options” were under consideration.

However, in a conference call with reporters later on Sunday, three senior US administration officials made clear that the “menu” of options before the White House does not include military action.

“Frankly, our goal is to uphold the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, not to have a military escalation,” one of the officials said. “I don’t think we’re focused right now on the notion of some US military intervention. I don’t think that would be an effective way to de-escalate the situation.”

During the call, which last almost an hour, the officials said they were looking to provide Russia with “off-ramps” that would enable Putin to reverse his course, and were applying pressure through a broad international coalition that had agreed to to ostracise Moscow.

That process has begun with major powers pulling out of preparatory meetings ahead of the G8 summit which is due to be hosted in Sochi in June, as well as the cancellation of other trade-related meetings with Russia planned for this week. In effect, Russia is being threatened with expulsion from the G8 group of countries, unless it withdraws from Ukraine.

That will quickly escalate to possible sanctions, including potential visa and banking restrictions targeting Russians close to Putin. Currently, the US is reviewing “all of our economic and trade cooperation with the Russian Federation”, one official said, and all 28 members of Nato were planning to sign up to a single statement, strongly condemning Moscow.

Obama Putin phone callPresident Barack Obama talks on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photograph: The White House/Getty Images

“He [Putin] is not going to have a Sochi G8, he may not even remain in the G8 if this continues,” Kerry told NBC earlier in the day. “He may find himself with asset freezes, on Russian business, American business may pull back, there may be a further tumble of the ruble.”

The Obama administration is also working with the European Union and International Monetary Fund to fast-track a package of financial aid and loans, in order to shore-up Ukraine’s economy.

The officials argued that Russia had miscalculated by invading Ukraine and effectively conquering the Crimean peninsula. What US officials described as the Russian “intervention” was likely to bolster “the people of Ukraine’s desire to reorient towards Europe”, an official said.

Another senior official said: “When it comes to soft power, the power of attraction, Vladimir Putin has no game. So he’s left with hard power and it’s a very dangerous game to play.”

However, the senior officials sounded flustered as they struggled with accusations from reporters that Obama had shown himself to be powerless in the face of Russian aggression.

On Friday, Obama made a forceful public address, warning Putin that there would be “costs” if Russia intervened in Ukraine. On Saturday he spent 90 minutes on the phone with the Russian leader, ultimately failing to dissuade him from taking military action.

Asked if Obama had a “credibility problem”, one senior official replied: “The premise of your question is he [Putin] is strong and [the] president of the United States is weak. He [Putin] is not acting from a position of strength right now.”

The official added: “You’re seeing the ability of the United States to bring with us … the rest of the G7 countries, the rest of Nato, and frankly the large majority of the world in condemning this action.”


Russian invasion of Crimea in no one’s interest

Armed men on Friday stormed two airports in the Crimean Peninsula, an autonomous ethnic Russian stronghold in Ukraine, the day after another group of men seized Crimea’s regional parliament and replaced the Ukrainian flag with a Russian one. 

The incidents, which come two days after Russia staged provocative military drills along its borders with Ukraine and placed 150,000 troops on high alert, have sparked a firestorm of paranoia, from Kiev to Washington, that Russia is plotting to reclaim the peninsula given to Ukraine by the Soviet Union in 1954 — a symbolic gift that officially became part of the country after the communist bloc collapsed in 1991.

“I can only describe this as a military invasion and occupation,” Ukraine’s new interior minister, Arsen Avakov, said on Friday, implying that the armed men who seized the airports were Russian and that rumored military intervention had already begun.

Read more

(Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)


The displays of pro-Russian fervour came after Ukraine’s new pro-Western government accused Russia of launching an “armed invasion” of Simferopol’s airport and another near Sebastopol.

Yanukovych’s days of running Ukraine are over.

KIEV, Ukraine — Mayhem gripped the center of the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday evening as riot police officers moved on protesters massed behind barriers raised throughout Independence Square, the focal point of more than two months of protests against President Viktor F. Yanukovych.

As the attack began just before 8 p.m. local time, the police tried to drive two armored personnel carriers through stone-reinforced barriers outside the Khreschatyk Hotel in the square. But they became bogged down and, set upon by protesters wielding rocks and fireworks, burst into flames, apparently trapping the security officers inside and prompting desperate rescue efforts from their colleagues.


The fighting broke out a day after Russia threw a new financial lifeline to Mr. Yanukovych’s government by buying $2 billion in Ukrainian government bonds.

The Russian aid signaled confidence from the Kremlin that important votes in Parliament expected this week to amend the Constitution and form a new cabinet will go in Russia’s favor. It also highlighted the absence of any clear promise of financial aid from the European Union or the United States, which have supported the opposition in Ukraine.

Mr. Yanukovych negotiated a $15 billion loan with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in December, and Ukraine received a first segment of this soon afterward when Russia purchased Ukrainian bonds worth $3 billion. But Russia suspended further payments last month after violent clashes broke out in Kiev and the pro-Russian prime minister resigned.

h/t: New York Times

(via marsian-night)


Saying that they are happy but frustrated about Scotland’s approval of same-sex marriage yesterday, activists in Northern Ireland say they may turn to the courts. Via Gay Star News

John O’Doherty, director of The Rainbow Project in Belfast and chair of Equal Marriage NI, told Gay Star Newshe applauded Scotland’s politicians for voting in favor of equality.  ‘But it’s very frustrating when you consider Northern Ireland had the first ever civil partnership,’ he said. South of the border, the independent Republic of Ireland is likely to get gay marriage in the next three years.  O’Doherty said: ‘We will be the only country of these islands to still ban equal marriage.”
 But gay rights campaigners believe there is an opportunity. ‘The reality in Northern Ireland is that we have to rely on the courts on LGBT issues,’ O’Doherty added to GSN. ‘Examples of this in recent times are rights of same-sex couples and unmarried couples to apply to adopt and the MSM blood ban both of which were ruled as discriminatory by the courts in Northern Ireland.’

The Democratic Unionist Party has long opposed all LGBT rights measures in Northern Ireland.

The growing visibility of a staunchly conservative movement in France has prompted comparisons with the Tea Party of the United States.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls has warned that France was seeing the birth of its own version of the grassroots, anti-tax Tea Party movement amid a surge of anti-government demonstrations by right-wing groups and religious conservatives across the country.

“We are witnessing the creation of the French version of the Tea Party. By exploiting the political and leadership crisis on the right, and the National Front party’s move away from the far-right, a conservative and reactionary right has been set free,” Valls, a Socialist, told the Journal du Dimanche in an interview published on Sunday. 

The eye-opening comparison came hours ahead of massive rallies in defense of traditional families in Paris and the eastern city of Lyon. They were organized by the so-called “Manif Pour Tous” (Protest for All) group that staged massive protests against gay marriage last year.

Sunday’s march, which police said drew 80,000 people in Paris, was just the latest public display of anger against President François Hollande’s government in recent days.

Hundreds of primary school students were pulled from their classrooms last week as part of a grassroots campaign opposing a new programme teaching gender equality and tolerance of homosexual parents within public schools.

The call to boycott schools one day per month, answered mostly by conservative Christian and Muslim parents, came on the heels of a “Day of Anger” against the government, which saw around 17,000 people hit the streets of the French capital on January 26.

That protest, in which some shouted anti-Semitic slogans, ended in clashes that wounded 19 police officers and led to the detention of 226 people.

Valls said that voicing opposition to the government was a legal right, but insisted that there was a worrying confluence of “anti-elite, anti-government, anti-tax, anti-parliament, anti-media” ideas that was threatening French democracy.

Longing for past

Sunday’s march included some prominent conservative lawmakers, like MP Henri Guaino of the right-wing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) and MP Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the niece of anti-immigration leader Marine Le Pen.

Their participation appeared to lend credence to Valls’ idea that a new, more radical movement within the political establishment – something akin to America’s Tea Party – is brewing this side of the Atlantic.

For Nicole Bacharan, a national fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, similarities exist.

“In both movements I see an array of people who feel they are becoming a minority within their own country, who long for a return back to a time when their countries were more traditional, more religious, whiter,” Bacharan told FRANCE 24.

The scholar said that Tea Partiers in the U.S. and people displaying France’s new conservative streak shared mutual feelings of being ignored by the political establishment and the media, but that sentiment was even more acute in France.

“In the United States there is more room for Tea Party members to express themselves, like on [the cable TV channel] Fox News,” Bacharan noted. “In France no news outlet takes sides in such a partisan way, and it’s true that the French media tends to look down on these movements as (being) something kind of backwards.”

If a nativist bent unites the allegedly kindred movements in Paris and Washington, observers said one key issue keeps them miles apart: the vision of a limited government.

“The Tea Party rejects big government, and often evokes ideas of the founding fathers as the basis for its principles … even their name suggests this,” said Thomas Snegaroff, a U.S. expert at France’s Institute for International and Strategic Studies.

In France few, if any, political movements disagree with a strong, central government.

Detractors of Hollande’s left-leaning government do not have the same “historical anchor” as the Tea Party, making “more religious or biological” arguments the basis for their struggle, according to Snegaroff.

h/t: Agence France-Presse, via The Raw Story

H/T: HuffPost Gay Voices