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Category Archives: European Union

A Sea Story

After midnight, in the first hours of September 28, 1994, the ferry Estonia foundered in the waves of a Baltic storm. The ship was the pride of the newly independent Estonian nation, recently arisen from the Soviet ruins. It was a massive steel vessel, 510 feet long and nine decks high, with accommodations for up to 2,000 people. It had labyrinths of cabins, a swimming pool and sauna, a duty-free shop, a cinema, a casino, a video arcade, a conference center, three restaurants, and three bars. It also had a car deck that stretched from bow to stern through the hull’s insides. In port the car deck was accessed through a special openable bow that could be raised to allow vehicles to drive in and out. At sea that bow was supposed to remain closed and locked. In this case, however, it did not—and indeed it caused the ship to capsize and sink when it came open in the storm and then fell entirely off.

On the night of its demise the Estonia had 989 people aboard. It departed from its home port, Tallinn, at around 7:15 P.M., and proceeded on its regular run, 258 miles and fifteen hours west across open waters to the Swedish archipelago and Stockholm. For the first several hours, as dusk turned to night, it moved through sheltered coastal waters. Passengers hardy enough to withstand the wind and cold on deck would have seen gray forested islands creeping by to the north, and to the south the long industrial shoreline of Estonia giving way to a low coast darkening until it faded into the night. Gentle swells rolled in from the west, indicating the sea’s unease—with significance probably only to the crew, which had received storm warnings for the open water ahead but had not spread the news. There were various forecasts, and they tended to agree: an intense low-pressure system near Oslo was moving quickly to the east, and was expected to drag rain and strong winds across the route, stirring up waves occasionally as high as twenty feet. Such conditions were rare for the area, occurring only a few times every fall and winter, but for ferries of this size they were not considered to be severe. Surviving crew members later claimed that a special effort had been made on the car deck to lash the trucks down securely—exemplary behavior that, if it occurred, probably had more to do with concern about vehicle-damage claims than about the safety of the ship. No other preparations were made. The main worry was to arrive in Stockholm on time.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2004/05/a-sea-story/302940/

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2020 in European Union, Reportages

 

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El punto débil del nuevo Gobierno

La Constitución, esa que tanto se reivindica estos días, consagra a España como un Estado social y democrático de Derecho que propugna como valores superiores de su ordenamiento jurídico la libertad, la justicia, la igualdad y el pluralismo político. La soberanía nacional reside en el pueblo español, del que emanan los poderes del Estado, dice esa Constitución que algunos citan tanto y leen tan poco.

De ese pluralismo político, de esa soberanía popular, de ese Parlamento español y de ese Estado social y democrático de Derecho es de donde sale la presidencia de Pedro Sánchez y el Gobierno de coalición de PSOE y Unidas Podemos. Un presidente legítimo, no un “traidor” ni un “felón”. Un Gobierno legítimo, no una “moción de censura al Estado”. Unas instituciones democráticas que la derecha solo parece respetar cuando es ella quien las ocupa.

https://www.eldiario.es/escolar/punto-debil-nuevo-Gobierno_6_982411773.html

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2020 in European Union

 

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Turn up the heat on climate change deniers

The new year has started with obvious signs that global warming is not an invention of scientists, as some politicians claim. Devastating bush fires in Australia, destructive floods in Jakarta and a heatwave in Norway that has people sunbathing rather than skiing are proof of climatic conditions having been shaken up.
Yet the doubters have not changed their views, putting their nations’ economies and industries ahead of international efforts to keep temperatures from rising. They need to change their ways or the disastrous consequences of their poor judgment will be ever-more evident.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, like United States President Donald Trump, is a climate change sceptic. He refuses to accept that the fires that have claimed at least two dozen lives and destroyed nearly 2,000 homes in southeastern states are the result of exceptionally hot and dry conditions brought about by global warming.

https://www.scmp.com/comment/opinion/article/3045085/turn-heat-climate-change-deniers

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2020 in Asia, Europe, European Union, Oceania

 

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Belgium’s experiment in a new kind of democracy

As the institutions of western liberal democracy crumble, could a remedy be emerging in a sliver of east Belgium? Take the train from Brussels, and the medieval cities of Leuven and Liege give way to maize fields and forested hills. After nearly two hours, you arrive at Eupen, the capital of Belgium’s German-speaking community. A picturesque church graces the main square, pavements are lined with bistro tables, and cyclists negotiate the cobbled streets. Even the traffic islands are prettified by quaint tableaux of rustic wagons and hay bales.

This quiet, sedate and fairly prosperous provincial town seems an unlikely host for radical democratic innovation. In Belgium’s mind-boggling political system, which has overlaying territorial and language-based federal elements, the German-speaking community has its own government, with devolved powers comparable to Scotland or Wales. With a population of 76,000 (fewer than the Isle of Man), Ostbelgien is Europe’s smallest federal entity, but it has a real parliament whose remit includes education, culture, energy and social care. And from next year, everyday folk chosen by chance will have the opportunity to shape policy alongside the elected MPs—in the first permanent citizens’ assembly in the world.

Citizens’ assemblies (or citizens’ juries) vary in form, but the basic principle is always to task randomly-selected members of the public to thrash out political issues, often with the help of experts or moderators. They’ve become steadily more fashionable over some years, but the Belgian experiment offers a twist in that it builds them into the structures of governance. But on a long view, even government by citizens selected by chance is nothing new. Its advocates critique parliamentary democracy as outmoded because it hasn’t changed since the 18th century—but then happily hark back to ancient Athens (see “the original democracy” overleaf) as the true pioneer of “sortition.”

https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/belgiums-experiment-in-a-new-kind-of-democracy

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2019 in European Union

 

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‘Zolang je ons ziet, verandert Nederland’

Jerry Afriyie zit continu te bellen. Sinds een jaar bewegen hij en de andere vier kernleden van de beweging Kick Out Zwarte Piet (kozp) zich uit veiligheidsoverwegingen nauwelijks meer met de trein. Dus zit hij op een donkere achterbank van een auto met een laptop op schoot, zijn hand in een zak chips en met een telefoon aan zijn oor. Grappend en snel pratend spoort Afriyie tijdens een drie uur durende rit naar Maastricht mensen aan. Soms zakt hij heel even weg in zijn stoel, maar altijd met zijn blik op zijn scherm. Hij kauwt snel op wat chips of een winegum, om het volgende telefoontje alweer te beantwoorden.

Hij suggereert wijzigingen in een brief aan Mark Rutte, die een paar dagen later in de NRC verschijnt. Hij bedenkt een line-up voor een manifestatie in Eindhoven – ‘ik vraag Fresku en Kempi!’ – en hij belt met Maastricht om aan te kondigen dat hij later zal zijn. ‘Sorry, het spijt me écht: file.’ Wanneer iemand uit Heerhugowaard afbeeldingen doorstuurt van mogelijke demonstratielocaties wordt hij heel even boos. ‘Ze zetten ons gewoon in de achtertuin!’ zegt hij in zijn telefoon. ‘Dat is een stukje gras waar niemand ons ziet. Echt onacceptabel. Schrijf het niet zo op hè, blijf in gesprek, maar ga niet akkoord.’ Over ‘Heerhugowaard’ is het laatste woord nog niet gesproken.

https://www.groene.nl/artikel/zolang-je-ons-ziet-verandert-nederland

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2019 in European Union

 

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Italy’s New ‘Sardines’ Movement Packs Piazzas to Protest Far-Right Leader

A grass-roots movement protesting the populism of the far-right Italian leader Matteo Salvini demonstrated its surging strength on Saturday, drawing tens of thousands of people to a vast square in Rome in its first national rally.

The Sardines movement, named for its ability to pack piazzas, reflects a general disgust among many liberal Italians over Mr. Salvini’s anti-migrant and anti-European language.

“Something has already changed in the Italian political panorama,” said Mattia Santori, 32, one of the movement’s founders. He said its chief purpose was to combat apathy and to offer equality, respect for the Constitution and stronger Italian institutions as a way to counter hate and Mr. Salvini’s essential themes: opposition to immigration, antagonism toward Europe and heightened security.

The Sardines were inspired to organize by Mr. Salvini’s campaign vow to “liberate” the liberal stronghold of Emilia Romagna in regional elections next month. They fear that if Mr. Salvini can win there, he can win anywhere.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2019 in European Union

 

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Slowenien summt

Auf der ganzen Welt sterben die Bienen. Pestizide, Parasiten, Wetterextreme und Monokulturen haben zu so hohen Verlusten geführt, dass man begann, den Wert der kleinen Bestäuber zu eruieren und das beängstigende Bild einer Welt ohne sie zu zeichnen: Keine Äpfel, Kirschen, Erdbeeren, Gurken oder Brokkoli – etwa jeden dritten Bissen Nahrung, den wir zu uns nehmen, verdanken wir den Bienen, schätzen Experten. Die Europäische Union (EU) beziffert die freiwillige Bestäubungsarbeit der Insekten mit einem Wert von 22 Milliarden Euro. Sogar die Literatur beschäftigt sich mit dem Thema, in Dystopien, die vom nahenden Ende der Menschheit erzählen.

https://www.brandeins.de/magazine/brand-eins-wirtschaftsmagazin/2019/wahrnehmung/bienen-slowenien-summt

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2019 in European Union

 

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Cos’è l’eredità di cittadinanza e come può ridurre le disuguaglianze

La platea bolognese di Tutta un’altra storia, un’assemblea convocata dal Pd dal 15 al 17 novembre 2019 per discutere un programma sugli anni venti del duemila, si è spellata le mani di fronte alla domanda di radicalità sostenuta dal palco da Fabrizio Barca – economista, già ministro e adesso animatore del forum Disuguaglianze diversità – e alle sue 15 proposte per combattere la disuguaglianza. Ma ha discusso poco della più radicale tra le proposte radicali, quella destinata ai circa 600mila giovani che ogni anno in Italia entrano nell’età adulta. La proposta è questa: dare a ogni ragazza e ragazzo, al compimento del diciottesimo anno d’età, una dote di 15mila euro, finanziata con un’imposta progressiva sulle successioni e sulle donazioni, con esenzione dei piccoli patrimoni. Una sorta di “eredità di cittadinanza”.

Ci si sarebbe potuti aspettare che una proposta simile, avanzata autorevolmente – dal punto di vista della persona e della sede – monopolizzasse l’attenzione: soldi in tasca a tutti i ragazzi, dalle periferie metropolitane alla provincia? E con il ritorno di quella che la destra americana negli anni ottanta battezzò come “la tassa sulla morte”? Invece l’attenzione mediatica e politica è stata catturata da altro. Eppure quella di Barca non era affatto una provocazione, ma la traduzione in agenda politica di una ricetta avanzata da uno dei più grandi studiosi delle disuguaglianze, Tony Atkinson, l’economista di Oxford morto nel 2017 che ha più volte ripetuto: delle disuguaglianze cresciute nel mondo sappiamo già tanto, adesso è il momento di cominciare a fare qualcosa per contrastarle.

https://www.internazionale.it/notizie/roberta-carlini/2019/12/04/eredita-di-cittadinanza

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2019 in European Union, Uncategorized

 

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The Guardian view on Italy’s ‘Sardine’ movement: politics with panache can defeat the hard right

For over a decade, the dominant theme in European politics has been the emergence of movements that seek to dramatise and exploit social divisions through crude and aggressive sloganeering. One of the trendsetters in this regard was the comedian Beppe Grillo, who in 2007 held an anti-establishment rally billed as “Vaffanculo Day” (Fuck-off Day). That mass protest in Bologna launched a populist wave in Italy, eventually leading to the rise of the anti-immigration politician Matteo Salvini, whose hard-right League party – currently out of government – is polling far ahead of its rivals.

Progressives have despaired at the apparent inability of centre-left politicians to find the vocabulary and imagination to challenge the divisive and often violent rhetoric of figures such as Salvini and Marine Le Pen. But help may be at hand, in the form of a burgeoning grassroots movement in Italy that takes the symbol of a fish as its inspiration. Appropriately, it began in Bologna.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/nov/27/the-guardian-view-on-italys-sardine-movement-politics-with-panache-can-defeat-the-hard-right

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2019 in European Union

 

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And justice for all…

“Justice for Daphne!” That cry reverberated through Valletta every 16th of the month to mark the day Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated in 2017.

But Lady Justice appeared to be taking her time. The early breakthrough of the arrest of the three men charged with having planted the bomb was not followed by any visible progress. Where were the masterminds? Were they being protected? These were among the burning questions being asked by the protesters who gathered religiously every month. Things appeared to be stuck.

They came unstuck two weeks ago with the arrest of the alleged middleman in the assassination and the rest is history – still unfolding in a rapid succession of spectacular events related to both crime and politics.

https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/and-justice-for-all.752908

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2019 in European Union

 

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