Tag Archives: EU

The Money Farmers: How Oligarchs and Populists Milk the E.U. for Millions

Under Communism, farmers labored in the fields that stretch for miles around this town west of Budapest, reaping wheat and corn for a government that had stolen their land.

Today, their children toil for new overlords, a group of oligarchs and political patrons who have annexed the land through opaque deals with the Hungarian government. They have created a modern twist on a feudal system, giving jobs and aid to the compliant, and punishing the mutinous.

These land barons, as it turns out, are financed and emboldened by the European Union.

Every year, the 28-country bloc pays out $65 billion in farm subsidies intended to support farmers around the Continent and keep rural communities alive. But across Hungary and much of Central and Eastern Europe, the bulk goes to a connected and powerful few. The prime minister of the Czech Republic collected tens of millions of dollars in subsidies just last year. Subsidies have underwritten Mafia-style land grabs in Slovakia and Bulgaria.

Europe’s farm program, a system that was instrumental in forming the European Union, is now being exploited by the same antidemocratic forces that threaten the bloc from within. This is because governments in Central and Eastern Europe, several led by populists, have wide latitude in how the subsidies, funded by taxpayers across Europe, are distributed — even as the entire system is shrouded in secrecy.

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Posted by on November 25, 2019 in Reportages


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The myth of Eurabia: how a far-right conspiracy theory went mainstream

In July 2011, a quiet European capital was shaken by a terrorist car bomb, followed by confused reports suggesting many deaths. When the first news of the murders came through, one small group of online commentators reacted immediately, even though the media had cautiously declined to identify the attackers. They knew at once what had happened – and who was to blame.

“This was inevitable,” explained one of the anonymous commenters. And it was just the beginning: “Only a matter of time before other European nations get a taste of their multicultural tolerance that they’ve been cooking for decades.”

“Europe has been infested with venomous parasitic vermin,” explained another. “Anything and everything is fine as long as they rape the natives and destroy the country, which they do,” said a third.

As the news grew worse, the group became more joyful and confident. The car bomb had been followed by reports of a mass shooting at a nearby camp for teenagers. One commenter was “almost crying of happiness” to be proved right about the dangers of Islam. “The massacre at the children’s camp,” another noted, “is a sickening reminder of just how evil and satanic the cult of Islam is.”

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Posted by on November 15, 2019 in European Union


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The two faces of European disillusionment

In 2011, the feature-film All That I Love 1was selected as the Polish entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Academy Awards. It failed to win an Oscar, but the story – about love and rock music in 1980s communist Poland – had considerable audience appeal. Even before its nomination, the film had been widely screened in western Europe.  However, at one of its earliest showings, viewers repeatedly asked the director, Jacek Borcuch, rather bizarre questions. Finally, it dawned on him that, though otherwise favourably disposed, the audience had mistakenly assumed that the action of the film takes place in contemporary Poland.

Borcuch was shocked. Recreating life in the communist Polish People’s Republic thirty years before, on screen, had proved a considerable logistical challenge. Finding the right locations, interiors and props hadn’t been easy. Yet, as the director later recalled, at least part of the audience – those from the West – had been labouring under the impression that his film about communist Poland was a depiction of life in 2011. Following the incident, Borcuch inserted a freeze frame displaying the year ‘1981’ at the start of the film.2

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Posted by on November 5, 2019 in European Union



Slavoj Zizek: European leftists are rejecting the Kurds over their reliance on the US. It is another disgusting betrayal

Well over a hundred years ago, Karl May wrote a bestseller, Through Wild Kurdistan, about the adventures of a German hero, Kara Ben Nemsi. This immensely popular book established the perception of Kurdistan in central Europe: a place of brutal tribal warfare, naïve honesty and sense of honour, but also superstition, betrayal, and permanent cruel warfare. It was almost a caricature of the barbaric Other in European civilization.

If we look at today’s Kurds, we cannot but be surprised by the contrast to this cliché – in Turkey, where I know the situation relatively well, I have noticed that the Kurdish minority is the most modern and secular part of society, at a distance from every religious fundamentalism, with developed feminism, etc. (Let me just mention a detail that I learned in Istanbul: restaurants owned by Kurds have no tolerance for any sign of superstition…)

The stable genius (Trump’s self-designation) justified his recent betrayal of Kurds (he effectively condoned the Turkish attack on the Kurdish enclave in northern Syria) by noting that “Kurds are no angels”. Of course, since, for him, the only angels in that region are Israel (especially on the West Bank) and Saudi Arabia (especially in Yemen). However, in some senses, the Kurds ARE the only angels in that part of the world.

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Posted by on October 23, 2019 in Middle East


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Türkei – Europa muss aus seiner Ohnmacht herausfinden

Hat die EU Mittel und Wege, um Erdoğans Krieg in Syrien zu stoppen? Ja. Sie darf sich nicht mit dem Flüchtlingsdeal erpressen lassen und muss ihre wirtschaftliche Stärke nutzen.

Auf die Frage, warum der türkische Präsident Recep Tayyip Erdoğan seine Truppe in den Norden Syriens hat vorrücken lassen, lautet die ausschlaggebende Antwort: Weil er es konnte. Das liegt zum einen daran, dass ihm ein intellektuell und charakterlich überforderter US-Präsident freie Hand gelassen hat, zum anderen aber auch daran, dass es keine andere Macht gibt, auf die Erdoğan glaubt, Rücksicht nehmen zu müssen. Die USA hätten die Türkei stoppen können, wollten es aber nicht. Die Europäer hätten die Türkei gerne gestoppt, konnten es aber nicht. Insofern sind die Menschen im syrischen Grenzgebiet zur Türkei nicht nur Opfer Erdoğans, sondern auch der Ohnmacht Europas.

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Posted by on October 19, 2019 in European Union


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The imperial rivalry between the US and China means the left must choose the EU it wants

The US has declared China a “currency manipulator” — which, on the face of it, is like a bear declaring that another bear defecated in the woods. But the formal act of designation is a big deal.

Under a law passed in 1988, when the US first discovered that its global dominance might be under threat from trade competitors, the president is empowered to “initiate negotiations … on an expedited basis” to force China to raise the value of the renminbi against the dollar.

The act includes sanctions such as banning Chinese firms from US contracts, and was described at the time by critics as “the economic equivalent of civilian bombing”. But in truth the economic war between China and the US is already under way, and is wholly framed by Trump’s skewed vision of American geopolitics.

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Posted by on August 7, 2019 in Asia, Economy, European Union, North America


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L’accordo sui migranti di Macron è una sfida ai porti chiusi di Salvini

Quattordici paesi europei hanno trovato un accordo per attivare “un meccanismo di solidarietà” che serva a ricollocare i migranti soccorsi nel Mediterraneo. Lo ha annunciato il 22 luglio il presidente francese Emmanuel Macron in una conferenza stampa a Parigi, dopo aver ricevuto l’Alto commissario dell’Onu per i rifugiati Filippo Grandi e il direttore generale dell’Organizzazione mondiale delle migrazioni (Oim) Manuel de Carvalho Ferreira Vitorino e al termine di una riunione informale tra i ministri dell’interno e degli esteri dei paesi europei.

Tra i quattordici che si sono detti disponibili all’accordo voluto da Parigi e Berlino ce ne sono otto che saranno particolarmente attivi nel progetto: si tratta della Francia, della Germania, del Portogallo, del Lussemburgo, della Finlandia, della Lituania, della Croazia e dell’Irlanda. Il ministro dell’interno italiano Matteo Salvini non ha partecipato al vertice convocato da Parigi e ha fatto sapere che non intende sottoscrivere la proposta francese.

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Posted by on August 7, 2019 in European Union, Uncategorized


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L’arte di viaggiare lentamente

Soprattutto d’estate – che sia in una remota stazione in Lapponia, in una rivestita di azulejos in Portogallo o in quella di una grande città d’arte europea – è facile incontrare viaggiatori con lo zaino in spalla e la faccia stanca. Molto probabilmente hanno in tasca un biglietto Interrail, il celebre pass che permette ai cittadini europei di tutte le età di viaggiare in treno in Europa.

Era il 1972 quando i primi 87mila biglietti Interrail furono emessi dalle ferrovie di vari paesi europei. Oggi, a quarantasette anni dalla sua fondazione, più di dieci milioni di persone hanno scelto di fare un viaggio in Interrail. Fanno parte della comunità degli interrailer, ovvero viaggiatori che hanno deciso di esplorare una parte del continente europeo nel segno della libertà e della lentezza, della sostenibilità ambientale e del risparmio.

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Posted by on August 7, 2019 in European Union



Yanis Varoufakis: “Never before have we had so much money, yet so little investment in what humanity needs”

Laura Siegler: With the economic rift seemingly still expanding between Southern Europe, on the one hand, and the ‘core’ European countries (Germany, Benelux, France, Scandinavia) on the other, what is the scope for a common environmental agenda of the European left?

Yanis Varoufakis: This question is not just global but also within Europe, because the fragmentation of oligarchy — of capitalism and financialised capitalism — is detrimental to any attack against the climate extinction we are facing. We have a remarkable disconnect, an imbalance, between the amount of liquidity, of money which is available, and the amount of investments — the things the humanity needs. Never before have we had so little investment in what humanity needs, in relation, as a percentage, to the available money. We have the highest amount of savings in the history of capitalism, and the lowest levels of investments, in comparison, especially in the technology of the future that will prevent the climate catastrophe.

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Posted by on August 7, 2019 in Economy, European Union


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Carola Rackete and Europe’s Troubling Refugee Policies

It’s been four days since Isaac, Fréderic and their friends arrived in the port of Lampedusa on board the Sea-Watch 3, captained by Carola Rackete. They can hardly believe they’re really here. The sun is setting and the temperature has become a bit more bearable as they sit on the steps of the San Gerlando church.

It is shortly after 9 p.m. on this Tuesday and they have just received a message on their smartphones: “Carola libera.” Carola is free.

The reference is to Carola Rackete, the 31-year-old German captain of the Sea-Watch 3 who has become a rival to Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini — and a figurehead for a less restrictive migration policy.

But the migrants standing in front of the church merely see her as the woman without whom none of them would have made it to Europe. They cheer when they read the news that she has been released.

“Carola Rackete saved our lives. Without her, we would all be dead,” says Fréderic Samassi, a 24-year-old from Ivory Coast. He says he spent three years in Libya, most of it behind bars, an ordeal during which he says he saw many terrible things. Now, he has reached the goal that he had imagined when he left his home in 2016: Europe.

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Posted by on August 7, 2019 in European Union


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