News from Western Europe, Thursday 7th February 2013

Europe

New York Times: Corruption Undermining Democracy in Europe. ‘Thorbjorn Jagland has made the fight against corruption his big challenge. As secretary general of the Council of Europe, a governmental group that was founded in 1949 to promote human rights on the Continent, he knows about corruption firsthand.

Since the fall of Communism, the council has become, in effect, the first way station for former Soviet bloc nations aspiring to join a web of Western alliances.

As a result, some council members, notably Central Asian states and Russia, have tried to influence the organization’s parliamentary assembly with lavish gifts and trips, Mr. Jagland said. They also hire lobbyists to fend off criticism of their human rights records.’

France

Video – BBC News: Le Pen: I want to renegotiate Europe, like Britain. ‘Marine Le Pen took over France’s far-right party, Front National, two years ago from her father Jean-Marie.

In last year’s presidential election she won 6.4m votes – nearly one in five of the population.

Speaking exclusively to Newsnight she told Kirsty Wark she supported David Cameron’s desire to renegotiation the balance of power in Europe, but added it was Eurosceptics such as UKIP that were responsible for putting pressure on the government to look at a referendum over the UK’s future in Europe.’

France24: France calls for UN force in Mali by April. ’French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Wednesday that France wanted a United Nations peacekeeping force to take over from the African-led military mission in Mali by April. France has deployed nearly 4,000 ground troops.’

Germany

Associated Press: Germany warns of ‘consequences’ for Hezbollah. ‘Germany warned Wednesday of “consequences” for Hezbollah if allegations are confirmed that the group was behind an attack which killed five Israeli tourists in Bulgaria last year.

Bulgarian officials said Tuesday that the Lebanese group had been linked to the sophisticated bus bombing carried out by a terrorist cell that included Canadian and Australian citizens.’

Video – The Guardian: Fears in Germany as Golden Dawn moves in from Greece. ‘Greek neo-Nazi party believed to be in Nuremberg with aim of recruiting young Greeks flocking to Germany in search of work.

Members of the Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn are believed to have set up a cell in the southern German city of Nuremberg with the aim of recruiting young Greeks who have flocked to the country in search of work.

Greek community leaders in Germany have condemned the arrival of the party, also known as Chrysi Avgi, and called on authorities to clamp down on a group that they said had shown its readiness to use violence in Greece and could attempt to do the same in Germany.’

The Telegraph: Adolf Hitler novel tops German bestseller chart. ‘A satirical novel about Adolf Hitler, set in the present day, has climbed to the top of Germany’s bestseller charts.

Er Ist Wieder Da (He’s Back) has sold more than 400,000 copies since its release, keeping it at the top of the Spiegel’s bestseller chart since mid December.

This has been despite, or perhaps because of, a striking front cover framed by Hitler’s trademark side-parting, with the title squashed into the silhouette of his signature moustache.’

Italy

BBC Sport: Mario Balotelli: AC Milan official accused of using racist language. ‘AC Milan’s vice-president has been accused of using racist language to describe new signing Mario Balotelli. Italian media said Paolo Berlusconi made the comments at a political rally as he invited the audience to watch the £19m buy from Manchester City play.

The remarks were filmed and posted on the La Repubblica website, prompting criticism of Berlusconi, brother of club president Silvio. Neither Balotelli, nor Berlusconi have commented on the matter.’

Comment – LSE EUROPPblog: The 2013 Italian elections will be pivotal for the future of Lega Nord and the regions of Northern Italy. ‘Parliamentary elections are due to be held in Italy on 24-25 February. As part of EUROPP’s series of articles previewing the election, Gianluca Passarelli assesses the prospects of one of Italy’s most controversial parties: Lega Nord. He notes that the party, which advocates regional autonomy for much of Northern Italy, has experienced a substantial increase in support over the last three years, but that infighting and leadership disputes have threatened to undermine its electoral gains.’

The Netherlands

Dutch News: Turkish paper claims Dutch link to American embassy attack. ‘The suicide attack which killed a security guard outside the American embassy in Ankara last Friday was ordered by Turkish left-wing extremists in the Netherlands, Dutch media quote Turkish paper Bugun as saying.

The paper bases its claims on a Turkish intelligence report and says the Dutch intelligence service was told about the presence of extreme left-wing Turks in the Netherlands.

The attack was later claimed by an extreme left-wing group DHKP/C, or Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front. The group opposes Turkish membership of Nato and wants the withdrawal of Dutch Patriot missile systems which are currently stationed in Turkey.’

Opinion – Sydney Morning Herald: Fear doesn’t need a visa, and it’s on tour already. ‘Two of the films nominated for best picture in the coming Academy Awards, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, contain warnings, with plenty of creative licence but also plenty of historical accuracy, about the challenge to democracy posed by a resurgent strain of uncompromising Islam.

The threat has been deemed real enough in the Netherlands, which now has more than a million Muslims in a nation of 16.7 million people, for a million Dutch voters – one in seven – to vote for the Party for Freedom, led by Geert Wilders, who will be making a lecture tour in Australia later this month.’

Sweden

The Local: Swede convicted of dual-use nuke exports to Iran. ‘A Swedish man has been convicted of knowingly trying to export dual-use technology to Iran, where it could be used as part of nuclear arms production.

In an email to his customer in Iran, the 31-year-old man wrote that the producers of the two valves at the centre of the case were not aware of where they were going to be sent.

The court in Lund, southern Sweden, therefore ruled that he had knowingly sent the technology to Iran, which faces several trade restrictions due to concerns from the international community that the country is planning to develop a nuclear arsenal.’

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