News from Western Europe, Friday 1st March 2013

EUROPE

Research -European Political Science Review: Where do radical right parties stand? Position blurring in multidimensional competition by Jan Rovny. 

‘This article questions the utility of assessing radical right party placement on economic issues, which has been extensively analyzed in academic literature. Starting from the premise that political parties have varying strategic stakes in different political issues, the article considers political competition in multiple issue dimensions. It suggests that political competition is not simply a matter of taking positions on political issues, but rather centers on manipulating the dimensional structure of politics. The core argument is that certain political parties, such as those of the radical right, seek to compete on neglected, secondary issues while simultaneously blurring their positions on established issues in order to attract broader support. Deliberate position blurring – considered costly by the literature – may thus be an effective strategy in multidimensional competition. The article combines quantitative analyses of electoral manifestos, expert placement of political parties, and voter preferences, by studying seventeen radical right parties in nine Western European party systems.’

The full article can be accessed here.

The Telegraph: Jews face ‘volatile synergy of hate’ in Europe, Republicans warn. ‘Representative Chris Smith, chair of the House human rights subcommittee, said that while Jews faced the threat of violent attacks from some Islamists they were also struggling against rising anti-Semitism “among European social-democratic and leftist parties”.

The Republican-led committee cited radical parties in the Ukraine, Greece and Hungary, but said that attempts in western Europe to ban circumcision or kosher butchery were also undermining Jewish communities.’

BELGIUM

RT: Belgian Islamophobia: MPs vow to ‘impeach’ Muslim extremists. ‘Belgian politicians have submitted a proposal to impeach or limit the influence of Muslim extremists in power. MPs fear that Muslim politicians do not shake hands with women and are creating an isolated community.

Alain Destexche, a liberal member of the Federation Wallonia-Brussels, and Deputy Mayor of Koekelberg Philippe Pivin submitted the proposal in front of the Belgian Parliament on Wednesday to exclude extremist parties from a range of local functions. The proposal is currently open for signatures by other members of Parliament.’

DENMARK

The Copenhagen Post : No increased transparency of intelligence agency. ‘Danes can ask new independent committee to see if any illegal information is held about them by intelligence agencies, but they can’t get an answer

The new oversight committees for Denmark’s domestic intelligence agency PET will not make the agency’s actions more transparent to the public, Berlingske newspaper reports.

In January, the government presented a proposed new law to give politicians more control over PET. The proposal involves a creation of a new independent oversight commission called ‘Tilsynet med Efterretningstjenesterne’, which will replace the current five-person Wamberg Committee and is intended to increase the level of oversight over the information that PET stores about Danish citizens.

FRANCE

All Africa: Nigeria: Boko Haram Demands Trade-Off for French Nationals. ‘Boko Haram, which claimed responsibility for the abduction of the seven members of a French family kidnapped in Cameroun last week, Monday turned the pressure on President Goodluck Jonathan as security agents continued manhunt for the abductors with the aim of rescuing their victims.

The kidnappers, for the first time since the vacationing French family was abducted in northern Cameroun, gave conditions for the release of the victims. A video appeared on YouTube yesterday, showing the seven kidnapped members of the French family with their abductors, who claimed to be from Islamist extremist group, Boko Haram. The kidnappers demanded the release of the Islamic sect’s members and relatives in government custody as a precondition for freeing the French family members.’

Der Spiegel: French Muslim Leader on Papacy: ’A New Beginning Is Necessary’. ‘Dalil Boubakeur is one of France’s most prominent Muslims. In a SPIEGEL ONLINE interview, he discusses what retiring Pope Benedict XVI did wrong in bridging the Muslim-Catholic divide and how the two religions need to make a fresh start at interfaith dialogue.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Your excellency, Pope Benedict XVI is stepping down on February 28. What do you wish for from the future pontiff?

Boubakeur: A reversal. Christianity under Pope Benedict XVI started becoming more doctrinaire. He was not able to understand Muslims. He had no direct experience with Islam, and he found nothing positive to say about our beliefs.’

Reuters: Al Qaeda commander Abou Zeid killed in Mali: Algeria’s Ennahar TV. ‘French forces have killed Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, one of the most feared commanders of al Qaeda’s north Africa wing, during an operation against Islamist fighters in mountainous northern Mali, Algeria’s Ennahar television said on Thursday.

Abou Zeid was among 40 militants killed three days ago in the foothills of the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains near the Algerian border, said Ennahar, which is well connected with Algeria’s security services.

French and Chadian troops have been hunting fighters there after a lightning campaign to dislodge them from northern Mali.’

The Washington Post: Azerbaijanis injured in French parliament building fight with Armenia supporters. ‘French officials on Thursday condemned Armenian and Azerbaijani activists for clashing with one another in France’s parliament.

Azerbaijan and Armenia have been in conflict since 1988, over the disputed Caucasus Mountains territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The violent outburst occurred Tuesday in the National Assembly in Paris, during a conference commemorating the anniversary of violence against Armenians in 1988.’

GERMANY

Hurriyet Daily News : German parliament approves soldiers for Mali. ‘The German parliament on Thursday overwhelmingly approved sending up to 330 German soldiers to Mali to participate in an EU-led training mission and give logistical support to French troops.

The two missions, whose mandates are initially for one year, each won support in separate votes with a large majority in Germany’s Bundestag lower house of parliament, the chamber’s deputy president Wolfgang Thierse said.’

ITALY

Video – Euronews: Northern League looks to capitalise on Italy election success. ‘Confirmation that Italy’s Northern League has won the governorship of the economic powerhouse of Lombardy has set it up for a renewed power struggle with Rome and Brussels.

Despite winning under four per cent of the vote in the national election, in the separate regional vote Roberto Maroni beat off the centre-left to win with almost 43 per cent support.

The Northern League’s leader lost no time in setting out his agenda. “Our programme is to build up a Northern macro-region able to deal with Rome in order to get everything we want,” he said.’

EU Observer: Italian prosecutors open corruption case against Berlusconi. ‘Prosecutors in the city of Milan have opened a new investigation into alleged corruption by media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, who is suspected of having paid €3 million for a senator to switch parties, Ansa news agency reports. The events allegedly occurred between 2006 and 2008. Berlusconi’s lawyers deny the accusations.’

Analysis – Reuters: Election result may condemn Italy to weak, short government. ‘Italy’s electoral earthquake seems to have condemned the country to the thing it needs least – a short-term government and new elections in as little as six months or a year.

A huge protest vote in the Feb 24-25 election produced the worst possible result for Italy’s stagnant and recession-hit economy – a parliament in which no single group has a workable majority and populist leader Beppe Grillo has the whip hand.’

NORWAY

The Norway Post: 21 Afghan translators granted asylum in Norway. ‘106 Afghans that have worked with the Norwegian forces in Afghanistan applied for protection last year. Only 21 applications were granted asylum in Norway, and all of them were translators.

“After careful consideration, the ministry has concluded that 21 of these applicants meet the requirements for being granted refugee status,” says state secretary to the Ministry of Justice, Pål Lønseth (Labor Party/Ap).’

SPAIN

El Pais: “The homeland comes before democracy”. ‘The Defense Ministry said Thursday that it will investigate statements purportedly made by a general who justified military intervention in Catalonia as a measure to prevent the region from breaking away from the rest of Spain.

General Juan Antonio Chicharro, who is not retired but is active in the reserves, made his statements to a group of about 100 people who turned out for a panel discussion on February 6 at the Gran Peña, a club on Madrid’s Gran Vía avenue that is frequented by former military officers. According to those present, Chicharro said that he normally would not have accepted the invitation to speak, but the “separatist-secessionist offensive” in Catalonia obligated him to come forward and issue an opinion.’

The Guardian: Spanish city’s ban on Islamic veils overturned. ‘A Spanish court has overturned a city’s ban on wearing face-covering Islamic veils in municipal buildings, saying it infringes religious liberties.

In 2010, Lleida, in the northeastern region of Catalonia, became the first Spanish town to impose such a ban. It was temporarily suspended by a regional court following an appeal by a Muslim association but then later upheld.

Spain’s supreme court on Thursday accepted a second appeal and said the city was not entitled to order such a ban.’

SWEDEN

The Local: ‘Migration forces policy makers to shape up’. ‘The movement of people across borders is a powerful engine for growth, putting pressure on policy makers worldwide to compete to attract talent, argue government ministers Gunilla Karlsson and Tobias Billström.’

Scancomark: Swedish women voters throw more support to the far right party – Sweden Democrats. ‘The Swedish governing alliance parties have seen their support dropped while the Social Democrats and the Left Party have seen more support pouring into them, a new opinion poll shows that reflect a changes in the Swedish political support.

Far right party, Sweden Democrats has been attracting more women and has now reaches a new height in February, an opinion poll commissioned by the Swedish television channel TV4 and carried out by polling organisation Novus.’

SWITZERLAND

The Telegraph: Swiss woman held for a year in Yemen freed. ‘Silvia Eberhardt, who was “abducted last year in Yemen, arrived overnight at Doha airport after having been freed thanks to mediation by Qatar,” said the agency, without elaborating.

Gunmen abducted the woman on March 14, 2012 from her home in Hodeida, western Yemen, where she had been working there as a language teacher.

Her abductors took her to the southeastern province of Shabwa where al-Qaeda has a strong presence.’

The Local: Menznau shooting spree renews gun law debate. ‘Wednesday’s shooting spree at a Menznau wood-processing plant in the canton of Lucerne has reignited debate about gun control measures in Switzerland and whether they are adequate enough.

A 42-year-old machine operator at the Kronospan plant, a 17-year employee, used a handgun to kill two co-workers and injure seven others, six of them seriously, during a morning coffee break.

The shooter also died, although police at a press conference refused to say how until an autopsy is completed, and a motive for the case remains a mystery.’

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