News from Western Europe, Thursday 18th April 2013

EUROPE

Comment – LSE EUROPP Blog: Five minutes with William Outhwaite: “The chic ultra-right populism of Geert Wilders and others is certainly worrying”. ‘As part of our on-going Thinkers on Europe series, EUROPP’s editors Stuart A Brown and Chris Gilson spoke to Professor of Sociology William Outhwaite about the EU’s democratic deficit, the rise of the far-right, and whether sociologists should do more to engage with the subject of European integration.’

UPI: EU conducts two-day anti-terrorism drills in nine countries. ‘European Union member police forces began conducting two-day anti-terrorism exercises Wednesday in nine countries, the largest ever, officials said.

The anti-terror police units were participating as part of the Atlas network, which carries out crisis response simulations at the European level, the European Commission, based in Brussels, said in a release.

The nine sites are in Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Romania.’

BELGIUM

EurActiv: EU court condemns Belgian Flanders for language bias‘The European Court of Justice has handed down a judgement against the Belgian Flemish community for infringing EU freedom of movement by only drafting workers’ contracts in Dutch.

Under the Flemish law on the use of languages, workers must complete their employment contract in Dutch. Non-compliance results in a cancellation of the contract, even if the worker comes from abroad.

The Belgian court asked the ECJ to determine if the Flemish law infringed the freedom of movement of workers within the European Union.’

Flanders News: Not certain that Sharia4Belgium is a terrorist organisation. ‘Sharia4Belgium’s former leader Fouad Belkacem was among those detained in Tuesday’s raids.

As well as Mr Belkacem, five other people were detained. Four of the six people detained on Tuesday, including Fouad Belkacem, remain in custody. It is likely that they face a custody hearing on Friday.
Speaking on VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’ Jos Vander Velpen said: “I believe that it is quite possible that Belkacem will remain in custody.

“This has been made possible by a new law that came into force on 18 March. This provides for the detention of people suspected of having encouraged others to carry out terrorist acts. “

However, Mr Vander Velpen is also keen to point out that it is not yet certain whether or not Sharia4Belgium actually can be classed as a terrorist organisation.’

Translated from Dutch – De Standard: One Salafist is not the other. ‘The ‘homegrown fighters “who fight against the Assad regime in Syria show the last few weeks the public and the politicians unmoved. Also, the court did not let himself without witness: the federal prosecutor Sharia4Belgium labeled as a terrorist organization and an investigating judge placed four people under arrest warrant (DS April 17). Both the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Justice rejected this ‘firm’ action well. Although a legal approach to persons who are guilty of criminal offenses in law justified force similar performances in the past nevertheless critical reflection [...]

Problem is that not only the persecuted, subsequently found to be innocent of these are damaged in some cases. Other young people find that the muscles language of politicians and the decisive action of legal justice is not always coherent. They feel that their origin and / or faith in themselves constitute grounds to address them. Harder They therefore wonder whether our society expects them to take their origin and distance of their faith.’

FRANCE

Tanslated from French – Le Monde: A male-female pair will be elected in each township. ‘Parliament finally adopted Wednesday, April 17, for a final vote in the National Assembly, the reform of local ways of voting, which establishes the election in each township of a male-female pairs.

The bill, championed by the Minister of the Interior Manuel Valls and repeatedly rejected in the Senate, was passed by 273 votes to (the Socialists and some radical left), 247 against (the UMP , the UDI The Left Front and a majority of the radical left) and 20 abstentions (mostly environmentalists).’

GERMANY

Translated from German – Der Spiegel: SPD calls for speedy vote on banning the NPD. ‘For months, the simmering dispute over banning the far-right NPD – now the SPD forces a decision of the Bundestag. Even in the coming week, the panel will vote. Of the CDU and FDP resistance is expected.

The situation surrounding a possible ban of the NPD process seems to reach an agreement between the government and opposition parties is not in sight. When it comes to the SPD, the Bundestag shall nevertheless decide as early as next week on participation in the procedure ban. SPD group CEO Thomas Oppermann on Wednesday announced an initiative of his group : “We will be asking in the coming week, the Bundestag may submit a separate application NPD ban.” About the thrust to be voted directly.

The prospect of a majority, however, are poor. The federal government had to much back and forth the end of March waives its own ban request. Even the coalition parties are hostile to the project. CDU and FDP are working themselves to a request for the Parliament, as it is from the Union party leadership’

The Local: Provincial judges hurt Germany’s image abroad. ‘Chancellor Angela Merkel rightly spoke of national “shame” after it was uncovered in November 2011 that the National Socialist Underground (NSU) terror gang had murdered its way across Germany with impunity for the better part of decade.

In a moving memorial service, she said the country responsible for the horrors of the Third Reich had a special responsibility to protect its minorities. While I would argue all countries have such an obligation, in light of its dark history, one would think Germany would at least have a special sensitivity on such matters.

But the ten murders – eight people of Turkish heritage, one Greek, and one policewoman – by a trio of far-right extremists showed, if anything, that the German institutions meant to protect the country’s foreign-born citizens were actively doing just the opposite.

As has been already eloquently pointed out, an investigation into the NSU killings has uncovered an unimaginable degree of incompetence and indifference – from the cops at the crime scene to the upper echelons of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency.’

Translated from German – Die Welt: Lawyers put NSU judge under severe pressure. ‘The application for video transmission could write legal history. The firm, which represents the bereaved relatives of the murdered in Kassel Halit Yozgat, considering to appeal to the Constitutional Court.’

Countries to cooperate in the fight against neo-Nazis. ‘German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich (CSU) has called on his colleagues countries to work more closely and trusting in the fight against right-wing extremism.

According to the “Sueddeutsche Zeitung” he reminded the Minister in a letter it states that an agreement had been better cooperation after learning of the murder of right-wing terrorist group NSU. “We owe our legal order, but also owe our reputation in the public.”

Frederick appealed to the minister to inform themselves mutually in common extremism and terrorism center GETZ. Also sensitive information about ongoing investigations of, could be discussed in confidential rounds’

Video – JN1: Anti-Semitism and xenophobia on the rise in Germany. ‘According to recent opinion polls racist and xenophobic attitudes are on the rise in Germany. Growing numbers of people in several cities say they have a negative opinion of Jews, and opinions about Muslims are also much more negative than they were a few years ago.

One of the most fundamental human rights principle is freedom of religion and to implement this principle, while protecting and promoting cultural diversity, in 1989 the city of Frankfurt established a department of multicultural affairs.’

ITALY

New York Times: As Italy Picks a President, Some Say It’s Time to Choose a Woman‘Italian lawmakers begin voting on Thursday for a successor to President Giorgio Napolitano amid growing debate about electing a woman for the first time in this male-dominated society, and even seemingly strong popular support for the idea.

There is an even stronger consensus, however, that none of this is likely to matter to lawmakers. They appear poised to treat the presidential election — like almost everything else in Italy’s tempestuous political climate — as a bargaining chip in the negotiations to form a government nearly eight weeks after inconclusive national elections.’

Translated from Dutch – Volkskrant: Left and right Italians reach agreement on Franco Marini. ‘The Democratic Party (PD) and People of Freedom (PdL) have announced that they support the octogenarian former Senate President Franco Marini as the new president of Italy. The election takes place from tomorrow in parliament.’

SWEDEN

Reuters: In bastion of tolerance Sweden, immigration is questioned. ‘An influx of refugees from countries such as Syria is fuelling a backlash against immigration in Sweden, for years seen by victims of conflict as a bastion of tolerance.

The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats have risen in voter polls to vie for third place a year before a general election that could leave them holding the balance of power.

City councilor Adam Marttinen personifies the growing anti-immigration sentiment. Dressed in an immaculate suit, gone is the skinhead image that once pushed the party to the sidelines[...]

The majority of Swedes still welcome immigration, but the Sweden Democrats have advanced in voter surveys to nearly 10 percent from five percent in the last election.’

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