Tag Archives: Pandeia

Immigrants, Mafia and Putin: German Fast News

Ukraine

Riots in Eastern Ukraine spark concerns in Germany

The East Ukrainian city Donetsk: Pro-Russian demonstrators proclaim the “Sovereign People’s Republic”. According to the online magazine Spiegel the demonstrators intend to declare independence from the government of Kiev. They also demanded a referendum and called for Russian assistance.

Berlin is concerned by the recent actions of Moscow. The Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a pull-out away from the Ukrainian borders. The German government spokesman, Steffen Seibert says: “This has obviously not happened yet. One can be disappointed, one must be disappointed.” Meanwhile Chancellor Angela Merkel does not doubt the promise of Putin.

The Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for caution while talking about the riots in the Eastern part of Ukraine: “So far we cannot see a complete change of the situation. But I am not totally clear on what actually happens in the Eastern-Ukraine right now.”

The right-wing party NPD seeks to clean up after de-selection of candidate

NPDThe chief of the federal state Hamburg, Thomas Wulff, has been deselected by Germany’s right-wing party NPD (National Party of Germany) after he called himself a National Socialist on a Party Conference. The official justification is: Wulff has “repeatedly and fatally breached with the principles of the party.”

Wulff, acknowledged his mistake saying: “Yes, I named myself a National Socialist in an introduction speech. People must know where I come from and what I am.”  Due to the accusation of sedition Wulff is previously convicted.

Wulff’s statement is more than inconvenient for the NPD – in the following weeks the Federal Constitutional Law will decide, due to the abandonment motion of the Federal Council, if the NPD-ideology shows an affinity with the NSDAP party, which was the solely tolerated party during the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler in Germany. After the first motion in 2003 the current motion is considered much more detailed and based on facts.

Organised crime – The Italian mafia

German and Italian investigators analysed and released documents that show more than 1,200 alleged members, sympathisers and supporters of the Italian mafia live in Germany. According to Spiegel the so-called “Ndrangheta”, which mainly operates in South and West, is particularly powerful.

Mafia Despite of the fact that a large figure exists the documents show that members and supporters are spread all over Germany,  although there are less in the Northern and Eastern parts. The utilised data derives from documents obtained from the Federal  Criminal Agency, the Italian anti-mafia authorities and several prosecutions in Germany.

Immigrant language courses to be scrapped

Unemployed immigrants have struggled to improve their employment opportunities through the impact of language courses.  Despite the government’s announcement to extend the promotion, it seems the project has ended and a succession program is not  in sight.

On 1 April, the Federal Office for migration and refugees (BAMF) informed, amongst others, the regional employment agencies  that immigrants cannot expect an approval of further German courses in the near future.

Focul Online announced: The addressees of the letters hoped for an April Fool but the authorities are serious about the promotion stop. The reason: No more money. Therefore, new courses are only planned for 2015.

The programme was seen as successful despite it being scrapped. From 2007 to 2013 about 120,000 people with a migrant background have been supported. The Federal Employment Agency considers the programme as enormously important. After all it is not only about a pure language course but also about occupational abilities. According to a spokesman the agency now seeks for “compensation options”. By then the managers of job agencies must find alternative solutions to promote their customers with migrant background.

By Maria Wokurka

Pictures: Alan Denney (Ukraine protest), Olli (NPD protest), Chewstroke (Godfather)

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Visions of Division

To mark the end of our Conflict theme, Andreyna Valera collates this exclusive photo essay, depicting the remarkable stand off on the North Korean border.  

Last December, the relationship between North and South Korea was especially tense. Tourists were told the tours around the Demilitarize Zone (DMZ) and Joint Security Area (JSA) could be easily cancelled. These places catch the attention of thousands of views from all over the world every year, attracted by what can be considered the most similar place to hell on Earth.

First thing you are told when you step in the Korean DMZ is that you are not allowed to make eye contact with North Korean soldiers, not either gesticulate towards them to not ‘provoke’ any reaction. There is also a dress code that must be respected: no broken jeans or flip-flops, it can be used by North Korea to confirm one of their many lies about the rest of the world and manipulate saying how poorly the rest of people live that they cannot even dress properly.

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An American Marine takes the lead of the tour as soon as you arrive. He makes you to sign this document where it is advised “the possibility of injury or death as a direct result of enemy action”. Although the JSA is a neutral territory, the safety of visitors cannot be guarantee in a hostile enemy act. Afterwards, another American soldier makes a presentation of the Korean War, how the Armistice was signed and the creation of the DMZ. They never sign a peace treaty so technically they are still in conflict.

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North and South Korean soldiers stand face to face overlooked by American soldiers, who also impose a strict photograph policy on visitors. A stunning performance for those who visit this location: Panmunjeom. The glass doors at the back of the picture have strange forms that North Korea uses to take pictures of tourists and provoke American soldiers playing with lights and reflections.

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American and South Korean soldiers work shoulder to shoulder. There is an important American military base in Itaewon, North Seoul (South Korea). The US also played a decisive role as creating the DMZ as in the Korean War.

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The static defensive position that South Korean soldiers keep constantly comes from the Martial arts. All South Korean soldiers have been formed with taekwondo training intensively, due to military service is still mandatory. Representatives from both Koreas meet in this room to negotiate; the north part of the table is for the North of Korea and the south for the South.

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A fake town built by North Korean government as a propaganda strategy for worldwide tourists that visit the DMZ. There are many buildings and towers illuminated regardless nobody lives there. Satellites have proved that electricity is a luxury in most of the country.

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This town is inhabited. However, there are restraints to take pictures from this point and all pictures must be shoot behind a mark line controlled by South Korean soldiers.

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Korean people, from both North and South, leave their desires of union and reconciliation among them represented in those coloured pieces of clothing. The few familiar reunion agreed with North Korea have taken place in this area.

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This bridge was used to exchange prisoners after the Armistice in 1953: once the bridge is crossed, there is no way to go back to the other side ever again.

Euro Energy, Merkel and Dual Citizenship: German Fast News

Heinrich Klaffs

Heinrich Klaffs

Maria Wokurka analyses the big issues in Germany this week.

Crimea crisis: Vice-chancellor sees no alternatives for Russian petroleum gas

Chancellor Angela Merkel is being encouraged to reassess the entire energy policy of Germany, the online magazine Spiegel has said. The Federal Minister of Economics and Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel is convinced there are no acceptable, alternative options in terms of supplies of petroleum gas from Russia.

According to Gabriel, Europe pretends there are plenty of options to obtain natural gasoline in case Russia cuts its exports. “That is not the case”, Gabriel criticised on Thursday. The entire discussion regarding Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and oil is being criticised for being overly-optimistic.

Franz Dejon

Franz Dejon

Only a few hours before: Chancellor Merkel demanded a reduction in Europe’s dependence on oil and gas resources. After speaking with the Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, who signalled that Canada could supply oil and gas for Europe in the future, Merkel said: “There will be an entire and new reconsideration in terms of the energy policy.”

At the same time she advised against too much optimism. “An end of the dependence on Russian resources has not arrived yet.” The necessary infrastructure for alternatives supplies, for instance, is currently lacking.

 At present Russia supplies one third of Germany’s oil and gas. “No need to panic right now”, Gabriel stresses. According to him Moscow will not cut the supplies immediately since “even during the Cold War Russia has met its agreements in terms of contracts.”

Double-passport – A monster of bureaucracy?

According to the online edition of the newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau, Germany’s two largest parties the Social party SPD and the Christian Democratic party CDU, have agreed on a law about dual citizenship.

Due to this law young immigrants should be allowed to keep multiple citizenship if they have been born and grew up in Germany. Originally the CDU demanded that immigrants have to provide evidence through certificates or entries within the population register. Instead, as the SPD suggested, the authorities will assert the process of growing up themselves, on the basis of reporting dates.

This means that only a small minority of people concerned can be asked by the authorities to clarify him or herself in case of doubt. The Federal Minister of Justice declared on

boellstiftung

boellstiftung

Thursday in Berlin: “Unnecessary, bureaucratic barriers will be avoided.”

The Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said he was satisfied with the solution. According to the CDU politician, the draft law emphasises the special value that German citizenship has for living together, especially adolescents, who have either lived in Germany for eight years or went to a German school for six years in order to benefit from the law. After applicants 21st birthday the authorities will investigate the persons concerned and verify if the preconditions for dual citizenship exist. For single cases an additional article is alloted.

The greatest advantage of the new law is that most young adults are not obliged to decide between the German passport and the one from parent’s side. Mainly affected are German-Turks. EU-citizens, for instance, are already allowed to have two passports. Every year 4000 to 6000 adolescents reach the age which ‘forces’ them to decide.

The Danish view on the Ukraine: Danish Fast News

The Danish Minister for Employment, Mette Frederiksen

The Danish Minister for Employment, Mette Frederiksen

Denmark is characterized by high taxes and high welfare benefits. However the Danish government worries, that EU legislation is making it possible for outsiders to exploit the Danish system. Tinuke Maria Iyore highlights the most important Danish news this week. 

The influence of EU-laws on the Danish welfare system has caused an explosive debate the past week. According to EU regulations, EU citizens can earn the right to unemployment benefits in any EU nation and take these benefits with them across the union. Danish politicians are concerned that this will lead to exploitation of the generous Danish welfare system.

Denmark and Finland are the only EU-countries that require vetting for foreign citizens to receive unemployment benefits. The Danish prime minister recently announced that she wants to tighten these rules, making it even harder for EU-citizens to obtain benefits in Denmark. However this might be a violation against EU’s laws on discrimination and freedom of movement.

The Danish welfare system is funded by a high income tax, and EU-citizens working in Denmark are obliged to pay this high income tax, but are not given the same rights as Danish citizens.

Minister for Employment, Mette Frederiksen of the Social Democratic Party, adds that the Danish government wants to increase control with EU-citizens exploitation of the Danish welfare state, in order to prevent welfare tourism. “The free movement in the EU creates economic growth and jobs, but we have seen an increase in EU-citizens, particularly from Eastern Europe, receiving unemployment and social benefits. We take this development seriously, and must make sure that EU-citizens can meet the requirements for receiving benefits in Denmark”, she says to Danish newspaper Politiken.

More useful degrees

Eight Danish universities will be working towards lowering unemployment rates by comparing programmes to employment statistics. This year the regulation of admissions will be a cooperative effort from these eight universities. Some universities have previously made similar attempts to prevent educating young Danes on career paths that lead to unemployment. However this cooperation between universities is a first. The programmes will be assessed each year using the same procedure, ensuring that Danish universities are educating according to business and industry demands.

A signal to Russia

Denmark’s Liberal Party and other liberal parties in the European council have agreed on a proposal to deny Russia voting rights in the council, due to the ongoing Ukrainian conflict.  The council’s purpose is to ensure the respect of human rights and democracy. These principles have been violated by Russia on numerous occasions and the spokesman of the council’s group of liberal parties, Michael Aastrup Jensen, thinks it is important to send a strong signal to Russia. This would not be the first time Russia has lost its voting rights in the council. In 2000, the country was “punished” for the Russian army’s behavior in Chechnya.

Equality or discrimination?

Flickr: HBarrison

The University of Copenhagen wants to attract more female applicants to research positions. A gender action plan has been set in motion, and is to be implemented by the end of 2014. Tinuke Maria Iyore investigates what Danish student media are writing about the plan.  

COPENHAGEN UNIVERSITY HAS presented a new action plan for gender balance. One of the proposals is that both genders have to be represented in the applicants for research positions.

The proposal has received a lot of attention in Danish media and was recently up for debate at a Copenhagen University board meeting, where several board members expressed their concern about this requirement. Certain members of the Danish Parliament have even called the proposal discriminating.

However a close look at the pile of applications shows that the university might be facing an even bigger problem. The pile is simply too small.

Gender vs. Qualifications

According to the rector of Copenhagen University’s Ralf Hemmingsen, the proposal is not gender-discriminating. “We’re testing the proposal, because we find that there are too few female professors. I don’t think it is discriminating to make sure that we have at least one female and one male applicant.

“I would like to emphasize that qualifications remain the determining factor,” he says to the Danish newspaper Berlingske.

At the most recent board meeting, members agreed that the main goal of the action plan should be to attract more qualified applicants. Some board members believed emphasis should be put solely on qualifications, while others thought that the main focus should be attracting more qualified female applicants, due to the notion that this minority within academia holds a great deal of talent.

Danish Equality Laws

The minister for gender equality, Manu Sareen of the Social Liberal Party, welcomes the proposal. “I think it is important that the universities work towards a more equal gender composition. It’s about making the most of all talents”, he says to Berlingske.

He also states that it is equally important that the university stays within the Danish equality laws. The University of Copenhagen has previously obtained a waiver from this law with their 2008 action plan; ‘Diversity – more women in management’.

Jens Henrik Thulesen Dahl, who is Research Spokesman for the Danish People’s Party, is sceptical of the proposal. He calls it  “very discriminating” and thinks it diverts attention from simply hiring the most qualified applicant.

The Bigger Problem

The lack of applicants seems to be a problem that goes beyond gender. The board of Copenhagen University is concerned that every third research position receives only one application – thus granting no certainty that the most qualified researcher is actually the one who gets the job.

This might actually pose a larger problem than the lack of female applicants. “The universities should concentrate on attracting highly skilled employees. Not by making special proposals for women, but by creating a more attractive work environment, so more qualified applicants – both men and women – apply for the university’s research positions,” says Merete Riisager, spokeswoman on gender equality for the Liberal Alliance party, to Berlingske.

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Do you think the University of Copenhagen is engaging in positive discrimination?  Is this an appropriate response to uneven employment figures?  Where should the university’s priorities lie regarding top reseach jobs?  Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Photo credit: HBarrison [Flickr]

Based on the following articles from Universitetsavisen:

 

http://universitetsavisen.dk/politik/rektor-ingen-diskrimination-her

 

http://universitetsavisen.dk/politik/konsdebat-i-bestyrelsen-kun-en-ansoger-til-hver-tredje-forskerstilling-er-kaempe-problem

Kiev, Syria and The Forgotten War: German Fast News

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

Following a week which has been dominated by East-West tensions, Maria Wokurka provides the central European view on an increasingly divisive situation in this week’s Bottom Line from Germany.

Kyiv – voices from Germany

The world’s community has been focusing on the Ukraine and Kyiv. The protests and riots have led to the “Crimea crisis”.
Now Kyiv is in the urgent need of financial aid – and the EU is willing to help. The President of the commission, José Manuel Barroso, announced help in the form of eleven billion Euros. Russian’s president Vladimir Putin spoke of economic collaboration, in spite of the crisis.

In France, the foreign ministers of different EU states, including John Kerry and Frank-Walter Steinmeier as well as Sergej Lawrow, have met to diplomatically negotiate the crisis: some have claimed Moscow must eventually face international sanctions if it doesn’t end its involvement in Ukraine.

Germany’s federal government wants to abandon sanctions against Russia if today’s negotiations spawn a possible contact group. Without this contact group the sanctions will be on the agenda at the EU summit. While the German armed forces puts collaboration with the Russian armed forces on the test, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the foreign minister have sought to find a political loophole out of the drastic situation in the Ukraine.

The East-Europe-expert Hans-Henning Schröder said in an Interview with tagesschau.de that he is convinced that the good relationship between Russia and Germany could lead to a de-escalation in terms of the Ukraine. “Indeed, there is a really good connection between Berlin and Moscow. Even though there has been lots of criticism the last years, a big chance lies in this relationship.” According to Schröder, Germany is capable of acting as a negotiator between the West and the East. The online magazine Die Welt speaks of “Merkel’s walk on a tightrope between Putin and Obama.
There will be no easy solution. The foreign minister Steinmeier calls the critical situation in the Ukraine “the most problematic crisis in Europe since the Fall of the Wall.”

Has Syria been forgotten?

Since January the death count in Syria has stopped being recorded by Uno. The situation is a war but has become less prominent in the global media. The violence in Syria is part of the every-day-life. Every second Syrian citizen was forced to leave their home. Germany’s magazine Spiegel Online fears that Syria is becoming one of the forgotten conflicts such as Somalia or Iraq.

a.anis

a.anis

The Uno commissioner Antonio Guterres says: “Five years ago Syria has been the second most important country to receive refugees.” Now there is a dramatic change. “So far Afghanistan counted as the biggest refugee population, Syria is close to displacing Afghanistan.”

What is the current situation? The peace negotiations have temporarily failed. Assad has tried to reconquer districts in Aleppo but 10,000 inhabitants of the city have fled during the last months. The German authorities have said that 300 Germans are currently in Syria. How many of them are involved in fighting however is not known.

Export vs import – does Germany export debt?

Germany is currently being described as the trade world champion. Indeed, this name is flattering for a country that bases its political self-confidence on its economic strength. Brussels is skeptical and critical towards Germany’s economic imbalance.
Germany’s government has always referred to the country as remarkably competitive and that has been the best argument so far. But during the last few years the government signed several summit declarations. According to these declarations the huge economic imbalances worldwide are a central cause for recent crises. If Chancellor Angela Merkel appeals to, for instance, Greece to improve the competitiveness in terms of export numbers, there is no other way that countries such as Germany have to reduce their exports and increase their imports instead.

More export than import or vice versa – in general that is not the biggest problem as long as the imbalances stay within the bounds of possibility. That means that higher import countries must be able to afford these higher imports. Higher export countries, however, are exporting debts together with their commodities.

Oil Hungry: Spanish Government Plan Controversial Drill in Canaries

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The global energy company Repsol has finally obtained permission to begin drilling for oil next May near the Canary Islands, amidst protests and failed attempts to halt the project. Victoria Medina assesses the Canary Islands government’s referendum request to ask citizens whether they approve or reject the initiative.  

There has been nothing but controversy since the Spanish Conservative Party led by Mariano Rajoy announced it would be allowing Repsol to explore the seabed in hopes of finding oil, less than 70 kilometers from the coasts off the Canary Islands. Politicians and experts have warned of the devastating effects oil spill could have on the Islands economy and how it would also be harmful to the rich wildlife that inhabits the area.

Plans to extract oil were first announced in 2001 when then president, José María Aznar, also  Conservative, put forward a motion to claim the valuable fuel that allegedly lies underground between the Islands and the African continent. Repsol was to be the sole beneficiary and the only company that would have the right to drill for oil, but the Canary government was quick in appealing to the Supreme Court and achieved a suspension due to the inexistence of an environmental impact report.

More than a decade later and still without the pertinent report the Minister of Industry, Energy and Tourism, José Manuel Soria, born and raised in Gran Canaria, reopened the case and set the final date. Years of dispute will end in less than three months when the work finally begins without a general consensus.

Referendum proposal
The Canary Islands has the highest rate of unemployment in Spain, 33% versus the nations average of 26% that equates to a total of more than 4.800.000 people. Furthermore, the seven Islands are one of the most attractive holiday destinations in Europe and depend enormously on the tourism industry to sustain their unsteady economy. According to the Canarian Institute of Statistics (ISTAC) in 2013 more than 12 million tourists visited, one million more than the previous year.

The regions president, Paulino Rivero, recently argued during an interview on the public news channel ’24 Horas’ that he had followed proper procedure when presenting the Spanish president Mariano Rajoy with his plans to summon a referendum. He also defended his actions against claims issued by Soria stating it was illegal to request such a referendum.

On the same news channel and during the same program aired on the 12th of February, ex TV presenter Cristina García Ramos shed light on the existing dilemma between oil and tourism. She said it would be significant to control such an energy resource but “at what cost” would it come if it meant serious environmental issues and conflict.

According to the Spanish Constitution, article 92.1, “political decisions of special importance may be referred to a consultative referendum of all citizens”. However, it is still unclear whether the Canarian population will have a say about the matter.

The population is divided, as there are still those who believe oil drilling could generate thousands of jobs for the unemployed. Repsol claimed in 2012 that it would create 5.000 jobs, but experts say that these would only be for the extremely qualified and would not help significantly reduce the local unemployment statistics.

A national issue
The Balearic Islands have also been dragged into the spotlight regarding the same issue since the government decided to search for oil near their coasts using seismic tests. This has been met with protests that it could affect the fishing industry and eventually result in an environmental hazard if any oil were to spill into the ocean. Both national authorities and oil companies say that this rejection is based on a “profound lack of understanding” and that there is no risk involved.

The Spanish government long ago set out to reduce its oil dependency that currently generates the importation of 1.4 million barrels of oil a day to satisfy the high demand of the product. Furthermore, Soria has stated this week before the Senate that if the Canarian Islands proved to be rich in oil it would mean a 10% reduction of all imports from other countries. Environmentalists, however argue that there are far more valuable energy sources that are not being exploited to their maximum potential, such as solar energy and wind power amongst the many renewable and clean resources that the islands have to offer.

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