Tag Archives: Putin

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)

Advertisements

The Crimea Referendum, Europe and a New World Order

Darren

Darren

Pascale Muller and Maria Wokurka look into what the future holds for Europe following the annexation of Crimea, and whether a return to the days of the Cold War is likely.

History is back. Following last week’s referendum Crimea has been annexed by Russia. Poring over the European media in the following week, was like entering a time machine. The constantly changing circumstances and the lack of information from inside Crimea made and make it hard to keep abreast of the situation.

“Russia and the West: Fearing the abyss” was the headline of the German conservative daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Meanwhile Russian state TV said Russia could turn the US into “radioactive ash”. While a few days ago the British newspaper The Guardian published an article with the headline “Crimea crisis: EU prepares for trade war with Russia”. The french newspaper Le Monde describes the annexation of Crimea as a “Trojan horse strategy”. Rhetoric like this and the increasing military activity of Russia and NATO bring up old memories. Are we heading towards a new Cold War?

Europe finds itself in the midst of an East-West struggle for control of the buffer state of Ukraine. Putin, who has referred to the Soviet Unions fall as the biggest catastrophe of the century, has taken this opportunity to reestablish a Russian sphere of influence. While Obama is convinced that “Putin is on the wrong side of history” the Russian president wants a new world order – a world order in which Russia is a regional hegemon, a great power. The annexation, various German analysts suspect, is Putin’s revenge for 1989. On the Russian side, this historical parallel led to crude analogies, with Putin comparing the annexation of Crimea with the German reunification. The President says that Russia, in contrast to other countries, entirely accepted and respected the will of the German nation. Now in turn the West needs to accept the “reunification of the entity” in Russia. “I am convinced that the Germans will support us in terms of our wish for an reunification”, Putin was quoted on the German TV channel MDR.

But 2014 is not a copy of 1989. “Between whom should there be a new Cold war? Russia is not a big enemy for the USA, since the USA is economically and military-wise much more powerful than Russia. The USA remains the biggest power in our world”, says Serhiy Vanahiy, a Ukrainian activist living in Austria. Even if the US hegemony remains, the great power treads cautiously by imposing sanctions on Russia but refraining from military action. According to Vanahiy the crucial question is how and if the West will continue to respond to Russia’s break of international contracts. “The biggest problem of the situation right now is that Russia violated the law of the Budapest Memorandum from the 5th of December 1994.” A fact that can no longer be ignored by the West without weakening their position.

The Budapest Memorandum entails three declarations by the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia, recognising the borders of Kazakhstan, Belarus and the Ukraine as fixed and respected their political and economic sovereignty. In return the three Eastern countries had to agree upon an abdication from nuclear weapons. Should there be a nuclear offensive the UN Security Council is allowed to immediately impose sanctions. With Russia’s unexpected and abrupt behaviour in Crimean affairs, this agreement is obsolete. No surprise, that Belarus immediately expressed deep concern and reached out to it’s NATO allies to ensure it’s safety.

Vanahiy says: “The US will lack credibility if they do not respond to this breach of agreement through Russia. Thereby diverse negotiations and agreements concerning an abdication of nuclear weapons with countries such as Iran, Libya and Syria could unhinge due to two reasons – on one hand there is perhaps not to count on sanctions in case of an agreement breach, on the other hand Russia’s holding of nuclear weapons might eventually render possible almost everything.” The impact of the events goes far beyond Ukraine, Russia or Crimea. After decades of cooperation some are not longer playing to the rules.

Within this frame the Crimea crisis marks the prelude of a strong and potentially armed conflict between East and West, and primarily a conflict between Europe and Russia. According to the German online newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, speaks of “a riot risk of an armed conflict” and elaborates that war might have returned to Europe. France’s minister of foreign affairs was therefore the first to declare Russia as no longer part of the G8 and Germany followed soon after.

NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, clearly condemned the annexation of Crimea. Moscow resides on a “risky way” Rasmussen said in Brussels. “Still Russia violates the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Ukraine. Therefore Russia pursues its apparent breach of international commitments.” European leaders see the Crimea crisis as the worst within the last decades. A proof that war or the potential danger of war is still present and not to be underestimated. In Schulz’ opinion it is the EU that has to demonstrate to Russia that it will not accept a crossing of Russia’s achieved border. On March 16 BBC News quoted the European Union saying in a statement that the vote was “illegal and illegitimate and its outcome will not be recognised.” Contrariwise a hardening conflict could bring great economic damage to Russia as well as the European Union – one reason the latter retains from blunt actions.

According to the political activist Vaynahiy the conflict across the Crimea crisis might eventually lead to a “Third World War”. His argument: “Once international agreements do not function any longer and ‘nobody’ observes the rules, we obviously face the signal that our current world system is weak.”

Vaynahiy points out that “the EU is completely aware of the dependence of Russia in terms of the energy sector and this dependence is dangerous.” That is why the EU seeks for alternative options as soon as possible. Germany gets about one third of their energy resources from Russia and exports machinery and cars, Italy owes as much as 28 percent of their energy resources to the Kremlin and France has a strong interest in continue to sell warships to Moscow. For Russia, in turn, the consequences are enormous, economic deprivations. 50% of Russia’s budget stem from gas and oil exports.

“If this income ceases to exist, Russia will face great economic losses. I believe that the Russian GDP won’t be the same in two or three years.”, says Vaynahiy. Russia has made a clear choice of ideology over economy, accepting economic damage. A strategy that was believed to be dead in the 21st century and a global convergence over the acceptance of capitalism. According to Vaynahiy, Russia seeks to prove his military power, especially towards the other Russian republics, such as Chechnya and Dagestan.

Disregarding power games and the international impact of the Crimea crisis ahead, Russia’s stronghold on the region and its population might be drastic. The East of Europe fears a wave of refugees from Ukraine seeking shelter from an eventual Russian invasion. Even if Putin keeps denying it, Russian forces at the East Ukrainian border are “very, very sizable and very, very ready”, says Gen. Philip Breedlov, supreme commander of Allied Forces in the New York Times. Meanwhile Bratislava is getting ready to provide shelter of an eventuality of 1,000 – 10,000 refugees from this region of Ukraine, according to the German TV channel Deutsche Welle. Their biggest fear is that Ukraine could vanish from the world map. Whether or not this scenario comes true, world order has been shaken leading us once again into an era of instability.

Skiing Champions, Economic Sanctions and more on Ukraine: German Fast news

pictures by ST

pictures by ST

From sanctions over Crimea to the retirement of a German skiing legend. Maria Wokurka provides a summary of the week in the Bottom Line for Pandeia.

Merkel is convinced there will be an intensification of sanctions

 The heads of states and governments of the EU will decide further freezing of accounts and travel restrictions on Russian officials due to the Crimea crisis. The German chancellor Angela Merkel has already announced economic sanctions.

According to Tagesschau Online it is easier for US President Barack Obama to speak of sanctions against Russia. The Foreign Minister of Poland, Radoslaw Sikorski, is not surprised – referring to economic relations and business the EU faces higher stakes than the US. Furthermore, it is more complicated and complex to find an agreement on sanctions between the 28 member states. In other words, if the EU decides about sanctions there will always be compromise.

After the vote on Crimea the EU Foreign Ministers handed out entry embargoes and blocked accounts for about 20 Russian and Ukrainian politicians. This was the second of three levels of sanctions. Angela Merkel is convinced that there will be an intensification of the second level. She announced in the Federal Parliament: “We decided a second level two weeks ago and the heads of states and governments of the EU will decide about further sanctions of this level. Among these sanctions will be an extension of the list of responsible persons who will be affected by the travel restrictions and account blockings.”

European People's Party - EPP

European People’s Party – EPP

Level three sanctions entail concrete economic sanctions against Russia. Merkel emphasizes that “the EU board is willed to apply sanctions of level three if the situation worsens.”

The economic sanctions could have serious consequences for Russia. Under discussion the halting of Russian gas supplies. This would create problems for those EU states reliant on Russian gas.

A further, unpredictable scenario will be if the Russian government responds to the sanctions with counter sanctions.

Ex Secretary of Education loses action

The German magazine Spiegel has demanded it is high time that German universities act and make sure that doctor’s degrees are only be temporarily awarded.

Around 25,000 doctors leave university every year. Only a trickle of them is seriously encouraged to work in the scientific and research area. Nine out of ten postgraduates turn their backs on the field of research. The reasons include the lack of alternative non-dissertation options and very often the hope for better career opportunities. Last year every fifth deputy of the German Federal Parliament owns the two letters “Dr.” in front of the first name.

The former Secretary of Education, Annette Schavan, started a career of science and wrote a dissertation with the title “The person and the conscience”. She is convinced that she belongs to the scientific community even though her entire career has been a political.

The prestige of being a doctor remains for the entire life and is part of the identity.

Val 202

Val 202

There is a proposal by a Professor of Economics to delete the doctor’s degree from the identity card or to only be allowed to take the article within the area of research and science. Manuel Theisen suggests the doctor’s degree should be temporarily limited. After ten years the right to have the title will be automatically extended unless evidence emerges that the author plagiarised. The positive arguments of this idea are: no new administrative act, no additional effort and expenditures for the universities – the plagiarism will be not be described but the academic honour will be questioned.

The end of an impressive career – German Olympic champion calls it quits

Rationality predominated: the German ski Olympic champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch will not continue her sports career.

The best German female skier has decided to end her career, after 13 years, as triple Olympic champion and double world champion. After winning Gold and Silver in Sochi this year Hoefl-Riesch has reached the peak of her career. Even though she will be missed in the future winter sports her fans are saying goodbye with a crying and a smiling face at the same time – it utterly is the best moment to stop.

Hoefl-Riesch suffered a number of injury problems throughout her career but was able to triumph at three Winter Olympics. She retires at the age of 29.

Just another case of identity fraud?

rockcohen

rockcohen

With Ukraine in turmoil over what to do about Crimea and the build-up to the European elections across the continent Pandeia is pleased to launch our new theme of ‘National Identity’.

To identify yourself as a citizen of a particular nation on this planet is usually a birth-right. The many forms and documents that have to be filled in on a daily basis in civilised society, force each person to take a position on their nationality — and in turn their identity — from an early age. But, in this globalised world, where one single tweet can make a Blackpool beautician famous seemingly throughout humanity, what does it mean when we pledge an allegiance to a flag, a country or even a continent? It is this question with which Pandeia launches our new theme of ‘National Identity’.

The crisis in Crimea has brought the concept of nation states and ‘National Identity’ under intense scrutiny. The term ‘Ukraine’s territorial integrity’ has been the sound bite with which the West has criticised Russia’s actions. Ukraine’s territorial integrity with regards to Crimea, it is argued, comes hand in hand with the country’s national identity. However, it is undoubtedly more complicated than that. Russian President, Vladimir Putin’s claims to do everything within his power to protect ‘ethnic Russians’, while deeply worrying in an immediate conflict context, actually contains underlying connotations that are the crux of the main issue affecting not just the continent but the globe in the 21st century.

To declare a geographical area as belonging to one state government is to whitewash from history the many years that came before those particular state boundaries were drawn up. In Crimea for example, the Tatars who are indigenous to the peninsula, have for centuries battled against Russian rule. It is of course natural then that these are the people most worried about the looming Russian annexation of Crimea. Complications inherently arise when diverse ethnic cultures are banded together under one banner, or more usually one flag. As national identity is often as much of a construct, as the flag that represents it.

For examples of these complications, it is prudent to look no further than the last major conflict to afflict continental Europe — the breakup of the former Yugoslavia and in particular the recent struggles in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Following the Dayton agreement, the aforementioned nation state was born and a new post-conflict era was heralded. However, nearly 20 years on, the country is blighted by structure of its government, designed to force the three ethnic identities — Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs — to collaborate together. As the inhabitants of Bosnia have learnt merely heralding a ‘new united nation’ doesn’t always result in a one. This struggle has prompted the recent protests with one banner reading “There is no ‘Bosnian people’” a concise assessment of national identity in the country.

The future of indigenous populations is at times most relevant when discussing ‘National Identity’. The North American indigenous populations have for years attempted to preserve and foster their cultures in an environment which often places the Nation at the forefront of any discussions on identity. As the nation state’s identity has begun to subsume the indigenous populations, new attempts to diversify and maintain their distinctiveness have been made. This was most recently the case when the Latoka tribe from the Pine Ridge reservation declared they were looking into making the ‘Mazacoin’ their national currency. In a statement of intent towards sovereignty and a form of national identity, the Mazacoin — a bitcoin variant, an alternative virtual currency — would replace the American Dollar in the area. Its use is coherent with the concept of trading and bartering that occurs across many indigenous populations, and the minds behind the concept, believe that by adopting a digital currency the Latoka tribe can shed decades of poverty. Currency in itself shapes such strong feelings of national identity and pride and the Mazacoin could be the start of a new kind of sovereignty in the 21st century.

It is no wonder then, that currency has become the new battleground in the independence debate that threatens to engulf Scotland in 2014. The concept of a shared monetary union between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK has been championed by the YES Scotland campaign, while all three of the main political parties at Westminster have deemed the notion inconceivable. In questions of independence, much is made of national identity and the Sterling currency perhaps carries with it more identifiers of national pride than any other. Particularly in the run-up to the European elections, the prospect of a ‘European identity’ is continually disparaged in the UK, in favour of the British or more usually the national identity, be it Welsh, Scottish, English or Northern Irish. In Britain, this is even more of a surprise, for as history shows it is a nation formed of many different ‘identities’ — from the Anglo-Saxons, to the Vikings, to the West Indians of the ‘Windrush Generation’, Britain’s national identity, to be ‘British’, means not one single identifiable factor.

Maybe the one problem with ‘National Identity’ is, that it doesn’t really exist in the first place.

By Jamie Timson

Ukraine: A view from the ground

In instances such as the one currently taking place in Kyiv, the maxim that “a picture paints a thousand words” is never more appropriate. In these stunning shots from Sasha Maksymenko for Pandeia, we view the city’s inhabitants caught in a piece of history. 

A view from the ground in Ukraine

In instances such as the one currently taking place in Kyiv, the maxim that “a picture paints a thousand words” is never more appropriate. In these stunning shots from Sasha Maksymenko for Pandeia, we view the city’s inhabitants caught in a piece of history. 

Sochi 2014 – A Russian Perspective

KOREA.NET

In the first of our two-part series on the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Daria Sukharchuk examines the Russian media’s perception in the run-up to the most expensive Winter Games in history.

The biggest news one week before the Olympics in the Russian media was a number: 0% of Russians were planning to go to Sochi to see the games. Although this number obviously contrasts with the fact that most of the fans in the Olympics are from Russia, it reflects, in a certain way, the general pessimistic atmosphere that surrounded Sochi Olympics before the opening. Many months before the start of the games the most frequent reports were of it’s cost and the low quality of construction ‒ coupled with rumours of the wild corruption surrounding it.

Nijitski.ru

Ten days after Russian President Vladimir Putin officially denied  “any big corruption issues in Sochi”, the Anti-Corruption Foundation ‒ a public initiative led by Russia’s most prominent opposition leader Alexei Navanly, released a website dedicated to the issue ‒  “Corruption Race”. The first page, featuring  pictures of Russia’s five most prominent politicians  and businessmen in the Olympic rings (Putin in the centre) invites the reader to look at “the most distinguished money-siphoners in five different sports: classic embezzlement, verbal freestyle, ecological multi-sport, pair’s contracting and skating the figures”. In the tone of bitter sarcasm, characteristic for Navalny, it tells biographies of the “champions” and stories of money-siphoning, ecological disasters and false promises surrounding Sochi.

Anti-Corruption Foundation 2014

Anti-Corruption Foundation 2014

State-owned broadcasters ‒ such as the news agency RIA ‒ focused on reporting Olympic venues building progress. While the Russian Gazette, the main mouthpiece of the government, published a very optimistic report from the government meeting, quoting Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev: “in terms of results, everything works”.

The article also emphasised the fact that “the audit carried out by the Accounts Chamber of Russian Federation has not revealed any improper use of funds” ‒ a statement hardly any Russian can ever believe.

The Russian Reporter  — a rather popular weekly magazine mostly focusing on human interest stories ‒ published a special issue dedicated to Sochi in November 2013. The issue featured, among others, an article called “A Parable of Russia” that gives a  very detailed description of all the ambitious construction projects that have changed Sochi so much: not only the new sports venues, but 365 km of new roads, new high-speed railway, the international airport and hundreds of meters of pipelines. The article compares Sochi construction works to major infrastructure projects of the 1930’s and especially emphasises the many challenges the construction workers had to face: for example the storms in the summer and a large flood in September 2013 — all of which were ignored by state-owned broadcasters — however, the end of the story is glum:

“The Olympics have given job not only to construction workers in Sochi, but […] to contractors from all around the country […]. Of course, many people have got some cuts. But still, the companies have got orders, workers have got work […]. But if our country stagnates again, this regional project would be more about more about vanity than regional development”.

Probably, the most positive stories before the Olympics were those about volunteers: several media outlets published articles about volunteers. Regardless of the media outlets’ political orientation, the overall tone of those articles was rather similar: they emphasized the youth of Sochi volunteers (88% of them are younger than 30) and their optimistic attitude towards the Olympics.

Sochi 2014

Sochi 2014

Almost all of such articles included a small interview with a volunteer talking about “the opportunity to improve my English and to make friends from all over the country”  their eagerness to make a good impression on the foreigners coming to the Olympics.

Finally, the night before the Olympic opening ceremony, “Kommersant”, a newspaper known for it’s critical attitude towards modern day Russia, published on it’s website an article named “The Olympics are loading… please, wait” — a first impression from the Kommersant team that has arrived to cover the games. It opens with a paragraph:

“Today, it is impossible to ignore the Olympics if you are in Sochi. It is a city of names. To get a bus to the Olympic park, one needs to walk 50 minutes on Figurnaya (Figure) street, and, before crossing the Champions avenue turn into the Triumfalnaya (Triumph) street. The signs one sees on the way can predict Russian team’s chances to win the Olympics. I think of our hockey team when I see the “50-50” cafe, […] and of someone else when I see the infamous “Stumbler” bar in Adler (but let us not think of those painful matters).”

The article then goes on describing how the Olympics that have not yet started have changed the life of Sochi, and quotes several Canadian and American journalists that have arrived to cover the games. They appear to be cheerful and ironic at the same time, reassured that no major terrorist attacks or broken toilets would spoil the games.

This last piece reflects the general feeling of middle-class Russians about the Olympics before they started: the overall attitude was critical, and many flaws can’t be ignored. The expectations were low, and hardly any Russian trusted the government’s statements denying corruption in Sochi.