Tag Archives: Ukraine

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.

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Bayern, Fraud and Crimea: German Fast News

Themeplus

Themeplus

With news that the president of Bayern Munich has been jailed for tax fraud and Chancellor Angela Merkel warning Russia about its actions in Crimea, Maria Wokurka explains The Bottom Line in Germany this week.

Three years and six months in jail for the president of FC Bayern Munich

Uli Hoeness, the President of Bayern Munich, has been sent to prison for three and a half years arrest for after defrauding tax authorities.

Yet the judgment is without legal capacity. The plea of the FC Bayern Munich president immediately appealed on certain points of law. Nonetheless, Uli Hoeness lost his image as a role model. Even though the pleas of the 62 years old might be successful after appeal, it is improbable that Hoeness will be president of the German football club or a member of the board of directors any longer.

The court has claimed a tax debt of 28.5 million Euros and Uli Hoeness had pressed charges against himself.

Merkel warns Russia

Chancellor Angela Merkel has criticised Russia for putting the stability of the international community at risk.

European Council

European Council

In a government policy statement Merkel said: “We are facing a phase of insecurity and uncertainty. Russia does not show to be a partner for the neighbor country in terms of its cultural, economic and historical deep relations to the Ukraine. Despite this bond Russia is taking advantage of the weakened neighbour state.”

According to Merkel Russia believes its strength counts more than the right of the law. The chancellor emphasised the crisis does not call for a military solution. “In the 21st century we cannot solve a crisis like this with the solutions we might have used in the 19th and 20th century. It is important to find a political-diplomatic way.”

The government hangs behind

The coalition agreement says the state must support single parents in a better way. According to Sueddeutsche Zeitung the parties CDU and SPD have postponed fiscal credit. The coalition promised the credit is on its way but now it looks like the government is stalling – results might not emerge before 2016.

At the moment the Federal Minister for Family Affairs will supposedly agree on an adjustment in terms of the credit for single parents.

According to a family survey of the health insurance company AOK, 70 per cent of the couples with children see themselves in good or very good health conditions. However, only 48 percent of the single parents indicate good health conditions. 17 percent of them even describe the condition as very bad. Several single parents are either unsatisfied with the ever-day-life or overwhelmed.

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

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.

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. 

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. 

Russia, Ukraine and The West: Social Media Reactions to the Mounting Crisis

Sasha Maksymenko

What started as a ‘people’s revolution’ in Kyiv has spread to ‘foreign invasion’ in Crimea, as the future of the Ukraine hangs in the balance. Pandeia’s Jamie Timson, Daria Sukharchuk,  and Rebecca Thorning Wine look at the reaction to the crisis across social media in Russia and the UK.

Since Saturday evening, when President Putin  officially declared his intent to deploy the Russian army in Crimea, both countries have been living in a state of constant anxiety, eager for more news. Major media outlets worked all night, providing fresh news of the crisis. Countless editorials appeared, speculating about the consequences of the situation and reasons behind this decision, and ‒ most importantly  ‒ the possible economic sanctions facing Russia.

An hour after the Federation Council (upper house of Russian parliament) had ratified Putin’s decision, the first unrest spread across  social media and small scale protests could be seen in Moscow from Saturday.

 

On Sunday, 2nd of March, hundreds of people in Moscow and St. Petersburg went to demonstrations for and against military action in Crimea . All of them proclaimed peace in Ukraine as their ultimate goal ‒ but disagreed upon the actions that should be taken.

In Crimea meanwhile, the tension quickly escalated as the Russians took control of the Navy base in Simferopol and as this video shows, wasted no time in marking their territory:

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// Not all of the social media reaction from the region was completely negative, with some Crimeans beginning to take photos with the Soldiers.

This reaction to the presence of Russian soldiers may say more about the predominance of ethnic Russians who live in the area than the supposed civility of the impending conflict.

In Moscow, intervention supporters  marched around the ring of boulevards in the centre. Most of them were Putin supporters, and members of ationalistic, Orthodox Christian and communist organisations, with slogans emphasising unity of Russia and Ukraine.

Anti-war protests took place on Manezhnaya square, next to the Kremlin wall in Moscow, and at Isaakievskaya  square in St. Petersburg.

“I see some 300 people…”

At least 200 people were arrested (the number differs across sources).

Arresting the demonstrators in St. Petersburg: people began screaming “Shame!” and “Berkut” (the name of infamous Ukrainian military police that fought with activists on Maidan in Kiev).

Задержания. Люди кричали беркут, позор. #нетвойне #спб pic.twitter.com/ebwzjMVrEV

UK Reaction

The BBC were quick to get their former US ambassador Christopher Meyer’s viewpoint:

While The Sun helpfully came up with this graphic laden image to explain the conflict:

Protests weren’t confined solely to affected region, as demonstrators gathered in Parliament Square in Westminster:

The Telegraph led with a story which suggests Angela Merkel has questioned whether Putin is in touch with reality:

Meanwhile The Guardian produced a graphic to show the military imbalance between Ukraine and Russia:

 

* European Updates to Follow*