Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

‘World still needs NATO’ writes German defense minister in New York Times op-ed

January 19, 2019

With NATO rattled amid pressure from Donald Trump, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen made an appeal for the alliance in a New York Times op-ed. She described NATO as an “emotional bond” between the US and Europe.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (picture-alliance/dpa/B. Pedersen)

In an appeal to the American public, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen penned a New York Times opinion piece on Friday making a case for the continuation of NATO.

The western security alliance, which turns 70 this year, has been repeatedly criticized by US President Donald Trump, who has reportedly expressed doubts about remaining in the alliance.

In her opinion piece entitled “The World Still Needs NATO,” von der Leyen said that NATO is an “irreplaceable building block for an international order that favors freedom and peace.”

The “international order” is under threat from military actions by Russia and China as well as “Islamic State” (IS) terrorism and nuclear weapon production, she writes.

“Maybe the most basic benefit of NATO is that it provides reliability in an unreliable world,” the Christian Democrat politician wrote.

Describing what the alliance has meant to her personally, von der Leyen said that Germany was grateful for the security provided by NATO and that in her mind, the alliance was inextricably linked to her memories of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

“It represents a special, even emotional bond between the American and European continents,” she wrote.

Defending the weakest, and strongest

Von der Leyen doesn’t explicitly name the United States or Trump in the piece. She does, however, note that the one time that NATO’s “an attack on one of us is an attack on us all” maxim was activated, it involved the alliance’s other members coming to the aid of the US.

“We will help our weakest ally just as we have helped our strongest by invoking Article 5 — for the first and only time in NATO’s history — after September 11, 2001.”

At a NATO summit last July, Trump voiced doubts over whether the US would honor Article 5, the alliance’s collective defense principle, for Montenegro — NATO’s newest member.

Trump putting pressure on allies

Von der Leyen’s op-ed comes on the heels of a New York Times report that said Trump spoke with senior US officials about pulling the US out of NATO.

On Thursday, Trump told military members at the Pentagon that Washington was fully committed to the security alliance, but repeated his demand for other countries to increase their defense budgets.

He also reiterated his belief that NATO allies in Europe have been taking advantage of US security for decades.

“We cannot be the fools for others. We cannot be. We don’t want to be called that. And I will tell you for many years behind your backs, that is what they were saying,” said.

Germany is one of the members currently falling well short of the 2 percent of GDP target for military expenditure recently set by NATO. As defense minister, von der Leyen has been at the forefront of calls for a higher budget, but with only limited success.


Turkey recalibrates agricultural policies to boost cannabis production for industrial use

January 16, 2019

Agricultural policies for the cultivation of cannabis, which could be used as raw material from the automobile to textile industries, are being reshaped following an announcement last week by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that Turkey will exponentially increase the production of industrial hemp. The cultivation of cannabis has been slumping worldwide since the 1990s with growing focus on its industrial use. In 1990, cannabis was cultivated on an area of 156,000 acres, which fell to nearly 65,000 acres in 2017.

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Nearly half of the 69 cannabis types cultivated in Europe have been developed in the last decade. Most of these different types of cannabis have been the industrial hemp embodying a low amount of marijuana’s active substance, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

The substance is distilled with rehabilitation and the rate of THC has fallen to 0.2 to 0.3 percent of the gross weight of cannabis.

The Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana

Type Is it Cannabis? Chemical Makeup Psychoactive? Cultivation Applications
Hemp Yes Low THC
(< 0.3%)
No Requires minimal care. Adaptable to grow in most climates. Automobiles, body care, clothing, construction, food, plastic, etc.
Marijuana Yes High THC
Yes Grown in carefully controlled atmosphere Medical and recreational use

The upper THC limit for industrial cannabis in Canada is set at 0.3 percent and 0.2 percent in the European Union. As a result, cannabis fields are on the rise in the European and American continents.

Europe was expected to grow over 125,000 acres of hemp in 2018, supplying the car composites market, according to a report of the British Hemp Association.

Canada is estimated to cultivate around 250,000 acres, and now has the first industrial scale bio-plastics facility. China has also been increasing its hemp output in the last years and reached 74,000 acres in 2017. The estimate for China was 150,000 acres in 2018.

The Turkish legislation bans cannabis cultivation apart from utilizing its fiber, stem and seed. Now, with the aim of expanding its industrial use, new types of cannabis with minimized THC levels will be cultivated.

The legal principles for the cultivation permit, necessary supervision and procedures to be implemented in unlicensed cultivation have been drawn up. A communiqué published in the Official Gazette in 2016 regulates cannabis cultivation in 19 provinces. Outside the permitted provinces and districts, cannabis cannot be cultivated in Turkey.

In 1989 cannabis was cultivated on an area of 42,000 acres. This figure fell to 5,360 acres in less than a decade. In 2009, cannabis was only cultivated on 66 acres. Last year, cannabis, for the purpose of utilizing its fiber and seeds, was cultivated on an area of 200 acres.

Between 2015 and 2018, Turkey’s cannabis exports were calculated at 13 tons with a value of $24,000. Its imports in the same period totaled 4,521 tons, worth $5.8 million.

Following the developments in industrial hemp production, studies on this particular subject started in 2017 at the Black Sea Agricultural Research Institute operating under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry General Directorate of Agricultural Research Policies (TAGEM).

In this context, the Black Sea Region Hemp Research Guided Project (TAGEM / BÜGEM) was launched. The project will determine the adaptation of varieties with low THC content and widespread cultivation areas to the regional conditions. The efficiency and yield components of the local population, highlighted by the studies, will be identified.

In this direction, the application for registration of two industrial hemp varieties will be completed as a result of the studies carried out by the institutions affiliated to the ministry and the first domestic and national cannabis varieties will be added to the country’s agriculture.

The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) 1001 Project on the “Development of Genotypes with Low THC Content from Hemp Populations” is being conducted in collaboration with Ondokuz Mayıs University.

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Cambodia PM says EU holding country ‘hostage’ with tariff threats

January 12, 2019

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen blasted the European Union on Saturday for holding the country “hostage” with threats to axe trade preferences after it held elections with no credible opposition.

The EU threatened in October to withdrawal the duty-free Everything But Arms scheme (EBA), which benefits exports from Cambodia’s garment and footwear sector, the largest formal employer.

The multi-billion dollar sector employs hundreds of thousands of labourers and is seen as one of the 66-year-old’s few vulnerable positions in a country he has run for nearly 34 years by building up vast patronage networks.

In recent months he has requested pardons for activists and eased up on the crippled opposition, which was banned in a Supreme Court ruling ahead of the July vote swept by Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

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Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen

The moves were seen as concessions to avoid any loss of the trade preferences but Hun Sen has baulked at the idea of his hand being forced, and said so in his most direct comments on the issue yet in a meeting with former Irish prime minister Enda Kenny in Phnom Penh.

After bringing up several historical grievances with the bloc he said it was making another mistake by “using EBA as a threat to sanction Cambodia … and take about 16 million Cambodians as hostage of the so-called EBA.”

Hun Sen’s spokesman conveyed the remarks to reporters. They were also posted on the leader’s official Facebook page and quickly picked up by state-friendly media.

He asked Kenny to pass along his message to the EU.

Hun Sen is known for fiery speeches that toss aside diplomatic niceties, but he usually avoids calling out the trade scheme by name.

Last month he rapped Western governments for pushing “democracy and human rights” on the country in comments believed to be tied to the EU threat.

Removing the preferences is a long, drawn out process that would take several months.

The ruling party swept all seats in the July vote turning Cambodia into a one-party state.

The Southeast Asian country enjoys the economic support of China, which in turn relies on its smaller ally to support it in regional disputes over control of the potentially resource-rich South China Sea.


Liberalism’s most brilliant enemy is back in vogue

January 11, 2019

Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt appeals to opponents of democracy and the rule of law

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Carl Schmitt, a jurist and Nazi party member, has been cited by the white nationalist Richard Spencer, left, and his theories are applicable to the governing styles of Donald Trump, Xi Jinping and Tayyip Recep Erdogan

By Gideon Rachman

Achieving fame as the “crown jurist of the Third Reich” does not sound like a good way of endearing yourself to posterity. Indeed, for decades after the defeat of Nazism, the ideas of Carl Schmitt were widely regarded as beyond the pale.

But in recent years there has been a global revival of interest in the work of Schmitt, who died in 1985 at the age of 96. Chinese legal scholars, Russian nationalists, the far-right in the US and Germany, as well as the far-left in Britain and France, are all drawing upon the work of the premier legal theorist of Nazi Germany. The resurgence of interest in Schmitt is testimony to a global backlash against liberalism. As the Princeton political theorist Jan-Werner Müller puts it, Schmitt was “the [20th]century’s most brilliant enemy of liberalism”.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 8 January

President Erdogan. EPA photo

Schmitt’s hostility to parliamentary democracy, and his support for the power of an authoritarian leader to decide the law, led him down some very dark paths. He issued a legal opinion justifying Hitler’s suspension of democracy and assumption of emergency powers after the Reichstag fire in 1933. And when the Nazis murdered scores of their enemies in the “Night of the Long Knives”, Schmitt wrote a notorious essay justifying the killings.

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Reichstag fire in 1933

He was also an anti-Semite who called for the expulsion of Jewish academics from Germany and convened a conference on purging German law of Jewish influence. Despite this, contemporary anti-liberals find much to admire in his work.

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He scorned ideas such as the separation of powers and universal human rights and argued that the distinction between “friend” and “enemy” is fundamental to politics: “Tell me who your enemy is and I will tell you who you are.”

To Schmitt, liberal talk of the brotherhood of man was simply hypocrisy. While liberals are concerned with the establishment of the rule of law, Schmitt was more interested in how the rule of law can be suspended through the declaration of a state of emergency.

As he wrote: “Sovereign is he who decides on the exception.”

This argument has a particular resonance in modern Germany, where the far-right Alternative for Germany party argues that Chancellor Angela Merkel should have suspended international law on refugees, rather than allowing more than 1m migrants to enter Germany in 2015 and 2016. The Trump administration is considering declaring a limited state of emergency in response to the alleged threat to America’s southern border posed by illegal migrants and refugees.

Contemporary Turkey and Egypt provide examples of how the declaration of a state of emergency can be used to suspend legal rights to devastating effect. There is no reason to believe that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has studied Schmitt. But authoritarian thinkers elsewhere in the world are clearly drawing upon his ideas. In China, legal scholars at Beijing University have used his thought to justify the Communist party’s control of the courts.

As François Bougon, author of a study of President Xi Jinping, explains: “In Schmitt, Chinese authors have found arguments against liberal conceptions of western democracy.”

Alexander Dugin, a Russian nationalist intellectual, has written an essay entitled “Carl Schmitt’s Five Lessons for Russia”. He praises his dicta of “politics above all else” and “let there always be enemies”.

And, as a believer in the importance of the Eurasian landmass to Russia’s destiny, Mr Dugin is attracted to Schmitt’s emphasis on “great spaces”, “large geopolitical entities, each of which should be governed by a flexible super state”. Ironically, this was a doctrine that was used to justify the Nazi invasion of Russia, in the search for Lebensraum.

But Mr Dugin finds in Schmitt a moral justification for great land empires and “a clear understanding of the enemy facing Europe, Russia and Asia that is the United States of America along with its . . . island ally, England”. However, there are also fringe thinkers in the US and England, who are attracted to Schmitt’s ideas.

Richard Spencer, an American white supremacist who coined the term, “alt-right”, has cited Schmitt, along with Nietzsche, as an inspiration. And some on the European radical left have also been attracted by Schmitt’s rejection of liberal attempts to take politics out of the operation of the law or the conduct of economic policy.

Perhaps more surprisingly, the study of Schmitt has also entered the academic mainstream. As Professor Müller puts it: “In many ways his thought has been normalised.” In 2017, Oxford University Press published The Oxford Handbook of Carl Schmitt. The blurb notes: “Despite Schmitt’s rabid anti-Semitism . . . the appeal of his trenchant critiques of . . . representative democracy and international law . . . is undiminished.”

Ironically, this willingness to debate disagreeable ideas is a hallmark of the very liberalism that Schmitt despised. But the notion that Schmitt’s “trenchant critiques” can be admired separately from his despicable life may be taking liberal tolerance a little too far.

See also:

Carl Schmitt: The Philosopher of Conflict Who Inspired Both the Left and the Right

U.S.-China Trade Fight Shakes Global Economy, but Isn’t All Bad for Bystanders

January 11, 2019
But Nations relying on steady world commerce prefer stability over short-term gains
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Many national economies rely on trade with China, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. Above, the Port of Melbourne, Australia. TRACEY NEARMY/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

Countries watching the U.S.-China trade talks from the sidelines are anxious for the two sides to reach a deal and avert the damage a protracted fight poses to the global economy—even if many see the potential to benefit from the dispute.

From Mexico to Southeast Asia, nations see an opportunity to attract manufacturing exporters trying to avoid U.S. tariffs on Chinese products. Japan’s auto makers would stand to gain if the U.S. and China imposed reciprocal car tariffs, and Brazil and Canada’s soybean farmers would have a chance to provide more feed for China’s massive hog herds.

“If Vietnam is booming due to investment shifting from China, why can’t we?” Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla told a forum Tuesday.

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Vietnamese workers

But the threat of a trade war is disrupting global markets and business plans. Despite the potential short-term rewards from the spat, most Asia-Pacific nations support removing trade barriers in general—and barriers to trade with China in particular.

President Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping declared a temporary tariff truce on Dec. 1, and midlevel officials from both sides met this week, narrowing some differences and setting up higher-level negotiations.

Many countries trading with China share Washington’s complaints about Beijing’s practices, including subsidies to its companies, limiting market access to foreign firms and requiring foreign companies to divulge their technology.

Some countries have pursued free trade arrangements without the economic superpowers. When Mr. Trump withdrew the U.S. nearly two years ago from talks to establish a regional trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 11 other members—including Japan, Australia, Canada, Mexico and Vietnam—went ahead with their own arrangement, known as TPP-11, which took effect Dec. 30. A trade deal between Japan and the European Union is set to kick in on Feb. 1.

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Employees working at cargo ship Kypros Land which is loading soybeans to China at Tiplam terminal, Santos, Brazil

Ultimately, the U.S. and China are indispensable for many countries.

There are “absolutely no winners from a continuing trade war,” said Australia’s Trade Minister Simon Birmingham.

Mr. Birmingham warned that the rift between Beijing and Washington could seriously jeopardize global economic growth—though he said the TPP-11 deal had created opportunities as a counter to China-U.S. tensions.

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Samsung opens world’s biggest smartphone factory in India
As companies moving goods from China to the U.S. face heftier tariffs, some have developed creative techniques to avoid paying them. The WSJ’s Steven Russolillo takes to the field to explain how some businesses sidestep import duties.

In Southeast Asia, a production and transshipment hub that relies on trade with both China and the U.S., nations fear supply-chain disruptions and slower global growth. The rapid expansion of container-port traffic over the past decade has made even the passage of trade through Southeast Asian countries important to the region’s economies.

“The public view is that trade conflict is bad and should be resolved as soon as possible,” said Deborah Elms, executive director of the Singapore-based Asian Trade Centre, a business-funded group that studies trade policy. “In private, the views could be more nuanced. Some officials are fairly confident that a protracted trade conflict will drive firms out of China.”

Rising Chinese labor costs were already pushing low-end manufacturers to places such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Bangladesh. The trade battle, with its threat of prolonged tariffs, is accelerating that trend.

Fashion house Steve Madden Ltd. , which sources a majority of its products from China, says it has shifted about 15% of its handbag production to Cambodia and hopes to double that percentage in 2019. “That gives us frankly about a three-year head start on most of our peers because many folks are just now trying to make that move…in light of these tariffs,” chief executive Edward Rosenfeld said last year.

Trade negotiators including deputy U.S. Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish, at center in Beijing on Tuesday, set the stage this week for a higher-level round.
Trade negotiators including deputy U.S. Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish, at center in Beijing on Tuesday, set the stage this week for a higher-level round. PHOTO: GREG BAKER/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

GoPro Inc. in December said it would move most of its U.S.-bound camera production out of China by mid-2019 “to mitigate the potential impact of inclusion on any new tariff lists.” The California-based company didn’t say where it would shift production.

Jerome Powell: China, Tariffs and the U.S. Economy

Jerome Powell: China, Tariffs and the U.S. Economy
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said he doesn’t yet see tariffs as having a visible mark on either the U.S. or China, but higher, long-lasting tariffs could in the long run lead to a less productive economy around the world. Photo: Getty

Policy makers in Southeast Asia are pressing to expand trade. Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines have expressed interest in joining the TPP bloc. Officials are discussing a separate trade pact that would bring together 16 economies, including China, India, and all of Southeast Asia.

Elsewhere, the U.S.-China trade fight was expected to boost agricultural sectors in some countries, such as Brazil and Canada, after China imposed tariffs on U.S. farming products. But in many cases, disruptions to agricultural markets have offset the benefits.

“Some people said there were opportunities for Canadian [producers] to backfill in the Chinese market,” said Mark Agnew, senior director of international policy at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. The problem, he said, is that it led to a surplus of U.S. farm products being sold elsewhere, which depressed global food prices. “That poses a problem for Canadian businesses,” he said.

Rising labor costs in China have helped the growth of business in Vietnam. Above, a furniture factory outside Hanoi last year.
Rising labor costs in China have helped the growth of business in Vietnam. Above, a furniture factory outside Hanoi last year. PHOTO: KHAM/REUTERS

Brazil’s soybean farmers exported 10 million metric tons more oil seeds than forecast last year. But Brazil’s growers and exporters said they prefer predictability over a one-time opportunity, and are eager to see the dispute end.

“Every new situation creates uncertainty, and that’s what we dislike the most in our sector,” said Sergio Mendes, director general of Brazil’s National Association of Cereal Exporters.

For some U.S. allies, the trade fight wedges them uncomfortably between their main security partner, the U.S., and their economic partnerships with China.

“Both China and the U.S. are important markets for Japan,” said Akihiko Yasui, head of research on Europe and the Americas at Mizuho Research Institute in Tokyo. “It wouldn’t be good if Japan were put in a situation where it had to pick a side.”

Businesses in South Korea, a U.S. ally that sends about a quarter of its exports to China, would benefit if the U.S. gets China to adopt practices more welcoming to foreign enterprises. On the other hand, China could retaliate if a company is seen to take sides.

Brazil’s soybean farmers exported more oil seeds than forecast last year. Above, soy is loaded onto a ship in Brazil.
Brazil’s soybean farmers exported more oil seeds than forecast last year. Above, soy is loaded onto a ship in Brazil. PHOTO: DADO GALDIERI/BLOOMBERG NEWS

Firms including Samsung Electronics Co. have recently reduced their presence in China and moved operations elsewhere to hedge against risk. Global trade uncertainties, rising labor costs and a declining market share in China factored in Samsung’s decision to build the world’s largest smartphone factory in India.

South Korean retailer Lotte suffered Chinese boycotts after its parent company offered land in 2017 to host a U.S. missile-defense system that Beijing opposes. A sudden plunge in Chinese tourism hammered Lotte’s retail stores. The company has been withdrawing from China and expanding investment in Vietnam.

In Europe, policy makers share most of the same concerns with the U.S. over Chinese trade practices. But European officials have disagreed with Washington’s means. When the White House opted for a tariffs offensive against Beijing, the Europeans called for talks. Brussels argues that strengthening the international, rules-based system is the best way to curb China’s market-distorting policies.

Others, too, see political risks in the Trump administration’s approach. Policy makers in India, the fastest-growing large economy, would like lower barriers to foreign business in China, but know that if Beijing is strong-armed into opening up, India could face similar pressure.

Appeared in the January 11, 2019, print edition as ‘Bystanders Fret Over China Trade Fight.’

Malta reaches agreement allowing 49 migrants to disembark

January 9, 2019

Malta will allow two ships that have been stranded at sea for weeks with 49 migrants and refugees on board to dock, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Wednesday, adding that they will then be re-distributed among eight European Union countries.

Federico Scoppa, AFP | The Dutch-flagged rescue vessel Sea Watch 3 pictured off the coast of Malta on January 4, 2019.

“An ad hoc agreement has been reached,” Muscat told journalists.

The Sea-Watch 3, a vessel run by a German humanitarian group, plucked 32 people from an unsafe boat off the coast of Libya on Dec. 22. Another German charity, Sea-Eye, rescued 17 others on Dec. 29.

They have both been sailing back in forth in Maltese waters for days after Italy, Malta and all other EU countries refused to offer them a port of safety.

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Malta lets stranded migrants disembark ahead of redistribution in EU: PM

January 9, 2019

Malta will allow 49 migrants who have been stranded at sea for weeks to disembark in Valletta, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Wednesday, adding that they will then be re-distributed among eight European Union countries.

The Sea-Watch 3, a vessel run by a German humanitarian group, plucked 32 people from an unsafe boat off the coast of Libya on Dec. 22. Another German charity, Sea-Eye, rescued 17 others on Dec. 29.

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They have both been sailing back in forth in Maltese waters for days after Italy, Malta and all other EU countries refused to offer them a port of safety.

“The migrants will be transferred from the ships to Maltese patrol boats and brought to Malta. The rescue boats will then be told to leave Maltese waters,” Muscat told reporters.

He said an agreement had also been reached for 249 other migrants brought to Malta by its military patrol boats in December to be redistributed around the EU or sent back to their country of origin.

The vast majority of the total of almost 300 migrants will be shared among Germany, France, Portugal, Ireland, Romania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Italy and Malta, Muscat said. The remainder, including 44 Bangladeshis, will be sent home.

After the long stand-off during which the humanitarian groups warned of growing physical and psychological distress among the migrants, signs that a deal was close increased this week.

On Tuesday, Germany said it was willing to take in 50 migrants as long as other European countries also helped out, and the Netherlands also indicated it was willing to welcome some.

Italy’s government has appeared divided, with anti-immigrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini refusing to host a single migrant while Prime Minister Matteo Salvini offered to take in a small portion as long as Malta let the ships dock.

Salvini, leader of the right-wing League party, on Wednesday expressed his annoyance with the solution that appeared to have been found.

“Giving in to the pressures and the threats of Europe and NGOs is a sign of weakness which the Italians do not deserve,” he said in a statement.

Reporting by Chris Scicluna in Valletta, writing by Steve Scherer and Gavin Jones in Rome; Editing by Toby Chopra


Europe shaken as political systems splinter

January 9, 2019

Fragmentation of European politics

Matteo Salvini

Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini

By Ben Hall, Europe editor

When a Spanish nationalist party took 12 seats in Andalucia’s parliament last month, it was not just the latest example of rising populism in Europe. It also demonstrated a deeper trend that threatens to disrupt governance across the continent — the fragmentation of electorates and the parties that represent them.

Representation has splintered in almost every sizeable political system in Europe, making it harder to form governing coalitions, creating political instability and giving a voice to new formations on the radical left and right and in the political centre. “You have new dimensions in politics today,” said Hans Wallmark, a centre-right MP from Sweden. “Pessimists-optimists, centre-periphery. It is not so easy as when you had a left-right scale on which you could plot political choices.

“It is not necessarily a chaotic system, but a new political landscape is taking shape,” he added. “We are going to see it for many years.” Before the Andalucia breakthrough by Vox— in a country previously considered immune to far-right politics because of its Francoist past — Spain was already a four-party system, with socialists, the far-left, centre-right and liberals vying for power.

If Vox establishes a national appeal, there will be five, plus a smattering of Catalan, Basque and Galician nationalists.

People gather during a protest against Spain's cabinet meeting in Barcelona, Spain, December 21, 2018.

Catalan protesters in Spain. Reuters photo

Opinion polls suggest no party nationally enjoys backing of more than 24 per cent. It is not necessarily a chaotic system, but a new political landscape is taking shape Hans Wallmark, centre-right Swedish MP In Belgium, meanwhile, it took the country a world record 541 days to form a government after inconclusive elections in 2010.

Following the country’s 2014 polls, in which eight parties won between 33 and six seats each, it took five months to assemble a coalition — which collapsed last month. Mr Wallmark’s Sweden could be heading for more elections this year after parties failed to form a government following September’s poll.

No party wants to co-operate with the far-right Sweden Democrats, who won 17.5 per cent in the vote, but that means neither a centre-left nor a centre-right bloc can muster a majority in parliament. The losers from the fragmentation of European politics have mostly been mainstream centre-left and centre-right parties, as in Germany, where the populist rightwing Alternative for Germany and the left-leaning Greens have eaten into support for the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats.

A protest organized by the AfD, and the Pegida and “Pro Chemnitz” movements | John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images

In May’s European Parliament elections, the centre-left and centre-right blocs are likely to lose their majority for the first time in 25 years. Demonstrators in Malaga protest against the success of Spanish nationalists Vox in regional elections.

If the party establishes a national base it will further splinter an already fractured political scene Tarik Abou-Chadi, assistant professor at the University of Zurich and Centre for Democracy Studies Aarau, said three deep-seated reasons lay behind the trend: societies were becoming more individualised; big organisations such as trade unions, churches and political parties were “losing their capacity to link voters to a particular identity”; and political debate was becoming more “multi-dimensional”.

For example, he argued, it was no longer about capital versus labour, while some social liberals as well as conservatives now opposed immigration. [Mainstream parties are] like the old department stores of the 1960s competing with cool new boutiques Tarik Abou-Chadi Mainstream parties, Prof Abou-Chadi said, were increasingly less able to react quickly to new concerns and issues.

They were “like the old department stores of the 1960s competing with cool new boutiques.” The most extreme example of such fragmentation is the Netherlands. Thanks to a highly proportional voting system, 13 parties won seats in the 150-strong assembly there in the 2017 general election.

The coalition government is made up of four parties and took office 225 days after voters cast their ballots. Indeed, some analysts have described the fragmentation trend as “Dutchification”.

Professor Sarah de Lange of the University of Amsterdam said the Dutch had seen a proliferation of parties before, in the 1960s and 1970s, but without today’s range of political positions. “The incumbents have become smaller and the newcomers have got bigger,” she said. “At the same time, the political poles have grown further apart. It is these two developments that have made it harder to govern.”

France’s ‘gilets jaunes’ protesters are being urged to field candidates in the European elections to erode far right leader Marine Le Pen’s support.

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Photographer: Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

France’s constitution, which provides for two rounds of voting in presidential and National Assembly elections, both encourages fragmentation and then eliminates it. In 2002 a fractured left failed to back socialist candidate Lionel Jospin in the first round of presidential elections.

This gave the then far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen a place in the run-off, before Jaques Chirac defeated him in the second round. Recommended Gideon Rachman Populism faces its darkest hour Emmanuel Macron won only 24 per cent in the first round vote in the 2017 presidential polls, and three other candidates drew only around 20 per cent each, giving National Front leader Marine Le Pen a place in the run-off. But Mr Macron took the presidency with 66 per cent in the second round.

Now some Macron allies are urging gilets jaunes anti-government protesters to stand in the European elections, a strategy that could help eat into Ms Le Pen’s support. Britain’s first-past-the-post electoral system obscures its political fragmentation. Some 82 per cent of voters backed either the Labour or Conservative parties at the 2017 general election, but the two have deep internal divisions on many issues and would be likely to split under a more proportional system. But to many voters, political diversification may be positive.

The Open Arms rescued the migrants on December 21, off the coast of Libya


“People like congruent choice,” said Professor Sara Hobolt of the London School of Economics.

“They like to have parties that represent their views. “But they also like politicians to do effective governance,” she said. “There is always a trade-off between responsibility and responsiveness. What if they cannot deliver?”


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The twilight zones of the democratic world are drifting towards the Putin-Xi camp

Top Secret Israeli Cyberattack Firm Revealed — Offensive cyber

January 5, 2019

Candiru, named after an Amazon fish known to parasitize the human urethra, recruits heavily from 8200 intelligence unit and sells offensive tools for hacking computer systems

.The Candiru offices in Tel Aviv, December 31, 2018.
Ofer Vaknin

If you enter the lobby of the Tel Aviv building that acts as its headquarters, you won’t find its name in the directory. You also won’t find a website for it because it doesn’t have one. Its 120 or so employees don’t post profiles on LinkedIn and sign strict confidentiality agreements. Inquiries by TheMarker elicited a polite but firm “no comment.”

The company is known as Candiru, named after an Amazon fish known for its alleged tendency to invade and parasitize the human urethra. The name fits the company’s business, which is offensive cyber, the technology used to hack into computers or smartphones and spy on users.

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Offensive cyber is a big business in Israel, with industry sources saying it generates about $1 billion in sales a year. The biggest and most controversial of the players is NSO, which has been cited repeatedly for selling its equipment to countries like Saudi Arabia and Mexico that have used them to spy and crack down on dissidents.

>> Revealed: Israel’s cyber-spy industry helps world dictators hunt dissidents and gays

NSO’s specialty is hacking smartphones. Candiru’s hacking tools are used to break into computers and servers, although some sources told TheMarker that it also has technology for breaking into mobile devices as well.

The Candiru logo
Ofer Vaknin

Unlike NSO, Candiru is more conservative in its choice of customers. Most of them are in Western Europe and none of them are from Africa. In fact, the company reportedly doesn’t sell equipment to Israel, although that is for business – not political – reasons, they say.

“For example, if Germany needs offensive cyber equipment for some national security matter, it will develop it in-house without question,” explained one source, who asked not to be identified. “But if it needs to contend with human trafficking from Turkey, for instance, it will buy cyber gear from an outside source where the issue is less sensitive.”

Candiru’s sales policy is an internal decision, and many Israeli companies in the business have found themselves in hot water for selling to regimes with poor records on democracy and human rights.

Israel regards offensive cyber tools as no different than other weapons and exports must be approved by the Defense Ministry. However, while the ministry is sensitive to security risks to Israel from exports, it is has less concerns about democracy and human rights violations by buyers.

Candiru is also different from many other offensive cyber companies, such as hacking team and FinFisher, that only sell attack tools, because Candiru sells a complete system.

“They have a user interface through which the customer sees how many targets have been penetrated, what information has been obtained and so forth,” said one source. ”In addition, they offer a very sophisticated service, so that if a certain attack tool doesn’t work they’ll produce a new one that will work. They sell a pre-loaded ‘cartridge’ of attack tools.”

Formed four years ago, Candiru is shrouded in secrecy. It is believed to employ 120 people and generate annual sales of $30 million a year, but that is only speculation by outsiders. If true, that would make it Israel’s second-largest offensive cyber company after NSO, not counting publicly traded Verint and general defense companies.

What is known is that Candiru’s founder is Isaac Zack, who was also a founder of NSO. Zack is a venture capital investor and among the founders of the investment firms Founders Group and Pico Venture Partners.

Candiru’s CEO is Eitan Achlow, who was previously an executive at the Israeli ride-sharing company Gett. But in line with Candiru’s veil of secrecy, Achlow’s LinkedIn page lists him as working in a company in stealth mode, a startup industry term for companies that haven’t launched a product and are working without publicity.

According to the Dun & Bradstreet guide, Zack is on the boards of 13 companies, among them the cybersecurity startups Cy-Ot and Orchestra – all of them in the field of protective cybersecurity. Keeping with the secrecy surrounding Candiru, its name isn’t listed among Zack’s directorships.

That is because Candiru is not the company’s registered name. It was originally registered under the name Grindavik Solutions in September 2014. It changed it to LDF Associates in March 2017 and back to Grindavik last April.

Like other companies in Israel’s renowned cybersecurity industry, Candiru recruits heavily from the Israel Defense Forces 8200 intelligence unit. They are typically paid 80,000 shekels ($21,400) a month and some make 90,000.

“They take the best hackers that were in 8200,” said one cybersecurity entrepreneur, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Candiru has no defined work conditions – you can do what you want. They even have one employee that lives in France and starts up his computer when he feels like it.”

Racist or Islamist — lone-wolf attackers show similar patterns

January 4, 2019

There has been speculation as to what led a man to drive into a group of foreigners in Germany’s Ruhr region. Criminologist Britta Bannenberg says terrorists and those who run amok are similar, whatever their ideology.

Police officers behind cordon tape (picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kusch)

A 50-year-old German man, Andreas N., deliberately drove his car into groups of foreign-looking people on New Year’s Eve – first in Bottrop and then in Essen – before police could apprehend him. He injured eight people during the rampage. Currently, he is in police custody. Authorities assume his actions were racially motivated. Moreover, the welfare recipient and Essen resident is said to be mentally ill.

Deutsche Welle: Seemingly racially-motivated car attacks recently carried out by a 50-year-old German man in Bottrop and Essen have captured the attention of authorities and citizens alike. What might have driven the perpetrator to carry out his New Year’s Eve attacks?

Britta Bannenberg: We will have to wait before we can say with certainty. But initial indications point to a typical behavioral pattern. Young perpetrators are different from older ones, for instance. And there are a number of distinctive features among older perpetrators.

Such as?

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Most perpetrators are not well psychologically. They commit similar serious crimes, such as grievous homicide, but their psychological problems are quite varied.

Nevertheless, we have discovered that more than one-third of grown perpetrators between the ages of 24 and 70 showed serious signs of severe psychological illness, such as paranoid schizophrenia. As a rule, the targets of their attacks – which often claim the lives of several individuals – are foreigners. The people who carry out such attacks are often filled with resentment, hatred and hostility toward society.

Britta Bannenberg (B. Bannenberg)


Bannenberg: ‘One-third of adult perpetrators suffer from psychological illnesses’

They tend to project their hate onto specific groups of people, whether foreigners, women, colleagues or society in general. Psychological disorders like schizophrenia are madness-inducing diseases that bind elements of psychological illness with that renunciatory hatred.

That is what makes such people so dangerous when they decide to take revenge on society by injuring or killing other human beings.

Are there ways to recognize such dangers early on, perhaps even preventing such attacks before they can be carried out?

Yes, of course. Empirical research has shown that quite clearly. Although it isn’t possible in every case, it is in most. It is also important to add: One-third of adult perpetrators, as I said before, suffer from psychological illnesses such as schizophrenia – a serious psychological disease very different from other personality disorders.

Still, people with personality disorders are dangerous in other ways. They are likely more cognizant of what they are doing, they may even be able to control their actions. Nevertheless, they often become just as obsessed with the idea of carrying out a spectacular murderous attack, hoping to kill as many people as possible. Those are the two variations that we have found among lone perpetrators and those who run amok.

It is certainly possible that people with direct contact, such as neighbors or work colleagues, might notice such disorders and notify police early on. It increases the chances that these people can be found before they can commit a crime. Schizophrenia, for instance, can be treated medicinally. Left untreated, the threat of violent behavior is seven to eight times higher than normal, and when alcohol or drugs are added to the mix the risk jumps some 14 times. But if those with such illnesses receive medical treatment the risk is once again reduced to normal levels.

Are there clear conclusions that German officials should draw from attacks in which perpetrators suffer from schizophrenia or other personality disorders?

Societal awareness, not only for people who may be ill or psychologically conspicuous but also for those who utter threats or voice violent intentions, must be cultivated. Those who show great interest in carrying out violent attacks or are overly interested in violent crimes or acts of terror usually display their hate months before committing any crimes.

Read moreChallenge extremists instead of staying silent

Most people are afraid to contact authorities because they don’t have any hard information. But that is exactly the way to stop perpetrators – before they enter the planning phase and become a threat to others.

How similar are such perpetrators to lone-wolf terrorists or those from groups like Islamic State (IS)?

Although it has yet to be fully proven empirically, my theory is that individual terrorists and those who run amok are very similar. That is not, however, the case when it comes to perpetrators from terror groups. Most of these are criminals who already have police records. Most have a history of violence or drug abuse and thus have a long list of previous convictions.

Individual perpetrators are different – regardless of whether they are motivated by far-right or Islamic extremism, or a general hostility toward society as a whole. That all has to do with personality or psychological disorders.

Should we fear copycat attacks like those spoken of when it comes to Islamic terror?

We already have them. We have seen an increase in such violent acts since the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris, even here in Germany. They garner different degrees of attention, nevertheless, the discussion that comes out of them is always the same.

But less when it comes to far-right extremism.

And that is exactly the problem! People think in categories. If I tell you that perpetrators are at times interchangeable in terms of their ideology because their motivation has more to do with their own personality than anything else, that means we have far-right attacks at one time and Islamic attacks at another. But there are also those who run amok by driving a truck into a group of people for no clear ideological reason.

Read moreNetherlands, German police thwart Dutch terror plot

Such people are simply ill and full of hate toward others. They want to attain negative fame with such acts and some are even willing to die to achieve it. We have been facing a growing threat for years.

What role do social media play? Can the so-called echo chamber effect in which a person’s views are amplified by other like-minded users trigger or at least facilitate such attacks?

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Yes. Most often, individual perpetrators are people with few or no social contacts. So what do they do? They go online and seek out those forums that reinforce their hate and rejection of others or other groups.

We have seen that to an extreme degree among young perpetrators because these often dive into fan scenes that glorify those who carry out mass shootings and the like. We also see it when it comes to IS, where people move among certain Islamist groups in order to further sow hate.

Britta Bannenberg is a professor of criminology at the Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany. She has researched individuals who run amok or threaten to do so for years.