< SWITCH ME >
On July, 15th a group of military officials unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow the Islamic-conservative AKP-government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan which left 265 people dead. In the aftermath of these events, the Turkish government has declared a state of emergency and demands the extradition of the oppositional preacher Fetullah Gülen from the United States who is the alleged mastermind of the coup. Since then, the Turkish government has officially detained about 26,000 alleged Gülen-supporters. Moreover, several media channels lost their license, schools were shut down, and Erdoğan considered the reintroduction of the death penalty.
In response to this suggestion, Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU High Representative Federica Mogherini ruled out the possibility of a country that reintroduces the death penalty to become a member of the Union. Afterwards, the Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım distanced himself from this proposal. Nevertheless, the relationship between Turkey and the EU remains strained. Germany in particular has been struggling to find a coherent strategy to deal with the authoritarian developments in Turkey as the following analysis will show. Partly due to the German guest worker policy in the 1950s, there are now about three million people of Turkish descent living in Germany, which is the basis for a traditionally close alliance between both Germany and Turkey and which makes it worth taking a look at the current state of the German-Turkish relations.
UPDATE: This story reflects the situation in Romania on Friday, 6th July 2012. President Basescu has now been suspended by Parliament and will face a referendum on the 29th of July. PNL party leader Crin Antonescu is now the president of Romania, at least temporararily. European and American leaders have expressed clear concerns about the political situation in Romania, all of which have been firmly, even rudely, dismissed by prime minister Victor Ponta. Traian Basescu started his election campaign with the theme "Threats to the justice system" and turned to the people, whom he "never lied to" (ahem..), not even when the goin' got tough. Yeah, we're still a weird country...
It may not come as a big surprise that Romania is a pretty weird country. We have more stray dogs and cats than illegal taxis, we don't like to invest in tourism despite its huge potential, and it takes about ten years to complete a highway which then needs repairs after four months. However, after recent political turmoil, Romania may become famous for something much deeper than any of this - the savagery and stupidity of its political class, the trashing of its own Constitution, and, as much of the international media has already noticed, the breach of every democratic principle out there.
In the last two months we have witnessed the impossible becoming possible. Romanians have always believed their country was a place of all possibilities, but Victor Ponta's government and the centre-left wing ruling coalition (along with every other party and politician) took this belief to the next level.
Mr Ponta, the leader of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), was bound not to get along smoothly with President Traian Basescu, who is supported by the Democratic Liberal Party (PDL). President Traian Băsescu had designated Ponta as Prime Minister after the previous incumbant had fallen to a motion of no confidence, but the members of the PSD were hungry - they hadn't been in power since 2004 and President Basescu has done nothing but criticise their wrongdoings, while the justice system (allegedly under orders from the president) has taken many of them to court for corruption. Political vendettas, they say. On the other hand, anyone who remembers the pre-2004 period, when the PSD was in power, refers to it as the "golden age" of corruption, of threats to the freedom of the press, of total control over the justice system. This is why it's almost impossible to visualise a healthy collaboration between the two parties and this is why Romanians can't choose sides today.
Each week, two E&M editors share their favourite European reads. From blog posts to essays, it can be anything that amused them, worried them or got them thinking about Europe.
Juliane, Diaphragm Editor
Feminism: It's a girl thing
When I tell people that I'm a feminist, they often shrug and think I'm crazy. What's left for feminists to be mad about? Women can work in almost any kind of profession and the universities are filled with women. We've won the battle, some might say. Well, I beg to differ. The reason we still need feminists to speak up about the way things are is because there still is a problem with the attitude towards women. Unfortunately, it seems that the latest example of this has come from the EU - who apparently have not learned much from their last PR disaster. The video "Science - it's a girl thing" produced to attract more women to the natural sciences proves that we still have a long way to go in terms of changing attitudes towards women. Apparently, the EU thinks women need to believe that science is about pretty scientist girls and hot scientist guys in order to be attracted to it. The EU has withdrawn the video, but for me, the damage is already done. Think about how many people must have reviewed this video before it was released - and not one found it offensive? That's why I'm still a feminist. Read more about why it's a problem to think that girls can only be attracted to science when it involves lipstick here.
Brace yourselves: The festival season is coming
For me, summer equals festivals. Some people might not agree with me, but a dirty field, loud music, sleeping in tents and drinking beer all day spells happiness to me. I've already been to two festivals this year - Distortion Festival in Copenhagen (which The Rolling Stone magazine dubbed the European version of SXSW, the largest music festival in the world) and Northside Festival, the German Southside Festival's little sister in Aarhus, Denmark. In a few days, I'm going to Roskilde Festival for the 7th year in a row (hint: Keep an eye out on the blog...) - but there are dozens of other opportunities to enjoy the music, the beer and the beautiful people all over Europe. Here are a few options to choose from and be inspired by.
Tweet, tweet: I'm crazy
I love the idea. I really, really do. The Swedish government turns over a twitter account (@sweden) to different citizens each week, the idea being that the best people to showcase Swedish culture and mentality are the Swedes themselves. Well, it worked fine... Until Sonja got to make the calls. I'm not quite sure if it's for real or not, and some of the things are just outright offensive, but I can't help but think that her photoshopped picture of Freddie Mercury ogling a strawberry salad entitled "hungry gay with aids" is the most absurd (and possibly, if she actually means what's she tweeting, the most offensive) thing I've seen online in ages. Check out the story here.
The imprisonment and alleged maltreatment of the Ukrainian politician Yulia Tymoshenko have, to some extent, overshadowed Ukraine's role as Euro 2012 host. Officials from Germany and the UK decided to boycott the tournament and José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, cancelled his trip to Ukraine. But what is the political effect of boycotting a sporting event and what are the implications for EU foreign policy?
When former Prime Minister Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison for abuse of office over a natural gas import agreement signed with Russia in 2009, she became a personified symbol of selective justice in Ukraine. Moreover, she has reported incidents of physical abuse during her time in prison and began a hunger strike, which increased international attention before the upcoming Football Championship. Simply ignoring these political developments for the duration of the tournament was impossible for European states, given that they have pledged to protect human rights.
At the Davos economic forum, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron once again stated his lack of interest in an EU-wide financial transaction tax. But how crazy is the idea really?
For even a caring couple, close friends can sometimes be a challenge to the relationship. This happened once again to our favourite couple 'Merkozy' at the World Economic Forum in Davos where Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron publicly turned his back on their youngest baby: the introduction of an EU-wide tax on financial transactions.
As with most babies, you have to take a closer look to see why the parents love it so much: France and Germany have come a long way planning this child, starting in 2005 when Jacques Chirac and Gehard Schröder first considered putting charges on the sale of shares and derivates. The idea is not as complex as the tongue-twister might suggest.
There are no value-added taxes on securities, unlike for the trading of goods. So, while consumers pay an extra 15% to 27% on everything they buy within the EU, speculators get off at a rate of 0%. The introduction of a VAT-similar measure for financial transactions would eliminate these differences: each time a share, a bond or a derivate would be sold, a small percentage of the purchase price would go straight to the fiscal authorities. This would slow down short-term speculations: any good citizen tries to avoid taxes and the easiest thing to do would be to make more long term investments. That way, you would have to make less transactions and could avoid losing too much of your precious money to the state.
This post is a reply to Matt (Sixth Sense Editor)'s post yesteday 'Libya, Germany, and the tyranny of definition' that can be found here.
Discussing a no-fly zone over Libya is a particularly hard thing to do. It is easy to argue in both directions and neither side is clearly convincing. This dilemma led to disagreement among Western states on whether or not to intervene in Libya. As Matt points out in his thought-provoking blog post, the United Kingdom and France were clearly in favour of the mission, whereas Germany abstained from the vote. I think however that Germany had palpably good reasons to abstain (or at least not to participate in such military mission) and that it was Germany's communication that could be described as their key flaw.
On Civil War
First, Matt's definition of Libya as a civil war: I think it does not make a substantial difference if we are talking about a civil war or not...
Whilst you read this, there will be British and French planes flying over and bombing Libya. Last night alone 112 Tomahawk missiles were fired into Tripoli and surrounding targets. The UN has endorsed "all necessary measures short of an occupation force" to prevent Gaddafi's forces attacking civilian and rebel groups and this was officially supported by the EU's foreign affairs representative. Germany's abstention in the UN security council therefore represents a division in Europe's response and raises serious questions about how each of the three main states understand the Libyan case and what underlying domestic interests they have brought to their respective decisions.
The tyranny of definition
There is a small but significant distinction between Germany's understanding of Libya at the moment and that of France and Britain. The German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, said in a telephone interview with a radio station on Thursday, "I do not want Germany to be part of a war in Libya, a permanent civil war in Libya." This civil war is a very different image to the one invoked by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who has described the conflict in terms of "the people" versus the regime and argued that the "people's will" resides in the rebels and by implication that there is no "legitimate" Gaddafi supporter, aside from regime "apparatchiks." This can be seen in Britain and France's highly symbolic and questionable recognition of the Libyan national council (the major opposition) as legitimate leaders in Libya.