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Wednesday, 02 February 2011 11:37

„Does the Eurogeneration have anything to say?“

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Live from Strasbourg, E&M representatives report from the heart of the debate:

Heated discussions take place in the wood-panelled restaurant "Le Strissel" in Strasbourg, where Alsatian journalist Gilles Chavanel chairs a lunch debate with representatives of young European media. Although he tries to be investigative and critical, he actually tends to adhere to the worn out clichés of those refusing to live in a European present - a present which is best proved by the Strasbourg gathering itself. 

This present is not – as Chavanel theorises – Brussels determining more than fifty percent of daily life through its ballooning legislative and bureaucratic apparatus. Indeed at the conference there are young European media covering this institutional side of the EU and successfully sparking interest among a growing number of readers, such as MPNews or Les Euros du Village. Yet E&M authors Ingvild and Christian agree with a majority in the room that this is only half the picture. For the „European generation’s“ daily life Europe has many other meanings, as Café Babel Paris head Katharina Kloss insists.

Europe to them means communicating in several languages, thinking beyond borders, feeling at home in more than one country. Europe they see as the term to grasp the dense and intertwined cultural and historical wickerwork of a region which fascinates them precisely for that reason. Europe, for them, has to do with being pluralist, curious, open-minded and sexy. Of course one can argue that this Europe is not yet evident to a lot of people, and that those who are passionate about it are still the relatively privileged and educated ones. Still, in the end it becomes clear that this is really thanks to the voices carping about the invisibility of Europe - and not to those who are living their vision of Europe every day.

Chavanel concludes that while Europe is not relevant, European journalism won’t be relevant. Europe and E&M prove that he has missed something.

E&M's Lucy, Christian, Ingvild, and Juliane are reporting from Shake-up Europe!

Monday, 31 January 2011 10:18

Photos from Strasbourg

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Lucy (Editor), Christian, Ingvild and Juliane (Authors) are currently in Strasbourg presenting E&M at Shake-up Europe! They're participating in the conference as an integral part of new-generation European media. 

For you, we have some photos from the beautiful city of Strasbourg.

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Wednesday, 26 January 2011 13:33

Thaçi: A big fish in organised crime?

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I got a bit angry when I read the news that Hashim Thaçi, Prime Minister of Kosovo, might be "a big fish in organised crime". My problem is not that there is a smear campaign against him, but rather that the facts have been public for ten years, whilst the media is regularly surprised.

The recent uproar is based on a leak of a "secret" document marked as "USA KFOR", that - according to the Guardian - accuses Thaçi of being involved in organised crime, particularly in the smuggling of drugs and human organs. Just to be clear: this man got his position (and keeps it) on the basis of massive European and international backing. Shocking? Yes. Surprise? No.

A classified study (pdf, in German) by the German Institut für Europäische Politik, in 2007 quotes a German intelligence assessment which states "especially in Kosovo there are the closest connections between leading political decision-makers and dominant criminal clans from the province, which hold almost all the relevant key positions in society (...) Therefore, the BND notes 'Through the key players (like, for instance, Haliti, Thaçi, Haradinaj) there exist the closest interrelations between politics, the economy and internationally operating [organised crime]-structures in Kosovo'" (my translation, but you get the point).

A different BND assessment, leaked in the slightly darker parts of the web, is more blunt. The dossier (dated 2005) that covers activities of organised crime in the Balkans states that Kosovo is divided into three spheres of interest when it comes to organised crime - one of them controlled by Thaçi. He is brought into connection with riots that took place in March 2004, during which entire truckloads of heroine and cocaine were reportedly brought through the country. Via various connections listed in detail, Thaçi is brought into connection with money laundering, fuel- and drug smuggling, accused of being one of the main "customers" of a hitman. He created the Kosovar intelligence service that is accused of "reconnaissance, intimidation and the physical elimination (through hitmen), particularly of OC [organised crime] enemies".

These allegations are invigorated by public reports, such as the one published (pdf) by Dick Marty for the Council of Europe in late 2010, finding that "[Thaçi's] "Drenica Group" built a formidable power base in the organised criminal enterprises that were flourishing in Kosovo and Albania at the time". However, this was not limited to the German intelligence assessment, but four national intelligence services as well as joint intelligence operations by NATO. Accordingly, "[Thaçi] was commonly identified, and cited in secret intelligence reports, as the most dangerous of the KLA's "criminal bosses".

So, Guardian et al., it's not exactly news, is it?

Saturday, 22 January 2011 13:26

Turkey and the EU: a question of identity?

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Turkey’s possible membership in the EU has caused widespread discussions across Europe. Whilst there are good reasons for the EU to say “hayir” (no) to Turkish membership at the moment, saying no on the basis of cultural differences, as seems to be happening now, does not only go against fundamental European principles but will create an unprecedented distance between Turkey and the EU. 

Despite the fact that Turkey’s economy is seeing double digit growth, has a higher per capita income than Romania and Bulgaria, and ranks better in risk assessments than Italy and 10 other European states, Turkey’s democracy has still got a long way to go before it could be regarded as consolidated. On the one hand, of course, Turkey still has to deliver on many internal issues. The controversial article 301 that prohibits insulting the Turkish state has caused severe concern for press freedom. As journalists privately admit, they impose self-restraint because of fear over lengthy court cases and possible imprisonment for 5+ years. 

Additionally, human rights and rights for minorities still pose challenges. The shaky state of Turkish democracy is further underlined by the troubled opposition that could indulgently be described as divided and lacking a clear plan, as well as  the almost-ban of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) by the constitutional court over violating the secular principle of the Turkish state. If just one more judge had voted to ban the AKP, Turkey would have slipped into a crisis with an unforeseeable future for Turkish democracy.

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