Category Archives: European Union

Back to the Cold War

Serge Halimi, president of Le Monde diplomatique, writes for CounterPunch:

‘In 1980 Ronald Reagan expressed his idea of relations between the United States and the Soviet Union in one short sentence: “We win, they lose.” Twelve years later, his immediate successor at the White House, George H W Bush, was satisfied that the task had been accomplished: “A world once divided into two armed camps now recognises one, sole and pre-eminent power, the United States of America.” The cold war was officially at an end.

That period too is now over. Its death knell sounded on the day Russia had had enough of “losing” and realised that its ritual humiliation would never come to an end, with one neighbouring country after another being persuaded — or bribed — into joining an economic and military alliance against it. Obama, speaking in Brussels in March, stressed that “Today, NATO planes patrol the skies over the Baltics and we’ve reinforced our presence in Poland. And we’re prepared to do more”. Vladimir Putin, addressing the Russian parliament, observed that this was part of the “infamous policy of containment” that the western powers had pursued against Russia since the 18th century.’

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Reports of Russian troops in Ukraine, but how credible is the evidence?

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

Embedded image permalink‘If it’s Ukraine and there’s a press conference going on these days, you can pretty much count on there being a spurious claim of a Russian invasion, which NATO and Western media will quickly parrot, but which none of them has any real proof for. Today’s “Russian invasion,” one of several in the past week alone, involves over 1,000 Russian ground troops, at least two columns of tanks, and as is so often the case, not a single credible photograph.

NATO piled on, as they are wont to do, and tweeted out an extremely blurry satellite photo which they claimed showed some sort of Russian vehicles on a road that could conceivably be in Eastern Ukraine. Media outlets reporting the invasion as absolute fact didn’t let their lack of photographic evidence get in the way, and rather recycled stock photos of Ukrainian military vehicles for the sake of making the article look like there’s a lot of vehicles involved. Russia was quick to deny the invasion, sparking a lot of cable news speculation of Russian deception, though the startling array of Ukrainian claims of “vanishing” tank columns and massive numbers of killed Russians that are never substantiated suggest that anything coming out of Kiev has to be taken with a grain of salt.’

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NATO chief Rasmussen: Ukraine free to seek membership

Andrew Rettman and Valentina Pop report for EU Observer:

‘Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said Ukraine is free to pursue membership of the Western alliance despite Russian opposition. He told press in Brussels on Friday (29 August): “I’m not going to interfere in political discussions in Ukraine. But let me remind you of Nato’s decision at the Bucharest summit in 2008, according to which Ukraine ‘will become a member of Nato,’ provided of course, Ukraine so wishes and fulfills the necessary criteria”.

“We adhere to the principle that each and every country has the right to decide [its foreign and security policy] for itself without interference from the outside”. Rasmussen spoke after an emergency meeting of Nato ambassadors with Ukraine’s envoy to the Western bloc. He also spoke after Ukraine PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk earlier on Friday promised to pass a bill to scrap Ukraine’s non-aligned status. Yatsenyuk said the move is due to Russian “aggression” and would “resume” his country’s “course for Nato membership”. Rasmussen noted Ukrainian accession was not discussed at Friday’s meeting.’

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The Disunited States of Europe

Vivienne Walt writes for Fortune:

‘[...] The intense nervousness over how the Scots might vote extends far beyond the territory’s rugged mountains. Many in Europe fear that Scotland’s independence fervor could ripple across the continent, where a number of separatist campaigns have simmered for years. The hotspots range from the mountainous Basque region at the border of Spain and France to the Mediterranean island of Corsica to the lowlands of Belgium, where many in the Flemish majority want to say tot ziens to their French-speaking countrymen. Some of these movements have a history of violence; several more seem merely rhetorical—and, well, quixotic (independent Venice?). But taken together, the sovereignty pushes are yet another reminder of how tenuous the notion of one cohesive “European Union” truly is.’

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Merkel backs Spain against Catalan secession vote

The Associated Press reports:

‘German Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed support for Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s opposition to a proposed independence referendum in Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia.

Speaking alongside Rajoy on Monday, Merkel said that while the Catalan question was an internal Spanish one, she thought Rajoy’s views were logical and deserved support.

Rajoy described the referendum as “a mad idea” and reiterated it would not be held because it was illegal. He said it went against the trend toward greater unity within the European Union.’

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2011 NATO Bombing of Libya Led to Rise of Militias Now Fighting for Oil-Rich Land: Interview with Vijay Prashad

‘Libya is experiencing its most intense fighting since the 2011 NATO-backed campaign to remove Muammar Gaddafi. On Monday, the Libyan parliament that was replaced in an election in June reconvened and chose an Islamist-backed deputy as the new prime minister. This now leaves Libya with two rival leaders and assemblies, each backed by armed factions. Meanwhile the New York Times has revealed Egypt and the United Arab Emirates launched airstrikes twice in the last week against Islamist-allied militias battling for control of Tripoli. Despite the strikes, the Islamist militants managed to solidify control of the capital of Tripoli by taking over the main airport. “[The U.S. and NATO] bombed the country and opened the door for the different militias to now compete against each other,” says Vijay Prashad, professor of international studies at Trinity College. “So the day Gaddafi was killed, from then onwards, the militias have basically been at each other’s throats.”’ (Democracy Now!)

Interview with Professor Stephen Cohen on the situation in Ukraine

Stephen Cohen is Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics at NYU and Princeton, and he is a contributing editor to The Nation. He is also the author of Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War. You can find more interviews and articles by Professor Cohen here.

NATO Considers Missle Defense Shield Directed Against Russia

Spiegel reports:

‘NATO officials are considering deploying a long-planned missile defense system — aimed at protecting Europe from attacks from the Middle East — against Russia as well, SPIEGEL has learned.

Calls for such an expansion to the system’s remit, which is backed by the United States, are growing in Poland as well as in NATO member states Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. In the run-up to next week’s NATO summit, the four countries called for the remaining members to agree on language at the summit that would pave the way for the plan. They feel threatened by Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.

But the majority of NATO members, especially Germany, are opposed to the proposal, warning that it could result in an unnecessary provocation of Moscow. Representatives of these countries have warned that NATO has for years pledged to Russia that the missile defense system would not be directed at the country. Further debate on the issue has since been delayed until after the summit.’

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NATO Expansion Plan Raises Specter of Iron Curtain

Ivan Nechepurenko writes for The Moscow Times:

‘NATO will set up new bases in Eastern Europe in an attempt to deter President Vladimir Putin from meddling in the internal affairs of countries that used to be under Moscow’s control, the organization’s secretary-general told journalists in an interview published Wednesday. The move effectively returns the state of European security back to the Cold War era, when the collective defense ministry alliance that came into being in 1949 acted as a deterrent and main rival to the Warsaw Pact nations led by the Soviet Union.

“We have to face the reality that Russia does not consider NATO a partner. Russia is a nation that unfortunately for the first time since the Second World War has grabbed land by force. Obviously we have to adapt to that,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in an interview with The Guardian and five other European newspapers. “The bottom line is you will in the future see a more visible NATO presence in the East,” he said ahead of a NATO summit in Cardiff next week.

The new bases would likely be located on Russia’s doorstep, experts said: in the Baltic states and Poland, which have been calling for a stronger NATO presence ever since the Ukraine crisis unfolded. The bases will be stationed on Russian borders “for as long as necessary,” The Guardian quoted Rasmussen as saying. According to analysts from across the political spectrum questioned by The Moscow Times, NATO’s decision will raise the stakes and invite a tough response from the Kremlin.’

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Finland and Sweden to strengthen ties with NATO

Associated Press reports:

Finland and Sweden plan to work more closely with Nato by signing a pact that allows assistance from alliance troops in the Nordic countries in emergency situations, officials said on Wednesday. The move comes as Nato prepares for a summit next week in Wales amid heightened tensions with Russia over the crisis in Ukraine. Finland shares a 1,300km (800-mile) border with Russia.

The Finnish government said the host nation support agreement applies to situations which include “disasters, disruptions and threats to security”. It also enables joint training exercises and military cooperation. Finnish defence ministry senior adviser Mika Varvikko said Finland intended to sign the agreement at next week’s summit. Sweden is also expected to do so. Both countries, which already train and work closely with Nato in international operations, insisted the agreement did not mean they were moving closer to joining the alliance.’

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Over $1 TRILLION spent on “defense” by NATO members apparently not enough

Sam Jones reports for The Financial Times:

Nato member states spend more than $1tn on their collective defence annually. But, the alliance says, it is not enough.

Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and the crisis in eastern Ukraine will dominate headlines at next week’s Nato summit – perhaps the most important gathering of alliance leaders since the end of the cold war – but defence spending will be the most important, if least honestly addressed, issue.’

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Cardiff turned into high security ‘prison’ with 10 mile ‘ring of steel’ ahead of NATO conference

From The Daily Mail:

‘Cardiff city centre has been turned into a high security ‘prison’ with 10 miles of fencing – which is being dubbed the ‘ring of steel’ – ahead of the Nato conference next week. Police have erected the nine feet high security fencing around Celtic Manor resort in Newport where Barack Obama, David Cameron and other world leaders will meet in Wales on September 4 and 5, as well as the city centre. It comes as former foreign office minister, Kim Howells, issued fears that home grown Islamic State terrorists could be planning to attack the 2014 summit.’

Cardiff city centre resembles a high security ¿prison¿ with its 10 miles of fencing - dubbed the ¿ring of steel¿ - put up ahead of the Nato conference in Wales next week

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IMF head Christine Lagarde to be investigated for alleged role in political fraud case

Anne Penketh reports for The Guardian:

File:Lagarde.jpg‘The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, has been charged with “simple negligence” over her handling of a controversial €400m payout to French business tycoon Bernard Tapie when she was finance minister. Lagarde announced that she had been placed under investigation by a magistrate on Tuesday – the French equivalent of being charged in the UK – after being questioned for 15 hours at the court of justice in Paris, which deals with cases of alleged ministerial wrongdoing.

But she told a reporter that she would not resign from her position: “I’m going back to work in Washington this afternoon,” she said. The IMF chief insisted that she had not broken the law and would appeal. The case is an embarrassment for Lagarde, the IMF and France. Judicial sources told the Guardian that negligence by a government official carried a possible one-year prison term and/or a €15,000 (£11,900) fine.’

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The Decline of the Fifth Republic: A Legacy of Imperialism

Alexander Reid Ross writes for CounterPunch:

‘After just two years in power, French Socialist François Hollande has become one of the least popular leaders in Europe. He has taken much of the blame for chipping away at France’s social wage and for the rise of the radical right wing. Rather than listening to his economy minister Arnaud Montebourg’s recap of Paul Krugman’s critique of “absurd” fiscal cuts, Hollande has accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Emanuel Valls, dissolved his entire government, and ordered Valls to form a new cabinet. The question is not only whether Hollande can still call himself a socialist, but whether the French Fifth Republic can hold on.

The immediate response is that this is just a shakeup, typical of the rebellious style of French political life. But what if there is something much deeper at play? When the Fourth Republic fell in 1958, it was due to the coming dissolution of France’s colonial empire, beginning with Algeria. The French army swept through the backdoors of the French Republic, and in a rapid coup d’etat, overthrew the republican system, reinstating Charles de Gaulle as leader.

Although de Gaulle allowed the government to return to a quasi-democratic process, Gaullism has remained a hard kernel in French politics, emerging powerfully in the 1970s and again for 17 years through the Party for a Popular Movement’s big hitters, Jacques Chirac and Nicholas Sarkozy, after a window of Socialist governance by François Mitterand in the 1980s. The chief reason for the recent shakeup in the French government is not only Montebourg’s claims that financial matters have been mishandled, but his insistence on comparing Hollande unfavorable to Margaret Thatcher and to de Gaulle, himself!’

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Hollande Government: New team named after ministers rebel

Editor’s Note: France’s new economy minister, investment banker Emmanuel  Macron, attended this year’s Bilderberg conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. Manuel Valls, the man who selected him, has also attended the elite meetings in 2008 as a Member of the French Parliament. It’s all about connections when it comes to highest levels of business and politics. Jean-Claude Trichet, former head of the ECB and a Bilderberg regular, seems quite happy that Macron is the right man for the job. That job being sticking to the austerity policies that the big bankers who regularly attend Bilderberg want imposed on Europe

BBC News reports:

‘French President Francois Hollande has named a new cabinet under PM Manual Valls, dropping ministers who rebelled against austerity cuts. The first government of Mr Valls, who was appointed less than five months ago, fell on Monday after a row with Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg.

Mr Montebourg resigned along with two other ministers from the left. He will be replaced by Emmanuel Macron, a former Rothschild banker and ex-presidential economic adviser.

President Hollande is seeking a coherent line on economic policy after recent criticism from the left wing of his Socialist Party. Many see it as his last chance to make a successful presidency, after his recent poll ratings sunk to 17%.’

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Bilderberg 2015 Location Confirmed: Austria

From BilderbergMeetings.co.uk:

The location for the 2015 annual conference of the Bilderberg Group has been confirmed. The yearly transatlantic summit, which is attended by senior politicians, bank bosses and the heads of some of the world’s largest companies, will be held at the Interalpen-Hotel Tyrol, a luxury hotel and conference centre in Austria.

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The Interalpen-Hotel Tyrol is a “five-star hotel conference centre” tucked away in the mountain forests a few kilometres west of the Seefeld ski resort, and conveniently close to Innsbruck airport. The hotel is part of the privately-owned Liebherr Group, a giant Switzerland-based manufacturing conglomeration, owned by the billionaire German Liebherr family.

According to the hotel’s Meetings & Events brochure, “the hotel lies at an altitude of 1,300 metres in an exclusive setting in the Tirolean Alps and offers panoramic views of magnificent mountain peaks.” The isolated, Eagle’s Nest style venue has a 400-capacity conference centre with “a magnificent Alpine backdrop” and state-of-the-art conference facilities.

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The location of the 2015 conference has now been confirmed by Austrian police. It will be the third time the Bilderberg summit has been held in Austria, and 27 years since the previous occasion. The 1988 conference was also held at the Interalpen-Hotel Tyrol; the 1979 conference was held in Baden, just south of Vienna.

It’s thought that the 2015 conference will be held in early June, although the exact date has yet to be confirmed. The hotel is fully booked on the first two weekends of June (4th-7th and 11th-14th).

Participants at the 2014 conference in Copenhagen included: Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne MP; Paul Achleitner, the Chairman of Deutsche Bank; Stephen Poloz, the Governor of the Bank of Governor; Robert Dudley, the Group Chief Executive of BP; Eric Schmidt, the Executive Chairman of Google; Douglas Flint, the Group Chairman of HSBC; Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF; and Peter Sutherland, the Chairman Goldman Sachs International.

Focus magazine: Germany has spied on Turkey since 1976

Reuters reports:

‘Germany’s foreign intelligence agency has been spying on Turkey for nearly four decades, Focus magazine said on Saturday in a report which could raise tensions further between the NATO allies. The details about the duration of possible surveillance and on the decision-making surrounding it go further than first reports earlier this week. Turkey summoned Germany’s ambassador in Ankara on Monday after media reports that Berlin had identified Ankara as a top target of surveillance in a government document from 2009 and had been spying on Turkey for years.

Focus magazine said the BND intelligence agency had been spying on Turkey since 1976 and that German government under the then Social Democrat chancellor Helmut Schmidt had expressly approved the step. The magazine also cited government sources as saying the BND’s current mandate to monitor Turkish political and state institutions had been agreed by a government working group. That included representatives of the chancellor’s office, the defense, foreign and economy ministries. A spokesman for the German government declined to comment on the report.’

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What links Gaza, Iraq and Ukraine? US and NATO foreign policy

Chris Nineham writes for Stop The War:

NatoUN agencies and leading charities confirmed over the weekend what many people are thinking and feeling about the state of the world – we are witnessing  an unprecendented  level of global  turmoil and violence. The UN added a series of countries to its extreme crisis list and a senior foreign policy advisor at Oxfam briefed “I haven’t seen anything of this scale before…across the board, the humanitarian community sees this as one of the worst moments we’ve ever had to confront in terms of simultaneous, mostly man-made crises.” This follows a UN announcement a few weeks ago that for the first time since World War II, the number displaced people worldwide exceeded 50 million.

This is the disturbing context in which the leaders of the Western world will be coming to Newport in South Wales for a high-profile NATO summit. The crises in Gaza, Iraq, Eastern Europe and beyond tend to be reported as entirely separate cases with little or no investigation of either wider context or history.  Palestinian representatives – on the few occiasions have been given air time – have argued that the long history of Israeli expansionism backed by Britain and the US is key to comprehending current events. Invariably they have been brusquely brought up to date, told that ‘we are where we are’ and that they should concentrate on finding  solutions. But there is no prospect of solutions to any of these terrible crises without understanding what is driving them.’

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Nabucco: Iran to provide Europe with alternative to Russian gas?

World Bulletin reports:

Iran to provide Europe with alternative to Russian gasAs the Ukraine crisis puts Russia and Europe at odds, leaving Europe with no choice but to search for alternative natural gas resources, Iran looks likely to fulfill Europe’s demand.

Iran’s deputy oil minister Ali Mejidi has indicated that the Nabucco Project, which was presented as an alternative to Russian gas with the potential of fulfilling a large proportion of Europe’s need before being put on hold last year, is now back on track. Speaking to Russian press, Mejidi confirmed that two separate delegations were sent to Europe. “With Nabucco, Iran can provide Europe with gas. We are the best alternative to Russia,” he said.

Mejidi also said that though a number of routes to deliver the gas to Europe were being considered, Turkey was the “right address.” The Nabucco project, which was first presented in 2002, plans to pump gas to Europe via Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria. The project will also pump 31 billion cubic meters of Azerbaijani and Iraqi natural gas to Europe.

Why US tech lobbyists have descended on Brussels

Nancy Marshall-Genzer reports for Market Place:

‘Brussels is home to the European Parliament, but it’s also hosting lots of lobbyists for the U.S. tech industry. Walk down the street near Parliament and you’ll see office blocks that are home to lobbyists representing the likes of Facebook, Google, and other tech companies.

They’ve set up shop because many U.S. tech companies oppose strict new online privacy legislation that members of the European parliament are considering. “It’s gotten a bit out of hand. Very, very emotional,” says Jean-Marc Leclerc, director of the digital economy policy group for a trade association called Digital Europe. Among its members: Apple and Microsoft. Leclerc says there were “thousands of amendments, night votes. It really went crazy.”

Why was it so crazy? The EU is considering an online privacy bill that would give consumers the right to have personal data erased. There would also be new limits on online profiling. The tech lobby says the legislation would hurt commerce and innovation on the Web, and would also create mandatory data reporting requirements that would be a burden for business.’

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Cold War Warnings: Dark Clouds Over Europe

Jan Oberg writes for CounterPunch:

‘A new Cold War is gathering over Europe. It should have been predicted by advisers, intelligence agencies, big research institutes and columnists. But it wasn’t. At the end of the Cold War, NATO/the West got everything it could ever wish – and without war. But it wanted more: keeping Russia down, making NATO bigger and “peace-making” as well as finding new enemies to keeping its Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex (MIMAC) alive and well: Saddam, Milosevic, the Muslim world, terrorism and – now re-cycling – Russia.

Those of us old enough to have lived under the old Cold War feel pain at witnessing today’s result of the post-1989 Western triumphalism and ignorance about all the alternatives to NATO and its expanson that the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact offered. NATO was established in 1949, the Soviet Union sought membership in 1954 and was turned down, West Germany got into NATO the same year, and the Warsaw Pact was established – partly in response to that – in 1955. The East has basically been re-active.

Today, Russia’s military expenditures is about 8% of NATO’s. Unless you consider Putin mentally ill or suicidal, it borders on hysteria to militarize and expand NATO’s military further. Not one NATO general would prefer to be employed in the Russian military. The Eastern side has always been comparatively weak – militarily, economically, and in terms of global projection capacity. It is NATO that still runs the show – but it can’t do that without finding enemies to legitimize its policies with.’

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When Water is a Commodity Instead of a Human Right

Pete Dolack writes for Systemic Disorder:

‘The shutoff of water to thousands of Detroit residents, the proposed privatization of the water system and the diversion of the system’s revenue to banks are possible because the most basic human requirement, water, is becoming nothing more than a commodity.

The potential sale of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is one more development of the idea that water, as with any commodity, exists to produce private profit rather than to be a public necessity. And if corporate plunder is to be the guiding principal, then those seen as most easy to push around will be expected to shoulder the burden.

Thus, 17,000 Detroit residents have had their water shut off — regardless of ability to pay — while large corporate users have faced no such turnoff. The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department began its shutoff policy in March with a goal of shutting off the water to 3,000 accounts per week. Residents can be shut off for owing as little as $150. That is only two months of an average bill.’

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Toll firms paid €28m to compensate for lack of traffic

Shane Phelan
 reports for The Irish Independent:

‘Private toll companies have been paid €28m by the State to compensate them for less-than-anticipated traffic on two motorways. The sum is a result of so-called “traffic guarantee” clauses inserted in the contracts for building the stretch of the M3 from Clonee to Kells and the N7 Limerick Tunnel.

The clauses mean the State pays more to the motorway operators when fewer cars or trucks use the roads. According to an internal Department of Transport briefing document, the guarantees were introduced to address the worst case scenario of “what if no cars drive on the road” and were needed to attract bidders for the public private partnerships… The traffic guarantees are set to remain in place until 2041.’

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France bombs Mali militants, expands operations in Sahel region

BBC News reports:

Map showing where militant groups are based‘French forces have bombed Islamist militant positions in northern Mali. Four or five bombs were dropped in the Esssakane region, west of the city of Timbuktu on Sunday morning, the BBC’s Alex Duval Smith in Mali reports. The UN has said al-Qaeda militants were active in the area. Last month Timbuktu airport came under rocket attack.

France intervened in Mali in January last year to try to drive out al-Qaeda-linked groups, which had taken over the north of the country. Last month the French government said it was setting up a new military operation to stop the emergence of jihadist groups in the Sahel region of Africa.

Both ethnic Tuareg separatists and al-Qaeda-linked militants are operating in northern Mali. Tuareg rebels agreed a ceasefire with Mali’s government in May, and the two have been holding peace talks in Algeria.’

NATO says would help defend Turkey if threatened by Islamic State

Today’s Zaman reports:

NATO says would help defend Turkey if threatened by Islamic State‘NATO would take all steps necessary to defend alliance member Turkey if it were threatened by Islamic State fighters who have made gains in neighbouring Iraq and Syria, Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Monday.

“We are very much concerned about the activities of the so-called Islamic State, which is a bunch of terrorists, and it is of utmost importance to stop their advance,” Rasmussen told Reuters in an interview.

“If any of our allies, and in this case of course particularly Turkey, were to be threatened from any source of threat, we won’t hesitate to take all steps necessary to ensure effective defence of Turkey or any other ally,” he said.’

Could Britain Leave the EU? Interview with Prof. John Weeks and Prof. Trevor Martin

‘Prof. John Weeks and Prof. Trevor Martin discuss British PM David Cameron’s call for a referendum vote to decide whether the UK remains a part of EU, as stagnation continues in the Eurozone and bleeds into economic powerhouses like Germany.’ (The Real News)

Euro crisis is sleeping, not dead

Hugo Dixon writes for Reuters:

‘Euro zone policymakers may feel they can afford to relax this summer. That would be a terrible error. The euro crisis is sleeping, not dead. The region is suffering from stagnation, low inflation, unemployment and debt. The crisis could easily rear its ugly head because the euro zone is not well placed to withstand a shock.

What’s more, it’s not hard to see from where such a blow could come. Relations with Russia have rapidly deteriorated following the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine. If Europe imposes sanctions that make Moscow think again, these will hurt it too.

The euro zone needs to take measures to insure itself against disaster: looser monetary policy by the European Central Bank to boost inflation; a new drive for structural reform, especially in France and Italy but also in Germany; and some loosening of budgetary straitjackets.’

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Italy Falls Back Into Recession, Raising Concern for Eurozone Economy

Jack Ewing and Gaia Pianigiani report for The New York Times:

‘The Italian economy shrank in the second quarter, according to an official estimate on Wednesday, taking economists by surprise and provoking concern that violence in Ukraine and tension with Russia could be pushing the broader eurozone back into recession.

Italy’s gross domestic product contracted 0.2 percent from April through June, compared with the first quarter of 2014, Istat, the Italian statistics office, said in a preliminary estimate. It was the second quarterly decline in a row for Italy, meeting the most common definition of a recession. In the first quarter, output shrank 0.1 percent compared with the previous quarter.

The decline dashed hopes that Italy, the third-largest eurozone economy after Germany and France, was finally emerging from a decade of stagnation. And it may be one of the first concrete signs of how tension with Russia is hurting the European economy, analysts said.’

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Greece’s Older Men May Never Work Again, Unemployment Rate Is About Twice the Euro-Zone Average

Matina Stevis reports for The Wall Street Journal:

‘Greece’s economy has taken such a brutal beating that it is in a category apart from other European countries suffering through the recession. Where Greece lost some 25% of its economic output, Spain lost about 6%. Experts say that, even as the Greek economy begins to recover, the shock has been so severe that older workers are unlikely to ever hold full-time jobs again.

Unlike in other parts of Europe, Greek reforms have largely removed provisions that protected older workers. In Spain and Italy labor-market regulations favoring baby-boomers over their children are still largely in place, entrenching the so-called two-tier labor market. But in Greece, everyone seeking work largely faces similarly poor odds, said Raymond Torres, head of research at the International Labor Organization, the United Nations labor agency.

While Greece’s youth unemployment is still a record for the EU—almost 60% of people aged 15 to 24 were out of work in 2013—the unemployment rate among older Greek males is about twice the euro-zone average and almost four times that of Germany. Some 18% of 40-to-59-year-old Greek men were out of work last year, according to Eurostat, the European Union statistics agency.’

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Amnesty International Report Details Crimes by US/NATO Forces in Afghanistan

Kevin Gosztola reports for Firedoglake:

‘Thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed by United States and NATO military forces since 2001, but, according to Amnesty International, there have been only six cases in which the US military has “criminally prosecuted” officers for “unlawfully killing civilians.”

The human rights organization put out a report [PDF] containing ten cases of apparent war crimes, where proper investigations and justice for the victims have been absent. These cases involve instances of night raids by US Special Operations forces, air strikes, drone strikes and torture that have occurred within the past five years of the Afghanistan War.

One hundred and twenty-five Afghan victims, family members and eyewitnesses to attacks, which resulted in civilian deaths, were interviewed by Amnesty. The organization also sifted through “documentary records” to research the US military’s investigative and prosecutorial practices in order to further highlight how war crimes are not punished.’

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