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Dutch politician Wilders charged over anti-Moroccan commentsGuadalupe del OlmoGuadalupe del Olmo


Posted on 18/12/2014

By Guadalupe del Olmo

Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders is to be tried for inciting racial hatred after pledging in March to ensure there were "fewer Moroccans" in the Netherlands.

"The public prosecutor in The Hague is to prosecute Geert Wilders on charges of insulting a group of people based on race and incitement to discrimination and hatred," prosecutors said in a statement.

"Politicians may go far in their statements, that's part of freedom of expression, but this freedom is limited by the prohibition of discrimination," the statement added.

No date has yet been set for the trial.

Geert WildersGeert Wilders

The case centres on comments Mr Wilders made at the 19th of March rally after local elections.

He asked his followers whether they wanted "fewer or more Moroccans in their city and in the Netherlands?"

When the crowd shouted "Fewer! Fewer!" a smiling Mr Wilders answered: "We're going to organise that."

The remark led to 6,400 legal complaints being lodged across the Netherlands, and criticism was even voiced within Mr Wilders's own Party for Freedom.

Mr Wilders is often reviled in Dutch immigrant communities for his anti-Islam rhetoric.

In the past he has compared the Koran to Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' and has called Islam a fascist religion.

A court in 2011 acquitted him on hate-speech charges, ruling that he had targeted a religion, which is permitted under Dutch freedom of speech laws, rather than a specific ethnic group.

Geert Wilders is the founder and leader of the Party for Freedom which currently is the fourth-largest party in the Dutch Parliament.

By Guadalupe del Olmo

 


 

The Christmas Day Truce 1914-2014


Martin BanksMartin BanksBy Martin Banks

Posted on 12/12/2014

It’s been described as one of the greatest stories in military warfare: the day when two bitter enemies laid down their arms.... to play a game of football.

This Christmas marks the 100th anniversary of the Christmas Day Truce when British and German soldiers emerged from their trenches for a friendly kick-about.

The exact details of the No Man’s Land football played on December 25, 1914, are sketchy.

Some say there was one game that the Germans (naturally) won 3-2. Some say there was more than one game. Some say there was just a general knockabout.

But, as football remembers the Christmas Truce of 1914, it’s also worth highlighting another particularly poignant reminder of the killing fields of World War One - the newly-opened Flanders Fields Memorial Gardens at Wellington Barracks in London.

The Garden, opened in November by the Queen and Belgium´s King Philippe and designed by Belgian architect Piet Blanckaert, has been planted in soil taken from 70 battlefield cemeteries in Flanders. It has a bench made from Flemish Bluestone and trees indigenous to the battlefields of Flanders.

During a recent visit I spoke with Major General Edward Smyth-Osbourne who said the Garden, open daily from 10am-4pm, is a "tangible demonstration of the strong bond between the people of Britain and Belgium, a bond made stronger through being forged in adversity."

 

With Christmas fast approaching combining a visit to the Garden with other attractions in London makes for an ideal seasonal short break. One such attraction is the Museum of London which tells the ever changing story of this great city and its people, from 450,000 BC to the present day.     

 

  

Its galleries, exhibitions, displays and activities give a sense of the vibrancy that makes the City such a unique place. Family visitors have the chance to meet Santa in an authentic Victorian grotto this Christmas. The big man is residing in Victorian Walk – a life size recreation of a Victorian London street, including original shop fronts and objects from the museum's collection to capture the atmosphere of the City at the close of the 19th century.

Also well worth a visit is Tower Bridge Exhibition which has self-guided tours and a new spectacular glass floor, described as its most significant development since the expo opened in the 1980s. It features a never seen before view of London life, from 42 metres above the Thames.

For another view of London try Citycruises, a Thames river tour, which guides you through 2,000 years of history from the Houses of Parliament and ancient Tower of London and onto the Royal Palace of Greenwich. It is ideal on a cold winter´s day.

If, however, you want to see how you measure up to the world’s tallest man or come face to face with a rare collection Amazonian shrunken heads check out the child-friendly Ripley’s Believe It or Not! exhibition.  It spans six floors displaying 700 curiosities, plus an interactive Mirror Maze and many of its artefacts were collected by explorer Robert Ripley himself. 

Close by on the south bank of the Thames and located in the historic County Hall is the entertaining Sealife London, home to one of Europe´s largest collections of global marine life where, among other creatures, you can meet the penguins of Madagascar.

An excellent base for any visit to London is the very impressive 463- room Thistle City Barbican hotel, popular for businessmen wheeling and dealing in the Square Mile but also a favourite for art lovers, concertgoers and tourists.

Just around the corner from the Barbican Centre, London’s largest arts centre, it enjoys easy access to three underground stations and offers free access to its health and leisure club. It’s currently running Christmas parties: a three course sit down dinner with half a bottle of wine per person, followed by a party with DJ and dance floor.

Whether you’re in town for business, the ballet, the nightlife or simply a short break this hotel makes for an ideal base for discovering the city´s many attractions. Just a few minutes’ walk away is a great eating option, "Fifteen", Jamie Olivier´s restaurant, which is notable not just for its terrific classic cuisine, using the best of British products, but also for a very commendable scheme that offers apprenticeships for young people like Patrick, who used to "run with the gangs" in Lambeth but is now forging an exciting career in catering thanks to the apprentice scheme.

Jamie Olivier explains, “Fifteen London is my baby. On one hand 15 is one of London’s finest restaurants and, on the other, we use the magic of cooking to give young people who’ve often faced enormous challenges in their lives the opportunity to unlock their true talent, through great training and mentoring."

Ten years later, 15 still donates all profits to the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation and, in the past decade, over 350 apprentices have graduated from its on-the-job "training school" of whom 80% remain successfully employed in the industry with some heading up their own restaurants around the world.

The ever-reliable Eurostar, of course, remains a big favourite for people travelling from Brussels to London. One of the reasons is the extra baggage allowance you get on Eurostar compared with planes.

Channel Tunnel meeting in the middleChannel Tunnel meeting in the middle

This year is notable not just for WW1 anniversaries but also marks another special milestone ...Eurostar’s 20th year of operation, as the first commercial services departed London, Paris and Brussels on the 14 November 1994.There is also Eurostar's environmental 'faster and greener than flying' credentials and also their 2 for 1 entry offer to popular museums and galleries in Brussels (as well as Paris and Lille).

Since then, annual passenger numbers have grown steadily and, in 2013, two significant milestones were passed: Eurostar carried 10m passengers in a single year for the first time taking the number of passengers who have travelled with the operator since operations began to an impressive 140 million.

Eurostar has recently teamed up with the wonderfully-restored St Pancras Renaissance Hotel to offer a concierge "fast track" service that ensures a smooth and seamless journey from the moment guests’ check out of their room or suite right up until they are seated in their Eurostar carriage.

The hotel´s GM Kevin Kelly explains, "This VIP transfer ensures an exceptional level of service for those travelling to and from Continental Europe.”

The hotel’s splendid Booking Office Bar & Restaurant is a striking setting for a business breakfast, snack or delicious classic English dining from an all-day menu. It also offers an array of punches recreated from lost recipes from the Victorian era, and even its own "St Pancras beer", a cross between ale and lager which, several of its other beers, is brewed locally. Set in the historic ticket office of St Pancras Station, the cathedral-like Booking Office boasts fine cuisine and what, at 29 metres long, is said to be Europe´s longest bar. It has live music Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights when it remains open until 3am and lots of special Christmas-themed events planned.

Equally highly recommended is the nearby Prezzo, part of the successful and highly popular Italian restaurant chain, rightly famous for its stone-baked pizzas, classic pastas and much more besides.

Located on busy Euston Road, and only minutes from St Pancras, its great central location and classic contemporary interior make it the ideal location for a business lunch or an intimate evening meal. Both the service and food will not disappoint.

Both the Booking Office and Prezzo make for a great place to sate your appetite before heading back to Brussels.

Back at the Memorial Garden at Wellington Barracks, the Curator Andrew Wallis reminds me that while funding has come from various sources, including the Flemish Government, there is actually still some € 38,000 to be found to complete the funding for the Garden.

Flander Fields Memorial Gardens at Wellington Barracks in LondonFlander Fields Memorial Gardens at Wellington Barracks in London

For those feeling generous this Christmas, he says people on both sides of the channel can still get involved by going to www.flandersfieldappeal.com .

So, with all the WW1 commemorations reaching a peak this Christmas, it seems a great time for young and old alike to pay their respects to the fallen and a visit to London is recommended.... not just for the Memorial Garden but much more besides.

 

By Martin Banks for EU Spectator

 

 

 


 

Opposition do not want water issue to dry up!


Cillian DonnellyCillian DonnellyBy Cillian Donnelly

Posted on 11/12/2014

Thousands of protesters gathered in the Irish capital, Dublin, on Wednesday, 10 December to protest against the government's proposed charges on water usage.

 

The issue has become an increasingly sensitive subject in the country. Enacted as part of the austerity plan devised by the IMF-ECB-EU troika to fulfill the conditions of its bailout agreement, water charges quickly became a lightening rod for anti-government and anti-austerity sentiment.

Irish citizens are not used to paying for water as a singular utility, as the vast majority of Irish citizens feel (and perhaps rightly so) that they are already paying for water services through progressive taxation and existing household charges. This often comes as a surprise to other Member State observers who normally pay for water as a single utility service. Regardless of that distinction, the implementation of this new charge, under imposed conditions, has led to some unprecedented anger and public demonstrations in the country since the troika turned-up with its recovery plan in December 2010.

Ireland skipped the kind of scenes witnessed in Spain or Greece, where violence against the authorities seemed de rigueur, but despite some minor incidents, including a cherry-picker being used to block the entrance to the parliament, protests were confined, almost polite. The citizens even elected a sensible, centre-right coalition government in 2011 to steer the county through the difficult times.

The water protests seems to have change all that.Anti-water charge protest in Dublin (Ireland)Anti-water charge protest in Dublin (Ireland)

The organisers of Wednesdays protest, Right2Water, claimed there were 100,000 at the march, which blockaded the city centre for about five hours, the government claimed no more that 30,000. Indeed, the government, a coalition between centre-right Fine Gael and centre-left Labour, claimed that numbers were unimportant. It was “no acid test” of the policy, was the soundbite.

The government has already climbed-down on the issue, altering its original proposal of installing water metres in premises to offering an alternative system of a flat charge, which itself has been downgraded. Charges apply from 1 January 2015, and will cost about €160 per annum for a single adult household or €260 for a multi-adult household.

The government insists it will make no more concessions – despite having raised the ire of the European Commission, who have expressed anger at the turnaround – and that the policy stands. Another protest has been announced in the city for 31 January.

The government are banking on a lack of momentum amongst protesters. The economy is starting to pick-up, and the 2015 budget, to be delivered in October, is set to be the first since the declining days of the previous administration, that may have some electorate-pleasing elements. A general election is scheduled for the early part of 2016.

However, indications are, supported by recent by-election and European results, that the smaller, particularly left-wing, opposition parties are set to gain electorally at the next election.

The Socialist Party, taking the lead on the water charge issue as part of a loose alliance against the policy, took advantage of the mood of the county, with former MEP Paul Murphy winning a recent by-election.

Their main rivals on the left, Sinn Féin, were, by contrast, on the back foot. With huge electoral ambitions for 2016, they seemed to have lost out. This may account for their heavy presence at the Dublin protest. Around a dozen Sinn Féin members spoke, including president Gerry Adams, while some media referred to the event as a party rally in all but name.

 

With rumours (denied officially) that an early election may be called by the government to capitalise on the anticipated “giveaway budget” next year, and with water being the popular unifying protest, it is unsurprising that campaigners want this issue to remain in the public area for the next twelve months at least.

The government is hoping that the reduced charging system, coupled with whatever it can present in the budget, will be enough to placate uncertain voters. The opposition wants momentum on unrest.

While Ireland does not have a serious history of civil unrest, the government would be cautious not to underestimate the current feeling.

 

 By Cillian Donnelly for EU Spectator

 


 

Podemos in Spain, reflecting the rise of the left in Europe


By Guadalupe del Olmo

Posted 07/12/2014

It might have been unthinkable a year ago, when the left-wing party Podemos was not even part of the Spanish political arena, that a year on, Podemos is leading the polls. If elections were to be held at this moment, Podemos would be the biggest party in the country.

 

Podemos rallyPodemos rally

Podemos was founded in early 2014 by writer, professor, and talk show guest Pablo Iglesias, currently an MEP, in response to citizen’s indignation towards the austerity agenda and stagnant politics. In its first electoral appointment, the 2014 European Parliament elections, the party received about 8% of the vote, even though it was merely four months old at the time and much to the surprise of analysts and political observers.

Although the rise of far right parties has had a significant impact across the EU, a left-wing party with a radically transparent approach to politics is transforming the political landscape in Spain. But Podemos is not an isolated phenomena in Europe, during the last European elections another five countries decided to go left: Greece, Portugal, Italy, Slovakia and Romania.

 

Something in common?

Of course, it is not difficult to group Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy together as the most affected by the consequences of the European economic and financial crisis and therefore their populations regard the European austerity policies with a high degree of contempt.

The Podemos approach of direct democracy for members, the active use of social media and a radical programme that talks directly to the concerns of people seems to have rejuvenated the appeal of party membership in Spain. However, some media attributes the party success to the growing public exasperation towards the rampant corruption cases unveiled recently in the country.

During the last few months, Podemos has been establishing alliances across the social spectrum of the Spanish population, gathering their concerns and expressing them in a new political programme, although more moderated and thoughtful than their initial manifesto.

Amongst the main proposals is the restructuring of Spanish debt, a measure that was praised by the Financial Times. The newspaper indicated that the Podemos position recognises a simple truth about the eurozone in late 2014:   “It is logically inconsistent for the single currency to enter a secular stagnation and not restructure its debt. Since nothing is being done to avoid the former, there is a probability approaching 100% of the latter happening.”

In a recent interview for RTVE, the Spanish state owned broadcaster, Pablo Iglesias, leader of Podemos, defended this proposal and explained that the debt situation in Spain is inviable and needed restructuration. He compared this measure to that carried out in Germany in 1952, when 50% of Germany’s debt was written off by other European countries, allowing Germany’s economy to develop and recover.

This might be a candid comparison; however, it doesn’t lack truth, as it is a logical solution for increasing levels of poverty, and reducing unemployment and social differences. Even the good kid on the block concerning debt, Ireland, that accepted obediently outrageous conditions on its bail out, could now increase its economic growth even more if part of its debt is renegotiated.

In summary, in terms of economic recovery in Europe, the European Union should practise what it preaches on unity and solidarity, and not be so clearly Franco-German centered, given the fact that both countries were the primary offenders in breaking EU fiscal rules in the past.

Thus far, Podemos’ MEPs in a small but significant gesture have shown example by refusing to take full parliamentary salaries, in solidarity with low-paid Spanish workers. We will see in next year’s Spanish elections what the future holds for Podemos, because at this moment, it seems unstoppable.

 By Guadalupe del Olmo for EU Spectator

 

 


 

England: the North-South divide


By Martin Banks

Posted on 03/12/2014

Martin BanksMartin Banks

The Scottish referendum has pushed UK Prime Minister David Cameron to move towards more local government for the UK.

Northerners, and I very much include myself among that proud if stubborn breed, are among those who want to take more power from Westminster and make decisions themselves.

But would devolving powers from London to the regions, including the North, make any difference to the lives of their people?

As someone who has worked and lived in Belgium since 2001 I have watched with interest, and no little curiosity, at the steadily growing movement in this country for an independent Flanders.

Of course, devolution in Belgium has already become entrenched to an extent we Northerners could only dream about.

It is worth remembering, though, that the greater Manchester region on its own has a population almost equivalent to the whole of Belgium.

With a GDP and industrial output probably bigger than some EU member states, it is little wonder that some in the North of England look with no little envy at the ability of Flanders and Wallonia to manage their own affairs.

I grew up in the 1970s all too aware of that eternal bugbear for northerners- the ubiquitous north-south divide, a gap that latest data suggests is as wide, if not wider, than ever.

Housing expenditure by UK regions 2013Housing expenditure by UK regions 2013

Figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre, for instance, reveal a stark divide between the North and South of England.

The largest fall in the death rate over the decade to 2013 was 39.1 per cent (from 156.9 to 95.6 per 100,000 residents), which was recorded in Spelthorne in Surrey.

But in comparison, the largest increase in death rates was 29.5 per cent (from 149.3 to 193.3 per 100,000 residents), in Copeland, Cumbria.

A baby boy born in the Home Counties today can expect to live about eight years longer than a new arrival in the northwest.

 

 

Elsewhere, the gap between the north and London in quality of transport remains cavernous with studies showing the total subsidy for London in infrastructure and operations is over 2.5 times more per head than in the regions.

Most and Least Deprived areas in EnglandMost and Least Deprived areas in England

Rates of cancer and mental illness between north and south are as big as ever.

I still quite regularly return to what I regard as "home" - the North West of England -and,despite the rather splendid regeneration of cities like Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle and Manchester (part funded, lest we forget, by EU money) I am still struck by the relative inequities of life there compared with Belgium and the south of England. If you don't believe me, visit rundown council estates (I grew up on one, while attending a pretty awful sec.mod.) in Blackburn or Burnley.

This, most troublingly, still manifests itself in a the national psyche with the rather tired "grim oop north" stereotype still prevailing in the mindset of southerners.

So, one wonders, what difference would a devolved parliament to Manchester make other than to create yet another tier of well-paid civil servants and politicians?

As a resident in Belgium and someone who lives, almost on a daily basis, with the results of devolving powers to the most basic level of even the smallest commune, I am yet to be totally convinced that devolution for the English shires is the right thing.

It certainly has to be said, though, that northern folk could be easily forgiven for turning green with envy at the way Scotland, even post failed devolution vote, is now, step by step, clawing yet more significant powers away from London.

If the Scots can do it, why not us? Then again, the thought of John Prescott becoming "Mayor of Manchester" doesn't bear thinking about...

By Martin Banks for EU Spectator

 


 

German business confidence stabilises in November - Ifo index


Posted on 24/11/2014

German business sentiment rebounded in November, breaking a streak of six declines in a row.

The rebound could be a sign that Europe's largest economy may be gaining some momentum again after narrowly avoiding a recession in the third quarter.

The Ifo's business climate index, based on a monthly survey of some 7,000 firms, rose to 104.7 from 103.2 in the previous month, the Munich-based think tank said today.

Economists polled by Reuters had predicted another decline to 103.

"The downturn in the German economy has ground to a halt for the moment at least," said Ifo President Hans-Werner Sinn.

The German economy has been hit by a slowdown in key euro zone trading partners and the West's confrontation with Moscow over Ukraine, which has unsettled businesses and led to a sharp drop in exports to Russia.

In the third quarter, the economy managed meagre growth of just 0.1%, narrowly dodging a recession after contracting by 0.1% in the second quarter.

But Ifo economist Klaus Wohlrabe said the decline in the euro to a two-year low against the dollar and falling oil prices were contributing to a more positive sentiment among German businesses.

"It's too early to say whether we are seeing a change in the trend. This is a positive signal, but we need to wait until December to see if it continues," Wohlrabe said.

Last week the ZEW think tank's measure of analyst and investor sentiment bounced back sharply, suggesting that the mood in Germany was improving.

The November Ifo index showed improvements in the manufacturing, wholesaling and retail sectors, while construction weakened marginally.

 


 

Germany marks fall of the Berlin Wall


Posted on 09/11/2014

Celebrations are being held in Germany to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will attend an event at the Brandenburg Gate later, where white balloons marking a stretch of the wall will be released to symbolise its disappearance.

The Berlin Wall was built in 1961 to stop people fleeing from Communist East Germany to the West.

Its fall in 1989 became a powerful symbol of the end of the Cold War.

Within a year of its collapse, Germany - divided after its defeat in World War II - was reunited.

Ms Merkel today praised the courageous citizens who peacefully brought down the Berlin Wall.

She called the momentous day proof that "dreams can come true".

Ms Merkel, who grew up in the communist East, was speaking at a memorial site to the 138 people killed in Berlin alone as they tried to flee the Soviet-allied state.

"The Berlin Wall, this symbol of state abuse cast in concrete, took millions of people to the limits of what is tolerable, and all too many beyond it," she said. "It broke them."

"Little wonder that after the border opened, people took apart the hated structure with hammers and chisels. Within a year it had all but vanished from the cityscape."

Ms Merkel, in an unusually emotional speech, said the lesson of 9 November 1989 was that "we can change things for the better - that is the message of the fall of the Berlin Wall".

She said this was true for her reunified country and the world, "especially for the people in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and in many, many other regions of the world where liberty and human rights are threatened or being trampled".

"It is a message of confidence in our ability to tear down walls today and in future, walls of dictatorship, violence, ideology and hostility," she said.

"Too good to be true? A daydream that will burst like a bubble? No, the fall of the wall has shown us that dreams can come true."

Ms Merkel recalled that 9 November is also the anniversary of Nazi Germany's 1938 anti-Jewish "Kristallnacht" pogroms that marked the start of the Holocaust, "a day of shame and disgrace".

"How could that date ever become a day of happiness and joy?" she asked.

Ms Merkel thanked those abroad who paved the way for the historic events, from the Czech and Polish pro-democracy movements to Moscow's "glasnost" and "perestroika" reforms, saying that in 1989 "the Iron Curtain had already been torn".

"We Germans will never forget that the freedom and democracy movements in central and eastern Europe paved the way for the happiest moment in our recent history," she said.

Ms Merkel was speaking at the Berlin Wall Memorial, which features a 220-metre section of what was once a 155 km concrete cordon encircling West Berlin.

The street saw dramatic scenes as residents tried to flee the Soviet sector, sliding down ropes and jumping from windows into the rescue nets of West Berlin firefighters - or, in tragic cases, to their deaths.

Ms Merkel honoured the East Germans who found the courage to protest against a repressive regime that beat and arrested demonstrators, and which in June 1989 openly praised China's bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown.

 

"Tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands took to the streets against state domination, repression and economic mismanagement," she said, pointing out that parents among them were uncertain they would see their children again that night.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev warned in a speech in Berlin yesterday that East-West tensions over the Ukraine crisis recalled the era before the wall fell.

"The world is on the brink of a new Cold War," the 83-year-old said. "Some say that it has already begun."

-EU Spectator correspondent-

 

 


 

Proposed Hungarian Internet Tax Law Quashed


Posted on 01/11/2014

After a week of protests, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary said on Friday that his government would abandon, at least for now, a proposed tax on Internet.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has decided to suspend a controversial plan to tax internet data transfers, after the proposed policy drove thousands of protesters to the streets earlier this week. As Reuters reports, Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced to Hungarian media yesterday that the so-called internet tax will be withdrawn from the country's draft budget this year, however  a tax on money earned online will be revisited next year.

She stated that she was proud that the European Commission played a positive role in defending European values and a digital Europe.

This is not the first time that the Commission criticised Mr Orban's government for constitutional proposals which were seen to be solidifying the Fidesz party's political dominance.

 The draft law proposed to levy a fee on each gigabyte of internet data transferred. The levy was set at 150 forints (approximately 0.50 euros) per gigabyte of data traffic. In view of the reactions, the government reconsidered and decided to cap the tax at 700 forints per month for individuals and 5,000 forints for companies, which did not satisfy the protesters.

This policy has been strongly criticised by the European Commission, Ryan Heath, spokesperson for Commission Vice President for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes said that the proposed Hungarian internet tax was a “terrible idea” and "curbs freedom and won't work".

In view of Orban’s decision to abandon the proposed internet tax, Neelie Kroes, the outgoing Commission Vice President for Digital Agenda, said on Friday that she was pleased for the Hungarian people and that their voices were heard. 

 

Hungarian protesters against internet taxHungarian protesters against internet tax

David Cameron Duals with the European Commission


Posted on 28/10/2014

United Kingdom's Prime Minister, David Cameron, refused to give the additional € 2.1 billion the EU asked from the UK, as the British economy is faring better than its European counterparts. Carried out by Eurostat, calculations of budget contributions, based on gross national income (GNI) adjustments, had then exposed a huge discrepancy between what the UK had been asked to contribute and what it should be paying.

Mr Cameron made this decision as he is facing a double threat from the right: his own party’s Eurosceptic wing and the rise of the UKIP. Nigel Farage’s party has already acquired a seat in the British Parliament and is on its way to a second one. Mr Cameron is under pressure from Britain’s eurosceptics ahead of next year’s parliamentary election. The British PM also warned that a new massive bill for EU membership could give ammunition to those in Britain who want to pull out of the bloc, he added “it is completely unacceptable for the EU to present such a large bill at such a short notice, as it is supposed to be paid by December  1st.

In recent statements, José Manuel Barroso’s offered to provide clarifications but said there wasn't room to negotiate the independent data, this was sustained by the declarations made by Jacek Dominik, Member of the European Commission in charge of Financial Programming and Budget. With the Dutch and the Italian government, Mr Cameron was able to plan for an extraordinary meeting between the EU's financial ministers in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, Francois Hollande has urged the UK to respect the treaties and pay what they owe.

Other countries, could get refunded as a result of the European Commission's recalculation of the EU’s budget, such as Austria, with a planned  € 300 million refund from the European Institutions. While, Ireland, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands and even Greece will also have to make new contributions, as their economic development in 2014 was better than expected. 

Cyprus and Greece, for example, decided to increase their contributions in the EU budget, by € 42 million and    € 89 million respectively. On the contrary, Germany is among the countries with reduced contribution by € 780 million, with France also decreasing its contribution by € 1 billion and Denmark by € 321 million.

Joining UK’s sentiment, the Dutch Finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem announced that before paying, he first wants to investigate on what the payment request is exactly based on.

 Catalan language or political expo? Artur Mas at the EP!  


 

We are living in confusing times, while at the heart of the European Union the increase of federalism can be observed by more than a few as an effective tool for facing economic and political instability, within Europe we have already witnessed Scotland attempting its independence from the UK, while at the same time the Scots advocated for a higher integration in Europe.

 

Now that Scotland will remain as part of Great Britain, at least for some time and of course as part of the European Union, at least for some time as well, some other European regions remain thirsty for independence from other territories while manifesting their wish to remain as part of the bigger picture, that is, the European Union.

 

This is the case of Catalonia, the North Eastern autonomous community of Spain, designated a "nationality" by its Statute of Autonomy.

  

While the decision of a potential consultation over the independence of Catalonia from Spain is pending, and I mean potential and pending, as the Spanish government has already labelled the consultation anti-constitutional, Catalan President, Mr Artur Mas strolls through the European Parliament promoting Catalan language, trying to accomplish his aspirations of seeing his language enlarging the list of the already existing 24 working languages of the European Union. Call it coincidence or fate.

 

The truth is that, contrary to some beliefs, Catalan is not a dialect of Spanish, but a language that developed independently out of the vulgar Latin spoken by the Romans who colonised the Tarragona area and Catalans are proud of their native language and a literary tradition that goes back to the Middle Ages.

 

Although 19th-century Spain saw a Catalan literary revival culminating in the 1913 orthographic standardization and the officialization of the language, the Francoist dictatorship (1939–75) banned the language. Its recognition during the Spanish transition to democracy as an official language, of education and mass media has contributed to increase its prestige.

 

With Catalan, there is no parallel in Europe of such a large, bilingual, non-state speech community, and some politicians are more than aware of this fact and use it, sometimes with more or less some legitimacy. Such is its relevance that El País, one of the major newspapers in Spain, has recently launched in internet a new edition completely in Catalan. This incentive has been in support of the Catalan language since October 1982 when El País started publishing the printed edition of Catalonia. Since that date the Quadern supplement that has been subsequently elpais.com digital. The new digital offering is based on the language, in its genuine communicative function and is a practical recognition of diversity.

 

By contrast, Barcelona, Catalonia’s capital is also the world capital of Spanish-language publishing. Most of the jobs generated by this market, of 350 million native Spanish-speakers, mainly in Latin America and Spain, are held by Catalans.

 

Thus as Mr Mas declared during his presentation in the European Parliament, language is culture, however culture is a global concept in 2014 not the narrow and blinkered view of nineteenth century nationalism.

 

 


 

Transylvania is a historical region in the central part of Romania


 

Bounded on the east and south by the Carpathian mountain range, historical Transylvania extended in the west to the Apuseni Mountains; however, the term sometimes encompasses not only Transylvania proper, but also the historical regions of Crișana, Maramureș, and Romanian part of Banat.

The region of Transylvania is known for the scenic beauty of its Carpathian landscape and its rich history. In the English-speaking world it has been commonly associated with vampires, chiefly due to the influence of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula as well as its later film adaptations and extensions.

Romania became an EU Member State in 2007. Ethnically, the population is 90% Romanian and 7% Hungarian. The Romanian language, like a number of others in southern Europe, is directly descended from Latin, although Romania is separated from other Romance-language countries by Slav speakers. Romania has considerable natural resources – oil, natural gas, coal, iron, copper and bauxite. Metal-working, petrochemicals and mechanical engineering are the main industries.