22-28 April, 2012
15 YEARS AGO
The Americans were asked about President Karzai's achievements...|
During the 1990s, all over Central Europe consecutive governments could not find a way to effectively solve the tran-sition problems, from the centrally planned economies of the communist era to market led structures. The obvioustarget was to create new or modernise the old productive apparatus. However those things are not at all straight for- ward and the time factor is crucial. The issue was to convince foreign investors that those newly emerging marketeconomies, were to be trusted. In the mean time working or unemployed people had grave everyday problems secur-ing for their families even the mere necessities. Those problems led at times to explosive political and social con-frontations. The usual solution to crisis was early elections. Whenever there was no bread...democracy was a goodsubstitute.
The home front
So, is Europe under attack? The far right seem to think it is;,that Europe is under attack from a conspiratorial alliance of left-wing politicians and foreign extremists; a modern-day Trojan Horse stuffed with underhand, malevolent predators. That is certainly what Anders Breivik thinks. The 33 year-old, would-be member of the Knights Templar, who last July yearkilled 77 members of the Labour youth wing on the Norwegianisland of Utoeya, believes that fortress Europe is under threatfrom this sort of combination of perfidious politicians andmarauding foreign-types. At his trial, currently ongoing inOslo, he claimed that he was ready to behead the country’s for-mer Labour prime minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland, as a grue-some warning against the apparent Islamisation of Europe. Healso claimed to be basically a nice guy.His trial, during which he is giving his evidence in a chillingmatter-of-fact manner, is taking place against the rise of right- wing extremism in Europe, partly inflamed by the economiccrisis, and the political responses to it. One such band of extremists is the so-called counter-jihad movement, which, asNick Lowles says in these pages, contains an combination of neo-Conservatives, Christian evangelicals, hardline racists,football hooligans, nationalists, right wing populists and evensome former leftists. It is a relatively new phenomenon, in thatits members are united in their common opposition to Islam,emotively utilising the concept of jihad for its own ends.But more and more, we see the far right infiltrating mainstreampolitics, including the European Parliament, which has founditself housing various strays from that side of the political spec-trum. In France, currently about to elect a new president, the farright has, once more, gained some exposure during campaign-ing, with Marine Le Pen, daughter of former MEP Jean-MarieLe Pen who faced Jacques Chirac in a second round run-off inthe 2002 campaign, leading the charge for the Front National.Le Pen may not get to the second round like her father, but she will undoubtedly use this campaign as a springboard for June’slegislative elections. But the mainstream parties are taking note,too. In an attempt to keep from losing votes, president NicholasSarkozy has openly courted a more hardline, right-wing agen-da, ranging from a basic kind of conservative Euroscepticism toa more aggressively tough stance on immigration, and reform of the European Court of Human Rights.In the last part, he has support from the UK, which currently hold the presidency of the Council of Europe, has has used itsterm of office to plead for reform of the court, with theConservative government apparently upset that so many cases,including the deportation trial of Islamist cleric Abu Quatada,being referred to Strasbourg. Human rights is not a good sellright now. With all this, Europe needs to be strong against extremism, andthe European Union has a good track record in this regard.Now, the European parliament has called for the creation of ahuman rights czar, who will take a lead in shaping the Union’shuman right policy. UK MEP, Richard Howitt says that any EU special representative for human rights must be a big-hit-ter on the international stage, someone who can commandaction in places like Egypt, Libya and Syria. He is absolutely right, but it is sad that this initiative comes at a time when cer-tain European leaders and politicians are willing to treat thedomestic human right agenda as expendable for the sake of political expediency.
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