Tuesday, February 21, 2006

News

Enough of Spain: leaders in Madrid fear that the Catalonia example will encourage other Spanish states to claim autonomy for themselves, disaggregating the state. So far the government has had a wait and see approach, but several military leader has 'hinted' at military intervention (Jose Mena Aguado, Roberto Gonzalez Calderon.) A survey taken over the weekend (in dialect) showed that 54.5% of Catalonians think that Catalonia is a nation within Spain. 42.8% think that they are just as Spanish as they are Catalan, 24% think they are more Catalan, 15.2% think that they a just Catalan. Prevailing sentiment seems to be working againt strengthening ties with the center.

Royal-Sarkozy in the making: it appears that the upcoming French elections will be a battle between minister of interior Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal, deputy in the French National Assembly. Royal appears to be significantly more popular than former PM Lionel Jospin, but at this early stage it is difficult to tell how successful she can be: outside the left, Jospin is significantly more popular than Royal, and Sarkozy's popularity seems to be unshaken.

Perhaps something that is weighing down both Royal and Jospin: the significant increase in taxes in régions led by the socialist party (PS.) Blame is being put on 2003 reforms by Raffarin that took competencies away from the national government, but while PS-led Burgundy has seen a 64% increase, neighboring Alsace has seen only a 2.5% increase. The French press is having fewer problems with regionalism than the PS: the pattern of consolidation shows the formation of three distinct zones in the greater east, greater Brittany, and in the southeast, in which one or a few native news agencies dominate.



Sarkozy, prolific as usual, appeared in Berlin to sell a fix to the EU constitution, recommending removing key articles (double majority, stable presidency, singular ministry of foreign affair) and proposing. He also advocated a new center, adding Britain, Italy, Poland and Spain to the current "Franco-German engine."

Despite resolving to send a force into DR Congo to oversee upcoming elections, no members of the European Union have contributed to the force. At the heart of the problem, "not one of the three nations [Britain, France, and Germany] capable of conducting such an operation has volunteered to take direct action." France refuses because it has been engaged with Congolese problems since 2003, Britain because it is engaged elsewhere, and Germany because it will only participate in a multinatioal force (such as the delayed rapid response force.)

More and more, the French justice system is seeing the kidnapping and murder of Ilan Halimi as a hate crime: he was attacked because he was a Jew, but was it because of the stereotype of the rich Jew, or an act of antisemitism. Prime suspect, gangster leader Youssouf Fofana, has quit the country. Some German authorities, including Bavaria's Stoiber, are calling for a ban on a Turkish action film, Tal der Woelfe (Valley of the Wolves), that is set in Iraq, is blatantly anti-western and antisemitic, and as some opine, could only worsen relations between Europeans and Arabs, validating a hate-driven war of civilizations. (Armin Laschet, CDU-NRW) Over the weekend, Martin Jacques wrote and editorial in the Guardian that Europeans display a destructivec contempt for other cultures, manifested by reactions to the Danish cartoon controversy, and their Eurocentrism is becoming provincialism.

Interesting read: on the destruction of Tajikastan's last synagogue.

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