Recent comments in /f/Europe

mofongo OP wrote

From the UN to Amnesty International, fears abound that a new Swiss anti-terror law, which grants sweeping new powers to police to prevent future attacks, threatens Switzerland's heritage as a human rights leader.

Shocked by the deadly terror attacks in neighbouring France in 2015, Bern produced a new law allowing police to take preventative action more easily when faced with a “potential terrorist”.

The law, which received a parliamentary stamp of approval last year, would apply to a few dozen current cases, according to federal police.

Switzerland has thus far been spared the large-scale attacks seen among its European neighbours. The authorities nonetheless insist the threat level is high, and have said two knife attacks in the country last year likely had “terrorist motivation”.

But rights advocates and left-leaning politicians have voiced outrage over the law’s potential to trample on the rights of innocent people.

The text “raises questions about the credibility of Switzerland’s humanitarian tradition,” Alicia Giraudel, a lawyer with Amnesty International’s Swiss chapter, told AFP.

And, she warned, it “could also open the way internationally to security-focused policies that become punitive instruments applied to people who have committed no crime.”

The government meanwhile argues that all fundamental rights remain guaranteed under the law, and insists existing de-radicalisation programmes are insufficient to keep Switzerland safe.

Opponents of the law gathered the signatures needed to put it to a referendum as part of Switzerland’s direct democracy system, and voters will have their say on June 13.

Early opinion polls indicate broad support for the new law. 

Guantanamo

The law allows police to conduct greater surveillance of anyone over the age of 12 they believe could be contemplating violent actions, and also to limit their movement and oblige them to face questioning.

And with a court order, they can also place anyone over the age of 15 under house arrest for up to nine months.

“This will make us the first and only Western country to introduce such an arbitrary deprivation of liberty,” warned the Socialist Party.

The only other exception, it said, was the United States with its Guantanamo prison camp.

Opponents warn that the measures contravene numerous international human rights norms, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and risk harming the country’s reputation.

While the concept of human rights was born in France, Switzerland has long been considered their guardian, as it is home to the Geneva Conventions, the UN Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, among others.

The UN is deeply critical of the law.

“The bill could affect a number of human rights, including freedom of movement, expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as the right to privacy and family life,” Liz Throssell, a spokeswoman for the UN rights office, told AFP.

“Among our concerns is the expansion of the definition of acts of terrorism to include non-violent conduct,” including spreading fear, she said.

A number of independent UN rights experts have also warned Bern that the law’s “excessively expansive” definition of terrorist activity “sets a dangerous precedent and risks serving as a model for authoritarian governments seeking to suppress political dissent.”

Dunja Mijatovic, the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, has also criticised the law’s vague definition of a “potential terrorist”, warning it “opens the way to a broad interpretation that runs the risk of excessive and arbitrary interference with human rights.”

Humanitarian exemption 

The International Commission of Jurists has also slammed the law, as have over 80 Swiss non-governmental organisations and more than 60 law professors at the country’s universities.

The Swiss think-tank Foraus stressed that Switzerland needed to decide what values it wanted to defend as it seeks to anchor its influence on the international stage.

This was particularly important as Switzerland seeks a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in 2023-34, Nora Naji of Foraus told AFP.

“The country’s engagement in strengthening fundamental rights and human rights is more important than ever,” she said.

Home to the Red Cross and a broad range of other humanitarian organisations, Switzerland has accepted that aid groups that are active in areas controlled by terror groups would be explicitly exempt from the law.

Such an exemption was vital, Francoise Bouchet-Saulnier, the legal chief at the Doctors Without Borders charity, told AFP.

“Without a humanitarian exemption, the simple fact of providing humanitarian assistance or medical assistance, or to be in phone contact with an armed group could be considered as complicity and support for terrorism.”

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Cyber_Neandertal wrote (edited )

That's a solid concern, given our history of coups and civil wars.

I'm Andalusian (Andalusia is a nation at the south of the Spanish State) and nowadays we have a right-wing regional government (like y'all probably know, Spain is divided in Comunidades Autónomas) formed by Partido Popular and Ciudadanos, supported by VOX.

Andalusia is a traditional left-leaning area in the Iberian Peninsula, since Franco Dictatorship ended we only had 'left' government (even tho the Spanish Socialist Party PSOE isn't left at all, they're social-democrats at best).

I always hated the socialist party, as they play a major role in maintaining the inequality among Spanish regions (we Andalusians are the poorer region AND the ones that are mocked the most, as our language is only used to represent dumb or poor people). They have tons of corruptions cases (less than Partido Popular) and have betrayed the working class and the Andalusian nation in so many occasions.

But nowadays, thanks to VOX, we have a politician with the Falange flag (Falange was the only party during the dictatorship) in our Parliament, they're politicians have denied the existence of Andalusia as a Nation and have called Blas Infante a crazy man. The last thing VOX did here was to announce that they're not gonna support the right-wing government anymore if they don't implement the 'Parental PIN'. This Parental PIN allow homophobic parents to remove they're children from diversity talks, for instance, or from any scholar activity that the doesn't match their reactionary ideology.

TL;DR: Spain is Pain, bash the VOX.

Edit: The text is probably full of typos and syntax errors :( I'm tired and it was kinf od a rant.

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Kinshavo wrote

Just diverting a little from the subject. If all ex-Communist States achieved anything during the Socialist years by the proletariat one-party dictatorships why we have such a increasing rise of extreme right in those nations?

Imo for any tankie to hear, any progress made during the Socialist years were built in a broken foundation. You can't expect people to change their values by imposing something from the Party. Sure there more here that explain this phenomenon, and raging capitalism is not one of them but I believe is another symptom from the same conjecture.

Anyways, I hope this struggle keep strong the Old Fortress europe needs to be responsible for his own history

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Brick wrote

The $857 billion package includes unprecedented steps to help less wealthy countries, including selling collective debt and giving much of the money as grants, not loans.

After nearly five days of intense haggling, European Union leaders early on Tuesday stepped up to confront one of the gravest challenges in the bloc’s history, agreeing to a landmark spending package to rescue their economies from the ravages of the pandemic.

The 750 billion euro ($857 billion) stimulus agreement, spearheaded by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Emmanuel Macron of France, sent a strong signal of solidarity even as it exposed deep new fault lines in a bloc reshaped by Britain’s exit.

The deal was notable for its firsts: European countries will raise large sums by selling bonds collectively, rather than individually; and much of that money will be handed out to member nations hit hardest by the pandemic as grants that do not have to be repaid, and not as loans that would swell their national debts.

Those extraordinary steps reflected a difficult consensus among members: that the scale of the crisis facing them required groundbreaking measures to ensure the bloc’s legitimacy, stability and prosperity.

“Europe has shown it is able to break new ground in a special situation. Exceptional situations require exceptional measures,” Ms. Merkel said in a news conference at dawn. ‘‘A very special construct of 27 countries of different backgrounds is actually able to act together, and it has proven it.”

But the lengthy negotiations in Brussels were notable, too, for their exceptional rancor — and it was clear that the pooling of resources and sovereignty had come at a cost.

A strange kind of political theater, never visited upon European Union summits before, marked the meeting — with leaders donning masks and bumping elbows to greet. They were safely spaced in a vast hall, their entourages trimmed to only the most essential members.

When they convened on Friday, it was their first in-person summit in the five months since the coronavirus took hold in Europe. The meeting was officially scheduled to last until Saturday. By Monday morning, exhausted and angry after bargaining all night, they were still tussling over the details. The start of Monday’s session was twice delayed, and then it spilled into Tuesday morning.

As negotiations broke down over the weekend, so did many precautions the leaders and their teams had taken to protect themselves from the virus, which in most of Europe has been brought down to manageable levels, in any case. As the hours wore on and the talks grew heated, the diplomatic gloves came off, and so did the masks. Breakout groups met in rooms far smaller and less ventilated than the 300-seat auditorium where the general meeting was convened.

While there is no underestimating the importance of the agreement — the generosity of its size and the novelty of its mechanisms — the acrimony and dramatics of the four-day meeting betrayed the new divisions within the bloc. They also signaled where the fractures may lie in future crises.

The talks were defined by shifting roles among members now jostling to make their voices heard and for leadership in the absence of Britain, which had often played the part of the thrifty contrarian, fastidious about rules, in past summits.

This time, Ms. Merkel, unusually for a German leader, and holding the E.U.’s rotating presidency, put her finger on the scale on behalf of hard-hit southern countries and did battle with the nations she once championed, the northern members that have been less affected by the virus and are wary of the vast sums being thrown around.

The talks were defined by shifting roles among members now jostling to make their voices heard and for leadership in the absence of Britain The talks were defined by shifting roles among members now jostling to make their voices heard and for leadership in the absence of Britain...

Where Friday’s meeting was marked by joyful greetings and even celebrations of the birthdays of two leaders — Ms. Merkel, now 66, and Prime Minister Antonio Costa of Portugal, who turned 59 — Sunday night’s dinner (a “cold dish” after several sumptuous meals, socially spaced but unmasked) was marked by shouting matches and a nasty atmosphere.

Mr. Macron, for example, yelled at Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of Austria for not only being a tightfisted impediment to the rescue deal but also for leaving the room to take a call. To some leaders’ shock, the French president slapped the table. Mr. Kurz tried to keep his cool, and in a zinger put Mr. Macron’s temper tantrum down to sleep deprivation, diplomats said.

As that meeting broke up without a deal around 6 a.m. Monday, Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, told his country’s media that he didn’t care if other leaders mockingly called him “Mr. No” for blocking the agreement. (They did.)

“We’re here because everyone is taking care of their own country, not to go to each other’s birthdays for the rest of our lives,” he said bluntly.

It was Mr. Rutte who stepped into the vacuum left by Germany’s shift and Britain’s departure to lead the so-called Frugal Four, which include his nation as well as Austria, Sweden and Denmark. Occasionally, the “frugals” became five with the support of Finland.

In the end, with a unanimous decision by the 27 nations needed for a plan to go forward, a bitter compromise prevailed. The ambitious plan pushed by Ms. Merkel and Mr. Macron was watered down, but remained significant. The overall figure of €750 billion remained, but an original proposal to offer €500 billion of that in the form of grants was trimmed back to €390 billion, with €360 billion earmarked for loans.

In addition to raising cash and extending grants, the package will increase lending and deploy other, more traditional stimulus methods to arrest and reverse the economic free-fall that threatens the stability of the world’s richest bloc of nations.

Economists predict a recession far worse than anything since World War II. France, Italy and Spain, the bloc’s second-, third- and fourth-largest economies, are expected to suffer the most, clocking in contractions of around 10 percent this year.

Greece and other smaller economies that are still recovering from the last recession will also be badly affected by the downturn. But heavy debt loads in many of these nations make them reluctant to amass yet more debt, and their budgets aren’t sufficient to self-fund their recoveries. That led them to turn to the European Union for help.

Together with the vast bond-buying program by the European Central Bank, national stimulus plans worth trillions of euros, and other, smaller E.U. support schemes for banks, businesses and workers, European leaders hope to reverse the recession in 2021 and spend their way into a rapid and powerful recovery.

They also agreed on Tuesday on the bloc’s regular budget for the next seven years: €1.1 trillion euros to finance the normal E.U. policies on agriculture, migration and hundreds of other programs.

But the deal came at a heavy price in progressive goals attached to E.U. values and norms. To bring Hungary and Poland on board, E.U. leaders decided to water down the caveat making funding conditional on the rule-of- law benchmarks that the two nations’ illiberal governments are violating.

In another concession to Poland, the bloc’s most coal-dependent nation, a requirement was dropped that would have committed the country to being carbon neutral by 2050 to draw on parts of the funds.

Since its inception, the E.U. has struggled between maintaining nation-state sovereignty and developing joint federal-style structures.

The deal reached on Tuesday is significant in that more creditworthy E.U. nations will be underwriting loans to fund the recoveries of countries that would otherwise face onerous borrowing costs.

The Netherlands and Austria were hostile to the very idea of borrowing money and simply giving much of it to benefit mostly southern, weaker economies.

Under significant pressure at home as elections approach next March, the Dutch prime minister, Mr. Rutte, advocated loudly for fewer handouts to those nations, among them Italy and Spain, that have been hardest hit by the pandemic but that also have structurally weak, unreformed economies.

The Netherlands and other wealthier nations with healthier public finances are concerned that the commonly funded aid would simply go into a bottomless pit of spending that doesn’t truly help these economies recover without changes to make it easier to reduce bureaucracy, create jobs and stimulate growth.

A key argument in favor of offering grants rather than loans has been that Italy and other countries likely to take the aid are already over-indebted, and piling on yet more loans would just worsen their positions.

Mr. Rutte fought successfully for bigger-than-usual rebates, or reimbursements, for his own and other nations that are net contributors to the E.U. budget.

He and the others succeeded in wringing out another concession: Any country that wishes to use the new funds will need to submit a plan for how it intends to spend the money. The other E.U. nations will have a chance to review and object to the plan within three days of its submission and demand that it be tweaked.

Still, that mechanism fell short of the outright veto that Mr. Rutte had demanded, which the Italian and Spanish leaders denounced as an unacceptable encroachment into their authority.

The package will go to the European Parliament for ratification, and is expected to face a serious challenge on the grounds that it does not tackle concerns about how Poland and Hungary’s governments violate the bloc’s standards for democracy and the rule of law.

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