Ukraine In-Depth: from a Victim Nation to a Winner Nation

Today Ukrainians commemorate the 1st anniversary of Euromaidan. It was exactly one year ago when the first people came to Maidan square in Kyiv to protest against Yanukovych's refusal to sign the Association Agreement with the EU. Tomorrow is another remembrance day. The fourth Saturday of November is the Remembrance Day of Holodomor (artificial famine of the Ukrainian peasants in the Soviet times) and Political Repressions Victims. Unfortunately, this death toll still claims its prey today. The political repressions victims of the Euromaidan formed the «Heaven Hundred» (in reality, they were more than a hundred). People are starving to death now in the occupied regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in the East. As a nation Ukrainians are very young. According to Ivan Lysiak-Rudnytskyi, its...

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Free movement and Europe's balance of power

The path of European integration is paved with deceptively bland statements. Here are two such. The first is from a report by euro-pragmatic British MPs on the options for handling immigration from the EU’s East. British ministers, it reports, “have warned could increase the government’s liabilities to UK citizens retiring abroad”. The second is from a think-tank report written by a French analyst: “The economic crisis has pushed Eurozone Member States to significantly enhance the coordination of their economic policies,” it states. “From this perspective, the situation in Member States' labour markets, including the question of labour migration, will increasingly be relevant to the EU level.” Still awake? Good. Because those two statements might just matter. Both have implications...

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The UK Patent box – will it come back in through the back door, accompanied by Germany?

Cross-posted from the Tax Justice Network, with permission: We've just written a blog about the UK's nasty, disingenuous and hypocritical patent box regime, and how recent moves announced in a joint UK-agreement to reform it have successfully been spun as a "watering down" of the rules under pressure from Germany. The blog points out that the joint UK-German announcement, which is quite short, is cryptic. It explicitly states that "IP regimes" (which is what patent boxes are) are out: well and good. But, as we asked, will some sort of equivalent to or variant of the Patent Box be brought back in through the back door? Sources have alerted us that there seems to be some skulduggery involved here. Take a look at this section of the joint statement. If you're not a corporate tax s...

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Democracy By Auditing

I have moments when democracy doesn´t seem such a bright idea. And who doesn´t?, when you see the politicians this system brings us. If only we could find one political party that is daring enough to base their political work on facts instead of myths. (and I´m thinking specifically of you Mr Cameron, and you Mrs Merkel, and you Mr Rutte sprouting your rubbish about EU migrants being benefit scroungers when all evidence points at the exact opposite and the Court has had to come out and enlighten you on what should have been a well-known fact for anyone in your position, that EU rules do not open for scrounging.) And then I go and find the answer to my prayers in the Court of Auditors Report for 2013! This is a document that all of us journalists decided was dead boring already after...

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What Luxembourg's tax haven business looks like

Following the huge Luxembourg Leaks story that's emerged this morning, I thought I'd post a little reminder of what the tax haven business in Luxembourg actually looks like. This short one-minute video, from the Treasure Islands website, was created in 2011. The offending Apple Itunes mail box address has since been moved, but we think the video still gives a good indication of just how artificial the whole business is. (The embed code isn't working today for some reason; click on the link to see it.) Go, as they say in the U.S., figure. (Full disclosure: yes, it was filmed on an, er, Apple Iphone) There's lots more to say about this. First, recent EU efforts to tackle certain tax deals from the likes of Apple and Fiat are not going to significantly crack down on the problem. T...

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Walls Around Values

A friend from Western Germany was telling me how 25 years ago she was at her friend’s place when his father, who was watching the news, suddenly started to cry… The fall of the Berlin wall was very emotional. To tear it down was a strong signal and a sign of hope: We want a better world for everyone. But what are the fruits? What is left of this intention today? It looks like Moscow is ready to re-build the wall. It is already tangible on the border between Poland and Belarus, as they have a two-hour(!) time difference. The Great Wall of Russia as seen by Belarusian designer Vladimir Tsesler At the same time, the Kremlin is preaching to the choir: Russians always knew that their problems are the fault of the US/Nato/liberalism/gays. Jews are somehow off this who-is-to-bl...

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Ukraine In-Depth: the New Parliament

Ukrainians went to elect their parliament for the fourth time in the last 10 years (in total they could enjoy the vote-casting seven times over the last decade). However, it was the first time when the country had to pay for the boon of democracy with the blood of its citizens. According to the exit polls, seven parties made it to the new Parliament. The party of the incumbent President Petro Poroshenko is the leader of the parliamentary race. The party of the current Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk is the runner-up. The third prize goes to the «Self-help» party, which is new to the Parliament and which is headed by Lviv city mayor Andriy Sadovyi, popular far beyond Lviv for his effective city management. «The Opposition Block», which is the remnants of the «Party of the Regions», made...

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Angry Dave scares me

There´s something about watching a person losing it in public. It´s fascinating, hard to look away. You feel sorry for the poor bloke but at the same time slightly guilty for being a witness to a social train wreck taking place. You can see some of that discomfort lingering if you watch national briefings after last week´s EU summit when Prime Ministers are asked by their national press about the behaviour of David Cameron at the second day of the summit. The British Prime Minister threw a tantrum in front of his peers and they´re visibly embarrassed and feel sorry for him at the same time. They needn´t be. Mr Cameron went on to shout and wave his arms about in front of the British press afterwards. He was not embarrassed. Him pretending to be off his rockers was just a bit of th...

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40,001 Brother

Have you ever heard of Babruysk? It’s a regional town in Belarus which once had an important river port and a fortress. Jews used to live there since the 16th century; 100 years ago there were some 40 synagogues. But my story is different. By 2016 Babruysk will host a Russian airbase with 24 Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jets. There are already two Russian military facilities in Belarus: One has an Antei long-range naval communications station, and the other has a Volga missile attack early warning radar station. If extraterritorial jurisdiction is to apply to the base in Babruysk, Russians could even place nuclear weapons there. Possibly a very new chapter for this little town. And for Belarus, which in 1996 completed its nuclear disarmament programme. But until the Sukhois arrive, this Babr...

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Please, ESDP to confront Ebola now

An EU rapid reaction force ought to be sent to West Africa to join American troops and military doctors on the ground; yet whilst Obama names Ebola Czar, EU responds by scheduling a workshop As the late summer sun descended above the roofs of Brussels, and the Belgian sky once again exceled in splendid nuances between blue red and black, Magritte style, it seemed similarly surreal to digest two opposing narratives from this weekend’s papers: There is the alarm cry from WHO and the prospect of 1.4 million Ebola infected by mid-January, and there is the panic warning from doctors and psychologists labelling Ebola alarm a reflection of “the insecurities of the modern mind far more than any significant danger to public health”, according to the New York Times. Sadly, it seems Ebola might...

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