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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Rock, Juncker, hard place

It would seem the French President Hollande spotted a hole and calling for a spade, jumped right in. He did have a decent chance this time, to present a budget for 2015 including some of the sorely needed structural reforms he has talked about for so long. It would probably not have been very popular in France but then he is already the most unpopular President that France has had in modern times. He may as well do unpopular things in the 2015 budget. Already in 2016 it will be too late, seen as he has Presidential elections coming up in 2017. But President Hollande didn´t take this opportunity. Instead his government presented a budget that reforms very little, that cuts very little spending and that ends up being the 41th French budget in a row with a deficit (of 4.3% as it ...

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Tax haven Panama: it's time to think about sanctions

Adapted from the Tax Justice Network (TJN) Blog, with permission Ten years ago Jeffrey Robinson published a book about tax havens called The Sink, where he quotes a U.S. Customs official as saying of Panama: "The country is filled with dishonest lawyers, dishonest bankers, dishonest company formation agents and dishonest companies registered there by those dishonest lawyers so that they can deposit dirty money into their dishonest banks. The Free Trade Zone is the black hole through which Panama has become one of the filthiest money laundering sinks in the world." That was then. I haven't seen any gigantic, earth-shaking clean-up in Panama since then. Such an event would have been accompanied by a lot of anguished howling from all those on the drugs-and-dirty-money gravy train. ...

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EU's neighbourhood policy after Ukraine

A decade ago the EU launched the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in an attempt to surround itself with a ‘ring of friends’. As the Economist put it recently, however, it now seems surrounded by a ‘ring of fire’. As the EU begins to reassess and adjust its policies towards its neighbours, it is necessary to examine what went wrong, and equally important to avoid false diagnoses, in particular about what sparked the conflict in Ukraine. What the crisis was not about It was long thought that Russia was hostile to NATO but not the EU. This has proven to be false: the current crisis in Ukraine is a result of Russian opposition to the European Union, not just the transatlantic military alliance. Moscow perceives any steps towards economic integration with the EU as a threat to its broader...

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A tale of two cities (or why Europe has something worth protecting)

Are European cities more liveable? A poor neighbourhood of Santander, northern Spain A week ago, while visiting American relatives, I took a walk around the neighbourhood of Harlem in New York City. Guidebooks and popular wisdom had led me to believe that, rather than blighted inner-city slum, the area was now a home to the arts, culture, and community. Yet, walking streets just a stone’s throw from Central Park, it was a shock to discover the deep poverty that persists in the heart of New York City. Long queues of destitute people waited with shopping trolleys at bottle exchanges in the hope of appropriating people’s recycling bags and gleaning a few pennies or a few drops of alcohol. Homeless men wandered around the Marcus Garvey park with their belongings. And busy roads intersected...

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Ukraine In-Depth: On Volunteer Battalions

I would like to address the issue of Ukraine's volunteer battalions (VBs) which are fighting in the unproclaimed war between Russia and Ukraine. We at IWP have been frequently approached by Western analysts and journalists with a request to clarify their legal premises, goal and mission. Unfortunately, so far the Western media have been dominated by the Russian propaganda rather than facts regarding the VBs. There are roughly 50 000 fighters taking part in the Antiterrorist operation (ATO) in the East. Out of them, 7000 are constituted by the VBs. While the purpose and legal base of the VBs may seem obscure to a foreign observer, inside Ukraine their formation was generally welcomed. Indeed, when the partial conscription was announced, many potential conscripts tried to avoid it. In con...

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Really? Democracy In Motion?

Are the hearings in the European Parliament an excellent exercise in democracy as many have been saying last week? Maybe. But they are boring. After following so far 21 hearings, each consisting of three hours listening to a would-be commissioner I´m tempted to say that they are reeeeally boring… You see, these Commissioners-To-Be are mostly experienced politicians that know better than to slip up or give anything away. Also, they´ve been prepped by Team Juncker on what they can promise or not promise. They can promise: Transparency, Cooperation and to be Happy-To-Look-In-To-It. This, they do promise. Over and over, as an answer to most questions. They cannot promise: Anything else. Which makes it all rather boring to listen to. All the same. After having heard the former Fr...

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