We have opened our doors to a blog with many contributors. This blog gathers opinions of people who are in the places where tomorrow's news takes place.
It is some years that Russia has planned keep Ukraine out the gas delivery route to Europe. The previous years’ gas dispute taught Moscow and its European gas buyers that it is much better not to have anybody who could turn off the taps of the pipelines on their route to the final customer. The new crisis in Ukraine, now, seems to shuffle the cards.
When Hani Qadry Demian, the new Egyptian Minister of Finance, took office less than a month ago, he clarified at once that national economic conditions were even worse than one could ever imagine. The budget gap, according to Demian’s assessment, is three times higher than the figure reported by his predecessor, Ahmed Galal.
Crimea has took its decision. And it was an incontrovertible one. Some 83% of its inhabitants went to polls Sunday to express their will about the future of the (former) autonomous republic inside Ukraine, and 97% of them voted in favor of reunion with Russia. That’s quite a plebiscite. And yet somebody have something to say about it.
Vladimir Putin sent troops to Crimea; no, he didn’t. Fascists now ruling the country threaten ethnic Russians in southern and eastern Ukraine; no, they don’t. The new government in Kiev is illegitimate and Viktor Yanukovich is the only president; no, he is most wanted for crimes against humanity. Euroamaidan was nothing but a coup led by russophobic extremists; no, it was a people’s revolution against a kleptocratic autoracy.
What we have seen in the past few days in Ukraine – and what we still have to see – is not just a mass demonstration like the 2004 Orange revolution (which did not have actually a real revolutionary spirit). The Euromaidan protests that put Kiev literally on fire last week show that Ukraine is only now closing the chapter of the Twentieth century. This is yet another post-soviet revolution in Europe.
The Eurozone is often described as an example of economic areas that are held back by monetary policy, but in this region somebody received a positive rating from feared agencies (A stable by Standard & Poor's, A + stable by Fitch Ratings, Moody's A2 with stable Inverstor Service). Slovakia adopted the euro on January 1st, 2009: today this is the fastest growing country among those who share the European currency.
The fireworks of the grand opening are still echoing on the mountains of Krasnaja Poliana and, at long last, sport is the main topic in Sochi. But, besides the terroristic threats, many critical aspects still remain: the Games are the most expensive ever, the pomp of the venues gives a distorted image of Russia, and the city is off limits to anybody willing to demonstrate against the Kremlin.
Platon Lebedev, who has been behind bars since 2003, was about to end his term, which would have expired in May when, in reviewing his case, the court reduced his imprisonment to time served and instantly set him free. There is no reason not to join the chorus of “hurrahs”, but the real reasons behind his release are far from being understood.
It is not a coincidence that this year Umeå is the European Capital of Culture: always a creative city, the town (650 kilometers away to the north of Stockholm and 400 to the south of the Arctic) has experienced a demographic expansion that is unmatched in Europe - from forty thousand to nearly one hundred and twenty thousand inhabitants, thirty-six of them enrolled at the university - as a result of the institution of the University which took place in the sixties.
The expulsion from Russia of the prominent American journalist David Satter two days ago is becoming a case involving press freedom and media intimidation. It is actually the first time since the breakdown of the USSR that something like that happens, but there is no need to bring up a revival of the Cold war.
The New year begins in Ukraine with some 15 thousands of people marching through the streets of Kyiv. Though they brandish the blue flags of an opposition party and ultimately protest against the government and their president Viktor Yanukvich, their march passes far from the squares of Euromaidan.
Yesterday’s (29th December) suicide bombing at the train station and today’s explosion on a trolleybus in Volgograd, which together killed more than 20 people, are only the most recent terroristic acts hitting a Russian target during the countdown for the forthcoming Sochi Winter Games, which are scheduled to open on February 7. But they will not probably be the last until the beginning of the Olympics.
Once again, the Nordic Christmas came back in the center of Rome (on the evening of December 11th, two days before the date marked on the calendar for the celebration of the most important winter celebration in Sweden). During the evening the choir came out of a doorway in Piazza di Pietra, in the city center, performing Swedish festive songs included, as tradition dictates, that famous "Sankta Lucia" which has Italian origins.
Once again, media from east and west are watching what’s happening in a remote country through the lens of their own audience, and the output is a distorted image. If sometimes is damn true that things are much easily understood when seen from far, that’s not the case of the case of euromaidan rallies in Ukraine.
The decision on a date for the referendum on Catalan independence, 9 November 2014, hijacked the headlines since last Thursday — the Catalan papers highlighting a "massive support of citizens", the national Spanish papers quoting statements by the government in Madrid about the unfeasibility of the vote from a constitutional point of view.
The external support guaranteed by Christian Democrats and Liberals proves to be very expensive: the minority government formed by the Conservatives of (“Høyre”) and by populists (“Fremskrittspartiet”) had to change the initial draft of the program to secure the partial support of the two minor parties, for which the original budget has been increased by two billion two hundred million crowns. Support to families, funds for transport, deductions in favor of low-income couples were increased.
Yesterday, December the 9th, an odd decree appeared on the Russian presidential website. The decree is entitled “On certain measures to raise the effectiveness of the operations of state-owned mass media". Sounds good. But in a few lines undersigned by the president of the Russian Federation there is the quintessence of the Vladimir Putin’s view on mass media.