• Still not loving ISDS: 10 reasons to oppose investors’ super-rights in EU trade deals | Corporate Europe Observatory

    For example, tobacco giant Philip Morris is demanding US$2 billion from Uruguay over health warnings on cigarette packets; Swedish polluter Vattenfall is seeking over US$3.7 billion from Germany following a democratic decision to phase out nuclear energy; and Canadian company Lone Pine is suing Canada via a US-subsidiary for CAN$250 million after the Canadian province of Quebec imposed a moratorium on shale gas extraction (fracking) over environmental concerns.

    #investor-state dispute settlement
    #Transatlantic-Trade-and-Investment-Partnership #TTIP

  • A Merkel, a Map, a Message to China? Another cartographic brouhaha...

    Une histoire vraiment marrante (certain·e·s devraient prendre des cours de carto)

    By Rachel Lu April 1, 2014

    On March 28, German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping at a dinner where they exchanged gifts. Merkel presented to Xi a 1735 map of China made by prolific French cartographer Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville and printed by a German publishing house. According to an antique-maps website, d’Anville’s map was based on earlier geographical surveys done by Jesuit missionaries in China and represented the “summation of European knowledge on China in the 18th-century.” The map showed, according to its original Latin caption, the so-called “China Proper” — that is, the Chinese heartland mostly populated by ethnic Han people, without Tibet, Xinjiang, Mongolia, or Manchuria. The islands of Taiwan and Hainan — the latter clearly part of modern China, the former very much disputed — are shown with a different color border.

    Historical maps are sensitive business in China.

    Historical maps are sensitive business in China. Every schoolchild in China learns that Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan, and the Diaoyu Islands have been “inalienable parts of China since ancient times.” The d’Anville map, at least visually, is a rejection of that narrative. Unsurprisingly, China’s official media outlets don’t seem to have appreciated Merkel’s gift. The People’s Daily, which has given meticulous accounts of Xi’s European tour, elided any coverage of the offending map. More curiously, when news of the map’s presentation reached the Chinese heartland, it had somehow morphed into a completely different one. A map published in many Chinese-language media reports about Merkel’s gift-giving shows the Chinese empire at its territorial zenith, including Tibet, Xinjiang, Mongolia, and large swaths of Siberia. This larger map was the handiwork of British mapmaker John Dower, published in 1844 by Henry Teesdale & Co. in London, and was certainly not the gift from Merkel to Xi. But this mistake was not noted or explained in Chinese reports.

    Both versions of the Merkel map have made appearances on Chinese social media, eliciting vastly different interpretations. Those who saw the d’Anville map seemed shocked by its limited territories. Hao Qian, a finance reporter, remarked that the map is “quite an awkward gift.” Writer Xiao Zheng blasted Merkel for trying to “legitimize the Tibet and Xinjiang independence movements.” Architect Liu Kun wrote, “The Germans definitely have ulterior motives.” One Internet user asked, “How is this possible? Where is Tibet, Xinjiang, the Northeast? How did Xi react?”

    The Dower map, on the other hand, seemed to stoke collective nostalgia for large territories and imperial power. An advertising executive enthused, “Our ancestors are badass.” Another Internet user hoped Xi would feel “encouraged” by the map to “realize what a true re-emerge of China means.” Some suspected that Merkel tried to send Xi a subtle reminder that Russia had helped Mongolia declare independence from China in the mid-20th century, somewhat like what Russia did in Crimea in March 2014.

    To be sure, the d’Anville map does not constitute a total contradiction of the Chinese government’s version of history.

    To be sure, the d’Anville map does not constitute a total contradiction of the Chinese government’s version of history. In 1735, the year when the Qianlong Emperor began his six-decade reign, his Qing empire’s military prowess was on the ascent. Qianlong quelled a rebellion by Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang, brought the Mongol tribes under closer rule, and appointed officials to oversee affairs in Tibet such as the selection of the Dalai Lama. In other words, Qianlong established the trappings of imperial control over these peripheral territories, which allowed later governments — the Republic of China, then the current People’s Republic of China — to claim sovereignty. Maps published by Western countries in the 19th and early 20th centuries vary in their presentations of Tibet and Xinjiang, but the Dower map is certainly not alone in showing Xinjiang and Tibet as parts of the Chinese empire.

    All the cartographic brouhaha may be overblown. One Internet user refused to “overinterpret” the d’Anville map as a message about Tibet or Xinjiang. After all, “You can’t use a map of the 13 colonies of the United States made in 1776 to tell Americans that Texas or California is not U.S. territory.”

    #cartographie #allemagne #chine #cartographie_ancienne #propagande #manipulation #bug_politique

  • Ousted Libyan PM says preparing return “very soon”

    Former Libyan prime minister #Ali_Zeidan on Tuesday warned that Islamist groups were sabotaging attempts to rebuild his country in order that it become a haven for extremists, in an interview with Britain’s newspaper The Times. Zeidan, who fled to Germany after losing a parliamentary confidence vote earlier this month, said that he was preparing to return “maybe very soon” to help restore order and repel the threat of extremism, two-and-a-half years after the killing of veteran ruler Muammar Gaddafi. read more

    #Libya #Top_News

  • Germany abandons its ‘soft’ approach to Russia, by Jakob Mischke and Andreas Umland
    English edition blogs, 20 March 2014

    With the crisis in Ukraine and Crimea, Germany’s foreign minister is taking a tougher line with the Kremlin, and wants to upgrade relations with the new Ukrainian government. But the new German foreign minister  Frank-Walter Steinmeier has throughout his career been among the promoters of Germany’s “soft” approach to Russia. How deep does this change by Germany’s new foreign policy elite go?

  • Ukraine Crisis Gives NATO Alliance New Purpose - ABC News

    Crise ukrainienne, énième cure de rajeunissement de l’#OTAN.

    With a deafening thunder, the first NATO AWACS surveillance plane pierces the milky morning sky over Germany’s Geilenkirchen base, on its way to monitor the skies above Ukraine.

    Listen very carefully, and you can also hear the NATO alliance roaring back into the geopolitical arena.

    Quite a turnaround for a 65-year-old military organization increasingly condemned by many as a costly anachronism.

    The crisis around Ukraine “is providential from the point of view of NATO,” said Nick Witney of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “It gives it a new lease on life.”

  • Daily chart: Measuring the arms merchants | The Economist

    The countries that buy and sell the most weapons

    FIVE countries—America, Russia, Germany, China and France—accounted for three-quarters of international arms exports over the past five years. China tripled its share in that time, overtaking France. It is on track to surpass Germany to become the third-largest arms dealer. Business is brisk. Overall, sales between 2009 and 2013 were 14% higher than the previous five-year period, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks the arms trade.

    China sells to 35 mainly low- and middle-income countries, but is also a big importer (two-thirds of its weapons come from Russia). America exports to over 90 nations, with aircraft making up most of its sales. Russia exports more ships than any other country. Its weapons exports have significantly increased, thanks in part to being India’s biggest supplier, accounting for three-quarters of its arms purchases. As for Ukraine, it exports more weapons than Italy or Israel. But with regional tensions flaring, it may choose to keep some of those arms for itself.

    #armement #armes

  • Daily chart: Measuring the arms merchants | The Economist

    The countries that buy and sell the most weapons

    FIVE countries—America, Russia, Germany, China and France—accounted for three-quarters of international arms exports over the past five years. China’s tripled its share in that time, overtaking France. It is on track to surpass Germany to become the third largest arms dealer. Business is brisk. Overall, sales between 2009 and 2013 were 14% higher than the previous five-year period, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks the arms trade. China sells to 35 mainly low- and middle-income countries, but is also a big importer (two-thirds of its weapons come from Russia). America exports to over 90 nations, with aircraft making up most of its sales. Russia exports more ships than any other country. Its weapons exports have significantly increased, thanks in part to being India’s biggest supplier, accounting for three-quarters of its arms purchases. As for Ukraine, it exports more weapons than Italy or Israel. But with regional tensions flaring, it may choose to keep some of those arms for itself.

    measuring the #arms #merchants

  • What the U.S. Can Learn About Health Care from Other Countries

    Other major countries offer better health care at less cost than the United States, according to witnesses who testified on Tuesday at a Senate hearing chaired by Sen. Bernie Sanders. “What this hearing is really about is two fundamental issues. First, the U.S., the wealthiest country on the planet, is the only major industrialized country in the world that does not guarantee health care as a right to its citizens. Should we consider joining the rest of the world? I’d argue we should,” Sanders said. “Second, the U.S. spends twice as much as other countries that have much better health outcomes. What can we learn from these countries?” asked Sanders, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging.

    Citing World Health Organization data, Sanders said the U.S. spends as much as three times more on health care than other industrialized countries. Health care outlays in the U.S. account for about 18 percent of our Gross Domestic Product, significantly more than in France, Germany, Denmark, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Norway, Taiwan and Israel.

    In Denmark, “all citizens have access to care; no one may be denied services on the basis of income, age, health or employment status,” according to Jakob Kjellberg, an economist from Copenhagen. Victor Rodwin, an expert on the French health care system, said “the French have easy access to primary health care, as well as specialty services, at half the per capita costs of what we spend in the U.S.”

    Other witnesses said the money Americans sink into their expensive health care system does not buy better care. “Canada achieved health outcomes that are at least equal to those in the U.S. at two-thirds the cost,” according to one witness at the hearing, Dr. Danielle Martin of Women’s College Hospital in Toronto.

    The United States ranks 26th in life expectancy compared to other countries ranked by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. People who live in Italy, Spain, France, Australia, Israel, Norway and other countries live 2 to 3 years longer than Americans.

    The Affordable Care Act has improved access to insurance, but millions of Americans still lack insurance or have plans with such high deductibles and copayments that they cannot afford the care they need. As a result, some 45,000 uninsured Americans die each year because they didn’t go to a doctor in time.

    A major factor driving up health care costs in the U.S. is the high cost of prescription drugs. Hospital stays also cost more. While hospitals in Germany and France charge $3,000 for an appendectomy, for example, the average price for the same procedure in American hospitals is $13,000. Some U.S. hospitals charge $28,000.

    “It is time for the U.S. to join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee access to health care as a right of all people, not just a privilege for those who can afford it,” Sanders said.


  • Russia sanctions: Why the U.S. and Europe are not quite in step -

    How important is Russia’s economy?

    Russia is the eight biggest economy in the world, with GDP of more than $2 trillion. Its economy — which is heavily reliant on commodities, particularly oil and gas — is expected to grow only slightly in 2014 to around $2.4 trillion. Hopes it would be one of the decade’s powerhouse economies have faded, with its GDP growing just 1.3% last year compared to 2012, one of the sharpest slowdowns in the emerging markets.

    Russia boomed in the late 1990s and early 2000s as energy prices rose, then stumbled as demand for commodities contracted. But its energy supplies remain vitally important for the European Union, to which it supplies a third of its natural gas. Germany, the eurozone’s biggest economy, imports around 40% of its gas from Russia.

    But Russia’s relationship with the West has fractured over the Ukraine crisis, and it now risks being economically isolated by the U.S. and the European Union. Visa bans have been introduced, and harsher sanctions threatened.

    What is Russia’s economic relationship with the U.S?
    Obama: The world should support Ukraine
    Obama orders sanctions over Ukraine

    The economic relationship between Russia and the U.S. is unbalanced. Russia is the 20th largest trading partner for the U.S., with $27 billion worth of trade exported across the Atlantic. On the flip-side, the U.S. is Russia’s fifth largest partner, with just $11 billion worth of trade.
    Barroso: Ukrainian goal is convergence

    According to Russian Foundation chair David Clark, trade is a “relatively unimportant” component of relations. Energy links are also weakening as the U.S. looks to shale gas for its energy supplies and heads towards self-sufficiency.

    However, on Thursday the U.S. State Department imposed a visa ban on Russian and Ukrainian officials and individuals “responsible for, or complicit in threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.” President Barack Obama also signed an Executive Order laying the groundwork to impose sanctions against individuals and entities responsible for the crisis.

    In a statement the White House said the move was a response to “Russia’s ongoing violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity — actions that constitute a threat to peace and security and a breach of international law.”

    Clark said the U.S. could get greater leverage over Russia from financial sanctions aimed at the country’s banking system and stability of the ruble. Measures targeted at named individuals, similar to those contained in the Magnitsky Act, could also be effective. “Russia’s angry response to the act shows that it works,” Clark said.

    Russia has threatened to retaliate against sanctions but, according to Clark, it “has a great deal to lose by escalating too far. Seizing western property would make Russia a no-go zone for foreign investors who Russia desperately needs to modernize its economy and maintain energy production.”

    s Europe going to do the same?

    The EU is Russia’s largest trading partner, and there are deep economic links between the two. Almost half of Russia’s exports — $292 billion worth — end up in EU countries. Russia, in turn, is the third biggest trading partner for the EU, with $169 billion in imports.

    The EU has stepped more cautiously than the U.S. on sanctions. On Thursday, the EU threatened to impose sanctions on Russia if the negotiations between Moscow and Kiev did not prove effective in dealing with the Ukraine crisis.

    European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said negotiations needed to start in the next few days and “produce results.” Without that, he said, the EU would look to additional measures such as travel bans, asset freezes, and cancellation of the EU and Russia summit.

    Earlier, a document leaked from British government suggested the UK was happy to impose sanctions — but only those that would not cause harm to the country’s financial sector.

    And while G8 members — excluding Russia — are threatening to abandon a Sochi summit planned for later this year, Germany has also pushed for more diplomacy.

    Clark believes Russia could retaliate against any European sanctions, saying it would probably try and “pick-off some of the countries that have been most forceful in advocating tough measures against it — especially Poland and the Baltic States.” However, “it probably wouldn’t retaliate against the EU as a whole or against Germany.”

    Meanwhile, the West has offered $16 billion in aid for Ukraine, helping the country prop up its ailing finances. Ukrainian leaders have said they will be $30 billion in the hole by the end of 2015. About half of that debt comes due in 2014.

    Why the different approaches?

    The eurozone has only just emerged from its own crisis, and would be wary of cutting ties with such a powerful economic partner. Its reliance on gas out of Russia would also feed caution. In contrast, the U.S. is weaning itself off Russia’s energy supplies and its trade relationship is much less intertwined.

    But Louise Cooper, of financial blog CooperCity, said the West risks looking weak if it doesn’t follow tough talk with action. The EU has so far “only come up with a threat of symbolic sanctions, even after Crimea has effectively been taken over by Russia with a new pro-Russian government,” she noted. Even the U.S. visa ban “will have no impact on either the Russian economy or the American one,” she said.

    Meanwhile Russia risks isolating itself, Clark said. “It can maintain de facto control over Crimea indefinitely, but it will come at a very considerable long-term cost to Europe’s willingness to consider Russia as anything other than a source of trouble and insecurity.”


  • The crisis in Ukraine and the dissolution of the Soviet Union - World Socialist Web Site

    The crisis in Ukraine and the dissolution of the Soviet Union
    7 March 2014

    It is becoming clearer every day that the United States and Germany instigated the crisis in Ukraine, installing a right-wing nationalist regime completely subservient to Washington and NATO, with the intention of provoking a confrontation with Russia.

    On Thursday, the Obama administration brushed aside conciliatory talk from Russian President Vladimir Putin and announced an initial round of sanctions, pushing the European Union to announce its own sanctions later in the day. Meanwhile, American warplanes have been dispatched to the Baltics and US warships have entered the Black Sea.

    #ukraine #russie #ex-urss #soviétisme

  • Germany warns citizens to avoid using Wi-Fi - Green Living - Environment - The Independent

    Germany warns citizens to avoid using Wi-Fi

    Environment Ministry’s verdict on the health risks from wireless technology puts the British government to shame.
    By Geoffrey Lean

    Sunday 09 September 2007

    Its surprise ruling – the most damning made by any government on the fast-growing technology – will shake the industry and British ministers, and vindicates the questions that The Independent on Sunday has been raising over the past four months.

    #internet #wifi #santé #it_has_begun

  • Selon les Israéliens, « le lait a tourné » entre Israël et l’Allemagne

    Israel and Germany, milk that has soured - Diplomacy and Defense Israel News | Haaretz

    The Prime Minister’s Office has tried hard to imbue the German-Israeli summit that began Monday evening with a festive atmosphere. But the 15 German ministers who accompanied Chancellor Angela Merkel to Jerusalem — like the flags, ceremonies and red carpets — are nothing but a dusting of makeup over the scars Benjamin Netanyahu’s five years in office have left on the bilateral relationship.

    Shortly after landing, in a brief statement before meeting Netanyahu for dinner, Merkel said she and her ministers came because “we wanted to show you in this way that this is indeed a very strong friendship.” The visit, she added, will focus on Germany’s efforts “to secure the future of the state of Israel,” which requires “the two-state solution … a Jewish state of Israel and alongside it a Palestinian state.”

    The first German-Israeli joint cabinet meeting took place in 2007. Merkel began the tradition with then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, whom she considered a personal friend. Afterward, she said she hoped to visit Israel at least once a year. But it’s been more than three years since she last set foot here.

    Her last visit, in January 2011, was tense, due to deep-seated differences with Netanyahu on both the Palestinian issue and the Egyptian revolution. She expressed her view of Netanyahu’s policies in a candid speech at Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies.

    Since then, the divisions and distrust between the two have only grown. Almost every meeting or phone call in recent years has involved tension, confrontations, sometimes even shouting. Merkel appeared to feel that Netanyahu was at best not keeping his promises on the Palestinian issue and at worst simply lying to her.

    Merkel, Israel’s best friend in Europe, whose love of Israel and the Jews is gut-deep and who has defined Israel’s security as part of Germany’s raison d’etre, simply no longer believes a word Netanyahu says. The only European leader who publicly and repeatedly says that Israel is a Jewish state and the Palestinians must recognize this sees Netanyahu’s settlement policy as sabotaging the survival of that state.

  • Complaint filed at International Criminal Court over NATO allies’ complicity in US #drone strikes

    Drone victims are today lodging a complaint with the International Criminal Court (#ICC) accusing NATO member states of war crimes over their role in facilitating the US’ covert drone programme in Pakistan.

    It has been revealed in recent months that the UK, Germany, Australia, and other NATO partners support US drone strikes through intelligence-sharing. Because all these countries are signatories to the Rome Statute, they fall under The ICC’s jurisdiction and can therefore be investigated for war crimes. Kareem Khan - whose civilian brother and son were killed in a 2009 drone strike – is at The Hague with his lawyers from the human rights charity Reprieve and the Foundation for Fundamental Rights who have filed the complaint on his behalf.

    #cour_pénale_internationale #otan

  • FORENSIS : Exhibition at Haus der Kulteren der Welt, Berlin - Forensic Architecture

    A ne rater sous aucun prétexte

    15 March / 5 May 2014 — 12:00 am

    Haus der Kulteren der Welt
    John-Foster-Dulles-Allee 10


    This coming March, Forensic Architecture will be a part of FORENSIS an exhibition curated by Anselm Franke and Eyal Weizman
    Opening weekend: 14/03/14 – 16/03/14
    Conference: 15/03/14 – 16/03/14

    FORENSIS is a co-production by Haus der Kulturen der Welt, funded by the Capital Cultural Fund, and Forensic Architecture: HKW|FORENSIS

  • Berlin film festival to honor director who backs Israel boycott -
    Haaretz, By JTA | Feb. 13, 2014 |

    A film director who backs boycotting Israeli artists is to receive the highest honorary award at the International Film Festival in Berlin.

    Jewish leaders in Germany have reacted with dismay to the decision to award an honorary Golden Bear to Ken Loach, British director of such films as “My Name Is Joe” (1998) and “Bread And Roses” (2000). He is set to receive the award on Thursday.

    “Ken Loach uses his prominence to call for a cultural boycott of Israel, singling out the only democracy in the Middle East where there is complete freedom of expression. It is a disgrace that a prominent German film festival panders to a film producer who has distinguished himself through bigotry and the denial of the right to existence of Israel,” Deidre Berger, head of the Berlin office of the American Jewish Committees, said. ”It is not possible to judge his work on the basis of art alone, as he himself judges the work of others solely on the basis of nationality.”

    Festival director Dieter Kosslick said in a statement on the festival’s website that he admires Loach for his “profound interest in people and their individual fates, as well as his critical commitment to society.”

    According to the online magazine, Loach called for a boycott of the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2009 after he learned that Israeli filmmaker Tali Shalom Ezer had been invited, and that the Israeli government had helped finance her trip. Also in 2009, he canceled plans to attend the Melbourne International Film Festival after learning that the Israeli government had paid for the flight of animation artist Tatia Rosenthal.

  • ‘For the Sake of Freedom’: British World War II Propaganda Posters in Arabic

    The use of this slogan is ironic to say the least given that at this time Britain still ruled over a vast global empire that robbed millions of people around the world of the very freedom that they were ostensibly fighting for. Indeed, many of the individuals at whom these Arabic-language posters were targeted were living in areas that were under the imperial domination of the British.


    During World War II, the Middle East was the site of a propaganda struggle between Great Britain and its allies, and Nazi Germany and the other axis powers. As my earlier blog post demonstrated, propaganda produced by the German Government – in this case radio broadcasts in Arabic – found a receptive ear in some areas of the Persian Gulf. The British made efforts to counter this German propaganda by radio broadcasts of their own and through the production of printed materials such as these posters. -


  • Philippine President Aquino compares China to Nazi Germany - World Socialist Web Site

    On February 4, Philippine President Benigno Aquino, speaking in an exclusive interview in Malacañang presidential palace with New York Times Hong Kong bureau chief, Keith Bradsher, compared China and its role in Southeast Asia to that of Nazi Germany in the lead up to the Second World War.

    Aquino likened the disputed portions of the South China Sea to the Sudetenland, annexed by Hitler in the lead up to the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia. He stated that “the Philippines faces demands to surrender territory piecemeal to a much stronger foreign power and needs more robust foreign support for the rule of international law if it is to resist.”

    #philippines #chines #déclarations_imprudentes #point_goldwin

  • Wolf Richter: No Wonder German Workers Drag Down Retail Sales – And Much Of The Economy

    Not that 2013 was such a great year in Germany, economically speaking, with growth stalling out at a measly 0.4%, barely above the dreaded zero line. But it was a great year, nay, superb year, for extracting taxes from hard-working people. Tax collections by the Federal Government and the Länder (states), according to the Ministry of Finance, rose a combined 3.3% (in a stalling economy!) to €570.2 billion, the highest ever.

    A few delicious goodies:

    Corporations got off easy: After years of “tax reform,” the coddled German multinationals, and maybe even the Mittelstand – those closely-held global niche players that are the official pride of Germany – had apparently soaring profits, and corporate income tax revenues soared in parallel 15.2% to … drumroll … €19.5 billion. A mere 3.4% of all taxes collected! OK, they also faced other taxes, about which they have been complaining vociferously for years, including their share of €39.4 billion in energy tax, €7 billion in electricity tax, and €1.2 billion in nuclear fuels tax.

    Consumers got whacked: revenues from the Value Added Tax (VAT) hit €196.8 billion – ten times the amount of corporate income taxes, and by far the largest component of all taxes. Individual income taxes jumped 6.1% to €158.2 billion – the second largest component. Workers also paid €14.4 billion in Solidarity Surcharge – a “temporary” tax to fund the bailout of East Germany after Reunification. They paid special taxes on tobacco, spirits, beer, and coffee. They paid taxes on motor vehicles. They paid big-fat taxes on energy. They paid taxes on income and consumption until they croaked.

  • ’Land grab’ ups prices in eastern Germany

    Land prices in eastern Germany are rising at dizzying rates and local farmers feel they are being squeezed out by foreign investors in a phenomenon known as “land grabbing”.

    The price of a hectare of land has risen by 54 percent between 2009 and 2012 in Brandenburg state and by 79 percent in neighbouring Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, even if prices remain below those in the west of the country — at least for now.

    The rural east of Germany has vast swathes of arable land inherited from communist times, when farming was in the hands of huge collectives, known as LPGs.

    But today the land is increasingly being snapped up by foreign investors, often with no background or interest in farming, pushing prices up and forcing out locals.

    For Axel Vogel, head of the environmentalist Green party in the regional parliament of Brandenburg, the phenomenon in eastern Germany amounts to “farm grabbing”.

    Agricultural land is perhaps one of the few natural resources of the region encircling Berlin.

    Following the collapse of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1989, a state-run agency, the BVVG, was set up to privatise the land.

    But critics complain that the land was sold to the highest bidder rather than the families of the local farmers who had owned it prior to communism.

    Indeed, in the privatisation rush following unification in 1990, the GDR’s massive farming collectives were frequently snapped up by their managers.

    #terres #RDA #Allemagne

  • One Small Step for Privacy, One Giant Leap Against Surveillance

    On December 18, 2013 the 193 members of the United Nations General Assembly unanimously approved a UN privacy resolution entitled “The right to privacy in the digital age.”

    The resolution, which was introduced by Brazil and Germany and sponsored by more than 50 member states, is aimed at upholding the right to privacy for everyone at a time when the United States and the United Kingdom have been conducting sweeping mass surveillance on billions of innocent individuals around the world from domestic soil.

    January 7, 2014 | Electronic Frontier Foundation
    One Small Step for Privacy, One Giant Leap Against Surveillance

    The resolution reaffirms a core principle of international human rights law: Individuals should not be denied human rights simply because they live in another country from the one that is surveilling them. Signees hope the resolution will make it harder for the US and its Five Eyes allies to justify their mass surveillance activities by claiming that their human rights obligations stop at their own borders.

    #contrôle #surveillance #big_brother

  • Germany conditions high-tech, science grants on settlement funding ban -

    Haaretz, By Barak Ravid | Jan. 23, 2014

    The German government is conditioning continued grants to Israeli high-tech companies, as well as the renewal of a scientific cooperation agreement, on the inclusion of a territorial clause stating that Israeli entities located in West Bank settlements or East Jerusalem will not be eligible for funding. Israel fears the German move will lead other European Union member states to follow suit.

    The German decision represents a significant escalation in European measures against the settlements. While the Horizon 2020 scientific cooperation agreement, which Israel signed with the European Union a few weeks ago, prohibited EU funding for academic research conducted in the settlements, Berlin has now extended the funding ban to private companies located over the Green Line. Moreover, the boycott against the settlements has now spread from EU institutions in Brussels to individual EU members.

    A senior Foreign Ministry official said that given the “special relationship” between Israel and Germany and the fact that Germany is considered Israel’s best friend in Europe, any Israeli consent to Germany’s demands is liable to set a precedent for all of Europe. “Germany will set an example for the rest of the world,” he said.

    “We also want to prevent a situation in which every decision made by the European Commission in Brussels is automatically adopted by all 28 member states,” he added, referring to the commission’s insistence on a territorial clause in Horizon 2020. Since the Horizon agreement was signed two months ago, Germany is the first country to demand a similar clause in its bilateral agreements with Israel.

    Senior Israeli government officials, who asked to remain anonymous, said Jerusalem is currently negotiating with Berlin over two agreements that would funnel money from Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research to Israeli academic institutions and high-tech companies.

    The first agreement, which promotes cooperation between German and Israeli scientists, was signed in the 1970s and has been periodically renewed ever since. Under this agreement, Germany awards 12 million shekels ($3.4 million) in grants to joint projects conducted by researchers at German and Israeli universities.

    However, something major has changed since the agreement was last renewed: Israel upgraded an institution located in the West Bank settlement of Ariel from a college to a university. Senior German officials informed their Israeli colleagues several months ago that German universities had been pressuring the federal ministry not to cooperate with Israeli research institutions in the West Bank.

    Due to this pressure, the ministry decided that when the agreement came up for renewal, it would demand a new clause forbidding any money to be given to academic institutions in the settlements. In other words, researchers from Ariel University won’t be able to apply for grants, and this must be made clear to them, the German officials told their Israeli counterparts.

    The clause Berlin wants to add to the agreement already exists in another bilateral agreement – the 1986 pact that established the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development. That clause says: “Projects sponsored by the Foundation in Israel shall be conducted only within the geographic areas under the jurisdiction of the State of Israel prior to June 5, 1967.”

    The Germans also want to include this clause in another bilateral agreement that involves much more substantial sums of money. This agreement, between the German federal ministry and Israel’s Economy Ministry, provides German funding for industrial and applied research and development – in other words, funding for private Israeli high-tech firms and start-ups.

    This agreement  in fact isn’t up for renewal anytime soon, but the Germans are nevertheless demanding the immediate inclusion of a territorial clause in the calls for applications that would forbid grants to companies with any connection to West Bank settlements or East Jerusalem. Last week, representatives from the German ministry met with Economy Ministry officials to discuss the issue.

    Thus far, Israel has refused to add the 1986 clause to either agreement. As an alternative, the Germans proposed using the wording included in Horizon 2020 to prohibit funding for activities in the territories. They also agreed that the revised pact could include the same Israeli reservation that was appended to Horizon 2020 – that the agreement doesn’t predetermine the final-status borders, as these are subject to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. But Israel has so far rejected this suggestion, too, fearing it would set a precedent for bilateral agreements that would quickly be adopted by the European Union’s other 27 members, and by other countries as well.

    Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin has ordered his ministry’s staff to begin intensive negotiations with the German government, first on the scientific cooperation agreement and then on the high-tech agreement. The goal is to complete the negotiations within a few weeks, before the joint meeting of the Israeli and German cabinets that is due to take place in Jerusalem in about a month.

    “Our goal is to find a different solution than that of Horizon 2020, and to obtain softened wording,” the senior Foreign Ministry official said.

    Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On responded to the news with a warning to Netanyahu, calling on him to freeze settlement construction.

    “The Netanyahu government is celebrating like they are on the Titanic and ignoring the huge European iceberg that’s coming at them – and it’s an irritable iceberg,” began Gal-On, “Every so often the Europeans warn Netanyahu that continued settlement construction and expansion is against international law, and as a result of that it is likely to exacerbate the European boycott policy, which will severely hurt the Israeli economy and exports.”