he gay-friendly rainbow theme for the Christmas lights on Rome’s Via del Corso has sparked a political debate since the street was illuminated on 6 December.
The multi-coloured lights are intended as a message against homophobia, according to city councillor Imma Battaglia of the left-wing Sinistra Ecologia Libertà (SEL) party. With the support of mayor Ignazio Marino, gay rights campaigner Battaglia said the decision to install rainbow lights on Rome’s premier shopping street follows a number of recent suicides of young gay men in the capital.
The initiative also follows high-profile incidents of homophobic graffiti outside high schools in Prati and Garbatella earlier in the year.
However the lights, which stretch for 1.5km from Piazza Venezia to Piazza del Popolo, have attracted the ire of some of the city’s opposition politicians, particularly the far-right party Fratelli d’Italia whose member Fabrizio Ghera described the idea as “provocative and ideological.”
Ukrainian riot police on Monday took up position near Kiev’s city hall, which is occupied by pro-Europe protesters demonstrating against a government U-turn in trade policy towards Russia, Reuters eyewitnesses said.
About 200 police, wearing black helmets and carrying shields, poured out of three buses at a cross-roads in central Kiev and took up position about 50 metres from the building, but made no move towards it.
In a promising blow against blazing ignorance this week, the National University of Ireland in Galway has suspended the school’s Legion of Mary after the group distributed leaflets encouraging students to “move beyond the confines of the homosexual label.”
The literature, which sparked “70 official complaints to the Students’ Union and college services,” directs “persons with same-sex attractions and their loved ones” to the Courage Community group — an organization that promotes “an interior life of chastity.” The 33-year-old Courage Community, endorsed by the Holy See and boasting 100 chapters around the world, aims to discourage gay men and women from “accepting the secular society’s perspective and opting to act on their same-sex desires” and “constantly trying to get their needs met in ways that ultimately do not satisfy the desires of the heart,” and instead embrace the “freedom” of chastity. Yes, that sounds so much more mature and liberating than having, say, loving adult relationships. The Galway Legion of Mary pamphlets included the directive, “I’m a child of God. Don’t call me gay.”
Fortunately, even in a predominantly Catholic country, this kind of insulting twaddle is becoming increasingly less acceptable.
Ukraine’s opposition has failed in its attempt to force out the government with a no-confidence vote in parliament.
The failure leaves Ukraine’s political tensions unresolved, with opposition demonstrators still angered by the president’s shelving of an agreement with the European Union and by police violence against protesters denouncing that decision.
Pressure on Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is mounting. Following Sunday’s mass rally in Kiev at which violent clashes broke out, thousands of anti-government protestors spent the night in tents on Independence Square in the middle of the capital. With light rain falling and the temperature not rising above 4 degrees Celsius, many lit small fires to keep warm.
Opposition leader and world heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko appealed to the demonstrators not to give up control of the city center during the night. “We have to mobilize the country and must not lose the initiative,” he said. Klitschko is at the head of the UDAR Party (Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms; the abbreviation also translates to “strike” or “punch”). He is considered one of the strongest challengers facing Yanukovych in the presidential election scheduled for March 2015. A spokesman for the Klitschko opposition bloc announced a blockade of state administrative buildings from early on Monday.
The head of the far-right Svoboda Party (“Party for Freedom”), Oleh Tyahnybok, said: “A revolution is starting in Ukraine. We are launching a national strike.”
Riot police, swinging truncheons and spraying bursts of tear gas, early Saturday, forcibly broke up a crowd of several hundred demonstrators who had been protesting in support of far-reaching political and free-trade accords between Ukraine and the European Union that President Viktor F. Yanukovich refused to sign on Friday.
A crowd of about 10,000 people had gathered in Independence Square in central Kiev on Friday evening as the European Union summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, where Mr. Yanukovich had originally planned to sign the agreements, was drawing to a close.
Several hundred protesters chanting for Mr. Yanukovich’s resignation were still gathered there when the police, wearing helmets and carrying body shields, moved in about 4:30 a.m., according to local news accounts and videos posted online by witnesses. At least several dozen people were beaten, Andriy Shevchenko, a member of Parliament told the Ukrainska Pravda news site.
The regional election was one of eight across the country, which solidified Prime Minister Robert Fico’s left-leaning Smer party as the country’s strongest, taking top government seats in six out of eight regions. But Mr. Kotleba’s victory against a Smer-backed candidate stood out as it marked the first time his nationalist and far-right People’s Party-Our Slovakia, known as LSNS, won a regional or national government post.
Mr. Kotleba used to head the extremist Slovak Togetherness-National Party, which organized rallies against Romas, a large and underprivileged Slovak minority, and was banned by the country’s top court in 2006 for fomenting national hatred and intolerance. Both parties have shown sympathy for the Slovak Nazi client state, which ruled the Slovak Republic during World War II.
Mr. Kotleba and other members of the LSNS have often publicly worn uniforms styled after the militia guards of the client state, and the party’s logo closely resembles the flag of the ruling party during Slovakia’s Nazi era.
Nationalist political rhetoric has resonated with some Slovak voters since the collapse of communism in 1989 and the peaceful breakup in 1993 of Czechoslovakia, a federation of the Czech and Slovak republics. In neighboring Hungary, the far-right Jobbik party has been in Parliament since 2010.
There is indeed a yawning chasm between Bolkestein’s views on the EU and those of Verhofstadt, for all that one is a Dutch liberal and the other a Belgian liberal. But that does not mean that Verhofstadt is right to suggest that the only meaningful distinction will be between the Eurosceptics and federalists. Politics both before and after May 2014 is more complicated than that.
Wilders and Le Pen will stage the occasional joint meeting. And Europe’s main political families will try to put up cross-party candidates for the presidency of the European Commission. But for the most part voters will still make their choices in next May’s elections according to national politics.
In some countries, that will mean making a choice between Eurosceptic and Euro-enthusiast candidates. In France, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands, for instance, Eurosceptic parties will feature prominently in the campaigns and will perform strongly in the elections. But in other countries - for instance, Spain, Italy, Germany and Ireland - Euroscepticism will be much less visible. In turn, that will mean that those elected to the Parliament will not necessarily have a clear mandate for scepticism or enthusiasm.
To suggest otherwise is to do voters a disservice and serve the interests of either Le Pen or Verhofstadt.
One of the strongest reasons not to blur the national distinctions is that nuances matter when combating the extreme right. In the Netherlands, for instance, Wilders is libertarian and socially liberal (except on race) in a way that is not the case with the far-right in France, which is more socially conservative. Countering racism requires an appreciation of the local context. The European Union should have learnt that lesson by now, not least from the unedifying experience of 1999-2000, when it attempted to dictate to Austria’s centre-right party that it should not allow Jörg Haider’s Freedom Party into government
The Front National’s candidate’s anti-semitic “trutherism” comes to the surface.
France’s National Front (FN) claims it has changed its game plan to gain wider legitimacy among ordinary voters, but one of its new faces is courting the kind of controversy that has long made most of the electorate recoil from the far-right party.
Aymeric Chauprade, a former professor at France’s most prestigious military academy, will be the top FN candidate representing Paris in European Parliament elections in May.
The French press has pounced on Chauprade since the party’s announcement was made, but not to inquire about his views on monetary policy or allowing Turkey into the EU. Journalists mostly want to know about an essay he first published in 2009, in which he cast doubt on the official version of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
In “Chronicle of the Clash of Civilizations”, he develops several alternative theories about the tragic event attributed to al Qaeda, including one that 9/11 was part of a devious American-Israeli conspiracy.
Chauprade has offered several interpretations about the origin of the World Trade Center attacks without picking one in particular, but has also expressed disbelief about the causes given by US authorities for the collapse of 7 World Trade Center, which fell hours after the Twin Towers.
“The shockwave could not have triggered its collapse… Only a controlled demolition with explosives can explain such a quick and perfect collapse,” he wrote. The essay cost him his teaching job shortly after it was released.
in Dutch politics over the past years to fierce attacks on Islam. Marine Le Pen’s Front National (FN) built its popularity on campaigns against immigration, back in the days when it was led by her father Jean-Marie. But in recent years both politicians have shifted the focus of their rhetoric towards another bête noire of the far right, the European Union.
On November 13th they held a press conference in The Hague to announce that they will be co-operating in the elections for the European Parliament next spring and hope to form a new Eurosceptic bloc. Their aim, as Mr Wilders put it, is to “fight this monster called Europe” Ms Le Pen spoke of a system that “has enslaved our various peoples”. They want to end the common currency, remove the authority of Brussels over national budgets, and undo the project of integration driven with so much idealism by two generations of European politicians.
Far-right politicians are a touchy lot, and the new collaboration could be doomed by the same national cleavages that have hobbled earlier efforts to form cross-border Eurosceptic alliances. The European Parliament already boasts one such coalition, the Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group, which has done little to slow integration.