Eurosphere agenda: An Interview with Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Iceland’s Pirate party figurehead…

‘The system is a reflection of who we are’: an interview with Birgitta Jónsdóttir

“It’s not only about us versus the system. The system is really us.” As Iceland’s radical Pirate party approaches the gates of power, we speak to its figurehead Birgitta Jónsdóttir.

Birgitta Jónsdóttir. Frank Augstein/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.Ashish Ghadiali: What is happening in Iceland right now? It’s really weird, right? You’ve got a prosperous nation, the economy has recovered out of a terrible collapse, and suddenly, led by the Pirate Party, you’ve got this most radical reformist government within an inch of power…  

Pirates of the north

Iceland’s Pirate Party could make history by entering a coalition government after Saturday’s election.
Shortly after the cancellation of the EU summit with Canada, Belgium on Thursday reached a consensus on the free trade agreement. This has stopped Ceta falling through for now. Some commentators see no cause to celebrate an agreement that they believe undermines national sovereignty. Others praise Canada’s conduct during the altercation as exemplary.
Nato plans to boost its military presence in eastern Europe as of 2017. Alliance defence ministers discussed the details of the plan at a meeting in Brussels this week. A total of 4,000 troops are to be stationed in the Baltic states and Poland. For some commentators this is a clever preemptive move in the context of Russian aggression. Others fear an escalation in the conflict with Moscow.
With six months to go before France’s presidential election in April and May 2017, the incumbent head of state François Hollande is lagging far behind in the polls. Only four percent of the French are satisfied with his performance. Commentators speculate that this could push many Socialists to make an unusual decision.

Yazidi women win Parliament’s Sakharov prize

Yazidi activists Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar, victims of sexual slavery carried out by Islamic State, have won the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize. EurActiv Spain reports.
Today Thursday was supposed to see the signing of the Ceta trade agreement between Canada and the EU. But since Belgium failed to reach a consensus with it regions, the Canadian governmental delegation has cancelled its trip to Brussels. Some commentators are pleased that Wallonia kept up its resistance, saying this may force renegotiations. Others voice disappointment at the EU’s inability to take action.
This year is set to be the deadliest for refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Europe, the UN refugee agency says.
The Peasants and Greens Union, until recently just a small opposition party, has won the parliamentary election in Lithuania. Voters relegated the ruling Social democrats to third place, while the conservatives came second. Lithuania’s press analyses the reasons for this unexpected outcome.

The Conservative justice minister filibustered a bill to pardon the thousands of men convicted under legislation that criminalised homosexuality. This act lays bear the discrimination still faced by LGBT people in this country.

A statue of Alan Turing, for whom the bill was named. Photo: Jon Callas. Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons Licensed.The failure of the Turing Bill is a stark reminder of the homophobia embedded in British society. A staunchly undemocratic filibuster, led by none other than justice minister Sam Gyimah, ensured that no vote could be taken on the Bill. The Turing Bill, named after WW2 code breaker Alan Turing, was intended to pardon the gay men prosecuted before homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967.

The Belgian government is still trying to convince Wallonia and Brussels to agree to Ceta. In view of Belgium’s rejection of the deal it is not clear whether the trade agreement between the EU and Canada can be signed on Thursday. The Ceta situation has triggered a debate over whether the EU states are still capable of reaching decisions together.
After two elections and months of deadlock Spain is finally getting a new government. The socialist PSOE party has decided to back a minority government led by Mariano Rajoy and his conservative People’s Party – a course they initially rejected after the election in June. Journalists predict that the Socialists will have a hard time supporting the conservatives.

Frassoni: Italians believe the EU abandoned them to the migration crisis

The Italian government is not losing support because it saves refugees. It is losing support because it is not perceived to be able to convince Europe to do more, says Monica Frassoni, the European Greens co-chair.

Neoliberalism, Brexit, and Higher Education

Is Brexit bad for UK universities? This appears to be the question at the centre of an article from the Times Higher Education titled “UK researchers face uncertainty over EU grant applications” (David Matthews, June 29, 2016), which was approvingly reprinted in the Bulletin of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (Vol. 63, No. 7, September, 2016, p. 7). It’s peculiar that CAUT would republish this piece, which is not based on facts as much as fear, since CAUT has taken a fairly consistent, hard line in its criticisms of the impact of neoliberalism on higher education. Is it that CAUT’s writers only have a problem with neoliberalism when it adversely affects established traditions in post-secondary education in Canada, but otherwise have no problem with neoliberalism as such? That might explain the odd dualism.

Around 2,000 people demonstrated for the reunification of Romania and its neighbour the Republic of Moldova in Bucharest this weekend. A protest march in support of reunification has taken place every October since 2012. Commentators present various arguments for why the move is not possible right now.

The challenge of investigative journalism in the Western Balkans

In the Western Balkans, even the most fundamental and comparatively minute probing into the workings of government can provoke an aggressive response from the very top, as Milka Tadić-Mijović found out.

“No, no, I only won the libel case in Serbia. It’ll be a long time before I win in Montenegro,” Milka Tadić-Mijović tells me with a subtle scoff at the speed at which legal processes unfold in the Balkans.

After two elections and months of deadlock Spain is finally getting a new government. The socialist PSOE party has decided to support a minority government led by Mariano Rajoy and his conservative People’s Party. The Socialists had roundly rejected this course after the last election in June. Many journalists see the party’s policy shift as a sensible decision but some argue that with this move the PSOE has discredited itself as a leftist party.
Asylum-seekers attacked the premises of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) on the island of Lesbos on Monday (24 October), protesting against delays in dealing with asylum claims, Greek and EU authorities said.

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