Russian-speaking freelancer Khramtsov was commissioned by a St. Petersburg channel to produce a report on a new law passing through the Latvian parliament that bans people from exhibiting either Soviet or Nazi symbols in public.The law, which parliament initially tried to rush through ahead of 9 May commemorations (the day when Germany surrendered to the USSR at the end of World War II) has attracted controversy, particularly among the ethnic Russian minority, which constitutes more than a quarter of the population. Soviet-era symbols, such as Red Army uniforms and crimson flags, have been a staple of the celebrations, even after the secession of Latvia from the USSR.The date is highly politicized in the country, with the authorities refusing to celebrate it as Victory Day, since independent Latvia was invaded by the USSR in 1940, then by Nazi Germany the following year, before reverting to Soviet control at the end of the war.Khramtsov told RT that he arranged to meet several ethnic Russian Communist sympathizers in a town square on May 7, to discuss whether they would obey the law once it is passed. The small group of men arrived with Soviet flags, but Khramtsov says they refused to be filmed, afraid of future police prosecution. After an informal discussion, Khramtsov claims the group dispersed peacefully.The following day Khramtsov was called up to a police station, where he was charged with organizing mass disorder and staging a provocation, with a video of the previous day’s meeting, filmed from a nearby police car, cited as evidence.Khramtsov says he was not encouraging the men to break the law, but merely doing his job. It is also notable that the law went through its second reading on May 16, and faces one more, before it comes into force, making it difficult to ascertain what Khramtsov’s exact misdemeanor might have been“What has happened gives me a horrible feeling. I don’t know if it is someone just trying to earn a promotion at my expense, or if, more unfortunately, authorities in what is supposedly a free country and an EU member are trying to silence the media,” the journalist told RT in a phone interview.Anda Rozuklane, the chief of the Latvian Journalists Association has spoken out in defense of Khramtsov.“If there is evidence that the journalist was doing anything other than compiling a story, it should be made public, but it does not seem to exist. We think this is a disproportionate action, intended to intimidate Khramtsov,” she told Russia’s Interfax news agency.Khramtsov has been a persistent thorn in the side of the authorities in recent times.Three years ago he filmed an expose, showing how easy it would be for terrorists to target Riga’s landmarks. His report showed him making a bomb from easily obtained ingredients, before smuggling a mockup of an explosive device into public spaces. He won a local award “for contributing to press freedom”, but authorities charged him with keeping and transporting explosives.The case was thrown out of court earlier this year.“I think the police are angry with me for that last incident – and are trying to exact their revenge”Khramtsov says subtle pressure and discouragement are commonplace weapons against all journalists whose views diverge from those of dominant politicians, and particularly those who challenge the nationalist anti-Soviet narrative adopted in Latvia since independence in 1991.“I think this constitutes bullying by the authorities. They have no evidence against me, but they are wasting my time, even though the case will never get to court.”In the most recent World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters without Borders Latvia was ranked 39th, below the other Baltic states, but ahead of the other former Soviet republics. It was ranked as high as 13th in previous years, but a string of high-profile incidents have dented Latvia’s reputation. …
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Iran is the focus of international pressure over its nuclear programme in two separate meetings.
In Vienna the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) began its 10th round of talks urging Tehran to cooperate with its inquiry into suspected atomic bomb research.
Meanwhile a second broader diplomatic effort is also being pursued with the European Union’s top diplomat, Catherine Ashton meeting up with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator in Istanbul.
Although all parties say they are committed to dialogue analysts such as Serge Barseghian of the newspaper ‘Etemad’ are not expecting any breakthrough.
“I can see no meaningful difference between this round of talks and the previous one. The upcoming presidential elections in Iran is an extra reason for both parties to take a cautious approach and wait. So it seems very unlikely that they reach an important agreement that could affect either the nuclear issue of the Iranian elections.”
While Iran insists its research is for peaceful reasons the IAEA is majorly concerned about the facilities at the Parchin military site and at the Busheher nuclear plant.
Without free access the west remains suspicious and to date the UN has passed multiple rounds of sanctions against Iran related to the issue.
Copyright © 2013 euronews
Sergey Zheleznyak, deputy-speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, has declared he was insulted by some of the online statements made by members of the opposition movement on May 9, the day Russia marks victory over Nazi Germany. Zheleznyak pointed at participants of the Bolotnaya Square anti-government protests as authors of the remarks in question. He neither gave particular names nor specified which exact words had angered him, only citing those loosely. “They say that they hate parades, they consider the St. George ribbon a fetish, they are not sure what’s better – Russia’s victory or if Hitler had won. They think they have the right to put to doubt our victory in the Great Patriotic War [WWII],” according to Zheleznyak, as cited by Regnum news agency. He demanded the bill on criminal prosecution for attempts to justify Nazism and for questioning the USSR’s role in the WWII victory to be back on the Duma agenda. The proposal for the bill was submitted to the Duma in late March. Under it, offenders could face fines of up to 300,000 rubles (roughly US$ 9,500), or be denied the right to hold certain ranks, or be sentenced to two years of compulsory labor or to a year in jail. A similar proposal has been under the Duma consideration since 2009. The older version is tougher with fines of up to 500,000 rubles (US$16,000) and potential prison term of up to five years. …
Officials across Europe have begun talking about the need to soften the measures adopted by the debt – ridden economies as a security for financial help from the troika of international creditors – the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Commission (EC) and the European Central Bank (ECB).The latest from French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici, said that the country was about to finish its austerity, shifting the focus to growth.“We’re witnessing the end of the dogma of austerity” as the only tool to fight the euro debt crisis, Moscovici said on Europe 1 radio. “Austerity on its own impedes growth,” he added.The current trajectory of austerity had “reached its limits” as European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso put it.“…in the early phase of the crisis, it was essential to restore the credibility of fiscal policy in Europe… Now, as we have restored the credibility in the short term, that gives us the possibility of having a smoother path of fiscal adjustment in the medium term,” explained Olli Rehn, the EU commissioner for economic and monetary affairs.‘Cut or grow’ dilemmaOfficial say that economic stimulus, not painful cuts, are needed to make the indebted countries grow again.“An economy is recovering only provided stimulus to speed up growth is there,” Martin Schulz, from the European parliament, told Belgian newspaper L’Echo in an interview.A usual deficit reduction mix includes higher taxes and lower spending. The aftermath of such belt tightening keeps knocking the citizens for six. The unemployment rate in the EU reached its all-time high of 12.1% in March 2013, which is making some people across the affected countries take to the streets to express their outrage at the measures.Slovenia, Spain and Portugal are the most recent “hot points.” Protesters flooded Ljubljana, Madrid and Lisbon to voice disappointment with the troika of international lenders, whom the public are increasingly blaming for the economic hardship in their countries.“Troika means austerity and we have been experiencing for more than a year and a half the austerity measures which have destroyed every good prospect of social state, of welfare state. Now we have over a million and a half unemployed,” said Joao Camargo, an anti-troika activist in Portugal.“… it does seem clear that much of Europe has cut too deeply and this has killed growth, so completely there will be no recovery. So, some easing does seem appropriate,” Ben Aris, editor-in-chief at Business New Europe, told Business RT.A reasonable balance between cuts and growth stimulus is what should be a way out, Aris said. “The trouble is that no one knows where this balance lies. We are in uncharted territory now and everyone is feeling their way,” he concluded.Banking union for the Union that’s bankingThe idea to set up a banking union – a joint banking supervisor for the 17–nation eurozone financial system – to stabilize the area’s economy has been a point of heated debate. While experts agree the body is necessary to settle the turmoil, so far there’s little progress on the way to make this idea come to life.“It [setting up a banking union] is a start, a step towards full fiscal as opposed to just monetary union in Europe, as the lack of a fiscal union is at the heart of the problems today,” Aris explained.Mariano Rajoy, Spanish Prime Minister, and Enrico Letta, his Italian counterpart, agreed that the final decision on the banking union should be made as soon as the June European Union summit.A banking union could have also helped to sidestep the Cyprus crisis, where savers lost much of their deposits and paid for the island’s mistakes. Looking to meet the requirements from the troika and fund its financial shortfall, Cyprus authorities introduced a levy ranging between 30 and 40 per cent on depositors’ holdings above 100,000 euros.The Cyprus precedent may frighten people in southern Europe away from bringing in amounts above the insured limit of 100,000 euros to banks. So far there hasn’t been a massive withdrawal from bank accounts across Europe, but one can’t deny the danger of a so-called “deposit exodus.” Weighing on the banks’ credit capacity, this may become a real drag on economic growth.So far the European Central Bank and Germany – the biggest economy in the euro area – are at odds over how to set up a banking supervisor. While ECB executive board member Yves Mersch insists that a centralized authority to unwind failing banks would be needed in addition to the very union, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble says the new authority would necessarily require changes to the European Union’s treaties, which will take time.“However, it is a half measure. Still, politically speaking it is about the most the politicians in Europe can hope to get through at the moment,” Ben Aris concluded. …
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An estimated 18,000 people dropped by the EU institutions last Saturday to see what goes on behind the scenes.
At the European Parliament, citizens got the chance to debate with MEPs.
And even if the discussions at the EU level are often consensus-based, many openly questioned whether the project had a future.
“I ask myself if citizens are really still interested in Europe with all the misadventures that we’ve seen, with all the problems that we have at the moment. Are citizens really still interested in Europe?,” said one Belgian man.
At the European Council, the institution that represents 27 EU countries, a tour guide shows a group around this room where EU leaders usually meet behind closed doors.
“This building is shut to the public. It needs to be opened up, not just to TV cameras, but to facilitate a dialogue, a debate and open up Europe. There is a lot of work to do,” said another visitor.
Bursting the Eurobubble: that’s what Yacine Kouhen, a communications coach, has tried to do with his own web series of the same name which takes a look into the lives of Eurocrats.
The answer to make Europe more popular? Communicate more effectively.
Kouhen said: “Sellling Europe is something actually difficult because it is very dense but an alternative way of communicating with people must be found, we need something new.”
For Matthieu Lietaert, a documentary maker who recently produced a piece on Brussels lobbyists, points to a large democratic deficit that puts Europe out of reach of ordinary citizens.
“Today everything comes top down from Brussels. It needs to be more bottom up, shift from a representative democracy to a participatory democracy,” he said.
Copyright © 2013 euronews