Germany wants pro-life activists to stay away from abortion clinics

As the number of pro-life vigils in front of Germany’s family planning centres and clinics grows, the country is trying to prevent these places from becoming the stage of a US-style war for abortion rights.

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It was March 2017 when Claudia Hohmann, director of the Pro Familia family planning centre in Frankfurt, saw anti-abortion demonstrators show up with signs and flyers outside the door of her workplace for the very first time.

“The pro-life movement calls them vigils, as their purpose is to prevent people from having abortions and ‘save’ children,” she told Euronews. “Since then, the vigils in front of our centre take place twice a year for forty days.”

The Pro Familia centre headed by for the past nine years Hohmann sits in a quiet, wealthy area of west Frankfurt, near the city’s botanical garden. Photos of the most recent vigil held in front of the centre in September shows a pro-life group holding pictures of foetuses and the Virgin Mary, an odd sight in the peaceful neighbourhood.

While anti-abortion demonstrations are common in the US, in recent years vigils like the one held by the Euro Pro Life association in Frankfurt for 40 days in October and November last year, have become more common across Europe and in Germany.

That’s why on 24 January, Germany’s family minister Lisa Paus announced a draft law that would prevent anti-abortion demonstrators from approaching or harassing visitors within a 100-miles radius of abortion clinics and family planning centres in the country.

Anti-abortion flyers and posters will also be forbidden within the same distance of these institutions. Anyone found in violation of this law, if passed, could be punished with a fine of up to €5,000.

Paus, a member of the Green Party, said that the legislation was necessary to avoid women being faced with “hatred and agitation” while seeking advice during a potentially delicate and difficult moment. She told German broadcaster ZDF that the draft struck a balance between freedom of expression and the right of assembly.

The growing influence of the pro-life movement in Europe

While a small group of demonstrators standing in front of a family planning centre for 40 days might seem like a small problem, especially for a country as big as Germany, Hohmann said that the influence of anti-abortion organisations is growing in the country.

“​​The anti-abortion scene is very active and connected with extreme right politics and the anti-queer and anti-sex-education movement,” Hohmann said. “[In recent years] we had vigils taking place in Wiesbaden, Pforzheim and Munich, 1000-Cross-Marches in Berlin and other cities, as well as demonstrations of so-called ‘worried parents’.”

The idea of holding a demonstration for 40 days, which is what Germany’s anti-abortion association Euro Pro-Life has been doing for years in Frankfurt now, is not really an original one. It’s coming, in fact, from the US

“40 Days For Life” is a grassroots movement that was started in 2004 in Texas and has since expanded to more than 60 countries across the world, many of which are in Europe, including Germany, Spain, Ireland, the UK, Italy, Croatia, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic.

The movement’s tactic is to stand outside abortion clinics and family planning centres for 40 days in an attempt to raise awareness of what it considers “the tragic reality of abortion” and to call for “repentance” for those who work at the facilities.

Thanks to the fact that the movement works like a franchise, getting funds from members across the world who pay for materials, support and training, 40 Days For Life has been able to reach as far as it has now, bringing the US culture wars to Europe.

Punishment, shame and guilt

In Germany, a pregnant person cannot get an abortion before visiting one of those centres. That’s because abortion is technically illegal in Germany, but it’s possible up to 12 weeks after conception if the pregnant person obtains a counselling certificate at least 3 days before the procedure.

Pro Familia, which has centres all across Germany, is certified to issue such certificates. That’s why it has become a target for anti-abortion activists.

Tomislav Čunović of 40 Days For Life told Euronews that the law proposed by the German government is “unconstitutional” should it be passed the way it is now. “It is anti-freedom and anti-democratic. It’s a shame for the German international reputation,” Čunović said.

The anti-abortion activist defended the vigils organised by his organisation saying they are “a prayer for the unborn children who are dying or threatened with death through abortion, and also for their relatives” and claiming their motivation is “peaceful and legitimate.”

But that’s not what those who work at the family planning centres say.

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“The demonstrators watch our clients, sing, pray and show pictures – for example of babies, pregnant bellies or with expressions like: ‘Thanks, Mum, for letting me live’ or ‘Abortion is no solution’,” Hohmann said, adding how this can deeply hurt people seeking to terminate their pregnancies.

“People with an unwanted pregnancy feel shame and guilt anyway, and need an understanding, trustful and comforting setting,” she explained.

“This is important to be able to listen carefully and to understand the information given by the counsellor. The feeling of anonymity is also important. The people in front of the centre disturb this setting by purpose and damage the trust in the legally prescripted counselling,” Hohmann said. “Research has made clear that the psychic problems in connection with an abortion go back to the punishment-shame-and guilt-context in society.”

“The regular presence of anti-abortion protesters outside the counselling centre is a psychological burden for our staff,” Beate Martin, head of the Pro Familia advice centre in Münster, said.

“The counselling itself is also disrupted,” added her colleague, pregnancy counsellor Barbara Wittel. “Unwanted pregnant women and others seeking help on the way to a counselling session perceive the presence as disturbing and unpleasant. They cannot avoid being influenced and confronted by anti-abortion activists. It is then no longer possible to speak of a neutral counselling situation, as women are legally entitled to.”

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For Hohmann and Pro Familia, it’s necessary to have a country-wide solution to forbid this sort of action.

“Local solutions have been overturned many times,” she told Euronews. “But the law has to be clear and strict and must interdict all actions that want to defame and unsettle pregnant people, doctors and counsellors and thereby improve the access to the best possible counselling and medical care.”

“It is the task of federal policy to protect the personal rights of those seeking counselling, and to do so nationwide,” said Pro Familia Federal Chairwoman Monika Börding.

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Nazi death camp survivors mark anniversary of Auschwitz liberation on Holocaust Remembrance Day

A group of survivors of Nazi death camps marked the 79th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp during World War II in a modest ceremony Saturday in southern Poland.

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About 20 survivors from various camps set up by Nazi Germany around Europe laid wreaths and flowers and lit candles at the Death Wall in Auschwitz.

Later, the group will hold prayers at the monument in Birkenau. They were memorializing around 1.1 million camp victims, mostly Jews. The memorial site and museum are located near the city of Oswiecim. 

Nearly 6 million European Jews were killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust — the mass murder of Jews and other groups before and during World War II


Marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the survivors will be accompanied by Polish Senate Speaker Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska, Culture Minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz and Israeli Ambassador Yacov Livne. 

The theme of the observances is the human being, symbolized in simple, hand-drawn portraits. They are meant to stress that the horror of Auschwitz-Birkenau lies in the suffering of people held and killed there.

Holocaust victims were commemorated across Europe.

In Germany, where people put down flowers and lit candles at memorials for the victims of the Nazi terror, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that his country would continue to carry the responsibility for this “crime against humanity.”

He called on all citizens to defend Germany’s democracy and fight antisemitism, as the country marked the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

“Never again’ is every day,” Scholz said in his weekly video podcast. “Jan. 27 calls out to us: Stay visible! Stay audible! Against antisemitism, against racism, against misanthropy — and for our democracy.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whose country is fighting to repel Russia’s full-scale invasion, posted an image of a Jewish menorah on X, formerly known as Twitter, to mark the remembrance day.

“Every new generation must learn the truth about the Holocaust. Human life must remain the highest value for all nations in the world,” said Zelenskyy, who is Jewish and has lost relatives in the Holocaust. 

“Eternal memory to all Holocaust victims!” Zelenskyy tweeted.


In Italy, Holocaust commemorations included a torchlit procession alongside official statements from top political leaders. 

Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni said that her conservative nationalist government was committed to eradicating antisemitism that she said had been “reinvigorated” amid the Israel-Hamas war. Meloni’s critics have long accused her and her Brothers of Italy party, which has neo-fascist roots, of failing to sufficiently atone for its past.

Later Saturday, leftist movements planned a torchlit procession to remember all victims of the Holocaust — Jews but also Roma, gays and political dissidents who were deported or exterminated in Nazi camps.

Police were also on alert after pro-Palestinian activists indicated that they would ignore a police order and go ahead with a rally planned to coincide with the Holocaust commemorations. Italy’s Jewish community has complained that such protests have become occasions for the memory of the Holocaust to be co-opted by anti-Israel forces and used against Jews.

In Poland, a memorial ceremony with prayers was held Friday in Warsaw at the foot of the Monument to the Heroes of the Ghetto, who fell fighting the Nazis in 1943.

Earlier in the week, the countries of the former Yugoslavia signed an agreement in Paris to jointly renovate Block 17 in the red-brick Auschwitz camp and install a permanent exhibition there in memory of around 20,000 people who were deported from their territories and brought to the block. Participating in the project will be Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia

The gate with “Arbeit macht frei” (Work sets you free) written across it is pictured at the Auschwitz-Birkenau former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp during events marking the 79th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in Oswiecim, Poland on January 27, 2024. © Bartosz Siedlik, AFP

Preserving the camp, a notorious symbol of the horrors of the Holocaust, with its cruelly misleading “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work Makes One Free”) gate, requires constant effort by historians and experts, and substantial funds.

The Nazis, who occupied Poland from 1939-1945, at first used old Austrian military barracks at Auschwitz as a concentration and death camp for Poland’s resistance fighters. In 1942, the wooden barracks, gas chambers and crematoria of Birkenau were added for the extermination of Europe’s Jews, Roma and other nationals, as well as Russian prisoners of war. 

Soviet Red Army troops liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau on Jan. 27, 1945, with about 7,000 prisoners there, children and those who were too weak to walk. The Germans had evacuated tens of thousands of other inmates on foot days earlier in what is now called the Death March, because many inmates died of exhaustion and cold in the sub-freezing temperatures. 

Since 1979, the Auschwitz-Birkenau site has been on the UNESCO list of World Heritage.

(AP) 



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Transforming HIV prevention in Europe

This article is part of POLITICO Telescope: The New AIDS Epidemic, an ongoing exploration of the disease today.

The world’s battle to end the HIV epidemic is being fought on two fronts. The first involves getting as many people as possible who are living with the virus diagnosed and rapidly onto antiretroviral medication. This reduces the virus inside their bodies to such a low level that it is undetectable and therefore cannot be passed to others. The approach is known as “undetectable = untransmittable” or “U=U*.”

The second front is focused on protecting people from contracting the virus in the first place, even if they have been exposed to it — an approach known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP. Taken as prescribed, PrEP makes a person’s body almost entirely resistant to HIV infection.

There is a critical need to bring forward new PrEP options that are informed by and designed for the communities that could benefit from PrEP in Europe.

Jared Baeten MD, PhD, vice president for HIV clinical development at Gilead Sciences

PrEP comprises antiretroviral drugs that can be taken intermittently, around the time someone expects to be sexually active. They protect against the virus in two ways: by increasing the production of antibodies in the cells in the rectal or vaginal lining, making them less receptive to HIV in the first place, and by interfering with the ability of HIV to replicate in the body.

Nearly 5 million people around the world have taken PrEP at least once — including about 2.8 million in Europe — and it has been shown to reduce the incidence of HIV infection during sex by 99 percent. In the European Union, new HIV infections have fallen by about 45 percent since PrEP was licensed in 2016, although this decline is also partly due to U=U.

PrEP as part of combination prevention strategies

Missing doses or running out of PrEP can mean becoming susceptible to HIV again. I via Shutterstock

Today, PrEP comes primarily in the form of an oral tablet, which has the advantage of being cheap to produce and easy to store. But it is not a universal solution. Because it needs to be taken regularly while someone is sexually active, missing doses or running out can mean becoming susceptible to HIV again. What’s more, in the same way that some bacteria are developing resistance to antibiotics, the HIV that does enter the bodies of people who have paused or discontinued their use of PrEP has a greater chance of being resistant to subsequent antiretroviral medications they may then need.

PrEP taken in tablet form is also an issue for people who need to keep their use of PrEP private, perhaps from family members or partners. Having to take a pill once a day or two or three times a week is something that may be hard to hide from others. And some people, such as migrants, who may not be fully integrated with a country’s health care system, may find it hard to access regular supplies of daily medication. Limitations such as these have prompted the development of alternative, innovative ways for people to protect themselves that are more tailored to their needs and life situations. These include longer-acting drugs that can be injected.

Like existing oral medications, injectable PrEP works by preventing HIV from replicating in a person’s body, but its effect lasts much longer. In September, the EU approved the use of the first intramuscular injectable that can be given every two months. Gilead is, until 2027, running trials of another injectable option, which, once the required efficacy and safety have been demonstrated, could be administered subcutaneously just once every six months. This would be more convenient for many people and more adapted to the circumstances of certain populations, such as migrants, and may therefore lead to better adherence and health outcomes.

HIV continues to be a public health threat across Europe, where in 2022 more than 100,000 people were newly diagnosed with HIV.

Jared Baeten MD, PhD, vice president for HIV Clinical Development at Gilead Sciences

Further ahead — but still in the early stages of development and testing — are patches and implants, which would provide a continuous supply of antiretroviral drugs, and immunotherapies. Immunotherapies would comprise a broad spectrum of naturally produced or manufactured antibodies against HIV, which, in theory, would pre-arm their bodies to resist infection.

As more types of PrEP become available, we will see a greater awareness of its benefits, as more people are able to find the version of PrEP that best suits their living conditions and personal requirements. This is a fundamental principle of “combination prevention,” or innovative interventions that reflect the specific needs of the people they are trying to reach.

Preparing for the future

Despite clear scientific evidence of the benefits of PrEP, there are still some hurdles we need to overcome to make it a powerful tool to end HIV altogether. These include investments and funding in prevention and availability, and programs to combat stigma.

Although the EU licensed PrEP in 2016, availability varies across the bloc. In France, the U.K., Spain, Germany and, more recently, Italy, oral PrEP is available at no cost to those who would benefit from it. In Romania, although PrEP is included in the country’s new HIV National Strategy, it is not yet funded, and it is only available via non-governmental organizations that rely on external funding sources. And in Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria, PrEP is not state funded and there are no current plans to make it so. In many member states, even though PrEP is technically licensed, in practice it can be hard to get hold of, in particular for specific communities, such as women, migrants or trans people. Potential users may find it hard, for example, to access testing or even doctors who are willing to prescribe it.

Jared Baeten MD, PhD, vice president for HIV clinical development at Gilead Sciences

Another key challenge that health systems and providers face is communicating the importance of PrEP to those who would most benefit, and thereby increase uptake. Many respondents in multiple studies have indicated that they don’t feel HIV is something that affects them, or they have indicated that there is a general stigma in their communities associated with sexual health matters. And some groups that are already discriminated against, such as sex workers, people who inject drugs, and migrants, may be hesitant to engage with health care systems for fear of reprisals. Again, injectable PrEP could help reach such key populations as it will offer a more discreet way of accessing the preventive treatment.

“There is a critical need to bring forward new PrEP options that are informed by and designed for the communities that could benefit from PrEP in Europe,” says Jared Baeten MD, PhD, vice president for HIV clinical development at Gilead Sciences. “At Gilead, we are excited to engage with communities and broader stakeholders to inform our trials efforts and partner with them in our goal to develop person-centered innovations that can help end the HIV epidemic in Europe.”

Europe is leading the world’s efforts toward ending HIV, but, even in the bloc, PrEP usage and availability varies from country to country and demographic to demographic. If the region is to become the first to end the HIV epidemic entirely, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the governments of member states will need to lead the way in fighting stigma, promoting and prioritizing HIV prevention in all its aspects including innovation in therapeutics strengthening the financing and funding of healthcare systems, and establishing effective pathways to zero transmission to end HIV entirely.

“HIV continues to be a public health threat across Europe, where in 2022 more than 100,000 people were newly diagnosed with HIV,” says Baeten. “HIV prevention is critical and has the potential to change the trajectory of the epidemic, but stigma and other barriers limit the impact that PrEP medications can have on reducing HIV infections in Europe. We all have a responsibility to collaboratively partner to make this work.”

*U=U is true on two premises: taking HIV medicines as prescribed and getting to and staying undetectable for at least six months prevents transmitting HIV to partners through sex. Undetectable means that the virus cannot be measured by a viral load test (viral load <200 copies/mL)



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Europe confronts an increasingly transnational far-right threat

Movements that could once be tackled one government at a time are more and more able to connect with each other across borders – and Elon Musk’s Twitter has given them a gift.

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Since the outbreak of the current war in Israel and Palestine, numerous European governments have warned of an uptick in two violent threats: Islamist extremism and antisemitism. Authorities in Germany, for instance, say that the threat of a jihadist attack is “higher than it has been for a long time”.

But in terms of what’s playing out on European streets and online, the threat of an organised, sometimes violent and increasingly transnational far right is becoming impossible to ignore.

Britain last month saw far-right counterprotesters attempt to disrupt a peaceful pro-Palestinian march in central London. Recent protests in Spain against an amnesty extended to Catalonian independence leaders attracted far-right elements.

And in France, the recent stabbing of a young boy in a southeastern village sparked days of protest, many of which featured out-and-out far right groups, including some from the notoriously extreme “Identitarian” movement.

The presence of extremists at the marches has been alarming enough that French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin is seeking to ban three specific far-right groups, some of whose members are on a government extremism watchlist.

Announcing the crackdown, he cited the example of Ireland, where a mob recently ran riot in the centre of Dublin after several children were stabbed outside a school in broad daylight. Warning that “there is a mobilisation on the ultra-right that wants to tip us into civil war,” he praised the authorities for helping avoid “an Irish-style scenario”.

That scenario extends beyond the violence in Dublin itself and includes a wider, long-brewing movement with international reach.

While some commentators attributed the violence in Ireland to anger among working-class people suffering in a housing crisis while immigrants and asylum seekers are provided with accommodation and welfare benefits, others dismissed that argument as an excuse for something far more sinister.

Close observers of the Irish far right insist that the roots of the violence run deep, warning that openly racist and fascist groups are galvanising their supporters using increasingly violent rhetoric directed squarely at asylum seekers and immigrants of all kinds, especially those who are not white.

The incident followed a pattern that has played out in many European countries, as ostensibly grassroots far-right movements latch onto assorted issues – transgender rights, immigration, the place of Muslims in society, or Covid control measures and vaccination – and put pressure on democratic political systems with increasingly angry rhetoric and organised, sometimes violent protests.

While they often rail against their national governments’ policies, these movements have an increasingly transnational character. And across Europe and beyond, these factions now have a newly hospitable environment in which to communicate: the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Planet Musk

Since he took over the platform last year, Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk has become increasingly erratic and politically extreme, routinely engaging positively with racist and antisemitic users. According to Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, the renaissance of Twitter/X as a haven for the far right is a major development.

“Every form of far-right extremist is using the platform now in ways that they only could before on unregulated sites like Telegram,” she told Euronews. 

“Musk has allowed prominent neo-Nazis and other white supremacists back on the platform, including very extreme people like Andrew Anglin of Daily Stormer, and they are pushing their ideas out there. The site is also monetising extremist material.

“This is true internationally as well. Our recent report on Generation Identity accounts on Twitter, which were pulled and then reinstated, shows the transnational reach of the problem.

“Twitter is an essential part of the far-right online ecosystem now, for raising money, recruiting and propagandising. It may well be the largest hate site on the internet at this point.”

The events on the streets of Dublin, which saw a tram and a bus attacked and many businesses looted, were heavily amplified online by local influencers with large followings on Twitter/X and international figures in the far-right ecosystem in the US and the UK.

But also getting involved was Musk himself, who engaged with extreme users trying to call attention tweeted that Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar “Hates Irish people” and complained that “The current Irish government clearly cares more about praise from woke media than their own people”.

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Into the mainstream

While its value has plummeted and advertisers are leaving, taking crucial revenue with them, the platform’s moderation policies have a huge impact on European countries. 

Unlike Telegram or other encrypted messaging apps, Twitter/X’s open nature means images, footage, false and misleading claims and hate speech can far more easily leach into public conversation – including via pickup from populist politicians and parties trying to appeal to receptive audiences.

And while none of Ireland’s very small far-right political parties have any hope of entering government any time soon, other countries have already seen their established ones embrace and fuel the anger on the far right, bringing outlandish and extreme ideas into the centre of electoral politics.

As for the future, Beirich warns that there are frightening scenarios in the offing – and that in many European countries, things are already well advanced down a dark path.

“What was fringe not too long ago has now breached the cordon sanitaire, especially when talking about immigration and Muslims,” she told Euronews. “We’ve just seen this in the Netherlands as well. The biggest tragedy would be if the AfD makes huge gains in the upcoming German elections.

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“At this point, there is little to distinguish say [French extremist politician Éric] Zemmour’s politics from the white supremacists in the Identitarian movement and many elements in Marine Le Pen’s party. I would argue the Finns Party, who are in coalition in Helsinki, are extremists that are already in power, meaning they have breached the mainstream. And Viktor Orbán’s government in Hungary is much the same.

“Unfortunately, the failure to take action against the far right online and off has now left us with extremism in the mainstream.”



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Germany’s historical guilt haunts opponents of Israeli war in Gaza

Germany’s responsibility for the Holocaust underlines Berlin’s staunch defence of Israel and its bans on expressions of Palestinian solidarity, which authorities blame for a rise in anti-Semitism. But critics say the state is failing German Jews opposed to Israel’s policies and stifling the freedom of expression of immigrants.

Deborah Feldman knows a thing or two about standing up to authority. Her bestselling autobiography – which was the basis of the Netflix miniseries, “Unorthodox” – attests to that.

In her book, “Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots”, the New York-born Feldman recounts how she escaped her ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, the Yiddish-speaking Hasidic Satmar sect.

After moving to Berlin, Feldman became a naturalised German citizen in 2017 and is a familiar figure in her adopted country, where her book readings are sold-out events.

In numerous media appearances, she has discussed the curious twist of fate that saw a girl, brought up to be terrified of Germany by Holocaust survivors, embrace a country that is now considered an icon of post-conflict national reckoning.

But on Tuesday, November 1, Feldman took her adopted country to task in an electrifying TV appearance.

As Israeli warplanes pounded Gaza in retaliation for the October 7 Hamas attack, Feldman appeared as a panelist on the primetime Markus Lanz talk show on a German public TV station.

In a clip that has since gone viral on social media, Feldman held truth to power on a particularly sensitive topic in Germany: the country’s ironclad special relationship with Israel and its implications for German Jews and Muslims criticising Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government and calling for an end to the Gaza war.

Postwar Germany’s atonement for the horrors of the Holocaust has seen the German government and all major political parties condemn the Hamas attack on Israel while brooking no discussion on the context of the current conflict. Pro-Palestinian rallies have been banned. The list of writers, artists and cultural figures disinvited or being forced to resign due to expressions of sympathy for the Palestinian people grows longer by the day. Even small Jewish protests criticising Israel’s actions in Gaza have faced censure.

In her TV takedown of the current situation in Germany, Feldman cut to the heart of the matter. As a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, the 37-year-old Jewish writer noted that “there is only one legitimate doctrine of the Holocaust. And that is the absolute, unconditional defence of human rights – for everyone”, she said in German. “Anyone who wants to instrumentalise the Holocaust to justify further violence has forfeited their own humanity.”

The responsibilities of the past

On the foreign policy front, the German position has been in line with the US on the Gaza war, which has claimed more than 12,000 Palestinian lives, according to health authorities in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, in addition to the roughly 1,200 people killed in a single day during the October 7 Hamas massacre in Israel.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was the first Western leader to visit Israel following the Hamas attack. After his meeting with Netanyahu on October 17, Scholz said that “the responsibility we bear as a result of the Holocaust makes it our duty to stand up for the existence and security of the state of Israel”.

The next day, US President Joe Biden was on the tarmac at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, where he walked into Netanyahu’s arms.

Both visiting leaders called for humanitarian pauses, but not a ceasefire, to enable Israel’s stated goal of destroying Hamas.

But Middle East foreign policy is not a driving issue for Berlin, which tends to follow Washington’s lead. In Germany, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is much more of a domestic issue, one that is more beholden to atoning for the past than addressing the challenges of the future, according to critics.

Addressing anti-Semitism

Germany has seen an explosion of anti-Semitic incidents over the past month. In the week after the Hamas attacks, anti-Semitic incidents in Germany soared by 240 percent compared with the same period in 2022. Mosques were also targeted, with eight mosques receiving parcels with torn-up Koran fragments mixed with fecal matter during the same period, according to the police.

On October 18, at around 3.45am local time, assailants threw two Molotov cocktails at a Berlin synagogue. The bottles, filled with liquid explosives, landed on the pavement outside the synagogue and a small fire was put out by security officials, “preventing further consequences”, said a police statement.

Scholz was quick to condemn the synagogue assault, but the German leader was not as eloquent as his vice-chancellor, Robert Habeck, a poet-turned-politician from the Green party.

In a widely acclaimed speech, the German vice-chancellor criticised anti-Semitism from Islamists, “parts of the left” and the far-right. Habeck’s 10-minute video clip immediately went viral, getting more 11 million views on X, formerly Twitter.


“Anti-Semitism is not to be tolerated in any form,” said Habeck. “Anyone who is German will have to answer for it in court. If you’re not German, you also risk your residency status. Anyone who doesn’t have a residence permit provides a reason to be deported.” 

Hours later, Habeck joined the Markus Lanz talk show panel via video link. His fellow panelist, Feldman, directed her own 10-minute speech at the German vice-chancellor.

“Herr Habeck,” said Feldman as the screen behind her displayed the vice-chancellor listening intently. “You say you stand for the protection of Jewish life in this country. I’m horrified how Jews can, in principle, only be considered Jews here if they represent the right-wing conservative agenda of the Israeli government.”

As an outspoken secular Jew, Feldman is no stranger to backlash from conservative Jewish groups. Shortly before getting on air, she received a screenshot of a post in which a journalist working for a state-funded German Jewish newspaper fantasised about the “Unorthodox” author being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.

The latest ire was sparked by an open letter signed by more than 100 Jewish academics, artists and writers, including Feldman, rejecting “the conflation of anti-Semitism and any criticism of the state of Israel” and calling on Germany to “adhere to its own commitments to free expression and the right to assembly”.

The calls appear to be falling on deaf ears, admits Susan Neiman, director of the Potsdam-based Einstein Forum and one of the open letter signatories.

“German politicians are cleaving to the old position, indeed doubling down on it,” said Neiman. “Politicians and most media are absolutely holding on to the idea that we have to support Israel, right or wrong, and what Israel is doing in Gaza is justified by Hamas terrorism. My position is we can condemn both.”

German far-right party embraces Israel

It’s a position under strain in the Bundestag as German parliamentarians confront the rising popularity of the far-right Alternative for German (AfD) party, which overtook Scholz’s coalition in opinion polls this year amid concerns over surging migration.

Since it secured 14 seats in the Bundestag in 2017, the anti-immigrant AfD has “tried to make common cause with Israel’s tough stance toward terror and self-styled position as a forward bulwark against Islamic extremism,” noted the Times of Israel.

Once shunned on the political stage, the AfD has attempted to refute suspicions of neo-Nazism within its ranks by public displays of support for Israel, according to experts.

“Racism toward other groups can be covered up by denouncing anti-Semitism and swearing support for any Israeli government,” wrote Neiman in an article in the New York Review of Books.

In May 2020, the German far-right party raised eyebrows in Israel when a senior AfD European Parliament member used a photograph and quote of the Israeli prime minister’s son, Yair Netanyahu.

“Schengen zone is dead and soon your evil globalist organisation will be too, and Europe will return to be free, democratic and Christian,” said the AfD poster featuring Yair Netanyahu.

Migration anxiety binds ‘difficult’ allies

The Bundestag is currently debating a new immigration law, which includes a provision for denying citizenship to people convicted of anti-Semitism. German Interior Minister Nancy Fraser announced the draft citizenship law on October 25, following a meeting with Israel’s ambassador to Germany, Ron Prosor.

Given the sweeping definition of anti-Semitism in Germany, the announcement had a chilling effect on free speech, with some German TV stations saying they were unable to get Arab guests on-air due to residency and job security anxieties.

“Right-wing politicians have called for making unconditional support for Israel a condition of living in Germany. Not surprisingly, the appeal is meant to apply to immigrants from Muslim countries. They are not going after far-right white German anti-Semites, even though official figures show most anti-Semitic crimes are conducted by right-wingers. Nonetheless all the focus is on so-called left-wing anti-Semitism, which means criticism of Israel,” explained Neiman.  “At a recent demonstration, police told demonstrators that the slogan ‘Stop the War’ cannot be spoken.”

Migrant anxieties can bring together difficult allies in Germany. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has called Israel a terror state and accused it of fascism, met with Scholz in Berlin on Friday.

Erdogan’s visit to Germany came despite calls by German opposition conservatives and even the liberal FDP, a member of Scholz’s coalition, urging the chancellor to scrap the invitation.

But the centre-left-led government said it was important to keep talking in the toughest of times. “We have always had difficult partners whom we have to deal with,” Scholz’s spokesman told reporters ahead of the visit.

Turkey signed a key 2016 deal with EU to alleviate the migrant influx, primarily from war-torn Syria. As the Gaza humanitarian crisis worsens, some European politicians have warned of a new round of displacements from the Middle East.

A ‘reason of state’ turns state of confusion

The 2016 migrant deal was struck by former German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who elevated Germany’s already close ties to Israel.

In a 2008 address to the Knesset marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Israeli state, Merkel declared that Israel’s security was part of Germany’s Staatsräson, or “reason of state”.

The declaration set experts scrambling to understand the meaning of the legal term and, more importantly, the implications of the new Staatsräson.

“Nobody sat down to discuss it, and nobody knows what it means. Does it mean Germany is going to send troops to the Golan? Of course not. It’s just a symbolic claim that no one feels they can question,” explained Neiman.

Feldman was left with the same feeling after her televised confrontation with Habeck, when she urged the vice-chancellor to provide a space for people to express their grief over Gaza and asked him to “decide between Israel and Jews” because the two were not interchangeable.

“He tried his best, responding that while he understood that my perspective was one of admirable moral clarity, he felt that it was not his place as a politician in Germany, in the country that committed the Holocaust, to adopt that position,” wrote Feldman in a Guardian column days later. “And so, at that moment, we arrived at a point in German discourse where we now openly acknowledge that the Holocaust is being used as justification for the abandonment of moral clarity.”

The acknowledgment though is unlikely to assure Turkey’s Muslim citizens and residents as the Bundestag debates an immigration bill that could kill their German dreams for expressing doubts about Berlin’s position on the bitterly divisive Israeli-Palestinian crisis.



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Germany hikes Ukraine military support, but is its defence-spending tilt tenable?

Germany, already Europe’s biggest supporter of Ukraine, has unveiled plans to double its military aid to Kyiv for 2024, while continuing to invest in its armed forces in order to become “the backbone of European defence”. It’s a strategy shift Berlin hopes to maintain over the long term, but counting on public support in a difficult economic context might make it hard to sustain.

As the Ukraine war grinds on, and with the Israel-Hamas war grabbing international attention, many Ukrainians fear that their existential struggle against Russia will be overlooked. The looming 2024 US election campaign is doing nothing to assuage their anxieties. But Kyiv can count on the support of Germany, which is set to double its military aid to Ukraine.

In an interview with German broadcaster ARD, Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said the move sent a “strong signal to Ukraine that we will not leave them in the lurch”.

The Ukraine military aid hike from €4 billion to €8 billion would mean Germany’s annual budget allocation would be enough to last Ukraine the entire year, noted Pistorius. The budget boost, he told ARD, was a response to this year’s experience, “which showed that planned amounts were quickly exhausted” by Ukraine’s major military needs.

The €8 billion military aid announcement was a marked shift from Germany’s infamous “5,000 protective helmets” offering just weeks before Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year. It was a clear sign of a change in German policy, which was once considered a weak link in the Western response to Russian aggression due to its dependence on cheap Russian energy and its postwar commitment to pacifism. 

From weak link to ‘backbone’ of European defence

Back in January 2022, when Ukraine, faced with an imminent invasion, turned to NATO for military help, the US and UK immediately agreed to provide Kyiv with defensive weapons.

When Germany, Europe’s largest economy, offered just 5,000 protective helmets, it was the subject of much scorn across Ukraine, prompting Kyiv’s mayor to publicly ask if the next delivery would be pillows.

“Military aid to Ukraine gave rise to a particularly difficult debate in Germany, for both historical and economic reasons,” noted Éric-André Martin from the Paris-based French Institute of International Relations (IFRI). “Not only is it the country’s policy not to supply arms to a country at war, but German officials were also very uncomfortable with the idea of opposing Russia, which supplied them with 50% of their gas.” 

Read moreSchroeder’s Russia ties cast a shadow over Scholz’s trip to Moscow

A year after the helmet affair, Christine Lambrecht from Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) resigned as Germany’s defence minister. Her New Year’s Eve address, when she said the Russian invasion gave her the chance for “many encounters with great and interesting people” was one gaffe too many, undermining Germany’s credibility on the international stage.

Then came the controversy surrounding the delivery of German Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. Just as Kyiv was putting up a valiant offensive against its giant invader, Germany not only refused to supply the much-needed tanks, it opposed re-exporting tanks purchased by its allies to Ukraine.

Finally, after Scholz visited Washington and convinced US President Joe Biden to send American Abrams tanks, the German chancellor yielded to pressure. In a January 25, 2023 speech to parliament, Scholz announced that Germany would be sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

Read moreUK offers tanks in Ukraine’s hour of need, but will Germany follow suit?

“Germany was not the only European country afraid of adding fuel to the fire by delivering advanced military equipment to Ukraine to fight Russia. But it is true that for a long time it was particularly cautious,” said Gaspard Schnitzler, research director at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS).

“This difficulty in making decisions is linked to Germany’s political configuration,” said Schnitzler, noting that Scholz’s governing coalition includes three political parties “with very different perspectives, to a policy of drastic export controls, and also to the German constitution, adopted after the Second World War to avoid a concentration of power. Decisions are taken collegially, and therefore take longer to reach, which was difficult for its partners to understand. But it can also be argued that once they are made, they are more definitive.”

Almost two years after the start of the war, Germany has gradually emerged as Kyiv’s leading military supporter in Europe. According to the Kiel Institute’s Ukraine support tracker, Berlin has committed over €17.1 billion in military aid to Ukraine since January 24, 2022. This is certainly not on a par with Washington’s €42 billion, but it is more than twice the UK’s investment (7 billion) and 34 times that of France.

This investment has increased considerably over the past year, with the delivery of Leopard 2 tanks, Gepard air defence systems and shells.

“Today, Germany wants to be exemplary in its support for Ukraine, to make up for its hesitations at the start of the war, but also its policy of economic openness towards Russia. The signing of the Nord Stream II gas pipeline after the [2014] annexation of Crimea was very badly received by Ukraine, the Baltic States and Poland,” explained Schnitzler.

Bundeswehr on the rise

For Germany, this massive support for Ukraine is first and foremost a question of national security. Realising the scale of the threat to its own security posed by Russia’s conquest of Ukraine, Berlin began a radical military rearmament shift soon after the war erupted, breaking with decades of underinvestment.

After a February 2022 announcement of a special fund of €100 billion over five years to modernise the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces, Berlin adopted its first-ever “National Security Strategy” in June. On November 9, Pistorius unveiled his defence policy guidelines, promising to make Germany “the backbone of deterrence and collective defence in Europe”.

“The amount announced may seem very substantial, but it’s important to understand that this is above all a catch-up investment,” stressed Martin.

“Germany was well below NATO’s commitments, which set defence spending at 2% of GDP. It was something of a freeloader in its contribution to European defence. In the name of budgetary stability, it shifted the burden to other members of the Alliance, and in particular the US, which led to sharp tensions with Donald Trump,” Martin added.

With this strategic turnaround, Berlin intends to transform its defence policy for the long term. The aim is to reassure the US, and to offer a hierarchical military framework within NATO into which European countries with fewer resources can integrate their battalions.

A change of gear in times of crisis

According to Pistorius, Germany’s status as Europe’s largest economy gives it a special “responsibility” to defend the bloc, which it now intends to assume.

However, this ambitious transformation comes at a time of economic turbulence. Germany, which had based its energy strategy on supplies of cheap Russian gas, is in the front line of the inflationary crisis that has hit the continent since the outbreak of the Ukraine war and the introduction of sanctions against Moscow.

“The country relied on Russian energy to implement its transition to renewables. Now it has to source its energy elsewhere, and at a much higher cost. Add to this the slow pace of industrial transition, as Germany has invested little in electric vehicles, and its automotive sector is losing competitiveness to the Chinese,” explained Martin.

Against this backdrop, at the beginning of October, the IMF revised its forecasts for the German economy’s contraction, now predicting a drop in GDP of -0.5% versus the previous -0.3% for 2023, by far the worst annual performance of the bloc’s economies.

“The special fund of €100 billion over five years to finance the army pales in comparison with Germany’s GDP of €4,000 billion. The same applies to the envelope dedicated to Ukraine support. But the difficulty is that for these investments to be effective, they must be sustained over time,” said Martin. “If the economic difficulties persist and have too heavy an impact on German households, the government could be forced to reassess its budgetary choices.”

“The Russian invasion has broken the taboo on the issue of national defence in Germany,” said Schnitzler. “The vast majority of Germans are in favour of supporting Ukraine, despite the cost, and are now aware of the importance of strengthening their army.”

Schnitzler nevertheless believes that, despite favourable public opinion, several questions about Berlin’s ability to maintain this policy persist.

“We’re still feeling our way around the financing of German rearmament. To be sustainable, these investments need to be gradually shifted to the defence budget, but for the time being everything is still based on the special €100 billion fund.

Finally, it’s hard to predict what will happen to this policy once the war in Ukraine is over. Once the immediate threat has been averted, it’s always harder to justify high levels of military spending to the public.

This article has been translated from the original in French.

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Germany gets serious about plans to make military ‘fit for war’

The return of full-scale armed conflict to Europe has Germany dramatically reframing its security policy.

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With Russia and Ukraine still locked in combat after nearly two years and a major Israeli-Palestinian conflict underway, the European Union and NATO are feeling their way into a chaotic new world security order – and Europe’s largest economy is shaking up decades-old ideas on what its military is actually for.

When the Ukrainian war first beckoned, Germany was initially wary of offering Kyiv direct military supplies. But shortly after Russia invaded, Chancellor Olaf Scholz recast Germany’s moral obligations to help resist Russian aggression in dramatic terms.

In his so-called Zeitenzwende or “turning point” address to the Bundestag, he decribed “Putin’s war” in Ukraine as one that risked a return to the dark days of Europe before the 1940s, alluding to Germany’s history as he pressed parliamentarians to support the shipment of weapons and supplies to a non-EU, non-NATO ally.

“Many of us still remember our parents’ or grandparents’ tales of war,” he said. “And for younger people it is almost inconceivable – war in Europe. Many of them are giving voice to their horror…

“The issue at the heart of this is whether power is allowed to prevail over the law. Whether we permit Putin to turn back the clock to the nineteenth century and the age of the great powers. Or whether we have it in us to keep warmongers like Putin in check.

“That requires strength of our own.”

The speech was a major turning point not just in the Ukrainian conflict, but in the German government’s way of discussing military strategy, which given the country’s history until 1945 has long been a difficult subject. Until recent years, contributing to world security via NATO rather than unilaterally increasing German military power has proven sufficient to avoid reopening awkward discussions about what a “strong” Germany might mean for Europe.

Since the Zeitenzwende speech, Germany’s contributions to Ukraine have been at times halting, with complaints from Kyiv and other European partners that Berlin is not moving fast enough to deliver on its promises.

But with the Ukrainians struggling to push Russia back on their crucial southeastern front, Germany is trying to push things further. And Scholz’s defence minister, Boris Pistorius, is  now talking about Germany’s defence posture in terms unlike anything heard since the country was reunified in 1990.

Writing in newspaper Tagesspiel recently, Pistorius called for “fundamental changes” to the German army, the Bundeswehr, which he said needs major structural reform “to be effective and fit for war in the future”.

That phrasing is starkly different from the relatively tentative way German governments have addressed military strength in recent decades – and in his final paragraph, Pistorius wrote in even more strongly unilateral terms that will have made many thinkers and policymakers in Berlin uncomfortable.

“We need a change of mentality not only in the Bundeswehr, but also in politics and society,” he declared. “At stake is the security of our country, and thus the foundation for social coexistence, progress and economic growth. As a state and a society, we need to be able to defend ourselves and be resilient so that we can continue to live in peace, freedom and security in the future.”

Ready to fight

According to German security policy expert Minna Ålander, based at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Pistorius’s words have been met with a degree of astonishment, as well as pushback from the left of his party, the Social Democrats. Many of his party colleagues share a deep aversion to the normalisation of war, and are alarmed that Pistorius is ready to talk in these terms.

However, she also told Euronews that the structural problems facing the Bundeswehr are simply too serious for the government to avoid given the promises it’s already made.

“There was a sense of waning impetus after the summer, but Germany is under a lot of pressure to deliver on the pledge to send a 4,000-strong brigade to Lithuania, as Pistorius promised,” she said.

“Currently, the Bundeswehr isn’t able to set it up and it’ll likely take some years until the brigade is fully manned and equipped. That is not great for a country the size of Germany.

“It’s become also a question of prestige to an extent. In addition, Germany has made really lofty promises of troop contingents – 30,000 troops, 85 ships and jets – so all of this is a huge challenge considering the condition of the Bundeswehr at the moment.

“Simply throwing money into the Bundeswehr won’t help if the structural issues (especially inefficiency) aren’t addressed.”

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Time to pay

This is, of course, not just about Germany itself.

Looming over the strategy shift is the NATO spending requirement – that is, the obligation on all treaty members to spend at least 2% of their annual GDP on defence. 

Germany has historically not fulfilled this requirement, and Scholz alluded to putting that right in the turning point speech, but it has yet to appear in a long-term budget. Scholz has now reaffirmed this promise, saying Germany will start meeting the target “in the 20s and 30s” – a pledge that might help forestall a major risk to the alliance’s legitimacy.

The shortfall in spending by European NATO members was a fixation for Donald Trump, who as US president frequently complained that Germany specifically was freeloading on American defence spending and even threatened to pull out thousands of troops stationed there. 

“They make a fortune off the troops,” he told Fox News in 2020. “They build cities around our troops. We’ll let ourselves get rich first.”

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With Trump running for another term – and polling well against Joe Biden – former advisers-turned-critics have warned that should he be re-elected, he might well try and make good on his previous threats to pull the US out of NATO altogether.

And were Germany, the alliance’s second-largest economy, still not on track to meet its obligations once Trump was reinaugurated in January 2025, a NATO withdrawal would be easier for him to sell to the increasingly isolationist Republican Party.

The US leaving NATO would send Europe’s security order into disarray at an incredibly dangerous moment. And as Ålander told Euronews, it’s not just the conflict in Ukraine that’s brought the gravity of the situation home.

“I think that the Hamas attack and Gaza war have had an enormous impact on German society and politics. The shift to right-wing rhetoric was instant, especially on migration,” she said. 

“But there’s also a real point to be made that we will probably have to be ready for more conflicts potentially erupting in Europe’s vicinity, as the old security order has unravelled.”

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AWS digital sovereignty pledge: A new, independent sovereign cloud in Europe

From day one, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has believed it is essential that customers have control over their data, and choices for how they secure and manage that data in the cloud. Last year, we introduced the AWS Digital Sovereignty Pledge, our commitment to offering AWS customers the most advanced set of sovereignty controls and features available in the cloud.

AWS offers the largest and most comprehensive cloud infrastructure globally. Our approach from the beginning has been to make AWS sovereign-by-design. We built data protection features and controls in the AWS cloud with input from financial services, health care and government customers — who are among the most security- and data privacy-conscious organizations in the world. This has led to innovations like the AWS Nitro System, which powers all our modern Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances and provides a strong physical and logical security boundary to enforce access restrictions so that nobody, including AWS employees, can access customer data running in Amazon EC2. The security design of the Nitro System has also been independently validated by the NCC Group in a public report.

With AWS, customers have always had control over the location of their data. In Europe, customers who need to comply with European data residency requirements have the choice to deploy their data to any of our eight existing AWS Regions (Ireland, Frankfurt, London, Paris, Stockholm, Milan, Zurich and Spain) to keep their data securely in Europe. To run their sensitive workloads, European customers can leverage the broadest and deepest portfolio of services, including AI, analytics, compute, database, internet of things, machine learning, mobile services and storage. To further support customers, we’ve innovated to offer more control and choice over their data. For example, we announced further transparency and assurances, and new dedicated infrastructure options with AWS ‘Dedicated Local Zones’.

To deliver enhanced operational resilience within the EU, only EU residents who are located in the EU will have control of the operations and support.

Announcing the AWS European Sovereign Cloud

When we speak to public-sector and regulated-industry customers in Europe, they share how they are facing incredible complexity with an evolving sovereignty landscape. Customers tell us they want to adopt the cloud, but are facing increasing regulatory scrutiny over data location, European operational autonomy and resilience. We’ve learned that these customers are concerned that they will have to choose between the full power of AWS or feature-limited sovereign cloud solutions. We’ve had deep engagements with European regulators, national cybersecurity authorities, and customers to understand how the sovereignty needs of customers can vary based on multiple factors, like location, sensitivity of workloads, and industry. We recently announced our plans to launch the AWS European Sovereign Cloud, a new, independent cloud for Europe, designed to help public sector organizations and customers in highly-regulated industries meet their evolving sovereignty needs. We’re designing the AWS European Sovereign Cloud to be separate and independent from our existing ‘regions’, with infrastructure located wholly within the European Union, with the same security, availability and performance our customers get from existing regions today. To deliver enhanced operational resilience within the EU, only EU residents who are located in the EU will have control of the operations and support for the AWS European Sovereign Cloud. The AWS European Sovereign Cloud will launch its first AWS Region in Germany available to all European customers.

Built on more than a decade of experience operating multiple independent clouds for the most critical and restricted workloads.

The AWS European Sovereign Cloud will be sovereign-by-design, and will be built on more than a decade of experience operating multiple independent clouds for the most critical and restricted workloads. Like existing regions, the AWS European Sovereign Cloud will be built for high availability and resiliency, and powered by the AWS Nitro System, to help ensure the confidentiality and integrity of customer data. Customers will have the control and assurance that AWS will not access or use customer data for any purpose without their agreement. AWS gives customers the strongest sovereignty controls among leading cloud providers. For customers with enhanced data residency needs, the AWS European Sovereign cloud is designed to go further and will allow customers to keep all metadata they create (such as the roles, permissions, resource labels and configurations they use to run AWS) in the EU. The AWS European Sovereign Cloud will also be built with separate, in-region billing and usage metering systems.

Delivering operational autonomy

The AWS European Sovereign Cloud will provide customers with the capability to meet stringent operational autonomy and data residency requirements. To deliver enhanced data residency and operational resilience within the EU, the AWS European Sovereign Cloud infrastructure will be operated independently from existing AWS Regions. To assure independent operation of the AWS European Sovereign Cloud, only personnel who are EU residents, located in the EU, will have control of day-to-day operations, including access to data centers, technical support and customer service.

Control without compromise

Though separate, the AWS European Sovereign Cloud will offer the same industry-leading architecture built for security and availability as other AWS Regions. This will include multiple ‘Availability Zones’, infrastructure that is placed in separate and distinct geographic locations, with enough distance to significantly reduce the risk of a single event impacting customers’ business continuity.

Continued AWS investment in Europe

The AWS European Sovereign Cloud represents continued AWS investment in Europe. AWS is committed to innovating to support European values and Europe’s digital future. We drive economic development through investing in infrastructure, jobs and skills in communities and countries across Europe. We are creating thousands of high-quality jobs and investing billions of euros in European economies. Amazon has created more than 100,000 permanent jobs across the EU. Some of our largest AWS development teams are located in Europe, with key centers in Dublin, Dresden and Berlin. As part of our continued commitment to contribute to the development of digital skills, we will hire and develop additional local personnel to operate and support the AWS European Sovereign Cloud.

Our commitments to our customers

We remain committed to giving our customers control and choices to help meet their evolving digital sovereignty needs. We continue to innovate sovereignty features, controls and assurances globally with AWS, without compromising on the full power of AWS.



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Willkommenskultur: Has Germany turned its back on welcoming migrants?

After two electoral defeats for his coalition, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz is now taking a tougher stance on migration, trying to ramp up efforts to deport those illegally in the country.

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Amid the widespread panic shared by European countries during the migrant crisis of 2015-2016, Germany represented a beacon of light and optimism under the leadership of then-chancellor Angela Merkel, who famously opened her country up to huge numbers of migrants.

Under Merkel’s leadership and her “welcome culture” policy, the country took in more than 1.2 million refugees and asylum seekers between 2015 and 2016.

But as levels of illegal migration in Europe are once again on the rise, Germany now finds itself in a very different position, forced to turn its back on the “welcome culture” – or “Willkommenskultur” – which it once prided itself on.

“We are limiting irregular migration to Germany. Too many people are coming,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a recent interview with newspaper Der Spiegel. “We have to deport people more often and faster.”

Germany needs to ramp up the expulsions of migrants who are not allowed to stay in the country, Scholz said. Only days later, the German Cabinet granted its approval to a legislative proposal aiming at streamlining the deportation process of unsuccessful asylum-seekers.

It’s a huge change for Germany and Scholz, who might have been expected to continue the legacy of his predecessor. 

“There’s a notable change in rhetoric and policy with the clear objective to bring migration numbers down,” Michael Bröning, a political scientist and a member of the SPD Basic Value Commission, told Euronews.

“Suggested steps include facilitating deportations, more severe sanctions for human traffickers, the reinstallation of temporary border controls, further bilateral agreements with countries of origin and an extension of the list of countries deemed safe. In sum, this is a drastic shift in policy that signals an end to Germany’s unique ‘welcome culture’ as witnessed in 2015,” he added.

A stark change in policy after electoral woes

During a three-day visit to Nigeria earlier this week, Scholz asked the African country’s President Bola Tinubu for help tackling soaring migration, suggesting a partnership somewhat similar to the one that Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni struck with Tunisia earlier this year.

The idea is to expand migration centres in Nigeria, where those deported from Germany could find shelter, health care and job opportunities.

The initiative is part of the increasingly tough approach Scholz and his government are showing towards illegal migration after his three-party coalition performed badly in two regional elections earlier this month. Both state races were won by mainstream conservatives, while the far-right made significant gains.

Bröning said that “it’s impossible to say if this change will directly translate into greater support for the government” in future elections.

“But it is important to realise that the German public does want the government to act,” he continued. “Furthermore, it is important to see that the shift in policy does not happen in a vacuum but rather against the backdrop of a growing challenge from Germany’s far right.”

In recent months, the AfD has surged in the polls and scored significant electoral successes in Bavaria and Hesse.

“I think this development is not untypical of trends one can witness in other left and/or social democratic parties, which have for years been facing a dilemma regarding how to respond to the challenges from the populist radical right,” Dr Kurt Richard Luther, Professor Emeritus of Comparative Politics at Keele University in the UK, told Euronews.

“While the rise of the AfD is fuelled by a wide range of grievances – some imagined and some real, concern about what is seen as uncontrolled immigration has long been a main driving force of right-wing populism,” said Bröning.

Scholz is now under significant pressure to bring down the rising numbers of asylum seekers in the country, as dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of the refugee situation is growing. 

A recent ARD DeutschlandTrend survey found that 44% of Germans currently consider illegal immigration the most important political problem in Germany that politicians should prioritise.

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“Addressing the issue is clearly the order of the day,” said Bröning.

“The challenge will be to manage the crisis without jeopardising either the stability of the coalition government or intra-party cohesion. Clearly, not every social democrat or German green voter is happy with the proposed changes. so I assume it’s fair to say that we are at the beginning of a debate, not at the end of it.”

Has the way Germans feel about migrants changed?

While many countries across Europe were tightening border control back in 2015, it was common to see cheering crowds of Germans greeting thousands of migrants arriving in the country after a long trek across the Middle East and Europe.

What happened to that enthusiasm for Germany’s newcomers?

Despite what Scholz’s shift in policy would suggest, “many Germans are still in favour of welcoming people in need and there is widespread support for accepting humanitarian responsibility – not denying it,” Bröning said.

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“However, numbers have had an effect and the mood from 2015 has drastically changed,” he added.

Today, there’s widespread conviction among the German public that numbers must come down “and reactions to the current escalation in the Middle East have come to play an important – and unexpected – part in this transformation of the debate,” Bröning said.

“Pro-Palestinian rallies, a wave of antisemitic incidents, and the celebration of the Hamas attack in some high immigration neighbourhoods have been stark reminders that not all is well with regards to migration and integration. In many ways, this has opened up the discourse for a more nuanced discussion.”

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It’s time to hang up on the old telecoms rulebook

Joakim Reiter | via Vodafone

Around 120 years ago, Guglielmo Marconi planted the seeds of a communications revolution, sending the first message via a wireless link over open water. “Are you ready? Can you hear me?”, he said. Now, the telecommunications industry in Europe needs policymakers to heed that call, to realize the vision set by its 19th-century pioneers.

Next-generation telecommunications are catalyzing a transformation on par with the industrial revolution. Mobile networks are becoming programmable platforms — supercomputers that will fundamentally underpin European industrial productivity, growth and competitiveness. Combined with cloud, AI and the internet of things, the era of industrial internet will transform our economy and way of life, bringing smarter cities, energy grids and health care, as well as autonomous transport systems, factories and more to the real world.

5G is already connecting smarter, autonomous factory technologies | via Vodafone

Europe should be at the center of this revolution, just as it was in the early days of modern communications.

Next-generation telecommunications are catalyzing a transformation on par with the industrial revolution.

Even without looking at future applications, the benefits of a healthy telecoms industry for society are clear to see. Mobile technologies and services generated 5 percent of global GDP, equivalent to €4.3 trillion, in 2021. More than five billion people around the world are connected to mobile services — more people today have access to mobile communications than they do to safely-managed sanitation services. And with the combination of satellite solutions, the prospect of ensuring every person on the planet is connected may soon be within reach.

Satellite solutions, combined with mobile communications, could eliminate coverage gaps | via Vodafone

In our recent past, when COVID-19 spread across the world and societies went into lockdown, connectivity became critical for people to work from home, and for enabling schools and hospitals to offer services online.  And with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, when millions were forced to flee the safety of their homes, European network operators provided heavily discounted roaming and calling to ensure refugees stayed connected with loved ones.

A perfect storm of rising investment costs, inflationary pressures, interest rate hikes and intensifying competition from adjacent industries is bearing down on telecoms businesses across Europe.

These are all outcomes and opportunities, depending on the continuous investment of telecoms’ private companies.

And yet, a perfect storm of rising investment costs, inflationary pressures, interest rate hikes and intensifying competition from adjacent industries is bearing down on telecoms businesses across Europe. The war on our continent triggered a 15-fold increase in wholesale energy prices and rapid inflation. EU telecoms operators have been under pressure ever since to keep consumer prices low during a cost-of-living crisis, while confronting rapidly growing operational costs as a result. At the same time, operators also face the threat of billions of euros of extra, unforeseen costs as governments change their operating requirements in light of growing geopolitical concerns.

Telecoms operators may be resilient. But they are not invincible.

The odds are dangerously stacked against the long-term sustainability of our industry and, as a result, Europe’s own digital ambitions. Telecoms operators may be resilient. But they are not invincible.

The signs of Europe’s decline are obvious for those willing to take a closer look. European countries are lagging behind in 5G mobile connectivity, while other parts of the world — including Thailand, India and the Philippines — race ahead. Independent research by OpenSignal shows that mobile users in South Korea have an active 5G connection three times more often than those in Germany, and more than 10 times their counterparts in Belgium.

Europe needs a joined-up regulatory, policy and investment approach that restores the failing investment climate and puts the telecoms sector back to stable footing.

Average 5G connectivity in Brazil is more than three times faster than in Czechia or Poland. A recent report from the European Commission — State of the Digital Decade (europa.eu) shows just how far Europe needs to go to reach the EU’s connectivity targets for 2030.

To arrest this decline, and successfully meet EU’s digital ambitions, something has got to give. Europe needs a joined-up regulatory, policy and investment approach that restores the failing investment climate and puts the telecoms sector back to stable footing.

Competition, innovation and efficient investment are the driving forces for the telecoms sector today. It’s time to unleash these powers — not blindly perpetuate old rules. We agree with Commissioner Breton’s recent assessment: Europe needs to redefine the DNA of its telecoms regulation. It needs a new rulebook that encourages innovation and investment, and embraces the logic of a true single market. It must reduce barriers to growth and scale in the sector and ensure spectrum — the lifeblood of our industry — is managed more efficiently. And it must find faster, futureproofed ways to level the playing field for all business operating in the wider digital sector.  

But Europe is already behind, and we are running out of time. It is critical that the EU finds a balance between urgent, short-term measures and longer-term reforms. It cannot wait until 2025 to implement change.

Europeans deserve better communications technology | via Vodafone

When Marconi sent that message back in 1897, the answer to his question was, “loud and clear”. As Europe’s telecoms ministers convene this month in León, Spain, their message must be loud and clear too. European citizens and businesses deserve better communications. They deserve a telecoms rulebook that ensures networks can deliver the next revolution in digital connectivity and services.



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