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Integration With A New Twist: "The Nederlandse Bruid" - Standing Europe’s Muslim integration debate on its head

Sometimes a novel can get across what others’ lives are like more indelibly than the best-written news story. That’s certainly the case for the Turkish-Dutch marriage at the heart of Jessica J.J. Lutz’s new novel “De Nederlandse bruid” (De Geus, 2014)

Like good non-fiction, the confident handling of a faraway culture has clearly been years in the making and draws on decades of experience. But a well-told tale transports the reader more completely to the heart of a normally inaccessible group of characters. And at a time when Europe is struggling with questions of Muslim, Turkish and other integration, it neatly flips the debate on its head by following a European migrant into Muslim lands.

The story of “The Bride from Holland” is that of a young Dutchwoman, Emma, an under-employed recent university graduate who decides to follow love and the star of her fate. When her fellow-student boyfriend has to wrap up his studies in Holland suddenly and take over his dying father’s business, she leaves her homeland behind and travels east to stand at his side in his new job: Clan lord of a remote Euphrates mountain valley in Turkey’s Kurdish borderlands.

Despite her privileges, Emma soon finds she has exchanged the middle-class comforts of north Europe for hard work, chronic feuding, codes of family honor, everyday deaths, loves, jealousies, suffocating traditions and lies that live for generations -- the kind of all-or-nothing society that Shakespeare had to go to mediaeval Italy to find. For days after finishing the story, I couldn’t shake this completely convincing world out of my head and wished that I could have stayed a part of it for longer.

The tightly woven plot is seamlessly sustained -- a wedding, a murder, a suicide, adultery, treachery, ancient gold, a road, a mountain insurgents’ war and more -- without losing for a moment a sense of Turkey’s intimate, audio-visual reality. People live vividly in the present tense but are unable to cut themselves off from their past. And along the way, a first-disoriented Emma is forced to grow up, find herself and discover that even today, eastern-marcher lords and their ladies, like everyone else, have many a dragon to slay before they can hope to secure their realm or riches.

Lucky Dutch readers, who are already able to devour this book: Buy it now! And producers of Turkish sitcoms, you need look no further for your next dramatic story. 

As for those worried Europeans who struggle to make sense of how their societies are becoming ever further intertwined with those of their Muslim countries to the east, 

I hope one day you will get the chance to read “The Bride from Holland.” Europeans are right to be worried by the problems of slow development in their eastern neighborhood. But there’s a lot Europeans may not know and above all do not feel about their neighbors. When they finish a rare book like this, truly and elegantly able to reflect the inner dynamics of Anatolian society, they’ll find that they are a lot less scared.

Note EU-Digest: Not only every European, but certainly more inward and nationalistically inclined European politicians like Mr. Wilders should be reading this fantastically impressively written book.

Read more:  The EU Way: Standing Europe’s Muslim integration debate on its head

Turkey cutting lose from the EU ? by FEHİM TAŞTEKİN

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, once a staunch supporter of the EU criteria, is now telling the EU to mind its own business.

He once carried the ambition to raise Turkey’s standards economically and politically, but lately he has become more of a Putin – although I know this is not fair to the Russian president. In the first speech he delivered as president earlier this year, Erdoğan said the “New Turkey” would concentrate on EU talks. However, Erdoğan then boasted of an “Ankara criteria” that he would put in place of the “Copenhagen criteria,” and we can now see that what he meant by this by looking at recent legislation.

While Erdoğan is defending these steps against European institutions that say there is a decline in democracy and liberties in Turkey, he tirades like the head of a self-confident sovereign state. As if the U.K., France or the Netherlands are not sovereign states. As if Europe’s driving force, Germany, is a loser that hands over some it its powers to the European Commission.

The EU has “curb” and “encouragement” mechanisms; one protects the standards, while the other encourages raising the standards. If you are setting up a partnership with the EU, both of these mechanisms step in to do their business. These mechanisms try to keep you within the corridor of the criteria and standards that you have already accepted in advance.

What makes the EU a success story is not its dictation, but rather its negotiating and reconciling culture. There is no point in embracing the “national pride” and “independent foreign policy” rhetoric against the warnings of those who hate these features.

While Erdoğan is pounding the EU, he is also asking what it has done in Syria, Egypt and Palestine. The hand Erdoğan is shaking while scolds the EU belongs to Putin, who has aborted Turkey’s revolution project in Syria and is also the person who rolled out the red carpet in front of the architect of the coup in Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Also, I do not know what it means to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) - which thinks of itself as the spokesperson of the Palestinian cause - for some EU members to recognize Palestinian statehood, as well as the European Parliament recently. Certain EU members succeed in making Israel much angrier without shouting like Erdoğan. 

The main issue is that there is no power present in the Middle East to question Erdoğan in terms of the law and human rights. The fact that the EU is stepping in as a curbing mechanism gets on his nerves.

Erdoğan is pursuing methods to eliminate all domestic break mechanisms, from the media to the judiciary, from the Parliament to inspection institutions. All this is to make his government untouchable and absolute. He is currently in the business of defaming mechanisms the he cannot get rid of, such as the Constitutional Court. While he is doing this, inevitably he hits out at the EU process that is binding him to the agreements and protocols Turkey has signed.

Erdoğan tells the EU to mind its own business, but the job of the European Commission - with the jurisdiction granted to it by Ankara - is exactly this: To monitor Turkey’s state of affairs. It was only possible to end the military tutelage, an achievement that Erdoğan is so proud of, with the EU stick.

The EU process, which Erdoğan has used as a shield since 2004 against the civilian and military bureaucracy, is now seen by him as an obstacle in front of his plans. The EU, meanwhile, which was not able to obtain any results with its regular break mechanisms, is at the brink of staging a more dramatic reaction. 

 Read more: Turkey cutting lose from the EU - FEHİM TAŞTEKİN


European Aircraft Industry: Hawaiian Air swap takes Airbus A330neo orders over 100

A330 Airbua

Hawaiian Airlines has confirmed an order for six Airbus (AIR.PA) A330-800neo aircraft worth $1.5 billion at list prices, swapping them for a previous A350 order, the planemaker said on Friday.December 19.

The order for a revamped version of the A330, with new Rolls-Royce (RR.L) engines, brings to just over 100 the number of firm orders for the A330neo, a reworked version of Airbus's most-sold wide-body jet which was launched earlier this year.

The A330neo is Airbus's alternative for the 250-300 seat market after sales of the smallest version of the new A350 aircraft family, the A350-800, proved disappointing.

Hawaiian's new order replaces an order for six A350-800s, which would be worth $1.6 billion at today's list prices.

Hawaiian's agreement to switch products is one of the determining factors in deciding whether Airbus can scrap the 270-seat A350-800 to focus on stronger-selling larger types of the new jet, the first of which will be delivered on Monday.

Read more: Hawaiian Air swap takes Airbus A330neo orders over 100 | Reuters

The Netherlands: Geert Wilders Was Right - or not ? So far Muslims havn't been very convincing he is not.

Recently in an Australian café, a self-declared jihadi seized at least 17 hostages, two of whom were killed; and in Pakistan, 148 people, including 132 children, were massacred by the same branch of the Taliban that tried to murder Mala Yousafzai to prevent her from being educated.

Whether the terrorist in Australia acted alone or had an organization behind him is irrelevant. It did not stop him from killing two hostages. The manager of the Lindt cafe, 34-year-old Tori Johnson, and a 38-year-old lawyer and mother of three, Katrina Dawson, lost their lives.

What we have in both slaughters are individuals motivated by the same ideology, Islamism, and committing attacks against innocent civilians. More alarming is that many people apparently seem not to want to talk about the motivations, apart from mental illness, behind both attacks: Islamic ideology.

Perhaps they fear being exposed to the same violence one day, or perhaps they fear jeopardizing business deals or votes. There may also be the temptation to run away from reality, in the hope that the more you deny it, the farther you are from it.

The ideology that flew planes into the World Trade Center in the U.S. and that took people hostage in Australia and that murdered over a hundred schoolchildren is one and the same. Without discussing it -- what is there in or about it drives people to violence and hatred? -- violent attacks, threats and intimidation are here to stay.

A wise and courageous man in Europe, Geert Wilders, has been speaking out about these truths for years -- and has been made to pay a huge price for it. When the filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered in 2004 over his short film, Fitna [ordeal], the paper on the knife in his back promised that Wilders (and Ayaan Hirsi Ali) would be next. Wilders lives in a state-provided house with high security; for his defense of freedom, he has received countless death threats and has been called "a hate mongering racist," "a bigot," "an extremist" and other names intended not to flatter.

He is the founder and leader of the Netherlands' Party for Freedom (PVV), ranked number one in the polls; the creator of the film Fitna, and also author of the book, Marked for Death: Islam's War Against the West and Me.

Wilders warned Australia. He has devoted his life to warning us all. In a February 2014 television interview, he spoke to Australians about Islamism:
"Look how in societies today where Islam is dominant and prominent, how any non-Islamic person, whether it's a Christian or an apostate or a woman or a critical journalist, how they are treated. This is in a very bad way, often with the death penalty or imprisonment or all those kind of terrible things."

Read more: Geert Wilders Was Right?

The Netherlands: Only a smokescreen is still holding the Center Right Dutch Government coalition together

The pieces might have been stuck together, but the "adhesive" attempts of the Center-Right Rutte II  Government are taking more and more desperate forms.

To limit further loss of face lhe Government coalition is trying to find a way to sneak past the Upper Chamber (Senate) blockage of their revised health-care legislation.

Opposition parties which have been collaborating with the government on major issues have indicated they will not support changes in the legislation.

Read more: Rookgordijn houdt kabinet-Rutte II overeind -

For a translation of this Dutch language report click here, copy and paste in the link of the above webpage and fill in your language requirements  


Sanctions: EU may consider lift of anti-Russia sanctions if Ukraine’s territorial integrity preserved

 The European Union may consider the possibility of lifting its sanctions against Russia if Ukraine’s territorial integrity is preserved, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday.

“We’ll see whether there is any progress in this direction. Then we can move towards lifting the sanctions,” she told a news conference after a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels.

Merkel stressed that the EU imposed its sanctions on Russia in response to developments in Ukraine and the sanctions could be removed if the cause for imposing them was eliminated. She also said she hoped that EU countries would have a consolidated position if it was necessary to extend the sanctions.

A diplomatic source in Brussels said on Friday heads of state and government from the 28-nation European Union will consider the fulfilment of the Minsk peace agreements and the possibility of lifting the bloc’s sanctions against Russia at a summit in March 2015. “Certain sanctions against Russia may be lifted at an EU summit in Brussels in March,” the source told TASS.

French President Francois Hollande also said there was no need at present to tighten European Union sanctions against Russia. “We expect there is no reason to take new sanctions and we also are going to look how we could engage in a de-escalation,” Hollande told journalists after the meeting in Brussels.

Read more: TASS: World - EU may consider lift of anti-Russia sanctions if Ukraine’s territorial integrity preserved

EU Visa Requirements: Top EU court rules against Britain in visa dispute

The European Court of Justice has found the British visa system for family members of EU citizens to be illegal. Current visa regulations breach EU laws on free movement, European judges have ruled.

The European Union's court said that Britain would no longer require entry visas for non-EU persons who were family members of EU citizens and held a residence permit from an EU member state.

In the case of Helena Patricia McCarthy Rodriguez, a Colombian who holds a Spanish residence permit and is married to a British-Irish national, authorities would have no right to insist on a visa before she went to Britain, the EU supreme court ruled.

"The directive on free movement of union citizens does not allow measures which ... preclude family members from entering the territory of a member state without a visa," said the Luxemburg based court on Thursday.

According to the court's statement, Britain's concern about a high number of identity fraud cases did not justify imposing a visa requirement on a whole group of people. However, Britain could refuse the right to visa-free entry on a case to case basis.

Read more: Top EU court rules against Britain in visa dispute | News | DW.DE | 18.12.2014


Cuba-USA: It’s not Cuba that has just decided to rejoin the modern world – it’s the US - by Martin Kettle

During the signing of the Versailles treaty in 1919, it is said that a delegate left the conference muttering: “What on earth will the historians say about all this?” When the remark was reported to the French prime minister,

Georges Clemenceau produced a characteristically good retort – Clemenceau was, after all, a journalist. “Well, one thing they won’t say is that Belgium invaded Germany.”

This week’s move undoubtedly involves risk for Cuba and its ageing authoritarian government. But it is Barack Obama who has made the big concession to reality by simply recognising that Cuba is now an independent nation. It has taken Washington an unconscionable time to reach this point.

More than 50 years ago, one of the key consequences of the ending of the Cuban missile crisis was an implicit concession on the part of President Kennedy that Washington would have to co-exist with the Cuban revolution. That concession has held good for half a century. But it is only this week that de facto recognition of Cuba has become de jure recognition.

It is therefore only partly true to say that the rapprochement between Washington and Havana represents the tidying up of a bit of outstanding business left behind by the cold war, leaving North Korea the cold war’s last lonely outpost.

Read more: It’s not Cuba that has just decided to rejoin the modern world – it’s the US | Martin Kettle | Comment is free | The Guardian

Spain Hits A New Low In Its Fight Against Entrepreneurship - by John Greathouse

One of my top former students, Fredi Fernandez, recently sent me a compelling email. After studying at UC Santa Barbara’s entrepreneurial program, he returned to Spain, excited to start a venture and make a positive impact on his homeland.

He founded Alpha Origins in 2011. Although he has helped a number of startups gain traction, he is now questioning if he should flee Spain, given the recent passage of the unprecedented Exit Tax, which seeks to tax potential, unrealized wealth.

Fredi’s email is worth reading, as it reinforces how lucky American entrepreneurs truly are. It is difficult to not be moved by his passionate desire for his country to share the entrepreneurial spirit that he experienced during his stay in California.

One could certainly argue that the US government could be more business friendly. However, when compared to the anti-startup environment prevalent in Spain, the relative degree to which entrepreneurship is an indelible aspect of American society is undeniable.

Geographically, the distance between Spain and the US is about 4,715 miles. However, from an entrepreneur’s viewpoint, the philosophical distance can be measured in light years

Imagine a country with a massive unemployment problem, recently over 24%, yet still with a great capacity to attract international talent, amazing weather and infrastructures. As a government, would you give incentives to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem or would you try to squeeze it?

If you were part of the current Spanish government, the very same government struggling with a huge unemployment problem, you might have a different answer. There have been many examples of Spain’s anti-entrepreneurial efforts, including forbidding Airbnb and Uber activities.

 Even Google News decided to close in Spain due, to a new law designed to protect legacy businesses. We can understand how disruptive companies affect entire industries. Change hurts, disruption hurts and it’s not easy to keep everyone happy. Got it!
Read more: Spain Hits A New Low In Its Fight Against Entrepreneurship

EU leaders go into summit seeking a long-term strategy on Russia

As he arrived at the summit venue on Thursday, the new European Council president, Donald Tusk, said a long-term strategy to deal with Moscow was vital to maintaining stability on the EU's eastern borders.

"The situation is really dramatic and very dynamic and of course…. demands immediate reactions," said Tusk, hosting his first European Union summit since taking up the new post on December 1.

"We will not find a long-term solution for Ukraine without an adequate and consistent, both tough and responsible, strategy towards Russia," he said, referring to the military conflict between pro-Russia separatists and government forces in eastern Ukraine.

"Today we should send a strong signal on our readiness to further support Ukraine also financially as we have done politically," he added

Read more: EU leaders go into summit seeking a long-term strategy on Russia | News | DW.DE | 18.12.2014

Russia: Putin press conference: 'economy will rebound within two years' = by Haroon Siddique and Shaun Walker

President blames ‘external factors’ for Russia’s economic problems and describes sanctions as illegitimate
  • Vladimir Putin said that Russia’s economy would recover within two years. He did not identify concrete measures but referred to the world’s need for energy increasing again as the global economy recovered and diversification of the economy in the interim.
  • He blamed “external factors” for problems with the economy and the ruble. Putin described sanctions against Russia as “illegitimate” and said that Saudi Arabia and the US “might” have conspired to lower oil prices to harm Russia (and Iran).
  • The Russian president said that it was illogical to blame him for current frosty relations with the west. Referring to the number of US military bases around the world and its deployment of anti-ballistic missiles in Europe, he asked how Russia could possibly be seen as the aggressor. He also compared Nato expansion to the Berlin wall.
  • He repeatedly said that he wanted a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine. Putin said it must be solved by political means in line with fundamental international principles, including the right of self-determination.
  • Putin said it was “too early” to decide whether he would run for president in 2018.

Read more: Putin press conference: 'economy will rebound within two years' | World news | The Guardian

Israel suffers sharp rebuffs in Europe - by Cara Anna and John-Thor Dahlburg

Israel suffered back-to-back diplomatic setbacks in Europe on Wednesday, while the Palestinians at the United Nations set a deadline for an Israeli withdrawal from lands captured nearly 50 years ago by the end of 2017.

In Geneva, the international community delivered a stinging rebuke to Israel's settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, saying the practice violates Israel's responsibilities as an occupying power.

The declaration adopted by the conference of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which governs the rules of war and military occupation, emphasized a prohibition on colonizing occupied land and insisted that international humanitarian law be obeyed in areas affected by the conflict between Israel and Palestinians. It called for "all serious violations" to be investigated and those responsible for breaches to be brought to justice.

"This is a signal and we can hope that words count," said Swiss ambassador Paul Fivat, who chaired the one-day meeting. The U.S. and Israel did not take part.

Israel's U.N. Mission blasted the gathering, saying: "It confers legitimacy on terrorist organizations and dictatorial regimes wherever they are, while condemning a democratic country fighting terrorism in accordance with international law."

In Luxembourg, meanwhile, a European Union court ordered the Palestinian group Hamas removed from the EU terrorist list for procedural reasons but said the 28-nation bloc can maintain asset freezes against Hamas members for now.

The Islamic militant group, which calls for the destruction of Israel, hailed the decision, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed outrage.
Read more{ Israel suffers sharp rebuff in Europe | The Columbian

Disparity: Fueled by Recession, U.S. Wealth Gap Is Widest in Decades, Study Finds - by Patricia Cohen

A report released on Wednesday by the Pew Research Center found that the wealth gap between the country’s top 20 percent of earners and the rest of America had stretched to its widest point in at least three decades.

Last year, the median net worth of upper-income families reached $639,400, nearly seven times as much of those in the middle, and nearly 70 times the level of those at the bottom of the income ladder.

There has been growing attention to the issue of income inequality, particularly the plight of those earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour or close to it.

But while income and wealth are related (the more you make, the more you can save and invest), the wealth gap zeros in on a different aspect of financial well-being: how much money and other assets you have accumulated over time, including the value of your home and car plus any investments in stocks, bonds and the like.

Think of it as “a measure of the family ‘nest egg,’ ” as Pew calls it — a hoard that can sustain a household during an emergency, like the loss of a job, and in the long run can see someone through retirement.

Read Fueled by Recession, U.S. Wealth Gap Is Widest in Decades, Study Finds -

Wars:The myth of the good war - by Geoffrey Wheatcroft

This year has been such a miserable and violent one in so many parts of the world that it can scarcely end too soon. But for many Europeans, it has also been a year of remembrance: the centenary of another terrible conflict.

The intensity of public feeling about what those who survived it called the Great War has surprised some, and annoyed others, but it has undoubtedly been a dominant element in the public mood. Apart from all the books and articles, television and radio programmes, an astonishing 5 million people visited the sea of poppies around the Tower of London.

Although there are few still living who have even childhood memories of the war, Paul Cummins and Tom Piper’s 888,246 ceramic flowers – one for every dead British soldier – which steadily filled the moat over three months, provided a reminder that scarcely any family in Britain was unaffected by that war. It is a deeply ingrained folk memory.

Next May sees another milestone, the 70th anniversary of VE Day; it will also mark the 75th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s appointment as prime minister. For all the deep and sincere mourning this past year, there has long been an implied contrast between the first and second world wars. In crude terms, we have come to think of them – haven’t we? – as the Bad War and the Good War.

After 1945, Europe seemed to have at last achieved what had been falsely promised in 1918: a war to make the world safe for democracy, and a war to end wars. That was how it felt during the glorious western postwar half-century of peace and prosperity, when no European countries fought each other, and when finally the cold war ended without armies clashing in Europe.

But so far from an eternal age of peace, we have not only returned to fighting wars – we have returned to fighting a kind of war grimly prefigured not by the supposedly evil Great War but instead by the seemingly noble Good War. From 1914 to 1918 as many as 18 million people died, while more than 70 million died from 1939 to 1945.

The immensely important difference was that almost all of those killed in the first world war were soldiers in uniform, while the peculiar – and peculiarly horrible – distinguishing feature of the second world war was that up to 50 million of the dead were civilians. That would be the true face of the new war.

Read more: The myth of the good war | Geoffrey Wheatcroft | News | The Guardian