Far-Right Nationalist Victory In French Polls Leads To Violent Clashes

NF France ProtestsAs we noted last night, French President Hollande’s first election since his gaining power was not going well for the ruling Socialist people. The municipal elections, especially in the South of the country, saw victories for the far-right National Front (FN) party (which is specifically anti-immigration and anti-Europe and often accused of being racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Muslim) as widespread disappointment with the Socialist Party was clear. However, as The Mail reports, riot police were called in several towns on the south coast to guard the winning right-wing party’s offices as “demonstrators are trying to get at the Front representatives and starting fights.” Riot police were also out in force in other parts of the country as anti-fascist demonstrators threatened FN candidates with violence.

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‘Medieval Exile’: The 42 Britons stripped of their citizenship

The government has used little-known powers to strip at least 42 people of their British nationality since 2002, a Bureau investigation has found. Thirty-seven of these cases have occurred under the Coalition government.  The Home Secretary can use powers in the British Nationality Act to remove the citizenship of an individual if she believes their presence in the UK is ‘not conducive to the public good’, or if they have acquired their citizenship by fraud.  The Bureau has identified 18 individuals, of whom 17 were stripped on national security grounds. These cases are often based on evidence which remains secret. Leading immigration lawyer Gareth Peirce has described the process as akin to ‘medieval exile.’  Changes to the law in 2002 allowed Britain’s Home Secretary to deprive dual-nationality Britons of their citizenship on national security grounds, without any prior approval from the courts. This doesn’t just affect people originally born outside Britain. The Bureau has identified five cases so far where British-born people have lost their UK nationality.

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Ukraine crisis: Russia warns West over Crimea sanctions

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov issued the warning in a telephone call to US Secretary of State John Kerry.  It came hours after Russian and Crimean leaders signed a treaty absorbing the peninsula into the Russian Federation following a disputed referendum.  On Wednesday there were reports an army base in Sevastopol had been stormed.  An Associated Press reporter at the scene said pro-Russian self-defence forces had broken into the building – the headquarters of the Ukrainian navy – and raised the Russian flag.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin told the BBC the treaty signed on Tuesday was already in effect, and Crimea was now part of Russia.  The BBC’s Richard Galpin in Moscow says that although it must be approved by Russia’s constitutional court and ratified by parliament, there is no doubt MPs will give their full backing when they vote on Friday.  On Monday, the US and the EU imposed sanctions on several officials from Russia and Ukraine accused of involvement in Moscow’s actions in the Black Sea peninsula.

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Swiss Immigration Vote Raises Alarm Across Europe

BERLIN — Swiss and European leaders reacted warily on Monday to Swiss voters’ narrow approval of a proposal to limit the number of foreigners allowed to live and work in Switzerland.  A bare majority voted in a referendum on Sunday to cut immigration quotas and require that Swiss nationals be given priority in hiring. The result could have far-reaching implications for relations between Switzerland and the 28-member European Union, of which it is not a member.  Laurent Fabius, France’s foreign minister, said Monday that the European Union would have to reconsider its relationship with Switzerland.  “It is a vote that causes concern because it means that Switzerland wants to withdraw into itself,” Mr. Fabius told RTL radio.

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Europe repeating all the errors of Japan as deflation draws closer

Europe is one shock away from a deflation trap.  A surprise anywhere in the world is all that it needs: an upset in China as the credit bubble pops, or a global bond shock as the US Federal Reserve winds down monetary stimulus.  Producer price inflation (PPI) fell to -1.4pc in the eurozone in October.  This is how deflation becomes lodged in the price chain.  “Prices are sticky for a while as you approach zero inflation, but once you break through the ice into deflation things can move fast, as we’ve seen in Greece,” said Julian Callow, global strategist at Barclays.”  The European Central Bank needs to act before the horse has already bolted.”  Mr Callow said excess industrial plant in China is exporting deflation across the world.  China’s fixed capital investment over the past year has been $4 trillion, compared with $3 trillion for the entire EU and $3 trillion for the US.  This has grown eightfold in a decade.  It is a vast new source of supply for a saturated global economy.  China itself is now in PPI deflation.

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Ukraine riot police break up pro-Europe protests

(Reuters) – Ukrainian riot police used batons and stun grenades to disperse hundreds of pro-Europe protesters early on Saturday after President Viktor Yanukovich opted not to sign a pact with the European Union.  Helmeted police bearing white shields, stormed an encampment of protesters in Kiev’s Independence Square, as they sang songs and warmed themselves by campfires, the opposition said.  Tension had been building since Friday, when Yanukovich declined to sign the pact with EU leaders at a summit in Lithuania, going back on a pledge to work toward integrating his ex-Soviet republic into the European mainstream.

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NATO expansion in Nordics would force Russian response

KIRKENES, Norway (Reuters) – Any expansion of NATO to include Sweden and Finland would upset the balance of power and force Russia to respond, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Tuesday, underlining Moscow’s nerves over moves to bring the Western alliance closer to its border.  Although Sweden and Finland are not actively seeking membership, both nations cooperate extensively with NATO and have openly debated the possibility of joining.  Speculation over Sweden mounted after it warned earlier this year that its defence capabilities were alarmingly limited. It was embarrassed in April when it could not respond to Russian military jets nearing its border, according to media reports.  Finland shares a long boundary with Russia.

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“Privatizing” Kosovo: The Madeleine Albright Way

The Balkan states of Albania and Kosovo are, without doubt, the most pro-American Muslim-majority countries in the world.  According to a new census including religious affiliation – the first since 1930 – Albania now counts 57% of its total population of 2.8 million as Muslim, down from 70% eighty-two years ago. Its Catholic population has remained stable at 10%, and Albanian citizens identifying themselves as Orthodox Christians have fallen from 20% in 1930 to about 7%.  Although Kosovo does not tally figures for religious communities, the Muslim share of the population is thought to be larger, at around 80%. Both republics are secular.  Americans are beloved in Albania thanks to a significant history of Albanian immigration and success in America, and early contributions by Albanians in the U.S. to the national movement for freedom from the Ottoman Empire. At the end of November, the Albanian government of Prime Minister Sali Berisha was prepared to vote with the U.S. against a Palestinian observer seat in the United Nations, and, following unsuccessful pressure to vote “yes,” from the Turkish Islamist prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Albania became the sole Muslim-majority UN member to abstain on the Palestinian issue.

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Migrant-Spotting: EU Plans Big Brother System in Mediterranean

In May 2011, two SPIEGEL reporters described a brief moment of happiness on a deadly voyage undertaken by dozens of refugees in the Mediterranean. Seventy-two people had crowded onto an open boat — only seven meters (23 feet) long — that was to take them from Tripoli, Libya, to Europe. Two days after leaving Libya, they were already in trouble at sea.But then came hope: Survivors described feeling relieved when a helicopter flew over the boat and hovered just above it. Water bottles and packages of cookies were lowered from the aircraft. One of the men in the helicopter, they claim, appeared to have waved. But then the helicopter flew away — and help never came.

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Merkel Gets Biggest Victory Since Kohl’s Reunification Vote

Angela Merkel won an overwhelming endorsement from German voters, putting the country’s first female chancellor on course for the biggest election tally since Helmut Kohl’s post-reunification victory of 1990.  Merkel’s Christian Democratic bloc took 41.5 percent to 25.7 percent for the Social Democrats of Peer Steinbrueck in yesterday’s election, according to results from all 299 districts. That leaves her short of a majority and needing a coalition partner to govern Europe’s biggest economy.  “This is a super result,” Merkel, who is now set to become the fourth chancellor since the war to win a third term, told supporters at her party’s headquarters in Berlin. “To the voters, I promise that we will handle it responsibly and with care. We will do everything we can in the next four years to ensure that they’re once again successful years for Germany.”

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Latvia and the Euro: Meet the EU’s Newest Tax Haven

Rietumu Bank isn’t in Riga’s best neighborhood. The streets are dusty, and graffiti on one building reads: “If Jesus comes back, we’ll kill him again.” The city’s biggest soccer stadium which opens onto a meadow on one side, is right next door.  This is the scene that bank manager Ilya Suharenko surveys from his top-floor office in the Rietumu Capital Centre. But Suharenko, 30, is optimistic about Latvia’s future nonetheless. European finance ministers on Tuesday gave the Baltic country the go-ahead to join the common currency union on January 1 next year. Furthermore, new tax laws are set to go into effect at the same time. These laws, says Suharenko, will put his country “on a level with Ireland, Malta and Cyprus.”

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The China-EU Trade Spat

Both Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have made statements over the last two days relating to the brewing EU-China trade disputes. Although apparently unrelated, another EU trade probe – this one into controversial (in some economies) telecommunications network equipment makers Huawei and ZTE – is actually addressing very similar underlying issues (implicit Chinese subsidies to its manufacturing sector). In both cases, the role of Germany, the EU’s largest economy, is set to be an important factor in how things proceed.

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