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Santander Soars Despite Spain Debt Fears

Banco Santander (STD) yesterday shrugged off concerns about Spain's economy to post an expectations-beating 6 per cent rise in first-quarter profits, driven by Latin America and Britain.
UK profits surged by 15 per cent to £426m, and the bank, which has 13.4 per cent of Britain's existing mortgage stock, again outperformed, accounting for one in five home loans in Britain in the first three months of 2010.
Santander Soars Despite Spain Debt Fears - BusinessWeek

Dollar slides as European data signals recovery

The dollar slipped in morning trading in New York Wednesday after several reports from Europe suggested a strengthening economy in the 16 nations using the euro.

Meanwhile, a payroll company's report on U.S. private-sector jobs showed the labor market still shrinking. In the U.S. Wednesday, payrolls company Automatic Data Processing said private employers cut 23,000 jobs in March. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected the report would show employers added 40,000 jobs. ADP's disappointing report comes before the release of the Labor Department's employment data Friday. Economists are still forecasting an uptick in employment -- 190,000 job gains in March, thanks in part to the federal government adding temporary jobs for the U.S. Census. Economists expect the unemployment rate remained at 9.7 percent this month.

Better economic data came from Europe. Germany said Wednesday its unemployment rate dipped to 8.5 percent this month from 8.7 percent in February -- although unemployment rose to 10 percent from 9.9 percent in the 16 countries using the euro. Germany is Europe's biggest economy.

For more: Dollar slides as European data signals recovery - BusinessWeek


Germany Survey: 68% Of Citizens Against German Aid For Greece

A large majority of German citizens oppose a financial contribution from Germany to an aid package for Greece, making it harder for Chancellor Angela Merkel to agree to such a move should it become necessary.

In a representative poll conducted by the Forsa institute for German weekly Stern and released Tuesday, 68% of surveyed said they were against a participation of Germany in aid measures for the fiscally ailing Eurozone member state Greece.

Only 28% said they were in favor of a German contribution to such an aid package.

For more: Germany Survey: 68% Of Citizens Against German Aid For Greece |

European Regulators Mandate Emergency Safety Fix for Airbus A330s - by Andy Pasztor

On Friday European regulators issued an emergency safety mandate aimed at preventing ice from dangerously building up inside the fuel systems of some Airbus A330 jetliners and potentially shutting off both of their engines. The move indicates that safety experts have uncovered what they suspect is a new source of icing hazard on these aircraft, and are concerned that it could reduce thrust or even cause engines to stall, or stop running, during takeoffs.

All of the ice-related problems have cropped up with planes powered by engines manufactured by Roll-Royce PLC. Until now, regulators, safety watchdogs and industry officials around the world had concentrated on devising engine fixes to combat icing inside fuel lines and other parts of Rolls-Royce engines during long flights at high altitudes and low temperatures. The fixes involved both Airbus and Boeing models powered by Rolls-Royce engines.

But now, these same experts are focused on different fixes to deal with the hazards of ice clogging up A330 fuel lines during earlier portions of flights.

For more: European Regulators Mandate Emergency Safety Fix for Airbus A330s -

Search ships on way to crashed Air France area - by Greg Keller

Two search ships have set sail from Brazil to hunt for debris and flight and data recorders from an Air France Airbus 330 jetliner that crashed in the Atlantic last year, killing 228 people, a French aviation official said Tuesday.

The U.S. and Norwegian ships left Recife on Monday and are expected to take about two days to reach the search zone, said Martine Del Bono, a spokeswoman for French accident investigation agency BEA. The 30-day operation will use sonar-equipped robot submarines and machines dragged underwater to scour the mountainous seabed, perhaps as many as 13,100 feet (4,000 meters) below the surface.

It is the third attempt to find debris and the jet's data recorders from Air France Flight 447, which crashed June 1, killing everyone aboard.

For more: The Associated Press: Search ships on way to crashed Air France area


Israel fears US will withdraw support in UN

Israel's "forum of seven" ministers, an inner cabinet chosen by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is scheduled to meet for the third time in five days tomorrow to try to reach a compromise on Washington's demands for restarting talks with the Palestinians. The talks are supposed to culminate in the release of a joint document of understanding that will be given to President Barack Obama. The document is supposed to include goodwill gestures towards the Palestinians.

With Israel's relationship with the US in crisis, Mr Netanyahu was last night desperately trying to shore up international support for Israel.

According to the BBC, which quoted an unnamed White House official, the US was considering ending its long-standing policy of using its veto power to block UN Security Council resolutions condemning Israel.

For more: Israel fears US will withdraw support in UN

Russia hints at al Qaeda link to subway blasts

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said militants operating on the Afghan-Pakistan border may have helped organize suicide bomb attacks that killed 38 in Moscow on Monday, Interfax news agency reported.

Two female suicide bombers attacked Moscow metro stations during the Monday morning rush hour. Both likely had links to the North Caucasus, the center of an Islamist insurgency against Moscow, the head of Russia's FSB state security service said.

Some Russian officials have said that the insurgents in the North Caucasus, which includes Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan, have ties to al Qaeda, though many analysts have disputed the link.

For more: Russia hints at al Qaeda link to subway blasts -

Transit security up worldwide after Moscow subway bombing

Mass transit systems around the world ramped up security Monday in the wake of the Russia subway bombing that killed at least 35 people. But subway surveillance will likely return to normal within the week, and today’s actions will do nothing to prevent future attacks unless cities boost their security measures, says former New York City Police Commissioner Howard Safir.

Daily, Moscow’s metro system transports 7 million people, New York’s subway transports 5 million, and London’s tube transports 3 million. Sheer logistics make it impossible for mass transit to implement the thorough checks seen in airports.

For more: Transit security up worldwide after Moscow subway bombing / The Christian Science Monitor -

RAF Eurofighter jets scrambled after two passenger plane terrorist alerts - by Richard Norton-Taylor

Eurofighter Typhoons scrambled twice in response to warnings of suspected attempts to hijack American airliners.RAF jets have been scrambled twice this month in response to terrorist alerts on passenger airliners flying over Britain, defence sources have revealed. Eurofighter Typhoons took off from the quick reaction alert base at Coningsby in Lincolnshire – one of two such bases in the UK – minutes after warnings of suspected attempts to hijack American airliners.

There is a terrorism alert involving civil airliners in British airspace about once a month – out of some three million which cross it every year – officials say. Under interrogation at Guantánamo Bay and secret prisons, terrorist suspects have claimed al-Qaida planned to attack Canary Wharf in London's docklands and other UK targets.

For more: RAF jets scrambled after two passenger plane terrorist alerts | UK news | The Guardian

Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy to bury the hatchet - Telegraph

Irritated by hysteria surrounding the newcomer, Nicolas Sarkozy spent the year after his election issuing veiled insults and patronising digs. Elysée officials briefed behind the scenes that the US president was a "cold fish", telling Le Figaro that "relations were easier with Bush".

But after suffering wipeout in local elections this month and facing speculation that his marriage is on the rocks, Mr Sarkozy has suddenly found the tables have turned. It is the French president who is struggling with the lowest approval ratings since taking office, as Mr Obama rides high on the back of finally getting his health reform passed and negotiating a nuclear disarmament deal with Russia. Mr Sarkozy now desperately needs the US trip to be a success to help restore his image as the man who would return France to former glory.

So when he arrived in Washington yesterday, Mr Sarkozy was ecstatic to learn the magnanimous Mr Obama had decided to invite him round for dinner.

For more: Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy to bury the hatchet - Telegraph

Spain Negotiating With Solar Power Producers for Cut in Tariffs - BusinessWeek

Spain’s Industry Ministry is in talks with solar power producers about reducing the feed-in tariff for generating electricity, though the government hasn’t yet proposed a specific cut, a ministry spokesman said today.

Solar companies have suggested a cut of up to 30 percent in the price of power generated at solar plants from 2012, according to a spokesman for the Photovoltaic Industry Association. The government may impose a cut of as much as 40 percent on photovoltaic plants, Expansion reported today.

For more: Spain Negotiating With Solar Power Producers for Cut in Tariffs - BusinessWeek

Merkel tells Turkey EU talks 'open-ended' - by Sibel Utku Bila

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Turkey Monday that its membership talks with the European Union did not guarantee accession and urged it to grant trade privileges to EU-member Cyprus.

"The rules of the game have changed" since Turkey first applied to become a member of the bloc five decades ago, Merkel said through an interpreter after talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"The (accession) negotiations are an open-ended process. We should now pursue this open-ended process," she added, suggesting that Turkey's integration with the bloc does not have to be full membership.

For more: AFP: Merkel tells Turkey EU talks 'open-ended'


Danish mermaid statue travels to China

One of Denmark's most famous landmarks is to travel halfway across the globe to take part in this year's World Expo international fair in China.

The Little Mermaid statue - created to celebrate the fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen - has sat on a rock in Copenhagen harbour for 96 years.

It is to be the centrepiece of the Expo's Danish exhibition.

For more: BBC News - Danish mermaid statue travels to China

NATO rejects Russia’s demand to destroy Afghan poppy fields

 NATO and Russia clashed on 24 March over how to tackle the drug problem in Afghanistan, where Western nations have been fighting a Taliban-led insurgency for eight years. The country is the world’s largest producer of poppy seeds, a key ingredient in the manufacture of heroin. Russia is keen to pursue an aggressive eradication strategy, while Western allies fear that such an approach risks antagonizing the local population, who rely on selling poppy crops to survive, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) reported.

For more: NATO rejects Russia’s demand to destroy Afghan poppy fields - New Europe

Can Europe paper over Greek cracks? - by John Defterios

The European House/Ambrosetti Financial Workshop has been a discreet but respected venue for two decades, held on the cusp of spring in Cernobbio on Lake Como.

The event attracts about 150 leading Italian industrialists who rub elbows with a handful of European finance ministers, top strategists and a few current and former central bankers. The timing was ideal to take the pulse of the deal cobbled together with some frayed nerves in Brussels on the eve of this workshop.

Curiously left out of most of the debate is the pain that will be inflicted in the med countries over the next four years as they try to take double digit budget deficits back down to the Maastricht criteria levels of three percent.

For more: Can Europe paper over Greek cracks? -

Look to Germany and China for a model economic solution - By Bill Bonner

Neither the Germans nor the Chinese prospered by being grasshoppers. They got rich by being ants. And they’re still at it. China is still exporting…and making a $291 billion current account surplus this year. Germany will clear $187 billion. And now everyone is on their backs. La Tribune, in Paris, even dusts off a prophecy from a defunct 19th century critic, Friedrich Engels: “They will ruin not only other nations’ industries but those of their own country too.”

To bring us all up-to-date, the world appeared to prosper in the boom years ’97 to ’07 years (the micro-recession of ’01 excepted). The big exporters – China and Germany, who Martin Wolf calls “Chermany” – ran big trade surpluses. The big spenders – notably Greece and the US, who we will call Gremerica – ran large trade deficits. From these facts, Mr. Wolf infers that if the Cherman ants prosper by making, someone must impoverish himself by taking. In this case, the Gremericans…along with other grasshopper nations such a Great Britain.

The gist of the Krugman, Wolf, and Lagarde et al position is that in the world economy is ruled neither by good nor by evil, but by mathematics. An exporter, such as China or Germany, can only run a trade surplus equal and opposite to the deficits of other nations. What’s more, a grasshopper nation – such as the US – can only run a deficit insofar as the ants are willing to finance it. A deficit is no sin. Nor is hard work and savings anything to be proud of.

For more: Look to Germany and China for a model economic solution / The Christian Science Monitor -

WTO boss warns EU to sharpen its G20 voice

WTO chief Pascal Lamy on Sunday told EU participants to sort out first who will argue for what at June's G20 summit in Toronto, otherwise "nobody" will listen.

"The frank reality is that it does not make sense," the former EU trade commissioner said of seven European Union seats at the summit, after the bloc's new president Herman Van Rompuy also secured his ticket at last week's EU summit.

"If one European takes the floor, and then another European... nobody listens," the World Trade Organization boss told a Brussels conference. He said the "right solution, if I may, is to at least make sure they speak with one mouth -- not one voice -- on each topic on the agenda."

For more: WTO boss warns EU to sharpen its G20 voice


Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Saturday, March 27, that Europe risks being seen as a "paper tiger," unable to exercise military might against would-be aggressors, unless governments set aside more of their budgets for military spending.

Speaking to delegates at the annual Brussels Forum conference on security, Rasmussen stressed that the continent should not take its alliance with the United States for granted.


"We have a strong responsibility to demonstrate a clear commitment politically as well as through investment in necessary capabilities," he said, referring to a gradual decline in European defense spending.

Note EU-Digest: What is wrong about being a "paper tiger". Europe has had centuries of experience related to having powerful armies and the result has always been disaster.

For more: NATO chief urges Europe to beef up defenses | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 28.03.2010


Europe's three headed monster: this is no way to manage the world's largest economy - by Doug Saunders

Three presidents, three answers, three points of view. This is no way to operate the world's largest economy and oversee the lives of 500 million people. Brussels has failed to take a seat beside Washington and Beijing because, at root, nobody can agree who the leaders really are. That problem was supposed to be solved with the appointment late last year of Mr. Van Rompuy, the respected Belgian fix-it man who is meant to be the top figure in Europe.

He is the new permanent head of the European Council, the gathering of all 27 member leaders that sets the bloc's policies. His job was created in October when the Lisbon Treaty, the EU's new constitution, was ratified. But the treaty, rather absurdly, did not replace the existing leadership of Europe with Mr. Van Rompuy and his administration. It added them on.

The other two presidents remain in place, as powerful as ever. Mr. Barroso, a respected Portuguese leader, is the appointed president of the European Commission, the EU's top administrative body. He appoints and oversees the civil service. For six years, he has been the public face of the EU at international gatherings, and he shows no signs of wanting to give that role up.

But as a way to build a European superpower, this just isn't going to work. There's no trust, no direction, and three very different men at the helm. The word “Union” cannot really apply when a government competes with itself.

For more Europe's three-headed monster - The Globe and Mail


Goldman's Great Greek Swindle and the American Blowback

What happens when you, unlike the United States and its money-makers at the Federal Reserve, can't simply print your way out of an economic meltdown to bring those numbers in line? In Greece, you get street riots, austerity measures, bank runs, runaway nationalism, crippling sanctions and what passes for a serfdom ruled by an oligarchy. Ask Roberts, however, and he'll argue no such thin red, white and blue line exists across the pond. Americans are stuck in the same mess.

For more: Goldman's Great Greek Swindle and the American Blowback | News & Politics | AlterNet

USA - Obama's next target: Wall Street - by Richard Gwyn

A big one down for U. S. President Barack Obama in health care. Another big one coming right up – this time in financial care. The second one will be far harder because the stakes are so much higher. Wall Street's financial houses will hurl unlimited amounts of money and unlimited numbers of lobbyists into the battle to prevent reform.

This challenge will also be a lot easier to overcome, though, because of Obama's success with health care. As he said last Sunday night, "We proved we are still a people capable of doing big things." He'll have now the Big Mo – momentum – on his side. To win this one, though, he's still going to need all the help he can get.

Obama's root problem on financial reform, exactly as it was on health care, is that Americans today are deeply suspicious of government. Really, as shown by the success of the Tea Party movement, they are paranoid about government.

For more: Obama's next target: Wall Street -

France, Germany lead eurozone on Greek rescue plan

The leaders of the 16 EU nations using the euro agreed late Thursday (March 25th) on a potential aid package for Greece, including a combination of bilateral loans from eurozone states and financial assistance from the IMF.

The deal -- brokered by Germany and France at the start of a two-day EU summit in Brussels -- would take effect if Greece is unable to obtain loans in the financial markets.

"It's an extremely clear political message," said EU President Herman Van Rompuy, who chaired the meeting of eurozone leaders. "It's a mixed mechanism but with Europe playing the dominant role. It will be triggered as a last resort." The aid mechanism needs the support of the other countries in the 27-member Union.

For more: France, Germany lead eurozone on Greek rescue plan (

Greece and Dubai are fixed now - by Philip Davis

Angela Merkel: "A good European is one who abides by the European treaties and national law and thus sees to it that the euro zone’s stability isn’t harmed. That’s our guidance for all decisions today and tomorrow, and also for the future.”

ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet took some pressure off Greece today by extending the bank’s emergency lending rules, saying its bonds won’t be cut off from ECB refinancing operations next year. Adding even more boost to the market, now that Goldman Sachs has stopped out their sheeple on long Euro bets, their analysts tell us today that the IMF may be giving Greece $27Bn in aid, helping to boost the EURO.

For the complete report: Thursday Thrills: Greece and Dubai Are 'Fixed' -- Seeking Alpha


Europe agrees IMF-EU rescue for Greece-by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

After weeks of discord, Europe's leaders have agreed to an emergency facility for Greece backed by the International Monetary Fund and bilateral loans from eurozone states. The accord was vague on figures and aid can be invoked only as a "last resort" if Greece is shut out of the capital markets. Since Greece is already paying an untenable debt premium, the wording once again leaves it unclear what exactly has been settled.

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, and Jan Peter Balkenende, the Dutch premier, leaders of the two key creditor states, imposed their demand that the IMF must be central to any rescue.

The accord masks a bitter struggle between Germany and a French-led bloc over the future shape of Europe. For all the rhetoric, Berlin has refused to cross the Rubicon towards an EU fiscal union, shattering long-held assumptions about the inevitable march of the EU project. By bringing in the IMF, it ensures that each sovereign state remains responsible for its own debts.

For more from the Telegraph click on this link

Netherlands: owner of the Netherlands biggest hashish-selling cafe has been ordered to pay €9.7m in fines

The owner of the Netherlands' biggest hashish-selling cafe has been ordered to pay €9.7m in fines and sentenced to 16 weeks in jail for soft drugs trading.

Judges in Middelburg found the owner and members of staff guilty of breaking drugs laws, exporting drugs and membership of a criminal organization. The owner, Meddie W, was sentenced to 16 weeks in jail, a term he has already spent in prison before the trial. The prosecution had called for a 18-month sentence.
At its height, the Checkpoint cafe in Teurneuzen near the Belgian border was serving up to 3,000 clients and processing 10 kg of marijuana a day. Checkpoint was a well-oiled machine in terms of production, processing and storage, which meant it could be considered a criminal organisation, the judges said.

Note EU-Digest: The Netherlands is the only EU country which allows the sale of  drugs and it is not uncommon to see minors using drugs openly in public areas. The drinking age in the Netherlands is also set at the low age of 16 and binge drinking by minors has become a major problem in the country.  

For more: - Cannabis cafe owner fined, council criticised

China calls for bilateral consultations over trade friction with U.S.

China urged Thursday bilateral consultations, dialogue and communication on an equal footing in solving China-U.S. trade frictions.

"We maintain that it is imperative to seek a mutually beneficial and win-win solution to some problems and frictions in the Sino-U.S. trade and economic relations through equal consultation, dialogue and communication," spokesman Qin Gang with the Foreign Ministry told reporters here.

China was willing to strengthen communication with the United States over related issues, Qin said.

For more: China calls for bilateral consultations over trade friction with U.S.


EU Spring Summit

The EU heads of state and government will discuss the new strategy for jobs and growth that is to replace the Lisbon strategy in Bruxelles today and tomorrow. There is a clear need to re-launch the economy in order to protect the European social model. The summit is expected to determine the broad thrust of the new strategy.

Economic government and the coordination of policies will be another point of discussion, in particular divergences in competitiveness within the EU and externally as well as developments in the balance of payments.

EU leaders will also discuss the follow-up to the United Nations’ conference on climate change in Copenhagen in December.

For more: EU Spring Summit - EUcommerz

Czech Republic - Obama, Medvedev May Sign Nuclear Accord in Prague - by Lenka Ponikelska and Roger Runningen

Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev may sign an agreement in the Czech capital to reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles, officials said.

“We were asked whether we’d agree to host the meeting in Prague when negotiations are finished and we agreed,” ministry spokesman Filip Kanda said by phone today. Kanda declined to comment on when the meeting might take place. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Moscow last week that the former Cold War foes may sign the treaty in early April.

For more: Obama, Medvedev May Sign Nuclear Accord in Prague (Update3) - BusinessWeek

EU commission President José Manuel Barroso jeered in EU Parliament and under fire over GM potato

A row has flared in parliament following the commission's decision to allow a genetically modified potato to be grown in some EU countries. This month's decision comes after a 13-year campaign by the German chemical company BASF.

EU Commission president José Manuel Barroso was jeered when he sought to defend the move during a lively parliamentary Q&A session in Strasbourg on Tuesday. MEPs, some of whom held up posters which read "For a GMO-free Europe", said the commission had "failed to follow proper parliamentary procedure" by not consulting the assembly before reaching its decision.

SNP deputy Ian Hudghton, a member of the Greens/EFA group, told this website, "Public opinion is massively against genetically modified crops and we oppose this decision because there is insufficient evidence that this particular strain of potato is not harmful." In his reply in the debate, Barroso said that while groups such as the Greens "take a strong position" on the GM issue, he was "neither for nor against" genetically modified food.

Note EU-Digest: The EU parliament must vote on this issue and not cave in under corporate pressure.

For the complete report: EU commission under fire over GM potato

Netherlands number 1 in Europe for over-dosing life stock and poultry with antibiotics

The Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) says it is concerned about the overuse of antibiotics on cattle farms. The medication ultimately causes the hospital "superbug" MRSA to become resistant also in humans.

RIVM infection specialist Dr Roel Coutinho told the Dutch NOS television: "On cattle farms, the quantity of antibiotics administered to the animals is ten times that of the human use countrywide. I'm not convinced that this is really necessary, and I think we should do the utmost to reduce the use."

Some 80 percent of cattle breeding farms and half the Dutch chicken farms have been infected with a strain of MRSA, the institute says. In 2008, there were over 1100 reports of infection, 400 more than in 2007. The Netherlands is also on top of the European list for over-dosing life stock and poultry with antibiotics and some of the resistant MRSA strain has now also found its way into hospitals in the Netherlands.


Denmark tops EU 'rubbish' league

According to new statistics, EU citizens generated an average of 524kg of municipal waste per person in 2008: two kilos more than the previous year.

A comparison of the 2007 figures and 2008 figures shows that municipal waste generation was up in 17 member states and down in ten. The biggest increase occurred in Malta, where waste generation per person increased by 46kg. The German average also grew by 17 kg.

Ireland, which in 2007 was second only to Denmark as the EU country generating the most waste per person, decreased its waste generation by 53kg per person in 2008. However, with 733kg of waste per citizen, Ireland still ranks third after Denmark and Cyprus, which generated 802kg and 770kg of waste in 2008 respectively.

For more: Denmark tops EU 'rubbish' league | EurActiv: "f"

USA: Jim Cramer "Mad Money host" on CNBC gets healthcare wrong (again)

On March 18, "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer appeared on CNBC's "The Kudlow Report" and predicted that passage of healthcare reform would "topple the stock market." Five days later, on March 23, the day President Obama signed healthcare reform into law, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 102 points at 10,888.83, a new 17- month high.

Slate's Daniel Gross warned yesterday, "don't short Obama." You're only going to get burned. Hillary learned that lesson, and so did John McCain. When's Jim Cramer going to buy a clue?

For more: This time, Jim Cramer gets healthcare wrong - Healthcare Reform | Obama Health Care Plan -

Britain expels Israeli diplomat over Dubai case

Britain expelled an Israeli diplomat on Tuesday over the alleged use of forged U.K. passports in the assassination of a Hamas operative in a suspected Mossad hit.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Israel's actions had put British nationals at risk and showed a “profound disregard” for Britain's sovereignty. He said the fact that Israel is a long-time ally with close business, personal and political ties to Britain “adds insult to injury” in this case. The foreign secretary said Britain will continue to support Israel's bid for security and stability but that Israel's actions had been completely unacceptable.

For more: Britain expels Israeli diplomat over Dubai case - The Globe and Mail

Ladies in White March in Cuban Capital without Problems

Some 50 members of the Ladies in White, a group made up of relatives of the 75 dissidents jailed in Cuba’s “Black Spring” of 2003, marched again in Havana amid a heavy police presence and the heckling of hundreds of government supporters, but no serious incidents were reported. Last Wednesday, Cuban state security agents broke up a march by the group, pushing and dragging some 30 members of the Ladies in White onto buses.

"The group’s spokeswoman in Europe, Blanca Reyes, called Sunday on Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos to reconsider his plans to seek an easing of the European Union’s policy toward Cuba, adding that such a change would work against ending a “ferocious dictatorship.”

The governments of Spain and the other EU members should maintain the policy in place since 1996, which ties dialogue with the Castro regime to moves toward democracy and respect for human rights on the island, Reyes said."

Latin American Herald Tribune - Ladies in White March in Cuban Capital without Problems:

Germany: Europe's engine- Why Germany needs to change, both for its own sake and for others

Germany’s impressive flexibility is the consequence of old virtues combined with new ones. The old consensus-building management system helped employers keep unions on side when costs needed to be held down. The famous Mittelstand (small and medium-sized firms, often family-owned) went through its operations, step by step, judging what to do in Germany, what to send abroad and what to outsource.

At the same time, economic policy took a new, liberalising, direction. The Schröder government introduced reforms to the labour market and welfare systems in 2003-04; spurred on by those, and by competitive pressures from Europe’s single currency, German business ruthlessly held down real wages. Unit labour costs fell by an annual average of 1.4% in 2000-08 in Germany, compared with a decline of 0.7% in America and rises of 0.8% and 0.9% in France and Britain respectively. Although last year’s recession hit Germany hard, its economy is in much better shape now than it was a decade ago—a point that should be noted in France, where President Nicolas Sarkozy has taken to railing against outsourcing, and in southern Europe, which bends over backwards to preserve overgenerous wages and restricted labour markets.

Germany is rightly proud of its ability to control costs and keep on exporting. But it also needs to recognise that its success has been won in part at the expense of its European neighbours. Germans like to believe that they made a huge sacrifice in giving up their beloved D-mark ten years ago, but they have in truth benefited more than anyone else from the euro. Almost half of Germany’s exports go to other euro-area countries that can no longer resort to devaluation to counter German competitiveness.

For more: Germany: Europe's engine | The Economist

Latvia’s Recession: The Cost of Adjustment With An “Internal Devaluation” - by Mark Weisbrot and Rebecca Ray

The Latvian recession, which is now more than two years old, has seen a world-historical drop in GDP of more than 25 percent. The IMF projects another 4 percent drop this year, and predicts that the total loss of output from peak to bottom will reach 30 percent. This would make Latvia’s loss more than that of the U.S. Great Depression downturn of 1929-1933.

This paper argues that the depth of the recession and the difficulty of recovery are attributable in large part to the decision to maintain the country’s overvalued fixed exchange rate, because it prevents the government from pursuing the policies necessary to restore economic growth.

For more: Latvia’s Recession: The Cost of Adjustment With An “Internal Devaluation” - CEPR

European Volunteers to be isolated for 520 days on simulated Mars mission

Four Europeans vying to become guinea pigs for a 520-day simulated mission to Mars say they are proud to be putting their lives on hold for the sake of scientific advancement.

"I want to help humanity take a step forward by improving our level of knowledge," Belgian candidate Jerome Clevers, 28. said at the European Space Agency's (ESA) Dutch offices where he and his colleagues were introduced to the media. Diego Urbina, 26, of Italy added: "When the first humans step on Mars, I can say, 'Yeah, I helped do that.' And then we get to use cool space suits, which is also nice!"

The group will be locked away at the Russian Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow in an elaborate reconstruction that will include an interplanetary spaceship, a Mars lander and a Martian landscape . The experiment seeks to test the group's mental and physical ability to cope with living and working in an enclosed environment for an extended period of time.

The experiment will include a 250-day simulated trip to Mars, a 30-day Mars landing and stay, and a 240-day return "flight." "We want to gather lots of data, knowledge and experience to prepare for a real human mission to Mars," said ESA official Martin Zell.

SpaceShipTwo AloftSpace: In Captive-Carry Flight - by Guy Norris

Scaled Composites has begun captive-carry flight testing of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo (SS2) beneath the wing of the White Knight Two (WK2) launch aircraft with a flight out of Mojave, Calif., today.

The six-passenger, two-crew space vehicle was attached to the center of the 140-foot span wing section between the two fuselage booms of the WK2. The SS2 is carried on a special pylon, envelope clearance flights for which were completed in January. The WK2 eventually will carry the spacecraft to its launch point around 50,000 ft., though it is thought this altitude will not be attempted on the first flight still underway.

Until recently the 60 ft.-long space vehicle has traveled for short ground tests under the wing of WK2, but today’s flight marks the start of testing that will culminate in a series of glide tests to be conducted from various release altitudes.

For more: SpaceShipTwo Aloft In Captive-Carry Flight | AVIATION WEEK

Homosexuality and the Srebrenica Massacre: Dutch Leader Calls US General's Gay Remarks 'Disgraceful' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Former NATO Commander John J. Sheehan testified on Thursday that Holland's policy allowing openly gay soldiers to serve in the country's military contributed to the Srebrenica massacre in 1995. The Dutch Defense Ministry said the comments were 'outrageous and unworthy of a soldier.'

The Netherlands on Friday was quick to react to Sheehan's testimony. Dutch Defense Minister Eimert van Middelkoop issued a statement calling the remarks "outrageous and unworthy of a soldier." He went on to say, "I do not want to waste any more words on the matter."

For more: Homosexuality and the Srebrenica Massacre: Dutch Leader Calls US General's Gay Remarks 'Disgraceful' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International


Google shuts site but quitting China proves step too far

Google has effectively closed its flagship search site in China, finally carrying out its threat made two months ago in a dispute over censorship with the Chinese authorities.

The company announced that it had stopped censoring its search results in China and was redirecting all web users of its service to its search site based in Hong Kong.

But the company stopped short of pulling out of China altogether, saying it wanted to keep its research and development staff and sales teams in the country. The compromise reflects the importance to Google of retaining a presence in the world's largest market of nearly 400 million internet users.

For more: Google shuts site but quitting China proves step too far - Times Online

Internet Explorer's Market Share Slips in Europe - by Paul Lilly

According to the latest stats from web tracking firm Statcounter, Internet Explorer has been losing ground in Europe, including big markets like France, Britain, and Italy. Hardly surprising given the sanctions imposed on Redmond by the European Union to include a so-called browser ballot with Windows.

So far in March, IE's web surfing share is down in France by 2.5 percent from one month prior, while shares are down 1.3 percentage points and 1 point in Italy and Britain, respectively.

"We have seen significant growth in the number of new Firefox users as a result of the Ballot Choice screen," Mozilla recently stated. "We expect these numbers to increase as the Ballot Choice screen fully rolls out across all countries."

For more: Internet Explorer's Market Share Slips in Europe - HotHardware

Google Analytics Is Preparing Plug-in to Protect User Privacy - by Clint Boulton

For more: Google Analytics Is Preparing Plug-in to Protect User Privacy - Search Engines from eWeek

Greece Has A Completely Unrealistic Rescue Plan For Itself - by John Carney

The political leadership of Greece is trying to convince Europe it can rescue the Hellenic Republic from its debt crisis without spending a dime.
Deputy Finance Minister Philippos Sachinidis said today that Greece is not asking Europe's wealthier countries for any money now. Instead, he just wants Germany and France to send a message to markets that would bring down the Greece's borrowing costs.
Greek's continue to blame the reluctance of their euro zone comrades to provide a bailout fund on a lack of "political will." But what is really lacking is a willingness on the part of ordinary Germans and French to suspend their disbelief and engage in a costly financial fiction, and a fear of the politicians of those countries of forcing that fiction on their people.

Note EU-Digest: This also happened in the US after the government bailout following the financial crises.

For more: Greece Has A Completely Unrealistic Rescue Plan For Itself

German Central Bank Warns Against IMF Aid for Greece - by Geoffrey T Smith

Germany's central bank warned Monday against using the International Monetary Fund to resolve Greece's looming debt crisis.

The Deutsche Bundesbank, whose money guarantees Germany the biggest voting weight of any European country at the IMF, said loans should be restricted to countries that have a temporary need for foreign currency.

For more: German Central Bank Warns Against IMF Aid for Greece -

US Currency Wars With China Looms

A trade war between the US and China, with tariffs and taxes, recriminations and retaliation, may be a modestly troubling prospect compared to a currency war.China’s Commerce Minister Chen Deming said ”The currency is a sovereign issue and should not be an issue to be discussed between two countries. He warned that if the US labels the world’s third largest nation by GDP a “currency manipulator” that China will take the issue to the international legal authorities, according to a report by Reuters.

A currency war between China and the US seems inevitable now. China is unwilling to let the value of the yuan “float” and be determined though the normal forces of trade and currency trading. If the American government does plan to make a stand, it has no better time that to do it now to strengthen its level of exports and use that to help the US economy recover. As a by-product, manufacturing jobs in America should pick up and unemployment should fall. One of the single largest issues facing job creation in the US is that the relatively high-paid factory job base has been decimated by the shuttering of many facilities in the auto industry. Most economists believe that those jobs will never be replaced. An improved ability of America to be competitive as an exporter of goods would bring back some of that worker base.

For more: US Currency Wars With China Looms – 24/7 Wall St.

US joins ranks of civilized countries as Congress passes Health Care Reform Bill

President Obama's democratic party's victory came by a narrow margin of 219 to 212, with all Republicans and 34 Democrats opposing. But it secured the most sweeping domestic reform since the 1960s that a few weeks ago seemed dead and buried when the Democrats lost a crucial Senate by-election in Massachusetts. “We proved we are still a people capable of doing big things and tackling big challenges,” said Mr Obama. Reprising his campaign

mantra he added: “This is what change looks like, tonight we answered the call of history.”

The major benefit of this historic health care reform bill which passed last night  in the US Congress is that it will expand coverage to 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured. Some other important plus points for the American citizens are:
  • Six months after enactment, insurance companies can no longer deny children coverage based on a preexisting condition.
  • Starting in 2014, insurance companies cannot deny coverage to anyone with preexisting conditions.
  • Insurance companies must allow children to stay on their parent's insurance plans through age 26.
  • Illegal immigrants will not be allowed to buy health insurance in the exchanges -- even if they pay completely with their own money.
  • The bill segregates private insurance premium funds from taxpayer funds. Individuals would have to pay for abortion coverage by making two separate payments, private funds would have to be kept in a separate account from federal and taxpayer funds.
  • No health care plan would be required to offer abortion coverage. States could pass legislation choosing to opt out of offering abortion coverage through the exchange.
  • Medicare Payroll tax on investment income -- Starting in 2012, the Medicare Payroll Tax will be expanded to include unearned income. That will be a 3.8 percent tax on investment income for families making more than euro 185,000 per year ($250,000).
  • Excise Tax -- Beginning in 2018, insurance companies will pay a 40 percent excise tax on so-called "Cadillac" high-end insurance plans worth over euro 20,370 ($27,500) for families. Dental and vision plans are exempt and will not be counted in the total cost of a family's plan
Total cost of the new US Health Care program is estimated at  euro 696 billion ($940b) over ten years.
The new Health Care plan is also expected to reduce the US budget deficit by euro105 billion ($143 b) over the first ten years.



China denounces Google 'US ties'

Google provides US intelligence agencies with a record of its search engine results, the state-run news agency Xinhua said. It also accused Google of trying to change Chinese society by imposing American values on it.
Google denied that it was influenced by the US government, a spokesperson for the company was quoted as saying by AP.

For more: BBC News - China denounces Google 'US ties'

Drubbing for the right as France loses faith in Nicolas Sarkozy | World news | The Guardian

Nicolas Sarkozy's beleaguered rightwing party suffered widespread defeat at the ballot box today but managed to stave off a total annihilation by a reinvigorated Socialist party, exit polls indicated tonight.

According to initial projections by OpinonWay, the ruling UMP party garnered just 36% of votes nationwide and was comprehensively trounced by an alliance of socialists, ecologists and the far left that won 54%.

However, contrary to the hopes of Socialist party leader Martine Aubry, they did not appear to have pulled off a grand slam in the second and final round of the regional elections.

For more: Drubbing for the right as France loses faith in Nicolas Sarkozy | World news | The Guardian


Would you let your son become an altar boy? - Catholic church riddled with Pedophiles

More than 250 people in Germany were abused at Catholic church-run schools in past decades. The scandal has personally drawn in Bavarian-born Pope Benedict, whose brother ran a Regensburg choir for 30 years which has been linked to cases of abuse. The Pope's brother, Rev. Georg Ratzinger, has admitted to slapping boys in his Regensburg choir. Ettal Abbey, scene of brutal beatings and sexual abuse in the past, is located in the archdiocese the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger ( now Pope) once headed.

What puzzles many  Catholics today is why in Pope Benedict's letter of apology to the victims of child sexual abuse by clergy in Ireland no reference was made to the deplorable situation in Germany, and many Catholics are asking why their countryman in Rome had no comment about the terrible situation of abuses in his homeland.

"Pope says nothing about German abuse cases," the popular Bild daily headlined in its recent website report on Benedict's letter.  "Pope silent on abuse in Germany," the weekly Der Spiegel's website headline read.


Spain Weighs 10-Year Plan to Overhaul Economy - by Daniel Woolls

Spanish ministers approved Friday a wide-ranging 10-year reform plan designed to wean the economy off its dependence on construction and create broader, more sustainable growth as the country fights to climb out of recession. The bill, which now goes before Parliament, features everything from tighter supervision of the financial sector — and forcing listed companies to tell shareholders how much their executives earn — to measures making it easier for Spaniards to start up small businesses.

The plan also calls for bigger tax breaks for companies that invest in research and development, more help for Spanish exporters and changes that force government agencies and other businesses to pay faster for services or goods bought from private-sector suppliers.

It also boosts vocational training in a country that turns out armies of university graduates who often end up underemployed.

For more: Spain Weighs 10-Year Plan to Overhaul Economy - ABC News

USA: Historic health plan will pass says Obama

US President Barack Obama led Democrats in a triumphant, fist-pumping rally on Saturday and confidently predicted Congress would rise to a century-old challenge and pass his health care overhaul. "It is in your hands, it is time to pass health care reform for America, and I am confident that you are going to do it tomorrow," told his allies on the eve of a cliffhanger House of Representatives vote.

Using a blend of expanded government health programs and subsidies for millions to buy private insurance, the bill would add some 32 million Americans to the ranks of those covered for a total of 95 per cent of Americans a century after Theodore Roosevelt called for a national approach to US health care.

As Obama spoke, thousands of protesters outside the Capitol chanted "kill the bill" and waved signs branding the president and his proposal "socialist" and politicians "corrupt," cheered on by the Republican minority.

For more: Historic health plan will pass: Obama

From St.Petersburg to Istanbul: Cruise liners look to Europe for 2011 - by Phil Reimer

Cruise lines are climbing over each other to announce their Europe itineraries for 2011, and with so many competing in that market, it may mean good news for consumers.

With Princess, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and many of the deluxe and luxury lines sounding the European theme for next summer, and with more new European ships and Carnival returning to the continent, the confluence of all those ships could create the potential for too much capacity. Only time will tell if the fast-growing European market can fill those ships, or if the glut will lead to lower prices.

Princess is calling 2011 their most extensive summer ever in Europe. They're offering more departure and itinerary options, more overnight stays, seven new routes, and the most ships in Europe -- seven.

On some of Princess's routes, they will offer overnight stays in Venice, Alexandria, Dublin, Istanbul and Edinburgh, along with St. Petersburg, which is an overnight stop for most cruise lines.

For more: Cruise liners look to Europe for 2011

When is Daylight Saving Time worldwide?

"Today, approximately 70 countries utilize Daylight Saving Time in at least a portion of the country. Japan, India, and China are the only major industrialized countries that do not observe some form of daylight saving."

For the complete report go to: When is Daylight Saving Time worldwide?:


U.S., UK, Cayman Islands Top Destinations for Private Deposits Offshore

The rate of growth of offshore deposits in secrecy jurisdictions has expanded at an average of 9 percent per annum since the early 1990s, significantly outpacing the rise of world wealth in the last decade. The gap between these two growth rates may be attributed to increases in illicit financial flows from developing countries and tax evasion by residents of developed countries.

For more: Tax Justice Network

Europe: A New Superpower on the Rise - by Melvin Rhodes

This year is going to be a test year for the post–Lisbon Treaty European Union. What lies ahead? An article in the British magazine The Economist, in its year-end special publication The World in 2010, states: "The fear of irrelevancy will haunt European leaders in 2010. They devised a new rule book, the Lisbon treaty, to come into force in 2010 and give their union the political heft to match its might as a trading and regulatory power. Its first year will reveal whether the design really does the job" (David Rennie, "More Than a Museum?").

The Dec. 24, 2009, issue of the Canadian newspaper Ottawa Citizen included an article titled "The Decline of America" by Karl Moore and David Lewis. It concluded with the following remarkable assessment of the near future: "In spite of all the arguments of the Euroskeptics, the European Union has transformed itself into a unique global superstate. Europe now has a president, a foreign minister, a common currency, a passport, a defence industry, a supersonic fighter, and an international role in peacekeeping.

For more: Europe: A New Superpower on the Rise > The Good News: March/April 2010

Israel the spoiled child of America - Netanyahu Offers an Apology, but No Shift in Policy - by Mark Landler and Ethan Bronner

An ill-timed municipal housing announcement in Jerusalem has mutated into one of the most serious conflicts between the United States and Israel in two decades, leaving a politically embarrassed Israeli government scrambling to respond to a tough list of demands by the Obama administration.

The Obama administration has put Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a difficult political spot at home by insisting that the Israeli government halt a plan to build housing units in East Jerusalem. The administration also wants Mr. Netanyahu to commit to substantive negotiations with the Palestinians, after more than a year in which the peace process has been moribund.

There is a feeling among officials in Washington that the Netanyahu government does not fully grasp how angry Obama officials have grown. But there are signs that it is sinking in.

For more: Netanyahu Offers an Apology, but No Shift in Policy -

EU Calls for Bank Collapse Fund

The European Union's finance executive called Friday for banks to pay into a fund that could be drawn upon in case of collapse, an effort to shield taxpayers from the fallout of future crises.

Officials are also calling for new ways to deal with insolvent financial groups that operate in multiple countries to avoid a repeat of the messy and expensive cross-border wrangling that followed the September 2008 collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers.

For more: EU Calls for Bank Collapse Fund - ABC News


US No. 1 arms exporter, China, India top importers

While the United States remains the world's biggest arms supplier, China and India are the  biggest importers of conventional weapons, the sale of which rose sharply by 22% globally during the 2005-2009 period a leading Swedish peace research group said.

While China's arms imports accounted for nine per cent of the global defence sales, the same figure for India was seven per cent, SIPRI said. Eighty-nine per cent of China's arms imports originated from Russia, it said while identifying France and Ukraine (three per cent each) as the other major sources of conventional weapons. In the case of India, Russia supplied 77 per cent of the country's imported conventional defence equipment while United Kingdom supplied eight per cent and Israel providing five per cent of its arms requirements.

The SIPRI said combat aircraft accounted for 27 per cent of the volume of international arms transfers during 2005-2009. Orders and deliveries of these potentially destabilising weapon systems have led to arms race concerns in the following regions of tension: the Middle East, North Africa, South America, South Asia and South East Asia.

For more: US No. 1 arms exporter, China, India top importers: SIPRI- Politics/Nation-News-The Economic Times

PM Erdogan continues "sanitizing" Turkish military and detains an additional 20 people In alledged coup plot case

Turkish police on Thursday detained around 20 people in connection to an alleged plot to topple the Islamist-rooted government, and the detainees included retired and active military officers, state media said.

The operation was part of an investigation into the "Ergenekon" network, an alleged right-wing militant group that prosecutors say had planned to overthrow Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party government, broadcaster NTV said. State-run news agency Anatolian said the detentions took place in eight cities and that the operation was still going on.

For more: Turkey Detains 20 People In Coup Plot Case - Media -

CAMERA: Presbyterian Committee Member Supporter of One State Solution

Earlier this month, a committee created by a 2008 vote of the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s General Assembly issued a report that asserts Israel is largely responsible for the continued existence of the Arab-Israeli conflict. One section of this report also affirms Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. 

Note: EU-Digest: also see:

For more: CAMERA: Presbyterian Committee Member Supporter of One State Solution

French leader: No mercy for Basque terrorists

Speaking Thursday at a ceremony for the officer killed outside Paris by suspected ETA militants, he said those responsible would be sternly punished and that France stands at Spain's side in fighting the separatist group.

He called for "no mercy" against ETA and said he would not allow France to be a "calm staging ground for terrorists and assassins."

Tuesday's killing was the first time ETA, which seeks an independent Basque homeland, has been accused in the death of a French police official.

For more: French leader: No mercy for Basque terrorists | | The Reno Gazette-Journal

Merkel Urges Stricter Rules for Euro Zone

Speaking before a session of Parliament in Berlin, Mrs. Merkel referred to a proposal made last week by Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister. As she described the proposal, “It would even be possible to exclude a country from the euro zone when over the long term it no longer fulfills the conditions.”

“Otherwise, we can’t work together,” Mrs. Merkel said, though she stopped short of explicitly endorsing the idea.  This week, finance ministers for the 16 countries in the euro zone promised loans, if necessary, to help Greece overcome its debt problems.

The ministers have not yet agreed about how to structure the aid, and Mrs. Merkel’s statement on Wednesday seemed to suggest that European leaders were interpreting the aid promise in different ways.

For more: Merkel Urges Stricter Rules for Euro Zone - DealBook Blog -


China and Germany unite to impose global deflation- by Martin Wolf

You may have heard of Chimerica – a neologism invented by Niall Ferguson the Harvard historian, and Moritz Schularick of the Free University of Berlin, to describe a supposed fusion between the Chinese and American economies. You may also have heard of Chindia, invented by Jairam Ramesh, an Indian politician, to describe the composite new Asian giant. Let me introduce you to Chermany, a composite of the world’s biggest net exporters: China, with a forecast current account surplus of $291bn this year and Germany, with a forecast surplus of $187bn . China and Germany are, of course, very different from each other. Yet, for all their differences, these countries share some characteristics: they are the largest exporters of manufactures.

Both also believe that their customers should keep buying, but stop irresponsible borrowing. Since their surpluses entail others’ deficits, this position is incoherent. Surplus countries have to finance those in deficit. If the stock of debt becomes too big, the debtors will default. If so, the vaunted “savings” of surplus countries will prove to have been illusory: vendor finance becomes, after the fact, open export subsidies.

In this battle, the surplus countries are most unlikely to win. A disruption of the eurozone would be very bad for German manufacturing. A US resort to protectionism would be very bad for China. Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. It is not too late to look for co-operative solutions. Both sides have to seek to adjust. Forget all the self-righteous moralising. Try some plain common sense, instead.

For more: / Columnists / Martin Wolf - China and Germany unite to impose global deflation

Credit Rating Company Moody's fears social unrest as AAA states implement austerity plans - Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

 The world's five biggest AAA-rated states are all at risk of soaring debt costs and will have to implement austerity plans that threaten "social cohnesion", according to a report on sovereign debt by Moody's.

The US rating agency said the US, the UK, Germany, France, and Spain are walking a tightrope as they try to bring public finances under control without nipping recovery in the bud. It warned of "substantial execution risk" in withdrawal of stimulus.

"Growth alone will not resolve an increasingly complicated debt equation. Preserving debt affordability at levels consistent with AAA ratings will invariably require fiscal adjustments of a magnitude that, in some cases, will test social cohesion," said Pierre Cailleteau, the chief author.

For more: Moody's fears social unrest as AAA states implement austerity plans - Telegraph

Swedish tourists tightest on Cyprus

Revenues from Cyprus's vital tourism sector dipped 5.7 percent in the first two months signalling another rocky year for the Mediterranean island's economy.

The average daily spending by tourists in February was 62.2 euros - and the Swedes spend the least.

The Irish were the biggest spenders at 168 euros a day, while the Swedish were the most frugal, spending just 39.1 euros a day on average.

Income from tourism makes up 12 percent of gross domestic product. On the back of disappointing tourism income, the Cyprus economy contracted by 1.7 percent in 2009 to end decades of robust growth.

For more: Swedish tourists tightest on Cyprus

Are Dutch still Europe's least prejudiced people? - by Marijke Peters

The Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence at Germany’s Bielefeld university spoke to 8,000 Europeans about attitudes towards migration, religion and minority groups. Half of respondents said there are too many immigrants in their home country and 43 percent said homosexuals should not have equal rights.

Social distance: Professor Andreas Zick, who led the team, found the Netherlands is the country with the least hostility towards minority groups. But he also warns appearances can be deceptive:

“The Netherlands – as well as France and even the UK – seems to be very tolerant according to the attitudes against groups. But if it comes to discrimination intentions like ‘would you move into a district where there are many immigrants?’ you can see people are more resistant. So there’s high diversity…. But the social distance is still there.”

Lack of self-awareness: Others agree the study offers little cause for celebration. The Swiss-Egyptian Muslim thinker Tariq Ramadan said on a recent trip to Amsterdam he feels the Dutch lack self-awareness on the subjects of racism and prejudice.

“I think there is a deep problem in this country, a self-projection as a very liberal society that says… ‘this is our tradition, so by definition we cannot be racist; by definition we are open; by definition we are dealing with all of these people and then if we have a problem with Muslims it should be the Muslims [that solve] the problem.’ And I say this is wrong.”

For more: Are Dutch still Europe's least prejudiced people? | Radio Netherlands Worldwide


EU's Ashton: "Israeli Settlements are illegal, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two state-solution impossible."

EU foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton has said Israel's decision to build new settler homes in occupied East Jerusalem endangers peace talks. She was speaking to Arab League members in Cairo, as she began a Middle East tour amid tensions over Israel's move.

Speaking in Cairo, she said: "Recent Israeli decisions to build new housing units in East Jerusalem have endangered and undermined the tentative agreement to begin proximity talks.

"The EU position on settlements is clear. Settlements are illegal, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two state-solution impossible."

For more: BBC News - EU's Ashton chides Israel over Jerusalem settler plan