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16
submitted 6 hours ago by [email protected] to c/[email protected]

Estonian MPs passed a law that enables the use of Russian assets frozen under international sanctions to compensate Ukraine for war damages.

The president must now promulgate the legislation for it to enter into force.

It enables assets of individuals and companies that have contributed to Russia's wrongful acts, which have been frozen under sanctions, as an advance payment for damages owed by Russia to Ukraine.

To seize Russian assets, Estonia would need to receive a request, and the connection of their owner to illegal acts must be sufficiently proven. The asset owner can challenge their use for Ukraine in Estonian courts.

Estonia's move is seen as an important first step as the vast majority of Russia's frozen and largely euro-denominated sovereign assets, which are worth €300 billion, are located in Europe.

38
submitted 6 hours ago by [email protected] to c/[email protected]

Estonian MPs passed a law that enables the use of Russian assets frozen under international sanctions to compensate Ukraine for war damages.

The president must now promulgate the legislation for it to enter into force.

It enables assets of individuals and companies that have contributed to Russia's wrongful acts, which have been frozen under sanctions, as an advance payment for damages owed by Russia to Ukraine.

To seize Russian assets, Estonia would need to receive a request, and the connection of their owner to illegal acts must be sufficiently proven. The asset owner can challenge their use for Ukraine in Estonian courts.

Estonia's move is seen as an important first step as the vast majority of Russia's frozen and largely euro-denominated sovereign assets, which are worth €300 billion, are located in Europe.

62
submitted 7 hours ago by [email protected] to c/[email protected]

Estonian MPs passed a law that enables the use of Russian assets frozen under international sanctions to compensate Ukraine for war damages.

The president must now promulgate the legislation for it to enter into force.

It enables assets of individuals and companies that have contributed to Russia's wrongful acts, which have been frozen under sanctions, as an advance payment for damages owed by Russia to Ukraine.

To seize Russian assets, Estonia would need to receive a request, and the connection of their owner to illegal acts must be sufficiently proven. The asset owner can challenge their use for Ukraine in Estonian courts.

Estonia's move is seen as an important first step as the vast majority of Russia's frozen and largely euro-denominated sovereign assets, which are worth €300 billion, are located in Europe.

17
submitted 8 hours ago by [email protected] to c/[email protected]

Archived link

- A St Petersburg court seized more than EUR 463mn in assets belonging to Italy's UniCredit and EUR 238mn belonging to Germany's Deutsche Bank.

- The court also seized assets of Germany's Commerzbank, but the details of the decision have not yet been made public so the value of the seizure is not known.

- The moves follow a claim from Ruskhimalliance, a subsidiary of Gazprom , the Russian oil and gas giant that holds a monopoly on pipeline gas exports.--

A St Petersburg court has seized over EUR700 mln worth of assets belonging to three western banks - UniCredit, Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank - according to court documents, the Financial Times and Reuters reported Saturday.

The seizure marks one of the biggest moves against western lenders since Moscow's invasion of Ukraine in 2022 prompted most international lenders to wind down their businesses in Russia.

The moves follow a claim from Ruskhimalliance, a subsidiary of Gazprom , the Russian oil and gas giant that holds a monopoly on pipeline gas exports.

The court seized EUR463mn-worth of assets belonging to Italy's UniCredit, equivalent to about 4.5 per cent of its assets in the country, according to the latest financial statement from the bank's main Russian subsidiary.

The frozen assets include shares in subsidiaries of UniCredit in Russia as well as stocks and funds it owned, according to the court decision that was dated May 16 and was published in the Russian registrar on Friday.

According to another decision on the same date, the court seized EUR238.6mn-worth of Deutsche Bank's assets, including property and holdings in its accounts in Russia.

The court also ruled that the bank cannot sell its business in Russia. The court agreed with Rukhimallians that the measures were necessary because the bank was "taking measures aimed at alienating its property in Russia".

On Friday, the court decided to seize Commerzbank assets, but the details of the decision have not yet been made public so the value of the seizure is not known.

The dispute with the western banks began in August 2023 when Ruskhimalliance went to an arbitration court in St Petersburg demanding they pay bank guarantees under a contract with the German engineering company Linde. The banks were among the guarantor lenders under a contract for the construction of a gas processing plant in Russia with Germany's Linde which was terminated due to Western sanctions.

Ruskhimalliance is the operator of a gas processing plant and production facilities for liquefied natural gas in Ust-Luga near St Petersburg. In July 2021, it signed a contract with Linde for the design, supply of equipment and construction of the complex. A year later, Linde suspended work owing to EU sanctions.

Ruskhimalliance then turned to the guarantor banks, which refused to fulfil their obligations because "the payment to the Russian company could violate European sanctions", the company said in the court filing.

The list of guarantors also includes Bayerische Landesbank and Landesbank Baden-Württemberg, against which Ruskhimalliance has also filed lawsuits in the St Petersburg court.

UniCredit said it had been made aware of the filing and "only assets commensurate with the case would be in scope of the interim measure".

Deutsche Bank said it was "fully protected by an indemnification from a client" and had taken a provision of about EUR260mn alongside a "corresponding reimbursement asset" in its accounts to cover the Russian lawsuit.

Commerzbank did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Italy's foreign minister has called a meeting on Monday to discuss the seizures affecting UniCredit, two people with knowledge of the plans told the Financial Times.

UniCredit is one of the largest European lenders in Russia [it is the second largest Western bank in Russia after Austria's Raiffeisen Bank International], employing more than 3,000 people through its subsidiary there. This month the Italian bank reported that its Russian business had made a net profit of EUR213mn in the first quarter, up from EUR99mn a year earlier. It has set aside more than EUR800mn in provisions and has significantly cut back its loan portfolio.

Legal challenges over assets held by western banks have complicated their efforts to extricate themselves. Last month, a Russian court ordered the seizure of more than $400mn of funds from JPMorgan Chase (JPM) following a legal challenge by Kremlin-run lender VTB. A court subsequently cancelled part of the planned seizure, Reuters reported.

20
submitted 8 hours ago by [email protected] to c/[email protected]

Archived link

- A St Petersburg court seized more than EUR 463mn in assets belonging to Italy's UniCredit and EUR 238mn belonging to Germany's Deutsche Bank.

- The court also seized assets of Germany's Commerzbank, but the details of the decision have not yet been made public so the value of the seizure is not known.

- The moves follow a claim from Ruskhimalliance, a subsidiary of Gazprom , the Russian oil and gas giant that holds a monopoly on pipeline gas exports.--

A St Petersburg court has seized over EUR700 mln worth of assets belonging to three western banks - UniCredit, Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank - according to court documents, the Financial Times and Reuters reported Saturday.

The seizure marks one of the biggest moves against western lenders since Moscow's invasion of Ukraine in 2022 prompted most international lenders to wind down their businesses in Russia.

The moves follow a claim from Ruskhimalliance, a subsidiary of Gazprom , the Russian oil and gas giant that holds a monopoly on pipeline gas exports.

The court seized EUR463mn-worth of assets belonging to Italy's UniCredit, equivalent to about 4.5 per cent of its assets in the country, according to the latest financial statement from the bank's main Russian subsidiary.

The frozen assets include shares in subsidiaries of UniCredit in Russia as well as stocks and funds it owned, according to the court decision that was dated May 16 and was published in the Russian registrar on Friday.

According to another decision on the same date, the court seized EUR238.6mn-worth of Deutsche Bank's assets, including property and holdings in its accounts in Russia.

The court also ruled that the bank cannot sell its business in Russia. The court agreed with Rukhimallians that the measures were necessary because the bank was "taking measures aimed at alienating its property in Russia".

On Friday, the court decided to seize Commerzbank assets, but the details of the decision have not yet been made public so the value of the seizure is not known.

The dispute with the western banks began in August 2023 when Ruskhimalliance went to an arbitration court in St Petersburg demanding they pay bank guarantees under a contract with the German engineering company Linde. The banks were among the guarantor lenders under a contract for the construction of a gas processing plant in Russia with Germany's Linde which was terminated due to Western sanctions.

Ruskhimalliance is the operator of a gas processing plant and production facilities for liquefied natural gas in Ust-Luga near St Petersburg. In July 2021, it signed a contract with Linde for the design, supply of equipment and construction of the complex. A year later, Linde suspended work owing to EU sanctions.

Ruskhimalliance then turned to the guarantor banks, which refused to fulfil their obligations because "the payment to the Russian company could violate European sanctions", the company said in the court filing.

The list of guarantors also includes Bayerische Landesbank and Landesbank Baden-Württemberg, against which Ruskhimalliance has also filed lawsuits in the St Petersburg court.

UniCredit said it had been made aware of the filing and "only assets commensurate with the case would be in scope of the interim measure".

Deutsche Bank said it was "fully protected by an indemnification from a client" and had taken a provision of about EUR260mn alongside a "corresponding reimbursement asset" in its accounts to cover the Russian lawsuit.

Commerzbank did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Italy's foreign minister has called a meeting on Monday to discuss the seizures affecting UniCredit, two people with knowledge of the plans told the Financial Times.

UniCredit is one of the largest European lenders in Russia [it is the second largest Western bank in Russia after Austria's Raiffeisen Bank International], employing more than 3,000 people through its subsidiary there. This month the Italian bank reported that its Russian business had made a net profit of EUR213mn in the first quarter, up from EUR99mn a year earlier. It has set aside more than EUR800mn in provisions and has significantly cut back its loan portfolio.

Legal challenges over assets held by western banks have complicated their efforts to extricate themselves. Last month, a Russian court ordered the seizure of more than $400mn of funds from JPMorgan Chase (JPM) following a legal challenge by Kremlin-run lender VTB. A court subsequently cancelled part of the planned seizure, Reuters reported.

25
submitted 8 hours ago by [email protected] to c/[email protected]

Archived link

- A St Petersburg court seized more than EUR 463mn in assets belonging to Italy's UniCredit and EUR 238mn belonging to Germany's Deutsche Bank.

- The court also seized assets of Germany's Commerzbank, but the details of the decision have not yet been made public so the value of the seizure is not known.

- The moves follow a claim from Ruskhimalliance, a subsidiary of Gazprom , the Russian oil and gas giant that holds a monopoly on pipeline gas exports.--

A St Petersburg court has seized over EUR700 mln worth of assets belonging to three western banks - UniCredit, Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank - according to court documents, the Financial Times and Reuters reported Saturday.

The seizure marks one of the biggest moves against western lenders since Moscow's invasion of Ukraine in 2022 prompted most international lenders to wind down their businesses in Russia.

The moves follow a claim from Ruskhimalliance, a subsidiary of Gazprom , the Russian oil and gas giant that holds a monopoly on pipeline gas exports.

The court seized EUR463mn-worth of assets belonging to Italy's UniCredit, equivalent to about 4.5 per cent of its assets in the country, according to the latest financial statement from the bank's main Russian subsidiary.

The frozen assets include shares in subsidiaries of UniCredit in Russia as well as stocks and funds it owned, according to the court decision that was dated May 16 and was published in the Russian registrar on Friday.

According to another decision on the same date, the court seized EUR238.6mn-worth of Deutsche Bank's assets, including property and holdings in its accounts in Russia.

The court also ruled that the bank cannot sell its business in Russia. The court agreed with Rukhimallians that the measures were necessary because the bank was "taking measures aimed at alienating its property in Russia".

On Friday, the court decided to seize Commerzbank assets, but the details of the decision have not yet been made public so the value of the seizure is not known.

The dispute with the western banks began in August 2023 when Ruskhimalliance went to an arbitration court in St Petersburg demanding they pay bank guarantees under a contract with the German engineering company Linde. The banks were among the guarantor lenders under a contract for the construction of a gas processing plant in Russia with Germany's Linde which was terminated due to Western sanctions.

Ruskhimalliance is the operator of a gas processing plant and production facilities for liquefied natural gas in Ust-Luga near St Petersburg. In July 2021, it signed a contract with Linde for the design, supply of equipment and construction of the complex. A year later, Linde suspended work owing to EU sanctions.

Ruskhimalliance then turned to the guarantor banks, which refused to fulfil their obligations because "the payment to the Russian company could violate European sanctions", the company said in the court filing.

The list of guarantors also includes Bayerische Landesbank and Landesbank Baden-Württemberg, against which Ruskhimalliance has also filed lawsuits in the St Petersburg court.

UniCredit said it had been made aware of the filing and "only assets commensurate with the case would be in scope of the interim measure".

Deutsche Bank said it was "fully protected by an indemnification from a client" and had taken a provision of about EUR260mn alongside a "corresponding reimbursement asset" in its accounts to cover the Russian lawsuit.

Commerzbank did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Italy's foreign minister has called a meeting on Monday to discuss the seizures affecting UniCredit, two people with knowledge of the plans told the Financial Times.

UniCredit is one of the largest European lenders in Russia [it is the second largest Western bank in Russia after Austria's Raiffeisen Bank International], employing more than 3,000 people through its subsidiary there. This month the Italian bank reported that its Russian business had made a net profit of EUR213mn in the first quarter, up from EUR99mn a year earlier. It has set aside more than EUR800mn in provisions and has significantly cut back its loan portfolio.

Legal challenges over assets held by western banks have complicated their efforts to extricate themselves. Last month, a Russian court ordered the seizure of more than $400mn of funds from JPMorgan Chase (JPM) following a legal challenge by Kremlin-run lender VTB. A court subsequently cancelled part of the planned seizure, Reuters reported.

31
submitted 11 hours ago by [email protected] to c/[email protected]

Der muntere Niederbayer, der 2019 so gerne EU-Kommissionspräsident geworden wäre, zählt die AfD zu den "Radikalsten unter den Radikalen". Das hat Manfred Weber, CSU-Abgeordneter und Fraktionsvorsitzender der EVP im Europaparlament, kürzlich auf dem Landesparteitag der Südwest-CDU in Ludwigsburg nicht einfach so dahingesagt. Das hat Kalkül. Führende Kräfte in der "Europäischen Volkspartei", allen voran Weber, wollen den rechten Rand in Europa aufspalten: in inakzeptable Typen, wie jene der "Alternative für Deutschland". Und in jene, deren Stimmen gerade recht kommen, um im Europarlament links-grüne Mehrheiten künftig stabil zu verhindern, den Green Deal zurückzudrehen, die Mauern um die Festung Europa noch höher zu ziehen und Ursula von der Leyen eine zweite Amtszeit als Kommissionspräsidentin zu sichern. 2019 war sie mit gerade mal acht Stimmen über den Durst gewählt worden.

Lange Zeit blinkte Weber ziemlich allein scharf rechts. Inzwischen können sich EVPler:innen auch aus anderen Ländern vorstellen, die Flanke zu öffnen und eine Koalition mit den nationalkonservativen "Europäischen Konservativen und Reformisten" (EKR)" einzugehen. Bekenntnisse gegen eine Verschiebung der eigenen Koordinaten gibt es jedenfalls nicht. Schon gar nicht auf den jüngsten Parteitagen. Die Südwest-CDU kündigte in ihrer Ludwigsburger Erklärung eine wachsweich formulierte Politik der bürgerlichen Mitte ohne "Populisten und Extremisten" an, die "nie ideologisch und immer pragmatisch" sei. Auskunft darüber, wie die Trennlinie zwischen dem ersten und dem zweiten Versprechen verlaufen muss, bleibt sie schuldig.

Die Grünen als Drohkulisse

Den Bundesparteitag in der vergangenen Woche passiert ein Europa-Antrag, der ebenso nicht mit offenen Karten spielt: "Wir arbeiten dafür, dass die Bürgerinnen und Bürger auch morgen in Freiheit, Sicherheit und Wohlstand in Europa leben können." Mit wem zusammen das künftig gelingen soll, bleibt außen vor. In die Hand spielt den schwarzen Strateg:innen, dass die EU-Feinde am rechten Rand untereinander noch nie einig waren. Gegenwärtig gibt es im Europaparlament einzelne Alleinkämpfer wie den einstigen AfD-Bundesvorsitzenden und Stuttgarter Fraktionschef Jörg Meuthen, der die Partei inzwischen verlassen, sein Mandat aber noch innehat. Und zwei getrennt agierende Fraktionen mit derzeit jeweils 64 Sitzen im Parlament: die ID (die Abkürzung steht für Identität und Demokratie) und eben jene "Europäischen Konservativen und Reformisten (EKR)". Ersterer gehören die AfD, der belgische Vlaams Belang, die österreichischen "Freiheitlichen", die Französ:innen rund um Marine Le Pens Rassemblement National oder die italienische Lega an. Bei der EKR sind die Postfaschist:innen der Fratelli d'Italia von Georgia Meloni mit von der Partie, zudem die polnische PiS, die Schwedendemokraten, die Finnenpartei und seit einigen Monaten der französische Ultranationalist Éric Zemmour mit seiner rechtsextremen Partei Reconquête, zu Deutsch: "Rückeroberung".

Wesentliche Teile der EKR wollen Weber und seine Unterstützer:innen aus Gründen des Machterhalts hoffähig machen. In seinen Wahlkampfauftritten droht der 51-Jährige mit dem in seinen Augen Äußersten, falls Ursula von der Leyen bei der Wiederwahl zur Kommissionspräsidentin scheitert und das Amt an eine andere Nation geht. Dann hätten die Grünen laut Ampelkoalitionsvertrag das Recht, die Bundesrepublik zu vertreten, und Anton Hofreiter, Bundestagsvorsitzender für EU-Angelegenheiten, oder Medienstaatsministerin Claudia Roth könnten in die Kommission einziehen. Das Gesicht, das Weber dazu macht, wenn er deren Namen nennt, spricht Bände. So viel zum Zusammenstehen von Demokrat:innen in Zeiten von Krisen und Kriegen.

Dann doch lieber die umgarnen, die weniger mit Demokratie am Hut haben: allen voran Italiens Regierungschefin Giorgia Meloni. Die hat ein wankelmütiges Verhältnis zu Benito Mussolini, sie wirft ihrem Vorgänger Mario Draghi vor, Italien zu einer Sklavin der EU gemacht zu haben und steht für ein stramm konservatives Gesellschaftsbild. Die 47-Jährige hat sich nach dem gefährlichen Motto "Alles nicht so schlimm wie erwartet" aber auch eine gewisse Reputation unter ihren EU-Kolleg:innen erworben und darf sich mittlerweile immer öfter an der Seite europäischer Führungskräfte aus dem bürgerlichen Lager sonnen. Von der Leyen hat Bilder mit Meloni produziert, als wären die beiden seit Grundschultagen befreundet.

Söder hofiert Meloni

Bayerns Ministerpräsident Markus Söder (CSU), der Webers Aktivitäten ursprünglich mit Misstrauen verfolgt hat, verhält sich inzwischen besonders tricky. Er hofierte Meloni dieser Tage in Rom und sprach ausdrücklich von einem Staats- und nicht bloß einem Parteibesuch. Sogar die europäischen Grenzen wurden vorübergehend verbal verschoben: "Es wäre ein Fehler, mit Nachbarn nicht zu reden." In der CSU-Analyse hat das Treffen übrigens rein gar nichts mit dem Thema Brandmauer zu tun: Die AfD und Melonis Fratelli d'Italia gingen ja im Umgang mit Russland getrennte Wege. Und Italiens radikaler Innenminister Matteo Salvini (Lega) hat vor ein paar Wochen sogar das 2017 geschlossene Freundschaftsabkommen zwischen der Lega und Putins "Einigem Russland" aufgekündigt. Der Schwenk rettet ihm das Amt.

Dem könnte noch große Bedeutung zukommen. Die Union hält drei Stöckchen hin, über die Rechtsaußen-Parteien springen müssen, um in den Kreis möglicher Partner:innen im künftigen Europaparlament aufgenommen zu werden. "Pro Ukraine, pro Europa, pro Rechtsstaat", sagt Weber in seinen Reden. Und fügt absurderweise hinzu: "Das sind die Grundpfeiler, auf denen die Brandmauer steht." Dass die ausgeguckten Partner:innen längst die Bagger gegen die Grundpfeiler der Zivilgesellschaft auffahren lassen, fällt geflissentlich unter den Tisch.

"Die offizielle Kulturpolitik der Regierung Meloni und ihrer Partei Fratelli d'Italia, die sich außen- und wirtschaftspolitisch so moderat gibt, dass ihr westliche Zeitungen gern die prinzipielle Harmlosigkeit eines eingehegten Rechtsextremismus unterstellen, prägt ein unnachgiebiges Streben nach kultureller Hegemonie", analysiert der "Deutschlandfunk". International und progressiv orientierte Leitungen von Festivals, Jurys sowie die Kuratoren von Museen seien durch eigene Leute besetzt. Da folge ein Coup dem anderen. Ein klassisches Mittel autokratischer Herrschaft werde genutzt und "wo es nur geht, einflussreiche Posten mit Mitgliedern ihrer recht weiten Familie" oder mit alten Verbündeten besetzt, darunter ihr früherer Lebensgefährte Andrea Giambruno, bekannt nicht nur in Italien für seine Ausfälle gegen deutsche Politiker.

Schwedendemokraten wollen alle Moscheen abreißen

Wie in anderen gelenkten Demokratien ist der öffentlich-rechtliche Rundfunk scharf im Visier seiner Verächter:innen. So durfte der Faschismus-Experte und Schriftsteller Antonio Scurati am 25. April, dem Tag des italienischen Partisanenaufstandes, in der öffentlich-rechtlichen RAI seine Rede zur Befreiung vom Faschismus nicht halten. Der Zensurversuch wurde durch engagierte Journalist:innen unterlaufen und wesentliche Passagen von einer Moderatorin live vorgelesen. Auch der Versuch, den rechtsgerichteten Parteien mehr Sendezeit im laufenden Europawahlkampf zuzuschanzen, wurde erfolgreich verhindert. Noch.

Andere Mehrheitsbeschaffer:innen der Union haben ähnlich feuchte Träume von ganz anderen politischen Zuständen auf dem alten Kontinent. Die Schwedendemokraten zum Beispiel wollen alle Moscheen abreißen. Ausweislich von Undercover-Recherchen betreiben sie Trollfabriken zur Desinformation und Verunsicherung der Gesellschaft. Bei den Wahlen 2022 übrigens landete die Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei satt auf Platz eins und liegt derzeit in allen Umfragen zur Europawahl deutlich über 30 Prozent. Trotz starker Verluste und weniger als 20 Prozent wurde der Bürgerliche Ulf Kristersson aus der Parteienfamilie der EVP Ministerpräsident – von Gnaden der Schwedendemokraten.

Ebenso gruselig ist der Blick nach Finnland. Weber erwähnt in Ludwigsburg seinen Besuch bei Ministerpräsident Petteri Orpo von der Nationalen Sammlungspartei (KOK). Dass der auch ein Konservativer ist, der sich von den Nationalist:innen ins Amt hieven ließ und sogar, anders als in Schweden, vor einem Jahr eine förmliche Koalition einging, bleibt dagegen unerwähnt. "Bereits wenige Tage nach der Regierungsbildung zeigten sich erste Risse – der Wirtschaftsminister der PS musste aufgrund seiner 'Verbindungen zur Neonaziszene' zurücktreten", schreibt die Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung. Weitere Minister:innen mussten sich für rassistische Äußerungen entschuldigen, die Koalition sah sich zu einer öffentlichen Erklärung genötigt: "Die Regierung und jeder ihrer Minister verurteilen Rassismus und alle Formen von Extremismus und verpflichten sich in ihrer Arbeit, Rassismus sowohl in Finnland als auch international aktiv zu bekämpfen."

Weber und den Seinen genügt das offenbar. Ausgerechnet dem CDU-Bundesvorsitzenden Friedrich Merz jedoch nicht. Beim Bundesparteitag legte er eines der drei Stöckchen höher und verlangte anstelle des Bekenntnisses zu Europa, also dem Verzicht auf Austrittsfantasien nach britischem Vorbild, ein solches zu "unseren europäischen Werten". Nichts Genaues weiß man nicht. Zur Stimmung in der Union würde es durchaus passen, wenn der Sauerländer am Ende und im Schulterschluss mit Söder und Weber bei der Wahl der Kommissionspräsidentin Fünfe gerade sein lässt und das mit den Werten nicht überbewerten will. Brandmauer hin oder her.

Baden-Württembergs CDU-Spitzenkandidatin bei der EU-Wahl ist Andrea Wechsler, Wirtschaftsjuristin und Professorin aus Ludwigsburg. Die 46-Jährige, die 2021 den Einzug in den Landtag verpasste, wirbt zwar mit dem Slogan "Ihre starke Stimme für Europa", vermeidet eine klare Positionierung gegen alle Rechtsradikalen im Parlament aber ebenfalls. Sie spricht in ihren Reden vom geeinten Europa als Erbe, "das jetzt in unseren Händen liegt", und warnt davor, die Wahl am 9. Juni zu unterschätzen, weil es "um nicht mehr oder weniger als um das heutige Europa und um den europäischen Gedanken" gehe. Sie positioniert sich aber nicht offensiv gegen eine Zusammenarbeit mit Abgeordneten der Fratelli, der Schwedendemokraten und anderer Rechtsnationalist:innen. Ihre Kandidatur für die CDU begründet Wechsler mit dem Menschenbild der Partei: "Wir sehen immer zuerst den einzelnen Menschen mit seiner unantastbaren Würde und seinen individuellen Fähigkeiten". Das hat Manfred Weber ganz offenkundig, wenn er über Claudia Roth und andere Grüne spricht, vorübergehend vergessen.

20
submitted 11 hours ago by [email protected] to c/[email protected]

Vergangenen Winter besuchte ich einen alten Bekannten mit einer Flasche georgischen Weins. Doch wir rührten die Flasche nicht an, ja wir öffneten sie nicht einmal. Wir tranken moldauischen Wein.

Das überraschte mich. Seit ich Igor kenne, war er schier verrückt nach allem Georgischen. Er kennt alle Täler und Bergpfade im Kaukasus, die Bars in Batumi und jede noch so kleine Straße in Tbilissi. Doch dann diese scharfe Kehrtwende – nichts Georgisches mehr! Nichtsdestotrotz diskutiert Igor gerne mit mir über die Proteste in Georgien gegen das von Russland abgekupferte „Gesetz über ausländische Agenten“. Dieses Thema beherrscht derzeit die ukrainischen Medien.

Mein Freund ist pessimistisch. Er glaubt, dass „wir die Ge­or­gie­rin­nen nicht zurückbekommen“. Man würde denken, dass sich die Ukrai­ne­rin­nen gerade mehr für die russische Offensive in der Nähe von Charkiw und die Mobilisierung interessieren. Aber wir verfolgen die Ereignisse in Georgien, das ist schon fast Tradition. Und es schmerzt uns, zu sehen, wohin die Regierung dieses Land führt.

Alles begann Anfang der 1990er Jahre, als ukrainische Freiwillige der Rechtsaußen-Partei UNA-UNSO im Krieg um Abchasien an der Seite Georgiens kämpften. Während des russischen Kriegs gegen Georgien im August 2008 flog der Präsident der Ukraine, Viktor Juschtschenko, zusammen mit seinem polnischen und litauischen Amtskollegen zu einem Solidaritätsbesuch nach Tbilissi. Während der Regierungszeit von Wiktor Janukowitsch blickten die Ukrai­ne­r*in­nen voller Neid auf Georgien – wegen der Reformen und der Annäherung des Landes an Europa.

Doch nach dem Euromaidan unter Präsident Petro Poroschenko übernahmen mehr und mehr Georgier politische Ämter in der Ukraine. Der frühere georgische Präsident Michail Saakaschwili wurde Gouverneur der Region Odessa. Chatia Dekanoidze und Eka Sguladze versuchten sich an einer Reform der Polizei. Der Historiker Alexander Kvitashvili wurde Gesundheitsminister, David Sakvarelidze stellvertretender Generalstaatsanwalt. Ein weiterer ehemaliger georgischer Beamter, Gia Getsadze, avancierte zum Vize-Justizminister der Ukraine.

In jenen Jahren waren die Ukrai­ne­r*in­nen stolz auf ihre eigene, aber auch die georgische Freiheit. Sie reisten oft als Touristen nach Sakartvelo. Georgischer Wein und georgisches Mineralwasser flossen in rauen Mengen in die Ukraine.

Die Regierung in Tbilissi knickt vor Russland ein

Aber es gab in den 2010er Jahren noch ein weiteres geistiges Band zwischen unseren Völkern, das einem schmerzlichen Dorn glich: Mit Abachsien und Südossetien sowie der Krim und dem Donbass war sowohl ein Teil des georgischen als auch des ukrainischen Territoriums von Russland besetzt. Die inzwischen zwölfjährige Regierungszeit des „Georgischen Traums“ und seine Hinwendung zu Russland haben dazu geführt, dass mein Freund auf Wein aus der Republik Moldau und Transkarpatien umgestiegen ist. Und dazu, dass die Mehrheit der Ukrai­ne­r*in­nen Georgien heute auf eine Stufe mit Belarus, Ungarn oder der Slowakei stellt. Als politischen Satelliten Russlands.

Schon lange sehen die Ukrai­ne­rin­nen mit Entsetzen dabei zu, wie die Regierung in Tbilissi vor Russland einknickt. Der Oligarch Bidsina Iwanischwili und seine Regierung haben es zugelassen, dass Moskau zunächst seinen wirtschaftlichen und dann seinen politischen Einfluss in Georgien wiederherstellen konnte. Der stärkste Rückschlag für die Gefühle der Ukrai­ne­rin­nen gegenüber den Ge­or­gie­r*in­nen war noch nicht die Verhaftung von Michail Saakaschwili im Herbst 2021, als er, ukrainischer Staatsbürger, nach Georgien zurückkehrte, um seine politische Karriere fortzusetzen.

Denn die Autorität von „Miho“ unter den Ukrai­ne­rin­nen hatte nach einer Reihe von Skandalen merklich gelitten. Nein, vor allem hat die Ukraine den georgischen Machthabern ihr Schweigen zur russischen Invasion 2022 und den Mangel an militärischer Hilfe nicht verziehen. Im Anschluss ließ der „Georgische Traum“ die Einreise hunderttausender Russen zu, die vor der Mobilisierung geflohen waren. Der Flugverkehr mit Russland wurde wieder aufgenommen und das Land für russische Tou­ris­tin­nen erneut geöffnet.

In der Ukraine steht Georgien im Verdacht, Russland dabei zu helfen, westliche Sanktionen zu umgehen. Georgiens BIP wuchs im ersten Quartal 2024 um fast 8 Prozent, und die Inflation lag im vergangenen Jahr bei lächerlichen 3 Prozent. Der „Georgische Traum“ wird die wirtschaftlichen Errungenschaften dieser Jahre seinen Wäh­le­r*in­nen in den Präsentkorb legen. „Den Preis zahlt die Ukraine“, heißt es in Kyjiw.

Moskau sei in der Lage, erneut in das Land einzumarschieren

Im vergangenen März malte der georgische Ministerpräsident Irakli Kobachidse das Schreckgespenst einer sogenannten Ukrainisierung Georgiens an die Wand. Diese Äußerungen wurden in Kyjiw mit Abscheu aufgenommen und erinnerten alle daran, dass in Georgien die Russifizierung des Landes tatsächlich weitergeht. Das offizielle Tbilissi bringt die Verabschiedung des „Gesetzes über ausländische Agenten“ sogar mit dem Schutz des Landes vor dem Einfluss des ukrainischen Maidan in Verbindung – nach dem Motto: Die ukrainische Revolution 2013/2014 sei künstlich und vom Westen initiiert gewesen.

Im Gegensatz zu Georgiens pro-europäischer Präsidentin Salomé Surabischwili, hat es Kobachidse seit dem Beginn von Russlands Angriffskrieg noch nicht geschafft, nach Kyjiw zu kommen. Am Vorabend der Parlamentswahlen im Oktober schüchtert der „Georgische Traum“ seine Wählerschaft oft mit dem „ukrainischen Szenario“ ein: Wenn wir uns Russland massiv entgegen stellen, „wird es bei uns wie in der Ukraine werden“.

In georgischen sozialen Netzwerken liest man, Moskau sei in der Lage, erneut in das Land einzumarschieren, wie 2008. Die Logik lautet ungefähr so: Damals wurde Georgien mit den Russen alleingelassen, weil der Westen schwieg – das wird auch beim nächsten Mal der Fall sein. Deshalb sei es besser, es nicht noch einmal auf einen Angriff ankommen zu lassen. Die Zahnlosigkeit der Regierung und ihrer Partei übertragen die Ukrai­ne­rin­nen auf alle Georgierinnen. Ja, Georgiens offizielle Position zum Krieg ist feige. Gleichzeitig jedoch kämpfen hunderte Georgier in der Ukraine für unsere Unabhängigkeit.

Das gilt es nicht zu vergessen, genauso wenig wie die täglichen Proteste in Tbilissi. In diesen Monaten stehen die ukrainische Führung und die Zivilgesellschaft vor einer schwierigen Entscheidung: Wie die Kräfte maximal unterstützen, die dem „Georgischen Traum“ bei den Parlamentswahlen im Herbst Paroli bieten könnten. Erst danach wird klar werden, ob die Ukraine gemeinsam mit Georgien ihren Weg in die Europäische Union fortsetzen wird.

122
submitted 13 hours ago by [email protected] to c/[email protected]

When Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's President who soon leaves office after eight years and hands over to her successor William Lai, swept to power in 2016, she was dismissed as a dull bureaucrat. But she stood up to an increasingly authoritarian and aggressive China under Xi Jinping; she held on to a vital US alliance under Donald Trump and buttressed it under Joe Biden. At home, she expanded the island’s defence and legalised same-sex marriage, the latter a first for Asia.

Good examples of the brand Taiwan – a democracy that the world should care about losing. “People say we are more important than Ukraine - strategically our position is more important and our place in the supply chain - and that they should shift support to Taiwan. We say no. The democratic countries need to support Ukraine,” Tsai says.

Rather than Taiwan’s wildly successful chip industry, which could be replicated, instead Tsai wields the one thing she has and the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t: the soft power of democracy. --

It is a well-known fact that the diminutive, soft-spoken president of Taiwan does not like doing interviews.

It’s taken months of quiet negotiations to sit down at Tsai Ing-wen’s dining table in her Taipei residence, not long before she leaves office after eight years and hands over to her successor William Lai.

Even so, the president seems keener to ask about me than talk about herself. She is certainly more comfortable showing us her cats and dogs than answering questions in front of a rolling camera.

“That’s Xiang Xiang,” she says, pointing to the large, grey tabby eyeing me suspiciously through the open doorway. “Would you like to meet her?”

When Tsai Ing-wen swept to power in 2016, she was dismissed as a dull bureaucrat and ridiculed as a “cat lady” - a swipe at her for being middle-aged and unmarried. She embraced the image, appearing on magazine covers holding Xiang Xiang in her arms. Soon, her supporters adopted a new sobriquet: Taiwan’s Iron Cat Lady.

Tsai admits to a sneaking admiration for Margaret Thatcher, although she’s quick to add it’s because of her toughness as a female leader, not her social policies.

In Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan found an unlikely champion. During her two terms, she carefully yet confidently reset the relationship with Beijing, which has claimed the independently governed island as its own for 75 years.

She stood up to an increasingly authoritarian and aggressive China under Xi Jinping; she held on to a vital US alliance under Donald Trump and buttressed it under Joe Biden. At home, she expanded the island’s defence and legalised same-sex marriage, the latter a first for Asia.

While Tsai shied away from the spotlight in Taiwan’s boisterous politics, Xiang Xiang became a celebrity. She played a starring role in Tsai's 2020 re-election campaign, along with the president’s other cat, a ginger tom called Ah Tsai.

Tsai has her detractors. Beijing is no fan, and neither are the many older Taiwanese, who want better relations with China, where they have family and business interests. Domestically, she has been criticised for not doing enough for the economy – the rising cost of living, unaffordable housing and a lack of jobs cost her party young voters in January's election.

And her biggest critics fear that she has made the island of 23 million more, rather than less, unsafe.

Put crudely, this is what any Taiwan leader faces: a much bigger, wealthier, and stronger neighbour, who says he owns your house, is willing to let you hand it over without a fight, but is ready to use force if you refuse. What do you do?

Tsai’s predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, chose conciliation and a Beijing-friendly trade deal.

But he miscalculated how young Taiwanese would react to what they saw as appeasement. In 2014, thousands took to the streets in what became known as the Sunflower Movement. When President Ma refused to back down, they occupied parliament.

Two years later Tsai Ing-wen was elected on a very different calculus: that the only language Beijing understands is strength.

Now, as she prepares to step down, she says she has been vindicated: “China has become so aggressive and assertive.”

Dear Beijing - back off

“Wow, you’re really tall,” the president exclaims, craning her neck at a lanky, young soldier standing stiffly to attention.

He tells her he is 185cm and she asks, with genuine concern, “Are the beds here big enough for you?” They are, he reassures her.

This was on a recent morning in April at a new special forces training centre on the outskirts of Taipei, which Tsai had just opened.

The relaxed and chatty president disappears when she enters the cavernous dining hall, where hundreds of crew-cut recruits stand to attention and shouted “Zong Tong Hao!”, or “Hello, President!”

She almost looks out of place in these settings. Her speech is worthy and matter of fact, with no soaring rhetoric. And yet such visits are quite frequent, to make sure the military reforms she has pushed through are paying off.

One of the most difficult was a return to a year of military service for all men over the age of 18. While she admits it is not popular, she says the public accepts it is necessary: “But we have to make sure that their time spent in the military is worthwhile.”

For a former law professor and trade negotiator, Tsai has spent a surprisingly large amount of time as president donning camouflage fatigues. In one famous image she’s seen shouldering a rocket launcher. The reason: she believes Taiwan cannot hope to fend off Beijing without a modern, well-trained military in which young Taiwanese are proud to serve.

While China's threat of invasion is not new, it is only recently that President Xi Jinping has gained the military capability to mount what would still be a huge and risky operation. His threats have also become more urgent and ominous. He has said twice that a resolution over Taiwan cannot be passed down from one generation to another, which some have interpreted to mean that he wants it done in his lifetime.

On the other side of the strait, Tsai has set about rebuilding Taiwan’s outdated, demoralised and ill-equipped ground forces. It has been an uphill struggle, but results have begun to show. Yearly defence spending has risen significantly to about $20bn (£16bn).

“Our military capability is much strengthened compared to eight years ago. The investment we have put in to military capacity is unprecedented,” Tsai says.

I have spoken to many in Taiwan’s opposition who genuinely believe Tsai’s strategy of building up the military is naive, if not dangerous. They point to China’s powerful navy, the world’s largest, and more than two million active troops. Taiwan’s forces are not even a tenth of that.

To Tsai and her supporters that is missing the point. Taiwan is not trying to defeat a Chinese invasion, they say, but dramatically increasing its price to deter China.

“The cost of taking over Taiwan is going to be enormous,” Tsai says. “What we need to do is increase the cost.”

Tsai was no stranger to Beijing, or the Chinese Communist Party, when she became president. Her unorthodox rise to power began in the mid-1990s, when she cut her teeth as a trade negotiator. She then caught the eye of Chen Shui-bian, the first president from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). He appointed her to run Taiwan’s top body for dealing with China. There she rewrote the book on how Taiwan should handle Beijing.

She has long known where the red lines are - and she believes that to resist China, Taiwan needs allies: “So strengthening our military capacity is one and working with our friends in the region to form a collective deterrence is another.”

Many in Tsai’s party, the DPP, now talk of a new alliance that stretches from Japan and South Korea to the north, through the Philippines to Australia in the south – with the US as quarterback, holding the team together. But this is theoretical at best. There is no Asian Nato and Taiwan enjoys no formal military alliances. Despite mutual antipathy towards Beijing, Tokyo and Manila are both deeply reluctant to vow support for Taiwan. Even that most important ally, Washington, has stopped short of guaranteeing it would put boots on the ground.

But Tsai is optimistic. “A lot of other countries in the region are alert and some of them may have a conflict with China,” she says, referring to rival claims by Beijing, Tokyo and Manila over disputed waters and islands.

“So, China is not an issue for Taiwan only. It is an issue for the whole region.”

The power of soft power

Painting China as a big, bad bully is not hard for a Taiwan president. The trickier job is to find allies who would risk irking the world’s second largest economy.

And that’s why Taiwan leads such an increasingly lonely diplomatic existence. In the last decade China has put the squeeze on many of the island’s allies who still recognise it – only 12 remain now, most of them tiny Pacific Island and Caribbean micro-states.

Tsai believes the way out of this diplomatic isolation is to build alliances with what she calls “like-minded democracies”.

To that end she hosts dozens of parliamentary delegations from all over the world, a loophole for meeting foreign dignitaries from countries that don’t see Taiwan as one. Last month I attended Holocaust Memorial Day. There was music and poetry, and an impassioned speech to never forget by the representative from Germany.

There are also more unusual events. Earlier this week, while Xi Jinping was getting ready to welcome Vladimir Putin in Beijing, Tsai Ing-wen hosted a drag performance by Taiwanese-American Nymphia Ward. “This is probably the first presidential office in the world to host a drag show,” Nymphia reportedly told Tsai.

Both are examples of brand Taiwan – a democracy that the world should care about losing.

“People say we are more important than Ukraine - strategically our position is more important and our place in the supply chain - and that they should shift support to Taiwan. We say no. The democratic countries need to support Ukraine,” Tsai says.

Rather than Taiwan’s wildly successful chip industry, which could be replicated, instead Tsai wields the one thing she has and the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t: the soft power of democracy.

In the run up to January’s election, the rainbow flag was hard to miss at every DPP rally.

“In Taiwan we are free to live how we choose. We could not do this in China,” one couple told me.

It’s a remarkable change from when I was a student here more than 30 years ago. Taiwan was still emerging from four decades of military rule. I remember a gay friend desperately looking for a way to get to America. Back then, if you were found to be homosexual during your military service you could get thrown in jail or a psychiatric ward.

That changed but Tsai Ing-wen’s government went further than any in Asia when it pushed through legislation legalising same-sex marriage in 2019. A little over half the population still opposed it. Some, including church and family groups, ran a vociferous campaign against it. It was a big political risk, and one that could have cost her re-election.

Tsai calls it a “very difficult journey” but one she saw as necessary: “It's a test to society to see to what extent we can move forward with our values. I am actually rather proud that we managed to overcome our differences.”

Taiwan is still conservative and patriarchal. I ask Tsai if she’s worried it might return to being a “boys club” once she, the island’s first female president, steps down. “I have a lot of opinions about that boys club!” she says but does not elaborate.

The island’s strength, in her opinion, is its mixed heritage – it’s a society of immigrants.

The Chinese came in many waves, sometimes centuries apart, and they joined hundreds of thousands of indigenous peoples.

“In… [such a] society, there are a lot of challenges,” Tsai says. “People are less bound by the traditions. The main goal is to survive [as a society]. This is why we have been able to move from an authoritarian age to democracy.”

And that is why she hopes Taiwan’s most important alliance – with the world’s most powerful country and democracy - will last no matter who makes it to the White House after November.

Best friends forever?

After Donald Trump’s stunning victory in 2016, Tsai Ing-wen rang to congratulate him – and she was put through. No US President since Jimmy Carter had taken a call from the president of Taiwan. Tsai has described the call as short but intimate, and wide-ranging.

The truth is Trump is a wild card for Taiwan. He’s criticised the island for “stealing America’s semiconductor industry”, but, as Tsai points out, he has also approved more arms shipments to Taipei than any of his predecessors. But she doesn’t want to discuss him, or the possibility of his return to the Oval Office.

What she does want to emphasise is the perception of a growing China threat.

“The rest of the world is telling China that you can't use military means [against Taiwan]. No unilateral action is allowed and no non-peaceful means is allowed and… I think China got the message,” she says.

That might be wishful thinking. There has been no noticeable decrease in military pressure. Rather, China regularly sends dozens of military aircraft and ships across the median line that divides the waters and airspace of the Taiwan strait. In 2022, Beijing declared that it no longer recognises what was effectively the border. The trigger was one of Tsai’s diplomatic coups.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s historic visit in 2022 was celebrated in a Taiwan starved of international recognition. But China was furious, firing ballistic missiles over the island, and into the Pacific Ocean, for the first time ever.

It was a warning. Even some inside Tsai’s own administration worried quietly that Pelosi’s visit had been a mistake.

“We’ve been isolated for such a long time,” she says. “You just can't say no to a visit like that of Speaker Pelosi. Of course it comes with risks.”

You can feel the tension in her voice. Her opponents say the Pelosi visit was reckless and left Taiwan more exposed. Even President Biden is thought to have opposed the trip.

But Tsai says this is the line Taiwan must walk.

“I had to turn a party of revolutionaries into a party of power,” Tsai Ing-wen says of her time at the DPP’s helm.

When she took over, she was an economics graduate leading a party of older, male radicals who had spent their early lives fighting for Taiwan independence – or behind bars for it.

There is no need for Taiwan to hold a referendum or declare independence, she says, because it is already an independent, sovereign nation.

“We are on our own. We make our own decisions; we have a political system to govern this place. We have a constitution, we have laws, we have a military. We think that we are a country, and we have all the elements of a state.”

What they are waiting for, she says, is for the world to recognise it.

35
submitted 13 hours ago by [email protected] to c/[email protected]

When Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's President who soon leaves office after eight years and hands over to her successor William Lai, swept to power in 2016, she was dismissed as a dull bureaucrat. But she stood up to an increasingly authoritarian and aggressive China under Xi Jinping; she held on to a vital US alliance under Donald Trump and buttressed it under Joe Biden. At home, she expanded the island’s defence and legalised same-sex marriage, the latter a first for Asia.

Good examples of the brand Taiwan – a democracy that the world should care about losing. “People say we are more important than Ukraine - strategically our position is more important and our place in the supply chain - and that they should shift support to Taiwan. We say no. The democratic countries need to support Ukraine,” Tsai says.

Rather than Taiwan’s wildly successful chip industry, which could be replicated, instead Tsai wields the one thing she has and the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t: the soft power of democracy. --

It is a well-known fact that the diminutive, soft-spoken president of Taiwan does not like doing interviews.

It’s taken months of quiet negotiations to sit down at Tsai Ing-wen’s dining table in her Taipei residence, not long before she leaves office after eight years and hands over to her successor William Lai.

Even so, the president seems keener to ask about me than talk about herself. She is certainly more comfortable showing us her cats and dogs than answering questions in front of a rolling camera.

“That’s Xiang Xiang,” she says, pointing to the large, grey tabby eyeing me suspiciously through the open doorway. “Would you like to meet her?”

When Tsai Ing-wen swept to power in 2016, she was dismissed as a dull bureaucrat and ridiculed as a “cat lady” - a swipe at her for being middle-aged and unmarried. She embraced the image, appearing on magazine covers holding Xiang Xiang in her arms. Soon, her supporters adopted a new sobriquet: Taiwan’s Iron Cat Lady.

Tsai admits to a sneaking admiration for Margaret Thatcher, although she’s quick to add it’s because of her toughness as a female leader, not her social policies.

In Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan found an unlikely champion. During her two terms, she carefully yet confidently reset the relationship with Beijing, which has claimed the independently governed island as its own for 75 years.

She stood up to an increasingly authoritarian and aggressive China under Xi Jinping; she held on to a vital US alliance under Donald Trump and buttressed it under Joe Biden. At home, she expanded the island’s defence and legalised same-sex marriage, the latter a first for Asia.

While Tsai shied away from the spotlight in Taiwan’s boisterous politics, Xiang Xiang became a celebrity. She played a starring role in Tsai's 2020 re-election campaign, along with the president’s other cat, a ginger tom called Ah Tsai.

Tsai has her detractors. Beijing is no fan, and neither are the many older Taiwanese, who want better relations with China, where they have family and business interests. Domestically, she has been criticised for not doing enough for the economy – the rising cost of living, unaffordable housing and a lack of jobs cost her party young voters in January's election.

And her biggest critics fear that she has made the island of 23 million more, rather than less, unsafe.

Put crudely, this is what any Taiwan leader faces: a much bigger, wealthier, and stronger neighbour, who says he owns your house, is willing to let you hand it over without a fight, but is ready to use force if you refuse. What do you do?

Tsai’s predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, chose conciliation and a Beijing-friendly trade deal.

But he miscalculated how young Taiwanese would react to what they saw as appeasement. In 2014, thousands took to the streets in what became known as the Sunflower Movement. When President Ma refused to back down, they occupied parliament.

Two years later Tsai Ing-wen was elected on a very different calculus: that the only language Beijing understands is strength.

Now, as she prepares to step down, she says she has been vindicated: “China has become so aggressive and assertive.”

Dear Beijing - back off

“Wow, you’re really tall,” the president exclaims, craning her neck at a lanky, young soldier standing stiffly to attention.

He tells her he is 185cm and she asks, with genuine concern, “Are the beds here big enough for you?” They are, he reassures her.

This was on a recent morning in April at a new special forces training centre on the outskirts of Taipei, which Tsai had just opened.

The relaxed and chatty president disappears when she enters the cavernous dining hall, where hundreds of crew-cut recruits stand to attention and shouted “Zong Tong Hao!”, or “Hello, President!”

She almost looks out of place in these settings. Her speech is worthy and matter of fact, with no soaring rhetoric. And yet such visits are quite frequent, to make sure the military reforms she has pushed through are paying off.

One of the most difficult was a return to a year of military service for all men over the age of 18. While she admits it is not popular, she says the public accepts it is necessary: “But we have to make sure that their time spent in the military is worthwhile.”

For a former law professor and trade negotiator, Tsai has spent a surprisingly large amount of time as president donning camouflage fatigues. In one famous image she’s seen shouldering a rocket launcher. The reason: she believes Taiwan cannot hope to fend off Beijing without a modern, well-trained military in which young Taiwanese are proud to serve.

While China's threat of invasion is not new, it is only recently that President Xi Jinping has gained the military capability to mount what would still be a huge and risky operation. His threats have also become more urgent and ominous. He has said twice that a resolution over Taiwan cannot be passed down from one generation to another, which some have interpreted to mean that he wants it done in his lifetime.

On the other side of the strait, Tsai has set about rebuilding Taiwan’s outdated, demoralised and ill-equipped ground forces. It has been an uphill struggle, but results have begun to show. Yearly defence spending has risen significantly to about $20bn (£16bn).

“Our military capability is much strengthened compared to eight years ago. The investment we have put in to military capacity is unprecedented,” Tsai says.

I have spoken to many in Taiwan’s opposition who genuinely believe Tsai’s strategy of building up the military is naive, if not dangerous. They point to China’s powerful navy, the world’s largest, and more than two million active troops. Taiwan’s forces are not even a tenth of that.

To Tsai and her supporters that is missing the point. Taiwan is not trying to defeat a Chinese invasion, they say, but dramatically increasing its price to deter China.

“The cost of taking over Taiwan is going to be enormous,” Tsai says. “What we need to do is increase the cost.”

Tsai was no stranger to Beijing, or the Chinese Communist Party, when she became president. Her unorthodox rise to power began in the mid-1990s, when she cut her teeth as a trade negotiator. She then caught the eye of Chen Shui-bian, the first president from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). He appointed her to run Taiwan’s top body for dealing with China. There she rewrote the book on how Taiwan should handle Beijing.

She has long known where the red lines are - and she believes that to resist China, Taiwan needs allies: “So strengthening our military capacity is one and working with our friends in the region to form a collective deterrence is another.”

Many in Tsai’s party, the DPP, now talk of a new alliance that stretches from Japan and South Korea to the north, through the Philippines to Australia in the south – with the US as quarterback, holding the team together. But this is theoretical at best. There is no Asian Nato and Taiwan enjoys no formal military alliances. Despite mutual antipathy towards Beijing, Tokyo and Manila are both deeply reluctant to vow support for Taiwan. Even that most important ally, Washington, has stopped short of guaranteeing it would put boots on the ground.

But Tsai is optimistic. “A lot of other countries in the region are alert and some of them may have a conflict with China,” she says, referring to rival claims by Beijing, Tokyo and Manila over disputed waters and islands.

“So, China is not an issue for Taiwan only. It is an issue for the whole region.”

The power of soft power

Painting China as a big, bad bully is not hard for a Taiwan president. The trickier job is to find allies who would risk irking the world’s second largest economy.

And that’s why Taiwan leads such an increasingly lonely diplomatic existence. In the last decade China has put the squeeze on many of the island’s allies who still recognise it – only 12 remain now, most of them tiny Pacific Island and Caribbean micro-states.

Tsai believes the way out of this diplomatic isolation is to build alliances with what she calls “like-minded democracies”.

To that end she hosts dozens of parliamentary delegations from all over the world, a loophole for meeting foreign dignitaries from countries that don’t see Taiwan as one. Last month I attended Holocaust Memorial Day. There was music and poetry, and an impassioned speech to never forget by the representative from Germany.

There are also more unusual events. Earlier this week, while Xi Jinping was getting ready to welcome Vladimir Putin in Beijing, Tsai Ing-wen hosted a drag performance by Taiwanese-American Nymphia Ward. “This is probably the first presidential office in the world to host a drag show,” Nymphia reportedly told Tsai.

Both are examples of brand Taiwan – a democracy that the world should care about losing.

“People say we are more important than Ukraine - strategically our position is more important and our place in the supply chain - and that they should shift support to Taiwan. We say no. The democratic countries need to support Ukraine,” Tsai says.

Rather than Taiwan’s wildly successful chip industry, which could be replicated, instead Tsai wields the one thing she has and the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t: the soft power of democracy.

In the run up to January’s election, the rainbow flag was hard to miss at every DPP rally.

“In Taiwan we are free to live how we choose. We could not do this in China,” one couple told me.

It’s a remarkable change from when I was a student here more than 30 years ago. Taiwan was still emerging from four decades of military rule. I remember a gay friend desperately looking for a way to get to America. Back then, if you were found to be homosexual during your military service you could get thrown in jail or a psychiatric ward.

That changed but Tsai Ing-wen’s government went further than any in Asia when it pushed through legislation legalising same-sex marriage in 2019. A little over half the population still opposed it. Some, including church and family groups, ran a vociferous campaign against it. It was a big political risk, and one that could have cost her re-election.

Tsai calls it a “very difficult journey” but one she saw as necessary: “It's a test to society to see to what extent we can move forward with our values. I am actually rather proud that we managed to overcome our differences.”

Taiwan is still conservative and patriarchal. I ask Tsai if she’s worried it might return to being a “boys club” once she, the island’s first female president, steps down. “I have a lot of opinions about that boys club!” she says but does not elaborate.

The island’s strength, in her opinion, is its mixed heritage – it’s a society of immigrants.

The Chinese came in many waves, sometimes centuries apart, and they joined hundreds of thousands of indigenous peoples.

“In… [such a] society, there are a lot of challenges,” Tsai says. “People are less bound by the traditions. The main goal is to survive [as a society]. This is why we have been able to move from an authoritarian age to democracy.”

And that is why she hopes Taiwan’s most important alliance – with the world’s most powerful country and democracy - will last no matter who makes it to the White House after November.

Best friends forever?

After Donald Trump’s stunning victory in 2016, Tsai Ing-wen rang to congratulate him – and she was put through. No US President since Jimmy Carter had taken a call from the president of Taiwan. Tsai has described the call as short but intimate, and wide-ranging.

The truth is Trump is a wild card for Taiwan. He’s criticised the island for “stealing America’s semiconductor industry”, but, as Tsai points out, he has also approved more arms shipments to Taipei than any of his predecessors. But she doesn’t want to discuss him, or the possibility of his return to the Oval Office.

What she does want to emphasise is the perception of a growing China threat.

“The rest of the world is telling China that you can't use military means [against Taiwan]. No unilateral action is allowed and no non-peaceful means is allowed and… I think China got the message,” she says.

That might be wishful thinking. There has been no noticeable decrease in military pressure. Rather, China regularly sends dozens of military aircraft and ships across the median line that divides the waters and airspace of the Taiwan strait. In 2022, Beijing declared that it no longer recognises what was effectively the border. The trigger was one of Tsai’s diplomatic coups.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s historic visit in 2022 was celebrated in a Taiwan starved of international recognition. But China was furious, firing ballistic missiles over the island, and into the Pacific Ocean, for the first time ever.

It was a warning. Even some inside Tsai’s own administration worried quietly that Pelosi’s visit had been a mistake.

“We’ve been isolated for such a long time,” she says. “You just can't say no to a visit like that of Speaker Pelosi. Of course it comes with risks.”

You can feel the tension in her voice. Her opponents say the Pelosi visit was reckless and left Taiwan more exposed. Even President Biden is thought to have opposed the trip.

But Tsai says this is the line Taiwan must walk.

“I had to turn a party of revolutionaries into a party of power,” Tsai Ing-wen says of her time at the DPP’s helm.

When she took over, she was an economics graduate leading a party of older, male radicals who had spent their early lives fighting for Taiwan independence – or behind bars for it.

There is no need for Taiwan to hold a referendum or declare independence, she says, because it is already an independent, sovereign nation.

“We are on our own. We make our own decisions; we have a political system to govern this place. We have a constitution, we have laws, we have a military. We think that we are a country, and we have all the elements of a state.”

What they are waiting for, she says, is for the world to recognise it.

11
submitted 13 hours ago by [email protected] to c/[email protected]

When Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's President who soon leaves office after eight years and hands over to her successor William Lai, swept to power in 2016, she was dismissed as a dull bureaucrat. But she stood up to an increasingly authoritarian and aggressive China under Xi Jinping; she held on to a vital US alliance under Donald Trump and buttressed it under Joe Biden. At home, she expanded the island’s defence and legalised same-sex marriage, the latter a first for Asia.

Good examples of the brand Taiwan – a democracy that the world should care about losing. “People say we are more important than Ukraine - strategically our position is more important and our place in the supply chain - and that they should shift support to Taiwan. We say no. The democratic countries need to support Ukraine,” Tsai says.

Rather than Taiwan’s wildly successful chip industry, which could be replicated, instead Tsai wields the one thing she has and the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t: the soft power of democracy. --

It is a well-known fact that the diminutive, soft-spoken president of Taiwan does not like doing interviews.

It’s taken months of quiet negotiations to sit down at Tsai Ing-wen’s dining table in her Taipei residence, not long before she leaves office after eight years and hands over to her successor William Lai.

Even so, the president seems keener to ask about me than talk about herself. She is certainly more comfortable showing us her cats and dogs than answering questions in front of a rolling camera.

“That’s Xiang Xiang,” she says, pointing to the large, grey tabby eyeing me suspiciously through the open doorway. “Would you like to meet her?”

When Tsai Ing-wen swept to power in 2016, she was dismissed as a dull bureaucrat and ridiculed as a “cat lady” - a swipe at her for being middle-aged and unmarried. She embraced the image, appearing on magazine covers holding Xiang Xiang in her arms. Soon, her supporters adopted a new sobriquet: Taiwan’s Iron Cat Lady.

Tsai admits to a sneaking admiration for Margaret Thatcher, although she’s quick to add it’s because of her toughness as a female leader, not her social policies.

In Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan found an unlikely champion. During her two terms, she carefully yet confidently reset the relationship with Beijing, which has claimed the independently governed island as its own for 75 years.

She stood up to an increasingly authoritarian and aggressive China under Xi Jinping; she held on to a vital US alliance under Donald Trump and buttressed it under Joe Biden. At home, she expanded the island’s defence and legalised same-sex marriage, the latter a first for Asia.

While Tsai shied away from the spotlight in Taiwan’s boisterous politics, Xiang Xiang became a celebrity. She played a starring role in Tsai's 2020 re-election campaign, along with the president’s other cat, a ginger tom called Ah Tsai.

Tsai has her detractors. Beijing is no fan, and neither are the many older Taiwanese, who want better relations with China, where they have family and business interests. Domestically, she has been criticised for not doing enough for the economy – the rising cost of living, unaffordable housing and a lack of jobs cost her party young voters in January's election.

And her biggest critics fear that she has made the island of 23 million more, rather than less, unsafe.

Put crudely, this is what any Taiwan leader faces: a much bigger, wealthier, and stronger neighbour, who says he owns your house, is willing to let you hand it over without a fight, but is ready to use force if you refuse. What do you do?

Tsai’s predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, chose conciliation and a Beijing-friendly trade deal.

But he miscalculated how young Taiwanese would react to what they saw as appeasement. In 2014, thousands took to the streets in what became known as the Sunflower Movement. When President Ma refused to back down, they occupied parliament.

Two years later Tsai Ing-wen was elected on a very different calculus: that the only language Beijing understands is strength.

Now, as she prepares to step down, she says she has been vindicated: “China has become so aggressive and assertive.”

Dear Beijing - back off

“Wow, you’re really tall,” the president exclaims, craning her neck at a lanky, young soldier standing stiffly to attention.

He tells her he is 185cm and she asks, with genuine concern, “Are the beds here big enough for you?” They are, he reassures her.

This was on a recent morning in April at a new special forces training centre on the outskirts of Taipei, which Tsai had just opened.

The relaxed and chatty president disappears when she enters the cavernous dining hall, where hundreds of crew-cut recruits stand to attention and shouted “Zong Tong Hao!”, or “Hello, President!”

She almost looks out of place in these settings. Her speech is worthy and matter of fact, with no soaring rhetoric. And yet such visits are quite frequent, to make sure the military reforms she has pushed through are paying off.

One of the most difficult was a return to a year of military service for all men over the age of 18. While she admits it is not popular, she says the public accepts it is necessary: “But we have to make sure that their time spent in the military is worthwhile.”

For a former law professor and trade negotiator, Tsai has spent a surprisingly large amount of time as president donning camouflage fatigues. In one famous image she’s seen shouldering a rocket launcher. The reason: she believes Taiwan cannot hope to fend off Beijing without a modern, well-trained military in which young Taiwanese are proud to serve.

While China's threat of invasion is not new, it is only recently that President Xi Jinping has gained the military capability to mount what would still be a huge and risky operation. His threats have also become more urgent and ominous. He has said twice that a resolution over Taiwan cannot be passed down from one generation to another, which some have interpreted to mean that he wants it done in his lifetime.

On the other side of the strait, Tsai has set about rebuilding Taiwan’s outdated, demoralised and ill-equipped ground forces. It has been an uphill struggle, but results have begun to show. Yearly defence spending has risen significantly to about $20bn (£16bn).

“Our military capability is much strengthened compared to eight years ago. The investment we have put in to military capacity is unprecedented,” Tsai says.

I have spoken to many in Taiwan’s opposition who genuinely believe Tsai’s strategy of building up the military is naive, if not dangerous. They point to China’s powerful navy, the world’s largest, and more than two million active troops. Taiwan’s forces are not even a tenth of that.

To Tsai and her supporters that is missing the point. Taiwan is not trying to defeat a Chinese invasion, they say, but dramatically increasing its price to deter China.

“The cost of taking over Taiwan is going to be enormous,” Tsai says. “What we need to do is increase the cost.”

Tsai was no stranger to Beijing, or the Chinese Communist Party, when she became president. Her unorthodox rise to power began in the mid-1990s, when she cut her teeth as a trade negotiator. She then caught the eye of Chen Shui-bian, the first president from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). He appointed her to run Taiwan’s top body for dealing with China. There she rewrote the book on how Taiwan should handle Beijing.

She has long known where the red lines are - and she believes that to resist China, Taiwan needs allies: “So strengthening our military capacity is one and working with our friends in the region to form a collective deterrence is another.”

Many in Tsai’s party, the DPP, now talk of a new alliance that stretches from Japan and South Korea to the north, through the Philippines to Australia in the south – with the US as quarterback, holding the team together. But this is theoretical at best. There is no Asian Nato and Taiwan enjoys no formal military alliances. Despite mutual antipathy towards Beijing, Tokyo and Manila are both deeply reluctant to vow support for Taiwan. Even that most important ally, Washington, has stopped short of guaranteeing it would put boots on the ground.

But Tsai is optimistic. “A lot of other countries in the region are alert and some of them may have a conflict with China,” she says, referring to rival claims by Beijing, Tokyo and Manila over disputed waters and islands.

“So, China is not an issue for Taiwan only. It is an issue for the whole region.”

The power of soft power

Painting China as a big, bad bully is not hard for a Taiwan president. The trickier job is to find allies who would risk irking the world’s second largest economy.

And that’s why Taiwan leads such an increasingly lonely diplomatic existence. In the last decade China has put the squeeze on many of the island’s allies who still recognise it – only 12 remain now, most of them tiny Pacific Island and Caribbean micro-states.

Tsai believes the way out of this diplomatic isolation is to build alliances with what she calls “like-minded democracies”.

To that end she hosts dozens of parliamentary delegations from all over the world, a loophole for meeting foreign dignitaries from countries that don’t see Taiwan as one. Last month I attended Holocaust Memorial Day. There was music and poetry, and an impassioned speech to never forget by the representative from Germany.

There are also more unusual events. Earlier this week, while Xi Jinping was getting ready to welcome Vladimir Putin in Beijing, Tsai Ing-wen hosted a drag performance by Taiwanese-American Nymphia Ward. “This is probably the first presidential office in the world to host a drag show,” Nymphia reportedly told Tsai.

Both are examples of brand Taiwan – a democracy that the world should care about losing.

“People say we are more important than Ukraine - strategically our position is more important and our place in the supply chain - and that they should shift support to Taiwan. We say no. The democratic countries need to support Ukraine,” Tsai says.

Rather than Taiwan’s wildly successful chip industry, which could be replicated, instead Tsai wields the one thing she has and the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t: the soft power of democracy.

In the run up to January’s election, the rainbow flag was hard to miss at every DPP rally.

“In Taiwan we are free to live how we choose. We could not do this in China,” one couple told me.

It’s a remarkable change from when I was a student here more than 30 years ago. Taiwan was still emerging from four decades of military rule. I remember a gay friend desperately looking for a way to get to America. Back then, if you were found to be homosexual during your military service you could get thrown in jail or a psychiatric ward.

That changed but Tsai Ing-wen’s government went further than any in Asia when it pushed through legislation legalising same-sex marriage in 2019. A little over half the population still opposed it. Some, including church and family groups, ran a vociferous campaign against it. It was a big political risk, and one that could have cost her re-election.

Tsai calls it a “very difficult journey” but one she saw as necessary: “It's a test to society to see to what extent we can move forward with our values. I am actually rather proud that we managed to overcome our differences.”

Taiwan is still conservative and patriarchal. I ask Tsai if she’s worried it might return to being a “boys club” once she, the island’s first female president, steps down. “I have a lot of opinions about that boys club!” she says but does not elaborate.

The island’s strength, in her opinion, is its mixed heritage – it’s a society of immigrants.

The Chinese came in many waves, sometimes centuries apart, and they joined hundreds of thousands of indigenous peoples.

“In… [such a] society, there are a lot of challenges,” Tsai says. “People are less bound by the traditions. The main goal is to survive [as a society]. This is why we have been able to move from an authoritarian age to democracy.”

And that is why she hopes Taiwan’s most important alliance – with the world’s most powerful country and democracy - will last no matter who makes it to the White House after November.

Best friends forever?

After Donald Trump’s stunning victory in 2016, Tsai Ing-wen rang to congratulate him – and she was put through. No US President since Jimmy Carter had taken a call from the president of Taiwan. Tsai has described the call as short but intimate, and wide-ranging.

The truth is Trump is a wild card for Taiwan. He’s criticised the island for “stealing America’s semiconductor industry”, but, as Tsai points out, he has also approved more arms shipments to Taipei than any of his predecessors. But she doesn’t want to discuss him, or the possibility of his return to the Oval Office.

What she does want to emphasise is the perception of a growing China threat.

“The rest of the world is telling China that you can't use military means [against Taiwan]. No unilateral action is allowed and no non-peaceful means is allowed and… I think China got the message,” she says.

That might be wishful thinking. There has been no noticeable decrease in military pressure. Rather, China regularly sends dozens of military aircraft and ships across the median line that divides the waters and airspace of the Taiwan strait. In 2022, Beijing declared that it no longer recognises what was effectively the border. The trigger was one of Tsai’s diplomatic coups.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s historic visit in 2022 was celebrated in a Taiwan starved of international recognition. But China was furious, firing ballistic missiles over the island, and into the Pacific Ocean, for the first time ever.

It was a warning. Even some inside Tsai’s own administration worried quietly that Pelosi’s visit had been a mistake.

“We’ve been isolated for such a long time,” she says. “You just can't say no to a visit like that of Speaker Pelosi. Of course it comes with risks.”

You can feel the tension in her voice. Her opponents say the Pelosi visit was reckless and left Taiwan more exposed. Even President Biden is thought to have opposed the trip.

But Tsai says this is the line Taiwan must walk.

“I had to turn a party of revolutionaries into a party of power,” Tsai Ing-wen says of her time at the DPP’s helm.

When she took over, she was an economics graduate leading a party of older, male radicals who had spent their early lives fighting for Taiwan independence – or behind bars for it.

There is no need for Taiwan to hold a referendum or declare independence, she says, because it is already an independent, sovereign nation.

“We are on our own. We make our own decisions; we have a political system to govern this place. We have a constitution, we have laws, we have a military. We think that we are a country, and we have all the elements of a state.”

What they are waiting for, she says, is for the world to recognise it.

28
submitted 14 hours ago by [email protected] to c/[email protected]

Media is barred from hearing as 71-year-old man appears in closed session over attempted assassination of prime minister.

While the attack on PM Fico has sparked fears in other European capitals that similar incidents could occur there, some in Slovakia say they were anxious the attack would embolden the authorities to launch assaults on the media, civil society and the opposition parties.

Other European leaders close to Fico like Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán have appeared to be eager to capitalise on his shooting, raising conspiracy theories. Fico is widely considered a divisive and populist official who has been criticised by the opposition for lashing out at independent media outlets and scrapping a special prosecutor’s office. --

The suspect in the shooting of Slovakian prime minister Robert Fico appeared in a closed court hearing on Saturday outside Bratislava amid growing fears about the future of the deeply divided nation.

The media was barred from the hearing, and reporters were kept behind a gate by armed police officers wearing balaclavas.

Fico, shot several times at point-blank range during a rally in the mining town of Handlová, had more surgery on Friday as the country reeled from the most serious attack on a European leader in decades.

The government has released only sparse details about the assailant or the health of the prime minister , who remains in a stable but serious condition.

Slovak media identified the attacker as Juraj Cintula, 71, who the authorities described as a “lone wolf” who had recently been radicalised.

A poet and former security guard, Cintula was known in his home town of Levice in provincial Slovakia as an eccentric but likable man.

His political views appear to have developed erratically. He is seen railing against violence in one YouTube clip, but later praising a violent pro-Russian paramilitary group on Facebook for their “ability to act without approval from the state”. He later adopted staunchly pro-Ukrainian views, which grew increasingly strong after Russia’s invasion.

In his published writing and personal conversations, Cintula expressed xenophobic views about the Romany community in Slovakia, a popular topic among the country’s far-right parties.

Neighbour and friend Mile L’udovit said the pair would occasionally discuss politics and that Cintula had been angry about the growing attacks on free speech under Fico’s leadership, a major topic of concern for the Slovakian leftwing opposition.

“No one knows why he did it, but I think it was a ticking timebomb before something like this would happen,” said Pavol Šimko, a 45-year-old history teacher, speaking in central Bratislava on Friday.

Wednesday’s assassination attempt in Handlová, 112 miles from the capital, has shone a light on what officials and many Slovaks say should be seen as a wider symptom of the country’s polarised political environment.

“We are now truly becoming the black hole of Europe,” added Šimko, referring to comments made by former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, who coined the phrase to describe Slovakia in 1997 after the abduction of the son of then president Michal Kováč and the murder of a key witness in the case, police officer Róbert Remiáš.

Acts of political violence have become a grim fixture in recent Slovak history, but this latest is by far and away the most serious.

Other European leaders close to Fico, a divisive and populist official who has been criticised by the opposition for lashing out at independent media outlets and scrapping a special prosecutor’s office, have appeared to be eager to capitalise on his shooting.

Speaking on state radio on Friday morning, the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, drew a link between Fico’s views on the war in Ukraine and the attempted assassination.

Since Fico’s return to power, “Slovakia started on the path of peace, and this was a big help for Hungary,” Orbán said. “We have now lost this support. We know that the perpetrator was a pro-war person,” he added, without providing any evidence.

The Hungarian prime minister, who often employs conspiratorial narratives, has spent more than a decade nurturing a relationship with the Kremlin and has repeatedly argued the west should stop providing support to Ukraine.

*"Of course [Fico] he became the target. There are only a few like him in Europe. And they need to take care of their own safety." *- Dmitry Medvedev, former Russian president

In his radio interview, he suggested – again without evidence – that the shooting in Slovakia was part of a geopolitical struggle. “The combinations that connect the assassination attempt with the war are not unjustified,” he said.

“The pro-war parties are negotiating with each other, which is why the head of the [George] Soros empire and the US secretary of state also went to Kyiv,” Orbán said.

In Moscow, former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev praised the Kremlin-friendly Fico, also implying that he was targeted for his views on the Ukraine war. “Of course, he became the target. There are only a few like him in Europe. And they need to take care of their own safety,” he said.

Ľudovít Ódor, opposition party Progressive Slovakia’s lead candidate for the European parliamentary elections, said that foreign politicians “should not misinform foreigners and should not make political capital out of this for themselves”.

In an interview with independent Hungarian news outlet Partizán, Ódor, who briefly served as Slovakia’s caretaker prime minister last year and comes from Slovakia’s Hungarian-speaking minority, warned that “we have seen how this just comes back like a boomerang to us”, noting that many people in southern Slovakia watched Hungarian media.

The attack has also raised questions about a possible failure by the Slovak security services and sparked fears in other European capitals that similar incidents could occur there.

Slovak authorities have opened an investigation into the response of security forces at the scene. A source said that the security services were caught off guard and that Cintula was not known to them.

“Other European security services will be looking at their measures, realising that the danger can come out of nowhere,” the source said.

Polish PM Donald Tusk said on Thursday he received threats after the assassination attempt on his Slovakian counterpart, with a media outlet reporting his security protection would be strengthened.

In Belgium, prime minister Alexander De Croo filed a police complaint against a radio presenter who urged listeners to “take him out”.

“You see that it is possible to shoot down a prime minister. So I would say: Go ahead,” the radio presenter told his listeners on a station that airs from the Belgian province of West Flanders.

Some in Slovakia said they were anxious the attack would embolden the authorities to launch assaults on the media, civil society and the opposition parties.

“I worry that the ruling coalition will now use the shooting as a pretext for a big crackdown. They already started blaming the opposition and the media for it,” said Lenka Szabóová, a student in Bratislava. “This should be a time of coming together. But it seems like it will only tear us apart.”

[-] [email protected] 11 points 1 day ago

This is why Russia has to leave Ukraine.

[-] [email protected] 4 points 1 day ago

Die Vorteile des Beamtenstatus im Vergleich zu Privatangestellten betreffen weit mehr als das Kindergeld, etwa höhere Pensionen, keine Sozialversicherungsbeiträge, Zuschüsse und erleichterten Zugang zur Leistungen in der Gesundheitsvorsorge.

[-] [email protected] 33 points 2 days ago* (last edited 1 day ago)

Gibt es außer eines verfassungswidrigen Bundeshaushalts irgendetwas, dass Christian Lindner nicht ablehnt? Egal was ich lese, Lindner ist dagegen, zumindest kommt mir das vor.

Hinzufügung: Ach ja, es gibt noch was. Die Beförderungen in FDP-geführten Ministerien lehnt Lindner auch nicht ab, das hätte ich fast vergessen. Sorry.

[-] [email protected] 14 points 2 days ago

Eine gute Übersicht (in englischer Sprache) über deutschsprachige Medien, die russische Propaganda verbreiten, mit vielen Links zu deutschsprachigen Medien:

Which German websites help disseminate pro-Russian narratives

Hier ist die [archivierte Version](Alternative link).

[-] [email protected] 2 points 3 days ago

They may come from one of the sources you list in your comment above :-)

[-] [email protected] 3 points 3 days ago

In Germany -as anywhere else- there is much more. You may be interested in this, for example:

Which German websites help disseminate pro-Russian narratives (here is the alternative archived link)

After our research on which websites are spreading pro-Russian narratives and talking points that benefit Moscow, we decided to take a closer look at websites in German. During the analysis, we found publications that quote Russian state media, that receive back quotes from them, and that spread claims that could play into the hands of the Kremlin.

[...]

It is clear that Russia is waging a war of propaganda and disinformation against Europe, whereas it is waging a real war against Ukraine, seizing its territories. An analysis of key Kremlin media narratives in different languages reveals that their campaign’s main goal is to force the West to stop supporting Ukraine and make concessions to Putin, probably by giving him the occupied territories and thus recognizing the redrawing of borders in Europe by military means.

News websites that tend to support pro-Russian, Euroskeptic, and anti-American views, as well as those close to the positions of right-wing radical parties, often pick up such narratives. Consciously or unconsciously, such web resources play into the hands of the Kremlin’s agenda. Such news reports are becoming a tool for spreading Russian and pro-Russian influence in Europe.

[-] [email protected] 2 points 5 days ago

China wouldn't agree with your view I guess.

[-] [email protected] 6 points 5 days ago

Last year, researchers at AidData, the World Bank, the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Kiel Institute for the World Economy in Germany found that Beijing has dramatically expanded emergency rescue lending to sovereign borrowers in financial distress —or outright default- when the China's Belt and Road Investments have failed.

Essentially, however, China has been bailing out its own banks, the study found. You can download the study here.

TLDR:

China had undertaken 128 rescue loan operations across 22 debtor countries worth $240 billion [by March 2023 when the study was published]. These include many so-called “rollovers,” in which the same short-term loans are extended again and again to refinance maturing debts.

Less than 5 percent of Beijing’s overseas lending portfolio supported borrower countries in distress in 2010, but that figure soared to 60 percent by 2022. Therefore, China's new funding schemes pivoted away from infrastructure project lending to ramping up liquidity support operations. Nearly 80% of its emergency rescue lending was issued between 2016 and 2021.

China does not offer bailouts to all BRI borrowers: low-income countries are typically offered a debt restructuring that involves a grace period or final repayment date extension but no new money, while middle-income countries tend to receive new money to avoid default. The reason is that these middle-income countries represent 80% or more than $500 billion of China’s total overseas lending, thus posing major balance sheet risks, so Chinese banks have incentives to keep them afloat via bailouts.

Borrowing from Beijing in emergency situations comes at a high price. Rescue loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) carries a 2% interest rate, while the average interest rate attached to a Chinese rescue loan is 5% in comparable situations.

[-] [email protected] 8 points 6 days ago* (last edited 6 days ago)

I don't like the term 'gigafactory' either, it's just that I didn't want to change the original version ... (but I altered the title now :-))

[-] [email protected] 6 points 6 days ago

It's very unlikely that Chinese cars are sold at a loss.

Even if we ignore for a moment that Chinese cars are produced at such low costs not in the least because of the use of forced labour and thus by ignoring even the most fundamental human rights, China will subsidize its EV industry at all costs, also offering dumping prices. China's 'industrial policy' isn't focused on financial health but on scale to destroy foreign competition to control the market for economic and political gains.

[-] [email protected] 3 points 1 week ago

It's a bad life in China as a journalist unless you parrot the Chinese communist party's propaganda. “China is the world’s largest jailer of journalists, with more than 100 currently detained," as the organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) announced last week when they released 2024 World Press Freedom Index.

China ranked 172nd among 180 countries and regions. Compared with Chiba's 2023 ranking of 179th—second last place—China’s ranking has increased only because of the deterioration of situations in other countries, such as in the Taliban controlled Afghanistan, rather than any improvement in China.

RSF's report also said that “in addition to detaining more journalists than any other country in the world,” the Chinese communist regime “continues to exercise strict control over information channels, implementing censorship and surveillance policies to regulate online content and restrict the spread of information deemed to be sensitive or contrary to the party line.”

[-] [email protected] 9 points 1 week ago

China orientiert sich nicht an deutschen Wirtschaftskonzepten, auch wenn man das an manchen Details so ableiten könnte. Die chinesische Regierung will durch eine wirtschaftliche Vormachtstellung ihr ganzes politisches System exportieren, inklusive Internetzensur und Abschaffung demokratischer Prozesse. In Ländern des globalen Südens, wo Demokratien weniger ausgebaut sind, sieht man das störker als in Europa, aber das Ziel ist dasselbe.

Die strukturellen Überkapazitäten Chinas und die in der Folge deflationären Entwicklungen passen in dieses Bild (in diesem Punkt stimme ich dem Artikel zu). Auf dem heimischen chinesischen Markt fallen die Preise etwa für E-Autos rapide. Einige Hersteller mussten ihre Produktionen aus Liqudiditätsmangel einstellen (HiPhi, Aiways von Tencent, WM Motor von Baidu) oder sind insolvent (Levdeo, Singulato). Momentan scheint sich China hier auf SAIC, Geely und vor allem aber BYD zu konzentrieren, die offenbar ausreichend Finanzierung bekommen.

Vergessen dürfen wir aber auch hier nicht, dass diese billigen Massenfertigungen nicht zuletzt auch wegen sklavenähnlicher Arbeitsbedingungen in China möglich sind, und das längst nicht nur im Technologiesektor. Dort werden die fundamentalsten Menschenrechte vollkommen ignoriert.

Das muss man berücksichtigen, wenn man über Wirtschaftskonzepte in China diskutiert.

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