Market ‘challenging’ for First UK Bus

first_imgFirstGroup’s final figures for the year to 31 March show that it improved its profitability, despite falling revenues.Group revenue fell from 6bn to £5.2bn, with operating profit down by £3m at £300m. Operating margins increased from 5% to 5.8%.First’s USA business (First Student, First Transit and Greyhound) accounts for nearly two-thirds of turnoverUnderlying revenue was broadly flat, while reported revenue decreased by 13.8% mainly due to changes in the rail franchise portfolio.Overall, the USA business (First Student, First Transit and Greyhound) accounts for nearly two-thirds of First’s turnover.In UK Bus revenue fell to £870m (2015: £896m), but operating margins improved from 5.8% to 6%, resulting in a £52m operating profit (2015: £51.8m).Says CEO Tim O’Toole: “UK Bus reacted well to disappointing passenger volume trends across the industry in the year, rapidly adjusting commercial and cost efficiency plans including our depot footprint while maintaining a focus on long term investments in smarter ticketing, improved connectivity for our passengers and better partnerships with our local authorities.“In UK Bus we expect market conditions to remain challenging in the year ahead.“We therefore expect moderate margin progression from the full year benefits of past cost-saving actions, additional cost and operational efficiency initiatives, and some benefits from our fuel hedging programme.”Full results at read more

Pulhams Coaches appoints new Ops Manager

first_imgSamantha Kinch has joined the team at Pulhams Coaches as its new Operations Manager.Sam has been in the industry for over 11 yearsIn her new role Sam will be working closely with General Manager, James Baugh, who joined the team in January 2017.Sam has been working in the public transport industry for over 11 years, joining her father’s family firm, Minety-based Kinch Coaches, at the age of 18.Says Sam: “Joining Pulhams felt like the most natural move for me. The whole team has been very accommodating and that’s made my transition into the business easy.“The professionalism and duty of care shown by the staff at Pulhams is second to none and I’m looking forward to contributing to that going forward.“I’m already proud of the fact that we are one of 23 members in the Guild of British Coach Operators. “All the staff work hard to ensure we remain at the top of our game and I’m excited about being part of that in the future.”Kathryn Pulham, Director at Pulhams, adds: “We’re thrilled to welcome Sam into our business.“We know she will bring superb leadership skills to an excellent team of operations and driving staff.”last_img read more

Blackburn Bus Company ‘heroes bus’ unveiled

first_imgBlackburn Bus Company is one of the latest to recognise NHS staff and key workers with a specially liveried ‘Blackburn Heroes’ bus, as a reminder of the role NHS staff and key workers have had in maintaining vital services in the region.The bus is finished in blue with an NHS heart and rainbow, and carries images of local key workers and health service staff, each nominated by friends and relatives via social media.Work from the firm itself is recognised on the back of the bus, which shows photos of drivers, engineers and support staff at its Intack depot.It is one of several ‘heroes buses’ being introduced by parent Transdev in partnership with local media organisations to recognise community heroes during the pandemic.Blackburn Bus Company CEO Alex Hornby says: “We know there are many unsung heroes doing all kinds of jobs right now who deserve our community’s thanks, and so we decided to recognise them by covering our ‘Blackburn heroes’ bus with their photos, along with the jobs they do – with our amazing NHS workers given pride of place.“I hope the ‘Blackburn heroes’ bus will make all who see it pause to think for a moment about the vitally important work being done to keep our community going. We are so grateful for their support.“I hope that the contribution of NHS staff and all the other carers and key workers will always be remembered, and they’ll continue to be held up as the heroes that they are.”last_img read more

Chalkwell recruits seven young people through Kickstart

first_imgChalkwell Coach Hire has successfully bid for funding through the government’s Kickstart scheme. The Sittingbourne operator will take on seven young people through Kickstart, which serves to get into work those that are aged between 16 and 24 and whom would otherwise be unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.Those that join Chalkwell will carry out roles that include trainee driver, cleaner, trainee technician and marketing graduate. Trainee drivers will be instructed by an outside training company using one of Chalkwell’s vehicles.The Kickstart scheme has a minimum requirement for employers to take on 30 people, but Chalkwell has worked with the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, which has acted as a Kickstart ‘gateway’ and aggregated the needs of many smaller employers in the county.Says Chalkwell Managing Director Roland Eglinton: “There are some great young people in the community who have seen their job prospects reduce due to the pandemic and rising unemployment.“By working with the Kickstart scheme, we intend to give these people meaningful experience and the prospect of training and future employment with us. I encourage other employers to look at the scheme, and to work with local bodies if they need to.”Kickstart covers the wages for each placement at the national minimum wage rate for 25 hours per week over a six-month duration. It also covers National Insurance and pension contributions. The employer is able to claim £1,500 per person to help with setup and training expenses.An employer may spread the start date of job placements until the end of December under Kickstart.last_img read more

Amazing new foods to eat at the Indiana State Fair

first_imgIndianaNewsSouth Bend Market By 95.3 MNC – June 26, 2019 0 406 Pinterest Pinterest (Photo supplied/Indiana State Fair) Livestock shows are a tradition, the Midway offers fun for all ages, and our Heroes in the Heartland are sure to entertain and inspire. But, indulging in fair food is an absolute must when visiting the Great Indiana State Fair. And, once again, with new, wacky recipes and culinary creations, this year won’t disappoint.New food items featured at this year’s Indiana State Fair include:The Hawaiian Haminator (Offered by Pork-n-More)Indulge in a ham and bacon masterpiece mixed with Pork N More’s very own Grand Champion BBQ Bacon Sauce and famous Yum Yum Sauce. Served on a sesame seed bun and topped with provolone cheese and two pineapple slices.Bison Hush Puppies (Offered by Red Frazier Bison)Red Frazier Bison puts a new twist on an old-school favorite with their Bison Hush Puppies. Here, hush puppies are made from cornmeal batter, jalapeño and Red Frazier Bison, then deep fried and served with seasoned sour cream.Buffaloaded Fries (Offered by Urick Concessions)Don’t miss this jumbo plate of French Fries topped with a blend of white meat chicken, creamy cheddar cheese sauce, buffalo hot sauce and blue cheese. Garnished with ranch dressing, real bacon bits and chives.Monroe’s Midwest Hero (Offered by Monroe’s Big Dog Diner)A Hoosier classic! Try this fresh hand-breaded tenderloin with cheese, bacon, and of course Monroe’s special sassy sauce. Top with a dill spear and you’ve got yourself a meal!Indiana Pork BBQ Split (Offered by Indiana Pork Producers)The Indiana Pork BBQ Split is served just like a banana split! Prepared in a boat with three delicious scoops of pulled pork, macaroni and cheese and cole slaw. Complete with a pickle on the side.The Trifecta Hero (Offered by Round Boy’s Concessions)This drinkable Dreamsicle is a shakeup, slushy, and vanilla shake mashup. Blended together with freshly squeezed lemons, limes, and orange juice, then mixed with homemade simple syrup and French vanilla cream with a splash of water.Deep Fried Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich (Offered by Urick Concessions)Gear up for this guaranteed sugar rush! Creamy vanilla ice cream will be sandwiched between two chocolate chip cookies. Then, dipped in a funnel cake batter, deep fried, and garnished with powdered sugar and chocolate sauce.Lamb Taco (Offered by Spectrum Catering)Spectrum Catering’s Lamb Tacos include flour tortillas filled with Barbacoa lamb and served with pico, lettuce, onion and cilantro. Finish off with cheese, sour cream and a side of salsa.Poutine (Offered by North American Midway Entertainment)Freshly cut Idaho potatoes fried in Maple Leaf Farms duck fat to a perfect crisp with a splash of kosher sea salt, garnished with cheddar curd cheese nuggets and smothered in a very special Poutine secret recipe sauce.Cajun Queen (Offered by Bayou Concessions)Starting with a bed of jambalaya rice, Bayou Concessions adds 1, 2 or all 3 of their famous meats (blackened chicken, New Orleans steak and Andouille Sausage). Next, they throw in grilled onions, grilled bell peppers, melted sharp cheddar cheese and their homemade hot sauce to top off this tasty platter.Hoosier Hometown Hash (Offered by the Dairy Bar)The Hoosier Hometown Hash features two hash brown patties grilled to perfection, surrounding FOUR types of cheese: muenster, pepper jack, cheddar and swiss.American Hero (Offered by R.E. Smith Food and Drink)This hardy hoagie is made with Virginia ham, salami, and pepperoni, topped with a lettuce/slaw mixture, and covered in a freshly made special sauce. Add a layer of fresh tomatoes and top this American Hero off with slices of American and Jalapeno cheese.Superhero USA All the Way Pancake (Offered by Meatball Factory LLC)Start your day like the superhero you are with the Superhero USA All the Way pancake! This freshly made Dutch pancake is loaded with RED-strawberries, WHITE-fresh whipped cream, and of course BLUE-berries.Shepherd’s Pie (Offered by Spectrum Catering)This shepherd’s pie is made with seasoned ground lamb, vegetables and a gravy topped with mashed potatoes and garnished with green onions.Duck Fat Fries (North American Midway Entertainment)Freshly cut Idaho potatoes fried in Maple Leaf Farms duck fat to a perfect crisp with a splash of kosher sea salt. Served with the quack sauce secret recipe.Rollin’ Mac Daddy Egg Roll (Offered by Gobble Gobble)You can now walk and eat the original Gobble Gobble Mac Daddy with this new culinary creation! The Rollin Mac Daddy Egg Roll includes cheesy mac and cheese with pulled BBQ turkey on top. Add a side of BBQ sauce to get the full Rollin Mac Daddy Egg Roll effect.Bourbon Chicken (Offered by Freund Family Goods)Kick it up Cajun-style with a Bourbon Chicken Bowl! This dish features grilled chicken smothered in Freund’s super-secret, sweet and tangy bourbon sauce, along with fresh cut broccoli – all piled high on a bed of steamed cilantro rice.Carmel Coffee Milkshake (Offered by the Dairy Bar)Creamy vanilla ice cream, caramel AND coffee! This treat from the Dairy Bar is perfectly acceptable for breakfast.Relleno de Papa (Offered by Da Portable Rican)The Relleno de Papa includes one mashed potato ball filled with seasoned ground beef and fried golden brown. Served with rice, this treat will satisfy the hungriest of fairgoers.“Angry” Pretzel Poppers with “Mad” Ranch Sauce (Offered by J. Wilson Group)These pretzel poppers feature diced jalapenos mixed in a made-from-scratch dough, then rolled in diced jalapenos. These hotter than hot bites are then baked, buttered and salted. This snack pairs perfectly with a jalapeno ranch dressing.Poutine with Bacon (North American Midway Entertainment)Freshly cut Idaho potatoes fried in Maple Leaf Farms duck fat and sprinkled with crispy hickory smoked peppery bacon! Garnished with cheddar curd cheese nuggets and smothered in a very special Poutine secret recipe sauce…this is a don’t miss!Blue Raspberry Lemon Twister (Offered by Pork-n-More)When the Indiana State Fair heats up, you’ll want to cool off with Pork-n-More’s new TWIST on blue raspberry lemonade. They call this thirst-quencher the Blue Raspberry Lemon Twister.The 2019 Indiana State Fair will offer traditional fair foods such as corn dogs and elephant ears, but the new food items will be featured in “Taste of the Fair,” a contest that encourages fairgoers to vote on their favorite new fair food item.Fairgoers can vote at any of the Information Booths presented by Prairie Farms throughout the 17-day fair. The winning food stand will receive a $2,500 cash prize, followed by second place receiving $1,000, and third place receiving $500. Facebook Google+ Twitter WhatsApp Facebook Twitter Google+ Amazing new foods to eat at the Indiana State Fair WhatsApp Previous articleFormer Warsaw attorney accused of stealing from employee’s withholdingsNext articleChicago man arrested after driving wrong way on I-94 in Berrien County 95.3 MNCNews/Talk 95.3 Michiana’s News Channel is your breaking news and weather station for northern Indiana and southwestern Michigan.last_img read more

20-minute closures set for Tuesday at “dogbone” interchange

first_img Facebook By Jon Zimney – August 26, 2019 0 280 Twitter Google+ Facebook 20-minute closures set for Tuesday at “dogbone” interchange IndianaLocalNews Google+ WhatsApp WhatsApp Twitter Pinterest Pinterest (Photo supplied/Indiana Department of Transportation) The Indiana Department of Transportation has announced that the “dogbone” interchange project at State Road 2 and U.S. 20 in LaPorte County will have a series of 20-minute road closures Tuesday, Aug. 27, as crews set beams on the newly-constructed bridge.Closures will begin around 7 a.m., with four closures each in the westbound and eastbound lanes. Crews will begin in the eastbound lane before switching over to the westbound lane. Work is expected to be complete sometime Tuesday afternoon.Drivers are advised to avoid the area throughout the day on Tuesday. Previous articlePort of Indiana-Burns Harbor to invest $20M over 4 yearsNext articleGov. Holcomb: ILEARN tests to show decrease in student performance Jon ZimneyJon Zimney is the News and Programming Director for News/Talk 95.3 Michiana’s News Channel and host of the Fries With That podcast. Follow him on Twitter @jzimney.last_img read more

Tests show Porter County patient does not have coronavirus

first_img Pinterest Facebook Pinterest Twitter Google+ Google+ Facebook WhatsApp By Jon Zimney – February 2, 2020 0 301 This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via AP) Indiana appears to be safe from the Coronavirus, for now.The Porter County Health Department has determined a person who was being isolated last week because of the possibility of having the virus tested negative.The unidentified person was traveling through northern Indiana on Monday and was hospitalized and infection control protocols were implemented.The patient has since been released. CoronavirusIndianaLocalNews Previous articleEx-boyfriend accused of killing woman targeted in NovemberNext articleJanuary 2020 makes Top 10 list of warmest, wettest ever Jon ZimneyJon Zimney is the News and Programming Director for News/Talk 95.3 Michiana’s News Channel and host of the Fries With That podcast. Follow him on Twitter @jzimney. Tests show Porter County patient does not have coronavirus Twitter WhatsApplast_img read more

Jams today but no jams tomorrow

first_imgBut Eurocontrol Director-General Yves Lambert denies it is a case of “too many cooksspoiling the broth”, adding: “These parallel institutional exercises are not inconsistent with each other. They are complementary and are going on in an atmosphere of positive dialogue.”Traffic has increased by an average of 8% per month during most of 1996. But Lambert believes Eurocontrol’s central flow management unit has handled expansion extremely efficiently, arguing that harmonisation of ATM under the amusingly-titled EATCHIP system has headed off the danger of “total disorder”.But the basic problems caused by the growth of air traffic can only really be dealt with by increasing capacity, an option which is politically difficult.Both the Commission and ECAC have made Eurocontrol a central pillar of their approach to the situation and Eurocontrol officials, aware that they need to follow the will of their political masters, have no problem with Commission involvement in its structure.But Commission officials, who expect a proposal to update the 30-year-old Eurocontrol Convention to be ready next month, are clear that their preferred model for the future differs from that of ECAC. The Directorate-General for transport (DGVII) is keen to establish an EU negotiating position to give it added bargaining power in final talks within the ECAC.The Commission also warns against Eurocontrol maintaining too great a hold over both the institutional and operational sides of ATM.Some EU member states, including the UK, France and Portugal, are less enthusiastic about the Commission getting in on the decision-making act. The solution is less obvious and, at first sight, the amount of work currently under way on the future of European Air Traffic Management (ATM) looks likely to muddy the waters still further.In the light of evidence that 18% of European flights were delayed by more than 15 minutes in 1995, Transport Commissioner Neil Kinnock has suggested giving the Commission a more central role in ATM by making it a fully-fledged member of Eurocontrol (the European organisation for the safety of air navigation), which has 22 members from within and outside the EU.Elsewhere, the 33-member European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) has been working on a number of models for the future of ATM, initially under the acronym INSTAR and latterly INSTRAT. The Commission suggests a new definition of the term “new entrant”, which could be reserved for carriers with no presence at an airport, allowing them to benefit from priority allocation of new slots. Alternatively, the term could include carriers with a specified percentage of slots on a particular day.“This would increase the number of new entrants compared with the present possibilities and give a preference to a third operator on a route and therefore maintain competition,” says the Commission.Efforts are being made to ensure that new entrants are offered high-quality slots, rather than the commercially unattractive ones which have traditionally been their lot.center_img A recent report from the UK’s House of Lords summed up their concerns, claiming this would merely add another layer of bureaucracy to a system already creaking under the shortfalls in capacity.Their feelings were echoed by the Association of European Airlines (AEA), which expressed disappointment with Kinnock’s White Paper, claiming that “without proper analysis, it jumps to the least satisfying solution – that is the Community joining the Eurocontrol Convention”.AEA chairman Dr Herbert Bammer sounds a stark warning. “If the civil servants find cause to reject what the whole community of civil airspace users has proposed, they had better be ready to explain their decision to the airlines and their hard-pressed customers.”Hand in hand with the evident headaches involved in controlling the flow of aircraft in the air, the surge in traffic has extended the system of slot allocation to breaking point.With three-quarters of Europe’s international routes already congested and 15 more airports expected to be full by the millennium, the Commission is finalising plans for reform.The system is now so stretched that new entrants often find themselves with no access to some of the world’s busiest airports.A Commission paper currently nearing completion suggests changes to the 1993 regulation, including a minimum aircraft size, a system to cap the frequency of flights and a “market mechanism” for allocating slots which could see precious take-off and landing times going to the highest bidder.last_img read more

A quiet economic success in the North

first_imgAnd all this has been achieved under a highly centralised system of wagebargaining and while maintaining an extraordinarily generous welfaresystem.Denmark went through a very painful period of adjustment. In 1970, thecountry had full employment. But a marginal growth in net jobs over thedecade was insufficient to absorb inflows to the labour force andunemployment surged to 7% by 1980.When the last recession finished in mid-1993, it marked the end of sevenyears of slow growth and unemployment had hit 350,000 – 12.4% of theworkforce.The US economist’s remedy would be to cut taxes, take on the labour unions,introduce flexibility to bargaining over wages and conditions, and removethe disincentives to hire.Most of this advice was followed, but only slowly and through negotiation.Even now, wages are largely set nationally, through contract negotiationsbetween the Confederation of Trade Unions and its affiliated nationalbodies on one side and the Danish Employers’ Confederation on the other. One day, perhaps in 2002 when euro notes and coins start to appear andunder the cover of a British application, the Danish authorities hope theycan sneak in. This simple fact seems to make the Danish economy invisible when plauditssuch as ‘Celtic tiger’ and ‘Dutch miracle’ are being handed out.The Netherlands is repeatedly acclaimed for achieving that ‘unique’combination of creating employment while flattening inflation and cuttingstate spending.Yet just north of Germany lies a country where the budget is in surplus,the ratio of public debt to national income is just over 60% and falling,inflation is under 2% and unemployment is heading below 5% of theworkforce, as measured by the EU.center_img These set the pattern for the whole labour market, even though thecontracts apply directly to only one third of union members.Over the past few years, these deals have kept wage rises down in returnfor non-wage benefits.Over the lifetime of the Rasmussen government a series of reforms to thetax and labour market, supported in key areas by Conservatives andLiberals, has fed through into jobs growth.Between 1994 and 1998, the government cut the 70% tax rate on anyadditional income gained by top-earners to 60% while, for average earners,this marginal tax rate was reduced from 50% to 42%. These changes were madeas part of a fiscal reform package which saw ‘green’ taxes introduced oncarbon dioxide emissions, petrol and water use. Denmark remains,nevertheless, along with Belgium, one of the EU’s top taxers.The Danish success story is intensely frustrating for those working in theCopenhagen political establishment. They have done everything they can toqualify for EMU, but they simply cannot sell it – yet – to the Danishpeople.At least for the first few years, Denmark will have to make do withestablishing a currency peg whereby the krone will shadow the euro to suchan extent that the country might as well join.last_img read more

Distance selling rules watered down in attempt to win over opponents

first_imgBut its suggestion that member states should be barred from introducing tougher laws at home than those agreed at Union level is set to spark angry protests from consumer groups and those governments which favour giving customers stronger protection.The Commission has been battling to persuade member states to adopt new rules on ‘distance selling’ for more than two years. Under its latest proposal, due to be unveiled by Internal Market Commissioner Mario Monti and his consumer affairs counterpart Emma Bonino on 14 October, an earlier clause which would have allowed individual member states to go beyond the terms of any EU legislation has been dropped.While this will be welcomed by those member states who fear that allowing others to provide stronger protection would distort the single market, others are likely to continue fighting for the right to set tougher national laws. “We have a general policy concerning all consumer protection issues that there should be a minimum harmonisation and member states should be allowed to introduce more stringent provisions,” said one Swedish diplomat.Other countries say that while the new proposal is not as strong as they would like, they would welcome any progress in the long-drawn out campaign for EU rules.“We are all very interested in getting a directive on this issue,” said a Danish diplomat. “We just hope to have an agreement on this. It is better than nothing. Of course, it will have to be a little watered down, but that’s not the same thing as saying it’s a bad proposal.”A spokeswoman for Monti said this week that allowing member states to go it alone would violate single market principles and insisted that the latest proposal would ensure adequate consumer protection. “The new version will ensure a high level of protection for everybody under Community law,” she said.However, some in the industry argue that the planned new rules would be costly to implement and maintain EU-wide legislation is not necessary.last_img read more

Reaction to terror attacks hitting air cargo firms

first_imgBut, 12 years on, Mulders said all cargo express air operators still face a hotch-potch of regulations which do not take into account the low levels of threat to the sector, nor its self regulation designed to weed-out potential terror attacks.He said the situation is unlikely to improve much in most world markets – despite EU efforts to set harmonised safety rules for the sector.“Realistically,” Mulders said, firms will be “operating within non-harmonised, non-threat assessed regulatory regimes, and subjected to industrial and network disruption every time that an aviation terrorist incident occurs which is targeted at a passenger carrying aircraft.” Jaap Mulders, chairman of the European Express Association, a group of Europe-based express delivery firms including the US’s United Parcel Service and Holland’s TPG, said cargo companies had taken a similar hit from regulators to one they suffered after the Lockerbie tragedy 12 years ago.He said Lockerbie “marked a defining point in realistic aviation security”.He added that “knee-jerk reaction to this major incident severely impacted” industry.last_img read more

Denmark takes a closer look at EU laws

first_imgIntroducing a reform of the Danish EU scrutiny system will allow Denmark to maintain its leading position in safeguarding the democratic accountability of the EU.Since Denmark joined the then European Economic Community in (EEC) in 1973, the European affairs committee of the Folketing has exerted control over the EU policy of the government. Prior to leaving for negotiations in Brussels, a Danish minister must obtain a mandate over negotiation from the European affairs committee in order to be able to negotiate and to vote on behalf of Denmark. This arrangement has proved its strength for more than 30 years and has been an inspiration to other EU member states. But irrespective of this fact there is a need today for new ways of handling EU matters. The vast number of cases and the complexity of them require that, to maintain Denmark’s long tradition of exerting thorough democratic control over EU policies, the standing committees play a greater role. To put it quite simply, we shall draw on the great expertise of the standing committees to a far larger extent than hitherto. Furthermore, the government is obliged to brief the standing committees on its stance on a given EU proposal. This means that the standing committees will have a better basis for making their decisions and that they will get an opportunity to have real political discussions with the government on a new EU proposal at an early date. Finally, the government will be obliged to give the standing committees its view as to whether a given EU proposal respects the principle of subsidiarity. In other words, the government has to inform the standing committee in question as to whether it finds it expedient to make EU rules apply in an area that is under the sphere of competence of the committee.I am pleased with these new initiatives, as I feel very strongly that our parliament should deal with EU matters in the same comprehensive way as is the case with Danish legislation. Thus the standing committees must play a greater role in EU matters.Currently, we adopt laws in the EU which apply to the individual member states in precisely the same way as if the national parliament in question had adopted the laws. As it is the EU alone which may subsequently amend these laws, one can hardly turn a blind eye to the decision-making process. That is the reason why we should become more involved in EU matters at a very early stage. Formerly, it was primarily the European affairs committee of the Folketing which dealt with EU matters. But shortly before Christmas, the Folketing decided to alter the procedure so that its standing committees would come to participate more actively in the scrutiny of EU matters. In my opinion, this change will give Denmark a leading position in ensuring democratic accountability in the EU.To be precise, the standing orders of the Folketing have been amended so as to make it apparent that standing committees can deal with the EU matters related to their sphere of competence. center_img At the time of its founding, the Danish European affairs committee was a new democratic instrument and we still need to prove today that we are forerunners in exerting democratic control. My vision is to place the Danish parliament in the group of parliaments that already today includes the standing committees in the scrutiny of EU matters.I might venture to add that the structure behind the reform has now been finalised and that it is up to the politicians to put actions behind the words of the reform in order to implement our ambitious goal.This is a responsibility which we should assume and which we will assume. By strengthening our parliamentary commitment to EU policy, we can contribute to reaching better EU decisions and also to making the EU more relevant and indeed closer to its citizens. Christian Mejdahl is speaker of the Danish parliament, the Folketing.last_img read more

Cyprus ratifies Lisbon treaty

first_imgHowever, the treaty cannot be enacted without the support of all member states. Ireland has already voted against the treaty, creating a challenge that the EU’s leaders intend to address again when they meet in October. The difficulties facing the treaty have been compounded in recent days by the refusal of the German and Polish presidents to sign the treaty immediately despite the backing given it by their respective parliaments. In Germany’s case, the reason is a legal challenge. Poland’s President Lech Kaczyński has delayed putting pen to paper until, as he said in an interview on 2 July, “it will no longer be a problem and it will no longer be a problem when we know that all [EU] countries will ratify the treaty”. Seven other EU countries whose parliaments have backed the treaty have yet to complete the formal ratification process. The Cypriot parliament approved the Treaty of Lisbon late on 3 July in a vote that was relatively close by standards set elsewhere in the EU. The vote was carried by 31 votes to 18, with one member of parliament abstaining. The principal opposition coming from the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL), the island’s largest party and the senior partner in the governing coalition.Cyprus is the twentieth of the EU’s 27 states to have approved the treaty, which is intended to make it easier to manage the EU and adjusts the balance of power between its institutions. last_img read more

Poles protest new media law

first_imgWARSAW — Opponents of Poland’s new conservative government staged mass rallies in support of press freedom across the country on Saturday afternoon.The demonstrators — the third such protest since the Law and Justice party took power two months ago — were upset by a new law that gives the government led by the Law and Justice party more power over public media.“Polish Television and Polish Radio will become government, not public stations,” said a letter from the organizers of the protest, the recently formed Committee for the Defense of Democracy. Most of the demonstrations took place outside local state radio and television buildings, with protestors waving Polish and EU flags and vowing to resist the government’s new media measures.“We the citizens own the public media, not the government and the politicians,” read one sign at a rally in Kraków.As many as 20,000 people gathered in front of a public television building in central Warsaw.The government’s media bill raced through parliament and was signed into law by President Andrzej Duda on Thursday. It allowed for the immediate removal of senior management at public radio and television. Their replacements, who include Law and Justice loyalists, were chosen by the treasury minister.The government argues that public media were too favorable to the previous governing coalition led by the Civic Platform party, and that the law restores balance. Previous governments have also tried to influence public media, but none have moved as swiftly to assert control.“Objectivity and accuracy are journalistic virtues,” Dawid Jackiewicz, the treasury minister, said on Friday when naming the new media chiefs. “If there are journalists here who did not keep those standards, then they may feel uneasy.” Some senior Law and Justice politicians have said that the main role for the public media is to broadcast positive news about the authorities.“Voters will finally find out what is being done for them by the government, parliament and president they elected,” wrote Krystyna Pawłowicz, a Law and Justice MP.International media watchdog groups have warned that the media law contradicts fundamental EU values. The European Commission plans to discuss the situation in Poland next week, citing concern over both the media law and new legislation on the Constitutional Tribunal, the country’s highest constitutional court, that critics say limits the independence of the judiciary and weakens the system of checks and balances. Also On POLITICO Poland strikes back at EU on media law By Jan Cienski and Maïa de La Baumelast_img read more

Dutch votes to be counted manually over hacking fears

first_imgThe Netherlands is to change the way it counts votes in elections because of software problems and fears of Russian hacking.Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk told the broadcaster RTL on Wednesday that all votes cast in the March 15 national election will be counted manually.”Since there is international evidence that the Russians might have interest in the electoral process, we must rely on good old paper,” Plasterk said. RTL reported earlier this week that cybersecurity experts in the Netherlands had warned of vulnerabilities in the country’s electoral system. The Electoral Council had known about some of the issues since 2011 but no action had been taken.Dutch voters already make their choice using paper and pencil. The results of the manual count are then transferred to a USB stick. Experts said the USB is not encrypted and is easy to manipulate.Foreign Minister Bert Koenders earlier this month said the government was on “high alert” for any Russian attempts to intervene in the election. Also On POLITICO Czech foreign ministry cyberattacked by ‘foreign state’ By Laurens Cerulus EU fights Russian fake news machine from the shadows By Jacopo Barigazzi and Ryan Heath Jens Stoltenberg: Cyberattacks targeting NATO have spiked By Cynthia Kroetlast_img read more

Massive opposition protests challenge Putin

first_img Also On POLITICO From the archive Alexei Navalny, Russian dissident in winter By Francesca Ebel US foreign office condemns Russian crackdown on protests By Rebecca Morin Anti-Putin opposition leader Alexei Navalny, protesters detained at Moscow rally By Nicholas Vinocur “We want the downsides of the Kremlin not letting Navalny stand in the election to grow higher than the downsides of allowing him to run,” Leonid Volkov, his campaign manager, told POLITICO. “This will happen when everyone recognizes that keeping him off the ballot is a sign of weakness by Putin.”A video watched by millionsMore than 13 million people have so far watched an online video in which Navalny alleges that Medvedev funneled funds from charities and NGOs into mansions and luxury yachts. The Kremlin has refused to comment on the claims.This week, lawmakers from Russia’s Communist Party, the second largest party in parliament, asked for a parliamentary investigation into the allegations, in a move that raised eyebrows in Russia’s carefully-managed political system.While Putin’s popularity remains high, almost three years of economic decline have plunged millions into poverty and the Kremlin is sensitive to allegations of high-level corruption. As many as 41 percent of Russians are struggling to feed themselves, according to a recent poll from the Moscow Higher School of Economics.“Navalny is pressuring and will continue to pressure the Kremlin, but he is unpredictable and his participation in the election would make the campaign very difficult for Putin,” Gleb Pavlovsky, a former Kremlin advisor who is now critical of Putin, told POLITICO. “The Kremlin will want to keep him off the ballot.”This article was updated with new figures for the number of people arrested in Moscow. A bid from the oppositionNavalny’s presidential bid looked to have been derailed last month when he was convicted on fraud charges he said were revenge for his opposition to Putin and handed a five-year suspended sentence.Under Russian law, anyone under criminal conviction is barred from running for public office. Navalny, a liberal politician with a foot also in the nationalist camp, says the constitution stipulates that only people serving jail time are banned from standing in elections. In an audacious attempt to force himself onto the ballot, he has recently begun opening election campaign offices across Russia.“I represent the interests of millions of people who want to see real change in Russia,” he told hundreds of campaign volunteers in Tomsk, a university town in west Siberia, this month. “I demand my right to participate in this election.”Navalny and his supporters have faced mounting pressure as they take their message of dissent to Russia’s heartland: The opposition leader was twice assaulted by pro-Kremlin activists last week, while campaign volunteers have had their apartments and cars vandalized. In Barnaul, in south Siberia, Navalny was sprayed with a green dye, while in Volgograd, in Russia’s south, he was attacked by people who claimed to be Cossacks. He escaped uninjured.Despite the threats and intimidation, Navalny plans to open more than 80 campaign offices in the coming months. His campaign team says it has registered over 40,000 volunteers and raised 26 million rubles (€422,000) in public donations in just three months.While Putin’s popularity remains high, almost three years of economic decline have plunged millions into poverty. “In any normal European country, allegations that the prime minister was involved in large-scale corruption would result in an investigation,” said Pavel Troshin, a 20-year-old student, shortly before dozens of police officers in body armor began the first of several attempts to clear the square. “But in Russia, there is absolutely zero reaction from the authorities.”‘Russia without Putin’The size of the Moscow rally was hard to estimate but police, who traditionally significantly downplay attendance at opposition protests, said 7,000 people had turned out. The real figure may have been much higher. The protests were the first time that Russia’s National Guard, a new security force formed last year to quash mass dissent, was called into action. Protesters later marched toward Red Square, where they chanted “Russia without Putin!”The scale of Sunday’s protests and the fact that opposition supporters defied the authorities’ ban on demonstrations will cause concern in the Kremlin.Protesters in Moscow included thousands of young people who have lived their entire lives under Putin. “Young people are more in tune with the situation in our country,” said Yekaterina, 17. “We get our information from the internet, while most adults just watch state TV.” It was a sentiment echoed by Vladimir, 37. “Young people still have faith that Russia can be a normal country,” he said. “But most adults lost hope long ago and are resigned to corruption.” Both declined to give their surnames for fear of reprisal.Protests also took place in Russia’s far east, Siberia, the Urals region, the Black Sea coast and the far north of the country. In Vladivostok, a Pacific Ocean port city, police made dozens of arrests. More than 5,000 people defied police warnings to attend a protest in St Petersburg. Police said 130 people were arrested in that city.Navalny leading the protest, prior to his arrest | Evgeny Feldman for Navalny campaign/EPAThe scale of Sunday’s protests and the fact that opposition supporters defied the authorities’ ban on demonstrations will cause concern in the Kremlin ahead of next year’s presidential election. Putin has not formally announced he will run, but high-level leaks to Russian media suggest he will seek a fourth term in office that would take him to 2024 — and a quarter of a century in power. Only Joseph Stalin ruled Russia for longer. MOSCOW — Russian police detained Alexei Navalny, the Kremlin critic who wants to take on Vladimir Putin in next year’s presidential elections, during the largest nationwide protests for more than five years.Sunday’s opposition rallies, which had been called by Navalny over allegations that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev took over a $1 billion in bribes from state banks and wealthy businessmen, took place in more than 80 towns and cities across Russia, as furious protesters defied police bans on unsanctioned political gatherings.More than 850 people were detained in Moscow, according to rights activists, including Navalny’s entire anti-corruption organization, and 130 in St. Petersburg. Protesters filled a square just a short walk from the Kremlin, plastering a statue of Alexander Pushkin, the country’s 19th-century national poet, with anti-government stickers and signs. “Put Medvedev on trial!” read one sign. Clashes broke out between protesters and riot police after Navalny, a 40-year-old anti-corruption lawyer, was arrested near the square.last_img read more

Donald Trump: Without the US, the French would be speaking German

first_imgTrump’s tweet is his second over the past five days that accuses Macron of suggesting European nations need more robust militaries to protect themselves from the U.S., a mischaracterization of what the French president actually said. Macron, in an interview with Europe 1, suggested that Europe needs to better position itself militarily against an increasingly aggressive Russia.Macron also lamented a U.S. decision to withdraw from a treaty with Russia that prohibited the manufacture of intermediate range nuclear missiles. The “main victim” of that move, Macron said, is “Europe and its security.”“I believe in the project of a sovereign Europe. We won’t protect Europe if we don’t decide to have a true European army,” he said. “We have to have a Europe that can defend itself alone — and without only relying on the United States — in a more sovereign manner.”“We should protect ourselves when it comes to China, Russia and even the United States of America,” the French president also said, alluding to the decision to pull out of the missile treaty with Russia.Trump has repeatedly called for NATO allies to rely less on the U.S. for their defense and has railed against nations that he says do not put enough of their gross domestic product toward defense spending. Trump has regularly demanded that NATO countries increase their defense spending to a higher percentage of their GDP, forcing the issue at last summer’s NATO summit by seeming to threaten to pull the U.S. out of the pact if spending targets were not met.Macron, in his interview, agreed that Europe should become less dependent on the U.S. for its military. PARIS — U.S. President Donald Trump took several potshots at Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, saying that in France “they were starting to learn German before the U.S. came along” during both World Wars.In response to Macron’s call for a “true European army,” Trump wrote on Twitter: “Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two — How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!”The tweet, and others that followed, was “made for Americans,” according to the office of the French presidency. “Never easy bringing up the fact that the U.S. must be treated fairly, which it hasn’t, on both Military and Trade,” Trump tweeted after he returned to the U.S.The pair held a meeting on Saturday morning to smooth over their differences but Macron also went on CNN — the U.S. cable network that Trump loathes — and gave an interview in which he said that while Europe should spend more on defense, he did not want the money going to purchases of American weapons and other hardware.Macron also gave a speech Sunday, saying “Patriotism is the opposite of nationalism,” which could have been taken as a rebuke of Trump declaring himself to be a “nationalist” in the run-up to the recent U.S. midterm elections.Red, red whineA short while later, Trump was back on Twitter — this time taking aim at French wine. The U.S. president — who owns vineyards but is a non-drinker — tweeted: “France makes excellent wine, but so does the U.S. The problem is that France makes it very hard for the U.S. to sell its wines into France, and charges big Tariffs, whereas the U.S. makes it easy for French wines, and charges very small Tariffs. Not fair, must change!”The EU — and not France — decides common external tariffs for products such as wine for every country in the bloc. Still, the president’s statement echoes longstanding frustration from the U.S. wine industry regarding market access in the European Union. The office of the French presidency said Trump’s tweets were “made for Americans.” Speaking to BFMTV, a spokesperson for the French presidency declined to comment on the series of tweets but added: “There is a link between the president of the Republic and Donald Trump.“Beyond tweets, what matters to us is that they speak several times per week about the problems in the world,” the spokesperson was cited as saying.The French ambassador to the United States, Gérard Araud, said that Trump had mischaracterized Macron’s comments about a “real European army,” the remark that sparked Trump’s ire. “For the sake of truth, Pres. @EmmanuelMacron didn’t say that EU needed an army ‘against the US.’ It was an erroneous press report.”French people on Twitter pointed out that Trump was criticizing Macron on the third anniversary of the Bataclan terror attacks in Paris.The Trump-Macron relationship, which began with warm words and long handshakes, has gone sour.Just after landing in Paris on Friday, Trump took to Twitter to call Macron’s comments “very insulting,” adding a new layer of tension to the weekend’s ceremonies, although the two leaders discussed the issue during Trump’s visit. Trump added: “The problem is that Emmanuel suffers from a very low Approval Rating in France, 26%, and an unemployment rate of almost 10%. He was just trying to get onto another subject. By the way, there is no country more Nationalist than France, very proud people-and rightfully so!”He followed this with “MAKE FRANCE GREAT AGAIN!”Trump wasn’t finished with his Twitter rant and addressed criticism that he missed events over the weekend because it was raining. “By the way, when the helicopter couldn’t fly to the first cemetery in France because of almost zero visibility, I suggested driving. Secret Service said NO, too far from airport & big Paris shutdown. Speech next day at American Cemetary in pouring rain! Little reported-Fake News!” Also On POLITICO Merkel joins Macron in calling for EU army to complement NATO By Maïa de La Baume and David M. Herszenhorn Macron’s ‘arms control’ deal for cyber warfare By Laurens Cerulus and Mark Scottlast_img read more

Trump announces departure of chief economist Hassett

first_imgKnown for his consistently upbeat demeanor, he strongly supported Trump’s idea that the economy can achieve a sustained 3 percent annual growth.More recently, he helped Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, write the president’s new immigration plan, unveiled last month, which is still being put into bill form. The emerging legislation, which boosts security at the southern border and pushes the nation to admit more high-skilled, well-educated immigrants, rather than immigrants who enter the U.S. based on family ties, is expected to be released in the coming days.Hassett, a former scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, wasn’t a perfect fit for Trump’s ideology, given his free-trade inclinations and his past writings on the benefits of immigration. But he avoided becoming the target of Trump’s wrath during his tenure.The Council of Economic Advisers serves as the in-house economic analysis operation for the White House. It helps produce the annual Economic Report of the President and serves as the main liaison between the West Wing and the economic data offices at the labor and commerce departments and other federal agencies.Hassett’s replacement will have to be confirmed by the Senate.Trump will return to the U.S. next weekend. President Donald Trump announced Sunday night that Kevin Hassett, his chief economist and a prominent promoter of the president’s tax cuts, will be stepping down from his position, with a replacement to be named soon.“Kevin Hassett, who has done such a great job for me and the Administration, will be leaving shortly,” Trump, who is visiting the U.K., said in a tweet. “His very talented replacement will be named as soon as I get back to the U.S. I want to thank Kevin for all he has done – he is a true friend!”Hassett, who was confirmed as chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers in September 2017, has been one of the more traditionally conservative voices in the White House and one of the few prominent economists in Trump’s circle. Anita Kumar contributed reporting.last_img read more

Anti-Brexit alliance to target 60 seats in election

first_imgAllen left the Conservatives over Brexit, joined Change UK and then moved on to the Liberal Democrats. She has announced she will not be standing at the December 12 election.She said: “This isn’t easy, which is why isn’t has’t happened since the Coupon Election … in 1918 [when candidates for the Liberal Party who had supported the coalition government of David Lloyd George during World War I were issued with a letter of support signed by both Lloyd George and Andrew Bonar Law, leader of the Conservative Party]. “Allen said the big difference between this agreement and smaller ones in the past is that “we are facing that real danger of a no-deal Brexit or a hard Brexit through a Boris Johnson government and that sense of a common and shared purpose really focused minds.”She added that this is “country-first stuff, its not about them winning and what they want to achieve, it’s about what’s best for the country.””This is not a normal election, this is about Brexit.”Asked if she had tried to work with the Labour Party, Allen said “it just hasn’t been possible” at least in part because “Labour are not a Remain party unequivocally.” A new anti-Brexit alliance of three parties will target 60 seats in the December 12 U.K. election, in what the group’s leader said was a “country-first” strategy.Unite to Remain is a pact between the Liberal Democrats, the Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru and the Green Party in which just one candidate will stand in selected constituencies order to boost the Remain vote.The full list of 60 seats will be revealed later Thursday morning, but Unite to Remain leader Heidi Allen revealed a few of the target seats on BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program. She said the Greens will stand unopposed by the other parties in the pact in Isle of Wight and Brighton Pavilion (the latter the seat of the Greens’ former leader Caroline Lucas); the Lib Dems in Richmond Park and Cheltenham; and Plaid Cymru in Arfon.last_img read more

Wanted: Imams made in Germany

first_imgHAMBURG, Germany — Among imams, Abdulsamet Demir is somewhat of a novelty: He’s one of only a handful of Muslim faith leaders who grew up, studied and trained entirely in Germany.Some 90 percent of imams at German mosques come from abroad, usually from Turkey, often holding their sermons in a foreign language. A smaller group have been brought up in Germany but trained or studied abroad.Demir, the 28-year-old imam of the Eyüp Sultan Mosque in Germany’s second-largest city of Hamburg, believes that needs to change. “We were thrown into the deep end when we graduated,” he said. “What we need is something like the seminaries for priests and rabbis. It needs to meet the expectations of academics, the state, the communities, the associations — a difficult job given the diversity here.”The program “shouldn’t reinvent the wheel,” said Aiman Mazyek, chairman of the Central Council of Muslims, an umbrella organization that has signed up to the Osnabrück project. But it needs a “dedicated program for our country” that addresses topics such as secularization, he added.Imam shortageBesides the make-up of the course itself, many Muslim communities are wary of receiving funding from Germany’s interior ministry and potentially opening the door to state intervention in religious matters.The interior ministry is in touch with the Osnabrück project leaders about potential government funding for the training course, a ministry spokesperson said, though the amount has not yet been specified.The ministry stressed that although it considered developing “alternatives to foreign influence on training and work of religious personnel” to be important for the integration of Muslims in Germany, there would be no state-led imam training — for constitutional reasons alone.Not everyone is reassured by this. “Financial support always leads to dependence eventually,” said Mehmet Karaoğlu, the chairman of the Alliance of Islamic Communities in Northern Germany, an umbrella organization of 17 mosques belonging to IGMG.Mehmet Karaoğlu is hoping for two graduates from that course to join his community next year. Germany, he says, is suffering from an “imam shortage.”Karaoğlu, who came to Germany aged 12 from the Anatolian village of Kalfat, studied alongside Demir at Osnabrück and also sees the need for more locally trained imams.He thinks the religious associations should be in charge of the practical side, not the state. IGMG, for instance, has established a training institute meant for students that graduate from high school at 16, meaning that unlike Osnabrück and DITIB’s courses, it requires no academic qualification to enter.Karaoğlu is hoping for two graduates from that course to join his community next year. Germany, he says, is suffering from an “imam shortage.”Muslim faith leaders, including imams, do far more than hold prayers, he pointed out. They may teach, organize social clubs and offer pastoral care, among other things. Demir described his work as a 24/7 job. They have their own approach to training imams, with DITIB launching its own program in early January 2020.Sehitlik mosque in Berlin | Carsten Koall/Getty Images“We are in the middle of a societal change. Teenagers today know German better than Turkish,” said Eyüp Kalyon, coordinator of DITIB’s planned course and an imam himself. “We’re aware, and we know we have no option but to participate in this reorientation.”Fears of foreign influenceOver the past decade, Berlin has gradually started paying closer attention to who leads German mosques. The interior ministry set up an Islam Conference in 2006; its current focus is on mosque personnel and training. The country’s first Islamic studies degrees were launched with state support in 2010.Germany isn’t the only country grappling with these issues. Several European countries are also trying to foster local training courses, with varying success. In the Netherlands, Islamic theology and training courses foundered. Sweden launched its first state-funded imam course in 2016. France, which brings in most of its imams from the Maghreb and elsewhere in the Arab world, has struggled to formulate a response due to its strict separation of religion and state.In Germany, the issue of foreign imams has become a major subject of public debate in recent months in part because of developments in Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has taken his country down a more authoritarian and conservative path.DITIB, the largest German Islamic umbrella association with 960 member mosques, has close links to the Turkish state, specifically the country’s religious affairs directorate Diyanet, which answers to the Turkish president. The Diyanet sends Turkish imams, whose wages are paid by Ankara and who tend to be Turkish civil servants, to German DITIB-run mosques for a limited amount of time. The organization also sends German high school graduates who want to work in mosques to Turkey to study theology. The new generationAbdulsamet Demir thinks the government’s German-language demand isn’t such a bad idea. It may sound radical, he says, but fluent German is enormously important for an imam.“The problem is the new generation,” he said. While many first- and second-generation immigrants are often more comfortable in Turkish, younger people “speak better German than Turkish. They prefer German. And they’re not going to the mosque anymore because the imams don’t speak German.”In his mosque — housed on the ground floor of a residential building with only a small sign marking its entrance — Demir has tried to find a balance. Friday sermons are held in German; during the week, when mostly older members attend, he leads prayers in Turkish.Demir, with his laid-back attitude and ready laugh, has a different approach to what an imam can be.Many Muslim communities are wary of receiving funding from Germany’s interior ministry | Carsten Koall/Getty Images“Today, we speak about everything — sexuality, love, drug addiction. The image [of an imam] changes to a person who still commands authority but can speak to young people on equal terms,” he said.Demir, who described being an imam as his “dream job,” jumped at the opportunity to study Islamic theology when Osnabrück University began offering the degree in 2012. Besides Osnabrück, six other universities offer degrees in Islamic theology. But Demir thinks there should be a practical training course too. Also On POLITICO We need a ‘German Islam,’ says interior ministry By Esther King Opinion Macron’s Islamophobic undercurrent By Bruno Maçães Karaoğlu serves as one of three imams at Hamburg’s Centrum Mosque, housed in a former public bath in the city center and flanked by two striking green-white minarets. Given the community’s size, it should have four imams, he said — but it’s a struggle to find new recruits.Most German mosques rely on members’ donations | Omer Messinger/Getty Images“We could get one from abroad, that would be easy,” he said. “But they can’t speak German.”The availability of training courses isn’t the only issue, according to Karaoğlu. The question of who pays an imam’s salary once trained is also a major point of contention.Ceylan, of Osnabrück University, agrees. “An imam college doesn’t solve the question of who will later pay the imams. And if someone’s graduated from university here, they won’t want to work for a few hundred euros at a mosque.”In Germany, Catholics, Protestants and Jews pay a special tax that funds churches and synagogues. For Muslims, there is no such system — though that’s being debated — and most mosques rely on members’ donations, meaning particularly smaller communities are strapped for cash.Demir said many of his fellow theology students switched to teaching due to low pay for imams; the salary ranges from €1,000 to €2,000 a month, he added, and jobs are also difficult to find, with imam vacancies rarely advertised. The DITIB approachDITIB, which doesn’t suffer from the same shortage as it can rely on Turkish imams, also wants to keep imam training in-house.The organization agrees that there is an increasing demand for German-speaking imams, and for a practical training program to complement theology courses, according to Şeyda Can, who leads DITIB’s academy.Turkish DITIB imams have five or more years of experience, “while graduates are going straight from university to the communities,” she said.But the imam college at Osnabrück is “not relevant” to DITIB communities, according to Can.Details on the organization’s own two-year course, which launches in January, are scant — Can said she was unable to disclose much before the official launch — but it will be open to women, offering a broader faith-leader training rather than a men-only imam course. (Osnabrück’s planned course also aims to be open to all genders, Ceylan said.) The program will initially have 20 participants.“We are the vanguard — the third generation, the new youth that’s trained here, born here, brought up here. We are the pioneers” — Abdulsamet Demir “I think Germany needs German imams,” he said. “German means: university-educated and ideally born or raised here, with knowledge of the customs and traditions of this country.”Mainstream political parties and most Islamic associations agree. They worry that foreign imams hinder integration and allow countries such as Turkey to exercise undue influence over Germany’s nearly 5 million Muslims. Within the community, many, including Demir, also worry that imams who can’t speak German aren’t able to connect with younger generations.“We are in the middle of a societal change. Teenagers today know German better than Turkish” — Eyüp Kalyon, imamThe trouble is no one can quite agree on how to achieve that — as became evident when one university announced it would establish an imam-training program.Last month, the University of Osnabrück in northwestern Germany said it would set up a two-year course starting next summer, likely with financial support from the German interior ministry. The so-called imam college will be run by an association independent from the university, but supervised by its academics, and involve various German Islamic organizations.Yet two of Germany’s largest Islamic groups — the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) and the Islamic Community Millî Görüş (IGMG), together representing nearly half of Germany’s estimated 2,500 mosques — declined to participate, citing concerns over potential state interference. For now, however, DITIB has no plans to fill all its mosques with German imams. About 120 of DITIB’s 1,200 imams are “socialized” in Germany and are German-speaking, said Kalyon, Can’s colleague.“The German language will grow in importance, but we also have many first- and second-generation Muslims speaking Turkish. We cannot offer only German-language services. That’s why we’re glad to have imams from Turkey,” he added.For those worried about foreign influence, the prospect of home-grown DITIB imams does not necessarily allay their concerns. “The key problem is that [imams] should not be dependent on a foreign state,” said Ceylan, the professor.But to Demir, Germany is finally on the right path. The transition needs to be gradual, he said, warning against an abrupt stop to employing foreign-trained and Turkish-speaking imams.“What happens if there’s no more older imams, but there aren’t enough young ones yet?” he asked. Still, he’s certain that he’s at the forefront of an inevitable changing of the guard in Germany’s mosques.“We are the vanguard — the third generation, the new youth that’s trained here, born here, brought up here,” said Demir. “We are the pioneers.” “Today, we speak about everything — sexuality, love, drug addiction” — Abdulsamet Demir, imam in HamburgDITIB describes itself as politically neutral. But a number of recent controversies — including accusations that the organization called on Muslims to pray for the success of Turkey’s military incursion into Syria and a dropped investigation into allegations of spying — have thrown its connections to Turkey into sharper focus.German politicians have reacted by calling for domestically trained mosque personnel. Mainstream parties, including opposition groups such as the Greens and the Free Democrats, want local imam-training courses, as does Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said last year, “We need imam training in Germany.” (The far-right Alternative for Germany, on the other hand, has described such courses as a step toward the “Islamization” of Germany.)Last month, the government announced plans to introduce a German-language requirement for religious personnel coming from abroad.The proposal was roundly criticized. Rauf Ceylan, a professor of Islamic studies at Osnabrück University, described the move as “populist,” given that while it will in theory apply to all religious personnel, in practice it will mainly hit Muslim communities.“That’s completely missing the mark,” he said. “It’s not just a solution for people to speak German. Nationalists and fascists can speak German, too.”last_img read more

UK to import vaccine doses from India amid global jabs race

first_imgMeanwhile, both the U.K and EU now look poised to get Oxford/AstraZeneca from the Serum Institute of India (SII), which has been expected to be the main source of supply for less wealthy countries.On Monday, Reuters reported that the European Medicines Agency is auditing the SII to possibly import drug substance from the producer. So far, only three plants in Belgium, the U.S. and the U.K. are allowed to make the substance for the EU’s Oxford/AstraZeneca doses.It’s not clear yet whether the EU would actually receive doses from the SII. The Commission wouldn’t comment, and the EMA said it doesn’t comment on its inspections “until the publication of an assessment report.”The SII agreed to produce up to 1 billion doses of coronavirus vaccine and was a major stop-off during British Trade Secretary Liz Truss’ recent visit to the country. Truss discussed the Indian doses due to be sent to Britain during her trip, according to people familiar with the matter. An official didn’t deny the discussions had taken place but said they weren’t substantial.AstraZeneca declined to comment. The U.K. will receive its first tranche of 10 million Indian-made Oxford/AstraZeneca doses next week, according to U.K. officials, allowing Britain to speed ahead in vaccinations while less wealthy countries wait.As of February 28, India, with a population of around 1.4 billion had vaccinated 14.3 million people. The U.K. meanwhile, had vaccinated 21 million of its citizens by the same date, within a population of around 70 million.”The U.K. has ordered 100 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, of which 10 million doses will come from the Serum Institute of India,” a U.K. government spokesperson confirmed Tuesday. The 10 million doses form part of the U.K.’s original 100 million dose agreement with AstraZeneca. The SII was inspected by the U.K.’s Medicines and Health products Regulatory Authority and batches will be tested before use in the U.K. The spokesperson added: “The Serum Institute is one part of our supply chain for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which also includes production in parts of the EU as well as here in the U.K.” The U.K. had sought assurances from SII that providing British doses wouldn’t come at the expense of manufacturing the vaccine for poorer countries, the spokesperson added.However, the move comes amid a fierce debate about the help given to poorer countries to vaccinate their populations. Sandy Douglas, a researcher at the University of Oxford who worked on the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, has called for the U.K. to send “small portions” of its doses overseas, arguing it would provide Britain with a soft-power boost and promote “stability in countries reeling from the pandemic.”Last month, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus accused rich nations of securing vaccines at the expense of COVAX, a mechanism to provide vaccines for low- and middle-income countries. He argued that even though wealthy countries are sending money to COVAX, they’re now snatching up all the available doses, leaving few for countries less well off. COVAX only began sending its first vaccines deliveries to Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire at the end of last week. last_img read more