Saturday, May 31, 2014

No Serbian citizens in eastern Ukraine - MFA

BELGRADE -- The Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Friday that according to the available data, there are no Serbian citizens in eastern Ukraine.
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
All Serbian citizens who reported to the Serbian embassy in Kiev have left the unsafe zone and traveled to Serbia via Kiev, a statement added.
The Belgrade-based daily Blic previously quoted a Kiev NGO which claimed that among the pro-Russian fighters killed in Donetsk were Serbian citizens.

A Ukrainian website,, first published these claims presented by Dmitry Tymchuk, coordinator of the "Information Resistance."

"According to our data, the mercenaries who were killed during the last three days in this part of Ukraine, in addition to citizens of Ukraine, have been identified as Serbs, Russian citizens from Ingushetia, Chechnya, Dagestan, and residents of Abkhazia," said Tymchuk.

According to the Beta news agency, "the respected Institute for War and Peace Reporting also carried this statement on its website."

Friday, May 30, 2014

On June 1, the leaders of the Christian Orthodox churches will hold the consecration service and a liturgy. The Resurrection of Our Lord Church ensemble is made up of a cathedral, a chapel, belfry, a Saint Synod seat and a culture center. Its construction started in 2004 and was finalized in 2011

US lawmakers urge France to sell Mistral warships to NATO, not Russia

Published time: May 30, 2014 03:03
A photo taken on May 9, 2014 in Saint-Nazaire, western France, shows the Vladivostok warship, a Mistral class LHD amphibious vessel ordered by Russia to the STX France shipyard. (AFP Photo / Jean-Sebastien Evrard)
A photo taken on May 9, 2014 in Saint-Nazaire, western France, shows the Vladivostok warship, a Mistral class LHD amphibious vessel ordered by Russia to the STX France shipyard. (AFP Photo / Jean-Sebastien Evrard)
Amid growing Western pressure being put on Russia, US congressmen are calling on France to reconsider the sale of its two Mistral helicopter carrier ships to Russia and instead allow NATO to buy or lease them.
"The purchase would send a strong signal to [Russian] President (Vladimir) Putin that the NATO allies will not tolerate or in any way enable his reckless moves," Reuters quoted a letter sent to NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen as saying.
France has been facing increasing pressure from its US and European colleagues to cancel the sale in light of the Ukrainian crisis.
The letter also argued that if NATO acquired the two warships, it would enhance the bloc’s capabilities at the time of budget cuts and give reassurances to its partners in Central and Eastern Europe.
Various top lawmakers signed the letter - including US Representative Eliot Engel of New York, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee; Representative Michael Turner of Ohio, chairman of the US delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly; and Massachusetts Representative William Keating, the top Democrat on the House Europe subcommittee.
Despite the clear stance of its allies, France has refused to cancel the 1.2 billion euro (US$1.6 billion) deal, claiming it is too big to go back on.
Earlier, US officials suggested that France could sell the ships to another buyer or sell them without the advanced technology, although it is not at all clear at this late stage who the other buyer could be.
The French deal was Moscow’s first foreign arms purchase since the end of the Cold War and was hailed by then President Nicholas Sarkozy as an important step forward in French-Russian relations. The contract has created some 1,000 jobs in French shipyards.
The first of the two ships, the Vladivostok, is due to be delivered by November this year and the second, called Sevastopol, will arrive in St. Petersburg for a further fitting with Russian weapons systems in November 2015 and will join the Pacific fleet in the second half of 2016.
The Mistral ships can carry up to 16 attack helicopters such as Russia’s Kamov Ka-50/52, more than 40 tanks or 70 motor vehicles, and up to 700 troops. The ships for Russia have been modified from the version used by the French navy to operate in northern altitudes and ice covered seas.
The Russian navy will fit the ships with air defense systems and rapid fire artillery guns to allow them to go on combat missions with fewer escort vessels.

Military op to continue in E. Ukraine until 'stability' restored - defense minister

Published time: May 30, 2014 07:50
Edited time: May 30, 2014 09:56
Ukrainian army soldiers (AFP Photo / Genya Savilov)
Ukrainian army soldiers (AFP Photo / Genya Savilov)
Kiev government has launched a massive military offensive in the east of Ukraine which claimed dozens of lives, both among the militias and local civilians. Schools, kindergarten and hospitals in several cities came under fire.
"We will work until the region begins live and function normally and people will get peace,” said acting Defense Minister Mikhail Koval during a briefing.

A Ukrainian soldier (AFP Photo / Genya Savilov)
A Ukrainian soldier (AFP Photo / Genya Savilov)
He added that the south and west of Donetsk Region and the north of Lugansk region have been ‘freed’ during the military operations in the Ukrainian east.
Koval said that more than 20 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed during the Kiev crackdown in eastern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, according to officials from the People’s Republic of Donetsk, over 100 people have been killed during the offensives.
An RT report showed more horror suffered by innocent civilians from Ukraine’s eastern region of Donetsk, who were shelled in Kiev’s so-called “anti-terrorist” operation.

Hospitals, schools under Kiev fire

Kiev troops have intensified military operations on eastern Ukraine since April. They are using artillery and aviation in a bid to take control of the restive region.
On Friday, Kiev forces renewed the shelling on Slavyansk, in the Donetsk region, residents there told RT. The militia targeted a local children's hospital and a clinic.
On Wednesday, a school and kindergarten in Slavyansk were also hit by mortar shells. According to a schoolteacher interviewed by RT, part of the roof over the school hall “was simply blown away.” Luckily, no children were in the hall when they heard a loud explosion, and those present were quickly evacuated to the basement. Meanwhile, in the kindergarten at least 9 civilians were injured, including a 4-year old boy, reported the Rossiya-24 channel.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on Wednesday that Kiev should refrain from using excessive force in Ukraine.
“I call on the Ukrainian authorities to ensure that no excessive force is used, not to take discriminatory action and to avoid action that can harm the civilian population,” the official told Itar-Tass.
Human Rights Court Condemns Greece

    Society and Human Rights

by Evdokia Fourkioti - May 29, 2014

The Human Rights Court condemned Greece today, May 29 for violations of Article 3 of the Convention of Human Rights, which prohibits any inhuman and degrading treatment, by judging the appeal  “Tsokas and others” against Greece. The case was about the detention conditions in the prison in Tripoli, Greece.  Its prisoners have been either convicted or are waiting for trial on sexual offenses.

According to Tsokas and the other five detainees’ arguments, while 65 prisoners should be housed in the prison cells, their number increased to 177 in January 2009, then to 185 in June 2012 and a few months later to 215.

There were allegedly only nine showers in the yard, the heating came from six oil stoves that could not operate simultaneously, there was no air conditioning or ventilation in the cells during summer, the toilets were in a very bad condition, and the food was of low quality.

The Court accepted their arguments and condemned Greece for violating the provisions of Article 3 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights on the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment.

In its judgment the Court obliges Greek authorities to pay a 133,000€ compensation to the prisoners for moral damage.
- See more at:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Kosovo's ambassador to Albania cleared of beating women during war

PRISTINA Thu May 29, 2014 
(Reuters) - Kosovo's ambassador to neighbouring Albania was cleared on Thursday of war crimes over the alleged beating and torture of two women during a 1998-99 war in the former Serbian province.
Sylejman Selimi, who still holds the post of ambassador to Albania, was arrested last year by the EU's police and justice mission in Kosovo, which handles sensitive war crimes case.
"He was cleared of all charges and I can proudly say that justice was finally served," Selimi's lawyer, Tome Gashi, told Reuters.
Gashi said Selimi was accused of beating and torturing two ethnic Albanian women in 1998 at the headquarters of the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) of which he was a senior commander.
Three co-defendants were also cleared, including one on charges of sexual violence. The court was presided over by a panel of foreign judges working under EU auspices.
EU prosecutors said they would consider whether to appeal. "We recognise the importance this case has for the people in Kosovo and the victims in this case," it said in a statement.
Selimi still faces charges in a separate war crimes case over a KLA detention camp.
Selimi is a former head of the Kosovo Security Force, a lightly-armed civil protection and crisis response force of 2,500 members trained by NATO.
The EU mission, established after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, handles sensitive war crimes cases, in a country where the former guerrillas are revered as heroes for their insurgency against Serbian forces.
(Editing by Matt Robinson and Toby Chopra)

14 military killed in chopper downed in E. Ukraine - acting president

Published time: May 29, 2014 09:39
Edited time: May 29, 2014 12:29
Reuters / Baz Ratner
Reuters / Baz Ratner
Fourteen Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in a helicopter crash near the city of Slavyansk in the Donetsk Region, according to the acting president of Ukraine, Aleksandr Turchinov.
Anti-government protesters in Slavyansk have downed a Ukrainian forces helicopter in the south-east of Slavyansk in the Donetsk region.
Fourteen servicemen, including a major-general, Vladimir Kulchitsky, have have been killed in a helicopter crash near Slavyansk, according to the acting president of Ukraine, Aleksandr Turchinov, who spoke at a parliamentary session in Kiev.
Kulchitsky, 51, was the head of the department of Combat and Special training in Ukraine’s National Guard.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s National Guard reported 12 dead: six servicemen, including the helicopter crew and six members of the Berkut forces.
Ukraine’s army has started shelling the eastern Ukraine cities of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk, thereby resuming its massive military operation in the East of the country, local news outlets report.
“A full-scale military operation has begun in Kramatorsk and Slavyansk. BM-21 launch vehicle “Grad” are being used,” Donbas-based Ostrov agency says.
“Intensive shooting has been heard in the region, and thick black smoke seen,” he added.
One more damaged house in Slavyansk. The residents were outside during the attack.
Meanwhile, Itar-Tass has reported that fighter jets have been flying over the city of Kramatorsk in the Donetsk Region. “The hospitals were told to evacuate patients from the upper floors,” said a representative from the self-defense forces.
On Wednesday a school and a kindergarten were shelled in Slavyansk. In the kindergarten at least 9 civilians were injured, including a 4-year old boy.
A teacher from the targeted school said that the shell exploded right above the school hall, where children are usually gathered for festive events, and part of the roof “was simply blown away.” Luckily, no children were in the hall at the time. All the pupils and teachers were quickly evacuated to the basement.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ukraine crisis: rebels in east prepare for assault on Donetsk city centre

Ukraine government troops in full control of Donetsk airport after dozens killed as rebels prepare for potential assault on the city itself

A heavily armed pro-Russian rebel mans a newly erected barricade on the airport road of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. More than 40 pro-Russian rebels were killed in an unprecedented assault by Ukrainian government forces, which raged into a second day on Tuesday after a newly-elected president vowed to crush the revolt in the east once and for all.
A pro-Russian rebel mans a barricade on the road to Donetsk airport Photo: YANNIS BEHRAKIS/REUTERS
Rebel separatist fighters in Donetsk were on Tuesday night readying for a major offensive by government forces on the city centre, as details began to emerge of Monday’s battle for the city’s airport that left dozens dead in the bloodiest day so far of the east Ukraine uprising.
Oleksandr Lukyanchenko, the mayor of Donetsk, said 38 fighters and two civilians died in the battle that left Ukrainian forces in control of the city’s airport and poised for a potential assault on the city itself. Rebel leaders claimed the death toll was as high as 100.
Mr Lukyanchenko said the dead included eight Russian citizens, including from Chechnya.
“The airport is under our full control,” said Arsen Avakov, the interior minister. “The enemy suffered heavy losses. We have none.”

A Ukraine jet fires anti-missile flares as it flies over Donetsk (RIA NOVOSTI/CAMERA PRESS)
While confusion still surrounds the full details of the battle that raged throughout the day on Monday, it became clear on Tuesday that rebel forces suffered the worst single loss of life in the battle for the east of the country since fighting broke out in April, delivering the Ukrainian military its first decisive victory of the conflict.
Russia called on Kiev to stop “punitive actions” in the region and criticised the newly elected Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, for rejecting dialogue.
In his first public comments on Ukraine since Sunday’s election, Vladimir Putin called for “an immediate end to the military’s punitive operations in southeastern regions and the establishment of peaceful dialogue between Kiev and regional representatives,” the Kremlin said in a statement released following a telephone call with Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister.
Mr Poroshenko said following his election victory that he believed military action against the rebels could be completed “within hours”.
Barack Obama, the US president, on Tuesday called Mr Poroshenko to offer him “the full support of the United States”.
Mr Obama said the United States would assist Ukraine as Mr Poroshenko “seeks to unify and move his country forward,” the White House said.
While the number of casualties put forward by Mr Lukanchenko could not be independently confirmed, the bodies of at least 33 rebel fighters were piled up at one morgue in the city yesterday afternoon, as local police and forensic teams went through the motions of establishing cause of death.
“Their wounds vary. Some were clearly caught in an explosion, some have shrapnel wounds, some gunshot wounds. All the 33 are Donetsk Republic fighters,” said Sergei Khokholya, a detective working at the morgue.
The detective said the 33 were only those who had been identified, suggesting that the death count could grow. “It is possible there are still bodies in or around the airport that have not been recovered,” he added.
Leonid Baranov of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic said up to 100 rebels were killed in the fighting.
Other rebel officials from the Donetsk People’s Republic claimed many of the dead had been wounded fighters travelling away from the airport when their trucks were attacked on Monday evening. The claim could not be independently verified.
“European countries need to bring the Ukrainian government to justice for violating international agreements. It is illegal under the Geneva convention to kill the wounded,” said Ivan Novokovsky, a deputy in the parliament of the Rebel Donetsk People’s Republic.
Attempts to establish a final casualty figure were stymied by visibly shaken rebel fighters standing guard at central hospitals, apparently worried that Ukrainian forces might plan to take the wounded.
“Yes, they’re our guys,” one said before asking journalists to leave the central trauma unit. “Please, just get out of here.”
Ukrainian officials said their forces had taken full control of the airport after the battle, although sporadic fighting, including automatic weapons fire and occasional explosions, continued on Tuesday afternoon.
“What you are hearing are attempts by terrorists to retake the airport, but it is entirely under our control,” said a military official who asked not to be named. “We took no losses. The antiterrorist operation will continue.” Neither rebel fighters nor the political leadership showed any signs of leaving Donetsk yesterday, but what appears to have been the first decisive victory for the Ukrainians has created a sense that they are now very much on the defensive.
Fighters took advantage of a lull in the fighting yesterday afternoon to fortify the city, using heavy lorries loaded with sand to block the main road from the airport in expectation of a Ukraine push into the centre.
At the rebel headquarters in the centre of Donetsk, leaders including Denis Pushilin, the speaker of the republic’s assembly, Pavel Gubarev, the “people’s governor,” and Alexander Borodai, the self-proclaimed prime minister, attended a session of the republic’s parliament in a public appearance that seemed at least in part intended to reassure the public that they had not fled.

US sends assault ship with 1,000 Marines near Libya, asks Americans to 'depart immediately'

Published time: May 27, 2014 21:59
Edited time: May 28, 2014 05:22
USS Bataan (AFP Photo /  Justin Webster)
USS Bataan (AFP Photo / Justin Webster)
The US is sending 1,000 Marines in an amphibious assault ship to Libya's coast as a “precautionary” move should the US embassy require evacuation, a US official said. Security concerns also led the US to suggest Americans in Libya "depart immediately."
Adding to tensions, gunmen attacked the Tripoli home of Libya’s new prime minister, Ahmed Maiteeq, on Tuesday. Businessman Maiteeq, 42, and his family escaped harm, according to AFP.
An aide to Maiteeq said "there was an attack with rockets and small arms on the prime minister's house" in Tripoli at 3:00 a.m. (0100 GMT). Maiteeq’s guards opened fire on the attackers, wounding and arresting two of them, the official added.
In reaction to the heightened strife in Libya, the USS Bataan, stocked with several helicopters in addition to the Marines, is to be in the nation’s coastal area “in a matter of days,” an anonymous US defense official said, according to AFP.
The preemptive move is a reaction to increasingly violent militia battles, which could threaten the American embassy’s security, the official said.
Based on escalating security concerns, the US State Department recommended Tuesday that Americans in Libya "depart immediately."
"Due to security concerns, the Department of State has limited staffing at Embassy Tripoli and is only able to offer very limited emergency services to US citizens in Libya," the travel warning said.
The US also has 250 available Marines, seven Osprey combat aircraft, and three refueling aircraft in Sigonella, Italy, AFP reported.
The State Department said last week that its embassy in Tripoli was operating as usual despite offensives launched by a dissident general, Khalifa Haftar, against the Libyan parliament and Islamist factions.

Libyan Army Special Forces Commander Wanis Bukhamada (front C) delivers a statement in Benghazi May 19, 2014. Bukhamada has allied with renegade general Khalifa Haftar in his campaign against militant Islamists, highlighting the failure of central government in Tripoli to assert its authority. (Reuters / Esam Al-Fetori)
Libyan Army Special Forces Commander Wanis Bukhamada (front C) delivers a statement in Benghazi May 19, 2014. Bukhamada has allied with renegade general Khalifa Haftar in his campaign against militant Islamists, highlighting the failure of central government in Tripoli to assert its authority. (Reuters / Esam Al-Fetori)
Meanwhile, Mohamed Zahawi, the head of Libya’s Ansar Al-Sharia militant group in Benghazi, warned against any US interference in the nation’s ongoing tumult.
Zahawi accused the US government of backing General Haftar, a "new Gaddafi," and an "agent of American intelligence.”
“We remind America, if they intervene, of their defeats in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, because they would face in Libya something much worse," he said in a statement on Tuesday. "It was America who urged Haftar to turn the country towards war and bloodshed."
The State Department has denied any role in Haftar’s recent offensives despite accusations that the US is encouraging the senior military official. Haftar previously spent decades in the US before returning to Libya in 2011 to join rebels fighting the regime of then-president Muammar Gaddafi.
Following the ouster of Gaddafi in 2011, militias in a destabilized Libya expanded in numbers, both exploiting and filling in the security gap while the nation struggled with weak military and police forces.
Libya's parliament remains split by rivalries, with little democratic reforms made since 2011. The country is now under the rule of its third prime minister since March, and a new constitution is still not ready.
Maiteeq, who is backed by Islamists in parliament, was chosen as the new premier this month in a chaotic vote by the General National Congress. He replaced Abdullah Al-Thani, who resigned in April after claiming he and his family were the target of attacks.
Maiteeq has invited opponents to join a "comprehensive national dialogue to complete state institutions,” though he has also said he is committed to "pressing the battle against terrorists and those who threaten the security of the country," a nod to eastern militants, some of whom are blockading oil terminals in the region.

More than 50 rebels killed as new Ukraine leader unleashes assault

DONETSK, Ukraine Tue May 27, 2014
Some 100 rebels dead in Donetsk airport battle: Pro-Russian separatist (00:52)
REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Battle at Donetsk airport

Ukraine launches assault on rebels at Donetsk airport.  Slideshow 
May 27 (Reuters) - Ukrainian aircraft and paratroopers killed more than 50 pro-Russian rebels in an assault that raged into a second day on Tuesday after a newly elected president vowed to crush the revolt in the east once and for all.
The unprecedented offensive throws a challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has said he reserves the right to defend Russian speakers under threat, but whose past assertions that Kiev is led by an illegitimate "junta" were undermined by the landslide election victory of billionaire Petro Poroshenko.
Reuters journalists counted 20 bodies in combat fatigues in one room of a city morgue in Donetsk. Some of the bodies were missing limbs, a sign that the government had brought to bear heavy firepower against the rebels for the first time.
"From our side, there are more than 50 (dead)," the prime minister of the rebels' self-styled Donetsk People's Republic, Alexander Borodai, told Reuters at the hospital.
The government said it suffered no losses in the assault, which began with air strikes hours after Ukrainians overwhelmingly voted to elect 48-year-old confectionery magnate Poroshenko as their new president.
Putin demanded an immediate halt to the offensive. Moscow said a visit by Poroshenko was not under consideration, though it has said it is prepared to work with him.
Until now, Ukrainian forces have largely avoided direct assaults on the separatists, partly because they fear tens of thousands of Russian troops massed on the border could invade.
But Poroshenko and his government appear to have interpreted his victory as a clear mandate for decisive action. He won more than 54 percent of the vote in a field of 21 candidates, against 13 percent for his closest challenger.
Poroshenko and other leaders in Kiev may have calculated that the election, by bestowing legitimacy on the authorities, makes it harder for Putin to justify intervention.
Putin said in recent weeks he would withdraw troops from the border. A NATO military officer said most of them were still there, although some showed signs of packing to leave.
The new Ukrainian government assault began even as Poroshenko was holding his victory news conference in Kiev. After rebels seized the Donetsk airport on Monday, Ukrainian warplanes and helicopters strafed them from the air, and paratroopers were flown in to root them out.
Shooting carried on through the night, and on Tuesday the road to the airport bore signs of fighting. Heavy machinegun fire could be heard in the distance in mid-morning.
On the airport highway, a truck - the kind that rebels have used to ferry dozens of fighters across the region - had been torn apart by machinegun fire. Blood was sprayed across the road and splattered on a billboard seven meters above.
"The airport is completely under control," Interior Minister Arsen Avakov told journalists in the capital Kiev. "The adversary suffered heavy losses. We have no losses," he added.
"We'll continue the anti-terrorist operation until not a single terrorist remains on the territory of Ukraine," First Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Yarema said on the margins of a government meeting.
Borodai, the self-proclaimed rebel prime minister, also said the airport was now under government control.
Inside the city of a million people, where normal life had previously carried on despite the crisis, there was a new climate of fear. Firefighters battled to put out a blaze at a hockey stadium torched during the night.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said a team of four of its monitors - a Dane, an Estonian, a Turk and a Swiss - had gone missing after approaching a road checkpoint near Donetsk on Monday. In early May, pro-Moscow rebels held a team of seven OSCE monitors for eight days.
The battle marks the first time the government has unleashed the full lethal force of its aircraft and ground troops directly at the Donetsk rebels, a group of local volunteers and shadowy outsiders led by a Muscovite that Kiev and Western countries say works for Russian military intelligence.
Moscow says the rebellion is purely local and it has no control over the fighters.
In his victory news conference, Poroshenko promised to invigorate the government's stalled "anti-terrorist" campaign, saying it ought to be able to put down the revolt within hours, rather than months. He also said there could be no negotiations with rebels he compared to terrorists, bandits and pirates.
Ukraine's future has seemed in the balance since Putin responded to the overthrow of a pro-Russian president in Kiev in February by declaring that Russia had the right to defend Russian speakers and swiftly annexing Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.
Moscow's consistent message has been that the government in Kiev, which took power after President Viktor Yanukovich fled an uprising by pro-European demonstrators, was an illegitimate "fascist junta" and Russian speakers were in danger.
But that argument was undermined by the victory of Poroshenko, who served in cabinets under both Yanukovich and his anti-Russian predecessors, and campaigned on his reputation as a pragmatist capable of bridging the deep east-west divide that has been Ukraine's greatest weakness since independence.
Poroshenko became the first candidate to win a presidential election with more than half of the vote in a single round since 1991, when Ukrainians first voted to secede from Moscow's rule.
Although separatists managed to prevent a tenth of voters from reaching polls by blocking the election in two eastern provinces, his margin of victory left little room to question his legitimacy. He was helped by calls from potential rivals for voters to unite behind the frontrunner.
The Kremlin said on Tuesday Putin had called for an end to the Ukrainian military campaign and for dialogue between Kiev and the separatists. Putin was speaking in a telephone call with Italy's prime minister, his first reported comments on Ukraine since Sunday's election.
The separatists have repeatedly pleaded for Putin to send his forces to aid them. Since the annexation of Crimea, Putin has turned the protection of Russians in other former Soviet republics into a central theme of his rule. Last month he began referring to eastern Ukraine as "New Russia".
But in the run-up to the election his words had become more accommodating. On the eve of the vote, he promised to accept the will of the Ukrainian people. On Monday, before the scale of the latest military assault became clear, Moscow said it was prepared to work with Poroshenko, although it also called for him to call off the military campaign.
Western countries say they do not trust Putin's promises not to interfere, saying he announced repeatedly he would withdraw his troops from the border without doing so.
The United States and European Union have imposed limited sanctions on a few dozen Russian individuals and small firms but have said they would take much stronger action, including measures against whole swathes of Russian industry, if Moscow interfered in Sunday's Ukrainian election.
In another sign of confidence since Poroshenko's election, Kiev pressed a claim on Tuesday for more than $1 billion from Russia's natural gas export monopoly Gazprom, for gas it said Moscow had "stolen" when it annexed Crimea. (Full Story)
Russia has threatened to switch off Ukraine's gas from June 3 unless it pays Gazprom upfront for supplies. Moscow wants to charge Kiev far more for gas than it charges European countries. A gas cut-off could hit onward shipments to Western Europe, some of which transit Ukraine.
(Additional reporting by Natalia Zinets, Pavel Polityuk, Richard Balmforth and Gareth Jones in Kiev, and Katya Golubkova and Denis Pinchuk in Moscow; Writing by Peter G

Alarm in Donetsk as people brace for Ukrainian forces attack

Published time: May 27, 2014 12:16
Edited time: May 27, 2014 15:03
A woman looks at her building destroyed as a result of Monday's combat of Ukrainian troops with anti-government forces near the International airport in Donetsk on May 27, 2014. (AFP Photo / Alexander Khudoteply)
A woman looks at her building destroyed as a result of Monday's combat of Ukrainian troops with anti-government forces near the International airport in Donetsk on May 27, 2014. (AFP Photo / Alexander Khudoteply)
People are clearing shelves in Donetsk city shops, fearing a new wave of attack and storming of the city by Ukrainian troops. Fighter jets are buzzing overhead in the sky, as self-defense prepares for a fight in the occupied administrative buildings.
Kiev's bloody eastern Ukraine campaign: LIVE UPDATES
For the first time since the Monday attack, gunfire was heard at Donetsk’s airport and Ukrainian military helicopters and fighter jets reappeared above the area.
Meanwhile, residents of the eastern Ukrainian city have rushed to the shops, sweeping foodstuffs from the shelves, as many fear a full-scale storming of Donetsk is being launched.
“We fear that there will be a storming, and the shops will stop working,” a woman told RIA Novosti.
The most popular products bought are cereals, canned goods and water, as people expect a long-term assault amid very hot weather.
Many shops, banks and cafes have already been closed, and there are few people and cars seen on the streets, Itar-Tass reports. Schools are being evacuated and bomb shelter addresses are being distributed in the city’s districts. The Kiev forces have blocked almost all roads to and from Donetsk, the agency says.

People donate blood for those injured in clashes between the Kiev forces and the self-defense in Donetsk on May 27, 2014. (RIA Novosti / Natalia Seliverstova)
People donate blood for those injured in clashes between the Kiev forces and the self-defense in Donetsk on May 27, 2014. (RIA Novosti / Natalia Seliverstova)
The self-defense fighters of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic withdrew from the areas of Monday’s battles to the city’s center, barricading themselves inside administrative buildings, including regional administration and Ukrainian Security Service offices.

However, the people apparently do not feel safe anywhere in Donetsk, after Monday’s shooting at the city’s railway station, away from the airport area battleground. At least one woman was killed in the incident and two more civilians injured, including an 8-year-old boy.

The PM of Donetsk People’s Republic, Aleksandr Boroday, meanwhile claimed that as many as 50 civilians and over 50 members of the self-defense were killed in clashes with the Ukrainian troops on Monday.
While the civilian toll has so far been unconfirmed, there are numerous reports confirming a bloodbath near the Donetsk airport, in which a truck carrying dozens of injured self-defense fighters was shot at from the air and then destroyed “at point-blank range from a shoulder-launcher.” The survivors were allegedly finished off by snipers, according to the self-defense.

In the Donetsk Region city of Slavyansk, at least three civilians were also killed in Ukrainian army shelling of several apartment blocks.
A Twitter campaign against the Ukrainian military operation in Donetsk has been launched under the hashtag #SaveDonbassPeople. Hundreds of Twitter posts with tagged selfies together with a combination of photos showing civilians killed in eastern Ukraine have appeared since early Tuesday.

Donbas miners rising

Following the start of the latest wave of Kiev’s offense, workers at several mines in Donetsk have gone on strike. The action has been launched indefinitely in protest of the military operation carried out by government troops against anti-Kiev forces.

“Miners from the Skochinskogo, Abakumova, Chelyuskintsev, Trudovskaya mines have not been working today,” strikers, negotiating with the leadership of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), told RIA Novosti. “People have been standing by the entrances, not wanting to go underground, they are having rallies demanding the suspension of military actions.”

Members of Donetsk self-defense erect a barricade on the road leading to the Donetsk airport, May 27, 2014. (Reuters / Yannis Behrakis)
Members of Donetsk self-defense erect a barricade on the road leading to the Donetsk airport, May 27, 2014. (Reuters / Yannis Behrakis)
The industrial region of Donbas is strongly associated with mining and metallurgy, and the miners are believed to be a powerful driving force there. There have only been a few incidents of strikes at the mines since the start of the Ukrainian crisis, with workers being under pressure of losing their jobs and wages if they walk out.

On Sunday, hundreds of people in Donetsk besieged the residence of oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, who owns much of eastern Ukraine’s industrial companies, demanding that he take the side of the protesters and start paying taxes to DNR, instead of Kiev. Akhmetov, who initially issued statements against the military operation, has recently taken Kiev’s side, reportedly pressing his employees to start taking part in “anti-separatist” rallies.

RT’s sources in Donetsk working at Akhmetov-controlled companies said that employees were gathered en-masse at the city’s Donbass Arena stadium. They have been ordered to attend anti-DNR rallies under a threat of losing their jobs.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Albania signs the supplementary agreement of the Paris protocol
kodheli ibna
Tirana, May 26, 2014/Independent Balkan News Agency

Albanian authorities have signed the supplementary agreement of the Paris protocol, in the framework of the participation of Albania as a full NATO member.

The agreement was signed today in Brussels by the Albanian minister of Defense, Mimi Kodheli. She’s holding a visit to the Alliance Command of Operations (ACO) in Mons, Belgium.

Kodheli has been received in an official meeting by the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces for Europe, general Philip Breedlove. During this meeting, minister Kodheli has briefed the senior NATO official with the latest developments within Armed Forces of the Republic of Albania. Mrs. Kodheli wanted to confirm the “unshaken resolve of Albania for the next engagement in Afghanistan”.

General Breedlove praised the participation and contribution of Albanian peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan and Kosovo.

The two personalities also talked about the latest developments in Ukraine.

The signing of the agreement

Minister of Defense, Mimi Kodheli and Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe, general Philip Breedlove signed the supplementary agreement of the Paris protocol.

Kodheli said that by signing this agreement, Albania takes another step forward in the full integration in the NATO.

This was a process which started in 1992 and involved a lot of political, military and legal efforts. “We can take pride over this journey that we have embarked on along with friends and allies, if we look at what we have achieved so far. We faced many challenges, but we succeeded, because we had a strong will, sustainable engagement and full support of the Albanian people and Albanian politics and also a sincere support by the allies”, said minister Kodheli.

Under the supplementary Paris Protocol, Republic of Albania takes all necessary measures, including the approval and implementation of the necessary legislation to create all the necessary facilities for the Ally Staff to exert a normal activity. The Ally Staff has the same legal status of international organizations in Albania. If the Northern Atlantic Committee decides to establish a Staff in the future, the country in which it will be built must be selected through further talks between the pairs.

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Marine Le Pen's confidence vindicated by Front National election triumph

FN leader claims 'the people have spoken', as far-right party polls an historic 25% of votes in the European elections
French far-right Marine Le Pen
French far-right Front National party president Marine Le Pen reacts at the party's headquarters in Nanterre, as it topped the polls in European elections. Photograph: Pierre Andrieu/AFP/Getty Images
It was, as even their avowed opponents agreed, an historic victory. Or as French foreign minister Laurent Fabius succinctly put it, there was "one winner and a lot of losers".
From the beginning of the European election campaign weeks ago Marine Le Pen was insistent that Sunday evening would finally see the Front National emerge as "France's number one party".
Election pundits scorned her pretensions; the opinion polls confirmed them.
As the election results were predicted – and later confirmed – on Sunday evening, there were cheers followed by an enthusiastic but not particularly in-tune rendition of La Marseillaise from the party faithful gathered at the FN headquarters in the Paris suburb of Nanterre.
The far-right FN had done better than even it had probably expected or hoped, polling a historic 25% of votes in the European elections and becoming France's top party on the European stage.
As she arrived at the FN power base, supporters broke out into cheers and chanted "Marine, Marine."
"The people have spoken. Our people demand one type of politics: they want French politics by the French, for the French, with the French. They don't want to be led any more from outside, to submit to laws," a jubilant Le Pen told supporters.
"The sovereign people have proclaimed loud and clear … that they want to take back their destiny into their own hands.
"We must build another Europe, a Europe of free and sovereign nations and freely decided cooperation. Tonight is a massive rejection of the European Union.
"If Germany has become the economic heart of Europe, through the incompetence and weakness of our leaders, then France has been and will be the political heart of Europe. What is happening in France signals what will happen in all European countries; the return of the nation.
"To all those French who voted for us, I say that the battle for the greatness of France should unite us in the rediscovered love of our country."
If the result was a humiliation of the opposition centre-right UMP, which polled just over 20% of the vote, it was yet another damaging and comprehensive trouncing of the ruling Socialists, which came in third. Vote predictions said the Parti Socialiste (PS) score was 13.9% at worst and still only 16% at best.
The defeat was the second slap in the face for President François Hollande's administration in as many months after his party's disastrous showing in local elections in March, and his ministers could do little else but admit it.
Manuel Valls, the Socialist prime minister, described the election result as a "very serious moment for France and Europe", even as the FN was calling for his resignation along with the rest of the government. Valls's funereal expression showed he meant every grave word.
"The result is more than another warning; it's a shock, an earthquake," he said. He vowed, however, to push on with reforms, saying: "There is not a moment to lose."
There was no room for complacency among the opposition UMP, already riven by leadership rivalries. The party president, Jean-François Copé, tried to put a brave face on the result and deflect the blame onto the government. "It's above all a huge disappointment, but it's a reflection of the French people's immense anger and exasperation over François Hollande's politics," he said.
Copé's rival within the party, the former prime minister François Fillon, said the UMP's credibility had been seriously damaged by the result. Even Alain Juppé, another former centre-right prime minister and seen as a party peacemaker, waded in. The score he said was a severe defeat for the right and the centre. "The UMP must change. We must have a clear examination of what has happened," he said.
The rate of abstention in France was just under 57%, slightly lower than the 2009 European elections.
The initial results gave the FN 24 seats in the European parliament, the UMP 19 seats, 13 for the PS, six for the Greens and four for the Front de Gauche.
The FN's founder who is also Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, called for the dissolution of the Assemblée Nationale and for the prime minister Manuel Valls to resign.
A meeting called by UMP head Jean-François Copé was reportedly tense, according to a source.
On a personal level, it was a triple victory for the Le Pen clan. Marine Le Pen was predicted to have won 32.6% of votes in her constituency in north west France, her father was thought to have polled 28.9% in his south-eastern constituency and Le Pen's partner, Louis Aliot, won his seat with 23.7% of the vote in the south-west against former UMP defence minister Michèle Alliot-Marie.
At the FN's headquarters in the Rue des Suisses in the western Paris suburb of Nanterre, visitors are greeted with a statue of Joan of Arc, the party's heroine and figurehead, in full battle pose. On the internal terrace is an enormous fibre glass statue of a cockerel, another Gallic totem. French tricolor flags are everywhere.
Party officials had been optimistic, judging by the rows of champagne glasses ranged on a table in the HQ.
The FN has pledged to close France's borders to stop "the free movement of the Roma", (foreign) delinquents and "cheap foreign labour", to ditch the euro and return to the franc, to end free trade agreements with America, and "to defend, in all circumstances, our values, our identity, our traditions and our way of life".
In its election material Le Pen had urged the French to vote, insisting that shunning the polls was a vote for what it calls the UMPS, a conflation of the acronyms for two main parties, the opposition Union pour un Mouvement Populaire and the Parti Socialist.
"Today, France is at a crossroads," she wrote in her election declaration distributed to homes across the country. "Either she becomes once more a great country that is free, independent, safe, prosperous and proud of its history and read to fight for its future and that of its children. Or it disappears in a Europe-ist magma, multicultural, without influence of power, undermined by precocity and shunted wise by a savage globalisation of which the European Union is only the first step."
She concluded: "Unemployment, the loss of social benefits, injustices, the loss of our values, uncontrolled immigration are not inevitable but the result of political chooses that we can oppose, that we must oppose. France has still a future and needs you."
The FN has repeated the mantra that it has become a major force in French politics at almost every election for years, but following an unprecedented victory in last month's local election in which the far-right won control of more than a dozen town and city halls, it has become more than just wishful thinking of the past.
As Le Monde wrote after Sunday's estimations: "Marine Le Pen has won her bet: the Front National is the main winner in the European elections".
The paper added: "If the extreme right party's victory is no great surprise, the opinion polls having anticipated it for the last few weeks, the scale is surprising."
Jean-Yves Camus, a researcher at the French political think-tank IRIS, wrote in "The particularity of the Front National is that it cannot take part in any government or even regional coalition. It's opponents are very diverse but have one thing in common: the wish not to govern with it (the FN). It's a weak position.
"A major party is one that is able to transform its manifesto into political decisions, whereas the position in which the FN will find itself in the European parliament is of a marginalised opposition, in the same way the two FN MPs in the French parliament are very isolated."
Before the results, Slate said the only place the FN would become the "number one party in France" was on Facebook where its page had 157,000 likes compared with 84,500 for the Parti Socialiste and 82,100 for the centre-right opposition UMP party.
The Golden Dawn of Greece: Former Generals of the Greek army in European Parliament


Former Lt. General of the Special Forces Synadinos Eleftherios- Lt General Eleftherios served the Greek army for almost 4 decades as an officer. He graduated from military school in 1979 as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry. From then on he graduated from the Special Forces  School of Officers and the National Defense College. He has served in all types of units and has commanded the Special Forces of Greece from the bottom to the top.
Synadinos Eleftherios has commanded soldiers in Cyprus, the Greek Kosovo Force, and in May 2007 for 2 years, the 1 CCT TAX-AL. He was served as a staff officer in the 32 TAXPN in VSS and was the head Sector Planner for the Olympic Games. From March 2009 to March 2010 he held the rank of Brigadier, and was later promoted to the rank of Major.
He graduated from the Paratroopers in 1980. He has been honored with a wide variety of medals, commendations, and decorations. He is married with two children.


General Georgios Epitideios- General Epitideios graduated from the Military Academy, the Higher War College, and National Defense College. He has also went to Advanced Officers Artillery School in the United States and Greece. He is also a graduate of Public Law and Political Science, he got these degrees at the University of Athens. He is speaks both English and French.
He has also served as the Staff Officer at the Headquarters of the Allied Powers of Europe (SHAPE), the International Military Staff of NATO, and as a Director of the Department of Current Operations and Crisis Management of the Military Staff of the European Union (EUMS). He has handled matters for many years in NATO and the European Union (business plans, crisis management, doctrine, policy, exercise and operation logistics). He has represented Greece as a senior National Representative in the meetings for the design of exercises, both in doctrine and operational logistics for NATO and the European Union.

 Gorgeous Epitifeios

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The "Golden Dawn", the Nr: 3 Politic force in Greece

Pope prays at Church of Holy Sepulchre after meeting with Israeli dignitaries; says Palestinians deserve sovereign homeland, Israelis deserve peace.

Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew (rear) walks with Pope Francis outside the Church
Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew (rear) walks with Pope Francis outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City May 25, 2014. Photo: REUTERS

The A-Z of European parliamentary elections

Published time: May 25, 2014 14:39
People walk in front of visuals promoting elections in front of the European Parliament in Brussels, May 24, 2014. (Reuters/Eric Vidal)
People walk in front of visuals promoting elections in front of the European Parliament in Brussels, May 24, 2014. (Reuters/Eric Vidal)
As the final day of voting in the EU elections kicks off, Europe gleefully awaits the announcement of the results on Sunday evening– or does it? Follow RT’s alphabetized breakdown to find out about the polls, the parliament, and problems on the continent.
Voting began on Thursday in the UK and the Netherlands, with Latvia, Malta and Slovakia all casting their votes on Saturday. The final day of polls will close with Italians voting for their preferred candidate.
Low voter turnout and increasing Euroskepticism sweeping the continent suggests that the 400 million who have the right to vote may not want to exercise it; Ireland’s Friday exit polls showed that turnout stood at a mere 30 percent.

A – Austerity

Austerity measures have descended upon Europe since the beginning of the eurozone crisis in early 2009. Governments have been implementing increasingly harsh fiscal policies to pick up the pieces. Unemployment has been a direct result of the mass public spending cuts with Spain being hardest hit, shortly followed by Greece. A report published in April demonstrated that spending cuts in Greece have directly led to the suicides of 500 people.

Anti-riot policemen clash with demonstrators in Turin during one of several rallies against unemployment and austerity in Italy for May Day, on May 1, 2014. (AFP Photo / Marco Bertorello)
Anti-riot policemen clash with demonstrators in Turin during one of several rallies against unemployment and austerity in Italy for May Day, on May 1, 2014. (AFP Photo / Marco Bertorello)

B –Bailout

The eurozone’s three big lenders, known as the Troika, yield a great amount of power, as they have lent over 396 billion euro to Greece, Cyprus, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain. Greece was the first in 2010, and most recently, Cyprus in 2013. Ireland exited its bailout last December, and Portugal exited its 78 billion euro ($108 billion) international bailout program earlier this month. However, all other countries which initially received Troika ‘bailout’ funds are still being supported.

C – Catalonia

Catalonia has been seeking independence and self-governance since the final years of the 19th century. According to a March poll, up to 60 percent of Catalan people want independence from the rest of Spain. Last December, the Catalan regional parliament set November 9, 2014, as a referendum date to decide their fate. Historically Catalonia, which already enjoys significant autonomy from Madrid, has been one of Spain’s better-off regions and the local population has resented having to send their taxes to the capital to help support poorer areas of the country. However, the area of 7.5 million residents is currently 57.1 billion euro ($78.5 billion) in debt, which is the most of any of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions.

D – Disenchantment

In the last European Parliament elections in 2009 there was a mere 43 percent voter turnout. According to European Parliament figures, only 34.7 percent of eligible UK voters exercised their right in 2009. The only countries to regularly achieve a high turnout of around 90 percent have been Luxembourg and Belgium – and that’s because voting is compulsory in both. Voter turnout has been steadily decreasing since the first parliamentary elections in 1979.

E – European parliamentary elections

The elections for European Parliament will take place from 22 to 25 May 2014 and will elect 751 deputies. The last set of elections was held in 2009 on the backdrop of a nascent financial crisis in the Union. Since the onset of the economic upheaval, EU politicians have championed austerity measures and cuts to social welfare as a solution to the crisis.

A man casts his ballot for the European Parliament elections on May 25, 2014 at a polling station in Warsaw. (AFP Photo / Janek Skarzynski)
A man casts his ballot for the European Parliament elections on May 25, 2014 at a polling station in Warsaw. (AFP Photo / Janek Skarzynski)

F – France

European far right parties have been steadily gaining popularity, and nowhere is that tendency more evident than in France. Crisis, immigration, and unemployment have been nudging disillusioned Frenchmen towards the Front National – headed up by Marine Le Pen. At the end of March, Le Pen saw an unprecedented win for the far right when her party won mayor’s seat in 15 towns. Polls suggest that the FN may well be in line to win a large proportion of the votes in France.

G – Greece

It’s impossible to do a round-up of Europe-wide politics and factors influencing the impending elections, without mentioning Greece – which is frequently held responsible for the eurozone crisis.
Greece has received a 130-billion-euro loan to help keep its ailing economy afloat, but in return, it has had to comply with strict austerity measures governing its budget.
The measures have had a serious knock-on effect in the country, triggered mass protests with enraged Greeks alleging European banks are pocketing the bailout money. Greece has also seen a rise in suicides related to the economic hardship with reports of HIV injections being used as a way to qualify for state benefits.

School teachers clash with riot police near Education Ministry as they protest against government' reform in Athens on April 4, 2014. (AFP Photo / Angelos Tzortzinis)
School teachers clash with riot police near Education Ministry as they protest against government' reform in Athens on April 4, 2014. (AFP Photo / Angelos Tzortzinis)

H - Homogenization of number plates

European countries were up in arms in April over the possibility of introducing a common EU-wide design and causing sweeping fears that all cars would have to bear the 12 stars of the EU flag on their license plates. UK Conservative MEPs called the idea “idiotic.” Officials later stated that there had been no firm proposals, according to a BBC report published shortly afterwards. However, the uproar that followed was symptomatic of wider fears of EU top-down regulations being apparently imposed on unwilling member states. EU legislation presides over domestic law, so some countries (incl. UK) started calling for national parliaments to have a ‘red card’ of sorts to block MEPs.

I – Ireland

Ireland exited from the EU bailout scheme last December, hailing the event as a milestone. However, the country’s finance minister declared at the time that Ireland was far from being at the end of the road. Moody’s Investors Service has already upgraded Ireland’s government debt rating to investment grade based on the one-time Celtic Tiger’s growth potential and Dublin’s timely exit from its EU/IMF support program. The debt upgrade came amidst falling unemployment figures and lenders slashing the interest charged on the national debt to 3.5 percent – lower than the cost of loans under the bailout and less than was paid before the debt crisis, according to the Irish Independent.

J – Jose Manuel Barroso

Jose Manuel Barroso is the 11th and current President of the European Commission. The former Portuguese prime minister assumed the post in 2004 prior to the onset of the financial crisis and has since had the problematic task of directing the 28-nation bloc. Barroso admitted earlier this month in a speech that the EU had failed to engage with its citizens during the crisis. However, he urged them to strike a balance between full federalism and anti-Brussels populism at ballots.

K – Kiev

The tense situation in Ukraine has been the setting for the entire buildup to the European elections. Elections in Ukraine are currently taking place at the same time as the European elections. Violence and political instability has rocked the south and the eastern regions of the country meaning it could be impossible to open polling stations in these areas. The Council of the European Union stated on May 12 that it “stands by Kiev for free and fair presidential elections.” However, Russia has warned that the May 25 presidential vote in Ukraine may aggravate the crisis if military operations in the south-eastern regions are not halted and the OSCE road map drawn to settle the situation is not implemented. “The upcoming elections on May 25 can only worsen the differences in the country,” Russian deputy foreign minister, Grigory Karasin, said at a meeting with the British Ambassador to Russia Tim Barrow, on May 20.

A man uses binoculars as protesters guard a road block in central Kiev on January 31, 2014. (AFP Photo / Sergei Supinski)
A man uses binoculars as protesters guard a road block in central Kiev on January 31, 2014. (AFP Photo / Sergei Supinski)

L – Lampedusa: Small but significant

The small Italian island off the coast of Tunisia is hotbed of migrant activity which has only got worse since the beginning of the year. At least 34,800 people have made the crossing from Africa to Italy already this year – compared to 43,000 across the whole of 2013. Interior Minister Angelino Alfano demanded on May 13 that the EU step up its efforts.
The European Union has two options: either it comes to the Mediterranean to put the EU flag on Mare Nostrum or we will let migrants with right of asylum leave for other countries,” Alfano tweeted. Hundreds have died in attempted crossings in the past two years.

M – MEPs

Seven hundred and fifty MEPs and a European Parliamentary President are being elected, fewer than the current figure of 766. Elections take place by proportional representation which means seats are allocated based on the population of each Member State: The UK and Italy get 73 apiece, France 74, Finland 13, Greece 21 and smaller countries such as Luxembourg, Estonia and Malta get six each.
However, MEPs still organize themselves into political and ideological coalition groups rather than comprising a party as such. The European People's Party (EPP) made up the largest block in the most recent incarnation of the European Parliament, with 274 MEPs. The Non-Inscrits are the members who don’t belong to any particular political group and they are the smallest group, comprised of only 30 MEPs.

Members of the European Parliament vote during the last plenary session before May 25 elections on April 15, 2014 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France. (AFP Photo / Frederick Florin)
Members of the European Parliament vote during the last plenary session before May 25 elections on April 15, 2014 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France. (AFP Photo / Frederick Florin)
While the flagrant abuse of lavish expenses and lax oversight that once gave the European Parliament a bad name has been addressed, parliamentarians still enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, particularly compared to their constituents.
Unlike the system in place before 2009, when all MEPs received the same wage as those in the domestic parliament, the salary for all incoming MEPs will be 96,000 euro per year.
The number is supplemented by generous expenses allowances that total more than 4,200 euro a month, as well as a daily allowance, paid-for first class travel, and large discounts on healthcare.
Once all of these are factored in, an average MEP earns more than 200,000euro a year. Together with their support staff (who can no longer be just family members given a sinecure) MEPs are estimated to cost their countries, which foot the bill, between 30,000 and 40,000 euro a month.

N – Nationalism

Nationalism and, at times, neo-Nazi sentiments have been rising in Europe in the face of increasing Euroskepticism. Neo-Nazism is on the rise in Europe and if nations do not opt-out of the EU democratically, the entity has a violent end ahead of it, UKIP leader Nigel Farage predicted during a second public debate on the UK’s EU membership at the beginning of April.
There is a neo-Nazi party in Greece that look certain to win seats in the European parliament …We see in Madrid, we see in Athens very large protests, tens of thousands of people, a lot of violence,” Farage said.

O - Overspending

The EU’s annual budget exceeds 140 billion euro and many experts have voiced concerns that the sum is being mismanaged.
However, more than 40 percent of that money goes towards subsidizing farmers through its Common Agricultural Policy. Farmers constitute about 5 percent of the population of Europe, and produce less than 2 percent of GDP, but receive nearly 60 billion euro from the EU. While the policy has been accused of misallocating resources and rewarding uncompetitive businesses, the EU insists that it ensures food security and rural development, even as Europe struggles with austerity. The policy has been criticized for giving money to the most profitable farms and already-wealthy farmers.
Funding is divided between direct aid to farmers at 39.4 billion euro, 11.5 billion euro for rural development, 385 million euro for export refunds and 94 million euro for food storage. France gets the biggest subsidies, receiving some 9.85 billion euro.

Farmers' market producers and vendors of the common open air markets prevalent across Greece shout slogans as they protest against liberal reforms in central Athens on May 2, 2014. (AFP Photo / Aris Messinis)
Farmers' market producers and vendors of the common open air markets prevalent across Greece shout slogans as they protest against liberal reforms in central Athens on May 2, 2014. (AFP Photo / Aris Messinis)
A deal signed last year for EU budgets up to 2020 produced the first real-term reduction in EU spending, by 3 percent. But this has not made the purpose of EU expenditures, which are jointly administered by Brussels and the 28 member states, any less controversial. The new budget will see 20 percent of all funds allocated to combatting climate change – a highly politicized area that has sparked pushback from conservatives across Europe.

P – Parliament

There are 766 MEPs, who are responsible for representing some 500 million people dispersed across 28 EU countries. The European Parliament met for the first time some 56 years ago after being created by Europe's founding Treaty of Rome. However, elections weren’t held until 1979. The European Parliament is the only directly elected institution of Europe – the other most important component bodies of the institution are the European Commission and the Council of the EU. Both rely heavily on appointments. Elections begin on May 22 and last through until May 25. Italy will be the last country to vote, closing ballots on Sunday evening.

Q – Questions

A host of issues will face the newly-elected European Parliament at a time when the future of the Union is doubtful. The financial crisis has given rise to questions from member nations over the centralized control of the EU.
How to function better as a better as a multicurrency union? What is the best use of EU funds? The role of the EU in 21st century society – especially since the eurozone crisis is still very much in doubt, especially given the swing to the right? And does the EU have a future at all?

R – Referendums for independence

In January 2013, UK Prime Minister David Cameron promised that there would be a nationwide referendum on EU membership should the Conservative Party win the next general election in 2015. Other regional and national separatists have been seeking referenda – such as Catalonia and Scotland.

Demonstrators take part in a protest as part of a campaign for independence from Spain, at the Pedralbes Palace in Barcelona (AFP Photo / Josep Lago)
Demonstrators take part in a protest as part of a campaign for independence from Spain, at the Pedralbes Palace in Barcelona (AFP Photo / Josep Lago)

S – Scotland

Support for Scottish independence has been gaining ground - a poll published on May 14 showed that support for Scotland to vote to leave the United Kingdom in a referendum on September 18 had risen. While there was little major surface change – with support elevated by only one percentage point since previous polls, it showed that among those who were definitely going to vote, some 35 percent would opt for independence, according to Reuters. Forty-four percent opposed the move.

T – Turnout

The voter turnout at the EU elections has been steadily declining over the last few years, with the previous vote in 2009 seeing only 45 percent of the EU population make their way to polls. Luxembourg and Belgium have consistently topped the 90 percent mark in previous years mainly because the vote is obligatory, while the rest of Europe struggled to meet the 50 percent mark.


Britain’s UKIP party has blossomed from a single issue campaign group – attempting to keep the UK out of Europe - into an important minor party. On May 16, Scotland’s first minister said that in the UK the Lib Dems could be edged out by UKIP and YouGov polls conducted in April predicted UKIP would garner 23 percent, Conservatives 21percent, Liberal Democrats 14 percent, Labour 31 percent and Greens 7 percent in the EU elections.

V – Voteman

Disenchantment of the voting public prompted Denmark to devise an animated muscle-bound maniac on a mission to make young Danes vote. Voteman caused global controversy after the video triggered a storm of complaints over scenes of pornography and violence.

Screenshot from youtube video / Soenderfi
Screenshot from youtube video / Soenderfi

W – Wilders and PVV

Dutch Politician Geert Wilders who leads the right wing Dutch Freedom Party (PVV) is a controversial figure in European politics. The anti-Islam, anti-immigration politician has drawn criticism in the past for calling for “repeat offenders to be forcibly removed from their neighborhood and send to a village for scum.”
According to exit polls PVV has seen a decrease in its popularity in the EU elections, winning 12.2 percent of the vote as oppose to 17 percent in 2009. As a result the party will lose three of its five seats in the EU parliament.

X - Generation X

Generation X was born between the mid-1960s and mid 1970s and has the lowest voter participation rate on account of high skepticism. Members have been described as cautious and pragmatic and generally retaining less faith in governments.

Y- Generation Y

Generation Y –the millennial generation - is generally defined as the subsequent group, from the mid-to-late ’70s until the early ’90s. The group has changed the ways in which people communicate with its maturity now having its own impact on politics. Having followed a generation that generally regards politics as unimportant, its young, but confident and ambitious members have shown signs of wanting to reclaim this area of life.

Z - Generation Z

Generation Z is still developing its identity. However, the atmosphere of rapid change and widely-available and elaborately-developing technology means that priorities will undoubtedly have a significant impact on its attitude and outlook. Only part of it is currently even of voting age.
However, the group faces significant obstacles, growing up in the knowledge that it will take time to regain lost earning power, studying and entering the job market as austerity measures, unemployment and cuts to welfare programs continue in Europe.

French protesters, including university students and researchers, hold banners as they rally against budget austerity in the education field. (AFP Photo / Lionel Bonaventure)
French protesters, including university students and researchers, hold banners as they rally against budget austerity in the education field. (AFP Photo / Lionel Bonaventure)