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Sun Jul 15th, 2012 at 07:48:35 AM EST
I'm continuing my documentation of Austria's old Westbahn, based on photos I took this April, the last spring when all trains (including long-distance ones) were climbing the mountains.
To recap the context: the Westbahn, running west from Vienna to Salzburg, is Austria's busiest mainline. To increase capacity and speeds, the Vienna–Linz stretch is being quadruple-tracked. The project is broken into several sections, with work on-going since the nineties. The most challenging section is right at the start: between Vienna and St. Pölten, where the old line crosses a pass of the Wienerwald mountains at the end of the Alps, the extra two tracks get a more level alignment with a 26 km base tunnel. This section enters service at the end of this year, around the 154th anniversary of the classic line.
In part 1, I followed the climb from the outskirts of Vienna to the summit of the Wienerwald crossing; this part will cover the descent on the western side.
|A triple-voltage "Taurus" of Austrian Federal Railways ÖBB (factory type Siemens EuroSprinter ES64U4) climbs towards Vienna near Unter Oberndorf. The livery is an advertisement; there was a second loco with a nicer advertisement livery (for Austria's federal police!) doing its rounds at the time but I didn't manage a good photo. In the distance on the right: the castle of Neulengbach.|
Sat Jun 30th, 2012 at 03:43:36 AM EST
Today the last coal mine closes in the German state of Saarland. This is the end of an era, because Saarland was one of the two main high-grade coal regions in post-WWII Germany, alongside the Ruhr Area.
The background of the mine closure is the phasing-out of subsidies for the mining of high-grade coal by 2018 (though the closure in Saarland was accelerated after a 4.7 earthquake in 2008). These coal subventions were fought over hard ever since the first Social Democrat (SPD)–Greens coalition governments in North Rhine-Westphalia state (NRW, 1995) and at federal level (1998). While the Greens could only get the SPD to agree to reductions, in 2007 EU pressure forced the then Grand Coalition (CDU+SPD) federal government to decide for a phaseout by 2018, and again at the behest of the EU, a 2010 revision accelerated the annual reduction of subsidies.
The end of subsidies effectively means the end of coal mining: now only four mines in NRW remain active, of which the first closes at the end of the year, another in three years, and the last two when the subsidies run out. But the defenders of the subventions proved right in one point: coal users just switched to imports (now 80%), which brings additional problems like fine dust pollution in ports. As things stand, the future of coal use depends on factors like the stringency of environmental protection demands on new plants, the international market price of coal (currently on the rise again), and the domestic market price of scheduled power (currently depressed by solar).
Wed Jun 27th, 2012 at 05:01:17 AM EST
The Westbahn, running west from Vienna to Salzburg, is Austria's busiest mainline. To increase capacity and speeds, the Vienna–Linz stretch is being quadruple-tracked. The project is broken into several sections, with work on-going since the nineties. The most challenging section is right at the start: between Vienna and St. Pölten, where the old line crosses a pass of the Wienerwald mountains at the end of the Alps, the extra two tracks get a more level alignment with a 26 km base tunnel.
When this section enters service at the end of this year, express trains and some types of freight trains will disappear from the then 154 year old classic line – so back in April, I made a photo tour to document the last spring with all the trains climbing the mountains.
|A Stadler KISS double-deck electric multiple unit of open-access operator WESTbahn is caught by the first rays of the setting Sun after a storm near Dürrwien.|
In this first photo diary, I'll follow the line from the junction with the new line to the summit of the Wienerwald crossing, on the northern side of the valley of the Wien (Vienna) river (which gave its name to the city).
Tue Jun 19th, 2012 at 05:09:46 PM EST
So the group stage is over, on Thursday the quarterfinals begin. Place your bets again on how the tournament will progress! For reference, the quarterfinals pairings:
- Q1: Czech Republic – Portugal
- Q2: Germany – Greece
- Q3: Spain – France
- Q4: England – Italy
Below the fold, an evaluation of the group stage predictions
Sat Jun 16th, 2012 at 07:19:59 AM EST
This week I have a bunch of news related to rail privatisation, one related to the BRT mirage, one on electrification in Denmark, and one on a new line in the Netherlands. I'll start with a story from Berlin.
In the drive to turn former state monopolist German Railways (DB) into a listed company, from the nineties, the separate suburban rapid transit (S-Bahn) network of Berlin got its own management, which achieved high operating margins by saving on ordered vehicles and on essential maintenance. Predictably, this resulted in accidents and in 2009 hundreds of vehicles were pulled from service for maintenance. This in turn resulted in a chaos in services with effects lasting to this day.
Berlin politicians were naturally fed up with DB. But the solution that was brought into play was to void the exclusive agreement with DB and tender the operation of at least some Berlin S-Bahn services (that is, the application of the privatisation model preferred for subsidized local rail across Europe, franchising). How this solves the basic problem of the profit focus and technology-ignorance of managers, I don't know. At any rate, the Grand Coalition (SPD + CDU) city government that emerged from the Berlin elections last September seemed favourable to the idea.
However, a change in the Berlin SPD now makes re-tendering less likely. This week the party booted the minister responsible for transport from the party chairman position, electing Jan Stöß from the left wing of the party instead. Stöß said that he wants to prevent the privatisation of the S-Bahn and wants to keep it in public responsibility.
Thu Jun 7th, 2012 at 05:08:45 AM EST
Upon popular request, here is a predictions thread for the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship in Poland and the Ukraine.
Make your bets on who advances from the groups, you can also bet on the knockout stage. For reference, the groups and the knockout round order of pairing is below the fold.
Sun Jun 3rd, 2012 at 07:51:39 AM EST
Continuing after one and half months, this time I'll do a rail news blogging with paraphrases only. The six themes I selected could all run under the title "not according to plans": Dutch & German regulators vs. interoperability, Czech open access and international trains, no fare increases in India, South Korea's new test train, SNCF orders more TGVs, and Austria's long-delayed tunnel project starts. Some connected news are added. Let's start with regulators vs. interoperability:
The recent rise in international railfreight transport was in large part from traffic to and from marine ports, and one key factor in this growth was the use of multi-system electric locomotives that can pass system changes at borders. However, uncoordinated actions by national regulators can still stop them in their tracks. Regular readers will know about the troubled history of ETCS, the train protection system which the EU would like to see replacing national systems, for increased interoperability. One of the problems was the on-going development of its standards, forcing expensive upgrades of existing equipment. This hit again now.
Dutch regulator ILT long complained that the software of one loco type (TRAXX, made by Bombardier) was not compliant with the latest version of the ETCS standard, and set 31 March as the final deadline for a switch to the updated software. However, Germany's regulator EBA saw deficiencies in the new version, delaying approval until 9 May. Thus, for the 38 days in-between, no software was approved in both countries, and the TRAXX locos for port traffic could only run on either side of the border.
This is only a particularly grotesque example of authorisation problems. I often bemoan EU rail liberalisation policy, but it is no factor here. What could be done? Some train operators are lobbying for the idea to have the European Rail Agency (currently the manager of interoperability rules) supersede national regulators as a single European approval authority, but IMHO that's a dangerous idea: as long as local specialities in infrastructure and traffic rules persist, ERA could overlook local problems, some of which could impact safety. I think it would be enough to make ERA into an arbiter with teeth that can intervene in specific cases to coordinate national regulators and to overrule them if they fail to cooperate.
Sun May 13th, 2012 at 11:58:44 AM EST
Today the most populous German state, Northrhine-Westphalia (NRW), is holding snap elections.
The previous elections in 2010 were noteworthy for several reasons, in increasing order of importance:
- the emerging five-party parliament resulted in something unusual for Germany when Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens risked a minority government,
- In the campaign, to help her local comrades of the Christian Democrats (CDU), Chancellor Angela Merkel saw fit to employ xenophobic stereotypes against Southern Europeans, setting the tone of public discussion on the Eurozone crisis ever since;
- It was after these elections and this CDU loss that Merkel buried the tax cut dreams of her Free Democrat (FDP) coalition partners and chose austerity as both domestic and European signature theme.
Austerity was now a main campaign theme (more below the fold). The snap elections were the result of a mis-calculation by the opposition (see Snap elections in NRW
by Katrin for details), as they came when the NRW SPD and Greens soared in the polls. Since then, the situation changed somewhat with the meteoritic rise of the Pirate Party, and a poll bump for the FDP that put them above the 5% limit again. Still, if the last polls
are a good indication, red-green is likely to get majority: the SPD is at 37-38%, the CDU at 30-33%, Greens 10-12%, Pirates 7.5-10%, FDP 5-6%, and the losers of the election, the Left Party, at 3-4%. Update [2012-5-13 12:19:17 by DoDo]:
exit polls indicate the CDU doing much worse and the FDP even better (see comments for the results).
The likely effects of the election: the SPD will be somewhat emboldened, federal environment minister Norbert Röttgen (CDU) who leads the CDU list will have to bury his dreams to succeed Merkel, and Merkel will 'suffer' another 'Pyrrhic defeat'.
Sat May 12th, 2012 at 09:40:13 AM EST
Yesterday (Friday, 11 May), the upper house of the German federal parliament, the Bundesrat, voted down a reform of the feed-in law that included drastic curbs in the feed-in rates for photovoltaic solar power. The law will now be subject to an arbitration between the two houses of parliament.
The Bundesrat decision was unexpectedly clear, with the representatives of several state governments led by the Christian Democrats (CDU) voting against rather than abstaining. This is likely to further diminish the chances of the CDU in tomorrow's snap elections in Northrhine-Westphalia state, with the Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens seizing on the opportunity to attack the CDU's leading candidate, who happens to be federal environment minister Norbert Röttgen.
Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 04:58:40 PM EST
On 10 May 2011, during the power-up after a maintenance shutdown, there was a fire in Reactor No. 2 of the Ringhals Nuclear Plant (which houses four of Sweden's ten active reactors). Today (1 April), the reactor has been down for a full year, costing operator Vattenfall over 300 million. Berlin's left-alternative daily taz reviews the reasons:
- The fire was caused by a vacuum cleaner that was left behind during a routine maintenance stop and short-circuited during the pressure test, burning all the plastic around it within the containment.
- The human error was a result of being in a hurry: the power-up of the reactor was brought forward compared to the original schedule.
- During the repairs, workers found litter in the piping of the emergency cooling system, enough to throttle it 15%.
- It was found that the litter rested there undiscovered since the early eighties.
- The reason for the lack of discovery was that the routine functionality test of the emergency cooling system was done with compressed air instead of water and there were no visual checks inside the piping.
- Checking further, the oversight authority found inadequate tests used for vents, too.
- Improper testing is apparently a widespread problem. In the 2006 incident at the Forsmark Nuclear Plant, the faultiness of the automatic startup of the emergency generators wasn't discovered because the generator's functionality was always tested manually.
(As far as I can see, none of this was covered on ET before, only implicitly in an askod comment
These problems underline my problem with the view that we could and should evaluate nuclear power with a risk/benefit analysis: there are just too many overlooked, unexpected failure modes with potential safety relevance to do a calculation that won't significantly underestimate the risk side.
Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 09:11:31 AM EST
This week's themes: litter in Zurich, UK electrification escapes austerity, monorail swansong in Sydney.
Railway Gazette: Waging war on litter
SWITZERLAND: Three days' worth of litter was collected by staff at Zürich Hauptbahnhof and put on public display to mark the launch of SBB's campaign to keep the network tidy.
Tue Mar 27th, 2012 at 04:24:55 AM EST
This time, I report on the start of another cross-border TGV service, on a station renovation in Paris, on problems with privatisation models in Europe, and on damping vibration and noise emanating from tunnels.
|DB Konzern - Eröffnung Direktverbindung Frankfurt - Marseille|| DB Group - Opening of the Frankfurt - Marseille direct connection |
|Die Deutsche Bahn und die SNCF haben heute die Direktverbindung zwischen Frankfurt (Main) und Marseille in Betrieb genommen. Über die neue Schnellfahrstrecke ,,Rhein-Rhône" verkürzen sich die Reisezeiten zwischen Südwestdeutschland und Südfrankreich damit um bis zu 90 Minuten. Die Direktverbindung zwischen Frankfurt und Marseille führt über Mannheim, Karlsruhe, Baden-Baden, Straßburg, Mülhausen, Lyon, Avignon und Aix-en-Provence. Zum Einsatz kommt der neue Doppelstockzug TGV Euroduplex. Er erreicht auf der täglichen Hin- und Rückfahrt Spitzengeschwindigkeiten von bis zu 320 km/h.||German Railways DB and [French State Railways] SNCF have put the direct link between Frankfurt (Main) and Marseille in service today. Travel times between south-west Germany and south France shorten by up to 90 minutes along the new "Rhin-Rhône" high-speed line. The direct connection between Frankfurt and Marseille is via Mannheim, Karlsruhe, Baden-Baden, Strasbourg, Mulhouse, Lyon, Avignon and Aix-en-Provence. The new double-deck train TGV Euroduplex is used. It reaches top speeds of up to 320 km/h on the daily round-trip.|
A week earlier:
|EBA: TGV 2N2 jetzt mit Deutschland-Zulassung- Nachrichten bei Eurailpress||EBA: TGV 2N2 now has approval for Germany - News at Eurailpress|
|Das Eisenbahn-Bundesamt (EBA) hat dem ersten von 30 französischen Hochgeschwindigkeitszügen der Bauart ,,TGV-2N2-Euroduplex" die Zulassung für Deutschland erteilt.||The Federal Railway Authority (EBA) certified the first of 30 French high-speed trains of the type "TGV 2N2 Euroduplex" for Germany.|
This is in contrast to the delays in the certification of the DB train intended for the same cross-border traffic (and those delays are still growing, also pushing the start of London-Frankfurt services with the same train to 2016).
Fri Mar 16th, 2012 at 02:28:07 AM EST
As foretold in the diary One hundred years of protests, in the past month and a half Hungary saw several protests by the democratic opposition, supporters of the right-populist government, and the far-right; all in preparation for a final showdown of street politics today. Today, that is on 15 March, the day of the 1848 Revolution (which is the most fondly remembered in Hungary).
The event of the democratic opposition was the one organised by the Facebook group "One Million For Press Freedom", or Milla for short. Most of this diary will be my photo report of this event, held in the centre of Budapest on the central avenue where it leads up onto a bridge over the Danube.
Sat Mar 10th, 2012 at 07:17:18 AM EST
I'll start with an update on one of the most significant new competitors in long-distance passenger rail transport which I wrote about in The Dawn Of Open Access (2/2): Austria's WESTbahn, which is engaged in a cut-throat competition with the incumbent ÖBB. I will also write about further ETCS progress in Belgium, progress with new lines in Germany and Denmark, and cooling the London Underground.
|Westbahn und ÖBB streiten weiter - Bahn - derStandard.at > Wirtschaft|| Westbahn and ÖBB continue quarreling - Rail - derStandard.at > Economy|
|Wien - Die ÖBB und die seit Dezember 2011 zwischen Wien und Salzburg fahrende mehrheitlich private Westbahn sind weiterhin in Rechtsstreitigkeiten verwickelt. Vor dem Europäischen Gerichtshof (EuGH) wird am 21. März in einer mündlichen Verhandlung über die Forderung der Westbahn Management GmbH beraten, dass die ÖBB Infrastruktur der Westbahn sämtliche Informationen über Zugbewegungen und insbesondere eventuelle Verspätungen von Anschlusszügen in Echtzeit zur Verfügung stellen solle, berichtet die "Wiener Zeitung".||Vienna - ÖBB and the majority privately-owned Westbahn which runs between Vienna and Salzburg since December 2011, are further embroiled in legal disputes. On 21 March, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) will hold a hearing on a demand of Westbahn Management GmbH on ÖBB Infrastructure to provide in real time all information on train movements and in particular on any delays of connecting trains, Wiener Zeitung reports.|
|...Die ÖBB-Personenverkehr AG hat ihrerseits die Westbahn wegen unlauterem Abwerben von Kunden, unlauteren Werbemaßnahmen in ÖBB-Zügen, dem "irreführenden Tarifmodell" und der behaupteten Kommunikation von falschen Verbindungszahlen geklagt. ...Trotz der Rechtsstreitigkeiten gibt man sich bei den ÖBB gelassen. Die Fahrgastzahlen seien trotz des neuen Mitbewerbers konstant geblieben, Bahnfahren werde immer beliebter, heißt es von seiten der ÖBB.||...ÖBB Passenger Transport Co. in turn sued Westbahn for unfair poaching of customers, unfair advertising measures in ÖBB trains, the "misleading fare model" and the alleged communication of false connection numbers. ...In spite of the disputes, ÖBB representatives are relaxed. Passenger numbers have remained constant in spite of the new competitor, rail travel is becoming ever more popular, they say at the ÖBB.|
There is a price war, too: WESTbahn is also suing against ÖBB's reduced fares aimed at off-peak periods. (Now wasn't reduced fares one of the promised benefits of open access?...) Different WESTbahn bosses contradict each other on how ÖBB's fare reductions affect WESTbahn: one calls the enterprise a "disaster", the other claims ridership is above plans but income lags due to their own fare reductions.
Sun Mar 4th, 2012 at 03:16:32 AM EST
Three news this time: Dubai Metro to expand upon success, the first application of ETCS on a suburban network, and electrification in Iran.
Railway Gazette: RTA backs Dubai metro extensions
UAE: Following two separate studies, Dubai's Roads & Transport Authority has confirmed its intention to seek government approval to build a 20 km extension of the metro Green Line from Etisalat to International City, Academic City and the Dubai Lagoons for opening within five years.
A 12 km extension of the Red Line from Jebel Ali to the border with Abu Dhabi is also proposed, subject to developments along the route going ahead.
...On February 22 the Dubai government announced a US$675m financing package which will allow the 10 km Phase 1 of the delayed Al Sufouh Tram project to be completed by November 2014.
As I argued in Local Rail and its dKos versions, the key to the success of urban rail systems is to launch them, as they have the nature to gain a critical mass of riders who will guarantee support for further expansion. Dubai Metro was the first of several on-going projects in the previously completely urban-rail-free Gulf oil states. The ability of mass transit in the richest of the rich and luxury-mad societies in the region to draw enough passengers was viewed with scepticism, especially after the Dubai property market crash from late 2008. However, in spite of economic collapse and project delays, ridership on the first line doubled from 30 million in 2010 to 60 million (about 165,000 a day) last year, while the second line (which had its opening delayed until September last year) was just 10% short of its bold target of 100,000 a day in December.
Wed Feb 29th, 2012 at 05:08:02 AM EST
On Monday, the lower house of Germany's federal parliament (Bundestag) voted on the second EU
debt-slavery/debtor bailout for Greece. The media focused on the failure of the government parties – chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), their Bavarian sister party the Christian Socialists (CSU), and the (neo)liberal Free Democrats (FDP) – to achieve the so-called chancellor majority, that is, the absolute majority of all members of parliament (present or absent). The Against vote of four FDP and 13 CDU/CSU voters (and one resp. two Abstentions) is most likely the Eurosceptic vote, emboldened by arch-conservative federal interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich (CSU), who broke with the party line and called for tossing Greece from the Euro.
While it's one question for whatever reasons conservatives voted For or Against, the actual target of the 'bailout' funds, and the anti-social and anti-democratic strings attached to the 'rescue package' should have been in the focus for the three left-of-centre opposition parties. Yet, two of them, the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens, voted along with the government majority. Only the third, the hard-left Left Party, made a clear stand against.
It's not like the arguments weren't there. In the debate before the vote, Left Party faction leader Gregor Gysi picked the 'rescue package' apart in his address, comparing it to the post-WWI peace dictate of the victors at Versailles, and calling for an equivalent of the Marshall Plan instead. He didn't mention the post-WWII debt forgiveness for West Germany or the market effect of Merkel's verbal disregard for EU decisions already taken, didn't explicitly mention trade imbalances or the imposition of external institutions and bureaucracies, and glossed over the difference between state-guaranteed loans and direct support, but still said a lot in 13 minutes. It was also directed at the other left-of-centre parties, who tried their best to miss the point in heckles and one interjection (even while government MPs and ministers were more into showing stony faces), and IMHO that's the really worrisome part. Below the video; below the fold, a complete translation of the official transcript.
Mon Feb 27th, 2012 at 07:55:16 AM EST
Freight traffic on modern railways can be broadly categorised in three types:
- Trainload traffic: a train carries the same cargo of a single customer, and all cars are loaded at the starting point and unloaded at the endpoint. (Examples: transports of raw materials from a mine to a factory; transport of cars from a car factory to a port.)
- Intermodal traffic: containers or trailers usually also travel on trains that only load/unload at the end points of the journey, but the cargo belongs to different customers and is transferred to other modes of transport to reach different final destinations (or vice versa).
- Wagonload traffic: trains consist of wagons carrying the cargo of different customers with different departure points and destinations.
|A mixed train composed of at least four sections climbs towards Semmering in Austria.|
The first two types ensure large volumes of traffic, however, in the entire transport sector, they only constitute niches. Wagonload traffic however, due to its need for the time- and energy-intensive shunting movements (to assemble, re-assemble [marshalling] and separate trains), has difficulties competing with road transport. For a significant modal shift from road to rail, you'd need to change that.
I criticised the EU's rail liberalisation strategy for not delivering the kind of competition and drawing of new capital promised, while bringing new problems and not really boosting traffic. Now a new study of wagonload traffic showed that
- the overall development of wagonload traffic since liberalisation has been negative,
- virtually no competition developed, and
- the direction is towards cooperation rather than competition of rail transport companies.
Thu Feb 23rd, 2012 at 04:15:04 AM EST
Memorial to honor victims of neo-Nazi terrorism | Germany | DW.DE | 23.02.2012
Three months after a far-right terrorist cell was uncovered in Germany, the country will hold a memorial service for the victims of neo-Nazi violence. It's one of the steps Berlin has taken to fight racism.
That's all nice and well, but let's recall the steps not taken by a sizeable part of the 1,200 guests, including chancellor Angela Merkel who will be the main speaker:
|Proteste gegen Nazi-Aufmarsch in Dresden: Nazis einmal um den Block - taz.de||Protests against Nazi march in Dresden: Nazis once around the block - taz.de|
|Während die Bundestagsvizepräsidenten der Oppositionsparteien, Wolfgang Thierse (SPD), Katrin Göring-Eckardt (Grüne) und Petra Pau (Linkspartei), gegen die Neonazis demonstrierten und sich, wie zumindest im Fall Thierse, sogar an den Blockaden beteiligten, war aus der schwarz-gelben Bundesregierung offiziellen Angaben zufolge an diesem Tag niemand in Dresden.||While the deputy speakers of the Bundestag from the opposition parties, Wolfgang Thierse (SPD), Katrin Göring-Eckardt (Greens) and Petra Pau (Left Party) participated in the protests against the neo-Nazis and, at least in the case of Thierse, even in the blockades, according to official sources, no member of the Black-Yellow Government was in Dresden on this day.|
| In einer Antwort an Linkspartei-Chefin Lötzsch, die der taz vorliegt, hatte die Regierung zuvor eingeräumt, dass sich in dieser Legislaturperiode noch nie ein Regierungsvertreter von Amts wegen an Demonstrationen gegen Rechtsextreme beteiligt habe. Im vergangenen Jahr hatte sich allerdings der Dresdner Bundesminister Thomas de Maiziere (CDU) an einer Menschenkette beteiligt - offenbar privat.||Earlier, in a reply to Left Party leader Lötzsch, of which taz has a copy, the government conceded that no representative of the government had never participated in a protest against right-wing extremists in the current election cycle. Last year however federal minister Thomas de Maiziere (CDU), who hails from Dresden, participated in a human chain - apprently as private person.|
| Die Vorsitzende der Grünen, Claudia Roth, sagte dazu der taz: "Diese Haltung spiegelt das Versagen der demokratischen Verantwortung der Bundesregierung wieder. Mir fällt kaum ein Bundesminister ein, der nach der erschütternden Mordserie nicht hierher gehören würde."||The leader of the Greens, Claudia Roth, told taz: "This attitude reflects the failure of the federal government's democratic accountability. I can barely think of a federal minister who would not belong here after the shocking series of murders."|
Sat Feb 18th, 2012 at 08:51:24 AM EST
At the end of 2011, the European Commission made clear that it finds three new laws enacted by the parliamentary supermajority of Hungary's right-populist government party Fidesz problematic, which led to the start of infringement procedures on 17 January 2012. This and a 2 January mass protest in Budapest against Fidesz's new constitution brought the sweeping legal changes in Hungary to international attention. As I argued in Protest in a one-party state, the Commission action didn't appear to be motivated by concern for democracy (criticism focused on a violation of the dogma of central bank independence, though the other two concerned legal protection issues), while the criticised laws were only a small part of a legal coup to remove checks & balances and cement power beyond the current election cycle.
Discussions started in the European Parliament (EP), too, where earlier only the Greens (Daniel Cohn-Bendit) made significant efforts to thematise the developments in Hungary. Things came to head on 18 January, when Hungary's PM Viktor Orbán had invited himself for a debate before the EP. While the debate was an opportunity for the EP factions for a show of sharp political debate, as I argued, it also served Orbán's intentions perfectly: for his home crowd, he was spinning criticism from the EU as a conspiracy of the international Left, and whatever the party allegiance of Barroso and the Council majority, Orbán's EPP comrades in the EP were only too glad to play their role in the show.
Extremists and crooks in the region can get away with a lot on the European stage due to the circumstance that most of what they say and do will never get translated into French or English (and will often get translated to German with a loss of context). This weighted on the initial reactions of the European Parliament, too. But, lately, there is too much that gets across the language barrier for Fidesz. A Green MEP, the leader of the Socialist & Democrat EP faction, and digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes got a taste of Fidesz double-talk and vicious defamation in pro-Fidesz media, with the help of voluntary translators.
And on Thursday (16 February), the EP adopted a motion of the liberal and left-of-centre factions, with support from right-wing deserters, calling on the Commission to launch much wider reviews and consider Article 7 action; while alternative motions tabled by the EPP and the eurosceptic Conservatives were rejected.
Fri Feb 17th, 2012 at 06:20:35 AM EST
German President Resigns: Wulff Announces He Will Step Down - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International
Following the announcement by prosecutors that they would seek to lift his immunity, German President Christian Wulff announced Friday morning he would resign as the country's head of state. The development follows weeks of reporting on allegations the president accepted favors during his tenure as governor of the state of Lower-Saxony. Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed her "deep regret" over the resignation.
The announcement of the prosecutors was finally a reason for the Social Democrats, too, to call for Wullf's resignation. For the first month of the scandal, see Wulff thrown to the wolves; more allegations of gifts and help for 'friends' who gave gifts followed.
So now Germany has a domestic politics issue to focus on for some time (indeed Merkel cancelled her trip to Italy to meet PM Monti). Whether the resignation of the second Federal President chosen by Merkel will hurt her, will depend on who she chooses next, I guess.
by DoDo - May 23
by Nomad - May 10
by JakeS - May 15
by gmoke - May 17
by DoDo - May 12
by Migeru - May 6