In a January ruling marking a turning point in German transport policy, an administrative court in Wiesbaden ordered the regional government of Hesse to clean up diesel exhaust fumes by September or face a fine. Following the deepening VW diesel emissions testing scandal, the ruling puts pressure on the entire German vehicle industry production of diesel cars — which has been central to their business model.
“Against sexism, against racism” Cologne, January 5. Photo: Jungewelt.de. Dozens of women were sexually harassed on New Year's Eve in Germany, but rather than connecting the events to a system that perpetuates sexist violence, the political and media establishments have focused on the nationalities of the alleged perpetrators. German leftists are challenging this twisted interpretation, demonstrating against both sexism and racism in Cologne on January 5.
We have all heard the story of when, during a visit to the United States, a journalist asked Mahatma Gandhi what he thought of Western civilisation, and Gandhi is said to have replied that he thought it “would be a very good idea.” Former Greek finance minister and outspoken opponent of the savage austerity programs forced on Greece, Yanis Varoufakis recalled Gandhi’s words in the talk he gave at the University of Sydney on November 26. Varoufakis’ message was clear: Like Western civilisation, European democracy would indeed be a very good idea.
With refugees at the centre of debate after the terror attacks in Paris, the plight of European Jews fleeing Nazi Germany during the 1930s and '40s springs to mind as a parallel to the current crisis. It has come to light in recent times that the family of Anne Frank — the Jewish teenager whose famous diary details her and her family's failed attempts to hide from the Nazis in Amsterdam — was among those denied the necessary papers that would have allowed them access to the United States.
As the initial horror and outrage of the attacks in Paris on November 13 subside, the impacts they are already having on French and European society are becoming clearer. A state of emergency has been declared by the French government and will persist for up to three months. French officials announced on November 17 that France would see an extra 115,000 police officers, gendarmes and soldiers deployed across the country. In this context, rational debate is being restricted and progressive movements are on the defensive. Refugees
Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly asserted that Adolf Hitler had no intention of exterminating Europe's Jews until a Palestinian persuaded him to do it. The Israeli prime minister's attempt to whitewash Hitler and lay the blame for the Holocaust at the door of Palestinians signals a major escalation of his incitement against and demonisation of the people living under his country's military and settler-colonial rule. It also involves a good deal of Holocaust denial.
Austria, as well as Serbia and Croatia, have joined other European countries in temporarily closing their borders. On September 21, Croatia closed its last checkpoint for trucks on the Serbian border where thousands of refugees are waiting to cross in the hope of a better life.
It is the single image that has crystallised the horror of the refugee crisis in Europe: On September 2, a photographer took a picture of the lifeless body of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, a Kurdish refugee from Syria, lying face-down on a Turkish beach. The toddler was one of at least 12 refugees — including his five-year-old brother Galip, and their mother Rihan — who drowned during a desperate bid to reach the Greek island of Kos, joining more than 2500 refugees who have perished in the Mediterranean this year.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced on September 9 a novel approach to stemming the flow of refugees from Syria: bombing the country. He also announced plans to accept a further 12,000 Syrian refugees on top of his government's miserly quota, but was quick to dispel any hopes that Australia might be abandoning its status as the Western world's leading abuser of refugees. Abbott told ABC Radio National on September 10 that Syrian refugees being held in the Australian-run concentration camps in Nauru and Manus Island would not be released.
30,000 people marched in Vienna on August 31 to demonstrate against inhumane treatment of refugees. In less than a fortnight a series of tragedies took place on the borders of Europe, spurring a continent-wide debate over refugee policy. On August 26, about 200 refugees perished at sea as their ship capsized off the coast of Libya on its way to Italy.