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Austria Politics

The Polish government said Tuesday that it will not support a global compact seeking international cooperation on migration, citing national sovereignty as it joins countries including Hungary, Austria and the United States in rejecting it.
www.foxnews.com | 11/20/18
Austria's government said Friday that a retired colonel in the country's military is suspected of having spied for Russia for decades, a claim swiftly dismissed by Moscow.
www.foxnews.com | 11/9/18
The Austrian government said Wednesday that it won't sign a global compact to promote safe and orderly migration, citing concerns about national sovereignty as it joined neighboring Hungary in shunning the agreement.
www.foxnews.com | 10/31/18

The battle between 21st Century Fox and Comcast for British pay-TV company Sky PLC appears headed for a little-used aspect of how mergers and acquisitions are handled in the U.K.: An auction.

In the event that 21st Century Fox and Comcast find themselves at auction for Sky, here’s how the process plays out.

The U.K. Takeover Panel, which oversees all mergers and acquisitions, sets a deadline that, if there are still multiple suitors for a company, will trigger an auction to determine the winning bidder. The Takeover Panel does this to ensure that the company being acquired isn’t “under siege” for too long, while giving the shareholders for the potential buyers enough time to review all relevant materials from the proposal. Per the U.K.’s Takeover Code, that deadline is 46 days after the most recent offer is formally published with the U.K. Stock Exchange.

In this case, Fox and Comcast have until Saturday, 5 p.m. local time to either bow out or make their “best and final offer” for Sky. In the meantime, the three companies will negotiate the rules of the auction, which the Takeover Panel will formally announce on Friday.

Also Read: Comcast Drops Bid for Fox Assets to Focus on Sky Instead

Typically, the auction would last for five consecutive days, but the Panel allows for the parties to figure out the process themselves, as long as it doesn’t skirt any official rules. There have only been three British takeover situations since 2007 that have involved auctions handled by the regulator, per an analysis by Reuters.

The reason for Sky to take this to the auction stage would be to maximize the value for its shareholders, hoping the auction-style setting will force Comcast and Fox to keep one-upping each other.

Currently, Comcast holds the superior bid at $34 billion (£25.9 billion), roughly $2 billion higher than Fox’s offer of $32.5 billion (£24.5 billion). Comcast’s all-cash offer translates to £14.75 a share, which is roughly five percent higher than Fox’s £14 a share bid. Comcast’s offer has been recommended by the Sky Independent Committee of Directors.

Also Read: Comcast Increases Bid for Sky to $34 Billion

However, since Fox already owns 39 percent of the company, it needs only to convince another 12 percent to vote in its favor, whereas Comcast has to convince 51 percent of the board to vote in its favor.

With this headed towards an auction, it begs the question: Why does everyone want Sky so much?

More and more, U.S. companies have been looking internationally for a way to further build scale to compete against the rising tide of deep-pocketed tech companies — like Amazon and Netflix — invading their turf.

Sky’s businesses would grow Comcast’s international revenue from 9 percent of its overall revenue to 25 percent. Sky counts nearly 23 million customers in key parts of Europe, including Germany, Italy and Austria, along with the U.K. and Ireland.

Also Read: Fox and Disney Shareholders Vote to Approve $71.3 Billion Merger

Sky would fit in nicely with Comcast’s other assets, namely NBCUniversal, with its mix of entertainment, sports and news content. In February, Sky extended its rights deal with the English Premier League through 2022, among the world’s most popular (and thus, valuable) sports leagues. That would work well with Comcast, which holds the U.S. TV rights for the British soccer league via NBCUniversal, also through 2022.

Fox’s stake in Sky is part of its $71.3 billion sale of film and TV assets to Disney. CEO Bob Iger has previously referred to Sky as the “crown jewel” of Fox assets. Disney could use Sky’s broadband services to launch its upcoming service, which will debut at the end of 2019, in Europe.

Also, there’s a bit of corporate gamesmanship involved. Comcast made its own bid to buy the Fox assets instead of Disney, which forced Disney to increase its offer from its initial $52.4 billion that Fox accepted last year.

You can imagine that Iger would love to return the favor.

21st Century Fox declined to comment for this story, while representatives for Comcast and Sky did not return TheWrap’s request for comment.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Comcast Drops Bid for Fox Assets to Focus on Sky Instead

British Government OKs Fox's Bid to Buy Sky

Comcast Increases Bid for Sky to $34 Billion

www.thewrap.com | 9/20/18

In the rather unique world of public international law for cybersecurity, the treaty provisions of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) stand alone. They form the multilateral basis for the existence of all communication networks, internets, and services worldwide and have obtained the ascent by every nation in the world. They also contain the only meaningful multilateral cybersecurity provisions that have endured over a century and a half through all manner of technological change. Indeed, it was radio internets a hundred years ago that gave rise to the greatest cybersecurity challenges.

So when all the nations of the world meet every four years at ITU Plenipotentiary Conferences to review these treaty provisions, the activity is eagerly watched by the small group of international cybersecurity law historians for potential changes to respond to new developments. The 2018 Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-18) is coming up in about three months — meeting at Dubai, 29 Oct to 16 Nov. Today, watching these treaty conferences is easier with all the documents available online in multiple languages shortly after being received. Indeed, almost the entire history of materials is available on-line going back to 1865.

The documents for the period from 1865 to 1865 reside in the Austria State Archives in Vienna, and for the period between 1917-1922, in the U.S. National Archives. The United States played the leading role in forming the modern day ITU treaty provisions, including key cybersecurity norms, in a series of conferences at the end of the First World War, including a long seminal treaty drafting conference in Washington in 1920 and in Paris in 1921 to add global radio internet provisions.

Most of the cybersecurity treaty making proposals to the ITU instruments in recent years have been relatively unimpressive — largely dealing with the enormous major issues today by adopting or altering conference resolutions rather than changing organic law found in the provisions. For a stable body of public international law that has formed the basis for all global telecommunication and cybersecurity over a century and a half, the basics remain fairly constant. Instantiating and protecting communication capabilities across the borders of national sovereigns fundamentally remain the same. It is an arena where Bully Bilateralism fails spectacularly.

Thusfar, the PP-18 input proposals are not particularly notable - primarily directed at getting national candidate officials elected to ITU positions in its multiple component bodies and slots on its continuing management mechanism, the Council. As perhaps the first evidence of the adverse effects of the current U.S. Administration, the candidacy of a highly-regarded U.S. expert was withdrawn for re-election to the Radio Regulations Board on which she already sits. Thus, the U.S. will have no representative on this key international quasi-judicial body overseeing radio spectrum use which the U.S. itself created seventy years ago, and has had a presence over many decades, including a continuing one since 1999. Notwithstanding the widely divergent views about the ITU in domestic Washington politics over the decades, one consistency has been the support for significant involvement in the Radiocommunication Sector since 1904 except for a brief period under Harding.

One of the significant PP-18 bellwethers among the input materials is a report on potentially holding a treaty conference to amend the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITR) that exist as an independent instrument. The principal purpose of the current ITR provisions adopted in 1988 was legalizing public internets globally and providing for related cybersecurity

An ill-advised subsequent attempt by Russia to amend the provisions in 2012 resulted in half the world rejecting the provisions. However, there are certainly ample reasons to amend and evolve the 1988 treaty given the plain need for a multilateral instrument directed at instantiating extraterritorial NFV-SDN-5G capabilities and OTT services. U.S. Cloud Service providers have also been actively seeking treaty provisions.

The only sage input into the meeting dealing with the subject matter occurred earlier this year — notably from China speaking for the first time on the subject — which took the strategic global leadership view that such provisions were essential for the global economy and would eventually be adopted.

For the present, it appears as if the U.S. Administration is content with trashing multilateral obligations and institutions, and moving back to a world of national insularity — forcing U.S. companies to locate their facilities and services abroad in multiple jurisdictions with long-term adverse effects. How it will prevent network products and services from entering the U.S. from abroad seems best described as a fool's errand. What the unfolding U.S. calamity does provide, however, is to give other nations — especially China — the opportunity to forge the necessary multilateral arrangements to pursue emerging markets and larger global market shares. China is today by far, the largest-scale participant in all manner of industry standards bodies in the telecommunication sector, including cybersecurity-related activities. It is a role once played by the U.S. government and industry.

So from a cybersecurity legal historian's perspective, events at the PP-18 remain a kind of fascinating crystal ball for looking into a future where the U.S. has clearly lost its leadership at best, and viability in the worlds of spectrum management and global information economy at worst. ...to be continued.

Written by Anthony Rutkowski, Principal, Netmagic Associates LLC

www.circleid.com | 7/26/18

Comcast has increased its offer for British pay-TV company Sky PLC to $34 billion (£25.9 billion), roughly $2 billion higher than Fox’s most recent offer.

Earlier on Wednesday, Fox raised its own offer for the media giant to $32.5 billion (£24.5 billion). Comcast said that its increased offer has been recommended by the Sky Independent Committee of Directors.

Comcast’s new all-cash offer translates to £14.75 a share, which is roughly five percent higher than Fox’s £14 a share bid.

Also Read: Fox Raises Sky Bid to $32 Billion, Besting Comcast Offer for British Media Giant

“Comcast has long admired Sky and believes it is an outstanding company and a great fit with Comcast,” the company said in its release about the new offer. “Today’s announcement further underscores Comcast’s belief and its commitment to owning Sky.”

The move by Comcast is the latest volley between CEO Brian Roberts and Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch over who gets the keys to Sky, which counts nearly 23 million customers in key parts of Europe, including Germany, Italy and Austria, along with the U.K. and Ireland.

In the U.S., Comcast is still battling with Disney to buy the film and TV assets from Fox. Fox’s stake in Sky is part of its proposed merger with Disney, though the deal was not contingent on that. Fox has set a July 27 shareholder meeting to formally vote on the Disney sale, which has already received approval from the Department of Justice.

Also Read: If Comcast Loses Fox to Disney, CEO Brian Roberts Still Has Options

Sky’s businesses would grow Comcast’s international revenue from 9 percent of its overall revenue to 25 percent. For Fox, Sky is a bit of a passion project for Rupert Murdoch, who founded the satellite broadcaster in 1990, and already owns 39 percent of the company and has had his eye on gaining full control for years.

The UK government had already approved Comcast earlier offer in June, with Matt Hancock, then-secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, who said at the time that “the proposed merger does not raise public interest concerns.”

However, Fox was given the go-ahead to continue efforts to purchase Sky as well, on the condition that Fox sells off Sky’s 24-hour news channel to Disney in the planned sale of certain Fox film and television assets to the Mouse House. Disney has pledged a 15-year, $2 billion commitment to fund Sky News if it acquires the channel in the Fox deal.

Also Read: Why Do Comcast and Fox Want to Buy Sky So Much?

Hancock, meanwhile, resigned amid a British cabinet shakeup this week and has been replaced in his role by Jeremy Wright.

According to Bloomberg, the British government has already signaled willingness to approve Fox’s offer, with its final decision due Thursday.

Related stories from TheWrap:

If Comcast Loses Fox to Disney, CEO Brian Roberts Still Has Options

Why Comcast Still Has a Chance at Fox After DOJ Approved Disney's $71.3 Billion Deal

Disney vs Comcast Showdown: Who Needs the Fox Assets More?

www.thewrap.com | 7/11/18
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s migrant plan needs the support of Austria and Hungary, as well as the center-left Social Democrats in her governing coalition.
www.nytimes.com | 7/5/18
Austria's government and German Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition partners raised questions Tuesday about a deal to end a crisis over migration policy, with Vienna saying it is prepared to take unspecified measures to "protect" Austria's southern border if migrants are its neighbor turns back migrants.
www.foxnews.com | 7/3/18
As Germany's government bitterly debates border protection, Austria is undertaking a large-scale border operation. Austrian leaders say the German squabble and possible changes to European policy triggered the move.
www.dw.com | 6/26/18
There may be disagreement within the German government on how to fight illegal migration. But Angela Merkel seems to have found a potentially valuable ally in her Austrian counterpart, Sebastian Kurz.
www.dw.com | 6/12/18
The government’s order cited suspected violations of a 2015 law that bans “political Islam” and foreign financing of Muslim institutions.
www.nytimes.com | 6/8/18
Austria's government said today that it is closing seven mosques and plans to expel imams in a crackdown on "political Islam" and foreign financing of religious groups.
www.dnaindia.com | 6/8/18
The government's crackdown mostly targets imams alleged to have Turkish nationalist links.
www.bbc.co.uk | 6/8/18
Austria's government is closing seven mosques and plans to expel imams in a crackdown on "political Islam" and foreign financing of mosques.
www.foxnews.com | 6/8/18
On the eve of his first visit to Austria, Vladimir Putin gave a lengthy interview to Austrian television channel ORF.The interviewer, Armin Wolf, was interested not only in issues of Russia's foreign policy, but also in domestic political plans of Vladimir Putin harbours. It is worthy of note that, as the Austrian journalist said, there were no prohibitions from the Kremlin concerning the topics of the interview. Armin Wolf was least interested in details of the possible mutually beneficial cooperation between Moscow and Vienna, although this was the reasons for the interview to take place. Contrary to the general trend set by the United States, Austria did not expel Russian diplomats in connection with the so-called "Skripal case.""Austria and Russia have long had very good and deep relationship. Austria is our traditional and reliable partner in Europe. Despite all the difficulties of previous years, with Austria, we have never interrupted our dialogue in politics, security and economy," Putin said, adding that the two countries have many common interests.However, Wolf wanted to find out why the Russian administration was working closely with Austrian nationalist parties that are critical of the European Union. The question contained an allusion to Russia's alleged intention to split the European Union. Putin had to patiently explain obvious things to the Austrian reporter:"We have no goal to divide anything in the European Union, we are interested in the prosperous EU, because the European Union is our largest trade and economic partner, and the more problems the European Union has, the more risks and uncertainties we have to deal with," Putin said. Of course, the Austrian journalist could not but ask Putin about "Russia's interference" in the presidential election in the United States. The journalist asked the Russian president about activities of the Internet Research Agency, aka the "troll factory", which is associated with Russian entrepreneur Yevgeny Prigozhin. The journalist persistently tried to get Vladimir Putin to confirm the thesis that the man who is commonly referred to as the "chef" because of his restaurant business, could influence the elections in the US, because he had very close ties with the Russian government. Putin had this to say in response to this question: "There is such a person in the United States, Mr. Soros, who interferes in all affairs throughout the world, and I often hear our American friends saying that America has nothing to do with it as a state. Rumour has it that Mr. Soros wants to shake the euro, the European currency, and this is already being discussed in expert circles. Ask the US State Department why he wants to do it. You will be told that the US State Department has nothing to do with it as this is a personal matter of Mr. George Soros. Here, we can say that this is a personal matter of Mr. Prigozhin. This is my answer to you. Are you satisfied with this answer?"Putin did not give a direct answer to the question of why he has not been able to have a meeting with his US counterpart Donald Trump lately. "The pre-election campaign for the Congress is getting started, and the presidential election is not too far away, attacks on the President of the United States continue in different directions. I think that this is the first thing," the Russian leader said explaining the reason why he has not been able to meet Donald Trump lately. Armin Wolf asked a question about the possibility of a nuclear war between the United States and North Korea. According to Vladimir Putin, "this is a terrible assumption," because the DPRK is a close neighbour of Russia, and one of Pyongyang's nuclear test sites is only 190 kilometres from the Russian border."We are pinning great hopes on a personal meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, because mutual claims have gone too far," Putin said.Putin had to answer biased questions about the relations between Russia and Ukraine. He tried to explain Russia's position in detail, but the Austrian journalist tried to take the conversation in another direction.For example, speaking about the MH17 disaster, Armin Wolf dogmatically stated that the passenger plane was shot down with a missile of Russian origin and assumed that it was about time Russia should admit that officially. "If you have some patience and listen to me, then you will know my point of view on this issue, okay?" Putin replied, adding that, firstly, Ukraine has Soviet-made weapons and, secondly, Russia is not allowed to access the materials of the investigation, even though Ukraine can access it. The journalist continued by saying that "everyone already knows where the missile came from." Putin responded: "Malaysian officials have recently stated that they did not see Russia's involvement in the terrible tragedy. They said that they had no evidence to prove it. Don't you know about this?"Armin Wolf continued with a question about Russia's alleged military interference in the Crimean events from 2014."Russian army units have always been present in the Crimea. Do you want to just ask questions all the time or do you want to hear my answers? The first thing that we did when events in Ukraine began...but what kind of events were they? I will now say, and you will tell me yes or no. It was an armed coup and seizure of power. Yes or no, can you tell me?"The journalist mumbled that he was no expert on the subject of the Ukrainian constitution. Explaining how the Crimean peninsula escaped from Ukraine's rampant nationalism and reunited with Russia, Vladimir Putin switched to German in an attempt to convey his message to the Austrian journalist. "What should happen so Russia returns the Crimea to Ukraine?" the journalist asked."There are no such conditions and there cannot be. You have interrupted me yet again. If you had let me finish, you would have understood my point. When the unconstitutional armed coup took place in Ukraine, when power was seized by force, our army units were deployed in Ukraine on legal grounds - there was a Russian army base there. There was no one else there. But there were our armed forces there."The journalist was ready to interrupt Putin again, so the president had to say: "Seien Sie so nett, lassen Sie mich etwas sagen." ["Will you please be so kind and let me proceed."]. Then he continued:"When the spiral of unconstitutional actions in Ukraine started twisting, when the people in the Crimea started sensing danger, when whole trains of nationalists started arriving there, when they  started blocking buses and automotive transport, the people wanted to defend themselves. The first thing that came to mind was to restore their rights that had been received within the framework of Ukraine, when the Crimea was granted autonomy. This is what kicked everything off, and the parliament started working on the process to determine its independence on Ukraine. Is this strictly prohibited by the Charter of the United Nations? No. The right of nations to self-determination is clearly stated there," Putin said."The annexation of the Crimea was the first incident, when a country in Europe annexed a part of another country against its will, which was perceived as a threat to neighbouring states," the journalist interrupted Putin."You know, if you do not like my answers, then you do not ask any questions, but if you want to get my opinion on questions, then you have to be patient," Putin said. "The Crimea gained its independence as a result of the will of the Crimeans in an open referendum, rather than as a result of the invasion of Russian troops. You are talking about annexation, but do you call annexation a referendum held by the people living on this territory? In this case, one should call Kosovo's self-identification an act of annexation too," Putin said. Wolf tried to develop the Crimean question by drawing a parallel with events in Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.Putin replied: "Yes, Al-Qaeda's radical groups did want to alienate those territories from the Russian Federation and form their caliphate from the Black to the Caspian Sea. I do not think that Austria and Europe would have been happy about it. Yet, the Chechen people themselves came to an entirely different conclusion in the elections, and the Chechen people signed an agreement with the Russian Federation."When talking about Syria, the journalist claimed that Russia was defending a regime that was using chemical weapons against its people."You said that everyone proved that Assad had used chemical weapons. Yet, our specialists say the opposite, and it goes about the Douma incident, which was used to strike a missile blow on Syria after it was assumed that there were chemical weapons used in the city of Douma," Putin said adding that the OPCW was invited to investigate those events."Instead of waiting for one or two days and giving the OPCW an opportunity to work on the spot, a missile attack was conducted. Please tell me: is this the best way to resolve a question of objectivity of what was happening there? In my opinion, it was an attempt to create conditions that wold make investigation impossible," Putin said. As for Russian domestic affairs, the Austrian reporter asked only a couple of questions about low salaries and the number of the poor."Since 2012, Russia has gone through a number of very difficult challenges in its economy. That was not only because of so-called sanctions and restrictions, but also because prices on Russian traditional export goods had halved. It affected Russia's GDP budget revenues, and ultimately, people's incomes. Yet, we have preserved and strengthened the macroeconomic stability in the country," Putin said. Armin Wolf also asked Putin about his plans for the future, as well as about the Russian opposition. "Some say that you have turned the country into an authoritarian system, in which you are the czar. Is this true?" the journalist asked."No, this is not true, because we have a democratic state, and we all live within the framework of the current Constitution. Our Constitution says that a president can be elected for two consecutive terms. After two legitimate terms of my presidency I left this post, did not change the Constitution and moved to another job, where I served as the prime minister. Afterwards, I returned in 2012 and won the election again," said Putin.The Austrian journalist was very interested why opposition activist Alexei Navalny could not participate in the elections. Wolff also wanted to know why Putin prefers not to call the blogger's name in public."We have a lot of rebels, just like you, just like the United States," Putin replied. "We do not want to have another, second, third or fifth Saakashvili, the former President of Georgia. We do not want people like Saakashvili on our political scene. Russia needs those who bring positive agenda, who know, and not just designate problems, and we enough of them, just like you have in Austria, just like in any other country," Putin added. Wolf continued insisting that Navalny was not given an opportunity to run, and people could not even take a look at the candidate. "Voters can look at any person they want because the Internet is free for us. No one shut him away. The media is free. People can always go out and say something out loud, and this is what various political figures do. If a person acquires some sort of electors' support, then he becomes a figure which the state must communicate and negotiate with. Yet, if their level of confidence is 0,01, 0,02, 0,03 percent, then what can we talk about? This is just another Saakashvili. Why do we need such clowns?" Putin said. "My presidential term has just begun, it's only a start, so let's not put the cart before the horse. I've never violated the Constitution of my country and I'm not going to do that," the president said answering a question about his plans for the future. At the end of the interview, the journalist asked Putin a very unusual question that, as it seems, no one has ever asked the Russian president before. The question was about Putin's so-called "alpha male photos," on which he posed semi-naked. According to the journalists, it is unusual for a head of state to publish such photos for the general public."Well, thank God, you said semi-naked, and not naked. If I'm having a holiday, I do not think I should hide in the bushes, there's nothing bad about it," Putin said. Later, Armin Wolf shared his impressions of the interview with the Russian president. He said that the Russian president was a very artful and complex interlocutor. Wolf added that he was impressed with Putin's quiet voice most. "As a matter of fact, my expectations were justified. Judging from what we see on television, Vladimir Putin is not very tall, I knew it, we all know what he looks like, but there's a thing that really struck me. He has a rather sonorous voice, but he speaks very quietly, especially before and after the interview, and even quieter when he speaks German. You have to concentrate a lot to understand him, because he has a very quiet voice. This struck me most in such a powerful man," said the journalist.
The country's right-wing coalition government unveils payment plans aimed at deterring new arrivals.
www.bbc.co.uk | 5/28/18
[Shabait] Asmara -The leaders of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Republic of Korea, Republic of Austria, India, Kingdom of Morocco, Lebanon, Mexico and the Governor of the Commonwealth of Australia sent messages of congratulations to the people and Government of Eritrea in connection with the 27th Independence Day anniversary.
allafrica.com | 5/18/18
OMV AG and Abu Dhabi’s government-owned oil producer signed a $1.5 billion concession agreement for crude production in waters off the Middle East emirate’s coast.
Last week, it was reported that the Central Bank of Turkey withdrew the national gold reserve from the US Federal Reserve System. Given the fact that the United States has been imposing whole packages of sanctions on Russia one after another since 2014, why does Russia still keep its gold and other assets in the USA? If it is not in the USA, then where does Russia keep her gold? Turkey's "American gold" was partly returned to Turkey and deposited to European banks, particularly in England and Switzerland. Ankara's gold reserve totals 564.6 tons.Accumulating physical gold by central banks has become a trend lately. Even such a small European country as Hungary returned three tons of its gold from London in early 2018. Venezuela, Holland, Austria and Germany did the same - the countries that feel pressure from the part of the Washington consensus. For example, both the European Union and the Western world have been criticizing Hungary heavily. The nation's gold reserve gives Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban a reason to feel more confident.What about Russia? She has been the main "whipping girl" in the eyes of the "civilized world" lately. Yevgeny Fedorov, a member of the State Duma Committee on Budget and Taxes, told Pravda.Ru, that the information about the location of Russia's gold is classified." "Some of Russia's gold used to be stored in the USA, but we do not know whether Russia has returned that gold," the MP said. According to Yevgeny Fedorov, the Central Bank of Russia "is a branch of the US Federal Reserve, so I would not be surprised if we still keep some of our gold in the United States," he said. "If we don't keep our gold in the USA, then we do keep some of our assets there - i.e. we support the US economy, which is a very bad phenomenon," Fedorov told Pravda.Ru. This policy, the MP added, is stipulated in Article 15 of the Constitution, the system of international treaties and the status of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation. To change such a state of affairs, Russia needs to conduct revolutionary reforms. "It is only now, when the law on counter-sentences raises the need to remove US managers from Russian ministries and the Central Bank. If Putin wins with his policy to end the subordination to the American unipolar world, then everything may work out well," Yevgeny Fedorov told Pravda.Ru. In turn, researcher Mikhail Khazin told Pravda.Ru that Russia does not keep its physical gold in the US. "We keep our assets in US government securities, but we have been recently reducing the share of these assets significantly. There is a probability that the Americans will not give them back, so we need to get rid of those bonds," the expert told Pravda.Ru. Pavel Salin, director of the Center for Policy Studies of the Finance University, also said that Russia does not keep its physical gold in the United States."The Russian gold reserve is stored in Russia, and the foreign exchange reserves are kept at US Treasuries. We tend to reduce their amount, but it is impossible to do it instantly, because it will look like an attempt to collapse the US debt market with all ensuing consequences. It could also trigger a major conflict with China that holds $1 trillion 200 million in these bonds and Japan - about one trillion dollars," the expert told Pravda.Ru.According to the US Treasury, the Central Bank of Russia sold US government bonds worth 11.9 billion dollars from December to February, having this reduced the volume of assets by 11.2 percent ($93.8 billion). It is worthy of note that immediately after the introduction of sanctions against Russia in March 2014, the Central Bank of Russia withdrew about $115 billion from the US Federal Reserve System (FRS). However, two weeks after the incident, the Russian Central Bank returned the funds to Fed accounts, Reuters says. Pravda.Ru Read article on the Russian version of Pravda.Ru
The new right-wing government's proposal will affect girls in nursery and primary schools.
www.bbc.co.uk | 4/4/18
Medical experts are urging the government to reconsider plans to introduce a smoking ban, writes the BBC's Bethany Bell in Vienna.
www.bbc.co.uk | 2/15/18
A top official with Austria's nationalist Freedom Party says it's staying in a European Parliament group that also includes prominent euroskeptics Marine Le Pen of France and Geert Wilders of the Netherlands despite entering its country's new government.
www.foxnews.com | 1/19/18

BERLIN — The chancellors of Germany and Austria saying they're waiting to see how political developments in their respective neighbors play out before passing judgment.

After meeting with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in Berlin on Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters it was too early to comment on her counterpart's decision to form a new coalition government with the nationalist and anti-migrant Freedom Party.

She says "I want to make clear that we'll judge the new government on its actions."

Austria's new chancellor wants his German counterpart to judge his government "on its deeds" and not on his far-right coalition partner. While both sides stress their closeness, it's hard to ignore what divides them.
www.dw.com | 1/17/18

The year 2018 represents a tipping point for the Internet and its governance. Internet governance risks being consumed by inertia. Policy decisions are needed if we want to prevent the Internet from fragmenting into numerous national and commercial Internet(s).

Geopolitical shifts, in particular, will affect how the Internet is governed. The Internet is made vulnerable by the fragmentation of global society, which is likely to accelerate in response to the ongoing crisis of multilateralism. If this crisis leads to further restrictions in the movement of people, capital, and goods across national borders, the same is likely to happen with the digital economy, including the cross-border flow of data and services.

Filling policy gaps

The first sign of a crisis in multilateralism in digital policy was the failure of the 5th UN Group of Governmental Experts (UN GGE) to reach consensus on a final report. Towards the end of 2017, the World Trade Organization (WTO) failed to agree on any mandate for e-commerce negotiations during the WTO Ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires.

The gaps in global rules are increasingly being filled by bilateral and regional arrangements, in particular on cybersecurity and e-commerce. Plurilateral digital trade arrangements are being considered as an alternative to the shortcomings of the WTO e-commerce negotiations.

In 2018, national legislation and courts will have a major impact on the global Internet. The main regulation with global impact will be the entry into force of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation on 25 May, which will determine how data is governed beyond the shores of Europe.

Using divergences to reach convergences

There are a few elements on which to build constructive solutions and some optimism.

First, interests in digital policy are now more clearly defined than a few years ago, when digital ideologies focused only on blue-sky thinking and an 'unstoppable march into a bright digital future'. Governments need to deliver prosperity, stability, and security as part of their social contracts with citizens. The industry needs to make a profit, whether it is by selling services online or by monetizing data. Citizens have a strong interest in having their dignity and core human rights protected online as they should be offline. A common thread binds them all: actors have a strong interest in preserving a safe, stable, and unified Internet.

A clear delineation of the interests of all actors, a healthy interdependence, and complementarity between those actors is a good basis for negotiations, compromise, and ideally, consensus, on how the Internet should further develop as a technological enabler of a stable and prosperous society.

Secondly, the diversity of the Internet is reflected in the diversity of interests and, ultimately, negotiating positions in digital geo-politics. While the USA, China, and Russia disagreed on the future of cybersecurity regulation within the UN GGE, they did agree about the need for digital commerce regulation in the WTO. All three countries are part of the WTO plurilateral negotiations on digital commerce. This variable geometry in the positions of the main actors in digital policy could create more space for potential trade-offs and compromise.

The 2018 forecast of the 10 main digital policy developments is set against this broad backdrop that makes progress and retreat equally possible. It draws on continuous monitoring of digital policy carried out through the GIP Digital Watch observatory and further discussed during the GIP's monthly briefings.

For a more in-depth analysis, read the full article.

* * *

1. GDPR: Data in the centre of digital politics – Data will dominate digital policy in 2018. Entering into effect on 25 May, the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will reshape the way companies, and institutions handle data in Europe and beyond. Its main impact will be on the Internet industry's business model, which is based on data monetization. More broadly, data will also move to a higher place on the agendas of international organizations dealing with health, humanitarian, and development issues, among others.

2. Cybersecurity geopolitics: The search for new governance mechanisms – 2017 ended with increasing cybersecurity risks and a lack of multilateral solutions to deal with them after the failure of the UN GGE. In 2018, the search for new policy mechanisms will intensify. The following solutions are being considered: a 6th UN GGE with a specific mandate, a UN Open-ended Working Group, a Conference on Disarmament, a Committee on the Peaceful Uses of ICT, or an Expert Group on International Telecommunication Regulation.

3. Digital trade and the Internet economy – The growth of e-commerce worldwide has not been matched with the development of policy frameworks. In the aftermath of the failure of the WTO Ministerial Conference to initiate e-commerce negotiations, some countries will develop plurilateral regimes. One of the main challenges will be to delineate core trade from other digital policy issues that affect trade, such as cybersecurity and data protection. The Internet economy will also be impacted by data protection, taxation, and labor regulations worldwide.

4. Courts: Active maker of digital rules – In the search for solutions to their digital problems, Internet users and organizations will increasingly refer to courts. Judges could become de facto rule-makers in the field of digital policy, as was the case with the right to be forgotten. The CJEU ruled that Uber is a transportation (not information) company with far-reaching consequences for Uber and the sharing economy. Courts in Canada, Australia, Austria, France, and other countries are following this trend in shaping global digital policy rules.

5. Artificial intelligence: Between philosophical considerations and practical applications – Artificial intelligence (AI) features highly in public debates, with a wide range of views put forward, from being 'the best or worst thing to ever happen to humanity'. This debate involving entrepreneurs, philosophers, politicians, and the general public will continue in 2018. On a digital policy level, AI will be addressed in the interplay with big data and the IoT. Other questions will include the automation and future of jobs, robot tax, privacy protection, and regulation of the use of lethal autonomous weapons.

6. Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies: Between boom and bust – The fast growth of cryptocurrencies opened many regulatory questions. Is this growth inflating a bubble that may soon burst? What should be the role of financial regulators in preventing a potential bust? In 2018, governments will focus on initial coin offerings and the risk of misusing cryptocurrencies for money laundering, tax avoidance, and illegal financial transactions.

7. Content policy: Fake news and violent extremism online – 'Fake news' was the word of the year in 2017. It will remain high on policy agendas in 2018 together with other content policy issues. France would like to introduce a new law against fake news in election time. Other countries are considering similar proposals. The main criticism is that fake news regulations may open possibilities for censorship and reduce freedom of expression. Researchers in civil society advise that a regulatory approach should be used only as an exception, while the focus should be on building a digital culture and critical thinking among citizens.

8. Net neutrality: Global impact of new US regulation – The US decision to end net neutrality triggered debate in December which spilled over to the new year. The main issues are how net neutrality will be protected in the USA, and since content transits mostly through the USA, and whether this will affect other countries worldwide. Net neutrality and zero rating will also remain high on agendas in some developing countries, while platform or data neutrality may move higher.

9. Encryption: More pressure on backdoor access – In 2018, governments worldwide will continue to put legal and policy pressure on Internet companies to provide backdoor access to users' data, or reduce levels of encryption. Users' data is the Internet companies' main commodity, and losing users' trust could endanger their business model. They will try to find a predictable regulatory framework for sharing data with law enforcement agencies, which would shield them from political and ad hoc pressure by governments.

10. ICANN: Online identities, jurisdiction, and governance – ICANN is likely to remain outside the policy limelight in 2018. Two issues that may resurface are related to broader online identities and jurisdiction. In a time when politics focuses on identities and symbolism, online identity may resurface as a major political issue. In particular, it could happen around the question of .amazon. While it is unlikely that there will be further impactful discussions or decisions on the US jurisdiction of ICANN, we might see more focused debate on the topic of 'limited, partial, relative or tailored immunity for ICANN'.

* * *

Based on the original article, A tipping point for the Internet: 10 predictions for 2018, published on 11 January 2018. Read the full article.

Written by Jovan Kurbalija, Director of DiploFoundation & Head of Geneva Internet Platform

www.circleid.com | 1/13/18
Tens of thousands of people protested against the Freedom Party's inclusion in government.
www.bbc.co.uk | 1/13/18
Thousands of Austrians are protesting their country's new right-wing government with a march in Vienna.
www.foxnews.com | 1/13/18
Jewish community leaders in Austria say they'll keep shunning the nationalist Freedom Party, despite it joining the country's new government.
www.foxnews.com | 1/10/18
The new Austrian government intends to cut family benefits for workers whose children live abroad. With this, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache started implementing their election campaign promises at the first meeting of their Council of Ministers. EURACTIV Germany reports.
www.euractiv.com | 1/9/18
Austria's new chancellor is rejecting suggestions that his government will align broadly with eastern nations that have clashed with the European Union over migrants and other issues.
www.foxnews.com | 1/5/18
Cartoon movement, Amsterdam – Cartoon. See more .
www.voxeurop.eu | 12/21/17
European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker said Tuesday (19 December) he had no bias against Austria's new government, which includes a far-right party, adding it would be judged on its actions. European Council counterpart Donald Tusk also withheld criticism.
www.euractiv.com | 12/20/17
After two months of coalition talks with the far-right Austrian Freedom Party, Austria's Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz on Monday (18 December) finally formed a government. Of the 16 members of his cabinet, only one has previously had government responsibility - Kurz himself. EURACTIV Germany reports.
www.euractiv.com | 12/19/17
Italian politicians denounced yesterday (18 December) a proposal by Austria's new government to offer passports to German-speaking residents of the northern Italian province of Alto Adige.
www.euractiv.com | 12/19/17
Hundreds of police sealed off part of central Vienna yesterday (18 December) as Austria became the only western European country with a far-right party in power, but protests against the swearing-in proved small and largely peaceful.
www.euractiv.com | 12/19/17
The new chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, is now Europe’s youngest leader after joining forces with the Freedom Party, founded by neo-Nazis after World War II.
www.nytimes.com | 12/18/17
Hundreds of people are gathering in Vienna to protest against Austria's new right-wing government that will be sworn in.
www.foxnews.com | 12/18/17
Unlike in 2000, when the EU imposed sanctions on Austria in response to the entrance of the FPÖ into government, this time EU leaders and institutions silently accepted the coalition deal between the far-right force with the conservative ÖVP agreed on Friday (15 December).
www.euractiv.com | 12/18/17
Freedom Party nominees take foreign, interior and defence ministries in new coalition government.
www.bbc.co.uk | 12/16/17
The leaders of conservative and nationalist parties in Austria have presented their coalition deal to the country's president for approval after concluding negotiations on forming a new government that will shift the country to the right.
www.foxnews.com | 12/16/17
In Europe’s latest shift to the right, the expected next chancellor of Austria announced that his conservative party had cemented terms to form a government with the country’s anti-immigrant Freedom Party.
www.wsj.com | 12/16/17
In Europe’s latest shift to the right, the expected next chancellor of Austria announced that his conservative party had cemented terms to form a government with the country’s anti-immigrant Freedom Party.
www.wsj.com | 12/16/17

Traditional early morning Japanese breakfast, briefing on objectives, equipment check and drive into the beautiful mountainous forests of this region: this is the daily routine that will allow us to complete our latest investigation into the radiological status in some of the most contaminated areas of Fukushima prefecture.

But there is nothing normal about the routine in Fukushima.

Nearly seven years after the triple reactor meltdown, this unique nuclear crisis is still underway. Of the many complex issues resulting from the disaster, one in particular may have become routine but is anything but normal: the vast amounts of nuclear waste, stored and being transported across Fukushima prefecture.

A satellite image shows damage at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant In Fukushima Prefecture. 

As a result of the Fukushima Daiichi accident, gases and particulates which vented into the atmosphere, led to radioactive fallout greater than 10,000 becquerels per square meter contaminating an estimated 8 percent, or 24,000 square kilometers, of the landmass of Japan. The highest concentrations (greater than 1 million becquerels per meter square) centered in an area more than than 400 square kilometers within Fukushima prefecture.

In the period 2013-14, the Japanese government set about a decontamination program with the objective of being able to lift evacuation orders in the Special Decontaminated Area (SDA) of Fukushima prefecture. Other areas of Fukushima and other prefectures where contamination was lower but significant were also subject to decontamination efforts in the so called Intensive Contamination Survey Area (ICSA).

Two areas of the SDA in particular were subject to concentrated efforts between 2014-2016, namely Iitate and Namie. A total of 24-28,000 people formally lived in these areas, with all evacuated in the days and months following the March 2011 disaster.

The decontamination program consisted of scraping, reverse tillage and removal of top soil from farmland, stripping and removal of soil from school yards, parks and gardens, trimming and cutting of contaminated trees and plants in a 20 meter area around peoples homes, and the same along a 10-15 meter strip either side of the roads, including into the nearby forests.

Aerial view of nuclear waste storage area in the mountainous forests of Iitate, Fukushima prefecture in Japan.

This program involved millions of work hours and tens of thousands workers (often Fukushima citizens displaced by the earthquake, tsunami and reactor meltdown), and often homeless and recruited off the streets of cities, and exploited for a wage of 70 dollars a day to work long hours in a radioactive environment. All this for a man-made nuclear disaster officially estimated at costing 21 trillion yen but with other estimates as high as 70 trillion yen.

As of March 2017, the decontamination program was officially declared complete and evacuation orders were lifted for the less contaminated areas of Namie and Iitate, so called area 2. The even higher radiation areas of Iitate and Namie, Area 3, and where no decontamination program has been applied, remain closed to habitation.

In terms of effectiveness, radiation levels in these decontaminated zones have been reduced in many areas but there are also multiple examples where levels remain significantly above the governments long range target levels. In addition to where decontamination has been only partially effective, the principle problem for Iitate and Namie is that the decontamination has created islands where levels have been reduced, but which are surrounded by land, and in particular, forested mountains, for which there is no possible decontamination. Forests make up more than 70% of these areas.

As a consequence, areas decontaminated are subject to recontamination through weathering processes and the natural water and lifecycle of trees and rivers. Given the half life of the principle radionuclide of concern – cesium-137 at 30 years – this will be an on-going source of significant recontamination for perhaps ten half lives – or 300 years.

Greenpeace documents the ongoing radioactive decontamination work in Iitate district, Japan. The area is still contaminated since the March 2011 explosions at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant.

So apart from the decontamination not covering the largest areas of significant contamination in the forested mountains of Fukushima, and in reality only a small fraction of the total landmass of contaminated areas, the program has generated almost unimaginable volumes of nuclear waste. According to the Japanese Government Ministry of Environment in its September 2017 report, a total of 7.5 million nuclear waste bags (equal to 8.4 million m³) from within the SDA was in storage across Fukushima.

A further 6 million m³ of waste is generated in the ICSA within Fukushima prefecture (but not including waste produced from the wider ICSA which stretches from Iwati prefecture in the north to Chiba in the south on the outskirts of Tokyo). In total nuclear waste generated from decontamination is stored at over 1000 Temporary Storage Sites (TSS) and elsewhere at 141,000 locations across Fukushima.

The Government projects a total of 30 million m³ of waste will be generated, of which 10 million is to be incinerated, generating 1 million cubic meters of highly contaminated ash waste. Options to use some of the less contaminated waste in construction of walls and roads is actively under consideration.

Government policy is for all of this waste to be deposited at two sites north of the Fukushima Daiichi plant at Okuma and Futaba – both of which remain closed to habitation at present but which are targeted for limited resettlement as early as 2021. Although the facilities are not completed yet, they are supposed to be in operation only for 30 years – after which the waste is to be deposited in a permanent site. The reality is there is no prospects of this waste being moved to another permanent site anywhere else in Japan.

As we conducted our radiation survey work across Fukushima in September and October 2017, it was impossible not to witness the vast scale of both the waste storage areas and the volume of nuclear transports that are now underway. Again the numbers are numbing.

In the space of one hour standing in a main street of Iitate village, six nuclear waste trucks passed us by. Not really surprising since in the year to October over 34,000 trucks moved nuclear waste across Fukushima to Okuma and Futaba. The target volume of waste to be moved to these sites in 2017 is 500,000 m³. And this is only the beginning. By 2020, the Government is planning for as much as 6.5 million m³ of nuclear waste to be transported to the Futaba and Okuma sites – a rough estimate would mean over one million nuclear transports in 2020.

On any measure this is insanity – and yet the thousands of citizens who formally lived in Namie and Iitate are expected and pressurized by the Japanese government to return to live amidst this nuclear disaster zone.

Perhaps one of the most shocking experience in our visit to Fukushima was to witness a vast incineration complex hidden deep in the woods of southern Iitate and a nearby vast storage area with tens of thousands of waste bags surrounded on all sides by thick forests. The tragic irony of a multi-billion dollar and ultimately failed policy of decontamination that has unnecessarily exposed thousands of poorly protected and desperate workers to radiation – but which leads to a vast nuclear dump surrounded by a radioactive forest which that can never be decontaminated.

There is no logic to this, unless you are a trucking and incineration business and of course the Japanese government, desperate to create the myth of recovery after Fukushima. On this evidence there is no 'after', only 'forever'.

This new abnormal in Fukushima is a direct result of the triple reactor meltdown and a cynical government policy that prioritizes the unattainable fantasy of effective radioactive decontamination, while de-prioritising the safety, health and well being of the people of Fukushima.

The nuclear waste crisis underway in Fukushima is only one of the many reasons why the Japanese government was under scrutiny at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva last month. Recommendations were submitted to the United Nations by the governments of Austria, Mexico, Portugal and Germany at the calling on the Japanese government to take further measures to support the evacuees of Fukushima, in particular women and children.

The Government in Tokyo is to announce its decision on whether it accepts or rejects these recommendations at the United Nations in March 2018. Greenpeace, together with other human rights groups and civil society in Japan are calling on the government to accept that it has failed to defend the rights of its citizens and to agree to implement corrective measures immediately.

Shaun Burnie is a senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany

The Politics of Austria take place in a framework of a federal parliamentary representative democratic republic, with a Federal Chancellor as the head of government, and a Federal President as head of state. Executive power is exercised by the governments, both local and federal. Federal legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of parliament, the National Council and the Federal Council. Since 1949 the political landscape has been largely dominated by the conservative Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) and the center-left Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ). The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature, and exclusively federal in nature: there are no state courts. The ethnically and culturally heterogeneous nation state of Austria is the remnant of Austria-Hungary, a vast multinational empire that ceased to exist in 1918. The Austrian Republic was preceded by a constitutional monarchy, whose legislative body was elected by, as the New York Times put it, "quasi-universal (male) suffrage" for the first time in 1897. Austria's first attempt at republican governance, after the fall of the monarchy, was severely hampered by the crippling economic costs of war reparations required by the victorious Allies. Austria's First Republic (1918–1938) made some pioneering reforms in the 1920s, particularly in Vienna, that became the foundations for the social welfare states of post WWII Europe. However it gradually degenerated into a fascist dictatorship between 1933-1934 under Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, who was assassinated by Nazis in 1934. The First Republic ended with German invasion and annexation in 1938. Following the defeat of Germany in 1945 Austria resumed its republican government. The beginning of the 21st century marked, for Austria, a half-century of a stable government under a constitutional federal republican system. It is governed according to the principles of representative democracy and the rule of law. The constitutional framework of the politics of Austria and the marrow of the constitution's practical implementation are widely agreed to be robust and adequately conducive to peaceful change.


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