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Posts Tagged ‘poland

[BLOG] Some politics and economic links

  • 3 Quarks Daily had a roundup of reactions to the PEN/Charlie Hebdo controversy.
  • City of Brass notes the role of the Nation of Islam in keeping the peace in Baltimore.
  • Crooked Timber considers if the British Labour Party might gain by creating a separate Scottish Party, and wonders what British Euroskepticism means for Ireland.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes the new importance of immigration from China and India for the United States, looks at China’s negotiating of a naval base with Djibouti, wonders if Russia while buy Chinese naval vessels, and notes the Ukrainian capture of two Russian soldiers.
  • A Fistful of Euros argues that Greece, for all of its faults, is facing doom in order to consolidate the Eurozone.
  • Geocurrents’ Martin Lewis examines the Latin American political spectrum.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money wonders what a Korean war might look like, examines the risks faced by Indonesian migrants, and looks at the India-Bangladesh border.
  • The Map Room’s Jonathan Crowe shares an unduly controversial map of shrinking sea ice in the Canadian Arctic.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that immigration does not undermine institutions, wonders about the need for Scottish separatism, examines the myth of abandoned British austerity, wonders how to fix Ukraine, and suggests urbanization can boost economic growth.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw reflected on the Indonesian executions.
  • Registan predicts political crisis in Kyrgyzstan.
  • Towleroad notes</a that a European court has ordered the compensation of LGBT activists attacked in Georgia in 2012.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy considers Iranian attacks on a ship registered to the American protectorate of the Marshall Islands and Libyan attacks on a ship registered to New Zealand’s Cook Islanders.
  • Window on Eurasia argues that the European Union’s Eastern Partnership has failed, looks at Ukrainian hostility to Russians fighting in the Donbas, argues Russian cannot hold the Baltic States, looks at Russian Muslim demographic boosterism, notes the decline of Russian in southern Kazakhstan, looks at Armenia’s alignment of its Muslim institutions with Iran, notes the plight of Ukrainian refugees and returning Donbas fighters in Russia, and notes Russia’s loss of influence in Ukraine.
  • The Financial Times‘ The World notes Polish concern over the Night Wolves, a Russian motorocycle gang.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell argues that British Labour should rebuild by opposing things and not working on the more difficult task of finding new policies.
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[LINK] “Putin’s Tanks Draw Cheers in Russian City Jammed Between NATO Nations”

Bloomberg’s Leonid Ragozin visits Kaliningrad during the celebrations of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany to find a population that is cautiously accepting official mythology.

Tanks and ballistic missiles lumbered past thousands of spectators gathered in Kaliningrad on Saturday to mark the 70th anniversary of the Allied victory in Europe, an historic triumph for Russia that the Kremlin has used to whip up a new nationalist fervor.

“We need to show our enemies, who deem us guilty just because we exist, that Russia is a very peculiar woman—she can knock you down without a second thought,” said Aleksandr Sapenko, a 64-year-old history teacher, citing the U.S. and European Union as Russia’s main enemies. “Soviet soldiers saved them from the Nazi gas chambers, but they are barking at Russia like a pack of stray dogs.”

This Russian enclave was once the German province of East Prussia; the city’s Victory Square was known for centuries as Hansa Platz and briefly as Adolf Hitler Platz. On Saturday, when Russia and the former Soviet republics marked the anniversary of Hitler’s defeat in World War II, the square was awash in Russian and Soviet flags. Many people brought their children, whom soldiers encouraged to climb tanks and pose for photographs while wearing garrison caps and clutching tank-shaped balloons. Similar parades were held all over Russia, notably in Moscow, the capital, where more than 16,500 troops marched in Red Square.

In the postwar settlement, East Prussia was incorporated into the Russian republic of the USSR, its entire population deported to Germany and the province repopulated with Soviet citizens, primarily ethnic Russians. Nearly flattened by British bombers and Soviet artillery, the East Prussian capital, Koenigsberg, was rebuilt as a drab Soviet city and renamed Kaliningrad, after Mikhail Kalinin, a Stalin functionary who held the largely ceremonial post of Soviet president during the war.

[. . .]

At the rally, Nikita, a 21-year-old student sporting a red Soviet flag on his bicycle, complained about the hardware. “Why couldn’t they show the new T-90 tanks instead of the old T-72s?” he said, more satisfied with the state-of-the-art Platforma-M robot tanks. Nikita said such parades were necessary so that no one forgets Russia’s war sacrifice. “It is also important to show our military might, but it’s not to scare the neighbors,” he said. “They are not our enemies, and we should all be united.”

Written by Randy McDonald

May 12, 2015 at 11:34 pm

[LINK] “Death in Venice: Eighteenth Century Critiques of Republicanism”

Barry Stocket at New APPS Blog has an interesting piece noting how the decadence of the republics known to late 18th century Europeans discouraged them from considering the republic as a suitable form of political organization for those interested in implementing Enlightenment thought.

The idea of democracy was even more anachronistic looking before [the late 18th century revolutions, which in any case did not lead to full implementation of democracy and certainly not its normalisation, but did take steps in that direction. Earlier in the eighteenth century, even Rousseau did not think of democracy as the ideal. Even allowing that his advocacy of elective aristocracy is in accord with representative democracy, it does not look as if he expected republicanism to sweep through Europe. His text on a constitution for Poland was for an aristocratic state on the verge of extinction as Prussia, Russia, and Austria arranged its complete partition between 1772 and 1795. It was not a model for European republics, nor was it any more democratic than the existing aristocratic commonwealth with a limited monarchy. Montesquieu, Smith and Hume looked upon republicanism as a form of government appropriate to liberty, but not as necessarily superior to monarchy, and maybe less desirable than monarchy in the circumstances of most modern states.

What was wrong with the republican model for eighteenth century thinkers about liberty, if they themselves have sometimes been taken up as republican, or at least partly republican, thinkers? The answer can be summarised with reference to a city state where Rousseau himself spent time as a secretary to the French ambassador, Venice. Those looking for an example of a modern republic in the eighteenth century were likely to look at Venice. Another possible example was the Dutch Republic, but at least for Montesquieu (who I will take it was not deviating far from any prevailing judgement) it was a more a confederation of city republics which struggled to achieve unity in times of danger. By the eighteenth century the glory of the Golden Age, of Rembrandt and Spinoza, of recent independence after a long war from Spain, of a model of financial and commercial progress, was in the past, and no one thought of the Dutch Republic as a major European power.

Furthermore its relative youth, going back no further than the 1560s, mattered to eighteenth century thinkers who though that successful model states are states that maintain themselves over centuries, preferably with a largely unchanged constitution. That Athens had only a couple of centuries maybe as an independent and democratic republic was important compared with the much longer life of Sparta’s oligarchic republic. That Roman republicanism gave way to a thinly disguised version of monarchy in the Emperor system after five centuries mattered, as did the apparent weakening of republicanism and democratic life after the defeat of Carthage.

Two centuries of republican life in the United Provinces was small compared with about one thousand years of the Venetian Republic, which like the Dutch Republic was past its greatest period of influence, but could be taken as more of a model with an apparently little changed constitution over a long life by the standard of any European state. By the tine of Enlightenment political writing Venice was a museum of a glorious past as a dominant commercial and naval power, with an eastern Mediterranean empire. Montesquieu comments unfavourably on a constitution which he thought allowed the aristocracy to act as government executive, legislator, and judiciary, with the special powers of secret committees to defend the state undermining liberty.

His criticism is more than justified by the greatest Italian witness of the time, Giambattista Vico (whose thought anticipates much in Rousseau and Montesquieu). Vico thought of Venice as the model of aristocratic republic in which the aristocracy regards itself as more than human and the common people as less than human. It precedes the situation in which democracy encourages the spread of an idea of a common humanity, an idea that Vico thought could only maintain itself through democracy giving way to a human monarchy, legislating and judging with regard to the welfare of all.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 12, 2015 at 3:59 am

[LINK] “Euro Debate Ignites in East EU in Face of Public Skepticism”

Bloomberg’s Lenka Ponikelska writes about the continued appeal to some in non-Eurozone central Europe of membership in the single currency.

In the Czech Republic, the prime minister said on Wednesday that joining the euro soon would help the economy after the president challenged the central bank’s long-standing resistance with a vow to appoint policy makers who favor the common currency. In Poland, the main divide between the top two candidates in the May 10 presidential election is whether the region’s biggest economy should ditch the zloty.

“It’s quite interesting how the sentiment has shifted — I’m slightly surprised by this,” William Jackson, London-based senior economist at Capital Economics Ltd., said by phone on Wednesday. “As the story coming from the euro zone in recent years has been negative, it’s very hard to imagine how the euro case for the public would be made now.”

The obstacles are many. Romania, which has set 2019 as a potential target date, and Hungary don’t meet all the economic criteria. Poland faces legal hurdles and the Czech government has said it won’t set a date during its four-year term. As a standoff between Greece and euro-area leaders threatens to push the country into insolvency and potential exit, opinion polls show most Czechs and Poles oppose a switch.

The appeal of the euro, which all European Union members save Britain and Denmark are technically obliged to join, suffered when the area had to provide emergency loans to ailing members during the economic crisis. While five ex-communist countries that joined the trading bloc in 2004 — Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — have acceded, the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary don’t have road maps.

The region’s three biggest economies argued that floating currencies and control over monetary policy helps shield themselves against shocks like the euro crisis even if smaller countries may benefit from lower exchange-rate volatility and reduced trade costs. Facing weakening in their korunas, zlotys, and forints, some politicians in eastern Europe are questioning that logic.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 2, 2015 at 7:51 pm

[LINK] “Polish GDP Growth Surges on Consumer Spending, Investment”

Writing for Bloomberg, Milda Seputyte and Dorota Bartyzel note the continuing strength of the Polish economy.

Poland’s pace of economic growth last year almost doubled from 2013, buoyed by increased investment and consumer spending as falling prices boosted their buying power.

Gross domestic product rose 3.3 percent from a year earlier, the fastest since 2011, after a revised 1.7 percent increase in 2013, the statistics office in Warsaw said Tuesday. That matched the median estimate of 29 economists in a Bloomberg survey.

Poland, whose economy is the only one in the European Union that’s gained every year through the global financial crisis, benefited from a pickup in domestic-demand growth to 4.6 percent in 2014. Fixed investment surged 9.4 percent from 0.9 percent a year earlier, the statistics office estimated.

“Last year was a really good one for Poland, despite outside geopolitical tensions and weakness in the euro area,” Adam Antoniak, a Warsaw-based economist at UniCredit SpA’s unit Bank Pekao SA, said by e-mail. “We had a noticeable rebound of domestic demand, which was the main engine of economic expansion, and that positive trend should be continued this year, helping to maintain a similar pace of growth.”

[. . .]

The uptick in growth shows the EU’s biggest eastern economy warded off risks emanating from a slowdown in the euro area, its biggest export market. Poland also had to weather the effects of the escalating conflict in neighboring Ukraine, which affected the country through counter-sanctions imposed on Russia.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 28, 2015 at 11:27 pm

Posted in Economics

Tagged with , , ,

[LINK] “Hungarian Franc-Loan Fix Provides Cautionary Tale”

Bloomberg’s Zoltan Simon notes that the surging value of the Swiss franc has left many central European countries, with large numbers of homeowners having mortgages taken out in the newly-strong currency, trying to figure out how to learn from Hungary’s earlier experience.

Governments from Poland to Croatia are under pressure to mimic Hungary’s help for eastern European borrowers with $40 billion in Swiss-franc loans, without repeating the same mistakes.

Romania is considering a proposal to convert franc loans at a discounted rate while Croatia moved to force banks to take exchange-rate losses for the next year. Poland, for now, isn’t considering emulating Hungary’s full-conversion of franc mortgages. Leaders in all three nations face elections in the next two years.

As countries in the European Union’s east weigh steps to help about 800,000 borrowers, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s five-year fight to root out foreign-currency loans is serving as both a model and a cautionary tale for policy makers. Orban’s measures weakened the forint and curtailed lending before he moved to convert all foreign-currency mortgages in November, ahead of the franc’s surge last week.

“The Hungarian lesson should raise some red flags,” Viktor Szabo, who helps oversee $12 billion in emerging-market debt at Aberdeen Asset Management Plc, said by phone from London on Tuesday. “While there may be valuable lessons in there, a bank-sector shock similar to Hungary’s may jeopardize growth in the region.”

Written by Randy McDonald

January 23, 2015 at 9:55 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • blogTO notes that crowd-funded transit might be coming to Toronto’s Beaches.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly describes her favourite shopping experiences in Paris.
  • Centauri Dreams considers the question of how to name planets.
  • Crooked Timber discusses predictions for the coming year which descend into Bitcoin debates.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting that giant stars tend not to have giant close-in planets.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to a paper noting the complicated entry of maize from Mexico into the United States.
  • Livejournaler jsburbidge notes the serious costs associated with a public housing problem for the homeless of Toronto.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that many Poles hold mortgages denominated in Swiss francs, and have thus been hit by the recent currency fluctuations.
  • Otto Pohl describes his writing project on the 1966 coup in Ghana.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes the problems with inexpensive manned spaceflight.
  • Torontoist and (again) blogTO and their commenters react to the end of Target Canada.
  • Towleroad notes that anti-gay American Roman Catholic cardinal Raymond Burke is also a misogynist.
  • Window on Eurasia argues that a Belarusian revolution would lead to a Russian invasion of that country, and wonders about European Union policy towards Crimea.
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