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    Our 35th year of publishing The International Observer

The Latest Issue

Current Concerns

       Burundi, Libya, Nigeria, Afghanistan, South China Sea, Ukraine, Iraq, Palestine, Syria,

        Turkey, Yemen

Noticed and Noted


European Union (EU)

United Kingdom votes to leave the Union

The United Kingdom conducted a popular referendum on the European Union (EU) and the UK on 23 June in which 71.8 percent of eligible voters took part. BBC called it the highest turnout in a UK-wide vote since the 1992 general election between Conservative John Mayor and Neil Kinnock of the Labour party.

 The referendum of “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” resulted in support of leaving by 17.4 million or 51.9 percent of votes cast against staying in the EU by 16.1 million or 48.1 percent.  In England and Wales, support for leaving was highest while Northern Ireland Scotland voted for staying:

     England: 53.4 percent for leaving, 46.6 percent for staying;

     Wales: 52.5 percent for leaving, 47.5 percent for staying;

     Northern Ireland: 55.8 percent for staying, 44.2 percent for leaving; and

     Scotland: 62 percent for staying, 38 percent for leaving.                                                

The referendum was vigorously pushed by Prime Minister David Cameron and approved by the House of Commons on 28 May 2015 and the House of Lords on 14 December 2015 under the  European Union Referendum Act 2015. After referendum results were announced, the prime minister announced his resignation.

The European Union is reacting by favoring a quick separation. In Scotland, support for independence and hope of staying in the EU is growing, and even in England a drive for petitioning Parliament to reconsider leaving quickly gathered strength within a few days of the referendum. To be formally enacted, the UK must invoke Article 50 of the EU Lisbon Treaty of 2009. Since the referendum was advisory and not mandatory, it is not legally binding. If early elections should be called, a different government could take the unlikely decision not to pursue the course approved by a majority of voters.


40 more countries needed to ratify Paris climate accord

Befitting celebration of Earth Day, leaders of 175 countries, including 60 heads of state and
government, signed the Paris Climate Agreement at the United Nations in New York on 22 April.  
Main aim is to keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to
drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-
industrial levels. Governments of 195 countries adopted the Paris Agreement at the 21st
session of the Conference of Parties (COP 21) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate
Change in Le Bourget, Paris, from 30 November until 12 December 2015.


The authoritarian resident of cumhurbaşkanlığı külliyesi takes everything personal

                                                                        A commentary

German regional NDR Fernsehen of Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) televised its “extra 3” political satire magazine on 17 March and its 2-minute feature lampooned violations of press freedom, criminalizing personal opinion, and disregard for women in a humorous adaptation of a popular 1948 song changed to Erdowie, Erdowo, Erdogan. One popular rhyme was

A journalist who writes something that does not suit Erdogan

By tomorrow he is in the can.

When Turkey called in the German ambassador to protest and demand removal of the offending piece, the official statement from the German Federal Government set a different tone. Even before, on 4 March, the Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) had called on Turkey to refrain from intimidating the media. The European Commission too stated that Turkey was out of touch with EU norms.

The Deputy Spokeswoman of the Federal Government stated on 30 March that “Press freedom is non-negotiable for the German government.” That includes political satire. Television programs like the one Turkey is complaining about are “an integral part of Germany’s media landscape,” she added. In Germany, political satire is protected under press freedom and freedom of expression. The video that Turkey is criticising gave neither cause nor opportunity for the government to take action. Earlier, German officials expressed regret that Turkey which has applied for admission to the European Union (EU) is widening its distance to EU instead of closing it.

 The Federal Foreign Minister said “I think we can expect a partner nation of the European Union to share our common European values.” Besides the freedom of expression and press freedom, those European values “of course include artistic freedom, insofar as we are talking about satire here,” he added.

 Germany’s Ambassador to Turkey had previously made it clear to Turkish officials that basic freedoms such as the freedom of expression and of the press were valuable commodities that we must all protect together.

                                                                        Federal Press Office

                                                                        Berlin, 31 March 2016



        Act and think Chinese, says party

The Communist Party of China (CPC) is renewing its efforts to keep its Tibetan and Uyghur ethnic members pure, i.e., they must act and think Chinese. In early November, the Secretary of the CPC Autonomous Regional Committee in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) instructed cadres to seek out those who pretend not to be religious but follow the 14th Dalai Lama and even send their children and relatives to schools run by him, wrote The New York Times. On 4 December, an article published on China Tibet Online revealed that the same push for ideological and Chinese purity is pursued in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

 While the party reports an increase in the number of party members, there are indications that the Beijing-directed campaign is alienating some members and inciting ethnic hatred among the population.



Government interference with Constitutional Court and public broadcasting

Leaders of the European Union (EU) and several states and a substantial number of Poles are criticizing and deploring steps being taken by government and Sejm which are undermining constitutional order, rule of law and are now threatening free speech and freedom of the press.

Keeping in mind when assessing the threat or significance, one isolated incident could be seen as an aberration or exception. When similar developments continue, action is called for.

When the new president was elected in May [p. 6943], his affiliation with the populist, nationalistic, conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party gave some cause for unease because of views of its leader and known attitudes by associates against Jews, Muslims, refugees and the EU. But to demonstrate his impartiality, the president resigned from his party.

The PiS took office on 16 November and in rapid succession two symptomatic events showed that apprehension about its course was not premature. In the next six weeks, the Constitutional Court was severely weakened if not sidelined and made impotent and under the guise of opening public media to Polish values and views (as determined by the government) adopted a public media reform law.

The European Commission after warning Warsaw against tampering with the court and interfering with independent broadcasting without success is considering stronger measures. The EU rarely interferes with national decisions but in the past it temporarily suspended Austria and has forced Hungary to retreat on some of its policies.

 Elections in Poland were held on 25 October for the 460-seat Diet and the 100-seat Senate in which 50.9 percent of registered voters participated. The former opposition national-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party won a slim single majority in the lower house moving the former governing Civic Platform (PO) to second place and losing almost half of its mandates in the Senate. [p. 7137] PiS is led by Dr. Jarosław Aleksander Kaczyński (born 18 June 1949), lawyer and one-time prime minister (2006-2007).  He has made negative remarks about Jews and migrants and resents close links to the European Union. In the past he has advocated creation of a 4th Polish Republic and adoption of a new constitution creating a strong presidential system of government. Kaczyński is the power behind president and prime minister, according to press reports, and he supports his hardline ministers or “hawks” on lessening EU and foreign influences, boosting defense against Russia, and removing courts from threatening government actions and policies.


17 Nov. The president, before a court could rule on an appeal, pardoned a former  Kaczyński cabinet minister who was sentenced to three years in jail for allegedly contributing to corruption in 2007 when he headed the anti-corruption office and which caused the government to collapse.

17 Nov. Resignations of four heads of intelligence services of the former government are accepted.

19 Nov. The appointment of five judges of the Constitutional Court by the previous legislature is  annulled by the Sejm, an action that is reserved for the Court. The legislature passed an amendment authorizing proposal and appointment of replacements.

 24 Nov. The European Union (EU) flag is removed from the prime minister’s weekly press conference to demonstrate patriotism and cooling relations with the EU.

18 Dec. Defense ministry officials and military police stormed a NATO counterintelligence center  in Warsaw during the night and dismissed its head and staff  to place the enter under its control.

22 Dec. Sejm by a vote of 235 against 181 and 4 abstentions approved a change of law requiring that in most cases 13 rather than 9 of the 15 judges of the Constitutional Court must be present and that decisions must be reached by a two-thirds majority. (The Constitution provides for a single majority). The President of the European Parliament characterized the country’s political situation as a “coup,” a remark for which the prime minister demanded an apology, reported EurActiv.

23 Dec. The First Vice President of the European Commission (EC) wrote to the foreign and justice ministers urging the government not to adopt the new Constitutional Court measure since  it would undermine the court.

28 Dec. President signed Constitutional Court bill into law.

30 Dec. Sejm by a vote of 232 against 152 and 34 abstentions passed a bill on reform of public media. To convert public radio and television stations into “cultural institutes,” the tenure of all members of supervisory and boards of directors of stations are terminated and the National  Radio and TV Council (KRRiT) will no longer select broadcasting heads. Future appointments and dismissals, will be the responsibility of the minister of finance and the number of independent members of boards will be limited.




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