NATO members seek to break the stalemate in Libya, as NATO forces strike Gaddafi’s command and control facilities and the United Kingdom announces it will send military officers to the rebel city of Benghazi to provide logistical support and intelligence training. Within Europe Hungary’s new constitution ruffles feathers and commentators continue to puzzle over Angela Merkel’s Germany.
NATO launches airstrikes on Tripoli, Sirte: Libyan TV (Deutsche Welle)
NATO has launched fresh airstrikes in Libya, hitting the capital, Tripoli, and attacking pro-Gadhafi facilities. Libya has meanwhile agreed to allow the UN to send humanitarian aid into the besieged city of Misrata.
British military officers will be sent to Libya to advise rebels fighting Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s forces, the UK government has said. Foreign Secretary William Hague said the group would be deployed to the opposition stronghold of Benghazi.
‘Hungary Is a Disgrace for Europe’ (Spiegel)
An attack on pluralism, legislated intolerance, a crippling of checks and balances: Critics of Hungary’s new constitution are not hard to find. The country’s neighbors are also unhappy. German commentators say it is a scandal for Europe.
Germany has warned the conservative Hungarian government that its new constitution, passed by parliament on Monday (18 April), is not compatible with European Union values. "We are observing the developments in Hungary with great attention and some worry," German deputy foreign minister Werner Hoyer said in an emailed statement. "The media law adopted at the start of the year shows an attitude towards fundamental rights which – despite some amendments – is hardly compatible with European Union values."
Bucharest gets foothold in Caucasus (Romania Libera)
“Why Russia and Turkey fear Romania” headlines România liberă, setting out the energy and military strategy that Bucharest has worked out for the Caucasus. The newspaper notes that “Romania is the only European country to have signed a bilateral agreement with a country in the region,” Azerbaijan, which is specifically aimed at setting up a new Caucasian gas route that bypasses the three big powers around the Black Sea: Russia, Ukraine and Turkey. A senior Defence Ministry official quoted by the Bucharest daily said that Romania is taking part in the opening up of this strategic zone “located along the main axis of the 21st century, as defined by the military experts of the major powers: the Gulf of Aden – the Persian Gulf – Shanghai.” The ambitions of Bucharest worry Moscow and Ankara, who see in it the growing influence of the United States in the region. (Full Text in Romanian)
Indebted states feel increased market heat (PressEurop)
“Debt crisis intensifies,” headlines De Standaard. On 18 April, Belgium borrowed 2.95 billion euros at interest rates that at one point in the day reached 4.4%, a two-year record high “ and El País is concerned that "doubts about Greece will punish Spanish debt."
EU – French Schengen busting is “legal” (La Vangaudria)
"EU supports French blockade of refugees," headlines La Vanguardia, explaining that "the temporary closure of a border between two EU countries is perfectly legal." In a cautious declaration in Brussels, Commissioner for Internal Affairs Cecilia Malmström pointed out that France "apparently had the right" to close its border with Italy on Sunday 17 April to halt an Italian train carrying Tunisian immigrants — a declaration that will be viewed as "an accolade" for the French government and "an affront" to the Italians, remarks La Vanguardia. The immigration crisis "has prompted tensions between Paris and Rome" and "drawn attention to the absence of a common European policy," notes the daily, which argues that Rome’s initiative to legalise the refugees’ status was "a response to European inaction." (Full Text in Spanish)
A week after a powerful bomb killed 13 people in a Minsk subway station, and President Alexander Lukashenko warned of stiff punishment for anyone who spreads "panic," Belarus’s state-guided economy appears to be unraveling. Now, worried Belarussians are emptying shop shelves of durable goods and line up outside banks in hopes of converting their rubles into dollars or euros.
Pressure on financially weak eurozone members rose sharply yesterday (18 April) amid growing speculation that Greece will restructure its debt and after a Finnish vote showed mounting public opposition to more bailouts.
Europol: Arab spring poses terrorist threat to EU (EUobserver)
Arab revolutions and the economic crisis could increase the risk of terrorist attacks in the EU by Islamist, far-left and far-right groups, according to a report by the union’s joint police body, Europol.
Moscow queries Montenegro’s NATO membership plans (RIA Novosti)
On April 15 the two-day meeting of the Baltic Military Committee which was held in Kaunas Garrison Officers Club and chaired by Chief of Defence of Lithuania Maj Gen Arvydas Pocius. The main focus of the meeting was defence cooperation of the Baltic States. Among points discussed there was implementation of the Baltic Air Policing mission, Baltic Defence College and joint Baltic projects – BALTNET and BALTRON. The meeting Chiefs of Defence also addressed multinational training events in the Baltic Region.
EDITORIALS AND COLUMNS:
Merkel in Miniature (The New York Times)
What I admired in Berlin was something deep: the capacity for long-term purpose that had pulled a nation from the ashes and united it. Germany had not recovered from the cataclysm on a whim and a prayer. It had stuck to its task. Germany, in other words, was, just a decade ago, the opposite of Angela Merkel’s shifting, changeable nation with its finger to the electoral winds and its surprising talent for unpredictability. Solidity has given way to whim, direction to drift. I will get to that in a minute.