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WHAT’S NEW(S) – 28/05/2021

Écrit par sur 28 mai 2021

Belarus, a historic ruling in a climate case and the search for an extreme right soldier

Quite exceptionally, all EU leaders swiftly agreed during their summit on Monday: Belarus grounding of a civilian flight was a “hijacking”, which should be strongly condemned. Belarus was to be sanctioned. How did European newspapers report on this exceptional event and the arrest of Roman Protasevich ?

For this week’s What’s New(s) we also take a look at Dutch media coverage of the historic ruling against Shell, and Belgian media reporting on the ongoing manhunt on Jürgen Conings. 

You’ll find the script below :

Quite exceptionally, all EU leaders swiftly agreed during their summit on Monday: Belarus grounding of a civilian flight was a “hijacking”, which should be strongly condemned. Belarus was to be sanctioned.

How did European newspapers report on this exceptional event and the arrest of Roman Protasevich ?

Indeed, hijacking was one of the words most commonly used by the European press to define the arrest of Roman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega. Alberto Rojas, El Mundo, named what happened to the Ryanair flight the “first hijacking of a plane by a state in history”. Andrew Roth, Moscow correspondent for The Guardian highlights that Belarus has been “accused of engaging in an act of state terrorism”. Without calling it any name, l’Echo Republicain also affirmed that the incident violated with no doubt all international laws governing air transport. Reporters of the Süddeutsche Zeitung described the event as “the plot of a mediocre film”. “Don’t do this. They will kill me. I am a refugee,” were, according to several witnesses quoted by Politico, the words of Protasevich. It was a circus, a fiasco”, said one of the persons interviewed by the newspaper. Reuters reports that the plane was diverted just two minutes before it was due to enter Lithuanian airspace.

And what did they write about the EU’s response ?

According to David Herszenhorn in Politico, Lukashenko’s interception and forced landing of the Ryanair plane with the aim to arrest the opposition activist, only underlines the country’s “utter disregard for the EU’‘ and member states, and confidence in the “patronage of Vladimir Putin.” The swift reaction of the EU was only a “manufactured toughness”, he argued. It is far from clear that the EU response will have any effect on Lukashenko, who has been weathering EU penalties for years, he writes. In the same line, Carlos Santamaria of Spanish newspaper El Confidencial argues that the EU cannot do much against Belarus. EU sanctions won’t achieve a lot and tougher penalties will probably not be given. His reasoning: “the EU needs Russian energy to keep its lights on.” Closing the Belarusian airspace to European flights will have a very ‘reduced’ impact according to the Italian news agency (ANZA) due to the extremely low rate of commercial flights being operated due to the pandemic. Matthias Kolb and Xaver Bitz of German newspaper der Süddeutsche Zeitung still believe it is quite probable the EU will impose even stronger sanctions next week, for example by further limiting trade between the EU and Belarus. 

Then moving on to a quick overview of other events that made the news this week, starting with Belgium, where authorities are still desperately trying to find an extreme right soldier ?

Yes, soldier Jürgen Conings has already made the news since May 17, when he allegedly stole an arsenal of deadly weapons, and disappeared – thereby just leaving a letter for his girlfriend stating that he “joined the resistance and may not survive”. Since then, Belgian media have mainly been asking 3 questions: where is Jürgen Conings; who was he; and how come he managed to have access to deadly weapons, even if the Belgian authorities were aware of his extreme right ideologies. According to sources of newspapers Knack and Le Soir, Conings was already being watched by the Belgian intelligence services since 2015. Last week, another important question was added to the media debate: How to react to the growing group of people supporting Conings? Last weekend, marches were organised to support Conings in various places in Flanders. The Minister of the Interior stated in broadcaster VRT to be ‘surprised’ about this support. Strange, writes researcher Debruyne in Knack, since the extreme right has been normalised in Flemish society and political debate over the past decades. 

And how about the Netherlands, where an important trial made the news on Wednesday ?

Indeed “A historic ruling in a climate case” headlined newspaper De Volkskrant on Wednesday evening, when the Dutch court ruled that Shell should cut its Greenhouse emissions by 45 percent by 2030. It is the first time the Dutch state imposes such requirements on a private company. According to the newspaper, this historic ruling is a “spectacular victory” for Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth), one of the prosecutors. It might mean that Shell has to refrain from more investments in oil. Newspaper NRC calls the case ground-breaking, and underlines that it is the second time that a Dutch judge makes a remarkable ruling in a climate case. According to popular newspaper De Telegraaf, “only the Dutch left is cheering to Shell’s defeat.” It underlined that right-wing parties are worried about the judge’s reasoning, citing right-wing member of the parliament Alexander Kops who stated that: “Judges have turned out to be true climate activists, basing themselves on all kinds of doomsday scenarios.”

Erik Ruiz Martín & Nadine Vermeulen

Photo: Jonathan Payne, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Flickr

To find all What’s New(s) press reviews, click here


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