Showing posts with label Poland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Poland. Show all posts

June 12, 2016

Thousands March in Poland and Croatia’s Gay Pride


Thousands march for gay rights in Poland, Croatia photo

Thousands march for gay rights in Poland, Croatia photo

Thousands march for gay rights in Poland, Croatia photo

Several thousand people marched Saturday in colorful gay pride events in Italy, Poland and Croatia urging support for minority rights in the mostly Catholic nations.
The parades in Poland and Croatia come amid mounting right-wing sentiments that pose new challenges to gay rights activists. In Italy, however, the gay pride celebration comes after lawmakers granted some legal rights to same-sex couples.
Balloons and flags in rainbow colors marked both the Equality March in the Polish capital of Warsaw and Zagreb’s Gay Pride event while participants at the parade in Rome were more daring, baring a bit of skin in some cases.
In Zagreb, former interior minister Ranko Ostojic and several well-known public figures joined the event dubbed “Croatia is Not Over Yet.” Ostojic says “I am glad to be here today, this is my Croatia.”
Liberals have warned that Croatia has been tilting to the right under a conservative government that took over in January. Similarly in Poland, there are concerns for minority rights under a right-wing government that took office in November.
Police secured both marches.

December 2, 2014

Polish Voters Elect the first Gay Mayor

Polish voters have elected the country’s first openly gay mayor. Robert Biedron won a runoff election over the weekend with 57 percent of the vote in the northern city of Slupsk, the local election commission said.

Biedron, a member of the Your Move party, ran as an independent in Slupsk, a city of about 100,000 people near the Baltic Sea, taking on a candidate from the governing right-wing Civic Platform party, which has opposed gay rights in the past. In 2011, Biedron, a political scientist by trade, made national and LGBT rights history by becoming the EU member state's first openly gay member of parliament - the same year that Poles voted in Anna Grodzka, the country's first transgender lawmaker.
"When you really want something, you can move mountains," the 38-year-old, who had campaigned on the slogan "Change, finally," told reporters after his win on Sunday.
Though many also know Biedron as a gay rights activist, he drew broad appeal by promising citywide free Internet access and emphasizing energy efficiency. Earlier this year, the national news weekly Polityka listed Biedron, who plans to commute to the city hall on bicycle, as one of Poland’s 10 best lawmakers. 
'Optimistic and happy'
Ninety percent of Poles identify as Roman Catholic, though fewer and fewer currently head for the pews on Sundays. When Poland joined the European Union in 2004, the capital, Warsaw, still banned gay rights marches and media and society largely treated homosexuality as a taboo topic.
Since then, acceptance of gay men, lesbians and transgender people has grown, if slowly. Warsaw successfully hosted a pride event in 2006, though that act itself continues to draw homophobic protesters even as the event itself grows and the country becomes less-known for anti-LGBT discrimination than it was in the past decade. 
"I see how fast Polish society has learned its lesson of tolerance," Biedron told The Associated Press news agency in an interview two days before Sunday's run-off election. “So I am very optimistic and happy with Polish society - and proud."

Polen Politik Anna Grodzka
In what the media called "the Biedron effect," a number of other candidates came out publicly before the nationwide local elections, which took place in two rounds over the past two weeks. None of the others won seats, but rights activists still found their willingness to come out encouraging and speculated that their overall showing was poor because the mostly young candidates had short political CVs and ran as members of smaller center-left parties that had little support.
mkg/mg (AFP, AP) 

October 12, 2014

“Suddenly we noticed that Russia has an ugly face” NATO German General


{adamfoxie} Poland, which neighbors the Ukraine and remembering the lessons of WWll whereas the invasion of Poland by the Germans ( 1939 ) was the match which ignited the fuse of the war and after the war was over Poland was handed over to the then Soviet Union as a prize for fighting the war where it remained as a satellite and bumper zone for the soviets (until 1991) with the excuse that the Soviets were there to defend Poland from another invasion from Germany when West Germany had been transformed into a partner of NATO (the only fear in the region came from the soviets which already kept the eastern half of Germany as a war price for help in defeating Hitler) and western security fear from an ever menacing bear which had no second thoughts in sending in troops and tanks like it did in Chekoslovakia when the Cheks decided they had enough of the Soviets. That insurrection to liberate the Cheks was over before it started.

Now with Putin saying Russia is a free country  and wants to be in harmony with its partners and neighboring nations with one side of his face, while with the other he drives his troops further into the Ukraine. He has given no excuse now why he persists when all his other imaginary reason have been put out on the open and have evaporated.

Exercises in the area NaTO’s Poland have now includes other nations, including the US, Canada and Britain on the invitation of Poland.
Military exercises over the last month are meant to prove NATO’s resolve. But Putin’s “little green men” and his “ambiguous assault” strategy still have it in a quandary.
 {Leo Cendrowicz of the Daily Beast} Poland—The serenity of this town in Poland’s gorgeous Masurian lake district was about to be shattered. As F-16s roared from one end of the horizon to the other, they dipped to bomb a grassland strip. The blast was a stupefying white flash followed by a body-shaking howl, and it was the cue for a maelstrom of metallic shrieks. Rockets zipped out from behind the trees; tanks from Poland’s 12th Mechanized Division rumbled into view; and helicopters hovered over the melee. 
Surveying the drama from a podium a quarter mile away was Polish President Bronisław Komorowski and a phalanx of army chiefs from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This was the climax to Anakonda-14, a military exercise involving some 12,500 troops from Poland and eight other NATO countries, and everyone there looked on attentively. But the big question, of course, was how closely Russia watched from afar.
The war game that ended earlier this month was staged at a crucial time: Russia’s infiltration of Ukraine—annexing Crimea and supporting rebels in the east—has alarmed central and eastern Europe. And it gave this Anakonda a sharper bite than those that have gone before. 
“We all see what has happened in Ukraine,” said Lukas Wasko, a lieutenant from Poland’s 5th Artillery Regiment. “It makes our exercise today feel more real.” 
Indeed. Exercises like Anakonda are just one obvious example of the way the Ukraine conflict has jolted NATO into action. Originally a solely Polish exercise, the rest of NATO was invited to take part after the Ukraine crisis erupted: 750 soldiers eventually joined Anakonda from the United States, Canada, Britain, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Hungary, as well as Lithuania and Estonia. Anakonda takes place over ten days in four main sites across Poland, and Orzysz, in the northeast, is just 35 miles from Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave in the Baltic region. 
Regional fears over Russia’s threat have not been diminished by the uneasy and often breached September 5 ceasefire agreement between Ukraine and pro-Russia rebels: with shelling continuing around Donetsk, in the east, it is clear that the conflict is far from settled. “Russia’s actions affect everyone taking part in the exercise,” says NATO’s Danish Brigadier General Torben Dixen Møller, serving as the Deputy Commander for Anakonda. “The lesson we learned is to increase our readiness and responsiveness.”
Poland, right on Ukraine’s border, has been particularly bullish, demanding a tough NATO response to Russia. In her inauguration speech as Poland’s new Prime Minister, Ewa Kopacz said on October 1 she would request a U.S. military presence in the country. She also announced that her new government would raise defense spending from 1.6 to 2 percent of the country’s gross domestic product from 2016. 
“The events in Ukraine have significantly changed our approach to security,” Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak told the Daily Beast. “We have a military conflict raging next to the Polish borders. The history of Poland teaches us that peace in the world is not a given. And Poland’s citizens expect us to do everything to ensure Poland’s security.” 
The broader NATO response has been to bolster its presence among its eastern members, including Poland and the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. In June, U.S. President Barack Obama announced plans for a $1 billion European Reassurance Initiative to increase U.S. military deployments to Europe. At last month’s NATO summit in Newport, Wales, the alliance’s 28 leaders agreed to upgrade the NATO Response Force (NRF), a 25,000-strong multinational rapid reaction section to adapt to the new model of hybrid warfare seen in Ukraine. And within the NRF, a 4,000-strong high-readiness spearhead force is being designed to move within 48 hours to, say, Poland or the Baltic states.
 The message from top NATO officials has been stern. When former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg took office as NATO Secretary General on October 1, he made it clear that Russia's intervention in Ukraine challenged Euro-Atlantic security. “NATO does not seek confrontation with Russia. But we cannot and will not compromise on the principles on which our alliance, and the security in Europe and North America rest,” he said. 
It was no accident that Stoltenberg’s first overseas trip since assuming his duties, on October 6, was to Poland. “We need to keep NATO strong, we need to help keep our neighborhood stable,” he said after visiting Poland’s Lask Air Force Base.
Military exercises are an important part of the response. In September, some 2,000 NATO troops from nations including the U.S., Canada, Britain and Italy took part in several exercises in eastern Europe, including one in Ukraine itself, as part of a beefed-up military presence.  
This is partly about reassurance and deterrence. But there is a practical aspect too. As combat operations in Afghanistan wind down, so too does the main driver of NATO defense cooperation. American, British, French, German, Italian, Polish, Turkish and other troops showed how well they could work together in Afghanistan, and officials say military exercises are needed to continue these valuable interactions and exchanges. Philip Breedlove, NATO commander-in-chief, says this represents a shift, "from engagement to preparedness."
Then there is the challenge of “ambiguous assault,” the undeclared guerilla activities that Russia appears to have pioneered in Ukraine. For many, this is a new kind of warfare, applying subversion, agitation, political demonstrations and cyber-attacks—all lashed together with a virulent propaganda campaign. The “little green men,” the soldiers with Russian equipment and evident Russian training but no Russian insignia who have lead the agitation in Ukraine epitomize this approach to warfare. 
Much of the talk in Anakonda was about how to deal with such a challenge. Major Eric Taylor from the Illinois National Guard's 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, part of the U.S. contribution to the exercise, described it as one of the most frightening aspects of military service. “We faced these issues of combatants without insignia in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. “When you see that, the hairs go up on the back of your neck because you know something is not right. You need eyes at the back of your head.”
  NATO has yet to make clear how it would respond to such tactics. Would Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty be invoked, whereby an attack on one is taken as an attack on all? Pauline Massart, Director of Security & Defence Agenda, a Brussels-based think tank, says NATO is still struggling to adapt to Russian tactics. “The new methods are evolving at warp speed and I don’t think NATO is ready,” she says. “However, there is at least a sense that security is back on the agenda with a vengeance.”
There are other questions about whether all NATO members are committed to the mission. Washington regularly complains that Europeans fail to pay their fair share of the collective defense bill: 24 out of 28 NATO members spend less than the alliance’s defense guideline of 2% of GDP. Many members also have aging equipment, including Poland. Indeed, one of the loudest, if not the most effective, weapons showcased by the Polish in Orzysz is the Neva W-125, a surface-to-air anti-missile system originally developed by the Soviets in the 1960s. 
One of the biggest worries within NATO concerns Germany, where contract mishaps have delayed prestige projects like the Eurofighter jet, the Puma tank and A400 Airbus transporter planes. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has pledged that Germany will play a much greater military role on the international stage, but on October 6 she admitted the country was, "going to have some work to do," to rectify equipment problems.
Still, Ukraine has given NATO a new sense of purpose, according to Erik Brattberg, Resident Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security. “That said, underneath the surface differences in threat perception and how to deal with Russia persist,” he says. “Going forward, NATO must invest more in building local capacity in the Baltic states and other vulnerable allies in areas such as intelligence and information sharing, cyber security and energy security.”
In Orzysz, visiting German General Hans-Lothar Domröse admitted that Ukraine is testing NATO. “The invasion of Crimea was a wake-up call,” he said. “We had been too optimistic, convinced that such violations could no longer happen. Suddenly we noticed that Russia has an ugly face.” But Domröse, who is also the Commander of NATO’s Joint Force Command in Brunssum, Netherlands, insists that the alliance has always risen to its challenges. “It has been a reminder of our core defense role at NATO. We have to adapt and we will adapt.” 

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