Massenbach-Letter. NEWS 06.01.17

Massenbach-Letter. News – Syria army presses fight near Damascus despite truce –

To capture a rebel region that is key to the capital’s water supply.

  • Chablin, Anton (Stavropol, Russia): Who and why do we need a law "On the Russian Nation"
  • CSS: Putin’s Next Steppe: Central Asia and Geopolitics
  • ETH Zuerich: No. 90: Human Capital Development in Azerbaijan ( e.g. BP )
  • ETH Zuerich: Das deutsche Weissbuch zur Sicherheitspolitik 2016
  • GFP: The Evolution of Italy’s Banking Crisis
  • DIW: Arbeitszeitwünsche von Beschäftigten: eine Black Box? | Zu Unschärfen der Ermittlung von Unter- und Überbeschäftigung
  • Ford cancels plans for Mexico plant, expresses ‘vote of confidence’ in Trump
  • Ärger mit Erdogan: Regierung muss juristische Einschätzung zu Böhmermanns Satire offen legen
  • Friedman’s Weekly: The Internet and the Tragedy of the Commons

Massenbach*Syria army presses fight near Damascus despite truce –

To capture a rebel region that is key to the capital’s water supply.

The United Nations says at least four million people in Damascus have been without water since December 22.

Forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad walk at a military complex as one of them holds up a Syrian national flag, after they recaptured areas in southwestern Aleppo that rebels had seized last month, Syria, in this handout picture provided by SANA on September 5, 2016

Syria’s army advanced Monday as it battles to capture a rebel region that is key to the capital’s water supply, launching strikes and artillery fire threatening a fragile nationwide truce.

Brokered by regime ally Russia and opposition supporter Turkey, the ceasefire is now in its fourth day despite sporadic violence and continued fighting in the Wadi Barada area near Damascus.

"Regime forces and fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah group are advancing in the region and are now on the outskirts of Ain al-Fijeh, the primary water source in the area," said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.

He said government troops and allied fighters were engaged in fierce clashes with rebels, including former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front, a claim denied by opposition fighters.

The monitor said government forces were carrying out air strikes and artillery fire on the area, northwest of the capital, and that two civilians were shot dead by snipers.

Two other civilians were killed in regime bombardment of the town of Rastan in central Homs province, it added.

Government forces have surrounded Wadi Barada since mid-2015, but the siege was tightened in December as the army piled on the pressure.

The Syrian government says rebels have targeted key water infrastructure, causing leaking fuel to poison water supplies and then cutting it off altogether.

The United Nations says at least four million people in Damascus have been without water since December 22.

The Observatory said around 1,000 women and children fled the area over the weekend.

The violence threatens the delicate truce that came into force last week and is intended to pave the way for new peace talks in Kazakhstan later this month.

In a statement, rebels fighting under the Free Syrian Army banner in Wadi Barada warned that the truce was in danger.

"We call on the sponsors of the ceasefire agreement to assume their responsibility and pressure the regime and its allied militias to stop their clear violation of the agreement," the statement said.

Otherwise, they warned, "we will call on all the free military factions operating inside Syria to overturn the agreement and ignite the fronts in defence of the people of Wadi Barada".

The statement said that Wadi Barada was included in the deal brokered by Moscow and Ankara and accused the regime of violating the agreement.

The ceasefire deal, and the plan for new talks, received the unanimous backing of the UN Security Council on Saturday, despite offering a competing track to UN-sponsored negotiations.

Turkey and Russia are organising the talks in Astana along with regime ally Iran, and say they are intended to supplement, not replace, UN-backed negotiations scheduled to resume in February.

Despite backing opposite sides in Syria’s conflict, Ankara and Moscow have worked closely in recent months on the war, brokering a deal to evacuate civilians and surrendering rebels from Aleppo last month before the regime recaptured the northern city in full.

Both countries are also waging their own military interventions in Syria, with Russian forces fighting to bolster President Bashar al-Assad’s government since September 2015.

Turkey launched a military campaign in northern Syria in August 2016, targeting the Islamic State group but also Kurdish militants.

The Syrian conflict has also spilled over into Turkey, with several attacks blamed on Kurdish or IS.

On Monday, IS claimed responsibility for a New Year’s Eve attack on an Istanbul nightclub that killed 39 people.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus warned that Ankara was determined to press on with its military operation in Syria "until these terror organisations no longer remain a threat to Turkey".

A string of efforts to find a political solution to Syria’s war have failed since it began with anti-government protests in March 2011.

The conflict has killed more than 310,000 people, and displaced over half the population, including millions who have fled abroad, becoming refugees.


From our Russian News Desk.

Who and why do we need a law "On the Russian Nation"

The Kremlin hopes that a civil nation in Russia can be created through legislative mechanisms and budgetary financing

By Chablin Anton

In 2017, in Russia a new federal law "On the Russian nation" should be adopted, the discussion of which has already caused heated discussion in Russian society. Development, public discussion and adoption of the federal law is the main task of the "youngest" authority in the structure of state power bodies of Russia, the Federal Agency of the Affairs for Nationalities (FAAN).

The agency was created by the decree of President Vladimir Putin in March 2015, it has received some of the functions of the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Regional Development (it was abolished in September 2014). By the time of the abolition the core functions of the Ministry of Regional Development was national policy, spatial planning, control of target programs, as well as benchmarking and alignment of socio-economic indicators of the subjects.

In all major countries in the world with the same colorful ethnic palette, like Russia, has a separate Ministry for nationality Affairs (Ministry of integration).

Pioneer was China, which in 1949 was established by the State Commission for Nationalities. De facto it deals with minority affairs, since 92% of the population is Han Chinese (the remaining 8% comes from 55 nationalities).

Ethnic Affairs Committee is in Vietnam, where there are 54 small ethnic group (the titular nation, Viet, more than 86%).

The greatest importance is such structure in India, which in 2006 established the Ministry of Minority Affairs. The country’s population of almost 81% is represented by Indians, and the remaining 19% split between the different ethnic and religious groups.

In Mexico, since 2003 there is a National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples, which deals mainly with the preservation of traditional culture.

Similar agencies exist in Canada, where since 1966 in the structure of government has the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (he represents the interests of the Indians, Inuit and Métis).

Founded in Russian Federal Agency of the Affairs for Nationalities most resembles the Ministry of national integration that exists in Brazil since 1999. Its main task is the implementation of territorial development programmes to eliminate the disparities between individual provinces.

Federal Agency for Nationalities headed by Igor Barinov, who previously worked in the FSB, he was a career officer of SWAT. Barinov repeatedly went on missions in emergency areas, participated in the counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya. Two deputies Igor Barinov, Andrew Mezhenko and Michael Ipatov, to go to the civil service is a career military personnel.

The fact that the Federal Agency for Nationalities headed by "men in uniform", and defines national policies. During its existence the agency has not carried out any major and important humanitarian projects.

Ethnocultural youth camp "Dialogue of Cultures" (on the basis of complex "Ethnomir", Kaluga Region, Borovsky District) were organized; summer and winter change nationwide patriotic interethnic forum "Patriot"; Youth All-Russia festival "Roma under the sky of Russia."

The agency also conducts the All-Russian contest "SMIrotvorets" (for the best coverage of issues of inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations). Agency organizes regular sociological monitoring of the key indicators of the state of interethnic and ethnoconfessional relations in the Russian regions.

The agency has organized the exhibition "Multinational Russia" on VDNH (pavilion №71) to the Day of National Unity. It includes a multimedia exhibition "Culture of peoples of the North Caucasus" (20 shoots), and were awarded diplomas to the winners of the competition of the same name. Also at VDNH library was launched, which included movies in different languages, concert recordings, photos and recording traditional songs and tunes.

In November 2016, the agency organized in Pyatigorsk International Political Science forum "Russian Caucasus" (with the school of political science"Caspian"). At this forum, Igor Barinov said that the agency is currently developing guidelines for public and local authorities to overcome the conflicts that arise in the construction of religious buildings. In addition, according to Barinov, all places of worship must be compulsorily re-registered on a centralized muftiats that will weed out illegally constructed mosque (most of them Salafi).

The forum "Russian Caucasus" Igor Barinov also talked about the preparation of the draft federal law "On the Russian nation and the management of interethnic relations", which initiated the development of President Vladimir Putin. It is expected that this law will discuss the core of Russian culture, which integrates the country into a whole civil nation. The objectives of the bill are the consolidation of the all-Russian civic consciousness and spiritual unity of the multinational people of the Russian Federation (Russian nation); preservation and development of ethnic and cultural diversity of the peoples of Russia; harmonization of national and international (interethnic) relations; equality of rights and freedoms of man and citizen, regardless of race, nationality, language, religion and other circumstances; successful social and cultural adaptation and integration of migrants.

The concept of the future law will be presented in 2017.

In addition, according to Igor Barinov, in 2017 the Federal Agency for the Affairs of Nationalities will take the state program of implementation of the national policy in Russia, which is designed for the period up to 2025. Currently, the state program of the project is at the stage of adoption, is its coordination with the Ministry of Finance.

The estimated amount of funding the state program from the federal budget and state extra-budgetary funds should amount to $40 billion Rubles.

The draft federal law has already caused heated discussion in Russian society. In particular, 4 November 2016, the Day of National Unity, in Stavropol held an extended meeting of several Slavic and Cossack organizations of the North Caucasus region. They opposed the adoption of the law "On the Russian nation and the management of interethnic relations" because they require legislative consolidation of state-forming role of the Russian people, as well as the adoption of federal programs for the maintenance and Russian Cossacks in order to overcome the negative trends in the de-Russification of the North Caucasus region.

We can assume that in 2017, when the draft law preparation will come to the finish line, similar to the requirements of the Federal Agency for the Affairs of Nationalities will articulate representatives of other ethnic and religious groups. This fact can significantly hamper the development and adoption of the law, which implies the formation of a civic nation.-


No. 90: Human Capital Development in Azerbaijan

Author(s): Surayya Mammadova, Farid Guliyev, Lucy Wallwork, Nazaket Azimli
Editor(s): Farid Guliyev (Special Editor), Tamara Brunner, Lili Di Puppo, Iris Kempe, Matthias Neumann, Jeronim Perović, Heiko Pleines, Tinatin Zurabishvili
Journal Title: Caucasus Analytical Digest (CAD)
Series: Caucasus Analytical Digest (CAD)
Issue: 90
Publisher(s): Caucasus Research Resource Centers; Research Centre for East European Studies at the University of Bremen; Center for Security Studies (CSS) at ETH Zurich; German Association for East European Studies (DGO)
Publication Year: 2016

Four authors discuss Human Capital Development (HCD) in Azerbaijan:

  • Surayya Mammadova addresses the link between state fiscal resources and HCD in Azerbaijan during the peak period of oil prices, positing that despite the possibilities presented by the expanding fiscal space and increasing capital inflows, the government of Azerbaijan did not manage to effectively increase public sector expenditures on HCD; using a demand-and-supply perspective,
  • Farid Guliyev argues that the diversion of public funds away from HCD toward unproductive investments by rent-seeking elites on the supply side and low returns to high-quality education and an excessive reliance on patronage and personal connections on the demand side are the key impediments to the advancement of educational quality in Azerbaijan;
  • Lucy Wallwork contends that Azerbaijan’s oil wealth has possibly left patriarchal norms in place, in spite of the legacy of the nominal commitment to gender equality handed down from the USSR;
  • Nazaket Azimli assesses the contribution of BP to HCD in Azerbaijan, raising the concern that the post-oil legacy of the company in terms of HCD will be very limited.


  • The Contribution of Foreign Oil Companies to Human Capital Development in Azerbaijan: The Case of BP’s CSR Program
    By Nazaket Azimli
This article provides an assessment of the contribution of BP to Human Capital Development (HCD) in Azerbaijan, focusing on the oil boom years (2007–2014). Its corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda has included activities targeting HCD through both the employment of nationals stipulated in local content requirements and ‘social responsibility investment projects.’ Additionally, BP has invested in a number of projects that train students and professionals involved in the oil sector. I argue here that the contribution by BP to HCD has not gone beyond the traditional CSR investment pattern of major oil companies. Company activities have focused mainly on project-affected regions or in and around the Baku area, and most of the education investments of this firm have targeted professionals in extractive industries. This raises the concern that the post-oil legacy of the company in terms of HCD will be very limited. This is partially the result of the weakness of a state-led policy framework on HCD, which could be effectively complemented by the activities of BP.


Policy= res publica

Freudenberg-Pilster* Arbeitszeitwünsche von Beschäftigten: eine Black Box? | Zu Unschärfen der Ermittlung von Unter- und Überbeschäftigung.

(Elke Holst, Julia Bringmann)

Wie viel Zeit Menschen in ihre Erwerbsarbeit investieren wollen, können und müssen ist nicht nur für den einzelnen, sondern auch für eine Ökonomie als Ganzes von zentraler Bedeutung. Doch je nach Studie und zugrundeliegendem Datensatz ergibt sich ein heterogenes Bild zur Über- und Unterbeschäftigung in Deutschland. Diesem Phänomen und seinen Ursachen geht das neue Roundup 106 nach.
Berlin: DIW Berlin, 2017. – 7 S.
DIW Roundup : Politik im Fokus ; 106

Link :

  • Ford cancels plans for Mexico plant, expresses ‘vote of confidence’ in Trump

Donald J. Trump

✔ @realDonaldTrump

General Motors is sending Mexican made model of Chevy Cruze to U.S. car dealers-tax free across border. Make in U.S.A.or pay big border tax!

1:30 PM – 3 Jan 2017

Ford Motor Co. is canceling plans to build a new manufacturing plant in Mexico and instead is investing $700 million in Michigan, the automaker announced on Tuesday.

The company’s CEO, Mark Fields, told CNN that the move is a "vote of confidence" in President-elect Donald Trump pledge to create a pro-business environment. Fields emphasized, however, that he did not negotiate any special deal with Trump.

"We didn’t cut a deal with Trump,” he said. “We did it for our business.”

Trump bashed Ford on the campaign trail over the automaker’s plan to invest $1.6 billion in Mexico by shifting its North American small-car production south of the border. Ford had emphasized that the move would not affect U.S. jobs because the automaker would be putting new vehicles into the Michigan plants.

But now Ford will instead build the Ford Focus at an existing plant in Mexico. It will also invest $700 million in its plant in Flat Rock, Mich. and create 700 jobs in an effort to produce more electric and self-driving cars. The automaker has said it plans to build a fully self-driving car by 2021. Ford is not the only automaker to draw Trump’s ire. Earlier Tuesday, the president-elect blasted General Motors on Twitter, threatening a "big border tax" on GM models made in Mexico.

"I am thrilled that we have been able to secure additional UAW-Ford jobs for American workers," said Jimmy Settles, United Auto Workers vice president, according to CNN.

A Ford spokeswoman told The Hill that Trump’s team was notified of their plans Tuesday morning. GM announced last June it would build the Chevrolet Cruze model in Mexico and sell them in the U.S. for the first time due to high demand. The automaker revealed the change after its plant in Lordstown, Ohio, struggled to meet consumer demands.

In a statement released about an hour after Trump tweeted, GM said only a small number of its cars made in Mexico are sent to the U.S. market.U.S. taxpayers lost $11.3 billion in the federal bailout of GM following the 2009 financial crisis. Ford did not take a bailout.

****************************************************************************************************************** Politics: From Vision to Action

Barandat* Putin’s Next Steppe: Central Asia and Geopolitics

In the five Central Asian republics, the chronic problems that plague the authoritarian regimes in power are meeting a changing geopolitical landscape: Russia after Crimea is ever more prepared to defend its influence, China’s leverage is growing, and attitudes of the West are changing after the partial retreat from Afghanistan. Events like the recent death of Uzbekistan’s president may trigger wider change.

By Benno Zogg.

As part of Russia’s hitherto undisputed sphere of influence, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan seem far from the geopolitical hotspots. Yet, due to both internal and external pressures, Central Asia will undergo great changes in the years to come and should be observed closely.

The countries’ authoritarian regimes, largely legacies of the Soviet Union, have created stability for their nations through resource rents, networks of corruption and the oppression of opposition groups.

The events of September 2016, however, revealed that continued stability is not guaranteed. Uzbek president Islam Karimov, who had led the nation since its independence in 1991, died at the age of 78. News of his death went unconfirmed for a week, which allowed the Uzbek elite to bargain and negotiate over his successor free from public scrutiny. Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev was declared interim president, and won the unfree elections on December 4th.

Despite the apparent smoothness of the transition in Uzbekistan thus far, the whole of Central Asia is unlikely to remain stable over the next few years. The republics suffer from several chronic problems, causing both economic instability and popular discontent: endemic corruption, weak and ineffective economic reforms, and a poor record of democracy and human rights. Moreover, governments seem incapable of solving regional issues on a bilateral or multilateral basis. Border demarcation, access to water, inter-ethnic quarrels, and cross-border terrorism and organized crime continue to cause regional tension. These structural factors in the region interact with broader changes in the geopolitical landscape.

Since its invasion of Crimea in 2014, Russia has proved to be the most powerful game changer in the region. If Belarus or Ukraine are considered Russia’s front yard, Central Asia is its back yard. Particularly in the security realm, Russian influence is undisputed.

Yet the weak Russian economy leads many to conclude that Russia is in decline, investment levels are dropping, and opportunities for the roughly four million Central Asian migrant workers in Russia are waning.

Over the last decade, China has replaced Russia as Central Asia’s largest trading partner. These factors are compounded by the downsizing of NATO’s decade-long presence in Afghanistan in 2014, which altered Western attitudes towards the region. Given these developments, unforeseen events or major shifts of power within Central Asia could trigger wider change…(contd. see att.)


Middle East

ETH Zuerich_Das deutsche Weissbuch zur Sicherheitspolitik 2016

Im Weissbuch 2016 zur deutschen Sicherheits- und Verteidigungspolitik wird dargelegt, dass Deutschland künftig mehr Beiträge an die internationale Sicherheit leisten möchte, gegebenenfalls auch mit militärischen Mitteln. Doch wird Deutschland mehr militärische Verantwortung übernehmen können? Und welchen Einfluss haben der Wahlsieg Donald Trumps in den USA und der EU-Austritt Grossbritanniens auf die deutsche Verteidigungspolitik? ( more see att.)

Constrained Leadership: Germany’s New Defense Policy Germany’s new defense white paper says that it should contribute more to international security, including with military means. But will Germany substantially increase its international military role? And what impact will the election of Donald Trump in the US and the UK exit from the EU have on German defense policy?


*Massenbach’s Recommendation*

-The Evolution of Italy’s Banking Crisis-

Dec. 30, 2016 The Italian banking crisis is not just an Italian problem.

By Cheyenne Ligon and Allison Fedirka

As the year draws to a close, we examine a critical forecast that will bridge 2016 and 2017: the Italian banking crisis.

In our 2016 forecast, we discussed how the focal point of Europe’s financial crisis would shift from Greece to the Italian banking system, as Italy headed toward crisis. For the coming year, we forecast that the evolution of this crisis will eventually force a confrontation between Italy, Germany and the European Union.

In this Reality Check, we establish a starting point for the looming Italian banking crisis in 2017, which will unfold over several months and have a range of consequences.

Italy’s banking crisis currently pivots around the fate of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS). The bank spent 2016 struggling to shed 28 billion euros ($29.6 billion) in non-performing loans (NPLs), which account for 36 percent of the bank’s loan portfolio. That is the highest proportion of NPLs of any bank in Italy. As a result, investors and depositors began withdrawing their money, compounding the bank’s financial crisis by creating a liquidity problem. Last week, MPS announced that its remaining 11 billion euros in liquidity would only last until April.

The bank’s efforts to privately solve its financial problems failed, leaving the Italian government as the bank’s only remaining recourse. MPS spent the fourth quarter of 2016 seeking 5 billion euros of capital and a fund to underwrite it. The bank failed to meet its Dec. 22 deadline, after the deal’s largest backer pulled out at the last minute causing the plan to fall through. With the private sector and outside financial institutions reluctant to help, MPS formally requested aid from the Italian government. On Dec. 23, the Italian Cabinet announced that the bank would be rescued with a 20 billion euro fund approved by Parliament earlier in the week.

The headquarters of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena on July 2, 2016 in Siena, in the Italian region of Tuscany.

The next obvious question is will 20 billion euros be enough to solve MPS’ problems? While the sum would address MPS’ immediate needs, estimated at about 8.8 billion euros, many independent researchers believe Italy’s current 20 billion euro fund is not enough to save the bank in the long run. Goldman Sachs estimates that successful recapitalization would require 38 billion euros, while a senior market analyst at London Capital Group suggests the number might be closer to 52 billion euros.

As a member of the eurozone, Italy’s banking crisis is not just an Italian problem. Uncertainty in the Italian market could lead risk-averse investors to stay away from Italian assets, and thus the euro, impacting its value. Additionally, should MPS or other large Italian financial institutions fail, Italy would sink into a domestic economic crisis that would have significant systemic effects on the value of the euro. This would have negative repercussions for other economies in the eurozone.

Italy, in theory, also needs to comply with EU regulations. The divergence between Italy’s national needs and the EU’s needs has made finding a solution acceptable to both parties extremely difficult. Italy wants to protect taxpayers while the EU wants depositors to assume the burden of debt instead of the European Central Bank (ECB). The solution thus far has been to promote a plan in which Italy appears to be following EU regulations, but which provides enough wiggle room to protect the bank’s domestic investors.

Article 32 of the EU’s Banking Recovery and Resolution Directive, which took effect at the beginning of this year, states that banks must first go through a “precautionary recapitalization,” also known as a bail-in, before they are allowed to receive state funds. This is meant to protect taxpayers from shouldering the entire burden of a bailout. In MPS’ case, this would mean that bondholders must take an 8 percent loss in assets before the government is allowed to inject capital into the bank. However, the ECB is currently negotiating a plan with the Italian government in which the bank would be allowed to protect these retail investors by swapping their riskier junior bonds for more stable senior ones.

Germany, as de facto leader of the EU, is the main force behind the ECB’s opposition to supporting bailouts. Germany has elections next year and is also facing a looming exporter crisis. Politically and economically, it cannot assume the high burden of propping up the eurozone.

The EU must walk a fine line of being flexible enough to avoid financial collapse, but stringent enough to preserve the union’s institutional integrity – at least what remains of it. This approach has already been seen with France and Spain obtaining more flexibility with budget targets. But Italy’s Dec. 4 constitutional referendum created more leverage for the Italian government. Italian voters clearly rejected former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his negotiator approach with the EU, and this reflects the public’s growing desire for Italy to do what is best for Italy, even at the expense of the EU.

These economic problems naturally affect the lives of average Italians. Problems like inflation, stagnating growth and unemploymentaffect the pocketbook and daily life. A 4 billion euro bail-in for four smaller banks in Italy last year led to the suicide of a pensioner and protests, after 130,000 bank shareholders and bondholders lost their investments. Renzi was fiercely criticized, and residual anger drove many voters into the arms of anti-establishment parties.

Paolo Gentiloni, Italy’s new prime minister, has asked the EU to allow Italy to protect retail investors to avoid a repeat of Renzi’s experience. An estimated 40,000 households in Italy hold 2 billion euros of MPS’ subordinated bonds. The loss of life savings for 40,000 families in Italy has the potential to spark domestic unrest and lead to a flare-up in anti-EU sentiment.

All parties understand that if the EU does not allow the Italian government to protect its retail investors, nationalist parties like the Five Star Movement and the Northern League will become more popular. Both political parties have promised a Brexit-style referendum should they come to power in Italy’s legislative elections in 2018. It would also cause public pressure that the future prime minister, selected in February, would not be able to ignore. This would not only jeopardize the fragile political and economic landscape in Italy, but also the entire eurozone. While MPS is just one bank, the ripple effects of one Italian bank failing are numerous and deep.

The bank’s failure would severely escalate the crises already underway. Its salvation would allow Italy and the EU to fight another day, but it’s a far cry from solving the underlying structural causes of Italy’s problem.


Der Tagesspiegel, Berlin.

Ärger mit Erdogan: Regierung muss juristische Einschätzung zu Böhmermanns Satire offen legen

02.01.2017 15:16 Uhr. von Jost Müller-Neuhof

Das Oberverwaltungsgericht Berlin-Brandenburg hat das Auswärtige Amt nach einer Tagesspiegel-Klage zu Auskünften verpflichtet.

Die Bundesregierung muss offen legen, weshalb sie Jan Böhmermanns Erdogan-Satire für strafbar hielt. Das hat das Berlin-Brandenburger Oberverwaltungsgericht (OVG) auf eine Klage des Tagesspiegels in einem am Montag veröffentlichten Beschluss entschieden (Az.: OVG 6 S 29.16) und damit eine Beschwerde des Auswärtigen Amts (AA) gegen einen Beschluss des Verwaltungsgerichts abgewiesen. Das AA und das Justizministerium hatten das umstrittene „Schmähgedicht“ des TV-Unterhalters auf den türkischen Präsidenten als Beleidigung eines ausländischen Staatsoberhaupts eingestuft. Kanzlerin Angela Merkel (CDU) kritisierte den Fernsehbeitrag als „bewusst verletzend“, und das Kabinett erlaubte Ermittlungen, die mittlerweile eingestellt sind.

Trotzdem wurde die juristische Prüfung weiter geheim gehalten. Zu Unrecht, wie das OVG jetzt rechtskräftig feststellt: Die Regierung habe zwar behauptet, dass eine Offenlegung ihre Arbeit und das Verhältnis zur Türkei beeinträchtige, dies vor Gericht jedoch nicht überzeugend dargelegt. Es sei nicht ersichtlich, dass "durch das Auskunftsbegehren in den innersten Bereich der Willensbildung der Bundesregierung eingedrungen würde". Böhmermann hatte die Klage unterstützt und ein eigenes Interesse an den Informationen angemeldet. Zudem hatte er in einer Erklärung begrenzt auf den Fall auf den Schutz durch die Unschuldsvermutung verzichtet, um Auskünfte zu ermöglichen. In einer ersten Entscheidung in der Sache im August 2016 hatte das Verwaltungsgericht eine Tagesspiegel-Klage mit diesem Argument noch zurückgewiesen (Az.: VG 27 L 324.16).


Friedman’s Weekly: The Internet and the Tragedy of the Commons

The expectation of anonymity online has become extreme

By George Friedman

The tragedy of the commons is a concept developed by a British economist in the early 19th century and refreshed by ecologist Garrett Hardin in 1968. They were addressing different issues arising out of the commons, an area that is owned by no one but used by everyone. The commons could be a green space at the center of a town, public land used for agriculture or the atmosphere. The tragedy of the commons is that while many benefit from it, no one is responsible for it. Each person’s indifference has little effect. Everyone’s collective indifference will destroy the commons. The tragedy of the commons is that it is vital, vulnerable and destroyed by the very people who need it.

The internet has become the global commons. This has happened with lightning speed. In this case, the commons is not just one place. It is a collection of places where people meet, discuss the latest news and gossip, play games and perhaps do a little business. The internet, with its complex web of connections and modes of communication, from email to Twitter to Instagram, has had a profound effect on society. There used to be private life and the village green, where public life was lived. There is now private life and the lives we live online. We have lost intimacy but have gained access to a vast world.

The Russian Embassy in Washington on Dec. 31, 2016. U.S. President-elect Donald Trump praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for refraining from tit-for-tat expulsions of Americans in response to U.S. punitive measures over alleged Russian interference in the November election.

Good manners and the desire to be well thought of by your neighbors mitigated the tragedy of the physical commons. Even if you were not motivated to care for the commons, you were motivated to behave properly while using the commons. The incentive did not come from law but a sense of community; the community could censure and shun you if you failed to behave appropriately. Embarrassment and shame were compelling forces that shaped your behavior. What made both possible was that you were known. You would have to live with the consequences of your behavior, while trying to develop that thing which all humans crave – a good reputation and even being admired. The worst thing, the ultimate punishment of the Greeks, was to be exiled. The commons were still exploited tragically but not wantonly savaged.

The problem with the internet is anonymity and the lack of privacy. This seems contradictory, since anonymity is derived from ultimate privacy, but the internet makes it possible.

The world is now discussing whether the Russians hacked into the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta’s emails. This has evolved into a matter of geopolitics because the internet has become a battleground in several ways. One way is the constant invasion of privacy by hackers stealing emails and private correspondence. However, there is no way to know for certain who did it. The CIA may know, in rare circumstances, or may claim to know for political reasons. In general, it is difficult to find out who is violating your privacy and stealing your property.

Anonymity has another effect. On the village commons, everyone knows who you are and you are held responsible for what you say. On the global commons, you cannot be held responsible for what you say, because your identity is masked. The internet was created to function that way, less on purpose than by technical default. The consequence is that the most powerful human emotions, shame and the desire to be well thought of, don’t restrain what you say. False news has become a topic of discussion recently. False news has always existed, but it was readily distinguishable from reliable news by where it was published. An article from an unknown source was suspect. An article in the mainstream media was more respected.

Mainstream media outlets used to be the arbiters of the commons and their opinions meant something. They were respected for their banker-like primness. Their right to judge other sources of news was rooted in their meticulous fairness and visible objectivity. It is said that complete objectivity is impossible. That is likely true. But perfect love is also impossible. The lack of perfection does not excuse you from making your best efforts.

In a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, only 5 percent of Americans surveyed said that they had a great deal of confidence in the news media. This is a stunningly low number, but it is not a new phenomenon. What is striking is that this consistent lack of confidence in the media hasn’t created an uproar in newsrooms. I doubt that many reporters at The New York Times or The Washington Post voted for President-elect Donald Trump. That is fine, so long as the newspapers maintain rigorous objectivity. I am sure that the staff of both papers think they do, and it is likely that their friends, who share their views, also feel that way. But the majority of the public has its doubts. Therefore, in the public’s mind, these media outlets have given up their role as overseer of the commons of public discourse.

The anonymity of the web allows people to act without shame and to tell lies without fear. I would urge everyone not to believe that this behavior only comes from people on the right. During the George W. Bush administration, I read many preposterous claims about him from people who appeared to be liberals. These kind of claims were also made by their right-wing friends. There is no accountability for what people say or do, no shame attached.

Therefore, lies flourish, despicable charges are made, and some on each side are free to believe what they want to believe. The promise that the internet would create a democratic commons where all can be heard and the media loses the right to censor has been achieved. Censors and accountability no longer exist. Twitter is the place where malicious people with time on their hands can tell lies.

But in reality, the internet has not become more democratic. More fastidious citizens no longer visit the commons, or if they do, only to speak to those they know. It is increasingly the place of the marginal. It is interesting how the mainstream media has used Twitter to gain a sense of public opinion. I frequently wonder if the person from Twitter being quoted in a news story is a 12-year-old whose medications are no longer effective. The media doesn’t know. There are still worthwhile conversations to be had there, but many people now becoming less engaged.

The internet is a place with two problems, both masked. Some use it to steal private information and correspondence. Some use it to spew venom through the promise of anonymity. They are both destroying the global commons that had so much hope, in the same way that the village commons would be destroyed if it were invaded by people wearing masks, stealing people’s diaries and money and shouting obscene improbabilities. The tragedy of the commons today is not indifferent exploitation. The tragedy of the commons is that it can be dominated by criminals and those harassing others who want a civil conversation. It reminds me of Central Park in New York in the 1970s. Anyone who was there after dark was a mugger or crazy.

The right to privacy is an absolute, and in due course, as thieves keep breaking into people’s property (why thieves sometimes are called hackers is beyond me), we will simply return to older modes of communication. Perhaps phone calls and handwritten letters will be resurrected. Far better than having your secrets arrayed in public. But still, banks and companies like Geopolitical Futures have to do their business online, and the threat from criminals who can’t be identified is great.

But a greater problem is the media. The prestige press, as we used to call it, squandered its inheritance from prior generations of journalists and lost its right to pronounce the truth. Social media is now subject to Gresham’s Law: Bad ideas will drive out good ones. This can’t go on.

The first principle has to be to make masks illegal on the internet. Many countries and U.S. states have laws against wearing masks in public. In the United States, many of these laws were passed to stop the terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan, knowing that only anonymity and a large crowd made its members brave. But other countries passed similar laws on the reasonable assumption that someone hiding his face is up to no good. In the end, it came down to this: If you want to be in public, you must show your face. You have a right to privacy in your home and on your property. You don’t have a right to privacy when you choose to go into public spaces.

The problem is technical. Today’s computers descended without dramatic change from those available 20 years ago. The internet got larger with more bandwidth but is still as primitive as when it was first designed for a small group of scientists wanting to share information. The security that exists today consists of complex add-ons that require sophisticated managers, and they still can be broken into. Security can’t be an add-on. It has to be at the heart of the system, and its first requirement should be to eliminate anonymity, so that criminals can be identified and so that the vile will know shame.

The reason I am writing on this topic is that we are facing an international confrontation between Russia and the U.S. over whether Russia stole emails to help Trump become president. Some also claim that the Russians penetrated the U.S. power grid. The problem with this issue is quite simply that the system is so primitive that proving the Russians are responsible is impossible. An entity can penetrate a critical system like the power grid without anyone knowing who did it.

The situation is getting out of hand. The internet has become not just the commons for private individuals but the business and government center of the world. Therefore, some limits need to be put in place. Hiding your identity already is illegal in certain circumstances. You must provide ID to buy alcohol or get on a plane. I expect privacy in my home, but when I go into the world, I want assurance that the people out there don’t mean me harm. The design of the internet denies me that. The arbiters of propriety have themselves collapsed. Crazy people are making insane charges in public. This has to stop.

It is in the interest of the tech community to do something about this issue because if thieves run lose and social media is dominated by sociopaths, people will treat the internet like they did Central Park. And if the tech community believes that it is so dependent on internet privacy that it can’t budge on this issue, then it is as deluded as the major media has been. Someone broke into the power grid and we don’t know who. Enough is enough. Wars have been started over less.



see our letter on:

*Herausgegeben von Udo von Massenbach, Bärbel Freudenberg-Pilster, Joerg Barandat*



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