Germans fear for future of döner kebab after EU objects to change in rules

Flag of Germany.svg

Germans fear for future of döner kebab after EU objects to change in rules
Photo: DPA
The EU Parliament is holding up a new law on using the ingredient phosphate in frozen kebab meat, threatening the very future of Germany’s cherished döner, Bild reported on Thursday.

Blaming “socialists and greens” on the EU Parliament’s Health Committee, Germany’s largest selling daily newspaper claimed that “döner kebabs are about to be put through the mincer.”

The Health Committee on Tuesday objected to a proposal by the European Commission (EC) to allow frozen döner meat to contain phosphate. The additive is currently allowed in fresh meat, but there is no explicit regulation on its use in frozen döner meat.

The committee claimed there are “serious health concerns” surrounding the use of phosphate, citing a 2012 scientific review which linked the additive to heart disease. Other assessments have however disputed the link.

The EU Parliament will debate the proposal by the end of the year, and if an absolute majority rejects the EC’s decision a new law will have to be written.

Phosphate is currently used in the frozen döner skewers as a means of retaining water and flavour in the meat.

But Susanne Melior, an SPD politician in the European Parliament on Thursday rejected the notion that the döner was under threat.

She said that the Health Committee raised the objection because it wanted to wait on an EU study into phosphate before green lighting a change in the law. The study is set to release its findings next year.

“Nothing is happening and no döner kebab is in danger, so naturally no jobs are in danger either,” she said.

“At the moment we just want to wait until the results of the study are published. Why would we make the use of phosphate more explicit before we have seen the results?” she told Tagespiegel.

Melior also cautioned though, that if the EU report assesses phosphate as a health risk, many more foods than just döner could face tighter regulations.

Phosphate is an additive in many foods from cake to sausage.

‘Discrimination against the döner’

Bild pointed out in its report out that some of its other favourite fast foods have already had the okay from the EU parliament to contain phosphate: the additive was given the green light to be used in pork chops and bratwurst back in 2014.

“This is a clear case of discrimination against döner,” the tabloid complained.

And as trivial as the issue might seem, Bild reports that 110,000 jobs in Germany are reliant on the döner kebab. Of the 500 tonnes of döner produced in the EU every day, 80 percent is made in Germany – and almost all of this meat is delivered frozen.

“This could ring the death knell for the entire döner industry in the EU,” Kenan Koyuncu, chairman of the  Federal Association of Döner Producers told the tabloid.

Meanwhile, Renate Sommer, health spokeswoman for the Christian Democrats, accused the Green party of “fear mongering.”

“An EU citizen consumes as much phosphate in a whole year through the intake of döner as they would by drinking 1.5 litres of Coke,” she told Bild.


Source  :  The Local Germany

Rainbow Flags Get Green Light at Russia’s World Cup

Flag of Russia.svg

Nov 30, 2017 — 17:11— Update: 17:19

Spectators at the World Cup next year will be allowed to fly rainbow flags during matches, a top Russian football official said Thursday.

Despite a law in Russia prohibiting gay propaganda, World Cup ambassador Alexei Smertin said at a Moscow news conference on discrimination that rainbow flags would be tolerated.

“There will definitely be no ban on wearing rainbow symbols in Russia,” Smertin was cited as saying by the Associated Press. “It’s clear you can come here and not be fined for expressing feelings.”

“The law is about propaganda to minors…I can’t imagine that anyone is going to go into a school and speak,” Smertin said, adding it was unlikely that gay fans would be found in infringement of the law.

Russia passed the legislation in 2013, which led to the banning of gay pride events and discussions of gay rights where children might be present.

Russian officials took a similar stance on the issue ahead of Sochi hosting the 2014 Olympic Games. President Putin had then said that gay people would be welcome in the city but must “leave the children in peace.”


Source  :  The Moscow Times

Russian State Firms Allowed to Hide Public Contracts as U.S. Sanctions Loom

Flag of Russia.svg

Nov 30, 2017 — 19:02— Update: 19:02

Russian state companies will no longer be required to disclose the names of their contractors, making it easier for businesses to avoid being targeted by U.S. sanctions or cover up corrupt practices.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed the decree on Monday and the secrecy measure will last until July 1, 2018, the Vedomosti business daily reported Thursday.

Under the new rules, state firms can hide internal financial transactions and contractors can do business with companies under sanctions without the risk of being caught, a source close to the state-owned Rosneft oil giant told Vedomosti.

The U.S. listed 33 Russian defense companies and six intelligence organizations as potential targets of new restrictions in retaliation for Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election and its support for regional conflicts.

American companies could be banned from doing “significant” business with the listed entities starting February.

By reducing transparency in state companies’ dealings, the new decree will also allow officials to cover up corrupt practices.

“State companies are very reluctant to report their real spending to the Russian public,” Lyubov Sobol, an anti-corruption lawyer for corruption activist and opposition leader Alexei Navalny, told Vedomosti.

State spending, for example on construction work being done in Moscow, is often kept hidden as state secrets to avoid scrutiny, she said.

Last year, Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said government procurement was one of the most corrupt areas in the Russian economy.


Source  :  The Moscow Times

A Conspiracy Around the Romanovs’ Murder Has Alarmed Russian Jews

Flag of Russia.svg

Almost 100 years have passed, but the Russian Orthodox Church cannot let it rest

Nov 30, 2017 — 12:07— Update: 18:49

Alexander Ryumin / TASS

Jewish groups in Russia are on edge this week after a prominent Russian bishop gave life to a conspiracy theory that Tsar Nicholas II and his family were murdered in a “ritual killing.”

The uproar came after a conference in Moscow on Monday, summarizing the findings of two separate investigations into the execution of the Romanov family — one led by the Russian Orthodox Church, and the other by Russia’s Investigative Committee.

Several theories were under consideration, Father Tikhon Shevkunov — a priest widely rumored to be President Vladimir Putin’s spiritual advisor — said at Moscow’s Sretensky Monastery. But “a significant part of the Church commission has no doubt that this was a ritual murder.”

The comment hit a nerve among Jewish groups, who say the conspiracy has anti-Semitic roots. Even more concerning, they say, is that an Investigative Committee representative said that it too would be examining the validity of the claim.

What happened?

In July 2018, Russia will mark the centenary of the murders of Tsar Nicholas II and his wife and their five children, who were executed by Bolshevik revolutionaries in Yekaterinburg.

After canonizing Tsar Nicholas II and his family in 2000, the Russian Orthodox Church pushed for a fresh investigation into their deaths in 2015. With the centenary of the deaths approaching, their significance in Russia has again taken on meaning.

Marina Molodtsova, a spokesperson for the committee, said at the conference that the investigators would conduct a “psychological-historical examination” of the claim that they were killed in a ritual killing.

What is the conspiracy?

On Tuesday, Father Tikhon Shevkunov elaborated on the theory in an interview with the state-run RIA Novosti news agency.

“Quite a few people involved in the execution,” he was cited as saying, “saw the killing of the deposed Russian emperor as a special ritual of revenge.”

He added that Yakov Yurovsky, a Jew who participated in the executions, later boasted about his “sacral historic mission.”

The purpose was to “ritually and symbolically end the 300-year Romanov dynasty,” Shevkunov added.

Vladimir Solovyov, who for 14 years investigated the murders for the Investigative Committee, spoke about the conspiracy with Ekho Moskvy editor-in-chief Alexei Venediktov in early October.

Supporters of the theory, Solovyov said, believe a local Jewish sect “burned the bodies [of the Romanovs] and drank the ashes with tea.”

During the conversation, Solovyov tried to put the matter to bed. “There are no grounds for believing that it was a ritual murder,” he said.

The conspiracy’s roots

The head of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia Alexander Boroda denounced the theory immediately after it resurfaced on Monday. “The accusation of Jews in the ritual murder is one of the most ancient anti-Semitic slanders,” he said.

Speaking to The Moscow Times, Oleg Budnitsky, a historian focused on World War II at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics agreed, saying that the theory is “total nonsense.”

“It comes from an old myth that Jews used the blood of Christians in ritual killings,” he said.

On top of that, some of the leading Bolsheviks of the revolution, including Yurovsky — one of the Romanov family’s executioners — were Jewish, which has helped the conspiracy theory flourish.

Theories of a Jewish conspiracy have circled among fringe anti-Semitic groups for a century, but many are surprised to see them given credence in official circles.

While Shevkunov and Molodtsova — the bishop and investigator — did not explicitly connect the “ritual killing” with Jews on Monday, Budnitsky, the historian, said “everyone” knows that the theory has anti-Semitic roots.

What to read into it?

It is unclear why the conspiracy was brought up in official circles a century after the murders, the spokesperson of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, Boruch Gorin, told The Moscow Times on Wednesday.

Noting that anti-Semitism has long been a running undercurrent in Russia, Gorin said that the re-emergence of the theory was “shocking.”

But, he said, it signals a strong anti-Semitic current in the Orthodox Church and at the highest levels of government, unless the Kremlin denounces it.

“If the government doesn’t strongly denounce this, then it shows that at any moment anti-Semitic propaganda can come back into full force like during the late 1970s in the Soviet Union,” he said. “This can blow up anti-Semitism very forcefully.”

But on Wednesday, the Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov was cited by state media brushing the controversy aside.

“This is not a matter of our agenda,” he said.


Source  :  The Moscow Times