On May 22, 2015, Ireland held a public vote concerning the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage in the country. In the weeks and months leading up to the campaigns, it became very apparent that this referendum was unlike any other vote Ireland has ever held.
Providing food and heat or even paying £50 (€70) for school camping for their child can be difficult to fit in single parent’s pockets. The government’s austerity measures have led to more child poverty in working single parents.
The integration of Middle Eastern immigrants has been a subject of heated debate across Europe in recent years. In Denmark, various aspects of integration could witness restrictions as a result of the upcoming national election.
We have written a couple of articles about the new Finnish school reform that is to be implemented by 2016. In May we visited Helsinki for a week interviewing the teachers union, the ministry, a principal and the list goes on.
We hope you will get an impression on what the reform is about, what the change are, and why it is a big thing for some, and a small thing for others.
In France, sex can be bought online, in a van, or in the woods. It’s a part of society that not everyone accepts—though many do wholeheartedly—and that is rarely understood. Now, a law making its way through the French government is pushing for the end of prostitution.
As many as 449 children born in Denmark in 2013 and 478 in the last year were the result of artificial insemination with women without a partner. The popularity of this method of getting children has changed the status of single moms and society gets new type of family.
According to conventional thinking, Iceland is a content and prosperous nation isn’t it?
Apparently it’s not as content as we’ve been lead to believe.
Strikes have plagued the country since the beginning of April over bitter wage disputes and Pirate’s are now the most popular political party.
The Icelandic government has downsized its’ parental leave to such an extend that fewer fathers can afford to use their rights.
By Cecilie Thorup
“The system forces me to take my paternity leave but then at the same time they can’t financially secure me and my family. Ultimately it harms my daughter because she has to be sent into daycare sooner than otherwise,” the Icelandic father Jón Ingí Gunnarsson says.
Read more about the Icelandic parental system HERE.
A team of three psychologists face violence head on
Men who abuse their partners get treatment at a small center in Roskilde to overcome their violent tendencies.
By Rachael Vasquez
Peer Nielsen balls his hand up tightly and holds it in front of his face.
“I never use the fist,” he says, describing what he often hears from men he sees.
“Okay that’s great,” he drops his fist and shrugs. “But what did you use then?”
Neilson is a psychologist at Alternativ til Vold, or Alternative to Violence, a treatment center for abusive men in Roskilde, a small town outside of Copenhagen. The organization is part of a larger network of centers across northern Europe that got its start as the first center in Europe specifically designed to treat violent men.
Neilson says most of their clients don’t fit the stereotypical picture of an abusive boyfriend or husband.
“Very few [of the men] have a general aggression problem,” he says. “Nobody would think that they would have this problem.”
Neilson says when he first starts talking with a client it can be really hard to get them to speak openly about their violence.
“It’s very shameful for most of the men,” Neilson says. “And when you are ashamed of something you’re automatically being defensive.”
Stine Dalsgaard Jorgensen, another psychologist at the center, says when she starts seeing a client, it’s important to have a clear picture of how he and his partner fight.
“What did you do, how did you do it, what did your partner do, what did she say, did you guys start fighting the day before” she says.
This way, Jorgensen says, she can help the client start to understand how the argument escalates and what triggers his violence.
Jorgensen and Neilson talk about how to de-escalating when you’re feeling angry:
Dealing with the other half
Despite being set up primarily to treat men, Jorgensen says Alternative to Violence also treats about a fourth of the men’s partners.
Neilson says the partners come separately and see counselors on their own.
“We don’t want to let them think that we think this is a couple issue,” Neilson says. “This is a personal issue for the man; he’s being violent and he has to do something about that.”
Jorgensen says when they see the partners, they are often very alert and nervous, constantly checking their partner’s mood and trying not to provoke him.
Neilson says treating the partner on her own gives her the opportunity to get over some of the anxiety and psychological damage left over from the violence.
Jorgenson says most of the partners stay with the men throughout the counseling, but some also decide to leave.
The men also may decide to divorce their partner, Neilson says.
“When he stops being violent and all that’s left are the troubles, then he can start seeing her for what kind of person she is,” he says.
Neilson is careful to say that this in no way means she caused or deserved the violence, but that sometimes a client will realize he and his partner weren’t well suited for each other anyways.
“He has used a lot of energy trying to control her and when he stops being violent, some of the men recognize that this is not the partner for me.”
Treatment comes full circle in group therapy
Aside from one-on-one sessions with a psychologist, men at Alternative to Violence also have the option to participate in a group counseling session with other men in the program. Neilson says the group is really helpful in giving the men an opportunity to relate to each other and also to put themselves in their partners’ shoes.
“When one person tells a story the others recognize parts of it and can relate to it,” Neilson says. “Then [they feel] we’re not alone and [ask] what did you do and suggest what might be the feeling behind this.”
Neilson says that for the most of his patients, he can feel some motivation to make a change.
“Even the worst cases you can contact that [motivation’,” he says. “And then there is hope.”
No agreement by researchers on study that finds Danish women face most violence in EU
A study found that women in Denmark face the most violence in the European Union, but a year later some Danish researchers still don’t believe it.
By Rachael Vasquez
In Denmark, the fight for gender equality is generally seen as fought and won.
The country ranks number 5 on the United Nations Gender Inequality Index (meaning women experience extremely high levels of equality), it has the second highest number of women in the workforce in the European Union according to the state statistics agency, Statistic Denmark, and the country celebrated the centennial of women getting the right to vote this year.
While American policymakers are still debating the merits of equal pay and maternity leave, Danish women enjoy 52 weeks of paid maternity leave after having a child and have been protected by equal pay legislation since 1976.
For those reasons and more it was a shock when the Fundamental Rights Agency, a European Union organization tasked with monitoring human rights throughout Europe, released a report in 2014 that showed 52 percent of Danish women have been exposed to physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15; the highest in all of the EU countries.
Figure by Fundamental Rights Agency
LOKK, a grassroots organization in Denmark that operates shelters for abused women, agrees that there is a big problem with violence against women in the country.
One woman who didn’t identify herself described her breaking point in a short video for the organization.
“One day I realized I had enough,” she said. She had cropped red hair and a tired look on her face.
“We had a fight the night before, after he had gotten off the night shift,” she continued “I dropped my kids off at daycare and I just got in the car and realized I had enough. I went home, packed my bags and left for the shelter.”
Figure by Fundamental Rights Agency
Study rejected by Danish researchers
Karin Helweg-Larsen, a medical doctor previously at the National Institute of Public Health, has studied violence against women in Denmark for over 40 years and disagrees with the findings of the study.
Larsen says the figures should really be closer to 100 percent of women.
“Have you never been pushed in the street or insulted by anyone in a bus,” she asks. “I think it’s really ridiculous.”
Larsen goes on to say that most of the interviews were conducted face-to-face, but in the Nordic countries they were done by phone. She points out that the number of people who opted to participate was also very low in Denmark.
“If you find that violence is a very big problem for you then you might be more willing to answer questions by telephone,” she says. “[You might also say], ‘this is not anything for me, I’ve never been insulted so I don’t want to participate.”
Inge Henningsen, a statistician who studies gender equality at Copenhagen University says that the methodology used by the Fundamental Rights Agency takes away much of the risk of different interpretations of violence by asking very specific questions.
“The questions are not about violence, the questions are about concrete incidences,” she says. “Being slapped, being pushed, being beaten.”
Henningsen says that then, out of the respondents’ answers, the researchers construct a definition of violence.
“Having your hair pulled is having your hair pulled,” she says. “You can think that’s a big thing or you can not think that’s a big thing but that’s not what you’re being asked about. You’re being asked, ‘has this happened or has this not happened?’”
Robin May Schott, a philosopher and senior researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies, says that the lack of attention the study received in Denmark is problematic. She points to the high rate of labor participation and alcohol consumption as possible explanations for the high frequency of reported violence.
“Women are of course out and in the public and in the nightlife,” Schott says. “There is a very high use of alcohol and a correlation between alcohol abuse and reported partner violence.”
Henningsen says that the critics who reject the study don’t really question the accuracy of the Danish figures.
“What they say is, ‘the women in those countries, they wouldn’t call it violence because they’re so used to it in those backwards countries;’ that’s what they hint at,” she says.“I say if it is so, it is not 13 million women in the EU being subjected to violence; it might be 26 million or 30 million. The problem is much bigger.”
Europe v Facebook initiative has two lawsuits filed. Can they change the way Facebook and other American IT companies treat the internet privacy of Europeans?
By Romain Bertrand and Tomáš Miklica
Schrems vs. Facebook. David vs. Goliath. European law vs. American companies. Law student and leader of Europe v Facebook initiative Maximilian Schrems ignites a discussion on privacy protection by pointing a finger at Facebook in front of European Court of Justice and Regional Court in Vienna.
Beatrix Engelmann shruggs her shoulders and then she smiles apologetically. “I don’t really know. Maybe,” she says like many times during the interview. The topic is Europe v Facebook initiative, more precisely the lawsuit Viennese law student Maximilian Schrems filed in Austria against Mark Zuckerberg’s successful internet company because of Facebook’s alleged lack of respect towards European law for privacy protection. The interviewee is the Viennese Regional Court for Civil Matters’ Vice-President and also the spokesperson of the law case. Yet she is mostly unaware of what the problem is and even doubts that this case will be admitted by the Court. She is not to be mocked. However, she substitutes the real enemy of Schrems – the human ignorance.
But Schrems understands and highlights the important part – according to him the millions of Facebook users are extremely vulnerable to privacy loss. “The right to data protection is a fundamental right in the European Union, but at the same time very little companies respect it. Facebook is just one of many that have a bad reputation when it comes to the handling of users’ data,” he explains on his website.
Privacy for China
If Schrems is right, more than 1.35 billion people (a number of Facebook users from its Q3 earnings report and estimated population of China) face privacy breach in most of data categories – from the obvious ones like name or date of birth to the more surprising items like removed friends or the information about where did they connect from. And even though logic implies those data would be kept only for a limited time, as Schrems exemplifies, information from any point of existence of an account is still accesible no matter how many years have passed.
Moreover, despite the lack of an easy way to get permanently rid of old data and unsufficient transparency of Facebook’s rules on privacy protection, the social network constantly asks for more disclosure of users – e.g. the recent request for using only real name on Facebook instead of nicknames and abbreviations.
For Europe v Facebook initiative it is not only the amount of data Facebook collects that is alarming – after (denied) allegations that Facebook provided backdoor access to its servers and data to intelligence agencies or governments the usage of those data becomes an issue too. For Roland ProzessFinanz AG, a German litigation group that supports Schrems’s lawsuit financially, even misuse for commercial purposes would be a problem.
“We believe that data protection is of utmost importance for free citizens and our civil societies,” says Arndt Eversberg, CEO of Roland ProzessFinanz AG. “The unlimited collection of data by Facebook (or others) and its analysis, use for commercial purposes violates European Data Protection Laws. Maximilian is a convincing fighter for data protection and against the ignorance of US companies of European Law. In a nutshell we are strongly convinced that the goals of Maximilian and his lawyer Wolfram Proksch are highly valuable and must be supported. In addition we believe that the trial will be successful at the end and Facebook will change its business policy.”
“The way Facebook Ireland handles personal data has been subject to thorough review by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner over the past year,” European office of Facebook, based in Ireland, responds to the allegations in a public statement. “The two detailed reports produced by the DPC demonstrate that Facebook Ireland complies with European data protection principles and Irish law. We are in a constant dialogue with stakeholders all over Europe on a variety of issues. And we have been in direct contact with Europe v Facebook as with other critics to discuss points of criticism. Nonetheless we have some vocal critics who will never be happy whatever we do and whatever the DPC concludes.”
( Click on the link above to access to the Infographics on the web )
David is born
To Schrems indeed the Data Protection Commissioner’s reports do not mean much. To him they are just an extra argument he has to listen at all the courts he was able to summon Facebook’s representatives before. So far Maximilian Schrems was heard as a claimant at the European Court of Justice and the Viennese Regional Court for Civil Matters. This above all points towards his stubborness, given the situation at his alma mater.
While data security is getting more and more important in the human rights discourse, the University of Vienna where Maximilian Schrems graduated and is now working on his PhD does not have any special office for digital law. Any experts dealing with it are therefore officialy assigned to faculties with a broader field of activity – such as the International Law faculty. And none of the classes dealing with enforcing the law in cyberspace is obligatory.
In 2011 Schrems had to spend a semester in the United States’ Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley to seriously immerge in the data protection topics. There he attended a meeting with Facebook privacy lawyer Ed Palmieri who shocked him with his lack of knowledge about European situation and laws. Four years later the 27-year-old student is playing the part of Hebrew king in a case Austrian media named “David vs. Goliath”.
After what he heard from Palmieri Maximilian Schrems requested (under the European right to access) Facebook’s records on him. He received a disc containing over 1 200 pages of data which are now on-line (but redacted) on his website. Then he filed several complaints against the company which resulted in his meeting with Facebook’s Director of Policy in Europe Richard Allan and another company executive in Vienna in February 2012. This was partly successful for Facebook as it managed to reduce the torrent of complaints and Schrems stated he will focus only on a few remaining problems.
Facebook did not hear from their biggest European opponent until June 2014 when Schrems, acting already as a representative of the Europe v Facebook initiative, brought a case against Facebook in the Irish High Court. The case follows the PRISM surveillance program scandal and the allegation that Facebook provided United States National Security Agency with private data of its European users. It was later referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union where the first hearing was held on 24 March 2015.
“Yesterday we had a very interesting hearing on Safe Harbor,” wrote Schrems on his website the next day. “The European Commission found itself in the ‘hot seat’. The Irish DPC was so keen on highlighting its limitations, that a judge has started to wonder why a privacy watchdog would insist on its restrictions this much and if this is related to Ireland as the tech hub. Most member states supported the view that PRISM cannot be legal under ‘Safe Harbor’ (an European Union-United States agreement that allows over 3 000 U.S. companies, including Facebook to repatriate European personal data) and EU law. The final result will very likely be available after the summer. The advocate general will deliver his opinion on 24 June 2015.”
Schrems v Facebook
Even though the clash of European law with Facebook’s untransparent policy might have been loud enough to alert experts, for the common users the problem was still too far at this point. Schrems needed to bring the case to a personal level. And Europe v Facebook initiative allowed him to do so.
In spite of the fact that Austrian law does not recognize class action he filed another lawsuit at the Regional Court for Civil Matters in Vienna. In this lawsuit he legally represents only himself as a complaining customer of Facebook (joined by other six claimants) but symbolically he speaks for the 25 000 people that supported his cause by filling an on-line form at his website. To them – besides the change of Facebook rules – Schrems promised €500 per person if he succeeds.
However, the Viennese court first needs to decide whether there is really a lawsuit. On 8 April 2015 a preparing hearing was held and now the court will either accept the case or decline it. “Personally I don’t think the case will stay here,” says Beatrix Engelmann, spokesperson of the court. Even then it would not be finished. “Then the case needs to be assessed again,” Arndt Eversberg insists. “However, we strongly believe that the court will decide in favour of Maximilian. But the difference between the various claimants is interesting: they come from Austria and from other European countries and of course from various countries around the world. Will the Austrian court have jurisdiction over their claims as well? I think we´ll get a first decision sometime this summer and then we´ll take it from there.”
Find out what Facebook knows
According to the guide Maximilian Schrems posted on his website, the only way how to obtain a complete summary of all the information Facebook has gathered and stored about you is to send an official request to the company’s European headquarters in Ireland. In case the company will obstruct you need to follow up with a complaint to the Irish Data Protection Commissioner. And then Facebook still has a month to respond to your request. A simpler solution would be to request this file using an option in Facebook settings while you are logged into your Facebook account. It takes no longer than an hour before Facebook accepts your request and lets you download a file which should contain all the data you gave to Zuckerberg’s company. In Schrems’s opinion it does not and most of the information Facebook will not share back with you unless you complain and complain all over again…
Ireland as IT haven
Facebook is not the only company that runs its European part of business from Ireland. Personal data from “the network of professionals” LinkedIn is also handled from Irish office of the American company and starting this year so is the data of Twitter users. And unlike Facebook, Twitter now has different terms of service and policy for users outside United States meaning greater privacy protection for them. However, the level of privacy protection is not considered sufficient when it comes to these companies since they have clearly chosen Ireland for its lenient laws on data protection. Experts expect that the situation might change with upcoming General Data Protection Regulation which will supersede the existing Data Protection Directive – the European Commission wants to adopt this law in early 2016 at the latest and it plans to unify data protection within the European Union.
“Two new drugs are created every week” this is the conclusion of the last report of the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug addiction. These news kinds of drugs called Designer drug counter the law and are legal. Focus on this new drug market in Belgium.
Written by Pauline Coppieters.
The worldwide expansion of a new kind of drug called New Psychoactive Substancesposes many challenges among the policy makers. This drug, designed to avoid the illegal status, is a threat for the public health.
The sun is already high in the sky when Louis[*] appears at Vrijthof, a little square next to Maastricht station, a city at the border of Belgium and the Netherlands. He didn’t sleep for the past two days, it seems he had a powdery weekend. Native of Belgium, he is achieving a PhD in Mathematics in the Netherlands. He is passionate about informatics and an addict, quite a nasty mix. “I have always been interested in all different kind of drugs, I knew a lot of things about them before my first drug experience” says Louis.
Since his first user-experience, Louis has tried a lot of different kinds. But those, which he is very fond off and interested, are labeled New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), or in the jargon of the users “Designer drugs”. As explains it Michaël Hogge from Eurotox, the Socio-epidemiological Observatory of Alcohol and Drug in Federation Wallonia-Brussels, the NPS are legally derived from a conventional drug by reproducing approximately the same effects. “These are products manufactured in laboratories on the basis of synthetic molecules, which are going to be transformed in order to get a new product. More generically, it’s all molecules of synthetic origin that appear on the drug market as a substitute of conventional illegal drugs.”
Contrary to what their naming suggest, this is not a new phenomenon. The term “new” substance references to molecules, which were unknown a couple years ago. However in the 70’s, there was already a small circle of users. In the 90’s, the phenomenon expanded itself and the real outbreak was at the beginning of this millennium. In 2014, the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drugs Addiction (EMCDDA) detected 101 new substances across the EU. This number is twice as much than three years ago, which proves the trend is on the rise. The European Institution has also identified more than 653 European websites selling designers drugs to EU consumers.
This label, Designer drugs, covers an impressive number of synthetic products with various effects. There are synthetic substances of classic drugs such as cocaine or cannabis, but also new drugs, which has never stretched in it before. They’re usually present in the form of powders or crystals. “The effect on the NPS depends on the product. Some of them have a similar effect as the original one and others are stronger.” adds Louis.
Like Louis, people are more and more willing to try these news substances. This expansion can be related with the evolution of the chemical knowledge, but especially due to the development of the Internet. “Internet allows a worldwide distribution. Everything happens behind a computer, everybody can easily order a substance and then a few days later they receive a package in the mail containing their ordered drug.” explains Bruno Valkeneers from “Liaison anti-prohibitionist”, a Belgian association that distributes information and promotes open debate on drugs.
The production of the NPS takes place mostly in India or China. These firms look like pharmaceutical companies, but most of them aren’t. Then, the user can buy them online through a rising number of website dedicated to the sale of NPS. There are also in Europe workover areas. They import large quantities of NPS and then they’ll take care of all the packaging that attracts mostly young people and sell them online.
Like underlines it Louis, it’s important to distinguish the different kind of websites. “Websites with attractive graphic and packaging offer most of the time products of poorer quality because the sole objective of the seller is profit. These are often scams that do not deliver the ordered drugs or cut them with other cheap substances, which can make them even more dangerous.” The good quality drugs can be found on more discreet website who are difficult to find and an invitation is required. Taking his computer from his bag, Louis shows the best ones. “Every aware NPS addict knows that they need to avoid flashy websites”.
The grey area
“The NPS market has developed itself as a consequence of the prohibition” explains Bruno Valkeneers. “Drugs laws have specific lists with several products, which are prohibited, anything outside this list is allowed. So from a prohibited molecule, scientists can remove a branch, transform the molecule and the drug is no longer in the list.” This is a grey area, it’s not totally legal, because an authorization is required to be in possession of those kind of chemical substances, but not illegal according to the drugs law.
The chemical history of the ecstasy
The MDA also called 3.4-methylenedioxyamphetamine is the parent drug of ecstasy. It’s an amphetamine derivative, which appeared on the market in the 60’s and was banned in the 70’s.
The MDMA also called 3.4-methylenedioxy-N-methamphetamine or ecstasy is a unique derivative of amphetamine that excites the nervous system. Known as the love pills, the Merck laboratories have discovered it in 1914. On the market in 70’s, the MDMA was prohibited in the mid 80’s.
Then the MDEA and MBDB appeared in the 80’s to counter the MDMA’s law.
Today, new derivatives appear regularly such as the 2-AI, 2-AT, MDAI, MDMAI and 5-APB, 6-APB, 5-APBD, 6-APBD, 5-MAPB, 6-MAPB… These are all NPS and derivative of the MDMA.
“The prohibition motivated me to become a dealer of Designer drugs. When the government banned mushrooms, I started to buy similar hallucinogens on the web, which were legal. As I knew people around me were also interested to get some of these psychoactive substances, I bought them in a big amount and started my business.” explains Louis.
As the Research Chemicals aren’t considered as illegal products in the national and international law, the narcotics law can’t prosecute the person for possession of these drugs. “The additional conjuring trick for the producer to avoid any responsibility is the label “Not for human consumption”. By offering these products as incense, bath salts, fertilizers, etc. the producers circumvent laws on human consumption products.” explains Michaël Hogge.
The state delay
Because the number of NPS is steadily increasing and when one become illegal, producers create a new one, the State is always a step behind. It takes time before a new product can be pinned as potentially dangerous for the health and therefore being added to the list of prohibited products. At the European level, it takes about two years to prohibit the marketing of a product. “During this period, there is no legal obstruction to the sale of those new psychoactive molecules. This allows time for entrepreneurs to sell their stocks, create new product and herring.” adds Michaël Hogge.
To counter this problem, the European Commission launched some initiatives. First, they created in 1998 the Early Warning system, a health-monitoring tool supervised by the EMCDDA. The system was implemented in every Member States and it aimed to detect new substances at the same time as assessing their risks. This flow of information led to the prohibition of the consumption of a product. As it was not enough and the number of new molecules rose every day, the European Commission launched a proposal for a Directive in 2013. This proposal suggested to hasten the bans on specific substances, which represented a treat for the human health. Up till now, it’s still missing the approval of the European Council.
Belgium has decided to go further than this European decision by banning not some substance but every NPS. The Belgian answer to the problem is to forbid a family of products based on a generic classification. “The Belgian law will no longer consider that specific products need to be banned, but families of products that share a common molecular structure.” says Bruno Valkeneer. Proposed in 2014, the law is not yet implemented.
The debate on legalization
This prohibitive response of the Belgian state worries associations working on the field. They fear the consequences of this new system, which could create more dangerous situations for the human health. “This ban will promote the drugs’ black market. It will fall into the hands of unscrupulous manufacturers because the risks are greater for them.” stresses Michaël Hogge. Drugs on prohibited markets are of poorer quality because the different intermediates cut the product with various substances to make a higher profit margin. At the end, the consumer could have in hand a product cut with products, which are even more dangerous, that the psychoactive molecule itself.
As underlines it “Eurotox” and “Liaison anti-prohibitionist”, the demand will always be there and the prohibition has no effect on the consumption. “We can dismantle a clandestine laboratory, another one will open elsewhere, we can arrest a drug dealer, and another one will take over his business. The problem won’t dissappear.” explains Michaël Hogge from Eurotox. According to Louis, a legalized market is the best solution. “People will always find a way to get drugs. What we need today is a system that can educate and supervise the drug market. We need to pass from a deregulated system to a legalized one, which offer rules and security.”
The danger of these drugs is real. As the Designer drugs have never been tested on human, the consumer takes a risk when using them. The vast majority of these products does not mention the exact composition of their content and in which quantity to use it. Some of them require a really accurate dosing because the barrier between a funny and deadly dosing is close. In addition, information about the effects on the short and long terms are missing due to the fact that most of these molecules are new. However death can’t be excluded if the NPS are taken in bad conditions or mix with other substances.
These new kinds of drugs are sobering. It’s a revolution in the consumption of drugs as well as in the public heath policies. As it’s a new phenomenon, time is needed to adopt the best solution. Legislation or prohibition, the result has to take into account the users and endorse a long-term vision.
[*] The name has been change in order to keep the anonymity of the person interviewed