TIME europe

Jews Face Renewed Doubt Over Their Future in Europe

After terror attack in Copenhagen - Memorial service
Britta Pedersen—dpa/Corbis People attend a memorial service held for those killed on by a 22-year-old gunman, in Copenhagen, Denmark, Feb. 16, 2015.

Denmark's synagogue attack is the latest in a series across Europe

Denmark will do everything it can to protect Jews, said its Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt to reporters Monday. But across town, the thousands of bouquets that had been laid at the gates of a synagogue where a gunman killed a Jewish man over the weekend were a painful reminder that they hadn’t been protected enough. Here and across Europe, the attack added to a growing fear among Jews that the continent was once again not safe for them.

About 80 people were celebrating a bar mitzvah at the synagogue on the central Copenhagen street of Krystalgade in the early hours of Feb. 15 when Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein shot and killed synagogue member Dan Uzan, who was guarding the entrance to the building. Earlier El-Hussein had killed one and injured three at a meeting on freedom of expression organized by Lars Vilks, a cartoonist who had depicted the Prophet Muhammad as a dog.

Coming so soon after a similar attack in Paris, in which two gunmen killed cartoonists and editors at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, while another killed five in two other incidents, the Copenhagen events have sharply undermined the small Danish Jewish community’s already deteriorating sense of security.

“It’s terrifying,” says Marianne Isaksen, a member of the congregation where Dan Uzan was killed. She and her husband Alf, both in their 70s, knew Uzan, and had come out to Krystalgade to commiserate with other synagogue members and pay their respects. “We knew things were getting worse, but we never thought it could happen here.”

And yet increasingly, it does happen throughout Europe. Across the continent, anti-Semitic incidents are on the rise. On Sunday, hundreds of Jewish tombs were desecrated in the town of Sarre-Union in eastern France. Last July during the Gaza war, eight French synagogues were vandalized or petrol-bombed among many other similar incidents across Europe.

Many Jews do not consider themselves safe in Europe. A 2013 survey of Jewish communities in eight European Union states (Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Sweden and the U.K.) carried out by the E.U.’s Fundamental Rights Agency found that over three-quarters of respondents believed anti-Semitism had increased in their country over the past five years. Nearly a third had considered emigrating from Europe because they did not feel safe as a Jew, with the figure reaching between 40% and 48% in Hungary, France and Belgium.

Those concerns can be felt throughout the E.U.’s population of 1.1 million Jews. In the small French town of Eze, freelance writer Clara Kagan keeps her Judaism to herself. “I would never feel safe in Paris or in my village wearing my Jewish star,” she says. “When I go to America, I wear it but I have only worn it once or twice in France and felt I was being looked at so I stopped.”

The same fears are echoed, if more fiercely, by Linda Ban, the wife of a rabbi in Budapest, where the Jobbik party went as far as to call for the drawing up of a list of Jews in 2012 (the Jobbik member of parliament later amended his call to focus only on those Jews who hold double Israeli-Hungarian citizenship). “In Hungary, people find open anti-Semitism in the media, so they think they can say the same things. People think if they can say it on the radio or on the floor of parliament, so can I. I’m not sure if there’s more anti-Semitism now than there was ten years ago, but it’s definitely louder. The taboo has been broken.”

The unease is felt across Europe. “I would say that it is very hard for Jews to live in Europe today,” says Arie Zuckerman, special adviser to the president of the European Jewish Congress. “I would not be so extreme as to say it’s starting to be impossible, but it is very hard. Jews are thinking twice before going to the synagogue on Saturday, and though it’s better in London, we hear it a lot from Jews in France, which has the biggest Jewish community in Europe. And definitely in Belgium, and definitely in the Scandinavian countries. Jews don’t feel comfortable to be identified as Jews in the streets.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took advantage of those fears to address Europe’s Jews in a statement on the Copenhagen attacks. “This wave of terror attacks can be expected to continue, including anti-Semitic and murderous attacks. We say to the Jews, to our brothers and sisters, Israel is your home and that of every Jew. Israel is waiting for you with open arms.”

Denmark’s chief rabbi, Jair Melchior, objected to Netanyahu’s remarks, telling the press on Feb. 15 that “terror is not a reason to move to Israel. People from Denmark move to Israel because they love Israel, because of Zionism, but not because of terrorism. If the way we deal with terror is to run somewhere else, we should all run to a deserted island.”

But more and more, Jews in other countries are weighing their options. In 2014, 7,000 of France’s roughly 500,000 Jews moved to Israel, double the number of the previous year. According to the Jewish Agency, immigration to Israel from Western Europe as a whole is up 88%; 620 of those immigrants came from the U.K., a 20% increase.

If the Isaksens aren’t considering following suit, it’s at least partly because, historically, Denmark has been the exception in Europe, protecting its Jews where other countries failed. During World War II, it transported nearly the entire community to safety in neutral Sweden when the Germans invaded.

But in recent years, even Denmark has seen a rise in anti-Semitic attacks. Cans painted with the label of Zyklon B, a chemical used to produce gas in Nazi extermination camps during World War II, were left on the fence of the Copenhagen synagogue in 2013. That was just one of 43 anti-Semitic incidents that occurred that year according to the Jewish community in Denmark’s security unit. “It seems to be getting worse and worse,” says Isaksen, noting that he himself had been assaulted on the street. “Certainly we’re afraid.”

Still, he and his wife were grateful for the outpouring of support from other Danes. Peter Krogell was one of them. A minister at the German Lutheran church on the same street as the synagogue, Krogell brought his two boys to lay tulips outside the temple. “We came because we wanted to show our unity,” he said. “And because as Danes we believe that the only way to fight terror is with freedom and democracy. And love.” Throughout Europe, 1.1 million Jews are hoping that’s enough.

With reporting by Naina Bajekal / London

TIME Denmark

What Transformed Copenhagen Gunman From Petty Thug to Lethal Jihadi?

People lay flowers outside a synagogue where an attack took place in Copenhagen, Feb. 15, 2015.
Rumle Skafte—AP People lay flowers outside a synagogue where an attack took place in Copenhagen on Feb. 15, 2015

Two weeks after release from prison for stabbing, Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, managed to find guns and select targets

In the two weeks or so since he was released from prison, Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein must have been a busy man. He had to learn about the discussion that Lars Vilks, a Swedish cartoonist who had once published a drawing of Mohammed as a dog, would be giving at a cultural center in Copenhagen, and figure out the best way to attack it. He likely had to stake out the city’s main synagogue as well in order to familiarize himself with its security arrangements. And he had to secure guns: the automatic weapon and the pistol he would use to kill two and injure five before being killed himself by police early in the morning of February 15.

But two days after El-Hussein committed the first terrorist attack on Danish soil in more than 20 years, many here are wondering if the really hard work didn’t go on well before that. Whether it occurred in prison, or in the gangs he was associated with, or in the larger community where he lived, something happened to turn the Danish-born 22-year-old from an ordinary criminal into a terrorist. With the number of Islamist extremists growing in Denmark and elsewhere in Europe — to say nothing of the number of attacks perpetrated by European-born terrorists — the need to answer the question of how and where radicalization occurs is becoming increasingly acute.

Two other men have been arrested as suspected accomplices in the Copenhagen attacks. They are accused of helping El-Hussein secure the weapons he used in the shootings that left 55-year-old filmmaker Finn Norgaard and 37-year-old synagogue security guard Dan Uzan dead, and of helping hide him during the roughly 13 hours between the first attack and the shootout with police that left him dead.

That man was known to police long before he showered the Krudtønden cultural center with bullets while a discussion about blasphemy and freedom of expression was underway. A known gang member, in November 2013, he was arrested after he stabbed — without apparent provocation, according to witnesses — a fellow passenger on a subway train and taken into custody. He was sentenced to two years of prison in December 2014, but was released in January because he had already served more than two thirds of his time while in custody.

What is less clear is whether El-Hussein was a hardened Islamist or simply a common criminal. Journalist Jesper Braarud Larsen covered El-Hussein’s trial for attempted homicide in December 2014 for the news website Dagens.dk, and was present in the courtroom when he was sentenced. “There was absolutely nothing about him that gave any sense of his being religious,” Braarud Larsen says of the young man who appeared in court dressed in black and with scars visible beneath his nearly-shaved hair. “He seemed most like a hardened criminal, who was no stranger to extreme violence. He said he was paranoid because he had been smoking hash that day, and he thought that the 19-year-old victim was someone who had attacked him previously.”

Increasingly, however, the distinction between common criminals and radicals is becoming meaningless, at least in Denmark. “Here, there’s crossover between criminal gangs and extremism,” says terrorism expert Magnus Ranstorp, a researcher at the Swedish National Defence College. “In other places you have a division between petty criminals and people [who join extremist groups] to give their life meaning. Here you have individuals who can switch between the two worlds, people who even use extremism as an exit strategy from gangs. Gang experience makes them more serious in extremist circles. They have access to weapons, they know how police work, they’re hardened, they have the skillset.”

 

The number of extremists has risen in Denmark in the past few years to around 200, according to the Danish intelligence service PET. The conflict in Syria has increased their ranks; officials say that 110 Danes have gone to Syria or Iraq as foreign fighters, though the real numbers are likely higher. Kaldet til Islam, an organization with ties to Wahabism and the British radical group Sharia4UK has been attracting a number of returning Danish foreign fighters, and posted a video in which several cartoonists, including Vilks, were depicted as targets.

There is no evidence that El-Hussein was influenced by Kaldet til Islam, and PET has admitted it had only passing awareness of him. That means his time in prison will come under even greater scrutiny as a potential source of his radicalization. Certainly it played a pivotal role for Cherif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly, two of the perpetrators of the attacks in Paris at the office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket. Both men were known to have been in contact during their time in Europe’s largest prison with convicted jihadi Djamel Beghal.

Investigators in Denmark are looking into whether El-Hussein had the same kind of experience. “The Danish prison service is vastly different from the French and Belgian, which are serious incubators of terrorism,” says Ranstorp. “In Denmark, they are aware of this issue, and they document the cases of people who get involved, and try to address it. But of course the big issue is who did he come in contact with, what was his behavior there like?”

One measure of the seriousness with which Denmark takes the issue of extremism is the nearly 60.9 million kroner ($9.1 million) deradicalization plan recently agreed to by the government. The plan includes an ‘exit center’ for foreign fighters returning from Syria and Iraq, as well as prevention programs for susceptible youth. That the plan is viewed as potentially effective was evident in Kaldet til Islam’s response. On Feb 4, it was denounced as “a hostile desire to separate Muslims from their Islam” on the group’s Facebook page.

Whether that kind of program would have prevented the Copenhagen attacks is impossible to predict. And El-Hussein’s actions, however they were inspired, suggest a keen determination to carry out violence; sources have told Politiken newspaper that he pretended to be drunk so as to get close enough to the synagogue security to shoot them. But in the choice of his victims, the young man is representative of a nascent breed of homegrown terrorists who combine radicalized views of Islam with common crime. “He’s a hybrid,” Ranstorp says of El-Hussein. “You don’t attack these specific targets based just on criminality. You need an ideology that legitimates the model.”

TIME Denmark

Danish PM Defends Freedom of Speech After Attacks

"We must insist on acting as we do. Think and talk like we want to. We are who we are"

The Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt has insisted that the series of shooting attacks in Copenhagen will not alter the country’s belief in the freedom of speech.

“They want to violate our freedom of speech, they want to violate our belief in religious freedom,” she said at a press conference on Sunday.

“It’s time for unity in Denmark. The coming days will be tough to get through. We have to understand what has hit us, but we must insist on acting as we do. Think and talk like we want to. We are who we are.”

Police continued their investigation after a gunman who had already killed one person and injured three officers in an attack on a panel discussion dedicated to free speech, struck again on Sunday morning, this time killing another and injuring two outside the city’s main synagogue. Hours later, in a dragnet the likes of which this peaceful Nordic city has never seen, the shooter himself was shot dead by police.

The attacks began just after 3:30pm on February 14. A gunman armed with an automatic weapon sprayed a café in a cultural center in the eastern part of Copenhagen with bullets killing 55-year-old documentary filmmaker Finn Nørgaard and wounding three members of security forces. At the time, the café was hosting a discussion on freedom of expression, that included among its panelists the French ambassador to Denmark, François Zimeray, and Lars Vilks, a Swedish cartoonist and art historian who has been the object of several assassination attempts since he published a cartoon in 2007 that depicted the prophet Mohammed as a dog. Vilks later told the press he was certain he was the object of the attack.

“They fired on us from the outside. It was the same intention as Charlie Hebdo except they didn’t manage to get in,” Zimeray told Agence France-Presse. “Bullets went through the doors and everyone threw themselves to the floor.

After finding the car in which the gunman had initially escaped, police fanned out throughout the city, erecting roadblocks and passenger controls at airports and train stations in an attempt to keep the perpetrator from slipping across the border to Sweden or Germany. But he hadn’t gone that far. Just after 1am, a gunman fired shots in front of the city’s main synagogue, wounding two police officers and one member of the synagogue who was controlling access to a bar mitzvah being celebrated by roughly 80 people inside. That member, 37-year-old Dan Uzan, later died of his wounds. “It’s what we’ve always feared, said synagogue president Daniel Rosenberg Asmussen in an interview with Danish television DR2. “It is also what we have always warned could happen in Denmark.”

Overnight, the center of the city was locked down, and police advised citizens to stay in their homes or, if they were already out, in the bars and clubs where they found themselves. Around 4 am, a suspect returned to an apartment in the northern part of the city that police had been monitoring since the afternoon. When police approached the man, he began firing at them. In the ensuing exchange of shots, the man was killed. “We believe that the man shot by riot police this morning is the one behind the two attacks,” said chief police inspector Torben Mølgård Jensen at an early morning press conference.

The similarities between the Copenhagen shootings and the attack that took place in Paris last month in the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket were lost on no one. “After the Charlie Hebdo event, we knew that there would be more attention directed toward the cartoon affair,” says Lars Erslev Andersen, a senior researcher on terrorism at the Danish Institute for International Studies.

But the novelty of the Copenhagen shooting lay in its execution, not its planning. Since 2005, when the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten commissioned and published 12 cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed, Denmark has been the target of several planned attacks, all of them foiled until yesterday. Although outrage about the cartoons had ebbed in recent years, it was, as the Charlie Hebdo case suggests, revived by ISIS and groups linked to al-Qaeda. And while police don’t yet know whether the perpetrator was acting alone, or as part of a network, they do know that extremism is rising in Denmark. Terrorism expert Magnus Ranstorp is chairing a committee created by the city of Copenhagen to produce an action plan aimed at reducing radicalization of Muslim youth. “This came about in response to a huge increase in referrals of people judged to be extremist,” Ranstorp says. “Those who are closest to it are all saying, yes, it’s increasing.”

Now, ordinary Danes have no choice but to recognize the same thing. “As a nation we have lived through a few hours we will never forget,” said Thorning Schmidt at the press conference. “We have tasted the nasty taste of fear and powerlessness that terrorism would like to engender.”

TIME Terrorism

Free Speech Debate ‘Still Alive’ After Attack in Denmark

Shooting At Free Speech Event in Copenhagen
Lars Ronbog—Getty Images A victim is carried into an ambulance after a shooting at a public meeting and discussion arranged by the Lars Vilks Committee about Charlie Hebdo and freedom of speech on Feb. 14, 2015 in Copenhagen.

“Still alive in the room.”

As gunfire erupted outside a Copenhagen cultural center on Saturday afternoon, French ambassador François Zimeray tweeted that message to the world.

The message conveys some of the terror that Zimeray and other participants in a panel discussion on freedom of speech must have felt. But the presence of mind that it took to send contains an even more chilling suggestion: no longer are such violent crimes unexpected.

Although Danish authorities have not detained the perpetrator or established his motives, all evidence suggests that the Feb. 14 attack, like that at the Parisian satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, and like several attempted attacks in Denmark before that, was motivated by cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Soon after 3:30 p.m., a gunman (authorities originally said there were two, but later revised the figure) wearing a maroon baklava and armed with an automatic weapon tried to shoot his way into the café at Krudttoenden, a cultural center in eastern Copenhagen, where a discussion entitled “Art, Blasphemy, and Freedom of Expression,” was underway.

He was prevented from entering by police, but not before he fired dozens of shots, killing a 40-year-old man, and injuring three officers. For Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who was attending the panel discussion, there was no doubt about who the intended target was: himself. After publishing a cartoon in 2007 that depicted the Prophet Muhammad as a dog, Vilks had a $100,000 bounty placed on his head by the then-leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, and has been the object of several assassination attacks.

“What other motive could there be?” he told the Associated Press.

The Danish prime minister identified the attack as terrorism and put the nation on high alert. Police have set up controls around major transit hubs to prevent the perpetrator, who escaped the crime scene by hijacking a VW Polo, from leaving the country. Just after 1 a.m. on Feb. 15, a second shooting took place, this one at Copenhagen’s main synagogue. According to police, one person was shot in the head and two police officers were wounded, but they have not yet determined whether this attack is related to the earlier one. The suspect in the synagogue shooting fled on foot.

“We must end this as soon as possible, because we must not get into a situation like the one we saw in Paris, where they took hostages, ” Hans Jorgen Bonnichsen, chief of operations for the Danish intelligence service PET, told the Danish newspaper Berlingske.

He wasn’t the only one with the Charlie Hebdo attacks in mind. In January, Islamist extremists angered by the satirical magazine’s publication of its own Muhammad cartoons entered its offices and killed 12. “After Charlie Hebdo happened, it was obvious that other people could be inspired by it to do the same thing,” says Lars Erslev Andersen, senior researcher in international security at the Danish Institute for International Studies. “At the same time, one of the reactions was for other media to publish the cartoons [in solidarity]. So on both sides we see the confrontation heating up.”

It may be heating up, but its roots go far back. In 2005, the country’s biggest newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, commissioned and published the original Muhammad cartoons. Many Muslims around the globe were outraged, and protests—some of them violent—broke out around the world. Editors and cartoonists at the paper began receiving death threats. In 2008, a thwarted assassination attempt against the cartoonist Kurt Westergaard prompted 17 other Danish newspapers to publish the cartoons themselves.

Denmark has a strong tradition of free speech, and for many in the largely secular country, publishing the cartoons was a way to defend the nation’s key values. But for others, they were a needless provocation. “What we found is that in many instances we don’t have support,” says Flemming Rose, former foreign editor of Jyllands-Posten and author of Tyranny of Silence, about the effects of the cartoon affair. “We’ve been confronted with ‘Maybe it’s your own fault. If you publish that, you’re asking for violence.’”

In the wake of threats and attempted attacks, Jyllands-Posten dramatically increased security for its building and its employees. That may have played a role in the decision to attack Krudttoenden, says terrorism expert Magnus Ranstorp, who advises the city of Copenhagen on how to curb radicalization among its Muslim youth. “Jyllands-Posten is one of the best protected buildings in the country. But when you tighten security around particular targets, you’re going to have displacement onto more vulnerable ones.”

More pertinent, however, is the cartoons’ continued traction, even a decade after the original ones were published. “Extremists are not stupid, that’s why they keep on targeting this,” says Ranstorp. “They know how the cartoons resonate in the broader community, and they can use the issue to seek legitimacy and mobilize support. Thousands protested in 2005, when the cartoons first came out, and since then, it’s kept on coming.”

That resonance is unlikely to decrease anytime soon, with extremism increasing throughout Europe. More than 110 Danes who have gone to Syria or Iraq to fight with ISIS, which is itself reviving the anti-cartoon campaign. “Although the cartoon affair never died on jihadi websites, it had mostly disappeared from the Muslim mainstream,” says Erslev Andersen. “The strange thing is that the drawings pop up again with the Islamic State. A new war on terrorism started in August 2014, and it’s as if this old conflict was woken up by it.”

If the perpetrator of the Copenhagen shooting proves to have carried out the attack for those motives, it will no doubt prompt more media to publish the cartoons in defiance, and the embattled cycle of free speech and religious belief will continue. After the Charlie Hebdo attacks, Jyllands-Posten did not join other Danish newspapers in republishing the French magazine’s cartoons (“We have lived with the fear of a terrorist attack for nine years, and yes, that is the explanation why we are not reprinting the cartoons,” the newspaper explained in an editorial. “We are also aware that we are therefore bowing to violence and intimidation.”).

But not all supporters of free speech will be silenced. As police swept the building for suspects on Saturday’s attack, attendees at the Art, Blasphemy and Free Expression panel continued their discussion. “We couldn’t go anywhere,” organizer Helle Merete Brix told Berlingske, “so we just kept debating.”

TIME Spain

Catalonian Vote for Independence Could Lead to Compromise

SPAIN-CATALONIA-VOTE
Josep Lago—AFP/Getty Images Pro-independence activists attend a meeting after a symbolic vote on independence for Catalonia from Spain at a polling station in Barcelona on Nov. 9, 2014.

More than 80% of Catalans who voted in symbolic poll want independence

Do you want Catalonia to be a state? If yes, do you want that state to be independent? After tremendous controversy and a long wait—some put it at months, others at centuries—Catalans finally had the chance to answer those questions publicly. On November 9, 2.3 million went to the polls to vote on secession from Spain. The results represented a triumph for the pro-independence movement, not only because they managed to pull it off in the face of fierce Spanish opposition, but because the returns were so overwhelmingly in their favor: nearly 80.76% answered those two questions in the affirmative.

If Catalonia were Scotland, its leaders would have awoken this morning to begin the awesome challenge of decoupling their nation from the central state that has ruled it for centuries. Instead, they woke flushed, but wondering what comes next. Unlike David Cameron, who agreed to honor the results of the Scottish independence referendum, Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has declared any Catalan referendum—including yesterday’s straw poll—unconstitutional. That fact, coupled with a level of participation yesterday that was overwhelming but may not translate into an absolute majority, has left as much uncertainty as it has euphoria.

“Our citizens have shown that they want to rule themselves,” said Catalan president Artur Mas as he spoke to the media after the polls closed, and promised to push for a binding referendum. And although he called the voting a “total success,” he also noted that it was symbolic.

Certainly in terms of its peacefulness and orderliness, the poll was a victory. Although there had been rumors of an increased police presence in the region, and President Mas had gone so far as to tell the mayors and volunteers that they “needn’t be afraid” about what might happen on Sunday, the voting took place in an atmosphere far more festive than tense. Instagram and Twitter were filled with images of long lines at polling places and selfies of people happily holding up their ballots.

That said, there was no shortage of efforts to impede the vote, even as it was underway. In the months and weeks leading up to November 9, the Spanish constitutional court twice suspended the straw poll, and as late as the evening before, the attorney general’s office declared that it was investigating whether the use of schools and other public institutions for polling represented a crime. Overnight, locks were placed on the doors of several polling places, and early on the morning of the 9th, hackers sent out a press release purporting to be a letter of resignation from the leader of the Catalan National Assembly, a pro-independence organization that has spearheaded the referendum movement. In Girona, a group of skinheads tried to destroy a ballot box (they were promptly arrested). But a demand that the regional police identify the people in charge of each polling place never materialized, and a court ruled against one political party’s last-ditch judicial effort to have the ballot boxes seized. When the mayor of Horta San Joan decided that he would not open a polling place in his town, president Mas’ political party (CiU) simply paid for a bus to transport residents who wanted to vote to the nearest ballot box.

Indeed, the Spanish government looked the other way as 1317 municipalities opened polling stations, and in the end, slightly over 40% of Catalonia’s roughly 5.4 million eligible voters went to the polls.

Those numbers matter, even if the vote legally doesn’t. “Even though it’s a simulacrum, pro-independence partisans take it very seriously,” says Carles Castro, political analyst for the Barcelona-based newspaper La Vanguardia. “It’s a thermometer of what they could expect in a real referendum.”

Because the straw poll did not contain the electoral guarantees of a true referendum, and was organized and promoted entirely by pro-sovereignty groups, it was largely expected that those opposed to independence would not turn up to vote (and indeed, the percentage of returns against both statehood and independence was a mere 4.5%; an additional 10% voted in favor of statehood—meaning greater autonomy within a federal-style system—but rejected independence). If yesterday’s poll is indeed an accurate reflection of what Catalonia could expect in a binding referendum with greater electoral guarantees and a high level of participation, then somewhere between 40 and 50% of the total eligible population would vote in favor of independence.

“The results really strengthen Mas’ position,” says Ferran Requejo, professor of political science at Barcelona’s Pompeu Fabra University. But they also present the pressing problem of what to do next. Both the hardline independence party Catalan Republican Left (ERC) and the massive pro-independence civil association, Catalan National Assembly (ANC) agreed to support the alternative consultation Mas arranged after the Spanish court shot down a more official one only in exchange for early regional elections. Those elections, it is thought, would function as a plebiscite on independence. And if current polls are any indication, ERC—a party that has called for a unilateral declaration of independence–would win them, not only putting Mas out of a job, but throwing Spain into constitutional crisis. “So he’s going to have to negotiate with ERC,” Requejo says. “Mas will only agree to early elections if they have a joint list, with him as number one, and Junqueras (leader of ERC) as number two.”

He’s also going to have to do some negotiating with the Spanish prime minister, who until this point has refused all dialogue, even on things like restructuring the fiscal system under which Catalonia operates. For some, the fact that Rajoy’s government essentially turned a blind eye while yesterday’s vote took place suggests that it may be softening. “I sincerely believe it’s possible that there’s going to be some kind of rapprochement, an invitation to negotiate,” says analyst Castro. “The ball is in Madrid’s court.”

If Madrid accepts the challenge, the Catalan situation may prove more like the Scottish one than previously suspected. After the ‘Yes,’ movement lost its bid for independence, Cameron promised to devolve greater power and autonomy to Scotland. If Rajoy takes the opportunity to do the same, agreeing, for example, to a more federal system, he just may avoid a another referendum—and almost certain rupture—down the line.

TIME Spain

Catalans to Hold Controversial Independence Vote This Weekend

Catalonia Separatist Rally Barcelona Spain
David Ramos—Getty Images People attend the last Pro-Independence rally before the unofficial Catalan independence vote in Barcelona on Nov. 7, 2014.

Spanish government is expected to look the other way rather than use force to prevent the ballot

When is a referendum not a referendum? Like Scotland, the semi-autonomous region of Catalonia is home to many who dream of independence. On November 9, they will get their chance to vote on whether or not they wish to separate from Spain. Unlike the Scottish case, however, that vote is non-binding. It is also, according to the Spanish government, illegal. So while the decision of the country’s Constitutional Court to suspend the act has not dissuaded the pro-independence movement from going ahead with the polling, it has left both Catalans and Spaniards wondering what Sunday’s vote will mean.

A vote on independence has been a long time coming. Although many Catalans have historically felt themselves to be separate from Spain because of their distinct language and culture, that sentiment only began to coalesce into a drive for sovereignty in 2010, when the Spanish constitutional court ruled on the revised statutes outlining Catalan autonomy, and outraged many in the region by striking down a proposed preamble that referred to Catalonia as a ‘nation.’ The economic crisis compounded the disillusionment; as Spain’s wealthiest region, Catalonia felt that it was paying a disproportionate amount to keep the central government afloat. In 2012, 1.5 million Catalans took the occasion of their regional holiday to pour into the streets for unexpected demonstration in favor of independence. Spurred by their enthusiasm—and seeing in it a much-needed boost for flagging public support for his government–Catalan president Artur Mas quickly adopted a vote on independence as his government’s primary goal.

Three years later, that goal has eclipsed all others. Although barred from legally holding the vote, Mas is under tremendous pressure from other pro-sovereignty parties, whose support his government needs to do survive. Which is why he chose his words so carefully when he spoke on November 5 to the Forum Europa, a political organization. “We are maintaining the participatory process of November 9th.We will do what we have to do to defend the country. And we are determined to do so.”

That may sound steadfast, but in that carefully-selected name, “participatory process”, lies evidence of diminishing ambitions. Under this alternative, the government will not officially convene the vote, which means that municipalities have the option not to hold them. Nor will it organize electoral registers—citizens register simply by showing up to vote. “It’s become more like a demonstration,” says Michael Keating, University of Aberdeen political scientist, and director of the Scottish Centre on Constitutional Change. “It’ll be like another version of that big march that a million people turned out for.”

Because the Spanish constitution bars referenda on secession, even the initial ‘consultation’ that Mas’s government proposed would not have been binding. But movement leaders hoped that an outpouring of support for independence would be enough to garner international support. “That’s exactly what they expected,” says Keating. “That Europe would see what was happening, and come and tell Spain, ‘you have to let this happen. But Europe doesn’t do that. They didn’t intervene in Scotland; they said, ‘It’s none of our business, it’s up to the UK.’ And they’re not going to intervene in Spain.”

It remains unclear what role the government will play in Sunday’s vote. Although the vast majority of the region’s municipalities have agreed to open a polling place, they are not, under the new formulation, required to do so, and it has been suggested that much of the organizing will be left in the hands of pro-independence civic organizations like the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Omnium Cultural, which on Wednesday began a massive calling campaign to get out the vote. That kind of effort has made it increasingly clear that the only people who will turn up to cast their ballot are independence supporters; opponents will boycott it, or simply stay home.

“It still has sense,” says political scientist José Ignacio Torreblanca, director of the Madrid office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, of the vote. “But only as a way for the independence movement to test its own relative strength. They need to count their supporters, and this will allow them to do that.”

If the goals of the independence movement for Sunday’s vote have diminished, so too has the ferocity of the Spanish government’s response. Although there were media reports in October that it had sent squads of anti-riot police to the region, and Mas himself urged people this week not “to be afraid,” the government currently seems disposed to look the other way during the polling. As if to prove the point, deputy prime minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría used a press conference after today’s weekly cabinet meeting to suggest that Mas restrain from requiring others to comply with his decision. “If he considers himself…above the law, he shouldn’t make a single civil servant adopt attitudes that he or she is the least bit uncomfortable with.

“It’s Kafkaesque,” says Torreblanca. “The independentists are going ahead with a vote that doesn’t have the meaning they want it to, and the Spanish government is turning a blind eye to something it says is illegal. It’s a sufficiently bad option for everyone, but it’s not the very worst option for anyone. So better not to call things by their real names.”

At the ANC, the name they’re giving Sunday’s vote is “a step.” The organization, which has spearheaded the push toward independence, agreed to support Mas’ alternative ‘process’ only if he called government elections in the next three months—elections which would function effectively as a plebiscite on independence. They’re still waiting for an answer. But in the meantime, explains ANC volunteer consultant Ana Rosenfeld of the polling, “It’s a step. It’s not the definitive step we wanted—we need to take more. But we have to do this for dignity’s sake. We can’t allow the Spanish government to impede our right to vote.”

 

TIME sweden

Swedish Hunt for ‘Russian’ Sub Recalls the Cold War

Swedish minesweeper HMS Koster searching for what the military says is a foreign threat in the waters in the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden, on Oct. 19 2014.
Marko Saavala—AFP/Getty Images Swedish minesweeper HMS Koster searching for what the military says is a foreign threat in the waters in the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden, on Oct. 19 2014.

Russia denies it has a submarine in the area but the search continues

For the last six days, Sweden’s Navy has been in full Hunt for Red October-mode. Ever since a mysterious, unidentified vessel was spotted south of Stockholm, Swedish ships and helicopters have been searching the area for what media reports says is a damaged Russian submarine that has surreptitiously made its way into the Nordic country’s waters. Those reports were only amplified when, on Oct. 18, Sweden reportedly intercepted communications between transmitters in the Stockholm archipelago and the Russian town of Kalingrad. If all that activity sounds like it was lifted from the screenplay of a 1980s Hollywood military thriller, it raises a very real question. Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, has the Cold War returned?

According to Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, the first sign that something was amiss came on Oct. 16, when Swedish intelligence detected a distress call from somewhere in the Stockholm archipelago. The next day, two civilians reported spotting a submarine-like object in waters about than 40 kilometers east of Stockholm. Sending out 200 troops on corvettes and minesweepers, the military began scouring the area for what it said was most likely a foreign vessel conducting operations in Swedish waters. The sightings, which have now increased to five, took place in “an area that is of interest to a foreign power,” said Swedish Rear Admiral Anders Grenstad at a press conference on Oct. 19. “This does not belong to us. It is a foreign vessel and we have no indications that there would be any civilians involved in underwater activity.”

Although Swedish military and government officials have not identified the nationality of the craft, nor even confirmed that it is indeed a submarine, Dagbladet was less circumspect, publishing stories about the encrypted Russian transmissions and noting that a Russian tanker supposed to be sailing to Denmark had instead been zigzagging through the Stockholm archipelago for the past week, possibly in an attempt to aid a damaged submarine. The Russian government has denied it has a submarine in the area.

Konstantin Sivkov, a retired navy officer of the former Soviet Union who is now head of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, a think tank with ties to the Russian military, said that surveillance in foreign waters was the normal practice of many navies but that it was very unlikely that a Russian submarine was currently in Swedish waters.

“Judging by the available information, there was no submarine. Had there been a submarine stranded in Swedish waters, and if it had been sighted surfacing and heard giving audio transmissions, it would be found in 3-4 hours maximum,” he told TIME.

Magnus Nordenman, deputy director of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security in Washington, D.C., suggests that the presence of a clandestine vessel in the Nordic region would certainly fit within recent Russian practices. “It’s one more data point in a larger pattern,” Nordenman says. “Over the past three years, and especially in the last year, the Russians have made more and more incursions into Swedish airspace. There have been close calls between their ships too.”

And it’s not just the Swedes who are the target. In March, Russia staged a large-scale military drill close to the Finnish border, and its fighter jets have violated Finnish airspace five times already this year. In 2013, Russian jets challenged Danish airspace more than 40 times—double the number of the previous year—and are on track to surpass that number this year. “I keep arguing that the Baltic Sea area is the next friction point between an assertive Russia and NATO,” says Nordenman. “It looks like a peaceful, prosperous area, but when it comes to security, it’s quite soft.”

Ironically, part of that softness comes precisely from the distance that the Nordic countries have tried to put between themselves and the Cold War era. With threats to their territorial integrity greatly diminished, Sweden and Denmark have, in recent years, made the strategic decision to dedicate the better part of their military budgets toward establishing a global presence (in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other places). As a result, Sweden has reduced its number of submarines to just five; Denmark has gotten rid of them altogether. “In part, it was symbolic,” says Johannes Nordby, a commander in the Danish navy and security expert at the Royal Danish Defence College. “Submarines represented a Cold War weapon, and the Cold War was over.”

Or so the Nordics thought. With the conflict in Ukraine, Putin has made clear his desire to both re-establish a broader sphere of Russian influence and to stand up to NATO and the European Union. “The Cold War was a political and ideological war as much as it was a military one, and we don’t have those [elements] now,” says Nordby. “But it was also about influence. I would argue that what’s happening now is a sign of Russia wanting a new and more significant role in the Baltic region, and internationally.”

Russia’s increased assertiveness is already influencing political debate in the Nordic region. Neither Finland nor Sweden are members of NATO, and with public opinion running strongly against, neither shows any immediate inclination to join. But both signed a pact in August that would increase their cooperation with the alliance, and would allow NATO troops to assist in the two countries in case of emergencies, and there may be more concessions to come. “If the submarine proves to be Russian,” says Harri Mikkola, a global security researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, “it will further increase security policy discussions in Finland. Nato discussion will intensify, but even more so the discussion concerning the need to deepen military cooperation with Sweden.” And this week, while debates broke out in the Danish press about Denmark’s military preparedness, the Swedish Prime Minister announced he would increase defense spending.

But if history is any example, none of that will likely help capture the unidentified vessel currently hiding in Swedish waters. During the Cold War, Soviet submarines reportedly made numerous incursions into the country’s territory, but with the exception of one that ran aground in 1981, none were ever caught. Which is why Admiral Grenstad probably had the past in mind when he announced to the press on Tuesday that his navy would continue the search. “It’s like Jesus,” he said. “Everyone knows who he is but no one has seen him.”

With additional reporting from Simon Shuster/Moscow

Read next: Canadian Soldier Killed Outside Parliament in Ottawa

TIME ebola

Spain’s Ebola Case Exposes Gap in Disease Defenses

A Spanish nurse infected with Ebola is moved to Carlos III Hospital from Alcorcon Hospital on Oct. 7, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno—Getty Images A Spanish nurse infected with Ebola is moved to Carlos III Hospital from Alcorcon Hospital on Oct. 7, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.

Despite rigorous checks and protocols, a nursing assistant in Madrid still contracted the disease from a sick patient

When two Spanish missionaries working in Sierra Leone contracted Ebola and were evacuated to Madrid’s Carlos III hospital, city officials and the country’s health minister assured a nervous public that the hospital’s strict protocols would prevent transmission of the virus to health workers and other patients.

But something went wrong. A 40-year-old nursing assistant has become the first person to contract the disease outside of Africa after helping care for one of the missionaries, Manuel García Viejo, before his death on Sept. 25. The nurse, who has not been named by the hospital, was infected despite being fully outfitted with two layers of protective gear on the two occasions she helped treat him. She also reported to the hospital that she was suffering from a fever a full week before she was admitted to a highly secure isolation ward early Tuesday morning. At this point no one knows exactly where a mistake was made. But the fact that the hospital’s rigorous checks couldn’t prevent the nursing assistant from becoming sick raises the question: is Europe less prepared for Ebola than it thinks?

“It came as a true surprise, and a stunning one,” says Máximo González Jurado, president of the General Nursing Council (CGE), which represents Spain’s nurses. “We thought we were well prepared, and that the risk—even if it can’t be zero—was minimal. After all, we have very good, very modern health care. Spain has the seventh best health care system in the world.”

At Hospital Carlos III, the 30 health workers who had contact with the infected missionaries donned double layers of head-to-toe protective gear each time they entered the isolation room where the patients were housed. They were also required to take their own temperatures twice daily during the 21-day incubation period for the disease. It was through that protocol that the infected nurse first reported on Sept. 30th that she had a temperature of 38.6 C (101.5 F).

For reasons that are still unclear—possibly because the fever was relatively low, but perhaps because in its early stages, Ebola’s viral count can be too low for detection—the disease was ruled out. Like Thomas Eric Duncan, the visiting Liberian who presented himself at a Dallas hospital on Sept. 25, the nurse was sent home. On vacation from work, she stayed there until an ordinary ambulance brought her to her neighborhood hospital on Oct. 6 with a fever that was by then raging.

“It would have been better if she had entered the hospital on the 30th,” Fernando Simón, emergencies coordinator for the Health Ministry, admitted to the press. But that possible mistake is not the only one under scrutiny. In August, a male nurse at Hospital La Paz, which is affiliated with Carlos III, wrote an anonymous post for the blog of the Madrid Association of Independent Nursing, in which he complained that the staff was not sufficiently trained in Ebola protocols, and that it had not performed any simulations of Ebola treatment by the time the two missionaries arrived.

It’s a complaint repeated by González, the nursing council’s president. “In the case of avian influenza A, the government formed a crisis cabinet, there was exhaustive information available to the public and complete training for health professionals,” he said. “That was not the case with Ebola. According to the information we have, the staff were not receiving the kind of in-depth training they should have.” Those who cared for the two missionaries were not isolated, a protocol that has since changed with the nurse’s case.

“We don’t do many simulations in Spain, and we need to, we need to professionalize this more,” says Dr. Antoni Trilla, epidemiologist at the Hospital Clinic of the University of Barcelona. “It’s only through achieving real verisimilitude that you discover the flaws in your protocols.” He should know: his hospital has had two Ebola scares, both of which turned out to be negative. But the cases enabled the hospital to improve, for example, its procedure for one of the most dangerous moments of care: removing protective gear after contact with the infected.

But even improved training has its limits, especially for a disease so highly infectious as Ebola. “What we know from the situation of healthcare workers in west Africa is that it is sometimes actually people who appear to have taken all the precautions that fall ill,” says David Moore, Professor of Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.“They may have dropped their guard when removing protective gear or in disposing of a dead body. In west Africa, they learnt that lesson the painful way.”

Caregivers in Europe are likely to learn that lesson too. “It’s unavoidable that there will be other cases like this,” says Zsuzsanna Jakab, European regional director for the World Health Organization. “But Europe—and especially the European Union—is well prepared. I would even say it’s the best prepared region.”

It may need to be. So long as air travel continues to and from the three countries in west Africa worst affected by the disease, the risk of further outbreaks remains high. With nearly 30% of the air passengers leaving Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone flying to Europe, the risk of more cases appearing in Europe is real—and growing. A study published in the scientific journal PLoS on Oct. 6 put the risk of Ebola being imported to France by October 24 at 75% and to the UK at 50%. The results were based on levels of air traffic.

It’s healthcare workers like the Spanish nursing assistant who will likely be worst affected. The unnamed woman was in a stable condition as of Tuesday evening, and is receiving immunotherapy in the form of a serum made from the blood of an Ebola patient who recovered. Three people, including the nurse’s husband, have now been placed in quarantine, with medical staff who treated her under observation, and contact tracing of friends and family. But even if she remains an isolated case, others are sure to follow. “We’re never going to see this become an epidemic among the general public in Europe,” says Dr. Trilla. “But there is definitely a risk for medical personnel. They’re the ones I worry about.”

— With reporting by Naina Bajekal / London

TIME norway

Why Nobody Wants to Host the 2022 Winter Olympics

Canadian forward Sidney Crosby (87) and
Yuri Kadobnov—AFP/Getty Images Canadian forward Sidney Crosby (87) and Canadian defenseman Scott Niedermayer (27) jubilate as their team wins gold against the USA in the Men's Gold Medal Hockey match at the Canada Hockey Place during the XXI Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada on February 28, 2010.

Hosting the Games is too expensive

Nobody wants to let the Games begin.

On Oct. 1, Oslo withdrew its bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, making it the fourth city — after Stockholm, Lviv and Krakow — to have second thoughts about hosting the Games. With only Beijing and the Kazakh city of Almaty left in the running, the International Olympic Committee now faces the difficult task of choosing between two undemocratic nations with less-than-stellar human-rights records. But Norway’s decision suggests that if the IOC hopes to stem the tide of unwilling hosts, it faces an even more difficult task: reforming itself.

Why doesn’t anyone want the Olympics? Price is a good place to start. The $448,000 cost of the first modern Games, held in Athens in 1896, wouldn’t cover a single Danny Boyle–choreographed opening ceremony these days. The total bill for Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Games came to $6.4 billion, while London’s summertime turn in 2012 cost over $14 billion. Sochi, whose venues and infrastructure had to be built pretty much from scratch, rang in at an anomalous but no less heart-stopping $51 billion.

Those kinds of numbers help explain why even a wealthy nation like Norway would reconsider its candidacy. Although Oslo budgeted a comparatively sober $5.4 billion, and even though the ruling Conservative party initially backed Oslo’s bid, concerns over ballooning costs grew strong enough to chip away at the government’s support. Speaking to the press on Wednesday, Prime Minister Erna Solberg confirmed that her government would not continue to pursue the Games.

“We’ve received clear advice and there is no reason not to follow the advice,” Solberg told the press. “A big project like this, which is so expensive, requires broad popular support and there isn’t enough support for it.”

Those same concerns were echoed in Sweden earlier this year. “The city of Stockholm needed time to investigate whether the estimated costs were realistic,” says Markus Jonsson, press officer for the Moderate party in Stockholm’s city hall. “But there wasn’t enough time.”

Lviv dropped out because of the unstable conditions in Ukraine. But for the other wavering contenders, including St. Moritz and Munich, which as late as November 2013 was still weighing a 2022 bid, a growing awareness of the true costs of hosting the Games played an important role in their decisions not to compete. And on top of concerns over cost, there were fears over benefits too.

“People used to think ‘We can get sports arenas paid for by American TV revenues, so why not?’” says Harry Arne Solberg, sports-economics professor at Norway’s Trondheim Business School. “But that’s never been the case. Now they’re more realistic.”

Although the IOC contributes some funds and politicians frequently dangle the promises of jobs, tourist dollars and brand-new infrastructure in front of their constituencies, the Olympics rarely deliver that kind of return on their investment in developed nations. According to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Games typically create anywhere from 50,000 to 300,000 jobs, but most of those jobs are temporary and go to people who already have work (only 10% of the 48,000 jobs created by the London Olympics, for example, went to previously unemployed people). In a country like Norway, where unemployment is currently just 3.4%, that effect is mitigated even more. “The work and analysis that were done concluded that there would have been benefits,” says Ingunn Olsen, communications director for the Oslo2022 campaign. “But they would not have balanced the cost of the Games.”

Indeed, hosting the Games may only make economic sense these days for developing economies that can benefit from the very specific kind of boost that an Olympics can offer. “The real cost of the Games — the operating expenses, the upgrade to existing facilities — that will be paid off,” says Holger Preuss, professor of sports management at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. “But the infrastructure costs will not. If you need new sports facilities, if you need new roads and railways, then it’s O.K. But if you don’t need general infrastructure, you shouldn’t bid. The Olympics are not about making money. If you want to make money, invest in an oil platform.”

The IOC did not hide its displeasure with Norway’s decision. “Senior politicians in Norway appear not to have been properly briefed on the process and were left to take their decisions on the basis of half-truths and factual inaccuracies,” said IOC executive director Christophe Dubi in a press release issued in response. “For a country of such means, full of so many successful athletes and so many fanatical winter-sports fans, it is a pity that Oslo will miss out on this great opportunity to invest in its future and show the world what it has to offer.”

But some Norwegians, among others, suggest that the IOC is in no position to be pointing fingers. On the same day that the Norwegian Prime Minister announced her government was withdrawing its support for the campaign, Norwegian paper VG ran a story that detailed the IOC’s hospitality requirements as outlined in its contract. In the fiercely egalitarian country, the headline “IOC Requires Free Liquor at the Stadium and a Cocktail Party With the King” was sure to ruffle feathers among a population that, polls showed, was already predisposed against the Games. “Many of the requirements of the IOC do not harmonize with the Norwegian way of thinking and living,” says Oslo2022’s Olsen.

The IOC has come under increased scrutiny in recent years for both its perceived extravagance and its lack of transparency. Although governments contribute financially to its coffers, it remains a private organization whose accounting remains off the public record and whose members are appointed rather than democratically elected. In 2008, the British think tank One World Trust rated the IOC the least transparent of 30 international organizations, including NATO and Goldman Sachs.

IOC bosses also set the standards for who makes what from the Olympics. “If you look at the 1980s, TV rights were auctioned by the local host, which kept 90% of the revenues,” says Solberg. “Now 68% of sponsorships and TV revenues are kept by the IOC.”

Solberg believes that fewer host competitors will pressure the IOC to change. In fact, Thomas Bach, IOC president for just a year, has promised to do just that. In December, the committee is expected to vote on a package of changes that would make the bidding process easier and the sports program more flexible. It would also lower the cost of hosting the Games.

But that won’t come soon enough for sober Norway. Although Bach said at a press conference on Oct. 2 that the IOC would not reopen the bidding, he couldn’t hide his disappointment at being left with two less-than-ideal candidates. “All this shows that this was very much a political decision,” Bach he said. “This why we are feeling so sorry for sport in Norway and the athletes.” The same could be said for the Olympics as a whole.

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