Investigative platform uncovers: Orbán finances anti-immigration advertising in 7 EU countries

The Hungarian non-profit organization “Direkt36” has proven the importance of investigative journalism: it has uncovered that Viktor Orbán has financed xenophobic online advertising – in the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Italy, Austria, Germany, and Belgium. Was Orbán trying to influence elections in other EU countries? Evaluations by the “Google Advertising Transparency Center” also point to […]

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Investigative platform uncovers: Orbán finances anti-immigration advertising in 7 EU countries

The Hungarian non-profit organization “Direkt36” has proven the importance of investigative journalism: it has uncovered that Viktor Orbán has financed xenophobic online advertising – in the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Italy, Austria, Germany, and Belgium. Was Orbán trying to influence elections in other EU countries? Evaluations by the “Google Advertising Transparency Center” also point to this.
In autumn 2023, the cabinet office of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán apparently placed video advertisements with inflammatory anti-immigration statements on YouTube. The explosive thing about this is that the ads were not only shown in Hungary, but also in seven other EU countries. The xenophobic videos were distributed in the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Italy, Austria, Germany and Belgium.
This was reported by the Hungarian investigative platform “Direkt36“. Together with VSquare.org, they found out that these ads were viewed between 8 and 9.7 million times by users. This allowed them to draw public attention to Orbán’s alleged election interference.
Did Orbán’s ads influence elections in other EU countries?
At the time the ads were placed, there were election campaigns in four of the seven countries. Slovakia and Poland elected a new parliament in the fall, while Germany and Italy elected new representatives on the municipal level. The advertising placements in Slovakia were particularly intensive. They were displayed between 1.6 and 1.8 million times on screens there. Theoretically, the campaign could have reached around a third of the entire population. The Slovakian government has already reacted to the possible influence:

“As a government and personally as Minister of Defense, I have been informed about the interference of the Hungarian government in the Slovakian electoral system and processes. This also includes the deliberate highlighting of issues such as migration, which was a top priority,” said Jaroslav Naď, Slovakian Minister of Defense from 2020 to May 2023.

The importance of investigative journalism during elections
The content of the promotional videos incites fear of refugees and is reminiscent of videos by the Alt-Right. They were produced in English and can therefore be understood by most of the European population. The suspicion arises that anti-immigration sentiment is being promoted in seven EU countries.
It remains to be seen how this should be dealt with. If Hungary really wanted to influence elections, then extreme caution is required in the EU elections. The work of investigative platforms such as Direkt36 and VSquare is therefore essential for the election campaign period in the upcoming months. Because at a time when we can expect a swing to the right in the European Parliament, only the early exposure of such scandals can ensure fair elections.
This work is licensed under the Creative Common License. It can be republished for free, either translated or in the original language. In both cases, please cite Kontrast / Lena Krainz as the original source/author and set a link to this article on Scoop.me. https://thebetter.news/orban-influences-elections-eu/

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Lula da Silva keeps his promise: Amazon deforestation reduced by 64%

The deforestation of the Amazon rainforest has been in action for years, risking the collapse of the unique ecosystem. But the election of Lula da Silva as president in early 2023 brought hope. He announced that he would put an end to the deforestation of the Amazon. He seems to be keeping his promise as, […]

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Lula da Silva keeps his promise: Amazon deforestation reduced by 64%

The deforestation of the Amazon rainforest has been in action for years, risking the collapse of the unique ecosystem. But the election of Lula da Silva as president in early 2023 brought hope. He announced that he would put an end to the deforestation of the Amazon. He seems to be keeping his promise as, compared to November 2022, deforestation in the Amazon fell by 64% in November 2023.
The Amazon rainforest is one of the largest carbon reservoirs on earth. This makes it particularly important in the fight against climate change. Despite this, illegal deforestation persists. This was especially evident under the right-wing nationalist ex-president Jair Bolsonaro. During his time in office, rainforest deforestation increased by around 75%.
The current president, Lula da Silva, promised to stop deforestation when he took office – and it looks like Silva is keeping his promise. Compared to the previous year, deforestation fell by 64% in November 2023. According to the Brazilian Space Agency (INPE), around 200 square kilometres were destroyed. This is the smallest area since the evaluations began. It is also the first time since 2018 that less than 10,000 square kilometres have been deforested in one year.
“Brazil is ready to resume its role in the fight against the climate crisis and protect all ecosystems, especially the Amazon. Our government once managed to reduce forest destruction by 80 per cent. Now let’s all fight together for zero deforestation!”
FIRST SUCCESSES AFTER JUST 6 MONTHS: RAINFOREST DEFORESTATION DOWN BY 33.6 PER CENT
After six months in office, the BBC report initial successes in the fight against deforestation. Compared to the first half of the previous year, deforestation has been reduced by 33.6%. In June 2023, 41% less forest was destroyed than in the previous year. Brazilian Environment Minister Marina Silva attributes this to Lula’s successful environmental policy.
LULA’S POTENTIAL TO REDUCE DEFORESTATION BY 89%
Lula’s goal of ending deforestation by 2030 is a major challenge. This is because deforestation reached alarming proportions under his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro. The new conservation plan published by President Lula at the beginning of June 2023 aims to achieve this goal. Among other things, it provides for the confiscation of half of all illegally used land within protected areas, as well as higher penalties for illegal deforestation.
The Brazilian president also calls on other countries – especially the rich West – to contribute financially to saving the “green lungs of the Earth” in order to combat the global climate crisis.
A study attests that Lula’s plans have the potential to actually reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 89%. In any case, Lula will not have an easy time of it. The left-wing president still faces a conservative majority in parliament.
UNDER BOLSONARO, THE AMAZON SHRANK BY MORE THAN TWICE THE AREA OF VIENNA – PER MONTH
This is sorely needed, as the Amazon has been badly affected in recent years. When Lula first moved into the presidential palace in 2003, he launched an ambitious programme to save the rainforest. He and his successor Dilma Rousseff, who like Lula comes from Brazil’s left-wing Workers’ Party, succeeded in reducing deforestation by 80% to a historic low. But when Bolsonaro came to power in 2019, Brazil made a U-turn in its environmental policy.
Bolsonaro willingly granted concessions to allow corporations to clear the rainforest for soya and palm oil cultivation, cattle breeding and mining. Illegally cleared areas were legalised by Bolsonaro and forest fires were only half-heartedly combated. Deforestation increased sharply by 70 per cent under his government.
FOR THE FIRST TIME, THE AMAZON EMITS MORE CO₂ THAN IT CAN CAPTURE
Under Bolsonaro, the Amazon’s carbon footprint has turned around. For the first time, it is emitting more CO2 than it can bind. This was revealed in a study by researchers from the French National Institute for Agronomic Research. The scientists mainly analysed satellite data documenting the plant biomass in the rainforest and its deforestation. The result: the Amazon basin released around 16.6 billion tonnes of CO₂ into the environment, but only absorbed around 13.9 tonnes. This 2.7 billion tonne difference is roughly Austria’s consumption for 35 years.
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WITHOUT A WELL-PRESERVED AMAZON RAINFOREST, THE ENTIRE ECOSYSTEM COULD COLLAPSE
The Amazon currently has a perfectly functioning water cycle. Inland regions actually have too little rainfall for a tropical rainforest. But the trees suck the groundwater upwards, it evaporates and rains down again over the huge forest area. This cycle could be permanently disrupted by further deforestation. The rainforest would slowly die off, turn into a savannah and change the climate around the world.
This process would release as much CO2 as the entire world consumes in seven years. The unique ecosystem, which is home to 10% of all species, would be irretrievably lost and with it the CO2-binding effect of the rainforest. Scientists assume that this tipping point is reached at a deforestation rate of 20 to 25%. We are currently at 18%.
ANTI-DEFORESTATION RAIDS AFTER TAKING OFFICE
Just a few days after taking office, Lula’s government took action and carried out controls in the rainforest against illegal deforestation. As reported by Reuters, checks were carried out in areas that are all within the Cachoeira Seca indigenous reserve, where deforestation is strictly prohibited.
While deforestation is decreasing, the number of fires continues to rise, as satellite monitoring shows. Whether this is due to natural causes or arson cannot be determined.
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Finland is successfully fighting homelessness – despite new political developments

No more homelessness – a goal that sounds like utopian fiction may become reality soon. The “Housing First” concept in Finland, supported by NGOs like the Y-Foundation, is aiming towards the end of homelessness in 2027. In a new interview, Juha Kahila, Head of International Affairs at the Y-Foundation, talks about the implementation of “Housing First”, new developments in politics and his hopes for the future.
The “Housing First” project in Finland is still successfully reducing homelessness. Those affected by homelessness receive an apartment and additional support without any preconditions. The result: The number of people without housing is decreasing steadily since the 80s. In 2022, there were 3,686 homeless people in Finland, which is 262 less than in 2021. The aim is to end homelessness in Finland by 2027. We’ve already reported on this in a previous article.
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New developments on “Housing First” in Finland
A key stakeholder in the Finnish fight against homelessness is the Y-Foundation. The NGO has been providing housing for the homeless since 1985. It is now one of the sponsors of the “Housing First” policy in the country. It organizes housing and is the fourth largest landlord in Finland. Today, it manages 19,000 apartments throughout Finland. 7,000 of these apartments are specifically for homeless people or people who are about to become homeless.
In a recent interview Juha Kahila who works as Coordinator and Lead Coordinator of the National Housing First Development Network at the Y-Foundation is talking about the process of “Housing First”. He gives detailed information about the financial benefits of the housing project and explains the role of the Finnish government in the realization of this concept.
A new development is the election of a conservative government in 2023. Kahila believes that the success of “Housing First” is depending on whether the new government is cutting certain social benefits. But he is still hopeful that the goal of ending homelessness can be achieved. Furthermore, he thinks that organizations and political decision-makers in other countries can be inspired by the project and that this will help the countries greatly in the long term.
Interview with Juha Kahila from the Y-Foundation about the implementation of “Housing First” in Finland
Kontrast.at spoke to Juha Kahila about the successful Finnish concept and the Y-Foundation. He has been involved in helping the homeless for over 10 years and worked at the Finnish Youth Housing Association services (NALPA) before becoming its CEO. He later moved to the Y-Foundation, where he now works as Head of International Affairs. You can read the interview in German here.
Juha Kahila (Photo: Juha Kahila:Twitter)
Mr. Kahila, what does the process of the allocation of housing look like? How does a person approach you and how long does it take to get an apartment?
Juha Kahila: First of all, before a person becomes homeless, most people have already tried a lot to prevent this. If someone still loses their apartment, they can consider – together with one of our social workers – what the best housing solution and form of support is. In other words, whether it should be a single apartment with occasional support or a “Housing First” unit, i.e. an apartment in a “Housing First” complex where help is available around the clock.
At the moment, we can provide both housing and support very quickly. Only if someone wants to live in a specific “Housing First” unit they may have to wait longer for an apartment. But many people want to wait in temporary accommodation anyway and that is always possible.
Social benefits begin to flow immediately. Depending on the person’s situation, we also consider appropriate job opportunities. For example, the “Housing First” units offer low-threshold employment provision themselves.
The Y-Foundation always works together with other agencies. We provide the housing. Support, advice, social services and other services are then provided by the welfare districts and other organizations.
Common rooms – and even a sauna: This is what the “Housing First” houses look like
What do these apartments or houses look like? Are they spread throughout the city?
Juha Kahila: The apartments are mainly quite ordinary. 80 percent of the apartments are scattered around the city. The rest are in “Housing First” units, each with around 33 to 100 apartments in one building and support services on the ground floor. The apartments are equipped with a fridge, oven, etc. The residents furnish the rest themselves so that they feel at home. In the “Housing First” units, there are also communal areas where people can cook, watch TV together or just meet and chat.
Housing First Unit Väinolä in Espoo, Finland. (Foto: Y-Foundation, zVg)
There are certainly people who say it is unfair that many people have to spend a large part of their income on housing, while others simply get it “for free”. What do you say to them?
Juha Kahila: The answer is that housing is a human right. If that’s not enough of an argument, we explain that it actually saves money to provide housing in this way – and to avoid people having to sleep in emergency accommodation or on the street. We explain that the city is also safer for everyone if we really take care of everyone.
Besides, nothing is given away for free, people pay rent for their apartments. Of course, in the early stages most of them pay their rent through various social benefits. But a permanent home gives them the chance to contribute more again.
You and the Y-Foundation say that it is cheaper for the state to provide housing for the homeless than to have them remain in their situation. What does this calculation look like?
Juha Kahila: It’s true that ending homelessness saves money in the long run. The reason behind this is that people don’t have to use expensive emergency services. They spend fewer nights in prison, they less often need police or legal services and so on. In Finland, we have calculated that the savings are around 15,000 euros per person per year if they get housing instead of being left in shelters or on the streets.
Once people have a home and the help they need, the resources that are needed for the other shelters and services are freed up. In addition, homeless people become taxpayers again in the long run – but we haven’t even included that in our calculation.
Overall, the effects are multifaceted. We studied this in Finland and there are studies worldwide that show the same result: It is always cheaper to house people with support than to leave them in emergency shelters or on the streets.
The initiative for “Housing First” came from the Finnish government
In Finland, there is a lot of political support for the “Housing First” approach. How did this come about – who convinced whom?
Juha Kahila: The “Housing First” model was inherently a political decision in Finland. It worked differently here than in many other countries, where organizations and other stakeholders had to explain to politicians why it makes sense. In Finland, politicians had to convince the stakeholders! With carrots and sticks, so to speak.

The politicians said: We want to change the system. If you are on board, we will help you with the renovation of the apartments. If you’re not on board, we won’t buy the accomodation you provide. So, there has been a ‘gentle push’.

However, we currently have a government that wants to cut social benefits and build less affordable housing in the future. Of course, this presents us with challenges. But we are not despairing, we are working with the tools we have.
What about other countries: Do NGOs or political representatives come to you to learn from your experience with “Housing First”?
Juha Kahila: Yes, we get several hundred visitors every year and many of them are political decision-makers: Ministers, mayors and EU decision-makers. In addition, many groups come and get inspiration for their own work.
Do you know of any comparable international projects?
Juha Kahila: There is currently great work on this in Denmark and Austria and I believe that this will benefit the countries greatly in the long term.
No one should be homeless by 2027 – Helsinki wants to achieve this goal by 2025
The Finnish government wants to eliminate homelessness completely by 2027. Will that work out?
Juha Kahila: That depends on the decisions of the current government. If not all the cuts are implemented, I firmly believe that it will be possible to end homelessness by the end of 2027.
Helsinki has an even more ambitious goal: the city wants to end homelessness by the end of 2025. They also have an excellent program, so this goal can also be achieved.
Are there also criticisms of “Housing First” and if so, from whom?
Juha Kahila: Sometimes, yes. Mostly from people who think that “Housing First” is only about housing and who don’t realize that other forms of support are an essential part of the model. Of course, we all need to do a better job in the future to reduce these prejudices.
What motivates you personally to work at the Y-Foundation?
Juha Kahila: The foundation really wants to change the world and is taking concrete measures to do so. Reducing homelessness worldwide is a goal that I can easily and happily support. We want to do everything we can to ensure that one day everyone has a home.
Is there a story of a person that you particularly remember and would like to share?
Juha Kahila: I used to be a social worker and worked with a young man for several years. At some point, he no longer needed support and was ready to live independently. This fall, after several years, he suddenly called to let me know that he had become a father and that he really wanted to tell me about it. The thought of that always makes me smile.
This work is licensed under the Creative Common License. It can be republished for free, either translated or in the original language. In both cases, please cite Kontrast.at / Kathrin Glösel as the original source/author and set a link to this article on Scoop.me. https://thebetter.news/interview-juha-kahila-housing-first-finnland/

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Finland is successfully fighting homelessness – despite new political developments

No more homelessness – a goal that sounds like utopian fiction may become reality soon. The “Housing First” concept in Finland, supported by NGOs like the Y-Foundation, is aiming towards the end of homelessness in 2027. In a new interview, Juha Kahila, Head of International Affairs at the Y-Foundation, talks about the implementation of “Housing […]

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Historic decision forces corporations to pay minimum of 15% tax globally

Multinational corporations such as Amazon, Facebook and Apple will now have to pay a minimum global tax of 15%. Even hiding their profits in tax havens won’t help. They will have to pay tax where they generate their profits, not where they produce or where they have their fictitious headquarters. This has been agreed by […]

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Historic decision forces corporations to pay minimum of 15% tax globally

Multinational corporations such as Amazon, Facebook and Apple will now have to pay a minimum global tax of 15%. Even hiding their profits in tax havens won’t help. They will have to pay tax where they generate their profits, not where they produce or where they have their fictitious headquarters. This has been agreed by 138 countries after years of negotiation. This global tax is now coming into force – a “reform of the century” on the road to fair taxation.
OECD countries and the G20 nations have been negotiating global tax justice for more than ten years. In 2021, 138 of the 141 countries agreed on a two-pillar reform; a minimum tax rate of 15% and a tax shift away from the place of production to the place where profits are made. The regulation will come into force in January 2024.
The basic idea is simple. If profits in tax havens are taxed at a higher rate, it pays less for companies to shift their profits there. This won’t only effect stereotypical tax havens such as the Caribbean islands, where there is often no corporation tax at all. Tax havens within the EU, such as Ireland with 12.5% corporation tax or Hungary with 9%, are also set to be hit.
“The principle of paying taxes where profits are generated is gaining acceptance and a common tax rate of 15 per cent puts a stop to destructive downward tax competition,” says Evelyn Regner. The MEP (Social Democratic Party of Austria) has been campaigning for fairer taxation of corporations at the European level for years.
Despite criticism that China and the USA are not on board, and that a global tax rate of 15% is too low, there has never been a comparable regulation before.
“For the first time in the history of taxation, states are being given the right to tax profits generated in other states according to agreed rules,” write tax experts Prof Dr Deborah Schanz and Dr Ulrike Schramm.

A MINIMUM TAX RATE OF 15 % COULD BRING IN AN ADDITIONAL 220 BILLION DOLLARS
The minimum tax rate will apply to all groups with an annual turnover of more than 750 million euros – regardless of whether the parent company or only one subsidiary is based in an EU member state. This affects around 7,000 to 8,000 companies worldwide and, according to OECD calculations, is likely to generate around 200 billion dollars in additional taxes.
For Austria, the tax office is expecting 100 million euros in additional revenue from 2026. According to economist and head of the tax department at the Vienna Chamber of Labour, Dominik Bernhofer, this could even amount to 200 to 300 million euros per year. In the long term, it could be even more, as there will be less profit shifting and tax competition. Together with his colleague Professor Matthias Petutschnig from the University of Vienna, Bernhofer looked at 19 of the largest Austrian companies. These include the cardboard group Mayr-Melnhof, banks such as Erste Bank and Raiffeisen, Vöst and Andritz. According to them, these 19 companies alone would have to pay a good 130 million euros more per year.
AUSTRIAN PEOPLE’S PARTY REPEATEDLY OPPOSED TRANSPARENCY DIRECTIVES AT EU LEVEL
Conservative and liberal governments in Europe have been resisting tighter taxes for corporations for years. The Irish government, for example, once declared that it did not want Apple to pay any back taxes, even though this would be necessary under EU law. Austria’s Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) finance ministers are also taking part in the blockade games. Back in 2018, the then ÖVP Finance Minister Löger blocked tax disclosure by large corporations at EU level. His predecessor Schelling – also ÖVP – also blocked the EU’s planned financial reporting obligation for large corporations in 2016.
The Austrian parliament decided in 2019 that Austria should campaign for more transparency and tax disclosure, no matter who is finance minister in the future. Despite this decision, Austria abstained from another vote at EU level in 2021, once again preventing a push for greater tax transparency. The Finance Minister at the time was Gernot Blümel (ÖVP).
This work is licensed under the Creative Common License. In case of new republication, please cite Kontrast.at/Ingo Geiger as the Source/Author and set a link to the article in English: https://thebetter.news/global-minimum-tax-rate/

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Colombia strengthens regional economies and promotes cooperation instead of competition

Latin America is emerging as the place to look for alternatives to the neoliberal economic system. In Colombia, the Gustavo Petro led government has spent the last year restructuring the previously isolated sector of small businesses and cooperatives. Petro wants to shift away from this model, and into a solidarity-based system. 
The German-language Latin America news portal amerika21 reports that the establishment of a solidarity sector is intended to promote small domestic companies in Colombia. These companies include coffee producers, food vendors, artists and small businesses in the construction sector. The Colombian government has already initiated solidarity-based associations of micro-businesses in eleven regions, with a total of 33 of these projects planned. At a year-end meeting in Ibagué, 3,200 organisations celebrated the development of the solidarity economy in the country.
NEW ECONOMIC APPROACH: COOPERATION INSTEAD OF COMPETITION
The co-operatives, small businesses and small-scale farmers in the eleven regions have joined together to form so-called circuits. This means that, based on the interactions between their products and services, the businesses have also formed cross-sector networks. For example, the “Circuit for Industry, Trade and Tourism” has been created in the northern department of La Guajira and the “Circuit for Tourism and Renewable Energies” in the desert region of Tatacoa.
In the “Solidarity Network of Coffee” (Cafesol) in the department of Huila, small coffee farmers can now join forces instead of competing against each other.
PETRO WANTS TO FAVOUR COOPERATIVES FOR CONTRACTS
Last year, the government department for solidarity organisation in Colombia launched a project to create a solidarity sector. Initially, the department organised local meetings on the topic of the solidarity economy, where small-scale farmers, cooperatives and micro-enterprises could get to know each other and exchange ideas. Entrepreneurs were then trained to take on leadership positions in an educational programme. This enabled existing cooperatives to be strengthened and new cycles to be established.
President Gustavo Petro emphasises the strategic importance of the solidarity sector for the economy in Colombia:
“We want associations of small shopkeepers alongside the financial cooperatives. We want associations of small potato farmers who join forces to obtain subsidised loans so that they can begin the light industrialisation of their products.”
In addition, 30% of state contracts will no longer be carried out by large companies in future. Rather, they will be taken by joint co-operatives. This applies to projects such as road construction. The mergers of small companies therefore make it possible to complete larger contracts, which in turn generates more profit for the sector.
SOLIDARITY-BASED ECONOMY INSTEAD OF NEOLIBERALISM
The Colombian government under the presidency of Gustavo Petro shows that there are alternatives to the neoliberal model. Instead of emphasising competition, the economy is to be geared more towards a principle of solidarity by promoting the cooperative sector. The project suggests that it is possible to strengthen the local economy with the help of small businesses and cooperatives. With the development of a solidarity-based sector, small businesses can be maintained and further developed collectively.
This work is licensed under the Creative Common License. It can be republished for free, either translated or in the original language. In both cases, please cite Kontrast.at / Anna Drujan as the original source/author and set a link to this article on Scoop.me. https://thebetter.news/colombia-promotes-economic-cooperation/

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Colombia strengthens regional economies and promotes cooperation instead of competition

Latin America is emerging as the place to look for alternatives to the neoliberal economic system. In Colombia, the Gustavo Petro led government has spent the last year restructuring the previously isolated sector of small businesses and cooperatives. Petro wants to shift away from this model, and into a solidarity-based system.  The German-language Latin America […]

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