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The Maastricht Diplomat

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Conflicts, Controversies, Democracy and Hacking Trains

In Maastricht, the first week of classes just ended, to which students were greeted with chilly lows of up to -9 degrees C. Meanwhile there has been a lot going on in the world. 


US and Allies strike Houthis

The US and Britain, with the support of some of their allies carried out airstrikes in Yemen. The strikes targeted alleged Houthi militia sites, including military bases, airports and weapon storage, as the New York times reports. The strikes followed weeks of attacks by the militia on ships traveling through the Golf of Aden on the way to the Suez canal, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. While not intended to escalate the tense situation in the region, concerns about a wider conflict escalation have grown since the strike. To read more about the ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel check out our coverage. 


Taiwan Elects Lai Ching-te as President

Pro Taiwan Lai Ching-te has been elected as President. The former vice president stands for de-escalation with Beijing, as well as Taiwan independence. Beijing had been escalating aggressions toward Taiwan, going so far as suggesting annexation of the island. China claims Taiwan as part of its territory. 


Discussions about banning right wing party AfD in Germany 

After a private meeting of prominent right extremists and nazis in Potsdam, calls for a ban of the right wing party Alternative for Germany (AfD) have intensified. Parts of the party are monitored by the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution, a secret service of the ministry of the interior, and have been found by courts to be extreme right-wing. 

In Germany, parties that have the goal to get rid of the free democratic basic order and are working to undermine the constitution can be banned. In the case of a ban, a party is dissolved and not allowed to take part in elections. The so called “Parteiverbotsverfahren” has only been successful two times, in 1952 and 1956, in the early days of the republic. Several attempts to ban the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) had failed. While the constitutional court found that the party did consist of nazis wanting to overthrow the constitution, it saw no way for them to reach their goals. 

In surveys, the party has increased its share of votes to 23% as of January 12, 2024, surpassing both the Social Democratic Party and the Green Party last year. This is why some expect a ban to be a plausible outcome, should such a procedure be requested, and for the party to be found against the constitution by the constitutional court. As of writing there is no legal request for the procedure, despite calls for defensive democracy, reminding Germany of the responsibility it brought on itself to fight for democracy. A request can be brought by the government, as well as the two legislative chambers, the “Bundestag” and the “Bundesrat”. 


Annual Hacker Congress “37C3”: hacking trains and spreading hope

Europe’s biggest civil hacker society the “Chaos Computer Club” (CCC) has held its first Annual congress after the Covid pandemic. The 37C3’s theme “unlocked” was apparent in many of the talks presented. Among the highlighted talks was the hacking of Polish trains that had mysteriously stopped running after being serviced. Hacking group Dragon Sector had been tasked to do so by the owner of the trains, a Polish transportation provider in Dolny Śląsk (Lower Silesia). The Manufacturer “Newag” had installed software on these trains to block the ability to drive trains serviced by third parties, without providing information on doing so. Legal action in the case is ongoing.


While the CCC is a German association, all talks are translated live and available in English and German. Some talks were even translated to French or Swedish. Topics include technical explanations of software and hardware hacks, reports about found and patched data protection issues, as well as activism in the domains of freedom of the internet, freedom of information, personal data protection, and anti-fascism. Many talks by activists had been focused on sharing hope for a better future. All recordings, including the translations are available for free in high quality at https://media.ccc.de/c/37c3


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