Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

21
Jul
18
Jul

The downing of a Malaysian commercial airliner flying at 33,000 feet over Ukraine could dramatically broaden the Ukrainian crisis, even before it is determined who bears responsibility.

What has been a months-long shooting war between the U.S.-backed government in Kiev and Russian-supported separatists — and a war of words and sanctions between the West and Russia — now includes the deaths of nearly 300 people from several nations.

Britain, which a Malaysia Airlines manifest indicated had nine citizens aboard the aircraft, has called for an emergency meeting Friday of the U.N. Security Council. Although no Americans were initially reported aboard, early information from the manifest accounted for only 242 of 283 passengers aboard. Fifteen crew members also were aboard.

In the Netherlands, where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 took off from Amsterdam on Thursday en route to Kuala Lumpur carrying more than 154 Dutch citizens, Prime Minister Mark Rutte rushed home from a vacation.

“I am deeply shocked,” Rutte said in a statement. “Very much is still unclear about the facts, the circumstances and the passengers.”

Other fatalities included citizens from across a wide swath of Europe, East Asia and Australia.

“This is a new element that nobody expected,” James F. Collins, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia who now works at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said of the plane’s downing. “It’s one of those events . . . that can have unpredicted negative or positive consequences.”

On the negative side, it marks a clear escalation of both firepower and the willingness to use it that could draw the patrons of both sides into more overt participation on the ground and more direct confrontation with each other.

World leaders, including some U.S. allies in Europe, who have seen the conflict as a regional one and been reluctant to turn on Moscow could be forced to reassess their position, said Wilson, who worked on European policy at the White House between 2007 and 2009. “It’s pretty difficult to continue playing that game if you have clear Russian fingerprints on the shooting down of a civilian airliner,” he said.

Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton said in an interview with Charlie Rose that “if there is clear evidence linking Russia . . . that should inspire the Europeans to do much more” to punish Russia and assist the Ukrainian government.

But Collins and others suggested that the shocking nature of the incident could also be a wake-up call to all involved. “It may bring certain people to decide that some different approach is needed because this is really getting out of hand,” Collins said. “All of a sudden, it could mean a lot more people talking about [the Ukraine situation] and saying enough is enough.”

Both the Ukrainian government and the separatists pointed the finger at each other, and Russian President Vladi­mir Putin indirectly accused Kiev, saying that if it weren’t fighting the separatists that have taken over much of the eastern part of the country, no one would be shooting.

The United States and its allies were hesitant to quickly assign blame, and there was no overt suggestion that a civilian aircraft had been intentionally targeted. But there was a clear undercurrent in the Western response that the separatists were believed to be responsible.

“While we do not yet have all the facts, we do know that this incident occurred in the context of a crisis in Ukraine that is fueled by Russian support for the separatists, including through arms, materiel, and training,” said a statement released by the White House Thursday night after an extended meeting of President Obama’s senior staff.

The West has charged Russia with sending increasingly sophisticated weapons into eastern Ukraine. As recently as Wednesday, when Obama announced stepped-up sanctions against Moscow, officials cited extensive surveillance showing new Russian arms shipments and additional Russian troops deployed to the border. Read more…

July 17

Published in http://www.washingtonpost.com

4
Jul

Hollande sets his sights on sarkozy

Written on July 4, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights, Europe, Op Ed

Nicolas Sarkozy was charged on Wednesday for corruption and abusing his position of power

François Hollande had pictured it for years: Nicolas Sarkozy, his vanquished adversary in the 2012 presidential election, slumped in the back of a Citroën saloon, his necktie loosened, his face grey with fatigue, after a gruelling 15-hour interrogation. Sarkozy has been charged with corruption and illegal use of his influence. He now faces, in theory, up to 10 years in jail and a fine of one million euros.

He had faced charges before (the previous ones, accusations that he received money from the L’Oréal billionairess Liliane Bettencourt, were dismissed last year) but this was the first time he, or indeed any former president, had been held in custody for a day. And Twitter went crazy for it.

It has been open season on Nicolas Sarkozy ever since President Hollande was inaugurated on May 15 2012. Never an easy-going, approachable character, François Hollande has a mean, vindictive streak: like Louis XI, he won’t be happy until Sarkozy is in a fillette, one of those small cages that hold enemies in a crouching position. After all, Sarkozy remains Hollande’s most dangerous adversary in 2017. The important thing is to stop him from running: which is why, every time Hollande’s ratings plummet, a new accusation is levied against his predecessor.

Judge after judge has initiated proceedings. These are for anything from dodgy party financing, to authorising bribes relating to the sale of French warships to Pakistan two decades ago, to taking money from Libya’s then dictator, Colonel Gaddafi, for his victorious 2007 election campaign.

Whenever one case became unstuck, another one started up. Judges authorised the tapping of Sarko’s phone, as well as his lawyer’s, for eight months – officially to follow up on the Libyan accusations. This yielded nothing; but soon other judges started dropping by to listen to the tapes, “trawling at random for interesting stuff”, one told Canard Enchaîné, the well-informed satirical weekly, never friendly to Sarkozy, months ago. This yielded the recordings that led to Tuesday’s interrogation.

Sarkozy himself has called such methods “Stasi-like”, and it would be logical to see such tainted evidence – collected indiscriminately, without a specific warrant – thrown out of court. He is accused in this instance of trying to bribe a senior judge with promises of a plum job in the Monaco judiciary in exchange for information on the state of his case in the Bettencourt accusations. The senior judge was unconnected to the case, and as it happens did not get the Monaco job.

Sarkozy is also accused of trying to obtain protected information. The irony is that a good deal of the Sarkozy tapes, supposedly protected by the same confidentiality, have been published by the Mediapart investigative website, headed by a respected former Le Monde journalist, Edwy Plenel, who happens to be a long-time personal friend of Hollande’s.

Sarkozy’s friends will also point out that one of the two judges conducting the current investigation, Claire Thépaut, is an active member of the most Leftist judges’ union, the Syndicat de la Magistrature. She signed an anti-Sarkozy column during the 2012 campaign, describing herself as a “personal foe” of the president’s, while formally supporting Hollande’s challenge. Yet now she will decide whether the former president will go to trial over the latest accusations – at the risk of making him look more and more like a martyr to his partisans.

There is a wealth of additional cases to bring: so if not this time, something may yet stick to Sarkozy. At least this is what the Hollande crowd hopes, because Sarkozy, like Freddy Krueger in the horror movies, is just getting angrier and angrier – and he will get back at them if he ever wins again.

By Anne-Elisabeth Moutet

Published on 3 July in the Telegraph , http://www.telegraph.co.uk

25
Jun

Martin Schulz (left) and Jean-Claude Juncker

Mr Juncker (right) now has support from the European Socialists’ leader Martin Schulz

 

Time is running out for Prime Minister David Cameron, as most EU leaders look set to back Mr Juncker at the EU summit this Friday. And a majority in the European Parliament will back him too, commentators say.

So what are the chief arguments for and against choosing the 59-year-old former Luxembourg Prime Minister? Generally his supporters are in the pro-EU integration camp, while his opponents tend to be Eurosceptic, urging far-reaching reform of the EU.

FOR:

  • His centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) won the European elections in May
  • He is a veteran of EU politics and played a key role in the bailouts for Greece, Portugal and other debt-laden countries
  • Appointing him would give the European Parliament more credibility among voters, since he was the EPP’s lead candidate, rather than EU governments picking a name behind closed doors
  • Many argue that the euro will only work long term if there is a political, as well as monetary, union – and he stands for that
  • He believes the EU is much more than the single market – it stands for solidarity between nations and help for Europe’s poorest regions

AGAINST:

  • He is too federalist and will not favour transferring powers from Brussels back to member states – a key policy issue for David Cameron
  • Appointing him could jeopardise efforts to keep the UK in the EU, making the UK more isolated in Europe
  • He represents “old school” Brussels thinking, at a time when millions of voters have shown they are fed up with the EU
  • His experience is in forging EU compromises through slow negotiations, not the agile policy-making that many reformists demand
  • He has not pushed for more democratic accountability in the EU.

What powers does the Commission president have? Well, it is the top EU job, because the Commission is the only body that can draft EU laws.

Those laws are often extensively amended by the Council – that is, European ministers – and by MEPs, who negotiate the fine details.

The Commission also imposes penalties on governments and firms that break or ignore EU laws. So in some ways the Commission president is also the EU’s “top cop”, ensuring compliance with EU treaties. Fair competition and human rights come under the Commission’s remit.

But the Commission was set up to be more a civil service than a government. Its officials are supposed to be above national politics, instead acting in the interests of the EU as a whole. MEPs monitor the Commission’s actions and are often quick to flag up perceived bias.

And the Commission negotiates far-reaching EU trade deals with other countries. There are hopes that a planned free trade zone with the US could give a much-needed boost to Europe’s struggling economies.

The battle for this top job has become a battle of competing visions for the EU. The worry is that the EU may get bogged down in institutional bickering – again – when it really needs to be tackling economic stagnation and record unemployment.

: Published on June 24, http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-eu-27993218

6
Jun

The Decline of Europe

Written on June 6, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Europe, Op Ed

right wing

It is undeniable that the right wing is ascendant in Europe. While leftist parties did well here and there in recent elections to the European Parliament, the story over recent years has been mainly about the right, symbolized most dramatically by the soaring popularity of Marine Le Pen’s National Front inFrance. But also in Denmark, Austria, Finland, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Serbia, the one commonality is the dynamism of nationalist-style political movements. Right-wing parties in France and Denmark got a quarter of the vote in late May’s elections, while the right in Austria got a fifth. Meanwhile, the Jobbik party in Hungary and Golden Dawn in Greece have garnered headlines the world over for their flamboyant neo-fascist views and popularity among significant swathes of the voting public.

While these numbers may not be enough to propel right-wing parties into executive power, they are, nevertheless, numbers that would have been unthinkable several years ago. While traditionally anti-immigrant, these parties have lately become in many cases pro-Russian. It is not that they like Russia per se; rather, it is that they see a kindred spirit in Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is a reactionary and Revanchist nationalist, embittered by the power balance of the Post Cold War, who thinks in terms of ethnic nations instead of post-national states. Like Putin’s Russia, they are especially fearful of Muslims in their midst. Thus Putin has become an avatar to right-wingers from France to Greece.

What is behind this phenomenon?

Years and decades of immigration from Muslim North African countries and other parts of the developing world have seemingly threatened previously cohesive and mono-ethnic societies in Europe. Then there is the half-decadelong economic crisis within the European Union that has led to low or negative growth and indecently high levels of unemployment. And that, in turn, has led to very unpopular austerity measures. The combination of these social and economic stresses has gone a long way to delegitimize the European establishment so that someone like Putin, who challenges that establishment and what it stands for, immediately becomes a pole of attraction.

The European establishment in Brussels also represents something else that these right-wing parties oppose, and that goes relatively little remarked upon: In a word, it represents the old historical left. I don’t mean the hard, Communist left. I mean the soft, traditional left. For the post-national European Union, organized as it has been for decades around the principle of the social welfare state — in turn supported by high taxes and meager defense budgets — is a left-wing or left-of-center historical project if ever there was one, at least in the world view of the right.

Certainly, the bureaucratic elite in the European Union capital of Brussels inculcates the attitudes of the traditional left much more than that of the traditional right. Unsurprisingly, you will find many members of the 1960s student protest movement among the older Eurocrats. Ironically, it was high American defense budgets throughout the Cold War years that allowed for Europe’s security umbrella against the Soviet Union, leaving Europe financially free to devote itself to the kinds of expensive domestic programs normally associated with the left. And because the prolonged economic crisis on the Continent is undermining the reputation of the European Union, that of the left is also being subtly undermined. It is telling that while the political right is ascendant in Europe now, the left (with striking exceptions such as Greece, of course) appears somewhat moribund as a romantic force. At a time of social and economic stress, the left just doesn’t inspire as much as the right does.

The allure of the old Western European Communist parties that had once dominated headlines in the 1960s and 1970s at the apex of the Cold War is now a thing of the remote past. The Cold War, remember, was close in time to World War II; in fact, it was a veritable tailpiece of it. That was an age when the right was delegitimized because of what Hitler and Mussolini had so recently done. But with World War II disappearing from view, and while a staid and squishy political establishment currently struggles to find a path through the economic crisis, the right looms dynamically as the left once did. In a sense, the rise of the right in Europe indicates that the effect of the Long European War, from 1914 to 1989, is finally over. There is no longer a taboo against neo-fascism. This is the great danger.

Mitigating this danger will be globalization itself in the form of new communications technologies, from air travel to smartphones, that while empowering sub-state groups — united in some cases by ethnicity — also empower new and more complex forms of identity not rooted in geography. This can mean that the ethnic right-wing nationalism currently afoot in Europe will be only a diluted version of the kind that gripped the Continent in the 1930s.

On the other hand, an aging European population with near zero birthrates coupled with a continuation of immigration from the less developed world will continue to stoke the kind of fear that empowers nationalistic parties united by ethnicity. Making it worse will be the prolongation of the economic crisis. After all, the Eurocracy in Brussels, as well as politically embattled regimes in the various capitals, will find it hard to make the dynamic adjustments necessary to return Europe to robust growth. For the European masses, the sense of security — political, social and economic — has been weakening on all fronts. And in such a circumstance, the left appears to have fewer answers than the right because the left cannot make an appeal based on atavistic emotion.

The rise of ethnic nationalism in Europe in the 1930s led to interstate war. The rise of ethnic nationalism in the early 21st century will almost certainly not. Instead, we will first see the creeping emergence of microstates such as Scotland and Catalonia. For a united Europe, however economically moribund, with power partially transferred to Brussels from national capitals, allows sub-state identities based on particular geographies to flourish. Second, we might see a form of paralysis within states themselves, as nationalist reactions to truly multicultural immigrant societies help undermine elected governments. Undermined governments with low defense outlays, emerging from decades in which national militaries have been delegitimized, do not go to war with other undermined governments.

Moreover, the Russian threat to Central and Eastern Europe will eventually be assuaged by Russia’s own economic and social problems. Nor will Russia dominate energy markets in the future as it does now. This will give Moscow less leverage over Poland, the Baltic states and so on.

In sum, the rise of the right is part of a narrative about the decline of Europe and its place in the world as more demographically and economically vibrant societies in the Greater Indian Ocean and elsewhere continue their rise. Just as the European left has had no solutions to the current crisis, neither will the nationalistic right. Places in relative decline often make headlines. That is the case with Europe now.

Robert D. Kaplan is Chief Geopolitical Analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence firm, and author of Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific. Reprinted with the permission of Stratfor.

 

Published on 5 June in http://www.realclearworld.com