JWG via DTN 15 January 2023 JT and Rae have been reading the tar baby saga and are trying hard…
Europe & EU 2016
The EU countries are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic,
Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania,
Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain,
Sweden and the UK.
Official website of the European Union
(Quartz) Italy rejected change, so Matteo Renzi resigned. Italy’s prime minister suffered a major defeat over the weekend in a constitutional-reform referendum he proposed. The measure began as a streamlining of government decision-making processes, and evolved into a vote of confidence in Renzi himself. Italy’s main bank index dropped around 3.5% early Monday.
The far right lost in Austria. The Freedom Party’s Norbert Hofer conceded defeat to left-leaning rival Alexander Van der Bellen in the presidential election. Austria is one of several EU countries facing growing far-right parties—France, the Netherlands, and Germany all have elections with similar stakes next year. Still, Hofer did get 47% of the vote.
The French prime minister joins the presidential race. Manuel Valls is to announce he will run as a Socialist party candidate in the ruling party’s January primary. If he wins that, Valls will go up against Les Républicains’ François Fillon and Marine Le Pen, leader of the right-wing Front National, in the election next spring. (He probably won’t win that.)
A Candidate Rises on Vows to Control Islam and Immigration. This Time in France.
By ADAM NOSSITER
François Fillon’s promises to limit immigration and protect conservative values in France have helped propel him to the front of the presidential field.
(NYT) In a year when nativist politics have become the ticket to electoral victory, Mr. Fillon, 62, a dark-suited, stern-faced former prime minister has managed to successfully ride the same nationalist and xenophobic currents as that have pushed politicians in Britain and the United States to victory.
That strategy has not only vaulted Mr. Fillon to the front of the pack, surprising the French news media, pundits and politicians. It has also has shifted the playing field for French conservatives far to the right, snug alongside the far-right National Front, led by Marine Le Pen, who may be his strongest challenger next year.
The two are now competing for some of the same voters, but the xenophobic, anti-immigrant National Front is not regarded as respectable by many middle-class French people, particularly Catholics.
Sarkozy defeated in primary for French right’s presidential candidate
Former PMs François Fillon and Alain Juppé face second vote on 27 November after Sarkozy’s humiliating rejection
(The Guardian) The divisive former president Sarkozy suffered a humiliating defeat, knocked out of the race after he ran a hard-right campaign on French national identity, targeting Muslims and minorities. His poor score after a campaign in which he suggested banning Muslim headscarves from universities and was forced to protest his innocence faced with several legal investigations into corrupt campaign financing, showed he had become just as much a hate figure on the right as on the left.
The EU’s New Bomb Is Ticking in the Netherlands
A referendum law has given Dutch euroskeptics a powerful tool to block deeper European integration, and then some, Simon Nixon writes
(WSJ) The Dutch general election in March is shaping up to be a defining moment for the European project.
The risk to the European Union doesn’t come from Geert Wilders, the leader of anti-EU, anti-immigration Party for Freedom. … the vagaries of the Dutch political system make it highly unlikely that Mr. Wilders will find his way into government. As things stand, he is predicted to win just 29 out of the 150 seats in the new parliament, and mainstream parties seem certain to shun him as a coalition partner. In an increasingly fragmented Dutch political landscape, most observers agree that the likely outcome of the election is a coalition of four or five center-right and center-left parties.Instead, the risk to the EU comes from a new generation of Dutch euroskeptics who are less divisive and concerned about immigration but more focused on questions of sovereignty—and utterly committed to the destruction of the EU. Its leading figures are Thierry Baudet and Jan Roos, who have close links to British euroskeptics.
When America sneezes…
Donald Trump’s victory is more bad news for the European Union
(The Economist) … for most European politicians the shock of the American election was compounded by the obvious parallels for their own democracies. Worried leaders tempered their letters of congratulation to Mr Trump with veiled reminders of the transatlantic values many of them believe his victory imperils. Meanwhile Europe’s army of little Trumps, from France to Italy to Hungary, took their own lessons from the result, showering laudatory missives upon the president-elect that had little to do with America and everything to do with the messengers’ own projects of political disruption: if it can happen there, why not here? The “aloof and sleazy establishment is being punished by voters step-by-step,” said Heinz-Christian Strache of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) in his Facebook salute to Mr Trump.
The ascent to the White House of Mr Trump, an admirer of Vladimir Putin who hints that he may abandon America’s NATO allies, poses urgent questions for Europe’s security order. Weakening America’s commitment to NATO could undermine the guarantee of peace that has allowed the EU to pursue its project of integration. But if Mr Trump’s capriciousness makes the geopolitical effects of his presidency hard to predict, the hit to Europe’s self-confidence, already sagging after a string of crises, will be immediate. For the EU is rapidly losing faith in its ability to defend the liberal ideals that Mr Trump’s victory repudiates. So badly has the mood soured that minor successes are now held up as political marvels: Donald Tusk, head of the European Council, heralded a recent trade deal with Canada as a triumph for Western democracy, after last-minute talks barely saved it from death at the hands of a restive regional parliament in Belgium.
The Merkel Way vs. the Orbán Way for Europe
(Carnegie Europe) Putting up new barriers is but a short-term response to a crisis that affects all EU countries. It does not equip the EU to deal with the extraordinary challenges it now faces, from the refugee crisis and Brexit to the growing gulf in the transatlantic relationship. That is why Merkel’s agenda, expressed best on October 3 by Lammert, is for Germany and Europe to remain open to the world. Failing that, Europe—and with it, European solidarity—will become irrelevant.
EU politicians mull Hungary referendum result
Both Brussels and Budapest are claiming victory over the migrant quotas referendum – the former the low turnout, the latter that a majority voted against the EU, leaving both sides at odds.
Now Serbia and Czech Republic join call to reject migrants in wake of Hungary’s decisive vote against EU quotas
Hungary’s emphatic vote to scrap EU migrant quotas has triggered a “domino effect” of anti-refugee sentiment across eastern Europe, with the leaders of Serbia and the Czech Republic joining calls to reject migrants from the bloc on Monday.
(Quartz) EU trade ministers talk TTIP in Bratislava. Many hoped the transatlantic trade deal would be signed before president Barack Obama’s term ends in January. That’s looking increasingly unlikely, as it continues to meet with fierce resistance in Europe and both US presidential candidates oppose it. Austria and France may now propose restarting the talks under a new name after the US elections.
Exclude Hungary from EU, says Luxembourg’s Asselborn
(BBC) Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn has called for Hungary to be suspended or even expelled from the European Union because of its “massive violation” of EU fundamental values.
He cited the Budapest government’s treatment of refugees, independence of the judiciary and freedom of the press.
“Hungary is not far away from issuing orders to open fire on refugees,” he suggested.
Hungary said Mr. Asselborn “could not be taken seriously”.
EU leaders meet in Slovakia on Friday to discuss the union’s future.
Apple Ireland Ruling Could Be the End of Easy European Tax Deals
The days when big U.S. technology companies could easily slice tax bills in Europe are coming to an end.
(Bloomberg) For decades, businesses like Apple Inc. that generate significant revenue abroad flocked to Ireland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, where they counted on amenable fiscal regimes to reduce their tax, even if they had minimal operations on the ground.
On Tuesday, European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager sent the strongest signal yet that she won’t abide by these strategies when she demanded Apple pay $14.5 billion in back taxes.
(Quartz) The US-EU trade deal met more opposition. Matthias Fekl, France’s foreign trade minister, said talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which have been dragging on for three years, should be stopped and started from scratch. Two days previously, Germany’s economy minister said the talks had failed. The EU’s US ambassador is putting a brave face on it.
Europe after Brexit: A proposal for a continental partnership
(Bruegel )This paper leaves aside the issue of EU reform and focuses on the desirable EU-UK relationship after Brexit. The authors argue that none of the existing models of partnership with the EU would be suitable for the UK. They propose a new form of collaboration, a continental partnership, which is considerably less deep than EU membership but rather closer than a simple free-trade agreement.
(Note from a European friend) One of the most appreciated Brussels think-tanks has just published a paper on a potential post-Brexit arrangement for EU-UK relations, link below. Besides the content, what makes it interesting are the authors who include the chair of the Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committee and an advisor to president Hollande.
Of course the idea of an inner and outer circle is a long-cherished French vision for the future of the EU but this paper is a more concrete attempt to define what the outer circle could be in the present circumstances.
Joseph Stiglitz: The problem with Europe is the euro
(The Guardian) The eurozone was flawed at birth. The structure of the eurozone – the rules, regulations and institutions that govern it – is to blame for the poor performance of the region, including its multiple crises. The diversity of Europe had been its strength. … A single currency entails a fixed exchange rate among the countries, and a single interest rate. Even if these are set to reflect the circumstances in the majority of member countries, given the economic diversity, there needs to be an array of institutions that can help those nations for which the policies are not well suited. Europe failed to create these institutions.
Worse still, the structure of the eurozone built in certain ideas about what was required for economic success – for instance, that the central bank should focus on inflation, as opposed to the mandate of the Federal Reserve in the US, which incorporates unemployment, growth and stability. It was not simply that the eurozone was not structured to accommodate Europe’s economic diversity; it was that the structure of the eurozone, its rules and regulations, were not designed to promote growth, employment and stability.
A Nobel Alternative to the Current Euro System
By Leonid Bershidsky
(Bloomberg) A new book by Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz suggests that the best way forward for the euro area is a “flexible euro,” a system of different currencies under the same name fluctuating within certain limits. It’s a new, ingenious riff on an idea that keeps popping up in discussions of the currency bloc’s future, but probably doesn’t promise much improvement to the weaker European economies.
(Quartz) The UK gave up its right to head the EU next year. The new UK prime minister, Theresa May, relinquished the UK’s presidency of the Council of the European Union, due to commence July 2017, ahead of her first meeting today with German chancellor Angela Merkel—with whom she has been compared. Brexit will be high on the agenda at the “working dinner.”
Which EU country has the largest number of citizens living overseas?
(World Economic Forum) While there has been much media coverage of the number of people moving to the UK, there has been relatively little attention paid to the number of Brits moving overseas.
In fact the UK has more citizens living overseas than any other European nation – 4.9 million British people live in other countries around the world.
When the data is broken down to show the number of EU citizens living in other EU countries … The UK ranks number 5, with Poland, Romania, Germany and Italy all having more citizens outside their own borders but within Europe.
Tough Choices and Hard Lessons for E.U. After ‘Brexit’ Vote
(NYT) As Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President François Hollande of France and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy meet on Monday in Berlin, and again with the heads of all 28 European Union members in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday, they will have to decide whether to continue pressing for immediate negotiations on the terms of Britain’s withdrawal or to let passions cool in the hopes that some kind of deal might be worked out to keep Britain in the bloc.
They will have to decide whether the lesson to draw from the British vote is that the growing populist and nationalist backlash against the bloc needs to be acknowledged through fundamental changes or whether it requires a show of resolve by pushing ahead with plans for deeper integration.
And they will confront the potential for a change in the power dynamic among the bloc’s biggest members, with Italy and to a degree France challenging the dominance of Germany and Germany’s insistence on austerity economics as the cornerstone of European policy.
Gwynne Dyer: Brexit, and maybe then Frexit, Nexit, Swexit, Plexit?
The triumph of Brexit is a most regrettable outcome for everybody involved and possibly even for the world economy.
It remains to be seen whether Cameron’s historic blunder will also trigger the disintegration of the EU itself, but there are plenty of right-wing nationalists in other EU countries who hope there will be a domino effect.
Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s Front National, called the U.K. referendum “a key moment in European history” and said “I hope the French also have a similar exercise.” And “Frexit” is just the start.
Geert Wilders, who’s anti-Muslim, anti-immigration Freedom Party is predicted to win 46 of the 150 seats in the Dutch parliament in next year’s election, promised that if he were elected, the Netherlands will hold its own “Nexit” referendum. Italy’s anti-immigrant Northern League and the populist 5-Star Movement both called for a referendum on Italian membership of the EU.
The UK “Leave” vote could trigger a wave of exits throughout the EU
(Quartz) Within minutes of the Brexit vote decision, the Scottish National Party issued a statement saying it “sees its future in Europe,” suggesting the likelihood of another referendum on leaving the UK.Similarly, Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein party called for a referendum on Irish reunification.
A May survey from Ipsos Mori asked residents of eight European countries whether or not they supported a referendum regarding their own country’s EU membership. Nearly half did.
The survey revealed that support for leaving the EU was highest among Italians, French, and Swedes.
Already, countries other Europe are taking actions to distance themselves from the European Union. Hungary, for example, is holding a referendum this autumn that could challenge mandatory quotas for migrant resettlement set by the EU.
Marine Le Pen, president of France’s conservative National Front party, declared the referendum’s results a “victory for freedom,” adding “As I have been demanding for years, it is now necessary to hold the same referendum in France and the EU countries.”
Why My American Students Used to Gasp in Horror When they Learnt About the EU
In the present British debate, it is informative to recall the shock that greets an outsiders’ first understanding of how the EU grew. Its history is of an unstoppable escalation, either emanating from its own internal logic and powers or by a concerted but quiet power grab.
Open borders with Turkey within a decade is the inevitable apotheosis of a century in which we diluted our laws, pooled our sovereignty and vowed to intermingle our land and laws with our neighbours and beyond.
Most Remainers don’t deny this. You will rarely them give a principled justification for the growth of the EU. They just say it is far, far too risky and complex to leave. And they are right to say that forging an exit plan after such a long relationship will be untidy, contradictory and difficult. But this is not a reason not to try.
Jeremy Kinsman: The ‘perfect storm’ tearing Europe apart
(iPolitics) … the EU would survive British defection. It’s doubtful that England would enjoy Scotland’s ensuing secession or the loss of U.K. influence in Europe.
The EU is used to uncharted waters. If it surmounts this mega-storm, the future of a less supranational Union will clarify. It will not be “ever-closer”, though its core members will tighten some ties. Outliers will still provoke occasional delusional episodes, like the current kerfuffle over North American visas.
Polls show public support for the EU, despite disgruntled easterners. The future rests with millennials, at ease with multiple identities, avid for jobs in a humanized and diverse EU that they call home.
That reality is basic to the EU’s woes today. Once citizens grew accustomed to peace among nations, many reverted to their native and competitive selves.
How Referenda Threaten the EU
Stratfor’s Europe analysis team says that referenda will likely be seen with increasing frequency in coming years, as national governments, opposition groups and civil society organizations alike seek out voters’ opinions on EU-related debates. Moreover, those votes will take place in an atmosphere of growing nationalism and fear of globalization — posing significant challenges to the future of the Union as a whole.
In the coming years, national governments, opposition groups and civil society organizations will increasingly turn to popular votes to decide a broad range of EU-related debates.
National governments will probably use referenda (or, more likely, the threat of them) to demand concessions from the European Union, to justify domestic decisions or to increase their own popularity.
Votes will take place against a backdrop of growing nationalism and fear of globalization, and the results will likely freeze or reverse the process of EU integration.
EU accession ‘off table for 10 years’ as voter mood turns sour
(Emerging Markets) The dreams of an ever expanding European Union have been left in ruins in the wake of growing hostility against the accession of new members amid mounting anger over the failure of candidate countries to embrace reform, according to leading economists.
This anti-enlargement sentiment was thrown into sharp focus last month when, in a national referendum, voters in the Netherlands rejected an EU partnership deal to remove trade barriers with Ukraine.
“The tide is against any country that does want to accede to the EU,” said William Jackson, an emerging market economist at London-based Capital Economics.
“It will be a long process, and there is no clear political appetite among existing EU member states to expand the bloc from its current size.
Europe’s Economy, After 8-Year Detour, Is Fitfully Back on Track
(NYT) By one measure, the economic crisis that has long ravaged Europe is finally over.
On Friday, the European Union released data showing that the overall economy of the 19 countries that use the euro advanced 0.6 percent over the first three months of the year, compared with the previous quarter. …
So much time has passed with overall European fortunes frozen or even sliding backward that doubts pervade about the ability of the Continent to ever again achieve sustained robust growth. In a place that is home to some of the world’s wealthiest countries — founts of precise German engineering, Italian luxury goods and French gastronomical excess — children have been born and raised to primary school age while commercial life around them has achieved practically no gains. And there are few signs that things will improve soon. Major banks across the Continent remain reluctant to lend, starving even healthy businesses of capital needed to expand and hire. Concerns about the global economy — especially the slowdown in China — threaten to crimp Europe’s export growth, which has been at the center of the recovery.
Javier Solana: Europe’s Dangerous Nostalgia
(Project Syndicate) Not only is a yearning for the “good old days” – before the EU supposedly impinged on national sovereignty – fueling the rise of nationalist political parties; European leaders continue to try to apply yesterday’s solutions to today’s problems.
Some have used disenchanting experiences with globalization as an excuse for a return to protectionism and the supposedly halcyon days of strong national borders. Others, wistfully recalling a nation-state that never really existed, cling to national sovereignty as a reason to refuse further European integration. Both groups question the foundations of the European project. But their memory fails them, and their yearnings mislead them.
Everyone was supposed to benefit from European integration. Whenever a new country joined, it received financial aid, while existing members gained access to a new market. The advantages, it was expected, would be apparent not just from aggregate data, but also from individual citizens’ own experience.
But reality has been less clear-cut.
A British Bridge for a Divided Europe
By Robert Skidelsky
(Project Syndicate) The EU has tried to achieve political union incrementally, because it was impossible to start with it. Indeed, barely hidden in the “European project” was the expectation that successive crises would push political integration forward. This was certainly Jean Monnet’s hope. The alternative – that the crises would have the opposite effect, leading to the breakup of the economic and monetary union – was never seriously confronted.
Few people in the UK would welcome a rapid move toward a political union, assuming this means filling in the gaps in sovereignty that have crippled the eurozone. Indeed, in the deal that Prime Minister David Cameron negotiated with European heads of government as a condition of remaining in the EU, Britain is specifically exempted from commitment to “ever closer political union.” Yet, without a political union, it is hard to see how the eurozone can be made to work.
The eurozone is therefore likely to break up into more compatible parts, after further failed efforts to muddle through. One can imagine a northern single-currency area, with enough sovereignty (provided by Germany or, more plausibly, by Germany and France acting together) to make it work, linked by free trade to a southern area that is not subject to the northern bloc’s monetary and fiscal rules. Specifically, members of the southern bloc would have fixed, but adjustable, exchange rates with one another and with the northern union.
The southern bloc, however, would lack a member with the weight and prestige to counterbalance Germany. That member could only be Britain. And this is the main argument against pulling out of the EU: By staying in, Britain would be able to ensure that, if and when the eurozone’s breakup comes, the process is not too messy, and will at any rate preserve something of the spirit of the EU’s founders. Britain has much to fear from an acrimonious divorce, as it will inevitably be swept into its turbulent wake.
Migrants, Euro, Brexit: The EU at Risk
By Gwynne Dyer
(Bangkok Post) A recent headline on the leading Franch newspaper Le Monde said it all: “Migrants, the Euro, Brexit: The European Union is mortal.” And it’s true. The EU could actually collapse over these three threats.
The most immediate threat is Brexit (British+exit), the possible result of the Yes/No referendum on British membership in the EU that is scheduled for 23 June. Prime Minister David Cameron promised this referendum three years ago mainly to placate the anti-EU faction in his own Conservative Party, but it is coming at a particularly bad time.
The refugees are a much more substantial problem for most other EU countries.
New border fences are now springing up everywhere as EU members try to keep the migrants out. Dissent with EU policies is rife as some Eastern European countries refuse to accept any refugees at all,…
Then there is the euro, the common currency shared by nineteen EU countries, including all the big ones except the United Kingdom. It was a bad idea from the start, because a single currency without…
The EU survived with separate national currencies for four decades before it adopted the euro; it could do so again. The Schengen treaty was a nice idea, but not essential to the Union’s smooth functioning….
It’s the fact that all these crises are hitting together that endangers the EU’s very existence.
UN Refugee Agency: Greece May Have Deported Some People ‘By Mistake’
13 Afghan and Congolese migrants didn’t get a chance to apply for asylum “due to administrative chaos,” the UNHCR said.
Some of the first people deported from Greece back to Turkey under a new international agreement weren’t given a chance to apply for asylum, the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Tuesday.
Vincent Cochetel, director of UNHCR’s Europe bureau, told The Guardian that the Greek police “forgot” to process the asylum claims of 13 of the 202 people returned to Turkey on Monday. They were part of the first group of migrants to be deported under the controversial EU-Turkey agreement that took effect on March 20.
(Quartz) European politics: more polarized than ever. Greece’s Syriza, France’s Front National, Britain’s UKIP… Extremists, on both left and right, seem to be winning more victories in Europe. As Christopher Groskopf finds, the data back it up: lawmakers from the center have dwindled in number while the extremes have grown, in both national parliaments and in the European one.
Justice Delayed, Not Denied, in Bosnia
(Project Syndicate) On March 24, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) sentenced Radovan Karadžić – the political leader of the Bosnian Serbs during the 1990s war in the Balkans – to 40 years in prison for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. It is a judgment that will profoundly influence international law, deter those who might otherwise commit atrocities, and open the possibility of political reconciliation in Bosnia. Lawless leaders, such as those in Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, Russia, and the Islamic State, have just been reminded of their vulnerability to international justice. …
The judgment could also have important implications for Bosnia’s political future. The Dayton Peace Accords, which ended the war in 1995, have yet to unite Bosnia’s ethnic groups, and the country has been sliding deeper into turmoil, and edging toward breakup. During my visits to Bosnia, the victims of Karadžić’s crimes have told me that they needed to see the truth revealed first before they could reconcile with their Serb neighbors.
Until now, the truth has been slow in coming. The current president of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, uses genocide denial to sustain his power and stoke hate-filled separatism. But Karadžić’s conviction for genocide eviscerates his divisive propaganda. With this verdict, perhaps a rapprochement between Muslims and Serbs can finally begin.
Radovan Karadzic sentenced to 40 years in prison for Bosnian war crimes
Former Serb leader found criminally responsible for mass killings at Srebrenica in 1995
Karadzic, the judge said, was the only person in the Bosnian Serb leadership with the power to halt the genocide, but instead gave an order for prisoners to be transported from one location to another to be killed. In the carefully planned 1995 operation, Serb forces moved Muslim men and boys to sites around the Srebrenica enclave in eastern Bosnia and gunned them down before dumping their bodies into mass graves.
Upon hearing the sentence, the 70-year-old Karadzic slumped slightly in his chair, but otherwise showed little emotion. He plans to appeal the convictions
Does Europe judge Radovan Karadzic or itself?
By Mirnes Kovac, journalist and political analyst from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Let us again repeat, “never again”, with the hope and prayers that this time it will truly be never again.
(Al Jazeera) Radovan Karadzic had already skipped 13 years of his sentence at the time of his arrest in 2008. Today he is 71 and has skipped eight more years of his sentence with his trial. His sentence is scheduled for today. Whatever the verdict will be, the seed of his crime is still very alive.
First, his capture was protracted. We watched his trial for eight years. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was very careful to avoid any possible complaint about potentially hurting his “rights”.
But in reality, we all know that his case is like a pedestal on which the killed beast is put on display in the village to prove that the danger is gone. But is it?
Europe does not want to realise that the trial of Karadzic is to a degree a trial of itself. His verdict is also the verdict for Europe. For more than two decades, Europe had difficulty in even uttering the word genocide in Srebrenica or Prijedor, as it did not want to repeat a reference to the Holocaust.
If it had not been for such an indolent or even partial stance of Europe towards the “Evildoer” (from 1992 to 1995) – and the expectation that Bosnia and Herzegovina would be crushed in less than a few weeks – the Evildoer would not have been possible at all.
The genocide did not happen somewhere in the Northern Pole, but in the very courtyard of Europe. With its establishment and hesitation, Europe certainly made the Evildoer possible.
What the Brussels attacks tell us about the state of ISIS and Europe today
(Brookings) The Islamic State’s incredible military success in Iraq and Syria allowed it to seize the preeminent position in the broader jihadist movement. However, since its peak in the summer of 2014, the Islamic State has lost 40 percent of its territory, including major cities and thousands of fighters.
Now the group seeks alternative avenues of success, and Europe provides opportunities. More than 5,000 Europeans, including a disproportionate number of French and Belgians, have joined the Islamic State. Attacks conducted by extended networks in Europe allow the Islamic State to claim it is striking back against its enemies and avenging battlefield losses.
The Brussels attack, coming only days after the last remaining suspect in November’s Paris bombings was captured in his Brussels neighborhood, also demonstrates that European security services are overwhelmed. Despite modest growth in national security budgets, European intelligence and law enforcement officers are overstretched dealing with the scale of the jihadist challenge. The most egregious failure has been the lack of European intelligence cooperation, which wastes scarce resources on duplicative efforts and leaves gaping vulnerabilities between the open borders within the EU.
More aid agencies pull out of Greek camps, spurning EU deal
(Reuters) – More aid agencies helping refugees and migrants arriving in Greece said they were joining a boycott of detention centers on Wednesday, angered at an EU deal they say runs roughshod over human rights.
Human rights organizations reject the pact between the European Union and Turkey to fast-track registration and asylum applications, under which hundreds of new arrivals have been detained since Sunday. Refugees or migrants whose applications fail will be sent back to Turkey.
Aid agencies said cooperating with the Greeks at detention centers would make them complicit with an “unfair and inhumane” practice.
Two aid agencies said on Wednesday they were following the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR and aid organization Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), a major contributor to the relief effort, which both announced on Tuesday they would cut back assistance.
“The IRC alerted the (Greek) coast guard on Monday that we would not transport the world’s most vulnerable people to a place where their freedom of movement is impeded upon,” said Lucy Carrigan, a regional spokeswoman for the International Rescue Committee (IRC).
The Norwegian Refugee Council, a major non-governmental organization, said it was suspending most of its activities at a detention center on the Greek island of Chios
(Seeking Alpha) A controversial and ambitious migrant deal agreed between the European Union and Turkey went into effect Sunday. Under the pact, migrants arriving in Greece will be sent back once they have been registered and their individual asylum claim processed. In return, the EU will take in up to 72K refugees directly from Turkey and reward it with some €6B ($6.8B) aimed at improving the lives of 2.7M Syrian refugees currently living in the country.
The EU is on a suicide mission. Do we want to be a part of it?
The borders were thrown open and now it’s too late for second thoughts
(Spectator) Defenders of Europe’s disastrous recent border policies are keen to point out the technical differences between illegal immigration, economic migrants and asylum claimants. But the reluctance to create any serious programme of removal for the first two is not only sapping public sympathy for the third, it is part of the same failure that allowed millions of migrants into the continent in the first place, without checking where they were from or considering the consequences of them coming.
A tolerance for illegal as well as legal immigration has become a European principle in recent years. But over the last 12 months that attitude has been turbo-charged. European leaders have been searching for a rationale for their madness. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s first justification for opening the doors of Europe lay in the minority of arrivals fleeing Syria. But as a far larger number of economic migrants arrived from across Africa, the Middle East and Far East, the rationale changed. Instead it became a wonderful opportunity for an ‘ageing continent’ to acquire a new influx of workers; a new generation to keep us all in the style to which we have become accustomed.
The Financial Times: Kosovo edges one step closer to Hobbesian anarchy
No Balkan country is free of political turbulence but the turmoil in Pristina is particularly worrying
Recognize Kosovo or Pay the Price
(Bloomberg) Nationalists are growing stronger in the Balkans as elsewhere in Europe. In Kosovo, they have gelled in the Self-Determination party, which is demanding that Mustafa’s government resign over its acceptance of an EU-brokered agreement that gives limited autonomy to Kosovo’s ethnic Serbs in an area close to the Serbian border. They are furious, too, over the government’s agreement to settle the border between Kosovo and Montenegro. Opposition legislators have repeatedly released tear gas in parliament.
Populist appeals are striking a nerve. Unemployment in Kosovo is 35 percent, and a staggering 61 percent among people under 25. Kosovo has become the poorest corner of the Balkans, in part because it has become so isolated in terms of trade, investment and travel. This in turn has driven hundreds of thousands of Kosovars to look for work abroad — in the EU.
The Hollow Alliance: The trans-Atlantic partnership has been the world’s most important alliance for nearly seventy years, but it’s now weaker, and less relevant, than at any point in decades. It no longer plays a decisive role in addressing any of Europe’s top priorities. Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and the conflict in Syria will expose US-European divisions. As US and European paths diverge, there will be no more international fireman—and conflicts particularly in the Middle East will be left to rage.
Closed Europe: In 2016, divisions in Europe will reach a critical point as a core conflict emerges between Open Europe and Closed Europe—and a combination of inequality, refugees, terrorism, and grassroots political pressures pose an unprecedented challenge to the principles on which the new Europe was founded. Europe’s open borders will face particular pressure. The risk of Brexit is underestimated. Europe’s economics will hold together in 2016, but its broader meaning and its social fabric will not. — Ian Bremmer and Cliff Kupchan, Eurasia Group “Top Risks 2016” (4 January 2016)
Terrorism, Migrants, and Crippling Debt: Is This the End of Europe?
(Vanity Fair) Europe is beset by so many crises that it can be hard to remember them all. In rough order of prominence, they are: homegrown terrorism, the largest migration of people since World War II, sovereign debt, doubts about the euro’s viability, the rise of extreme right-wing parties such as France’s National Front, Russia’s menace to its western neighbors, growing Euro-skepticism (especially in Britain, which may easily vote to leave the European Union in a forthcoming referendum), the election of hard-line governments in Central and Eastern Europe, and the Catalan independence movement. Many of these are related—the sovereign-debt crises and doubts about the euro, for example—but they have combined over the last two years into a perfect storm which, with the notable exception of Germany’s Angela Merkel, has shown Europe’s leadership to be wanting in both speed and imagination. …
Peter Frankopan, head of the Centre for Byzantine Research at Oxford University, and the author of the acclaimed The Silk Roads, underlines the point that Europeans are ignorant of the history and culture beyond their own Mediterranean borders. “Europe does not have a past that can be understood in isolation to Asia and Africa,” he says. “And yet we have done all we can to try to seal ourselves off: we spend no time teaching the history, languages, or cultures of peoples who inhabit the shores of the Mediterranean…. We are now paying the price for the relentlessly blasé attitude.”
That story about the Peoples of the Sea from more than 3,000 years ago tells us what lies ahead for Europe in the 21st century, if the Middle East and North Africa are rendered uninhabitable by global warming. (7 January 2016)
EU summit: Cameron secures deal and starts campaign to keep Britain in – as it happened
David Cameron has claimed victory and pledged to campaign with “all my heart and soul” to keep Britain inside the EU after a deal was struck on Friday evening to redraw the terms of the UK’s membership.
David Cameron’s EU deal: what he wanted and what he got
Putin is a bigger threat to Europe’s existence than Isis
The best way for Russia to avoid collapse is by making the EU implode first – by exacerbating the migration crisis and stoking Islamophobia
(The Guardian) Putin is a gifted tactician, but not a strategic thinker. There is no reason to believe he intervened in Syria in order to aggravate the European refugee crisis. Indeed, his intervention was a strategic blunder because it embroiled him in a conflict with Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which has hurt the interests of both.
But once Putin saw the opportunity to hasten the EU’s disintegration, he seized it. He has obfuscated his actions by talking of cooperating against a common enemy, Isis. He has followed a similar approach in Ukraine, signing the Minsk agreement but failing to carry out its provisions.
The most effective way Putin’s regime can avoid collapse is by causing the EU to collapse sooner. An EU that is coming apart at the seams will not be able to maintain the sanctions it imposed on Russia following its incursion into Ukraine. On the contrary, Putin will be able to gain considerable economic benefits from dividing Europe and exploiting the connections with commercial interests and anti-European parties that he has carefully cultivated. (See Comment below)
The Death of the Most Generous Nation on Earth
Little Sweden has taken in far more refugees per capita than any country in Europe. But in doing so, it’s tearing itself apart.
(Foreign Policy) Sweden, a country that prides itself on generosity to strangers. During World War II, Sweden took in the Jews of Denmark, saving much of the population. In recent years the Swedes have taken in Iranians fleeing from the Shah, Chileans fleeing from Gen. Augusto Pinochet, and Eritreans fleeing forced conscription. Accepting refugees is part of what it means to be Swedish. Yet what Margot Wallstrom meant, and what turned out to be true, was that Germany, Sweden, Austria, and a few others could not absorb the massive flow on their own. The refugee crisis could, with immense effort and courage, have been a collective triumph for Europe. Instead, it has become a collective failure. This is the story of the exorbitant, and ultimately intolerable, cost that Sweden has paid for its unshared idealism.
The 160,000 asylum-seekers who came to Sweden last year is double the number it has ever accepted before. I met many critics who were prepared to raise impolite questions about whether Sweden could afford to lavish generous benefits on so large a population, whether it could integrate so many new arrivals with low levels of skills, whether a progressive and extremely secular country could socialize a generation of conservative Muslim newcomers. And that was before Cologne.
Srecko Horvat: If we don’t restore democracy in Europe, the consequences could be dire
The refugee crisis and the rise of the hard right have shown the failings of the EU. Unless we build a new movement and try again, we have already lost
(The Guardian) The naive dream of the marriage between “capitalism and democracy” has died. We saw in last summer’s Greek referendum that voting can serve merely as a kind of decoration, and that financial interests (from international monetary institutions to private banks) win out. Instead, we need a system in which democracy really means decision-making by the people, from community organising to general assemblies, from participatory budgeting to self-management.
The dangers of doing nothing are real: there are uncomfortable echoes, among those morbid symptoms, of Europe’s history of fascism.
Just look back at the past few months in Europe: neo-Nazis marching through the centres of our capitals and attacking refugees and foreign-looking bystanders; extreme rightwing governments from Poland to Croatia; the richest countries of Europe – such as Switzerland and Denmark – seizing assets from refugees; more and more countries – including Hungary, Slovenia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece – building border fences; the temporary suspensions of Schengen in countries such as Germany, France and Austria; “outsourcing” refugees to Turkey by investing €3bn in a refugee facility.
Athens and Rome expose Europe’s greatest faultlines
Wolfgang Münchau – Financial Times.
Italy’s long-term sustainability in the eurozone is just as uncertain as that of Greece
(Other News) There are signs that Italy’s patience with the EU and Germany, in particular, is wearing thin . Matteo Renzi, prime minister, has been openly attacking the policies of the EU on energy, on Russia, on the fiscal deficits, as well as German dominance of the entire apparatus.
It is not the euro crisis alone that has brought Italy to the brink of questioning its position in the eurozone. It is a combination of many crises and is likely to gain more momentum from the Brexit debate.
There is an element of bad luck in this. Europe’s policy of muddling through, of doing the minimum required, and hoping to mop up the rubble later, might even have worked if the refugees had stayed at home. The EU’s mistake was not to have chosen a path that would lead to invariable ruin, but to render itself defenceless against the next unforeseen shock.
After I Lived in Norway, America Felt Backward. Here’s Why
A crash course in social democracy.
What Scandinavians call the Nordic model is a smart and simple system that starts with a deep commitment to equality and democracy. That’s two concepts combined in a single goal because, as far as they’re concerned, you can’t have one without the other.
(The Nation) Proof that they do work is delivered every year in data-rich evaluations by the United Nations and other international bodies. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s annual report on international well-being, for example, measures 11 factors, ranging from material conditions such as affordable housing and employment to quality-of-life matters like education, health, life expectancy, voter participation, and overall citizen satisfaction. Year after year, all the Nordic countries cluster at the top, while the United States lags far behind. In addition, Norway has ranked first on the UN Development Program’s Human Development Index for 12 of the last 15 years, and it consistently tops international comparisons in such areas as democracy, civil and political rights, and freedom of expression and the press. [Another view in this Guardian piece dated 27 January 2014 Dark lands: the grim truth behind the ‘Scandinavian miracle’]
A very different “European model” appears to be flourishing in Spain.
Ten Spain corruption scandals that will take your breath away
A report this week showed that Spain has slipped yet further down a ranking of the most corrupt nations in the European Union.
The European Disunion– How the Continent Lost Its Way
By Ngaire Woods
The eurozone crisis has cracked the foundations of European integration. European countries have successfully cooperated over the past six decades and are likely to continue to do so, under an umbrella of Germany hegemony. Paradoxically, ever-strengthening German leadership simultaneously facilitates cooperation and repels further integration. The result will be a Europe that continues to use, but does not fully exploit, its collective political and economic weight in the world.
(Foreign Affairs January|February) The euro supporters’ view took a major hit in 2008, when the financial crisis spread from the United States to Europe.
The EU response, and the showdowns it has produced in the subsequent years, has been interpreted by observers in two ways. One view holds that the crisis has drawn Europe closer together. This is what the political scientist Kathleen McNamara argues in her thoughtful new book, The Politics of Everyday Europe. … A less sanguine interpretation of the crisis is that the EU, far from being drawn together, has been split down the middle.
Europe’s 70-year crisis
Terror in Paris. Alleged sex assaults in Cologne. The refugee crisis that has gripped the EU for more than a year is morphing into something else: A debate on the future of Europe and the role nearly 20 million Muslims will play in it. But the dilemma isn’t new. From the Arctic Circle to the ‘no-go zones’ of Marseille, the Post’s Matthew Fisher reports on a crisis decades in the making.
Lurching Right: The Escalating Fight for Poland’s Future
(Spiegel) In total, about 20,000 people simultaneously protested in Warsaw, Lodz, Berlin, London and Prague that Saturday, marking the third major protest campaign since the national conservatives came into power. The protesters included gay and lesbian activists, environmentalists and veterans of the anti-communist movement that existed before the fall of the Berlin Wall, as well as Catholic conservatives and ordinary citizens. They are united by the same fear: that the national conservatives will transform the country to suit their agenda and will curtail freedom in the process.
Immediately after its election victory in late October, the government began its “national revolution,” using Hungary as a role model. Its goal is to orient the government, the media, the judiciary, education, government-owned businesses and even theaters and museums toward a single center of power. And this power center is essentially one person: PiS leader and founder Jaroslaw Kaczynski, officially represented by President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Beata Szydlo.
But Poland is not Hungary, and Jaroslaw Kaczynski now faces opposition from a protest movement which seems to be gathering more and more supporters by the week. Unlike the Hungarians, Poles are accustomed to success. Their economy has been growing steadily for the last 25 years, creating a self-confident, affluent, pro-European middle class which is now taking to the streets to defend its freedom against Kaczynski.
Much as we deplore his tone and the underlying contempt for any policies that might be tainted with a liberal hint, it is hard to argue with this analysis.
It’s Still the Demography, Stupid
by Mark Steyn
Ten years ago this month – January 2006 – The Wall Street Journal and The New Criterion published my first draft of what would become the thesis of my bestselling book, America Alone.
The argument was straightforward. The western world is going out of business because it’s given up having babies. The 20th century welfare state, with its hitherto unknown concepts such as spending a third of your adult lifetime in “retirement”, is premised on the basis that there will be enough new citizens to support the old. But there won’t be. Lazy critics of my thesis thought that I was making a “prediction”, and that my predictions were no more reliable than Al Gore’s or Michael Mann’s on the looming eco-apocalypse. I tried to explain that it’s not really a prediction at all:
When it comes to forecasting the future, the birthrate is the nearest thing to hard numbers. If only a million babies are born in 2006, it’s hard to have two million adults enter the workforce in 2026 (or 2033, or 2037 …). And the hard data on babies around the Western world is that they’re running out a lot faster than the oil is.
Somewhere, deep down, the European political class understands that the Great Migrations have accelerated the future I outlined way back when:
Can these trends continue for another 30 years without having consequences? Europe by the end of this century will be a continent after the neutron bomb: The grand buildings will still be standing, but the people who built them will be gone. We are living through a remarkable period: the self-extinction of the races who, for good or ill, shaped the modern world.
Deal on UK-EU renegotiations ‘possible’ next month
(BBC) Agreement between the UK and the rest of the EU over David Cameron’s reform proposals is possible next month, one of the leading negotiators has said.
Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, said he would table “concrete proposals” for discussion at February’s summit of EU leaders in Brussels.
Should a deal be reached, it would open the possibility of a referendum on the UK’s membership being held in June.
End of Europe? Berlin, Brussels’ shock tactic on migrants
Is this how “Europe” ends?
(UK Reuters) The Germans, founders and funders of the postwar union, shut their borders to refugees in a bid for political survival by the chancellor who let in a million migrants. And then — why not? — they decide to revive the Deutschmark while they’re at it.
That is not the fantasy of diehard Eurosceptics but a real fear articulated at the highest levels in Berlin and Brussels.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, her ratings hit by crimes blamed on asylum seekers at New Year parties in Cologne, and EU chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker both said as much last week.
Juncker echoed Merkel in warning that the central economic achievements of the common market and the euro are at risk from incoherent, nationalistic reactions to migration and other crises. He renewed warnings that Europe is on its “last chance”, even if he still hoped it was not “at the beginning of the end”
Less and more Europe: The EU at a crossroads between federalism and political disintegration
(LSE blog) One of the most common arguments during the Eurozone crisis was that states required greater levels of political integration to help stabilise their economies. However, as Arthur Borriello and Amandine Crespy write, the crisis also witnessed a shift toward more intergovernmental forms of decision-making centred on the European Council. They note that the EU is now caught between competing narratives which simultaneously advocate ‘less Europe’ and ‘more Europe’, and that with the refugee crisis generating similar paradoxical positions, it is time for national governments to articulate a consistent vision for the future of the integration process.
The Threat That Will Save Europe
Daniel Gros, Director of the Brussels-based Center for European Policy Studies
(Project Syndicate) Even in the face of a GDP contraction larger than that of the United States during the Great Depression of the 1930s, Greece preferred continued membership in the eurozone to a return to the drachma, which would have freed up some additional tools for regaining competitiveness and imposed asubstantial haircut on creditors.
If the latter interpretation is correct, Europe’s monetary union, though still deeply flawed, has become more cohesive. If eurozone membership cannot be taken for granted, if countries that do not abide by the common rules can simply be kicked out, countries will try harder to hold onto it.
The problems within the Schengen Area illustrate a similar evolution. Like the eurozone, the Schengen Area is an incomplete structure, because it abolished internal borders without creating a common mechanism for policing the external border.
Europe’s initial response [to the refugee crisis] was incoherent, with different EU member states taking radically different approaches to the influx. Still, checks are being reinstituted at an increasing number of internal borders – most recently, on Denmark’s border with Germany. To many, Schengen appears to be in tatters.
But the reinstatement of some border controls is merely a temporary measure. Like the capital controls in Greece (and, until recently, in Cyprus), the purpose is to stem the crisis while better mechanisms are implemented. Moreover, internal border controls remain the exception, not the rule.
The Schengen countries know that reviving full controls across all internal borders would be extremely costly, forcing them to divert significant resources away from the primary objective of fighting crime and terrorism. That is why their leaders remain committed to preserving open internal borders, while maintaining a stronger external border – even if that means, as has been made clear to Greece, revoking the Schengen membership of a country deemed incapable of doing its part.
These Denmark-Sweden border controls turn back the clock to a pre-Europe age
A borderless Europe cannot be a dream reserved for times of perfect peace.
(The Guardian) On Monday, a new Swedish law came into force that demands, for the first time in around 50 years, that travellers at the Denmark-Sweden border produce photo ID. The centre for these checks will be Kastrup, Denmark’s international airport, where there is also a train line between the two countries. But the Öresund bridge, which over the past 15 years has been a proud monument of integration across national borders, will also now lose its symbolism.
The Öresund region, which straddles Sweden and Denmark, has been lauded the world over as a successful example of how businesses, civil society and people can integrate across national and cultural divides. Education, business, work and love have made the region fuse. With ID checks, this vision and reality will effectively be sabotaged.
Is the Schengen dream of Europe without borders becoming a thing of the past?
With Sweden and Denmark reintroducing border controls in a new Europe of razor-wire fences, fear of mass immigration and homegrown terror, obituaries are already being written
In 1985, ministers from five governments met here to launch a bold experiment in border-free travel. Cars and lorries with green dot stickers on their windshields could roam the five countries – the same three plus Belgium and the Netherlands – without passports.
The ID-free travel zone became fully fledged in 1995 and kept growing. And the village acquired unexpected pride and renown as the birthplace of a free travel regime that now embraces 26 countries from Iceland to Greece. It is known as Schengen Europe.
… there is a strong sense among policymakers that national leaders in Europe lack the political will to bolster and support the Schengen system in a crisis, that they are more focused on courting voters by ignoring Schengen in favour of national remedies.
A happy new year for Europe?
Carl Bildt: A year or two from now, the EU will look very different.
(Project Syndicate) As the European Union prepares to enter the new year, it faces an almost perfect storm of political challenges. The strategy it has used in the past – barely muddling through a series of calamities – may no longer be enough.
Of course, the EU is no stranger to crisis management. The euro crisis, for example, was widely expected to destroy it; but, after a couple of years of tough summits, the issue was more or less managed. Greece remains in poor shape, but it has retained its EU and eurozone membership. And the EU now has stronger mechanisms for economic-policy coordination.
But the situation today is far more demanding than anything the EU has seen so far – not least because of the number of serious challenges it faces. Far from the “ring of friends” that EU leaders once envisioned, the European neighbourhood has turned into a “ring of fire,” fuelled largely by the combination of Islamist terrorism and Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine.
In 2016, EU countries can be expected to get a handle on the immediate challenge, agreeing to key steps to control borders and share the burden of migration more equitably. But the longer-term challenges – integrating the refugees into European society and countering the rise of xenophobic political parties – will be far more difficult.
After expanding for more than a half-century, the EU would suddenly start shrinking.
Even without the refugee crisis and its aftershocks, the EU would be facing a demanding agenda. Progress on both the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and a single digital market are central to the EU global competitiveness, as are efforts to implement the planned capital-markets union.
As if that were not enough, a new “global foreign and security strategy”, to replace the one that was developed during the more optimistic days of 2003, must be in place by June.
Whatever happens, one thing is certain: a year or two from now, the EU will look very different. It might be a fractured union, so preoccupied with arresting its breakdown, spurred on by the UK’s withdrawal, that it stumbles on virtually every other issue it faces.
Or it could be a vigorous union that includes the UK and which has got its act together on refugee, border, and asylum issues and is finalising the TTIP and the digital single market. (28 December 2015)