Ursula von der Leyen -Spitzenkandidate proxy

Anna van Densky OPINION Nine votes narrow victory of Ursula von der Leyen (60) reveals the fragility of the EU institutions, plagued by political fragmentation, and rise of Euroscepticism, the latter not without reason. The democratic deficit is becoming obvious, especially in crucial moments of appointing the EU top jobs candidates. The obscure procedure of election of the European Commission president, who is de facto ‘Prime Minister of Europe‘, does not inspire confidence neither of the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), no of their electorate. The former Europarl speaker compared it to the election of the Pope: the cardinals plotting behind closed doors, while congregation is awaiting for white smoke from the chimney.

After Manfred Weber (47) Spitzenkandidate (leading candidate) from the European People’s Party was rejected by East European member-states, the candidacy of von der Leyen emerged in contingency plan during crisis Summit of the EU leaders. Hardly known outside Germany, overnight she became the most powerful EU executive, the guardian of the EU Treaties, and the monopolist of the legislative initiative.

Among 733 votes cast (one void) 383 members voted in favor, 327 against, and 22 abstained, – with the slim majority of nine votes, von der Leyen became a sensation: first European Commission female president (born in Brussels, in family of a European Commission civil servant).

In spite an attractiveness of the perspective to appoint a woman, confirming European alignment with the gender equality principles,  the entire election process was on the brink, attacked by many MEPs for its Machiavellian engineering far from public eyes. It is obvious that the next time it might not pass, throwing the EU institutions in a protracted crisis.

Even von der Leyen –  the “jackpot winner” considered necessary ‘to respond to  the need for transparent  Spitzenkandidaten (leading candidate) system to be strengthened and the transnational lists to be reconsidered in future European elections.

With 383 votes in favour, the European Parliament elected Ursula von der Leyen President of the next European Commission in a secret paper ballot. Officially, she will enter office on 1 November 2019 for a five-year term.

Parliament currently comprises 747 MEPs as per the official notifications received by member state authorities, so the threshold needed to be elected was 374 votes, i.e. more than 50% of its component members. President Sassoli formally announced the requisite number before the results were revealed in plenary. The vote was held by secret paper ballot.

Vote ink finger

 

 

Europarl: Ann Widdecombe furore

Anna van Densky OPINION The passionate speech of British MEP Ann Widdecombe had a highly unpleasant  novelty for the European Union: the doyen of Brexit party political group associated the protracted process of exiting from the EU with national liberation movement. She openly threw into face of Guy Verhofstad – the European Parliament representative for Brexit talks – the accusation of treating the UK as “colony“.

Guy Verhofstadt answered in via his Twitter micro blog, regarding Widdecombe as a “clown”. It means he failed again to understand souverainist’s influence on public opinion, and the interaction between Brexit party (former UKIP) and larger groups of electorate, initially perceived as “marginal“, but in reality numerous enough to impose Brexit referendum, and win its outcome. Verhofstadt did not answer to in a meaningful way to Widdecombe criticism of democratic deficit in EU procedures either. He also didn’t answer to her criticism of protracted withdrawal process, comparing Brussels to metropole, reluctant to give away rip on its rich colony.  However the strategy of brushing off criticism of Brexiteers is in essence myopic because it allows their vision to hover high, and spread around engaging new groups, and not only from UK electorate, but the other old EU member states.

The feeble attempt of BBC journalist to argue Ms.Widdecombe’s point of  view through pointing at her high MEP salary incomparable with “slave” status looked like faux pas.

BBC did not manage to address the issue, and attempt, dabbed by the MEP as “silly”, just re-enforcing her speech, demonstrating absence of meaningful counter-argument.

 

 

EU top jobs Council meets again on June 30

European Union leaders will meet again on June 30 to seek agreement for distribution of the EU top jobs.

There was no majority for any candidate,” Council president Donald Tusk told a press conference. “We will meet again on June 30.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel declined to define her strategy in coming week, she said she will inform European People’s party and Manfred Weber about the findings of Donald Tusk report: none of the political families Spitzenkandidaten managed to get sufficient support. At the Summit Tusk was mandates to launch a new round of negociations with the European Parliament to define new candidates to be presented on Sunday at a special Summit.

Earlier French President Emmanuel Macron criticized Spitzenkandidaten system, underlining it is not in the EU Treaty, and moreover those who promote it, refuse transnational lists for European elections, which he saw as contradiction.

A new Commission president must receive a clear majority of national leaders, and also acceptance of the new European Parliament, which will have the first Plenary session in Strasbourg on July 2.

Image above: European Parliament, Strasbourg

Caravaggio à la Flamande

Anna van Densky OPINION from Brussels. Discovered in attic in a house in Toulouse (2014) canvas depicting a Biblical story of the decapitation of Holofernes by Judith  is not universally attributed to Italian genius Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, but some consider it to be a copy of his contemporary, a Franco-Flemish artist Louis Finson, who was well acquainted with Caravaggio‘s masterpieces.

Those days artists had no notion of copyright©, and making of a copy of a masterpiece was not seen as a violation of author’s rights, so someone, who was sincerely impressed by a canvas of Caravaggio was doing his absolute best to share his experience with the other audiences, especially foreign ones, without feeling of guilt. It would also be logical to make an adaptation of the canvas copy to a foreign taste, translating drama into preferred visual  language of the audience.

To my eye the painting to be auctioned on June 27 in Toulouse, France, looks like an interpretation of the story by a Flemish baroque artist, acquainted with Caravaggio masterpiece, and eager to share his special experience back at home in Antwerp, or Brugge. However he is adapting it to the lavish tastes of Flemish art collectors, shaping their preferences  in tradition of luxury of legendary Burgundy. 

The unknown (Finson?) artist depicted Judith as a burger’s wife, dressed in rich black silk, decorated with Flemish lace. With a prosecutor’s eyes, she executes the enemy to fulfill her moral duty.  Judith‘s gaze escapes spectators, underlining the profoundly introvert nature of her act, motivated by her conscious. She is self-confident and stable, convinced of making the ultimate right choice.

The other protagonists, are subordinate to Judith: servants face is reminding of a dry fruit, lacking vivid emotion, and obviously is designed to create a contrast with the widow’s porcelain skin, and full, peach-like round cheeks. Almost decapitated general Holofernes body is in convulsions,  and his served head with imprinted grimace of pain, and open mouth exposing sharp teeth, and white eyeballs – all of them are hinting on his bestial nature.

The tent of the Assyrian general Holofernes is decorated by the traditional “drappo rosso” – rich purple curtain, but it is far too intense in color, too heavy and has too many folds in comparison with light floating draperies of Caravaggio, touched with subtle shades of red,  which are creating backdrop a dramatic understatement, never competing for attention with the human figures in the front.

However they are just purely visual elements of ‘Toulouse‘ canvas, while the major challenge is to explain the message of the painting, which has an atypical of Caravaggio didactic tone, while the Italian genius was never interested in morality or ethics as such. Caravaggio is an obsessive investigator of the darkness of human soul, fascinated by desires, passions, searching and exposing paradoxes, without intention to rationalise them.

The acknowledged canvas on the same subject of Judith and Holofernes, attributed to Caravaggio exposes drama, full of passion and mystery. The master is definitely not seduced by an idea to depict one more illustration of the well-known Biblical story, but he presents his unique view on turbulent lives of the widow and the general, fascinated with the depth of characters and infinite complexity of feelings.

Young Judith of angelic beauty disgusted, and taken aback by her own deed: she, herself, is definitely traumatized by the act of beheading, continuing almost mechanically to cut through Holofernes neck. While the general is searching for the eye contact with her in disbelief that a women with angel’s face is his murderess. Holofernes is definitely not ugly, he his not vile, or bestial, still alive he desperately searching for an answer in Judith‘s eyes, in vain…

Nobody can assemble the pieces of the puzzle – why? Why an idea of committing such a gruesome murder occurred in a such an angelic head?.. Why the army general Holofernes was trapped by Judith’s beauty, and femininity to such an extent that he paid a price of his live for the perception of a beauty incapable of evil?..  Caravaggio does not give the answers, there is no lesson to learn, just an endless wandering in a labyrinth of reflections, feelings and hints. Eros and Thanatos, love and death. Assassination as a sacrifice. Caravaggio has no slightest intention to structure the world around him, on contrary he enjoys it as it is – troubled, impulsive and erratic, being a rebel as he is.

 

 

 

 

Zelensky NATO performance

Anna van Densky OPINION UkrainePresident Volodimir Zelensky declarations at NATO headquaters could be hardly considered as good news for inhabitants of Donbass – joint drills in July with Alliance vessels in Black Sea can not be mistaken for a flight of a dove with an olive branch.

Zelensky is ready to negotiate Donbass conflicts, but only in the context of NATO integration. It means to continue imposing on Russians in Donbass the vector of development they had initially rejected – to choice a camp of Russia’s foes. But not only, it means the complete submission to a totalitarian Ukraine language law, stripping Donbass of their minority national and linguistic rights, destroying their identity.

National identity became a huge problem for ethnic Russian on the terrotries of the former USSR, when a number of former Soviet Republics have chosen for openly anti-Russian policy, eradicating Russian language and identity in contradiction with international law, and European values. Ukraine has taken an aggressive stance against Russian minority, who voted for its independence unaware it would be the beginning of the end of their national identity profile.

President Putin promise to facilitate the procedure of issuing Russian passports to Ukrainian citizens of Russian origin, based on widely used practiced of jus sanguinis, accepted by the majority of the NATO allies, has caused concerns of the Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. He said it would ”destabiliseUkraine, omitting the fact, that the opposite, namely the attempt to eradicate Russian identity is behind the political turbulence of Ukraine, degrading into an armed conflict.

The denial of the fact that the Ukrainian state, being composed in different political contexts from different territories with autochtone populations, causes tensions fueling into conflict. In rejection of human rights, identity rights, linguistic rights of Russian, Hungarian and other minorities, Ukraine weakens the state, wasting a great deal of time and energy for suppressing the justified claims.

The declared by Jens Stoltenberg Ukraine-NATO drills in Black Sea in July, will serve as demonstration of power to Moscow, senseless and dangerous, enhancing Russia, the nuclear superpower to protect its borders, and assume it role as a guarantor of psychical survival of Donbass populations, threatened to be exterminated by Ukrainian neo-nazi as it happened in Odessa massacre (2014),  where they cremated Russians alive.

The official restoration of fascism in Ukraine took place in 2010, when President Yushchenko attributed status of national hero of Ukraine to a nazi criminal and terrorist Stepan Bandera, who led extermination of 300 000 Jews in Ukraine in a number of huge pogroms.

Jens Stoltenberg underlined that NATO is an alliance of democracies, subsequently the West should require respect of democratic values first, before undertaking rapprochement with Ukraine, contaminated by neo-nazis. The enforcement of Kiev  by NATO without demanding authorities to assume their responsibilities to respect democratic values, and minority rights will also nourish the most marginal political forces, interpreting the rapprochement as la carte blanche to return to Stepan Bandera ideology of Ukrainian nationalism.

EU elections 2019 final day

Anna van Densky On Sunday May 26 Europeans vote in an election expected to further erode traditional Eurocentric parties and boost the nationalist movements across the continent, resulting in a drastically different and difficult composition of the European Parliament – once a champion of compromise, – effecting the entire range of politics. (Image above: European Parliament, Strasbourg).

Polls opened at 7 A.M. (0400 GMT) in the east of Europe and will finally close at 11 P.M. (2100 GMT) in Italy. Seven states have already voted, with 21 joining in on Sunday in what is the world’s biggest democratic exercise after India.

Many feel it is odd, that three years after the referendum, Britons are back to the European Parliament, and there are certain fears, that the entire EU political agenda will be “hijacked” by Brexit.

However it is universally understood, that after Brexit the EU project will never be the same. Departure of the oldest European parliamentary democracy feels like an amputation.

EU in transit. Tempora mutantur – times are changed, we also are changed with them.

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European Parliament, PHS building, Brussels

 

May departure opens Brexit battlefield

Anna van Densky OPINION The decision of resignation of the British Prime minister Theresa May next day after the European elections indicates the severe loss of Conservatives attempting to deliver negotiated departure from the EU. It is also an indicator of highly likely  big win of the Brexit Party led by Nigel Farage, uniting under his flags all those who are discontent with Brexit protracted crisis.

May stepping down is definitely bad news for the European Union, meaning the radical Brexit forces are taking over, leading to much feared no-deal Brexit on the 31st of October. Tearful good-bye of May, a compromise figure, is much more than a personal failure, but equally the EU leadership fiasco to achieve a reasonable agreement, which could be accepted by the majority in the Westminster.

Many considered a over demanding position of the EU as a tactic to create crisis, leading to the impossibility of the departure, and subsequent second referendum  “helpingBritons to correct their ‘historic mistake’. However this risky Russian roulette of the European Commission, including the rejection to re-open the endorsed deal to help May out of the impasse, will now backfire. Instead of the return under guidance of Brussels Shepherds, Britons, morally exhausted by the protracted Brexit argument will follow Farageclean break‘ plan.

Leaving the EU without a deal to start the negociations next day after departure will put Brussels at disadvantage, depriving of instruments of influence, but strengthen the position of the UK, striking trade deals across the world. It will be a considerable blow for many sectors, in first place for the European agriculture, losing a substantial share of the UK market to the other players, which leads to further decline of the EU popularity among Europeans.

The tears of May, while announcing her resignation, are highly symbolical. They are much more about lamenting compromise with Europe, than about her personal fate. Profound sorrow for the end of the EU era, which will never come back.

From the beginning of May this year Japanese call their new era – Reiwa, meaning “harmony“. Using Japanese analogy, after May’s leaving historic arena,  the new European period of history will look like ‘Kenka‘ era, meaning “quarrel“.