Farewell to Juncker era

Anna van Densky OPINION President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker concluded his mandate in his unique ‘cool‘ style in an informal PR event, with a lot of applause and a few mediocre questions from Brussels press corps, which is definitely not his fault.

I have always said that me and euro are the only survivors of the Maastricht Treaty, but after my departure only euro (currency) will stay, Juncker said with a good dose of humour in exchange with journalists. “I am happy to leave the “most difficult job in the world””, he confessed , mentioning successes and regrets, he did not specify.

From the behalf of the Brussels International Press Association (API-IPA) Italian ANSA correspondent read a short thank you speech, without any assessment of the Juncker Commission achievements, explaining there would be a broad divergence of opinions on the subject.

However there was a sadness in the air from saying good-bye to a generation of European politicians – the dreamers of a grand project of the United States of Europe, conceived by Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet, the believers in European Union as a family of nations. Looking back on five years of Juncker Commission, one can recognise his attempt to create an informal atmosphere of friendliness, togetherness, and genuine multiculutralism in spite of multiple systemic crises, eroding the EU project.

Juncker era is definitely over…

His heiress, German Ursula von der Leyen has already imosed the style of her upcoming mandate, taking the decision to stay in Berlaymont building at all times, using permanently the adjacent 25 square meter appartement designed as “personal retreat” in the same building on the 13th floor.

Her main residence remains in Hannover, Germany, where her husband lives and works. Does she expect everyone to follow, introducing Japanese sleeping at work place culture INEMURI in European Commission, when in absence of adjacent appartements the European civil servants will spend long hours in offices, falling asleep at their tables?

However this von der Leyen decision has further reaching consequences, ending the story of Brussels as modern “melting pot”, and reducing it to headquaters of EU management, shaped by staunchly tribalismafter the intense week of work inemuri style, everyone will return to the relevant national communities. Good-bye, Brussels Babylon tower dream…

Nomandy Four: «winners and losers»

Anna van Densky OPINION Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said it is inappropriate to assess the outcome of the Normandy Four Summit in Paris in terms of the “winners and losers“.

Everyone pursued the same objective, that is, to resume the work of the Normandy format after a long break and revive real efforts to find a solution to the conflict in southeastern Ukraine” he explained.

Certain steps, important steps in that direction have been taken, but much more remains to be done,Peskov underlined.

It is inappropriate to say here who was the winner and who was the loser at that Summit,” Peskov concluded.

However Peskov is wrong, because not everyone pursues the “same objective“, and the Normandy Summit projects on the broader political context, where there are “winners and losers” in the protracted Donbass conflict, and their numbers multiply each single day.

Zelensky presidency and Kiev government to deal directly with people of Donbass, whom they formally consider their citizens, but the same time also “separatists” or “occupants“, creates a toxic atmosphere, affecting all spheres of life, including investment climate. However it is mass migration that damages Ukraine the most, forcing the active and skilled population to flee instability, and search for jobs outside the country. During last five years of Poroshneko mandate the figures of departures mounted up to 100 000 people a year. Will Zelensky be able to renverse the trend?

When electing Zelensky, the voters massively rejected the belligerent politics of his predecessor Petro Poroshenko, who ascended power by the violence coup d’état, and launched offensive against the Russian-speaking est of the country, calling the operation a “counter-terrorist” raid. The Ukrainian electorate expects from Zelensky the Donbass conflict resolution without delay. In many cases falsely presented as a conflict between Ukrainian pro-Europeans and pro-Putinites, it is about the respect of the fundamental rights of minorities in Ukraine.

“After Viktor Youchenko attributed a statuts of hero of Ukraine (2010) to Nazi criminal and Holocaust ideologist and active participant Stepan Bandera, the assimilation firmly replaced the respect of minority rights.

If later Petro Poroshenko initiated the inclusion in the Constitution of Ukraine the clause on EU integration, the claim stayed totally nominal, while the EU has 60 regional languages, Kiev marched the opposite direction. The European Union was established as a project of peace, while Ukraine decides arguments with artillery.

Suffocated by chauvinism and corruption, the Ukrainian society is in perpetual conflict with all the national minorities who are denied of the elementary individual and linguistic rights.

The slow motion for the implementation of Minks agreements, also projects on the degradation of relations between the ethnic communities within the Ukrainian society, while they realise that reluctance of Kiev to grant Donbass a special status means a denial of their identity as well. Meanwhile the notorious language law, voted by Rada and endorsed by President Porkoshenko causes concerns of the Venice Commission, making a conclusion that it strips ethnic minorities of use of their mother tongue, violating their fundamental rights.

“The language law, breaching international laws and commitments of Ukraine, is a bad omen for Donbass people, and all the other minorities in the country, but it would be naïve to think that it does not rub off the credibility of Zelensky. Silently agreeing to serve as a blunt instrument of the West to deter Russia, through repressing Russian minority in Donbass, he is undermining his own leadership in eyes of around hundred other minorities living on the territory of modern Ukraine.

While the West is cheering Zelensky, encouraging him to oppose President Putin in a Cold War syndrome style, refusing fundamental rights to Russian ethnic group in Donbass, the entire complex of minority rights in Ukraine are sacrificed, overlooked as collaterals in the crusade against Kremlin. However, hostage to Ukrainian radial nationalists with their agenda of total “Ukrainisation” of population, Zelensky‘s target of “de-occupation” of Donbass creates a self-destructive narrative, betraying his own electorate demanding peace, and surrendering further grounds to nationalists, hailing Bandera, the true winners of protracted Donbass conflict.

NATO: Macron follows de Gaulle footsteps

Emmanuel Macron’s remarks on NATO “brain death” have caused shock waves around the globe, exempting those who are aware of the Gaullist foreign policy traditions of the V Republic. (Image: archive).

The state funeral of the President Jacques Chirac confirmed the sentiment of the nation, highly praising the politician who stood tall against American invasion of Iraq, conducting independent foreign policy.

Long queues of people waiting patiently to pass by the coffin of their leader, paying tribute, indicated without ambiguity the direction of the policy to achieve the status of a “great” President of France – the rejection to bent to American whims.

It is highly likely that at the funeral of Jacques Chirac incumbent President Macron felt the state of mind of the nation, and rejected the perspective of entering the history as the “poodle” of President Trump. However may be this time U.S. President is not looking for a “poodele’. Actually he does not have high esteem for NATO himself. During the election campaign Trump assessed NATO as “obsolete”, and afterwards on many occasions promised to pull out the American military from the wars that seem “never end”.

President Trump has already raised questions why the U.S. should continue offering to Europeans “free ride”, requesting the Allies to invest a fair share into their own defense.

Six European allies now are above the threshold sought by US President Donald Trump — Estonia, Greece, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and the UK were estimated to have met the 2% defence budget goal.

However the NATO burial concept derives from a few sold reasons: the Alliance task was fulfilled by the collapse of the USSR, ending Cold War; unfair distribution of financial burden within the Alliance or European “free-ride”; the nature of threats has become different, and they can not be addressed by military means. The latter is evident in failure to defeat terrorism in Afghanistan, where on average 55 people are killed daily fighting with Taliban.

The other element, contributing the degradation of NATO is the belligerent strategy of Turkish President Erdogan, representing grave concern for the Alliance in case of the retaliation attack of the Syrian leader Al Assad: the Article 5 of collective defense obliges the entire block to enter the conflict. Article 5 – the milestone of collective defence is becoming increasingly dangerous in modern world, overwhelmed by conflicts.

“I understand what you’re saying; I’ve asked the same question,” President Trump said during FoxNews programme while commenting on a young American to be obliged to defend Montenegro. “You know, Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people. … They are very aggressive people. They may get aggressive, and congratulations, you’re in World War III.” After all, Macron is not so original, suggesting that NATO brain is dead.

Brexit forever!

Nothing is so permanent as temporary. From now onward this wisdom can be fully applied to Brexit process. The United Kingdom’s Supreme Court ruled on September 24 that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision for Parliament prorogation while approaching Brexit was unlawful.

The Court decision will certainly influence the departure process, blocking the way to leave without the Withdrawal Agreement, widely known as “the deal”. The prediction of Theresa May is coming true: it may be that referendum result will be never honoured, and Brexit will not be delivered at all.

From today the EU has two special candidats: one, Turkey, is “eternally” attempting to enter, while the other is permanently at the threshold, intending to leave. As Pisa Tower – forever falling, and still there. Brexit Forever!

Memorial to Strasbourg Grand Synagogue

Modern IT technologies will help to give a second life to a destroyed by Nazi Grand Synagogue, this time in a form of a bronze monument, established at the original place at Quai Kléber. The Jewish community, IT scientists, historians, and lovers of history have  collected a significant amount of information, allowing to restore the exact model of the demolished building.

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IT reconstruction model of Grand Synagogue Quai Kléber
On 18th of September, during the European Parliament Plenary week the Jewish Consistory of Bas-Rhin invited to the Synagogue of Peace  Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and Strasbourg politicians to celebrate in a cultural event the upcoming Rosh Hashana (New Year) festivities. The excursion in the building of New Synagogue preceded the assembly.

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Rabbin Mendel Samama (right) and Thierry Roos of Consistoire israélite du Bas-Rhin (left)
The collection of the artefacts and historic objects exposed as precious pieces of mosaic restore the picture of the spiritual past of the  Jewish Community in Alsace  – one of the most ancient in Europe, traced to the Middle Ages.

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Grand Synagogue de la Paix historic objects collection on display

After the World War II  the Jews who survived the Holocaust, reformed the Jewish community of Strasbourg, meeting in the Holiday Palace until 1948, because the Grand Synagogue, situated at Place Klèber was destroyed.

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Rosh Hashana sound of Shoffar Image: courtesy of Levi Matusof (pictured).

Following the talks with the city of Strasbourg in 1948, the Jewish community agreed to exchange the grounds of the old Synagogue against the site of Contades area, where the new monumental building was erected, by the  architect Claude Meyer-Lévy. The synagogue, called “Peace” replicating its location Rue de la Paix,, and was inaugurated in March 1958.

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The new synagogue also includes the Judaica radio headquarters, a youth center, and the headquarters of several movements, in addition to the four oratories.

G7: Tusk waywardness in Juncker absence

Anna van Densky OPINION The clumsy attempts of the president of the European Council Donald Tusk to influence the decision of British Prime minister Boris Johnson determined to depart from the EU on time with or without agreement, dabbing him “Mr.No-Deal”, look like an agony of the bloc, paying high price for its rusty mechanics unable to adapt to changing context. Teasing has never been an effective method in international politics.

G7 Summit in Biarritz (France) opens an opportunity to built bridges, however the representative of the EU prefers to burn them with provocative information war style public pressure, attempting to challenge Boris Johnson, instead of engaging in dialog with him. War of words with the UK is not what the European citizens wish, concerned by economic consequences of ‘no-deal’.

While American President Trump is actively using G7 platform for rapprochement with the UK, promising mutually beneficial trade deal, the EU has no other message, that insisting of the document that is already ‘dead’. The useless promotion of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA), which was the EU miscarriage, is aggravated by the contrasting surrealist proposal of Tusk to invite heavily indebted and plagued by ongoing armed conflict Ukraine to G7 ranks. While the oldest European democracy, and second net contributor to the EU purse is abandoning the EU, Tusk has nothing better to offer instead than to promote rapprochement with Ukraine one of 10 most corrupt nations in the world.

Just a week ago President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker was hospitalized saving the EU from one more embarrassment, caused by his physical condition. However in comparison with Tusk intellectual inability, and primitive ways of conducting international politics, varying from schoolboy teasing, to lobbying of Polish regional interests promoting Ukraine in a blunt gesture of tribalism, – all of those, evoke nostaliga for Juncker‘s clarity of thinking. Cogito, ergo sum!

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.