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…

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 extension “flex”

The length of Brexit extension is a priority subject in the EU, considering how long should be a new timetable for the UK departure from the bloc.

There are three major suggestions in the air: three months, six months and one year, the last one is propelled by those who hope for the second referendum and derailing Brexit as such.

However Brexit Party leader and Member of the European Parliament Nigel Farage insists on six month extension, explaining that winter months are interrupted by holidays, and six month extension give sufficient time to organise general elections – the only way out of parliamentary Brexit crisis.

Foreign minister of the Republic of Ireland Simon Coveney said that Britain will be offered a flexible extension that could trigger Brexit well ahead of the new deadline but that the opinions of all EU member states were first needed.

“I think that extension will be a flexible one, that will allow the United Kingdom to leave the EU – if they can get a deal done – well in advance of the end of that extension period which looks like it will be the end of January,Simon Coveney told an audience in Belfast on Wednesday.

Brexit Deal II fate in hands of Westminster

While British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission president JeanClaude Juncker consider the agreed Brexit deal “fair” outcome. There is no need to extend the Brexit deadline EU top executive added.

‘We have a deal so why should we have a prolongation?” Juncker raised a rhetoric question. However the biggest challenge is ahead in Westminster, where the the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland declared its opposition to the reached Article 50 Agreement.

Prime Minister Johnson called Members of the Parliament to “come together” and “get this excellent deal over the line”.

Now is the moment for us to get Brexit done and then together work on building our future partnership, which I think can be incredibly positive both for the UK and for the EU” he underlined.

In spite of the enthusiasm of the EU leadership about the new deal, the experts consider the chances it is endorsed by Westminster on Saturday are slim because of opposition of Labor and DUP parties, who consider the deal to be even worse than Prime Minister May previous Agreement.

Brexit paradoxes continue

Anna van Densky OPINION Next week the European Parliament starts the series of hearings to endorse the team of Ursula von der Leyen Commissioners-designate. In one of paradoxes of protracted Brexit the British Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will participate and vote for the candidates, influencing the EU politics in spite of the fact that they did not propose a Commissioner themselves for apparent reasons.

Roughly 10% of votes, 73 UK departing MEPs will influence decisions shaping future composition of the top executives of the Commission – the guardian of EU Treaties, and the initiator of new laws.

However it is not the end of the road. In case there will be one more extension of Brexit beyond October 31, British government has to appoint a Commissioner to Brussels. Will Lord Hill come back? (Joke). Will Sir Julian King stay? If ‘yes’, it will be to the greatest joy of the Remainers,  assessing his marriage to the top EU civil servant Dane Lotte Knudsen (Germany, EEAS) as an ultimate sign of this loyalty to Brussels. Conflict of interests? One can hardly blame it to any UK national amid total confusion the protracted Brexit is causing. (Continuation follows),

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!

Dutch Fauna party leads largest Europarl Intergroup

In the framework of the September Strasbourg Plenary the Animal welfare Intergroup of the European Parliament has elected Anja Hazecamp, Dutch MEP as president of the biggest cross party congregation.

Anja Hazekamp (51) is a prominent Dutch politician, a member of the Party for Animals (PvdD), and a member of the group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left (@GUENGL).

The PvdD is the first political party across the  world to gain parliamentary seats, including three seats for Senate, with an agenda focused primarily on animal rights, and animal welfare. At her election Hazekamp said she expects from Ursula von der Leyen ‘real change” in animal welfare issues.

Hazekamp was elected unanimously as the only candidate put forward by the MEPs. The former president of the group Sirpa Petikainen has been elected as an Honorary president.

The Intergroup is providing a forum for debate, and initiating actions for animal welfare-related issues in the European Parliament.  An entire spectrum of activities as issuing  reports, resolutions or amendments, formally asking parliamentary questions and sending letters to authorities, organising public awareness events, – all of them resulted in graduate improvements in the animal welfare situation in the EU.

 Next meeting of the Intergroup will take place in Strasbourg during October Plenary to discuss problems of exotic pet trade in the EU (Thursday 24 October, 10:00 – 11:00).