German leadership in EU mulitcrisis era

Anna van Densky OPINION The German presidency of the Council of the European Union takes lead on 1 July 2020 in the context of the global COVID-19 crisis, and the EU ante-pandemic challanges, which have been already serious enough to be assessed as the “existential” threats to the organisation.

The first half of the year the global COVID-19 context has been negatively impacting long existing EU challenges, namely the well-known process of post-Brexit talks with the United Kingdom, aiming to produce an agreement to diminish damages to the European economies of “hard” Brexit; and not less significant EU agreement on the future seven year budget (multiannual financial framework) for the 27 members strong bloc without the UK – the second net contributor.

None of the ante-COVID19 challenges seem to be diminishing, on contrary, the Brexit talks are in libmo, so is the future budget, dividing the EU in groups of wealthy countries of the North, and indebted Mediterranean – pre-existing North-South divide is becoming even more dramatic after pandemic. The so-called “Frugal Four” – Austria, Denmark, Finland and The Netherlands – will hardly change their minds in favour of the South, reflecting the will of their citizens. Finanical Ice Age approaching, will the EU, especially the Visegrad East European countries, withstand it? They have been used to recipient role within the organisation, and they might object to any other.

However outside the EU the challenges are not less impressive: it is on the November 3 Americans will go to ballot boxes to elect their new President, producing a long-lasting effect on the entire set of international relations, and global development.

The EU dialogue with Russia, a former “strategic partner” and well-establish American foe is also on the brink, plagued in different dimensions internationally both by the conflict in Donbass, and U.S. sanctions blocking the construction of final 160 km of Nord Stream 2 pipeline, delivering gas via the sea from Russia to Germany.

The energy issues, and conflict are not limited to the EU Eastern borders, because the situation in the Mediterranean became even more alarming with the new Turkish assertiveness, pursuing gaz drilling in Cyprus waters, and casually threatening with massive release of migrants to Greece.

Migrants! And here we come to a sensitive issue, because still there is public opinion, blaming the German Chancellor her generous invitation to “all refugees”, which created the notorious migrant crisis in 2015 – swinging in a few months from Willkommenskultur to Flushtilingskrise. Since then there have been no acute migrant crisis of the similar scale, but an ongoing political systemic crisis over the issue, without unanimously agreed strategy towards exterior migration flows into EU, splitting the Union into antagonising communities. So far the Visegrad 4 group of East European countries firmly rejects the reception of migrants, occasionally ready to allocate funds.

In January this year, addressing Davos, Angela Merkel said, that it was a mistake to miss out of view the refugees as a direct consequence of conflict, and not to create an environment, where people can stay, without need to flee. Concluding German migrant experience, Angela Merkel, warned about possible next wave of refugees caused by military actions in Libya. But reflecting upon Chancellors’s words, there is no secret that solidarity does not really work in the realm of migration issues, and in post-pandemic period the migrant/refugee unsolved problem will re-emerge again. The only element about migration is consensual among member-states: Dublin system is obsolete. Will German presidency produce a new migration package in co-operation with the European Commission? The escalating conflict in Libya, and growing terrorist threat in Sahel, might create in the nearest future a significant pressure of migrant flows via Mediterranean route, resulting in raise of the eurosceptic moods in the Member-States.

The German presidency of EU will also ‘crown’ personally Angela Merkel’s fourth and final term of leadership after 15 years in the Federal Chancellery. Well-known for her capacity of reaching compromises, erecting solid political consturctions through multilateral agreements, she is expected to navigate between Scylla and Charybdis of the EU politics. Will Macron-Merkel initiative put forward on May 2020 – the stimulus fund – become a further step for European integration, solidifying the seamless transnational market enshrined by Kohl-Mitterand in Maastricht Treaty? Or the Eurosceptic forces will start pulling it apart, fragmenting and polarising communities, and the European nations, attempting to find the solutions to systemic crisises in individual ways?..

Whatever the outcome of German presidency will be, the decisions taken within next six months will shape the live of the next generation of Europeans and model the face of Europe up to the mid of the 21 century in a unique irreversible way.

Image: Angela Merkel, EU Council, archive

EU migrant “children” syndrome

Anna van Densky OPINON German government appeals for compassion of Europeans, calling for creation of coalition of willing to shelter “children” from Greek migrant camps. However similar to the situation of the previous wave on migrants in 2015 there is no criteria of determining age of an individual, claiming to be a child.

The overwhelming majority of migrants and their children have no birth certificate not because they have lost it, or, as some sceptics presume, they have thrown documents away, but because there is no established practice of population registry in their countries of origin. Subsequently their birth certificates or passports have been never issued in first place, and while arriving to Europe they are not passing any procedures to determine their physical age.

For obvious reasons the parents are interested to present information, helping their children and themselves to leave the camps as soon as possible for more comfortable locations. Nowadays in total absence of medical checks, any narrative can pass as Europeans have discovered, when the Swedish social worker Alexandra Mezher, 22, was stabbed to death in ‘child‘ refugee centre, by a Somalianminor“, who in the cause of prosecution has been identified as an adult.

The victim complained to her family that being a professional in child care she is confronted with the situation of being a guardian of “big powerful guys aged up to 24“.

However they are not only security reasons which are completely neglected by the EU-member states Interior ministries, but the whole set of socially meaningful consequences, deriving from a natural migrant impulse to diminish the age of a child: it will not only allow to benefit longer from allocation of children alimony, but also impact the future of the family, allowing them to reunite on European soil.

The plan set by Angela Merkel to help a group of 1,000 – 1,500 children identified as being “particularly in need“, transferring them from Greek camps to the EU will also open gates for their parents and other underaged siblings to come to Europe.

The decision of sheltering unaccompanied children under the age of 14 or
children in need of urgent medical assistance in accordance with Merkel plan will provoke further abuse of children as “keys” to enter the EU.

Meanwhile the Dutch government made public its position indicating to absence of any plans to host migrant children from Greek camps to the Netherlands. However the goverment is prepared to contribute to initiatives to improve the situation in the camps, Prime minister Mark Rutte said on March 6.

The decision is based in lack of enthusiasm the proposal met in the parliament last week when the four coalition partners plus far right and Christian parties voted against a motion which would have committed the Netherlands to accepting migrant children.

Dutch refugee NGOs have called on local authorities to ‘show leadership and generosity’ by bringing 500 “refugee children” from Greece to the Netherlands because they are currently living in appalling conditions.

However there was some response on the municipality level: the city of Leiden was first to express readiness to accept some of the children – around 25 according to Dutch broadcaster NOS.

We are talking about children whose parents have died or are missing and who are living on Lesbos in terrible conditions,’ mayor Henri Lenferink said on the same day of March 6. ‘Leiden has always been a city of refugees and I am fully confident we will be able to look after these children properly.’ Greece asked EU countries to take in 2,500 children last October.

Turkey currently hosts over four million migrants, many of whom are claiming refugee status, and the EU is committed to assist Ankara in dealing with this challenge. The EU
Facility for Refugees in Turkey is committed to assist Turkey in dealing with this challenge. The EU Facility for Refugees Turkey, managing a total of two tranches provides for a joint coordination mechanism, designed to ensure that the needs of refugees and host communities. Apparently the President Erdogan finds the pledged funds of
EUR6 billion insufficient.

Lavrov hopes for “genuine unification” of Europe

Moscow is ready to search for ‘generally acceptable approaches’ together with its Western partners, including Germany. However, the prospects for cooperation continue to be marred by the situation that emerged through “no fault of Russia”, top Russian Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said, quoted by TASS agency, while opening talks with his German counterpart Heiko Maas.

We are ready to look for generally acceptable approaches with our German and Western partners even under the current situation, which we find utterly unsatisfactory, that has been created through no fault of ours. It continues to cast a shadow over any prospects for cooperation both in Europe and on the global stage as a whole,” Lavrov underlined.

Russia’s top diplomat reminded that the historic reconciliation between Russian and German people, which took place, in a very large measure, thanks to Russia’s country’s “active support” for German unification, and it is of “paramount importance” for European destiny.” “It was hoped that this would be followed by a genuine unification of Europe, that the common European home based on equal and indivisible security will be built,” Lavrov continued. “Unfortunately, this did not happen, but we do bear in mind that strategic objective.”

 

Will Puigdemont follow fate of Companys?

After the rigorous action of German police, stopping Catalan independence leader upon the EU arrest warrant, issued by Madrid, the major question arises: will  German judges condemn Puigdemont to follow the fate of President Companys (1882-1940), who was detained by Gestapo in France and handed to Spain?

Rajoy Puigdemont
President of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont next to Prime Minister of Spain Mariano Rajoy

The President of Catalonia from 1934 and during the Spanish Civil War , Companys was detained in France, where he lived in exile,  and handed over by the Nazi secret police Gestapo in a formal procedure to Spanish state, where under the dictatorship of Gen.Franco the President Lluís Companys i Jover was tortured in prison, and executed by firing squad in 1940.

Carles Puigdemont at Lluis Companys i Jover tomb
Carles Puigdemont at Lluís Companys i Jover tomb

The lawyer of former President of self-proclaimed Catalan Republic said that highway police had stopped Puigdemont on Sunday (25.03.2018) after he crossed the border from Denmark to Germany. He also confirmed that Puigdemont had been on his way back to Belgium after his trip to Finnish Parliament. A spokesperson for Puigdemont made the following statement:

“1. President Carles Puigdemont was retained in Germany when he was crossing the border from Denmark, on his way to Belgium from Finland. 2. The treatment has been correct in every moment. At the moment he is in a police station and his legal defense is already activated. 3. The president was going to Belgium to put himself, as always, at the disposal of the Belgian justice.”

Madrid assess the independence movement in Catalonia as a ‘plot’ against Spain’s legal and constitutional order. The charges carry up to 30  years in jail. Catalan politicians are accused of rebellion, contradicting the principle of self-determination of people enshrined in UN Charter.

 

Citizens versus ‘United States of Europe’

According to the YouGov poll published 30% of Germans and 28% of French support the idea of the United States of Europe, while 33% and 26¨% respectively, disagree. In other countries, such as Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and the UK, the population largely opposed the proposal, with around half of the respondents speaking against the idea.

Earlier this month in Germany an SPD party convention  former president of European parliament Schulz suggested transformation the European Union  into a the “United States of Europe” by 2025 and adopting a constitution, realising the dream of the block’s forefathers: Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet.

 

 

Schaeuble: liberal world needs commitment of US

Germany Sch

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Thursday it would be possible to develop the euro zone’s European Stability Mechanism (ESM) rescue fund into a European monetary fund soon.

Asked if this would be possible in the short term, Schaeuble replied: “Yes, I think so.”

Speaking on the sidelines of International Monetary Fund meetings in Washington, he also said any new aid programs for euro zone countries should be without the international lender and so under European auspices.

Juncker “melancholic” on the EU future

US-ECONOMY-IMF-WORLDBANK-SPRINGMEETINGS

Launching a debate on the future of the European Union, and subsequently the entire continent, Jean-Claude Juncker (pictured) – the president of the European Commission – has offered Five scenarios (5S), however none of them even hinted on a ‘catastrophic’ one – the  case of French or/and Dutch citizens would follow #Brexit way.

The front-runner for the presidency of France, the member of the European Parliament (MEP), the leader of Front National party – Marine Le Pen has integrated #Frexit – the referendum on France’s membership in the EU, – into her political project. So did her Dutch counterpart the leader of Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) Geert Wilders, who is enjoying high esteem of the electorate, foreseeing strong presence of his party in the Parliament in The Hague after the upcoming 15th of March general elections, opening the way to #Nexit referendum.
It is not that as press we want you to say “bad things” about MEP Le Pen, as you suggest, Mr.Juncker, it is about your readiness to continue to lead the #EU26, or even  #25, if Dutch and French follow #Brexit, preferring freedom to the EU institutional cage, prescribing everything from shape of cucumbers to open door migration policies, flooding streets of European cities with strangers from the violent cultures. The policy of open doors so dear to the institutions you are not going to give up at any cost, disguising it in ‘solidarity’ – the fundamental EU virtue. More migrants, less believers in cultural relativism, nostalgic about the times ante-Schengen with well-protected borders…
However, some things have changed already. Most probably, the European Commission mandarins understood that it would be better for everyone, if they concentrate on ‘important’ issues, leaving the details to the member states – the ‘efficiency’ option nr 4 among the 5S plan? They understood it or, they do  it is because the ‘instinct of life’ dictated them to do so, hoping to survive the period of low tight?..
Too much disappointment has accumulated into a toxic mass: with the south of Europe in lethargic misery under austerity policy, and the industrial north of ‘lenders’ unable to develop as fast as they wished to, obliged to level their pace with all the other EU members in a ‘solidarity’ name. Is Juncker’s nr.3 ‘mulitspeed’ Europe an answer? Hardly so, as the creation of the sub-unions would lead to ‘structured dismissal’ of the initial EU bankrupt project – promising prosperity it lead to poverty too many; promising peace, it set its neighbourhoods in blaze…
Finally the EU scenario nr 5 – ‘Doing Much More Together’, but after #Brexit it sounds even more fiction, that four previous ones all together. How many believes in  the EU ‘togetherness’ one can count in the beginning of 2017?.. How numbered will they be by the end of the year after the elections in the member states? The Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy…
Juncker’s striking ‘melancholy’ look replacing his personal warmhearted and extrovert style did not escape the MEPs, questionning his personal beliefs, but the president has every reason for melancholy – the l’époc d’oré of the European project is bygone, and discussing the EU obsucure future is not a euphoric exercise, especially knowing that the 6th scenario cenzored:  ‘no future’.
(Initailly published in @BrusselsDiplomatic)

#Parliament: #Brexit winning time

uk-parliament

Strategically the decision of High Court to turn to #Parliament for a debate on #Brexit is to advantage for the #UK negotiations with the #EU, going through a profound political transformation during 2017.

From Dutch general elections in March to French presidential elections in May, and German federal elections foreseen in September/October clearly a new composition of political forces will shape European trends.
Irrespective of the victory of the ‘new patriots’ or souverenists /nationalist parties, the whole spectrum of political thinking is shifting to the right, leaving Socialists aside, and launching competition between center right and right-right (souvrenists).
Even the departure of the Socialist French president Francois Hollande as such will have a positive impact on #Brexit talks, because any other but Socialist leader will represent a flexible partner at negotiating table.
The dramatic growth of criminality in Europe might also encourage Dutch voter to search for protection in face of Geert’s Wilders Party for Freedom (PVV), whose ascendancy to power will mean #Nexit referendum in The Netherlands.
The major changes are awaiting Germany, whose population can not continue to pretend that migration policy of the ruling party represent any interest for them.
On contrary, the publication of statistics on crime raise has come as an evidence of correct predictions of Alternative for Germany (AfG), whose presence on political landscape is becoming more sound every day.
Resuming, one can guess, that the High Court is acting in the best interest of the #UK giving them time and space to depart from the EU with the best possible deal, opening new chapter of their relations with the continental Europe.
 
Tempore sedere semper sapientis est habitum🙂

#SOTEU: Plaudite!

junckeer-with-farage

The State of the Union speech (#SOTEU) of president Jean-Claude Juncker resembled himself – pale, drained out of energy, contrasting with  confronting him triumphant Euro skeptics Nighel Farage and Syed Kamall.  Behalf of the entirely new context there was hardly anything new to the usual mantra of ‘more-more-more EU’ as if it can be a magic remedy to a project in decay.

The decision to sideline #Brexit, and go on with “business as usual” was mission impossible: the feeling of contagious effect was in the air. The MEPs expressed concerns about further decomposition of the project  under Dutch ‘Prime-Minister Wilders’, and French ‘President Marine Le Pen’. The latter immediately declared her intention to offer #Frexit referendum.
However the challenge to #Juncker was coming not only from the ascending right, but form the far left – Gabi Zimmer (GUE/NGL), who loathed #Barroso’s career Resurrection at Goldman Sachs, damaging the image of the institution beyond repair in confirmation that Brussels serves  the interests of powerful international lobby, but not regular Europeans.
Promising ‘growth and jobs’,  Barroso in reality secured only his own job oversees next to his lucrative pension. His ethically doubtful move casted a long shadow on his successor’s credibility, already questioned by the Luxleaks affair – Juncker had his own skeletons in closet, while criticizing in #SOTEU Apple company for tax evasion in Ireland.
Further #Juncker’s wishes to play a role in global politics, namely in Syria, were no more than fancy dreams – without the UK as member of the UN Security Council and head of Common Wealth –  the EU weight internationally would be substantially reduced. The same for HR Mogherini role in foreign policy: before acquiring an international renommé she should become a ‘Prophet in her own land’ – Europe, where two leading EU member-states Germany and France launched Minsk talks without her in attempt to correct the catastrophic consequences of the EU Enlargement policy.
Fortunately, the EU had no army of its own to interfere in Ukrainian conflict, but Juncker this time declared his ambition to establish one. The debate around EU defence is not new, even Mogherini’s job name reflects this original idea  of the founding fathers of ‘The United States of Europe’ – representing Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, but the second part of the activity never came into reality, except of a few haphazard missions.
Réne Pleven plan (1950) of European Defence Community (EDC) singed two years later but not fulfilled in more than half-a-century can hardly be acknowledged as innovative, but in a different context without UK – too loyal to US to consider such a ‘heresy’ – it might have more chances to be realized to some extend with the support of states as Germany, Hungary and Czech Republic.
The immigration as the core issue, that according to PM Cameron played a crucial role in #Brexit vote, haven’t seen much of a change in #SOTEU – the solidarity principle applied indiscriminately remains the dogmatic universal tool of Brussels without major modification. A few drawbacks on imposing quotas on countries, unwilling to accept migrants, can’t be considered as a new political line, but rather a necrology to failed attempts to force East Europeans to pay the bill for the US failed policies in Africa and Middle East.
#SOTEU Acta est fabula, plaudite!