EU Xmas without soul

At present only for a split of Europeans Christmas is about a church going, but for the overwhelming majority, it is a family reunion, and a holiday time: sumptuous dinner, and presents with ribbons under decorated tree. The EU leaders have not much different from the citizens views on the ancient celebration of Jesus Nativity.

On Christmas Eve only one EU leader openly associated himself with the festivity – the president of the European Council Polish Donald Tusk, who even posted a video of him singing a carol on the occasion.

The European Parliament president Antonio Tajani mentioned the Nativity of Jesus celebrations in the context of Christmas shopping, while the president of the Commission JeanClaude Juncker did not mention it in his Twitter micro blog at all.

The attitude shows further detachment of the EU project from the original dream of Robert Schuman to create a “community of peoples deeply rooted in Christian basic values’.  The European project “can not and must not remain an economic and technical enterprise; it needs a soul, the conscience of its historical affinities and of its responsibilities In the present and in the future, and a political will at the service of the same human ideal’ he wrote.

Following Schuman‘s footsteps the president of the European Commission Jacques Delors  also openly practiced his Catholic faith, disregarding the EU secular nature. warning that the project has to develop a ‘soul of Europe‘ to inspire the citizens, because with material dimension only it runs high risk of collapse. The “game will be up” he said if the EU will not develop “spirituality and meaning”.

Next devote Catholics in position of leadership were Belge  Herman van Rompuy, the president of the EU Council,  who reportedly is a Jesuit regularly visiting to monasteries, and the speaker of the European Parliament Polish Jerzy Buzek, who also did no hide his devotion.

However the overwhelming number of the EU citizens identify themselves as Christians (76.2% Pew Research 2010), and most probably the majority of the European Parliament politicians too,  at least they made such an impression, when they welcomed the Argentinian Pope Francis (2014) in the European Parliament, Strasbourg. Although the visit raised brows of many critics questioning if the EU as a secular project should give a floor to a clergyman, especially after Lisbon Treaty, underlining the secular nature of the EU project.

The ongoing ambivalence is also reflected in the culture of political parties, because the leading political force in Europe is the Christian Democrats-Peoples Party. And it was Chancellor Angela Merkel, a daughter of pastor, who said:  “we don’t have too much Islam, we have too little Christianity”, responding to the citizens complaints. Curiously both  European most powerful leaders are daughters of clergymen: Merkel and May. British Prime minister confirmed during a radio emission that Christian faith ‘is part” of her. “It is part of who I am and therefore how I approach things’ Theresa May added. However she always preferred to keep her faith as a part of private life, strictly separated from politics.

While the EU leaders adapt their communications to secular trend, and modern vision of religion as a matter of private life, the Christians remain the most persecuted community in the world. The report issued the beginning of this year claimed 250 million of Christians are facing threats. According to the latest Watch List researchers estimate 1 in 12 Christians live where their faith is “illegal, forbidden, or punished.” 2018 World Watch List,  reported the previous year 3,066 Christians were killed, 1,252 abducted, 1,020 raped or sexually harassed, and 793 churches were attacked.

North Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Eritrea, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, – a few to mention in a list of 50 countries across the world where Christians face threats, or are under extinction.

However, on Xmas Eve the EU strictly secular leaders prefer to keep silence, point to good shopping, or at maximum post a video of their own performance of a Christmas carol song, while the millions of people suffering the most outrages violation of their freedom of religion. Their unwillingness to pay attention to the problems of persecuted Christians looks like the worst of Jacques Delors nightmare – Europe without soul.

Christian map

 

#AfricaEurope2018: Juncker collapsed

It does not make much sense to continue hiding President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker‘s illness. The secrecy around it only nourishes abominable calumny about his presumed alcoholism, used by his political enemies to discredit his work. (Image: Daily Mail online newspaper).

A problem of bending his joints has been visible for a couple of years already, and has caused embarrassment a number of times. Some medical experts suggest Juncker has an aggressive form of portraitists, provoking a continuous inflammation of his joints, a few times Bekhterev’s disease was mentioned,  while analyzing his way of walking with difficulty of turning his head, and increasingly crooked back. Affecting the joints and heart, it doesn’t damage the brain, however only medical specialists know it, because among the broader public, it creates an image of someone, who is unable to carry on his public duties.

It is in the best interest of the European Commission as an institution to publish the medical report of its president, to end all kind of insinuations, and calumny. The comparisons with fading Leonid Brezhnev are far more damaging to the European project, than the publication of the medical report, however grim it is. There are just some month to go on until the end of his mandate, but they are decisive for the Future of Europe. “Let there be light!”

 

EU avoids speculations on II Brexit referendum

The carefully worded statement on possibility of the second Brexit referendum in UK reflects the cautions attitude of the EU institutions to possible repeated plebiscite, attributing to the first one a status of a ‘dressed rehearsal’.

First and utmost, the EU27 does not wish to make an impression of a player, influencing the cause of events, and especially its impact on the future of Britons, to avoid being blamed for interference in home affairs of a sovereign state. Although the grounds for retaining the UK in the EU are in place, ensured by the European Court of Justice (Luxembroug)  the further maneuvering are far too risky to be undertaken publicly.

Dabbing the UK  claims as “nebulous“, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has already slipped, receiving an explosion of fury from both of camps: the Brexiteers and the Remainers.

The tough talk with Prime Minister Theresa May made headlines, but did not bright any sympathy to Brussels, blamed to exaggerate the demands over the notorious Irish-border guarantee – ‘backstop‘. For many British legislators the requests of an indefinite ‘backstop‘ will create the major controversy, risking to pull the Brexit deal down while voting in the House of Commons.

The rigid position of the EU27, and reluctance to introduce any amendments in the Brexit deal ahead of the ratification, can be interpreted as a wish of its failure, with a hope of a the collapse of May‘s government, subsequently leading to the II referendum. and cancellation of Brexit. However those who promote the scenario forget about the high risks to receive the second rejection, damaging beyond repair the image of the bloc already in a profound crisis. The EU is caught between a rock and a hard place…

Juncker versus Italian corruption

Anna van Densky. OPINION. This week Brussels institutional  freedom of speech reached a new low, when the president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker has been confronted with the demands of withdrawing his comments on corruption in Italy.  During a public  exchange of views, the top EU executive referred to corruption and insufficient efforts as  the key obstacles,  blocking the development of the poorest regions in the south of Apennines peninsula.

Italians have to take care of the poor regions of Italy. That means more work; less corruption; seriousness,” Juncker said. “We will help them as we always did. But don’t play this game of loading with responsibility the EU. A country is a country, a nation is a nation. Countries first, Europe second”. These words caused the whirlwind of emotions from newly endorsed vice-prime minister Matteo Salvini, numerous political personalities, and even the president of the European Parliament (from Italian origin) Antonio Tajani, – all of them indignant about Juncker referring to the well-established facts. Yes, objectively speaking, there is a huge problem of corruption in Italy,  regarded as plague first of all by the Italians themselves.

According to the official statistics corruption, including political one, remains a major challenge, particularly in southern Italy, affecting Calabria, Campina, and Sicily, where citizens suffer from its consequences at most.  Transparency International   annual reports indicate Italy has been consistently assessed as one of the most corrupt countries in the Eurozone.  While 2017 Corruption Perception Index ranks Italy 54th place out of 180 countries. Scoring on a par with Montenegro, Senegal and South Africa. Yearly the crime of corruption causes Italians a damage of €60 billion .

However an attempt to smother Juncker with ‘politically correct’ banning from public debate the tensions in eurozone is not a unique episode in European political life, it is a chronic syndrome. A year ago then the chair of the Eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem came under the fire for his criticism of abuse of solidarity by heavily indebted countries of the  EU south. The degree of indignation had  amounted to demands of resignation put forward by Spain and Portugal. However the most striking in rude tone was the comment from Italy: “He has missed a perfect opportunity to shut up,” former Italian Socialist Prime Minister Matteo Renzi wrote in a Facebook post. “The sooner he goes, the better.”

The entire calamity was caused by the Dutchman remarks to a  German newspaper: “As a social democrat, I think that solidarity is extremely important. But whoever benefits also has duties,” he added. “I can’t spend all my money on booze and women and then ask for your support.” It was the allegory implied to illustrate  the role of corruption and tax evasion in ongoing Greek financial crisis that caused the indignation, not the depressing reality. The Transparency International estimated Greek tax evasion figures between €11 – €16 billion per annum ‘not collectable’, and the corruption also played ‘massive role’ in an outbreak of financial crisis.  Dijsselbloem survived the criticism, so  did his corrupt foes.

One year later the situation of tensions between the north and south of eurozone reflected in Dijsselbloem polemics has not improved in a meaningful way, but instead of fighting grim realities of corruption, the Italian politicians almost unanimously prefer to put some makeup on a face touched by leprosy, while the northern societies reject to accept the trick, requesting accountability. Dijsselbloem then, and Juncker now said what millions of taxpayers in the north of Europe know and think, and silencing them one guarantees the rising pressure of their discontent, because they are the ones to endorse the checks.

Obviously, the expected contemporary modus operandi of the presidents of European institutions, reserving them a role of modern royals – smiling to cameras and shaking hands, plus signing big checks for charity – will not please the EU taxpayers from the northern countries. Being the donors to the southern economies,  where a portion of their transfers is systematically disappearing in the pockets of the corrupt, they are increasingly concerned about the profile of the recipients of their funds.

With the upcoming departure of the UK, the second net contributor to the EU budget, the monitoring of funds transferred from donors to recipients in the bloc will be much more keen. It is possible to smother the heads of the EU institutions by ‘politically correct’ reserving them a public role of mute modern royals, but it will hit back,  undermining the trust in EU institutions, unable to defend the European values.

Sans la liberté de blâmer, il n’est pas d’éloge flatteur”, Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (“Where there is no freedom of blaming, there can be no genuine praise”).

Bruxelles, 3 june 2018

 

#RoadToBrexit as a daydream

Undoubtedly the Manson House speech of the Prime Minister Theresa May has many virtues, offering constructive proposals for Article 50 agreement.  In general it is also attempts to appeal to common sense of the EU leaders, and is reflecting an intense search for the best possible new formula for matching interests of both parties, instead of fitting into old EU dogmas of ‘four freedoms’. May’s vision of the basis of post-Brexit engagement is orientated towards future: robotics and artificial intelligence, the new technologies and most of all the British genius, which brought the nation to the forefront of the Digital Revolution. But can this dazzling and dynamic new engagement attract Brussels?..

If we agree on the leading role of the “outstanding individuals” in sculpturing history, and take a close-up on European Union protagonists influencing Brexit negotiations, we’ll see that they function in totally different modus operandi than the looking forward British PM. The European Commission president (the ‘Prime Minister of Europe’) Jean-Claude Juncker is concerned with keeping the EU project intact in its original form, repeatedly referring to the forefathers – Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet who resurrected Europe from the ashes of the WWII on entirely new basis. Devoting his life to the ideas of the United States of Europe, Juncker’s major preoccupation is the risk of Brexit provoking a collapse of the entire 70 years old architecture, erected gradually after the European Coal and Steel Community united in 1950 in order to secure lasting peace.

Ideologically Juncker faces similar problems in dealing with Brexit as the Pope, who faced unpleasant news from a rebellious English King, rejecting to acknowledge his authority, and thus pay tribute to the Holy See. Juncker’s preoccupation is not to let the heresy to spread, subsequently the creation of a new ‘dynamic and vibrant’ engagement with London would be detrimental to the original project, showing to the other member-states, that life outside the EU can be so much better than inside.

In this case May’ appeal to embrace together the wonders of Digital Revolution falls on deaf ears: Juncker, as usual, is looking backward, contemplating ashes of the WWII. Keeping in mind the origins of the European project, the protection of its ‘sacred’ four freedoms from British ‘heresy’ becomes paramount. Allowing the new engagement to be a success means to give in to those, who ‘betrayed’ the great idea of Schuman, and  ‘tricked’ Britons into the trap of leave vote – an unthinkable compromise for such a ‘guardian’ of the EU Treaties as Jean-Claude Juncker.

In this context one can not exclude the ‘no-deal’ scenario, when the UK faces Brexting on WTO rules. Anyway, when dealing with dogmatics, it would be useful to keep an ace up the sleeve:)

 

The Cheat La Tour

II Brexit referendum as gambling addicion

Anna van Densky, OPINION

A hint of a possibility of II Brexit referendum made by one of the most prominent Leave EU campaigners, the Member of the European Parliament, Nigel Farage made headlines worldwide, however the possibility  of the second plebiscite is just hypothetical.

Any genuine public vote has element of risk, and Prime minister Theresa May knows it from her own experience of nearly lost snap elections, reportedly ill-advised by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. She was aiming at confirming her authority in leading nation through Brexit, her stated reason was to strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations, but she achieved a poor result of losing majority, facing perspective of ‘hung’ parliament.

After the snap elections unexpected failure May would hardly try her luck the second time calling for referendum on Brexit, gambling her political future. In case LeaveEU wins the second referendum, May as a figure of a compromise, and a former ‘Remainer’ won’t be able to keep a grip on power, and the Brexit hardliners would sweep away May’ government – a blend of ‘moderate’ Brexiteers (read ‘converted Remainers’) like Prime Minister herself, and genuine Brexiteers receiving ministerial portfolios in exchange of toning down.

The II Brexit referendum is not only a ‘Russian roulette’ for Theresa May, and her government, but even more so for the EU. If one recalls the experience of the II Irish referendum, as a model of  a clever managing an exercise of ‘direct democracy’, one forgets that in Irish case there was no alternative. The Republic of Ireland was the only member state to hold a referendum on Lisbon Treaty, and without second referendum the situation could not move on for the entire EU block, unlike the case of Brexit led by PM May, who has already accepted lion’s share of Brussels claims.

The gambling risks are not affordable for the EU in decline, struggling against rapidly rising Eurosceptic parties. The moral damages can be dramatic, however the financial could be devastating . Till now for PM May offered the EU a generous ‘allowance’, and transition period with unclear end date. In case of the II ‘yes’ to Brexit vote, the ‘hardliners’ will not leave a penny to Brussels bureaucrats, neither will they take the “poisonous pill’ of Brexit deal.  In short, the addiction to gambling may invite catastrophe for both the EU as a fragilized block and the UK incumbent Government. Above it all, Theresa May as a Remainer heading Brexit is too precious interlocutor for the EU to risk to lose.

Ne quid nimis 🙂

 

Catalonia taking flight

Anna van Densky, OPINION. While the entire world watched events at Iberian peninsula, the president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker  looked at stars, visiting Kourou space centre in French Guiana – spaceport of France, shared with European Space Agency (ESA) for launch of Ariane6  in 2020 project.  Contemplating stars and accepting fate at a moment of birth of a new state in Europe, most probably, is the best thing to do, when there is no power to reverse events: following Brexit, one of the richest EU regions of the Mediterranean – Catalonia, has floated away.

While Madrid is obsessed with the direct rule over breakaway region, Barcelona is celebrating freedom of  Catalan Republic, waiting for recognition to come.  Although president of European Parliament Antonio Tajani ensured “no EU member state will recognize the independence of Catalonia,” the reality indicates otherwise:  politicians, feeling huge sympathy of public towards Catalonia, started to express their support:

Next to Slovenia, Finnish parliament is going to debate on the issue the next week:

On the other side of the world, Argentina will debate whether or not Catalonia is recognized, while Venezuela has always been on the side of the Catalans. The first signs of recognition will inspire the following, allowing Catalan Republic to breath freely, brushing away the threats from Madrid.

Appointing his deputy as a governor of Catalonia, Prime minister Rajoy is clearly uninterested in Czech-style ‘velvet divorce’, but attempts keeping the rich region under control by means of repressions. Punishing Catalans might be also seductive for the EU political forces at power, presuming that Barcelona sets a bad example for the other multiethnic states in the EU, encouraging them to search for independence, scattering Europe in micro-states. From the other hand there might be those who like the idea, for example, the federalists, who don’t mind Europe of micro federal states, run from Brussels.

The fears of ‘cracks’ in Europe are not caused by Catalonia, the tectonic ‘seismic’ effect came from collapse of the USSR, changing map of Europe, and opening space for new independent states, each of unique pattern, dependent of geography, infrastructure, history and culture.

Some of the new European states are stuck by misfortune, trapped in absurd of political prejudice, like Macedonia, blocked from joining the EU by neighbouring Greece in a name dispute. There are also positive examples, like Czechs and Slovaks, who had improved relations and economic ties after splitting up. However Catalonia, with it highly developed infrastructure, and a long coastline, with Barcelona among top 20 EU ports, does not need to search for a pattern to follow among any of existing models of new European states, it has all necessary elements to develop it own unique way.

Regarding the negative attitude of #Rajoy government towards Catalan independence, it does not make much sense to try to re-enter EU, where Spain would do its best to prevent Catalans to join. Pulling down EU flags along with the Spanish ones confirmed Catalans have no illusions about their possible future in EU27 bloc.

Aware of the EU deadend, Catalans are looking another direction, as the leaked vice-President Oriol Junqueras report suggests, visualising joining  EFTA common market with Iceland, Switzerland Norway and Liechtenstein.

Within this perspective, next to Brexit, Catalan departure from the EU is second blow to the image, and even more so for the budget of the bloc.

When stars are fading away from the EU flag, thinking about travelling through space to stars with Ariane6 is truly comforting idea:  per aspera ad astra!