#SOTEU2017: Apogee of dogmatism

#SOTEU2017. Startling by its neglect of the realities of life, the State of Union speech has been hovering high above like a banner dragged by a colorful hot air-balloon in blue sky to admire it for a few moments, before going back to blacks.
One could hardly associate numerous full of optimism slogans of president Jean-Claude Juncker with the grim realities of millions of Europeans struggling to make the ends meet. The magic formula ‘More Europe!’ – the ‘philosopher’s stone’ of the European bureaucrats, supposedly to turn everything into gold became a source of disquietude to extend, some block’s most prolific member prefered to end the engagement, concerned with the sovereignty.

The idea of moving towards the ‘United States of Europe’ – the ultimate dream of the forefathers of the project, resurrecting continent from the ashes of the WWII seem less appealing nowadays, in a totally different political context. The times have changed, but the eurocrats, unlike the rest of us have not changed with times:( remaining guardians of more than half-a-century old doctrines, that are clashing with for modern dynamic and flexible word.
The inseparable four freedoms of the EU became more of a problem, instead of a solution: open borders, and free movement cause insecurity, and is generally perceived as the major reasons of the UK break away from the block, but not but the eurocrats.

Simply brushing aside the problems related to the EU profound #Brexit crisis, Juncker ordered ‘fast forward’ to the bright future of the EU27, without any clarification how the intensified integration will be funded in absence of the UK, the second net contributor to the EU purse.

Juncker’s vow #Brtions will regret soon their decision to vote leave, sounded sinister, sensed as a threat, while the policy of making ‘negative example’ from the UK till now has been the only reaction from the EU institutions, eager to ‘receive’ a mega ‘allowance’ as if in divorce case. Making a scarecrow from the EU supposedly should stop anyone else from turning to a seditious idea of leaving the block regardless its results delivery.

With Geert Wilders (PvV) growing numbers of supporters in the Netherlands; narrowly defeated Norbert Hofer (FPO) in Austria; Marine Le Pen (FN) reaching the second round of presidential elections in France; with AfD flexing muscle, anticipating entering Bundestag in Germany, – within this political context the old EU doctrines look outdated. So does the EU leader, reminiscent of the late members of Politburo of the Soviet Union, loyal to the ideals of their youth, and unable to adapt to the changing world.

Fragilized by age, but refusing to assume the responsibility for Brexit as the major EU failure, still insisting on the marvels of the membership of the bloc, Jean-Claude Juncker looks like a relic of another era. In epilogue of the debating the State of the Union speech with the MEPs, publicly complaining about his health, he evoked an idea of necessity for an urgent renewal of the EU leadership. The need of change of generations obvious even for the most devoted Eurocentrics to avoid the imminent decline, and collapse like the late USSR.

Juncker “melancholic” on the EU future

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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)

Mogherini in US: ‘mission impossible’

 

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini at the State Department in Washington

 

Difficult to imagine less suitable personality to represent nowadays the EU diplomacy in the US, than an ardent promoter of political Islam in Europe, an Italian Socialist – Federica Mogherini, with both Socialism and Islam living winter in the EU.

However the gravity of the situation is beyond personal views and Mogherini’s political convictions: the whole disposition of the foreign policy in the EU makes her visit pretty useless a priori  as a result of an exaggerated loyalty to President Obama, and the US Democrats, the EU has mixed into the US presidential campaign supporting #Hillary, and undermining #Trump, demonstrating an astonishing myopia of the EU diplomacy, unable to anticipate the responsibly to work with any elected by Americans president.
Alas, after the US presidential elections, the EU diplomacy appeared not only to be myopic, but having as much flexibility as a gout patient, struck by multiple arthritis poor losers the EU protagonists continued opposition against President Trump, some as a policy, the others as a credo.
The leader of the European Parliament’s Socialists and Democrats, Gianni Pittella spit oil on fire accusing President Trump of manipulating the UK as a ‘Trojan horse’ to destroy the EU from within. The UK closeness with the US new President is ‘endangering worldwide democracy’,  he assumed, in an interview to anti-Trump TV news channel.
The EU Socialists were not in solitude to continuing the self-imposed ‘holy war’ against the US new administration – the appointed in an obscure procedure Pope Curia fume style, the president of the European Council Donald Trump threw his glove, publishing an open letter, naming President Trump among ‘threats’ to the EU unity. Although odd for a conservative liberal, the personal views of Tusk were also circulated in the world media, downgrading already hostile mood of the ‘Trump-era’ EU-US relations.
The head of the European Commission,  Jean-Claude Juncker did not stay aside, adding his share to ‘anti-Trump’ rhetoric, blaming him ‘populism’, and similarities with European raising nationals, very much appreciated by latest, already seeing inspiration in Trump’s anti-terroristic legislation.
So far the only head of the EU institutions, who showed a diplomatic attitude to the EU-US relations was the new Chair of the European Parliament, a compatriot of Mogherini – Antonio Tajani from the centre-right, although his moderate attitude can be explained by his rise after the US elections. Tajani restrained from confrontational remarks, explaining that in his position he will express the views of the EP as a collective body, but not of his own. A reasonable approach, but not a panacea, as there hardly any ‘collective’ views in the EU in foreign policy.
Within a growing schism among member states on all the major issues: Russia, Syria, Libya, Iran, Palestine – there is no one single big dossier evoking genuine unanimity.
Mogherini ‘sympathy’ visit to Tillerson, with no results and no perspectives, no common grounds and no common interests, reveals the naked truth of the profound crisis of the EU, reflected in the illusionary errands of its top diplomat. However one conclusion of this visit is definite: in gambling with the US elections, the EU lost it political capital, and Brussels, as de facto capital of the EU lost, as consequence,  its significance as the world’s diplomacy stage.

 

Published in @BrussselsDiplomatic

PM May: UK surfs global

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In a comprehensive and inspirational speech Prime Minister Theresa May has sketched a framework for Brexit goals and future of the UK-EU relations. In a way she picked up a glove of those sceptics, including recently quit ambassador to EU Ivan Rogers, who were hinting the government had no plans, no clarity, and even suggested that it will take a decade to Brexit due to ‘mission impossible’.
However now there are concepts both for the post-Brexit UK surfing in the global world and relations with the EU as ‘strategic partner’, but no attempts to get anything close to membership. No Single Market, but an ambitious free trade agreement with the EU, and customs deal, ‘keeping open mind’. Indeed, no sense to start everything from a scratch.
Although May used as a refrain the suggestion of partnership  with the EU in many areas, she made it clear-cut, that no deal is better than a bad deal, which should go for endorsement by the UK Parliament in case of achievening a result.
For the EU institutions this means an additional bitter pill to swallow, because the UK departure without ‘a deal’ means not only leaving mandarins with a considerable hole in the pockets depriving of handsome British contribution to the EU budget, but a heavvy loss of workplaces related to trade and services, adding steam to Euro scepticism, already blaming EU austerity politics for sluggish economic growth.
The ‘hard’ #Brexit is on the cards, and ‘no deal’ is a real perspective in case British negotiators will be confronted with dogmatism which became a visit card of Juncher’s Commission, prescribing ‘more Europe’ as a universal remedy for all kind of problems to occur.
However it is an image of the UK ‘global’ which is the most catchy for many who aspire liberation from the EU ‘directives’ and ‘regulations’, ‘more Europe’ and ‘4freedoms’, which became inseparable like 10 commandments of Christ, without being so highly contribution to public mores, observing new realities of workers from different European member states receiving different salaries for the same job. Times of sweeping changes are coming. Who  is the next caught in the UK whirlwind of ‘global surging’?
Anna van Densky,  OPINION,  17/01/2017, Brussels
(Photo: illustration)

EU-Ukraine: simply in limbo

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The atmosphere at the EU-Ukraine Summit press-conference was between dull and gloomy, the presidents looked mostly down in their papers, the regular wooden language clichés on democracy and solidarity were distributed generously, probably in attempt to disguise a poor outcome.
President Petro Poroshenko goes back home almost empty handed: one can’t consider 15 million euro for an anti-corruption project and 104 euro for public administration as a big deal for a 43 million strong population of Ukraine (for comparison Georgia received at donor’s conference one billion euro).
However the financial aid for Ukraine is not on the table for the EU in crisis and serious economic problems of Mediterranean member-states criticizing austerity policy.
The visa-free regime would be a absolute maximum the EU can grant to Ukraine for good ‘home-work’ in promotion of reforms and good governance. But it is only a theory.
In spite of promises of the EU’ presidents #Tusk and #Juncker to conclude the issue by the end of the year, it is a clear understanding at the institutional back-stage that granting visa-free for 43 millions Ukrainians will mean a opulent gift to Eurosceptics.
Neither at the moment of Maidan revolution, no today the EU has a plan of an integration of such a big country into the block.
The galloping enlargement policy, neglecting Copenhagen criteria, already bore bitter fruit: the UK voted #Brexit largely in disagreement of a perspective of authoritarian Turkey to join the EU.
The negative outcome of the Dutch referendum on Association agreement with Ukraine  showed the state of mind in one of the key countries of the Union, awaiting the general elections in March. The agreement of visa-free to Ukrainians, notorious for its endemic corruption with the similar to Nigeria index, would push the votes in democratic countries flee the Union, becoming just an assembly of countries based on geographic, but not values orientated principle.
Giving a eulogy to European Parliament’s president Socialist Martin Schulz, President Poroshenko just aggravated a sentiment of a foul game, going on
behind closed doors of European institutions making arrangement with third parties without the EU cititzens’ consent. It is up to the European Parliament to give an approval to visa liberalization until the end of this year,  and certainly  it’s president has influence to exercise.
Taking into consideration Schulz’ decision to leave the EP, the visa-free for Ukrainians might be his last contribution to what he calls ‘the biggest civilization project of the past centuries’. A helping hand to president Poroshenko, and also to Eurosceptics Geet Wilders and Marine Le Pen in coming elections in The Netherlands and France, not least Schulz’ compatriot AfD’s Frauke Petry, whose stakes are also at raise.
Surely it is possible to liberalize the visa regime for Ukrainians until the end of this year, in a certain way it will even facilitate the prediction of the national elections outcome next year. No polls needed. Anyway they didn’t show to be accurate so far.

#CETA: ‘bloody’ welcome 2 Trudeau

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Brussels. Schuman square. Awaiting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the  EU-Canada Summit, police questioned 16 protestors, who were among those who came to express their profound discontent with the signature of the EU-Canada comprehensive economic and trade agreement (CETA). Symbolizing assassination of democracy, activists pored red paint and even tried to enter the Council building.

PM Trudeau hasn’t seen the manifestation, entering from the other side of the building by a cortege of cars.
Welcomed in a family way by kisses by president Jean-Claude Juncker,  Trudeau visibly enjoyed the CETA signature, however in a fairly modest ceremony. Still number of officials jammed into a  photo over signature was slightly exaggerated almost as many as the protesters from the other side of the building:)

#SOTEU: Plaudite!

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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!