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!

 

 

 

 

 

#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:)