Ursula von der Leyen -Spitzenkandidate proxy

Anna van Densky OPINION Nine votes narrow victory of Ursula von der Leyen (60) reveals the fragility of the EU institutions, plagued by political fragmentation, and rise of Euroscepticism, the latter not without reason. The democratic deficit is becoming obvious, especially in crucial moments of appointing the EU top jobs candidates. The obscure procedure of election of the European Commission president, who is de facto ‘Prime Minister of Europe‘, does not inspire confidence neither of the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), no of their electorate. The former Europarl speaker compared it to the election of the Pope: the cardinals plotting behind closed doors, while congregation is awaiting for white smoke from the chimney.

After Manfred Weber (47) Spitzenkandidate (leading candidate) from the European People’s Party was rejected by East European member-states, the candidacy of von der Leyen emerged in contingency plan during crisis Summit of the EU leaders. Hardly known outside Germany, overnight she became the most powerful EU executive, the guardian of the EU Treaties, and the monopolist of the legislative initiative.

Among 733 votes cast (one void) 383 members voted in favor, 327 against, and 22 abstained, – with the slim majority of nine votes, von der Leyen became a sensation: first European Commission female president (born in Brussels, in family of a European Commission civil servant).

In spite an attractiveness of the perspective to appoint a woman, confirming European alignment with the gender equality principles,  the entire election process was on the brink, attacked by many MEPs for its Machiavellian engineering far from public eyes. It is obvious that the next time it might not pass, throwing the EU institutions in a protracted crisis.

Even von der Leyen –  the “jackpot winner” considered necessary ‘to respond to  the need for transparent  Spitzenkandidaten (leading candidate) system to be strengthened and the transnational lists to be reconsidered in future European elections.

With 383 votes in favour, the European Parliament elected Ursula von der Leyen President of the next European Commission in a secret paper ballot. Officially, she will enter office on 1 November 2019 for a five-year term.

Parliament currently comprises 747 MEPs as per the official notifications received by member state authorities, so the threshold needed to be elected was 374 votes, i.e. more than 50% of its component members. President Sassoli formally announced the requisite number before the results were revealed in plenary. The vote was held by secret paper ballot.

Vote ink finger

 

 

Europarl: Ann Widdecombe furore

Anna van Densky OPINION The passionate speech of British MEP Ann Widdecombe had a highly unpleasant  novelty for the European Union: the doyen of Brexit party political group associated the protracted process of exiting from the EU with national liberation movement. She openly threw into face of Guy Verhofstad – the European Parliament representative for Brexit talks – the accusation of treating the UK as “colony“.

Guy Verhofstadt answered in via his Twitter micro blog, regarding Widdecombe as a “clown”. It means he failed again to understand souverainist’s influence on public opinion, and the interaction between Brexit party (former UKIP) and larger groups of electorate, initially perceived as “marginal“, but in reality numerous enough to impose Brexit referendum, and win its outcome. Verhofstadt did not answer to in a meaningful way to Widdecombe criticism of democratic deficit in EU procedures either. He also didn’t answer to her criticism of protracted withdrawal process, comparing Brussels to metropole, reluctant to give away rip on its rich colony.  However the strategy of brushing off criticism of Brexiteers is in essence myopic because it allows their vision to hover high, and spread around engaging new groups, and not only from UK electorate, but the other old EU member states.

The feeble attempt of BBC journalist to argue Ms.Widdecombe’s point of  view through pointing at her high MEP salary incomparable with “slave” status looked like faux pas.

BBC did not manage to address the issue, and attempt, dabbed by the MEP as “silly”, just re-enforcing her speech, demonstrating absence of meaningful counter-argument.

 

 

Congo: EU sanctions failed again

The expulsion of the EU Ambassador Bart Ouvry from the Democratic Republic of Congo is a serious blow to the image of already weakened by Brexit block. In multi-polar world Congo will be not short of friends and those, willing to co-operate with one of the richest African nations. The EU is losing again its positions, due to its outdated foreign policy, inclined to give unsolicited advise and tutorials on democracy and human rights. The price to pay is high – in face of one diplomat, Congolese government turns its back on 28 European states for at least a decay to come.

The EU insistence on prolongation of sanctions on Presidential candidate, Interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary,  who is the incumbent President’s chosen successor, shows a very poor analysis and judgement of the situation in Congo, especially in view of a broader trend of political longevity of African leaders. It is highly likely that Kabila‘s protégé will win the bid, and it is certain, that he will not forgive and forget the position of Brussels diplomacy.

“Africa’s future is also our future,” said the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said recently at high level Africa-EU Forum in Vienna. However, if the course of the EU foreign policy remains unchanged,  and rigid, soon Europe will be excluded from African future without reverse, and Africa’  future will be shared with Chinese, Indians, and Arabs.

So far the EU politics of sanctions failed wherever it was applied conducted at costs of growth and jobs, leading to impoverishment of Europeans, whose despair erupted in Yellow Vests protests in France. But who will criticize French Minister of interior for an excessive use of force against the protectors?..  Who will apply sanctions against the Interior Minister?..  Quod licet iovi non licet bovi… (What is allowed to Jupiter is not allowed to a bull – Latin proverb).

Congo’s most important export partners are: China (24% of total exports) followed by South Africa (22%) and the European Union (4%). Main imports are: foodstuffs, fuel, textiles and machinery, and leading partners: Angola (15%), France (13%) and Singapore (10%).

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

 

#Imlil: Terrorist act in Morocco

Anna van Densky OPINION Club of Moroccan advocates called for a vigil (22.12.2018) for two decapitated Scandinavian tourists, expressing their profound sorrow and indignation about the abominable crime.

Undoubtedly, many Moroccans are shocked by the hideous act of the “soldiers of Caliphate“, serving Al-Baghdadi, but is the condemnation of the radical Islam sufficient to continue “business as usual” in Morocco, meaning uninterrupted flow of tourists from Europe? Fascinated by the exotic beauty, and the opulent historic heritage of the north African country , the European travelers bring 10% of PIP, with record 11,35 million of visitors in 2017, which means the hospitality industry constitutes a considerable wealth for the country, and some remote communities as the one in #Imlil, next to the highest peak of the Atlas mountains – Toubkal (4.167 m), – are entirely dependent on hikers like late Maren and Louisa. Will the tourists continue to follow the track, where two young women were tortured, raped and decapitated, to enjoy the belle vue?..

One can hardly blame the Moroccan authorities an immobility in fighting terrorism. Since 2015 Moroccan government launched an ongoing special operation ‘Hadar‘ (Vigilance), covering the major cities and touristic sites, in the frame of this operation the street patrols were reinforced with two military next to each policeman. The Central investigation office (General Directorate of Territorial Surveillance) reported 902 arrests, and 57 dismantled terrorists groups. But still in spite of all these efforts the barbaric act of beheading of Scandinavian tourists happened, and it would be too simplistic to blame the local community without placing the situation into the context of the dangerous transformations in Maghreb.

Since assassination of  Colonel Gaddafi (20/10/2011) and destruction of the Libyan statethere is hardly a terrorist group that is not represented in wast ‘no man land‘ of once a wealthy and stable country, protecting it borders, and fighting terrorism.  Subsequently the fragmented territory of  Libya represents a stronghold for export of radical Islam in the entire region. Between 2011 and 2014 a total of 1,105 acts of terrorism were recorded in the countries of Maghreb, and statistics shows that the phenomenon of radical Islam is at rise: in 2014 the number of terrorist incidents was almost 47 times greater than of recorded in 2011, and nine in 10 registered in Libya.

Libya as failed state creates an ideal grounds for exporting radical Islam to adjacent countries, and unless the international community, and namely the European Union, invest considerable efforts to unite the fragmented entities, and bring back stability, the warriors of Caliphate will make the maximum use of chaos.

23.12.2018 AMENDED:

Hundreds of mourners attended a vigil in Moroccan capital Rabat for a vigil next to Embassies of Denmark and Norway; flowers and candles were also laid in Marrakesh, and in the southern village of Imlil, near where the bodies of two young women were found.

Investigation released an opinion of experts from Norway, indicating they are no reasons to suspect the video of beheading is false. The post-mortem examinations will take place in retrospective countries.

Pedro Sanchez Gibraltar ‘Chandelier Bid’

Anna van Densky  OPINION  It would be utmost naive to believe Spanish Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is eager to enter history books as a man, who derailed Article 50  deal, and destroyed the the EU27 collective effort to avoid ‘hard Brexit’ over such a ‘eternal‘ issue as Gibraltar ceded to  British crown in 1713. Even more so, the derailing of Brexit deal would be senseless facing the solid support of the leadership of territory unequivocally given to British government both by the Chief Minister and opposition.

However Spanish veto threats hanging as Damocles sword over the final draft deal to be presented for endorsement on the EU Brexit Summit just in a day is an ideal opportunity for Sanchez to raise his own stakes politically in Europe and gain a considerable capital at home, boosting his own popularity.  Virtuoso of public relations, formed in Brussels institutions, Sanchez mastered modern communication strategies and has no intention to miss an opportunity Brexit offers.

In profound need of electoral support,  Sanchez, whose ascension to power happened though elaborate parliamentary chess combination, but not the citizen’s vote, finds himself in a need of political capital,  and voters sympathies, he has been chronically missing. The struggle for Gibraltar status is a ideal subject to raise media and public attention in Spain to gain so much needed  for the Socialists popularity.

The other paramount issue is the Spain‘s shattered image within the EU over the Catalan  referendum oppression – the last minute compromise Sanchez will offer to the bloc will be undoubtedly  presented as an ultimate sacrifice on the alter of collective European good to be exchanged in the future on ‘carte blanche‘ in some sensitive issues and benefits  for Spain to obtain from Brussels.

Pedro Sanchez will definitely not bloc the EU27 Brexit deal, and destroy the fruit of Michel Barnier elaborate arrangement to be delivered at the historic EU Summit, however there is a price for Spanish generosity the Brussels will discover later when leaders gather for the final say. Meanwhile the Article 50 game of nerves will go on, reminiscent of classic ‘Chandelier Bid‘, in order to create the appearance of greater demand or to extend bidding momentum for a piece on offer – #Gibraltar, whose inhabitants have already  twice in referendums supported status quo.

This Millenium Gibraltar sovereignty referendum was held on 7 November 2002 within the British overseas territory on a proposal by London to share  the sovereignty of the territory between Spain and the United Kingdom. The result was a rejection of the proposal by a landslide majority, with only just over one per cent of the electorate in favour.

EU wrestles May into II referendum

The EU top negotiator Michel Barnier has put the cards on the table offering British Prime Minister Theresa May to postpone Brexit for one year. However one month would be suffice to launch the second referendum procedure in alliance with the Remaines in the House of Commons, including pro-EU Tory MPs in May’s own camp.

The frankness of Barnier brought certain relieve explaining the outstanding difficulty of the talks – the EU does everything possible to keep the UK ‘in’, making problem of every issue. #PeoplesVote is the ultimate goal of the Brexit talks, which follows the EU logic. If you vote ‘wrong’ you have to vote again until you aline with Brussels interests. Will May accept the EU27 ULTIMATUM tonight? She has 30 minutes of dinner speech to clarify her intentions. Afterwards the world will know if Brexit referendum was just a dressed rehearsal for a II one, or Britons really mean it.