Anna van Densky OPINION It would be utmost naive to believe Spanish Socialist Prime MinisterPedro 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.
After my conversation with Theresa May, our positions remain far away. My Government will always defend the interests of Spain. If there are no changes, we will veto Brexit.
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 Spainto 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 Europeangood 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 EU27Brexit deal, and destroy the fruit of Michel Barnierelaborate arrangement to be delivered at the historic EUSummit, 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.
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,” Junckersaid. “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 Spainand 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”).
The omitted factors in presumption of Moscow deliberate assault on a former KGB Colonel Sergei Skripal with Cold War mass-destruction chemical weapon Novichok reduce the blame of Prime Minister Theresa May to a highly subjective hypothesis.
Challenging the official conclusions, different episodes from Novichok sinister legend frame the official British version as endogenous, thus serving the political strategy of accusing Kremlin, but not pursuing the search of the truth, which goes begging…
The narrative of Novichok is deeply rooted in Cold War, when the USSR was flaunting its military might. The Communist party was so proud of a possession of such a powerful chemical weapon, that honoured both inventors of Novichok – Vladimir Ouglev (Владимир Углев) and Vil Mirzayanov (Виль Мирзаянов) with Lenin Prize (1991) for a break-thought in science. The special achievements of this new generation of nerve agents were it is unprecedented might – with one liter of liquid a population of multi-million city could be destroyed without a chance of recovery. The other characteristic was in method of application – in unremarkable composing elements, which represent no danger to humans if kept apart, will produce a lethal effect when assembled.
“Scripals are practically dead”, said the Vil Mirzayanov, an immigrant in the USA since collapse of the Soviet Empire. “And even if they survive, they will never recover”, he added. There is not antidote to Novichok.
Tragically Skirpals attacked with nerve agent were not the only victims who came to public attention. The sinister story of Russian banker Ivan Kivelidi (1995) assassinated by application of chemical weapon to a telephone in his office, shocked Russians. His secretary (30) and coroner (40) who performed autopsy on Kivelidi’s body also lost their lives – the poison was so powerful, that continued the devastation in derivatives.
After this sequence of suspicious deaths the investigation led to an employer of the scientific laboratory in the institute where the chemical was invented, and his wealthy client, who purchased the formula, – a businessman and former victim’s partner – Vladimir Khutsishvili. Both men arrested and sentenced. It is useful to mention that Kivelidi was not just “a” banker, but a chair of a club of bankers, with a pronounced interest in politics.
However it was unclear then how the former partner managed to insert the nerve agent in the telephone membrane – one should have special costume, triple layer gloves and gas mask to survive the manipulation, but the accused Vladimir Khutsishvili entered the office of the victim in tenue de ville…
At present one of two Novichok inventors lives in the USA, Mirzaynov claims that he revealed the formula of the chemical in his book, and at collapse of the USSR warned Americans about this secret Russian weapon, that should have been included in the list of prohibited substances. Russian expert at United Nations Igor Nikulin confirmed that the formula of Novichok was known by the potential foes after collapse of the USSR.
At present Russians instantly deny the possession of Novichok – in 1997 Kremlin ratified the Convention of prohibition of chemical weapons, and subsequently President Putin received report of a complete destruction of the entire Soviet arsenal in Russian Federation. But Igor Nikulin added that Novichok samples could have been kept in any of the former Soviet Republics after collapse of the Communist system. In the USSR one of the leading production laboratories of chemical weapons was situated in Noukous, in Uzbekistan, outside Russian jurisdiction, where the government worked closely with the USA in destruction of its arsenal.
Considering these omitted in public debate factors – the leak of Novichok formula from laboratory in 90th, and migration of its inventor Vil Mirzayanov to the USA, the access to production and samples in Soviet Republics, which became independent states, – the circle of potential holders of the nerve agent formula is significantly larger than Lubyanka secret service office in Moscow.
Beyond mentioned above, there are too many inexplicable elements in the assassination of Sripals: why father and daughter collapsed at the same moment? If she was the one who brought poison in her luggage from Moscow, and was exposed to it first, logically there should have been a time difference in their collapse, but there was not. If the suitcase was contaminated with such a powerful nerve agent as British media reports claim, all workers along the air transport chain should have been dead by now, but fortunately there are no reports of any ‘suspicious deaths’ so far. But was it Novichok, or some other nerve agent?.. Only an independent international inquiry can establish the truth, until independent experts have an access to the information, the accusations would remains in the realm of hypothesis, serving political concept of demonizing Russians, and dragging the world backward into Cold War era, where Skirpal belongs.
Recruited by MI6 while serving as a military attaché of Russian Embassy in Spain, Skripal sold 20 000 pages of secret documents, receiving more than £100 000 in 10 years before his arrest in 2004, and subsequent sentence for 13 years.
The former double agent was pardoned five years later in a swap operation between Moscow and Washington. Freed, the disgraced Colonel installed in a small English town of Salisbury, not far from his recruiter, where he led low profile lifestyle, until the spectacular assassination, worth masterpieces of Bondiana, when Skripal’s name stormed the headlines of media worldwide, and ascended to UN debate.
Public speeches of politicians are not confessions,
even less can they be compared to an experience on
a couch of a psychoanalyst, and Britons can only hope
that the Florence speech of PM Theresa May
was a public relations moment, and not a roadmap
Even at first glance once can notice that the aims
of president of the EU executive body – European Commission –
Jean-Claude Juncker are opposite to May’s wish to achieve ‘Renaissance’
in a framework of a renewed partnership between
the UK and the reduced to 27 members bloc.
In his September state of the Union speech Juncker clearly
formulated the goals: a full-forward to the United States of Europe,
with mentioning Brexit in a sinister wow the UK would “regret” the
decision to leave the bloc soon. The intention to enshrine Brexit
as a negative example forever has been the only concept circulating
in Brussels corridors of power, where the EU diplomats
in ‘confidential’ talks would hint on only possible future
of London, and it was not a splendor of Florence,
but as declining Venice (or fall of Venice) the inevitable poor fate of the rebellious against Brussels bureaucracy Britons.
May’s calls for Renaissance are also utopia because of the United Kingdom
post-Brexit prosperity will set a precedent and give an example to many others, namely the old members of the EU to leave the block, reestablishing sovereignty – the ‘heresy’ leading to collapse of the United States of Europe project.
Certainly, the proposal to pay fee beyond Brexit May made is attractive
to the EU federal state architects, however it does not exclude
their profound concern with the post-Brexit success of the Leavers.
The best scenario for the EU would be to continue to accept the UK fee,
and diminish its political influence, meanwhile imposing ‘four freedoms’ dogma.
So Britons would obey Brussels, pay for the construction of the EU superstate, preserving de facto four freedoms, including the reception of migrants,
but without a political presentation in the EU intuitions.
A “wonderful woman” as president Trump rightfully characterised May for her many virtues, has been already once lured into a trap by president Juncker, reportedly
convincing her to declare the snap elections she lost.
Calls for Renaissance in relentless search for compromise to satisfy the EU quenching thirst for power and finance, will certainly please Brussels,
happy to find in May a Remainer leading Brexit.
But do Britons need a head of government, bowing to Brussels in Brexit talks?
Imagine Henry VIII proposing to Pope:
‘Look, we don’t believe you are an apostolic successor to Saint Peter, you holding the keys to Haven, etc, – so I will become the head of Church in my country, but
we continue to pay you for two more years according to previous obligations,
and then we create a new equal-footed
partnership for mutual benefit and prosperity.
Please, let’s go for Renaissance together!”
The repeated requests for ‘clarifications’ from behalf of the EU27 articulated by the chief negotiator Michel Barnier reflect the state of the disbelief of the block vis-à-vis Britons who voted for abandoning of Europe’s project. In a long list of issues to be settled to the UK membership expiration date, the rights of the EU citizens, and the payments of fees beyond departure date are among the most controversial.
The demands of Barnier to create a three million strong growing expat community in UK, subdued to the EU law under umbrella of the European court of Justice, attributing it supremacy in jurisdiction over these citizens, and offering the European Commission right to monitor the situation, is de facto a claim of creating a EU27 enclave in the UK.
Nowadays the two groups of expats are different not only in numbers, as the Europeans are roughly three times more numerous in the UK, but also have different demographic potential. If the UK group has a large segment of senior citizens, which will be reduced with time for natural reasons, the Europeans represent the young generation with growing families, eager to pass their status to children. The demographic potential of 3,3 million of Europeans including more than a half a million of children in need of schooling is in stark contrast with the decreasing group of British wealthy senior citizens purchasing properties, and healthcare on continent. As the recent study shows the biggest UK citizens community resides in Spain – more than 300 thousand people, and one-third of them are over 65, presumably retired.
However it is not economic, but political potential of EU growing group that should be of concern for Britons, risking to face a sizable problem in hosting a young and fast growing community, which can be a subject to a different kind of manipulations in the hands of the Brussels bureaucracy. In reality Barnier promotes the European community in the UK as a Trojan horse, serving the EU interests in the UK, and not the interests of the community itself, which naturally should be aiming at integration, and not prioritising the ties with the continent they have abandoned.
The other contradictory claim derives from the EU27 ‘divorce’ concept of Brexit, which is also at odds with the enshrined in Lisbon Treaty right of a state to cancel its membership. With the ‘divorce’ concept Brussels is attempting to plant in public conscience the idea of ‘allowance’, ethically framing the move of taking Prime minister Theresa May to cleaners.
If brushing away the profane description of the process, imposed by the European Commission, the membership cancellation does not include any membership fee beyond the actual legal period of being in the ranks of the European Union project. However the EU27 with a remarkable tenacity attempts to force the UK to pay the fees until the end of the financial term to ensure the stability for the European programmes until the finale of the current institutional mandate for the EU top executives, prioritising their personal political ambitions over long standing strategic interests of the continental Europeans, and Britons.
The exaggerated claims of the EU27 are rooted in the denial of the reality of Brexit, namely the rejection of the UK citizens to continue their engagement with the European project, shifting from Single Market to European superstate. The obsessive pursuit of Brussels financial interests, and claims of an exclusive status to EU expats, will force the UK to leave without a deal, and this episode will leave a profound scar in relations between former partners for generations to come.
The EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini ignores the obvious Sophia operation failure in Mediterranean, in spite of the clear will of Belgium to cancel the participation of their vessel in sea rescue mission. Mogherini also pretends to be unaware of the assessment of the House of Lords, openly stating the EU mission has failed to prevent massive migrant smuggling to Europe.
Ahead of the Council meeting the Foreign minister of Belgium Theo Francken clearly stated during a national TV programme that his country has the intention to end Louise-Marie frigate participation in the Mediterranean operation, because of the double message it sends inspiring more migrants to undertake the risky journey in a hope to be saved and transported to European coasts, thus not only saving lives but also increasing flows of the ‘illegal migrants” eager to gamble.
The UK House of Lords report on Sophia mission is even more eloquent in its assessment, entitled: “Failed Mission”. The major recommendation is to disrupt the business model of smuggling networks through required ‘concerted action’ at Libya’s southern land border.
The Council agenda foresees discussion on migration, focusing on the situation on the Central Mediterranean route. Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and William Lacy Swing, Director-General of the International Organisation Migration will both take part in the discussion.
Grandi is also known for his criticism of the ‘xenophobic climate’ in Europe vis-à-vis mass migration from Africa and Middle East.
It looks the EU top diplomat Federcia Mohgerini’s attempt to troll the UK Prime Minister May failed – there will be no ‘hung’ Parliament in the UK, and #Brexit talks will start in 10 days as foreseen due to the alliance between the Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), joining with 10 MPs. Apparently the heavy-weight in politics May is not an easy target even for mega-trolls:)
However it would be better for the EU executives to restrain from the trolling PM May in the future, because on contrary to Brussels, leaving without the Article 50 deal has a lot of political benefits for the Conservatives, delivering the desirable STOP of paying Brussels all at once. The departure of the UK being a second net contributor with full membership fee of £17.8 billion (the deduction of the Thacher’s rebate reduces it to £12.9 billion), or £35 million a day, – this departure leaves the EU without an answer how to mend the giant hole in the pocket.
The chances of Conservatives oping for #hardBrexit in alliance with DUP loom large, envisaging the scenario of the UK leaving Brussels ‘elite’ insolvent, and immobilized to move forward their ultimate target of ‘more Europe.’
So,after electorate declines to endorse her #HardBrexit approach , May stays on through deal with DUP, which wants an even harder #Brexit