Friday, September 30, 2011

Well, they can always join the EU

Not for one moment do I believe that the people of the United States will allow noisome left-wing politicians and presidential advisers to suspend the Constitution by postponing or abolishing elections. The idea is preposterous. However, the fact that anybody can even suggest such a thing when even the Second World War did not prevent that country from functioning as a constitutional democracy, makes one's hair stand on end with horror.

Instapundit links to the Washington Examiner as does the Wall Street Journal, though many of us have heard the story. In essence it is about, first, former White House Budget Director Peter Orszag writing in the New Republic that more government should be done in an unaccountable fashion through commissions and automatic policies, something that we on this side of the Pond are very well aware of. In fact, it is the EU's method and I have always called it managerial politics instead of electoral. We are all well on the way to achieving that utopia but to Americans it is still, rightly, a shocking idea.

Worse was to come:
Perhaps know-it-all bureaucrats can be forgiven for harboring such contempt for the voting public. But elected officials cannot. That's why similar comments by Gov. Bev Perdue, D-N.C., are far more troubling. "I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won't hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover," Perdue told a Rotary Club gathering in suburban Raleigh this week. "I really hope that someone can agree with me on that."

Perdue's office at first claimed her comments were made in jest. The subsequent release of the audio conclusively demonstrates otherwise.
Well, Governor, there is a political entity that would welcome your devotion to managerialism in politics. Care to join them in Brussels?

Comments please

No, I am not sure either.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

She survives .... for the time being

Chancellor Merkel will live (politically speaking) to fight another day though if all her battles are going to be like this, she may well wish it to be otherwise.
German lawmakers voted Thursday to approve expanded powers for a European bailout fund that Chancellor Angela Merkel has said is critical to ensuring economic stability on the continent.

The overwhelming approval — by a vote of 523 to 85 — marked a major step in addressing the sovereign debt crisis that has afflicted euro-zone countries, allowing officials to move on to additional steps. The move also helped boost European stocks Thursday, and Wall Street appeared headed for gains at its opening bell.

In winning the approval, Merkel was able to round up 315 votes from lawmakers in her governing coalition, reinforcing her political standing in Germany. She also received substantial support from opposition parties.

The expansion of powers for the bailout fund will go forward if six other euro area countries approve it over the coming weeks. But Merkel may have little room to maneuver in pushing for further measures that would increase Germany’s commitments to helping its troubled fellow euro-users.
There is, undoubtedly, a sense of desperation around each new attempt to plug the unpluggable hole. The future? Well, who cares about the future? These people will no longer be in government.


On the whole, I am not a great fan of Peter Oborne, though he can be extremely good company at times. I have never been able to understand people's easy acceptance of his pretensions to being a profound political thinker as well as a particularly astute hack. He is neither but he is an entertaining writer and performer; there are not many of those around.

What with that and not having a TV set and not liking Newsnight, anyway, I did not watch Mr Oborne's performance the other day though all accounts made me think that he was probably somewhat intoxicated, not an unusual event in a real hack's life.

However the erstwhile Boss did and commented on it. His view, as is to be expected, differs sharply from the drooling most eurosceptics have produced. Experience of Mr Oborne, Newsnight (a long time ago) and eurosceptic logical fallacies make me inclined to accept what EUReferendum says.

We go through these charades over and over again

Farming Online reports that the UK and Poland have, for a change, created a common front on the subject of CAP reforms. It is likely to be as successful as other common fronts have been in the past.
Britain and Poland have called for radical reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), ahead of proposals published by the European Commission, expected on 12th October. The two countries share ambitious plans for reform, which go against the direction the EC's proposals seem to take in a steady stream of leaked documents, which have seen the light of day over the past months.

Leaks from the EC show it proposes the retention of a strong Pillar one (direct payments), which will be heavily reliant on environmental measures. Up to 30 per cent of direct payments would be reliant on increasing ecological performance. However, Defra, who upon acceding power pledged the government would be 'the greenest ever,' rejects this approach.

The UK-Poland statement, which was issued today by UK Agriculture Minister Jim Paice and his Polish counterpart Marek Sawicki following an EU agriculture meeting in Brussels, calls instead for the "modernisation of European agriculture to meet the challenges of the future rather than a system that protects outdated practices of the past."
Of course, modernisation of European agriculture means different things in different parts of Europe but that idea is anathema to the whole concept of the CAP and, indeed, the EU. That being so, I cannot quite see what the point of this statement and proposal is. Oh wait, I do see it: we go through these charades over and over again just in order for the negotiators to come back, empty-handed and with a sorrowful mien to tell us that they fought hard for a proper reform but it was not to be.

Meanwhile, the horse-trading fish-trading has started in preparation for the Fisheries Council meeting in December.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Will Merkel survive Thursday's vote?

Der Spiegel is not alone in becoming rather doubtful.

Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel faces a difficult test on Thursday as parliament considers a bill to broaden the euro backstop fund. Several lawmakers within her Christian Democrats are threatening to revolt, which could accelerate the demise of a coalition that may already be fatally fractured.
The article is well worth reading in full as it traces the sorry history of Merkel's Chancellorship and the ill-fated (or, at least, not very well fated) coalitions that she has been heading.

Merkel is having trouble making her events successful at the moment. This also applies to a recent meeting at the Chancellery with the leaders of the opposition.

In that meeting, Transportation Minister Ramsauer proved to be more rebellious than the opposition. He even took Finance Minister Schäuble to task. He asked what sort of an agreement Schäuble had negotiated at the European level over the euro rescue fund, pointing out that Germany had received no guarantees that it would ever get its money back.

This prompted a member of the opposition to pointedly ask what exactly Ramsauer's role was in the meeting. Was he there as a minister in Merkel's cabinet or as the vice-chairman of the CSU, which is consistently suspected of serving as an internal opposition? Even Merkel didn't seem quite sure how to respond. "We don't know that either," she mumbled.

The boundaries between the government and the opposition are becoming oddly blurred in these critical days and weeks in Berlin. When a chancellor is no longer able to cobble together his or her own majority, it marks the beginning of the end of a chancellorship. It was the reason Schröder twice linked a vote to a motion of confidence in his chancellorship. Once it was a question of war and peace in Afghanistan, when Schröder's SPD/Green Party coalition was about as unenthusiastic about the war as the current center-right coalition is about the euro.
That remains an option; it is one that has been put into practice by various politicians, notably by Prime Minister John Major in 1993 when, at the end of the Maastricht debates, the government was defeated over the Social Chapter.

Monday, September 26, 2011

That application to the UN

Here is the full text of Mahmoud Abbas's application to the UN for formal Palestinian statehood. Please note the following paragraph:
"This application for membership is being submitted on the Palestinian people's natural, legal and historic rights and based on United Nations General Assembly resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947 as well as the Declaration of Independence of the State of Palestine of 15 November 1988 and the acknowledgement by the General Assembly of this declaration in resolution 43/177 of 15 December 1988.
Right, so we are not talking about 1967 borders (which did not include a Palestinian state, in any case) but the 1947 ones.

Does this mean that "President" Abbas (there is some doubt about that title in the minds of his Hamas opponents) wants to correct the mistake Arab leaders made at the time by rejecting the partition of Palestine? Possibly. There is another explanation, as Tom Gross points out [scroll down to Item 5], which would fit in better with the "occupation of 63 years" that is being voiced by various Palestinian officials, including Mahmoud Abbas.
Abbas’s official text of his UN remarks included a logo on the top right hand side of the page showing all of Israel as a future Palestinian state.
Above this item there are a couple of others that might be of interest. The pictures, particularly of the painted donkey with the obnoxious child on it, are only grimly entertaining.

Then there is Item 2 about the freedom of media in Ramallah where the TV screens went blank for Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech at the UN.

To balance that there is this delightful item:
Hamas security personnel prevented a Gaza restaurant from screening Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' address to the UN General Assembly, a local rights group said Sunday.

Two men in plain clothing, who introduced themselves as members of the Hamas-run General Investigations Service (GIS), arrived at the establishment in western Gaza City late Friday and ordered the owner to stop the broadcast, threatening to close his restaurant.
The owner has been arrested and, so far as anyone knows, not yet released.

Can't stop laughing

No sooner do I express a sense of déjà vu than the Conservative Party manages to outdo itself in ridiculous behaviour.

Paul Goodman tells us on ConHome
A Conservative MP I know was recently alerted by CCHQ to a website which suggested topics delegates might like to take an interest in at the fortcoming party conference.

It included "fashion".

It didn't include "Europe" (or the EU if you prefer).
Actually, I do prefer EU for obvious reasons but I am not a member of the Party Formerly Known as Conservative so it makes few odds. (Though I shall continue my campaign against that sloppy lack of definition that plays into the hands of our opponents.) So, errm, what are they going to discuss? SamCam's latest outfits?

These people need our support

No sooner do we hear of a different Muslim group, one that attacks extremism and feels that 9/11 is a date to be remembered with sadness, than the inevitable happens: the site has been attacked by extremists or, at least, people who do not wish to have alternative points of view put forward. For some reason I cannot find another link to the story. This one will have to do for the time being. If anything else appears, I shall update the posting.

UPDATE: The site is now back. Here is the London Declaration for Global Peace and Resistance against Extremism 2011. Obviously, I cannot agree with the calls for more aid and more money handed out to "poor countries" or, to be precise, their governments. Naturally, I would like it made clearer which groups have been mostly responsible for terrorism in the last few years but, clearly, it might be dangerous for the authors to be too outspoken. We shall see how it all develops. If this turns into another campaign to prove that all liberal ideas were first promoted by the Prophet, this blog will go into heavy attack.

YET MORE UPDATE: I think I showed some confusion as to which site had been attacked. It was this one and it is definitely up again.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Not nearly enough coverage

A friend sent me a link to this story in the Times of India.
Thousands of Muslims gathered together for a peace rally to commemorate the 10th anniversary of September 11 attacks, expressing their condemnation of terrorism and extremism.

The Peace for Humanity conference has been organised by the Islamic group Minhaj-ul-Quran, which is also launching a campaign to get one million people to sign an online declaration of peace by 2012.

Islam is against terrorism, a leading Islamic scholar told the 12000-strong gathering at Wembley.

Islamic scholar Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri said the conference will send a message that 10 years of extremist activity should end.
Interesting, no? But there has not been a great deal of coverage of this. There is a story on the BBC website and a few other, mostly non-British outlets.

I notice that the conference also called for a move to democracy in the Arab world. Was that what prevented some of our media from writing about it? After all, they have long ago decided that the only problem the Middle East faces is Israel's reluctance to agree to a state whose avowed aim is to destroy it, set up on its border. Surely, there cannot be other problems, not with the Arab Spring and everything.

President Putin redux

Well, well, well. So President Medvedev is going to step aside and let Prime Minister Putin become the candidate in next year's least interesting presidential election for the only party in Russia that is likely to be allowed to have meetings and space in the media, United Russia.
Medvedev, who became president in 2008 when Putin had to leave the office because of term limits, always has been seen as Putin’s protégé. Putin became prime minister, and has continued to hold the reins of power here.

At Saturday’s United Russia congress, Putin called on Medvedev to lead the list of party candidates in December’s parliamentary elections. Medvedev accepted, then said he couldn’t do that and remain as president as well. His term expires in March.

Then Medvedev called on the party to back Putin for the presidency. His suggestion was met with a prolonged standing ovation.
And how familiar does that sound?

In another news from Russia we hear that the historian Mikhail Suprun about whose arrest for investigating the fate of German prisoners under Stalin was covered on this blog, has now gone on trial.
Mikhail Suprun has been charged with breaching the right to private life by obtaining names of ethnic Germans deported to the northern region during the 1940s and 1950s, For Human Rights, a Moscow-based group, said in a statement.

The case, investigated at the instigation of the FSB security service, has provoked concerns with rights group since Suprun gathered the names and details for research in collaboration with the German Red Cross.
As a certain 50 year old magazine would say: that's enough Russia (Ed.).

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A sense of déjà vu

I have a severe case of a sense of déjà vu. It's like you know when there is a Conservative Party conference on the horizon and lots of Tories start running around being eurosceptic, trying to assure everyone that this time they will actually do something because they are the people who are the real eurosceptics. Been there, done that. Comes the dawn, Parliament sits again and ...... the voices grow dim, the votes do not materialize and things return to normal.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Some Americans are beginning to get it

By and large, American attitude to the European project has varied from "not all that interested" through "you guys need to get your act together" whenever some American interest was hit to "great idea this unification if only it could be done the right way". I exaggerate but only a little though I do have a number of friends on the other side of the Pond who long ago grasped that the European Union was a very bad idea, ought never to have happened but now that it has, ought to be got rid of and Britain ought to take her rightful place within the Anglosphere (temporarily on hold under the Obama presidency).

The times, however, they are a'changin' and, not surprisingly, it is the Wall Street Journal that is the first to wake up. It appears that the old idea, much promoted by that newspaper of an integrated European market never really had much traction, according to Bret Stephens, though despite this sudden ability to see the light, he still thinks that Western Europe's rise and fall is somehow equivalent to the European Union's rise and fall.
When the history of the rise and fall of postwar Western Europe is someday written, it will come in three volumes. Title them "Hard Facts," "Convenient Fictions" and—the volume still being written—"Fraud."
Not so, but far from it, Mr Stephens. To answer your own question, what will come after "Europe" will be Europe without quotation marks. You know, the one that has been around for some time and has produced quite a few good ideas as well as a large number of bad ones.

Still, we must take what we can and Mr Stephens is right in his main arguments:
There was, for starters, the convenient fiction that if you just added up the GDP of the European Union's expanding list of member states, you had an economy whose size exceeded that of the United States. Didn't this make "Europe" an economic superpower? There was the convenient fiction that Europe didn't need robust military capabilities when it could exert global influence through diplomacy and soft power. There was the convenient fiction that Europeans shared identical values and could thus be subject to uniform regulations governing crime and punishment. There was the convenient fiction that Continentals weren't lagging in productivity but were simply making an enlightened choice of leisure over labor.

And there was, finally, the whopping fiction that Europe had its own "model," distinct and superior to the American one, that immunized it from broader international currents: globalization, Islamism, demography. Europeans love their holidays and thought they were entitled to a long holiday from history as well.

All this did wonders, for a while, to mask European failures and puff up European pride. But there is always a danger in substituting grandiosity for achievement, mistaking pronouncements for facts, or, more generally, believing in your own nonsense.
And then, he says, came outright fraud. Well, not exactly. The outright fraud was there from the very beginning. Indeed, the fictions he lists, which some of us have been writing about for more years that we care to admit to, are inherently impossible without fraud.

Nevertheless, this is quite a big step forward in our fight to make the truth known in the United States. Now, all we need is an understanding of it in Britain.

Monday, September 19, 2011

What can be made of this?

Elections in Berlin and the result had some unexpected details:
KLAUS WOWEREIT, a Social Democrat, was re-elected Berlin’s mayor yesterday, but the real story is what happened to two opposition parties.

The liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), the junior partner in Angela Merkel’s coalition government at the national level, won a dismal 1.8% of the vote and disappeared from the city’s legislature. The Pirate Party, dedicated (awkwardly) to free information and rigid privacy protection, won nearly 9% and enters a German state parliament for the first time (Berlin is a city with the status of a state).

This is one of those what-does-it-all-mean moments. An established party like the FDP has the stuffing knocked out of it. Its place has been taken by a party that seems to have been dreamt up over a few beers (originally in Sweden). The Pirates’ top candidate, Andreas Baum, recently estimated Berlin’s debt at “many, many millions.” Technically that’s not wrong; the city owes €64 billion ($88 billion). But it was clear enough that he had no idea.
The assumption is that the vote showed a general disillusionment with politics and politicians, a problem we all know well. What will happen now that the Pirates are in a state parliament?

This has to be one of the funniest stories around

Of the many stories I have not written about though I ought to have done is the shenanigans around the Palestinian demands for full statehood, with or without a seat in the UN (though presumably with). There are a couple of links to keep people going in the meantime.

Here is an excellent piece by Caroline Glick (and, as a matter of fact, I don't often say that).
In a nutshell, the Palestinian Authority - or Fatah - or PLO initiative of asking the UN Security Council and the General Assembly to upgrade its status to that of a sovereign UN member state or a sovereign non-UN member state is an act of diplomatic aggression.

Eighteen years ago this week, on September 13, 1993, the PLO signed the Declaration of Principles with Israel on the White House lawn.

There, the terror group committed itself to a peace process in which all disputes between Israel and the PLO - including the issue of Palestinian statehood - would be settled in the framework of bilateral negotiations.

The PA was established on the basis of this accord. The territory, money, arms and international legitimacy it has been given was due entirely to the PLO pledge to resolve the Palestinian conflict with Israel through bilateral negotiations.
It is useful to be reminded of the history, though it would also be useful for people to recall that Fatah does not speak for all Palestinians. What will Hamas do and who will be in charge if there is a Palestinian state?

The most interesting point is the assumption and, indeed, the demand that no matter what happens, the Palestinian refugees will stay in those camps living off UN money. (That's our money, by the way.)
As the PLO ambassador in Lebanon, Abdullah Abdullah, made clear in an interview Wednesday with Lebanon's Daily Star, in the event that the UN recognizes some form of Palestinian statehood at the UN, the new "State of Palestine" will still expect the UN to support the so-called Palestinian "refugees."

This is true, he said, even for the "refugees" who live in Gaza, Judea and Samaria. That is, the same UN that the Palestinians seek recognition of statehood from will be expected to provide relief to Palestinian "refugees" living inside "Palestine."

As he put it, "Even Palestinian refugees living in [refugee camps] inside the [Palestinian] state, they are still refugees. They will not be considered citizens."
There is one obvious answer to all this but, apparently, nobody not the UN, not the United States, not Britain (especially not Britain), not any other European country dares to voice it.

You'd think this news would have made people's minds up.
The Palestine Liberation Organization's ambassador to the United States said Tuesday that any future Palestinian state it seeks with help from the United Nations and the United States should be free of Jews.
The word we are looking for is Judenrein, and it has been tried in recent history. For some reason there has been no outcry from all those who proclaim themselves to be anti-fascist and anti-Nazi. Too busy screaming about the unfairness and clear fascism of housing benefits being cut.

So now, I at last get to the funny story connected with this.
Turkish hackers attacked dozens of Israeli websites over the weekend, only to find out that the sites belonged to Palestinians.

The confusion was caused due to the fact that the Palestinian sites, which have a .ps web suffix, use Israeli web servers.

"The hackers left anti-Israel messages on 70 Palestinian sites," said Shai Blitzblau, the head of Maglan-Computer Warfare and Network Intelligence Labs. "Most of them discovered it when it was already too late. Only after they broke in and sabotaged the websites did they find out these were Palestinian sites."
May we all have enemies like that. (It is worth having a look at the disgusting picture that the hackers put up. You can see it if you follow the link above.)

ADDENDUM: Here is the story about Hamas. It seems that they will support the Fatah bid for statehood but they do not like it for two reasons. One is understandable: they were not consulted; the other is also understandable but ought to ring some alarm bells: recognition of Palestinian statehood also recognizes Israel and up with that they will not putl

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Because bland is best

I rarely get involved in rows about small shops closing because usually the reason is quite clear: the shops or businesses in question do not serve customers as those customers would wish it and so they have to close. Or, as in the case of the late lamented Travel Books in Notting Hill, it really is the non-customers' fault. That bookshop was hit by the curse of being a tourist attraction. Ever since Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts mooned at each other in that film, people went to look at the shop (I know because I have been asked for directions several times), photographed each other but bought nothing. No doubt they also drove away bone fide customers. Sad but true.

However, this story really annoyed me. I know and like Gaby's. It is a cafe rather than a restaurant and the prices reflect that. The food is good, a mixture of Middle Eastern and East European Jewish, the staff are friendly and the place is highly successful with Londoners and visitors who often complain with some justification that it is hard to find anything affordable that is not part of a chain to eat in.

So what is about to happen? Well, it is about to be forced to close down
Gaby's Deli near Leicester Square will close after Westminster council chiefs forced through a planning application.

The application, made by planning consultants Montagu Evans on behalf of freeholders Gascoyne Holdings Ltd, was passed at a planning sub-committee meeting last night, despite petitions from members of the public.

The other shops that will be forced to close are a newsagents, a theatre ticket booth and a souvenir shop.
To be honest, I am not that bothered about the others. They come and they go but Gaby's is an institution and part of the remaining charm of that area, rapidly destroyed by Westminster City Council and Gascoyne Holdings Ltd.

And for sick-making, hypocritical self-justification, you cannot beat the following two statements:
However, Montagu Evans today said: "Gascoyne Holdings Ltd has a very varied portfolio and is one of the biggest supporters of small shops. The proposals we're looking at will hugely improve the visual of Charing Cross Road. We don't know what restaurant is going to move in, but they said they would be seeking a tenant similar to the calibre of Strada or Côte."

Robert Davis, the planning sub-comittee chairman, said: "The extension will significantly improve the look and feel of St Martin's Court and the surrounding area, and in the long term these benefits will outweigh the loss of the existing retail units.

"Because of this the committee granted conditional permission."
But, of course. You support small shops by closing them down and seeking instead a tenant that is part of a bland, boring chain. Exactly how would that improve the look and feel of St Martin's Court and the surrounding area?

It might be worth noting that Gascoyne Holdings Ltd is largely the Cecil family as headed by the Marquess of Salisbury.

Friday, September 16, 2011

I really need to sort out a blogroll

And shall do so as soon as I can find the time. Not so easy, considering my usually hapless efforts with techie stuff. However, in the meantime, here is a link to a blog that I have only just discovered, to my shame. Well, actually, not so much discovered as had drawn to my attention. Welcome, Boiling Frog.

Meanwhile ...

... in Belgium it looks like they might form a government quite soon, though why they should want one is a mystery. They seem to have managed quite well without one or, to be quite precise, without this particular layer of government. I suppose it's one of those of games of "keeping up with the Joneses".

Coalition talks begin in Denmark

Denmark's Prime Minister-elect, the Kinnocks' daughter-in-law (yes, I know it's unfair but I can't resist it, especially as she used to be an MEP as well) has won a very narrow victory of five seats and is starting those famous coalition negotiations that we are so used to
However, analysts said she faced a tricky task to find consensus among the disparate opposition parties that won a fragile five-seat majority in Denmark’s 179-member parliament.

Ms Thorning-Schmidt owed her victory to gains by the centrist Social Liberals and the far-left Red-Green Alliance, while her own Social Democrats lost ground compared with the last election.
As I said before, we shall be watching with interest.

Oh goody!

EU Business tells us that copyright on recordings will now be extended to 70 years from 50 years because performers now live longer and find that when they have retired they no longer get the income they used to. Or something like that. Of course, quite a few of them never retire and appear again and again to bore us to tears. (I await the wrath of Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney fans.)
The commission had proposed extending the royalty rights to 95 years, in line with the United States, but EU governments decided on a 70-year period.

The new rules were adopted by the EU on Monday despite opposition from Belgium, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden.

EU states will have two years to incorporate the new rules into their national legislations.
Presumably, we can now await extension of copyright after their death to benefit their families, in line with the infamous droit de suite.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Denmark beware!

It looks like the Danes have done what so many people do and got rid of their government of ten years' standing and Lord Kinnock and the Baroness Kinnock (they are separate titles) will see their daughter-in-law as the new Danish Prime Minister. The result is likely to be very close and Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the 44-year-old former MEP, may not be able to get all her social welfare ideas into place, especially as Denmark already has very high taxation. The prediction is that she is not likely to do much about the tough immigration laws. But who knows what else they might think of. Another referendum to get Denmark into the euro or is that now a lost cause?

Suing the ECB?

The Economic Voice among others reports that the UK Treasury is set to sue the ECB. Goodness me, what's that about? Actually, something rather serious:
The UK looks set to take the European Central Bank to court over its proposals to only allow clearing houses that operate within the Euro-zone geographical area to trade in some of the securities denominated in the single currency.

This would then force some institutions to leave the UK’s City of London for locations in Paris or Frankfurt.
Same old, same old, you might say. There is a new twist to this story of trying to destroy the City of London:
The London Stock Exchange is currently in talks with the intention of buying LCH.Clearnet, Europe’s last independent clearing house.

The problem is that under EU rules, which the UK Treasury says applies here, there is the presumption of free trade. But the ECB would presumably like to bring clearing into the 17 member Euro-zone for better control.

The UK Government will fight this proposal as it goes against the requirements of the larger EU of freedom of movement of services and capital as laid out in various treaties.
But as we all know, such considerations matter little.
This latest move could be interpreted as the Euro-zone just trying to get its house better in order or perhaps France and Germany manoeuvring to enhance their own financial services sectors. But it could also be construed as yet another move to marginalise the UK or even move it that bit closer to joining the Euro-zone.

The EU treaties have already been effectively torn up over the bailing out of countries such as Greece, as the treaties do say that bail-outs are not possible. So more breaches that are in the interests of the Euro are almost a certainty and are likely to be supported by the EU courts, whatever the UK says.
Nothing matters when the project and its outgrowth, the euro has to be defended.

There is more in the Telegraph:
The Government will launch its action on Wednesday and, if the ECB does not relent, will challenge the policy in the European Court of Justice. As well as breaking European law, ministers believe it contravenes international efforts to reform derivative markets through the G20, which has called for reforms to be implemented in an "internationally consistent and non-discriminatory way".

A Treasury spokesman said: "This decision contravenes European law and fundamental single market principles... That is why we have begun proceedings against the ECB through the European Court of Justice. The Government wants to see this resolved swiftly and without involving the courts, but if necessary will not shy away from continuing legal action."
We shall watch with interest.

Maybe we should begin asking this question

Of every pound I earn how much do I deserve to keep? Simple. This question, mutatis mutandis was asked of Congresswoman Jan Schakowski. The subsequent discussion was illuminating. More here and here.

So, ladies and gentlemen of the House of Commons and of this unelected Coalition, what percentage of our income do we deserve to keep and what percentage do you think we should hand over to you to waste spend on plans you have made for our better existence? Oh for a media interviewer that will ask that question.

Small but important

Forget about Greeks protesting because ... sob ... strings are being attached to the hand-outs they think is their due their "democracy" is being destroyed; forget about those protests in Italy and Ireland. This is the news: the Germans are beginning to protest against the euro. 100 people is not many, I grant you. After all, I dismissed those 100 flag-burners outside the American embassy as not being exactly terrifying. There is a difference. The well-protected members of Muslim Against Crusades managed to muster only 100 after years of agitation and supposed ever-rising Muslim hatred of the West, the United States in particular. The 100 the fringe Partei der Vernunft (Party of Reason), which
held up banners with two key demands: "Raus aus dem Euro" (Out of the Euro) and "Stoppt die Schuldenunion" (Stop the debt union), according to a report by German daily FAZ.
is, I suspect, the beginning of a trend in Germany where the eurozone is clearly becoming ever less popular. It is good to see those signs outside the ECB though one cannot help thinking that if only they had listened to us ten or fifteen years ago, instead of pouring scorn on our warnings, the oncoming mess might have been avoided.

I asked Google to translate the party's programme into English and, for once, it is quite comprehensible. One cannot but support these people though, as they believe in freedom, low taxation and a small state, they will undoubtedly be called "fascist" by people who know absolutely nothing about fascism.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Glad that has been sorted

On the subject of government department flying various flags, Charlie Elphicke asked
the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer to Lord Stoddart of Swindon of 26 July 2010, House of Lords, Official Report, column 272WA, on EU: flag, what steps his Department has taken to inform the European Commission that it has complied with Article 7(2) of EC Regulation 1828/2006 by flying the EU flag since 2007.
They ask individual Ministers and Secretaries of State rather than HMG in the Lower House.

The answer was:
As a consequence of Article 7(2) EC Regulation 1828/2006, my Department is obliged to fly the flag of the European Union in front of its premises for one week every year, after Europe Day. There is no formal requirement to inform the European Commission, but I am informed that visible failure to comply would result in the European Commission imposing fines (described as 'financial corrections').

Ministers consider that European regulations should focus on ensuring that European funds are used to best promote the economic development of the EU. I wish to reassure hon. Members that the United Kingdom's Union flag always flies in superior position outside our Department on its primary flagpole.
And a lot of other stuff about various flags that fly above the Minister's particular Department.

Why the second paragraph had to be included is a mystery. How on earth can "European regulations should focus on ensuring that European funds are used to best promote the economic development of the EU", even if we disregard that egregious split infinitive, which Sir Humphrey ought not to have passed?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Norwegians are not easily influenced

Though Siv Jensen's anti-immigration and, therefore, described as right-wing extremist by some, notably the BBC, party lost in the local elections, nobody seems to think this has anything to do with Anders Behring Breivik, who ceased to be a member in 2006.

The government Labour party, who was supposed to garner the sympathy vote did not do much better than before going up by 1.9 per cent to 31.6 per cent.
According to observers, the Progress Party's decline was not directly linked to its former ties with the killer. The party had vehemently distanced itself from him, and had already seen its support fall prior to the attacks.

The party was hit in early 2011 by a sex scandal that was badly handled by the party leadership, according to political commentators. It then had to tone down much of its anti-immigration rhetoric during the election campaign.

Compared to its score in the 2009 general elections, the party received half the amount of support.

The setback "is largely explained by the fact that we had a very difficult year where we did not have a lot of opportunities to talk about our politics," party leader Siv Jensen told daily VG.
And the Norwegians refused to heed the call to turn out en masse to show that democracy flourishes in the country despite the horror of the twin attack in July. Then again, 62.6 per cent in local elections would be considered en masse here.
"After the national tragedy this summer, this election became a sort of referendum on our democracy which was supposed to translate into a strong mobilisation among voters," said Harald Stanghelle, a political commentator for Norway's newspaper of reference Aftenposten.

"This was not the case. I'm surprised and saddened," he told AFP.

Voter turnout came in at 62.6 percent, just above the 61.7 percent registered four years ago.

Others said they saw instead positive signs that Norway's democracy was not easily influenced one way or the other by the twin attacks.

"It's good that an unscrupulous child killer can have such a minimal effect on the political landscape," said Tore Gjerstad, a political correspondent for financial daily Dagens Naerinsgliv.
Quite so. Nevertheless, it is regrettable that the Progress Party should be losing support. I thought its leader rather impressive.

Whom to believe?

The Washington Post tells us that
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he intends to grant a “unilateral pardon” to two Americans who have been jailed on charges of espionage for two years and release them this week.

“I am helping to arrange for their release in a couple of days so they will be able to return home,” Ahmadinejad told The Washington Post in an hour-long interview at his office here. “This is of course going to be a unilateral humanitarian gesture.”
Setting aside the fact that they were not spies but young idiots who decided to hike along the Iran-Iraq border, there is something missing from this story.

The Telegraph puts it differently:
Bail for two US hikers held on espionage charges in Iran has been set at $500,000 (£315,000) each, their lawyer has said, after Iran's president said they would be released "in two days."
Indeed, their friend, Sarah Shourd who had been released on medical and humanitarian grounds last September had also had the same "bail" paid for her.

It comes to something when the Daily Telegraph is more accurate than any other newspaper in the more or less free world but even they have it wrong. I know bail is a shorter word than ransom and easier to spell but for all of that, what was paid over was ransom. Those idiot kids were ransomed. Let us call a spade a spade and a ransom a ransom.

Show time

What could be better than Fred Astaire, Jack Buchanan, Nanette Fabray and Oscar Levant in That's Entertainment from The Band Wagon.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Goodness, this is exciting! Not!

The time has come to write a bit about the new eurosceptic Tory group in Parliament called together by George Eustice, former UKIP candidate, former campaigner against the euro and former Press Secretary to the Boy-King. More than 100 MPs attended the inaugural meeting with a number of new(ish) ones in sight. Given how few of those new(ish) MPs have dared to vote against the government on EU matters, their presence at the meeting indicates that this is not going to be seen as a threat to the leadership or their careers. In fact, William Hague has already indicated that.

What, one has to ask oneself, is the aim of this new group? Obviously, one aim is to renew the claim that the Conservative Party is the true home of euroscepticism; at the same time it seems that not frightening the horses or the colleagues in Brussels seems to be another aim.

According to Mr Eustice the real aim is to halt further European integration. Ahem, has that not been Conservative Party policy for some time? Also, they think they might be able to repatriate some powers, though, apparently, it has not yet been worked out which ones and how they will go about doing so.

They remain hopeful, though.
Backbencher Mr Eustice, David Cameron's former press secretary, told the BBC there was the potential for treaty negotiations later this year and the group aimed to do the "heavy lifting" - preparatory work - ahead of any potential treaty renegotiations.

"It is absolutely imperative that Britain has a very coherent plan, as to what we want the European Union to do in the future, how we start to take powers back so we actually have a new relationship with the European Union that is settled.

"I think there's a very strong support for that within the parliamentary party and we saw that with the strong turnout tonight."
Assuming there is a full-scale treaty renegotiation later this year (and time is running short for that sort of thing) and assuming there is some kind of an agreement on what these people will want to repatriate there still remains the tiny problems of getting the other members to accept those suggestions. After all, a treaty change on that scale will need a unanimous vote and acceptance in all the member states. (As a matter of fact, all treaty changes need that but, as we know, minor issues of by-passing Article 125 by the misuse of Article 122 can just be finessed.) So, the others will want a quid pro quo. What are we going to offer?

Not Sir Hugh Orde

By and large, given his past record and the fact that he has been in charge of the lamentable ACPO, it is good to know that once again the prize of Commissioner of Metropolitan Police has evaded Sir Hugh Orde's grasp.

The winner is Bernard Hogan-Howe, former Chief Constable of Merseyside. At present I know of no ill about him but have no doubt some readers will send me some. I shall ferret round as well.

Could it be the party conference season?

Oh well, back to real life if you can call the matter of party conferences real. Last week we had the TUC blustering and threatening that they will do such things, what they are they know not but they shall be the terror of the earth (to misquote the great Bard of Avon).

Next week it's the Lib-Dims' turn and watching them roast Nick Clegg and other Ministers of the Crown might actually be fun. Then it is Labour and the Conservatives.

This week-end we had the Greens and UKIP, the latter of which produced its usual crop of angry speeches and may well produce some policies. We were certainly promised some but, at present, there is nothing new along those lines on the UKIP website.

But, right on cue, we have an interview with the Foreign Secretary, William Hague (in case you have forgotten his name) in which he tells us
that it would "certainly not [be] career suicide" to become linked to a new group that wants a shift in Britain's relationship with Europe.
So, all those Tory "eurosceptics" can breathe again. They will have their career in the party, after all. Well, maybe.

There was more to come:
Mr Hague suggested that Britain might do better by setting itself apart from the continent in the same way that it had done over the issue of the single currency.

"It's true of the euro, it could be true of more areas in future. In fact we may get ahead as a result of being outside," Mr Hague said.

He said the creation of the eurozone without closer tax and spending rules was "always a giant mistake" and it "would stand as a monument in time to how group–think can go so seriously away from what is realistic"
There is, readers might notice, a certain vagueness about that statement. Which areas? How will Britain set itself apart from the continent or, for that matter, the European Union? It is all a mystery.
On Monday a group of 80 new intake Tory MPs will meet to discuss what reforms they want.

Backbencher George Eustice, one of the group's conveners, said: "The aim of this new group is to promote debate about creating a new relationship with the EU and reversing the process of EU integration."

Mr Eustice has said that the eurozone crisis has given Britain the opportunity to press for change.

Mr Hague said members of the new group would be welcomed into his office any time.
Cosy isn't it? Another group is formed to ensure that the tiny move towards a sensible attitude towards Britain's membership of the EU (get out and negotiate new deals) are undermined and its members will always be welcomed in Mr Hague's office to chew the fat about what reforms are needed without ever bothering to find out how those reforms might be put into effect. (Hint: there is no way as the treaties do not allow it.)

Two things spring to mind: one is that the Conservatives do appear to be looking to a General Election earlier than 2015 and they have probably realized that they need the eurosceptic vote if they want to win. I have written about this before here and here among other postings.

The other notion that is playing in my mind, perhaps unworthily, is that Wee Willie Hague is looking to a future, which is not just post-Cameron but also post-Osborne with himself as the only possible leader.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What was that about?

As people in many parts of the world remembered what happened ten years ago, there were services across Britain (let us not forget that British people died there and other British people lost family, friends and colleagues) and a one minute silence outside the US Embassy.

The rather ridiculous and objectionable Muslims Against Crusades (MAC) used the opportunity to burn the American flag and to shout anti-American slogans. Altogether there are four things to be noted about this story.

One is that there were about 100 of them, which is anything but terrifying.

Secondly, another group of Muslims travelled some distance to show their dislike for this behaviour.
However, a small opposing group of Muslims - some of whom had travelled hundreds of miles to rebut the extremists - staged a counter-demonstration nearby, holding up placards reading "Muslims Against Extremism" and "If You Want Sharia, Move To Saudi".

Abdul Sallam, 41, who was waving a sign that read "Keep The Silence", travelled down to London from his home in Glasgow to show the strength of his feelings.

He said: "I'm a Muslim. What they're doing is bringing shame on all Muslims. This is not part of the teachings of Islam.

"Islam teaches you that when you see anything bad or evil, you should speak out against it.

"If the moderate Muslims all came out and spoke out, that would defeat them.

"I am proud to be British. I love my country. All these people are doing is breaking Britain apart."
Good for Mr Sallam who was not afraid to give his name to the journalists.

Thirdly, the police behaved somewhat stupidly by moving EDL demonstrators (all 60 of them) from their place in order to let the MAC stand there. How to ensure that you look biased in favour of the enemy, eh? Who on earth gave them the instructions?

And lastly, what are we to make of these pathetic gestures of defiance that are allowed only because members of the MAC live under the despised or hated Western legal systems? Today, naturally enough, I discussed the events of that day ten years ago with other people and asked what exactly had those attackers achieved. Answer was, nothing.

The United States is still the strongest power in the world and its problems, mostly economic though some political, have nothing to do with any Muslim attempt to destroy it. In fact, there is a sense of political renewal in that country that we, on this side of the Pond, can only envy.

The two (not counting Libya) wars have taken their toll, as wars always do, but they have not destroyed the country or its political structure and, despite the most stalwart efforts on the part of the American main-stream media, did not destroy the Bush presidency. Obama is doing his best to destroy his own, but that is another story.

The Muslim countries are not doing very well; nothing good has come out of the 9/11 attacks as far as they or Al-Qaeda are concerned. Ten years on, Islam is nowhere near taking over the world and the Khalifate is as far away as it ever was. What has been achieved? Nothing. If the West has problems with parts of the Muslim population that has nothing to do with those monstrous attacks ten years ago. The problems need to be solved but the first thing that needs to be acknowledged is the true impotence of the various Islamist organizations in the West, in this case in Britain. It is not surprising that they need to produce these ridiculous protests and desperate, almost hysterical outbursts. They are losing and it is hard to acknowledge.

Ten years on

Of all the pictures about 9/11 I prefer this one. It shows defiance and not victimhood. Not that the horrors of that day should be forgotten but I personally prefer of us all fighting back, however delusional that might be.

Five years ago I posted on EUReferendum, my erstwhile blogging home, about that day and what I thought in 2001 and 2006.
As for me, that entire day will stay in my memory almost minute by minute. And one of the things I recall very clearly was my immediate conviction that we were at war. My second thought was to wonder where I can sign up. This was going to be a war of ideas, of propaganda as much as of bombs and bullets. I could do that, I thought. Well, it took a little while but I think I managed to sign up for the duration.
Re-reading the piece I can only say that I still agree with every word of it. Here it is for anyone who wants to read it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

More detailed analysis

Der Spiegel has an article that analyzes in greater detail the Karlsruhe decision. There is still no mention of those pesky Articles 122 and 125. Did they not rule on that? Also, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this ruling may give the German parliament more power in theory but in practice it will be possible to circumvent it, thus infuriating yet more people, which is something politicians are rather good at doing.

Another article describes the scene at Karlsruhe.
Shortly thereafter, the fun came to a halt. Germany's highest judicial authority, the Federal Constitutional Court, issued its anxiously awaited ruling on the euro rescue package on Wednesday morning. Although their cases were rejected, the decision still represented a partial victory for Nölling and the remaining plaintiffs. The justices declared that the billions in guarantees for Greece and other highly indebted euro-zone countries were fundamentally constitutional, but they also demanded a greater say and participation in future bailouts by Germany's parliament, the Bundestag.
This, as many swiftly realized, might well mean that there will be preliminary agreements between the Bundestag and the government in order not to cause any trouble. However, there will always be the possibility that those agreements will not work and that possibility will become stronger with every new bail-out.

The Economist is pleased with the result - the euro is safe for the time being, more or less - but thinks Merkel loses in the court of public opinion.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

An aid agency being honest?

Well, reasonably honest. We are talking about Médecins Sans Frontières, which has gone against the usual compound of pointless boasting and demands for more funds that aid agencies and NGOs indulge in as a matter of course.
Four million Somalis are said to be in crisis. Given that insecurity is limiting international aid groups’ activities and some have been banned from territory controlled by Islamist rebels, to what extent are they actually able to help?

"We know we are not yet fully meeting the enormous needs the Somali people are facing," the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, Mark Bowden, said in Nairobi this week, while stressing that additional funds are now enabling international and local agencies to scale up their work in famine-hit regions.

Around 1.2 million people received food assistance in August, for example. That's up from 750,000 in July, but still only covers just over a quarter of those who are going hungry.

Merlin's move to expand its clinics follows comments from a top official at another medical aid group, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), who accused other agencies of "glossing over the man-made causes of hunger and starvation in the region and the difficulties in addressing them."
Unni Karunakara, president of MSF's International Council wrote that
that many aid and media organisations have portrayed Somalia’s emergency in "one-dimensional terms," ascribing it largely to the severe drought affecting large parts of East Africa.

"But only blaming natural causes ignores the complex geopolitical realities exacerbating the situation and suggests that the solution lies in merely finding funds and shipping enough food," he said.

He added that it's the war between hardline Islamist rebels and the transitional government, backed by the international community, "that has kept independent international assistance away from many communities."
MSF continues to work in Somalia but has at least a glimmering of why the problems stay and stay and stay.

Here is the full article on Comment Is Free. For once the responses are interesting, too.

Let us not forget that the African Union leaders, who talk long and loud about African needs and African brotherhood, have failed their brothers and sisters who are suffering from famine (again). Perhaps, they, too, are suffering from aid fatigue though their help and donations have been little enough; or, perhaps, they do not want anyone to look too closely at the political reasons for the frequently repeated crises.

Trade and the Rotterdam effect

The Written Answer to Lord Pearson's question
To ask Her Majesty's Government when they expect the United Kingdom Balance of Payments for 2010 to be published; and whether it will reflect exports and imports of goods and services which pass through Rotterdam and Antwerp.
admitted that there was an error in the original reply. So, we shall ignore that. Let us turn to the corrected response, which consists of a Letter from Stephen Penneck, Director General for ONS.

There is some useful information as to where various figures about imports and exports may be found, together with this explanation:
For UK imports originating from the EU, the "country of dispatch" is recorded on the Intrastat survey form as the country in the EU from which the goods were originally sent to the UK. For UK exports, the "country of destination" is recorded on the Intrastat survey form as the final EU country the goods are destined for, even if the goods travel through other EU countries on the way.
But what, I hear people ask, about the "Rotterdam Effect", which should really be called "Rotterdam and Antwerp Effect"?

Glad you ask that.
All Trade passing through Rotterdam and Antwerp is included in the United Kingdom Balance of Payments data and will be shown against the Netherlands and Belgium, respectively, where they are the originating country of dispatch (for UK imports) and/or the country of ultimate destination (for UK exports).

Complications can occur in EU trade when dealing with the "Rotterdam Effect". Some goods might be declared at an earlier than (final) country of dispatch and/or destination. Principally, the "Rotterdam Effect" causes imports and exports to be attributed to the country of transit as opposed to the "real" partner country.
Or, in other words, we are given erroneous figures about trade with at least two other member states of the EU and the Single Market because the the imports and exports are attributed "to the country of transit as opposed to the "real" partner country". (Why real should be in quotation marks in the reply is a little mysterious. The country that buys goods from us or sells us goods is the real trading partner without any quotation marks.)

The most recent analysis and data on the impact of the Rotterdam and Antwerp Effect was published in 2005. Is it not time to publish a more up-to-date version?

Well worth reading

Allister Heath produces some figures in City AM about taxes and who pays more. Hint: they do not support the arguments of the faux-anarchist UK Uncut.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

As expected ...

... the German Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe denied that the existing bail-outs are unconstitutional but decreed that in future the Bundestag budgetary committee must give a prior agreement "before any further German financial guarantees for loans to its 16 partners in the eurozone". The decision does not seem to have made anyone particularly happy, though as the Financial Times, a fervent supporter of the continuation of the eurozone, says
The judgment amounts to an important victory for the German government, although it could complicate negotiations over future crisis measures by reinforcing the parliamentary control of the Bundestag.

It lifts a cloud over the €110bn rescue package agreed last year for Greece, and the €440bn European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) used to provide further financial assistance for both Ireland and Portugal. It should also clear the way for German parliamentary approval for further crisis measures to extend the powers of the EFSF.
What could be worse than reinforcing parliamentary control over an unaccountable procedure that will be the EFSF?

So the relief that the reforms to the EFSF, i.e. more powers to control financial measures and transfer of funds, will probably be approved of is tempered by the thought, as expressed by Carsten Brzeski, senior economist at ING Belgium,
"A bigger say for German parliament in future bailouts could easily find copycats in other eurozone countries, undermining the clout of the beefed-up EFSF,” as well as the permanent European Stability Mechanism to be established from 2014.
Meanwhile, Chancellor Merkel, whose joy over this decision must be severely qualified by the thought of her own government possibly not supporting her over those reforms, said in a speech to the Bundestag that serious reforms of the eurozone were needed.
"I'm convinced that this crisis, if a great crisis of the western world is to be avoided, cannot be fought with a 'carry on' attitude. We need a fundamental rethink," Merkel said.

"We must make it very clear to people that the current problem, namely of excessive debt built up over decades, cannot be solved in one blow, with things like euro bonds or debt restructurings that will suddenly make everything okay. No, this will be a long, hard path, but one that is right for the future of Europe."
Quite so, Chancellor.

While her opponents, the SPD cannot claim any credit, being in government when Greece was allowed into the eurozone, the handling of the crisis is ever more unpopular in Germany and that includes Chancellor Merkel's own party and supporters.
Merkel has also come under fire from some members of her own party for going too far in rescuing countries like Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

Horst Seehofer, the head of her Bavarian sister party, told the Bild newspaper on Wednesday morning that a Greek exit from the euro zone could not be ruled out.

Some of Merkel's traditional allies are threatening to oppose new powers for the euro zone's rescue fund in a parliamentary vote later this month, in what is developing into the biggest threat to her leadership since she first took power in 2005.
Meanwhile, the coverage of the Karlsruhe decision is divided between those who think this has given the Bundestag more powers (or, perhaps, returned powers) and those who think that this has really salvaged the whole operation temporarily as nobody really dares to think too far ahead. Daniel Hannan seems to be the only one who raises another aspect of the case, the EU's blatant violation of its own rules, to wit, Article 125, which specifically states
1. The Union shall not be liable for or assume the commitments of central governments, regional, local or other public authorities, other bodies governed by public law, or public undertakings of any Member State, without prejudice to mutual financial guarantees for the joint execution of a specific project. A Member State shall not be liable for or assume the commitments of central governments, regional, local or other public authorities, other bodies governed by public law, or public undertakings of another Member State, without prejudice to mutual financial guarantees for the joint execution of a specific project.
Well, we all know how they got round that: by using or, rather, misusing Article 122:
1. Without prejudice to any other procedures provided for in the Treaties, the Council, on a proposal from the Commission, may decide, in a spirit of solidarity between Member States, upon the measures appropriate to the economic situation, in particular if severe difficulties arise in the supply of certain products, notably in the area of energy.

2. Where a Member State is in difficulties or is seriously threatened with severe difficulties caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences beyond its control, the Council, on a proposal from the Commission, may grant, under certain conditions, Union financial assistance to the Member State concerned. The President of the Council shall inform the European Parliament of the decision taken.
On with the motley!

Karlsruhe court's decision is to be published tomorrow

Well, actually, later today as it is past midnight. Here is Reuters preliminary report of what will be in that decision.
Germany's top court is expected to grant parliament more say over future aid payments to crisis-hit euro zone countries in a landmark ruling on Wednesday, but stop short of blocking Berlin's contributions to a series of multi-billion euro bailout packages.
I have written about the case before, here and here. Undoubtedly, I shall write again tomorrow morning.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A somewhat different view of Turkey's foreign policy

The ongoing row between Turkey and Israel, which has prompted the former to expel the latter's ambassador and to downgrade diplomatic relations between the two countries has prompted some analysts to describe Turkish foreign policy as a complete disaster.
Israel’s decision not to abide by the Turkish ultimatum about the need to apologize for the May 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla incident brought the promised “Plan B” punishment: Turkey has decided to expel Israel’s ambassador to Ankara, downgrade its diplomatic ties to the lowest possible level, to hold on all military agreements and to halt trade between Turkey and Israel.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said his government would now provide full support to the families of those killed to pursue prosecution of any Israeli military or government members responsible for the deaths.

Moreover, President Abdullah Gul strongly condemned the United Nations Palmer Report, because it considered Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza “a legitimate security measure” and stated that Turkey could have done more to dissuade the Turkish flotilla participants from their actions. He deemed it “null and void” and sent a veiled threat to Israel: “Turkey, as the most powerful country in the region, will not only protect its own rights but also those of all the people in need.”

Davutoglu declared that “Turkey would take measures to ensure free maritime movement in the eastern Mediterranean.”

Until several months ago Turkey’s policy of “zero problems” with all its neighbors, a “bridge between East and West,” and Middle Eastern activism, devised by Davutoglu, seemed successful.

The publicized incident of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan viciously attacking President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2009 and the May 2010 international flotilla incident led by the Turkish Islamist organization IHH brought Erdogan’s and Turkey’s standing in the Arab world to its peak.

The Mavi Marmara incident and the ensuing crisis with Israel mark also the beginning of the failure of this policy.

The attempt to mediate a peace agreement between Israel and Syria faded away; the excessive support to Hamas led to frosty relations with the then Mubarak regime in Egypt and even with the Palestinian Authority; Turkey appeared more and more as a potential Islamist threat rather than an asset to the West and NATO.
It is fair to say that during this year Turkey called it wrong several times about the Arab countries and developments in them but so have many Western countries and leaders. As for Cyprus, that remains a long-standing problem and to talk of the Turkish invasion without mentioning what prompted it is futile. Turks and Turkish Cypriots have long memories: they remember Greek ambitions of the early seventies and of the more recent past. Nor do they feel that the EU played entirely fairly by Northern Cyprus.

The question is really why is Turkey finding it so hard to finesse the issue of Gaza and the flotilla, to the point of violently opposing the UN report on the subject. Why, for example, is Prime Minister Erdogan discussing the possibility of visiting Gaza during his trip to Egypt? After all, given the situation in that country and the tense relationship between Turkey and various Arab states, there is enough to discuss without antagonizing Israel even further. Or so one would think.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Misleading titles

Even though my knowledge of German is shaky, I could understand this title in Die Welt: "Die Deutschen wollen mehr Europa". The Germans, I read, want more Europa. But not, I noticed, more European Union. My reading of the title and my stuttering through the article was confirmed by Open Europe and its team of translators:
According to a series of Deutschlandtrend polls conducted by ARD, only 35% of Germans accept “limited” versions of Eurobonds, with 55% opposing them. 66% do not support stronger eurozone countries providing credit guarantees for weaker ones, while 80% believe that “the worst of the euro– anddebt – crisis is yet to come.” 64% support “more common policy making in Europe over the next few years” (mehr gemeinsame Politik in Europa). However, the question does not mention the EU and does not ask whether respondents agree that powers should be transferred to the EU institutions. Answering a separate question, 53% of respondents said they were opposed to the idea of “United States of Europe”, with only 42% in favour.
Then Open Europe makes something of a boo-boo of its own. They quote from the Finnish business magazine Talouselämä (goodness, do they have Finnish translators in Open Europe?) and say in the heading: "47% of Finns think euro has done more harm than good, down from 71% a year ago". What?

Ahem, no. As you were. The translated and summarized text says:
Meanwhile, a poll conducted last week by Taloustutkimus Oy for Finnish business magazine Talouselämä shows that 49% of Finns are opposed to Finnish participation in EU emergency aid to Greece, while only 34% support the EU bailout. The same poll showed that 47% of Finns think the euro has done more good than harm, down from 71% in a Eurobarometer poll a year ago.
Exactly, the opposite to what the title says. Here are the figures on the opposition to the bail-out on Reuters. And here is the full story in English on YLE. Maybe there are no Finnish translators in Open Europe, after all. That might explain the perplexing heading.

Finland, meanwhile, refuses to budge on the question of the collateral agreement with Greece and the Prime Minister has been threatened with a meeting with Council President Van Rompuy on Monday morning. There's a threat to bring terror into any politician's heart.

More news from Turkey

The developments in Turkey are extremely interesting. Definitely, a country worth watching as this blog tries to do, most recently in this posting. Today the Telegraph tells us that
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Friday that negotiations over the Alliance’s anti-missile shield had reached “their final stages.”

“It is anticipated that the early warning radar system allocated by the US for Nato will be deployed in our country,” said a statement.
During the Cold War Turkey was one of the crucial members of NATO both because of her geographic position and because of her determination to play an important part in the struggle. A number of senior British officers (mostly retired now) have spoken highly of Turkey's contribution in my hearing.

In the present situation Turkey is once again the lynchpin and it looks like the government is determined to make the most of that.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

We don't give in ... except when we do

This evening I ambled along to the two rallies outside the Royal Albert Hall and got there towards the end. There were two groups, one anti the Israel Philharmonic, brandishing Palestinian flags and the usual slogans; one in support with Israeli flags, Union flags and even a St George's flag as well as some Irish symbols. But it was all quiet. So I went on to do some shopping and got home to find that the concert had been disrupted by people shouting abuse in the first half during the violin solo when Radio 3 had interrupted its live broadcast. Then Radio 3 went back and, it seems, the protesters were not weeded out as they started screaming abuse again. Radio 3, once again interrupted its broadcast and decided not to continue with it, but to play the same pieces on music in recordings but not ones made by the Israel Philharmonic. In essence, the BBC gave in to the thugs. Something to be proud of?

Oh, and may one point out to the BBC and to the Evening Standard that bags are not searched in order to wean out political protesters. That can't be done. Bags are searched because anti-Israeli protesters have been known to blow themselves up, taking many other people with them. Is there some problem these people have with telling the truth?

The Telegraph reports that the concert went on in the Hall, that some members of the audience tweeted back to the BBC to say that the "protesters" were shouted at to stop and that part of the concert will be broadcast on Wednesday, September 7 at 2.30 pm. Will they have it on iPlayer as usual? We don't know.