Wednesday 17 September 2014

Editor's Choice

Which MEPs voted against EU-Ukraine association?

By Georgi Gotev It were mostly extreme-left and extreme-right MEPs who voted against the ratification of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement yesterday, according to the monitoring by VoteWatch Europe. Have a look at the list.


Latest Posts

Europa nicht mehr auf Gaskurs?

Posted by Günter K.V. Vetter on 15th September 2014

Seit einigen Tagen verzeichnen europäische Energie-Unternehmen rückläufige Gaslieferungen aus Putins Reich. Kaum vorstellbar, dass dafür allein technische Probleme verantwortlich sein sollen. Vielmehr liegt nahe, dass die Russen gerade ihre Folterwerkzeuge zeigen. Sie müssen die Gaslieferungen ja nicht ganz einstellen. Eine reduzierte Lieferung über ein paar Wochen hinweg dürfte reichen, um die Europäer nervös zu machen. Russland kann die EU auch treffen, indem es den Import von Konsumgütern beschränkt. So wie die Dinge liegen, könnte sich aus dem politischen Konflikt schon recht bald auch ein Handelskrieg entwickeln.

TV e Commissioni del Parlamento

Posted by Carlo Peano on 15th September 2014

Sto camminando per Parc Leopold con il mio amico Y dopo essere usciti dal Parlamento Europeo e stiamo parlando dello studio pubblicato dal Parlamento How can European Industry contribute to growth and foster European competition?.

«L’hanno presentato martedì scorso all’ultima riunione della Commissione ITRE (Commissione Industria, Ricerca ed Energia); c’era la responsabile del Danish Technological Institute» dico e aggiungo «Comunque puoi sempre guardare su internet quello che è stato detto».

«A sì, dove?»

«Dal sito dell’EP TV» rispondo mentre passeggio sul prato vicino al laghetto e mi tengo il Parlamento alle mie spalle.

«Intendi lo EuroparlTV? C’è tutto, vero?»

«Sì, devi solo cercare la Commissione che ti serve e sei a posto!».

«Ottimo, allora poi guardo la presentazione e vedo un paio di discussioni a cui volevo partecipare ma non ho avuto il tempo».

Per chi fosse interessato a guardare le ultime informazioni sul Parlamento europeo, consiglio il sito:

Per chi fosse interessato a guardare le riunioni delle Commissioni parlamentari, il sito è:

The AfD bandwagon rolls on – what are the implications?

Posted by Open Europe blog team on 15th September 2014

Germany's anti-euro AfD party has hit a rich vein of electoral form building on its success in Saxony two weeks ago (where it scored 9.7% and won its first seats in one of Germany's 16 regional parliaments) to win 12.2% in Brandenburg and 10.6% in Thuringia; a considerable improvement on pre-election polls.

As the graphic below shows, AfD won votes across the political spectrum, In net terms, its success came at the expense of the left - Die Linke in Brandenburg and the SPD in Thuringia - although in gross terms it also won a lot of votes from the CDU and FDP.

Where did the AfD's votes come from in Brandenburg and Thuringia?
This reflects the nature of the AfD campaign in these areas which combined an explicit pitch to Die Linke voters emphasising Ostalgie (nostalgia for East Germany), AfD's opposition to TTIP and to the sanctions on Russia with more traditional 'small c' conservative messages on crime and immigration (for example, AfD wants to re-impose border checks). On the whole, the question of Europe and the euro barely featured.

While AfD's recent successes should not be over-interpreted, inflated as they are by higher rates of disaffected voters in East Germany and low turnouts, it does nonetheless pose difficult questions for the established parties. This is particularly true for the CDU/CSU for whom, as we've noted, AfD is too big to ignore, yet too controversial to team up with. In the longer term however this might change if it becomes evident that the AfD is the only alternative to permanent 'grand coalitions' at the regional and federal level, a scenario which would arguably strengthen AfD even more.

We expect that this will be hot debate within the CDU in the coming months and years. Meanwhile, the AfD itself faces a big test; 12 months on from narrowly missed out on winning Bundestag seats the party has performed well in European and regional elections, however, with next year's Hamburg regional elections the only significant entry in the electoral calendar over the next year and a half, can the party sustain its recent momentum? If it stalls, could we see deeper splits between the economic liberals and protectionists/social conservatives who make up the party's uneasy internal coalition?

Interns said ‘No’ to unfair working conditions

Posted by mladiinfo on 15th September 2014

Lidija at European Interns’ Day in Brussels

Interview done by Lenka Curillova
Edited by: Stefan Alijevikj and Ana Alibegova

Born in Germany to Slovenian partners, Lidija Globokar grew up bilingually and “biculturally”. She guesses that this has influenced her choices of studies as she is BA in Languages and Business and MA in Communication and European Affairs. During her Bachelor’s she takes the opportunity to spend two years abroad in France and Ireland, and she conducts her Master’s degree afterwards in Brussels, Belgium. She has a strong interest in learning new languages, getting to know people from different countries, and as well she considers herself a true “Europhile” embracing the European spirit that together we are stronger. Mladiinfo International has met with Lidija Globokar in Skopje, Macedonia as she was guest to one our event. Today we deliver to you our interview with her where she reflects on her professional development and her work and engagement with Project 668, a professional development platform for current and former European Union trainees.

M! International: In 2012, you have applied for a traineeship at the European Commission and this was an important point in your career developments. What was the initial motivation to conduct this journey?

Lidija: After my year of study in Ireland, I completed an internship at the office of a Slovenian MEP in Brussels. This internship triggered my deep wish to work one day in the area of EU affairs. Before that it has been clear to me that I want to work in communications and after that the component “EU Affairs” was added to my job wish list. Therefore, I decided to do the Executive Master’s in Communications and European Affairs at IHECS in Brussels which perfectly combined both fields and was very project-oriented. As the Master’s included an internship, it was clear to me that I want to complete it in an EU institution. As I have had the opportunity to look behind the scenes of the European Parliament already I wanted to have a closer look at the “guardian of the Treaties”, as the European Commission is called.

Already at the end of my traineeship I started applying for different jobs and internships in Brussels. As expected this was a tough task to complete. I had to admit to myself that I might not find anything in Brussels and also started to look for jobs in Germany. By the end of my traineeship I had an internship offer in Brussels and a job offer in Frankfurt, I chose the latter because I didn’t want to be “the intern” anymore and was looking for a bit more stability and security.

M! International: Whilst on your traineeship in the EU Commission you and your colleagues have launched the Project 668, therefore what are its goals and activities? What has inspired you to create this initiative?

Lidija: Project 668 was founded by a group of European Commission (EC) trainees, true. We started it during our traineeship in April 2012 and our motivation was our concern about the high rate of youth unemployment in Europe and the large number of people that we met during our traineeship who told us that they could not go back to their country because there were no jobs. All of them were very well educated, spoke at least 3 languages, had several Master’s degrees and had done traineeships. We therefore wanted to contribute to the fight against youth unemployment and founded Project 668 (Facebook page). We created a database of EC trainees and approached companies, organisations and all sorts of consultancies with this database. After we expanded our target group to all EU trainees we focused on our social media channels because it was too difficult to handle the database for such a large amount of people.

We consider Project 668 to be a professional development platform for current and former European Union (EU) trainees. Its aim is to help other trainees break into the job market, develop their professional skill set and manage their careers. There is a gap between EU trainees and the “Euro-bubble job market” and Project 668 strives to close this gap. We do this mostly online by sharing vacancies and quality content on all the different aspects of professional development and job hunting.

What leaders have been chosen by Europe in 2014?

Posted by Dan Luca on 15th September 2014

Scientific experts are attempting to explain the EU’s communications paradoxes. In 2009, Prof. Peter Van Aelst analyzed the election campaign of the first President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, stressing that the basic rules of political campaigning were not applied. On the contrary, we have witnessed the opposite of the logic of campaigning. [...]

The Juncker Commission: New orientation should have been different

Posted by feps on 11th September 2014

By Ernst Stetter The day after the official presentation of the new European commission by the President-designate Jean-Claude Juncker, the press remains ambiguous in its analyses. Of course, it is not easy to fulfil the wishes of all – but one can wonder, whose desires this Commission reflects. Even from a distance, it seems to fall short in terms of responding to the citizens’ wish for change – as expressed during the European elections.

Portrait: Frans Timmermans vs geopolitics

Posted by Blogactiv Team on 11th September 2014

Guest blogpost by Heinrich Matthee, director of research of INEGMA-EU in Brussels. During the summer of 2014 the claws of geopolitics have also touched Europeans. It is a time of punctuated equilibrium, 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. During the summer, pro-Russian rebels shot down the civilian airliner MH-17 over Ukraine. The [...]

The new Commission: jobs for unemployed politicians

Posted by David on 11th September 2014

The Commission’s drive to reduce unemployment is working!

Five former prime ministers and 19 former ministers have found jobs. They have high-paid employment as Commissioners in Jean-Claude Juncker‘s new Commission, announced on 10 September 2014. It is composed of a record-breaking number of politicians — twenty eight. It is 100 percent, wall-to-wall, card-carrying politicians.

Career politicians are happy. They are being paid from public taxes. There is not a normal person, a non-politician, in sight. Candidates from among Europe’s 500 million citizens have been side-lined. Many could fill the role better than politicians: leaders in industry, law, advocacy, human rights, non-governmental organizations, ombudsmen, scientists, engineers. All honest people are eliminated by government leaders. That action is against the clear right of all citizens to be candidates for the job:

The Lisbon Treaty Article 10 TEU says:

10 para 3. Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen.

Politicians want the Commission to be exclusively controlled by a dangerous party cartel. Cartels are dishonest, illegal and led to WW1.

The European Commission is political but it should not be party political, controlled by a party clique.The first President of the European Economic Community, Walter Hallstein said:

In principle, we have no [political] competences … because there is nothing of that nature in the Rome Treaty. But we have political responsibility because we are a political – not an economic – enterprise. The Common Market has the goal of unifying Europe politically.

Political parties, whether national or European, do not represent all of Europe. They are at best an important part but they do not encompass all interests of Europe. They cannot really be and be seen to be impartial honest brokers. Parties are partisan, representing a vocal part of the population. The European Commission must address all issues of all citizens. It must also address important matters such as the need to stop party political corruption and the need for governments to obey European law.

Hallstein was previously not a minister but an unelected civil servant in Adenauer’s government. He was chosen as president because, as formerly a professor of law and an ardent defender of democracy, he was better placed than others to lead in the struggle against egocentric politicians such as Charles de Gaulle. De Gaulle wanted to destroy Europe’s last chance for peace in its supranational institutions because he wanted to dominate the Continent for himself.

Hallstein called de Gaulle’s attempts to dismantle the peace progress achieved on the path to a supranational Europe “the greatest act of destruction in the history of Europe, even of the free world, since Hitler” (der größte Zerstörungsakt in der Geschichte Europas, ja der freien Welt, seit den Tagen Hitlers).

Politicians have been trying to create a peace structure in Europe for a thousand years. They all failed until the idea of a supranational Community was initiated. Its principles, however, are often ignored or abused. Politicians, especially later ones, have shown by their incompetence that they do not know how to bring peace, either in Yugoslavia, North Africa, Syria or in many other areas of the world. European politicians meddle ignorantly with the primary mechanism of an impartial Commission at their peril. It endangers all European citizens.

By Treaty Law, the European Commission should have a small, limited number of experienced people who have no further outside ties or interests. They should seek European common interest. Instead the politicians have refused to follow this. They have been trying to foist two major changes on the public:

The upshot of these illegal moves is that politicians have excluded all well-qualified European citizens who could be considered Commissioners.This nepotism of a party clique would be a serious matter of corruption in a town or commune. It is major corruption for the European Union which controls the strings of a 14 trillion euro economy ($18.5 trillion).

Who benefits? The political parties of the three major ‘families’ the ‘European People’s Party’ (George Orwell is spinning in his grave!), Socialists and Liberals. All other parties are excluded except for one. That is the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom. Apparently the British are keen to ‘renegotiate’ except when it comes to ‘jobs for the boys’.

The illegal innovations contradict both the letter and the spirit of the treaties. Why? National representation assumes that the person is not impartial. How should it be done? The most obvious way is to have an impartial jury and let the public nominate those they consider fair-minded and independent Europeans.

It would be more honest if government leaders nominated someone who was not a national of theirs and considered by all Europeans as impartial. Secondly those they nominate are obviously not impartial because they are friends and colleagues of the government leaders — who have many critics. They are also of the same political party. Having card-carrying party members proves they are not chosen according to the Treaty criteria. A party politician is partisan — the very opposite of impartial and independent.

European elections show voter turn-out at an all time low in spite of some countries having compulsory voting. Public opinion is more and more alienated from the European institutions.

The European Commission was set up and seen as the honest broker for diverse European interests. No more. The public has seen politicians fiddle the books on the euro. They have fiddled the statistics. Major countries like France and Germany have refused to follow the judgements of the European Court.

The politicians’ solution? Make the European Council the arbiter of ‘fiddling’! Change the European Commission that took them to Court — which once had no party politicians– to become exclusively the home of retired or unwanted politicians or those coveting an income boost.

What will be the outcome? Firstly more politicians means more political scandals and infighting. Secondly a continued amount of public distrust both of the politicians and unfortunately for the European institutions.



What to expect from the Commission’s new economics team

Posted by Open Europe blog team on 11th September 2014

Will France's Moscovici (left) be effectively shackled by
Finland's Katainen (centre) and Latvia's Dombrovskis (right)?
The new European Commission (EC) also sees the overhaul of its approach to the Eurozone. While Pierre Moscovici holds the Economic and Financial Affairs post (essentially Olli Rehn’s successor), he will be overseen by the Vice Presidents (VPs) for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness and the Euro and Social Dialogue – Jyrki Katainen and Valdis Dombrovskis respectively.

An edge has been added to all this with quick German criticism of the decision to give former French Finance Minister Moscovici such a prominent economic post.

We have already pointed out in our full response to the new Commission that, contrary to popular belief (at least in some quarters in Germany), this does not necessarily change much – a lot of Eurozone rules are already set in stone. However, it is important to delve a bit more into who has what powers or controls which areas?

Katainen’s key responsibilities:
  • Helping bring together an investment package to mobilise €300bn in additional public and private investment via the European Investment Bank within the next three months – expected to be discussed at tomorrow’s eurogroup meeting and unveiled soon.
  • Coordinating the mid-term review of Europe 2020 strategy and long-term EU budget.
  • Pushing economic policy coordination in line with view of “social market economy” while also pursuing a strong structural reform agenda.
  • Steering the ongoing reform of the Economic and Monetary Union and, importantly, in charge of pursuing the work of the four Presidents' report on creating a 'deep and genuine' EMU. This suggests he will play a significant role in the bid to create a sounder eurozone and finding a way to marry the existing currency union with greater political union. It's important to note that this will bring him into regular contact with Lord Hill who is responsible for banking union in the new Commission - exactly how the financial stability aspect and the eurozone prosperity aspect will fit together here will be interesting to watch.
  • Formal oversight of the European semester – the mechanism through which budget rules are enforced in the eurozone. Also tasked with reviewing the mechanisms for achieving structural reform.
  • As might be expected there is significant overlap with those above. He has also been tasked with handling the European semester. It is expected he will handle the day to day evaluation and, in cooperation with others, will sign off on national budgets and reform plans.
  • The language around the Stability and Growth Pact is also in line with previous thinking, tasking Moscovici with making “best possible use of the flexibility that is built into” the rules.
  • The focus of this role seems to be on the macroeconomics and fiscal coordination of the eurozone. With that in mind, its expected Moscovici will attend eurogroup meetings on behalf of the Commission.
Overall then, while France may have got what it wished for, Moscovici looks firmly shackled to two fiscal conservatives. None of his tasks relating to the Eurozone are separated from these two VPs. More broadly, as the FT has pointed out, Moscovici (a French socialist) is also severely ideologically outnumbered not only within the broader Commission but specifically in the economic and financial posts.

Furthermore, the language used in the text of the letters remains quite Germanic and in line with the thinking of the current Commission:
“Combining growth-friendly fiscal consolidation, structural reforms and targeted support to investment will be key to a sustainable and strong recovery.”

“Sustainable growth cannot be built on ever-growing mountains of debt. We also know well that it is mainly companies that create jobs, not governments or EU institutions.”
There are also numerous mentions of “sound public finances” and the “social market economy” both core elements of the prevailing German economic thinking.

What to expect from the new Commission in terms of eurozone economic policy?

Finally, there are a couple of hints of what key proposals may be coming in the future. We have already mentioned the reference to a new investment package and the desire to push ahead with reviewing the current surveillance system. A further development seems to be for all those involved to try to engage a “broader range of actors at national level”, make the measures taken to improve the Eurozone more “socially legitimate” and find a more democratic alternative to the EU/IMF/ECB Troika. This suggests fostering national support for the likely continuation of significant structural reform and fiscal consolidation will be a key task for these Commissioners.

With that in mind, there is one final interesting line which is found in both Moscovici’s and Dombrovskis’ letter, they are tasked with forming:
“Proposals to encourage further structural reforms, possibly supported by financial incentives and a targeted fiscal capacity at Euro zone level”
This sounds eerily like a revival of the reform contracts, which Germany has been pushing for some time. The idea has been gaining ground once again after ECB President Mario Draghi suggested that structural reform should have similar oversight to that currently seen for national budgets. The latter part is also interesting, albeit very cryptic and vague. It could refer to the creation of a eurozone budget, possibly focused on tackling unemployment and related costs. Equally, it could refer to something along the lines of a wider assessment of the eurozone’s fiscal capacity and using it where there is scope to do so – meaning some kind of fiscal expansion in Germany (and other strong states) to offset fiscal contraction elsewhere.

Expect movement on these issues in coming months.

Climate action will help the economy, report says

Posted by epopress on 11th September 2014

By Jason Anderson, Head of EU Climate and Energy Policy, WWF European Policy Office

A Cambridge Econometrics report released yesterday responds to the simple question: what would the economic implications be of meeting the UK’s carbon reduction goals to 2025 (the ‘fourth carbon budget’), compared to a scenario where they slow down their mitigation efforts?

The answer, of course, is not so simple to come up with, which is why the modellers’ expertise was necessary. The implications of cutting carbon are broad – more investment in low-carbon infrastructure and industry, increases in the associated employment, a faster shift from fossil to renewable energy, lower health costs due to reduced air pollution, and so on.

The net result is a major benefit to the economy, with household income rising £565 per year by 2030, heathcare costs down as much as £288m per year, a £5.7bn increase in government revenue, a 1.9% rise in production in energy-intensive sectors and a cut of £8.5bn in oil and gas import bills.

The biggest issues to contend with are, first, ensuring that energy efficiency measures are implemented even among the less well-off in society so that their fuel bills fall even as unit costs rise. This implies more robust programmes around fuel poverty. Secondly, a small number of energy intensive industries will similarly need to see enhanced investment in low-carbon technologies during a period in which they may need to be insulated from the full costs of transition, an approach already being undertaken through EU policy, though in a manner that requires considerable improvement.

As negotiators work behind the scenes to prepare for a European Council meeting later in October that will likely define the outlines of EU climate and energy policy through to 2030, this report adds to the stack of economic studies demonstrating the benefit of climate action and associated changes to industry and energy. At this point it’s clear that any failure or reluctance to reap the benefits of a low-carbon transition shows a singular inability to take the initiative needed to navigate change successfully.


"Démocratie, droits de l’homme et état de droit en Europe", Philippe Boillat

Posted by EU-Logos on 11th September 2014

         La réunion de la commission LIBE des 3 et 4 septembre 2014 s’est achevée par la présentation d’un rapport du Secrétaire Général du Conseil de l’Europe (M. Thorbjørn Jagland, Norvège) intitulé « Démocratie, droits de l’homme et Etat de droit en Europe » en 2014. L’exposé a été mené par M. Philippe Boillat, directeur général de la DG Droits de l’homme et Etat de droit. Le rapport avait déjà été présenté au Comité des Ministres du Conseil de l’Europe, le 6 mai 2014 à Vienne.

 Les chefs des Etats membres ont régulièrement rappelé lors de différents sommets que la mission du Conseil de l’Europe est d’assurer la « sécurité et la stabilité démocratique » sur le continent. A ces fins, le Conseil de l’Europe mène trois types d’actions : il élabore des normes juridiques, suit la mise en œuvre de ces normes et mène activités de coopération ciblées qu’il offre à ses membres.

            Le rapport ne liste pas que des lacunes et défis mais propose des recommandations pour les Etats et le type de coopération nécessaire pour relever les défis et combler les lacunes identifiées. Ont été pris en compte une multiplicité de sources. Parmi celles-ci, les arrêts de la Cour européenne des droits de l’Homme et la surveillance de leur exécution par le Comité des Ministres, les rapports du Comité européen pour la prévention de la torture et des peines ou traitements inhumains ou dégradants, du Comité Européen des Droits sociaux, de la Commission Européenne contre le Racisme et l’Intolérance, du Comité consultatif pour la protection des personnes appartenant à des minorités nationales, du Comité sur la charte des langues minoritaires en Europe, du GRECO (GRoupe d’Etats contre la COrruption), du Comité d’Experts sur l’évaluation des mesures de lutte contre le blanchiment des capitaux et le financement du terrorisme (Moneyval), du Groupe de Lutte contre la traite des êtres humains (GRETA) ou encore du Commissaire aux Droits de l’homme du Conseil de l’Europe. S’y ajoute le suivi des travaux de la Commission de Venise et de la Commission européenne pour l’efficacité de la justice (la CEPEJ).

 Afin de susciter la collaboration et la bonne entente entre les pays, le rapport opte pour une technique particulière. Il n’énumère pas les défis pour chaque pays mais les classe de façon thématique pour éviter de pointer du doigt les Etats. Ceci créera, d’après le Conseil de l’Europe, un esprit plus constructif et un meilleur dialogue entre les Etats.

Les deux plus grands défis sont le respect des minorités nationales (point qui concerne 39 Etats sur 47) et la surpopulation carcérale (30 Etats). D’autres reviennent également souvent tels que la corruption, le mauvais traitement par agents des forces de l’ordre, les dysfonctionnements du système judiciaire, l’exclusion sociale et les Roms, les lacunes pour les droits des migrants et l’asile, la liberté d’expression et des médias ainsi que des violations graves comme les discriminations, le racisme et les immunités.

 Quelles suites pour ce rapport ?

 Lors d’un récent débat, les 47 Etats membres du Conseil de l’Europe se sont prononcés favorablement au rapport. Si ce dernier est fondé, comme nous l’avons dit, sur une approche thématique, son élaboration a tout de même permis de faire apparaître 3 défis majeurs par Etats. Ils sont traités de manière confidentielle mais le projet est que chacun des Etats ait, dans l’idéal, un plan pour remédier aux lacunes.

 En complément à la présentation de ce rapport, M. Boillat a exprimé son souhait de voir certaines pistes de réflexion se développer au sein du Conseil de l’Europe. Il a notamment pointé la nécessité de mieux prendre en compte des mécanismes de protection ex ante de certains droits (l’exemple le plus parlant étant la liberté d’expression), le besoin de développer des mécanismes d’urgence pour aller sur le terrain (comme le fait le Comité pour la prévention de la torture), de développer le « early warning » pour sensibiliser à d’éventuelles violations des Droits de l’homme particulièrement sur la sécurité des médias et des journalistes.

 Renforcer la collaboration UE/Conseil de l’Europe

 En conclusion, M. Boillat a réitéré son invitation à destination des Etats membres de tirer encore plus profit des conclusions du Conseil de l’Europe qu’ils ne le font actuellement, rappelant que l’expertise de cette institution dans les domaines présentés est unique. La relation doit jouer dans les deux sens et aux yeux du Conseil de l’Europe, l’Union européenne doit être un interlocuteur privilégié. Il a parlé de « partenariat stratégique » entre les deux entités pour davantage de complémentarité et éviter les doubles emplois. Cela rejoint ce qui avait été exprimé le 6 mai 2014 à par le Comité des ministres du Conseil de l’Europe réuni à Vienne.

A ce titre, on surveillera prochainement les avancées de la coopération avec la commission de Venise pour le « rule of law framework », la coopération pour l’adhésion de l’Union au GRECO et bien sûr l’avis de la Cour de Justice de l’UE sur l’adhésion de l’Union à la Convention européenne des Droits de l’homme.


 Clément François 

Pour en savoir plus :


- Rapport du Conseil de l’Europe sur la Démocratie, les droits de l’homme et l’Etat de droit en Europe en 2014  (FRA)

- State of democracy, human rights and the rule of law (ENG)

- Script de l’intervention de M. Boillat devant la commission LIBE

Classé dans:*FOOD FOR THOUGHT, Actualités, BREVES, perspectives financières

On liberal Jews and the Israeli left

Posted by Mose Apelblat on 11th September 2014

If the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas holds, it should be an opportunity for Israel to revisit its policy and offer Hamas a comprehensive deal which it cannot reject without losing its support among the Palestinians and any sympathy it may have gained abroad.

While the war united the Israelis, it didn’t bridge the political divide in the country. We’ll probably see a lot of political wrangling and disagreements about the war and Israel’s future. The recent Israeli decision to declare land close to one of the settlement blocs in the West Bank as state land, to satisfy the settlement lobby, is the opposite of the confidence-building so much needed.

However, a majority of Jews in Israel and around the world continues to support a two-state solution which will preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Their voices aren’t always heard abroad. International media has a tendency to publish marginal opinions denouncing support to Israel as either “too” liberal or non-liberal.

Take for example an article by the Israeli editor Shmuel Rosner published in International New York Times (INYT, August 8), where he was mocking “non-Israeli liberal Jews” and accusing them of not paying attention to Israel’s best interest in war time.

Being “liberal” and critical of Israeli government policy has suddenly become a reason to exclude a person from the “Jewish family”. My country, right or wrong, is obviously Rosner’s slogan.

This is strange to hear from a presumably liberal political editor representing a liberal democracy which prides itself of prosecuting ex-ministers for corruption, respecting freedom of expression and protecting minority rights.

The current situation is not sustainable and will only erupt in new wars without a serious peace process. Israel as the home land of all Jews will be less attractive and Israelis themselves who cannot stand the political and economic situation will leave in growing numbers.

Rosner continued in the same vein in another op-ed in INYT (September 7) titled “Who killed the Israeli left?” This time he claimed that the Israeli left was emigrating from Israel because they had lost influence in the country due to the support they had been receiving from the international community.

That ordinary Israelis are leaving, or would like to leave Israel if they could, because of the economic-political situation in the country has obviously escaped the attention of Rosner. He ignores also the fact that rightist parties and causes are funded and supported from abroad.

In the current situation a majority of the population is kept hostage by rightest parties lobbying for an increasing minority living in the settlements where they are enjoying economic benefits at the expense of poor development towns inside Israel. How do we reverse this policy?

Another example on the other end of the political spectrum was an article (INYT August 23 – 24) by Antony Lerman, a former director of the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research. Lerman who describes himself as a former “liberal Zionist” has completely lost faith in Israel.

He has adopted the Palestinian narrative of the events in 1948 and thinks seriously that a “joint Israeli-Palestinian movement” will bring peace and happiness for both peoples if they only lived in one state.

Where is the model for such a state? The Arab countries are breaking apart because of their sectarian and ethnic divides. In the Western Balkans, where multi-ethnic forms of governing were introduced after the civil wars, state-building is slow.

One would think that Lerman, as a British Jew who feels ashamed of Israel, would rather feel ashamed of Britain’s policy before and during the Second World War – not to speak about its role in more recent wars.

We all know the notorious White Paper in 1939 which restricted Jewish immigration to Palestine to appease the Arabs. During the war years the allied powers suppressed information about the Holocaust and opposed rescue operations to avoid receiving any significant numbers of refugees.

I would like to recommend a book by Daniel Tilles: “Passive Accomplices or Helpless Bystanders? British and American Responses to the Holocaust, 1941 -1945” (2008).

Lerman has obviously totally forgotten the lessons learned from the Holocaust when he questions the right of Israel to exist. It’s strange that Israel, so many years after its establishment, still have to prove that it has a right to exist as an independent nation state in a world full of nation states or failed states.

With all its flaws and problems Israel is the fulfilment of the right of national self-determination of the Jewish people and a more liberal democracy than many other Western countries.

Coordinating Europe’s social policies: not there yet

Posted by Blogactiv Team on 11th September 2014

Guest blogpost by Alfio Cerami, author and former international consultant for Unicef. During the last two decades, the social policy approach of the European Union (EU) has witnessed significant changes. This has primarily included a major shift: from social policies of inclusion seen as a mere outcome of economic development to factors contributing themselves to economic [...]

Jean-Claude GSOH*

Posted by andrewduff on 10th September 2014

By Andrew Duff One knew, of course, that Jean-Claude Juncker is well possessed with a dry sense of humour. How delightfully on display is his sharp wit in the disposition of portfolios to his new college of Commissioners.

Lord Hill is the EU’s new financial services Commissioner – but what is his remit and who does he report to?

Posted by Open Europe blog team on 10th September 2014

With the future of the UK seemingly hanging by a thread it is understandable that events north of the border are dominating attention, but today's announcement of the new European Commission also has far-reaching consequences for the future of the UK's EU membership and the EU itself.

As we set out in our flash analysis, the appointment of Lord Hill to the key financial services portfolio (pending approval by MEPs) is a win for the UK, and the general reformist outlook of the Commission, with other crucial posts (Internal Market and Competition) held by liberal, pro-free trade, non-eurozone countries, provides grounds for cautious optimism.

What will Lord Hill's portfolio include?
  • Overseeing the creation of the banking union – a crucial policy for the eurozone but also one which threatens to split the EU into euro-ins and outs. In his new role, Lord Hill can ensure this does not happen. That being said, this is a very tricky role to manage (with numerous competing interests), especially for a non-eurozone country.
  • Power to review the role of the European supervisory authorities, institutions which have been controversial in the UK since their creation.
  • Responsibility for a 'Capital Markets Union'. While this remains vague it could be a good initiative for the UK since London is already the centre of European capital markets. Lord Hill can base the union around the single market rather than the eurozone.
As the charts below show, the Commission has also been re-organised with a series of policy clusters, with the UK being at the heart of all the major decisions relating to the single market, jobs and growth and the Eurozone. Each 'cluster' will be headed by a Vice-President, previously a largely meaningless role but now with additional agenda setting powers and the ability to stop legislative proposals from other Commissioners.

Lord Hill will 'report' to two Vice Presidents who will "steer and co-ordinate" depending on the issue at hand - the new "Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness" VP Jyrki Katainen and the "Euro and Social Dialogue" VP Valdis Dombrovskis (both of whom are former PMs). In terms of the two VPs, Dombrovskis is likely to supervise the banking union aspects of Lord Hill's post while Katainen will oversee the more single market aspects, although even here, there is plenty of scope for overlap.

Lord Hill's portfolio also has some overlap (and therefore potential conflict) with France's new Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici .The potential for Anglo-French clashes within the Commission is relatively limited since Moscovici will be primarily tasked with macroeconomic eurozone policies rather than financial markets, but one potentially fraught area could the be Financial Transaction Tax or a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base. Juncker has asked Moscovici to finalise negotiations over both.

It remains to be seen how the relationship between VPs and different clusters will work in practice, especially as Juncker himself has insisted that "In the new Commission, there are no first or second-class Commissioners", and since decisions in the College of Commissioners have traditionally been taken by a majority of all Commissioners in a secret vote. However, Juncker also made clear that the Vice-Presidents “can stop any initiative, including legislative initiatives” of other commissioners – effectively acting as “a filter”.

Time will tell how potential disputes play out or are resolved and to what extent the VPs can truly veto proposals. What is clear is that the relationship between these four men could be crucially important.