Tag Archives: EU

Syriza split as elections loom

By

Alexis Tsipras has become another austerity politician. Once the expression of the hopes of workers across Europe- Syriza have now joined the austerity consensus. Therefore the announcement that the left of Syriza are splitting to form a new party, Popular Unity, is to be welcomed.

Syriza were elected on a platform of reforms- promising to end the humanitarian crisis in Greece. But the leading members of Syriza believed that it was possible to both end austerity and save Greek capitalism- and this miracle was to be performed while remaining in the Eurozone.

The bullying of the EU exposed this political weakness and laid the basis for a complete capitulation by Tsipras. Syriza labour minister, George Katrougalos, said the government needed to “reconfirm its mandate” to implement austerity in the form of the third Greek bailout and that the party is “crippled by a number of dissident MPs”.

25 left MPs have quit to form the new party. The anti-capitalist coalition, Antarsya, of which the Greek SWP is part, has called for a united movement to oppose the bailout deal and the cuts. It’s vital that the new party links up with the anti-capitalists and helps to focus the battles ahead.

Continue reading Syriza split as elections loom

Greek PM Tsipras to meet with Putin in Moscow.

Russia, Greece to discuss EU sanctions, economy in Moscow

(Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras plan to discuss economic ties and the European Union’s sanctions against Moscow when they meet for talks next week, a Kremlin spokesman said on Friday.

Russia wants the EU to lift the sanctions imposed over Moscow’s role in the turmoil in Ukraine and hopes to get support from some EU member states, notably Hungary and Greece.

The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said it was too early to talk about any possibility of Moscow providing financial help to the cash-strapped Greece before the talks.

“Relations between Moscow and the European Union will be discussed in the light of Brussels’s policy of sanctions and Athens’ quite cold attitude to this policy,” Peskov said.

Greece’s new left-wing government has said it will not seek aid from Moscow but has so far failed to reach a deal with its EU/IMF creditors to unlock fresh funds.

Putin and Tsipras will meet in Moscow on Apr.8. It will be Tsipras’ first visit to the Russian capital after his leftist Syriza party swept to victory in a snap election in January.

Tsipras visited Moscow in May, 2014, and attended a conference on ties between Russiaand Greece, as well as being received by senior Russian state officials. Five other members of the Greek delegation now also hold senior government roles in Athens. (Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin)

News courtesy: Reuters
Read more » http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/03/us-ukraine-crisis-russia-greece-idUSKBN0MU0NF20150403

EU foreign policy chief: Israel violating Oslo Accords by freezing Palestinian tax revenues

 

Federica Mogherini’s statement doesn’t mention PA’s request to join ICC, but calls on both sides to refrain from taking actions that could prevent ‘a rapid return to negotiations.’

By

The EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, called on Israel on Tuesday to immediately renew the transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority, calling the recent freeze on the funds a violation of the Oslo Accords.

Mogherini stressed in a statement that Israel’s decision to freeze the transfer of tax revenue “runs counter to Israel’s obligations under the Paris Protocol” – the economic part of the Oslo Accords. According to Mogherini, the EU provides extensive financial aid to the Palestinian Authority to build the institutions and infrastructure of the future Palestinian state. “These achievements should not be put at risk by not meeting obligations regarding the timely and transparent transfer of tax and custom revenues,” she said.

Read more » Haaretz
Learn more » http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.635626

Leaving the West Behind – Germany Looks East

By Hans Kundnani

Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014 was a strategic shock for Germany. Suddenly, Russian aggression threatened the European security order that Germany had taken for granted since the end of the Cold War. Berlin had spent two decades trying to strengthen political and economic ties with Moscow, but Russia’s actions in Ukraine suggested that the Kremlin was no longer interested in a partnership with Europe. Despite Germany’s dependence on Russian gas and Russia’s importance to German exporters, German Chancellor Angela Merkel ultimately agreed to impose sanctions on Russia and helped persuade other EU member states to do likewise.

Nevertheless, the Ukraine crisis has reopened old questions about Germany’s relationship to the rest of the West. In April, when the German public-service broadcaster ARD asked Germans what role their country should play in the crisis, just 45 percent wanted Germany to side with its partners and allies in the EU and NATO; 49 percent wanted Germany to mediate between Russia and the West. These results led the weekly newsmagazine Der Spiegel, in an editorial published last May, to warn Germany against turning away from the West.

Germany’s response to the Ukraine crisis can be understood against the backdrop of a long-term weakening of the so-called Westbindung, the country’s postwar integration into the West. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the enlargement of the EU freed the country from its reliance on the United States for protection against a powerful Soviet Union. At the same time, Germany’s export-dependent economy has become increasingly reliant on demand from emerging markets such as China. Although Germany remains committed to European integration, these factors have made it possible to imagine a post-Western German foreign policy. Such a shift comes with high stakes. Given Germany’s increased power within the EU, the country’s relationship to the rest of the world will, to a large extent, determine that of Europe.

THE GERMAN PARADOX

Germany has produced 
the most radical challenge to the West from within.

Germany has always had a complex relationship with the West. On the one hand, many of the political and philosophical ideas that became central to the West originated in Germany with Enlightenment thinkers such as Immanuel Kant. On the other hand, German intellectual history has included darker strains that have threatened Western norms—such as the current of nationalism that emerged in the early nineteenth century. Beginning in the latter half of the nineteenth century, German nationalists increasingly sought to define Germany’s identity in opposition to the liberal, rationalistic principles of the French Revolution and the Enlightenment. This version of German nationalism culminated in Nazism, which the German historian Heinrich August Winkler has called “the climax of the German rejection of the Western world.” Germany, therefore, was a paradox: it was part of the West yet produced the most radical challenge to it from within.

Read more » Foreign Affairs
Learn more » http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/142492/hans-kundnani%E2%80%A8/leaving-the-west-behind

Why Germans Work Fewer Hours But Produce More: A Study In Culture

When many Americans think of Germany, images of WWII soldiers and Hitler often come to mind. But what many people don’t realize is that Germany is the industrial powerhouse of Europe, and is a leading manufacturer of goods for export to developing Asian nations. We don’t hear about the superiority of German engineering in Volkswagen commercials for nothing!

The economic engine of the EU, Germany single-handedly saved the Eurozone from collapse in 2012. At the same time, German workers enjoy unparalleled worker protections and shorter working hours than most of their global counterparts. How can a country that works an average of 35 hours per week (with an average 24 paid vacation days to boot) maintain such a high level of productivity?

Read more » KNOTE
http://knote.com/2014/11/10/why-germans-work-fewer-hours-but-produce-more-a-study-in-culture/

Russia, Ukraine and the West: Will there be war?

Written by Alan Woods

As Ukraine slides deeper into chaos, the sound of war drums gets ever louder. On Saturday President Vladimir Putin secured his parliament’s authority to send the Russian army, not just into Crimea but also into Ukraine itself.

This threat was issued only days after “unidentified” armed men seized control of the Crimea peninsula. These were later unsurprisingly identified as troops from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, based in Crimea. The new pro-Russian president of Crimea equally unsurprisingly immediately called on Moscow to intervene. At the same time, pro-Moscow demonstrators hoisted flags above government buildings in two eastern cities.

Western leaders shook their heads and said that Russia must not intervene. Moscow held up its hands, indignantly protesting that it would not do so. But the facts seem to indicate otherwise. For the whole of last week Russian troops were staging what were described as “routine manoeuvres” on the borders of Ukraine.

Putin secured without difficulty the unanimous approval of the Russian senate for the use of armed force on the territory of his neighbour, citing the need to protect Russian citizens. He asked that Russian forces be used “until the normalisation of the political situation in the country”: a very reasonable sounding request, a velvet glove that barely conceals the iron fist within, for he gave exactly the same reason for invading Georgia in 2008.

This threat to what was supposed to be an independent country of 46 million people on the edges of central Europe creates the biggest direct confrontation between Russia and the West since the Cold War. There has been a flurry of diplomatic activity in different capitals aimed at “calming the situation”. The government in Kiev protested. The EU protested. Obama protested.

Britain summoned the Russian ambassador to voice its “concern”. Soon after the UK’s Foreign Minister William Hague flew to Kiev, presumably to express his sympathy to the provisional government there. EU ministers were due to hold emergency talks. Czech President Milos Zeman recalled the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Washington has warned that Russia’s actions would have “consequences”. But nobody is saying what these would be. In reply Putin calmly asserted his right to deploy troops in Ukraine “to defend the interests of Russian people”. Western politicians have hundreds of arguments, but Putin has hundreds of thousands of troops, tanks and guns. And whereas the forces of NATO are rather far away, his own forces are conveniently massing right on the Ukrainian border, and some are already on the ground in Crimea as Russia has a permanent naval base there.

The tension between the two sides increases by the hour. In a televised address, Ukraine’s acting President Olexander Turchynov urged people to remain calm. (Everyone is urging exactly the same thing). He asked Ukrainians to bridge divisions in the country and said they must not fall for provocations. But in the same breath said he had put the army on full alert, which is hardly a very calming message.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who was standing next to Mr Turchynov, said he was “convinced” Russia would not intervene militarily “as this would be the beginning of war and the end of all relations.”

Fear and misery in Ukraine

The situation in Ukraine is dramatic. The euphoria of the first few days after the fall of Yanukovych has dissipated and is being replaced with an anxious and tense mood.

Continue reading Russia, Ukraine and the West: Will there be war?

Ukraine Leader Warns of Separatism

Ukraine crisis: Turchynov warns of ‘separatism’ risk

Ukraine’s interim President Olexander Turchynov has warned of the dangers of separatism following the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych. His comments came amid continuing opposition in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking regions to the new administration in Kiev.

Read more » BBC
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26333587

Ukraine – Will Putin Send in the Tanks?

By

“In the words of the popular proverb, Moscow was the heart of Russia; St Petersburg, its head. But Kiev, its mother…”

By James H. Billington

Just hours after a truce had been established between protesters and the government, violence erupted again today in the central square of Kiev, Ukraine’s capital city.

A trio of officials from the European Union—the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland—now head to Kiev to try to breach the fundamental divide roiling the country: a struggle between east and west, its outcome highly uncertain, the possibility of a civil war undeniably looming.

This divide has been at Ukraine’s core for centuries. What’s unfolding now is nothing less than the violent struggle for a nation’s soul. To some current and former diplomats, what is surprising is not that Ukraine appears to be coming apart, but that it has taken this long into the post Soviet era for something like this to happen.

At its origins, more than ten centuries ago, what was known as “Kievan Russia” was, as James Billington wrote in his classic study of Russian culture, “closely linked with Western Europe—through trade and intermarriage with every important royal family of Western Christendom.”

But , he continued, “those promising early links with the West were, fatefully, never made secure.”

Focus on that one word. “Fatefully.”  “Increasingly,” Billington writes, “inexerorably, Kievan Russia was drawn eastward into a debilitating struggle for control of the Eurasian steppe.”

What we’re witnessing now, make no mistake, is the latest chapter of that struggle. And it is one in which Moscow has an important, inherent and obvious advantage: Ukraine matters more to President Vladimir Putin, and Russia, than it does to Barack Obama, or German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

 The dissolution of the Soviet Union is the central, disastrous geopolitical fact of Putin’s life (See Newsweek cover story February 13, Putin’s Games). And among the new states that were created when the empire imploded, Ukraine was first among equals. It was, as Walter Russell Mead, professor and author at Bard College wrote recently, “the largest and most important republic within the Soviet Union.”

If Putin dreams of reassembling a reasonable facsimile of the Soviet empire—and he does—then, as Russell wrote, “everything pales beside the battle for Ukraine.”

When it appeared last fall that the government in Kiev was going to more closely align itself politically and economically with Europe than ever before, Putin moved forcefully to block it. Flush with oil and gas revenue—the beginning and the end of Russian economic strength–he offered Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych a $15 billion bribe to spurn the European Union.

Read more » News Week
http://www.newsweek.com/will-putin-send-tanks-229631

View from McLeod Road: Why the Sino-Pak alliance is economically worthless

In the 12-year period between July 2000 and June 2012, net foreign investment in Pakistan amounted to about $29 billion, of that, just $0.8 billion came from China

KARACHI: Pakistan’s leaders love using laughably outrageous metaphors in describing the country’s relationship with China, yet the truth is that this so-called alliance means almost nothing positive for the Pakistani economy.

All of Islamabad – indeed all of Pakistan – appears to be bending over backwards in laying out the red carpet to welcome Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. But the fact of the matter is that China will give Pakistan almost nothing, and this two-day trip is really only being made by the Chinese premier to avoid slapping Islamabad in the face completely, after having made his first trip abroad a three-day visit to India, in a key signal about the real shifts in Chinese foreign policy.

Pakistanis love to proclaim China as our “all-weather friend. In his last visit to China, former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani described the relationship ashigher than mountains, deeper than oceans, stronger than steel and sweeter than honey.”

On this trip, Premier Li described the relationship as “a tree, now exuberant with abundant fruits”.

This was not him being poetic. It was delivering a message that nobody in Pakistan seems to have gotten: that China’s ties with Pakistan are not some eternal alliance of friends, but a strictly utilitarian relationship in which Beijing uses Islamabad occasionally to scare the living daylights out of the United States and India to get what it wants in its negotiations with Washington and New Delhi, and then abandons Pakistan once that transaction is completed.

A look at the numbers suggests that the Islamabad-Beijing relationship has had very little benefit for Pakistan as whole.

In the 12-year period between July 2000 and June 2012, net foreign investment in Pakistan amounted to about $29 billion, according to the State Bank of Pakistan. Of that, just $0.8 billion came from China, and nearly all of that was China Mobile’s investment in Zong.

China’s investment in Pakistan is less than that of tiny Netherlands, which invested $1.4 billion during that time. The supposed “Great Satan” – the United States – invested the most in Pakistan: $7.7 billion, or more than a quarter of all foreign investment in the country. There is only one major Chinese company with actual investments in Pakistan: China Mobile. The number of major US companies investing in Pakistan? More than 30.

Continue reading View from McLeod Road: Why the Sino-Pak alliance is economically worthless

BBC – Burma riots: Video shows police standing by while Buddhist rioters attacked minority Muslims

Burma riots: Video shows police failing to stop attack

To watch video click HERE

The BBC has obtained police video showing officers standing by while Buddhist rioters attacked minority Muslims in the town of Meiktila.

The footage shows a mob destroying a Muslim gold shop and then setting fire to houses. A man thought to be a Muslim is seen on fire.

It was filmed last month, when at least 43 people were killed in Meiktila.

Meanwhile the EU is expected to decide whether to lift sanctions imposed on Burma, in response to recent reforms.

It is thought likely that despite concerns about the treatment of minorities, Brussels will confirm that the sanctions, which were suspended a year ago, are now permanently lifted.

The sanctions include the freezing of assets of more than 1,000 Burmese companies, travel restrictions on officials, and a ban on EU investment in many areas. However, an arms embargo is expected to remain in place.

Continue reading BBC – Burma riots: Video shows police standing by while Buddhist rioters attacked minority Muslims

What we can learn from Turkey

Smokers’ Corner: Cold Turkey

By Nadeem F. Paracha

I’ve twice been to Turkey in the last three years. My second trip there coincided with the 2011 election. Recently I have come across various conservative and pro-establishment personalities, politicians and media men in Pakistan praising the Turkish model of democracy and economics.

For example, Imran Khan just returned from Turkey and sounded extremely impressed by that country’s people and politics.

The reason why you might now be hearing more and more Pakistanis singing praises of Turkey is due to the fact that a determined political party with an Islamist background has been winning elections and forming governments there ever since 2001.

It is a good sign that to some of our conservatives the Turkish social and political model now seems more charming to emulate than the puritanical authoritarianism of certain oil-rich Arab states. However, the fact is they may really be over-romanticising their Turkish experience. Either they haven’t understood the dynamics of Turkey’s political and social milieus, or they are only seeing what they want to see: i.e. a conservative Islamist party at the helm in what was supposed to be a secular country.

Only recently I heard a TV commentator suggest that Turkish prime minister, Recep Erdogan’s AK Party, has been winning elections due to its popularity among the rural and semi-rural Turks. This is a rather simplistic understanding of what is actually a complex consensus that the AK Party has struck with almost all sections of Turkish society.

Erdogan’s multiple electoral successes have more to do with his emphasis on economic growth, reform and his all-out efforts to help Turkey become part of the European Union (EU) than on the usual stern moralistic and anti-West stances that most Islamist parties are stuck with in most Muslim countries. During my trip to Istanbul when the campaigning for the 2011 elections was in full swing, not even once did I hear Erdogan (whose wife adorns a hijab) mention the word Islam.

Continue reading What we can learn from Turkey

Absenteeism in Sindh schools worries World Bank and European Union

Absenteeism at schools worries WB, EU officials

By Azizullah Sharif

SINDH – KARACHI, Oct 28: Officials of the World Bank and the European Union on Friday voiced their concern over the existence of `ghost` and closed schools in different districts of Sindh and absenteeism of teachers from schools.

This and other issues figured at a meeting held between Sindh Minister for Education Pir Mazhar-ul-Haq and a joint delegation of the World Bank and European Union comprising Vishant Raju, Peter Poiter and Ms Louis.

Sindh Education Secretary Siddik Memon and Resource Support Unit`s programme managers Pervaiz Ahmed and Raeesa Ali were also present.

The issues concerning the closure of schools and long absence of teachers from schools were raised by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and EU officials when the minister informed them that more funds were required to repair and renovate a large number of schools, which had been damaged in the recent floods.

The minister said that the Sindh government by appointing teachers in two phases had already made a number of schools functional. He added that many other schools lying closed would be reopened with the hiring of more teachers in a third phase ….

Read more » DAWN.COM

Accountability of Military Inc

by Najam Sethi

The terrorist attacks on GHQ last year and the Mehran Naval Base last month were outrageous examples of terrorist efficiency and motivation as opposed to ISI incompetence and military ill-preparedness. The US Navy Seal raid to extract Osama bin Laden from a compound in Abbottabad was deeply humiliating as well. Heads should have rolled. But the military will not even consider an independent commission of inquiry to unearth the facts. No wonder its credibility and sacred-cow status have taken a mighty hit. Within the armed forces, officers are standing up to question and confront their superiors. Outside, an angry public wants to know why we are spending half our tax resources on equipping the military with F-16s and BMWs when it can’t even protect itself, let alone defend the nation. This questioning of Military Incorporated is unprecedented.

More significantly, the civilian opposition is up in arms. It is demanding an informed debate over the military’s national security doctrines – particularly with reference to the obsession with, and fear of, “arch-enemy India” – that have spawned such self-serving budgetary outlays and an arms race at the expense of the social welfare of Pakistanis for six decades. The indignant argument that criticism of the military is “unpatriotic” or serves the interests of the “enemy” doesn’t wash any more. Indeed, the term “establishment”, used hitherto to refer obliquely to the military so as not to offend it, is rapidly going out of fashion. People are not afraid to call a spade a spade.

Ominously, the ISI’s mythology of power is now being deconstructed and exposed as being undeserved. The “agencies” are out of fashion, the ISI is squarely in the spotlight. The premeditated abduction and torture of journalist Saleem Shehzad, which led to his death, has been bravely laid by the media and opposition at the door of the ISI and not some invisible “agency”. The government’s silence – in not establishing a credible commission of inquiry – has also compromised the ISI’s position. This is remarkable, not because of the pathetic response in self-defense elicited from unnamed spokesmen of the ISI but because a conviction has now taken root in the public imagination that the ISI should not be beyond the pale of the law and accountability. The opposition has gone so far in parliament as to demand an oversight of its functions, duties, responsibilities and budgets. This is a far cry from a demand by the media and opposition not so long ago to shield and protect the ISI and its DG from the “conspiratorial” tentacles of the PPP government and its ubiquitous interior minister, Rehman Malik, who sought to bring the ISI’s internal political wing dedicated to political machinations under civilian control.

All this has happened because of two new factors that are not sufficiently imagined or understood by the military and ISI. One is the rise of a fiercely competitive and free media that is rapidly coming of age and will not allow itself to be manipulated wholesale in the “patriotic national interest”, a term that is constantly being re-evaluated in light of changing realities. The other is the revival of a chief justice and supreme court that are acutely aware of the civil burden imposed by their historic and popular enthronement. Neither will countenance any political or military oversight of their own sense of freedom and function. So if the military cannot rely on the troika of army chief, president and prime minister for political leverage of government – because the president and prime minister are one now – it is even more problematic to try and manipulate the media and SC merely on the yardstick of “patriotism” and “national interest”. The military’s woes are compounded by the fact that, for the first time in history, a popular Punjabi “son of the soil” like Nawaz Sharif, whose PML is a veritable creature of the predominantly Punjabi-origin military itself, has turned around and openly challenged its supremacy, arrogance and lack of accountability. The “Punjabi establishment” – meaning the civil-military power combine that has ruled Pakistan since independence — is therefore openly divided. The irony of history is that it is a Sindhi politician (Asif Zardari) who is opportunistically lending his shoulder to the military as it braces for fresh buffetings at home.

But that is just the beginning of a new story. The international establishment – principally the USA and EU – that has nurtured and molly-coddled the Pakistani military for six decades with money and weapons is also at the end of its tether. The “strategic partnership” mantra is dead. Washington, like Islamabad, doesn’t trust Rawalpindi either as long-term partner or ally. It is only a matter of time before the civilians in Pakistan and those in DC or Brussels make common cause for mutual benefit. Indeed, if the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill were to be floated anew with clauses enjoining civilian supremacy over the military, there would not even be conscientious objectors today.

The Pakistan military should see the writing on the wall. It must hunker down and become subservient to civilian rule and persuasion instead of embarking on new misadventures in the region like the proverbial Pied Piper. The road to hell is always paved with self-serving intentions.

Courtesy: Friday Times

via Wichaar

Baloch leader stopped from making speech by EU

by Murtaza Ali Shah

LONDON: The European Union (EU) accepted a Pakistani demand and cancelled the speech of an eminent Baloch leader to the EU Human Rights sub-committee, The News has learnt.

Mehran Baloch, son of Nawab Khair Baksh Marri, a Balochistan representative at the United Nations, European Union and many other international forums, was invited to speak by the EU Sub-Committee on Human Rights to Members of European Parliament (MEPs) on April 13 but, to his shock, he was told by organisers a few minutes before he was scheduled to deliver the speech that Pakistan had demanded to cancel the Baloch’s speech through European External Action Service (EEAS). …

Read more : The News

Shift in Turkey policy worries EU, NATO – By Shiraz Paracha

Keeping Turkey under control and on board is becoming a serious challenge for the United States and the European Union (EU) as the Turkish public and government are frustrated with Western double standards and hypocritical policies.

Turkey is transforming from a pro-Western state to a country that is bursting with anti-imperialist and anti-racist sentiments. The ruling Justice and Development Party of Turkey represents the public feelings. The West, particularly, the EU has infuriated the Turkish public by blocking Turkey’s entry into the EU.

 

Turkey, an ally of the West and a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) since 1952, is now also looking towards East. The United States, the EU and Israel are watching Turkey with great caution and perhaps with certain nervousness.

Under the leadership of President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has been building relations with its neighbors, under a doctrine called ‘zero troubles with neighbors’.

The Justice and Development Party pushes for Turkey’s EU membership but at the same time demands justice and respect from its European partners.

Europe accepts Turkey as a military partner, but the EU seems to have less appetite for a political partnership with Turkey. Germany and France, especially, have been creating obstacles in the way of Turkey’s joining the EU.

German and French opposition to Turkish membership of the EU is rooted in history. The attitude of the EU’s biggest states towards Turkey has its roots in religious and cultural hatred of Turks. …

Read more : CriticalPPP