Archive | March 22nd, 2015

EU’s Fifth Pillar is Thin and Unsteady

NOVANEWS

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Adelina Marini

Since the presentation of the project for creation of an energy union so far it has been referred to with grandeur. The two most frequently used phrases are that this is the most ambitious project of the EU since the establishment of the coal and steel community and that the free flow of energy across the EU is the Union’s fifth freedom in addition to the other four: the freedom of movement of people, goods, services and capital. And now of energy. Alas, as expected, the leaders of the member states failed to offer sufficiently solid content for the big and glossy packing. The issue of the energy union was the first on the agenda of the spring EU summit in Brussels but proved the most difficult one. So difficult that many of the leaders had no desire to discuss the outcome with journalists.

And the problems with Greece came as a double six for the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission – Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker – who devoted only two questions to the thirsty for more details journalists in the packed press room in the Council because they were in a hurry for the mini summit with the prime minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, which lasted till the early hours of the next day (today, 20 March).

Entirely in the spirit of the complete lack of ambition of the Commission strategy, the leaders of the 28 member states confirmed the conviction that the establishment of a truly deeply integrated energy market in EU is a mission impossible. At least not now. In several bullets the prime ministers and presidents of the member states urge for acceleration of infrastructural projects, including interconnectors, for the peripheral regions, for the full enforcement of the existing energy legislation and for implementation of the legal framework for security of gas and electricity deliveries. Regarding the issue that promised, at least, some sort of a beginning of integration in this area as well, the leaders failed to be bold despite the excellent historic opportunity. This issue concerns the proposal the European Commission to check in advance all contracts, including with private companies, whether they are in line with the European energy legislation and with the energy security provisions.

The ambition of European Council President Donald Tusk before the beginning of the two-day summit was from all energy contracts to be removed all the clauses that prevent the establishment of a single energy market, like the clauses for re-export. As expected, the issue was a subject of the most heated debates. Most bilateral agreements with “our dominant supplier, Russia”, are concluded on a long-term basis, sometimes for more than 20 years, the former prime minister of Poland said in the end of the discussions on the issue. This, according to him, is unhealthy. “Gas contracts should be about the economy, about business. They should not be used as political weapons”, he said. In his words, the details about how exactly will the contracts be checked will be “very swiftly” set out by the Commission in a draft legislation.

The Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said, however, that these checks would affect only the intergovernmental agreements, not the private ones. Moreover, the checks will be voluntary. “A very thin balance has been reached and, in fact, this is what the main dispute was all about”, he admitted responding to an euinside question. There were countries who were firmly against writing down that the Commission would check the contracts. Whenever there is a problem, the checks will be on a country-by-country basis, Mr Borissov added. The private contracts will also be declared but up to the level of commercial secrets which was a demand by many member states.

A similar formulation is too far from the ambition of a “fifth freedom” of the EU because the most vulnerable countries will continue to be not free and being blackmailed by Russia as happened to Bulgaria with South Stream. The thesis of the Bulgarian government is that it had done everything possible to play by the European rules for which it paid a heavy price. The problem is, however, that before the Commission launched an infringement procedure against Bulgaria, Sofia was trying in every possible way to circumvent the European rules. Very often the reason is pressure but in other cases there are pro-Russian lobbies or governments. This means that the check of contracts and therefore the participation of the Commission in negotiations on energy deals will be on a voluntary basis and will not affect the biggest and most influential member states which significantly undermines the bargaining

power of the Commission itself as it will practically play the role of the elder brother who will have nothing more to say than that a contract is in violation of the rules.

This creates uncertainty for the member state in question as well in terms of investments for energy projects because if currently there is a pro-European government in Bulgaria, for instance, later a pro-Russian could be elected. The strength of the energy union will depend mainly on whether the member states apply unconditionally the European energy legislation. However, the experience with the European semester as well shows that the rules can not only be circumvented but ignored as well. So, the energy union remains an ambitious project only in words. In terms of action everything remains as before.

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Nazi regime Likely Headed Toward Conflict, Isolation

NOVANEWS
A campaign to boycott Israel seems poised to gain traction. Netanyahu’s relations with the U.S. administration of President Barack Obama are frosty at best.
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Naziyahu’s apparent reelection puts Israel on a course toward ever deeper confrontation with the world. To govern, his Likud Party would need to depend on ultranationalists — a recipe for neither stability nor bold moves toward Mideast peace.

A period of some horsetrading looms. With Likud as well as rightist and religious allies, Netanyahu still only commands 57 out of 120 parliament seats. He must woo Moshe Kahlon, a relative newcomer to the big leagues of Israeli politics. Breaking away from Netanyahu’s nationalist Likud two years ago after a falling out with the premier, he adopted a vaguely centrist platform and flirted with Isaac Herzog’s more moderate Zionist Union. If he is non-aligned as he claims, then he holds the balance of power between Israel’s traditional right and left blocs, each with just under half of parliament.

It is widely thought that it would be too awkward for the former Likud figure to crown the opposition unless Herzog’s party enjoyed a cushion of several seats over Likud. Polls had suggested that would happen, but the actual vote count on Wednesday showed the opposite: Likud was ahead by 30-24 seats.

If Kahlon does go with Netanyahu, it would give the hard-liner a fourth term that, if completed, would make him Israel’s longest-serving leader, on par with the nation’s founder David Ben Gurion.

That would not bode well for prospects of peace with the Palestinians or a rapprochement between Israel and the region, which seems tantalizingly close in an era in which many of the neighboring Arab nations fear jihadi extremism far more than they oppose Israel.

Under Netanyahu, Israel has deepened its hold on the West Bank, adding Jewish settlers to the point where the territory may soon become inseparable from Israel proper. Combined with the Jews in occupied and annexed east Jerusalem, there are some 600,000 Jews living on occupied land.

In recent days, Netanyahu has said that he would not allow the creation of a Palestinian state if elected. The Palestinians have already said they would take their case against Israel to war crimes tribunals and other international bodies. A campaign to boycott Israel seems poised to gain traction. Netanyahu’s relations with the U.S. administration of President Barack Obama are frosty at best.

International isolation looms.

Netanyahu knows the complications of all this and may try to draw in Herzog, to give his government a more moderate character. But he has promised, in his final appeals to his base, not to do this — and Herzog would probably demand a rotation in the premier’s post as his price.

Kahlon seems to dislike Netanyahu intensely, and he certainly has the power to crown Herzog, a mild-mannered lawyer and scion of a venerable family of Zionist founders. Kahlon’s platform is moderate, as are top lieutenants in his party, and despite his Likud roots he has supported the idea of peace talks. It is not inconceivable that the left’s desire to unseat Netanyahu extends to offering Kahlon a rotation as prime minister.

The issue has defined Israeli politics ever since the 1967 Middle East war, which cemented Israel as a regional power but saddled it with occupied territories including the Palestinian-populated West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but to many the territory, run by Hamas militants and blockaded on all side by Israel and Egypt, remains part of the equation.

Parties on the left would trade the land for peace and allow the creation of a Palestinian state. They also argue that the lands are a liability because with their millions of Palestinians their incorporation would destroy Israel as a Jewish-majority state.

The right emphasizes the lands’ strategic value and biblical symbolism and pushes constantly for settling them with Jews. Its success in this endeavor has, paradoxically, put the country on a path toward being a place where Jews are no longer a strong majority.

The issue is Israel’s existential dilemma, central to the world’s interest and fundamental to determining the country’s ultimate character. But after decades of failure and disappointment accompanied by periods of violence, Israelis have despaired of peace and politicians increasingly address the Palestinian matter with evasion, mendacity or doubletalk.

The Zionist Union is a rebranding of Israel’s once venerable Labor Party, which led the country for three decades after its founding but last won an election in 1999. That brought to power its then-leader Ehud Barak, who became the first prime minister to offer the Palestinians a state, on most of the occupied territories. No deal was struck and a violent Palestinian uprising erupted, leaving Labor in shambles ever since.

Meanwhile, the political system has fragmented in ways that align with Israel’s internal divisions. So there are parties for Russian immigrants, Sephardic Jews, different types of religious Jews, secular and progressive citizens, the European-oriented middle class, and a new union of Israeli Arab parties that individually are nationalist, Islamic or socialist.

Only one thing seems certain: Pressure to overhaul the electoral system that has yielded such chaos will grow.

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Is Zio-Wahhabi Al-Jazeera America about to go belly up?

NOVANEWS

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Judging by its dismal ratings, (BNI averages about 7+ times more visitors per day than al-Jazeera gets), it’s no surprise that the network, formerly owned by Al Gore, is gutting its daily schedule and firing its staff.
What do you get when you combine Al Gore’s low performing  MSNBC alternative news channel with an oil state that sponsors terrorism? The answer is a cable news channethat even fewer people watch.
Al-Jazeera America has averaged just 13,000 viewers a day since its Aug. 20 launch — on par with a public access channel. In the 25- to 54-year-old audience sought by advertisers, it drew 5,000 viewers. The ratings are so low, they are considered a “scratch” and aren’t reported by Nielsen.

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Struggling Al Jazeera America is cutting jobs and replacing most of its daytime lineup with an overseas news feed in its latest reshuffling.
The cable outfit told staff on Friday it’s canceling both its morning news report and “Consider This with Antonio Mora” at 11 a.m. It’s also scrapping its 4 p.m. news hour and pushing its 6 p.m. coverage an hour later to 7 p.m.
In addition, Ali Velshi, the host of “Real Money with Ali Velshi,” and Joie Chen’s “America Tonight” are looking at less airtime — either shorter shows or fewer days per week.

I guess jumping from CNN to Al-Jazeera wasn't your finest moment, Soledad

Al Jazeera America has plugged much of the day with a news feed from its overseas sibling, Al Jazeera English, sources said. Several former employees told The Post they believe that was the plan all along.
“We are always looking at our scheduling calendar in order to offer our audience the most compelling news hours and programs,” said a spokeswoman. “Increasingly we’re finding that viewers are coming to us for in-depth reporting and analysis of domestic and global news events, and our goal is to offer that around the clock.”

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Al Jazeera America also laid off six employees just before the holidays in another reorganization under President Kate O’Brian. Earlier this year, it cut several dozen jobs and disbanded its sports news unit.
Despite spending $600 million on its August 2013 launch, Al Jazeera America is struggling with low ratings and a skeptical US audience.

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The changes come amid an internal rift at Qatari-owned Al Jazeera over its coverage of the Paris attacks. Leaked emails show a senior editor questioned whether the massacre at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was an assault on free speech.
Al Jazeera English’s Salah-Aldeen Khadr sparked infighting when he wrote to staff, “Was this really an attack on free speech? Who is attacking free speech here exactly?,” according to emails first reported by National Review Online.
Al-Jazeera launches in America:

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