Archive | November 11th, 2016

Energy Price Hike Leaves Whole Sectors of Ukrainian Economy on Brink of Collapse

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Zaporozhstal, one of Ukraine's largest steel makers

© Photo: Facebook/Zaporizhstal Europe
Sputnik 

IMF-mandated hikes in electricity prices for businesses have made whole sectors of the Ukrainian economy uncompetitive, making it more profitable to shut factories down than to keep them operating, says Ukraine’s oldest and largest business association.

Speaking in Kiev on Thursday at the Ukrainian League of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs’ annual conference, president Anatoly Kinakh pointed out with dismay that authorities in Kiev did not bother to carry out the necessary economic calculations when they decided to raise tariffs. “Where are the necessary technical and economic calculations?” the official asked.

“Where were the forecasts about how this will affect the competitiveness of our economy? How does the tariff increase correlate to consumers’ ability to pay? There are no answers to these questions. And this is very serious, because all we are doing is seeing the decline of citizens’ standard of living.”

For example, Kinakh noted, the massive Zaporozhye aluminum plant has recently been forced to stop operations completely due to the high cost of electricity; its energy-intensive production has been made uncompetitive thanks to whopping 40% electricity price hikes and the end of subsidies.

“If before, the plant was able to purchase electricity at a special rate, now this is impossible; the plant is being offered electricity at the same price as other companies, making it uncompetitive,” the official lamented.

The legendary Zaporozhye aluminum plant, established in 1930, was once one of the largest aluminum smelters in the world, and famous for its unique production methods.

Producing over 100,000 metric tons of aluminum a year in its heyday, the plant played a crucial role in contributing to many key industries, including the Soviet and post-independence Ukrainian aerospace industry, which has suffered its own tragic decline in recent years. Antonov, once a legend of global civilian and military aircraft production, isn’t expected to produce even one plane this year.

Ukraine’s International Monetary Fund-mandated austerity measures, combined with the loss of Russian markets for Ukrainian goods, have also hit ordinary Ukrainians hard. The IMF has insisted on further cuts to subsidies on utilities for low-income citizens, leaving millions uncertain where they will get the money to heat their homes this winter.

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Nazi demolish residential buildings in occupied East Jerusalem neighborhoods

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Nazi regime Tuesday morning demolished two residential buildings in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Wadi al-Jouz and al-Issawiya for building without Nazi-issued licenses.

Locals told Ma’an that Nazi forces escorted two excavators to the Wadi al-Jouz neighborhood at 4 am. Nazi soldiers were also deployed throughout the alleys of the neighborhood, before surrounding a three-story building as Nazi regime excavators tore it down.

According to locals, the building consisted of stores on the ground floor, apartments on the second, while the third floor was still under construction.

Local sources highlighted that the stores on the first floor contained food supplies belonging to Palestinian families, adding that Nazi forces demolished the stores without allowing families to remove their supplies.

The demolition occurred after the building was constructed without Nazi-issued building permits, locals said, much like most of East Jerusalem as the process to obtain the permits are often time-consuming and expensive.

After Nazi forces completed the demolition in Wadi al-Jouz, they headed to the neighborhood of al-Issawiya and demolished a residential building, claiming it was lacking Nazi-issued building permits, according to locals.

Member of a local committee in al-Isawiya, Muhammad Abu al-Hummus, told Ma’an that the building was a two-story building, still under construction.

According to Abu al-Hummus, the first floor consisted of commercial stores, while the second served as a residential floor.

A spokesperson for the Jerusalem municipality was not available for immediate comment.

Demolitions in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem have seen an unprecedented surge in recent months, with the number of structures demolished in the first half of 2016 already well exceeding the total number of demolitions carried out in all of 2015.

More than 1,383 Palestinians have been displaced since the beginning of 2016 as a result of demolitions in the occupied territory, compared to 688 Palestinians displaced over the entirety of 2015, according to UN documentation.

Nazi rarely grants Palestinians permits to build in ‘Area C’ of the West Bank — the area under full Zionist security and civilian control — and East Jerusalem, though the Nazi Jerusalem municipality has claimed that compared to the Jewish population, they receive a “disproportionately low number of permit applications from Palestinian communities,” which they boasted “see high approval ratings.”

However, testimonies collected by the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ) in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan found that the procedures to apply for Nazi-issued building permits were lengthy, sometimes lasting for several years, while the application costs could reach up to 300,000 shekels ($79,180).

As four out of five of Palestinians in East Jerusalem live under the poverty line, applying for costly building permits is nearly impossible, and only seven percent of Jerusalem building permits go to Palestinian neighborhoods.

 

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Life on Hold: The Policy of Administrative Detention

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Addameer

Addameer is pleased to announce the launch of a new film that tackles the issue of administrative detention as a policy used by the Nazi regime to hold Palestinians indefinitely on secret information without charge or trial. The film specifically focuses on the psychological effects of administrative detention on detainees and their families.

The film was produced in collaboration with Aanat Film, as part of Addameer’s global campaign to #StopAD.

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Speaking truth to power: The killing of Dag Hammarskjöld and the cover-up

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By Susan Williams and Henning Melber | The Conversation 

Fifty-five years ago, shortly after midnight on 18 September 1961, an aircraft crashed on its approach to Ndola airport in the British colony of Northern Rhodesia, which is now Zambia. On board were 16 people: the UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, the members of his mission, and the Swedish crew. The sole survivor, who spoke of “sparks in the sky” and said the plane “blew up”, died six days later.

Suspicions were voiced about the crash because of the strange details that quickly emerged. For instance, the British high commissioner, who was at Ndola, showed no concern that Hammarskjöld failed to land and insisted that he must have decided “to go elsewhere”.

It took four hours after daybreak to start an official search. This in spite of local residents, policemen and soldiers reporting a great flash in the sky shortly after midnight. There were also witness accounts of a second, smaller plane trailing and then dropping something that “looked like fire’ upon the larger one”.

The Prime Minister of the Congo, Cyrille Adoula, who had met with the Secretary-General just hours before the crash, believed he had been murdered. According to the 1961 Montreal Gazette he had commented:

How ignoble is this assassination, not the first of its kind perpetrated by the moneyed powers. Mr Hammarskjöld was the victim of certain financial circles for whom a human life is not equal to a gram of copper or uranium.

There were several inquiries into the crash in 1961-2, all of which failed to take seriously the testimonies of Zambian witnesses. A Rhodesian Commission of Inquiry identified pilot error as the cause of the crash. This was solely on the basis of an elimination of the other suggested causes.

A UN inquiry, however, reached an open verdict and stated that it could not rule out sabotage or attack. This led the UN General Assembly to pass a Resolution requesting the Secretary-General

to inform the General Assembly of any new evidence which may come to his attention.

More than half a century and many inquiries later, the search for the truth about what happened that September night continues. On 17 August 2016, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the 71st UN General Assembly to appoint an “eminent person or persons” to review the new information on the crash. He urged member states to release relevant records for review.

Ban Ki-moon’s statement ended on a moving and powerful note:

This may be our last chance to find the truth. Seeking a complete understanding of the circumstances is our solemn duty to my illustrious and distinguished predecessor, Dag Hammarskjöld, to the other members of the party accompanying him, and to their families.’

Hammarskjöld, as second Secretary-General, sought to shape the UN as an organisation devoted to peace. He developed the strategy of “preventive diplomacy”, which defused the Suez Canal crisis in 1956. His prevailing commitment was to the UN Charter and he refused to act in the interest of any particular state.

In 1961, the UN was only 15 years old and was undergoing a dramatic shift as European decolonisation gathered pace. The Afro-Asian bloc now provided 47 UN members out of 100. For these new states, said Hammarskjöld, the UN was their “main platform” and protector.

For decades, the former colonial powers have written the history of the night in which Hammarskjöld and his companions died. But a new history is about to be written if the recent momentum to find the full truth is anything to go by.

New quest for the truth

Hammarskjöld was on the way to meet Moise Tshombe, leader of the Belgian-backed secession of Katanga province from the newly-independent Congo. Mineral rich Katanga was of geostrategic importance, not least because of a mine in Katanga which produced the richest uranium in the world.

The UN’s declaration that it could not rule out sabotage or attack and the request for any new evidence emerged in 2011 as a crucial point of reference in the book Who Killed Hammarskjöld? The UN, the Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa. The book drew on a mass of evidence that had been available for many years but had been dismissed by the early inquiries, and presented many new findings.

The disturbing compilation of evidence includes the testimony of Commander Charles Southall, a naval officer working for the US National Security Agency listening station in Cyprus in 1961. Southall heard the recording of a pilot shooting down Hammarskjöld’s plane.

British peer Lord Lea of Crondall read the book and resolved to set up a new inquiry. Interest was growing. Professor K.G. Hammar, former Archbishop of the Church of Sweden, went to Zambia with Hans Kristian Simensen, a Norwegian researcher, and called on Sweden to get the case reopened. In 2012 the Hammarskjöld Inquiry Trust was formed, including Chief Emeka Anyaoku of Nigeria.

The Trust set up the Hammarskjöld Commission, an international group of four distinguished jurists, chaired by a former British Lord Justice of Appeal.

After a rigorous examination of the available evidence and interviews in Ndola with witnesses who were still alive, the commission concluded:

There is persuasive evidence that the aircraft was subjected to some form of attack or threat as it circled to land at Ndola … (and) was in fact forced into its descent by some form of hostile action.

It recommended that the UN conduct a further investigation and seek access to relevant records held by member states. The commission’s report was made public on 9 September 2013. On the same day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that he would closely study the findings.

Ban Ki-moon takes the lead

In March 2014, the Secretary-General asked the General Assembly to pursue the matter further. This was welcomed by the growing worldwide campaign that had by now developed, which urged the creation of a new inquiry. The movement was supported by sympathetic journalists, social media campaigners, individuals, and organisations, largely coordinated by the United Nations Association Westminster Branch in London.

http://www.hammarskjoldinquiry.info/

The Swedish government submitted a draft Resolution to the UN General Assembly in October 2014, calling for a new investigation. This was strongly supported by Zambia.

On 29 December 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted the Resolution, authorising the Secretary-General to appoint an independent Panel of Experts to examine the evidence. Fifty-five nations joined Sweden to co-sponsor the resolution, which was adopted by the consensus of all 193 Member States.

On 16 March 2015, Ban Ki-moon appointed a Panel of Experts, which was headed by Mohamed Chande Othman, Chief Justice of Tanzania. Its report concluded that there was, indeed, significant information to warrant further inquiry into a possible aerial attack or other interference as a cause of the crash. It also introduced new areas to investigate, such as the possibility that Hammarskjöld’s communications were intercepted.

On 2 July 2015, Ban Ki-moon circulated the report among member states and expressed the view that “a further inquiry or investigation would be necessary to finally establish the facts.” He urged member states

to disclose, declassify or otherwise allow privileged access to information that they may have in their possession’.

Following Ban Ki-moon’s recommendations, the Swedish Permanent Mission to the UN circulated a draft Resolution urging all member states to release any relevant records in their possession. The draft Resolution was supported by 74 other states – but not the UK or the US.

When the Secretary-General in August 2016 called on the forthcoming General Assembly to appoint an eminent person or persons to take the inquiry forward, he attached as annexes to his statement the responses by several member states to the UN’s earlier call for documentation. These show a readiness by South Africa to search for lost records relating to an alleged plot by mercenaries. They also reveal the uncooperative nature of the responses by the US and the UK.

Ban’s courage, dignity and humanity in this matter have been followed with heartfelt appreciation by those who care about justice and about the principles enshrined in the UN Charter, which were advocated so vigorously by Hammarskjöld. It is to be hoped that Ban’s successor will follow the same path, and with the same integrity and determination.

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ICC to launch probe into US war crimes in Afghanistan

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Press TV

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is preparing to launch an investigation of a range of possible war crimes in Afghanistan, including those committed by US troops, according to a new report.

ICC chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, will seek to initiate an investigation in the coming weeks, according to the Foreign Policymagazine, citing several knowledgeable sources.

The probe will likely be launched after the US presidential election but before the end of the year, multiple sources have indicated.

However, it is not clear whether the ICC would ever bring charges against Americans after the investigation because doing so would require significantly more evidence than the chief prosecutor’s office currently possesses, the report said.

If indeed launched, the move would mark the first time a formal ICC investigation has scrutinized US crimes.

In order to discuss the potential investigation and to express concerns about its scope, US officials recently visited the ICC, an international tribunal that sits in The Hague in the Netherlands.

The ICC has repeatedly highlighted alleged abuses of detainees by American troops between 2003 and 2005 that it believes have not been adequately addressed by the US government.
This file photo by shows the bodies of several men and a child who witnesses said were killed by a United States Army sergeant in southern Afghanistan. (AP)

“Crimes were allegedly committed with particular cruelty and in a manner that debased the basic human dignity of the victims,” the tribunal noted in a report last year.

The US government has insisted that the ICC does not have jurisdiction over US citizens because Washington never ratified the Rome Statute that established the court in the first place.

Afghanistan is still suffering from insecurity and violence years after the United States and its allies invaded the country in 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror.

In October last year, President Barack Obama announced plans to keep 9,800 US troops in Afghanistan through 2016 and 5,500 in 2017, reneging on his promise to end the war there and bring home most American forces from the Asian country before he leaves office.

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Mideast partition plot meant to ensure ‘Israel’ security

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Ali Akbar Velayati, senior adviser to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei
Press TV 

A senior adviser to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has warned of plots hatched by the US and its regional allies to divide the Middle East countries, saying such a move aims to safeguard the Israeli regime’s security.

“The Americans and some of their regional allies are trying to sow discord and break up the region and want to partition and weaken big, strong and ancient countries in the region in order to [ensure] Israel’s security and meet their own excessive demands,” Ali Akbar Velayati, the Leader’s top adviser on international affairs, said in a meeting with Mala Bakhtiar, chief of Executive Body of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), in Tehran on Tuesday.

The senior Iranian official stressed the importance of resisting such a malicious plot, saying that the enemies of Islam are committing crimes against oppressed nations in the region, including the Iraqis and Syrians, in the name of Islam by waging “proxy wars” and creating extremist and Takfiri terrorist groups.

Velayati added that plotters and reactionary countries in the region seek to sow discord among Muslim nations; however, regional people would certainly be the final victors.

He further pointed to the great cultural and religious commonalities between the Iranian and Iraqi people and said both countries give priority to the development of relations.

Bakhtiar, for his part, said the era of hegemony and arrogance is over and added that plotters would fail to achieve their divisive goals in the region.

The PUK official added that Iran is carrying out effective measures to promote regional peace and stability.

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Anxiety in Croatia, Jubilation in Serbia on Trump’s Victory

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Adelina Marini

This morning (November 10) the victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential elections is on the front pages of all newspapers in the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Opinions, however, are polarised. All comments in Croatia express concern about the future of the region, while in Serbia they are rejoicing with Mr Trump’s victory. In smaller countries like Montenegro, Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, positions are rather neutral, some even satirical. The front page of today’s Jutarnji list announces on black background that Trump is president. “Conquered America, shocked the world”. The newspaper is full of commentaries on the subject. “A continent at crossroads, our region is in danger” is the headline of the commentary by Janusz Bugajski, who believes that Russians will attempt to lure Trump into a new operation on the partitioning of Europe, which will encourage Serbia.

“It is quite possible that Kremlin will attempt to lure Trump into a new partitioning of Europe in exchange to a grandiose anti-terrorist coalition, which serves Moscow. Such approach will encourage Russian allies and partners, like Serbia, in taking on a greater role in the Balkans with no fear of any sizable American reactions in a moment of chaos in Europe”, writes Janusz Bugajski, but warns that there is the risk, however, that Russia will not estimate Trump well and try to dominate in the relations with Washington. Trump, however, might turn out to be a person, who reacts stronger to something he sees as an insult by Moscow or any other state. “Such unpredictability could lead to a sharp and much more dangerous international confrontation”, is the analyst’s conclusion.

Inoslav Bešker analyses the reasons behind Trump’s victory, focusing on media. “All elite media were against Trump (from the 300 leading newspapers just three backed him). These elections demonstrated the amount of influence that was lost by institutional media in forming popular opinion. Influence to a great degree has moved to the internet (for example blogs and social media), where there does not exist a mechanism for checking and considering data (which is mandatory in institutional journalism), where one can work with slogans and, if willing, use hate speech. Trump took copious advantage of these opportunities”, writes Jutarnji’s columnist. He adds that Trump’s victory is a triumph of disinformation.

The billionaire’s election victory is the headline of Vecernji list as well which, also on black background, writes: “A new age. He conquered America, could he do the same with the world?”. Half the newspaper is dedicated on the election results and reactions from Croatia and the world. In a commentary for the newspaper, Dražen Ćurić gloats about the position of conservatives in Croatia (HDZ). “How will the Croatian elite look Trump in the eye now?” is the headline of the comment.

“Death to political correctness! This is one of the most important messages, which American voters sent to the political establishment. The American message needs to be read with great attention by the Croatian political, public and media elite, which is full of Clinton-lovers, which is just a little nicer term than being mediocre. If the Croatian elite wishes to conserve the little dignity it has left in the eyes of the people, it needs to spice-up its sterile political talk a little with the occasional juicy Trump-ism, meaning clearly defined positions on some prickly societal and political issues. (In order not to be understood wrong by public hygienists, I would like to clearly state that I am not preaching those Trump-isms which in any way offend people on national, religious, gender, or any other basis). It will be quite interesting to witness the alignment with the new situation of President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, who proudly stood for photographs with State Secretary Hillary Clinton during one of her visits to America”, continues Dražen Ćurić.

Novi list focuses on another aspect. The Rijeka daily newspaper reports that Hillary Clinton lost the elections and her biography “Hard Choices” had its price lowered at the Zagreb “Interliber” book fair this week from 249 kuna (approximately 35 euro) to just 79 kuna (approximately 10 euro). “The Croatian translation of the biography of US presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose presentation yesterday, the day of the announcement of long awaited election results, at Interliber, presented by Profil [publishing house] was not accompanied by popping champagne corks, like the publisher wished.

On the contrary, coupled with readers’ interest, following the election loss the price dropped as well from 249 kuna to just 79 kuna”, reports the newspaper.

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To the Index internet site, the greatest winner in the American elections is Vladimir Putin. Commentator Petar Stošić reports that Putin respects power, but prefers weakness and it is exactly the thing Trump is offering him. “In the end of the day, Moscow will have its hands free to continue undermining the EU and NATO. Instead of the hated Brussels and Washington, perhaps we will get Moscow as the centre of power between the Ural and the Atlantic – a region named Eurasia in Russian geostrategic plans. Any likeness to the state from Orwell’s 1984 is probably coincidental”, writes the author.

Trump’s victory gives hope to the Serbs

State-owned television channel RTS quotes the statements of opposition politicians. The leader of “United Serbia” Dragan Marković, the leader of the Serbian People’s Party Nenad Popović, leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement Vuk Drašković, and the president of the Serbian Radical Party Vojislav Šešelj are unanimous that Trump’s victory means a positive change in the USA policy towards Serbia. “The great difference is in the fact that he won, and not the Clinton family. They bombed Serbia, while Trump promised good cooperation with Serbia. We will never forget the Clintons because of the bombings and sufferings of civil citizens, for which they need to be prosecuted”, said Marković in an official statement.

“Not so much because of the changes of the foreign policy course of American politics on the Balkans, but rather because of the fact that the loss of Hillary Clinton also hit the biggest supporters of her policy in this region – Hashim Thaçi  and Milo Đukanović“, says Popović, quoted by RTS. According to Vuk Drašković, Trump’s victory is an opportunity to renew a century-old union, “which the regime of Slobodan Milošević destroyed and turned into a military feud”.

In front of Blic, the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dačić expresses hope that Trump will visit Serbia soon. The newspaper reminds that Dačić was very sharply criticised for his meeting with the businessman three years ago in New York. Back then, the two of them spoke of possible investments in Serbia and building a hotel in Belgrade. “I am very curious what will those who criticised me back then, because of my meeting with him, have to say now”, said Mr Dačić for Blic. The newspaper also asks whether Trump is the new Putin for Serbs. Polls with Serbian citizens following the elections show that most are happy with Donald Trump’s victory. “Trump loves Serbs”, “Trump returns Kosovo to us”, “Trump never did anything bad to Serbia like Hillary Clinton and her husband”, are some of the citizens’ commentaries.

Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić admits that in his party as well there are people who are overjoyed with the victory of Trump. “First among them are those who have felt pressure for decades and now think that it will weaken. Another reason for my concern is that the people of Serbia believe that it is always someone else who is responsible for their failures and avoid their own responsibility. The third reason is Serbian hard-headedness, the small, minute revenge of seeing the political end of someone who has brought them only troubles”, explained Vučić.

In a commentary for Politika, titled “Kosovo without the Clintons” Živojin Rakočević quotes the statement of Hillary Clinton from her visit to Priština four years ago that to her, her family, and the American people Kosovo is more than a foreign policy issue. “It is a personal matter”. Back then she visited her husband’s monument, walked along “Wesley Clark” and “George Robertson” streets, and bought some knick-knacks from the “Hillary Clinton” boutique, writes the author. “Now, when the Clinton family is packing their bags for the road towards common and personal history, two questions remain: will Albanians and their nationalism remain unconditional American pets and could the Albanian political elite do  a U-turn, with which several years from now on Vranjevac, at the other side of Priština, a monument to Trump will be erected and Melania will have her own boutique?”.    

Bosnian media mainly inform on the protests of tens of thousands of Americans against the election of Mr Trump. Klix publishes opinions of Sarajevo analysts, who believe that there is not to be expected any sizable change in US foreign policy towards Bosnia and Herzegovina. One of the analysts – Šaćir Filandra, Dean of the Faculty of Political Science in Sarajevo – admitted that he wanted Trump to win. “Trump bombarded the general public with statements which, I hope, will not turn into real policies, and in this sense I do not believe that it will get to any sizable changes regarding foreign policy”, he believes.

Montenegrin Vijesti reports that Trump’s victory could bring quite a present to Putin in the form of removal of sanctions. The newspaper warns, however, that it is likely that on many subjects Trump and Putin will have different opinions. Vijestialso informs that Trump’s victory was applauded in the Russian Parliament.

Macedonian Dnevnik reports on its first page that Germany insists on an emergency meeting on Sunday. In a commentary for the newspaper, Darko Janevski writes that Donald Trump is facing the dilemma whether he should be himself, Billy Sanders, or Alexis Tsipras. During the campaign, Americans heard for the first time that their election system is devastated and that their media are dishonest and corrupt to the core. If he does not want to be Tsipras, Trump will have to deal with this system, writes the author.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

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Head-on Collision Between Brussels and Member States Regarding EU’s Global Strategy

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Adelina Marini

The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini (Italy, Socialists and Democrats) presented in front of a joint meeting of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and representatives of national parliaments a plan for the implementation of the EU’s global strategy, which the Commission drafted in the summer and there is already ongoing work. During the hour-long debate, however, sparks started to flow between the national parliaments and Brussels. The meeting was scheduled for 9am, but was delayed by half an hour. Following it (at 10am) was a debate with the Bosniak representative in the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency, Bakir Izetbegović. This caused tension during the discussion, but Mrs Mogherini struck back by sending the ball back into the national parliaments’ court.

To Federica Mogherini priority number one in the plan for the implementation of the strategy has to be the work on building resilience in countries, institutions, and societies neighbouring the EU, which is expected to help prevent conflicts and crises. The EU has enough instruments and resources, it just needs to start using and coordinating them well. The second “chapter” of the action plan, which will be thoroughly examined by the EU foreign ministers as well next week, is the enhancement of the connection between the external and the internal aspects of the strategy, especially when talking about migration or terrorism. “Our external policies have a much higher impact if they are supported by a coherent internal policy and vice versa”, said the high representative in her opening statement.

It is quite often, she said, that we hear the mantra that the EU has no unified policy in some areas, while it actually does, especially when talking about foreign affairs or security. The problem, however, is that the communication of common values and goals is not good. Besides, the EU possesses many instruments it does not use because of lack of political will, or because of lack of consensus and sometimes resources as well. Currently, there is an open window of opportunity to change this in the areas of security and defence, believes the high representative. And this window did not open because of the Brexit, but rather because, according to popular opinion, security and defence are priority number one, together with the economic situation and employment.

Tension along the Brussels-national capitals line began to show in the very second statement during the debate. Miranda Calha, vice president of the parliamentary committee on national defence, attempted to comment on several issues, but, following the expiry of the agreed one minute for every statement Chairman Elmar Brok (EPP, Germany) cut him off. “We’re members of national parliaments. We’re invited to be here. I don’t understand why we have only one minute to say something in relation to our own parliaments and our own countries. This is not agreeable and this is not correct”, replied the offended MP. Chairman Brok explained that having 28 member states and participating MPs three days would be needed to talk to Federica Mogherini.

Many questions followed, mainly aimed at Turkey. British MEP Charles Tannock (ECR) asked what is the way to reverse the dictatorial trajectory of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Petras Auštrevičius (ALDE, Lithuania) asked the question of how can the EU start to fulfil its promises towards partner states. Another national MP asked how could institutions be strengthened in regions neighbouring the EU, keeping in mind mistakes made in the past in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. He also wanted to know exactly what could be done with Turkey and whether the European position towards Erdoğan could be hardened.

Bodil Valero, MEP from Sweden (Greens/European Free Alliance) noted that EU countries are exporting weapons to problem countries and asked how could strict control be implemented on the export of weapons from the EU. A national parliament MP noted that EU efforts so far have failed both in Turkey and in Syria. There were also questions about the “Nord Stream 2” natural gas pipeline and how it affects EU security; when will the EU start acting, instead of just talking. Former Foreign Affairs Minister of the Czech Republic and current Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Czech Parliament Karel Schwarzenberg asked what actions are going to be taken regarding the rapprochement between Erdoğan and Putin. “To older ones, it reminds the rapprochement between Mussolini and Hitler in the 1930s”, he reminded.

The diplomat also sent criticism towards Brussels. “I hear often complaints in the national parliaments [that] they don’t understand Brussels. I will tell you why. This morning the MPs waited half an hour before closed doors of this hall. This arrogance against the elected representatives of the people shows why Brussels isn’t popular outside”. His words got applause and Chairman Brok joked that he should not have let him speak, but agreed that he is correct. There was no explanation for the delay.

Federica Mogherini answered all questions, commentaries, and criticisms decisively by reminding that the EU is what the member states make of it. “There is no some abstract entity, closed somewhere, deciding things without national parliaments, governments. […] Most of the questions you’re putting to me actually are coming back to you for sure”, she said. For example, are member states and their national parliaments interested in going towards a permanent structured cooperation? This is the term introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon, allowing member states to deepen their cooperation in the sphere of military. Something, which Germany and France named “a defence union” in their recent proposal.

This question, continued Mrs Mogherini, will come to your committees in two, three, or six months. How far are you willing to go in cooperation in the defence industry was another question she posed to national MPs. On the issue of Turkey she also sent the question back to capitals. “What is the position of your national parliaments on how should we deal with Turkey?”, she asked and laid out her own position, consisting of three elements. The first one is a direct approach towards Turkish authorities, opposition forces, and the non-government sector. The second is having a clear message. The EU message, as expressed so far, is that rule of law is important to the Union, which includes respect for opposition parties and minorities, but also journalists, academic environments, civil society. It would be beneficial, she believes, that the same message is being sent out by national parliaments as well.

“Because the game of dividing and ruling sometimes is played. But don’t let always some in Brussels speak up”, stressed Federica Mogherini. Regarding “Nord Stream 2” she reminded that the position of the Union’s foreign ministers is that Ukraine should remain a natural gas transit state. “To me, it is of strategic importance Ukraine is kept as a key transit of gas. Here, as well, you have some work to do at home”, underlined the top diplomat of the EU. Criticism followed towards member states regarding migration policies as well. “Because at the moment, let’s say that the resettlement and relocation schemes concerning the internal responsibility sharing is a little bit lagging behind if you allow me to be a little bit diplomatic”. If external measures do work then responsibility should be taken at home as well. “I leave you with that”, she said at the closing of the debate.

While the debate was going on, the official declaration by the High Representative regarding the situation in Turkey was published. In it, the EU expresses serious concerns about events in the country, like the renewal of the discussion on implementing the death penalty, restrictions on the freedom of speech, social media included, the closing down of media outlets, and the arrests of journalists. “[These] are extremely worrying developments which weaken the rule of law, the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and compromise parliamentary democracy in Turkey, while exacerbating tensions in the Southeast and further polarising Turkish society in general”, is said in the declaration. There are more and more voices in the EU, calling for the termination of accession negotiations with Turkey. Today (November 9th) the European Commission is going to present the report on Turkey’s progress in the negotiation process.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

Posted in EuropeComments Off on Head-on Collision Between Brussels and Member States Regarding EU’s Global Strategy

Reformist Zio-Wahhabi prince bounces up against flawed education system

Reformist Saudi prince bounces up against flawed education system and ingrained social mores

Saudi religious police

By James M. Dorsey

An unpublished survey of aspirations of young Saudi men suggests that garnering enthusiasm for Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman Al Saud’s vision of the kingdom’s social and economic future, let alone a buy in, is likely to meet resistance without a special effort – so far lacking – to win support.

Obstacles to get broad-based acceptance of the social changes involved in Vision 2030, the prince’s masterplan for the future, published in April, are rooted in ultra-conservative tribal mores, cloaked by the kingdom’s religious scholars in an Islamic framework to legitimise them. They also stem from a flawed education system that fails to impart critical thinking and analytical skills.

Lack of analytical ability and critical thinking

According to Saudi scholar Abdul Al Lily, author of a recent book on rules that govern Saudi culture,

People were not interested in political change or reform. They wanted social change but they pull back when they realise this has consequences for their sisters. Their analytical ability and critical thinking is limited… If you look at Twitter, people don’t know how to argue. They don’t have the patience for discussion. They live in a bubble… If people would do what they talk about on Twitter, angels would shake their hands. They talk about an ideal world… but reality is totally different.

Mr Al Lily surveyed 100 Saudi men, all of whom were approximately 20 years old.

Saudi Arabia has one of the world’s highest Twitter penetrations and features ultra-conservative religious scholars with millions of followers. Twitter constitutes a relatively less controlled arena in a country in which all physical and virtual public space is tightly controlled. Saudi Arabia this month announced efforts on the internet “to protect the social and economic system of the country… [and] the society from any violations on the security and mental levels”.

Saudi Arabia’s Shura, or Advisory, Council, in another setback to potential reform, this month rejected initiating a review of the kingdom’s ban on women’s driving.

Some 50 per cent of those surveyed by Mr Al Lily said they wanted to have fun, go on a date, enjoy mixed gender parties, dress freely and be able to drive fast, Mr Al Lily said. He said issues of political violence, racism, international interests or the dragged-out Saudi war in neighbouring Yemen did not figure in their answers.

Prohibition on fun

The young men’s aspirations challenged the core culture of a country that enforces strict gender segregation and dress codes and struggles with concepts of fun. Ultra-conservatives and militant Islamists see fun as a potential threat to political and social control. That is particularly true with regard to youth who, in the words sociologists Asef Bayat and Linda Herrera, have “a greater tendency for experimentation, adventurism, idealism, drive for autonomy, mobility and change”.

Bayat noted separately that “whereas the elderly poor can afford simple, traditional, and contained diversions, the globalised and affluent youth tend to embrace more spontaneous, erotically charged and commodified pleasures. This might help explain why globalising youngsters more than others cause fear and fury among Islamist (and non-Islamist) anti-fun adversaries, especially when much of what these youths practice is informed by Western technologies of fun and is framed in terms of Western cultural import… In other words, at stake is not necessarily the disruption of the moral order, as often claimed, but rather the undermining of the hegemony, the regime of power on which certain strands of moral and political authority rest.”

It is these fundamental attitudes, that Prince Muhammad, in a bid to upgrade Saudi autocracy and bring it into the 21st century, is seeking to tweak.

People ended up not doing anything when confronted with the idea that someone might want to go on a date with their sister. They pulled back when they realised the consequences… (Abdul Al Lily, author, The Bro Code of Saudi Culture: 300 Rules on how the Human Body should Act Inside Arabia)

“We are well aware that the cultural and entertainment opportunities currently available do not reflect the rising aspirations of our citizens and residents, nor are they in harmony with our prosperous economy. It is why we will support the efforts of regions, governorates, non-profit and private sectors to organise cultural events,” Vision 2030 said.

Prince Muhammad may have been jumping the gun when he recently greeted journalist and author Karen Elliott House with the words “Welcome to the new Saudi Arabia” as they watched the LED-lit bodies of New York dancers gyrating on a Riyadh arena stage to deafening hip-hop music. Some 1,300 Saudis of all ages – robed men and abaya-covered women – sat side by the side whooping their approval.

Mr Al Lily’s interviewees, however, pulled back when confronted with the notion that the liberties they wanted would also apply to their womenfolk. “People ended up not doing anything when confronted with the idea that someone might want to go on a date with their sister. They pulled back when they realised the consequences,” Mr Al Lily said.

A recent Saudi television cultural show mocked the attitude of young Saudi men demanding greater freedoms. It portrayed two young men who told their wife and sister that they were going to Mecca, although they had bought airline tickets to Cairo for a few days of fun. When the two women detected their menfolk’s deception, they decided to follow them. Sitting in a nightclub in Cairo, the two men poked fun at two women who entered fully covered from top to bottom. “They must be Saudis. How did their brothers let them travel?” said one of the men to the other, not realising that they were looking at their sister and wife.

Hard to sell

Mr Al Lily argues that to succeed, Prince Muhammad will have to sell Vision 2030 to the youth of a country in which under-21s account for an estimated 60 per cent of the population. Few of those interviewed by Mr Al Lily as well as many of his academic colleagues had read the document.

“The issue is how Saudis perceive change,” Mr Al Lily said. He likened Vision 2030 to the wind in an Arab proverb that says: “If there is a door that might bring wind, close the door.”

Saudi attitudes towards change are, in Mr Al Lily’s view, stand-offish. “People don’t believe in change… The government doesn’t have a plan to sell Vision 2030.  In addition, it has at least partially been drafted by foreigners. All of this is important. Implementing it will not be easy,” Mr Al Lily said.

Posted in Saudi ArabiaComments Off on Reformist Zio-Wahhabi prince bounces up against flawed education system

American liberals unleashed the Trump monster

NOVANEWS
Donald Trump with a clenched fist

By Jonathan Cook

The earth has been shifting under our feet for a while, but all liberals want to do is desperately cling to the status quo like a life-raft. Middle-class Britons are still hyperventiliating about Brexit, and now middle-class America is trembling at the prospect of Donald Trump in the White House.

And, of course, middle-class Americans are blaming everyone but themselves. Typifying this blinkered self-righteousness was a column on 8 November, written before news of Trump’s success, from Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland, Britain’s unofficial stenographer to power and Washington fanboy. He blamed everyone but Hillary Clinton for her difficult path to what he then assumed was the White House.

The reason Trump is heading to the Oval Office is because the Democratic Party rigged the primaries to ensure that a candidate who could have beaten Trump, Bernie Sanders, did not get on the ticket.

Well, here is some news for Freedland and American liberals. The reason Trump is heading to the Oval Office is because the Democratic Party rigged the primaries to ensure that a candidate who could have beaten Trump, Bernie Sanders, did not get on the ticket. You want to blame someone, blame Clinton and the rotten-to-the-core Democratic Party leadership.

But no, liberals won’t be listening because they are too busy blaming Julian Assange and Wikileaks for exposing the truth about the Democratic leadership set out in the Clinton campaign emails – and Russia for supposedly stealing them.

Blame lies squarely too with Barack Obama, the great black hope who spent eight years proving how wedded he was to neo-liberal orthodoxy at home and a neo-conservative agenda abroad.

While liberals praised him to the heavens, he poured the last US treasure into propping up a failed banking system, bankrupting the country to fill the pockets of a tiny, already fabulously wealthy elite. The plutocrats then recycled vast sums to lobbyists and representatives in Congress to buy control there and make sure the voice of ordinary Americans counted for even less than it did before.

Obama also continued the futile “war on terror”, turning the world into one giant battlefield that made every day a payday for the arms industry. The US has been dropping bombs on jihadists and civilians alike, while supplying the very same jihadists with arms to kill yet more civilians.

… the liberal media that served as a loyal chorus to Clinton, trying to persuade us that she would make a model president, and to ignore what was in plain sight: that Clinton is even more in the pocket of the bankers and arms dealers than Obama..

And all the while, have liberals been campaigning against the military-industrial complex that stole their political system? No, of course not. They have been worrying about the mass migrations of refugees – those fleeing the very resource wars their leaders stoked.

Then there is the liberal media that served as a loyal chorus to Clinton, trying to persuade us that she would make a model president, and to ignore what was in plain sight: that Clinton is even more in the pocket of the bankers and arms dealers than Obama (if that were possible) and would wage more, not less war.

Do I sound a little like Trump as I rant against liberals? Yes, I do. And while you are busy dismissing me as a closet Trump supporter, you can continue your furious refusal to examine the reasons why a truly progressive position appears so similar to a far-right one like Trump’s.

Because real progressives are as frustrated and angry about the status quo as are the poor, vulnerable and disillusioned who turned to Trump. And they had no choice but to vote for Trump because there was no one aside from him in the presidential race articulating anything that approximated the truth.

Sanders was ousted by Clinton and her corrupt coterie. Jill Stein of the Greens was made invisible by a corrupt electoral system. It was either vote for Clinton and the putrid status quo, or vote for Trump and a possibility for change.

[Bernie] Sanders was ousted by Clinton and her corrupt coterie. Jill Stein of the Greens was made invisible by a corrupt electoral system. It was either vote for Clinton and the putrid status quo, or vote for Trump and a possibility for change.

Yes, Trump is very bad. He is as much a product of the plutocracy that is now America as Clinton. He, like Clinton, will do nothing to fix the most important issue facing humankind: runaway climate change. He is a climate denier, she is a climate evader.

But unlike Clinton, Trump understood the rising popular anger at the “system”, and he was articulate enough to express it – all it took was a howl of pain.

Trump isn’t the antithesis of liberal America. You liberals created him. You unleashed this monster. It is you in the mirror. You stayed silent, you took no stand while your country was stolen from you. In fact, you did worse: you enthusiastically voted time after time for those who did the stealing.

Now the path is clear and the route fast. The precipice is ahead, and American liberals are firmly in the driving seat.

Posted in USAComments Off on American liberals unleashed the Trump monster


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