Archive | July 1st, 2017

Integration in the Area of Defence – EU’s Military Schengen?

Adelina Marini

Brussels greets us with high temperatures, and it is expected to get even hotter for the EU summit on June 22 and 23. Fully in tune with the weather, the items on the agenda of the two-day European Council are also quite hot. The Union, for the first time in two years, is free from the most threatening issues, such as the growth of Eurosceptic parties and the pressure of political turmoil in exiting Britain. Following the victory of Euro-liberal Emmanuel Macron in the presidential elections in France, and later the overwhelming success of his party En Marche! in the parliamentary elections earlier this month, European Council President Donald Tusk (EPP, Poland) announced the end of the populist threat and the return of the EU as a solution to problems rather than their root cause.

The British drama has also come to a halt following the snap elections in the Kingdom, with which the Conservative Party has lost its vast majority, and now has to form a coalition government. However, this is not currently a problem for Brussels, where official negotiations on the Brexit have been officially launched on 19 June. Their start promises constructivism and pragmatism. Despite the fall of this heavy burden from EU’s shoulders, there are still many issues that create intra-union tensions at a time when the EU is trying to look united on every issue for fear of showing its Achilles heel, especially in the context of the negotiations on Brexit. Almost all of them are on the agenda for Thursday and Friday. However, the preparation for the summit demonstrates that the EU is preparing for its survival in a new, different world order in which the United States is already a non-reliant partner, and Britain is trying to find itself.

More Europe in defence and security

Leaders will begin their meeting with the two most important EU topics at the moment – internal and external security, and defence. And it seemed as if in order to keep the enthusiasm burning, days before the summit there was another terrorist act in London, and in Brussels on Tuesday night an attempted attack at the central railway station was prevented. The issue of internal security is not expected to bring serious drama, but a very cautious approach is taken. In the letter of invitation to the leaders of the 28 member states, President Tusk says the EU will not replace national states in the fight against terrorism, but it can help to win this battle. He proposes to strengthen cooperation with the online industry. “Terrorist propaganda makes its biggest impact within the first few hours of being posted. We should therefore encourage the industry to develop tools that will automatically detect and remove content that spreads terrorist material or incites to violence”, Donald Tusk’s letter said.

Member states are expected to agree to cooperate in improving their internal security by combating online radicalisation, seeking to respond to radical ideology, terrorist financing, exchanging of information, and improving connectivity between databases of member states. Leaders will also appeal to the online industry to take on their responsibility by developing new technologies and tools for automatically detecting and removing content that incites violence is what can be inferred from the draft conclusions of the meeting, which euinside has its hands on. A commitment is also being made to seek ways to solve the problem of communication systems that allow terrorists to communicate in a way that prevents the authorities from accessing that communication.

The subject is very up to date, but it is not one of the hottest for the European Council, as there is no expectation of serious differences on the suggested text. The issue, which is yet to be stealing the sleep of member states, is the deepening of defence integration. For the first time, the leaders of member states will have to make a political decision on the establishment of a Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). Work has been under way on it for some time now and at an enviable speed, but the ambiguity is still too great. PESCO is the first step towards the creation of military cooperation, which is not present even in NATO – pooling resources, launching common public procurement tenders for the purchase of military equipment for common use, coordinating missions, co-financing.

What seems to be the problem?

The plan of the European Council president is for leaders to unite in their desire to create an “inclusive and ambitious PESCO”. However, this at this early stage sounds like two mutually exclusive conditions, as some member states, especially France, insist that PESCO be set up on criteria that are too high for implementation by all member states. The division is again along the new/old members line. By definition, it is advisable to involve countries with well-developed military capabilities in this cooperation. This means that countries to have not only a good ratio of defence spending to gross domestic product, where countries like Bulgaria, for example, are well in the middle but nominal expenses are virtually negligible and much of it goes for wages and upkeep.

To be able to participate effectively in PESCO, it is necessary for the member states to have not only a certain type of equipment – air planes, submarines, etc., but also the quality of this equipment is important. That is why the new member states insist that PESCO is launched as an enhanced cooperation procedure – a tool that requires at least 9 member states to declare willingness to do something together. This procedure does not provide for entrance criteria and is open at any time to any country that wishes to join, as is the case with the European Prosecutor’s Office or the financial transaction tax. However, there are concerns that a military Schengen may be created, which implies fulfilment of certain accession criteria.

Another ambiguity about PESCO is that it will initially work on a project basis, that is, it will work on specific projects, such as participation in missions, equipment acquisition, joint military development, etc. It is unclear how these projects will be coordinated either within PESCO or at EU level, and even less with NATO, which in principle supports the idea in its current quite obscure appearance. Moreover, member states will be free to participate on a voluntary basis in any project, making things even more complicated and unclear.

In fact, the thinking behind this idea is for the EU to be able to take care of its own defence at a time when the United States under the presidency of Donald Trump cannot be seen as a reliable partner, as demonstrated by Mr Trump’s participation in the NATO summit in Brussels in May. In fact, Donald Trump is just the straw that broke the camel’s back. For years, Washington has warned Brussels that it is high time to take on a commensurate role in its own defence and stop relying on US military power. Former President Barack Obama too repeatedly sent similar messages to Europe.

At this stage, it is clear that all or almost all member states want to be involved, but it will very much depend on the criteria. As a high-ranking EU diplomat explained, on the first day the leaders will cross Rubicon, but they will not reach Rome. The draft conclusions seem to have found a compromise, as the main goal is for leaders to show unity even on topics that divide them. The compromise is that member states should draw up a list of criteria and legally binding commitments in the next three months with specific deadlines and evaluation mechanisms to enable them to carry out even the most demanding missions. Specific projects and cooperation initiatives, also supported by common objectives, commitments and criteria, should be proposed too.

With this text in the draft conclusions, it seems leaders are postponing tough political decisions by several months, but in the meantime they show goodwill by reaching a long-awaited agreement for the financing (on a permanent basis) of the deployment of EU battle groups. This is a serious step forward, given that these groups have existed for 10 years and there is still no agreement on their funding. This will be done under the EU-managed “Athena” mechanism. Leaders also commit to this topic for their next meetings. It is also expected that the strong commitment of the EU to cooperation with NATO will be reaffirmed.

The subject of defence does not end here. Leaders are expected to support the creation of a European Defence Fund, which will finance common R&D activities and to urge each other to identify specific projects to be financed by the Fund.

The smallest stone is the largest obstacle

In a typical European fashion, leaders are likely to create an elephant on the second very hot topic of the meeting – the quarrel about the transfer of two EU agencies currently in the UK. This is about the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority. Under an old European tradition, disputes over the location of this or that European agency may take years. In this case, however, the EU does not have that much time because under treaty the Brexit will last for two years, unless there is an extension, but Donald Tusk and his team’s ambition is to find a solution to this issue as soon as possible. It cannot be ruled out that this seemingly insignificant problem could force the leaders to argue into the early hours of the next day.

The conflict point is the procedure the Commission has proposed. According to it, by the end of the month, each member state must make a proposal for one of the two agencies or for both, with the member state meeting 6 criteria. It should have a proper logistics that includes buildings, telecommunication network, infrastructure. This also includes accessibility from all member states, which provoked a protest from Cyprus, which is situated furthest from the main continent. It is also important for countries that have the ambition to take either or both of these agencies to have sufficient quantity and quality of hotels for conferences and all of the accompanying functions such as restaurants, etc.

Another problem for countries like Bulgaria, for example, is the requirement to provide multilingual training infrastructure for the families of those working in the agencies. These are schools in several languages. Candidate hosts should also be able to provide access to the labour market for the spouses of agency workers, social security, medical care. The aim at the summit is also about demonstrating unity. It is not so important what will be agreed on about those agencies, but to preserve the unity of the 27, and to demonstrate that a solution to controversial issues related to Brexit can be found. The draft conclusions for the meeting, at this stage, say nothing about the dispute over the relocation of those agencies. The subject is scheduled for the 27’s special summit after dinner on Thursday.

The migrant situation in the Mediterranean is getting worse

Migration remains a constant conflict point. There are good and bad news on this topic. The good news is that differences between member states are decreasing, but the situation on the central Mediterranean route is deteriorating. The number of migrants from North Africa is increasing as well as deaths. The number of illegal arrivals in Italy has increased by 26% compared to last year and around 1 900 people have lost their lives at sea. It is reported that the smuggling business already has a new dimension. The EU treats most of those incoming along this route as economic migrants. The problem, however, is that progress on the return of illegal immigrants is not sufficient. Alas, the messages that are expected to come out of the 28 do not give hope that this topic will be off the agenda any time soon. It is clear from the draft conclusions that many of the commitments made so far have not been fulfilled, and there is a call for this to finally happen.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

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Bulgarian PM Wants a Collective EU Membership in NATO

Adelina Marini

One of the most controversial topics on the agenda of the June 22-23 European Council is the deepening of defence cooperation, details on which you can read here. To Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borissov the most pragmatic solution would be collective EU membership in NATO as it will allow using the money available to all countries after determining who needs more aircraft, ships or land troops. For example, Bulgaria needs more ships because of the Black Sea, he told reporters before the start of the summer summit in Brussels. This way, he believes, it will come out much cheaper. Otherwise, there will be a new arms race and only Bulgaria will have to spend billions.

“Keeping in mind that we all want to increase the funds for pension systems as well, raise income, connectivity infrastructure. Well either one, or the other can happen, both cannot happen at the same time”, Mr Borissov said and indulged in reminiscence about the race between the Warsaw Pact and NATO. “We, the older generation, lived in an arms race. At that time between the East and the West, the Warsaw Pact and NATO, there was a brutal arms race and back then even the household irons, you remember what they were like, because everything was being spent on tanks, rockets, airplanes, artillery, and people were living in a very bad way. We have not forgotten it. You remember what a Moskvich looked like, compared to a Mercedes, or what an Opera TV looked like, compared to a Phillips. It was only 27 years ago, not a hundred”.

What is currently being discussed at the European level is the creation of permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) for the pooling of resources to buy common equipment, joint participation in missions, funding of military research and development, etc. Supporters of the idea – the European Commission, the Parliament and countries like France – claim that this integration step will not be against NATO but will complement it. Smaller member states, however, especially newcomers, see a threat of duplicating NATO in this.

The Bulgarian leader has also joined the ever-increasing voices in the EU who doubt that Britain will exit. “The closer the Brexit comes, and unfortunately during our presidency as well [01.01.2018-30.06.2018], this will be the most talked about subject, somehow I so much do not want it to happen”, he said. Brexit negotiations began on June 19th.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

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Was Otto Warmbier an American Student or an Israeli Spy? 

For a few days we have been perplexed by the story of Otto Warmbier and his tragic death.

Warmbier, 22, was traveling on a tour of North Korea last year when he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for stealing a propaganda poster.  Following international outrage, North Korea agreed to release him admitting that he had suffered a severe neurological injury. Doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center reported that Warmbier was unresponsive and has suffered extensive brain damage.

Today, pretty much, out of the blue, the Jewish press announced that Warmbier was a Jewish boy, active with Hillel at the University of Virginia. In addition,  Warmbier visited Israel at least once.

In 2014, Warmbier went on a Birthright mission to Israel, where he received a Hebrew name. Following the trip, he became involved with Hillel and the Jewish community on campus~#.

Rabbi Jake Rubin described Warmbier as “a beloved member of our Hillel community.”

“He was a regular at Bagels on Lawn, celebrated Shabbat and holidays at Hillel, and even led a seder for other students that focused on issues of environmentalism and sustainability,” Rabbi Rubin wrote.

And now the six million dollar question. Was Warmbier an Israeli spy? Who knows, but it is likely that someone in North Korea thought he was.

We know that Israel and North Korea are extremely hostile towards each other. North Korea has never recognised the Jewish State and in 1988 it recognised the State of Palestine as including all of Israel.  Israel often accuses North Korea of trading arms with Hamas and Syria.

Peculiarly, not a single MSM outlet has referred to Warmbier’s ties with Israel.  Until his last hours, Israel and the Jewish community kept silent about Warmbier’s Jewish identity, his Zionist affiliation and his visit to Israel. Maybe this silence is more revealing than anything else.

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Seymour Hersh: US Lied About Syrian Chemical Attack Then Bombed Them Anyway


Liberty Blitzkrieg’s Mike Krieger notes that part of Trump’s appeal to many of his voters was, at least ostensibly, the idea that he would employ a less hawkish/neocon foreign policy than his opponent Hillary “We Came, We Saw, He Died” Clinton.

While it’s still too early to decisively say that Trump will usher in yet another foreign policy disaster for these United States and the world, it’s certainly not looking good.

The lobbing of tomahawk missiles into Syrian based on the fairytale that Assad launched a chemical weapons attack was the first sign that Trump is easily manipulated and impulsive. In fact, the episode bothered me so much I wrote a post detailing the dire ramifications titled, Prepare for Impact – This is the Beginning of the End for U.S. Empire.  I suggest taking a read if you missed it the first time, it’s my most popular post of the year.

While that was bad enough, Trump’s cozying up to the barbaric, terrorist-supporitng leaders of Saudi Arabia has been by far the most concerning aspect of his foreign policy (if you can call it that) so far. This policy has become even more dangerous now that the 30-year old princeling who is leading the Saudis’ increasingly aggressive stance in the region has been named crown prince. It appears Trump is willing to let the Saudis do whatever they want in the region, which is guaranteed to have disastrous implications for America and the Middle East.

But a new Seymour Hersh article is out showing that the US knew there was no Assad chemical attack in April, but President Trump decided to bomb anyway.

And the details are shocking… as’s Darius Shahtahmasebi details, never one to accept the U.S. government’s official explanation of events without question, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh has investigated Donald Trump’s decision to strike the al-Shayat Airbase in Syria in April of this year, which the president launched amid widespread allegations that the Syrian government committed a chemical weapons attack.

In a report entitled “Trump’s Red Line,” published Sunday in the daily German newspaper Die Welt, Hersh asserts that President Donald Trump ignored important intelligence reports when he made the decision to attack Syria after pictures emerged of dying children in the war-torn country.

For those of us without goldfish memories, Hersh’s recent investigation is reminiscent of his previous examination of the alleged chemical weapons attacks in 2013, detailed in an article entitled “Whose Sarin?” That article was published in the London Review of Books.

The official White House explanation for the events in April of this year was that Donald Trump was moved by the suffering of “beautiful” Syrian babies – the same Syrian babies he doesn’t want to set foot in the United States – and decided to punish the Syrian government for the attack two days after it allegedly occurred. This punishment came in the form of an airstrike despite the lack of a thorough investigation regarding what took place that fateful day in April and who was ultimately culpable (though the Trump administration insisted they were certain that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was to blame).

In that context, it should come as no surprise that Trump acted rashly without consideration of the facts on the ground. However, what is most disturbing about Hersh’s account is the fact that, according to his source, Trump was well aware that the U.S. had no solid intelligence linking the Syrian government to a chemical weapons attack — and that’s because, according to Hersh’s article, it’s doubtful a chemical weapons attack occurred at all.

Hersh reports:

“The available intelligence made clear that the Syrians had targeted a jihadist meeting site on April 4 using a Russian-supplied guided bomb equipped with conventional explosives. Details of the attack,  including information on its so-called high-value targets, had been provided by the Russians days in advance to American and allied military officials in Doha, whose mission is to coordinate all U.S., allied, Syrian and Russian Air Force operations in the region.”

“None of this makes any sense,” one officer reportedly told colleagues upon learning of the decision to bomb Syria, according to Hersh. We KNOW that there was no chemical attack … the Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real intel and know the truth … I guess it didn’t matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump.”

According to Hersh, Trump “could not be swayed” by 48 hours worth of intense briefings and decision-making following the initial reports of the alleged chemical weapons attack. Hersh, who reportedly reviewed transcripts of real-time communications, explains that there is a “total disconnect” between the president and his military advisers and intelligence officials.

As is the case with Syrian military operations, Russia gave the U.S. details of the carefully planned attack on a meeting in Khan Sheikhoun, according to Hersh’s  admittedly anonymous sources. The Russians had employed a drone to the area days before the attack to develop the intelligence necessary to coordinate it.

According to Hersh’s sources, the United States and its Russian counterpart routinely share information regarding planned attacks in order to avoid collisions. However, they also permit “coordination,”  a practice that involves giving the other side a “hot tip about a command and control facility,” which then helps the other side carry out their attack.

Therefore, there was no surprise chemical weapons attack, as the Trump administration alleged. In fact, Russia had actually warned its American counterpart on the off-chance that there were any CIA assets on the ground who should have been forewarned of an impending attack.

“They [the Russians] were playing the game right,” a senior adviser told Hersh.

Hersh continues:

“Russian and Syrian intelligence officials, who coordinate operations closely with the American command posts, made it clear that the planned strike on Khan Sheikhoun was special because of the high-value target. ‘It was a red-hot change. The mission was out of the ordinary – scrub the sked,’ the senior adviser told me. ‘Every operations officer in the region’ – in the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, CIA and NSA – ‘had to know there was something going on. The Russians gave the Syrian Air Force a guided bomb and that was a rarity. They’re skimpy with their guided bombs and rarely share them with the Syrian Air Force. And the Syrians assigned their best pilot to the mission, with the best wingman.’ The advance intelligence on the target, as supplied by the Russians, was given the highest possible score inside the American community.

Hersh confirms Russia’s account of the incident, in which Russian authorities alleged that the Syrian Air Force bombed a “terrorist warehouse,” and that secondary bombings dispersed dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere.

Strangely, if Hersh’s reporting is accurate, it is not clear why Russia didn’t give the detailed account at the time — and why the Russians didn’t emphasize that they had shared information with the U.S. military well in advance of the attack, as this would have cast further doubt on the official U.S. narrative. In that context, Russia could have provided proof of any prior communications that took place within the so-called deconfliction channel. It also doesn’t explain why Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, appeared to endorse two competing theories behind the events at Khan Sheikhoun.

However, Hersh continues:

“A team from Médecins Sans Frontières, treating victims from Khan Sheikhoun at a clinic 60 miles to the north, reported that ‘eight patients showed symptoms – including constricted pupils, muscle spasms and involuntary defecation – which are consistent with exposure to a neurotoxic agent such as sarin gas or similar compounds.’ MSF also visited other hospitals that had received victims and found that patients there ‘smelled of bleach, suggesting that they had been exposed to chlorine.’ In other words, evidence suggested that there was more than one chemical responsible for the symptoms observed, which would not have been the case if the Syrian Air Force – as opposition activists insisted – had dropped a sarin bomb, which has no percussive or ignition power to trigger secondary explosions. The range of symptoms is, however, consistent with the release of a mixture of chemicals, including chlorine and the organophosphates used in many fertilizers, which can cause neurotoxic effects similar to those of sarin.”

Hersh is not the first high-profile investigator to cast major doubts on the Trump administration’s official narrative regarding the events at Khan Sheikhoun. MIT professor emeritus Theodore Postol, who previously worked as a former scientific advisor to the U.S. military’s Chief of Naval Operations, poked major holes in the claims that the Syrian government had launched a chemical weapons attack at Khan Sheikhoun, noting the “politicization” of intelligence findings (you can access all of his reports here). Postol argued that there was no possible way U.S. government officials could have been sure Assad was behind the attack before they launched their strike, even though they claimed to be certain. Postol took the conversation even further, asserting that the available evidence pointed to an attack that was executed by individuals on the ground, not from an aircraft. Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter had similar concerns regarding the White House’s conclusions, as did former U.K. ambassador to Syria Peter Ford. The mainstream media paid almost zero attention to these reports, a slight that exposes the media’s complicity in allowing these acts of war to go ahead unquestioned.

“This was not a chemical weapons strike,” the adviser said. “That’s a fairy tale. If so, everyone involved in transferring, loading and arming the weapon – you’ve got to make it appear like a regular 500-pound conventional bomb – would be wearing Hazmat protective clothing in case of a leak. There would be very little chance of survival without such gear. Military grade sarin includes additives designed to increase toxicity and lethality. Every batch that comes out is maximized for death. That is why it is made. It is odorless and invisible and death can come within a minute. No cloud. Why produce a weapon that people can run away from?”

According to Hersh’s source, within hours of viewing the footage of the ‘attack’ and its aftermath, Trump ordered his national defense apparatus to plan for retaliation against the Syrian government. Hersh explains that despite the CIA and the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) having no evidence that Syria even had sarin, let alone that they used it on the battlefield, Trump was not easily persuaded once he had made up his mind.

“Everyone close to him knows his proclivity for acting precipitously when he does not know the facts,” the adviser told Hersh. He doesn’t read anything and has no real historical knowledge. He wants verbal briefings and photographs. He’s a risk-taker. He can accept the consequences of a bad decision in the business world; he will just lose money. But in our world, lives will be lost and there will be long-term damage to our national security if he guesses wrong. He was told we did not have evidence of Syrian involvement and yet Trump says: ‘Do it.”’ [emphasis added]

At a meeting on April 6, 2017, at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Trump spoke with his national security officials regarding the best way to move forward. The meeting was not to decide what to do, Hersh explains, but how best to do it (and how to keep Trump as happy as possible).

Trump was given four options. The first one was dismissed at the outset because it involved doing nothing. The second one was the one that was decided upon: a minimal show of force (with advance warning to Russia). The third option was the strike package that Obama was unable to implement in 2013 in the face of mounting public opposition and Russia’s threats of intervention. This plan was Hillary Clinton’s ultimate fantasy considering she was encouraging it moments before Trump’s lone strike actually took place. However, this would have involved extensive air strikes on Assad’s airfields and would have drawn in the Russian military to a point of no return. The fourth option involved the direct assassination of the Syrian president by bombing his palaces, as well as his underground bunkers. This was not considered, either.

As we all witnessed in April, the second option was adopted, and the airbase Trump struck was up and running again in less than 24 hours, making it a very symbolic and empty show of force.

Hersh’s insight into the way Trump is conducting his foreign policy does not bode well for the future of the Syrian conflict (or anywhere else in the world, for that matter). Trump was not interested in the intelligence or the facts on the ground — if he had been, he would have waited until an investigation had determined culpability before ordering a strike.

Missing from Hersh’s account, however, is the fact that it was newly appointed national security advisor General H.R. McMaster who laid out the military strike proposals to the president at his resort on April 6. McMaster replaced former national security advisor Michael Flynn after the latter was forced to resign due to leaks from within the intelligence community. Due to Flynn’s alleged ties to Russia, it seems unlikely he would have proposed such a strike on Russia’s close ally to begin with.

It is unclear whether McMaster proposed the strikes in order to appease Trump or because McMaster ultimately wants Trump to adopt a tougher stance against Syria and Russia; McMaster has a history of pro-interventionism and anti-Russian sentiment.

Those commentators who can review these startling revelations but still condone Trump’s actions with a lazy ‘Assad is still a bad guy and must be overthrown’ mindset argument are being intellectually dishonest, with themselves and others. As was the case in 2013, there is still very little evidence that Assad has ever used chemical weapons — particularly in the attacks that the U.S. has tried to pin on him — yet this is the standard by which the corporate media and our respective governments have instructed us to judge Assad. Even without this conclusive evidence, shortly after the April events, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley stated Assad will fall from power.

Hersh’s investigation bolsters many claims that the U.S. acted rashly without first conducting or ordering an impartial inquiry regarding what happened in April of this year. Hersh’s report also serves as a reminder to the world of the warpath we are continuing down, spearheaded by an impulsive and reckless megalomaniac who has no interest in ascertaining fact from fiction.

*  *  *

Liberty Blitzkrieg’s Mike Krieger also notes that just as interesting as the information above, is the fact that Hersh had to turn to a German newspaper to publish it. This makes perfect sense, because the one area where U.S. corporate press maintains unassailable consistency is when it comes to cheerleading for an interventionist, imperial foreign policy based on unverified claims and outright lies. Trump’s little fireworks display checked all those boxes, which is why the corporate media drooled all over the bombing, celebrating Trump for the first time of his Presidency. As Hersh notes:

After the meeting, with the Tomahawks on their way, Trump spoke to the nation from Mar-a-Lago, and accused Assad of using nerve gas to choke out “the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many … No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”

The next few days were his most successful as president. America rallied around its commander in chief, as it always does in times of war.

Trump, who had campaigned as someone who advocated making peace with Assad, was bombing Syria 11 weeks after taking office, and was hailed for doing so by Republicans, Democrats and the media alike. One prominent TV anchorman, Brian Williams of MSNBC, used the word “beautiful” to describe the images of the Tomahawks being launched at sea. Speaking on CNN, Fareed Zakaria said: “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States.” 

A review of the top 100 American newspapers showed that 39 of them published editorials supporting the bombing in its aftermath, including the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

Which once again goes to show just how worthless, irresponsible and downright dangerous U.S. corporate media really is.

Finally, as Ron Paul rages below, Republicans cannot let go of “regime change” for Syria and new Cold War with Russia — even as the Democrats are starting to back away. Will the mainstream media stick with the narrative as well? Or is it all about to come crashing down?

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Jewish and Anti-Gentile Traditions


‘Israel’ and Anti-Gentile Traditions

Israel Shahak’s theory that anti-Gentile traditions have influenced Israeli policy is well known in both Arab and anti-Semitic circles, but Jews have yet to properly confront it.

Despite its title, Israel Shahak’s Jewish History, Jewish Religion (1994) is not your average intro-to-Judaism book. It is more likely to be found in a Muslim day school in Damascus than a Jewish day school in New York, more likely to be cited on a neo-Nazi website, than your local synagogue’s.

Shahak’s book is an overview of Judaism and Zionism, which focuses on Jewish anti-Gentile traditions. Though he recognizes that many of these teachings are no longer authoritative, Shahak believes that they have, nonetheless, had a profound influence on the development of Jewish identity over the centuries. Most importantly, he believes that they have seeped into Zionist ideology and have affected the way Israel interacts with its non-Jewish citizens and neighbors.

Shahak, a Holocaust survivor who died in 2001, was for many years a professor of chemistry at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He also led the Israeli Civil Rights League from the mid-1970s until 1990. In Israel, he was a controversial figure, but he was revered by the international left as a tireless advocate for human rights.

Are Jewish Lives Worth More?

In Jewish History, Jewish Religion Shahak brings numerous texts and legal rulings to demonstrate Jewish antipathy to non-Jews. He mentions a passage from the that says that Jesus will be punished in hell by being immersed in boiling excrement. He relates that Jewish tradition teaches pious Jews to burn copies of the New Testament and curse the mothers of the dead when passing non-Jewish cemeteries. Shahak highlights the famous passage from Leviticus commanding Jews to “love thy neighbor as thyself” and mentions that, according to rabbinic interpretation, “thy neighbor” refers only to Jews.

Shahak further suggests that the Jewish tradition values Jewish life more than Gentile life. He cites Maimonides’ assertion that whereas one who murders a Jew is subject to the death penalty, one who murders a non-Jew is not (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Murder 2:11). According to another leading commentator, indirectly causing the death of a non-Jew is no sin at all (Rabbi Yoel Sirkis, Bayit Hadash, commentary on Bet Yosef, Yoreh Deah 158).

Shahak reiterates the well-known Jewish teaching that the duty to save a life supersedes all other obligations and notes that the rabbis interpreted this to apply to Jews only. According to the Talmud, “Gentiles are neither to be lifted [out of a well] nor hauled down [into it]” (Tractate Avodah Zarah, 26b). Maimonides writes: “As for Gentiles with whom we are not at war…their death must not be caused, but it is forbidden to save them if they are at the point of death; if, for example, one of them is seen falling into the sea, he should not be rescued, for it is written: ‘neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy fellow’–but [a Gentile] is not thy fellow”  (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Murder 4:11).

Indeed, Maimonides is the focus of much of Shahak’s analysis. Shahak believes that the 12th-century philosopher and Talmudist was a Gentile-hater and racist. He quotes Maimonides’ statement that, “their [the Turks and the blacks] nature is like the nature of mute animals, and according to my opinion they are not on the level of human beings” (Guide For the Perplexed, Book III, Chapter 51).

Practical Ramifications

Shahak recognizes that many of these traditions are not followed in practice, but he believes that, in general, they have been covered up, instead of confronted. In support of this claim, he refers to another a violent passage from Maimonides that is not translated in the bilingual addition of the Guide published in Jerusalem in 1962. He sees this as a deliberate deception on the part of the editors to soften classical Jewish militancy. His own English translation of the passage, which discusses the command to kill Jewish infidels reads: “It is a duty to exterminate them with one’s own hands. Such as Jesus of Nazareth and his pupils, and Tzadoq and Baitos [the founders of the Sadducees] and their pupils, may the name of the wicked rot.”

According to Shahak, Jewish “traditions of contempt” infiltrated Zionism and have affected Israeli policy towards its Paletinian citizens. He cites three main areas where he believes this has occurred: residency rights, employment rights, and equality before the law.

As an example, he mentions that 92% of Israel’s land is legally restricted to Jews. While in other countries it would be labeled anti-Semitic if a policy excluded Jews from living on or owning land, in the Israeli context Jews tolerate it. He adds that based on the distinction in classical Judaism between reverence for Jewish cemeteries and not for non-Jewish ones, the state of Israel has destroyed hundreds of Muslim cemeteries, including one in order to build the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv.

Perhaps most disturbingly, Shahak cites a booklet published by the Central Regional Command of the Israeli Army which states that it is permissible, and even encouraged, to kill civilians encountered in war. “In war, when our forces storm the enemy, they are allowed and even enjoined by the Halakhah to kill even good civilians, that is, civilians who are ostensibly good.” In a footnote, Shahak mentions that this booklet was withdrawn from circulation on the command of the Chief of Staff, but he nonetheless, believes that even the brief appearance of such a text can only be explained by an accurate assessment of the inequality in Jewish tradition between the lives of Jews and non-Jews.

Jews Have Ignored Shahak’s Work, Others Haven’t

Whatever your opinion of Shahak and his arguments, Jewish History, Jewish Religion should be taken seriously for a number of reasons.

For one, the texts that Shahak cites are real (though Shahak’s sporadic use of footnotes makes it difficult to check all of them). Oftentimes, the interpretation of these texts is debatable and their prominence in Judaism negligible, but nonetheless, they are part of Jewish tradition and, therefore, cannot be ignored. And, indeed, they are not ignored. As alluded to above, Shahak’s work is very popular in both Arab and Muslim circles (Radio Islam contains the full text of Shahak’s work) as well as groups that are often openly anti-Semitic (David Duke and Bradley Smith include Shahak’s book on their websites).

Others use Shahak’s work in their presentation of Judaism, and that fact alone should make it relevant to contemporary Jews.

Shahak was an ardent secularist and anti-Zionist, but he wrote his book as a challenge to Jews to engage the chauvinist, dehumanizing elements of Jewish tradition and to help create a self-critical and sensitive modern Judaism. It’s true that he combed the rabbinic tradition in search of hateful passages, often–though by no means always–misinterpreting them and taking them out of context, but this may be beside the point.

Jewish texts exist that can be–and are–understood to be vehemently xenophobic. These texts must be openly and honestly grappled with, explained, and if necessary, repudiated.

Posted in ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Jewish and Anti-Gentile Traditions

Senior Nazi Jewish Rabbi Calls for the Mass Execution of Palestinians

” For those who will idiotically claim that this does not represent the ‘true Judaism’ of the Torah but rather the ‘fake Judaism’ of the Talmud, allow a few words from the book of Isaiah to provide some clarity”
”You shall drink the milk of the Gentiles, and draw milk from the breasts of their kings…
Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the foreigner shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers…
You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and the wealth of the Gentiles shall come to you as they bring to you their gold and incense…
The children of those who afflicted you shall come bowing to you, and all those who despised you shall fall prostrate at the soles of your feet and call you The City of the Lord, Zion of the Holy One of Israel…
The sons of foreigners shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you…
Your gates shall be open continually, day and night, so that men may bring to you the wealth of the Gentiles, and their kings will be led in humble procession before you, for the nation and kingdom which will not serve you shall perish, it shall be utterly destroyed…” ” Shoah”

Senior Israeli Rabbi Calls for the Mass Execution of Palestinians

Shmuel Eliyahu has a long history of hate speech.

Photo Credit: david156/Shutterstock

Senior Israeli Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu believes the Israeli army should stop arresting Palestinians and execute them instead.

“It must execute them and leave no one alive,” Eliyahu wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday, according to Defend Democracy Press.

Eliyahu, the chief rabbi of the city of Safed, has a record of making racist remarks about Arabs and Muslims. He once said Israel should take “revenge” against Arabs, and that Palestinians, whom he once labeled enemies of Israel, must be “destroyed and crushed in order to end violence.”

“If they don’t stop after we kill 100, then we must kill 1,000,” Eliyahu told the Jerusalem Post in 2007. “And if they do not stop after 1,000, then we must kill 10,000. If they still don’t stop we must kill 100,000, even a million.”

In a previous Facebook post, Eliyahu argued Palestinians who are arrested should not be kept alive.

“If you leave him alive, there is a fear that he will be released and kill other people,” he wrote. “We must eradicate this evil from within our midst.”

In 2012, Eliyahu was accused of making racist remarks after calling Arab culture “cruel” and saying Arabs have “violent norms” that have “turned into ideology.”  The charges were later dropped by the Israeli Justice Ministry amidst speculation that journalists had misrepresented his words.

On a separate occasion, Eliyahu claimed that Arabs steal Jewish farm equipment in an attempt to blackmail Palestinian farmers.

“The minute you make room for Arabs among Jews, it takes five minutes before they start to do whatever they want,” he said.

Tensions have been heightened recently in occupied Palestinian territory as a result of the restrictions placed on Palestinian worshippers entering the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem al-Quds in August 2015. As many as 300 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since October 2015.

Also see:

Judaism 101: Jewish Attitudes Toward Non-Jews
Israel and Anti-Gentile Traditions | My Jewish Learning
Talmud Unmasked~ What the Talumud Teaches About Christians.





Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Senior Nazi Jewish Rabbi Calls for the Mass Execution of Palestinians

US Human Rights Record, Not Cuba’s, Should Be Condemned

  • According to a White House Fact Sheet on Cuba Policy, the Treasury and Commerce Departments will begin the process of issuing new regulations in only 30 days.
    According to a White House Fact Sheet on Cuba Policy, the Treasury and Commerce Departments will begin the process of issuing new regulations in only 30 days. | Photo: Reuters
Both the people in the U.S. and Cubans on the island are overwhelmingly for a normalization of relations, Freeman told teleSUR.

In an exclusive interview with teleSUR, Netfa Freeman, Cuba policy analyst for the Washington D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies, commented on U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement rolling back the normalization of relations with Cuba.

OPINION: Trump Cuba Policy: What Will Happen in Coming Months?

Trump called the U.S. rollback on Cuba, among other things, humanitarian. Can you address this point?

These are people who have no concept of what human rights and freedom for a people mean. And this doesn’t just mean Donald Trump. This applies also to all U.S. political officials who uphold the capitalist, imperialist system. Trump himself is a capitalist who leeches off of the super-exploitation of people and the environment.

We are talking about leaders of a country that has the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world and the free labor of those incarcerated is exploited to produce all manner of goods and services for the private profit of the rich. Statistics show that U.S. police kill at least three people each day who are disproportionately people of African descent and Indigenous North Americans.

The U.S. has the worst election system in the industrialized world with voter suppression and all sorts of rigging and disenfranchising improprieties going on that are never addressed by either the Republican or Democratic party.

The U.S. health care system propels people into financial ruin by the thousands. Oddly people don’t understand that Obama’s Affordable Care Act was not health care. It was a concession to insurance companies and HMOs whose only purpose is to appropriate profits from the people.

Student debt for higher education does the same thing. The average graduate of 2016 is strapped with US$37,172 in student loan debt.

Yet, Trump and his class have the immoral audacity to condemn Cuba as denying freedom to its people, a country that provides some of the best quality health care in the world and education up to the university level to all of her citizens completely free of charge. The Cuban people do not have to endure anything like the epidemic of murders by law enforcement like what that takes place in the U.S.

Cuba has an electoral process that sees a participation rate of up to 89-95 percent with Cuban citizens automatically eligible to vote upon reaching 16 years of age. Cubans have the right to national referendums, unheard of in the United States. The Cuban National Assembly has representatives of not only geographic areas but also major sectors of society like women, youth and workers. U.S. people are prevented from even imagining congressional representatives for the interests of women or workers.

It’s a bizarre claim Marco Rubio makes, saying what the Trump administration is doing contrary to the Obama administration is “reaching its hand out to the people of Cuba.” But all data demonstrate that the Cuban people living in Cuba want an end to the U.S. blockade against them and an end to the illegal U.S. occupation of their territory in Guantanamo.

Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez responded strongly to Trump’s rollback today, outlining how it negatively affects both U.S. citizens and the Cuban people. Can you talk about the specifics of that?

Yes, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez’ was keen to refute Trump and Marco Rubio’s claims that the rollback in relations are only to target Cuban military, security service, and intelligence institutions, explaining how it will actually damage the Cuban people that they claim they want to help.

RELATED: Cuba: Trump’s Policy Will Backfire by Strengthening Revolution

Contrary to what Trump and his people are saying, their moves will impact families, and cause economic damage to cooperatives and self-employed workers. When you ban business transactions under the vague stipulation of being “linked” to the Cuban military you are affecting 60 percent of all Cuban business on the island. And many of those are affiliated with tourism, a major industry for Cuba.

On the U.S. side is a return to the violation of the right of U.S. citizens to travel freely. The new policy prohibits individual people-to-people travel, which was one of the 12 travel categories authorized by former President Barack Obama. Now people have to go in a group with a U.S. tour company that is approved by the Treasury Department. And travel will be audited. So U.S. citizens who travel under one of the remaining categories will have to deal with a tedious audit by the Treasury Department that will complicate and discourage people from traveling there.

Can you tell us if the U.S. blockade on Cuba has support among the people in the U.S. as well as around the world?

It has been common knowledge for years now that a majority of U.S. people would not be in support of the policy direction Trump is reverting toward. Just last December a Pew Research poll revealed that over 73 percent of U.S. people favored “ending the long-standing U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.” And it must be noted that this is a statistic that holds in spite of the fact that most citizens in the U.S. are grossly misinformed about the human rights situation in Cuba or really have a sufficient concept of human rights. Imagine what that percentage would be if people really knew the truth.

And it is very important to note that Trump, and the small click of right-wing Cuban exiles he is coalescing with on this, are completely out of touch with the whole world. It is not only the U.S. people who Trump’s Cuba policies go against but they go against the whole world that unanimously condemned the U.S. blockade against Cuba in a unanimous vote at the United Nations General Assembly last October. In that vote, for the first time, the U.S. and Israel abstained. In prior votes, those two counties, with one other country at times, would be the only ones voting to uphold the blockade. This year, with different representatives in play, we can expect the United States to go back to voting against ending the blockade.

Many people are focusing on Trump as if he is somehow removed from U.S. policy. Can you address where you think U.S. policy is heading with Cuba in regards to the bigger regional picture?

Good question. Right now there is a lot of political confusion in the U.S. because of the combination of the flagrant immorality of Donald Trump and the effort of the Democratic party and even some Republicans who don’t support Trump, to make people believe our woes are all about him.

So many things Trump does, that are merely a continuation of Obama administration policies, people condemn as if he started them. For example, the deportation of immigrants and the bombings of other countries. But in Cuba’s case, we have to remember that even Obama’s new direction, which had the blessing of chambers of commerce and other capitalist entities, had the same “regime change” goals, only trying to achieve them in a different way.

To Cuban’s credit, they have always been open to normal and mutually respectful relations but based on their national principles and never compromising their sovereignty. So they opened negotiations with the Obama administration and the only changes they have made were those mandated by the Cuban people and their process.

In terms of where U.S. policy toward Cuba is heading, I honestly don’t think Trump is ready to put any more attention to changing more. I believe this was something he did because he said he would. What he did is far from a complete rollback of the Obama policies. And the business community in the U.S. is ready to do business with Cuba no matter if Cuba is socialist country or not. The decades of regime change efforts have failed and no Trump advisor can come up with something new to do to Cuba that hasn’t already been done.

RELATED: Miami Cubans Reject Trump’s Hostility Toward Island

And as Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said, the thinking behind this move seems childish and “will only reinforce our patriotism, dignity and decision to defend our independence by all means.”

What steps are Cuban solidarity activists in the U.S. taking in light of this new hostile policy?

Everyone should know that the Cuba solidarity movement in the U.S. won’t be deterred by Trump’s move. Travel challenges have been going to Cuba from the U.S. for decades and will continue. There are people ready to go next month. And in fact, the Cuba Subcommittee of the National Lawyers Guild publicly reiterated its longstanding support for the right to travel to Cuba and pledged to continue to provide legal assistance to defend U.S. travelers.

In September the Institute for Policy Studies with the International Committee for Peace Justice and Dignity will hold our third annual Days of Action Against the Blockade in Washington D.C., which will include public awareness forums, a rally, and visits to legislators on Capitol Hill. This is something we were already working on before because the blockade remained in place. It never ended.

This year for the Days of Action we are featuring the remarkable advancements that Cuba has made in the field of medicine and health. We are in contact with a number of U.S. health organizations, unions, faculties and students at medical schools in the Washington area and there is a lot of interest in setting up meetings and events.

The purpose of our activities is to raise awareness about the impact that the U.S. blockade is having on the health of the Cuban people as well as people in the U.S. who are denied access to the advancements that Cuba has made.

So we are looking at this development as an opportunity to expand our struggle to oppose Trump and those like him. We need to bring the reality of Cuba — a country that shows a better world is possible — to new audiences in the U.S. That is our task.

Posted in USA, Human RightsComments Off on US Human Rights Record, Not Cuba’s, Should Be Condemned

UN: Violence, Persecution Displace 65.6 Million in 2016

  • The world has 22.5 million refugees, 40.3 million internally displaced individuals as well as the 2.8 million asylum-seekers.
    The world has 22.5 million refugees, 40.3 million internally displaced individuals as well as the 2.8 million asylum-seekers. | Photo: UNHCR – Dina Diaz

    16-year-old Tareq said, “There was no university and no work. There were troops grabbing young children and they send them to war. I wanted to study.”

A United Nations report revealed that nearly 66 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes last year.

The UN refugee agency reported that “very high” volumes of conflict and persecution is forcing people to flee their homes. The figure, the UN stated, translates to “one person being displaced every three seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence.”

Nyawet Tut, a South Sudanese mother of five in her 30s, related how soldiers set fire to her village forcing her to flee with her five children as well as five others from relatives who were killed in the conflict.

“My husband was killed in the war which, in addition to the shortage of food, made me decide to leave my home, everything, behind,” she told Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) staff during an interview in Ethiopia.

The report, released by the UNHCR, showed an increase of 300,000 since the end of 2015. “By any measure, this is an unacceptable number,” said UN High Commissioner Filippo Grandi, as he called for “solidarity and a common purpose in preventing and resolving the crisis.”

Grandi also highlighted the need to protect and care for the world’s 22.5 million refugees, 40.3 million internally displaced individuals as well as the 2.8 million asylum-seekers.

According to the report, Syria remains “the world’s biggest producer of refugees” with 12 million people living outside of the country. Among the displaced are 7.7 million Colombians, 4.7 million Afghans and 4.2 million Iraqis.

In 2016, war-ravaged South Sudan joined the list when approximately 737,400 people fled the country after peace efforts broke down in July. In total, about 3.3 million South Sudanese had left their homes – the fastest-growing displacement of people in the world.

The report showed that nearly half of last year’s refugee population is under 18 years old.

Children make up about 31 percent of the total world population.

Among its findings, the report noted that some 75,000 asylum claims were received from unaccompanied minors.

“There was no future where we lived,” 16-year-old Tareq – who fled toTurkey after eluding armed combatants in Syria – told the UNHCR. “There was no university and no work. There were troops grabbing young children like me, and they send them to war, and they get killed. I wanted to study.”

RELATED: 2 Million South Sudanese Children Displaced

UNHCR reported that, currently, developing countries are hosting the majority of the world’s refugees. About 84 percent of the people were in low- or middle-income countries as of the end of 2016. Of that figure, one in every three people – about 4.9 million – were hosted by underdeveloped nations.

“This huge imbalance reflects several things including the continuing lack of consensus internationally when it comes to refugee hosting and the proximity of many poor countries to regions of conflict,” the UN agency said.

Posted in UN, WorldComments Off on UN: Violence, Persecution Displace 65.6 Million in 2016

UN: South Sudan out of Famine Zone, but Still on Brink

  • An estimated 45,000 people still face starvation in Leer, Koch and Mayendit counties.
    An estimated 45,000 people still face starvation in Leer, Koch and Mayendit counties. | Photo: AFP
“Even though we’ve taken famine off the table, we now have more people in Phase 4. If we don’t assist, 1.7 million people will soon be in famine.”

On Wednesday, the United Nations declared that South Sudan has moved out of the famine zone.

RELATED:  War Forces Two Million South Sudanese Children to Flee Homes

South Sudan’s National Bureau of Statistics and the UN’s food and security analysis reports, both expressed that the situation still remains critical.

“People are in a catastrophic situation,” said Serge Tissot, of the Food and Agricultural Organization.

The UN further warned that South Sudan’s crisis is worsening and just because the label of famine has been removed, doesn’t mean the situation has actually improved.

“Even though we’ve taken it (famine) off the table, we have more people in Phase 4 than ever before,” said Joyce Luma, World Food Program’s country director. “If we don’t assist this population, 1.7 million people will soon be in famine.”

At the briefing, the UN pointed out that almost 2 million people are still on the brink of starvation and an estimated 6 million people — half the population — will face extreme food insecurity between June and July.

In February, South Sudan declared that two counties in Unity State were experiencing famine. The WFP reassured, that although those areas are still in critical condition, early detection and a rapid collective response succeeded in pulling them out of famine – a Phase 5 classification.

In former Jonglei State, an area that previously had one of the lowest levels of acute malnutrition, roughly 20,000 people are experiencing catastrophic food insecurity.

At a recent food distribution drive in the town of Old Fangak in Greater Jonglei, 10,000 people registered for a WFP food drop with 30,000 more are expected within the week.

A 7-year-old related that she had walked for three hours from her village in order to collect food for her parents and five siblings, who were all too weak to accompany her.

“All I eat are vegetables and leaves,” said Nyatang Toy, as she waited in line to receive her ration cards.

An estimated 45,000 people still face starvation in Leer, Koch and Mayendit counties with additional areas across the country has deteriorated as well.

Posted in SudanComments Off on UN: South Sudan out of Famine Zone, but Still on Brink

Brexit Negotiations Have Started. Chapter 1: Monnet vs. Churchill

Adelina Marini

Three months after Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May sent a notification to Brussels saying Great Britain was leaving the European Union, the negotiations on the so-called Brexit began on June 19, in a typical European fashion – with thin hints and humour. During the opening negotiating session, the agenda of the meetings and the terms of the negotiations were agreed on. Negotiating rounds will be organised according to the methodology proposed by EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier – one week a month, with proposals being made and exchanged for the rest of the time. The next round of talks will take place in the week starting July 17. The main issues of the divorce are divided into three negotiation working groups: citizens’ rights; settlement of accounts; others.

The main work of the negotiations will take place in the groups, and Michel Barnier and David Davis, British Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, will deal with the difficulties and obstacles that have arisen. Negotiations on the settlement of the border issue between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland will be conducted separately and in parallel with the other negotiations. The right hand people of the two main negotiators – Oliver Robbins on the British side and Sabine Weyand on the European side – are engaged with those. British media wrote on Monday, quoting a senior British diplomat, that Sabine Weyand had the brain power of a nuclear reactor.

Such power will be particularly needed on this subject, as it carries a very high political charge and requires particular creativity to solve two mutually exclusive problems – how to avoid raising the so-called “hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, meaning to maintain the common travel area while respecting the rules of the single market and the EU’s external borders. “The protection of the Good Friday Agreement and maintenance of the common travel area are the most urgent issues to discuss”, European Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier said after the meeting. The Good Friday agreement ended the 30-year-old conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, called the “The Troubles” in Britain.

The additional political charge and sensitivity on the subject stem from the fact that British Prime Minister Theresa May called snap elections at a time when the Conservative Party had a large majority in parliament but lost it on June 8 and is currently negotiating a coalition government with the Democratic Unionist Party – a deeply conservative and Eurosceptic party – which is considered a problem for the Good Friday Agreement, since it was signed not only between the governments of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, but is also an inter-party agreement. It is a problem because if the DUP gets into government, this could break the inter-party balance in Northern Ireland, and may once again inflame old wounds.

David Davis said the talks on the Irish question had taken up most of the negotiations time on June 19, discussing two aspects – the first is political sensitivity and the other is the firm determination that the border should remain as invisible as possible to avoid undermining the peace process. He suggested that the talks on this issue will continue to the very end of the Brexit process, which means up until an agreement is reached on future EU-UK relations. This is planned to take place in the second phase of the negotiations, which will begin when an agreement on the first one is reached, which includes guaranteeing citizens’ rights after the Brexit and the settlement of financial relations between the two sides.

Recently, the European Commission has published its negotiating positions on the two subjects. On the protection of citizens’ rights, the EU demands that the UK treats its citizens and EU citizens equally, and under EU law at that. Citizens of the 27 Member States or British citizens who have resided legally in the UK and the 27th respectively on the date of entry into force of the Brexit agreement are to be considered legal residents even if they do not have a residence document. Documents must be issued free of charge or charged at the same price as the British citizens’ papers. These rights should also include the families of those living in the UK or the EU for the rest of their lives and regardless of their nationality.

EU citizens, British citizens and their families must have the same rights as before of social benefits for old-age, sickness, disability, etc. This also applies to those who left the Kingdom or the 27 at the date of the Brexit and are currently benefiting from the right to transfer income (this is especially true for pensioners). In its document, the EU demands EU27 and UK citizens to be able to continue to change their status and to collect periods that ensure certain rights. For example, a student may become an EU worker after graduating without having to comply with the migration law applicable to third-country nationals; an unemployed person to become employed and also to be subject to EU rules; citizens who have lived less than 5 years at the date of Brexit to continue to collect the necessary years in order to obtain a residence permit, as is the case so far.

Regarding the settlement of accounts, in a separate paper the Commission proposes the following methodology for calculating UK liabilities: percentage of all UK own resources in the EU budget (VAT revenue and national contributions calculated on the basis of Gross National Income) and the total amount of own resources transferred from the member states (EU28) for the period 2014-2018. Michel Barnier has been very stubbornly avoiding the circulation of any preliminary sums interpreted in the Kingdom as a bill for leaving, so there is not even an indicative figure in this document. When the European Council considers that significant progress has been made on these two subjects, then the second phase – the negotiations on future relations – can begin.

David Davis said there is a lot of common ground on the issue of citizens’ rights and expects an agreement to be reached relatively quickly. The British chief negotiator also announced that next week the British government is expected to publish its proposal on civil rights and negotiations in the working group are to begin immediately.

Your responsibility, not ours

The British representative expressed satisfaction with the first round of talks, pointing out that he was encouraged by the constructive approach. In turn, Michel Barnier said he would always be constructive and would work with Great Britain, not against it. He stressed that a fair deal is better than no deal. “There will be no hostility on my side. I will display a constructive attitude firmly based on interest and support of the 27. And I will all the time seek to the continued support of the European Parliament in close cooperation with President [Antonio] Tajani and Guy Verhofstadt [EP’s chief negotiator]”, said the French chief negotiator of the EU, who throughout the press conference alternated French with English, and British journalists apologised each time when asking a question in English instead of French.

In his opening remarks, David Davis said the start of the talks was promising. “Now, we have a shared responsibility to deliver quick and substantive progress”, he said, but was countered by his European interlocutor who said everyone should take their responsibility and face the consequences of their decisions. “You ask if there’s anywhere we’ve made a concession. Well, look, the UK has decided to leave the EU. It’s not the other way round. The UK is going to leave the EU, the single market and the customs union, not the other way round”, repeated once again Mr Barnier, adding: “So, I’m not in a frame of mind to make concessions or ask for concessions. It’s not about punishment, it’s not about revenge. Basically, we’re implementing the decision taken by the UK to leave the EU and unravel 43 years of patiently built relations. I will do all I can to put emotions to one side and stick to the facts, the figures and the legal basis”, the European negotiator noted.

He did not miss to remind his British colleague how long have they known each other: “In fact, we go back to 1995 because we were both European affairs ministers of the UK and France at the time, and we began negotiations for the Amsterdam treaty at the time. I could perhaps come back some other day”, suggested Michel Barnier. Under the Amsterdam Treaty, signed in 1997 and came into force in 1999, member states agreed to significantly increase the powers of the European Parliament. This treaty also set the beginning of the common foreign and security policy, the integration of which has only begun to strengthen in the last few months. This treaty created the post of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs whose role was re-enforced with the Lisbon Treaty, currently in force.

Michel Barnier decided to quote Jean Monnet, one of the founding fathers of the European Union, who, when asked whether he was a pessimist or an optimist, said: “I’m neither optimistic nor pessimistic. I am determined“. As if knowing what Michel Barnier would say, David Davis also ended with a quote from former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who once said that the pessimist sees difficulties in every opportunity, whereas the optimist sees an opportunity in every difficulty, “and so bridging between Churchill and Monnet, I’m certainly a determined optimist”, were the words of the British negotiator.

If there is no transparency, there will be leaks

One of the most problematic areas in the negotiations between the two sides seems to be transparency of the negotiation process. This is clear both from the agreed terms of the negotiations and from the speeches of the two chief negotiators. Right from the start, the EU has declared transparency to be its red line and all institutional and national leaders use every opportunity to emphasise that. However, the negotiated terms and conditions stipulate that each party in the negotiations has the right to impose restrictions on information. “Any disclosure by either the United Kingdom or the European Commission of documents originating from the other Party will be subject to prior consultation of the originating party”. The document also states that “where possible, both Parties will seek to agree public statements relating to negotiating rounds”. 


It is clear from Michel Barnier’s words that Great Britain is obstructing maximum transparency. He said “Well, we can each reply to that in our respective ways and everybody is free to respond as they wish but my personal point of view in coordination with President [Donald] Tusk and President [Jean-Claude] Juncker, our intention is to be fully transparent in a completely unusual way because this is an unusual negotiation, an extraordinary negotiation. And because this exceptional dimension we intend to have as broad and open a debate as possible”. Finally, he seemed to threaten his British counterpart by saying he prefers transparency to information leaks.

David Davis, in turn, said he and the prime minister would seek maximum transparency in line with normal negotiations, but promised “more transparent than any other negotiation in modern history”. Davis added that he also prefers transparent information to leaked information or secret briefings. His words were not convincing against the background of the special briefing for British journalists half an hour before the official press conference where even some correspondents of the largest international but also British media were not allowed.

On Thursday, Michel Barnier will report to the leaders of the 27 at their June summit about the start of negotiations. During the summit (June 22-23), the British prime minister is also expected to inform her colleagues about Britain’s approach to citizens’ rights.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

Posted in EuropeComments Off on Brexit Negotiations Have Started. Chapter 1: Monnet vs. Churchill

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