Archive | July 13th, 2017

Why has Cyprus become an Nazi province?

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Why has Cyprus become an Israeli province?

Israel-Cyprus gas pipeline

Gilad Atzmon writes:

The Cypriot press reported last week on a large joint Israeli-Cypriot military drill.

The following Israeli video publicises an elite Israeli commando brigade engaged in aggressive military manoeuvres around Cyprus’s Troodos mountain range.

How did this come about? How did the Cypriots, who have traditionally supported the Palestinian cause, become a province of the Israeli empire?

The answer is an Israel-Europe gas pipeline deal.

In the beginning of April we learned about a proposed 2,000 kilometre subsea pipeline connecting gas fields located offshore in Gaza and Cyprus with Greece and possibly Italy.

The pipeline agreement between Israel, Italy, Cyprus and Greece leaves both the Turks and the Palestinians out. While Gaza faces a critical energy crisis with electricity reduced to less than three hours a day, Israel aims to collect billions of dollars from significant natural gas reserves located off the Gaza shore and well within Palestinian territorial water (assuming such a term exist).

Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s energy minister, hailed the pipeline project expected to be in operation in he year 2025 as the “beginning of a wonderful friendship between four Mediterranean countries”.

Of course, not all concerned Mediterranean nations are included in the deal. We can foresee that this is a recipe for disaster: the pipeline and the gas installation are soft targets. The region is volatile. Cyprus is putting its sovereignty at risk. Within a short time, it may, God forbid, become a battleground for cynical global operators.

The Cypriot leadership knows that if it wants a pipeline that dispatches plundered Palestinian natural, the it must become an Israeli province. And, as the video reveals, Cyprus is now protected by its Israeli big brother.

The Israeli-Cypriot joint military drill was undertaken to deliver a message to Turkey and other regional players: any attempt to interfere with their gas theft project will be met by Israeli military brutality.

Posted in Europe, ZIO-NAZI0 Comments

Yemen – Court Battle Exposes UK – Saudi Arms Trade. A Marriage Made in Hell

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On Monday 10th July, a ruling was handed down by London’s High Court, which should, in a sane world, exclude the UK government ever again judging other nations leaders human rights records or passing judgement on their possession or use of weapons.

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) lost their case to halt the UK selling arms to Saudi Arabia, the case based on the claim that they may have been used to kill civilians in Yemen.

Anyone following the cataclysmic devastation of Yemen would think it was a million to one that the £3.3Billion worth of arms sold by the UK to Saudi in just two years, had not been used to kill civilians, bomb hospitals, schools, markets, mosques, decimate vital and economic infrastructure and all necessary to sustain life.

In context, a survey released by the Yemen Data Project in September last year found that between March 2015 and August 2016 in more than 8,600 air attacks, 3,158 hit non-military targets. (1)

How casual the slaughter is, Saudi pilots (as their British and US counterparts) apparently do not even know what they are aiming at. So much for “surgical strikes” – as ever:

“Where it could not be established whether a location attacked was civilian or military, the strikes were classified as unknown, of which there are 1,882 incidents.” All those “unknown” killed had a name, plans, dreams, but as in all Western backed, funded or armed ruinations “it is not productive” to count the dead, as an American General memorably stated of fellow human beings.

In context, the survey found that:

“One school building in Dhubab, Taiz governorate, has been hit nine times … A market in Sirwah, Marib governorate, has been struck 24 times.”

Commenting on the survey, the UK’s shadow Defence Secretary, Clive Lewis, said:

“It’s sickening to think of British-built weapons being used against civilians and the government has an absolute responsibility to do everything in its power to stop that from happening. But as Ministers turn a blind eye to the conflict … evidence that Humanitarian Law has been violated is becoming harder to ignore by the day.”

Forty six percent of Yemen’s 26.83 million population are under fifteen years old. The trauma they are undergoing cannot be imagined.

Activists rally in front of the UK Parliament to protest British arms sales to Saudi Arabia. (file photo)

Activists rally in front of the UK Parliament to protest British arms sales to Saudi Arabia. (Source: PressTV)

The original CAAT Court hearing which took place was a Judicial Review in to the legality of the UK government’s arms sales to Saudi, held on 7th, 8th and 10th of February in the High Court.

CAAT stated, relating to the case:

“For more than two years the government has refused to stop its immoral and illegal arms sales to Saudi Arabia – despite overwhelming evidence that UK weapons are being used in violations of International Humanitarian Law in Yemen.”

They also quoted Parliament’s International Development and Business, Innovation and Skills Committees, who opined in October 2016:

“Given the evidence we have heard and the volume of UK-manufactured arms exported to Saudi Arabia, it seems inevitable that any violations of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law by the coalition have involved arms supplied from the UK. This constitutes a breach of our own export licensing criteria.” (Emphasis added.)

UK supplied arms since the onset of the assault on Yemen are:

  • £2.2 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)
  • £1.1 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)
  • £430,000 worth of ML6 licences (Armoured vehicles, tanks.)

Contacting CAAT spokesman Andrew Smith I queried what “countermeasures” might be (point two.) He said technically, protective items, however: “CAAT feels that the overwhelming majority will be bombs and missiles including those being used on Yemen.”

On 5th June CAAT had pointed out some further glaring anomalies:

“The last two months have seen three terrible terrorist attacks carried out in the UK. The attacks were the responsibility of those that have carried them out, and they have been rightly condemned.”

However: “Last week it was revealed by the Guardian that the Home Office may not publish a Report into the funding of terrorism in the UK. It is believed that the Report will be particularly critical of Saudi Arabia.”

Andrew Smith commented:

“Only two months ago the Prime Minster was in Riyadh trying to sell weapons to the Saudi regime, which has some of the most abusive laws in the world. This toxic relationship is not making anyone safer, whether in the UK or in Yemen, where UK arms are being used with devastating results.”

Nevertheless: “Delivering an open judgment in the High Court in London, Lord Justice Burnett, who heard the case with Mr. Justice Haddon-Cave, said:

“We have concluded that the material decisions of the Secretary of State were lawful. We therefore dismiss the claim.” (2)

CAAT called the ruling a “green light” for the UK government to sell arms to “brutal dictatorships and human rights abusers”.

Interestingly, in increasingly fantasy-democracy-land UK: “The Court (also handed down) a closed judgment, following a case in which half of the evidence was heard in secret on national security grounds.”

What a wonderful catch-all is “national security.”

Moreover: “UK and EU arms sales rules state that export licences cannot be granted if there is a ‘clear risk’ that the equipment could be used to break International Humanitarian Law. Licences are signed off by the Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox.” (Emphasis added.)

Mind stretching.

So the oversight of what constitutes a “clear risk” of mass murder and humanitarian tragedy, goes to the Minister whose Ministry stands to make £ Billions from the arms sales. Another from that bulging: “You could not make this up” file.

‘The case … included uncomfortable disclosures for the government, including documents in which the Export Policy Chief told the Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, then in charge of licensing:

“my gut tells me we should suspend (weapons exports to the country).”

‘Documents obtained by the Guardian showed that the UK was preparing to suspend exports after the bombing of a funeral in Yemen in October 2016 killed 140 civilians. But even after that mass murder, the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, advised Fox that sales should continue, adding:

“The ‘clear risk’ threshold for refusal … has not yet been reached.”

Johnson with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and the UAE’s Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan in London, 19 July 2016 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

For anyone asleep at the wheel, Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, is supposed to be the UK’s chief diplomat. Definition: “a person who can deal with others in a sensitive and tactful way. Synonyms: Tactful person, conciliator, reconciler, peacemaker.” Comment redundant.

‘CAAT presented “many hundreds of pages” of reports from the UN, European Parliament, Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières, Amnesty International and others documenting airstrikes on schools, hospitals and a water well in Yemen, as well as incidents of mass civilian casualties.’

However, to further batter the mind: “The reports “represent a substantial body of evidence suggesting that the coalition has committed serious breaches of International Humanitarian Law in the course of its engagement in the Yemen conflict”, the Judges wrote. “However, this open source material is only part of the picture.”

In two eye watering fox guarding henhouse observations: ‘The Saudi government had conducted its own investigations into allegations of concern, the judges noted, dismissing CAAT’s concern that the Saudi civilian casualty tracking unit was working too slowly and had only reported on 5% of the incidents. The Kingdom’s “growing efforts” were “of significance and a matter which the Secretary of State was entitled to take into account” when deciding whether British weapons might be used to violate international humanitarian law.’

So Saudi investigates itself and the Secretary of State over views his own actions in the State profiting in £ Billions from seeminglyindiscriminate mass murder and destruction.

‘There was “anxious scrutiny – indeed what seems like anguished scrutiny at some stages” within government of the decision to continue granting licences, wrote the Judges. But the Secretary of State was “rationally entitled” to decide that the Saudi-led coalition was not deliberately targeting civilians and was making efforts to improve its targeting processes, and so to continue granting licences.”

Pinch yourselves, Dear Readers, it would seem we live in times of the oversight in the land of the seriously deranged.

CAAT’s Andrew Smith, said:

“This is a very disappointing verdict and we are pursuing an appeal. If this verdict is upheld then it will be seen as a green light for government to continue arming and supporting brutal dictatorships and human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia that have shown a blatant disregard for international humanitarian law.

“Every day we are hearing new and horrifying stories about the humanitarian crisis that has been inflicted on the people of Yemen. Thousands have been killed while vital and lifesaving infrastructure has been destroyed.” The case had exposed the UK’s “toxic relationship” with Saudi Arabia.

On Wednesday 12th July, UK Home Secretary, Amber Rudd again invoked “national security” (something Yemenis can only dream of in any context) and presented Parliament with a paltry four hundred and thirty word “summary” of the Report on the funding of terrorism,origins of which go back to December 2015.

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott encapsulated the thoughts of many, telling Parliament:

“ … there is a strong suspicion this Report is being suppressed to protect this government’s trade and diplomatic priorities, including in relation to Saudi Arabia. The only way to allay those suspicions is to publish the report in full.” (3)

Caroline Lucas, co-Leader of the Green Party said:

“The statement gives absolutely no clue as to which countries foreign funding for extremism originates from – leaving the government open to further allegations of refusing to expose the role of Saudi Arabian money in terrorism in the UK.”

Liberal Democrat Leader, Tim Fallon condemned the refusal of the government to publish the Report as: “utterly shameful.”

Amber Rudd concentrated on pointing to individuals and organisations which might be donating, often unknowingly to: “ … inadvertently supporting extremist individuals or organisations.”

Peanuts compared to UK arms to Saudi Arabia.

CAAT’s appeal is to go back to the High Court and: “If it fails, will go to the Court of Appeal” states Andrew Smith.

It also transpires that Saudi has dropped British made cluster bombs in Yemen, despite the UK being signatory to the 2008 Ottawa Convention on Cluster Munitions, banning their use, or assistance with their use. The Scottish National Party said it was a:

“shameful stain on the UK’s foreign policy and its relationship with Saudi Arabia, as well as a failure by this government to uphold its legal treaty obligations”. (4)

Final confirmation that the British government’s relations with Saudi over Arms and Yemen lies somewhere between duplicity and fantasy would seem to be confirmed in an interview (5) with Crispin Blunt, MP., former army officer and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

Inspite of the legal anomalies and humanitarian devastation, he assured the BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse that the Saudis were “rigorous” in making sure there were no breaches of international law and adopted the sort of high standard of the British army.

In that case, the cynic might conclude, given the devastation caused by the British army in Afghanistan and Iraq, perhaps it is not only arms and money that are the ties that bind the two countries, but scant regard for humanity itself.

Notes

1. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/16/third-of-saudi-airstrikes-on-yemen-have-hit-civilian-sites-data-shows
2. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/10/uk-arms-exports-to-saudi-arabia-can-continue-high-court-rules?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other
3. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jul/12/uk-terror-funding-report-will-not-be-published-for-national-security-reasons
4. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/19/saudis-dropped-british-cluster-bombs-in-yemen-fallon-tells-commons
5. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0481zgm

Posted in Saudi Arabia, UK, Yemen0 Comments

Politics of a Parade: How Pro-Independence Puerto Ricans Resisted Colonial Tactics in New York City

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By Ashoka JegrooTruthout 

Thousands of marchers, including Puerto Rican leader and recently freed political prisoner Oscar López Rivera, filled Manhattan's 5th Avenue for the 60th Annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade on June 11, 2017.

Thousands of marchers, including Puerto Rican leader and recently freed political prisoner Oscar López Rivera, filled Manhattan’s 5th Avenue for the 60th Annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade on June 11, 2017. (Photo: Joe Catron / Flickr)

In a modern-day manifestation of the old colonial divide-and-rule tactic, corporations and New York City politicians, including the mayor, were recently caught trying to engage in backdoor deals to divide the city’s Puerto Rican community over a pro-Puerto Rican independence activist’s participation in the Puerto Rican Day Parade.

The corporate and political efforts to divide the Puerto Rican community came after Manhattan’s annual Puerto Rican Day Parade — one of the diaspora’s largest celebrations of Puerto Rican culture — announced that it would honor Oscar Lopez Rivera, a pro-Puerto Rican independence political prisoner who had recently had his sentence commuted by President Barack Obama after being imprisoned for over 35 years for “seditious conspiracy.”

The controversial parade in question took place on Sunday, June 11, the same day that Puerto Rico, currently facing a financial crisis, held a referendum on the island’s political status, leaving Puerto Ricans divided over choosing between its present “Commonwealth” status, statehood or independence. With a historically low 23 percent voter turnout due to a boycott of the election by independistas, who say the referendum was rigged in favor of statehood, statehood won with 97 percent of the vote. But the referendum was essentially meaningless.

With an independista like Lopez Rivera vilified as a “terrorist” in the leadup to the parade, it’s no surprise that those who benefit from colonialism, both on the island and in the diaspora, are doing their best to make the fight for independence difficult. The results of the referendum and the controversy surrounding Lopez Rivera in New York City both clearly show the colonial status of Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans, even in the diaspora. Back on the island, this colonial status was thrown into high relief in August 2016, when the United States government set up a colonial fiscal control board for Puerto Rico that has since imposed drastic austerity measures, including cutting funds to schools and social services.

After the announcement in New York City that the National Puerto Rican Day Parade would honor Lopez Rivera during its June 11 event from 12 pm to 3 pm, Lopez Rivera — a former member of the militant Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN) who carried out a series of bombings in the 1970s — was quickly demonized by right-wingers, the police and both of NYC’s major local newspapers.

Corporate sponsors of the parade, including GoyaJet Blue, the New York YankeesAT&T and Coca-Cola, announced that they would boycott the parade due to Lopez Rivera being honored.

Local media outlets like the NY Daily NewsUnivisionNBC New York and Telemundo47 said they would pull out of the parade. Commissioner James O’Neill of the New York City Police Department and officials like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzales also announced that they would not be marching in the parade either. Nonetheless, the board of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade stood firm in its decision to honor Lopez Rivera. Mayor Bill de Blasio at first claimed that he would march in the parade, but behind the scenes, he was working to get Lopez Rivera to step aside as an honoree at the parade.

“I made clear to [the board of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade] that I was uncomfortable with the situation and I wanted them to resolve it, I really believe they could resolve it,” Mayor de Blasio told NY1. “If it wasn’t resolved, I wasn’t going to be a part of it.”

Amidst these boycotts of the main parade in Manhattan, corporations and politicians started to express interest in the smaller, more local, third annual Sunset Park Puerto Rican Day Parade scheduled for 5 pm in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

The Sunset Park parade also began to attract backdoor offers of financial support, especially from those same corporations and local politicians. What they didn’t realize is that the organizers of the Sunset Park parade are also independistas who support Lopez Rivera.
“That’s the history of political repression under US colonialism,” Dennis Flores of the community activist group El Grito de Sunset Park said regarding the boycotts and vilification of Lopez Rivera. “This is what’s it’s been like for the independence movement from the very beginning, when the US bombed their way and invaded Puerto Rico in 1898.”

Flores and El Grito de Sunset Park organize the neighborhood’s parade. As a result, many of the politicians and corporations that boycotted the main parade began to get in contact with him, sending him emails and text messages and requesting conference calls. Flores says that many of them offered him money and other forms of support in exchange for being able to march in the Sunset Park parade and asked Flores to openly denounce Lopez Rivera and the main parade. He recounted one call he received from the NYPD Hispanic Society, which also included representatives from Goya on the line.

“They basically were feeling me out and asking me if we were honoring Oscar Lopez in our parade,” Flores told me.

They also asked Flores if Lopez Rivera was going to attend the Sunset Park parade too. When Flores informed them that Lopez Rivera was technically not getting an award and that Lopez Rivera would not be at the Sunset Park parade, they made their offer.

“Clearly, they already knew who I was,” Flores said. “They knew what I was about, but they were trying to find the safe ground to be able to say ‘How about if we support what you guys are doing? How about if we partake, we sponsor your parade, we bring some people out there to march?”

However, Flores said, there was a catch: “They basically said: ‘Are you willing to disassociate yourself from anything about Oscar Lopez? Denounce what they’re doing, and we’ll come out and support your parade.'”

Flores then refused, informing them that he’s an independista as well as a supporter of Lopez Rivera. Flores even later released a statement on the day of the parade saying, “We honor the freedom fighter Oscar Lopez Rivera and we stand in solidarity with the Puerto Rican people back on our home island.”

“They didn’t get the opening that they were hoping for,” Flores told me. “But they were clearly shopping around.”

And they weren’t the only ones shopping around. People from Univision reportedly contacted Flores and asked if he supported Lopez Rivera. Flores showed me emails and text messages proving that he was contacted by the staff of politicians like Public Advocate Letitia James, Brooklyn DA Gonzales, Mayor de Blasio and even the right-wing New York State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis. All of these politicians are also either facing an upcoming election or looking to pursue higher office.

Marco Carrión, the commissioner of de Blasio’s Community Affairs Unit, contacted Flores on behalf of the mayor. Emails show that Carrión invited Flores to coffee at the Aroma Espresso Bar on May 19. At these meet-ups for coffee, Carrión tried to convince Flores to let Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner O’Neill march in the Sunset Park parade.

Flores, who is a member of the Coalition to End Broken Windows, decided this was a good opportunity to force the mayor, the commissioner, and all the other politicians to publicly address Broken Windows policing, a policing strategy that purports to reduce larger crimes through strict enforcement of small quality-of-life crimes but which, in fact, is used as an excuse to target, harass and arrest poor people and people of color. Mayor de Blasio has supported this policing approach since he first entered office and hired one of Broken Windows’ biggest advocates, Bill Bratton, as NYPD Commissioner. Bratton resigned in September 2016 amidst protests, but the mayor has persisted in defending Broken Windows despite criticism from immigrant and anti-police-brutality activists.

“He had asked me if the mayor and the police commissioner could come to the [Sunset Park] Puerto Rican Day Parade,” Flores told me. “I said the only way that could ever happen is if the mayor and the police commissioner sit down at a town hall, hosted by us, to address issues around Broken Windows.”

According to Flores, Carrión didn’t say no at that point but claimed he’d try to get an answer from the mayor and the commissioner. Flores later met with fellow anti-police-brutality activists in the Coalition to End Broken Windows to discuss setting up the town hall, but Carrión never got back to Flores. More than a week later, when they finally met up again, Flores said it seemed clear that Carrión was stalling. A town hall on Broken Windows, opposition to which has gained some steam amongst liberal establishment politicians, would not look good for Mayor de Blasio, even if it meant he could march in the Sunset Park Parade.

Unsurprisingly, Brooklyn DA Gonzalez, who is currently campaigning to keep his job against a number of strong contenders, did agree to participate in a town hall set to take place within the next two weeks. He recently had to square up with some of his opponents at a forum, where it was made clear to Gonzalez that he needs to present himself as progressive on policing issues in order to win.

Also, unsurprisingly, the right-wing Assemblywoman Malliotakis, who is currently running for mayor, had the most clumsy interaction with Flores. Malliotakis, never one to pass up a chance to bash Mayor de Blasio, had recently called Lopez Rivera a “terrorist” and loudly denounced de Blasio for saying that he’d march in the main parade.

“While we are pleased that Oscar Lopez Rivera will not be recognized at the Puerto Rican day parade as a freedom fighting hero,” her campaign wrote in a statement on June 5, “the fact remains that this terrorist has shockingly shown more integrity in doing what is right for the parade than our own city leadership who refuse to denounce him and instead waited until he declined the award.”

But behind the scenes, her staff was contacting Flores, an independista and copwatcher, in order to ask if she could “donate” and march in the Sunset Park parade — a parade which officially began as a response to police brutality and has always included an Oscar Lopez Rivera contingent.

“Mr. Flores I am writing on behalf of Assemblywoman Malliotakis who would like to march in the Sunset Park parade,” says a text message sent to Flores from a number belonging to the Staten Island-based Von Agency, the public relations agency working for Assemblywoman Malliotakis’ mayoral campaign. “Can we still donate and participate?”

Before Flores could even respond to the text, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle published a whole article claiming that Assemblywoman Malliotakis would be marching in the Sunset Park parade, which was presented as the good parade as opposed to the Manhattan parade “honoring political extremist” Oscar Lopez Rivera. These were classic colonial divide-and-rule tactics, where conflict and division is encouraged amongst a colonized people in order to more easily rule them, and Flores made sure to publicly state that Malliotakis was not welcome at the Sunset Park parade.

“Clearly, that’s all she wanted. She wanted that type of exposure,” Flores told me. “She didn’t care about Sunset Park. She didn’t care about us. She had no respect for the organizers. She didn’t even wait for us to give a response to say ‘yes, you can come to the parade’ or ‘no, you cannot.’ Nothing!”

Truthout contacted the offices of Malliotakis, Marco Carrión and de Blasio for comment in the days leading up to the parade but did not receive a reply.

By demonizing Lopez Rivera as a “terrorist,” boycotting the main parade, and attempting to get a Puerto Rican organizer to publicly denounce both the main parade and Lopez Rivera, corporations and local politicians have shown that while they will gladly accept Puerto Rican dollars and votes, they will not tolerate Puerto Ricans who dare fight for the freedom of their people. Even after Lopez Rivera had announced in a June 1 op-ed that he would be marching “not as your honoree but as a humble Puerto Rican and grandfather,” they refused to end their boycotts.

But these recent events have also shown that Puerto Ricans, as well as Black and Brown people in general, can resist modern colonial divide-and-rule tactics and can even flex their political muscles against the colonialists in the process. So far, Flores’ town hall on Broken Windows scheduled for June 30 is set to feature Public Advocate James, DA Gonzales and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, himself a former cop, originally agreed to attend the town hall but, less than 24 hours after the parade, backed out, which resulted in El Grito de Sunset Park releasing a statement on June 13 banning him from ever marching in the Sunset Park parade again. Meanwhile, voters have learned the damaging truth about the attempts made by both Mayor de Blasio and Assemblywoman Malliotakis at backdoor deals.

As long as the colonized have just a little bit of integrity and solidarity, they can take on their oppressors. And for now, politicians and corporations will know that the Puerto Rican community will fight back against efforts to divide it.
“You’re pitting us against other people,” Flores told the NY Daily News regarding Malliotakis trying to march in the Sunset Park parade. “You’re using our parade to say, ‘These are the good Puerto Ricans and those are the bad ones.’ That’s not cool with us.”

Posted in USA0 Comments

Naomi Klein on Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and Youth-Led Grassroots Progressive Insurgencies

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Image result for Democracy Now! CARTOON

Over the weekend, more than 4,000 people gathered for the People’s Summit in Chicago. Among those who spoke was Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who called the Democratic Party’s strategy an absolute failure and blamed the party for the election of President Trump. This comes after the Labour Party in Britain won a shocking number new seats in the British election. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is now poised to possibly become the next British prime minister. For more on these insurgent progressive politicians, we speak with best-selling author and journalist Naomi Klein, whose new book is No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need.

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This weekend, 4,000 people packed the McCormick Place convention center for a People’s Summit. Independent senator, former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders delivered the keynote speech. During his speech, he repeatedly criticized the Democratic Party, calling it an “absolute failure” and blaming it for the election of President Trump.

SENBERNIE SANDERS: I’m often asked by the media and others: How did it come about that Donald Trump, the most unpopular presidential candidate in the modern history of our country, won the election? And my answer is — and my answer is that Trump didn’t win the election; the Democratic Party lost the election. Let us — let us be very, very clear: The current model — the current model and the current strategy of the Democratic Party is an absolute failure. This is not — this is not my opinion. This is the facts. You know, we focus a lot on the presidential election, but we also have to understand that Democrats have lost the US House, the US Senate. Republicans now control almost two-thirds of the governors’ chairs throughout the country. And over the last nine years, Democrats have lost almost 1,000 legislative seats in states all across this country. Today — today, in almost half of the states in America, Democratic Party has almost no political presence at all. Now, if that’s not a failure, if that’s not a failed model, I don’t know what a failed model is.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Bernie Sanders speaking on Saturday night at the People’s Summit in Chicago at the McCormick Place convention center. It was an event that was organized by many different groups, primarily the Nurses United, nurses around the country. About a thousand nurses were there. Naomi, we were both there. Can you talk about the significance of what Bernie Sanders said? Now, remember, he is in the Democratic leadership —

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: — right now of the Senate. He is supposedly like the outreach person. He was brought into it. But he’s got a fierce critique of the Democratic Party.

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah. And I think he’s been biting his tongue a little bit. I might speculate that he was inspired by what just happened in the UK with Jeremy Corbyn — we know he just came back from a trip to the UK — because there is an interesting parallel, in the sense that Jeremy Corbyn was elected by a grassroots, insurgent, youth-led movement. He was elected as leader originally — a youth-led movement called Momentum in the UK, many, many young people who joined the Labour Party in order to support Jeremy Corbyn. And there was this — they were treated as, you know, invade — like, instead of being excited about this wave of interest in the political party, the Labour Party establishment, the so-called New Labour party establishment, because Labour was rebranded by Tony Blair in the late 1990s to be the New Labour party, which is kind of like a labor-scented party as opposed to a party of actually working people, really using the tools of marketing as opposed to having a party that knows what it stands for and who it stands for.

And so, Jeremy Corbyn was elected, and there was just this campaign of sabotage. It was just the end of the world. He’s unelectable. He was smeared. Then there was a coup to try to unseat him. He was sabotaged relentlessly by his MPs, while he was leader, who were constantly leaking damning information, trying to make him look bad in the press, sabotaging him at every front, right? But the insurgency was ultimately successful, in that this campaign was a tremendous upset. It was an — sorry, this election was a tremendous upset in the UK [Theresa] May did not need to call the election. She said she wouldn’t call the election. The only reason she called the election, because she was so convinced that she was going to get an overwhelming majority, which was supposed to give her this mandate to get the best deal possible under Brexit as they negotiated with the EU. And there’s this huge upset, and, in fact, she loses all these seats, she loses her majority. Jeremy Corbyn wins about 30 seats.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to Jeremy Corbyn —

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: — in his own words.

JEREMY CORBYN: What’s happened is people have said they’ve had quite enough of austerity politics, they’ve had quite enough of cuts in public expenditure, underfunding our health service, underfunding our schools and our education service and not giving our young people the chance they deserve in our society.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Jeremy Corbyn speaking. I wanted to ask you — in No Is Not Enough, you also raise some criticisms of why Bernie Sanders was not more successful during the primary campaign. And you raise the issue that some people claim that Hillary Clinton rode identity politics, as well as the machinations of the Democratic Party, to be able to persevere against him, in that was an issue of identity politics versus class politics. But you raise some criticism on that. I’m wondering if you could expand on that.

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, I mean, and I endorsed Bernie and support him. I think he’s a tremendously important voice, and I’m so grateful to him. But I don’t think we, you know, do ourselves a service on the progressive side of the political spectrum — you know, those of us who do believe it is a moment for deep change as opposed to these little sort of tinkering changes — to not engage in self-criticism in this moment. I mean, I am sort of disheartened by the extent to which some of this debate is still frozen as if we are still in the primary, and you still have people in their hard, you know, “Bernie would have won” camps, and you still have Hillary supporters refighting and blaming Bernie supporters for Hillary’s defeat. And it’s just like we have to get out of that debate.

And I think on — among the people who did support Bernie, like the many thousands of people who were at the People’s Summit, I think it’s very important to understand why Bernie wasn’t able to go all the way, right? I mean, he got 13 million votes. He took 22 states. He got closer than any candidate who described himself as a democratic socialist, his campaign as a political revolution. I mean, it was incredible. But I don’t think Bernie lost the primary because the Democratic base is too conservative for Bernie. I think he lost the primary because he was not able to connect with, to speak to enough black and Latino voters, who tend to be more progressive than the rest of the Democratic base, and also to older women, who felt that their issues were too much of an add-on or sort of tacked on.

So, you know, I think, frankly, the best quote in my book is from Michelle Alexander, the author of The New Jim Crow, just a wonderful author and theorist and activist. And, you know, she said to me that if the progressives cannot do a better job of connecting with black voters, of understanding the role of race in American history and telling that story differently, she said, “They better get Elon Musk on speed dial, because they’re going to need another planet.” And so, I think we — and one of the things that I found really inspiring about the People’s Summit was I think that critique was really embedded in the way the weekend was organized, I mean, beginning with the voices of organizers of color, the Million Hoodies Movement. We heard from the chairs of the Women’s March, including Linda Sarsour, on the opening night, speaking explicitly about the need for a deeply intersectional politic, to use Kimberlé Crenshaw’s very important framing, and saying, “No, this is not — this is not a competition between class and economics and so-called identity politics. It is deeply interconnected, and we can’t understand the story of the United States and what this economy is without understanding how race has been used systematically as a wedge to divide and enforce this brutal economic system.”

So I think that critique is making it in there, you know, and I didn’t — don’t make the critique in the book, you know, in the spirit of finger-pointing. But just because what we are seeing with Bernie’s candidacy, with Corbyn’s candidacy, with Mélenchon’s candidacy in France, who came two points shy —

AMY GOODMAN: Explain who Mélenchon was.

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah. Well, Jean-Luc —

AMY GOODMAN: Not to be confused with the new prime minister.

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, right. So, in the recent French elections recently, there was a — there was a surprise, where Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who is a very left-wing candidate, significantly to the left of Bernie Sanders — I think he was calling for a rate of a 100 percent taxation for the rich, right? — running on a campaign of really deep redistribution of wealth in order to pay for the social safety net — it was a much less xenophobic message. It was much more friendly to refugees than we’ve been hearing from French politicians, you know, even on the so-called left, an antiwar message, a pro-peace message, making the connections, as Jeremy Corbyn did, between the failed war-on-terror-model foreign interventions and terrorist attacks in France — in Jeremy Corbyn’s case, in the UK — really trying to get at these root causes. Jean-Luc Mélenchon picked up, I think, 10 points. I mean, he surged at the end. And he came, at the end of the campaign — and this is on the first ballot, because the way the French elections work is they have multiple candidates on the first ballot, and then they narrow it down to two candidates for the final vote.

AMY GOODMAN: For president.

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah. And all of a sudden, Mélenchon is getting 70,000 people at rallies, right? I mean, his was the campaign that had the energy. And he came within two points of Marine Le Pen, so he almost made it onto the second ballot, which would have meant that it was a race between a Hillary-like neoliberal figure, which is who Macron is — Macron is a former banker; he imposed economic austerity under the government of François Hollande, despite Hollande having won the election originally promising to resist the imposition of austerity in France — so it would have been him versus Mélenchon, which would have been a very interesting race. As it turned out, it was Marine Le Pen versus Macron. And thankfully, you know, France rejected fascism.

But my concern is that after, you know, four years of the kind of privatizations, deregulation, austerity politics that I think Macron is almost certain to impose on France, I’m worried about that setting the stage for a surge for the Front National, which is — you know, people have made these direct analogies between Trump and Marine Le Pen, and sort of holding up Macron as if, well, this proves that neoliberalism can beat a candidate like Trump. But Marine Le Pen is not Trump. The more accurate equivalent would be David Duke. I mean, this is a party with ties to Nazism historically, you know, that align themselves with the Vichy regime. The fact that they got around 30 percent of the vote in France is absolutely shocking. It’s nothing to feel, you know, complacent about.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to our discussion. We’re going to talk about what Trump just recently did, pulling out of the Paris accord, as well as healthcare and where it goes in this country. Naomi Klein is from Canada. We’ll talk about single payer and what are its chances today, as the Senate, supposedly, in private, is crafting a healthcare bill. We’re talking to Naomi Klein. She has a new book out today; it’s called No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. Stay with us.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ

Juan González co-hosts Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman. González has been a professional journalist for more than 30 years and a staff columnist at the New York Daily News since 1987. He is a two-time recipient of the George Polk Award.

Posted in Politics0 Comments

Report says UAE envoy, pro-Zionist think tank working against Iran

NOVANEWS
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A number of emails belonging to the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the United States have revealed that Yousef Al-Otaiba has been collaborating with a pro-Jewish Nazi think tank against Iran, a report says.

The Intercept published a report on Saturday, suggesting that the emails, sent by hackers to several US media outlets this week, were clearly indicative of close relations between the UAE and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a pro-Nazi, neoconservative think tank also known for its influence on the administration of US President Donald Trump.

The emails, the authenticity of which has been confirmed by major news outlets, were first leaked by hackers who referred to themselves as GlobalLeaks. They show that the UAE envoy has established a growing correspondence with the FDD to find ways of hampering Iran’s ability to engage in business activities with major companies around the world.

In an email dated March 10, 2017, FDD chief Mark Dubowitz sent a “Target list of companies investing in Iran, UAE and Saudi Arabia”  so that the ambassador could use the Zio-Wahhabi UAE and Saudi Zio-Wahhabi regime influence on those companies, which includes France’s Airbus and Russia’s Lukoil, to stop them from doing business with Iran. Also attached to the email is a memorandum that includes a lengthy list of “Non-U.S. businesses with operations in Saudi Arabia or UAE that are looking to invest in Iran.”

The correspondence between Otaiba and the FDD covers a range of other topics related to Iran, including how the Zio-Wahhabi regime in UAE and Saudi Zio-Wahhabi family could pressure President Trump to adopt its more hawkish line on Iran, or what policies the two Arab countries could adopt to impact the internal affairs of Iran.

The FDD belongs to Zionist Sheldon Adelson, one of the largest political donors in the United States and a close friend of Nazi Prime Minister Naziyahu. Hacked emails show how deep the think tank and the Nazi Jewish regime have been cooperating with a Persian Gulf monarchy.

Nazi regime and the UAE have no diplomatic relations. The United Arab Emirates does not recognize ‘Israel’ and has, like many other Arab and Muslim countries, called on the regime to withdraw from the Palestinian territories it occupied in the 1967 War.

However, backchannel cooperation has increased between the two sides over the past year as the situation in the Middle East has changed dramatically.

Posted in Middle East, UAE0 Comments

Drug Overdose Deaths, 2016: Casualties of War

NOVANEWS
Image result for Drug Overdose CARTOON
By Thomas L. Knapp 

Drug overdose is now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50, the New York Times‘s Josh Katz reports. In 2016, overdoses claimed somewhere between 59,000 and 65,000 lives.

That’s more American lives than were lost in the Vietnam war. It’s 20 times the casualty count of 9/11. It’s half again as many deaths as attributed to the “gun violence” we hear so much about in its peak year, 1994.

Katz pins the blame for these deaths on use, abuse, and sometimes accidental overdose of heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid painkillers. He goes along with the current fad of calling the phenomenon an “opioid epidemic.” That’s soothingly simple. The word “epidemic” implies an infectious agent to which we need attribute neither consciousness nor responsibility.

But those 60,000 or so dead Americans aren’t victims of a faceless “epidemic.” They’re casualties of a decades-long war waged on the American public by the federal and state governments. It’s called the war on drugs, and the Times piece, curiously, doesn’t refer to it even in passing.

Here’s what life would look like in an America at peace: If you wanted an opium product for either medical or recreational purposes, you’d walk into your nearest pharmacy and buy it.

You’d get a product of known quality, quantity and purity. As long as you followed the instructions on the box correctly, your chance of overdosing would be infinitesimal.

You’d probably stop on your way home from work for your daily fix, perhaps with the milk you forgot to get while grocery shopping. It would be cheap enough that you could support your habit with a regular job like the millions of smokers, alcoholics and Starbucks customers who don’t have to burglarize homes and steal car stereos to support their habits.

Yes, that simple. Really. In fact, that’s exactly how it was before the war.

Here’s what America at war looks like:

Tens of thousands of deaths, hundreds of thousands of POWs in local, state and federal prisons, and tens of billions of your tax dollars to keep up the pace of killings and cagings, year after year, decade after decade.

Rule by people simultaneously more lethal to Americans than, and morally inferior to, Osama bin Laden (he never tried to tell us he was murdering us for our own good, did he?).

Oh, and the people who want the drugs are going to get them anyway.

Which America sounds better to you?

Posted in USA0 Comments

Hedge fund billionaire creates charter schools that teach about I$raHell

NOVANEWS
Hedge fund billionaire creates charter schools that teach about Israel, “the Jewish miracle of the 20th century”

Image result for Birthright Israel, CARTOON

If Americans Knew 

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reports that Michael Steinhardt, an atheist, billionaire, and “mega-philanthropist,” has poured millions into projects for American Jews. He is best known as the founder of Birthright Israel, a free, ten-day trip to Israel that is enjoyed by a large percentage of Jewish young adults. He also facilitates programming after the Birthright experience in order to maintain participants’ loyalty to Israel and Jewish culture.

Steinhardt believes that American Jewish education needs to change, and consequently has founded a network of Hebrew-language charter schools.

In these schools, Steinhardt explains, “Jewish kids… will learn a great deal about Israel… and there’s a great deal of emphasis on Israel, Zionism, stuff like that.” He adds that “Jews have accomplished so much, so inexplicably out of proportion to their numbers, in [the last] 300 years, and it’s one of the great failures of Jewish education that that’s not focused on at all.”

When pressed to explain why he, as an atheist, supports a Jewish education, he explained, “The modern state of Israel is the Jewish miracle of the 20th century, but it’s the secular part of Israel that’s the miracle… the development of a society out of nothing using Zionist ideals… Israel has become, for me, the substitute for religion.”

Steinhardt continued, “Israel is a complicated place in a strange part of the world… There are a substantial number of Jews who believe that Israel should leave the settlements, leave the West Bank… The more one understands about Israel, the more comfortable one becomes with the politics of the Israeli government.”

He went on to claim that “Israel is to me the most moral state on this planet, [even] with the occupation.”

If Americans Knew details the effects of the occupation to which Steinhardt refers: “In violation of international law, Israel has confiscated over 52 percent of the land in the West Bank and 30 percent of the Gaza Strip for military use or for settlement by Jewish civilians… From 1967 to 1982, Israel’s military government demolished 1,338 Palestinian homes on the West Bank. Over this period, more than 300,000 Palestinians were detained without trial for various periods by Israeli security forces.”

The occupation itself is illegal according to international law, as are Israeli settlements and their over 500,000 Jewish settlers, the separation wall, restriction of movement, detention without charge—including detention of minors, collective punishment, ethnic cleansing (through forced depopulation and other means), home demolition (close to 50,000 structures have been demolished since 1967), and human rights violations.

American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) reports on damaging effects of occupation on the Gaza Strip, including a ten-year, ongoing siege and numerous military attacks, leaving more than 80 percent of the population dependent on international assistance for survival.

AFSC emphasizes that “the situation in Gaza should not be viewed as a humanitarian crisis… [but as a] political crisis that can only be resolved through… ending the blockade and Israel’s continued occupation of the Palestinian territory, which are at the root of the crisis.”

Posted in USA, ZIO-NAZI0 Comments

Nazi regime ever-more sadistic reprisals help shore up a sense of victimhood

NOVANEWSIsrael’s ever-more sadistic reprisals help shore up a sense of victimhood

Israel’s ever-more sadistic reprisals help shore up a sense of victimhood

Israeli soldier headlocking Palestinian boy

By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth

When Israel passed a new counter-terrorism law last year, Ayman Odeh, a leader of the country’s large minority of Palestinian citizens, described its draconian measures as colonialism’s “last gasp”. He said: “I see… the panic of the French at the end of the occupation of Algeria.”

The panic and cruelty plumbed new depths last week, when Israeli officials launched a $2.3 million lawsuit against the family of Fadi Qanbar, who crashed a truck into soldiers in Jerusalem in January, killing four. He was shot dead at the scene.

The suit demands that his widow, Tahani, reimburse the state for the compensation it awarded the soldiers’ families. If she cannot raise the astronomic sum, the debt will pass to her four children, the oldest of whom is currently only seven.

Israel is reported to be preparing many similar cases.

Like other families of Palestinians who commit attacks, the Qanbars are homeless, after Israel sealed their East Jerusalem home with cement. Twelve relatives were also stripped of their residency papers as a prelude to expelling them to the West Bank.

Israel has taken collective punishment – a serious violation of international law – to new extremes, stretching the notion to realms once imaginable only in a dystopian fable like George Orwell’s 1984.

None has done anything wrong – their crime is simply to be related to someone Israel defines as a “terrorist”.

This trend is intensifying. Israel has demanded that the Palestinian Authority stop paying a small monthly stipend to families like the Qanbars, whose breadwinner was killed or jailed. Conviction rates among Palestinians in Israel’s military legal system stand at more than 99 per cent, and hundreds of prisoners are incarcerated without charge.

Israeli legislation is set to seize $280 million – a sum equivalent to the total stipends – from taxes Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, potentially bankrupting it.

On 12 July Israel loyalists will introduce in the US Senate a bill to similarly deny the PA aid unless it stops “funding terror”. Issa Karaka, a Palestinian official, said it would be impossible for the PA to comply: “Almost every other household… is the family of a prisoner or martyr.”

Israel has taken collective punishment – a serious violation of international law – to new extremes, stretching the notion to realms once imaginable only in a dystopian fable like George Orwell’s 1984.

Israel argues that a potential attacker can be dissuaded only by knowing his loved ones will suffer harsh retribution. Or put another way, Israel is prepared to use any means to crush the motivation of Palestinians to resist its brutal, five-decade occupation.

Ever-more sadistic forms of revenge shore up a collective and historic sense of Jewish victimhood while deflecting Israelis’ attention from the reality that their country is a brutal colonial settler state.

All evidence, however, indicates that when people reach breaking-point, and are willing to die in the fight against their oppressors, they give little thought to the consequences for their families. That was the conclusion of an investigation by the Israeli army more than a decade ago.

In truth, Israel knows its policy is futile. It is not deterring attacks, but instead engaging in complex displacement activity. Ever-more sadistic forms of revenge shore up a collective and historic sense of Jewish victimhood while deflecting Israelis’ attention from the reality that their country is a brutal colonial settler state.

If that verdict seems harsh, consider a newly published study into the effects on operators of using drones to carry out extrajudicial executions, in which civilians are often killed as “collateral damage”.

A US survey found pilots who remotely fly drones soon develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress from inflicting so much death and destruction. The Israeli army replicated the study after its pilots operated drones over Gaza during Israel’s 2014 attack – the ultimate act of collective punishment. Some 500 Palestinian children were killed as the tiny enclave was bombarded for nearly two months.

Doctors were surprised, however, that the pilots showed no signs of depression or anxiety. The researchers speculate that Israeli pilots may feel more justified in their actions, because they are closer to Gaza than US pilots are to Afghanistan, Iraq or Yemen. They are more confident that they are the ones under threat, even as they rain down death unseen on Palestinians.

This endless heaping of insult upon injury for Palestinians is possible only because the West has indulged Israel’s wallowing in victimhood so long. It is time to prick this bubble of self-delusion and remind Israel that it, not the Palestinians, is the oppressor.

The determination to maintain this exclusive self-image as the victim leads to outrageous double standards.

Last week the Israeli supreme court backed the refusal by officials to seal up the homes of three Jews who kidnapped Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old from Jerusalem, in 2014 and burnt him alive.

In May the Israeli government revealed that it had denied compensation to six-year-old Ahmed Dawabsheh, the badly scarred, sole survivor of an arson attack by Jewish extremists that killed his entire family two years ago.

Human rights group B’Tselem recently warned that Israel has given itself immunity from paying compensation to all Palestinians under occupation killed or disabled by the Israeli army – even in cases of criminal wrongdoing.

This endless heaping of insult upon injury for Palestinians is possible only because the West has indulged Israel’s wallowing in victimhood so long. It is time to prick this bubble of self-delusion and remind Israel that it, not the Palestinians, is the oppressor.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI0 Comments

The Summer of Balkan Hopes

NOVANEWS
Adelina Marini

The grand event for the Western Balkans this year is the summit of the Berlin Process countries in the Italian city of Trieste on 12 July. In recent months, expectations have been seriously pumped up that this meeting will provide a major boost to the European integration of the region, which suffers from integration decay and heavy geopolitical headaches. The six Balkan countries in the region hope the EU will untie its purse to the scale of a Marshall Plan for the region, which would lift the poorest European relatives up on their feet and stop the constant brain drain and loss of labour force, with the Union in exchange hoping for a restart of the European integration in those countries, which have fallen victim to the virus of illiberalism and nationalism.

Following a nationalist winter, spring has come to the Balkans

Up until a few months ago, the region was causing serious alarm in Brussels and the capitals of member states because of the dangerous return of nationalist rhetoric from the early 1990s, hate speech, and a serious deterioration in relations between almost all countries in the region and their EU neighbours, with active intervention by Russia being seen under the surface. The situation deteriorated so much that it forced the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Federica Mogherini (Italy, Socialists and Democrats) to admit during her Balkan tour that “the Balkans can easily become one of the chessboards where the big power game can be played”.

Following a heavy winter of questions often asked whether there was a new war coming to the Balkans, the situation today does not seem so desperate. There is no significant improvement in relations between the countries of the region, but the geopolitical conditions are considerably more favourable to the EU. Montenegro has finally become a member of NATO, despite Russia’s fierce resistance and the coup attempts of the autumn of last year. There has also been a significant change in Macedonia. After two years of political instability, the country has finally got a government, headed by Zoran Zaev, who has set an ambitious reform agenda and plans to return the country to the European road, which also includes addressing the most serious problems that have hitherto stopped it – the name dispute with Greece and the signing of a friendship agreement with Bulgaria.

There is a certain, but also rather vague change in Serbia. Following the presidential election in April, the country’s political puzzle changed. Former heavily pro-Russian president Tomislav Nikolić has stepped down from the political scene and former Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić took his seat, who has the image of a pro-European leader in Brussels. This is a very controversial qualification, which is not necessarily false, but it has many conditions attached. Aleksandar Vučić is not tired of saying that Serbia’s main goal is to become a member of the EU and works hard on opening new chapters in the negotiation process. At the same time, he has been moving his country towards illiberalism and ever closer cooperation with Russia. The presidential election, however, showed him a yellow card. More  liberal and democratic political forces emerged on the political scene endangering the political domination of Vučić’s party – the Serbian Progressive Party.

Following months of uncertainty, he finally chose his heir to head the government, the young Ana Brnabić. There is no doubt that her role is to keep Vučić’s control over the executive branch, but at the same time her appointment played a very positive role for Serbia’s image to the West, as Ana Brnabić is Serbia’s first female prime minister and besides she publicly declared herself a member of the LGBT minority. This has created expectations in the West that things are going in the right direction in Serbia, regardless of the fact that Pride parades still rather resemble military parades because of the heavy military guards. In presenting her programme to the Skupshtina, Ana Brnabić has set two priorities which are rather surprising for the region – digitisation and education.

All of this sounds rather great, but Serbia’s Western-pointed stumble with Ana Brnabić has provoked sharp reactions from Russia. For days now the press is basically concerned with what exactly did she mean when she said in an interview for Bloomberg that if pressed to choose Serbia would choose the EU, not Russia, regardless of Russia remaining a close cultural friend of the Serb people. It even got to the Serbian prime minister having to deliver a shorthand copy of the interview to the Russian ambassador to Belgrade, Aleksandar Chepurin. President Vučić stood behind his prime minister saying he saw no problem in her statement. Although it is clear that Ana Brnabić will remain under Mr Vučić’s control, her appointment may be a sign of change, though cautious and slow, in Serbia, which, along with Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, is surrounded by NATO and the EU.

Now is the time for the EU to take advantage of these changes and respond appropriately, as there are still many problems – the relations between Serbia and Kosovo, the situation in Kosovo itself and in Albania too. Nothing of what has been achieved can be taken for granted and irreversible.

Berlin+

There is also a big change on the part of the EU. On May 31 in Berlin, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel delivered a speech, which was commented for months in the Balkans and beyond. In it, he made several important findings, such as “countries from outside the region try to re-establish spheres of influence through old geopolitical thinking”, or that “we can’t simply continue doing things as we did before”. In his speech, he made it clear that it is necessary to change the narrative about the EU in the region. “Of course, it also doesn’t help either when the impression is created that Europe is primarily attending to its own affairs and does not care enough about the Western Balkans”, he said and called for the narrative of the EU to adapt to reality.

This also includes an increase in EU visibility. Sigmar Gabriel has encountered an old paradox in Belgrade during his visit there earlier this year: “I don’t understand why one is greeted on the trip from Belgrade Airport into the city centre by a large poster that celebrates the Russian-Serbian friendship, while the yellow and blue of the European Union is totally invisible.” Moreover, he said, Serbs live with the impression that Russia is Serbia’s largest financial donor. Germany’s top diplomat also announced the “Berlin+” plan, which includes a serious EU financial commitment, the aim of which is to bring the Western Balkans back on the right track.

The extent to which Sigmar Gabriel was on the right track was evident from the fact that his idea has been floating around for months in Serbian media and around the Balkans in general. For the first time in a long time, news from/about the EU prevailed over those from/about Russia. For weeks, the only talk was about how much money the EU would give, that it would be a Marshall Plan of sorts, what projects are to be funded, and so on. This is quite a rare phenomenon, especially on the Serbian media scene where Russia is most often present with comments from Ambassador Chepurin or Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zaharova on all topics, and a close second is the United States, embodied by Deputy Assistant Secretary Brian Hoyt Yee, who is entrusted with the mission of taking care of the Balkans. His opinion is also often present in Serbian media, and the EU participation is limited to opening or blocking of chapters.

The “Berlin+” plan is expected to be officially presented by the European Commission namely in Trieste today (July 12). The sum in question is not quite clear. There is talk of a “substantial new funding”, which will be part of the annual connectivity package. It is also expected that the treaty for the Transport Community will be signed, which will finance the integration of transport networks in the region. Sigmar Gabriel’s words from back in May make it clear that work will be done to build motorways between Serbia, Kosovo and Albania, which will be funded by an additional Infrastructure fund.

Another important initiative expected to be officially announced in Trieste is the creation of a regional economic zone, which has also been discussed in the Balkans for months, and has even been a cause for renewed tension. The idea was launched for the first time this spring in Sarajevo, interpreted as an initiative by Aleksandar Vučić for the creation of a regional market following the model of the European single market. However, some countries, such as Kosovo and Macedonia, have seen attempts to regain Serb dominance in the region, or an attempt to replace EU membership with a regional initiative. Others support the idea, headed by the EU Commissioner for Enlargement Negotiations and Neighbourhood Policy Johannes Hahn (Austria, EPP).

What is to be presented on Wednesday is an economic zone whose goal will be to boost the region’s attractiveness for investment. As Sigmar Gabriel warned in March, however, such an initiative would be successful only if work is done on establishing the rule of law in these countries, as investors will not want to invest if they do not have legal certainty. Another idea on which the Bulgarian EU Council presidency, that starts on 1 January, is working on is the abolition of roaming charges in the Western Balkans. According to a high-ranking Bulgarian diplomatic source, there is already talk about this with the newly appointed Bulgarian EU commissioner Maria Gabriel (EPP), who is responsible for the EU’s digital policy. The aim is to start a discussion on the topic first and then to come up with a concrete plan, which would be a part of the idea of ​​a regional economic zone, the source told euinside.

The idea is not new, but it also has a favourable environment available after the abolition of roaming charges within the EU itself. Several years ago, telecoms in the Western Balkan countries had attempted to agree to the removal of roaming charges in the region or at least to lower prices, but that ended with no result.

As is usually the case at Berlin process summits, it is inevitable that the strained bilateral relations emerge. It is possible that the issue of the border dispute between two parties in the Berlin process – Slovenia and Croatia – will attempt to take over the agenda, as it happened at the annual Dubrovnik forum a week ago. Expectations, however, are that economic benefits will prevail over petty Balkan quarrels. This can only happen if the amount of the financial commitment turns out to be serious enough. This package has the potential to be game changer in the region.

The countries in the Berlin Process from the EU side are Germany, France, Austria, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. The Trieste summit will be a debut on the international stage for Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić. Next year will be the last meeting for the Berlin process. It will take place in London. Some have already expressed scepticism and even criticised the idea that a leaving Britain would host such a forum. But this is unjustified criticism. Britain has always been heavily engaged in the Western Balkans, and there is no reason for it to change its policies towards this region even after exiting, as Prime Minister Theresa May’s behaviour has clearly shown in recent months.

What is more, holding the summit in London is a strong signal for the future foreign-policy relations of the UK and the EU. London hosting it is also a good example of the fact that EU developments should not be overly dramatised. If countries are aware of their national interests and strategic goals, dialogue and mutual cooperation are fully possible. Something the Western Balkan countries still fail to learn.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

Posted in Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia0 Comments


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