Pages: 1 ... 7 8 [9] 10
 on: Aug 31, 2014, 07:08 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Dozens of Yazidi women ‘sold into marriage’ by ISIS: NGO

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, August 30, 2014 12:30 EDT

Several dozen Yazidi women kidnapped by Islamic State jihadists in Iraq have been taken to Syria, forced to convert and sold into marriage to militants, a monitoring group said Saturday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based NGO, said it had confirmed that at least 27 Yazidi women had been sold for around $1,000 each to IS fighters.

The group said it was aware that some 300 Yazidi women had been kidnapped and transported to Syria by the jihadists, but it had so far documented the sale into marriage of 27.

“In recent weeks, some 300 women and girls of the Yazidi faith who were abducted in Iraq have been distributed as spoils of war to fighters from the Islamic State,” a statement said.

The group said it had documented several cases in which the fighters then sold the women as brides for $1,000 each to other IS members after forcing them to convert to Islam.

“The Observatory documented at least 27 cases of those being sold into marriage by Islamic State members in the northeast of Aleppo province, and parts of Raqa and Hassakeh province,” the NGO said.

It added that some Syrian Arabs and Kurds had tried to buy some of the women in a bid to set them free, but they were only being sold to IS members.

The Observatory said it was unclear what had happened to the rest of the 300 women, and strongly denounced the “sale of these women who are being treated as though they are objects to buy and sell.”

Both UN officials and Yazidis fleeing IS advances in Iraq have said fighters kidnapped women to be sold into forced marriages.

UN religious right monitor Heiner Beilefeldt warned earlier this month of reports of women being executed and kidnapped by IS militants.

“We have reports of women being executed and unverified reports that strongly suggest that hundreds of women and children have been kidnapped ?- many of the teenagers have been sexually assaulted, and women have been assigned or sold to ‘IS’ fighters,” she said.

Yazidis, a Kurdish-speaking minority who follow an ancient faith rooted in Zoroastrianism, are dubbed “devil worshippers” by IS militants because of their unorthodox blend of beliefs and practices.

The IS emerged from the one-time Iraqi affiliate of Al-Qaeda but has since broken with that group and espouses an interpretation of Islam that has been widely rejected.

It has pressed a campaign of terror in the areas under its control in Syria and Iraq, which it deems an Islamic “caliphate,” carrying out decapitations, crucifixions and public stonings.

In June, the group launched a lightning offensive in Iraq, overrunning parts of five provinces.

In August, it captured Yazidi villages in the area of Mount Sinjar, prompting an enormous outpouring of the minority amid reports of executions and the abduction of women.


U.S. Strikes Militants Besieging Turkmen in Iraq

AUG. 30, 2014

WASHINGTON — American warplanes launched airstrikes on Sunni militants who have been besieging the town of Amerli in northern Iraq on Saturday, in a broadening of the campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The Pentagon announced the expanded strikes Saturday night. Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said that American planes also airdropped food, water and humanitarian aid to the town of Amerli, home to members of Iraq’s Turkmen minority. The town of 12,000 has been under siege by the militants for more than two months.

Aircraft from Australia, France and the United Kingdom joined the United States in dropping the supplies, Admiral Kirby said in a statement.

Administration officials had characterized the dangers facing the Turkmen, who are Shiite Muslims considered infidels by ISIS, as similar to the threat faced by thousands of Yazidis, who were driven to Mount Sinjar in Iraq after attacks by the militants. The United Nations special representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said last week that the situation in Amerli demanded “immediate action to prevent the possible massacre of its citizens.”

Admiral Kirby said that the American military would “assess the effectiveness” of the airstrikes and airdrops and work with international organizations to provide humanitarian aid as needed.

 on: Aug 31, 2014, 07:04 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
08/31/2014 12:00 PM

A Two-Faced Friendship: Turkey Is 'Partner and Target' for the NSA

By Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach, Michael Sontheimer and Holger Stark

Documents from the archive of whistleblower Edward Snowden reveal wide-scale spying against Turkey by America's NSA and Britain's GCHQ. They also show the US worked closely with Ankara to battle Kurdish separatists.

On a December night in 2011, a terrible thing happened on Mount Cudi, near the Turkish-Iraqi border. One side described it as a massacre; the other called it an accident.

Several Turkish F-16 fighter jets bombed a caravan of villagers that night, apparently under the belief that they were guerilla fighters with the separatist Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK). The group was returning from northern Iraq and their mules were loaded down with fuel canisters and other cargo. They turned out to be smugglers, not PKK fighters. Some 34 people died in the attack.

An American Predator drone flying overhead had detected the group, prompting US analysts to alert their Turkish partners.

The reconnaissance flight -- which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal in 2012 -- and its tragic consequences provided an important insight into the very tight working relationship between American and Turkish intelligence services in the fight against Kurdish separatists. Although the PKK is still considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, its image has been improved radically by its recent success in fighting the Islamic State (IS) in northern Iraq and Syria. PKK fighters, backed by US airstrikes, are on the front lines against the jihadist movement there, and some in the West are now advocating arming the group and lifting its terrorist label.

Documents from the archive of US whistleblower Edward Snowden that SPIEGEL and The Intercept have seen show just how deeply involved America has become in Turkey's fight against the Kurds. For a time, the NSA even delivered its Turkish partners with the mobile phone location data of PKK leaders on an hourly basis. The US government also provided the Turks with information about PKK money flows and the whereabouts of some of its leaders living in exile abroad.

A Leading Target for Spying

At the same time, the Snowden documents also show that Turkey is one of the United States' leading targets for spying. Documents show that the political leadership in Washington, DC, has tasked the NSA with divining Turkey's "leadership intention," as well as monitoring its operations in 18 other key areas. This means that Germany's foreign intelligence service, which drew criticism in recent weeks after it was revealed it had been spying on Turkey, isn't the only secret service interested in keeping tabs on the government in Ankara.

Turkey's strategic location at the junction of Europe, the Soviet Union, and the Middle East made the NATO member state an important partner to Western intelligence agencies going back to the very beginning of the Cold War. The Snowden documents show that Turkey is the NSA's oldest partner in Asia. Even before the NSA's founding in 1952, the CIA had established a "Sigint," or signals intelligence, partnership with Turkey dating back to the 1940s.

During the Cold War, the US used bases in Turkey primarily to conduct surveillance against the "underbelly of the Soviet beast," as one NSA document puts it. Today, it targets Russia and Georgia from Turkish soil, collecting information in "near real time." Since the outbreak of its civil war, Turkey's neighbor Syria has become a central focus of NSA surveillance.

US secret agents have also provided support to the Turkish government in its battle against the Kurdish separatists with the PKK for years. One top-secret NSA document from January 2007, for example, states that the agency provided Turkey with geographic data and recordings of telephone conversations of PKK members that appear to have helped Turkish agents capture or kill the targets. "Geolocations data and voice cuts from Kurdistan Worker Party (PKK) communications which were passed to Turkey by NSA yielded actionable intelligence that led to the demise or capture of dozens of PKK members in the past year," the document says.

The NSA has also infiltrated the Internet communications of PKK leaders living in Europe. Turkish intelligence helped pave the way to the success by providing the email addresses used by the targets.

The exchange of data went so far that the NSA even gave Turkey the location of the mobile phones of certain PKK leaders inside Turkey, providing updated information every six hours. During one military operation in Turkey in October 2005, the NSA delivered the location data every hour.

In May 2007, the director of national intelligence at the time signed a "memorandum" pledging deeper intelligence support for Turkey. A report prepared on the occasion of an April 2013 visit by a Turkish delegation to NSA headquarters at Fort Meade indicates that cooperation in targeting the PKK "has increased across the board" since the signing of the memorandum. That partnership has focused overwhelmingly on the PKK -- NSA assets in Turkey collected more data on PKK last year than any other target except for Russia.

It resulted in the creation of a joint working group called the Combined Intelligence Fusion Cell, a team of American and Turkish specialists working together on projects that included finding targets for possible Turkish airstrikes against suspected PKK members. All the data for one entire wave of attacks carried out in December 2007 originated from this intelligence cell, a diplomatic cable from the WikiLeaks archive states.

Support Continues Under Obama

The deep working relationship has continued under Barack Obama's presidency. In January 2012, US officials proposed supporting Turkey in their fight against the PKK with diverse measures, including access to a state-of-the-art speech recognition system that enabled real-time analysis of intercepted conversations. The system can even search for keywords and identify the person speaking if a voice sample of that individual has been stored.

The NSA offered to install two such systems for Turkey's intelligence service. In exchange, the Turks would provide voice samples for a number of Kurdish activists. Given its close and enduring relationship with the NSA, agency authorities wrote that they saw little risk in providing the technology. The only thing NSA experts didn't feel comfortable entrusting to Turkey was the automatic keyword search function.

The partnership is managed through the NSA's Special Liaison Activity Turkey (SUSLAT) office, which is based in Ankara. In addition to data, the Americans provide their Turkish partners with complete interception systems, decryption assistance and training.

Using its internal "Follow the money" reconnaissance unit, the NSA also tracks PKK's cash flows in Europe. The Turks reciprocate by providing the US agents with written transcripts of telephone calls made by PKK leaders as well as intelligence insights about Russia and Ukraine.

At the same time, however, Turkey is itself the target of intense surveillance even as it cooperates closely with the US. One NSA document describes the country bluntly as both a "partner and target." The very politicians, military officials and intelligence agency officials with whom US officials work closely when conducting actions against the PKK are also considered legitimate spying targets by the NSA. To that end, in addition to the official SUSLAT liaison office and the intelligence workers it has cleared with the Turkish authorities, the US has two secret branch offices, operating Special Collection Service listening stations in both Istanbul and the capital city of Ankara.

The degree to which the NSA surveils its partner is made clear in the National Intelligence Priorities Framework (NIPF), a document establishing US intelligence priorities. Updated and presented to the president every six months, the NIPF shows a country's "standing" from the perspective of the US. In the April 2013 edition, Turkey is listed as one of the countries most frequently targeted by Washington for surveillance, with US intelligence services tasked with collecting data in 19 different areas of interest.

Surveilling Turkish Political Leaders

The document places Turkey at the level of Venezuela -- and even ahead of Cuba -- in terms of US interest in intelligence collection. Information about the "leadership intention" of the Turkish government is given the second-highest priority rating, and information about the military and its infrastructure, foreign policy goals, and energy security are given the third-highest priority rating. The same framework also lists the PKK as an intelligence target, but it is given a much lower priority ranking.

Beginning in 2006, the NSA began a broad surveillance operation -- a joint effort by several NSA units -- aimed at infiltrating the computers of Turkey's top political leaders. Internally, officials called the effort the "Turkish Surge Project Plan." It took six months for the team to achieve its goal. One document celebrates the discovery of the "winning combination" and reports that collection had begun: "They achieved their first-ever computer network exploitation success against Turkish leadership!"

It goes without saying that the US intelligence services also had Turkish diplomats in their sights, particularly those stationed in the United States. A classified document from 2010 states that the NSA surveilled the Turkish Embassy in Washington under a program codenamed "Powder." A similar project for monitoring Turkey's representation to the United Nations carried the name "Blackhawk."

Analysts had access to the telephone system in the Turkish Embassy and could tap content directly from computers. In addition, they infected computer systems used by the diplomats with spyware. The NSA also installed Trojan software at Turkey's UN representation in New York. According to the NSA document, it even has the capability of copying entire hard drives at the UN mission.

The NSA shared many of its spies' insights with its "Five Eyes" partners -- the British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand intelligence services. Within that group, the British had already developed their own access to Turkey, with its GCHQ spy agency monitoring political targets in Turkey as well as elements in the energy sector.

Targeting Turkey's Energy Minister

One classified British document states that in October 2008, GCHQ tasked agents with improving access to the Turkish Energy Ministry (MENR) as well as enterprises including the Petroleum Pipeline Corporation (BOTAS), the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) and the energy company Calik Enerji. The assignment also included a list of the names of 13 targets, including then Turkish Energy Minister Hilmi Güler.

In 2008, GCHQ analysts began reviewing satellite images of the rooftops of ministries and companies to assess what types of communications systems they were using and the possibilities for infiltrating them. The documents do not indicate whether those efforts bore fruit.

Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek is also explicitly named as a GCHQ "target," despite the fact that he is a dual Turkish-British citizen. Nevertheless, a surveillance order against him includes, among other things, two mobile phone numbers as well as his private Gmail address. When questioned by SPIEGEL reporters, GCHQ officials said they do not comment on the details of operations.

When The Guardian newspaper ran a short story last summer about a planned spying operation against the Turkish finance minister on the occasion of his visit to London in the run-up to the G-20 summit in 2009, officials in Ankara were so angered that the Foreign Ministry summoned the British ambassador and criticized the "scandalous" and "unacceptable" operation. Contacted for a response to the surveillance operations conducted by the NSA and GCHQ, a spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry said "such things" would only be discussed at the diplomatic level.

Additional research conducted by Peter Maass.

 on: Aug 31, 2014, 07:03 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
As Scots Weigh Independence, Wales Takes Note

AUG. 30, 2014

CAERNARFON, Wales — Twm Morys was boiling carrots for his children when he momentarily stopped to recite a 15th-century battle chant in Welsh. Beating out the guttural consonants with a stave on his kitchen floor until they rang in every last corner of his farmhouse, Mr. Morys, a well-known poet, said it was time to put “fire in the belly” of his people.

He is not the only one. In the ancient mountains towering above this coastal town in northern Wales, where eight in 10 people speak the native Celtic tongue, and many carry names their fellow Britons would not dare pronounce, Welsh nationalists have their eyes firmly set on independence — Scottish independence.

Less than a month before Scotland holds a referendum on whether to leave Britain, Wales is watching with a mix of envy, excitement and trepidation.

“If Scotland votes yes, the genie is out of the bottle,” said Leanne Wood, leader of Wales’s nationalist party Plaid Cymru. Only one in 10 Welsh voters supports independence, compared with about four in 10 in Scotland, but Ms. Wood thinks that could change. “The tectonic plates of the United Kingdom are shifting,” she said.

Tremors from the Scottish debate can already be felt across Britain. Whatever happens on Sept. 18, growing demands for more regional autonomy will reshape the country. In Northern Ireland, nationalists spy an opportunity to revive dreams of a united Ireland. Cornwall recently won minority status for its Celtic inhabitants. Even the long-neglected north of England has turned up the volume, questioning an ever greater concentration of wealth in London and the southeast.

But in Wales, perhaps more than anywhere else, nationalists have made the Scottish independence bid their own in the hope that it will stir passions at home — if not for full independence, at least for more self-government.

Ms. Wood, who was once expelled from a legislative debate for referring to Queen Elizabeth II as “Mrs. Windsor,” has been to Scotland twice in support of the Yes campaign and plans to go again. The Welsh Hollywood actor Rhys Ifans has joined the #goforitScotland campaign. And Adam Price, an entrepreneur and prominent pro-independence thinker, has been campaigning in Scotland from a caravan, Welsh-style. “Caravaning for independence,” he calls it.

Others, like Mr. Morys, will gather in the Welsh capital, Cardiff, the week before the referendum for a series of performances to “whip up some Welsh enthusiasm,” stave in hand.

Wales and Scotland have much in common — not least an unfailing loyalty to any sporting side that plays against England, their once mighty and still dominant neighbor.

Ever since Margaret Thatcher, the conservative prime minister, shut their heavy industries, Scottish and Welsh voters have cast their ballot to the left of the English. There is, said Peter Florence, director of Wales’s Hay literary festival, a shared sense of not being represented in Westminster.

But Wales is smaller and poorer than Scotland. It has no oil to make up for the subsidies from London currently sustaining its public services. “We’re a hundred years too late,” Mr. Florence lamented, referring to the Welsh coal riches that once fired Britain’s industrial revolution. If he were Scottish, he would vote for independence, he said. “But we simply cannot afford it.”

Gerald Holtham, one of Wales’s most prominent economists, has done the math: Total government spending for Wales is 30 billion pounds a year, or about $50 billion, and tax receipts come to 17 billion pounds. “We’re talking about a gap a quarter the size of the economy,” he said.

Nationalists retort that Wales can escape poverty only if it takes charge of its own destiny. “No nation has ever ruled another well,” said Mr. Price, a former lawmaker who set up a technology company in Wales. “We are poor because we are not independent, rather than the other way round.”

But even he conceded that the time for Welsh independence has not come. First, he said, “We have to learn to be a nation again.”

Unlike Scotland, whose Parliament voted to join England three centuries ago, Wales was conquered in 1282. The Scots kept their own legal system, schools, universities, church and, with it all, a strong civic identity distinct from England’s. Welsh institutions were swallowed whole; the Welsh dragon, which flutters proudly and ubiquitously on the high street in Caernarfon, is nowhere to be seen in the Union Jack.

“We were England’s first colony,” said Eirian James, owner of Palas Print, a local bookstore with mainly Welsh-language fare. Every time she visits relatives in southern Wales, she has to take a train through England. To this day, most transport links run from west to east, toward England, rather than along Wales’s north-south axis.

The Welsh tourism board proudly promotes the fact that there are more castles per square mile in Wales than anywhere else. For locals, those castles are another reminder of early occupation.

Caernarfon Castle, up the street from Palas Print, was built by Edward I of England who killed Llewellyn, the last native prince of Wales, and declared his own firstborn son the Prince of Wales. That tradition still grates with some Welsh people. When Prince Charles was invested in Caernarfon Castle in 1969, militants tried to blow up his train. The local poet Gerallt Lloyd Owen recorded both events in popular poems. He died this summer, and donations made in his memory are going to Scotland’s Yes campaign.

Poetry may not be the political weapon of choice elsewhere, but in Wales, home to the Eisteddfod, a sort of cultural Olympiad whose history can be traced to 1176, national grievances often find their way into verse.

As Jerry Hunter, a professor at Bangor University, said, “Where else have you got thousands of people crowding into a pavilion watching the results of a poetry contest?”

When the Welsh-speaking village Capel Celyn was flooded in 1965 to create a water reservoir for Liverpool, England, despite unanimous opposition from Welsh lawmakers, it spawned songs and graffiti art and gave Plaid Cymru its first significant boost.

Stemming the decline in the Welsh language — just under one in five Welsh people speaks Cymraeg — is the greatest triumph of Welsh nationalism, but it is also a handicap: It has divided a country of three million between those, mainly in the rural north and west, who speak it, and those in the more urban south and east who don’t, reducing Plaid Cymru in the eyes of many to a mere language-lobbying group.

Many still grumble about a Welsh-speaking cabal — the Taffia, after the Welsh River Taff — holding the best jobs, the most influence and a greater claim to Welshness. But hostility toward the language has been fading, and the Welsh appetite for more self-government has grown — with a little help from Scotland.

In a 1979 referendum, eight in 10 Welsh voters opposed any kind of autonomy from London.

But in 1997, after Scotland voted to have its own Parliament, the tiniest majority of Welsh voters followed suit and approved the creation of a more modest Welsh assembly. By 2011, two in three of those voters wanted to extend the assembly’s lawmaking powers.

“That’s a bigger swing in public opinion over 30 years than in Scotland,” said Richard Wyn Jones of Cardiff University.

Some bank on a Scottish yes vote to accelerate that process. Others say a narrow no vote would be a better result for the Welsh: Once mocked in Whitehall circles as Scotland’s “smaller, uglier sister,” Wales may have more leverage with a Scottish ally inside the union.

But Mr. Jones says Wales will end up more autonomous irrespective of what happens in Scotland.

“Independence may look unlikely right now,” he said. “But who in 1979 would have dared imagine a devolved Wales looking on as Scotland prepares an independence referendum?”

 on: Aug 31, 2014, 07:00 AM 
Started by Deva - Last post by Upasika
Hi Deva,

That was a very interesting example and great to learn from, thank you. I've outlined this again in my own words to confirm my understanding is correct.

I understand that the transiting planet (Jupiter/Aries/11th) squaring your natal nodal axis was causing difficulty. It was doing this because it was triggering issues to do with itself in the temporary resolution node - in this case your south node (Cap/8th).

The central issue to the difficulty -caused by the transiting planet- was unearthed at the temporary resolution node (your south node). Issues intrinsic to the transiting planet that were already existing within (yet up to that point lying dormant in) that temporary resolution node, in some shape or form. Pre-existing issues inherent in that node that you hadn't got around to dealing with prior to that, or not completely anyway.

As you have said those issues were a mix of autonomy & independence (Aries), expression of your uniqueness (11th) regarding new knowledge you had imbibed (Jupiter). These issues from the transiting location (Jup/Ar/11th) were reflected in your resolution node i.e. in your commitments (8th) to your existing obligations and responsibilities (Cap) at a university (Jupiter - classic isn't it!) .... the symbolism couldn't be clearer. These issues all stemmed from your past, as the resolution node for this temporary skipped step was the south node (the past). With the resolution needing to happen during the period of the transit.

The reolution in regard to these issues at that node occurred through ... the experience (the house, 11th in your case) of the skipped step planet (Jup/Aries) being a challenge (square) to the issues. This challenge was to let the skipped step planet influence in, to include it:  in your case to include increased clarity, 11th,and feeling more inspired & independent (Aries) regarding knowledge and how you were approaching/applying it (Jup) .

Including this transiting planet experience meant adjusting your personal experience of the issues into one that was more objective, 11th house. And as I understand it this seemed to be the thing that brought about seeing your current commitments (8th) more in terms of your present situation rather than according to some past (south node) reality  - either yours or someone else's. And therefore helping you to break free.

When there are no natal skipped steps generally there is a natural nodal movement to the north node (in your case though you possibly have a natal skipped step, but it's resolution node is also the north node anyway). In these cases I can see how a temporary skipped step can be a powerful evolutionary boost, the impetus for a greater and enhanced embrace of the north node - in your case probably bringing renewed and deepened inner security (Cancer) and self reliance (2nd).

Also very interesting Deva is that the temporary skipped step occurred at your PPP. Any activity happening in the location of the PPP has a strong and far reaching impact. That was no run of the mill passing skipped step ... did you feel you were being picked up by a huge wave and carried into a new space?


I have both examples coming up, none anywhere as dramatic as this, but I'll observe them and see what I notice, and get back. Thank you.

blessings Upasika

 on: Aug 31, 2014, 06:59 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Poland's Tusk Named EU President, Italy's Mogherini to Head Diplomacy

by Naharnet Newsdesk
30 August 2014, 21:02

European leaders on Saturday named Polish premier Donald Tusk as the next EU president and Italy's Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini to head the diplomatic service as the bloc faces challenges including the crisis in Ukraine.

The Polish premier, who speaks only a halting English and no French, is the first eastern European to hold such a senior role in the EU and is known as a critic of the Kremlin.

"The suspense is up, the new EU leadership team is complete," said current EU President Herman Van Rompuy moments after the announcement was made.

He said the new team faced three major challenges: the stagnating European economy, the crisis in Ukraine which was "the gravest threat to continental security since the Cold War," and Britain's place in the EU.

"I come to Brussels from a country that deeply believes in the significance of Europe," Tusk said at a news conference with Van Rompuy, at which the outgoing leader presented him with a bunch of flowers.

Tusk will take office on December 1 while Mogherini will start her new job on November 1.

Strongly backed by Germany's Angela Merkel, Tusk is a pro-European free marketeer with roots in Poland's Solidarity anti-Soviet trade union who has been prime minister since 2007.

He will also head up summits of the countries that use the euro, despite Poland not being a member of the single currency.

Mogherini, Italy's 41-year-old foreign minister, has been a long favorite to replace Catherine Ashton as head of the EU's foreign service, hailed by her supporters as a new, younger face for Europe.

With leaders unnerved by Russia's latest actions in Ukraine, the nomination of Tusk to replace Belgium's Van Rompuy could send a message of resolve to Moscow as EU leaders also mull fresh sanctions against Russia.

Mogherini's candidacy initially faced fierce resistance, with Eastern European countries -- and reportedly British officials -- criticising her as both inexperienced and too soft on Russia.

She was initially sidelined at a first summit in July. But six weeks later, and after Italy staunchly backed more sanctions against Russia, Mogherini overcame the opposition.

"I know the challenges are huge, especially in these times of crisis," Mogherini said at the same press conference.

"All around Europe we have crisis."

Hours before the summit, left-of-center EU leaders meeting in Paris formally backed her as the bloc's new foreign policy chief.

"I have high hopes that she will be chosen tonight," said French President Francois Hollande, eager to see a socialist and southern European in a top role.


Tusk: Unflappable Leader Who Has Steered Poland through Crisis after Crisis

by Naharnet Newsdesk
30 August 2014, 21:47

Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk is a pro-European free marketeer who has earned the reputation of being an unflappable leader able to turn even the most difficult situations to his advantage.

With political roots in Poland's anti-communist Solidarity trade union, the football-mad historian named on Saturday as the EU's next president started out as an underground journalist.

Under Communism, he also put his liberal ideals to work running a modest industrial painting business. Private enterprise was rare then, but small ventures were tolerated by the ruling Communist Party.

After a bloodless end to communist rule was negotiated in Poland in 1989, Tusk and a group of friends in his Baltic Sea hometown of Gdansk founded the Liberal Democratic Congress, pushing for sweeping privatisation of the state-run economy.

It won 37 of the 460 seats in parliament in the 1991 general election, only to lose them two years later. It then merged with the larger centrist Freedom Union.

Tusk led a breakaway faction in 2001 and formed the Civic Platform (PO).

While his 2005 presidential bid failed, the PO took power after a 2007 snap election and Tusk was propelled to a second consecutive term as prime minister in the 2011 general election.

He has the distinction of steering Poland though the global financial crisis as the only EU state to maintain growth.

He also steadied the country when in April 2010 an air crash in Smolensk, Russia, wiped out a large chunk of the Polish establishment, killing Poland's then president Lech Kaczynski, the country's top military brass, central bank chief and scores of MPs and other senior state figures.

More recently, the 57-year-old Tusk used his political savvy to survive a high-profile eavesdropping scandal implicating his senior ministers.

But his popularity has waned since his landslide win in 2011 amid slow growth and persistent unemployment. Opinion polls released this month show his PO trailing behind arch-rivals, the right-wing Law and Justice party.

The next general election is due in October, 2015.

Tusk has taken a firm line on Poland's national interests, questioning eurozone bailouts and declining to set a deadline for adopting the euro currency until its problems are solved.

With over 38 million people, Poland is the largest newcomer to the EU and has been eager to punch above its weight, playing a significant role in Eastern European policy since joining in 2004 and again recently in crisis management of the situation in Ukraine.

In line with his free-market thinking, Tusk is an admirer of the late U.S. president Ronald Reagan and Britain's former premier Margaret Thatcher.

He has also been a faithful supporter of Polish freedom icon Lech Walesa, the former Gdansk shipyard electrician who led Solidarity and was elected president in 1990.

Tusk is a proud Kashubian -- a Slav minority from the Gdansk region -- and has been at the forefront of a revival of their culture that has reversed years of decline.

He only discovered his roots as an adult, prompting him to learn the language and later write the first textbook for would-be Kashubian-speakers.

He is married to historian Malgorzata Tusk and has two adult children, one of whom is a well-known fashion blogger.

 on: Aug 31, 2014, 06:55 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
German Anti-Euro Party Set to Debut in State Parliament

by Naharnet Newsdesk
31 August 2014, 08:57

Germany's fledgling anti-euro party looks set to win its first seats in a state parliament on Sunday, gaining a political foothold in opposition to Chancellor Angela Merkel's grip on power.

Voters in eastern Saxony state will be the first to vote in regional legislative elections since Merkel's triumphant return for a third stint at the helm of Europe's top economy in last September's general election.

Her conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) have been in power in Saxony since Germany's 1990 reunification and are expected to remain dominant, but the party will likely need a new coalition partner.

The emergence of the Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has found a stronghold in Saxony since the euroskeptic party's formation in early 2013, could help muddy the alliance-building waters.

Buoyed by its leap into the European Parliament in May, the AfD has been polling at around seven percent in Saxony -- the state where it got its best result in the federal election but narrowly missed out on entering the German parliament.

The AfD, set up by economics professor Bernd Lucke, a former CDU member, wants the orderly dissolution of the euro, an end to EU bailouts and for Germany to return to its once beloved Deutschmark.

"Its challenge is to make this Europe and federal political approach somehow relevant at the state political level," said Werner Patzelt of the Dresden Institute for Political Science.

Merkel positioned herself as the single currency's champion during the eurozone debt crisis when Germany financed the lion's share of bailouts for stricken nations, demanding strict austerity measures in exchange.

The economy of Saxony, which borders both Poland and the Czech Republic, is one of the most dynamic of Germany's ex-communist states, hosting big car producers and earning the nickname "Silicon Saxony" as a microchip center.

As Germany approaches the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Saxony ballot is the first of three former eastern state votes in quick succession, followed by neighboring Thuringia and Brandenburg on September 14.

AfD lead candidate Frauke Petry, 39, a trained chemist and mother of four, has focused her campaign on family issues, calling for couples to have more children and for a tightening of the abortion laws, as Germany's population is rapidly aging.

The party has also called for a referendum on the building of mosques with minarets in Saxony.

Petry firmly rejects claims the AfD has flirted with the far-right, insisting in an interview with AFP at a Dresden rally last week that the party "simply addresses many taboo issues" from which other parties shy away.

"We have never been far-right," she said.

Saxony is one of two regional parliaments to include members of the far-right, anti-immigrant National Democratic Party of Germany, but polls suggest its re-entry after Sunday could be a close call.

While the CDU is set to win just over 40 percent of the vote, according to a Politbarometer poll for ZDF television Friday, its current allies, the pro-business Free Democrats, are not expected to win enough votes to stay in the state parliament.

Saxony's CDU state premier Stanislaw Tillich has so far kept all options open and avoided ruling out any possible tie-up with the AfD, but such an alliance seems unlikely as it would flout the party line.

Merkel twice in the past week said the AfD, as a coalition partner, was out of the question for her conservatives.

Closest to the CDU in the latest poll was the far-left Linke party, which has roots in East German communism, with 20 percent, followed by the center-left Social Democratic Party with whom Merkel governs nationally in a "grand coalition".

Henning Richter, 58, traditionally a CDU voter, who attended Petry's rally, seemed impressed with the AfD's support for Swiss-style referenda.

"You know, for years I've been wondering how is it possible that the money from our taxes goes abroad for bailouts, for banks, for I don't know what reason, for which nobody ever asked us our opinion," he said.

 on: Aug 31, 2014, 06:53 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Why Italy’s stagnation could be the future for the entire eurozone

Monetary reform alone can’t kickstart the European economy. It needs something more radical

Riccardo Bellofiore, Saturday 30 August 2014 11.00 BST   
This summer Italy fell into a triple-dip recession. After the 2008/09 collapse, the economy stagnated, heading back into recession during 2011 and never really recovering. The philosophy of Giulio Tremonti, who was the economic minister at the time, was to wait and see, until speculation killed Berlusconi’s government. Prime ministers Mario Monti and Enrico Letta followed Brussels’ self-defeating diktat for fiscal rigour, but even with moderate deficits the public debt/GDP ratio soared.

The situation remained under control only thanks to the zero rate of interest and rhetoric by the European central bank president, Mario Draghi. Then came along Matteo Renzi, and Italian economic policy was all talk, talk, talk. While turning the screw of authoritarian parliamentary and electoral reforms, future lower taxes and liberalisations are promised to compensate for public cuts and to attract foreign investments. The €80 monthly tax break to lower-paid workers did not raise household consumption, and was instead spent on tariffs and local taxes.

Yet in the past few weeks the outlook has changed, with 2014 second-quarter data showing France flat and Germany experiencing negative growth. Greece, Spain and Portugal registered rosier figures only because they were recovering from severe austerity. The eurozone cannot but be driven by the three biggest economies alone. This is a continental crisis within an anaemic global economy. However, an old Gramscian truth about Italy must be remembered: the “backwardness” of its capitalism is paradigmatic. Europe’s exit from the crisis needs the same policies that Italy needs, and without them Italy’s stagnation is the future for the entire continent.

Many now think austerity has gone too far: upward elasticity on monetary or fiscal policy is essential. The suggestions go from quantitative easing (hopefully driving down the euro), and/or the ECB funding for lending, and/or a relieving of public finance constraints. Even Draghi’s speech at the US Federal Reserve conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, recognised this. This often goes together with a plea for supply-side structural reforms, such as labour flexibility and liberalisation. Others argue that trade imbalances are the main problem. Higher German internal demand, through fiscal stimulus and/or higher wages, would boost the GIIPS countries (Greece, Italy, Ireland, Portugal and Spain). A radical view is exiting the single currency to restore national economic sovereignty.

There is something sensible in all these propositions. Austerity is choking Europe. If the ECB buys assets it may improve state and firms’ balances. Higher liquidity could find its way to expenditure, and also revert the credit crunch plaguing small and medium firms. Trade imbalances, without counteracting policies, create regional disparities and social imbalances, leading to an explosive fragmentation. These policy outlooks, however, are wishful thinking, because in them the state is subsidiary to the private sector and the changes in the European landscape are ignored.

But monetary reform alone can’t kickstart the economy. Individual government deficits should be targeted by the ECB, providing the “big push” that private investment cannot give the biggest economies. Only in this atmosphere will the balance-sheet recession and the squeeze of private demand be overturned. If internal demand and production increase more than productivity, the consequent higher employment could ground consumption on income rather than on debt.

In the past 15-20 years, the European economy has gone through a deep financial and industrial transformation. Let us look at the financial side. Eurozone countries share the same payment system. There is nothing unusual per se in internal imbalances: they are absorbed by the banking system and do not lead to problems for the single currency. Balance sheets of banks and intermediaries are more integrated, and the public debt is managed on the bond market. On the industrial side, Germany spread its industrial and trade network so that increases in demand would be transmitted to a transnational value chain located in eastern and central Europe.

Demand reflation or wage increases do not guarantee enough exports for the periphery anymore, which may still need price-inelastic products from the centre. The exchange rate is a toothless weapon. From the financial side, exit countries need a stronger currency. A devaluation jeopardises the banking system and the management of public debt, and may not be so magical as hoped on the trade balance.

The European economy as a whole needs expansionary policies together with credit, industrial and regional policies. None of this is on the horizon. Changes must appear in continuity with the dominant consensus, as President François Hollande’s firing of the French economic minister this week shows all to well.

Draghi’s design to build Europe through a sort of “revolution from above” requires an ongoing crisis to weaken internal resistance within the capitalist class. An alternative social and democratic Europe “from below” meets the problem of the absence of a subject fighting for it. Though this is not good news, the euro may then actually end: not with a bang, but a whimper. But as the saying goes, “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over”.

 on: Aug 31, 2014, 06:50 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

A portrait of Federica Mogherini, the EU's next foreign policy chief

Critics claim she lacks high-level experience, but Italy's foreign minister is not lacking in knowledge and self-assurance

Lizzy Davies, Saturday 30 August 2014 19.46 BST

In late November 2012, while Matteo Renzi was making an ill-fated bid for leadership of the Italian centre-left, a young MP from his Democratic Party (PD) piped up on Twitter to remark: "OK, Renzi has quite a lot to learn about foreign policy … He won't make the pass mark, I fear #thirdgrade." When he won the PD primaries the following winter, Renzi – canny as ever – hired his sharp-tongued critic as the party's spokesperson on Europe and international affairs. Once prime minister, he ushered her into the top job at Italy's foreign office.

Now, the shoe is firmly on the other foot: it is Federica Mogherini – on her way to Brussels to become Cathy Ashton's successor in the EU – who, according to her critics, has a lot to learn. And the jury is out on whether the 41-year-old Roman- who has six months' experience in government as foreign minister, no more and no less – will make the grade. Le Monde, the French daily, last week said her appointment would be "a sad day for Europe".

To Brussels box-tickers, Mogherini, as a woman and a social democrat, meets two of the chief criteria for the job. But her critics believe she lacks the proper credentials for a role that has always struggled to be as grand in practice as it is on paper. More than a decade younger than Ashton was when she started in 2009, the Italian had her first taste of executive power in late February, when she replaced the highly experienced Emma Bonino, a former European commissioner, in the Farnesina.

In Rome, she was viewed as the archetypal Renzi government minister: fresh-faced, vigorous and, it was hoped, effective. In Brussels, when her name started circulating as a potential new high representative several months later, it was inextricably linked with the suddenly risen star of Italy and the PD, boosted on the international stage by a landslide European election victory in which Renzi emerged as a powerful new force on the centre-left.

Despite her charismatic champion, Mogherini, to many, still lacked clout. But others say that, while her relative youth and lack of high-level experience are undeniable, she has other strengths that could yet see her thrive. "I believe her strong points are not to be underestimated," said Ettore Greco, director of the Institute for International Affairs in Rome. "She knows how to work hard, how to work in a team; and she has always conducted herself with, I'd say, great composure … I can see her as a mediator. And then there's her experience, her contacts built up gradually during years of work at relatively high levels … Ever since the start of her political career, she has worked on foreign policy. She is not a political neophyte."

Born in the Italian capital in 1973, the daughter of a set designer who worked with some of the giants of Italian postwar cinema, Mogherini graduated with a degree in political science from La Sapienza university. Her thesis was on political Islam.

An active member of the Democrats of the Left (DS), a social democratic party containing many former Communists, she soon got noticed, and specialised in foreign affairs, working particularly on ties with the US Democrat party. In 2008, the year after the DS merged with others into the centre-left PD, she was elected as an MP for the first time. In February, aged 40, she became the youngest foreign minister in the history of the Italian republic.

Since her arrival on the national and international stage in February, Mogherini has quietly impressed many with her knowledge and self-assurance, demonstrating, too, that not all Italians' English is as comic as the premier's. (Hers is near perfect; she also has fluent French and, according to her online biography, a little Spanish.) She keeps an impressive pace of international visits, all of which she details on her website,, in the manner, sniped the Berlusconi family newspaper, Il Giornale, of "a teenager confiding" in the pages of her journal.

But these haven't all gone smoothly. She raised eyebrows in a July dominated by concerns over Russia's stance on Ukraine, when she visited Kiev and Moscow and invited Vladimir Putin to an economics summit in Milan in October. Soon after, a group of eastern European countries united to try to block her candidacy for the high representative job, which they said was unacceptable due to Rome's approach to Moscow.

"But I think when she was doing that, she was probably just following her brief from the [Italian] machine," said a diplomatic source. "This is a question of differences over the tactical and possibly even strategic attitude towards Russia which is Italy's rather than hers." Greco said: "On the European stage, she will of course have to take into account a quite different mood and quite different climate where Moscow is concerned and she should not be – one would hope – conditioned by these Italian reflexes."

On the BlogMog, Mogherini, a married mother of two, says that, as well as reading crime novels and spending time with her family, her big passion is travel: "Anywhere, anytime, and anyhow." (The Farnesina said she flies economy class "whenever possible".) Even if question marks remain over her experience and diplomatic clout, on the globe-trotting front, at least, she should be on safe ground.

 on: Aug 31, 2014, 06:49 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

David Cameron is caught between the virtues and vices of Europe

In Brussels this weekend the PM will plead for a European response to the crises in Ukraine and Iraq. But at home he has to appear stridently anti-EU to placate the right of his party

Toby Helm   
The Observer, Saturday 30 August 2014 23.50 BST   
David Cameron has become accustomed to going to EU summits to fight battles over the budget, veto treaties, or try to block appointments of federalists.

In December 2011 he famously stood in the way of an EU-wide treaty on fiscal and economic union, delighting Eurosceptics at home but taking his relations with other continental leaders to a historic low. In June this year he was less successful in trying to stop the appointment of the federalist Jean-Claude Juncker as European commission president. After that embarrassing failure, he made clear his dislike of European meetings, sarcastically referring to his next visit to Brussels as "another day in paradise" that he would rather scrub from his diary.

But this weekend is different, and Cameron made clear as much as he arrived in Brussels on Saturday. International crises in Ukraine, and in Syria and Iraq, demand united international responses. They crowd in on every European government, the leaders of which know joint action and solidarity – not grandstanding for domestic audiences – is what is urgently needed.

"We have to address the completely unacceptable situation of having Russian troops on Ukraine soil," said Cameron on arrival in Brussels. "Consequences must follow if that situation continues and we will be discussing that as well today."

The urgency of concerted and coordinated action by EU countries will be further underlined this week when, after Brussels, Cameron will chair a Nato meeting in Newport, south Wales. Barack Obama will want to see the EU acting as one, both in response to Russia's actions in Ukraine and against the threat of Islamist extremism on Europe's borders.

Cameron himself has stressed the need for working together. As the UK government lifted the threat level of a terrorist attack on UK soil to "severe" on Friday, he described the threat of Islamic State (Isis) as greater than that posed by al-Qaida: "We could be facing a terrorist threat on the shores of the Mediterranean and bordering a Nato member." At Saturday's summit he was pressing for the EU to tighten sanctions on Russia and to better coordinate action in hunting jihadis by reviving pan-European plans to allow governments to share their passenger records.

But what is a prime minister to do, if such exhortations to collective endeavour are undermined on the home front by a Eurosceptic insurgency bent on pulling Britain out of the EU?

In a week that saw the Conservative MP for Clacton-on-Sea, Douglas Carswell, defect to Ukip, whose raison d'être is to leave the EU, the prime minister is being tugged in two directions. While the terror threat in the UK has been lifted to "severe", the domestic political threat to Tory unity from Nigel Farage's rampant party warrants a similar rating. For Cameron, navigating between the demands of Brussels and the demands of a disillusioned English coastal town may prove a nigh-on impossible task.

Former Liberal Democrat leader and member of the Commons intelligence and security committee Sir Menzies Campbell said on Saturday that Cameron now had a hugely difficult balance to strike between party and country. "You can only deal effectively with these threats if you do so both with your friends and allies in the European Union and in Nato." Campbell added that, with the terror threat sure to last for years, "another burst of Euroscepticism, while it may encourage some Eurosceptic backbenchers, is not going to help the prime minister as he seeks that necessary cooperation".

As Cameron sat down for talks in Brussels with, among others, his former nemesis Juncker, Nigel Farage was spending the day in Clacton, the seat Carswell held for the Tories but will now fight as Ukip's candidate in a byelection in the autumn. That contest will haunt the Tory party in the runup to and beyond the party conference season – the last before the general election.

On Friday, Farage visited Clacton for the first time, triumphantly showing off his beaming new recruit to voters before retiring for a few pints. "Sorry I didn't hear the phone at first. Too noisy in the pub," Farage told the Observer before cackling with laughter. He described himself as "ebullient". His timing in unveiling Carswell and his jocularity have infuriated Tories, including some hardline Eurosceptics such as Bernard Jenkin, who deplore his action at a time of international crisis. "I think it shows just how irresponsible Ukip is," said Jenkin. Complain as they may, it will be hard to tear the Ukip leader away from the Essex town in the next few weeks. Victory against the Conservatives in the byelection will, he says, "change everything" and be the moment when more Tories and a few from Labour could follow Carswell into Ukip's arms.

"It is very, very important that we win Clacton. We are throwing everything at it," Farage said. The party's youth wing also poured into the town on Saturday armed with fistfuls of leaflets. Jack Duffin, chairman of Young Independence, said: "The response has been fantastic. People are beeping their horns when they pass us. It is brilliant." Farage himself won the Ukip selection for the parliamentary seat of Thanet South last Monday. To him the challenge is clear and simple – to win Westminster seats before and at the next general election. He is confident that, now Carswell is on board, he is on his way.

Farage's joy is met with Conservative panic. The Tory whips have been in overdrive, desperately trying to gauge whether others might be flirting with Ukip. One regarded as a possible defector, Jacob Rees-Mogg, has firmly rejected the suggestion. "This is just silly, really. It's silly season," the 45-year-old North East Somerset MP told the Western Daily Press. "I was born a Tory and I will die a Tory."

He added: "For me, politics is about much more than just one issue or one policy. Ukip's light will wane as we approach the next election, at which the economy will be crucial and whether people feel the recovery has reached them. But no, I have not even thought about defecting to Ukip."

For now, the Tories are confident that there will be no more Carswells. The party high command insists he is a loner, an unguided free spirit with a passionate belief in localism, and that he has made a mistake because the Tories are the only ones who will guarantee a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU. But equally the whips know that there are plenty of Conservative MPs, peers and probably even more grassroots activists who agree with Carswell's views and who do not believe that Cameron can deliver real change in the EU. If, as the next election nears, backbenchers calculate that they stand a better chance with Ukip than Cameron's Tories, no one can rule out another defection.

Back in January last year, Cameron hoped he had defused his party's Europe problem by promising to hold an in/out referendum, having renegotiated new terms of UK membership. "It is time to settle this European question in British politics," he said then. "I say to the British people: this will be your decision." At first Carswell welcomed Cameron's move, but he became cynical over the next 18 months. As he announced his defection, he unburdened himself. "The problem is that many of those at the top of the Conservative party are simply not on our side. They aren't serious about the change that Britain so desperately needs … Of course they talk the talk before elections. They say what they feel they must say to get our support … but on so many issues – on modernising our politics, on the recall of MPs, on controlling our borders, on less government, on bank reform, on cutting public debt, on an EU referendum – they never actually make it happen."

This weekend – with Cameron in Brussels urging EU action to counter terror threats and the need to tighten sanction on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine – plenty of hardline Eurosceptics are criticising Carswell for defecting. But, despite the grave international context, most would agree with him in private that they now expect Cameron's attempt to renegotiate the UK's terms of membership to deliver very little. Large numbers of backbenchers say they intend to campaign for a no vote if the Tories win the election and a referendum is called. More and more want out of the EU as Labour and the Liberal Democrats argue the community's role in international affairs is increasingly crucial.

Some argue that Cameron underestimated how difficult his task of renegotiating UK membership would be. He hoped the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, would ride to his rescue, and she may still, but the signs are not encouraging. The prime minister has said that at the top of his shopping list will be a demand to extricate the UK from the EU principle of "ever closer union", something other European governments, including the German one, have made clear will not be on the table in any formal sense. Last week Germany announced measures to tackle welfare tourism within the EU, another of Cameron's key demands. But as it did so, Berlin made clear that "free movement of people is an indispensable element of European integration, which we back by all means" – hardly the language to encourage British sceptics.

Cameron finds himself playing EU statesman, in the name of security, while trying to bend the EU to British demands. At one summit, EU leaders are his allies; the next they are his foes. In Brussels on Saturday it escaped no one that Cameron was having to butter up none other than Jean-Claude Juncker, the man he denounced as wrong for the job of commission president, because Juncker will decide what portfolio the UK's Lord Hill and every other nominee will get in the new commission. One Whitehall source said: "The question is whether Juncker will say, 'All is forgiven, David' or whether he won't. I would not expect the UK to get a plumb job if I had to guess."

Cameron is part the committed participant, part the rebel. It is a difficult position to be in, allowing Ukip to deploy its simple mantra that we're better off out. In the latest Opinium/Observer poll, Ukip stands at 16%, with the Tories on 30% and Labour on 36%. Ominously for the Tories, Clacton will ensure Farage and Co are in the news throughout the autumn, while the Ukip leader's campaign in South Thanet will shine a light on him right through to the general election.

The Tory high command dismisses out of hand talk of any pact with Ukip. But the demands will not go away. Robert Oulds, director of the Bruges Group – set up in honour of Margaret Thatcher's 1988 speech in which she warned of an EU superstate – is this weekend calling for "a strategic arrangement between the Conservatives and Ukip whereby Tories will stand aside in a handful of seats in exchange for a free pass in key marginal seats". Oulds said: "The infighting between the two parties who share a similar agenda will only succeed in meaning that neither achieves their objectives. The mutually assured destruction should end."

Meanwhile, Cameron fights on, to limit the role of the EU in national life, on the one hand, while urging it to act more to guarantee international stability and the security of the British people, on the other.

How serious is Carswell's defection for the Tories and what should Cameron do?

FRASER NELSON Editor, the Spectator

David Cameron should send for Boris - who, in turn, will have a great opportunity to show that he is prepared to take a risk to come to the aid of the party and actually fight, rather than wait to be anointed king of a safe seat.

Yes, Cameron is now paying the price for treating so much of his core supporters with neglect, bordering on contempt. But Cameron will by now realise that the misnamed "modernising" project served to narrow, rather than broaden, his party's appeal. He needs to unite his tribe behind him (and, yes, against Ukip and Douglas Carswell), which ought to be easy given how close we now are to the election. And he needs to make some basic points more clearly.

There will be two outcomes after polling day: Cameron, and a referendum in 2017, or Ed Miliband, no referendum and five years of François Hollande-style calamity. The polls and bookmakers point to the second outcome, which ought to focus minds (and loyalties).

Three years ago, Cameron hung a Tracey Emin-designed neon sign outside the Terracotta Room of No 10: it says "More passion". The time for such passion has arrived.

PETER WILDING Director, British Influence

Douglas Carswell's defection could herald an SDP 1981 moment, but only if he wins. Clacton demographics have stiffened his byelection sinews.

His victory will put Europe centre stage as a Tory split story, not a Cameron statesman story. Europhobes will harass the prime minister to reveal his repatriation demands now to clarify his line and avoid further defections. Cameron will talk tough on Europe, but he won't fold.

What he should do is tell his party straight that his top reforms are now mainstream, having been agreed by all EU member states in June.

His government should now push to win this reform campaign. Otherwise the PM will continue to lose friends and alienate people.

ISABEL HARDMAN Daily Telegraph columnist

David Cameron might take some comfort from the way his party has turned on the once popular Douglas Carswell for defecting to Ukip. Any more defections won't come immediately.

But the prime minister cannot relax. Carswell's Eurosceptic colleagues are keen to use his departure to extract more details of Cameron's European reform plan.

He will also come under pressure to show that he is at least trying to reunite the right, something which this defection has just made immeasurably more difficult. Cameron had nourished a reasonable hope of a warm relationship with his party this autumn: Carswell has just poured an ice bucket over that.
CHRISTOPHER HOWARTH Senior political analyst, Open Europe

The stakes will have been raised. If Carswell wins, Ukip can then tell voters everywhere that voting Ukip means a genuine chance of electing an MP. This could be catastrophic for the Conservatives and may deprive them of a number of seats, to other parties mostly, but conceivably to Ukip as well.

If Carswell loses, the result will be equally disastrous for Ukip. The Tories can use it to show that, even in a constituency suited to Ukip, with one of their biggest names, they cannot win a seat. So why waste your vote in May 2015 will be their refrain.

For now the initiative is with Ukip, but Cameron can and will (rightly) point out that his party alone represents a real chance of delivering an EU referendum. Add in a reinvigorated EU reform agenda that addresses the concerns of disaffected voters and the Conservatives could start to turn the tables.
MELISSA KITE Spectator columnist

Whenever Ukip pull off a coup, David Cameron's response is always the same. He treated Douglas Carswell like a naughty schoolboy: "It's regrettable when people behave in this way."

Cameron loyalists also struck a condescending note. The consensus was that the Eurosceptic MP had "thrown his toys out of the pram". This suggests they still don't get it. The reason this defection represents such a real and present danger to Cameron is that Tory voters are throwing their toys out of the pram, in seats up and down the country - and I'm told Clacton is most definitely one of them. Carswell spoke for them when he condemned the Cameron "clique" and gave his reason for defecting: "Many of those at the top of the Conservative party are not on our side."

If Carswell has judged the mood right, and wins, it will surely be a game changer. More defectors would follow. Even a close contest will show that Ukip can hit Cameron where it really hurts, and bring the fight to Westminster.

Cameron's plan has always been to hope that troublesome Tory MPs, and voters, will dutifully fall into line on general election day, forgetting broken EU renegotiation pledges, broken pledges not to build on the green belt, and a high-speed rail link that goes through their back gardens. But it is becoming riskier to assume this. Rather than remind traditionalists archly of their duty to be on his side, the prime minister needs to re-engage with the people who put him where he is and show them that he is on their side.

 on: Aug 31, 2014, 06:45 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

France's economics ills worsen but all remedies appear unpalatable

Beset from right and left, president François Hollande could do with some good economic news. But he is at the mercy of Germany's eurozone austerity drive – and Merkel is unlikely to cut him much slack

Larry Elliott and Anne Penketh   
The Observer, Sunday 31 August 2014   
Emmanuel Macron had been in his new job less than 48 hours when he dropped his bombshell. Picked by François Hollande to be economy minister after a row over austerity prompted a reshuffle, the young investment banker suggested that France could consider an end to its hallowed 35-hour week.

Was this Hollande's "Clause IV moment", analysts wondered? Was the French president about to show his commitment to economic reform by abandoning a totemic policy, as Tony Blair did on becoming Labour leader in 1994?

Not really, it emerged.

Laurent Berger, head of France's largest trade union, the CFDT, made it clear that organised labour would not tolerate the scrapping of the 35-hour week. Macron, he said, had "made a mistake" and, as far as the unions were concerned, "the subject is closed".

That seemed to go for the government too, which quickly rowed back from Macron's suggestion. A spokesman for the prime minister, Manuel Valls, said: "The government has no intention of going back on the legal length of the working week."

Another view was that France is having its "sick man of Europe" moment. In a crowded field, the eurozone's second-biggest economy has beaten off the challengers for the crown of the most problematic country on the continent.

Spain and Greece have held this dubious honour – as did Britain, of course, in the 1970s. Italy has held it off and on for decades; there was even a brief period when the mantle fell on Germany. Now it is France's turn under the spotlight.

The symptoms are clear enough. Unemployment is more than 10%; the country has not managed two successive quarters of economic growth since Hollande arrived at the Elysée Palace more than two years ago. Weak growth is putting a strain on the public finances. Its industry is less competitive than that of neighbouring Germany, which has led to job losses and factory closures.

Last week, as the new French government was being sworn in following the sacking of the anti-austerity economic minister Arnaud Montebourg and two colleagues, Michel Charroin was helping to plant 54 crosses on a grassy verge outside the factory where he works in Saint-Etienne, an industrial town south-west of Lyon.

"Management told us at the end of June that they're closing the plant, and there's nothing to be done. It's the death of 54 jobs," he said. All that his CGT union can hope for is to negotiate the best possible terms for its members. The skilled workers, who make nuts and bolts at the GFD factory, will probably be able to find other jobs. But Charroin, a 52-year-old office worker, with two children and a wife who works part-time, has no clue what he will do after 25 years with the same employer. The Italian-owned plant has lost €6m (£4.76m)in two years and will close in October or November.

"The crisis is our daily life," said Charroin. "There's no work to be had in the Saint-Etienne basin. In the past 20 years, 50,000 jobs have gone."

Few would disagree with Charroin's view that the French economy is deeply troubled. But opinion is divided on the cause of the malaise, and the remedy for it. One view is that France is hidebound by rules and regulations that are strangling the private sector, with the 35-hour week a symbol of a country that needs to wake up and face the harsh reality of life in the modern global economy.

Jennifer McKeown, European economist at Capital Economics, says: "Reform is certainly what France needs in the long term. We have argued that the weakness of the labour market relating to structural rigidities has been a key factor behind France's underperformance compared with Germany."

The US economist Paul Krugman, a strong opponent of the austerity policies pursued across Europe since the debt crisis began in 2010, disagrees. He says employment among prime-age (25-54) workers in France is higher than in the US, that the notion of French uncompetitiveness sits oddly with a small current account deficit, and that until the crisis French unit labour costs rose in line with the eurozone average.

The problem, Krugman says, is not structural rigidity but blanket austerity and Germany's unwillingness to reflate. "The question I would ask is: what do Hollande and his inner circle think will make the situation turn around? Europe's austerity drive has now gone on for four years; over the course of those four years the euro area has seen economic recovery shrivel, a much-touted comeback also stumble, and now a slide towards deflation. French economic performance tends to track the eurozone average; why should anyone expect France to come roaring back?"

That was broadly the argument made by Montebourg last week when he went public with his criticism of the austerity programme and blamed Germany.

"I agree with Montebourg," says Youri Tabet, a 23-year-old studying for an MA in public affairs. "He's a bit of an opportunist but he was right to bang his fist on the table."

He is critical of Hollande's failure to follow through on his election promises to restore growth. "Hollande should have been firmer with [Angela] Merkel. He gave in too quickly," says Tabet, who was a card-carrying member of the Socialist party until the 2012 election but has since stopped going to meetings .

He lives with his parents in southern Paris out of necessity, and they are footing the bill for his studies. He says the signs of economic stagnation are all around: "Our teachers tell us how hard it will be to get a job. And I can see that my parents' friends are in difficulties too."

David Rouault, 25, is training to be a lawyer and shares a flat with three other people in Paris's south-western 15th arrondissement. The flatmates each pay €459 a month in rent. David earns €1,000 euros a month gross on an internship with a Paris law firm, but things are tight even though his firm gives him lunch vouchers.

Reflecting the majority view in opinion polls since the reshuffle, Rouault – who describes himself as a centrist unattached to a political party – says the prime minister was right. "What is outrageous is some ministers' lack of a sense of responsibility – in particular Montebourg – and their desire to stir things up after the holidays." But Rouault does not believe the reshuffle will bring change.

"I don't think the government is as responsible for the mess as the media would have us believe. France's problems date from before the left came to power, and things won't go any better with this new government," he says. "Things will improve when the crisis is finally over on an international scale, stimulated by other countries."

Hollande has adopted a two-pronged strategy. He has a pact with business, under which modest cuts in public spending will be used to cut corporate taxes, provided firms take on more workers. And he hopes that if he shows a commitment to reform, the German government will ease up on its austerity demands and allow France to run budget deficits in excess of the 3% target stipulated by the European Union.

Stephen Lewis of stockbroker ADM is not convinced: "Hollande probably takes the view that he is likely to depend on Germany's goodwill if his government is to avoid imposing draconian measures on the French economy. The financial markets are taking a positive view of the new French government, though its centrepiece proposal of tax concessions to companies in return for commitments to raise employment seems unlikely to strengthen the economy structurally. After all, there is no guarantee that the jobs companies create to gain their tax concessions will be very productive."

Hollande, whose approval ratings stand at just 17%, needs results, and fast. But the chances of him achieving them look slim. It is not just that the latest business surveys make grim reading – though the economy does appears to be going backwards in the third quarter. It is not just that the amount of slack Merkel will cut him is likely to be limited. And it is not just that the European Central Bank has been painfully slow in waking up to the threat of deflation.

Rather it is that for all its many problems, France remains a prosperous and – for those in work – comfortable country. There is just no appetite for any of the more radical proposals, be they structural reforms, abandoning austerity or leaving the euro.

David Marsh of monetary thinktank Omfif says: "The political and economic position in France is parlous. Hollande will now be under attack from two sides: from the right wing, both his traditional conservative rivals and the revitalised Front National, and from his own socialist party, where Montebourg and his allies, unencumbered by government office, will be quick to regroup."

The risk for Hollande is clear. He is neither Margaret Thatcher in 1979 nor Blair in 1994. He has levers but seems unwilling to pull them. Clause IV moment? No chance. Lame duck moment? Much more likely.

Pages: 1 ... 7 8 [9] 10