Tag Archives: Reuters

CONTINUING UNCERTAINTY IN EUROPE

Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi resigned from office December 7, 2016 (AFP Photo/Andreas Solaro)
Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi resigned from office December 7, 2016                                     (AFP Photo/Andreas Solaro)

Italy has become the latest country to witness a rejection of the Establishment.   Prime Minister Mateo Renzi’s referendum to simplify government and, at the same time, make it stronger, was turned down by the electorate.   Many interpret this as a vote against Renzi himself.

However, the more interesting vote was in Austria on the same day, Sunday.   A second presidential election was held as the first, earlier this year, was too close to call.   Although the post of president is largely ceremonial, there was a great deal of interest in the vote.   The choice was between a left-of center Green Party candidate and a neo-Nazi.   The latter lost, but got over 46% of the vote.   This will now send shockwaves across the European continent – other countries are also likely to see a resurgence of Nazism (fascism); and it won’t be long before an extreme right-wing party wins at the polls.

Why is this happening, over seventy years after World War II and the defeat of the Nazis?

In an interview with Reuters after Donald Trump’s win, the right-wing Austrian Freedom Party’s candidate, Norbert Hofer made the following comment:

“Wherever the elites distance themselves from voters, those elites will be voted out of office.”  (November 16th)

What started with Brexit and continued in the US presidential election, continues now in Europe – a rejection of the Establishment, the elites that have governed since World War II.   This embraces a rejection of multiculturalism and political correctness.

Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, interviewed on PBS’ Newshour Monday (December 5h), could not understand the return of nationalism in western democracies, at times sounding totally bewildered.   He expressed particular incredulity and disbelief that Norbert Hofer, “a man with Nazi roots,” received over 46% of the vote.   Establishment politicians are clearly concerned about this.

Frankly, we should all be concerned.   The reaction against liberalism is understandable, but a return to the extremism of the 1930’s should also be of great concern.

Europe is important.   The EU is the world’s biggest single economy (see chart below, showing 2014 stats).   If (a BIG if) the 27 (28 minus the UK) countries of the EU unite militarily, the world will have a new super-power, at exactly the time the US seems to be pulling back, with its emphasis on “America First.”

cotd-eu-us-china-india-gdp-ppp

The Italian referendum has also, once again, highlighted Germany’s role as European leader, even dictating policy to other countries. Note the following from Germanforeignpolicy.com:

Newsletter 2016/12/06 – A Time Bomb

ROME/BERLIN (Own report) – Following Italian Prime Minster Matteo Renzi’s defeat in Sunday’s referendum, Berlin is urging Rome to quickly form a “capable government” and resume its adjustment to the German model of austerity.   “The economic problems have to be tackled at the roots,” said Jens Weidmann, head of Germany’s central bank, yesterday.   German financial experts are floating the idea of a cabinet of technocrats, modeled on the Mario Monti government.   Monti ruled for a year and a half beginning in November 2011, without having been democratically elected . . .   It cannot be ruled out that its bank crisis could soon spread to other Italian credit institutions and to German banks.”

It’s not just the government in Berlin that likes to dictate to others. The following shows that Germans themselves have taken a decidedly anti-British turn after the Brexit vote:

“Germans want Merkel to take tough line with UK over Brexit, Körber Foundation poll finds –  (The Guardian, Patrick Wintour, Diplomatic Editor) 

Tuesday 29 November 2016 

“According to the survey, 58% of the public think Berlin should not be open to compromise with Britain over its EU departure and instead think Merkel should take a firm negotiating position, the Körber Foundation poll found.

“There was particular backing for Germany to take a hardline approach with the UK among supporters of Merkel’s own CDU party.”(https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/nov/29/germans-want-merkel-to-take-tough-line-with-uk-over-brexit-poll-finds)

There is growing concern about Germany’s increasing power.

“German militarism is assuming ever more openly aggressive forms. Following the German parliament’s (Bundestag) decision on Friday to massively increase the military budget, a discussion has now been launched about providing the German army (Bundeswehr) with nuclear weapons.”  (World Socialist website, 11/30).

Germany is also likely to turn further to the right politically when a general election is held next year.   The following may seem like a minor concern, but it’s the kind of news that makes voters want somebody else in power:

“A Syrian refugee who claims social benefits in Germany with his four wives and 22 children has sparked debates on social media.”   (RT news)

Concerned about growing anti-Islamic feeling, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced yesterday a ban on the burqa in public places.

If Mrs. Merkel fails to deal with the growing Islamic immigration crisis, voters will turn to other parties.

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IT’S NEVER TOO LATE

Even historian Niall Ferguson has seen the light when it comes to the European Union.   Prior to the Brexit vote, he supported the “Remain” campaign, but has now apologized and said he is supportive of Brexit.  It takes a humble man to say he’s wrong, especially one as well-known as Mr. Ferguson, a Scot who now lives in the United States.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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TWO SIGNIFICANT ELECTIONS

Candidates

I thought readers might appreciate the following from a friend in Australia:

“Your presidential race is fascinating yet depressing.  Away from America, nobody, and I mean just about no one, can believe that Americans would support such a demagogue as Trump and all he stands for.   To say they like him because he speaks his mind and refuses to be PC is just inane.  Look at the type of person he is.  I would really fear for America, and more so the world, with a clown like him in charge.   It is positively sickening.

Bernie Sanders sounds like maybe a nice guy but a bit out of touch. I don’t think America could work his way. So Hilary . . .  there are skeletons in the closet so to speak but at least she has experience and did quite a reasonable job of it.  I think much of America still lives in the Teddy Roosevelt era in outlook . . . with little knowledge of the outside world and sort of contempt for it.”

Similar comments are also being made in newspapers in other parts of the world.

It’s difficult to imagine the Atlantic alliance holding together if Trump wins the election; having said that, the Democrats have not done any better.   Bret Stephens in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal wrote an article titled:   “Barack Obama checks out.”   With 311 days left until he hands over to his successor, the president seems to be insulting America’s friends while embracing her enemies (visits to Vietnam and Cuba are going to follow last year’s treaty with Iran).

Mr. Stephens’ article follows on from one in The Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg.   Mr. Goldberg interviewed President Obama, who seemed to forget he is still president and spent quite some time criticizing US allies, including Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron and former President Sarkozy of France who may be re-elected. He even made it clear that if Russia invades Moldova, the US will do nothing, giving the Russian president the go-ahead to annex another neighbor.   Even Israel is set to suffer another blow from the US president, who is treating Saudi Arabia equally in arms sales.

Historian Niall Ferguson also commented on the Goldberg article in today’s Boston Globe:

“At the top of the list of scapegoats are America’s traditional allies: not only Britain and France (Libya’s descent in chaos was all their fault) but also Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.   Then comes the Washington “foreign policy establishment” and the US military, who are always trying to “jam” him into going to war.   Next in line are the members of his own cabinet — among them former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — who urged him to intervene in Syria in 2012.

“The president says he is “very proud” of his decision in 2013 not to follow through on his earlier threat to take military action if the Assad regime used chemical weapons in Syria.   He seems not to understand that by asking President Putin to “force Assad to get rid of the chemical weapons,” he opened the door to Russian intervention in the Middle East, a region the Kremlin was effectively shut out of by Henry Kissinger in the early 1970s.   Wondering why the death toll in Syria has leapt upwards in recent months?   Step forward President Putin, whose air campaign against every anti-Assad force except ISIS has been a horror show.

“The Mosul dam symbolizes the critical state of an entire region. Like a huge wall of water, barely held in check by a crumbling dam, the combined forces of Islamic extremism, vicious sectarianism, networked terrorism, and Arab-Iranian rivalry have yet to wreak all the havoc of which they are capable.  But why worry?  The president has stuck to his foreign policy doctrine:   “Don’t do stupid sh–.”   As for ISIS, according to Goldberg, the president likens them to the Joker in the Batman movies.” (“A Catastrophe of Epic Proportions,” Niall Ferguson, Boston Globe).

As a President, Hillary Clinton seems likely to continue Mr. Obama’s policies and Europe is apprehensive of a Trump presidency, the Atlantic alliance could have some serious problems a few months from now.

Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson once observed: “it is true that, in America, any boy can grow up to become president.   This is something we are going to have to learn to live with!”   That was said over sixty years ago.   The problem has since doubled as every girl can now also aspire to be president.

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The United States isn’t the only country experiencing an interesting and potentially nation-changing election.   Germany had one, too. Last Sunday three of Germany’s states voted.  The result was significant gains for the AfD, the Alternative for Germany, an anti-immigrant party.   Trump is not the only western politician who wants to do something about immigration.

As Reuters put it:   “Voters punished Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in three German regional elections on Sunday, giving a thumbs-down to her open-door refugee policy and turning in droves to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD).

“The result is a big setback for Merkel, who has led Europe’s biggest economy for a decade, and could narrow her room for manoeuvre as she tries to convince her European Union partners to seal a deal with Turkey to stem the tide of migrants.

“Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) lost ground in all three states – Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate in the west and Saxony-Anhalt in the east – which were together widely seen as offering a verdict on Merkel’s liberal migrant policy.”

Following the election we see this report from the New York Times today:

BERLIN — German authorities banned a neo-Nazi group known as the White Wolves Terror Crew after the police conducted early morning raids on Wednesday in 10 of the country’s 16 states, confiscating weapons but making no arrests, the Interior Ministry said.

Far-right parties have gained strength as Germany struggles to integrate more than one million migrants, and the ban is intended to demonstrate that the authorities will not tolerate agitation against foreigners and migrants “and certainly no violence,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said.

“This group is an association of neo-Nazis who openly and aggressively agitate against our state, against our society, against people who think differently, against migrants and against the police,” he said.

Mr. de Maizière said that the group wanted to build a dictatorship, and that its aim “is supposed to be realized with all means available,” including violence. He added that the core of the group was made up of approximately 25 people, with the leaders coming from Hamburg.

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Staying in Europe, the Prime Minister of Iceland, a European country that is not a member of the EU, has warned the United Kingdom to recognize a European reality.   The Daily Telegraph carried the following headline on March 9th:

“Britain warned it wields no power in German dominated EU.”

It’s even losing control of its own stock market. Deutsche Bourse and the London Stock Exchange are to merge, with Deutsche Bourse holding a 54.4% stake in the London Stock Exchange, giving it effective control of one of the most important stock markets in the world.

Whether the British vote to leave the EU or remain a member on June 23rd may not make much difference. They will still be under the dominance of Berlin, whatever the outcome.

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Another March 9th headline from the UK’s Daily Mail:

London is more Islamic than most cities in Muslim countries, says Pakistan-born Islamic scholar.”