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Prime Minister May’s hard Brexit

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The speech of the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, delivered on January 17 at Mansion House, foreshadows a new and more global Britain, but above all entails the end of the European Union as we know it today.

Thirty years after the speech delivered by Margaret Thatcher at Lancaster House in 1988, when the conservative Iron Lady accepted the European single market and the freedom of movement and trade within Europe, a new conservative Iron Lady states she is ready to leave the European Union and the European single market.

In the European Union, Great Britain has always experienced Germany’s marked hegemony that it has tried to control both by entering the European Union and then deciding to leave it, as it is currently doing.

Great Britain never wants hegemonic powers in its way: neither the EU nor the Franco-German Europe, nor even the possible EU of the South, with the alliance between Italy, Spain, Greece, the Balkans and Austria.

In fact, the documents of the Bank of England on the euro have always been very clear: we do not want the single currency because, as Great Britain, we are a global power and the only counterpart for the Commonwealth, and we do not accept a Mark disguised as European currency, namely the euro, which is the result of a pact – proposed by Margareth Thatcher herself – between those who did not want German reunification and Germany itself.

The core of the issue was as follows: Germany could be reunited but it had to give its currency as ransom.

At that time the Italian President of the Republic, Francesco Cossiga, was in very close contact with Margaret Thatcher, on the one hand, and Helmut Kohl on the other.

He carried out a strong and necessary mediation activity.

Hence, in his recent speech, Theresa May has made it clear that Great Britain wants back its full sovereignty on migration issues, which will be the axis of the future “engineering of nations” and the primary tool for controlling and managing the labour force, its complexion and cost. She also wants full sovereignty on customs – another essential factor in the relationship between Great Britain and the European Union.

Hence, following the traditional model of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), May’s government will manage a series of trade agreements with the individual EU and non-EU countries. Obviously what will be missing in the Euro-British regulations will be richly offset by the new economic relations between Great Britain and its wide Commonwealth, as well as between Great Britain and Donald Trump’s United States.

Let us wonder, however, whether the United States still need the European Union – this is currently the real question.

In fact, only the US weight and clout did enable France and Germany to create the first pan-European institutions and only Great Britain did act as a strategic and economic counterbalance to ”Rhenish Europe”, the one that Charles De Gaulle defined as “the United States’ Trojan horse”.

Indeed, before the vote on Brexit, it was precisely Great Britain to strongly support the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which was designed as a geoeconomic alternative to the probable fragmentation and disruption of the European Union.

Hence Brexit has had a long-standing gestation and it will completely change the EU strategic and economic landscape.

It was worth recalling that it was Prime Minister Edward Heath to bring Great Britain into the European Common Market in 1973 – a choice reaffirmed by the outcome of the referendum held by Wilson two years later.

However, throughout the 1980s, the European integration process slowed down significantly and, therefore, in those years the City of London created wealth with its monetarist policies of high interest rates. This enabled the holders of UK government bonds to make excellent profit and also enabled the City to stabilize its rates without adhering to the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM).

In 1986 Thatcher’s financial reforms established a close link between the City and the US financial system – a link which will obviously make Brexit even stronger.

However are the United States really interested in having a “Little Britain”, which will no longer be the trusted channel with the EU, or will they strengthen the traditional ties of the Anglosphere between Britain and the United States?

And what will be the geopolitical and financial link between one of the largest economic areas of the globe, namely he EU, and the United States, which cannot certainly afford to neglect Europe?

Certainly Donald Trump was clearly in favour of Brexit and, after taking office, he will be the first world leader to receive Theresa May at the White House on January 27th.

Moreover, it is well-known that President Trump does not like the European Union. He prefers to deal with the individual EU Member States, but this does not mean that Europe is not still decisive in the US strategic and economic framework.

Do the United States want to keep united and friendly a great commercial and political area, namely the EU, which acts as a rampart vis-à-vis the Russian Federation and the Arab and Islamic world, or do they want to deal only with its Member States, thus destroying the Union and paving the way for Chinese and Islamic capital?

We will soon see Donald trump’s proposals in this regard.

Moreover, the origin of the European Monetary Union lies exactly in its unusual and asymmetrical relationship with the United States: the slow creation of the single currency stems from the crisis of the Bretton Woods agreements, created specifically by the United States, by the strong exchange rate volatility in that phase and, above all, by the US refusal to restore a global monetary balance.

Only China and, in other respects, the Russian Federation are currently interested in redesigning, with the EU, a new international monetary and financial system which will be based on a basket of currencies at variable exchange rates in a predefined range.

Furthermore today Germany does no longer need a highly regulated economy, mediating between capital and labour, as was the case until 2000 and up to the financial crises of 2006 and 2009.

Hence Germany can further financialize its economy by lending euro to its periphery and hence maintaining extremely high trade surpluses, as currently happens, or can invest directly in the US system through the City.

The United States will always have a growing share of high-interest and short-term “toxic” assets.

Moreover, regardless of Brexit, the City’s trading and transactions with the United States and the European Union have decreased significantly.

London’s financial centre does not yet know whether to invest in the EU or elsewhere in the world, especially in China or in the BRICs and the British government’s participation in the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank proposed by China has created strong tensions with the United States. Said tensions will persist if the North American financial markets maintain their growth.

Another problem not to be overlooked is that neo-liberal policies, from Thatcher onwards, have deeply divided Great Britain socially and geographically.

In Great Britain the Gini coefficient, a statistical measure of social inequality, has risen from 0.26 in 1979 to the current 0.4.

The gap between the rich London and the South of the country and the increasingly poor North is particularly evident.

All this could lead to an inherent weakness of the British political system, irrespective of the party in power.

Moreover, as many commentators have noted, also Donald Trump’s election is a kind of Amexit: the US unilateral withdrawal from the post-Cold War global system, which had not been well negotiated and was based on the Russian and Chinese strategic void filled by an America which was becoming the only global power.

This is no longer the case – the United States are no longer the “indispensable nation”. With President Trump, the United States will no longer act as the world’s policeman and, in the North American decision-makers’ minds, Brexit means that the EU shall either break up or rebuild itself as a real Union.

Also NATO which, until Barack Obama’s Presidency, denied to Russia and China the right to their natural spheres of influence – often with suicidal intentions – will be a US (and British) direct instrument or an inter-European mechanism which, however, the EU Member States shall pay largely by themselves – and today’s Europe has certainly neither money nor strategic ideas.

Moreover, Theresa May’s Brexit is not yet well-defined within the British political scene: the Supreme Court’s ruling has forced the government to seek approval from Parliament before formally starting negotiations on Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The Scottish National Party wants to remain in the EU and threatens to hold a second referendum on the separation between Scotland and England and it also wants to table over 50 new amendments to the law for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU according to Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

The Labour Party itself wants to slow down the process of separation between Britain and the Union, although it will generally vote in favour of Brexit in Parliament.

The Tories have no majority in the House of Lords and the Bremain supporters could cause problems to Prime Minister May’s government.

Hence if – as currently everything leads us to think – President Trump manages the new relationship with Britain vigorously, the UK economy will be granted full and free access to the US financial and non-financial market, without forgetting that Prime Minister May wants better strategic and military cooperation with the United States, both for renewing the Trident missile system and for tackling the other matters relating to global intelligence.

As a result of Brexit and the consequent British full entry into the US economic and strategic sphere, the EU will be less effective also at military and intelligence levels.

Hence we will see what will happen on January 27 next, after Prime Minister May’s meeting with President Trump in Washington.

At technical and legal levels, the British Prime Minister intends to close the economic negotiations between her country and the EU Member States before the end of the procedure pursuant to Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which also means she wants to avoid “cliff edge”, namely the tariff and economic cliff edge of spring 2019, the moment of real Brexit.

Not surprisingly, Prime Minister May talks about an “implementation phase” from now until 2019, before the end of negotiations with the EU on Article 50.

The political and strategic significance is very clear: Prime Minister May wants to stay on good terms with the EU area but, if Europeans want to “punish” Britain, London will become a centre for the trade, financial and political war against the European Union.

If the EU has a punitive attitude vis-à-vis the UK on Article 50, Britain will become a low-taxation and low- regulation economy; it will gradually acquire a large part of European industries and will wage a tariff and financial war against the EU and its Member States.

Not to mention the City’s finance, which will be directed against the euro area and will support any aggressive US dollar operation.

Or any aggressive operation of other countries, which will certainly come to the fore against an ever weaker Euro.

Currently the global economic trends are clear: increased uncertainty on global financial markets, which favours emerging economies and their countries of reference, such as Russia and China; reduced dependence of peripheral markets from those of the First World economies (the so-called decoupling) and the rise of China’s public debt.

Probably, the growth of public spending in the United States will add other crisis factors on the global scene, while we must not neglect the agreement between Russia and OPEC for reducing oil extraction and the related increase in oil barrel prices.

The EU may remain the old regional union of the Cold War and it will be bound to break up under the combined pressure of Brexit and Trump’s Presidency in the United States, or may become smart and hence start or extend negotiations with Israel, the non-EU Balkans’ area, South Korea and Singapore – obviously in addition to China and Russia – for a new Eurasian economic union.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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Europe tells Biden “no way” to Cold War with China

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Amidst the first big transatlantic tensions for the Biden Administration, a new poll shows that the majority of Europeans see a new Cold War happening between the United States and China, but they don’t see themselves as a part of it.

Overwhelmingly, 62% of Europeans believe that the US is engaged in a new Cold War against China, a new poll just released by the European Council on Foreign Relations found. Just yesterday US President Joe Biden claimed before the UN General Assembly that there is no such thing and the US is not engaging in a new Cold War. So, Europeans see Biden’s bluff and call him on it.

The study was released on Wednesday by Mark Leonard and Ivan Krastev at the European Council on Foreign Relations and found that Europeans don’t see themselves as direct participants in the US-China Cold War. This viewpoint is most pronounced in Bulgaria, Hungary, Austria, Portugal and Italy, according to the study. The prevailing view, in each of the 12 surveyed EU member states, is one of irrelevance – with respondents in Hungary (91%), Bulgaria (80%), Portugal (79%), and Austria (78%) saying that their country is not in a conflict with Beijing.

Only 15% of Europeans believe that the EU is engaged in a Cold War against China. The percentage is so low that one wonders if there should even be such a question. It is not only not a priority, it is not even a question on the agenda for Europeans. Even at the highest point of EU “hawkishness”, only 33% of Swedes hold the view that their country is currently in a Cold War with China.  Leonard and Krastev warn that if Washington and Brussels are preparing for an all-in generational struggle against China, this runs against the grain of opinion in Europe, and leaders in Washington and Brussels will quickly discover that they “do not have a societal consensus behind them”.

“The European public thinks there is a new cold war – but they don’t want to have anything to do with it. Our polling reveals that a “cold war” framing risks alienating European voters”, Mark Leonard said.

The EU doesn’t have the backing of its citizens to follow the US in its new Cold War pursuit. But unlike the views of the authors of the study, my view is that this is not a transatlantic rift that we actually have to be trying to fix. Biden’s China policy won’t be Europe’s China policy, and that’s that, despite US efforts to persuade Europe to follow, as I’ve argued months ago for the Brussels Report and in Modern Diplomacy.

In March this year, Gallup released a poll that showed that 45% of Americans see China as the greatest US enemy. The poll did not frame the question as Cold War but it can be argued that Joe Biden has some mandate derived from the opinion of American people. That is not the case for Europe at all, to the extent that most of us don’t see “China as an enemy” even as a relevant question.

The US’s China pursuit is already giving horrible for the US results in Europe, as French President Macron withdrew the French Ambassador to the US. The US made a deal already in June, as a part of the trilateral partnership with the UK and Australia, and stabbed France in the back months ago to Macron’s last-minute surprise last week. Max Boot at the Council on Foreign Relations argues that it is Macron that is actually arrogant to expect that commitments and deals should mean something: “Back in February, Macron rejected the idea of a U.S.-E.U. common front against China. Now he complains when America pursues its own strategy against China. What’s French for chutzpah?” What Boot does get right is that indeed, there won’t be a joint US-EU front on China, and European citizens also don’t want this, as the recent poll has made clear.

The US saying Europe should follow the US into a Cold War with China over human rights is the same thing as China saying that Europe should start a Cold War with the US over the bad US human rights record. It’s not going to happen. You have to understand that this is how ridiculous the proposition sounds to us, Europeans. Leonard and Krastev urge the EU leadership to “make the case for more assertive policies” towards China around European and national interests rather than a Cold War logic, so that they can sell a strong, united, and compelling case for the future of the Atlantic alliance to European citizens.

I am not sure that I agree, as “more assertive policies” and “cold war” is probably the same thing in the mind of most Europeans and I don’t think that the nuance helps here or matters at all. Leaders like Biden argue anyway that the US is not really pursuing a Cold War. The authors caution EU leaders against adopting a “cold war” framing. You say “framing”, I say “spin”. Should we be in engaging in spins at all to sell unnecessary conflict to EU citizens only to please the US?

Unlike during the first cold war, [Europeans] do not see an immediate, existential threat”, Leonard clarified. European politicians can no longer rely on tensions with China to convince the electorate of the value of transatlantic relations. “Instead, they need to make the case from European interests, showing how a rebalanced alliance can empower and restore sovereignty to European citizens in a dangerous world”, Mark Leonard added. The study shows that there is a growing “disconnect” between the policy ambitions of those in Brussels and how Europeans think. EU citizens should stick to their sentiments and not be convinced to look for conflict where it doesn’t exist, or change what they see and hear with their own eyes and ears in favor of elusive things like the transatlantic partnership, which the US itself doesn’t believe in anyways. And the last thing that should be done is to scare Europeans by convincing them they live in a “dangerous world” and China is the biggest threat or concern.

What the study makes clear is that a Cold War framing against China is likely to repel more EU voters than it attracts, and if there is one thing that politicians know it is that you have to listen to the polls in what your people are telling you instead of engaging in spins. Those that don’t listen in advance get the signs eventually. At the end of the day it’s not important what Biden wants.

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Germany and its Neo-imperial quest

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In January 2021, eight months ago, when rumours about the possibility of appointment of Christian Schmidt as the High Representative in Bosnia occurred for the first time, I published the text under the title ‘Has Germany Lost Its NATO Compass?’. In this text I announced that Schmidt was appointed to help Dragan Čović, the leader of the Croatian HDZ party, to disrupt the constitutional structure of Bosnia-Herzegovina and create precoditions for secession of the Serb- and Croatian-held territories in Bosnia and the country’s final dissolution. I can hardly add anything new to it, except for the fact that Schmidt’s recent statements at the conference of Deutsche Atlantische Gesellschaft have fully confirmed my claims that his role in Bosnia is to act as Čović’s ally in the latter’s attempts to carve up the Bosnian Constitution.

Schmidt is a person with a heavy burden, the burden of a man who has continuously been promoting Croatian interests, for which the Croatian state decorated him with the medal of “Ante Starčević”, which, in his own words, he “proudly wears” and shares with several Croatian convicted war criminals who participated in the 1992-1995 aggression on Bosnia, whom Schmidt obviously perceives as his ideological brethren. The question is, then, why Germany appointed him as the High Representative in Bosnia? 

Germany’s policy towards Bosnia, exercised mostly through the institutions of the European Union, has continuously been based on the concept of Bosnia’s ethnic partition. The phrases that we can occassionaly hear from the EU, on inviolability of state boundaries in the Balkans, is just a rhetoric adapted to the demands by the United States to keep these boundaries intact. So far, these boundaries have remained intact mainly due to the US efforts to preserve them. However, from the notorious Lisbon Conference in February 1992 to the present day, the European Union has always officially stood behind the idea that Bosnia-Herzegovina should be partitioned along ethnic lines. At the Lisbon Conference, Lord Carrington and Jose Cutileiro, the official representatives of the then European Community, which has in the meantime been rebranded as the European Union, drew the maps with lines of ethnic partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina, along which the ethnic cleansing was committed, with 100.000 killed and 1,000.000 expelled, so as to make its territory compatible with their maps. Neither Germany nor the European Union have ever distanced themselves from the idea they promoted and imposed at the Lisbon Conference as ‘the only possible solution’ for Bosnia, despite the grave consequences that followed. Nor has this idea ever stopped being a must within their foreign policy circles, as it has recently been demonstrated by the so-called Janša Non-Paper, launched a couple of months ago, which also advocates the final partition and dissolution of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Such a plan is probably a product of the powerful right-wing circles in the European institutions, such as Schmidt’s CSU, rather than a homework of Janez Janša, the current Prime Minister of Slovenia, whose party is a part of these circles, albeit a minor one. To be sure, Germany is not the original author of the idea of Bosnia’s partition, this author is Great Britain, which launched it directly through Lord Carrington at the Lisbon Conference. Yet, Germany has never shown a will to distance itself from this idea, nor has it done the European Union. Moreover, the appointment of Schmidt, as a member of those political circles which promote ethnic partition as the only solution for multiethnic countries, testifies to the fact that Germany has decided to fully apply this idea and act as its chief promoter.

In this process, the neighbouring countries, Serbia and Croatia, with their extreme nationalist policies, can only act as the EU’s proxies, in charge for the physical implemenation of Bosnia’s pre-meditated disappearance. All the crimes that Serbia and Croatia committed on the Bosnian soil – from the military aggression, over war crimes, ethnic cleansing and genocide, up to the 30 year-long efforts to undermine Bosnia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity – have always had a direct approval and absolute support of the leading EU countries. During the war and in its aftermath, Great Britain and France were the leaders of the initiatives to impose ethnic partition on the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and now Germany has taken up their role. In such a context, the increasing aggressiveness of Serbia and Croatia can only be interpreted as a consequence of the EU’s intention to finish with Bosnia for good, and Schmidt has arrived to Bosnia to facilitate that process. Therefore, it is high time for the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina to abandon any ilussions about the true intentions of the European Union and reject its Trojan Horse in the form of the current High Representative.  

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Should there be an age limit to be President?

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The presidential elections in Bulgaria are nearing in November 2021 and I would like to run for President of Bulgaria, but the issue is the age limit.

To run for President in Bulgaria a candidate needs to be at least 40 years old and I am 37. I am not the first to raise the question: should there be an age limit to run for President, and generally for office, and isn’t an age limit actually age discrimination?

Under the international human rights law standard, putting an age limit is allowed in the context of political participation under the right to vote and the right to run to be elected. Human Rights Committee General Comment No.25 interpreting the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that an age limit has to be based on objective and reasonable criteria, adding that it is reasonable to have a higher age requirement for certain offices. As it stands, the law says that having an age limit for president is not age discrimination, but is 40 actually a reasonable cut-off? National legislations can change. We need to lower the age limit and rethink what’s a reasonable age for President, and not do away with all age limits.

We have seen strong leaders emerge as heads of state and government who are below 40 years of age. Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of Finland, became Prime Minister at 34. Sebastrian Kurz, the Prime Minister of Austria, was elected at 31. Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, assumed her position at 37. So perhaps it is time to rethink age limits for the highest offices.

The US has plenty of examples where elected Senators and Congressmen actually beat the age limit and made it despite the convention. The age limit for Senator in the US is 30 years old. Rush Holt was elected to the US Senate at 29. In South Carolina, two State Senators were elected at 24 years old and they were seated anyways. The age limit for US president is 35 years old.

In Argentina, the age cut-off is 30. In India, it is 35. In Pakistan, it is 45 years old. In Turkey, it is 40 years old. Iceland says 35 years old. In France, it is 18.

Generally, democracies set lower age limits. More conservative countries set the age limit higher in line with stereotypes rather than any real world evidence that a 45 year-old or 55 year-old person would be more effective and better suited to the job. Liberal countries tend to set lower age limits.

40 years old to be a President of Bulgaria seems to be an arbitrary line drawn. And while it is legal to have some age limits, 40 years old seems to be last century. Changing the age limit for president of Bulgaria could be a task for the next Bulgarian Parliament for which Bulgarians will also vote on the same date as they vote for President.

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