On November 25, leaders of the EU member states approved an agreement on the withdrawal of Great Britain from the Union. The last objections, voiced by Spain, were lifted after Madrid received “assurances from the British government concerning Gibraltar.” Now the British Prime Minister Theresa May will have to secure the approval of the country’s parliament. This may prove to be more difficult than reaching agreement on Brexit with member of the European Union. According to commentators, few, if any in the UK, endorse the agreement in its present version. If backed by the British Parliament, the deal will then have to be favored by a simple majority of the European Parliament. Afterwards, the EU Council will hold a vote, in which the support of at least 20 member countries is required, representing at least 65% of the Union’s population. No endorsement by national parliaments is required. Should the decision receive the approval of all parties involved, the exit procedure will start on March 29, 2019. The transition period will last at least 18 months.
Last week, the text of the Brexit agreement, which is nearly six hundred pages long, was finally approved. Next, British Prime Minister Teresa May eventually succeeded in winning the support of most Cabinet members. At the same time, a number of ministers, including Dominic Raab, who is in charge of exiting the EU, resigned in protest against the final version. Now, the British Parliament is to vote on the bill to achieve agreement with the EU on the terms of the exit in early December. In addition to the text of the Agreement, a Political Declaration has been drafted which briefly describes the main principles of further relations between the UK and the EU, including the positions of the two parties in future negotiations on a trade agreement.
The 17-month negotiations marathon was extremely difficult. Triggered largely by discontent about the so-called “uncontrolled” influx of migrants, Britain’s exit from the EU quickly turned from a “technical” issue into one of the main challenges to the future of the Union. The EU’s position of late has been to “minimize the damage from Brexit”. In early September, when the third round of negotiations between London and Brussels came to a close, most observers said, it fell through. It was only by mid-November that the parties had harmonized their positions on the financial conditions of the exit, the protection of the rights of EU citizens in the United Kingdom and the British in Europe, as well as on the “consistency of talks about the future”.
At present, the outcome for the EU looks fairly beneficial. According to The Economist, the British authorities have failed to achieve more than half of their original goals. London’s independence from the EU in matters of trade and customs regulation has been postponed at least until 2021. Until then, the UK will remain within the regulatory procedures of the EU Customs Union and will continue to live by the standards of the EU’s common market and their interpretation by the European Court of Justice. The UK will pay the EU about £ 39 billion in a one-off payment and there might be additional payments in the future. Instead of signing a comprehensive free trade agreement by March 2019, which London had sought to secure so much, a Political Declaration was approved which states the parties’ intention to conclude such an agreement “in the future.”
What can be seen as success for the UK is the cessation of the free movement of people between the UK and the EU. However, the approved version of the Brexit agreement envisages visa-free travel for both Europeans and the British “for tourist or business purposes.” Finally, London managed to secure the preservation of the “transparent” land border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. At the same time, it had to be paid for with the de facto retention of Northern Ireland within the EU’s jurisdiction, pending “further arrangements” to be reached during the transition period – that is, until December 2020 at the earliest.
The two leading EU countries – Germany and France – have managed to demonstrate the Union’s strong unity in the face of outgoing Britain. The Brexit Agreement was clinched on Brussels’ terms, which imply de facto payment, in the literal and figurative sense of the word, of a sort of indemnities. Meanwhile, it may turn out that the tough stance of Paris and Berlin on Great Britain will not bring any special political dividends either to Macron, whose reformist ideas are garnering less and less support in the EU, or to Merkel, who announced her intention to resign as chancellor by 2021. Finally, the mounting friction between Brussels and Warsaw, Budapest, Vienna, and now, Rome, shows that the deep-seated causes that underlie Britain’s choice of two years ago to vote for leaving the EU, are still there. And the position of Britain’s opponents who are trying, in the name of deepening EU integration, to turn a blind eye to problems for which there can be no politically correct solutions, is triggering ever more irritation on the part of European voters. Meanwhile, there is only 6 months to go before elections to the European Parliament are due to take place.
In turn, Theresa May is convinced that she has succeeded in achieving “the best deal possible.” Finance minister Philip Hammond has described the deal with the EU as “the best option for the British economy.” Meanwhile, this agreement has cost May a lot politically. In addition to resignations among Cabinet members, a number of parliamentarians from the Conservative Party persist in their attempts to raise the issue of confidence in the prime minister. The final document is subject to serious criticism, both by opponents and supporters of Brexit, including a considerable number of outspoken representatives of the Conservative Party. For example, Boris Johnson, one of the trailblazers of Brexit, a former foreign minister, and a favorite in the so far unofficial campaign for the post of prime minister, has voted the version of the Agreement signed with the EU as “a huge mistake.” According to Johnson, by approving the current text of the agreement “Britain will become a satellite state.” In this regard, experts anticipate serious difficulties, up to the rejection of the Agreement, or, at least, a significant delay in terms of passing the text through the British Parliament. A negative result will require the government to submit a new action plan within three weeks, but no later than January 21 of next year.
Teresa May’s major problem is that for success she needs more than the votes of her party. A small majority in parliament is provided by the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). However, many DUP members are extremely dissatisfied with the de facto preservation of EU regulation in Northern Ireland, which is enshrined in the Brexit Agreement. In their opinion, such a “compromise” “undermines the unity of Britain.” In addition, a week ago, not only the majority of opposition MPs, but also several dozen Conservatives came out against the May plan. According to critics, the deal agreed by May forces the UK to continue to follow EU regulations for an unspecified period of time. While doing so, London will not be able to influence decisions taken in Brussels, nor will it be able to withdraw from the Agreement unilaterally. Thus, the likelihood of a negative vote in the House of Commons is estimated as fairly high. Besides, the mounting contradictions within the ruling circles of Great Britain may provoke a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister May before the agreement is submitted to parliament. The loss of confidence in the prime minister would lead either to the arrival at Downing Street of a supporter of a tougher course on the EU, or to early elections. In both cases, the chances of Britain exiting the EU without any agreement will increase significantly.
According to the Times, members of the House of Commons will have to choose between a “bad deal” and two alternatives, which are likely to be even worse. If parliamentarians vote against the May plan, Britain will either leave the EU without any agreement at all – “tough Brexit”, or will hold a second referendum, in the hope that this time the people will vote to maintain membership in the European Union. Both options are extremely risky. ‘Tough Brexit’ can trigger a massive political and socio-economic crisis. “Another referendum will further divide the already divided country, make the population angry over the need for another voting, will further complicate relations with Brussels, and on top of that, it does not guarantee that the result will be different”.
It cannot be ruled out that there are quite a few in Europe who, deep in their hearts, hope for such a development of events. Brexit without an agreement would mean that Britain would have to build legal relations with continental Europe almost from scratch, that is, in such a way which will demonstrate to all potentially “hesitant” members of the EU that attempts to undermine the Union will bring them only huge losses and damages. And another referendum as such would deal a substantial blow to euro-skeptics and “populists” of every description. An even greater effect would be London’s rejection of Brexit. This would seriously strengthen the position of supporters of European integration in the context of their struggle for the posts in the EU executive and legislative branches in 2019.
Thus, chances are still high that London, with or without a “deal”, will have to pay the highest possible price for independence. Against this background, the incumbent Prime Minister Theresa May is rapidly losing popularity, both among voters and within her own party. As the voices of supporters of the “re-referendum” on EU membership are getting louder, the question that arises is whether the success, albeit a compromise, which Downing Street has achieved so far, will be just another Pyrrhic victory, of which the British history has seen so many. Or will Brexit give a new impetus to the development of the United Kingdom? No one can predict now.
First published in our partner International Affairs
The Name of the Rose: De-evolution of Europe
“He who does not wish to speak of capitalism should remain forever silent about Nazism” – Max Horkheimer famously said. It was a clear and often repeated line of this chief architect from the Frankfurt school of Philosophy – one of the most influential centres of thought in the XX century. This school of thought was tolerant and rather forgiving towards Western societies. Most importantly, the Frankfurters were for sure physically closest one to the post-WWII ideological and geopolitical default lines.
Even the Heideggerian run-away, Herbert Marcuse agreed. His “repressive tolerance” was probably the best indication of the possible self-entrapment of the western society, if someone in future ever attempts a dangerous and a historical equitation between Nazism and anything else, least with Communism. Regrettably enough, that future of de-evolution started pouring in by 1990s:It was this very same notion which Umberto Eco will name ur-fascism in 1995, sensing cold winds from the eastern flank of the EU and highly cynical silence of tacit approval from the central Europe.
Silence of the La(m)bs
“No one governs innocently” is a legendary diagnosis of Simone de Beauvoir about a true (Machiavellian) nature of political conduct. However, Nazi culprit; the calmly programmed concentrations camps, ruthless invasions and unprecedented scale of all-Europe suffering does not fall under this category. And will never be. This colossal evil needs its own name, its own category and our clear immortal reference to it.
Hence, the one who is not ready to talk about the imperialism of (primarily) Atlantic-Central Europe, colonialism, as well as about racism which usually justified the first two, should not talk about the ‘true’ European values. Or, for that matter, teach any lesson Europe’s East and Southeast.
Bottom line, before any contemplation for equitation, we should openly speak up about France in Algeria and Indochina, Italy in Libya and Eritrea, Dutch in Indonesia, Spain in Latin America (and home with Franco), Germany in Namibia and repeatedly all over Europe, Britain at so many places and at so many times, etc.
More than that, the only (i) organised and (ii) permanent resistance in Europe, occupied by Nazis,before and during the WWII was made by the communists. This irrefutable fact many to the EU’s East today perceive as inconvenient truth, which – by anti/intellectual acrobatics and central EU complicit silence– should be hidden under the carpet.
That antifascist struggle does not include Soviet Union and Yugoslavia only – two countries taking up by far the heaviest burden of pan-European resistance and liberation – but other patriotic movements as well; French, Greek, Italian and Spanish communists, too. Of course, the only two counties that solely freed themselves from Nazism without any external help were the two Eastern European, and at the same time two predominantly Slavic countries, Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.
So, the equitation of Communism with Nazism deeply insults all victims, but more over it negates very antifascist fundaments of modern Europe, while being at the same time deeply anti-Slavic. Clearly, negations of Nazi horrors – and any equitation is a beginning of such a historical and racist negation – committed in camps and elsewhere in occupied Europe, is not only anti-Semitic. It is first and most of all anti-Slavic!!
It isn’t freedom From. It’s freedom To
Sadly enough, most of the popular Atlantist literature and movies elaborating on topics of the WWII are biased and misleading on the role of the Red Army, and are generally disrespectful towards the enormous suffering of the Soviet and Yugoslav peoples at that time.
Some of the constantly implied fallacies is that the US and UK equally shared the burden of WWII with the Soviets. Even the British WWII ambassador in Moscow, Sir Stafford Cripps accused – in many cables he sent – his government of fatalistic defeatism, lack of bravery and of shirking any fight. As it happens, Stalin himself shouted at Churchill when the British PM went to Moscow to meet him in August 1942: “We’re losing 10,000 soldiers a day (1 per 8 seconds!!, rem.aut.)… Are you going to let us do all the fighting?”
Relative to the 1939 size of state territory and incumbent population within, the top WWII fatalities were suffered by Poland– 18%, the Soviet Union– 15%, Yugoslavia 12%, III Reich/Germany+Austria– 10%. For a sake of comparison, the Atlantic rim suffered as follows: France– 1,3%, UK–0,9%, the US– 0,3%. In casulties, it is: 36 millions to the East(mostly civilian), versus only 1,2 of the Atlantic Europe including the US soldiers.
Indeed, Russian and Yugoslav front – as only two fronts of permanently organized military resistance on the Continent – faced nearly 90% of the total German forces deployed in Europe. Promising to open the second, western front ever since 1941, the Anglo-American army eventually managed its landing on Sicily (oddly helped – out of his prison cell – by an Italian village Don turned the US mafia boss, Lucky Luciano) but only as late as September 1943.
By that time, Tito’s Partisans already managed most of their critical offensives, while Russians won over in the biggest and bloodiest battles of the WWII. All of them were fought on the very Soviet soil; that of Moscow, of Stalingrad, of Leningrad, and of Kursk – with the last one representing the biggest battle ever recorded in history of mankind.
Also indigenously, Italian anti-fascists – organized by progressive patriots and gathered in Garibaldi brigades – significantly knocked down the Duce’s rule in Italy.
Conversely, the Anglo-American blitzkrieg up the Italian ‘boot’ turned into a blamage. German forces quickly replaced capitulating Italy’s Fascists phalanges, and easily repelled the Allies. The Western combined army will reach Rome only in June 1944. Eventually, by the time of the Normandy invasion in summer 1944, the fate of Nazism in Europe was already decided by Eastern and Russophone Europe.
Trying to answer why the so-called Anglo-American antifascist intervention in Greece and Italy was so slow, anemic and late, many scholars argue that it was never meant to fight Nazis, but to disturb the strong indigenous leftist antifascist forces and to divert them to the desired ideological orientation and Atlantist geopolitical course.
The name of the Rose? Well, it is Red.
Sorry, but this is how it is. Eco just recorded echo.
Republika Srpska preparing Brexit
The precedence of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union naturally allows other European organizations and individual countries to contemplate the previously inconceivable exit option. While at the EU level there are no indications of any other member states planning to follow in London’s footsteps any time soon, in the Balkans, Bosnia and Herzegovina, which since the 1990s has been touted as a “window of international peacekeeping,” might by weighing a similar option. In an appeal to members of the republican parliament, Milorad Dodik, who sits on the collective Presidium of this former Yugoslav republic as a representative of the Serb-led entity in Bosnia, Republika Srpska (RS), called on his fellow citizens to prepare for secession from Bosnia and Herzegovina. He argued that the terms of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, which cemented the country’s current state system, had stopped being implemented.
Deliberately speaking in English, Milorad Dodik said: “Farewell to
Bosnia and Herzegovina. Welcome exit!” He added that his call had been prompted
by a a recent ruling by the Bosnian Constitutional Court, which rejected a
regulation passed in Republika Srpska on farmland that used to belong to the
Yugoslav state as unconstitutional.
The law, adopted late last year, declared such land as property of Republika Srpska, but the court ruled that the state of Bosnia was the owner.
“With its decision on farmland, the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina went too far,” Dodik said. Emphasizing that the Dayton peace accord “has ceased to be respected,” he accused the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina of trying to “destroy the Serbian identity of Republika Srpska.”
Earlier, Milorad Dodik said that Republika Srpska “has embarked on the course of leaving Bosnia and Herzegovina and this course is irreversible.” The first step in this direction was the Bosnian Serb representatives’ refusal to work in government at the republican level.
All this being said, there is still no reason to talk about any final decision having been made in Banja Luka to withdraw from Bosnia and Herzegovina as the Bosnian Serb leaders try to leave the doors open for a possible compromise. For example, the RS lawmakers decided to ask the central government in Sarajevo to reconsider the Constitutional Court’s decision and reshuffle its lineup (three out of nine of which happen to be foreigners).
Still, the eventual breakup of Bosnia and Herzegovina looks like a pretty real scenario, primarily due to the West’s stubborn wish to draw this former Yugoslav republic into the orbit of the Euro-Atlantic partnership, against the will and interests of many of its citizens, above all the Bosnian Serbs. As frankly admitted by Avangarda, a leading Sarajevo-based publication, “Bosnia and Herzegovina’s movement into NATO is not exclusively its internal affair. This is one of the priorities of US-British policy and most of the countries of the European Union, led by Germany. Therefore, the most powerful countries of our time, primarily the United States of America, are interested in bringing Bosnia and Herzegovina closer to NATO.”
“The political structures in Bosnia and Herzegovina who oppose this process will face [these powerful countries’] uncompromising pushback, and any attempt to prevent the country from joining NATO will be suppressed and punished,” the authors warn.
All this means that the Sarajevo authorities are capable of deliberately destabilizing the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina to provoke an internal conflict and urge the United States and the North Atlantic Alliance to intervene. This also means that the Bosnian Serbs may really have no other choice but to declare their self-determination and turn to other states for support – first of all, to Serbia.
From our partner International Affairs
‘Westlessness’: Shaping Anew the EU’s Power
The endurance of a political order cannot be permanently measured in the absence of any instrument, neither can it be substantially responded to at any given point and time. Similarly, the collapse of a system does not require any clear or prolonged warning. The world has experienced a relatively stable bi-polar system for several decades in the post-Cold War era, gradually replaced by the US dominated neoliberal post-Cold War era which is now being succeeded by a multi-polar world. This is accompanied with shifting alignments.
In the same vein, the debates at the 2020 Munich Security Conference (MSC) provided new insights into the shifts currently underway within the EU.In the most expansive sense of that term: ‘Westlessness’ reigned throughout the MSC despite the fact that it had played a vital role in world affairs after World War II. Earlier, marking the seventy fifth anniversary of the end of the World War II, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, President of Germany, warned that the erosion of international cooperation was evident in the US’s growing interest in Asia at the expense of its transatlantic relations. Will Europe come up more integrated in this shifted paradigm? How would a more sovereign Europe become a better partner to a more socially equal United States on global problems? The technological giants have also disrupted major economies, societies, and political systems.
Historically, Germany as a core EU country has been the largest and most successful economy with a gdp of almost $4 trillion under Angela Merkel, since 2005. Germany sends the most members to the European Parliament. It has efficaciously maintained stability during the euro crisis, the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014 and her open-door policy of 2015, in which over 1 million refugees were given shelter in Germany, was built on those premises. Germany provided an example of how to deal with a difficult past. However, using the legacy of the Holocaust, Germany has craftily absolved itself from the responsibility of security, defense, and leadership precisely. Will it continue to be the same in the post-Brexit paradigm? Steinmeier warned that, “if the European project fails, the lessons of German history will be called into question.”
Merkel’s Germany is already being criticized for not being able to provide international leadership. The objective of an integrated economic and political Europe is similarly unclear. Merkel has also not been able to fend off criticism that Germany has failed to meet the NATO commitment to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense, although it is already spending about 1.36 per cent of its GDP.
Within Germany, the ever-growing popularity of the far-right, anti-immigration, and anti-Semitic Alternative for Germany (AfD) has remained increasingly cumbersome for Angela Merkel. It is creating a leadership crisis for Germany. On February 10, 2020, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, as Merkel’s designated successor has also resigned as a leader of the governing Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party. This leadership crisis has emerged at xenophobic times of nationalism and populism espoused with the state of anomie, in Europe. The strains in the transatlantic relations and the rise in China’s global role have afflicted this specter further afield.
Speaking pronouncedly, the French President Emmanuel Macron also talks about the need for a more integrated Europe by exercising responsibility for Europe’s future. “This united Europe will only survive if we regard it as the most concrete repository for German responsibility . . . of all the dangers I sense facing Germany, I see none greater than that our German narrative of the future dispenses with the united Europe, whether as a result of a lack of insight, because of indifference, or in some people’s eyes even through intent.”
The panacea lies in strengthening European security and defense policy as suggested by Steinmeier. He however, distinctively speculated that it would be opposed by the Central and Eastern Europeans. Besides, the fear is that Europe is no longer relevant for the US in great power competition. “Only a Europe that can and wants to protect itself credibly will be able to keep the U.S. in the alliance,” was a major concern of Steinmeier.
The French President Emmanuel Macron was yet another person at the MSC who supported and rejected the idea of subordination to America in its new role. He even suggested a smaller “core” group of EU nations moving towards a military union. Macron even raised the prospect of France helping this military union by sharing its own nuclear weapons. He suggested ending the dependence of several countries on the US nuclear umbrella and recommended to think in a European way as well. Macron even invited Germany for talks on the subject of nuclear weapons with France. The French leader had earlier asked Merkel for a financial and military contribution to a joint anti-‘jihadist regional force’ under the rubric of G5 Sahel made up of forces from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
Already, the “Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy” presented by HR/VP Mogherini in June 2016, had laid down the foundations for a comprehensive package of measures in the areas of security and defence. It consists of three major pillars:
New political goals and ambitions for Europeans to take more responsibility for their own security and defence.
New financial tools to help Member States and the European defence industry to develop defence capabilities (“European Defence Action Plan”).
Set of concrete actions as a follow up to the EU-NATO Joint Declaration while identifying areas of cooperation.
Though, this siding of Macron with Germany by indicating the emergence of two blocs – the German led block vs the US led Britain, Australia and New Zealand bloc, shows an obvious lineage in global power trends. The objectives of the two are opposing while the NATO from which France benefitted the most, is almost obsolete for France. Similarly, the time of US-Europe cooperation against Russia also appears to be over.
Notwithstanding, apart from Macron’s closer alliance with Germany, he is also encouraging Europe’s oldest institution: the Roman Catholic Church. Would it mean the Resurrection of the Roman Empire and hence, the church states in the backdrop of rising Islamophobia? This certainly leads to several more questions.
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