– Photo: French President Emmanuel Macron (R) offers to shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) at the Chateau de Versailles
Since taking office in June, the French government has been hurriedly building its foreign policy. President Emmanuel Macron has already met with U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin and has had several discussions with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to reform the European Union. Macron will soon focus on Central and Eastern Europe, meeting with the leaders of Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia in Salzburg on Aug. 23 and then visiting Romania on Aug. 24 and Bulgaria on Aug. 25. The official goal of the meetings is to discuss the Eastern European nationals working in Western Europe. But France is also playing a more subtle political game: The European Union is about to start a debate about its future and Central and Eastern European countries will have to decide what role they want to have in it.Macron wants to shape that decision.
– Photo: Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech in Bobigny to announce his candidacy for next year’s presidential election.
The French government has said that Macron will use his tour to discuss the posted-workers system, an EU scheme by which companies in Western Europe can hire cheaper labor from poorer countries in Eastern Europe. Though less than 1 percent of all European workers carry out their jobs under the scheme, Macron has identified it as a form of social dumping that creates unfair competition for French workers. The European Union is unlikely to abolish the posted-workers system, but it will seek to reform it and probably limit its use. Support from at least some Central and Eastern European countries will be important to prevent the reforms from widening the divisions between Western and Eastern EU member states.
But Macron’s visit also has the unstated goal of strengthening France’s presence in a region that hasn’t been a priority in recent years. Macron has criticized those Eastern European countries that, according to him, accept EU money but don’t respect its values. His choice of countries for the tour is notable, as two governments that have tense relations with the EU Commission, Poland and Hungary, have been excluded. Poland and Hungary are, along with the Czech Republic and Slovakia, members of the Visegrad Group, a bloc that has repeatedly criticized the European Union. With Macron’s visit, France may be trying to differentiate between cooperative and uncooperative members of the Visegrad Group.
Others have been making similar moves for some time. Brussels threatened to sanction Poland because of recent judicial reforms and Hungary because of recent laws on foreign universities and foreign-funded nongovernmental organizations. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic could also be sanctioned because of their refusal to enforce an EU plan to distribute asylum seekers across the bloc.
Still, Brussels keeps good ties with Slovakia, the only country in the region that is a member of the eurozone and the only member of the Visegrad Group that has accepted a small number of migrants to avoid sanctions. In early August, Prime Minister Robert Fico even said Slovakia’s future lies with Europe’s “core” countries in the West. Similarly, in the Czech Republic, the government wants to be given observer status in the Eurogroup (a forum for eurozone finance ministers) if the institution’s powers are enhanced in future reforms. The Czech Republic does not use the euro and the issue is controversial, but Prague wants to keep the accession door open, even it’s only to have a seat at the table when the future of the currency is debated. The Czech Republic and Slovakia understand that the European Union will start talks to reform the bloc after the German general elections in September. They want their voices heard.
Austria’s decision to invite Czech and Slovak leaders but not Polish or Hungarian representatives to meet Macron suggests that the Austrian government is interested in acting as a bridge between them and the largest EU member states. Austria sees Central Europe as its sphere of influence, a consequence of centuries of its political control of the region during theHabsburg Empire. Austria isn’t interested in joining the Visegrad Group, because it doesn’t want to compete with Poland and Hungary for the bloc’s leadership. Austria seems more interested in weakening the Visegrad Group and siding with the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Of course, Austria and the Czech Republic will hold general elections of their own in October, which means that these strategic decisions could be revised. In Austria, the right-wing Freedom Party could enter a coalition government, which would make Vienna more Euroskeptic. In the Czech Republic, the ANO party, which is against adopting the euro, is polling strongly. But even under different governments, Central and Eastern European countries would continue to have different strategic interests that could undermine their regional alliances and open the door for external influence.
These political moves are all the more relevant considering the upcoming debate about the future of the European Union. On the table are ideas ranging from the introduction of new EU-wide investment mechanisms to strengthening military cooperation. In recent months, EU members have been toying with the idea of letting some countries move ahead with integration while others are left behind (a concept known as a “multi-speed Europe”). The French government believes the participation of the 27 members of the bloc is not necessary to move ahead with reforms. It would put Central and Eastern Europe in a dilemma. On the one hand, most of these countries want to remain outside the eurozone and are wary of Brussels interfering with their domestic issues. On the other, they rely on EU funding, investment and, to some extent, protection.
– Photo: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has arrived to Warsaw for talks on EU’s future with representatives of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. The four countries openly oppose Berlin’s refugee policy.
But in addition to increasing East-West divides on the Continent, the multi-speed Europe could also lead to conflict between France and Germany. France doesn’t see Central and Eastern Europe as an indispensable element of its grand designs for the future of the European Union. But Germany is deeply interested in the region, both for economic and security reasons. Many of these countries are important export and investment destinations and some are crucial parts of its supply chain. Moreover, many of these countries play a role in Germany’s competition with Russia for influence. As a result, the European Union’s redesign will force its members to make strategic decisions — both among the so-called “core” countries and among a periphery that risks being left behind.
If you have a bank account anywhere in Europe, you need to read this article. On January 1st, 2016, a new bail-in system will go into effect for all European banks. This new system is based on the Cyprus Bank ‘Bail-In’ that we witnessed a few years ago. If you will remember, money was grabbed from anyone that had more than 100,000 euros in their bank accounts in order to bail out the banks. Now the exact same principles that were used in Cyprus are going to apply to all of Europe. And with the entire global financial system teetering on the brink of chaos, that is not good news for those that have large amounts of money stashed in shaky European banks.
Below, I have shared part of an announcement about this new bail-in system that comes directly from the official website of the European Parliament. I want you to notice that they explicitly say that “unsecured depositors would be affected last.” What they really mean is that any time a bank in Europe fails, they are going to come after private bank accounts once the shareholders and bond holders have been wiped out. So if you have more than 100,000 euros in a European bank right now, you are potentially on the hook when that bank goes under…
The directive establishes a bail-in system which will ensure that taxpayers will be last in the line to the pay the bills of a struggling bank. In a bail-in, creditors, according to a pre-defined hierarchy, forfeit some or all of their holdings to keep the bank alive. The bail-in system will apply from 1 January 2016.
The bail-in tool set out in the directive would require shareholders and bond holders to take the first big hits. Unsecured depositors (over €100,000) would be affected last, in many cases even after the bank-financed resolution fund and the national deposit guarantee fund in the country where it is located have stepped in to help stabilize the bank. Smaller depositors would in any case be explicitly excluded from any bail-in.
And as we have seen in the past, these rules can change overnight in the midst of a major crisis.
So they may be promising that those with under 100,000 euros will be safe right now, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be true.
It is also important to note that there has been a really big hurry to get all of this in place by January 1. In fact, at the end of October the European Commissionactually sued six nations that had not yet passed legislation adopting the new bail-in rules…
The European Commission is taking legal action against member states including the Netherlands and Luxembourg, after they failed to implement rules protecting European taxpayers from funding billions in bank rescues.Six countries will be referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for their continued failure to transpose the EU’s “‘Bail-In’ Laws into national legislation, the European Commission said on Thursday.
So why was the European Commission in such a rush?
Is there some particular reason why January 1 is so important?
Meanwhile, there have been major changes in the U.S. as well. The Federal Reserve recently adopted a new rule that limits what it can do to bail out the “too big to fail” banks. The following comes from CNN…
The Federal Reserve is cutting its lifeline to big banks in financial trouble.
The Fed officially adopted a new rule Monday that limits its ability to lend emergency money to banks.
In theory, the new rule should quash the notion that Wall Street banks are “too big to fail.”
If this new rule had been in effect during the last financial crisis, the Federal Reserve would not have been able to bail out AIG or Bear Stearns. As a result, the final outcome of the last crisis may have been far different. Here is more from CNN…
“Under the new rule, banks that are going bankrupt — or appear to be going bankrupt — can no longer receive emergency funds from the Fed under any circumstances.
If the rule had been in place during the financial crisis, it would have prevented the Fed from lending to insurance giant AIG and Bear Stearns, Fed chair Janet Yellen points out.
So if the Federal Reserve does not bail out these big financial institutions during the next crisis, what is going to happen?
Will we see European-style “bail-ins” when large banks start failing?
And exactly what would such a “bail-in” look like?
Essentially, what happens is that wealth is transferred from the “stakeholders” in the bank to the bank itself in order to keep it solvent. That means that creditors and shareholders could potentially lose everything if a major bank in Europe fails. And if their “contributions” are not enough to save the bank, those holding private bank accounts will have to take “haircuts” just like we saw in Cyprus. In fact, the travesty that we witnessed in Cyprus is being used as a “template” for much of the new legislation that is being enacted all over Europe.
Many Americans assume that when they put money in the bank that they have a right to go back and get “their money” whenever they want. But if we all went to the bank at the same time, there wouldn’t be nearly enough money for all of us. The reason for this is that the banks only keep a small fraction of our money on hand to satisfy the demands of those that conduct withdrawals on a day to day basis. The banks take the rest of the money that we have deposited and use it however they think is best.
If you have money at a bank that goes under, that bank will still be obligated to pay you back, but it might not be able to do so. This is where the FDIC comes in. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) supposedly guarantees the safety of deposits in member banks, but at any given time it only has a small amount of money on hand.
If some major crisis comes along that causes banks all over the United States to start falling like dominoes, the FDIC will be in panic mode. During such a scenario, the FDIC would be forced to ask Congress for a massive amount of money, and since we already run a giant deficit every year the government would have to borrow whatever funds would be required.
Personally, I find it very interesting that we have seen major rule changes in Europe and at the Federal Reserve just as we are entering a new global financial crisis.
Do they know something that the rest of us do not?
Be very careful with your money, because I am convinced that “bank bail-ins” could be making front page headlines all over the world.
“National resolution funds are also being established. In the case of euro area Member States, these funds will be replaced by the Single Resolution Fund as of 2016,”according to the European Commission (EC).
“Events in Ukraine have brought a process that began 15 years ago to its logical conclusion. … Back then you will recall, Russia insisted that its role on the international stage was to represent the ‘civilized world’ when dealing with the so-called ‘rogue states’ of Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan – states whose actions threatened to destroy the existing world order. … As the years have passed, Russia has come less to represent civilized states than rogue ones, and to defend rogue states and their interests before the civilized states. … The West has forgotten how it co-existed with the Soviet Union through the use of deterrence. Now it will have to remember.” Alexander Golts
The shelling of residential areas in Mariupol which killed several dozen residents in January ended hopes that Russia would be able to return to the community of civilized nations any time in the foreseeable future. Before our very eyes, our country is turning into a global pariah.
Against the backdrop of renewed hostilities in south and east Ukraine, the Russian public paid little attention to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s recent visit to Iran. In practical terms there was nothing sensational about it. Moscow only hinted at the possibility of renewing a contract for the sale of S-300 air defense systems to Tehran, although officially the question was never discussed. Officials signed a vague agreement providing for military cooperation involving for the most part symbolic gestures such as exchanges of delegations, port visits of naval vessels and the like.
However in some cases, words are more important than specifics. Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan announced after the talks with Shoigu: “Emphasis was placed on the need for cooperation between Russia and Iran in their joint struggle against interference by non-regional forces,” he said. Dehghan made no secret of who the “non-regional forces” he referred to are. According to him, all the trouble is due to the “destructive U.S. policy of interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.”
Like it or not, Shoigu’s visit allowed the Iranians to actually declare Russia an ally in countering the United States. This was the first time in my memory that a rogue state openly referred to Russia as an ally – and that Moscow didn’t seem to mind. Thus, the events in Ukraine have brought a process that began 15 years ago to its logical conclusion.
Back then you will recall, Russia insisted that its role on the international stage was to represent the “civilized world” when dealing with the so-called “rogue states” of Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan – states whose actions threatened to destroy the existing world order.
Before that, the Soviet Union was willing to support any state – from communists to cannibals – willing to declare its intentions to follow the socialist path, so Moscow had inherited extensive contacts with such countries. The new approach failed almost immediately.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il promised President Vladimir Putin he would cease missile testing, but no sooner had Putin announced his great diplomatic victory than the North Korean dictator announced he had been joking. Leaders of rogue states may be many things, but they aren’t fools. They understand that when the time comes to surrender their position, it should certainly not be to Moscow. It should be to a power that can immediately reward them for their actions. That is, Washington or Brussels.
As the years have passed, Russia has come less to represent civilized states than rogue ones, and to defend rogue states and their interests before the civilized states. The final step in that metamorphosis occurred during Shoigu’s recent visit to Tehran. Now Russia has irrevocably moved into the rogue camp.
I would suggest that now, after the annexation of Crimea and outbreak of war in southern and eastern Ukraine, the Kremlin now meets all the criteria of a rogue state. First of all this is due the presence of a nationalist dogma for the sake of which leaders will deliberately sacrifice the interests of the citizens they represent.
Iran follows the dogma of radical and fundamentalist Islam, in North Korea the dogma centers on “Juche,” which is in fact a cult of Oriental despotism. In today’s Russia it is imperialism tied to Orthodox Christianity, which considers that the military annexation of part of a neighboring state is justified by the fact that at the Crimean Chersonesos, Prince Vladimir [958-1015 AD] was baptized when he brought Orthodoxy to that part of the world.
The main thing is that Vladimir Putin, like the Iranian Ayatollahs and North Korean dictators, is all-too prepared to sacrifice the welfare of the population for the sake of vaguely defined “national interests,” which are in fact a mixture of hypertrophic national pride and the inferiority complexes of the nation’s leader. Today, for the sake of this combustible mixture, people in the Donbass are being killed.
Apparently Putin felt stung when French and German leaders refused to meet him in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana last December. Until recently, however, the Kremlin seems to have thought: if we allow the separatist to just a few more people, those weak-kneed Europe will lift the sanctions.
Moreover, even the relative success of a recent meeting of German, French, Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers wasn’t enough to prevent the advance of separatists equipped with arms and ammunition from Russia. After all, the Kremlin has finally realized that its goal of “federalizing Ukraine” (under which Moscow would exercise complete control over Donbass and Kiev) is practically unattainable. If so, one must utilize the dominant resource: the lives of citizens in Donetsk and Mariupol. The Kremlin is well aware that the “weak” leaders of the U.S. and Western Europe find seeing women and children dying under fire from Grad rockets unbearable. The only way to stop it? … Agree to Russia’s proposal. Again there is the key issue that makes Russia a pariah: the Kremlin’s willingness to pay for its ambitions and prejudices with people’s lives.
Then there’s what makes Russia different from other rogue states: it is a former superpower which maintains the world’s second-largest nuclear arsenal. Today, Putin exploits the fact that no one knows what to do when a major nuclear power violates all international agreements. The West has forgotten how it co-existed with the Soviet Union through the use of deterrence. Now it will have to remember …
ETUCE, representing 11 million teachers and education workers, is expressing deep concern over the intention to include education services in the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) negotiations currently underway.
Martin Romer, Director of the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) said:“Trade rules are legally binding and can have the effect of locking-in and intensifying pressures of commercialisation and privatisation. Rules around market access can severely restrict the ability of countries that make commitments on education services to limit the entry and regulate the operations of private and for-profit schools and institution.”
WikiLeaks released the secret draft text of the TISA Annex on financial services that has highlighted concerns about how the deal will be used to deregulate the financial sector at a time when stricter rules are needed to avoid a repeat of the recent crisis.
Rømer noted that rules in TISA could make it difficult for governments to regulate appropriately the education sector.
“It is particularly worrying that a so-called standstill clause is included in the leaked document. This means that governments would have to bind their existing levels of liberalisation with the implication that future governments will not be able to introduce new measures that might restrict trade. This is fundamentally at odds with democratic decision-making,”stated Rømer.
The negotiations on the Trade in Services Agreement(TISA) are proceeding rapidly. The basic framework of the agreement is in place according to the speech held by the US trade representative, Michael Froman to theCoalition of Service Industries on 18 June 2014 in Washington DC. The 7th round of negotiations is taking place last week (23-27 June 2014) in complete secrecy in Geneva, Switzerland.
The participants in the TISA negotiations include the EU, Australia, Canada, Chile, Taiwan, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey and the US. China and Uruguay have flagged their interest in joining the negotiations but so far are not included.
The European Trade Union Committee for Education represents 132 Teacher Unions and 11 million teachers in all countries of Europe, 4.2 million teachers in the EU, from all levels of the education sector. ETUCE is a Social Partner in education at the EU level and a European Trade Union Federation within ETUC, the European Trade Union Confederation. ETUCE is the European Region of Education International, the global federation of teacher unions.
The threat of Russian intervention in Ukraine has caused American lawyers and diplomats to raise their voices about the legality of Russian military action in Ukraine. These complaints, however, are based more on political rhetoric and posturing than on an understanding of international law. In fact the most recent practices of states using force against other states show that perhaps it is the United States that is violating international law once again.
In using force against first Afghanistan and then Iraq in a period of less than three years, the US acted in violation of Article 2, Paragraph 4, of the Charter of the United Nations. This provision of the Charter prohibits the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of another sovereign state. Without a doubt the terrible bombing of these two countries—which killed millions of Afghanis and Iraqis—was a use of force against both the territorial integrity and political independence of these two countries.
In the case of Libya, the US and NATO claimed that it was authorized to use force by the UN Security Council. Russia and China challenged this assertion, claiming that even if the US and NATO were correct in interpreting UN Security Council resolution to authorize the use of force, the US and NATO action had gone much further than authorized. The US and NATO bombing of Libya’s infrastructure took the country from being the richest country in Africa—and on track to attain all the UN’s Millennium Development Goals—to a failed State. Thus even if the Security Council authorized the use of force in Libya, it likely violated fundamental human rights of the Libyan people in a massive and widespread manner. Such a violation of Libyans’ rights is inconsistent with the Charter’s obligations inArticle 55 and 56that all states cooperate to achieve development and respect for human rights. It also violates Article 2, Paragraph 4, of the Charter, which prohibits the use of force “in an other manner inconsistent with the purpose and principles of the UN.”
Syria is another example where international law is not only applicable but has been manipulated. As a sovereign state, Syria is allowed to seek international assistance to maintain its public order and to provide security to its people. When civil war broke out in Syria, foreign states were legally entitled to assist the government in pacifying the country. Under international law, states are not allowed to provide weapons to non-state actors and they act in violation of international law when they do so. Non-state actors can only justify the use of force if they are recognized as a National Liberation Movement. The Syria’s foreign backed rebels were not. When foreign states support such a group, they commit a serious violation of international law. They violate the injunction against states from interfering in matters that are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of another state. This prohibition—like the prohibition against the use of force—is laid down in the UN Charter. It is found in Article 2, Paragraph 7.
But Syria has also been a good example of the use of international law. In an enhancement of the status of international law, the negotiations with the US concerning NATO and US plans to intervene in Syria using force frequently referred to the applicable international law. The US alleged that its intervention—even if not authorized by the UN Security Council—was legitimate. Russia countered by arguing it was inconsistent with international law.The Russians pointed out to the Americans that the use of force against Syria—a sovereign State—was a serious violation of international law via the UN Charter. They also pointed out that—despite the US claim that the use of force was legitimate—the US could point to no justification for the use of force that was generally accepted as international law.
Moreover, the Russian negotiators in Geneva highlighted that the US had a legal obligation under international law not to arm non-state actors that were seeking to overthrown the sovereign government of Syria, particularly since that same group may have carried out chemical weapons attacks which the Syrian government was being accused of orchestrating. Some observers went so far as to point out to US Secretary of State John Kerry that he and President Obama might be liable to prosecution for international crimes if they authorized the use of force against Syria without a clear UN mandate. In this situation, the US backed down and accepted a negotiated solution. International law once again prevailed.
The recent situation in the Ukraine also raises questions of international law; however, American lawyers and diplomats are once again trying to contort the law to make it fit their political agenda. Again, it is Russia that is left in the position of apparently defending international law.
While American lawyers and diplomats claim that the use of force against the Ukraine is illegal, they forget that the elected President of the Ukraine requested it.When the legitimate government of a state requests foreign assistance, it can receive it under international law. The provision of assistance to another government, even military assistance, is consistent with international law.
The case is much different when foreign governments interfere in the domestic affairs of a state to change its government because they do not like it. In Ukraine this is exactly what the US and the EU did, not merely by expressing their political opinion from abroad but by sending money, weapons and advisers to the non-state actors who eventually stormed government buildings and caused the elected-government to flee through the use of force against it.
In such a situation, Russia’s continued recognition of the elected government as a government that is entitled to assist if it so requests is consistent with international law. Such assistance must, of course, conform with the rules of international law relating to the use of force by the states against its citizens. However, when a state acts—even using necessary force—to restore the public order, which includes securing the elected government. The state and those who support it are then acting in accordance with international law, not contrary to it. Any action from foreign countries to prevent Russia from assisting the elected government would itself be inconsistent with international law as an interference with a domestic affairs of a State that has requested assistance.
The elected President of the Ukraine—Viktor Yanukovych—had requested Russian assistance—including military forces—in writing, US President Obama is wrong in claiming that Russia is violating international law. In fact, action taken by the US to prevent Russia from assisting the elected government in the Ukraine is likely a violation of international law to the same extent that the United States and European efforts to change the government of the Ukraine were inconsistent with the prohibition of interference in the internal affairs of the Ukraine without the permission of its government.
More problematic is the Russia justification of intervention to protect its nationals in the Crimea region of Ukraine. Although the United States tried to justify its invasions of Grenada and Panama on this ground, there is little support for such a justification of the use of force under international law. Again, however, such an illegal action may be made legal under international law if the elected government of the state requests it. And again, it is the elected President of the Ukraine that has requested Russia’s assistance to protect vulnerable Ukrainians.
More important and constructive for the development and application of international law are the indications from Russia that it wants to exhaust all peaceful means to resolve the situation in the Ukraine. As part of these efforts, Russia is calling for the people who took power by force in the Ukraine to talk with the elected government and to express their assurances that they will honor the Ukraine’s international agreements as international law requires.
It is perhaps ironic that its is Russia—a superpower during the cold war that still possess one of the world’s largest weapons arsenals and armies—that is relying on international law to triumph over brute force. Nevertheless, it is a testimony to the resilience and relevance of international law that even states with the propensity to act on the mere basis of the use of force feel compelled to resort to international law to justify their actions. And it is even better when the legal arguments are based on a consensual understanding of the law shared by most states; even if some states claiming extraordinary privileges that run counter to the rule of international law, have to be increasingly ignored.
From Moscow to London to New York, the Ukrainian revolution has been seen through a haze of propaganda. Russian leaders and the Russian press have insisted that Ukrainian protesters were right-wing extremists and then that their victory was a coup. Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, used the same clichés after a visit with the Russian president at Sochi.
After his regime was overturned, he maintained he had been ousted by “right-wing thugs,” a claim echoed by the armed men who seized control of airports and government buildings in the southern Ukrainian district of Crimea.
Interestingly, the message from authoritarian regimes in Moscow and Kiev was not so different from some of what was written during the uprising in the English-speaking world, especially in publications of the far left and the far right. From Lyndon LaRouche’s Executive Intelligence Review through Ron Paul’s newsletter through The Nation and The Guardian, the story was essentially the same: little of the factual history of the protests, but instead a play on the idea of a nationalist, fascist, or even Nazis coup d’état.
In fact, it was a classic popular revolution. It began with an unmistakably reactionary regime. A leader sought to gather all power, political as well as financial, in his own hands. This leader came to power in democratic elections, to be sure, but then altered the system from within. For example, the leader had been a common criminal: a rapist and a thief. He found a judge who was willing to misplace documents related to his case. That judge then became the chief justice of the Supreme Court. There were no constitutional objections, subsequently, when the leader asserted ever more power for his presidency.
In power, this leader, this president, remained a thief, but now on a grand, perhaps even unsurpassed, scale. Throughout his country millions of small businessmen and businesswomen found it impossible to keep their firms afloat, thanks to the arbitrary demands of tax authorities. Their profits were taken by the state, and the autonomy that those profits might have given them were denied. Workers in the factories and mines had no means whatsoever of expression their own distress, since any attempt at a strike or even at labor organization would simply have led to their dismissal.
The country, Ukraine, was in effect an oligarchy, where much of the wealth was in the hands of people who could fit in one elevator. But even this sort of pluralism, the presence of more than one very rich person, was too much for the leader, Viktor Yanukovych. He wanted to be not only the president but the oligarch-in-chief.His son, a dentist, was suddenly one of the wealthiest men in Europe. Tens of billions of dollars simply disappeared from the state budget. Yanukovych built for himself a series of extravagant homes, perhaps the ugliest in architectural history.
A villa at Mezhyhirya, an out-of-town estate of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych north of Kiev
It is hard to have all of the power and all of the money at the same time, because power comes from the state, and the state has to have a budget. If a leader steals so much from the people that the state goes bankrupt, then his power is diminished. Yanukovych actually faced this problem last year. And so, despite everything, he became vulnerable, in a very curious way. He needed someone to finance the immediate debts of the Ukrainian state so that his regime would not fall along with it.
Struggling to pay his debts last year, the Ukrainian leader had two options. The first was to begin trade cooperation with the European Union. No doubt an association agreement with the EU would have opened the way for loans. But it also would have meant the risk of the application of the rule of law within Ukraine. The other alternative was to take money from another authoritarian regime, the great neighbor to the east, the Russian Federation.
In December of last year, the leader of this neighboring authoritarian regime, Vladimir Putin, offered a deal.From Russia’s hard currency reserves accumulated by the sale of hydrocarbons he was willing to offer a loan of $15 billion, and lower the price of natural gas from Russia. Putin had a couple of little preoccupations, however.
The first was the gay conspiracy. This was a subject that had dominated Russian propaganda throughout last year but which had been essentially absent from Ukraine. Perhaps Ukraine could join in? Yes indeed: the Ukrainian prime minister began to explain to his population that Ukraine could not have closer cooperation with Europe, since the EU was interested chiefly in gay marriage.
Putin’s second preoccupation was something called Eurasia. This was and is Putin’s proposed rival to the European Union, a club of dictatorships meant to include Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Again, perhaps Ukraine could join? Yanukovych hesitated here, seeing the trap—the subordination of Ukraine of course meant his own subordination—but he did allow himself to be jollied along toward the necessary policies. He began to act like a proper dictator. He began to kill his own people in significant numbers. He bloodied his hands, making him an unlikely future partner for the European Union.
Enter a lonely, courageous Ukrainian rebel, a leading investigative journalist. A dark-skinned journalist who gets racially profiled by the regime. And a Muslim. And an Afghan. This isNayem Mustafa Nayem, the man who started the revolution. Using social media, he called students and other young people to rally on the main square of Kiev in support of a European choice for Ukraine. That square is called the Maidan, which by the way is an Arab word. During the first few days of the protests the students called it the Euromaidan. Russian propaganda called it, predictably enough, the Gayeuromaidan.
When riot police were sent to beat the students, who came to defend them? More “Afghans,” but “Afghans” of a very different sort: Ukrainian veterans of the Soviet Red Army, men who had been sent to invade Afghanistan during after the Soviet invasion of that country in 1979.These men came to defend “their children,” as they called the students. But they were also defending a protest initiated by a man born in Kabul at the very time they were fighting their way toward it.
In December the crowds grew larger. By the end of the year, millions of people had taken part in protests, all over the country. Journalists were beaten. Individual activists were abducted. Some of them were tortured. Dozens disappeared and have not yet been found. As the New Year began the protests broadened. Muslims from southern Ukraine marched in large numbers. Representatives of the large Kiev Jewish community were prominently represented. Some of the most important organizers were Jews. The telephone hotline that people called to seek missing relatives was established by gay activists (people who have experience with hotlines). Some of the hospital guards who tried to stop the police from abducting the wounded were young feminists.
In all of these ways, the “decadent” West, as Russia’s foreign minister put it, was present. Yes, there were some Jews, and there were some gays, in this revolution. And this was exploited by both the Russian and Ukrainian regimes in their internal propaganda. The Russian press presented the protest as part of a larger gay conspiracy. The Ukrainian regime instructed its riot police that the opposition was led by a larger Jewish conspiracy. Meanwhile, both regimes informed the outside world that the protestors were Nazis. Almost nobody in the West seemed to notice this contradiction.
On January 16, Yanukovych signed a series of laws that had been “passed” through parliament, entirely illegally, by a minority using only a show of hands. These laws, introduced by pro-Russian legislators and similar to Russian models, severely constrained the freedom of speech and assembly, making of millions of protesters “extremists” who could be imprisoned. Organizations that had financial contacts with the outside world, including Catholic and Jewish groups, were suddenly “foreign agents” and subject to immediate harassment.
After weeks of maintaining their calm in the face of repeated assaults by the riot police, some protesters now chose violence. Out of public view, people had been dying at the hands of the police for weeks. Now some of the protesters were killed by the regime in public. The first Ukrainian protester to be killed was an Armenian. The second to be killed was a Belarusian.
Then came the mass killings by the regime. On February 18 the Ukrainian parliament was supposed to consider a compromise that many observers believed was a first step away from bloody confrontation: a constitutional reform to return the state to parliamentary democracy. Instead, the riot police were unleashed in Kiev, this time armed not only with tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets, but also with live ammunition. The protesters fell back to the Maidan and defended it, the way revolutionaries do: with cobblestones, Molotov cocktails, and in the end their bare hands.
On February 20, an EU delegation was supposed to arrive to negotiate a truce. Instead, the regime orchestrated a bloodbath. The riot police fell back from some of the Maidan. When protesters followed, they were shot by snipers who had taken up positions on rooftops. Again and again people ran out to try to rescue the wounded, and again and again they were shot.
Has it ever before happened that people associated with Ukrainian, Russian, Belarusian, Armenian, Polish, and Jewish culture have died in a revolution that was started by a Muslim? Can we who pride ourselves in our diversity and tolerance think of anything remotely similar in our own histories?
The people were victorious as a result of sheer physical courage. The EU foreign ministers who were supposed to be treated to a bloody spectacle saw something else: the successful defense of the Maidan. The horrifying massacre provoked a general sense of outrage, even among some of the people who had been Yanukovych’s allies. He did something he probably had not, when the day began, intended to do: he signed an agreement in which he promised not to use violence. His policemen understood, perhaps better than he, what this meant: the end of the regime. They melted away, and he ran for his life. Power shifted to parliament, where a new coalition of oppositionists and dissenters from Yanukovych’s party formed a majority. Reforms began, beginning with the constitution. Presidential elections were called for May.
Still, the propaganda continued. Yanukovych stopped somewhere to record a video message, in Russian, claiming that he was the victim of a Nazi coup. Russian leaders maintained that extremists had come to power, and that Russians in Ukraine were under threat. Although the constitutional transition is indeed debatable in the details, these charges of a right-wing coup are nonsense.
The Ukrainian far right did play an important part in the revolution. What it did, in going to the barricades, was to liberate itself from the regime of which it had been one of the bulwarks. One of the moral atrocities of the Yanukovych regime was to crush opposition from the center-right, and support opposition from the far right. By imprisoning his major opponents from the legal political parties, most famously Yulia Tymoshenko, Yanukovych was able to make of democracy a game in which he and the far right were the only players.
The far right, a party called Svoboda, grew larger in these conditions, but never remotely large enough to pose a real challenge to the Yanukovych regime in democratic elections. In this arrangement Yanukovych could then tell gullible westerners that he was the alternative to the far right. In fact, Svoboda was a house opposition that, during the revolution, rebelled against its own leadership. Against the wishes of their leaders, the radical youth of Svobodafought in considerable numbers, alongside of course people of completely different views. They fought and they took risks and they died, sometimes while trying to save others. In the post-revolutionary situation these young men will likely seek new leadership. The leader of Svoboda, according to opinion polls, has little popular support; if he chooses to run for president, which is unlikely, he will lose.
Dmytro Yarosh, shown last month in Independence Square in Kiev, is running for president.
The radical alternative toSvobodais Right Sector, a group of far-right organizations whose frankly admitted goal was not a European future but a national revolution against all foreign influences. In the long run, Right Sector is the group to watch.For the time being, its leaders have been very careful, in conversations with both Jews and Russians, to stress that their goal is political and not ethnic or racial. In the days after the revolution they have not caused violence or disorder. On the contrary, the subway runs in Kiev. The grotesque residences of Yanukovych are visited by tourists, but they are not looted. The main one is now being used as a base for archival research by investigative journalists.
The transitional authorities were not from the right, or even from the western part of Ukraine, where nationalism is more widespread. The speaker of the parliament and the acting president is a Baptist preacher from southeastern Ukraine. All of the power ministries, where of course any coup-plotter would plant his own people, were led by professionals and Russian speakers. The acting minister of internal affairs was half Armenian and half Russian. The acting minister of defense was of Roma origin.
The provisional authorities are now being supplanted by a new government, chosen by parliament, which is very similar in its general orientation. The new prime minister is a Russian-speaking conservative Technocrat. Both of the major presidential candidates in the elections planned for May are Russian speakers. The likely next president, Vitali Klitschko, is the son of a general in the Soviet armed forces, best known in the West as the heavyweight champion boxer. He is a chess player and a Russian speaker. He does his best to speak Ukrainian. It does not come terribly naturally. He is not a Ukrainian nationalist.
As specialists in Russian and Ukrainian nationalism have been predicting for weeks, the claim that the Ukrainian revolution is a “nationalist coup,” as Yanukovych, in Russian exile has become a pretext for Russian intervention. This now appears to be underway in the Crimea, where the Russian flag has been raised over the regional parliament and gunmen have occupied the airports. Meanwhile, Russia has put army battle groups on alert and sent naval cruisers from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.
Whatever course the Russian intervention may take, it is not an attempt to stop a fascist coup, since nothing of the kind has taken place. What has taken place is a popular revolution, with all of the messiness, confusion, and opposition that entails. The young leaders of theMaidan, some of them radical leftists, have risked their lives to oppose a regime that represented, at an extreme, the inequalities that we criticize at home.They have an experience of revolution that we do not. Part of that experience, unfortunately, is that Westerners are provincial, gullible, and reactionary.
Thus far the new Ukrainian authorities have reacted with remarkable calm. It is entirely possible that a Russian attack on Ukraine will provoke a strong nationalist reaction: indeed, it would be rather surprising if it did not, since invasions have a way of bringing out the worst in people. If this is what does happen, we should see events for what they are: an entirely unprovoked attack by one nation upon the sovereign territory of another.
Insofar as we have accepted the presentation of the revolution as a fascist coup, we have delayed policies that might have stopped the killing earlier, and helped prepare the way for war. Insofar as we wish for peace and democracy, we are going to have to begin by getting the story right.
The WikiLeaks document exposes a secret U.S. diplomatic cable written over six years ago, confirming that a hidden agenda to merge the United States, Canada and Mexico into an integrated North American Union has been secretly going on for years.
Once again corporate media and establishment heads have been made to look like liars and conspirators, with Wikileaks putting lawmakers into the hotseat once again with leaked documents, after Washington had claimed that the North American Union (NAU) was a baseless “conspiracy theory,” when it actually was a real conspiracy.
“The cable, released through the WikiLeaks website and apparently written Jan. 28, 2005, discusses some of the obstacles surrounding the merger of the economies of Canada, the United States and Mexico in a fashion similar to the European Union.
An incremental and pragmatic package of tasks for a new North American Initiative (NAI) will likely gain the most support among Canadian policymakers,” the document said. “The economic payoff of the prospective North American initiative … is available, but its size and timing are unpredictable, so it should not be oversold.”
The Wikileaks cable is no surprise to those who watched the documentary Endgame, in which precisely the same information was outlined, with special focus on the Security and Prosperity Partnership, or SPP meetings.
In September 2006 the mission to create a North American Union was also discussed during a closed-door meeting of high-level government and business leaders in Banff, Canada.
During the 2008 presidential election the establishment media attempted to smear Ron Paul by attributing the notion of a move towards a North American Union to him and then claiming it was a non-existent “conspiracy theory,” despite the existence of documents proving the facts from the very beginning.
Although the leaked cable states U.S. diplomats were busy discussing a “move forward with continental integration, including a possible common currency, labour markets, international trade and the borders of the three countries,”as well as “easier access across the U.S. border,” more than six years ago, a Newsweek piece subsequently claimed that Ron Paul’s concerns over a NAFTA superhighway, a North American Union or a regional currency were completely baseless.
Watch the documentary Endgame clip bellow, in which the agenda behind the North American Union was exposed back in 2006, even as mainstream media still assured America it was just a “conspiracy theory,” and not to worry.
The European Union was put into place incrementally over fifty years, not by the citizens of the member states, but by the efforts of an intellectual elite who disguised their ultimate goal of a regional government. Today, a bloated, unelected bureaucracy rules over hundreds of millions of people—people who have no say over the EU’s actions…or their own futures. Think it could never happen here? It already has.The Security and Prosperity Partnership —announced in 2005 by the leaders of Mexico, the U.S., and Canada, but never presented to Congress for approval—is already laying the groundwork for the merger of the three nations into a North American Union.
This was the post-debate discussion on Nov 28, 2007 just after the CNN youtube republican debate. Jeffrey Toobin is trying to smear Ron Paul by saying that the NAFTA superhighway is the figment of Ron Paul’s imagination. The conversation started as a discussion about Mike Huckabee’s suggestion that the IRS should be abolished. (sound familiar?) Hear what Paul actually said about the NAFTA superhighway in the second part of the clip.
A digital archive of C–SPAN videoEuropean Parliament members debated a proposed free trade agreement between the European Union (EU) and the U.S. Members from Germany, France, Spain and other European countries expressed some concerns, citing differences with the U.S. in agriculture and environmental policies,intellectual property and Europe’s film and television industry.
When Dr. Ron Paul talks about the NAFTA Super Highway.
This is the Tool (Agenda 21) they use for it and much, much more. They implement it at all the local level of government. This is no joke people. This Is Real! So, to Stop this we must get involved in your local government again. We must become involved in all levels of government again. “We CAN No Longer Elect People And Believe They Will Have Our Best Interest At Heart”. The people running Agenda 21 don’t live in America.
While a full-blown North American Union (NAU) analogous to the up-and-running European Union may still be a distant dream for internationalists, in one sense, at least, union among the United States, Canada, and Mexico is already much closer to re … Read more
Even as the European Union continues to pursue ever-closer “integration” in the name of “global governance,” Obama is now working to form a “Trans-Atlantic partnership” between the U.S. government and the EU under the guise of a so-cal … Read more
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative held a press briefing by U.S. chief negotiator Dan Mullaney and EU chief negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero at the closing of the third Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiating round.
Although the concept of soft law has existed for years, scholars have not reached consensus on why states use soft law or even whether “soft law” is a coherent analytic category. In part, this confusion reflects a deep diversity in both the types of international agreementand the strategic situations that produce them.
First, and least significantly, states may use soft law to solve straightforward coordination games in which the existence of a focal point is enough to generate compliance.
Second, under what we term the “loss avoidance” theory, moving from soft law to hard generates higher sanctions which both deter more violations and, because sanctions in the international system are negative sum, increase the net loss to the parties. States will choose soft law when the marginal costs in terms of the expected loss from violations exceed the marginal benefits in terms of deterred violations.
Third, under the “delegation theory,” states choose soft law when they are uncertain about whether the rules they adopt today will be desirable tomorrow and when it is advantageous to allow a particular state or groups of states to adjust expectations in the event of changed circumstances. Moving from hard law to soft law makes it easier for such states to renounce existing rules or interpretations of rules and drive the evolution of soft law rules in a way that may be more efficient than formal renegotiation.
Fourth, the concept ofInternational Common Law (“ICL”), which is defined as a non-binding gloss that international institutions, such as international tribunals, put on binding legal rules. The theory of ICL is based on the observation that, except occasionally with respect to the facts and parties to the dispute before it, the decisions of international tribunals are non-binding interpretations of binding legal rules. States grant institutions the authority to make ICL as a way around the requirement that states must consent in order to be bound by legal rules. ICL affects all states subject to the underlying rule, regardless of whether they have consented to the creation of the ICL. As such, ICL provides cooperation-minded states with the opportunity to deepen cooperation in exchange for surrendering some measure of control over legal rules.
These four explanations of soft law, and in particular the theory of ICL, provide a firm justification for the coherence of soft law as an analytic category. They demonstrate that there are a range of non-binding international instruments from which legal consequences flow, just as in the domestic setting non-binding documents such as legislative committee reports often have legal consequences when, for example, used to interpret binding rules. Moreover, the theories offered in this paper explain the circumstances under which this quasi-legal characteristic of soft law will be attractive to states.
Soft law is the term applied to EU measures, such as guidelines, declarations and opinions, which, in contrast to directives, regulations and decisions, are not binding on those to whom they are addressed. However, soft law can produce some legal effects.
It is important to distinguish soft law’s lack of legally binding effect from its potential impact in practice. It is claimed that soft law may impact on policy development and practice precisely by reason of its lack of legal effect – rather, because it exercises an informal ‘soft’ influence through, for example, the demonstration effects of pilot projects, which illustrate possibilities and exert a persuasive influence. Member States and other actors may undertake voluntarily to do what they are less willing to do if legally obligated. Soft law, therefore, is sometimes presented as a more flexible instrument in achieving policy objectives.
In reality, however, soft law tends to be used in the EU context where Member States are unable to agree on the use of a ‘hard law’ measure, which is legally binding, or where the EU lacks competence to enact hard law measures. The Member States and EU institutions are thus able to adopt EU policy proposals, while leaving their implementation optional for those Member States who do not wish to be bound. They are thus a standing temptation for the Commission when faced with resistance from some Member States, which threatens to block policy proposals.
At the same time, adoption of soft law measures may encourage reluctant Member States to consider and eventually adopt policies and strategies, which are resisted when presented in the form of binding legal obligations. For example, the Commission has made extensive use of ‘action programmes’ to promote equality between women and men in the workplace, based on a Council decision establishing a four-year programme on gender equality for 2001-2005 (Decision 2001/51 ). The European Employment Strategy implemented through the open method of coordination combines soft law employment guidelines, which do not have legally binding effect, with the hard law inArticle 148 TFEU, which requires that Member States ‘shall take [the Guidelines] into account in their employment policies’.
Equally, ‘soft law’ measures such as the non-legally binding Community Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers of 1989 have had a substantial impact in putting pressure on the Commission to propose and the Member States to adopt directives, which might otherwise not have been contemplated. The Preambles to Council Directive 91/533/EEC of 14 October 1991 on an employer’s obligation to inform employees of the conditions applicable to the contract or employment relationship and Council Directive 93/104/EC of 23 November 1993 concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time contain references to the 1989 Community Charter, thus transforming the relevant provisions of the Community Charter into interpretative aids for the European Court of Justice when it comes to interpret the directives.