How Doug Jones won

Anne Applebaum writes: “How did he do it?” That’s the question I was asked more than once by European friends the day after Alabama’s Senate election: How did Doug Jones win? The question was not idle. In many ways, the electoral challenge Jones faced in Alabama was strikingly similar to the challenge facing European politicians of the center-left and even — or maybe especially — the center-right: How to defeat racist, xenophobic or homophobic candidates who are supported by a passionate, unified minority? Or, to put it differently: How to get the majority — which is often complacent rather than passionate, and divided rather than unified — to vote?

This was the same question asked after the victory of Emmanuel Macron in the French elections, and part of the answer, in both cases, was luck. Nobody predicted a Roy Moore sex scandal. Nobody predicted that the French political establishment would fold so quickly either. France’s previous, center-left president was so unpopular that he discredited his party; France’s center-right leader, François Fillon, was knocked out of the race by a scandal. Macron wound up as the leader of a new centrist coalition, the electoral arithmetic was in his favor, and he won.

But beyond luck, both Macron and Jones also tried to reach across some traditional lines, in part by appealing to traditional values. Macron, fighting a nationalist opponent in the second round of the elections, openly promoted patriotism. Instead of fear and anger, he projected optimism about France and its international role. He spoke of the opportunities globalization brought to France instead of focusing on the dangers, and he declared himself proud to be both French and a citizen of the world.

He wasn’t the only European to take this route: Alexander Van der Bellen, the former Green Party leader who is now president of Austria, used a similar kind of campaign to beat a nationalist opponent. Van der Bellen’s posters featured beautiful Alpine scenes, the Austrian flag and the slogan “Those who love their homeland do not divide it.”

In Alabama, Jones used remarkably similar language. [Continue reading…]

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Britain grows increasingly hostile to EU citizens

Der Spiegel reports: Whenever Agnieszka Pasieczna opens the curtains of her children’s bedroom, she finds herself facing four electronic eyes staring at her. The cameras, each around the size of a fist, are mounted on a gray wall around eight meters away, like silent witnesses for the prosecution. “I see you, I see everything,” her English neighbor once shouted over at her. Since then Agnieszka has kept her curtains closed even during the day.

The 39-year-old Polish woman lives with her husband and five children in Great Yarmouth, a town on England’s eastern periphery. It has 40,000 residents and a gaudy strip of amusement park rides along the beach front, referred to with no small degree of hyperbole as “The Golden Mile.” A character in the Charles Dickens classic “David Copperfield” once described the town as “the finest place in the universe.” But that was over 150 years ago.

The Pasieczna family moved to Great Yarmouth 12 years ago from their hometown of Wroclaw. There were jobs here, with the rural hinterlands dotted with farms, feed lots and meat processing plants. The Polish newcomers felt welcome and settled in quickly. They painted their living room mint green, hung deer antlers on the wall and bought two Yorkshire terriers. When Agnieszka gave birth to a daughter, she named her Diana, “like the princess.” Life was good – until the summer of 2016.

It started with little things. “This is England, speak English,” said one woman to Agnieszka as she was speaking Polish with her children. “Go back to your own country,” Diana was told in school. Then, this spring, her neighbor mounted the first of the cameras on the wall and said: “I’m going to take care of this damn Polish problem!” After several instances of intimidation, Agnzieszka called the police. She was told: “If you don’t like the cameras, maybe you should move away.”

It’s been like this for the past 18 months – and not just for the Pasiecznas, and not just in Great Yarmouth, where almost three out of four voters backed Brexit in June 2016, almost the highest result in the country. Since the Brexit referendum, there has been a significant rise in reports of abuse, threats and harassment against EU citizens. Some of them have been bizarre, some shocking. And others simply ridiculous. [Continue reading…]

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Alabama election result seen as ‘miracle’ in a Europe horrified by Trump

The Washington Post reports: Roy Moore’s defeat on Tuesday evening may have come as a relief to liberal Americans, but in Europe it was taken as a sign that the United States has not totally lost its moral compass.

Last year’s election victory of President Trump, who is deeply unpopular across Western Europe, appears to have severely damaged the United States’ status as a role model in Europe. The defeat of Moore was interpreted by many as a reversal for Trump and a sign that all is not lost across the Atlantic.

Relief over the Alabama election result in Europe was far from being limited to liberal media outlets, and was widely seen as a “notable setback for President Donald Trump,” as France’s liberal Liberation newspaper wrote. Its center-left competitor Le Monde declared the Tuesday result a “referendum about Trump’s political agenda” and Britain’s Financial Times agreed that that it was “a big blow for Mr Trump.

That sentiment was perhaps most pronounced in Germany, where confidence in Trump has been even lower than in neighboring France and Britain. Center-left German weekly Die Zeit framed the defeat as “the miracle of Alabama.” [Continue reading…]

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Global powers lobby to stop special Brexit deal for UK

The Observer reports: Theresa May’s hopes of securing a unique post-Brexit trade deal with the EU were under threat on Saturday night as Brussels said it was coming under international pressure to deny Britain special treatment.

After a week that saw May reach a deal with the EU that will allow Brexit talks to move forward on to future trade relations, EU officials insisted a bespoke deal more favourable to the UK than other non-EU nations was out of the question.

One EU source close to the talks said: “We have been approached by a number of [non-member] countries expressing concerns and making it clear that it would constitute a major problem for them if suddenly the UK were to get better terms than they get.”

The official said that once the UK is out of the single market and customs union in March 2019, there could be no replication of the terms of the current trading relationship, or anything close to it, and no special treatment.

“It is not just an indication of some strange rigid principle. It is because things won’t work,” he said.

“First and foremost we need to stick to this balance of rights and obligations, otherwise we will be undermining our own customs union and single market. Second, we cannot upset relations with other third countries,” the official said. [Continue reading…]

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Britain and EU clinch divorce deal to move Brexit talks onto trade

Reuters reports: Britain and the European Union struck a divorce deal on Friday that paves the way for talks on trade, easing pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May and boosting hopes of an orderly Brexit.

The European Commission said “sufficient progress” had been made after London, Dublin and Belfast worked through the night to break an impasse over the status of the Irish border that had scuppered an attempt to clinch a deal on Monday.

PM May, speaking in Brussels, said the deal opened the way for talks that would bring certainty to Britain’s future after quitting the EU.

European Council President Donald Tusk cautioned, though, that while breaking up was hard, building a new relationship would be even harder.

“So much time has been devoted to the easier part of the task,” Tusk said. “And now, to negotiate a transition arrangement and the framework for our future relationship, we have de facto less than a year.”

One senior banker said the deal signaled Britain was heading toward a much closer post-Brexit relationship with the EU than many had feared, indicating that trade will keep flowing between the world’s biggest trading bloc and its sixth-largest national economy. [Continue reading…]

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Ireland has just saved the UK from the madness of a hard Brexit

Fintan O’Toole writes: Let’s not understate the import of what Ireland has just achieved. It has not just secured an outcome that minimises the damage of Brexit on this island. It has radically altered the trajectory of Brexit itself, pushing that crazy careering vehicle away from its path towards the cliff edge.

This saga has taken many strange turns, but this is the strangest of all: after one of the most fraught fortnights in the recent history of Anglo-Irish relations, Ireland has just done Britain a favour of historic dimensions. It has saved it from the madness of a hard Brexit. There is a great irony here: the problem that the Brexiteers most relentlessly ignored has come to determine the entire shape of their project. By standing firm against their attempts to bully, cajole and blame it, Ireland has shifted Brexit towards a soft outcome. It is now far more likely that Britain will stay in the customs union and the single market. It is also more likely that Brexit will not in fact happen.

Essentially what this extraordinary deal does is to reverse engineer Brexit as a whole from one single component – the need to avoid a hard Irish border. It follows the Sherlock Holmes principle: eliminate the impossible and whatever remains, however improbable, must be the solution. The Irish Government, by taking a firm stance and retaining the rock solid support of the rest of the EU, made the hard border the defining impossibility. Working back from that, the Brexit project now has to embrace what seemed, even last Monday, highly improbable: the necessity, at a minimum, for the entire UK to mirror the rules of the customs union and the single market after it leaves the EU. And this in turn raises the biggest question of all: if the UK is going to mirror the customs union and the single market, why go to the considerable bother of leaving the EU in the first place? [Continue reading…]

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Not much remains of Theresa May’s red lines after the Brexit deal

Dan Roberts writes: If the EU referendum was the moment the British electorate clashed with the establishment, 8 December 2017 was the day that the legal and economic consequences collided with its political promises. The joint divorce agreement hammered out in the intervening 528 days makes clear that little remains of the many red lines set out by Theresa May in her Lancaster House speech or party conference address of 2016.

The first, and biggest, concession is buried in paragraph 49 of the 15-page report published early on Friday morning. Its implications will be anything but quiet in the weeks to come, for it undermines the prime minister’s previous insistence that Britain will be leaving the single market.

It states clearly: “In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the internal market and the customs union.” In other words, the UK may not be a member of the single market, or have any direct ability to shape its rules in future, but it could yet have to play by them in perpetuity.

Much will be made of the “in the absence of agreed solutions” caveat, yet what it means in practice is that the UK hopes to flesh out this pledge through a wider free trade agreement with the EU. If the other 27 members were reluctant to allow any wriggle room in the first phase of talks, they are even less likely to budge now that this principle is established as a back-stop.

When the agreement was first drafted on Monday, there was much concern that the promise of maintaining regulatory “alignment” might only apply to Northern Ireland, but the Democratic Unionist party has succeeded in removing any ambiguity and forced Downing Street to spell out that alignment stretches right across the Irish sea. [Continue reading…]

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Special relationship? Theresa May discovers she has no friend in Donald Trump

Julian Borger writes: It was some poor official’s job this morning to tell Theresa May that while she slept, the relationship with the US became special for all the wrong reasons.

It is at least historic. No US president in modern times has addressed a UK prime minister with the open peevishness and contempt of Donald Trump’s tweet telling May to mind her own business.

George W Bush’s offhand “Yo Blair”, caught on an open mic in 2006, did not show much respect either, but at least it was meant to be friendly. We are a very long way away from such halcyon partnerships as Churchill-Roosevelt and Reagan-Thatcher.

Trump could not even be bothered to get May’s Twitter handle right. The diss had to be corrected.

There are many layers of humiliation here for May to get her head around over breakfast. Not only is it personally demeaning, it is also politically toxic.

The prospect of a successful or at least survivable Brexit is posited on a strong relationship with Washington. In that regard, May’s successful rush to Washington in January to become the first foreign leader received at the Trump White House was presented as a coup.

Under EU rules, the two countries are not allowed even to start negotiating a trade deal until the UK is truly out of Europe, but the warm words and the pictures of the Trump and May holding hands at least struck an encouraging tone. The prime minister got to Washington in time to help the state department and Congress stop the president lifting sanctions on Russia, and squeezed out of him his first grudging words of support for Nato.

It has been downhill since then. [Continue reading…]

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Irish warn Theresa May: Change course or risk Brexit chaos

The Observer reports: Ireland’s European commissioner has urged Theresa May to change her Brexit plans dramatically to prevent a mounting crisis over the Irish border from derailing her hopes of an EU trade deal.

The threat of a hard Irish border has emerged as the major obstacle to the prime minister’s aim of securing the green light for Brexit trade talks at a crucial summit only weeks away. She has effectively been handed just days to give stronger guarantees over the issue.

Phil Hogan, the EU’s agriculture commissioner, told the Observer that it was a “very simple fact” that remaining inside the single market and customs union, or allowing Northern Ireland to do so, would end the standoff.

Hogan warned there was “blind faith” from some UK ministers that Britain would secure a comprehensive Brexit free trade deal. He warned that Ireland would “continue to play tough to the end” over its threat to veto trade talks until it had guarantees over the border.

“If the UK or Northern Ireland remained in the EU customs union, or better still the single market, there would be no border issue,” he said. “That’s a very simple fact. I continue to be amazed at the blind faith that some in London place in theoretical future free trade agreements. First, the best possible FTA with the EU will fall far short of the benefits of being in the single market. This fact is simply not understood in the UK. Most real costs to cross-border business today are not tariffs – they are about standards, about customs procedures, about red tape. These are solved by the single market, but not in an FTA.”

The Irish government wants a written guarantee that there will be no hard border with Northern Ireland, something Dublin believes can only be achieved, in effect, by keeping the region within the single market and customs union. However, the Democratic Unionist party, whose support is propping up May’s government, warned on Saturday it would never accept a post-Brexit deal that would effectively see a customs border pushed back to the Irish Sea. May has repeatedly made clear Britain will leave the single market and customs union. [Continue reading…]

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Serbia’s brand of reconciliation: Embracing old war criminals

The New York Times reports: When a general convicted of war crimes gave a lecture last month to cadets at the military academy in Serbia’s capital, he received a warm welcome from the defense minister.

The nation should feel “proud” of veterans like the general, “the bravest of the brave,” the minister said.

So it was no surprise that after another general, Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb commander, was convicted of genocide, crimes against humanity and other war crimes this week, President Aleksandar Vucic called the verdict “unjustified.”

He also told reporters, “I would like to call on everyone to start looking to the future and not to drown in tears of the past.”

The conviction of General Mladic, 75, whom the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia sentenced to life in prison for a campaign of genocide in the 1990s against Muslims, Croats and other non-Serbs, was meant to close a chapter on the brutal Bosnian wars that unleashed Europe’s worst atrocities since World War II.

One of the tribunal’s goals was to foster reconciliation in the Balkans and strike a blow against impunity for the most serious human rights abuses. But Serbia — seen as the aggressor in the wars and accused by international rights organizations of atrocities on a larger and more organized scale than any of its former enemies — has never accepted responsibility for the crimes committed in the name of the Serbian people.

Serbia, political analysts say, is creeping steadily backward politically to the ominous days of the 1990s amid a groundswell of nationalist sentiment. The government in Belgrade is even welcoming convicted war criminals and associates of Slobodan Milosevic, the former dictator and indicted architect of Serbia’s genocidal program who died in 2006, back into the fold.

And as Russia pushes to expand its influence in the Balkans — Europe’s “soft underbelly,” in the words of the political scientist Ivan Krastev — it is finding a receptive ally in Serbia. This comes even as the country is likely to become the next member state of the European Union.

As Serbia pursues a closer relationship with Russia while enacting the difficult reforms demanded by Brussels, European officials have accused the government in Belgrade of playing a strange double game — pursuing both Brussels and Moscow for maximum benefit. [Continue reading…]

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Frustrated foreign leaders bypass Washington in search of blue-state allies

The Washington Post reports: California Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent trip to the capital of the European Union had all the trappings of a visit by a head of state — he even got an upgraded title.

“Mr. President, welcome in Brussels,” Brown (D) was told this month as he exited his Mercedes van in front of the European Parliament in the spot usually reserved for national leaders. Then he was whisked off to a day of hearings, testimony and high-level meetings in the heart of European power.

Nearly a year into the Trump presidency, countries around the world are scrambling to adapt as the White House has struggled to fill key government positions, scaled back the State Department and upended old alliances. Now some nations are finding that even if they are frustrated by President Trump’s Washington, they can still prosper from robust relations with the California Republic and a constellation of like-minded U.S. cities, some of which are bigger than European countries. [Continue reading…]

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Can Britain get a quickie divorce then help rebuild a stronger Europe?

Simon Jenkins writes: War was once politics by other means. Now the converse may be the case, and thank goodness. But there is such a thing as dangerous politics. The centre is not holding. Leaders are digging into their national subconscious to unearth, if not guns, then a means to populist power.

The times when Britain has been summoned to “come to the aid of Europe” have been few. But they have been preceded by British blindness towards a sudden shift in politics on the continent. When the Catholic church, Louis XIV or Napoleon threatened the peace of Europe, Britain hesitated. It might send a Marlborough or a Wellington to fly the flag for British soldiering, but its heart was rarely in it.

The same casualness infuses the present Brussels negotiations. It may be dismaying to see the EU’s Barnier treat David Davis as might a counter-reformation cardinal some pesky Lutheran princeling. Barnier clearly cares nothing for Europe, only for the Holy Brussels Church and its budget. But in response Britain seems devoid of interest. It shows no vision of an endgame, as if it did not mind about Brexit either way. This is precisely how Europe slithered to war in centuries past.

Europe is not going to war. But its internal-government relations are ever more brittle. The prospect is of another credit crunch, the crippling of the Greek economy, mass unemployment in Italy and Spain, and a critical need for a deal with Russia.

Europe needs a leader. If Merkel is not to be one, then who? Surely not the egotistical Emmanuel Macron? It would have been a golden opportunity for Britain to seize the helm, if only it had not abandoned ship.

Britain has clearly to proceed with Brexit. But it must get the item off the negotiating table as soon as possible. It should seek a quickie divorce: pay the money and marry Norway. It could then hurl itself into a revived “concert of Europe”, and convince the EU’s council of ministers to convene a conference on reform. There could then be a fresh start, a new treaty for a future Europe of sovereign states. That is the treaty Britain can help to write and join, starting now. [Continue reading…]

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London loses EU agencies to Paris and Amsterdam in Brexit relocation

The Guardian reports: London is losing the European Medicines Agency to Amsterdam and the European Banking Authority to Paris, in one of the first concrete signs of Brexit as the UK prepares to leave the European Union.

The two cities won the agencies after tie breaks that saw the winner selected by drawing lots from a large goldfish-style bowl.

The Dutch capital beat Milan in the lucky dip after three rounds of Eurovision-style voting on Monday had resulted in a dead heat.

Paris won the race to take the European Banking Authority from London, beating Dublin in the final, after the favourite Frankfurt was knocked out in the second round.

The EU’s 27 European affairs ministers, minus the UK, took less than three hours to decide the new home of the medicines agency, which employs 900 people in Canary Wharf, London. The decision on the banking authority, which employs 150 and is also based in Canary Wharf, was made in little more than an hour. [Continue reading…]

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‘Leadership means knowing when it is time for change,’ says Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams

Reuters reports: Gerry Adams, a pivotal figure in the political life of Ireland for almost 50 years, said Saturday that he would step down as leader of Sinn Fein, the main Irish Republican party, after more than three decades.

Reviled by many as the face of the Irish Republican Army during its campaign against British rule in Northern Ireland, Mr. Adams reinvented himself as a peacemaker in the troubled region and then as a populist opposition member of the Irish Parliament.

At a packed party conference in Dublin, Mr. Adams said that he would be replaced as its president at its next annual gathering and that he would not run for re-election to Parliament.

“Leadership means knowing when it is time for change,” he said in an emotional speech. “That time is now.”

Mr. Adams stayed on stage as the 2,500-strong crowd, some in tears, gave him a standing ovation and sang a traditional Irish song about the road home.

Mr. Adams will almost certainly be succeeded by someone with no direct involvement in the decades of conflict in Northern Ireland, a prospect that would make Sinn Fein a more palatable coalition partner in the Irish Republic, where it has never been in power.

Sinn Fein’s deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald, an English literature graduate from Trinity College Dublin who has been at the forefront of a new breed of politicians transforming the party’s image, is the clear favorite to take over. [Continue reading…]

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Ireland will block progress of Brexit talks without border guarantee

The Guardian reports: Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, issued a stark warning that the progress of the Brexit negotiations was at great risk of even further delay, during a day of stinging public rebukes for Theresa May as she met sceptical EU leaders at a Swedish summit.

The Irish taoiseach emerged from a frosty bilateral meeting with May at the European social summit and said: “I can’t say in any honesty that it’s close – on the Irish issue or on the financial settlement.”

Varadkar said he would not be prepared to back progress of the Brexit negotiations to trade talks at the summit in December without a formal written guarantee there would be no hard border in Ireland. Britain, he said, “wants a divorce, but an open relationship the day after”.

At the summit in Gothenburg, the president of the European council, Donald Tusk, gave the UK government an ultimatum that progress needed to be made on the Irish border and the financial settlement. Tusk also hit back at suggestions by the Brexit secretary, David Davis, that the UK needed to see more compromise from Brussels: “I appreciate Mr Davis’s English sense of humour.” [Continue reading…]

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British and Spanish leaders say Russian trolls meddled in their elections

The Washington Post reports: In a remarkable one-two punch aimed at Russian hackers, bots and trolls, the prime ministers of Britain and Spain have separately accused Russian entities — including some allegedly supported by the state — of meddling in European elections and have vowed to foil them.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Tuesday that an “avalanche” of bots spread “fake news” about Spain during Catalonia’s independence referendum last month and that Spanish authorities think that more than half of the originating accounts are in Russian territory.

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday night charged that President Vladimir Putin’s Russia was attempting to “undermine free societies” and “sow discord” in Britain and among its Western allies by “deploying its state-run media organizations to plant fake stories.”

“So I have a very simple message for Russia,” May said. “We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed.”

The allegations leveled by May and Rajoy stand in stark contrast to remarks made over the weekend by President Trump, who appeared to defend the Russian president. [Continue reading…]

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The List: 33,293 people who died trying to find refuge in Europe while fleeing from war, poverty, and oppression

The New York Times reports: They were the ones who did not make it; the ones who perished seeking a new life in Europe; the ones the people smugglers consigned to frail craft doomed to founder in the Mediterranean Sea.

The German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel has sought to build a monument in print to them, cataloging the 33,293 people who, it said, died between 1993 and 2017 fleeing war, poverty and oppression in their own countries.

But, in the process, The List, as the newspaper called its 48-page tally of the lost, cast a baleful light on a tragedy that runs in parallel to the deaths: Many of them died in anonymity, particularly in recent years.

Sometimes, the industrial-scale numbers are staggering. In September 2016, for instance, 443 unidentified people — “region of origin — Africa” — died in a ship wreck off Egypt.

Then, by contrast, there was the individual pathos of brevity as in the case on Sept. 16, 2017, of a 14-year-old boy named R. Oryakhal, “struck by a car near Calais when he fell from the truck he had climbed on to try to reach Great Britain.”

The newspaper printed 100,000 copies of The List. It was distributed with the newspaper’s edition of Nov. 9 and the rest are being given away during a series of artistic and performance presentations in Berlin. The list can also be downloaded in the form of a 48-page document.

Der Tagesspiegel said the asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants on its list had died “as a result of the restrictive policies of Fortress Europe,” both at the continent’s outer borders or after arriving in Europe itself. [Continue reading…]

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‘White Europe’: 60,000 nationalists march on Poland’s independence day

The Guardian reports: Tens of thousands of nationalist demonstrators marched through Warsaw at the weekend to mark Poland’s independence day, throwing red-smoke bombs and carrying banners with slogans such as “white Europe of brotherly nations”.

Police estimated 60,000 people took part in Saturday’s event, in what experts say was one of the biggest gathering of far-right activists in Europe in recent years.

Demonstrators with faces covered chanted “Pure Poland, white Poland!” and “Refugees get out!”. A banner hung over a bridge that read: “Pray for Islamic Holocaust.”

The march organised by far-right groups in Poland is an annual event originally to mark Poland’s independence in 1918. But according to Nick Lowles, from UK anti-extremism group Hope Not Hate, it has become an important rallying point for international far-right groups.

“The numbers attending this year seem to be bigger and, while not everyone on the march is a far-right activist or fascist, it is undoubtedly becoming more significant and is acting as a magnet for far-right groups around the world.”

Some participants marched under the slogan “We Want God!”, words from an old Polish religious song that the US president, Donald Trump, quoted during a visit to Warsaw earlier this year. Speakers encouraged attendants to stand against liberals and defending Christian values. [Continue reading…]

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